Archive for June, 2012

June 25, 2012

Some brewing karma restored?

After the utter disaster that was the (supposed) smoked porter – still flat as a pancake but now developing the flavours it was meant to have! – the next brew was approached with trepidation to say the least. A lot of lessons had been learnt however, and changes put into place. Two weeks ago the brewday took place and having just kegged the results I finally feel able to write about it without tempting fate too much.  As a reminder the catalogue of disasters can be found here.

On the day things started out well with the ingredients all accounted for in advance, the HLT in the right place (which was in itself a revised location from original plans) and the newly rewired pump was in and tested. A good early start meant the water heated up in good time for a mash-in before breakfast. Minor failure at this point meant no bacon sandwiches but we can overlook that.

Hoses recirculating hot water all stayed where they were put, the OG pre-boil was in the right ball-park and post-boild was pretty much spot on. So far so good. A minor hiccup with the counterflow chiller meant a slightly warmer transfer than intended but it quickly cooled to an acceptable level ands the yeast was pitched. A good starter saw it off to a flying start.

After a few days it was ready for dry-hopping. Final gravity was a bit high, but OK, and the taste was good.

Another week on and clearly the transfer to secondary for dry-hopping had roused the yeast and the gravity was now exactly where it was supposed to be (minor lesson – need to rouse this yeast! Would have preferred to ferment lower before the dry hops went in). It is tasting good too, and a bit of time in the keg now before serving should complete things nicely.

So, it feels like I’ve had some brewing karma restored. The new bag of grain has performed fine which only reinforces that the previous one was a significant part of the problem. And the biggest lesson of all from the previous brewday was always learn from what went wrong – it may not have produced the beer that was intended but it has certainly helped this latest batch go absolutely swimmingly.

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June 21, 2012

So is it a *beer* festival? Really?

Let’s imagine there’s a city – we’ll call it Davestown for sake of argument – which has had an annual beer festival for many years. But Davestown Beer Festival only sells real / cask ales. Some enthusiastic upstarts want to hold a festival celebrating a more diverse range of beers – including many that don’t fall into the real / cask ale definition. A festival that is perhaps more befitting the broad term of Davestown Beer Festival. But obviously calling it that would be confusing at the very least – there can’t really be two. And there’s no intention to compete with the existing festival, the plan is to complement it, so there’s no desire for creating antagonism with the organisers of the existing festival.

So how do they name their festival? Some useful adjective to better describe the scope of the beers on offer perhaps? But what? It’s about good, or even great beer, but calling it the Davestown Great Beer Festival feels like a dig at the existing Davestown (presumably not so great by implication!) Beer Festival. Good Beer or Fine Beer have the same problem. What other term is there? Davestown International Beer Festival? Well that might work as long as there is definitely a good showing of international beers, but that isn’t necessarily the case, or the focus might be primarily on British beers. What else can the organisers do? Perhaps it can be Davestown Craft Beer Festival? Well it works, but as we all know Craft is a hugely subjective term and causes all sorts of disagreement. Could it even alienate key parts of the target market for the festival who object to or interpret differently the use of the word?

The problem is the original Davestown Beer Festival has (in hindsight, and no doubt without any ill intentions) rather unfairly taken the generic term and used it for a very specific purpose – real / cask ale. So there’s a need to have a word to help categorise this beer festival as something other than a real / cask ale beer festival. I don’t mind if that word isn’t craft, but I don’t know what else it would be.

And if it is craft, then a clear explanation of what that is understood to mean by the organisers of the festival is essential so that everyone else can at least understand what the event is all about, even if they don’t necessarily subscribe to the same definition of craft themselves.

In the meantime the debate about the “C” word rages on, particularly recently with this post from Hardknott Dave and this one from Zac Avery.

June 12, 2012

Penkridge Jubilee Beer Festival – a review

It’s a week now since the beer festival here in Penkridge officially came to an end, although some of the festival beers were still kicking around later in the week – i should point out that not all had been brought on at the start of the festival so this wasn’t a case of beer hanging around too long, just the ones that didn’t make it onto the taps earlier getting their chance. So, this was something of a first for the village. Was it a success? Will it be repeated?

Three pubs all got involved and all had a different approach. One brought more handpulls into use than they normally would, and had about six ales and ciders on at a time. With a quiet word to the right people the beers waiting in the wings were coming up direct from the cellar too, in absolutely stunning form. The place was quite rightly heaving and it is all a good sign for the future here when proposed brewing activities start on site. Smiles all round from the landlord and a buzzing atmosphere reinforced how well the weekend’s events were going.

The next venue was not known for being a beer destination, much more as a (good) restaurant, but this was a preconception they wanted to change. To demonstrate how much more they can do they set up an outside bar alongside the BBQ with six ales, and although the weather didn’t really help, early on the third day the first of these had already run out. Had the weather improved this would have been a runaway success, and despite that I think they achieved what they set out to do and proved they can cater very well indeed for the ale lover as well as their restaurant side. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Finally the third venue was, sadly, a bit more disappointing – logistical issues meant that their input wasn’t ever going to be as strong as originally intended, and with just three handpulls available it was a case of cycling the festival beers through as quickly as possible. Subject to them being consumed of course. Unfortunately the beers on the Friday night had been on all week and weren’t at their best, and two days later were still on – a catch 22 situation because there was little temptation to drink them with so much other good beer available elsewhere.  As a result most of the other very tempting beers on the list didn’t even make it on over the course of the event. However the Oakham Citra which came on on Monday was replaced again by Friday which shows that a good beer in good condition will sell, and so it is just a shame that the first impression of the festival here was marred by the beers available for the first few days.

So, was it a success? Yes, definitely, overall and for at least two of the pubs involved it seems to have been a great weekend. I’ve yet to get full feedback from the landlords but conversations over the weekend suggest they’re were more than happy.

Will it happen again? That remains to be seen. Even if the combined event doesn’t take off I’m certain there will be more beer-focussed events at pubs in the village on the back of this. But it would be great to repeat this in even bigger and better style next year, and with the parish council also considering an annual event to build on this year’s jubilee weekend there may be a place for a Penkridge Festival in future.

In the meantime the Penkridge Round Table are planning a beer festival for later in the year and so an exciting range of beer will return to the village in just a few months’ time. Knowing the RT guys they will be putting a lot of effort in and aiming to raise plenty of money for some very good causes, so best of luck to them and please support if you can.

Maybe Penkridge will now be starting to earn its place on the beer map…

June 1, 2012

Penkridge Beer Fest is upon us!

It’s the Jubilee weekend, and from this evening three pubs in Penkridge are holding a beer festival.  You may already have heard me banging on about it, for which I make no apologies.  This is a big thing for me – if it goes well it will be the start of something.  Hopefully an annual event will come out of it which can only get bigger and better in future years.  With nine pubs in total in the village, there’s plenty of room for it to expand, and the interest in beer that it generates could be the catalyst for a growth in the variety and quality of beer available in our area, and that has got to be a good thing.

Of course, if it doesn’t do so well, then it’s likely that it won’t be repeated, not for some time anyway, so we have to hope that attendance is good, the beers all get polished off and everyone has a good time.  If you’re local, or passing though, why not pop down and give us your support.

Until I get there myself I can’t confirm all the final arrangements, or the beer lists (trying to get a list of beers from a landlord makes herding cats look like One Man And His Dog!).  The Littleton Arms will have about 10 beers available over the weekend – these will be served through the three handpulls on the bar so will rotate just as quickly as they can be finished.  The range includes a couple from Titanic, several from Slaters, and some other guests.  The Horse & Jockey is also serving about 10 beers plus 2 ciders, and there should be at least 5 on at a time, possibly more – plans to serve from a marquee were dependent on the weather and I’ll know later which way that decision went!  Finally the Bridgehouse are providing a selection from Thwaites and Holdens in particular.  As soon as I can establish the beer lists I’ll make them available via this blog and / or Twitter.

There’s lots more planned over the weekend in these pubs and elsewhere in the village (see www.penkridgebeerfestival.org.uk for details of events in the pubs and a link to details of other village events). If you’re about drop by, say hi, have a beer (or three) and whatever you’re doing for the next few days, enjoy the weekend!