Posts tagged ‘Otherton’

January 22, 2014

When did beer festivals get scary?

Beer festivals have never, as a rule, been something that get me nervous. I’ve a strong enough disposition to cope with beards, sandals, entrenched views, and all the other stereotypes that seem to be attached. Ok, Morris Dancers put me a little on edge, but that’s understandable, surely? Last summer’s Birmingham Beer Bash was an exception but having a lot more at stake with that one it was always going to be nerve-wracking. Otherwise, generally, no beer festival would face me.

Today is slightly different. Later today I head up to the Manchester Beer Festival, with more than a little trepidation. I think that is a first for me, so what’s different today.  Well, unless this is the first time you’ve read my blog you probably know I brewed my second collaboration beer at the end of last year, with Offbeat in Crewe. Unlike my first collaboration this one was previously untested. Before we even brewed it Manchester Beer Festival had ordered it. And so that beer is on the bar today. It’ll be the first time I’ve tried it. I have no doubt it’ll be fine – I’m sure it would never have been allowed to leave the brewery if it wasn’t up to scratch – but still, has it worked? Is it what was envisaged? Do people like it? Do I like it?

We’ll know later…

Advertisements
November 15, 2013

What Otherton did next…

I didn’t really put much thought into what would come next. But having made a beer commercially and seen it on the bar, watched people enjoying it, what then? I can’t just head back to the brewery to make (and sell) more, however much that’s what I’d like to do. If brewing is your living then that’s exactly what needs to be done, of course, but for me the day job is still there, needing to be done so the bills can be paid.

While sampling Phoneticus in Birmingham’s Craven Arms the thoughts were that maybe managing to produce a second beer in a few months’ time at best. It seemed reasonable, and pragmatic, and allowed time to test something out on a small scale before risking a larger version.

In the meantime there’s lots of experimental brewing to do at home. Starting with a focus on the “mental” part, rather than the “experi”, and an ambitiously mighty imperial stout, brewed with saison yeast, and due to be barrel aged for 12 months. Then some playing around with English hops on top of the Phoneticus grain bill . Then… Then…

Oh wait. Opportunity knocks, and suddenly there’s a new chance. A new chance that needs a new recipe. No time to brew a small batch and get a feel for it, this time it needs to be the real deal without a practice run. A quick discussion sets out the basic aim, and after a few hours sleep a bit more of a plan is formed. It’s a bit different, but that is all part of the plan. There’ll be tweaks and adaptations, certainly, but it is a goer. Brew 2 is coming. Due out in January*. Watch out for it. More details soon.

* and in breaking news, it’s already pre-selling, for a fairly high profile appearance. No pressure then…

November 7, 2013

Counting down the hours

It’s really quite nerve-wracking. There’s less than 100 hours to go before people can pay good hard-earned cash (I am assuming it is hard earned, anyway!) for a beer of my making. There is nothing I can do to influence the end product. Short of delivering it (tomorrow I believe, if not already) there’s nothing much the guys at Blackjack can do either. And then it is in the safe hands of Chris at the Craven Arms in Birmingham until the big day on Monday.

So, for those of you don’t already know, clear your diary for Monday evening at 7pm. You’ll need to get yourself into Birmingham but fingers crossed the results will be worth it. At the very least there’ll be a host of other great Blackjack beers to enjoy and you’ll get to meet the guys too. Plus me. Still, you can’t have it all…

And if you can’t make it into Birmingham on Monday then there will be a few other opportunities to try Phoneticus. It’s coming home to Penkridge, and it will be making its way to a few as yet unspecified venues. Let me know where you see it, and what you think if you do get to try it.

October 18, 2013

Brewday Report: Blackjack/Otherton Phoneticus (Part 1)

The most striking thing was just how little difference there really was.  The big tank of hot water, the shiny metal mash tun and the gas-fired boiler were all bigger, obviously, but fundamentally the same three vessels that sit in my own garage and get dragged into place on a brewday.  There was a fair bit of underletting that I could certainly see myself adopting for filling the mash tun at home, to avoid some of the frequent interaction between hot gravity-fed water and human flesh, but that probably means extra piping and another pump, so we’ll put that in the “ponder” box for now.  On the other hand I noted there was no fancy heated recirculation on the mash tun like I have at home, which is to be fair a bit of a luxury item for me.  I admit though I have strange ideas about what constitutes luxury…

When I arrived at the Blackjack brewery the bulk of the malt was sitting ready beside the mash tun, and that’s when it started to sink in just how much bigger this batch would be than the original recipe (about 18 times bigger in fact). I’m used to getting through a full bag of base malt across up to five brewdays, but several full bags were ready to go and once the remainder of pale malt and other additions were weighed out we had another couple of bags to add to them.

We were brewing Phoneticus, an American Pale Ale recipe I made earlier this year at home, and inevitably it would need to be adjusted to adapt to a different brewkit and the availability of certain ingredients.  Some careful substitution was all it took though, with an eye to matching the colour, flavours and gravity of the original.  Initial indications were good – the colour and gravity matched well and as far as I could tell so did the flavour of the finished wort, but it will be the final product that really confirms if we’ve got it right.

Mashing-in was much more a two-man operation than at home; I always find I need two pairs of hands but rarely have the space (or assistance) necessary.  This is where I think the underletting would help me, so tipping in grain and stirring the mixture aren’t hindered by moving the filling hose around and dodging the hot liquor.

Once that was done it was a case of waiting.  The time flies when brewing at home because there are a thousand little jobs that I can be doing.  Fixing this, cleaning that, moving things around aimlessly, usual brewday stuff.  In someone else’s brewery it’s different.  They might have their own odd jobs but as a visitor there’s not a lot you can do.  Still, 90 minutes eventually passed and we were ready to transfer to the copper.  Again, the process was little different to what I’m used to, just bigger, and, naturally, taking slightly longer to move several hundred litres where I have just 60 to deal with.  As the level of the wort rose above the heater we fired up the copper and once full, left it to reach the boil while we sorted out the hops…

[to be continued]

Huge thanks go to Rob at Blackjack for allowing me to come and fit my own beer into his brewing schedule and take up one of his fermenters for a few days!