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Archive for September 2010

Search for best beer writer competition – entries close 8 October

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Have you got the words to be Beer Writer of the Year 2010 and win £1,000?

The British Guild of Beer Writers is giving beer communicators the chance to enter their work in six different categories, with one of the category winners to be named as the Beer Writer of the Year and receive the coveted Michael Jackson Gold Tankard Award*. http://www.beerwriters.co.uk/news.php?x=1&showarticle=1609

Cound you follow in the footsteps of Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter and become beer writer of the year

The competition is open to writers, broadcasters, photographers, poets, illustrators, designers, webmasters and bloggers whose work has broadened the public’s knowledge of beer and pubs. Nominations and entries are being sought for six categories:

Molson Coors’ Award for Best Writing in National Publications – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at a general audience, published in the national (and international) press, consumer magazines, books, national television and radio.

Adnams Award for Best Writing in Regional Publications – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at a specific local or regional audience, published in local and regional newspapers, magazines, radio, television and CAMRA newsletters.

Wells & Young’s Awards for Best Writing for the Beer and Pub Trade – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at the brewing and pub industry, published in trade and company newspapers, newsletters, magazines, reports and websites.

Brains SA Gold Award for Best Online Communication – £1,000 & £500

For the very best use of blogs, websites and social media, whether that be writing or use of other tools such as video or social networking.

Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary – prize £1,000 plus trip to Czech Republic

For the very best travel-themed beer writing (or beer-themed travel writing) or broadcasting. Entries can be from national, local or regional media, books, trade publications or online.

Bishop’s Finger Award for Beer and Food Writing – prize £1,000

For the very best writing or broadcasting on the subject of matching beer with food (an area formerly dominated by wine). Entries can be from national, local or regional media, books, trade publications or online.

Winners to be announced at prestige beer banquet

The winners will be announced at the British Guild of Beer Writers annual awards dinner. The event is being held on 25 November at the Radisson Bloomsbury with the meal prepared by Michelin starred chef, Sriram Aylur, from the Quilon Restaurant in London – www.quilon.co.uk.

Sriram will showcase the food of India’s south-west coast and his passion for beer.  The cuisine is light and fragrant offering flavours that will complement and contrast a selection of beer pairings.

Sriram, who first made his name in India as executive chef of the Karavali restaurant in Bangalore, was ranked one of India’s top five chefs; he has since brought his enthusiasm for home-style, south Indian cuisine to London.

Sriram’s menu features a modern and stylish take on traditional flavours with a fabulous beer list to match. Sriram also stands tall on the global stage, each year preparing banquets for delegates at the Davos World Economic Forum.

The judges

Current Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown has agreed to be chairman of the judges. Pete Brown is author of Man Walks into a Pub, Three Sheets to the Wind and Hops and Glory, and the annual Cask Report.

He will be supported by:

Niki Segnit – Author of this year’s breakthrough cook book The Flavour Thesaurus, a compendium of flavours with recommendations on how to pair them. Heston Blumenthal calls it ‘An original and inspiring resource’ and it’s basically selling copies as fast as Bloomsbury can reprint them.

Harry White – A brewer of thirty years standing, formerly Global Director for Technical Compliance with Molson Coors, recently retired, past president of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, author of several papers covering technical aspects of brewing.

Sarah Bridge – Leisure correspondent at the Mail on Sunday, has written extensively about business issues in leisure retail including the beer and pub industry.

How to enter

To enter the British Guild of Beer Writers Annual Awards send four copies (photocopies or printouts from PDFs accepted) of each entry, published or broadcast in the last 12 months up to 30 September 2010 – stating where it has been published. Authors of books need to send four copies of the book.

Website and bloggers entries – please send web address and URLs of the pages you want the judges to read.

Entrants can enter as many categories as they want, but they are limited to a maximum of six entries within each category. Remember, quality is more important than quantity so send one good entry in a category rather than six mediocre ones.

The entry should be accompanied by a letter stating which category or categories are being entered.

Entries should be sent by 8 October to – Beer Writers Competition, c/o  Seal Communications, Commercial Street, Birmingham, B1 1RH

Contact Seal: Nigel Pipkin 0121 616 5800 E: Birmingham@seal.uk.com

Entrants are asked to nominate which category they would like their work to be entered into but the judges reserve the right to consider work for other categories.

Editors, publishers and other third parties can nominate entrants to the competition.

Entrants do not have to be members of the British Guild of Beer Writers – they just have to communicate about beer or beer culture, new products or the ingredients and brewing of beer.

There is no limitation on the number of categories that an individual may enter.

Entries can only be returned if accompanied with a self-addressed, stamped envelope or packaging.

*Michael Jackson (27 March 1942 – 30 August 2007) who was also known as the beer hunter, dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers in his many books, articles and TV programmes. He was the first Chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers.

Pictured from left: Budweiser Budvar’s Ian Moss presents current Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown with the Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary.

Guidelines for entrants can be found at http://www.beerwriters.co.uk/news.php?awards=1&showarticle=23

To book a place at the awards dinner – ticket price is £70 per person or £56 for BGBW individual members.

For more information contact Angie Armitage, at angie@cask-marque.co.uk or on 01206 752212

For more information on the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards contact Tim Hampson Tel: 07768 614283 – Email: tim@infopub.co.uk. Blog: https://beerandpubs.wordpress.com

www.beerwriters.co.uk

Written by timhampson

September 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Bamberg – can there be a better place in the world to drink beer?

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Bamberg's Old Town Hall, which seems precariously balanced on an ancient bridge.

Bamberg is a beautiful, Baroque, island city, on the banks of the River Regnitz, and the Main-Donau canal is in Upper Franconia, Bavaria. It is built on medieval foundations and is home to 70,000 people and 11 breweries.

The city is a base for many United States Army personnel and their families – and they no doubt have helped take the fame of this beer paradise around the world.

Many of Bamberg’s beers have a smoky secret. To malt a cereal the grain has to begin to germinate, converting complicated sugars into simpler ones, which then can be broken down even further in the mash tun. But the process has to be stopped before it goes too far and the grain’s goodness is lost to the brewer.

Heat is normally used to arrest germination, but in Franconia, maltsters developed a smoky technique of stopping the grain’s growth.

The germinating grain is heated over beech wood fires, which imparts marvellous wood fire, peaty textures to the finished beers.

Schlenkerla (Dominikanerstrasse 6 www.smokebeer.com ) is a vibrant, friendly bar and restaurant and Bamberg’s best known. The warmth of its world famous rauchbier, with its smoked whisky and cheese overtones is as warm as the welcome. Tables are often shared and people soon embrace in the comfort of conversation and the language of laughter. Beer is the social lubricant and the perfect accompaniment to the robust Bavarian dishes – onions stuffed with beery meatballs is a particular favourite.

Two doors down is the Ambräusianum (Dominikanerstr. 10 www.ambraeusianum.de ). Here the brewing vessels can been seen, which makes it seem more like a modern brew pub than one of Bamberg’s traditional establishments, well it is a relative newcomer being opened in 2004. Weekend breakfasts are a special treat – a glass of wheat beer with three locally made Bavarian veal sausages and a pretzel.

Beer has been brewed at Klosterbrau (Oberre Muhlbruck 3) since 1533. Down a cobbled street, time seems to slip away in this fairy tale of a brewery tap. The range includes a schwarzbier, braunbier, weizen, pils and a bock.

The river and its pretty walks is never faraway in Bamberg and the stroll to the Spezial passes the spectacular medieval stone and timbered Old Town Hall, which seems precariously balanced on an ancient bridge. Max Platz which is off Gruner Market is a square of elegant and genteel proportions.

The Brauerei Spezial’s–(Obere Königstrasse 10 – is a locals bar decorated with laughter and conversations. Its Spezial Rrauchbeer has subtle, soft toffee flavours and even a hint of burnt straw. Spezial uses smoked malt in at least four other of its beers. By the bar is a serving hatch, where locals come to fill containers with beer, for drinking at home.

Directly opposite is the Brauerei Fässla (Obere Königsstraße 19-21 www.faessla.de ). Brewing started here in 1649 and the pub has a comfortable wood panelled country style room. The brewery’s logo, a dwarf rolling a barrel of beer, decorates the glasses and dark furniture. Its Lagerbier is easy drinking and melds malty flavours with a fresh, soft bitterness. It is also home to a small, hotel.

The exterior of the Weinstube Pizzini (Ober Sandstrasse 17) is somewhat unprepossessing, and do not be deterred by its name, it is neither a wine bar nor a pizza restaurant. Inside this small, brown decorated and time worn bar, there is warm hearted welcome and the opportunity to try Fassla and Spezial beers as well as a Dunkel from Andechser.

Bamberg’s other breweries

Greifenklau (Laurenziplatz 20; Kaiserdom (Breitackerstrase 9 www.Kaiserdom.de; Kneesmann (Wunderburg 5 ); Mahr’s Brau (Wunderburgh 10; Robesbierre (Oberer Stephansberg 49).

The Bamberg Tourist office (Geyserwörthstr. 3, www.bamberg.info ) has an excellent guide to all city’s breweries.

Written by timhampson

September 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Turtley Corn Mill, Avowick is the cream of Devon

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A former chicken hatchery has been transformed into a fine pub

You do not have to be driven to the Turtley Corn Mill in an open topped car on a still warm, end of summer’s day, but it helps as is it is a glorious, exhilarating ride though the undulating Devon countryside from the city of Exeter.

The mill wheel remains as a tribute to its former life

The location is idyllic; the original mill is set in six acres of grounds bordered by the River Glazebrook, in Avonwick, South Brent. It has its own small lake complete with an island, perfect for sunny days, idle wandering, the watching of quacking ducks and people playing lawn chess.

Check mate?

Once the site sounded to the clucking and chirping of fowl as for many years it was a chicken hatchery before becoming a pub in the 1970’s. The former mill was transformed by a radical refurbishment in 2005, which has introduced oak and slate floors, bookcases, old furniture and loads of local pictures. However, the old mill wheel remains as a striking reminder of the building’s previous existence. Inside, the style is light and fresh with no music, fruit machines or pool tables, just newspapers to read, books to browse, good food and great local beers.

There is plenty of space in the garden for drinking

My friend opted for a cream topped hot chocolate. I preferred a glass of Otter Bitter from a farm based brewery in East Devon’s Blackdown Hills. The Otter Brewery was set up in 1990 by the McCaig family. Its eco-systems should make most people green with envy. It has a semi-underground eco-cellar built with clay blocks and a sedum roof. And the effluent safely flows out into its own reed bed. I have a particular liking for a bottled beer Otter brewed for sale in the US, Hoppy Otter at 6.8 per cent ABV, which I do not think was ever sold in the UK. However, for me the really great British beers are brewed at about 3.6 per cent ABV. It needs real skill to get so much taste into something we often call in an understated way “ordinary bitter”. There is nothing ordinary about Otter’s Bitter, it is complex and full of ripe fruit notes. With my lunch, I had a glass of St Austell’s IPA, it went well with the local haddock fillet fried in a real ale batter. Well I know it is not a proper IPA, but it is an easy drinking malty –and toffee flavoured beer balanced by some refreshing citrus hops.

Many fine walks surround the pub

After lunch we took a 15 minute walk alongside the river, joined by fellow customers trying to wear dogs and children out. Then back to the car and shunning the A38 we took the winding b-roads back into Exeter. http://www.turtleycornmill.com/

Written by timhampson

September 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Sometimes they just ask the wrong question.

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So when was the first beer brewed?

“So who knows when the first beer was brewed?”

I’m not sure if our guide Eva Kočková at the Pilsner Brewery museum knew who she was asking. I was in the company of three of the country‘s best beer writers – Peter Brown, Mark Dredge and Adrian Tierney Jones. Beer writers are a bit like economists – get three together and you will have at least four different opinions.

The craft of brewing is as old as civilization. Between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, some people discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering and settled down to farm. Grain was the first domesticated crop that started that farming process.

Through hieroglyphics, cuneiform characters and written accounts, some historians have traced the roots of brewing back to ancient African, Egyptian and Sumerian tribes. Here, the oldest proven records of brewing are about 6,000 years old and refer to the Sumerians or Mesopotamia as Eva told us.

However there is some evidence from  China which shows brewing took place more than 8,000 years ago. And in South America there is evidence of some early civilisations, pre-Columbus, making a fermented drink made from corn. In truth we will never know, but it seems fair to assume that brewing like the use of fire could have developed almost simultaneously in different parts of the world.

Na Parkane, a good place to enjoy a beer and some dumplings

The excellent Pilsen Brewery Museum is housed in an old 15th century maltings, one of the many which were once found in this brewing town. It includes a gothic malt house, a mock-up of the laboratory used by the man credited with developing Pilsner style beers Josef Groll and on the remains of the city walls outside, which kept enemies at bay for centuries, there are small plots of barley and hops.

It really is a pleasant place to wile away an hour or so.

On special days actors create scenes from Pilsens beery history, including the improbable tale of the ale connor – a myth which too can be found in many British accounts of the history of beer. According to legend, the quality of beer was judged by the stickiness of beer and whether the ale connor’s leather breeches stuck to a beer soaked bench. The more the trousers stuck, the better the beer. Well it is a good story.

Hard hats are a necessity for the undergound tour

Underneath, a separate tour, for which hard hats are obligatory winds through a 800m labyrinth of narrow tunnels, linking streets and houses. Hewn from the soft sandstone the first tunnels date from 1290.Here can be seen some of the 360 original wells from which brewers drew water to make beer. The temperature is 7’C perfect for lagering. Here too, the citizens sought refuge when the town was under siege.

Josef Groll's laboratory is recreated in the museum

And to end the tour, what could be better than to visit the adjacent Na Parkene pub for a glass of dark, unfiltered beer, and of course some dumplings. Potato or bread?

http://www.plzenskepodzemi.cz/en/

So what came first beer or bread? According to a couple of Irish archaeologists it was beer not bread which civilized the savage beast.

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Billy Quinn and Declan Moore get mashing bronze ale style

Many ancient historians will have you believe that it was farming and bread making which tamed nomadic man and turned hunter gatherers into people who lived in a stable community.

Not so say archaeologists Billy Quinn and Declan Moore. A few years ago they did some research which they believe shows that one of the most common archaeological monuments in the Irish landscape was used for brewing a Bronze Age beer.

If it is true that we are what we eat, then it is also true that we are what we drink, and Bronze age man was probably little different from modern man or woman – if given the choice of what to do on a cold wet winter’s night – drink a beer and party or eat a slice of bread which  would you choose?

Ireland has many well preserved Bronze Age sites where it is possible to see the enigmatic fulacht fiadh. These monuments, of which there are more than 4,500, can be seen as small, horseshoe shaped grass covered mounds. Conventionally archaeologists have described them as ancient cooking spots.

However, Quinn and Moore believe that they were used as breweries.

The equipment was kept simple

According to Quinn: “The tradition of brewing in Ireland has a long history, we think that the fulacht may have been used as a kitchen sink, for cooking, dyeing and indeed many other uses, but a primary use was the brewing of ale.

“It became clear to us that the making of beer was one of the first steps in turning man into civilised man and that beer making came before bread making.”

To prove their theory, Quinn & Moore set out to recreate the process.

The experiment was carried at Billy Quinn’s home in Cordarragh, Headford, Co Galway.

“Seeking authenticity in replicating our Bronze Age ale we decided that our equipment should be as basic as possible,” said Quinn.

They used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones. After achieving an optimum temperature of 60-70°C they began to add milled barley and after approx 45 minutes simply baled the final product into fermentation vessels. They added natural wild flavourings – and wisely took care to avoid anything toxic or hallucinogenic – and then added yeast from the Galway Brewery, after cooling the vessels in a bath of cold water for several hours.

Whatever the age the prinicples of brewing remain the same

According to Moore “including the leftover liquid we could easily have produced up to 300 litres of this most basic ale”. Through their experiments, they discovered that the process of brewing ale in a fulacht using hot rock technology is a simple process. To produce the ale took only a few hours, followed by a three-day wait to allow for fermentation.

Quinn and Moore point out that although their theory is based solely on circumstantial and experimental evidence, they believe that, although probably multifunctional in nature, a primary use of the fulacht fiadh was for brewing beer.

Billy Quinn and Declan Moore prepare their ancient brew

“Beer is liquid bread, and if our theory is correct it is the making of beer that turned the savage beast into the civilised man,” said Quinn.

Written by timhampson

September 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Join the search for the Welsh John Barleycorn as Hay on Wye become Beer on Wye

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The town of Hay on Wye on the English and Welsh border is world renowned for its literary festival. But now it is having a rival ale and beer books weekend – 24-26 September – at Kilvert’s pub in Bear Street.

Organiser Ed Davies says he has arranged for some of the country’s best beer writers to come and talk about their work.

Hops and Glory author and beer writer of the year Pete Brown will describe his three month journey from Burton Trent to India in the company of a cask of IPA.

You get two pints for the price one when Adrian Tierney-Jones (1001 Beer You must Try Before you Die) and myself (The Beer Book) debate which are best – ales from North Wales or the South.

Melissa Cole will take the “beard out of beer” and lead a tasting for the ladies and a beer and food matching. And if all of this is not enough, Zak Avery, author of 500 Beers, will describe some of his favourite brews.

From the Wye Valley Brewery Peter and Vernon Amor (brewers of Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) will be giving readings from the Dorothy Goodbody stories and Breconshire Brewery’s head brewer Buster Grant will talk about the future of beer in the Principality.

Should you tire of the beer, there will be talks and readings by several local authors and poets. And if you want something that goes with a bang the Sealed Knot’s Hay Garrison will be firing their muskets. More than 50 different Welsh ales will be available at the festival.

Tweet it, blog it, tell people about it. Go to www.thehaybrewery.co.uk/festival for more information.

Hop to it – let’s hear it for the beer

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Extravagant costumes are enhanced with garlands of hops

Beer is the national drink of the Britain, but how well do we support it?

Burton on Trent is one of the world’s great brewing towns, yet get off at its station or even drive into the town and few would realise the significance of the place to beer, not just in this country but worldwide. It is even home to the National Brewing Centre, which has barely scratched the national consciousness.

However, in the Kent town of Faversham, on the first weekend of September is held a raucous celebration of the hop, which spills over the town’s streets and pubs.

Morris dancers are adorned with hops

The two day festival, which I attended yesterday, was a vibrant celebration of beer and its natural roots. The festival is a celebration of the hop harvest and the heyday of hop picking, when thousands of Londoners came down to the Kent Hop-Gardens every September for a so-called “country holiday with pay”. Life in London was probably pretty tough if people found picking hops a holiday. Many families returned to the same farms, generation after generation, to be joined by every available local worker to form the largest agricultural workforce this country has ever seen.

Children get in on the act too

But a row over funding has threatened the future of the festival, as thousands of visitors thronged the town’s streets. It would be shame if the festival is lost – it provides a link between one of the natural raw materials that makes beer and of course the pubs where people drink it. Street corners and pavements become theatres for dance groups and musicians. Vendors sell bines of hops and many people wear garlands of hop cones. Pub gardens become rock gardens and crowds move from pub to pub to hear their favourite bands or look for something different.

Even the dogs join in the hop celebration

And of course there is beer – beautiful beer. I tried Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew Bitter. Not too strong at 3.7 per cent ABV, and full of rich robust citrus aromas, a deep bitterness and long, lingering finish from the use of the Kent grown hops.

The hop has bought the area much employment and wealth and the festival helps cement the link between the town’s brewer Shepherd Neame, farming, the harvest with its influx of workers from London and the impact that beer has upon our culture.

Pearly kings and queens from London sing out their songs

The festival costs a lot of money to run and of course there is a good argument that says why should a local council fund it?

But beer has shaped our culture – our art, literature and music. Taking a sip of beer is much more than just drinking alcohol, to understand the importance of beer we need to keep its links with the past. We lose these bonds at our peril.

www.thehopfestival.co.uk

Written by timhampson

September 6, 2010 at 8:41 am