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Archive for August 2014

An imperial beer, which republicans will enjoy

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Harveys Stour


This week my beer travels will take me to Russia, which is probably why my thoughts turn to St Petersburg and Imperial Stout. 

In era when we so often celebrate the new, it’s is great to revisit a beer from brewery, which can trace its roots back to 1790 and realise that many of the new wave of craft brewers still have much to learn.

In the ancient town of Lewes, on the banks of the river Ouse, is one of the most picturesque breweries in England, Harveys, which was designed by one of the world’s greatest brewery architects William Bradford.

The “new” brewery was built in 1881 to a design which was a classic of Victorian ingenuity. Dubbed Lewes’ cathedral, gravity is important in this tower brewery as the fundamental, elemental force is used to move the raw material around the site.

In 1998 brewer Miles Jenner was asked by an American importer to recreate a beer last brewed in 1921 in the province of Livonia, now Estonia, which was then part of the Russian Federation.

The beer was Albert Le Coq’s legendary Imperial Extra Double Stout. Since the early 19th century a Belgian entrepreneur Albert Le Coq had been buying Extra Stout from the London brewer Barclay Perkins and bottling it and exporting it to the Baltic regions. A gift of five thousand bottles to the Russian military hospitals of Catherine the Great was rewarded with an Imperial Warrant of Appointment, and Imperial Extra Double Stout was born.

On given the challenge of recreating the beer Miles contacted brewers who had worked for Barclay Perkins and brewed a Russian Stout in the 1950s. A recipe was compiled, a beer was brewed and it was stored for nine months before being readied export to America – where it should have been sold in corked bottles – just like the original beer.

However, disaster struck and an as before undetected Brettanomyces yeast strain sprang into life and the beer had a “dramatic” secondary fermentation which forced the corks from the bottles.

Miles said now he knew why the original Georgian brewers and indeed Barclay Perkins stored the beer for 12 months before releasing it. Today when the beer is brewed, a metal crown cap replaces the cork, and it is conditioned for 12 months before bottling to avoid explosions.

But that doesn’t inhibit Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout creating incendiary explosions on the palate.

The bottle conditioned beer, at 9 % ABV, is as black as the darkest night, its aroma is an ecstasy of vinous flavours. The roasted malts interlay with dark fruit flavours, a hint of wild yeast sourness and even some tantalising traces of blue cheese. There are overlays of coffee, prunes and liquorice.

Some beers really are liquid bread and can be drunk on their own, but why not try drizzling a spoonful over a plate of homemade, creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s what Sunday afternoons are for.




Wharf Brewery, 6 Cliffe High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2AH



Written by timhampson

August 31, 2014 at 1:21 pm

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A taste of greatness?

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Guinness-Nigeria-PlcNigerina Guinness

I’ve just finished a bottle of Nigerian brewed Guinness bought from an off licence in London.

The beer might look similar to any other bottled Guinness but the taste is different.

A dark stout wort concentrate is imported from Dublin, Ireland, and this is blended with a Nigerian brewed pale beer made from locally grown sorghum and maize, resulting in a sweeter beer. The change in recipe resulted from a Nigerian Government ban on the importation of malted barley in the 1980s.

This bottle was aged and had swathes of brett flavours – perhaps that’s what gives it its “greatness”.

Nigerians first started to drink imported bottled Guinness in the 1940s, when the country was a British colony. Guinness took the decision to build a local brewery rather than import it when the country gained its independence in 1960.

A modern, purpose built, brewery was completed in Ikeja, a suburb of the country’s capital Lagos, to meet the growing local demand. It was Guinness’s first brewery outside the British Isles.

Today, Nigeria is the second largest market for Guinness in the world – locals drink more than the Irish and some experts predict consumption will overtake the United Kingdom’s in the next few years. Perhaps that isn’t that surprising as Nigeria’s population of 120 million is 30 times larger than Ireland’s.

Shamrocks, leprechauns or other Irish images are not used to sell the Nigerian Guinness and few local drinkers have probably heard of the significance of St Patrick’s Day to Irish and Irish American culture.

Guinness in Nigeria is sold as an aspirational African drink using slogans such as “Are you the Warrior” or “Millions of Nigerians Choose Greatness”, in which the Guinness Harp logo has been transformed into a map of Africa. Typically advertisements show successful business people or allude to physical prowess.

However, despite Guinness’ success, lager is by far the most popular type of beer drunk in Nigeria with Star, which is brewed by Nigerian Breweries, leading brand sales.


Written by timhampson

August 30, 2014 at 6:14 pm

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Hopping adventures – revisited

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I used to love writing for the magazine Beers of the World. It’s a great shame that today there are not more outlets for the so many journalists who want write about beer. Here’s a part of a piece I write five years ago after a trip to Bavaria. I am reminded of it because hop harvest is now going flat out in Germany – and is about to begin in England. 

 Ralf MussoterRalf Mussotter is a big bear of a man with a huge smile and a wicked sense of humour.

And his laughter is ringing around the brewing hall of the Schloss Brewery in Au in the heart of the Hallertau region in Bavaria, Germany.

His translator from the local tourist board was struggling with the conversion of brewing terms from German to English, when he suddenly burst into perfect English.

“We are not a Chinese brewery he guffawed, we do not use rice. We are not a Belgian brewery, we don’t use fruit.

“We are German, we brew to the Reinheitsgebot, we only use malted barley, hops and yeast to make our beer,” boomed Ralf.

For like many German’s Ralf is a traditionalist and firmly believes in the principles of the so-called German purity law.

As a brew master Ralf knows every centimetre of his brewery, which brews the beer drunk by most of the adult people in the town.

Many come to sit in the brewery’s beer garden and enjoy a salty, freshly made thirst inducing pretzel, a perfect accompaniment to his Auer Pils, a softly spoken beer, with a delicate hop aroma.

“The best hops are essential for our beers,” said Ralf as he stands before me in his striking bright red  dungarees, wellington boots and a beanie hat.

And certainly he has access to some of finest hops in the world. North east of Munich, this is the one of the world’s largest hop growing areas.

Everywhere you look there are hop gardens. Hallertau has more than 1,200 hop farms, with more than 60,000 hectares of land devoted to growing the 5m bines, whose cones contribute a spicy cocktail of fragrances to beers.

The region’s tourist board is trying to promote the region as a place for people to visit. It wants to raise beer and brewing to the same heights as wine making.

For if people can do a wine tour, why cannot they do a beer tour, seeing at close hand how hops are grown and then enjoy a glass of freshly made beer in a sun dappled beer garden.

A hop tour snakes it way around the pretty villages and towns in the area. In September the area almost seems to smell of sweet, citrus flavoured hop oils as itinerant Polish farm labourers harvest the crop and fill trailers towed by small tractors with the cut bines which are then driven back to a farmer’s yard, where the cones are separated from the stalks and dried.

So if you want a different type of beer adventure how about a trip to Hallertau and a long and lazy afternoon getting “Schlossed?” in an Au beer garden. Schloss is one of 38 breweries based in a German castle most of which are found in Bavaria, so should you tire of this one there are plenty of others to seek out. Hoppy days indeed.

Written by timhampson

August 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm

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Alcohol releases the beast in religious people

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Monk drinking wine

Can this be so? New research reveals that people with higher levels of spirituality and religiousness are significantly more likely than their less religious counterparts to become aggressive and violent when drunk.
In fact, the American boffins found a close response between religious views, drinking too much and aggression.
The men and no doubt women in white coats found that the stronger the individual’s views about religion and spirituality were, the higher the hostility and aggression they exhibited while drinking.
According to the top brainbox, Professor Peter Giancola of University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences the research’s findings suggest that people are more likely to oversimplify when their under the influence of alcohol.
“Oversimplifying – in many cases the more religious someone is, the more aggressive they will become after drinking alcohol,” said Giancola.
The study involved 520 people between the ages of 21 and 35. All participants were from the central Kentucky region.
Researcher randomly distributed alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks after participants were surveyed about their spiritual beliefs.
Results from the study indicated that violence decreased as spirituality increased in persons who received the non-alcohol beverage.
However, quite unexpectedly, violence actually increased as spirituality increased in persons who received the alcohol beverage.
While the study showed that alcohol released the beast within in highly religious and conservative people, researchers have no idea why it happens.
These counter-intuitive findings clearly require replication, Giancola said, however, they indicate that alcohol “releases the beast within” in highly spiritual persons, though the reasons for this still remain unknown.
Perhaps some people shouldn’t drink to this.

Written by timhampson

August 24, 2014 at 7:12 pm

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The way we were – British Guild of Beer Writers judges 1993

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1993 judges

The way we were? Well we must have had colour photography 21 years ago, but….
This handsome quartet of men in suits and ties comprises the 1993 judging panel for the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Would four men in the media all wear ties today? I think the photo is taken in the Three Tuns behind Portman Square and I presume as a British Legion poppy is being worn it was early November.
Pictured from left are: Morse creator and author Colin Dexter, the esteemed Rob (Robert) Humphreys who at the time was “working” at Bass, David Young of the Times and Mike Ripley from the Brewers’ Society who was a real powerhouse behind the early awards and who contributed massively to the survival of the Guild in its early days.
After several beers and many deliberations the Gold award was given to the marvellous Brian Glover, Silver went to the great Michael Jackson, while Peter Cordell Ruth Herman and Barrie Pepper were all highly commended.

Written by timhampson

August 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Still time to enter the Guild of Beer Writers’ Annual Awards

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 Britsh Guild of Beer Writers Annual Awards

LogoBeer writers, broadcasters and bloggers, take note!

Entries to this year’s British Guild of Beer Writers’ Awards close on Friday, 5th September.Don’t miss out on your chance to win one of our eight category awards and a share of the £9,500 prize fund.
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 over the past year. You do NOT have to be a member of the Guild of Beer Writers to enter and we welcome nominations by third parties – so if you have been impressed by a press article, book or blog about beer, please think about entering it.
This year, entries are welcomed in eight different categories, including the Best Young Beer Writer, introduced for the 2014 competition. All of the categories – apart from Corporate Communications – offer prize money for the winner and most for a runner up as well. Winners of each category and the overall Beer Writer of the Year 2014 will be announced at the Guild’s annual Awards dinner, which is being held on Thursday 4th December at the Jumeirah Carlton hotel in Knightsbridge.
Judging this year’s entries is a panel of judges chaired by Will Hawkes, current Beer Writer of the Year. The judges are: Will Dean, editor of the Independent magazine; Natalie Whittle, associate editor, FT Magazine; Tim Hulme, chief executive of the BII and Georgina Young, brewing manager at Fuller Smith & Turner.
Full details of how to enter the Awards, including a list of the categories, criteria and downloadable entry and nomination forms, can be found on the British Guild of Beer Writers website http://www2.beerguild.co.uk/?page_id=2162
Entries for this year’s Awards must have been published between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014.


Written by timhampson

August 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

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