Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Archive for the ‘honey beer’ Category

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/

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Three year’s ago, the beer world lost its most influential and passionate advocate – Michael Jackson – the Beer Hunter.

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Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter

It is hard to believe that it is three years since the death of the world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson. Known as the Beer Hunter, he almost singlehandedly transformed the world of beer, bringing it out of brewers’ tasting rooms into people’s front rooms.

Who would have thought that a train ride from Amsterdam to the Roman Catholic south of the Netherlands would forever change the world of beer, beer writing and brewing? It was 1969 and Michael Jackson a tyro journalist, who had trained on the Huddersfield Examiner and worked in London and Edinburgh, was enjoying his first foreign posting. The sixties were in full swing, and Michael revelled in the city’s sex, rock and roll and jazz cafes with beer and whiskey his drugs of choice. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono enjoyed a bed in the Amsterdam Hilton, Jackson decided to travel to the southern Dutch border to write an article on the uninhibited enjoyment he had been told took place at the region’s pre-lent carnivals.

Jackson throughout his life soon tired of uniformity and he was bored with drinking the city’s ubiquitous Pils beers. He wanted to experience the wider range of beers a friend had said was available. And in an unnamed town, where revellers danced to the sounds of the Beatles, a man in a John Lennon mask handed him a chalice with a darker beer. It was a Trappist beer from Belgium, and in a gulp his life changed. Beer was suddenly much more than an alcoholic liquid in a glass. The following day he travelled to Belgium for the first time – sampling the marvels of De Konnick, Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel and an unidentified Gueuze. John Barleycorn had grabbed his heart and soul. And as the beer flowed, so did the words. He dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers and whiskeys in his many books, articles and TV programmes. It was a journey that took him from Alaska to Patagonia and on to Sri Lanka.

He developed a classification system for the world’s classic beers styles and in doing so created consumer interest that saved many beers from extinction. His writing set the standard for beer enthusiasts and brewers alike. He wrote in depth about different brewing techniques, ingredients, flavour profiles, cultural differences, and food parings.

His writing style was wonderfully erudite and bubbled with humanity and humour. His knowledge of beer was unsurpassable. His genius was to be able to write simply and beautifully about beer and the lives of the people who created them. He was an inspiration to hundreds of brewers worldwide. Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson, the rock star, and that was reflected in his many talks. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter.”

Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter, was born on March 27 1942. He died on August 30 2007.

So what are your memories of Michael, I’d love to know?

Written by timhampson

August 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Honey – have you got the beer?

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Honey can add luxurious almost magical qualities to beer

And talking of competitions Britain’s bee keepers have launched this year’s competition to find the best honey beer in the world. International tennis players long to have a Wimbledon title to their names. For beekeepers, Britain’s National Honey Show, now in its 79th year, has the same appeal. The show benches are packed with nearly 250 classes showcasing the very best examples of the beekeepers’ craft. A walk around them is an instant education.

Last year saw the introduction of a new class for Honey Beer. It attracted entrants from Cornwall to Scotland. Now the search is on to find the best honey beer for 2010. And it is very easy to enter.

The requirement is for three bottles or cans in any style. It should be commercially available and of course honey must be an ingredient. Gold, silver and bronze medals are the prizes, plus the kudos of success at the world’s largest honey show.

The NHS attracts a good deal of media attention.  Last year several TV crews were present and BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme devoted an entire edition to the show. Already one major BBC TV programme has asked to film this year.

Last year’s worth winner was the highly drinkable Fairtrade Bumble Bee Honey Ale. Brewed by Freeminer, the honey came from wild flowers growing on a Chilean hillside.

Silver went to the distinctive Thornbridge’s Bracia, which was infused with a generous amount of dark and bitter Chestnut Honey. The bronze was won by the exquisite Lovibonds Gold Reserve.

So do you know anyone who produces a packaged beer which uses honey as an ingredient? Sweeten them up and encourage them to enter the competition. And what is your favourite honey beer?

The 2010 National Honey Show will be held at St Georges College, Weybridge, Surrey from 28 to 30 October.

Further information about the Honey Beer class can be obtained from the General Secretary, The Rev H F Capener  showsec@zbee.com

General information about the show and entry forms are available on the NHS website www.honeyshow.co.uk

Written by timhampson

August 18, 2010 at 7:23 am