Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Archive for the ‘malt’ Category

Some beers are so good on first sip that “wow” is the only acceptable description. Windsor & Eton’s Black IPA. It’s a cracker. WOW

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My day had started early, when as I was leaving to take my dogs for a walk and I find a Range Rover was parked across my drive and some strange guy was standing with two bottles of beer in hand. “Here, I have bought you these to try”, says the driver. As Ry Cooder would say “It’s a strange world.”

But, after a long day of news writing the contents of one of the bottles was the perfect end to the day,

Conqueror – it is an awesome brew. It has a fabulous nose. But what gives it that and what is it hopped with? I get a floral, fruity taste from it – what gives it that? The conditioning is fantastic. What yeast is the brewer using? And what is a Black IPA?

Well let Paddy Johnson the brewer, who it turned out was my mysterious visitor at the start of the day tell his own story.

“In the tradition  of a Black IPA it’s brewed mainly with Cascade but also Summit. The yeast was recommended by fellow brewer’s within London Brewer’s Alliance for this type of beer. It is a American yeast known for its cleanness which we want with such a rich beer.

“Black IPA is a relatively new style developed in particular by the Craft Brewers of the US. Those of us daft enough to go for it are trying to produce a beer that is still fundamentally an IPA in strength, dryness, bitterness and hop aroma but with a full roasted malt character that still leaves the beer very drinkable.”

“This is a cask beer that we launched just two weeks ago. So proud of it we got our friends at Kernel brewery to bottles with us one Kilderkin so we could give friends a taste if they couldn’t get to a pub.”

Paddy says it is always likely to be a specialist beer. Having said that sales are taking off and the Bree Louise at Euston is stocking it.

This beer’s name Conqueror was chosen by the brewery’s 2,000 FaceBook fans. It uses five different specialist malts and is hopped at three completely different parts of the process to achieve its full hoppy character.

If you see it try it.

www.webrew.co.uk

Written by timhampson

November 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

An old friend returns

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Courage Directors - "actually it's really rather good".

One of the best things about old friends, is that sometimes you don’t see them for years, but when you do meet you immediately feel comfortable in each others company. There doesn’t even have to be lot conversation, you just enjoy the other’s presence.

So it is with Courage Directors. Once the beer was one of the strutting stags of British brewing and stood tall alongside great English ales like Bass and Pedigree. This was in a time when drinkers did not have the lavish choice of style and beers now compete for our attention.

A traditional dark bitter, at 4.8 per cent ABV, it was first brewed (I think) at Alton in Hampshire and so the legend has it was brewed exclusively for the company’s top brass, and not for public sale. For many year’s it was brewed in Courage’s famed ale brewery in Bristol.

The story of the Courage mirrors the decline of the country’s old brewing companies, when takeovers, poor marketing and bad business decisions saw the disappearance of many household names.

Courage & Co was started by John Courage at the Anchor Brewhouse in Horselydown, Bermondsey in 1787. Skipping a couple of centuries, in 1955, the company merged with Barclay, Perkins & Co Ltd to become Courage, Barclay & Co. Only five years later, another merger with the Reading based Simonds’ Brewery led to the name changing to Courage, Barclay, Simonds & Co. This was simplified to Courage in October 1970 and the company was taken over by the Imperial Tobacco Group two years later.

Imperial Tobacco was acquired by the Hanson Trust in 1986 and they sold off Courage to Elders IXL who were renamed the Foster’s Brewing Group in 1990. The following year, the Courage section of Foster’s merged with all the breweries of Grand Metropolitan.

Its public houses were owned by a joint-company called Inntrepreneur Estates. Scottish & Newcastle purchased Courage from Foster’s in 1995, creating Scottish Courage as its brewing arm, which was itself then bought a consortium comprising Carlsberg and Heineken in 2008.

Sadly, during the 1990s and the early years of this century Directors fell on troubled times, it wasn’t promoted as it could have been as different owners concentrated on the sale of lager and how much money they would make from asset stripping and the sale of their shares. But the iconic brand was rescued in 2007 by Wells and Young’s Brewing The Bedford company set up a new joint venture business called Courage Brands, in which it has an 83 per cent stake with Scottish & Newcastle the previous owner of the brand. S&N holds the remaining equity in the company. But enough of the history.

Some old tasting notes of mine describe Directors as a full-drinking and complex ale with a full malt taste and an intense bitter sweet finish.

Comparing a draught beer with its bottled version is rarely ideal. But the current bottled Directors, which was given to me by Wells and Youngs, is a distinguished beer. I don’t trust my on taste memory and our palates change over time anyway, but it has a marvellous bitter sweet intensity and almost a honey flavour. It ends with a satisfying, longish dry salty finish.

My daughter Ruth (aged 24) took a sip of it – ooh that got some citrus, grapefruit flavours, “actually it’s rather good” as she finished the glass. I think that sums it up, it is  indeed rather good.

Written by timhampson

October 22, 2010 at 2:04 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