Saturday, September 1, 2007

Last Bottle of the Best Beer

Well the best beer, in my opinion, that has come out of a mainstream kiwi brewery. Speights Porter is part of the distinction craft beer range that is brewed in kauri gyles (i.e. open wooden fermentors) at the Speights Brewery which is owned by Lion Nathan. Unfortunately the decision has been made to stop bottling this range and only brew it for draught dispense at the Speights theme pubs. I grabbed one of the last 6 packs and have just drunk my last bottle. Lion I suspect are going to concentrate on marketing the Macs range as their premium product. Sadly to my taste none of the Macs beers come close to the porter. The kauri gyles that are in use at Speights are now the only ones left working in the world. Gales of Horndean in Hampshire (who's Old Prize Ale is in my all time top 10) used kauri gyles for at least some of thier production up untill the breweries acquisition and closure by Fullers a year and a 1/2 ago.

Speights Porter 5%

It pours a deep black with a beige creamy head. Aroma has distinct sweetness to it, hints of esspresso and chocolate, with a touch of resiny hop. As the beer warms toasty toffee aromas come out. On the palate there is sweet malt, powder cocoa, a hint of toffee before fading to cocoa, maltloaf and a faint spicy hop note. Fantastic porter !



Anonymous said...

Those kauri gyles sound like the Yorkshire Squares I saw at the Theakstons in Masham recently. Ironically the original Yorkshire squares they were using were made of Welsh Slate!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Yorkshire Squares are probibly closer to Burton Unions (such as those used by Marstons, or interestingly those recreated by Firestone Walker in the states) in that they encorporate 2 different spaces and the yeast barm travels between the two. The Kauri Gyles are classic english open fermentors made of wood and coopered, perhaps closer to what Greene King uses for Suffolf Strong or the tuns used by Rodenbach.

Anonymous said...

The squares I saw were just that, open squares. The only augmentation they had was some shuttering they put up around the edges to contain the ridiculously large yeast head. Apparently they were the originals from 18 something or other when the brewery started.

I thought that in this day and age breweries wouldn't take the risk of fermenting in open vats, especially not in rooms where they were marching brewery tours through. I suppose it must add something to the beer otherwise they wouldn't do it. It's also protected by the four foot yeast head on top (it really was that high). In your beer tasting experience do Yorkshire Squares or other open fermentation systems add anything to the brew apart from making the brewer nervous of infection?

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

John , what you saw was the upper deck of the Square, there is anouther chamber below,

from wikipedia

"A Yorkshire Square vessel is a two-storey system consisting of a shallow chamber approximately two metres high, above which is a walled deck. Cooled wort, the liquid extracted from malted barley, is fermented by a special yeast in the lower chamber, while the yeasty head settles on the deck above.

During the first stage of fermentation, the fermenting beer is periodically pumped from the bottom of the chamber over the yeasty head, to keep the yeast mixed in with the fermenting wort. Later, the mixing is stopped and the beer in the chamber allowed to settle and cool gently.

Most of the yeast rises onto the deck, and is left behind when the beer is drained from the chamber.

The whole process takes at least six days. However, beer straight from a Yorkshire Square vessel will still have a harsh flavour. Before it can be considered drinkable, the residual yeast must be allowed to ferment any remaining sugar, producing a little extra alcohol and carbon dioxide, which mellows the beer and produces a wonderful balance of taste and aroma. This conditioning begins in tanks at the brewery and continues after the beer is filled into casks "

As for fermenting in open fermentors, if you use a proper top fermenting yeast that forms a crust on top and is then scrapped off, things should be fine. The fermenting vessel absolutly changes the character of the beer. The yeast behaves differently according to the environment its in.

Anonymous said...

Ah I see, well you live and learn.

I quite fancy trying beer brewed in these Kauri Gyles, who knows one day we may get to try some as NZ is pretty high on our list of places to visit.

Speaking of wooden beer vessels I managed to snag myself a pint of Old Peculiar from one of only ~100 wooden casks that Theakstons maintain. I could have sworn that the whisky notes in that particular beer were accentuated by the wooden barrel. It could have been all in my head but if what you say about beer getting flavours from it's fermenting vessels is true then I dare say it stands to reason that the vessel from which it is served also adds its own unique flavours.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Im very jeloius , Old Peculiar from the bottle is pretty good. I brew an old ale called Ridgeway Ruby which is losely based on Old Peculiar.

Anonymous said...

Do you not find home made ale more satisfying than pub bought ale? I find the anticipation of cracking open a new brew infinitely superior to the anticipation of sampling a recently bought pint.

I read an interesting article by one of the admins on the Irish Craft Brewer website (Sean I think) about attempting to clone brews. He was very insistent that folks should forget trying to clone brews as there are so many variables in the brewing process that the home brewer was almost guaranteed to be disappointed when they tasted their brew and it wasn't exactly like the brew they'd been trying to copy. This disappointment would distract the brewer from what they had actually produced which was quality ale of their own making. This is why I haven't attempted to clone any commercially available beers, sure I have borrowed hop combinations, IBU:OG ratios and other bits and bobs but the whole aspect of starting the brewing process with no preconceived notions is completely liberating and doesn't mean you play down your achievements as a brewer because it didn't taste like brew x by brewery y.

Sorry for the rambling there I've had a few pints of my own brews!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I dont clone beers, it seems a rather english homebrewer obsession, it doesnt seemnearly as common a topic on Kiwi forums. Losely (very losely)based is about as close as I get. As for enjoyment of my beer as opposed that at the pub, well the nearest commercial real ale is Auckland or Christchurch both a short flight away, actually I lie Nelson but that is still divided from me by a bodey of ocean, so absolulutly I prefer my own. However if I lived close to pubs serving decent real ale I might very well have a different opinion. One of the downsides to drinking ones own beer is that I am always more critical of it than other beer.

Anonymous said...

"I am always more critical"

I hear you there Kieran, however this does have the upside of ensuring you produce the best beer you are capable of.

Stonch said...

Bloody hell I need to read the exchange above! No time now though.

As Kieran is probably aware, Speight's have sent a boat around the world which will reach London in early October. On that boat is a shitload of their beer for thirsty Kiwi expats. Yes, it's a gimmick, but it's a bloody brilliant one.

I met the Lion Nathan (owner of Speight's) rep at the GBBF trade day and she promised me a preview as soon as it arrives. I need to get onto that actually - hopefully there'll be some porter on board!


PS. Kieran - your blog is excellent and I'm enjoying reading it, please keep it up mate!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Cheers Stonch.

I would be very surprised if Porter made it out. If it did I would be more impressed with the whole export a pub deal. I imagine its just Speights Gold Medal Ale which is an industrial amber lager, perhaps Distinction Ale (anouther copper lager, this one having won medals as a dark lager in the past) and Old Dark (untill recent history an extract brew).
The Speights Craft Range Pilsner was well liked by people who are into such things as well.

Ron Pattinson said...

"In your beer tasting experience do Yorkshire Squares or other open fermentation systems add anything to the brew apart from making the brewer nervous of infection?"

I would say that, in general, beer made in open feremnters is more characterful. When I was in Franconia recently, every single brewery we visited still had open feremnters, including Schneider in Kelheim. (BTW, they were the only ones who wouldn't let us into the fermenting room for hygiene reasons.) Even one brand spanking new computer-controlled brewery had open fermenters.

In the Czech Republic beers like Krusovice and Velke Popovice used to be wonderful until they swapped over to conical fermenters.

I can't claim to understand the chemistry behind it, but I'm certain open feremnters have a positive effect.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Its not really chemistry, more biology. Yeast like any other life form adapts to its environment. When yeast is in a open fermentor it adapts very differently to when it is in a closed conical. When yeast ferments in a modern conical the narrow high environment encourages convection in the fermenting environment, when yeast is in a wide, relativly shallow open fermentor there is significantly less convection as the shape doesnt encourage it and the open top allows excess heat energy to escape.

anirab said...

Hi Kieran,
Just a quick clarification. The slate and other (stainless) fermenters at Theakston's are NOT classic Yorkshire two-tier vessels. They are single-tier "squares" (which are, in fact, rectangular!).

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

wow that's an old post to have come across Geoff. I had actually read that somewhere else recently. I stand corrected.