Sunday, October 21, 2007

Apply the Brakes!

Brakspear was one of Britain’s most loved breweries. The level of passion for the Brakspear Brewery can be seen bubbling out of the writing of Roger Protz and the late Michael Jackson. Indeed when it was closed there was a palpable level of bitterness expressed by the aforementioned writers, New Zealand’s very own Geoff Griggs swore to return and march up and down the road outside the brewery in protest. As has happened with so many family breweries the real-estate value of the brewery ended up outstripping the production value of the brewery, at least that’s the argument.

I have always been captivated by the Brakspear Brewery in part because of the obvious love held by the likes of Messers Protz, Griggs and Jackson, in part because of the unique fermentation system that was employed and in part because of the intense Englishness with which the brewery has always been presented.

I’m a self professed anglophile, my flatmates know that when watching Midsomer Murder dvds pub scenes will always be viewed frame by frame to see what’s on the pump clips, yes I’m a geek and I’m ok with that. Brakspear has always seemed to fit into that mythical England of ‘Oxbridge’ rowing races, country villages, and riverside pubs. This has of course undoubtedly been helped by a vigorous marketing campaign where the slogan 'apply the brakes!” has accompanied various Enid Blytonesque scenes.

The beer has always been pretty good to. After the brewery closed, production eventually found its way to the Wychwood Brewery in Witney. The unique double drop system that moves the fermenting wort into a lower chamber mid way through the primary fermentation was installed and the beers apparently taste very similar to how they used to taste.

Earlier this year Beerforce started to bring some of the Brakspear beers into New Zealand and I was given my first chance to try double dropped beer.

Brakspear Organic Beer 4.6%

Pours a mid gold with a light diminishing white head. The aroma features a distinctive honeyed character, with a rich earthy hopsack note. On the palate earthy resinous hops and honeyish malt vie ending with a tangy firm bitterness.

Brakspear Triple 7.2%

Pours a mid amber with a fluffy white head. Aroma features zesty hop aroma with a hint of caramel malt and a touch of berry fruit. On the palate there is a big tangy hop character, bitter fruit in the mid palate leading to a sweet smooth tangy finish. I have had 3 bottles of this now with some being more malt accented where as when I sat down to write some notes it tasted hoppier. Good stuff.


Anonymous said...

The double dropped beer is over rated in my opinion it tastes like wet cardboard! The Brakspear organic is a truly wonderful pint that is almost as good from the bottle.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Wet card board would usually be a sign of bad oxidisation, usually indicating significant bottle age, or perhaps oxidisation when the bottles were filled.

The double drop shouldnt be creating that taste although I suppose its posible. Its meant to encourage diacetyl which isnt a huge issue considering the Brakspear yeast is very clean and doenst easily generate diacetyl.

Matt said...

Supposedly Brakspear (of old) freely admitted they got some oxidation during the double drop but they were fine with it as ordinary bitters were consumed so quickly that it wasn't an issue/they liked the resulting beer.

I read someplace that they also oxidized their hops (left them out for a bit) as they liked what this added flavorwise.

I have read of a couple of others noting that Brakspear tastes of old cardboard. In the few pints I have (all brewed in Witney) had I haven't noted that. It has consistently tasted good and occasionally great. I tasted Brakspear before I ever knew anything about the brewer. The beer invokes the same images for me as it does for Kieran.
I believe they also use two strains of yeast.

Anonymous said...

The brakspear bitter granted has been known to cardboardize. It's interesting to know why. When I've come across it on the handpump in London I've been delighted but mostly disappointed. The bottled Organic and Triple on the other hand have been remarkably consistent over the last couple of years in my experience. The triple is fine stuff and the organic is a great little beer to quaff in an easy undemanding manner at home.