Thursday, July 29, 2010

Always the Bridesmaid never the Bride...

It’s early July and Greig from SOBA contacts me asking if I would be interested in judging the National Homebrew comp. I have been looking forward to the competition being held in Hamilton this year as I was sure this would mean that unlike the past two years I would be excused from the judging table and able to enter my own beers. I have been brewing away furiously and unusually I have been going through the rigours of bottling so that I have beers to enter. I say ‘put me on the back up list I want to compete.’ A month later and the ominous email comes , a judge has stepped down and I’m off the bench. Always the bridesmaid and never the least I will be able to check out the two beer bars of Hamilton.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Rise of the Umper Lumpa Brewer

Luke Nicholas is known as the ‘impish brewer’, writer Neil Miller as the ‘Minister of Hops’, publican Collin Mallon as the ‘Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor’ and now beer blogger and consumer affairs writer Martin Craig has christened me the Umper Lumpa brewer.
Martin has an extremely dry old school New Zealand sense of humour and while the comment might not sound altogether charitable I take it in the spirit in which it was meant.

Last nights R.S.B. launch went well with only a few negative comments, one of which came from a guy who would like New Zealand beer to taste more like Grolsch so I’m not too worried. Most people were really positive, the beer was tasting great through the beer engine with its fruity hop flavour really coming out amongst the rich malt profile.

Photograph the property of Jed Soane ©2010 all rights reserved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

R.S.B. Launch

Tonight I launch my beer instore at Regional. I will be degassing some of it and serving it through a handpump to the public. I’m excited and also a little hesitant; it will be interesting to see what the punters think of it. It has got off to a good start with it featuring at last night Emerson’s Masterclass , the first of three, and scoring a third equal placing in the public vote, remarkable considering the calibre of the beers it was up against. I’m pretty rapped with the beer, it has a lovely complex malt character and some nice orangey hop flavour, although it is a lot less aromatic than my home brewed version. I made the decision not to dry hop the beer but in hindsight I think it could use some more hop aroma, and would have been better with the Fullers strain rather than the American one. Still it's a good beer and it's my beer.
I have loaded my beer here on ratebeer, the beer nerd in me is extremely proud. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Grandiose Filmatic Beer Content

It seems if you want to see the full screen you will have to go here damn technology

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

R.S.B. - Day Three

Up at the 5am again, tea in bed in front of more football, off alone for breakfast this morning , a night on the beers and curry has left Jed worse for wear, I don’t order coffee this time.
Richard appears double eager to get the job done today, we have a flight to catch, he has responsibilities. Action brewer wear is donned before the organised chaos ensues. A quick taste of yesterdays fermenting brew to check we are on the right track, big fruity hops, citrus and berry fruit, orange sweet yeasty malt, young beer in all its glory. No Special B today a pale brew will bring yesterdays dark one down in the blend. We nail our mash temp, coffee, and then its time to run off. Today I do it almost totally solo, again I am reminded that the fundamentals remain the same, it’s all a case of scale. Today the malt gods have smiled and we have a high extract demanding we dilute slightly in the kettle to hit the right specs. Again we singe the hairs on our arms as we control the kettle, we up the hops, there is no point leaving Richard with odds and ends of NZ Goldings which he doesn’t use. Everything goes like clock work and soon I find myself shovelling out grain into sacks, when I do this in the kitchen at home the dog forms a scrum at my feet jostling for her share of the sweet nutty spent grain, here what spills is hosed off the wet floor into the drains.
We pump the last batch of wort into the vessel that is already ½ full of fermenting beer and return her to the warm room. We change and in moments find ourselves in the convivial surroundings of Maori Hill at a restaurant that cooks it’s steaks over open wood fires. Richard, Father, Jed and myself trade tales over good beer and wine, the food is out of this world. A long cab ride to the airport and we fly out amongst the fog and sleet, bound for home, mission accomplished. Fun with stainless was great but both Jed and I have Sarahs to get home to.

Thanks to Jed Soane for the Picture, All rights remain with him.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

R.S.B. - Day Two

The Alarm goes off, I was awake any way. World Cup Football plays on my motel room TV as I pull my clothes on, lots of them as the wind is not long from the Antarctic and set off for breakfast. The options are limited. I settle for a Steak and Mushroom Pie, a sandwich and a terrible cup of coffee at the bakery next to the legendary Inch Bar. Five years ago I drank copious pints of Emerson’s strong American style brown ale from the handpump there, so much so that our night met oblivion, yesterdays visit was much more genteel. The same regulars were in the courtyard. An hour later Richard is parked outside the Motel, excited and ready to go. So am I. At the brewery we change back into ‘action brewer’ overalls and gum boots, the Fullers Yeast hasn’t woken up so it’s an American strain to the rescue. We heat the mash tun, and Richard presents me with the smallest mashing paddle I have ever seen. The one I use at home on my 60 litre plant is about three times as big, perhaps I’m compensating. We mash in , its all action, sacks of malt are tipped in, alternating with me stirring like mad, Richard looks on intently plunging a thermometer into the grain bed every now and then and adding more hot liquor as he sees fit, Jed is snapping away with his camera, Bob the Operations manager, enthusiastic sensory analyst and all round top chap is filming it on the HD camera. We nail the temp we want. Lay a blanket of hot water over the grain and cover her up. Its time for coffee. The whirl pool and kettle are cleaned, then the run off begins, it’s not so different to the South Star Brewery in Brooklyn, more knobs and buttons. The wort is dark and a little weak, we substituted Belgian Special B for English Dark Crystal, it’s different.

The kettle is full enough to start the burner, or as Richard puts it the ‘Rocket engine’, its seriously loud, the other brewers hate it, they cant play their music, Richard loves it he can turn off his hearing aid. The kettle is full and we have a boil, the kettle sits up on the main brewery gantry and great care has to be taken that it doesn’t boil over as people could be working below, also the gas bottle and burner are below. We weigh out the hops, and boil for 90 minutes to increase the strength. Every time we adjust the burners we lose the hairs from our arms on the side of the intensely hot kettle, this is a lot like homebrewing!

The boil come to an end and we release the beer into the whirlpool , it magically and perfectly dispenses the hops in the middle of the vessel, this is nothing like homebrewing!

As the whirlpool works its magic we scrub the kettle, my arse high in the air as I scrub the bottom of the vessel, overalls prevent builders crack.

We run the brew through the heat exchanger and onto the yeast. I shovel out the mash tun, just in time to watch a farmer collect it for his livestock, I need neighbours with chickens.

The fermentor is fork lifted into the warm room, we change, action stations are over its time for the pub. After lunch its back to taste some bits and pieces with the boys, then Tonic, many beers including a fantastic Westmalle Dubbel. An Indian Restaurant, Vindaloo and 1812, a refreshing walk to the motel and sleep, we do it all again tomorrow.

Thanks to Jed Soane for the Picture, All rights remain with him.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

R.S.B. - Day One

I step off the plane to an icy Dunedin morning. It’s the shortest day and I’m excited, not only because of the 3 days of fun with stainless that lies ahead of us but also because I love this city in the winter. Richard Emerson is there to pick me and Jed the photographer up. As always he is positively bubbling over with enthusiasm. As we drive through the rural hinterland that divides Dunedin from its airport Richard chats about other brewers, the weather, and how quickly the provincial airport is growing. We quickly find ourselves at the brewery , the warm smells of fresh bready malt fill the air as we sip coffee from large mugs and chat with Production Manager Chris O’Leary or Father for short. Then it’s into overalls, and gumboots and the weighing of grain begins, the old mill is started and we crush the grain, cleaning, cleaning and some more cleaning, yeast is fed and stainless tanks are doused in caustic before we head off to a prolonged lunch and several pubs. Japanese Restaurant for dinner another pub, degassed Fullers London Porter from the handpump divine, a refreshing walk to the motel, talk made easy by drink, alarm set for 5 and a good night’s sleep.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Village Drunk

I’m hosting a brewer from out of town at a local bar, punters have gathered to try the brewers new Dunkelwiezen and tank samples of stout, all is going well until up to bar he lumbers, wild eyed unsteady on his feet , in one hand a pint of double IPA the other flailing around like a drunk cowboys revolver. Through squinty eyes he demands to know what the brewer does, ‘brew’ he replies , I step in and take the fall as the brewer moves on to more reasonable punters. It begins

“they need more beer like this in London,” He says motioning to the nearly empty ‘pint’ of 8.5% American hopped ale.

“its all like DB and Lion over there , cept its Greene King and Fullers, biggest brewers in UK you know, all crap like Waikato draught, no hint of malt or barley or hops, nothing like this” The bar staff serve him another, I wish they wouldn’t.

He has hit his stride now, sentences are repeated verbatim directly after they have been spoken.

“London Pride , its just like Tui” I bite my tongue , many are looking on, my sacrifice noted. I make my escape there are tank samples of stout to dispense, by the time I have returned to the front of the bar he has swaggered off into the rear room to impart his wisdom on someone else. The night continues.