British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

Archive for the 'General' Category

16 March

Homebrew is good for you

Was linking around this morning and saw a post linked to by Northern Brewer citing the health benefits of beer.  Thought I would share the love.  The picture in the article of a carboy with a blowout tube was funny too.

14 March

Back from break

Its been almost 10 months but I am on a break from work with the kids vacation and decided to get stuck in with the blog.

First a big thank you to all the readers of this tome. I am amazed at the feedback I still get from friends and strangers alike that have either tried a recipe or followed the getting started program.

The last 10 months have definitely been busy for me.  Most of the time has been taken at work and then family. But I did manage to find time to continue brewing and teaching people how to brew.  It is always fun to see a friend get the same enjoyment from brewing as I do and I love teaching.  Seeing the faces after they sample the first batch of their own brew is always the best.

So what about the brewing.  Here are the highlights:

  • Continued creating clones of famous beers
  • Started back with the Best Bitter recipes working on improvements
  • Have evolved from extract to a Partial Mash technique and have begun to create PM versions of my original extract recipes
  • Had a lot of fun brewing for Christmas 2010 including the creation of my version of Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome which was a hit and brewing up some old favorites
  • Researching the viability of creating my own online/retail homebrew store serving the South Shore of MA

Over the coming days I will dive into some of the topics listed including an inventory of the brews since may with some observations including a review of some Northern Brewer kits. I will go over so thoughts on Partial Mash technique, some more quick tips and a review of some of the updates I have made to some old recipes.

Nice to be back, hope its for a while.

08 May

Hyde Brewery Pictures

Back in March I wrote a quick all-grain recipe for a reader (and now regular email correspondent) for Hydes Original Ale.

It turned out not only was this reader (Drew) an avid brewer and Hydes fan he had actually toured the Brewery in Manchester England.

With kind permission Drew has allowed me to republish pictures from the brewery and shots taken of his last batch of all grain Hydes ESB.  If any other readers want to post Brewery pictures please send me the links and I would be happy to post.

Enjoy 🙂

Brewery Tour


Picture 1 of 10

All-Grain Hydes ESB


Picture 1 of 4

22 April

Meat Beer

So I was reading my favorite Beer history blog, Zythophile, and I see this post on Meat Stout. I was intrigued and fascinated in the same way I am when examining the many dead, skinned “gifts” my cat leaves on the front stoop.  So I read on. Its a great post covering the history of “healthy” stouts containing meat. A meal in a pint, the true liquid lunch.

I know I like to brew classic British Ales but I am not sold on this. I have a feeling my very English Mother would jump at the chance. What is it about English Mum’s and their love of offal. My mum loved brains, liver, kidneys, tripe. Her face would light up at the thought. So the post links to a recipe for Offal Ale which I will dedicate to her.

Somewhere deep down I know I have to brew one of these, it has completely caught my imagination.  A heavy dark, may Old Pancreas or Liver Stout, Brains Best (actually there really is an ale called Brains, ewww, no it can’t be)

20 March

Tips and Tricks: Dry Hopping

HopsWe have discussed hops on many different occasions on this site. This weeks tip though is focused solely on one aspect of hops, dry hopping.  Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to secondary fermenter and the alcohol in the conditioning ale stripping the beta acids (that deliver the flavour and aroma) from the hop.  Beta acids are water soluble and much of the aroma captured in the last few minutes of the boil through late hop additions do just evaporate out through the airlock so dry hopping is a way to keep the strong hop flavours, especially important in American IPA’s

But dry hopping can clog up the system.  The hops leave particles in the beer, and do not assist the ale in clearing, which is one of the functions of the secondary fermentation process.  Bits get into bottles and lead to heavy sediment. It can be hard to siphon or rack a dry hopped secondary due to clogging.  Of course if you can afford a filtration system stop reading, your beers are bright and beautiful and we are jealous.  For those that do not (that would include me) get some cheese cloth, place your hops inside, tie a not and drop in the secondary.  Trust me, you get all the benefits without the mess or the need for an expensive filter.

13 March

BeerWars, The Movie

So back in January during my rants against the mega-breweries closing down British real ale breweries I briefly mentioned the movie “Beer Wars” (trailer here), a documentary on the battle raging between the mega-breweries and the small independents in the USA.  Well tonight the wife and kids are away on school break in sunny San Diego and I am home bound in cold wet Marshfield.  To make matters worse I am on the tail end of one of the most painful bouts of flu I have ever had followed immediately by a nasty 24 hour stomach virus.  I had planned to brew beer today and then crack open my London Pride clone and write the review but I am feeling really fragile and been bed ridden for the best part of the day and the thought of food or beer is not sitting well in a churned up belly.  So what better way to pass a quiet evening in than to rent Beer Wars on iTunes and jot down some thoughts.

The documentary starts off with an overview of the US beer industry, the 3 big guys, Anheuser, Miller and Coors controlling 78% market share with the remaining 22% being contested by a mere 1400 breweries. Does not sound like war to me it sounds like domination especially considering that 50% of all consumption is an Anheuser brand.  The movie then goes down into some history of how the giant 3 have grown over the last 50 years, essentially all selling the identical beer to the American public, one indistinguishable from the other (Anat Baron, Producer, writer and narrator) even does a taste test to prove it with die-hard Bud, Miller and Coors drinkers not being able to tell one from the other.  Not hard really, I would have better luck telling you Marshfield town tap water from neighboring Scituate water.

The narrative moves swiftly on to the small independent brewers focusing on a local South Shore of Boston gal, Rhonda Kallman (whom I have met a few times around town, typically in the old Mount Blue Restaurant) and my personal favorite Dog Fish Head Brewery in Delaware.  The contrast between the big and little guys is the most startling part of the documentary. We have the big guys buying massive blocks of advertising (apparently Anheuser spends $800M per year), sponsoring every sport under the sun, with Bud even sponsoring the Presidential debate. Then  we have Sam the founder of Dog Fish calling his winning the hearts and minds (and beer mugs) of the US population one individual at time, the ground war.  It felt good to know that homebrewers like myself, but with passion and a certain risk taking sensibility like Sam, were out there helping America finally learn what the rest of the world has known for centuries, what beer really tastes like.

But it’s at this point the movie lost me for a while, it became less about the beer and more about the politics. How through lobbying (Bud contributed more than guns and tobacco combined) and unfair practices the big guys stop the little guys, making it hard to enter the market and blocking them when they do.  I guess its not meant to be easy, I have worked in the finance industry long enough to know the playing field is never flat. It takes hard work and a certain level of insanity to succeed.  But I think this part of the movie missed the point, its about the beer, and people who want to will always find good beer. Back in the 70’s and 80’s people could not get anything but bland old Bud so the homebrewers rose up and from this movement over 1400 microbreweries now exist. Today I can go down to my local and get a Dog Fish Head 90 min and I don’t mind paying premium for it because it is worth paying 4x what a Bud is worth. Its a steal considering the beer is 10x better on every level. The people that drink Bud, drink it, its what they have been told to like for generations and they like it, its a commodity, cheap and cheerful. It’s about choice, of course the big guys play unfair, its their market to lose and they have nowhere to go but down.

Towards the end of the film it does all come together, the little guys are growing, the big guys are going global, and Government is getting fatter. Sounds like America to me. The one piece that made me upset was the role of Government and the 37,000 beer laws the movie cites.  It has been sad to see my home country become such a “Nanny State” where the Government is so deep into your personal space they can tell you what you can and cannot eat. The end of this movie reminded me that the US is going down the same path.  Whether you are a Big Gov liberal or a Small Gov Consrvative no Government should be deep inside your home telling you how to live your life and control the choices we can make, especially when those choices are influenced by deep pocketed corporation with nothing but global growth on the bottom line.

I am happy I am free to brew my own beer, to buy from a good selection of brews, but for how long? This was not covered in the movie but how long before the Beer Lobby influences some bozo Senator to put a Bill before Congress to stop homebrewers like me from brewing “for our own good”, just like smokers cannot smoke anywhere anymore or New Yorkers cannot get MSG and the lastest in NYC is the attempt to ban salt in food, because it for our own good.

I know what is good for me, I know my beer is great, because I know whats in it, which is more than I can say for a Bud.  It was a good documentary, every beer drinker should see it. It was not my favorite documentary this year. That honor belongs to “It Might Get Loud”, the documentary covering a Summit meeting of 3 guitar legends Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.  That was an amazing film.  But go rent Beer Wars today, get informed and have a beer.

03 February

Pretty Things

Pretty Things

It was with great sadness that I recently learned Buzzards Bay brewing down in Westport MA had stopped brewing their own brands. Great ales in a beautiful farm setting. The place was owned by the Westport Rivers Winery guys (great wines also) who still appear to be going strong but alas the brewery was not to be.  I took a tour down their a couple of years ago and sampled some brews fresh from the kettles, yum.  It appears they are now a contract brew location opening up the brewery to third parties and appear to have launched a new brand called Just Beer.

So it was with great pleasure that I learned over the weekend that Buzzards Bay Brewing is contracting with the Pretty Things Brewery. A great project brewing fantasic ales.  Just as BritishBrewer is re-creating and brewing authentic real ales, Pretty Things is going one step further and actually brewing ales using authentic old recipes and techniques, researched by top beer historians, using traditional methods.

This past Saturday evening, thanks to my friend and great ale critic Mike Chase who I use to critique my own fare introduced me to Pretty Things and poured a few bottles of their ST BOTOLPH’S TOWN Rustic Brown Ale, only batch #2 bottled last April.  It reminded me of Theakstons Old Peculier, the brew I happen to be avidly researching as my first experimental Brown/Old Ale recipe.  So I come home and fire up the internets and what do I find but the brew master of Pretty Things was a former brewer from Yorkshire, England, and the Rustic Brown is actually inspired by Old Peculier and a couple of other rustic darker Yorkshire ales, right down the use of Yorkshire malts and the northern england fermenting technique of open Yorkshire squares. It was a fantastic beverage, and I only wish we had more because when the word got out about (via the oohs and aahs) there really was not enough to go around.

Check out Pretty Things at these locations. I am really looking forward to the London Mild inspired by the Milds brewed in 1800’s London and something I briefly mention in my post on Brown Ale.

29 January

Beer Comic – or everything you ever needed to know about beer

I good friend sent me the following link this morning.  Its laugh out loud funny and manages to impart some history and methodology around beer making in the process.

Hope it puts a smile on your face.  Have a great weekend

28 January

Brown Ale

For those of you who are regular readers you know we have spent the last 8 weeks or so looking into classic British Pale Ale recipes such as Fullers ESB, Pride, Flowers, and Wadworth 6X.  Next up we will be focusing on Brown Ales and their big brother, Old Ales (which we covered in a previous post). I hope to get some great recipes together and have been hard at work researching the best ones to try out.

But before we move on this post is for those of you that enjoy a glass of brown ale or two (its my wife’s favorite ale) whether its Smuttynose Old Brown Dog or a Newcastle Brown from back home in the UK.  I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight a little of Brown Ales rich history, which dates back to 1600’s Britain, before getting into some recipes.

But first, what is Brown Ale?  The BJCP classification of English Brown Ale encompasses the Northern and Southern English varieties along with Mild Ale. The Southern Brown Ale is described as:

A luscious, malt-oriented brown ale, with a caramel, dark fruit complexity of malt flavor. May seem somewhat like a smaller version of a sweet stout or a sweet version of a dark mild.

with the Northern:

Drier and more hop-oriented than the southern English brown ale, with a nutty character rather than caramel.

Whatever the classification Brown Ales have a cult following and are among one of the most popular styles for homebrewers, following stouts and porters.

The term Brown Ale was first used by brewers in the late 1600’s London to describe the beverages they sold at the time such as Mild Ale, a lightly hopped sweet beer made entirely of brown malt.  This type of beer died out in the early 1800’s with brewers moving to pale malt which proved cheaper due to higher sugar yields and is still used by modern brewers today.

The term “Brown Ale” was revived again in the early 1900’s by the London brewer Mann, who create Mann Brown Ale (still available today and brewed under contract by Thomas Hardy Burtonwood).  By the 1920’s Brown Ales were very popular again with large brewers such as Whitbread began brewing strong browns, far stronger than the modern browns brewed today with an ABV of over 5%. The popularity of Mann Brown and Whitbread Double Brown continued through WWII at which point breweries began to produce weaker, cheaper Brown Ale (I suspect due to rationing and the economic conditions of the time) all but wiping out the expensive, more premium forebears. Today, with the exception of homebrewers, the strong Brown Ales are hard to come by, being replaced with Porters, Stouts and Old ales.  Great examples of Northern English, strong, Brown Ales would be Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown.  Mann’s Original Brown Ale would be a good Southern example.

It is actually in the USA that Brown Ale has seen a resurgence, mainly from the legion of homebrewers like myself who like to brew strong flavoured, robust ales. The grass roots movement has not gone unnoticed by the micro-brewers who have developed a broad array of full-bodied Brown’s for the American public. American Brown Ales tend to be drier than either of their English counterparts, with a slight citrus aroma and bitterness due to American varieties of hops used.  Popular American varieties include Petes Wicked, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Sam Adams Brown and Brooklyn Brown. A whole host of Brown Recipes are available online also.

So my quest will be to recreate a selection of Old and Brown Ales in the coming months and I welcome any suggestions for brands you would like me to try.  I fully intend to attempt at least Samuel Smiths Nut Brown and possibly a Smuttynose.  Should be fun. Would love to get a Brown and an Old onto my completed recipes page.

16 January

A Short History on Bottled Beer

The Zythophile has a great post (short for him) on the history on Bottled Beer.  Check it out.