Brewer’s Blog – Alex on Brimstone

Brewer’s Blog – Alex on Brimstone

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Hello Bishop Nick drinkers, Alex here again after a long delay since my last blog – things have been a bit busy between Easter and Summer and I’ve struggled to find the time to write something witty or informative.

We’ve had a very successful Revelry Day and the special edition brew seems to have gone down well.  The Revelry Day beer gives me a few nightmares as it’s such an important day – dreaming of 800 people walking around looking like they’ve been sucking on lemons after a pint woke me up once or twice at 3am.  We have a good stock of bottles in our shops – it’s a golden summer ale with plenty of the fruity American “C” hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Comet, backed up by a rich maltiness.

With Revelry behind us, the Chelmsford Beer Festival is the focus of our attention this week.  I know a few attendees have asked about my whereabouts.  The answer is “in the brewery”.  Unfortunately making beer doesn’t stop for beer festivals!  To make up for my absence I’ve done my best to brew a nice beer to be launched at the festival called “Brimstone”.  I’m always happiest when I get the chance to brew a beer I think I’ll enjoy drinking myself.  I know that sounds a bit selfish, but it seems to have saved me from any major mishaps during my career (a peat smoked beer called “Goldfinger” in 2002 is the only exception!).

Too many breweries are trying to reinvent the wheel at the moment by raiding the kitchen cabinet and producing something wacky, simply in the quest to have a USP to make them stand out from all the other breweries.  Experimentation is fine, but not when it comes at the expense of drinkability.  A balance of sweetness, acidity and bitterness is key for all good drinks, but what works well for a soft drink may not work so well in a beer.  The modern trend seems to be strongish blonde ales with a huge, almost bubble gum fruity hop aroma, but with little evidence of malty goodness.

For “Brimstone”, in view of it’s lower strength (3.9%), I decided to add plenty of crystal, caramalt and Vienna malt to give it a good biscuity, malt body to balance the fruity citrus flavours and bitterness of the Simcoe and Crystal hops.  Hopefully it’s balanced, drinkable and moreish – I’ll let you be the judge of that (bottles will be available from next week) – if it’s not, do let me know and I’ll try harder next time…

EAST STREET is back

EAST STREET is back

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Brewing an untried, untested beer is always fraught with risk, but I’m happy to report that the Belgian style wheat beer “Haze” turned out better than expected.  Keith and Trevor (my loyal assistants in the brewery) were initially slightly sceptical, especially after seeing samples from the fermentation vessel with orange bits floating in it.  However, a few weeks later they were hovering around the brewery sample minipin like wasps around a jam jar and they gave the “Haze” a big thumbs up.  I hope our customers who’ve tried it have enjoyed it too.  We still have some available in firkins and we have plenty of bottles in the brewery shop.  I suspect that it’s a style of beer that will mature nicely in bottle, so grab some whilst you can!

With the arrival of Spring and longer, warmer days, we have brewed our annual Easter favourite “East Street“.  It’s not one of my recipes, but I won’t hold that against it, it’s a damn fine beer – extra pale Maris Otter barley gives it a clean, biscuity crispness and copious amounts of Cascade, Crystal and Aurora hops pack a refreshing, aromatic aroma and finish.  For an extra zing we add further Crystal hops after the fermentation has finished.  We brewed it early last week on a Brew Day Experience with a very enthusiastic home-brewer called Peter helping out.  It was a real pleasure hosting the day for him.  Although he had a knowledge of brewing already, he asked plenty of questions and it was very satisfying having someone in the brewery who shared a passion for good beer.  I don’t think the passion quite extended to digging the hops out of the copper at the end of the day, especially after he saw the volume that went in at the start of the boil!

After just over a week in the fermenting vessel, the “East Street” was racked into firkins last week and is now available.  The bottles will be on sale in two weeks time.  I’m off on holiday next week, so Nelion will be taking the reigns whilst I’m away.  Meanwhile we have a brew of “Heresy” to do tomorrow, and the very popular American Pale Ale “Martyr” will be brewed next week and hopefully be available in firkins in a fortnight.  Bye for now, got to go and skim some yeast…

Brewer’s Blog

Brewer’s Blog

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Things haven’t quite gone according to plan this morning.  Normally we brew Ridley’s Rite on a Tuesday, but for the first time in Bishop Nick history, one or more of our hot liquor tank heaters expired overnight which meant the hot liquor wasn’t hot enough.  We’re not ones for cutting corners with our beers, so the brew has been postponed until tomorrow.  Every cloud has a silver lining as it gives me time to catch up on some neglected jobs, like writing a blog.

Today was also meant to be a “Brew Day Experience” for a lovely chap called Peter, but alas, that had to be postponed too.  These “Brew Day Experience” seem to be very popular and I’ve enjoyed entertaining (I hope) enthusiastic guests.  Some have home-brewing experience, many don’t – they just want to know how bags of malt and hops become pints of bitter.  A question I always ask is “do you mind if your pint of beer has a haze?”  Everyone always says yes – they want a crystal clear pint.  During the brewing process I then demonstrate the great lengths brewers have to go to to ensure every pint that is served in the pub is completely clear.  Low nitrogen barley, boiling, seaweed, silicate auxiliary finings and the swim bladder of a fish (isinglass) are all required to remove protein and yeast.  Some breweries go further and use filtration for bottling, canning and kegging.  Unfortunately finings and filtration also remove flavour, which is why brewers outside the UK often don’t bother trying – their drinkers are perfectly happy with hazy beer.  Protein and yeast give the beer a haze, but in moderate amounts they don’t affect the flavour of beer negatively and the all important flavour is not stripped out by the use of finings.  “Drink with your mouth, not your eyes” is always my policy, if it tastes good, drink it, if it tastes bad, return it.  However, the majority of drinkers still crave for a pint of crystal clear beer, so all of our beers are sold that way – apart from our latest one-off special appropriately named “Haze”.

“Haze” is our attempt at a Belgian wheat beer – and it’s the first time I’ve brewed one.  After a bit of homework we fleshed out a recipe that included extra pale malted barley, wheat malt, malted oats, coriander, orange peel and Mandarina Bavaria hops, but no finings.  The first hurdle was trying to avoid a set mash due to the large proportion of huskless wheat in the mash tun (husks aid run-off and natural filtration), but by taking things slowly during run-off and sparging we succeeded.  The next challenge was to add the right amount of coriander to the boiling wort – we are only looking for hints of spice, not so much that all the wheat and hop flavours are swamped.  The third leap of faith was adding the orange peel to the fermenting vessel – we didn’t want Kia-Ora and a blocked up outlet, but we needed to add enough to impart a pleasing, marmalade zestiness to the finished beer.  The final hurdle, as with any brew, was the fermentation.

Well I’m happy to report that everything worked out very well.  I racked the “Haze” yesterday and gave the beer a thorough tasting and a big thumbs up.  It’s a good hazy, entirely natural, vegan friendly wheat beer, with an initial coriander aroma, followed by a nutty, bready wheat taste, with orange zest and citrus hops following in the aftertaste.  It’s a refreshing pint, easy going, but flavoursome – even more flavoursome than normal thanks to all that haze.  It will also be available in bottles soon too – unfiltered and packed with flavour.  Look out for it.  Bye for now….