Monthly Archives: September 2013

UK Brewing Part 3: Our pub visits

Without a doubt, one of my favorite things about England is the traditional pub. There is something I really enjoy about a comfortable, warm room, no television, a great selection of mostly lower alcohol but flavorful cask beers, and great conversation. I’ve never found much in the United States that compares to the beer environment and beer drinking culture you find in a proper English pub. In the United States, we have many “English” or “Irish” pubs that usually serve Guinness, and maybe Harp and Bass, and then a selection of American Lagers, and have a bunch of pictures and memorabilia hung on the walls. But that does not necessarily make these places authentic pubs, though I do enjoy them from time to time. And I have found some pubs that hit pretty close to the mark in New England.

So what’s different? I think it’s a reflection on our countries’ different cultures more than anything. Americans drive everywhere, so the concept of a “local” within walking distance of business or home is not something that there is necessarily a need for. Plus, the idea of spending several hours in a pub, where everyone in the group takes a turn buying a round, is not really practical here with beer alcohol levels being as high as they are. I would love it if there were a good pub walking distance from my home, but there isn’t, and I’ve never lived anywhere where there has been a pub within walking distance. Maybe that’s why I like pub visits in England so much.

So when Jeremy and I went to England to brew with Adnams, we arranged to have a couple of days in London to visit some of our friends and our favorite pubs. This is a synopsis of some those visits, and I will include some of the good ones we missed as well. Sorry in advance at subjecting everyone to our trip photos…

It’s become a tradition for me, upon arriving at Heathrow Airport and taking the Paddington Express train into London, to immediately stop at The Mad Bishop and Bear, a Fullers Pub at Paddington station. There is nothing like celebrating arriving in England like having a fresh pint of a Fuller’s beer-it just sets a great tone for the rest of the trip! We arrived Monday mid-afternoon, and Ian Jeffrey, who works for Naked Brands and sets up these JD Wetherspoon brewing trips with the American brewers, knows me well by now, and suggested a quick stop there before we went to our hotel. I got an ESB for the first pint, and then tried a half pint of Wild River, a new beer with a more intense American hop character (I believe Cascade and Chinook are two of the hops used in this one). I absolutely love Fuller’s beers, and no trip to London is complete without stopping by a few of their pubs. One of my favorite beer experiences ever was having my first pint of Fuller’s London Porter on cask about 6 years ago on my first trip to the UK with Stone. The malt aromatics were so intense in that beer, you could easily transport yourself to their brewhouse and imagine smelling that brew mashing in when you drink it.

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My first pint in England on this trip: Fuller’s ESB. Perfect.

After we checked in, Ian left us to our own devices. So Jeremy and I immediately walked to Kings Cross station and visited, yes, another Fuller’s pub: The Parcel Yard, thanks to a recommendation I saw on a comment on a previous post here. This time I got a pint of London Pride.

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After that quick stop, Jeremy and I walked back towards Euston Station and visited one of my favorite pubs, The Euston Tap. This is a craft-beer centric pub that is located just outside Euston Station, and therefore is a great stop  for commuters. Some of my favorite beers of this trip we got there that Monday night, including Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, and a wonderful Citra Pale Ale from Kernel. They also carry some Stone beers, we had a Stone Smoked Porter on tap there as well!

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Euston Tap, packed with commuters on a Monday evening. Very tight quarters inside, standing room only on the first floor, up a circular staircase to a small sitting area upstairs. Most people hang out outside.

Another good pub, just around the corner from the Euston Tap (behind the Ibis Hotel) is The Bree Louise, where I’ve had some great beers from local brewers like Windsor & Eton, among others. This place is a CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) stronghold, it seems like every time I’ve stopped by, it’s been packed with CAMRA members (you can tell by the beer-centric conversation, among other clues).

The next day we went to Southwold, and over the next couple of days, spent time at each of the 3 Adnams pubs that are located in the town, including The Crown Hotel, where we stayed, and The Lord Nelson. One of the really great things when visiting the brewers in these towns is getting to know their pubs, and getting to know the brewers over a few pints. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the experiences when we brewed at both Shepherd Neame in Faversham, and at Wadworth in Devizes. The Adnams pubs in Southwold had a wide range of great food selections, and of course the Adnams ales were great. We had nice visits at all of them, and the dinner we had at The Crown was absolutely delicious.

One of the big highlights of this trip was spending time at The Anchor at Walberswick, the pub that Mark and Sophie Dorber have run since 2006 or 2007, after a successful tenure at The White Horse at Parsons Green in London (still one of my favorite pubs). The Anchor is just a short drive from Southwold, so we went there for dinner after the brew at Adnams. It was great to see Mark, who helped me immensely with setting up much of the research in Burton-On-Trent for the IPA book. That book would not have been what it is without Mark’s help.

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The Anchor at Walberswick

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Mark serves a great variety of beers, including Belgians, local English brews and American beers

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And Mark pulled out all the stops during our visit. After a couple of pints by the fireplace in the bar area, we sat at a table for dinner, and Mark started pulling beers out of his cellar. The first was a nice surprise, Cantillon’s Rose de Gambrinus, I think from about 2006. Mark didn’t tell us what the beer was when he served it, and he made us guess the brewer. I was glad I got it right and passed the test!

The food at The Anchor is wonderful, we got a great selection of appetizers and an entree, and it was all incredible, and paired great with the beers. I know English cuisine gets a bad rap, and yes, fish and chips, mushy peas and meat pies get old quickly, but some of the food I’ve had at these pubs has been as good as anything I’ve ever had in a gastropub in the United States. And Mark is such a great host. This was one of the most enjoyable evenings we had.

Mark broke out a couple of rare strong ales, including a bottle of Bass No.1, and a 1995 JW Lees Harvest Ale, one of my favorite beers. The Bass No. 1 was amazing, sherry like, with substantial bitterness. The JW Lees Harvest Ale, which is brewed once per year with fresh harvest Maris Otter malt and East Kent Goldings hops, is a great example of a traditional October Ale. It is boiled for many, many hours in the brewhouse to get the deep amber color and the high gravity.

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Bass No. 1 Barley Wine-first taste ever!

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Can’t go wrong with a Duchesse de Bourgogne!

One of the fun stops we made was after Peter Simpson took us to tour Simpson’s Malting. He wanted to have us visit a small brewery/pub called The Green Dragon. It was small brewery in a small village, brewing traditional ales, and for some reason Peter seemed concerned that we wouldn’t like it. But of course we loved it! The beer was good, the patrons were friendly with us, and it had a great atmosphere.

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The open top fermentor at The Green Dragon

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When we got back to London, our first stop was at the JD Wetherspoon Crosse Keys, in the City of London. This majestic pub is built into an old bank building, is huge and really ornate. I have been here several times, including the release party for the first beer we brewed at Shepherd Neame. They always have an amazing selection of cask beers, and the place is always packed. During this visit, we met up with our friend Matt Cole from Fat Heads Brewery in Cleveland, who had just brewed one of the best-named beers ever-Sunshine Daydream. We took some photos for the upcoming Real Ale Festival, and ate some good curry and had a couple of pints.

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Matt, Jeremy and Mitch pouring pints

From there, it was a very short walk across the London Bridge and through the Borough Market to The Rake, owned by Mike and Rich from Utobeer. The Rake is one of my favorite pubs, it seems like every time I go there, there are many friends hanging out, including owners Rich and Mike, Glenn Payne, Glyn Roberts, and Angelo Scarnera-who brews right around the corner at Brew Wharf, which is a wonderful restaurant and brewery. And just down the street is The Market Porter, a really good real ale pub. One of the best beers I had that night at The Rake was a Citra hopped Pale Ale from Oakham Brewery in Peterborough. John at Oakham was one of the first, if not the first, UK brewers to feature Citra hops in his beer. We visited him on a previous trip-he’s about an hour train ride north of London, and Oakham has several restaurant/pubs in the town as well as a production brewery brewing traditional and America-influenced beers. The Rake serves a fair amount of John’s beers, it seems like an Oakham beer is always pouring when I visit.

On the following day , after our wonderful dinner at Brew & Que (described in the previous post) we went to another great craft pub, called The Craft Beer Co., located a short walk from the Farringdon Station in Clerkenwell. This has become one of my favorite stops, they always have an amazing selection of cask and kegged craft brews. They now apparently have 4 locations, and the beer program is run by our friend Tom Cadden, whom we got to know several years ago when he was cellarmaster at a pub in Glasgow. We met up with several friends who graciously waited for us as we finished up at Brew & Que, and had a wonderful evening of great pints and rare bottled beer, including a Cantillon Gueuze, DeStruise Pannepot Wild, and a 2008 De Dolle Special Reserve brought by our friends Mes and Sim. It was here that I shared a bottle of barrel-aged Adnams Broadside with cherries that Fergus gave us, which was really nice.

Saturday, after our visit to Kernel and Brew By Numbers, we made another trip to The Rake, with Shaun, Nico and Don from 21A, and Glenn Payne, who has become a great friend and London pub crawl companion over the last few years. We wouldn’t have found our way around town without Glenn’s help!  This quick visit was highlighted by tasting a cask of Imperial Jack, the beer that Shaun and Richard Brewer-Hay brewed with Angelo at Brew Wharf.

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The group toasting Richard Brewer-Hay at The Rake! Wish you were here!

Some of the pubs we didn’t get to that I highly recommend if you visit London:

Two Fullers Pubs that have become our favorites: The Dove, located on The Thames River, just a short walk from the Fuller’s Brewery. This is a very quant, traditional pub. The atmosphere is classic English Pub, it just makes me feel instantly relaxed. The other Fullers Pub that I like a lot is the The Churchill Arms, in the Kensington area, a reasonable walk from Paddington. They serve really good Thai food in the back of the pub. I’m sorry we missed it this time.

The The White Horse Pub at the Parsons Green Underground station is legendary. It still has a great tradition of serving a wonderful selection of beers, and is a must-stop for any beer enthusiast visiting London. This is the first time that we missed it!

Another location I’m sorry we missed is the The Greenwich Union, which is Meantime Brewery pub. We had planned on visiting Alastair Hook at Meantime, but our visit to Fullers took a little more time than I had anticipated, and we simply ran out of time. Next time I hope!

 

 

UK Brewing Part 2: The newer breweries

Many times I heard during this trip to England that craft beer was “exploding” in London. And we visited several breweries that helped confirm that fact. It is really quite exciting to see these brewers take inspiration from American craft beer and also from traditional English brewing techniques to brew some really great beers.

The first brewery we visited was Beavertown Brewery.  I had met Brewer/Director Logan Plant at the Craft Brewers Conference earlier this year in Washington DC, where he was pouring beers at the British Embassy at an event hosted by Brewers Supply Group. He was pouring an amazing black IPA called Black Betty, and an Imperial Stout that was phenomenal. Their brewery is located a short distance from the Hackney Wick overground train station, in the Bow district, within sight of the Olympic Stadium.

The have a 5 hL brewhouse, but are in the process of building a new brewery. And they serve their beers from kegs and from bottles, but not from casks. This seems to be the prevailing direction with these smaller English craft brewers, following the lead of BrewDog, and I’m certain they get a fair amount of grief from the folks at CAMRA, but hey, good beer is good beer. One of their most interesting beers was a Kvass, a traditional Slavic based malt and spiced beverage that typically has a very low alcohol content, however theirs fermented out to about 3.5% abv. They naturally soured the mash as well. They are also doing some great work with Belgian styles. We had the pleasure of helping to inoculate a barrel with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis while we are there. I hope I get to taste that beer someday! Other great beers we tried on this visit included 8-Ball Rye IPA and Gamma Ray APA, both with very American, citrusy hop profiles.

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8-Ball Rye IPA, available both bottle and draft!

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Logan (in the front) and Beavertown Brewer James Rylance

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Brewers of the Round Fermenter!

We then went to their restaurant, Dukes Brew and Que, which is a great pub that serves the Beavertown beers, and an American-style barbecue restaurant. I’m being serious here, their food would have fit in any great American barbecue place-their ribs were killer, and they had a 2 lb steak special that was seared and seasoned perfectly-several people got this for sharing. We also started the night with some great spicy wings and pulled pork sliders. An absolutely amazing meal with great friends.

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I swear, this is one of the biggest (and best) beef ribs I have ever had.

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Jeremy, Nico and Shaun from 21A and Duke’s Manager Hannah

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Logan and I enjoying Beavertown beers at Duke’s

The next day, we ventured to the Borough Market area and visited The Kernel Brewery, which has been around since 2009. The Owner/Brewmaster there, Evin O’Riordain, is a former artisanal cheese maker, and showed us around and poured us several samples of great beer. I had their beer 2 years ago at a pub near Euston station and was very impressed with the hop flavor and intensity, and since then they have moved to a bigger brewery that is located under the train trestle arches southeast of London Bridge (just a short walk from the Bermondsey tube station). Evin explained that he very rarely brews the same beer more than once, he likes the excitement created by using different hops in the many Pale Ales and IPAs that he brews. Jeremy and I really enjoyed a Citra Pale Ale the first night we were in London, it was pouring at the Euston Tap. And he keeps his feet grounded in tradition, brewing a beautiful East India Porter and Imperial Stout.

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Evin manning the taps. I love how the draft system is built using a pallet!

Their brewery is open every Saturday from 9:00 am to 3:00pm, and they are equipped with picnic tables so people can enjoy their beer on site, or they can purchase bottles to take home. When we got there around noon, the place was packed, and in the small world department, our friend Ben Edmunds from Breakside Brewery in Portland, OR was there too!

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The crowd at The Kernel Brewery Saturday

After leaving Kernel, and while on our way to one of our favorite pubs, The Rake, we happened upon another brewery located in one of the arches- Brew By Numbers, a brand new brewery! We walked by it at first, then we all stopped and said “hey-that’s a brewery!” and of course turned back and paid them a visit. They had some great beers also, a golden ale with Chinook hops and grapefruit and a wonderful Saison spiced with grapefruit peel and ginger that was just delicious.

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Brew By Numbers (BBNo)

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Relaxing after a hard day of brewery visits.

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This Saison was fantastic and refreshing

I wish we had some more time to visit some other brewers, but I take solace in the fact that we got to try many other great English craft beers in the pubs we visited. Brewers like the 3 listed above, and brewers like BrewDog, Thornbridge, Windsor and Eton, Magic Rock, Dark Star, Oakham, and others all all pushing the envelope on what British beer can be, and I absolutely love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love real ale as well, and I hope everyone in England will realize that there is room for both traditional cask and kegged beer in a good pub-as long as the beer is delicious, and brewed with care, then I’m a fan!

Brewers we missed, or didn’t get to spend enough time with included Angelo Scarnera at BrewWharf, right around the corner from The Rake (Although we did hook up for beers a couple of times, and made a really quick visit to the brewery), our friend Alastair Hook at Meantime, who brews amazing English and German beers, Jim Wilson at TapEast (owned by the same folks who own The Rake),  Camden Town Brewery and Partizan. Next time, I hope!

UK Brewing Part 1: The traditional breweries

Last week our Lead Brewer, Jeremy Moynier, and I traveled to England to brew a beer for the JD Wetherspoon pub chain’s Real Ale Festival, an event we have now participated in 3 times over the past 6 years. I was hoping to blog about this while there, but very spotty internet service and a very busy schedule made me give up the idea until I got back home.
I thought I’d break these blogs about the trip up into 3 parts:
1. The traditional English breweries that we visited
2. The “new” breweries we visited
3. Some great pub stops.

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Adnams

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Adnams Brewery

So to start off with, Jeremy and I had the pleasure of brewing a 5% Black IPA, or Black Ale, at the Adnams Brewery in Southwold, on England’s east coast (“East Anglia”) about 1.5 hrs northeast of London. This is a very quaint English village on the coast, their claim to fame is a long row of small beach huts/cottages (or sheds, or what we refer to as cabanas) that are lined up all along the beach front. People pay over $100,000 for one of these small wooden boxes that have no power or running water, but have incredible beach view and location.

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The town of Southwold near the Adnams Brewery

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The infamous Beach Huts or Beach Sheds in Southwold

The town was great, and there are 3 Adnams pubs there that we visited, all a very short walk from each other, and a lot of nice shops. Apparently, when the weather is nice in the summer, there are incredible lines of cars and huge throngs of tourists that crowd the town. But when we got there on September 10, it was drizzling rain, and the town was kind of empty.

We brewed with Fergus Fitzgerald, the Brewmaster at Adnams, who previously spent a some amount of time at the Fullers Brewery in London. This was really nice,  because not only is Fergus a very talented brewer (after all, he just won UK Brewer Of The Year!), but he is in our age range and we instantly were able to connect and talk brewing. He likes his Southern Hemisphere and American hops, and had quite a few beers that used Citra and other great American hop varieties.

But make no mistake, Adnams is a very traditional brewery. Their best selling beer is a bitter called Southwold Bitter. We really enjoyed this beer, it’s a classic bitter, full of chewy crystal malt flavors and a very pleasing bitterness, and probably half my pints on this visit were the bitter. On cask (or hand pull, as they say) it has an amazing depth of flavor, especially for a beer that is only 3.8% alcohol. Ghost Ship is their fastest growing beer, originally released as a fall seasonal (Ghost Ship for Halloween) it proved so popular they made it a year round beer. It is golden in color and has a nice American hop presence. And our other favorite was a beer called Explorer, which really had some nice hop intensity.

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The lineup of Adnams cask (or hand-pulled) ales at The Crown Hotel, one of their pubs in Southwold.

For the festival, we brewed a Black IPA, a recipe that was loosely based on Stone Supremely Self-Conscious Ale, a beer that started out as a pilot brew using second runnings from Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, and recently has been brewed twice at our Liberty Station brewery. The version we brewed at Liberty Station is 4.5% alcohol and used Amarillo and Simcoe in the dry-hop, just like Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. But since Fergus doesn’t use Amarillo any more (like many of us, he is tired of dealing with the supply issues), and he didn’t have any Simcoe, we agreed to use Australian Galaxy and Citra in the dry-hop. This was perfect-we weren’t trying to brew a replication of something that we brew in San Diego. Instead, it was truly a collaboration, and Fergus contributed some great ideas to the recipe that I had provided him. We also ended up using their house yeast instead of our house yeast, again, with the intent to make this beer very collaborative, and different from what one would find in our San Diego locations.

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Jeremy and I weighing out hops! These were First Gold, which we used for bittering.

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Fergus manning the control panel. He let me actually click the mouse to start the brew. Funny story, apparently a while ago a member of the British Royal Family was also given that opportunity to start the brew and they couldn’t work the mouse!

Adnams recently replaced their wood and copper brewhouse with a modern, automated Huppmann brewery, all shiny stainless steel, and equipped with a wet mill, mash vessel, lauter tun, holding kettle, and kettle/whirlpool. We felt right at home on this system and the brew went pretty smoothly, despite having some difficulty getting the Golden Naked Oats to transfer through their malt system (the kernels are too small and bridged in the transfer system-nothing that a gentle persuasion with a rubber mallet couldn’t fix). So all was good until we tried to chill the wort out of the whirlpool. At Stone, we use a boatload of hops in the whirlpool to provide flavor and aroma to our beer, and we did the same with this beer. But the danger with that is that the solid hop material can sometimes carry through to the wort chiller and create a plug that prevents the transfer of wort to continue. And that is exactly what happened here. The same thing happened when I brewed at Wadworth Brewery in Devizes two years ago, and I feel bad about it, because a plugged plate chiller is an awful thing to have to unplug. It takes a lot of time and work, and the brew that is sitting in the whirlpool waiting for a clear path is not developing nice flavors at this point. Fergus was very gracious in this situation, reassuring us that it was not our fault and that his brewers tried to push the wort through instead of slowing down the transfer to allow for better separation of clear wort from the solid hop and protein material. Part of me feels that the fact my beers have done this twice now is kind of a badge of honor, but my fear is that no one else in the UK will want to brew a Stone recipe again!

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The Recipe!

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The Pump Clip for the beer we brewed with Fergus

Fergus shared some very special beers with us while we brewed, and he has an American style IPA that is fantastic-in fact I brought one home with me to share with the crew.

The Wetherspoons chain has a collection of brewers in England that will host the international brewers for each festival. This was the largest contingent of American brewers to date. And we were the first American brewer to participate, back in 2008, but I do believe that Matt Brynyldson from Firestone Walker and Toshi Ishii from Ishi Brewing in Guam have done this more than anyone else at this point. One of the most interesting things I find when visiting these traditional English brewers is that most of the brewmasters have shown a very real appreciation and curiosity for the craft brews that we are making in the United States. And I definitely get the feeling that most of them would like to brew more of these kinds of beers, but are a bit handcuffed or squashed by the sales and marketing folks that want to focus on the more traditional styles. Fergus has had the opportunity to brew some great beers with American hops, but I know he also enjoys a traditional bitter also. And that’s what makes it really great-seeing a brewery that doesn’t abandon the tradition, but also embraces the new.

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The brewers participating this year. I’ve brewed collaboration brews with every one of them except Spike from Terrapin and Mark from Abita. Great friends!

One of the other things that I found very interesting is that Adnams installed distillation columns in the area where their old brewhouse was, and are making a variety of spirits. Most notably gin, which one of theirs just won a major award for being the best gin, but also vodka, distilled beer cordials, whiskey, rye and absinth. It was fun talking to Fergus about the lautering of a 100% rye mash, which he stated “doesn’t lauter, you just pull the liquid through”. I could relate, after all, any time we brew with rye at Stone, the team threatens to mutiny because the lauters are so bad.

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The Distillation columns at Adnams run through the floor holes left by their old brewhouse

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Small batch stills used to allow special guests to distill their own gin!

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Various botanicals used to flavor gin

When we returned from Southwold to London,  we were able to arrange a last-minute tour at the  Fullers Brewery (thanks to Angelo Scarnera, who made a phone call while we were at The Rake), and we met up with beer tour guide extraordinaire Glenn Payne, old friends Shaun O’Sullivan and Nico Freccia from 21st Amendment Brewing Co. in San Francisco, and Shaun’s dad Don, and took the Underground to the west side of London. We were met at Fuller’s by Brewing Manager Derek Prentice, one of the most respected brewers in England. Derek spent a lot of time brewing at Young’s before it got sold, then was able to join Fullers in the same capacity after John Keeling was promoted to Brewmaster following the retirement of legend Reg Drury.

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Derek is an amazing host, I’ve done the tour now a few times, and one of the things I really enjoy is Derek’s passion about the traditional British brewing system, which involves an infusion mash tun, (or a combination mash/lauter tun) which is similar to how most craft brewers and homebrewers start out. Derek is a big believer in this system, he doesn’t like modern lauter tuns with rakes that tear the malt apart as they pass through the grain bed.  It’s refreshing to hear this viewpoint. They’ve set their brewery up like a museum, keeping vessels that are hundreds of years old in their original locations, so even though they are no longer being used, one can get a real sense of what the brewery was like at one time.

One of the things that sets Fuller’s apart from other brewers is their tradition of “partigyling” brews, or basically separating the wort into two streams in the brewhouse process: a high gravity portion from the first runnings, and a lower gravity portion from the sparged wort. The high gravity portion is boiled first, and the heat from the boil is used to preheat the second gyle. After the brewhouse process is finished the gyles are blended in different proportions before fermentation to make 2, 3, or even 4 beers of varying strength. It always seemed very complicated to me, but Derek explained it very well.

Fullers has kept old brewing logbooks, and Derek showed us a few recipes from them, including an IPA recipe, and also a Strong Ale that was brewed in 1966, which has been rebrewed and released as part of the “Past Masters” series that they do annually.

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Shaun O’Sullivan and I reviewing an 1891 recipe with Derek Prentice

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Historical brewing logbooks in Derek’s office. Derek is one of two English brewers I’ve met who thinks handwritten logs are much better than electronic record-keeping, and still maintain the tradition. Why? Because you can’t lose a handwritten ledger!

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Derek is leaving Fullers at the end of the year, but he insists it’s not retirement, it’s moving on to consulting and possibly other opportunities, and I’m sure he’ll be highly sought after. In fact, Shaun O’Sullivan jokingly offered him a job right then and there!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Fuller’s beers, I think they get the best malt profile of just about any brewer, and a Fuller’s pub is always my first stop for a pint upon arriving in England.

Next, a review of some of the new and exciting craft brewers that are springing up around London.

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A pint of Adnams Southwold Bitter. Now that’s a proper pint!

 

UK here we come!

We’re off tonight to visit the UK and brew a Black IPA at Adnams with Fergus Fitzgerald for the JD Wetherspoon pub chain. The recipe will be similar to the Stone Supremely Self-Conscious Ale that Kris Ketcham has been brewing at our Liberty Station brewery. That beer uses Amarillo and Simcoe hops in the dry-hop, but I think Fergus has lined up some other hops to potentially throw in as well. The beer will be served at most/all Wetherspoon’s locations during their International Real Ale Festival in early November.

And tonight will be my first opportunity to try the new Stone Bistro in the San Diego airport-terminal 2.
We’ve got a great trip planned, including a visit to Simpson’s Malting (we’re using their malt with increasing frequency), then while back in London, visits to Meantime Brewing, Beavertown Brewing, and Kernel, all of whom are among the most exciting craft brewers in London. And we’ll also visit some of our favorite pubs in London, including The Rake, Craft Brewing Co. Clerkenwell, and several others.

Several of my brewing friends are also coming over, so I look forward to seeing them, if we can align our schedules.
I’m also looking forward to my first Fuller’s beer. That’s become a tradition on these trips, getting a Fuller’s Real Ale at Paddington Station as soon as we arrive on the Paddington Express from Heathrow. I’ll never forget tasting a cask of their London Porter for the first time when Steve Wagner and I were in London for the first Wetherspoon beer we did at Shepherd Neame. It immediately became one of my favorite all time beer experiences.
I’ll be posting pics and beer stories either along the way, or shortly after I return, depending on how much time I have and whether I have good internet service.

What is Quality Part 3. How important is the recipe?

Below is an email I recently sent to our Brewing, Packaging, Maintenance, and QA Teams at Stone Brewing Co. I actually meant to send this at the end of 2012 to congratulate our team on the release of some very cool new beers-namely Stone Enjoy By IPA, and Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA (now called Stone RuinTen IPA), but found it recently in my “Drafts” folder (doh!). I still believed in the relevance of the message, so I sent it just before our 17th Anniversary celebration.

I think this applies to any production brewery. In a one/two man brewpub operation,obviously the brewer has control and influence over every part of the brewing process starting with formulation, ingredient securing, brewing, fermenting, aging and packaging. But in a production brewery, one has to rely on the talents and skills of many people to get a good beer out the door.

To The Stone Brew Crew:

Whenever we put out a new beer, I’m always asked “who came up with the recipe?”, and I am uncomfortable answering that question, because it is a simple answer that really doesn’t accurately convey why the beer is successful and tastes delicious.

I think far too much credit is given to the formulation/recipe for a beer’s success. I honestly believe that recipe formulation is one of the easiest parts of making a great beer, and accounts for about 5-10% of its potential success. In my opinion, anyone with some understanding of ingredients and styles can create a great recipe, but actually working with that recipe to brew a great beer is the hard part.

Think about it:

1. Without having sufficient supply of the highest quality ingredients, the beer will fail. This means formulating the beer knowing what ingredients are of the highest quality and their availability. Nothing ruins a good beer quicker than having to make inadequate ingredient substitutions.
2. Without having a robust brewhouse that produces consistent wort, and without having a pure yeast strain and carefully monitored fermentations, the beer will fail. Fermentation provides most of the “Beer” flavor you get in beer. Poor yeast health, improper temperature control, or insufficient oxygen addition will cause a poor fermentation with off-flavors.
3. Without having well designed, high quality, reliable production equipment that is maintained and optimized on a regular basis, the beer will fail. You need equipment that will allow you to produce consistent, high quality beer.
4. Without a great team of brewers, who understand craft beer, the beer they are brewing, and the best practices and procedures needed to make that beer, the beer will fail. Our brewers need to be equipped with the education and experience to make smart decisions that are in the best interest of beer quality.
5. Without having 100% focus on sanitation and cleanliness in the brewery, the beer will fail. This has killed many, many small brewers in the past 25 years.
6. It’s often stated that nothing “good” can happen to a beer when it is packaged. Without a great team who bottle and keg the beer, who understand the quality that needs to go into every single package, and who know how to respond when quality issues start to appear, the beer will fail.
7. Without a QA team that accurately measures the progress of the beer and reports it to the team, and looks for ways to improve our understanding of what is happening in the brewing, fermentation, finishing, and packaging processes, the beer will fail.
8. Without proper scheduling of the brewing and packaging of the beer, the beer will either sit too long, or not long enough in the tank, or will be shorted in supply to our sales team, who can then lose valuable handles and shelf space. Ultimately, without proper planning, the beer will fail.
9. Without having a sales and media team that understands the industry and our beers, and works tirelessly to ensure awareness, and deliver our message and vision, the beer will fail.
10. Without having company leadership that encourages risk taking, focuses on taste and quality, supports innovation in everything the company does, listens and supports creative ideas from the team, and supports all of the above items, the beer will fail.

My point is that while it’s great to get accolades about creating a beer recipe, not enough credit is given to the other critical parts of brewing a great beer, some of which are listed above. There are plenty more components that go into making a great beer, and everyone on our team plays a very important role in our success.

I thank you all for everything that you do to make our beers so successful.

Beer Recommendation:

dieu-de-ciel-rose-hibiscus

I was at the Stone Brewing World Gardens and Bistro Liberty Station yesterday afternoon, and after having a sampling of Kris Ketcham’s wonderful beers, got a small pour of Montreal’s Dieu de Ciel! Rosee dHibiscus, a wonderfully refreshing beer that has Hibiscus flowers added in the brewing process. We’ve done some pilot brewing with Hibiscus ourselves, and I really enjoy the fruity floral character that the flowers impart-not to mention the rose hue that also results. Hibiscus plays particularly well in Belgian style beers. As hot and muggy as it was yesterday, this beer was absolutely perfect. Check it out!

 

A Final Note:

We recently had a tragedy at the brewery and it has shaken all of us up pretty hard.  Everyone on our team is grieving and mourning in their own way, and one thing that has really helped has been the tremendous outpouring of support, well wishes, and condolences for our loss. The Craft Brewing Industry is a wonderful business to be in, full of really good, thoughtful, and caring people, and I thank everyone who has reached out to me or anyone else in our company to offer support. It means more than you can know.

Also, I am not going to comment on this tragedy further, unless asked to do so for any official future statements from Stone Brewing Co.

Thanks so much, and cheers.