Category Archives: England

Trips to England, English breweries and the English Craft Beer Scene

Brewing Records and Why They Matter

Last week I had beers and dinner at The Porter in Atlanta with author and brewing historian Ron Pattinson, who was traveling through Atlanta to speak at an event during Asheville Beer Week.

Ron writes the blog Shut Up About Barclay Perkins and has written numerous books containing painstakingly researched recipes from brewing’s past.  Ron helped me a ton when I wrote my book on IPA and IPA history, and his work on recipe research helped me to decipher a lot of the brewing logs from the 1800s so I could relate them to current brewing terms and techniques. It’s a real shame that so many historical records from the 1700s and 1800s were lost when breweries sold or shuttered their doors. And in the case of the American breweries, Prohibition resulted in many brewing records being destroyed or lost forever. But people like Ron have been able to really do a deep dive and understand how beer was made back then.

Ron and I had some great conversations last week, but we finished up the evening  talking about current breweries and wondering how a future beer historian might be able to access today’s brewing records and write about them. In these days of the Information Age, one might think it should be easy to find electronically any brewery’s recipe and write about how the brewery brewed them. But not really. Here are my thoughts on why this might be very challenging.

I’ve been a proponent of documenting everything in the brewing process since the mid 1990s when I spent time in Anheuser-Busch’s Corporate Brewing Dept. and in their St. Louis Brewery. I remember clearly the VP of Brewing Doug Muhleman’s stance on record keeping: “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen”. AB kept electronic records of all their brewing and QA analysis, kept detailed recipe logs, taste results, and maintained process and ingredient change logs at every brewery. Doing so allowed the brewing managers to track back when there were flavor issues or other quality issues in order to understand what might be potential causes. So now I wonder if these records are available anywhere now, with the Inbev buyout and the drastic changes at the brewery? It’s very hard to say. The database was built in house by AB, and probably will never be accessible to anyone outside the company, if it still even exists.

I’ll never forget working on the American Originals project to brew AB’s pre-Prohibition beers and how hard it was to find any detailed records of those beers, or the project that others were working on in Corporate Brewing to detail the recipe history of Michelob going back to the late 1800s. Very tough tasks indeed, and I can see history repeating itself with hard-to-find recipes and process descriptions for today’s beers.

When I worked in AB’s big St. Louis Brewery, in the late 1990s, one person was charged with the daily update of what was called “the McNab book”, which was a handwritten record in a binder that tracked every fermentation and lagering process. McNab was the brand name of an in-line instrument that recorded the yeast content of the beer as it moved from primary fermentation to lagering. Then, during the lagering process, the 0 hour, 10 day and end of lager cell counts were tracked in the McNab book, as were QA analytical values, and all of this data was used to determine proper zinc sulfate additions in the brewhouse. Zinc sulfate was used as a yeast nutrient, and affected the yeast cells’ flocculation (settling) rates, which in turn impacted natural carbonation, diacetyl reduction, and the unwanted acetaldehyde formation in the final beer. One person was charged with evaluating the McNab trends and with tracking the cell counts to proactively make zinc changes when the 10 day cell counts were too high or too low. This was a record that Brewing Directors in Corporate Brewing reviewed when they visited the brewery, so it was important to keep it accurate, neat and legible.

When I moved to Merrimack NH in 1999, I took the mechanics of the “McNab” book with me and adapted it to our brewing process in Merrimack. I added sections for brewhouse and primary fermentation, and noted which lager tanks were blended as they were filtered and packaged. And yes, much of this information was later available electronically, but I found it very difficult to structure the reports that had all data I wanted into a format that was easy for me to use. In addition, I found that I had much better retention of the information if I actually wrote it myself vs printing off a pre-fabbed report to review.  So I filled out spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets. And as I filled them out, I gained a real thorough understanding of how we were brewing our beer over time. I also maintained an overall brewhouse recipe spreadsheet, which the brewers had at their workstations, which was updated with recipe changes as they occurred. This is a form that I again took with me from the St. Louis brewery operation and adapted to Merrimack’s operation. We had a “Yeast Tree” document that tracked the use of every culture we received from 0 to 10 generations. And we had an electronic change log that documented recipe changes. But these records were all lost to me when I left AB to join Stone Brewing, and I’d be surprised if anyone could still find them today.

In 2006, when I got to Stone, which was like many craft brewers in this respect, all the brewing logs were filled out on paper by the brewers and were kept in file folders. One of the first tasks I assigned to myself was to create an electronic record of all the recipes Stone had ever brewed, so we could refer back to them if needed, and also to make sure we weren’t accidentally repeating a hop combination or recipes that we had already used. But we had just moved into the new building on Citracado, and many of the really old brewlogs were filed in various offices, and in some cases, people’s homes. So I went back as far as I could with the brewlogs I was able to find, and then moved on to other things. I kept several other spreadsheets, including a master recipe sheet, a change log that included both recipe/ingredient changes AND process changes (new equipment, procedural changes and the like), and a brewing record that was based on the original AB McNab log that I called the “BrewDiary”. I had a separate worksheet in the spreadsheet for each core brand that tracked each batch of beer from start to finish, and then one large sheet for all the special releases,collaborations and one-offs we brewed.

During my final year at Stone Brewing, when we were putting together the list of beers to re-brew for our year-long 20th Anniversary celebration, we were asked to re-brew the Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale, and the Stone 6th Anniversary Ale, which was a bigger version of Stone Smoked Porter. That’s when I regretted not following through on that early project to completely build files for the old recipes! After some discussions with original Brewmaster Steve Wagner and with former Head Brewer Lee Chase, there still wasn’t much detail available on either beer. The brewlogs were apparently buried in a box somewhere in the Stone archives, we made jokes about getting HazMat suits to sift through all the dusty boxes to find them.  In the end, I reversed engineered the Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale from Lee’s original homebrew blog that we did for each VE release, and we interviewed many Team Stone members who had been with company a long time to learn about what went into the 6th Anniversary Porter-we had missed a lot originally-it was actually more complex than just a scaled up version of Stone Smoked Porter.

So my point in all this is that I suspect there are a lot of craft brewers over the years who have followed a similar pattern. They have graduated from handwritten brew logs, that are filed and stored in a box somewhere, to spreadsheets, or maybe even to more complex equipment supplier automated databases or ERP systems. But in 100 years, who is going to be able to find any of it if they want to document how beers were brewed during our current times? Especially if breweries continue to grow quickly or get sold or close shop.

Several years ago I was able to travel to England and brew a beer at Wadworth brewery. And I had some discussions with their Brewmaster, Brian Yorsten, about record keeping. He told me that they had recently moved from filling out the ornate brewing logs like the brewers in the 19th century used to the more modern practice of keeping records on spreadsheets. And he absolutely hated it, and eventually went back to filling out the logbooks.  Logbooks are easy to store and access, provided someone doesn’t throw them out with the trash. Computer records are not always easy to access, especially when stored in ERP systems or house-built databases.

I’m wondering right now if a concerted effort could be made by the industry to preserve some brewing logs from early craft brewers in a safe place, like a library or a museum, where researchers in the future could go back and learn about the techniques and ingredients being used today. As difficult as it was to research beers brewed in the 1800s, I sadly suspect that 100 years from now, it might be even harder for historians to research the beers that are being brewed today. Sure, there’s a lot of high level information available since brewers have been providing recipes to brewing magazines and homebrewers for many years. But nowhere have I seen the details of how someone’s beer is brewed, exactly how they describe their ingredients, what equipment they are using, and their brewing processes. And that’s the stuff the researchers will want to understand.


The Home Brewers Guide to Vintage Beer


I recently received this book, The Home Brewers Guide to Vintage Beer the mail, and I am tremendously excited about it for many reasons.

If you’ve read my book on IPA, you know that beer historian Ron Pattinson helped me a lot with it, he contributed numerous data tables on English and Scottish IPA brewing analysis and specifications, and fact-checked my manuscript before publication. His website Shut Up About Barclay Perkins is one of my favorite internet sites about beer. I visit it at least twice per week, because I always learn something new about brewing, not only about historical English techniques, but Scottish, German and American facts as well. He has done amazing work in researching old brewing logs and figuring out how the brewers made their beers, what the ingredients were like, what the style names meant, and along the way, debunking many brewing myths and clarifying the brewing procedures used through written brewing history. It really is an incredible place to learn about brewing history.

By my count he includes over 110 historical beer recipes in this book, covering the following styles: Porter, Stout, IPA, Pale Ale/Bitter, Light Bitter/Light Ale, Mild Ale, Stock/Burton Ale, Scottish Ales, Brown Ale, Broyhan, Grodziskie and some other European styles. In each chapter, he gives a synopsis of how and when the style originated and how it evolved over time. Each recipe is laid out in an easy to follow style, sized for a 5 gallon brew, but easily scalable to your own brewing system. And there are historical notes provided for each recipe as well.

Pattinson IPA Recipes

Here are 4 of the Historical IPA Recipes in Ron’s book.

Pattinson Mild Recipes

Here a couple of Mild recipes

I was never much into history until I started writing the IPA book, and then I got sucked in completely into the history of brewing, and the thrill of discovering extinct beer styles. Ron Pattinson’s website provided a lot of information that I was able to use in the book, and it was very gratifying that Ron was so willing to help.

Ron has worked with many brewers to brew historical recipes including my friends Dann and Martha Paquette at Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project (check out  Pretty Things Historical Beers to see some of the historical beers they have brewed), and John Keeling and Derek Prentice at Fuller’s, who brewed an historical Double Stout and XX Strong Ale with Ron’s help as part of their Fuller’s Past Master’s Series.

I’ve never actually met Ron Pattinson, all our correspondence has been via email. But I am excited that he will be in the San Diego area this spring, and we hope to brew a batch of beer with him while he’s here. He will be selling his book on the trip, so I hope you all come out to any of the events that scheduled (we’re hoping Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens Liberty Station in mid-May). More to come on this as events get planned.


UK Revisited

Less than a week after I returned from Asheville, I packed the family up and we flew to London for the holidays. I got to brew another beer with Fergus Fitzgerald at Adnams in Southwold, this time an 8.5% Double IPA (California Style!) that will be dry-hopped with Centennial, Citra and Mosaic. This beer should be available in Wetherspoons pubs in mid-January.

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It’s become a tradition-my first beer after arriving in the UK is always a Fuller’s!


I love seeing historical brewing sites-this was in London.

I am very curious to see how people react to our beer, since the alcohol  is much higher than what beer drinkers in Britain generally find acceptable. It’s an interesting point of difference between the US and UK beer drinking cultures. When having beer discussions with folks in the UK, the alcohol content is one of the first things always mentioned when describing a beer.  Whereas, in the US, some of the first things we mention are the IBUs and/or hop varieties. It’s part of the culture in the UK to drink multiple pints in a session at a pub, so the alcohol content is kind of an important consideration, I get it. But it also sometimes seems a little extreme, like when we brewed our first beer for JD Wetherspoon back in 2008, a 7.2% IPA that many people wouldn’t even try because the alcohol was so high. I’m sure we’ll have people on both sides of the fence with this beer, and am looking forward to seeing any comments. I do think craft beer fans will really like this beer.


The recipe sheet for our Double IPA.


Mash-in complete. West Coast IPA!


This was the street our cottage was on. At the end of the street, turn right and you’re at the Adnams Brewery.


Cool historical poster at Adnams


Hop Dosing system at Adnams.


We mashed in at 5:00am, and so I got to get some shots of an amazing sunrise from the Southwold shoreline at about 8:00 am.

On Christmas Eve, we went back to London and spent 3 days there with the family. It was a great opportunity, the kids had never been out of the country before.


I have a lot of pictures of my son’s hand.


We took a Thames River Cruise on Christmas day, and saw this guy piloting an amphibious car.

London in the evening was beautiful:

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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.


The Anchor at Walberswick


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


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.


Bass No. 1 Barley Wine-first taste ever!


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.


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.


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.

The Rake

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.


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


Logan (in the front) and Beavertown Brewer James Rylance


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.


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


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


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.


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.


Brew By Numbers (BBNo)


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.




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.


The town of Southwold near the Adnams Brewery


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.


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.


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


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!


The Recipe!


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.


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.




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


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


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.


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


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.


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.

More updates on IPA History

I’m a little late on these, but having a couple of minutes today to look up some of my favorite beer history blogs uncovered some interesting facts.

First up is from Martyn Cornells great blog Zythophile. In this entry, which was posted on IPA Day (8/1/13), Martyn lists 5 things you may not have known about IPA. If you’ve read my book, you may know a few of these, but of particular interest to me is the fact that it now appears the first use of the words “India Pale Ale” may have been in Australia in 1829 and 1830, and that Taylor Walker/Barley Mow Brewery in London in 1830 may be the first brewer of a beer with the tag India Pale Ale. Also of interest in this post  Five facts you may not have known about India Pale Ale is that Pale Ales have been brewed with wind-dried pale malt for centuries, a fact that I think I unfortunately left somewhat unclear in my book. I remember a very interesting discussion with Alastair Hook at Meantime Brewery (and the team at Meantime knows their IPA history very well) about a pale beer brewed in Europe in the early middle ages that was brewed with wind-dried malt and was known to be very hoppy. I was never able to uncover any documentation for this beer, so I didn’t use it in the book, but I’d love to find out more about it. And I recommend reading the comments on Martyn’s blog as well, as there is some interesting work is being done on the aging process of historical IPAs.

The second is from Ron Pattinson’s awesome blog: Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, in which he relates some great information about bottling of IPA that occurred both in England and also in India. He also goes on to post a description of Tenant’s Ale from Glasgow, which received favorable comments because it had less alcohol than the Bass or Allsopp beers. This is a great reference that tells us a little bit about both the Bass and Allsopp beers, but also about some of the Scottish IPAs that were being sent in large volumes to India.:  Beer in India 1860’s Pt 2

Also check out a previous post of Ron’s: Beers In India 1860s Part 1 where Ron works to debunk a statement that beers brewed for India were of higher alcohol content than beers brewed for domestic drinkers. I think there is plenty of evidence to support Ron’s position. Yes, the beers that went to India may have been hopped at higher levels, but my research showed that the lowering of the gravity of the beers produced for domestic didn’t really start until the late 1800s, well after the IPA had become a very popular beer style in England. And I won’t even get into the wine part of the blog….


The decline of Bass Pale Ale

Here’s a great post on Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile regarding The sad state of Bass Pale Ale.

I used to love Bass Ale, it definitely was a favorite of mine for many years, especially when visiting “pubs” here in the US, when the only offerings were typically Bass, Guinness Stout and Harp. However, it’s been many years since I’ve even seen it (not that I seek it out). This is a depressing story, about a company that simply doesn’t know what to do with one of the most iconic brands in brewing history.

At one time, in the 1800s, Bass was the largest brewery in the world, and their IPA set the standard for the style. Much of what I researched for the IPA book about 1800s IPAs I found in the Bass Archives (now called the National Brewery Centre archives), and if you ever get a chance to visit their museum in Burton-On-Trent, it is an amazing display of historical brewing in England, including an entire section dedicated to IPA and Burton’s heyday as a world brewing center in the 1800s. Also, there is a very nice pub on site, serving beers brewed exclusively at the Worthington’s small brewery just across the driveway from the museum.

Beers being served at the National Brewery Centre Worthington's Pub. Delicious!

Beers being served at the National Brewery Centre Worthington’s Pub. Delicious!

The state of affairs in Burton-On-Trent regarding the absence of the Bass name and logo on all of their old brewery buildings always seemed very sad to me…not that I blame Coors, who bought the breweries and now operate them. Just a strong statement about the dangers of brewery consolidation of the loss of historical brewing records, memorabilia, and other historical artifacts. Often, when breweries are bought out, much of the written material gets disposed of by the new company, without a thought as to how valuable those records might be to someone else.

This brewery used to be part of Bass. Now it is not.

This brewery used to be part of Bass. Now it is not.

I salute Coors for finally making the decision a few years ago to reopen the Museum and The Brewing Archives, a virtual treasure trove of old brewing documents, recipes and labels. They may have bowed to public pressure, but the fact remains that one of the best museums for beer was on their site and it’s a wonderful thing that it is open for visitors again. And if you do ever get the chance to visit, there are still plenty of historical sites that refer to the Bass heritage found throughout Burton:

The old Bass Water tower, just off the banks of the River Trent

The old Bass Water tower, just off the banks of the River Trent

William Bass house-historical marker

William Bass’s house is identified by this historical marker


A better shot of the William Bass house

A better shot of the William Bass house

No trip to Burton-On-Trent is complete without a visit to the infamous Cooper’s Tavern, once a Bass tied house, but now a free house pub. This was the pub that workers at Bass frequented on a regular basis. Now it is a wonderfully historic pub, serving a great selection of beer, and packed with friendly people. I’ve been there a few times now, and have always ended up having lively, friendly conversations with the regulars.

The casks at Cooper's Tavern

The casks at Cooper’s Tavern

The sign outside the door features, not surprisingly, a cooper!

The sign outside the door features, not surprisingly, a cooper!

The house dog, "Eddie" at Cooper's Tavern, making himself at home

The house dog, “Eddie” at Cooper’s Tavern, making himself at home

Any brewer interested in brewing history and recipes from the 1700s and 1800s owes themselves a trip to Burton-On-Trent. Spend at least 2 days there, the historical impact of this town on brewing is massive.

More to come, I have a lot to share about my experiences in Burton-on-Trent.





Going to England (again)

We just made arrangements today for me to fly over to England in September with our Lead Brewer, Jeremy Moynier, to brew a beer with an English brewer for the Wetherspoons pub chain. Wetherspoons puts on an International Real Ale Festival twice each year, and has a program where they invite brewers from other countries to brew beer at select English breweries. All the beer is made as Real Ale, meaning it all goes in casks, is clarified to brilliant crystal clear without filtration, and is naturally carbonated, and served from the cask using a beer engine.

Stone Brewing Co. has participated in this program with Wetherspoons twice over the years. In fact, we were the first American Brewery to participate, back in early 2008, when Stone Brewing Co. cofounder, President and original Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I got to brew at the Shepherd-Neame Brewery in Faversham, which bills itself as the oldest operating brewery in England. That beer we brewed with the great brewers at Shepherd-Neame was an IPA, weoriginally wanted to do an 8-9% abv Double IPA, but the Wetherspoons folks balked at that because it was too high in alcohol. After some negotiation, we settled on a 7% West Coast style IPA.

Steve wanted to call this beer “California Mild” which still makes me laugh, but what I really found interesting is that when Stone cofounder and CEO Greg Koch and I went back for the release party at one of the Wetherspoons Pubs in London, there were many people, including some fellow brewers, who would not even try the beer because it was “so strong”. There were some I couldn’t persuade to even try a small taste. I learned then a bit of the real differences between the beer scene in England vs. the beer scene here in the United States, especially with regards to alcoholcontent. In the United States, many craft beer drinkers look for high alcohol, and are happy sticking to 1-2 pints over the course of an evening. In England, many of the beer drinkers want 3-4%, and that’s it. Anything above that teeters dangerously close to the dreaded “binge drinking” label. The pub drinking culture in England is totally different, and revolves around drinking many pints among friends, so the lower alcohol is an important consideration. And to be fair, there were many brewers, including David Holmes from Shepherd-Neame and John Bryan from Oakham Ales in Peterborough who really enjoyed our beer as well. It was during this trip that I gained a very deep appreciation for traditional English brewing and for good Real Ale. It was a fantastic experience, and I was really glad to be able to help set up some of my craft brewer friends to participate in the same program over the past few years. One of the nicest surprises that came out of this particular trip was that for a short while, the beer we brewed had the highest ranking of all British Beers on ratebeer.

Britain Best Beers


Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival Pump Clips

Mitch and former Team Stone Member, Collaborator and good friend Toshi Ishii pouring their beers. I’m not caring that some people won’t try it- more for me!

The second opportunity for Stone came in the fall of 2011, when I traveled solo to the Wadworth Brewery in Devizes, near Bath and Bristol. This time we brewed something a little more British, at least in terms of alcohol content. We brewed a Session IPA, loosely inspired by the collaboration brew we had made with San Diego homebrewer extraordinaire Kelsey McNair and Colby Chandler from Ballast Point. That was a very fun experiences-Devizes is a wonderfully quaint village, and there was literally a Wadworth pub on every corner of the main street through town. The brewers there treated me wonderfully, and I got some great sightseeing in.

The Wadworth Brewery, a great example of a traditional English brewer.

The Wadworth Brewery, a great example of a traditional English brewer.

Pump Clip for the San Diego Session IPA

Pump Clip for the San Diego Session IPA

So this time, we are brewing at Adnams in Southwold, on the East coast of England, with Fergus Fitzgerald, a brewer Steve and I met a few years ago with Martyn Cornell during one of our research trips for the IPA book. Fergus brews some great beers, and has a love for American hop varieties, so we are looking forward to putting this beer together with him. And congratulations are in order, as Fergus was just named Brewer Of The Year

I am looking forward to spending a little time in London, visiting some of my favorite pubs, including The Rake, The White Horse, Churchill Arms, Craft Brewing Company, and wherever else our travels take us. We hope to visit some London brewers as well-will keep you posted on that.