BEER DUTY - the blog

Brewster Emma

We're really excited here at GYLE 59, We've just been joined by the international award winning brewster Emma Turner!

Emma joined GYLE 59 yesterday and is already familiarising herself with our idiosyncratic brewery and bringing order to my slightly chaotic way of working :-)

With orders mounting and more and more demands on our time Amanda and I couldn't cope any longer without somebody to help and we were extremely fortunate that our need coincided with Emma becoming available for work. And what's even more fortunate and statistically pretty unlikely, she just happens to live in Marshwood (about five fields away)!

So, happy days here in West Dorset, look out for new recipes with our new brewster's ideas complementing our ever expanding range of tasty beers.

So, which beer looks the most flavoursome?

I've been thinking. It's what I do when I'm carrying out repetitive manual tasks (like bottling, cleaning and other jobs around the brewery). I like beer, I like it a lot, but why do I brew differently when I'm brewing for my own amusement/consumption to when I'm brewing for sale commercially? When I make beer just for myself (and my friends and family) I hardly ever use any finings. It's been this way for years, I have argued fervently that the taste is better and "people shouldn't drink with their eyes" when they comment on any haziness in the beer. If you don't fine the beer, more hop oils and yeast remains in the beer which makes it tastier and I believe better for you. Yet, for my first three experimental brews here at Gyle 59, I've used the standard Isinglass finings in the casks.

I think I've got myself stuck in a paradigm and it's about time I got myself out. Why be mean and keep all the good stuff to myself? I initially thought maybe I'd offer an option of "natural (unfined)" or "fined" beer to pubs, as I sold our brews, but now I'm thinking this would be even more of a compromise than religiously sticking half a pint of fish guts into each cask.

Maybe I've been influenced by a recent meeting with Justin from Moor Beer (mind you, I've been meeting his beers for much longer!). Or maybe it's just the increased acceptance by drinkers, pubs and bars that beer doesn't have to be crystal clear. My heart was warmed recently when a woman served me up with a pint of Nor' Hop (Moor Beer) and enthusiastically explained to me that "I shouldn't be put off by the fact that the beer was hazy, the brewer intended it to be that way". You wouldn't have got that a few years ago!

Experience has shown me that cask ale generally tastes better when left in its natural state.

So, which beer looks the most flavoursome?

Fined v Unfined.jpg

Following the cask v. keg competition at Bristol Beer Week, which helped me clarify my own thoughts about these two methods of delivery, I thought I'd try my own test on fined and unfined beer.

The two pints in the picture are the same beer from the same gyle. One has Isinglass and auxiliary finings, the other is in its natural state and unfined. No prizes for guessing which is which!

The results were absolutely conclusive.

Not only did the natural, unfined beer have more flavour, the taste had a greater complexity about it whereas some of the subtleties had been stripped out of the fined beer.

So, I'm declaring now, that all beer produced by Gyle 59 from this point forward will be fish free, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, tastier, hazier and in my view more natural and better for you. This will be irrespective of the means of delivery or packaging, whether it be by cask, keg, bottle, bag or jug.

Maybe this is a brave step for a new brewery. However, I hope that by joining the increasing army of brewers producing natural beers I can help spread the acceptance and trust in beer that is not crystal clear. Much like the debate around cask versus keg, I believe that what is important is the quality of the beer in terms of taste, mouthfeel and aroma, not the means of delivery or whether you can see through it in a glass.

Coincidences

It's Bristol Beer Week, so we planned a Gyle 59 'works outing' up to Bristol at the weekend to see what the buzz was all about. And what an amazingly positive, inclusive and joyous event it proved to be.

Our first stop was The Three Tuns in St George's Road.

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This pub belongs to Arbor and serves up some very fine beers indeed. Not only were we happy to be in this welcoming pub, but we also ran into the remarkable Justin from Moor Beer which made things even better. Having only met Justin a few hours earlier in Taunton at the SIBA Regional Meeting, this came as a bit of a surprise! We then met Justin from Liberty Beer (yes two Justins to increase the coincidence level),  his partner Clare, and were later joined by Justin's wife Maryann. A quick trip to the bar to refresh our glasses and we had been joined by Bruce from Big Beer Distribution and his father Duncan.

The Three Tuns is a great pub and the conversation was flowing just as well as the beer but Amanda and I were hungry and so left the party to eat and then join them later at the Bag of Nails, just around the corner. We had a very welcome (and good) curry at the Ahmed's Masala Cafe and went to join the others at the Bag of Nails. The pub was heaving with people and we couldn't see our companions so we decided to wander off to visit some more of the venues supporting the Bristol Beer Week. We found our way to King Street in search of The Beer Emporium and The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer.

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We found The Volley and went inside. There was live music and a well stocked bar including a "Tap Takeover" by the Summer Wine brewery. As we scanned the rooms looking for somewhere to sit, I spotted Bruce and Duncan sat on comfy looking sofas sited nice and close to the bar. So, the rest of the evening was set, we settled down first testing out Summer Wine's Barista Stout and then working through a variety of other beers in comfort and with good company. Before we knew it, it was past midnight and a long day had started to catch up with us.  We said our farewells and headed back to our hotel for a few hours sleep.

A late start in the morning found us at No.1 Harbourside enjoying a very much needed brunch whilst sat outside enjoying the beautiful weather and overlooking the harbour. Revitalised, we headed back to the Bag of Nails for an early lunchtime beer.

Bag of Nails.jpg

The friendly and knowledgeable landlord Luke, was frantically clearing up after the previous evening's revelry, but happily stopped to serve and chat to two young women and ourselves who had just entered his pub. This pub had a "Tap Takeover" by the New Bristol Brewery and the brews we tried were good (great pump clips too!). Luke's idiosyncratic and relaxed boozer was an enjoyable place to be and I can understand why the pub was packed on the previous Saturday night.

We left the Bag of Nails and headed back to King Street to investigate The Beer Emporium. It wasn't hard to find, what with it being a next door neighbour of the Volley.

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The bar is situated in the vaults of the building and has an impressive array of cask and keg beers. The staff were really friendly and after a quick half or two we got chatting to Dean, the Bar Manager who explained their involvement in Bristol Beer Week and how the pub/restaurant was keen to present a wide range of beers irrespective of the means of delivery. Again we were finding a fabulous 'can do' attitude which seems to pervade Bristol like a refreshing breeze.

Our last visit of the weekend was to a pub called the Barley Mow.

Barley Mow.jpg

 

This pub was staging a cask v. keg experiment where customers could have a sample of the same beer served up in both formats to compare. The pub is owned by the Bristol Beer Factory but has a free rein to stock a variety of other breweries beers so there were a wide range to beers to compare. There was a blackboard on which customers could record their verdicts and looking at what had happened so far and it seemed that the jury was still firmly out on people's preference. We found out that the pub had a pretty varied demographic as clientele so the final results should be interesting. However, we we're very diplomatically told that it seems that the younger the drinker the more open minded their verdict. Not surprising really. My personal conclusion from the tasting is that there are simply some recipes or styles of beer that fare better with one method of delivery over the other (allowing, of course, for some variation in personal taste too).

We both regretted having to head back to retrieve our car and motor back to Devon, but felt that we had experienced something quite special and that many great opportunities lay ahead for  both us, as brewers, and the enthusiastic  and energetic people who are involved in Bristol's growing beer trade.

The final coincidence of the weekend was meeting Duncan yet again when we were strolling back along the river to our car. I could understand bumping into someone three times over a weekend in our small home town of Colyton, but in Bristol?

Experimental Brew No. 1

Or, Gyle 59's first brew day.

Saturday, 31st August 2013 - a day to remember and a long one at that!

We had promised ourselves that we would have our first beer in the fermenter by the end of August and we did it, just. The chilly morning started at 7.30am with a quick warm up at the Hot Liquor Tank then the joyous task of brewing began...

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Our log burner delivered hot liquor (brewing water) at the right temperature so we soon got the mash going and the brewery started smelling like a brewery at last. The gorgeous aroma of hot malt wafted through the building and out into the beautiful Dorset countryside.

The propane gas burners soon heated the wort (malt infused sugary water) up to boiling point and we added the first batch of hops. The air was soon filled with the scent of aromatic hops.

We added more hops, then more hops and finally more hops. We're not frightened of a bit of flavour here! 

After the results of all this work had been cooled down and pumped into the fermentation vessel we added the yeast and battened down the hatches ready for a few days fermentation.

Then the big clean up started.  Spent grains were left for the local dairy farmer to collect and everything was left clean and gleaming ready for the next brew. It was now 6.00pm and time for a shower.

Not everything went according to plan and we will be making some improvements to the equipment and process, but over all a good days work.  Tired but satisfied we rounded the day off with a trip to the pub with some good friends. What could be better?

Now we just have to be patient and wait for the results. 

Can a really good beer ever be designed by a committee?

I have just read Simon William's (CAMRGB) review of Brewdog's #Mashtag (7.4%) and was interested to have my own opinion of the beer endorsed unknowingly by another enthusiastic beer drinker. 

Mashtag.gif

I had wondered why I was disappointed by the beer when I tried it in the BrewDog pub in Camden. There is nothing wrong with the beer, I enjoy strong dark brown beers that are packed with flavour and well hopped. Also, I've enjoyed pretty much every BrewDog beer I've tried. So what was the problem?

Simon's review of the beer is thorough and describes the beer well, but he, like me, was a little underwhelmed by it. So here's my take on the situation:-

Putting aside expectations (which are always going to be high for BrewDog), the problem here may lie in compromise. My belief is that it's unlikely that anything truly great can be achieved by committee (and this applies to all walks of life). This could be what happened with the formulation of the #Mashtag recipe. I watched it unfold on Twitter and it was great fun, an inclusive and joyful idea, but the result was not as engaging.

Great things can happen when people work together to create something. A good example would be a group of musicians writing together and producing a piece of music that is better than any of the them could ever make individually. However, to carry the analogy further, if the same group of musicians asked their audience to suggest tunes, phrases, lyrics, cadences, etc to put together to make a song, would it work?

Just a thought. 

Water, Water Every Where

Gyle 59 now has a reliable water supply, hooray! 

This week has seen two 10,000 litre settling tanks installed and an 'on demand' pump plumbed in and tested. So we have "water, water every where" as the poem says, however, I'm glad to say, we have no shrinking boards and we have plenty to drink. It's a glorious, cool, clear, fresh and (most importantly) potable water supply. For anybody who might be interested in the technical side of this, I'm told we are getting a water pressure of 4 bars. This is a similar pressure to the highest level you are likely to get from your mains water supply at home.

In preparation for this new supply being plumbed in, I sent a sample to the good folk at Brewlab to have a water analysis carried out. To cut a long list of figures and explanations short, the summary was "This means most styles of beer can be brewed..." Now, that's what I like to hear!

We just need to finish off some work to the chiller system for the fermenters, take delivery of our cask washer and we'll be ready to rock and roll. Time to order in the malt, hops and yeast and let the magic start! 

Are there too many breweries?

This question has been in my mind ever since I decided to re-enter the marvellous world of brewing. And, I have just read David Bailey's (Hardknott Brewery) blog on this very subject which prompts me to write down my thoughts and, in part, give my reply to his question.

My new venture in brewing as Gyle 59 is entering the brewing scene at what might be seen as the crest of a wave with new entrants aplenty. Having been away since May 2011, I have come back to a vibrant and enthusiastic world of beer that seems to me both exciting and slightly scary at the same time.

I can't disagree with Dave's comments on his blog, as he is basically throwing open the question. However, I am a lot more optimistic about the future. Sure, there will be casualties along the way but so there should be. If breweries haven't got a good product, haven't done their homework or simply don't work hard enough then no one should be surprised if they fail. It's not an 'easy' business.

If you take a stroll around London (or many other large towns and cities) and visit some of the high profile pubs (Brewdog, Craft Beer Company etc) you soon realise the people now drinking, enthusing and experimenting with beer are a wonderfully eclectic range of people. The old CAMRA image of middle aged men with beards and pot bellies has been fading for a long time now, but the sheer volume and variety of new beer drinkers is staggering. This is not confined to London, it's happening all over the country. This is evidenced by the increased range of beers on offer in so many more pubs than were offering it in the past.

All this makes me think that the answer to whether there are too many breweries is a resounding NO.

Here's why:-

  • There are more outlets for good beer than have existed for a long time and the demand for even more is evident
  • More and more beer festivals (craft and traditional) are being held all over the country
  • The volume of writing about beer that exists, whether in journals or via the internet, is huge
  • New events are being created that combine beer, food and music in newer and more contemporary ways
  • The range of people enjoying beer has expanded to seemingly include everyone. Beer can now been seen as non-sexist, non-racist, non-ageist... the list goes on.
  • The British people seem to have stopped being slightly apologetic about their national drink and are celebrating its high quality. But not only that, we're happily taking on lessons from all over the globe to enhance the range and enjoyment derived from this immensely varied and adaptable drink.
  • There are more and more businesses springing up to help breweries succeed. Whether they be distributors, event organisers, equipment manufacturers or marketing companies, there is now a huge number of businesses with a vested interest in promoting good beer

However, I do think the question in my (and David Bailey's) title is a good one. It's one to keep uppermost in one's mind as an existing brewery or a new entrant. It will undoubtedly help keep the mind focussed on remaining competitive, engaged and innovative. Which, after all, can only help to sustain and improve the quality of the beer being sold throughout the UK. And I'll happily drink to that!

A Sting in the Tale

Have you ever eaten a nettle?

No?

I thought not, neither have I.

When we found that The Bottle Inn (Marshwood) was hosting the Nettle Eating World Championship last Saturday evening, we just had to go and check it out.  The pub is the closest pub to the Gyle 59 brewery. And to 'guild the lily' the pub had a beer festival on over the weekend.

The pub was very busy and we were greeted by a sign outside -  

Nettle Eating Poster.JPG

Looks promising. 

Well, the range of beers was great, including some excellent brews from local breweries - The Mighty Hop (Lyme Regis) and Art Brew (Chideock) .

The beer of the evening for me was a Citra from the Great Heck Brewery up in Yorkshire. Not so local, but right tasty!

Anyway, on to the main event -  

Contestants were supplied with 2ft lengths of nettles and were instructed to strip the leaves off each stem and eat as many as they could in an hour. The only rule seemed to be that vomiting led to instant disqualification. Charming! But you kind of see why... 

Here's what the contest looked like: 

Eating Nettles.JPG

The existing record of 38ft (the total length of stems left after stripping and eating the leaves) was smashed, but I haven't seen the 'official' result published yet.

So, we had sun, beer, food and wonderful English eccentricity - fabulous.