Showing posts with label berliner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label berliner. Show all posts

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sour Beer At The Irish Craft Beer Fest

I don't normally do beer reviews, but I decided to make an exception as these brews are available right now for you to try in the RDS.

First up we have Sour Brown Ale from Blacks of Kinsale. This is a batch of their Jester Brown Ale which has had a mixed sour culture from White Labs added to it in secondary. Jester is an exciting new British hop from Charles Faram's breeding programme which makes either version of the beer worth trying in themselves. The soured version is only ever so slightly sour as Sam Black, the brewer and owner, told me. The mixed culture was only added three weeks ago, so this is definitely one for keeping and letting the sourness develop. It's ever so slightly acetic on the nose, but not in a bad way. Worth trying, and if you can take away some in a growler and let is age.


Next up is Beann Gulban from White Hag. I sourced some wine barrels a while back and Joe Kearns, the head brewer in White Hag took two of them. Joe has blended a very acidic batch with a less acidic one, and has been aged the blend in one of these barrels. The uniqueness doesn't stop there though. Beann Gulban has no hops at all (yes you read that right), instead it has a huge amount of heather flowers added to primary and when the conditions (pH and gravity) are right Joe pitches the yeast. All the sourness is coming from the heather, and it is definitely lactic in nature, with the oak adding an extra dimension, a truly wonderful beer.

Joe also brought along the very acidic batch in a corny keg for "special guests", whoever that could be ;) This is proper hardcore Beann Gulban the way I like it, and being honest I personally prefer it, but it may be too tart for others.


I made my way over to Kinnegar's stand and had a good chat with Rick Lahart about his latest creation, Geuzberry. The wort was pasteurised and then kettle soured with yoghurt probiotics and fermented out with a neutral yeast, and for a final twist there are locally grown gooseberries added. It's like a strong (ABV-wise) Berliner weisse, and is properly tart. Just like Berliners of old, Rick offers a variety of sweet syrups which can be mixed in to take the edge off, but says himself that he prefers it straight up. I didn't try the syrups but I can see why Rick likes it: again a beautiful beer. If you can't make it to the RDS this is also available in bottles in good off-licences but won't hang around long.

So this this is a snapshot of the Irish sour beer scene as of August 2015. It's great to see the number of sour and less conventional beers increasing as the market becomes more open to new ideas. We're not quite Belgium yet, but we're heading in the right direction.

Foot note: Not beer related, but Blacks have also become a licensed distiller, bought a still, and are producing spirits in small quantities. I sampled their poteen and decided I'd procure a bottle as it's top notch stuff. Very limited availability (there were only a handful of bottles left) so I'm sure it'll become collectable.


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Brew 176: Quick Oud Bruin

Turbo cider is all the rage on the home brewing section of popular Irish internet forum boards.ie, and while I've tasted a turbo cider or two, I've always felt you can't rush perfection. Not that it's perfection but the Bulmers/Magners ad says "Nothing added but time"; they may be on to something.

This is a recipe inspired by one in American Sour Beers, but adapted to what I had available at the time and can't really be considered the same recipe.

This is an interesting brew in that the batch is split in half, one half is fermented with regular ale yeast, US-05 in my case, and the other half is spiked with lacto. When sufficiently sour both halves are combined to form the finished beer.


Amount Item Type % or IBU
4.20 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (5.9 EBC) Grain 85.71 %
0.25 kg Amber Malt (43.3 EBC) Grain 5.10 %
0.15 kg Roasted Barley (591.0 EBC) Grain 3.06 %
0.10 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (118.2 EBC) Grain 2.04 %
0.10 kg Corn, Flaked (2.6 EBC) Grain 2.04 %
0.10 kg Oats, Flaked (2.0 EBC) Grain 2.04 %
14.00 gm Magnum [14.00 %] (60 min) Hops 23.0 IBU
1 pkg Safale US-05 Yeast In one half
1 pkg Lactobacillus starter Yeast The other half
20.00 gm Light toast French oak chips Oak

The water was boiled Leixlip water, with no other treatment. After five days the pH of the lacto portion had dropped to 3.4 which I combined with the ale yeast fermented portion, racked to secondary, and let condition for a couple of weeks with some light toast French oak chips. Once conditioned I kegged and force carbed.

Tasting Notes

Oud Bruin is one of my favourite styles of beers, Liefman's Goudenband and Rodenbach Grand Cru both being personal favourites, both of which I can usually get locally. A genuine Oud Bruin takes a considerable amount of time to produce, spending years ageing in stainless steel tanks, and it shows, as this is where my version of of this recipe falls down: its lack of depth. While it's very drinkable it's sort of one dimensional and probably has more in common with a Berliner Weiss than it does with the real thing. There is a slight astringency from one of the dark grains, I'm not sure which, but I think next time I'll use all Belgian grains. And it's also slightly too dark. The final beer pH is 3.9 which isn't overly sour but all in all not a bad brew and one worth tweaking.




Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Lick Then Hammer

London Calling

L-R: Smoke Signals, Dave
In recent years the London beer scene, and indeed the wider UK scene has witnessed an explosion in creativity in craft beer. So much so that there is a distinction (and friction) being created between those traditional Real Ale breweries and the craft beer breweries, and their fans. I noted in some CAMRA branch magazines in summer 2014 statements like "I brew Real Ale, not that fizzy kegged stuff called craft beer" with a certain degree of vitriol.

So with this in mind I returned to London in March 2015, on a trip devoted purely to craft beer (and catching up with college friends). On our travels we visited the Euston Tap, a must-see on the London tourist circuit never mind the beer circuit. There's a barman in the Tap by the name of Dave who is from Lucan. Anyone who knows Lucan will know it's now a big place, but Dave is from the part that is close to one of my favoured licensed premises, the Lucan County bar. Dave is very welcoming, especially if he hears an Irish accent. He also has a great knowledge of beer, and of the huge selection of beers that the Tap serves. In fact this is true of all staff in the Tap, which is very refreshing. It's as if selling bodacious beverages is a vocation and not just a job.

Dave recommended to me that I try a beer called Smoke Signals from a brewery in Berkshire called Siren, whom I hadn't heard of before. The beer is described as a dry hopped smoked sour wheat ale. Smoke in beer normally puts me off, as unlike with bacon I don't consider it a perfect marriage. I've had a few examples of grodziskie/gr├Ątzer, a historical style of smoked wheat beer from the Polish/German border and it hasn't floated my boat. More historic but also modern beers such as rauchbier from Schlenkerla, or even closer to home Smokescreen from Metalman, haven't lifted that boat either, so it was with some trepidation that I went on Dave's recommendation and ordered a Smoke Screen.

Whoa, this was not supposed to happen! The blend of quite an amount of sour bitterness with quite a lot of smoke actually somehow didn't not work. And then there's hops too! When I say it didn't not work, I mean I'm not sure it works, like smoky bacon works, but it works well enough that I'd have another. Thankfully Siren now has a distributor in Ireland (Pro Addition), though I haven't seen Smoke Signals here (yet).

So with my curiosity piqued I decided when I got home I'd try to brew something like this. Turns out with a bit of googling it would appear that Siren weren't the first to brew a smoked sour wheat ale. That distinction belongs to the good people of central Germany, in and around the town of Lichtenhain. Another historical style that is largely gone, there is an opinion that a Lichtenhainer is somewhere between a Berliner weisse and a grodziskie, though the historical records show that it was more likely that the sourness was developed in secondary, unlike with a Berliner. The rest is up for debate: how much wheat (if any), the ratio of smoked to non-smoked malt, and so on. Accounts differ. I presume the brewers at Siren read Ron Pattison's blog too, as Ron went into some detail about Lichtenhainer as far back as 2008.

Formulating a recipe should be fairly easy as we're under constraints that are largely due to lactobacillus being involved. The guys over at The Beer Files blog have done a pretty good write-up and have surmised:
  1. It must be sessionable. This goes almost without saying with a beer that is produced using lactobacillus in primary. Especially if it's L. delbreuckii as that subspecies is homofermentative. i.e. it will attenuate out, but your sugars won't have turned to alcohol. Of course this is based on the assumption that lacto will be used in primary as kettle souring etc is common, even fashionable in current times, though historically it wasn't used for this style of beer.
  2. Low IBUs. Again lacto and IBUs don't mix, 15 being commonly considered the limit.
  3. Tart. Lacto!
  4. Smoky. The only attribute not related to lacto.

As I said above there is some variation in the reports of what was in the grist and how much but while researching I found this page about Mark Schoppe's award-winning recipe. Mark won the 2012 Ninkasi award, which is a prize given by the AHA (American Homebrewers Assoc.) for the home brewer with the most amount of points in the final stage of the NHC (National Homebrew Competition), although it's not clear if this beer contributed towards that win, but it did win other awards. Ironically the BJCP sanctioned competitions give more points for beers that are closely follow their guidelines, but Lichtenhainer is one of the many styles missing. There is an update due to the style guidelines due in 2015, and it's good to see than Lichtenhaier is included in the 2014 draft.

Mark's recipe, adapted for my conditions is:

  • 20 litre batch
  • 1.9Kg Weyermann rauchmaltz (beech smoked barley malt)
  • 1.9Kg Baird's wheat malt
  • 200g Weyermann acidulated malt
  • 8g of Hallertauer Hersbrucker in the mash
  • Regular 75 minute infusion mash at 66°C
  • 60 minute boil
  • Lactobacillus delbreuckii added when wort has cooled to 40°C
  • Yeast TBC

I've taken to boiling all my brewing water to precipitate some of the hardness, but my TDS meter generally shows around 130ppm which is far harder than I want it to be. To compensate I've started to use a lot more acid malt than usual. Longer term I plan to switch water supply completely.

Abraxas

Shortly after brewing this I met with Dean Clarke, purveyor of the finest beverages on behalf of Premier International to chat about a project I'm involved in. As if sent by God, Dean casually informed me over a 7-Up in the Salmon Leap Inn that he had a boot full of Lichtenhainer from German brewer Freigeist ("Free spirit") in the car park. Who would have thought someone else would have brought Lichtenhainer to Leixlip before I did! Freigeist are an offshoot of Cologne’s small brewery Braustelle, a part of the Brauerei Goller of Zeil Am Main. All their beers are on the unusual side, complete with 30's black and white horror movie type labels. Premier are importing these into Ireland and there is quite a variety, and all the the Lichtenhainer brews are under the Abraxas moniker. Most have fruit, but there is also a weisse . They're just starting to trickle into off-licences, so if you see one go for it.