Brewdog Punk IPA

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Brewdog haven’t been in business for more than six years, but during this time they’ve certainly made an impact on the British beer market.  I must admit I rather admire their “if you don’t like it, sod off” marketing swagger.  I suppose if you can make a decent fist of brewing you may as well shout about it, rather than sitting meekly in the corner saying nothing.

I’m no stranger to Brewdog’s Punk IPA, as it’s a beer that I’ve enjoyed before but haven’t ever actually got around to reviewing.

I consider Punk IPA as one of those “realisation beers” that you could give to a mass-market lager drinker to show him how bland and insipid his beloved yellow fizzy water really is.

The aroma is as potent as incense, and as near as damn it a religious experience. Imagine a heady mix of sharp citrus grapefruit rind, black pepper, crushed pine needles, a little orange juice and weirdly enough just the faintest hint of beeswax polished furniture.  All beer should smell as intense as this. Glorious.

The beer itself is bullion-gold and crystal clear, which is remarkable considering how much this beer was probably dry hopped.  The head pours virginal white and is comprised of quite the smallest little bubbles I’ve ever seen, and lasts right through to the end of the glass.

My only quibble with Punk IPA is that it’s just not as substantial in body and mouth-feel as I really want it to be; with this much hoppiness I feel a bit more coloured malt would bring the whole thing back into balance – at least for me, anyway.

The taste though is smack on: an intense citrus hop attack rides in athwart a profound bitterness, a bitterness that persists for an astonishingly long time, all the while notes of pine resin and black pepper take turns to surge over your taste buds.

Try some today.  It’ll change the way you think about beer!

I got mine from Sainsbury’s for £1.79, although it’s worth mentioning that other supermarkets are available.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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Strange to think that the entire modern craft beer movement apparently stemmed from Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and even though Sierra Nevada brews somewhere near 800,000 barrels of beer a year (2010) it’s still thought of as a “micro” brewery; which, when compared to a company like Budweiser, I suppose they probably are.

Sierra Nevada have been producing their pale ale – currently the second best selling craft beer, and by a country mile the best selling pale ale, in the US – since 1980.

Straight from the bottle, the beer pours a clear heather-honey colour with a more than healthy effervescence, that brings forth a summer cumulus head.

The aroma that comes through is ozoney, fruity, honeyish and mellow.

Taste-wise, as the effervescence has broken over your tongue it leaves warming notes of malt and alcohol; which, at the  swallow, are supplanted by a smooth bitterness – thanks to the 37IBUs of early kettle hops -followed by a long-lasting finish of fruitiness and honey from the late hop additions, which I believe to be Cascade.

SNPA is by no means in the over-the-top hopped American craft IPA category, as it’s a pale ale…but it’s just as satisfying, only in a more restrained and self-assured way.

All round it’s a great beer – one of the classics.  Once you’ve tried it you’ll understand how the likes of Goose Island, Dogfish Head, etc. came to be.

I, rather ashamedly, bought my bottles from everyone’s favourite monopolists: Tesco for £1.79 for a 350ml bottle.

Hop-bursted Oatmeal Stout

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Ah, yes…well…it was supposed to be an oatmeal stout, but it’s actually turned out more like an Oatmeal porter.  So let’s just call it an Oatmeal porter and have done with it, eh?

After I read Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing book I decided that a hop bursted stout would be an interesting experiment and as a result, put together the recipe for this.

When planning the mash I considered that the amount of crystal malt in the recipe would give me a little residual sweetness and would mean that I wouldn’t have to mash any higher than 66C – mashing any higher than that always gives me the jitters and leaves me worrying about finishing gravities of 1025 or more!

For yeast I used the Mauribrew 514 Ale Yeast, and crikey what a belter it is.  It tore through the wort in about 2 days…taking it from 1058 or so to about 1011 in that short time.

Two weeks in the primary and then nearly a month in cornelius keg and it’s finally come into its own: as you can see from the photo, it’s not as dark as I hoped it would be, there’s no way that it’s 94EBC, no way on earth, but it’s dark enough to make a decent porter, so I’m happy with that.

The aroma is complex – coffee, chocolate with a sweet malty sort of nose to it…this is most definitely a sweeter stout, helped in part by the crystal malt, and the taste is kind of where I wanted it to be – echoing the aroma in it’s chocolate and coffee sumptuousness.

There is a bitterness imparted by the hop-charge; but as it’s all late hop additions it’s a weird, graceful sort of bitterness which seems to dovetail right in with the chocolatey-coffee taste – and because of that it’s difficult to tell where the hop bitterness finishes and the crystal and black malt comes in, which is no bad thing…it’s all joined up at least.

The mouth-feel is smooth and satisfying, which means I must have got the amount of oats pretty much bang on…and this helps to keep the finish going on and on and on.

What I’d do differently next time: Less crystal, no hop-bursting (it’s interesting, but I crave a little more assertive bitterness in my brews)  I’ll probably splash out on some roast barley next time to really lay on that dry, roastier feel.  I’ll also whack up the black malt a tad to make it more “stouty.”

This is the second outing with the Mauribrew 514 yeast for me and even though it’s vigorous and dependable in it’s ability to rip through worts, it seems to take an age to clear and isn’t particularly good at staying put in either keg or bottle – the slightest disturbance seems to get it billowing up all over the place.  It also has a weird neutrality to the taste, which I can’t say is unpleasant or anything…it just doesn’t offer much in the way of character.  I guess I’ll be looking to White Labs or Wyeast next time around…

…anyway saying all of that this beer’s satisfying enough as a daily drinker, so here’s the recipe (direct from Beer Engine)

Fermentable Colour lb: oz Grams Ratio
Pale Malt 5 EBC 11 lbs. 0.4 oz 5000 grams 83.3%
Oat Flakes 2.5 EBC 0 lbs. 14.0 oz 400 grams 6.7%
Torrefied Wheat 4 EBC 0 lbs. 7.0 oz 200 grams 3.3%
Crystal Malt 130 EBC 0 lbs. 7.0 oz 200 grams 3.3%
Chocolate Malt 1050 EBC 0 lbs. 3.5 oz 100 grams 1.7%
Black Malt 1300 EBC 0 lbs. 3.5 oz 100 grams 1.7%
Hop Variety Type Alpha Time lb: oz grams Ratio
Northdown Whole 7.6 % 20 mins 0 lbs. 1.4 oz 40 grams 40%
Northdown Whole 7.6 % 15 mins 0 lbs. 1.1 oz 30 grams 30%
Northdown Whole 7.6 % 10 mins 0 lbs. 0.5 oz 15 grams 15%
Northdown Whole 7.6 % 5 mins 0 lbs. 0.5 oz 15 grams 15%
Final Volume: 23 Litres
Original Gravity: 1.058
Final Gravity: 1.015
Alcohol Content: 5.6% ABV
Total Liquor: 34.3 Litres
Mash Liquor: 15 Litres
Mash Efficiency: 75 %
Bitterness: 33.9 EBU
Colour: 94 EBC

Making a basic bread dough in a mixer; Kenwood, Kitchen Aid or otherwise

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Due to pregnancy and the ensuing stretchy ligaments that make dough kneading a pain, Eve e-bayed herself a decent second-hand Kenwood K-Mix (I also think she just fancied one too!) but couldn’t for the life of her find any exact instructions on how to make a bread dough in it.

After multiple experiments, much cursing and several slightly flattened loaves, we came up with a method that works for us.  The ingredients are based upon Paul Hollywood’s Basic Bread recipe, but the method is all ours!

(We both recommend the Paul Hollywood bread books as the recipes and methods just work…)

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • A knob of softened butter
  • 1 sachet dried, fast action, yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • about 250 -300ml coolish, not cold, water
  • a little olive oil

Method

  1. Put the flour into the mixer’s bowl with the softened butter.  Put the yeast at one side of the bowl and put the salt at the other, just in case the concentration of salt should kill the yeast.  Set the mixer to the “min” setting and leave to combine the ingredients for a thirty seconds or so
  2. Slowly add the water, a little at a time, as the mixer runs on the “min” setting.  The dough will start to come together slowly.  Keep adding water a little at a time until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.  If the dough looks too dry add a little water a teaspoon at a time; if it looks too wet shake a little flour in
  3. Once the mixture comes away cleanly from the bowl, you can go up to a notch in speed, the dough will now audibly “slap” against the sides of the bowl, you should also see it visibly stretching.  I like to vary the speed between “min” and setting 1 – which seems to help get things moving along nicely.  Occasionally stop the mixer and pull the dough from the hook, this helps to ensure a good knead and you also get to test how elastic the dough is becoming
  4. Once you can pinch a small piece of dough between thumb and forefinger and pull it for more than an inch or two without it ripping, you’re pretty much in business.  Tip the dough out of the bowl, oil the bowl by rubbing about a penny-sized dollop of olive oil around the interior before putting the dough back in
  5. Find somewhere at room temperature to prove the dough, and cover the mixer bowl with cling film
  6. After the dough has doubled in size (anywhere from an hour to three hours) tip out onto a lightly oiled work surface and with the lightest of touches fold the dough lengthways three, four or five times – until you end up with a loaf tin-sized cylinder of dough. This is a gentle way of “knocking the dough back” so that it can prove for a second time
  7. Oil a loaf tin (including the outside shoulders of the tin) and gently place your folded dough into it, then get a large plastic bag and form a balloon that the loaf tin can fit into – ensuring that the rising loaf cannot possibly touch the plastic bag
  8. Leave for another hour or two until the loaf proves again and rises above the level of the tin
  9. Make sure that your oven is pre-heated to about 200c, with an old baking tin in the bottom.  Now gently place the loaf into the oven and pour a small glass of tap water into the old tin at the bottom of the oven – the steam helps the crust to get crusty!
  10. After 25 minutes take the loaf out of the oven, turn it out of the tin and tap the bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s done and should be cooled on a wire rack.  If not, put it back in the tin and into the oven for another five minutes…repeat as neccessary
  11. After about half-an-hour of cooling the new loaf can be sliced and enjoyed with a spread of butter!

UPDATE:  If you liked that, you may also like this:

https://yeastismybitch.com/2013/08/05/cheats-sourdough-hybrid-bread-in-a-kenwoood-or-kitchen-aid-mixer/

No mixer, or can’t knead bread?  Try the “No need to knead” bread recipe!

https://yeastismybitch.com/2014/03/03/eves-no-need-to-knead-bread-recipe/

The Craft Beer Company, Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7TR

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First off, thanks to Oracle for organizing their CloudWorld seminar in the Excel centre yesterday, and thanks to my colleague Karl for plotting us a route back to Marylebone via the Craft Beer Company’s Leather Lane establishment.

The premises are an old, slightly dingy, wood panelled, corner pub at the bottom end of Leather Lane.  Nothing really has been done to the internal decor, so it’s not been poncified, jazzed up or anything else – lending a corner boozer, old-world charm to the place…you know, a bit like city pubs were before the chains came and replaced all the old features with new, reproduction, pretend old features…

All of which means that you get to concentrate solely on the beer, and by crikey have they got some!  We counted at least 18 on keg, and another 16 or so on hand-pull/beer-engine.  The fridges are literally bulging with extraordinary bottles, some of which I’ve only ever seen in books – cuvee rene gueze being one of them, amongst a ton of other exciting UK and US craft specialities.

I felt the need for something over-the-top hoppy, so asked the chap behind the bar for “something with far, far, too many hops in it” and got a half of an unbranded keg IPA, which was supremely bitter and so stuffed with hops I thought I would faint.  Marvellous stuff and at 6.9% kept me satisfied throughout.  (This is precisely the type of beer that I try to make at home, and will be soon…hops and grain will be ordered in the next day or so)

Continuing my hoppy theme, I plumped for a half of Jaipur on tap (as I’ve never come across it on tap before) and that was a touch thinner than the preceding IPA, but more spritzy in it’s hoppiness and was again just what I was after on a wet and grey London afternoon.

Karl, meanwhile, had a Kernel single hop pale ale, brewed with Nugget hops.  I had a small taste and as with all Kernel beers was excellent, slightly grassy and pleasantly resiny with a good bitter edge.  He then went for the Buxton US Rye Amber ale, which was pleasantly malty with just enough hoppiness to help things along…I’m afraid I don’t have much else to say about this particular beer as I was lost in hoppy no-name IPA and Jaipur reverie by this point!

I need some sort of excuse to get up to Leather Lane again (or one of the other branches – see the website, below) in the near future as there’s just too many interesting beers to get down my hairy throat.

The beer selection is also “reassuringly priced” and with no TV, games machines or other guff means that it keeps the “pub wankers” out…

Great stuff!

http://thecraftbeerco.com/

He’s not, you know…

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The fug in my brain from a day in “That London” caused me to read the title of this blog as “Yeats is my bitch”.   Rest assured that he’s most certainly not.  Look at him, he’s so clearly not anyone’s “bitch”.  I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.  It’s the pince-nez that does it…

Vale Brewery: Checkmate

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Had a beautifully kept pint of this on Friday lunchtime at The Black Prince in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

A bright straw colour with a good retained head that hung around to the end of the glass.

The first sip had a hugely refreshing bitterness that was on a par with beers such as Jaipur or Proper Job, but as it’s a pale ale rather than an India Pale Ale it didn’t have that massive hop flavour and aroma that I crave these days…that’s not to denigrate it at all – it’s a fine tasty beer and I could easily sink a few pints of Checkmate as it’s a perfect thirst-slaker for this time of year…

PS: A request for the head brewer at Vale: please brew a version of this  recipe and hop it up mentally, post-boil, with a big American hop variety – something like Cascade – and I think you’d have some very happy drinkers! (Especially me!)