Friday, 31 May 2013

Weird Beard's Summer of Saison

Saison is a Belgian/French farmhouse style of beer which is close to my heart, if not Weird Beard Bryan's. Fortunately he has agreed to let me loose and allow me to brew a summer seasonal in Saison 14. Don't tell him I managed to squeeze another two saisons into the schedule when he was not looking...

Saison 14

The name for this beer had an interesting story behind it. It was called Sunshine Saison when as a home brew it was entered in the national homebrew competition. It was one of four beers I had entered and the one that I had my highest hopes for. When the scores came back I did not get the medal I was hoping for but rather the somewhat scathing 14/50. In BJCP terms this is borderline undrinkable, I think you score 13 for filling in your name on the application correctly! This nearly put me off brewing this beer but loads of people who had tried the beer persuaded me to continue with the brew, and to honour the judges that gave me such a low score we named it Saison 14.

This beer is highly carbonated and dry, making it a great summer quaffing drink. The hops are Sorachi Ace and Pacific Gem that gives a lemon and vanilla taste that plays well with the traditional saison yeast notes.

Only available in keg and bottle. Grab some from the usual outlets, and drink some with some grilled fish.

Saison 42

As you are probably very aware Weird Beard are the product of home brewers becoming pro. The home brewing community is a fantastic place to learn and grow as brewers. We met Ingemar at the London and Southeast craft beer festival in 2011, a home brew competition run by LAB. Ingemar was the closest we had ever met to a Scandinavian giant. Towering over us at 6ft 10 he was certainly a commanding and memorable presence. We met again at the Brewdog AGM and the Borefts festival, so we were almost old friends when we met at the festival again in 2012. At this point we were both talking about becoming professional brewers. We invited him to come and brew with us and our first collaboration was born.

We bounced around ideas about an elderflower pale ale, and many others before deciding on a saison, slightly darker than normal, hopped with Bobec with a twist of some of the batch being primed with elderflower cordial rather than sugar.

Ingemar is a big Sci-Fi fan so this beer has a slight Douglas Adams theme. The answer to Life, the Universe and Saison is obviously Saison 42.

The beer is amber in colour, well carbonated and a quite traditional Saison-like taste. The elderflower-primed Saison 42e has a floral nose and slightly sharp edge to it.

Available in kegs and bottles. Don't Panic! Share and Enjoy!

Single Hop Series No 2 Nelson Sauvin

Having tried Andy Parker's Nelson Saison I knew I had to brew it myself somehow. What better way to steal a great recipe then to offer a collaboration.... ;-)

Andy is starting a his own brewery Elusive Brewing...check out the cool retro 80s style video game logo

Loads have been written about this beer already here and here and we hope to have it ready to launch at the Twissup in Macclesfield see here for details

When it is ready it will be available in bottles and Keykegs.

Fade To Black

Is it a hoppy porter, or an export stout or even a dark cascadian ale? There has been some considerable debate about the validity of the name Black IPA. How can an India "pale" ale be black? Well I have a view on this argument ... I don't give a shit about it, it is just a label get over it.

This beer is influenced by the Kernel black IPA brewed with Glyn Roberts that I first tried a couple of years ago. When I tried to do something similar at home I totally misjudged the amount of dark grains I would need to get the colour right... To my mind it had faded from black and it was a short jump while, listening to a certain band, to change the name to Fade to Black.

Another awesome Lup'in and label from Josh and Chris.

The beer has a complex grain bill with loads of crystal and crystal rye, a touch of chocolate and some carafa III special. This creates a black colour and full body to which layers of hop character are painted. The hops in this beer are Citra, Summit and Sorachi Ace. This gives a strong citrus character and interestingly a touch of toasted coconut that comes from the combination of the Sorachi and the dark malt.

If anything this version of the beer is a little too chewy and full bodied, especially in cask form, and a little low ABV so expect subtle changes for the next version, but I certainly won't be changing this too much.

This beer is available in cask, keg and bottle - look out for it in the usual places.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Week 28

Does this count as gorilla marketing? Taking a picture of one of our beers in someone else's brewery, where they happen to have a very fitting neon sign? Don't worry, we're not going to start playing that game, we haven't got time for that right now. This is just a picture I quite liked that someone posted on twitter. It's also a good way to show that Holy Hoppin' Hell has now left the brewery, along with Five o'Clock Shadow and Fade to black, and are all available to buy in bottles, along with some casks and key kegs.

Not sure how it happened, but things timed themselves to produce a very busy week, with 2 beers bottled and 2 beers brewed. The plan was to just bottle once a week and then brew straight away to get fresh beer into the FV. But this week we found ourselves with 2 beers ready. I blame that over-active saison yeast.

First off was finishing off the packaging of Hit The Lights. This was casked and kegged over the weekend, leaving us with around 1800 500ml bottles worth. We are pretty happy with it this time round, it has a great aroma, great colour and tastes fantastic. So this beer will be leaving the brewery as Hit The Light this time, in around 2 weeks hopefully.

This left FV3 empty, so we decided to fill it with one of our most popular beers to date. This week we brewed our first re-brew, not counting Miss/Hit the lights. We have re-brewed our 'Transpacific Pal Ale' Mariana Trench. This will be a real test for us, as consistency in a new brewery is very difficult, but key for our future. The day went very well, with no real issues, so we look forward to seeing how this one turns out.

As previously mentioned, we have some very excitable saison yeast in the brewery right now. And this yeast has managed to finish off our Saison 14 in record time. I'm not really a saison man myself, but Gregg assures me it is tasting great. So we filled 18 key kegs, no casks, and 2400 500ml bottles, which again should be available in a few weeks.

The saison yeasts work was not finished yet though. Saturday we brewed the second of our Single Hop series, which just happened to also be the second collaboration in the brewery. Saturday we invited Andy Parker of new gypsy brewery Elusive Brewing to the brewery to brew our take of their Nelson Saison. I left Andy in Gregg's safe hands, and the reports of a fantastic nelson aroma filling the brewery made me regret not pulling a sickie from my day job. I love Nelson Sauvin, so really looking forward to see how this one turns out. Also curious how quickly the yeast can get through this one too.

And as if that wasn't enough, in other news: We shipped off our first international pallet on Friday. Look out for bottles of Single Hop Chinook, Mariana Trench, Five O'clock Shadow & Holy Hoppin' Hell hitting the shelves and the same again in keg form, minus the Chinook, hitting the bars of Italy very soon. We also had a visit from a nice couple of Swedish importers who made the most of the brewery bar and put in a rather sizeable order, that will be leaving the brewery by the end of the month. Not enough international action for you? Well, we are also in the final stage of talks with a Finish importer too, so hopefully we can get that deal closed very soon also.

It hasn't all been plain sailing though. We are very lucky to be sharing the actual brewery location with another brewery, Ellenburg's Brewery. They have had a few more label issues than we have had, and have yet to receive theirs. This means they have a few bottles of beer waiting around. We are also brewing as often as we possibly can, and sometime more. This means there is a lot of beer around on site at the moment, so space is becoming a real premium. Unfortunately just selling beer is not always the answer to this problem. Once a beer has been brewed it takes 2 weeks to condition, at the very least. Some beers can benefit from standing for over a month before being sold. We had not really planned for this fully, so had been just sticking pallets of beer where ever we could. But we had got to the point where we just couldn't fit any more beer in. So on Friday I, Bryan, armed with a forklift spent several hours playing a rather large game of tetris. I removed some of the pallet racking, as it was causing more problems than it was solving, and just piled the beer in an orderly fashion. Now it is much easier to function in the brewery. I feel there should be a time lapse video with the tetris theme here, I may have to the at the CCTV footage.

We also sent the last of the bottles of Holy Hoppin' Hell through the labeller. Although we managed to come out around 50 labels short. So those bottles may make it into the luck dip, or the fridge.

As always, these are the rantings of WeirdBeardBryan, and not the weird beard collective.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Holy Hoppin' Hell pt1

Not exactly a core beer, or even a seasonal. This is our beer! A beer that does not take itself too seriously.

A beer we brew when the feeling takes us, and a beer we brew how ever we want. Same grain bill each time, and aiming for the same IBU, but that's where the similarities end. This is a canvas, an outlet for our creativity. We give ourselves free rain on the hops used, and the processes.

This time round an 8.5% ABV Double IPA using some of the newer 'new world' hops. We have Dr Rudi (Super Alpha), Green Bullet, Pacific Gem and Columbus (not quite new world, but we never said there were rules here). Expect sweet fruits in the form of Papaya, mango, grapefruit pith, along with toffee and caramelised sugar. As a double IPA also expect huge bitterness lingering behind all those late hops.

Process wise we tried a few different things as well. Up until now we were getting far more bitterness from the late hop additions than we expected, and feared we would thus be loosing a lot of the volatile flavour and aroma oils as the hops sit in the kettle for up to an hour waiting to get cooled from 100 degrees C to 18. So we took a large portion of the flame out hops and threw them into the underback. The idea being the hot wort from the kettle would flow into the underback and be in contact with these hops for short time, then take the aroma and flavour with it straight through the heat exchange and into the FV. This time round the beer was brewed before we had calibrated the kettle, meaning it was diluted far more than it was meant to be. This gives us more beer, but dilutes the ABV, IBUs and general beating you get from the hops. Expect round 2 to be bigger, hoppier and all round more intense. We aim for 9.4% next time.

I personally love the branding for this one. Every time I say the name to myself I hear Robin the excitable sidekick exclaiming something to his friend and trainer. "Holy hoppin' hell batman, that's a hoppy beer!" I had images in my head of classic cartoon strips, and a masked Lup'in (is he a good guy or a bad guy?). That's all the information Josh & Chris, our amazing label guys, needed to some up with the label.

You will be able to find this in keg keg, 330ml bottles and a very limited number of casks.

We hope you like it, and want to share a few with us. But if not, that's just fine, we'll drink it all here at the brewery.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Week 27

So I have finally found the time to sit down and write a few words about the week just passed. And I think the word of the day is Saison.

The week started with a good old fashioned bottling session. With our collaboration Saison we brewed with Ingemar from Sad Robot. Unfortunately no sign of Ingemar on bottling day.  As mentioned in last weeks blog, there are 2 versions of this. The standard Saison 42, but then a version we call Saison 42e that has been primed with elderflower cordial. We bottled just 255 500ml bottles of this and 6 key kegs, half of which will be going to Sweden. So if you are lucky enough to spot any of this I would grab it while you have the chance. There's plenty of the original Saison 42 to go round though.

Saison 42 was the beginning of a bit of a Saison season for us. Normally we use a dry yeast as our house strain, but this time we splashed out on some freshly cultured saison yeast. This stuff wasn't cheap, so we are going to get our monies worth here. So the very next day, we brewed another saison, this time one of our core line up, Saison 14. There is a great story behind the naming of this beer, but I will leave that for the beers own blog. This beer took off like a rocket, coming down 14 points in just 24 hours, and is pretty much ready to bottle. So we just need to look at our schedule, crash cool it and get it into some bottles.

But our saisons wont be finishing with that. Hopefully in the coming week or so we will be inviting our friend from Elusive Brew to brew the next in our Single Hop Series, and our second collaboration on our own kit. Nelson Saison will be, as the name may suggest, a saison hoped with just Nelson Sauvin. And im sure any brewers out there will know how hard that hop is to get hold of, so we are extra excited about this one.

A lot of the week was spent sending bottles through our labelling machine. 5 o'Clock Shadow was all finished last week, with Fade To black all done and around 50% of Holy Hoppin' Hell all ready to go. So if any of our customers are interested in any of these new beers, please give us a shout.

The week drew to a close with a number of new beers making debut appearances at 2 beer festivals. Firstly we had 3 beers, 2 of which new, at the Reading Beer Festival. Here we had one of our favourites Black Perle, but also one of very few casks of Holy Hoppin' Hell, along with Fade To Black, our black IPA.
We also had 5 beers, and a brewer at the new LBA organised London's Brewing Festival at the London Fields event space. Here we had Black Perle on cask all weekend, Mariana Trench and 5 o'Clock Shadow in keg during the Saturday morning session. Unfortunately, Mariana Trench was not Mariana Trench for the majority of this session, and the trade session the day before. This was sorted out, but not until quite late into the session. So apologies to anyone who may have sampled this, and not got the hoppy pale they were expecting, but were greeted with a pilsner instead. Both of these keg beers sold out during the Saturday morning, so sorry if you did not get the chance to try them. Bryan was about for the morning session too, and got a chance to speak to a lot of interesting people. I was meant to be doing a meet the brewer session at 12:30, but as there were delays in opening this session, I was not inside in time.

Sunday saw Holy Hoppin' Hell and Fade To Black on in the keg bar. These again sold out, so agian apologies to anyone who missed out. Neither Gregg or myself could be there for the Sunday session, as Gregg was delivering beers up in Manchester, and I was filling casks and Kegs with Hit The Lights.

We also got some really cool looking branding items, so you wont be able to miss us at future festivals and events.

All views and grammatical errors are those of @WeirdBeardBrew.