Category Archives: Brewery

Camden Town Brewery

The Brewery Bar

For some reason I wasn’t expecting much from my brief stop by Camden Town Brewery, I think it was because all I had seen from them was their label design which I found a little dull. I’ve since warmed to it. When we visited, they were having a ‘street feast’, which involved lots of stalls producing yummy food setting up outside the brewery. This reminded me of Kernel, who operate in and around Maltby street market, so they’re also surrounded by excellent food. Furthermore, Camden Town Brewery are underneath a set of railway arches, just like Kernel. It’s very easy to find, it’s just up a lane beside Kentish Town West railway station, just off Prince of Wales road.

Needless to say my expectations were exceeded. Camden Town brewery is a stylish little brewery

Pale Ale, Gentleman’s Wit

tap, it’s fitted out in a fairly functional manner, not unlike a Brewdog bar. The beers I tried were excellent and the staff were friendly and clearly enjoying the day. As I understand it, they only open on Friday afternoons/evenings. I tried their Pale Ale, which is a standard American Sierra Nevada style ‘C-hops’ offering, but done very well. Their ‘Gentleman’s Wit’ is a Belgian style Wit (wheat beer) spiced with roasted lemon peel and bergamot. Bergamot is something I had previously considered spicing a Wit with, and on the basis of this, I think I’ll give it a try, it worked well. I also tried their stout, ‘Ink’, which seemed to me to have the sort of creamy fulsome body that I associate with an oatmeal stout; I don’t think there are any oats in it though, in any case, thumbs up for ‘Ink’. They must be

Conicals and kegs under a railway arch

doing well, as they’ve just installed two large, new, conical fermentors outside the brewery. I also noticed that they had some sort of automatic gizmo that pumped the spent mash out of the mash tun through a large pipe in to a bin outside, eliminating the need for hopping in and getting your hands dirty. Slackers.

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Hello Dolle!

The Dolle Brouwers' Brewery

It has been a while since I posted, so I thought I’d start back with a post I’ve been planning to do for a while now. Some time ago I visited the brewery that brews some of my favourite Belgian beers, De Dolle Brouwers (The Mad Brewers), in Esen, West Flanders. Like pretty much the rest of Belgium, it’s about an hour or so on the train from Brussels. There’s no station in Esen, but

Beautiful Yellow Kegs

nearby Diksmuide is only a 2km walk. The brewery is on the mainstreet, and upon arrival you are greeted by a rather odd looking building with an old bottling machine, now retired, sitting at the front door, as well as stacks of bright yellow kegs.

The brewery tour is conducted by the aged mother of the brothers who founded the brewery, only one of whom is still involved. The tour was in English, and any description will fail to do justice to the wirey matriarch who conducted it. There was a Polish couple beside us near the start of the tour, he was translating and relaying to her, she was clearly not interested in the slightest, and it was soon stopped in most dramatic form, as our host laid in to the poor fellow for talking while she was talking, and

The Mash Tun

distracting her.

The brewery is quite old, as I understand it the two brothers bought it in situ in about 1980, it had been disused for some time. The old equipment is still in use though, the Mash Tun is a traditional shallow circular wood-clad vessel, with a false bottom made from pie slice shaped steel that slot together, In the centre is an axle that turns a big propeller shaped mash stirrer. Equally dated is the coolship, which I had seen in use in Cantillon, but I didn’t think many other brewers still used it. The coolship is a hude shallow copper vessel that the hot beer is flooded in to, in order to cool it quickly. The

The Mash Paddle

drawback (unless you are Cantillon) is that a lot of the wort is exposed to the surrounding atmosphere, and so infection by wild yeast is a danger. The coolship also prompted some of our guides wilder claims, for instance, that since ‘copper cures cancer’, using the coolship to make beer meant that beer was more likely to ward off cancer. She should know, her son told her (the one who is no longer involved), and he’s a doctor.

We passed a little laboratory, where the yeast is cultured and various other quality control issues take place. We also passed the fermentation room, although since it is atmospherically controlled, there was a lot of condensation on the window. I could make out maybe half a dozen large, dairy style

The Lab

horizontal cylindrical tanks inside. In the warehouse section of the brewery there was quite a substantial bottling line, since De Dolle Brouwers deal mostly in bottled beers.

At the end of the tour we were directed to the tasting room, in what was an old stable, or perhaps cattle shed at the back of the brewery. The room was really homely, and a larger Flemish language tour came in shortly after we did. We lazed around on comfortable chairs and couches, near open fires and braziers, sipping the generally quite strong

Coolship No.1, Eccentric Guide

offerings out of large, red wine shaped glasses. Since it was November, we tried the just released christmas beer for that year, Stille Nacht. I tried one of my favourites, and the brewery’s signature beer, Oerbier. We chatted to the owner and brewer, Kris, who is a keen artist, his pictures are dotted around the walls. When he learned we were from Dublin, he asked had we seen his picture in the Porterhouse, one of our brewpubs. I had indeed noticed it, but I never knew who had drawn it. It’s a black and white line drawing of the pub’s Temple Bar branch, and it’s very good.

The Lineup

All too soon it was time to catch our train, and Kris was kind enough to drop us back up the road to the train station. This was one of my favourite brewery visits, and it’s well worth the trip if you have a day free in Belgium.

Happy Days

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Italian Craft Brewery: Toccalmatto

Toccalmatto Brewery near Parma

Come here ’til I tell you something: there’s more to Parma than just the ham and cheese. The whole of Italy is making a bit of a splash lately when it comes to beer. The general direction of contemporary Italian birra seems to be a beautiful mix of the sensibilities of the two greatest brewing nations on Earth, that is the Belgians and the Americans.

Gear

Italy is unburdened with the ball and chain of tradition, instead it has the freedom to experiment. You can find all the fleeting trends that we see in American brewing, wood aged beers, big beers, hoppy beers, sour experiments, and all manner of hybrid styles. Yet at the same time, they take their beer seriously, in a way that reminds me of Belgium. Craft brewing is really young in Italy, but from the outset it seems to have allied itself with excellent food. Probably the best range of beer I saw in Italy was the selection carried by the trendy grocery/lifestyle store Eataly in Bologna, where many Italian beers rubbed shoulders with the best of Belgium, America, Britain and the rest of the world. Perhaps what really made the Belgian connection for me though, was the preponderance of 75cl bottles, they were everywhere.

Line 'em up

Toccalmatto is a small, young brewery – less than two years old – in Fidenza, not far from Parma. They only bottle in large bottles, and I asked Bruno Carilli, the owner/brewer whether it was hard to shift these in bars. “Italy is a wine country” he told me, “so it’s normal to share a bottle. Anyway, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking that my beer just another beer.” Don’t worry, there’s no chance we’ll be confusing this with Peroni or Moretti any time soon.

Well decorated!

It was really refreshing to see Toccalmatto’s brewery. It’s a simple affair, it doesn’t take up much space, it doesn’t have a huge capacity, it is well organised, but overall it’s simple. They bottle by hand with a simple gravity filler, and the beer is bottle conditioned. Good beer doesn’t need to come out of fancy equipment Bruno says. Perhaps there are limits though – he has recently come back from a visit to the Great British Beer Festival, and he visited Kernel brewery in London. “But they are crazy” he tells me. He shows me some pictures he took of their brewery, which I recently visited myself. It is in a tiny space under a railway arch. “But they brew beer right beside these people who are making cheese!” he tells me in disbelief, adding once more that they are crazy. We agree that Kernel make some very nice beer nonetheless.

Obscene dry hopping alert! Probably "Zona Cesarini"

Toccalmatto make quite a few different beers, many of which I was lucky to taste during my visit. First up was their Saison, Sibilla. It was an excellent saison, up with the best of the Belgians. It was very pale, and there was a citrus quality to the hop flavour. Bruno told me that the yeast strain he used also caused that citrus flavour, it was not the Dupont style yeast “because I am not making a version of Dupont”. Fair enough. It had a very dry finish, which did not last. All of the flavour was up front. Bruno seemed happy with this appraisal, telling me that “drinkability” was a key thing that he was trying to achieve, He wanted his beers to leave you wanting more, they should not be heavy, or filling. They should be tasty but easy drinkers. I have read that this is a trait also prized by the Belgians, who use sugar for this same reason – to make beers “digestible”.

Stray Dog Bitter was up next. This one was funny. It features a bulldog on the label, and a green white and red Union Jack. Bruno rather proudly showed me a certificate from the website Ratebeer.com which had it as the top rated bitter, above the British renditions that we all know and love. He seemed quite happy with himself to have upset the apple cart with an Italian version of the quintessentially British beer. As we go to press it has just been pipped by Jolly Pumpkin, for all these things are worth! I found that it had a thinner body than I expected. Styrian Goldings hops were certainly in attendance. It had little caramel, and again the drinkability was key.

Some of the barrels in the cellar

We tried a beer called Zona Cesarini, which was a twist on an American styled hoppy beer. Pointedly, non-American hops were forward, including Motueka and Sorachi Ace. The name was polysemic, it refers to Cesarini, a 1930s Italian/Argentinian footballer who had a habit of scoring in the last few minutes of the 90, in what is still called the “Cesarini Zone” by Italians. Furthermore the label features a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, referencing the Japanese (Sorachi) element, and also the “last minute” aspect of the beer: just like Cesarini’s goals, most of the hops don’t go in until towards the end of 90 minutes! For that reason it has very little bitterness, but a huge Motueka Pineapple flavour, Citra’s signature tangerine flavour makes an appearance, and Sorachi Ace are renowned for being lemony hops. All in all it’s a fruity affair; I very much liked it—it reminded me a little of Metalman’s Windjammer.

And the beer kept flowing. Bruno opened a bottle of Surfing Hop, which he described as a “Double IPA with artistic license”. Again there was a little subversion of the normal style. Sure, there were some American hops, but the malt was French, the yeast was Belgian, and it was quite dark. I was impressed by this, because when I brew, I find that the Belgian yeasts that I love can be too dominant to let me achieve the American style of late hop flavour which I also love, but Surfing Hop pulls it off.

At this stage Bruno revealed that he had a cellar. What was in the cellar? Barrels! Now you know I am a fan of barrels, and I was mightily impressed already at the beers that this simple little brewery was producing, but the experimental beers that we tasted then were really special. The first was a really big Barleywine that we sampled straight out of the Caol Ila barrel that it was aging in. Caol Ila is a lovely Islay single malt, a style I am really fond of because of those smoky peaty flavours that are associated with it, and this really didn’t disappoint, it was big and sweet, but it had picked up a really nice peaty flavour from the whiskey barrel.

One that got away: Jadis, a really interesting sounding Wit beer, rested on red grapes. There was no time to try it!

But there was stillmore. An Imperial Stout, which I think was in a calvados barrel. Bruno had whiskey, wine, calvados, a number of barrel types. This was no straightforward barrel-aged imperial stout (how passé) – it had the wild yeast brettanomyces added during aging. For all you myco-geeks, he stressed that this was not brettanomyces clausanus, but rather the kind that is found in gueuze and Flanders red, I presume he meant brettanomyces bruxellensis. In any case, this stout was incredibly complex. The big malty flavour was still there, but there was that wild acidic flavour right in the middle of the taste. My notebook says “v. hard to describe” so I’ll stop there. The barrel projects were both in the development stage, but they seemed pretty promising to me! He confessed that he had consulted his friend Jean Van Roy of Cantillon when he initially planned his barrel project. No better man.

King Hop

We had been there several hours at that stage, so we decided to let Bruno get home, the couple of other brewers he employs had long since left. I picked up a bottle of Re Hop (King Hop) to take back to the hotel with me, since it’s one of their best sellers. I can easily see why. It’s a 5% moderately hopped golden ale, in fact it’s extremely pale. The malt base is Pils, and I would guess not much else. The hopping is a mixture between the signature American Cascade flavour, and some late German Perle addition. It poured with a frothy, lasting head, and it was a little cloudy. It reminded me of some of the modern hoppy Belgian pales that the likes of Senne are producing. It had a very dry finish, due to the minimal crystal character. I found the European/American hop balance very pleasant. The beer wasn’t even cold, but 75cl seemed to disappear quite fast – drinkability topped the agenda once more. It was a lovely way to finish a great day, I really enjoyed meeting Bruno, seeing the gear, the beer, and the barrels. I think they’re doing something really special over there, and I hope they make it up in our direction soon. Importers take note!

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Micro Alt in Düsseldorf

Altbier

So there I was, in the Rhein und Ruhr Megalopolis last week to give the Germans a piece of my mind, at a philosophy conference in beautiful Bonn. Of course the area is well known for two of Germany’s more interesting beers, Kölsch from Köln, and Altbier from Düsseldorf, neither of which is a lager as commonly conceived (at least, they are not fermented with Saccharomyces pastorianus which is responsible in part for the familiar taste that many lagers have, although they probably are Lagered, that is, stored at cold temperatures after primary fermentation is complete, just as most modern beers are.) which is nice to see, not that I didn’t enjoy a couple of perfectly good glasses of Stauder Pils, the local beer in Essen, where I was staying.

On my final day, Sunday, we ventured in to Düsseldorf before I flew home in the evening, and as seems to always be the case in German towns I visit, they were having a big party in the city centre. We mingled around the bustling squares, there was some sort of “Jazz Marathon” afoot, and plenty of music. We ate Thuringer bratwurst, and sampled fine altbiers from the iconic Uerige, from Frankenheimer, and  Schlüssel at least, probably Diebels, and I may be leaving some out. Just as in Köln where we saw them filling the little 20cl glasses of Kölsch from a fast pouring tap, 20 or so at a time without turning off the tap, the stand outside the Uerige brewery had a simple cask up on the table, when one ran out, they hoisted another up, slammed in an old style tap and hammered what I presumed was some sort of spile in to the top, and the tap was opened and I didn’t see it shut off while I was there at least. One barman poured and the other served.

A Barrel of Alt

My favourite alt of the day was one from a small microbrewery, the Kürzer Brauerei, on Kurze Strasse, which

Shiny

only had a 2000L capacity, although from what I could see it had a pretty hi tech setup. It was a real microbrewery, the brewing gear was in the back of the slightly industrial, functionally furnished bar, it wasn’t behind glass, but merely roped off. The alt was tasty, it was malty and well hopped, similar to Uerige which I think is the bitterest of the well known varieties. It may even have been more hopped still.

I asked could I poke around, no problem I was told. In fact, I had a good chat with the friendly young barman, who I took for an Australian but who in fact had grown up in Papua New Guinea. At least he took my Australian comment as a compliment.

The setup was very interesting. As far as I could make out, the beer was brewed as normal, except I think they harvested the c02 from fermentation. It was secondaried in conicals at roof height I guessed, and then passed through a rather large plate filter. At this stage the barman wasn’t sure of the procedure, “I only sell it” he told me. What he could tell me was that they didn’t use kegs, instead there was a rather large (I would estimate 200L) horizontal tank suspended from the roof near the bar, and the beer was fed from that to a glass container that refilled automatically, and had an adjustable level sensor. It looked a bit like one those things that has margherita mix or something like that in some bars, you can make it out in the picture, as well as the holding tank. So as far as I could see, the beer was probably filtered and recarbonated with the harvested c02 in one of those smaller tanks, then pumped to the holding tank at the bar, where it fed by gravity to the glass serving vessel, which then poured by gravity also. There was no external serving gas used.

Holding tank top-left, serving yoke bottom-right.

The bar was only open since October, I don’t know if they had been brewing before that. The friendly barman was delighted with this system, they didn’t need to use kegs anymore, so no more lifting for him. They Also owned a bar down the road, and the one directly across the street. “We still fill kegs for the bar down the road” he told me, but the bar across the street is equipped with a similar serving system. “We just use a giant hose to fill it from here!” he told me.

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Session #52 “Beer Collectibles”

Note: “The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic”. Read more here.

A modest post from me; I have never contributed to “the session” before, but I love the idea. This month it’s “Beer Collectibles and Breweriana”. I pick up trinkets and bits and bobs, I keep labels I like and beermats, but I wouldn’t call it a collection, and I doubt I have anything that anyone is not familiar with, who knows, maybe someday it will be interesting enough to make it out in to the wider world.

Instead for my first session I’m simply going to show you two of my favourite beer related items. One is very old, and one is very new. These items, for your delectation Ladies and Gentlemen are: A bottle opener from the famous old Burton Brewery Allsopp, and a frisbee (yes that’s right) from the very new Irish brewery Metalman.

We have ways of making you say "Allsopp"

Allsopp were a major brewery in Burton upon Trent along with the likes of Bass, and one of the largest in England at one time. They were in the news again recently when a bottle of their 12% “Arctic Ale”, brewed for Sir Edward Belcher’s voyage to the Northwest Passage was sold on Ebay for over $500,000. It was

Very Old, Very Cold.

unopened, waxed and corked, from 1852.

Allsopp merged with Ind Coope in 1935, and the name was no longer used by 1959, so my little opener must be that old at least. I found it in my Grandmother’s house, and as you can see, it is in the shape of their trademark, a hand, and engraved on it is simply “Say Allsopp”, one of those charmingly simple old slogans. Despite my best scrubbing efforts it’s still quite tarnished, but I find it a very pleasing little opener and I use it more than any other.

Hi there!

My second item for ‘show and tell’ is a frisbee. I got it from one of Ireland’s newest breweries, Metalman. Grainne and Tim first put Metalman Pale Ale in Irish pubs early this year, and it was followed by ‘Windjammer’, a pale amber beer with buckets of New Zealand hops. It smells like a tropical fruit basket, it’s fruity, smooth and easygoing, and it’s going down a storm in pubs and at festivals, such as the Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, where I had some yesterday. Metalman are based in Waterford, but they are borrowing a brewery in Tipperary at the moment while they set their kit up. If you make it to Ireland check them out, and maybe they’ll even make it to you, wherever you are, someday. I think their logo is fantastic, I don’t blame them for wanting to stick it on a frisbee.

Our summer is scheduled to take place here in Ireland this weekend, next week we’re back to frost I am told. I’m going to make use of this frisbee. I hear that if you flip it over it doubles as a beer tray!

Metal Man, Plastic Frisbee.

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Cantillon Brewday

Old Bottles on an Old Bottler

Each november, and also sometime in spring, the Cantillon brewery, which is also a designated museum throws open its doors for a day, so that hoardes of geeks can flood in, and ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ over mash tuns, bubbling barrels, coolships and cobwebs. I visited them once before, but they weren’t brewing. It was still great fun to wander around and check the place out, but this time it was a lot more fun. Cantillon is unlike other breweries, as it only brews ‘lambic’ or spontaneously fermented beer. They don’t add extra yeast. More about that later.
The brewday starts early, and so at about 6am, Kev and I found ourselves traipsing down Anspachlaan towards Anderlecht with an appropriate lack of spring in our step. It pissed rain all weekend. Brasserie Cantillon looks just like a normal building on a suburban 19th century Anderlecht street, from the outside you could have no inkling what magic lies inside.


The place was already a hive of activity even at that early hour. People huddled with coffee and croissants, and a little stove in the tasting area was burning away. We latched on to one of the tours that were going at regular intervals, and made our way in to a room that contained a mash tun, with magnificent rotating stirring arms plughing their way through the turbid mash, which was in the process of being doughed in. You could see the wetted mixture shooting through a pipe in to the tun from upstairs. The place was a hive of whirring and trundling motors, and one of the few modern encroachments on the traditional brewery was that most of the moving parts were attached by a belt to a central motor that is now electric, but presumably was once steam powered.


Making our way upstairs we had a good gawk in to the empty boil kettle, which appeared to be steam driven, at least, it

Inside the copper

had some large copper coils at the bottom. Continuing in to the attic, we saw the coolship that would be put to use at the end of the brew day. The tour concluded in the barrel storage area, where 1, 2 and 3 year old lambic beer was aging. Some of the barrels were even oozing foam, which looked great.

We also had a good look at the barrel washing area, where the barrels were being steamed clean. One of them was attached to some big gyrating frame like the thing astronauts use to train for g-force or something.


We had a little taste of some of the beer, since it’s one of the few times that drinking at 7am is socially acceptable. I tried a blend called “cuvée Gilloises” or something to that effect, probably after the neighbouring district of Saint Gilles. It was lovely. We decided to return to our womenfolk who were sensibly snoring back at the apartment.
Later on in the day we returned, hoping to catch the final, crucial stage of the brew. After a very long boil, like any other beer, lambic beer needs to be cooled. Although most homebrewers use something like an immersion chiller where cold water is circulated through a copper coil that is immersed in the hot wort, and most commercial brewers use a plate chiller, where the beer is pumped through plates that have cold water pumped on the other side in the reverse direction, the traditional method of cooling beer is to use what is called a “coolship”. This is basicaly a very large surfaced shallow copper container, in Cantillon’s case it takes up the whole loft room. The hot wort is flooded in to the coolship, which spreads it over as much surface area as possible, and since copper conducts the heat away so well, the beer cools down gradually. One of the reasons that commercial breweries for the most part no longer use this method is that it involves leaving a large surface area of warm wort exposed for several hours, and during that time, before it is cool enough to pitch the yeast in to, it is ripe for infection by wild airborn yeasts.

Steaming Barrels

This is a boon for lambic brewers however, since they want those wild airborne yeasts, indigenous to the locality to innoculate the wort. At Cantillon, millions of colonies of these yeasts inhabit the very rafters of the brewery. They don’t steam clean the place, rather they let the friendly spiders take care of insects that might harm the beer, and there are some fairly impressive cobwebs in the place.

The room with the coolship was full of steam, and hard to see.

Watching the wort flood in to the coolship was almost a religious experience, indeed, you could view the mystical transformation that the wort undergoes the night after brewing, sitting in that Anderlect attic, as the brewing equivalent of the metaphysical transubstantiation of wine into the blood of the redeemer. Tastier end product though.

Awesome Cobweb

Having borne witness to the magic, we retired to the tasting area, to avail of our complimentary glass of unblened lambic, blended Gueuze, kriek, and my favourite, Rosé de Gambrinus, which is lambic beer blended with raspberries. We took a bottle of “Mamouche” back to the apartment, which, while nice, only confirmed my suspicion that I don’t really like elderflowers. Unfortunately they were out of “Fou’Foune”, which is lambic steeped with apricots. I still haven’t had a chance to try this. Cantillon open brew day is a great excuse to visit the bizarre and wonderful city of Brussels, to drink Lambic beer at 7am, and to see where the magic really happens. I feel this might become an annual pilgrimmage.

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Guinness Aged in Wood! **TOP SECRET**

Oh No! We Forgot the Distilled Leprechaun Essence!

Cask Conditioned Stout from Guinness Pilot Brewery

Guinness is a brewery shrouded in mystery. The brewery tour doesn’t bring you through the actual brewery, rather taking you through a visitor centre, full of plasma screens, multimedia displays, faux-grain sacks and escalators, culminating in the magnificent view of Dublin from the flying-saucer-like Gravity Bar. But what could they be hiding? Some have conjectured that the real brewery is run by clones of St. Arthur Guinness himself, aided by an army of dark coloured Smurfs with creamy hats, little pint-size homunculi, making Dublin’s famous stout in their own image.

However, thanks to my network of spies, I can reveal that the truth is far more shocking! If you hold these little fellas up to the light it turns out they are not black but in fact very very very dark red. Furthermore it seems that the goings on at St. James’ Gate are not the only thing Guinness are hiding. It turns out they have a secret lair deep within the Sugarloaf mountain (or some other sort of Pilot Brewery somewhere) working on interesting little numbers like the following “Cask Aged Stout” that a Counterintelligence Agent (friend) of mine managed to get his hands on.

“Now hold on!” many of you you might rightly exclaim, aren’t you three ‘ne’er-do-wells’ also brewing a barrel aged stout? to which I can only reply, yes we are, and we’re as shocked as you are, is it a coincidence, or might  it bethat this blog isn’t the only organisation with a secret spy-ring? Realistically though, who can blame Guinness for perceiving us as a threat?  I’m running a check to see if any of my visitors came from a certain St. James’ Gate ISP!

Can't Read My, No He Can't Read My Pixelface

In any case, as a precaution I have pixelated the image to hide our identities, even drinking this top secret beverage could put all of our brewing careers in jeopardy. Enough of this banter however, how was this secret brew?

The Back Label

Well as you can see from the picture of the back label, it is a ‘cask-conditioned’ stout, aged in a ‘Genuine Irish whiskey barrel’, it doesn’t say for how long. On the front it says it is 8.5%. The Hops cited on the back are Tettnanger, Samargd and Herkules. It says that both cones and pellets are used “throughout the various stages of the brewing and fermenting process” which suggests rather coyly that it might be dry-hopped. I have never heard of Samargd, I’m guessing it’s some sort of Czech hop. Herkules is a high-alpha German hop, and Tettnanger is a classic German noble hop, much used as an aroma addition in continental beers. Despite the label however, I would be very surprised if this stout is in fact dry hopped, since none of us got any hop aroma off it at all. There was very little on the nose in general, except I got quite a sugary, almost treacly caramel smell, which was matched by the flavour. Sugar was the overwhelming falvour here, dark, treacly sugar. The head looked very similar to the pale, fluffy head that bottled Guinness produces. The beer didn’t at all taste boozy or hot, and the body was light, which would be in keeping with a high sugar addition if that is in fact the case. Furthermore, when held up to the light the beer was not very dark at all, it was quite clearly ruby coloured. Couple this with the lack of any roast or burnt character, and I would bet that some sort of brewers caramel or dark sugar has been used to darken this beer rather than very much highly roasted malt. Also missing was the characteristic chocolate or coffee often found in a strong stout. There was a pronounced and quite pleasant smokey flavour, and I think this could have been the barrel’s contribution, perhaps the char gave it some smoke . There was not much whiskey flavour detectable,  perhaps it was overpowered by the sugar.

An elegant tasting glass.

I would have liked something bigger, bolder, certainly roastier, but I suppose that’s why we’re brewing the Barrel Stout. This beer is not as nice as the Foreign Extra Stout, in my opinion, which is weaker, but manages a much fuller body and feel. It woul surprise me if this ever saw the light of day given that the Foreign Extra is so popular, However, any interesting addition to the Guinness range is welcome, but in summing up, it would be nice if this had a real hop character, a bit more malt, and a more pronounced contribution from the barrel.

My disguise for going on the run

Now I’m off to get my disguise and go into hiding. You Ain’t seen me.

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