Beer O'Clock Show

Month: September 2013

Episode 42 – Hardknott Infrared

We venture into the wilds of Sainsburys this week, for the Great British Beer Hunt, and a bottle of Hardknott’s red IPA, Infrared.

Along with special guest Dave (@pixellated), Mark & Steve sniff and ponder and sniff again as they try and decide just what the beer smells like using Special Beer Snob sniffing techniques!

This, as well as a roundup of the Craft Beer Social Club’s opening night, and other beery chatter – it’s Beer O’Clock!

Still Thinking about… Stone Brewing Co.

Blog by Michael McGrorty

I don’t really know how to introduce this interview, so I’m just going to say enjoy. Here’s an interview with Mitch Steele, Brewmaster at Stone Brewing Company:

How did you get interested in beer? Have you always been a beer geek or did you gradually slide into it from other drinks?

Beer has always been my beverage of choice and I occasionally enjoy a glass of wine, but I’m not a cocktail or spirits drinker. My love for beer, and my interest in science and art, is what got me involved in the Brewing Science program at the University of California, Davis. I’ve always had a very strong curiosity about how different beers were made.

How did you get into professional brewing?

There was a lack of brewing opportunities when I graduated from UC Davis, so I worked in the winemaking business for several years. However, I always hoped to get into brewing. In the late 1980s, there was an article in the Hollister, CA newspaper about a new brewpub opening up in town. I called the owner, Bill Millar, to inquire about investing, and ended up coming on as his brewer. I worked there on a part-time basis for 4 years while I still had the winemaking job. Eventually I decided to go 100% to brewing, and that’s when I joined Anheuser-Busch.

Do you have any tips for homebrewers? What’s the most important aspect of brewing for you?

Well, the obvious answer is to focus on cleaning and sanitation. You can’t make good beer using dirty brewing equipment. That said, my other piece of advice would be to master a few styles, but don’t get hung up on style guidelines. The most exciting beers out there are beers that take existing styles and add interesting or unique twists to them. Don’t be afraid to try something that might not work.

What do you feel makes your beers stand out in an (one could say) already crowded market?

Our year-round release beers have very loyal fans, Stone IPA is one of the most widely available west-coast style IPAs, and has been for a long time. We were one of the first to bottle a double IPA year-round (Stone Ruination IPA) and a black IPA (Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale). In addition, Stone is always thinking out of the box and pushing the envelope when it comes to new beers. We don’t rest on our laurels-we are constantly trying to brew new styles and integrate interesting flavours. We have a well-deserved reputation for brewing bold, flavourful and largely hop-centric beers. But we really brew so many other great beers as well!

How do you think the beer scenes in the US and the UK compare? Have you sampled many British beers?

I think the scenes are different, but I love them both. I’ve been to the UK several times during the last 6 years and love the tradition of cask ale. I enjoy relaxing in a pub with a great sessionable beer and food. After a visit to the UK, I really look forward to getting a beer with American carbonation levels and a lot of hops! The craft brewing scene in the UK is becoming pretty amazing, brewers like Kernel, Thornbridge, BrewDog and some others are making great beers – similar to what American craft brewers are doing. I absolutely revere the traditional brewings of Fuller’s, Adnams and others like Wadworth, Shepherd Neame, etc. I think Fuller’s is one of the best brewers on the planet. I absolutely love their beers, especially when served from a cask in one of their pubs.

How do you get inspiration for new recipes?

Inspirations can come from everywhere: a beer that I really enjoyed somewhere, experimenting with new hops or malts, collaboration brewing, ideas from our owners Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, pilot brews and special casks created by our brewing team. Seriously, every new beer that we’ve released since I’ve been at Stone Brewing Co. has its own unique story.

What is your favourite hop and hop combination?

I love Centennial hops, and have found that a blend of Centennial and Citra is pretty magical-we use that blend in the dry-hop of Stone RuinTen IPA. Centennial and Simcoe are wonderful to put together also. And Amarillo with Simcoe creates a really nice blend of tropical fruit, citrus and pine.

What is your favourite unusual ingredient to use in a beer?

A very tough question! We’ve been doing a lot of brewing recently with herbs from our organic farm, Stone Farms. Some of the ingredients I really like to use in beer include lemon verbena, tea, and citrus peel. We’re releasing a collaboration Imperial Porter soon that was brewed with jasmine flowers, and I like what jasmine contributes. Hibiscus is wonderful in light wheat or Belgian beers.

What’s your favourite beer and food pairing? Do you match beer and food at all or just mainly drink it?

By far my favorite pairing is craft beer with artisanal cheese! There is nothing better. I don’t always focus on food and beer pairings, but it is fun to find unique flavours that work well together.

What’s your current favourite beer? Aside from your own of course!

That’s an impossible question to answer! There are so many great breweries operating in our area right now, and my preferences change every day.

How does it feel to be able to walk into a pub and buy a pint of beer that you brewed?

Pretty darn good! Though I have to say, I get much more enjoyment out of seeing others drink and become fans of our beer. That is the ultimate experience.

Thank you very much to Mitch for the interview – looking out for a Black IPA that Mitch has recently brewed with Adnams for the Wetherspoons real ale festival between 16 & 31 October.

For more information on Stone Brewing Co visit www.stonebrewing.com / follow them on Twitter @StoneBrewingCo 

Follow Michael on Twitter @h_doody #StillThinking

Episode 41 – Harvistoun Schiehallion

Mark & Steve take a trip north of the border – if only via the wonders of internet communication – to catch up with #2 Fan, DOODY, as they all taste that Scottish Craft Lager – Schiehallion by Harvistoun.

Includes bonus real Scottish accent!

Plus your usual beery news, facts, and opinions.

Episode 40 – Goose Island IPA

The boys are back for Season 3 of the Beer O’Clock Show, with a supermarket staple AMERICAN ale, all the way from Chicago – Goose Island IPA.  Will they be able to handle such exotica? Listen and see!

Plus the drawing of our Innis & Gunn giveaway, and the usual beery news and chatter. It’s Beer O’Clock!

Still Thinking about… The Kinneil Brew Hoose

Blog by Michael McGrorty

Bo’ness. You probably haven’t heard of it, and I can’t really blame you. Until recently I had no idea where it is. And I live half an hour away!

I now realise how wrong my ignorance was.

Beer lovers in Bo’ness have it very good indeed, in the form of the Corbie Inn and the Kinneil Brew Hoose.

With six hand pumps serving all the time, the choice of beer at the Inn is fantastic. When I was there they had beers on from Loch Lomond Brewery and Oakham Ales to name but a few, and of course they always have a beer on from Kinneil Brew Hoose, the main feature of this post and the reason for my trip to Bo’ness.

After home brewing for many years, Stuart Simpson and two friends decided to start up a brewery. The friends soon dropped out of the venture but Stuart worked on, currently having to work seven days a week to keep the brewery ticking over.

The brewery is located just behind the Corbie Inn, a 2.5 barrel plant in a room not much bigger than an ordinary garage that Stuart has cobbled together himself. Stuart came from an engineering background which has served him well in the brewery, allowing him to do such things as build a cask washer, rig up temperature control for fermentation and build a temperature controlled cupboard for storage.

It’s not a state of the art set-up, but it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into putting it together, and of course it still makes great beer! Stuart very kindly gave me a bottle each of his three staple beers: Kincardine Sunset, Caer Edin Dark and Penvael Amber. I’ve since sampled all three and they are all very nice indeed. They’re not going to push the buttons of the most hardcore of craft beer fans, but they’re sessionable, easy to drink and very flavourful. Caer Edin a lovely rich, dark chocolatey porter was easily my personal favourite.

I had the chance to interview Stuart, and here’s what he had to say:

How did you get interested in beer? Have you always been a beer person or did you gradually slide into it from other drinks?

In the early 70s Skol lager was the drink of choice, and I thought then it was ok. There was a brewers strike or something and then Ind Coope at Alloa were the only people who could supply beer. They must have been supplying it to every pub in Scotland. The problem being it was rubbish! They must have changed their process to get more out. Probably stopped “lagering” it. Anyway it stayed the same rubbish ever after. So I started looking around for something better, and holidays in the Lake District and Austria showed me that beer could actually have a taste. Just not in Scotland!! I found a shop in Linlithgow which sold bottled Belhaven Export which was great, but you couldn’t get it just anywhere. Hand pulls were a rarity in pubs. On that note on to the next answer…..

How did you get into brewing?

Given the difficulty finding a decent pint of beer, I thought I might be able to brew a beer with some flavour to it. I think it’s one of my character traits (or flaws?) I always think I can do better myself. So I started out with a kit, and before long moved on (as you do!) to mashing and making a mess in the kitchen. I was lucky that at this time I lived in Crosshill Drive Bo’ness, a street famed for its home brewers. We all tasted each others brews, and oh, The Street Parties!

What’s your current favourite beer? Aside from your own of course!

I don’t think there’s one I’d single out. I’m like lots of real ale drinkers in that I want to try them all. I think that’s the difference from Keg drinkers. They tend to stick to one so-called beer, and that’s it. If it doesn’t have a big red T or if a bit of flavour creeps in, they don’t want to know.  I do like a beer around the 4% ABV mark, with a good hop level, but not overly hoppy. I like my beer to taste of beer, not oranges, grapefruit, ginger etc.etc. A hint is ok, but in-yer-face? Nawww!

How did the Brew Hoose get started? What was the driving force behind deciding to start your own brewery?

Kinneil Brew Hoose came about after a conversation in a pub. Two friends, Gail and Giles Fairholm were considering creating a brew pub, which eventually became the Corbie Inn. I had two more friends who came in with me as business partners. They’re long gone. Still friends of course but like Elvis they have left the building. The brewery is still going after two years and Gail and Giles are still my landlords and good friends as well!  It’s been suggested I get the same buzz as I did when I was playing live as a musician. I guess there’s some truth in that. It’s great to see people asking for and enjoying one of your own beers..

What do you think of schemes like BrewDog’s Equity For Punks and sites like Kickstarter? Have you ever considered crowdfunding?

BrewDog does what BrewDog does. They’re not really in the same game as small self funded microbreweries. Kickstarter and crowdfunding don’t really appeal, although never say never! Kinneil Brew Hoose has been entirely self funded. No loans, grants, or sleeping partners etc. That’s how we’ve survived this far. There aren’t any shareholders looking for a return, and we can get by without any danger of losing the house! I’ve had offers from small investors, but I don’t want to end up working for them. If someone wanted to come alomg and work as hard in the brewery as I do, then that’s the kind of investment I’d like to talk about.

Do you have any tips for home brewers? What’s the most important aspect of brewing for you?

Tips for home brewers – JFDI!! Keep everything clean, and when you think it’s clean, clean it. Get your liquor analysed, and treat it. Don’t use water straight from the tap.

What do you feel will make your beers stand out in an (one could say) already crowded market?

So far, it’s been the fact that the brewery is relatively new. Real Ale drinkers, as I’ve said like to try something new. Also we’re a local brewer, and people are increasingly looking for local produce. Having said that, we’ve sent beer to festivals all over mainland Britain. Even a couple of bottles to Australia!

What’s your favourite beer and food pairing? Do you match beer and food at all or just mainly drink it?

I don’t normally drink beer with my meals, unless I’m in a pub or restaurant. Then you usually just have to take what they’ve got. I can’t stand half of the nonsense written about wine. They have this big thing going on about what they can taste in the wine and what wine with what food etc. Beer’s a much superior product in every way. Just doesn’t have the snob appeal required by the foodies. But I do like a really good fish supper dripping with Gold Star sauce oot the chippie then doon the pub for a pint of Caer Edin Dark Ale.

How do you come up with new ideas for recipes?

I really don’t know. I guess I just have light bulb moments. So many of the recipes I did years ago are just that – recipes. Waiting to be dusted off and used again. I’m interested in local history, so if I can add something that reflects that so much the better.

Are there any expansion plans?

Can’t really expand on the site, and there’s little enough room as it is. There aren’t enough hours in the day/days in the week, so unless we get more people involved, I’d say my plan is to do the same, but better!!

What are your favourite hops and hop combinations?

I use Target hops for bittering in a couple of my beers. They’re high alpha acid, so you use less of them in a brew, which is a commercial consideration I suppose, but they leave a wonderful lasting bitterness at the back of the mouth, which is the main reason I like to use them. I also like to use Goldings or Fuggles along with the Target to temper the effect. Goldings and Fuggles are still great hops. They’ve been the mainstay of British brewing for many years and not without good reason! I also like to put some hops in the fermenter. Something with a good aroma, in the hope it will survive into the finished product. Something like Styrian Goldings or Saaz.

Does your beer travel far? Will any of my English readers be able to find it?

Well, we started out styling ourselves as the local brewer. The first cask we sold outside of the pub next door went to London. Followed up soon after by a beer/music Festival on the South Coast. We’ve supplied the occasional pub in England, and regularly supply beer festivals. For example we’ll have some beer at the Bolton Festival, which is coming up soon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring professional brewers?

It’s harder than you think! It’ll cost more than you think! It’ll take a lot longer than you think!
Be sure you have all the skills needed between you and whoever you go into the business with. Brewing, Engineering, Electrical, Plumbing, Sales, Delivery, Book Keeping, etc. etc. etc. If you’ve got to pay someone to do some of these things you will really struggle. If there are 8 days in the week in your neck of the woods, that helps too! But you’ll be working for yourself, doing something that you love, making something that you love. What could be better?

Thanks to Stuart for the interview, find out more about Kinneil Brew Hoose at www.kinneilbrew.co.uk and The Corbie Inn at www.corbieinn.co.uk or on Twitter @CorbieInnBoness

Follow Michael on Twitter @h_doody #StillThinking

Wallowing In A Vat of Ale with the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt

It’s becoming almost as big as the Great British Beer Festival and since it’s conception in 2011 the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt has become a staple part of the beery calendar.  For me, it’s an event that is also beginning to rival the release of the Great British Beer Festival Beer List – yes it really is that exciting!

It’s a period of time where Sainsbury’s shelves are suddenly awash with 20 new beers all with the hope of becoming part of the permanent ‘supermarket staple’ range.  It’s like the X Factor for beer only without the sob stories, terrible singing and obvious camera-play.  From next week (Wednesday 11th to be exact) until 2nd October, the winning beers from four regional heats will go on sale in Sainsbury’s waiting to be plundered by real ale enthusiasts and craft beer lovers.

This year Sainsbury’s have responded to the continually growing trend in British brewing and the ever growing ‘craft’ market and have offered a huge variety of beers from across the UK.   It would seem that following the regional heats a range of citrusy, peppery, tropical and spicy brews have made it to the final.  Add to this five IPAs, wheat beers, lager-style beers, oak smoked porters,  Belgian, French & German styles and the token Christmas themed offering,  the selection is quite mouth watering.

The full list of beers that will be available are

From Scotland & Northern Ireland
Hipsway from Williams Bros Brewing Co
The Honey Thief from Williams Bros Brewing Co
Gonny no brew that from Williams Bros Brewing Co
Barney’s Brew from Hidden Brewery
Wayfarer IPA from Orkney Brewery

From the North
American Pride from Double Maxim Beer Co
Swedish Blonde from Double Maxim Beer Co
Infra Red from Hardknott UK LTD
Crafty Dan from Thwaites Brewery
Windermere Pale from Hawkshead Brewery

From the East
B Bock from Batemans
Black Pepper Ale from Batemans
Querkus from Ridgeway Brewing
Reindeer Droppings from Ridgeway Brewing
Lavender Honey from Wolf Brewery

From the West
Harbour IPA from Harbour Brewing Co
Harbour Porter No.6 from Harbour Brewing
Devon Dreamer from Hunters Brewery
Gower Gold from Gower Brewery Company Ltd
Serendipity from Bird’s Brewery

Now, from that list a few jump out at me as being absolute ‘must trys’ – in particular the Hardknott Infra Red, Harbour IPA and Thwaites Crafty Dan, the latter of which I have heard LOTS of great stuff about.  These will be at the top of my list when I go marching into my local Sainsbury’s super store next Wednesday morning.

The 12 highest selling beers will go through to a Grand Final on 4th October, where the final winners will be selected by a panel of beer experts (we’re still waiting for our invitation) and then the winning beer will go on sale for six months in 300 Sainsbury’s stores throughout the UK.

We’re planning to review the Hardknott Infra Red on the show on Friday 30 September and in the meantime, you can check out the full selection here.

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