Saturday, 13 August 2016

Down on the Farm

Harvest will be upon us before we know it, and the realisation of this tipped me out of bed early this morning to head down to the farm for a look at our hops.

Humphrey was out, then back, then dashing out again on some farmer type business, so I was left to my own devices to assess the state of play. My (amateur) reading of the situation is thus: early rain has caused excess vegetative growth in some of the Goldings, stopping the sunshine getting down the bine and causing the flowers to concentrate at the top - this will lead to a lower yield. In other areas this hasn't been a problem and the bines are in cone all the way down. Maturity is patchy - some plants in burr, some in full cone - it is early for East Kent afterall. Apart from that, they look clean, unbruised, and loving the warm sunshine.

This pundit is going for a 5th September start to the eastest of east Kent's hop harvest. Here's some photos:

Monday, 6 June 2016

Summer's Day

This delicious little hoppy amber ale is going to be launched next Wednesday evening, the 15th June, in the Montefiore Arms. From 7:30pm you'll be treated to singing, dancing, nibbling and supping.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

East Kent IPA

East Kent IPA is a pretty full bodied ale with a tangy bitterness to balance; it's extreme, but you don't really notice. The hops are all East Kent Goldings, from the 2015 growth at Humphrey Hulme's Brook Farm. It was a shocking harvest, with terrible picking conditions, yet the quality in the brewing is the best I've seen for 15 years: a deep, fruity lemon balm character balances a light, classy pepperiness. 

We bottled this year's gyle with an inoculation of  brettanomyces claussenii and laid it down for 3 months, allowing tropical fruit aromas to develop. We also put the corks in too far and used the wrong cage - the result is an infuriatingly awkward beer to get at that more than rewards the effort taken to get it.

Enjoy it chilled, with Jalebi, green chili chutney and a sour slaw (and a pair of pliers and a corkscrew).

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


New beer alert:

The 2014 harvest in East Kent turned out pretty well; we got a good deal of great hops, the winemakers had a ball and soft fruit was piling up all over the place. Following a visit to the hop gardens, Brewer Sue persuaded us to relieve the grower of heaps of cherries and apricots, and make some beer with them.

Now brewing with fruit can be straight forward (and dull), or it can be a tricky, drawn-out affair. I chose the latter because it's more fun - it's a different kind of brewing, the kind where the beer itself takes control and we watch, and wait, and wonder if it will ever be tasty.

I dream of apricots

Our base beer was a mid-strength pale, very low on bitterness but with a generous amount of fruity hops on the nose. This sat on our apricots for a month or so, macerating them and absorbing their lovely flavours, and a little colour. We added brettanomyces claussenii (a yeasty type organism that works very, very slowly, giving a tropical fruit aroma) and lactobacillus brevis (a jolly decent bacteria that acidifies beer, and does us good). After nearly 18 months in the bottle the beer finally came into a magnificent balance: pale, with a lively effervescence and a pure white, lasting head; the aroma fruity, with apricots all over it, leading to a crispy, sharp flavour of apricots in the mouth. The finish is decent, not too long for this refreshing style of beer, but neither is it short. I'm chuffed with this one.


The same base beer was left to sit on cherries for a month or so, then bottled with brettanomyces lambicus (this gives a distinctive horse-blanket aroma - you may never have come across a horse blanket, I haven't, so just think sort of warm, and funky) and L. brevis, as before. I didn't use nearly enough cherries, so the beer is dominated by the brett. This is a full and funky beer (which I love) with a fairly short, sharp finish (and I spend the entire bottle musing over whether this a good thing, or not). If you like brett, you ought to try this one.

Next up, from the cellars of my mind, is a 3-yearold very gueuzie non-gueuze and a rather daft, 4-yearold super-sour, peaty stout, which needs blackberries.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015


We've set ourselves a little holiday challenge:

To brew a mid-strength, Californian-style pale ale to be served on keg. It must be juicy, rather than crisp, with a snappy, clean hop smack and an underlying roundness. 
(This might sound easy, and I know a few who would find it so, but it isn't, not for me anyway....)

Juicy: chilled, carbonated beer tends towards the crisp, so the malt bill will have to counter this, and there are hop varieties that will help.

Snappy: the hops will have to be as fresh as possible, which in itself is a challenge these days as demand is super high for some varieties.

Clean: we've chosen hop varieties carefully, to avoid the dank and the savoury, and we'll ferment on the cool side.

Hop smack: less is more - it's easy to chuck in ever increasing amounts of hops in a bid to make a bigger impression, but it doesn't work, it's more nuanced than that. Timing and technique is critical.

Underlying roundness: bitterness is balance-crucial in this; the perfect level is incalculable, there's no formula but experience.

So we're blending a little crystal malt with Marris Otter Pale in the mash tun, and first wort hopping with Cascade. Two late additions of Cascade and EKG precede a cool primary fermentation and two dry hop stages using Centennials. That's it.

It ought to good to drink by the 13th January - let's see how close to the bulls eye we get.

Thursday, 17 December 2015


Bubbles are great: they're ball shaped and they're playful (what's not to love?). And the bubbles produced when nitrogen comes out of a beer solution are particularly beautiful, and playful. These bubbles are smaller than our usual carbon dioxide bubbles, and they're more evenly sized, and both these attributes help to create a wonderfully dense and creamy head on a beer, and a silky, luxuriant mouthfeel. Add those ingredients to the vanilla and molasses flavours in a chilled pint of Black Pearl and you have a delicious and seductive pint of beer.

Remember the dancing man advert?