Tuesday, 7 September 2021

More Hop Harvest News

 


Harvest

The much anticipated East Kent hop harvest has finally, falteringly, begun. Whilst growers out in the West Country have been busy for a week or more, most in Kent would agree that the local plants are a few-days-to-a-week behind. This is pretty unusual - hops begin to flower according to day length (for instance they go into 'burr', the first sign of flowering, on Summer's Day, the 25th July) so harvest is fairly predictable. However, this year's cold spring and disappointing Autumn, whilst not slowing flowering down per se, has kept the aroma development behind schedule. This current spurt of Indian summer has come just in time though, and those little heavenly cones should finish themselves off very nicely over the coming few days.

New Grower News
Since the sad closure of Humphrey's hop gardens, earlier this year, we've been busy getting to know John & Anna Clinch over at Syndale Farm, situated in a valley north of Faversham (anyone know the name of the valley?). I'm very happy to report that it's not only their East Kent Goldings that are of true origin and world beating quality, so are the growers! This is a small farm, run with passion, knowledge and heaps of laid back friendliness. And in Anna they have a grower for the future, so we get some long term hop supply stability once again. 

Green Hop Day - Saturday 18th September
Whilst much of our green hop brewing schedule has been delayed by a few days, we begin tomorrow morning with the first gyle (batch). I'm expecting the hop aroma to be a touch understated and we're planning to 'dry hop' this as we cask it next week to allow for that. You can join in too as we tap the very first barrel of Green Hop Ale 2021 up at the brewery at midday, Saturday the 18th. The freshest of beer will then pour until 4:45pm whilst we dance and fool around with the incomputable GADDZUKES! and enjoy Lisa's wonderful kerbside 5-star food. There is a small charge for tickets but you do get your first pint for free, so it's free, really. Tickets are available here.

Cask Green Hop Ale will go out to pubs and be available throughout East Kent from late September until mid-October (but is sometimes difficult to find as it sells out quickly).

Bottled Green Hop Ale ought to be released by October 1st but supply chain issues may delay this. We'll let you know.

The first pints of Green Hop Ale will be available in the Monte on the evening of Tuesday 21st. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Hop Harvest Special Edition!

 



Brewing beer in East Kent is a rare privilege indeed – not only do we have gorgeous beaches and fabulously quirky seaside pubs, but we also have the world class East Kent Golding hops (you may have heard me mention them once or twice?). For all sorts of reasons Kent became the centre of UK hop growing and, despite all sorts of other reasons, it remains so to this day. And sometime around 200 years ago the Golding variety of hop was bred, and then cultivated round here, where it grew outrageously well, and still does.

Under normal circumstances hops are dried in order to preserve them for use throughout the year, however, during harvest we can nip out to the farm and beg, borrow or steal sacksful of freshly picked, lusciously green, undried flowers of nirvana, before rushing back to the brewery and tipping them into the day’s brew.

The resultant beer is a deliciously rounded pale ale with a touch of zest and the spirit of the East Kent Hop harvest. Obviously, this is a great thing to be celebrated and we’re kicking off this year’s fun with a tapping of the first barrel (and drinking it, and eating lovely food, and dancing with GADDZUKES) on Saturday 18th September.

Tickets are the price of a pint, and you get your first pint free. Here’s where to buy them.


Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Booster Pub List


Tapping on Monday at the following (mainly) East Kent pubs - do check with them before travelling.

The Ship Inn, Deal

The Phoenix, Canterbury

The New Inn, Sandwich

Furlongs Ale House, Faversham

The George and Dragon, Fordwich

The Rodney, Margate

The Churchill Tavern, Ramsgate

The Queen’s Head, Ramsgate

Barnacles, Margate

The Honeysuckle Inn, Ramsgate

The Tartar Frigate, Broadstairs

The Pavillion, Broadstairs

The Hovelling Boat Inn, Ramsgate

The Charles Dickens, Broadstairs

The Elephant and Castle, Ramsgate

The Bradstow Mill, Broadstairs

The White Swan, Reading Street

The Swan, Westgate

Rose of England, Ramsgate

Yard of Ale, St Peters

Mind the Gap Micropub, Broadstairs

Artillery Arms, Ramsgate

The Red Lion, Ramsgate

Sir Stanley Grey, Ramsgate

19th Hole, Broadstairs

The Wig and Pen, Margate

Three Pillars, Gravesend

One Inn the Wood, Orpington

The Kings Arms, Upnor

Prince of Ales, Rainham

Admiral’s Arm, Sheppey

Sturdee Social and bowling Club, Gillingham

The Montefiore Arms, Ramsgate

Kingshead, Kingsdown

Carpenters Arms, Coldred

The Just Reproach, Deal

The Freed Man, Deal

The New Inn, Canterbury

The Louis Armstrong, Dover

The Bake and Ale House, Westgate

The Green Berry, Deal

The Red Lion, Baddlesmere

The Tankerton Arms, Whitstable

Copper Pottle, Beltinge

The Bouncing Barrel, Herne Bay

The Ravensgate Arms, Ramsgate

The Ravensgate by the Sea, Ramsgate

Smugglers Records, Sandwich

Plough and Harrow, Tilmanston


 


 

Friday, 25 June 2021

Booster

 

Blonde Ale

Not the most historic of beer styles, Blonde Ale is said to have been developed in Belgium in the early 20th century in response to a rise in the popularity of Pilsners. It’s also said to have been invented by American craft brewers in the late 20th century to coax consumers away from American Pilsner. It’s not for us to care who’s right, we’re here to brew and enjoy.

Blonde Ales are pretty straight forward – pale/golden easy-drinking beers that are low in bitterness. We’ll be using our favourite malted barley variety, Maris Otter, for this one. ‘Otter’, as it’s commonly known amongst we brewers, is a barley variety dating back to the 1960s, which in agronomic terms is really, really old – there’s a conveyor belt of new varieties available to the farmer, each either yielding better, or less susceptible to pests and diseases, than the last. Despite farmers’ insistence that it ‘won’t stand up’ Otter has survived because small cask ale brewers in the UK insist upon using it – it’s quite simply the best tasting malt there is and we’re all prepared to pay a decent premium to get hold of it. Its biscuity sweetness will go very well in our new Blonde Ale.

Hopwise, this will be another beer to showcase East Kent Goldings. The style is mild in bitterness terms, which gives us an opportunity to explore the lemony character of EKG (in a similar way to the way use them in High Tide) without fear of astringency spoiling the party. So we’ll have some in there as first wort additions (see earlier editions of NotB) and then balefuls of them at the end of the boil.

Fermentation will be around 22°C with our house ale yeast (a touch higher than normal, in an effort to produce some fruity aromas) and the whole batch will be cask conditioned, enjoying that magical secondary fermentation in the cellar. We’ll then persuade as many of our pub customers as possible to take a cask with a view to tapping and serving it from Monday 19th July, a date we all hope will be long remembered as the day the pubs reopened properly, and successfully. In a normal year British pubs raise over £100 million for charity – this isn’t a normal year and now those same pubs could do with a little Boost themselves. Next week I’ll be able to give you an idea of what pubs will be stocking Booster – do drop into one or two and enjoy an easy drinking Blonde Ale.


Friday, 14 May 2021

Beer update edition

 

East Kent Pilsner

This beer is moving from the ‘lagering’ to the ‘coming soon’ phase. At this stage we brewers begin to get anxious and insecure, and we attempt to take our minds off all the things that can still go wrong by looking at pretty labels and pretending they’re important. If all goes to plan, everyone around us is totally focused on different shades and textures and forgets to ask us how the actual beer is doing. That’s the way we operate, it’s a protection mechanism. (As it happens, my lager brewing guru visited yesterday and gave us the thumbs up – so far so good).

East Kent Krausened Draft Keller Pilsner

A Keller Pils is, broadly speaking, an unfiltered lager, and krausening (adding fermenting beer to a finished beer to carbonate it) is one of the sexiest things that you can do in a brewery (without contravening good food safety practice). The beer is coming to the end of the lagering phase and we’re allowing the temperature to rise from below zero to 7°C (pretty much ambient at the moment). Once it’s there we’ll begin brewing the next batch and, a day after that, we’ll pump a couple of hundred litres of fully fermenting beer into the finished beer before kegging it and allowing a secondary fermentation in the cellar (keller). By July we should have something pretty special, fingers crossed.

Booster – I Love This Pub (Blonde Ale)

Huge thanks to all of you who donned the thinking caps and came up with a huge list of extremely funny beer name suggestions. I understand that not all of them were supposed to be funny, so I’ll spare blushes and not list those that had us rolling on the floor. Thanks go to Gill Keay from Canterbury for ‘Booster’ which sums up nicely what we all need to give to our local pubs (and apologies too for the addition of ‘I Love This Pub’ – I couldn’t stop myself). I’ll be inviting Gill (and her plus 1) to the brewery to help us craft a delicious Blonde Ale using sweet biscuity malts and perfumed, lemony EKG hops. It’ll be an easy like a Sunday morning kind of beer, mellow and refreshing and should be in pubs from early June.

Dates for your diary

Monday 17th May – the Montefiore Arms opens its doors! Matt and Harry will be there to welcome you back from midday.


Friday, 30 April 2021

The Greengage Summer


Last week we talked a little about the Lambic Dreamer project, and whilst I have lots of other things to say about lots of other things, this week is also about the Lambic Dreamer, specifically the Greengage Lambic Dreamer. (Don't worry, next week will be about bitter again).

Gages are a sort of plum, and greengages are a green sort of gage. By all accounts (wikipedia) they originated in Iran and became pretty popular across Europe and the Americas due to their delicious sweetness when ripe. In fact, according to Humphrey the Plum Grower (yes, the very same man who grows hops), they're way sweeter than all other plums. He asserted this whilst tossing an unripened gage to me late one summer in his orchard. What he didn't tell me was how fantastically sharp and tart they are when unripe, in a bulldog/wasp kind of way (I discovered this for myself one bite later). Chefs love the sweetness of the ripe fruit and make compote with it, I loved the tartness of the unripe fruit and made some beer with it.

We had the fruits harvested unripe, and stored them cool, turning and checking them daily – the wise plum grower knows that when greengages are ready to ripen they go quickly, almost overnight, and I wanted to catch them at maximum (green) acidity, and minimum pluminess. As soon as the first gage softened we went to work, halving the fruits and dividing those halves between stoned halves and straight halves, immersing them in separate barrels of the same wild-fermented beer. After some months the beers were bottled and left for another year to allow for a decent secondary fermentation (it didn’t take that long for the wild yeasts to bring the beer into condition, but a global pandemic happened to be passing and scuppered plans for a timely release). They’re now good, and ready to drink.

As you know, the wild-fermented base beer is full of dry, refreshing complexity. This has now been joined by a large boost of tarty fruitness (and fruity tartness), adding a Sunday best dimension to the experience. It’s become the perfect beer to go with plum pudding in the garden on a summer’s day when the vicar visits and, whilst it isn’t exactly summer tomorrow, it should be dry, and we can’t go to the pub, so let’s invite the vicar round and get the plum pudding out the freezer. Tasting begins at 2pm (sharp) in the Brewery Garden, all welcome – I’ll bring the beer, you bring the pudding (and the vicar).

If you can't make it, the beer is available here, and if you can, please consider dropping a donation into Oasis here.

Friday, 23 April 2021

From the Cellars of the Lambic Dreamer


As a young brewing apprentice in the early 90s I was lucky enough to visit Frank Boon, a Belgian brewer with his heart set on reviving the tradition of 'lambic' brewing. Rather than adding a pure yeast culture to ferment their beers, Lambic brewers encourage wild yeasts in the atmosphere to do the job instead. I found it fascinating, and have been a little obsessed with unlocking the mysterious secrets ever since. But Frank has spent his entire career mastering this ancient technique (with huge success) and was never going to make my own journey an easy one. It's taken nearly 20 years of conversations and beers with the handful of Lambic brewers and blenders left in production to begin to get an understanding of this dark art. Today I'll share a teaser or two, with you.

Firstly - wild yeasts are all around us, they're in the atmosphere and on plants and fruits and animals and in the soil. They especially love fruit, where they can indulge in the sugar, fermenting it into alcohol. That's how wine is made. They also love the sugar from malted grains, that's how beer is made. In the brewing of regular beer we've long since isolated a single, suitable yeast cell and developed a pure culture from it; in wild fermented beer we encourage as many different wild yeasts as possible to inoculate our sweet wort and ferment it to beer. The thing is, each wild cell will flourish and reproduce under slightly different conditions, and each will create a flavour of its own. This results in a long, slow fermentation and a highly complex finished flavour. 

Secondly - in order to achieve balance we need some acidity, and whilst some of the yeast can provide a little (under certain conditions) we really need some friendly bacteria to help us out. A very gentle souring can be obtained by allowing lactobacillus to produce lactic acid, and a sharper acidity, very low in intensity, can be obtained by allowing acetic acid producing bacteria to do their thing. 

Thirdly - we need to allow a little oxygen in. In regular beer production we spend a great deal of time excluding oxygen to an obsessively low level, but here, in order to encourage the creation of a little acetic acid, a very slow, controlled ingress of the stuff is required. This is the reason we ferment the beer in oak barrels. We're not after the wood flavour, or the flavour of the liquid that was previously in the barrels, but the ability of the barrel to allow oxygen through the tiny pores in the wood. The pores in the wood also provide a safe harbour for our growing family of wild yeasts, bonus. 

Lastly - the acidity of the beer is perfectly suited to, and rather enhanced by, the use of locally grown fruits such as raspberries, cherries, apricots and plums. Not only do these fruits help create elegant and refined beers, they also bring their own wild yeasts to the party, and so each year our family of little helpers grows, becoming ever more complex and nuanced. Double bonus. 

Over the last 10 years we've been playing around with oak barrels, local fruits and wild yeasts, randomly 'releasing' our efforts from time to time. Last Saturday we opened a few bottles of a wild apricot beer, sampling it in the weak-but-welcome April sunshine (and a fine afternoon it was too - thanks for all who made it). From today we're beginning to make our efforts available in the webshop and the actual shop and are releasing 'Blend 17' (the original),'Cherry (Disaster) 19' and 'I (still) Dream of Apricots' Over the coming weeks we should have a further three tastings and subsequent releases, starting with a rather pleasingly tart greengage beer. Please come along, and allow me to fill the air with more talk of wild yeasts and mysterious fermentations.