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.

Friday, 9 April 2021

News of the Brews

 

That's right, we need you. For the past 20 years we've brewed beer for pubs, and they've sold it to you. These last 380 days or so we've brewed it for you, and delivered it directly to you. And whilst the 'eve of pub reopening is upon us, we're in no doubt that the new tomorrow very much involves us continuing to brew for, and deliver to, you. Help us in our mission by recruiting new GADDS' customers - send your family, friends and neighbours this new customer promotion code (NEWTOGADDS) - they'll get a sweet 10% discount on their first order and, if they put your name and email address in the customer comments box at checkout, we'll send you a code too. So go on, call your Mum/daughter/sister/brother/neighbour and get them on the case. Code is for first time customers only, and expires in a week. Shop here.

Lager school

I have to tell you about this book - A Brief History of Lager, by Mark Dredge. It's a truly fascinating story full of incredible brewing feats and social history, told in a witty, insightful and engaging manner by one of the UK's best food and drink
writers. I'm half way through it and can't put it down. Lager is way, way more interesting than I ever knew, and a lot funnier too. From caves in the Bavarian countryside with beer gardens on top of them, to Prince's palaces and beer halls the size of football pitches, this story is about life itself. I give it a solid 5 stars, highly recommended.

Beer updates

The Grand Reopening of Pubs Beer (indoors) has yet to brewed or named, despite a bag full of ingenious and witty suggestions put forward by you lot. I have settled on a style though - an English Pale Ale. That might sound dull but it won't be - it'll be exquisitely balanced with a delicate, lemony undertone of EKGs, refreshing, pleasing and reassuring. I better make my mind up about the name.

GADDS' Number 7 Pale Bitter Ale (The Brewery Workhorse) is back on the schedule and will be conditioned and ready to serve by mid-May. It's been too long since I've had a pint (or 7) of this.

East Kent Pilsner has finished its primary fermentation and is looking promising. A four week 'lagering' phase begins today as we drop the temperature from 10 oC to zero over the next 5 days, and hold it there. We call this 'tank time' - it's an inexplicable quality experienced brewers can taste, can agree upon, but can't put their finger on.

I Still Dream of Apricots is ready to taste (and launch) next Saturday (April 17th) at 2pm here, outside in the Brewery Garden. Apricots appear in our dreams as a symbol of the future, and, despite the travails and the profound sadness we're all experiencing at the moment, this optimism keeps us all going. The beer is wild fermented with a mixture of yeasts captured in Brabant and in Humphrey's apricot orchards in Hoaden. It's refreshingly tart, fruity and wild. All welcome.

Delivery request

For Thursday and Friday polypin deliveries please get your orders in by 4pm Wednesday, if at all possible. It isn't a deadline, we'll always do everything we 
can to deliver last minute Charlies, but it would help the crew. Thanks.

Dates for your Diary

Friday April 16th – the Ravensgate-by-the-Sea reopens for the summer!

Saturday April 17th at 2pm – a mini-launch and tasting of this year’s wild fermented Apricot Beer, at the Brewery Tap. More details on this project to follow. 



Friday, 2 April 2021

New brew news

 During the last year we’ve had to change our business away from brewing for pubs and towards brewing for the home. One of the effects of this change has been a far higher turnover of bottled and canned beer, allowing us to add “High Tide Tripel” and “Chairman of the Board Barley Wine” to the range. And since the introduction of these beers hasn’t slowed the rate of sale of the others I’m encouraged to add more to the range. I generally keep a couple or three beers in my head at any one time, waiting for excuse or opportunity to add a name, then a label, and finally get the damn thing off my mind, into the mash tun, copper, fermenter and finally into a cask or bottle. Here’s one such opportunity.

Inspiration comes from many directions, but this time, unusually, it’s come from one of our own beers – the green hop special edition we did last year we called “Ship of Fools”. Although very much a pale ale, the way we used the hops hinted at certain aspects of East Kent Goldings not often encountered – namely their ‘nobility’. Four continental hop varieties are classed as ‘noble’ due to the timeless quality of the balance of their flavour - Saaz, Tettnang, Hallertau and Spalt – and it’s long been postulated that EKG shares the same characteristics. However, whilst the continental varieties are used in pale, crisp lager styles that showcase this nobility, we use EKG in pale ales, which champions a slightly different aspect to their character.

So, this beer in my head seeks to uncover the true nobility of EKG in a way we haven’t done before, by using them to brew a crisp, pale continental lager style beer. And we started the process earlier this week. We’ve used continental style malts, really pale and biscuity, and a slightly unusual hopping technique (house secret), along with a classic, bready, German yeast strain. Fermentation is ‘low and slow’, running at a cool 12 oC for 10 days (rather than 20 oC for 4 days), and by next week we’ll reduce the temperature to -1 oC and ‘lager’ the beer for 4 weeks.

The end result might be a deliciously refreshing Pilsner with a gorgeous, balanced, noble hop character; a really, really good lager beer brewed with EKGs. I certainly hope so.

So, look out for this new beer, sometime in May or early June, just as the blistering heat of a Kentish summer begins to build.

Friday, 26 March 2021

News of the Brews

 Rule of 6 BBQ Special

From Monday 29th March the law allows us to enjoy fresh draft GADDS’ in our back gardens in groups of up to 6 people (or larger if the party is from only two households) accompanied by BBQed grub, or Bombay Mix. The Great British Weather has been informed and, here at GADDS’, we’re helping out with a Rule of 6 BBQ Special – all 10 and 20 litre polypins of our beer now come with an option to add half a dozen half pint glasses for an extra fiver. We would have had some special sausages made but didn’t really think about it until this morning.

Order here.

Easter Delivery Schedule

Next Friday we should all be in the Winter Gardens enjoying over 300 different beers organised by our chums at CAMRA. Never mind, we’ll be in each others’ back gardens instead, GADDS’ half pint glass in hand. Therefore the delivery schedule has moved into bank holiday mode:

Sandwich/Deal/Dover/Folkestone – WEDNESDAY 31st

Canterbury/Whitstable/Herne Bay/Faversham – THURSDAY 1st

Thanet – MONDAY 29th, WEDNESDAY 31st and THURSDAY 1st

Orders in early next week, by 4pm Tuesday if possible, as we’re bound to run out of some things.

Number 11

GADDS’ Number 11 Ultra-light Anytime Pale Ale is back in store, btw.

Dates for your Diary

Friday April 16th – the Ravensgate-by-the-Sea reopens for the summer!

Saturday April 17th 2pm – a mini-launch and tasting of this year’s wild fermented Apricot Beer at the Brewery. More details on this project to follow.

 

Friday, 19 March 2021

Hello Sunshine!

 

Style guide - Sunshine Ale

Whilst I’ve yet to get unanimous agreement from the decision makers at the BJCP (the custodians of beer style semantics) I’m confident you’ll agree that ‘Sunshine Ale’ is a very real beer style. It probably dates back to the early Victorian era and is likely related to spring bank holiday excursions to the golden sands of Blackpool and Ramsgate.

Here at GADDS’ we brew a very modern Sunshine Ale based not on our house EKG hop variety, but on the classic US Cascade hop. This variety, developed from a 1960s Oregon State University breeding program, and first used by the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, fuelled the craft beer revolution and pretty much defines American Pale Ales to this day. It’s a deliciously juicy hop, with a soft and balanced bitterness and bags of grinning citrus/pine aromas and flavours.  

As Kentish brewers we tend to talk quite a lot about hops, and you might be forgiven for thinking we care less about the malt, so let’s address that now. Barley varieties are primarily bred for agronomic reasons such as disease resistance and yield. The growers’ catalogue of options is updated every year with the new replacing the old and, year by year, yields and quality inexorably improve. However, back in the 60s plant breeders developed a new variety, Maris Otter, specifically for its brewing capabilities, rather than its growing prowess. It was a huge success at the time and, despite the usual competition from new, cheaper varieties, Otter remains the popular choice for the small cask ale brewers in the UK. It’s such a good brewing barley we happily pay over 10% more for it.

Shesells Seashells brings together the biscuity, sweet Maris Otter malted barley and the tangy, bitter and citrussy Cascade hops in perfect balance. Add in a splash of sunshine, the same sunshine that ripens the barley and the hops, and there you have it, a proper Sunshine Ale.

We’ve canned Seashells early this year in an attempt to bring sunshine into our lives a little earlier than usual – we feel that would be a good thing right at the moment. Use “HERECOMESTHESUN” at the webshop checkout to get a kicking-things-off-in-the-right-way discount.

The summer can’t come soon enough – in the mean time I’m on the ‘Shells.

 

Friday, 12 March 2021

It's ALL about the hops

 


Being a brewer in East Kent is a rare, and mighty, privilege – it isn’t just that we’re in the home of British hop growing, where recorded, licenced, cultivation has taken place for 497 years[1] (though this would be cause enough for celebration), it’s more to do with a particular variety of hop that prefers to grow around here above any other place on the planet. We’re talking about Goldings, that noblest, balanced and most magnificent of hops known to brewers. The brick earths running from Faversham, through Canterbury and out towards Sandwich, and the fresh, briny sea breezes coming from the north, east, and south, seem to be the very stuff of life for the Golding, so much so that it yields at twice the rate in East Kent, with a finer, more structured character than anywhere else in the world. In fact, it’s the only hop variety to be so particular about where it grows that it has a Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) attached to it – if you grow a Golding south of the A249, and east of the M20, you may call it an East Kent Golding, or EKG for short. EKGs are so good at making English pale ales that brewers have been paying a premium for them for a couple of hundred years, hence the PGI: to protect its reputation and the fortunes of our local growers. For the brewer, these hops bring a feisty bitterness and a lemony, slightly perfumed, slightly spicy, and exquisitely balanced character to the beer, quite unlike anything else. This is why the brewers of East Kent are the luckiest of brewers.

Our first beer, brewed in April of 2002, was GADDS’ Number 3 – “a pale ale to speak for modern Kent” as it says on the brew sheet. Great Pedding Farm in Shatterling (on the way to Wingham), is the nearest hop garden to the brewery, and Humphrey has been growing the most easterly of EKGs there all his life. The relationship between the brewery and the hop garden, the brewer and the grower, and the hops and the beer, has grown vigorously and fruitfully for the last two decades, and those hops have become the very bedrock of GADDS’ itself. From this has spawned not only GADDS’ Number 3, but Number 7, Number 5, Green Hop Ale, Seasider, High Tide, Chairman of the Board, Ship of Fools and Blend 17 to name just a few. And, as the years go by, more and more GADDS’ beers are built on these hops and these relationships. As one of the lucky brewers to brew in east Kent, I think I’m probably the luckiest.

Sadly, however, this too will pass, and rather sooner than I wanted or expected. One result of lockdown has been plummeting beer sales, resulting in plummeting hop usage. And since hops are grown seasonally, in advance, the world hop markets are now stuffed to overload, contracts are getting ripped up and prices are teetering on the edge of financial disaster. And all this came barrelling home yesterday with the devasting news that our local hop grower, and dear friend, is shutting down and ‘grubbing out’ his plants. We’re all in a state of shock, and the very soul of our brewery is taking a battering.

As a GADDS’ beer drinker though you need not be overly concerned – we have enough hops from last year to see us through until 2022, and can secure more if needed. We also have decent alternative local growers to go to, so whilst we’ll feel a seismic change at the brewery, in all probability you won’t notice a lot of difference in the beer.

But let’s spend some quality time thinking about the amazing relationships that exist between the land, the weather and the beer in our glass, and all those fabulously rich relationships along the way. And let’s do this the only way we know how, with a glass or two of Humphrey’s beer, GADDS’ Number 3 Premium Kent Pale Ale. It just so happens we have a fresh batch in, so grab this discount code “HERESTOHUMPHREY”, jump in the store (www.ramsgatebrewery.co.uk) and fill your basket with the true taste of East Kent.

 



[1] Brewery History Society 118, pp. 21-26