Utopian: "modelled on, or aiming for, a state in which everything is perfect; idealistic."
Collaboration: "the action of working with someone, to produce something."
Also Utopian: "a fabulous craft brewery in Devon, specialising in perfecting the art of lager brewing with British ingredients."
Also collaboration: "the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts."
For a number of years we've harboured the desire to create a delicious pilsner using freshly picked, undried, 'green' hops (East Kent Goldings, to be specific) - crisp and clean, with an elegant, floral, green hop aroma. So when the good people at Utopian Brewing suggested a collaboration, we jumped at the chance.
It's finally ready, and you can order it here, in time for the official launch on Wednesday 23rd at both the Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate, and at Topsham Brewery and Taproom, in Exeter, if you're down that way. Read on if you're interested in how it was brewed.
One of the secrets, the main secret in fact, to brewing great pilsner is in the fermentation - to secure the 'clean' part of the specification, this must be conducted at distinctly chilly temperatures of around 10°C, slowing the yeast down to a relative crawling pace. Now, our own yeast wouldn't get out of bed for anything cooler than 14°C but, luckily for us, the Utopian strain, no doubt (nefariously) first obtained from a centuries old Bavarian craft brewery in a hollowed out walking stick (or such), is a master of the colder arts. These ninja strains possess a princess and the pea characteristic, and must be protected from the real world at all costs - basically, if it isn't at just the right temperature, in just the right fermenting beer, in just the right shaped fermenting vessel, it has to be undisturbed, and close to freezing, in the dark confines of a medieval cellar below Munich. For this reason, very early on the morning of our brewday, the yeast was rushed up from Devon, packed in ice in the back of a brewers' campervan/yeast ambulance, compassionately cared for by the very highly qualified, German trained, Utopian Brew Master. This set the tone for our collaboration.
Syndale Farm near Faversham, towards the end of harvest, was the early morning meeting venue. Farming father and daughter, John and Anna Clinch, grow the very finest East Kent Golding hops in the world here - the 'brick earth' land blessed with cool, springtime, on-shore breezes and warm, sunny, mid-summer sunshine that this hop variety loves. Walking this land is essential to set the tone for green-hop-brewing, followed by hop chat with pickers and, finally, collecting a van full of freshly picked, green, and aromatic hop cones. It was a tough harvest this year, the bines coming under a lot of water stress due to drought conditions. This isn't good for the farmers as the crop is consequently short, but it's great for brewers and drinkers as the hop flavour and aroma tends to improve. These are the best EKG this author has seen in 30 years.
Once back at the brewery we made beer, mashing UK grown 'Czech' pilsner malt and loading our hop stash very late in the boil, before pitching the sleepy, unsuspecting Utopian yeast.
German trained brewers behaving strangely
Fermentation was cool, and slow; if it's a super clean brew you're looking for, you need to be patient. Once all the sugars have been used up, the temperature is dropped slowly, and daily, to get below zero without upsetting the pernickety yeast (most off-flavours in beer are due to brewers upsetting pernickety yeast).
After 2 weeks of fermentation, and 6 weeks of cold lagering, the Green Hop Pilsner was canned, and kegged, unfiltered. And here we are - it's in warehouse, and ready to ship on Monday.
We do our own thing at GADDS', and rarely collaborate, but we do strive for Utopia, and when we find it, this beer will be on tap.
Get some here, and use the code "sawitontheblog" for a 5% discount (a reward for reading all this way down the page, thanks).