No not the tasty French woodland fungus but the champions of the world. And by the world I mean the prize giving for the most important Homebrew competition of the year. The Old Windsor handicraft, horticulture and produce show where – drum roll please – we managed a wealth of rosettes. A triumph of brewing excellence that unearthed a new preference in the judging. No longer dark and sweet, now strong and spicy. Note for 2024.
To celebrate such an important event we were lucky enough to have fancy glasses in the brewery boardroom and special glasses deserved some special beers.
And ciders. First up was a fresh ’23 Cider from neighbour apples. Tangy, fresh and zesty, a lovely rose colour from the cranberry juice added both sparkling and bright. The technical specification of one wheelbarrow of apples to 20 litres of cider is a metric I will long remember.
We stayed Gluten free for the next couple of drinks. A direct comparison of the impact of a yeast nutrient on the sensory characteristics of a GF lager. The difference was clear – a significant improvement – where the control, lacking the additive, had a sweet diacetyl flavour that coupled with apples to give a surprising toffee apple taste the special was much cleaner and faster. A good beer showing an important improvement, but one that could still take some more bitterness maybe to make it sharper still.
A month earlier than expected was a green hop blonde ale from Owen next. Using Challenger to set the bitterness and then finishing with green Ernest and Golding hops it gave a fresh, hedgerow, English countryside aroma on a full body. The grist is a brilliant base for letting hops express themselves and it will be interesting to see how this matures and conditions over the next four weeks till the official Wet hop week in October.
More punchy hop aroma next as we tasted Alan’s Siren Soundwave clone kit from the Malt Miller. The three C hops gave an expected powerful and vibrant fruity aroma as you’d expect. A taste directly against a can of Soundwave showed this brew to be even more pungent than the commercial variety. The colour, however, was surprisingly dark compared to the canned beer. Obviously some differences in the malt bill used here. As it was a kit it’s hard to know what that might entail.
Ramping up the hops again we enjoyed Alistair’s amped up IPA. Somewhere between 6-7% this harked back to the days when IPAs were bitter and their were wars between breweries over who could cram in the most bittering hops into their beers. Because of the strength and darker malt bill this easily carried the bitterness. A great example of a Westie from the 2000s.
Finally we ended on a rebrew of my Alt Bier. This was different to the first brew a little more fruity and complex – described accurately as a sweaty German aroma – and so a little off style. I think the last brew used some old Carafa malt to give it colour, this brew I had ordered some new and so the flavour was there that was missing last time.
I’ve been a little late writing this up, but it does give me the opportunity to tell you about Brewcon 2023 at Hackney brewery. A day on tour for the club with some really interesting talks, a lot of good brewing people to chat with and a bunch of free hops. The hops have been collated and we’ll be looking to see how we can do comparative brews and see what tunes we can play with the same recipes.