No Room at the Inn

It was a cold and stormy eve. The five weary travellers trudged through murky gloom in through the brutal November Tempest, as they headed for the monthly beer census. The wind whipped around their (Marlow) donkeys as they ploughed ahead, the storm lashing their faces with a stinging rain that threatened to tear the skin, blister the lips, or at the very least result in a small patch of dry skin that would require some moisturising salve. On their arrival they heard the dreaded words, there was indeed ‘No Room At The Inn’; the innkeeper had let out all the rooms, to other journeyed strangers. However, after much angst and deliberation, a space was found, indeed a stable (office), as long as the travellers were happy to share the space with livestock of computers, delivery timetables and mugs holding small amounts of coffee that clearly hadn’t been washed for about 3 months. Once settled, three gifts were bestowed on the gathering by three mysterious Magi; Gold(en beer), Frank(conversation), and Mirth.

Right that’s quite enough of that, but I couldn’t resist it. It should already be apparent that our regular journalist Ian is away this week, so the eager understudy has picked up the baton. But nevertheless, please send your complaints to Ian not me.

Before we begin – no WEHomebrew meeting in December. But instead we will drink beer made by local pubs, as a Christmas WEHomebrew outing. Ed identified that TwoFlints have a quiz on December 28th, so we will meet there at 6pm (I think – what time is kick off Ed?). Other halves are welcome, and to assure entry it is good to book, so please let us know if you are interested in joining.

A delightful range of beers this week, although there was a rather blasphemous offering or a Homebrew club, in the offering of a commercial beer, Hobgoblin Gold. It is the Chertsey beer competition this weekend and WEHomebrew have three entries from Ed, Owen and Ken, and the theme this year is a Hobgoblin Gold clone. Sampling the Hobgoblin commercial as the ‘standard’ got the palates on the right wavelength. First up was Ed’s Gluten Free copy. Always trickier as Ed of course can’t follow the recipe and thus adjusts the ingredients for ones that wont make the gluten intolerant wish they’d had a Babycham instead. And the result was rather wonderful, a very good clone, which was golden, clear and effervescent, and in our opinion one would not be able to identify that the ingredients had to be adapted from the competition recipe to fit the bill. This was followed by clones from Owen and Ken. Little to tell between them. Both came up slightly cloudy, which seemed to be a chill haze (came straight out of the garage) we hadn’t identified before, but a very small increase in temperature seems to resolve that very slight blemish on both. Overall, we preferred the Clones to the real thing (well – we would wouldn’t we?). But we did feel the Hobglobin Gold was pleasant enough, but our clones had more depth, and the hop characters came through more, in our opinion. So it is on to the Chertsey competition, we really couldn’t detect much between our three entries ourselves, so onwards we head for for glory, WEHomebrew and St Nicholas.

We them moved on to a Fresh hop offering from Ken, sampled last month (too young) and now ready to drink. A bit of a strange flavour coming through, maybe a bit ‘Band Aid’, but not in a manner that Bob Geldoff would be proud of at this time of year. It is very dark likely due to an inability to perform basic maths, leading to a doubling of the required amount of crystal malt (500g does not equal 8ounces). But Elastoplast flavour we discussed would normally arise from chlorine/cleaner residue, or we discussed perhaps a water quality discrepancy (Thames Water not renowned for great service these days), which is beyond our control. Perhaps the regular proactive use of Camden tablets to negative unknown variations. On then to a pale ale, fresh hop I recall Alistair, which was delicious, bright with a solid head. I drank it with gusto. Also a wonderful cider from Alistair, made with apple juice from the store which worked wonderfully, and a champagne yeast. Nice dry flavour, but it maintained its body through the addition of tea leaves (something I hadn’t heard of before).

Two darker beers followed. A stout from Lee, deliberating coming in at a percentage that wont pickle your liver after half pint, with the Blackforest inspired recipe. Wonderful full head on this, and cocoa nibs coming through nicely on the back of the palate. The patented Owen ‘torch test’ identified a rich ruby colour, which was most pleasing. And finally we concluded with a Baltic Porter, which was like eating a sweet Christmas Pudding, cuddled up to a roaring fire, while outside the snow piles on the doorway. Quite strong as I recall, and slipped down very easily. The patented torch test let no light through whatsoever, a black hole of a beer sucking in all light, and for a short few moments it seemed that the sheer gravity of the Porter would capture a few WEBrewery Corny kegs to rise into Orbit around it.

There was general agreement that we now had a desire to get some darker beers going, and are itching for a stout month, perhaps March if that is OK (request to our Chair). January is Cryohops time, using the packets nicked acquired by Owen previously.

We wrapped up by leaving the stable in the condition that we found it, replacing the crib, and sweeping up the manure from the cattle. We of course mugged the three wise men on our way out, as we were certain that they were holding out on us. Indeed they were, and we liberated two coptic jars, four scarabs, and a packet of cheese and onion crisps, which made us very happy indeed.