The meeting started with me drying out after an ill conceived idea to cycle in through the pouring rain. It also highlighted my poor memory when Ed walked in with 25kg of floor malted Maris otter that he had gotten by mistake. He’d very kindly offered to divvy it up to anyone who wanted some and everyone was very happy to receive it. It also gave us the opportunity to see an “ancient” Chinese grain scoop, which Alistair brought to fill a bucket. The grain scoop was a simple design, but it worked perfectly.
We had seven beers tonight – a great haul – and with no theme a real mix of styles. First up was Alan’s raspberry saison rebrewed. It was a great fruity, zingy, and mouthwatering summer drink. The saison characteristics were less pronounced than in the previous version of the beer, which led to some discussion about whether under- pitching yeast can give saison flavors. Maybe stressing the yeast a little increases the esters and phenols that give the beer it’s funky flavours?
The second beer was a beautiful Citra-based APA. The hops exploded with citrus aromas, and the beer was really bright. It was made with Kviek Oslo yeast, which demonstrated how simple good beer can be in terms of recipe. It also led to general agreement that 14C is the optimum temperature to dry hop at if you can control temperature.
Number three was a Red Rye ale that the group christened “Dishwater!” It was very murky looking, but it tasted good. This led to a discussion about the use of finings to clear beers. The group discussed everything from simple use of gelatine sheets to two-stage professional fining systems.
Next up was a textbook example of an ESB. The caramel and toffee flavors were balanced well against the bitterness of EKG hops. There were yeasty fruity notes that made me wonder if the beer was stronger, could it even transform to a Belgian dubbel with a slight recipe tweak?
The fifth beer was a surprise: a Squid stout (actually made with cuttlefish ink because it’s brown not blue). The beer still needed more colour to get into stout territory, so the group discussed some viable non-gluten options that could be used; Treacle, Mollasses and Candi sugar. The aroma however was pure marmite – really meaty. This is usually from yeast autolysis, but this was a young beer so maybe not. Maybe it’s the meaty taste of the deep sea ingredients?
Google tells me (as I knew nothing of it) that squid ink is a dark ink produced by squid as a defense mechanism. It is used in a variety of dishes, including pasta, rice, and sauces. It has a unique dark color and rich, savory flavor – this could explain things. Squid ink contains many unique compounds, including melanin, and has a variety of uses, including culinary ones.
The sixth beer was a surprising Dunkle bock that last month was very bland and nothingy. Six weeks in a keg had transformed this into a dark sweet desert beer! The group had no idea how this had changed so much? I have however worked out exactly what’s happened. My keg fridge is temperature controlled by an Inkbird and set at 6C. That’s what the display reads now. However I opened up the lid tonight to find it full of ice and the colling running. The temperature sensor was iced up and still reading 6C. I think what’s happened is the water in the beer has frozen and we were drinking the high alcohol remnants. An inadvertent EisBock. I’ve no idea what strength it is but think I’ll bottle the rest of the keg! I’ve also a second keg in there with a Brewdog Elvis Juice clone in it. I’ll get a bottle of that as well for us to try next month.
The final beer of the night was a beer that the group had been worried about – an entry to the Chertsey brew competition that had been called “undrinkable.” But it wasn’t! It was a good pale ale – British hops coming through nicely and clean and bright. The thinking was it could have been too young, too green at the competition and had conditioned nicely. In brewing, time is your friend.
All in all, it was a really strong month in terms of beer quality. Next month – April – is the SMaSH theme – may well be some Maris otter beers there. In June we agreed a theme of Summer Lovin’ – light refreshing beers for drinking in a pub garden or at a hot BBQ – Alan’s saison is a prime candidate for this.