Thursday, 18 November 2010

A tasty cake

I said I'd help you create exciting and experimental things with beer, so if you like cake, and beer, then read on.

I was given a bottle of Rohrbachs bottle conditioned beer from work in the hope that I'd stick it in some food and produce something a) tasty and b) saleable. After tasting a little, I decided to take advantage of the gingery tang and carbonation from the conditioning to make an easy peasy cake which traditionally uses milk. I know, I'm not sure what possessed me to do it either but it turned out dead tasty (even though it does have a bit of an odd grey tinge to it!).

It's not vital that you find a beer with a gingery note, although that does help, and a bottle conditioned one isn't essential either. Just make sure you find one which isn't too heavy on the hops or you might get some odd flowery notes which clash with your exotic ingredients, and make sure it's on the sweet rather than bitter side as beers which are already bitter might go really nasty when you cook them! So, I'd recommend selecting a couple and trying them before you stick one in the cake.

Oh and difficulty level is about 2/10, so fairly safe to do after testing your beers, providing you turn the oven off don't burn the house down. Alternatively, in Blue Peter style, find a sober adult to supervise.

Kelham Island beer, ginger, lime and coconut cake

150g butter
170g caster sugar
zest 1 lime
2 eggs
55g crystallised ginger - chopped really small
215g self raising flour
45g dessicated coconut
185ml beer of your choice

180°C for about 50 mins or until a knife comes out clean

  1. Grease a normal 2lb loaf tin, or use one of those brilliant squashy silicone ones
  2. Beat butter, sugar and zest in a bowl with an electric whisk if you've got one
  3. Beat in both eggs, one at a time
  4. Add your beer, just by stirring it in so you don't get rid of all the potential bubbles
  5. Fold in the flour and coconut
  6. Pour into your loaf tin and cook
  7. Enjoy hot with some ice cream or cold
If you make this cake, let me know what you think. In all honesty, we liked it better than the version made with milk because the beer complimented the flavours of ginger and lime, and the texture was all together lighter and more airy. Yummy.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

My first beer review

I'm a newbie when it comes to giving reviews of beer, and I'm a huge fan of matching beer with food so see what you think of this honest but hopefully informative review...

I thought I'd share my opinion on this ale as its a really scrummy warming one for autumn which leaves you satisfied but doesn't sit too heavy.

Goliath, Wychwood brewery (500ml bottle only)

ABV: 4.2%
Colour: Ruby
Food pairing: I recon something gamey or rich like a good piece of lamb, duck, or venison. Alternatively something more standard like a beef stew.

The aroma is predominantly of fairly sweet, light malt tones with no strong hop aroma.

This beer has a satisfying mouth feel; it's full bodied but easy drinking with light carbonation on the tongue. The description claims that this beer is a thirst quencher, leading me to expect a lighter beer, but I think the feel matches taste well.

Autumnal notes power through on tasting, with a hit of dark berry fruit. A light bitterness is paired with this fruit to start, but both flavour notes mellows out to leave gentle undertones of hop bitterness balanced with malt.

The aftertaste is a little dry but not astringent as the bitterness doesn't linger.

The combination of fruits, malt and texture work well, particularly as there is no over powering hop bitterness. This ale is a brilliant autumnal drink which leaves you with a cosy feeling of satiety, however I'm not sure how much of this 'thirst quencher' I could drink on a hot summers day.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Skimming over the subject

So at the most simple scientific level, brewing is when sugars from malted grains, mainly barley, are used by yeast to grow giving alcohol as a tasty byproduct. Yeast also makes lots of other stuff in this process which gives beer many of its distinctive flavours. When we brew beer, the healthy yeast sticks together in Carbon dioxide bubbles on the top to make a thick foamy layer.

Fermentation has to be monitored all the time - we want to measure how much of the sugar is turned to alcohol to give your ABV (alcohol by volume, i.e percent!) and this must be consistent. When enough alcohol has been produced, the brewers have to take off as much of the healthy yeast as possible to stop it fermenting too much further. This process is call skimming and it makes my arms hurt an awful lot.

Skimming the yeast usually takes me anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes depending on how much there is - sometimes it's a layer only 3 inches deep, sometimes its over a foot! No matter how long it takes I'm always covered in the stuff, I think yeast must love me a bit. I think its because I sort of lean in to the fermenting vessel to reach it all, although I'm getting better at it now.

This leads me, in rather a tenuous but I think timely manner, to talk about one of the differences between lager and ale styles of beer. The ingredients and processes of making the two styles are quite different, and whist it's a minor factor this does includes our tiny friend - the yeast.

In a very basic explanation, lager is brewed at cold temperatures, a practise originating from cave and underground fermentation processes back in the day. The strain of yeast which thrives at these temperatues, about 10°C, lives at the bottom of the fermenting vessel (ale is at the top, remember?) and it can break down more sugars than ale yeast strains, turning these to alcohol and leaving the lager with less natural sweetness. Ales are fermented at about 18 - 24°C which is optimum for the yeast which floats on the top and ferments fewer of the sugars extracted from the barley.

For all you uber science geeks out there, ale brewers yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae while lager yeast is Saccharomyces carlsbergenesis. It is a diploid eukaryote that reproduces by budding which you can see on this lovely artifically coloured electron micograph. Every time yeast is skimmed from the beer we save it in sterile buckets in the fridge (yes, just like the Bosch one at home) and re-pitch this into the next brew. This makes sure that we're always using the same strain to give a consistent product. Breweries sometimes swap their yeast strains to experiment or brew similar recipes.

And here endeth the lesson for today. Any questions, please raise your hand/comment on here.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Proud of our Pale

Nottingham city centre had a visit from the Kelham Island team this week, an evening which turned out to be not only enjoyable but fruitful too. Tuesday night was the evening of Castle Rock's annual awards, held in the stunning Canal House pub which is in fact sat over the canal with real life I-kid-you-not canal boat access. Definitely a unique and quite astonishing pub feature which outdoes the odd quirky bar/fireplace/cellar.

Pale Rider is Kelham Island's 'Champion beer of Britain', officially crowned so in 2004, and celebrated through many awards since. This strong (at 5.2%ABV) pale ale is packed full of vibrant flavours, with a strong fruit hop aroma and lingering but well balanced bitterness from North American hops. This beer is a popular choice for a guest ale across the midlands and North of England, and has been featured in beer festivals nation-wide.

Castle Rock awards are voted on by the consumers, not critics, beer writers, publicans, or anyone else in the beer industry. These awards are a true measure of a beer, awarding only the single product and nothing else. We were really chuffed to be awarded first prize for 'Beer of the Year' in Castle Rock pubs for exactly these reasons.

Dave Wickett (right), owner and founder of the 20 year old brewery, proudly stepped up to collect the award from Castle Rock's Managing Director, Chris Holmes (left).

Whilst Iain (head brewer), Stuart (sales giant - quite literally) and I, were heading to Nottingham, we made the most of the day. In an attempt to get our beer in to more Nottingham pubs, we went on a sales drive in our finery. Well, I was in my finery but the less said about other two the better.

We managed to hit five pubs, one of which I would definitely recommend for a visit - the Hand and Heart.This is a lovely pub built in the caves of Nottingham. It has a quaint, antique feel which immediately welcomes you in. One aspect we loved was that you could walk in to the cosy bar area and have a drink just soaking up the atmosphere, or you could venture into the caves for what looks like a delicious meal in an unusual but intimate restaurant. There were three ciders and at least 4 ales on the bar with a range of wines too. All in all, a golden find in Nottingham and well worth a try.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

And in the beginning was the word...

"Brewster is not a real word"
"Yes it is"
"No it's not, you've made that up"
"No, really, it is. When beer became a common drink in England it was originally brewed by women at home and in monastaries by monks. The name for a woman who brewed beer is a brewster."

This was the first conversation I had with my friend when I said I wanted to become a brewster.

I have always loved drinking real ale, trying, comparing, and getting excited about beer in the same way that chefs get excited about food. I studied Molecular Biology at the University of Sheffield and as I progressed through my three year degree I found myself wanting to understand brewing science. The natural process of brewing beer is an interesting and complex science, yet at the same time an art which you cannot learn. I wanted to brew.

So, after deciding that brewing was the perfect way to fuel a passion, use my science, and develop an exciting career, I managed to land a dream job as a brewer at the award winning Kelham Island Brewery.

Just so you know, whilst 'brewster' is the correct term for a female in my profession, I like brewer better because I don't think I'm any better or worse than a chap just becase I'm anatomically different.