Saturday, 30 April 2011

Young George

I have discovered that there are a number of avid real ale followers at Welbeck, notably a certain Mark Allen who seems to be rather good at home brew. Or just very lucky, as he's had a 'range' of results, should we say.

His very first (and fabled as his finest) is called Young George, aptly named in honour of his son. It's 4.3% ABV and has been conditioning in the bottle for 3 months.

There is bucket loads of crystal malt in this multi faceted beer, which gives it an incredibly vibrant colour - auburn is the best word I can find to describe it. This beer is crystal clear when poured, with a small but tight head which is maintained throughout drinking.

I love crystal malt, it smells gorgeous when you handle it. Lke a big bowl of that dark biscuity, sweet brown crystalised sugar that posh people put in their coffee. It gives a distincitive flavour in beers which really comes through in 'Young George' - a sweet but not sickly toffee/caramel flavour.

Conditioning this beer for several months has developed the flavours incredibly. They're carried on your palet in a full bodied, gently carbonated mouthful.

The initial taste is of subtle but sweet caramel, which then mellows to biscuits and eventually fades to give way to a very gentle, soft bitterness. This bitterness leaves a crisp but not sharp or lingering hoppy tang on the tongue. Then you want more an more of this refreshingly easy drinking, but incredibly complex beer.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Dinner at the Abbey

When you're invited for dinner at someones house, it's usually by a fairly good friend, and quite a casual affair. I went for dinner at Welbeck Abbey on Friday which was far from casual in my books.

Darina Allen came to the School of Artisan Food to give an evening talk. Her husband Tim, and food writer and critic Matthew Fort also came to Welbeck for the evening. So the plan (which I was unaware of) was for the three of them to come to dinner at the Abbey with William and Alison (who own it) and two other people from the School and dairy. And me.

I turned up to the front door of the Abbey and walked into the reception room, which was wood panelled with carvings, antique furniture, and shelves full with books which must have been hundreds of years old. There were huge paintings on the walls, and an enormous fireplace with the family crest about 6 foot square carved above it. Think Chatsworth, think Hogwarts, think Buckingham flippin palace. I almost had to pinch myself.

Anyway, so we had a four course meal with beer and wine, followed by lemoncello made with lemons from their garden (cool hey?). The atmosphere was so relaxed it was quite surreal. I was having dinner in a stately home with two celebrities and yet the atmosphere was so chilled we could have been sat in my rather more modest living room having the same evening.

Bizarre. I'm not quite sure how, but I've really managed to land on my feet with this job. Alison and William are so normal and lovely, and I felt really quite chuffed to be invited to dinner.

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know. Back to the real world and brewing.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Not just the proverbial...

At Kelham Island Brewery we hold brewery tours. Just the same as most other breweries in the country have tours, open days and a whole plethora of other events to try and boost their 'consumer awareness and brand recognition', to put the poncy label on it. Basically, we want people to meet us and in the future order our beer over anyone else's because they've been to the brewery and have that lucrative 'inside knowledge'.

Generally speaking, I love brewing, beer, and people. Especially people who also love beer. This means that brewery tours are great fun - I get to talk about beer and brewing to new people outside of the usual bods I see day in day out. When I started doing the tours at Kelham, I knew that there would be people who were more interested in brewing that others, and some people who literally just wanted a piss up in a brewery, but I think I may have been wrong.

I have discovered there are two types of brewery visitors which are poles apart - either they are fascinated by brewing to the point that they try and ask awkward questions to catch us out, or they couldn't give a monkeys and just get trolleyed. There is very little scope in between for people who are just-a-little-interested-and-would-also-like-to-get-a-bit-tiddly-on-beer.

So when I'm doing a tour I know it's either going to be AMAZING, with lots of interested people who ask mostly good questions, or it's going to be horrid, with a bunch of piss heads who just want the beer.

The staff at Heely City Farm came on a tour which I hosted last week, and they were brilliant! I spent about 40 minutes going through the brewing process with them, and they asked lots and lots of questions which prompted more jabbering from me. I did apologise for the babbling about everything remotely related to brewing, but apparently it was 'informative'..... Most excellent. On the up side again, they're going to come and take some of our spent hops for their compost heap. Hops make brilliant compost (if you didn't know) and us brewers just want to get shot of them, so I'd definitely recommend popping down to your local micro brewery and asking for some.

Mary Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row
Or maybe she used compostable hops which would actually work.