Friday, 31 July 2009

Lager boomers (part two)

Now it's time for the lagers from the emerging national brewers. At least I recognise most of the names. They adorned the garish fonts I ignored in my beer drinking youth.

That reminds me of something. I'm pretty sure I've never tasted Carling Black Label. Nor British-brewed Skol. Nor McEwan's Lager. Not even Tennent's. What a sheltered life I've led. I may have missed out on an unforgetable taste sensation that could have transformed my life. But I doubt it.

At least most of these were bottom-fermented. I think. Barclay Perkins and Red Tower were, for certain. Tennents probably was, too. Carling, Skol and McEwan's likewise. Tennants might actually be a mistake and mean Tennents. So proper Lagers, in one sense at least.

Like I said, these are the beers that were relentlessly pushed during my youth and early adulthood. Yet how many remain? Black Label, Tennent's and McEwan's. The rest are down in hell with Watney's.

OK, time to look at the beers. Sorry, the Lagers.

These are on average a bit weaker than the regional breweries' Lagers. Most have gravities similar to a Mild of the period. Though the high degree of attenuation makes the ABV higher than for most Milds.

I'm not quite finished yet. I haven't covered the imported Lagers yet. What a fascinating tale they have to tell. But you'll have to wait until later to hear it.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Lager boomers (part one)

I've finally got all through the Sundry Brewers section of the Whitbread Gravity Book. It contains exactly 1,200 beers. Now what to do with all that info? You know what? It's the Summer of Lager. So Lager's where I'll start.

Once I wouldn't have been interested in the lager entries at all. Not "proper" British beer. Not even proper beer at all. But I'm not the bigot I was. Discovering that virtually no-one else had ever bothered to seriously look at the history of British lager-brewing was all the encouragement I needed.

The period covered by these analyses is exactly when Lager was beginning its move from the periphery of Britain's beer culture to the mainstream. Why else would relatively small concerns like Hall & Woodhouse, Tolly Cobbold and Lacons have been brewing a Lager?

What were later to become the major Lager brands were already knocking about - as we will see tomorrow - but they didn't dominate. The tied house system so to that. There were still hundred of smaller breweries, each jealously guarding the beer supply to their pubs. And the national concerns were just in the process of coalescing.

What the Gravity Book doesn't tell us is how these Lagers were brewed. Given the size of the breweries, I doubt many (or perhaps any) were bottom-fermented. As for decoction mashing, well they wouldn't have the equipment to do it. Not unless, like Barclay Perkins, they'd built a brewhouse specifically for that purpose.

What can we say about these beers? There's quite a big spread in gravities, ranging from 1032 to 1045. Most are around the same as standard draught Bitter or Mild. Which is interesting. By the 1970's, most Lagers barely scraped over 1030. With the exception of Flowers, all are pretty well attenuated.

Tomorrow it's the turn of the national brewers' efforts. Won't that be fun.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Let's brew Wednesday - Fullers 1962 ELP, LP, PA, LA

You're so lucky. After today you'll have almost a full set of Fuller's beers from 1962.

If you were paying attention last week, you may remember that I said Fullers only really had three brews in 1962. One for Nourishing Stout, a second for all the other dark beer (Old Harry, Hock, OBE) and a third for all the Pale Ales. It's the last one we'll be looking at today. Though it does have one beer missing - Golden Pride. Sorry about that.

Party-gyling is one of the defining traits of British brewing over the past 150 years. And, it case you weren't listening all the other times I've said this, it isn't about making a single beer from each running. It's about combining two or three worts to make beers of different gravities.

Why party-gyle? For efficiency, simple as that. It's a good way of using as much of the fermentable materials in the mash as possible. And making efficient use of the equipment. It allowed a brewer like Fullers to make beers that wouldn't have been economic if they'd been made separately. By party-gyling, they were able to use the full capacity of the mash tun every time they brewed.

Like all beers that have been brewed for any length of time, the recipe of London Pride has gone through many incarnations. The one brewed today is quite different from this 1962 version. Particularly in terms of adjuncts. I'm pretty sure Fullers no longer use maize.

Good luck with this one. If you want to be authentic and party-gyle. This is the most complex recipe we've published so far. Oh, and you can mix and match any of the four beers. In the brewing logs they appear in all possible combinations: LP and PA; ELP, LP and LA; etc, etc.

Time for Kristen to take control . . . . .

Fullers 1962 ELP, LP, PA, LA

Sweet Sally in the Alley this took some work. It looks complex but its no more so that the gyle system last week. There are 4 different beers this type and a 3rd gyle to monkey with. I've broken the beers down into each of the 4 beers to brew individually. I've also broken things
down as the proper gyle into the 1st gyle and 2nd gyle which is different than before. Its basically how the beers stack up if you did them separated...then you just gotta blend them back. Someone owes me a bloody pint or 9...

Lets just get cracking...

Grist and such
Lots of adjunct here upwards near 25%. A touch of crystal, some invert sugars and 15% Flaked Maize which will definitely give a corny flavor. As for the sugar, if you have to choose one sugar, do the No2.

Same as last week, very straightforward mash and as always make sure your hot liquor has a pH around 5.4-5.6.

This recipe is march 1962 and the hops are 1961. Can't get much more fresh than this. The logs indicate that the hops are broken down per gyle by lbs per quarter. It is missing any details about dry hopping which I'm certain they did and in differing amounts for each beer. The IBU's tend to go up as the gravities go down which finishing even drier would make the beer seem more bitter than it actually is. John might be able to shine a bit more light on this. I would monkey with differing amounts of dry hops (if any) as well as different types.

Gyle breakdown and blending
I've done all th work for you. The first gyle has none of the sugars in them, just the mash. The second will have an OG from the runnings of the 1st mash of about 1.004. With all the sugars added in it will be around 1.010. This low gravity and a higher volume than the first gyle
ensures that this gyle is quite bitter at 45bu or so. The 3rd gyle would be the mash return but for us using treated liquor, or water in a pinch, is completely fine.

Gyle mashing
This is very simple. One mashes and then sparges the mash to get the volume of the first pre-boil wort based on their systems boil-off percentage. One then continues to sparge the same mash until the second wort is collected using the same parameters as the first.

Tasting notes
Sorry boys. This is one of the only ones I havent brewed. Ron got it to me Tuesday afternoon but as soon as I get a chance, I'll do it and add my tasting notes back.

I'm tempted to get Kristen to do Fullers 1962 Nourishing Stout next week. Then you'll have the full set. What do you reckon?

Boring beer

I read lots of complaints about boring beer. Especially in regard to the GBBF. But what is boring beer?

Of course, it's a very subjective thing, boredom. What bores the pants, jacket, scarf, tie, shirt, hat, underwear, shoes, toupee, incontinence pads and socks off me might set your heart racing like a speed freak in a ferrari. For some, boring beer is anything you can get hold of easily. Stuff you don't have to sell your children into slavery to pay for, travel to Timbuktu to fetch or sleep on a pavement three months queueing for.

My perspective is different. I happily drank little but Tetley's Mild for almost for seven years. Living in Leeds, finding a pub without it was a challenge. Now I rarely stray from the holy trinity of St. Bernardus 6, 8 and 12 when drinking at home. Beers I really like never get dull.

If neither ubiquity nor ease of purchase set me yawning, what does? That's trickier to put my finger on. Lack of subtlety? Perhaps. But that's not quite it . . .

I need to have a think.

Shit. That was the last bottle of Abt.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Fullers Pride

I'll be eternally grateful to John Keeling and Derek Prentice of Fullers. Something I didn't notice while I was being shown around the brewery. And left with their brewing records.

Occasionally a beer in logs reaches out and touches me. Russian Stout, obviously. Whitbread Mild. Whitbread Stout (you can still get a beer called that in Belgium). But none of those are still brewed. Apart from the Belgian one.

I'd hoped to find the Truman's logs from the 1980's, but was disappointed. Typically, it was just before they closed that Truman's suddenly took cask beer seriously and produced a Mild, Bitter, Best Bitter, Strong Bitter range. I liked all of them. But they don't have those years at the London Metropolitan Archives.

I'm very slow sometimes. London Pride was always my first choice in London. Unless they by some weird chance had Hock. (Have I told you this story before? Just tell me if I have. I don't want to go boring grandad on you.) Fate drew me towards the George & Vulture for two different reasons (hello Piers, if you're out there, it was just a joke, man, I was dead chuffed to see you after all those years). One was Piers. The other the arms factory. (I have told you this before, haven't I?)

LP, the brewhouse name for London Pride was all over the postwar logs. Often party-gyled with my favourite, ELP. I slurped down a stack of LP in the Sad Time (when I lived in London). Late 70's, so just a decade later than the last logs I've seen. Hock was great, when in good condition. Which, sadly, it often wasn't. That's in the logs, too, as X.

That's two Fullers beers, then. Seen in logs and drunk. Tonight time for number three. Something that was party-gyled with London Pride. Golden Pride. I'd really not tried it before about 20 minutes ago. I quite like it.

You don't want to read one of my shitty descriptions of how in tastes. Like concentrated London Pride. Nice. Exactly what I want to drink before eating my tea. (Ask Jeff to translate, if you don't understand what that means.)

Everything stops for tea.

Monday, 27 July 2009

I'm so excited

And I just can't hide it. Only three days to go. "Only three days until what?" Until I go to Franconia.

Five days of chilling in shady beer gardens, swilling lovely lager. And the Annafest, too. I've been twice before, but just the thought of it still gets me all jumpy.

I'm not sure if I'll have wifi access at all. If I don't, you'll have to make do with pre-written posts for a few days.

Feel free to come up to me if you spot me at the Annafest. Not that I'll be giving out spot prizes. To make things easier, I'll be wearing some of my own tacky merchandise. "Shut up about your Barclay Perkins." That's the codeword. Code phrase. You know what I mean.


I knew writing all those pubs guides for German towns would come in handy one day. Saturday I got to use the Osnabrück guide.

The attempts by NS to relieve congestion at Amsterdam Centraal have turned out very well for us. There are now trains to Germany from Amsterdam Zuid, a station just 10 minutes away by bus. One of the destinations is Osnabrück.

It's a town I've been through literally dozens of times. I've even changed trains there once or twice. Saturday was the first time I'd made it beyond the station. My plan was simple: food, beer. As we arrived at noon, we headed straight for lunch.

Teenage traits are becoming apparent in Andrew, even though he doesn't turn 13 until next month. He was moaning about the walk even before we'd left the station forecourt. It didn't take more than 15 minutes to reach Gaststätte Holling, but to hear him complain you'd have thought we were part of the Grande Armée retreating from Moscow.

There are many reasons I love Germany. The service kids get in pubs is one of them. Not beer, you dummy. Food. They have special kids meals at stupidly cheap prices. Or they'll put together something that isn't on the menu. That's what happened at Holling. Schnitzel and chips for just 7.50 euros. (On the beer front, I had a Kusovice Dark - 10º, I think - and an Osnabrücker Pils. I'm sure you wanted to know that.)

Andrew spent most of the meal whinging. Lexie spoke non-stop about Michael Jackson. "I met him a couple of times.", I tell Lexie. "Really? Michael Jackson the King of Pop?" "Dad means the beer bloke not Mr. Plastic Surgery." Andrew chipped in. "He was the King of Pop, honestly, Lexie." I neglect to mention I'm using the word "pop" in a slang sense.

We had a bit of a postprandial stroll through the market (very nice). And looked at the Rathaus. Then I let the family go off shopping while I did some research. OK, while I went boozing. Research, boozing. Same thing for me.

My Osnabrück guide is pretty thin. So any new pubs I could find would be a bonus. Marktschänke looked promising when we walked past. I went back to check in out. If I had to describe the interior in two words it would be rustic kitsch. There's a tiled roof over the bar. That should tell you enough. It must have looked shit when new, but the time has mellowed it. The fake beams now look pleasantly distressed.

Marktschänke has four draught beers. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier, Diebels Alt, Staropramen Dark and Gilde Ratskeller Pils. I gave the Diebels a try. Yup, still doing a good impression of keg Bitter. There was footie on the telly. Braunschweing vs Osnabrück. It was the middle of July. There shouldn't be any footie for ages. Two or three weeks, at least.

Next stop was Hausbrauerei Rampendahl, the city's only brewery. I don't get overly excited about German brewpubs. Very few have impressed me with their beer. Inside, it's a bit soulless. Looks like a chain restaurant. The brewery is cool, though, nestling between the front and back rooms. It's like a miniature Bavarian brewery. They even have a grand. (What is the English word for grand?)

The Dunkles wasn't anything special. Then I noticed they distilled. My korn came with a slice of salami on top of it. Never seen that before. It was much better than the beer. The korn, not the salami. Though the salami wasn't bad, either.

I shouldn't have sat next to Andrew on the train back. He looked at me funny when I opened the first Köstritzer. After I reached for the second he said "Dad, don't drink any more beer." It was like a scene from one of those temperance posters. "No more, dad." I hadn't even got my hand in the bag this time. I ignored him and drank the third bottle anyway. I ask you, on a 3 hour train journey, is drinking three beers so unreasonable?

Markt 20,
49074 Osnabrück.
Tel: +49 541 22387

Hausbrauerei Rampendahl
Hasestrasse 35,
49074 Osnabrück.
Tel: 0541 - 24535

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Lager boom

Like I said a couple of days ago, I've been revisiting the Whitbread Gravity Book (part two). Just thought I'd share a couple of observations with you.

I'm on the section entitled "Sundry Brewers". It has bottled beers from all over the country. But not just random ones. There are clear patterns. Some pages have nothing but Stouts. Usually sweet Stouts. That it's often noted whether they contain lactose, sort of gives the game away. Why were Whitbread so interested in sweet Stouts? Because a big part of their business was Mackeson. They were keeping an eye on the competition.

Something interesting happens around 1960. Suddenly there are pages full of Lagers. Imported Lagers, big brands like Barclays, Skol and Black Label. That's no surprise. But then there are things like Lacon's Lager, Hall & Woodhouse Brock Lager, Tolly Cobbold Kroner Lager, Eldridge Pope's König Pilsener Lager.

This tells me a couple of things. Firstly, that Whitbread were getting interested in the Lager market. Secondly, that many quite small regional breweries were making Lagers. It's the start of the lager boom. I wonder when it will end?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pub closures (part two)

How many pubs are really closing in Britain? The British Beer and Pub Association reckons 42 a week.

If 52 pubs are closing a week, that means 2,704 will close their doors forever in 2009. It'll be easy to check. The BBPA's own Statistical Handbook publishes the number of pub licences. We just have to wait 18 months or so. For the 2011 edition. And compare the number of licences in 2009 and 2010.

Assuming I can remember to check in 2011, I'm starting a sweepstake. Guess the number of pubs that close in 2009. Again, assuming I remember, there will be a prize of some sort for whoever gets closest. Probably some of my tacky merchandise.

I'll kick off with 1,237. What do you reckon?

Friday, 24 July 2009


I've been revisiting the Whitbread Gravity Book part two. At least 50% I haven't transcribed yet.
I told you it was an amazing resource.

It wasn't too hard finding where I had got to. And when I did, I remembered why I stopped there. Blurry page. And bad handwriting. No wonder I hadn't fancy it. I almost skipped it, until I noticed a Lacon's Audit Ale. I wasn't going to miss that.

In the end, there weren't as many question marks in my spreadsheet as I had feared. Only three brewery names and seven beer names I couldn't work out. See if you can do any better. An image of the page is to your right. Lines 2, 4 and 21 contain the brewery names I was unable to decypher.

And, if you're watching Jeffo, three quarters of the way down the page Gold Label puts in an appearance. The bastards have knocked down its strength of late. The 1958 version was 10.5% ABV.

I suppose I should explain the title, shouldn't I? I was getting to that. You're an impatient bunch. Never heard of trying to build tension? I thought not.

My real reason for returning to the Whitbread Gravity Book is something we've discussed recently. C Ale. I'm still hoping to find one. There are plenty of Groves & Whitnall entries. Unfortunately, all for Red Rose Stout. But I live in hope.

Brown Ale. It's surprising how many breweries made more than one in the 1950's. Whitbread had Double Brown and Forest Brown. Fullers had Brown Ale and Old Harry. A weak one and a strong one. Ansells had two as well. Nut Brown Ale and Bruno Sweet Brown Ale.

As you can see, there's a huge difference in the colour and attenuation of the two beers. Perhaps, as a Midlands brewery they were compromising and brewing both a Northern and a Southern type of Brown Ale.

Though, hang on, the Nut Brown isn't strong enough to be a Northern type. Maybe I've found a new sort of Brown Ale. A Midland Brown Ale. I should trademark that sharpish before someone steals the name.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A 19th century scam

Here's a bit of light relief I stumbled across. It seems elaborate scams are nothing new.

On Tuesday morning last, Mr. Ashcroft, proprietor of the Sportsman public-house, Margaret Street, Haggerstone, received a letter purporting to come from his brewers', Messrs. Charrington, Head & Co., Mile End Road, and requesting his attendance there without delay. Without losing a moment, Mr. Ashcroft hurried off, but had not gone many minutes, when two men of gentlemanly appearance drove up to the door in a pony-chaise, and, having hastily alighted, inquired for the landlord, saying they had come express from the brewery for him, where he was anxiously expected upon business of great urgency. Mrs. Ashcroft told them her husband had just gone to the brewery, on which they expressed some disappointment at missing him, but having, as they said, a great deal of business to do in the course of the day, requested they be accomodated with a pen and ink in the bar-parlour, wanting, as they said, to run over and arrange a few pricvate transactions. They were accordingly accommodated; and, having been served with some brandy and water, proceeded to business. After a short tie a third person, supposed to be in the confederacy, came to the bar and called for a glass of ale, tendering a sovereign in payment. Mrs. Ashcroft went into the bar-parlour and opened a drawer, from which she took the change, depositing the sovereign. The man at the bar hurrying her at the time by calling out that he was in haste to fulfil an engagement of importance. Anxious to oblige him she hurried out, leaving the key in the drawer, and whilst hunting the change her back was to the bar-parlour. The bustle and the arrival of other customers drove all thoughts of the key out of her memory. In a very short time afterwards the two gentlemen came out of the parlour, wished Mrs. Ashcroft good day, and expressing a hope that her husband had not neglected to call at the brewery, re-mounted the chaise and drove off. Scarcely had they gone when a sudden misgiving flashed across Mrs. Ashcroft's mind. She hurried immediately into the parlour, where she found her fears verified, the drawer being locked and the key gone. She instantly had the drawer broken open, and found that 30 pounds in gold and 12 pounds in silver had been abstracted. In some time afterwards Mr. Ashcroft returned and was remarking to his wife the unaccountableness of the note purporting to come from the brewery, where, on his arrival, he was told that no communication had been forwarded to him by any one connected with the establishment, when the mystery received its solution, as she related to him what had occurred immediately after he left. The men can be easily identified. They are both about five feet seven inches high, and were dressed in black. One of them seemed about forty years of age, and rather stout, the other somewhat younger, and more slender. The pony was a bright bay, very spirited, and the black harness appeared to be almost new."
Daily News, Saturday, May 3rd, 1851, page 6.

I'm surprised at how sure they are of identifying the two men. Five feet seven inches and dressed in black doesn't seem like much to go on to me.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Let's brew Wednesday - Fullers 1962 OH, X

This Wednesday there's a special treat. A master class in party-gyling. Think you understand party-gyling? Well think again. Here's a clue: it isn't making a different beer out of each running.

The two beers are OH (Old Harry) and X (Mild). Or H, standing for Hock. Fullers were a bit inconsistent, sometimes calling their Mild X and at others H. Though it's now only occasionally brewed, it's the Fullers beer with the longest pedigree, stretching all the way back to the 19th century.

What type of beer was Old Harry? According to the label, an "Extra Brown Ale". (Note that the recipe boasts neither roasted malts nor lashings of hops.) In reality, it's a type of strong Mild.

In this period, Fullers only really had three brews. One was just for their Stout. A second was for all their other dark beers: Strong Ale, Old Burton Extra, Old Harry and X. The last was for all the Bitters: ELP (Export London Pride), LP (London Pride), PA (Bitter) and LA (Light Ale).

Now it's time for Kristen to take control . . . .

Fullers 1962 OH, X
Ok boys, its not Wednesday....Lets Brew Wednesdays are supposed to be on said Wednesday. yes yes I know. Well you are in for a treat. Today I've done a gyle set from the Fullers logs. Its even more special b/c a lot of you older gits were still alive then. Its the OH-X from 1962. This one is a bit more complex as there are mixtures of worts and different amounts of sugars and hops that go into each based on the volume of each. I've broken it down two ways. The straight recipe for the OH and X just making it as a regular beer for you lazy bones. Then as the gyle for both beers for you overachievers.

Grist and such
Wow...9 different ingredients...must be for all the complexity! :) Basically there are 4 different pale malts used and one 6-row for the base malts. Feel free and get creative with the 4 base malts. Mix and match at will. If you want to be lazy and only use one, fine. The 6-row only makes up about 4% of the grist so you if can't find it, this is one recipe that I wouldn't go crazy over not having. The adjuncts make up about 21% of this recipe which is a pretty good amount but not totally overpowering. 10% flaked maize you will definitely get some of that maizy flavor and not just the fermentables. They use 3 different types of sugars across the spectrum of colors. If you have to choose just one sugar I would do the No2 but in a pinch I guess some golden syrup could sub in.

Very straightforward mash. Nothing fancy or complex. Remember that if you are going to do this by the gyle method make sure your hot liquor has a pH around 5.4-5.6. This will ensure you don't pull out any tannic astringency.

Hops are very fresh being about 9 months old. Goldings would do very nicely here but Brewers Gold, Fuggles, etc. Anything that you really like would be fine. There arent a whole lot of hops anyway. I would also dry hop this will probably 1/4oz per 5gal/19L (1oz per bbl/hl).

Gyle breakdown
This is where it can get tricky. Its actually very simple so pay attention. The entire premise to is make two different worts and blend them at different ratios to get the different beers. Each will have a different OG and BU count based on the hop additions. I chose this one as its actually very simple b/c the wort volumes are almost identical so it makes your life easier.

Gyle mashing
This is very simple. One mashes and then sparges the mash to get the volume of the first pre-boil wort based on their systems boil-off percentage. One then continues to sparge the same mash until the second wort is collected using the same parameters as the first.

Gyle worts
This is the heart and soul of gyling. 99% of people don't understand this b/c of all the incorrect blather written on the subject. At this point we treat the different worts as individual beers ONLY until they are boiled. Each are boiled for the indicated amount of time. For this OH-X wort #1 is boiled for 1.5 hours and wort #2 is boiled for 1.25 hours. Most people end here. THIS IS WRONG!!!! The most important step is blending these worts to make the specific beers. I don't know of anyone that does this better than John Keeling at Fullers. Now if he could get the Chiswick to me in Minnesota I would be in heaven! Chop chop John!

Gyle additions
Hops are usually added to each wort based on the lbs/bbl of the total hop lb/ bbl ratio. For this beer the lb/bbl is about 0.58lb which is quite low. As I said before, our beer has equal amounts in both worts so they would get equal amounts of hops. Other beers the ratio in volume can be as high as 1:4 and the hops would get divided this way. Remember also that the lower gravity the wort the more utilization one gets from the hops making them usually quite a bit more bitter. Sugars are added in the same way. Sometimes all go into wort #1, other times they are split. For the OH-X all sugars EXCEPT the No3 goes into wort #1. The No3 is split in half as is called for in the logs.

Gyle blending
This is a straight dilution which would be easy to calculate but you don't have to since the logs do it for you. Ive included a specific breakdown of the different blends. Just for your information, here's an example of the breakdown and the simple calculations involved. Lets use the craft beer 10bbl example shall we?

10bbl Craft beer
Wort 1 = 10bbl @ 1.060
Wort 2 = 10bbl @ 1.009

Blending for OH:
1.6bbl Wort 1
0.42bbl Wort 2
(1.6bbl*60OG + 0.42bbl*9OG)/2.03bbl = ~1.048
(1.6bbl*18bu + 0.42bbl*24bu)/2.03bbl = ~19bu
2.27bbl OH @ 1.048 & 19bu

Blending for X:
8.4bbl Wort 1
9.57bbl Wort 2
(8.4bbl*60bbl + 9.57bbl*9OG)/17.97bbl = ~1.033
(8.4bbl*18bu + 9.57bbl*24bu)/17.97bbl = ~21bu
17.97bbl H @ 1.033 & 21bu

After blending they are fermented separately as their one beers, OH and X.

Tasting Notes
OH - Bready malt. Lady fingers. Light fruit of apples, pears and apricots. Hints of toffee and light caramel. Rich finish for the low gravity.
H - Mostly the same as above. A touch more bitterness and hop character. Seems to be easier to drink and more refreshing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Stockholm (part six)

Dodgy theorising. One of my specialities. I promised you some yesterday and I'm not one to renege on my promises. Not unless I feel like it.

Our next destination was one of Stockholm's classic beer bars, Oliver Twist. As a loyal, card-carrying CAMRA member I'm obliged to like it. They sell cask-conditioned beer. All the time. There's a reassuring set of handpulls on the bar.

Though I didn't drink any of the cask. It would have been crazy, as they were all British. Bit pointless coming to Stockholm and drinking British beer. I went for something from Jämtlands (can't remember which, exactly). It's probably my favourite Swedish brewery. I wasn't disappointed. Now I think about it, I can remember which it was. Postiljon. A very tasty and well-crafted Bitter. Dolores just had an iced water.

It's now time for more of my half-arsed thoughts. This struck me when wondering what to order for my second beer. How beer cultures can be moulded by restrictions that no longer apply. Like how British beer staying rooted at an average of 1037º for 40 years.

Sweden used to have some of the silliest beer laws. Like the one limiting beer to a maximum of 5.6% ABV. And a tax system that encouraged brewers to always brew to that maximum strength. Most Swedish beers are still 5 - 5.6% ABV. You find very few between 4 and 5% (Jämtlands are an exception in this regard). And little above 5.6%. Except for dodgy strong lagers from multinationals like Pripps and the odd Nils Oscar Barley Wine or Imperial Stout.

Why did that thought come to me? Because, knowing it would be my final beer of the evening, I was after something a little stronger. And, unless I went foreign, there wasn't much of a choice. In the end, I chose another beer of modest strength. A Jämtlands Porter at just 4.8% ABV. Very nice it was, too.

Oliver Twist
Repslagargatan 6,
118 46 Stockholm.
Tel. 08 - 640 0566
Fax: 08 - 641 1566

Monday, 20 July 2009

Bohemian Salvator

Thanks to Evan Rail for pointing this one out to me. It's an advert from 1891 for various Prague breweries. The interesting bit is the U Medvídků ad. "We recommend the beer brewed according to the Munich method, 'Salvator'" is what it says.

So Zacherl really were taking the piss when they trademarked Salvator. It was already a style brewed internationally. I wonder how they got away with it?

You can read more about the lost breweries of Prague in Evan's original post.

Now that U Medvídků has a brewery again, Should they consider brewing a Salvator? When did Zacherl get the trademark? After 1891, I'm sure. (I really should be able to provide the exact date here. But my tea is already on the table and it's best to eat with the whole family. Like the Simpsons.)

Who would win in court? "The one with the most money!" You're a cynical lot.

Stockholm (part five)

Thursday evening I had a chance to return to Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68. Yippee! A proper beer pub at last. A proper beer pub that was open.

Three evenings out with Dolores. That's more than I usually get in five years. I'm not joking. I blame the children

Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68 (is it me, or is that a slightly unwieldy name?) is much more modern inside than out. Quite trendy, in fact. Dolores liked it.

Like everywhere else, it was suffering from the sunny weather. That's why we sat close to the entrance, to get a little breeze.

This was exciting. A real choice of beer. What should I have?

Sometimes, I just don't learn from past mistakes. Now don't take this the wrong way. Please don't. But I blame the Americans. For buggering up Brown Ale. I quite like Brown Ale. The sweet, malty stuff called Brown Ale in Britain. But there's another type of Brown Ale. The hoppy type, with bugger all malt and not a trace of sweetness. It's like a darker version of Pale Ale. A bit of a waste of time as a beer style, to be honest.

The BJCP has to take some of the blame. They obviously just guessed how British brewers made Brown Ale and assumed that the colour came from dark malt. Even worse, from brown malt. that adds an inappropriate roastiness that has no place in a proper* Brown Ale. Not my sort of Brown Ale. Caramel, brewing sugars and crystal malt. They should be the source of the colour.

And the poor bastards in Scandinavia have just followed the American lead. Producing Brown Ales that have almost no similarity to a proper* Brown Ale.

I rashly ordered a Dugges Fuggedaboudit. Even though I couldn't pronounce the name. I'll be honest, it was the ABV that swung it for me. I should have paid more attention to the ABA after the name. I realised what it meant between ordering and receiving. "Bugger. I bet ABA stands for American Brown Ale" What's wrong with that?" "It'll be like that beer the first night. The horrible one"

It wasn't quite as bad as that. Just not at all like a Brown Ale. I envied Dolores. She got herself a rather nice wheat beer (Helsinge Veteöl). "Do you want to swap?" I asked and let her try my "Brown Ale". She didn't have to say anything. The sucking lemons expression was enough.

We only stayed for the one. Nothing to do with the beer. It was purely a technical public transport thing. We had exactly enough strips on our ticket to complete all our intended journeys. As long as we moved on to the next pub within an hour. The system is very like in Holland. You can travel for an hour after the time stamped on your ticket.

God, that was a dull explanation. I shouldn't have bothered, should I? Just as well I put in the provocative stuff about Brown Ale.

You'll have to wait until tomorrow to read about the remainder of the evening. And I'll be throwing in some more dodgy theorising about beer types. Don't miss it. Could change your life.**

Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68
Västerlånggatan 68,
111 29 Stockholm.
Tel: 08 - 791 90 90
Fax: 08 - 791 70 70

* the type of Brown Ale actually brewed in the UK, something like this.
** slight exaggeration.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

My Swedish book haul

You're probably not interested in this in the slightest. But here goes.

I manged to pick up a few books while in Stockholm. One new and four secondhand. Despite Andrew's chiding "You've already got enough books, dad." "You can never have enough books." "Yes you can, dad."

The city is pretty good for secondhand bookshops. And all the ones I tried had at least something about beer. Unlike the Akademiska Bokhandeln that just had air on the shelf marked "öl".

The new book, "Svensk Ölbok" by Örjan Westerlund, looks pretty handy. A bit on the history of Swedish beer and articles on every Swedish brewery. Two of the secondhand jobbies are just booklets. Though "Stockholms ölcafeer" has some good old photos of Stockholm pubs.

"För gott öls skull" ("For the sake of good beer") is more substantial. It's a collection of pieces by various writers on the topic of beer. "Jacobsen of Carlsberg" is an English translation of a Danish biography. It looks pretty academic. Hopefully it will contain something useful.


We promised the kids a little train excursion. Uppsala, a university town 45 minutes north of Stockholm, was our chosen destination.

It was another hot day. We carefully selected seats next to a window that opened. Lexie had been a big disappointment so far. "You've been a big disappointment, Lexie." "Why? I've been a good boy." "Exactly. You're not providing me with any material. If you don't do something crazy soon, I'm going to have to make it up. Like a proper journalist."

I didn't feel like looking around Åhléns with the rest of the family. You can guess what I wanted: beer. I arranged to meet them in 30 minutes. Now where was I likely to find a pub?

It didn't look promising at first. Like most town centres, the shopping district was full of, well, shops. I've picked up a few things of my decades spent travelling in search of booze. I headed towards the cathedral.

Sure enough, refreshment possibilities began to appear. Mostly of the posher kind. Down by the river I found something more suitable. "A beer, please. Do you have any bigger glasses than that?" "No." I had to make do with a 40cl measure. Only 49 crowns, though.

Sitting in the shade at the side of the river, I was soon in relaxation mode. The place was called Åkanten, so I'm guessing the river is called the Å. (I should really look that up, shouldn't I? Perhaps that could be a little project for you.) The weir was close by, adding a natural background music of tumbling water. A breeze cooled my brow. Perfection.

The beer? It was cold and Carlsberg. I couldn't afford to be fussy. Cold and alcoholic was good enough. Hang on, that could be a description of me, cold and alcoholic. That's not really true. I'm hot in every sense of the word. Except the sexual one. So let's change that. I'm like Irish coffee, hot and alcoholic. Like many of the English, I'm an emotional type. Excitable even. But that discussion is for another time. I was just chilling. Literally.

I took the family back to Åkanten to eat. Just 79 crowns a pop. Very nice it was, too.

On the way back to the station Lexie bought some long balloons in a toy shop. They were about the only thing he could afford. The type of balloon clowns bend into animal shapes. (A skill Lexie has picked up since our return.) I should get him more tired. Then he might become entertainingly crazy again. "Do you fancy shouting 'vodka!' in the Systembolaget?" "Daaad."

S:t Eriks Torg 8.
75310 Uppsala.
Tel: +46 18 15 01 50

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Stockholm (part four)

That's right. I'm not done with Stockholm yet. Oh, no. Lots more to come. Unless I get distracted.

Wednesday, that's where we were, wasn't it? After the Vasa museum we didn't just hide in our hotel. Let's be more specific, me and Dolores didn't hide in our hotel. The kids did. At least that's what we told them to do. They could have crept out. But I'm pretty sure Lexie was too interested in "A Shot at Love" to leave the room.

Stockholm is a big city. Which there's much more to it than just the centre. For pubs, the Södermalm district is hard to beat. Both Akkurat and Oliver Twist are located there. But neither were our destination on Wednesday evening. Akkurat was out of the game, being closed for Summer. As we were planning on eating, our choice was simple: Soldaten Svejk.

There's a big difference in the price of lunch and dinner in Sweden. At lunchtime, you can get a main course, salad and soft drink for 70 - 80 crowns. In the evening, you'll be lucky to get just a main course for double the price. Soldaten Svejk is an exception. They have meals for around 100 crowns. That's roughly 10 euros. Bargain.

Those of you with a shred of culture will have already guessed what sort of pub Svejk is. For the ignorant amongst you, it's a Czech pub. And not a bad one. There's a great range of draught Czech beer. Not just obvious stuff like Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and Krušovice. Quality stuff like Bernard. I had a dark Bernard, Dolores a light.

The food is proper Czech fare, too. Schitzel, goulash and an old favourite of mine, smazeny syr (fried cheese). Which is what I ate (just in the remote chance that you might be interested in my diet.)

We only had the one beer. Not been a very beery trip so far, has it? Will it get more so in the last two days? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Krogen Soldaten Svejk
Östgötagatan 35,
11826 Stockholm.
Tel: 08 641 33 66

Friday, 17 July 2009

Stockholm (part three)

Wednesday was Vasa day. That's the 17th century warship. The one that, like a surprising number of other flagships, never made it out of harbour on its maiden voyage.

But this is a beer blog, not a history blog. So back to the fizzy stuff. The plan was to take the ferry from Gammy Stan (I wonder who Stan was? Must have been important if they named the centre of town after him.) I live in Amsterdam, so I know all about tourist overload. But Vasterlangatan was still a shock. Lexie was happy, though. He bought himself a Swedish flag. He has a thing about flags. I wonder where that DDR flag is? I hope Dolores didn't throw it away like the portrait of Erich Honecker.

It was hot. Very hot. And 11:15. Time for a beer. I would have gone into Zum Franziskaner. But they don't open until 11:30. I wasn't going to wait 15 minutes for a beer. I'm not made of steel. Luckily there was an O'Leary's at hand.

"A Carnegie Porter, please." "A what?" Unlike the O'Leary's built into our hotel, they didn't sell Carnegie Porter. The draught beer selection was totally thrabbly. Falcon, Carlsberg, Guinness, Kilkenny. Multinational shit. The nice waitress brought me a menu so I could give the bottled options a look over. The choice wasn't much better. I did something I usually try to avoid. Ordered a non-local beer. A Spaten. I know, Spaten is part of a multinational concern. But it's better than Carlsberg.

The nice waitress brought us some popcorn. For free. That's lunch for the kids sorted out. Possibly dinner, too.

Almost forgot to mention. I almost fell over the Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68. I was attracted by the German inscriptions on the first floor. It was a while before I noticed it was one of my target pubs. What luck. And only 5 hours to go before it opened. "Dolores, do you mind waiting here a little?"

We didn't take the ferry to the Vasa museum after all. There was a queue several hundred yards long. We took the rather more prosaic option of the bus. I would relate our experiences inside the museum. But I'm hot and typing ties up my drinking arm.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Stockholm (part two)

Two days gone already. And do you know what? I still haven't made it to any of my target pubs.

I was already aware that Akkurat, Stockholm's premier beer boozer, would be shut for the summer. Well, you can add to that Monk's Cafe. At least for this week. They're decorating.

We're staying fairly centrally in town. It can't be more than a ten-minute walk to Centralstation. So yesterday, after a hard day hiking around Skansen (the open-air museum) me and Dolores dumped the kids in the pool and headed off for Monk's Cafe. Over the bridge with the vertiginous views of the railway tracks. Monk's Cafe isn't much past that. But, as you already know, it was closed.

We went in search of somewhere else to have a quiet beer. The only other place in my guide reasonably close by is Belgo Bar. Now that's something I'm not doing. Coming to Sweden and drinking Belgian beer. I can - and do - do that at home. Ten minutes stroll uncovered nothing but cafes. I thought everyone here was a raging alcy. Turns out they're actually coffee addicts. What a disappointment.

We did find a Styembolaget. One of the shiny new ones, with even the spirits enticingly draped across the shelves. It takes some getting used to. Do you know something weird? I sort of miss the Soviet-style queueing ones, where all the dangerous booze was stored well away from the eyes of the putative punters. I got an Arboga Majbock, Jamtlands Pelgrim and a couple of Oppigards beers. The Oppigards Porter wasn't bad. And the Majbock at least had a little poke.

Sweden has changed a lot since my first visits. Beer stronger and 5.6% ABV is now legal. The systembolaget shops have the drinks arranged on shelves and everything is dirt cheap. Sorry, the last one isn't true. Just my wishful thinking.

Yesterday, Dolores and I ended up in the uninspiring sports bar on the corner. Her Falcon Export and my Carnegie Porter only cost 12 euros. What a bargain.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Stockholm (part one)

Summer holiday time. The Pattinson family is spending its summer holiday in Stockholm.

Why Stockholm? It was Andrew's choice. Just like me, he dissolves into sweat the moment the temperature hits 20.000000000001 degrees C. He was dead disappointed when we arrived yesterday. With the weather: sunny and warm. I bet he plumps for Iceland next year. He's already started softening me up. "It's dead cheap now, dad. Since their economy collapsed. Things only cost a third of what they used to, when you pay in euros." I didn't spoil things by pointing out that everything used to be four times the price of Holland.

There hasn't been much time for dragging the kids around pubs yet. I did get them into one, just around the corner from our hotel. An American-themed sports bar. They insisted we went in. Really. OK, they were starving and wanted a cooked meal. I wasn't desperate to eat, but I thought I'd join them in a little snack. Things didn't work out quite as planned.

I had 650 crowns on me. That's about 60 euros. Surely plenty. I carefully added up the price of the kids food and drinks. 460 crowns. What a choice. If I ate, there wouldn't be enough money for a beer. No contest, really. I had two Carnegie Porters. A liquid meal, of sorts.

With the kids safely locked in hotel, there was time for parent time. The special parent time. Just like the happy time (before the kids were born.) I was prepared for exactly that eventuality. I've two pubs in my Stockholm Pub Guide that are on the same island as our hotel, Kungsholmen. The Nils Oscar Bar and Mackinlay's Inn. Within spitting distance of each other, too.

My guides are renowned for their detail and accuracy. It's just keeping them all up to date is a pain in the arse. My Stockholm guide really needs attention. Just as well I'm here. The Nils Oscar Bar was nowhere to be found. Oh well, at least Mackinlays Inn was at hand.

We found a seat at the back and took a look at the beer menu. There was a whole row of stuff from Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri. Dolores had a pint of Bedarö Bitter. I went for a Brännskär Brown Ale. What can I say. I've rarely drunk something that tasted less like a Brown Ale. Way too bitter. And with all the wrong malt flavours. It tasted like bitter gall. As did Dolores's beer. We only had the one.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Illegal pub

Here's a tale of an illegal pub, as reported in the News of the World (Sunday, June 15, 1856, page 7)

"A Den of Profligacy and Vice
Mary Phelps was charged with selling beer, gin, and other fermented liquors, at a court in Golden lane, St. Luke's, without being licensed for the same. - Inspector Brennan said that the practice of selling beer, and a vile composition which the vendors called gin, after the licensed houses had closed, and also on a Sunday morning, had lately become so prevalent in the courts of Golden Lane, and the complaints of the drunkenness and vice at the police station so numerous, that the police had received strict injunctions to put them down; but such was the systematic way in which the trade carried on, that it was not until parties unconnected with that body were employed that a case could properly be brought forward. Defendant could not plead ignorance of the law, having before been fined for a similar offence, and her mother and father had also been imprisoned and fined for the like. The house in which the defendants lived was the resort of the worst thieves and prostitutes, and he mentioned several instances of profligacy and vice which he had witnessed, and which caused a sensation in court. - The defendant said she has a small family to support, and hoped his worship would look over it. - Mr. Tyrwhitt said he should fine her 40s, or a month's imprisonment with hard labour. - The money not being forthcoming, the prisoner was taken off."

I wonder what the "several instances of profligacy and vice" were that so shocked the court?