Beer Related Ramblings

Green Hop Time!

It's Green Hop time again. This year we are brewing 3 different beers, using 3 different Kent grown hops. Most of the brewers in Kent will be getting involved and brewing with fresh hops, straight from Kent's hop growers and into the boil within a matter of hours.

The first beer we are brewing will be a 3.5% pale ale using Bramling Cross hops. These fragile hops produce a lovely berry fruit and spice aroma, however they have been low yielding in the last couple of years as the winters have lacked the cold frosts which the Bramling Cross hops benefit from. Sadly if winters continue to be as mild as they have been I expect many Kent growers to move away from this pungent variety to more economically viable hops.

Last years Barnfield Red was very popular so we are brewing it again. This year we will be using Challenger hops from Hukins Farm, Tenterden. These hops give a spicey, cedar aroma which works well with the crystal notes of the red ale. Named after the Barnfield Pit site near the brewery which inspired the name for our brewery.

A new beer for this year, Heidi's Brown will be a 4.7% hoppy brown ale. It  is brewed with Bullion hops, which are an old English variety which has had a lot of success in the US, but is now almost non existent in the UK. The hop as a pungent Orange and Lemon aroma which is well suited to a hoppy brown ale, blending the citrus flavours with the caramel and roast from the malts. Named for the Swanscombe Woman, who's skull was discovered at Barnfield Pit and is often identified as Homo Hiedelbergensis. The beer will be brewed by Helen Farrow and it will be her first Green Hop beer.

Common Ancestor

Current scientific understanding points to Homo Sapiens developing alongside other primates in what is now Ethiopia around 195,000 years ago. At the same time there were various primates of the genus Homo which could have developed into the planet's most dominate lifeform. All of these can trace their ancestry back to Homo habilis, the first of the Homo genus.

Our Common Ancestor beers are inspired by this concept. We used a single mash which would give rise to two different species of beer - one a 3.5% pale ale and the other a 6.4% IPA. The mash contained rye, vienna and pale malts to provide a heavy malty backbone which adds interest to the pale ale and provides a strong malt body to the IPA. We then hopped each beer with Simcoe, Citra and Galaxy to add some fruity hoppiness. These beers are presented at the same time to allow you to experience the differences this divergence in the family tree has caused, or maybe blend the two to gain an insight into what may have been should evolution have taken a different path.

For The Love Of Darkness

For some people summertime means an end to the dark beers and a focus on the fresh hoppy pale ales that go so well with the hot weather. I must admit I could drink porter all year but experience tells me I am probably in the minority. With this in mind I had flagged the last batch of Cavedweller to be the last for some time, intending it to replace it in the lineup with another pale ale for the summer. The last batch of Cavedweller sold so well, however, that I found myself brewing it again last week, and as I took a sample from the fermenter today I remembered why I love brewing this beer. 

When you take a sample from a fermenter full of a zesty pale ale, the refreshing hop aromas can be incredible, all fruit freshness or piney beauty. Mostly its aromas like that, when I've had 5 days straight in the cave hardly seeing another person, that makes me realise why I love brewing so much. Then there are days like today. That bittersweet coffee, chocolate aroma struck me in stark contrast to the beers in the other FV's. They will sell without any problem all year long, but this beer is my beer, and whether people buy it or not during the summer I'm still going to make it. Even if I have to drink it all myself. There will be another pale beer, as well as a collaboration with an exciting new local business and a few other surprises over the following couple of months, but the Cavedweller will be staying.

Better Late Than Never

In April Caveman Brewery celebrated its first anniversary of brewing at the George and Dragon. To celebrate we intended to brew a special beer for the occasion, either a 7.0% version of our Citra or a big Imperial Red Ale. After a bit of debate we decided that actually we would probably brew both. Its now June and you may or may not have noticed that neither has actually appeared. There are a few reasons for this, one just being the lack of time I have had to develop these recipes, we have had a busy couple of months on our core range which has kept me locked in the brewery producing beer. The second reason is that we are hoping to release these beers on Keykeg and possibly also in bottles as well as cask. 

The main reason for looking at different dispense methods is to provide pubs with more options. There aren't many pubs near us in Kent that would even consider a 7% IPA in cask as they simply won't sell it quick enough to avoid significant amounts of ullage, but given the additional lifespan of a keykegged beer, and the lighter mouthfeel of the added carbonation would feel comfortable taking a key keg. Bottles are even less of a commitment given their added shelf life and smaller volumes. In May we began experimenting with bottle conditioning, filling a number of bottles from each brew with various levels of residual sugars and checking their progress over time. The idea is to achieve the correct level of carbonation for the style and seeing how this is affected over time as the yeast continue to process the more complex sugars still left over in the beer. This process should hopefully result in us having a level of carbonation that is great when you first buy the beer, but doesn't become too much over 6 months or longer. This process has resulted in me having to sample a selection of bottles on a regular basis (its a hard life) and has also led to me stashing bottles in the boiler cupboard and various other warm spots in the house and the brewery to accentuate the affect of ageing. Ideally of course we would have a lab to do this work in a much more scientific way,or better still we would filter the beer and then dose it with a strain of yeast specifically suited to the task which would only consume simple sugars and therefore not continue the carbonation process beyond a certain point. Sadly however we are still only a very small brewery so my basic testing will have to suffice for the moment, as long as it provides the results we need we should hopefully be bottling in the very near future.

And so to the beers we are developing. The 7% Citra IPA is fairly self explanatory. Big IPA, loads of Citra, whats not to like. The second beer will be called Si Te Cah and as an imperial red ale. The name is based on the Si Te Cah legend of the Paiute Indians who tell stories of a giant red headed tribe who's remains were supposedly found in Lovelock Cave, Nevada in 1911. The beer itself will be a blend of caramel sweetness and juicy hops, with a dose of dry hopping to add aroma. All being well these beers should arrive by late June/Early July. Not exactly April but better late than never I guess!