Saturday, 30 August 2014

How to treat bottle conditioned beer

Let us take a step back first... What is bottle conditioned beer? Unlike the majority of ordinary bottled beers, bottle conditioned beers are a live product, bottled with a small amount of yeast that provides additional fermentation and maturation whilst in the bottle, leading to a much deeper character and flavour, and a natural, soft carbonation, rather than the forced carbonation used on soft drinks and ‘bright’ bottled beers.

Whilst treating the bottle with care in order to avoid a cloudy glass of beer when pouring, the yeast is nothing to fear: in fact, it features many health benefits — it is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, protein, and minerals such as chromium. “German doctors used to prescribe bottle-conditioned wheat beer to patients with vitamin deficiencies.” As a probiotic organism, yeast helps your body break down nutrients, regulates your digestive system, maintains your nervous system, and even helps modulate blood-sugar levels.

How to store and care for your bottle conditioned beer:

In order to enjoy your bottle conditioned ale, we recommend the following steps:

Always store and transport your bottles upright, with the cap facing up. Never store bottles on their sides.

When bottles have been transported they really need some standing time to allow the yeast to settle ou again.

Store bottles in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Around 12 degrees Celsius is the optimum temperature for storing (and also for serving in many cases).

Allow the sediment to settle before serving if it is visibly ‘floating’ or has caused an otherwise clear beer to become cloudy.

Pour your beer smoothly into a glass, not allowing it to ‘glug’ out, otherwise the yeast will become disturbed.

When pouring keep an eye on the trub. As soon as it creeps into the neck of the bottle, stop pouring... Unless you would like to pour some of the yeast into your glass.

By following these simple steps (especially the last) the quality of bottle conditioned beer will speak for itself.

In terms of storage temperatures, the following should be noted:

So what happens if it is kept at the wrong temperature?
If it is stored for too long under temperatures that are too COLD, the flavour will be compromised and the beer will become cloudy and flat as the low temperature slows or stops the fermentation process.

If it is stored in conditions that are too WARM, the yeast goes into overdrive and not only will it consume all the sugars and shorten the life of the beer, but the beer will over-carbonate and will ‘gush’ (foam over) when opened as a result.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Lazy Saturday afternoon on the sofa ramblings....

It's been a while since I wrote something... Guess it is better to just jump in and put together a couple of thoughts.

Ah well, let me write about the obvious... Brewing and beer.

Running a brewery as a sideline is no easy task. It is a balancing act of note... Day job, family life, friends, me-time, admin, logistics, marketing, sales, planning, strategy, brewing, bottling, orders, finances, excise duties, dealing with the authorities, etc. Most weeks I wish there were eight or nine days instead of 7 and that weekends were at least 3 days... Not to rest, but to get extra time for brewing & bottling.

So far it has been going great. The beer is getting better & better and we are getting great feedback. The one thing we have realized is that a serious upgrade is inevitable and will have to happen in the near future. With the upgrade we will have a tsunami of new obstacles to deal with... Logistics and time management (and possibly additional staff) will be at least an order of magnitude more tricky to deal with. Somehow we will just get through it...

Not to get ahead of myself... But I reckon we will have to increase our production tenfold within the first two years of being in operation. (We are only nearing the end of year 1 now and we have more than doubled production already) Crazy actually. In order to do this we will build a scalable and robust brewery with our upgrade with one key basic design characteristic: It is not the size of your brewhouse that matters that much, it matters how many batches it can churn out in a shift. This basic concept is something quite a number of new breweries fail to grasp. (In case this does not make sense to you... Buy yourself an early Christmas gift: "Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co."

One of the main advantages is that beer consistency improves since you get an averaging effect filling large fermenters with multiple brews. The other main advantage is that you have more flexibility (something we like a lot) by being able to make quite a few different beers in a single shift if you would like to. If your system is badly designed and you can run only one brew in a 8 hour day, you are really up shit creek without a paddle...

I guess a few are wondering... Will Gallows Hill keep bottling conditioning when they upgrade? Well, does The Kernel Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, Dogfish Head, Hill Farmstead, etc. still bottle condition... Yeah they do! And most probably so will we. Pretty sure the technique will be refined further, but for now we are keeping with the small batch, artisinal approach regardless of some people trying to advocate for the demise of bottle conditioning.

On that note... A future post on the correct treatment - transport, storage and pouring - of bottle conditioned beers seems like something we must tackle.