Thinking about salt

"Quite a lot of the problems in society arise from our inability to see that the Laffer curve (I prefer to call it the 'salt curve') applies to many things. Knowledge is good, so more knowledge must be better. As we have seen this is not necessarily so, because it can stifle originality in research. Criticism is good, so more criticism must be better. There comes a point when self-indulgent negativity becomes an end to itself".

Professor Edward de Bono, "I am Right, You are Wrong"

"When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?,’ it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’"

Garrett Oliver, 'A Better Brew', New Yorker


New Wave Of British Keggy Metal

From beeripedia:

"The New Wave of British Keggy Metal, or NWOBKM /nˈwɒbkm/, is a brewing movement that started in the late 1990s, in Britain, and achieved international attention by the early 2010s. 

It is a way of describing a second wave of British kegged beer brewing that emerged during the period of cask beer's ubiquity, the influence of American keg and the influx of New World hops. 

The movement developed as a reaction in part to the insipidness of early keg beer styles such as bitter and mild. 

NWOBKM brewers toned down the twiggy influences of earlier British keg, incorporated elements of punk, decreased pasteurisation, increased the hopping ratio and adopted a "tougher" attitude, taking a flavoursome approach to its brewing. 

It is a scene directed almost exclusively at contempoarary brewing fans. The era is considered to be a major foundation stone for the extreme brewing genres 1".

British brewers putting quality beers, packed full of flavour and innovation, into kegs that allow for those beers to be served at the optimal temperature and condition for their styles, are to be celebrated.

The celebration starts here.

If you're a UK brewer putting exciting beer into kegs, you may qualify for the New Wave Of British Keggy Metal Hall Of Fame.

Here's our first inductee: Richard Chamberlin of Brewster's.

Want to join? Get someone to grab a camera and shake your keg for me. Tattoos optional.

1. Mercilessly adapted from the \m/etal-tastic Wiki page for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.


The tyranny of beer choice

Man walks into a bar. There are thirty different draught beers. He knows some of them and loves to drink them. He's heard of others and has always wanted to try them. A few are new to him and look appealing.

After five minutes he leaves the bar without buying a beer, frustrated by his inability to choose. He goes next door to a pub.

The pub sells two draught beers; one he loves, one he'd love to try. Buy he's still thinking about the range of beers in the bar. He's regretting not choosing one. He still doesn't know which one he'd choose. All he knows is that he now doesn't want either of the two beers on offer in this pub. He leaves, disappointed. But not sure why he feels that way.

He seeks solace in a tied pub owned by one of his favourite brewers. They only serve one beer. He orders a pint and retreats to a quiet corner. As the glass reaches his lips, he thinks of the beers on offer in the other pub. He regrets not having a choice of beer here.

He feels bitter. Even though he hasn't even drank a beer.

In 'The Tyranny Of Choice', psychologist Barry Schwartz suggests that even though choice is "unambiguously a good thing" and that some choice is good it doesn't mean that more choice is better.

When does the thrill of seemingly-endless tap handles turn to apprehension? When does anticipation turn to doubt? When does an eventual choice at the bar run the risk of turning later to remorse? Or guilt?

What is the sweet-spot number of options? When is 'good enough' actually good enough?

If you're interested in learning more about Schwartz and the tyranny / paradox of choice, try these; featured on BBC Business Daily, his TED talk from 2005 and his Google TechTalk from 2006


When bloggers go brewing

Brewer arrives at brewery. Mashes in.

An hour later, Blogger phones to ask for a lift from the railway station. Brewer picks up blogger. Brewer takes photo of blogger outside the brewery so that blogger can tweet a pic: “OMG!! It’s #brewday!!!!”

Sandwich van pulls up outside. Blogger buys a bacon sandwich. Brewer explains he had his breakfast at six-thirty this morning.  At breakfast-time.

Brewer begins run-off. Blogger is asked to weigh out hops. Blogger wears two pairs of gloves, mispronounces Citra and declares is to be “really fruity”.

Brewer runs checks on other beers, answers sales calls, checks invoices, chases payments, moves casks. Blogger wanders around the brewery trying to find a 3G signal.

Run-off complete, mash tun is ready to be dug out. Brewer takes photo of Blogger holding a spade. Blogger rushes off to post it to Facebook / Twitter / Google + / Flickr / tumblr / MySpace / Geocities. By the time Blogger has finished, Brewer has dug out and cleaned up the mash tun.

Hops are ready to be added. Blogger dons the level of personal protective equipment usually worn by the emergency services at a chemical spill. Blogger drops the hops onto the floor as he’s too busy gurning for the camera.

Lunchtime. Brewer presents Blogger with a selection of sandwiches, pork pie, crisps, and cake. Brewer only has time to eat an apple.

Brewer asks Blogger if he’d like a drink. Blogger asks for a sample drawn from each FV into stemmed glassware, plus a bottle of ‘anything special’ that’s lurking in the kitchen area. Brewer only intended mashing a pot of tea. Blogger then spends thirty minutes holding stemmed glasses up to the light in order to take ‘artistic’ pictures. Brewer carries on cleaning.

Wort is transferred. Brewer has no intention of risking Blogger sneezing in the yeast so doesn’t ask for assistance. Blogger is too busy punching the air as he makes it to level eleventy of CityVille.

Brewer cleans the vessel exteriors, the roller door, the floor. Blogger drops a glass of beer onto the floor whilst trying to tweet a picture of it. Brewer thinks of boiling water, corrosive chemicals, high-pressure gases, sharp implements, confined spaces, moving vehicles and electrical current.

Brewer considers introducing Blogger to the inherent danger of “mixed hazards”…


When bimbles go bad

It's difficult to put into words the sheer beery fun that the Derbyshire bimble was a few weeks ago. Yes, we only made it to two pubs out of seven. Yes, we started by drinking 6.8% beer. Yes, I may or may not have made a little girl cry.

But I know this much is true. Because I found everyone's photos.

It started off civil enough at the Talbot Taphouse, Ripley, with this outstanding French beer (yes, you read that right. Outstanding. And French).

And it ended at the Thorn Tree, Waingroves. The beers were excellent. Buxton Wild Axe (a mix of Wild Boar and Axe Edge) was feisty. Steel City Brew'em 101 - Fuggles, Goldings, ginger, smoked malt, saison yeast - was actually too drinkable. 

There was a little bit of temporary tattoo action going on:

And then... it all started with the Ginger Merkin. Worn here by an upstanding member of the Waingroves community:

Who decided to join in with the puppet show:

And gave us some fermenter-fresh beer:

Which got dressed up:

As did Kat:

And Jen. Or Super Fuzz Ginger Muff as she's now known:

And then there was facepaint:

Too much facepaint:

And bromance (or should that be brewermance?)

All in all, par for the course.

Thanks to the usual suspects for taking part, big up to Mike and Geoff from Buxton and apologies to the regulars of the Thorn Tree. We won't do it again. Honest...


Up the down escalator

On Monday 17th September 2012, a landmark in British politics was reached. For the first time, Members of Parliament debated a motion as a result of an e-petition.

The call to reconsider the West Coast Mainline franchise decision gathered over 173,000 signatures. Not only is it the first e-petition to be debated but the first time the Backbench Business Committee have scheduled a debate on a Monday afternoon at Westminster Hall. They were able to do so due to new powers granted to them in July.

There hasn't been a great deal of coverage about this debate, though. Few members of the relevant committee were in attendance. Monday afternoon debates at Westminster Hall are solely for e-petition debates. And there is no mechanism for voting on a debate in Westminster Hall.

Now, where do you imagine the debate raised by the Stop the beer duty escalator will be held?

Answers on a postcard. But, please, don't send it as a e-template letter to your MP. There's already too much armchair activism with a misguided sense of achievement knocking around.


Brewing up with Brewsters

I like hanging around breweries. I like chatting to brewers about industrial process, science, recipe formulation and marketing. And I'm more than happy to drink beer whilst chewing on a piece of pork pie. So that's how I found myself on a train to Grantham, goggling out the window at the Vale of Belvoir and the castle on the horizon, to go and spend a day with the merry bunch at Brewsters.

Sara Barton and her team have been producing cask, keg and unfiltered bottled beers since 1998. Originally based in Stathern, Leicestershire, they now brew up the road in Grantham on a ten-barrel plant once used by the Finch & Firkin brewpub in Liverpool.

On the schedule was another batch of beer bound eventually for a major pub chain's beer festival. With ideal timing, I arrived just in time for a mug of tea and a bacon cob. Which leads me onto this point of clarity - I wasn't there to brew a beer. I didn't formulate the recipe, calculate the amount of malt and hops required, connect and disconnect pipes and clean and clean and clean. I won't be around to check the fermentation, nor to rack it into casks.

I was there to be a brewer's sidekick. To do those stints of manual labour that allow someone with brewing skill to be useful elsewhere. In this case it's their Head Brewer Richard Chamberlain who demanded that I come help him brew said he'd put up with me hanging around the brewery as long as I got my hands dirty.

Dirty? I can do that.

So, Here's What Scooper Did:

- stabbed a bag of Galaxy hops with a screwdriver to break them up

- stuffed my hands into bags of hops for a lupulin manicure

- raked out the mash tun

- made my paunch look even sexier than usual by donning a rubber apron whilst cleaning out the copper

- drank aged Porter with mackerel pâté sandwiches and a chunk of pork pie

- watched Rich do a bit more cleaning...

- whilst I drank his Pale Ale straight from the fermenter

How will the day's beer turn out? Well, the wort tasted good and there's all the signs that the finished product will turn out to be the 4.8% tropical fruity wonder that was planned. 

In the meantime, if you ever happen to be anywhere near the village of Granby in Lincolnshire call into the Marquis of Granby pub. I'm not saying the Brewster's Hophead in there is great, but I'd put it in my top one of Hophead experiences.

Many thanks to Sara, Sean and Rich The Beer Pimp for a great day. 


I like chips

I like chips.

I like fries. I wouldn't put as much salt on them. given the choice, but I still like them. And I love that almost wherever I go, I can buy them. I don't get grumpy and refuse to eat chips just because slightly-salty fries are all that's on offer.

I like hand-cut, double-fried chips. Even though hand-cut doesn't always mean that a rosy-cheeked chef has lovingly knife-sliced them up in the back of the kitchen. A spud thrust through an industrial chip cutter is still cutting chips by hand, isn't it?

I like chip-shop chips. No other chips taste quite the same. Maybe because it's more than just the taste of the chips - it's the anticipation in the queue, the aroma in the shop, the warmth of the wrapping paper. Only chip-shop chips give you that feeling. You can buy frozen chips, to eat at home, marketed as 'just like the ones from the chip shop', but you know in your heart of hearts they won't taste quite the same.

I like home-made chips. Knowing that I'll never make them like anyone else does, I can experiment with seasonings. I'll make a batch for my friends; it's great to share something that your made yourself. Knowing if it all goes wrong, there's always something else in the freezer.

I like to read a little chip history - understanding that the profits made by selling dehydrated potato to the military during World War 2 allowed the J. R. Simplot Company to invest into research that led to the invention of frozen french fries. Which, by extension, allowed McDonalds to offer a consistent product throughout its franchise, so guys like me could have slightly-salty fries wherever in the world I end up.

I like thinking of how I warmed my hands with a cone of frites outside the Belfort in Brugge on a bitingly cold spring morning. Shared a bag of chips with my wife on her birthday, sat in Derby bus station, for reasons that neither of us can now remember. Chucked chips at seagulls whilst learning against the sea wall at Chapel St Leonards whilst my Gran was at bingo.

I don't like endless, pointless arguments over the best accompaniment for them*. Or at what temperature they should be fried. Or whether the frying should be double or treble. Or if there's an intrinsic difference between the kinds of cooking oil used. Or whether eating chips made by a global food giant is the equivalent of forcing a craft potato-frier's hand into the boiling vat of economic ruin.

I like chips.

Chippy chip-chips.

I like beer too.

But not as much as I like chips.

 * it should go without saying, however, that anyone who doesn't put 

- mayo onto frites 
- Henderson's Relish onto thick-cut chips with a burger 
- mushy peas onto chip-shop chips in a tray 

is an idiot and shouldn't be allowed to express an opinion on the internet.


How to have a top-ten beer blog on ebuzzing

#1: Write one post that a bunch of people link to and retweet.

#2: Uh... that's it.

Of course, it helps if the said post is that giddy mixture of rapier-like wit and all all-knowing cynicism. Like this.

(And, yes, I'm not backward at coming forward to blow my own trumpet whilst mixing metaphors. This is blogging. It's self-promotion).

Some of you really, really, really want to get noticed on ebuzzing. I've been trying to get off there since it was Wikio. Because:

- it sells itself as "We seed Branded content on social media". It can keep its seed to itself.

- the only people who give a toss about the rankings are certain bloggers and PR agencies. Revelling in the rankings is akin to circle-jerking. And PR agencies ought to work harder for their clients than blind-mailing top-20 blog lists about London bars, electronic cigarettes and marzipan.


- signal is not the same as noise

- influence is not the same as reach

- saying something interesting / entertaining / educational / irreverent is not the same as been talked about

Write for the fun of it. Write to exorcise demons. Write to further your knowledge and that of others. Write to just bloody enjoy writing.

And, please - don't forget that as a beer blogger is was beer that brought you here.

Enjoy beer.

It *really* is as simple as that.


Derbyshire Bimble: update

- Meet on Corporation Street on Saturday 8th September for the 1135 Trent Barton 'nines' service to Ripley

- Optional brunch at Spoons only if people ask for it in comments below

- If weather is Derbados and the Thorn Tree beerfest is as hellfire as its planned, the bimble may take its foot off the pedal and take its time

- Anyone arriving into Derby via rail, give yourself twenty minutes to get the bus stop

- Latecomers will be admitted. Our ETA (estimated toper arrival) at Thorn Tree, Waingroves is 1240

- Bring your drinking trousers