A-Z of Beer and Brewing in Britain
Having now published Brewing Britain- The Quest for the Perfect Pint I seem to have a load of words left over, therefore I thought I’d blog them as this A-Z of beer. So far I’ve put together A to F and I’ll add to it sporadically as I get time. Which in actuality could mean that if you check back in 2018 you still may only find A to F! (But lets hope not eh)?
A is for Ashley Down Brewery and Alpha Acids
I was first introduced to this brewery when I tasted a pint of Vanguard, an excellent mild. Here is what I thought of it: “Some sweet raisin and a whiff of lightly roasted coffee on the nose, then a lovely balance roasted and a touch of white bread from the malt. Fairly reminiscent of something a bit stronger the Traquir house ale springs to mind, as there are some similar fruity flavours – damson, dark cherry but with a touch of soy sauce”. Also look out for a pint of Ashley Down “Best” another lovely beer from the Ashley Down Brewery.
Often abbreviated to AA, these are acids present in hops that impart bitterness. When your hands get a yellow sticky substance on them after handling hop cones (flowers) it is because of a resin in the hop called lupulin. Alpha acids are found in this resin and they therefore make up a certain percentage of what’s in the hop, hence the AA % on the side of the hops bought from reputable sources.
These alpha acids are made up of other chemicals, each of which imparts a different type of bitterness into the beer. The two most important are humulone and the common belief is that in high levels is thought to give beer a ‘clean’ bitterness, and cohumulone is thought to give it a harsher bitterness. However, I’ve yet to taste the diffence nor has anyone else I know there may be a good reason for this, see cohumulone below for more.
B is for Boadicea hops
Not are rare hop but neither are they common place. There is a uniquely delicate floral aroma, they seem to be a marmite hop and many hate them. I personally love them and when used to dry hop a bitter they can really add something. It’s exactly what Vince from Ashley down uses in his best and can also be found in some Adnams beers.
C is for Cohumulone
Granted you’ll be showing off your beer geekery if you have even heard of Cohumulone but I thought it worth a mention. Beer is bitter due to the alpha acids in hops or rather the iso-alpha acids that are formed when hops are boiled. Or to put it another way asThomas Shellhammer wrote in the Oxford Companion to beer, “Cohumulone is one of the five alpha acid analogs in hop resin,…they serve as precursors to iso-alpha acids, the predominant contributors of bitterness in beer”.
It is considered to give a rather harsh bitterness, the delicate noble hops are often used to exemplify this as they are very low in cohumulon. In actuality the bad reputation of Cohumulone is down to one suspect study back in 1956 and subsequent studies have suggest there is no real conceivable “harsher” bitterness from hops that are high in Cohumulone. The harsh bitterness is an apparent myth that unfortunately for some hop growers, still prevails.
D is for Durden Park Beer Circle
Formed in 1972 during the dark days of beer in Britain when big companies were taking over and beer was becoming increasingly mass produced. They look into old brewing records and recreate commercial beers brewed from 1840 to 1914. From the members I’ve met, they are a great bunch of fellas. To find out more and to even buy a copy of their book “Old British Beers and How to Brew them”, visit their site.
E is for Elland
Yorkshire is home to some of best breweries in the world (in my opinion) and Elland comfortably sits with giants. Most famed for their 1872 porter, which often pops up across beers festival or as a guest ale. If you’ve got to know your dark beers you know to expect molasses, liquorice and sometimes burnt flavours. In this 1872 porter the molasses is more of a burnt toffee flavour and the liquorice dries as you drink and gives way to dark fruits and a chocolate flavour reminiscent of the finest Belgium chocolate fondant.
F is for Fraoch
Traditionally, (and we are talking over 1000 years ago), British ale was made with herbs, various different herbs and herb mixes were used to bitter the sweet wort such as rosemary, yarrow and bog myrtle. Williams Brothers up in Alloa claim to be the only brewery in the world to still make beer made with heather and what more it is more than just a very clever marketing gimmick the beer is floral, earthy and herbal and well worth a taste.