Monday, 21 May 2018

Something dead cool

for you to buy. My recent books.

Not just clumsily thrown-together asemblages of blog posts, but proper books. Structure, start, finish. All that shit.

First, what I call the expansion pack to The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. Loads more recipes, including ones cut from the original book. And loads of fun American and continental Lager recipes.
And, of course, there's the book of which I'm most proud - and even won an award - Scotland! Vo. II. Easily the best book ever written about Scottish beer, with a crazy number of recipes - around 370. 

I'm getting on dead well with the new book. Should be done in a week or two. Depending on how crazy I go with the recipes.

Back to Amsterdam

No need to get up too early. Just as well, as I'm feeling a little rough. I blame those two litres I drank yesterday afternoon.

That’s weird. It’s warm. Really quite warm. It must be over 20º C. Yesterday it felt like 5º C. From winter to summer overnight. The trees are still all totally bare. Which seems very odd when it’s this warm.

I plan going to Potbelly for a breakfast sarnie. But have a look on the way for a sit-down option. I go a slightly different way and pass the Peninsula. It has a breakfast for $21. A bit pricey, but I've not had a full breakfast on this trip.

It's pretty nice, but not great value for three eggs, two slices of bacon and sausage and two slices of toast. Plus coffee and orange juice. What the hell. It's just the once.

On the table next to me there's a mother with two young daughters. And grandma, who they call Oma. Must be some German blood in them. The kids are pretty noisy, but I don't mind. I can remember when my lads were like that. I've learned to be pretty tolerant of kids. But not so forgiving of miserable adults who whinge at the slightest kid noise. Don't they remember being children themselves?

Checkout is at noon. My flight is at 16:15. But I don't bugger about. Straight to the airport. Slight confession. Last I checked in after getting back from the pub. I was offered a paid upgrade to business class. Being a few drinks in, my willpower wasn't at its strongest. It wasn't crazily expensive, especially if you factor in . . .

I arrive at O'Hare at 12:40. The formalities of bag drop and security don't take long. It's not much past one when I waltz into the business class lounge.

It's quite nice. Great view of the runway. Loads of sandwiches. And self-service spirits. Time to recoup some of that upgrade spend. In bourbon.

To while the time away, while I nibble on sarnies and slurp on bourbon, I fire up my flippity-flop. Damn. It’s won’t start. Is there something wrong with the battery? I’ve been running it on mains power the whole time. But stupidly stuck the power cord in my check in bag. I decide to take the battery out and reinsert it to see if that helps. Amazingly, it does.

Dolores loaded up the first two series of Taskmaster before I left. Lovely woman that she is. I spark up series 1 episode 1.

I have two standard airport stiffeners: Jamesons and Jack Daniels. Depending on where I am. Both are on offer. It's seems only fair to alternate.

This isn't like being in an airport at all, really. No wonder the wealthy are such cocky, smug bastards. A couple more afternoons like this and I'd be there.

I’m feeling pleasantly mellow when boarding of my flight is announced. I finish off my whiskey, close down my computer and trundle off to the gate. It isn’t far.

Onboard, I take full advantage of the food and booze options made available by my upgrade. And watch some more Taskmaster before stretching out and getting my head down. Literally. A get a few hours of pretty decent sleep. I could get used to this.

I don’t wait long for my bag. Before I know it, a taxi is ploughing through the green polder with me in the back. I arrive home before Dolores leaves for work.

The Peninsula Chicago
108 E Superior St,
Chicago, IL 60611.
Tel: +1 312-337-2888

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Clubs in England and Wales 1931 - 1960

You can see that WW II temporarily put the increase in club numbers on hold, but as soon as the war was over they began to rise again.

Clubs in England and Wales 1931 - 1960
Date  Full Beer / wine Total Pubs  Registered clubs  total % clubs
1931 57,072 19,814 76,886 14,377 91,263 15.75%
1932 56,876 19,524 76,400 15,010 91,410 16.42%
1933 56,687 19,268 75,955 15,298 91,253 16.76%
1934 56,538 18,990 75,528 15,657 91,185 17.17%
1935 56,356 18,706 75,062 15,982 91,044 17.55%
1936 56,289 18,392 74,681 16,297 90,978 17.91%
1937 56,233 18,093 74,326 16,563 90,889 18.22%
1938 56,173 17,747 73,920 16,951 90,871 18.65%
1939 56,112 17,460 73,572 17,362 90,934 19.09%
1940 56,047 17,318 73,365 16,463 89,828 18.33%
1941 55,961 17,249 73,210 15,864 89,074 17.81%
1942 55,901 17,191 73,092 15,682 88,774 17.67%
1943 55,868 17,137 73,005 15,732 88,737 17.73%
1944 55,856 17,109 72,965 15,678 88,643 17.69%
1945 55,875 17,085 72,960 15,590 88,550 17.61%
1946 56,009 17,017 73,026 16,496 89,522 18.43%
1947 56,305 16,927 73,232 17,470 90,702 19.26%
1948 58,850 16,534 75,384 18,370 93,754 19.59%
1949 58,140 15,282 73,422 18,962 92,384 20.53%
1950 59,054 14,429 73,483 19,221 92,704 20.73%
1951 59,757 13,664 73,421 19,511 92,932 20.99%
1952 60,333 13,035 73,368 19,903 93,271 21.34%
1953 60,869 12,351 73,220 20,348 93,568 21.75%
1954 61,265 11,708 72,973 20,772 93,745 22.16%
1955 60,670 10,574 71,244 21,164 92,408 22.90%
1956 61,087 9,788 70,875 21,438 92,313 23.22%
1957 61,471 8,882 70,353 21,988 92,341 23.81%
1958 61,762 8,151 69,913 22,567 92,480 24.40%
1959 62,039 7,416 69,455 23,232 92,687 25.07%
1960 63,682 5,502 69,184 23,773 92,957 25.57%
"Brewers' Almanack 1971", page 83.

Clubs as a percentage of total on-licensees rose every year between the end of the war and 1960. By which time they had hit 25%. Why has so little writing been devoted to the topic of clubs when clearly were home a big part of many's drinking experiences.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Let's Brew - 1953 Elgood X

I've decided to make May Watery Mild Month here on the blog. I'm sure you're all pretty excited.

They certainly liked their Mild watery in the 1950s. Or rather, drinkers had no choice as that’s just the way it came.

Elgood’s Mild, X, makes their Light Ale look headily alcoholic. Which is quite an achievement. X was brewed at around the effective minimum gravity. No matter how watery your beer was, you paid the tax for a beer of 1027º. So there was no real economic point in brewing anything much weaker than that.

The grist is, er, interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen flaked barley and flaked rice used in the same beer before. Obviously, there’s the malt extract Elgood threw in all their beers. Then there’s a sugar just described as invert. And another called carmose. I’ll go out a limb here and guess that’s some sort of caramel.

The hops were all English and all quite old. This beer was brewed in October 1953 and the hops were all from the 1950 harvest.

1953 Elgood X
Mild malt 4.50 lb 76.14%
flaked rice 0.25 lb 4.23%
flaked barley 0.33 lb 5.58%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.33 lb 5.58%
malt extract 0.25 lb 4.23%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.25 lb 4.23%
Fuggles 95 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1026
FG 1006.5
ABV 2.58
Apparent attenuation 75.00%
IBU 20
SRM 20
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 176º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Friday, 18 May 2018

Chicago day four

Another lazy start to the day. My first appointment is at eleven. Allowing 20 minutes for the taxi, I don’t need to fully gear up my arse until 10:40. Rising at nine gives me acres of time to farm.

For breakfast, obviously. On my stroll to the Clark Street Ale House yesterday I spotted a Potbelly. “We serve breakfast” it said in the window. “That’s handy.” I thought. Especially as it opens on Sunday. As there’s no diner nearby, that seems a good option.

It’s deserted when I enter. Even behind the counter. Slow time, I guess, Sunday morning.

When a woman pops up behind the counter I say: “I’d like breakfast.”

“We do a breakfast sandwich. Egg with various options.”

She reels off a long list of ingredients. I opt for egg, bacon and cheese. Mostly because those are the ones I can remember. And it sounds like a breakfast I’d want to eat*. With a bottle of orange juice and a coffee, it comes to under $8. Much better value than that ripoff Walgreens sarnie.

When I arrive at Goose Island, Ken and Mike are outside. No need to knock on the door. We immediately speed off to their barrel warehouse. Where mike pours some beer from the Keeping vat. It's lovely. Slightly vinous and firmly bitter. "It's only going to get better, Mike."

"I know. The test brew was more in your face. I guess that's why they blended it."

"They weren't stupid."


Ken and Seth are cameraman and sound man, respectively. They’re filming me and Mike for a promotional video. For or next collaboration. I met them when I was in London last month. They were witness to the Imperial Stout incident.

“Have you got over the death of your drone yet?”

“We’ve already got a new one.” The last one drowned tragically in the Thames.

I’m getting quite used to being miked up. Superstar that I now am. As they’re also going to record my talk, they don’t bother taking off the mike. Though I do make sure they turn it off. “In case I go to the toilet.”

When we get back to the taproom, a few punters are already in. They open at noon on Sunday.

“Any idea how many will be turning up for my talk?”

“Not really.” Mike replies. “We got a pretty good turnout last time.”

I make a quick trip to the bog just before I go on. Don’t want to get caught short halfway through.

When I return Ken starts setting up the sound. The mike has detached from my shirt and been pulled down. Must have happened when I was in the toilet. It’s been pulled down into my trollies.

“I’d be careful about touching that, if I were you, mate.” I warn Ken.

I drink a Midway IPA. One of the more successful transfers to larger AB plants, I’m told.

“It’s because they have vertical fermenters at the brewery where it’s made. Most AB breweries have horizontal ones because they’re meant for Lager brewing.” That’s an interesting take on the vertical vs. horizontal discussion.

My next beer is the Obadiah Poundage trial. It’s much sharper than the beer from the vat. Though that hasn’t had much ageing yet. The 11-month old Keeping must have been quite tart, as this blend is two-thirds Running Porter.

Mike disappears into the brewery and returns with one of his babies: a 20-litre oak cask made in Munich’s last cooperage. It’s filled with Helles and Mike will soon be tapping it. I’m relieved he does ask me if I’d like to. I’m dead wary since the Schumacher incident in our old flat. I cocked up tapping a 10-litre cask and Alt went all over our living room. After that, I had to tap casks in the bath.

Mike whacks in the tap like a pro and quickly fills a few litre glasses. For me, him, Ken and Seth. Usually, I’m not that keen on litres. But when they’re filled with refreshing Helles, it’s a different matter. Amazing how quickly the first litre slips down. So I get a second. There’s something about beer served Bayerischer Anstich.

Maybe knocking back two full litres just before speaking isn’t the best idea. But it’s only 30 minutes or so. Me talking about the history of Porter. Bare arsed.

Talking without the crutch of slides or any structural preparation. I find it quite fun. That shows how far I've come. Scary as shit, this used to be. Now, it's a sort of perverse fun. What am I saying, where am I going? Who cares? As long as the punters aren't buggering off, it's a winner for me. And when my crappy coarse jokes get a laugh, I must be doing something right.

Time to sell some books. After a quick wee. Those two litres are working their way through my system.

The bookselling goes OK. I’m left with just two. That’s not bad. I didn’t expect to shift any copies of Lager!.

When it’s obvious there are no more books to be sold, I join Mike and Ken at the bar. For some more Obadiah Poundage. It seems to have worked out well. Mike had worried about the high percentage of dark malts in the Keeper. Months in oak had mellowed any harshness out a treat. The production version will be different. Brewed to Truman rather than Barclay Perkins recipes.

Mike can’t stay too long. He’s a family man now, with a young child. It’s only right he spends the evening with them, rather than a beer obsessive.

Ken takes me out for dinner instead. No problem with that. I like Ken. And we’ve shared many pints. We go to Publican Anker, a nice fish place.

Oysters, then deep fried fish. What could be better than a fish and fish supper? A fish and chip supper, obviously. Technically, it is a fish and chip supper. As oysters aren’t really fish. And there is a chip element to the meal. No mushy peas, sadly.

I begin the drinks side of the meal with a mint julep. Because I’ve not had one before. Switching to beer, Cigar City Jai Alai, an IPA sort of thing. Pretty sure I’ve heard of it. Seems OK. In an Americaney IPA-ey sort of way.

We finish in Revolution Brewing. Another brewpub How many of them have I been in this trip? I’ve lost count. A lot, is the correct answer. It’s busy, but we find seats at the bar. Where we chat with a delightful young couple sitting beside us. All very civilised. And there’s beer.

I order a Deth’s Tar. Barely alcoholic at just 14.8% ABV.  As you’d expect from an Imperial Stout, it’s pretty damn black. Black as it would have been in those derelict cellars in Cincinnati if the lights had gone out.

Why do I always sit at the bar when drinking alone in the US? Much easier to start a conversation there. Either with the staff or fellow barleaners. Stuck at a table by yourself, the chat chances are checked.

Ken gets me an Uber back. Thanks, Ken. I stumble through the revolving door. Where's that Bourbon? Come here sleep. Give me a kiss. Goodnight.

* A breakfast I did eat, when working on Manhattan. There was a place on the way from the ferry terminal to my office that did a roaring trade in takeaway breakfast sarnies. I used to drop by occasionally. Well, more than occasionally. A few days every week, let’s say. My order was always just what I had in Potbelly: bacon, egg and cheese. I ate it at my desk on the 19th floor while working. That’s the sort of high-powered job I had. Not really. I wanted to be able to bugger off as early as possible. Eating on the job was just time-efficient.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop
225 E Chicago Ave,
Tel: +1 312-837-4896

Goose Island Beer Company
1800 W Fulton St,
Chicago, IL 60612
Tel: +1 800-466-7363

Publican Anker
1576 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago, IL 60622.
Tel: +1 773-904-1121

Revolution Brewing
2924, 2323 N Milwaukee Ave,
Chicago, IL 60647.
Tel: +1 773-227-2739

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Unregulated clubs

As part of a debate on The Liquor Traffic (Local Control) Bill, Cosmo Bonsor made some interesting remarks about an unregulated club in the East End of London.

"If they were going to deal with the licensing question at all it was absolutely necessary that they should deal with a certain class of clubs; and he ventured to think that the right hon. gentleman had made a mistake in omitting them from his Bill. (Hear, hear.) There were clubs at present in existence in the East of London — in fact, all over the metropolis — which were absolutely uncontrolled by the State. They were called by various names. He would give an account of one in the East of London which he believed was patronised by hon. members of that House who sat for East London constituencies, and represented Radical opinions, probably everyone of whom would vote for the second reading of this Bill for the closing of licensed houses. The club to which he referred was conducted without any regulation at all as to hours, and his informant, a practical man, who visited it on a Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, when publichouses were closed, found there about 400 people, men, women, and children, and in three of the rooms gambling of various descriptions was going on, and in all the rooms drink was being consumed, and it was absolutely impossible to get even a biscuit, or any sort of solid refreshment. During the hour and a half his friend was in the club he was perfectly certain that two hogsheads of beer were drawn and consumed, besides an enormous quantity of spirits — (laughter) — and besides this a large quantity of spirits was carried out of the club to be consumed outside. If further legislation was going to be put on licensed houses, the houses regulated by the State, he was perfectly certain that this Bill would do more harm than good. (Hear, hear.) In London he understood there were 160 of them, and they were simply for the purpose of getting outside the hours during which licensed houses had to be kept open and closed. He anticipated that if this Bill became law, the gentlemen who were the members of these various clubs would be the first that would be called upon to vote for prohibition. They would not be under the law, they would not be closed themselves, but they would come out to prevent the competition of well-regulated and properly licensed traders."
The Brewers' Guardian 1893, page 68.

The Bill in question was about the possibility of having local vetoes, that is having local votes to decide on whether to ban all alcohol outlets. Cosmo Bonsor in addition to being an MP was also a director of the Combe brewery, so he wasn't exactly impartial in this matter.

That club sounds like quite a fun place. Especially for a Sunday morning. I used to hate Sundays. Everything was shut and the pubs only opened for two hours in the afternoon and another three in the evening. What were you supposed to do?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1959 Adnams XXX

It’s May, the weather is wonderful – what could be more appealing than a nice watery 1950’s Mild?

And this version of Adnams XXX Mild, at under 3% ABV, is certainly pretty watery. Though perhaps not quite as watery as it looks. I have a Whitbread Gravity Book analysis for Adnams Mild from 1967 and that lists the OG as 1033.5º.  Yet a brewing record from the same year gives the OG as 1031º.

Why the discrepancy? Probably because of primings. Most breweries don’t bother listing them in the brewing record. When they do, 2º or 3º is typical for the gravity boost primings give to a beer of this gravity. Primings probably account for the difference between the calculated colour and the one given in the analysis, which is around 20 SRM.

To simulate this, you could add another 0.5 lb of No. 3 invert at racking time. That should get you somewhere near the colour and effective OG.

It’s surprising how different this recipe is from 1950 XX. The earlier beer contained amber malt and caramel, but no pale malt.

I know little about the hops, other than that they were English and from the 1957 and 1958 harvests.

1959 Adnams XXX
mild malt 3.75 lb 57.69%
pale malt 0.75 lb 11.54%
crystal malt 80L 0.75 lb 11.54%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.25 lb 19.23%
Fuggles 95 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1030
FG 1008
ABV 2.91
Apparent attenuation 73.33%
IBU 20
SRM 13
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 60.5º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Chicago day three

The breakfast choice is even more limited than yesterday: scrambled eggs with bits in and French toast. I add some extra cheese to the scrambled eggs. It's no substitute for bacon.

After my breakfast disappointment, I scrape together my sorry possessions and check out. There’s no –one from the hotel to grab me a cab. And none seem to be passing by. Then I notice a row of them at the next junction. It’s a taxi rank. I shuffle over the street and jump in one.

“The airport, please.”

Bagless, I’ve soon my boarding card in hand. The annoying security shit is relatively quick, thankfully. But I don’t have much time before boarding. Especially as I forget there’s a driverless train thing to whisk you out to the gates, all weirdly distant from the terminal. The walk wastes a good 5 or 6 minutes of valuable drinking time.

Where can I get a drink? There, I guess.

I haul my sorry arse onto a barstool at Outback Steakhouse, an Australian-themed, er, steakhouse.

“A double bourbon, please.”

“Which one would you like, Knob Hill, Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace.”

“Give me a Maker’s Mark.”

I don’t have a huge amount of time before my flight. Only time for a couple of bourbons. I board almost as soon as I get to the gate.

My flight is on time at least today. Not very full, either. The window seat next to me is unoccupied, allowing me to get some good shots of Chicago as we approach O’Hare.

With no bag to collect, it’s straight through to landside to grab a Joe. I’m soon immersed in that world of beige that makes up US suburban sprawl.

I’m in the same hotel on the Magnificent Mile. It’s nice to be at the heart of things. And it wasn’t even particularly expensive, given the location.

It’s pretty chilly out. Much cooler than Cincinnati. Not in the good sense. So much so that I need to zip up my coat. The fact it’s very windy doesn’t help.

I stroll down to the Clark Street Ale House. I'm feeling lazy and it isn't far. It's quite raucous, but at least it's the sound of human voices, mostly, not some shitty music. Though there is music playing. Get it on. Sweet Emotion. Not heard Aerosmith in years. I detect a 70's theme to the sounds. I'm OK with that. I am a child of that decade.

I start with the ludicrously-named Spiteful God Damn Spiteful Pigeon Porter (6.2% ABV). It’s pretty much black, without much in the way of head troubling it. Roasty in a coal-like way. Not bad, though.

The crowd is mostly young things. Other than the dogs, whom I guess count as no more than adolescent. Many of the young things are drinking macro beer straight from the bottle. Maybe the dogs have more sophisticated taste.

The beer list is pretty varied, with a good deal of Lagers: Dovetail, Stiegl, Weihenstephan and Ayinger. And there aren’t too many effing IPAs. Though obviously there are some fruited Gose abominations. And an inevitable NE IPA.

What next? 3 Floyds Thicc Bois (6% ABV). Another weird name. Described as an experime3ntal dry hop IPA with lactose. Speaking of abominations, I missed the lactose bit before I ordered. I can’t say I would have spotted the lactose. There’s a little lingering sweetness, but it tastes much like any other grapefruit IPA to me.

TVs are everywhere. But they’re showing a Cubs game, do I’ll let them off. I find it weirdly hypnotic, baseball. Very ritualistic. Maybe even more so than cricket. The players are well wrapped up. I don’t blame them. Not exactly short-sleeve weather.

I try to order a Gummy Vortex, but it’s just run out. I get a New Glarus The Hemperator Hemp Pale Ale (7% ABV). As she’s pouring it the barmaid says: “It smells like someone has been smoking a bong.”

“I know, I can smell it from here.” I reply.

Living in Amsterdam, I’m used to the smell of weed. The beer tastes like Dam Straat smells. Guess they’ve achieved what they’re after. Though, hang on. I though New Glarus didn’t distribute outside Wisconsin?

After a few beers, I leave. No food here and I'm getting peckish. I go to Jakes again. I slide my gut up to the bar and order a beer. Let's take a look at the menu. What do I fancy? A full meal, as it will be my only one of the day. A brisket platter sounds good. Meat and chips. What could be better than that? There's a tiny bowl of coleslaw to go with it. So tiny, it's clearly symbolic.

It looks like Kim Jung-Un at the end of the bar. Guess it probably isn’t, unless he has his double doing the hard work while he goes on the piss.

I'm taking things pretty easy, chilling in my hotel watching a Chicago White Socks game. Baseball is so relaxing. There's even less going on than in cricket. Been doing some writing, too. I just finished my first trip report.

When the baseball is done I flick randomly through the channels. Until I stumble on FX. An episode of The Americans is just starting. That'll do. It's quite nostalgic. Not the Cold War thing, particularly. It's set around the time I lived in the US. Did I really do that? It seems quite unreal now. I realise I wouldn't mind living over here again. For a year or so.

I get a bit peckish around half eleven and go downstairs to reception. They don’t sell any food here in the hotel and point me to an all-night Walgreens a couple of blocks away. I can’t be arsed to go back upstairs to get my coat and endure the cold, windy street in my shirtsleeves. Just as well Walgreens isn’t too distant.

It’s not particularly cheap. A sarnie sets me back over five dollars. The robbing bastards.

Sandwich wolfed down, I get some kip in. Even though I don’t need to be up early. I’ve arranged to be at Goose Island at 11.

Sleep creeps up softly on rubber soles and slips into bed beside me.

Clark Street Ale
742 N Clark St,
Chicago, IL 60654,.
Tel: +1 312-642-9253

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap
41 E Superior St,
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: +1 312-266-0400

Monday, 14 May 2018

Cincinnati day two (part two)

Mark, as he gives tours, has the keys to some of the derelict breweries. We start at Felsenbrau.

Entering through the front door, we go straight into a large, bare space. This used to be the brew house, though all the equipment is long gone. Just as well Mark has supplied us with torches as it’s pretty dark.

There are some old decorative touches that remain. Like the barrels on the stair railings. But it’s pretty spooky. We make our way up rickety staircases and over dodgy looking floor.

“Be careful where you step.” Mark warns us. “There are some holes in the floor.” That’s reassuring.

Many of the walls are daubed with graffiti, left by the squatters who occupied the building for a while. It must have been a weird place to live.

There’s a cast-iron water tank still in place, with a ladder leading down into it. You wouldn’t get me in there. Some of the pulleys for transmitting steam power are still attached high up on the walls.

Interesting as it is, I’m quite relieved to be back out in the sunlight. But not for long. Our next destination is just up the street. This time it’s not the brewery but the cellars dug beneath it that we’re visiting.

Thankfully, there is electricity. Meaning it’s quite well lit. The empty tunnels are still pretty eerie. There are two levels of tunnels. Because of the way they’re cut back into the hill, each has an entrance at ground level. Very handy for getting beer in and out. In one spot there are rails embedded in the floor which look like they were used for rolling barrels out of the cellar.

It’s chilly and damp underground. Emerging, it feels wonderfully warm. And less claustrophobic. Fascinating as it was, I’m glad to be outside again.

Remember I mentioned Rhinegeist was in part of the old Moerlein brewery? Confusingly, there’s a new Moerlein brewery, owned by Greg Hardman, who bought the rights to the name when they were up for grabs. It’s housed in an old Malthouse and that’s where we’re headed next.

Greg is there to meet us. After I’ve got myself a Maibock, he takes me on a tour of the brewery. It’s another quite large one – 30 barrels. When I spot a pair of horizontal tanks, I mention a discussion about the merits of horizontal versus vertical lagering tanks at the Lager Fest.

“The Trüb drops out much better in horizontal tanks.” Greg tells me. Which is what its proponents said in St. Louis. The ones who were brewing Lager.

I see stacks of Little Kings all over the place. It’s a Cream Ale sold in a tiny 7 oz. bottle.

“It’s still very popular.” Greg tells me. I’m surprised. It seems a frustratingly small serving of a standard-strength beer.

I get myself a Doppelbock. It seems the obvious place to finish. It’s sweet, heavy and malty, as you’d expect.

I’m trying to cross off as many US states as I can. When I noticed Kentucky was just over the Ohio River from Cincinnati, I hoped to persuade someone to drive me over. Before realising on arrival that Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky. Landing in an airport. Does that count as visiting a state?

So I’m pleased when, on our way to our next stop, Wooden Cask, I realise we’re crossing the Ohio.

“We’re crossing over to the dark side.” I quip.

Nervous laughter.

“It is very different on this side of the river. I lived over here. The produce section in the supermarkets is tiny.” James tells me.

Weird that such a short distance should make such a big difference.

We’ve two reasons for our crossing: beer in Wooden Cask and food in La Mexicana. An ethnic restaurant whose persuasion you can probably guess. Sounds like a good plan to me. The surroundings don’t have to be fancy for me. Just feed me that good foody stuff and I’m as happy as Barry.

We find a boothy-type thing half way to the back. And plonk ourselves down What to drink? A beer? I notice an enormous margarita, literally the side of my head, served to another table.

“I want that one. The drink the size of my head.”

I should learn to stop showing off. It’s an enormous serving. In volume and calories, doubtless way outweighing my goat burrito. Which, without flying, hit several spots. Especially with that hot-saucey stuff. I do like my spice.

Wooden Cask’s brewer joins us for a quick taco. Before we return to his gaff for a farewell Ale or two. I try a Scotch Ale then a Barleywine.

It’s emptied out. A hen party is leaving as we arrive. But we’ve still time for another couple of beers before being thrown out into the still night. Still in the not-stopped-being rather than quiet sense. 

James drops me back at my hotel downtown. It’s been a very long and full day. No Rock Bottom tonight. My bottom is going to be parked on my bed as soon as possible.

And wait for sleep to wrap me in blankets of unease. Or cover me with a duvet of delight. Be kind to me, you unpredictable, vindictive bastard. Pretty please.

Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.
1621 Moore St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Tel: +1 513-827-6025

La Mexicana Restaurant
642 Monmouth St,
Newport, KY 41071.
Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 11AM
Tel: +1 859-261-6112

Wooden Cask Brewing Company
629 York St,
Newport, KY 41071.
Tel: +1 859-261-2172

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Cincinnati day two (part one)

I'm being picked up by James at 8:30 and need to rise at 7:30. If I want brekkie. Which I do. I’ve got a long day ahead.

No bacon smell as I exit the lift. There's scrambled egg, French toast and the dodgy sliced sausage in a grease bath. With disposable plates and cutlery.

My hotel is in a beautiful building, originally the headquarters of local Newspaper the Cincinnati Enquirer. Clearly there was more money in the newspaper game back then.

When I pop out of the hotel at 8:30 on the dot, James is waiting in his car outside. The plan was for him to pick up Mark Brush first, but he's running a little late. We'll need to make a diversion to collect Mark before heading on to Loveland. Where we'll be brewing a beer.

Loveland is a cute little town on the far outskirts of the city. Our destination - Narrow Path - is a relatively young brewery in former garage. Chad, one of the owners, is already busy mashing when we arrive. The hard way, with a meatal paddle. The beer is 1868 William Younger No. 3. Something I have a very soft spot for. A much later version of No. 3 having been one of the first beers I brewed with my brother back in 1973.

Bob is already there. He’s helping Chad for the work experience part of his brewing course. He’s taking turns to stir the mash. Rather him than me. That shit is much harder work than it looks. Mash is thick and heavy. And my arms thin and puny.

“Would you like a beer?” Chad asks. He doesn’t need to repeat the question.

I plump for a Coconut Porter at 6.2% ABV. It’s very coconutty. The first sip is a bit of a shock. But hallway in, I start to quite like it. Not sure I’d order s second, mind.

“We roast our own coconut, then put it in a brown paper bag and leave it for a few days.” Chad tells us before fetching said bag. The smell is amazing.

Gregg, another owner, arrives. I thought Chad was laid back. Gregg is virtually limboing.

I have a second beer, this time going for the Irish Coffee Stout (6% ABV). It’s very coffe-ey, but also very dry. At least it’s woken me up a bit.

Gregg, another owner, arrives. I thought Chad was laid back. Gregg is virtually limboing.

After a while a tall, softly spoken bloke called Jason turns up. He’s come over on his break to chat with me. He’s another reader of my blog. There seem to be quite a few of them in Michigan. I promise to send him the Stock IPA recipe on which Brewery Yard is based.

About 1 PM to head back to the city centre for a spot of lunch. Our destination is Taft Ale House, a brewpub in a converted church. But on the way there we drop by Dan Listermann’s business empire.

First we take a look around the homebrew shop where everything started. Walking through the indoor beer garden – a large room decked out with picnic tables – we’re invited by one of the brewers to take a tout of the brewery. It’s bigger than I expected – 10 barrels – cobbled together from old dairy equipment.

In front of the brewery is the tap room, the bar and bar back are copies of those at a pub Dan’s grandfather ran. Very pretty. We’re given samples of a few of their beers. There are come, er, interesting ones: Peanut Butter Porter, for example. Not sure that would be my first choice.

James has trouble finding somewhere to park close to Taft's Ale House. All the nearby parking garages are full. But he eventually he finds a spot in a tiny car park in a vacant lot.

It’s stunning inside. There’s obviously been a few bob spent here. We sit on the balcony, which is a good spot to take in the full grandeur of the place.

I order a Gavel Banger IPA. It’s very grapefruity. And 7% ABV, which I like. Now what about some food? A Bhan Mi sandwich will do nicely. Accompanied by an Auld Girthy, a Scotch Ale of 8.8% ABV. Full of malty goodness.

The area we’re in is called Over the Rhine because it used to be separated from downtown by a canal. Also because it was once a mostly German neighbourhood. How appropriate that most of the city’s former breweries should have been here.

Many 19th-century buildings have been preserved. Though there are still some empty and boarded up. But the neighbourhood is generally on the rise and home to many artisan shops and restaurants.

Mark, who conducts tours of the old breweries in Cincinnati, points out various buildings that once belonged to the Moerlein brewery. And the site of where the Brewhouse was, now sadly demolished and replaced by ugly modern industrial buildings.

One part of the complex – Moerlein’s packaging department – is still in use by the brewing trade. Rhinegeist is located there. And our next destination.

After climbing up a couple of floors via an industrial-looking staircase, I’m shocked on entering the main hall. It’s huge. I mean ginormous. The original kit in the distance at one end looks tiny. Which it is compared to the new kit. Wow. They’re brewing on a large scale here.

Austin, one of the brewers, takes us around. His previous job was at Asheville brewing in, er, Asheville. It turns out that he knows Mike Karnowski. It's a small world. Before we set off, I get a Mild. Now there’s a treat.

The operation is as massive as it looks. They have a 20 barrel and a 60 barrel Brewhouse. This year, they’re set to brew over 100,000 barrels. Next year they’re aiming for 165,000 barrels. That must make them one of the largest new breweries in the US.

Austin takes us down to a cellar where all the funky things are going on. Fruit and sour beers are ageing away, some in vats. He gives us samples of a couple. Pretty nice they are, too. In some they’re using a species of Brettanomyces that they found in the cellar. Which Austin found very frustrating.

While he was studying he collected 17 types of wild yeast out in the Maine countryside. It was a considerable effort. Yet none of them were usable for one reason or another. In the brewery cellar they found a viable strain of Brettanomyces on their first attempt.

Tour over, we climb up to the roof, where there’s a bar with great views. It’s a little windy, but the sun is out and its warming rays are raining down on us. I get a Truth, their IPA. Judging by how many batches were on the go in the brew house, it must be their biggest seller. Meanwhile James’s charming other half has joined us. Just in time for the scary bit.

But you'll have to wait until tomorrow for that.

Narrow Path Brewing Co.
106 Karl Brown Way,
Loveland, OH 45140.
Tel: +1 513-291-5503

Listermann Brewing Company
1621 Dana Ave,
Cincinnati, OH 45207.
Tel: +1 513-731-1130

Taft's Ale House
1429 Race St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Tel: +1 513-334-1393

Rhinegeist Brewery
1910 Elm St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Tel: +1 513-381-1367

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Let's Brew - 1913 William Younger XXP

Just to show that William Younger XXP wasn't always a feeble beer, here's a version from just before WW I.

The gravity is much higher - a very reasonable 1056º - and the ABV over 5%. It's weird to think that were older drinkers in the 1950's who would have drunk this version of XXP in their youth. I can't imagine they were very happy with the changes.

Though there are some things about this recipe that perhaps aren't that great. For example, the massive percentage of grits. The hopping is also very modest for a beer of this gravity. The rate is lower than a London Mild of the same period.

The hops are a combination of Pacifics from the 1910 and 1912 crop, plus Kents from 1912. I've reduced the hopping in the recipe to account for their age.

1913 William Younger XXP
pale malt 7.00 lb 53.85%
grits 6.00 lb 46.15%
Cluster 120 mins 1.00 oz
Cluster 90 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1056
FG 1017
ABV 5.16
Apparent attenuation 69.64%
IBU 36
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday, 11 May 2018

Cincinnati day one

Matt is picking me up at 11:15 for my 13:48 flight. Which gives me some time. The only restriction is getting to the breakfast room by 9:30.

Breakfast is scrambled egg, potatoes and a different type of dodgy sausage, something sliced up and swimming in its own grease. At least it's on a ceramic plate. And the coffee wakes me up a treat. I always go for the robust rather than the regular. I know how watery American coffee can be.

I fiddle around on the internet a little while waiting for Matt. Just as I'm about to close down my computer, I get an email from Delta: my flight has been delayed until 15:30. I quickly fire off an email to Bob Isburgh, who's picking me up in Cincinnati.

I have a good final chat with Matt as we trundle along the motorway to the airport. It's quite a hike from Brighton.

Goodbyes said, I find a machine and type in my PNR number. A couple of seconds later it spits out my boarding card.

There's quite a queue for security. Not a worry, seeing as I've three hours due to my flight's delay. Once through, I look at the directory to find the most suitable boozing location close to my gate. Oh look, there's a Gordon Biersch. That'll do nicely.

As I'm walking to the tram, I notice an electronics shop. I wonder if I can pick up a mouse there?

"Can I help you, sir?"

"Yes. Do you sell mice?"

"Yes, over here."

They've a variety, at prices of varying degrees of outrageousness. I plump for the cheapest, a snip at $19.99. It's worth it. Using the pad has been driving me totally crazy. How anyone can work with those things is beyond me.

I plonk myself at the bar and look at the taps. A Maibock looks my best bet.

"A Maibock, please."

"Would you like a menu, sir?"

"Yes, but I'll work up an appetite a little before ordering." With the flight delay, I’ve ages. No need to rush. Which is how I prefer things. I’d rather spend an hour longer at an airport bar than have to rush.

The Maibock is fizzy. Very fizzy. A good bit of swirling has little effect. So I swirl it some more. It's still fizzing like lemonade. Brill. It's not bad, but would be way better with a quarter of the carbonation.

I get bored of swirling a third in and order a double jack Daniels. No ice, obviously. I'm not a weirdo. Maybe the carbonation will calm down while I'm wrapping my chops around the whiskey.

A couple of gulps in and my appetite is picking up.

"Can I get a strip steak?"

"What do you want as a side?"

"Fries, please."

The slices of steak are covered in barbecue sauce. Which tastes almost exactly like HP sauce. That brings back memories. Especially on the chips. It's like being back in Wilfred Avenue, 1967.

No need to rush my food. I've plenty of time. I try to fire up my flip-flop to see if Bob, has emailed me. I connect to the wifi, but can't find the login screen on my browser. I'm a bit shit with this sort of modern computer shit. Discouraged, I give up and order another double Jack Daniels instead.

Where are my notes? I realise that I’ve left them back in the hotel. Bum. I even did a quick scan before leaving and didn’t spot them. That’s annoying. Just as well I’ve been typing some stuff in on my computer. Otherwise I’d be buggered.

I mosey over to the gate in plenty of time. Just in case. You never know with delayed flights. Just for the hell of it, I give the flip-flop another whirl. This time, I stumble across the right window and get myself logged in. Nothing from Bob, so I email Dolores to let her know I'm not staring up from a gutter or face down in a river.

The incoming flight arrives. And there's an announcement saying that the turnaround will be quick be as the plane is empty. Mmm . . .

The flight is short and uneventful. I just hope Bob is there.

I've only hand luggage and am swiftly through to landside. White beard is what Bob said I should look for. Sure enough there's a man with a white beard holding a piece of paper with my name on it.

He’s studying brewing science in the evenings. It’s an event put on by his class that we’re going to later: Flight Night. The students have brewed up a variety of beers on the university’s pilot system. They’re being paired with food prepared by culinary students.

After quickly checking in and dropping off my bags, Bob whisks me off to the university.  We pass the Sam Adams plant, which looks massive. It’s the former Schoenling Brewery, the last of the city’s older breweries.

There’s quite a crowd, students and guests. Bob introduces me to some of his fellow students. One, James Czar will be accompanying us tomorrow as designated driver.

There’s also a brewer from a nearby Miller Coors plant. And Dan Listermann, who’s quite a character. He’s run a local homebrew shop for years and has more recently expanded to include a brewery and tap room. Dan is a real Germanophile and we discuss our favourite spots in Bavaria.

The beers are mostly pretty good. I like the Quad so much that I have a second. The food is excellent. Pigs in blankets using handmade sausages. Flatbread with ham they cured themselves.

On the way out, we take a look at the little brewing system. It’s a half-barrel, three-vessel kit, made from chopped up kegs. A typical homebrewing setup. It’s housed in what was once a kitchen for the culinary students.

When James drops me off at my hotel he says: “I have to get back to my family, but if you fancy another beer there’s a Rock Bottom just over the way.” I need little encouragement to indulge in more beer.

I roll myself up to the bar, plonk my bum on a barstool and order a beer. This is fun. Rock Bottom might be a chain, but their beers are usually passable. And they have handy downtown locations. I’ve drunk in several of them.

A diminutive woman of around thirty is running the bar all on her own. Pulling drinks for the waitresses as well as serving those seated at the bar. I’m impressed. She’s working non-stop, but seems to be on top of it.

Do I feel like eating? A little, maybe. But everything on the menu is too big or not what I feel like. I give it a miss.

When last call is called at eleven, I trail back to my hotel. I get myself a bag of crisps on my way in. That should keep me going until morning.

My head hits the pillow before midnight, my mind emptying when I’ve barely laid down. Sleep creeps stealthily in from the bathroom while I’m distracted.

Gordon Biersch
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit, MI 48242.
Tel: +1 734-941-0592

Rock Bottom
10 Fountain Square Plaza,
Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Tel: +1 513-621-1588