Sunday, 30 December 2012

Partizan Brewing

I first met Andy Smith a couple of years ago at a BrewDog Burns night supper at the White Horse in Parson's Green. Andy was then working at North London's Redemption Brewery and I recall him telling me how his passion for food (he's a former chef) served him well as he started out as a brewer.  Since then, Redemption has built a strong reputation for producing flavourful beers at a consistently high quality. Andy credits Head Brewer Andy Moffat for developing a solid brewing process, ensuring the recipes he designed (Big Chief being a personal favourite) really sung in the glass.

Earlier this year, while discussing his next career move with Moffat, the idea of potentially going it alone was born. Andy is quick to credit his former boss with helping him to get Partizan off the ground but what really made his mind up was being offered Kernel Brewery's old 4BBL brew kit. Many a tasty brew has emerged from those tanks since Kernel started in 2009, but an expansion earlier this year meant it was surplus to requirements. As it turns out, the kit only had to move less than a mile to its new home, a converted railway arch in Bermondsey's Almond Road - a five minute walk from the tube station.

Kernel's old kit being put to good use

Eye-catching branding!
Partizan's first brew in November was a big one - a 8.6% stout. Andy explained that he got better efficiency that he was expecting, and the starting gravity was therefore higher than planned. The beer is an absolute belter and I did a double take when I read the ABV on the bottle. It drinks a couple of points less than that for me - I could drink a few of these but session them at your peril! 

The second brew was a pale ale brewed with Citra, Pacific Jade and Cascade, weighing in at 5.1%. These two beers made up the initial launch, in bottles only, as Partizan won't be kegging or casking their beers for the foreseeable future, and these are now available to buy at the brewery on Saturdays, or from a good pub or beer retailer near you. 

The third beer is another pale ale, this time using the Wakatu hop from New Zealand (formerly known as Hallertau Aroma) with Cascade, and comes in at a slightly higher ABV. These are currently awaiting labels but should be released soon. I sampled this at the brewery and the aroma is fabulous! The fourth beer, a porter, was fermenting away when I visited and should be available in a few weeks. Andy is currently planning a Saison and intends to take a very seasonal approach to what he brews, with lots of variety and experimentation. This is great news for London's thriving scene and I for one will watch and drink with interest.

The brewery is open to the public on Saturdays (drop a tweet to @PartizanBrewing to check if you're planning on visiting). You can expect a warm welcome and some great beer. Go visit!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Elusive Brewing

It's been a while since my last post on home brewing, so I thought I'd provide an update on my most recent and also upcoming adventures.

My fifth all grain brew, Imperial Stout, didn't quite follow the path I described. The base beer itself turned out well. Beyond that, I sat it on some dark roast coffee beans and some French oak chips that had been soaked in Maker's Mark Bourbon. The chips were soaked for about 5 days and the beer was sat on the coffee/oak combination for a week. The beer at that stage had a massive coffee nose that over-powered everything, although this was less present on the palate. 

The feedback I got was that it needed to be a little sweeter, so I decided to introduce cocoa to the mix. Like most things in home brewing, there are many ways to add cocoa into a brew but given where I was, my only real option was to rehydrate some dried cocoa and mix it in. Now, given this brew was for my wife, I felt compelled to use her favourite cocoa (Cadbury's) for this, although that went against the advice I got to use low fat powder to avoid head-killing oils getting into the final product. I gambled on that point and went for it, adding 100 grammes of rehydrated cocoa after transferring the beer off the coffee and oak chips. Then I left it for another week before bottling. The resultant beer is probably my best to date. I think using a starter gave me a good, clean fermentation and the coffee and cocoa combine well on the palate and on the nose to provide decent flavour with hints of oak coming through right at the end. My only error was that it seems some of the bottles have over-carbonated. This is probably due to not ensuring my priming sugar was evenly distributed. The photo above shows a pour of the final beer.

My sixth all grain brew was effectively a revisit of my third, which went a bit wrong (see previous post) and had to be ditched. American Pale Ale is a favourite style of mine and screwing this up had been playing on my mind as I was happy with the recipe and confident I could make a better fist of it with a second attempt. I tweaked it slightly and had to tweak it further on the brew day as I misplaced some Maris Otter (of course I found it 10 minutes after I no longer needed it) so subbed in some DME at the start of the boil.  Here's the final recipe (left, click to enlarge). 

The brew day went very well but I learned that using pellet hops in the boil with my set up is not a good idea. The pellets didn't settle out properly in the cooled kettle, so I lost a lot of wort leaving the trub behind while transferring for fermentation. In any case, fermentation went well with another first for me - dried yeast! The starting gravity was a bit high (1.060), probably as I added too much DME, but I didn't liquor back. The final beer is 5.9% and has just been bottled. The Centennial dry hops and late Apollo addition have combined to give it an aroma that reminds me of those fruit salad penny chews I used to eat as a kid, and I'm happy about that!

The final update I wanted to provide was the plan for my next all grain brew. One beer I really enjoyed this year was Summer Wine's Surfing Monk, an Australian hopped Belgian blonde ale. Given I've just got my mitts on some Galaxy and Topaz and still have some Wyeast 3787 (Belgian Trappiste, High Gravity) in the fridge, I thought I'd have a go at brewing my own version. I'm thinking about splitting the batch however, and ferment ing half with my go-to yeast, Wyeast 1056 (American Ale). The draft recipe is below and I'm hoping to brew this before the turn of the year. 

One more thing before I sign off. The title of this post is the new name I've given my home brewery. I probably don't need a name for it, but hey, it's my brewery and I'll do and brew whatever takes my fancy, so there!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout Beef Stew

There's something about pairing beef with stout that creates flavours even greater than the sum of the parts. Bristol Beer Factory's Milk Stout is a delicious example of the style, with some lovely sweet roasted coffee and chocolate flavours. I thought I'd try it in a beef stew and well, it turned out really nice so I'm sharing the simple recipe.

Photo from BBF website
Ingredients (serves 4)

400g stewing beef
3 large carrots, cubed
1 large parsnip, cubed
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 leek, halved and sliced
1 small swede, cubed
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
1 500ml bottle of Milk Stout
2 bay leaves
Tablespoon of plain flour
Salt, pepper, cumin, and dried ground chilli to taste


Heat some oil in a large pan on a medium heat and throw in the leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes then add in the carrots, parsnip and swede for a further 10 minutes, stirring frequently (the aim is soften, not brown the veg).

Remove the veg and set aside. Up the heat a bit and add more oil to the pan. Brown the beef until sealed then add the flour to soak up the oil and juices from the beef. Add the veg back in along with the tin of tomatoes, stirring as you go. Pour in the bottle of stout and fill the tomato tin with water (about 400ml) and add that in too, crumbling the stock cube in while stirring.

Finally, add a pinch of salt, a generous twist of pepper, a teaspoon of cumin, the bay leaves and chilli to taste. I used dried chilli but fresh will be fine. The aim is to just bring a little warmth rather than end up with a spicy dish, so go easy on it.

Bring gently to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook gently for 2 hours. Like most stews, if you can resist temptation, allowing it to rest overnight and re-heating the next day really allows the flavours to meld together. Serve hot with a fresh crusty roll for mopping up the juice and of course, another bottle of Bristol's finest!

Golden Pints 2012

It's that time of year when we look back before looking forward to the new one. With that in mind, below are my Golden Pint Beer Awards nominations for 2012.
Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Buxton Gold. Had a bit of a moment at Reading beer festival this year, which prompted an impassioned tweet. After several boring brown beers, I ordered a half of this. It sung from the glass right down to the last mouthful. Then I went back for a pint, and another, and maybe one more. Then I missed my train home.
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Magic Rock Cannonball. This beer has just got better and better. The latest batch is absolutely sensational and now that they're bottling in the brewery, we'll hopefully see wider availability of the Huddersfield nectar.
Best Overseas Draught Beer: Regular twitter followers will be bored by now, but Green Flash West Coast IPA at the brewery was special.
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: I've been a bit spoiled this year but the beer in question was a recent, small sample in London of Anchorage Galaxy White IPA. Wow! Where can I buy one to enjoy at home, please?
Best Overall Beer: Thornbridge Raven. See last year's post. No reason to change. I think it's special and the world beer cup judges agree, so there! Kernel Citra IPA ran it close though!
Best Pumpclip or Label: Weird Beard Shark Biscuit (collaboration between Weird Beard and London Brewing Company), designed by Daniel Vane. Both breweries are worth following this year with the former due to start commercial operations in January and the talented Daniel having recently taken over as head brewer at the latter. 

I've sampled plenty of prototypes/home brew from both this year and have enjoyed it all!
Best UK Brewery: Summer Wine have gone from strength to strength this year and I think 2013 is going to be even better for them. Two of the nicest and hardest working guys in UK brewing deserve every inch of the success they've earned, and will earn.
Best Overseas Brewery: Stone, again.
Pub/Bar of the Year: Craft Beer Co, Islington. It only opened last month but is already my favourite London boozer after just a few visits. For those who've not been, think Craft Beer Co (Leather Lane) meets traditional old London pub with a modern twist, complete with individually styled rooms and an Ol' Joanna!
Beer Festival of the Year: Borefts. Wow! What took me so long to get to this festival?
Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose. Love that I can buy an array of local beer in town and, should I feel the urge, fill my basket with White Swan or Jaipur.
Independent Retailer of the Year: I only visited once (bad me) but the Beer Boutique in Putney is ace and I will return soon.
Online Retailer of the Year: Has to be Beer Merchants, in that they've had most of my hard earned this year. Also think their social media presence is fantastic.
Best Beer Book or Magazine: John Palmer's 'How to brew' has been on my bedside table all year. It's great for beginners but has so much more too.
Best Beer Blog or Website: Oh Beery Me by @SheriffMitchell has been fantastic all year. Committing to review a beer a day for a year is one thing but doing it with such passion and diversity really set this blog aside from others this year, and some clever writing kept it fresh throughout.

That said, I must also give an honorable mention to Phil Hardy's Beersay. Phil has architected some fantastic online events this year and is another person I was delighted to meet and share a few beers with. His blog has gained a lot of readers and rightly so.
Best Beer Twitterer: @broadfordbrewer (David Bishop). Has supported me loads on the home brewing front and is as genuinely nice in person as his online persona suggests. Hope to share more beer with him next year - preferably stuff he's brewed!
Best Online Brewery Presence: The one I've visited most is BrewDog's.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: This was at the beer blogger's conference back in May - Sharp's Quadrupel served with banana and cream tart. I'll let Leigh over at The Good Stuff fill in the blanks.
In 2013 I’d Most Like To: Well my 'most like to' in 2012 was to start home brewing. That's gone pretty well, so in 2013 I'd most like to brew on proper big kit!
Open Category: You Choose: Still the most pointless debate: Cask v Keg v Bottle v Can v Wheelie Bin – I don’t care as long as the brewer is happy I’m getting their product via a dispense method which does it justice. (Yes, this is the same as last year. It's still just as prevalent and pointless).