Friday, May 29, 2009

You Can Now Taste ' A Swift One'!!

All the best ideas seem to come from conversations in pubs. This one certainly did. It led to Pete and Kev, from Stoke, and myself presenting ourselves at Mallinsons Lindley brewery to put our ideas into practice one Thursday in May.

The intention was to produce a beer for the Star festival in July to celebrate our respective birthdays, and with Tara and Elaine's expert help and guidance that is what we did. This is the story of the day.

On our arrival, Tara had already started heating the water in the hot liquor tank so our first task was to add the malt to the mash tun. A pale malt, but 140 kg of it. Six sacks were added to the mash, and heaving 25kg bags of malt and trying to flush them with water was not easy. However we managed and soon the malt was bubbling away happily and being sparged with water to assist it to break down. This process took around two hours and gave us chance to select our hops for the beer.

After much discussion, and some informed advice from Tara, we selected Brewers Gold and Perle for the bittering hops,(100:30) and equal amounts of Cascade and Nelson Sauvin for the aroma hops (100:100). Hopefully, our beer should taste of a fusion of the best of American hops and the best of New Zealand.

The mash was then run off in to the copper for the addition of the first quantity of hops. They went in and began to boil again, filling the brewery with the enticing smell of brewing.

While this was going on, there was no time to be idle. Everything in the brewery needs to be spotless and Tara and Elaine, with a bit of assistance, started the cleaning process. Pressure washing barrels, cleaning out the used mash, and sterilising the fermenter for our beer. As Elaine said, brewing is actually 90% cleaning, and having seen what needs to be done, I can see why.

The aroma hops were then measured out for later addition to the boil, and we took a few minutes out to view the cold store, full of barrels of new beer for delivery. On our visit there were eight different brews there. There was also a fermenter with the previous days brew of Station Bitter fermenting away.

Our beer continued to boil and after the addition of some copper finings, the first of the aroma hops were added, the Cascade and later, near the end of the boil, the Nelson Sauvin. Then came the time to transfer the beer to the fermenter, via an intriguing system of pipework round the roof of the brewery but not until Tara was happy that the hop bed was doing its stuff and the beer was running almost clear, free of the bits of hop and malt that had been in the copper.

When all the beer was safely stored in the fermenter Tara pitched the yeast and fermentation began and soon the top of the fermenter was covered in a growing mass of yeasty bubbles. The whole process had taken around seven hours, and when racked would provide 20 or so 9 gallon barrels.

Throughout the process Tara was diligently noting down times, temperatures, and gravities for her records, and keeping track that the beer should come out at the 4% gravity that we wanted.

This was almost the end of our involvement,as the beer would take a few days to ferment before racking off into barrels. All it needed was a name, that was easy. So when you taste 'A Swift One' you'll know exactly how it was made.

And to let you into a secret, if you are lucky enough to taste the two Mallinsons beers at the Star Summer Festival in July, they will both be dry hopped versions of our brew I will let you decide which hops are used.

All that remains now is to thank Tara and Elaine for their unfailing patience in showing three novices the process of brewing, and answering all our questions, no matter how stupid they may have been. It was certainly a day to remember.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Milds for Every Taste

As mentioned previously on the blog, May is CAMRA's Mild Month, and throughout the month I have been sampling the rare and not so rare milds available to local drinkers.

They have ranged from the often seen Thwaites 'Nutty Slack' to the very rare Corvedale 'Dark & Delicious'. I have not intended to make a comparison between them all, obviously I prefer some more than others but all have been part of an interesting experience in drinking beers that are often overlooked in favour of their more hoppy counterparts.

Tetley Mild, for example, is becoming a rarity with its light malt and caramel flavours, but well worth hunting out. Hydes 'Owd Oak' is fruity and biscuity, and Timothy Taylor's Mild combines flavours found in both. Olde Swan 'Original' is a light mild, with a nice balance of hops and malts, Ossett 'Millbridge Mild' a dark, malty beer with plenty of taste.

These are all milds below 4% but all manage to pack flavour into the beer. The real classics in my opinion come from beers brewed above the 4% barrier - the dark, malty gems that really showcase the brewers talents. I have already mentioned the 4.6% 'Dark & Delicious', found at the Halifax beer festival, but rarely seen outside the Sun Inn at Corvedale; Newby Wyke have brewed 'Black Funnel Mild' weighing in at 5% and packed with roasted malt flavour and black as pitch; and even the newer breweries have got in on the act.

Five Towns of Outwood produced 'Pitstack', at 4.6% a beer to be treated with respect but again black and dry and without the sweetness associated with some milds; Northern Brewing produced the 4.1% 'Fruit Mild', packed with berry flavours with a dark background; and Fernandes of Wakefield brewed 'Merrie City Mild' at 5% but in my opinion lacking some of the interesting flavours showcased in other milds.

Whatever your taste, there will be a mild to suit it. Don't just take my word, if you see one, try it and find out for yourself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ossett Offers Bank Holiday Festival Deals

Ossett Brewery offers you a good deal more this Bank Holiday with £1 a pint beer at The Tap and two for the price of one meals at the Silver King.
With the promise of some outstanding weather, this weekend's music festival and barbeque should prove to be a winning combination at the brewery's two home town pubs. Check the website for all the details.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Star Receives Pub of the Year Award

Last night Huddersfield CAMRA awarded Sam Watt of The Star at Folly Hall their award for local pub of the year 2009.

The award was a well deserved accolade for Sam and her efforts in keeping the Star at the forefront of the local pub scene. The pub has no pretensions to being anything other than a well run, classic beer house. There is no music and no electronic machines.

That notwithstanding, it has a hard core of regulars who spend many a happy hour chatting across the bar and drinking the well kept real ale that Sam provides on ten hand pumps. Seven of these feature many and varied guest beers from around the country making it a must visit pub for 'beer tickers' as well as her thirsty regulars.

The enthusiastic drinkers come in even greater numbers for the thrice yearly beer festivals in the outside marquee where even more rare beers can be found and enjoyed. Up to press there have been over 4,500 guest beers sold in the pub alone which in any one's eyes is quiet an achievement for a small local pub.

With little residential property nearby the Star gets its regulars from far and wide and from a broad spectrum of society - bankers rubbing shoulders with librarians, train drivers with car salesmen, policemen with doctors - all walks of life are attracted by unwavering quality and value for money.

The credit for its success should go to Sam but without her dedicated team the pub would not be the place it is, and part of this honour should go to Jane and Chris, her trusty lieutenants, who can regularly be found behind the bar. So if you have never been then why not give it a try and see for yourself what makes the Star so successful. And having already bagged the 'Yorkshire Pub of the Year' award in recent times, the possibility of repeating that feat, or even going on to gain national acclaim, must be good. It would certainly be a worthy winner.

(There is a profile of the Star with photos on an entry in the blog from 18th March)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fifth Swan Festival

This weekend has seen the 5th beer festival at the Swan at Crimble (Slaithwaite). A beer guide listed pub, well worth a visit at any time, has provided us with 35 interesting beers from far and wide. There were 8 from breweries local to Huddersfield, another 8 from Yorkshire brewers and some rare gems from further afield.

The system is the tried and tested one used before at the pub's previous festivals, there are 20 beers on the bar to start with, all cellar cooled and through handpulls, and when one runs off, it is replaced by one of the remaining 15. On my visit, there were some beers that really stood out; Empire 'Roger the Cabin Boy', Humpty Dumpty 'Porter' and Mallinsons ' Colossus' to name but three. All served in excellent form. However, with other offerings from Phoenix, Marble, and Loddon on the bar there was something to suit everyone's taste, and all at reasonably sensible strengths.

Taking a short time out to speak to Johnny, the licencee, he revealed his plans for the future. He has acquired the Commercial in Slaithwaite centre and hopes to covert this shortly to another real bar with around 8 handpumps and a wine bar in another part of the pub to cater for all tastes. He intends that this pub will complement the beers he has on the bar at The Swan, and not duplicate them.

He, along with other pubs in the village, has a vision of around 20 real ales available within a short walk of the centre. There is a rail station nearby and with a frequent bus service from Huddersfield , he hopes this will be another addition to the real ale trails in the area and attract visitors from both Yorkshire and Lancashire. In fact, recently, he has noticed an upsurge in visitors from over the border to the Swan.

All we can do is wish him good luck, any one who has the vision to expand in these difficult times deserves it and all the support we can offer when his plans comes to fruition.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sandwich Festival Comes To The Star

This week, for those not in the know, is British Sandwich Week. To celebrate the fact, Sam at The Star has decided to provide the discerning drinkers in the pub with discerning sandwiches. This is an opportunity not to be missed if Sam (and John's) previous food offerings are anything to go by.

There is a range to suit any taste, with locally sourced beef and ham rubbing shoulders with cheese and prawns. All served with with the relevant sauces and a salad garnish. And all at the competitive price of £3.50.

While you are sampling the sandwiches there will of course, be the usual range of beers on the bar, with some rarely seen breweries such as Summerskills from Devon and Sandstone in the offing.

So why not call in, and sample them, and enjoy the the taste of the Great British sandwich, with a great British beer

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fax Fests

Halifax is a good choice of destination this weekend with the local CAMRA festival vying with the award-winning Three Pigeons for your beer buck.

'The Pigs' is holding only it's second beer festival but unlike last year's Mild dominated affair this one will see ale in a full range of styles.

More details will hopefully appear here shortly - if not give them a ring (number on brewery website).

"I visited both festivals on Friday, cannot say I was really impressed by the Mayfest. The venue is good but the range of beers was not spectacular. There were many local breweries represented among the 60 or so beers available but not many unusual or rare beers to keep the enthusiast interested. If you wanted a good place to showcase what West Yorkshire has to offer, then this is worth the visit. Otherwise save your £3 entrance fee and spend it up the road at the 3 Pigeons.

The Pigeons has enough variety to keep the average drinker interested, with the beers on the main bar supplemented by 8 in a back room on a makeshift bar. As Will said a mixture of styles are on offer and all I tried were on good form. Again nothing to whet the appetite of the ticker but plenty to interest the passing drinker.

The other pub in the area, The Pump Room, is now back in the hands of its old manager, John, and has improved greatly since I last visited. The range is excellent and the quality likewise, and yesterday had 2 Halifax Steam beers on the bar, which are a rarity in the free trade. Another worth visiting if you are in the area." Tim

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Return Of Some Old Favourites

At the Star at Folly Hall this week there are two breweries whose products are not often seen around these parts and which are both tried and tested old favourites. It's good to see them back - you forget just how much you miss them.

On the bar at present is one of my favourite beers, Adnams Bitter. Try it without the sparkler, it does bring all the flavours to the fore, described by the beer guide as a 'classic bitter..with a dry,lingering aftertaste'. I like it for the hint of saltiness in the beer (that's what comes of brewing near the coast) and the sharpness that it brings. When finished it will be followed by its bigger brother, Broadside sometime over the weekend. The guide mentions tastes of prunes, sultanas and pepper and though I can't say I've ever noticed them I will certainly give it a go. Also it's good to know that the beers all come from a redeveloped and energy efficient brewery, doing its bit for the environment.

Alongside the Adnams, come three beers from the Hawkshead brewery in the Lakes. At present the offering is Red, 'malty and spicy' with a deep red hue and a long aftertaste. This will be followed by the Bitter , which is a traditional ale as one would expect and the 'well balanced, fruity and hoppy' Lakeland Gold. Again, classic beers from a brewery that has only been going for less than 10 years. Incidentally if you are in the Lakes, call off at their brewery tap at Staveley, its worth the visit.