Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pilsner Premium Blonde Export Lager Draught Beer - Part Four

More beer names

We know about lagers and we know about ales. So what’s next. Let’s look at pilsner. Or pilsener. Or pils. Or pilzner. They’re all the same thing no matter how you spell it - but not all pilsners are the same. Not the same as lagers or as each other. While commercially the most popular beer style sold in the universe, the pilsner is relatively young by beer standards. It is probably the only beer, to date, to have it’s own actual birthday - November 11, 1842. And it’s birthplace was Plzen, in Bohemia.

When this town in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) developed this new brew, as clear as the town’s famous crystal it was only fitting that it take it’s name from the town itself - Pilsen or Plzen in Czech. The local brewers considered pilsner to be a beer made at one of two breweries in Plzen but as the beer blazed a trail through, first, Germany and on through much of Europe the name became synonymous with the liquid, not the location. So pilsner became the word to describe a pale, brilliant clear lager, smooth drinking with a rounded hop flavour and a delightful balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness. And that’s pilsner..

And so to the present. Close your eyes, open the display fridge at any bottle shop and pick a stubby at random. Chances are you will pick out a pilsner. Or at least, a bottle with the word pilsner on the label.

The first pilsner was Pilsner Urquell and I will use this as the descriptive benchmark. A true pilsner should have the following; an alcohol by volume level of between 4 and 5%, a balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness with an allowance for moderate hop aroma and flavour. Now, I’m not making this up, it’s all documented in the style guidelines for the BJCP - the beer judging certification program - an international standard for beer style identification.
I also reckon a good pilsner should have a natural, earthy sort of hop flavour.
Back to the bottleshop and you are hard pressed to work out what is a pilsner and what is just labelled pilsner. Some lazy beer marketing boys are calling a beer a pilsner because it is labelled “premium” - which is often market speak for ‘a metallic label and add a dollar-fifty‘. They possibly stole the idea from Spanish restaurants who pioneered tapas - a Spanish word meaning twelve dollar olives.

To further add to the confusion, some Premium imports are re-labelled pilsner for their export markets and some beers simply claim premium or pilsner status. I am a big fan of the pilsner and a fair judge of a good quality, well crafted beer. But I’m not so stupid as to think that every beer marked premium is anything close or that a beer labelled as a pilsner is in fact born of the spirit of the essence of the historical trademark of the style. Beer marketers - leave it alone!

For a more comprehensive Buyer’s Guide to Beer - stay tuned, I’m working on it.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Brew News - 101

For those wondering what we’ve been up to, for those new to the site and those still trying to find boobies, I thought I would provide a quick overview of the production machine that has become The Beer Blokes’ Brewery.

After a period of finding our feet and establishing some good cleaning and sanitising habits, as well as finding places to safely store all the finished bottle conditioned stock, the beer machine clicked into all wheel 4x4, turbo charged full steam ahead mode. Boobies.

I realised, as I was brewing one day, that I could re-use at least some of the sanitising water from the bottle wash bin to clean and sanitise the fermenter after a batch. Not wanting to then waste a nice clean fermenter, I decided it would be more economical to brew another batch up. Not wanting to waste this water, I figured I could sanitise some more bottles for the next batch. I then realised I could re-use this water to clean the fermenter. Not wanting to waste a clean fermenter I . . .

This caused an unexpected problem. One man, alone, without any help, on his own, can not hope to keep up a constant supply of empties for such a vast brewing empire operating at such a rate. Well, he can, but it is not easy. Or cheap. Nor can he operate heavy machinery or conduct delicate surgery or engineer a box girder bridge whilst maintaining such a steady supply of empties.

Fortunately a nice spell of very hot and dry and drink inducing weather had gripped our fair town while we were beginning our brew journey and I had plenty saved. But, when the brewbug bites, it bites hard and the train was not to be stopped. A second lager was followed by a second Golden Harvest Lager from the Cascade range which led straight into a first up Pilsner and an Australia Day lager, , then a NZ can kit, a Black Rock Pilsner Blonde, a Draught at 6.66% alc/vol -” That’s a strong beer, chop.” and, most recently a Golden Lager. Bosoms.

The last four brews have seen the Blokes move into the “Cook&Create” phase of the program. We choose a basic can kit and then select hops to add aroma, flavour - or both - as well as bittering hops and malt extracts and/or different types of sugars to round out the body, add to the mouthfeel and keep a good head on the finished beer. The ingredients chosen, we then brew them up in the pot and strain the home made wort into the fermenter along with a selected yeast, rather than the one supplied with the tin. Tits.

We are now becoming as one with our Saaz, Hersbruckers, Tettnangs, Hallertaus and Pride Of Ringwood hops and, while they are fermenting, I am tasting the raw beer I draw off for the hydrometer readings and am really beginning to get a feel for how the finished beer will present. We have about 650 stubbies worth of finished beer which we hope to leave to mature for a couple of months. Having kept some of the first two brews for nearly three months now, and having tasted them at regular intervals, I can attest to the improvement this time allows.

P.S. You may have noticed that I have decided to throw in, at random, as many sly references to boobies as I can. Mrs Pilsner was commenting on feedback from a friend in Thailand who has caught up with the site and mentioned that there was a Google ad at the bottom for a possibly dodgy and non-beer bloke-like product or service. She thought the ads may be demographic and key word generated. This got me thinking. What could I do to increase the likelihood of Beer Blokes coming up in searches so that more folk could be exposed to the site. Beer? Exposed? BOOBIES !! Simple.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Leaving the Land of the Lager

It is with some sadness but also a feeling of excitement and impending maturity that the Beer Blokes prepare to move on from lager brewing. Sad because, in a way, we feel we have become as one with our lager children. We have learned their ways, their personalities, their carbonated friendliness.
Now, far from deserting our roots or forsaking our heritage forever, we are merely moving forward. Batch number 11 will signal the continuation of the beer journey. We have stocks of lagers and pilsners maturing in the cellar - well, under Dr. Lagers’ house - and we are happy with the stock levels and the number of recyclable empties wrapped around these beers.

But, as seasons turn and in the same way that football teams who have had heady premiership eras, so to must the Beer Blokes not dwell in the past but be ready to embrace the future, to test the limits so as not to become stale and complacent. Ever present is the threat of becoming boring brewers. There are enough commercial examples of that to go round.

We now turn our considerable[ly meagre] talents to the art of ale making. And on top of our ‘must brew’ list are a nice traditional bitter - in deference to the original VB - and a wheat beer. For the unsure, wheat beers fit into the ale side of the family due to the top fermenting wheat yeast used although they are served chilled and have a more lager-like taste profile - but with a lot more taste. They are also a favourite of the Beer Blokes and, down the track, we hope to push out a honey wheat as well. I have found a couple of well recommended can concentrates and have picked up a can enhancer which, along with the sugars and malts, lists honey as an ingredient.

I would also like to bridge the gap between lagers and ales - no, not some kind of weird Frankenstein lager-ale monster - maybe just blur the lines a little and create a lager with more taste and intrigue or an ale which is a bit more refreshing and subtle. There are a few commercial, well, mostly craft brewed, examples around doing this and I will expand on this later.

The true ale quest - well, truly out of a can ale - begins once I can do a little more research into the origins and intentions of a good bitter/pale ale. I may need to consult with the Australio-Englander in the family. He has recently re-un-immigrated ( I think that is what a bloke born in Australia, lives in the UK for his childhood and then returns ‘home’ is called; on second thoughts, for simplicity I will call him Gary). This bloke, nee Lad, knows a good drink, nee bevvy, and it is as good an excuse as any to catch up more often.
Stay Tuned
The Beer Blokes.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Brew Update - 101

Beer Blokes Hit Hurdle

As production from the Beer Blokes’ Brewery hits all time highs in both quality and quantity of product, a major stumbling block has appeared. The Blokes have struck serious problems in the chain of supply department. A development which threatens the very viability of the entire operation. More serious, perhaps, than yeast infections (in beer) sour batches or exploding stubbies.

Look, I’ll just cut to the chase, here. The Blokes are running out of empties.

Despite personally improving the value of the stocks of Australia’s two largest retail liquor suppliers in the last two months - (well, how far back do you need to go to remember paying under $30 for a slab of good stuff?) - Prof. Pilsner is finding that he alone can barely keep up with production. The fact that the good Prof is responsible for the production schedule as well as the provision of empties is quite irrelevant. What can I say, I can’t stop brewing.

Now, this is not intended as a dig at Dr. Lager. Why, he rang me just yesterday to say that he had consumed TWO beers the previous night and had been thoughtful enough to keep the receptacles and therefore had contributed two empties to the cause. These will come in handy when we next brew a 750ml batch of lager. It should be made clear, at this point, that the good Dr. is toiling tirelessly in his work and sporting endeavours, so I don‘t wish to tarnish his reputation.

This is a good point at which to let our readers in on his latest triumph. A sterling knock of 130 in a semi-final last weekend is no small feat. Even more of an achievement if you let him tell the story. Seriously, though, 40 degree heat and a treacherous deck combined with an interrupted training schedule due to work commitments coupled with an opposition who set fields with which to curtail his every offensive stroke and bowled so devilishly so as to thwart his every attacking weapon puts the tally achieved into proper perspective. Did I mention that his effort led his team to the final single handedly ?

I wasn’t there, but I am sure that his grateful team mates would have acknowledged his efforts and rewarded his solo match winning innings and made sure he didn’t need to buy himself a drink all night. Probably bought him VB stubbies. Lots of them. Probably drank more than a few. See where I’m heading with this?

I will leave the final word on this to our mate, Bill. In his reporting of the great century by Dr. Lager, he pointed out to me that ; “Geez, he looked alright out there. But, geez, he’s a good size. Reckon he must be drinking plenty of them after a game.”

Where are the empties, Dr. Lager ? Where are the empties ?

Don't make me resort to mugging homeless people for their booty.

Booty meaning the bottles they collected, not, you know, BOO - TY