Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pilsner Premium Blonde Export Lager Draught Beer - Part Two

Beer Names
Right. First things first. Victoria Bitter isn’t. But it used to be. Crown Lager is premium. It even says so on the label, but is it a Pilsner ? Pure Blonde is neither. Pale ale often isn’t. And Carlton Cold says it is beer. And is a Dortmunder export that you buy in Dortmund actually a Local ? And is lo-cal beer better for you ?

Is it even really lo-cal?

The naming of beers is something which, for many of us, is a vexing issue. For some it is just an annoyance. Sadly, for many again, it means that they don’t really know what they’re drinking, what they should be drinking or what they’re missing. Misnamed beers are the bastard creation of lazy or foolish marketing folk. Now, I’m quite sure that the parents of these marketing wunderkinds are very proud of their offsprings’ achievements thus far but surely there comes a time when a father must take a son or daughter aside and gently say something like .. “ If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck and it smells like a duck - chances are IT’S A DUCK !! so for f#@*s sake stop calling it a goose.” A goose is like a duck, you see, but it ain’t a duck.

Let me explain. As we saw in part one, there are ales and there are lagers - broadly speaking. And just like there are boys and girls, ales and lagers are different. Although there are a few beer styles which fall just in or outside the style guidelines. I guess these are like a beer which is a boy but likes to dress like a girl and sing Kylie tunes. But that’s not for here. Lagers are made under colder temperature and are best served after a period of maturation, ales like it warmer and can even be served while the yeast is still working. Lagers tend to be more richly carbonated and ales are a little flatter. Beer historians have differed in their broad definitions of beers - some say that the overall term is beer. Ales are any beers made before the use of hops, others say it’s down to the yeast type, top or bottom fermenting, which defines the style and thence the name.

So, put simply, if it is brewed in cold temperatures, with a bottom hugging yeast, matured for a while and served very cold with pizza or chips - lager. Top fermenter with a penchant for warmer places and ready to drink even while still ‘alive’ and goes well with pork pies and complaints about the weather - ale.

So how on earth do Victoria Bitter, XXXX Bitter, Cascade Pale Ale and Toohey’s New come to be so called? In these instances, the beers started out as ales - bitter ales, pale ales and old ales - and when the lager craze began, the brewers just put the new style into an old bottle. Did they think no one would notice? Did they think the average punter would stop drinking altogether if he couldn’t get a beer called VB? Was the name really that special that they were afraid to let it die?

In the case of Toohey’s New the answer is even more simple - perhaps, also, the drinkers of it. Certainly simple were the marketing brains behind it. Toohey’s produced an Old Ale and when the lager style arrived they were stuck for a name for their new product. Imagine that marketing meeting. “ Well, the old ale is old, and this new one is .. is .. Ooh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Help me out Ttrent with two T’s.”

“ Hmm,” says Ttrent, “well Brennt with two N’s we could call it Toohey’s Different to Old Ale. That’s got street cred written all over it. Or maybe Toohey’s I Bet You Haven’t Tried This Yet Cos We Just Started Making It ?” “ Hmm. Label boys might have some issues there.”
So then Tobiias with two I’s suggests they consider the drinker in all this. “Our loyal, devoted consumer is no fool, but let’s not risk scaring him orf. The previous brand was called Old, because it was .. Old. Let’s call this new one .. New. Even those who have been drinking for decades should be able to handle that quantum leap.”

And so it came to pass that the New was born. Then the work experience kid shook his head and sighed. “Why didn’t you just call it Toohey’s Lager?” Knobs.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pilsner Premium Blonde Export Lager Draught Beer - Part One

Beer History

The Beer Blokes’ latest experiment follows on from successfully producing a Lager in the Pilsner style. We have just bottled our latest and hopefully greatest - Pilsner Blonde. This brew led me to ponder the nature of beers and their naming. In this multi part series we look at how beers get their names and why I don’t really like beer marketing people.
In the beginning . . .

The world of beers, as we know, is divided into the Adam & Eve categories. Ales are the Adam, the original beer and conceived of the Gods in a far off time. They were beers made with yeast which did it’s bit on the top of the brew and worked under warmer conditions creating a generally darker, misty, often cloudy drink best served at warmer temperatures and in stone or wooden mugs so as to not put the drinker off by him seeing what he was drinking. These beers were to be sipped and their rich, sometimes fruity aromas and flavours to be enjoyed in a leisurely manner. But they were susceptible to tasting like rubbish if the warm weather were to disturb the delicate balance of nature or if the yeast was over worked or mutated. And that’s ales.

Then came lagers. Eve.

Eve rocked onto the scene and all the beer drinking men stopped what they were doing to look at her and take in her beauty and say things like, “Fwoarhh ! Have a look at that, that’s a bit special I would like very much to have me some of it.” And the like. As you may be able to tell, lager was unlike anything that the beer world had seen before. Not only was it bottom fermenting, but it also fermented at low temperature and this type of yeasty activity brought about a cleaner, smoother taste complimented by a fine bubbled carbonation.

At around the same time, in what is now the Czech Republic, the makers of fine crystal glassware were able to say, “ Hoo-bloody-ray! At last the punters have something decent to put in our glass and show off it‘s brilliant visage. We might just sell some crystal and then I can get Grandma back from the pawnbrokers’”. So the beer makers were encouraged to create yet more crystal clear, brilliant and bubbly beverages for the masses - and the masses couldn’t get enough. Ales were never to fade away, but their time at the top of the ladder in a league group of one was over.

So, now that you know the ‘who’ of the beer world, in very basic terms, you are ready to venture into the strange and often confusing world of beer names. But be warned - some of the terms and usages are just downright misleading - so stay close to me. And as for some of the people giving out the names, well they’re just knobs.

P.S. The label from the Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit above was banned in some places for being too raunchy. Wonder what they'd make of Rubbel Sexy Lager with the scratchy bikini panels. Or the upcoming Beer Blokes' Sharsha Boobies Blonde.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

MAKING BEER pt4 - 101


Beer is up to 97% water. Water is therefore fairly important to beer. It carries the flavour and makes the drink last longer and you can use it to rinse out your empties for home brewing. It also helps to build the taste - or flavour profile as the marketing men like to call it - of many beers. But it is still just water. Up to a point.

In days gone by, when the town water supply was used for everything from washing dishes to washing the goat as well as drinking, it became obvious to all but the village idiot that drinking beer was a pleasant alternative to dying of thirst or cholera. Or of having your clothes smell like poo. Worse still, someone else’s poo. Breweries, therefore, liked to site themselves near fresh water sources. This was so that a) good water made good beer, b) flowing water could be harnessed to power mills and other brewing equipment and c) the scenery would make good beer labels in the future.

Beer water can be categorised into two types. Hard and soft. This does not mean that hard water makes Carlton Draught and soft water makes any lager from the United States, but that the character and mineral composition of the water makes a difference to the taste of the final beer.

Nowadays, most commercial breweries alter or adjust their water to fit the beer profile. Adding salts and calcium, magnesium, zinc, sulphate and removing chlorine and fluoride all contribute to the finished taste - in general soft water for lagers and hard water for ales. And recycled poo water for anything out of Adelaide that’s not Cooper’s.

Water was also the reason for, or the impetus for, the development of some beer styles in themselves. Pilsener, for example came about as a result of the nature of the soft water used to brew it as much as for the hop flavour and aroma. The mineral rich H2O at Burton-Upon-Trent is as much to thank for the taste of traditional English ales in those there parts as the skill of the brewer. Cascade beers have a certain aura about them arising in no small part to the images of clear, flowing mountain streams. And the less said about Southwark, the better.

This concludes The Beer Blokes’ Guide to making beer - an entertaining and informative look at the process of making beer and the importance of each of it’s ingredients. For more interesting facts about beer, stay tuned to Beer Blokes, read some books, look up some websites or pop into your local bottle shop and drink some beer. You just might learn something.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Alcohol and Humans

Professor Pilsener has, quite rightly, made mention of the lack of posts by my good self on the Beer Blokes Blog. In all fairness I’m not sure I have the time to invest in the amount of research to compete with the wealth of knowledge PP is accumulating on the topic of beer.
Therefore my cameo posts must be on other issues. Broad human issues that help justify the many emotion fuelled decisions we make each day. Today I am going to look at alcohol and humans.
As one of the many life forms on Earth humans are the only group that needs to artificially stimulate their environment by mind altering substances such as alcohol or drugs. Does this make us superior to the animals? or inferior? The merits of this debate could well warrant detailed discussion…

Actually I just wanted a lead-in to what I think is a funny video!

Dr Lager

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The World’s Best Beer

It seems to come up all the time. In the restaurant, at a party, in the pub. Everybody has one. Everyone has an opinion about everybody else’s opinion. And none of them are wrong. The best beer in the world.

This is not to be seen as an starting an argument, nor is it to be taken as a bet-settler or a point scorer. That’s not beer. Remember, it is egalitarian. And that in itself is a big word for beer. We are all created equal in the eyes of beer., although you could argue that some beers treat us poorly in that regard. And, really, that’s the fault of the brewer, and he’ll get his later.

Now to my point. Because there are so many different styles of beer, and interpretations within this framework, there is almost a best beer in the world for a) every style, b) every occasion and c) every drinker. There are also a million combinations and permutations within these contexts - I might ask Dr Lager to calculate them, maths not being my strong suit - so the chances of narrowing down to even a thousand is next to impossible.

There is that beer that you love to drink as the first one as you front the bar, the one you enjoy sipping with a meal and the one you love to suck the guts out of after a day in the hot sun. The beer that you only need one of and the one you can put away til’ you’re full as a fat lady’s sock. The darker, fruitier ale that joins you in quiet contemplation and the paler, easier drinking session-designed lager that you down in a crowd.

I have always had a firm rule on this. The best beer is the one in your hand, second only to the one in your hand that’s been bought for you by someone else. Such is beer. I also think along the optomist's line that the best beer I'm enjoying now is the second best ever and that the best is always yet to come. Hmmm. Deep.

So, when you hear someone utter the words ..” best beer in the world !”, do us a favour. Tap them on the shoulder and tell them to go talk to the beer blokes.

Monday, February 5, 2007

MAKING BEER pt3 - 101

In part three of our entertaining and informative series about making beer we look at the most interesting, misunderstood and volatile of all the beer ingredients. No, not the pissed idiot in the pub. Yeast. Perhaps no other step of the brewing process is as simple, yet easy to stuff up than the pitching and working of the yeast. This is the step which involves working in harmony with a living organism - one which, treated nicely, will reward you with rivers of golden beery enjoyment and, if mistreated, will curse you with 23 litres of cats’ piss. Yeast

Yeast is, put simply, a single cell micro-creature of the fungus family. It has millions of different sub-groups and are to be found floating free and roaming wide and wild everywhere. Some are good at making bread and some are good at making people sick and some are good at making beer. Some of which makes people sick. But here is why you need to respect yeast.

Yeast is ancient, prehistoric. Maybe a caveman - let’s call him Grog -discovered the natural effect that this airborne miracle had in the right circumstances. Perhaps he left a bowl of half finished grain outside the cave one night. In the morning he awoke to find his porridge in a state of froth and the overnight rain had turned it into a drink of sorts. A taste told Grog that some kind of magic was afoot.

Some anthropologists even believe that mankind’s change from nomadic hunter-gatherer to community group can be attributed to the discovery of the effect that wild yeast had when it infected this source of grain in the right temperature range which then got rained on and magically produced a foamy beverage which, after a few bowls, made Mrs Grog start to look pretty good. For the staying put and planting of crops to make beer - and perhaps some obscure food products, like bread - is thought to be the turning point of civilisation.

Yeast has, since then, been a miracle and a menace to generations of brewers. In the right conditions - temperature, food source and protection from bacteria - it will begin it’s beer making by multiplying rapidly, then feeding on the fermentable sugars and, finally, producing alcohol and CO2 before dropping to the bottom to become a rich source of vitamin B - the very vitamin that beer consumes. Magic! It is also responsible for many of the flavour notes found in different beers.

So there it is. A little miracle. It happens, but nobody can really explain how. Like Jason Gillespie’s 201 not out or the apparent popularity of dickheads who go on Big Brother , yeast is sometimes difficult to figure out - but impossible to ignore.

Next Time - Water

Friday, February 2, 2007

Getting Beer-sy - 101

The Beer Blokes are powering away at present with another lager in the bottle, an Australia Day Commemorative Lager brewing , a new Pilsner Blonde cooked up and fermenting, Original Pilsner ready for tasting and a couple of slabs of Cooper’s Heritage Lager stored away for the winter. All in all a productive few days., what with all the production of empties and everything. And Prof. Pilsner is well under way with the new ale brewing calendar.

The latest effort- NZ Black Rock brand tin - again involved a cook-up; a next-step towards our future challenge of moving from can kits and can kit improver kits to malt extract brewing. Apart from the fact that this can often be a less expensive way of brewing, it also unleashes a myriad of possibilities of style and beer type. We can take the building blocks of malt and add specialty grains for colour and flavour, boil up the bittering hops, choose some aroma hops and tinker with the very fabric of the beer universe. Not yet, but. When we get good. And when we start playing Beer Creator, I promise you all that it will be in a Morgan Freeman in “Bruce Almighty” way rather than in a Dr Evil sort of way.

The Australia Day Commemorative Lager is presenting us with some challenges. A little slow out of the blocks and light on the yeast activity despite a good period of temperature control. We may have struck our first batch of poor yeast. Which brings me nicely to the next topic. We have begun buying yeast separately. This means that we can use more per batch and at only $3 or $4 it adds very little to the unit cost. We have begun with Safale - a fairly common and easy to get brand. Used in the latest brew, it has certainly displayed fierce yeast qualities early on. A feisty foam appeared on top of the brew in only a few hours and the aroma is something special.

Cheers, Prof. Pilsner and Dr Lager
P.S. I apologise for the lack of fine tuning with the pictures on our posts lately. the program running this show seems to corrupt every pic I try to fit in. it all appears as compu-crap instead of as a picture. hope it is all back to normal soon.