Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Carhartts Are Crusted With Wort and Yeast

It's not often that I drink and write. You might be surprised by this, given that it's a much more reasonable and enjoyable combination than the alternative. It's just that I'm often, um, wittiest, I guess, in the morning so I generally choose to write then, when I'm still slurping the milk from my cereal. But now I'm enjoying a bottled E from The White Shield Brewery in Burton-Upon-Trent. It's supposed to taste like the original Bass before they sold out. It's crisp, malty, slightly chewy, and has a floral/herbal hop zip in the finish. Not bad. More on how this got in my hands later.

I must pay homage to the relentlessly accepting and generous crew at Marble. In just two days' time I'll be off their hands and on my own again (for a day), but, as with all of my brewery stints, time has been too short. Four and a half weeks came and went like the sequel to that car movie with Vin Diesel. In that short time I've gained a mother in the form of Jan, owner and operator of the Marble pubs and breweries, who provided me with some of the most comfortable living I've probably ever enjoyed as a guest. She came just short of brushing my teeth for me in the evenings. I've been brought jigging and karaoking by the bar staff and have been force-fed incredibly pungent, beautiful cheeses (Epoisse, Stinking Bishop, Blue Stilton) by the chefs. And, last but by no means of measure the least, I've developed some mad man-crushes on my heroes in the brewery: Dom, Colin, and James. Perhaps I was ready, perhaps not, but they've allowed me an incredible amount of freedom in the brewery (always under a watchful eye, of course) to develop my abilities as a brewer. I know I can make Dom and Colin red in the face with questions, and James just blatantly irritated, but their patience with me and transfer of knowledge of small-scale, taste-centric brewing has not gone unappreciated.

Soaking and aerating the barley at the Carling Maltings

(Editor's note: it's now the next morning and I'm no longer drinking a beer.) Today I'll brew Ginger Marble at the Arch brewery. I'm having a hearty breakfast now of oatmeal and Nutella, with coffee on the side. Then I'll bike half an hour to the brewery, let the sweat evaporate, and start warming up the mash tun. It's my second-to-last day and I'd like to make a smooth one. This weekend there's a beer festival, Barrow Hill Beer Festival to be precise, at which I'll be serving beers (from whom, I'm not sure. Marble or Ashover, I hope) and after which I'll be spending my first night at the Coach and Horses, officially reporting to duty for Thornbridge. However, Marble won't see the last of me then. Two days ago a colony was propagated. A colony of yeasties, natives of Belgium, that will happily eat the sugars in the wort from a big, double Chocolate brew that will happen next week. I've been invited to come back for the day to witness this epic event. The result will be on tap at De Molen's beer festival in September (remember my post from Borefts last Halloween? Time flies!). Man oh man I wish I could go. Alas, Double Chocolate With Belgian Yeast will not wet these lips but maybe if I pluck a hair from my head and throw it into the copper something magical will happen.

Germinating barleycorns

Well, it's been great. And last weekend I took over official Dom social duties by attending an event called Twissup. We were all apparently supposed to get Twissed Up, but instead we had a lovely day of tours and (half) pints. Basically, it was a gathering of some of Britain's most dedicated, accomplished beer writers and reviewers with a smattering of brewers. The famous Andy Mogg, a grower of chilies and a hill walker to boot, helped introduce me to the crowd and I soon warmed up to Mark Dredge (Pencil and Spoon), Pete Brissenden (brewer at Hopdaemon) and his brother, and Chunk (great food and beer pieces), among over twenty others who trekked around the streets of Burton-Upon-Trent, that home of pale ale and hard water that some of us American beer lovers only get to read about in pretty books. We had a lengthy but informative (and, admittedly, wildly interesting to a biology major) tour of the Carling maltings, owned by Molson Coors. The massive plant contained two buildings for malting the barley, one of which was a curious tower that had germinating, drying, and kilning floors at various levels. The building was loud, moist, dark, and warm, but the barley corns were happy as clams, showing off their little rootlets of growth as well as a few acrospires here and there. The acrospires are generally discouraged as they contain more precursors for DMS, that cooked-corn flavor you might find in some badly brewed beer. But, at Carling (England's #1 lager, I believe), they strive for a touch of DMS; that's what the customers expect!

A Victorian tower brewery relic

After the maltings we visited a brewery museum, home of The White Shield Brewery, a functioning artifact in the brewing world. The building and most of the brewery was quite oold, not sure exactly how old, but it was a place where I would give a leg to brew. That might hard, though, since it is also one of the few remaining Victorian tower brewhouses that utilizes gravity to do a lot of the work. Rickety stairs and towering vats is the view from the bottom, but the marvelous brick building and copper-and-wood vessels stole my heart. E is brewed here, as well as some Worthington's White Shield and P2, a fruity, juicy, molassesy imperial stout that pairs with strawberries and clotted cream like natural bedfellows. After the tour and lunch, we enjoyed some beer at various pubs and had another quick brewery tour, this time at Burton Bridge Brewery. I had to sign off early to get back at a reasonable, midnight-ish time, but the whole day was great and I've met a new crowd of like-minded imbibers. In fact, there are rumors afloat that I might be tagging along with Mark, Pete, and Phil (remember Phil, from London?) to a major lambic and gueuze festival next weekend in BELGIUM. Dom and Janine will be there, too. More on that when I know more.

Copper copper at White Shield

That's all for now. I hope to have more news (well, I hope to find time to give you the news) soon. Until then, be well, do good work, and keep reading my blog.

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