Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where does the future of craft beer lie?

The recent announcement that Goose Island was to be bought by AB InBev has got me thinking about the future of craft beer and what the future may hold for the fledgling Irish craft beer scene.

I am a big fan of Goose Island's IPA as well as their Honkers Ale and so I greeted this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand I lamented the fact that a great craft brewery had succumbed to the corporate greed of the brewing behemoth, however in retrospect I think that this augers well for Goose Island. For me personally it should certainly mean greater access to their beers as they make use of the global distribution network of AB InBev. Also if reports are to be believed, it appears that Goose Island will still operate as is, with very little input from AB InBev in relation to brewing operations, marketing and product development. This should allow the brewery to grow and prosper, opening up their quality product to a wider market. From an AB InBev point of view it would seem that this deal has lots of positives. They are buying a proven and quality brand. They are tapping into a market, that while currently small, is growing year on year. Lastly they are expanding their product range, so that when you or I walk into a bar or off-licence, they will probably have a product that meets our needs regardless of our taste in beer.

But how will all of this play out in our little craft brewing backwater of Ireland. I think this deal will have one major long term effect, and that will be to open up the market for Irish craft brewers to prosper. If AB InBev put a small fraction of the capital they put into promoting their mainstream brands into promoting Goose Island then it is safe to say that in the medium to long term we will all be drinking more Goose Island. We taste Goose Island, we like it, our interest expands, we try other beers we may not have heard of etc etc etc.

I cannot envisage a day when Trouble Brewing, Metalman, Dungarvan Brewing or any of our other indigenous craft breweries would catch the eye of a Diageo or AB Inbev, but you never know what the next 10 or 20 years will hold for these fledgling enterprises. Hopefully as they begin their journey it will help their product reach a wider market and lead to more choice for beer lovers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AG #8 - Lady Liberty Ale - Fermentation update

Ordinarily when I brew a beer I will leave it happily fermenting away for at least a week before I concern myself with how things are progressing. On this occasion two things have led me to take a look earlier than normal. Firstly the yeast I used was a liquid yeast and normally it is not advised to use a liquid yeast if it is more than 6 months from its manufacture date. My yeast was seven months from its date of manufacture, due to this I was expecting to have to either pitch a packet of dry yeast on top of the liquid yeast, or be very patient and wait for fermentation to build very slowly.

The second reason I was interested in finding out where things were at with this beer was that, considering point one above, I was surprised to watch fermentation take off like a rocket. Within six hours of pitching the yeast I had airlock activity and by 18 hours the airlock was bubbling a couple of times a second, which is probably the most aggressive fermentation I have seen for a while.

The result of this, after 4 days fermentation, 1016. Target for this beer is 1012 and I would expect it to achieve that over the next week or so. The plan is to leave this beer in primary for another 7-10 days, I will then transfer to secondary and dry hop with some cascade.

Oh, it tastes pretty good as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AG #8 - Lady Liberty Ale - Recipe

For one reason or another it has been a long time since I had a brewday (kids, new job, weather etc, etc). But finally I have a day set aside this week to get back in the brewing way. I really enjoyed my last brew but found that it was a little too strong to have as a session beer and so I decided that this time around I would revisit one of my favourite sessionable styles, American pale ale. I have not yet made a brew using amber malt and so I decided to brew this beer, which is a recipe from Palmers How To Brew. Apart from the amber malt this is not a great departure from my previous pale ales, and once again relies heavily on two of my favourite hops, Amarillo and Cascade.

The only thing that will stop me from brewing this week will be torrential rain or an unseasonal snow shower, here's hoping we don't get either!

Lady Liberty Ale

10-A American Pale Ale
Author: Mark (from John Palmer's, How to Brew)
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Lady Liberty Ale
10-A American Pale Ale
Author: Mark

Size: 25.04 L
Efficiency: 72.93%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 159.41 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.048 (1.045 - 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.012 (1.010 - 1.015)
Color: 23.63 (9.85 - 27.58)
Alcohol: 4.71% (4.5% - 6.2%)
Bitterness: 41.0 (30.0 - 45.0)

4565.0 g Maris Otter
300.0 g Amber Malt
310.0 g Crystal 60
21.0 g Northern Brewer (10.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min
20.0 g Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min
21.0 g Cascade (5.5%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
16.0 g Amarillo (9.5%) - added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
1.0 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
22.0 g Cascade (5.5%) - added dry to secondary fermenter
1.0 ea WYeast 1056 American Ale
200.0 g Dry Light Extract

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


The first thing about this beer is the name, Maximator, the name alone promises so much. Maximator is a StarkBier brewed by Augustiner Braun Munchen. Stark bier in Germany literally means a strong beer, Maximator certainly falls into this category, weighing in at a hefty 7.5%.

The beer pours a nice rust colour with a thick billowy loose head. The aroma is beautiful, it is sweet with nice caramel hints, little hop aroma is present. The beer is surprisingly under carbonated which is unusual for a German beer, the mouthfeel is relatively smooth and creamy. As this beer warms up you really get lovely complexity in the flavour. The caramel is still very much to the fore, but you also get traces of dried fruits and a slight burnt toffee flavour. It is quite boozy on the end and the finish is sticky and sweet with that lingering alcohol warmth.

Overall this is a very nice beer, strong, and due to the 500ml bottle is one to savour slowly. Definitely worth picking up a few bottles.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trouble Brewing - Dark Arts

Trouble Brewing launched in Ireland last year with their first offering, Oir, they have now doubled their product line by brewing a Porter, Dark Arts.

A very quick review from a recent pint I had in the Bull & Castle in Dublin. Chocolate sweet aroma. Thin but consistent tan head. Medium to full bodied with a very smooth and clean mouthfeel. Not a big hop presence, this beer is really all about the malt bill, which a porter should be. Needs to warm up a bit for you to get the full effect. I can see this being a really good session beer, a bit too easy to drink!