PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass on mixed ferm with Armand Debleder

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass on mixed ferm with Armand Debleder

Blending, mixed fermentation and how you can make the most of your coolship with Armand Debleder. Interview by Stephen Beaumont. Illustration by Del Thorpe

Hello, and welcome to the 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. I’m Daniel Neilson and in this episode Canadian writer Stephen Beaumont is in conversation with the masterful brewer and blender, Armand Debelder of Belgium’s Drie-Fonteinen. He’s been making and drinking lambic since 1953. he talks about his Flemish origins, the amazing revival of spontaneous fermentation and the the most important thing for setting up a coolship.    

This episode of the 10 Minute Masterclass is brought to you by Crisp Malt which has lived and breathed malting since 1870. They combine traditional and modern techniques to create an impressive range of malted and non-malted products, including several unique and exclusive barley malts.

Next week I speak to Carl Heron, a brewmaster and brewing sales manager of Crisp Malt.



Magic Rock acquired by Lion

INTERVIEW: Magic Rock acquired by Lion

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Magic Rock acquired by Lion

In an interview with Pete Brown, Magic Rock’s founder Richard Burhouse explains the take over

It was announced today that Magic Rock had become the latest British craft brewer to sell to a large international brewing concern. Australian-based food and beverage company Lion acquired London’s Fourpure in a similar deal last year, and also operate Australian craft beer brands including Little Creatures. In turn, Lion Australia is part of the Lion Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kirin Holdings, a global, multi-industry food and beverages company headquartered in Tokyo.

Richard Burhouse, who founded Magic Rock in 2011 along with head brewer Stuart Ross, will remain in charge of the company and describes the move as fuelling ‘a shared promise to keep making great beer, on a bigger scale’. The brewery has a cult following among craft beer fans and is the winner of a great many awards. Burhouse describes the acquisition as ‘the best way for us to build on this legacy over the long term is to introduce Magic Rock beers to a much wider audience’.

While rumours of the buyout have been circulating on social media for days, the staff of Magic Rock were only informed of the move today, so it remains unclear whether there will be many changes in its 45-strong workforce, but in an interview Burhouse argued that the staff and the local community of Huddersfield were key factors in the decision.

“The brand we’ve created is a bit of a monster — it’s been really successful and now we need to step up to the next level, and I simply don’t have the skills on my own to do what’s required next. We’ve been approached by a few people over the last few years and none of them felt like the right fit. Lion did — they feel right for our shareholders and for our staff. We need a new brew system, new capacity, more space, and it’s not often that this kind of investment comes into Huddersfield.’

Coming less than a year after Lion’s acquisition of Fourpure, Lion’s Global Markets managing director, Matt Tapper, and regional director for the UK, Toby Knowles, didn’t rule out further acquisitions.

‘There aren’t that many brewers that have the X-Factor Magic Rock have,’ said Knowles.

‘Today we’re just enjoying this relationship,’ said Tapper. ‘We’re enjoying working with Fourpure and we’re opening a Little Creatures microbrewery in King’s Cross soon. But we’ll keep our eyes and ears to the ground and see how things progress.’

Pete Brown

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass on mastering lagers with Luc Lafontaine

Podcast 10-Minute Masterclass: Mastering lagers with Luc Lafontaine

Brewing perfect lagers with Luc Bim Lafontaine of Canada’s Godspeed Brewery

Hello, and welcome to the 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. I’m Daniel Neilson and in this episode, we cross the Atlantic and talk to Luc Bim Lafontaine whose Godspeed Brewery is producing some of Canada’s best beer. You may recognise Luc’s name from his time at the Quebec brewery Dieu du Ciel. You see Luc’s German beers such as Otsukaresama Dortmunder and Ibushi Smoked Pilsner are among the best we’ve ever tried. The Japanese names are a nod to his influences and wife. Here, he talks to me about how to get the cleanest lagers you can.

This episode of the 10 Minute Masterclass is brought to you by Crisp Malt which has lived and breathed malting since 1870. They combine traditional and modern techniques to create an impressive range of malted and non-malted products, including several unique and exclusive barley malts.

Next week we have Canadian writer Stephen Beaumont talking to Dri-Fontaine’s Armand Debelder about blending.


The future of beer

The Future of Beer

Beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones jumps into his DeLorean and looks how brewing could change over the next decade.

The problem with prediction is that if you get it right everyone is like ‘you are brilliant’. On the other hand if you are as lacking in prescience as the man who turned down the Beatles thinking that they wouldn’t go anywhere, then you are, well, the man who turned down the Beatles.

Back in the 1960s, when futurologists assumed that we’d all have our own jet cars by now, those looking ahead in the brewing industry had some interesting thoughts. Automatic beer dispensing machines were tried as pubs entered the theme-bar age, while on the beer-tasting front, brewery conditioned beer was king and there were plans for fruit-flavoured beers (probably owing more to sweet shops than the relatively unknown beers of the Senne Valley). I haven’t seen any dispensing machine yet, though I did have a peach APA the other day.

Back to the past
Let’s move forward to 2005, when Thornbridge began brewing. One of its first beers was Craven Silk, a session bitter flavoured with elderflower. I was underwhelmed on a visit and didn’t predict Jaipur, Punk IPA and all the other beers that have since swept the bar-tops of the
UK since.

On the other hand, surveying the current state of the brewing industry, it’s a fair certainty that some of the beer styles brewers are knee and elbow deep in will continue to evolve. Whether you want to call it experimentation or indulgence, there’s a sense that anything can be added to a beer nowadays, whether it’s for a pastry stout (lactose, oats, dextrose, extracts), Brut IPA (the amyloglucosidase enzyme) or Fruit IPA (Black Iris’ Gimme Fruit Gimme Fire, Give Me That Which I Papaya has the latter fruit as well as blueberries).

Keep trying ‘Adjuncts like a rice or maize, long dismissed as cost reduction techniques by the big breweries are being embraced in brewing craft light lagers,’ remarks Adnams’ head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald, ‘while enzymes and hop extracts are finding a home in the upper echelons of the craft brewers. Every fruit or vegetable known to man and woman has been added to beer, though the addition of nuts is still very rare.’

There is a sense when talking with both brewers and licensees, that younger drinkers are reluctant to stick with one beer; there is a constant search for something new, which affects the way some breweries plan their future. Hence all the experiments.

‘Experimentation in beer and style will continue,’ says Fitzgerald, ‘perhaps trying out the as yet unexplored treasure trove of the periodic table, some mashups with Noble hops and Noble gases must surely be a marketers’ dream.

‘However, some consumers will tire of the constant churn and I think there will be a return to drinkers having a preference and mostly sticking to it. Those won’t necessarily be solely the classics of old, some will be but many will be the new classics.’

Lager than life
One intriguing aspect of this experimentation/indulgence is worth considering. You’re a major brewery with a largish estate of pubs, with your best-selling beer a well-loved session beer; you have also experimented with various IPAs, Belgian styles and lagers. The question has to be asked, how far do you go in this eclecticism? Craft beer fans can be discriminatory in their spending choices, so for them, a Pastry Mocha NEIPA (ok I made that up) brewed by a cool brewery will appeal more than one made by a company whose beers their grandad used to drink. So breweries of this ilk should tread wearily before doing the brewing equivalent of dad dancing.

Elsewhere on the predictive front, new English hops will have a similar character to American ones, especially attractive to breweries keen on sustainability and carbon footprints. Let’s not forget malt either. One of the most impressive English style IPAs around is Cheshire Brewhouse’s Govinda, which has two expressions, both made with classic heritage malts. Then there is lager — I recall reading a report of the 1888 Brewers’ Congress in London on the ‘future of beer’, where a retort from an audience member at a forum was quoted as being ‘lager is the future’.

And it remains so, especially if brewers master the various beers that make up the
family of lager.

And finally, given that Adnams’ No Alcohol Ghost Ship (see overleaf) is one of the most impressive of this genre, it is no surprise that Fitzgerald expects no and low to grow. ‘This is less a gut feel and more hard facts, it’s growing well now and has a long way to go to match more established markets like Spain and Germany.

‘I hope for rather than expect a resurgence in cask,’ he adds. ‘I think that maybe a longer term forecast as there are a few structural issues to deal with first.’

How you should be choosing your malt

How you should be choosing your malt

The Brewers Association has said that craft malt should be ‘distinctive and flavourful’. Crisp Malt Sales Manager Colin Johnston explains how brewers should use all their senses to pick malts

The Brewers Association has said that craft malt should be ‘distinctive and flavourful’. Crisp Malt Sales Manager Colin Johnston explains how brewers should use all their senses to pick malts.

You get to chat to a lot of brewers when your background is brewing, your passion is beer – and you work for a malt company. You get to meet the people whose beers you’ve been savouring and admiring ever since you were (almost) old enough to drink. And you get to offer advice to those bravely starting up breweries having never monitored a mash in their lives.

Sometimes, your encounters leave a lasting impression. It was like that with Brooklyn Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver. His words at a tasting I was at chimed perfectly with my belief. He said outstanding craft beers are made by people who have a singular vision about the end product; a passion for flavour; and a commitment to ingredients they are fiercely proud of using.

What should ‘craft malt’ be?
A recent article published by the technical committee of the Brewers’ Association in the USA outlined the ideal ‘craft malt’. It specified:

• low free amino nitrogen (around 150) for optimal fermentation
• lower total protein/ nitrogen (less than 1.65%) to promote stability and clarity
• lower diastatic power (around 60) to allow for ideal mashing conditions
• lower Kolbach index or soluble nitrogen ratio as we know it (35-42).

In the UK, we’re blessed with some of the finest barley-growing land in the world. North Norfolk in particular reigns supreme, with its textbook terroir – a combination of light soil structure, sunny maritime weather and gentle sea breezes. The region’s malt meets all the BA craft malt specifications. All the measures are available in your certificate of analysis.

It’s no coincidence that Crisp has been malting in North Norfolk since 1884. The region’s terroir is perfect for growing malting barley. It is here where most of the country’s Maris Otter is grown, and where Chevallier Heritage Malt has been so successfully revived.

But what of the BA’s other requirement; that craft malt should be distinctive and flavourful? How is this assured by maltsters – and how do brewers make their own assessments?

Use all your senses
Well at Crisp we’re long-time advocates of organoleptic activity – that is, using the senses. Maltsters look at, touch, break, smell and taste grain samples from beginning to the end of the malting process. Brewers can apply and develop their beer sensory capabilities to cover malt examination and tasting.

Tasty treats
Delegates at the Craft Brewers Conference in the US chew their way through countless handfuls of Maris Otter, Chevallier Heritage malt, Caramalt – and a panoply of malted and unmalted cereals. The crunch test allows them to work out taste characteristics and is a good way of telling if the malt is fresh, well modified (friable) and free from any obvious off-flavours. Over time you can develop your skills to be able to identify trueness-to-type as well as subtle differences between similar-looking malts.

A careful visual inspection tells you whether whole malt is consistently sized, kernels unbroken and husks intact. You can check whether it’s free from dust, stones and stalks and get an idea of whether it’s been treated well in malting, packaging and transportation.

Steep of faith
But to truly gauge the flavour contribution to the beer, we advocate following the ‘hot steep method’ that we use to assess all our malts for flavour consistency. It was developed by Briess and the American Society of Brewing Chemists and can be found online. It involves grinding a small malt sample and combining with 65-degree hot water for 15 minutes for the malt to saccharify and the flavour compounds to be released. By filtering this mash, the wort can be tasted and an assessment made. You can also do mini mashes of your malt mill with different contributions of speciality malt to understand how they combine and affect each other.

Discover malt
For years brewers have been stuffing their heads into bags of hops and waxing lyrical about the aromas and qualities of their consignments. Gradually, I’m witnessing more brewers interrogating their malt intake with similar levels of care.

Commoditisation of malt and bland beers go hand in hand. Equally, utter respect for, and an insatiable curiosity about, all ingredients are the pathway to outstanding, flavoursome beers. It’s not a question of a one-off decision. As with hops, every batch of malt that crosses the threshold of your brewery doors should be a source of anticipation, interest and excitement.

Not all barleys are created equal, and neither are all malts. Get touching, smelling, breaking, tasting – and steeping – to better understand your core ingredient and explore the wonderful world of malt flavour. It is far wider than most people imagine.

PODCAST Ep 1: 10-Minute Masterclass with Derek Prentice

Podcast Ep1: 10-Minute Masterclass with Derek Prentice

The 10-Minute Masterclass is a weekly blast of information and inspiration by someone at the top of their game in their field. This week Adrian Tierney-Jones speaks to cask master Derek Prentice 

Hello, and welcome to the first ever 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. To kick us off, we have beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones has a chat over a pint with Derek Prentice, a master of cask beers who has had a long history with breweries including Trumans, and now at Wimbledon Brewery making some of best cask beers in Britain. Here he explains why cask was always his first love, the problems it can have and how to get the best practice in cask brewing.

This episode of the 10-Minute Masterclass is brought to you by Crisp Malt which has lived and breathed malting since 1870. They combine traditional and modern techniques to create an impressive range of malted and non-malted products, including several unique and exclusive barley malts.


Read issue 1 of I Am A Brewer for free


Below is a digital version of the first issue of I Am A Brewer, from the makers of Original Gravity, is a print magazine, podcast, weekly newsletter and website. 

What is I Am A Brewer?

It is a celebration of brewing. The art, the skill, the technique and the business of brewing.

There are three key elements. Firstly, it’s a print magazine posted out to as many breweries as we can muster in the UK and Ontario six times a year. Secondly, it’s a weekly podcast called the 10-Minute Masterclass. It’s also a weekly newsletter snappily titled 7 Things You Need To Know About Brewing This Week. Events are being planned too.

The idea is that the words you read and hear are from those best placed in the industry worldwide, whether that is brewing lagers, using Citra, rocking social media or designing eye-catching packaging. That’s why we’ve articles from Cloudwater’s Paul Jones and beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones. It’s why we’ve interviewed Fergus Fitzgerald and Derek Prentice. We have articles about what we can learn from Irish market and why owning a brewery means a responsibility far beyond the beer.

I Am A Brewer, from the publishers of Original Gravity, is founded on the generosity of knowledge and the kindness of people in the industry. We’re all in the business of helping people drink the best beer they can. It’s about better beer for everyone and, you know what? today, anything is possible.

Daniel Neilson