PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Evin O'Riordain of The Kernel

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Evin O’Riordain of The Kernel

Beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones speaks to The Kernel’s Evin ‘Riordain about mixed fermentation beers.Photo by beershots.co.uk

Hello, and welcome to the 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. I’m Daniel Neilson and for this episode beer writer Adrian Tierney Jones talks to The Kernel’s Evin O’Riordain about how he approaches mixed fermentation beers – it’s utterly fascinating as you’d expect.

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’ll be talking to Dr David Griggs – about how to make the most from heritage malts.


The lesson of Ireland’s craft leash

The lesson of Ireland’s craft leash

The Irish and Northern Irish market provides valuable lessons about how suppliers should be supporting their customers and the importance of localisation. Dan Christmas, marketing manager at Simply Hops, reports from the Emerald Isle.

What does it mean to be upheld and protected within craft brewing? Not only for it to continue, but to grow and flourish? We’ve been considering it a lot at Simply Hops. The genie is out of the bottle now, and hopefully, craft will be around forever. We have to ask these questions to make sure that as much as possible, our own business reflects the ideals of craft and supports it into the future. It is something all suppliers should be asking themselves.

One of the cornerstones of craft brewing is localisation: a brewery’s ability to bring beer styles from all over the world and make it available to the local community. It plays a massive part in the building of a brewery’s sales from its inception and continues to be part of a brand’s customer foundation as it grows beyond its own postcode. It is an essential part of the culture and tone of the craft community.

On the ground
People buy from people. It is said many times, but in our experience, it holds truer than ever in the craft brewing world. At Simply Hops, for example, we are making sure that across the UK, Europe and Scandinavia, we have people on the ground working with local heroes to help get the best understanding of customers’ needs. We’ve recently started working with Get Er Brewed in Northern Ireland for precisely this reason. In Ireland more than anywhere, craft brewers are struggling to build a strong local base. Looking at the Irish craft market gives us an excellent insight as to why localisation is so important.

Reliable numbers are never easy to get hold of. In the US, craft beer is often said to make up around 15–16% of the market. In the UK it’s been estimated at approximately 5% but still growing. In the rest of Europe, it can vary from country to country, but the overall picture is towards growth and the taking of a larger share of the market. In the whole of Ireland however, estimates are that craft beer accounts for around 3% of the total market, and growth is slow.

Nonetheless, when you speak to the people involved in the independent craft brewing industry across Ireland, you still witness all of the passion and dedication you get elsewhere. They see themselves as part of a more significant community and work in the same collaborative way that is expected among craft brewers. Their beer is just as thoughtfully crafted and offers the same quality and excitement to their customers. So why is the market not responding in the same way as many other places?

Jonathan and Deborah Mitchell run Get Er Brewed, based in Randalstown in Northern Ireland.

They have grown from supplying home-brew and wine kits to now being a major distributor to the craft breweries across Ireland, working with Simply Hops, Crisp Malt and Lallemand Yeasts. They have been concentrating recently on ensuring they are able to provide the best quality ingredients to their customers. They are ambitious, but the lack of growth in the market is seen as both unnecessary and frustrating. Jonathan says, “I love Irish craft brewing. The brewers I meet daily are really killing it when it comes to passion, quality and innovation. There are some things we need to catch up on here in Ireland though, that will see the craft beer market bloom. When I go to the mainland UK, and throughout Europe, I see breweries bringing in locals to their taprooms and bars. The locals love having something that is new, exciting and most importantly ‘theirs’ right on their doorstep. They are able to interact with the brewers and staff in a way they never can with large scale breweries. It creates both passion and loyalty in the consumer, making them the perfect ambassador for the breweries as they spread the craft word to
their friends.

“It also gives the brewery a financial boost as they are able to shift some of their volume through a short supply chain and protect their margin.”
Deborah adds, “It’s all about real interactions no matter who your customer is. We have built our business on face-to-face communication. We have become our own brand that naturally incorporates all of the values we uphold in our business. The same holds true for the breweries.”

Jonathan continues, “Licensing makes running something like a tap-room or pop-up event very time consuming or expensive. The costs of the licenses in Ireland can be eye-watering, which makes setting up a tap-room a non-starter. It makes doing these kinds of things difficult and certainly means that anything spontaneous is out of the question. The result is that brewers can lose a potent marketing tool. With so much passion and energy in Irish craft brewing you can almost feel the market straining against its restraints. It’s ready to go!”

Mal McKay is energetic and smiles easily. It gives away his love of what he does. He also sees his local market as key to his future success. Mal has just finished building his new brewery on his family’s farm (former home of the poet Seamus Heaney) and is about to begin brewing his craft beers sold under the Heaney brand.

As soon as he starts speaking to us, it’s clear that he plans to overcome any obstacles in his way. His opening sentence is possibly tongue-in-cheek, but you get the sense he means it. “Anybody that hasn’t heard of us yet soon will.

“This has all come about from a love of beer, and me and friends homebrewing to make clones of the beers we love. It just went a bit too far one night when I said to my wife I wanted to put a brewery in at the farm. ‘Wise up,’ she said, which I did for a while. Then I went a bit mental and decided to do it anyway.

“To begin with, we’re going to focus on some good everyday, everyman beers. I think a good brewery needs to be able to offer a good core range. I have some great ideas for some big recipes down the line though. The biggest threat to me here is getting the local consumer to understand that they should be buying proper beer. We should be supporting local brewers whenever possible, and that means drinkers, the publicans, the staff in the pubs, the hotels, the restaurants and the independent off-sales. They keep saying there’s no demand for the craft beer. But how can there be a demand for it in your pub if you don’t have it in your pub? I guarantee if you put it in your pub, people will buy it.”

O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole in Ireland is busy. The radio is loud, the keg filler is being operated at full-tilt and space is very much at a premium. It’s a similar scene that you get from many craft breweries: fast-paced and hard-working, designed to turn out premium beer.

Barry O’Neill, one of the three founding brothers nonetheless finds time to speak to us about his view of the future. “We set up in the back-end of 2014. We used to work part-time in our uncle’s off-licence. We got a reputation for turning up to parties with weird and exotic beers from all over the place, and it started a love of beer. We became passionate homebrewers then outgrew our dad’s garage so made the leap from very diverse careers to brewers.

“We spent about three years getting the brewery together before we eventually got going here in Kilcoole. We wanted to brew what we feel is lacking in the Irish market, which is big hoppy beers in the American style. We wanted to put Irish beers on the map. In 2011, when we first started looking at this, there were very few breweries that were not playing it safe. Now though, there are loads of Irish brewers doing really great things.

“With regards to the future we are looking at the growth of the market, or rather the lack of it. I think it’s going to be hard yards to keep making in-roads in the market now. I feel this especially when we hear our consumers saying ‘I got the new craft beer from brewery X’ and I know that that particular brewery brews our entire annual production eight times every day.

“We have to educate the consumer about the difference between a brewery like this, where we have four people grinding it out every day because they love what they do. It makes it hard for us to get into the bars and pubs and to get taps for the people to try out beer. If we can get more locals involved with us, it helps us get that message out.”

Finally, we spoke to Bill Laukitis, Head Brewer at Rye River Brewing Company in Kildare just outside of Dublin. Rye River could not be described as a small brewery by any means, with an output that far exceeds that of many of the other breweries we spoke to. They are just opening a new taproom and have excellent distribution through a number of sales channels across different brands. You would expect then that Bill’s viewpoint might be slightly different. But he is clearly an independent brewer who has a love of craft within him. He speaks proudly of ‘his’ Irish brewhouse and the beer they make.

“This is the first brewhouse manufactured in Ireland for over 100 years. We wanted to bring this type of engineering back to Ireland, so we linked up with a local engineering company, and the kit is working pretty well. We’re on course to brew 28 times on the 25HL system this week. We’re pretty proud of the beers we make here: 25 core beers and 30 unique special recipe beers last year. It keeps us very busy.”

“Craft brewing is a community and back where I grew up in the States it’s a lot easier for a brewery to open up its doors and let everybody in; somewhere to share their beers and get to know each other. I think making it easier for breweries to do that would help a lot in the future. It would also help with tourism. A lot of people visit Ireland to try beer. There is a famous beer or two that people come for, but it would be great if it were just as easy for them to visit the great craft breweries in the country.”

It’s quite clear then that all of the ingredients for the growth of the craft market are there. The passion and skill are poised waiting. Irish brewers are doing all they can, but what the Irish market shows us is that connection to your local market is critical for a prosperous future. It is that interaction combined with the brewing and the beer that grows the market, and at Simply Hops, we are hoping to see all of the brewers across Europe build ever stronger support bases. Legislation and licensing changes are a big part of this. Our support as a supplier is as well, and we plan to do
all we can to help.

/ simplyhops.com

Mix master and the art of iteration

Mix master and the art of iteration

Ben Rymer of Minibrew, an all-in-one brewing machine designed for brewers to experiment, looks at how the ‘version’ is always the most essential mix. Here, Ben delves into the roots of dub to demonstrate how the latest version is just part of the set.

When Black Ark Studios burnt to the ground in Jamaica in 1979, a dynasty came to a close. The studio, where Lee Perry – ‘the Upsetter’ – produced all the reggae greats such as Bob Marley, The Congos, Max Romeo, and an endless array of breathtaking talent, went up in a puff of smoke. Black Ark had a more profound legacy than the records that came out of the heady mix of simple technology and the mind of a genius. Mr Perry had used his time to pioneer dub, alongside Osborne ‘King Tubby’ Ruddock and a select few of Jamaica’s finest studio producer greats. Where previously the producer was a name in the middle of a 7-inch single, known only to the trainspotter, the rise of dub gave birth to the producer as an artist in his own right.  Suddenly the collector would look at this name first, no need to listen. What was responsible for this sea change? It was the idea of embracing different versions.

Technology had enabled the Upsetter to tweak endlessly. With that realisation came the natural step to release multiple vocalists, and then came the dub version. An experimental form where the producer had time and space to play endlessly. From that came the dub, an almost freeform, live take. And thus was born the 12-inch single. For years the reggae sound system would play back-to-back singles, with the dub on the B-side, the 12-inch was merely an extension.

Never at any point within reggae culture had anyone thought to release the most commercial version. Record pressing was focused on the local systems. Dubplates, the acetate disc, became prevalent, with exclusive versions cut for particular DJs; one-off vocal takes, with shout-outs to the system in battle. If anything, reggae cultures idea that the perfect version was a one-off single pressing. Versions of the same track weren’t released for profit; they were merely an expression of the producer and vocalists synergy. In fact, when a certain Chris Blackwell appeared from the UK and whisked Mr Marley away to the UK to record his widely selling commercial hit records, Lee Perry called him ‘the white devil’.

The advent of software development leads to versioning in a different build. Multiple versions will exist in the life cycle of a program, and eventually, somebody within the business department will deem the software ready for release. This is often followed by an immediate fix the day after as multiple errors are found. There is never really a perfect version of the software. The idea of something being the best version is ascribed to it afterwards by the spotters. The creators will never really want to finish the process. There can always be improvements, whether it’s a heavier bass or a more agile build. The version has become a dream for the marketers. Wider screen, faster processor, vinyl-only remix, any excuse to sell you the same thing twice. 

There are however a few exceptions. Mario Kart on the N64. And yet it could be the SNES version. Or maybe the Gamecube. It’s not the end result that ever defines these things or the features. It’s when you played it. Who with. Where.

There is no best version. Tina Turner was a liar. How could there be? Nobody who creates would ever declare a particular expression the best. It’s simply not part of the process. These meanings always come from other people. The marketing department loves to declare it’s the best yet. Guaranteed the engineers, programmers and artists loathe this sentence. Lee Perry’s reverberations move endlessly through the musical landscape. He didn’t plan this; there wasn’t a release schedule. What started as a collection of rudimentary equipment in a shed in his garden in Kingston, Jamaica became the Black Ark Studio through the mind of a genius. Today the 82-year-old version of Lee Perry is playing in Brixton in 2019. Mr Perry never stopped to think about his best version; he would undoubtedly scoff at the concept. He may have helped invent the version, but he never stops refining.

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild

Recorded in Denver, we speak to Steve Kurowski, the outgoing lead of the Colorado Brewers Guild. We cover what makes the state’s breweries so innovative and why they put the community at the heart.

In this episode, I Am A Brewer headed over to CBC in Denver and spoke to Steve Kurowski from the Colorado Brewers Guild to learn why the state has such an incredible scene and why Colorado brewers put their local community at the heart of their business.


Carl Heron at Crisp Malt

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass on malting with Crisp's Carl Heron

PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass on malting with Crisp’s Carl Heron

Carl Heron is a brewmaster and Craft Brewing Sales Manager. Here he talks about malting process and how to harness it for your best ever beer.

Hello, and welcome to the 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. I’m Daniel Neilson and for this episode I headed to Crisp Malt in North Norfolk to talk to Carl Heron, Master Brewer and Craft Brewing Sales Manager about the malting process and the tips to make the very most of the malt for your beer.

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’re live-ish, from the Craft Beer Conference in Denver!



How Adnams made Ghost Ship 0.5%, by Fergus Fitzgerald

How Adnams made Ghost Ship 0.5%, by Fergus Fitzgerald

In a wide-reaching interview, Adnams’ Head Brewer Fergus Fitzgerald talks us through the thinking of Ghost Ship Alcohol Free and how he gets it so good.


Why did you and Adnams decide to make an alcohol free beer?
It probably started when we brewed a beer called Sole Star at 2.7% several years back, when the lower duty rate at 2.8% came in. Lots of other breweries did likewise. We were really happy with it and although most other breweries offerings disappeared Sole Star did pretty well for us and stuck around.

We felt Sole Star was a little bit in no mans land in terms of alcohol, i.e. not being ‘low alcohol’ so we dropped the abv to 0.9% a few years ago. The brewers at BrewDog were very helpful with advising on what they were doing with Nanny State, just using a really low O.G. wort, underpitching, low fermentation temperature, lots of complex malts with low fermentability and lots of dry hopping.

Again we got a beer that we were pretty happy with but couldn’t quite get it to a place where we’d mistake it for a standard beer. We then went back to looking at what we could do make a better alcohol-free beer, not just the flavour but also to give the drinker something they wanted to buy rather than something they put up with.

Part of that was being able to enjoy the same flavours as something you already liked to drink but just with lower alcohol. That led us to the realisation that a normal fermentation is critical if we wanted it to be the same as an existing beer and therefore we needed to remove the alcohol.

Does cask or keg make a difference to alcohol-free?
We aren’t doing cask, but I believe there is a Belgian brewery doing a 0.5% beer in cask. We are filling kegs which we don’t sterilise or pasteurise, so we need to be more careful with the shelf life and also be aware of throughput in a pub. You have to remember that at < 0.5% we aren’t really dealing with beer anymore, neither legally or practically, we’ve taken out one of the critical features of beer that makes it microbiologically safe. But from a drinker’s perspective, there seems to be a huge benefit if it’s on keg: you still get a pint and it is served in the same way as any other keg beer; I guess there is an element of the ritual of getting a pint poured being as important as what it is.

Which system have you used to eliminate the alcohol?
We went with reverse osmosis. We looked at vacuum distillation but decided early on that even at the lower temperature it would still be too high on something like Ghost Ship as we found that higher hopping levels are increasingly affected by heat. So having already decided that a normal fermentation was essential to being able to mimic the flavour in Ghost Ship we were left with reverse osmosis which is carried out at essentially zero Celsius. It was much gentler on the hop character and left the malt character intact.

Was there much investment in this system?
Circa £500k. The kit we went with is pretty expensive, but we felt it offered the best flavour and if the low and no alcohol is going to succeed it has to do it based on the quality, we don’t have the budget to market like the multinational brewers.

Why did you decide that Ghost Ship would be the beer you started with? And are there plans to launch any more?
As Ghost Ship was and is our best-selling beer we decided that was the beer we should do first, also there weren’t many pale ale style beers at 0.5% at the time. We will look at some others, but we need to increase capacity first as its running flat out on Ghost Ship 0.5% at the moment.

Did you feel a sense of innovation when brewing it? Did you enjoy the challenge?
We’ve changed the brewery so much in the last five years that it just felt like a continuation of the rebuilding of Adnams. Two years ago we couldn’t condition, filter or keg beer on site, we knew before we finished the cellar project that we wanted to add the dealcoholiser in as well.

Dan Gooderham, my lead brewer and the rest of the brewing team, really took to the challenge, running lots of trials and babysitting the process during its 24-hour cycles. We started with a standard Ghost Ship recipe and then as we went through the trials modified the recipe many times as well as changing the de-alcoholising process. We’re used to making a change in a recipe and seeing that change giving you sometimes unexpected results, adding the complexity of the reverse osmosis in as well makes that more challenging and to be honest we are still learning every time we make a change.

Do some beers or styles lend themselves to alcohol-free?
Weissbier seems pretty robust to most dealcoholising processes, lager can be ok if treated gently, and isn’t overly hopped.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d told yourself before you started on this project?
I took us longer than we thought to get as close as we wanted before launching, so I’d allow a bit more time. The main thing I wish I knew is how the review into low and no alcohol descriptors would turn out. We had hoped and expected that the UK would adopt the rule common in most of the rest of the world, including the rest of the EU, that <0.5% is alcohol-free, we didn’t.

So although beers produced from outside the UK can be called alcohol-free at <0.5%, beers made in the UK at <0.5% are either called de-alcoholised or low alcohol, to be called alcohol-free it needs to be less than 0.05%, which we could make but it would use a lot more water and reduce the quality of the beer for no discernible benefit.

I wish I didn’t feel I needed to understand the EU rules of mutual recognition or how much alcohol is in a banana milkshake, or the fact that some burger buns wouldn’t even classify as low alcohol in the UK let alone alcohol-free, but on the plus side I can now bore myself to sleep.