PODCAST: How to brew the best beers with fruit by Alex Wilson of Black Iris Brewery

PODCAST: How to brew the best beers with fruit by Alex Wilson of Black Iris Brewery

For this episode, Adrian Tierney-Jones speaks to Alex Wilson of Black Iris Brewery about how to brew the best beers you can with fruit. 

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 speaks to Alex Wilson of Nottingham’s Black Iris Brewery. Here we’re talking about brewing with fruit. They are masters at this type of brewing – so a listen to their learnings will save you some time and experimentation!

And this episode is sponsored by Simply Hops. Simply Hops supplies the best possible quality hops and hop products to Craft Brewers across the UK, Europe and Scandinavia. They love to be at the heart of craft brewing, and work alongside the best brewers to help them produce some of the best beer in the world. As part of the Barth-Haas group they have access to unique hop varieties from the breeding programmes around the world in the US, Australia and Europe, as well as world leading, processing, logistics and storage infrastructure.

People and purpose

People and purpose

Christian Barden, Europe’s Kegstarter & Global Brand Builder, argues that a successful sustainable business needs two things: good people and a clear purpose for everyone to get behind. Here’s why:

Christian Barden, Europe’s Kegstarter & Global Brand Builder, argues that a successful sustainable business needs two things: good people and a clear purpose for everyone to get behind. Here’s why:

“We are stuffed in life without good people around us and a clear purpose. Behind every personal or team success story, no matter how big or small, there’s always a bunch of people who indirectly or directly created the environment for it all to happen. It might be a word of wisdom, a random act of kindness, a moment of inspiration, an atmosphere of support and safety, or perhaps a true one-off ‘sliding doors’ situation (for those that remember the film). Whatever it may be, we never achieve anything in total isolation. Nearly all the environments that help us achieve something involve good people.

We’ll never really know who all those people are, where they are and what they’re truly capable of until we stop, breathe, think, build and live that environment that attracts these good people to do what they’re great at every day for themselves, for each other and for your partners.

I only heard the phrase ‘your vibe leads your tribe’ for the first time a few months ago from the owner of our local chippy as we dropped in for our counterproductive post-sport Friday evening dinner. She’s right, if you, your family, your friends, your team, your colleagues, your investors and your business bring the right vibe, and that’s the energy that good people tend to bring to any situation, then you and your tribe will consistently have the best foundation to achieve most things that you put your mind to. “Yeah, but I’m not a people person, and I don’t know where to find these people” I hear very often. It’s actually pretty cool to be anxious about it; in fact, it’d be good to be. You don’t need to be whatever a ‘people person’ is; you just need to risk it a little, trust and make sure that to truly lead you need to serve first. Putting the effort ‘in’ and being clear, honest and trusting will undoubtedly get something back ‘out’ for everyone. As I said, none of us knows where these good people really are, they could be mashing in right now, or on the bus with you, or just walked past you before you sat down to read this. Being prepared to stick our neck out will help find them. After all, the turtle only ever makes progress when he sticks his neck out!

And it’s the same with having a clear purpose. Purpose drives a belief, belief drives a focus of energy and enthusiasm and that, backed up with the right leadership and the proper process and the right results, will get people and tribes where they’d like to be with a beaming grin. It’s important not to get purpose mixed up with achieving something at a specific time, that’s more about goals, objectives and key results, which are crucial, but a purpose drives you way beyond them.

Most of the mistakes I’ve made are from losing sight of the purpose that’ll keep me in line to ‘be’ and ‘do’ the right stuff. Having a purpose, perhaps counterintuitively, makes life a little more chilled out. It creates patience (something I’m notoriously poor at having) through a much bigger reason for doing stuff. A great example is what Garret Oliver pointed out at Scottish Beer Matters a few years back. He spoke brilliantly about making a great beer business. He said something along the lines of:
“I know everyone here wants to do all kinds of cool stuff with their beers and everyone will want to make a long term profitable business. You’ll make money by selling more, so in addition to all that cool stuff, remember to make beers that are so moreish that people want another before they finish that first third of a pint.” That worked for him, it makes sense to me, but everyone should have their purpose and be ruthlessly clear about what that purpose is throughout their business. Mine is to help get more great beers to more happy drinkers.

I know it’s tough to keep doing this kind of stuff, and everything else, day after day, month after month, year after year. It’s especially true in highly competitive and sometimes declining industries where everything is so immediate and where time and money is at a premium. But I’m yet to meet a team smashing it every day and hating it over the long run, and I’m yet to meet a team having a blast day in day out but consistently failing miserably.

I’ve been lucky to lead, start, turnaround, accelerate and mentor lots of different business, sports teams and people so far, and at the heart of the recipe for any success we’ve had together has been the focus on doing what it takes for everyone involved to have fun and measure the right stuff every single day, no matter how tough it gets, to deliver against that purpose.

In short, it’s why I bang on about ‘smiling faces and great results’ being my recipe of how to get stuff done with the right balance of the hard work, enjoyment, health and wellness needed to keep doing it for the long run.

/ kegstar.com

Respect your enzymes


Carl Heron, Craft Brewing Sales Manager at Crisp Malt and Master Brewer, explains why brewers should be obsessing about enzymes. 

Carl Heron, Craft Brewing Sales Manager at Crisp Malt and Master Brewer, explains why brewers should be obsessing about enzymes. 

Good beers start with great mashes. Understand the variables, and you can shape the final flavour, colour, body and texture with precision and accuracy. Crucial to all this is the mash and sparge temperatures. 

For amylase enzymes to break starch into fermentable sugars, the starch needs to gelatinise. The tight structures of most cereal grains need temperatures above 60°C to unfold and make the starch accessible. If you want to add rice or maize at normal mash temperatures, they must be torrefied.

Amylases work at 62 to 73°C. The temperature you choose for a single infusion system helps determine fermentability. For lower gravity beers with cleaner, crisper finishes, stick with temperatures around 62°C. To achieve higher gravity, more body and mouthfeel, try at least 68°C. Bear in mind that a more complex malt grist may require a little more time for full conversion.

Ensure sparge temperatures of 77 to 80°C to deactivate the amylases during run-off.

Important too are the crushed malt grist fractions. 

Go for grists of 50% coarse, 40% medium and 10% fine for a mash tun, and 40%, 50% and 10% respectively for a lauter tun. The finer the crush, the higher the extract efficiency – but of course you need the coarse material to act as a filter bed.

Liquor to grist ratio makes a huge difference.

The reaction rate of amylases is affected by the mash’s temperature, thickness and pH. Go for a liquor to grist ratio of 2.5 : 1  in mash tuns and 3 : 1 in lauter tuns.

It’s worth correcting alkalinity and pH.

Try adding food grade acids to hard brewing liquor to reduce alkalinity. Use brewing salts to help create the levels of minerals that will achieve the optimal pH of 5.2.

To reiterate, utterly respect the enzymes: they are the key to unlocking your mash mastery.

Anatomy of ... Altbier

Anatomy of … Altbier

(Image: Scottb211/Flickr)

It was the delicious Altbier from new Battersea brewery Mondo that made us choose Altbier this issue. It’s a rare beer, but seems perfect for this time of year: a warming but crisp beer from Düsseldorf. This is partly due to the fermenting temperature of the beer, which is somewhere between an ale and a cold fermented lager, and the fact it’s then lagered (cold stored). It’s complicated, but when it’s done well it’s very, very drinkable. We’ve seen Altbiers from Orbit, Tweed and BrewDog’s Candy Kaiser in the UK. If you’re lucky enough to be in Düsseldorf, find Füchschen Alt or Uerige. Divine. Sod it, we’re off to Düsseldorf.


A rarity in the fluid world of beer styles, the ABV of Altbiers tends to be quite precise at around 4.7%-4.9%.    


Full-bodied beers with a clear nutty and warming malt profile, and a hint of fruit. Hops, usually noble ones, are less apparent and used to spice up the sweetness.


It is a deep amber, copper or even darker, but a lively, confident head. It’s clear, and looks, well, utterly appealing.


Although resembling German beers from the middle ages, the name appears around 1880; ‘alt’ means ‘old’ (so brewed like an ale, rather than these new-fangled lagers).


Kölsch from Cologne is perhaps the nearest style, but it’s lighter than Altbier. In Düsseldorf you’ll find Sticke Alt, a stronger and darker version.


Any traditional German fare – think massive pieces of pork, grilled salmon or smoked sausage. Also pairs well with crumbly cheeses.


Winter… or autumn, or spring. Can you tell we like it?  


Düsseldorf brewpubs in the 1800s were often also bakeries, because of their familiarity with yeast. Around a dozen are still open in the city.



/  Schlosser, Alt, 4.8%

The most widely available Düsseldorf altbier and a classic. Decidedly on the malty end, but not without balance; it’s super dry.

/ Buy at BH

/ schloesser.de


/ Mondo Brewing, Altbier, 4.8%

This a great version of the altbier. It’s got a warming malt centre but with a sharp piney hop around the outside. Delicious.

/ mondobrewingcompany.com


/ Orbit Beers, Neu, 4.7%

Admirably, one of Orbit Beers’ core range, the Neu is a faithful reproduction of the style, with perhaps a tad more hops.

/ Buy at BE

/ orbitbeers.com

Read issue 2 of I Am A Brewer for free


Below is a digital version of the second issue of I Am A Brewer, from the makers of Original Gravity. It is full of advice from the best, inspirational reads and genuinely useful tips for all people who work in the beer industry. 

Welcome to the second print edition of I Am A Brewer

I Am A Brewer is a community that is rooted in the generous and sharing spirit of beer. It’s about friends in the industry imparting their learnings, sharing their experiences, inspiring each other, and all for free.

I Am A Brewer is for everyone who is linked with the beer industry, whether it’s managing social media accounts, working in packaging, sales or marketing, owning breweries or managing the late shift on the brewery floor.

It’s more than just a print publication however, we also have a weekly newsletter, the ‘7 essential things you need to know about brewing this week’ (sign up at iamabrewer.com) and a weekly podcast called the 10-Minute Masterclass, an inspirational and informative short burst from a world-class expert, whether that is lager making or barrel-ageing, taproom design or keg dispensing. Find it on iTunes and Spotify.

In this issue, we’re travelling around the world to discover what we can learn from abroad. We’ve dispatches from Canada and Japan, America and Belgium. We learn how British brewers are taking souring techniques and making a beer inspired in the countryside, we hear about the challenges, and great opportunities, for brewers selling into Canada and we learn how to manage social media without it managing you. But really, it’s all about one thing: people.

Daniel Neilson



PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Phil Lowry of Simply Hops

PODCAST: PODCAST: 10-Minute Masterclass with Phil Lowry of Simply Hops

For this episode, Daniel Neilson speaks to Phil Lowry of Simply Hops about how to make sure you’ve always got enough hops, what to substitute in when you do need more and how to design beers around your hops. 

Hello, and welcome to the 10-Minute Masterclass from I Am A Brewer. I’m Daniel Neilson and for this episode I travelled to Simply Hops in Kent to talk to the hugely knowledgable Phil Lowry who I’m sure many of you know. He’s a brewer and sales manager at Simply Hops about how to substitute and extend tight hops. In it he offers advice about how to make sure you’ve always got enough hops, what to substitute in when you do need more and how to design beers around your hops.    

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.

Why we drink what we drink

Why we drink what we drink

It may not be for the reasons what you think. North American writer Stephen Beaumont looks at the psychology behind our choices,and what that means for brewers

Scientific studies have shown that over 78% of the people who read this will do so with a beer in their hand. (Okay, I just made that up, but please bear with me anyway.) That being the case, I would like you now to look at that ale or lager and ask yourself the following question: “Why did I decide to drink this one particular beer?”

Likely as not, the first reason that now pops into your head is that it tastes good. Further musing might yield the notion that it suits the occasion, refreshing if refreshment is what’s needed or satisfying and soothing if you’re at the very end of a long day, or if you’re holding the magazine with one hand and eating with the other, maybe because it pairs splendidly with what’s on the menu.

Dig a little deeper, though, and I’m betting there may be an additional motive at work. Possibly more than one.

Before I get to those other factors, however, I’ll ask you first to travel with me back through time, all the way to the bad old days of beer in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the full range of draught found in many pubs was lager and keg bitter – which, to be fair, was one selection more than we had over in North America at the time. It was an era when style ruled completely over substance and flavour was, in most instances of beer selection, barely a factor.

Breweries of the time, or at least their advertising agencies, appealed to beer drinkers on an almost purely emotional level, hyping the lifestyles benefit of this beer over that, or using nostalgia, heart-warming scenes of family life or humour to attract us to their brand. Beer choice was not about taste, but all about feeling.

When CAMRA appeared on the scene, things of course changed. The Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale, as the organization was first known, appealed to emotion in a different way, adding a political element to their siren call for the preservation of a form of dispense that was at risk of disappearing, and by extension the salvation of Britain’s traditional styles of beer. Drinking cask-conditioned ale became not only a way of connecting with the Empire’s gloried brewing history, it was, as a Briton, your solemn duty. Beer drinking had now been politicised.

Fast-forward now to the present day, and back to that beer in front of you. Is it from a small, local brewery? Do you know the brewer personally? Would you like it as much if it were from Anheuser-Busch InBev – or whatever the ABI and SABMiller merged colossus is dubbed by the time this goes to print – or Carlsberg or Molson Coors? Can you say, without raising the glass again to your lips, what it tastes like? Is it any good?   

Truth is that these questions are becoming much more complicated in this day and age, so no worries if the answers don’t exactly trip off the tongue. Whether you call it traditional or artisanal or craft, this new era of beer has given rise to an entirely new way of looking at the beer we drink, but still one which has its roots in the past.

Today’s beer choice has at least three facets to it, the most elemental of which being taste. There are people, although I suspect not a majority, who will drink a beer because of its taste and its taste alone, regardless of who makes it or where it comes from or what ingredients it may contain. It’s a laudable approach if you’re able to separate the drinking experience from all other factors – and the way I try to approach every beer I taste professionally – but not something I think the average beer drinker pursues.

Point two is perhaps the strongest, emotion. This is likely what influences the majority of beer drinkers, whether traditionalists or craft adherents or ‘lagerboys,’ when something about the beer appeals on a fundamental level, be it because it’s the brand dad used to drink, or specifically because it isn’t that brand, because is brewed down the street or maybe it’s simply the beer that strikes the right fraternal or patriotic chord.

The final point would be politics. A small minority of beer drinkers are aware of this factor, but a majority are affected by it in some fashion, I suspect. On the craft side, it becomes a matter of the little David squaring off against the overwhelmingly better equipped Goliath, and is why Camden fans reacted negatively to the brewery’s recent sale – and by extension why the US has seen movements to boycott the brands of almost every brewery that has fallen to the highest bidder. On the CAMRA side there is still the preservation of Britain angle, while even industrial beers can inspire pseudo-political leaning, as with the ale that’s still brewed in your hometown or the one which supports the national side in football or rugby.

In the end, most of us probably make our selections based on some combination of the three factors, just as we do with pretty much any consumer good, although in the case of beer this tends to be writ very large. It is also why any exhortations for people to calm down in the wake of brewery X being sold to megabrewery Y are for the most part in vain, since having built their businesses equally upon all three axes of beer choice, or even more heavily on the emotional and political, it’s more than a bit of a stretch for the owners of X to turn around and declare quite suddenly that taste is really all that matters.

/ beaumontdrinks.com