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



/ 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.



/ 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


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.


How to get your beer stocked


Tim Peyton, Retail Manager at Real Ale, manages shops in Twickenham and Maida Vale. With a retail experience, he shares his top tips for breweries selling beers to shops. 

1. Have striking artwork. Villages Brewery in Deptford is making really solid beers. The labels are very modern but not shouty; the labels really stand out without slapping you in the face. I would say most people buy loud arty stuff based on the label, but from a retailers perspective, I find it quite refreshing when a brewery isn’t doing that. However, loud cans are a proven formula, and it does work.

2. It’s nice to deal with good people. It’s generally not about offers, deals or even price, it’s just the quality of the beer and the personalities behind the brewery are a big factor. How easy are people to deal with? How enthusiastic are they?

3. Breweries need to have good marketing. 
Social media is massive, especially Instagram. Without that people wouldn’t know half the beers that breweries released. It does half of our job for us.

4. Have a core range. It’s definitely good to have a core range of beers. A pale, a lager and an IPA in an ideal world will tick most boxes.

5. Use the right format for the beer. At the presentation point, if you have a hugely hoppy modern, New England-style IPA in a 500ml bottle, that’s a little incongruous and we’d struggle to sell it to the right customers. We love cans, and I think every other shop would say the same thing. They’re an excellent platform for art and attractive for customers too: easy to chill for example. But there’s a time and a place for bottles, for darker beers and classic beers such as lagers.

6. Breweries need to offer a story. If the breweries have a great story, then it’s a selling point and if breweries are able to articulate that at the point of sale that will make them stand out. It’s very rare that they’ll personally tell us how a beer came about, and it would help.

7. The more information, the better. What hops are used, or malts. A lot of breweries are giving that information, but it would nice if even more would do it. Customers are seeking it out.

8. Steady on the specials. Innovation is great, and one-off specials are great, but when a brewery is pumping out so many, I think it loses its impact a bit. I believe that some breweries need to tone down the frequency of specials. If a beer is good, it should be given the space to exist.

9. Make great beer. If the beers are good, We’ll recommend it wherever it comes from.

The Q&A Robert Middleton, Founder of London brewer Orbit


Robert Middleton, Founder of London brewer Orbit

You’ve recently changed the brewery’s branding. Why?

We wanted our new branding to better represent who we are, what we stand for, our personality. We also wanted it to communicate all of that more strongly to the customer. We’re committed to making timeless styles with an eye for balance and finesse, we strongly value our independence and we love music. We really hope people love our new branding as much as we do.

Which beer of yours gets you thinking ‘yeah, I’m glad I am a brewer’?

That would have to be our Kölsch, Nico, which is our take on the traditional beers of Cologne. This beer has so much going on within it – it’s fragrant and light, with beautiful fruity esters from the Kölsch yeast, alongside herbal, slightly spicy Tettnang hops. Clean, balanced, dry and refreshing. Like Altbier, its an Obergäriges Lagerbier – warm fermentation followed by cold conditioning – genius.

What are you listening to at the moment and what is so good about it?

I’ve been hooked by the Lemon Twigs, Methyl Ethel and The Big Moon recently. Original, genuine, creative tunes with personality. Bands doing their own thing in the spirit of independent music. I’m off to End of the Road and Austin City Limits this year, so will hopefully discover some more new music.

You took a van around Scotland and visited loads of breweries — what’s your next expedition? Cycle about London and visiting pubs with Barclay Perkins livery still on them perhaps?

Brewing in London feels like a pretty exciting journey in itself, but we keep the spirit of travel alive with our annual team trips. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bamberg have featured so far. Looks like Prague is the favourite next time around.

Do you think it takes a certain person to be a brewer and what is that certain something?

I got into brewing primarily because of the brewers I met on my tour. We probably all have our quirks, but share a passion for beer, a desire to create something special and a collaborative nature. It helps to let your heart rule your head most of the time.

Where are you going on holiday this summer?

Actually, we’re off tomorrow in our camper van Brian – star of the Scottish brewery tour. Probably head to France, but the joy of campervanning is that you can enjoy the journey without knowing your exact destination. A bit like starting a brewery.

First publishing in Issue 14 of Original Gravity.

THE Q&A Kyle Larsen, Head Brewer, Siren Craft Brew


Kyle Larsen, Head Brewer, Siren Craft Brew

Where did you brew before and what brought you to the UK?

I brewed at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, OR and before that at Full Sail Brewing also in Hood River. Well, Siren brought me to the UK really. I was looking to brew for an innovative and exciting brewery, preferably outside the states, and well Siren ticked those boxes. I hadn’t previously heard of Siren but they got a great recommendation from a colleague in the UK so I sent a resume and as luck would have it they were in the market for a head brewer.

What do you do if not brewing, fishing, racing fast cars, eating?

I hang out with my three kiddos and wife they are my best friends really. We like to travel quite a bit so currently I’m enjoying exploring the English country side. I also love making bread and mountain biking. Two things I try to do as much as possible but maybe not as much as I’d like.

How do you design a beer?

I generally design a beer by starting with what I envision the end product turning out like and then working backwards. I’ll write out a description of the beer first and then figure out what raw materials and techniques will get me what I’m looking for. After that I cross my fingers that everything turns out good.

Is Berkshire boring?

No not for me. I love the country side and traditional country pubs. The only thing missing is a good craft beer pub… luckily we are going to be opening a tasting room and event space at our new warehouse/barrel home so it won’t be long until Finchampstead gets even better.

In our love of hops we forget about water, are you a water bore?

Is that a small animal that? If so then yes!

You have barrels for wood aging, do you see a day when breweries ditch wooden barrels in a similar way as the great porter breweries did, or is this wowing of wood just a settling back into the past?

I think barrel aged beer is here to stay. Barrels are great for so many reasons I don’t see why I would ever stop using them. DN





Magic Rock’s Head Brewer Stuart Ross tells the story of how he made the truly amazing Cannonball

When it came to brewing Cannonball, we wanted to brew a US West Coast style IPA because it was our (me and brewery founder Rich) favourite style and we had found that the imported beers had usually lost some of their hop character by the time they reached the UK. We wanted to make a modern IPA which would taste like the IPAs we had tasted fresh at the breweries over there.

We have been brewing Cannonball since day one! It was our first brew and the recipe has been perfected over time and we have got to a point where we are very happy with the way we brew the beer. We use British grown Golden Promise pale ale malt for the base with a small amount of Vienna malt, we want high attenuation from the mash so that we get a very dry light body in the beer so that hops are able to shine through. We use a hop back full of whole hops after the boil; the dry hopping is the most important part of the process in this beer. The hops are Centennial, Columbus,  Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe. As for inspiration, this came from Pliny the Elder, Ballast Point’s Sculpin and Port Brewing Mongo IIPA and Wipe Out IPA. One last thing: always drink Cannonball FRESH!!

Stuart Ross, Magic Rock

Canadian Issue 1 free to read here


 We’ve just launched our free, independent magazine in Canada. Read it all here. 

Illustration by Adam McNaught-Davis

Finally, Ontario Gets the Beer Publication it Deserves!

If you have seen fit to pick up this inaugural edition of Original Gravity, chances are that you have at least a passing familiarity with what’s been going on in beer in this city and province over the last several years. And if you don’t, or if you’d like to freshen that knowledge, Jordan St. John’s story on Toronto brewery taprooms, found on page 16, will go a long way to updating you.

The point being that beer in these parts has changed almost immeasurably over the past three decades, from just a small handful of breweries and brewpubs – anyone remember Upper Canada Brewing? How about Denison’s? – to 41 operating within the city limits and 250 scattered across the province, according to the latest numbers from the Ontario Beverage Network, which probably became out-of-date the day after we went to print, such is the pace of brewery expansion in 2018.

Yet beer literature, never much of a thing around Ontario, simply hasn’t kept up with developments. Until now, that is.

What you hold in your hands is a beer publication of a different ilk, one that seeks to challenge as much as it does entertain, to inform as well as to provoke. You will find beer reviews, of course – Greg Clow and I take on a quintet of brews on page 22 – as well as style features and profiles of the people who work hard to bring you great-tasting beer – both starting to the right. But you will also discover within the following pages things that you might not expect to find in a beer magazine, like Robin LeBlanc’s wrenching essay of loss and community on page 19 and our quirky spotlight on The Art of Beer on the page opposite this one.

In short, what we are aiming to bring you with Original Gravity is a magazine thatís as challenging, diverse, surprising, illuminating and captivating as is the Ontario beer market we cover. In other words, the kind of beer publication this province so richly deserves!

Stephen Beaumont, Editor-in-Chief



Q&A: Adam Matuška, head brewer, Pivovar Matuška


On a beer journey to the Czech Republic, Adrian Tierney-Jones

I was a very bad student in elementary school…

…in everything, then when I was thinking about going to high school, my father, who has been a brewer all his life, said maybe you can try this chemistry degree as you learn a bit about brewing. I told him that I was bad at chemistry, but he taught me enough so that I was prepared for the exams. The course was four years, and the first two years it wasn’t about brewing, just chemistry and physics and bullshit and I played baseball.

Then I met Jamie Hawksworth…

…(founder of Pivovar pub company), who was visiting my father with the intention of learning how to brew Czech beer. The three of us went to a beer competition in České Budějovice and Jamie was a judge there. I was 16 I think and on the way back I told Jamie that I wanted to go to the UK and learn about brewing. He said that he had a small pub Pivni in York and I could come and work there.

I had no English and I had to learn it…

…but in this bar there were 20 beers on tap and hundreds in bottle. At that time in the Czech Republic there wasn’t anything like this, and it changed my thinking. Before that I had just thought about brewing beer, but now I wanted to brew an IPA and other styles. I was shown a new world of beer.

I have a motto in brewing…

…every beer that I brew you have to drink 1/2 litre of it, and then you have to be thirsty for another 1/2 litre, even if it is 9%, you don’t have to drink it but you would like to. This is my credo. The first time I said to my father I will try brewing an IPA beer he replied you have to sell it, he said that people need to drink it. I learnt everything from my father.

California is not a pale ale style…

…it is a highly drinkable beer style. I didn’t want to have it as a sipper, I wanted to develop an ale like Pilsner Urquell, with high drinkability. The thinking behind California was that we wanted to brew the beer like a typical Czech lager, very balanced.

When I brew a new beer…

…I always try and pair with food at one of my favourite restaurants Krystal (, which also sells four of my beers. The chef has the same thinking as me, new things within tradition. For instance, a Czech style goulash which is different. What I don’t want to do is mystify people, so with the beer Ella, which is a lager with the Australian hop Ella, I mix three things I love, my daughter Ella, the decoction style and the hop.


Read Adrian’s Beer Traveller’s guide to Prague here (

Q&A: Georgina Young, Head Brewer, Fullers


We quiz the Head Brewer of Fullers about the future… and the past

There’s been brewing on this site since the 17th century (though brewing took place at Bedford House in the late 16th century), it’s a historic site, a brewery rooted in its place, do you ever feel a sense of kinship with what went before, how do you feel about the link with those who have made beer down the centuries?

I think the way that we have brewed beer has been passed down. If you look at the old mash tuns and copper. We are connected to the previous generation of brewers here. We promote from within, having just become the head brewer. Passing down of the baton is normal here.

If London Pride was just one moment in London, what would it be?

It would be the Olympics. We were so proud to be Londoners, winning lots of gold. We took the world by storm and it was a really amazing day. It was an iconic moment.

Do you dream about brewing and beer or do you manage to switch off when leaving the brewery?

I don’t think as a brewer you ever switch off. One of the wonderful things is that you can do your job even when out with your friends. Inspiration comes from all sorts of unusual places.

What did you feel on your first day as Fuller’s head brewer?

We had a lovely evening when John Keeling announced I was going to be the next head brewer. I’m usually quite chatty, but I was actually lost for words. It was quite emotional and I’m extremely proud to have the title. We want to maintain quality as well as making new and exciting beers.

What can we expect from you and Fuller’s in the future, what kind of beers, projects, inspirations and aspirations?

We’re doing an exciting collaboration project with a range of different beers that will be in a mixed pack in Waitrose. We were in touch with some of our friends and we’re brewing a lager with Fourpure, New England IPA with Cloudwater, ESB with Moor in Bristol, a saison with Marble, a rye ale with Thornbridge and a smoked porter with Hardknott. I haven’t created any of the recipes, instead, we paired each of our six brewers with six breweries and they have brewed a beer. What’s been lovely is seeing how my team have blossomed with the project.

I’ve also been busy with preparing to install a ten-barrel pilot brewery. It will enable us to try out new malts, new hop varieties, different yeast strains and be a bit more adventurous with our beer styles.