Sunday, 30 December 2012

My word of the year: Clean

If one word defines the way my taste has evolved this year, then it’s ‘clean’.

Beer is perpetually in motion. Always evolving. And drinkers move like a school of fish around it, swaying one way and then another with the current. Right now feels like we’re at a launching point (though it seems like it’s felt this way forever, already). But there’s things between now and next.

A lot of the beer we drink tastes obvious. American Pale Ales, IPAs and Black IPAs are the styles which continue to grab attention. But I think IPAs are elevated in status simply because they have big flavour, regardless of how great that flavour is. And the flavour is obvious. A sniff is like slamming your face in a bowl of over-ripe citrus. That’s fine, good in many cases, but it’s easy. And it hides a lot of problems.

Which is another issue: there’s a lot of average, bad or faulty beer sold in the UK. There are over 1,000 breweries in Britain now. That’s a lot. Maybe even too many. And the quality isn’t high enough in many. I’ve had too many beers with diacetyl, sulphur and acetaldehyde in them. A beer with no faults that tastes a bit bland has become more appealing than an over-hopped beer that is badly brewed. It seems like the search for impact has forgotten one of the key elements of beer-making: time. Just a little extra time and these beers could be better.

So my taste is towards clean beers. I want simple done well, I want subtlety and depth, I want to have to work with the beer not just sit back and let booze or hops beat me up. I think too many beers are obvious tasting – they are one dimensional and exaggerated in their flavour profile as they slam into your senses. The photo above is all the beer on tap at Odell's taproom. If you want clean, full flavour, then that's the place to go.

Clean, to me, means technically faultless, it means a clarity of flavours, an articulate, precise kind of taste in which you can drink it and experience all the elements in a clear way and not a riot of flavours which overpowers or a muddiness which means the ingredients are making a noise instead of playing a fine tune. It’s about elegance.

And you can absolutely get clean elegance in full-flavoured beer. The best IPAs have got structure, depth, hop flavour and aroma yet you can precisely taste everything, but they have this flavour from using the right amount of hops, at the right time, not simply by using lots of them.

The best Bitters I’ve had this year have had that see-saw brilliance between chewy malt and dry, bitter hop. The best lagers are defined by their clean depth of flavour. The best stouts have texture and that bittersweet mix of pale malt, dark malt and hop. The best sour beers sway between tartness, funk and something holding it all together. Think about the best beers you’ve had. What made them stand out? I bet it was the way in which all the flavours just worked wonderfully together and they left a beer which had a real clarity of flavour.

Clean beer. That’s what I want. Beer which is fresh, flavoursome, but considered. Most of all I just want beer which is well made, beer which has elegance and a clear, clean precision of flavours. That’s what I’m looking for in 2013.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Golden Pint Responses

I’ve had a few Golden Pint responses emailed to me, so here they are. There’s also a list of all the other ones which I’ve seen online. Now I hope someone has got a few hours free to churn some data and figure out if there are any overall winners worth mentioning?!

Kristian Robinson, Three Friends Brewing Co. @3FriendsBeer 

Best UK Draught Beer
Redemption Trinity. I always like to start my drinking with a pint of something drinkable and low abv to get me in mood. This is always in good condition. Marble Pint and Fyne Jarl are other great starters (Marble Pint would win this if i could get it more often). There are certainly beers that are more 'exciting' but I know these will start me off well. And they never bore me.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Brodie’s London Lager. Made me very happy on a very hot day at a packed pub.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Jandrain Jandrenouille - VI Wheat

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Heady Topper. Can't describe how incredible this was. I'd happily pay way over the odds for another can. Or maybe make my next holiday location. Vermont.

Best Overall Beer
Magic Rock Cannonball. More recently on Keg it has been superb. 

Best Label
Wild Beer. Stylish. Clean. Consistent.

Best Pumpclip
Kernel. No effort required. Yet gets away with it. Love it.

Best UK Brewery
It has to be Magic Rock. Great core range and new additions have been more adventurous and no doubt will continue to be.

Best Overseas Brewery
Hmmm tough one. Firestone Walker. Tried a few beers and they have blown me away. Double Double in particular. So impressive.

Pub/Bar of the Year
The Hope in Carshalton. Doing so much despite being in village close to London. Passion. Enthusiasm. Great beer. Great community pub. A festival every month.

Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose. It has a fairly good range and appears to be adapting a little.

Independent Retailer.
Cobbetts in Dorking. Great little shop. Enthusiastic. Always helpful.

Online Retailer of the Year
Beeritz. Never let me down

Best Beer Book or Magazine
Brew your Own magazine

In 2013 I’d most like to...
I’m going to Mikkeller in May. And making our first commercial beer in January... Two dreams ticked off already

Best Brewpub
Cock Tavern, Howling Hops

Jennifer Nicholls @palate4hire

Best UK Draught Beer - Magic Rock High Wire
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer - Thornbridge Kipling
Best Overseas Draught Beer - Erdinger Dunkel
Best UK Brewery - Thornbridge
Beer Festival of the Year - IndyManBeerCon
Supermarket of the Year - Waitrose
Independent Retailer of the Year - Beers of Europe
Best Beer Book or Magazine - Melissa Cole, Let me Tell you about Beer
Best Beer Blog or Website - Pete Brown Blog
Best Online Brewery Presence - Summer Wine
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year - Saison Du Pont, with Peters Yard crispbreads cream cheese and smoked salmon
In 2013 I’d most like to... get to Belgium for a brewery tour

Simon James - @gueuzel

Best UK Draught Beer
Greene King 5X at GBBF. A revelation. Why GK keep this beer locked up is anyone's guess.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Thornbridge Kipling. Grapefruit in a glass. Consistently challenging and drinkable in equal measure.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Mahr's Ungespundet. So technically it's been a couple of years since I had it on draught. But no foreign draught beer I've had since has come close.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Bear Republic Racer 5. It was love at first sight when we met at Byron. Where had you been all my life before then?

Best Overall Beer
Fuller's Chiswick. OK so I haven't nominated it for any of the categories above. There are beers that shout louder and dazzle more. But there is no beer which is better.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Pumpclips by Truefitt ( I should declare an interest as I grew up on Teesside so there's an element of nostalgia in seeing the words Erimus and Ironopolis. But I think the simple, eye-catching designs are great.

Best UK Brewery
Fuller's. They pump out God knows how much beer each year and could take the easy route. But as well as keeping an amazingly consistent core range, a few of their specials this year have really impressed (Wild River, Traitors' Gate on draught, not to mention their Past Masters series).

Best Overseas Brewery
Cantillon. Hasn't done anything particularly extraordinary this year. It's just stayed the same. Which is really my whole point.

Pub/Bar of the Year
BrewDog Camden. It pains me to give this to somewhere that doesn't serve cask beer out of "ideology". But what wins it for me is the bar staff with their knowledge and enthusiasm, particularly when asked the question "What lager have you got?" If anyone will get the young hipsters off Peroni, it's these guys.

Beer Festival of the Year
GBBF, solely because of the decision to move back to Olympia. Felt like they'd put the "Festival" back in to GBBF.

Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose. Not the widest range but well-chosen. And it's through them that I first came across Thornbridge Kipling.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Utobeer probably edge it. Always my first stop in London if I'm looking for a few interesting bottles.

Online Retailer of the Year
Beers of Europe, who finally updated their, er, "retro" site and made it a pleasure to use. Others probably serve a few more specialist tastes but these guys have all the main players, and the prices are very competitive.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
London Drinker. Always a pleasure when it pops through the letter box. Pleasingly irreverent, and comprehensive when it comes to what's going on in the London bar and brewing scene.

Best Beer Blog or Website
Boak and Bailey. In truth the recent trend towards historical research isn't my sort of thing, but they consistently put a new angle on things and question assumptions. (Nice to meet them too at GBBF this year.)

Best Beer Twitterer
Pumpclip Parade. Fighting a lonely war with the odds stacked against them. But by God it's a war that needs fighting.

Best Online Brewery Presence
No-one. Yes, one or two breweries probably make the grade. But the huge majority of brewery websites are like something done by a ten-year old. So I'm refusing to nominate anyone here as an entirely futile protest. But it has made me feel better.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Any Byron burger with anything on their craft beer list. I would eat there every night if my wallet and waist line could cope.

In 2013 I’d most like to...
Go on the Toer de Geuze. Which, with a bit of luck and advance planning, I will.

Best Beer Tasting
A tasting of lambics organised by The Craft Beer Co (at their original home in Clerkenwell). This was an event which didn't patronise and went into some pretty obscure detail. But what shone most of all was the passion of the guy who was giving the talk. Informative and inspirational.

And here are all the other Golden Pint entries that I’ve seen (There are probably more, too...)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Beers with Christmas Dinner

My favourite meal of the year is tomorrow! The fridge is bursting with food and the boxes of beer in the garage are constantly calling me. Here’s what I’ll be opening on Christmas day...

The sipping beer for the morning and during the cooking will be Kernel’s terrific Table Beer. I think I’m in love/obsessed with it. So light yet so excitingly overflowing with flavour and juicy hop aroma – my early Christmas present to myself was buying a bunch of these. I’ll probably also open a Thornbridge Tzara which is one of the best new British beers this year, I reckon.

Pre-dinner livener will be an appetite-grabbing gueuze. That brisk carbonation, the tartness and the dry finish makes me ferociously hungry. I’ve got a Drie Fonteinen that’s looking more delicious by the hour.

Starter this year will be pea soup. Simple: smoked bacon, leek, garlic, peas, water, thyme and mint. With that will be a Westmalle Tripel where the slight sweet sulphurous edge is going to mirror the depth of the alliums. It’s also another beer which I’ve come to love this year.

Main course is the full-on turkey experience. Bird, roast potatoes, every kind of veg you can fit on a plate, stuffing, pigs in blankets, gravy in the gaps. It’s a mountainous meal and a tough one to tackle with a beer... I reckon it’s the veg and gravy that you want the beer to match with. I’m going with Fuller’s Past Master’s Old Burton which is rich with nuttiness, there’s hints of chocolate, berries and earthiness, while staying wonderfully light and not overpowering  my gravy gets made with port so that's work wonderfully. 

Dessert is always Christmas pudding, obviously. Richly fruity, boozy and bolstered by brandy butter, you need a big beer to handle it. I’ve got some BrewDog Tokyo* or Black Tokyo Horizon which will be up for the job. Port-like, deep with chocolate and dark stewed fruit plus an uplifting floral backnote which keeps it fresh.

Then after dessert I flop onto the sofa with a packet of Rennie – anyone who gets out a cheese board at this point is an obscene food pervert. Maybe later in the evening I’ll go back for some more Table Beer or just grab random nice bottles from the cupboard. Or, more likely, I’ll move over to wine when I visit the in-laws.

Merry Christmas!

(Top image from here)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Golden Pint Awards 2012

It’s been a crazy, busy, strange kind of year. I’ve drunk more beer in more places than I thought would ever happen this time last year, which means I’ve got a lot of beers to run through in my head before coming up with any winners. But here they are, my Golden Pints for 2012... And, nicely, it’s coming as my 600th blog post.

Best UK Draught Beer
Camden Town USA Hells. Ignore the bias, this is a seriously good beer. If I owned a brewery then I would make this beer as my main brand. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love: clean and dry, unfiltered which gives a smooth body, then juicy and fruity with American hops.

Others worth high-fiving: Tiny Rebel’s Billabong was the definition of why some beers are best on cask as the hops were remarkably fresh and fantastic; The Foundry Belgian IPA at Planet Thanet was a burst of hops and spicy yeast; Lovibonds Sour Grapes and the Berliner Weisse-esque version are seriously good beers that I wish I could drink more of.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
The Kernel’s Table Beer. What a marvellous little thing. Briskly carbonated, brightly hoppy, fresh and something I never want to stop drinking.

Big up: Fuller’s Past Master’s Old Burton Ale which is gorgeously complex; I drank my BrewDog Zephyr this year and it’ll be hard to drink something better, ever; Moor Revival is another beer that seems to be made to fit exactly my tastebuds.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
I don’t get Belgian Reds or Browns. Or I didn’t get them until I had Odell’s The Meddler. What an incredible beer. Teasing acetic sharpness is hidden in the background, there’s lots of oak and body, a smooth fullness and a winning sweet-sour balance.

Back-slaps go to: Santorini Brewing White Donkey, a sensational Wit that I drank from tank at the brewery; Birrificio Italiano Bibock that was bright, light and fresh; Avery 3point5 after GABF when I was thirsty for something light, hoppy and delicious – USA nailing pale and hoppy.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride and St Botolph’s Town – I’m not sure I’ve had any beers which have ever struck me as more completely and utterly breathtaking. The texture, the depth of flavour, the way that every gulp is magical and different. Beers which are beyond brilliant.

Fist-bumps for: Duvel Triple Hop which pimps the classic beer with Citra; Camba Bavaria Pale Ale  a German US-style IPA that was superb; Crooked Stave WWBI is a masterpiece of brett, barrel and fruit.

Best Overall Beer
Aargh, so hard to choose just one of those... But I’m going for the two Pretty Things beers purely because no beer has ever made me react like these did (back flips, hollering, bowing down in reverence, speechlessness...) and Pretty Things made two of them.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Anything by Half Acre. I also love Brasserie Saint Helene (images from their designers).

Best UK Brewery
I'm going local: Gadds. They might be based nearby but I rarely see their beer; when I do, I get excited and I order it. Not many breweries make me feel that. This year the Green Hop ale was excellent, No. 3 is a proper classic Kentish Ale, while the dark duo of Dogbolter and Black Pearl are always good. Camden Town also need a shout: USA Hells, Rude Boy, Gentleman's Wit, Pale Ale, Hells Lager... I've spent all year drinking them and love the quality and clean depth in the beers. 

Best Overseas Brewery
I’ve visited and drunk beer in around 30 breweries this year and a few stand out in my memory: I always knew Odell Brewing was good but going to the brewery blew my mind; Haymarket and Half Acre in Chicago were both fun and the beers were exceptional; Septem and Sanorini in Greece put great beer in different places. But the best... this year I’m going for Brasserie de la Senne. Taras Boulba and Jambe de Bois kick ass and they remind me of a fun weekend drinking in Brussels.  

Pub/Bar of the Year
I really like the Earl of EssexThe best bar I drank in outside of the UK was Sugar Maple in Milwaukee – we drank 36 beers and spent $80 there in a few crazy hours at the end of a weird and wonderful day. I also loved Pizza Port Ocean Beach – a walk by the Pacific and then a flight of great beer with a delicious pizza. Moeder Lambic also rocks (see photo above).

Beer Festival of the Year
I went to GABF this year so that gets my vote. Indy Man Beer Con is favourite to win this category next year.

Supermarket of the Year
Torpedo IPA, Thornbridge Kipling and Fuller’s Vintage in Waitrose? Winner.

Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bottle Shop in Canterbury. I love that place.

Online Retailer of the Year
Ales By Mail and BeerMerchants share it because they are the ones I use most of the time.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
The World Atlas of Beer is excellent; I really like Beer Craft by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill; Andrew Jefford’s Peat Smoke and Spirit isn’t about beer and wasn’t released this year, but it is a great book.

Best Beer Blog or Website
I’ve struggled to keep up with all the blog reading this year, almost as much as I’ve struggled to write anything... Beervana is consistently excellent and well informed and I return to it more than any others.

And two completely opposing websites need mentioning. For services to great graphic design, Oh Beautiful Beer is the best. For services to utter shite and pointing out the horrors of British beer branding, Pumpclip Parade is fighting a campaign which we should all get behind.

Best Beer Twitterer
@WinBassett always has a stream of relevant and interesting things. If I’m bored on the train or in the pub, I find Win’s feed and there’s always a link nearby (whether about beer or something else) that’s worth reading.

I always look out for @Broadfordbrewer’s tweets for their mix of beer and one-liners, @ThornbridgeDom mixes technical detail and silliness in a great way and there’s always something interesting to see from @alessioxleone

Best Online Brewery Presence
I genuinely don’t know... I guess that means no one is standing out for the right reasons.

Food and Beer Match of the Year
Fried chicken tenders, fries and a Pliny the Elder sitting in the sun at Falling Rock in Denver. It was my idea of perfection, even if I did nearly miss my flight because of it.

In 2013 I’d most like to...
Do better; sell a million copies of my book (dream big); write another book; go to Germany; learn a new language (learn my own language a little better); win the Paris marathon (I’ll settle for finishing it); get published writing about something that’s not beer-related; catch up on life; spend more time with Lauren. That last one is the most important.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Golden Pints 2012

Time to round up the year of drinking with the Golden Pints, something Andy Mogg and I have been arranging for the last few years. Below are the categories we always go with – feel free to add further categories to the end of your responses. If you aren’t in the UK then just swap ‘UK’ in the categories for wherever you are based. You can put single word answers down, top 3s or go into long detail on each, whatever you prefer. Let’s get these up before the end of the year. And use the image above.

Best UK Draught Beer
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Best Overall Beer
Best Pumpclip or Label
Best UK Brewery
Best Overseas Brewery
Pub/Bar of the Year
Beer Festival of the Year
Supermarket of the Year
Independent Retailer of the Year
Online Retailer of the Year
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Best Beer Blog or Website
Best Beer Twitterer
Best Online Brewery Presence
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
In 2013 I’d most like to...
Open category – you decide the topic

If you want to give your submissions then paste them in the comments below or email and I’ll pull a few together and post them all.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Shepherd Neame India Pale Ale and Double Stout

I love that some of the regional breweries are looking sideways, forwards and backwards in order to appeal more broadly to different drinkers. Fuller’s have got the Past Master’s series, the barrel-aged beers and delightful seasonals; Adnams have long made interesting seasonal beers and limited-run specials; Brains have built a craft brewery on the side for producing different beers, including a run of IPAs; just yesterday a bottle of Progress arrived from Black Sheep, a special 10% ABV beer to celebrate 20 years of brewing, and that sits nicely beside their excellent Imperial Stout; and Shepherd Neame have been brewing small batch beers on a handsome little pilot system for a few years now without really shouting about it, then they released Generation Ale, a wonderful 9% ABV strong ale, and now they’ve brought out an India Pale Ale and Double Stout.

Being a Man of Kent, I’ve grown up with a constant presence of Shepherd Neame, with most drives through the county taking you past at least one pub with their familiar red sign, yet I’ve never really drunk much of the beer. But this year I’ve had four Sheps beers which have massively impressed me. The Generation Ale is an excellent beer, aged in tank for a long time, it’s got a deep complexity of chewy malt and spicy, fragrant hops, think roasted oranges, sherried fruit and toast. There was also a green-hopped beer, 5.5% ABV, and a real ripper of fresh hop flavour, pungent and intense. And now there’s the India Pale Ale and Double Stout, historic-styled, in liquid and design, they look back to old brewing books and make the styles relevant today.

The India Pale Ale (6.1% ABV) is a brutal thwack of Kent-grown Fuggles. Amber in colour, the flavour is a wild spectrum of hop from earth to berries to chocolate and wood. The bitterness is uncompromising, hitting the tongue with bracing force, balanced by caramel and vanilla in the body. It’s got that indefinable Fuggles-thing which makes it such an interesting hop, a flavour that’s almost impossible to describe but marvellously, massively English and in this beer it's really showing off.

Double Stout (5.2% ABV), for me, is completely evocative of early November. You know how you can walk outside on a clear cold night, when fireworks have been exploding all around, and the air smells of treacle, smoke and leaves. This beer makes me think of that. It’s black, full of a roast bitterness, ashy smoke, liquorice and an intense almost-savoury dry, dark malt character which clings onto a bold smack of bitter hops.  

Both beers are excellent. There’s a fullness, complexity and depth to them and they are great side-steps from the core products. I think they look brilliant as well – as soon as I saw the design, I wanted to drink the beers.

It’s great to see regional breweries stepping outside of their best bitter comfort zones and producing wider varieties of beers. One thing most of these regional breweries have over others is history. It’s good to see Shepherd Neame using it and making it relevant today.  

All of these images are from Oh Beautiful Beer. From this post and this one

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Santorini Dreaming with Yellow Donkey

This weather is shit. It’s cold. It’s either grey or night time. My Converse have got holes in them so I get wet feet in the puddles. It sucks.

I want a beer but I don’t want a stout. Drinking stout feels like I’m embracing the weather, welcoming it in. But mourning it feels more appropriate. Mourning the blackness with a black beer that tastes like a bonfire which got extinguished by the rain.

So I need something far cheerier to drink and make me think of sunshine. I need a Yellow Donkey.

SantoriniBrewing Company, in Santorini, Greece, was started by a Greek, a Serbian, an American and an Englishman. I know the Englishman. I like him because he brings me bottles of Yellow Donkey beer. His name is Steve Daniel. He’s a wine buyer and also likes beer. He likes it so much he’s started two breweries.

Yellow Donkey is their main product and it’s nothing like the best-known Greek beer, Mythos (which I bloody love and won’t hear a bad word said against it, alright). Yellow Donkey is hopped with Aurora, Styrian Goldings, Cascade and Motueka, it’s 5% ABV, unfiltered and unpasteurised. And it’s great on a hot, sunny day, or a day you want to pretend is hot and sunny. Just think about how good a soft-bodied, smooth, clean pale ale would taste, one with a delicate peppery hop background and a fragrant juicy, pithy, peach and passion fruit aroma. This is new Greek beer and it’s seriously good. It makes me wish I was watching the beautiful sunset.

Photo from here
They make other beers, too. There’s a Red Donkey which uses similar hops but spikes them with a poky Belgian yeast. And Crazy Donkey is an IPA, big and bold, something to share.

Drinking the beer now, I close my eyes and I feel the sun – something about that combination of hops and the soft body evokes summer and freshness. But if you can’t get any Yellow Donkey (and you need to go to Santorini to get it) then don’t worry too much. Like I said, Steve has opened a second brewery and that one’s in London. Look out for Rocky Head. They make a very good new world pale ale that’s bursting with hop freshness.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a beer that can take you places. Especially warm, sunny places. Now I want to go and drink it fresh from the brewery... 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Forget IBU, think about BU:GU

What does 10 IBU, 50 IBU or 100 IBU actually mean to the drinker?

Not a lot.


Because it’s all about context. And I’m about to get geeky...

50 IBU (International Bitterness Units) will make a light lager brutal with bitterness. 50 IBU will make a strong stout seem cloyingly sweet.

It’s more relevant to look at the balance between bitterness and sweetness, so let’s throw away IBUs and bring in the BU:GUs (Bitterness Units: Gravity Unit).

BU:GU is the bitterness ratio and it was first introduced by Ray Daniels in Designing Great Beers (which is a great book!). It measures hop bitterness against malt sweetness where the higher the number, the higher the bitterness is to the sweetness in the beer. It’s calculated by dividing the IBU by the original gravity of the beer. So, with a beer of 25 IBUs and an original gravity of 1050 (you drop the first two digits of the OG unless you’re starting with a monster beer that’s in the 1100s, in which case you just drop the first digit) you get 0.5. On the BU:GU scale, that’s balanced – a score of 1 would be a beer with a very high perceived bitterness whereas 0.1 would be very low. (There’s a list of BU:GUs here and there's a colour chart of BU:GUs here)

Image from here

But then, to make it less straight-forward, another factor comes in: final gravity, or the apparent attenuation of the beer (the amount of sugars which are left in the finished beer). It’s fine knowing the original gravity but obviously a beer with a lower final gravity (or higher attenuation) will be drier in the finish with less residual sugars, which will then influence the perception of bitterness.

The Mad Alchemist has come up with a formula for figuring out the RelativeBitterness Ratio (RBR) against the same numerical scale as BU:GU (here's another colourful chart). Here’s what they say:

“ADF = Apparent Attenuation. 0.7655 is the average ADF of all beer styles. Since the Relative Bitterness Ratio takes into account balance relative to all beer styles, it uses this as a constant. You are comparing your beer's ADF against the average ADF (0.7655), then adjusting the standard Bitterness Ratio accordingly (it goes up if your ADF is higher than average, down if your ADF is lower than average). Just like BU:GU, higher numbers mean more bitter, lower numbers mean less bitter, and 0.5 is roughly average balance.”

Here’s the sum for a beer with 25 IBUs, OG of 1050 and 80% apparent attenuation:

RBR = (BU:GU) x (1 + (ADF - 0.7655))
RBR = (25/50) x (1 + (0.8 - 0.7655))
RBR = 0.5 x (1 + (0.0345))
RBR = 0.5 x 1.0345
RBR = 0.51725

So if you have two beers with the same IBU and same OG but one has a high apparent attenuation (85%, for example) and one with a low apparent attenuation (55%), they perception of bitterness will be different in both. Get it?

We know the IBU scale and understand that 10 is very low and 100 is very high, so it’ll be just as easy for drinkers to take notice of a BU:GU scale where 0.1 is very low and 1.0 is very high. While IBUs are an interesting piece of information, it means little without measuring it against the sweetness in the beer. That’s where a BU:GU score, worked out according to the
Relative Bitterness Ratio, is more relevant and revealing.

Wonderful top photo from here

Monday, 22 October 2012

The World Atlas of Beer

Two books I return to again and again are The World Guide to Beer and Beer Companion, both by Michael Jackson. Comprehensive in scope and lyrical in style, they are classics and also still relevant now. But the world-reaching beer books needed updating to show how much and how fast beer continues to evolve.

Enter Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb with The World Atlas of Beer. It’s a sumptuous snapshot of the world of beer as it is today, taking the work of Michael Jackson and flinging it forward. It’s kept the history, the classic styles and beers, the photos of pouring a perfect pils, tables to help you pair beer and food better, the focus on different countries and close looks at important styles, and then the Atlas gives new insights into how beer is changing and how things are right now.

I like what Beaumont and Webb have done. They achieve a completeness of information by being concise, informative and current, their style is direct and simple by using a similar breezily informative tone that Jackson employed so wonderful, it’s an omniscient approach that’s carefully selected and the information they give us is delivered in a way which makes it easy to understand but it’s also truth-worthy and authoritative.

The joy of the book is in the way it looks, the maps, the beautiful photos – it’s a travel book as much as a ‘drink me’ book – as well as the actual information on the page which is insightful and interesting. Perhaps more than anything else, it makes me want to know more and while I want more on the pages in front of me (just more pages, more words, more beers), it also works like a gentle nudge out into the world where I can find these things out for myself: it gives a sip which you can chase and turn into a gulp.  

One thing that feels evident is that this is the first of many evolutions of the Atlas. This one modernises what Michael Jackson wasn’t able to modernise himself. The next, I imagine, will jump it forward and put more attention on newer beer styles alongside classics – for example, biere de garde gets a spread but IPA, America’s most popular craft beer style, does not. Beer is always changing and evolving and the words written about it always need to be updated alongside the liquid – the Atlas has the ability to be that book which is always ‘current’.

The World Atlas of Beer is a reverential development of Michael Jackson’s books but it also does more than merely polishing up Jackson’s work – like reading The World Guide to Beer and then Beer Companion, the Atlas moves beer seamlessly forward with a new look at world beer. Everyone who likes beer should buy it