Monthly Archives: April 2012

Two Bottled Beers from The Maltings in York

The Maltings, York

I have mentioned The Maltings pub in York once before in these blogs (see here). I have had occasion to visit the pub again since I wrote that blog, and again found an interesting range of beers. Unfortunately, I hit peak time and found the corner I was sitting in to be very crowded and jostly with loud and noisome customers who thought every noun should be preceded by an obscenity. There are signs up in The Maltings declaring it to be a no-swearing venue. It’s not. One day, I hope to get to The Maltings at an off-peak moment and just sit and enjoy the beers and what I imagine would be a fine atmosphere in this charismatic building.

Two bottled beers from The Maltings

When last there, I did manage to buy two bottles labelled as The Maltings own brews. I’ll be honest here, I’m not sure if these beers are actually brewed on the premises or are brewed for them by another local brewer. There is no mention of ‘The Maltings’ brewery in the Good Beer Guide, either in the breweries section or in the entry for the pub itself. Nor is any brewing activity mentioned on their website.

It seems that the brewer (whoever he or she is) had a surfeit of raspberries when brewing the two beers I bought, a Raspberry Wheat Beer and a Raspberry Stout. These two were the only Maltings bottled beers available that day. The labels on the bottles are plain and look like they’ve come off a computer printer. That’s fine, nothing wrong with that.

The Raspberry Wheat Beer fairly exploded out of the bottle when it was opened, leading to a mad dash for towels by Lady Alebagger. It’s not usually a good sign when bottle conditioned ales leap out of the bottle, but there appeared to be nothing wrong with the beer itself, apart from the fact that a proportion of it was spread liberally over Lady A’s furniture. The ABV of this beer is 5.6% and it presents a cloudy orange colour, more or less what I would expect from a wheat beer with raspberries in it.

Maltings Raspberry Wheat Beer

The initial mouthfuls of this beer were very gassy – hardly to be wondered at after its explosive entry into the world. The gas came out of solution within a few minutes and a more moderate texture followed. I have to admit that wheat beer is not my favourite style, so I may be a little biassed against it, but I found this beer to be fairly pleasant, though with that wheat beer kind of taste that I don’t really like very much. Ah, colour me fickle, I care not. Alongside the wheaty taste was a decent amount of spice and some distinctly fruity notes, though I’d be pushed to say that I could definitely taste raspberries. As with wheat beers in general, there is little sweetness in this beer, and after the swallow there is a good bitterness that grows in the mouth. One for wheat beer fans to try.

Maltings Raspberry Stout

The second bottle was Raspberry Stout, at 4.4%. Cautiously, I opened this bottle over the sink, but the precaution proved unnecessary. The beer poured nicely, producing a good pale brown head. The beer is a very deep red in colour. Again, I found this one very gassy to start with, but the gas soon passed (ahem!). I’m not sure what I was expecting in this beer, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. It is dry and bitter, almost sour in flavour. There is some fruit present; again I would not say that I could definitely taste raspberries, and what fruit there was did not lend any sweetness to the taste. I found the taste of this stout to be drifting into the arena of the unpleasant and rather hard going, and I’m afraid that the kitchen sink drank a fair bit of it.

So, I find myself with two good reasons to return to the Maltings. Firstly I want to experience it outside lout-hour, and secondly I want to try more of their home-labelled beers. These two, however, I will not be buying again.

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Posted by on 27 April, 2012 in Bottled Beer, Pubs


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The Day I Thought My Beer Had Died

As a first solo brewing venture, Brew 2 was slightly ambitious. My first brew (see here for the brewing  and here for the tasting) had gone quite well, but I had been supervised during the brewing process. For my second brew, I decided to go for a stronger, darker beer. Specifically, it was to be a shot at something like Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, a multi-award winning strong beer, and one of my personal favourites. Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby is a very dark red ale, called a ‘mild’ because of low hop usage rather than as a reference to its strength, which is 6%. It has a wonderfully complex smooth, rich flavour. No pressure then.

I had a recipe for a similar ale which is supposed to brew out at 5.7%. I duly bought the ingredients and on a Thursday a couple of weeks ago, I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. After some serious sterilizing, I brought the boiler up to a steady 66C and gradually introduced the grain to the mashing liquor. The grain bill for this brew is fairly high – 5kg of grain in 12.3 litres of liquor. Once the grain was settled in and I was sure there were no dry patches, I left it to steep for 90 minutes.

Heavy grain bill – pale and crystal malt

Once the mash time was complete, I sparged the grains with a further 12 litres of sparging liquor at 75C. Even after this, the liquid draining off from the sparge was still sweet. Now I had read that you should sparge until the liquid loses its sweetness. However, I had over 20 litres of wort now, and no room in the boiler for any more, so I returned the wort to the boiler and set it to boil.

This lovely coffee-and-cream head forms just before the boil

At the moment of first boiling, the wort produces a huge foamy head that can boil out and make a horrible sticky mess everywhere, so I stood by with a jug, and as the boil began, I frantically scooped the foam out and poured it down the sink. After a minute or so, the foaming died down and the wort settled into a nice, steady rolling boil. I continued the boil for 90 minutes, after which I passed the wort into a fermenting bin. I had lost quite a lot of liquid to evaporation during the boil, and measured 14 litres going into the bin. I topped it up with 5 litres of cold water to make it up to the 19 litres that this recipe was designed for.

All well and good so far. I clipped the lid onto the bin and left it to cool. I had a packet of highly recommended Munton’s Gervin English Ale Yeast. The instructions on the packet told me to rehydrate the yeast by soaking it in 50ml of water at 35C and half a teaspoon of sugar. I did as I was told and sure enough, the yeast foamed up pleasingly. The instructions then said to add this foam to 250ml of the wort. The wort had cooled to about 20C by this time, so I scooped 250ml out of the fermenting bin with a sterilized jug and added the yeast to it, giving it a good stir.

24 hours later, the little jug of wort sat on the kitchen unit with only the occasional feeble bubble struggling to the surface. I was perplexed, and left it for another 24 hours.

48 hours on and this yeast isn’t doing anything

Still nothing. I was wracking my brain, trying to remember what I had done so wrong as to make my wort toxic. Had I forgotten to sterilize anything? Had I forgotten to rinse anything after it had been sterilized?

It’s dead, Jim

As I struggled with my thoughts, Lady Alebagger returned from a shopping trip and handed me something she had bought for me. It was a packet of Safale S-04 yeast. I ripped the top off the packet and sprinkled it directly onto the surface of the wort in the fermenting bin. Last hope.


The following morning, the wort had a fine head of lively bubbles that developed over the next couple of days into a bizarre sculpted foamy head.


The original gravity was 1.060 and the fermentation was all done at 1.018. This works out to an ABV of 5.4%. That’s not bad.

Brew 2 is now sitting in a pressure barrel and will remain there for six weeks before I taste it.

Munton’s Gervin, left, and Safale S-04, right

So what happened with the Munton’s yeast? As I said, it came highly recommended, and Munton’s is a company with an enviable reputation. The yeast was well within the ‘use-by’ date and I followed the instructions to the letter. Is the rehydrating temperature of 35C too warm (I wouldn’t pitch yeast into wort at this temperature)? Was it just a bad batch? Will I ever try it again? Probably, but not just yet.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 20 April, 2012 in Home Brewing


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A Pub Crawl Round Sheffield – Part 2

This blog follows on directly from Part 1 of my Sheffield pub crawl here.

The Frog & Parrot

As we left the last blog, I was in the Waterworks, a ‘Spoons. Leaving there, we walked along to Devonshire Street for our next two pubs. The first was the invitingly named Frog & Parrot. At first glance, it doesn’t look like a pub from the outside and perhaps aware that the name does not immediately shout ‘Pub!’, the owners have helpfully added the words ‘the pub’ to their signage.

The bar in the Frog & Parrot

Inside, the pub is attractively laid out with tables on different levels. The bar sported beers from Greene King and St Austell. Being something of a contrarian, I opted for the beer with the oddest name, Lord Parrot by ‘Domo Cervesia’, which I suppose just means ‘house beer’. I have no idea who actually brews this, but I realised that I wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere else (at least under that name) so I duly bought myself a jar of it. It’s a 3.8% bitter, orange coloured and slightly cloudy. It has a fairly ‘modern’ taste, not really like a traditional bitter. It’s smooth with hints of grain and cream, and it actually slid down quite nicely. I’d be happy with it for a session.

The Old House

Back to warp speed, no time to waste, we headed off to the next bar, just across the road. The Old House has a rather grand frontage, and inside is surprisingly roomy. The tables are mostly against the walls, leaving a large open space between them. The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable, and importantly, there is a well-stocked bar. Somewhere on the pub premises there is also a proto-brewery, True North. Their very first beer was on offer that day, so I had to go for it. First Born (also the name I coined for my first ever beer brew 20 or so years ago) is a 4.3% bitter (similar to my own Firstborn). It’s a nice pale yellow in colour. The hops are present more in flavour than in bitterness. It’s smooth and really quite a pleasant beer.

Inside The Old House

I next opted for another local Sheffield brew, Kelham Island 45rpm (I’m old enough that 45rpm means something to me! Try telling a kid these days ‘You sound like a broken record’ – ‘A what?’). 45rpm is a 4.5% bitter (hence the name, I guess), with a nice orange colour. My first thought was that this beer was distinctly odd. It was bitter, but there was a strange rough edge to the taste that I couldn’t identify.

Finally for the Old House, I went off at an obtuse angle and plumped for a Franziskaner Weissbier. This is a traditional Bavarian wheat beer, cloudy white with an ABV of 5%. Frankly, I’m no expert on wheat beers, but this had all the flavours I would expect, but seemed rather sweeter than most examples of the style that I’ve tasted, and was very good. A nice palate freshener.

The Hop

We’d dawdled long enough in the pleasant environs of The Old House and so we moved on to a far more modern looking pub, The Hop, a very fashionable venue for fine ale and live music which still somehow manages to maintain the comfortable atmosphere of a traditional pub. The bar is long and sports an impressive array of handpumps. To the left is a large, semicircular room with a completely glass exterior wall. At one side there’s a small stage where the bands perform. The beers on offer were quite varied. There’s a good range of beers from Ossett brewery and from Ossett’s offshoot, the Rat Brewery. Ossett Brewery’s other offshoots are Fernandes and Riverhead. I also noted beers from Hawkshead and Fullers.

The bar in The Hop

As Rat is fairly new (it only started operating in September 2011), I went for a Brown Rat, a traditional 3.8% brown ale. It was surprisingly smooth, with clear notes of malt and treacle, though quite sweet, just as a brown ale should be.

As we sat by the great glass wall of The Hop, darkness descended on the city of Sheffield, and we prepared ourselves for our first night in the Steel City…

Go straight to Part 3

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Posted by on 13 April, 2012 in Cask Ale, Pubs, Scooping


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Three Bottled Beers from Bowland

Three Bottled Beers from Bowland Brewery

On 28th March, Bowland Brewery announced on its website that their three bottled beers would henceforth be available in all Spar shops throughout the Northwest. Six weeks earlier, I had noticed them in my local Spar and had bought a sample of each one.

Bowland Brewery is based in Bashall, a few miles from Clitheroe in Lancashire. The brewery is located within the beautiful Forest of Bowland.

The three ales that Bowland regularly bottle are Sky Dancer, Headless Peg and Cromwell Stout. All are 4.5%, which stumps me as I like to drink from low to high ABV. This time I’ll go from light in colour to dark.

Sky Dancer

Sky Dancer is named after the Hen Harrier, a rare bird of prey that breeds in the Forest of Bowland. It is a golden ale, pale orange in colour. It has an intriguing smell of hops and peaches. The peaches carry through into the sweet, fruity initial taste, where they are joined by citrus notes. The taste rolls seamlessly into a good hoppy bitter finish.

Headless Peg

Headless Peg is named after a local servant girl, or water spirit (accounts vary) Peg O’Nell, whose headless statue (or at least a statue of St Margaret of Antioch, beheaded by the Romans) stands at Waddow Hall, close to the brewery. It’s complicated. There’s a good round-up of the legend here.

The beer is a deep ruby-red bitter. The initial hit is of dry bitterness, surprisingly bitter, in fact. There are strong fruit notes which go some way to mitigating the bitterness. Tastes like raisins. The finish is really quite dry and bitter which makes the beer refreshing and always interesting.

Cromwell Stout

The last of Bowland’s bottled beers is Cromwell Stout. Named after one of English history’s most horrible men, who apparently passed through Clitheroe on his way to the Battle of Preston in 1648. His ‘warts and all’ image winks cheekily from the label, a gesture which he would have personally frowned on, after all, he made laughing in public and the celebration of Christmas criminal offences. The label states that this beer is a ‘puritanically wicked stout’. Here we see how words evolve over time. In Cromwell’s time, wicked meant really mean, nasty and evil (like the man himself). Now apparently it means really, really good. In both cases the label fits. Cromwell was 17th century wicked, Cromwell Stout is 21st century wicked. It is a deep red colour, black in most lights. There is a distinct hoppiness about the taste, which has dark chocolate notes and a hint of bitter fruit. Wicked.

Looking through my notes, I see that I have also had three Bowland beers on draught:

Bowland Gold. A 4.2% amber-coloured bitter. Very smooth and tasty with notes of citrus. Not really bitter, but with a slightly bitter twist at the finish.

Bowland Hen Harrier (there’s that bird again).  A bright yellow 4% bitter. A lovely ‘summery’ beer with prominent floral notes and plenty hops.

Bowland Sawley Tempted. An orangey brown 3.7% bitter. Quite smooth, light, hoppy and drinkable.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 6 April, 2012 in Bottled Beer


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