Although he lives just a minute or two away, I only really see Graeme when he’s taking me to the airport or the station, with his unfailingly reliable taxi service. He likes a beer, savours them more than most since his work generally dictates abstinence. So when Graeme asked for the second time whether there was anything new planned for the summer I thought I should give it some thought.
I didn’t really start paying attention to the market for beer as a product (rather than as a commodity I bought and drank) until I started producing it, in my own small way, commercially. The thing that really struck me was how much beer, craft beer in particular, thrives on novelty.* New recipes, special editions, collaborations, cans, new labels, new breweries, reviews, food pairing, all feed what seems like an insatiable need for something new and attention-grabbing. You can’t imagine it these days: a brewer producing their beers and still be making the same ones 200 years later.
(* And I should be clear, when I say novelty, I don’t mean gimmickry. Refreshing your beer line-up or bottle artwork is novelty and no bad thing. Shoving a bottle of beer up a dead stoat’s arse is gimmickry.)
So Graeme’s question seemed to capture the idea that there should be some change in the beers. That products should follow the seasons as people’s thoughts turn from winter to spring and it should be something reflecting that wistful imagination of warm evenings on the patio watching the barbecue lose its glow (even though this is Scotland and that hardly ever happens). Did the line-up of beers that make their way to The Ship need refreshed? Did someone need to retire? We’ll think about that later.
Assuming we’re going to get a summer, what sort of beer does the summer of Graeme’s imagination need? I’m going with:
Pale malt and a little light crystal malt: should give a nice honey colour, with a low mash temperature to maximise the extraction of fermentable sugars. We’re looking for something dry and crisp.
Classic English ale hops: Fuggles and East Kent Goldings described as delicate, minty, grassy, floral, slightly spicy, honey and earthy. Sunny evenings and new-mown grass. I can live with that. To this I’m adding a lager hop, Spalt Select, developed from Hallertauer Mittelfruh. That this hop was reputedly adopted by Anheuser-Busch to replace Spalt Spalter and Tettnang Tettnanger hops in some of their recipes, is a recommendation.
Lager yeast: Mangrove Jack Californian lager yeast works at ale temperatures. I’ve used it successfully in lagers and it’s the staple yeast style for California Common.
As ever, we’ll see how it turns out. In the meantime, here’s some chickens getting stuck into the spent grains.