Wednesday 28 February 2024

AI breweries in England.

 I used to generate images of an English brewery.

Friday 2 June 2023

How porters and stouts differ, according to AI

 Porter and stout are both dark beers that originated in the United Kingdom. While they share some similarities, there are a few key differences between the two styles:

1. Origins: Porter is the older style, dating back to the 18th century. It was named after the porters who carried goods in London. Stout, on the other hand, emerged as a stronger version of porter in the late 19th century.

2. Ingredients: Traditionally, both porter and stout were made with similar ingredients, including roasted malts, hops, water, and yeast. However, stouts often have a higher proportion of roasted barley, which contributes to their darker color, richer flavors, and fuller body. Stouts may also incorporate unmalted roasted barley, lending a distinct character.

3. Strength: Historically, porters were known for their moderate alcohol content, while stouts were stronger and more robust. However, the alcohol content of both styles can vary widely in modern times, and there is significant overlap between the two.

4. Flavor Profile: Porters typically exhibit a balance between roasted malt flavors, which can range from chocolate and coffee to caramel and toffee, and hop bitterness. They tend to be smooth, medium-bodied, and less assertive in flavor compared to stouts. Stouts, on the other hand, often have a bolder, roasted malt character, with flavors such as dark chocolate, espresso, licorice, and sometimes even smokiness. They can also have a fuller body and a more pronounced bitterness.

5. Sub-styles and Variations: Both porter and stout have given rise to various sub-styles and variations. For example, within the stout category, you may find dry stouts (e.g., Guinness), oatmeal stouts, milk stouts (containing lactose for sweetness), imperial stouts (higher in alcohol and intensity), and more. Similarly, porters have different interpretations, including robust porters, Baltic porters, and American porters, each with its own characteristics.

It's worth noting that the boundaries between porter and stout have become somewhat blurred over time, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably or combined (e.g., "porter-stout"). Additionally, craft brewers often experiment with different ingredients and techniques, further expanding the flavor profiles and blurring the lines between these two styles.

AI on the difference between Craft Beer and Real Ale

 Craft beer and real ale are both types of beer, but they differ in terms of brewing methods, ingredients, and the communities surrounding them. Here are the main differences between craft beer and real ale:

1. Brewing Method: Craft beer refers to beer produced by independent breweries, typically characterized by their small-scale production and emphasis on quality, flavor, and innovation. Craft breweries often use modern brewing techniques, including both traditional and experimental methods, such as barrel aging or adding unique ingredients. On the other hand, real ale is a specific type of beer that refers to beer that undergoes secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, typically a cask or keg. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, with live yeast still present in the beer.

2. Carbonation: Craft beer is often carbonated through various methods, including forced carbonation, where carbon dioxide is added during or after fermentation. Real ale, on the other hand, relies on natural carbonation that occurs during secondary fermentation. The live yeast in the container ferments the remaining sugars, producing carbon dioxide, which gives the beer a softer, gentler level of carbonation compared to craft beer.

3. Serving Method: Craft beer is commonly served in various formats, including kegs, cans, and bottles. It can be served under pressure through draft systems or with added carbonation. Real ale is typically served through hand pumps, known as beer engines, which use a manual pump action to draw the beer from the cask without introducing additional carbon dioxide. This method allows the beer to be served at cellar temperature, providing a distinct drinking experience.

4. Ingredients: Both craft beer and real ale can include a wide range of ingredients, but there are some differences in traditional practices. Craft beer often utilizes a broad spectrum of ingredients, including specialty malts, hops from different regions, fruits, spices, and other flavorings. Real ale generally follows traditional brewing practices, focusing on the use of malted barley, hops, water, and yeast, without the addition of extraneous ingredients.

5. Community and Tradition: Craft beer has a strong emphasis on innovation and experimentation, with a vibrant community of breweries, beer enthusiasts, and festivals celebrating the craft. It has gained popularity in recent years, with a focus on local and independent breweries. Real ale has a more traditional and historical association, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it originated. It is often championed by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), an organization dedicated to promoting traditional cask-conditioned ales.

It's worth noting that these differences are not absolute, and there can be some overlap between craft beer and real ale. Some craft breweries produce real ale, and some real ale producers incorporate innovative brewing techniques. The important aspect is the specific brewing and serving methods that differentiate these two categories of beer.

AI on the future of craft beer.

 The future of craft beer is an exciting and dynamic one. While I can't predict the specific details, I can provide some insights into the trends and potential developments that may shape the craft beer industry going forward.

  1. Continued Growth: Craft beer has been on a steady growth trajectory for years, and this trend is likely to continue. Consumer interest in unique, high-quality, and locally-produced beverages remains strong, leading to the proliferation of craft breweries around the world. This growth is fueled by a dedicated community of beer enthusiasts who appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into each brew.

  2. Innovation and Experimentation: Craft brewers are known for their innovation and willingness to push boundaries. This trend will likely intensify in the future as brewers experiment with new ingredients, flavors, and brewing techniques. We can expect to see unique beer styles emerge and creative collaborations between breweries and other industries, such as coffee, chocolate, or even distilleries.

  3. Sustainability: Environmental consciousness and sustainability will play an increasingly important role in the craft beer industry. Breweries will continue to focus on reducing their carbon footprint, implementing energy-efficient practices, and using locally sourced ingredients. Consumers are becoming more conscious of sustainable products, and breweries that prioritize eco-friendly practices will have a competitive advantage.

  4. Technology and Automation: While craft beer is rooted in traditional brewing methods, technological advancements are likely to influence the industry. Automated brewing systems and smart brewing technologies may become more prevalent, allowing brewers to streamline their processes and maintain consistent quality. However, it's important to strike a balance between automation and the artisanal aspects that make craft beer unique.

  5. Craft Beer Culture and Experience: Craft beer is not just about the beverage itself, but also the culture and experience surrounding it. Breweries will continue to emphasize creating welcoming spaces for consumers to enjoy their products, such as taprooms, brewpubs, and beer gardens. Events like beer festivals and tastings will also thrive, providing opportunities for beer enthusiasts to connect and discover new flavors.

  6. Online and Direct-to-Consumer Sales: E-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales have experienced significant growth across various industries, and craft beer is no exception. Online platforms and subscription services will continue to gain traction, allowing consumers to access a wider range of beers and have them delivered directly to their doorstep. This trend provides greater accessibility to craft beer for consumers in areas with limited local brewery options.

  7. Global Influence: Craft beer has already gained popularity worldwide, and this global influence is expected to expand. Craft beer scenes will continue to emerge in different regions, each with their own unique styles and interpretations. Cross-cultural collaborations and the sharing of brewing techniques will further diversify the craft beer landscape.

Ultimately, the future of craft beer will be shaped by the creativity, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit of brewers, as well as the evolving preferences of consumers. It will continue to be a dynamic industry driven by innovation, community, and the pursuit of exceptional beer experiences.

AI defines Craft Beer in five hundred words.

 Here is AI's definition of craft beer in five hundred words. (You may have seen a slightly different version of this I posted on Twitter yesterday):

"Craft beer is a term that refers to a specific category of beer that is produced by independent breweries with a focus on quality, flavor, and traditional brewing techniques. Unlike mass-produced beers that are made by large-scale commercial breweries, craft beer is brewed by passionate artisans who take pride in their craft and create unique and innovative flavors.

At the heart of craft beer is the idea of independence. Craft breweries are typically small-scale operations that are independently owned and operated. They are not controlled by large multinational corporations or conglomerates. This independence allows craft brewers the freedom to experiment with ingredients, brewing methods, and flavors, resulting in a diverse range of beer styles that cater to different tastes and preferences.

Quality is a defining characteristic of craft beer. Craft brewers prioritize using high-quality ingredients and traditional brewing techniques to produce beers that are full of flavor and character. They often source local and artisanal ingredients, such as specialty malts, hops, and yeast strains, to create unique and distinct flavors that cannot be replicated on a mass scale.

Innovation is another key aspect of craft beer. Craft brewers are known for pushing the boundaries of traditional beer styles and constantly seeking new and exciting flavors. They are not bound by strict style guidelines and are free to experiment with different ingredients, aging methods, and fermentation techniques. This spirit of innovation has led to the creation of styles like India Pale Ales (IPAs), barrel-aged beers, sour beers, and many others that have gained popularity among beer enthusiasts.

Craft beer also emphasizes community and local connections. Many craft breweries have taprooms where customers can visit, taste different beers, and engage with the brewers. These taprooms often serve as gathering places for beer lovers, where they can socialize, learn about the brewing process, and appreciate the craftsmanship behind the beers. Craft breweries also tend to support local economies by sourcing ingredients locally and contributing to the community through job creation and tourism.

Furthermore, craft beer has been a driving force in promoting beer education and appreciation. Craft brewers often provide detailed information about their beers, including ingredients, brewing processes, and flavor profiles. They actively engage with consumers, hosting beer tastings, brewery tours, and educational events to help people understand the nuances of beer and develop a deeper appreciation for the craft.

In recent years, the popularity of craft beer has grown significantly, leading to a surge in the number of craft breweries worldwide. This has resulted in a vibrant and competitive market, where breweries strive to differentiate themselves by offering unique and high-quality beers.

However, it's worth noting that the definition of craft beer can vary depending on the country and regulatory bodies. Some regions have specific criteria and volume limitations for breweries."

Friday 29 September 2017

Passive-aggressive hate mail

Way back in 2001, my brother and I opened a specialist beer bar in London. You can read more about it here.

The way we were doings things proved fairly newsworthy. The Sunday Telegraph sent a reporter and and we got a half page with pictures. You see it here.

The Telegraph story provoked a CAMRA activist to write to us. The letter is in Comic Sans, surely the green ink of the computer age.

Here it is:

Wednesday 10 February 2016

IPAs are dead (almost)

I have long been fond of the beers of Anchor Brewery.

Memories are vague, but I think I can trace my awareness of Anchor Steam Beer to Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter TV series of 1989. If I recall correctly, the beer was first imported to he UK in 1991. I don't remember when I first got my hands on a bottle of Steam, or any of the other Anchor beers, but I was certainly drinking them regularly before my first trip to California in 1998.

Being a beer geek was different then. Entertaining beer was rare. Feeding beer geekery necessitated a state of constant vigilance, and regular speculative outings to places where desired exotic beers may appear. Disappointment often ensued. Although the internet had arrived, beer coverage was spartan, and there was little opportunity to communicate with fellow beer lovers. Living in London, my beer geekery took the form of buying random bottles from Oddbins, Selfridges, Army & Navy Store*, Pitfield Street Beer Shop, Nelson's Wines in Merton, and of course, supermarkets. Other than the Anchor beers, US craft imports were then very sporadic. 

I adored Anchor Liberty Ale. Although only modestly hopped by today's exuberant standards, then, in the nineties, it stood out for its exotic hoppiness. Such depth of flavour - such complexity - such intelligence to conceive of such a beer.

Liberty Ale introduced me to American IPAs. In the late nineties and into the new millennium, a passion for the style was one of the motivating factors behind my brother and me opening one of the earliest establishments in the UK to use the term "Craft Beer". We figured that it wasn't just us who could be thrilled by big new flavours. We were right.

But by 2005 US IPAs were losing their allure for me. In 2004 I judged at the Great American Beer Festival. This episode was pivotal for me. I was thoroughly blasted by hops. After one particular day judging, my tastebuds were knackered. That evening, in the Falling Rock Tap House, my tastebuds were dead. Only a particularly sweet perry managed to penetrate the hop deadness my mouth was experiencing. From that day on, my fondness for US IPAs declined. I had reached peak hop. On my second trip to GABF in 2005 I gave myself a no-IPAs rule and sought out delicacies such as Pilsners and Belgian wit beers. And by crikey, I enjoyed myself.

In the past decade I have watched the British IPA boom with fascination. It is flattering to have my prediction confirmed that large numbers of fellow Brits could get into big-flavour IPAs. At the same time, it is disheartening to listen to new-wave beer geeks obsessing about big hops while giving modestly-hopped beers the cold-shoulder. I'm not the first person to utter this heresy: big hops are the new boring brown bitter. These days I spurn invites to overtly craft-beer establishments because of the dominance of IPAs. Imagine turning on the radio and finding every station playing heavy metal, or country, jazz, or techno, or whatever your least favourite musical style may be – this is the feeling I get in many craft specialist places. IPAs are boring now. 

Having firmly dissed IPAs, I'm going to tell you about my new beer infatuation. It's an IPA, quelle horreur! It's Anchor's new IPA, and it's a work of art. It won't be hoppy enough for johnny-come-lately beer geeks, but to expect it to be stridently hoppy would be to miss the point of this beer. This is a beer of subtely, depth and complexity - qualities that elude many modern IPAs. The malt background is of toffee. Yes, an IPA with a malt background, you did read that correctly. Anchor Brewery knows how to use malt. It may be the grand-daddy of all US microbreweries, which may suggest hop genius. But no, for me, Anchor Brewery is the malt master. Anchor does malt complexity like no one else. I have seen the future, and the future is malt.


* The Army and Navy flagship store in Victoria had a good beer selection. 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Craft Beer Calling

A picture paints a thousand words - so here are 24,000 words on Craft Beer Calling, Newcastle upon Tyne's answer to the inferior Indy Man Beer Con.

Craft Beer Calling 2015

Monday 27 July 2015

Vinegar Ectoplasm

I had lunch with a couple of friends yesterday. It was a good pub: a decent turnover of cask ales and real food made from scratch. My friend asked for vinegar for his chips.

"Sorry, we don't do vinegar - this is a real ale pub" came the reply.

A few weeks ago, in another pub a few miles away, the people at the next table were ordering food. They asked for chips:"Sorry, we don't do chips. Too many people ask for vinegar and we can't do vinegar because this is a real ale pub".

In a third pub, a regular grumbled to me: "We asked for a big jar of cockles on the bar but the boss won't do it because of the vinegar. The same with pickled eggs".

I've been aware of this no-vinegar thing for some years. The idea seems to be that the mere presence of vinegar in the pub somehow adversely effects the beer.

This is vinegar that smells of bullshit.

By what means does the vinegar allegedly adversely effect the beer? I asked one of my lunch friends, who is a very sciencey person, with a PhD in organic chemistry to prove it. "Vinegar ectoplasm" he explained.

Adding to my suspicion that this is mumbo-jumbo, each of the pubs concerned is quite happy to serve other condiments that contain vinegar – tomato ketchup and brown sauce for instance. Indeed, one of them prides itself on making its own chutneys and pickles. Joined-up thinking is not in evidence.

My conclusion is that the vinegar-adversely-effects-beer thing is magical thinking. It is an idea - a meme - that is passed between people who don't question it.

Has anyone else spotted this? Can anyone defend the no-vinegar rule?

*Update: The Beercast has also covered this subject. Interestingly, the pub they mention is is no more than 15 miles or so from the ones I mentioned. Could the no-vinegar rule be a local South Cumbrian thing?

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Am I post-craft?

Way back, probably about 1996 or 1997, I first tasted the vivid flavours being imported from the USA. In 1998 I made my first trip to California - and came back an evangelist. Not for big-flavour west coast beer per se, but for a more positive attitude to beer. Long un-enthralled by CAMRA's relentlessly negative and doom-laden "real ale under threat" narrative, I found the US attitude a breath of fresh air. It got me thinking: ditch the term "real ale" and the negativity surrounding it, and fewer people would be put off real ale. And while we're at it, acknowledge that perfectly good beer can come from kegs, and recognise that Johnny Foreigner can brew good beer, some of which might even be lager. But what about a new term that encapsulates this new positivity? The Americans already had a good one: Craft Beer.
Doing a bit of dry
hopping in San Francisco, Feb '98

Fast forward a decade and a half or so, and we find "craft beer" is firmly established in the UK. Big-hop beers are essential for any brewery or bar that identifies with craft. Supermarkets, regional brewers and pubcos are even recognising craft – surely signs that craft is now mainstream.

A recent long weekend in London allowed me to consider my own feelings about the craft revolution I had long wished for.

Evening one: I was at the launch party of the Mikkeller book at which Martyn Cornell was called a bastard. The venue was Brewdog's Camden establishment. The weakest beer available was 4.5% Brew Puppy (I may have mis-remembered this name). It was bitter. It was nothing else. It was like chewing a teabag. It wasn't pleasant.  I later enjoyed a third of one of Mik's sour beers. It was rather good but at the equivalent of £12 a pint it fucking well should have been. But I wanted a pint – a whole pint, not two thirds – of something thirst-quenching. No such beer was available. It made me grumpy.


Evening two: The venue was The Cat's Back, Harvey's little-known second London pub which is tucked away on a side street on the west side of Wandsworth town centre. I had four pints: a Best Bitter, a Wild Hop, An Armada Ale and an 1859 Porter. Three of the four were sublimely good. Sadly the Wild Hop was tired and flabby. But three out of four ain't bad. In fact, I was overjoyed: highly drinkable, thirst-quenching, intelligent beer in a proper pub devoid of bearded hipster clones blasting their tastedbuds with bitterness.

The Cat's Back
Afternoon Three: I popped into the Swift, on Putney High Street. This is a Fullers faux-east end hipster craft beer vibe bar for the unadventurous young professionals of south west London. On my first visit, in December 2013 soon after it opened, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. A blackboard listing the "craft beer" selection included Fosters, without any suggestion of it being an in-joke; surly door-staff enforced a no-bags rule. The board had gone but the faux-ness was all too apparent in the sun of a spring afternoon. The exposed bricks were wallpaper. The vintage distressed tiles were wallpaper. The furniture was over-designed to look under-designed. The beer selection was perfunctory. The whole place was false, a facsimile of craft.

The Swift

The Swift

The Swift

On the train back north I had time to ponder this craft dysphoria. I came to a conclusion: I am post-craft. Genuine craft as exemplified by Brewdog left me cold. Faux craft, as represented by The Swift, left me dispirited.

A Harvey's pub  put a a mile wide smile on my face. I am post-craft. But I'm still not real ale.

Update: 4 August 2015 - The Swift has closed for business.