04 March 2011

Whatever you're having yourself

Session logoA particularly awkward Session topic for me this month. Stan Hieronymus has set it up, picking "regular beer" as the theme. Now, it's not that I'm short of regular beer: the variety of quality everyday beers in Dublin has increased enormously over the past year and I genuinely need to think about what I'm in the mood for when going for a pint in my regular haunts. And therein lies the problem from a blogging point of view: most of the beers in question are so new I've probably written about them recently already: the likes of Trouble Ór, Helvick Gold and O'Hara's IPA. Between these and Galway Hooker we are living in a golden age of golden hoppy Irish draught ale, and I couldn't be happier.

So, if I'm not going to bore you with re-runs of my regular pub beers I'll have to go home and see what's in the fridge. As well as the fodder for this blog, there are still quite a few other commercial beers that I like to buy regularly. I rarely pick up more than three or four bottles of these at a time: the lack of a car means that beer-by-the-case isn't really an option for me. For everyday stock-in-trade home drinking, I rely more on the beer I've made myself.

You won't find me writing much about my brewing on this blog. I've been dabbling for the last two years, playing about with dry malt extract and dry yeast and have been generally quite pleased with my efforts, despite the limitations inherent in my system. Experimenting with hop varieties and specialty grains is fun, but I've also gradually developed a shortlist of recipes that have become my regular beers.

About every second or third batch, for instance, is a 5-point-something % ABV pale ale, generously dry-hopped with citric US varieties. It's still very much a work in progress, and quite possibly always will be, given the range of hops available and the different ways of combining them. But if I ever do get my Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo lined up just right I may well just leave the recipe alone. I tested the current incarnation earlier this week, just nineteen days after it went in the bottle. Hopwise it's all Cascade which is giving some lovely spicy, pithy flavours, but I think it still needs to settle down a bit. I've also, experimentally, switched yeast to Nottingham rather than the usual US-05, following a price hike in the latter. My regular supplier (www.thehomebrewcompany.ie) has since brought the price back down and I reckon I'll be swapping back to US-05 as I'm not sure Nottingham is as neutral as I'd like.

More recently, I've become a slave to brown malt, having done a couple of batches of porter which lays it on thick (a kilo, steeped, in about 23L of wort, with just a little black malt for balance) giving a wonderful milky coffee flavour. I keep the ABV low, not much over 4%, which not only produces more beer out of a 3kg bag of malt extract, but also leaves the beer light enough to throw back. As an end-of-the-working-day session beer it's just about perfect.

That's it for this break in your normally scheduled blogging. If you'd like more brewing commentary in with your beer reviews, may I recommend my friends and compatriots Reuben and Mark. And of course the obligatory plug for Beoir: Ireland's organisation for drinkers and brewers, a community populated by both the serious amateur brewers and those like me whose main interest is having a convenient supply of quality everyday (tax free) beer.