11/9/21 at Briarbank Brewery, Ipswich
So, yesterday saw a slight return to normality as nine of us pitched up at the Briarbank to meet and discuss various things beer and brewing related. The Rogues gallery was made up of Steve Plampton, Tony Tilbury, James Pettifor, Kev Warnes, Bob Stoner, Nik Leng, Pete Burgess, John Watson and Nick Davis.
We were initially housed on a long table in the outside marquee, which was fine until shortly before 12 when the barman turned on the sound system and guitar driven rock music thundered from the speakers. Well,, thundered is perhaps a strong word as the volume was reasonably low, but seeing as we were sat right next to the speakers it may as well have been thundering as we couldn’t really hear each other. A request to turn the music off (we were the only folk in the marquee at the time) fell on deaf ears so we decamped to the trestle tables outside in the open air. Whilst this provided respite from the music it exposed us somewhat to the vehicle noise from the adjacent road but we soon acclimatised.
In an attempt to return to a traditional meeting arrangement the first thing we did was hold a casual beer challenge without the formal scoring that we would have done in the past. The beer “style” requested was as loosely defined as possible….in this case “amber beers”. There were several interpretations of what an amber beer colour was, prompting the comment from Tony Tilbury that he should have bought his Black IPA!!! John Watson kindly agreed to play the part of steward and the beers were randomly served, discussed by the group and then the brewer was asked to fess up and talk a bit about his beer.
…was poured and Initial fruity hop aromas gave way to some solvent like phenolics. Various tasting comments talked about a little alcohol warmth, low/medium levels of bitterness, some initially sweet malt notes but finishing quite dry. We agreed that it was a beer that perhaps wasn’t bad but we probably wouldn’t order another one.
It was then revealed that it was an Oatmeal IPA at 7.3% brewed by Peter who went on to explain that he had used a hopping schedule where there were no 60 minute bittering hops used…all hop additions were made late on at 20/15/10/5 minutes using Citra and Amarillo. There were also steeping and dry hop additions made. The general consensus was that the beer may benefit from aging and perhaps the single pack of Mangrove Jacks M42 yeast might have been a little stressed, causing the phenolic notes previously mentioned.
…had a rich Chestnut colour, was a touch on the hazy side but not cloudy, had a nice malt depth to it with some caramel notes and a smooth mouthfeel that finished dry with a degree of peppery spiciness, hop bitterness was soft and low and all agreed that it was an enjoyable well balanced beer
Kev put his hand up and claimed ownership of this beer which was a 4.3% Altbier. Brewed with a base primarily consisting of lager malt and Munich malt with (if my memory serves me correctly as my notes dot seen to record this!) some small additions of CaraMunich? Hops were Northern Brewer and Tettnang and the fermentation responsibilities were handled by Cross My Loof Midland yeast. Very much the conclusion was that the beer fitted the Altbier style well.
We were presented with a mid-gold coloured beer which was a touch hazy, with a good white head, someone mentioned low level pear drop like phenolics with a degree of fruitiness. The bitterness was described as soft and lingering.
James put his hand up for this one and explained it was a Dry Hopped Pilsner at 5.1%. The consensus was that perhaps it was missing the base Pilsner style.
A deep gold, extremely clear beer with a perfumy/fruity aroma and a low head that faded reasonably quickly. There was an acidic fruitiness and the beer finished very dry and was felt to be very session-able on what by that time was becoming a very warm summers day.
Nik confessed that this was a Pale Ale of 3.9% and the hop addition I have noted as a “late shit load of Challenger”
The final beer was indeed amber, with an off white fluffy head with a good malt backbone with notes of toffee supported by a low/moderate bitterness. Some tasters noted some low phenolic notes but this was not universal.
This beer was brewed by Nick and was described as an International amber Lager at 4.8%. Essentially a pilsner malt base with some small additions of Crystal, CaraVienne, Munich and a touch of Midnight Wheat for some colour depth and enhancing mouthfeel. Bittering left to traditional German hops Tettnang and Hallertauer Mittlefruh. This was a variation on the recipe for Negra Modelo Dark Beer on (especially for Pete B this bit) page 122 of Tess and Mark Szamatulski’s book Clone Brews.
It was generally agreed that there wasn’t a bad beer amongst the five submitted, conditioning of every beer was excellent and all in all a good start to the meeting.
By this time it was time to grab some menus, buy a beer from the house and order some food, some brave souls elected to use technology, scanning QR codes on the table, others decamped to the bar to order. A lot of general discussion occurred during this time not of which was documented but there was one point raised about the effectiveness of whirlpooling in a square boiler!!
After lunch and before we got a little too pissed we started discussing some non beer related matters.
The issue of how we engage with our “membership” was raised and whilst it was generally thought that the new website was a good thing and that the slack channels did help communication, there was still a need to utilise communication methods where information was “pushed” to members rather than relying on them visiting the sites to stumble across it for themselves.
Tony agreed to investigate whether when an event was set up on the ACB website there was a means of creating some sort of automated email, that would send a notification to all members about the event and perhaps a follow up reminder closer to the time.
As well as individual event notifications, a regular newsletter summarising upcoming events may also be of use. Of course all this requires events to be actually in place and planned which lead nicely into the next area of discussion…
The regular 1st Saturday of the month meetings were known well in advance and were always the first thing a member saw when visiting the old GroupSpaces site, obviously in the last 18 months there has not been the possibility to organise a regular calendar of events but it was agreed that it was time that something more formal was put in place rather than the ad-hoc arrangements currently occurring.
To this end, for the remainder of this year, we know that Norwich are holding a meeting in October, Suffolk will hold a meeting on the first weekend of December (we are looking at The Dove as a probable venue) and if an Essex based meeting could be held in October that would see us with a core of meetings to finish off the year.
A schedule for 2022 could be agreed at an AGM.
The general consensus was that it would be hugely beneficial to hold some sort of AGM and the expressed preference is for it to be a face to face meeting, rather than one held via Zoom or other video based means. Traditionally the AGM was arranged for around the middle of October. Further behind the scenes discussions with relevant parties need to be held to get this organised.
Briarbank Homebrew Festival\Competition
Rob the brewer at Briarbank came and talked to us about his outline plans for a Homebrew Festival and Competition next year.
This is scheduled for early July 2022 and would be held in the outside bar/marquee. Rob has several kegs/pins that can be loaned out for brewers to supply their beer in if necessary. He also talked about restructuring some of the entry categories that have been traditionally used in the November competition due to the volume (or lack thereof) of beers entered in some of the lower strength categories and the issues around comparing the myriad of styles that are entered but od not fit into the standard CIBA categories that he has used in the past.
Note: there will NOT be a Briarbank Homebrew Competition this November
ACB Homebrew Competition
Steve mentioned that there were embryonic talks being held with the British Legion at Wivenhoe about the possibility of them hosting us for a Homebrew Competition similar to what we previously held back in 2019. Even embryonic might be an advanced description of where the process is currently at, and possibly we really need to two parties to go out on a first date before any sort of conception might be achieved. As we know more, we will communicate further.
A request had been made for folks to tell us about some of the brewing gadgets purchased during lockdown….you know those late night semi-drunken amazon 1-click buy purchases of stuff that either turned out to be a complete waste of time or something you don’t know how you ever lived without it.
Not much was forthcoming but Tony and Nick were both delighted with their respective purchases of a Tap Cooler counter Pressure bottle filler and Buffalo 3kW induction hob (maybe not quite a “gadget”. Kev perhaps was less enamoured with the long term usefulness of the Bluetooth data logger (Temperature and humidity) he had purchased. The novelty of being able to see pretty graphs on his mobile phone quickly fading.
During the post lunch period a number of Briarbank Beers had been consumed and purchased. The Mocha Porter went down very well with everyone, there was a Hazy Pale Ale that also went down well in the warm sunshine as did a Grapefruit IPA as well.
Two brewers bought along beers that they considered to have faults. Firstly Steve produced an unlabelled bottle of an unknown beer and on opening we were hit with waves of medicinal phenolics, the merest sip of the beer was enough to cause it to be consigned to the slops bucket. It was speculated that the beer may have been Steve’s tripel, that he had distributed some months earlier to a couple of the guys who were doing the ACB training, and on reflection Steve agreed that it probably was. Poor cleaning/sanitation and a failure to possibly remove chlorine based contamination was a likely cause
Secondly, Nick produced two bottles of Kolsch that he was not happy with, citing a spicy Belgian yeasty quality that simply should not be present in such a beer. Steve P noted “barnyard” aromas and others described it as having a Saison like note. Still an enjoyable drinkable beer but definitely not one that fit the profile of a Kolsch. Some sort of yeast cross contamination might have occurred within the process is all we can put the issue down to.
A.O.B (Any other beers)
I’d say the meeting closed (but technically it didn’t as we went on to sample more Briarbank beers afterwards) with the traditional “any other beers”. Six beers were presented…
- A Chilli and Lemon Grass Saison (6.2%) by James which displayed a very subtle hint of heat from the chilli and worked well as a Saison even if the Lemon Grass notes had faded with age.
- A Dark Pilsner from Steve…sadly this one despite having some nice chocolatey notes had other aging issues and was quite oxidised.
- An 8% Raspberry Belgian beer “of no fixed style” (which were not the words used by its creator) by Kev. This was considered to be a lovely summer fruit based beverage but perhaps to call it a beer was stretching things a little bit….add some crushed ice and this would be a huge hit with the ladies we thought.
- Tony presented a Passion Fruit Gose somewhere around 3.8-4%. This was a lovely blend of salt and sourness, the tart nature balanced well by the fruit presence.
- Nick opened a couple of bottles of German Pilsner (4.8%) and despite perhaps being a touch hazy due to the journey to the pub everyone agreed it was a nice crisp example of a Pilsner.
- Finally Jim opened a bottle of an 1850 London Porter, the recipe coming from the Durden Park Beer Circle book. Lots of black malts and Chevalier as the base and “aged” for a week in a fresh Oak barrel, this was a beer that met with universal approval.
Finally, before he left, Rob the brewer at the Briarbank left us a pitcher of his Beetroot and Strawberry Wheat beer….most folks did not enjoy this at all and many emptied their glasses into the slops bucket. However, two odd souls (Kev, Nick) really enjoyed it and proceeded to consume the remainder of the beer between them.
The meeting finally started to conclude at around 16:45 with Kev complaining about an inability to see straight and Peter claiming he had to leave as he had a date to go no.
The rest of us hung around, had a couple more Briarbank beers before eventually drifting off to various homes and railway stations.
The next Suffolk based meeting will be on Saturday 4th December with a provisional venue of The Dove on St.Helens street.