Homebrew Batch #3: The Collaboration

There are some big collaborations in the beer world. Sierra Nevada & Dogfish Head (read Zak Avery’s thoughts on that here), Brewdog and Three Floyds (Eating Isn’t Cheating’s thoughts on that here), Mikkeller and well, anyone (read Hopzine’s thoughts on various Mikkeller collabs here).

And then there was Tom from ReetGood and Fletch from Real Ale Reviews.

Every blogger in Leeds seems to be brewing at the moment, many brewing hop bombs, imperial stouts or black ipas because, well, they know what they’re doing and they want to make something that fits their own tastes.

Fletch and I were slightly less ambitious.

We bought a kit from the lovely (if somewhat sardonic) chaps at Abbey Home Brew in Kirkstall. Well, it’s kind of a semi-kit called Design a Brew.  It’s from a tin, but you can pick your own malt colour (ranging from 1 – light, to 4 – dark), your own teabags of hops and then extras, like torified wheat teabags, lemongrass, dried elderflowers. You know all you need for some EXTREME brewing.

I’ve made a summer ale with lemongrass by this method before. It wasn’t an unqualified success. The taste was pretty good, the nose was alright too. Unfortunately loads of my lemongrass powder ended up in the bottles, making for quite a lumpy beer experience. Dang.

This ReetAleReviews project was not going to end up with bitty beer. We went for a simple classic, a Burton pale ale.

Armed with a bath full of sterilised water, my hobs, a big old tub, several decent sized sauce pans, a thermometer and loads of water, we went to work one weekend, sampling a few tasty examples of a friend’s homebrew (also made via Design-a-Brew) for motivation.

The frustrating thing about all this brewing is the waiting. You wait for stuff to sterilise, you wait for stuff to reach the right heat and then, when it’s all done, you wait a week to bottle, then months before you sample. Bloody rubbish.

Unexpectedly, the sampling of the beer was delayed by the early arrival of the son, but, as a kind of mini head-wetting ceremony, Fletch called round once the bottled beer was ready for sampling. We opened, and poured.

The beer was dark for a pale ale. Very dark. Like a mild.

Nevermind we thought and gave it a sniff.

Many kit homebrews have a horrible chemically nose to them, not this one. A relief.

Then the tasting. We took a few sips. ‘This, is ok,’ we agreed. It’s not life-changing, or surprising, or flavour packed, but it is a good,solid traditional ale. Smooth, easy drinking and with a hint of blackberry in the finish (god knows where that came from), this was a decent sup. We’d both bought worse from pubs before.

This last reflection was enough for us to brand this brew a success. Hurrah!

There might still be a name, and a label to come, who knows. And hopefully, diaries permitting a second collaboration before 2012. We’ll keep you posted.

A Timmy Taylors Cocktail?

In semi-beery news, local PR firm (and generally lovely folks) SLB PR have launched a new cocktail competition for Yorkshire called Made in Yorkshire. You can read more about it here.

I’m rather a fan of a good cocktail (aren’t we all) and this competition sounds like a good one. The rules are pretty simple, they just state that the cocktail must include an ingredient from Yorkshire. That could be Pontefract liquorice, Wakefield rhubarb or, well, anything we make in this fine region of ours.

Most intriguing though is the suggestion that you could use a Yorkshire ale as base for your cocktail. I’d had a few beer-based cocktails before, and generally found them underwhelming. Local chaps Leeds Brewery launched a few on sale at their lovely Pin bar and I can’t say I took to them.

They made one cocktail for each of their three regular beers, the best being a chocolaty concoction based upon their tasty mild Midnight Bell. It was quite tasty, but sweet and served oh-so cold, and left me wishing I’d just opted for a pint of Bell instead.

But, we have loads of options in Yorkshire, Black Sheep, maybe Old Peculier might work, Rooster’s various flavoured beers might lend themselves well, and some of Fernandes’ lovely rich stouts could do the trick. But, is any cocktail going to improve on the flavours already present in beer?

A great cocktail can really make the most of the flavours of the spirit. Think of the daiquiri, martini or the old fashioned, still strongly reminiscent of their base spirit, but adding extra depth to drink. Is beer already too complex a drink – blessed with its own bitterness and sweetness – to work in a cocktail? Or are the flavours just too subtle in beer to stand up to the addition of fierce spirits.

Perhaps one of BrewDog’s more extreme/daft beers, with their massive abvs and huge hop flavours would be a good solution… But they’re not from Yorkshire, so they can bugger off!

Back to the start though, this Made in Yorkshire competition should be an interesting one, and is a great advert for some of the great produce, bars and bartenders we have round these parts. There’ll be more stuff on http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/food about it as it happens.

Does anyone out there have good experiences with beer cocktails? Or bad experiences? Or good recipes?