Friday, 8 January 2010
Crown Brewery Pt 1: Django Reinhardt Damson Double Porter
One of the things about doing what I do (and although I realise this leaves me open to abuse of all kinds, if anyone can describe what it is that I do, in a way concise enough for a business card, I'd love to hear it) is that it is usually interesting, always varied, and every now again, really good fun.
I met Stuart Ross, brewer of the Crown Brewery, at the Great British Beer Festival last year (2009). We ended up spending most of the day wandering around the festival together, drinking beer and engaging in that great beer festival tradition, talking nonsense.
Stuart asked if I'd be interested in doing a brew with him, and we settled on doing something seasonal with an unusual ingredient. We settled on a damson porter, adding 10lbs of damsons to the copper. They gave a bit more fermentable sugar, and added a deep fruity note to the finished beer. You can read Stuart's account of the brew day on his blog (I'm sure it was 10lbs of damsons, not the 20lbs he claims, but hey, I'm not the brewer).
One of the things that I enjoyed about brewing a one-off special with Stuart was his willingness to make things up as we went along - I'm hoping that this is the sign of a confident and experienced brewer rather than dreadful ditherer. All through the brew day, although we had a clear idea of what we were aiming for, Stuart was tweaking as we went along, cutting sparge and collection a bit short to increase the OG of the wort, and only deciding at the last minute to ferment with a Belgian-style yeast strain, rather than a British one. That's why it's a damson double (i.e. "dubbel") porter.
The finished beer is pretty damn good, even if I do say so myself. The sweet fruitiness of the damsons is evident on the nose and the palate, with the darker malts giving a roasted, slightly smoky note. The slightly funky earthiness of the Belgian yeast contributes significantly to the aroma and flavour - it would be interesting to do the brew again, and ferment with a more neutral yeast strain. Shall we set a date now, Stu?
In summary, the Crown Brewery rocks, and is hopefully set for great things in 2010. But don't just take my word for it. That bloke Pete Brown (by which I mean the British Guild of Beer Writers' Writer of the Year 2009) rates Stuart as his second favourite brewer of the year, just behind John Keeling. And there's no shame in coming second to the man Keeling.
Coming up soon in part 2: Crown Brewery India Pale Ale and that bloke Pete Brown.