Monday, February 27, 2012

Portsmouth Beer Week Rare Kegs

We've got a number of special beers being tapped during Portsmouth Beer Week.  To help you plan better, here's a short list:

Tuesday, February 28 at the TJ's IPA Tap Takeover, we'll be pouring Finestkind IPA and Big A IPA.  The hops start flowing at 8pm.

Wednesday, February 29 (Leap Day) brings around the annual J. Lohr vs. Smuttynose Beer vs. Wine Dinner at The Blue Mermaid.  Our line-up features rarities like Satchmo, Bourbon Barrel-aged Robust Porter, and the newest batch of Vunderbar Pils.  You will need reservations for this seated, pairing dinner.

Thursday, March 1 will see the new batch of Brett and I, on tap at The Press Room along with 2006 Wheat Wine and Vunderbar Pils.  The show starts at 8 and your cover charge goes entirely to (H)Eat.

On Friday, March 2, The Flatbread Company will be tapping a log of 2007 Farmhouse Ale at 8pm. 

There isn't anything rare on tap for Saturday's Pub Tour, but you won't want to miss it.  The gathering begins at 1pm at The Press Room and the groups depart at 2.

The River House's Brunchfest on Sunday morning will feature another log of Brett and I, in case you miss the Battle of the Bands.

The full details can be found on the official Portsmouth Beer Week website, run by the 2BeerGuys.

We'll see you out and about in town!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Devizes, Day 1

After getting into the UK, Dave and I took two trains to get from Heathrow Airport to Swindon, where we would meet Brian Yorston, Head Brewer at Wadworth.  Brian is both the man who'll get our beer ('Murrican Mild) into firkins and also our de facto host.
Wiltshire, the county where Devizes is, has a very old and very rich history going back to the Druids.  Brian has been an excellent host and tour guide, driving us all around the county.  Our first stop after the Swindon rail station was a cruise through Avebury which has larger, less-known stone circles that are older than Stonehenge.  Right after the center of town is this immense earthen mass, Silbury Hill, the largest man made hill in Europe.  It's 131 feet tall and covers 5 acres of space.  Like a number of things in this area, it's mysterious.


Our car trip ended at a Wadworth pub (there are about 250 of them and they are literally everywhere) called the Waggon and Horses, where we had our first pints of Wadworth beer and a traditional Sunday roast of British beef, carrots and parsnips, green beans, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.  It was delicious after a long trip.

The Waggon and Horses from the A4

Sunday roast, unchanged for centuries

After lunch, we arrived in Devizes and checked into or hotel, called The Bear (the name made Dave a little nervous).  It's only from the 15th Century but has a great pub full of Wadworth beer.  We strolled around town, had a few pints (all at Wadworth pubs) and then went to a local chippy for dinner.  It was greasylicious and it felt like we'd gone to the Gilly's of Devizes.  Then we slept.

 We met Brian at the brewery at 10am after a tasty breakfast that included delicious pork products and Marmite.  What began as a simple look around the place turned into a nearly 4 hour tour of the entire Wadworth facility.  We saw everything from their old coolship room and their massive cask racking plant to their lab, visitors center and 125 year old steam engine-powered brewhouse that will be used to brew 'Murrican Mild."  We'll share more info about it in another post, but the two most striking features are the open kettle (it's called a copper in the UK) and a tank that sits between the mash/lauter tun and the kettle.  Brian told us this odd vessel is largely pointless these days, but was used for adding sugars to the wort when brewers were taxed on the malt they used rather than volume or beer strength.  

The rest of the brewery was a complex of additions of buildings.  There were so many more incredible things we saw, a master cooper's work space, 100 year old brewing logs, new ideas for our tour at Smuttynose, that I can't possibly describe them all.  Fortunately, this won't be the last blog post, so stay tuned readers, the fun's just beginning!

Dave and Brian check out a square, open fermenter full of beer

This is the top of the historic hopback which will be full of leaf hops and orange peel tomorrow.

The steam coil of the historic open kettle

Wadworth's main mill is from 1932.  It's looks like an antique typewriter and is apparently built to last and last and last.

A small portion of dirty firkins waiting to be cleaned and refilled.

Two operations heads in their natural habitat, the tasting room.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty!!

This evening, Dave Yarrington (Smuttynose's Director of Brewing Operations) and I will shuffle down to Logan Airport to depart for a week-long business trip/beer geek dream adventure.

We've got a number of destinations, but our core destination is the town, Devizes (Deh-vi-zis), "Wiltshire's Hidden Gem."  This small town of 11,000 people is home to the Wadworth Brewery where Dave is brewing a single batch of a new beer called " 'Murrican Mild" that will be sold exclusively in JD Wetherspoon's pubs around the UK.  We'll tell you more about the beer in another post (here's hoping for abundant, free wi-fi), so for now,  I'll explain a little more about this trip. 

The Wetherspoon's pub chain has over 835 outlets around the UK and is known for low prices, long opening hours and for its strong support of British craft beer, a.k.a. "real ale."  In an effort to bring something unique to their chain-wide real ale festivals, Wetherspoon's began flying in brewers from around the world to brew guest beers in the UK for sale exclusively in their own pubs.  This is a pretty remarkable way to get a delicious, international array of craft beers that aren't imported into the UK and Smuttynose is very proud and excited to be part of the 2012 festival.  You certainly wouldn't say "no" either. 

I'm not sure how many years they've been doing this program, but I do recall some of the other brewers who've gone over in the past.  Tonya Cornette (Bend Brewing Company and only female winner of Brewmaster of the year at the World Beer Cup), Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker), Toshi Ishii (ex-Stone and current Ishii) and last but not least, our friend Mitch Steele (Stone).  As you can see, we're joining a pretty great list of brewers and rightfully so (thanks Mitch). 

All conceits aside, this is great opportunity to represent not only US craft beer, but New England and New Hampshire as well. 

We'll be joined by a few other international brewers participating in the fest.  Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne Ø (seriously, can anyone tell us how to pronounce that?), a brewer from Russia and Richard Chennells from Zululand in South Africa, with whom I graduated the American Brewers Guild Program.  While not everyone will be brewing at Wadworth, our paths will be crossing at some point and I'm sure that'll involve pints and pictures. 

Stay tuned for updates both here and on our Facebook page.  We'll be posting throughout our journey if you'd like to follow along.  Wadworth is one of the finest examples of Victorian tower breweries in the UK, so that'll be a particularly photo heavy post.

Until next time, Cheers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Heritage Ave. Expansion Update 2/8/12

Though it's not the greatest picture in the world, you can see the completed roof extension for our newest expansion to our Heritage Avenue brewery.  Though you can't tell from this picture, we'll be craning in a total of five new tanks under this steel canopy.  The initial drop will be three 200 barrel fermenters and a 200 barrel bright tank while a fourth 200 barrel fermenter is on order and should be online for a busy summer season. 

We've installed some process piping underneath our horizontal bright beer tanks as well, so we're just really waiting on the tanks, which should be here in a few weeks from JV Northwest.

The next update will be the tank delivery and install which will be taking place right around Portsmouth Beer Week.  We'll look forward to sharing some cool pictures and videos when we've got 'em...