This week saw the first in a new range of beers that we’re brewing at our Hall brewery. I decided to take the reins and do something a little different and am looking forward to the other brewers pushing the envelope and getting all innovative over the coming months! It also coincided with Phil Turner from Sheffield’s Exposed magazine’s brew day as he was keen to come and see how it was done and do an article in his magazine about brewing.
Prior to brewing I met up with Phil and tutored him through a beer tasting, discussing various beer styles and flavours and aromas. He mentioned that for their Exposed awards night this year, they were going to have a bit of a High Tea thing going on, so he would love to brew a beer that had some type of link to that classic British culinary experience. Cucumber sandwiches translated into beer was going to be a challenge, as was a nice fluffy sponge cake, but when he mentioned Strawberries and Cream, it got me thinking.
Beer is great by itself but also really fun to drink with food, especially if it comes to doing flavour comparisons or contrasts. One fantastic dish that sprung to mind was Strawberries, Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper. This is a real juxtaposition of flavours. The sweetness of the strawberries explodes when tasted with the rich, vinegary tartness of viscous balsamic vinegar, and the heat and fragrance of the cracked pepper makes this simple dish a stunning one. The other interesting thing about this dish is it can be enjoyed anywhere in a menu. With a little soft goats cheese and some Rocket as a starter or with a scoop of decadent vanilla ice cream as a dessert.
So could this translate into a beer? Pepper in itself is fascinating. The Piper genus where a lot of pepper comes from has a load of different species with a lot of varied culinary uses. Black, white and green pepper are usually from similar trees, but it was the Brazilian (or Peruvian) Pepper that we know as Pink Peppercorns that interested me as a brewing ingredient.
I got a few samples of peppercorns from a spice market and was really impressed by the intensely hot, fragrant Black Tellicherry peppercorn as well as the floral, sweet, almost dried-fruit like pink peppercorn. It was a done deal!
I sorted out a recipe for a 4% stout, nice and creamy with just a hint of that classic Irish dryness. I used a good portion of roasted barley to provide a hint of astringency (and just the tiniest touch of acidity) to emulate that found in balsamic vinegar. Obviously (unless you’re drinking Belgian Geueze, Lambic or Sour Brown/Red ales), too much acidity in a beer can potentially mean infection, but hopefully the hint of this from the malt would help to accentuate the fruit character that would come in later.
I then cracked a small amount of the essential-oil packed Tellicherry black pepper and added it to the mash just prior to sparging, hopefully to give a hint of the wonderful aniseed fragrance that these peppercorns held, to the finished beer.
The beer was lightly hopped with Bramling Cross and Amarillo and then I added a large amount of cracked pink peppercorns. Intensely fragrant, with a touch of parma violet, juniper berries and plump, green sultanas, these were added at the end of the boil and the aroma was fantastic.
I’ve just got back to Riverside after tasting the brew (which is to be christened Exposed) and am so pleased. The wonderful aromatic pepper notes waft from the glass and just a hint of their perfume can be found in the creamy, chocolatey brew. Am so looking forward to the next stage and the finished product!
Finally this beer is to be aged on some strawberry pulp, which will hopefully provide just the faintest hint of strawberry and blend in with the fragrant pepper and lovley, slightly dry chocolatey character of the stout.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave strict instructions with the guys as I’m off to New Zealand on Sunday for a few weeks and won’t be able to see my baby come to fruition (good pun there, Kelly… good pun). The cool thing is I’m going to be doing another Epic/Thornbridge collaboration with Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing when I’m back, as well as doing a wee beer tasting with a couple of bottles at the Malthouse in Wellington, so at least I’ll still have some brew-contact!!!
Just hope they save me some of my stout for when I’m back!