It’s been a long time coming and always been something that I hoped we’d be able to do one day at Thornbridge. We’ve got the technology, so it’s time we brewed a lager!
I know that straight away some people will read this, purse their lips, make their eyes go all squinty and deride it as a bad idea with a deft, “What are these ale breweries thinking with all their high-falutin’ ways… imagining they can now make fizzy, generic, chemical-ridden lager.”
For those people, stop reading now please… I don’t want you to learn anything by reading any further. I believe that your ignorance is something to keep you in your own blissful (yet safe) state while those around you enjoy awesome craft beer and get their black belts in Bliss Kwon Do! It’s true that some people only enjoy cask ale, but for those out there that enjoy the myriad of flavours and taste experiences that beer as a delicious beverage provides, then this is for you…
This also ties in with our recent experimentation with bottling processes and with our first foray into kegging, albeit not in the traditional manner. It is actually quite surprising how many publications and beer authorities refer to keg beer as being a filtered, pasteurised, carbonated (or brewery conditioned) product. What happens if the beer you are putting into a keg (which is just a container for serving) is unfiltered and unpasteurised. As always with beer and brewing, the boundary suddenly becomes blurry.
We have begun using a product called a KeyKeg which is slightly different than a regular keg. Kegs usually contain product that is under pressure. This pressurised vessel is then filled with gas (usually carbon dioxide, nitrogen or a blend of the two) every time the beer is served at a bar. A constant pressure is maintained within the keg so that the beer that is being poured into the glass at the bar doesn’t fob or come out flat, but is still nice and fizzy and comes out at a good rate. Within the keg itself there is an interface where the liquid and gas meet. If the pressure of the gas and liquid are slightly different, you can either get dissolved gas leaving the liquid or dissolved gas entering the liquid, so that an equilibrium is reached.
A KeyKeg works differently. For a start, the KeyKeg is entirely disposable, consisting of a plastic and foil bag that is encased with a clear plastic ball, held within a corrugated cardboard frame and all wrapped up in shrink-wrapped plastic. The bag itself is filled with the product. As the bag fills, it displaces the gas that is held within the large plastic ball. To get the beer out of the Keykeg, the filling is done in reverse. This time, whenever the tap is opened at the bar, gas is forced into the clear, plastic ball and squeezes the bag, pushing the beer out. At no time does the beer come into contact with either gas from a bottle or the air itself. Brilliant!
We have done a few kegs of both Jaipur and Kipling to test this technology and see how our unfiltered, unpasteurised beer tastes like under a different form of dispense. The beer is exactly the same stuff that we put into our bottles. If you like our bottled ales, then you’ll like our slightly unconventional keg ales as well.
So whenever we have an inkling that something will work and it does, what follows is further experimentation! In the past we’ve been heavily involved with our great friends from Birrificio Italiano in Italy. We’ve collaborated on a few beers, had a couple of brewer exchanges and had many a great night together. It also helps that one of our favourite Pilseners in the world, TipoPils is brewed by Agostino, Maurizio and Stefano at their amazing brewpub close to Como, a must see if you’re visiting the Northeast of Italy.
The plan is for their brewer, Maurizio Folli (pictured below) to come and spend a week with us and we’ll brew a version of their celebrated Extra Hop Pilsener, jam-packed with Hallertau Magnum and Saaz hops.
The planned brewdate for this is October 26th and we’re already ridiculously excited. The hope would be for us to join the ranks of all the other fantastic craft lager brewers that the UK has.
Another thing to point out, both lager and ale are types of beer! It amazed me when I first arrived in the UK and sat chatting to “lager drinkers”. They would look at me and tell me that they liked lager, but didn’t like beer. I educated them…
For those that don’t know, the main differences between lager and ale centre around yeast and fermentation temperature. Generally lager yeast ferment at a cool temperature (11-14 degrees Celsius) and take 2-3 times longer than ale yeasts to finish fermenting. Ale yeast, on the other hand, ferments in 3-7 days at temperatures ranging from 16-25 degrees celsius (or even higher in some cases). Lager is called lager because traditionally it was stored/matured for a long period of time. Lager comes from the German and refers to this storage period.
We’re going to use the finest German malt we can get our hands on and do the same with the hops and yeast.
No chemicals, the finest ingredients, a long maturation (lagering) period. It’s going to be amazing!