Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Taybeh and Köstritzer beers

Among other things on Sunday night, we tasted two beers that were brought to me by different friends from Germany. The first was a few bottles of the extremely-hard-to-come-by lager "Golden", from Palestinian microbrewery Taybeh Beer (sold in many outlets in Palestine and Israel, but only three stores in the rest of the world, one of which is in Hamburg, Germany). The bottles we obtained from the Haus der 131 Biere were brewed in Germany under license; apparently the Japanese and Swedish distributors import the original beer, but I've yet to source a traveller to bring me either of those. Taybeh are still seeking distribution for their beers in the UK and USA, if anyone's interested. The second we tasted was a black lager from the venerable Köstritzer Schwarzbier (now owned by Bitburger) in eastern Germany between Leipzig and Jena. One bottle broke in our benefactor's suitcase on route from Germany, so this beer came at the cost of soiled souvenirs and a laundry bill as well as the store-price of the bottles.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

History Down the Pub: London, August 28th

Harvey Quamen: Using Digital Humanities Techniques to Study the History of Beer and Brewing

Three major questions—all difficult to answer—prompt this talk:
  1. what caused the sudden demise of porter around 1820?
  2. how did the style called India Pale Ale spread so rapidly?
  3. can we locate the historical London breweries?
Although surrounded in some mystery, these questions might be answerable using some techniques from the digital humanities. In particular, building a database of historical recipes will help us understand the movement and growth of beer styles (especially as those styles moved through homebrewing) and we can begin to track master-apprenticeship relationships with the use of propopographies, databases that serve as “collective biographies” of groups of people. Finally, using historical maps (like the Agas map digitized at the Map of Early Modern London project), we might begin to reconstruct the historical distribution of beer around the capital.

Harvey Quamen is an Associate Professor of English and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta, Canada. A longtime homebrewer, Quamen spent the 2009 academic year as a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London. Drinking with KCL and UCL friends began his foggily remembered interest in the history of London brewing.

This lecture is the inaugural event of the History Down the Pub series, and will be held in the Plough, 27 Museum Street, London (opposite the British Museum: see https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=WC1A+1LH), at 6pm on Wednesday August 28th 2013.

All welcome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

GBBF 2013: tasting notes

We attended CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival in Kensington Olympia on the opening night, Tuesday August 13, which was also a friend’s birthday. It was a slightly odd feeling to be entering almost as soon as we were allowed to, but the drinking had already been going on for five hours because it had been the trade session all afternoon. I didn’t come to the GBBF last year, so this was my first experience of the Olympia venue, which compares favorably to the Earl’s Court where it was held for several years before. As usually, the event was well-organized, with lots of food and entertainment available; and as it was Tuesday night it wasn’t too crowded and there were enough seats for all of us.

I was hoping to start the night with a pint of Fyne’s Jarl, but it was just my bad luck that that beer won the bronze medal in the best ale awards, so it had all run out even though we arrived only half an hour after the doors opened to the public. Instead I settled for a glass of their Maverick, which was also very good: a lovely bright red-brown ale with impressively frothy head and a slightly acidic odor; a massive tart apple first taste; disconcertingly it was a bit sparkly further in the mouth, but had a good touch of caramel and satisfyingly bitter grapefruit pith in the swallow. I was happy.