Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tonbridge beer in a bottle?...

Ever since the SIBA South East beer fest, which was held at the back of Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club a couple of weekends ago, I've become semi-obsessed with real ale. I've come to realise that I've drank alot of very rubbish beer over the past, what, thirty odd years. I've always known when I like the taste of a beer so things aren't that bad but, since I drink a fair few bottled beers at home I should have known the differnce between a bottled conditioned beer and a brewery conditioned one shouldn't I? But, I have to confess that, until by recent acquistion of the CAMRA Good Bottled Beer Guide, I did not. Much to my shame. (Not quite the summer reading you'd expect to see in the hands of a bookseller I'll grant you, but there you go!) Had I known the difference I probably could have avoided the sampling of some very mediocre ales and concentrated on the better ones, the ones with real character. I've tried a few already and the difference is quite marked, the difference almost between those beers in out-of-the-way country pubs where they serve 'guest beers' from wooden casks and a gassy pint of ordinary brown beer from one of the top breweries. Workmanlike, reliable, but nowt special. Which leads me to ask, since I didn't get to try Tonbridge Brewery's Blonde Ambition at the recent beer fest does anyone know if they are planning to do a bottled conditioned version of it or, indeed, what pubs locally serve the stuff on draught. I may be disappointed but I would like to try Tonbridge's only beer. If it's anything like the selection from Westerham Brewery, like British Bulldog and Scotney I'll walk as far as Hadlow if I need to....

7 comments:

Mark said...

I'd like to try something from Tonbridge Brewery too! No idea where the beers are available yet though.

Bottle-conditioned ales aren't necessarily the be-all. A beer like Hopdaemon Skrimshander (it's in Sainsburys) is ale but it's not bottle-conditioned and it's still very good.

Paul Bailey said...

I agree with Mark on this. It may sound like sacriledge coming from a CAMRA member, but bottle-conditioned ales (BCA's), aren't always what they're cracked up to be.

Without wanting to get too technical, BCA's can be a bit hit and miss. It all depends how they're produced. Some small breweries will bottle their beers straight from the cask. This is not generally a good idea, as the yeast used for the primary fermentation is not necessarily the best for the necessary secondary fermentation ie. the one that takes place in the bottle, and the one that gives the beer its condition and sparkle.

Some breweries get round this by removing the primary yeast, (either by filtration or centrifuging), and then "re-seeding" the beer with a different strain of yeast that is more suitable for the slower secondary fermnetation, and one that will also stick to the bottom of the bottle - making it much easier to pour a "bright" pint. Personally, I think this is at best window-dressing, and at worse darn right cheating!

I have had very mixed experiences with BCA's. Some are so lively that they fob all over the place as soon as the crown cork is released. As well as wasting the precious contents, this has the unwanted effect of causing the yeast to rise up, resulting in a cloudy beer. I have had other BCA's that are totally lacking in condition and which are as flat as the provervial witch's tit!

CAMRA have boxed themselves into a corner on this one, as whilst there are undoubtedly some very good BCA's, there are also some excellent beers that are not bottle-conditioned.

Anonymous said...

I've given up with BCA's. Absolute rubbish, foul smelling and full of yeasty crap more often than not. Tonbridge brewery were knocking out its ales at the White Rock Inn. They were pretty rubbish too.
Sevenoaks beer fest this weekend btw.

Tonbridge blogger said...

Mark: according to the CAMRA Good Bottled Beer Guide Hopdaemon Skrimhander is bottle conditioned. That's if I'm interpreting the information in the guide correctly....

Tonbridge blogger said...

PB: that's probably why it's a good idea to have a guide book. Although I suppose even that is only one person (or maybe a pannel's opinion. I think I'm tending to agree with you though PB; Krausening is the way forward for bottled beers. (That's shocked you hasn't it!) Best thing is probably just to taste everything you think may be half way decent and form your own opinions....

Anonymous said...

Fosters?

Mark said...

The bottles in the supermarket aren't bottle conditioned but they do bottle condition some (if you get it from a farm shop then you might get BC, otherwise, because of the high-volume they need to produce, they aren't BC).