Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sullerica Brewery and Mallorca Craft Beer

Lizzie and I have just got back from a week in Majorca.  Lots of nice food, relaxing, swimming and walking... but one thing I did not expect to find is craft beer!

We stayed in a place called Port de Soller on the north coast, the beach resort just down the road from the larger town of Soller. On our first day wandering around town, we were in a local deli shop and came across bottles of beer which happened to be brewed just up the road in Soller.  I was very excited. We immediately purchased a cold one from the fridge and took it down to the beach to try in the sunshine...

The brewery is called Sullerica.  They had four different beers in the shop: a wheat beer, a porter, an IPA and this one... a pale ale made with orange blossom. Really refreshing, with a light fragrant flowery aroma. Although they're refreshing enough when drunk cold on a hot day, this made a lovely change from Mahou and Estrella.

We made a note of the address of the brewery printed on the bottle and made sure to look for it next time we visited the main town.  A couple of days later, after a long day walking, we ended up in Soller and we immediately headed for the brewery.  We had no idea what to expect... it might just be someone's house, but I was desperately hoping it would be somewhere which was open to visitors and hopefully somewhere we could buy a beer. I was very happy when we found it...

The brewery was open so we walked in and found we were the only visitors there. We were greeted by Guillem in a small but impressively set up brewery.  He was more then happy to get us some beer and explain a bit about the brewery which was launched in February 2013. We tried two beers. The porter, a lightly roasted beer, very smooth for the 6% ABV and also made with orange blossom which gave it a subtle underlying fruityness.  The other one we tried was their newest beer, and IPA. This really impressed me. A fantastic punchy aroma which immediately tells you that it's going to be good and a really good bitterness. Guillem explained that this is made with local olives... the local olives are very bitter so these add a unique bitterness to the beer that I could genuinely detect in the taste. I thought this was such a good idea... olives essentially used as an extra hop variety!

With a bit of help from his Wife Maria who joined us when Guillem called on help translating, we had a chat about the recent growth of craft beer. We talked about how popular it is these days in London and Guillem and Maria told of their constant battle to popularise it in Mallorca and Spain, where the majority of people are daunted by the intense flavour and bitterness and instead prefer the softer lagers they are familiar with.

We very much enjoyed our chat with Guillem and Maria. I felt very happy that they seemed to get a lot out of it too... they seemed almost taken aback by my compliments, especially when I commented that their IPA would not be out of place on the Bermondsey Beer Mile. Guillem didn't want any money for the beers we had tried but I insisted he had some, I felt compelled to support these guys in what they're doing and I appreciated how much hard work it was. I very much hope to see more of this brewery in the future and I fully expect that I will. Buena Suerte Sullerica!

Since our discovery of Sullerica, we later found that Majorca has several microbreweries. We tried to seek out some of the others but were not able to find any others in the fairly remote area we were staying.

On a day trip to the capital Palma, we were able to try a couple of beers by another brewery known as 'Beer Lovers' (from Alcudia) in a great little bar called Bar Rita. Their IPA was seriously good and would genuinely hold up well against the best of UK and American IPAs. 

The world of craft beer is booming at the moment but I think Spain is slightly different. The beers I tried were impressive and surprised me in a good way, especially as recipes were still fairly new, but I never saw anyone of the locals drinking them. Understandably the prices are higher than the more commercial beers but Spain is a country of tradition and sadly I think that is part of the challenge. Guillem at Sullerica told me that they had beers on sale in Barcelona and I saw that they recently represented at the Barcelona Craft Beer Festival. They seem to be getting recognition in the craft beer world and I have no doubt that if they make their way to the UK, people would drink them and enjoy them. I just hope that they can make the breakthrough in their home country and one day, just maybe... they can replace crappy San Miguel.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Underrated South East London Pubs

Just a small post. There are lots of London pubs that get mentioned all the time and deservedly so but there are also a couple of my favourites that never get talked about... some people have never even heard of them. So I just want to give them a quick mention and recommend that you check them out.

Stormbird, Camberwell

One of my favourite pubs in London.  I might be a bit biased because this is my local but why does this never get mentioned by anyone?!  One of the best keg ranges in London including Belgian and American beers that I don't see anywhere else in London... do you know anywhere else that has Kwak on tap permanently?  The prices are really reasonable, I can't say I've seen pints of Kernel and Beavertown any cheaper anywhere else.  It's a very relaxed place with friendly and knowledgeable staff.  If you're one of the many people who for some reason have never heard of this place, go and check it out, you'll thank me.

The Ivy House, Nunhead

This has recently re-opened and I first visited it a few months ago but since then it has become a favourite. It's an amazing place, an old music hall with original stage and lovely old wooden panelling... makes for a really cosy setting.  The beer selection is good, mainly focusing on local beers with cask ales from breweries such as Brockley, Late Knights, Clarence & Fredricks, all of which are well kept. On keg, regulars inlude Beavertown Gamma Ray and the deliciously quaffable Rocky Head Zen... it's worth going just for that in my opinion.

If you're ever in south east London, I recommend you check these out... they deserve more praise!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Chinook Pale

This is the first blog I have written in ages so I had lots of things that I could have written about but I thought first I would give an update on my latest homebrew and what has inspired it.  

The Inspiration

There are lots of different beers around at the moment, and I'm trying more and more that I'd never tried say 3 years ago. Saison, Sour, Berliner Weisse... all beers I really enjoy when I'm in the mood but it took a recent trip back to my Derbyshire home to realise how much I love a simple (in a good way) fresh cask pale ale. I have mentioned it before in a blog post but I'll say it again... I don't think cask pale ales get any better than Buxton Moor Top.  I think with lots of high ABV keg beers all the rage in London at the moment, I forget how much I love this type of beer.

Pint of Moor Top
My dad at the Cliff Inn, Crich with a Moor Top!

So, I decided after a couple of adventurous (for me) homebrews, I would revert to my love of simple pale ales and try and recreate a Moor Top type dry, crisp, hoppy pale ale.  All I knew is that Moor Top was brewed with a smidgen of wheat and with chinook hops. I look chinook hops. There are lots of fruity pale ales around, I'm thinking particularly of ones made with Australian and NZ hops, chinook is less fruity with more of a herby, grassy, piney taste. I want a dry moreish pale ale and I think this hop works better than a tropical fruity tasting one that can sometimes take over a bit.

My Chinook Pale

The Recipe


3.5kg    Maris Otter
0.25kg  Wheat


10g Chinook        60 mins
20g Chinook        30 mins
30g Chinook        10 mins
40g Chinook        Dry Hop



I know it's a very simple recipe and there could be more to it but one thing I have learnt from brewers (especially when I brewed with Kernel) is that it's all about simplicity, especially with a light pale ale like this... keep the malt base simple and let the hops shine through etc.

The brew day went well with no problems for probably the first time ever. I added some gypsum to harden the water slightly.  I mashed at a fairly low temperature of about 65 degrees for 90 minutes. I'd read that mashing at lower temperatures for longer would give more fermentable sugars, hopefully meaning a good attenuation and a nice dry beer.  I was hoping that this along with the clean US-05 yeast would give me the crisp dry beer I was after. The estimated OG was 1.039, it ended up as 1.041.  The estimated FG was 1.011, it ended up at 1.010. So, apparently the yeast attenuated well so I was pretty pleased.  I then dry hopped the barrel with more Chinook.

Lovely chinook added to the boil
Cold Break settling nicely to leave an amazingly clear wort

I reckon lots of homebrewers reading this will think that I've not added enough hops but it is a weak beer (about 4%) and according to the malt/hops chart, this is still considered to be very hoppy and it has an IBU of about 47 which I thought was enough for a beer of this strength.

After conditioning in the barrel for 10 days, I bottled the beer with sugar.  I filled 43 330ml bottles (all the bottles I had in the house) which left a few pints for me to enjoy straight from the barrel and by this time it was tasting really good... I could almost imagine I was drinking Moor Top! well, that's probably a bit biased, but I genuinely think it didn't taste far off.  

The more I have read of other people's recipes, I'm still a bit anxious that I've not added enough hops or the late addition wasn't late enough or I should have dry hopped with more. Having said that, I always have doubts when I've made a beer, after all it's all about trying new things.  I'm still optimistic that the beer will develop further as it conditions in the bottles and as always I'm excited about the outcome.