May 1, 2010

FRAOCH HEATHER ALE Review

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 4:36 pm

Well, here it is folks, the first review from the Brewhouse’s time in the UK. Cetainly not the first traditional ale that I tried, but cetainly one of the nicest and most interesting ones, which is why I have chosen to post it first. Available easily in Scotland (of course), and to varying degrees elsewhere in the UK, Faoch is distressingly COMPLETELY ABSENT from the shelves of bottle shops in Melbourne, Australia :-(

Anyway, read on for all the info….

Hailing from the Williams Bros. Brewery in Alloa, Scotland, just north of Stirling, this ale is a pale amber colour with a light yet naturally lively carbonation suited perfectly to the ancient combination of barley, sweet gale (also known as ‘bog myrtle’) and Scottish Heather flowers.

Yep, that’s it folks. Nothing more than that, except water and yeast of course, and YES!!!…….beer CAN be made WITHOUT hops!!  Actually, the use of hops as a spicing and bittering  ingredient is a relative late-comer to the world of beer brewing, with herbs such as sweet gale being used as the bittering and preservative agent instead.

This beer comes with a history, and a magnificently long one at that. It is believed that this type of ale is the oldest recipe beer still being brewed today, having been produced for near on 4000 years, putting it only second place to the truly ancient  beverage made from fermenting honey known as ‘Mead’, though the combination used by Williams Bros. is reputed to hail from the mid 16th century.

So, enough of the history lesson and onto the important bit……how does it taste?

Fraoch starts with a nice light malt aroma with a hint of herbal, floral woodland to tingle your nostrils that gets your brain ticking into overdrive to work out just what that ingredient may be - it is most certainly not hops in any way, shape, or form, as there’s no ‘traditional’ ale hoppiness to be found in this brew. The first sip will intrigue you, starting with a stronger sampling of that herbaceous spiciness that gently lilts up the back of your nostrils as you exhale. The second sip reinforces the intrigue, leading into a middling-full maltiness and a wonderful ever so slightly sweet and spicy fruit undertone with a light bitterness that only adds to the surprising complexity of character that tapers to a nice clean, somewhat dry aftertaste.

Considering Fraoch’s reputation as being brewed to such an ancient recipe, the ale has a far wider depth of flavour and complexity than I thought it would, with a moderate mouthfeel (for a Scottish ale) and a natural, lively carbonation that complements this beer style perfectly. Interestingly, Sweet Gale is rumoured to impart strong ‘thirst quenching’ attributes amongst it’s medicinal values in ancient herb-lore.

It’s a top beer for a freezing winters’ night by the fire, yet refreshing enough to down a few by the BBQ on a warm summer evening….even in the Australian summer heat, as long as it’s chilled a wee bit more than usual.

Label design is elegant old-world Celtic style that is very well executed. At 5% ABV, Fraoch isn’t overly strong, nor lacking in ‘grunt’, and comes packaged in 500ml dark glass bottles or two different cask sizes for traditional hand pumping or cask tapping in your favourite pub or at parties. Supposedly (according to the Williams Bros. website) you can order these casks for your party, but when I emailed them an inquiry regarding prices and delivery for a party at our Edinburgh flat I completely failed to receive a reply, even after sending a second email stating I would prefer to get a cask of Fraoch but would go to another more local brewery and buy one one of their cask ales if I didn’t get some sort of reply soon………….result?? I ordered and picked up a cask of Stewart Brewing Edinburgh Gold Real Ale instead, which proved to be a magnificent choice also.

I had the opportunity on a number of occasions at various pubs around Edinburgh to ’sample’ a pint or three of Fraoch from both pressure keg dispenser and traditional ‘Real Ale’ hand-pulled beer pump, and, I’m happy to say, Williams Bros. certainly have their brewing right in all aspects for Fraoch.

If you live in the UK, then you’ll have plenty of suppliers to buy from. If you live accross the other side of the world like I do, then good luck in finding it anywhere….and if you live in Melbourne and manage to find it on a shelf, then consider it your solemn duty to email me here and LET ME KNOW WHERE!!!

And if you can find two people who pronounce it the same, you’re better than I was!!!

Slainte, my friends **hoists a pint up for mates**

December 30, 2009

The Brewhouse Is Back In Sunny (Scorching) Melbourne….YAY!!!

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 4:27 am

Well brew-lovers, the Brewhouse has finally closed the Britain Chapter, travelled through India, and is back in ridiculously sunny Melbourne in time for a scorching summer.

We’ve tasted many a local cask ‘real’ ale throughout the width and Breadth of the British Mainland, attended ‘Real Ale’ festivals, history festivals, seen full-on old-school jousting tournaments, Viking Festivals, tried on steel battle armour and swung swords, axes and other miscelaneous weapons designed to seriously injure the human body (some of them in India could have come striaght out of the most far-fetched seeming fantasy movie), and now the next Australian chapter opens.

Coming updates will include reviews on various ales - from the tap and bottled, mostly from Britain, but a couple from India too, some video and pics, and, most importantly, brewing will re-commence as soon as I have a small fridge to fit a fermenter into - summer in Melbourne gets pretty warm at times, 47.5 deg C was measured in Boronia, Melbourne last year on that terrible Black Saturday of bushfires - so an insulated, temp regulated enclosure is a good idea. Technically Viking Brewhouse isn’t back in the original premesis as that’s still rented out, but, that notwithstanding, a number of interesting experiments are planned.

So, stay tuned, check for updates, have a Happy New Year ‘tasting’ your fermented/distilled beverage of choice, and remember, if you can’t remember to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink (which I can never seem to do myself!), spend a good portion of New Years Eve day downing some water/cordial/sprts drink before you go in the evening, and throw down a couple of pints before you  stagger to a (comfortable??!!) horizontal surface to pass out on…..your liver will like you much more, and you won’t feel as crappy when you finally regain conciousness. Failing all that, have a massive hamburger and a sports drink the next day, that’ll certainly make you feel better. Works for me anyway!

Cheers all - Matt.

September 24, 2009

The Last Of Edinburgh For The Brewhouse

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 7:41 pm

Well, it has been a bit of a drought post-wise at the Brewhouse website this year, although in my defense we have been living, working and traveling Scotland and Britain a lot, leaving not much time for the site here.

Soon the Brewhouse will be embarking on wider (and more exotic) adventures to India and Nepal before heading back to good old Melbourne, Australia for Christmas and a scorching summer. I would say that posts will probably be a bit ‘few-and-far-between’ during this time……but, really, all things considered for 2009, it won’t really be much different!

But, stick with me as there will be many tales to tell during (if possible) and after the travels and many more adventures in brewing after sampling ( :-D ) many many magnificent ‘hand-pulled’ freshly brewed draught ales - from light wheat brews through to midnight dark stouts - , a number of brewery and distillery tours, one party litterally IN the Stewart Brewery ,situated in Edinburgh’s southern outlying village of Loanhead, for their 5th year in business celebrations (happened upon that one completely by chance one Friday afternoon after work whilst returning an empty cask and tap equipment to the brewery after a party in our Edinburgh flat the week before), and racking the brains of pub owners, brewery workers, master brewers, distillers, cellarmen and other assorted beer and whisky affectionardo’s for tips, methods and any other information I could get hold of and possibly put to use in my future brewing exploits.

So, bearing this in mind, i will endeavour to cram as much as possible onto the site before we officially head off on our further adventures.

Cheers and good brewing.

June 3, 2009

Subcriptions To Vikingbrewhouse

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 6:50 pm

To all those genuine people who have checked out what’s going on here at Vikingbrewhouse.com, and shown interest enough to subscribe, I heartily thankyou, and apologise for the lack of posts in the last 6 months, but, I put this down to travelling around Scotland a lot, and being very busy with work.
But, due to a high number of bogus subscriptions with no names and very dodgey type email addresses associated with them I find it neccessary to take down the self registering of subscriptions. If you have subscribed then please make sure you simply put your name with it so I know it’s genuine.
You can still subscribe to Vikingbrewhouse if you are interested by sending an email to “comments at vikingbrewhouse dot com” with your name and “Subscription Request” as the email heading. If you would like the subscription email address to be different from the one you are emailing from then make sure you include it with your name so I can set up the subscription properly.

Cheers from the Brewhouse.

January 5, 2009

Edinburgh Embraces it’s Pagan past

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 3:22 am

This magnificent photo is not an excerpt from a new movie, or an old movie for that matter, it’s from Edinburgh, Scotland, taken on December 29th 2008, and it’s just another marvelous example of how this beautiful city actively embraces it’s, and Scotland’s, ‘heathen’ pagan past.


(Above) Vikings cavort ’round the burning longship.

From bronze and iron age neolithic tribes and hill forts, the original castle’s founding by the Christian convert King Edwin(Æduini) of Northumbria as Dùn Èideann in the 7th century, through the rule and expansion by the Danelaw (Danish Vikings in Northern England/Southern Scotland), and finally to Edinburgh’s taking by the Scot’s after the Danelaw collapsed in the late 10th century, Edinburgh, and Scotland, are literally steeped in pre-Christian lore and legend, and it’s a magnificent city to be in to experience the various festivals throughout the year as shown in these pics.


(Above) All the gear this fellow is wearing was made by his hand.


(Above) View of the Fire Procession back down Royal Mile, Edinburgh City Centre

Every year on December 29th there is a procession of fire starting from the Royal Mile in the centre of the city. Led by torch wielding Viking warriors from Orkney & Shetland (dressed in full handmade battle regalia, including the fearsome ‘Viking Axe’, swords and metal embossed shields), the procession includes well more than 10,000 people carrying flaming torches (you can buy a wax based torch for 5 pounds that goes to charity, or just join the procession without one), and winds it’s way through city streets and up to Calton Hill, one of the highest points in the city, where the huge ceremonial Longship is torched and the Hogemany (New Year) celebrations are opened.

It’s a truely magnificent sight to feast your eyes upon. Unfortunately, mead is extremely difficult to obtain here in Scotland, so we had to make do with ale instead!


(Above) Me with one of the ‘Brethren’

October 24, 2008

The Brewhouse In Edinburgh

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 3:55 am

Well, I’ve sampled many Real Ale’s in England, most of those in the magnificent historic area of Yorkshire, and after travelling down to Manchester and Chester right beside the England-Wales border we’ve travelled the other direction and are based in Edinburgh, Scotland for the winter. We have been called a little crazy for having headed north for the cold winter, but since we’re Australian, and used to doing things ‘upside down’ it kind of fits!
I have a number of ale reviews to post, unfortunately all of them from the bottle though, not from a hand pulled cask, but this is because when I’ve been in a pub, I don’t have a note pad to write notes in, and I’m socialising and it’s not really the right atmosphere for it.
But, I will endeavour to do some ale reviews from the ’source’!

Technical Issues Have Been Resolved

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 3:43 am

Recently the Brewhouse website here had a major technical issue which resulted in absolutely nothing being able to be retrieved by anyone, including myself!
Basically there was a fire at my host’s data centre that caused some quite widespread damage to servers. Due to this I have now moved hosts, and, thanks to the tireless efforts of Adam Colwell (my web-hosting hero technical guy!), everything is back to normal and I can post once again.

October 4, 2008

The Brewhouse is in BRITAIN!

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 9:33 am

Well, I finally made it across the other side of the world from my hometown of Melbourne, Australia to the United Kingdom, and my current place of residence, the magnificently historic town of York.

I was intending to write reviews on the beer that I have tried whilst over here, but in that  I think I will fail. Certainly not because of the lack of good beer, but rather because of the sheer abundance of excellent brews available. With around 2000 years of history under it’s belt and sitting smack bang in the centre of the resergence of traditional brewing AND beer delivery (at the pub) techniques, York is an amazing place to be.

I have been here exactly a week now  and have sampled so many different beers that I’m going to have to carry a small note pad with me to jot down bits and pieces. You could go into one pub, have a pint of lovely traditional Bitter, then travel to another pub within a stone’s throw and other than Guinness stout, not see a single tap beer the same as the last pub’s.

This is a beer lover’s paradise!

Yes, the beer is usually what 99.9% of Austalians would consider ‘WARM’, but it’s not. It’s called CELLAR TEMPERATURE, and it’s THE way to drink the traditional hand drawn cask ale brewed here. And it’s not ‘FLAT’ as such, it just hasn’t had the hell carbonated out of it!

The Campaign For Real Ale (or CAMRA) has really livened up the brewing industry again here and has done nothing but good in aiding a veritable explosion of micro-brewed traditional ‘Real Ales’ hand pumped from the cask (which is now generally stainless steel instead of oak) into your pint glass with a wonderful quiet hiss and a slow settling of millions of tiny bubbles into a perfect British brew served at the appropriate temperature.

The Brits are also really big on Foster’s Lager here, but we won’t hold that against them too much! It’s brewed in Britain and I must say they have certainly improved on the flavour from when I last had some in Australia - not that  you can actually get it anywhere in Australia now. If it could get over the stigma (in Oz) of having been such a terrible tasting beer when it was brewed there, I think Foster’s would sell quite well, as long as it was brewed in Britain!

I think that comment might actually constitute High Treason in Oz, but I stand by it.

Anyway, I will go into a bit more of a description of beers I try, and what exactly REAL ALE is in future posts. I have a good ‘net connection at the moment, but that may change soon, so I’ll post as I’m able to.

Cheers and good brewing.

June 21, 2008

Regarding Washing Detergent Use In Bottle Cleaning

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 1:47 am

Hi all. It’s been a while since the last posting but for once most of that wasn’t my laziness! I have been quite busy with more renovations at the Chateau de Viking along with ebaying up a storm, but the major cause of non-postage was caused by me carrying out a software upgrade that became a severe downgrade when I discovered that I could no longer access the site! So, that (not so) little issue has been fixed by the nimble hands of Adam at Propagate and now I can post away.

Chris from Brisbane emailed me regarding an issue he came across during bottling of his first two brews  that I didn’t cover in my Make That Brew Clean  article  (my apologies Chris for taking so long to post your enquiry but I simply couldn’t access the site admin).  He writes -

G’day mate,

Was just perusing your site and had a read of your article “Make the brew clean”,
I was particularly interested in the fact that you said you wash your bottles out with household detergent before storage..

I have just complete my first two brews over the weekend and am about to begin steralisation of the bottles but some of these have been washed in detergent and I had been informed that the were now useless as the detergent can never be totally removed..?
Have you had any problems with this or do you just take extra caution with your final steralisation before bottling?
Any advice appreciated

Kind Regards

Chris
Brisbane, Australia

And here’s my reply -

G’Day Chris,

Apologies for the delay in the reply.

I’ve never had any problems myself with washing with detergent. I personally think that is a bit of a myth about never being able to totally remove the detergent and was probably started in the dim dark past by someone who buggered up and didn’t rinse correctly or had poor quality glass. The key element I believe is to ensure that when you wash or scrub with detergent, rinse in nice hot water straight away. Hot straight from the tap is best. If you don’t have hot water available then cold is fine but you will have to rinse a bit more rigorously and be more thorough about it as cold water does not dissolve and wash away detergent residue anywhere near as easily as hot does.

I do this with all my beer glasses also. Wash with detergent then rinse straight away with hot water then let drain dry, not drying with a tea towel. This way I get crystal clear glass and no hassles. DO NOT put your beer glasses into the dishwasher to clean unless you are washing solely with hot water - that is don’t use the dishwasher powder, tablets or that lovely blue liquid additive that makes dishes all sparkly because that WILL destroy the glass for drinking beer out of. But, back to the bottling…

So, like I said earlier, you shouldn’t have any issues with detergent washing as long as you rinse well at the time you wash with clean water, not in a sink that you rinse 60 other bottles in because you will end up with some residue that way. This might be a bit of a problem if you are on heavy water restrictions though because that rinse water is going straight down the sink. In Melbourne we are still on stage 3a which is one step away from no water use at all outside the house, but you will find you don’t need to completely fill the bottle to give it a good rinse, just put a bit in (say 1/4ish or a bit less) and shake like hell. Do that a few times and it should be good.

Also, if you store the bottles cleanly you shouldn’t have to wash with detergent every brew you use them. As long as you rinse all the sediment out and make sure there are no bits still sitting in there and leave to drip dry on a rack you will only need to sanitise for next use. If the bottle is stored clean sinitisation is all that will be needed - unlike a mate who does put his bottles into boxes but leaves them outside to get covered in dust, dirt animals etc. If there is some sort of residue left in the bottle like a bit of old sediment, mould or detergent, it most likely won’t stop the brew from fermenting  but will usually end up causing off tastes. Residue of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) WILL destroy your brew: a small amount of sodium metabisulfate residue shouldn’t stop yeast activity but a larger amount will certainly inhibit they’re normal level of activity. Another reason I use bleach for sanitising is that even if someone had the flu when they drank out of your bottle, the lovely little flu bugs won’t survive 30 minutes soaking in a nice sodium hypochlorite solution.

For storage I have been using mostly just slab boxes - I think you guys call a slab of beer a case up there - with a piece of paper towel tucked under the closed top to keep out dust, but after an invasion of mice i switched to 48 litre plastic tubs from Bunnings. They are great. They only cost (down here) $8.95, they can hold a full brew of empty 375ml bottles (I fit 55 bottles into each tub. I usually make my brews a bit less than the 23 litres that the wort cans generally say - gives better flavour I think) and they have a lid that can be secured against animal and dust ingress. Best of all they can be stacked pretty high on top of each other and are still stable. I use these tubs for storage of bottled brews too, but found only 3/4 of a bottled brew can fit into a tub due to having to store upright. 800ml ‘longnecks’ fit into them too. They are also good to hold everything secure if a bottle explodes.
Thanks for taking the time to check out the website and I hope you’ll come back for updates.  If you don’t mind I’ll post your question on the site - it might help with questions other brewers might have.

Cheers and good brewing Chris -

Matt.

May 1, 2008

The Brewbook Is Back!

Filed under: NEWS — Matt @ 11:47 am

Well, I am most pleased, happy, chuffed, ecstatic and whatever other words you may like to include to describe a state of extreme pleasure (that is not sexually or drug related).
I’m in this state because I found my Oracle, my Holy Text as it were - that is, I have found the book that contains all my brew notes.

The main reason I have not been posting any more brew notes here is I lost the book during renovations, but I now have it back so I can finish putting up details - particularly of the most drawn out event in home brewing… THE EXPERIMENT!

I will endeavour to have a posting frenzy and make up for lost time. Also, the Viking Brewhouse site here will soon be changing slightly in focus. As myself and my fiancee will be travelling to Britain for an extended period to work and play I won’t really have a chance to brew up more tasty liquids, so after I have posted the remaining brew notes there won’t be any newies for a while.

BUT, that certainly doesn’t mean don’t come back here and chack things out. Europe has a brewing tradition many times older than the entire (colonised) history of Australia so make sure you tune in to follow the exploits of the Viking Brewhouse in Europe. Also, the home brewing crowd over there is HUGE, so i’m sure there are planty of things to learn and many many breweries to visit and sample, so I’m sure this trip, whilst stifling the ability to actually brew, will more than compensate by greatly expanding my knowledge base and re-invigorate my brewing efforts when we return.

So like previously stated, keep up your visits even though I most likely won’t be actually brewing for a while. I love checking out the visitor stats for the Brewhouse site and seeing your support for my somewhat amateur efforts.

Cheers and keep on brewin’.