Contamination in the Lines

The other day I was eating at one of those chain English-Style pub restaurants. It has decent English style food and decent beer. It’s actually more than descent in the form of Fuller’s ESB and London Pride. I’ve had Fulller’s beers on several occasions, but I have never had a Fuller’s London Pride on draft, so I figured it was time. I get the beer, waft in the aroma, and take a sip. Wait a minute! There seems to be something horribly wrong here. I take another sip. It tastes off. It certainly doesn’t taste like any of the London Prides I’ve had before. I know the draft should be a bit different from the bottle, but not this different. In fact, no beer should have this flavor. It seems kind of spoiled, maybe moldy, and just plain off. Sadness.

My first suspicion is a contaminated draft line. This has happened in the past and I never did anything about it. This time I figured it wouldn’t hurt to email the brewery, or at least the US representative Paulaner HP. They responded to say that their Chicago sales person would look into. Hope it changes something at the restaurant. All it really takes is cleaning the lines at a minimum of once every two weeks, and preferably weekly. If somebody had this beer for the first time and found this foul taste, there is a good chance they would think it was Fuller’s fault and never get that beer again. A damn shame. Before I started studying draught systems for the Cicerone Beer Servers exam, I never really understood how prevalent dirty lines are, and how most people (including myself) would never attribute it to the dirty lines.

It is important to understand what the differences are between flavors from  contamination and from poor recipes.  A professional brewery didn’t become a professional brewery by having poor quality control and off flavors in the beer. If you find a beer that has offensive flavor, that is probably a contamination due to poor handling or dirty lines. If you drink a beer with an offensive flavor, especially if it is from the draft, I’d try the beer from somewhere else before giving up on the beer altogether. If everything is alright there, it was probably the restaurant or bar’s fault. Sometimes things happen beyond a bar’s  control, but if you properly clean your lines and equipment on a regular basis, you shouldn’t be getting these problems.

Bells Best Brown and Shepards Pie

Shepard’s Pie? Are you serious? Are you living in some sort of dickens novel? All of these are valid questions, but no, I’m bringing back meat pies.

Shepard’s Pie, or Cottage Pie is a meat pie with a crush of potatoes on top. Traditionally the meat is mutton. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen mutton in the grocery store lately. I actually used ground turkey (because it’s healthier or something). I also used rutabaga instead of potatoes. In my quest to eat every type of food in the produce section, I purchased a rutabaga with only a vague ideas of what a rutabaga is. It turns out that it cooks and functions a lot like a potato. In fact, the recipe I found for mashed rutabagas could easily be used for mashed potatoes. Before potatoes came to Europe, the rutabaga was a major starch source.  It is solid peasant fare, and should go with solid peasant beer. Like a delicious Bells Best Brown Ale (it even says it’s the best).

The aroma is nice and bready, with no real hops coming through. It tastes like bread , nuts, and  malt, with a bit of caramel coming through. It has a laid back bitterness. It is almost savory, and melds with the savory homeliness of the Shepard’s Pie. The onion and rutabaga – rutabaga being a descendant of turnips and cabbage – add a nice earthy flavor to the pie that melds magnificently with the beer. It has a reddish-brown hue. The mouthfeel and carbonation level are both medium, nothing fancy here.

After this meal you’ll be ready to toil for hours in the field and then, when called upon, go defend your Feudal Lord.

The Monkey’s On Twitter

Helper Monkey Brews has finally entered the social networking world of twitter. Follow the monkey @HMBrews. It will mainly be random bite sized beer thoughts, that don’t really have enough filling to make a whole new post.  This is my first real foray into the world of twitter. I’ve had a personal twitter before, but rarely used it and almost never tweeted anything.  So hold on to your pants.

There are other exciting projects in the works. I’m not exactly at liberty to say, but it will be a feast for the eyes and ears.

Right to Brew

The Bible Belt Brouhaha over Beer

This is the insanity that still exists in the world. Alabama and Mississippi still outlaw homebrewing. If you are a homebrewer,  you absolutely need to be a member of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). They are the group that leads the path to legalization. In the meantime you have to respect the courage of those who brew in those states despite the silly law. As a member you also get deals at bars, restaurants,  and maybe even your local homebrew shop.

Kona Brewery Pipeline Porter and Chocolate Cake

With a name like Kona Brewery, you’ expect some quality coffee in this Porter. Believe me, coffee is exactly what you get. The label claims that there is Kona Coffee in the beer, one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Only coffee that is grown on Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the Kona districts of the Big Island of Hawaii is allowed be called Kona Coffee. Coffee, like hops and grapes, has terroir. This means that the location and conditions the plant grows in affects the taste and aroma of the plant. I have had some pretty good estate coffee from Hawaii, but this is probably the first time I have ever had real Kona Coffee.

The aroma is of coffee and toasty maltiness. If you closed your eyes and took a sip you might think that somebody switched out a mocha coffee for your beer. It has just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect amount of bitterness on the back-end. Exactly like a good mocha coffee. It is a very smooth beer with medium-low carbonation and a large mouthfeel. It essentially feels like smooth chocolate milk.

It went perfectly with a deeply rich chocolate cake. There is a reason coffee goes great with cake. It has to do with roasting. Coffee, chocolate, and malted barley  all have very similar flavors due to the similar process each goes through to get to their edible states. The cake was more fudge than your average birthday cake. A sweeter cake might have been better with something like a milk stout, but this cake was perfect with this bittersweet treat.