Chris Maclean: a rare bad batch of beer

By Chris Maclean

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer Keg

We have finally seen the end of Gyle 1824. Thank goodness.I am blessed with a beer supply that is remarkably consistent. In almost every instance...

We have finally seen the end of Gyle 1824. Thank goodness.

I am blessed with a beer supply that is remarkably consistent. In almost every instance during the past 20 or so years that I have been handling my particular bitter I have been confident that I would serve a clear pint of beer with condition in it. The little bubbles that show it is alive. I stick with the one bitter, I always have, and I know all of its little secrets. When I do my little cellar demonstrations I have never been disappointed. The beer has always been to the standard I wish for. But last week's batch was trouble from the start. The first three casks showed signs of cloudiness and I could sense a difficult week. But I didn't feel that it was an ullage issue.

I have spoke to various operators who deal with other brewers, large and small, and they all have anecdotes about how brews they deal with regularly never settle or how they explode dramatically in the cellar. I generally don't have that problem. The cask beer I get is consistent and reliable.

Except for last week's.

The truth is that I suspect I have gotten complacent. The regime I operate in the cellar almost never varies. So when there is a slight change in the brew I am likely to have problems. Being a living product made of natural ingredients whose qualities inevitably differ, there will be changes in a beer's characteristics. Most of the time I can absorb the changes and generally I am assured that, because my bitter turnover is reasonably buoyant, if there is a cask of beer that isn't the greatest news it is generally gone before anyone notices. The problem here is that it is the whole batch. It is all from the same brew and is displaying the same characteristics.

The only way to deal with it is to get on and apply all the cellar craft I can muster. Every bit of skill is called upon. The judicious use of soft spiles. Hard spiling at critical times. Watching the casks like a hawk to ensure that I lock in all the desired condition without the risk of the secondary fermentation disturbing the sediment.

There are times when the cellar duties are tiresome and boring. But from time to time they can be really invigorating. I've managed to shift the difficult batch without a complaint but it took all my skills to achieve that.

I have no wish to deal with a guest beer or another cask beer. I am on my mettle making sure I get this one right. Sometimes it is better to stick with the ones you know rather than dabble with the dark side. But beer that can be so demanding really ought to command a higher price. Why is bitter generally so much cheaper than lager? It really ought to be more expensive. I'll muse on that.

Related topics Beer

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