Tag: IPA

| Uncategorised

Rendezvous in Rio

This is me and Jerry. Jerry is short for ´jeroboam of India Pale Ale´.

You can see a handle in the hand of the porter to the left. That´s a bag, and in the bag is Kev. Kev is short for ´Keg of India Pale Ale´.

These are the brethren of dear departed Barry, and while they missed the canal trip from Burton, the cruise to Tenerfie and the Atlantic Crossing on Europa, they´ll be joining me on the next stage of the journey – 12,000 miles across the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, through the Indian Ocean to Mumbai.

This is thanks to Jeff Pickthall – beer writer, beer drinker, and now beer smuggler – who brought them to Rio for me in his luggage when all attempts to get them in through normal channels failed. After travelling from Newcastle, via Burton, Heathrow and Sao Paolo to Rio, Jeff arrived at the hotel FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER the man who came to pick me up to board me on to the container ship – the container ship that left three days ahead of schedule. It was skin of the teeth stuff – the stuff of legend.

While Jeff had a well-deserved few days beer drinking in Rio, me and the boys cruised down the Brazilian coast. I´ve´been getting soaked in Paranagua, blowing up balloons with whores in the sailor´s paradise in Santos, and finally we´re as far south as you can go in Brazil – Rio Grande, a deserted Wild West town where thankfully there´s an internet cafe.

This will be my last contact with the outside world till we´re off the coast of Oman in about 16 days time. In the meantime, I´ve got a book to write.

The theme of the book?

Taking a 30kg keg of beer on an 18,000 mile sea route that no longer exists is not as easy as it sounds…

Ciao.

| Uncategorised

Days on Europa

Denis from Solvenia – my watch buddy at the wheel. Some people thought he might be a spy.

How do I sum up the experience of sailing on a three-masted tall ship across the Atlantic? Perhaps best to describe a typical day.

Someone shakes you awake at 11.45pm – it’s your turn on Dog Watch, midnight to 4am. Fifteen minutes later, armed with a cup of black tea, you climb the steps to the foredeck and take your place at a seat on lookout. For the next half an hour you are the eyes and ears of the ship, looking out for other shipping or debris such as fallen containers. There’s rarely anything like this, so you spend most of the time looking at the sky, noting that it’s a new moon so the Milky Way is fully visible. Every few minutes, if you don’t blink, you see a shooting star. Above the sound of the bow ploughing through the hissing waves, there’s the occasional series of skipping plops as a shoal of flying fish skitter out of your way.

Half an hour’s rest, then it’s your turn on the wheel. The team you’re relieving are visible only by the light from the big ship’s compass illuminating their faces form beneath. They tell you the course is still 220 degrees, and you take the wheel. She’s behaving badly tonight because she’d rather sail closer to the wind. You give her rudder a few degrees of starboard and she seems happy for a few minutes. Then you take a minute to look at the trail of phosphorescence in your wake, an underlit disco dance floor in the sea. You look back down at the compass, and she’s suddenly steering 245, the sails are flapping, and you to haul the wheel round to bring her back on course. The ship lurches from side to side and you imagine the other watches rocking in their bunks, cursing you.

2am brings soup and whatever left-overs there are, and the next two hours seem to pass quickly. Another stint on lookout, a few pages of an unchallenging thriller sitting in the deck house, and soon the day watch is being woken up, and you’re back to bed.

You sleep through breakfast (fine – there’s only so much ham and cheese a guy can eat) and wake up around 10am. You doze for a bit to the sound of the waves rinsing the hull, inches from your head. But it’s getting hotter – it’s never cooler than 30 degrees down here, and your head is burning where it touches the pillow. Out of bed, a shower and up on deck, and the sun is high in the sky. A few people sit on deck reading. Several are working – Erik the barman is sanding and varnishing the wheel house. Some of the crew are sanding blocks. One or two are putting on harnesses and going aloft to work in the rigging. You look over the rail at 360 degrees of deep blue, solid blue ocean, and a slightly lighter cloudless blue sky.

On watch again at noon. Then soup and sandwiches for lunch, and at 2pm the captain calls everyone to the main deck and gives his daily speech. We did 150 miles in the last 24 hours, which is good progress, and we’re due to arrive in Salvador a day or two early if we keep this up. You’re not sure how you feel about this – is that a good or a bad thing?

A lazy afternoon, maybe mending sails or helping on the ropes when the captain decides a sail has to be set or taken away, other than that, sitting reading in the sun – if the full complement of sails haven’t shaded the entire deck. The big excitement is a school of dolphins, leaping through the waves, racing for the bow, where they spend half an hour swimming alongside and under the ship. They love to see us – it almost looks like they’re taking a shower in the ship’s bow wave.

At 5pm Erik opens the bar and brings anchovies, meat and cheese out on deck. A couple of beers and all too soon the sun is setting, sinking quickly, setting fire to the sky in the west.

At 7pm dinner is served. Hearty and nutritious, but this sea air gives you an appetite. And then, as darkness completes its takeover of the sky, you’re back on watch again – the schedule moves round, and tonight you’re on 8 till midnight. At least it means you’ll get a full night’s sleep. Maybe tonight you’ll take your mattress up onto the sloop deck and kip under the stars…

| Uncategorised

Barry RIP

This entry comes from a web cafe in Tenerife about an hour before I board the Europa and sail across the Atlantic, both lighter of luggage and heavier of heart than I should be.

We arrived in Tenerife just over a week ago and I hired an apartment in the south east corner of the island. After a weekend taking the pulse of the great British holiday and the beers thereof (Dorada is just a great name for a beer, but it has to be a beer you only drink on holiday, don´t you think?) I had to dash home for a couple of days for the media launch of the Cask Ale Report, leaving Barry on his own. On his own in a sealed, south-facing apartment.

I got back to the apartment late last night and wondered why there was a strong smell of air freshener in the corridor. I opened the door, and there was a different smell in the apartment. Not one hundred per cent unpleasant, but not right either. I checked the bin and the fridge, and noticed my feet were sticking to the floor. Something had leaked. My brain did not want to even consider the most likley possibility, so I checked the ceiling for leaks, the toilet, under the sink, until finally, after about five minutes, my brain caught up with my nose and identified the smell: stale, oxidised beer. SPILT beer.

I rushed to pick Barry up and take him out on to the patio to have a look without making more of a mess. He was very, very light.

I slit open the cellophane wrapping the bag – the thick layer of cellophane – and opened the bag. An empty barrel, a puddle of stale beer and dry hops, with the bung from the barrel floating in the bottom. Barry had committed suicide. I hadn´t realised our relationship had deteriorated that far.

Historically on this voyage, beers used to have to withstand extremes of temperature. High temperatures encouraged a more vigorous fermentation inside the cask, so it was essential the cask could breathe, allowing excess CO2 to escape. I´m pretty sure this was the problem, whether the cask wasn´t allowing CO2 to escape in the first place, or whether wrapping the cask inside a bag and then encasing it very tightly in a thick layer of cellophane was what did it, I´m not sure. But I think I know.

We´re now seeing if it´s possible to get me a replacement barrel delivered to Brazil. While this beer will have missed some of the most interestig and certaiinly the most authentic leg of the voyage, at that point we´ll still have 60-70% of the distance left to run, so the experiment just about stands.

But I´m about to set sail, and when I do, I have very limited e-mail contact.

And whereas three weeks ago, it was looking like I had about niine days between arriving in Brazil and the container ship leaving, I´ve been notified that the container ship is speeding up, and is now due to leave Rio on 30th October – just three days after we are due to arrive in Salvador, a thousand miles up the coast. It´s starting to look doubtful whether I´ll even be able to board the container ship, let alone arrange to meet with a new barrel before I do.

Things are starting to become a little too interesting.

| Uncategorised

We Brewed the Beer!

(l-r: Me, Kevin the American, Steve Wellington, Jo)
The India Pale Ale for my epic trip is now brewed and sitting in Burton-on-Trent.
Two weeks ago (fittingly, the week India celebrated 60 years of independence) I went up to Burton to meet Steve Wellington, head brewer at the White Shield brewery, and he put me to work.
We’ve recreated (that’s “we” – I’m a brewer now) an authentic nineteenth century IPA, as near as we can figure it. For those of you interested in brewing, here’s the recipe bit – if you think this kind of thing is a bit spoddy, look away now.
The ‘chassis’ of the beer, if you like – the basic recipe – is based on an old beer called Bass Continental, that was brewed for export and last saw the light of day in about 1920. This beer was 6.5% ABV, so we’ve upped that to 7%. It’s brewed with crystal and pale malts, and English hops, using Northdown hopes for aroma. It’s a rich golden colour – “a blonde with a tan”, as Steve puts it. We used Worthington yeasts and water from the well that used to belong to Thomas Salts, so it’s kind of a meta-Burton IPA, with three legendary brewers represented. It’ll be dry hopped as it goes into the barrel, and will come out at around 50 units of bitterness. That’s quite bitter, unless you’re an insane American hophead who likes drinking fermented hop extract and thinks that tooth enamel is overrated anyway.
There was a bit of a party atmosphere in the brewery with plenty of friends turning up, and the long pauses when wort was bubbling away and there was nothing to do inevitably became filled by beer tasting, and by the afternoon everything was starting to get a bit warm and fuzzy.

Me cleaning out the mash tun. I told you they made me work.

By now it’ll be in the barrel – or ‘Barry’ as I’ve taken to calling him. I’m going to collect him in about a week, and then we’ll be off!

| Uncategorised

Pete’s Big Adventure, or, Can You Take Obsession With a Beer Style Too Far?

I wrote on here a few months ago about the plan for my new book. Well now it’s official. From September to December this year, I’m recreating the historic journey of India Pale Ale from Burton-on-Trent to Kolkata (Calcutta).

I like IPA. It’s my favourite beer style. I love the heady, citrus and tropical fruit rush of the American new wave, and revere those few examples of English beer that are faithful to the style rather thn simply appropriating the name for an average session bitter. And when I was challenged to do a great beer journey… well. As soon as the idea emerged, I had to do it.

So on 16th August, I’m in Burton-on-Trent brewing an authentic 19th century IPA with Steve Wellington, head brewer at the White Shield Brewery. At the beginning of September, we take a pin of this beer (four and a half gallons) from Burton to London, hopefully by canal (like it went before 1839), but if not, by train (like it went in its heyday).

Then on 16th September I leave the UK… on a P&O cruise ship! This gets me as far as Tenerife, where a few days later I board the Barque Europa (top), a nineteenth century tall ship who made me cry the first time I saw her. Tenerife was often a staging post for the old East Indiamen, so while it sounds like a great holiday, it’s still a kosher historical recreation.

As part of the extended crew of the Europa, Barry and I (that’s what I’m calling my beer – it’s short for ‘barrel’) sail south and across the Atlantic, and land in Salvador, Brazil, at the end of October. From here I have to cheat slightly, getting a flight down to Rio, where I board the Carribbean (right), a modern container ship.

Sailing ships would often drift, becalmed, for weeks in the mid-Atlantic doldrums, and would sometimes end up as far off their route as Brazil, so again, this is still accurate.

The Caribbean sails without stopping down the coast of Brazil, across the South Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, and up the coast of East Africa. Then we stop at various points around the Arabian peninsular (including Iran) before landing in Mumbai. From Mumbai, I’m getting the train across to Kolkata (Calcutta), which used to be the main base of the East India Company. There, we’ll taste the beer and find out of the sea voyage, with its constant pitch and roll, and its thirty degrees celcius temperature change, really does condition the beer in the way we’ve always told each other it did.

This is an enormously exciting journey personally, but I also hope it’s of interest to anyone who brews or drinks IPA. And it’s an opportunity to put Burton-on-Trent back on the map as one of the world’s great brewing centres. No-one outside beer aficionado circles is aware of Burton’s former glories, and that’s something this book hopes to change.

I’ll be posting updates on here as frequently as I can. The book is due out in Summer 2008.And if you know anyone with a narrowboat on the English canals who might be interested in doing the first bit, please let me know!