Visited Harveys Brewery with the Round Hill Society on 23rd October. Guided around by the assistant brewer, Peter Yarlett, who made several disparaging remarks about American beers. On Coors, now of Burton on Trent, he noted that they have to remove all minerals from the Burton water to avoid imparting any flavour to their lagers.
The brewery has been subject to an unfair share of fires and floods over the years, and in one flood about 50 years ago they lost their yeast. I’m not sure how this happened – whether a barrel of yeast was last seen floating down the Ouse towards the sea, or what. But they got a replacement yeast from Sam Smiths, the Tadcaster brewer brother of John Smiths. They have been using that yeast ever since. This is a very different approach to that at Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, where they only use the yeasts they grow during fermentation 15 or 20 times before discarding it, and starting afresh with a new bought in stock.
After an hour of walking around, looking, listening and even chewing the odd grain of malted barley, we were led to a cold and damp basement with three barrels of beer (Best, Bonfire Boy and Old, I think). ‘Help yourself’ said Peter, and expertly dodged away from the headlong rush. After an hour in these oppressive conditions we were driven out with pointed sticks, and several of us crossed the street to the John Harvey Tavern for food and beer we had to buy.
On the first of November I started a 4 gallon brew of what I hope will be a pale hoppy 6% bitter, the first in an exploratory process to re-invent Stingo. Stingo is in the Oxford dictionary, and is said to have been a popular strong beer brewed by Newhaven brewer Thomas Tipper. I spent some time trying to learn more of this man, and found that he funded the building of the first bridge over the Ouse in Newhaven, and his gravestone shows the bridge above his name. As to Stingo I found that only one brewery in England has a beer of that name – its an occasional bottled brew made by Sam Smiths of Tadcaster.
On the 8th November met up with Graham, an old school mate now living 30 miles inland at Horsham, for a walk, lunch and a beer or two. We started in Henfield, halfway between Brighton and Horsham, and on the bus route which unites the towns. After coffee we set out to walk an arduous 4 miles maximum along the old railway line up the Arun valley, picking ripe sloes for Graham’s sloe gin, until we reached the Partridge at Partridge Green. This pub has become the brewery tap for Dark Star Brewery (based on an industrial estate nearby) so we had three different beers of theirs to wash down a grand lunch. Revelation (very hoppy with Cascade and Citra, 5.7%), Hop Head (the finest quaffing beer with lotsa hops 3.8%) and a rather fine Smoked Porter (rich, dark and smoky 5.4%)
Not the best start to an evening of drinking though. Once home we went out to the Lighthouse Arts centre where Queens Park Books were marking their 40th anniversary with a fundraiser at which friend Peter Barker’s excellent homebrews would be available for a contribution to Queens Park Books.
Tried his brew for the event – a well-hopped dark ale with Citra hops for aroma – and his ordinary bitter, and his mild ale, and his wheat beer and his London Bitter, and then things got a bit fuzzy. It was a lovely evening, we bid for and won a drawing of the West Pier by Ned Hoskins in a silent auction (sealed bids), and bid for, but failed to win the Guided Tour by Geoff Mead. Met lots of friends and watched our Mayor sample perhaps too many of Barker’s Beers.
Over the last two days I have ventured into 2 local Wetherspoons, and had pints of Batemens XXXB, Longman Sussex Pride and the exceptionally hoppy Vale Brewery Hopocalypse Vale, ladden with Chinook hops.