Making beer on the Savage Mountain

MAKING BEER ON THE SAVAGE MOUNTAIN

Mountaineer Alan Hinkes OBE is the only Brit to have climbed all 14 8,000 metre peaks, and a beer aficionado. He remembers elaborate plots to find beer in Pakistan, and home brewing at 5,300 metres

The region above 8,000m on the highest mountains in the world such as Everest and K2 is known as the ‘death zone’. It is the most inhospitable environment on the planet, impossible for human beings to survive there for more than a couple of days. Life expectancy can be measured in hours. The oxygen-depleted air is too thin, the atmospheric air pressure too low. Being at extreme altitude is unpleasant and dangerous, and the ability to tolerate suffering and hardship is essential. There is very little anyone can do to help or rescue someone from the death zone. It is too high for helicopters. In the death zone you are on your own.

Usually beer is a long way away both physically and in my desires when I am climbing an 8,000-metre mountain. However, back down in base camp, on the trek in or in Kathmandu it is another matter. A relaxing beer can be a tonic to the soul, or a taste of success after a successful climb.

The savage mountain

K2, known as The Savage Mountain because of its tragic reputation, took me three attempts over three years. On the first attempt I abandoned a summit bid to rescue an injured climber whose partner had already died. On the second attempt I backed off five hours from the summit because I thought the conditions were too dangerous and the snow and ice slope was about to avalanche. And it did killing a climber and badly injuring another. I have always said that no mountain is worth a life, coming back is a success and the summit is only a bonus. I climb to live, not to die.

Back in base camp after my success, I shared a few cans of European beer with some Dutch friends on another expedition. They had portered a 25kg load of beer 14 days from the road head to base camp. The cans of Kronenberg and Heineken were very welcome on the bare glacier ice of base camp at 5,200m.

Most ascents of K2 are from the south Pakistan side of the mountain. Pakistan is essentially a beer desert, with no bars or pubs except in the Embassies and High Commissions in Islamabad. Ironically there is still a brewery there. The Murree Brewery was established in 1860 and still produces the Murree Beer. It’s very difficult to procure and the process involves obtaining a permit as a non-Muslim. Sometimes I would visit friends in the diplomatic area and join in Hash House Harrier runs – always ending in a beer session – usually cans of Australian VB, Fosters or, if I was lucky, bottles of Murree. I remember it as a light amber beer in a clear glass pint bottle, easily drinkable and refreshing.

Home brew at 5,200m

My second expedition to K2 was to the North face in China – and there is plenty of good beer available in China. This expedition was in the 1990s and most of the beer was in 600ml green or brown crown-capped bottles, allegedly made with German collaboration. The expedition was to be five months long and involved 12 days of trekking, so we decided to brew our own beer at base camp at 5300m.

We took in home brew kits, some extra hops and powdered malt. The temperature at base camp can drop to -20C but inside the mess tent where we brewed the beer, it could peak over+20C. The logistics of brewing were difficult; we had to boil the wort in batches over kerosene stoves. Once the yeast was pitched, we nurture the fermentation in a big dustbin sized blue barrel, usually used for chemicals and keeping loads dry en route. It was a challenge trying to keep the fermenting beer cool inside the mess tent if it was a hot day and then having to insulate it with spare sleeping bags overnight. It was worth it though and we enjoyed freshly brewed beer in one of the most remote places on the planet, in the Karakoram Mountains of Central Asia. Sir Francis Younghusband and all those chaps playing the Great Game in the late 18th and early 20th century would have been proud of us. Indeed, they were beer fans too.

In 1895, the British mountaineer Albert Mummery was the first to attempt a 8000m peak, Nanga Parbat, which is now in Pakistan. En route to base camp, in the wilds of the Indian sub-continent, he came across an acquaintance Colonel Bruce who had a case of Bass Pale Ale with him. They drank the beer and did what chaps do. Try finding Bass Pale Ale now or any other beer in that part of Pakistan now. How times change!

Not that I’m beyond a bit of willing when it comes to beer. On one expedition, to Makalu the fifth highest mountain in Nepal, I helicoptered a couple of cases of local beer into 5,600m. OK, it wasn’t just a beer drop; I was having food supplied too, but sometimes on a sub-zero night at base camp I would mull over a mug of beer; a relaxing, soporific nightcap at high altitude.

For me, a pint of beer after a day on the fells or rock climbing on the crags is almost an institution. It is refreshing and isotonic, it contains minerals, iron, vitamin B, fluid and carbohydrate (in moderation of course – a gallon of beer will negate any of benefits!). It’s hard to beat a good day out in the hills rounded off by a nice pint of beer, cask or craft – no matter what the altitude.

8,000 Metres: Climbing the World’s Highest Mountains by Alan Hinkes is out now, published by Cicerone.


LONDON FIELDS BREWERY – ART BEER VISUALS

LONDON FIELDS BREWERY – ART BEER VISUALS

Join the London Fields Brewery team for the return of their craft beer art exhibition, Art Beer Visuals (ABV), where a number of artists and breweries from across London will be exhibiting their work, in partnership with Kill Me Now gallery. 

With the first edition focusing on international breweries and artists, the second ABV will focus specifically on London breweries, with a strong emphasis on graphics and design. Each London brewery in the show has collaborated with an artist to create an artwork, which will be on display and available to purchase from the two-day event at London Fields Brewery’s Light Arch. London Fields Brewery has joined forces again with London based pop artist and psychedelic illustrator Luke Mclean. Other breweries included in the ABV2 event include; Affinity Brew CoBrick Brewery, BeavertownMondo Brewing CoSignature Brew and Wild Card Brewing Company, to name a few.

Special edition cans and bottles of the beers related to the artworks will also be available to purchase. London Fields Brewery and Brooklyn Brewery beers will be served throughout the evening, as well as specials and small batches beers from the other breweries at the event.

To set the atmosphere on the night, a special crew will be on the decks throughout the evening.

 

Details:  

Date: Thursday 27th and Friday 28th June

Time: 4:00 – 11:00pm

Venue: LFB Light Arch, 369-370 Hemsley Pl, London, E8 3SB

Price: Free


Read Original Gravity Issue 22 here for free

READ ISSUE 22 FOR FREE HERE

Our ‘Flight’ edition takes to the skies with some of our best writing to date. Take a look

Flight: there are several meanings to this issue’s theme. You could, like Katie Taylor (p22), go on an airplane, but given that she’s scared of flying the crowded airport bar is a refuge, her last chance to drink a beer on solid ground. Then there is the idea of fleeing somewhere, taking refuge, which for Laura Hadland (p20) is the post-work railway bar, a liminal space that provides enough breathing space and perspective to put the working day to bed peaceably.

Finally, from a personal perspective, my flight to Paris (p18), fleeing a broken relationship and a crap job, would bring me face to face with a beer style that years later would still call out to me. Add to this Nottingham (p28) and Pete Brown’s defence of intoxication (p26), as well as our usual reviews and whimsy, and there’s an Original Gravity that can be a much-valued companion in your flight from day-to-day life.

Ad astra.

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor

 

 


ANATOMY OF …. BOCK

ANATOMY OF … BOCK

There’s something so comforting and willing about a bock’s capacity to please the palate. It majors in malt, holds back the hop and summons up the sight and sound of an ancient Bavarian tavern whose regulars drink and sing deeply before sleeping the sleep of the just back in their neat farmhouse. Darkness is its friend, dark chestnut or dark amber, though Hellerbock is a light-coloured bock with a nod in the direction of noble hops (you could also argue that it is really a Maibock). It’s a beer you drink in half-litres, rather than thimbles. It’s also a noble beer, with which monks allegedly subsisted on during Lent (much better than water and crackers I suspect).  ATJ

STRENGTH

Traditional bocks usually flex their pecs between 6-7.5%, as do Hellerbocks, though a Doppelbock is a usually a beast of a beer up to 9%.

FLAVOUR

Given the use of Munich and Vienna malts, bocks are toasty, creamy, smooth and chocolaty, with a hint of mocha and/or caramel; hop bitterness is low and the finish can often have a subtle sweetness.

APPEARANCE

Aside from the gold-hued Hellerbock, traditional bock seeks darkness as its friend, ranging from a dark copper to a chestnut brown reminiscent of a well-aged sideboard that a relative left to you.

HISTORY

Einbeck in Lower Saxony is the place where it’s generally thought bock first emerged in the Middle Ages, though in the 18th century it become more associated with Munich and the beer for local monks.

AKA

Many of the stronger bocks such as Celebrator (see below) have a ‘tor’ added to the end of their brand name.  

FOOD

A very adaptable beer style, which can be swigged on its own, or served alongside a grilled sirloin; bock is also good with cheese, something like a well-aged Gouda or Gruyere.

WHERE TO DRINK

If you can find a pub or bar that treats German beer serious, then bock should be present in winter. A small but growing number of Brit breweries make a bock.  

WEIRD FACT

The best-selling Portuguese beer in the world is Super Bock, which as anyone who has been to Portugal knows is a – wait for it – pale lager.


The Art Of Beer ... High Weald Brewery

THE ART OF BEER … HIGH WEALD BREWERY

England was forged on the iron of the High Weald. Where today are serene woodlands, gentle hills and commuter towns, The Weald once panted the puff of bellows and breathed the fire of the bloomeries and blast furnaces. The wealth of Wealden iron was first identified in prehistoric times, and its use was hugely expanded during Roman times with more than 100 sites around the Sussex & Kent Weald. By the 1600s, the industry was in full swing – England needed cannons, and the ochre stone of the Weald provided it. The fuel for smelting this iron was charcoal, which had an abundant source in the area’s heavy woods.

Today, it’s more often steam carrying the smells of barley and hops that waft into the Sussex air. In a part of the country curiously lacking an abundance of breweries, Andy Somerville saw an opportunity to expand his part-time nano-brewery High Weald, and in November 2015 he launched his three core beers in bottle. Chronicle is a delightfully drinkable 3.8% Sussex Bitter and Greenstede (the original name of East Grinstead where the brewery is based) is a golden ale at 4%, but the one that first caught our attention at the Great British Beer Festival is Charcoal Burner, an lucious oatmeal stout.

“The High Weald has an old, ancient feel to it,” explains Andy “It’s an evocative name and I wanted the artwork to reflect that. And it’s important to look good. You’ve got to pull them in with the art and then hook them with the beer.”

The brewery were already using a hammer and anvil as their logo, but it wasn’t until designer Will Parr showed Andy the potential for the brand by adding a distinctive character. “We went for the most out-there option he presented,” says Andy. “It had skeletons riding chickens – who could resist that?”

Will had worked with many breweries, creating some of the most identifiable beers on the shelves, before setting up Studio Parr in Sussex. “I started out on my own in order to talk directly to some of the UK’s most exciting craft brewers, I saw something in the early labels of High Weald that I liked, but more importantly the beers were really good.”

Charcoal Burner is a great oatmeal stout, full of flavour and life, and the first that Andy and Will worked on. “The area is so rich in history that we could build on to add in characters,” explains Will. “All of the stories on the bottles are based on Anglo Saxon folklore. It could be a battle or the wheat workers being chased by the ‘charcoal burner’.  A quirky English lion was too good an opportunity to miss to use for Chronicle and the skeletal characters we have are reminiscent of those in Anglo-Saxon folklore, but we have a bit of fun with them. Those on the Chronicle label are having a piss-up in the brewery!”

High Weald’s beers are resolutely English. “We’re using really good English hops,” Andy says. “They’re more complex and the flavours change and develop. English hops are more of a watercolour than modern art. And there are some really interesting English hops coming through, such as Jester. We’re looking at doing a 6% IPA with tons of English hops, and also a hefeweizen. With every beer, we want to tell a different story”.   DN

/  highwealdbrewery.co.uk

/ studioparr.co.uk


The big picture

THE BIG PICTURE

The Big Picture is a series that focuses on one single image. It doesn’t have to be beautifully shot, but it tells a story.

You’re never far from a pub in London, but some stand head and shoulders above the rest. Every summer my friend Lee and I spend a weekend exploring the capitals boozers and bars. Sometimes we’re disappointed, but more usually

we’re reassured by what we find. Sometimes we’re even enraptured – as we were by the Nag’s Head in Belgravia. It’s in a mews round the back of the corkingly posh Berkeley Hotel, all toffee-coloured panelling, faded Punch cartoons and dangling brass nick-nacks. This a freehouse with a fondness for Suffolk legends Adnams, pulled from century-old Chelsea china pumps by the charming Noreen, pictured here. It’s singular, eccentric and a very welcome escape from the draining bustle of central London. It’s a pub where one swift pint can easily become several slow ones.  

You may know Gareth Dobson as Teninchwheels from Twitter. He’s also a beer and brewery photographer / beershots.co.uk


HOW TO JUDGE BEER

HOW TO JUDGE BEER

You’ve been to a meet the brewer event or punctiliously taken notes at a beer festival and then like Saul on the road to Damascus you realise you would like to learn how to taste beer, appreciate it, know what you are talking about and become a beer judge. So what do you do?

Of course, you could take a course with the Beer Academy with its How to Judge Beer module; you could take online papers with the BJCP (Beer Judge Certificate Program). Or you could read a lot of books and blogs on beer and find out how beer writers and bloggers get to become judges. It’s not rocket science, but experience and knowledge gained from brewers and other writers can be as worth as much as any certificate (my first judging gig was in 2000 and I was placed next to Michael Jackson — no pressure then).

Here in a few words is an idiot’s guide to tasting beer, which you might or might not want to carry on forward. So how to taste it, how to know what you’re looking for? Is it as easy as falling off a log or something more ambitious? Surely, say those with a penchant for a pint, beer is a matter of mere swigging, a matter of hanging out with your mates, taking a deep draught and declaiming Brian Blessed-style, ‘by God that’s a good pint’?

That’s true to a point — pontificating on the white pepper notes in your glass is the sign of a show-off. However, the beer drinker can have a discerning palate as much as the wine sipper.

Here’s how

1 Look at the beer. It should be clear (unless it’s a wheat beer or unfined).

2 Judge a beer’s condition by assessing its liveliness — let it dance lightly on the tongue.

3 Note the beer’s colour, which varies according to the malt used.

4 Swirl the beer around to release the aromas and perk up the flavour. Malt might suggest dried fruit, coffee beans, biscuit, smoke, Ovaltine, chocolate, toffee or caramel. Hop-led aromas are fruity, resiny, aromatic, citrusy, peppery, herbal, spicy, lemony and floral. It’s possible to pick out Seville orange marmalade (sometimes lime), juicy grapefruit and tropical fruits such as lychees, passion fruit, mango or papaya). With stronger beers yeast esters add their own complexities such as tropical fruit, banana, apricot skin or a spritzy feel.

5 Taste the beer. Concentrate on the flavour sensations you pick up. Some beers come bearing plenty of fruity flavour, others boast rich, malty savours. What is the essence of the beer in your mouth? Is it smooth, tingling, grainy, thin, acidic or chewy?

6 Does it make you want to reach for the sky when jotting a score? If it should then congratulations, you have just tasted a winner.  

For details on the Beer Academy’s judging beer courses for to www.ibd.org.uk/about-us/beer-academy; meanwhile details on the BCJP can be found at www.bjcp.org.


Magic Rock acquired by Lion

INTERVIEW: Magic Rock acquired by Lion

Australia’s Lion Acquires Magic Rock in 100% Buyout

In an interview with Pete Brown, Magic Rock’s founder Richard Burhouse explains the take over

It was announced today that Magic Rock had become the latest British craft brewer to sell to a large international brewing concern. Australian-based food and beverage company Lion acquired London’s Fourpure in a similar deal last year, and also operate Australian craft beer brands including Little Creatures. In turn, Lion Australia is part of the Lion Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kirin Holdings, a global, multi-industry food and beverages company headquartered in Tokyo.

Richard Burhouse, who founded Magic Rock in 2011 along with head brewer Stuart Ross, will remain in charge of the company and describes the move as fuelling ‘a shared promise to keep making great beer, on a bigger scale’. The brewery has a cult following among craft beer fans and is the winner of a great many awards. Burhouse describes the acquisition as ‘the best way for us to build on this legacy over the long term is to introduce Magic Rock beers to a much wider audience’.

While rumours of the buyout have been circulating on social media for days, the staff of Magic Rock were only informed of the move today, so it remains unclear whether there will be many changes in its 45-strong workforce, but in an interview Burhouse argued that the staff and the local community of Huddersfield were key factors in the decision.

“The brand we’ve created is a bit of a monster — it’s been really successful and now we need to step up to the next level, and I simply don’t have the skills on my own to do what’s required next. We’ve been approached by a few people over the last few years and none of them felt like the right fit. Lion did — they feel right for our shareholders and for our staff. We need a new brew system, new capacity, more space, and it’s not often that this kind of investment comes into Huddersfield.’

Coming less than a year after Lion’s acquisition of Fourpure, Lion’s Global Markets managing director, Matt Tapper, and regional director for the UK, Toby Knowles, didn’t rule out further acquisitions.

‘There aren’t that many brewers that have the X-Factor Magic Rock have,’ said Knowles.

‘Today we’re just enjoying this relationship,’ said Tapper. ‘We’re enjoying working with Fourpure and we’re opening a Little Creatures microbrewery in King’s Cross soon. But we’ll keep our eyes and ears to the ground and see how things progress.’

Pete Brown


Read the new look Original Gravity Issue 21 here for free

READ ISSUE 21 FOR FREE HERE

Our ‘Journeys’ edition marks the a new chapter for us as we’ve had a major redesign. Take a look

I’ve long believed that to get a full feel for the soul of beer, you need to travel, which is why journey and exploration are this issue’s themes.

Derby might not be everyone’s place of a destination but for Lottie Gross (p20) its beers and pubs make it essential; Beer Writer of the Year Emma Inch (p22) details her journey in home-brewing, while for Pete Brown (p26) beer doesn’t travel — or does it? All this plus regular reviews, digressions and whimsies, and Matthew Curtis’ (p24) photographic celebration of Nashville.
BTW like our new design? Rather cool if I say so myself.

Yours in drink,
Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor

 

 


Exeter Beer Weekend announced for May Bank Holiday

EXETER BEER WEEKEND ANNOUNCED FOR MAY BANK HOLIDAY

THE FIRST EVER EXETER BEER WEEKEND HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED AND WILL TAKE PLACE OVER THE MAY BANK HOLIDAY FROM MAY 3-5

The first ever Exeter Beer Weekend has been announced and will take place over the May Bank Holiday from May 3-5. It will be a celebration of the city’s growing craft beer scene with special beers and events happening in a selection of bars and brewery tap rooms, including The Pursuit of Hoppiness, Topsham Brewery Tap, the Iron Bridge, the Beer Cellar, The Oddfellows and a special pop-up bar run by Powderkeg Brewery; there will also be a brewery history walk around the city centre and various other events. ‘Exeter is fast becoming a vibrant hive of beer and brewing excitement,’ says one of the organisers, award-winning beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones, ‘and the weekend aims to celebrate this. It is an autonomous event with pubs, bottle shops and tap rooms organising their own events under the banner of the Weekend. For instance, The Pursuit of Hoppiness has collaborated with Topsham brewery on a special beer.

‘The modern beer scene is exciting and exuberant across the country and we wanted to reflect this in Exeter — the city now has three breweries with several on the outskirts and new ones popping up all the time. There is also the excellent bottle shop in Fore Street, Hops + Crafts. There will also be beers from elsewhere in Devon including New Lion in Totnes, Stannary in Tavistock and Many Hands in Dunkerswell. There are IPAs, amber ales, milk stouts and lagers being brewed, I don’t think beer has been this exciting in Exeter since the late 19th century!’

A programme, sponsored by Exeter brewery Powderkeg, will be available in April, giving details of all the events.

‘We are starting off small,’ says Tierney-Jones, ‘but we hope to demonstrate that Exeter is fast becoming one of the most exciting places to drink and enjoy craft beer in the south west.’

For more details email atierneyjones@gmail.com