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.


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

 

 


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

 

 


Read Issue 20 here for free

READ ISSUE 20 FOR FREE HERE

In Remembrance of beer past and future

Memory is a great trickster, on a par with Loki (that’s the character of Norse myth not Tom Hiddleston btw). The years roll by and a pub or a beer we frequented when the world was young changes, becomes warm and tender in the embrace of memory, taunts us almost with its insubstantiality — was the beer really that bad/good; did the reek of tobacco or the streak of meanness in the regular customers really matter; what was the first beer whose branding meant something? As you might be able to guess, memory and time are the twin themes of the latest issue of Original Gravity, that wisp of smoke on the horizon, that biscuit dipped in tea that creates something greater than the act, the remembered glass with friends who are no longer friends.

Boak and Bailey have seized upon the Portuguese word saudade, which describes a vague, melancholy yearning for something/someone/somewhere that has been lost, or is slipping away, and applied it in their own distinctive way to beer. Pete Brown investigates the fifth (or missing) ingredient of beer — time — something which it is all too easy to forget about in this world of Sunny Delight-lookalike IPAs, whose brewers call for them to be drank as soon as the can is brought home. Talking of time it’s 100 years since the war to end all wars came to an end and Katrien Bruyland tells the tale of that most enduring of Belgian beers Duvel (and also manages to uncover an intriguing connection it has with Leffe). Elsewhere San Francisco and Belfast’s pubs are celebrated with gusto, I try to understand what led me to end up writing about beer and we celebrate heritage beers and anatomise porter (that’s porter porter btw, not pastry or puff adder porter). Do take the time to enjoy!

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor

 


Canadian Issue 1 free to read here

CANADIAN ISSUE 1 FREE TO READ HERE

 We’ve just launched our free, independent magazine in Canada. Read it all here. 

Illustration by Adam McNaught-Davis

Finally, Ontario Gets the Beer Publication it Deserves!

If you have seen fit to pick up this inaugural edition of Original Gravity, chances are that you have at least a passing familiarity with what’s been going on in beer in this city and province over the last several years. And if you don’t, or if you’d like to freshen that knowledge, Jordan St. John’s story on Toronto brewery taprooms, found on page 16, will go a long way to updating you.

The point being that beer in these parts has changed almost immeasurably over the past three decades, from just a small handful of breweries and brewpubs – anyone remember Upper Canada Brewing? How about Denison’s? – to 41 operating within the city limits and 250 scattered across the province, according to the latest numbers from the Ontario Beverage Network, which probably became out-of-date the day after we went to print, such is the pace of brewery expansion in 2018.

Yet beer literature, never much of a thing around Ontario, simply hasn’t kept up with developments. Until now, that is.

What you hold in your hands is a beer publication of a different ilk, one that seeks to challenge as much as it does entertain, to inform as well as to provoke. You will find beer reviews, of course – Greg Clow and I take on a quintet of brews on page 22 – as well as style features and profiles of the people who work hard to bring you great-tasting beer – both starting to the right. But you will also discover within the following pages things that you might not expect to find in a beer magazine, like Robin LeBlanc’s wrenching essay of loss and community on page 19 and our quirky spotlight on The Art of Beer on the page opposite this one.

In short, what we are aiming to bring you with Original Gravity is a magazine thatís as challenging, diverse, surprising, illuminating and captivating as is the Ontario beer market we cover. In other words, the kind of beer publication this province so richly deserves!

Stephen Beaumont, Editor-in-Chief

 

 


Read Issue 18 here for free

READ ISSUE 18 FOR FREE HERE

 The Light Issue

With those four words you will find yourself in a beer garden where the weather is warm and the sun beams down with all the benevolence of a kindly great-aunt; the beer in the glass in your hand will be cool and refreshing, glint like the golden crown of an ancient king who died beneath the mountain millennia ago.

We’ve gone for light as the theme of our latest issue, but you’ll be disappointed if you hunt for tributes towards lite beer or memories of light ale. Our light shines on different aspects of beer, with the intention of illumination, elucidation and, in the case of Katie Taylor’s debut piece for OG, celebrating the joys of drinking a cold crisp lager on a holiday beach actually a patio at home where the sun might be a bit unsure about emerging today).

Des De Moor is another writer making his debut for us. As well as being an award-winning beer writer, Des leads walking tours in search of the brewing heritage of London. We asked him why it was important to retrace the steps of London brewing and he’s shed light on the reasons (why not go on one of his walks to get the whole experience?). Mind you, not all light is good for beer as Pete Brown explains (clear glass bottles are the enemy of beer) in his usual masterful way.

We’ve also got stuff on Bamberg beer gardens, Sacramento (Brut IPA anyone?) and an essay that mentions glitter beer; there are the usual reviews and a Q&A with cult Franconian brewer Andreas Gänstaller. We hope you enjoy it, preferably in a well-lit beer garden with a non-lightstruck beer.

 

 

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor 


Read Issue 17 for free here

READ ISSUE 17 FOR FREE HERE

 Magic/realism… where beer meets the netherworld

Tommy Cooper did magic, though like many a duff brewery’s beers his tricks usually went wrong; David Copperfield also dabbles in magic, glitzed up and given the gift of the gab — if he was a brewery, he’d have tripped over himself in the rush to get to the door when Mr Anheuser-Busch knocked.

Then there is Merlin, who probably never existed but some (probably monastic) scribe, in the wake of the Romans leaving, managed to weave a magic spell that has lasted down the centuries (a bit like one of the small group of family breweries still surviving).

As you might have guessed from this preamble, this is our magic issue, though we’re aiming more towards Gabriel García Marquéz than Paul Daniels.

When we talk about magic in brewing and beer, it often comes down to the process of fermentation, when yeast in the pre-Pasteur time, as Pete Brown recollects (not from personal memory), was known as ‘godisgoode’, because nobody had a clue about where that foam on top of the fermenting beer came from — and given the grip of religion in this period there was only — thing that could explain it.

Then there is the magic and fantasy that threads its way through Belgian beer like a vein of gold in a mine overseen by the Nibelung. Our very own master of magical writing, Joe Stange, is just the person to investigate this sense of the fantastic.

We also look at ritual in beer and the myths that hold sway, while elsewhere Emma Inch has written a fantastic essay on how some pubs can be safe havens and others not.

There’s also our usual round of reviews, a bit of a q&a with masterful Czech brewer Adam Matuška, barrel-aged beer and Pilsner going under the microscope and a general sense of magical realism. Do enjoy (in the company of a magical beer, naturally).

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor 

 

 


Read Issue 16 for free here

READ ISSUE 16 FOR FREE HERE

 The heroes of beer… are not where you expect them

We wanted to celebrate heroes, but in true OG fashion we didn’t want to be obvious, so there’ll be no profiles of various hops or barley strains; celebrities and the brewing world’s famous have been avoided; we wanted the idea of heroes to be understated, not thwacked out of the ground or bugled parade ground-style, we hoped for subtlety and longed for the silent hero or maybe the forgotten one, or just perhaps the odd one.

In contemporary life, the idea of a hero has become so broad that it’s hard to know what or who is one, which is perhaps the underlying concept of Pete Brown’s fascinating tale of beer as a hero. Before he became an award-winning beer writer, Pete was embedded deep in the world of advertising, working on Stella and Heineken, and here he offers an overview of how the advertising of beer has changed since his playground days.

For some, parents are the heroes of their life, but Jessica Mason takes a totally different view in her searingly honest and compulsively readable tale of a pub table and a beer; this is perhaps one of the most powerful pieces we have published. Some of it might not make for easy reading, but if you just want jolly tales about beer, sorry.

Do you know who Jack Payne was? We didn’t and if you don’t know either then go onto to read Katrien Bruyland’s excellent story of how a British soldier at the end of the Great War stayed on in Belgium and had a hand in developing one of the country’s most enduring beers, as well as introducing a new style.

Original Gravity’s founder and publisher Daniel Neilson travels often to Ghana – here he meet Clement Djameh and tastes his sorghum beers that burst with flavour and exemplify their maker’s brewing expertise. Elsewhere, we have a tale of a Prague pub and what constitutes a lost beer, while English-style IPAs and bocks are celebrated, beer meets love and all get on swimmingly. We hope you enjoy the issue.

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor  

 


A pub table and a beer

A pub table and a beer

The pub is a mediator to the events life can often throw in your way. By Jessica Mason

 

It is a setting where we can unravel as people — where we can laugh and where we can cry without judgement. And it can, on some occasions, nurse our hearts and minds back to health.

I didn’t know my real father. He was Indian-Malay and I only met him a handful of times. Even though my mum had a court order to keep him away, if he showed up on our doorstep he’d be welcomed in. Sometimes, he would bring stories. Other times, new siblings.

By the time I was a teenager, the man with the leather trousers who I had seen approximately five times in my life had completely disappeared.

When I was 20 and the internet was just getting going, a friend and I tracked down my old surname and found an uncle of mine living in Germany. He’d been the best man at my parents’ wedding. He didn’t know where my father was either, but he asked me to visit. It was the first time I had ever been in an aeroplane and flying out to meet him and his son, a cousin of mine, I felt a deep surge of hopefulness. I was going to discover a family I had never known.

Two days later, after running barefoot down the streets of Dortmund at night, flagging down a car and spending time in a police station, I was flown back to the UK chaperoned, for safety reasons, by the British Consulate. My uncle, after telling me rather a lot about his brother, “the person whom everyone liked,” took away my naivety and replaced it with a fear I had never known.

My university pals, who had helped in my escape, took me to the pub and, within the walls of the Mash Tun and the Black Boy in Winchester, they nursed me back to life with love and beer and the unspoken familiarity of friendship that bound us like a family of our own.

At age 26, to my bewilderment I became a parent myself. So when an out-of-the-blue phone call led to information on my real father’s whereabouts, I was wary. I greeted the event not as the animated optimist, but as a protective, yet numb sage. I suggested meeting on neutral territory – a pub.

I knew I had mere hours with a man I didn’t know. But with a hundred questions in my head none of which could be answered by someone intent on impressing me, I would need to put my questions aside and make him feel at ease enough to remove his veneer. But how would I do that? Strangely enough, I did know. I needed just two simple props: a pub table and some beer.

I recognised him immediately. Not because the crumpled wedding photograph of the smiling man I’d been carrying around for years resembled the homeless man in front of me, but because we shared the same eyes. Two deep dark pools of despair looked back at me like a foreboding reflection. His carrier bag of possessions was at his feet and he was wearing a suit at least three sizes too big for his frame and a red baseball cap. He told me he had taken the day off of work especially to meet me and that he was “a business consultant”. I smiled and bought him a pint, saying I hoped he wasn’t going to be missed at the office that day.

That evening, he introduced me to his friends and I bought the rounds. His friends, who also had their work bags or kitbags stowed beneath the table, regaled me with proud stories of my father’s cheekiness, his humour and willingness to help others. Traits I’d never personally been privy to, but nor could I dismiss as non-existent. The man had nothing, but he clearly still had mates.

When I took the train back home that evening, I thought about the dimly-lit pub and the things I had learnt on the premises. It had only taken an hour to deduce that the man before me was, quite possibly, the worst man I had ever met in my entire life. He wanted to be admired, only the version of himself he had conjured didn’t really exist. He was the Moon Under Water, personified. He was not the father of which anyone might dream. Yet, in his presence, while my heart silently moved from my throat to the pit of my stomach, hopefulness was replaced by avid fascination. He was a performer and the pub was his stage. I didn’t need to like him; I didn’t need to know him. He was the jester in his court and I was simply his audience for the night.

And there is no remorse. Because we are all kinds of people, drifting through life and some of us are better at getting things right than others – these hostelries we have in Britain taught me that. They strip us down to the bare souls of the people we are and they bind friendships and relationships. They make us people of mirth and they remind us that being ourselves is enough. They are there for the good days and the bad, because life does that – it just keeps throwing things our way.

And even when things don’t go our way, there’s something we can do about it. We can reset our perspective and, within mine, there’s always a pub table and a beer.

R.I.P. The man who gave me my eyes.

/ @drinksmaven


Read Original Gravity% Issue 15 for free here

Do you know where you are, do you know where you’re from, do you know where you are going? Three vital questions that people ask themselves time and time again as life rolls on, but when it comes to beer this triumvirate of brain-teasers is often forgotten. Beer can be made anywhere, it doesn’t matter if the beer that was born in that town is now made in that town 100 miles away. On the other hand there’s almost a mystical connection between a beer and its sense of place, which, let’s be honest, isn’t always essential to the beer (a recent conversation with one of this issue’s contributors Boak and Bailey about the excellent quality of Young’s Ordinary, which has long  gone from its London home, springs to mind), but it’s this mysticism, this sense of the other, this sense of beer being like an oak with its long tendrils of roots glued to the very earth where a tiny acorn once fell, is what our writers have tried to convey in this issue.

Roger Protz has done a Michael Parkinson and interviewed an IPA (born in London and grew up in Burton); Pete Brown argues that beer does have a sense of place and also visits a brewery with its roots and beers firmly in the west Flemish countryside; Daniel Neilson rhapsodies over Wiper and True’s English Saison, which is also reviewed elsewhere; Emma Inch visits Brighton FC and drinks Harvey’s Sussex Bitter, perhaps the first beer that springs to mind when the South Downs hoves into view.

Elsewhere, Jessica Mason remembers her early exposure to the pub, and Copenhagen inspires its own sense of place. Beer meets wine, barley wine goes beneath the microscope and we’ve got some cool beers reviewed to whet your thirst. Oh and a little bit of news — November 13 sees the launch of our new website, which will feature exclusive stories and features that won’t be in the printed edition and there’s a regular monthly newsletter, which I would highly recommend you sign up for, so mark 13/11 in your diary!

Chin chin

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Editor