Forgive the self indulgence but this week’s beer choice is one we’ve had a hand in. It’s a very limited edition batch of just 300 bottles*, and most of it has been guzzled already**, but this regular feature isn’t just about recommending beers for our readers to try – it’s also about telling beer stories through our favourite brews and, we think, this one is a particularly good story.
A few days ago we held a launch party for our new book, ‘Brew it Yourself‘, and decided to use the occasion as an excuse to brew some of our own special beer. We could’ve followed one of the recipes in the book, but 300 bottles worth would’ve broken the kitchen. So we enlisted the help of an expert with some proper big bits of shiny metal brewing kit. Derek Orford is one of the finest brewers in the industry. He has made beer for some of the world’s biggest brands and created award winning draft ales. He has set up breweries all over the world but, right now, is plying his trade at the Hillside Brewery near Gloucester. He has also just started making small batch, collaboration beers under his own label, ‘The Bosbury Brewer’, so we approached him to see if we could join in on a brewing adventure using ingredients grown in our own garden. Thankfully, he agreed.
Having got the expert on board, Rich nipped up the M5 to meet Derek, arms bulging with fresh rosemary, home grown coriander seeds and a tub of dried challenger hops plucked from the bines that sprawl over my shed.*** Derek did the hard work while Rich poked his nose in tanks and tokenistically scattered the occasional hop into the steaming wort. A few weeks later I followed his scorched tyre marks to collect the spoils, storing the bottles in the coolest, and safest, place we know – the hidden cupboard under my staircase.
Rosemary is not such an unusual brewing ingredient as it might sound. Before hops became the buttering agent of choice it was one of many leafy plants used to add flavour to malty booze. And coriander is quite a commonly used ingredient today, being an essential addition to Belgian witbiers. I tested out the combination on a small batch a while back, and it worked, but we were both surprised at how good Derek’s finished effort tastes.
Using a pale malt as a base, Derek has created a light and refreshing beer that allows the herb flavours to shine through. The rosemary gives it an unusual, fresh floral herb aroma and adds an extra layer of bitterness to the carefully controlled hopping. Coriander gives beer a subtly spicy citrus flavour, which gently wafts through the palette as the rosemary begins to mellow. And an American style craft yeast helps pull these myriad flavours together with an extra clean, crisp edge. It’s a work of brewing genius, for which we can take very little credit, that went down a storm at the party.
We were especially pleased that Derek was able to join us for the launch, where he was hailed as a celebrity and ushered in to most of our press photos. The beer immediately created a buzz on twitter, and some people even remembered they were there to help us promote a book…
Visitors to Gloucester market this weekend will have the opportunity to buy a few bottles from Derek’s stall – after that, we’re left with whatever I can retrieve from the cupboard under the stairs.
*Unless Derek makes some more. The petition can start below.
**Rich was due to write this piece but guzzled more than his fair share and has yet to fully recover.
***OK, so the garden didn’t quite produce enough of the ingredients so the journey north included a detour to the garden centre and spice shop, while Derek took care of the hop shortage.