Most of the world’s most celebrated microbreweries in this new golden age of beer that we are now living in actually started life not as a gleaming ready made high-tech facility or even a cobbled together kit in some grimy railway arches. They began in sheds, garages, basements, and kitchens (and in the case of the Padstow Brewing Company a disused and converted surf shower). The architects were men and women passionate about beer and the art of brewing. These enterprising folks then found the courage and support to put together enough money to “scale up” in brewer speak. Many gave up steady safe jobs to try to turn their fervour for fermentation into something bigger and in doing so, not only changed their own lives but touched and awakened thousands of others.
Which got me thinking… What if instead of simply singing the praises of established breweries, I started trying to feature the work of aspiring brewers and brewsters. Perhaps a little incentive and encouragement might be just what they need to make the big leap themselves.
The inspiration didn’t come to me from out of the blue. Most ideas require a catalyst, a spark to ignite them; mine is called Jamie. A fellow tour guide at London Brewery Tours he generously gifted me this intriguing taught newspaper wrapped bottle with Evil Goat stridently written on it. The handy work was that of Josh Charig aka Hellsize Park Brewing Co.
The full name is actually Evil Goatmilk Saison as I later found out courtesy of Josh himself.
Now for those non-geeks out there, Saison (French for season) is a style of beer with its origins in Wallonia (French speaking Belgium). Brewed in farmhouses in the cooler months and stored for the summer it was a refreshing liquid form of payment for the thirsty field workers to drink. Today Saisons are a popular style amongst craft brewers who often add fruit, herbs or spices to the beers. They are often typified by their hazy appearance, spicy sometimes pronounced yeast nose, lively fruit and layered texture.
Here’s what Josh had to say when I asked him to tell me a little about himself, thus casting some light onto how I came to have this broadsheet bound chilli infused Saison in my possession.
Two and a half years ago, some friends and I decided to make a batch of our own beer and one drunken night we made one of those beer packs. I instantly fell in love with homebrewing and have been doing it ever since as a “serious hobby”. My wife is a farmer and gardener and we had an opportunity to live in Ireland for about 9 months where she could grow a range of plants and I could concentrate on brewing, and this is where we are now. I brew as much as I can here and am doing a lot of testing and experimenting, whether that’s trying a new technique which will increase my brewhouse efficiency or playing around with a recipe to create something I’ve never even heard of before. I’m using this opportunity to become a better brewer and make better beer.Whilst in Ireland I’ve been keeping a brewing and beer blog the Honest Beer Guide. I’ve also been writing posts for a couple of other publications. My plan is to make the most out of my stay here in Ireland and learn as much as I can about my system, different ingredients and their effect on the beer, and how to craft the best brews. Back in London, I’m growing a few hop plants, and when my wife and I are settled back there I plan on planting more hops along with other herbs, flowers, and spices which I can use in brewing as I’d also like to make some gruit* ales. I’d even like to have a go at brewing using medieval methods!
A cloudy deep amber. The nose was at first farmyard, then field yeasty but that gave way to tropical flowers and fruit. Raising up the glass up I could feel my lips bracing for the promised heat… But none came. Instead, it was dense foamy, not quite creamy yet it had a touch of pina colada about it, and as I began to explore that; the warming began. A throat nibbling, dry persistent heat. In no way unpleasant, it had the effect of making me want another sip. With each one the complex web of texture, tropical fruit and prickly heat spreading out over my entire mouth and nasal system.
More kudos came in the form of Mrs Drink n Eat who thought it was fabulous. To qualify she drinks beer from time to time preferring lager and sour beers but is certainly not a huge beer drinker. I also trust her palate immensely, as she’s not jaded like me. I love getting her take on things as she often comes up with flavours or aromas that are perhaps more peripheral or off piste.
So the Evil Goatsmilk Saison was a huge success. I wish Josh very well indeed and look forward to tasting his future endeavours.
* Gruit was the common bittering, flavouring and preservative agent for ale before hops usurped it. It was made from a mixture of different herbs such as sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow and heather.