Roast this.

June 6, 2010

I know that despite global turmoil, environmental disaster in the US, and Ferdinand’s knee going completely confit de canard, what you’ve really been worrying about in the last week is:  ‘What new beer have Untapped been making?’

This may say more about my slightly obsessive, egomaniacal traits than anything else, but hey, no one’s perfect and I’m a hell of a cook, so it’s not all bad.

Well, I can now reveal that the lucky style of choice is…Stout. This may seem a little incongruous in the middle of summer, but by the time we see the results of the trial, do a full brew, condition it for a good long while and bottle it, it won’t be summer any more. If, indeed, we haven’t already seen the back of it.

The trial went well, fermented through efficiently and is currently being kept at 0 degrees for a couple of weeks to allow all the flavours to marry and blend nicely. We used a huge percentage of roasted and coloured malts, which smelt utterly wonderful when mashing in and have given the finished beer the intensely black colour that we were aiming for. When it finally gets to bottle, we’ll be taste testing it at all the regular markets, so that gives you yet another excuse to come and see us.

We’ve set ourselves a proper deadline this time to name the beast (for previous naming issues, just have a look at ‘And the nominations are…’) , but we are, as ever, open to suggestions. My other half suggested naming it after the dog as he’s a handsome black lab, which I thought was inappropriate until I realised she didn’t mean ‘Stop eating that, you miserable hound’…


Hold on Lads, I’ve got an idea…

May 20, 2010

Yes, I’ve finally got around to posting a new page on the world’s most temporally challenged blog (by that I mean it’s seriously late, not flipping back and forth through history like Lost. Talking of which, does anyone have any idea how they’re going to wrap that up in just two more episodes? ). Life in the brewery has been fairly busy recently – U.P.A. has gone down an absolute storm, threatening Sundown’s crown as our top seller, and we’ve just about managed to keep up with demand. Our website is in the last throes of a redesign, and we’ve got some more trade outlets, so that you can keep well stocked up on all things Untapped (details of all our stockists will be available on our shiny new website).

So, with things going well and under control, obviously it’s time to think about more new beers and to confuse the hell out of the situation all over again. We’re starting to do trials in the next week or so for a beer to be released in the Autumn – no, you don’t get any clues – we can’t tell you anything about it until we’ve finished arguing amongst ourselves. I was going to say that it’s like forming a coalition, but Cameron and Clegg probably won’t settle things eventually over ice-cold Vodka and an impromptu game of spoof.  Would probably help Newsnight’s ratings, though.

You see, the problem is that you’ve got to find a balance between something excitingly new and something that people actually want to drink. Guava and liquorice may be heaven in the hands of Heston Blumenthal, but would you want to have a pint of it? Or from our perspective, would you want more than just a pint? By the same measure, you also don’t want to make something that slides off into the dark realms of mediocrity and…oops, was going to mention a well-known brand there, but remembered that they’ve got much better legal representation than us.

So, it can be a bit of a tightrope. We’ve done pretty well so far (at least, all you lovely lot seem to think so), so we’d better not drop the ball now. Martyn is currently relaxing somewhere in Greece, and I’ve got horrible visions of him coming back extolling the virtues of brewing with vine leaves and hummus. Don’t worry, a couple of days in downtown Splott will bring him back to earth. As for me, I just have to curtail my natural instincts to make something so powerful and flavoursome that it would have you reliving the last 10 minutes of 2001 on the inside of your eyelids. Luckily, Martyn drags me back from my more wild-eyed brewing excesses.

Hang on, he’s not here.

Nothing can stop me now! Nothing!

And the nominations are…

March 26, 2010

‘Of course we still have to come up with a name…’

This, it turns out, was one of those statements that was a massive underestimation of the task at hand. A bit like

‘Rebuild Iraq? Sure, how hard can it be?’


‘Well, we made it to the South Pole. Now we just have to get home…’

Ok, so maybe comparing naming a new beer with a national rebirth or extreme exploration is overstating the case (just a tad), but at times it doesn’t feel like it. This is roughly how the process works:

1 – Choose name

2 – Run it past business partner. Binned –  Go to 1. Thumbs up from other 50% of Untapped –  Go to 3.

3 – Run it through business search. Already used –  Go to 1. Name available – Go to 4.

4 – Run it past other half. Binned – Go to 1. Lukewarm approval – Go to 5.

5 – Run it past friends and family. Confused look / laughter – Go to 1. ‘Yeah, I’d order that’ – Go to 6.

6 – Check for any hidden meaning. Turns out name is a synonym for poison in Hindi – Go to 1. All clear – Go to 7.

7 – Last run through google. Name has just been used by monster producer for their latest alcopop – Go to 1. Still unused – Go to 8.

8 – Send name and ideas to designer. Start process again with label design.

Luckily, after going round and round with the latest name, it came down to a very simple conversation with an Untapped fan.

‘What’s the beer?’

‘A pale ale.’

‘Why so complicated? Why not call it Untapped Pale Ale?’

(Pause as thesaurus, lists of descriptive nouns, names scrawled on Tesco receipts are put down)

‘That works.’

Ultimately, you can start to bounce off the inside of your own head with names. You begin to understand that names like Railtrack, or having Jackson Pollock redesign the tail fins of your planes, aren’t creative decisions so much as desperate cries for help.

So, Untapped Pale Ale it is (U.P.A. to its friends). And, although the naming might have been painful, the beer is a delight. Wonderful fruit aromas, with a lovely, deep flavour and a rounded, long finish. This beer is only going to get better as the weather gets warmer.

Oh, and for the unnamed fan who suggested ‘ Sunny Delight’. See number 3 above.
And you’re barred.

Stand back, I’m creating.

January 22, 2010

Well, It’s been minus something dreadful outside, I’ve got on more layers than a neurotic onion and our couriers have started to use huskies, so obviously we’re thinking about summer beer. I must admit, trying to picture the perfect bevvy for a gloriously hot day doesn’t come naturally when you’re hacking the ice off the lock of your malt container, but we donned our most hibiscus covered shirts and gave it a go.

The recipe that has come out of this painful thinking (I won’t use the terms ‘blue sky’ or ‘imagineer’ on the basis that I still have some self respect) should be a perfect partner for Sundown – a balanced, strongly aromatic pale ale, with a  more hoppy finish at 4.5% abv.

Or so we hope.

Because now comes the hard part. Actually making a trial of the beast. It’s been a while since the 40 l trial kit got dragged out of storage. Ember was never trialled (is that actually a word?) and went straight to full brew status. This, of course, was down to our absolute confidence in the beer and not at all to do with getting it out in time for Christmas. So the kit’s been under a dust sheet for a year since the heady days when we were experimenting with Eclipse and Sundown.

The kit itself isn’t that difficult to use, it’s just that  getting it to marry with a brewery that produces 1000l a time needs … artful solution. By the time you read this I should have got some photos onto facebook, so you can see what I mean. Suffice to say, the end result looks like a cross between scrapheap challenge and the lab of a mad scientist with no flair for interior design. Actually, the temptation to add a couple of plasma globes, an assistant with some obvious image issues and to practice my hearty insane cackle is almost irresisitable.

It does provide us, however, with a pretty decent snapshot of what the finished beer will look and taste like without the expense and risk of a full brew. And, best of all from your perspective, we can hand out some tasting samples at the markets to see if everyone else thinks we’re on the right track. The samples should be ready in a couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for the Untapped taste challenge!

Of course, we still have to come up with a name…

‘Tis the season, apparently.

December 9, 2009

The latest discussion point between Mart and myself is whether you can actually have an office Christmas do with only 2 people, or whether that’s only 2 blokes going out for a pint. There has been a suggestion that Santa hats would make the difference, but I believe that, at best, that this suggestion should be treated with withering disdain.

As you may have guessed, I’m not all that big a fan of the run up to Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the actual event as much as anyone. Any occasion that involves champagne at 10.30 am is a winner, as I’m sure you’d agree. It’s just the endless, tedious hoopla that goes with it. Mart thinks that anyone who has been inflicted with working retail at this time (as I used to and Mart very recently used to) begins to think that Scrooge may have had a point. But I haven’t done that for an age, so why so grumpy? Maybe there was long term psychological damage – post traumatic shop disorder, perhaps – I’m sure an injury lawyer would tell you there’s compensation to be had there.

Personally, I think that any event that is aggressively promoted at you for the best part of 3 months would become wearing to the the most saintly of us. A category I don’t include myself in(or anyone I know, come to think of  it). I believe that the only rational response is to pour yourself your favourite comfort drink (our winter beer Ember is particularly fine), fire up some early John Martyn on the mp3 and rest your feet on the dog. If that’s impossible in the shopping mayhem, then at least you can use the season as a fresh excuse to go to the pub with an old mate.

Dude, where’s my ark?

November 23, 2009

Nothing will kill any romantic ideas about brewing faster than having to do a brew in weather that would give any decent movie CGI department a run for their money. Rain and wind has been the theme of the last couple of weeks, with doors being blown off their hinges and rain and mud being trawled through our nice clean brewery. The sales department (or Mart as I call him) hasn’t been spared either – if you run into him at one of the markets, ask him to show you the picture of how he had to build a yurt around his van a couple of weeks ago at Riverside just to avoid being blown into the Taff.

Not that we ‘re downhearted, mind you (Soggy, yes. Downhearted, no.). The Untapped fans haven’t let us down; venturing out to make sure that whatever else they run out of or can’t find this winter, good beer isn’t going to be one of them.  Captain Oates, eat your heart out. And it hasn’t been all bad. One of the great advantages to brewing is that as winter gets worse, so the brewery gets toastier. It’s amazing how the dropping temperature is inversely proportional to the amount of visitors we get from the winery next door. And I have discovered that the ceramic heater in the lab is a perfect fit for my stovetop expresso maker (although it does tend to colour any tasting sessions held straight after ‘Hmm…I’m getting coffee…)

And best of all, we now have our winter beer brewed and about to be released. ‘Ember’ (as we finally decided to call it after more discarded ideas than receipts from an MP’s expense book) will be on sale this weekend. Provided the labels show up. Which they should tomorrow. So we’ve been promised.

By the way – sorry we haven’t posted anything for a bit – we’ve been buried getting brews done for all the Christmas markets we’re doing in the next few weeks. I promise we will be back with more nearly coherent rambling soon.


There will be beer

October 25, 2009

Well, it’s sunday afternoon and, seeing as I’m in reflective mood, I thought I’d review the short history of Untapped and figure out if we’d learnt anything of use so far…

  1. Designing a recipe, negotiating a brewing contract and dealing with Inland Revenue are all easy compared with coming up with beer names that Mart and I agree on and no-one’s used yet.
  2. If you brew in midsummer with all the doors closed you can create your own weather.
  3. Mashing in at 8 am on a Monday is a dam’ fine reason not to go channel surfing at midnight on a Sunday.
  4. The aroma of Northdown hops as they hit the copper is a pretty good argument for a benevolent supreme being.
  5. Manning market stalls is surprisingly chilly.
  6. There is a well known high street bakery that makes the worst cup of coffee we’ve ever had.
  7. Mart and I disagree fundamentally on the worth of the Tour de France as a tv sport (look, another bloke on a bike!).
  8. Fine tuning the beers was well worth it (the new batches are even better).
  9. Mart’s VW camper van has done so much work for the company it should have shares. Or at least overtime.
  10. Nick Hornby is better at this list stuff.

So. Not much of use then. Luckily our lovely customers keep coming back for the beer, so we must be getting something right. One more week till winter beer brewing, and this we know we’ve got right.