A Red Letter Day : The Beer Finder General Travels Thirst Class

For this Webpost, I hand you over to everyone's favourite 17th century beer torture merchant, The Beer Finder General.

“Unleash The Inner Fanboy!”

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When you love something, you just love something. Cinema, theatre, gigs, food, drink, pubs, bars, people, beer festivals….

It’s a pretty magical thing when you go to a beer festival and sit next to someone you don’t know and end up leaving as friends; when you go to a beer event and meet someone who becomes a life long friend. Sometimes this isn’t easy because we all have our barriers.

But it should be natural and easy, and that’s where ISBF comes in. It’s the place to chat and talk, be open to each other and just enjoy the company both new and old. And that sense of connection brings me on to…..

As anyone who follows me on twitter will know, I have a bit (a lot!) of a soft spot for Thirst Class Ale. I’ve been drinking their beers pretty much since they started around 4 years ago, being drawn in by excellently brewed beers across an always consistent range of styles (Penny Black – a lovely rich, hoppy BIPA - being a particular favourite). So, clearly, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to attend a brew day at their brewery in Reddish.

The added bonus was to be that it was a collaboration brew with another personal favourite Rivington Brewing Co (a brewery I’ve loved after trying their sorachi ace grisette Proper Ace at Bolton beer festival a few years ago). Indeed, Ben and Mick from the brewery are some of the nicest people you can meet, alongside being the UKs pre-eminent knitwear models (see @jamesksowerby recent tweets for incontrovertible proof).

So, I dragged myself out of bed at the unearthly hour of 8am (I’m not a morning person) to head to Reddish. I arrived at 9:30am, skilfully missing the mashing in process (a combination of rye, wheat, and pilsner malts) by being apparently so late that I deserved a good amount of twitter abuse for being lazy (a theme I lived up to during the day 😉)*.

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Saying hello to Paul, Richard, Duncan, and Ben as I arrived (Mick arrived later than me but for some reason didn’t get the chiding I got for a late arrival – disgraceful favouritism!) there was a smell of bacon filling the brewery. Luckily for those who don’t like bacon flavoured beer this was due to Richard frying up some breakfast barms for everyone (the man has no end of talents!).

So, filled with a bacon barm (other bread roll descriptions are obviously nonsensical - Ed) it was time to get to work – specifically to start sorting out the first main ingredient in the beer, two packs of black and pink peppercorns respectively. Using a hand grinder and pestle and mortar we began the slow, methodical process of smashing the little blighters to bits. Finally, with sore arms and a beautiful smell of fruity pepper filling the air, we were done!

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Being a true sadist Richard then produced four buckets of what looked like green marbles but instead turned out to be copious amounts of frozen gooseberries! Adding hot wort to help soften them up we got on with the job of smushing (eh? Ed!) the sharp, tangy little grimace inducers. Using, initially, a kayak paddle, we soon moved onto using a specially purchased hand held food blender (which unfortunately we had to stop using once a smell of burning started to emerge from the motor….), and then the old fashioned approach of using our hands and a spoon to create the white paste needed for the brew.

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It was an intriguing start. But what style of beer could this be? We’ll come back to that. A light hopping with Hallertau Blanc was next and then additions of the pepper and gooseberries. All while this was going on Richard’s mum turned up to help label some bottles – the highlight of the day for me being her saying:

“I’d heard that Beerfinder General was going to be here?”

“He’s over there!”

“Oooh, I thought he’d be much older! He says such nice things about the brewery”

With my twitter fame established, and my writing style confirmed as that of a 75 year old, the rest of the day was spent listening to the swirling sounds coming from the pump transferring the beer into the fermenting vessel, the combination of malts and gooseberry pulp making it work for it’s living. I said my goodbyes around 6:15pm but knowing that Richard was likely to be there for another couple of hours until the transfer was complete. The dedication was admirable.

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And so what to expect from the finished beer? As some of you might have guessed it’s going to be a gooseberry and peppercorn saison. Which sounds right up my street - I can’t wait to try it at ISBF6.

Many thanks to Richard (and Richard’s mum!), Paul, Duncan, Ben and Mick for a lovely day. And to Jim of course for being kind enough to allow it to happen.

See you all at the end of October at the best beer festival I’ve ever been to.

Cheers!

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