Wednesday 27 June 2012


noun /ˈretərik/ 

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques

Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content

There is a lot of nonsense said, and written, about beer. Sometimes it's just ill information spread around by well meaning people who have simply misunderstood what they have heard, or been told. Sometimes it is misinformation propagated innocently by enthusiastic beery folk in the name of good beer. On occasions it might be deformed truths, hidden behind suggestions of something that isn't, aimed at fuggling the brains of the poor beer consumer. Sometimes it can be downright lies spouted by brewery PR people who somehow manage to get away with deflecting the beer drinkers thought process away from some reality or other.

I'd like to think at Hardknott we are reasonably honest about our methods of promoting our beer. Yes, we jump the odd band wagon occasionally1, and we might shout about something we don't like, or someone who has upset us, if we think it'll get us noticed. But, we do always act from our hearts, with honesty about what we do. We don't tend to use hollow rhetoric.

However, it seems to us that a little bit of rhetoric might help us out, so we brewed some.

Rhetoric is our "concept" beer range. The experimental stuff that might, or might not quite work. It might be more art than beer, although I think someone once tried to use that tag line, so perhaps I won't. It's certainly craft, mainly because the results will be one off, and largely unpredictable at the mercy of the whim of the head brewer. Me.

I was kind of gunning for 13% on this one. We threw lots of various sugars at the damn thing. Lots and lots, in fact. We used three different types of yeast and mucked around with rousing, but tentatively for fear of the danger of oxidisation. In the end it stopped at just a shade over 10%.

There are all sorts of things you can throw into beer, like yeast nutrients and, if you really want to go all Heston on the job, artificial enzymes to help the yeast get along with more troublesome to digest sugars. We didn't use them on this occasion, but we do have other projects on the go...

But, for this one, as usual, we bottle conditioned. It wasn't one of those pretend bottle conditioning activities where the beer is filtered, carbonated and then just a token bit of yeast dobbed in, an absence of any fermentables or oxygen rendering secondary fermentation, with any meaning, a complete myth.2 No, this beer was flat when it went in the bottle and any sparkle is the result of what went on after we put the lid on our creation.

I'd like to make a quick note about reediness to drink. This beer has been in the bottle for the best part of 6 weeks now. It's about there, and we've decided to release it on the world. I expect the yeast might continue to improve the condition in the bottle, or perhaps not. We think the condition is a little on the soft side, but the beer is tasty, and worth drinking.

The point is, the Rhetoric range of beers, this is the first edition you see, are hopefully going to continue to age, if looked after, for a long time. Like any fine beverage, it will peak sometime after it leaves the primary producer. If you want to buy just one bottle to drink very soon then go ahead. We think you'd be better buying two, one for now and one for some time later. We will not make this beer ever again. The next one will be quite different. We want people to buy them, keep them, look at them and gloat at other people when our supply runs out, and occasionally drink them some time in the future. I think this one will be great in 3-5 years time.

It's great now, of course. "Bonkers" someone told me recently, and then continuing to assure me that this particular bonkers was a good thing "all sorts of flavours going on". Probably as opposed to the sort of bonkers that I am, which possibly isn't good.

The beer? It's a Star Anise 3 Infused, Quasi-Bombastic, Belgique Quad. The people who have been given a pre-release bottle are invited to join an OpenIt session on twitter, Saturday, around 7:30pm.

The rest of you will be able to buy it on our on-line shop very soon now.


1but normally very quickly fall off the wagon.

2For the sake of clarity, I'm not going to say I'll never do these things. Indeed, I know that for various commercial reasons true bottle conditioning may not be viable at scale. However, a little bit of yeast in any beer helps, in my view, to add to flavour and protect the beer from harmful oxygen. Yeast eats oxygen you see, improving the shelf life when done right. Indeed, when looking to age beers yeast can be very helpful indeed, even if the majority of the carbonation comes from a big heavy pressure cylinder.

Additionally, the effects of chill haze, and something that I believe might be termed "colloidal stability" or an insufficiency of said stability, can cause problems in a wider market where people seem to drink with their eyes. These reasons can necessitate the need for heavy filtering. We will try to avoid it if we can.

3Anyone who knows Kristy McCready will know she has a pathological hatred of fennel, celery and aniseed. I already had her in mind when we brewed this beer. But then she declared that despite not liking rhubarb either, she found it OK in at least one beer.

I'm not holding out too much hope for Kristy liking this one, however.


beersiveknown said...

I shall look forward to it...paired with curry perhaps?

Unknown said...

Don't make the curry too hot. There might be a lot of flavours going on, but some are quite subtle.

StringersBeer said...

Bottle-conditioning at scale? Orval seem to manage OK.

Brother Logic said...

"I think this one will be great in 3-5 years time"

I'll wait 3-5 years then before buying one then. I think it's one thing to suggest the beer will change over time and it's a whole different thing to release it before it's ready.

Unknown said...

Ah Stringers, thank you for stimulating debate.

However, are you sure that the majority of the carbonation isn't put into the bottle when they are filled?

They re-seed with brettanomyces, which I think is a fantastically funky thing to do. But, one assumes they use, like all major bottling brewers, a great big machine to fill the bottles.

How much does the yeast in the bottle contribute to the carbonation? Of course, we don't know, and I expect they wouldn't tell us if we asked.

Also, how do they prevent chill haze and stability problems?

I don't know where we are going with our bottling. You know very well that I want to be a leading brewer of bottle conditioned beer in the UK. However, I have concerns about how we will achieve this.

Alternatively, there is also mutterings about how there limited numbers similar brewers to the Belgians in the UK. We will look at if we can fill that gap.

Unknown said...

Brother Logic,

I'm not saying it won't be ready to drink. It's very nice now. It'll be better in a couple of years, probably.

You can wait 3-5 years before buying it if you like. If you do, and if I have any left, it will be a lot more expensive.

Yvan Seth said...

"@StringersBeer Bottle-conditioning at scale? Orval seem to manage OK."

Also, good old Cooper's back home in Australia rant on a lot about bottle conditioning. They produce quite a lot of beer... all "bottle conditioned" - so they say. Anyone know any more details about their processes?

On the other hand Emerson's in NZ used to BC all their beers - but stopped when they got popular, supposedly because it was too hard/difficult? (Never got around to talking to anyone in detail about this - i.e. how much did it change the beer? Was it for the better/worse/inconsequential? Etc.)

Anyway - I look forward to cracking open our bottle of Rhetoric this weekend. Big BBQ on Saturday - so will have to share with a few people! Good thing we'll be able to order some more if we like it! (Kat is no aniseed fan, but over the years I'm succeeding in training her to like it;)

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Personally, I wan't to buy a beer that i can drink now although with some beers i do like to buy a bottle or two to keep....Orval being one of them, i love it fresh but i love it when its a few months/years old too so i tend to buy a case, drink half and keep the other half, dipping into it every now and then.

I'll admit to drinking Dave L's bottle rhetoric and thinking it was great, loved the anise in it, looking forward to trying it again soon.

Brother Logic said...

" It'll be better in a couple of years, probably."

A well known Scottish brewery said this about their Rhetoric-esque series of beers. Having had those at year long gaps my impression is that each was better fresh than aged. Anyway this seems to tick all the craft boxes so if a bottle comes my way I will certainly try one :-)

StringersBeer said...

Obviously, I don't know precisely how much CO2 is in Orval at bottling. I do know it's held in 2ndary for a few weeks before going to bottling, and then held in bottle for a few weeks more. See I'm not saying it's bottled completely flat, but I suspect that they wouldn't go to the trouble of having a sh*tload of bottles sitting in expensive temperature controlled real estate
for a month unless something was happening. Unless it's an evil marketing ploy. But they're monks, Dave, monks! God would smite them.

There's absolutely no reason why you couldn't genuinely condition a gazillion bottles of beer, given the willingness to make the financial commitment. Indeed, the economies of scale will apply here as everywhere else in the brewing lark.

Incidentally, yr beer was reet tasty from keg.

Unknown said...

Sounds really interesting Dave, and something I'll see if I can get my paws on after pay day. Sounds like it would be lovely with some ginger and anise ribs. Good luck with this series, I do like seeing people playing with spices and herbs in beer.

StringersBeer said...

P.S. I don't think Orval are as concerned with "colloidal stability" as some are - ""a spec for haze[?], [Jean-Marie] shook his head and replied “is not possible”"

Unknown said...

Brother Logic, I think hopheads will generally like the beers fresher. The hopheads are the more vocal, and nothing wrong with that. I also know of quite a few people who like the integrating effect of maturation on very intensely flavoured beers. I wish these people would be more vocal about the art of beer maturation; their palates are often more attuned to the delicately exquisite nuances of aged beers.

Stringers, yes, you are generally completely correct. The cash flow and real estate issues are there, plus the colloidal stability issue can be significant if beer needs to go via supermarkets.

We will see how it all goes, I just can't rule out anything at this stage. We might even have more than one product group, including nasty chill-filtered force carbonated stuff for volume. Or perhaps not.

Yvan Seth said...

Matured vs fresh and hoppy...

Not sure sure the hopheads are necessarily more vocal on an individual basis... there are just a lot more of them! Loads! It's an instant gratification thing. No need for storage, waiting, or patience. There are also more hoppy beers around, way more, than "matured" beers.

I started collecting and storing beers a handful of years ago. But storing is hard, without the right conditions you don't know if problems after a year are the beer or your own damn fault. It's a big investment too, because the sorts of beers that mature well are normally the stronger ones. I keep my beers in the most stable spot in the house - but it is far from ideal. Some may very well become drainpour as a result.

It is also very difficult to buy "pre matured" beers. A few well established bars do this (any in the UK though? White Horse SW1 perhaps IIRC?) A few breweries seem to - but not often except in the barrel-matured case. There also just aren't that many "year" release beers out there - though this often seems to be by mistake "oh, look what we found in the cellar!" Perhaps there is a business idea out there for someone with a lot of up-front capital to throw at buying loads of beer now to sell in some years time?

Putting a prominent year on the label really encourages this sort of thinking - more breweries should do that with beers that have ageing potential.

Yvan Seth said...

Gah, there is a sentence missing before "- though this often seems to be by mistake "oh, look what we found in the cellar!" - Insert before it ". Sometimes UK breweries release long-bottle-matured beers ".

Benjamin Nunn said...

"We will not make this beer ever again"

Why ever not? What if it's really tasty and widely well-received? Why talk yourself into a corner like this?

Surely the whole point of experimental ranges is to try and new ideas and if they make commercial sense (e.g. they turn out to be rather good; a desirable product) they can become a regular fixture?

There's nowt so frustrating as a brilliant one-off.

Yvan Seth said...

To properly ape BrewDog Dave needs to do this and then re-brew one of these "one off" beers and sell it at a 50% mark-up in a couple of years time... AB:04 anyone? ;)

Unknown said...

Seriously, this sounds foul. You're not selling it very well. You've admitted that the beer didn't turn out as you'd expected. From what you've said in this blog you expected 13% abv but only got 10%. Is the beer underattenuated? Are you basically selling unfermented wort? Will these bottles explode? I think you are massively disrespecting your customers by expecting them to pay for a ruined beer which any decent brewer would have poured down the drain. Bad Show, Hardknott, Bad Show.

treble9man said...

All my/our beers are bottle conditioned, some turn out totally clear, some have a bit of haze. It all adds to the character.

I recently opened a couple of bottles of a barley wine that were bottled a little over 2 years ago - plenty of condition, nice head, wonderfully clear and waaaaay too strong for me lol.

Bottling is the way to go - yes it's a bit pricey but easier to shift so peeps can try it.

Ed said...

Too much sugar can cause carbon catabolite repression, and particularly at high gravities the lack of nutrients sugar has compared to malt can cause problems for the yeast.

Mark said...

Out of interest, did you seed the bottles with fresh yeast or did you just fill and prime? How long had the beer been in tank after primary finished before you bottled?

Could these be factors in the low carbonation?

I brewed a big beer recently, so just wondering.

Unknown said...

Yvan, or keep it for a couple of years here and sell it at 50% mark-up? That way I won't be lying, I'll have not brewed it again, just had another go at selling the same batch, matured and improved.

Benjamin, I get what you are saying, but in reality if we brew this again it will be different, and so it won't be the same beer again, but a different beer that is very similar.

Beer Brewing, really, I'm not sure what justifies such an attack on my honest approach to letting people know what we are doing. Perhaps you would be happier if we just said "buy this beer, it's awesome"

I know of some brewery blogs where your comment would be deleted. I will, however, leave it up and allow readers to decide if it is justified.

Experimental, prototype beers are bound to be something different to the target. It certainly seems somewhat silly to call a beer that has a tenth of its total volume as pure alcohol "unfermented wort"

But it is not just the attenuation that has caused the short fall of ABV. Some of the sugars went in late in fermentation rather than at brewday. This gave an important kick to the yeast, but our calculations of theoretical original gravity turned out to be wrong when we had the beer analysed.

The residue sugars might well be slightly higher than I wished, but for sure, the bottles won't explode. The yeast has simply come up against conditions where only the simplest of sugars can be metabolised. These bottles have been conditioning for over 6 weeks at relatively warm temperatures. The condition currently is at a state of "soft" and not increasing at any significant rate. We would always advise that bottle conditioned beers are stored at a cool temperature if they are to be kept for any length of time. We certainly don't expect them to explode.

Most editions of Granite finish at a higher PG than this has.

Bad show? If that's what you think then I'm sorry we have offended you with our honesty.

Ed, thanks. I am going to have to look up "carbon catabolite repression" but I'm sure you are absolutely right. Totally agree regarding the nutrient dilution effect of purer sugars over malt.

Mark, re-seed, always.

Mark said...

Interesting. What did you re-seed with. Maybe the strain you used didn't like the amount of alcohol?

Ed said...

I really need to look it up again too but off the top of my head "carbon catabolite repression" is when too much glucose makes the yeast unable to deal with more complex sugars.

Yvan Seth said...


"keep it for a couple of years here and sell it at 50% mark-up?"

That's exactly what I'd like to see. I'd pay a higher price for such a beer (within reason). It would be of some value to be able to buy a set of - say - all the Granites, that I could trust had been stored in stable conditions & were known to be in decent form at time of sale.

All that aside - are there, or will there be - enough beer nerds out there (with enough cash) to make it worthwhile?

If I can ever afford it I'm buying a house with a decent cellar ;) (Or perhaps a pub!)

Unknown said...

Mark, the yeast used at bottling is a high alcohol tolerant yeast. The same strain was used to finish primary and in conditioning there was a healthy cell count. I'me reasonably confident that it's not going to do much more than digest the tad of priming sugar we put in prior to bottling.

I'll tell you exactly which strain if you get me very drunk next time we meet. Although I will need you to sign a confidentiality agreement. In triplicate. And in blood.

Seriously, it's not just about high alcohol. Yeast cells, so I'm lead to believe, are very complex, even if very tiny. Lots of things can influence how they perform. Excess sugar, excess alcohol, lack of oxygen and a lack of various nutrients all conspire to prevent the yeast from doing much else with the remaining, slightly more complex sugars.

Unknown said...


Great, I'll start putting together your order for 5 years time. Would you like to pay for it now.......

I don't know if there enough beer nerds about. I think there are more than there used to be. Lets hope there will be even more in the future.

StringersBeer said...

Have you had a play with any of this Danstar CBC1 stuff yet Dave?

Mark said...

Guessing a champagne yeast or WLP090 ??

Hopefully my decision not to re-seed won't come back to haunt me. Thought process was that I'd be OK because I went quickly from primary to bottle. People I asked only seemed to have problems where prolonged ageing in secondary had taken place.

Understand what you mean about all the different factors that can impact yeast performance ... how much are those factors reduced when you're pitching large numbers of fresh cells at bottling and just expecting the yeast to work through some priming sugar though?

Apologies if this dull and irritating - I'm a nerd for this sort of thing.

Unknown said...

Stringers, I haven't seen that one before. I may well give it a go at some time.

Mark, don't apologise, as Yvan has hinted, we need nerds.

Yes, it was a champagne yeast, however, I'm not sure which one. Fermentis, I think. You are right that you might be OK going from primary right into bottle, but I would worry that either the yeast is too weak, or you haven't given it a chance to ferment out.

Re-seeding with fresh yeast after a reasonable maturation in tank (or demijohn, or whatever) seems to provide better results.

That does not mean that bottling from primary doesn't work, it does, but it is likely to be less reliable.

It is always wise to do a forcing as well, if you can. This involves putting a shitload of fresh yeast into a container along with a sample of you beer and putting it somewhere warm, 28 degrees is good. Agitating regularly and letting some air get in to help the yeast. After a few days check the SG to see if it went down at all. If it did go down compared to the main batch, which should be kept cool, reducing priming sugar by the proportion of the drop in the forcing. The forcing should of course be done with the4 yeast strain that will be used for final bottle conditioning.

The Beer Justice said...

Enjoyed this exchange more than anything I have read recently. #justsaying Steve

Unknown said...

Thanks Steve, me too.

Unknown said...

Google is your friend. this looks very informative and may answer what this "carbon catabolite repression" thing is that Ed is talking about.

Makes sense to me. Basically, you give the yeast too much nice and easy simple sugars to ferment, so they forget how to eat more complex stuff....

A bit like always feeding kids on chips, beans and chocolate and then expecting them to eat broccoli.

StringersBeer said...

Hell's teeth Dave, that's in at the deep end! On the other hand, this is a good introductory brewing science book which I'm sure your readers would enjoy.