Welcome to the first instalment of Fundamentals – a bi-weekly deep dive into the story of the ingredients behind our favourite beers. Writing about why we like a particular beer is fun, but here we’re taking an opportunity to go beyond that and hopefully learn something new about our favourite tasty beverages.
The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers and I’m looking forward to discovering more about them and how they contribute towards what we actually taste.
Our first beer in this series is from Redchurch Brewery’s all-new Urban Farmhouse project and the talented brewer behind it, James Rylance. James first revealed the plans to transform the Bethnal Green brewery’s original facility into a sour production brewery when we spoke on the Good Beer Hunting podcast late last year. That project is now beginning to bear fruit and On Skins: Plums in the perfect example of the innovative beers that Rylance and his team will be producing.
The plums used in this tart and spritely sour beer were sourced from the National Orchard Collection in Brogdale, Kent. Rylance picked the heritage variety used in this beer from a choice of more than 700 due to the higher acidity and tannins, giving the beer more flavour post fermentation. Before adding them to the beer, Rylance macerated the plums entirely by foot, just as a winemaker would do in France.
“The techniques of foot maceration I learnt from my time making wine in Burgundy with Andrew Nielsen of Le Grappin,” Rylance says. “After pressing the fruit we put the skins, flesh, stones, stems, the whole lot into the fermenter and let the must begin to ferment.”
The beer was then soured with the Urban Farmhouse’s house strain of Lactobacillus – a lactic acid producing bacteria, which introduces a lemon juice tinged acidity to the beer. It was then aged for four months before finally being released.
On Skins: Plums pours a sparkling shade of mauve with the relatively high acidity killing the beer's head pretty quickly. The first sip is intensely acidic, but as the palate adjusts to this the tannic, stone fruit notes from the plums come to the fore.
There’s something comforting about this beer for me, a reminder of picking still warm, sweet plums straight from the tree in the late summer months. It’s a beer I’d go back to often. And if this is a sign of things to come from Redchurch in the future, then we’ve a great deal to look forward to.
You can read more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Make sure you get the chance to try Redchurch's On Skins: Plums while strictly limited stocks last. You can find it in store at HB&B or head online to get it delivered to your door.