Monday 16 April 2012

When craft keg was just a babe in the eye of the beerholder there was Milk Street

Milk Street Brewery’s beers are English beers that do not hurry themselves along to the glass with the frenetic haste of desert nomads having sighted a waterhole; they are beers that are made for what drinkers in the country pubs around Frome (which is where the brewery makes its beers) and other places in the vicinity enjoy and want — and why not? It is a business and the business I had on reaching Frome the other day was to reacquaint myself with the beers of Milk Street and then write their tasting notes. It’s a paid gig but I wouldn’t have done it without having faith in their beers, a faith that I found was well rewarded with a morning in the deserted saloon bar at the Griffin Inn, at the back of which the brewery make their beers (there used to be a porn cinema at the back of the premises at one stage and when the brewery moved in they would get old boys turning up and asking when they were showing any movies). If there is a common thread that runs through the beers, it’s that of a juicy drinkability that always surprises me, given that there are so many beers in the world, but I am not here to write about them at the moment. What I am writing about is that when craft keg was just a babe in the eye of the beerholder (circa 2002, which was when I first turned up here to write a piece on East Somerset breweries for What’s Brewing), Milk Street’s founder and brewer Rik Lyall was already mucking around with different dispensations and the result on the bartop at the Griffin is Elderfizz. 

But then back in 2002 I remember him handing me a 7% wheat beer that didn’t come via the godly highway usually lit up by a handpump — it was called Elderbeer and contained honey and elderflower and was very refreshing. Of course, writing the article, in order not to upset delicate sensibilities, I skirted over the way the beer was dispensed. On Thursday I was pleased to see that the beer is still being produced and now called Elderfizz and has been brought down to 5%. And what of the beer? The recipe is 50% wheat and 50% low colour Maris Otter and it is flavoured with elderflower aqueous extract. Primary fermentation is at 18˚c for a week, and then it is chilled to 3˚c and chill proofed for a further week after the addition of auxiliary finings. Just before kegging it's krausened with Milk Street’s 5% golden beer handily named Beer that's been fermenting for 18 hours. And now one for the techies thanks to Rik: ‘the spears in the keg have been specially adapted (like the old Ushers system) so they don't go down to the bottom. It is “real ale in a keg” unfiltered & unpasteurised.’ 

So what does it taste like? Well it is a beer for a sunlit garden with lemon, elderflower cordial, sherbet and a juicy lustrous character on the nose, while the palate features lemon curd, lemon curd on brioche perhaps; I even thought of Riesling. The finish is fast and refreshing and before you can say ‘I must plant my coriander seeds’ it’s time for another sip. At at the moment you have to go to the Griffin to drink it but expect that to change. It’s the perfect lawnmower beer providing you don’t have to mow the lawn anymore. 

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