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Let’s Get to Wort: Beer Training at Friends of Ham

It’s a funny thing this beer mollarch, isn’t it? Who thought “you know what, guys? You see all this barley and wheat that’s just knocking about? What if we boiled that up and then stick these funky flowers in it and then leave it for a bit? I know we usually eat this stuff so we don’t die and that, but I have a hunch this could be really good!” If we take archaeological evidence as any indication, we can assert that this visionary was trend-setting around 13,000 years ago within the Natufian culture of the Eastern Mediterranean. It was in a cave in Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, where archaeologists found the earliest evidence of the fermented article we know and love today: residue from a 13,000-year-old beer.

This goes a long way in explaining why the Natufians were only semi-sedentary in that they probably wanted to be a bit more travelling and nomadic but were most likely too drunk to move anywhere a lot of the time and so got a bit more Neolithic with it, developing the earliest examples of agriculture and permanent settlements on the whole planet. Now I am just a humble blogger so take what I’m saying with a pinch of salt but I assert that the Natufians realised that they couldn’t sesh on the regular if they were moving about all the time with inconsistent barley and wheat sources and so after intermittently kicking the can down the Levantine road for a while, the Natufians decided to pack in the paleo life and set up shop in Jericho, domesticating cereals. Ipso facto, beer is responsible for the advent of farming.

Although I doubt any of the arachnologists were bold enough to sample the 13,000-year-old residue to get a true impression of the beer’s mouthfeel, the consensus was that even in its prime the beer had a gruel-like consistency. This gives a lot of credence to the strange yet salient assertion from Rob, FRAM’s very own barman and craft beer aficionado: “yeah, beer is just kind of like porridge with an upgrade.” I can’t really argue with that to be honest, although whenever I want to up my porridge game I’ll opt for honey and banana rather than, you know, fermentation. Each to their own I guess and I look forward to Rob’s fruitless efforts to get ‘Fermented Porridge’ onto FRAM’s brunch menu.

Anyway, whilst cereals saw spontaneous fermentation due to naturally occurring contact with wild yeasts, the process of forced fermentation was definitely an upgrade, an upgrade which led to a rich brewing and beer culture wholeheartedly enjoyed by both patrons and staff of Friends of Ham alike. But for novices and know-it-alls alike, there’s always more to learn and what better way to do that than a look at the brewing process at both home and industrial scale? Under the tutelage of our own brewmaster, Harry AKA Bee Dot Ledge, the bar and kitchen staff at Friends of Ham took to brewing our own beer in an attempt to gain a greater insight into what makes beer, well, beer. Whilst we were originally going to try and tackle a single malt single hop pale, Harry decided to go all-out in making arguably the most popular style in the craft world at the moment: a (hopefully) juicy double dry-hopped NEIPA with golden promise as the base malt, supplementary Carapils malt and flaked oats being brought into the mash to (please, Lord,) give the beer a more luxurious and full mouthfeel that will (most likely) bolster the juiciness of the dry-hopped citra and mosaic hops. The brew also used Apollo as its bittering hop, added fairly early in the boil for about 15 minutes to add a bit of bite that’ll survive through the fermentation. Whilst 105g of both citra and mosaic were saved for dry-hopping, 45 grams of each were added once the wort was taken off the boil.

As you can probably guess, we are excited to enjoy the fruits of our labours in a week and are counting down the days like Christmas is around the corner. Don’t feel too sorry for us though! During the boiling period we were given the chance to sample a wide variety of styles ranging from classic English pales such as Kirkstall Pale, an ever-present in the FRAM cask range, through Belgian trappist favourite, Orval, and then onto the indulgent impy stouts such as Demoersleutel’s Willy Tonka 4.

This was all before making the short journey to see our good friends down at Northern Monk who were nice enough to take us on a tour of one of their brewing sites. It was kind of like our little operation down in the FRAM basement only bigger, more metallic and with less Blu Tack on the airlocks. Pretty much the same. As well as showing us how it’s done, the good people at Northern Monk threw in a few thirds of some of their finest brews, including Glory, a remarkably smooth TIPA considering it sits at 10.5%. It’s safe to say that we weren’t in a rush to go anywhere and stuck around to sample some more of Northern Monk’s wares. By the morning after, my head was hurting I had learnt so much about beer…

In all seriousness, Friends of Ham has again shown its commitment to giving its staff greater understanding of its products and a chance to develop any prior knowledge and learn new skills, something that a large amount of businesses both inside and outside of the hospitality industry don’t really do. Here’s hoping that the Blu Tack has done its job and that our brew remains uncontaminated!

Cheers!

Oscar, FRAM Blogger

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