Ale to the Chief

I think any good chef should have an appreciation for a broad swathe of the culinary arts, and this includes brewing. On the back of the ‘microbrewery’ explosion in the UK it’s finally starting to take off in America. An inevitable backlash against the pitiful excuse for beer that’s sold by the likes of Coors, Miller and Budweiser. Not wishing to miss out, Barack Obama has been quietly brewing away in the White House – with a great deal of success. After several Internet campaigns and a request from the floor of congress, he has finally published his recipe for his much vaunted Honey Amber Ale.

In preparation for election night, I ordered all the ingredients and set to!


The Brew
I’ve done several ‘kit’ brews before, where everything arrives in two nice neat tins, I’ve also dabbled in cider (from our amazing homegrown apples) and wine. Obama’s recipe is a slightly more advanced brew, using actual grains and hops, but still relying on malt extract for most of the flavour, this is known as an ‘extract’ brew.

Most of the ingredients were all readily available from Internet suppliers, but he seems to have caused a rush on biscuit malt so that proved far harder to track down. Thankfully a colleague who is something of a brewing expert pointed me in the right direction.

With all the pieces ready I proceeded to sterilise everything, much to the bemusement of my flatmate. Once clean, the brew itself is relatively simple – if time consuming. You steep the two malts (amber and biscuit) for half an hour before upping the heat, adding the liquid and dry extract and popping in the flavourings (fuggles, golding, gypsum and honey).


Then it’s just a case of waiting for it to cool down and pitching the yeast. My brew was a tad warm so it took several hours to drop to a safe temperature!


The brew then sat quietly in corner of the living room for a few weeks. It fermented very aggressively for the first few days before quietening down. After just under two weeks the specific gravity was a bit static, so I popped the heating belt on and kept it at a steady 23°C for a couple of days which seemed to help a lot. Finally, after a full four weeks it reached a steady, bottleable reading and into the keg it went. I mix the sugar into the keg and then bottle from that to ensure minimum sediment and even sugar distribution.


The keg and bottles were then allowed to mature for three weeks – during this time the yeast particles settle, the sugar is fermented and the carbon dioxide absorbed, creating a beer that is clear and ever so slightly fizzy. Halfway through this secondary fermentation, I had to vent the gas on my pressure barrel as it was starting to push out the bottom of the keg!


The Verdict
Colour: Red-Amber
Strength: 5.8% ABV (OG – 1.054, FG – 1.010)
Nose: Honey and hops
Taste: Light, smooth, faintly sweet and slightly fizzy.



Delicious. Light, easy to drink and surprisingly strong. You can definitely taste the honey but its not as prominent as I expected. The hops are very subtle, as befits an American beer, if I made it again I’d give them a bit longer and use something with a hint of citrus.

Overall i’m very impressed with Obama’s beer – I await Mr Romney’s recipe for… lemonade?!

Beer and Brasserie

HB3 Beer Tasting

Beer Review

I like beer. This will surprise precisely no-one who know’s me. But I also like brewing it. I first tried it out at university and have been enjoying it ever since. There’s a quiet satisfaction about letting something bubble away and weeks later pouring off a perfect pint of beer. Over the last four years i’ve done several different styles of beer and even dabbled in cider – this is barely brushing the surface compared to my colleague Jasper.


Jasper is a serious home-brewer and as such had lots of beer laying around that needed drinking. Being the noble, selfless souls that we are, we volunteered to help him out. Jasper’s portable beer setup involves half-size Corny kegs, a CO2 bottle and an inline beer chiller with two taps. But more importantly – how does it taste?

Beer 1 – #101 Witbier
A typical wheatbeer it was light, floral and tasted of summer. A perfect antidote to a long hot day in the sun. It had been flavoured with some coriander and elderflower which added a lovely layer of complexity. (Hops: Bramling Cross and Amos’ Earlybird)


Beer 2 – #102 Bitter
Sweet with a lovely colour, this is very reminiscent of a classic english ale – think Speckled Hen or Woodfords Wherry. (Malts: Maris Otter, Amber, Crystal, Pale Crystal – Hops: Fuggle, Northdown, Amos’ Early Bird)


Beer 3 – #98 Porter
A dark english porter – think guiness. Rich, creamey and slightly smokey. A fantastic little beer and perfect for the winter months. (Hops: Fuggles, Progress)


Beer 4 – #103 Pale Ale
This was the star of the show – a very young beer. Lots of tropical grapefruit notes from the rare hops. Light smooth and dangerously easy to drink. (Malt: Maris Otter, Pale Crystal, Amber – Hops: Nelson Sauvin, Centennial 2012)



I’ve already waxed lyrical about this little gem in Reading. Here’s a sample of their latest menu:

Watlington pork crackling, homemade apple sauce

Loin of Hampshire rabbit wrapped in streaky bacon, confit leg, herb potato, mustard purée, red wine jus

Ashampstead venison haunch served pink, butternut tart, duxelle of seasonal mushroom, herb crumbed salsify, smoked butternut purée, game jus, crisps

English apple ‘stew’ – pastry case, creme anglaise, calvados ice cream.