Evan Price - International Beer Experience

Noble Ale Works (Anaheim, CA)

*at time of award

“Holy cow! I learned so much. Where do I start? I’ve been serving cask beer at Noble Ale Works every Friday for the last 2 years but I’ve been missing the mark completely. Going to England and tasting their beers was really the only way to understand how to execute the experience better, and oh my was it good! There really isn’t anything quite like drinking at an English pub. Maybe you’ve been to Ye Olde Ship and have had some of their crappy English beers on draft, but it just isn’t the same. The majority of the English pub ales (aka Real Ales), are delicate beers that should be drank as fresh as possible. The long voyage to get to California for instance, spoils them before we can enjoy them like we should. So how have I been missing the mark? Well, I’ve been using the wrong yeast strain, the wrong hops, serving them too cold and also too carbonated. Fergus, the brewer for Adnams Brewery in Southwold, was very influential and informative on ways for us to create better English-style ales. For the majority of the American and English beers that we create at Noble, we use a very neutral yeast strain that does not produce much fruity character from fermentation. The English beers in England on the other hand, had this very fruity aroma and flavor from the use of an English yeast strain. Think of an almost strawberry like character or maybe stone fruit, or nutty flavor in the beer, that isn’t normally ever there in American versions of English beers, it’s crazy. Anyway. They use hops that are more peppery, earthy and sometimes display this sort of orange marmalade character that lends itself perfectly to the yeast character of the beer. When it comes to preparing the cask, the beer is taken from the fermenter when there is a small amount of fermentation still left, it is put into a cask with a fining agent (settles yeast out, makes beer bright, from the bladder of a certain tropical fish), a handful of whole leaf hops and is allowed to sit out for a week to condition and lightly carbonate in the cask. The beer is then chilled down to 50f and a soft piece of wood is hit into the top of the cask to allow excess CO2 to leave the cask along with unwanted sulfur compounds. It then sits for at least 24 hours and sits to allow the yeast to settle out to the bottom of the cask. The cask beer is then pulled through a manual, hand pump and into a glass. If you are on the north side of England, the cask is served creamier with the use of “sparkler” that makes the beer taste as though it was served like it was on nitro. If you are on the south side of England, the cask is served without the sparkler and has more carbonation, is less creamy and is served without a head.

Then there was Belgium! We learned so much about producing lambics. Lambic is a style of ale that is spontaneously fermented and barrel aged for 1-3 years. After brewing the wort (unfermented beer), the wort sits in a coolship (kind of a large shallow pool) to allow the wort to cool down. While cooling, the windows are opened up and the wort is inoculated with yeast and bacteria present in the air. Once cooled, the wort is then put into used, neutral wine barrels and the small amount of yeast/bacteria that is now present in the wort is able to slowly ferment over a long period of time. The beer can then be blended to create Gueze or fruit can be added to create a fruited Lambic (like Framboise or Kriek). Pierre at the Tilquin Gueuzerie was very informative about the way he ages and blends his Gueze. He uses a blend of 50% 1 year old Lambic, 30% 2 year old Lambic and 20% 3 year old Lambic. The resulting flavor can be described as lemony, minerally and to have a very complex, beautiful farmyard funk.

I do not hope to use this knowledge, I WILL use the knowledge from this inspirational and educational trip to create uniquely different beers that can hopefully change the way people see English-style Real Ale. It will take me a while to be able to make the Lambic styles that I learned about because I would need a whole new set up (and a separate brewery), but I can not wait to use that information to create very different American sour beers. In summary, this knowledge allows me to create better beer and inspires the hell out of me!

IAM literally sent Brad and I to England! I don’t think it gets any more impactful than that! Without the help from Team IAM, this trip wouldn’t have been possible.”

Bobby Navarro