Wikio - Top Blogs - Wine and beer The Real Ale Girl: 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Baby Friendly Beer?

Back when our mother’s were having babies, they were commonly advised to drink a glass of stout a day. This usually meant a Mackesons or a Guinness and they were recommended by midwives due to their high iron content. My own very long pregnancy (I am 12 days overdue today) has inevitably stopped my beer drinking shenanigans (hence the lack of blog action!) but I have received regular tweets from folks telling me how they drank stout during pregnancy, even some from women who discovered beer through drinking it when they were pregnant and haven’t stopped since! I have allowed myself a few sips of new beers I couldn’t bear not to try and a glass of champagne at weddings, for example, but I certainly haven’t been drinking a pint a day. But should we pregnant women be following in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ footsteps and get on the stout?

The Sensible Drinking report of 1995 advised pregnant women not to drink “more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week, and should avoid episodes of intoxication". In 2006, following alleged reports that this advice led to women miscalculating units and drinking higher than recommended levels, we were then told we should be drinking at all. So, interestingly, the advice not to drink at all during pregnancy is not necessarily due to potentially harming the baby, but that the government doesn’t trust our maths. Of course, we now know more about foetal alcohol syndrome and a pint a day may be too much. But could one or two stouts a week be beneficial?

In December, Real Ale Bro and I delightfully received a box of Bristol Beer Factory’s Twelve Stouts of Christmas. We had ordered it to enjoy over the festive season and couldn’t wait to compare all the different flavours of our favourite style of beer. Then I found out I was pregnant. The box is still sitting there, waiting to be devoured. So could I have been drinking it all along?

Well, it actually turns out that there isn’t that much iron in stout anyway. In my pregnancy guide book (there are hundreds and they are all different) it says a pregnant woman should have between 16 and 20mg of iron a day. A pint of Guinness contains 0.3mg. A single egg contains 1.1mg. So you would need to drink a hell of a lot of the stuff.

But I am not really that interested in drinking Guinness. I want to know about the content of all of those glorious stouts being brewed by innovative modern breweries. Does the craft stuff contain iron? Hours of internet searching hasn’t given me any answers so I call upon you beer enthusiasts and brewers- do you know of any wonder beers and super stouts that we pregnant (and subsequently breastfeeding) lasses can actually justify drinking? One thing to note is that many of the latest stout creations tend to be pushing the ABV up above what a responsible mother would feel happy drinking regularly- I like beer but I will also love my baby! I look forward to being inundated with your thoughts.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

My very own beer, even if I can't drink it!

It is with immense joy that I announce that I am expecting my first baby, due on the 8th September 2012. We and the hubby really happy and thank you all for the well wishes and congratulations we have already received.

But what happens to a real ale girl if she can’t drink, I hear you cry? Well, she drinks a lot of tomato juice and goes to bed early, in reality.

However, it isn’t all slippers and soft drinks- I am determined to keep in the beer world loop an actually, there is a lot of beer fun to be had without actually drinking it.

Brewing it, for a start. I wrote a month or so ago about my trip with Jane Peyton and Marverine Cole to Brewster’s brewing co. in Grantham Lincolnshire, to spend the day brewing. Three weeks ago, at Tap East, we and a lot of beer loving friends (and some other who just came to be supportive!) cracked open two casks of that very beer, Chocolate Cyn, a chocolate an cinnamon porter style beer which went down a storm. I allowed myself a half, which my pregnant body found difficult to actually drink, and so despite they absolute deliciousness of the beer, that half lasted me all night. It’s going to save me a lot of money, this pregnancy lark.

Since the fun and success of the launch party, the beer has been available in The Rake and three Fuller’s pubs: The Mad Bishop & Bear, Paddington Station; The Victoria, Bayswater and The Artillery Arms near the Barbican. I’m currently awaiting for a delivery from Brewster’s of a couple of cases of bottles (so that I can drink more than a few sips once the baby is born!) while a shipment of quite a few bottles is winging its way to Fuller’s brewery shop in Chiswick.

Once again, I’d like to say thanks to Brewster’s for letting us loose on the brewery, to Tap East and the lovely Glyn for hosting the launch, to Fuller’s for supporting and selling the beer since, and of course, to my beer brewing buddies, Sara, Jane and Marverine. When are we doing it again? (If it after September, we’ll have a mini person for extra company!)

Oh, and thank you to Susanna Forbes and the Cocktail Scholars chaps for the lovely photos.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

It's a kinda magic!

About three weeks ago I travelled to Brewster’s brewery in Grantham, Lincolnshire with fellow beer loving ladies Marverine Cole and Jane Peynton. A hectic few weeks since mean I’ve not been able to write about it yet, but actually it hasn’t made a difference to the enthusiasm and energy I felt that day- it is an experience that will stay with me; I could be writing about it in three years’ time and it would still feel fresh and exciting to me.

The three of us dreamt up the idea of brewing a beer together when we went on a beer drinking spree in Marverine’s Midlands stomping ground. It was at the Stourbridge CAMRA beer festival as we worked our way through all the dark beers on offer; through the stouts and porters, to the dark milds, that we realised a beer made by us three would be darn good beer. None of this pale, honey light-struck stuff that female beer drinkers are expected to choose.

We just didn’t ever imagine we’d actually get to make it.

I do remember drunkenly suggesting the idea to Sara Barton from Brewster’s at a project Venus launch party at The Rake and I thought no more of it. Then Jane did a bit of her schmoozing, visited Sara to discuss her beer recipe brewing competition for women and came back announcing we were making the thing! Us three! A bunch of three very different women, with very different lives and very different backgrounds, with a huge shared passion for beer.

And so we went. After 187 emails. Emails to decide on when to go, the beer style, the recipe, the ingredients, the logistics, the travel, the food on the day and of course, what to wear. But we made it, on a very drizzly, early Saturday morning in deepest, darkest January.

Thanks for letting me steal your photo, Marv. Me,
techical equipment and large vats of hot
liquids would'nt have been a good combination.
I am not going to describe all the processes and the steps involved, except to say that the whole brewing thing is genuinely marvellous. A lot of very accurate, exact skill, perfected by absolute scientists, mixed in with a huge amount of magic. Put simply, if such a precise practice can be put simply, it is alchemy.

I learnt a lot that day. All of a sudden all those terms, like sparging, wort, early hop/ late hop, finings- all features of brewing that I have heard of, know the definitions of and have seen where they happen, only now make magical sense. I can see the meaning behind the definition.

I also learnt that I could never be a brewer. I could help out, clean the mash tun, measure the malt, weigh out the hop varieties and so on, but I learnt that day that you have to be thorough, calculated, precise and patient to brew successfully. Not to mention physically fit. I am not any of these things, and watching the phenomenally skilled Sara, Rich and Sean do their own magic, I have a whole new respect for brewers.

Right now, the result of our alchemic day out is maturing in cask, letting all the exciting ingredients we merged do their full flavouring business, ready for our beer launch party at Tap East on the evening of Tuesday 6th March. We would all love to see you there, and share with you the fruits of our hard, very fun, labours.