Category Archive: Beerformation

Introducing The Alechemist

bill swancottWe Love Craft Beer are pleased to welcome a new member to our team.  Bill “Swannie” Swancott, aka The Alechemist. I guess the first question most people would be thinking, is WTF is an Alechemist? Well it is a bit of a play on words really with the obvious being an Ale-Chemist and the less obvious being a reference to the term Alchemy. One definition of Alchemy is “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.”

Well if you have tried any of Swannie’s award wining beers, you will soon realise that he does have the power (not sure if it is magical or not) to transmute (change in form, or nature) the common substances of hops, malt, yeast and water into a substance of great value.

Anyway, that is enough of an English lesson for now, let’s get on with introducing him.

According to Swannie he started his beer journey  back in 2010 when he tried his first American style pale ale and was instantly hooked, He says “I found myself reading everything and anything beer related”. Frustrated with the lake of lagers in his local beer scene, he decided to try his hand at brewing his own beer in the styles that he wanted to experience. In a short period of time, he progressed from kit brewing, to extract brewing and then in to all grain brewing.

After mowing to Canberra in 2014 he began working for Zierholz Brewery and joined the Canberra Home Brewing Club. That same year he was also involved in the  Australian National Homebrewing Conference 4 and watched good friend and fellow Canberra brewer Kevin Hingston take out the Australian Championship. Kevin went on to set up PACT Brewing and has become an inspiration to many home brewers and had a strong influence on Swannie’s brewing over the last few years.

Swannie, is no slouch himself when it comes to brewing and has won awards for his beers, with medals for his Russian Imperial Stout,  Brown Porter, Southern English Brown, Australian Premium Lager, American Pale Ale, American IPA, American Barley Wine, American Brown Ale, Fruit Lambic, Schwarzbeir, Kölsch and many specialty and wood aged beer’s. To his credit he has won a medal for EVERY beer he has entered into a  competition which gives him a 100% medal rate, something which he is very proud of and other brewers aspire too.

Recently he has moved away from competition brewing “because of the constraints it places on your creativity” he says.  ” I love experimental brewing and have a passion for Sour beer and wild yeasts and anything out of style’. It is in this area that he hopes to start his own commercial enterprise, first as a yeast wrangler and farm then on to creating a 100% Funky/Sour outside the box brewery.

Reflecting on his beer journey to this point is one thing, but Swannie says his journey has evolved again, with the next stage of it being all about education. He now wants to help educate people in the science of beer and brewing, and that is why we are very pleased to have him part of the We Love Craft Beer team. We are also very keen to help educate people about beer, and help them move along their beer journey, no matter what part they are on, from newbies, to nerds and everywhere in between.

So with that in mind, we welcome The Alechemist, presenting serious beer science, in a lighthearted easily understood way. Stay tuned for his regular posts called the Sunday Session where he will review one beer, as well as his blogs on a range of other beer related topics.

We hope you enjoy hearing from Swannie and encourage you to ask questions and make comments on any of the posts.


Time to prepare your beer fridge for Winter

If you are anything like us your craft beer fridge tends to get pretty full during the summer months. The “singles” shelves tend to grow quickly as you find new variations to sample including Pilsners, Summer Ales, Saisons, Golden Ales and Pale Ales. These are great beers for the warmer months and make a good Beer O Clock beers. The slightly stronger IPA’s and even the Double IPA’s are also suitable for summer with their citrusy hops and biterness, as are the American Pale Ales if you like a more balanced beer. Of course, it wouldn’t be a summer of beer without the aptly named Lawn Mower Beers which are based on the Solo slogan where you can “Slam it down fast”. Then their is the Australian institution, the Sessional beer which you can take a 6 pack of to your mates BBQ or party.

But of course, all good things must come to an end and with summer behind us now, and as we move towards the colder months, Autumn is the perfect time to start preparing your beer fridge for winter. Here are out top 10 tips for getting your fridge into shape.

  1. Prune back your Pilsners.
  2. Lop off your Lagers
  3. Saw off any extra Saisons and Summer Ales
  4. Starting building your collection of Brown Ales
  5. Experience a couple of ESB’s
  6. Get Ready for some Red Ales
  7. Bulk up your Belgians (although they may not require refrigeration)
  8. Prepare for some Porters
  9. Stock up on Stouts
  10. When things get really cold, curl up with a Russian Imperial Stout

Of course there is the fridge itself to consider too. Once you have done all your pruning you should be able to swap over from your summer fridge to your winter bar fridge (see pictures below) and most importantly remember to adjust the temperature. Whilst your summer fridge needs to be running at around around 3-4 degrees (depending on how often you open it), the temperature of your winter fridge is probably better to be sitting around 6-8 degrees (depending on it’s content) to ensure  you get the most flavour out of your winter brews.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there now and start preparing your beer fridge for winter.

Beer Fridge








What is beerformation?

Not fermentation, it is ‘formation, or information about beer to be precise. It may be useful beerformation but it is more likely useless beerformation but it can be handy for impressing your mates at a barbie. One thing it is not, is beerducation because beerducation is generally useful and more often than not factual and beerducation makes you smarter when it comes to beer.

Check out our beerformation section  for heaps of interesting and boring information about beer.


Craft Beer… or is it?

With the dust settling on the 2015 round of Local Taphouse’s Hot 100 Beers listings (#H100Beers), we are once again faced with cries of outrage from Craft beer fans across Australia. They are bemoaning the success of Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale, Feral’s HopHog and several high ranking “Crafty” (a derogative label for the craft ranges produced by the larger supermarkets and mainstream breweries) beers.

Even before it begins, it is a forgone conclusion of this style of competition that those beer lines with national distribution, mass appeal and accessibility would naturally feature highly in what is ultimately a popularity contest. Just as you would expect the most popular girl in a 90s teen angst movie to take out prom queen, so should you expect the same of the H100Beers.

The question put forward by these outraged Craft beer fans is thus: “Why is that <insert macro-brewed beer> included in the competition?” inevitably followed and without pause “It’s not Craft!”. Of course, we are to believe they know exactly what Craft means and its just not that. Frankly, if they stopped for a second to receive an answer, then the answer is that there is no definition of what Craft beer is. So there is no reason as to why the macro breweries wouldn’t be eligible to put forward their Craft offerings for voting on.

In fact, I’m going to take it one step further. With no definition of what Craft is, there really is no such thing as Craft beer, so it follows absolutely that there really is no such thing as a Craft brewer. Ultimately, “Craft” is a simple marketing term that makes people feel that it is something tangible–but it’s not tangible at all.

When the argument arises and I ask people to define the difference between a Craft brewery or a non-Craft brewery. I am usually presented with 4 unique differentiating areas of interest: the taste, the philosophy of the brewery, the inputs to the process, and the output levels (size of the brewery).

The Taste

This is based purely in the eyes (or the mouth) of the beholder.  But everyone is different. How is it possible to quantify taste. Taste is subjective and quite simply put, you can’t classify things based on subjective data. For example, my personal dislike of smoked porters roughly equates their appeal to me as the appeal of a can of Fosters Lager on Australia Day to that afore-mentioned beer geek.

One beer geek’s IPA at the former warehouse refitted out as a brewpub with 16 different varieties of hardwood provides the same or similar level of enjoyment as the XXXX Gold means to Joe down the street kicking back on his porch after a hard afternoon mowing the lawn in 40C temps.

Taste that appeals to a multitude drives popularity and is at the essence of what starts these arguments. Taste is the worst possible measure to use if you want to define Craft.

The Philosophy of the Brewery

You’ve likely heard this one before. “X brewery bases their decisions on the quality of the beer and Y brewery is only concerned with the bottom line”. Somehow, Craft beer is beer that is made solely for the love of it, with no respect for the money.

Sorry to burst this fantasy guys. While most brewers are in it for the love of brewing, any brewery that doesn’t concern themselves with the bottom line would not be around for long. All commercial breweries are businesses and all businesses base all decisions around the bottom line, and some more than others. If you don’t think there’s not even the most rudimentary number crunching going into every batch of beer from your local brewery then you really are deluding yourself.

Suppose that a brewery decides on a philosophy to pick only the highest quality products, that sounds fair right? Well they must still concern themselves with being able to sell that beer at a profitable price. The sales must always exceed the cost of production and distribution, plus cover the lease/mortgage, and pay the staff. But if the price to the customer becomes so high as to dissuade them from purchasing then you’ve failed and you have beer sitting around long enough to go off, and no customers.

If you don’t take care of the money, its not a business, its a hobby that you are doing at home supplemented by your income from your day job, or it will be again soon enough. Breweries are businesses and the number one philosophy is to make money so that they can continue being in business and producing their product. The only breweries that will take a cut on profits for a brew will do it on small batch brews. The reason they do this is because putting out an experimental brew or limited release is a way of marketing their brewing abilities which also allows them to nudge you into trying the rest of their range of profitable mainstream brews.

Philosophy isn’t Craft, it’s either marketing or idiocy.

Inputs to the Process

This one I love more than any other. “Mainstream Lagers use cheap adjuncts like sugar”.

Sure, mainstream lagers use sugar, but it’s also the reason we call them adjunct lagers. I would point out though that they also use Malt, Hops, Yeast and Water and last time I checked that’s the basis of any beer, mainstream or otherwise. Been that way for quite some time, much longer than you or I, and that is not going to change.

Adjuncts have long been used in brewing. In fact, if they weren’t then there would have been no need for the Reinheitsgebot (Bavarian Purity Law of 1516) which dictated only the use of 3 ingredients up until the discovery of yeast in 1857 (but that’s another story). Any brewery outside of the region covered by the Reinheitsgebot has always used adjuncts in their beer.

Examples of this include: Monks in Belgium use Candy sugar in their Belgian Strong ales; a popular Sydney brewery, Willie the Boatman, recently used corn in their “Albo” ale (named after Anthony Albanese, member for Grayndler); even Vinnie Cillurzo (of Russian River, Pliny the Elder fame) has gone on record recommending the addition of sugar to assist in drying out IPAs. This list really could be endless.

Fact is, that there really isn’t a brewery of any size that doesn’t use adjuncts, which includes every beer that has ever been considered a Craft beer.

The Size

The overall output of a brewery.

This one is laughable. We already have descriptors to categorise a brewery based on size and we don’t need another. Referring to a brewery as a macro or micro brewery is based solely on total annual production of beer, that is, the size of the brewery.

In the United States, a brewery becomes a macro brewery when production exceeds 6 million barrels (just over 700 million litres) per annum of beer. Ultimately this is a line set to determine tax treatment–there are benefits if you produce less than 2 million barrels (234 million litres), and better benefits if you produce less than 60 thousand barrels (or 7 million litres).

The largest Australian owned brewery, Coopers, sold a massive 78.8 million litres of beer last year. Sounds impressive hey? Some hard core beer geeks would probably be piping up right about now saying Coopers isn’t a craft brewery. However, this equates to a production output of only 670 thousand barrels. On the other side of the world is Lagunitas, who no one seems to have any problem with being called Craft even though they produce 640 thousand barrels. In fact, Lagunitas were about to build their 3rd brewery, to be in full production in 2017, bringing their business to a potential capacity of 1.9 million barrels (3 times Coopers production), before the recent Heineken buy in.

Bear in mind that of those 78.8 million litres of sales by Coopers–a good chunk of that is actually beer brewed under licence and not Coopers product anyway.

So truly size doesn’t matter to Craft and there is nothing like a bit of context to invalidate that argument.

So what is Craft Beer?

Well the simple answer is what make a Craft beer has always been a grey area and it will probably always be a grey area. It’s up to you what you call it and you can call it what you wish. Just don’t attempt to dictate your “Craft” definition to everyone else because if you think there is a definition of Craft beer, you really just bought the marketing.

What to do? Well drop the capital “C” because the truth is that beer making is a craft and all beers are crafted, and deal with it. Just call it what it is – Beer! And enjoy the simplicity of that.

Post by Dave “Crofty” Croft.
Follow him on Crofty’s Beer Blog


Phobias and Philes

What sort of a beer freak are you?

  1. Do you suffer from Cenosillicaphobia?
    Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty glass, which is a common phobia in pubs, especially when it is not your shout
  2. Don’t be concerned if someone calls you a Cerevisaphile
    We know what it sounds like, but if you are a beer lover or enthusiast, you are by definition a Cerevisaphile. Well, that is most of us then I guess
  3.  Have you got a few bottles in your cellar or did you build a wall of beer?
    If you collect beer bottles you are a Labeorphilist. Why do all these names sound dirty?
Yes No