Lamb-infused beer: Naff Taff or the toast of town?

For April Fool’s, Brain’s Craft Brewery declared they were releasing a lambic styled ale made with real lamb chops. It was, of course, a playful gag, but given the recent news from Conwy Brewery in North Wales, maybe Brains should have followed it up more seriously?

An article in the Daily Post reports how Conwy Brewery have made an experimental test batch of porter infused with meat juices from roasted lamb, titled Sunday Toast. The end result is, according to the Post’s man in the field, a bit ‘meaty’ with the potential of pairing well with roast lamb.

It’s unsurprising that the biggest take-up of this news has been the sheep and meat industry (for example, sheepusa.org were quick to copy a large chunk of the original article and post it on their own site), and various articles reveal that Welsh Lamb and Meat Promotion had a hand in working with the brewery.

In very small quantities, in the right beer style, a meaty taste is okay, but by and large it’s generally seen as a brewing fault, caused by autolyzed yeast cells (imagine Marmite flavoured beer). I would be interested to find out how Conwy’s Sunday Toast tastes but on first impression it strikes me as a beer that’s been influenced by the meat industry rather than the beer drinking side.

Given the cost and effort of roasting lamb and extracting the juices to achieve something that tastes ‘a bit meaty’ I don’t imagine it’ll be upscaled and made in significant quantities any time soon. So what’s the point? This noble experiment has me divided.

On the one hand, it feels like a gimmicky attempt to score a few column inches for everyone involved. There’s also a cringeworthy undercurrent of tackiness, the reinforcement of the stereotype that there’s isn’t much more to Wales than lamb and leeks. If there was a powerful leek-based lobby would leek beer have been the next thing on the list?

But flip it round and it’s great to see breweries experimenting and pushing at the edges of what we conceive as normal. In Caerphilly, Tom Newman’s test brewery, Cell Rebirth, is making beers with wild Welsh yeast, Chinese tea and god knows what else, so it all hints at a potential Welsh Renaissance in beer creativity.

What do you think of Sunday Toast? Just another naff Christmas novelty or an important effort in advancing beer?

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7 thoughts on “Lamb-infused beer: Naff Taff or the toast of town?”

  1. i suspect that the Lamb flavor may not be 100% naturally because as you said thats a lot of lamb and a lot of waste just to get a flavour, that isn’t cheap. Makes me think of Belgian chocolate chip beer, this beer doesn’t even list the ingredients. although this brewery is just up the road from me and if they make this available i’ll probably be first in line.

  2. Stuart Howe at Sharps did an offal beer but he had the meat roasted until the fat was completely gone otherwise it would have ruined things, however there is a precedent for it with Mercer’s meat stout, so maybe Gwyn is onto something.

      1. Stuart Howe’s offal beer was one of his 52 beers in 52 weeks during 2010. I tried it and noted “there was a curious finish not dissimilar to the gravy at the bottom of a roasting tin once the joint of meat has been removed from it”. Full blog post from the time is at beertoday.co.uk/52-weeks-52-beers-%E2%80%94-the-good-the-bad-and-the-offal/

  3. Just a note on the Lamb beer from the brewer. I was using the historical precedent of nutritious stouts and porters from Victorian times where oysters and yes, meat was used to enhance the nutritional properties of the beer. I wanted to use Welsh Lamb because this is something Wales is famous for. To get the lamb flavour into the beer I had to roast the meat first (this would also kill bacteria) I extracted the meat juices with hot water (especially the flavourful brown bits you get on the bottom of the roasting tin) and carefully separated the fat by filtration (this would eventually turn rancid and would also cause a mouthfeel problem with the finished beer). The resultant juices were then added to our Telford Porter. We found we did have to use a lot of meat (it was tempting to use a lamb sock cube!) to give sufficient flavour – so it’s unlikely we’ll do it again unless we can come up with a better way to extract the flavour. Maybe something for keen homebrewers to try who don’t mind extremely adventurous beer recipes. To put you in the picture we will also be brewing some very small scale experimental brews: So far we have made a 6.5% American IPA, a smoked Porter & a spiced Figgy pudding beers designed for long aging. More in the pipeline – any suggestions welcome! Gwynne Thomas Conwy Brewery

    1. Hi Gwynne Thanks for getting in touch, I’m pleased to learn some of the more technical details. It certainly sounds like an arduous process, and eating all that roast lamb afterwards must have been tough on you all! I suppose the advantage with oysters is that you can just chuck them in to the boil and in Victorian times they were a lot more abundant. I wonder if adding meat juices might have been something that small brewpubs would have been doing, rather than large scale commercial breweries of the time? Just a thought. Feel free to drop me any details as and when new experimental batches are available, it’s exactly the sort of thing I’m interested in for the blog. Cheers Craig

      > Date: Sun, 29 Dec 2013 10:36:09 +0000 > To: craigheap@hotmail.co.uk >

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