Sadly, this was cancelled owing to the unwelcome visitation of the "beast from the East". However, we are hoping we can persuade Peter to regard this as more of a postponement than a cancellation. Next year,
we would like to invite Peter to deliver his talk on his career "on the road". This promises to be very interesting and unusual presentation. And, given Peter's inimitable style, very enjoyable!
That's The Spirit!
I quailed at the thought of doing Vodka as there is so much to write about - what, with it being the staple of so many countries from Russia, through Belarus to Iceland... However, one particular brand is so unusual that,
maybe, it deserves special attention. This is the famous Bison Grass Vodka: Żubrowka, that can be bought locally from Waitrose and other outlets. I first became interested in this stuff when I saw the "Hairy Bikers" TV show. The guys were in Poland and getting
to grips with local customs... It seems Bison Grass is collected from woodlands in the Białowieża Forest where it grows in relative abundance. The grass imparts a distinctive "almond like" taste to the Vodka (interesting and rather pleasant). The Bison Grass
extract is actually banned by the US food and drink administration (FDA) because it contains coumarin (considered to be a hepatotoxic agent - liver poison). Of course, alcohol itself is a liver damaging substance - so where does one draw the line? Incidentally,
coumarin is found naturally in many edible plants such as strawberries, black currants, apricots, and cherries. Although reported to be moderately toxic to rats, it is less so to mice. Interestingly, humans
metabolise the compound in a completely different way - and these metabolic by-products are completely harmless. Dunno about the effect on bison though. I don't fancy getting near enough to find out!
Next Month's Meeting - AGM
This is, of course, the AGM. The agenda and accounts are attached with this newsletter. Don't forget - there is no charge for this meeting. Please bring your own drinks as there will be no WoE to provide
Next Month's Competitions - April
As always with the AGM, there are no competitions scheduled.
Annual Dinner 2018
I've got to make another plea about this. Les has done a phenomenal amount of work on behalf of us all and it seems hardly credible that he is still awaiting menu and drink returns.
The event is in April - that is just a few weeks away. Please, if you are intending to come, please get the paperwork back to Les now.
Frankenwine to Frankenbeer
Only in America! The New York Times carried this statement: "If Americans will eat a burger with no meat, will they drink a beer without hops?" Seems they will. Dr Charles Denby, a biochemist at the University
of California, has been tinkering with his terpenes. I know that sounds a little - er - immodest but actually, terpenes are present in many plants - your Christmas tree for example. Pines are rich in terpenoids which is why turpentine smells the way it does.
However, Dr Denby realised that terpenes, in small doses impart the taste of hops! The mad scientist decided, as a keen home brewer, to perform a little experiment. He engineered yeast DNA to incorporate genes from basil and mint - two plants that
produce the hop flavoured terpenes naturally. The result of this genetic engineering was a yeast that could produce the flavour of Cascade hops. He said "the real challenge of the study was to produce strains that reproduce flavour molecules at the right concentrations
without sacrificing other aspects of the brewing yeast performance". Denby said about his beer: "to me, it tasted distinctly hoppy, and not unlike a beer hopped with Cascade". For a more objective analysis, a brewing company was persuaded to conduct a double-blind
taste test involving 40 participants. Results were intriguing: the researchers found that some of their strains produced flavours that were hoppier than conventionally dry-hopped beers! How can this possibly help the brewing industry?
It seems hops are a resource-intensive crop requiring huge amounts of water and sunlight in order to grow properly. The irrigation of hops, in the USA alone, uses more than 260 million gallons of water. Over the past
decade demand for craft beer has boomed in the States, and the strong preference for hoppy brews like IPA has pushed up demand for the crop. The farmers can't keep up and brewers are facing a hop shortage. This, of course, puts the price up - but more worryingly,
it is slowing the growth of the craft beer industry.
Apple Wine - A Norman Dunk Speciality
This recipe, based on one of Norman Dunk's, should be started now if it's to be ready for the Open Show.
2 litres apple juice (any type),
1 litre white grape juice,1½ lb sugar, Pectolytic enzyme, Yeast (general purpose or whatever is available), 1 teasp citric acid, 1 teasp yeast nutrient, Finings,1 Campden tablet.
the sugar and ¾ pint of boiling water into a saucepan. Stir over gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool and pour into a demijohn; add the fruit juices. Add the chemicals according to packet instructions. Finally the liquid can be made up with water, allowing room for frothing. Leave until fermentation finishes. Transfer the jar to a cool place
for a day or so until the sediment is well-settled. Rack into another demijohn, top up with cold water and add the finings.
When the wine is clear re-rack
and top up again. Leave for a month then, if there is no sign of fermentation add a crushed Campden tablet. The wine takes 6 to 8 months to mature. Note: apple wine is prone to oxidation.
Mood Altering Effects
It's well known that alcoholic drinks cause a certain amount of mood alteration. I certainly remember being very awkward in public (when
I was younger) and grateful for the "confidence" that seemed to come from the bottle. Little realising that a drunken fool looks considerably more pathetic than a painfully shy one! Still - when you're inebriated you seem to think the world won't notice, and
that you're the most energetic, personable, confident and charming entity on the whole planet! Poor deluded cretin! Now, I have to thank Bob (as ever) for providing this illuminating insight into human behaviour (Mail Nov 22 2017). Data taken from the Global
Drug Survey, an online questionnaire of 18 to 34-year-olds conducted in 11 languages came up with the following. There are significant emotional responses to different alcoholic drinks. For example: red wine made people feel sexier and more relaxed - but also
more tired and tearful. Spirits caused aggression and restlessness, but also gave people a boost of energy and confidence. Beer increased both relaxation and confidence, while white wine had a similar, but less pronounced effect than red wine. In the UK a
litre of off-licence spirits can be bought for as little as £15.00. This makes a double shot cost only 75p - thus a "level of violence and aggression can only be encouraged by such pricing". These are the words of Professor Mark Bellis of Bangor University. He is the Head of Public Health Wales, and is it's director of policy, research and international development. Personally, I wonder if punitive pricing is really
the best way of educating the public on how to behave. I'm sure wisdom comes with maturity - and I'm not convinced that we should all shoulder the blame for the actions of a minority. However, that's of scant comfort to you if someone near and dear has been
hurt by their selfish actions...
How To Service An MOT
Now this IS a strange one. It is generally accepted that an MOT is, itself, a sort-of service... This is where you get your car checked over once per year and it is supposed to highlight defects that may have some bearing
on future safety considerations... For example, your tyres might need renewing. Safety consideration? Well, if it was wet and your tyres couldn't clear the water away quickly enough, you could aquaplane - that is, your car could effectively ride on a cushion
of water and you'd have no control over where it was going. You'd be in the same predicament as if you were skidding. Now we have a jolly little Tonbridge company that not only does MOTs - it also services them! Worth every penny of the £99.00 - but
what the heck is the £29.95 for? For those who've put up with my rantings for the last six years, you'll know I have a particular dislike for the errant apostrophe!
Well - all things must eventually end: so it is with my position as secretary. I am standing down this year and will not seek re-election to the position of secretary at the coming AGM. I have enjoyed the last six years
and have been delighted at the support and motivation you have all given me. I have been particularly pleased with the way my efforts on the newsletters have been received, and by the many comments you have made on how much you enjoyed reading them. I hope
and pray my successor is given all the encouragement you have given me; and I wish him or her every success in this most gratifying venture. The Germans have a wonderful expression: auf wiedersehen (until we see each other again). Adieu, thanks and best wishes.