Behind The Beer: Amphora

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In early 2017, we teamed up with Italian craft brewery Canediguerra for a special collab which saw them make arrangements for a significant quantity of moscato grape must to be cargo’d from the vineyards adjacent to their brewery to the hills of Glen Fyne. The majority of the must was used to create Devine, our collaboratively brewed Italian Grape Ale which married the sweet grape juice with a strong British golden ale.

A portion of the must was reserved however, with a different beer altogether in mind. This is Amphora, a complex mixed fermentation sort-of-Italian Grape Ale, but also, not really. It’s a fun one.

There are three things that make Amphora unique: grape must ratio, adjuncts and fermentation.

The basis of Amphora is not dissimilar to Devine, in both beers, the sugar-rich moscato juice was blended with the wort of a strong, golden ale, but it’s the ratio of juice to wort that gives Amphora it’s strong, vinous character. Even with a touch of pale ale wort added to the blendt, the ratio of juice to wort in Amphora is double that of Devine, ensuring the winey, fruity character is much more pronounced than our colla brew.

To further enhance the fruit characteristics of the beer, heaps of whole, sweet cherries were added to the barrel before primary fermentation, remaining in the beer through to just before bottling. We really wanted to give the microbes the chance to chew on the sugars inside the sweet, juicy fruit, so it was important they were given proper time to contribute to the beer.

The final key factor was fermentation - the cherries, wort and must were combined in a single oak wine barrel. It had previously been used as a fermentation vessel for another (future) Origins Beer which was pitched with a mixed culture blend, and we were confident that the bugs were persisting in the wood. So while the barrel didn’t have much to contribute to the beer’s vinous flavours, it did ensure a vigorous fermentation - between the microflora carried on the cherries and those taking residence in the barrel, we were able to fully ferment Amphora without pitching any additional yeast.

Amphora is hard to define - it’s the complex sum of lots of parts - the cherries have given the pink-hued liquid a fruit-candy vibe, and there’s a strong Brettanomyces character that has clearly muted a lot of the sweetness from the grape juice and cherries. The grape must plays its part most evidently in the finish - it’s lingering and vinous and moreish, like a good, dry, natural wine.

Pandora and Amphora are interesting when enjoyed side-by-side - Pandora is a two-year odyssey of trial and experimentation, brewing that beer risk from the outset as we didn’t know if we’d end up with anything enjoyable. Amphora, while equally complex and interesting in flavour, was a much simpler process over the eight-month brewing period - we knew where we wanted to get to with the beer, and we achieved it. Whether this is evidence of the progress we’ve made over the last couple of years, we’ll let you decide, but it’s fun for us to look at the two beers side-by-side and wonder where the next two years of Origins Brewing will take us.

Amphora will be available from the Fyne Ales website as part of the Origins Brewing Autumn 2017 mixed case from Monday 11 December.

Iain Smith