A golden pale ale with a creamy white head and malty flavours. You can almost taste the Lake District in this – it’s so fresh and crisp with a slight citrus aftertaste. It’s not too fizzy and leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth but a frown on the face when it is finished!
The original Jennings Cocker Hoop is an award winning golden bitter which won gold in the World’s best beer Awards (European) 2013 and a silver medal at the International Beer Challenge 2014. It has also won the best bitter bronze award at a past CAMRA GBBF.
It’s a bitter beer of great character, appealing to those drinkers who really appreciate their beer and are looking for a traditional English Bitter with a more modern flavour twist.
First launched in 1995 as ‘September Ale’, Jennings Cocker Hoop became hugely popular, particularly with Lake District tourists in summer. The name is derived from ‘Cock-a-Hoop’, an old custom of removing the cock (or spigot) from a barrel and resting it on the hoop of the cask before commencing a drinking bout, but was changed to reflect the brewery’s location on the banks of the River Cocker. The original has an ABV of 4.6%, but mine is a little stronger at 5.6% just to make the brewing of it worthwhile!
The weekend that I brewed the beer had very fine summer weather. It meant that it was a very enjoyable brewing day and I didn’t need to erect my brew-gazebo. Getting the 12 foot by 8 foot gazebo up can sometimes be a PITA, so it was very nice just to pull the brew-bench out and do it all in the open in the patio garden. Once again, I used my 50 litre Braumeister one-pot brewing system, which meant setting up, brewing, cleaning, and taking down was much easier. To provide the hot water for the sparging I used my converted 10 litre Baby Burco tea urn as a Hot Liquor Tank or HLT. Pic of equipment set up and ready to go:
ABOUT THE RECIPE AND INGREDIENTS:
The recipe I am using is one derived from Graham Wheeler in his book “Brew Your Own British Real Ale” 3rd edition 2009. Graham unfortunately passed away in November 2017, but he wrote many great home brewing books that are still readily available. His recipes of well-known commercial beers were based on considerable research. Although simplified for home brewing, they always produce excellent results.
Let’s first talk about the hops. Graham’s recipe and the original Jennings one, calls for the use of Styrian Golding hops and Challenger hops. Styrian Golding, or Savinjski Golding as it is commonly known, goes by a multitude of sometimes confusing aliases. Confusing still is the fact it actually doesn’t come from the Golding variety at all, but is rather the result of the clonal selection of Fuggle, and as such exhibits many Fuggle-like characteristics. It was considered a major crop in the 1930’s in both Styria, a state in Austria, and across the Savinja river in Slovenia (former Yugoslavia). Its staying power has been attributed to its disease resistance, specifically, its resistance to mildew. It is now a world-renowned hop and in high demand. From a brewer’s perspective, Styrian Golding is a lovely aroma hop and exhibits resinous, earthy flavours that are perhaps considered slightly more refined than Fuggle. It has also been described as imparting subtle aromas of white pepper to a brew.
As regards the second specified hop, Challenger, this was released to the public in 1972 after development by Wye College in Kent. Challenger hops were derived from varieties Northern Brewer and German Zattler. It accounted for a significant percentage of the hops grown in the UK during the 1980’s and 1990’s, but not so much now. Challenger features decent bitterness and a floral aroma and as such are considered fine for bittering or for dry hopping. Its flavour is smooth with balanced floral characteristics, some citrus and a dash of spice.
Having spoken about the wonders of the hops I was supposed to use, I have to say I had neither in my inventory! But what I do have is a large stock of Fuggle hops grown locally by a CAMRA friend in his garden, and as they gave rise to the origins of Styrian, they are a perfect substitute.
By way of history, the Fuggle hop originates in England and was first discovered in 1861 in a hop yard owned by George Stace in Kent. Some 14 years later it was officially named and introduced by Richard Fuggle of Benchley in 1875. Similar to a Styrian Golding, is noted for its distinct European aroma and has enjoyed a long, versatile run. At its peak nearly 100 years ago Fuggle was known as a dual-use hop. Today however, as other higher alpha acid varieties have become more prevalent, it’s now more prominently used for its aroma.
Now turning to what I could use instead of Challenger, again my hop friend came to the rescue as I also had a good quantity of Cascade hops from his miniature hop farm. Historically, it was pioneered in the 1950’s by Oregon State University, and was originally developed through open pollination of English variety Fuggle and the Russian variety Serebrianka. It is named after the Cascade mountain range that runs from northern California all the way north to British Columbia, Canada. The hops have since gone on to become one of the most popular American hops of all time. Cascade now represents around 10% of all hops grown in the United States. Released in 1972, it is grown extensively in the New World, as well as to a lesser extent in the UK. When used, it exudes a distinct spicy citrus aroma with hints of grapefruit. It thus has similar characteristics to Challenger in that respect.
Turning to the malts in the recipe, the malt bill is relatively simple consisting of Pale Malt, Torrified Wheat, and a small amount of Black Malt.
The Pale Malt I am using is Minch Hook Head Pale Malt. Minch produces malt from 100% Irish origin 2-row spring barley, exclusively grown in the Ring of Hook Peninsula, Co Wexford. This malt is malted in the Minch Boby Malting plant to achieve a deeper colour and sweet biscuit flavour, and is particularly suited to small-batch craft brewing.
Torrified Wheat has been heat treated (kind of “popped”) to break the cellular structure, allowing for rapid hydration and allows malt enzymes to more completely attack the starches and protein. Torrified Wheat can be used in place of raw wheat in Belgian style Wit-Beers, also very good for adding body and head, especially to English ales. Since it has not been malted, you can’t sub it for malted wheat. Because it’s not malted, it needs to be mashed with diastatic pale malt in order to convert the starches to sugars ready for fermentation.
The black malt is used in very tiny quantities in this recipe, and is there merely to provide colour to the beer. Used in small amounts, a likely very yellow beer can be turned into light amber without affecting the desired malt flavour outcome.
One of the extra fermentables I am using this time in #1 Brewer’s Invert Sugar. Invert Sugar is a brewing adjunct (unmalted source of fermentable extract). It is manufactured by converting sucrose (derived from cane or beet sugar) with either acids or enzymes to produce a mixture of glucose and fructose. It is called invert sugar because the sugar solution before the conversion (called inversion or hydrolysis) rotates the plane of polarized light in one direction and following inversion rotates the solution in the opposite direction. Fructose and glucose are monosaccharides and are rapidly used by brewer’s yeast strains. Liquid invert sugar can be stored at higher solids content than liquid sucrose or sugar, making it easier for brewers to handle. In the UK, where it is widely used, it is usually delivered either as a syrup or in brick-like loaves. Invert sugar can be supplied at different colour levels for use in different beers. For example, “black invert,” with a colour of 500 European Brewery Convention units (EBCs), can be used for brewing stouts. Brewer’s invert sugars can lend beers unique caramel flavours that are particular to many British bitters and other ales. They are delicious to nibble and not surprisingly, you end up picking off little bits to eat before you put the sugar in the boil!
COCKER HOOP RECIPE VITALS:
Size: 32.5 Litres (post-boil @ 20C)
Mash Efficiency: 90 %
Calories: 48.3 kcal per 100 ml
Original Gravity: 1.054 (style range: 1.048 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (style range: 1.010 – 1.016)
Colour: 18 EBC (style range: 15.8 – 35.5)
Alcohol: 5.6% ABV (style range: 4.6% – 6.2%)
Bitterness: 40 IBU (style range: 30 – 50)
5 kg Pale Malt (Minch) 5 EBC (85.5%)
0.55 kg Torrified Wheat (Crisp) 4 EBC (9.4%)
0.05 kg Black Malt (Crisp) 1300 EBC (0.9%)
Mash pH 5.46
90 min boil
60 g Cascade leaf hops (7.0% alpha) – added during boil, boiled 70 min (36 IBU)
250 g Ragus Brewer’s Sugar #1 – added during boil, boiled 20 mins (4.3% of total fermentables)
1 Protafloc Tablet (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
0.27 g Yeast nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 mins
20 g Fuggle leaf Hops (4%) – added during boil, boiled 10 min (11 IBU)
15 g Fuggle leaf Hops (4%) – added immediately after boil for aroma, stirred in and left for 10 mins (1 IBU).
2 packets of Fermentis US-05 dry yeast, rehydrated
(299 billion yeast cells)
- Add 200mg potassium metabisulphite to 45 litres water to remove chlorine / chloramine.
- Water treated with brewing salts for a hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275).
- 5 L/kg mash thickness.
- Single infusion mash at 66C for 90 mins.
- Raise to 76C mashout temperature and hold for 15 mins.
- Fly sparge 5.8 L water with 5.6-5.8 pH (measured at mash temperature). Collect 39.79 litres.
- Boil for 90 minutes, adding Protafloc, invert sugar, and hops per schedule. Add hopstand hops at boil end. Start chilling after 15 mins.
- Cool the wort quickly to 20C (I use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
- Aerate well. I use pure oxygen from a tank at a rate of 1 litre per minute for 90 seconds per 19 litres.
- Pitch yeast and ferment at 20C (wort temperature).
- Before packaging you may optionally crash cool to around 6C and rack to a bright tank that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup. Add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatine dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 19 litres of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days.
- Package as you would normally. I rack to cornie kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. After 1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this beer is best consumed fresh, so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 hour period, and then turn back down to serving pressure.
PHOTOS OF THE DAY:
Some pictures of the brewing day follow.
Samples of the grains before milling and the bulk after:
The mash process underway in the Braumeister:
The hops ready weighed for the boil:
Vigorous boil underway:
This is what a lump of the invert sugar looks like:
Half-way through, I stopped for lunch with a wheat beer and freshly baked homemade focaccia bread filled with Italian cheese. My dog was eager to get a bite!
After the boil, the wort is cooled down to 20C for the fermenter:
The hops left in the Braumeister after the boil:
Transfer into the fermenter via the counter flow chiller:
Here’s a view of the yeast working away in the fermenter after three days:
After crash cooling and clearing, this is what the beer looked like before packaging. The colour was just about perfect:
When the beer was finally packaged I had 1 x 18L cornie and 12 x 500ml bottles. Total 24L. This shows the front and back bottle labels:
Whether the original meaning of ‘cock-a-hoop’ was ‘turn on the taps, let the liquor flow and cast off all restraint’ or ‘stand on the barrel and crow with exaltation’ (or something else entirely) we aren’t ever likely to now know. Suffice it to say, if you come up with and publish a theory of your own, someone will believe it. Meanwhile, all I can say is that my clone turned out really delicious. Drinking it takes me right back to my long hikes in the Lake District and the glorious pints I have had with good friends there.