Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Pottering around with butterbeer
A homebrewer aims to prove that fiction is better than fact, writes Alastair Gilmour
Homebrewer Paul Crowther doesn’t half set himself a challenge. He makes beer based on references in books, television shows and video games. And extraordinarily good they are, too.
The inspiration might come from anywhere; he collects recipes and makes notes to see what a beer be like under self-imposed circumstances.
“I like coming up with an idea and making things through to the finish,” says Paul. “I bring them into the real world.”
He is a fan of The Geeky Chef, who is similarly inspired by the media that surrounds us, creating real-life recipes from fictional characters – Lembas Bread from Lord of the Rings, for example. Paul has been a homebrewer for five-and-a-half years but has specialised in fictional beers for three.
“The first one I did was Butterbeer from Harry Potter,” he says. “I thought, I could brew that, but the first version had too much cinnamon so I’ve tweaked since.
“Mudder’s Milk from sci-fi television series Firefly is another. I’ve brewed about 35 beers like this with another 30 on the way. Some recipes you come back to and some don’t come off like you wanted them to.
“I brew five gallons at a time, whenever I find time. My kit consists of a huge pan with a cool box as a mash tun. I like things being manual.
“I do late-night brews finishing at midnight and if I’m starting a shift at three o’clock in the afternoon I can squeeze in seven hours for a brew before I start work.
“I hope to do one-off brews with local microbreweries – I’ve got something in the pipeline with Out There Brewing at Ouseburn, Newcastle. There are so many paths to go down; cuckoo brewing, writing books, but I haven’t got the mental space to scribble it all down at the moment.”
Paul recently Tweeted about some rice wine he was brewing. “I had the idea for ages to use alpha amylase to break down the starch instead of using the month-long process of making sake using koji. I’m mashing a kilogram of flaked rice for one hour with a five gram packet of enzymes. After the mash, the wort tasted quite sweet so I’d say the alpha amylase did its job. It’s gonna be strong.”
Sharp-eyed readers might recall the name Paul Crowther. He is the chap who doused Nigel Farage in milkshake in a Newcastle street in a spur-of-the moment gesture. He subsequently lost his job with Sky and was ordered by magistrates court to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and was told to pay £520 to Farage for distress, suit cleaning and damage to his lapel microphone.
He says: “I’m not going to escape that for a while; it’s following me around a bit. It didn’t make my life any better at all. If I could go back I’d not do it. Being arrested is not fun and being in front of a judge is not a nice experience.”
Paul now works at craft beer retail outlet Yard House in Tynemouth and also Lush, the handmade vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics company.
“There are very different opinions on the matter,” he says. “A lot of them were a bit extreme, mentioning me in the same breath as Jo Cox’s killer. I’m not a hero either, that’s not me. I made a mistake and I paid for it. It was very bizarre.
“The first couple of nights were very frightening, worried that people would do something. It affected my wife and whole family.”
Paul is a very gentle, extremely likeable and, by his own admission, a very reasonable person, probably the last in the group to get into trouble. One of these days – soon – he will be far better known for the likes of BioShock Columbia Lager than a £5.25 banana and salted caramel milkshake.
PAUL CROWTHER’S BEER
Harry Potter Butterbeer (5.5% abv) is a lovely rouge colour with allspice, honey and fruit flavours combined with vanilla notes. (At first the Cheers tasters detected rhubarb.)
Firefly Mudder’s Milk (15.1% abv) is a mighty barley wine, dark and shadowy tasting of liquorice, coffee and ripe fruit doused with a measure of vodka.