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noun /ˈretərik/ 

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques

Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content

There is a lot of nonsense said, and written, about beer. Sometimes it's just ill information spread around by well meaning people who have simply misunderstood what they have heard, or been told. Sometimes it is misinformation propagated innocently by enthusiastic beery folk in the name of good beer. On occasions it might be deformed truths, hidden behind suggestions of something that isn't, aimed at fuggling the brains of the poor beer consumer. Sometimes it can be downright lies spouted by brewery PR people who somehow manage to get away with deflecting the beer drinkers thought process away from some reality or other.

I'd like to think at Hardknott we are reasonably honest about our methods of promoting our beer. Yes, we jump the odd band wagon occasionally1, and we might shout about something we don't like, or someone who has upset us, if we think it'll get us noticed. But, we do always act from our hearts, with honesty about what we do. We don't tend to use hollow rhetoric.

However, it seems to us that a little bit of rhetoric might help us out, so we brewed some.

Rhetoric is our "concept" beer range. The experimental stuff that might, or might not quite work. It might be more art than beer, although I think someone once tried to use that tag line, so perhaps I won't. It's certainly craft, mainly because the results will be one off, and largely unpredictable at the mercy of the whim of the head brewer. Me.

I was kind of gunning for 13% on this one. We threw lots of various sugars at the damn thing. Lots and lots, in fact. We used three different types of yeast and mucked around with rousing, but tentatively for fear of the danger of oxidisation. In the end it stopped at just a shade over 10%.

There are all sorts of things you can throw into beer, like yeast nutrients and, if you really want to go all Heston on the job, artificial enzymes to help the yeast get along with more troublesome to digest sugars. We didn't use them on this occasion, but we do have other projects on the go...

But, for this one, as usual, we bottle conditioned. It wasn't one of those pretend bottle conditioning activities where the beer is filtered, carbonated and then just a token bit of yeast dobbed in, an absence of any fermentables or oxygen rendering secondary fermentation, with any meaning, a complete myth.2 No, this beer was flat when it went in the bottle and any sparkle is the result of what went on after we put the lid on our creation.

I'd like to make a quick note about reediness to drink. This beer has been in the bottle for the best part of 6 weeks now. It's about there, and we've decided to release it on the world. I expect the yeast might continue to improve the condition in the bottle, or perhaps not. We think the condition is a little on the soft side, but the beer is tasty, and worth drinking.

The point is, the Rhetoric range of beers, this is the first edition you see, are hopefully going to continue to age, if looked after, for a long time. Like any fine beverage, it will peak sometime after it leaves the primary producer. If you want to buy just one bottle to drink very soon then go ahead. We think you'd be better buying two, one for now and one for some time later. We will not make this beer ever again. The next one will be quite different. We want people to buy them, keep them, look at them and gloat at other people when our supply runs out, and occasionally drink them some time in the future. I think this one will be great in 3-5 years time.

It's great now, of course. "Bonkers" someone told me recently, and then continuing to assure me that this particular bonkers was a good thing "all sorts of flavours going on". Probably as opposed to the sort of bonkers that I am, which possibly isn't good.

The beer? It's a Star Anise 3 Infused, Quasi-Bombastic, Belgique Quad. The people who have been given a pre-release bottle are invited to join an OpenIt session on twitter, Saturday, around 7:30pm.

The rest of you will be able to buy it on our on-line shop very soon.


1but normally very quickly fall off the wagon.

2For the sake of clarity, I'm not going to say I'll never do these things. Indeed, I know that for various commercial reasons true bottle conditioning may not be viable at scale. However, a little bit of yeast in any beer helps, in my view, to add to flavour and protect the beer from harmful oxygen. Yeast eats oxygen you see, improving the shelf life when done right. Indeed, when looking to age beers yeast can be very helpful indeed, even if the majority of the carbonation comes from a big heavy pressure cylinder.

Additionally, the effects of chill haze, and something that I believe might be termed "colloidal stability" or an insufficiency of said stability, can cause problems in a wider market where people seem to drink with their eyes. These reasons can necessitate the need for heavy filtering. We will try to avoid it if we can.

3Anyone who knows Kristy McCready will know she has a pathological hatred of fennel, celery and aniseed. I already had her in mind when we brewed this beer. But then she declared that despite not liking rhubarb either, she found it OK in at least one beer.

I'm not holding out too much hope for Kristy liking this one, however.