A passion for history encapsulated in a bottle of beer

One man and his brew.

A sunny autumn day in Baesuris ( Castro Marim) and I am on a crusade to discover the story and motivation behind  an unusual craft beer producer. For one who knows almost nothing of the chemistry of brewing, I have several questions for Gabriel, and I can see a long and fascinating morning ahead. He sits me down in his office surrounded by a myriad of musical equipment, speakers guitars and amplifiers, unbeknown to me I am in the presence of a wandering minstrel too. We are both estrangeiros in Castro Marim and we soon find mutual ground for amusement in our experiences of Portuguese bureaucracy and the legacy of dictatorship when setting up a small business here .Even though we have downloaded and completed the necessary forms required to run our businesses there is always a "Maria" who holds the key to the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet "where that form apparently belongs", and even though we have filed the registration or necessary document on line we still have to make the pilgrimage to city hall to have it stamped by yet another "Maria". Setting up a new venture and being a house husband to 3 girls  when covid sets in is a challenge for anyone. That this man is an entrepreneur of the first order and a perfectionist is apparent from the moment he greeted me in the street and invited me in to his garage which he has made home to his brewery. Born in Rio, Brazil, he has lived in both France and the UK.
His passion for history from an early age, and particularly all things medieval, gathered more strength by living surrounded 
by medieval chateaux, becomes apparent. The Knights Templar was a French organisation with a French founder. Furthermore, nearly every Grand Master or supreme leader in Templar history was French, thereby making France the seat of Templar power in Europe. Soon then unfolds his love of British beers. Two paths cross here. One a folk musician with a fanaticism for medieval history, and the other of an artisan brewer, both are interwoven and one thing led to another. It is no wonder then that he has founded his brewery in what better place than Castro Marim. His days of touring the UK playing hostelries up and down the country opened his eyes and palate (most Uk pubs run a special on tap) which allowed him to learn about regional varieties and fine tune his palate, finally sowing the seeds  for a career in pubs. Listening to him relate his career with gusto , his journey from mopping the floor of taverns to pulling the taps and managing the establishment while learning the minutiae of what goes into making the perfect draught ale, gave me an indication of the experience gained in quality control and desire for perfection that endorses his signature beers. Sharing his travels was like flipping through the pages of a history book and at one point he did indeed produce for me a magnificent collectors album containing medieval drawings of castles in Portugal.

"I praise the natural heritage of "proper" beer, even more coming from the Real Ales British school, and interesting enough a few of my early random choices ended up being extremely helpful to maintain the "naturality" of my product to the point that it can be classified as vegan as well."

As I know from first hand experience, making the decision to move from the Uk to Portugal is a tough one and life changing at that. The British weather was one deal breaker. Again like myself, with every visit to Portugal it became harder to leave and once returned to the Uk longer each time to adjust. Gabriel loves British culture and is proud of the roots he established there. As a British citizen,he still gets "homesick" after two and a half years living here. The English "humidity", almost a euphemism that tickled me and one that has much wider connotations than weather, was not the main reason for his moving to Portugal. After working for many years in the pub industry he was about to take over the lease of of a pub he had been working in for approximately 8 years. This was when he was awakened to the fact that the British pub culture was being destroyed by avaricious corporate leaders in the field."No need to mention names here" he told me .This destruction was endemic of the last decade and the final blow was when "his pub" in question was passed to one of the major companies in the EU through a "buy them all" deal that would kill thousands of small independent pubs. His pub was not under the axe but the crossover caused shambles, uncertainty and temporary closure for compliance work, one month became 3 which then became 6....pre covid but with Brexit still dragging on ( Gabriel laughs and was quick to point out that they were living in Theresa May´s constituency of Maidenhead ) 2018 was a time for quick and important decisions to be made. Doing the maths and even without secure jobs, with a first child growing up and a second on the way access to amazing food and astonishing weather,a mother in law recently returned to Portugal, they packed up the car and jumped on the ferry at Portsmouth.The rest is history.

His mission latterly has been to introduce into Portugal a range of craft beers perfectly matching the taste of their British counterparts. A Porter, a real ale, an IPA and a stout. Having had several peculiarities pointed out to me that differentiate industrial beer from artisanal beer, I raised the issue of establishing if he was microbrewery? The demarcation here he explains to me becomes difficult and if you pass a magnifying glass over the artisanal process it boils down to the level of production in litres that defines the classification.Senescal, Gabriels brand, is a nano cervejaria. I then need to establish  the difference between nanobrewery and microbrewery? By dictionary definition, nano means small and we can safely say that nano is smaller than micro, since the former is divided by a billion according to science.

" Nanobrewery: homemade or equipment-supported production for the production of     craft beer, but on a small scale."

To differentiate a microbrewery from breweries that have been popular for decades, any brewery with a production capacity of up to 200,000 liters/month can fit into the concept of microbrewery. When you reach something above this value, the conversation is different: you are already a brewery. Although it is not something institutionalized, the definition has progressed and become popularized in this sense.The nanobrewery, in turn, was marked as a pejorative term, although there is nothing offensive or harmful in the nomenclature. Establishing a parameter also generates some disagreement among craft beer producers. There are those who point to an average of 1,000 litres/month to fit the nanobrewery concept, but there are breweries that call themselves “craft beer producer”, regardless of the amount of beer produced. Thus, the concept, as a whole, was vague and meaningless. But, little by little, that homemade place, which has its own production, which is not labeled in the commercial term itself, began to be called a nanobrewery.
I am always curious as to how brand names came about.When starting a small business there is often the
 disappointment that your chosen name has already been registered.I found this out when I registered my catering business in the Uk.The name panini was already taken so i just added etc to it and hey ho it covered more than just a toasted Italian sandwich.In the case of Senescal Gabriel wanted to link his product to Knight Templar heritage.Names like Grand Master were already taken so he chose Senescal.The seneschal acted as both deputy and advisor to the grand master..Jokingly  Gabriel pointed out that he was happy to be second in command.
We moved on to the actual production process, another lesson for me. Beer is a fermented aqueous drink
that is made from four main ingredients: water, hops yeast and barley malt. When cooked at a certain temperature, the enzymes in the malt – called amylase and protease – are able to catalyse the breakdown of starch and proteins in the mash. This produces a mixture of sugars and peptides. Each ingredient is integral to the recipe and must be cooked in a certain way to yield a successful batch of brew. Understanding their basic qualities and how each ingredient is meant to react with the others is an important aspect of beer brewing,and this is something he is meticulous about adjusting and tweaking respectively for each of his individual brews as needed.

Templar stout, brewing

Gabriel mentioned the word "cooking" a lot.Unlike kitchen style cooking recipes, ( my area of expertise ) which are expected to take a few hours at most, beer recipes have a timeline that is more like four weeks from beginning to end.There are three major phases in the brewing process: wort making, fermentation, and packaging. Wort making is the step that requires the most work from the brewer, as you make a perfect solution for brewer's yeast to turn it into tasty beer. During wort making fermentable sugars from malt are combined with the flavour and antioxidant properties of hops. The next step is fermentation, the time when special yeast bred to ferment wort converts sugar into carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethyl alcohol (ethanol) to make beer. there is No CO2 in real ale, no pressurisation or false carbonation as in industrial varieties. While fermentation happens there is no action required by the brewer because yeast is doing all the work! The final step of brewing is a final fermentation which in his case is done in the bottle.
Cardinal Ale grain before milling,showing all the colours including the greyish rye

He took me through a sampling of most of the key ingredients used. The main ( base ) grain used on all the beers is malt to which are added other grains, mostly barley, some roasted grains and even a smoked one to create the particular characters of each one, and to bring a variety of tastes,colours and aromas to the brew. A salty caramel is used for the Royal IPA. To bring the darker tones and to give a peculiar smoky taste and aroma to to the templar stout and the Porter, a very dark roasted barley is used. An added caramel wheat is used on the porter to give it an extra smoothness .A slightly different touch is given to the cardinal ale with the addition of rye .Hops are a fundamental addition in every brew, if added at the beginning will achieve bitterness or if added later will bring more flavour and aroma .Most of the hops he uses are British sourced (Gabriel´s personal choice),from a tiny POD ( English equivalent of DOP ) designated area in Kent. East Kent Golding ( EKG )* These are award winning,internationally acclaimed, quintessentially British hops create that gentle floral slightly spicy honeyed and earthy aroma that English hops produce.The Kentish "terroir" of these hops makes them distinct from other English hop flavours.

Terroir (/tɛˈrwɑːr/, French: [tɛʁwaʁ]; from terre, “land”) the environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s specific growth habitat.

with the exception of one used in the Royal IPA - Centennial for dry hopping( adding hops after the fermentation is done) - which comes from the USA.

Among several coincidences The German Beer Purity Law,"Reinheitsgebot" meant that because of its "naturality" Gabriel is able to certify his beer as a vegan product. This was achieved by several choices he made. Choosing bottled mineral water to suit the styles of beer he was making and therefore avoid using chemicals to correct the water profile was his first choice. Secondly using irish moss (an algae) in place of gelatin to clarify the beer ensured no animal derivates are used at any stage of the process. Instead of adding any sort of acids he uses natural acidulated malts. Because of the German law acidulated malt is widely used in Germany.
What is so reassuring here is that behind a quality top end product there is a principled and dedicated producer. Not allowing profit margins to interfere with purity is a top ranking selling point as is authenticity. With this in mind, I, the consumer, will always be happy to bear the price for quality controlled luxury product. As his business grows he is going to do his utmost to maintain these choices unlike more corporate brands.Being a "hand made" process with a lot of, in his own words, "DIY solutions" and natural ingredients, when it comes to growing conditions and harvests are always susceptible to weather and climate change thereby leaving a possibility for subtle changes in the character of the beer.In contrast to the industrilized sector who have extensive laboratory analysis and correction procedure,his challenge is to percieve those possible variations as soon as possible and adjust the recipe to get it back to its original balance.
*East Kent Goldings was developed from the Canterbury Whitebine variety in the late 1700’s. Canterbury is a town in Kent, England. Goldings consists of several clonal variants known by the name of either the original grower or their village. It has been sold as East Kent Goldings since 1838. It is grown exclusively in East Kent by a handful of growers. It is a tall hop with loose low yielding cones and is susceptible to downy and powdery mildews and wilt.
Places you can drink or buy a Senescal beer in the Algarve at the moment:

Tavira: Cafe Bar 22

For further information and product detail or to shop online contact  https://pt.senescal.pt


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