Saturday, 10 August 2013

Wadworth Brewer's Creations

Wadworth have set their brewers a challenge: to create a new and distinctive beer each month in 2013. They've called it the Brewer's Creations series and they are producing very limited batches of each beer.

There's already been a Stout and a Pale Ale amongst others. This month, I got my hands on a mini-cask of Brewer's Creations 8, which is a four grain bitter made with barley, wheat, oats and  rye. It's with Styrian Goldings and Cascade.

I was a little disappointed to see that given total freedom, a brewer decided to produce a bitter but that's just me as I'm not the biggest fan of bitters. However, second brewer Colin Oke has produced a bitter with an unusual edge.

It pours a hazy golden colour and has a slightly spicy nose to it. Oke was quoted in the Brewery Manual recently as saying that rather than being malty, that the beer has a spicy quality and a "peppery feel to the mouth." I would agree with this as the rye does give it a slightly different note to most bitters.

Maybe I was wrong to prejudge this beer as it is a bitter. There's a slight note of licorice and a touch of bitterness from the hops but this is only slight as the grain profile dominates this beer. It is a more interesting and unusual beer than I was expecting, but do I like it? Not entirely, no. It has a touch of fruitiness alongside the licorice, pepper and a hint of smoke which I don't think quite works. This is a personal thing as I am sure many would love this beer.

What is good to see is that Wadworth are innovating. They have a 90 year history which is something that the newer craft breweries certainly don't have! To remain relevant, I feel that regional breweries need to constantly innovate and work on new styles to sit alongside their core range of traditional ales.

Whilst Brewer's Creations 8 is not entirely my kind of beer, it has increased my respect for Wadworth as they are clearly giving their brewers space to try new things. I may well now see if I can try a couple of the other beers in the series when they are produced.

It would be interesting to know what their intention is after this year and whether they aim to produce one or more of the beers that they have tried on an ongoing basis.

Drinking this beer and writing this piece has got me thinking about regional brewers and innovation. Look out for a piece from me on that subject very soon!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Back to Beer Blogging

My first beer back in the UK was from The Kernel
This blog has been pretty dormant for a while. In fact, if you happen to have visited, there may well have been little more than tumble-weeds rolling by. For the past couple months, I have been extremely busy in my day job and I was also out of the country for the entirety of June.

So, the lack of posts has nothing to do with stopping blogging or heaven forbid, not liking beer any more! It was just a simple case of not having the time or energy. However, all that is set to change as I am back in the UK and my life has gradually returned back to normal.

I was away in Indonesia, which is a beautiful and amazing country but does have a dearth of good beer. In some of the bigger cities I visited, there probably was some good beer lurking in the shadows somewhere but I didn't often have time to look for it! 

Like a lot of countries, Indonesia has its national lager, in this case it is called Bintang. Whilst not being offensive to the palate, it is hardly exciting either. 

I loved my time away, but I did periodically (largely when I had an idle moment) start thinking about drinking a decent IPA or a Saison or another of the multiplicity of beers styles that wasn't available to me at that time.

On my first day back in Blighty, I needed to find good beer. I'd waited ages, so I wasn't going to find the first thing that had a bit of a kick of hops to it. This needed to be thought about. I headed to the Holborn Whippet to see what they had on and decided to plump for an IPA from The Kernel. An ever reliable and consistently brilliant choice.

The next day I dropped in on Utobeer in Borough Market and stocked up on a few treats from the likes of Weird Beard, Brewdog and Oakham. It was great to be back in a place with so much great beer, despite in many other ways missing being away.

In the coming days and weeks, I intend to write a lot more - which won't be difficult! There will be views, reviews, guest posts and collaborations - so please do stop by...

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Visiting London Fields Brewery

Brew-master Ben (C) London Fields Brewery
It feels like barely a week goes by at the moment without another brewery opening its doors in London. I sometimes find it hard to keep up. 

There is however, one London brewery that I've kept coming back to in the last year. A brewery that have positioned themselves right at the heart of Hackney's thriving beer scene: London Fields.

LF's brilliant Hackney Hopster has become a regular drink for me as I can always pick it up from Oddbins on my way home from work. I've also taken a shine to Black Frost Stout and to be honest, pretty much every other beer of theirs that I've tried.

It was only a matter of time before I'd have to see their brewery and learn a bit more about what they do. After briefly being introduced to Ben, their master brewer whilst I was in a bit of a drunken haze at Craft Beer Rising, I got in touch about swinging by their Hackney brewery.

I've visited a few breweries in my time, but not nearly as many as I would like to. London Fields really stood out to me. Going into the railway arches that they call home, you're immediately drawn into a bustling hive of activity with brewers and other staff working all around you. It's cramped an industrious with a slightly DIY feel to it. The place has a spark to it that many bigger breweries lack.

I stood with Ben and my mate who had joined me for the trip, in one of the few spaces where we weren't going to get under people's feet too much.

(C) London Fields Brewery
It was only a couple of minutes of being in the brewery before Ben poured us a pitcher of Shoreditch Triangle, their excellent IPA. He then gave us the back story to the beer, which is made with three American hops and three malts (hence the name!) and is supposedly inspired by the mystical ley-lines of Shoreditch! A huge grin crept across Ben's face as he added this last detail.

Whatever the influence for the IPA, it's damn good. It has a great big whack of citrus that is balanced by just right level of sweetness from the malt. It's exactly what I look for in an IPA. I can also confidently say that it tastes better being supped in the brewery - but this may of course just be a matter of perception.

In the space of just two years, the guys at London Fields have built a brewery which has quickly gained favour amongst London drinkers and further afield too. Ben joined them about eight months ago and is keen to ensure that their beers remain diverse and exciting.

Alongside Hopster and Triangle, their core range consists of Love Not War (Red Ale), Black Path London Porter, a wheat beer and an unfiltered lager. Alsongside these, they're producing LTD editions such as a black IPA and an Imperial Stout (that will be ready very soon).

It's great a see a small brewery like LF producing decent quality lager. It's obviously a bit tricky for smaller operations due to its need to condition for longer, but their unfiltered lager is to my mind one of their best beers.

Throughout this year and beyond, expect big things from the London Fields guys. Their brewery tap room currently opens just at weekends, but once their full licence is approved, it should be open throughout the week. It's a great place to have a brewery fresh beer and try out some of their LTD editions.
The Tap Room (C) London Fields Brewery

I asked Ben about what other styles he'd like to produce. His roots are in Germany, so expect to see some of that influence coming through in the future. He talked enthusiastically about brewing a Kölsch, the lager/ale hybrid that other UK brewers such as Thornbridge have started producing. We also had a chat about sour beers, which is something I would love to see them have a go out. 

As we walked around the brewery drinking Black Frost Stout, it became clear how passionate Ben is about the brewery and being part of such a vibrant beer scene in London. He clearly views his fellow London brewers more as contemporaries than competitors but is spurred on by the innovation that is happening at the moment. This of course is great for us; the drinkers!

After our tour of London Fields, we set off into the cold and snow of delightful March afternoon happily chatting about the amazing beer being produced throughout Hackney and beyond. The tour formed the start to a great day that later took us to Crate for pizza and more beer before ending up at the ever fantastic Camden Town brewery bar.

I can't end this post without doing a quick plug for an event they have coming up. On the the 4th and 5th of May, London Field's will play host to London's Brewing, which is beer festival organised by the London Brewers Alliance. Get on down there to sample fantastic beers from London Fields and many of London's other top breweries. It looks set to be a great little event!

A massive thank you to Ben and all the guys at London Fields for their hospitality.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wild Card Brewery

The beautifully presented jack of Clubs
Wild Card are a new brewery founded by old friends William Harris and Andy Birkby. As soon as I saw bottles of their red ale called Jack of Clubs, I was intrigued. Its stark and enigmatic packaging instantly caught my eye. 

I met up with the guys at Craft Beer Co Islington to chat about Jack of Clubs, their future plans and opening a brewery at a pub in Walthamstow. 

One thing you get immediately from the Wild Card guys is their passion for their beer. They've taken a lot of risks to get one beer on sale and they have lots of plans that they're starting to put into action.

William works full time for the brewery whilst Andy holds down a day job at present and fulfills his role as co-director in his spare time. They started experimenting with extract brewing at home before developing their skills further and eventually moving towards founding Wild Card.

Jack of clubs is a bold yet approachable beer that takes its cues from American amber ales. It uses a combination of Maris Otter and Crystal malts and is hopped with Williamette, Mount Hood and Centennial. I had high hopes for the beer before trying it, but I had also wondered if it could just be a case of stylish marketing being used to dress up an ordinary beer. Luckily it proved to be a cracker of a brew. An initial maltiness and hint of sweetness gives way to a satisfying bitter hoppy finish. It's well balanced and has delicious notes of toffee and fruit.

Jack of Clubs on cask at the Warrant Officer
At present, the guys are brewing it at Brentwood Brewery, but in due course they will have their own setup in the Warrant Officer pub in Walthamstow. They should be operating from their new home in within a matter of months.

The name of the beer and the brewery came from their habit of making notes about their test brews on playing cards. The original note for the first beer was of course made on the jack of clubs. Expect their future beers to stick with this theme as it makes for such a striking brand.

I tried to press them on what we can expect from them next, but they weren't giving too much away. My money would be on something pale and hoppy. An IPA called Ace of Spades?

The Jack of Clubs is a striking beer. It definitely nods towards American craft styles whilst having a taste profile that will appeal to a wide range of drinkers. William and Andy told me about how they wanted to create something interesting and memorable that is also accessible. With Jack of Clubs they've achieved this brilliantly.

Currently Jack of Clubs is available in a number of bars, cafes and restaurants across London, particularly in the east end. Personally I'm intrigued to see what they do next. I'm also looking forward to popping along to taste their brews once they're ensconced at the Warrant Officer.

Have you tried Jack of Clubs? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Focus on: Harbour Brewing

Rhys and Eddie from Harbour
In the space of just over a year, Cornwall's Harbour Brewing have established themselves with an instantly recognisable brand and more importantly, an excellent range of beers. 

I spoke to Eddie Lofthouse from the brewery about their inspiration, future plans and how he feels about being part of the UK's brewing resurgence. Here's how he answered...

When was Harbour founded and what was the inspiration behind the brewery being started?
I was first introduced to ‘craft beer’ years ago in the States, drinking Pete’s Wicked Ales and from that point on, I always wanted to drink interesting beers. I was running my family’s pub and all we could get locally was really traditional British beer. Rhys was working just up the road at Sharp's and we had talked about wanting to put a brewery into the pub for ages. Then one day we both just decided it was the right time. A few beers later and Harbour Brewing Company was conceived.

What are the beers in Harbour's core range?
Our core range is still developing but at the moment it consists of:
Light Ale 3.7% (hoppy golden ale),
Amber Ale 4% (malt driven ale),
IPA 5% (British style IPA).

We are also just about to release a 5.5% Pilsner, which will be a permanent fixture in our core range. We wanted to make a traditional style Pilsner - so we have used all the traditional malts and hops you would expect and special yeast that we had propagated just for the job. It’s been maturing for just over 3 months and we are really happy with it. It’s going into keg and bottle next week, so keep your eyes open for it very soon.

What LTD edition beers are Harbour brewing at the moment?
We have been brewing Porter No.1 over the winter and a couple of different pale ales, but with spring in the air we have our minds set on our summer releases. We have Pale Ale No.4 going into bottle very soon, and it is easily the best pale we have brewed to date. Dry hopped with Citra, Simcoe and Centennial it has the bases covered when it comes to hop aroma and flavour, but it is really well balanced.

We have IPA No.2 coming out in March. Our core range IPA is really a session IPA, not too bitter or hoppy but IPA No.2 is designed to be a different beast. Higher IBUs and double dry hopped with some of our favorite American hops. We also have the first of our barrel-aged beer being released at the moment. Chocolate and Vanilla Imperial Stout aged in Jack Daniels’ barrels is now kegged whilst Aji Limon Pale Ale from Jim Beam barrels is due to be bottled at the end of March.

We have plenty of other casks aging some really interesting stuff, but it is ready when it is ready and we won’t be rushing it. I think the ones I’m really excited about are the Bordeaux barrels, which are nurturing a Lambic number we have been working on for a while.

What do you feel is the style that most defines what Harbour is about? 
It’s hard to say really. Rhys is all about dark beers, while I’m a pale ale man. Both of us chat about what we want to achieve with each beer and then we brew it. I think more than a certain style of beer, we are better defined as brewing well-balanced beers whatever the style.

How does it feel to be part of the resurgence in British brewing? 

It makes me really proud to be part of such a fantastic industry. It’s the people that make it special. We are all in it because we are passionate about beer. If you weren't, you simply wouldn't put up with the early mornings, late nights, general hard graft involved in brewing. It’s not just a job, it has to be a lifestyle choice and that takes a certain kind of person. Pretty much everyone we meet from the ‘craft beer’ industry is really friendly, massively passionate and always willing to help.

I love it when I go to a ‘craft beer’ bar, and hear people talking with passion about what they are drinking. I truly believe British brewers are creating some fantastic beers to rival anything in the world.

Harbour Amber Ale and IPA
American IPAs and Pale Ales have come to define the craft beer scene. Where do you think brewing innovation is likely to go next and are there any styles that you feel are likely to catch on in the near future?
It’s difficult to say if there will be another beer style that will be as well received as pale ales have been over the past couple of years. I think there is so much variety within the pale ale style that it will always be really popular. Year on year hops are getting better and just as importantly British brewers are getting access to the best hop growths. So I think you’ll see pales at the forefront of the industry for a while yet.

That said, consumers are becoming more willing to try different styles, which gives us the option to try more of a variety. Sour beers seem to be becoming more popular as are darker beers. I had real doubts about the viability of a Porter but it has been our second best seller over the past 4 months. Our Imperial Chocolate stout has been sold weeks before it is actually released. So to be honest I have no idea where the market is going, but if I had to put a bet on I would say Saisons.

What do you feel has been the impact of American and new world hops on the micro-brewing boom in the UK?
The impact has been huge. They are giving us the flavours we want and more importantly the flavours our customers want. I would love to support the UK hop growers, but as yet I’m yet to be convinced by any of the new hop varieties I have seen coming through.

More and more UK breweries are beginning to brew European beer styles such as Hefeweizen, Saisons and Vienna style lagers etc. Are there any European styles of beer that you would like to have a crack at brewing at Harbour? 
We are about to release 2 different Pilsners, originally named No.1 (4.9%) and No.2 (5.5%). We also have some Lambic beer aging at the moment. We will be releasing a Berliner Weisse in the summer.

Our new brewer is from Sweden and she has been working on some interesting new ideas with Rhys. She has a different take on things than we are used to, which is great.

What are the plans for growing Harbour and getting your beers into more bars and shops?
We are pretty stretched at the moment so we are just trying to keep up with demand. Export is going crazy for us right now with beers heading here, there and everywhere…from Sweden to Australia

Can you tell us about one new and exciting thing happening at Harbour at the moment... 
Everything is exciting. We have only just celebrated our first birthday so the novelty is still there in everything we do, with the exception of racking! But, I imagine you mean something more like the fact we are putting in our own bottling line so we can bottle more of our small batch beers. Almost forgot, I’m really excited we have been asked to brew a new beer for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular. I’m just not sure what we are going to brew yet!

Harbour's branding and label designs are instantly recognisable. What do you think is importance of a strong brand to go along with your beers?
I think it is really important to have a brand that gives an impression of what the brewery is all about. Something people can immediately recognise is a must, as long as the recognition is a positive one. We tried to make our branding clean and clear, stripped back but with subtle detail. We are really happy with our brand, but like all things we are contantly trying to develop it and make it better.

What do you feel are the beer styles that define the craft beer scene at the moment? 
Pale ales, Saisons and smoked beers

Do you have plans to be at any beer festivals this year? If so, which ones? 
We’re taking our beer out to the Washington DC Craft Brewers Conference at the end of March. We’ll be at the GABS festival in Melbourne in May, and we have been talking about the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival in the autumn but we’ll have to see about that one.  Closer to home we’ll be heading to the Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival, and we have been talking to the IndyMan guys, so hopefully we’ll be able to get up there towards the end of the year. There are some really great festivals popping up all over the country, but time is precious these days. If we feel the festival is right for us, we’ll make every effort to get there. So who knows…

English hop production isn't doing so well at the moment. Do you feel that there is space for highly hopped beers to be produced using just British hops? 
Yes, we just haven’t found the right hop for it yet.

Lots of breweries seem to be doing collaborations at the moment, do you have any plans to make any collaborative beers in the near future?
We have done a couple so far (Bristol Beer Factory and Arbor). They were great fun and also being such a young brewery, we learned huge amounts from brewing with more experienced brewers. We have some good friends in the industry and I’m sure we’ll get together with some of them at some point. There has been talk of something really exciting, but at the moment it is just talk.

A big thank you goes out to Eddie from Harbour for taking the time to answer my questions.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Siren Craft Brew to Launch

The last couple of years have seen the launch of some excellent new breweries. Next to join the burgeoning UK craft beer scene are Berkshire based Siren Craft Brew and the prospect has got me excited!

Based in Finchampstead, Siren are launching with a core range of four beers that will be available on both keg and cask. On 9 March, their beers will be officially launched across Craft Beer Co's four venues from 12pm, with guys from the brewery being on hand at the Clerkenwell branch to chat to punters about their brews.

It sometimes feels like there are breweries popping up like toadstools on a daily basis, so it's taking more for them to grab the attention of beer heads. These guys however have come up with a core range that sounds delicious. Of course I'm properly reserving judgement until I taste them, but on paper they've certainly got me interested.

Their four beers are as follows:

Liquid Mistress
This is a 5.8% ABV west coast bright red ale. Siren promise us "a biscuit and burnt raisin malt base with peach and grapefruit spark."

Soundwave promises to be a punchy hop bomb of an IPA. It has an ABV of 5.6% and is hopped with Citra, Simcoe, Chinook and Columbus.

This may well be the first brew if theirs that I seek out. It will be interesting see if this has the balance that I look for in an IPA alongside the huge whack of hops.

This looks to be their session beer offering. It's a pale ale with an ABV of 4.5% and is packed full of Cascade and Palisade hops. It uses 'part pale, part oats and part caramel barley' for its malt base. This will hopefully give this brew a really interesting character.

Broken Dream
Alongside the pale ale, the IPA and the red ale, it's great to see Siren having a crack a dark beer too. Broken Dream is 6% breakfast stout that promises 'a gentle touch of smoke, coffee and chocolate.' As you may have seen me say before on this blog, I think the brewing resurgence is creating some great dark beers as well as the pales and IPAs that get more attention. I looking forward to trying this stout, to see what they've achieved with it.

As more and more new breweries come to the party, it's essential that quality is kept high and the new brews are innovative and exciting. As more launch throughout the rest of 2013, it will be interesting to see which make a real impression. It's a positive early sign for Siren that Craft Beer Co are on board for their launch and that their local Camra branch have been getting excited about their cask offerings.

I'm sadly away on their launch day but I'll be tracking their brews down as soon as I can!

If you want to try any of Siren's beers on their launch day, they will be available at the Craft Beer Co venues in Brixton, Clerkenwell, Islington and Brighton from 12pm. Pop into Clerkenwell if you want to meet the brewers.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

And that was Craft Beer Rising...

A beer from Rebel Brewing
Over the weekend, hundreds of people descended on the old Truman Brewery building on Brick Lane for two days of craft beer, street food and music. It had all the promise of a great event, showcasing the vibrancy of the beer scene. Did it live up to that billing? In a word - yes!

If you've read this blog at all in the last few weeks, you may well have noticed that I've been pretty excited about Craft Beer Rising. There are of course lots of events that showcase interesting beer, but this one would bring together a whole diversity of breweries from tiny micros up to some big breweries who are experimenting with different styles.

For me, the success of the event was the fusion of old and new. Breweries such as Thwaites and Sharp's demonstrated why they're still relevant, whilst relative upstarts such as Two Cocks and Rebel Brewing got a piece of the action too.

I made a pretty good stab at trying a decent range of beers over the two days, but with the choice available there were of course many I would have liked to have tried but didn't get a  chance to.

For me there were two beers that really stole the show, both from very familiar breweries. The beautiful and refreshing Nelson Sauvin Saison from Meantime and Bath Ales Superweizen, which is a delicious and well crafted German style Hefeweizen. Both beers were excellent examples of their style and also demonstrate the growing trend for UK breweries to make European styles of beer. I'd love to see a lot more breweries having a go at a wheat beer. It would also seem fair to predict a number of new British Saisons being produced this year too.

A beer that I really have to mention is Black Beauty, the black IPA that was produced b the organisers in collaboration with the Lamb Brewery. It had a brilliant hoppy character and perfect jet-black appearance along with a slight tang from the horseradish that had been added, which was there as an impression rather than an overpowering flavour. It was a fun beer to accompany a great event.

There was a buzz in the air at Craft Beer Rising which is sometimes missing from other beer festivals. It did what it set out to achieve and brought together great beer, food and music. Now, let's raise a glass to future Craft Beer Rising events! Well done to all involved.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bar of the Month February: Beerd

In January, I decided to start writing a monthly feature on some of the best beer bars in the UK. I started with one of my favourite places; the Holborn Whippet and decided to ask around for suggestions from this month. So, after a couple of  suggestions on Twitter, I've chosen Bristol's Beerd.

Beerd is part of a growing scene of decent beer focused bars in Bristol. It's owned by Bath Ales, so naturally the selection features a number of their beers. On keg, you'll find Bath favourites such as Dark Side stout alongside other great craft and European beers. Expect Belgian and German offerings such as Palm and Flensburger.

On cask, there's Bath's own S.P.A (Special Pale Ale) alongside a healthy fridge full of bottles featuring amongst others Thornbridge, The Kernel, Flying Dog, Brooklyn and Goose Island.

A real plus point for Beerd is that all the whole draft selection is offered in one third, half, two thirds and pint glasses. So, if you want to get stuck into a couple of pints of your favourite brew you can, but equally if you want to work your way along the bar and still be able to walk out through the door at the end of it, that's also an option!

The funky interior at Beerd
Aside from the excellent beer range, Beerd has another piece of bait to lure you in with - its fine selection of pizzas. There's plenty of choice for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike and at the end of the day, great beer and pizza is always going to be a winning combination!

Not being in the Bristol area myself, I haven't yet checked out Beerd but I will make sure I do next time I'm in the area. Are you Bristol based and if so, what do you think of Beerd's selection and their food offerings?

I've left it a bit late in the month to do this piece, so I'll be picking a bar of the month for March pretty soon. Why not leave your suggestions as a comment below. Or tweet them to me: @thehoptimist1.

Beerd is at 157-159 St Michaels Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS2 8DB. It opens from 10am - 11pm daily. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Focus on: Wild Beer Co

Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis of Wild Beer Co
Wild Beer Co are a pretty new brewery, but they've quickly excited beer heads throughout the UK with their innovative and exciting beers. I spoke to Andrew Cooper from the brewery about their inspiration, their plans for the future and making sour beers. Here's what he had to say...

When was Wild Beer Co started and what was your inspiration for founding a brewery?
October 2012. We worked in the industry and wanted to do our own thing. We felt there was an opportunity to explore using yeast strains and ingredients that not many others were really using in the UK beer industry.

What are the beers in your core range?
We haven't decided on our core range yet, it depends what gets drunk, where demand is.

What limited edition beers are you producing at the moment?
We have lots of beers being aged at the moment.  There will be some interesting one-offs coming out through the year including Spellbound, a 100% brett fermented spelt beer that is currently being packaged. A very exciting collaboration is coming up very soon with a summer release for the beer.

What style of beer do you feel most defines what Wild Beer Co is about?
Our 'Modus Operandi' is an Old Ale aged in oak for 90 days with brettanomyces - that beer really defines us. The time, the oak ageing and the wild yeast.

You've brewed a number of Belgian style Saisons, what is it in particular that you love about producing this style of beer?
The character of the yeast excites and intrigues us, we think it works well with other flavours, making interesting complex beers. 

A fine selection of Wild Beer Co brews.
Alongside yourselves, lots of other UK breweries are branching out into other European styles of beer including Saisons, wheat beers, Doppelbocks and in some cases sour beers. What do you think is the influence of European beers styles on current brewing innovation in the UK, and are there any other of these styles that you'd like to produce?
Our first proper sour will hopefully be out in the summer. I think with so many breweries in this country now, you have to look for your own niche in the market. When we create a beer we don't start talking about styles of beer, we look at what flavours we want to create. We will then look at sourcing the ingredients we need to achieve that and the style it ends up falling into is fairly irrelevant to us.

What do you feel has been the impact of the increased use of American and new world hops on the beers produced in the UK?
The evidence is out there... Little more than 5 years ago there was hardly a big flavoured IPA being brewed in the country and now they are everywhere. It has helped bring with it more excitement in the industry, more choice, more breweries, more competition, more creativity, more beer retailers and really good beer-centric bars. It's all been very positive.

What plans do you have for growing the Wild Beer Co and getting your beers into more bars and shops in the future?
We want to work with people who get excited about our beer. There are no plans for supermarkets or to flood the market. Our beers are niche, that will keep our growth in check. We may well export some beer and we'll see how the demand grows - it's very early days for us.

Wild Beer Co has a very distinctive and striking brand. What do you think is the importance of your brand to communicating to drinkers what you're all about?
We felt that generally speaking, beer branding in this country leaves a lot to be desired. We believe consumers buy into the whole package. With so many beers to choose from standing out on the shelf branding is important, but it is ultimately taste that makes people buy a second or third beer. By using a costly screen printing technique for our bottles and a strong logo, it shows a level of care and creativity that hopefully follows through with the beer. 

What do you think can be added to a beer by using an additional flavour or a 'wild' fifth ingredient?
Complexity, intrigue, difference. When we think of the concept for a beer we start with a flavour profile, and then we try to work out how to get to those flavours. We believe in using the finest ingredients, as you taste what goes into the beer. With Wildebeest, we could have used bog standard cocoa nibs and vanilla essence, but we spoke to people who are experts with these ingredients and ended up scraping out 500 vanilla pods and sourcing the finest Valrhona cocoa nibs. When we taste it, we feel we can taste the difference.

What for you has been the impact of the growth in specialist beer bars such as Craft Beer Co, The York Tap and The Euston Tap etc?
It has raised the profile of the smaller esoteric brewery, taking beers from all over the country to a growing market of consumers who want to try new and exciting flavours in their beer. 

Tell us about an exciting development happening at Wild Beer Co at the moment...
A lot of our time at the moment is being taken up by oak and sour beer. Hopefully in the summer the first results will be available to taste...

Our Beer & Cheese Festival at the end of April is also going to be the first of many such events.

British hops seem to be in decline at the moment. Do you feel that there is a place for hop-heavy beers made using British hops?
It's a complicated topic and it's easy to blame the brewers for not using British hops, but we need a wide variety of flavours available to us or we go back to the time of endless best bitters.

The industry has moved a long way very quickly, and the number of varieties and range of flavours in them is quite small compared to foreign varieties. Other varieties are being developed but it takes a while and the hop industry might have been a little slow in reacting to what was happening in other parts of the world. We need to work together to develop hops and beers that will both use British hops but excite the drinker as well.

What does it feel like to be part of the micro-brewing resurgence in currently happening in the UK?
It's an exciting time. I love how close an industry we are. I am excited to see and hear what our contemporaries are doing, and they seem to be pretty excited about our project too.

What do you think is the continuing influence of the American craft beer scene on brewing innovation in the UK?
I think there is influence from all over the world, not just the US. We personally take influence not just from other breweries but from other food and drink producers and chefs as well.

Are you likely to be at many beer festivals in 2013? If so, which ones?
As we only do kegs and bottles, we are unlikely to be at that many festivals but we are looking forward to going back to IMBC this year. We will let you know the ones we will be at on

Lots of breweries are doing collaborations at the moment. Do you have any plans to collaborate with other breweries in the future?
We are honoured to have Mark Tranter (from Dark Star) and Kelly Ryan (formerly of Thornbridge, now brewing in New Zealand) joining us for an exciting brewday in March. We are using techniques and ingredients that are new to all of us, and in true collaborative style, it's all about learning and experimenting.

A massive thank you to Andrew from Wild Beer Co for answering my questions. Next up: Harbour!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Black Beauty and Craft Beer Rising

At the end of this week, Craft Beer Rising will be taking place at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. As well as the many fine beers that the exhibitors will be bringing along, the organisers have teamed up with the Lamb Brewery in Chiswick to make a very special beer.

One of the festival's organisers (Sam Lloyd) visited the Lamb to brew something interesting and exciting for the festival. What they've created is 'Black Beauty,' a Black IPA (or India Black Ale if you prefer). It's a style of beer that is currently very popular.

They took their inspiration from fine examples of the style such as Windsor and Eaton's Conqueror, Thornbridge's Raven and Beavertown's Black Betty. They wanted to produce a dark beer, but not one with the associations that some people who are newer to dark beer styles may have of stouts and porters as being thick and heavy. So, a BIPA with its lighter mouthfeel and combination of maltiness and real hop character was just what they were after.

Sam from Craft Beer Rising brewing Black Beauty
It's been brewed with a combination five light and dark malts. The hop selection is Amarillo, Citra and Galaxy for aroma and Galena for bittering. To give an extra twist of spiciness and warmth, they've added horseradish which was chosen as a more unusual alternative to using chilli.

As you can see from the top image with this article, the name and logo design for the beer are tongue in cheek, fun and very current! It will be available at the event on keg and in a very limited edition run of fifty bottles. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the beer will be going to charity.

Personally, I think it's a great idea brewing a beer specifically for the event and also choosing a style of this sort makes it a bit more unusual. They've also promised that if it goes down well, that it could be brewed again to make appearances on Craft Beer Rising stalls at events and festivals throughout the summer.

I can't wait to try Black Beauty as it sounds like it should be delicious. Just be warned, if I like it as much I think I will, the fifty bottles may not be around very long!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Joy of Single Hop Beers

The Kernel's Amarillo pale ale
The other night, over a bottle of Amarillo pale ale from The Kernel, I started thinking about how much I like single hop beers. They're a great way to really get to know and understand the flavour profile of a particular hop. 

The bulk of beers obviously contain a combination of hops, with each variety providing different flavours and characteristics. Some are used more for adding aroma whilst others add a grassy or resinous quality and some are used to give a big whack of citrus fruit.

Most of us are familiar at least with a few hop varieties, particularly the American hops such as Centennial, Citra, Cascade and Amarillo and new world varieties including Mouteka and Nelson Sauvin. Together they create blends of flavour, each bringing something different to the party.

But if you want to get beyond just knowing that you like hoppy beers beers and being able to name check a few varieties, drinking single hop beers is perfect. They act as platform, letting the profile of the hop really shine through. Thornbridge Kipling is a beer that really elevates the complex flavours of one variety; the beautiful New Zealand hop Nelson Sauvin. It has a grassy, fruity quality to it and a real passion fruit edge. It's a prime example of beer that lets a single hop strain steal the show.

Brewdog's 'IPA is Dead' single hop series
Oakham Ales make Citra, which (you guessed it!) contains Citra hops. it's pungent with grapfruit, lychee and gooseberry. An excellent demonstration of this brilliant hop. Throughout last year, Martson's produced a different single hop beer each month, whilst breweries such as London Fields and Brewdog have also made excellent single hop limited edition beers.

Personally I can't think of a better way to understand the nature of a hop than to drink a beer that is a platform for its own particular flavour. We now have a a huge range of different hop strains being used in British beer, so it's a great time to get to know them better.

I'd also love to see more breweries bringing out limited edition ranges of single hop beers. Brewdog produced a beer with the HBC hop which drew attention to a variety that few of us were familiar with. It would be great to see other breweries doing similar things; drawing attention to new and interesting hops and helping drinkers to understand and enjoy them.

What are your favourite single hop beers? Why not let me know.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Looking Forward to Craft Beer Rising

A tasty beer from Rebel Brewing
Craft Beer Rising festival is set to take over Brick Lane's Truman Brewery building on 22/23 Feb and guess what? It looks awesome!

The festival is designed as a celebration of great beer, street food and music. The list of breweries exhibiting is both exciting and varied, featuring British brewers including BrewdogThornbridge, Bath Ales and Harviestoun alongside international offerings including Duvel and Fordham amongst others (full list below). 

The event will be split into a room of cask and a room of keg beer alongside various bottled offerings.A range of meat and vegetarian street food stalls will also pitch up to serve tasty treats.

Alongside the mouthwatering beer and food offerings, there will be entertainment including DJs such as the legendary Norman Jay and Pete Paphides of 6Music.

The event looks like a must for anyone who loves decent beer and can get into London for the weekend. It will showcase a huge range of both cask and keg beer, focusing on quality rather than dispense method as some beer festivals do. It's also a massive bonus to have the breweries pouring their own beers; making the event one big meet the brewer session!

The old Truman Brewery plays host to Craft Beer Rising
The organisers have produced a Black IPA (or India Black Ale if you prefer!) in collaboration with London's Lamb Brewery especially for the event. It should be well worth checking out as it's been loaded with Galaxy, Citra, Amarillo and Galena hops. 

For those who like a beer cocktail (personally not my thing, but each to their own!), award winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana will be whipping up some interesting beery concoctions.

I'm already really excited about Craft Beer Rising. It should be a celebration of what's great about brewing at the moment alongside some tasty treats and top music too!

The list of breweries confirmed to date is as follows: 
Bath Ales, Batemans, Boxsteam, Boutique Beer Brands, Brains Craft Brewery,Brentwood, Brewdog, Brewers & Union, Brupond, CellarMaster Distribution, Curious Brew (Chapel Down Wines), Elephant School, Fernandes, Fullers as The Union Tavern, Glastonbury, Harviestoun, Hogs Back, Hook Norton, Meantime, Oakham,Offbeat, Ossett, Penpont, Raw, Red Squirrel, The Rebel, Riverhead, Saltaire, Sharps, Signature Brew, St Austell, SunnyRepublic, The Old Cannon, The Rat, Thistly Cross Cider, Thornbridge, Thwaites, Traquair House, Vale, Youngs (Onlyshowcasing Double Choc Stout). Plus Belgian brewery Duvel Moorgat and American breweries Fordham and Old Dominion.

Craft Beer Rising is at the Old Truman Brewery,91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL on 22/23 February. Tickets can be bought in advance here.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Beavertown America F*ck Yeah Pumpkin Ale

Beavertown America F*ck Yeah
London's Beavertown are brewery that are pretty hard to ignore right now. They make some fantastic beers including 8 Ball which is a rye IPA and a delicious smoked porter called Smog Rocket. After trying these, I was instantly intrigued by America F*ck Yeah, their spiced American Pumpkin ale. 

We don't generally do pumpkin ales in this country, they're very much an American thing. Often released as an Autumn seasonal beer, everyone from Dogfish Head to Brooklyn and Stone have had a crack at Pumpkin ales.

I must admit, I've tried a couple of pumpkin ales that I wasn't keen on. The taste can often be confused overwhelmed by spice. It turns out I just needed to find the right one!

America F*ck Yeah is a damn fine beer. The addition of pumpkin to the mash lends it a warm earthy quality and contributes to the beautiful hazy orange colour of the beer. The best thing about this beer is its balance. There's a presence from the hops but there's also the hearty pumpkin flavour alongside a touch of sweets from the malts and just enough spice.

The beer has a beautiful aromatic quality to it, with hints of ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Every element of America F*ck Yeah's flavour profile is perfectly balanced against each other. It's a brilliantly comforting drink for the Autumn or winter and makes a nice change from using a darker beer for the same purpose.

The range of different beers being produced by microbreweries in the UK at the moment is expanding all the time. From Wild Beer Co's Saisons to Thornbridge's Vienna Lager and Camden Town's wheat beers; breweries are making distinctive takes on European and American beer styles. America F*ck Yeah is for me a beer that builds on this spirit of innovation that we have in the UK brewing scene at the moment.

Personally, I'd like to see a lot more breweries having a crack at an American pumpkin ale. It's easy for a brewery to get this style wrong by having the spicy flavours out of balance with the other elements elements of the beer. This is however, something that Beavertown has definitely managed to avoid.

There are still a few bottles of America F*ck Yeah kicking around but it is a limited edition beer, so it may now be hard to find. However, if we show Beavertown how much want them to, then they may just brew it again!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Focus on: Moor Brewery

Justin Hawke at Moor Brewery
Somerset's Moor Brewery has become a firm favourite with beer fans, for the varied range of well balanced, beautifully flavoursome unfiltered beers. I asked Justin Hawke from the brewery a few questions to find out a bit more about their inspiration and future plans.

When was Moor Brewery founded and what was the inspiration for it being started up?
Basically it was another pipe dream set up on a shoestring in the back of a cow shed, run poorly by someone who should have never entered the trade, and failed. We brought the pieces out of a pretty large hole in 2007 and began the uphill climb to help bring excitement back to the British brewing scene. 

My passion for beer hunting, real ale, and experimentation came from my Dad and the gospel as written by Michael Jackson. My realisation that I could actually make beer myself came from a homebrewer. I was lucky enough to live in Germany for a couple of years which started my thirst for unfined natural beer, and then returned to California during the microbrewery boom which gave me my love of hops. 

Of all the places I travelled, I liked the UK the best and decided this is where I wanted to brew. When the remains of Moor Beer were advertised I put on rose-coloured glasses and started it up again, creating modern, hop-forward beers in the real ale tradition.  As quickly as the market would bear, we started the unfined natural beer movement as well as keg-conditioning.  Most of what we did was a few years too early for the British market, but with the help of some great supporters we helped progress the scene.  It’s not been until the past 12 months or so that I feel the British brewing scene has become exciting again, with some great pubs and great breweries.  We’re really pleased to be part of it.

 What are the beers in your core range?
I think that really depends which angle you look at it from. We distribute beer around the world, and every region has different preferences.  Looking at the British draught beer market it would be Revival, Nor’Hop and Raw.  Most export markets tend to favour stronger beers like Hoppiness, Old Freddy Walker and JJJ. 

A selection of Moor Brewery bottles
What limited edition beers are you brewing at the moment?
We released the 2012 vintage of Fusion a little while ago, along with our annual release of Sloe Walker.  Coming up we’ve got JJJ, a couple of fun collaborations planned and will be revisiting Dark Alliance. This started as a collaboration but we loved it so much that we decided to bring it back once or twice a year so we’ve got something fresh for ourselves to drink.

 What beer style do you feel most defines what Moor is all about?
Without wanting to sound too vague, I would say flavour forward, modern hoppy ales (in the traditional sense of being top-fermented).  As much as I love sour beers and quality lagers of all styles, we’ll leave those to other brewers.

You produce an 'English IPA' (Somerland Gold) - do you think that there is more room for creativity with English hops within the brewing scene at the moment?
Although some call Somerland Gold an English IPA I’m not sure I’d classify it that way.  I haven’t used English hops in that beer for years, and the term IPA gets people so emotive right now.  With regards to English hops, traditional breeds do not generally contain the level of intensity expected by contemporary IPA drinkers. That’s just a fact.  Our climate and growing conditions are different here to say the US or Australia.  There is one exception, which is Jester, the new hop being bred by Charles Faram Hop Developments

We were exceedingly honoured to be asked by them to trial what little was available last year.  The hop smelled intense and modern on the rub, but it was critical to see how it would perform in a production sized brew.  We used over half of the crop in a modern English IPA, appropriately named Empire Strikes Back.  We, along with our distributors Liberty Beer and of course the developer Charles Faram, put a lot of effort and money into marketing what was really a one off brew, with the intention of raising the profile of the British hop industry.  The hop yielded some fantastic results, with many people describing them as tropical, citrusy and ‘not traditionally English’.  This bodes well for the potential future of the British hop industry.  Couple that with the great beers that some of the new British breweries are producing and hopefully that will bring excitement and attention back to both British hops and British beers.
Your selection of beers seems to combine elements of tradition (producing a best bitter, English hopped beers etc) with elements modern American inspired craft brewing. Is fusing the old and new in this way one of your aims when producing beer? 
Fusing old and new is important to creating intensely flavoured, thoroughly enjoyable and balanced beers.  I don’t mean balanced in the bland, boring way, which is how it had been used for too long.  It’s easy to throw hops in a kettle and brew an unbalanced, exceedingly bitter, unenjoyable beer.  If you don’t have a global context, respect for tradition and desire for continual improvement then you’re shooting in the dark.  A Best Bitter doesn’t have to be ‘boring and brown’, it’s just been brewed that way for so long that many people gave up on it in preference to golden ales.  Beer styles are a double edged sword. They help set expectation but can be limiting if you try to adhere to them rigidly.  So we look forward and have one eye on the rear view mirror.  After all, the world would be a much worse place without the Black IPA (or whatever you want to call it)!

All of your beers are unfined. What was the reason for your decision to produce exclusively unfined beer? And, do you feel that British drinkers are getting more used to drinking unfined beer? 
As mentioned, my love for unfined natural beer originated from my time living in Germany.  I had never smelled or tasted beers so fresh and vibrant.  I’m not talking about just wheat beers, but primarily the natural helles and dunkels that you get in German brewpubs.  The cloudiness never phased me.  Why should it?  That’s the way it was designed and served.  And of course no one is going to tell the Germans they don’t know how to brew!  I was used to seeing things floating in bottles anyway when my Dad would bring home Sierra Nevada in the early days.  Seeing something in the beer always left the impression that what I was drinking was wholesome and good, much the same way that drinking orange juice with bits in just feels right.  When I got back to California IPA’s were all the rage.  Clear ones were ok.  Hazy ones were better.  Opaque ones were best.  I knew how good the Pliny I was poured was going to be before it was even in my hand.  Sometimes it was bright, sometimes it was like orange juice.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind which was bigger and better in every respect.

When I got to the UK and was told I had to put fish guts (sorry, isinglass finings) in my beer it didn’t feel right.  All the beer I drank for ‘quality control’ was unfined.  And it always tasted so much better than what I would get in the pub.  From a technical perspective the extra yeast adds body and flavour, and as hop oils coat yeast cells, it provides an additional level of hop to the aroma and flavour.  There can be too much of a good thing.  No one wants to drink the dregs out of a cask.  How much is too much?  That’s personal preference. 

British drinkers are getting more used to drinking naturally hazy beers.  Most quite honestly don’t care what a beer looks like.  It’s just that they’ve been told it should be clear.  When told it doesn’t need to be clear, most people are more than happy, especially once they’ve tasted the beer.  We may have kicked off the unfined natural beer movement in the UK, but there are loads of great breweries out there doing it now.  When they tell us we add them to our site.

 Tell us about something new or exciting happening at Moor at the moment...
We’re still coming off the high of the Empire Strikes Back / Jester project.  There is a balance to be kept between doing fun stuff and nurturing brands.  I’m not interested in some guys ‘latest creation’ consisting of leftover malt, stale hops and tired ideas.  Yeah, you brewers know what I’m talking about, that 'what should I do with this' moment.  It’s great to try a new beer, just like it’s great to get a new album from your favourite band.  But when you see the band live you want them to play your old favourites.  We really love our old favourites (particularly Nor’Hop) and thankfully loads of people do, too.  That being said, I’ve got a wicked idea for something I want us to do in the summer…    

What are the plans for growing Moor in the coming months/years and trying to get your beers into more bars and shops?
I really detested the old breed of beer wholesalers, so wouldn’t work with them.  As the market has moved on, new ones have come along with a fresher approach to distribution. We’ve started partnering with people like Liberty Beer.  The word partner was one of those words you used to be able to play business bingo with, but as there is really no money in beer the people serious about it tend to have mutual passion and do really develop true working partnerships.  This is helping us grow now throughout the UK and across the world.

 What does it feel like to be part of the resurgence in British brewing?
Of course it’s a great feeling, albeit perhaps a bit surreal when someone from my background stands up in front of the brewing industry and encourages them to change deeply held beliefs.  I love being part of a national, and international, community of great people driving change through things like natural beer, keg conditioning, and new yeast and hop varieties.

 What has the growth in speciality craft beer bars meant for you as a brewery?
Moor Brewery's Hoppiness
They have made a huge difference to the scene in the past 12 months or so.  Without them, we wouldn’t have ‘craft keg’ in the UK, and many styles we brew would have to be export only.  When we started selling our IPA’s years ago there weren’t enough outlets to justify keeping the beer in stock.  Freshness is key.  The beer ecosystem is incomplete without them. That being said, beer is for everyone, not just beer geeks.  It’s important that good beer is available everywhere, and that craft beer bars don’t become the preserve of the well-funded neurotic navel gazer.  I love it most when a non-beer drinker comes up to me and says, “wow, I never knew beer could taste like that!”

 What do you think has been the impact of American and new world hops on the UK brewing scene?
New world hops gave British brewing the kick up the backside it needed to wake up and enter the modern world.

Lots of UK breweries are broadening the range of styles they produce to take in things like hefeweizen, wit beers and Vienna lagers amongst many others. Do you have plans to try any new styles at the moment?
There are things we play with and things we leave to others.  If there is a beer I’m itching to drink and I think we can make a difference to the style then we’ll brew it.  A couple years ago I really wanted to drink a session strength Black IPA so we created Illusion.  I love smoked beers and rye beers so we did Smokey Horyzon.  Same with a nice hoppy stout, which we collaborated with Arbor Ales and Clifton Coffee on to create Dark Alliance.  This year I’ve got ideas to play with smoke, rye, and yeast more – not necessarily all at the same time!  And we’ll of course keep very close to developments in the hop world.

 Are Moor intending to be at any beer festivals this year and if so, which ones?
The local ones are the Maltings and Minehead.  I know we’ve got stuff going to festivals in various countries – Spain, Norway, Sweden and Australia spring to mind, although I’m sure that’s just the tip of the Iceberg.  There are big plans for Edinburgh this year, and there are some really cool discussions being had about something in London that will blow your mind if you’re brave enough to enter.  I’ve got an idea for something special but whether I can find the time to pull it together in 2013 is questionable.  The bottom of the ocean has been done so maybe we’ll try something on the moon.

It seems very fashionable to make collaborative beers at the moment. Do you have any plans to collaborate with other brewers in the future?
A collaboration has to have a purpose and yield something uniquely worthwhile, otherwise the consumer is just paying for people to play, and as much fun as it is to play, it doesn’t add any value.  In my mind the best example of a collaboration is Schneider Brooklyn Hopfen-Weisse.  What an amazing beer, where you really get the sense of how each brewer added value, and how the collection was so much more than the sum of the parts.  Although perhaps not as style defining, we thought our Dark Alliance with Arbor was a world class beer and look forward to doing the return brew with them soon.  Likewise, we made a really great connection with Beavertown and have some fun stuff planned.  There was a fun discussion one evening about a JJJJ, and there’s a great story to it.  I’d like to see that come to life.

 Many thanks to Justin for his fantastic answers. This is one of a series of posts showcasing particular breweries. You can catch up on my previous entries here. The next one will feature the brilliant Wild Beer Co.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Focus on: Tiny Rebel

Tiny Rebel's bear. Photo - Beer Lens
Since launching, Tiny Rebel has been hard for many beer fans to ignore. They produce a core range of beers with quirky names, eye catching packaging and above all else; great taste. I asked Gazz and Brad, the guys beyond the brewery a few questions. Here's how they replied...

When was Tiny Rebel started and what was the inspiration for founding the brewery?
Me (Gazz) and Brad began our brewing career as keen home brewers, who started taking our beer a lot more seriously.We then started creating beer that was better than what we were currently drinking in pubs around South Wales. We became so passionate about our hobby that we then, back in 2010, decided that in 2012 we were going to launch our own microbrewery. We spent the 2 years continuously research and development brewing on a 50 litre system, creating our branding and doing all the bits in-between.

What are the beers in Tiny Rebel's core range?
Our Core range consists off FUBAR 4.4% , Urban IPA 5.5%  (both being our flagship beers) Cwtch 4.6%, Billabong 4.6%, The Full Nelson 4.8%, Dirty Stop Out 5%  and Hadouken 7.4%

What beers style do feel sums up what Tiny Rebel is about most?
Anything tasty! We don’t really concentrate on any particular styles or fashion beers.  This year we'll be releasing a few continental classic styles as well some barrel ageing.

Tiny Rebel's branding and marketing is very distinctive, what inspired the look of the pump clips and labels etc?
Tiny Rebels branding for us is just as important as the beer! With me and Brad being 31 & 25, we wanted an image that portrayed us and our interests.

A lot of breweries are exploring European styles like hefeweizen, wit beers and kolsch to name just three. Are there any European styles of beer that you would like to produce at Tiny Rebel?
Tiny Rebel's brewery bar. Photo - Beer Lens
We do have a soft spot for European styles, especially Belgian, so there are plans for a Belgian Golden Strong Ale in the coming weeks. We just love the authentic malts & specialist yeast strains that are used in these styles of beer.

How does it feel to be a part of the brewing resurgence in the UK?
The UK brewing scene is very exciting at the moment with all the new microbreweries around. The never ending choice for the consumer is fantastic, its what beer is all about…Choice! It also pushes breweries to different levels in order to stay at the top of their game, which again is great for everyone!

What do you feel is the style that defines the craft beer scene?
Craft? What's Craft? We find the most popular beer styles at the moment are IPA's and US Pale Ales. Saisons do seem to be becoming ever more popular along with a small but strong following for the lambic styles. Oh and anything that can go into an oak barrels!

You guys have recently opened a bar at the brewery. How's the bar doing and what does it mean for you to have the punters come to you?
Making our brewery as accessible and as welcoming as possible has always been important to us. We feel that we can use it to help educate people and help them appreciate the hard work that goes into producing beer on a small scale. We love holding tours & open days, but with small breweries like ours there isn’t much to show after the brew area. So we thought that there was no better way to fully experience a microbrewery than to be able to chill out on a mezzanine bar area overlooking the whole brewery while drinking brewery fresh beer.

What has the growth in specialist beer bars like The Craft Beer Co and other meant for Tiny Rebel?
The brewery's set-up. Photo - Beer Lens
Huge! Consumer demand has driven these newer style bars, where people can enjoy the varied beers on offer. These new style bars also offer something different from the traditional style pubs, which is great for beer drinkers! Without these new bars, I guess there wouldn't be as many new microbreweries opening.

Tell us about a an exciting new development at Tiny Rebel
Expansion, new beers & an Ice Cream Van!!!

What are your plans for growing the brewery and getting Tiny Rebel's beers into more bars and shops?
Back in April 2012 we set up the brewery with 2 FVs (fermentation vats) and 2 CTs (conditioning tanks) and now 10 months down the line we have 3 FVs 4 CTs with 2 more FVs on order that will bee arriving in the about 6 weeks time. We currently have a great customer base that we unfortunately struggle to supply week in week out due to demand so the 2 additional FV's will help our stock levels massively by allowing us to not sacrifice our cask production as we continue to develop our bottle and keg products.

Which beer festivals will you be attending this year?
We will have a bar as usual at the Great Welsh Beer festival this June, with a few more surprises than last years!

What do you think the use of American and new world hops has meant for the UK beer scene and more specifically for Tiny Rebel?
Massive effect! Again it comes down to the more choice the better. All 4 types of hops: English, Noble, US & Aus/NZ have their place to make certain styles of beer. All as good as each other in their own unique way.

English hop production hasn't been going so well in recent years. Do you feel there is space for a super hoppy pale ale or IPA using only English hops?
Like any hop, they can be overused if not careful. If you're looking for a huge citrus floral hop slap in the face, then its US hops and this style of hoppy beers seem to be the most popular at the moment. Great beers are being made with English hops but they are much more subtle & refined compared to the US. New styles of British hops are being introduced, so hopefully this can pick their market up.

There seem to be a lot of collaborations happening between breweries at the moment. Do you have any plans to make collaborative beers with other breweries or is it something that you would consider doing?
We have not yet collaborated with any breweries at the moment due to being so busy. There are a few out of the ball park collaborations in the pipeline but it's all tight lips at the moment.

And Finally... I recently tried your Smoked India Ale 'Hot Box' and thought it was great - might this be brewed again in the future?
Our 'Tiny Batch Editions' are specifically created as one offs but we'll never say never.

A massive thank you to Gazz and Brad for taking the time to answer my questions. Next up, I'll be speaking to Justin from Moor brewery.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Pint vs Schooner

A pint and a schooner
A couple of years ago Brewdog helped get an old measures law changed, meaning that beer can be served in 2/3 of a pint 'schooners.' Anyone whose been to one of Brewdog's bars will be familiar with schooners as a number of their mid-strength beers are served in them, but few other bars have taken to serving a schooner of your favourite brew. 

Personally, I quite like having a schooner of beer and I own a Brewdog one. It's a little more than a half and it has a nice weight to it. I think in bars, it does make sense to serve beers of 6-8% ABV in schooners and I'd love to see it offered in more establishments.

When Brewdog Shoreditch recently had one of The Kernel's IPAs as a guest, a schooner was just the right volume to drink it in, particularly after the first two pints of Dead Pony Club that I'd consumed.

Of course nothing beats ordering a nice pint in a pub at the end of a hard day, but I do think that the way we view beer is changing and it makes sense to sell particular beers in appropriate quantities. Some of the really strong beers that are available such as Brewdog's Tokyo (18% ABV) make sense to be served in 1/3 of a pint.
The beers that brought you the post

I have a small range of glassware, certainly not a huge collection, but a few options for drinking beer from. Now, I'm not one to obsess about matching a specific beer to a certain glass but several options can only be a good thing.

I first encountered schooners when I visited Australia a few years ago. It's certainly not a replacement for the humble pint but just a different way to consume beer. The more that the range of beers being produced and consumed in the UK increases, the more people will continue to consider the way that they are consumed.

It can only be a good thing, if we can get away from the view held by a lot of people that beer is just a drink with a 4% ABV, designed to be thrown back by the pint as quickly as humanly possible.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Brüpond Ain'cho Mum's Porter

Brüpond Ain'cho Mum's Porter
When Brüpond opened for business, they were joining an increasing crowded London brewing scene alongside some hugely inventive breweries. Their aim from the off has been to stand out, not for gimmicky brews but for genuinely unusual and interesting beers.

With that in mind, they've created Ain'cho Mum's Porter which is infused with chilli. The colour is what you'd expect, a brownish black with a hint of deep cherry red if you hold it up to the light. It pours with minimal head and immediately releases a bitter dark chocolate aroma.

The taste does follow the nose, with the chocolate ever present. Alongside this, there is a hint of cherry sweetness and caramel that gives way to wood smoke and spice. The chilli comes in on the finish. It's definitely there but not overwhelmingly so. It provides an excellent counterbalance to the sweetness from the malt and the chocolate character.

It has a decent, rounded body and mouthfeel and a character that develops on the palate. This is certainly an interesting beer with a character that changes and develops as you drink it, but its probably not one I'll come back too particularly often.

It's an interesting take on a familiar style and I definitely think it does what it sets out to achieve which is matching up the complex bitter chocolate and smokiness of the porter with the chili finish. But for me personally, I would would more readily pick up The Kernel's Export India Porter or Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil. That's not to say I don't like it, just that I can't see if becoming on of the dark beers I drink regularly. However, it has left me intrigued. It's the first of their beers that I've tried and I'm sure I will give it another go.

Alongside Ain'cho Mum's Porter, they also produce Tip Top Hop which is a continually hopped IPA and Sweet Bee which is a honeyed wheat beer. On the strength of Ain'cho Mum's Porter I'd definitely be up for trying these two and any new beers that they may produce.

Its great to see more breweries joining the craft beer scene and producing interesting brews, even if like Ain'cho Mums they're beers I wouldn't choose to drink the whole time.