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 wildbeerco.com

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.