I can’t make up my mind what I think about breweries taking over other breweries beer. Part of me likes the fact that I can have a pint of Reverend James or Old Speckled Hen despite the fact that Buckley’s and Morland respectively don’t exist anymore. Somehow though, it just doesn’t feel quite right- it’s the idea of big business taking the successful beers and getting rid of the rest that doesn’t sit well with me.
I think I could cope with the idea of the original brewery sites running but owned by someone else but when a beer moves physical brewery that doesn’t seem right. I know the recipe stays the same and the key bits are yeast, the hops and the malted barley, which should all stay the same, and the only change will be the water.
I’ll leave brewers to debate how much difference the water makes to the taste but to take the recipe and then badge a beer as your own doesn’t sit will with me. It takes a bit of inspection looking at a Revered James clip to see the only reference to Buckley’s Brewery- it’s in the full name of the brewer that created it- Revered James Buckley. I’m sure he’d glad that his beer is still being brewed long after his passing but would he be happy knowing that it’s no longer the brewery that bears his name brewing it?
I’m sure we used to call beer tasting “going down the pub” but with the growth in craft beer these events are becoming more popular. I do like beer tasting- clearly drinking beer being the best part of appreciating it. Apart from the obvious drinking beer bit though, I do enjoy the discussion about that beer. There is a culture emerging with craft beer that people are talking about beer and it is becoming less niche to talk about what hops were used, whether or not they were part of the brew or added as a dry hop.
People are becoming more discerning about their beer and I find it fascinating to hear some of the back stories about how some of the beers were created. I was at a beer tasting at Small Bar in Cardiff recently and was hearing about the Rainbow Project which pairs breweries that come together to brew some experimental brews. I did enjoy trying West Fork Saison by Partizan Brewery who we visited in 2015 on the Bermondsey Beer Mile and New Belgium, who in contrast I’d never heard of!
We also had a (slightly heated!) debate about Buriel Vault, described as a “white stout”, brewed by Burning Sky and 3 Floyds as part of the same Rainbow Project. I can just about cope with the idea that a stout doesn’t have to be dark (well maybe..) but at the very least, it would have to taste like a stout. If someone were to create a beer using the right combination of flavours so that in a blind taste I would think it was a dark stout colour, then maybe I’d accept that as a white stout. A beer that tastes very much of the wooden barrel it was in and not of a rich malt, I’m afraid is not a stout. But the good news is that we live in a world where we can have that kind of a debate with fellow beer lovers!
A trip with two brewery tours deserves two blogs and we start with the first brewery of our annual trip, Theakston. Back in the 19th century, pubs would brew generally brew their own beer until the government encouraged beer drinking (including among children!) with the Beer Act in 1830. Robert Theakson took advantage of this and started expanding the brewing side of his business to sell to other local pubs. From there we get classic beers like Theakston’s Best Bitter and the famous (but deadly if you have a few!) Old Peculiar. There is something about having a beer that hasn’t travelled far and brewery tours are perfect for that. I did enjoy an Old P that close to the brewery, although it was only a third- partly to try a variety but also because it’s quite strong, it was just after the 11am tour and we had Black Sheep Brewery to follow!
We like a traditional brewery and one of the things we most enjoyed about Theakston was right at the end where we discovered that they still employ a cooper making wooden casks by hand! If I understood the technicalities correctly, they are the only brewery in the country that has a hand craft cooper and he still makes casks that are used for the aforementioned Old P. The further good news is that he has an apprentice, which means the tradition will continue, which we thought was fantastic- highly recommend a tour of Theakston!
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We will soon be off on our annual trip, to Yorkshire this year, for trip nine. It continues to be remarkable to those of us that were there for the start (photo above is the first trip) that a daft idea like this is still going. The point of our annual trip of course is to hear the announcement of where we are going the following year. Each member in turn gets to chose where we go the following year, what is amazing is that the group continues to grow and so no member yet has had a second choice.
This year, Paul of Norfolk (possible hint there as to where he might take us!) will be announcing the location of our tenth trip. This years feature pub is the Black Sheep, which is the pub attached to Black Sheep Brewery in Masham and it is there (after two brewery tours earlier in the day!) that we find out where we are going in 2018. What this also does is give me an excuse to write a blog where I can include the photo’s from the eight trips to date. What I love when you see them in sequence is how you can see the membership grow over the years as our daft idea spreads!
Call me an old git (I’m imagining at this point many readers are doing just that…) and I think I’ve been an old git pretty much since birth but I do like my beer to taste of beer. Hops, brewers liquor, malted barley and yeast = beer. It’s a simple idea that has worked for thousands of years. Why then do modern brewers seem to feel the need to put other ingredients into beer?
A friend of mine (also an old git!) has a theory that you should avoid champion beers- the idea being that if anyone has brewed a champion beer, they’ve tried to do something different with it to make it stand out and has therefore buggered about with it and put something daft in it. It’s not a perfect theory, but I do think it has some truth in it. I’ve come across some champion beers that I could describe as interesting and very few that are examples of a best bitter done very well.
I’m enjoying the craft beer revolution and it has led to some great beers but it does have some interesting trends. I recently attended Tiny Rebel Brewfest in Cardiff, which is a fantastic event with craft breweries, most of which are local but with Hawkshead from the Lake District and Four Pure from Bermondsey amongst the others. What I’ve found is that there is a distinct lack of session ales or as one might say “normal” beer. I’ve found that most craft beer tends to fall into three categories- American IPA’s, dark/mild/stout/porter and bizarre creations. I like an American IPA and other than some rather high ABV’s, those are some great beers. There are then a variety of dark beers- I’ve grouped some similar styles together and some of those are excellent but I tried a stout recently that had chilli in it. It’s fair to say that I preferred the version the same brewery did without the chilli. I like a nice dark beer but I do find that at a craft beer festival or brewery I end up drinking more dark beer and more IPA than I normally would because the other options tend to be…
Bizarre creations. I’ve not really defined it but a combination of fruit and others substances in beers and absurdly high ABV’s are the things I’m talking about. I have come across fruit beers that I quite like- I do like a Bacchus and I’ve come across some beers with ginger in them that work. I think there is a place in the world for a half of something interesting and strong at the end of the evening- Crafty Devil do a very nice coffee infused stout, Safe as Milk and a lethal version, Not so Safe as Milk that’s over 7%, that is very nice to end an evening.
What I find strange though is exactly how many interesting creations there are and how few session beers there are out there. My personal beer preference is for a red ale with a malty flavour which tends to be a staple of traditional breweries but an endangered species amongst craft breweries- they do exist- Meantime do the very pleasant Yakima Red- but they are very rare. I’m happy to see new creations but I would like the world to also keep beer that tastes of beer and is somewhere in the 4% range that I can drink in a pint glass!!