Friday, 28 November 2014
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Is there room for any more breweries on the famous Bermondsey Beer Mile? Well Peter Jackson thinks so. He and business partner Andy Nichol have set up the Soutwark Brewing Co on Druid St; that famous street that once hosted the then little-known Kernel and is now home to the likes of Anspach and Hobday. The operation is impressively large for a start-up; a 10 barrel kit and I was lucky enough to have a quick word with Peter on opening day. His background lies with Marstons but despite his links to that part of the world, he knew where exactly where the new brewery should be based. SBC have a slightly different approach to where they see their beer in the marketplace compared to their local rivals. Whilst admiring the craft beer movement, Peter explained that he feels that there is a gap in the market for locally brewed cask beers and, with Sean Franklin on board as consultant that is where they will be concentrating their efforts.
There was only one beer available on opening day: Bermondsey Best, a traditional English Bitter. However, they have slowly been rolling out and expanding the choice and the brewery bar now boasts four handpulls; a unique and very welcome sight on the keg dominated BBM. Beers to look out for include Bankside Blonde and King Cnut which are both brewed with Citra hops and Peter’s Stout, a powerful (8.9%) Russian Imperial Stout. Competition is fierce, albeit friendly, in the little pocket that makes up the Bermondsey beer scene but SBC have made a promising start.
Monday, 27 October 2014
The Hare and Hounds at Holcombe Brook is one of the stalwarts of the local real ale scene and has been in the Good Beer Guide for many years. A large, open-plan pub with an excellent outdoor area, it recently changed hands again and has reopened after a £250,000 refurbishment. It’s been spruced up (“rustic contemporary” was whispered in my shell-like) and is looking much better for it. The toilets have had their long overdue overhaul and the pool table, which was wasting valuable corner space, has been replaced by seating. Overall it’s much fresher and brighter with a good mix of seating. And you need to have no fears on the beer front as it will be maintaining its complement of 10 pumps. In fact, to celebrate their reopening, there is a beer festival currently on.
Saturday, 25 October 2014
Build it and they will come was the mantra of Field of Dreams. And the Independent Salford Beer Festival, which started yesterday, adopted this positive message throughout its long and sometimes painful gestation period. Personally I would have gone for “Put beer on and they will sup it” but that’s probably why I’m not running a beer festival. Instead Jim, the blogging legend (he’ll be blushing) that is BeersManchester, ably assisted by some volunteers including his much better half and his arch-nemesis have put together a cracking festival to raise funds for St Sebastian’s Community Centre.
Think you can’t hold a beer festival in a community centre? Wrong. It’s a smart, very good venue. Think it’s hard to get to? Wrong. It’s just a bus ride away from central Manchester. Think the beer wouldn’t be any good? Wrong. It’s a very professional setup with and this is the pièce de résistance, some unusual and excellent beer. Talking of which, having tried 20 of the 35 on offer, these are my picks
Allgates Half Devil: This 3.3% Pale Ale is brewed with the Czech Kazbek hop for a soft, delicate mouth feel, refreshing pilsner-like taste that takes no account of strength. Possibly beer of the festival.
Five-Oh Sorachi Ace Stout. The only place to get this on cask. Get it while you can.
Five Towns Grounds for Divorce. Dangerous: that’s all I’m saying.
North Riding Brew Pub Fat Lad’s Mild. A 4.5% Mild? You know it makes sense.
Ringway Admiral Pale. This 3.5% wonder did what it said on the tin. Unfussy, clean and crisp; it really cleansed the palate. Possibly beer of the festival.
Seven Bro7hers IPA. Apparently too much for some people, this cemented its reputation as one of-if not THE best, local IPAs.
Well done to Jim and all his helpers and here’s to next year!
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
The question was; how to celebrate CAMRA’s Cask Ale Week? One man, Robin Bence, had the simple answer. Why not pay a visit to the nine breweries of Manchester? And to keep it even simpler, why not do it in a single evening? Thus a merry (soon to be much merrier) band of cask adventurers set off on an open top (it never rains in Manchester) bus in pursuit of life, liberty and a few bevvies. For those who can count, logistics meant that we actually started in the Boggart Hole Micro Bar in the Arndale and, sadly, we ran out of time for Blackjack. The rest, as they say, is history.
|(Outside the famous Holts gates)|
|(Star Inn, Broughton)|
With all the money going to The Christie Hospital, it was drinking in a good cause. Thanks to everyone who came and, of course, to all the generous brewers.
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
Well it’s over for another year. Yes the dust has finally settled on the behemoth beer festival that is IndyMan. So many beers, so many thirds to sup. I was up and down to the bar more times than a bride’s nighty. If you were there then you’ll know how good it was. If you weren’t, then I won’t rub it in. In its third year now the festival, sorry convention, continues to expand and mature. Lessons were learnt from last year and everything that I saw seemed to run smoothly. There also seemed to be less broken glasses than last year: are people finally getting the hang of those dainty little measures? What was good…the beer, the company, the Brewdog bus (so I’m told) and of course the food from Honest Crust and Chaat Cart.
|(Oh let's try this bar)|
|(Yummy Iced Tea Saison)|
The good: Arbor NS Bomb, Alechemy Citra Burst, Northern Monk Monacus NZ and Brewfist all really hit the taste spot. But this year, despite its relatively low profile, the best beers were to be found on cask. Tiny Rebel The Full Nelson Chardonnay BA beat off some tough competition to edge it with a complex and vinous treat.
The bad: There were some disappointing saisons with Partizan Iced Tea being particularly unspectacular. But Camden wins this category for the mess that was their Spiced Pumpkin Lager.
The ugly: Ultimately there could only be one winner. Step forward Against the Grain Killewitte. Described by Mr IndyMan himself, John Clarke, as smelling like sick, this smoked wheat beer tasted like smoked compost.
Only 360 days to next year’s event…
CAMRA is at something of a crossroads. Actually it has been for some time. Membership continues to climb but, like many long established organisations that rely on volunteers, there is concern for the future. The solution is, of course, to recruit more young members; not only to keep CAMRA growing but to hopefully put in place the future committee members and organisers. That is what the Young Members section is for and it has done a sterling job on the ground with its representatives achieving year on year results. However, all that good work risks being undone by the latest blunder by St Albans. Rowan Molyneux is to be thanked for really pushing this into the public domain. As she says this isn’t an attack on CAMRA per se but it is something that really needs sorting out.
It’s often said that CAMRA is run by old men who drink in dusty time capsules of pubs and who are out of touch with reality. That is of course a broad brushstroke that doesn’t paint the whole picture but this particular faux pas does threaten to undermine CAMRA’s professional reputation in some quarters. Of course it shouldn’t have happened at all and there are many questions to be answered. Yes, the leaflet was a mistake in the first place but then things seemed to completely unravel. Why was the Young Members committee consulted and then ignored? Why did it take so long for CAMRA to respond to the concerns raised and then only in a half-hearted way? The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now and it will be interesting to see what sort of damage limitation exercise CAMRA runs. On the plus side, hopefully important lessons will be learnt from this whole debacle and the organisation can get back to what it should be doing: promoting real ale to one and all.