Thursday 24 September 2015

Big beer is still big

I recently found some beer statistics for market share by beer style. The beer styles are a bit odd but they do make one thing clear: despite the real ale revolution and the rise of craft beer lager is still way, way bigger than anything else.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Another one bites the dust

Barely had I finished burbling on about closed pubs in Woking when another one bit the dust. The pub that was last called 'The Station' but known to those of us who've been around a while as 'The Stabbage' is shut and boarded up.

The nickname comes from the days when the pub was called 'The Old Stillage' and someone was stabbed to death there one xmas eve. I'd visited the pub a few times over the years, it was OK and did serve proper beer but I can't say I was ever really taken with the place. Apparently it had got a bit rough by the time it closed which can't have helped with attracting trade.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Farnham hops continue to grow

On Thursday I was lucky enough to visit the hop part of the Hampton Estate in Puttenham. For many years this was the last surviving hop grower in the Farnham area, something which allowed me to add a more upbeat ending to my magnum opus when I  sent it to the Brewery History Society.

Hops ready for picking
Since then Farnham hops have revived beyond the scope of my wildest dreams. OK, maybe not my wildest dreams but certainly beyond anything I considered remotely likely to happen. The Hog’s Back Brewery have started growing their own hops at Tongham, including Farnham whitebines, making them no longer a mere historical curiosity but very much part of the present.

Craft beer favourite fuggles hops

Bill Biddell of the Hampton Estate
The revival of Farnham hop growing is to continue apace as the Hampton Estate is doubling its acreage, as well as building a new kiln. This must surely make Farnham the world’s most successful hop growing area. In the past two years we have had:
  •         A 100% increase in the number of hop farms
  •         A 118% increase in acreage
  •         A 200% increase in the number of varieties grown

Hops in the kiln

Hop pocket being pressed

That logo rings a bell

The only downside was that I heard from the Hog’s Back Head Brewer that their whitebine beer won’t be out until Christmas. Oh well, as it’s been over eighty years since the last whitebine beer I suppose I can wait a few months longer.

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Curse of Craft strikes again

After the seeing Stonch talk about the horrors of haze it saddens me that the subject of sour slinked into my Saturday last week. Whilst at The Rake one of my friends made the mistake of ordering a draught saison.

Instead of spicy smell of esters and phenols this beer had the unmistakable aroma of acetic acid. "Yes, definitely vinegar" I agreed, "take it back". As I'm used to an enlightened attitude to beer being returned nowadays I was unimpressed to see craft beer is now an excuse for attitudes to cask beer to go back a couple of decades. "It's meant to taste like that" was the response, though the excuse was "it's a saison" instead of the old "it's real ale". Now clearly this is bollocks, I mean Saison Dupont ain't bleedin' sour is it?

It also highlights another problem. Giving the bloke in The Rake the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he was just ignorant and not fobbing my mate off, bars really shouldn't sell sour beer without clearly labelling it as deliberately sour. Just most people wouldn't want to get served yeast soup when they order a pint so most people would prefer to get beer not Sarsons.

Friday 11 September 2015

Scarcely 9,000 breweries left in Britain

Recently whilst innocently going about my business I once more fell into a JIB vortex. Seemingly innocuous search terms can suddenly throw up a fascinating range of titles to temp you in, and what was meant to be a quick look turns into a marathon expedition from which you emerge days later, dehydrated and surrounded by a stack of print outs.

One of the gems I spotted has this cracking quote from 1897*:

There are now scarcely 9,000 brewers for sale, as compared with more than double that number in 1880, or five times that number in 1837. The reduced number has to supply a rapidly increasing population, drinking more per individual. The reduction in number will continue, but not, I trust, much further.

These numbers look astonishingly high, and if I've read this right then back in 1837 they'd have had about as many breweries as we now have pubs. Despite the current surge in brewery numbers we're still way, way behind. In fact we're going to need to re-direct the nation's resources to a massive railway arch building programme if we're ever going to get back to such impressive levels.

*Nettleton, J.A., Materials Plant and Skill. Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing. Volume 3, issue 4, 1897.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Free Beer

When offered free beer some people take the trouble to analyse and investigate. I adopt a simpler approach. I just say "yes please".

So when Brewhive were offering beer round to internet based beer bores some was soon coming my way.

I was interested to see they had an Endeavour IPA so I went for that first. Its deep gold, some citrus, with a crisp bitterness. It was underpowered though, more golden ale than American style IPA. The Endeavour hop has a good flavour but lacks intensity so you really need to use shed loads of it. And whilst I'm here I'll try and knock on the head a beer myth that seems to be growing. The name of Endeavour has nothing to do with Inspector Morse. It's carrying on the Wye tradition of hop naming also seen for example in Challenger, which met the challenge of breeding a wilt resistant hop variety, and Target, which met the required high alpha acid target. Endeavour marks the endeavour of Wye Hops Ltd breeding a hop variety from their own work, not work started at Wye College.

Next was a chocolate malt porter. This was a pleasant creamy, chocolate porter. This was better than the IPA but perhaps was a little overpowered, being a bit too chewy.

There was also a rather bland lager and for some reason a cider. As neither lagers or inferior fruit based beverages are my thing I wasn't taken with either of them.

I can't say I'd rush to buy any of these if I saw them, but I can thoroughly recommend drinking them if they're free.