Friday 24 February 2017

Brighton networking and CPD

I met up with some old colleagues from the Old Dairy Brewery for a day of networking and CPD recently. We met at the Evening Star, and despite the large selection it had to be the fairly weak Hophead for me. It was going to be a long day.

After a couple there it was time to move on to the Craft Beer Co., where I had a rare foray into keg, despite cask beer being available. There was one beer with a ludicrously minimalist plaque that amused me. We did ask the barman what it was called, and it was neutron star or something, the design implying something small and dense.

The ABV was pretty dense too so I went small with a third which I didn't actually finish. It was far too cold when I first got it, and when it warmed up it tasted too much like chocolate for me. Never mind, I was here for research not to enjoy myself, and someone else did finish it. Don't worry, no beer was left unfinished during this research trip. The burgers at Craft Beer Co. were good though.

I found a flaw in the beer mat design too
The it was on to The Beer Dispensary. I was delighted to see the reigning Champion Beer of Britain on draught. It's made by Chris Bingham, another ex-colleague of mine (from another brewery which was a decidedly less pleasant place to work at).

Then it was back to the Evening Star for the group photo...

... and some of Gadd's glorious IPA.

Definitely the beer of the day for me, so the CPD went well too.

Monday 20 February 2017

It's only going to get worse

I don't often buy bottled or canned beer nowadays but whenever I'm in the Lake District I have to peruse the excellent selection in Booths. The one in Keswick has been rearranged since my last visit and there's now a section labelled "traditional ale" where all the 500ml bottles can be found.

The 750ml bottles and 330ml bottles and cans are in a separate, unlabelled section. I guess they haven't got the "craft" sign printed yet. The division is as clueless as you would expect from a supermarket, it doesn't matter what the beer style is, if it's in 500ml bottles it's "traditional".

Traditional beer from Adnams

"Craft" beer from Adnams

The two sections also gave me an excellent opportunity to investigate beer pricing in the wake of Thornbridgegate and I'm afraid the news is not good. The Adnams beer in 500ml bottles sold for £4 a litre, in 330mls £5.80 a litre. The best though was from Roosters:

The 500ml bottles and the 330ml cans are the same price, so you can get exactly the same beer at £3.50 or £5.30 a litre depending on your container preference.

Oakham brewery is still flying the flag for lovers of hop juice in 500ml bottles.

But how long will it continue to do so when it could crank the price up 50% simply by putting its beer in smaller containers?

Friday 17 February 2017

A visit to Meantime brewery

After the excitement of the Wimbledon brewery it was Meantime next.

Here's some cylindroconical fermenters:

 And there's a close up of the conical bit:

Our genial host:

The sink was ten grand apparently, though it is rather snazzy. 

Ready for hop additions:

The Aber perfect pitch which uses capacitance to count viable yeast cells.

Some indoor fermenters:

 With a pressure relief valve and anti-collapse valve:

I know one of these people:

 Then a trainee showed us something he'd been working on...

...which was really rather good, if a little young.

The re-revived Thomas Hardy Ale has been going for three years now and still not a drop sold. I dare say it won't be too long before some finally finds its way to the shops, and I look forward to having some more.

Then it was time for some more thorough research.

Having enjoyed the visit I was in an ecumenical mood and thought it was time to try the tank lager. Though I have absolutely no idea how serving beer in larger containers is supposed to make it fresher the lager was fine. A bit grainy, but it might be how it's meant to be, and it was better than the tank  ale.

Thursday 9 February 2017

A visit to Wimbledon brewery

I visted Wimbledon brewery last week. It's a 30bbl plant built by Olympus Automation.

These are the same people that built the Old Dairy Brewery's 30bbl plant, though it has a few improvements.

Like a mash tun that mostly empties itself.

And a spreader in the copper.


We were being shown round by Derek Prentice, who was keen for us to try the beers. Which seemed like an excellent idea to me.

They do them in cask, keg, bottle and can and I tried them all. All were bright, and no prizes for guessing which I preferred.

After that it was back to the Goose Island place to enjoy some more of their hospitality before I headed home.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

CAMRA Kremlinology

The workings of our mother church can be impenetrable at times. So I was pleased to be invited to a BGBW do to hear from the CAMRA revitalisation committee.

I didn't make it to my local revitalisation meeting, I was planning to go but a friend arranged a visit to the Dorking tunnels on the same day and I couldn't miss that.

They're dead good, go to a depth of 20m too.

I hadn't read the Revitalisation report either, what with there being things to do and only so many hours in the day. I've stopped questioning our church's teachings anyway. Back in the early days of this blog I used to whinge on about the bits that were bollocks but the Tandleman himself, the defender of the faith, put me straight. "CAMRA is about cask beer, all the rest is commentary" he said. Or something like that. And with those words the demon whispering on my shoulder was banished for good. Cask beer is indeed god's work, and it should have an organisation to defend it.

Michael Hardman
So, unprepared, I was looking forward to hearing about what had been going on. After being introduced CAMRA founder Michael Hardman reported on the 18 months of the Revitalisation project. The first six months were spent discussing what to do, the next six months travelling round the country to 50 regional meetings, and then six months arguing about it! He said he'd met some of the most enthusiastic beer drinkers in the country, and some of the greatest dinosaurs.

That last point interested me, as I suspect I count as a CAMRA dinosaur myself. Certainly given the choice I will order cask beer over keg probably greater than 999 times out of a 1000. I wonder if there's a term for crafties that never drink cask? Oh yes, heathens.

Hardman stated the conclusions in the report are that CAMRA should keep its name and build on a strong brand with a vision of seeing quality real ale and thriving pubs. It is not a manifesto for the status quo though, as if CAMRA is to survive in the long term it needs significant change. It needs to shift it's focus from a technical definition to a focus on quality, and build knowledge and understanding.

He continued that CAMRA sees real ale as the pinnacle of the brewers art, but not all quality beer is real ale. I thought there was some clever wording here, as it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but we'll see how it pans out.

He finished saying the campaign must move to improve quality of beer, cider and perry in commercial settings. CAMRA should fight the anti-alcohol lobby. CAMRA's views haven't really changed since it started and with 185,000 members there was some compromise, but the recommendation sent to the national executive was the collective view of the committee.

There were some interesting points in the discussion. It was mentioned there were also three online surveys, and over a 1000 people took part in the surveys who weren't CAMRA members. Meetings also took place with SIBA, the BBPA, politicians and publicans. But for all the questions raised there seemed very few answers though. This could be because the national executive seem to have had kittens when they saw the project's recommendations. OK, that wasn't exactly how it was put but CAMRA Kremlinologists can draw conclusions from the fact that the current national executive decided to delay any decisions until 2018, and three of the Revitalisation committee have decided to stand for election to the national executive. Hearing this moved me to made a rare break from my strict abstentionist position and cast my votes. It will be interesting to see how things develop.