Friday 31 December 2021

Golden Pints 2021

In our hands is placed a pint greater than their hoarded gold

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old

For the union makes us strong 

Best UK Cask Beer:

The devil's dark designs have ensured that once again it's not been a great year for cask. I did manage to get a pint of mind in during the Beery Month of Obligation which  was deeply satisfying but it was at my local at which I regularly drink that I found my winner: Thurstons No-Ale It's on particularly fine form this year.

Best UK Keg Beer:

Thanks to my friend Tim planning research trips that include a lot of brewery tap rooms I'm not scrabbling around to recall when in desperation I've had to drink from the devil's drainpipe. Oh no, on more than one occasion I've been to keg only establishments this year. Best keg beer I can recall was a pale ale from Kernel

Best UK Bottled Beer:

Ridgeway IPA is the beer I've mostly looked out for this year. 

Best UK Canned Beer:

As we don't as yet do canning at work cans have featured a lot less for my drinking than bottled. I did get some canned DDH Jaipur in for xmas day though, and though I didn't get round to drinking it then I had it the other day and it was good so that. 

Best Overseas Draught:


Best Overseas Bottled Beer:


Best Overseas Canned Beer:

Can't recall having any. 

Best Collaboration brew:

This is one of the categories I'm normally most dubious about. Particularly as it seems 'collaboration' often means 'sent an email'. But I went to the launch of the Elusive/Coalition collaboration and both parties were involved in actually making it. And it was a nice beer too so it's Magno-Boots that wins.

People from two breweries actually involved in making the collaboration beer shocker

Best Overall Beer:

Got to be the the No-Ale

Best Branding:

Do I pay much attention to such things? No. So as I usually do I'll go with Too Much Black Coffee for the Thurstons branding. 

Best UK Brewery:

Has to be Thurstons. 

Best Overseas Brewery: 

And that must be Orval. 

Best New Brewery Opening 2021:

No idea.

Pub/Bar of the Year:

As if a bar could beat a pub! As it happens it's been made clear to me what the winner is this year. Recently a few gigs and then weekends away ran together meaning there were several weeks in a row when I didn't get to my local in which I drink regularly. When I got back the landlord did casually mention that the annual review of regulars would be undertaken soon and he was prepared to overlook my recent absence if they won pub of the year. I can't risk losing my regular's status, as once the British Pub People Association were informed I'd be up before the committee for sure. And what mitigating factors could I ask to be taken into account? It's OK for those that tick off huge chunks of the Good Beer Guide each year but Isle of Man compleator 2017 wouldn't help me. No, I couldn't bear being struck off as a #PubMan so it's The Crown in Horsell. 

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2021:

Oooo...did Corto open this year or was it last? Not that I've been but someone did get me one of their glasses so them. 

Beer Festival of the Year:


Supermarket of the Year:


Independent Retailer of the Year:

Cobbetts. I have managed to pop in for a pint and it's handy for stocking up on posh beers. 

Online Retailer of the Year:

Don't think I've bought any beer online.

Best Beer Book or Magazine:

I haven't been enjoying the IBD magazine as much of late. I blame the lack of brewery visits. And much like my blog reading my beer book reading has also been down this year. Maybe it's time I got into cider, though I fear I'm too old and well housed for that. I did finally get round to reading Tom Goyens' Beer and Revolution though. OK, it's not really a book about beer but still, cracking title so it's this year's winner!

Best Blog or Website

As I've said I'm a bit down on my blog reading but the weekly roundup of things to read on A Good Beer Blog usually gets me interested in something so a definite winner there. 

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:

I managed a late surge in ticking off beer twitterers this year and it's always good to meet other beer nerds. Amongst them was Charlotte Cook, who also happens to be my Best Beer Twitterer of the year for the work she's done fighting against the dark side of the brewing industry and bigging up the wobs

Friday 24 December 2021

Beer Masters

Beer on the telly is a rare thing so I had to watch Beer Masters, even if it was only on Amazon Prime. It's a master chef/bake off style home brewing competition, in which five pairs of competitors have to home brew five different beers, the best from each round going through to the final. 

Beer Twitter did get a bit twitchy about it, but as a home brewer turned master brewer I could see things from the amateur and professional side and thought it was all good fun. There did seem to be a marked difference in the ability of the home brewing pairs, with some making pretty fundamental errors. And the gap between hobby and commercial brewing was also evident at times: with my professional head on I wouldn't have brew a Bretted sour beer if asked to make an accessible session beer!

But the competition romped along entertainingly enough, Jaega Wise does a good job as the resident expert and James Blunt may lack the gurning ability of Gregg Wallace or the wittiness of Sue Perkins but he came across as a competent presenter. There was a lack of real tension in the programme though. As brewing takes time each pair had to go home to brew every beer so there wasn't the ticking clock adding time pressure to the proceedings, except in one episode where the additional task they're given with each challenge was actually to cook a meal. 

The involvement of Global brewing giant ABInBev also loomed over the programme. Each episode one of their breweries is visited to discuss different beer styles and staff from there are involved in the judging. 

And I thought I was the only Nestorbrewer

Mostly it doesn't jar, but there was one particularly clunky moment when James Blunt parrots propaganda about Stella Artois originating as a "gift to the people of Leuven". I suppose it was hoping too much to wish he'd added "... thought it's known as Wife Beater over here". 

In the press releases bit of the IBD magazine under the heading "Budweiser Brewing Group unveils search to find Europe's next best beer" they have a quote from from Diya Munir, ABInBev European Experiential & Entertainment Marketing Manager saying: 

"At ABInBev we are proud to showcase some of the biggest brands in brewing, which have brought people together sharing positive experiences for many years. This new format aims to entertain our audience rather than interrupt them whilst celebrating the craftsmanship which goes into brewing." 

"The craft beer scene has never been more exciting. Beer Masters is a celebration of the thriving craft beer scene and aims to showcase the amazing creations and innovations coming out from the industry. It also offers insights and leading industry advice from the breweries which crate some of the most popular beers in Europe". 

This does make the whole thing sound suspiciously like a long advert but still, it was nice to see a new beer programme on telly and I've long been a fan of ABInBev's marketing budget, having enjoyed a few piss ups at their expense. 

Wednesday 22 December 2021

The Blackhorse Road beer mile

 As a #PubMan at this time of year I should be whinging about it being amateur season with groups of people paying for drinks individually or ordering Guinness last. But despite my best efforts in the past week to support pubs I've had to do disturbingly little queueing. A beer launch up in Bethnal Green saw a busy table but not a busy pub. My local, in which I drink regularly, was fairly busy but at this time of year it should be like sardines. As for Walthamstow, read on:

Our first stop on the Blackhorse Road beer mile was at a pub and it had beer served as god intended. Which I have to say is an improvement on certain other beer miles I could mention. Sadly, the Tavern on the Hill was practically empty. I mean we were starting early but still. 

Not even the wonderful stained glass windows in the bog could attract many punters:

After that it was on to tap rooms. 

High Hill Tap had found a way to suck out even more of the charm of drinking in a large warehouse whilst sat on picnic tables by adding a giant telly screen. The beer, though served from the devil's drainpipe, was OK though and the staff were nice. 

Lot's of shiny cyclindroconical fermenting vessels but crappy looking brewhouse kit:

Then we went opposite to Wild Card tap room, which had also gone for shiny cyclindroconicals and crappy brewhouse kit:

Again it was only beer served from the devil's drainpipe, and for ye of little faith that think serving beer on keg means higher quality than cask you're sadly mistaken. The pale ale and IPA were both sour and so were taken back. The person behind the bar poured himself a sample to check but after his face turned as sour as the beer we were given a refund. Two infected beers in a tap room was not good so we moved on rather than trying anything else. 

Beerblefish was another kettle of fish, being smaller with less money but better beer. 

They did have beer on handpump, and despite one of the beers being Bretted the other beer hadn't been inadvertently infected so thumbs up for them.

Exale had some bigger and shinier kit...

...and Monkey seemed to have parked his cloud there, though sadly I didn't see him. 

Lots of distilling in the lab too for some strange reason. The beer was all keg.

Proper big budget arrived when we got to Signature brew. I'd heard at an IBD dinner they're putting out 25,000hl a year, though I must admit I can't recall seeing their beers in the wild. 

The room by the bar was fairly busy...

...but the hall by the indoor tanks with a giant telly screen was almost deserted. I guess it's not just me that thinks giant telly screens are a bad idea. Keg only again.

Truman's Social Club was the busiest place.

Though being the biggest it was still half empty. 

The had Laine's cask beer on, don't know what happened to Truman's. Still, even if there had been Truman's on I'd have gone with Laine's as I have a working relationship with them as close as lips and teeth. 

Perfectly decent it was too. 

There were a couple of large disused tanks in the beer hall which I also thought didn't bode well for Trumans brewery but who knows?

We called it a day at that, which left me in the rare position of being able to walk in a straight line after a research trip. 

Sunday 19 December 2021

The Brewers Congress, London 2021 part two

The second session started with Fellow Worker Charlotte Cook talking about The Economies of Modern Hop Usage. 

There is an optimum time for hop harvests. 

Very high levels of dry hopping have diminishing returns. Over 8g/l (80kg/100hl) is the maximum it's worth adding. Higher levels just add more vegetal flavours. 

Two additions are better than one. 

Synergy and hop blending adds more sensory impact. 

Terroir has a big impact on hops so synergistic layering of different dry hops can be used.

Spend dry hops can be reused but there are problems as you don't know what's in them. Hops left over from CO2 extraction can also be used. 

High hopping levels can lead to excess levels of nitrates and other unwanted compounds. 

The next speaker Charlie Johnson of the Ronin Fermentation Project talked about using koji, the Aspergillus oryzae using in sake, in brewing. 

Koji produces citric acid and can give nice esters. He ferments with it at 7°C and ages in barrels for nine months. Koji makes alpha amylase so will super attenuate. There is more on this on Milk The Funk, but one tip I got down was use yellow or black koji not white. 

Then there was someone talking about Yakima Chiefs hop company before The Chemical Sisters, Belinda Jennings and Moyra Williams talked about Hygiene in the brewing environment. Remember cleaning action depends on Style, Control, Damage and Aggression. OK, mechanical action, chemical concentration, time and temperature. 

The afternoon lectures interested me less, and poor old malty got a hammering again, though Twinings did put it back on their tea packets. I wish I'd taken notes on Garrett Oliver's talk though as he was good. 

If you want to see more diversity in the industry your have to actively encourage it. 

Thursday 9 December 2021

The Brewers Congress, London 2021 part one

Having won tickets for to the Brewers Congress I had a fun day out in London. The talks were a mixed bag, but there was some good stuff in there and lots of free beer. 

First up was the rich guy who bought us a bottle of expensive beer to share in PortlandGreg Zeschuk:

Cheers Greg!

I hadn't known who he was before so I was glad to see this mystery solved. He did a talk about his brewery and building a team. Team building is important as you can't do everything yourself! Goals must be defined and everyone in a team has a role to fill. He uses selective hiring where as many people as possible will be involved in hiring and consensus must be reached before anyone is offered a job. He uses 'social engineering' to bring together people he thinks will work well together. Selective firing is also used though; "talented terrors aren't worth it!"

He was followed by another rich guy with a glorious American accent who did a talk about his lovely looking brewery in Norfolk:

Talk of the day for me was from Aaron McClure of Sharp's Brewery, who gave a very interesting presentation despite having what looked like a raging hangover:

Production at Sharp's rose rapidly, though it seems to have peaked in 2017:

They have a policy of putting people first and put time and money into it. 

The goal of making Doom Bar the number one cask ale brand no doubt became easier once they were owned by a large multinational corporation. But they're still only going to manage rapid growth if they have enthusiastic staff so aim to align their goal with how their values, mind set, behaviour and ways of working. 

Lots of brewers burn out and leave the industry so they have a range of support tools available, including doing pad work by the look of it. I suppose that helps get out some of your frustrations.

The support developing their staff, whether that's people keen to work towards a new role or just learn more about the job they currently do.

They engage with their staff, letting as many people as possible have a go on the pilot brewery and even stopping production for a table tennis tournament!

The success can be measured, such as by the high staff retention rate.  

Bi-annual anonymous staff surveys are also carried out.

Then there was a panel discussion on cask beer followed by a short intermission before FW Charlotte Cook was up to talk about hops, more on which will be revealed when I get round to writing it up.