As mentioned in a previous blog, Birmingham is blessed with some quality pubs and one such is the Craven Arms in Upper Gough St. Since taking it over a few years back Chris Sherratt, with the help of his wife Sharon and their staff, both old and new, have turned what was a rough and ready back street boozer into one of the destinations of choice for the discerning drinker. And ever since I saw the list for a beer festival they did back in 2013 (I think) and it had Brodies on it I became a convert. I remember actually thinking “Oh my God, Brodies in Birmingham, how great is that?“, and since then they have had many of the country’s best breweries on cask and keg, the latter range having been expanded, thus setting a high bar for others to aspire to. And now they have added another string to their bow with a series of Meet The Brewer events, in which they have been ably abetted by one of their staff ,Tim Rowe. I missed the first one with Cloudwater due to being on holiday, but when they announced Siren as the next one Deb & I were in like Flynn so to speak. We are both big fans of the brewery, and I think one of the eye openers for me was drinking Half Mast QIPA at the inaugural Birmingham Beer Bash…who knew such a low abv beer could be so tasty?. And so, on Monday 26th Oct we strolled up the hill to the pub for an evening of tasty beverages and beery chat.
Will and Sam from the brewery were both there, and they gave a little introductory talk about their history. It is situated in Berkshire and was formed in 2012 by Darren Anley and an American Ryan Witter-Merithew. Ryan had a history of brewing for some of the best breweries in the world inc Duck Rabbit, Mikkeller, Tool, & Omnipello. The 2 met at the CBC in the States, Darren asked Ryan for advice, and the rest as they say is history. They have a 30 barrel kit and now have 5 core beers in their range, 3 of which were on cask on the bar – Soundwave, Liquid Mistress and Broken Dream, and thanks to good cellarmanship they were all tasting pretty good. The other 2 are Undercurrent, and Calypso which is the latest addition, and they commented that they were pleased to have such a style, a Berliner sour beer, as a core beer. But the 2 special guests so to speak at this tasting were Fortuna’s Gift and Quadrophenia, both of which were making a rare appearance on cask. I will turn to their website (http://www.sirencraftbrew.com/) for descriptions, first the Fortuna’s Gift – “Gordon’s Strong, our Wee Heavy has been aged in Cognac barrels for over a year. This one off release has been infused with orange zest, sage, cranberry and a host of Christmas spices.” And yes it really did taste like Xmas in a glass. More to my taste was the Quadrophenia – “Based out in Ohio, Jackie O’s are famed for their work with Dark Ales. Quadrophenia uses a varied malt base pitching it somewhere between a Strong Porter and a Belgian Quad. Belgian Candi Sugar and High Gravity Trappist Yeast form a delicious deep, rich dark and fruity ale.” I felt we were quite honoured to be able to sample these ales in Birmingham, so once again kudos to the Craven team. And, after a pause for refreshment, the Siren guys had a brief chat about future plans, which include the appointment of a new German brewer, a grapefruit version of their mighty fine Limoncello IPA, the return of Caribbean Chocolate Cake, and the continuation of the Rainbow Project. And even though Ryan has left and returned to the States they are still in regular communication with him to bounce a few ideas around. So I think it’s safe to say the future is looking bright.