Author: Dave Hopkins

Happily married lover of beer, movies, comics & cats

Verzet Bottle Tasting at Clink – 28th March 2017

This is a co-blog event as the tasting group consisted of me, my husband Dave, my co-blogger Dave and his wife Debbie. We had a cosy corner in Clink and we were ready to go with Roberto Ross at the helm.

Roberto has recently returned from an epic trip to Belgian and Holland. He was there to take cask beers from Landlocked to the Alvinne Fest. Of course he couldn’t visit without going to see some brewers and one he visited was Brouwerij ‘T Verzet.

Verzet are a new Belgian brewery which is pretty much unheard of since most breweries in Belgian have been around  forever. It’s about 2 years old and the 2 brewers have a great pedigree from working at De Ranke and De Proef. Roberto told us that whilst at De Proef they had been brewing beers for Mikkeller and when they set up their own brewery they brewed a beer called Scandinavian Pussy (probably best not to Google that at work!) a 3.8% session IPA as an insult to them!

They are specialising in barrel aged beers and currently have an Oud Bruin as one of the six core beers. We were lucky enough to try all of these core beers along with a 750ml bottle of a special variation of the Oud Bruin brewed with raspberries.

Another fun fact shared by Roberto is that they name all their barrels after rock stars so there are, to name but a few, Marley, Bowie, Cash and Johnny Rotten!

As this is a co-blog I’m going to put both our sets of tasting notes in (it is good to see we concurred on most of the beers!):

The first beer we drank was Super Noah – this is a 4.9% Belgian Blonde unusually these days, brewed with no American hops..

C&D – It has yeasty, bready flavour with some good citrus notes too.

D&D – Good mouthfeel, typical Belgian yeasty taste, biscuity with a slight citrus bitterness kick and a bit of oomph!

Moose Blues was next. A 7.5% red bruin/Belgian dubbel. A nice nod to their rock and roll interests is the note below the beer name “B-Beer King”!

C&D – It had a sweet, dried fruit taste with the label description mentioning maple syrup.

D&D – Sweet, first sip is quite refreshing for the abv then the alcohol hits and it becomes quite boozy.

Sticking with 7.5% we moved on to Golden Tricky brewed with Australian and New Zealand hops.

C&D – This had a murky IPA taste but still with the flavours of Belgian yeasts and some tropical fruits.

D&D – Not a typical IPA at first, again tastes quite light and refreshing but then becomes more substantial , juicy and fruity with that Belgian yeasty taste.

 

The next beer is the favourite style of the brewers – Oud Bruin. 6% this one with 2 years in barrels before blending.

C&D – As expected it had a sweet balsamic/cider vinegar taste with a fruity finish – we agreed a great food pairing for this would be strawberries.

D&D – Quite acetic, Deb thought it a bit like a balsamic vinegar, fruity on the nose with a rich, red colour to it.

Back up to 7.5% next for Oaky Moaky a complex, oaky, smokey barrel aged sour.

C&D – I have to say it had a distinct taste of blue cheese with a possible pecorino aroma! However this just added a creaminess to the mouthfeel and balanced the, also present, strong barrel aroma and slight oud bruin vinegar flavour.

D&D – Complex, hint of tartness, a bit smokey and cheesy.

 

Our penultimate beer was Rebel Local, the strongest beer of the night at 8.5%. This is a Belgian blonde, basically a ‘big’ version of Super Noah.

C&D – It tasted well below the abv with a sweet, bready flavour. We also detected some bananary notes in there too.

D&D – Drinks under it’s abv, bready with hints of banana.

 

Our final beer was a special addition – Oud Bruin Raspberry Harvest 2016. This is the Oud Bruin but with the addition of 150g/L of raspberries.

C&D – The fruit taste was immense and a great balance to the vinegary nature of this style of beer.

D&D – Really strong raspberry on the nose, and unsurprisingly quite tart and fruity.

We did a round table at the end to find out everyone’s favourite beer of the night – here are the results:

Debbie – Oaky Moaky for its complexity.

Dave H – Rebel Local “like a supernova traditional Belgian style plus extra!”

Roberto – Oud Bruin an old style reimagined at this new brewery.

Dave W – Oud Bruin Raspberry simply “it’s f-in good”

Catherine – Oud Bruin a great new example of an old style of beer.

Thanks to Roberto for getting these over to us to try, Verzet don’t currently have a distributor in the UK which is a shame as their core range is really good and I’d be interested to try a lot more of their special editions too.

Meet the Brewer: Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic Brewing

On Thursday March 16th Tilt in Birmingham City Centre played host to an international Meet the Brewer with Heretic from California and its owner Jamil Zainasheff.

As is often the case with these events this became a great social occasion with many friends drinking great beer including Evil Cousin, Evil 3, Grapefruit Mosaic, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Porter. And although I didn’t have a glass myself, the Cruel Beauty, a robust porter aged in oak barrels on tart cherries for nearly two years seemed to go down particularly well.

I had chance to have a brief chat with Jamil but figured that doing a formal interview there after a few beers was asking a bit much of my brain, and so it came to pass that on a rather chilly Saturday lunchtime we rendezvoused at Burning Soul brewery for an informal chat over a beer or 2.

I first asked Jamil a bit about his background and he said he was working in software and living in Northern California just drinking whatever beers were available whenever he went out. But then he had his epiphany moment when his neighbour Steve handed him a beer to try that was full of flavour. When he asked where it was from Steve replied ”I brewed it” which was a bit of a mind blower because Jamil just thought that beer was brewed in big factories (which to be fair was probably correct).

By the late 70s the US beer industry had shrunk in size to just 44 breweries who mainly brewed light lager style beers with little character or taste, although change was on the way. The first root of this change was Fritz Maytag buying the Anchor Brewing company in 1965 where he carried on brewing some unique styles such as steam beer. This was followed by the short lived New Albion Brewery that was opened in 1976 by, wouldn’t you just know it, homebrewing enthusiasts. It was these people that through the 80s and 90s pioneered the opening of micro breweries and brew pubs that sold beer with more flavour and adapted styles from the Old World. Jamil told his wife that you could make good tasting beer on a small scale and for Christmas she bought him a Mr Beer Homebrew Kit. It was an extract kit and he followed the instructions, and the beer was horrible, but he knew that good home brewed beer was possible. In the late 1990s he practised and practised to achieve that aim, eventually winning many awards for his home brewing and writing books about it.

Fast forward to 2009 and after 15 years at the same company he took a year off to write a critically acclaimed book about yeast with Chris White before taking the plunge with his wife’s blessing to open Heretic Brewery in Fairfield. At the time there was one other micro brewery in town, but they have since been joined by a couple of others, but he said one of his main motivations to open in the town was the quality of the water. (He’d been told that the reservoir had been built for Anheuser Busch, so maybe some good can come out of big monolithic corporations)… The brewery is family owned, with both his wife and older daughter working for the company, and the first batch of beer was released in 2011. Eventually, after getting a bit fed up with the one hour commute to work the family moved a bit closer, and he’s now 6 miles away. He is a big believer in having as little negative impact on the environment as possible and drives an electric car which he charges at the brewery which is all powered by wind power, and is aiming for a zero waste workplace.

We moved on to a discussion about US Brewing because on Thursday at Tilt I’d said how it would be good to speak to someone who was from the country that lead the way in brewing, or something along those lines. But he was quick to point out that really the American beer revolution had been started by visitors to the UK, Belgium and Germany who enjoyed the different styles that were on offer. They then returned home and tried to replicate it but with little success, but gradually, over time, they studied brewing and learnt about techniques to get it right. And then they were able to experiment and basically do what they liked until now, Jamil feels there are true American brewing styles and many great American breweries. One of these is undoubtedly Russian River which is also based in California, and when he first started the brewery he took his staff there to sample some beers. They tried a 20 beer flight, all the beers were great, some were truly excellent and he remembers saying to them “How do we make one beer this good? ” and realised the challenge he faced. But he believed that if you have your goal in mind and take it one step at a time you will eventually get there. Now, 6 years later when he stands in the tap room looking at the 16 taps, he knows he has come a long way and is very proud of what he does. And at first he didn’t want a tap room, and there wasn’t one for the first 3 years because he loved to socialise but didn’t want to be standing around trying to sell his beer, he just wanted people to taste it. But now they are open 7 days a week and will soon be adding a kitchen and a distillery, which they hope to be another positive resource for the local community. This desire not to have a negative impact on the community or the environment is part of their underlying philosophy along with his definition of craft which he believes to be about putting the quality of the product above profit. In fact he said that when asked what are the priorities about the brewery, number one is safety, number two is quality and profit comes a lot lower down the list.

I asked how the brewery got on whilst he was away since he seemed to be a hands on sort of guy, and his itinerary this trip included Belgium, the Netherlands, Birmingham, Bristol and London in the UK, and Sweden and Denmark, so quite a long trip. He said when he started he employed a guy called Chris Kennedy who is now the head brewer, although Jamil still comes up with ideas because it is still his vision. He paid tribute to the team that he had though, saying that they did a great job, offering input on the brews and basically executing said vision.

We finished off with a brief discussion about social media which he sees as both a good thing for promoting things, and a bad thing when a negative element can take over. He also thought, like me, that sometimes us beer drinkers can’t see the wood for the trees and can get a bit hung up on the latest thing and fads (iceman pour anyone? ) when really all we went is a good beer in a good venue with good company. By this time, Scott Povey and his partner Sharon of Fixed Wheel and popped in for a drink, and once they started talking about attenuation I dropped out of the conversation…my beer education hasn’t gone that far yet.

Brewers United

In closing, I’d like to say thanks to Jamil for his time and for a great conversation, and to Chris and Rich at Burning Soul for their hospitality.

Bad Dog!

So, a few weeks ago we wrote about a new bar that had opened on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter called Lone Wolf. We were pretty impressed by the space and the passion of Sallie and Josh, and after only a few weeks they increased the tap range to 10 which made it even better. But they did mention a spanner in the works because Brewdog had a distillery called Lone Wolf and had sent a cease and desist letter for them to change their name.

And so it came to pass that Lone Wolf became Wolf because they didn’t think it was worth trying to argue with the big boys so to speak. With costs being incurred by themselves they changed signage and everything and relaunched on March 15th as The Wolf bar (@TheWolfBham), and a great night it was with brewers from @BurningSoulBrew, @greenduckbrew, @MauleBrewingCo and @TwistBarrelAle (and if you are not checking these guys out you should be).

Rob Davies from the Guardian happened to be at Sheffield beer festival recently when someone, who may or may not have read our original blog post, told him the story. So Rob got in touch with Sallie and Josh to get more details,  but didn’t say when the story would be published.  March 26th it was published online (here’s the link for those that didn’t see it https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/26/brewdog-lone-wolf-birmingham-pub-change-name – and the proverbial hit the fan with the phone at the bar ringing off the hook, twitter notifications going mental, and messages coming in from friends and acquaintances in Newcastle, Liverpool, Berlin, and even Australia. It was great for us to see the Birmingham beer community get behind these guys and give them their support, although I personally thought some of the anti-Brewdog vitriol got a bit out of hand.

Anyway James Watt eventually tweeted…but forgot to tag the bar so they didn’t see it straight away. After even more press, including the Birmingham Mail, the PM Show on Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, and BBC WM amongst others, the brewery did get in touch, with James emailing to say they would cover all the costs, and even inviting them to the distillery…Since then there have been a few more jabs at Brewdog who maybe aren’t that punk after all (“ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”) but in the end it probably isn’t going to do them a lot of harm.

Josh says their twitter following, and more importantly, footfall has already increased, and hopefully it will continue to do so. He said now they just want to put an end to it and move on, and to that end they have lined up a few events, which include tap takeovers and meet the brewers with Five Points in April and Mad Hatter in May, with hints of more to come.

So let’s hope this fable ends with the Wolf and the Dog peacefully co-existing and living in beery harmony…

Yorks Bakery at the Ikon

One thing that Birmingham is blessed with is a plethora of great independent coffee shops, and Yorks Bakery has been on that list for a while, first with its Newhall Street location and more recently at Stephenson Street and the Espresso Bar on Colmore Row. And now it is set to open a new venture taking over the cafe in the Ikon gallery by opening a pizza and beer bar, which is where our interest comes in. So a few days before they were due to open I stopped by to have a chat with Alex Findlay who is looking after the beer side of things. His interest in beer began whilst at university in Sheffield. He did work in what he describes as a bit of a dive bar but living in the Kelham Island district he had access to some great pubs and beers, and with the start of the keg revolution in the UK he became fascinated by the variety of styles and flavours available. For the last year and a half he put this to use as cellar manager at the Dark Horse in Moseley where he organised many events including the inaugural Grape vs Grain match up with Firestone Walker. And now he has moved on to Yorks. They have 6 very nice looking taps, 3 for core beers covering a lager, a pale, and a dark beer, and 3 for revolving guests, and this is what we can look forward to, with descriptions taken from Untappd.
Core range
Four Pure Pils – Our reimagining of a classic German Pilsner. Generous hopping with Mittelfruh and Saaz gives this beer a delightful floral and spicy aroma. The finish is dry, crisp, and refreshing. Inspired by our cycling adventures through Germany and the Czech Republic.
Wild Bibble – Brewed with Vienna Malt and Oats, an unusual mouth filling malt base. Hopped with beautiful Mosaic hops, renowned for their tropical fruit beauty, helped along with some nice orangey Amarillo hops both at the end of the boil and in the dry hop. It is unfined, so naturally hazy. A moreish bitterness is complimented by tropical fruit tastiness.
Wiper and True Milk Shake Stout – A milk stout uses sugar made from cows milk to give the beer a sweet, creamy tone. Bristol breweries were once famous for brewing the best milk stouts around. For our take on the traditional recipe we’ve used copious amounts of chocolate malts and vanilla pods to create rich, velvety and satisfying dark beer. ABV may change.
And the first guests include Magic Rock High Wire Grapefruit, Northern Monk New World IPA, and Big Smoke Mothership Amber Ale. They also have a bottle fridge with beers from One Mile End, Harbour, Bad Seed, Siren and Brew By Numbers. As things go forward Alex is hoping to introduce some local beers to the list and do some events down the line. And the free slice of pizza I had whilst chatting was very nice – looking forward to trying a full one in the very near future.
So, no offence meant to the many venues on Broad St, but personally I’m pleased we have a new independent venue so close to the Symphony Hall and the Cineworld cinema for a bit more quality choice in the area.

Birmingham Beer Bazaar

The Birmingham Beer Bazaar is a new beer festival coming this summer and set to be organised by the team of Andrew Maxam, Nigel Barker, David Moorhouse and William Young. I had a chat with Nigel and Will to see what we can look forward to…
Local historian Andy Maxam of Maxam Publishing first came up with the idea of doing something after the news broke that there would be no Birmingham Beer Bash this year. All four of the above had attended and enjoyed the Bash in recent years and felt that the city needed a good summer festival, and so an idea was born. Nigel and Dave shouldn’t be strangers to local beer drinkers as it was the former opening the Wellington on Bennetts Hill at the end of 2004 that broadened the range of real ale available in the city centre. Since then he has opened the Post Office Vaults on New Street and The Woodman in Digbeth, and the Welly as it is affectionately known has added 2 keg lines to it’s upstairs bar for us bearded hipsters 🙂 Will Young has been in the trade for 7 years, working in pubs around the country, before joining the Wellington in 2014 as bar staff where he was quickly promoted to assistant manager. Once the four had come together and solidified the idea of what they wanted to do they looked around Birmingham for a venue and alighted on the Studio in Cannon Street. The plan is to have the event over 2 floors including an outdoor drinking area plus a bottle/can shop in the studio bar. Both cask and keg will be on offer, Nigel is hoping to source what he called some interesting cask, and there will be specific brewery bars both local and from further afield. And of course there will be a selection of street food and snacks to put a lining on the stomach.
As mentioned above there will be a considerable focus on keg, and for that side of the festival the organisers turned to Kirk and Rich from Tilt to help get on board some of the UKs top breweries and we’ll be chatting to them about their plans soon.

The Anchor, Digbeth – Reimagining an Icon

Just before Christmas we got the opportunity to visit The Anchor in Digbeth to meet the new owner Jules and the cellar man Jason (The Beer Wizard) and learn a little more about what they have in store for this famous old Brummie boozer.

TAKING ON A LEGEND

An Inn has been on the present site since approximately 1803, with the current building standing since 1901.  The heritage building passed into the hands of the Keane Family in 1973, with Gerry Keane taking over from his father in 1983.  Under his stewardship he bought the Freehold in the 1990’s and it would eventually be named Birmingham CAMRA Pub of the Year four times.

After raising one family and beginning to raise another Gerry made the decision to sell up in early 2016.  He wasn’t content with handing it over to anybody, instead choosing to sell to somebody who would respect the old building and maintain its independence.

Jules has been in drink and hospitality business most of his working life beginning at TGI Fridays on the Hagley Road, 22 years ago, before taking his interest in cocktails and spirits to Bank, Ronnie Scotts and Red Bar among others. During this time the main focus of his drinking in terms of beer was mainly lager and Newcastle Brown Ale but when he became part of the Bitter ‘n’ Twisted chain and took over as manager of the Victoria he found a bit of a taste for real ale in the shape of Wye Valley.

He then moved on to the Botanist for a while, did a bit of freelance work, but the yern to have his own place was gnawing away at him, so when he heard Gerry was selling, his interest was piqued and he saw his next challenge, the chance to run a proper boozer.

“He liked what I wanted to do with it, and was glad it was me, not a big company or brewery”

To begin with quite a bit of work was needed in the cellar along with general cleaning, tidying, a lick of paint here and there but his ethos was not to change the fundamentals of the pub.

“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel; it just needed a lick of paint and a bit of love”

The Anchor had been known for the quality of its beers, re-establishing this reputation was a key part of their future plans.  Who better to work magic on the cellar than The Beer Wizard himself Jason Green.

Having started in the trade as a glass collector he has had an extensive and varied career in the beer industry beginning at Beefeater steakhouses before getting cellar training with M&B which took him up and down the country where he developed an enjoyment of looking after beer, learning many of the tricks of the trade, and developing a few tricks of his own (remember he is a wizard). He has worked in both the independent and corporate world leading him to The Victoria, where he first met Jules, and was part of the team that helped The Vic become a great beer venue for a while as they we were able to bring in some great beers from across the country.

RE-IMAGINING THE LEGEND

The team took over The Anchor in August 2016 and immediately began their work.

“Walked in on the 8th August and immediately headed down to the Cellar and start cleaning…from 12 hand pulls at the time we condemned 5”

The team built a relationship with Marston’s who helped replace much of the equipment.  The main bar area remains largely the same, with many of the period features still in place.  The focus of the back room is a bit more youth oriented, hosting DJ’s, musicians and comedians and a small room is available for community groups and organisations free of charge.  Future plans include opening up the kitchen to serve food, and improving the rear of the building to create a beer garden.

The bar now hosts 6 cask and 3 interesting Keg, including Marston’s, Wye Valley and a rotation of local beers including Fixed Wheel, and beers from further afield such as Brodie’s.  If the beers sell well, there is space for up to 4 more cask beers and 3 more Keg.  Beers in the fridge include Beavertown, Magic Rock and Moor Beer Company to name a few.  The Team at The Anchor are focused on bringing the best to their customers; this included beers, but also includes a carefully chosen selection of whiskey, gin & wine along with other quality spirits.  Jules also works his magic on a unique selection of cocktails and Boilermakers (Whiskey and Beer Mixes named after staff members).

The team at The Anchor are determined to make a success of the venture with a focus on quality products and great service, something Jules has a track record of delivering.

“We want to make sure we have something for everyone.  We want to do it well.”

We leave the final words to Jules and Jason, with their mission for the Future of The Anchor.

“We are going for the ‘Cheers’ feel…We want to be people’s favourite boozer”

MBBC Road Trip – Derby

Our first port of call was a very short walk from the railway station to The Brunswick, home to thep1010151 brewery of the same name, and CAMRA pub of the year. It’s a decent size, a few rooms with nooks and crannies, and a good size bar with 14 hand pulls dispensing beers from the on site brewery and guest ales. Deb & I both had Brunswick beers which were really nice, nothing outrageous, no reinvention of the wheel but good clear beers in great condition.
Next, we took a short walk along the River Derwent to the Furnace Inn, home to Shiny brewery, sort of. Having a quick chat with the guy behind the bar I discovered that Pedro bought the pub first and then set up the brewery, but now the bulk of the brewing is done at new premises in Long Eaton. However the original brewery still exists doing small batch brews including both the Tomahawk American Brown and Crystal Mess ipa. After a swift half of cask each we tried both of these on keg and p1010178they were very nice, both a bit unusual, good hoppy nose on the Mess, and a bit of subtle sweetness about both beers. The pub itself is again very unassuming in the middle of a residential area, but judging by all the pump clips if you live nearby you’ll be ok for a decent beer or two. Also, kudos for the excellent pork pies that they serve.

For our 3rd visit we popped along to Friars Gate and the fairly recently opened Suds and Soda. I had met Tom Ainsley at the Beer Bash when he worked with me as one of the volunteers and remembered him saying he was hoping to open a bottle bar and tap room in Derby, so was quite pleased a couple of months later to see that it had opened. He and his business partner Josh Mellor both had experience of working in bars and were both postmen when they simultaneously came up with the idea of opening a shop to sell bottles and cans but also having a small amount of taps to keep customers there awhile. Although there is a really good cask ale scene in Derby they wanted to show the other side so to speak of what was on offer from modern brewers. Interestingly Josh wasn’t really into beer that much and was just a lager drinker but has gradually found a taste for keg beers, especially pale ales, although he is partial to the odd bottle of strong stout. Tom said the first beer he remembered making a distinct impression on him was Hopback Summer Lightning but then he moved to Canada for a while and discovered new tastes. By the time he got back to England he was able to discover the delights of Kernel and Beavertown which was the beginning of his journey to where he is now. I asked where the name came from, and he said was a fan of the movie The Shawshank Redemption and the quote – “I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds.“ (As an aside I only recently found out that the slang word suds for beer comes from Sudwerk being the German for brewhouse). Plus the band Deus have a song called “Suds and Soda” so it kind of fell into place. They p1010189are pretty pleased by the way things are going so far and although they have had a few people in to check out “the new trendy bar” who they may not see again they have started to build up a few regulars in their first month or so. On the day we visited they had beers from Neon Raptor on because they’d had a Meet the Brewer the night before, and they were pretty decent. We also tried a couple from the shelves, a Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook Brewing Co. for me and Jakehead IPA by Wylam for Deb which she really enjoyed.
To finish this little mini tour of Derby we headed back down Sadler’s Gate to Hop Gate, a bar which after only being open 7 weeks won a local bar of the year award… It is owned by Chris Farman, a CAMRA committee member but obviously one of the newer breed since the bar sells both cask and keg, and it is his second venture, the other being the Barrel Drop in Nottingham. It’s quite a quirky little space but we made ourselves at home with some cheese and biscuits from a nearby deli and settled down to finish the evening off in style. Whilst ordering I had a quick chat with the guys behind the bar who told me they try to support local breweries but after the first few months Beavertown and Cloudwater are the ones that have been selling well. And although the bar p1010192embraces both cask and keg it was the latter we went for with Deb having the tasty and juicy American Psycho by Mad Hatter to begin with. She followed this up with Gondoila by Beavertown, an 11% imperial chocolate and raspberry stout which she thought was quite complex with definite fruity overtones. As for me I went for The Big Top by Magic Rock Brewing, an imperial red ale which I described on Untappd as lush, and followed it up with Brewed With Friends #1 by Brouwerij Kees…even lusher. I guess by then even my normal poor powers of description had deserted me, but this latter was a 12.55 Belgian Quad brewed in collaboration with Magic Rock so i guess I can be forgiven.
All in all we had a great day, and I got the impression there are more places to explore, but should you be in Derby for shopping, culture, or football (Up The Rams!) we can highly recommend these 4 venues for your drinking pleasure…

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The End of an Era?

A few people have asked us if we are going to do a blog about the recent events at the Craven Arms, but since we don’t have any facts we feel this would be inappropriate. Like most of you reading this we are very disappointed that Chris and Sharon have left, and we do feel it is a step backwards for whatever the “beer scene” is in Birmingham. Mostly we are going to miss the incredible range of well kept cask ales on the bar and realise it may be some time before we see some of the breweries they featured on cask in Birmingham again. And we will miss the Meet the Brewer events that they had occasionally been putting on on a Monday night, which neatly leads me into this…

Although Elusive Brewing is a fairly new concern having only started in April of this year, its head honcho Andy Parker (aka the nicest man in brewing) has been in the game a bit longer, and at the Craven Arms on Halloween night he told us his story and introduced us to some of his fine selection of beers.
Andy began home brewing in 2012, and having done a bit of it myself I was pretty impressed that after only 2 years he won UK home brewer of the year in 2014. (As an aside, after 2 years I would be happy just to be making something drinkable). The winning beer was an American Red, which later became Level Up, one of the core range of Elusive beers, and it lead to him brewing the rather excellent (imho) Lord Nelson with Weird Beard. Later, via another homebrew competition that Siren and Omnipollo ran jointly, he ended up doing a collaboration with the former even though he only came 2nd. Ryan Witter, then head brewer at Siren, asked him to help brew a beer preferably using some of the large amount of Vienna Malt they had, and so they came up with Dinner for One, the first in a series of light, sessionable beers using the same grist but altering the hop profile. Eventually though, after a lot of effort, some of which was alluded to in this post about Cotteridge’s birthday – https://aburtoniansadventuresinbeer.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/cotteridge-wines-21st/ , he found premises, and started to brew. He has a 5 barrel brewery and just got his 3rd FV in, and at the time of the event he was on Gyle 26 and offers beers in cask, keg and bottles mixing it up between his 2 core beers, Starship Fleet and Level Up, and some special brews. The core beers do change though depending on hop availability, the former is on Wave 4 and the latter Level 3, and he was keen to point out that he likes a balanced beer rather than a hop bomb. As for the specials, well 2 very special ones were on the bar for p1010124the event. Carve’n Yams had been brewed especially for the occasion and had a thematic note for halloween being “a smooth, sweet pumpkin porter with lashings of Hasbean coffee ( El Salvador Finca Argentina Estate Washed Bourbon) and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg” to quote the description on Untappd. It was very smooth and easy drinking. The other special was the only cask of the beer that Andy had brewed with Affinity brewery in Tottenham and the Brewdog bar in Clerkenwell for this years Collabfest 2016, Brimful of Masha, a coffee and maple American red ale. By now, from some of the names, you might be able to tell that Andy is of an age when 8 bit computer games were all the rage, and also that he likes a pun or allusion in the name. All his core beers have a pixel design derived from the old BBC micro font and vintage computer style graphics. Going forward he wants to keep finding new flavours from the hops he is able to get hold of, a problem many other brewers have been having. He is only able to brew one of his beers, Shadow of the Beast, a great easy drinking black ipa with light roastiness and fruitiness, when he can get the hops. However, he did finish his talk by saying that as a small brewer he still enjoys walking into a pub and seeing his beers on the bar. So this night must’ve been as enjoyable for him as it was for us customers partaking of all these fine beers…

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A week later, on Nov 7th, it was the turn of Lost and Grounded to pay Birmingham and the Craven Arms a visit, a fairly new brewery that has recently opened up in Bristol. This one was a little different because all 6 beers were on keg. Alex Troncoso was on hand with his partner Annie and members of the brewing team to give us a little history of himself, the brewery and the beers. His background is in chemical engineering and his introduction to brewing came in 1993 when he started to dabble in home brewing. After that came a bit of travelling about including a move back to Australia where he got a job for a few years with Little Creatures brewery. Eventually they ended up in England, and although he was still working in brewing there was a certain monotony to the job. He said a turning point came when they visited Bristol and found people in pubs laughing and having fun and so the decision was made to start a new brewery in the city. He had mainly been brewing pale ales in his previous jobs so he decided on a new beginning, and since he had a bit of a fascination with Belgian and German styles that has become their focus. Even before the brewery had opened there was a lot of focus on them on social media, and I did wonder if they were aware of this, but Alex and Annie said during this period they were so focused on what they were doing that it was basically work, sleep and fret if they had made a huge mistake. Fortunately they need not have worried since they seem to have hit the ground running and their first few beers have found favour with drinkers around the country.. The 6 beers on tap ranged from thep1010199 “simple but satisfying” Keller Pils to the bigger and more complex Apophenia, a Belgian style Tripel. My 2 favourites of the night were the Saison d’Avon which takes it’s name from the river across from the brewery and was a really nice clean, fruity example of a saison, and the aforementioned Apophenia which hid its 8.8% strength well behind the Belgian yeast and general fruitiness. Alex was an engaging speaker, I did like when he said, using a certain amount of self deprecation,that they worked as if they were the only brewery around, and his attitude to the word craft was that it was a state of mind and referred to people that gave a shit from start to finish. I certainly think their philosophy behind the brews and use of local artists from the Drawn in Bristol website for the branding of the beers is commendable. They have taken what they have learned from travelling and studying in the past to start a new adventure. This became the focus for the second half of the evening as it became meet the customer and a few of us shared our experiences of drinking, where we began, and what our epiphany beer was. For Alex it was Rochefort 8 that changed his view, for me Thornbridge Jaipur, which you can read about here –https://aburtoniansadventuresinbeer.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/the-background-one/
There was another shout out for Jaipur, plus mentions of Dead Pony, Boddingtons, Brooklyn Lager, Yellow Belly, and Stones Ruination IPA, so a fairly varied selection and some interesting tales from customers pasts.

So to conclude, two good nights of beery chat, thanks to Tim Rowe for helping to organise these and events in the past. And yes, the Craven Arms under the direction of Chris and Sharon will be missed but we at the blog will continue to celebrate and promote what we can of Birmingham’s “beer scene” and work in partnership with people across the Midlands to support future events…

MBBC Social and brewery crawl on Dec 3rd

We were very pleased over the last few days (Nov 10th – 12th) to see 6/8 cafe have a resounding success with their little mini beer festival which we had given them a bit of advice on, the main part being get local brewers involved. So it was great to see so many people come out to meet and support Chris and Rich from Burning Soul, Carl and Ritchie from Twisted Barrel, Scott from Fixed Wheel, and Gwen from Sacre Brew. This celebration of local breweries was one of the raison d’etre for starting the blog and it is with this in mind that we have organised our first social event.
drinkSo, if you enjoy drinking good beer at the source and chatting with like minded people join us on the afternoon of Dec 3rd. We will meet by Snow Hill around 11.45 and take a short walk to visit Burning Soul where Rich and Chris will open up a bit earlier for us. If you have read any of our blog posts about the Birth of the Brewery you will be aware of the hard work and passion these guys have put into this endeavour, and if you haven’t yet visited you are in for a treat. Staying in the Jewellery Quarter we’ll walk over to the Rock and Roll brewhouse to have a few cask beers, maybe marvel at the great memorabilia on the walls, and fight over who gets to sit in Nick’s Cave. From there we’ll hop on the train to Stourbridge to visit Green Duck brewery to sample what Alex Hill has been up to. And last, but by no means least, we’ll be finishing off at Fixed Wheel where Scott will have his usual fine selection of cask and keg. And if by this point we are ready for food the excellent Balti Towers is a few minutes away.
So you can either join us for the whole “crawl” or just jump in where and when you can. The plan is we should be able to spend over an hour at each venue so hopefully it won’t be too rushed, you can try a couple of beers, and you have a look around and chat to the brewers. See you there!

The Facebook Event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1793465124250853/

Tilt Turns 1 – Swedish Takeover Weekend

p1010137      Although it was the end of October and there were a lot of Halloween themed events on, we’ve never been big fans (except of the original John Carpenter movie), so on Saturday 29th, after getting a suitably flavoursome lining on our stomach courtesy of OPM, we arrived at a very busy Tilt bar just before 6 pm to celebrate their 1st birthday. For the event they were having a Swedish tap takeover featuring Omnipollo and Dugges, the night we went it was just the former on the 8 taps. Omnipollo is an award winning brewery that was founded in 2011 by Henok Fentie and Karl Grandin, and although based in Stockholm they brew at different breweries across the globe to craft their beers. I’d been a fan of the brewery since tasting the collaboration with Buxton, Yellow Belly, a peanut butter biscuit stout with no biscuits, butter or nuts, which I’d described on my Untappd check-in as sweet, nutty, nicely alcoholic. Since then I’d had a few others and really enjoyed the big, bold flavours they produced. So whilst Deb chatted with friends I ordered the first 2 reasonably low abv beers. Deb had Cassius, a 6 % Citra pale ale which Omnipollo say isp1010140 their finest pale ale, she found it very fruity and quite easy drinking, and I went for Onda, a really good 100% Mosaic pale ale. By the second round, Zodiak for Deb and Leon for me, my wife had decided that Omnipollo was her new favourite brewery. Zodiak is described as the house ipa, although I’m not sure if so called gypsy brewers can have such a thing, and Deb said “another gorgeous hoppy beer with just right amount of bitterness”. Leon is a Belgian pale ale, a style I have a lot of time for, and this one is described by Henok as “assertively hopped and fermented dry using champagne yeast. The yeast and the hops in combination with a simple malt bill provides the beer with a quality of being rich in taste yet refreshing.” And I’m not going to argue with that. 20161029_182820At this point the birthday cake provided by Bake in Kings Heath was brought out, a blueberry cheesecake cake to go with Anagram, a 12% blueberry cheesecake stout…wow, what a beer, sweet, fruity, and boozy. We wondered if anything could match this, but fortunately our last 2 beers managed to do ok. Hypnopompa is another big 11% imperial stout, this one brewed with marshmallows and vanilla beans giving it a rich, creamy taste, and Polimango is a 9.5% imperial ipa and again was superbly hoppy and fruity, unsurprisingly tasting a bit of mango 🙂
During the evening we had a chat with Kirk who seems happy with the way the first year has gone, and I know they have some exciting plans for their second year, so kudos to him and Rich for taking the plunge to open the bar, and many thanks to the staff, past and present, for great service on the many occasions I’ve visited…