As part of the lead up to this year’s Birmingham Beer Bash (check out full details here www.birminghambeerbash.co.uk we thought we’d do a feature on each of the Midlands brewers that are appearing there, and so to that end I got up what to me was quite early and jumped on a train to Rowley Regis to visit Scott Povey at Fixed Wheel Brewery.
As was P1000165to be expected Scott was already there finishing off putting the malt into the mash tun, but more on that later, first a bit of history. Scott was born in South Birmingham but has been living in the Black Country for about 15 years. He remembers his early beer drinking as mainly revolving around keg in the form of Caffreys and Guinness, but he did always like dark beers such as Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout. His real education was twofold, firstly in that a big influence was a workmate when he worked at Vauxhall who was a member of Redditch and Bromsgrove CAMRA who introduced him to a more varied selection of ales. P1000181And the second influence came from his concurrent interest in cycling when the club he was in would do an off season trip to Gent in Belgium during November with it’s 200+ cafes and bars. Although a while back, particular favourites that stood out were Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant and Dulle Griet, the latter bringing back memories of fun nights trying to negotiate the steep stairs to the rest room wearing only one shoe 🙂 By this time he realised he liked to try different styles of beer, but doing time trials he missed out on the social aspect and would often only drink on a Sunday, so his love of cooking took him on to the idea of doing some home brewing around 2004/05. He started with kits but soon moved on to building his own setup, and even now still uses his original mash tun for test brews. Over time he cut back on the cycling, but not before setting 2 British records for 50 and 100 mile time trials, and as the home brewing got serious he began to think about opening his own brewery.
Having visited a few breweries he was pleased when he saw news of Green Duck @greenduckbrew opening in Stourbridge with its glass partition so you could see where the beer was coming from. After a few visits he began chatting to Alan Preece, gave him some of his homebrews to try and by mid 2014 he had taken over as their brewer. He was able to give a few tweaks to their core beers whilst learning on the job and improving their consistency, and the brewing process as well as the quality. Later that same year he also opened up his own brewery, an 8 barrel system, on Long Lane trading estate, taking its name, Fixed Wheel, from his cycling past, and with a neat bicycle gear logo designed by Chris from Expressive Design in Tysley.
In September his first core beer, Blackheath Stout was launched, and the range was soon joined by Chain Reaction Pale aAe, No Brakes IPA, and, aP1000174 (2) little later, Century Gold, plus many others that have become favourites with the Midlands drinkers such as his range of single hop beers, called Single Speed, the Omerta Russian Imperial Stout, and, a particular favourite of mine, his recent Belgian IPA – Spartacus. And let’s not forget his collaboration with Angel Ales, Cyclone, a 15% triple IPA which I remember being quite a hit at the 2015 Birmingham Beer Bash, and speaking of which…
If I’m going to interview Scott I should do it on a brew day was my line of thinking, and since it’s the lead up to the Beer Bash it would be nice if it was going to be available there, so when Scott said he was brewing a Double IPA I jumped at the chance. So that was what he was on the opening stages of when I first arrived one dull Wednesday morning. He told me he was mashing in at 64℃, which was a bit less than his normal 66 or 67, with the recipe using 20kg of hops in total, 15 in the kettle and 5 for dry hopping (as a comparison P1000175No Brakes used 13 in total). One of the hops was Simcoe which Scott was using for the first time, and I had the task of breaking the vacuum packs up which was tons of fun and resulted in very sticky and aromatic hands. It was great to watch Scott as he checked and rechecked the temperature and Ph measurements- he is ridiculously thorough which is something that I, as a homebrewer, could learn from, but it paid off as he hit his pre-boil and fermenter og readings. We had a little taste and its promising, good colour and nice creamy, slightly oily/resinous mouthfeel.
Whilst there I also had a little chat with Harriet Bryant, the daughter of Sharon who is Scott’s business partner, chief taster and, sometimes, his biggest critic. She has the fun job of helping to bottle and then label said bottles which at the moment is all done by hand. P1000171 (2)She also helps on a Saturday when the brewhouse is open to the public serving Scott’s beers on both cask and keg. I asked if she’s always liked beer and she said she was a fan of wheat beers but since working at the brewery she has a greater appreciation of beer and likes all styles now. The bar itself gets a wide range of customers, young and old, male and female with many returnees but also lots of new faces, and they both emphasised how much they enjoyed and appreciated the community understanding and spirit that the place provides. Also keeping it in the family so to speak is the fact that a lot of the designs for the labels and pump clips is done by Harriet’s partner Ben Rolls of the Falling Leaf Tattoo Studio in Great Barr, along with Rachid Taibi aka The Upright One (find his blog on the importance of graphics and design in the beer industry here).
In the near future, as well as the release of the Ride It Like You Stole It DIPA and appearance at the Birmingham Beer Bash, there will be a beer from a recent collaboration with Clouded Minds and the Dudley Beer Festival as part of the Black Country month celebrations. And further ahead there’s a new wheat beer to be brewed, a collaboration with the Brewdog bar in Birmingham, and a 4th fermenting vessel so we’ll be able to sample more of these great beers.
In the end Scott said it is all about drink-ability, and, most importantly, balance…and let’s face it that’s pretty useful when riding a bike as well.