Category: Events

Not Long Now…Birmingham Beer Bazaar is almost here!

After all the delights and highlights of Birmingham Beer Week last month it’s time to look forward to the next event on the local beer calendar, the inaugural Beer Bazaar. Taking place from August 17th to 19th right in the city centre over 2 floors at the Studio in Cannon St it is going to be a celebration of cask and keg ales both local and from further afield. Chatting to Will, one of the organisers, recently he told me that the plan is a Wellington cask bar with plenty of one off specials which we’ll come to later, a Beer Bazaar keg bar featuring UK breweries, a Hook Norton cask bar, a Hogans cider bar, a keg bar from the guys at Tilt with a phenomenal range of beers over the 3 days, a bar from sponsors Purity, and brewery bars from Burning Soul, Fixed Wheel, Fownes, Green Duck, and Twisted Barrel. So something for everyone… And should you need something to take home, well Clink will have you covered with their bottle and can bar. And we can’t survive on just beer so food needs will be catered for by Andy Low’n’Slow, Chi gourmet sausage rolls and vegetarian and vegan options plus a variety of coffee bars featuring local roasters Quarter Horse Coffee. But we’re the Midlands Beer Blog so let’s talk beer…

First off the cask list has a great range of interesting and unique beers. Upon seeing the list I immediately broke into a smile at the first beer, Fresh Cream by Siren, an 11%Imperial Bourbon Barrel Aged Milk Stout with Coffee, Vanilla and Chocolate, normally only available in keg and bottle this has been casked exclusively for the Bazaar. Other exclusives in cask include :-

Cold Conscience, a collaboration between Abbeydale, Brewdog Sheffield & Rotherham band Alverez Kings, this is a mango and lychee infused, New Zealand hopped pale ale;

Strong Ale #1, another Abbeydale collaboration, this time with journalist and beer historian Ron Pattison and Jules Grey of Sheffield’s Hop Hideout bottle shop. They’ve dug into the archives for a William Younger recipe from 1868 to produce this 10.3% ale.

Also, Wolf’s Hood, a 9% Heather honey dipa from Ardent Brewery and Bazaar Dipa-the Wellington Cellar team got together with Chris and Rich at Burning Soul to create a 7.5% New England ipa. And then there’s Old Freddy Walker, the champion beer from Moor that has been aging for 8 months, plus Chimpagne from Blue Monkey which could win the prize for best beer name at the festival, a 10% pale crafted using…you’ve guessed it, champagne yeast.

There will also be 5 beers available in wood casks including another collaboration from the Wellington Cellar team, this time teaming up with Hook Norton to produce the 5% Tuxedo Stout

The keg lineup is stellar and features far too many great beers to mention, if you haven’t checked out the list it is pinned on Tilt’s twitter feed – @Tilt_Brum. However, from a personal standpoint I am looking forward to trying Dark Souls and Doughnuts from our friend Andy Parker at Elusive, the Life collab from Cloudwater and Other Half, the Kernal and Jester King Saison, and, to finish off one of the nights I’m sure, Sippin into Darkness from Lervig and Hoppin’ Frog.

I already know that on the local brewery bars Alex has been brewing up some special beers for Green Duck and I’m pretty sure Scott at Fixed Wheel, Chris and Rich at Burning Soul, Thomas and James at Fownes, and Richie and Carl at Twisted Barrel will not let us down with their selections either.

So there you have it…will one session be enough to sample all this beery goodness, well that dear reader is for you to decide. But we hope you support this endeavour put together by Nigel, Will, Andy, Dave, Kirk and Rich, and we hope to see many of you there.

 

Warwick Beer Festival 21st – 22nd July 2017

Warwick is renowned for its Castle and its proximity to tourist hotspot Stratford on Avon. Warwick is not renowned for many beery events. However, every July for the last few years, Warwick Racecourse has hosted a Beer Festival. This year’s event coincidentally coincided with the inaugural Birmingham Beer Week twenty miles up the road. Hosted by Warwick Court Leet for the last few years, the event has two purposes: to provide the local community an enjoyable weekend of beer and also importantly to raise money to support local charities and good causes. Local businesses sponsor individual casks whilst breweries’ including Purity and Byatt’s provided further significant sponsorship this year.

 

 

We decided to hit the Friday evening session as in previous years several casks had run dry by the Saturday afternoon. Weather was poor but there was already a sizable crowd by the time we arrived, which meant that the indoor area was quite packed due to little of the outdoor seating being used. We purchased our custom half-pint glass and tasting notes and headed for the bar.

Eighty-five beers were on offer, all on gravity cask dispense, augmented by thirty ciders available for those seeking solace in the form of apples. Those looking for Lambics, searching for Saisons or delving for DIPA’s may have been a little disappointed though as this is a traditional CAMRA real ale style festival. First drink of the evening had to be Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild, a long time favourite beer from the Black Country and fairly rare to find in Warwickshire. It’s rich fruitiness makes it a dangerously drinkable beer especially as although billed as a mild, it is a powerful 6% ABV.

The serving system at this festival is a little different to the norm, as the casks are all numbered to match your tasting notes so you order purely by number, not by beer name and tokens are used for payment equating to £1.50 a half pint. Whilst this speeds up service, it does mean your tasting notes are essential as the bar staff have little knowledge about what they are actually serving. The volunteers worked hard though and there were no long waits to get served.

Food was available but I have to say that the options were fairly limited as there was only one burger van offering a choice of hot dogs, burgers and hog roast. If you are vegetarian your only option was chips! I think in these diverse times a vegetarian/vegan option should be provided. Sadly, no options for water to drink or rinse your glass were provided either, unless you purchased some bottled water. This does seem to be a pretty common omission at most other festivals. Live music was provided throughout the festival ranging from acoustic duos to full bands playing a mixture of covers and original material. Sadly the incessant drizzle meant no option to get outside for a quieter conversation with friends.

Standout beers of the festival for me included the rare occasionally brewed Black Voodoo from West Yorkshire’s Fernandes Brewery, a smooth full-bodied stout with a chocolate orange and vanilla flavour that would make it a perfect dessert beer. Along similar lines was the Plum Porter from Titanic Brewery, which was dark and well rounded with the plums to the fore but not overly sweet or cloying. An imperial version of this would be a real winter favourite. I tended to go for the darker beers on offer, finding some of the pale ales a bit bland and lacking the hoppy bite and zest that my palate has become accustomed to over the last few years. The one beer that did have a decent hop-kick though was the classic Citra from Oakham Ales, which provided the pungent grapefruit and lychee goodness that I was craving.

Overall, despite the poor weather being a slight hindrance, the festival had another successful year. The organisers put a lot of work in, including having to replace the posters in Warwick three times after they had been stolen, presumably by some underground temperance movement! Here’s to another successful festival next year.

Goskino vs Burning Soul – 27th July

Ahead of Goskino playing at Burning Soul, this Thursday (27th), I dropped both the band and the brewery a few questions to find out how the gig had come about and what people could expect.

I started out by asking Burning Soul how the gig came about:

“We’re both really into live music so naturally love the idea of having local bands playing here. It feels like we have been discussing having live music since we opened to the public last October. Since this will be the first time we’re really excited to see how it goes and hopefully open the door to more small gigs showcasing local talent.”

“We have a very diverse taste in music but you’ll often find blues or rock on it the taproom Friday and Saturdays. Greg from Goskino drinks at Burning Soul often and was kind enough to give us a copy of their album a while back which we really enjoyed, so when he asked if it was possible to play at the brewery the reply was somewhere along the lines of “hell yeah”!

“This is also the first time we have had a street food vendor at Burning Soul so we’re excited to see how that goes for Trailer Trash who are coming down and hooking people up with some mean burgers. People often say the only problem with our place is the fact we don’t do food so getting some street food vendors for our Saturday opening is definitely something were looking into.

I asked if they’d had time to brew anything special for the gig:

“We haven’t brewed a beer especially, but we will have some special Fuzz Bomb edition bottles of our Zephyr Saison with some awesome artwork from the Goskino guys as well as our 8 taps.  We’ve held back some kegs of our new IPA ‘Pure Passion’ and our black IPA especially for the event and there should be some new beers coming on as well.”

As you may not know Goskino I asked them to describe their sound, how they felt about playing a brewery (a first for them) and what are their favourite beers:

Goskino are a three piece plying their trade in fuzz laden garage rock. Unabashed short fuzzy fast edgy songs delivered with unfetted conviction. Tom on guitar and vocals, Adam on Bass and Greg on drums. 

The guys at Burning Soul seem to have a similar ethos to the band, no sense of doing things by halves – total commitment to what they are doing. Elegant, spiky, complex and super tasty beers abound. Goskino playing at the Brewery is a perfect match. Let’s hope Goskino’s notorious volume doesn’t curdle the beer!

Tom – Corona

Adam – Stroud Brewery – Budding

Greg – Burning Soul OCT

Doors are due to open with the band on at 7 but the brewery told me:

“We’ll have the bar open from 5pm so anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of a sound check is welcome to come and grab a beer before the official 7pm start and on stage time of 8pm.”

So come along and support a local band, brewery and street food vendor all in one night!

Birmingham Beer Week – Opportunity for Adventure and New Discoveries

It starts!

Well, it actually started yesterday with the fine fellows at Brum Vegan Beer & Food Fest, but today marks the first day of the Birmingham Beer Week, an opportunity for the drinkers of Birmingham (and Beyond) to explore the fantastic beer scene we have in here in the countries 2nd City.

Many of the people who follow us and read our blogs are likely to already know about much of what is available in Birmingham but we would encourage our readers to be adventurous, if you haven’t had chance to check out what The Dark Horse Moseley has to offer, why not go along to the Moseley Craft Beer Festival

Check out our interview with the organiser here

Perhaps you haven’t explored the beers being made by our local brewers?  They check out the Collab Beer Launch with Twisted Barrel and Blackjack at The Wolf.

The adventure to had is not just yours alone, with so many great events across the 10 day, it’s the perfect opportunity to help friends and family, perhaps even work colleagues, to discover the beery goodness on offer in Birmingham.  (More people drinking local beer, more people drinking in local venues, the better it is for the scene.

Maybe your Uncle is Vegan, Brum Vegan fest offer a great chance to introduce them to the wonders of Vegan beer.  Or you could head over to Cherry Reds for the ‘When is Beer Not Vegan?’ a Vegan dinner and beer pairing.  (At John Bright Street & Kings Heath).

Perhaps your sister is a big gig goer and particularly likes Fuzzrock then why not take them along to Burning Soul Brewery for the Goskino V Burning Soul gig, giving them the chance to enjoy great local beers while tapping their feet. (or what ever the Fuzzrock alternative is)

And if you just want to party with your friends, the bars on John Bright Street have got your back with a Street Party.

There are lots to explore and many beer adventures to be had over the next 10 days,  we hope to see Birmingham Beer Week be a great success, bring new customers to venues and breweries across the city and showcase how great the beer scene is…And perhaps next year it will be even bigger, with even more events and amazing beers on offer for the beer drinking public of the city.

We have given just a small taste of the events over the Beer Week, to see the full program check out www.birminghambeerweek.uk

Moseley Beer Festival – Birmingham Beer Week Events

With Birmingham Beer Week quickly approaching one of the events we are looking forward to the most is The Dark Horse’s Moseley Craft Beer Festival.  We have been excited by the beers they have announced and particularly impressed with the balance of beers from nationally recognised breweries like Cloudwater and Siren,  and local Midlands breweries, such as Moseley Beer Company & Burning Soul

We wanted to know more about the event that will close Beer Week on 28th to the 30th July so posed some questions to one of the organisers Andy.

How long have you been planning the festival?  Was the Beer Week happy coincidence or inspiration?

I had the idea for the beer festival back in January, as The Dark Horse has got a live music space upstairs and unused space out back which I thought would allow us to do something on a decent scale. The general feeling was that we should wait until the end of the year to give us plenty of time to plan it, but when the guys at Birmingham Beer Week asked us if we wanted to do something it seemed like the perfect time to take a punt and see if we could do it. The downside is we were left with about two and a half months to plan a beer festival, without a clue where to start. I wouldn’t recommend trying this.

What format will the festival take? – individual bars by brewery/style etc?

It’s Birmingham Beer Week and first an foremost we want to promote beer in Birmingham and try to help show that our beer scene is something to be proud of. We’ve got loads of fantastic brewers from across the country getting involved, but we hope that the Birmingham Beer Week bar will take centre stage for the event. There’s some fantastic beers being brewed in the city at the moment. I’d tried the beers that Josh was making at Glasshouse and was blown away, so asked him if he could brew an exclusive for us. He came up with the brilliantly named ‘0121 Brew One’, and everyone who buys a ticket will get one of these for free on arrival. There will also be an MCBF bar pouring some great brews from breweries who sadly weren’t able to make it along.

 

The rest of the bars will be stalls from the different breweries who were kind enough to come along and join us to make this a great event.

This is where the Drinks will be flowing.

How have you chosen the breweries and beer to include in the festival?

As I said earlier, I didn’t really have any idea where to start with the festival, but thankfully the guys at Birmingham Beer Week HQ were good enough to offer me advice. I came up with a list of my favourite breweries, looking for both big names as well as breweries I think are under represented. Probably the breweries I was most excited to get on board were Odyssey and Elusive. They’re both pretty small and don’t always get the most hype, but these guys make seriously great beers.

Are their any beers you or your members of staff are looking forward to trying?

For me the beer I can’t wait to try is Fresh Cream from Siren. They’ve held back some of the Bourbon Milkshake to make up special one off kegs for special events and festivals by adding different ingredients. I’m really excited that we’ll have a Siren beer that you won’t be able to try anywhere else except at our festival.

 

 

The staff at the Dark Horse love sour beers so no doubt the Kettle Sour from Cloudwater will be a hit with them.

 

We’re making batches of craft beer ice cream too for the festival – I’ve just tried the sensational Grievous Angel from Odyssey with Chocolate, Coffee and Orange which we’re all looking forward to trying in ice cream form!

Would they see this becoming an annual event?

We hope to see this become an annual event that grows year on year, but I guess that depends on how it’s received by the people who come along. We’re really passionate about great beer and want to share that with the people of Birmingham by putting on the best event we can.

The guys at The Dark Horse have made a strong start and we are sure the event will be a massive success, how could it not with Craft Beer Ice Cream on offer!

It is fantastic to have another event on the calendar for the beer drinkers of Birmingham, and another place for local brewers to sell their beers.

Tickets are still available, pop along to www.skiddle.com

Check out some of the beers on offer below.

Cans Film Festival at The Electric Cinema

As a fan of both film and beer you can imagine how happy I was to read about the ‘Cans Film Festival’ which is running at The Electric Cinema over the summer. For those of you who don’t know The Electric is the oldest working cinema in Britain and despite it’s slightly chequered past (it was an ‘adult’ cinema at one time) is now a haven for film lovers plus the only place I know of where you can sit in a comfy leather sofa and text someone to bring you your drinks!

The festival consists of seven films matched with 7 beers (well 6 beers and a cider) and I got to go along and talk to Sam Bishop, Operations Manager at The Electric Cinema, all about it.

We started off talking about the ‘real’ Cannes Film Festival and how beer and film mixed there.

Sam – “I’ve been lucky enough to go to Cannes Film Festival 3 or 4 times now but 16 Euros for a pint of beer is a bit ridiculous! The biggest hotel is called the Majestic and behind the hotel is a tiny little pub ironically called The Petit Majestic and what’s beautiful about Cannes is that it’s dripping with pretence but the Petit Majestic gets rid of all the pretence. After about 2am it’s the latest pub open so everyone from Jude Law downwards meets there, it’s a tiny little pub and you all spill out onto the streets and everyone there is united by a love of beer and a love of film which is wonderful and that’s the part of Cannes I enjoy the most.”

I asked if this experience is what inspired the festival and he said that actually the pun was the starting point! “We started with the pun and worked backwards! We’re very lucky at The Electric in being independent and that we don’t have public funding we’ve got the freedom to have wacky ideas and we put things out there and see if people agree with us”.

From my point of view this is what makes The Electric so special and makes all their events so different and interesting. I moved on then to ask what came first the films or the beers?

Sam – “We looked at what beers we could get from a range of boutique beer suppliers who look after us in the region. Then we had a short list of about 50 beers we went through them and found what inspired films we could choose and we selected about 30 films that paired up with the design or the name or the logo of the beer. Then we whittled it down from what stock was available and what a good selection of films would be and then we ended up with these 7.”

Sam told me Tiny Rebel were the first brewery to get in touch with him and that they really loved the idea and that they’ve been enthusiastic and great to work with. So moving on from that I asked him what the format would be for the showings?

Sam – “It’s entirely on the breweries because I’ve approached a number of them and tried to encourage them and make them enthusiastic about it and the best events are going to be the ones where the breweries are coming along. Most of them have got some presentations from people from the brewery who are coming to give us some behind the scenes tours on screen and little secrets of the industry. Most of them have been really good to sponsor us a free drink on arrival which is very nice. A lot of them have given us free t-shirts as well, I think we might put a number on the bottom of each can and every can you buy we’ll raffle it out at the end of the screening. But essentially it was a quick idea and it’s definitely an informal idea . So it’s just some good films and we’ll have some beer available to buy at the bar throughout the summer and on the day we’ll just all get to taste it all and we’ll have fun watching great films.”

I asked if Sam planned to keep the beers (and one cider!) on the bar beyond the event and he said that at the moment they will be available from now until the end of the festival and after that if any of them have proven to be successful they will look at the possibility of extending their availability.  However he did also say he’d like to keep this special and return to it again next summer with another selection of beers.

I said to Sam that although it was a great range of beers there was nothing local (turns out the cider is from Aston!) so would he consider doing an event with a local brewery? (Of course we don’t have so many local breweries canning so it does make the pun a little redundant!). We agreed we need to think of a good film where they drink a lot of beer (we did discuss American Frat House films but you’d have to pick a good one!).

Sam – “We have Two Towers Brewery on our doorstep and they do our Electric Ale. So definitely I’d be interested in doing local beers. A lot of what we do is trying to keep things independent and local where possible.”

I finished up asking what level of interest the event had received.

Sam – “The feedback has been good. It’s a very easy pitch which is good, sometimes you try and do these kind of events and they can get a bit complicated but this is easy it’s just 7 films 7 beers come and enjoy. So it’s been an easy one to market. It’s been very well received on Facebook, all of the screenings are at least half full already. We’ve had to put a second screening of Goodfellas on, that’s been the most popular so far.”

I asked if there was anything Sam wished was on the bill but wasn’t and he replied that one he did miss was Brewdog‘s Elvis Juice as they haven’t shown an Elvis film in many years but he just couldn’t get one in. We finished up discussing the idea of a local brewery making a beer inspired by a film which Sam was very interested in so local brewers get your thinking caps on!

Thanks to Sam for his time and the mini behind the scenes tour. I hope the festival is a big success and it gets lots of people into this wonderful cinema and drinking some great beers! I know I’ll be there!

Stone Berlin and Greg Koch

One of the main reasons Deb & I wanted to go to Berlin was to visit the recently opened restaurant “World Bistro and Gardens” and brewery of Stone Brewing since we’d had a few friends singing its praises. We decided on dates and once booked we were fortunate to discover that on the Wednesday a Brewers’ Dinner was on the events calendar. This seemed like an opportunity not to be missed and when we knew we had tickets I thought I might as well ask if there might be a chance to have a chat with Greg Koch, the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Stone Brewing. And after a couple of emails back and forth with Colin Lenz, their PR guy, it was set up for late afternoon. I got a bit panicked because we were running a bit late but needn’t have worried because they seemed very chilled and laid back. Colin met us outside and we were pretty knocked out upon entering the reception area where we could see a bar, merchandise, a fridge full of beer and a small glass enclosed room. Then we entered the main hall and were fleetingly blown away by the sheer scale of the place before being ushered into the new library bar where Greg was waiting for us.

I began by asking him when he first got the idea for a European base and was surprised when he said it was as far back as 2009. So they spent a while looking at different sites including the UK and Greg said they had put very good proposals together but just couldn’t find any traction until they found the site south of Berlin’s city centre. Built in 1901 it had been a gasworks facility and due to its size it provided a space for the brewery, plus restaurant and gardens to enjoy great food and great beer in a beautiful setting. When he saw it he could see its potential, and after a few visits to the city of Berlin he fell in love with its history, architecture and vibrant cultural life.We then went back to the beginning, Before Stone, when he was living on the West coast and working in the music industry and although into beer the choice was fairly limited. Then before I could ask him, he mentioned his epiphany beer was drinking an Anchor Steam Ale whilst in LA in 1987. This had two effects, the first being that he became a beer geek and went in search of more flavourful beers and sought out beer festivals. But he also had a sense of disappointment and frustration and felt that by brewing bland corporate beers the big brewers had somehow avoided giving the public a choice. This was a theme he returned to a couple of times in our conversation. But back to the early 90’s and Greg met fellow beer enthusiast Steve Wagner who was also a homebrewer, and so they began brewing together. The first beer they brewed was a very hoppy Altbier, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess there weren’t a lot of examples of this style around, it being an amber ale of German origin. So even at this early stage the guys were setting out their stall so to speak. There followed a further 3 – 4 years when they went down the rabbit hole of beer geekdom, getting increasingly angry about the aforementioned lack of choice and the fact that there were only a few bars in major cities with anything approaching a decent selection of beers. So by 1995 they came to the conclusion that they needed to open their own brewery, and after searching for a few months settled on San Diego in February the following year with the first beer being released in July. They came upon the name Stone purely by tossing ideas out and actually coming up with something that neither of them objected to with both liking the fact it had a naturalness about it, and its attributes including the sense of solidity. Originally they thought they wanted to do traditional European styles of beer with Greg being a self professed Europhile, and so the gargoyle symbol came about because it was a motif to ward off evil spirits. In the case of Stone it is there to ward off cheap ingredients, pasteurisation, and chemical additives…

 

Their first beer was a pale ale, but they followed this up with a smoked porter almost in an effort to really show the possibilities that they felt were missing in the beer scene. But the barriers to entry into the beer market were high and included coming into contact with a certain amount of ignorance. He told us a story of one meeting with a group of beer distributors to sample the beers and when he poured the porter, one of them was astonished that it was so dark! And they had opened at a bad time for the burgeoning craft beer industry which had gone from having growth of 25% and then 45% to just 7% in 1996 and down to 2% the following year. This was the year that they released one of their signature beers, Arrogant Bastard, a beer that seems to have been loved and misunderstood in equal measure. Like many people I thought their message does come across as a bit arrogant, but when you are with Greg he doesn’t come across that way at all, and when he explains the reasoning behind the wording on the Arrogant Bastard label (which I’m sure he’s had to do more times than he can remember) it does make sense. You have to try to imagine what it was like 20 years ago when the beer drinking public just had Miller, Bud, Coors etc and so they weren’t aware of whether they might like something different because they didn’t have the choice. So when the label says you probably won’t like it, well for 99% of drinkers at the time it was probably true, ditto not having the taste or sophistication. At first they were just going to produce 100 cases of the beer because there was a sense that in amongst the sense of fun they were also trying to put people off. And yes it takes a dig at the big corporations but at the time this beer was an outlier pointing to a future that was maybe a little bit uncertain.

But a bit to their surprise it became a success which lead to many variations and it taking on a life of its own in recent months cf Arrogant Brewing. Moving into the new century Stone, like many American breweries, found themselves able to take a few left turns since they had no recent strong brewing heritage in the land of fizzy yellow lager. It’s a bit of a mixed metaphor but it was like being in a culinary environment with a blank canvas. I mentioned to Greg that one of my favourite beers of theirs was the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA because I loved that meeting between a west coast ipa and Belgian yeast although he did say that it was no longer a big seller in the US. But you only have to look at their Untappd listings to see how adventurous they have been during their 20+ year history. Eventually success meant that they outgrew their original brewery and moved to the current location in Escondido, north of San Diego in late 2005. A year later they opened the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens to sell their beers, locally sourced organic food, and give themselves event space for festivals. I finished off my conversation by asking how he felt things had developed since that big move and how he felt about social media. He said he found the business to still be extremely competitive and even with their name and success they still had to work hard to get their beers into bars and keep producing high quality product with the best ingredients. Social media is just seen as a communication tool, not a selling one

Once Greg had left Colin suggested we had a beer and brought the list in for us to peruse…omg, it was big, 51 taps split into Stone Berlin & San Diego, Arrogant Brewing, and guests. I went for the Pataskala Red IPA (I’m sure Colin said it was named after the town of Greg’s birth) which uses a German speciality malt to give it a red hue and sweet bready base for the combination of Mosaic, Cascade and Amarillo hops to sit on. Deb had Tangerine Express ipa which she described as being lovely and full bodied with the correct amount of orangy goodness. We had a little chat about his background in Germany – he had also been working in the music industry in Berlin before moving to Stone in October of last year into a job which he is really enjoying. We asked about his epiphany beer and he said it was a Lervig Lucky Jack pale ale that he had 7 years ago in Oslo. He added as well that whilst touring the US West Coast with his girlfriend he was impressed by all the small breweries along the way, specifically Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka where he celebrated his birthday on the 4th of July. He also gave us a little more history of the place telling us the brewery is 100 hectolitres with the first beer being released last June, and the pilot brewery, which was the first to become operational in December 2015, is 10 hectolitres. The restaurant had opened in September and, like the one at Escondido, used ingredients from small local, organic farms for its menu which is inspired by different food cultures. The library bar where we were sitting was a recent addition, having only been opened in the previous month and was full of bric a brac some of which were gifts from other breweries. After a while Colin had to go back to work and so we explored a bit more including the garden space, and I’m going to quote their fact sheet first – “Approximately 5.000 square meters with corners, nooks and gathering spaces created using natural elements of the space and repurposed building materials. The expansive gardens include boulders, large trees, and plants maintained using 100 percent organic methods.” I’m not sure if this gives an indication that, like the indoor bar and restaurant area, it is not uniform and corporate but has different distinct looks which we thought really added to the ambiance of the place. The brewery feels calm and welcoming, and although quiet when we first arrived it soon filled up with couples, families, and groups of friends coming to sample beers from the 2 Stones breweries and the plethora of guests. Eventually it was time to join our fellow guests for the brewers dinner with Greg, Drew Curtis, collaborator on w00tstout, and Thomas Tyrell, the Director of Brewing.

So after a brief meet and mingle period we took our places at a table for 6 with Colin, his girlfriend Michaela, and a German couple Daniel and Meike, the latter being a food and drink blogger in Berlin. If you are visiting, check out http://smamunir.de/  although if you’re like me you may need to use Google translate. With 4 courses of excellent food and 10 beers it was a long, fun night – here are some of the highlights (unsurprisingly my note taking became more sporadic as the night went on.) We discovered that the Stone Berliner Weisse that came with the first course is Greg’s favourite beer when he visits the brewery, and with the second course we had 2 relatively new beers, Stone Ripper Pale Ale and the previously mentioned Tangerine Express. With the main course of spicy pork chop we had Arrogant Brewing Punishment which used chilis from Greg’s garden originally and is his mother’s favourite beer (which is pretty hardcore). Greg said that great brewing is art and art should have a point of view and by the this course I think we were getting it – my description of Punishment just said “Wow, what a beast, chilli heat and maltiness”. The other third course beer was the Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout (2016), the continuation of a collaboration that first began in 2013. Taking its name from Wil Wheaton’s W00tstock show it was inspired by Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie dessert, Drew said they thought the pecans gave it a good mouthfeel and helped the different flavours work well together. Finishing up with Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard and a mellow Coffee Milk Stout a rather splendid evening of great food, beer and conversation came to an end.

In conclusion we found Berlin to be a great city to visit, so much history and culture for one thing, but this afternoon and evening at Stone was certainly a highlight and it’s highly recommended as a place to visit…cheers to Greg, Colin and the rest of the staff!

 

 

 

The First Brum Beer Babs Meet Up!

The Babs and Alex from Five Points

Get the 26th of April 2017 in your calendars – it’s hopefully going to be remembered as a momentous day!

It marks the very first meet up of the Brum Beer Babs a ladies beer group that I’ve founded.

I’ve been thinking for some time about ladies and beer. As you can imagine I go to a lot of beery events and tastings and more often than not I am in the minority. I’ve been seeing lots of inspiring ladies on the internet organising beer events (@ladiesthatbeer, @dealatis, @wotfest) and I thought Birmingham needed to join the fun. I wanted to offer a way to meet up and try new beers plus meet like minded women. I feel that sometimes it can be a bit daunting as a woman in a bar when faced with a wide beer choice and I have certainly experienced some condescending bar people over the years – making sure I know a beer is ‘very sour’ or ‘a bit strong’ for example. So I thought I’d bite the bullet and go for it. The plan is to have a meet up once a month, maybe at an event such as meet the brewer, a beer festival or just for a beer and a chat. I’m hoping that we get a good rotating group each month and that as we develop we can start to organise our own events – Ladies that Beer recently had a beer and food matching evening curated by Melissa Cole (maybe this is a bit ambitious for us right now but we’ll aim high!).

For our first event I decided to take advantage of an already scheduled meet the brewer with The Five Points Brewing Co at The Wolf. Sallie and Josh were happy to host us and even reserved us a table – I optimistically booked it for 8 people slightly worried I’d be sitting on my own all night. How wrong I was – we filled the table! I was also contacted by a number of people who wanted to come but had last minute travel or work issues so we could have been even more!

When I arrived I met Alex Zapela and Thom Hill from the brewery and they told me that they’d brought along some special limited release beers for us to try and that they’d do a small tasting session for us – what a wonderful start for our group! Alex said to let him know when we were ready and he’d crack the first beer. A few of us tucked into some of the lovely food from the bar and once the table was full we were off!

We started off with a quick overview of the brewery, they’re based under the railway arches in Hackney. Their current capacity is 30BBL/9000 Hectolitres. They also have 15 Burgundy red wine casks that they use to age their barley wine and porter. They are currently in the process of expanding to the next door archway where they should be ready to open a tap room and off sales space in late 2017 early 2018. They currently fill into keg, cask, can and bottle – all of which, Alex told us, are equally important to the brewery – they’re doing all formats every week.

The first beer we tried was Citrus Pale (Can at 4.2%) – this is brewed with Mosaic hops which gave it a lemon zesty flavour. This was a can from the first batch and had only been released the previous Tuesday. It was super drinkable and well met their aim to keep the abv low but with lots of flavour. They’ve since brewed a second batch dry hopped with more Mosaic but now even that is all gone. We loved the cat design on both the can and the pump clip and that it said Meow on the bottom of the can!

The second beer was Old Greg’s Barley Wine. This is a special beer that they only brew on New Year’s Eve – it’s always brewed with Challlenger, Target and East Kent Golding hops and the same malt bill. We had two version to try the 2015 (brewed on 31st December 2014) and the 2016 (brewed on 31st December 2015). It’s a big hitter at 9.5% for the 2015 and 9.3% for the 2016.

We started with the older version this had a rich smooth flavour, lots of dried fruits – a real Christmasy beer. The newer version was sweeter with a much more malty flavour, this will definitely improve with age I’m sure. Vanessa had a great analogy for the flavours saying the older one was a fruit cake whilst the younger one was more of a teacake.

The final beer was the Barrel Aged Railway Porter. This beer was available on the bar in its standard format so we got to do a side by side tasting. This beer uses those Burgundy barrels and spends 2 years in them. The initial beer went in at 6.1% but we guessed the barrel ageing had increased that a bit! The bottle we had had a best before of 06/2018 but I think it could definitely have gone on improving way past that date. The beer had rich chocolate flavour and was very dry and smooth. The standard porter was also very good but you could see how the barrel ageing added some depth. We did a little poll at the end to see who preferred which porter and it came out 50:50 – so a win for both beers!

I think this was a great start to our meet ups – a number of people said they’d learnt something, even if it was only that they didn’t like Barley Wine!

I want to say a big thank you to The Wolf for hosting us so well and to Alex and Thom for bringing some cracking beers and spending time to talk to us about them and their brewery. Of course thanks to the ladies who came along too – Joanne, Donna, Sarah, Laura, Deb, Vanessa and Lindsey – I hope to see some or all of you on future meet ups. On that note our next meet up is back at The Wolf on Wednesday 24th May when we’ll be taking part in a tap takeover by Mad Hatter from Liverpool and their brewer Gaz – feel free to pop along – the more the merrier!

If you would like to be a Brum Beer Bab and find out about any future events follow on Twitter @BrumBeerBabs and Facebook here.

The Fun of Beer Festival Volunteering!

Easter weekend – eggs, chicks, hot cross buns? Not for me – for me it was volunteering at the inaugural Hop City Festival at Northern Monk in Leeds.

I’d been to Leeds only a few weeks before to help Roberto Ross celebrate his birthday and enjoyed our visit to the refectory bar. The building is lovely with the brewery on the ground floor, the refectory bar in the middle and an events space on the top floor.

The festival promised to offer a selection of hop forward beers over 3 days (13th-15th April). Since I’m a complete hop fan I knew it would be for me then I saw a call to arms from Dea Latis to get more ladies to volunteer – I’d enjoyed volunteering at the Birmingham Beer Bash last year and (as you know from this blog) I love talking about beer so I signed up for 2 sessions – Thursday and Friday evenings.

I arrived on the Thursday to a very calm upper floor. There was the usual level of organised chaos from the organisers (shout out to Rob who organised us all and was great). As is usual you start out getting your volunteer t-shirt (a fetching yellow one with a giant hop on it) and a safety briefing. The usual rules of not knocking back pints and pints on shift – you’re there to work after all, but of ensuring you taste the beers you’re serving so you know what you’re talking about were explained along with the food voucher system and important health and safety info.

Each brewer had brought 2 beers with them and these would remain the same for the whole festival to prevent any fear of missing out by only going to one session. However the range was amazing.

My first shift was with Toby and Chris from Brew By Numbers – they’d brought 01/01 their very first beer, a Citra Saison, and 05/21 an Azacca and NZ Cascade IPA. They told me they’d planned to bring a different beer but an issue with a batch of yeast meant it wasn’t up to scratch. We were in great company as our neighbours included Beavertown, Other Half (I got to meet their brewmaster Sam Richardson at my ‘drinking’ session on Saturday), Wylam, Siren and Kernel.

Me with Toby and Chris from Brew by Numbers

Toby and Chris explained the beers to me and we had a taste – the saison was light and fruity and ended up being a popular palate cleanser during the hop overload whilst the IPA was a real juice bomb. They had a beer engine which I’d used before so pouring was no issue. As is the thing with all festivals the highlight is meeting people – punters, volunteers (it was great to meet Mac from @sotoncraftbeer, on with Kernel, who’d come all the way from Southampton to volunteer!) and brewers. As the evening wore on the fantastic soundtrack provided by the guys from Wylam got us all dancing behind our respective bars. I’m not sure if that attracted customers or put them off but we had fun. Of course there is hard work too – once the customers for the night had gone it was all hands on deck to clear up rubbish, collect empty glasses and get the area cleaned down for the next session.

Meeting Sam Richardson, Brewmaster at Other Half

Day 2 dawned and I spent the day enjoying Leeds with my husband but as 5pm rolled around I was back to Northern Monk for shift 2. One of the main draws is that for this festival Northern Monk had spared no expense in air freighting over a range of Alchemist beers from Vermont. These near mythical brewers make the top rated beer on Rate Beer – Heady Topper. Along with this the can bar also had Focal Banger, Luscious and Farmer’s Daughter. When I arrived I was assigned to this can bar and spent a very pleasant hour listening to classical music resonating around the brewery (as that is where the bar was situated) and getting to learn about the beers and the ‘rules’ for serving them. Only one of each per customer, mark their wristbands with the appropriately coloured Sharpie, 3 tokens a can and they must be opened at the table – no exceptions! Having spent all that money getting the beers over they rightly did not want people taking them away and storing them goodness knows how or for how long ruining the fresh taste and generating bad feedback. I started my day working with Tara Taylor from Northern Monk (she has my dream job – Brand Ambassador), she was a very lovely lady all the way from California! She told me they’d had 2 hours of solid queues on the previous sessions so I knew what to expect. She wasn’t wrong – once the doors opened a large proportion of people made their way straight to the can bar. Of course we had people asking for take aways (they got more as the evening went on – all sorts of bribes were offered and rejected!) but in general people were just happy to get their hands on these rare beers.

Chelsea, Tara and I show off The Alchemist beers!

I was joined early on by Adam (from @beermoresocial) so there was a fair bit of blogging conversation going on. Then the hightlight for me was we were joined by Chelsea Nolan one of the brewsters from The Alchemist! She’d only just flown in that morning and come direct to the festival. She was super friendly and more than happy to talk about her beers and the brewery. I learnt during the day that they have 6 people brewing – 3 men and 3 women (that’s a pretty good split!). She also told me that the reason Heady Topper and Focal Banger tell you to drink direct from the can is really 2 fold – the main reason is that volatiles from the super high levels of hops begin to be lost as soon as you pour out the beer so the can keeps them in and that also in the US plastic glasses are used at a lot of venues so by drinking it from the can you’re saving the environment too!

I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever opened so many cans, I soon had a blister! I also had ‘can envy’ as I got to smell all the wonderful aromas from the beers but not drink them! But we had great fun and Chelsea was great company joking with the customers all evening (obviously beer counteracts jet lag!).

As the evening wore on Tara came to ask for a volunteer to go up and work on the Refectory bar – I couldn’t miss this opportunity (I’d briefly worked on there the day before but it was fleeting). So I ended my volunteering working at the main Northern Monk bar. It was busy and there were quite a few people looking a bit the worse for wear but still lots of people interested in the line up of beers on. It was a great end to a really fun couple of days of volunteering.

If you don’t mind hard work and maybe blisters from opening cans I can wholeheartedly recommend volunteering at a beer festival – you meet great people from all over the world, brewers, volunteers and visitors. You get to talk about beer with like minded people and I got to go to the festival on the Saturday too, so I got over my can envy! Roll on my next volunteering adventure and Hop City 2018!

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.