Category: Profile

The Bottle Shed

Another great logo designed by The Upright One

The Inn on The Green (IOTG) has been named the Birmingham CAMRA Pub of the Year for the last two years, largely down to its great selection of beers and friendly, community focused environment; so we were excited to hear they were turning their hand to creating a bottle shop…or a Bottle Shed.

“Even though the shed is technically a different business to IOTG, it is a complement to the pub, if there isn’t something that takes your fancy on the bar, I’m sure the shed will have something for you, or visa-versa.”

The three key people behind The Bottle Shed are IOTG landlord; Brendon, General Manager; Ross Lang, and Rambo.  As you can see, Rambo is a silent partner, so we posed some questions to Brendon and Ross to find out more about their plans.

Silent Partner, Rambo

For our first question we asked what was their epiphany beer, the one that turned it from being just another drink, to a passion.

Brendon – “My first epiphany craft beer was Brooklyn East India IPA, and I remember it well as I had it when I arrived in Chicago on 9/11 waking up the horrific devastation that took place that day.”

Ross – “My epiphany beer is Brodies London Fields Pale Ale. As soon as I drank it I knew that ale was my future.”
With a very successful pub already under their belt we wanted to know why they wanted to take on the extra work and stress of The Bottle Shed, with its bottle and taps.
“We opened the Shed because of a love of good beer and to push the Birmingham craft beer scene forward.”
Ask the team what their taps were in a previous life?
The shop is stocked with beer from local breweries, beers from great British breweries and beers from further afield including the States.   We wanted to know how they made the decisions of which beers to stock:
“We choose the beers we sell by trying to keep our finger on the pulse. Continually seeing what people are talking about and what is getting people excited. Also if we see something we’ve never heard off we will look into that beer or brewery and see if it’s a worth us following up.”
We had the chance to visit The Bottle Shed on its opening night, and along with drinking beer I was transfixed by the retro gaming, ticking off two of my favourite things, gaming and beer.
“The uniqueness of The Bottle Shed is the whole ethos. It’s a bottle shop and more. The retro games really add a different dimension and it’s great seeing people laughing and joking as Pac-Man gets caught by a ghost. We have a laid back atmosphere, no hard sell. Just a comfortable experience.”
I now know I am rubbish at Pac-Man (but that could have been the beer) but I am still a dab-hand at Galatron.
The Bottle Shed has been open for a few months now, and is proving popular, but what are the future plans for Rambo and his work pals?
“Our future plans are to expand the size of the shed while also keeping the range of beer at a desirable level. We don’t want to sell the mediocre, we want the best of the best.”
If you haven’t visited The Bottle Shed, this weekend provides you with a great reason: Why not pop along to the IOTG beer festival, starting today (13th April) and running through to the 16th April.
“The quarterly festivals are always well received and this will be the 2nd time that The Bottle Shed is involved. We will have 20 cask beers on handpull and stillage, 7 keg beers, 300+ bottles and live music from the likes off Steve Ajao.”
“All the beers will be awesome, from the likes of Siren, Cloudwater, Howling Hops and more, but we don’t want to give too much away.”
You can find The Inn on The Green & The Bottle Shed in Acocks Green.  It has great transport links, with Acocks Green Train station nearby and sits on the 11 bus route.

What’s Behind the Green Door

      It really doesn’t seem that long ago since we were driving down Rufford Road and saw a sign that said Green Duck Brewery with an arrow pointing to a little green door. My wife Deb and I thought it was pointing to the industrial estate so we drove in and saw a guy standing by some casks, which was a good sign. We were told the weekend opening hours and so P1000162 (2)decided to give it a go. On our first visit we discovered a fairly rough and ready bar separated by a glass partition from the actual brewery, and a small array of handpumps featuring beers with a duck theme to their name. For the princely sum of 10 you could get 4 pints (you got, and still do get, tokens so you don’t have to drink them all at once) and you could keep your glass for the next time you visited. I probably had Duck Blonde or Drunken Duck and remember thinking that the beer was ok but nothing special, but having a brewery within 10 minutes walking distance was a plus point.  

      It had been set up at the end of 2013 by Alan Preece and Paul Williams although the original impetus came from Alan who went to Grafton Brewery to learn about the brewing process, and this is where the first beers were brewed. However, he hadn’t really taken into account the logistics of travelling to Worksop so after a while began to look for something a bit closer to home which is where Paul came in.  The current space was rented in summer 2013 and Alan said he always envisaged it to be a combined brewery and bar. The first brewer was freelance, ex O’Hanlons, using recipes from Alan for Blonde, Sitting, and Drunken Duck but he didn’t want to move to the Midlands which meant days would go by without the beers being checked.  Scott Povey was a customer who had done some home brewing and was keen to go to the next level and Alan thought that although he seemed a bit raw there was definitely potential…and how right he was.  He started in Jul ‘14 and I was lucky enough to give him a hand brewing a stout for the Black Country Beer Festival in Lye not long after that and was very impressed by his commitment to focusing on every aspect of the brewing process.  As a budding home brewer I can honestly say that it was a great learning experience to be able to see how things were done “properly”.  Once Scott got into the swing of things the quality improved, but maybe more importantly there was a major improvement in consistency.  And then came the Heisenberg range 20160428_214332 (2)with Alan wanting to do some beers based around the TV show Breaking Bad and using the iconic hat as the pump clip.  This helped raise the brewery profile and by putting some in keg they were able to have a successful tap takeover in the Brewdog Bar in Birmingham. Admitting to a slight bias here, I have to say I thought the beers were very good, with the Walter White Sorachi IPA being a particular favourite of both Deb and myself. Around this time Alan got a new business partner, Nathan Kiszka who had an extensive naval background and came on board (sorry!) to be in charge of increasing sales for the brewery brand. He has a natural ability to, and confidence in, talking to people due to this previous career which involved a lot of moving around and meeting a new group of people every 2 years. He was always an ale drinker and remembers his first beers being McEwan Export and Courage CSB, the latter of which was brewed specifically for the Navy. His travels meant that he tried and enjoyed lots of different styles of beer and so when he finished his stint and was looking for a new challenge it was quite fortuitous that he met up with Alan whilst their respective boys played football. And so after a few conversations he became part of the company and has helped them grow in the last few months.  But towards the end of 2015 with Scott increasingly needing to look after his own brewery, Fixed Wheel, a change was needed.

In February of this year Alex Hill, formerly the bar manager, took over as head brewer and in March brewed his first beer solo, Duck Under, a brew which has changed over time due to hop availability. This roughly coincided with a rebranding of the brewery and a new range of pump clips. Alex, now still only 24, studied chemistry and maths at Aston University and in his 3rd year worked away at Faccenda as a production planner which he enjoyed… but he decided he wanted to set up his own business instead of working for someone. He had always been an ale rather than lager drinker since his dad drank real ale and his first drinks were usually Wye Valley HPA or Bathams, although his what I call epiphany beers were Oakham Citra and Thornbridge Jaipur. During his final year at Aston he needed to find a job, and being a beer drinker he asked around in pubs to see if they needed staff and ended up working shifts at The Post Office Vaults and the Wellington, the latter being one of Birmingham’s premier real ale pubs with its array of handpulls. This fostered his growing interest in beer and doing 2 or 3 shifts a week gave him time to start home brewing, firstly with simple kits but by brew #5 he was using a 100L trial system. It was probably about this time that I first met Alex as he had been roped in to help out at a Green Duck beer festival, and not long after Philip Guy left to become landlord of the Red Lion in Amblecote he became bar manager. And so time passed, Alex kept brewing another 90 – 100 times making progress in his understanding of different beers and the whole brewing process. With a friend he began to plan for them to open a brewery called Glassjaw and Deb and I were just 2 of many that were able to sample some of their range of home brew which were all of a very high standard. But things didn’t quite pan out and earlier this year Alan made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and so here we are. Alex has been giving the recipes a few tweaks, some of which are because of hop availability, a problem that seems to be affecting a lot of brewers. He says he is quite happy doing cask beer but the brewery is going to be doing more keg in the future, and judging by the Fat Neck IPA that has just been released that is something to look forward to.  Alan also has his input on recipes and ideas, and I’ve heard them batting around a few so I think there is a lot to come from these guys in the coming months

Oh, and why a duck as the Marx Brothers once asked…well, in his “proper” job as a printer Alan had an outline of a duck onscreen for a job he was doing, and, having always been a fan of a shaped pump clip, he thought this would give the brewery a bit of a USP.  And the green?  Well, that was his son, Lewis’s favourite colour.


Mini profile ~ Red House Boutique

      I remember many years ago having a slight altercation at a pub quiz over the correct answer to “What is the Hulk’s real name? ” – I said Bruce Banner, the quizmaster said David, and I said you won’t like me when I’m angry…I think we still probably lost. The pub in question was part of the Hogshead in Foster Street, Stourbridge which I seem to recall used to be pretty good but over the years it changed a few times to become a fairly generic town bar. But in mid June it opened up as the Red House Boutique with, according to the Stourbridge News, the message that it is all about the beer.The owner is Paul Jones who owns Liquid Line wholesalers in Tipton along with 14 pubs in the Black Country. With the Red House he is aiming to capture a wide demographic with its range of cask

and keg, a 55 bottle fridge and also 23 different types of gin, along with the usual premium spirits, for when you fancy something different to beer. With 8 cask lines there should be plenty of choice for everyone, 6 are permanent and local including Enville, Wye Valley, Hobsons and Fixed Wheel, and I for one am happy to see the latter on that list.  The guest ales on the VIP night were from Abbeydale and Kelham Island. and it was good to see Scott P1000191Povey of Fixed Wheel and Reuben Crouch from Hobsons having a bit of a chinwag over a pint. The keg line up has a selection of European and American brews and featured Vedett and Poretti as well as a house lager and beers from Meantime, Backyard Brewery in Sweden and Flying Dog from Aspen Colorado. And the bottle list looks pretty impressive with many recognisable names, as you can see from these couple of photos.

      We had a brief chat with Paul and he said the bar won’t be having music playing as he wants people to come for conversation, although we did spy a few TV monitors in the bar area. However it is a really big space with an outdoor area as well, they will be serving what they describe as “pub snacks with a gastro twist”, and I hope it  will become a welcome addition for Stourbridge drinkers of all ages.