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Brewing Hoppy Hopkins

It was a 7AM start on Wednesday 15th June when Alex Hill picked me up to brew Hoppy Hopkins, the monthly special for July at Green Duck. First things first which in this case means getting the malt ready, Alex had already worked out how much was needed and got the bags, which were mainly pale lager malt open the night before. And fortunately the brewery is set up with a small floor for storing the malt and a hopper above the mash tun which makes things a little easier.

Whilst the mash was going rather than standing around we got to cleaning FV 1, firstly by myself with the high pressure hose and then a little while later Alex got into the vessel to give it a good scrub down with caustic. Once the mash was done it was time to get the sparging going which means keeping an eye on the mash to keep it well watered and checking that the transfer into the kettle doesn’t go too fast. Meanwhile there is plenty of other work to be done which in my case meant cask cleaning. When they are returned they still have dregs of beer in them so they are steam cleaned before going on to the 3 stage cask cleaner. This involves a rinse with water, then caustic, and then a mixture of the two for a 4 minute cycle, so repetitive but also strangely therapeutic.

Meanwhile back at the kettle it is coming to the boil and so I get to do one of my favourite jobs, breaking up and weighing out the hops. I am used to the little vacuum packed bags of hops I get for my home brewing but on this scale it can be a little tougher as I learnt when breaking up the Simcoe hops for Scott Povey’s DIPA (see here Birmingham Beer Bash Profiles – Fixed Wheel Brewery — Midlands Beer Blog Collective), but this time it goes easier with the various hops, including some of my favourites such as Cascade, Chinook and Mount Hood we have picked for the brew, and obviously sitting in amongst that hop aroma is very nice.

Once the boil is on a roll so to speak it’s time to get back to cleaning and tidying, I was fortunate in that Alex didn’t ask me to clean out the mash tun, but I did get to drag the heavy slightly sodden bags out ready to be collected for animal feed at local farms. After 70 mins the wort is transferred via a cooling system into the newly cleaned FV and during this operation the yeast is added. Once again the aroma is to die for, the only better job would probably be working in a pesto factory…hmm, pesto beer, has anyone done that?  But I digress although really that is all there is to it, except for more cleaning, this time the spent hops have to be dug out of the kettle.  P1000215And then it is a waiting game as the beer is checked over the next few days to make sure it goes down to the desired Original Gravity before the final stage is done, adding sugar, usually dextrose, in the correct amount before the beer is transferred to casks, kegs and bottles. Although actually the final stage is when it is poured into a glass and you get your first taste…

Fast forward to Friday July 15th and I actually get to go behind the bar at Green Duck and pour my 1st pint of Hoppy Hopkins, although being a gentleman I let Deb have the first one, but then we clink glasses, say cheers, take a sip…and unsurprisingly it is very nice. But why wouldn’t it be, so far all the monthly specials including Tank’s Pale ale, Lynn’s Figgy Mild and Skirving Summer Ale have been good, and some of them such as the Shaky Steven’s American Stout have been very good. So cheers to the staff at the brewery and especially Alex for letting me help…now what are we going to do for our next Collaboration 🙂

Four Counties Tour

      So our 3 Counties tour became a 4 Counties one once we realised our route was going to take us very close to Phil Hardy’s recently opened bottle shop Otters Tears in Burslem, Staffordshire. 20160413_133315_resizedPhil has done what we’d all like to do and turned his passion into his job and I would encourage anyone in the area to give him a visit. He certainly knows his stuff and has a good selection of beers from the UK and beyond including a few that were new to me, which in the ever-changing beery landscape we live in is not that difficult. Plus he has a little 2 tap keg bar so you can have a swift half whilst chatting and perusing the shelves…in my case it was Salopian Kashmir, a gorgeous hoppy ipa. He also recommended we stop for lunch in Leek at Spout, a cafe/delicatessen with a bottle shop on the floor above… we successfully resisted the temptation to spend more money.

      On arrival in Buxton we checked in to the first of our Premier Inns, and took a stroll, via the delightful Pavilion Gardens, to our main reason for visiting, the Buxton Tap House. We had been earlier this year for a brief visit and vowed to return to try the food and sample more beers. The brewery itself opened in 2009 and 4 years later they decided to open the Tap House in the centre of town about a mile away from where the magic happens and those 4 special ingredients are turned into the drink we all know and love. When it first opened it had 6 cask hand pulls on one side of the bar and 8 keg on the other, but once the brewery decided to stop doing cask ales they added an extra 8 keg taps which they keep at cask temperature for the darker beers. They have kept 2 hand pulls, so apart from the occasional beer festival it is the only place you can drink cask Buxton. P1000044P1000039On our visit the choice was Rednik and High Tor, the latter of which I tried and it was a little like drinking liquid malt loaf. We had picked our dates well, because more by luck than judgement our visit coincided with the release of Kingmaker, a 10.5% Double IPA, so we gradually worked our way up to that. As the evening progressed a 20160413_203013_resizedwide age range of customers came through the door. Being so close to the Opera House they get a lot of older (ie our age) punters in, but because it was open mic night there were also a fair few younger people in. I have to say most of the singers were pretty good and it did seem popular. We headed back to the hotel just after 11 and the place was still buzzing. Foodwise we were impressed as well, nothing out of the ordinary, but very good solid pub grub. And the beer was pretty good too…standouts would be the Red Point ipa, the Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter, the Kingmaker & Barrel Aged Double Axe, but I did enjoy their interpretations of some Belgian styles.

      The next day we headed a bit further north to the beer mecca that is Huddersfield, and yes if you had told me that a few years back I would’ve laughed in your face. But it is the home of Magic Rock, one of my favourite breweries, (and also the subject of a separate blog post), and some excellent pubs. When we arrived we needed a bit of lunch so headed to the Wood St bar, formerly the home of a Hand Drawn Monkey bar, although they are now sadly defunct. P1000062It was a funky little place selling cask and keg with a friendly guy behind the bar, and they had Mallinsons on, another Huddersfield brewery who I’m quite partial to. Plus they did a decent homemade pizza. Our exploits the next day included yet another bottle shop, Arcade Beers as recommended by Duncan at Magic Rock. This is quite small but still boasts an excellent selection of ales from far and wide, and they have a couple of keg taps so I was able to have a swift half of Mandarina Bavaria Saison by Partizan Brewing whilst chatting about both beer and comics to one of the guys who runs the place. Also on the list of suggestions from a few people was The Sportsman so a little later we headed there for lunch which was good quality pub food with the likes of burgers and pulled pork sandwiches which went very well with their range of beers, Deb and I both stuck to cask with fine ales from Shiny, First Chop, Mallinsons and Lost Industry.  

But the highpoint of the day, as expected, was a visit to The Grove, an unprepossessing pub just outside the ring road that circles the town.  It is only when you see the beer board with 19 cask and 17 keg beers listed you know you’ve come to a place where you can spend a pleasant few hours. I was particularly impressed with the Chunky Monkey Chocolate Stout by Brodie’s Brewery and Chocolate Ice Cream Brown Ale by Omnipollo, but it is a great unpretentious local pub that does have some pretty unusual decor

      Our last full day was in Macclesfield, home of the Red Willow brewery, but before we get to that we had a good wander around with our first stop being at the Treacle Tap. This is a small narrow bar with 3 cask handpulls and 1 keg tap, and judging by all the pump clips on display they have served a lot of beers from breweries both near and far. Into the latter camp is Hopcraft from Wales and the girl behind the bar was just checking out Oceanic that had just come on, so Deb and I both had that, and it was clear and really well kept. P1000096We had another swift half before heading off for coffee and cake because it’s not just all about the beer you know, and then Deb went shopping whilst I visited Brewtique, number 4 in the series of bottle shops I visited. This one was a reasonable size, had a good selection including the USA & Belgium but also a lot of local breweries which again included some new ones to me. And they had 4 keg taps, so was able to chill with a glass of Crossroads from Ilkley whilst perusing the shelves. We met up at the Wharf just out of the centre of town, a busy local with a good choice of cask, a lot of it from Cheshire, Yorkshire and vicinity so we were able to try Allgates, Magic Rock & the Manchester Brewing Company. And then we made our way to The Red Willow bar which had been our raison d’etre for the visit but which flummoxed me a little. Like the Buxton Tap House it is not physically connected to the brewery which is half a mile away, and like them, it did attract a wide clientele rather than just beardy craft drinking hipsters like me. They serve cask and keg, both their own and guests, but also a lot of gin and cocktails and with it being Saturday night I suppose it led to a high turnover of customers who had 1 drink and left, a bit like a circuit bar. There was a part of me which thought you could drop it in the middle of Broad Street in Birmingham and it would be quite at home. I’m not sure if this makes me some kind of snob, and it’s great to see a venue selling such a good variety of beer doing so well, and maybe if we’d have gone there at lunchtime the vibe would have been different, but…  It wasn’t helped by the fact the first barman didn’t seem able to pull proper pint of cask beer, but we did manage a couple of decent beers, Wreckless by Redwillow Brewery and Chinook Plus by Black Jack Beers. To have one final drink we popped into the Brew Station, another bottle shop, #5 I believe, which looked very new, was quite compact and bijou with a fairly limited selection and again had an array of keg taps. Alas the beer was fairly average, maybe a bit too cold, so time to call it a night.

      P1000102Our final pub of the trip was The Young Pretender in Congleton, the sister pub to The Treacle Tap that we’d visited the day before.  This was a little larger than that bar but like that one seemed like it may’ve been a shop in its previous existence, and again had the same chilled atmosphere and fine selection of beer with 10 keg taps and 5 cask lines. I think every beer we had was pretty local, either from Cheshire or, in the case of Summer Wine, Yorkshire, and being lunchtime we each had one of their hearty, locally-made award winning (Great North Pie Co) pie meals.  Add to that a great music selection that went from Miles Davis to John Grant/The Czars to Wilco and I could have quite easily stayed there all day.

      So as you can tell it was a pretty great trip, and on top of all the great beer and food I would also add that the 3 Premier Inns we stayed in were all pretty good, plus it was great to see a fairly thriving coffee scene, especially in Huddersfield.

Beer Tasting with Roberto Ross

     P1000111Tuesday 26th April was our first attendance at one of Roberto Ross’s bottle tastings, this one being held at Tilt in the city centre. We’d had a look at the list beforehand and thought the beers looked interesting and probably more importantly, somewhat different to what we usually drink, thus taking us a little out of our comfort zone. So, along with Roberto, 8 of us, some of whom we already knew and some who may become new beer buddies, adjourned downstairs to sit at a long table underneath the speaker pouring forth many an 80’s classic.  

First up was Jardinier by a California brewery called The Bruery, a very refreshing Belgian P1000112style pale ale with a delightful pink label on the bottle.  It had a clean, sherberty, zingy taste with some fruit and a bit of spiciness at the end, and was quite easy drinking for 4.9%.  The next beer also came from California: Gramarye by the Heretic Brewing Company.  This is an easy drinking pale ale which the brewery says has the “snappy taste of rye.”, and Deb and I found it quite dry but sessionable at only 4.4%, hoppy but not too bitter and with fruit flavours coming through as it warmed up. To Kernel next for their Dry Stout Chinook which as the name suggests is an Irish stout made using Chinook and which was unsurprisingly very dry.  It poured a very dark black with a light head.  On the nose it was a bit ashy and reminiscent of bonfire toffee, although one of our fellow tasters, Catherine, said it reminded her of wet dog, which I think she meant as a compliment; and taste wise it was roasty with a bit of pineyness and dark chocolate.  For beer #4 I turn you over to the brewers, Birrificio Toccalmatto from Italy, for their description of Kaleidoscope, a 6.5% saison – “For our collaboration with Evil Twin, we took a farmhouse ale on a flavor journey: sweet prickly pears, Sicily salt, lactic sourness, Bretta funk … a true kaleidoscope”.  It had very little carbonation, was tart on the nose but very fruity and juicy, so much so that you could almost imagine having it for breakfast, the general consensus being that this was an “interesting beer”.  And now we start to raise the stakes and the abv with the 9% Belgian Strong Dark Ale Embrasse – Peated Oak Aged version from Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar.  Was a bit worried about this one because I’m not a big fan of Islay whiskies but fortunately I didn’t find it too peaty.  Deb said it smelled a bit like smoked maple cured bacon and it did have quite a strong residual sweetness on the back end.  Next we headed back to California for Fire & Eisbock by Mammoth Brewing Company.  An eisbock, I learnt, is made by freezing some of the water out of the beer to concentrate the alcohol and smooth out the flavour and this point was made by the fact that at 10% the beer had no discernable alcohol burn, although it did warm the cheeks a little.  Not much of an aroma to me, but the taste was of raisins, dried fruit and maltiness which gave it quite a rounded flavour.  P1000124The 7th beer was probably my favourite of the night Oculus Sauvage from the Green Flash Brewing Company in San Diego, a Belgian-style IPA aged in red wine barrels which is is inoculated with Brettanomyces and uses a Trappist yeast.  As you would expect from this description it had quite a combination of flavours, it was sharp, tangy, hints of sourness, some citrus fruit and a bit of alcohol burn in this one since it was 10.1%.  And as it warmed up a little different flavours came to the fore, it was like “a story in each sip” as Terry memorably said.  And finally it was back to Italy for Birra del Borgo’s Equilibrista (2012), a Bière de Champagne or Bière Brut.  This had a pretty strong winey aroma to me, was quite dry, not an awful lot of fruit, mainly a touch of grape and apple, but well carbonated.  And that was it, a fun enjoyable evening with good company and the chance to drink a few different beers than either Deb or I normally would.

Stourbridge Beer Festival 2016

      20160426_135037_resizedAs Spring slowly tries to rear its head towards the end of April, thoughts turn to paying our annual visit to the Stourbridge Beer festival at the Town Hall. Much has been said about CAMRA recently, and I myself have reservations about the organisation and its aims, but the local Stourbridge and Halesowen branch seems to be doing a decent job, including introducing a selection of key kegs to the festival. Deb and I went down on Wednesday, which is the CAMRA members night and hence a bit quieter, and being the sad beer drinking git that I am I’d printed off the beer list to note a few I wanted to try. As is sometimes the case on opening night not all the beers were ready but with memories of our recent trip up North we chose 2 pale ales from Yorkshire breweries to start with, both of which were decent, Deb had Azzaca from Blue Bee and I plumped for Mallinson Deutsche pale, a very reliable brewery to my mind. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I was gassing and not paying attention, I got served the wrong beer on my next visit to the bar, but being the polite English couple we are rather than returning it Deb decided to drink it, a dark ale called Bullet from Mr Grundy’s in Derby, described as a “Devilish dark ale”, but even though it was quite mild at 4.3% she seemed to take her time getting through the half pint. I went back and got what i wanted this time, the Lagonda IPA from Marble, a brewery whose beers don’t seem to make it down to Birmingham very often in my limited experience. According to Matt Merrick, who was responsible, along with Roberto Ross, for compiling the list and ordering the beers, this was a late addition to the list but what a great one- a very tasty hoppy bitter ipa. I went dark for the next round and tried another from one of my favourite breweries, Tiny Rebel in Wales, a fairly new one for them, Stay Puft, a marshmallow porter… don’t know if any actual marshmallows were harmed in the making of this beer, but it didn’t disappoint-a lovely creamy porter with a hint of chocolate. Deb stuck with Blue Bee and had Mango Number 5, although she reckoned she only got the mango taste because it was suggested by the name. A bit boring next because I went for one of Gazza’s beers because when you want that hop hit you can’t beat Hopcraft, and Citra Plus does what it says on the tin…nuff said. Time was moving on so let’s up the game and the abv and head to a brewery named after a great song by The Jam, Burning Sky. The 7.2% Devil’s Rest was very good, as described in the programme quite a deep orange colour and with a mild resinous and piney taste.P1000105 To end the night we had to have some keg since they had been so good to put it on, and as I said to Matt as far as I’m concerned good beer is good beer no matter what the dispense method is. We chose beers from Twisted Barrel, the 5.5% I Am The Muffin and 9.4% Wake Up Juice, both of which were very good, each having a Belgian twist that worked very well, really pleased to see these guys from Coventry doing such top notch beers.

      I had a brief chat with Roberto Ross towards the end of the night to see how he thought things had gone, especially with key kegs being a new innovation to the festival. He said he kind of expected the worst, and there had been some dispense issues because keg isn’t necessarily easy, but he hadn’t heard any negative feedback about it. Like many beer drinkers he had been an active member of CAMRA, even becoming one of the youngest chairmen, but after helping organise the 2012 Stourbridge Beer festival (one I remember fondly for the great selection of beers) he felt a bit worn out and took a step back. But with the chance to showcase some really great breweries and beers on cask and keg he was tempted back, and I have to say I think he and Matt did a great job…

      P1000108Since the Wednesday evening had flown by, and Deb had struggled through her half of Bullet (hey, she did say it was a bit like treacle) we decided to make a return visit on Friday, just for a couple of hours ie 4! We enjoyed some great beers from Vocation, Siren, the Mercian Alliance of Brewers, Blue Bee, Raw and Fernandes, but there were some that stood out. Deb had the Lagonda from Marble and agreed that it was pretty impressive, the latest Pilot series brew from Sadlers, a chilli stout called Midnight Oil was very good, as was Scott Povey’s 5.5% Mild Concussion, which came as no surprise. But the stand out could well have been Neopolitan by Northern Monk Brewery (who were the subject of a previous blog) which somehow managed to combine the flavours vanilla, strawberries and chocolate into a pale ale.  So all in all a pretty decent festival, and I was hoping the beer drinkers of Stourbridge concur that the introduction of key keg was well worth it,  The subsequent news that Fixed Wheel had won beer of the festival for their keg offering Spartacus, a Belgian IPA that I’ve had on cask and keg, maybe bore that out, but it is an excellent beer, quite easy drinking for its 6.5% abv, fruity with a hint of spice. So well done to the organisers and volunteers for another successful festival.

Kernel MTB

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Here’s Evin…

Wednesday 2nd November was a special day for the discerning Birmingham beer drinker with Cotteridge Wine holding a meet the brewer and tasting event with Evin O’Riordain from Kernel. This was a bit different to recent events in that we all went through 6 beers together along with a bit of history of the brewery. Kernel is now 6 years old having begun under the Bermondsey arches back in 2009, and they brew 3 types of beer, pale & hoppy, dark & roast, and sour. The beers all have what Evin calls a similar arc and they like to keep the essence the same whether the beers are 3% or 9%. They mostly stick to Maris Otter predominantly for the malt base, and are big fans of single hop or 2 hop beers, but bigger blends do crop up. Twelve people work at the brewery, they all brew but also all muck in and do anything else that needs doing. The impetus to begin the brewery came from a trip to the USA. At the time Evin was selling cheese at Neal’s Yard in London and was aware of the provenance of the goods, ie what farm the milk came from etc rather than it just being part of some industrialised process.  When he was introduced to beers in the States where he could see a similar back story he used his evident appreciation for full flavours and quality ingredients to set up the brewery.

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We began with Table Beer, this one having been hopped with Mosaic and Simcoe, they do have a tendency to change with different brews. It has a nice sharpness of taste and doesn’t really compete with a heavy malt base. Evin said he found it interesting that the aroma of the fresh hop was different to the smell in the brewed beer, and that from year to year the character of the hops did change. He also said he thought it took at least 3 years for hop plants to reach their optimum.

Next up was a 5.2 % pale ale with Citra and Equinox, the latter being a reasonably new experimental hop. Evin described it as being quite mellow with a woody, piney character, and I thought it had a nice balance between the 2 hops. And everyone at the tasting seemed to agree that it was a winner.

Beer number 3 was Biere de Saison which had a small addition of London Sour, was kegged in Aug 2014 and then aged in Burgundy barrels to give Lambic flavours. It had a clean neutral base, had been minimally hopped with Hallertau, and.I thought it was gorgeous, really dry with a zingy lemon and lime taste.

Now it was time to push up the abv with the 6.8% IPA SCANS, the latter being the hops (Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin)…yes sometimes they do use multiple hops and in this case it worked really well.  One friend described it as having a big jammy nose and being super juicy.

The penultimate beer was a bit divisive, being a Damson Sour, a Berliner Weisse that poured red with a pink head. They had used whole fruit since they thought it added a new bit more dimension and they could control the sourness. I didn’t find it too sour, just a little tart, but a few members of the group found it not to their taste.

Finally we went dark with a dry stout, at only 4.4% someone suggested it could be a classed as the “table beer of dark beers”. Obviously dark beers such as stouts and porters have a strong tradition in London and the brewery have used historic recipes. This one used lots of Mosaic hops since that would’ve been the case when beer was exported to India, and the trick with this one was to get the balance right between the malt and the hops. It did taste like a very malty, chocolaty stout

We found out as well that the iconic brown labels came about because when he did homebrew he used strips of cardboard so they carried on with this simple idea to just give the relevant information and nothing else.

Kernel has become a byword for quality and freshness, beers with a depth of flavour and character, and I think it’s fair to say after this wonderful afternoon in the company of Evin and appreciative beer drinkers that we can look forward to many more great beers from this brewery..although we’re not holding our breath for the Sorachi Ace IPA 🙂

Here’s some happy drinkers at the tasting…

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A trip to Oregon, pt 1

I always knew a trip to Oregon was going to be quite exceptional in terms of beer but I was taken aback by the quality, consistency and availability. Everywhere we went either had a brewery, brewpub or bar selling quality product… I genuinely think trying to get a bad ipa would be a difficult proposition. We had an overnight stop in Lincoln City and because the restaurants all seemed to be closed at 9 we ended up at a fairly average pizzeria but it still had around 8 taps mostly serving what we call craft beer.

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One of the breweries we stopped at was Pelican in Pacific City, it was described as a brewery on the beach and they weren’t kidding, this is a picture of me with our non-beer drinking friend Lori sitting on the terrace…

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You couldn’t get much closer if you tried. It was opened in 1997 and in 2014 they added another production facility in nearby Tilamook, and in their just under 20 year history have won 32 medals at the GABF. The 2 beers I had whilst there were the Silverspot IPA, described thus – “ brilliant gold color and assertively complex hop aroma. Brew Master Darron Welch selected the blend of Sterling, Fuggle and Meridian hops, focusing on herbal, floral, spicy and tangerine-like characters to create this highly drinkable 6% abv English-Style IPA”: and Umbrella IPA – “This seasonal IPA is sure to ruffle some feathers and send true hop-heads looking for cover. To get us through the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve brewed a New-World India Pale Ale using exclusively Austriallian grown Ella hops. The use of Ella hops offers an aroma that is filled with gooseberry and bright fruit. The fresh and zippy Ella hops are nicely balanced by a clean and light pale malt character. We’ve liberally dry hopped Umbrella twice to add to it’s distinct and complex flavors. Go on, reach for an Umbrella and let it pour. Suffice to say they were both very good, and the food we had at the bar didn’t disappoint either.

Next up was a visit to the Rogue Nation in Newport, who began brewing in 1988, and their on site pub, Brewers on the Bay where you basically walk through the working brewery to get there.  

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I was already familiar with some of their beers, having had some in Brewdog, The Firefly in Worcester, and the George & Dragon in Barcelona. As you can see from the photo below, there were plenty of beers to choose from, so I went with the 7 beer taster tray. As a fan of the odd IPA I did like both the 6 hop and 7 hop versions, really fresh tasting, but I thought the Chipotle Ale was very good, great tasting smoky beer with a little heat as it goes down, and I finished with the Big Ass Barrel Lapsang Souchon Tea Porter which was smooth and creamy, an excellent end to a great visit. Given more time I would’ve liked to have done the brewery tour, but it was 90 minutes, and you’ve got to save something for next time 🙂

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On our way to Portland we found one of the highlights of the vacation, a bar serving real ale and really good food in a small town called Oakridge, population 3,200. Opened in 2008 by Ted Sobel, a brewer who had fallen in love with British bitters and pubs, Brewers Union Local 180 serves it’s beers in imperial pints, and a damn fine job he is doing with them. Was quite impressed that he’d heard of Burton and has even bought some Gypsum to Burtonize his water for one of his brews. Wish I could go back and see how that turns out. From what I can gather it is quite a community hub with music and different events going on, and after a brief chat with the brewer was told that their cask now outsells the keg selection.

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Note, some of the information was provided by the book “Oregon Breweries” by Brian Yaeger which I recommend should you be thinking of visiting soon.

 

The background one

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I am a man of a certain age who has been drinking beer longer than I care to remember, but being born in Burton on Trent I like to think I had a good grounding in drinking some decent stuff. I do remember when I first went out with the family and was allowed some alcohol I drank lager, probably Heineken I think, and fair play to the old man he didn’t give me a dry slap but just let me slowly let my taste buds grow accustomed to this strange new taste. Thankfully, when I started going on a (slightly underage) evening pub crawl with my Dad I soon graduated to Marstons Pedigree and Draught Bass, and this being the late 70’s it was when they were both in top notch condition. This was back in the days when Pedigree supposedly didn’t travel well so if you had it outside of a 10 mile radius of B-o-T it wasn’t so good, but I can’t really remember whether this was true or not. I do know there were some pubs where it was kept better than others, and as for the Bass…well that was always best at the Coopers Tavern, just across the street from the brewery, where it was served straight from the cask, and when it was good, it was really, really good. I seem to remember my Dad referring to it as liquid nectar which may or may not be a good way to describe a beer, but I knew exactly what he meant.

Fast forward a few years, I get a job at Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham and Deb and I move to the fair city. I remember our early drinking years encompassing the old Hippodrome bar where the Pedigree was quite decent, Draught Burton Ale and Entire in various pubs, Courage Directors, and the Old Hooky, again served straight from the cask, in the Midland Hotel. At some point in the 90’s on a trip to the USA we came across some microbreweries and brew pubs that were serving beers that were a little different, more flavoursome or with extra ingredients. At the time I wasn’t aware of being able to get anything like this in the UK, and certainly not in Birmingham. My moment of revelation was at the White Horse in Parsons Green a few years back when I had my first pint of Thornbridge Jaipur, and thought “Golly, what a very tasty beer” (or something to that effect). A little later I remember reading about this upstart brewery called Brewdog and their Punk IPA, and I said to Michael Gee, then a member of staff at N&C, and now manager of the Brewdog Bar (small world, huh!), “this sounds nice, shall we order a case between us”, and thus began the adventure which has included making some great new friends via Twitter and Untappd, volunteering at a couple of beer festivals, helping out a little at a Green Duck brew day, and drinking lots, and lots of great beer. And so let the adventure continue…