Tag: birmingham

Tiny Rebel Can Tour at Cotteridge Wines 18/02/2017

 

Tiny Rebel are the latest brewery to start putting their beer into cans.   As part of the move to their new brewery in January they have invested in their own bottling and canning equipment and to promote having 3 of their core beers (Cwtch, Clwb Tropicana and Cali) now available in cans they embarked on a ‘can tour‘ around the UK.

I popped along to the last stop on the tour at Cotteridge Wines to talk to Gazz from the brewery about their move into canning and the evolution of the brewery over the last 7 years.  There was a great atmosphere in the taproom with people enjoying the range of cans and chatting to Gazz and the rest of the team from the brewery.  I grabbed a can of Cwtch (my favourite TR brew) ,Gazz and a table in the corner and started my chat…

I started off asking Gazz how he’d become interested in brewing and he told me both he and Brad, his brother-in-law and co-founder, “were not brewers or businessmen we were engineers and beer lovers“.  He said he used to be fascinated by his Grandfather making ginger beer under the stairs and the way the plastic bottles expanded (sometimes to the point of explosion) piqued his interest in fermentation and as he grew up into brewing. Along with this whilst all his friends were downing pints of lager, he was drinking real ales because he wanted to drink something with a real flavour.  The seed was sown.

Brad and Gazz started homebrewing and in 2008 started seriously thinking about going into brewing as they “wanted to see beers in their local supermarket that were as good as our homebrews“.  After 2 years of planning they bought a 50L homebrew kit and in 2012 Tiny Rebel was born. Within 12 months they’d won Champion Beer of Wales for Dirty Stop Out, their smoked oat stout along with Silver and Bronze for Fubar and Urban IPA respectively.  The brewery continued to go from strength to strength by the end of 2012 they had brewed 82,000L and by the end of 2014 close to 500,000L.  The awards continued to come in with Cwtch winning the Champion Beer of Britain in 2015 – an accolade proudly displayed on the new cans.

Gazz told me that as good as it was brewing all this beer there were still only a handful of places to drink decent beer in the South Wales area.  The market was monopolized by Brains and other big regional beers.  So in 2013 Tiny Rebel, Cardiff was born.  The aim was to not only showcase their own beers but also to ensure that there was a great range of guest beers which the guys had enjoyed but not necessarily in their region.  Interestingly he told me that in both this bar and the newly opened bar in their (and my) hometown of Newport it is the Tiny Rebel beers that most people are drinking not the guests!

I noticed when I checked out their website before my chat (always pays to do your research!) that in 2016 they had produced a homebrew kit of Cwtch.  I wondered how this had come about and it turns out it was their bottle supplier who came up with the idea.  They asked Tiny Rebel if they’d be interested in collaborating on a homebrew kit as although they produced some already they were very traditional styles and they wanted to attract new, young, craft brewers.  Since the guys had started as homebrewers they were happy to come on board and they are now working on developing kits for Fubar and Hadouken to add to the range.

The final part in their brewery story was completed in January this year when they moved into their new facility in Newport.  The new kit will have the ability to brew up to 5 million litres using 2 side by side kits the second of which was due to arrive that week.  The new site also includes the bottling and canning lines I mentioned at the start and this led us on to talking about the move into cans.  The benefits are clear – the beer can keep fresh for longer, transportation costs are less, chill time is reduced and last but not least they are much easier to drink on the go (train beer anyone?).  Gazz was keen to stress though that they are not moving away from bottles completely, some markets in fact will only accept bottles and some beer just tastes better in a bottle too.  He also told me they will continue to brew into both keg and cask and that they have decided this year to expand their cask range from 4 to 6 lines.

I asked Gazz why, unlike some other well publicised cases recently, they had decided to expand their cask offering when others are reducing or even stopping cask all together.  He told me he felt very strongly that cask ale is a “unique British product” and that “good cask beer is unrivaled” (60% of their output is cask).  He started his beer drinking, as did many of us, with cask beer but he also recognises that it can be daunting now for new drinkers and that one bad experience can put you off it for life.  The key to Tiny Rebel is that they only sell their casks to people who they trust to look after them, they know the storage and serving of the beer is paramount to it reaching the consumer in the same condition it left the brewery.  If you want to read more about Tiny Rebel’s approach to cask you can read their excellent blog here.

As I finished my can of Cwtch (tasting super fresh and fruity), we finished off our chat talking about how sticking to their roots rather than moving their brewing to Cardiff or even Bristol has gained them great local support amongst drinkers young and old as well as plenty of press coverage. The not so tiny any more rebels from Newport are doing a great job in keeping both traditional cask and innovative keg, can and bottle alive and well in the South Wales valleys and around the world.  I look forward to seeing what they do next!

 

 

 

 

 

Birmingham Beer Profiles-Lone Wolf is Lone No More

We have said before that Jewellery Quarter is the place to be for independent businesses, especially beer business.  The Lord Clifden, The Church & Rose Villa Taverns have been joined by The Gunmakers Arms, 1000 Trades and Pig & Tail over the last year or so.  To this group, you can now add Lone Wolf

Brother and Sister duo Josh & Sallie, Birmingham natives, have spent much of their working life managing pubs in the thriving centre of London, and witnessed the growth of the exciting London Beer Scene.  As they worked in a managed estate they had limited choice on the beers they could bring in, but jumped at any opportunity to bring in a beer from some of the exciting new breweries popping up across the capital, including Kernel, Beavertown and Camden Town among others.

After becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of choice and freedom, in 2015 they made the decision to return home to Birmingham, with the plan to open their own independent venue.  They looked at a number of venues, and did investigate the possibility of opening a venue in Birmingham City Centre.  Unfortunately they ran in to an all too familiar problem, one we have heard regularly, as they found the cost to be prohibitive.  While they waited to find the right place, they kept themselves busy by getting reacquainted with the Birmingham scene, and also supported The Button Factory with their opening.

When they decided on the venue they choose 2-10 Constitution Hill, part of the Bismillah Building Buiding.  It is within easy walking distance of both St.Chads and St.Pauls Tram line and many buses travel down Consitution Hill on their way to their eventual destination.  It is also close to The Gunmaker Arms, The Church and Burning Soul Brewery Tap if you are thinking of adding them to a crawl.

Their focus is on quality local products with coffee provided by Quarter House, pies, cheese and charcuterie provided by a company from Wolverhampton, and fresh bread from just around corner at Peel & Stone.  They opened with three keg lines, but have since increased to ten, with a focus on great local beers and quality beers from further afield.  Their plans for the future include Meet the Brewer events, as well as art shows and musical performances.

We have been really impressed with the community focused venues opening in Birmingham, such as 1000 Trades and now Lone Wolf, or as will now have to be known as ‘The Wolf’.

After being open for a few weeks Josh & Sallie received a Cease and Desist letter from the Beer Punks themselves Brewdog.  Brewdog are in the process of opening their own distillery, which they have chosen to call Lone Wolf…

We are not able to discuss the legal specifics, but the approach taken by Brewdog seems distinctly lacking in any Punk sensibility as they have chosen to use their superior size to force a change, at extra cost, to an independent venue.  Josh & Sallie have decided to make the best of the situation, and are planning a relaunch event, a Lone Wolf no more, as they become The Wolf.  We will keep you update on their plans in our weekly newsletter.

The Anchor, Digbeth – Reimagining an Icon

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

TAKING ON A LEGEND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RE-IMAGINING THE LEGEND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6/8 Kafe Basement Bar Opening Night – 2nd Dec 2016

Back at the start of December I popped along to the official opening night of the basement bar at 6/8 Kafe. A few weeks before I’d been to their successful craft beer festival, featuring a number of local brewers, and I was interested to see what the new bar would be like without the draw of this event.

The opening consisted of 3 taps – two from Sacre Brew (Love for 2 Oranges and Crème de Stout) and one from Twisted Barrel (In Amber Clad) Gwen had been instrumental, with others, in getting the bar up and running including a last minute dash to a plumbing supply shop for a bush reducer (yeah I don’t know what it is either!). But it all came together and as I wandered in the beer was flowing and Gwen was serving behind the bar.

I have to say the beers I had on the night In Amber Clad and Love for 2 Oranges were tasting extremely fresh and clean and the small crowd in the bar seemed to be really enjoying them too. It really is great to walk into a bar and see only local beers on the taps – we need more of this in Birmingham.

Whilst I was there Dav (the owner) and Gwen recorded a pod cast which you can find here – Dav is keen to increasehis beer knowledge (more on that later) and Gwen was happy to take him through a tasting and record it for posterity.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk to Dav about the background and future for 6/8 and he was happy to oblige – in fact I ended up recording 25 minutes with him! Since you don’t want to hear all our babble I’ve distilled this into the conversations below.

I started out by asking about how Dav and 6/8 had decided to make the move from being a coffee bar to a craft beer bar as well. He told me that he’d started the business about 6 years ago, at that time he was working abroad a lot in Germany (we reminisced about bierkellers in Munich!) and Belgium and frequenting the bars and coffee shops in those locations. When he came home he couldn’t get a new job so he created his own job based on these experiences. He said his experiences of drinking in the UK was of excess so he went for a coffee shop. The coffee shop was a success and they even got in to the Barista Championship semi-final twice. The decision was taken to open another store however this turned out to be a drain on resources and coupled with the building work at the main shop covering the front of the store in scaffolding – this hit them hard. The shops on either side closed and being shrouded in scaffolding meant people thought they too had closed.

At this time he said they had a couple of staff interested in craft beer and inspired by the businesses in London who are both coffee and beer destinations they decided to branch out.  He told me that until recently he hadn’t realised how great beer could be! But he wanted to create something great and given the opening of various big chain coffee shops he realised they needed to expand. He wants to keep the focus on the coffee but to expand the beer side.

I moved on and asked him about the beer festival – was it successful? He said it brought people in and on the Friday, Burning Soul showed him how the bar was trending on Twitter for Birmingham! He says the beer festival not only made for a great ‘opening’ for the bar but it made people aware of the coffee shop again as they had lost some interest over the last year (due to the building work).

We talked about the huge beer scene in Manchester where it seems there is a craft beer bar every 100 yards yet here in Birmingham it still feels like we’re struggling (it’s getting better with Tilt, Brewdog, Cherry Red’s and the upturn in the Jewellery Quarter). I asked him what was challenging about starting and promoting a business (their location is not so visible but Bull Street tram stop has to help!). He said that his understanding of Manchester is that it has the Northern Quarter – in the past (not sure now!) rent was cheaper, it’s an artistic area, it has the same scene with coffee bars there too. So basically people went there as it’s cheaper which has now led it to become such an oasis for both beer and coffee lovers. But in Birmingham the rents in the centre are higher but in the slightly outlying areas like the locations of Tilt and 6/8 the rents are a little lower. This is where business will pop up.

We went back to talking about the beer festival and how it focussed on local brewers – I asked if this would be something he‘d like to stick to – locally sourced beer? He replied that the success of the festival was down to that very point – not only because of the beer but because of the help and advice the brewers gave him on setting up the festival and the bar in general. He’d like to keep a local focus and will look to get more advice from people including both brewers and guys like us on the blog. We are going to keep asking people to help with sourcing beers he wants to do great interesting, fun stuff and if he can get that locally that is great but he will also consider customer feedback as the bar moves forward.

We finished up talking about the future. He told me the bar will be closed for most of January to allow for more staff training (they’ve had some changes recently) as well as looking for interesting events to hold in the bar. We talked about the possibility of combining beer with music, art and film all of which are of interest to him- he wants to make the bar a real destination for coffee, beer and the arts and for that I think he should be applauded.
Birmingham needs more of these small independent places where, as Dav said, “we can interact with interesting people on interesting topics”. He knows it’s going to take time and hard work but he certainly seemed to filled with the enthusiasm to get stuff done!

“All the Pig, All the Time” at Peel & Stone Harborne

Only 12 hours after landing back in the UK after our holiday my husband Dave and I were sitting in the cosy surroundings of Peel and Stone in Harborne ready to start our ‘All the Pig, All the Time’ dinner and beer pairing.

The menu
The menu

Who can resist a menu that starts with something surely Dracula would be proud of ‘Pain Au Blood’!

The first beer was from London Fields a brewery I have to admit to not having tried before.  However after tasting their 3 Weiss Monkeys I shall be seeking them out.  It was a very crisp, pale white IPA with a sharp lemony flavour.  This sharpness of flavour worked well with the buttery croissant where the chocolate was replaced by black pudding, it was a great start food and beer wise – in fact the beer was so good Dave had a second!

The carbonara and beers
The carbonara and beers

The next course was ‘Proper Carbonara’.  Sounds simple and I guess it is but I’ve also had some awful ones!  This was not one of those – sweet crispy bacon, creamy but not heavy sauce and lashings of parmesan.  But the beer….this gem of a dish was paired with Purity’s Lawless Lager.  I have to say straight off this is not a beer I like, I find it far too malty and sweet.  I can see the idea of the pairing but the sweetness of the bacon cut through the sauce and I would have liked something with a bit more bite be that hoppyness or citrus flavours, it was a sentiment echoed on a few of the tables around us too.  Dave had the right idea and kept some of his 3 Weiss Monkeys back to try with it – a much better match.

A light break then with ‘Pig Ear Salad’  – pickled watermelon with crispy strips of pigs ears.  To be honest the only pigs ears I’d come across before were the ones you feed to dogs so I was a bit dubious but it was delicious.  This was paired with Twisted Barrel’s Saison from Another Place (MBBC 1st Birthday Special Edition).  I was so pleased to have a chance to try this beer as I missed out on the birthday party (by being on our aforementioned holiday) and it did not disappoint – lemon curd aroma with a floral, sherberty taste.  A very clean tasting beer with an slight lactose flavour (but of course not an ingredient as all their beers are vegan!).  It paired really well with the salad creating an almost margarita type flavour with the watermelon.  My favourite beer of the evening.

Roast pork, dauphinois and veg
Roast pork, dauphinois and veg

Moving onto the heavy hitters then it was ‘Roasted Pork Rump, Dauphinois, Date Jus and Roasted Veg’ paired with Anspach and Hobday’s Sea Salt and Chilli Stout.  I was a little nervous about the rich meal and beer pairing but it absolutely worked.  The beer has a rich chocolate, figgy aroma but is so light  and easy drinking.  There is a hint of the salt and the chilli is warming rather than blow your head off.  When paired with the food we also detected some more liquorice notes coming through in the beer which with salt and chilli worked well.

Finally the dessert, how would they get ‘pig’ into this we wondered?!  Turns out through lovely sweet bacon strips in the Bacon, Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Cherry concoction served as a little stack in a glass.  The beer pairing here was Redchurch’s Hoxton Stout.  A very light aroma to this one with a sweet, hoppy, vanilla flavour.  The pudding was very rich (but delicious) and this added an interesting bitterness to the beer that was not there when it was drunk alone.  An interesting mix of a rich beer with a rich flavoured dessert that created a balance.

I finished off my evening with a Almanac Horchata Milk Stout.  A slight bitter aroma to this with a sweet chocolatey flavour.  I didn’t get a lot of cinnamon or almonds as you would in the source drink but there was a fruitiness to it that balanced out the sweetness very well.

A cracking first evening back in the UK and we managed to stay awake through to the end! And as always great service and atmosphere in this little ‘hidden gem’.

 

 

Brum Beer Profiles – Rock & Roll Brewhouse

The Jewellery Quarter is rapidly becoming a must visit venue for the drinkers of Birmingham, The Lord Clifden, The Rose Villa Tavern & The Church being joined by exciting new venues  like 1000 Trades, The Pig & Tail & the subject of our latest profile.  Upon hearing Nick Cave’s new album playing as Lynne met me at the Door of the Rock & Roll Brewhouse, I knew I was going to like this place.  Dave joined us a short time later and we got to know the people with such good musical taste.

The Rock & Roll Brewhouse can be found on Regents Place in The Jewellery Quarter where we found proprietors Mark & Lynne.  Mark has long experience of brewing, starting as a home brewer and then getting involved with the Rock and Roll Brewery when it was based at the Lamp Tavern in Barford St and the Bluebell Cider house in Hockley Heath.

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Lynn used to write the “Lynn’s Letters” column in the Birmingham CAMRA magazine and met Mark when doing an interview with him for the magazine.  They soon discovered they had a shared interest in music as well as beer, and when the need arose for Lynn to get a bit of brewery work experience she turned to Mark.  The initial impetus had been the possibility of working in a pub on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border, but circumstance made this a bit difficult, so instead she concentrated on dividing her time between her shifts at the Post Office Vaults bar in Birmingham city centre and the brewery and being Birmingham’s only female brewer.

After a while the brewery job won out, and although there was a limit on what they could brew at the pub the enjoyment outweighed that.  Recently however, the chance came to move the brewery to its own premises and within 10 minutes of viewing the current location Mark knew it would be OK, despite its quirkiness.  The pair got the keys on 1st Feb and have worked hard to create the space they wanted.  At the time it was 6 different units with a couple of long corridors, and photography studios with band rehearsal rooms taking up the space, but after a lot of hard work it has now become a working brewery and tap room.

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It has a 6 barrel kit plus a smaller pilot kit and they now have no constraints over what they can brew, which they are really enjoying, and are revelling in having control of their own product.  When we visited, they were brewing a green hop beer using hops from Mark’s garden, when a musician they had been chatting to at the Moseley Folk Festival turned up with a big bag of mulberries, which they popped into the brew because…well, why not.  One particularly impressive elements of their rebuild is their focus on sustainability, with much of the material from building being reused to create cladding and insulation for the brewery equipment.  This focus on sustainability, is fundamental to Mark & Lynne, echoed across all their practices and they have no desire to grow, as they believe small is beautiful.

When Mark came up with the name Rock and Roll Brewhouse, as well as tying into his passion for music, it enabled them to theme the beer names around songs, bands and puns, which we found quite cool…who wouldn’t want to try a glass of Brew Springsteen.  In the spirit of keeping things local they are getting their pump clips done by a manufacturer in the JQ.

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We asked Mark & Lynne what help they had received from the local organisations and were pleased to hear JQ Development Team had offered support and encouragement, as well as a community to be part of.  This has taken the form of including them in the JQDT weekend and building community through litter picks Mark & Lynne have been getting involved in.    This left me wondering what would happen if this kind of support was available for the city centre.

Besides being available at the Brewhouse on a Friday evening, and, from October, the first Saturday of the month, their vegan beers can be found at the Lamp Tavern, the Bluebell, and various local beer festivals.

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The decor of the bar revolves around the music theme with nods to the musical history of Birmingham in the shape of framed gig tickets and posters, shelves and a ceiling of 7” singles and the “beer garden” part of which featured, rather appropriately,  Nick’s Cave.  I don’t know if it is the place or the people but it wasn’t long before we moved off the subject of beer and onto a discussion music over a bottle of Bramble On, which I have to say was very nice.

August Bank Holiday Weekend

So the August Bank Holiday weekend proved to be quite an interesting few days if you were a beer drinker in and around Birmingham; lots of events and beer festivals going on as well as the usual excellent selection of beers at the Craven Arms, yes Fallen Brewery Chew Chew I’m looking at you…

First up on Thursday for Deb & I was Kernel meet the brewer with Evin O’Riordan at Tilt, a bit of a no brainer since we are both big fans of their beers. We started with the latest iteration of the low abv table beer, this one being the Mosaic version which was a good solid start and went well with the takeaway dinner from Mission Burrito. Next was one of the changes to the original beer listing, the biere de saison Citra, a refreshing, zingy beer with a hint of tartness and quite fruity. Another change to the menu was the pale ale Comet which originally was going to be a Nelson Sauvin version but Evin didn’t think it was quite up to scratch. It was around this time as Deb had this and I had the IPA Mosaic Nelson Sauvin that Kirk brought Evin over and introduced us, although we had met previously at Cotteridge Wine. So we had quite a long chat about the the beers we were drinking, the Birmingham scene, the Brexit effect, how things were going in London etc, and we were joined by Joe Rushton for a while. I also introduced him to Gwen from Sacre Brew so he knew some good things were happening in the area. As usual it was a relaxed night, good service from Kirk, Rich, Neil (soon to leave for a new career in dog grooming – he will be missed) and new recruit Nathan. Plus it was nice to see people from other bars popping in to support this venture. Just to shake things up a little we veered off the Kernel path for our last beer and had a bottle of Northern Monk Wasted to share which hit a nice balance of sweet, sour and fruitiness.

Friday brought what I think might be a fairly unique event, in a bottle shop at least: the chance to meet not one, not two, but three brewers from three of the biggest and most respected breweries in the country at Cotteridge Wine. It was to celebrate the release of the 2nd version of Rule of Thirds, a collaboration between Beavertown, Magic Rock and Siren, and whilst there Bob Maxfield & I had a chat with head brewer Stuart from Magic Rock. He told us that Ryan Witter had the original idea for Rule of Thirds whilst he was still at Siren, and asked Beavertown and Magic Rock for the recipes for Gamma Ray and Cannonball respectively and made adjustments for the different brewery sizes to come up with something workable. This time though the breweries are of similar size, 55 hectolitres, and so they just used a third of each recipe and aimed for a beer a third of the strength. He said that many of the hops used in Cannonball were also in Gamma Ray and Soundwave which made life a little easier but they were used in different places in the schedule, and to give it that Magic Rock feel Magnum was used for bittering. Brewers from Beavertown and Siren made the trip to Huddersfield on brew day to give support and advice and do a bit of grafting and it all went quite smoothly. Apparently it is often the duty of the guest to dig out the mash tun… wonder who drew the short straw there… We also had a more general chat about how things were going at the new brewery site, but for a more insightful view check out http://www.magicrockbrewing.com/blog/august-2016-expansion-one-year/

As for the evening itself it was the usual relaxed evening full of great beer and conversation, was really nice to be able to have a half of each of the 3 beers that went into Rule of Thirds before having it, and when we did I for one wasn’t disappointed. It had a lovely bitterness and great fruity grapefruit taste. And I was very pleased that the Bloody Notorious had made it in time, I love Bloody ‘Ell and this bigger, punchier version is very good, a great way to end another fantastic event at Cotteridge.

Saturday was a day off…

Sunday we woke up to a message that said Twisted Barrel had ran out of beer, not normally a problem but since we were planning on visiting the taphouse for their beer festival it could’ve been. But after some toing and froing on twitter we figured it was still worth the journey. And there was the added incentive of Digbeth Dining Club being at Coventry p1000382Cathedral, so that was lunch sorted. And what an excellent lunch courtesy of @Chevaux_65 and Street Souvlaki with a lovely crepe from @crepesandmore for dessert, and so suitably full we made the 15 minute walk out to Fargo Village. They had put a couple of their own beers on to replace ones that had run out, so it seemed pretty churlish not to try them…first up was  Soup Dragon which they describe as a smoked saison, made with 50% rauch malt, flavoured with lime zest and chipotle, and it was indeed a nice combination of spice, smokiness and heat. One of the other new ones was Mongrel which had been brewed by one of the guys behind the bar using all English hops and which had a pleasing bitterness to it.  Over the course of a couple of hours, despite the odd rain shower, the tap house was continually busy, here is a paragraph from Deb giving her verdict on the afternoon…

Well for saying they had “run out of beer” Sunday at the Twisted Barrel Beer Festival in the Fargo village part of Coventry was distinguished by some delightful and diverse beer. In fact I dread to think what Saturday was like as Sunday was pretty damn popular, a so-called dearth of ale notwithstanding. I reckon there was a continuous queue at the bar for for the last 60 minutes or so! Then at 5.40 they had to refuse custom as they were in danger of running dry again for unlucky attendees on Bank Holiday Monday. Success is a Bummer! The poor TB employees were gonna have to scrabble around again to find beer for thirsty Coventrarians! ? I had a lovely time in pretty pleasant surroundings on a reasonably sunny August afternoon.

As we got close to the end of the afternoon we hit the big guns, the breweries own Wake Up Juice their version of a Belgian Tripel which was lush, good thick mouthfeel, pleasant floral aroma, full on taste, kind of creamy fruit, and Morag from Beer Nouveau in collaboration with Clever Yeti Brewing, an Imperial Sorachi Bubblegum Stout, which was unusual because you actually did get a bubblegum hit from it.  So all in all a really nice Sunday afternoon was had, very pleased we decided to go and will definitely be going back, sooner rather than later…

And to finish off the weekend we went a little closer to home once I had finished work and visited the Swan in Halesowen to see what they had left from their festival.  Fortunately there were some decent ales on the bar and in the marquee on stillage so we supped from Mallinsons, Salopian, Kelham Island, Bad Co Brewery, Bristol Beer Factory and a tasty half of Ride it Like you Stole it, which hadn’t had to travel far from Fixed Wheel Brewery just up the road…a fitting end to a great beery long weekend.

PS – many thanks to Laura Creaven of @FulltotheBrum for letting me use a couple of her photographs

Food & a Cocktail at the Rose Villa Tavern

      Although this blog is ostensibly about my adventures in beer, hence the title, sometimes there are other diversions.  So on Tuesday Aug 23rd Deb and I joined a few other bloggers to sample the new menu at the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter. Upon arrival on P1000299what had been a hot day I checked out the beer offerings which were a little disappointing:there was only one cask beer on whilst they cleaned lines which didn’t appeal and neither did any of the keg offerings.  So to the bottle fridge we went, and whilst not stunning there were some solid beers in there from Anchor, Sam Adams, and Brooklyn Brewery, but Deb and I both went for beers from Flying Dog, probably one of the earliest American breweries I got into primarily because of the Ralph Steadman bottle designs.  I went with Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale and Deb had the Easy IPA, both decent beers, the latter especially going down well in the warm conditions. So far, so good…

      But now it’s time for what they call full disclosure or transparency, being invited there meant we got some free food and drink so bear that in mind although I hope it didn’t colour my opinion. First up was a welcome cocktail, Jamm’in Thyme Stoli Blueberi, a blend of vodka, sweet blueberry jam shaken and topped with bubbles and a sprig of thyme added, which we both found very pleasant, Deb more so than me.  P1000293And then it was time for chicken wings. Because of the way things were laid out we didn’t get to try them all but the Sticky Chipotle BBQ with beer drenched fried onions and mozzarella cheese ones were quite nice, however the Vietnamese with a unique soy blend, fresh chilli, spring onions & sesame seeds & crunchy fried ones were very good. From what Ian, the manager of the place, said the latter have been a popular staple of the menu for a while.

      Next up were burgers, again we tried a couple, the Meatball Mayhem, a beef patty, marinara sauce, Swiss cheese, topped off with a “secret recipe” meatball which wasn’t that easy to eat, and might be classed as too much meat for some people. And a veggie option of a Tabasco laced double bean burger with fresh avocado, crisp lettuce, beef tomato & mayo which came in a folded up and fried wrap rather than the bun that the others came in which was a little different.

      More food came out in the form of pasta, although we both only had a small forkful of this so couldn’t form an opinion, seemed ok, but if I wanted pasta I would probably be boring and go to an Italian restaurant.  And in a slightly perverse reverse order we finished with a couple of pretty tasty salads, the Popeye and the Vegan one

      So in conclusion the food was ok, I think Deb enjoyed slightly more than I did, and if in the Jewellery Quarter it’s certainly worth looking at and I wouldn’t be averse to going back for more wings and a burger, but, no offence meant, probably wouldn’t hang around for the beer…

Brum Beer Profiles – Clink

‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them’

Walt Disney

 ‘Have you seen that Tweet? Who are Clink?’

A movement or scene is often started by dreamers, people with an idea and a passion, and the courage to try to make them come true.  Others may follow suit, each with their own dreams, and the courage to pursue them.

Now in Birmingham, like most cities we suppose, there is a low-level swirl of rumours around the beer scene over who is doing what; most famous or maybe infamous, being that of Birmingham Tap, (similar to Euston Tap) is going to open soon…for the last 2-3 years. So in mid-July a tweet declared that ‘Clink’, a new bottle shop and tap-room, would be opening at The Custard Factory in Digbeth.  We had people getting in touch with us asking if we knew who was behind it, the short answer being, not a clue. Out of nowhere a new venue was opening a few minutes’ walk from the Bullring.  To quote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid “Who are those guys?”  So one wet Monday evening we went along to find out…

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Our first question was who are these courageous souls, who are brave enough to pursue their dreams? The guys in question are Richard Sadler (no relation to the Black Country brewers of the same name), James Beckett, and David Purcell; 3 colleagues who work together at Fazeley Studios and spent time together drinking in the bars of Birmingham.

We met with Richard and James to learn more.

Dave – So how did you get into beer?

Richard: I’ve been interested in beer since I was old enough to drink.  About three years ago I got turned on to craft beer thanks to Brewdog and cold fresh Punk IPA.  I had always liked beer but when I tried that, it was on another level, and I started thinking, where can I get more? As I got more and more in to it I become more passionate.

James: I became a more selective drinker, after growing up drinking lager,  thanks to a family friend that started Northern Monk in Leeds. They have also proved helpful in providing advice once we’d decided to open our bar.

David: I grew up in Hereford and was a real ale drinker from the start, especially Wye Valley as they were local.  I even had a few of the seasonal specials with a nettle beer being one that still lives large in the memory.  My epiphany beer was Steph Weiss by And Union in Munich which in a roundabout way led me to discover Cotteridge Wines and their huge selection of beers…

Dream Becomes Reality

We asked the guys how Clink went from dream to reality, and the answer was beautiful in is simplicity;

While working together we were all just batting the idea around jokingly really, and it just spiralled out of control.  And we went into it head first.  It all happened really quickly.

They had discussed their passion for beer, including their admiration for places like Cotteridge Wines, and dreamt of opening their own space, when one of them said, ‘Lets do it’.

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They have received advice and help from various parts of the industry:

Other bottle shops, breweries, people who fit bars, nearly everyone was really welcoming.

With the likes of Cotteridge Wines offering encouragement:

Yeah they’re my beer heroes.  I was really nervous at first because I thought they might be annoyed about us doing it.  Jaz messaged us on Twitter and said ‘I’m going to come down’ adding to my nerves but when he come down he was so nice and friendly.  We are lucky that we have been able to build a good relationship with them.

The guys set about making enquirers at a number of different venues, but working in Digbeth the Custard Factory seemed like an obvious choice, and so close to where they all still work.

The Custard Factory have been supportive, with their Twitter account being most people’s first inkling that Clink was happening.

The reality into action

Clink is a bottle shop, boasting a fantastic selection of bottles, from some of the best breweries from the UK, Europe and the USA, along with eight taps with the ability to buy, and fill growlers.

We just wanted great beer, beer we would like.  We get the beers direct from breweries where we can.

The guys have become the first Birmingham Venue to take on Untappd Verified Venue Status

We are just trying it out.  We all use Untappd ourselves and liked the way you could put your  whole beer menu online, we have had quite a few people pop by because they have seen we have put a beer on.  We wondered  if it would be worth it and it seems to have been so far.

Who is their customer base in Digbeth?  When we meet them it was perhaps a little too early to get a clear sense of their average…well anything really.

We have literally no demographic, all ages have been popping in so far. We have had some customers from surrounding businesses, including one place that has a beer fridge in their office, and another that buys beer for their employees on a Friday. We think it is great that such a diverse group of people are into good beer.

When we spoke to the guys they had only been open for a week or 2, and they were still figuring out a lot of stuff, but their passion and commitment will see them through. They are still trying to settle on set opening times, and learning when their busy times may be, but will always answer if you tweet them for information. They have been known to be flexible, with a focus on just enjoying engaging with customers, and staying open a little longer when busy.

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More Dreaming

Future plans for Clink include possible Meet the Brewer events and possible tap take overs, but the main focus is making a success of the shop, and enjoying making their dream a reality.

Perhaps in the future we could look at opening something else, perhaps open something on the Pershore Road, maybe a tap-room or something, with all the awesome places already there, Wildcat Tap, Stirchley WInes & Spirits, Cotteridge Wines, The British Oak. It could become a bit of a beer mile.

Whatever the future plans we are chuffed to see these guys having the courage to pursue their dreams and hope others will look at the actions they have taken and also choose to follow their own dreams.

We are excited to see the progression of this great little venue, and look forward to popping back to chat to the lads when they are fully settled in.

Are you considering starting to brew?  Want to open a bottle shop? Or Bar?  Do you want to add to the scene/movement here in Birmingham and the surrounding areas?

Well listen to Uncle Walt’s words and make it happen.

The Plant Room @ The Botanist – Competition Winners Beer Tasting

When we were approached to work in partnership with The Botanist to celebrate the opening of The Plant Room by offering one of our followers the chance to win a beer tasting we jumped at the chance.  We had a great time when we attended one, you can find Dave’s review here

The eventual winner was Ian Jewkes, and we are delighted to bring you his review of the night.

So after winning the Midlands Beer Blog /Botanist Competition, the race was on to allocate tickets for free to friends to drink free beer. 8 spaces were allocated, 7 were filled – although it was kind of filled later anyway. So on a warm, sunny, humid day, we all arrived at our rendezvous – The Botanist bar in Birmingham. It’s a trendy bar, serving cocktails, gins and about 80 different beers and ciders. It was 3pm on a Saturday and it was packed with people, always a good sign that bar is doing something right if it’s full.

We tried a few beers, just to get out pallets up to speed. Samuel Adams, Pacific and Passionate Blonde were all consumed by our party – all were given the thumbs up.

At just gone 4pm, we were called down to The Plant Room to begin our beer tasting session. This was its opening day and our prize was to test it out.

Firstly we noticed how nicely air conditioned it was. The décor was great and the staff were very friendly too.

Then our beer guru, Kieran turned up. We all warmed to him immediately and for the duration too. He was informative, and presented the whole thing in a nice easy way. We also invited him to have a few samples with us as our unofficial 8th member of our party.

So, to the most important bit….the beers.

Beer 1


Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. So we started with this smokey beer – it caught us all by surprise. Andy Hall noticed that it had an aroma of chorizo or something similar. We all tended to agree. Pete Booth and Andy Hall both suggested this would work well with chorizo or smoked cheeses. We then ordered some food of this type and indeed it did work well. Personally I thought it might be nice as an alternative to a whiskey at the end of a meal or after a couple of beers as a nightcap.

Beer 2


Oude Gueze Cuvee Rene. So the second beer arrived and we were warned by our guru that this would be sour. Think champagne in style mixed with beer and cider and I’d have said this was something like that. Out of our 7, only 1 gave it the thumbs up. 65 year old Mick Booth said that he actually felt it cleaned his pallet from the smokey beer and was quite nice.

Beer 3

Schneider Weisse Tap 6.

This stronger, darker beer from Germany was elected to be consumed with the remainder of the food. It’s too dark for me and came in quite strong. There didn’t seem much love for this one at our table, even from Dai Hope, who likes darker beers. It wasn’t one that nobody liked, just wasn’t one that anyone loved either.

Beer 4

Beavertown Gammaray.


This American Pale Ale in a can, seemed to throw some of our party, who don’t normally drink anything from a can. That said, one didn’t like it as it was deemed too hoppy and floral but the rest thought it was ok. I’m getting quite partial to these beers, so found it refreshing.

Beer 5

Beavertown Black Betty.

This Black IPA went down well. It looked heavy and dark, but surprisingly went down well with most of us. I think the colour put most of the pale ale fans, but when they tried it, I think they were all pleasantly surprised.

Beer 6

Einstock Icelandic White Ale.

So this one I’d tried previously. I had already told everyone it was a good beer. When everyone tasted their sample of it, they too loved it. Its fruit, refreshing and has that little bit of something afterwards on your tongue, probably the coriander. Certainly on a hot summers day a winner. Martin Clews thought this one was great. I couldn’t disagree, but I’m biased on this one.

Beer 7


Einstock Toasted Porter

This extra beer, was kindly given to us, so that I could complete my Einstock tasting range, as I’ve also previously tried their pale ale too. Not a dark beer or a porter fan, I wasn’t hoping for much here. In the end, we were all pleasantly surprised with it. Not overpowering or too strong, is has nice flavours. Dale, our ale expert thought it was good and Dai our dark beer fan gave it the thumbs up too.

The food course provided by the Botanist was beautiful. Hams, scotch eggs, piccalilli, Chorizo, breads etc. All really worked and brilliant presented.

So, just for fun we decided to take a vote on the favourite beer. Einstock Icelandic White Ale won with 4 votes. The Einstock Porter next with 2 votes and then, the Beavertown Black Betty with 1 vote. Even though these beers had taken our fancy, the ones we spent the most time talking about though were the smokey Aecht Schlenferla Rauchbier and the sour Oude Gueze Cuvee Rene.

Afterwards we drank a Camden Wit each, which again was similar to the Einstock White and was recommended to us by our guru. This then was followed by another Pacific and Samuel Adams.

Andy thought it was a great day out and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

Dai thought it really good, and as it was his birthday, added to his celebrations.

Dale thought it nice to try a varied set of beers.

Martin was over the moon with it. Would definitely do it again and said the whole experience was great.

Pete thought it good and the added bonus of the food when requested really worked with his tasting experience.

Mick as our oldest attendee, thought it a fantastic day out and would recommend to all.

Myself, I thought it was great too. Never tried smokey or sour beers before, so to try those was a real eye opener.

The general feeling was that we would all do this again as it was nice to try the beers and a fun way to spend a few hours together.

Thanks for letting us attend.

Cheers!

Ian Jewkes