Tag: Cotteridge /wine

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!






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

Cotteridge Wines 21st…

Happy Birthday to me…and Cotteridge Wines.  Yes, July 8th 2016 the sun shone on the righteous as they sat in the beer garden to partake in a mighty selection of beers, many brewed specially for this momentous event.  Jaz and Kal had decided to ease themselves into this 2 day beer extravaganza by keeping the numbers small for the first session between 12 and 4 on Friday in case there were any problems with the beers, and of course the first one I chose was fobbing, but Kal was patient and so I got to start with a 40Ft Brewing Melon P1000245Drop which was light and refreshing and a pretty perfect start.  I spent most of the afternoon with Ross Lang, assistant manager at the Craven Arms,
and it was a very pleasant relaxing few hours.  I didn’t feel any compunction to try all 18 beers on offer although there were a few I had my eye on, such as beer #2, Tropical Cannonball by Magic Rock, and as I said on Untappd “does what it says on the tin, Cannonball with extra fruity punch” and it seemed to be a big hit with most of the drinkers there.  Next up was Lord Nelson – Sauvignon Blanc Oaked Edition from Elusive Brewing which I was really looking forward to because I had strong memories of having the original at the 2014 Birmingham Beer Bash, great use of the Nelson Sauvin hop. And as luck would have it Andy Parker of Elusive was there so I had a brief chat with him about the new brewery and the beer he had brought to the festival. It had taken a lot longer than he expected for him to find premises, and he reckons he lost almost a year before finding his site in Finchhampstead in Berkshire, but 10 brews in he said although it is a lot of hard work he is loving it.  I was particularly impressed that for his first brew in the new premises he went for a smoked ruby mild. Lord Nelson was a homebrew recipe that ended up being a fully fledged collaboration with Weird Beard once Greg from the brewery had tasted it.  It is now in it’s 3rd iteration and has got a little stronger and for this special version he soaked some oak chips in a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for a week, and then put the chips into a hop sack and popped it in the corny keg…and yes it worked really well, had a subtle wine taste, and tart fruit.  Look forward to try more Elusive beers over the next few months.

P1000246Next it was time for a Summer Fruits Oatmeal Pale (Cotteridge 21st Birthday) from Twisted Barrel, and talking with Andy was Richie from the brewery so I asked how this came about. The original beer is a tap house exclusive but for this special version they just siphoned some off, aged it on a selection of summer fruit, and then put it back in a keg to give a pleasantly dry but fruity beer. I am a fan of what Rich and Carl are doing and this was another great addition to their roster. The beers continued flowing including the Wiper and True Saison Mosaic which was quite hoppy with a spicy undertone, the Weird Beard blend and the Beavertown Yam Yam, a bretted ale which I didn’t think was too bretty if that makes sense. In between these I had a brief chat with Sam and the boys from Siren who were obviously having a great time and have a long history with, Cotteridge…I think they may’ve been exaggerating when they said Kal was waiting on the brewery doorstep for them when they first opened, but as mentioned in a previous blog they continue to have a good relationship with former head brewer Ryan Witter as well as the new team. For the birthday they brewed a DIPA with pineapple, lime, mint and chillies which unfortunately I didn’t get to sample and the people that did gave it a few mixed reviews on Untappd, but it sounds like it was a wild concoction. This also applies to the name Superkalandjazalisticexpialidocious done especially as a challenge to see if they could fit it all on the beer board. I finished the session with Cloudwaters Deep Breath which you could almost call a super charged black and tan, mixing  a Red Wine barrel aged stout with V3 DIPA. So all in all an excellent way to spend the birthday.

And then the next day I did it all over again with Deb, and it had the added bonus of the Original Patty Men being there serving their rather excellent burgers. So more beer was consumed and much verbiage was waffled away. The beers included 21st Century Breakfast from Steel City, a grapefruit and orange pale ale which was stunning in it’s simplicity, Mango Lassi by Northern Alchemy, Brodies Chunky Monkey stout which I’d had before but it is delightful with it’s combination of chocolate and banana, and Figgy Bastard, another concoction from Gaz at Mad Hatter in Liverpool. This latter seemed to be one of the standouts for everyone at the evening session and was going down far too easily for a 13% beer, great combination of flavours. Deb really enjoyed the social aspect of the evening which was very laid back and chatted with a few new friends that have been made bonding over beer including Steve Nicholls and Louise and Karl McCormack, plus she was pleasantly surprised when a complete stranger shared a bottle of beer with her…it was that kind of friendly night. And the beer in question was Siren Barrel Aged Life is a Peach, so result since she did share it with me.

A few days later I popped back and had a brief chat, and a couple of beers natch, with Kal to see how it went and he told me he thought it had been a very successful weekend, and was particularly impressed with what he called the “brilliant atmosphere” and happy to see so many people chilling and talking over the whole weekend.  He said the extra pumps they put on all worked ok for the most part as did the queuing system, and I think one of the things that made it most special was the family involvement with Jaz and his wife manning the front and Kal and his girls out back, and boy do they all work hard.  I do remember at one point Sam from Siren getting behind the bar to help so Kal could have a cigarette break and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone smoke one so fast.  So, what a great birthday weekend, roll on number 22…for them not me 🙂


Kernel MTB

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.


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…