Tag: midlands

Sacre Brew Guided Beer Tasting – 11th February 2017


On a snowy February afternoon my husband Dave and I set off to Sacre Brew in Wolverhampton to be part of a small group of people lucky enough to have a guided tasting of 8 beers by brewster/owner Gwen Sanchirico.

Each participant was given a tasting wheel and notes on the sort of words you can use to describe beer – I have to say ‘catty’ is one of my favourites!
The tasting consisted of eight beers – Man on the Oss, Sloe Loris, Tangle, Dracunculus, Defeating Synths, Love for 2 Oranges, Blood Lust of Ocipio and Buffalo Beer 2016. The tastings were accompanied by examples of malts and other ingredients used to help understand where the flavours and colours of the beers come from.


We started off our journey with Man on the Oss. Gwen told us that when she set up her brewery she wanted to brew beers that were exotic but accessible and this was her first one as Sacre Brew. It’s a saison brewed with 25% rye and the batch we drank (SA1024) was 4.4% down from the original 5.2%. The beer is a wonderful orangey colour, thanks in part to the Munich malt used, with a peppery, orangey flavour to match. As with all of Gwen’s beers the label is as good as the contents, this one drawn by the lead singer of Alice Donut Tomas Antona. This has additional significance for Gwen as it’s through this band she met her husband Mark and came to move to Wolverhampton!
The second beer of the afternoon was Sloe Loris – a sloe gin inspired beer (yes it’s pink!) that I was lucky enough to be involved in brewing the first time round. The orignal beer was brewed for last year’s Birmingham Beer Bash (an event sadly lacking from the calendar this year). It’s “sour but not sour” as it does not use the wild yeasts that usually give that flavour. In this case it comes from the sloe juice added in fermentation. The gin flavours are given by the 1.5KG of juniper berries, angelica root, coriander seeds and lemon peel. The label in this case was drawn by my friend Greg McLeod, one half of The Brothers McLeod.
A dark beer next, Tangle, originally a Belgian stout but this batch (BST002) is only Belgian ‘inspired’ as it was brewed with abbey yeast. A slight metallic odour but with a light, malty, dark fruit flavour. Lovely label artwork by local artist Sarah Stokes.
Another beer that we were involved with was next – Dracunculus (meaning little dragon). This was first brewed by Dave as a present for a ‘big’ birthday two and half years ago. The recipe has evolved over time as Gwen has had different hops and yeasts available. This again had the orangey, golden colour from the Munich malt. A bready, banana and melon flavour from the abbey yeast.


The next beer was brewed with Donncha Burke of Ar Suil. Donncha is a home brewer who Gwen met at Clink and he asked if he could come and brew with her. Gwen tells of a number of discarded recipes before they settled on this final one. It has a fruity, dry flavour with spicy notes. I have to say that I liked it better when I had it on keg at 6/8 Kafe a few weeks back. The label in this case reminded us all of Predator as well as Japanese Manga – it’s drawn by Peter Tinkler who has contributed a number of pieces to Gwen for labels.


Moving up the abvs now, at 8.5% Love for 2 Oranges is a tripel and part of the Hailstone series of beers. The first hailstone beer was named as such because a hailstone fell into the brew! No hailstones in this one but tons of flavour. A sharp citrus aroma with a bready, Belgian flavour. Against tradition this tripel is spiced and we were shown the star anise and grains of paradise that went into the brew.

Our penultimate beer was Blood Lust of Ocipio a 9.1% double IPA. The name comes from a stream of consciousness poem that Gwen wrote which eventually became song lyrics. The beer is heavily dry hopped with Vic Secret (Gwen won 20KG of these hops). It’s a very light beer given its strength with the hops adding a fruity, resinous flavour.

Our final beer was the first beer we ever had from Sacre Brew – Buffalo Beer. The 2016 incarnation which was brewed back in November is aging very well. The flavour is in part from the jaggery Gwen uses to sweeten it. Jaggery is a cane sugar used mainly in Africa and Asia which adds a spicy note to the beer along with the fenugreek, long peppers, grains of paradise and cumin which we got to see and smell during the tasting too.

As always this session served to show how diverse Gwen’s beers are and she has certainly succeeded in making beer that is both exotic but accessible. The West Midlands brewing scene will be all the poorer when she returns to New York later this year. But who knows maybe Sacre Brew NYC will rise from the ashes?

Note: We’ll be having a final interview with Gwen before she leaves to talk about how her experience has been as an American brewster in Wolverhampton and her plans for the future.

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!

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.

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

Birmingham Beer Bash – Travelers Tales

We had a fantastic time at Birmingham Beer bash this year and were very pleased to have Lucy give us a write up about one of the fringe events Birmingham Beer Bash: Dea Latis Brewsters Brunch.

We have often said that a successful beer scene in Birmingham will bring people to the city from further afield.  The following are snippets and links to blogs from two such people who arrive in a pincer movement from North and South.

Martin Oates of Beer is the Answer made the journey up from down south with his Brother…

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Photo from Beer is The Answer 

Saturday 23rd July, went for a run, abandoned son to an afternoon with his grandparents (still not sure they “get” Pokémon Go though) and headed off to Birmingham with the youngest of my two brothers.

check out the rest of the wonderful write up at:

http://blogno1mjpo007.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/birmingham-beer-bash-that-was-fun.html

And from the North Beers Manchester had a great time, despite a phone disaster.

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Photo from Beers Manchester

This was my first time. And, like most people know, for good or ill, you remember the first.

#EvilKegFilth only. And on a day like Friday, that was absolutely fine by me!

Red the rest of the blog here:

https://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2016/07/24/birmingham-beer-bash-22072016/

David Martin brought together visitors from across the country:

For all its imperfections, Birmingham is often praised by newcomers for its friendliness and unpretentiousness – and there too lies the appeal of the Beer Bash.

I’m no fan of clubbiness, exclusivity or obsessions – I’m not a pressure group person – and the Bash smartly avoids all these pitfalls. My Saturday daytime party (each year bringing more people) was five dad’s, each bringing a twenty-something son/daughter, travelling in from London to Lancashire. And that says something – because the Bash is neither too fashionably self-conscious to put off us older ones, nor is it too earnest for the young ones. We just share an enthusiasm for good, interesting, innovative beer and food, and the banter that follows.


The beer range works for the adventurous and the cautious, the food is on-trend and high quality, and the venue works well (despite the wasteland walk from the station); the numbers attending keep it manageable from a service angle, but are enough to drive the atmosphere. You get the feel of an ‘event’, without the downsides of large scale or over-ambition.

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It’s unfair to name favourites, but Blackjack’s addition this year was a real plus, and those Patty Men nailed it again. Saturday afternoon’s musicians deserve a mention too.

Of course these things are never perfect – more seating for eating would help. But the event’s laid back sociability is its trademark, and that’s probably down to its unassuming origins. And that’s where the last word should go, to the team who created the Bash out of sheer enthusiasm and graft with – as far as I know – no prior history of organising big event. Long may they run.

You can also check out some photos from Francis Clarke of Open Up Digital here:-

https://www.flickr.com/photos/francisclarkephotography/sets/72157671436571876/

Photos by Francis Clarke is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

and a short video from Slinky Productions here:-

We had a great time at the Bash and look forward to 2017.

 

 

Birmingham Beer Week – Brum Vegan Beer & Food Festival

The inaugural Birmingham Beer Week will be kicked off by Two Towers Brewery with a Vegan Beer & Food Festival hosted at their bar The Gunmaker Arms, within the historical Gun Quarter.

This year Two Towers bring the big guns with them with the majority of the beers being provided by local brewers, with the event also serving as MABfest III.

The beers will include:

  • Backyard Brewhouse, Summer, 4% (pale)
  • Craddocks Brewery, Stout, 4.5% (dark)
  • Fixed Wheel Brewery, The Kaiser, 5.0% (pale)
  • Fownes Brewery, Upper Gornal Bitter, 3.8% (amber)
  • Green Duck Brewing Co, Hoppy Hopkins, 4.6% (pale)
  • Kinver Brewery, Swallow’s T’Ale, 4.1% (pale)
  • Twisted Barrel Brewery, Export India Porter, 6% (dark)
  • Weatheroak Hill Brewery, Cofton Common, 4.9% (pale/amber)
  • Freedom Brewery, Authentic lager, 4% (pale)
  • Rock and Roll Brewhouse, Bramble On, 4.7% (pale)
  • Sacre Brew, Sirenia, 4.1% (pale)
  • Two Towers Brewery, Chamberlain Pale Ale, 4.5% (pale)
  • Two Towers Brewery, Demon beer, 4.1% (amber)
  • Two Towers Brewery, Jewellery Porter, 5% (dark)
  • Two Towers Brewery, Number 11, 4.3% (pale)

Green Duck Brewing Co, Hoppy Hopkins, 4.6% (pale) will also be making its debut. A beer brewed with and named after our very own Dave Hopkins.

With food provided by Change Kitchen and Vegan Grindhouse.

Our mission is to promote and celebrate the beer scene in Birmingham, and we love to see the local brewers working together.  We encourage our readers to pay a visit and support the efforts of our local brewers.

 

Birmingham Beer Bash Profiles -Twisted Barrel Ale

I have an admission to make, I am proud to be from Coventry, so Coventry’s own Twisted Barrel has a special place in my heart.  It has been great to see them grow and find some success, it also helps that they make fantastic beer.

In its short life as a brewery they have become arguably, the most well know microbrewery in the Midlands, so we wanted to know more about these guys and share with you why they are ‘More Folk than Punk’.   Twisted Barrel will be joining Sacre Brew (Find there Profile here), and Fixed Wheel (Find there Profile here) as one of the local breweries showcased at this year’s Birmingham Beer Bash and so become the third of our Birmingham Beer Bash Profile blogs.

The Folk

I sat down with four of the Twisted Barrel team, Bar Manager Jaime, Owner and Head Brewer Ritchie, Brewer Carl and a fourth man, who will remain unknown, a man of mystery if you will.  Many of the questions were answered by the team, unless I have specifically stated otherwise.

I asked for a bit of background about each of the team, and what got them into beer and led to them being part of Twisted Barrel.

Jamie – I look after front of house and help out around the brewery, racking bottling etc. I’ve known Ritchie for over 15 years.  I am part of a group of people who came together to create Twisted Barrel, before this I worked at Warwick University and as a game designer & web designer for some time.   My focus is looking after our customers in the tap room but also learning to brew.    I created Baltic Porter last year that was described as heavier than ketamine.   My next brew will be a Smoked Chilli Porter.  We like to be creative here, we are boarding the crazy train and you’re all invited to come with us.

My beer journey was largely due to Living in and around Earlsdon, there were a lot of places that sold interesting beers, things from Belgium and things like that.   I discovered beers like Saison Du Pont, and also as a Hunter.S.Thompson and Ralph Steadman fan I was drawn to the Flying Dog bottles.

Ritchie My previous career was as an accountant for 17 years or so.  I started Twisted Barrel with Chris and our partners Jenny and Annie in Chris’s garage back in July 2013 in Tile Hill Coventry.   We started home brewing and started Twisted Barrel to see if our beers would be commercially liked, not just liked by our friends, who we gave beers to for free.   We started as the smallest brewery (Pico Brewery)  in the country with only 120 bottles finding their way out into the world and we still worked full time.    We sought to improve our beers, learn new techniques and try different recipes before we took to the next step.  We stayed at that level for a year and then started to make expansion plans in July 2014.  I was able to give up my job in January 2015 to focus on the brewery and that’s what I do as my day job now.   I am the only employee along with Carl and I focus on the brewing and running the company on a day- to-day basis. 

I initially got into ale while in New Zealand due a brewery called Monteith, one of the first breweries I remember producing beer in 330ml bottles.  We would also spend evenings at The Craven (the one in Coventry) drinking Sarah Hughes Ruby Red Ale and talking about beer, which is really where the podcast came from (more on that later).

Carl I started home brewing about four or five years ago and was still working in the NHS.   I was bored and disgruntled and discovered I really liked beer I wanted to get involved.  I felt the best way to do that was to get a qualification so I went up to Sunderland to complete a course and began looking for jobs with breweries.   I quickly learnt there were no brewery jobs going.  A microbrewery opened up in Coventry, I applied and I got job as the Head Brewer, but I quickly realised it wasn’t really environment for me.  Coincidentally at the same time Twisted Barrel were looking for another brewer,  I’d been a fan of Twisted Barrel from the first month it started and they create the beers that I was kind of aiming for.   I started working here about 4 months ago.  

I originally got into cask ales and really enjoyed Hobgoblin.    I then went over to Oregon and had Rogue Dead Guy Ale and it was that good, I actually stole the glass from the brewery tap.   Whilst drinking the beer I realised that the name of beer was on the glass and wanted to remember it.   I spoke to the bar staff and left a tip.   About a year later I was looking at the glass and really wanted to find the beer again, but couldn’t find it anywhere in the UK or nearby.  I eventually got in contact with Cotteridge Wines and my love of beer progressed from there.

The genesis of Twisted Barrel can be found in Ritchie and Chris’s Podcast history.  I wanted to know more, and learn how the podcast led to starting the brewery.

What led you to starting the Podcast?

General beer geekery really.   You get to that point in life where you almost need an excuse to get together around someone’s house and have a drink.   So we called it a podcast.   It was just a way to share our love of beer with the world and talk about something that we cared about.   Something creative to focus on, something we really cared about instead of our day job.  We just want to have fun and have a bit of a laugh.  

We got in to home brewing to be more knowledgeable for a podcast and then realised we liked home brewing so much we ended up not doing podcasting anymore – it all escalated from there.

And we are very glad it did escalate.  The podcast can still be found at All Hail the Ale! and on iTunes.

Press Start

I originally encountered Twisted Barrel while visiting the Earlsdon Festival, when Chris and Ritchie were offering tastings outside of Beer Gonzo.  I liked what I had and was fascinated as they were the only Coventry Brewery I was aware of at that time.  I had been able to get hold of some of their bottles from Beer Gonzo and had some interaction with the guys via Twitter and Untapped and had continued to be very impressed.   So when I heard they were looking to develop and grow by opening a brewery and tap room in Fargo Village, I was really excited.  It is perhaps typical of Twisted Barrel that this came about collaboratively and had a community of people involved.

I had a lot of friends and family help with the setting up of the brewery both financially and practically, right down to the creation of the actual bar here in the Tap Room.   The whole process of setting up between March and June 2015 was stressful with the impending realisation of ‘oh crap I have to set up a big ass brewery’.   But the opening day was so lovely, and the turnout on launch day was just stunning.  There was a queue forming at 11:45am and as soon as we opened the door we began serving and didn’t stop until 7:10pm we were non-stop, serving for about 7 hours.   We realised we may have underestimated how many people would arrive and the response was overwhelming.  Overtime, we have built up a really good hardcore group of regulars and lots of people dropping in to check the place out.

 We’ve had great support since launch and we continue to develop and grow.   We have continued to explore what we can do with the space including events and brewery tours.  The people of Coventry support us that much, that we almost became a bar  instead of a brewery ,  and quite by accident we became the third best venue in Coventry – as voted  by the local paper.   About 6 months ago we did have to reassess how to enable us to focus on external sales, and find a way to take me (Ritchie) away from the bar.  I was doing 16 hour days, brewing during the day and then working in the tap in the evening.   Some of the other partners have been able to help out and we brought in Carl.

During our conversations for the blog we have been heartened to hear that many of the beer people and businesses in the Midlands have supported each other, Twisted Barrel have been no different.

In terms of venues there been supportive from day one, Stirchley Wines, Beer Gonzo and Inspire in Coventry. Cherry Reds has been fantastic supporter from day one.   Cotteridge Wines have also been very supportive.  

Their beers can now also be found at eebria.com, and are sold in 1000 Trades and Pig & Tail to name a few.

More Folk than Punk

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The team at Twisted Barrel have developed a clear identity for the brewery, one that reflects the personalities of the people behind it.  This is encapsulated in their moto ‘More Folk than Punk’.

One of the directors came up with that – we both looked at each other and said yeah that explains it and encapsulates us.   A little left leaning, like to work collaboratively, and work face-to-face with people.  

Punk has become more corporate nowadays and we’re not the kind of people that stand on a rooftop and shout about ourselves.  It feels like it fits with our family focused, collaborative approach.

This personality extends to the beers and their names, often named after sci-fi or fantasy (Wake-Up Juice refers to Back to the Future 3), and the events held at the brewery (Father Ted day & Game of Thrones Day to name a few).  I personally believe the success of the Tap Room is largely due to the welcoming and family centred atmosphere they have developed.

Twisted Barrel – To be Continued…

Twisted Barrel is a brewery starting to gain fans nationally.  They have been featured in Flavourly Beer Boxes, hosted #craftbeerhour and been interviewed on the Beer O’clock Show.  They have grown exponentially, and we wanted to know what comes next:

Now it’s a case of getting some national distribution going.  Over the last three months especially we’ve had a lot of more interest.  I think some people think we’re a bigger brewery than we are and people don’t realise we only really have two employees.

We will continue to make good beer.  We hope to continue to develop our company profile and build on the increased interest we have had recently.  We also hope to continue to find new routes to market.

The group of directors are looking at focusing on developing new venues and Birmingham is very much on our radar.  We don’t intend to be a national player, like Beavertown and breweries like that.  We hope to be a leader in the regional area and we want to maintain our interaction, face-to-face with our customers, ensuring we maintain our connection to people.

I had a great time chatting with the team, with a lot of laughs.  We discussed a lot more but this blog is already long enough.  They are a passionate bunch, who care about making a great product, but will not compromise on their principles.

If you would like to know more about Twisted Barrel and where you can find their beers contact them via Twitter, Facebook and on their website.

Happy Birthday Cotteridge Wines

We often lament about the Birmingham beer scene compared to London, Leeds or Manchester, hoping for more bars and pubs to sell quality beer, and no doubt there is some more work to be done for  Birmingham to reach its potential, but one area we do lead the way in is our fantastic bottle shops. Birmingham has two of the UK’s best bottle shops, according to RateBeer (and us) in Stirchley Wines & Cotteridge Wines, and both along the same road. With Cotteridge Wines approaching its 21st birthday they want to celebrate with their friends and customers, and they want to celebrate big. We wanted to know more about the two brothers, their 21 year history, and how they became RateBeers No.1 bottle shop in the UK.20160622_170017
But what makes Cotteridge Wines different?

From the outside of the building it seems like any normal off-licence, until you take a closer look and see the names of the breweries they feature. Once you step inside you notice two things, firstly it’s no frills layout, and then you see the beers, the vast lines of bottles organised by brewery, and what an amazing selection to choose from (it can be a little intimidating on first visit).  So it’s kind of hard to imagine now when you walk in and see this to think that there was a time when they were just a regular neighbourhood off-licence selling Carling, Fosters and Lambrini. But 21 years ago that’s how Hari Kandola with his sons Kal and Jaz began on the Pershore Road in Birmingham, and for the vast majority of the stores history that was the status quo.

About 5 years ago Hari retired allowing the brothers to take full control, and they set about putting their own individual stamp on the store. They had begun to do a few more world beers such as Singha and Dab, and slowly added a selection of Belgian and German beers as well as bottle conditioned British beers such as Hobgoblin. This change coincided with the first stirrings of the “craft” beer movement in the UK and with a combination of customers asking and doing their own research they began to stock breweries such as Kernel, Brodies and Buxton.  They also got to know a relatively local lad, called Logan Plant who had set up a brewery in London called Beavertown.

So, with the help of social media they began pushing what they were doing and championing all of these new breweries, both of them sharing the passion and commitment of what these brewers were doing. The first 6 months of this change in approach were slow, but gradually word of mouth began to build and so the customer base began to expand. At the same time, by travelling to the breweries to pick up the beers they began to build a special relationship built on mutual respect and this has borne fruit, so to speak, especially with regards to their 21st birthday celebration in July, but more on that below.

Jaz and Kal’s approach to business, mirrors the shop in their no-nonsense and straightforward ethic. They have focused on building relationships and friendships with brewers, and in some cases not taking no for an answer. They said that one of the main contributors to their success was starting to supply Mikkeller, and this mainly came through the involvement of James Brodie, who pretty much vouched for them and what a great job they were doing.  This led to Mikkel telling his brother Jeppe who runs Evil Twin, quickly followed by To Øl supplying them.  Once these highly respected breweries began selling in the store, more breweries followed at a steady pace, all adding to the vast selection available in store and, as you can see from the beer board on the day we were there, meant they are able to put on some really great beers. 20160622_162452 (2)
The beer board came about during another change in late 2014 with the introduction of the tasting bar and growler filling station. I remember when I bought mine that the guys said they had done considerable research into getting the growlers just right.  Mine has seen a lot of use, both at the shop, and at my local brewery, Green Duck (read about them here).

As well as the bar there is also a small room and an outside area  with chairs and tables so you can enjoy a chat and a few beers when the weather is fine.  This has also meant they have organised tasting sessions and meet the brewer events, which are really enjoyable, including one I attended, hosted by Evin O’Riordan of Kernel Brewery (read about that here).P1000225
Another notch on their bow, so to speak, has been the collaborative beers that they have done such as Bish’s APA with Brodies, named after a customer, one Tom Bishop (thanks to Simon Williams of CAMRGB for providing this info here ), and No. 11 with Beavertown.  For their 20th birthday both Steel City (Maple & Vanilla Porridge Stout) and Siren (Cotteridge Wines Anniversary Blend) produced special beers to celebrate.  Siren especially has been one the breweries that they have built a very strong friendship with. Both Jaz and Kal told us that Ryan Witter, the ex-head brewer, had been a really big help in their development and they still keep in touch with him and his family since his move to Hill Farmstead.

The brothers told us that the last 5 years have been their best, as they have really enjoyed getting to know and chatting about beer with their customers, built friendships and a community.  I have to say both Bob and I were surprised when they said that they reckon about 90% of that customer base comes from outside Birmingham.  I’m not sure if that is a testament to how good the shop is, or whether it says something about Birmingham drinkers, probably a bit of both (perhaps something we will explore in the future). Whatever the reason, their range and customer service helped them win  RateBeer’s award of UK’s best beer bottle shop for 3 years running.

So what can we expect on July 8th and 9th at their 21st birthday… Well, a lot of breweries offered to make some special beers, so they had to make sure they didn’t end up with all the same style, but here are just a few of the beers they told us about:

They will also be selling the 20th Anniversary bottles at £10, plus they have some specialties from Brasserie Fantôme, De Struise Brouwers, To Øl & Mikkeller.  Follow the store on Twitter for more information and new updates.

Oh, and let’s not forget that very soon the online site will be launching.

So let’s raise a glass or two, Pilsner for Kal and something hoppy for Jaz, and wish the guys a very Happy 21st birthday!

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It’s a Wrap – News Round-Up – 24/06/2016

In Case You Missed It

  • Boaks & Bailey have been traveling across the West Midlands visiting some fantastic Birmingham and Black Country Pubs. Check out their posts here – http://boakandbailey.com/
  • A few announcements have been made about the beers to expect at Cotteridge Wines 21st party, we had a chat with Jaz & Kal about it, look for the blog on Monday.

 This Weeks Beer Adventures

  • 25th June – ‘I Choose’ Live – Local Drinks Market – The Bond, Digbeth
  • 28th June – Key Lime Tau Release Date – Cotteridge Wine & The Craven Arms
  • 30th June to 2nd July – Bromsgrove Beer & Cider Festival
  • 1st to 3rd July – The Junction Beer Festival – Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton

What We Have Enjoyed Reading This Week

We saw this tweet from Grandmaster Tash™ @danielvane

“Have we created an untouchable top table of UK brewing? Beyond criticism.. All brand and bluster.. I’m beginning to think we have…”.  Again, we thought, maybe a topic for a blog or discussion if anyone wants to get involved…but someone has beaten us to it, have a look at @coluleed blog https://barrelagedleeds.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/top-of-the-heap/

If you have anything you would like to be included in our weekly round-up drop us a message on Facebook, Twitter, or email us on midlandsbeerblog@yahoo.com