Mayor of Haringey opens Bohem brewery extension

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Zdenek Kudr, Mayor of Haringey, Peter Skocek

The Mayor of Haringey was among guests gathered recently at the official opening of London’s only Czech-style brewery Bohem that has just been massively expanded.

The expansion has increased brewing capacity seven-fold and the Mayor celebrated its ability to now serve more of its Czech-style beers to a wider audience at a packed event held at the brewery’s Tap Room in Myddleton Road.

Guests included locals, councillors, brewers and beer writers who enjoyed copious pints of beer including Bohem’s best-selling pilsners – Victoria and Jan Amos – that are produced by the brewery’s co-founders Zdenek Kudr and Petr Skocek.

Likely lads at the Bohem Tap Room

Bohem’s brewery is located on nearby Whittington Road and is fully kitted-out with the latest equipment that has been brought in from the Czech Republic. It is gaining a following with its beers now available in other pubs in the local area – including Fuller’s-owned Great Northern Railway Tavern – and it is in discussions with various bars and restaurants in central London.

Kudr said: “The extended brewery now enables more people to enjoy our beers and we are proud to be playing our part in the rejuvenation of Myddleton Road. It was a great honour to have the Mayor to help celebrate our official opening in proper style with a few pints of authentic Bohemian beers.”

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider and investor in Bohem Brewery

 

Retail Insider Awards Evening with Matching Beers

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Beer Insider emerged following the success of sister site Retail Insider and the latter has held its first Awards evening, which involved beers matched to the individual awards, which was handled by The Bottle Shop.

The first ‘Retail Insider Transforming Retail Awards’ was held at Sourced Market in Marylebone, central London, and the first award ‘Most Promising Newcomer of the Year’ was matched with Burnt Mill from Stack Yard brewery.

Pete Brissenden of The Bottle Shop says: “This is a new brewery that I’m really excited about. The beer I selected was a 3.8% pale ale, with wheat and lots of tropical hops.”

Next up was the ‘Best Multi-channel Experience of the Year’ and the beer to go with this award was Don’t Get Hit by Lightning from Berlin-based gypsy brewery Fuerst Wiacek, with Pete highlighting: “This is another new brewery using a new innovation – Cryo Hops. They are soft, juicy and really low in bitterness. Also, on a multi-channel basis their artwork, online presence and dialogue are some of the best.”

The ‘Delivery Innovation of the Year’ award was matched to Yorkshire Square Saison from Wiper and True that delivered a full yeasty hit.

Finally Pete matched Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision with the ‘Overall Technology Innovation of the Year’ as he felt the brewery was being pretty clever with its use of foeders and a koelschip. This is genuinely a new approach that is having a “really remarkable effect”.

For the record the award winners were:

‘Most Promising Newcomer of the Year’ – Mention Me

‘Best In-store Experience of the Year’ – Tossed Restaurants

‘Best Multi-channel Experience of the Year’ – Starbucks with Mobile Order & Pay

‘Delivery Innovation of the Year’ – Deliveroo Editions

‘Most Intelligent Use of Data’ – Shop Direct’s Very Assistant

‘Overall Technology Innovation of the Year’ – Tossed Restaurants

Retail Insider would like to thank Pete Brissenden and The Bottle Shop for their involvement with this event.

Photo credits to: Beershots

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider

 

Mayor of Haringey to officially open the brewery expansion at Bohem

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Bohem – Traditional Bohemian lagers, brewed by Czech expats, in London.

Bohem Brewery is proud to announce that The Worshipful The Mayor of Haringey will be officially re-launching the brewery on 12 October 2017 at its Tap-room at 120A Myddleton Road, N22 8NQ.

It has just successfully completed a major upgrade at the brewery on Whittington Road, which will enable it to brew more, and even better, beer. To celebrate this it is holding an evening event.

It will be serving the full range of traditional Bohemian lagers, served with complimentary Czech snacks from 5pm. There will be free raffles throughout the evening for those who attend, where you can win Bohem goodies, such as merchandise, vouchers and beer!

The Mayor has always been a passionate supporter and advocate for local businesses so it is especially pleasing that he is performing the relaunch ceremony at 7:30pm.

The expansion is very important to the brewery in order that it can deliver the quality lager people deserve to be drinking. Therefore it is particularly thrilled to announce that it now has a permanent tap at the wonderful Fuller’s pub The Great Northern Railway Tavern, in Hornsey, which is certainly worth a visit if you haven’t yet been.

The brewery team look forward to welcoming you on 12 October at the Tap-room.

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider and investor in Bohem Brewery

Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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August was obviously dominated by London Beer City, which was even bigger and better than last year.

The week kicked off with an unofficial opening party at The Kings Arms, ‘The Scandinavian Embassy’, which hosted a MTB with Dry and Bitter, and had enough brewers and industry people to start a convention. The highlight was As Seen on TV, a session IPA, which almost all those convention visitors appeared to be drinking! Well that, and the free shots of Aquavit, a Nordic spirit…

I have attended every LCBF: I wonder, if, in 45 years’ time there will be a similar group to those that have been to every Super Bowl (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/05/us/all-50-super-bowls-group/index.html)? 2017 saw a move to a new larger space in Hoxton Square. Friday brought out all the usual suspects. The Fuller’s Cask Yard was superb, especially the collaborations with Moor, Marble and Thornbridge. New York’s Other Half feature prominently in this month’s round-up and it was their Simcoe and True Green DIPA’s that attracted the most attention on keg.

I have some sympathy with the LCBF organisers who have done so much for beer in the capital and it was very unfortunate that Extravaganza was launched in the year they moved to larger premises, especially as I do know that some foreign brewers, who had planned to come in August, changed their plans to come the following month.

Despite these obstacles, overall it was an enjoyable and successful afternoon.

Fuller’s at LCBF

However, as in 2016, they again let us in 15 minutes after scheduled opening time. There is no reason for this and the error is compounded by sticking rigidly to the closing times. This is easily fixable and mustn’t occur next year.

Sunday was always going to be all about Other Half at The Axe, N16. When we arrived, it transpired that there was a bizarre system operating in which none of the beers were served until 18:00 dead.

There was no queuing system, either physical or via grabbing a ticket as you arrived. This led to a scrum of people three deep at the bar from 17:40 at the latest. Unlike in a Friday after-work pub, they weren’t even moving after being served, but instead holding their position. Bedlam then ensued from 18:00. The staff worked incredibly hard- Pete from the King’s Arms was even drafted in after an emergency call! However, it still took over an hour before the experience was in any way pleasant.

The beer was very limited so I understand there had to be some sort of rationing, but this didn’t work at all. If it had been tapped at 12:00, us geeks could have queued outside. Alternatively, and it may have been that the brewery insisted on the 18:00 rule, they could have introduced a ticket when you arrived and bought your 1st other beer.

All the beers were stunning.

On Monday, I went Bohem’s Czech lager tasting at their tap-room in Bowe’s Park. I must declare that I have a professional interest (I’m an investor) in this brewery, although it is true that I love their beers, particularly Sparta, an amber lager.

Bohem Brewery

Trade day at GBBF is the proverbial comfortable pair of old slippers. It is what it is, and I am not going to discuss the Marble row. There was one silly change this year in that the American cask bar only opened at 15:00. Not only did this produce congestion at that time but created queues elsewhere earlier as people switched. Why do it?

Notable beers were the Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen, a Rauchbier, Cherry Lady, a lovely sour from the Italian Foglie d’Erba, Apollo Galaxy IPA from the Czech Pivovar Matuska, an excellent modern IPA from a country more associated with traditional styles, Essex’s Crouch vale Equanot a citrusy, floral golden ale, Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, chocolatey nutty and last, but not least, a bottle of Portland’s Hopworks Ferocious Citrus IPA

Thursday was Beavertown at Fuller’s owned Great Northern Railway Tavern, Hornsey. Mostly these were familiar, but Hawaii-5-Oh! a Grodziskie, with Friends of Ham and Canned Rations, a spiced IPA were new to me. Top marks to the excellent venue, which provided three thirds for £6, even including Blueberry Fika and Normcore, the imperial stouts. Then onto Duke’s Head for some Marble Dobbler, which was gorgeous on cask.

Siren had events at CBC, Covent Garden all week, unimaginatively called Siren’s Calling.

On the Friday, it was also their turn to pour the Other Half DIPA’S, Green Diamond and Mylar Bags. They were charging £6.50 a third, as opposed to £4.50 at The Axe! However at least they were pouring from opening!

They also put on a free tasting of a Siren/Other Half imperial milk stout collaboration, passionately led by Ruben, ex-Mother Kelly’s and now working for the Berkshire brewery.

First up was Twigs, the base. Then we tried Nuts with hazlenuts, and, finally, Berries, with strawberries. They were all excellent but the finale was truly sensational, the clear winner for almost all tasters, including myself.

I then hopped on the Central Line to go to The Kernel event at Brewdog Shepherds Bush. Upon arriving, it was quickly apparent that they had also imposed a ludicrous 18:00 sharp start time. The Kernel is not a sexy, rare, American import and there was loads of the stuff available so, whereas I had some sympathy at The Axe, this was just completely unacceptable.

It hurts customers who face needless queues, staff who must repeatedly give the bad news to disappointed punters that the beers aren’t on yet, and then face an unpleasant horde and finally discourages normal punters who walk in, see the mayhem, and walk out again, which I saw at both this event and on the Sunday.

It is a stupid system and needs to stop.

The Kernel beers were excellent as always.

With perfect symmetry, the week finished as it began, at The King’s Arms, although it was vastly more relaxed and mellow than it had been 10 days earlier. WarPigs Birru for Ramen yuzu pilsner the stand-out.

August wasn’t just Beer City:

Bissel brothers belatedly made it to Mother Kelly’s after the customs issues discussed in the last piece. This was less hectic and I could ascertain that I preferred the Industry IPA to the Substance. On the same evening, Thornbridge did a free sour tasting upstairs at CBC, EC1.

Ric, from Modern Beer Co., hosted a Spanish MTB with Cerveses Guineu, Naparbier and Cerveses La Pirata at Brindisa, Shoreditch. This was a fun evening and one can only hope that some of the beers become permanent at the bar. My favourite was Naparbier Mad Clown Extra Pale Ale.

Bank holiday weekend was back to GNRT, Hornsey for a 20-tap sour takeover. There were old favourites from Wild Beer, Magic Rock and Siren. I am not usually a huge fan of Redchurch but really rate Urban Farmhouse, their sour sub-brand, of which a few were on, including Tartlette. I am also a sucker for Buxton Trolltunga, their gooseberry sour IPA. GNRT is proving itself an excellent addition to the London scene.

Bottleshop welcomed Stillwater Extra Dry, a fantastic saison brewed with sake rice and The Cloud, a solid IPA.

Next month’s column will carry a full review of Extravaganza (spoiler alert- although there were some teething problems, overall, I thought it was fantastic).

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t. If you see this man and are tempted to buy him a drink think of the consequences.

 

Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Mother Kelly’s SE1

Apologies for how late July’s round-up is, but as with most of my readers, the 1st half of August was spent in a drunken haze thanks to the fantastic London Beer City, a full round-up of which will appear next month- and I promise that will be more punctual!

July’s best event was the Brasserie de la Senne dinner, organised by Matt Curtis, and held at The Prince. Small plates from that month’s resident pop-up, The Bear BQ, were matched with Taras Boulba, a bottle of Bruxellensis, the Schieven IPA, the dessert with Jambe de Bois, and, then, finally a third of Brusseleir to finish.

Yvan de Baets, the co-founder was very friendly and interesting. He was very generous about the historical importance and inspiration that Britain’s cask heritage had given him, particularly noting how much more skill was required to put flavour into the low ABV beers that they generally produce. He regards hops as analogous to grapes in wine-making, and hopes that, in the future, there will be more attention paid to this in labelling and crucially general (not beer geek) consumer behaviour- certainly in the UK, grape labelling and recognition was not widespread before the New World invasion of the 1980’s. Finally, my favourite quote was “I love my yeast, it does all the work and is always the employee of the month”.

King’s Arms is waiting for you

The following evening The King’s Arms had a Belgian showcase with those beers together with some from Siphon, notably the superb smoked Stinker and Damme Nation IPA.

I spent the first fortnight of the month in Ibiza. Their craft scene there is still in its infancy: so, thanks to Edd of Bottleshop, in almost his last act in that role, for shipping out a selection of their finest, which was very welcome. However, a beacon of hope remains the Ibosim Tap-room which I mentioned last year (http://beerinsider.com/around-town-with-amateur-drinker-11/). They are very friendly and passionate about beer. I particularly liked the new Blood Moon IPA, although I would have called it more of a red ale. I still strongly recommend lunch at Can Pujol and then an evening at their tap-room.

Unfortunately, this meant that I missed London Brewers’ Market, the Czech Beer Day at their Ambassador’s residence, and most galling of all, 50% off all week at Craft Beer Co. EC1 to celebrate their 6th birthday!

Czech Ambassador’s residence

Northern Monk organised a UK tour (they subsequently went to Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds) for Portland’s Bissell Brothers, flying over the beers and serving them with their Patron’s Project. The 2 London events were scheduled for Mother Kelly’s and then The Hop Locker. Unfortunately, Customs problems meant the freight were delayed, and the initial night had to be postponed, whilst there was a nerve-wracking wait until they finally arrived at around 19:45.

Given the rarity of the beers and the unfortunate cancellation, Hop Locker was absolutely rammed with the capital’s beer geeks- indeed, it recalled George Orwell, or possibly Philip Toynbee’s comment that a bomb under the West car park at Twickenham would end fascism in England for a generation- any explosion would have set beer back in a similar fashion! The crowding was no-one’s fault and the staff did a fantastic job serving the beers.

The Bissell beers were worth the wait: Industry vs Inferiority IPA, Baby Genius a session IPA, Lux Rye Ale, Substance IPA, and the magnificent Northern Gold DIPA. In a great tribute, the Patron’s Projects beers did not suffer in comparison: most notably 7.02, a peach vanilla farmhouse ale, 7.03, a blueberry wild ale, both collaborations with Alefarm, and 8.01, a DDH lager with Vague.

The Fox, Kingsland Road

Polish brewers Pracownia Piwa took over The Fox in Kingsland Road. Their Humcwot IPA was easily the best local beer I had in Warsaw last year (http://beerinsider.com/around-town-with-amateur-drinker-13/). The other beers, including a smoked lager, weren’t bad but it was bizarre to read that they are one of RateBeer’s Top 100 breweries…   However, this is clearly just an attempt to have geographic diversity, as ludicrous as when Pele was ridiculed in 2004 for naming El Hadji Diouf in his top 100 greatest living footballers!

After every craft beer takeover, we are used to the pathetic sight of Brewdog bars posting images on social media of them removing the brewer from their lists and presumably pouring the beer down the drain, most egregiously with Ballast Point. It was therefore amusing to read in a  scoop from Matt Curtis, who clearly had a good month, that Burning Sky were pulling their beers from Brewdog. Childish all round, but a classic case of The Biter Bit!

Mother Kelly’s new Vauxhall bar hosted the pre-party for London Beer City. This is a stunning venue, at least twice, probably 3 times, the size of the original with over 30 taps connected to a proper cool-room housing the kegs. The beer of the night was a juicy Brew By Numbers IPA ,specially created for Beer City. (I think it was 05/22 but am not sure).

Mother Kelly’s SE1

Magic Rock visited Craft Beer, WC1. Outside of their core range, there were 2 cocktail-themed beers, Pina Mojito Vice, a Stillwater collab which was OK, a salty Margarita gose, which I much preferred, Common Grounds, a coffee porter, and the rarer Kentucky version, which is barrel-aged in bourbon from that State.

July ended with the news of the demise of Craft Beer SW4, which explains why Craft Beer 100 didn’t take place this Easter. It will now be called The Clapham Tap, although I confess I don’t know to what extent the ownership has changed. Craft Beer Co. also announced that they would be opening a branch in Old Street. This makes some geographical sense in that WC1, EC1, N1 anf the new branch are all walking distance, but Silicon Roundabout already has The Old Fountain, Three Crowns and a branch of Draft House so this will be yet another challenge for the scale of craft beer demand, although as next month’s report on Beer City will show, those challenges keep getting passed with ease.

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.

 

Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Greg Koch, founder of Stone, at Three Johns

June’s highlight was Beavertown’s Sour Solstice festival. Whether it was because of the style, or the fact that it was a Sunday, the place was relatively empty, chilled and relaxed.

The beers were fantastic and included very limited quantities of the exceptionally rare Tommie Sjef Druif, a sour wild ale fermented with Kekfrankos (the Hungarian for Blaufränkisch, a dark-skinned grape) and which they poured rationed thirds out of 12 bottles. It was gorgeous and funky.

Cloudwater brought their spicy MF Grisette El Dorado and Grapefruit Sour, which completes a truly outstanding trio of citrus sours along with Bergamot Lemon and Seville Orange. The hosts had on an excellent range, including Tempus Cowboy Lightning, a bretted sour, and Tempus Aquavitza, an aquavit barrel-aged wild ale, both new. Other notables were Geuze Tilquin, Burning Sky Saison and Wild Beer/Firestone Violet Underground.

Logan Plant, co-founder of Beavertown, was talking of making this an annual event, and I hope that proves the case as it was excellent.

Stone taps at Three Johns

Three John’s hosted Stone, who brought serious big-hitters over in the form of co-founder Greg Koch and CEO Dominic Engels, to promote their new production facility in Berlin. They also flew over two special beers from San Diego, which were therefore wonderfully fresh. The Tangerine Express IPA was bitter and adult, whilst the Enjoy By 7/4/17 DIPA was initially confusing as the absurd American date order meant it looked like it was two months past the sell-by date! It was truly magnificent, although a very dangerously deceptive 9.4%!

To Ol took over 20 taps at Brewdog, Shepherd’s Bush. I have been very critical of the behemoth at the corporate level, but must compliment excellent service at the branch: I had called them earlier and they had incorrectly told me that the beers would be ready at 16:00. Upon arrival, it turned out that it was 18:00. However, they remembered the call, acknowledged the mistake and served me anyway, which saved a wasted 40-minute journey

The beers were predictably superb: I enjoyed the Mochaccino Messiah Brown Ale, Shock Series IPA and its very (too?) boozy older brother TIPA, whilst it was great to re-taste the two MBCC poured Lemongrass Gose and DJuicy, a Vermont DIPA, a fine example of the style

Get your dates sorted!

Talking of annual events, Tau day (28/6 as the silly US dates system rears its ugly head for the second time in this column) was again marked by the re-release of the Hawkshead/ Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau (2 Pie, from both sides of the Atlantic, geddit?). This is the third version of a beer that was originally brewed for the 2015 Rainbow Project. It’s fair to say that it is the most successful child of all the projects and I loved it at the King’s Arms.

Honest Brew organised a superb pop-up in Old Street station. A good selection (250+) of bottles and cans, along with a couple of taps, which were taken over by the likes of BBNo, Siren, and the Kiwi Beer Collective. They closed with Wiper and True, with whom they collaborated on a Sicilian Lemon Sorbet Pale Ale. I am addicted to lemon sorbet so unsurprisingly found this delicious, crisp and refreshing.

As always, notable evenings at The BottleShop: Mikkeller led to MBCC-reminiscing with the Spontanyuzu and Spontandryhop Mosaic, a fantastic Lambic. Amsterdam’s Oedipius is a new brewery for me, but their concentration on saison and sours suited the weather- Swingers grapefruit Gose, Mannenliefde lemongrass Saison and Polyamorie, a Berliner Weisse/ Pale Ale blend that worked better than it sounds!

The last day of the month saw Brewski (Barbarian NEIPA and Pangol IPA) and Cloudwater, confusingly having renamed all their MBCC DIPA’s (London was sensational) share the taps. Unfortunately, it was also the evening where we found out that Edd would be leaving his role as general manager of the Druid Street shop/bar, which was a pity as he has been passionate and efficient, the perfect retailer’s combination.

Amateur Drinker yet to be fully charmed by Tom Oliver

King’s Arms hosted a cider evening with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider from Hereford and Ryan Burke from Angry Orchard, owned by The Boston Beer Company. I’m not a huge cider fan, but those that are have told me that these are some of the best cider-makers (Is there an equivalent word to brewer? I couldn’t find one…) around. I wasn’t fully converted, but did enjoy Angry Orchard’s bittersweet Understood In Motion.

Finally, the month ended with the strange news that Carlsberg has bought London Fields, presumably just for the name. The press release stated, “London has one of the most thriving craft beer scenes outside North America”, which is true and “London Fields is certainly an established and popular part of that”, which is clearly nonsense. However, at least that meant that no-one was up in arms about it on Twitter!

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.

 

 

Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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MBCC: first stop WarPigs

Apologies for a late report this month, but no prizes for guessing that May’s highlight was the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen, MBCC.

After landing, it was straight to WarPigs for a Tired Hands TTO. Notable beers included Royal Double, a sushi rice DIPA, Individuation Sanguine sour red and Alien Church IPA. However, the real highlight was the atmosphere, drinking with brewers who had flown in for the event. Apparently we then finished at Fermentorem!

The festival itself was two sessions on Friday and two on Saturday, with most brewers bringing two beers per session, excepting a small section of up-and-coming that brought just one each. All free-pure, we were encouraged to try as many different small samples as possible, rather than concentrate on a few. Therefore, I apologise that this article might be a bit ‘listy’, as I remember so many wonderful drinks!

Prominent Friday Morning beers included 7venth Sun’s Anniversary Ale, a saison with chardonnay grapes and Everybody in the Pool, an exotic fruit Berliner weisse, Omnipollo’s Julie Triple Mango Crème Brule Lassi, Stillwater’s Gose Gone Wild Phuket, Jester King’s Atrial Rubicite raspberry sour, and Toolbox’s Cooper with Meyer lemon saison.

Superstition had two amazing meads, the Grand Cuvee and Coffee Marion. This style was to pop up a few times during MBCC. It is emphatically not the session-y UK honey beer that is too sweet to drink a lot of. It is much stronger, 12%+ ABV, and competes in the dessert wine category. Still very sweet, but to be sipped and savoured. The Coffee Marion was probably the best of the event as it combined the two classic after-dinner beverages. It felt like a new style that doubtless we’ll soon see British brewers imitating.

There were only a couple of beers that were so rare as to attracted large queues from the start and ran out early: The Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout and Bokkereyder Lambic. Both were stunning but it was nicer to begin four hours of drinking with the latter!

Other than that, there were not too many queues as the event. Logistics worked very well, including an excellent, easy-to-use MBCC App which listed all the beers that were pouring.

Friday afternoon saw a plethora of outstanding beers: 7venth Sun again shone with a kumquat oak fermented tart grislette and Score with Cheerleaders, another Berliner weisse. Alefarm’s Nordic grape barrel fermented saison with sour cherries. Alpha State’s Galaxy DIPA, American Solera’s sour cherry ale.  Brekeriet/local king/ jester king BA sour ale with raspberries, Cigar City’s Doublenut brown ale. Gigantic Pipewrench gin BA IPA. J Wakefield bourbon BA imperial stout with dulche de leche and Napabier’s Pumpkin Tzar

Overall, on the ‘Promising’ brewers stand, Stigbergets and Kees were the stand-outs, doubtless to be promoted into the main event next year! From a UK perspective, it was gratifying to see Cloudwater receiving such positive attention from a largely international crowd. Their DIPA’s were in deservedly strong demand

We were given an excellent goodie bag, including a free can of Mikkeller Celebration 2017, a glorious oak-aged sour ale with yuzu. There are a few cans still floating around London, and I advise anyone who hasn’t yet tried it, to do so.

In homage to the famous Likely Lads episode in which they tried to avoid the England result, Saturday morning was spent unsuccessfully trying to avoid discovering who had won MasterChef the night before.

Mikkel taking it easy on day one of MBCC

The beers that successfully took away the hangover included Angry Chair Rainbow Sherbet Berliner weisse, Flora Flora Fuyu, a saison, Half Acre’s Battle of Trenton, a wild Kentucky Common, an old-fashioned style that was very new to me, B Necktar’s graham encrusted version of their Apple Pi Mead and San Adairius’s Lucy Belle saison.

BRUS in all its glory

During lunch, the Editor and I visited BRUS Brewery, opened by To Øl in a disused iron factory in Nørrebro. The space was designed by Fleet Architects who also did Mason & Co. I confess that we had such a good time and bumped into so many notable faces from the London scene that we ended up making an afternoon of it, and criminally missed the final session.

However, that becomes a bit more forgivable when you see the pictured list!

Finally, Saturday night drunkenly ended at Mikkeller’s main bar. Overall the festival was unbelievably good and easily the best beer event I have attended. There was no music and the food was not intrusive which meant that everyone concentrated on the beer. LCBF and Beavertown Extravaganza should remember the former whilst GBBF should heed the latter.

Sunday was spent at Mikkeller Baghaven, their new barrel-aging venue on the outskirts of town, although your correspondent certainly did not participate in the Mikkeller Beer Mile Danish Championship Open

Arizona Wilderness and Monkish shared a TTO, but the undoubted highlight was a small truck with eight lines, selling halves of the leftovers from the festival’s kegs, properly random in that even they did not even know which each was, at just 10 Krone per half. This was brilliant fun, as everyone tried to guess what they were drinking! Terrific value too.

Back in Blighty, Good Beer Hunting broke the news that AB Inv had bought a stake in Ratebeer back in Oct last year (Read story here).

This led a few brewers absurdly asking to be removed from the site, completely forgetting the 1st Amendment. As this article went to press, the magazine did point out some worrying irregularities (Read story here) so it’s a story that’s worth watching.

Yeastie Boys poured the 2016 versions of two of their annual specials at The King’s Arms: His Majesty, a hoppy golden ale blended with 2-year wine-BA Cherry Ghost, a pale ale, and Her Majesty, fresh dark ale blended with the Cherry Ghost and a 3-year old wild PKB, a black IPA. Confusingly they were named the wrong way around at the pub, but I’m reliably told that’s right! Both were stunning.

At full production capacity in Tottenham, Beavertown announced that Redchurch would be contract brewing for them. As I’ve praised Mikkeller and Yeastie Boys, I clearly have no problem with such activities. However, they disclose a lot more detail (the Dane’s cans say Product of Belgium) and so Beavertown need to specifically tell us the exact provenance of every beer.

A Scandinavian theme this month at The Bottle shop as they separately hosted Dugges (Orange Haze IPA), To’Ol (Campale Grapefruit Blonde and Grätze Mille, a citrusy take on the Polish smoked wheat ale Grodziskie) and Omnipollo (Fatamorgana IPA). Controversially, The Bottle Shop now devotes two of its 12 taps to Prosecco and gin & tonic. Sacrilege!

Bagby went on a European Grand Tour after MBCC, with the London leg at The Cask, Pimlico. Unchartered Cherritory, a fruit beer, and two DIPA’s, Dinkus and Totally Coned stood out.

The last weekend of the month saw new DIPA’s launched from both sides of the river. Beavertown’s Humuloid was billed as the “natural extension” of the Lupuloid. In fact, it was just a New England DIPA trying way too hard to be fashionable, rather than naturally stylish. I much preferred Four Pure’s Hop Tripper, brewed with New Realm. (Beavertown’s other newbie, Psychotropic was excellent, containing a lot of favour for just 3.1% ABV)

I enjoyed Oude Beersel Oude Geuze and Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus at Mother Kelly’s Sour Power 4 weekend, held every year since their launch in 2014

If my 2017 round-up doesn’t have MBCC scooping awards, then we are truly in for a magnificent next seven months.

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.

 

AROUND TOWN WITH AMATEUR DRINKER

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Such is the pace of change in the beer industry at present that my first draft of this diary piece felt like I was writing for The Economist so I have written about that elsewhere (Let’s Rake over the Take-overs…) and concentrated on the drinking in this entry!

Although Craft Beer 100 was cancelled this Easter, the perennial Brodie’s Bunny Basher took place at King William IV in Leyton. Usually I love the atmosphere at this event, as the pub is always a great mixture of locals, Sky Sports fans, and beer geeks. Whilst this was as good as ever, it didn’t really feel like an actual festival this year: The tap-list (on Good Friday) felt normal with no festival specials and criminally no sours, which I think is their best style. Still a great boozer, but not the festival it normally is.

Brewdog in Shepherd’s Bush hosted Rheingeist from Cincinnati but delivery issues meant that this was postponed at lunchtime and then re-instated a couple of hours later but with only three beers unfortunately available. However, it was a new brewery for me and the Mosaic Pale, Truth IPA and Knowledge DIPA meant the journey was worthwhile. I also visited for a Northern Monk TTO. 822 DIPA was very good but the 4 Degrees of Separation with Siren, Abbeydale, and Magic Rock was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Hop Burns & Black: where the chilli sauce stains floors

Incidentally, that evening of Thursday 27 April also saw the following events on simultaneously: Matt Curtis’ focusing on hops at Hops, Burns and Black, fresh Tanto & Money IPA from Barrier at Mother Kelly’s, Marble at London Beer Dispensary in SE4, Tiny Rebel at the Tate Modern, and  Coventry’s Twist Barrel Ale @ Fox E8. While friends popped into Clapham’s The King & Co and reported back that they had both had both Gigantic Wrench Gin IPA and Siren Maiden on tap!!

CAMRA tweeted that Waitrose will be stocking Wild Beer Ninkasi at 209 branches, from May 1st for just £7.50 per 750ml. This is an apple saison, secondary fermented with champagne yeast in a big bottle, and would have been ridiculously exotic for their shelves even a year ago. It’s a wonderful beer and great for consumers, but it was easy to understand the many complaints from independent bottle shops, commenting on how much time and effort they had spent building the brand and educating consumers, and then now they can’t compete with those prices.

They were especially indignant that it isn’t a core range in a can. Moreover, there is the very good point that supermarkets are unlikely to be storing the beer correctly. Burning Sky then tweeted that they had turned Waitrose down, both on core and special releases, as they “favour independent bottle shops” A worthy goal, but then aren’t they at capacity and would find it tough to produce enough to satisfy Waitrose demands.

(pic: Cave Direct)

Lost and Grounded launched ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ DIPA, a reference to Paul Jones, Cloudwater’s founder, at Brewdog, EC1. Unfortunately, ultimately it didn’t. And what is it with that style of beer and puns, with Elusive giving us ‘How DIPA’s Your Love?’ However, I loved their Hunky Dory, an IPA in collaboration with Thornbridge. Bakewell’s finest separately promoted their Mango Halcyon, which hasn’t received a great press, but which I enjoyed at the Hop Locker.

The Bear in Camberwell, SE5 organised a Sour Showcase. There was a new Raspberry Sour from Four pure, an excellent Buxton/Lervig Gooseberry Sour IPA, but, to no surprise, the highlight was a new London Sour from the Kernel – Raspberry & Victoria Plum – one of only three kegs so far produced.

BottleShop held an Omnipollo Imperial Stout Madness evening with five of that style alongside a selection of their other beers. The stouts needed a little time to warm and open up, as their taps are so cold, which is clearly better than being too warm in the clear majority of cases. Magnus Opus was a barrel aged version of their imperial pecan mud cake, whilst there was a ‘normal’ Hypnopompa, an imperial marshmallow and a bourbon BA.  Very interesting from a one-off tasting perspective, a bit too dangerous for after-work Friday drinking!

40ft Brewery hosted the Dalston Beer Day with heavyweights such Kernel and Beavertown pouring alongside newer brewers such as Affinity and Pig and Porter of Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately, I thought the latter’s Mango Daiquiri IPA was a case of running before they could walk.

Magic Rock Tap Room

This year’s release of Magic Rock’s Human Cannonball DIPA and Un-human Cannonball TIPA was initially exclusive to their tap-room, which led to queues on a workday Friday at 13:00 on an industrial estate in Huddersfield! A few days later, as per tradition, London saw it on keg at Craft Beer Company, Islington. Excellent, as always.

After Kernel Evin’s comments regarding collaborations in last month’s blog, it was interesting to see Jester King announce their joint-venture with Kernel, to produce Colonel Toby, a ‘hoppy little farmhouse ale’ although to be fair Jester King are special.

The Kernel Evin

Finally, I’ll end with some openings news: Jacob Kennedy (ex Bocca Di Luppo) has opened Plaquemine Lock, a New Orleans style gastro-pub, on the site of what was the Prince of Wales, less than 50 yards from The Earl of Essex, and which has been empty since 2014.

I haven’t eaten the food but it’s a very pleasant surprise that it has not been converted into flats, and Neck Oil and Juice Box were amongst others on tap when I popped in. Another positive is that Michel Roux Jr. is to oversee The Wigmore, in Regent Street’s Langham Hotel, which will serve ‘dishes inspired by the English pub and tavern’. Brew by Numbers are developing their house brew with other craft on cask and keg, according to their PR team…

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.

 

Let’s rake over the take-overs…

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Whilst writing my normal monthly diary, (March’s ventures are here) there was so much corporate finance news that we felt it appropriate to put into this separate piece.

Wicked Weed: Wicked? Hardly.

The most stunning announcement was that Wicked Weed had agreed to be taken over by Anheuser-Busch InBev. This is a mere 15 months after the latter’s Super Bowl ad mocked craft beer for amongst other things, producing “fruit cup” beer. It took less than 2 minutes on Ratebeer to find the following listing for Wicked Weed: Black Angel cherry sour, Cali Orange pale ale, Cherry Go Lightly, Currant Raspberry IPA, and Elderberry Saison, and there are many more.

The backlash was not just consumer led: Collaborations (for instance, with Jester King) were cancelled, the brand was pulled from stores and bars (including by Brewdog, which reeks of hypocrisy given their recent news), and more than half of the 70 brewers who had been invited to the annual Funkatorium International event pulled out.

A couple of days later, Heineken took full control of the rest of Lagunitas, which was far less of a surprise or controversy as they already owned 50% from September 2015.

Redchurch promoted their latest Crowdcube funding round. In January 2016 (so just after the boost from Camden’s successful sale) they raised £500k on the site, on a valuation of £2.2m, based upon their own sales and profit forecasts. However, they missed the sales figures by approximately 50%, so that the prediction of a £1k profit turned into a £170k loss. Fourteen months later they are back for another £400k, but ludicrously the valuation is now £5m, or more than double.

It is inconceivable that a business can spectacularly miss its targets and yet double in value.

At worst, Crowdcube are just picking numbers out of thin air. At best, as the FT (https://www.ft.com/content/5f7ce680-038c-11e5-b55e-00144feabdc0) reported, Beauhurst, a data firm, found that crowdfunding valuations were too high and therefore investors were paying too much. As I’ve written, at present, I would regard crowd-funding as glorified Clubcard schemes giving juicy product discounts, rather than serious equity investment vehicles.

It was gratifying to read that the FT (https://www.ft.com/content/1161a174-2b68-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c) agreed  (http://beerinsider.com/lack-of-equity-at-brewdog/0) about the confusion at Brewdog between debt and equity, and the unsatisfactory nature of the founders cashing in whilst the investors were not allowed to.

Finally, The Morning Advertiser excitedly announced (http://mobile.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Drinks/Beer/Carlsberg-plans-to-buy-UK-craft-brewery) that Carlsberg were planning to buy a UK craft brewery, via an exclusive podcast from their CEO Julian Momen. Specifically, they were looking “to bolster…growing portfolio with an artisan British beer”. They added that they had recently “acquired the UK rights to sell Brooklyn Lager in the UK” as a start to the process.

This is hardly surprising and suggests to me that they not very far down the path. If they had actually chosen a specific target, and certainly if they were in meaningful talks, then they would be keeping their cards as close to their chest as possible, to avoid flushing out a rival bid and consequent auction.

However, this didn’t stop a great deal of uninformed speculation online as to which brewery they might be interested in. If I were to be asked to add my guess, a couple of names popped out: Beavertown are now dominant in London, and will need financial capital for the expansion they are rumoured to be planning, although they may be able to raise it themselves. FourPure have come on leaps and bounds, receiving my coveted title of Most Improved Brewer for 2016 (http://beerinsider.com/amateur-drinker-awards-for-2016/). In Neck Oil, Gamma Ray, Shapeshifter and JuiceBox, they also both produce superb accessible beers.

I have absolutely no inside knowledge on this and it should be read purely as speculation. Indeed, they are two fantastic breweries, and all I hope is that they carry on being so for as long as possible.

However, it is very likely that it won’t be long before I am writing a piece about a “stunning announcement” of a takeover of a beloved UK brewer…..]

Amateur drinker, serious investor

M&S developing unique craft beer list

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Marks & Spencer has always been uniquely positioned as a seller of mainly own label products as opposed to its rivals that predominantly flog the goods of the big brand owners. This approach has been carried through to its beer range that includes an array of approaching 90 own label craft beers, which are produced exclusively for the company.

Some of this range has been developed through working with specialist beer retailer Real Ale – operator of a shop in South West London – that acts as an agent between numerous smaller UK brewers and M&S whereby it lends its connections and expertise to the large retailer.This arrangement has led M&S to build up a range of genuinely interesting beers that sets it apart from all the other big retailers that largely sell the same products as each other and offer scant excitement for adventurous beer drinkers.

You therefore won’t find Harbour Brewing Co.’s Laid Back Lager, Double Hopped Citra from Oakham or Meantime Brewing Company’s Maritime Salted Caramel Porter on the shelves of any other retailer apart from M&S.

Zeph King, managing director of Real Ale, says the relationship began in 2007 when M&S approached Real Ale to develop four beers under the supermarket’s own brand, which resulted in beers from Hepworth Brewery and Woodforde’s Brewery being listed.

The beer offer grew dramatically in 2015 when M&S decided to go all-in on its ale range, according to King: “They said craft is not going to go away so we want to develop a regional branded range with brewers like Camden Town, BrewDog and Sambrook’s producing under the M&S own label.”

It created 12 different regions – recently expanded through a range developed specially for M&S in Ireland – and decided to have brewers supply locally. The work undertaken by Real Ale has grown markedly as the number of own label beers has since expanded along with the branded bottles and cans that M&S also stocks.

“We look for brewers to develop beers that we can pitch into M&S. We’ve built a business to mirror their team so we’ve a commercial side and technical side because to put the M&S name alongside a brewery name it has to go through various technical specialists. We’ve the people who can do this. This can mean very good volumes for the brewers and also great kudos. You get your name on a beer with M&S,” explains King.

Because of the demand for exclusive and unique beers the opportunity for smaller brewers is obvious. “The brilliant thing is that the smaller brewers are the most flexible with briefs and can produce test brews of new and unique stuff through a number of iterations,” suggests King, who adds that the objective is to always push the boundaries a little.

This has led to the likes of Sambrook’s, Harbour, Arbor, St Austell and Oakham enjoying serious pushes to their businesses. These arrangements have come about through the relationships Real Ale has built up since setting up shop back in 2005 and it’s ongoing strategy of sourcing beer from younger brewers.

Real Ale store, London

“It’s all about partnerships. We’ve got direct links to brewers through our craft beer shop and this is instrumental in us finding new products. We can take batches from up and coming brewers and if they get to a certain level then we could [potentially] see them as the right fit for M&S,” says King.

Part of the reason he reckons the arrangement with smaller brewers has worked so well is because of the focus on buying locally (within the defined regions) whereby the likes of London’s Redchurch Brewery will be supplying 80 stores rather than finding itself too stretched in having to supply nationally – which for branded lines could hit 450 stores in total. “This definitely helps us to get smaller brewers involved,” says King, who adds that it’s a similar story with Wylam Brewery that went into specific regional stores two weeks ago.

When talking to such brewers with the idea of pushing the boundaries in order to produce something unique and interesting the issue of price is clearly important but King says it is the quality of the beer that really drives the range.

Hence 330ml bottles and cans will predominantly retail at between £2.20 and £2.40 (depending on ABV) – although some own label beers come in below £2. This is in contrast to the other major supermarkets that are invariably trying to hit lower price points, and they build their ranges accordingly.

The M&S range will continue to develop, says King, as shown by the expansion into Ireland, and the launch of cans, which further push its craft credentials. There will inevitably be more 330ml cans launched – which are particularly well suited to the M&S Simply Food outlets located in train stations.

The one thing M&S also needs to do is to shout a little bit more about its unique range, which remains arguably one of beer retailing’s best kept secrets.

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider