Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Another month, and another one bites the dust – this time south of the river, as Kirin bought FourPure. Unlike June’s debacle with Beavertown, this was far more honest, as founder and CEO Dan Lowe told Good Beer Hunting: “We’re not going to say nothing will change. What would be the point of doing it if nothing was changing?”

The brewery was always clearly backed by investment money, looking for a return, and did not rely on charismatic deception about their true opinion of Big Beer to promote the brand. They had always concentrated on doing the core beers, such as ShapeShifter, well, rather than the more adventurous festival stuff, which is again a better fit for a big company. If you don’t like it then there is no need to drink the beer, with so many quality independent alternatives available.

Drinking highlight was a wonderful, Vintage Fullers tasting, at GNRT, kindly organised by the Editor, and beer sommelier, John Porter. However, you can read more here, http://beerinsider.com/fullers-vintage-ale-tasting/ so I will be brief.

For the Vintage Ales, we were lucky with 1997, given its storage, and it had morphed into a fine dessert sherry. Good, but you would only pay the £500 price now for completeness, rather than value.

Fascinating divergence between 1999, which had gone, and 2000, which was superb, and recognisably a well-conditioned beer, with appropriate head. Of the others, I agreed with the consensus, that the best was the Brewer’s Reserve No.4.

Perfect weather for “I’d Rather Have A Lager” week at The Bottle Shop (The Arch), in which all 17 taps featured high quality examples of the style, including  Bamberg’s smoked Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Kout na Sumave 12 Pils, Left Hand’s Pilot Brew No. 83 Vienna Lager, Cloudwater’s Helles Tettnanger and Lost & Grounded Keller Pils.

Throughout the celebration The Arch had asked its customers to vote for their favourite, in order to “separate the very best from the best”.  It is personally enormously gratifying to report that the overall winner was Bohem’s Czech Pilsner Amos! I am obviously biased (as I’m a director), so it was very pleasing to see the beer awarded this independent accolade, especially as the field was of such high standard.

Regarding The Arch, I missed the Independence Day American special as I was away, and enjoyed air-freighted KCBC, but disagreed with owner Andrew Morgan regarding ABI’s Wicked Weed https://bottle.shop/blogs/news/bottleshop-view-on-wicked-weed?mc_cid=977e5d8160&mc_eid=9b45d1a491).

His examples of other industries ignores two fundamental difference with food and drink : Firstly a substantial degree of standardisation is to be welcomed with white goods, TV’s or smart-phones, as this means that consumers don’t have to learn entirely new operating systems, and methods, when they change brands, which also improves competition as it makes switching easier.

In food and drink, variety is the spice of life. Secondly, standardised production is cheaper and more plentiful, so the consumer benefits from having more goods. However, obesity rather than hunger is the modern world’s problem, and there are obvious limits to how much alcohols should be consumed, so this is irrelevant. Drinking ABI’s Wicked Weed now ultimately means less variety in the future, and for that reason, I’m out.

Thanks to Bottle Shop’s Charlotte, who air-freighted beers over for my annual July trip to Ibiza. Local brewer Ibosim’s quality has definitely improved, and the new strawberry IPA, was subtle and drinkable. I’ll include my yearly plug for their Tap-room in Port des Torrent, preferably after a leisurely late lunch at Can Pujol, just round the corner.

Wonderful sours from American Solera at King’s Arms: Ryemera, a Kvass, Grisetta Stone, Foeder Cerise, a sour, cherry-aged, golden ale, Ground is Shaking, a Vin Santo-aged Flanders Oud Bruin, Biere de Picpoul, oak-aged re-fermented with Picpoul grapes and Foederville, again oak-aged, but this time dry-hooped with Hallertau Blanc.

I regularly drink in Graceland pubs, almost always mention one of them positively in every blog, and awarded King’s Arms Pub of the Year for both 2016 (http://beerinsider.com/amateur-drinker-awards-for-2016/) & 2017 (http://beerinsider.com/amateur-drinker-2017-review/). However, the recent takeovers led to a potentially serious problem.

On a recent visit, half the taps were FourPure, Beavertown or Camden, all of whom are now Big Beer. Admittedly, old orders have to work the way thru the pipe-line, but this needs to be watched.

The Old Fountain wins the award for Most Imaginative Guest at an Event award, as a celebration of Virginia beers was graced by the presence of Governor Ralph Northam Virginia, who was on a trade mission to the UK.

Good fun to spot which of the trade delegation were actually members of the Secret Service, although it wasn’t exactly difficult! Both the Governor and First Lady were friendly, and engaged with the punters.  After the obligatory “politician pulls pint behind the bar photo-op”  was placed on Twitter, someone claimed, with a level of political ignorance, appropriate to the Social Medium , that it showed the level of corruption endemic in the state as the Governor did not have his liquor-serving licence!  For the beers, I enjoyed Port City Essential Pale and Monumental IPA and Lickinghole Creek 9 mile IPA and Farm Blond.

Paul Kruzycki, founder of Ales by Mail

Ales by Mail unfortunately announced that they would be closing down. They were early entrants and very supportive of the then nascent scene. I do not know if the issues are company-specific or a reflection of the pressure on specialist retailers as supermarkets enter the fray. They were the organiser of the February 2015 Naparbier TTO at Beavertown, at which it was first agreed that I write this blog, so they can either be thanked or blamed for that. (I also fell off my bike on the way home after that tasting – Ed).

A welcome new addition is Old Street Brewery, founded by two ex-Mother Kelly’s staff. The brewing is still in its infancy, but they have set up a fantastic on-site taproom, across the Bethnal Green Road from their mother-bar.  We will forgive them their estate agents’ aversion to geographical truth as one of the founders was originally living, and home-brewing in Old Street.

Redemption was the latest brewer to announce crowd funding, but I will cover that in greater detail in a special article which, I promise, will be out in a few days…

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.