Amateur Drinker 2017 Review

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Pre-MBBC drinks at Mikkeller’s Warpigs

Best festival/Highlight of the Year

2017 saw my first visit to the Mikkeller Beer Celebration (MBBC), and it definitely won’t be the last, as I’ve some tickets are already booked for 2018. The festival itself was almost perfect, and there were too many wonderful beers to mention them all over again. A notable new style was the modern extremely alcoholic mead, of which the pick were Superstition’s Grand Cuvee and Coffee Marion.

Superstition at MBBC

It was augmented by all the fantastic ancillary events around Copenhagen during the week, finishing at Mikkeller Baghaven , where they were selling halves of the leftover festival kegs, properly random in that even they did not know which each was, at just 10 Krone per half.

Extremely honourable mention:

As Beavertown have hit brewing capacity constraints they truly left their real mark in 2017 via Extravaganza, which just 18 months after the debacle of the 4th birthday party, was the UK’s largest and most impressive festival to date.

The buzz at Beavertown Extravaganza

Only two years prior to this Craft Beer Co. had to cancel London Beer Carnival because they couldn’t sell out the vaults beneath Waterloo as the £50 ticket price was a step too far for “just beer”. Fast forward to 2017 and 8,000 people, over two days paid £55 for a sold-out event in Surrey Quays.

There were a couple of minor teething problems, but overall it was brilliant, and shows just how far and fast the UK scene has come. Beavertown also produced a very mellow Sour Solstice festival, in which I tasted the exceptionally rare Tommie Sjef for the first, but not the last time.

(However, it wasn’t all perfect as the small CraftMaster glasses at its 5th birthday were crap!)

Best road trip

It was the editor who strongly recommended going to the Buxton Brewery tap-house, and a trip in late September completely lived up to his endorsement. Great beers in a friendly town-centre location, which has a perfect mix of geeks, locals and hikers. There really isn’t any excuse for any London beer fan not to make the trip at least once.

Best Brewer interaction

July saw a Brasserie de la Senne dinner, organised by Matt Curtis, and held at The Prince in N22. Yvan de Baets, the brewery’s co-founder, was on particularly garrulous form, with my favourite line: “I love my yeast. It does all the work and is always the employee of the month.

It’s meant to be a blog about beer, not capital markets

March showed that those who participated in the Equity For Punks (EfP) scheme did not actually receive proper equity (http://beerinsider.com/lack-of-equity-at-brewdog/0),  and it was gratifying to read that the FT (https://www.ft.com/content/1161a174-2b68-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c) agreed with me  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. The year ended with their ludicrous ‘Equity for Pups’ scheme where they encouraged adults to buy shares for their dogs.

Equity or not equity that is the question?

In January 2016, just after the boost from Camden’s successful sale, Redchurch raised £500k on the Crowdcube, on a valuation of £2.2 million, based upon their 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 were back for another £400k, but ludicrously the valuation was now £5 million, or more than double.  It is absurd that a business can spectacularly miss its targets and yet double in value.

I don’t think we are in bubble territory yet but these examples are not healthy.

Best pub

The King’s Arms in Bethnal Green probably just shaded it, but will they be able to hold onto their crown in 2018 now that Mauritz is running the show at The Axe in Stoke Newington?

Silliest idea.

Brewdog Shepherd’s Bush is definitely the brewery’s flagship branch in the capital and had some cracking events in 2017 (To’Ol, Kernel and many more), but the ridiculous “no pouring until 18:00” rule, creates unnecessary bottlenecks, and benefits neither the beer geek nor the casual drinker

Notable openings:

The GNRT (Great Northern Railway Tavern) is the flagship for Fuller’s new trial to have substantial guest keg lines available in their own pubs. This is fantastic for drinkers, and fortunately the GNRT works very well.

Great Northern Railway Tavern

The Wigmore pub attached to The Langham Hotel in central London brought a decent beer line-up, to a Michel Roux Jr. food project. Will 2018 finally see the long-awaited improvement in restaurant beer lists?

Mini chains expanded with Barworks-owned The Axe, which had every beer geek in London over for a Other Half TTO during London Beer week, and, as the year ended we have the Brave Sir Robin, and Small Beer N8, all of whom have excellent pedigrees.

For breweries, Burnt Mill won rave reviews in the autumn while most interesting saw House, which opened on site at the Prince N22, as The Earl of Essex struggled a few years ago with the same idea.

Closings.

A very sad farewell to Duke’s BBQ, which I will cover in detail in the upcoming December blog.

Sundries

Flying in US imports were all the rage with Bissell @ Hoplocker, Other Half at The Axe and Modern times at The Bottle Shop.

The welcome return of Marble in quantity to London,

A question about Jaipur on a mid-afternoon network TV gameshow. (Why weren’t you working? – Ed).

Easiest improvement for 2018, unfortunately as in 2017.

A live beer list on the internet isn’t difficult, but helps, and attracts customers. Well done to Mother Kelly’s that does it. There really in no excuses for those that don’t.

Overall 2017 saw London’s beer scene grow from strength to strength, so apologies for anyone who I have forgotten. I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

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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November saw a tsunami of ticket-releases, as MBCC, Extravaganza, Beavertown’s 6th Birthday and LCBF all came the market. Roll on 2018!

The best event last month was Darker Days IV, Matt Curtis’s annual, seasonal, celebration of darker styles, at The Duke’s Head. This year, he paired Burning Sky with food from, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Tom Dobson, brewer, spoke informatively about each beer. Flanders Red ale, and Cherry Monolith, another wild, were highlights. Finally, we ended with a bourbon BA imperial stout, apparently the only bottles sold into London.

Prior to the dinner, I managed to pop into GNRT for a Magic Rock TTO. The Cherry Cola Berliner Weisse apparently tasted authentic, in which case I’m glad I’ve never touched the soft drink, as the beer was horribly, sickly sweet. Mexicanao Berryade, a raspberry and lemon gose, was very good, but the stand-out was an old classic, High Wire on cask.

More ludicrous capital market shenanigans from Brewdog: In a story that was so staggeringly stupid, that I initially thought it was Daily Mash satire, a company asked rational investors to part with money as they were “becoming the first company to allow you to gift shares in

Brewdog to your dog”. https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/equity-for-pups. This isn’t quite as stupid as the infamous prospectus for “a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is” during the South Sea Bubble, but then again that was in 1720, and is in all financial history books.

Brewdog: investor friendly?

Fullers and friends, six collaborations between the London brewery and craft brewers, were only available in bottles and sold exclusively in Waitrose. After basically camping outside my local Barbican branch, I finally managed to get four cases.

Overall they were interesting, especially for £2 each in a supermarket. My favourite was  Moor Rebirth ESB. Based upon the original recipe from 1971 (which I was absolutely shocked at: I would have bet the ranch on pre-WW2, and would have been far less surprised if it had been 19th century) ,a  complex bitter, closely followed by Thornbridge Flora & The Griffin, a  red rye

The only disappointment was Four Pure Galleon lager which  was  thin and weak. Hardknott Pea Souper, a smoked porter , was not bad, but  I think they reined this in a bit too much for the supermarket crowd as I’d have liked a little more smoke  I’ve kept a couple back to age.

Marble Matariki saison, was refreshing although it would have been better in the summer rather than November. Cloudwater NEIPA   I think they’ve tried too hard to appeal to both camps of traditional and the ultra modern NEIPA style, so it fell between two stools a bit. Either have a Fuller’s cask or a Cloudwater NEIPA, and if you personally don’t like either style then that’s your choice.

I attended the free Brooklyn Ghost tasting at 40ft with Garrett Oliver, which caused such a storm on Twitter. It was primarily a PR event, to promote their acquisition of London Fields  although I was one of the lucky few (less than 20% I’d guess), who had got a ticket in the public free-for-all.  The argument was over whether good journalism could come from a PR event, after Garret made some knowingly controversial comments about NEIPA, which brought further publicity.

The host was as charismatic as always, and the measures were very generous, especially considering the high ABV: he correctly warned us we would be smashed. Special mention for Black Ops, the famous imperial stout, Cloaking Device, an imperial porter, and Hand and Seal, a stunning barley wine

After lavishing fully-deserved praise on Beavertown’s Extravaganza, it is only fair to say that the Afterburner party was a bit of a mess. The collaborations from the event were served at a ticketed tap-room. However, the ticket price was trivial, with drinks having to be paid for by card. This was a terrible idea and meant the logistics were awful with 35-40 minute queues. Obviously this self-fulfilled, as it necessitated getting multiple drinks when you finally got to the front and then promptly re-joining the back. To their credit, although also an acknowledgment of how bad it was, they did come round with free cans of Neck Oil.

The wholesaler Honest Brew will allocate up to £50,000 a year to be spent on capex with a small independent brewery who is already their customer. The first recipient is Verdant, who get £20,000 for new tanks. Although they billed it as an investment fund, it isn’t: Honest won’t take equity, but it is an interest free loan, which is paid back in stock. Essentially all they have done is pre-pay, reversing the normal working capital relationship.

Bottleshop now has 16 taps, although this includes Prosecco , which I don’t count! The standout beer recently was:  Wicked Weed Montmaretto, a magnificent barrel-aged cheery & Amaretto sour. Other TTO’s were Marble, with The Castle of Udolpho, a boozy, dark ruby winter ale, and the always excellent Dobber IPA, Rodenbach,  Caractere Rouge, and Alexander, and Cloudwater, in which Paul Jones made a guest appearance. Speyside BA imperial chocolate stout, the Christmas Cake imperial stout, in collaboration with To Øl, which was their last ever cask beer, after they discontinued that method a year ago. They have obviously been on a Busman’s holiday to the US recently as there have been a wave of collabs with American brewers. The best were Lipids & Proteins IPA w/Modern Times, and Catch My Eye, a pale w/Jester King.

Heineken have been searching for a UK craft brewer acquisition for a while. They have now found one and will be taking a minority stake in Brixton Brewery, which will enable them to move to a new 15,000 square foot site half a mile away. More welcome was the news that West Berkshire Brewery would now be brewing Yeastie Boys in the UK.

West Berkshire Brewery vessels

 

A personal drunken highlight was an evening with the author Graeme Macrae Burnet at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road where I drank Meantime (I know, sorry) for the first time in years, to promote his new novel “The Accident on the A35”. All of his books, based on a very general theme of unreliable narration’, are fantastic and I will go my grave maintaining that “His Bloody Project” should have walked last year’s Booker.

Five Points had an excellent cask TTO at the Old Fountain, the highlight of which was the fantastic Green Hop. Northern Monk brought their regulars to the House of Hammerton.

West Berkshire Brewery bottling/canning line

Burnt Mill, from Suffolk, are new to me and I enjoyed Green Path and Eastville, both IPA, in can and keg at both Bottleshop and The Prince.

Finally, this article (http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/drink/beer/ct-food-craft-beer-pastry-stout-20171115-story,amp.html) was the first time that I came across the term ‘pastry stout’, to describe overly sugary imperial stouts that “taste more like dessert than beer. It clearly makes an excellent point, as I have heard the term repeatedly since then!

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.

 

Entrepreneurial Briton who’s made big mark on US craft brewing

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David Bruce, chairman of West Berkshire Brewery

In 2015 brewing entrepreneur David Bruce received an email from the Seattle-based Elysian Brewing company in the US with the message that the business was to be sold for $35 million and the assumption was that as an investor he would agree to the deal.

He did agree and shortly afterwards $2.1 million landed in his bank account following the brewery’s purchase by AB InBev. This was a decent return on the $45,000 he had invested in the business in 1993. It was made all the more pleasurable because he had largely forgotten about the investment.

It dated back to a time when Bruce was very active in the US and he made a number of investments that helped the fledgling craft brewing industry and also kick-started the brewpub phenomenon, which until his involvement had not existed in the US.

Following his creation of the groundbreaking Firkin brewpub chain – that began with the first pub in 1979 in south London – he did a presentation at the American Homebrewers Association’s Conference in Boulder, Colorado in 1982. To read the speech click here -> Transcript of American Home Brewers Assoc

At this point he says there were only four craft brewers in the US – Sam Adams, Boulder Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada and Anchor Brewing – and no brewpubs.

Bruce says: “The homebrewers were the start of craft brewing in the US and they were clearly brewing at home. I told them that I’d done four brewpubs in London and just brewed on-site and sold straight to the customers. They could not believe it – beer straight from the brewery to the bar!”

In 1992 he returned to the US having sold off the Firkin chain in 1988 for £6.6 million, which left him with £4.6 million after paying off the loans, and he recognised that craft brewing was really taking off. He met with Englishman abroad Richard Wrigley of the Manhattan Brewing Company and found out the business was for sale – for a mere $1 but with $2 million of debt.

He was dissuaded from investing by Manhattan’s young brewer Garrett Oliver who instead suggested sticking his money in Brooklyn Brewery – which he was involved with alongside Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. It had until that point had its beer brewed under licence at F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Upstate New York but the three of them wanted the funds to set up their own brewing facility.

A meeting was convened between Bruce and Hindy and Potter. A deal was struck whereby Bruce would put in $100,000 along with Roger Looker (formerly of County NatWest bank), Gary Pettet (currently chairman of InnBrighton), Tim Thwaites (then at Whitbread), Mike Mills (then FD at Grosvenor Inns), and Colin Herridge (then secretary of the RFU) who also each put in $100,000.

Around this time Bruce also put $450,000 into Wynkoop Brewing Company having seen its founder John Hickenlooper give a talk at an early craft beer conference in San Francisco. He had set up the first US brewpub in Denver, Colorado having worked to ensure the state was the first to repeal the Prohibition act that did not allow for the production and sale of alcohol to be undertaken on the same premises.

“He got the first brewpub licence in North America and opened the first brewpub on his own but he had no money. I put in the money and he opened seven brewpubs while I was the company’s development director. They were all later sold to the employees,” says Bruce.

As an aside – following his pioneering brewpub venture Hickenlooper became mayor of Denver and such was his success that he then moved on to becoming the Governor of Colorado. “He has transformed the bust State of Colorado into a wealthy state. This was from him legalising cannabis from which massive legal revenues are now generated,” explains Bruce.

The last of Bruce’s financial outlays was with Elysian, which generated a more than fair return. The reality though is that overall the investments he has made in the US craft beer scene have been massively more influential than they have been beneficial to his bank account. The US beer scene would arguably not be as vibrant today if it were not for the early efforts of the likes of Bruce and the other pioneers of the time.

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider

 

Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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October saw PunchDrink run a depressing article about how Other Half had become a sign of status symbol of conspicuous consumption on Wall St. (https://punchdrink.com/articles/how-other-half-brewery-become-official-beer-wall-street-finance/). I think the only one of my readers who would not be aghast at this development is the Editor, who might have a slight smirk at his prescience having written about this very topic earlier this year.

The relative mispricing between Finback & Other Half in the article is eerily reminiscent of the notorious story of the Chateau Lafite in China:  For some mysterious, long-forgotten reason (an unverifiable theory is that it was because it is easiest to pronounce) Lafite became regarded in China as being superior to the other 1st growths.

For centuries, globally, these wines had been regarded as roughly similar and priced accordingly. Add the cultural mix of Face and Gift-giving to the world’s most populous country and the result was that by 2011, when the phenomenon peaked, Lafite was around three times more expensive than the others! (http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/the-legend-of-lafit) Wine or beer, Bankers or Party Officials, either of the world’s two great super-powers, human nature is the same.

Brewdog’s annual CollabFest was the best yet: The beers were pouring from lunch-time, so crowds were eased, whilst the quality seemed a lot better this year. I visited Clerkenwell, and although their home offering (w/Siren), Cookie Dough, a white stout was a bit too sweet, they did bring round free cookies so fair play! My highlights were Das Ist Techno Sex (Glasgow, Up Front), a passion-fruit and key lime gose, Are You Taking the Peche (Norwich, Deya), a slightly sweet peach IPA, Risk: Cherry Stone (Soho, Urban Farmhouse, again far and away, the best that Redchurch do), a sour. And finally A Guy Called Fudge (Gothenburg, Mikrofonbryggeriet), an IPA. There were a few misses, but that’s to be expected with experimental, ‘festival-beers’.

…neither could I

Beer Merchants announced that they will be opening a tap-room in Hackney Wick, alongside a “dedicated barrel-aged sour beer blender”. This is welcome news, but they have come up with a bizarre method of funding it: customers are invited to ‘invest’ £x but they are “not offering equity, but for every £1 you invest in the bar, we’ll give you £2 to spend at the Tap” Frankly, it is not an investment then, but a combination of a supermarket “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” promotion, that is as old as retailing itself, and invoice discounting.

The same day, Brewdog declared that 2018 will see a new, 8,500 square feet Brewpub at the corner of Great Tower Street and Mark Lane.

Their Shepherd’s Bush branch hosted Siren, and again insisted on their ludicrous Friday 18:00 embargo. That this was utterly superfluous was shown when I visited the next lunch-time and nothing had run out! I enjoyed Hard Rollin’, a superb IPA with Dry & Bitter, and Deuce, a blonde ale with strawberries & cream. Summer Citra Gin Party was a DIPA, which they claimed was 8.5%, but it was way boozier than that: apparently they had aged it in gin barrels and lost control.

Siren’s big guns

Anyway, I won’t tell the Revenue if they don’t. (In 2015, and again the next year, they brewed Ginspired,  a G&T IPA with Magic Rock, that was much more restrained, and better). Fresh Cream, was a huge bourbon BA imperial milk stout with added chilli, although even with the added spice, I found it a little too sweet for my tastes. Draugen (a collab with Dugges), an imperial smoked porter with Islay smoked malt, was on the other end of the spectrum!

Partizan are doubling their capacity by moving around the corner, to 34 Raymouth Rd. Their former home will be occupied by Affinity, previously in Tottenham, and newcomer, Spartan, further increasing venues for the Bermondsey Beer Mile. They held a closing party, with brews from themselves and friends, including Kernel, who originally gave them their first piece of kit, way back in 2012.

That afternoon, Bottle Shop unfortunately had to cancel Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout re-launch, due to the remnants of a hurricane holding up the transit. Predictably, there were some great events at the Bottle Shop Arch in October though: Belgian rarities (Oud Beerse Oude Viart Lambiek and Verzet Kameradski Balsamico, a hybrid of an imperial stout and an Oud Bruin) were matched with cheese from Raw Cheese Power.

Heretically, I don’t enjoy the cheese and beer match as much as most, as I can feel bloated, and can’t stop thinking of the calories, but here the acidity of the beers rally cut through the fattiness of the cheese. Two breweries were poured for the first time in the UK: the aforementioned Finback (Origin, a DIPA, and All Caps, with Fuerst Wiacek, were both good but Whale Farm, a NEDIPA with Alefarm , was the clear stand-out). They were flown over so super fresh, whilst Belgium’s L’Ermitage’s notables were Theoreme de l’Empereur, a Belgian Ale, and Noire du Midi, a porter.

Somewhat bizarrely, I attended two separate official bar launches in North London, graced by the mayors of respectively Haringey and Enfield. The first was for Bohem’s renovated tap-room, for which I must again express an interest (as an investor), whilst the latter for Little Green Dragon Ales. This micro-pub, a labour of love for Richard Reeve, is a tribute to the Green Dragon, a Winchmore Hill pub from the early 18th century until 2014, when developers overcame a local campaign and converted it into flats. It is cask-only at the moment, with a fantastic, friendly atmosphere. I most enjoyed drinking Five Points Brickfield Brown ale.

Thankfully, in that I don’t expect our cousins across the pond to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, I didn’t attend any Halloween events in 2017. Moreover, Beavertown ceased making Stingy Jack, their spiced pumpkin ale. Apparently they were left with a load of unsold stock in 2016. Actually, as pumpkin beers go, I didn’t find this too bad, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Tottenham’s finest held a week-long Coming Home TTO, back where it all began, at Duke’s BBQ. This culminated in a pre-launch of Humuloid, the new NE DIPA elder brother of Lupoloid, and proved to be an excellent rendition of the style.

I managed to order two bottles of the latest Tommie Sjef, Salie, a wild ale with sage, and Liefste, one refermented with chardonnay grapes. Successfully delivered, they are already pencilled in for the festive season.

BrewDog Camden showcased four Californian beers: Almanac Farmer’s Reserve, and three from Lost Abbey: Gift Of The Magi, a Belgian strong ale, Red Barn Ale, a sasion, and the frightening, but utterly magnificent, Deliverance, a blend of bourbon BA imperial stout and brandy BA barley wine!

De Molen took over the original Mother Kelly’s, including  21 Grams Cryo Hop, a DIPA that will steal your soul (geddit?) and Vuur & Vlam (Fire & Flames), an IPA. I enjoyed Moor’s JJJ, a TPIA, on tap at the Old Fountain, but found it a bit too strong this year, although whether that is a different brew or because I am getting older is open to question.

Finally, it was good to see that Duration (Derek Bates, ex-BBNo) get the go-ahead for a family farmhouse brewery in Norfolk. Look forward to trying their beers in 2018…

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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When the oral history of the UK craft beer revolution is written, September 2017 will be yet another landmark, as Beavertown’s Extravaganza was the UK’s largest and most impressive festival to date.

It was only just over two years ago that Craft Beer Co. had to cancel London Beer Carnival which couldn’t sell out the vaults beneath Waterloo, as the £50 ticket price was a step too far for “just beer” (August 2015 – http://beerinsider.com/around-town-with-amateur-drinker-5/).

Fast forward to 2017, and 8000 people, over 2 days, paid £55, in a sold-out event in Surrey Quays. Overall, the event was fantastic. The time and care spent on logistics was evident from the moment you stepped off the tube, and were directed to the venue.

There were some teething problems, but even here, they improved from Friday to Saturday: on the second day Neck Oil & Gamma Ray were widely available once the festival beers had run out, which isn’t what I got to an event for, but is better than nothing, and the best response they could make in 24 hours after criticism online.

The queuing system was also improved: on the Saturday, we were all let in 15 minutes before pouring began. Consequently, those further back could at least go to a stand which was relatively empty and so the crowd was much more dispersed.

The beers were magnificent: the first I rushed to in each session were Trillium Affogato Imperial Stout and Three Floyds, Zombie Dust Pale Ale, respectively, and both lived up to the hype.

There were many other highlights, and this is already too much of a list, but, in no particular order: Modern Times One Million Tomorrows, a nectarine BA sour, Jester King Dertritivore farmhouse ale with spent cherries, To-ol D’Juicy DIPA, Magic Rock Barrel 25 Golden Sour, Naparbier Milky Brain, a milkshake IPA, J Wakefield Haterade Berliner and also Bad Moon Rising, Lost Abbey Mongo IPA, Deliverance blended oak-aged strong ale, Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale, and, last but not least, Jester King Snorkel farmhouse ale, made with oyster mushrooms and alder smoked sea salt.

My major criticism is that the Rainbow Project felt downgraded, even neglected., It was stuck in a pokey little room and didn’t even have all seven beers on, all the time. Rainbow Project has produced beers as good as Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Sundae and Hawkshead/Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau, and I am sure the UK brewers learnt from their US counterparts, especially in the earlier years.

I have really loved the Rainbow Project and I hope it continues and gets the respect it deserves (You’re not alone: It was the Editor’s highlight of 2014 https://twitter.com/glynndavis/status/550609732156018688) (Sadly 2018 will be the last Rainbow Project as time will be called on this superb initiative rather symmetrically after seven years – Ed) Overall, though, Extravaganza was a triumph.

In most other months a fantastic road-trip to Buxton, with friends, would have been the most memorable event: their tap-room is in the centre of town, and is a charming venue.

When we arrived I was initially slightly disappointed to discover that, as they had hosted a Dugges TTO the prior Tuesday, a few of their beers were still on, which isn’t to denigrate the Swedes, but we had explicitly travelled up for Buxton. However, the fears proved unfounded, as so many rare Buxton bottles were available.

It was the IndyMan weekend, so the soft-serve machine wasn’t in its normal place. This is always a big hit at festivals, but I have had it before and wasn’t too bothered. On tap we enjoyed classic Axe Edge IPA, Sheep Range, DIPA and BattleHorse, a black DIPA, which certainly put hairs on your chest! 2 fruit beers, with Omnipollo, raspberry meringue ice cream, which was good, and the sensational blueberry slab cake ice cream.

From the TTO remnants, Orange Haze, Mango Mango Mango and the excellent Spanish Muscatel sour.

Finally, In bottles, Red Wolf, a sour, which was excellent, but a tad over-priced, and 3 imperial stouts: their whisky based Highland, and, with Omnipollo, a bourbon BA Yellow Belly peanut butter biscuit, and, Texas Pecan, a sweet but truly delicious dessert beer.

Overall this was a great week-end so many Thanks to Natalie, who looked after us so well in the Tap-room, and Dave, a regular reader of this column, for driving us all up there.

For more on Buxton, http://beerinsider.com/spa-town-based-buxton-brewery-punches-well-above-its-weight/ is an account of the Editor’s visit last year.

The Bottle Shop is now open seven days a week, and to celebrate they hosted Modern Times on the Thursday immediately before Extravaganza. The beers were air-freighted over so had been kegged a few days before. This meant the prices were noticeably steeper than normal.

However, just as Victorian Londoners would happily pay a premium each year for the tea from the first clipper from Fuzhou or Shanghai to dock, no one was complaining! IPA’s & DIPA’s really benefit from freshness, and it was Attack Frequency and Orderville of the former, and Mega Blazing World, of the latter, which really sang. Now, they just have to make sure that SAN/LHR is booked for City of The Sun!

The Sunday afternoon saw Extravaganza weekend completed with Crooked Stave at the Arch. These fruity sours were a delicious pick-me-up after the prior excesses: three Petite Sours, in blueberry, raspberry and rose, two L’Brett’s, in blueberry and cherry, and the sensational Surette Reserva Prunus Persica, a golden sour, aged with peaches.

I was delighted to see the Prosecco tap removed for this TTO. There are countless bars in London selling miles better wines than this, whilst there are none carrying higher quality beers. It is a waste of a tap, and I hope it disappears.

For obvious distance reasons, American sports fans don’t have the same culture of away-day travel that we do, so it was great to see Maryland’s Flying Dog come over to support their local team Baltimore Ravens take on Jacksonville at Wembley. Even better, they popped in for a TTO at Great Northern Railway Tavern on the Saturday.

Unfortunately, both for them, and for the small gentleman’s wager that I had placed, the Ravens lost the next day.

That Saturday evening was also Zwanze Day, when, since 2008, Cantillon organise a simultaneous, global pour of a special one-off beer. Along with a significant number of London’s beer-geeks, I went to the Kernel for it. 2017’s version was a two-year old Lambic blended with Oolong, a semi-fermented blue-green tea.

It was good, rather than great, and given that the pour must obviously be very small, the real enjoyment came in the company and the rest of the list: Fou’Foune and Rose de Gambrinus and, to absolutely no surprise to any regular readers, the host’s very own damson London Sour, were highlights.

The Old Fountain hosted a Moor TTO. It is refreshing to write of the highlights being on cask: Confidence, an amber ale, and Union, a blond ale, were both classic and sessionable, on cask. PMA, an APA, was good on keg.

CBC opened its Old Street branch (25 keg and eight cask lines), which means that the roundabout now has CBC, Old Fountain, Three Crowns and a Draft House, not to mention Brewdog’s London office!

Finally, I am sure anyone who reads this column will join me in congratulating Mauritz (I’m sure you all know who he is – Ed) on his well-deserved move (and step up) to the Axe.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siren pays homage to Paddington for Draft House

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Start of the brew at Siren

Siren Craft Brew is creating a beer to celebrate the recent opening of Draft House’s Paddington pub – in homage to the bear – amid significant expansion at the Berkshire-based brewery.

An experimental pilot brew Card’Oranges produced for a London-based festival is being used as the base for the ‘Paddington Beer’ that will be available across the Draft House estate in keg format.

Sam Squire, brewer at Siren, made it clear the intention was absolutely not to produce another “milkshake IPA or a murk bomb”. Instead, he says the plan has been to brew a semi-classic IPA (at around 35 IBUs) with a zesty, fruity flavour.

“We’ve taken advice from Other Half and Modern Times breweries about producing juicy IPA’s but not the New England versions with low bitterness. More like Bloody ‘Ell from Beavertown, which is certainly one of my favourite beers,” he says.

Get ready with the orange zest

Like the Beavertown brew, there has been orange zest added into the whirlpool and during the dry hop – along with some Mandarina Bavaria, Citra and Amarillo.  The core hops used in the kettle are Citra, Amarillo and Ekuanot.

A modest amount of Cardamon has also found its way into the brew as did some honey – although I thought this was an ingredient more related to Pooh Bear than Paddington. But I suspect neither man nor bear can survive on marmalade alone.

Kyle Larsen, head brewer at Siren

The experimentation of this particular brew is typical of Siren and was an attraction to Kyle Larsen, head brewer at Siren Craft Brew, who had previously been brewing in Oregon in the US before joining the UK brewery. He points out that Siren produces 40 new beers per year along with the core range that includes Soundwave IPA, Liquid Mistress Red IPA, Undercurrent Oatmeal Pale Ale, and Yu Lu Pale Ale.

Core range

This is a serious amount of variation and has helped the brewery to gain a following and push its total annual production to 13,000 hectolitres. Larsen says there is plenty of room for expansion as the existing site, which could be used to push up annual output to 20,000 hectolitres if external fermenting vessel are utilised.

He also points out that a centrifuge is about to be brought in that will “allow force clearing to get our hoppy beers out quicker while maintaining consistency and enable us to plan ahead more effectively”.

The brewery is finding a gradual shift away from the use of key kegs towards using the services of Kegstar for domestic sales. While for export – to China and Russia among other countries – the key keg will remain the preferred vessel.  Keg overall accounts for 60% of total sales while 20% is bottled and the remaining 20% is cask.

As with any other craft brewer of note Siren is going big on wooden barrels and presently has 300 on-site located in a new unit on the same industrial estate as the brewery, which effectively doubles the square footage of the operation.

Also within this additional unit is a cold house containing the beers ready for distribution, office space, and a Tap Room, which is currently under construction and is expected to serve its first beers to customers by the end of the year – among them maybe they’ll see Paddington Beer.

Glynn Davis, editor of Beer Insider

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.