08 August 2012

Great British Beer Festival - London Olympia 2012

A ticket to the Trade Session at the Great British Beer Festival gives the holder admittance to the festival for up to five hours before it opens to the public at 5pm on the opening Tuesday - 7 August 2012.
Twitter came to my rescue in the shape of Rob Derbyshire (@BGRTRob) who kindly posted a spare ticket to me so that I could attend.
I travelled from Newbury to Olympia via Paddington with Rick Wyatt, cider maker, and Roy Bailey, writer and former cider / perry maker. Rick was carrying two bottles of cider with him (Berkshire Gold - 500ml and Abbey Gold - 750ml) to give to Paul Scrivens, chairman and cider contact of the Reading CAMRA branch.
Rick Wyatt, Paul Scrivens & Roy Bailey
Adrian Bean, chairman of West Berkshire CAMRA branch was working at the Hutton Bar and suggested a visit to the upper floor of Olympia from the staircase nearby. From the upper floor you get a good view of the ground floor including a huge poster encouraging people to sign the e-petition protesting at the beer duty escalator.

At the Dunlop bar, where I had just ordered a Mallinson's Citra, I met Dickie Bird, the Elland Brewery company secretary. Beyond the Pale was the beer from Elland brewery at this bar. I pointed out Arkell's Wiltshire Gold to him and mentioned that it was brewed in a tower brewery. Dickie explained that Elland Brewery is all on one level and relies on pumps for transfer. He also pointed out that Empire Brewery, next on the alphabetical brewery list on this bar was also situated near to Elland Brewery and that West Yorkshire has more breweries than any other county. 
Pete Brown, the author of several books about beer, was placing flyers for his new book 'Shakespeare's Local' on tables. This will cover five centuries of history seen through one extraordinary pub. I interrupted him to take a photo with the current issue of 'Ullage' (West Berkshire CAMRA newsletter).

Now it was time to find Andy Parker, another Twitter contact (@tabamatu) who had texted me his whereabouts from a table near the bar with American cask and bottled beers. Arriving early at the festival is always a good idea as you can find a seat at a table and have a base to leave any books, bottles etc.. This was also an opportunity to meet Jane (@i96jms) who kindly took some of the photos in this post.
We ordered Dark Drake a stout from Dancing Duck brewery at the Davis bar and Andy introduced me to Mike from Buxton brewery. Mike and Andy discussed the merits of Axe Edge, the brewery's double IPA hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. Matt from Hawkshead brewery joined us and the group expanded further with Zak Avery the beer writer and specialist beer retailer and Yan from Pivovar the beer bar company. This mix shows how useful it can be to be able to visit the trade session and meet people from the brewing and blogging spheres. However, you need good hearing to keep up with the conversation especially when the Skinners Brewery drummers march past at regular intervals, led by Betty Stoggs!
When our beers had gone we headed for the Brains brewery bar which included two beers from the new craft brewery which can handle smaller quantities. Weiss Weiss Baby is their first weissbeer, exclusively launched at the festival. Barry Island IPA was created by Simon Martin (@RealAleToday) the real ale and craft beer reviewer on YouTube. 
We ordered Barry Island IPA and when I got my camera out to take a photo of the pump clips, Jane organised a photo of us at the bar.
Tim Thomas & Andy Parker (drinking Brains Barry Island IPA)
Andy spotted Marverine Cole (@BeerBeauty) nearby and I was honoured by a lovely greeting from her when she recognised me as someone who had contacted her about meeting up at the festival. Jane kindly took a photo of us and I was able to give Marverine a copy of 'Ullage' newsletter.
It had been a good choice to order Barry Island IPA earlier as Simon Martin was near us and Simon told us how he had spent a day at the Cardiff brewery when the beer was brewed according to his specification. Rob Derbyshire, who had supplied my trade session ticket, was keen to do a joint beer review with Simon so I was enlisted as the camera operator and we set off for the Ruth bar to get another beer. We chose American cask beers with Geary's Pale Ale for me, Lagunitas Undercover Shutdown Ale for Andy and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous for Rob and Simon to do their joint review. Rob and Simon gave an entertaining review and awarded top marks to the beer while I tried to keep the camera steady. Afterwards I took my own photo of them.
Rob Derbyshire & Simon Martin (after reviewing Stone - Sublimely  Self-Righteous)
I spent the rest of the day with CAMRA friends including beer writer Jeff Evans (@insidebeer), Oxford Drinker editor (Steven Green) and Delia Allott from Binghams Brewery. I had two good beers from the Champion  Beer of Britain bar - Little Valley Hebden's Wheat (Silver in Speciality Beer category) and Dark Star American Pale Ale (Gold in Golden Ales category and Bronze overall). 
Skinner's Cornish Knocker Ale, Dark Star American Pale Ale & Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild at CBOB bar
I was also given a taste of the Champion Beer of Britain 2012 - Coniston brewery's No. 9 Barley Wine. The final beer was one of my favourites of the day - Infinity by Blue Monkey from Richards bar.
Tim Thomas visited the Great British Beer Festival 2012 organised by the Campaign for Real Ale on Tuesday 7 August as a guest of Rob Derbyshire. Thanks also to Andy Parker for a bottle to take home (Kopikat - Imperial Vanilla Coffee Stout from Summer Wine Brewery) and for introductions and to Jane for photos.

09 April 2012

West Berkshire Brewery - A Jolly Day Out

West Berkshire Brewery organised a couple of  'Jolly Days Out', in February and March 2012, for the benefit of friends of the brewery. These days provided a good chance for everyone to see the brewery's new premises after the move from the Old Bakery in Yattendon to Home Farm in Frilsham.
Tom Lucas (left) from West Berkshire Brewery and Tim Wale (right) from Tutts Clump Cider were behind the bar in the Brewery Shop to give everyone a pint of beer on arrival. The monthly beer Pig and Tea, Dr Hexter's Wedding Ale and Good Old Boy were the beers available on handpump for the March day.
Pig and Tea is a dark beer with rich flavours of roasted barley with hints of coffee and chocolate and a fruity finish from the Bramling Cross hops.
The shop and office are now light and spacious. Prize certificates, awarded since the brewery was started by Dave and Helen Maggs in 1995, are displayed on the wall that divides the office from the shop.
Bottles of beer from certain other breweries are stored on the low shelves of this dividing wall.
On the opposite wall of the shop there is purpose built shelving to create a 'wall of bottles' and this is where a full range of beers from the West Berkshire Brewery can be found including Full Circle, Dr Hexter's Healer,
Maggs' Magnificent Mild and Mr Chubb's Lunchtime Bitter.
On arrival we had been split into groups for brewery tour purposes. While one group chatted and looked

around the shop the other group were led out of the shop and across the yard to the brewery in another barn.

Brewery Tour

Brewer, Will Twomey, gathered the group by the hot water tank which supplies water for cask washing. He explained that a condenser is now used with the result that the traditional smell of brewing that Yattendon residents had become accustomed to is now a thing of the past.
Our next stop was the main area of the brewery where Will pointed out the main vessels to us. In the photo below the hot liquor tank is on the right, the mash tun is in the middle with a hopper above and the copper is on the left.
Will explained the stages of the brewing process which includes a boil in the copper using a gas fired heating element. The hot liquid is finally transferred through a heat exchanger into one of several fermenter vessels.
The old Courage brewery at Reading was the source of the storage vessels which have been adapted for use as fermenter vessels in Frilsham, as shown below.
A further photo shows our group standing between the two rows of fermenter vessels with the main brewing vessels beyond.
Will now led us up the metal stairway to a gallery area where bags of malt and boxes of hops are stored.
He explained how these ingredients are sourced and how they are used in various proportions to produce 
individual West Berkshire Brewery beers. We had a chance to taste some of the malts including Maris Otter Pale malt and Crystal malt. Only English hops are used including local hops from Kingston Bagpuize. Different hop varieties are used for different beers with Bramling Cross used for 'Good Old Boy'.

Vintage bus trip to the Rising Sun, Stockcross

After both groups had been on the brewery tour and drained their pint glasses it was time to get on board Tim Wale's vintage AEC Regent 111 double decker bus for the next stage of our jolly day out. (In the photo
the main entrance to the brewery, in the long barn building, can also be seen.) The seats on the top deck of the bus were quickly filled and as we set off the party mood took hold and there was some enthusiastic singing of 'We're all going on a Summer Holiday!' As the bus tackled the uphill gradient on Everington Lane, Tim was obliged to engage first gear and we could admire the stately progress through the Berkshire countryside from our elevated vantage point. We passed through Hermitage and then onto the A34 before arriving at the Rising Sun in Stockcross.    The Rising Sun website
The Rising Sun is a traditional pub owned by the West Berkshire Brewery and managed by Stuart and Nicola  Bagley. It was a sunny day so the tables in the garden were soon taken once everyone had been to the bar and exchanged a ticket for a pint of beer.
On the March day, the handpumps were supplying (from left to right): Tutts Clump Farmhouse Cider, Mr Chubbs Lunchtime Bitter, Dr Hexter's Healer, Pegasus (guest ale from Milton Brewery), Tilting Charlie (February's monthly beer) and Good Old Boy.
A row of  heated food containers occupied a long table inside the pub. It was soon time for everyone to exchange a further ticket for a turn at helping themselves to the prepared food which catered to all tastes and was of the good quality which supports Stuart's reputation as a chef.
The remainder of the afternoon gave people time to try another beer or two before it was time to get back onto the bus for the 4.15pm return journey to the brewery.
Everyone agreed that it had indeed been a jolly day out as promised by the brewery.
It was a great way to introduce friends of the brewery to the new premises and their pub.
The brewery will continue to support Brewhouse Music events at Yattendon Village Hall.
It is likely that the Rising Sun will introduce some brewery visits in the future as a new venture that will ensure that friends of West Berkshire Brewery who were not able to enjoy one of these jolly days out will still be given the opportunity to see around the brewery that brews the beers that are served at the pub.
To become a friend of West Berkshire Brewery send an email to info@wbbrew.co.uk with the subject as 'WBB friends list'. West Berkshire Brewery events are also mentioned on twitter (@westberksbrew) and on facebook (West Berkshire Brewery).

22 March 2012

Beer in Madrid

Jarra of Mahou Clasica from Cerveceria 100 Montaditos
The weather was unseasonably cold for my first visit to Madrid in March 2012 so we did not get the anticipated opportunity to sit outside a bar in the sunshine with a refreshing cool beer. However, we did go inside several bars, drink some cañas (small glasses) and jarras (glass tankards) of draught beer and take the occasional photo for this blog. The most popular beer in Madrid seems to be Mahou (pronounced like (Chairman) Mao) but we also spotted domestic beers originally hailing from Barcelona (Estrella Damm) and Seville (Cruzcampo). International brewers are also represented e.g. Amstel and Heineken.

Shelf behind the bar at Cerveceria Santa Barbara, Plaza de Santa Barbara, 8
Bars seemed to vary between the very small local bars, cervecerias - bigger and often brightly lit and atmospheric neighbourhood bars with subdued lighting that may specialise in cocktails and tasteful music.

The price of a beer would also vary accordingly from one euro at the 100 Montaditos cerveceria chain for a jarra (when purchased with food) to three euros for a caña at Cafe Belen, Chueca (served with complimentary nuts).
Cafe Belen - Calle Belen 5
Cerveceria Santa Barbara prides itself on the quality of the beer and the method of serving at its bars where the bar staff wear smart white uniforms. Cerveceria Santa Barbara - Beer webpage (English version)
However, in several bars the beer would be served with a big foamy head despite (mainly ineffective) efforts by some bar staff to get more liquid beer into the glass. Based on this experience, perhaps the best advice would be to choose an interesting bottled beer, when a choice is available.

Naturbier - Plaza Santa Ana
Some research before the trip revealed that Naturbier in Plaza Santa Ana brew their own beers and these are served unfiltered. Their website claims their beer is 'the only natural beer brewed in Madrid.' Naturbier home page (English) This square, which is quite near the central Puerta del Sol Metro station, contains several bars and cervecerias including Cerveceria Alemana and Cerveceria Santa Ana which are on the same side of the plaza as Naturbier. This makes Plaza Santa Ana a good place to aim for if you want to sample a variety of beers inside or outside in the plaza.
Helles & Dunkles beer with complimentary olives at Naturbier
Another area with several good cervecerias having space for outdoor seating that we visited was Plaza Santa Barbara, by Alonso Martinez Metro station. The original branch of Cerveceria Santa Barbara and one of the Cerveceria 100 Montaditos branches are on the east side of the Plaza. Just beyond the southern end of the plaza, Cerveceria Cruz Blanca, serving Cruzcampo beers, has a branch at Calle Horteleza 118. Large tiled brewery scenes decorate the walls of the bar (photo below). Cerveceria Cruz Blanca webpage (Spanish)
Their trademark is a penguin with a barrel marked with a cross and this is reflected in the beer font on the right hand side of the bar (photo below)
and the novelty figure just outside (photo below). 

A number of small craft breweries are establishing themselves in Spain and some of these concentrate on producing bottled beers. In Madrid you may come across draught beer or bottles from these new small breweries: 
Cervezas Las Cibeles (Madrid) Cervezas Las Cibeles webpage (Spanish)
Cerveza Sagra (Toledo) Cerveza Sagra webpage (Spanish) 
Calvin's Beer (Madrid)  Calvin's Beer webpage (English)
Fabrica Maravillas (Madrid) Fabrica Maravillas webpage (English)
Cervezas Lest (Colmenar Viejo) Cervezas Lest webpage (Spanish)

03 February 2012

Loddon Brewery Re-Branding

Flying High - the new Loddon Brewery logo emphasises the dragonfly motif
and introduces a new font.

Chris Hearn (pictured above) and his wife Vanessa Hearn founded Loddon Brewery in 2002 at an old brick and flint grain store on the main site of Phillimore Farm, Dunsden Green, situated on the rural estate of Lord Phillimore. Chris and Vanessa were at the Bird in Hand, Sonning Common, on Thursday 2 February to welcome guests to the Loddon Brewery 10th anniversary celebration and brand re-launch.
Chris thanked Roger and Kay, proprietors of the Bird in Hand, Sonning Common, for closing their pub for the night in order to host the Loddon Brewery Re-Brand event.

Head brewer (Steve Brown) and his assistant (Jordan) are pictured above. Chris Hearn had just presented Steve with a bottle of Bruichladdich single malt whisky as a mark of appreciation for his work with the brewery especially in the earliest months when there was no cash available to pay a brewer wages.
The redesigned pump clips (above) emphasise the dragonfly motif. The brewery were looking for a clean and crisp branding which would appeal both to current drinkers and also appeal to the younger generation.

David Rogers (above) the owner and creative partner of We Are Pure, 
a creative packaging agency based in Nottingham,
came up with the overall design strategy. 
This was part of a three month project to design 
new pump clips, bottle labels, beer mats, runners and glasses.
The new bottle labels (above) include a separate dragonfly motif on the neck of the bottle.

Andrew Horner-Glister (left) of Nzime a creative / strategic digital agency 
based in Nottingham
and Stuart Kellock (right) of Label Apeel Limited a self-adhesive label specialist 
based in Leicester.
Stuart has supplied labels to Loddon Brewery for some time and put Chris Hearn 
in touch with David Rogers of We Are Pure. 
In turn, David put Chris in touch with Andrew of Nzime 
who designed and built the new Loddon Brewery website.

Luke Hearn (above) is the Sales Manager for Loddon Brewery. Whilst at university he first
met Katie and John, who went on to form a video production company - A Star Media.
Recently, Luke suggested A Star Media should provide the videos for the new
Loddon Brewery website.

Katie and John (above) of A Star Media, based in Nottinghamshire, produced videos 
 featuring Chris Hearn and Steve Brown for each of the Loddon Brewery beers.
In addition there are videos 
'What goes into our Loddon beer' and 'A quick tour of Loddon Brewery'.

The new website, designed by Nzime, emphasises social media channels 
like twitter and facebook and includes videos 
from A Star Media to get the personality of the brand across.

N.B. Copyright for New Loddon Logo, Pump Clips and Bottle labels belongs to Loddon Brewery. Copyright for photos belongs to Tim Thomas.

01 February 2012

Spillo - microbrewery / bar - Palermo, Sicily, Italy

(Work in Progress)

I am grateful to www.mondobirra.org for listing Spillo in its list of microbreweries in Sicily.

It is situated at Cortile degli Eremiti near Via dei Benedettini, a short walk from the historic Norman Palace (home of the Sicilian Regional Assembly) in Palermo.

I phoned ahead to check that Spillo would be open on a Sunday evening. On arrival, I was immediately impressed by the modern style and large size of the bar / restaurant area. A waitress showed me to a table and brought a menu which included a 'Beer Food' section. When I asked for a translation of some items on the menu, she called Michele Caetano, to assist. He recognised me as the person who had telephoned earlier and suggested that I moved from the table to take a seat at the bar. Now sitting on a high stool, he recommended a dish of grilled pork, served with chips and sliced leeks.

A wide choice of draught beers was available and I ordered a Vestkyst (West Coast) named after the American hops used. It was brewed by Fanø Bryghus, based on the Danish island of Fanø. The beer was supplied in a non-returnable spherical 30 litre container and I was able to photograph an empty one of these.

Michele Cartaino introduced me to his colleague Sergio Raciti and I was privileged to be able to chat with them for the rest of the evening, when they were not occupied with serving other customers.

Michele kindly handed me an Italian book about beer 'La Birra' written by Antonino Pavone and published in 2010 which he and Sergio signed underneath the greeting 'friendly'. The book's subtitle 'storia, curiosita e tecnologia' needs no translation!

After my plate had been cleared away, Sergio invited me to have a look at the (mothballed) brewery located behind the raised 'cellar store' (visible behind the bar).

Beer has been brewed in this brewery but brewing is currently suspended.

Sergio also showed me into the temperature controlled 'cellar store' and I took a photo from the side entrance.

Now it was time for a second beer and this time I chose a draught Père Noël from Belgium’s Brewery De Ranke. Other draught beers included one from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus, based in the Black Forest, Germany.

(to be continued)