30 November 2014

Wild Weather Ales

Thanks to Mike Tempest & Iain Clarke of Wild Weather Ales for hosting a visit by West Berkshire CAMRA members on Saturday 29 November, 2014.
Iain Clarke & Mike Tempest - photo from preparatory visit 18/11/14
Some weeks earlier Iain tweeted me an offer that it was hard to ignore - organise a group visit to Wild Weather Ales, you pay for the transport and we'll provide the beer. The brewery is at Unit 19, Easter Park which lies between Silchester and Aldermaston, just inside the Berkshire county border with Hampshire.
The 12 barrel brewing plant from PBC was installed in December 2012. Mike and Karen Tempest have successfully introduced a range of beers that includes Little Wind, Big Muddy, Stormbringer and Shepherds Warning.
 The date we agreed on turned out to be the day of the Hennessy Gold Cup race meeting in Newbury and this reduced the numbers available for a visit and the traffic delayed the bus that some of us travelled on. However, it was a mild and sunny day which meant we could enjoy a walk from the bus stop along bridleways and footpaths to the brewery and arrive with a good thirst.

The 'bus group' of six from Newbury and Thatcham arrived at 1.30pm to find the 'locals group' of five from Aldermaston, Midgham and Padworth with (plastic) glasses of beer already in their hands. Iain soon made sure that we were also holding glasses of Little Wind from a KeyKeg.
Lower right - Chiller unit with two fonts dispensed beer from KeyKegs
The next beer, also from KeyKeg, was Rye Can't Stand the Rain, a 4% ABV rye beer 'which delivers citrus overtones with a grape finish over a subtle peppery base'.
New pumpclips feature designs by Caroline Downey
Although the chiller unit only has two fonts, Iain has rigged up a 'switchboard' which allows two KeyKegs to be connected to a single font and switched with only a small amount of wastage. Warm Front (3.6% ABV) a golden ale with a hint of ginger from root ginger, was the next beer we sampled from a KeyKeg.
KeyKegs are packaged inside a cardboard outer.

An empty globe from a KeyKeg- gas pushes beer from the foil bag without coming into contact with it.
It was now time to walk under the 'Eat, Drink and be Merry' sign into a rear room with casks on stillage and bottled beers on shelves. Most cask beers from Wild Weather Ales are supplied in distinctive pink and black firkins (9 gallons / 72 pints) but there are also some brown polypins (4.5 gallons) and stainless steel kilderkins (18 gallons - for beer festivals).
Mike Tempest (centre) + Polypin, Kilderkin and Firkin casks
One of the most unusual beers we sampled was Summer Breeze, a 5.6% ABV sour beer brewed with lemongrass. This beer was previewed at the Newbury Real Ale Festival in September and is a good introduction to the style with some sweetness to balance the sour note. The cider drinker in our group was particularly impressed with Summer Breeze. Although in my opinion, it is a beer for drinking slowly, Mike Tempest told me he had recently drunk several pints of it in one session in order to finish off a growler.
2 litre glass growlers keep beer fresh for 4 weeks
Some cask ales have been dry hopped to give a different flavour from the standard version. We enjoyed dry hopped versions of Little Wind and Rye Can't Stand the Rain from the casks on stillage.
Sundowner, a 3.4% ABV refreshing golden ale 'with subtle floral and fruity notes' had plenty of flavour and was one of my favourites on this visit.

Liberty is the hop used for Sundowner and like all the hops used at Wild Weather Ales, is an American variety. Hops in Little Wind include Willamette, Cascade and Chinook.

Another ingredient in beers from Wild Weather Ales is malt supplied by Warminster Maltings.

The planned final beer for our tasting visit was Blizzard, a winter seasonal Double IPA at 8% ABV. Served from KeyKeg, this was dangerously easy to drink with a tangy bite to balance the rich flavours.
 Time was beginning to run out for the 'bus group' who needed to be back at the bus stop by 15.54 to catch the 105 bus back to Newbury.
By special request, Iain disconnected one KeyKeg and connected up the Cumulo Citrus KeyKeg so that growlers could be filled for two in this group. This was a bonus for everyone as there was now a chance to sample this 6% ABV wheat IPA hopped with Citra.

As Cumulo Citrus is over 5% ABV, the two litre growler cost £18 (£13.50 refills available). A growler of lower strength beer costs £15 (£11). Bottled beers are also available for £2.50 including Black Night.
 The sun was going down as the 'bus group' retraced their steps. We reached the bus stop in time and it was no surprise to find the bus arriving later than due.
We had the bus to ourselves for much of the journey. It had been an enjoyable outing and we hope to arrange another visit in 2015. On our next visit a new mezzanine level will have been installed at the brewery and with empty packaging materials above ground there will be more room at ground level to provide some seating accommodation for visitors.

Wild Weather Ales - www.wildweatherales.com

03 July 2014

Wadworth brewery tour, Devizes, Wiltshire, UK

Wadworth (Northgate) brewery, Devizes
The Wadworth brewery tours at 11am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday are interesting and good value.
Book ahead to assure a place on the tour that starts from the visitor centre of the historic Northgate brewery in Devizes, built in 1885 after the original brewery, dating from 1875, became inadequate. If the tours are fully booked or at an inconvenient time it is still possible to make a free visit to the visitors centre, which is open from 10am until 5pm.
Visitor centre with introductory displays and merchandise
Talitha conducted the tour I was booked on with visitors from USA, France and the UK donning orange high visibility jackets at the outset. Her wide knowledge of the brewery and her friendly and natural approach made the 75 minute tour interesting and the time passed quickly.
Talitha (right) stands next to the old Customs office
After climbing the first of several flights of stairs we reached the floor with an old Customs office (last used in 1994) and brewers offices, where we had the chance to taste some malted barley and smell some hop pellets.
The two Mash Tuns were located on the highest level that we would climb to. The oldest one dates from 1885 and together they can hold 300 barrels.
Old copper with steam coil visible
The old open topped copper is used every September, early in the hop picking season when Malt & Hops is brewed as this relies on the addition of hop flowers rather than hop pellets. It is also used occasionally at other times of the year. It was originally heated by fire but in 1938 a steam coil was added to provide an alternative heat source. A hood was added in the 1960's to funnel the steam out of the building. The historic copper is one of five in the country and can hold 25000 litres of wort from the mash tuns.
Foil packs of hops stacked next to the Hopback.
Fresh hops can be added when the hopped wort reaches the Hopback.This vessel needs to be manually cleaned out after every use.
New brew house with holding vessel on left and new 'copper' on right.
A new, fuel efficient, brew house with vessels manufactured by Steinecker is now used for most of the brewing. In this set up a Whirlpool (partly visible in lower right corner of photo above) replaces the Hopback of the Victorian brew house and has the advantage of being self-cleaning.
The cooper's shop provided a chance to view oak casks in various stages of completion and the tools used by the cooper. Less than 3% of Wadworth beer is now served from oak casks but these are still supplied to certain pubs so a master cooper, Alastair Simms, can be called on to produce new casks and maintain the old ones.
Yeast overflowing from a fermentation vessel
It was fascinating to see the fermentation vessels where the yeast was working and causing the top surface to move around with surplus foaming yeast sliding over the top leading edge of the deep rectangular vessel to be collected on the floor below. The surplus yeast is killed off and can then be supplied as a foodstuff for pigs.
Talitha led us out from the brewery and across Northgate Street to visit the sign workshop. Here we could see the artists at work painting pub signs and notices.
Max the shire horse - keen for a minty treat!
Monty and Max, the shire horses, are stabled in an adjacent building and we stopped to greet them. Talitha gave the horses a minty treat and Monty entertained us by insisting on more by kicking on his stable door!
Wadworth drays
We passed the drays that Monty and Max haul around the pubs of Devizes, on our way back to the visitor centre where we handed in our high visibility jackets. This was not the end of the tour as we now had an opportunity to sample beers from Wadworth brewery.
Talitha described the beers available from the Mezzanine bar inside the visitor centre - Ipanema, 6X, Bishop's Tipple, Swordfish and Horizon. Soft drinks are also available for younger visitors. Tour visitors were given a half hour to sample as many beers as we liked, served in one third pint glasses. It was a hot day so I started with Horizon, a refreshing beer brewed with pale ale malt and Styrian Goldings, Fuggles and Cascade hops. My second beer was Ipanema, the seasonal beer for the 2014 World Cup that is brewed with four malts and includes American hops. There was also time for a third of a pint of 6X, first brewed in 1923 and now brewed at 4.1% ABV.
It was now time for me to catch the 49 bus to Swindon, via Avebury. Devizes does not have a railway station but is also served by direct buses from Bath and Trowbridge.

Click on Link for more details of the Wadworth brewery tour.

22 May 2014

Two beer bars in Valencia

I can recommend a visit to Valencia, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, that was founded by the Romans in 138 BC. We found that May, before the main tourist season, was a good month to visit with fine warm weather. The airport is well connected to the city by Metro Valencia. It is a cycling friendly city with plenty of cycle paths including one in the old river bed that has been converted to a linear park since the river was re-routed.
Valencia - Central market - inaugurated in 1928
The historic centre has many interesting buildings including some in modernist style like the central market. It is separated from the beach by a large residential / commercial area so it is worth getting to know the metro, bus and cycling options for travel around the city.
Horchata (Orxata in Valencian) is a sweet, creamy, drink made from chufas (tiger nuts) that is a nourishing and refreshing drink available from vendors at the beach and specialist cafes.
Ratebeer proved useful for identifying two beer bars to visit during our visit.

1. Birra & Blues (Sunday)

On a Sunday, Meg and I joined the throng of visitors walking along the beachside promenade separated from the sea by a long sandy beach.
We passed a shop called Ale-Hop but discovered that it sells colourful clothes, hats and espadrilles but no beer!
Horchata and chufas (tiger nuts)
A cool drink of horchata, from a mobile stall was a refreshing way to break the long walk to the Birra & Blues brewpub situated at 34 Avenue Mare Nostrum (Alboraya).
Birra & Blues
Spaghetti & Blues
Birra & Blues is immediately behind its sister establishment, Spaghetti & Blues, which overlooks the promenade and the beach beyond at Playa de la Patacona.

Although there was no brewing on a Sunday, the brewing vessels are visible behind the bar. The clips for the six fonts showed that three different draught beers were available - Tostada, Doble Malta and Rubia.

The server kindly poured taster glasses of each draught beer and I chose the Rubia (blonde) for a refreshing lunchtime beer in the shaded surroundings of the smart bar with views of the sky and attractive shrubs.
The view from a table in the courtyard
The beer list and a glass of Rubia on a table in the courtyard
The Rubia cost 5 euros for a 500ml glass. Bottles were also available (3 euros for 330 ml or 6 euros for 750ml). The beer came with quite a big head and was very effervescent in the glass.
Before leaving we ordered two 330 ml bottles, from the fridge, of beers that were not available on draught, to drink on another occasion.
John Lee Blues
The John Lee Blues (red ale) named after John Lee Hooker was drunk on a four hour train trip from Valencia (Sant Isidre) to Cuenca.
La Negra
The La Negra (pumpkin ale produced like a brown ale) was eventually drunk at Hostal Benamar in Madrid and proved spicy and full flavoured.
The terminus of the number 19 bus is nearby for a convenient journey back to the city.

2a. Ruzanuvol (closed on Sundays) + El Abrazo de la China

Later on Sunday we visited the Russafa / L'Eixample area which lies south of the city centre. 
 We discovered that Ruzanuvol is closed on Sunday and resolved to return the next day. 
A bottle of Alhambra Especial at nearby bar - El Abrazo de la China - eased the disappointment.

2b. Ruzanuvol (Monday) + Las Cervezas del Mercado

Number 40 bus from near our hotel took us past the impressive 'City of Arts and Sciences' site that includes the Science Museum Príncipe Felipe designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. 
Science Museum Principe Felipe (foreground) - viewed from the bus
We got off the bus before reaching the centre of the city at a stop on Avenue Regne de València in the Russafa neighbourhood, near Ruzanuvol Cerveceria Artesanal at Luís Santángel, 3.
We were the third customers to arrive, soon after 7pm opening time. Two fathers with young children were occupying the bar area so we found a table and sat on a bench with comfortable cushions made from recycled sacks of malt after consulting the blackboard and ordering our beers.
a caña from Birrificio Italiano
A great deal of care has gone into the furnishing and decoration of Ruzanuvol. The interior is light and pleasant with ingredients of beer illustrated on the walls and furniture made from pale wood. There are also tables on the pavement outside, where smoking is permitted.
This is a great bar for lovers of Italian beer as the draught beers were from Birrificio Italiano and Birrificio Lambrate. With a caña, a small glass of draught beer, costing 2 euros, this was a good opportunity to try several beers without spending too much. Tipopils, a blonde lager, from Birrificio Italiano was the obvious choice to start and deserves its reputation as a lager worth seeking out. (Tipopils is the house lager at the Finborough Arms, Earl's Court, London).
Free buffet with your beer from 7pm to 9pm
We had previously noticed the generous provision of a free buffet between the hours of 7pm and 9pm on the shutters when finding the pub closed on Sunday.
The bowls on the shelf under the blackboard listing the draught beers and their prices is where we were able to help ourselves to the 'Aperitivo Milanese' of crisps, olives, bread sticks and other snacks..
It was soon time to order another beer and a caña of Sant'Ambroeus from Birrificio Lambrate gave me a chance to taste a stronger Belgian style ale.
Giovanni with Ullage (West Berkshire CAMRA magazine)
When the first customers had left, I introduced myself to Giovanni and gave him a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine. He kindly let me take a photo of him behind the bar to appear in a future edition of Ullage.
Birrificio Lambrate - Ligera
Giovanni explained that he used to live in Milan before opening Ruzanuvol in 2010. Birrificio Lambrate is based in Milan and Birrificio Italiano is based in Lurago Marinone, north of Milan. American Pale Ale is one of my favourite beer styles so it was time to spend 5 euros for a 'pint' (usually 500ml in Italy) of Ligera from Birrificio Lambrate. Giovanni let me take a look at his copy of the Birrificio Lambrate beer catalogue which included tasting notes and details of ingredients for their beers in English. Ligera is brewed with Pilsner, Munich, Caramunich and Carafa malts and Chinook, Cascade, Amarillo and Willamette hops.
Patatas bravas
We ordered some food from the 'Para Picar' blackboard including 'Bravas Bravissimas', roast potatoes served with tomato and creamy sauces on the side, costing 4.20 euros.
I had already sampled Meg's B.I. Weizen from Birrificio Italiano, a pale yellow wheat beer so ordered a caña of Bibock, the amber beer of Birrificio Italiano which has been produced since 1997. Between us we had now sampled all the draught beers so now it was time to find a bus to take us back to the hotel.
a last look at Ruzanuvol Cerveceria Artesanal - Hasta Luego!
Before leaving, Giovanni introduced me to Jordi, a new visitor from Cervezas Artesanas Sénia a microbrewery founded in 2010 in Alginet, about 20 km south of Valencia. It looks like a return visit to Valencia, incorporating an extra trip to visit Jordi at his brewing base, is going to be worthwhile. A blog post (in Spanish) from November 2010 by Lupuloadicto describes Cervesa Sènia and includes photos of the brewery and its founders - Cervesa La Sénia.

Las Cervezas del Mercado - inside Valencia central market
There were no bottles to take away from Ruzanuvol but an earlier visit to Las Cervezas del Mercado at Valencia's central market had realised a bottle of Au Yeah from Valencia brewery Tyris.
Tyris 'Au Yeah' occupies a seat on the train
This American pale ale style beer was also drunk the following day, on a four hour train trip from Valencia (Sant Isidre) to Cuenca and is recommended as my favourite bottled beer on this trip to Spain.