23 March 2014

Craft Beer Rising 2014 - Part 2

The second Craft Beer Rising festival was also held inside the Old Truman Brewery building, Brick Lane, London.
TRUM letters visible on the original Truman brewery chimney

Franciscan Well

The original Truman brewery chimney could be seen through the window behind the Franciscan Well Brewery stand which was where Steve Kelly and I continued our tour on Saturday 22 February, 2014.

Franciscan Well Brewery - Friar Weisse
Wheat beers are a favourite of mine so it was nice to be offered a taste of Friar Weisse (4.7%) 'a German style unfiltered wheat beer with citrus notes on the palate and powerful aroma of clove and banana imparted by a unique yeast strain'. Steve rated the Shandon Stout highly on Untappd and found it 'smooth'.
Paudie Scully (brewer) - Franciscan Well Brewery
Paudie Scully, the brewer was on hand to give us information about Franciscan Well Brewery. The brewery was founded in 1998 on the site of a 13th century Franciscan monastery on the North Mall in Cork City, Ireland. There is a brew pub with a beer garden next door. The brewery has recently been purchased by Molson Coors and a bigger brewery will be built in Cork's docklands. Friar Weisse and Rebel Red are available in 330ml bottles from the larger Tesco Extra stores.

Celt Experience / Tap East

The Celt Experience / Tap East stall included pipework and a barrel behind the bar.
Celt Experience / Tap East stall
The Celt Experience beers use hops from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The brewery is based in Caerphilly. Their website mentions that the 'brewery is held on the earth by its desire to reflect Beer and Art as one, reflecting on urban culture and paranormal spirit ...'. Steve liked the Brigid Fire (6.3% ABV) smoked rye IPA, a new core beer launched in 2014 to replace Bronze Age. There were also beers from Tap East, the specialist beer bar and microbrewery at the Westfield Stratford City Mall in East London. Sour Saxon, a 4.3% ABV sour Berliner Weiss collaborative beer brewed by Tom Newman (Celt Experience) and Jim Wilson (Tap East) was also available.

Ilkley Brewery

The Ilkley brewery stand was one that I could not pass without trying a beer from as I like the brewery's hoppy style found in beers like Mary Jane. Sensibly, I chose Dinner Ale with a low ABV (3.3%). This Victorian Pale Ale was brewed with a recipe from 1884 found in the archives of the original brewery in Ilkley. Stella (Australian) and Calypso (American) hops give the pale ale a modern slant. Steve rated his glass of The Chief, a 7% ABV American Double IPA, highly and described it as 'HOPPY'!
Christa Sandquist, brewer, Ilkley Brewery with 'Ullage' magazine
After talking to Christa Sandquist, it soon became obvious from her accent that she was not originally from Yorkshire. She explained that she was from Washington State, USA, and had been brewing at Harviestoun brewery for two years before moving to Ilkley Brewery in 2013. Christa accepted a copy of 'Ullage', the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine, as seen on the counter in the photo above.

Nene Valley Brewery

The Big Bang Theory beer at the Nene Valley Brewery stand caught astrophysicist Steve's eye!
Paul Woodcock - Nene Valley Brewery
Nene Valley Brewery is based at Oundle Wharf, by the North Bridge into Oundle, Northamptonshire and reintroduced brewing to the town in September 2012 after an absence of exactly fifty years.
Steve had to have a Big Bang Theory (5.3% ABV) which he rated highly and described as 'Lovely, hoppy not bitter'.My choice was Australian Pale (OZP in the brewery's three letter code system - 4.4% ABV) a golden ale with citrus and tropical fruit flavours. Paul, a Nene Valley brewer with a Master's degree in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt university, advised that the hops used include Mosaic in Big Bang Theory and Galaxy in Australian Pale. Steve noticed the black Big Bang Theory t-shirt that Paul was wearing and treated himself to one from the stock for sale.

WEST Brewery

Rachel greeted us at the West Brewery stand and explained that the Glasgow Green based brewery and beer hall was started in 2006 by Petra Wetzel from Bavaria.

Rachel MacKay (Sales) & Petra M. Wetzel (Founder) - WEST Brewery
At WEST Brewery, wheat beers and lagers are brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law dating back to 1516. We appreciated samples of Hefeweizen (5.2% ABV) a classic Bavarian style wheat beer and G.P.A. (5.2% ABV) made with both malted barley and wheat, strongly hopped with American Chinook and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops. A tall fridge held 33cl bottles of St Mungo, WEST's flagship lager named after Glasgow's patron saint. St Mungo (4.9% ABV) 'pure heavenly' lager is available from Waitrose stores and we were each able to take a bottle away from the stand to enjoy later.

Part 3 - to follow ..............

21 March 2014

Craft Beer Rising 2014 - Part 1

Steve Kelly and I enjoyed spending an afternoon at the first Craft Beer Rising event at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London in 2013.
In 2014, I was really pleased when Steve gave me a ticket to the second event at my n0th birthday in February. A few days later, on Saturday 22 February, we caught a train from Newbury changing at Paddington for the tube to Liverpool Street. On the way to the Old Truman Brewery, I stopped to get a coffee and we arrived soon after the 11am opening time. After exchanging tickets for a tasting glass and beer tokens we headed for one of the closest stalls which was Arbor / Wiper and True.

Wiper and True

William (Wiper and True)
While I sipped my coffee, Steve ordered a Fire Plough (5.5% ABV). This smoked porter was a collaboration between Arbor Ales and Wiper and True which Steve (a Bristolian) rated highly.
We questioned William about the distinctive black and white symbols that were visible at the stall and made into badges. He revealed that each symbol is associated with a particular style of beer:

Elephant - IPA
Balloon - Amber ale
Diver's Helmet - Porter
Space Shuttle - Stout

On the Wiper and True website Michael Wiper and William Hartley describe themselves as 'experimenters and inventors - exploring new and delicious beers that we can't wait to share'.
William told us that they started off using other brewers' plant including Cotswold Brewing and Cheddar Ales but that they now have their own 5 barrel kit based at an industrial unit in St Werburghs, between the M32 and Ashley Down in Bristol, north-east of the city centre. They are planning for up to 20 barrels in the future.
The leaflets produced for each of their beers include comprehensive notes about the ingredients used. The leaflets also mention that their bottled beers are bottle conditioned with some yeast left in to allow secondary fermentation. The result of this technique is 'a light fizz that we think provides a more refined texture and mouthfeel'. Most breweries use finings to make their beer clear. This may result in their beer being a bit cloudy but 'we feel that this is a small sacrifice to pay to keep it pure and vegan friendly'.


The neon sign at the Truman's stall which was also decorated with feathers and a traditional Truman's pub mirror featuring the black eagle caught my eye.
Truman's Blindside, Attaboy, Runner & Emperor on draught

As well as draught beers from the 'new' Truman's brewery 'established 1666, re-established 2010' now based at The Eyrie, Hackney Wick, there were bottles of London Keeper with individual labels.

Truman's London Keeper - 1880 Double Export Stout, 8% ABV

London Keeper was the first beer to be brewed at The Eyrie in August 2013. Only 2000 75cl bottles were produced.
Steve tried a glass of draught Blindside (4.4% ABV), a golden ale produced in January 2014 for availability during the Six Nations Rugby Union Championship competition. English hops (First Gold, Sovereign and Pilgrim) were used but Steve did not find the taste as hoppy as expected.


Just across from Truman's was the Adnams stall and it was time for my first beer, Adnams (Jack Brand) Mosaic pale ale (4.1% ABV), a single hop beer brewed with a relatively new variety of American hops.
Ruth at the Adnam's stall
The heritage of Mosaic hops involves Simcoe and Nugget, giving a flavour similar to Citra. This was an ideal beer to start the day with and Ruth was able to give us a lot of information about the beers available at the stall that included Jack Brand Rye IPA (5% ABV), Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager (4.2% ABV) which is dry hopped with Galaxy hops from Australia and Adnams Ghost Ship (4.5% ABV), already one of my favourite beers.


Steve and I were both keen to try the only beer left at the adjacent Lagunitas stall - Lagunitas IPA. Little Sumpin', a seasonal beer, had already sold out.
Ben, Fraser and Steve
Fraser Murray poured our beers and gave us some background gained from his six years experience with the company in Northern California. Lagunitas IPA (6.2% ABV) was the first seasonal beer to be brewed at Petaluma, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, back in 1995.
It was interesting to discover that a 40 foot container load of Lagunitas beer (mainly kegs) arrives in the UK every four weeks after a sea journey involving two oceans via the Panama Canal and lasting 33 days. Lagunitas beer is also shipped to Sweden. The journey time is set to be reduced to 9 days when a second brewery opens in Chicago, enabling a container load to be transported by rail to New Jersey for transhipment to the UK.
The Chicago brewery will also reduce the amount of money spent on diesel fuel for truckloads of beer from California to 40 states in the USA because many journeys will be shorter from Chicago.
Lagunitas bottle top - fridge magnet
Fraser was asked about the relevance of the dog in Lagunitas branding and it turns out that not only is founder, Tony Magee, a dog owner but the brewery is also 'dog friendly'.
I was grateful to Fraser for explaining how to pronounce Lagunitas correctly, La- gun- eee- tas, with emphasis on the third syllable.
Congratulations to Steve on logging Lagunitas IPA as his 1000th unique beer on Untappd. We both liked the hoppy nature of Lagunitas IPA but also found it a bit fizzy on this occasion. This must be a common reaction from real ale drinkers!

To Be Continued in Part 2 ...

19 March 2014

Hopcraft Brewing Tap Takeover at the Nag's Head, Reading

The Nag's Head, Russell Street, Reading commemorated their seventh birthday under the joint ownership of Meeko, Jody, Lola, Sylvia and Ted on 19 Feb 2014 with a Tap Takeover and Meet The Brewer night featuring Hopcraft Brewing. The Nag's Head was the Central Southern region CAMRA pub of the year in 2013.
CAMRA awards on display inside the Nag's Head, Reading
Hopcraft Brewing was formed in Pontyclun, South Wales, in October 2012 when Tom and Steve from Pixie Spring Brewery, based at the nearby Wheatsheaf, Llantrisant, joined up with Gazza from Steel City Brewing, Sheffield, to take on new (1860 sq ft) premises and install a 12 barrel brewplant, sourced from Norfolk.
L to R: Ted, Jody (Nag's Head), Gazza, Tom (Hopcraft Brewing)
The brewers, Tom Barlow, a Cornishman, and Gazza Prescott were both at the Nag's Head to join the pub's birthday party and talk about the brewery and their beers. Twelve Hopcraft and Pixie Spring beers from the brewery were available with two served straight from the cask (Black Nag (5.5% ABV) - a smoked black IPA testbrew and Pondicherry IPA (6.3% ABV) - a testbrew flavoured with Assam and Earl Grey tea).
Gazza can be spotted in the background with a glass!
A group from West Berkshire CAMRA visited the Nag's Head and enjoyed sampling a variety of beers and chatting to Tom and Gazza who were to be found wearing Hopcraft t-shirts at the end of the bar near the log fire. Tom was asked about the naming of Pondicherry IPA and his answer was that this was due to liking the name of the Indian city featuring in the film 'Life of Pi' rather than any connection with tea growing. We also learned that few of their beers are supplied to local pubs with the exception of Cardiff. The beers go mainly to pubs in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Reading. Their market is pubs that appreciate real ale and especially the hoppier ones. The Shoulder of Mutton, Wantage, the Central Southern region of CAMRA pub of the year in 2012, regularly takes beers from Hopcraft Brewing.
Sucker Punch pumpclip and a pint of Hop Secret 4
The writer enjoyed a pint of Hop Secret 4, a pale beer brewed with a brand-new English test hop giving the beer some tropical fruit and a citrussy, dry bitterness. Hopcraft Brewing on facebook reveals that the secret hop used was CF127.

Other beers on handpump (above) included Simcoe Plus (5.4% ABV) very pale with clementine marmalade flavours, Cruxshadow (4.9% ABV), a dark and smoky winter brew and The Boss a golden ale featuring multi-layered hops and bitterness. The pumpclip for (Spring -  Steel's) The Boss shows the Pixie Spring logo at the top and 'A collaboration with Steel City Brewing' at the base. The post for 31 October 2013 on the Hopcraft Brewing blog mentions that The Boss was a collab between Tom and Gazza in the Wheatsheaf cellar and started off this whole brewery business!

Gazza's posts in the Hopcraft Brewing blog are well worth reading as they give the full story of the initial set up of the brewery as well as details of the beers that have been brewed. Navigate using the 'Older Posts' at the bottom of each page to find the earliest post 'Welcome to our World' on 27 October 2012, if you are interested in the full story of constructing a brewery from scratch.
The 'Hopcrafty Seventh Birthday' at the Nag's Head also included free food later in the evening. Ted brought large pans of hot food out from the kitchen. A queue quickly formed and Ted dished up bowls of chilli to the pub's hungry staff and customers.
Hopcraft Gazza (front left), Nag's Head Jody (back centre) and staff
Links to the brewery's blog, facebook group and twitter: www.hopcraftbrewing.co.uk
A map and details of the beers and ciders currently available at the pub: www.nagsheadreading.co.uk

17 March 2014

Bridgnorth & Bewdley

One of the benefits of volunteer work at Oxford CAMRA beer festival is a place on a coach trip some months after the festival. The trip for 2013 helpers was to Bridgnorth and Bewdley on Saturday 15 March, 2014.
Arriving at the Severn Valley Railway station, Bridgnorth


White Lion, Bridgnorth

We eventually arrived in Bridgnorth just before 1pm, having departed Oxford at 10am. Most of the party set off for the Railwaymans Arms but Steve and I walked quickly up the steep hill of Railway Street to reach the High Town.

The first pub we visited was the White Lion in West Castle Street. We made the mistake of entering by the front door and having to push a way through to the bar as the pub was packed with rugby fans watching a Six Nations game on TV.
From the choice of six cask ales, I ordered a Twisted Spire by Hobsons Brewery of Cleobury Mortimer, a distance of about twelve miles.
Hobsons - Twisted Spire
This is a refreshing pale (3.6% ABV) beer with hop flavours and some sweetness. It is named after the twisted spire of St Mary the Virgin church in Cleobury Mortimer. We had taken our beers outside to a sheltered courtyard area with a view of murals of Bridgnorth and the surrounding countryside.
We could also see the door to the Hop & Stagger Brewery, set up by the Hayes family who took over the pub in 2007. Steve had already sampled their Simpson's Special Edition so I ordered a half pint of Hop & Stagger Golden Wander (4.1% ABV) from the brewery tap.

The Old Castle, Bridgnorth

It was only a few yards walk south along West Castle Street to reach a second pub featured in the 2014 Good Beer Guide - the Old Castle.
I was pleased to find another beer from Hobsons Brewery available here and ordered a Town Crier (4.5% ABV), a full flavoured golden ale.
We headed out to the pub's sizeable garden which has elevated views to the west of the town from a platform at its far end.
Garden of the Old Castle, Bridgnorth
The delayed arrival of our coach meant there was less time to explore the town than we had hoped. It was now time to return downhill to Bridgnorth station where I would catch the 3pm coach to Bewdley and Steve would travel there by train.

The Railwaymans Arms, Bridgnorth

 However, there was still time for a beer at the Railwaymans Arms, housed in the refreshment rooms of the Severn Valley Railway station at Bridgnorth.
The well stocked bar offered a good variety of beers including a Black Country ale that I had been eager to taste - Bathams Best Bitter.
Batham's Best Bitter - 2nd handpump from left. Railwaymans Arms, Bridgnorth
Bathams Brewery is based in Brierley Hill. Their best bitter (4.3% ABV) is 'a straw-coloured bitter which initially seems sweet, but a complex dry, hoppy taste soon predominates' and it is deservedly popular.
The interior of the pub features an impressive collection of railway signs and framed posters.
We took our beers outside on the station platform to enjoy the view of working steam and diesel locomotives.
Steve would have more of this view of Bridgnorth station as his train was delayed while I was travelling to Bewdley by coach.

There were fine westward views from the coach towards Ludlow on the way to Bewdley, another town on the river Severn. After a coffee break, I walked to the High Street passing St Anne's parish church.

The Little Pack Horse Inn, Bewdley

Some way along the High Street, is the Little Pack Horse Inn which has a painted sign on the front of the building instead of a hanging sign.
Little Pack Horse Inn, Bewdley
The Little Pack Horse Inn is in the 2014 Good Beer Guide and is a cosy, traditional pub.
Golden ales and 'Ullage' at the Little Pack Horse Inn
This was a chance to catch up with a group from the Oxford CAMRA party and hand out remaining copies of 'Ullage', the West Berkshire CAMRA newsletter. 
As it is brewed nearby, I ordered a Worcestershire Way (3.6% ABV) from Bewdley Brewery. A lovely pale straw colour, it is brewed with First Gold, Celeia  and Fuggles hops. Steve arrived soon afterwards, having  walked from Bewdley railway station, on the other side of the river Severn. It would soon be time to catch the coach at 6pm for the return journey to Oxford. Walking back to Load Street, there were some lovely skies to be seen over the town.
Bewdley, Worcestershire
Thanks to everyone involved for a great day out in Bridgnorth and Bewdley. It's days like these that make volunteer work for the Campaign for Real Ale especially worthwhile.