In March 2019 I travelled up to Liverpool to deliver the keynote speech at SIBA‘s Beer X conference.
We need to throw open the doors of our echo chamber and have conversations not only with people who do buy craft beer, but also with those people who might be persuaded to – the young people, the people who aren’t drinking so much, the women, the people who drink beer made by multinational, global brewers.
I spoke about the beer ‘echo chamber’. Despite the fact that those of us who inhabit the beer world share many of the same values with people who do not, we sometimes alienate or dismiss them, rather than welcoming them in. I also spoke about the strengths that many independent brewers have to attract new groups of drinkers. The beer world has changed. We need to make sure we are changed too.
Flagship February is an international project designed to celebrate those ‘beers that got us here’, the beers that can sometimes get lost in the constant stream of special releases. I was very honoured to be invited to contribute in the project’s inaugural year.
And now, on that same beach in Cornwall I stand with someone different. I step over the footprints I once left behind and make an entirely new path. My hands touch other hands, hands I hope to hold forever. And though the pub may be different, the beer is the same. Because a beer is not an ex-lover. It’s not unfaithful to return to it from time to time. And it will never, ever break your heart.
I chose to write about a beer that meant a lot to me, and was something of a game-changer in terms of British beer. You can read my essay on St Austell Brewery’s Proper Job right here.
I interviewed head brewer at Wild Card Brewery, Jaega Wise, for a profile in the Spring 2019 edition of CAMRA‘s Beer Magazine.
Jaega is a well-known figure in the British beer scene. Not only is she a talented brewer, she is also a chemical engineering graduate, singer, TV presenter, campaigner for diversity in the brewing industry and an elected director of SIBA.
“I’ve always said I’m a brewer before I’m a female brewer, before I’m a mixed-race brewer. But I will always do my part to support women, ethnic diversity, lots of different types of people getting into the brewing industry. The goal isn’t reached at all. We’re not even close. Equality is 50 per cent. Why should we be satisfied with anything less?” (Jaega Wise)
I was really pleased to be invited to be a part of Club Soda‘s Mindful Drinking Festival which took place at the Old Truman Brewery on Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 January 2019.
There were thirteen breweries represented at the festival, and some great beers. Low and no alcohol beers have moved on significantly in terms of both quality and range and I enjoyed showcasing a number of great examples in my festival beer tours and talk. Some of the standouts for me were Adnam’s Alcohol-Free Ghost Ship, which I’m really pleased to see is available on draft; Braxzz porter – apparently the world’s first alcohol-free porter; and the tasty low-alcohol alternatives from Small Beer Brew Co.
Like all Club Soda events, the Mindful Drinking Festival was friendly and welcoming, and full of a diverse, enthusiastic crowd, ready to explore some great alternatives to alcohol. I look forward to heading along to future festivals – after all, this scene can only get better!
Together with PUB19 – the only dedicated show for the UK pub industry – I have produced a series of short podcasts exploring the challenges and opportunities facing publicans today.
The podcasts take a look behind the headlines at the trends shaping today’s market and explore issues such as food, drinks, design, technology and more. With guest including Geetie Singh-Watson MBE (founder of the UK’s first and only organic pub), Laura Willoughby MBE (co-founder of Club Soda), Lee Cash (founder of Peach Pubs), Joycelyn Neve (founder of the Seafood Pub Company), Jane Peyton (drinks writer and educator) and Pete Brown (Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers), the conversation is sure to be lively and informative.
With a swift kick from the billy-goat himself, my next dip into the menagerie of world beer styles is bock. Originally hailing from the town of Einbeck near Hanover, and apparently feted by Martin Luther as the ‘best beer known to man’, this clutch of beers, ranging from an comparatively paltry 6.5% to a boozy 12% abv were never going to disappoint in terms of character.
When a beer has been brewed with the sole intention of keeping people alive, you know it’s going to have a bit of body. In the seventeenth century the brothers of St Francis of Paula in Munich were granted papal dispensation to brew strong beer to sustain them during the fasting period of Lent. The result is the ‘liquid bread’ of doppelbock – a rich, caramel, malt-sweet beer made to satisfy the keenest of monkish appetites. And if you’re interested if it really is possible to survive on doppelbock alone, check out J. Wilson’s blog (now a book) ‘Diary of a Part-Time Monk‘.
Eisbock owes its existence to the fact that water freezes at 0ºC whereas alcohol does not solidify until -114ºC. As a result, removing the ice crystals from partially frozen beer (a process called freeze distillation or fractional freezing) leaves behind a concentrated and potentially very strong brew. Brewdog have used this technique a number of times in recent years to create beers such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32% abv), Sink the Bismark (41% abv) and The End of History (55% abv). Compared to these beers, my 12% abv Schneider Weiss Aventinus Eisbock sounds positively mild but, despite some mince pie richness, the alcohol warmth dominates in a way you can feel to right down to your toes. Definitely the kind of beer to have curled up in front of fire as a storm rages outside. And who knew lager could be that?