Some time ago, Simon Johnson, “Mr Reluctant” and I were poodling thru France and the Belgian border lands, searching for fantasy monastic brews, but Steve was back at the BrewWharf knocking up a little English ale, to see what’s what.
Just to chime in, I brewed Ignore the Hype (said English Ale) to test a couple of things:
1, yeasts. plural. More an in-house bit of R&D.
2, the market response to a brown English bitter style thing.
3, the local market response, to see a rejection.
conclusion: it sold, fast. The scoopers, tickers et al didn’t really care for it. Of course it was going to be rejected, there are a million and one brews like that out there. Gazza (of Steel City and Scoopergen) put it succinctly “that’s a 1980’s regional brewery offering, you nailed that“. The normals however, went garity for it. It sold nearly as fast as the ABC.
Yet, we do brew beers for the more discerning crowd, hence the Military intelligence, Hopfather etc… now, such is the density of the discerning crowd, those beers sell equally well, but that’s more down to local market place; ie. the Borough Market, where with out the likes of the Rake, the ’Porter and Utobeer, etc… I will assume that the cluster would bring those discerning in such numbers to fuel the now volume of beer that is moving thru the taps at the BrewWharf, now that they are being supplied. Would I brew these beers in the hinterlands, probably, but not with such great frequency, I would tho, simply thru who I am and where I have been, in beer.
Here’s the kicker, I think the UK beer scene is in a really good transition, so much to say that it’s probably going to be brilliant over the next few years for a lot of people! exciting times ahead affording brewers who want to stick their neck out and brew bigger brews can, and do, because there is a place to move their product to. We can all list the breweries, and brewers that are up to this, but the wonderful thing is that we have the traditional and import thing, as well as a bunch of brewers doing the contemporary thing.
There are few other beer scenes that have the depth in tradition, complemented by the creative and the imported beers. You’ll see more hybridised brews, drawing on the US, drawing on Dutch, Danish and Italian presentations, but presented in a cask format. You’ll see more Kegged-Craft beer; talking to an draft-install friend of mine, he’s suggested that he’s doing more work for specialist brand installs than anything to do with ABInbev, etc. Hooorah!
We all know Dark Star, Thornbridge, BrewDog, Meantime, Marble, GreenJack, Moor, Brodies, Camden, Timothy Taylors, Kelham Island, Lovibonds (whose sours are the bollocks, look out for them soon) , Dawkins, Gadds, Crown in Sheffield, HardKnott, Kernel and Windsor and Eton (watch that space)! Even Fullers are pushing the boat out, american pale ales, heirloom style stouts, and more. (John’ll kill me) – speak to the brewers, meet them, be interested and they’ll listen… changes are afoot, and your knowledge is important to the industry to keep it moving at the pace it is. Of course, we still need to have people putting their hands in their pockets. (that list of breweries is growing every time I sit and type it out)
Putting my brewing head on, and not my retail hat, the access to quality ingredients, is paramount as much supply chain out to the consumer. All I have done at the BW is use the best ingredients I can lay my hands on, try not to fuck up the process and as fast as Robert’s your mothers brother… bang, beer is flying out the door.
May I suggest that I think the UK beer scene, whilst not as celebrated as the Danish, or Italian.. or as well presented as the US, actually has a really good thing going on, perhaps one, if not, the best beer scene?
Honestly, I think the UK beer scene is in a great space, I sincerely hope that governmental, fiscal or harvest influences don’t arse it up. I can’t wait to see things like Stuart Howe’s homebrew series brewed on the bigger kit, far more city-wide collaborations, more and more specialist craft beer bars! CAMRA and SIBA seem to be evolving with this transition, Keg is gaining pace, with little resistance from afar and perhaps even Keg will get a chance to be judged in competition too! All in all, its bloody great!