The best beer writers of 2018 announced

THE BEST BEER WRITERS OF 2018 ANNOUNCED

Emma Inch announced as Beer Writer of the Year, and other Original Gravity contributors among winners

Brighton-based beer writer and radio broadcaster Emma Inch has been named Beer Writer of the Year 2018 at the Guild of Beer Writers’ annual awards ceremony, staged on 22 November.

Beer Writer of the Year is the top award in the Guild’s annual competition for writing about beer and pubs, which this year received more than 140 entries across nine categories. Inch won two category awards – National Media and Online Communication – on her way to the top prize.

Inch is the creator and presenter of Fermentation Radio, the UK’s only regular beer and brewing show on FM radio. She has written for a number of national and international publications, including Original Gravity, judges regularly at beer competitions and this summer established the first Brighton & Hove Beer Week.

Adrian Tierney-Jones, chair of judges this year after taking the Beer Writer of the Year title in 2017, said, “All the judges found it exceptionally hard to choose the winners and runners up from the very strong field of entries received this year. As someone who has written about beer for 20 years, it is heartening to see the impressive levels of knowledge, energy and passion in beer and pub writing, and also to see the growing media interest in the subject.

“It’s always good to see new voices receiving recognition in our awards and tonight’s roll of honour includes writers who only joined the Guild this year, proving that our robust judging rewards talent, not time served. Everyone who received an award or a commendation should be extremely proud; they really are the cream of British beer writing in 2018 and we wish them all success in their future career communicating about beer and pubs.”

Tierney-Jones was joined on the judging panel by Amy Bryant, food editor at The Telegraph; James Cuthbertson, MD of Dark Star Brewery and founder of the Beer & Cider Marketing Awards; Stu McKinlay, co-founder of Yeastie Boys; Jenn Merrick, founder of Earth Station Brewery; Mark Taylor, Bristol-based food and drink writer, and Zoe Wood, retail correspondent at The Guardian.

The Guild’s Brewer of the Year title, presented at the same time as those for writing, was this year shared for the first time by two candidates who drew level in a poll of Guild members: John Keeling, recently retired from Fuller’s, and Jaega Wise, head brewer at Wild Card Brewery.

Presenting these Awards, Guild chairman Pete Brown said, “Both John and Jaega are worthy recipients. John’s contribution to brewing has been immense, from championing traditional cask ale to creating contemporary crowd pleasers with craft brewers, while also being an advocate for gender equality in the industry, appointing a woman head brewer to succeed him.

“Jaega has not only been producing outstanding beers but has also worked tirelessly to promote beer among the general public and built links with other drinks industries such as wine. Jaega has risen to become one of the most important voices of the industry, and a champion of increasing diversity and promoting equality within it.”

The winners were announced at the Guild’s annual dinner held at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel. Guests enjoyed a four-course dinner, with each dish accompanied by a specially selected beer: Chalky’s Bite from Sharp’s; Fourpure’s Oatmeal Stout; Hopopolata from Marble Brewery; Hogs Back Brewery’s OTT and Dark Island Reserve from Orkney Brewery. Beers from the Award’s sponsoring brewers – Adnams, Fuller’s, Greene King, Heineken and St Austell Brewery – were enjoyed before and after dinner.

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

Brewer of the Year:

John Keeling, recently retired from Fuller’s

Jaega Wise, Wild Card Brewery

 

Guild Award for Best Citizen Beer Communicator

Winner: Martin Oates

Commended: Oli Carter Esdale

 

Guild Award for Best Beer Writer – Corporate Communications

Winner: Roosters Brewery

 

Guild Award for Best Beer & Travel Writer

Winner: Jonny Garrett

Silver Award: Mark Dredge

Long Live the Local Award for Best Writer about Pubs

Winners: Jessica Boak & Ray Bailey

Commended: Bob Jeffrey

 

St Austell Brewery Award for Best Young Beer Writer of the Year

Winner: Eoghan Walsh

Silver Award: Katie Taylor

Commended: James Beeson

 

Heineken Award for Best Beer Communicator – Online

Winner: Emma Inch

Silver Award: Matthew Curtis

 

Fuller’s London Pride Award for Best Beer Writer – Trade Media

Winner: Will Hawkes

Silver Award: James Beeson

Commended: Matthew Curtis

 

Adnams Award for Best Beer Writer – Regional Media

Winner: Alastair Gilmour

Silver Award: Susan & Judith Boyle

 

Greene King Award for Best Beer Writer – National Media

Winner: Emma Inch

Silver Award: Melissa Cole

 

The Michael Jackson Gold Tankard for Beer Writer of the Year 2018

Emma Inch


How to age a bottle of beer

HOW TO AGE A BOTTLE OF BEER

“Yeah, I’m ageing some Orval at the moment.” It sounds quite technical, perhaps even daring. But ultimately, ageing beer is simply resisting the urge to drink them straight away.

All beers age if they aren’t drunk.

They oxidize, and most beers will start to taste stale and papery after their best before date. But some beers age in interesting ways, and even attributes like oxidation can come through positively if they’re in a beer that’s complex enough to work with them.

I WANT MY BEER TO AGE:

  • Choose strong styles such as barley wines, imperial stouts or Trappist ales. If they’re bottle conditioned this will help, as the slow production of carbon dioxide from the secondary fermentation will slow oxidation. But beers age in other ways too so any strong, complex beer is worth a go.
  • Store in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard, or, if you’re lucky enough, a cellar. Warm areas age beers faster.
  • Unlike wine, beer bottles should be stored upright, so the beer doesn’t come into contact with the cap.

I DONT WANT MY BEER TO AGE:

The first change in ageing beers is that the strong, hoppy character breaks down. If you want to drink a juicy IPA at its best, drink fresh and store chilled at all times.


Beer Traveller Guide: Chicago

CHICAGO

By Pete Brown, Like New York, Chicago has the power to make you marvel at its very existence.

When you walk its streets, they whisper of greatness. The soaring buildings make you feel special, privileged to be here. It’s not a coherent feeling – immediately you’re questioning its reality, remembering who you are and what your life is like, and there are always homeless people to remind you that any gilded city has its troubled underside.

But that doesn’t stop the cityscape pumping it out, a constant wave of awe and seduction, soundtracked by Gershwin within your head, and the constant peal of sirens without. It’s created by humans, but superhuman in scale: you see glimpses of Gotham around every corner, partly thanks to DC shooting its movies here while Marvel takes New York.

Chicago certainly has a heroic reputation for drink. People here have an easier attitude to alcohol and are proud of their drinking prowess. From dive bars to restaurants, the tables are always full.

But until recently, the Second City lagged behind most other major cities in the US when it comes to a thriving craft beer scene. A few years ago, Chicago noticed this. Now, if you sit at the bar in a legendary pub like the Map Room (1949 N. Hoyne Ave, www.maproom.com) you’ll soon be engaged in conversation by a local aficionado insisting that this is the best city for beer in North America, bar none.

While I can’t quite agree that it’s there yet, it’s great and inspiring fun exploring the case for the defence.

For nearly thirty years, Chicago has been synonymous with Goose Island, the craft brewing pioneer that was bought by Anheuser Busch in 2011, and is therefore, according to America’s official definition, no longer a craft brewer. More on that later.

But having such a brewing behemoth in town has a ripple effect. Some brewers who learn their draft with Goose Island go on to smaller things, and there’s now a thriving microbrewery and brewpub scene driven often by Goose alumni.

Beyond that impressive downtown core, Chicago sprawls north and south along the shore of Lake Michigan and inland, reaching for the plains of the Midwest. Pub-crawls are only really possible with Uber, or its more appealing new competitor, Lift. Each chosen destination seems to be ten minutes away from the last no matter how you plan it.

A good place to start is Logan Square, west of downtown. This is Chicago’s answer to Dalston in London, or Brooklyn’s Williamsburg – the formerly run-down, scuzzy bit that’s now gentrifying faster than the rest of the city and is currently synonymous with hipsters. Across the road from where the L-Train rumbles between the upper storeys, amid a flurry of Mexican restaurants and grimy bottle shops, stands Revolution (2323 N Milwaukee Ave https://revbrew.com/)founded by former Goose brewer Josh Deth in 2010. As well as the mandatory range of pale ales and IPAs, Revolution has a refreshing exploration of traditional styles such as Kolsch, English style golden ale and even mild. These show that ‘balance’ is not a dirty word, and that American brewers can create tasty beers below 5% ABV. The pizza is great too.

Further north is Half Acre (4257 N Lincoln Ave, www.halfacrebeer.com), just down the road from new cider bar the Northman (4337 N Lincoln Ave, www.thenorthman.com). Half Acre’s Gone Away IPA won silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and is revered as one of America’s best IPAs, but again, the full range is far more varied stylistically.

More experimental are Off Color (3925 W Dickens Ave, www.offcolorbrewing.com) founded by former Goose brewer John Laffler and his business partner Dave Bleitner, and Forbidden Root (1746 W Chicago Ave, www.forbiddenroot.com) a brewery and restaurant in which revered beer writer Randy Mosher is one of the partners.

Both these breweries have an experimental approach to ingredients – Randy’s title is ‘alchemist’ – and in each case you feel you’re in the presence of someone who really understands flavour on a deep level. Even the most unlikely sounding beers (Off Color does a beer with graham crackers and Forbidden Root one that uses the botanicals that create FernetBranca) are thoughtful and intriguing rather than brash and sensational.

But no beery tour of Chicago is complete without a visit to the new taproom at Goose Island (1800 W Fulton St, www.gooseisland.com). In a space carved from the heart of the brewery, beers as flavourful and experimental as any in town constantly rotate. The vast acreage of the barrel warehouse nearby, where stouts are aged in bourbon casks and fruit beers aged in wine barrels, proves that in this case at least, the big nasty corporate is heavily investing in good beer rather than compromising it or watering it down.

I’m sure they have their reasons, and if you’re just after good beer, it’s refreshing and inspiring to see how the big money is being spent. But if your definition of craft beer means you can’t drink anything owned by a macro brewer, well, they say a principle is worthless until it cost you something, and Chicago offers plenty of alternatives, on every scale. Finally, this larger-than-life drinking city has a beer scene that lives up to its needs.


How I made Magic Rock's Cannonball

HOW TO BREW A WORLD-BEATER

Magic Rock’s Head Brewer Stuart Ross tells the story of how he made the truly amazing Cannonball

When it came to brewing Cannonball, we wanted to brew a US West Coast style IPA because it was our (me and brewery founder Rich) favourite style and we had found that the imported beers had usually lost some of their hop character by the time they reached the UK. We wanted to make a modern IPA which would taste like the IPAs we had tasted fresh at the breweries over there.

We have been brewing Cannonball since day one! It was our first brew and the recipe has been perfected over time and we have got to a point where we are very happy with the way we brew the beer. We use British grown Golden Promise pale ale malt for the base with a small amount of Vienna malt, we want high attenuation from the mash so that we get a very dry light body in the beer so that hops are able to shine through. We use a hop back full of whole hops after the boil; the dry hopping is the most important part of the process in this beer. The hops are Centennial, Columbus,  Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe. As for inspiration, this came from Pliny the Elder, Ballast Point’s Sculpin and Port Brewing Mongo IIPA and Wipe Out IPA. One last thing: always drink Cannonball FRESH!!

Stuart Ross, Magic Rock


Fyne Ales reveals new look and first canned beers

 FYNE ALES REVEALS NEW LOOK AND FIRST CANNED BEERS

Independent Scottish brewery Fyne Ales has unveiled an updated brand identity and outlined plans to introduce new products to its core range, including two canned beers.

Fyne Ale’s new look, set to be rolled out in the coming weeks, draws inspiration from its farm brewery status and rural location on a 4500-acre estate at the head of Loch Fyne. Not only will the brewery’s current core range, including flagship pale ale Jarl, be updated, but three beers have been added to the Fyne Ales’ year-round brews.

From December 2018, the Argyll brewery’s Workbench, a 5.5% IPA, and Easy Trail, a 4.2% session IPA, will be available in 330ml cans, and North West, a New Zealand-hopped lager will join them as a permanent keg offering.

“Fyne Ales has always been recognised for the diversity and quality of our beers, but the look and feel of our brand put us at risk of falling behind in this fast-moving industry,” commented Fyne Ales managing director, Jamie Delap. “We set out to create a new identity that better tells the story of who we are and where we come from, but also reflects our ambitions as a modern, progressive brewery.”

Fyne Ales partnered with Glasgow brand and design consultants O Street for the project, working closely with them to create the new look – each beer features stylised textures created using photography from the brewery’s farm estate, chosen to help tell the story of the beer and brewery.

“We’re proud to be a farm brewery; being a working farm in such a historic, beautiful and isolated location is part of everyday life at Fyne Ales,” commented Fyne Ales marketing manager Iain Smith on the new designs. “O Street has created a unique, striking brand identity that celebrates our provenance and we can’t wait to showcase it across our core beers and introducing Workbench and Easy Trail cans.”

Fyne Ales, which launched its small-batch farmhouse and mixed fermentation brewing project, Origins Brewing, in 2017, believes the new, more rustic branding will appeal to its current followers and new drinkers alike. 

The brewery also revealed details of three bottled limited specials which will debut with the new branding – Remote Parts, a 7% West Coast IPA brewed in collaboration with Cigar City Brewery; Perfect Silence, a 6.9% red IPA and an 11.1% bourbon barrel-aged version of Brouwerij De Molen collaboration imperial stout, Mills & Hills. All three will be available in 330ml bottles later this month, with Remote Parts also available in keg and Perfect Silence in keg and cask.

The new beers and updated branding will be supported with an ongoing sales and marketing strategy designed to increase brand and product awareness and increase the availability of the brewery’s beers. Activity begins today, with the launch of a new Fyne Ales website.


Thornbridge issues JenPour Update

THORNBRIDGE ISSUES JENPOUR UPDATE

A sad update from Thornbridge about Jenny Walker, the inspiration behind the brewery’s fundraising JenPour beer 

In June this year Sheffield Mum Jenny Walker was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer. A mum to three young girls, Nia (6), Cora (4) and Beth (1) this news was a shocking blow to her whole family. As a close friend of Thornbridge Brewery (she was also one of the first employees), founders Simon Webster and Jim Harrison felt compelled to offer their support. The aggressive nature of the disease meant that it had failed to respond to treatment, so they had to act fast.

Despite her devastating diagnosis Jenny and her family used their time to fundraise an enormous amount for charity and raise awareness of Bowel Cancer. With this in mind and as a way to leave a legacy for her children Simon and Jim decided that Jen deserved a chance to take the place of their flagship beer for a day. The idea was born and ‘Jaipur’ is to be renamed ‘JenPour’ on Friday 9th November. Not only this, but all proceeds from sales of ‘JenPour’ on the 9th November in Thornbridge pubs will then be donated to local Sheffield Cancer charity Weston Park Hospital.

Sadly, today (November 9), Thornbridge issued this statement.
‘We’re devastated to announce our dear friend Jenny won’t be around to pull the first pint of JenPour after losing her battle with cancer earlier this week.

‘Her husband Michael sent us some words about Jenny, which sum up what an incredible woman she was.

“For those of you who don’t know, Jenny died on Wednesday afternoon. She died at home, surrounded by her family.

There’s no getting round the fact that this is an absolute tragedy. Our three incredible little girls, Nia (7), Cora (4) and Beth (1) have lost their mummy, and there’s no age at which that isn’t earth-shatteringly awful.

I said when Elliott died in 2013 that up until then we had had so much good in our lives, we accepted that we had to take a share of some of the pain in the world. Well now it feels like we have all the pain in the world.

It’s impossible to sum her up, but if you knew her, you would have felt the difference her kindness, generosity and determination could make. She was incredible and I loved her from the moment I met her.

All she ever wanted to be was a mummy. And she is, and she was, and she always will be.”‘

The Thornbridge Brewery JenPour event in her honour will take place today as planned. If you’re in Sheffield, buy a beer, think of Jen and proceeds will go to Weston Park cancer hospital.

After receiving so many messages of support and people wanting to get involved who aren’t based in Sheffield We have decided to make the Jen Pour raffle available online as well as in our pubs. Prizes are still coming in and we have had some incredible prizes donated already.

We are also incredibly touched to announce that Camden Town Brewery are also donating the proceeds from their Cask of Jaipur and Kicking Horse UK, will also donate proceeds from any casks of Jaipur sold today through their distribution channels.’

Simon Webster CEO of Thornbridge Brewery says:
‘At such a devastating time for Jenny’s family we are truly moved by the actions of our peers in the industry as well as our customers. We have received hundreds of messages of support from people across the country as well as kind donations to help us to raise as much money as possible. A big thank you to Camden Town Brewery and Kicking Horse for their action. In 14 years of being a part of the Craft Beer Industry this is genuinely one of the kindest things we’ve seen.’

You can make a donation and be entered into the raffle here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jenpour
You can also text donate
Text POUR59 then your amount to donate to 70070
e.g: POUR59 £10


The Q&A Robert Middleton, Founder of London brewer Orbit

THE Q&A

Robert Middleton, Founder of London brewer Orbit

You’ve recently changed the brewery’s branding. Why?

We wanted our new branding to better represent who we are, what we stand for, our personality. We also wanted it to communicate all of that more strongly to the customer. We’re committed to making timeless styles with an eye for balance and finesse, we strongly value our independence and we love music. We really hope people love our new branding as much as we do.

Which beer of yours gets you thinking ‘yeah, I’m glad I am a brewer’?

That would have to be our Kölsch, Nico, which is our take on the traditional beers of Cologne. This beer has so much going on within it – it’s fragrant and light, with beautiful fruity esters from the Kölsch yeast, alongside herbal, slightly spicy Tettnang hops. Clean, balanced, dry and refreshing. Like Altbier, its an Obergäriges Lagerbier – warm fermentation followed by cold conditioning – genius.

What are you listening to at the moment and what is so good about it?

I’ve been hooked by the Lemon Twigs, Methyl Ethel and The Big Moon recently. Original, genuine, creative tunes with personality. Bands doing their own thing in the spirit of independent music. I’m off to End of the Road and Austin City Limits this year, so will hopefully discover some more new music.

You took a van around Scotland and visited loads of breweries — what’s your next expedition? Cycle about London and visiting pubs with Barclay Perkins livery still on them perhaps?

Brewing in London feels like a pretty exciting journey in itself, but we keep the spirit of travel alive with our annual team trips. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bamberg have featured so far. Looks like Prague is the favourite next time around.

Do you think it takes a certain person to be a brewer and what is that certain something?

I got into brewing primarily because of the brewers I met on my tour. We probably all have our quirks, but share a passion for beer, a desire to create something special and a collaborative nature. It helps to let your heart rule your head most of the time.

Where are you going on holiday this summer?

Actually, we’re off tomorrow in our camper van Brian – star of the Scottish brewery tour. Probably head to France, but the joy of campervanning is that you can enjoy the journey without knowing your exact destination. A bit like starting a brewery.

First publishing in Issue 14 of Original Gravity.


Craft Beer Cares raises £10,000 for Art Against Knives

CRAFT BEER CARES RAISES £10,000 FOR ART AGAINST KNIVES

The event took place beneath the railway arches at London Fields Brewery in September and saw over 500 attendees enjoy beers from around the world. Photo by  Lily Waite 

Charity beer festival Craft Beer Cares has raised over £10,000 for North London-based charity Art Against Knives. The event took place beneath the railway arches at London Fields Brewery on the 29th and 30th September 2018 and saw over 500 attendees enjoy fantastic beers from around the world over the course of the weekend. Guests were also able to enjoy street food, coffee, nail painting and music from a range of DJs during the event.

“We’re ecstatic with raising over £10k this year,” Craft Beer Cares founder Gautam Bhatnagar says. “This was the culmination of a real team effort, and I really can’t thank enough all the people that volunteered their time, the breweries that donated their beer, and everyone at London Fields who hosted us at such a great venue. It’s always a real pleasure to work with so many dedicated people, who go the extra mile to help others.”

The festival was able to donate 93.97% from its takings of £10,758.00 after it had covered any outlying expenses. This means that Art Against Knives was the recipient of £10,109.35 in total. The charity works to reduce violent crime, supporting young people and their communities to enable positive, lasting change. The donation will be used to sustain and expand their creative youth work, supporting more young people across North London to achieve positive, lasting change.

The event was made possible by a team of 22 volunteers—many who work in within the beer industry full time—and beer that was donated by 37 breweries from the UK, Europe, New Zealand and the United States. The event was also supported by a donation of merchandise from Fifth Column, Billy Franks Jerky, Taylor St Baristas, Union Coffee Roasters, Square and Roxie’s BBQ. A total of 537 tickets were sold, and many hundreds of pints were enjoyed (in moderation) over the weekend.

“I’d also like to thank all the people who attended,” Bhatnagar added. “It was great seeing such a mix of people, whether they be craft beer aficionados looking to get something super special to people attending their first ever beer festival. It all made for a wonderful, inclusive atmosphere and I truly hope the event was enjoyed by all.”

Craft Beer Cares will return in earnest in 2019, but will continue to run smaller charity events in the lead up to next year’s festival.


Holding out for a hero

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

By Pete Brown

Moving from playground to boardroom to Instagram, Pete Brown charts beer’s journey from hero to zero and back again

1980s

“Did you see it? Did you see it?”

“Stop! Stop! We’re going round in circles!”

We all remember what it was like. You’re 12, and one of the most important veins of playground banter is repeating the latest sketch from your comedy idols. If you weren’t allowed to watch last night’s episode, you are no one. If you can remember more of the lines and catchphrases than anyone else, and get the funny voices right, you’re a classroom god.

Depending on your age, for you, it might have been Monty Python, The Young Ones, The Fast Show or Little Britain.

For me, it was adverts.

In the space between Python and the 1980s alternative comedy boom going mainstream, ads on TV seemed funnier than the programmes. Terry and June may have been critically rehabilitated now, but it was hell to live through the time when it set the standard for sitcoms.

Salvation came in commercial breaks. In the 1980s, it was considered rude to try to sell you something directly, so a good ad would make you laugh, move you or dazzle you, and then politely remind you of the product’s name at the end.

Beer ads bossed the box. Christopher Biggins was a Roman emperor sinking pints of lager; a young Jonathan Ross drank Harp to ‘stay sharp’; and back in ancient Rome, the slaves rowing on one side of a galley were refreshed by Heineken, while those on the other were given ‘another leading lager’, and our school playground had its latest catchphrase.

1990s

“Can we hero the product?”

Around the boardroom table, eyes roll.

Beer ads have had their teeth pulled. The Hofmeister bear has been shot with the fatal dart of regulation. His alleged crime? Being so popular that he made children want to drink beer. He didn’t make me want to drink beer; he made me want to do something far worse.

He made me want to work in advertising.

Fifteen years after chanting Heineken slogans in the playground, I’m in the boardroom of their ad agency. It’s my job to look after the strategic direction of the Heineken and Stella Artois ad campaigns.  

Advertising has a way of mangling the English language. It doesn’t have to invent new words when it’s happy torturing old ones. We often have conversations about who or what the ‘hero’ is in the ad we’re working on. Is it the housewife trying Daz instead of her normal powder? The frog in the Budweiser ad croaking out the brand name? Or could it actually be the product itself?

Inevitably, ‘hero’ becomes a verb as well as a noun. ‘To hero’ the product is to put it centre stage and forget the distractions. Unfortunately, each time we try this with beer, it stands there mute and awkward. No one knows or cares what ‘cold filtered’ means or what ‘dry beer’ is.

Just as I get my chance to work on them, beer ads start getting boring.

2000s

“What’s the point in advertising anyway?”

In the 1980s, there were two commercial channels. Now there are hundreds. Even if you could somehow make a great beer ad, the mass audience that would see it has now shattered into a million fragments.

Instead of wasting money on anodyne ads that no one will see, the great beasts of the beer world now spend their budgets on supermarket price deals.

Where beer was once chosen based on its image, it’s now chosen on price. Instead of being loyal to one brand, there’s a range of ‘acceptable’ brands, and people choose whichever is on the best deal.

2010s

“New England IPA is a product of Instagram culture.”

The words of Garrett Oliver flash across the global beer community thanks to sensationalist reporting of a chat about 2017’s most controversial beer style. Beer writers, bloggers and Instagrammers line up on both sides of a debate about the style’s validity. It’s the biggest argument over beer styles since the spat over whether ‘black IPA’ is a valid style.

Having left advertising and now written on beer for 15 years, I realise that heated conversations about beer styles have been a common theme across all my feeds since 2010. My last book was about beer’s ingredients. Every day on social media, I see professional writers and amateur drinkers alike trying to encapsulate the flavour of the beer they’re drinking.    

Finally, the beer itself has become the hero. The big, commoditised brands that once had heroic advertising still dominate market share, but they look enviously at craft beer, at the buzz of excitement around it. They remember what it was like, and make half-hearted attempts to steal the language of craft, to reflect in its glory. Beer is now bought and drunk on its own merits, rather than because of its manufactured image.

Or is it?

I’ve heard people recently saying that sour beers are ‘over’, despite the fact that there are more excellent examples available than ever. Beers that were once hailed as the world’s best on rating sites have sunk without trace, despite the fact that they haven’t changed. And then there’s the question of New England IPA…

Beer helps us express ourselves and mould our identities. It doesn’t need dancing bears and croaking frogs to do that.

The image of beer is as important as ever, even if it is now based on what’s in the bottle as much as what’s on the label.


First published in Issue 16 of Original Gravity


Beer meets ... cider

BEER MEETS CIDER

Several years ago travellers through the cider-lands of the USA (ok, Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw researching their World’s Best Cider book) came back with reports of hops being added to cider. Just like the reaction to some of the stranger tales in Herodotus’ Histories, hops in cider seem outlandish. However, since then hopped cider has become a familiar sight in the world of craft cider, a spearhead, perhaps of what happens when cider meets beer as this three exemplary examples show.

/ Mills Brewing/Oliver’s Cider, Foxbic 4.7%

Mills Brewing always brew with wild yeasts. For this one, they brewed a pale ale in the lambic style and then fermented it on Tom Oliver’s cider lees (the sediment from the bottom of barrels of fermented cider) for eight months. The result is gently tart, distinctly, without being too sharp.

PB / @MillsBrewing

/ Thornbridge/Brooklyn, Serpent, 9.5%

This started with a Belgian-style golden ale. Then the beer was put into wooden barrels and lees from Tom Oliver’s cider makers added. Lees? These are the naturally formed wild lees created in cider fermentation. After a year’s slumber the beer was bottle conditioned and the result is an elegant and eloquent beer that is tart, vinous, earthy, full-bodied and dry. ATJ

/ thornbridgebrewery.co.uk

/ At The Hop, Oliver’s, 5.5%

Hopped ciders can be pretty vile in the wrong hands, but Tom Oliver has an unequalled grasp of flavour and how to balance it. This medium cider, infused with cascade hops, doesn’t quite taste of cider or beer, but some quite wonderful third dimension in its own right. PB

/ oliversciderandperry.co.uk