Moody Brews

MOODY BREWS

In anticipation of his new book Seven Moods of Craft Beer, Adrian Tierney-Jones looks into the soul of beer

Are you in the mood for a beer? Of course you are. But what kind of mood are you in and what kind of mood is the beer that you fancy drinking in? Will there be a row when the two of you meet (and I’m not talking about the kind of tension that comes with badly made cask beer or under ripe keg), or will you get on famously and stay together for the next three glasses or so?

When I think about the mood of a beer, I like to try and guess what the beer in the glass is saying to me. Then I try and think about the kind of discourse I am having with the beer in my hand. What is this beer saying to me, what am I saying back to it? Or is this all a bit too fanciful, a conceit conjured after a few too many?

After all, many might sneer about the idea that a beer can have a soul, a mood, a way of influencing your life, an outlook even. After all, it is just a beer, an intoxicating liquid, coming along in different colours, aromatics and tastes, but it’s still a beer, to be drank and quickly forgotten.

On the other hand, I’ve always wondered about beer, always thought it could be something more than just an intoxicating liquid, a rhyme and a reason for talking to the person on the next table in the pub that you visit on a Sunday afternoon, or a clanking assemblage of carriages ready to take us through the journey we call life. I have always wanted it to be more; I have always wanted it to have its own life, its own personality — which takes me back to the mood of a beer.

So how do we define the mood of a beer, especially when this bottle or glass that you are admiring and trying to understand is just one of many from a single brew (and then there’s the next day’s brew of the same beer). I’m not interested in being pedantic, it’s a leap of faith, a imposition of the imagination, in the same way as you can believe a great meal has a soul or that a poem speaks directly to you. I’m suspending belief and believing in the mood of my beer.

Brief philosophical debate over, let’s move on to see how the beer can chime with our mood and act in harmony. If we are feeling contemplative, thoughtful, quiet almost, in need of some time spent alone, let’s look at the mood of a beer that might be best for this. There’s no need to pick a Czech-style Pilsner for instance, a blond, Saaz-ravished creature of light, chattering away in the glass, lively and loquacious, a great beer in its own right not in the right mood. This is a social beer.

Let’s not go for a saison either, angular and jazz-like in its free form on the palate, brisk and bustling in its mouth feel and sashaying across the tongue with its spice and fruit. That’s a beer for a different mood. Bucolic perhaps; this is a beer to make you think of a lonely Wallonian farmhouse with a history of brewing spanning generations and where the brewing kettle is still direct-fired (I’m looking at you Dupont!).

Instead, when we think about contemplation, maybe we think about stillness, about being in the eye of the storm, of being calm and collected and expecting a beer to possess those same virtues. It could be what Michael Jackson called a ‘book at bedtime’ beer, a slow-drinking barley wine to be enjoyed in a comfortable armchair while the weather does its worse outside. For that sort of contemplative beer I recall a glass of Duits & Lauret Winterstout on a wet night in a canalside bar in Amsterdam several years ago.

However, from my own personal experience, one of the more memorable contemplative beers in the past couple of years has been Alesmith’s Speedway Stout, a glass of which I enjoyed in the Pine Box in Seattle. Yes, the venue was lively and there was music playing, but I personally was thoughtful and contemplative and Speedway Stout was the very beer to mirror that mood. It was sombre in its darkness and its chocolate, coffee, roast grains and bitterness, alongside the heft and weight of its 12% alcohol, were calm and custom-made to be this beacon of tranquillity and contemplation within the noise of the bar (which incidentally used to be a funeral parlour and was where Bruce Lee was laid out — maybe this information helped with the mood).

The beer spoke to me, encouraged me to think about it, to think about its tastes, to enjoy and plug into every facet of its taste and aromatics. I was one with this beer, there was no other beer in the world that I’d rather have at that moment and I contemplated with it, communed with it, as deeply as if I was meditating or doing a session of yoga. This was the true meaning of the mood of a beer, a way of getting close to it, of enjoying without making a fetish of it.

I don’t always want contemplative beers. Sometimes I want social ones, like the Pilsner I mentioned; beers that ring like the finest lines of poetry or beers that are as adventurous as Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood. Beer has a mood, which if you allow yourself time and imagination can match your mood and add lustre and luminosity to your drinking life.

Adrian Tierney-Jones’ The Seven Moods of Craft Beer is out now and available here.


Review: 8 Wired, Tall Poppy

Tasting Notes: 8 Wired, TALL POPPY [7%]

New Zealand brewers have created a modern classic

When I was looking at starting Original Gravity% a couple of years ago, I had an enlightening trip to Aberdeen to research the idea. I toured BrewDog, and walking out of a brewery full of friendly young folk utterly obsessed by beer I made my mind up. I pondered the future while sat in BrewDog Aberdeen, and grabbed a take-out recommended by bar staff. Without hesitation, a bottle of Tall Poppy appeared. Back at the hotel, I popped it open, and it practically knocked me over. I laughed like a loon, jumped up and down on the bed, and took long wondrous gulps. It astonished me – its tropical swell and liquorice bite, its caramel sweetness – oh, enough from me. It’s beers like this why this magazine exists. DN / 8wired.co.nz

Buy it from Beer Hawk here.


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An unreport from a day at the Brewers’ Congress

AN UNREPORT FROM A DAY AT THE BREWERS’ CONGRESS

Adrian Tierney-Jones reflects on a day at the second Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers’ Congress.
Photos: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

How on earth do you write about a day-long conference, or in this case the Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers’ Congress (which was, as last year, held in the August and stirring surroundings of the Institute of Civil Engineers just around the corner from where Churchill stands, that’s the statue btw not the real thing, he’s been dead since 1965)? How on earth do you write about it without getting on a conveyor belt of who said what and who mumbled and who electrified the audience and who went home in tears?

How on earth do you pay justice to the essential eloquence of Garrett Oliver as he blew a metaphorical whistle on the day’s words by stating that craft beer ‘is a return to normality’, and then went on to use the plasticity and toll-booth cheapness of ‘American cheese’ as an example to highlight the way ‘American beer’ had travelled in the same direction since World War II? We’ve obviously talking big beer here. Garrett was, as ever, elegant, articulate and funny, a speaker who I first encountered in 2003 (a cheese and beer tasting at GBBF) and always love listening to. Good hat as well.

How on earth do you ‘review’ a day-long event like the Brewers’ Congress, which was rammed with engaging and light-sabre wielding speakers such as Ulrike Genz from Berliner Weiss brewery Scheeeule, who highlighted the role of Brett in the beer style; or what about Fuller’s head brewer Georgina Young on the joy of collaborating with other breweries, whether Sierra Nevada or the brewers who join in with Fuller’s and Friends; or Colin Stonge from Northern Monk elaborating on his journey through dark beer with a few words on how to make a pastry stout (ok I’m convinced now)?

Well, this is Original Gravity, and we’ll have a stab at anything apart from folk dancing and incest, so here goes.

Only in its second year the Brewers’ Congress has already become an essential part of the calendar, a Goodwood Races of people, information, education and great beer. Even though I have no intention of brewing, it’s an event that cements my allegiance and my sense of ceremony to beer and its satellites. It’s an event, that if I were a brewer, I would mark down in my diary as soon as it was announced, as soon as it was intended. If I had attended in my alter ego as a brewer this year (which will never happen, the alter ego that is), I have would learnt about best cleaning practices (Pete Lengyel, KCBC), cask beer (Andrew Leman, Timothy Taylor), consistency (Sophie de Ronde, Burnt Mill), barrel ageing beer (Chris Pilkington, Põhjala) alongside various panel discussions chaired with characteristic humour and wisdom by John Keeling (if you don’t know who he is please share your secret of space travel because you’ve obviously been on Mars for a while), who came up with another quote of the day, during a debate on whether breweries should focus on their core range or pursue the new: ‘with London Pride, you learn to love it through all the seasons of the year, while a new beer is like a snapshot of a moment in time.’

Your thoughts will be very welcome.

Adrian Tierney-Jones


Stokey Beer Fest returns in February 2019

STOKEY BEER FEST RETURNS IN FEBRUARY 2019

Following successful events in 2017 and 2018, Stokey Beer Fest is set to make a return to North London in the new year.

The festival will once again be held at Abney Hall, Stoke Newington Church Street, taking place on Friday February 8 and Saturday February 9. The festival focuses on championing small, emerging independent brewers and cider makers from around the UK, such as Liverpool’s Neptune Brewery and Boutillers of Faversham, Kent. There will also be some of craft beer’s most respected brewers in attendance, including Bermondsey brewery The Kernel.

“For the last two years now Stokey Beer Fest has distinguished itself as a chilled out and intimate event with excellent beer and 2019 will be no exception,” says Stokey Beer Fest organiser Christopher Martin, a Stoke Newington resident and founder of North London’s Seven Sisters.

Martin founded Seven Sisters Brewery in North London in 2015, along with business partner Tristan Bradley, before eventually being joined by fellow brewing enthusiast Julio Santoyo. Without a brewery of their own, they ‘cuckoo brew’ at facilities in Bermondsey, Highbury and Ilford. Stokey Beer Fest is a natural extension of Seven Sisters Brewery’s passion for beer and its surrounding community.

Early bird tickets are available for £15 (while stocks last) but will rise to the full price of £25 (plus booking fee) on January 1, 2019. Each ticket includes 1/3rd of beer from each of the 12 producers and retailers pouring at the event, plus a free can of beer from Seven Sisters Brewery. Additional tokens will be available for purchase at £1 each, with the majority of beers costing 2 to 3 tokens.

Sessions will run from 8pm to Midnight on Friday 8th, and 12pm to 5pm, then 6pm to 11pm on Saturday 9th of February. The full list of brewers and retailers attending is as follows:

Bianca Road, Boutilliers, Boxcar, Elusive, The Kernel, Hop Stuff, Little Earth Project, Neptune, Ora, Seven Sisters, Solvay Society and cider distributor The Fine Cider Company, which will be bringing a collection of ciders from its portfolio, including some from respected cider maker Tom Oliver.

Tickets for Stokey Beer Fest 2019 are available now via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stokey-beer-fest-2019-tickets-51748930444