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

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