Beer Moment of the Year: Adrian Tierney-Jones

Beer Moment of the Year: Adrian Tierney-Jones

What was that? Oh, it was only 2017 passing by. Still, Original Gravity’s Editor and Beer Writer of the Year 2017, Adrian Tierney-Jones, picks out one great moment of the year

 

Life is too short to be indulgent when it comes to writing about beer, but as the year seems certain to immolate itself once more, Original Gravity has decided that its self-imposed rule about indulgence can be broken for once — here, then, is the team’s beer moment (s) of the year. We’ll see you in 2018, we’ve got a few things we going to do that we think we will like (you might as well, but we certainly will).

First up, it’s Editor Adrian Tierney-Jones

Adrian Tierney-Jones, Original Gravity Editor (and Beer Writer of the Year, I thought I’d just get that in)

No notepad, no laptop, no pen or pencil, no smartphone snapping away, no blog post or deadline, and certainly no Tweet suggesting that this is the life, but the evening that I and fellow journalist Joe Stange spent at Foerster Feine Biere in the south of Berlin lingers long in the memory. A neighbourhood bar (was it on a corner?), popular, unremarkable in its looks, but a home from home for beers with a Franconian heart. No notes were taken, just the simple pleasure of beer and conversation with a friend, and the rich honeyed tones of draft Schönramer Saphir Bock, to which I tried to return to the following evening, but was told with a smile by the barman that we’d drunk it all up the night before. Such is the simple pleasure of a beer moment well won.

—–

Tomorrow evening Original Gravity’s Editor at Large (and 2016’s Beer Writer of the Year) Pete Brown picks his moment of the year.


INTERVIEW: Moor Beer Co's Justin Hawke

INTERVIEW: Moor Beer Co’s Justin Hawke 

Moor Beer’s supremo Justin Hawke in his own words. Interview by Adrian Tierney-Jones

 

How does it feel to be the British Guild of Beer Writers’ brewer of the year?

It was quite a fantastic moment. Getting beer awards is always nice, but this one was quite emotional and it felt like a lifetime achievement. It was also special coming from the Guild as my inspiration for beer came from my dad’s reading of Michael Jackson and Roger Protz, whose books I have on my desk here. To have Roger there shaking my hand, that was a fantastic thing.

You went to Croatia the day after the awards, what was that like?

It’s fascinating for me to go out to these countries and watch the beer scene explode. I was in Italy in its early stages and in Spain.

Is Spain the new Italy?

Not yet, but it does have some amazing places, but Italian beers are just fantastic.

I agree, though I did have a dreadful Puglia beer with artichokes in it a couple of years ago. Just why? Why?

I like artichokes and I like beer, but not together. I call such things gimmick beers or shock beers. I can’t stand so much of the crap coming out these days, it’s not my thing at all. We tinker around the edges, but these are always things that will enhance the beer. The mango tea pale ale we have done, the beer was designed around it and it all worked, but we are never going to put caramel syrup or whatever in beers.

Modern real ale is what you call your beers, was this a conscious decision to use that phrase?

Our philosophy has three core components: there’s the Californian one, where everything has to have a lot of flavour; there’s the German one, what is called naturaltrub, unfined hazy beers. By the way, I wish I’d never made up the word unfined. I hate it. When I tried to change it to natural beer it didn’t stick. As for the third component, because I love real ale and its drinkability, that came from the UK. Those three things to me made it modern.

Why did you want to get into brewing?

My dad started me on drinking when I was a kid. Not drinking drinking, but the culture and the flavour. He lives in Las Vegas (pulls a face), but on the outskirts and never go to the strip. He had a business in LA selling antique prints and framing them and they travelled back and forth to the UK and that’s where my love of this country came from. They were selling high value stuff to actors and the like but they then got into reproducing it and selling it to hotels out there.

I remember him and my uncle drinking Paulaner Dunkel one day and my dad said, ‘if you’re going to drink you should know what the good stuff tastes like’ so I had a sip of beer. I was around five, I liked it, he used to give me sips. Then there were Michael Jackson’s books. We would also go to liquor stores and look at bottles. That’s how I learned about beer. As I got older, I didn’t think I could brew beer, you thought someone else could do that but when I was at West Point my tac officer (he was a captain responsible for discipline for a group of us) was a home brewer. There was a time when we had to do a formal dinner at his house and he pulled out his home brew and it was amazing and he was like, ‘yes I made it’. He also had home brew catalogues and the like and that was my inspiration and I realised I wanted to brew.

The funny thing I saw his photo in the news a couple of months ago. He’s a major-general now and responsible for the disaster relief in Puerto Rico and coincidentally I knew someone who was deployed out there and I got in touch to ask him if he ever saw Buchanan. He replied that he did now and again. So I asked him if he would do me a favour and go up to him and tell him that because of his inspiration I got into brewing. The next day he ran into him and he took a photo together and he loved it.

So was there a lightbulb moment when you thought, I want to do this?

Yeah, that was when I learnt to home brew and like every home brewer I wanted to open my own brewery. In the UK it is so easy, probably the easiest in the world. This is good and bad, I get where everyone is coming from cause I had the same journey, but the beer world is different now, you have to have quality, it’s not enough to want to be a brewer.

I was living in San Francisco when I learned to home brew. The Speakeasy brewpub was a big inspiration and I was originally going to take a job at Steelhead. They were Oregon based but had several brewpubs around San Francisco. I was a business consultant at the time and earning good money and I was offered a job as an assistant brewer, which was $8 an hour. My friend who was head brewer said, ‘save your money and when you have enough go and open a brewery’, so I took his advice.

I had always wanted to do it in England, so my wife and I moved to England, and we saved money for 10 years, still working as business consultants. I was also a CAMRA member. I remember seeing a brewery in the West Country for sale in What’s Brewing, so I went down and saw the place, and the owner told me that he just wanted to sell it. We talked and discovered that we had a lot of similar ideas and I somehow got him re-inspired and we were going to work together. Then I was in Germany seeing a customer and he gave me a call — this was before we’d done all the paperwork and money — and he said that I had had him all fired up, but that he knew that within a month he would want out again. He didn’t want to drag me and my family down to the West Country and then pull out.

It was a good thing of him to do it, but I had come down to the area and liked it and then I read about an award-winning brewery up for sale or partnership. This was Moor as it was then. So I met the owner and he told me about his plans, about making the brewery site, which was a farm, a retail outlet and there were some good ideas. The brewery was shut at the time and there was nowhere to drink the beer, but new kit was being installed. So it all seemed good until I moved down. This is the beauty and the problem of the UK, someone who had no background in professional brewing, who had been playing around on other kits, I didn’t know any better, I would open up the back door to do cask washing and there would be a bull looking right at me. From the outside I saw champion winter beer, the vision and new kit, this all made sense for someone who was keen but it got sour.

That was then. I was pleased to read about Moor’s new tap room in Bermondsey.

We are not going to brew there, it will be for our barrel ageing projects. We will grow organically — at the moment we produce 6000 h/l a year, though we have the capacity to do 9000 or even 10,000, beyond that we will see what the steps are from there.

What’s all this thing about Star Wars, your office seems to be plastered with posters?

Who doesn’t like it? I’m so looking forward to The Last Jedi.


Siren opens ten line Tap Yard

Siren Craft Brew opens new tap yard

Berkshire-based Siren Craft Brew is set to officially launch a new Tap Yard at their brewery in Finchampstead

 

Berkshire-based Siren Craft Brew are set to officially launch a new Tap Yard at their brewery in Finchampstead. The ten-line, 50sqm, 100-person Tap Yard will open to the public officially on Friday 15th December and feature ten dedicated lines.

Siren will launch with core beers, West Coast IPA ‘Sound Wave’ and Loose Leaf Pale Ale ‘Yu Lu’. They will also be pouring Grapefruit Sour IPA ‘Pompelmocello’; Pale Ale ‘Suspended In Rye’; Breakfast Stout ‘Broken Dream’; Rye IPA ‘Ryesing Tides’; Winter Double IPA ‘Forest For the Trees’; Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter with Tamarind ‘Sheltered Spirit’; Imperial Stout with Coffee & Figs ‘Turkish’ (Project Barista); and Irish Dry Stout ‘Afterlight’.

Siren’s Tap Yard, is based at Marino Way, Finchampstead, Berkshire and will open from 12-8 on Friday and 12-7 Saturdays pouring the freshest Siren beers all year round. Tap Yard fridges will house every Siren beer including every new collaborations with the likes of Brooklyn’s Other Half, Spain’s Naparbier and neighbours Elusive Brewing.

Siren’s Andy Nowlan commented:

“This is a really exciting development for Siren that we’ve been planning for some time. Our kegs are filled and immediately moved to cold storage, where the same space acts as the Tap Yard cellar. This means we’re serving super fresh beer at all times. In addition, we’ll now be able to run larger scale parties more regularly, offer event space for local businesses and act as a centre-point for the local community.”

The new Tap Room caps an exciting four years for Siren. Opening in 2013, Ratebeer has named Siren Best New Brewery in the UK (2013), second Best New Brewery in the World (2013), Best Brewery in the UK (2014) and a Top 100 Breweries in the World (2015). 30 minutes from Reading city centre, the closest railway station to Siren’s Tap Yard is Wokingham, the site is serviced by Reading Busses’ ‘Leopard’ route, Sat Navs should use RG40 4RF.


Should beer have a sense of place?

Should beer have a sense of place?

Pete Brown asks whether a beer should reflect the place where it is from

 

Beer’s easy accessibility and unpretentiousness are some of its most appealing aspects. But this down-to-earth nature sometimes causes suspicion of any attempt to make beer sophisticated or classy.

Take the on-going debate about the ‘Thirteen quid pint’: non-beer drinkers and many beer fans are united by a belief that no beer, no matter how it was made or how strong it is, can ever be worth that much because it’s ‘just beer’.

Another sticky topic is that of terroir, the French term used by the wine industry to argue that a particular combination of climate, aspect and soil type creates conditions in certain places that give their character to the fruit grown and wine made there.

Can beer have terroir? Again, winemakers would argue beer is not sophisticated enough to demonstrate it, while some beer drinkers might dismiss terroir as poncey.

An additional problem is that beer can be made anywhere: a brewer might buy hops from Washington State and malt grown in Norfolk and still call herself a local brewer, whether she’s in Manchester or Melbourne.

But the truth is that beer has always been tied to a sense of place.

It can be helpful to adopt a close English approximation of terroir, and refer to it as ‘land taste’. This concept is just as important to hops and barley as it is to grapes. How could it not be?

Take hops from one area and plant them in another, and their characteristics will change. The citrusy, tropical fruit, dank and piney hops we love from North America are the descendants of earthy, spicy English styles such as Fuggles and Goldings. Bring some Cascade hops back from the States and plant them in Kent, and they’ll take on some of the characteristics of their ancestors.

Norfolk is the best barley growing region in the country because of its light sandy soil, and the cool sea mists that blow in and keep the fields cooler and moister than they should be in high summer, allowing the grain to ripen for longer.

Yeast, invisible in the air around us, goes through thousands of generations for every one of ours, and evolves rapidly to suit its environment. The wild yeasts of the Senne valley create Lambic beers at breweries such as Cantillon, while brewers like Verzet and Rodenbach have their own cultures up the road in West Flanders, creating Flemish red ales.

But perhaps the beer ingredient which has the greatest land taste is the one that’s least thought about.

When water falls as rain, it’s more or less pure. As it seeps through the ground, ions from the minerals in the earth dissolve into it. It becomes hard or remains soft. It may become acidic or alkaline.

When it’s taken from a spring or well, it’s literally full of ‘land taste’, and these attributes have myriad different effects on beer.

The Czech Republic evolved into a lager brewing country because its soft water is perfect for that style, whereas London pale ale brewers of the 19th century had to set up satellite breweries in Burton-upon-Trent because those beers simply weren’t as good brewed anywhere else. Today, any pale ale or IPA brewer will ‘burtonise’ their water to recreate the town’s unique sulphate cocktail.

Beer may be simple. But it’s also four times more complex than wine.

Pete’s Miracle Brew (Unbound Press, £9.99) is now available.


THE 6 PACK: Imperial Stouts

THE 6 PACK:
Imperial stouts

It’s the time of year for the imperial stout. Adrian Tierney-Jones charts the remarkable history of this beer and picks out six of the best

 

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand, an imperial stout has just walked into the room, a beer of gravitas and history and heritage, a muscular beer with a heft and weight that would bode well if it ever wanted to work as a circus strongman or woman. This is a beer that is ideal for contemplation, a brewing deal struck with the devil perhaps, a beer that, like IPA, was thought to be buried in the archives of history 30 years ago, and again like IPA it has sprung back to life, with the vivacity of a desert flower after the rains.

In the 19th century, it was oh so different, imperial stouts (perhaps masquerading under the name of Double or Extra Stout) were a common part of many a brewery’s portfolio, strong and expansive sipping beers. Then after World War I had decimated the British brewing industry in more ways than one, they declined and by the 1980s Courage Russian Imperial Stout was near enough all on its lonesome. In 1998, five years after it was last brewed, the then owners of the brand, Scottish & Newcastle, announced the end of the beer – in 2011, the beer was brewed by Charles Wells of Bedford, and there have been several vintages brewed since, though at the time of writing the beer seems to have vanished off the radar. Mind you, elsewhere the imperial stout is a healthy monster, a bold statement by many a brewery, large and small, throughout the world, in North and South America, in Europe, and of course in its British homeland, a demonstration that they’re not afraid of alcohol and heady dark malts. Though sometimes if you want an imperial stout you might find yourself flummoxed as I was during a recent trip to a Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen. I wanted was an imperial stout, but instead I was offered one fermented with Sahti yeast and another one that had cake mix and biscotti. I didn’t know whether to cry or raise a glass to such questionable ingenuity. The imperial stout has come a long way since its gaslit origins and I suspect it will keep on travelling.

——-

/ Harvey’s Brewery, Imperial Extra Double Stout, 9%

Brutal in its darkness, coffee, chocolate, dark fruit, figs and Demerara sugar, alongside an appetising roastiness and subtle hint of Brett.

/ Dark Star, Imperial Stout, 10.5%

A boozy stew of dark plum and currant on the nose, alongside espresso and almond liqueur; coffee, chocolate, more dark fruit, a cosy creaminess and a slight hop bitterness round things off.

/ Saltaire Brewery, XS Imperial Stout, 8.9%

Intense roastiness on the nose alongside a softer zephyr of chocolate, mocha and dark fruit; rich and roasty on the palate with a dry finish.

/ Brooklyn Brewery, Black Chocolate Stout, 10%

If you want an alternative to Sambuca then this is it; it is spirituous, rich and mocha-like in a glass, Herculean in its reach on the palate, a destroyer of worlds and perfect for ageing.

/ Troubadour, Imperial Stout, 9%

Roast barley reaches out from the glass, alongside an arch of mocha, chocolate and toffee; the same characters tread the boards of the palate, while the finish is bracingly bitter.

/ Wiper and True, Hard Shake, 10%

Hard Shake is the ‘imperial’ version of Wiper and True’s superb Milk Shake milk stout and is loaded with chocolate malts, vanilla and the addition of cacao nibs. It’s sweetly smooth and willingly warming for winter nights. 


The fall and rise of porter

The amazing fall and rise of porter

Adrian Tierney-Jones contemplates the history of London’s beer.

Ilustration by Elliot Kruszynski for Original Gravity (elliotkruszynski.co.uk)

Porter is the beer that returned from the dead. It is the beer that rose from the grave in which it had long laid dormant, an unknown grave, as lost as the tomb of Alexander, all that was left was rumour and conjecture. Was it the drink of the men who moved London’s goods in Georgian times and gave the beer its name? Did Mr Pickwick enjoy the odd noggin? And was a dinner party really held within a wooden vat at one of the monstrous London breweries that made their name and fortune with porter?

Yet porter was real enough to me late last winter as I sat in the cool, shaded confines of the Royal Oak, a Victorian-style corner pub that is a few minutes stroll from Borough Market. The Oak is the London flagship of Sussex brewery Harvey’s and a place where its complex Porter can be studied at length, especially welcome on a cold, crisp and introspective winter’s day such as this. 

The beer was sleek and sensuous in the glass, a confection of treacle toffee, chocolate, vinous fruit, saddle leather, tobacco box and even hints of dandelion and burdock.

It was a beer to be studied and appreciated at length, a beer that beguiled. Over several glasses a series of lines from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding swirled to mind: ‘for history is a pattern/ Of timeless moments./ So, while the light fails/ On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel/ History is now and England.’

Ok I wasn’t in a chapel but the light was failing on a winter’s afternoon; I was in England and there was something devotional in the way in which I regarded the beer in front of me. That’s the problem with porter — it is inspirational, but it can also become an obsession as well. 

If IPA (or more frequently a mash-up of IPA) is one of the first beers that a new craft brewer thinks about making when they go pro, you could bet your very last hop sack of Citra that the next beer style/variation/thingy they chance their arm at will be a porter (though some ambitious souls have been known to zoom straight into saison). The beer has an aura about it, a gravitas in the glass, a sheen of heritage and the theme tune of history that makes it so endlessly fascinating. It is seen as the first world beer, the beer of the industrial revolution; it’s London’s beer gift to the world (Burton and London share IPA but porter belongs to the capital). It’s porter. 

However, it’s easy to sit back in an imaginary armchair and pontificate about porter as it was, but what about now? In modern terms porter is Janus-faced as brewers look backwards and forwards as they make it: categories include Imperial porter, Export India porter, London porter, Dublin porter, Baltic porter, table porter, coffee porter, pastry porter (WTF?) and of course just plain porter (which takes us neatly back to London). That’s the exciting thing about what craft brewers (for want of a better word) are doing with beer — they are taking venerable styles and bringing them back to the future. 

American craft brewers first resurrected the beer, adding lots of hops but still maintaining the creamy, soothing centre that in my mind differentiates modern porter from modern stout (though some argue that they are the same beer, the world’s not going to come to an end). I have always enjoyed the lush, smoky, bitter, mocha-like temperament of Anchor’s Porter, perhaps one of the first returnees to the porter fold in 1972; I believe it is one of the best examples of the American style. Then there is Alaskan Smoked Porter, with its rich malt character, peppery hop, stewed fruits and bonfire night smokiness (Stone’s Smoked Porter is an equally smoky ravishment). 

Everyone’s got a porter in the US: some have more hops in them than is decent; others are aged in all manner of barrels, while Ohio brewery Willoughby produce a peanut butter cup coffee porter, which is not just pushing the envelope but setting up the Pony Express and the Post Office all at once. This might not taste like a porter from the early 19th century but who cares?

Sometimes a beer style should be seen as a blank music manuscript with the notes and the order in which they are placed still to be decided.

In the UK, porter was slower to return: the late 1970s saw porters released by both Timothy Taylor and Penrhos Brewery, the latter famously supported by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. Sadly, Penrhos didn’t last too long, while Taylor’s Porter is rarely brewed these days, but this was the first inclination that a venerable beer style was being resurrected. Now the world of British porter is choc-a-bloc with variations on a theme from the likes of Meantime, Kernel, Fuller’s, BrewDog, Elland, Salopian and Burton Bridge, whose Porter has been brewed since the early 1980s (they also produce one with damson juice in it)

History? For a long time it was thought that landlords in the early 18th century mixed up three different kinds of beer in their cellar — the famous three threads — and that a London brewer replicated this in his brewery and hey presto porter was born. Nice story, but it didn’t happen that way — porter somehow emerged, brewers didn’t keep records, there was no Twitter and to be honest the story of beer styles emerging into the world rarely approaches an eureka moment. There are no records of Ralph Harwood (for centuries thought to be the creator of porter), running into the street, Archimedes-style, telling all and sundry what he had just discovered. As for porter’s heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries I haven’t got a clue what old time porter tasted like though the tradition of aging, or staleing, blending and the use of brown malt might suggest an exceptionally characterful beer; perhaps the lion of acridity lying down with the lamb of acidity. 

For the moment though I’m happy to lie down with another glass of Harvey’s Porter and watch the light of the day fade and marvel at the power of porter, the beer that came back from the dead. 


Porter timeline

Early 18th century London brewers start producing the beer that would be known as porter, though it was also called entire — according to Martyn Cornell in Amber, Gold & Black the name porter isn’t used much by London brewers until the 1760s. 

 1760 Whitbread opens its vast porter tun room, which replaces four private houses and whose unsupported roof span is exceeded in size only by that of Westminster Hall’s.

c1780s Guinness starts brewing porter.

1814 A porter vat at Meux’s brewery off Tottenham Court Road bursts and eight people are killed. 

1817 Daniel Wheeler’s method of roasting malt, which would give porter its distinct darkish hue, is patented. 

1890 Pardubický Porter is brewed for the first time, in the style of the dark beers of the Baltic; it is still made today and one of the few of its kind made in the Czech Republic.  

1920 While working out what beers to send for sampling at the Brewers’ Exhibition Watneys decides not to brew any porter for the event — porter is in its death throes. 

1941 Whitbread stops brewing porter.

1972 After the success of Anchor Steam in 1971, brewery owner Fritz Maytag is emboldened to start brewing Porter. 

1973 Guinness stops brewing porter

1978 Penrhos and Timothy Taylor both produce porters

2009 Evin O’Riordian founds Kernel and one of his key beers is Export India Porter.

2013 Elland’s 1872 Porter wins Champion Beer of Britain

2014 Guinness releases Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter.


BOOK REVIEW: The Craft Brewer's Compendium

BOOK REVIEW:
The Craft
 Brewer’s Compendium

Adrian Tierney-Jones delves into the pages of Ted Bruning’s ‘omnibus of brewing materials’ and finds it a trove of information

 

Choose a new hobby, choose a new washing machine, choose a new variety of hops, ok then, let’s choose life. Talking and thinking about hops (and malt and mashed veg for that matter), you might want to also choose a copy of this rather fascinating book, whose modus operandi is a rigorous run-through of all the various grains, malts, hops and yeasts that you can use to make beer (mind you my first glance of the cover — a washed out image of what look like hops — made my heart sink and my interest flutter away like a piece of paper on the wind). However, my advice is perseverance, which is the approach I took, and with that in mind you will embark on a fascinating journey through every ingredient that brewers are currently using to make beer.

If you want to know to know what happens when you use garden peas in the mash (popular in Soviet-era Lithuania) or prickly pear, then this is a book to dive into and get your ideas for the beer that will wow all and sundry (I suppose you could be making an IPA, an India Pea Ale that is, which would get round all the objections to Black IPAs). As for hops, there are around 300 varieties listed in the book, each entry compact but solidly sparged with essential information such as the character and the alpha of the variety. There’s also the lowdown on yeast, the aforementioned mashed veg (bet you thought we were having a giggle but do have some garden peas or a carrot), and malted and unmalted grains. Be warned though, this is not a how-to-brew book, more a what-can-I-use guide that both brewers and those interested in beer like myself will find fascinating.

Ted Bruning (for whom I used to write when he edited What’s Brewing) is a very clear and easily understood writer; he is not a fancy dan man or addicted to being asymmetrical. He’s also been a busy bloke in the production of this book as he has burrowed like a mole through the online sales catalogues of hop merchants, maltsters and yeast labs, and then gone through other websites, before dropping into home-brewers’ forums and news groups. The result of this Herculean research is this neat little book with a dull cover. I think it’s worth getting for Christmas (or any time really).

The Craft Brewers’ Compendium — An Omnibus of Brewing Materials, Ted Bruning with Technical Editor Don Burgess (www.posthousepublishing.com, £14.95). 


The art of beer: Burning Sky

The Art of Beer: Burning Sky

Simon Gane has been creating the artwork for the Sussex brewery from the beginning. We catch up with the artist about how the labels are created

Daniel Neilson

Burning Sky, in the folds of the East Sussex South Downs, produces world class beer and demonstrates a clear sense of where it was made. The evocative label artwork by Simon Gane similarly conveys this idea. We caught up with the illustrator to understand how the artwork is produced

Is a sense of place important to your illustrations and that of the brewery?

Massively so! It’s always something I enjoy trying to capture, while sketching, drawing comics or designing brewery stuff. It lends itself well to beer, I think because it’s a product so tied to certain regions and regional ingredients. It’s funny you should ask because the next label will feature Firle, where Burning Sky is based. Whether I manage to capture it is another matter, but at least the beer will be good.

How did you first meet Mark?

We’ve been good friends since school. I won’t say how long that is. His early homebrewing days never went unappreciated, but we’ve been working together on beer labels and pump clips since 2001 when he was at Dark Star.

Did you find a style that fitted with the beer straight away?

It took some back and forth. We knew we wanted a mix of traditional and new, and Mark was keen for these to feature my illustrations somehow. I was settled on the somewhat mid-20th century feel to the design elements pretty much immediately, but the logo itself was troublesome. It was based on an idea I’d quickly abandoned without showing Mark, but fortunately he noticed it on my computer when he was visiting. The benefits of a close working relationship there, as well Mark’s own artistic eye!

They’ve developed somewhat organically since then. Bringing in cut ‘n’ paste elements is a reflection of our fondness for punk rock, but also allows flexibility at the design stage. Aside from the logo and type style, they are often quite different from each other in terms of subject matter and colour scheme, but this is craft beer, not corporate beer. The Burning Sky guys run with their influences and passions, so it makes sense that the artwork should reflect that.

How do you go about designing a label for a specific beer? 

It usually starts with the beer. After discussing ideas with Mark, I’ll do a rough version of the design so I can see what space I’ve got for the image and take it from there. The Petite Saison label (pictured) probably took the most planning because you can’t cover up a character’s face like you can a haystack or similar background detail. The final images are inked with a brush, scanned and then coloured, always in the hope that Mark doesn’t change the name to something longer!

Where do you get your inspiration from for the Burning Sky labels?

That’s also led by the beer. You’ve got the Grand Place in Brussels on the Belgian-influenced Gaston and the Victorian-style decoration on the Imperial Stout and so on. They’ve gradually encompassed more of my own influences and interests, from the design style to the imagery. Because Mark and I are pals, he’s able to suggest things for the labels from other aspects of my work too. For example, the view on the Anniversaire label is based on a sketch, and the cafe scenes are based on a
comic series I once drew. 

What else do you illustrate for?

Yeah, nerd alert: most of my time is spent drawing comic books. That’s my day job, so to speak. At the moment, I’m working on They’re Not Like Us, a monthly series published by Image Comics in the States, with a couple of other comic projects in the works too. Examples of these, along with process shots of Burning Sky work, can be found on my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

/ burningskybeer.com

/ T: @simongane

/ I: @simonjgane


The Brewers’ Journal Brewers Congress — the verdict

The Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers Congress — the verdict

Adrian Tierney-Jones spends a thrilling day at the Institute of Civil Engineers’ grand HQ in the company of brewers and industry experts 

Hello. I have just returned from the Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers’ Congress in London, at the imperial pile of architectural guile that the Institute of Civil Engineers calls home. It was rather fun, full of brewers and a few writers, plenty of insights, facts and figures, beers and a spirited call for the brewing industry to haul in the leers that still put women off beer drinking even now. It also reminded me that there was a couple of Brewers’ Congresses in North London in the 1880s, part of the Brewers’ Exhibition at the Agricultural Hall in Islington, which had been going since 1879. For some reason, I find that the events of then sound riveting (written without any sarcasm in my mind or the voice that I talk to Siri with).

Back in 2014 when I was researching Brewing Champions, a history of the competition that started at the Exhibition, I came across a Brewers’ Guardian from the 1890s (or was it the 1880s?) that mentioned a lecture at a Brewing Congress that went under the title of ‘the future of beer’ —what stood out was the writer’s comment on how an importing agent for lager, right at the very end of the discussion, bellowed out that lager was the future.  Did this man go into punditry? Elsewhere, there was an exhibition of curiosities from the industry, which ended up being sparsely attended, though I was not surprised given that publicity for the event made it sound like something out of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s Novelty Island (remember that?) —bottles and parrots, cups and parapets

However, the Congress that I attended, no barrel organs played and no red-faced men with suitably whiskery chops shouted the odds while the band shouldered the burden of a future where Untapped was more popular than the Bible. There were no clairvoyants or fortune tellers, but on the other hand there was a discussion about 2018’s trends (fresh and local, a closer relationship between the producer and drinker, less is more, more is less, as Cloudwater’s Paul Jones gnomically pronounced), and a day full of brewers and industry pundits pronouncing on everything from craft, the art and science of brewing, mental health in brewing, malting, labels and branding and women in the industry (thank you Jaega Wise from Wild Card for such a thoughtful and positive talk).

The irrepressible John Keeling of Fuller’s mused aloud whether brewing was an art or science. He was responsible for perhaps the quote of the day: ‘I’m a brewing philosopher, the Rene Descartes of the brewing world, I think therefore I drink.’ Gareth Williams of Tiny Rebel talked about cask and admitted: ’we didn’t enter this business to become millionaires’ — though the latter assertion would test the most righteous if AB-InBev came calling.

Elsewhere, Alex Troncoso from Lost & Grounded talked about the economics of brewing, mentioning that there was something heartfelt about a beer that was not perfect all the time (a comment I particularly chime with when it comes to the likes of gueuze and lambic); Yeastie Boys’ benevolent dictator Stu Mckinley asked that most valid of questions and answered it, ‘what is the most important thing in the world? The people, the people, the people.’ And Beavertown’s Creative Director Nick Dwyer curled up enthusiasm, knowledge and creativity into a scrunchy paper ball and threw it into the air and let it tell us about the way he came up with such fantastic branding.

Other speakers included Cloudwater’s Paul Jones, an ebullient Charlie McVeigh from Draft House, Dr Bill Simpson from Cara Technology on disasters of beer and the aforementioned Jaega Wise from Wild Card, who was fantastic on the problems that the industry still faces with the portrayal of women (something the Portman Group chap completely misunderstood when he showed an image of Dorothy Goodbody). That reminds me, how come there was only one female speaker (on the issue of women) amongst 16 speakers — time to recall John Keeling’s comment on how he was fed up of hearing how Georgina Young was Fuller’s first female head brewer: ‘she was head brewer because she was an excellent brewer.’


Fullers & Friends - the Verdict

Review: Fullers & Friends

The Fullers & Friends project paired brewers from the London brewery, with some of the finest breweries around the country for a very special project. Here, Adrian Tierney-Jones tries the beers and gives his verdict

Adrian Tierney-Jones

Bad people collaborate with the enemy and eventually bring their world crashing down in a Gotterdammerung of the soul. Good people collaborate with friends and help to make the world a happier place. Here at Original Gravity, we were overjoyed to hear it was the latter form of collaboration that the Fuller’s brewing team undertook with its Fuller’s and Friends project. Six breweries, at the top of their game (and other such clichés that sports’ commentators like to use), undoubtedly craft, thoroughly deft in the way they make their peerless beers, joined with a Fuller’s brewer and once in the zone of zen proceeded to work out what kind of beer they would like to collaborate on. The results are these six super-dupers, a range through the home of styles and then some more. Or as Fuller’s former head brewer (and now roving ambassador for the company) John Keeling put it to me, ‘it’s an exciting project and what pleased me is the way our brewers have taken to this, it all talks about friendship in the brewing world, collaboration in the truest sense of the word’.

Flora & the Griffin — Fuller’s and Thornbridge, 7.1%

A red rye beer apparently, whatever that means beyond the fact that there’s a reddish glow to its colour (though copper-amber beneath a generous snow-white head of foam would be more accurate) and the inclusion of rye malt. This results in a tease of bready, spicy, cake-like, alcoholic notes on the nose, contrasted with an undertone of floral hop character; it’s a shy nose though, not the sort of nose that lifts itself out of the glass like a kaiju and frightens all and sundry. It’s rich and mellifluous on the palate, potent in its punchiness as it delivers rye-influenced spice, rich citrus, a mid-palate sweetness, a charge of alcohol and a dry and bitter finish that also has spice in it. It’s a generous beer, a beer that throws its arm across your shoulder and says, ‘come along my friend let’s drink some beer’. 

Peat Souper — Fuller’s and Hardknott, 7%

There’s a fascinating combination of the jingle-jangle of fruit alongside brooding smoke and peat on the nose of this black-brown smoked porter; I thought first of a wooden box that once held smoked kippers before switching to a light fruity sweetness that swung into view like a galleon emerging from behind a headland, its banners and sails in full dreadful view. It’s smoky, phenolic, creamy and fruity when tasted, speaking of a real skill in the integration of the two main characters on the flavour stage, the smokiness and fruitiness. One minute you’re on the dockside at Lowestoft in its prime, the next you’re in a kitchen with the sun streaming in and ripening a bowl of citrus and tropical fruit. 

Galleon Dry Hopped Lager — Fuller’s and Fourpure, 4.8%
As pale as a wraith, as clear as a peal of bells on a sunny Sunday morning, an ideal of the floral attributes of noble hops, treading the boards with the aplomb of a supermodel. There’s a thin mouthfeel and a quick finish, though the dryness comes back after a moment; it’s lustrous, floral and citrusy but very familiar. A refreshing hoppy pils that does what it’s supposed to do, refresh and renew, a social beer in other words.

Matariki New Zealand Saison — Fuller’s and Marble, 5.8%
Dark gold in colour, this has the classic jazzy saison character, with its aromatics of bruised ripe fruit and a yeast orthodoxy. Unsurprisingly it reminds me of 8-Wired’s saison. There’s off-the-wall fruitiness, white pepper showing up mid-palate and an all embracing dry finish. Further sips reveal more from behind the veil —a hint of Riesling’s petrol-like character, a lightness and a delicate fragrance, spindrift floating on the air. Just when you think you understand where the beer is going, it springs another surprise and cause delight to break out as if Victory in Europe was announced all over again.

Rebirth — Fuller’s and Moor Beer, 6%

This collaboration between the ebullient Mancunian John Keeling and the calm and considered Californian Justin Hawke is based on the brewing records for Fuller’s ESB when it made its debut in 1971. Light amber in colour, on the nose there is ripe citrus and a trace of banana; a sweep along the grocer’s fruit stand perhaps. A graininess makes its appearance as well; Shreddies anyone? There’s a Cointreau-like orange character (orange rather than mandarins, clementines or satsumas), plus an expressive dryness and bitterness in the finish. It seems leaner than the current ESB and those who wish to will want to drink both versions side by side.

New England IPA — Fuller’s and Cloudwater, 7%

For starters, not as hazy as you’d expect a beer of this style to be; amber-orange in colour it’s almost on the horizon of glinting but there is an opaqueness that fans of NEIPAs will be calmed by. Phew. The nose is a well-filled fruit bowl of mango, papaya and pineapple sitting on the table in a warm, sunlit kitchen. More of the same fruitiness on the palate leads to a clean finish with some dryness coming through; the fruity juiciness is judicious and delicious, with a light bitterness emerging half way through the tasting. Further exploration reveals that the fruitiness is restrained, has a looseness in the mouth like fruit juice but not the accompanying sweetness and acidity. Everyone is happy, including me.

—–

Worth buying? Of course. Some are more expressive than others, but then that’s personal preference; however, all of the beers give me different degrees of happiness, which is what this act of collaboration is all about.

Boring stuff: you can buy the six pack at Waitrose alongside your artisanal cheese and just-made sushi. Oh and while you’re in the store pick up a couple of bottles of Fuller’s Vintage (if there’s any left), one to age and the other to eat with your cheese. And another oh, I suspect you can also buy it from the website, but you’ll have to find that out yourself, we can’t hold your hand for everything.

Adrian Tierney-Jones