Friday, 23 December 2011

Corporate responsibility

I wrote a blog last night. You might be aware of that.

But I also wrote some disparaging tweets on the same subject. The blog was, to quote bloggers I have a lot of respect for, 'well written' and 'crystal clear that it was my opinion', which is very gratifying and thanks to all who have tweeted me. The tweets I wrote were not so objective, to the point where, taken alone, I'm just slagging off someone else's beer.

What I failed to grasp at the time was that my twitter account is viewed under the Hardknott banner, I hadn't even put a disclaimer in my twitter bio. I have always viewed it as my own personal venting outlet, whether venting an immature joke or my displeasure at a beer.

Publicly, I want to apologise to Dave and Ann for any possible sullying of the Hardknott name. Obviously this wasn't my intention, I'm committed to building our brand and working with all of our brand partners in Cumbria and beyond. I'd also like to make public my apology to James and those at Brewdog, I acted unprofessionally in terms of my responsibility to Hardknott.

I'm slowly realising now that the blog, if re-posted wouldn't be offensive, it would still be a bit of a dig, but I think it was balanced and clearly my opinion. However, being such an incompetent blogger, and being half asleep when I took the decision to remove it, the post is now lost. If anyone, by some stupidly remote chance, got a screen cap, I'd certainly be grateful.

I've tweeted to say that I'm off twitter until the New Year. I may be back before then but with a different username/bio. Likewise with this blog, I'll have a play with the name and change things around to make it clear its not affiliated with Hardknott.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Golden Pints 2011

This is the first time I've done a Golden Pints list and after what has been a pretty tumultuous - but utterly satisfying - year, I think I'm in a good position to answer as objectively as I can. I've tried to be as professionally modest as I can be with Hardknott beers, but Infra Red has found its way in there purely as it remains one of my favourite beers since the first time I tried it a little over a year ago.

Apologies, I'm not the type to take proper notes when tasting beers, so this may be a little more sketchy than I'd actually prefer. Hey ho....

Best UK draught beer: SWB Cohort.
Sampled on cask at the Free Trade Inn on twissup, then again on keg at Port Street Beer House a couple of weeks later, this is one of the highlights of my beery year. Honourable mentions: Hawkshead NZPA, Magic Rock Human Cannonball.

Best UK packaged beer: Stringers Furness Abbey.
Jon and Becky are good friends and practically neighbours, brewery-wise. Their Belgian-style beer has the hallmarks of a true great in its style. Honourable mentions: CLA Croglin Vampire, Hardknott Infra Red.

Best Overseas draught: Duchesse de Bourgogne.
I had this at Port Street Beer House in November. What an absolute stunner she is too! Honourable mentions: De Molen Vuur & Vlam, Galway Hooker.

Best Overseas packaged: Maui Big Swell IPA.
First had this at Mr Foley's on IPA day and I've sought it out ever since. Honourable mentions: Goose Island Matilda, Schneider Tap 5 Hopfenweiss.

Best Overall Beer: SWB Cohort.
Honourable mentions: Magic Rock Human Cannonball, Hardknott Infra Red.
Best Pumpclips: The Kernel

Best UK Brewery: Summer Wine.
Honourable mentions: Magic Rock, The Kernel.

Best Overseas Brewery: Goose Island.
Honourable mentions: Sierra Nevada, Schneider.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Tied between Port Street Beer House and Mr Foley's.
Honourable mentions: Free Trade Inn, Bacchus.

Beer Festival of the Year: IPA Day at Mr Foley's.
Honourable mentions: GBBF, The Kirkstile Inn Summer Beer Fest.

Supermarket of the Year: Booths.
Honourable mentions: Morrisons, M&S.

Independent Retailer of the year: Beer Ritz.

Online Retailer of the year: Beer Merchants.
Honourable mention: SWB online shop.

Best Beer Book/Mag: haven't had time to read any!

Best Blog: Ghostdrinker.
Ghostie always gives an honest and refreshing outlook, tries things other beer geeks wouldn't dream of and makes me laugh every time. Good work fella! Honourable mentions: Reluctant Scooper, Boak and Bailey.

Best tweeter: @BeeryMatt.
Honourable mentions: @Ghostdrinker, @SimonHJohnson.

Best Online Brewery Presence: Magic Rock.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Tied between Hardknott Granite 2011 and Blacksticks Blue Cheese & Hardknott Vitesse Noir and Rich Chocolate Tart, Fayrer Garden style! Apologies for picking two Hardknott beers in this category, but its obviously what I've been most involved with at matching dinners.

What I'd like to do in 2012: Make more awesome beer, drink more awesome beer, continue to meet more awesome beer mates!

Open Category:-

Best online spat: Hardknott Dave and Tandleman. I think we're all glad that got sorted out...

Ok, so let the arguments and/or derision commence...
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to beer geeks everywhere!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Port Street Beer House, 23/11/11

In the run up to Christmas, dark is the thing. Dark nights, dark beers, this match is as easy as it gets. This led to a happy coincidence. Port street beer house, a young - but already iconic - beer haven in Manchester is running an 'Old and Dark' Festival. Hardknott, the steadily growing craft brewery from South Cumbria is looking for somewhere to launch its maddest brew to date; Vitesse Noir.
Farrer's Coffee, locally roasted beans sourced from Latin America, Chocolate from expert French choclatiers Valrhona, vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea. Stimulant upon stimulant upon stimulant. When combined with 11% ABV, this beer is both pep- and sleeping pill combined.

We arrived in Manchester at around 5:30 that evening and, after a quick meal in Chinatown, it was on to Port Street.

From here on, I describe the evening through my own eyes.

In my 'manor' of Cumbria, craft kegged beer is as rare as hen's teeth. Therefore, if I'm in such a place as Port Street, or Mr Foley's, or Bacchus, or Craft Beer Co, I instinctively gravitate toward it. That's not a denouncement of casked beer, I love cask conditioned beer, but it is all too readily available where I live. No variety.

I began with De Molen's Vuur & Vlam, a delicious 6.2% pale ale with plenty of hop character and a nice quaffable body.

I followed this up with Summer Wine Brewery's Cohort, a double black Belgian rye PA, an amazing genre-buster, full bodied and thick with a nice over-riding bitterness and fruity top-notes.

Other beers enjoyed on the night include Lovibonds Henley Dark, SK1 barley wine (of unknown origin), Great Divide Yeti and Source Deli/Prospect Brewery collaboration 'On The Source', a delicious IPA flavoured with Basil.

Which brings me on to another couple of beers I happened to try. On keg was Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale. I still have a few bottles of Odell's Cutthroat Porter in my beer shed, which is an amazing beer. It's a shame I can't say the same for what I tried that night. While I'm sure it was competently brewed and it's fair to say it could've been washed out by all the amazing full-flavoured beers I'd tried before, it still tasted of sugary tea.

In complete contrast, this evening represented my first taste of Duchesse de Bourgogne. Now here was a beer that felt too good to drink. I wanted to lather it over a prime cut of Venison, with a few lingonberries for good measure. Sweet and tangy and full of rich juiciness, what an incredibly complex array of flavours.

While I was sampling my way through the entire bar and ogling the enormous range of bottles neatly stacked behind it, Hardknott Dave was doing his thing.

He'd earlier spoken for 10 minutes or so, introducing the beer we were gathered to launch as it were. He managed to do this without yelling either, a significant breakthrough in his 'meet the brewer' presentations....!

The beer officially went on sale as soon as Dave had finished speaking and a large queue formed at the bar.

Of course, Hardknott officionados and twissupers alike will know that Vitesse Noir has previously been sold in keg at the marvellous Free Trade Inn, but universal beer geek opinion was that while the carbonation certainly lifted the flavours, it was a tad too cold to be brutally honest. The cask version suffered no such problem. Cask conditioning is a great format for this beer, pitched at the perfect temperature to enhance and show off the flavours, but still carrying enough condition to enliven the palate with those flavours.

We were heading back to Cumbria on the last train, and it was soon time to make a move. I couldn't leave without a carry-out though, not when you consider the range that Port Street boasts.

I'd had my eye on Schneider's new limited edition Tap X: Mein Nelson Sauvin since I'd first perused the online beer list a few days ago. Seeing it there in the fridge, in all it's splendour, I couldn't resist! So coupled with a Birra del Borgo My Antonia and a Victory Hop Wallop, my Port Street adventure was drawing to a close.

Thanks to Jonny and Will from Port Street and to everyone who turned up on the night.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Session #57: Guilty Pleasures

I have a pretty filthy habit.

It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but I love it just the same.

My guilty pleasure?


Its RateBeer score is a venerable 1. My favourite review on that particular site gave it 0.7, stating: "Completely undrinkable, I'd rather stay sober for the rest of my life." The same review does go on to say "good carbonation" though, so hey-ho.

I first drank this beer in a Mexican restaurant called Salsa in the Bournemouth suburb of Charminster. Whenever I would visit a good buddy in that area, we would invariably end up in Salsa until midnight at the very least. We once got drinking with the staff and stumbled out at 5 in the morning, having consumed a bottle of tequila and 4 cases of Desperados just on our table of 6, plus hangers on.... possibly. It's a bit hazy.

In terms of its taste, it would be fair to say its pretty rank. Its sweet and perfumed and in no way does it taste of tequila, which is the one thing it's supposed to taste of. But it's light, the sweetness makes it easy to drink - especially when served with the obligatory lime wedge - and its "good carbonation" is beautifully refreshing. Ok, so its in a clear bottle and as such it is a tad skunked, but in goes the lime wedge and it's happy days!

When I tweeted out what I was drinking, I attracted much derision from Zak Avery and el Capitan himself, HardknottDave. But drinking this beer will always take me back to being 20 years old, without much of a care, long hot weekends in Bournemouth and friends all round the table.

Friday, 28 October 2011

CBAG rides again at the Faryer Garden...

The Cumbria Beer Appreciation Group will be holding its next event this coming Thursday (3rd November) at the Fayrer Garden House Hotel in Bowness-on-Winderemere, overlooking Lake Windermere itself.

The menu follows:

White Onion and Sage Soup
Loweswater Gold (4.2%), Cumbria Legendary Ales, Hawkshead.

Smoked Fillet of Lakeland Trout
Coleslaw salad, Citrus dressing
Hefeweiss (5.0%), Mitchell Krause, Workington.

Pan Fried Cartmel Valley Pigeon

Potato Rosti, Parsnip Puree, Game Sauce
Blacksmith's Ale (5.0%), Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston.

Damson Sorbet
Damson Beer (6.0%), Stringers, Ulverston.

Pan Fried Fillet of Beef
Fondant Potato, Green Beans, Wild Mushroom Mousse, Pan Jus
Furness Abbey (7.6%), Stringers, Ulverston.

Rich Chocolate Tart
Raspberry Sorbet and Spun Sugar
Vitesse Noir (11.0%), Hardknott Brewery, Millom

Selection of British Cheeses
Granite 2010 (10.1%), Hardknott Brewery, Millom

So the secret is out!

Myself, Dave and Jeff have all had a run through of the menu and it truly was outstanding, very high quality food and, if yesterday's SIBA north judging is anything to go by, extremely high quality beer to go with it. To book, please call the Fayrer Garden direct on 015394 88195. They are even offering half-price B&B for the night, with lake-view rooms avbailable on a first come, first served basis.

See you there!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Small Batch Brewing...

My interest in homebrewing has been resparked by my career move. I've had a few cracks at it before, with a disaster:success ratio of about 5:1, but now it's all different. I'm brewing for a living now, I'm still on the steep side of the learning curve, but the skills and knowledge I've gained already have helped me to pinpoint where I may have gone wrong with my homebrew in the past.

The first thing to clear up was the term "homebrewing". I much prefer the term I've used to title this blog, small batch brewing. For no real reason other than it lends a touch of class to a pastime which has been regarded as the domain of a certain type of individual. You know the type, but lets not indulge in stereotypes...

On this occasion, I can't reveal a thorough recipe as we may yet upscale it for use under the Hardknott banner. I can't even tell you the name I picked for it, though needless to say it licks... er, kicks arse.

So here's HardknottAlex's first small batch gyle, or HKA#1 for short.

Malt Bill:
Lager Malt
Torrefied Wheat
Munich Malt

Strike Temp was 75*C and Mash temperature settled out at about 63*C, a little lower than I'd have liked, but for the style it wasn't too bad. This was also the first outing for my new mash tun, an insulated coolbox with a tap and fittings to emulate a false bottom. Previously, I'd used a dual purpose bucket to mash and boil in, using a grain bag, but this made sparging awkward.

Along with my new mash tun, I'd bought a proper sparge arm. Unfortunately it is too big for the mash tun, however I decided to use the arm manually to sparge this time and while it wasn't terribly efficient, I still acheived a gravity I'd never managed before. I found that the arm worked quite well on its side, if I positioned it correctly, as shown in the photo.

The sparge itself was a little on the short side, 25 minutes from start to finish. I think this will just come down to experience, but I was only 4 points short of my OG target by the end of the boil, so I was happy enough really.

The idea being to emulate a Kolsch, I had to go for the German noble hops when it came down to it. Bittered with Hallertau 3.8% and two late additions of Tettnang 2.8% for aroma, totalling around 14 IBU's. Not especially bitter, but in keeping with style.

I've used S04 yeast on this batch, as a trial mainly to see if it worked, or whether a more specialised yeast would be better. Having now tasted the beer from the fermenter, the yeast is doing a great job and holds the character of the beer very well. I've transferred to a secondary fermentation in my racking bucket and dry hopped with some wonderful Nelson Sauvin pellets, which is what'll make my Kolsch unique I think.

I'm off on my hols now, but when I get back I'm thinking of brewing a stronger IPA, possibly with a special malt bill. I shall be having a think about that...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Campaigning for a better drinking experience.

After the last two blog posts describing events at which I met many like-minded beer folk, I wanted to address an issue which has been bubbling close to the surface for a while now. I doubt I can add anything to the debate, however, I think my own position may need a bit of clarification. So here goes...

I'm regarded by certain circles to be staunchly anti-CAMRA, which isn't nessecarily the case. I have been a CAMRA member for the past two years and I'm paid up until October, but I won't be renewing my membership. The main reason for this is a motion that was brought before CAMRA's AGM this year, suggesting that the campaign should lobby against kegged beer on the grounds that the extraneous CO2 is a danger to the public health. In fairness, it was thrown out with very little credibility given to it, but the fact that it could even get to the AGM is laughable. I can't remember which branch proposed the motion, but I wouldn't want to drink in their neck of the woods.

Cask versus keg is always going to be a touchy subject, but as long as the brewer believes that it is the best form of dispense for his beer, then that should be the end of it. There are certain beers I would love to see kegged, but if the brewer thinks that it is best in cask, I will continue to drink it if it is good.

A prime example of this would be Coniston Brewing Company's Thurstein Pilsner. I've had this beer on cask and it was very good, in the bottle it was great, but on keg (as sampled at The Queens at Biggar on Wednesday night) it was at its absolute best. If CAMRA would have their way, this beer would never have made it to keg and that, in my opinion, would have been a loss.

(Nb. Ian Bradley should get more recognition than he does for embracing keg, it's been a few years now since Bluebird won the Champion Beer of Britain award, but there's always something exciting going on at Coniston. For further reference see Infinity IPA.)

So it would seem that despite the good work CAMRA have done getting us to the stage we are at now, it would be difficult to progress that work without some change of remit. The main problem with the current objective of the campaign is that it is too inclusive. Real Ale doesn't nessecarily mean good beer. I would argue that most people who are looking to try something other than their standard pint of Carling would be swayed to try one beer over another if it had a CAMRA logo present. They therefore equate a CAMRA stamp with a guarantee of quality, which isn't true. All it means is that the beer has been conditioned inside the cask it is currently in.

The idea that a campaign should be started to identify and seek out good beer is one that has sparked the imagination of many drinkers. My own involvement in this has been via CBAG, the Cumbria Beer Appreciation Group. Together with Hardknott Dave, Jeff Pickthall and Neil Bowness, we devised a way to both promote the great range of beers from within our own county, plus introduce some excellent examples from the rest of the UK (and indeed the rest of the world) which weren't as widely available.

This culminated in us running a couple of beer-matched dinners, one at the Masons Arms back in March and a second at the Kirkstile Inn in May. Sadly, we haven't had chance over the summer to run any more events as yet, but we do have our sights set on an event in November, in conjunction with a top Lake District hotel. Sit tight for that one.

Another campaign has sprung up recently via twitter using the hashtag #CAMRGB. The Campaign for Really Good Beer was set up by Simon (@CrayolaSarandon) in response to Brewdog's withdrawal/banishment (delete as you prefer, I don't want any arguments!) from the Great British Beer Festival this year. A blog has been set up with numerous contributors posting reviews of beers and mini-interviews with brewers amongst other articles. From what he told me, it sounds as though Simon had come to the same conclusions as me regarding CAMRA, as evidenced further by his own campaign's rules:
  1. Good beer is something to be enjoyed.
  2. CAMRGB must maintain a lightheartedness and not become overly serious about itself.
  3. Everyone is welcome provided that a) they enjoy a good pint and b) are willing to have a bit of fun.
  4. Brewers are like modern day magicians who are to be celebrated and supported.
  5. Mmmm... beer.
I'm not sure about brewers being regarded as magicians, but hey, I'll take it!

The main point I want to get across is this: CAMRA have done great things for beer in the last 40 years, but as the game has changed so much in the past few years, they haven't kept up.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

IPA Day at Mr Foleys

Two weeks after the event, I finally find time to write this post. There have been lots of posts on the various events for International IPA Day, but I'd like to add my own slant on the incredible offering at Mr Foleys in Leeds.

Being a Yorkshireman by birth, its always a pleasure for me to head back to my old home county. But the pleasure was doubled by discovering this gem of a pub in Leeds city centre, opposite the town hall. I had been following their twitter account for over a year so I kinda knew it would be good, but I was still pleasantly surprised.

Dean, the manager, had put a lot of effort into this day. A dedicated beer lover, his passion for serving only the best is something many managers and landlords could learn from. His IPA day offering was nothing short of astounding. Cask offerings included Thornbridge, Buxton, Red Willow, Kirkstall and Roosters, atop some amazing keg beers, Summer Wine's 7C's of Rye (my own personal beer of the night), Magic Rock Human Cannonball (which sold out before I could try it) and Brewdog's classic Punk IPA. Our own Code Black was also on cask and it represented the first time that Dave and I could try our first beer together from the cask.

Opinions differed...

When we had tried it from tank, we didn't think that the hops had come through the dark malts the way we wanted them to. It was good, in fact if we'd been aiming for a freshly hopped porter, we'd have been bang on. But to us at that moment, it wasn't a black IPA.

On cask at Mr Foleys, the hop characteristics were a lot more evident. This worried Dave a bit. We'd just brewed the second gyle of Code Black that very morning with an extra 30% more hops. My own personal opinion was (and still is) that more hops couldn't possibly make it worse, just different. That second gyle is in tank now, due to be racked on Monday, there will be a dozen or so casks, but the rest is going into bottle, probably available some time in late September.

But I digress, which I do a lot. Once I'd gone through the draught offerings, I decided to try a few of the tempting bottle selection Dean had put together, most of which (if not all) were American. I tried four all together, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Odell IPA, Victory Hopdevil and a can of Maui Big Swell IPA. The Maui was the stand out of these for me, a 6.8% can of hoppy delight. The Torpedo was pretty good too, but the Odell and Victory beers were a little disappointing. I was talking to Neil (whose blog Eating isn't Cheating is a great read) at the time I tried the Odell and a discussion ensued about how there is most likely 6-8 weeks between the beer being bottled and it getting to outlets here in the UK, during which time the hop character just drops away. As Neil has since pointed out on his blog, these beers need to be drunk fresh.

The most innovative part of the night for me was Dean's great efforts to assemble brewers or representatives of 8 or so of the beers available, each given a little slot to describe their beer or talk a little bit about IPA. Well, until HardknottDave popped up...

Every other speaker was gently spoken, passionate but struggling to make themselves heard over the hubbub and humdrum of a pub full of people enjoying themselves, even with a microphone and amplifier. When Dave came up to speak, he put the microphone down and bellowed "GOOD EVENING LEEDS!" I can't remember exact words, I so wish I'd been videoing. There follows a selection of rough quotes from Dave's 'speech'...




At this point there was a slight interjection from the crowd...


It electrified the atmosphere somewhat, but it got the crowd involved and despite looking a little mad at the time, he definitely got people talking. Which is what we want, right?

Afterwards, I had opportunity to speak to many fellow beery folk, including Dean, Rich from Magic Rock, Josie Ludford from Brewdog, fellow Shayman Mark Fletcher and Zak Avery (who was probably sick of the sight of me by this time of the week, having pestered him at GBBF too - Sorry Zak!).

I'm fairly certain that I spoke to more people than that, if I've missed you out I apologise. The sands of time and the mists of alcohol etc...

Thanks Dean, see you for #StoutDay?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

GBBF week...

As I pointed out in my last post, my first official week for Hardknott could not have been timed better - GBBF week. The following is an attempt to thank all the people I met and spoke to...

Dave and Ann had managed to wangle a ticket to the trade session for me, this being the best opportunity to meet all the people whom I had previously been talking to on twitter as well as following their blogs.

So it was an early start for me on the Tuesday, catching the train down to London. It seems that half of the brewing community in South Cumbria was gathered on the same train down the west coast mainline. I met up with Ben from Hawkshead Brewery at Lancaster station, and once on the train he was joining up with Matt and the rest of the Hawkshead boys. Roger Humphreys and his Cumbria Legendary Ales team were also on the train already, as we all discovered when we got on the platform at Euston 3 hours later. I travelled across London with the Hawkshead crew, which was a great opportunity to catch up with them.

Once at Earls Court, it was difficult not to be impressed by the scale of the event. I am by no means a CAMRA supporter - I admire what they have done in the last 40 years, however they seem to be out of touch with the progress made in brewing and the latest techniques and flavours - that all said, the organisation that must've gone into the event would be immense.

Setting my priorities right, I got a pint first (A Cape Cod IPA from the American bar, very tasty), then set off in search of Dave and Ann. Their advice was to head straight for the Bieres Sans Frontieres bar, a task not made easy by the virtue of there being 3 in total. I wandered round for a full ten minutes, from the American Bar, to the Dutch/Belgian bar, on to the Czech/German bar. It was only when I returned to the American bar, to almost the exact point where I had bought my first pint, that Dave suddenly appeared, chatting with Dean from Mr Foley's in Leeds and Jonathan Queally.

"Ah," he says, "We're over there, on the table by the pillar."

Hadn't thought about looking around tables...

I went and sat down next to Ann and was introduced (by Twitter name) to @Kristym809 (Kristy McCready), @Robsterowski (Rob), @Aletalk (Steve), @BeerreviewsAndy (Andy Mogg) and @Jamesbwxm (James).

As far as what I was drinking, my notes just aren't as comprehensive as they ought to be. I can tell you what I had and I can tell you whether I liked it or not, but for the most part I can't say why (if that makes sense). I tried a variety of the beers on the American bar, the best of which was probably a Lagunitas IPA which I had towards the end (my notes just say "WOW", in quite scrawly handwriting.

In the meantime, on my travels to and from various bars, I met up with Zak Avery, Glyn Roberts, Stuart Howe and Nigel Stevenson. Not to mention Jeff Pickthall, who was staying studiously close to the Czech bar, particularly the Broumov Coriander beer. It was also great to see the Cumbria Legendary crowd, especially given their fantastic win in the Champion Golden Ale category for Loweswater Gold. Great beer and great people too, thoroughly deserved.

I feel like I've waffled enough here, so I'll turn this into a two-parter and tell you all about IPA Day at Mr Foley's next time I think.

Until then...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Last Weekend Behind Bars...

As I may have mentioned one or two thousand times, this past weekend was my last as Assistant Manager of the Masons Arms. I'll still be there at weekends for the time being, but it was a strange feeling to be driving away, knowing that my foot was half out the door, so to speak. I've enjoyed a brilliant four years there, made so many great friends and - above all - learned so much about beer.

I was tested to my limits on Friday night, however. We had Hawkshead's fantastic NZPA on the bar, which at 6% would normally be a little strong for us, but the amazing flavours from four New Zealand hops carried it out perfectly. Well, apart from one customer...

"Is this beer alright? All I can taste is hops..."

I thought about this for a split second (I had time because I wasn't serving him, merely a bystander in this exchange).

"What has Alex done to it?!"

Now I'm getting a bit worried...

"I brew beer for a living and I know Alex Brodie fairly well."

Phew! I decided to ask what brewery he worked for, just so I knew what to avoid in the future. Obviously, I'm not going to publish what he said here, however it is a well established micro-brewery from elsewhere in the country.

"I'll be sending an email across to Hawkshead about this."

Now, I'm all in favour of open criticism, if you don't like a beer then fair enough. But to question if it has been conditioned/looked after properly because it doesn't taste like the boring, bland beer you brew on a day-to-day basis is an affront to me as an innkeeper.

Later on, I also heard him scoffing about Brewdog, claiming they "couldn't brew real beer" and that Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Sink the Bismarck and The End of History are all malt whiskies, rather than beers. Plainly not true.

I don't want to get into the middle of a fanboys vs critics debate, but I like Brewdog beers, I think they are innovative and tasty. There is also no denying that they are bringing the culture of beer in to the modern age with their marketing and branding, no matter how questionable some of it may be.

I decided not to get involved with the gentleman's opinions again. It struck me that if I'm going to aid Dave and Ann in their quest to change people's perceptions of beer, then the task may start with certain brewers, rather than the drinking public.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Brand New Blogger

Despite having a couple of blogs already pass by the wayside, I'm now endeavouring again to start something convincing.

This coming Sunday, I'll be completing my last day as @BarmanAlex at Strawberry Bank and becoming @HardknottAlex of the Hardknott Brewery. I'll still be running both accounts on twitter by the way, BarmanAlex will be my personal account.

This is something that has been on my list for some time, I love the life at the pub and the last three and a half years have been immensely important to me in the formation of my career, however ever since my first (disastrous) homebrewing escapades, I've wanted to make beer.

I believe I've landed right on my feet as well, Dave and Ann have created a brand which is one of the most creative and forward-thinking, not just in Cumbria, but in the whole of the UK. Their beers cover an eclectic range of styles, using a mix of traditional and modern, cutting edge techniques. They are not afraid of hops either, using big, fruity American varieties alongside some of the best offerings from England and New Zealand.

So, I have a few days left at the Masons Arms, then its diving headlong into my work with Hardknott... attending the GBBF at Earls Court on Monday, followed by IPA Day at Mr Foley's in Leeds. It's a dirty job, but you know what? Someone's got to do it.