Non-Craft Sub-Brand

In a weird inversion of the usual arrangement, a self-consciously-‘craft’ brewery has just launched a retro ‘real ale’ sub-brand. Well, sort of.

If you’ve read Christopher Hutt’s 1973 book The Death of the English Pub then you’ll know the story of Bullard’s of Norwich: along with the city’s other brewery, Steward & Patteson, it was taken over by Watney’s in 1963, and both breweries’ own bitters were replaced by a generic Norwich Bitter. Then, in 1968, Bullard’s brewery was closed down.

Nearly 50 years on, Redwell (perhaps best known for its dispute with Camden over the trademark ‘Hells’) has acquired the rights to the Bullard’s brand and revived it for a line of cask ales designed, in part, to appeal to those who have fond and lingering memories of the old brewery.

Redwell isn’t brewing on the old Bullard’s site, or using the original branding and, unlike other revived brands (Joule’s, Phipps, Truman’s) there has been no attempt made to recreate historic recipes, or even to ‘take inspiration’ from them. Bullard’s old yeast strain hasn’t been brought out of retirement, either, so, there’s really not much of the original brewery here beyond the name.

And here’s why we said ‘sort of’ in our introduction: the packaging still uses the C-word — ‘Craft Beers Brewed in Norwich’ — and the first products on offer are East Coast Pale Ale, ‘brewed with new world hops’, and a ‘hop bomb of an IPA’.

This isn’t, therefore, the perfect irony we’ve been waiting for — a trendy craft brewery aping the look of, say, Shepherd Neame, in order to market cask mild and best bitter on the sly — but it’s still, we think, an interesting development.

For more details, and some spiky local reactions, check out this substantial piece on the launch in the Eastern Daily Press.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 25/04/2015

Before you head off to the newsagents to spend your pocket money on a copy of Whizzer & Chips and a 10p-mix-up, here’s our pick of beer-related reading around the internet from the last week.

→ Michael ‘Sour Beers’ Tonsmeire provided a recipe for ‘Alsatian Saison’ with a reminder that home brewers have the luxury of taking some pretty effective shortcuts:

To bolster the flavors of the hops and yeast I blended in an entire bottle of Trimbach Gewurztraminer at kegging. I find this to be a much easier, more consistent, and effective way to introduce wine flavors than soaking oak cubes in wine that are in turn added to the beer.

→ Breandán Kearney at Belgian Smaak looked at Petrus Aged Pale Ale through the prism of Michael Jackson’s influence… or did he look at Michael Jackson’s influence through the prism of Petrus? Either way, it’s a great read.

→ Bryan ‘Beer Viking’ Betts looked into why hip brewers from overseas are so keen to come to the UK and produce beers for the frankly rather un-hip Wetherspoon chain of pubs.

→ Michael Lewis’s grumpy summary of the state of US craft beer for a local newspaper (via @BeaumontDrinks) is an entertaining read:

I referred to brewing as a profession; she thought that a silly term to describe brewers whom she characterized as hairy and with shabby shoes whose greatest claim to fame was a prize at the county fair for their home-brew. This turned out to be a fair description of many of the 11,000 attendees at the [Craft Brewers’ Conference]… And that’s the problem with this extraordinary expansion of the craft industry: the need for brewers has vastly outstripped the available supply of those who actually know what they are doing…

→ Stan Hieronymus reported that hop extracts are now available via the Amazon web store and took the opportunity to remind us that some of the world’s most highly-regarded beers rely on these once taboo products to achieve their zing.

→ The Campaign for Real Ale annual general meeting passed several ‘progressive motions’ last weekend: here’s their press release and (just in case you missed our link to it earlier in the week) Tandleman’s commentary, with discussion.

→ For completeness, even though it’s rather a dry back-end-functions story despite all the whooping: BrewDog has launched another wave of fund-raising, and is opening a hotel. (Telegraph.)

→ We enjoyed this, via @robsterowski:

→ And also this from Evan Rail:

Types of UK Brewery

From time to time, we feel compelled to categorise things. It never really works but, in the attempt, we usually learn something.

This time, we found ourselves wondering about the many different types of brewing business to be found in the UK today and how they relate to one other. (We did something similar before, but that was more abstract.)

Chart of UK brewery types.

We’ve tried to provide an example for each type, though we struggled to think of an active cuckoo/gypsy brewery, and a very approximate sense of what arrived when.

If the family groupings we’ve come up with work, then you should be able to think of a brewery and find a home for them.

Much more likely, however, is that the first comment below will name a brewery which breaks our classification system.

Flawed or not, we’d be interested to see similar attempts from those who know the beer scenes in Germany, Belgium, the US, or anywhere else — does this look pretty familiar, or wildly different?

Saison Season Pt 3: Roobarb

It’s surely a sign o’ the times that we were able to find two British takes on saison brewed with rhubarb for this post.

It’s one of our favourite vegetables (it had honestly never occurred to us that it might be anything other than a fruit until this moment) thanks to fond childhood memories of tooth-strippingly tart crumbles, and of acidic pink and yellow ‘rhubarb and custard’ boiled sweets:

'Rhubarb custard cremes' by Dr_Kelly, from Flickr under Creative Commons.
‘Rhubarb custard cremes’ by Dr_Kelly, from Flickr under Creative Commons.

But what on earth does it have to do with saison? And what, if anything, does it bring to the party?

Continue reading Saison Season Pt 3: Roobarb

In Brief: CAMRA and Key Kegs

This report by Tandleman on the Campaign for Real Ale annual general meeting is worth a read.

He argues that, on the whole, ‘backward facing motions were defeated, while progressive motions were passed’. Among those carried was Motion 15:

This Conference instructs the National Executive to investigate a labelling scheme for naturally conditioned Key Keg beer, which would allow customers to identify which beers, at the point of sale, conform with the CAMRA criteria for real ale.

This is significant, as we understand it, because it paves the way for beer in ‘key kegs‘ to appear at CAMRA beer festivals, as long as they meets certain technical criteria — that is to say, that they are unfiltered and unpasteurised, contain a certain proportion of live yeast, and are carbonated without the addition of CO2 from an external source. (Key kegs use gas, but the gas doesn’t actually come into contact with the beer.)

This is not a wholehearted embrace of keg beer, overturning 40+ years of principles upon which the Campaign was built. Nor is it ‘CAMRA goes craft’. And we suspect it will take a long time for the results to be evident in the wild, too, with much bureaucracy to negotiate.

But it is important as a gesture, like that simple handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro last December.

The letters page in next month’s What’s Brewing should be fun, though, while those passionate craft beer types who CAMRA has already alienated, will probably regard this, sourly, as too little, too late.


Comment below if you like but this is mostly just a pointer to Tandleman’s post where there’s a lively discussion already underway.

Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007