Climate Change and British Beer

The Guardian today features a story about the Cantillon brewery in Brussels which, owner Jean Van Roy says, is suffering as a result of climate change:

“Ideally it must cool at between minus 3C and 8C. But climate change has been notable in the last 20 years. My grandfather 50 years ago brewed from mid-October until May – but I’ve never done that in my life, and I am in my 15th season.”

This reminded us of an exchange we had with a senior figure at one of the larger British breweries last year who said that climate change was among their biggest long-term worries.

In particular, they suggested, cask ale still relies to a great extent on naturally cool pub cellars. (And, as a result, warm summers can already be a problem for cask ale quality.) If those summers last longer, and get hotter, traditional British beer will struggle. Cellar refrigeration is already common but might become absolutely necessary, even in pubs that haven’t needed it in the past.

That’s on top of concerns over how it might affect hop farming and malting barley; a nagging sense of guilt over the amount of water used in brewing; and about the amount of energy used to ship it, and its ingredients, very often under refrigeration.

We’d be interested to hear from others involved in brewing and the pub trade: is climate change on your ‘risk register’?

Beers With a Pinch of Place

For as long as we’ve been pondering what ‘local’ means in terms of beer, we’ve also been interested in beers made with ingredients that evoke the place of their origin.

In the last year, others have crystallised that into a conversation across various blog posts and articles, of which there have been a particular flurry in recent weeks.

The idea that what is at hand — what grows in nearby fields or hedgerows — might shape the design of a beer is alluring and, frankly, rather obvious to anyone who’s ever clapped eyes on, say, bright yellow gorse flowers, or glossy rosehips. Realising that our stash contained a few beers which make a virtue of containing unusual place-specific ingredients, we decided now was a good time to taste them, with a question in mind: does this approach create tastier or at least more interesting beers?

Continue reading “Beers With a Pinch of Place”

Adnam’s East Green and the Crown pub, Victoria Park

The Crown pub, Victoria Park, as photographed by EwanM
The Crown pub, Victoria Park, as photographed by EwanM

On one of our random wanderings round East London, we stopped off at the Crown Pub, next to Victoria Park. I gather this has been through a few incarnations, and is now part of the Geronimo Inns chain. It’s gastro-y, with a lounge bit downstairs and a dining room upstairs.

Top marks for the feng shui — despite the cowskins and bare floors, they do manage to make it feel cosy (good lighting, darkish walls and a cleverly placed book case).

They had Adnam’s East Green on tap, which claims to be carbon neutral. We haven’t heard lots of enthusiastic reviews about this beer, so we weren’t expecting much. We were pleasantly surprised. It had an orangey, spicy aroma, like a Belgian wit beer, which was how it tasted too. The Adnam’s website makes no references to use of spices, but I’m blowed if I can work out how they got that flavour without them. Refreshing and different, and worth trying even if you don’t want to save the planet.

They also had Pride and Doombar on tap, in reasonable condition. In bottles, the usual selection of dull world lagers, but they also had Anchor Steam.

We liked this place, as it was genuinely relaxing and cosy — too many wannabe modern pubs just don’t manage to pull this off. We didn’t try the food, although it’s supposed to be good. Worth a visit if you’re in the area, and a great spot for a Sunday afternoon pint after a stroll through the park.

Boak (via text)

Notes

1. The Crown is at 223 Grove Road, E3, next to Victoria Park, and is equidistant from Bethnal Green and Mile End tubes. Beer in the Evening review here.

2. Adnam’s have achieved carbon neutrality through a mixture of genuine reductions in carbon emissions and by offsetting the rest. We’re not that convinced by offsetting, but it’s interesting to see a brewery quantify the carbon emissions created by brewing and attempt to do something about it.

3. Geronimo Inns also own the Phoenix in Victoria, which is rubbish, and The Betjemen Arms in King’s Cross St Pancras, where we haven’t yet been. So I don’t know what belonging to this chain is supposed to mean in terms of quality.

Once again, we find ourselves indebted to EwanM at Flickr for the picture. He appears to be on a mission to photograph every London pub and put up his pictures under a Creative Commons license. Thanks, Ewan!

Things to do with crap beer (1) – improve the lawn

What do you do with crap beer that people generously bring round? In an attempt to use up some of the cans of Stella and John Smith’s we’ve got knocking around from the last party, we’ve been researching some things you can do with excess beer. This will be an occasional series, hopefully with reports on how it’s worked in practice.

Number 1 – the gardening tool. Apparently, beer is useful to fertilise and improve your lawn. This site shows you how you can make various solutions to remove thatch and fertilise the greenery, and this site suggests using beer to remove brown spots.

We’ve not tried this ourselves (the landlord pays for a gardener, so our lawn’s in great shape) but there are lots of other websites out promoting the use of beer on lawns. If anyone’s tried it and it works, do let us know. Can beer be used to fertilise other plants?

Petty rant about beer bottle labels

Homebrewers know the pain of bottling. The boring bit of the whole process. Tedious, painful and messy. We try to minimize the pain by using polypins, but this means you have to drink the beer a lot quicker.

Cleaning the beer bottles is bad enough. But what really gets my goat is getting the labels off British ale bottles. I don’t know what they use to glue the damn things on, but chemicals, steam and good old fashioned elbow grease are not enough to get rid of them, and you end up with bottles with unsightly bits of paper and glue marks all over them. Not what you want to serve up your pride and joy in.

American labels are pretty bad, but then their bottles come in all sorts of weird shapes, and what with the preponderance of screw top caps, we tend to put them straight in recycling. Nothing more frustrating than spending all that time cleaning and sterilising a bottle, only to find the bugger won’t cap.

German and Belgian beer bottle labels come off with ease, on the other hand. Is this related to the fact that there is much more of a practice of reusing bottles there? Germany has a bottle deposit scheme, and in Belgium bottles often seem to be collected by the bar staff for return to the brewery.

Come on, British brewers! Do your bit for homebrewers and the environment, and use something with a half- life of less than a millenium. Flour and water paste works for us. Or Pritt Stick.

Boak