Categories
Brew Britannia breweries

A pale’n’hoppy timeline

Yesterday we re-shared an article we wrote back in 2015 about the emergence of the pale’n’hoppy style of ale in the UK. As you might expect, people had plenty of other suggestions for pioneering contenders; we’ve used that info to pull together a list.

You’ll note that we have also thrown in some notable IPAs because the line between the two styles is pretty fine.

It’s not exhaustive – these are just the names that popped up on Twitter yesterday. There are some here we don’t think count as PNH (e.g. Tribute, which isn’t especially pale) but we’ve included them for completeness.

Various relatively pale bitters e.g. Boddington’s | < 1980
Franklin’s Bitter | c.1979 | Cascade (US)
Goose Eye Pommie’s Revenge | 1984 | Fuggles, Goldings (UK)
Exmoor Gold | 1986 | Challenger, Goldings and Fuggles (UK)
Hop Back Summer Lightning | 1989 | Goldings, Challenger (UK)
Dobbin’s (West Coast) Yakima Grande Pale Ale | 1989 | Cascade (US)
Deuchars IPA | 1991 | Willamette, Goldings, Fuggle (UK, US) (source)
Butterknowle Conciliation | c.1991 | Challenger (UK)
Roosters Yankee | 1993 | Cascade (US)
Oakham JHB | 1993 | Mount Hood and Willamette (US)
Kelham Island Pale Rider | 1993 | Willamette (US) (source)
Durham Magus | 1994 | Challenger, Goldings (UK)
Dark Star Hophead | c.1996 | Cascade (US)
Ossett Silver King | 1998 | Cascade (US)
St Austell Tribute | 1999 | Fuggles, Willamette (UK/US)
Crouch Vale Brewers Gold | 2000 | Brewers Gold (UK)
Pictish Brewers Gold | 2000 | Brewers Gold (UK)
Crouch Vale Amarillo | 2003 | Amarillo (US)
Castle Rock Harvest Pale | 2003 | Cascade, Centennial, Chinook (US)
St Austell Proper Job | 2004 | Willamette, Cascade, Chinook (US)
Meantime IPA | 2005 | Fuggles, Golding (UK)
Thornbridge Jaipur | 2005 | Chinook, Centennial, Ahtanum (US)
BrewDog Punk | 2007 | Chinook, Ahtanum, Crystal, Motueka (US/NZ)
Oakham Citra | 2010 | Citra (US)
Fyne Ales Jarl | 2010 | Citra (US)
Brodies Citra Pale | 2011 | Citra (US)

As we said in the Twitter chat yesterday, it’s not about who got there first or ‘invented’ the style – it’s more a matter of a slow evolution.

In general, it’s interesting how often people assume a beer is older than it actually is – and how often people remember as pale and citrusy beers that evidence suggests were brownish, with UK hops. (As far as we can tell – brewers are often coy about this stuff.)

If you’ve got suggestions, feel free to comment below – and if you can provide a reliable (referenced) ‘first sold’ date and info on hops, that would be great.

Categories
Brew Britannia

The evolution of ‘pale’n’hoppy’ ale in the UK

This piece first appeared online at the now defunct All About Beer in 2015. It’s collected in our book Balmy Nectar but, as there’s been some chat lately about when and how the UK got the taste for the perfume and flavour of US hops, we wanted to share it here, too.

Some of the best beers being made in Britain today belong to a style that has no name. They are the colour of pilsner, usually made with only pale malt, but they are not mere ‘golden ales’ – because ‘golden’ is not, after all, a flavour.

They have extravagant, upfront New World hopping suggesting tropical fruits and aromatic flowers but they are not US-style India Pale Ales because their alcoholic strength is likely to be somewhere between 3-5% ABV.

Though this might sound like a description of US session IPA, beers of this type have been around in the UK for more than 20 years. If they are given a name at all, as in Mark Dredge’s 2013 book Craft Beer World, it is usually a variation on the simply descriptive ‘pale’n’hoppy’.

In the mid-20th century there were several British beers noted for their pale colour, Boddington’s Bitter from Manchester being the most notable. That particular beer was also intensely hopped although the hops were English and were used to generate a bitterness that ‘clawed at the back of your throat’ rather than a delicate aroma.

As the 1970s and 80s wore on, strong dark beers such as Theakstons’s Old Peculier and Fuller’s ESB became cult favourites among beer geeks, while pale yellow lagers became fashionable with mainstream drinkers. Boddington’s Bitter darkened in colour and gradually lost its bitter edge.

As a result, when, in the late 1980s, the first golden ales emerged, they seemed positively and refreshingly innovative. Exmoor Gold from the Somerset-Devon border can claim to be the first of this new breed but it was really Hop Back Summer Lightning, first brewed in 1989, that triggered a trend.

Summer Lightning

Conceived by former big-brewery man John Gilbert as a cask-conditioned lager, it instead became an ale that merely looked like lager, which he hoped would lure drinkers back from then highly fashionable brands such as Stella Artois. It won a string of awards and, before long, any brewery hoping to appeal to connoisseurs had to have a golden ale in its range.

That cosmetic trend coincided with another new development: the arrival in Britain of American and New Zealand hop varieties, along with US beers such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Anchor Liberty, which showed those hops off at their best.

Sean Franklin first experimented with American Cascade hops as far back as the early 1980s. Having worked and been trained in the wine industry he was an expert in the characteristics of different grape varieties and believed similar subtlety could also be drawn out of hops. His first brewery didn’t work out, however, and he ended up driving a taxi for five years. When he returned to brewing in 1993, he had, in effect, conceived a new type of beer, as he explained in an interview we conducted in 2013:

I’d had Summer Lightning and that was a great inspiration, a lovely beer. Flavour is about competition, the different components coming up against each other. So, when you use crystal malt and Cascade, you get orange and toffee. When you use Cascade with just pale malt, you don’t get orange – just that floral, citrusy character. The plainer the background, the better. It allows the essential character of the hops to show much more clearly.

The flagship beer of his new brewery, Rooster’s, was Yankee – straw-coloured, hopped with then-obscure Cascade and, though still essentially a golden ale, a touch more aromatic than most UK drinkers were used to at the time.

At a mere 4.3%, however, it also fit comfortably into British pub and beer festival culture, which then, even more so than now, required beers to be drinkable by the pint and, ideally, in multiple pints over the course of several hours. Along with a range of stronger beers brewed by Brendan Dobbin in Manchester at around the same time, it turned many British real ale drinkers into confirmed hop fanatics.

Oakham JHB pump clip.
SOURCE: Oakham website.

A contemporary product developed quite independently was Oakham’s Jeffrey Hudson Bitter, or JHB, also first brewed in 1993.

Despite its name, which suggests something old-fashioned and varnish-brown, it too was inspired by Summer Lightning and has always been golden with extravagantly fruity late-hopping (a combination of Challenger and Mount Hood) suggestive of elderflower and lemon peel.

Hopping levels have been constantly nudged upwards over the last 20 years to accommodate the palates of drinkers spoiled by double IPAs – head brewer John Bryan estimates that there are about two-and-a-half times as many hops now as in 1993 – but it still seems relatively restrained compared to some newer iterations of the style.

Oakham’s own Citra, for example, was the first UK beer to use that hop variety, in 2010, and is even more flamboyantly pungent than its older sibling.

Nigel Wattam, Oakham’s marketing man, says that the majority of Oakham’s range is ‘very light, or really dark, with not much in-between’. On the appeal of ‘pale’n’hoppy’ beers more generally he says, “I think we’ve converted a lot of lager drinkers because it’s the same colour, but it has more flavour.”

Kelham Island brewery

There is a similar logic behind Kelham Island’s Pale Rider, which was first brewed in 1993 in Sheffield, the northern industrial city made famous by the film The Full Monty. The brewery was founded by the late Dave Wickett, an influential figure on the British beer scene with a hand in several other breweries, and whose former employees and associates include many of the current generation of UK craft brewers.

Writer Melissa Cole credits Pale Rider with arousing her interest in beer and in her book, Let Me Tell You About Beer, records that it was initially conceived to appeal to female drinkers, with restrained bitterness and ramped-up aroma.

Popular among northern real ale drinkers for a decade, it became nationally famous in 2004 when it was declared Champion Beer of Britain by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It is best enjoyed in Sheffield at the brewery tap, the Fat Cat, where its feather-light body and punchy, peachy perfume makes it easy drinking despite its 5.2% ABV. Nonetheless, the brewery has also produced Easy Rider, a similar beer at 4.3%.

A perfect pint of Dark Star Hophead.

Another cult favourite is Hophead from Dark Star, a brewery in Brighton, a fashionable coastal resort an hour’s train ride south of London. Mark Tranter, recently voted the best brewer in the UK by the British Guild of Beer Writers for his work at his own brewery, Burning Sky, worked at Dark Star from the 1990s until 2013.

He recalls that, at some time after 1996, one of the owners of the Evening Star pub where the brewery was then based went to California and came back with Cascade hop pellets.

These, along with other US hops available in small quantities via hop merchants Charles Faram, formed the basis of ‘The Hophead Club’, conceived by Dark Star founder Rob Jones. At each meeting of the club members would taste a different single-hopped beer.

“Cascade was the customers’ and brewers’ favourite, so it was not long until that became the staple,” recalls Tranter.

When he took on more responsibility in the brewery, Tranter tweaked the recipe, reducing its bitterness, and, in 2001, dropping its strength from 4% ABV to 3.8%. 

Today, with the brewery under new ownership and with a different team in the brew-house, the beer remains single-minded and popular, giving absolute priority to bright aromas of grapefruit and elderflower.

If the style isn’t officially recognised, how can you spot a pale’n’hoppy on the bar when out drinking in the UK? First, turn to smaller microbreweries.

The larger, older family breweries have not been hugely successful in this territory, perhaps being too conservative to embrace the fundamental lack of balance that  characterises the style. (There are exceptions: Adnams Ghost Ship, for example, has been a notable success both among beer geeks and less studious drinkers.) 

Secondly, look for a conspicuous mention of a specific hop variety on the hand-pump badge, along with names that include ‘Hop’, ‘Gold’ and sometimes (but less often) ‘Blonde’.

Pointed mentions of citrus are another giveaway.

Finally, a very broad generalisation: breweries in the north are particularly adept — we once heard the style jokingly referred to as ‘Pennine Champagne’ after the range of hills and mountains that runs from Derbyshire to the Scottish border.

Salopian Oracle (Shropshire, 4%), Burning Sky Plateau (Sussex, 3.5%), Marble Pint (Manchester, 3.9%) and Redemption Trinity (London, 3%) are among the best examples.

Rooster’s Yankee, Kelham Island Pale Rider, Oakham JHB and Dark Star Hophead are all available in cans or bottles, though they are best tasted fresh and close to source.

From US brewers, the nearest equivalents are among the new breed of session IPAs and pale ales, such as Firestone Walker Easy Jack.

These two distinct traditions – UK pale’n’hoppy is traditional session bitter with a glamorous makeover, whereas American brews are big beers reined in – have ended up in a remarkably similar place.

For all of those who like to wallow in hops over the course of hours, both are good news.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 15 May 2021: drinking in, calling out

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that leapt out at us in the past seven days, from sexism to classism to taking back dodgy pints.

From Monday 17 May, drinkers across most of the UK can sit inside pubs if they don’t fancy braving beer gardens.

This is big news for establishments such as our old local, The Drapers Arms, which hasn’t been able to trade as nature intended since late last year. It also means some pubs which have been scraping by with outdoor drinkers can start to do some serious business.

This is the riskiest step in the unlocking process so far – sitting in poorly-ventilated spaces with other people is how this thing spreads – and of course there’s a potential spanner in the works in the form of a ‘variant of concern’.

What’s more, many working in hospitality haven’t been vaccinated and some feel understandably concerned.

But, still, it’s hard not to be excited at the prospect. We’ve got Monday off work. We’ll have to see how we feel.


A screengrab of @ratmagnet's Instagram stories.

If you have a Facebook/Instagram account, you can read a series of ‘stories’ (collections of images on rolling slides) of first-hand experiences of sexism in the beer industry collated by Brienne AKA @ratmagnet. It’s not the easiest format to digest but worth the effort because, although it starts with the kind of everyday irritations any woman working in or around beer has experienced, things soon get heavy. There are numerous accounts of sexual harassment and exploitative behaviour, often occurring at beer festivals, in which names are very much named. The breweries and brewers involved are as far as we can tell (we haven’t read every single slide) mostly American but there’s a point here that applies universally: in the 21st century, if you behave like this, people will find out.


Beer cans in a supermarket.

At Burum Collective Ruvani De Silva offers a forthright opinion on craft beer in supermarkets:

While some independent bottle shops have cited understandable concerns about how this may affect their market share, a more significant and concerning backlash has come from many craft beer drinkers who seem to feel that craft beer does not ‘belong’ in supermarkets and its supply should be restricted solely to independent specialist bottle shops… While no-one, least of all Cloudwater and their collaborators, are denying the importance of indies to the beer trade, this small but angry group of nay-sayers seem to feel that the sanctity of their hallowed turf has been threatened, and are acting up with a vitriolic degree of barely-concealed classism.

Now, as we said at the height of all this a few weeks ago, it does worry us that we’ve got to a point where saying “I’ve got concerns about the business practices of multinational giants such as Tesco and the effect on independent businesses” is somehow regarded as “punching down”. But, yes, it is important to keep those criticisms focused where they belong, rather than pointed at people who are just trying to get by in a world where pay has been stagnant for more than a decade.


Tasting notes

Boring bastards love to sneer at beer tasting notes, overlooking the fact that (a) they’re useful in various ways and (b) fun to write. Anthony Gladman has some tips on how to do it better and makes the case for why you might want to:

[What] if there is no audience other than your future self? In that case, you need to concentrate on what matters most to you. And you can use all the shorthand you want, as long as you’re confident of remembering what it means next week, next month, in five years… But again I think it’s worth spending a little time trying to set down a few words that also capture how you felt about the beer. What did it remind you of? Where would you want to drink this beer? Who would you want to drink it with? If you write better tasting notes, you’ll find that it’s easier to remember that particular beer when you read them again in the future.


Cask ale

For Ferment, the promo mag of a beer subscription service, Katie Mather provides a guide to appreciating cask ale in the pub, from tasting it to taking it back:

Take your cask drinking to another level by taking in what you can smell and taste. Good pints will have you thinking about all sorts of things: freshly cut citrus fruit, or deep malty chocolate ovaltine. Bright summer days, or rich whisky evenings… What I’m saying is, please do not reduce your beer drinking experience to a fault-detecting exercise. There are so many delicate flavours at play between malt, hop, water and yeast before you even add fruit or other adjuncts like chocolate or coffee there to be enjoyed. An obsessive search for technical faults can mean that brewers’ leaps of inspiration can be forgotten.


Eric Krings and his friends.
SOURCE: Ashley Joanna/Belgian Smaak.

From Ashley Joanna for Belgian Smaak comes another snapshot portrait of a ‘human of Belgian beer’ – this time, Eric Krings, a 32-year-old, who is renovating the family home at Atzerath:

For the two years it took to renovate the house, Eric kept crates of beer stacked high along the inside of the house, and lined the refrigerator there with as many of his friend’s favourite beers as he could. Regulars included the Tripel and Strong Pale Ale from Brauerei Nova Villa, a tiny local brewery 12 kilometres away in Neundorf which recently installed four new 7HL fermentation tanks; Bavik Super Pils from Brouwerij De Brabandere; Cristal—the pilsner of the Belgian province of Limburg—from Brouwerij Alken-Maes; and the Belgian Ales, Duvel and La Chouffe from the Duvel Moortgat group of breweries. Days were filled with work and sweat; nights with beer and laughter.


Finally, from Twitter, the ghost of a space-age pub in Sheffield:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.

Categories
bristol

Please save the Rhubarb Tavern

The Rhubarb Tavern in Barton Hill, Bristol, would be our local if it was open, and we’d love to see someone take it on.

We visited a couple of years back and if you Google the Rhubarb, we’re usually near or at the top of the search results, alongside Burston Cook who are trying to sell the leasehold.

Though we thought we had written something pretty positive, and other people tell us they liked the piece, it occurs to us now that it might make the pub and location sound a little less appealing than is necessarily fair.

With our lofty Google position in mind, we’re writing this post to see if we can encourage potential buyers to give it some thought.

It was originally a farmhouse and some of that structure remains, with a later frontage. There are also some fixtures from a demolished 17th century manor house that once stood nearby.

There’s no doubt it’s in a pretty bad state and will need a lot of work – but it’s also got a lot of potential. For a start, there are currently no other pubs in Barton Hill. That’s a lot of households that aren’t currently being served. Including ours.

A snap through the window of The Rhubarb in its present state.

A short walk into St Philips, though, and there are taprooms galore and the Cider Box has also recently opened 100 metres down the road. So the Rhubarb could fit quite well into a weekend crawl as well as being the only place to drink on a wet Wednesday night. 

The area immediately to the west has been designated a conservation area, in view of the large amount of surviving Victorian industrial architecture. This means that there is a stated intent to keep development of this area in harmony with what’s already there; in practice this could mean more taprooms and breweries. The Rhubarb could find itself on the end of Bristol’s Beer Boomerang™.

The property itself has a lot going for it.

It’s big enough, and has enough distinct sections, to support, say, showing the football in one part while leaving another free for quiet drinking.

There is a beer garden.

There appear to be quite substantial living quarters above.

And that exterior – what a beauty!

It’s the kind of pub you can imagine people saying in a few year’s time: “Can you believe this used to be a bit of a wreck and that nobody used to come here?” Think of the Marble Arch in Manchester by way of comparison.

We’re certainly not the only people with an interest in seeing it do well. There is also a campaign underway set up to save the pub by getting it listed and local CAMRA are all over it.

Categories
News

News, nuggets and longreads 8 May 2021: AB-InBev Carlsberg Marston’s

Here’s all the news and commentary on beer and pubs that grabbed us in the past week, from need states to Sourvisiae.

First, a bit of news: Carlos Brito, head of AB-InBev, is stepping down after 17 years in charge. Seen by some as beer’s biggest baddie, and by others as something of a genius, he’s not the kind of bloke who gets profiled at Good Beer Hunting or Pellicle. Fortunately, Sky’s Ian King is on the case, offering a fascinating career overview and a glimpse into the principles guiding AB-InBev’s operations:

Throughout his career, Mr Brito has adhered to [the mantra of] relentless cost-cutting, restructuring and zero-based budgeting, where executives begin each financial year – or in some cases each quarter – with a blank sheet of paper on which they are obliged to spell out and justify any spending they wish to carry out… It has made him and 3G’s backers – who have parleyed their original $250m stake in Brahma into a shareholding in AB-InBev worth $31bn at its peak – spectacularly wealthy… But it has also left them open to criticism, as seen ahead of the SABMiller deal, that they are little more than cost-cutters… Some investors have worried whether a management team obsessed with cost-cutting is equipped to focus on organic growth – which, now AB-InBev has run out of acquisition targets, is going to be of increased importance.

Is the acquisition spree over, then? That’s an interesting thought.


Carlsberg Marston's logo

While we’re in the world of big beer, this interview with Paul Davies, head of the newly-formed Carlsberg Marston, by Daniel Woolfson for The Grocer, is scattered with intriguing nuggets:

As at-home booze consumption surged, its brands punched above their weight on the supermarket shelves. In particular, posh Spanish lager San Miguel, which grew retail value by 68.2% to £273.2m to become the fifth best selling brand in the supermarkets… Another Covid success story is the formerly flagging premium bottled ales category, which has been revitalised in the off-trade… Davies stresses CMBC will not be following in the footsteps of its rivals Budweiser Brewing Group and Molson Coors, both of which are expanding into other categories such as hard seltzer, spirits and RTDs… Instead, Davies says he is more interested in expanding the beer category. For him, there are still “so many need states that haven’t yet been brought to the UK’s shelves, so many different styles and opportunities”.

‘Need states’? That’s business and marketing jargon, that, and it’s interesting to know that’s where beer CEOs heads are at.


Hop poles in Tettnang

We’ve seen discussions of the concept of terroir in beer before but Jacopo Mazzeo’s piece for Good Beer Hunting goes deep into the subject. It’s not a word we use, probably for this reason:

Just as Pinot Noir grapes do in a Grand Cru Burgundy… regionally specific ingredients are supposed to allow these beers to express their own terroir, perceived by the drinker as a unique sensory experience. Unlike wine, however, a beer’s ingredients are rarely traceable to a single geographical entity. Beerburg’s mesquite-based beer or PGIs such as Kölsch and Kaimiškas Jovarų Alus represent but a fraction of the world’s beer. As such, the interpretation of the term ‘terroir’ as an expression of a unique geographical entity can’t be as representative as it is for wine.


Social media 'like'

For Burum Collective Helen Anne Smith picks up the ongoing debate over ‘influencers’ in the world of beer. This distinction is important, we think, and one which the media in general seems unable to grasp:

The argument I see a lot against influencers, is usually against those who actively contact breweries and producers trying to get free products in exchange for posts, or those who have travelled around the world in the middle of the pandemic claiming “work purposes”. These gripes are understandable, and I don’t think these behaviours are okay, but neither do I believe that all influencers behave this way. I am a bartender. Some bartenders are creepy, rude, condescending and abusive. Some bartenders steal, or drink on shift… What I am saying is, there are professions in the drinks industry that are upheld by people who can cause others serious harm, which to me, makes the overall aggressive response towards the role of the influencer and the ongoing debate as to their worth within the industry extremely confusing. 

For additional context, this thread from Robin LeBlanc is also persuasive and interesting:

For our part, we’re too old to get influence culture ourselves but, equally, we don’t think blogs, articles and books are the only legitimate media for talking about beer; or that you should only be allowed to talk about beer once you’ve been ‘studying’ it long enough that you never, ever make even the tiniest mistake about, say, the history of IPA. Enthusiasm and energy are good, too.


Yeast

At Beervana Jeff Alworth provides a thoughtful review of the latest trends in yeast that helped us catch up with some developments we’d missed, such as genetically-modified self-souring yeast:

Ales limned with acid represent one of the biggest growth categories in beer, whether we’re talking about lemonade-like summer sours or fruit-saturated smoothie ales. Beginning in the middle-teens, breweries started making these by kettle-souring their wort… The Canadian yeast company Lallemand wondered if there was an even faster, easier way to sour a beer… In 2019 they released the answer to this question, Sourvisiae, a regular Saccharomyces strain that had been genetically modified to produce lactic acid. Conventional yeast already produces acid, as Owen explained above, so getting it to produce more required only a small genetic tweak. Recent advances in gene ‘scissors’ like CRISPR made this a snap.


Hops

Liam at BeerFoodTravel is a bit fed up with seeing a certain myth repeated over and again: ‘Historically, hops were not grown in Ireland…’ Determined to put this to bed once and for all he’s commenced a three-part exploration of hop growing in Ireland:

1632 – A quote in an article in The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Volume 17 first published in 1830 and quoting an earlier source says that hops, along with other crops, were introduced to Ireland in 1632 “and grew very well.” Not exactly a verifiable source but it is certainly very conceivable that hops would have made there way here by this time, if not before.

1689 – The Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin from this year and published in 1895 states that ‘Flemish hops by retail not to exceed eighteen pence per pound. And English and Irish hops not to exceed two shillings and three pence per pound.’ This price fixing exercise mentions the term Irish hops as distinct from Flemish or English ones, so is this an indicator of a reasonable crop being grown here?


Bass

Normality is in sight – Martin Taylor has had his first pint of post-reopening draught Bass. He doesn’t have much to say about it – “Honestly, this was a Top 10 pint.” – but you might enjoy the pictures.


Can of beer in a park
SOURCE: Eoghan Walsh/Brussels Beer City.

After a brief pause prompted by a new job which almost looked as if it might make blogging impossible Eoghan Walsh is back with a snapshot of a moment, drinking canned beer in a park in a the park:

It doesn’t look like a brewery from the outside… The door’s been jammed open a little, and through the gap slips out the unmistakable tang of pulverised grains steeping in scalding water. The neighbourhood knows this smell well. Back when these streets echoed to the braying of passing donkeys the sweet smell of mashed barley blanketed the quartier, seeping into the redbrick and plaster of tenement row houses along the neighbourhood’s disorderly grid. But it’s been sixty years or more since a Schaarbeek brewmaster picked up a mash paddle.


Finally, from Twitter one of those very literal ‘sign of the times’ moments we love so much:

For more good reading check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.