Last weekend, to break the journey back from Yorkshire to Cornwall, we stopped over in Bristol and spent an evening accidentally immersed (not literally) in Moor Beer.
When we interviewed Justin Hawke for Brew Britannia, the brewery was based on the sleepy Somerset levels, where its shiny metal and US punk attitude seemed rather out of place. Last year, however, it relocated to Bristol, which is sometimes called the Capital of the West Country, and which is certainly the heart of the South West’s ‘craft beer revolution’.
We say ‘accidentally’ above because we went out on the town with no fixed plans other than to have a half of something exotic in BrewDog but, a few steps along the waterside from there, we came across the Three Brothers burger restaurant which was proudly displaying to the street a line of shiny keg fonts, most of them bearing Moor’s logo.
It was, we realised, a ‘tap takeover’ — an increasingly common marketing event whereby a venue aims to overwhelm its customers with a large range of beers from a single brewery. When we started blogging, there wasn’t really any such thing in the UK, but now it’s possible to stumble upon one at a perfectly decent but not especially cutting edge burger bar — a sign of the times, surely?
We had to eat something, so in we went.
As they were serving in third-of-a-pint measures, we got through quite a few different beers between us, most of them at least a little hazy (Moor famously doesn’t use finings in its beer) and suspended yeast we think must have contributed that common strawberry-sweet note we noted in all of the paler beers.
Nothing we drank here was a dud, as such, but ‘TM’ (traditional mild, 3.9%) like many modern attempts at the style, rather resembled a watered down stout with charcoal and coffee grounds where we hoped to find mellow dark sugar. (We try not to be style pedants but…) The stand-out hit was Hoppiness (6.5%) which combined chewy bread-crust malt flavour with orange-marmalade hops, rounded out with the faintest after-kick of acidity.
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Having got the taste, we decided to head for Moor’s tap room bar in an industrial unit behind Temple Meads station. The walk, under graffiti’d railway bridges, past unnervingly silent terraces and warehouses, isn’t especially picturesque, especially accompanied by Friday night sirens and drizzle, but we made it in one piece. Unfortunately, others were less intrepid, and we had the place to ourselves — or, to put that another way, there were as many bar staff as bloggers.
It’s a bright, clean space with splashes of bold colour, hand-painted wall manifestos (‘Unfined and Naturally Hazy’) and, rather cleverly, black acoustic tiling to dampen the echo that is the inevitable side effect of carpetless, curtainless and cushionless contemporary decor.
We kicked off with halves of So’Hop (4.1%, hops from New Zealand) and Nor’Hop (also 4.1%, hops from the US) — pale’n’hoppy golden ales we’ve had many times in the past but which we enjoyed no less this time. We also seized the opportunity to drink Old Freddy Walker by the third-of-a-pint — about the right measure for this old favourite, a dark, 7.3% boozy fruitcake of a beer.
Despite the view over a rainy road and an ad for Carling Cider, and despite the lack of party atmosphere (the charming bar staff did their best) we stayed until closing time (10 pm).
This visit confirmed our view that Moor is a consistently interesting brewery making great, quirky beer, and that its tap room is one more reason to visit a city which is already a very heaven for beer geeks.