In my experience, people are uniformly tight-lipped about their employers, and trying to suss out which breweries treat their employees well and which don’t has always been elusive…. There are some real surprises here. Rogue has long had a reputation as a terrible place to work, thanks in part to this report. But on Glassdoor, it’s getting a quite-respectable 3.9. New Belgium, by contrast, is usually described as something like heaven to work for, and it’s getting only a 3.5.
It’s 7 a.m. at The Market Porter in South London, and I’m eyeing the choices behind the bar. “You alright there?” the barman asks. This is the first time I’ve stopped by the pub on my way to work in the morning, and I have no idea what to get. Honestly, what I want is another coffee. But eventually I settle on a cider: the “Traditional Scrumpy,” which is a feisty six percent alcohol. As the morning sun pokes through the patterned glass windows, it goes down a lot better than I expect.
One of our friends is a keen cricketer and, on a recent tour of the Netherlands (yes, lots of cricket there, apparently) he picked up a couple of bottles from Brouwerij ‘t IJ for us to try — Columbus (a ‘special’) and Natte (sort of a double).
It took us a moment to get the measure of them: the slickly designed, brightly coloured labels led us to expect bright, slick beers, but what we got in our glasses (despite our great care) was murky, spicy and a little funky — more along the lines of the mysterious Witkap Stimulo or something from De la Senne. Taking a walk on the wildside.
Natte (6.5%) did not impress us at all at first: “It tastes like a rubbish Christmas beer from a mediocre British microbrewery,” said Boak. But, as we worked our way down the glass, the tongue-drying suggestion of cinnamon sticks coupled with what seemed a very generous amount of bittering hops became rather moreish. So, a little rough around the edges, but ultimately very likeable. We’d probably take it over, say, Chimay Red, if we saw them on sale together.
The yellow-amber Columbus (9%) was also a grower. The name suggests an American influence and the website boasts of ‘lots of hops’, but what we detected was plenty of residual sugar (honey, golden syrup); wet grass; and mouldy cellar walls. Then, at the end, as it burned its way down our throats, rum came to mind. That all worked together quite pleasingly, once we’d got over our initial nose-wrinkling.
In the end, what made them good was that they were so close to being bad, like a garage band whose performances are more exciting because they’re on the verge of collapsing at any moment.
Beer and board game matching: these went well with Alhambra.