Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Sophie Grigson talks humble pie and I big up beer

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One of my all-time favourite cookery books – has to be Sophie Grigson’s Eat Your Greens.

It was a ground breaker when it first published and the creative simplicity and inventiveness of the recipes make it still a must read book for any budding home cook.

So it was great to meet Sophie, when I was doing my regular beery spot on BBC Oxford’s Sunday lunchtime show Garden Kitchen which is hosted by Phil Mercer.

We’ve done several live broadcasts since then – and now I am joining Sophie as one of the hosts at her famed pop-up cookery school.

Pies and beer – Grigson and Hampson – it sounds the perfect foodie combination. So if you fancy an evening learning about how to make the perfect pie, paired with some of the fabulous beers which are brewed around Oxford, then come and join us.

Sophie is going to talk humble pie and I’m going to big up some great beers.

Sophie will be teaching how to make some classic pies (she’s thinking chicken and Jerusalem artichoke, fitchett pie (apple and lamb), and a handsome Cumberland tart.

My challenge is to find beers which match her creations.

The evening will be relaxed, wine drinkers don’t worry you’ll enjoy the beers, and above all it’ll be a lot of fun.

Come and join us.

Pie & Beer! – Thursday 20th February 2014

Go to http://www.sophiescookeryschool.com/event/pie-beer-thursday-20th-february-2014/ for more details.



Written by timhampson

February 3, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Fancy a big banger and some beer?

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I’m not sure why I smile every time I say the word sausage. But if you fancy a big banger and some beer? Then come and enjoy a sausage and beer evening at the Big Bang restaurant on 31 January. www.thebigbangrestaurants.co.uk

Oxford champion of local sausages is Oxford’s “Man About Town” and restaurateur Max Mason who will talk porkies and I’ll chat about the suds.

Max is planning spicy bangers, something gamey and probably a locally made Oxfordshire porkie flavoured with apple.

There’ll be beers from some great local brewers – Cotswold, Lovibonds, Siren and Compass and we’ll finish off with a snifter of a beer which has been aged in a Kentucky bourbon barrel.

Max says for £20 per head, he’s offering the experience of four different beers, all paired with four of his finest bangers, and there’ll probably be mash too. And plans to finish the gastronomy off with a ginger pudding.

So for a right banging time call 01865 249413 or email bookings@thebigbangoxford.co.uk

The Big Bang | 42 Oxford Castle Quarter, Oxford





Written by timhampson

January 29, 2014 at 11:01 am

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Peter Austin – the man who brewed a thumping good pint

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Peter Austin, the man who brewed a thumping good pint, who is widely regarded as the inspiration for many of today’s brewers has died aged 92.

Regarded as the most influential brewer of his era, his help and inspiration was fundamental in the creation of hundreds of brewers worldwide.

There cannot be many other brewers who can claim to have influenced so many who set up breweries in the 1970 and early 1980s.

He set up the Ringwood Brewery, Hampshire in 1978 and demonstrated there was a market for local beer. He was also instrumental in the founding of SIBA – the Society of Independent Brewers – in 1980 and became its first chairman.

His brewing career began in 1942, during World War II, at the Friary Brewery in Guildford and then there was a spell at Morrells in Oxford. He moved to the Hull Brewery, where eventually he became head brewer before retiring in 1975. But, brewing was in his blood and his work was far from over. He was intrigued by a small brewery opened by a former Watney brewer Bill Urquart, who opened the Litchborough Brewery, in a barn next to his house in 1974. At the time, there were only a handful of small brewers in the country.

Peter along with other early brewing pioneers of the micro-revolution, including Simon Whitmore (Butcombe) and Nigel Fitzhugh (Blackawton) came to Urquart, to find out how to do it.

At Ringwood he created some iconic beers including Old Thumper, CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 1988 and Fortyniner.

He was also became a brewing consultant and small-scale equipment manufacturer and it is this that really made his mark.

Peter Austin & Partners provided a “complete brewery package” for small brewers. He showed that it was possible to build a new brewery with limited capital, and this played a key role in facilitating the growth in the numbers of small brewers.

Among the early entrepreneurs he supplied were David Bruce (Firkin) and Mark Wallington (Archers) but there were many others both in this country and later around the world. Between 1977 and 1984, he installed many breweries in the UK, the United States of America, Bavaria, Belgium and Ireland.

Peter was also a pioneering campaigner for Progressive Beer Duty, without which many of today’s brewers would not be in business. In August 1984 he wrote: “I believe there is now an overwhelming case for small UK brewers to be given duty concessions just the same as in every other brewing nation in the EEC.”

Today, his legacy is a thriving scene for small, local brewers, not just in the UK but worldwide.

Written by timhampson

January 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

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British Guild of Beer Writers honours Derek Prentice with brewer of year award

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One of the highlights of the British Guild of Beer Writers annual dinner is the announcement made for our brewer of the year. The award is made by the committee following nominations from the membership.

This year’s accolade was given to Derek Prentice, pictured left. In making Derek our brewer of the year – we paid tribute to someone who has made an unmatched contribution to London’s vibrant and vital brewing scene.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a London brewer, but if there is, then this man is it. He is held in high esteem by his peers and also in the wider community of those who love beer.

He started work at the age of 17 in 1968 and across his more than 45 years career he has worked for four of the Capital’s greatest known brewing names – Truman’s, Watney’s, Young’s and Fuller’s.

He is an outstanding and meticulous brewer who still passionately believes in the romance of brewing. In his current job at Fuller’s, which continues to the end of the month, not only is he the curator of some celebrated beers, but he has helped develop some great new ones too – including Seafarer, Frontier, Imperial Stout and Past Master. That’s quite a legacy.

His vast experience and attention to detail combine in perfect harmony. Always genial and enthusiastic, he generally avoids the limelight, but he richly deserves to enjoy the admiration which this award expresses.

Written by timhampson

December 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Beer in art and literature – number 2

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 You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline.” Frank Zappa

 Of course beer matters, it really does. And it is for this reason that so many writers and artists use beer and pubs in their creations.

And I have to say, I have been taken with an oft quoted quote from the legendary, musician Frank Zappa.

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline,” said the founder of the Mothers of Invention, who died in 1993.

The band made one of my favourite albums “Weasels ripped my flesh”, in 1970.

The Zappa beer quote has been used many times on beery websites and in books.

Indeed, when doing research for both World Beer (Dorling Kindersley) and the Haynes Beer Manual (Haynes Publishing) I considered using the quote in chapters on beer in literature.

But I was intrigued by the context, why did he say it, and when?

So I am totally indebted to a fellow beer traveller Laurent Mousson, who is co-founder of French microbreweries collective Front Hexagonal de Libièration (www.libieration.org) who provided me with the information.

According to Laurent the quote is from “The Real Frank Zappa Book” written by Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, published in 1989, Chapter 12, page 231.

Laurent says the problem with the oft used quote is that “it’s usually misunderstood, because it’s always quoted out of context, as Zappa utters it as a tongue-in-cheek statement in support of his theory on beer that consumption of beer leads to pseudo-military behaviour”.

Beer drinkers are nationalists, believe in conformity and revel in collective violence.

And “winos don’t march!”

So what is the quote in full?

“Every major industrialised nation has a beer (You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer).”

Zappa, is clearly not such a lover of the suds as in the same book he also says “Maybe there’s a chemical in beer that stimulates the [male] brain to do violence while moving in the same direction as other guys who smell like them.”

“Funny how nobody ever quotes that last bit,” says Laurent.

I have to say I love Zappa’s music, but the way the quote is used shows how little we properly analyse rhetoric and are willing to use a familiar or commonly shared quotation to support an a point of view.

However, as Zappa would say “This Is All Wrong”.

What a brilliant satirist he was.

Written by timhampson

December 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm

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When I had a car which was mechanical rather than electronic, my Haynes Manuals were essential companions.

With one I was able to change an engine on my much-loved Ford 105E and another helped me keep a knackered Triumph Acclaim on the road, way past its scrap by date.

And it wasn’t until I was commissioned to write the Haynes Beer Manual, that I truly realised how iconic the Haynes name is to so many people.

So the Beer Manual is my humble attempt to apply the unique Haynes Manual practical treatment to the world of beer and introduce people to the wonderful range of beers and the drink’s rich social past, which is entwined throughout our history and culture.

Case studies chart the journeys of brewers who have turned the rewarding hobby of home brewing into viable businesses. And I attempted to describe the huge variety of aromas, tastes, colours and strengths that can be created by brewers, whether professionals working for large international brewers or amateur enthusiasts in their kitchens at home.

According to my publishers “this is the essential guide for new and experienced home brewers, and for readers wishing to learn a little more about beer’s journey from the hop fields to the glass.”

I hope people enjoy it.

Beer Manual

The Practical Guide to Beer and Brewing

Published by Haynes

ISBN: 9780857331304

RRP: £21.99


Written by timhampson

November 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm

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You know they know best, don’t they?

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Having just returned from being a chair of one of the judging panels for this year’s World Cheese Awards – it makes a change from beer – I’ve certainly found a way of upping my cholesterol count.

Sampling 45 cheeses in two hours is quite a task. But someone had to do it!

More than 3,000 top cheeses were expected at the competition, which is a centrepiece of the BBC Good Food Show, NEC Birmingham.

However, the hopes of the organisers were totally cheesed off (No more cheese jokes please – Ed) when the organisers claimed a new Brussels directive prevented Japan, South Africa and Brazil from competing in the Olympics of cheese.

“Is this the thin end of the wedge?” asked one of the organisers who was appealing to the to the Food Standards Agency to help overturn an EU ruling that prevents Japan, South Africa and several countries from South America, including Brazil, importing samples of cheese for judging.

A recent change to EU legislation over concerns about animal health rules and the safe handling of milk means that a number of countries have been denied permission by DEFRA, which is following the strict letter of the law of the EU directive, to enter the world’s largest international cheese competition.

Top cheese Bob Farrand, chairman of the World Cheese Awards, was completely pissed off.

The grand fromage said: “This is extremely sad for several hundred artisan cheese makers around the world. The World Cheese Awards is their global event but these EU regulations are preventing them from entering.

“Many small rural businesses benefit enormously from winning at the Awards and this country benefits from much needed overseas revenue.”

For more than 10 years Farrand has applied for, and have been granted, permission by DEFRA to import artisan cheeses from outside the EU.

And he follows the importation rules to the letter – which means the imported cheeses, have to be incinerated after the event.

Farrand continued: “The ruling prohibits entry of cheeses from Japan into the EU and yet last June I judged at the Mondiale du Fromage in France and tasted several Japanese cheeses.

“Clearly other countries don’t kowtow to Brussels in quite the same way we do. It means we’ll have to think seriously about taking the World Cheese Awards abroad in future.”

It would be shame if the awards did move to another country. Still, one cheese maker from Germany did have plenty to shout about at the end of the day.

Celebrations were the order of the day in Bavaria as a cheese made by a family dairy Kaserei Champignon has taken not just the top World Champion spot, but second place too with the same cheese.

The Montagnolo Affiné, pictured above, a creamy blue cheese, impressed the world’s top cheese judges The cheese had been entered into two different classes in the World Cheese Awards and when judges re-judged, tasted and voted the final 15 Super Golds, the cheese came both first and second.

It’s the first time a German cheese has won the top honour.

Hopefully, next year, cheeses from the banned countries will once again be able to take part in this competition, and those who control the importation of cheese into the UK will allow them in  - for they really do know best.


Written by timhampson

November 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm


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