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Archive for August 2011

StarBev eyes the Eastern hinterlands with Staropramen

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StarBev has announced a multi-Euro in investment its Staropramen brand, as it looks to grow a range of beers discarded by AB-InBev.

CVC Capital Partners, the equity company, which bought Staropramen for US$2.2bn in 2009, and formed StarBev, has invested €1.2m in a new visitor centre at its Prague, Czech Republic, saying it will kick-start its international growth.

The company has also launched its first television commercial, called Prague Legends, which is currently being shown in Romania

However, some commentators have raised concern about Romanians’ ability to pronounce Staropramen, saying this could hinder its consumer acceptance.

StarBev CEO Alain Beyens says his ambition is for the beer, which is on sale in more than 30 different countries, and is number one beer in Prague, should become the number one Czech premium beer in key international markets.

The company has locations in nine countries and breweries in seven – including Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. Its brands include Borsodi, Kamenitza and Bergenbi.

Beyens refused to discuss any financial or production figures, beyond the investment in the visitor centre, despite asserting the brand was experiencing double digit growth – financially and in volume.

If so that would be quite a turn around , as according to Just Drinks, Staropramen, with a 15% share of the Czech beer market, sold 3.02m hectolitres of beer in 2009, down 7% on 2008. Export volumes fell by 11% for the year,

The new visitor centre, which is a worthwhile addition to the Prague beer experience, features a holographic image and video of its renowned brewmaster Josef Paspa. However, it is likely fans of craft beer will seek out some of the city’s new wave of beer bars.

StarBev recently signed distribution deals with Spaten in the US and Carlsberg in the UK.

There are currently three types of Staropramen available to the international market – lager, dark beer and Paspa’s original recipe Granat.

In the Czech market, StarBev has recently launched Staropramen Cool Lemon – a 2% abv lemon-flavoured beer, as well as a wheat beer.

Written by timhampson

August 31, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Hooky Gold touches the sole

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A Hooky golden pedicure?

Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel in London has taken beer and health to a new level.

The swish hotel has added beer treatment its menu of luxurious spa treatments

Guests can indulge in a blissful barley body wrap, a pale ale pedicure or a honey and barley facial at quintessential British hotel

Shareen Stokes, spa manager at Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel, spills the suds saying: “The treatments will blend grists of Maris Otter barley with East Kent Goldings hops, Hook Norton’s Hooky Gold Ale from Oxfordshire, and St Austell’s Tribute beer from Cornwall.

Barley has countless health benefits, and is deeply nourishing, healing and comforting. It’s also high in vitamins such as B1, B3 as well as selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and copper all of which help to keep the skin and body healthy, so it makes sense to use it in our treatments.

The three treatments begin with a hot malt drink that’s rich in barley, which is high in fibre and has a low glycaemic index which works to stabilise blood sugar levels. Brown’s Hotel’s Pastry Chef, Theo Ndeh also treats guest to a barley snack.

Whilst guests enjoy a hot malt drink and barley snack, a blend of Epsom salts, hop flowers and sesame seed oil exfoliate the feet before they are soaked in a stimulating beer bath (using Hooky Gold Ale).

Guests will then experience a pressure point foot massage with Ninkasi lotion and a barley and sesame seed foot wrap, making the feet feel super soft. The nails are shaped and painted with a colour of choice. (Dont’ ask).

The facial begins with a hot malt drink and a thorough cleanse using Lagoon Gelee before the area is toned with Lagoon Water.  Following the facial, guests are invited to relax with a glass of refreshing St Austell Tribute ale – made from the same Maris Otter barley – and a barley snack before they leave the spa.

And if this not enough it people can then move on to a 90-minute Blissful Barley Body Wrap.

The treatments are available to view online, click on the following link to see them in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFg0K4dRwCg.

Written by timhampson

August 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Is the origin of lager really a cold forest in Argentina?

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Could the origins of lager yeast be an Argentinan forest?

Can you believe it? Lager yeast appears to have originated on beech trees in southern Argentina.

So how did lager beer come to be? Many of us have a theory, but few would dare say that a hard to find species of yeast isolated in the forests of Argentina was key to the invention of lager style beers.

The domestication of plants and animals, which promoted our change from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles, sitting in front of a TV and supping a beer, is relatively well documented.

In contrast, the use and origins of yeasts is clouded in mystery and many unanswered questions.

Now scientists reckon they have found the answer to where the hybrid lager yeast, which ferments at a lower temperature than ale yeast, comes from.

In Europe, brewing gradually evolved during the Middle Ages to produce ale-type beer, a process using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species involved in producing wine and leavened bread.

According to the study in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences lager beer was first brewed in Europe on the 15th century. It employs an allotetraploidhybrid yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus (syn. Saccharomyces carlsbergensis), a domesticated species created by the fusion of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae ale-yeast with an unknown cryotolerant Saccharomyces species.

Well after a five-year search the scientists say they have discovered, identified and named the organism, a species of wild yeast called Saccharomyces eubayanus that lives orange coloured galls on beech trees in the Patagonian region of Argentina. Which is a long, long way from Bavaria.

Apparently, Patagonian natives used to make a fermented drink from the galls, which was clue the scientists could have found the missing microbiological link.

But, the rest is conjecture as how the yeast it found it way 8,000 miles across the Atlantic. Perhaps it returned with Christopher Columbus when he returned from his ocean-cross sea voyage, in 1492. It could it have come earlier with Vikings returning from the far side of the world? We just don’t know, but the conjecture is a lot of fun.

The search now goes on to see if the yeast found in the galls is found anywhere else in the world.

To find the research go to http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/08/17/1105430108

Written by timhampson

August 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm

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People power saves pubs

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The Fox & Hounds, a pub saved by its locals

LIFE is never easy for people trying to save their local pub, if it is threatened with closure or already shut.

However, one lifeline could be the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, which has been rolled out nationally and is now able to give more legal and financial advice to communities wanting to run their own businesses.

Launched two years ago, the scheme was only available in parts of the country, but the Co-operative Group now has business advisors in place across England, Wales and Scotland.

“Many people remain unsure how to set up a co-operative enterprise and turn their ideas into reality,” said Angela Davies, the Co-operative Group’s co-operative development manager.

“Very often in rural areas, the pub is the last one to go and now we’re seeing many communities making a stand.”

One community in Cumbria has setup a community co-operative and invited people to take a stake in their village pub to help them to save their local.

The villagers in Crosby Ravensworth, with help from the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, have launched enterprising plans to buy, renovate and re-open the Butchers Arms, a pub that closed last year.

One of the six directors of the co-operative David Graham said: “Re-opening the pub will put the heart back into our village, we have had an incredible amount of interest so far, people backing our plans and investing between £250 and £20,000 to become members and have a say in the running of the pub.

And a determined community group raised the money to save at the Fox and Hounds Inn in Ennerdale Bridge in Cumbria.

Shut just before Christmas a small group of villagers have now taken over the lease of the pub. The project Coordinator Peter Maher said people “gave their money to save their local pub, and this represents a significant proportion of this small local community”.

The pub will sell stamps and postcards, provide cash back, sell local produce and become a Wi-Fi Hotspot so that people will be able to access the internet and their e-mails whilst drinking a pint.


Written by timhampson

August 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Favourite brews – Worthington White Shield

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One of the world's great beers - old but with a modern twist

Worthington’s White Shield, at 5.6 per cent ABV, is probably the world’s most authentic India Pale Ale. It is a survivor from the 1820s and nearly 200 years on it is still a great beer.

This is why it was so good to see it pick up silver in CAMRA’s 2011 Bottled Beer of Britain competition.  The gold deservedly went to St Austell’s Proper Job.

William Worthington established the Worthington brewery, now owned by Molson Coors, in the English town of Burton on Trent in 1744. It became one of a handful of companies to trade lucratively with the Baltic States along with the better known Burton entrepreneurial brewers run by the Wilson, Sketchley, Bass and Evans families.

By the 1820s a worsening relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte had dealt much of this trade several mortal blows. An alternative market had to be found.

Since at least the 1780s the East India Company had exported beers to the Indian sub-continent following in the wake of the administrators and troops who left the United Kingdom to work in settlements there. Records show that some of the first shipments took place in 1697.

The trade was dominated by London brewer Abbot & Hodgsons, but the Burton brewers were no mugs and they recognised a business opportunity when they saw it.

The trade quickly became dominated by Burton brewers Bass and Allsop, and to a lesser extent Worthington. They first began to imitate the London brewers’ beer but discovered that a Burton IPA had the attribute of arriving in Calcutta pale, clear and sparkling.

Sometime around the start of the 20th century the beer stopped calling itself India Pale Ale and it became known by its heart shield and dagger label design, which was first registered as a trade mark in 1863.

Worthington was never one of the big Burton brewers and was subsumed within the growing Bass empire in 1927. Somehow the beer survived as a bottled beer. It was a curiosity as it still contained yeast in the bottle. Drinkers’ conversations often focussed on whether the beer should be poured clear or have the yeast tipped into the glass too.

Over time several attempts were made to revive the brand, and its yeast even became sticky, which meant that it stayed in the bottle when poured.

By the 1990s its production was so small that its production was farmed out to contract brewers around the country. In 2000 Steve Wellington, the brewer at Burton’s Museum brewery persuaded the then brand owner Bass to bring it back to Burton.

And as they say the rest is history. Steve Wellington is a fantastic champion of the beer. Molson Coors invested millions in a state of the art, hands on brewery and a taste of the 19th century is winning over new fans to beer in the 21st.

And as I sip my glass of White Shield, I’ll toast both Steve Wellington and Molson Coors.

Written by timhampson

August 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm

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An interview with Oz Clarke – a true beer lover

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Oz Clarke: A man with an extraordinary capacity to communicate about the good things of life

Some people kill words, mashing and crunching them until the vowels scream, others attack the consonants and maim them with brutal force.

But for Ox Clarke words are his tools, the paint which he carefully places upon the canvas – and with a sometimes effusive but often a delicate turn of phrase he has had a fabulous, glittering media career deftly turning vin-ordinaires in to the extraordinary.

So how come is one of the world’s master craftsmen of wine writing, someone who has won all the major wine writing awards both in the UK and USA is sitting in the White Horse in Parson Green, in south west London sipping a pint of Thornbridge’s Lord Marples bitter?

“Well is it because beer is my first love,” he confides, “especially ones with a bitter hop aroma. Hops he emphasises after another sip that is what gives beers real taste.

His father nurtured his love of beer. He had been a student at Cambridge where the Ipswich brewer Tolly Cobbold’s ale became his beer of choice, and even though Oz was bought up in Kent, his father would have cases regularly delivered to the family home.

“My Dad would only drink wine occasionally perhaps a glass of Liebfraumilch or a Bull’s Blood, but his idea of a drink was the beer he had at university. We always used to have it delivered to our house in wooden crates.

“Just occasionally when I was about 16, he would let me have a half pint with Sunday lunch. The beer had a small dumpy bottle and I’m sure it had a naked lady on the bottle.” And with an impish glint in his eye while reminiscing on his adolescence says “perfect for a boy of my age”.

“I lost my taste for it when they put it in a brown the bottle and changed the label,” he said.

His father took him took his first pub, the George & Dragon in Fordwich and taught him a respect for beer. “My Dad took me down to meet the landlord Frank Pardoe. It is a lovely pub that backs onto the river and he said to Frank, ‘this is my son and I want you to teach him to drink. If there is any sign of him drinking badly you don’t serve him’. I was then allowed a half pint of Fremlins to celebrate my coming to a pub.”

The belief in the importance of the pub as a place to drink responsibly still runs strong.

“Binge drinking is not a pub issue,” says Oz. “The whole point about decent pubs is that there is an element of mutual self control because of the people on this side of the bar and the decent landlord or landlady doesn’t want drunken people in their pub. He wants them to get a bit lit up. He wants happy people but he doesn’t want people going outside and being sick and fighting the police.”

Warming to his task he said: “The local pub is vital – if people want to live in the wonderful variety of communities that we have in this nation, then we have to work at it – it is like a marriage – we cannot just sit here and let communities die.

“The pub is utterly and fundamentally important. It allows a curious and wonderful world. A good pub with a decent landlord or landlady is able to create a meeting place for all kinds of people – it is somewhere where people can go into it and make it their place –it is a place away from home, where fundamentally, friendship and conviviality are the norm.”

Academically bright, good at sport and musically gifted saw Oz interviewed by Magdalen, Oriel and Pembroke colleges in Oxford all on the same day. Emboldened by an offer of a place at Oriel in the morning he popped into the Bear in Alfred Street, famous for its collection of ties, for a beer. It clearly did him no harm as his Irish eloquence talked him into a place a Pembroke, which was renowned for the stringency of its interview process.

Taking a sip of his second beer, a Beartown Kodiak, he said: “I like beers like this they are edgy”, as he reminisces on the Oxford pub scene. The Old Tom in Aldgate was a favourite, even though it was “a grumpy old boozer, it has place in my heart”. He enjoyed the hard to find Turf Tavern in Turl Street because there he could enjoy a pint of Hook Norton. And his sporting skills often took him to the Victoria Arms in Marston.

“I didn’t have much money, my father gave me the same allowance as he had when he was at Cambridge. But Pembroke had more punts than any other college in Oxford and they were free to use.” So each afternoon in the summer of his first year, he taught himself to punt.

“My tutor would have been furious. I decided I’d become the best punter in the Oxford. I became the grand master of the pole. I punted like a steam train” he said. On one trip up to the Vicky he came across the Beatles filming and his love affair with the camera began as they filmed him together with a girl holding a bottle of champagne punting on the Cherwell. Heady days.

But wine was beginning to tempt him. He tried to join a wine circle but membership but was not elected as he came “from the wrong school”. But by the second year he decided to take wine seriously, though his motives were not exclusively altruistic. “I though that if I leant about wine I’d be sophisticated and attract the birds,” he said.

The maniciple at Pembroke, called Arthur Cox, set him on the way with a case containing many treasures including a 20-year-old tawny port, a 12-year-old Burgundy, a 10-year-old Bordeaux. All bought for the princely sum of £4.00.

“Good old Mr Cox he was delighted that someone was interested in wine. I would open a bottle and have no idea what I would be having.” His hard work and endeavour paid off and he eventually joined the university’s wine tasting team. “I wanted to be a blue in wine tasting.”

So why did he think wine has been raised to a cerebral level?

“Wine attracted some of the best minds of the generation. People like Jancis Robinson and Charles Metcalfe were at he same university even though we didn’t meet. We were lucky to be coming out into a world where the country might have been on its uppers but we were optimistic, we had an enormous sense that life was going to be great.

“Nobody was writing about wine, there were no radio no TV shows. There was a gap for the most gorgeous job you could think of. People said lets join the Times, the Telegraph the Guardian, the Observer. Let all write about wine. A whole bunch of lucid, erudite, literary people all of a younger generation and all young turks all ripped wine out of its old fogies place. We turned it into being the sexiest trendiest drink it could be – and that lasted right through the nineties and the noughties. It is only recently wine has become so commoditised. We have done too good a job.”

But could the same be done for beer?

“Big Brewers do not want to elevate beer. There are some that try,” he said. But he believes too many brewers are fearful of taste.

He yearns for the time when he worked for 10 years as an actor and singer travelling the length and breadth of the country and he would seek out different regional beers full of taste.

“I would use the early copies of the Good Beer Guide and once drove 50 miles for a pint of Ruddles County. It was dark and fantastically bitter”. Wistfully he says “no one makes beers now, like I remember”.

“I utterly enjoy cask ale. But a lot of breweries do not trust landlords. They will not supply beer with enough conditioning. If there is no conditioning there is a flat pint of beer. Good conditioning is the

How do you end the perfect interview?

But how should we finish our conversation – with a flourish Oz produces a bottle from his battered bag. It is a King and Barnes Christmas Ale at eight per cent ABV, cask conditioned and bottled in 1994.

Oz says “There is an old wine trade saying there are no great wines only great bottles. Wines change all the time and so it is with cask beer.”

And with a flourish he opened the time capsule – the 16-year-old beer exploded into life and filled our glasses with effervescence.

“Brilliant oxidation, old stewed peaches, old quinces,” Oz gets into his stride. “That aroma is from a different era. That amount of freshness and condition is a paradoxical brilliance. It has kept its age and zest –it takes me back in time – god bless the British brewer.”

Written by timhampson

August 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Euston taps into beer culture

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Pubs bring old buildings back to life and the Tap is now a temple to the diversity of beer culture. It opened in 2010 and has given vibrancy and vitality to a disused railway parcels office which stands as one of two gate houses at the entrance to the bleakly depressing 1960s façade that is now Euston station.Built in 1837 the Grade II listed building is the last vestige of the once imposing Doric arch entrance to the original station. The archway was built as a grandiose portal to the brave new world of travel which the railways bought.

A bar which taps into the new age of beer culture

But the Portland stone structure was demolished in 1961, with the rubble being dropped into the River Lea in East London to fill a hole in the Prescott Channel. Today the Euston Tap is an entrance for people to craft beers from across the world. Two large imposing doors lead to the small downstairs bar, which is dominated by a large American style back bar and its array of beer taps. Either side stand two tall fridges filled with bottled beers. To one side a spiral staircase leads up to a somewhat austere upstairs bar, but you are there to drink beer and not the decoration. But it is downstairs where the action is – it might be small but it has a big atmosphere, and soon the owners plan to knock out the two false exterior walls which were used to fill the space where once large impressive windows were and install replacements. Then even more light will be thrown upon the craft beer revolution.

On one wall hangs a copy of the Meilgaard beer flavour wheel, which helps drinkers identify the different tastes and smells a beer can have. And what a choice of flavoursome beers there are – eight cask and 19 kegs – with a range of beers from the UK, America, Belgium Germany and even further afield and if this is not enough there are more than 100 different bottled beers. Altbiers, kolsh, kellerbier, fruit beer, pumpkin beers, Black American IPAs and pumpkin beers there has to be something which suits everyone.The beers are presided over by staff who passionate and articulate about exotic, delicious and highly drinkable beers. They have the arduous task of looking after the Tap’s cellar, which is entranced via a manhole cover and housed underground in a former rifle range. The space is so small and narrow that much of the equipment had to be taken apart so it could be got in and then reassembled. But it is the rare and unusual beers which are in most people’s sights, including several from the innovative Thornbridge brewery in Derbyshire, from America the impressive hop happy Odell’s IPA and several Czech masterpieces including an unfiltered Bernhard lager and something from the tyro Matusska brewery.

Regulars might remember that the winner of this year’s Master chef Tim Anderson once stood as a Colossus behind the bar.

Coffee is now available for those who prefer a different kind of brew and there is a small beer garden.

Euston Tap, Euston Station, West Lodge, 190 Euston Road NW1.

Written by timhampson

August 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Posted in craft brewing