Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Archive for the ‘ale’ Category

Well someone must be hurting

leave a comment »

UK beer sales fell by 4.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2013, according to the British Beer & Pub Association’s quarterly Beer Barometer, so why are so many brewers recording record sales?

Losses in the on-trade (pubs, bars and restaurants) were higher at 5.8 per cent. Off-trade sales also fell, but the 3.6 per cent fall was the lowest second quarter fall since 2005.

As the sun is traditionally the brewer’s best salesman the current good weather will be good news. But the industry’s figures don’t reflect the spring in the steps of many brewers as reflected in some of the stories I have written for CAMRA’s What’s Brewing this month.

They show that for some brewers their fermenters are not just half full but overflowing, it makes me want to know whose are half empty.

The Hog’s Back Brewery has recorded a 30 per cent growth in sales in the first months of the year and now its investing in new equipment.

New fermentation and conditioning vessels have been ordered for the brewery, which is based in Tongham, Surrey.

The Yorkshire brewer Ilkley has invested in a new cask filling machine and will soon be increasing its brewing capacity by an additional 33 per cent to 160 brewers’ barrels or 46,000 pints a week.

Later this summer, the brewery will also acquire a new 40 barrel fermenter which will boost real ale production even further.

Saltaire Brewery is expanding its team with four new recruits and increasing brewing capacity by 30 per cent to meet the growing demand for its hand crafted ales in the North of England, and increasingly beyond its heartland of West Yorkshire.

Tony Gartland, Managing Director, sees this next stage in the development of the brewery as a step change in its ambition to be one of the leading breweries in the North of England.

“Growth in the premium ale sector is strong and we’ve grown ahead of the market. In the last couple of years our bottled beer sales have doubled. Capacity is a challenge, so as well as growing our team, we’ve invested £100,000 in our production infrastructure which will enable us to increase our capacity by 30 per cent by the end of this year.”

Acorn Brewery has celebrated its 10th birthday with the announcements of a £70,000 investment in new equipment

In the past three months Acorn sales grown by 16 per cent over the same period in 2012 and the brewer is now commissioning a state-of-the-art cask- washing equipment, extra conditioning tanks and a keg filler.

So who is hurting Carlsberg, Heineken Molson Coors, AB-InBev, SABMiller, the companies behind the generic Let There Be Beer Campaign which is currently on TV? I don’t know, but according to the Grocer magazine Britain’s biggest alcohol brands are falling faster than the total drinks market.

The full Beer Barometer excel tables can be downloaded from the BBPA www.beerandpub.com


Written by timhampson

July 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

Beer is added to Welbeck Abbey’s family of yeast creations

leave a comment »

Welbeck's First Brew, a British beer with an American twist

I cannot think of what is more mysterious – the stories which abound about Welbeck Abbey or the enigmatic, elemental lifecycle of a yeast cell.

One of the most curious tales of the Welbeck estate, which has a history that goes back at least to the year 1200 when the house that we see today was built and part of the grounds were landscaped.

Home to the Portland family, the fifth Duke was as mad as a box of frogs. A mid 19th century coal baron, he was something of a recluse, somewhat akin to the American billionaire Howard Hughes.

Under the grounds of the extensive stage, he used his miners to dig an extensive and elaborate network of tunnels so he could travel the estate in his horse drawn carriage unseen. The tunnels still exist and are in perfect working order, though all most visitors see are the glass skylights, which can be seen in the road like pools of rainfall on a spring day.

The family owned estate is also home to the School of Artisan Food, which includes a bakery and cheesemakers. Bakers, cheesemakers, and their students tease yeast into life to make the most glorious creations. The breads are so tasty and crunchy they are best eaten on their own, without the need for butter. A range of organic, hand made cheeses are made including an unpasteurised Stichelton cheese, made from organic milk from a herd of Holstein-Friesian cows at Collingthwaite Farm on the estate. All the produce is sold in the farm shop.

In June, to the Welbeck Estate’s family of yeast-derived products is added a brewery. Housed in a converted former carriage workshop, it has been developed by one of the country’s best brewers, Dave Wickett the founder of the Kelham Island Brewery and owner of the legendary Fat Cat pub in Sheffield. Here can be seen the brewer’s art and craft. The brewer takes such simple natural raw materials – malted barley, hops and water and with the magic of yeast turns them into a symphony of tastes and colours, that we call beer.

And Welbeck’s first beer? Brewed by Welbeck’s creative brew-mistress Claire Monk, it’s great, a modern British beer, spiced with an American hop. And already other interesting brews are pouring out of the fermenting vessel. I look forward to the second and the third….


Parts of this entry was first posted on the excellent Drink Britain website http://www.drinkbritain.com/visits

Written by timhampson

August 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, SW15

leave a comment »

Great for watching the Thames flow by

Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, SW15

The front bar, of this smart, hard-working pub, has commanding views over the Thames and it would have heaving yesterday for the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race. It is said that the roar from the crowd, who have a grandstand view of the universities’ boathouses and the start of the race can be heard all the way up river at the finish in Mortlake. However, race fans will get a better view of the action from the terrace of the White Hart on Riverside SW13.

On a near perfect spring Sunday it is a glorious place to be. Younger drinkers particularly enjoy the back bar or the basement and it is said to be the place where many a young man takes his future wife on a first date. Because of its location it is busy pretty much all year around. On days like today drinkers stand out on to the footpath and even further across the street, until passing walkers, joggers and cyclists and customers become one big party.

Part of the pub’s charm and the reason why it can serve many people quickly is the large and elaborate bar. Island bars were very much a mid-Victorian innovation and owe their invention to the famous engineer Isambard Kingdon Brunel. Passengers travelling on Brunel’s Great Western Railway often faced a wait at Swindon, and the railway’s bar was too small to serve all the thirsty passengers at once before the train continued on its way. Brunel realised that an island bar maximised the available bar footage in relationship to the number of people waiting for a drink and the staff serving, meaning that more people could be served in the same time with lest frustration. The idea caught on and boosted the trend of the 1870s and 1880s for pubs to be divided into rooms and snugs. The pub still has much of its original ornate glass, polished woodwork and smart Victorian fireplaces.

The food is adventurous pub grub and includes good fillet steaks, braised pork belly and grilled fish and the pint of Wells & Young’s Bitter was just glorious.

Written by timhampson

March 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Beer comes the bride as I get the birthday blues

with 2 comments

I was really pleased when it was decided my birthday on 29 April was to be a national holiday. Quite right too, as everyone would be able join in on my celebrations. But I now find the day has been hijacked by Will & Kate. And even brewers have changed their minds on producing some celebratory brews and are producing royal wedding ales instead.

Castle Rock brewery in Nottingham is celebrating the marriage with a commemorative brew called Kiss Me Kate. It will be available on draught for a month in the run up to the wedding. A limited amount will be available in bottles for memento collectors and for laying aside to toast future royal events. Castle Rock’s head brewer Adrian Redgrove said it will be a great British beer full of British hops and barley. “Kiss Me Kate will be elegant, tasteful and British to the core,” he said.

Harvey’s is to mark the wedding with the tastes of Sussex. Its wedding brew uses malting barley, grown on the Duke of Norfolk’s estate in Arundel, hops from Bodiam, Burwash, Robertsbridge and Wadhurst and honey from Hassocks. Royal Nuptial Ale is described as “an ale for honeymooners – and all romantics – wherever they may be”. Head brewer, Miles Jenner said: “The inspiration for the beer came from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play is set amidst royal wedding celebrations and highlights the eternal hope of romance.”

Ascot Ales is getting its Royal IPA on time to all Nicholson’s London pubs. Brewer, Chris Gill said: “As we are named after the royal town of Ascot, we had to brew a wedding ale. Royal IPA is a refreshing copper pale ale at 4.6 per cent ABV with a soft hoppy nose. Brewed using malted barley and full flower hops Sovereign and Pioneer from the UK it’s the perfect, quaffable celebration ale to toast the happy couple.” A limited edition bottle conditioned version will also be available.

The Wold Top Brewery, in East Yorkshire has created a special wedding ale called I Will. Brewer Tom Mellor said: “It’s a great beer to help celebrate the Royal wedding and afterwards, we can also offer it to brides and grooms a bit closer to home.” The ale is brewed using wheat and cara malt, Goldings and Styrian hops, Wold-grown barley and chalk-filtered water from the brewery’s own borehole.

Beer comes the bride says a Staffordshire brewer as it raises a glass to the Royal wedding with its William Wins-Her special ale. Quartz appealed for a wedding inspired name for the beer on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Quartz master brewer Julia Barnett said the winning entry was chosen because it immediately stood out from other entries due to its originality. “It was a really tough decision to choose the winning name as we had some fantastic suggestions from both Facebook and Twitter,” she said.

Windsor and Eton Brewery, the closest brewery to Windsor Castle, has revealed plans for its own commemorative brew. Brewer Paddy Johnson said: “Yes we’ll be doing a wedding beer but we haven’t got our act together yet on final details.”

To celebrate the day St Austell in Cornwall is relabeling Admiral’s Ale in commemorative bottles as Wedding Ale.

And Adnams in Suffolk has confirmed it will produce a wedding brew too, but has yet to finalise the details.

Wychwood is planning some alternative wedding magic of its own on 29 April. The Witney brewer is offering one couple a wedding feast to remember at its alternative wedding of the year. The day includes a procession from the brewery, to the nearby 5th century Old Swan & Minster Mill, a blessing in a woodland temple and a wedding breakfast of hog roast. The couple will toast their celebration with Hobgoblin, a beer first brewed in the 1980s to celebrate the wedding of an Oxfordshire landlord’s daughter.

Written by timhampson

March 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

Posted in ale, Royal wedding, wine

The saison of the of the Welsh

with one comment

To parody the singer-songwriter Donovan it’s the Saison of the Welsh. Adrian Tierney Jones http://maltworms.blogspot.com/ is one the best of the current beer writers, who differentiates himself by consistently looking for new ways to describe beer and bring the suds to a new appreciative audience. While most of us are still grappling with largely useless terms like malty and hoppy, Adrian is developing a new and exciting lexicology to describe beers.

He is also has a very acute and discerning palate. Well those good guys over at Otley Brewery http://www.otleybrewing.co.uk know a thing or two about  style and they asked Adrian to put his taste expertise where his is reputation is and create his own beer. Adrian is well known for bending people’s ears about saisons. So he set himself the task of creating his own dark saison.

Saisons are linked more by culture than a specific style. They hail from farm houses in Wallonia in Belgium. A saison was the beer brewed by people for their own consumption. It perhaps has some similarities with biere de garde from France. It was a spring time, summer beer, intended to be refreshing, thirst quencher, which provided energy and was robust enough to prosper on warm days. The style had all but died out – but thanks to the creativity of American “craft” brewers the style has seen a small resurgence in recent years.

But now Wales can say it too has it own saison. A bit like Trappsit beers, anything goes with a saison – some contain herbs and spices, others use candied sugar as a fermentable material, but they all share mouthfuls of flavour which might come from the use of an ale yeast. And then there are hops, flavoursome noble hops such as styrian or goldings. Add to this some acidity for a slightly soured taste and you might get the idea.

The result is big and complex – wider than found in most beers and a balanced complexity of tastes and flavours that should inspire even the most jaded drinker’s palate. And it should be refreshing, crisp, dry, yet have a spicy, fruity complexity.

I was privileged to sit in on the first tasting of Adrian’s as yet unnamed dark saison. So there I was in the marvellous Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd, sitting with Nick Otley and Adrian, doing what comes naturally – drinking beer and having an articulate conversation about flavour profiles, ingredients and food pairings.

And like all good saisons Adrian’s as yet unnamed beer has a long memorable, finish and not the short ending one can expect from too many beers. It was a slightly tart, sharp, spiky beer with an acidic sourness. Zesty and refreshing it was in wonderful condition. The colour was reddish brown not black. It was a fresh, refreshing and multifaceted beer full of spice and fruit.

I didn’t detect kiwi, passion or pomegranate fruit flavours, others with better palates than mine can try and do that.

So if you are in London on 25 March the saison of the Welsh could be coming to a pub near you.

Adrian Tierney Jones and Nick Otley will be tasting the dark saison – with as yet no name on 25 March at various locations in London

3pm – White Horse, Parsons Green.

5pm – Cask Pub and Kitchen, Pimlico.

7pm – Rake, Borough Market.

9pm – Southampton Arms, Islington.

Written by timhampson

March 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

ALE for SAIL 2011 is a fantastic attempt to replicate one of the brewing world’s great adventures

with one comment

ALE for SAIL 2011 is a fantastic attempt to replicate one of the brewing world’s great adventures.

From the heart of London to the centre of Saint Petersburg… this has to be the most epic journey a drayman has made for 200 years!”

Brilliant Beer’s Tim O’Rourke is the man behind the initiative take Imperial Stouts to St Petersburg in Russia.

The Ale4Sail Great Baltic Adventure – www.thegreatbalticadventure.com – is an ambitious attempt not just to recreate the epic sea journey made by beers from England to Russia in the 18th century, but to promote British cask beers at festivals in Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen.

The plan is to take 12 specially brewed Imperial Russian Stouts, each produced by a different brewer, all the way to Saint Petersburg, where they will be judged in a beer festival on 18 June to find out which stout is fit for the Court of Catherine the Great.

The 12 Imperial Stouts making the journey will be announced later this month.

The sea journey starts on 15 May from Greenwich and arrives in St Petersburg on 17 June.

Tim O’Rourke says he is looking for people to crew the Thermopylae Clipper which will undertake the journey. “We have chartered a former 60 foot round the world Clipper Thermopylae. This fantastic yacht has already circumnavigated the world four times in the Clipper Round the World Races so should see us safely to Saint Petersburg.”

The passage includes on board food and safety and wet weather equipment as well as a professional skipper and two professional watch leaders.

The passage will take five weeks with stopovers in a major city every Saturday when we will be able to change crew. There will be stops at intermediate ports on the way round.

Participants will be able to take part in Beer Festivals at all the Major Ports:

London – Beer Festival in the Old Brewery – Greenwich – 12 – 15 May

Copenhagen Beer Festival – Beer festival in Charlie’s Bar -27 – 29 May with a chance to visit and have lunch at Carlsberg’s Jacobson’s Brewery.

Stockholm – Beer festival in Oliver Twist & Akkurat Restaurant for the week commencing 3rd June

Helsinki – To be arranged – 10 – 12 June

Saint Petersburg – To be arranged 17 – 19 June and there will be the judging of all the Imperial Russian Stout by a panel of brewers including Russian brewers.

To join for all or a part of the voyage please contact tim@brilliantbeer.com or register on line at www.thegreatbalticadventure.com

Imperial Stout, also known as Russian Imperial Stout or Imperial Russian Stout, is a strong dark beer or stout in the style that was brewed in the 18th century in London, for export to the Court of Catherine II of Russia.

From then, and right through the First World War, Imperial Russian Stout was shipped to the Baltic, often in large wooden barrels called hogsheads, containing 54 gallons of beer, where it was bottled by a company called Le Coq and sold in St Petersburg and other Russian cities.

Originally brewed by the Thrale’s brewery in London the beer later became known as Barclay Perkins Imperial Brown Stout. When the Barclay Perkins brewery was taken over by Courage the beer was renamed Courage Imperial Russian Stout. It used to be sold in Britain in small nip sized 17cl bottles.

Imperial Stouts often have an alcohol content of nine or ten per cent ABV. In the early 20th century the beer was awarded the Royal Warrant of the Court of Catherine II of Russia for donating 5,000 bottles to various hospitals in which the Empress had taken an interest.


Written by timhampson

February 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

Some beers are so good on first sip that “wow” is the only acceptable description. Windsor & Eton’s Black IPA. It’s a cracker. WOW

with 3 comments

My day had started early, when as I was leaving to take my dogs for a walk and I find a Range Rover was parked across my drive and some strange guy was standing with two bottles of beer in hand. “Here, I have bought you these to try”, says the driver. As Ry Cooder would say “It’s a strange world.”

But, after a long day of news writing the contents of one of the bottles was the perfect end to the day,

Conqueror – it is an awesome brew. It has a fabulous nose. But what gives it that and what is it hopped with? I get a floral, fruity taste from it – what gives it that? The conditioning is fantastic. What yeast is the brewer using? And what is a Black IPA?

Well let Paddy Johnson the brewer, who it turned out was my mysterious visitor at the start of the day tell his own story.

“In the tradition  of a Black IPA it’s brewed mainly with Cascade but also Summit. The yeast was recommended by fellow brewer’s within London Brewer’s Alliance for this type of beer. It is a American yeast known for its cleanness which we want with such a rich beer.

“Black IPA is a relatively new style developed in particular by the Craft Brewers of the US. Those of us daft enough to go for it are trying to produce a beer that is still fundamentally an IPA in strength, dryness, bitterness and hop aroma but with a full roasted malt character that still leaves the beer very drinkable.”

“This is a cask beer that we launched just two weeks ago. So proud of it we got our friends at Kernel brewery to bottles with us one Kilderkin so we could give friends a taste if they couldn’t get to a pub.”

Paddy says it is always likely to be a specialist beer. Having said that sales are taking off and the Bree Louise at Euston is stocking it.

This beer’s name Conqueror was chosen by the brewery’s 2,000 FaceBook fans. It uses five different specialist malts and is hopped at three completely different parts of the process to achieve its full hoppy character.

If you see it try it.


Written by timhampson

November 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm