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Well someone must be hurting

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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

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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….

http://welbeckabbeybrewery.blogspot.com/

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

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

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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.

www.webrew.co.uk

Written by timhampson

November 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

An old friend returns

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Courage Directors - "actually it's really rather good".

One of the best things about old friends, is that sometimes you don’t see them for years, but when you do meet you immediately feel comfortable in each others company. There doesn’t even have to be lot conversation, you just enjoy the other’s presence.

So it is with Courage Directors. Once the beer was one of the strutting stags of British brewing and stood tall alongside great English ales like Bass and Pedigree. This was in a time when drinkers did not have the lavish choice of style and beers now compete for our attention.

A traditional dark bitter, at 4.8 per cent ABV, it was first brewed (I think) at Alton in Hampshire and so the legend has it was brewed exclusively for the company’s top brass, and not for public sale. For many year’s it was brewed in Courage’s famed ale brewery in Bristol.

The story of the Courage mirrors the decline of the country’s old brewing companies, when takeovers, poor marketing and bad business decisions saw the disappearance of many household names.

Courage & Co was started by John Courage at the Anchor Brewhouse in Horselydown, Bermondsey in 1787. Skipping a couple of centuries, in 1955, the company merged with Barclay, Perkins & Co Ltd to become Courage, Barclay & Co. Only five years later, another merger with the Reading based Simonds’ Brewery led to the name changing to Courage, Barclay, Simonds & Co. This was simplified to Courage in October 1970 and the company was taken over by the Imperial Tobacco Group two years later.

Imperial Tobacco was acquired by the Hanson Trust in 1986 and they sold off Courage to Elders IXL who were renamed the Foster’s Brewing Group in 1990. The following year, the Courage section of Foster’s merged with all the breweries of Grand Metropolitan.

Its public houses were owned by a joint-company called Inntrepreneur Estates. Scottish & Newcastle purchased Courage from Foster’s in 1995, creating Scottish Courage as its brewing arm, which was itself then bought a consortium comprising Carlsberg and Heineken in 2008.

Sadly, during the 1990s and the early years of this century Directors fell on troubled times, it wasn’t promoted as it could have been as different owners concentrated on the sale of lager and how much money they would make from asset stripping and the sale of their shares. But the iconic brand was rescued in 2007 by Wells and Young’s Brewing The Bedford company set up a new joint venture business called Courage Brands, in which it has an 83 per cent stake with Scottish & Newcastle the previous owner of the brand. S&N holds the remaining equity in the company. But enough of the history.

Some old tasting notes of mine describe Directors as a full-drinking and complex ale with a full malt taste and an intense bitter sweet finish.

Comparing a draught beer with its bottled version is rarely ideal. But the current bottled Directors, which was given to me by Wells and Youngs, is a distinguished beer. I don’t trust my on taste memory and our palates change over time anyway, but it has a marvellous bitter sweet intensity and almost a honey flavour. It ends with a satisfying, longish dry salty finish.

My daughter Ruth (aged 24) took a sip of it – ooh that got some citrus, grapefruit flavours, “actually it’s rather good” as she finished the glass. I think that sums it up, it is  indeed rather good.

Written by timhampson

October 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Making room in the bar for the standout Veltins

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Standing out on the bar

Veltins Brewery is brewed in Sauerland, a rural hilly area in the north-west Germany. Close to the industrial Ruhr and the major cities of Dusseldorf and Dortmund, its Pilsner, at 4.8 per cent ABV, is the fifth most popular beer in Germany and the brewer would like to make it the number one imported speciality German beer in Britain.

Founded in 1824, the family firm’s watch words are freshness and quality, both attributes which are in abundance in its non-pasteurised draught beer, which can now be found in some pubs in Britain. Deals have been done with regional brewers Osset, Butcombe, Robinsons, Purity, wholesaler James Clay and M&B for 50 All Bar One pubs in the London area. This now sees Veltins Pilsner in 300 plus pubs and the company hopes to double that within the next two years. And once it has established this bridgehead it would then target the off trade.

The beer is being sold on its authenticity and provenance. It uses the natural water from its own spring which is located in a mountain by the side of the brewery

Quality drives the success of the beer

One of the firm’s ambitions is to produce the best quality beer in harmony with the environment. And this is reflected in the brewery’s modern and environmentally sensitive production process. To this end the brewery has invested more than €20 million investment in a hi-tech and visually, alluring bottle recycling plant. Almost without human intervention thousands of bottles, which in Germany are returnable, are automatically taken out of crates and separated into fast moving lines dedicated to individual brewers. The bottles are then repackaged back into crates either for use by Veltins or returned to their owners.

One interesting aspect of the brewery, (and possibly unique) is its fermentation process. After boiling with hops in four brewing kettles, the hopped wort begins its fermentation in what are called floating tanks, of which the brewery has 15.  Here the wort is mixed with yeast, encouraging a build up of natural carbon dioxide. After 24 hours, 80 per cent of the fermenting liquid is run off into the main fermentation tanks, while the remaining fermenting wort is mixed with fresh hopped wort. This is repeated for four days until the tanks are emptied and cleaned. The brewer says the process is ideal for removing unwanted flavours from the beer and that one bottle of its Pilsner could be made up of 200 different brews.

The beer is then fermented for fermented for 48 hours, and then cooled to minus 2C, a process which takes five days, before being lagered for four weeks.

The brewery sponsors the FC Schalke football team in the Bundesliga, and the Porsche racing team. There is a sporting chance it should be a success here too

In the UK the beer is available in 50 litre kegs or packs of 12 0.33 litre bottles and Vertical Drinks is the agent.

http://www.veltins.de

Steve Holt Vertical Drinks Ltd Tel: 07831 581171 e-mail: steveholtavc@aol.com

Written by timhampson

October 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Old if might be, but that doesn’t stop Dusseldorf’s alt beer from being served fresh

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Alt beers are poured fresh and fast from wooden barrels

 

The beer world is getting smaller – today we can drink an American IPA brewed in Yorkshire, a pilsner produced in the Cotswolds and English bitter made in northern Italy.

However, there is something special about finding a beer which is enjoyed by people of all ages in its home town. The best bars are like good friends – be it the first time you have met them or a reunion after many years – the mood is comfortable and relaxed, but coupled with a frisson of excitement.

The German town of Dusseldorf in Germany is renowned for its dark Alt beers.  One translation of the alt might mean “old”,and it is said these beers are so-called because they predate the “newer”  pilsner which in many parts of the world have seemingly swept all before it. However, more likely is that the word has a Latin root and it would be better translated as “high”, denoting that the beer is top fermented, with a yeast head forming on top of the fermenting beer

 

Alt beers are topped by a fresh white head

 

A Dusseldorfer alt is served fresh and fast from a wooden cask. Brown in colour, with a large white foaming head, they have a refreshing bitter sweetness –not as bitter as English ale – they have the full maltiness one comes to expect from a German beer.

The beer is a great soul mate to plates of local sausages or even a hearty Rhineland variation of a steak tartar, which is served with raw onions on a crispy roll. Vegetarians do not fare well in Dusseldorf.

Within the bustling streets of the Altstade – or old town to you and me – there are a trio of three brew pubs – Füchschen (Ratinger Str. 32), Zum Schlüssel, (Bolkerstraße 41-47) and Uerige (Berger Straße 1) –whose beers can be found in other pubs too, along with beers from Schumacher (Oststraße 123) which is just outside the old area.

 

The food is hearty and robust

 

Inside these glorious, coliseums to the art of craft brewing, the beer is mashed like an English ale and then top fermented in open vessels. Here ale and lager production meld into one as the beer is then fermented and conditioned or 15/16 days before being decanted into the wooden barrels and lagered for up to four weeks at a temperature close to zero centigrade.  The beer is served straight from the wooden casks.

The waiters’ prowl through these bars, with rapt concentration watching those they are serving. Empty glasses are soon filled, a pen puts a mark on a beer mat recording accurately how many you have had. It is a curious process, but one which becomes clear, when you realise the waiters, often known as kobes, are self employed, they buy the beer from the bar and sell it on to customers.

There is always something special about sitting in bars, where in the shadows there are generations of drinkers who have come before – all who have indulged in the same simple pleasures of conversation, friendship and good beer. And that is the glory of the old town bars.

But how should an Englishman abroad finish off the evening? Locals point me towards a bar selling Killepitsch, a herbal liquor with 42% alcohol content, it is a digestif made of 98 different essences, herbs, berries and fruits. Better than a dessert, the Schnapps based drink, is said to settle nerves and prevent indigestion.

 

It might not be a beer but a glass of Killepitsch, served through a hatch and drunk from a plastic glass is a perfect end to a wonderful evening

 

And if it is late and the Killepitsch bar is closing, lucky drinkers can be served a through a hatch in the window and just “tip it back” from a small plastic glass before heading back to their hotel.

Written by timhampson

October 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

We must end the myth of 24 hour pub opening

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If you listened to some politicians and elements of the media they would have you believe that all pubs in the UK were open 24 hours a day, leading to a breakdown in society as we know it.

Well it is not true, was never true and completely ignores the fact that the pub is probably the best, most controlled environment for people who want to have a drink.

New government figures released by Department for Culture, Media and Sport reveal of the more than 200,0000 places where alcohol can be legally sold in England and Wales less than four per cent have a 24 hours licence and most of these are supermarkets and hotels – and not pubs.

Of the 7,567 venues in England and Wales with a 24-hour licence, nearly eight out of 10 (78 per cent) are off-licences or hotels. According to the DCMS 4,200 were hotel bars, 1,700 supermarkets and stores, 950 pubs, bars and nightclubs, and 740 other premises types.

The DCMS also debunks another myth that a 24 licence means 24 hours of opening. It says “the possession of a 24-hour licence does not necessarily mean that the premises will choose to open for 24 hours”.

The great advantage of the current licensing system is that they offer pub operators flexibility – and this could be put at risk by the current review of licensing law.

The BBC ran the headline “Round-the-clock drinking licences at record level” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11436311).

But again, what do DCMS figures show – there was a four per cent rise in the number of 24-hour licences, but in real terms this meant around 100 more shops and supermarkets were permitted to open around-the-clock and 100 more pubs and bars.  Well the BBC headline “Round-the-clock drinking licences at record level” was right in one respect, there was a small increase in the number of licenses issued, so I suppose they are at record levels. But the DCMS analysis of the increase has a different interpretation it says “the main premises types that have 24 hour licences to sell or supply alcohol – remained constant at 4,400 over the last couple of years”. Now that hardly sounds like an epidemic of 24 hours drinking.

If the pub industry does not fight its corner better – and do more to rubbish claims about there being a 24 hours pub culture, the current review of licensing laws could mean an end to pubs staying open to midnight or even 11pm. And if that did happen the chances are that even more people would choose to drink cheap alcohol bought from a supermarket than go out to the pub.

Go to http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/7456.aspx for the latest licensing figures.

Written by timhampson

October 1, 2010 at 10:44 am