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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.

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Written by timhampson

August 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Posted in craft brewing

Oh to be in Manchester on a Twissup

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So where would I like to be today? Manchester.

The Olde Wellington was moved to its current site on giant wheels

A group of beer writers who are tweeters, well I suppose I can call myself a tweeter now. The old boundaries between the paper and electronic mediums have collapsed like the Berlin Wall did in November 1989. We are all communicators now.

The Twissup group is going to Manchester today and then on to Huddersfield. I am afraid, I cannot spare the time, horses need to be fed and a daughter is returning from Argentina where she has been a contestant on Total Wipeout and I need to pick her up from the airport.

When I was filming for a television programme about 18 months ago, a cock-up by the production team meant a 24 hour trip to Manchester resulted in a four day stay. It gave me a great opportunity to experience just some of the city’s great bars and pubs.

The ornate tiling is a delight

I sure those on the Twissup don’t need my advice on pubs to go to, but some of my personal favourites in Manchester city’s centre which I would love to visit again include the Marble Arch, on the Rochdale Road. A marvellous classic tiled Victorian gem which sells beers from the fantastic Marble brewery. It also does good food. I’ve yet to visit the new Marble brewery, but it is on my wish list of places to go to.

The Old Wellington, Cathedral Gates, is worth it just to enjoy its architecture. It is a 16th century building, which was somehow shifted on giant wheels during a redevelopment to its current location. It serves good Jennings too. Close to the main shops it can get very crowded at lunchtime.

The Britons Protection is a muddle of marvelous bars and corridors

The Micro bar, Unit FC16, Manchester Arndale, High Street, is home to the Boggart brewery and if as many people go on the Twissup as predicted it will soon fill up. It does some good guest beers.

There is a triangle of pubs where it is great to lose an hour or two. Within shouting distance are the Britons Protection, Rain Bar and Peveril of Peak. The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street, is a marvellous collection of small bars and corridors. The Rain bar, 80 Great Bridgewater Street is owned by J W lees. When it first opened in 1999 in a former Victorian warehouse on the Rochdale canal, it was a great example of showing that real ale can be served to a new audience in stylish surroundings and it is still bringing new people to good beer. The Peveril of Peak, 127 Great Bridgewater Street, is worth a visit just to enjoy its exquisite tiled exterior.

The Jolly Angler, 47 Dickie Street, a back street pub, it is a slightly old fashioned place, and one that is now a rarity. The Hydes Original Bitter might be seen as a retro beer, but when it is good it is very good.

Rain's bought real ale to a new audience

Knott, 374 Deansgate, there is something for everyone in this bar. It is a great place to meet up with friends, have a beer and then a second before deciding what to do next.

I’m dying to know where the Twissups goes, I’m sure they’ll find different places to drink which will equal and even better my personal choices. Manchester is that type of place.

Written by timhampson

October 23, 2010 at 6:57 am

Join the search for the Welsh John Barleycorn as Hay on Wye become Beer on Wye

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The town of Hay on Wye on the English and Welsh border is world renowned for its literary festival. But now it is having a rival ale and beer books weekend – 24-26 September – at Kilvert’s pub in Bear Street.

Organiser Ed Davies says he has arranged for some of the country’s best beer writers to come and talk about their work.

Hops and Glory author and beer writer of the year Pete Brown will describe his three month journey from Burton Trent to India in the company of a cask of IPA.

You get two pints for the price one when Adrian Tierney-Jones (1001 Beer You must Try Before you Die) and myself (The Beer Book) debate which are best – ales from North Wales or the South.

Melissa Cole will take the “beard out of beer” and lead a tasting for the ladies and a beer and food matching. And if all of this is not enough, Zak Avery, author of 500 Beers, will describe some of his favourite brews.

From the Wye Valley Brewery Peter and Vernon Amor (brewers of Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) will be giving readings from the Dorothy Goodbody stories and Breconshire Brewery’s head brewer Buster Grant will talk about the future of beer in the Principality.

Should you tire of the beer, there will be talks and readings by several local authors and poets. And if you want something that goes with a bang the Sealed Knot’s Hay Garrison will be firing their muskets. More than 50 different Welsh ales will be available at the festival.

Tweet it, blog it, tell people about it. Go to www.thehaybrewery.co.uk/festival for more information.

Hop to it – let’s hear it for the beer

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Extravagant costumes are enhanced with garlands of hops

Beer is the national drink of the Britain, but how well do we support it?

Burton on Trent is one of the world’s great brewing towns, yet get off at its station or even drive into the town and few would realise the significance of the place to beer, not just in this country but worldwide. It is even home to the National Brewing Centre, which has barely scratched the national consciousness.

However, in the Kent town of Faversham, on the first weekend of September is held a raucous celebration of the hop, which spills over the town’s streets and pubs.

Morris dancers are adorned with hops

The two day festival, which I attended yesterday, was a vibrant celebration of beer and its natural roots. The festival is a celebration of the hop harvest and the heyday of hop picking, when thousands of Londoners came down to the Kent Hop-Gardens every September for a so-called “country holiday with pay”. Life in London was probably pretty tough if people found picking hops a holiday. Many families returned to the same farms, generation after generation, to be joined by every available local worker to form the largest agricultural workforce this country has ever seen.

Children get in on the act too

But a row over funding has threatened the future of the festival, as thousands of visitors thronged the town’s streets. It would be shame if the festival is lost – it provides a link between one of the natural raw materials that makes beer and of course the pubs where people drink it. Street corners and pavements become theatres for dance groups and musicians. Vendors sell bines of hops and many people wear garlands of hop cones. Pub gardens become rock gardens and crowds move from pub to pub to hear their favourite bands or look for something different.

Even the dogs join in the hop celebration

And of course there is beer – beautiful beer. I tried Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew Bitter. Not too strong at 3.7 per cent ABV, and full of rich robust citrus aromas, a deep bitterness and long, lingering finish from the use of the Kent grown hops.

The hop has bought the area much employment and wealth and the festival helps cement the link between the town’s brewer Shepherd Neame, farming, the harvest with its influx of workers from London and the impact that beer has upon our culture.

Pearly kings and queens from London sing out their songs

The festival costs a lot of money to run and of course there is a good argument that says why should a local council fund it?

But beer has shaped our culture – our art, literature and music. Taking a sip of beer is much more than just drinking alcohol, to understand the importance of beer we need to keep its links with the past. We lose these bonds at our peril.

www.thehopfestival.co.uk

Written by timhampson

September 6, 2010 at 8:41 am

Weltenberg Kloster – is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

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Many come to enjoy the Kloster's garden

I first visited this brewery when researching for The Beer Book, published by Dorling Kindersley.

For people from the UK, Weltenberg is not immediately on the beer tourist trail. However for people in Bavaria it is a popular and much loved destination.

Can there be a more dramatic or magnificent location for a brewery in the world? Located on a bend in the Danube, the beautifully decorated baroque Benedictine abbey is literally hewn from the 150 million year old Jurassic limestone rock, which forms high towering cliffs on either side of the river, running from its source in Germany’s Black Forest on its way to the Black Sea.

In a courtyard, where giant chestnut trees grow, the church of the Weltenburger Monastery and Kloster brewery stand side by side.

The brewery stands close to the monastery

Weltenberg was founded in the 7th century by two monks, Eustasic and Agilus followers of St Columban – one of the patron saints of brewing. Manuscripts in the monastery’s library show that beer has been brewed here for over 1,000 years, with production only being halted from 1803-1846.

But though the site is old and redolent with tradition, there is nothing old about the brewery, which is a modern, automated, hi-tech brewery able to brew both bottom and top fermenting beers using water drawn from the brewery’s own well.

The Kloster’s brewmaster is Anton Miller, at 25 years of age he is looking forward to a long career at the brewery. His predecessor worked at the brewery for 49 years.

Inside the brewery everything is scrubbed, polished and scrupulously clean and even the stainless steel mash and lauter tuns which were installed in 1982 look as shiny as the day they were commissioned.

“We might be the oldest brewery in the world, but we use the newest techniques,” said Anton. “Quality beer needs the equipment and ingredients,” he said.

The commitment to quality certainly seems to be paying off as the Weltenburger Kloster has added to its growing list of awards after Barock Dunkel took the Gold Medal in the dark lagers category at the World Beer Cup 2008 in San Diego, USA.

Anton says that the Dunkel, which has been brewed for more than 150 years, is the beer the monks usually choose to drink. However, while fasting for 40 days and 40 nights during Lent they prefer the stronger Asam Bock. “It is their liquid bread,” he said.

Anton prides himself on the brewery’s close links with local Bavarian farmers – every June he visits the barley fields to choose the grain which will be malted in Bamberg. The sweet and spicy Perle Hallertau hops, which are used in pellet form, come from three farms near Munich.

The brewery produces seven beers – Weissbier Hell, Urtyp Hell, Barock Hell, and Pils, are top fermented at 8C for seven days; and Weissbier Dunkel, Barock Dunkel, and Asam Bock, are bottom fermented at 22C for four days.

Deep beneath the ground, under 40m of limestone rock, can be found the brewery’s lager store.  Here the Dunkel is stored at zero centigrade and sometimes lower for at least three months. A process that slowly releases the Barock Dunkel’s aromatic, malty flavours and well-balanced richness.

Visitors to the brewery can enjoy this beer, which is pumped directly into its own bar.

The brewery’s beer garden is open throughout the year and is renowned not just for its beer, but also its extensive menu of Bavarian dishes including Klosterwurst, a spicy home made sausage, suckling pig and boiled beef.

The brewery is open to visitors at weekends. Nearby, there are many fine walks and cycle tracks and the best way to arrive at the brewery is said to be by river from nearby Kelheim.

Is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

Weltenburger Kloster

Asamstrase 32, 93309 Kelheim, Germany

www.weltenburger.de

Written by timhampson

September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

Dwink, Dwink and be merry

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Cheeky chappies Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham

In the firmament of the current group of people doing beer talks two of the shining stars are Ben McFarland and Tom Sandhan.

The cheeky, chappy Dwink duo, which I caught yesterday at a Foodies Festival in Oxford, took an irreverent and sometime bawdy journey through the world of beer and cider. “We do corporate events and consumer tastings, stag events, hen nights and children’s parties, but prefer hen nights,” confides Tom with a mischievous grin and a sparkle in his eye.

Forget the notion that beer tastings are an extravagance of technical terms and facts about hop varieties, international bitterness units and measurements for the colour of malt. In triple quick time, well they had to make way for a Portuguese wine tasting, and a testy stage manager behind the scenes was giving a stern look, the pair took an entranced audience though five beers and an organic cider.

Most loved the Hall & Woodhouse elderflower flavoured Champion. The opening of a flip top bottle of Grolsch became a piece of crowd theatre. The flavour of a Molson Coors Blue Moon, a wheat beer, was enhanced by being poured over a piece of orange. Coopers Pale Ale confused several people as it was cloudy, giving the pair a chance to talk about bottle conditioned beers. The Westons Organic Cider showed there is more to alcoholic apple drinks than Magners or Bulmers. And the tasting ended with a glass of Innis & Gunn, which introduced people to the idea of wood aging beer in whisky barrels. And on the way they took in beer and food pairings, the health benefits of sensible drinking and told everyone that the beer belly was a myth.

The choice of drinks by the Dwink’s pair was clever. All easily available, all approachable and all a marvellous entry into the world of beers. The audience left with smiles on their faces, a greater knowledge about beer and that marvellous of feeling contentment from having had a good beer.

So who have you seen recently who has given a good beer talk?

www.dwink.com

Three year’s ago, the beer world lost its most influential and passionate advocate – Michael Jackson – the Beer Hunter.

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Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter

It is hard to believe that it is three years since the death of the world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson. Known as the Beer Hunter, he almost singlehandedly transformed the world of beer, bringing it out of brewers’ tasting rooms into people’s front rooms.

Who would have thought that a train ride from Amsterdam to the Roman Catholic south of the Netherlands would forever change the world of beer, beer writing and brewing? It was 1969 and Michael Jackson a tyro journalist, who had trained on the Huddersfield Examiner and worked in London and Edinburgh, was enjoying his first foreign posting. The sixties were in full swing, and Michael revelled in the city’s sex, rock and roll and jazz cafes with beer and whiskey his drugs of choice. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono enjoyed a bed in the Amsterdam Hilton, Jackson decided to travel to the southern Dutch border to write an article on the uninhibited enjoyment he had been told took place at the region’s pre-lent carnivals.

Jackson throughout his life soon tired of uniformity and he was bored with drinking the city’s ubiquitous Pils beers. He wanted to experience the wider range of beers a friend had said was available. And in an unnamed town, where revellers danced to the sounds of the Beatles, a man in a John Lennon mask handed him a chalice with a darker beer. It was a Trappist beer from Belgium, and in a gulp his life changed. Beer was suddenly much more than an alcoholic liquid in a glass. The following day he travelled to Belgium for the first time – sampling the marvels of De Konnick, Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel and an unidentified Gueuze. John Barleycorn had grabbed his heart and soul. And as the beer flowed, so did the words. He dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers and whiskeys in his many books, articles and TV programmes. It was a journey that took him from Alaska to Patagonia and on to Sri Lanka.

He developed a classification system for the world’s classic beers styles and in doing so created consumer interest that saved many beers from extinction. His writing set the standard for beer enthusiasts and brewers alike. He wrote in depth about different brewing techniques, ingredients, flavour profiles, cultural differences, and food parings.

His writing style was wonderfully erudite and bubbled with humanity and humour. His knowledge of beer was unsurpassable. His genius was to be able to write simply and beautifully about beer and the lives of the people who created them. He was an inspiration to hundreds of brewers worldwide. Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson, the rock star, and that was reflected in his many talks. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter.”

Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter, was born on March 27 1942. He died on August 30 2007.

So what are your memories of Michael, I’d love to know?

Written by timhampson

August 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm