Three Bullet Tuesday – 21 February

The 20* most important British craft beers ever, Beavertown and sexism in beer

  • 20* Most important UK craft beers: there was article being shared in twitter called ‘The 25 most important American craft beers ever’. It was written by Chicago Tribune writer Josh Noel, which itself was inspired by another post by Food and Wine. While the American craft beer scene is more mature and the legacy of the beers on these lists are clearly more time-honoured, it got me thinking about what a list such as this would look like for the British Craft Beer scene. A key challenge is defining the parameters. Nevertheless, I think we can define ‘craft’ relatively loosely and ‘important’ in a similar way to our US colleagues: It’s one that either changed consumer tastes or how breweries approach making beer. There are a few obvious ones: Punk IPA by Brewdog, Jaipur by Thornbridge, ESB by Fullers. I reached out on twitter and sourced a list of 20 to begin with. Click here to access the draft list and get involved. Please, I invite you to review the list and vote, provide a comment or make a suggestion of your own. I intend to keep this open for a week and will share the results here in a future post (any maybe even a podcast)

*the final list may end up being a different number

  • Five go to Beavertown: Beavertown Brewery held their 5th birthday celebration on Saturday with a party at their brewery. They invited 5 other breweries to collaborate naming each beer after the Famous Five; Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy. Each brewery brought three other beers, plus there was the core range from Beavertown and a few specials thrown in (including Stockholm’s Bretted Saison they were pouring from large bottles). It was everything you could expect from a craft beer festival and I really enjoyed it; a great atmosphere, yet wasn’t too busy; you never waited too long for a drink; all the beers were great (expect for one that I was a little disappointed with) and it was great to see some old friends and meet new ones. I can’t really fault the event. One thing that really hit me was how much they have grown in such a short space of time. I was last at the brewery just under two years ago and since then a room that was previously empty is now stacked with brewery kit. Towers of kegs lined the estate and a new lot filled with barrels was hidden away from the paying public. Happy Birthday to Beavertown and congratulations. Looking forward to seeing what the next five years brings.
  • Sexism in beer: I’ve read some really good posts on this subject over the past few weeks. Kudos to Mark Johnson for calling out his experiences at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. His post basically broke the comments section of his website. The counter argument from one of the organisers was a bit weak, which basically said ‘I’ve chaired lots of these panels and he didn’t ask his question properly’. Canadian Ben Johnson (not that one), explores sexist beer marketing, given breweries that use sexist images to market beers the right of reply. You can see that one here. And finally, this one really nails it for me – entitled LOL Sexism in Beer, from Emma, a senior Biomedical Scientist, home brewer and beer blogger. Hopefully these posts challenge peoples thinking on the subject.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 7th February

Underrated IPAs, when beer recipes change and Hopinions

  • Underrated IPAs: IPAs are arguably the most ubiquitous craft beer style. While there is variety in the style and brewers interpretation of it, they are commonly characterised by a fuller body, flavour, bitterness and alcohol content. Of course, most people know the history too, that the style was a variant of ale that was overhopped so that the flavour was sustained on long journeys to India in the 19th and 20th century. In the 21st century, the American-style IPA is the most common, that is, those IPAs brewed by US craft brewers, predominantly using American hops. (of course there is regional variants, but that’s for another day perhaps). Within the UK there are a number of top IPAs such as Northern Monk’s New World IPA, Magic Rock’s Cannonball, nearly any IPA from The Kernel and more recently Beavertown’s Lupuloid. But there are also some absolutely amazing IPAs being brewed that sometimes don’t get the recognition or platitudes. Siren Craft Brew can brew a very good IPA. Their Soundwave IPA is part of their core range and is simply amazing – vibrant and flavoursome. I’ve also had a few of their recent IPA releases; Ten Dollar Shake and Ryesing Tides IPAs which were both fantastic. I had a moment only last week where I was craving an IPA and went to Waitrose on my way home from work. I looked past the Goose IPA and Jaipur and picked up Single-Wide IPA by US brewery, Boulevard Brewing Co from Kansas City. It was just what I was looking for; nice full and smooth mouth feel, caramel malts and light citrus flavours with a nice clean bitter finish. Another well-made and enjoyable IPA. Are there any other IPAs you are enjoying at the moment that are maybe a little unsung?

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  • Recipe changes: when I really got into craft beer, the beloved red ale was a style I was particularly drawn too. I really enjoyed the London Fields Brewery’s Love Not War, as well as Five Points Hook Island Red and while not strictly a red ale, Beavertowns 8 Ball. The Hook Island Red I remember having a big, almost spicy flavour, closer to a rye IPA and at 6% ABV was relatively strong (at least I considered it strong in those heady days of 2014). Another beer I felt a fondness too back in the early days was Camden Pale Ale. I remember it as a very drinkable 4% pale ale that was well balanced with light floral and citrus notes. Almost a lighter version of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I tried a Hook Island Red just last week and it was smoother and sweeter than I remember but, importantly still retained the essence of the beer I remember and no less enjoyable. Five Points replied to my observation on twitter explaining that they are using natural ingredients and the flavours could be from Amarillo in the dry hop. The fact that beer is made with natural ingredients that may vary is an important factor on why flavours may be different over time. My most recent Camden Pale Ale was last summer and it was less floral and more piney than I remember and after tweeting about it, discovered the recipe had changed to include a lot more Simcoe hops than previous versions. Another beer that has changed recipes but kept the name is Beavertown’s Neck Oil, which started as a homebrew mild and is now a 4.3% Session IPA, although I must confess I never tried any of the earlier variants. Are these beers the same they once were? No. Should I care? Probably more than I do. It would appear breweries can change beer recipes to such an extent that the beer is completely different, yet keep the name and the branding.
  • Hopinions: one of the reasons I started Three Bullet Tuesday was to share my thoughts and start a conversation. And it seems, in this case to have worked. A few weeks back one of my posts was about what influences me when it comes to beer choices. It seemed that resonated with a few people (and was my most read blog post at that time), including Steve and Martin from the Beer O’Clock Show Hopinions podcast and Stu McKinley from Yeastie Boys. For those not familiar, Hopinions is a relatively new podcast, building on the success of the Beer O’Clock Show podcast. While the latter was more focused on discovering different beers the new show is focused on discussing and debating key topics in the beer world. Their most recent episode, for instance, discussed the CAMRA Revitalisation initiative. I was invited to be a guest on their most recent podcast which covered the subject of what determines beer choices. As per the format of the show, Steve tweeted a poll Sunday night inviting people to vote; ‘What most influences our beer buying decisions’, with four options; Hype, recommendations, brewery I trust, price. We recorded the podcast last night and it will be available to listen this Friday evening at 6pm, keep an ear out for it! You can find out more about the Beer O’Clock Show podcasts at their website or subscribe on itunes.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 31 January 2017

Cloudwater kings of Ratebeer, Brewery Growth Models, and the Ealing Park Tavern, Home of Long Arm Brewing 

  • Cloudwater: the Manchester-based craft brewer are the kings of Ratebeer, the popular beer rating site/app after picking up a swag of awards in a ceremony in Santa Rosa California on Sunday 29th January. Full details of the results will be released throughout this week, but according to their twitter feed they picked up at least 8 awards including best brewery in the UK. To be fair, I am unsure of who makes up the Ratebeer community here in the UK, but the award does carry certain weight, especially in the US where Ratebeer is more popular. Critics however compare this to a popularity contest. Either way, it’s a global awards ceremony that comes with a certain gravitas and I’m sure for them to pick up these awards in from a room full of their global peers gives them great satisfaction. As a result, I believe it should be celebrated.
Paul from Cloudwater doing his best Michael Phelps impersonation
Paul from Cloudwater doing his best Michael Phelps impersonation
  • Brewing growth models: the ‘year in review’ blogs of a number of craft breweries opened the kimono on the growth curve some find themselves on. I’ve been reflecting on the challenges these breweries are likely to be considering, plus those on different growth profiles using a bastardised version of the BCG growth matrix. The BCG growth matrix is a strategic tool designed for large corporations with a portfolio of businesses to use to determine strategic direction. In my growth matrix, the x axis is relative size of the brewery and on the y axis is the growth the brewery is experiencing.

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If we start in the bottom left, I’ve dubbed this group the Ateliers. This is breweries that are relatively small in scale and with a low growth profile. The archetype Atelier for me is The Kernel Brewery. I’ve interviewed Evin from The Kernel in a previous podcast and he makes it clear he believes the brewery could be capable of growing to be 15-20 times the size but is happy with the current size of the brewery, the quality of the beers they are making and the conversations he can have with his customers. The key challenge for Ateliers is finding a sustainable differentiator and for The Kernel, this is the stunning quality of their beers. The Stars are those breweries that are relatively small but are going through significant growth. Think Cloudwater, Five Points and Beavertown. Interestingly, they are all going about that growth in slightly different ways. Cloudwater are streamlining beer dispense to just can and keg and focusing on maximising the efficiency of their brewing. Five Points are facing growing pains in their current site and have started contract brewing to increase capacity. Beavertown are maximing their brewing schedule and expanding their current presence with one eye on moving to a big new premises in the near future. For these breweries the key challenge is likely to be managing the financials. When making capital investments a sharp eye on cash flow and expense management is critical. Ensuring the quality and consistency of their beers don’t suffer is another key challenge. The Cannonballs are those that have relative size and are also going through significant growth. BrewDog are the ultimate Cannonballs. They continue to expand their brewing capacity in Ellon, have set out plans to create Overworks, their Sour facility, expanding their bar network both domestically and abroad as well as launching BrewDog USA.  That is a huge agenda and good management, governance and control is critical to ensure they are delivering against all their plans. And finally the Cows. These are relatively large breweries experiencing low growth. Their challenge is how to push the business back into growth mode (or restructure). Whilst I wouldn’t put Fullers into this category (they seem to be focused on expanding their range of pubs), many appear to be responding to this challenge by doing things like rebranding or creating craft ranges to try to tap faster growing segments of the market. Some feel like half-hearted attempts at change given that authentic and sustainable cultural and strategic change takes more than some new packaging.

  • Ealing Park Tavern: after many aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Ealing Park Tavern for an early dinner on Saturday with the family. Its been on my to do list for some time, given its relatively close to where I live. Its also the home of Long Arm Brewing, the winner of RateBeers best new brewery in Greater London. For those unfamiliar, Long Arm Brewing is a new brewery that is part of the ETM Group, a restaurant and bar group with 12 venues across London and one venue in Suffolk. To date, I believe they only sell their beer in their venues. They also previous owned The Gun in the Docklands, which they sold in June 2016 to Fullers. The Ealing Park Tavern is a lovely pub, adorned with taxidermy and open fires, separate formal and informal dining areas, a beer garden, and a long bar with around 12 keg lines (including Beavertown Gamma Ray and Four Pure Flatiron Red), 6 cask lines and an extensive can and bottle selection (I recall seeing Moor cans and bottles of Wild Beer Co). We sat in the formal dining area where the ambiance was lovely, the menu engaging and the service attentive. I had a pint of Thornbridge Lord Maples, a 4% cask bitter to start and a bottle of Wild Beer Millionaire with my braised Herdwick lamb serviced with sautéed sweetbreads, smoked aubergine, chick peas, chilli and apricots. My one criticism is that while they have an extension wine list to accompany the food menu, they don’t extend the same courtesy to their beer. All in all The Ealing Park tavern is pub with a pedigree beer and wine selection, excitable food menu and enjoyable ambiance.

My Golden Pints 2016

I know it’s peculiar that I am only now, on the 27th of January, getting around to publishing my Golden Pints for 2016, even more peculiar that it’s after I have already posted my predictions for 2017. Nevertheless here they are.

A few caveats from me. Firstly I don’t get out as much as I used to. I have two young kids under the age of 4, which any parent will know is a handful. It has a way limited your spare time. Not that I would have it any other way mind you. The other is that I don’t really drink cask beer, as noted in a previous point of mine, which again limits my exposure to certain beers and breweries (but I am working on that). As a result, my list of Golden Pints might look a tad shorter than others you may have read.

Regardless, I think it’s a perfect opportunity to shine a light on the good things people are doing to make my experience as a beer drinker more enjoyable and as a result this post is unapologetically positive.

Best New Brewery: Elusive Brewing & Lost and Grounded

Like any craft beer enthusiast, trying new beers from new breweries is par for the course. Keeping up with all the new breweries is always difficult given the explosion of new breweries in the UK. This competition makes it a challenge for those opening a brewery to cut through that noise and make an impression.

In launching a brewery there is lots of decisions to be made; business model, branding and visual identify, beers, premises etc. and lots of red tape to cut through; licensing, tax, regulations etc. Increasingly breweries are looking to share insights about their decisions and experiences of their launching brewery before they have even brewed a beer. I can see the merit; engaging your audience, setting the tone for your brand, vision and identity. My joint winners for the award – Elusive Brewing and Lost and Grounded – both shared a lot about this before they even brewed a beer. Not that they were first time brewers by any stretch.

Elusive Brewing has made a running start to their first year. Founder and one-man-brewery, Andy Parker, collected a swag of homebrewing awards before ‘going pro’ and he has continued that winning streak, picking up six best of festival awards in his first year. Andy has a number of collaborations under his belt including Aztec Challenge, a smoked chilli porter with Hop Burns and Black. Andy produces beers in cask, keg and bottle. Keep an eye out for his unique retro, 8-bit computer game inspired visual identity in your bottle shop. And to top it off Andy is an all-round top bloke, sometimes referred to as ‘the nicest man in beer’. I’m sure reading this will make Andy wince.

In contrast to Elusive, Lost and Grounded started with a scale probably unseen in recent times, they are similar in size to Magic Rock, with plenty of room for expansion. Lost and Grounded was founded by former Little Creatures and Camden Town brewer Alex Troncoso and his partner Annie Clements. In one of their very open posts, Alex and Annie explain they have put all their life savings into the venture plus are backed by Made by HAND, the four original founders of Little Creatures, an Australian craft brewery sold to Kirin in 2012.

With a narrow but focused core range, this soon expanded on the back of a number of collaborations with other breweries including Cloudwater and Burning Sky. I’ve written a little about their beers on a previous post but to summarise they are characterised by smoothness of mouthfeel, subtle but distinct flavours and above all else an approachable drinkability. But it’s their open and humble approach and willingness to engage that has won me over.

Most Improved Brewery: Redchurch Brewery

I must admit I have a soft spot for Redchurch as it was the first craft brewery I really took an interest in (see a previous post of mine on this). Consistently producing quality beers is the benchmark that every craft brewery strives for. Unfortunately every Redchurch beer I had wasn’t reaching that consistent quality benchmark. However, 2016 was a breakthrough year. They picked up some talent and experience in James Rylance; successfully smashed their £200k crowdfunding target raising just under £500k; established a new brewery in Harlow, Essex; set about improving their brewing recipes and practice; after experimenting with a few different beers they formalised their Urban Farmhouse brewery at their existing site in Bethnal Green and to top this off launched a new branding and visual identity to wrap all of these changes around to set a fresh, new direction.

Their core range of beers are all dialled in and true to style. At their party on Saturday 10th of September 2016, I sat in their taproom and sampled each and every one of them alongside a large number of other enthusiastic London drinkers. The standouts were the Shoreditch Blonde, now brewed with saison yeast, the Great Eastern IPA, as good a West Coast style IPA you’ll find in a core range, and the Old Ford Export Stout. The taproom itself is small and cosy sitting in a mezzanine above the brewery and worth a visit if you’re in Bethnal Green area.

Best Brewery: Beavertown

Like many Londoners, I drink a lot of Beavertown beers. They are readily available, there’s great variety in their core range and importantly, quality and consistency. Add to that the seasonals such as Bloody ‘El and Quelle, the frequent collaborations and the Tempus Project and they are brewing a variety of beer that would suit anyone’s tastes.

They put on great events too – whether it’s their birthday events (notwithstanding the issues around overcrowding this year), Rainbow Project or special one off events, they always entertain, engage and educate.

In Logan Plant, they have a front man than any brewery would kill for – driven, articulate, and passionate. He sets the tone from the top and is creating a great team of people and importantly a great culture. I’ve often said that Beavertown are more punk than Brewdog. Not that being punk is an aspirational position or benchmark to aspire too, but there is a relatable authenticity to Beavertown. They are my brewery of the year for all of these reasons.

Best Beer: Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake, Siren Craft Brew x Cigar City

This was both the easiest decision and the hardest decision. As you go through the year you mentally catalogue which beers really stand out and this was the first beer my reflexes naturally responded to when thinking about my beer of the year. But when challenged I questioned the criteria upon which I was making my assessment.

Five Points Pale Ale is a great beer across keg, bottle, can and cask (albeit I only had one pint of Five Points Pale on cask), fragrant and flavoursome. Beavertown’s Gamma Ray continues to delight as does their seasonal farmhouse pale, Quelle. Cloudwater DIPA v3 was a stand out as was their Citra IPA. Brew by Numbers range of saisons including their 01|06 Motueka and Lime and BrewDog’s Albino Squid Assassin also made a strong impression.

Regardless the Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake stood above all of these. Labelled as a Topical Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels and brewed in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing, it weighs in at a big 8.4% ABV. Lucky for me there appears to be a never ending supply at Oddbins West Hampstead where for £6 you can get your hands on this rare beast. It’s got big dark chocolate and coffee flavours, a fruity sweetness and hints of oak, vanilla and tobacco. It must be said I am also a fan of any beer with cacao nibs on the ingredients list. So many flavours blended and balanced so well together. I can only imagine the faces of the brewers at Siren when they cracked open the barrels after 12 months to find this treat of a beer. Thanks for making such a cracking beer, cheers.

Best Pub: Dukes Head, Highgate

On my first visit to the Duke’s Head I mistakenly turned up at Duke’s Brew and Que. Having agreed to catch up with Matt Curtis at the Dukes, I got my wires crossed and headed to Dalston rather than Highgate. Eventually I arrived late and we settled down to a few beers.

The Dukes Head is smaller than I imagined. One long, relatively narrow rectangular room with a bar covering half of one side. It has character and importantly great beer. Whether its keg or cask, cans or bottles they have a rotating beer list that would satisfy even the most discerning of beer drinkers. They do have food but run a rotating roster of street food vendors who take up a short term residency inside the pubs kitchen. They have great, knowledgeable attentive staff and put on some memorable events, hosted by passionate beer writer Matt Curtis. The relationship the Dukes Head have with Matt has me convinced that every pub worth its salt needs a resident beer writer / blogger / beer evangelist to do what Matt does for the Dukes Head.

But the credit is not Matt’s alone. Mars is the curator of the beer list and build the menu based on her own likes – it’s clear that she has impeccable taste – and Tom is the manager overseeing all this. It’s a little off the beaten track (take the Northern Line to Archway and then the 143, 210, or 271 bus or take the short but steep walk up the hill to Highgate) but well worth a visit.

Best Online Retailer: BeerBods

It’s difficult to describe BeerBods as an online retailer as they are more of an inclusive beer club for the advancement of the appreciation of beer. That is their value proposition, their differentiator and it’s difficult for competitors to copy because they will lack the passion and drive of Matt, Gordon and team. I’m heading into my third year of being a BeerBodder and it’s great to see them go from strength to strength.

In addition to their weekly beers, I look out for their ‘Ones to Watch’ box which includes a curated selection of beers from new breweries (due out in coming weeks) and other selected boxes throughout the year. I’ve got my hands of one of their BeerBodsPlus box, a concept they are playing around with, which delivers a slightly more exotic selection of beers at a higher price point. It will be interesting to see where they take that proposition as in my view, there is a market for a more exclusive type of beer club. They also do a range of BeerBods for Business services if you are interested too.

Back to what they do best; each week for just £3 there is a beer, the story behind it and an interaction on social media about it with your fellow BeerBodders. One caveat – you might not like all the beers – but you will learn something and might pick up a few pointers from what others think of it. It has spawned its own customer created content: Steve and Rolands Beer Podcast reviews the beer each week, and Si Bullock creates a Spotify playlist for each beer each week, a Strava Running and Cycling club and I’m sure there is others I have missed.

It’s helped me on my beer journey to discover new beers and breweries. I have also got family and friends to sign up too and recommended it to countless people. If you are interested be sure to use my referral code YRHXQS for a little discount!

And that’s all the Golden Pints I have to award for 2016. I am looking forward to being dazzled and amazed by what 2017 brings.

Note: thanks to Clayton Chisholm (@clayfiish)  for permission to the use the artwork

Three Bullet Tuesday – 24 January

SIBAs craft mark, Lost and Grounded and what glassware tells us about the state of beer

  • SIBAs craft mark: it’s been just under 6 months since the Society for Independent Brewers (SIBA) announced a definition for a craft brewer and a stamp to accompany the title. The ‘Assured Independent British Craft Breweries’ (AIBCB) initiative was designed to provide greater clarity to consumers looking to purchase beer from genuinely independent1 breweries. While SIBA has over 850 members, all of which are eligible for the stamp2, only 150 pledged their support for the scheme and committed to use the logo at the time of launch. Today that number has increased to 350 which, given that it is still early days for the initiative, is a result I am sure SIBA considers a success. The next steps for the initiative will be unveiled further at the BeerX in March (SIBAs annual conference-cum festival), but will likely include engaging both on and off trade points of sale. Personally I have yet to see any of the craft beer I drink with the AIBCB mark although if it goes some way to achieving its goal of provide clarity to consumers on what they are drinking that surely is a good thing. However, there remain consenting views – without consensus on a definition and without complete take up, will it achieve this goal? Time will be the judge.

 

siba-aibcb-logo_black1: SIBA defines independent as ‘independent of any larger controlling interests

2: to be eligible, breweries should be independent and above by SIBAs Manual of Good Brewing Practice

Have you seen any beer with the AIBCB mark? Tag me in your picture

  • Lost and Grounded: Lost and Grounded was arguably the biggest brewery launch of 2016. They came with brewing pedigree, financial backing and an open and humble approach and then they got around to brewing some beer. Like most, I waited with anticipation to try their beer to see if my sky-high expectations would be met. While I had perhaps a pint or two at the Dukes Head Highgate one evening, it wasn’t until they released their bottled range I really got to sit down, enjoy and assess their creations. Having purchased two of each of their available range from Beer Merchants, I was both surprised and delighted when they arrived just two days later (kudos to Beer Merchants for their impeccable service). Beer is best shared and I bought these beers to share with my father-in-law over the weekend. They were characterised by smoothness of mouth feel, subtle but distinct flavours and above all else an approachable drinkability. You can find a more detailed review of the beers on my Instagram feed, although what I would say is that they were all very good (my highlight was their No Rest for Dancers, a hoppy red ale). If you haven’t seen them in a pub or bar near you, get on to Beer Merchants and make an order.

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  • Glassware: ‘You don’t seem to have any beer glasses’ I observed recently at my Dad’s house. He seemed to take some offence to the suggestion as he pulled a tumbler from the glass cupboard. While he had a variety of glasses for different styles of wine, he failed to have anything I would consider suitable for by Pilsner. So I helped myself to a wine glass, which was subject to much eyebrow raising on his behalf. It got me thinking of my own glassware collection. When I got married, glassware took its pride of place alongside crockery on our wedding registry. At the time this was what I viewed as a suitable if not slightly flashy beer glass.

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Over time, and almost by osmosis I have started to gather a range of more specialist beer glasses – visits to festivals and breweries largely to blame. I have my favourites; my 1/3 pint tulip from Hop Burns and Black, my Teku from BeerBods and my Craft Master from Weird Beard. I understand that drinking beer and appreciating beer are two different things, but until I can walk into my Dads house and he has more suitable beer glasses there is still more to do to educate people about appreciating good beer.

My beer glassware
My small, growing specialist beer glassware collection

Share a picture of your glassware collection – tag me in a photo

Brew Talent Time

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Towards the end of last year I noticed that two of London’s best craft breweries were on the hunt for new brewers; Hackney’s Five Points Brewing Company (I’ll call them Five Points in the rest of this post) and Bermondsey’s Brew By Numbers.

I thought it was odd two craft breweries would be looking for brewers at the same time as they would likely end up competing for the same talent. I reached out to the breweries to get their views on this to help determine whether or not my views were unfounded.

Doreen Joy Barber from the Five Points gave me an insight into their recent hiring activity. ‘Last year, we hired two new brewers into the Five Points fold. One came from another brewery in England, whereas the other had previous brewing experience in the UK’, explains Doreen.

Looking at their existing pool of brewers it’s clear they have appointed talented people with relevant brewing experience. ‘Our former Lead Assistant Brewer who worked with us for two years previously worked at Nogne O (the Norwegian brewery) and BrewFist (the Italian brewery)’ says Doreen.

They have also hired people without brewing experience that are willing to learn. This could be in the form of attending training at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling or through an apprenticeship. Doreen expanded on this, ‘Our new Lead Assistant Brewer went through our apprenticeship that we started with Hackney Community College’. Not only is this a very sensible and structured approach to developing talent, it is a great example of how a brewery connects with it local community and Five Points deserve top marks for an initiative like this.

Chris Hall’s insights on Brew By Numbers indicated a slightly different approach. In their search for brewers, relevant experience with the beer styles they brew is important, as is someone who could bring ‘a fresh perspective, unique insight or otherwise bring a new set of ideas and creativity to the team’.

This is important as it links to Brew By Numbers brewing philosophy. As Chris says ‘It’s a team after all and you want people to think differently, so we can express as best we can the full range of flavours that beer than achieve’.

With so many craft breweries in London, either starting up or facing rapid expansion, it would seem London is as an attractive location for any aspiring craft brewer. Chris again provides further insight on this; ‘We now have employees from England, Canada, United States, Finland, Norway and Italy. People with a brewing background seem to be moving to the UK almost every week’.

And it looks like there continues to be plenty of opportunity for people interested in forging a career in the burgeoning craft beer industry. Since I reached out to Doreen and Chris both Redchurch and Beavertown have also advertised for new brewers, with Beavertown also looking for a host of other roles. Being able to draw not only from talent within the UK scene today but from, as Chris calls it, ‘a diverse melting pot of backgrounds, experience and ideas’ should ensure continuing innovation and creativity in the UK craft beer scene.

One of the big challenges for craft breweries when they do scale up is when the founders or co-founders, who are often used to being very hands on in the brewing side of the business, hire a brewer to help free up their time to enable them to work on the business side. Handing over control for recipes they have designed, and responsibility for producing the beers they have been making for some time can be very tough – in reality it’s a real test their leadership capabilities. Building the right culture in a brewery is almost as important as brewing the beers and crucially is linked to the breweries ability to attract and retain the right talent in the first place.

As it turns out, my initials fears were completely unfounded. London is attracting an array of diverse talent that is helping to drive the innovation, creativity and growth of the UK craft beer scene. Getting some clear, timely and accessible statistics on craft brewery employment to help tell this story would be even better.

8 Predictions for 2017

As a new year rolls around, it’s time for beer bloggers to dust off their crystal ball and give their take on what to expect in the year ahead. I’ve penned a few quick thoughts on some of the key things I expect we will see in 2017.

Beer Styles

Many talk about which beer styles they expect to see emerge and dominate, which I believe is a fool’s errand. The beauty of the craft beer scene is the variety that breweries continue to deliver. Whether its traditional styles, lagers, low ABV, high ABV, murk bombs, sour beers, barrel aged beers, fruity beers – there exists great examples already available to consumers with many more to come.

One trend we will see is that wood-aged sours, wild, mixed and spontaneous fermentations will get greater attention. Burning Sky have taken delivery of a coolship, thought to be the first in the UK for some time. Beavertown’s Tempus project will no doubt start to see results. Cloudwater, Wild Beer Co and The Kernel have foeders that they will be playing with more and more in 2017 and BrewDog have announced plans to build a separate and segregated sour facility, Overworks, in Ellon, to be headed up by Richard Kilcullen, former head of sour production at American brewery Wicked Weed. Great news for fans of these types of beers.

Tooling Up 

If last year saw breweries scaling up, this year we will see breweries tooling up. Expect your Twitter Instagram feed filled with breweries taking delivery of whirlpools, centrifuges, lactic acid tanks, yeast propagators, canning lines (more on that later). Why? All in the name of improving quality, consistency and efficiency. This is important for the breweries as with all the choice out there, drinker’s tolerance for a beer that is not quite up to snuff is wearing thin.

Festival Fever

Craft beer festivals are mirroring the growth of the breweries they promote – scaling up and tooling up. The traditional craft beer festival catered for beer geeks, bringing together a select number of breweries who usually bring key personnel as well as a selection of core and experimental beers. Like-minded people mill about comparing beers and using it as a chance to catch up. There remains a big place for these types of festivals, but new ones will emerge. More focused festivals on types of beers (think HopCity), regions and breweries, as well as big events targeting mainstream punters offering an experience – something millennials supposedly value above all else.

The festival making the biggest splash is The Beavertown Extravaganza (great to see that word featured here), which promises to be massive, bringing together a huge array of the world best and hippest craft brewers and will also serve at the launch of the 2016 Rainbow Project beers too. But it has caused a splash in that it will clash with the Leeds International Beer Festival. My view is that there is room for all of these festivals. While the craft beer enthusiast will struggle to attend all (maybe 2017 is the year of FOMO management for the craft beer enthusiast), it should hopefully see craft beer expand into a wider audience.

Small Pack

Last year saw a point of inflection in beer buying patterns in the UK with off-trade purchase of beer exceed on-trade purchase of beer for the first time. This clearly translates to a big an opportunity for brewers to focus on packaging in bottles and cans for off trade distribution. We are already seeing some trends emerge for smaller bottles (Thornbridge moved to 330ml from 500ml), bigger cans (Magic Rock have released a number of beautifully designed 500ml cans in late 2016, Cloudwater landed on 440ml cans for their move to canning) and multipacks (BrewDog sell in multipacks and I have recently seen Five Points selling their cans as six packs at OddBins in West Hampstead). And I expect to see this continue in 2017.

Whilst talking of cans, one odd trend is the 360 degree, or topless can, that London Beer Factory are currently using. Unsure how widely this one will spread.

Re-branding (Visual Identity)

In an increasingly competitive market having a distinct visual identity is one way to stand out. We have seen a number of traditional breweries re-branding in 2016 to appeal to younger, craft oriented drinkers. In 2017, I believe we will see a number of craft breweries follow the lead of Redchurch Brewery and review their visual identity. Redchurch launched a new site in Harlow, refreshed their beer recipes and brewing techniques and announced their Urban Farmhouse brewery at their existing site in Bethnal Green. This resulted in a desire for a fresh look to go with it. We’ve already seen Beavertown move away from their original ‘B in a triangle’ and go full skull in 2017. Will BrewDog continue their look as they launch in the US, the Lone Wold distillery and the Overworks sour facility? My money is to expect a new look from them this year.

Merch Alert

2017 will be the year of merchandising. While breweries have dabbled in cheap t-shirts, badges and glassware, this year we will see more focus and quality in the merchandise breweries are willing to put their name to. Some breweries are really well positioned with a brand and visual identify that, if done well, would shine in a range of quality merchandise.

Failures

While many believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, in a competitive market, there will be winners and losers. Sadly we will see some breweries close. I would think this will likely be breweries that don’t have the resources, ability, or passion to continue. Smaller local breweries without; a taproom, strong link to their community, quality beers, ability to scale and social media presence will be most likely at risk. I don’t think we will see any large scale failures however.

Cross-Collaborations

Not in the traditional sense of breweries collaborating with each other, but collaborations across industries. This links to a Three Bullet Friday post I did last December. Think collaborations with coffee roasters, restaurants / chefs, sporting bodies (think local football teams, cycling brands, running clubs etc), music labels / brands / festivals (could we see a beer brewed usual wild yeasts found at Glastonbury?). This helps bring craft beer to a broader audience by looking at where beer drinkers’ interests overlap with other interests and vice versa.

That’s my views, looking forward to hearing some of yours.