Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: January 2016

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Craft: a Publican's Prerogative

With so many great things happening in UK brewing and beer in general, I hope that 2016 brings about a shift in publicans' attitudes. There is a thirst from consumers to drink well-made and interesting beers, and plenty of breweries to make them who do not have the outlets to shift the quantities needed for long-term production. 

There are undoubtedly some cities that have really upped their game in terms of "craft" beer. As an example, Leeds is swimming in indie beer outlets with Beer Ritz, Tall Boys and Little Beer House, plus pioneering craft beer-driven bars such as North Bar, Friends of Ham and Bundobust, who are shortly due to open another bar in Manchester... itself another great embracer of modern beer. Some of the most progressive breweries in the country can be found over the Pennines - Cloudwater and Chorlton amongst a veritable swathe of new railway arch breweries and even the more traditional breweries such as Marble taking steps of progress.

Newcastle plays host to a wide range of brew bars such as the Bridge Tavern and the Hop and Cleaver, plus the Cumberland with Northern Alchemy in a couple of shipping containers on the premises. It's places such as this, making small batches of progressive beer, that could well be the next "big thing" for drinkers. Interesting brews, knowledgeable staff, and an all round great atmosphere.

Aberdeen and Edinburgh are already two places I would wholeheartedly recommend going to for a beer tour. With 60 beers over two bars alone in Aberdeen it certainly is worth a trip. And then there is London which goes without saying (or at least saying by someone who knows it better than this northern monkey) is a cornucopia of craftiness.  

There are also a whole host of cities on the cusp of becoming the craft destinations so many of the "new wave" of beer drinkers crave, such as Nottingham, Bristol, Sheffield and Birmingham. But despite these cities being established as places to consume beer, they still need to give keg a bit more of a big hug and embrace it firmly as a worthwhile and profitable piece of the drinks industry pie. 

It can also be argued that even with the upsurge of interest in better quality beer, some new breweries are struggling to sell their product. With an ever increasing supply of beer, a small number of new craft bars opening but the continual closing of pubs and the ever prominent abundance of tied pubs, it is becoming a real concern for some about how to keep afloat. There are plenty of producers not able to sell their product because of a reluctance on the part of landlords to spend a reasonable price for beer. This is an attitude which for me really needs to change... as a drinker, I would be more than willing to put my hand in my pocket and spend an extra 50p on a decent, interesting pint, and it's time for publicans to realise this. There'll always be a place for a £2.50 pint of generic blonde beer on the bar, but for the beer scene to continue to thrive and grow, the new, "craft" alternatives need to be more visible. This is a call for pub owners everywhere to take just a little bit of a risk, try something new, and take more of an active part in the conversations about the changes to our beery landscape.



Saturday, 2 January 2016

Our 2015 highlights

We've seen a lot of Golden Pints posts popping up recently, which got us thinking hard about what we wanted to do as a little overview of 2015. We've loosely followed the same format as the Golden Pints Awards as put forward by Andy at BeerReviews, but as we felt that some of the categories weren't as relevant as others for us (also we've missed the deadline!) we've cut some of them out and focused on what we've particularly loved this year.

Best UK Cask Beer

J - North Riding - Red Citra. In this brew North Riding have done much more with this popular hop than simply bunging a load in and expecting the hop to do all of the talking. It's rounded and well balanced with a well selected malt bill backing up the Citra to perfection.
L - Wylam - Remain In Light. A clean, hoppy pale ale that despite this fairly mundane description managed to be memorable enough to make it into this post. Just everything you could possibly want from a pale ale.

Best UK Keg Beer

J - Beavertown - BA Moose Fang, an imperial brown ale aged in Armagnac barrels. The description alone got my mouth watering, and it did not disappoint - rich and nutty with a massive, rounded malt backbone. Complex and absolutely delicious.
L - Hawkshead - Chocolate & Tonka Bean Imperial Porter, enjoyed at IndyManBeerCon in Manchester (a fantastic event!). Beautiful sweetly spiced rich aroma, that I can conjure up in my mind just from thinking about it, with a silky mouthfeel and an almost Mexican hot chocolate flavour, with cinnamon, vanilla and dark cocoa vying for attention. Sublime.

Best UK Bottle or Canned Beer

J - Buxton - Ace Edge. We love a bit of Sorachi Ace in this house and Ace Edge encompasses everything that's great about this hop. Buxton's Axe Edge is one of the best IPAs out there, and for me the addition of Sorachi just lifts it into that next dimension.
L - Weird Beard - Defacer. More Sorachi Ace in absolute spades (told you we liked it here!). Tropical, piney, oodles of that gherkin flavour that I always get from Sorachi hopped beers and which I simply love. We wrote more about this one here.

Best Overseas Draught

J - Omnipollo - Magic #90000, a blueberry/pecan/almond/vanilla smoothie IPA, enriched with lactose. Everything you'd expect from the name, a brilliantly crafted beer.
L - I've gone for Omnipollo too - Magic #3 Protein Shake IIPA. Never had a beer like this before, it just completely blew my mind... sort of like hopped up Ovaltine?! 
Both of these beers were part of the Omnipollo Buxton Tap House takeover - read more about it here.

Best Overseas Bottle or Canned Beer

J - Against the Grain - London Balling. Every sip of this wonderfully balanced and massively boozy English-style barley wine all the way from Kentucky was a delight. Barrel aged for 3 months in bourbon cask which gave a truly enormous flavour that took me two and half hours to drink. I enjoyed every second.
L - De Molen - Ball & Chain. Smoky yet sweet, sort of like a really good ham. What more could you possibly want from a beer?!

Best Collaboration Brew

J - Weird Beard/Brodies - Weird Brodmance. A big imperial stout enrichened with maple syrup and lactose. The balance between the dark malt, rich sugar and complex hop nature lifted this to being far more than just your "normal" impy stout.
L - Abbeydale/Hop Hideout - Marshmallow Meltdown Stout. My most "tapped" beer of the year! A really fun drink... boozy, chocolatey, gorgeous coffee notes in the backbone and sweet hints of marshmallow to finish. Excellent pump clip, too.

Best UK Brewery

J - Buxton - simply because I don't think I've ever had a bad beer from them. Their consistency and commitment to quality (including their arguments for ceasing making cask beer earlier this year) enables them to stay right at the pinnacle of British brewing and remain entirely relevant in a changing market.
L - Mad Hatter. I was drawn in to Mad Hatter's beers right from their start up simply because of the Alice in Wonderland-y link (it's my all time favourite book) and since then they've quickly become one of the most exciting breweries out there. Always imaginative and often outrageous, their concoctions never fail to deliver on flavour and to top it off they're bloody lovely chaps too. 

Best World Brewery

J - Crooked Stave. Some of the most interesting beers I've drunk this year - Nightmare on Brett springs immediately to mind. Progressive and exciting, it's great to see their stuff appearing on the shelves of bottle shops in the UK. We're lucky enough to be heading over to Colorado this year and a trip to their brewpub is sure to be one of the highlights of the trip.
L - Got to be Firestone Walker for me, quite simply because I've hugely enjoyed everything I've tried from them, with their Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA being a particular highlight of Matt Curtis's brilliant bottle club event at Hop Hideout earlier in the year. They seem to have a go-to beer for whatever mood I'm in, from their Easy Jack IPA perfect for a summer barbeque to the vintage series which demands thoughtful sipping.

Pub/bar of the year

Unanimous and instant decision on this one - Six° North Bar in Aberdeen played host to a phenomenally good afternoon for us, which ended in Laura singing along to Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights at 7.30pm (at which point we decided heading back to our hotel was probably a wise idea...). An absolute plethora of beers available on tap, with hundreds more featuring on a bottle menu, excellent food and a laid back atmosphere with friendly, enthusiastic staff. Enough said.