Under the Spotlight: Devitera

 
This Tryanuary I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit a local microbrewery that I had not been to before. Devitera is based in the small village of Rowde in Wiltshire surrounded by picturesque countryside and sloping fields of barley. Nearby is the county’s famous Caen Hill locks, a stretch of canal with 29 locks to navigate through, linking Rowde to the market town of Devizes. Devizes has a long history of brewing that goes back to the 18th Century and most notably beer giant Wadworth established their brewery in 1875. Now in Wiltshire we are finding a new breed of brewers who are emerging with more modern techniques and exciting ideas. Glen is the man behind Devitera, who’s name originates from the latin words ‘ad divisas’ (boundaries) and “terra’ (land). Devitera has been created with the idea of making ’beer beyond boundaries’ and using Glen’s unique approach to brewing.
 
Chemical formula of Rowde water
As I made my way over to Rowde, with my Sat Nav route taking me down small and windy country roads, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on my arrival. I turned into a small access road just off Rowde’s high street and drove into darkness as the street light faded away behind me. The end of the road opened up to a large space and I recognised the Devitera logo on an A board outside the brewery. There I was greeted by Glen who invited me inside to see him prepping for next day’s bottling. “Not many people get to see this” Glen said to me as I watched him thoughtfully set up his bottling equipment. I look around whilst Glen finishes up and we chat about my beer journey before he begins to tell me all about Devitera. 
Following redundancy from his job in IT, Glen decided he would work for himself and set up a brewery. Although Devitera has been 2 years in the making it had a bumpy start. Problems with the premises, legal issues and losing a brewing partner were all a set back. During this time Glen began to write about his experiences in his blog which he had found to be quite cathartic throughout his beer journey. Despite all the problems Devitera has now been brewing beer for the last year commercially and making a name for itself in Wiltshire.
 
Glen hasn’t had any formal training except for taking a standard course in brewing as well as one in business management so he is mostly self taught. Glen started out using pre-packaged home-brew kits in buckets and then worked up to creating his own recipes using his Grain Father which is still used today as a pilot kit for new ideas.He has also been a fan of drinking beer and when I asked him what sort of styles got in him interested in brewing he replied, “everything!”.
 
What struck me about this brewery is that everything has been designed specifically with the beer’s journey in mind. The brewing equipment used to be old dairy vessels which have been modified for the purpose of making beer. Glen has a very engineering mind and is very good at problem solving to help make the brewhouse work for him. This was particularly true when he explained to me that the length of his labelling table was exactly 24 bottles – perfect for a full case of beer! Many of the work surfaces, display materials and cask racks have been made from reclaimed wood and repurposed in an inventive way. 
 
Most of the ingredients for Devitera’s beers are sourced as locally as they can be. The malt is picked up just down the road at Warminster Maltings (one of Britain’s oldest maltings) and Glen has also been known to forage for local hops. I was able to try a sample of Devitera’s English Pale Ale whilst I was at the brewery which to me had some grassy notes and a pleasant dry finish. I had come across Devitera’s beers before and have previously tried their American Pale Ale as well as the Power Fail English Pale Ale, both of which I enjoyed. I was also given a sneak peek at one of Glen’s latest projects working with different types of yeast. He recently acquired some Sicilian wild yeast from a local bakery and did a test brew to see how it would react. When we tasted it we agreed it had a pithy citrus flavour and I am quite excited to see what Glen decides to brew once he’s finished with this experiment. 
 
So what does the future hold for Devitera? Glen explained to me that eventually he would like to be able to open up a tap room within the current brewhouse and sell his version of Weissebier, which is one of his dream brews. It is obvious that Glen is very passionate about what he does and it shows in his attention to detail from the cleanliness of the tanks to the way the bottles are packaged. He sees his product from start to finish making this a true artisan beer. I hope to see more of Devitera in the future and will keep an eye out for their beers not just this Tryanuary, but all year around.
Devitera Website: https://devitera.co.uk

Golden Pints Awards 2018

It’s coming up to the end of another year so I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on some of the best beery experiences I’ve had this year and write up my own Golden Pints winners for 2018. For my list of categories I looked at a few other blogs and podcasts and chose the best based on my year of beer. Without further ado here are my Winners and Honourable Mentions for Golden Pints Awards this year!

Best UK Cask Beer
This year I have tried to drink more cask ales as part of my New Beers Resolutions 2017 by going to more festivals and trying out more traditional beer styles. For this category I have awarded my winner as Covert from Stealth Brew Co as this has been the cask beer that I have enjoyed the most this year. Stealth Brew Co is my local brewery and Covert has been my cask ale of choice over the summer at the brewery’s open weekends as it is packed wth refreshing Citra hops making it very drinkable.  

Honourable mention goes to Arbor’s Shangri-La which was a very close second. Another cask ale that if I saw was on the menu I would order a pint or two! 

Best UK Keg Beer
There was no question who this was going to get awarded to. It has been one of the most talked about beers this year and my first choice keg beer, Keller Pils from Lost & Grounded. This has been my go to beer of the year and I think it has changed some people’s opinions, including mine, on lager beer styles. 

Honourable mention to Burning Sky’s Coolship Release No. 1 which was brewed for Burning Sky’s 5th Birthday. I was fortunate to try this at Small Bar Bristol who were one of the venues involved holding an event on the the release of this beer. I really enjoyed the tartness and it reminded me of some of the saisons I had tried in Belgium last year. 

Best Collaboration
This was a tricky award to pick as there’s been so many great brewery collaborations this year so I decided to choose a collaborative project as my winner. I’ve chosen the North Sea Bridges, a project with Scottish and Scandinavian breweries collaborating to reflect on the historic trading links between the two nations. I really enjoyed working my way through this box and I can’t wait to see what the project comes up with next year when the Scandinavians host Scotland. 

Honourable mentions go to some of the other collaborative projects I’ve had this year, Wylam’s Northern Powerhouse series and the Rainbow Project 2018. I also wanted to give a shout out to Buxton and Omnipollo who’s range of Ice Cream beers have always been exciting, especially with the soft serve option. We might be saying goodbye to Yellow Belly but hopefully we can still see some great collab beers from these guys next year. 

Best UK Brewery 
My winner for this award is Mills Brewing who I discovered this year. Based in Gloucester, Jonny and Gen are using wild fermentation and blending to create some amazing lambic beers. I really like the Belgian influence of their beers and I particularly enjoyed drinking Running Beer this year. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Mills Brewing. 

Best Pub/Bar of the Year
Caskaway gets my first prize for this category as it is one of my favourite places to visit when I am in Southampton. Ian, Alex and the team are great hosts who always make you feel welcome and there is always great beers on the menu. I don’t get to go to Caskaway as much as I’d like so I always make sure I visit when I’m down by the South Coast.  

Honourable mentions go to The Convivial Rabbit in Dorchester who’s cask ales are kept in really good condition and to The Vaults in Devizes which I credit as one of the places that got me started on my beer journey. 
Best Brewery Tap Room
I visited my winner for this award on a trip to Leeds and Huddersfield just before Christmas. Magic Rock is one of my all time favourite tap rooms and I have enjoyed many a beer in there. The tap room itself is a great sized space and there is always a good range of beers on keg as well as cask. I really like that you can see through a window to some of the brewing equipment which keeps the tap room connected to the brewery. I’ve also enjoyed some really great street food here from guest food vendors who pitch up outside. The only problem is that Huddersfield is quite far from where I live so whenever we’re heading up North I always make sure to pop into the Magic Rock tap room. 

Honourable mentions go to Moor and Lost & Grounded as I have spent a lot of time this year in these tap rooms. I’ve spent a few afternoons at Lost & Grounded for their Summer Brewhouse Sessions and Winter Blowout as well as an exclusive tasting during Beer o’clock show’s #CrimboCrawl2018. Moor isn’t too far from Bristol Temple Meads train station so it’s always a great way to start or finish a day out in the city. 

Best Food and Beer Destination
This award has to go to Bundobust. I’ve had the pleasure of going to both the Manchester and Leeds restaurants and both times the food and beer menus have been incredible. I really like that some of the local breweries produce beers in collaboration with Bundobust so that they compliment the food, my particular favourite being their Bombay Dazzler Indian Witbier produced with Northern Monk. I also really enjoy that the food is a bit like Indian Tapas and I quite often order 4 or 5 things off the menu to share with my boyfriend, including the infamous Vada Pav. Keeping everything crossed that a Bundobust might open a restaurant further down south so I can get a regular fix.

Honourable mention goes to Wings Diner at Small Bar Bristol who produce some of the best fried chicken I have ever had and the Korean dip is insane. A must if your feeling peckish on King Street! 

Best Bottle Shop
My Golden Pints winner for the Best Bottle Shop of the year goes to Independent Spirit of Bath. This bottle shop always has a great range of beers and is where I stocked up on rarer beers this year. The guys in there are very friendly and knowledgeable about beer as well as spirits, including whiskey and rum. Independent Spirit also hold tasting events and this year I attended their beer ‘off’ flavours workshop to brush up on my knowledge. Overall the service I get in the Independent Spirit is above and beyond compared with other places which makes them my winner this year. 

Simon Johnson award for Best Twitterer 
I’m giving this award to Tom @CraftBeerHour for his weekly #CraftBeerHour segment. Tom organises for guests and followers to get involved every Tuesday to drink and talk about beer. He also organises competitions with help from breweries to boost interaction and up until recently has also been the face of the Tryanuary campaign. He is enthusiastic and engaging with his followers which is why he deserves to be recognised for this award. 

Honourable mention goes to Doreen @ourdoreen for her #LetsBeerPositive initiative. In a year where there has been quite a bit of negativity within the beer industry Doreen’s weekly beery questions help us to see and share our positive experiences with others. 

Best Beery Adventure
My highlight of the year has been travelling to Berlin and drinking so much German beer. I’ve been to some great bars and tap rooms within the city thanks to recommendations from my followers and my favourite memory will be sitting out in warm autumnal sunshine at Stone Berlin. Thank you everyone that got involved and offered me suggestions for places to visit for great beer! 

Honourable mentions to East Bristol Brewery Trail and to Beer o’clock Show’s Bristol Crimbo Crawl. 

Best Beer Festival
My final award for Best Beer Festival goes to Indy Man Beer Con. I’ve been going to IMBC for the last 4 years and it is always the highlight of my events calendar. It is one of the largest festivals of the year with a huge collection of independent breweries and is held at the Victoria Baths in Manchester. When you enter IMBC it is a bit like feeling like a kid in a sweet shop and I never know where to start. This year I really enjoyed the Buxton X Omnipollo Ice Cream soft serve and had the opportunity to try a range of beers over two sessions. The food choice was also amazing at the food court outside and as always the annual cutting of Wild Beer’s Westcombe Cheese was frenzied. There really is something for everyone at this festival which is why it has to be my winner for the Best Beer Festival. 

Honourable mentions go to St Austell’s Celtic Beer Festival and Frome Craft Beer Festival. It was the first time for me this year to attend these two festivals and they were very different in their own way. In the summer at the Frome Craft Beer Festival there was a battle between Brewed Boy and Palmer Street Bottle, two bars in the town, to see who could bring the best beers to the festival. I had a great day at this event as I got to try some amazing beers. Hopefully Brewed Boy and Palmer Street Bottle will run it again next year. 

In November I was invited to attend the Celtic Beer Festival as my boyfriend works for St Austell and I was blown away by the scale of the event. I really enjoyed drinking the St Austell small batch beers produced especially for the festival and one of my highlights of the day was watching the Commitments perform live at the end of the evening. 

So that concludes my summery of this year’s Golden Pint Awards. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring to the beer industry. Although some things will be ending hopefully there will be some new and exciting beginnings. 

Hoppy New Year Everyone!

Summer of 2018 – The Year of the Lager

The Summer of 2018 will be remembered for many things. We cheered on the England football team in this year’s World Cup truly believing that it was “coming home”. We also had the Royal Wedding and to top it all off we had one of the hottest summers on record in the UK. But helping to celebrate all that there was one particular beer style that was on everybody’s lips, lager! I, like a lot of others this summer, have craved the light, clean and crisp taste of a cold pint of lager. In the Cask Report 2018, lager accounted for 65% of on-trade sales in the UK making it the most popular beer style in the country. This is mostly thanks to the macrobreweries but they have also given the style a bad reputation amongst beer lovers. Like many other people, macro lager was the very first style of beer I tried but back then I didn’t drink it to savour it. As I started trying different beer styles I admit that I did get put off from lager, finding it was a bit bland and overly carbonated. However this year I have discovered that more breweries are producing their own versions of lager to a much higher standard. One brewery who have led the resurgence of quality lager are Bristol based brewers Lost & Grounded, who since starting in 2016, have produced one of the most talked about lagers this year with their Keller Pils. When I tried this lager it completely changed the way that I perceived the style and has become a go to beer for me on numerous visits to their brewery as well as at home with their cans becoming a fridge staple. When I saw that BeerBods were doing The Lager Box 2018, championing some of the UKs best interpretations of the style, I knew I had to snap one up.
 
 
Inside the BeerBods Lager Box there was a selection of 15 lager styles from a range of British breweries, some well known and others who were new to me. A few of my highlights I enjoyed included Vocation’s Yakima Pilsner and Stroud Brewery’s Light Organic Lager (LOL) both of which were really light, crisp and refreshing which is just want you want from this style of beer. One of the beers that surprised me was Summer from ShinDigger which was packed full of fruity watermelon flavour. This was really refreshing and very sessionable, perfect for lazy summer days or BBQs! There were also some great crowd pleasers in the box, most notably Magic Rock’s Dancing Bear, Thornbridge’s Lukas, Tiny Rebel’s Boho and the infamous Lost & Grounded Keller Pils, all of which would be my ‘go to’ lagers. Whilst working my way through the box I did find that one or two of the beers reminded me of macrobrewery versions however I felt that this has been a great display of British lager and can’t wait to try other brewery’s versions of this underrated style. 
 
To finish off my summer of lager I took a trip to Berlin with my partner to drink the beer style close to its original source. Lager was first produced by the Germans in Bavaria in the early 19th century and the name is derived from ‘lagern’ (meaning to store). It didn’t take long walking around Berlin to find classic German lager. As well as going to bars and beer halls around the city you can also buy lager at street food stalls, which is where I found myself trying Berlin’s famous sausage dish – Currywurst. Whilst in Berlin I went into a couple of traditional beer halls (Hofbrӓu and Augustiner) who were serving a range of lagers as well as Märzen, a style traditionally brewed for Oktoberfest which can be read more about here. It was hard not to order a litre stein of lager especially when the weather was unexpectedly sunny with temperatures of 25℃ in October! There is no style of beer that you would think about ordering in litre measures except for lager. I thought that the larger measures would mean you wouldn’t have to order more beer too frequently, particularly in a busy beer hall! However I found that it is interesting to taste how the flavour changes as it warms up, much like how we serve lager in tall glasses in the UK and other parts of Europe.  
Lager is very accessible style of beer which is noticeable when you go out with a group of friends as the experience of drinking it can be shared. Quite often I find when I go out for a beer as a group we will all order something different and we treat the beers like Pokémon, trying to taste them all. But if we see L&G Keller Pils is on the menu we all order pints and drink it together. In my view this year has seen the revival of lager with more breweries tackling the style and making it their own. Lager has come a long way from the macro styles I used to drink as a teenager and it has definitely changed my perception of this beer. Now that autumn is upon us and the nights draw in we will look to darker beer styles for comfort, but we will always remember the summer of 2018 as the year of the lager!

Ein Prosit to Oktoberfest!

This year my partner and I decided to book a trip to Berlin for our annual holiday. “Is it a good idea for us to be booking a trip to Germany in October?” I asked as we were booking the flights. I, like probably a lot of other people, believed that Oktoberfest is celebrated in October to coincide with the end of the harvest. It wasn’t until I did some research into Oktoberfest that I discovered the true history of the Bavarian festival. I purchased a box from Beer Hawk of official Oktoberfest beers brewed by Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrӓu, Lӧwenbrӓu, Paulaner and Spӓten (unfortunately I was unable to get hold of a bottle from Augustiner), to get a taste of this traditional German festival. I also bought a range of ‘Crafty Oktoberfest’ style beers by breweries from the rest of the world: Erdinger, Tempest Brewing Co., Goose Island, Thornbridge and Blue Point, to try their interpretations.
The first Oktoberfest event took place in Munich on the 12th October 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to a fairground on the fields at the city’s gates for the festivities and a parade was held in honour of the marriage. The fields were later called ‘Theresienwiese’ which translates as ‘Theresa’s Meadow’ after the Princess. Today, the locals shorten Oktoberfest to ‘Wiesen’ after the original fairground fields. The wedding celebrations went down so well that it was decided Munich would continue to hold an annual festival and in 1811 a horse racing event began. Over the next few years more activities were added to the festival including carnival booths, swings, bowling alleys as well as other attractions. 
Over the years there have been historic events which have affected the running of Oktoberfest. An outbreak of cholera and war, in particular World Wars 1 and 2, lead to the festival being cancelled. Despite this Oktoberfest has only missed out on 24 events since it began in 1810. At the end of the 19th Century Oktoberfest was re-organised and beer halls (bierkellers) with live music were introduced to the festival. The first Bratwursts were sold in 1881 and in 1892 beer was first served in glass steins/mugs (bierkrugs). 
Oktoberfest as we know it today began in 1950 and is held from Mid-September until the first weekend in October. The festival is opened in the same traditional way in Munich starting with a 12 gun salute before the first keg of Oktoberfest beer is tapped by the Mayor at 12:00pm who shouts ‘O’zapft is!’ (It’s tapped!). The first litre of beer is gifted to the Minister-President of the state of Bavaria and then the festival begins! 
Each year Munich’s ‘Big Six’ breweries; Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrӓu, Lӧwenbrӓu, Paulaner and Spӓten, are the only ones permitted to produce a special Oktoberfest lager for the occasion. To be an Oktoberfest beer it must have been brewed within Munich’s city walls and must conform to Reinheitsgebot. Reinheitsgebot, which is sometimes referred as the ‘German Beer Purity Law’ in English, is a regulation limiting the number of ingredients used in the production of German beer. Large quantities of beer is usually consumed at Oktoberfest, as you can imagine, and in 2013 it was reported that 7.7 million litres was served!
After all this research I couldn’t wait to start trying the Oktoberfest beers so I started off with the traditional styles followed by the ‘crafty’ box. As expected the traditional Oktoberfest beers have similar flavours due to the purity law but there were one or two differences that helped make them stand out. Out of all the traditional beers I tried my favourites were from Hacker-Pschorr and Paulener. The Hacker-Pschorr Oktberfest Marzen was really sweet with toffee and nutty flavours. The Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier was not as sweet but was really crisp and more lager-like in flavour. It reminded me of a Keller Pils and was very drinkable. I found that the ‘crafty’ Oktoberfest beers were more hoppy in flavour. This was especially apparent with Tempest’s A Touch of Prost where the hops gave a real citrusy flavour. However my favourite of the ‘crafty’ Oktoberfest beers was Thornbridge’s Feallen as I felt it was the truest to the traditional style with it’s sweeter, caramel flavours. 
Today we associate Oktoberfest with Lederhosen, Oompa music, German beer and fun! Last year Adidas produced a range of trainers designed to be beer/vomit repellent, poking fun at the boozy side of the festival and this year Munich football club released a 1860 Oktoberfest themed football kit especially for the event. Since the first Oktoberfest the festival has become a big tourist attraction in Germany but it is also widely celebrated around the world. In this country supermarkets such as Waitrose and mail order websites like Beer Hawk are selling more German beers, giving us more access to these styles. Perfect for if you want to celebrate Oktoberfest yourself without getting on a plane! So Ein Prosit (a toast) to Oktoberfest!

Cask Ale Week 2018

This week is Cask Ale week and it got me thinking about my New Beer Resolutions I wrote about back in January for #Tryanuary, one of which was a pledge to drink more cask beer. I wanted to drink more cask ales as usually I avoid them for more unusual flavoured beers and crazy kegs! I used to think that cask beers were all about best bitters but I felt like I needed to broaden my beer horizon and learn about more traditional styles.
To help meet this resolution I have consciously tried to attend more cask ale festivals and events this year. This summer I went to the Southampton Beer Festival as well as a local one in Devizes. I was surprised that at both of these events there was such a variety of beers on offer from both traditional as well as more modern breweries and I didn’t struggle to find something I’d like. In August I was also fortunate enough to be able to attend The Great British Beer Festival at The Olympia in London which I have previously written about here. Although I was unsure what I’d think of the GBBF I came away feeling that this festival really did change my perception of cask ale. I felt like I was a kid in a sweet shop, the variety of beer styles made it really hard to choose what to drink next. I particularly enjoyed the Thornbridge Brewery bar where I tried the Melba and Jessamine although it was hard not to have a pint of cask Jaipur!
I’ve also been drinking more cask beer when visiting pubs, the stand out has probably been my new love for Arbor Ales cask beer! When I saw on social media that a cask of Shangri-La came on at a local pub we just happened to be visiting that night I was genuinely excited to order my first pint, and it did not disappoint! Another cask ale I cant get enough of at the moment is Covert from Stealth Brew Co. who recently underwent a re-brand of the brewery which you can read about here. This summer Stealth has held open weekends and although they have some other brilliant beers on I just keep going back to the Covert. It has the perfect hoppy hit from the Citra that leaves you wanting more with exceptional drinkability. 
I feel like I’ve come quite far in just this year considering I didn’t think that cask ale would be for me. I’ve found some new favourite cask ales as well as discovering the breweries behind them. The beer festivals I’ve been too have also shown me that cask ale is much more than traditional bitter and I’m excited to keep discovering more favourites!
 
 

Collaboration Beer Projects

 
After five years the Rainbow Project is ending and going out with a bang with their limited boxes of barrel aged beers. Having followed the project for the last three years, I was a little gutted that it was over so soon. The project was first set up by Siren to promote collaboration and creativity of the beers brewed. It’s been really great to see how breweries have thought outside the box with their colour themes to produce some really innovative beers, the most famous being Yellow Belly and Key Lime Tau. The best outcome from the Rainbow Project has to be the new friendships created from the collaborations. Perhaps this is why the project has met a natural conclusion. More breweries than ever are collaborating together to produce special editions as well as beers for events and festivals. Previously I’ve had to plan weekends to go and try the Rainbow Project beers as it seemed like a huge event but this year it seemed more readily available at venues and with mail order cases. There also doesn’t seem to be as much hype this year then it has done in previous years. I’ve always been very excited to hear about the releases as well as who’d paired with who but I didn’t really feel the buzz this year. I’ve seen people comment that they felt this last box was a little too heavy on sour beers. This didn’t bother me as I enjoy sour styles and saisons are good for barrel ageing. However the project could have been more diverse with beer styles and it would have been nice to see an impy stout or two. Despite this I still really enjoyed spending an afternoon with my Rainbow Project box with my highlights being the Rosa Rouge by Wild Beer & Side Project as well as Saison Green by Partizan & New Belgium.
 
 
This year I have also tried a few of other limited edition beer boxes, the Northern Powerhouse 2018, Fullers and Friends and the North Sea Bridges. The Northern Powerhouse series, the brain child of Wylam Brewery, was created as a celebration of the North of England. The box championed the region’s independent brewers with the can designs reflecting the landmarks of the towns and cities the beers were produced in. There was a huge buzz when these beers were released and the full boxes were limited to only 6,600 cases so you had to be quick to get your hands on one. Fullers and Friends, on the other hand, were much more available as they were produced on a larger scale at the Griffin Brewery. What made these beers different was seeing one of Britain’s oldest breweries team up with six that are up and coming. The result was a mixture of traditional and modern brewing techniques creating six unique and very drinkable beers. 
 
This year was the launch of the North Sea Bridges Project which was born from the historic trade relations of Scotland and Scandinavia. Dubbed as the next Rainbow Project, this collaboration saw six Scottish and Scandi breweries randomly paired together to learn from each other, forge friendships and produce fun beers. This year the brewing has been done in Scotland and next year will be Scandinavia’s turn to host. I really enjoyed drinking my way through this box and if I had to choose a favourite then I’d go for the Cowberry Heart. It was fruity with a tart finish from the Lingonberries but all the beers from the project tasted amazing so its hard to just pick one!
Although the end of the Rainbow Project is sad I am glad that there are other special limited edition ranges being created. Each of these boxes are a bit like a music album. They are bodies of work where the singles compliment each other to tell a story. These boxes have brought breweries together to from near and far corners of the world as well as help encourage growth of knowledge amongst the brewers. I feel that these collaborative projects are a great platform for lesser known breweries stand out as well as fuelling peoples urges to travel to try new beers. The Rainbow Project was one of the first annual beer events I got excited about and I’m glad it wont be my last.

**UPDATE** 29/09/2018

Yesterday Siren announced that the Rainbow Project isn’t ending. In their latest blog they explain that although they will not be continuing to host the project they have decided to pass the torch onto Left Handed Giant. LHG will be continuing the Rainbow Project with other young breweries (3 years old or less) with a view to create a platform for a new generation. This is really exciting news as I have really enjoyed following the Rainbow Project over the years. I first tried the Rainbow Project at Small Bar Bristol and have continued to follow it since by attending other launch parties as well as buying boxes to drink at home. I look forward to seeing the new Class of 2019!

The Great British Beer Festival 2018

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to go along to the Trade Session of The Great British Beer Festival 2018 at the Olympia in London. This year marks the 41st GBBF for CAMRA and was set to be the biggest yet. To be honest I’ve not really rushed to attend this festival as I didn’t feel it was for me. However this year I pledged to drink more cask ale as part of my New Beer Resolutions so I thought I’d give it a try.
The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the event’s venue. The Olympia was so much bigger than I was expecting, as well as light and airy under the domed roof. Then I found myself quite overwhelmed by the number of beers available. The festival boasted featuring over 400 breweries pouring more than 1000 beers, ciders and perries. It felt like being in a sweet shop and I had no idea where I was going to start. I always thought that at this type of festival there would be a lot of perhaps ‘old fashioned’ traditional ales but I was wrong. There were the styles you’d expect to see like mild, golden ales and porters but as I went along the bars I found there were a few more modern takes on traditional brews. One that stood out was Melba by Thornbridge Brewery which surprised me with how peachy it tasted. The International Bar also didn’t disappoint as it showcased some top breweries from Europe and America. Unfortunately the American beers were not available for the Trade Session but there was plenty of other great international beers to try!
I had the privilege of meeting some of the guys from Siren Craft Brew and congratulated them on winning Champion Beer of Britain with their Broken Dream Breakfast Stout. This was well deserved as Siren have produced so many great beers, a couple of my highlights include Limoncello IPA and more recently their collaboration beer with DEYA Brewing Company, The Sky Was Pink. I asked them what they’ll do now they’ve won CAMRA’s highest accolade and they said they will probably brew more crazy beers! 
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Great British Beer Festival. I was concerned that it would be a bit old fashioned for me but I was impressed by the range of more modern takes on traditional ales. I wasn’t stuck for things to try and I felt that although there might have been too much choice, there were enough beer styles to suit everyone’s tastes. I think that the experience has definitely made me think differently about cask ales and I feel that it has given me more confidence to try a few more!

Under the Spotlight: Stealth Brew Co.

The market town of Melksham in Wiltshire is home to the Stealth Brew Co. Formally known as the Kennet & Avon, the brewery has been given a new guise so it stands out within a traditional market. In a county where there are many large and well established traditional breweries, Stealth Brew Co. have stepped out from the shadow with new branding as well as some more experimental and exciting beers. The brewery have produced some more modern, hop forward brews and have added some keg beers to their existing portfolio of cask ales. I have been familiar with Stealth Brew Co. since visiting their micro pub, The Vaults, in Devizes four years ago and have since come to know the team. I caught up with one of the brewery’s partners, Malcolm, to ask him a bit more about the change in identity.  

The process for the new branding started in September 2017 with the final decision made in April 2018. The team felt that the old brand, Kennet & Avon, localised the products too much and felt that they were always having to explain the concept to anyone outside of the South West.  “We felt it’s important to have a brand name that doesn’t need any explanation or point to the area it is made, the brand lets the beer do the talking” says Malcolm. With the local area flooded with traditionally brewed styles, Stealth made it their mission to differentiate themselves. One way I feel that they are achieving this is by their decision not to use finings in their brews and producing naturally hazy beers. This was really important to the team at Stealth as they found a huge difference in flavour between fined and unfined beers on testing. It was then they decided to choose quality of flavour over clarity which has been well received by the regulars. Malcolm explains that they have clearly marked the beers as hazy and that this has not deterred consumers. 
 

Stealth Brew Co. also champion gluten free ales after a friend of Malcolm’s explained she was unable to drink beer like everyone else due to her gluten intolerance. This is a growing concern in the food and drink industry with 1 in 100 people suffering from coeliac disease so after investigating various brewing techniques Stealth launched their first gluten free stout in 2015 with more styles brewed since then. Many of the beer styles produced by the brewery are favourites of the team as well as by customers. “We are now brewing modern beers that we love to drink ourselves, by doing that it is a lot easier to sell it because you’re passionate about it.” says Malcolm. When I asked which was his favourite beer from the range Malcolm said, “That would have to be Camouflage”, which is Stealth’s stout/pale ale hybrid with a sessionable ABV of 4.7%. Malcolm also goes on to say that on a hot day he loves the citrusy flavours of Covert and I have to agree. This has got to be my favourites from the range however I’m looking forward to trying their new double IPA Surreptitious on keg!

 

Future plans for the brewery include canning their range of beers to open up a wider market as well as working towards opening another micro pub by the end of the year. Stealth Brew Co. would also like to develop the Tap Room and Backyard so that they can open it more on a weekly basis. Over this summer Stealth are hosting Pop Up Beer Garden Open Weekends to show off the new beer range with more dates lined up for August and September. 

So with Stealth Brew Co. lifting the veil, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future!



Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 2018

The Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 2018 saw eight independent breweries from the North of England collaborate to produce eight limited edition beers. Lead by Wylam Brewery, this was in aid of celebrating the Great Exhibition of the North which is an event championing art, design and innovation from the north of the country. The beers were limited to 6,600 cases so I felt quite honoured to be able to get hold of a box. The cans have been designed to represent each brewery using symbols and famous landmarks from the cities/towns they are based in. I couldn’t wait to crack open the beers so here are my thoughts on the box.
001 Imperial Stout – Wylam X Buxton
This is a big beer and not just because it has a ABV of 10.5%. This smells and tastes like a black forest gateaux with dark fruits and chocolate flavours. The mouthfeel is thinner than I was expecting particularly as this feels like an after dinner beer. It does, however, have some creaminess but not quite like the range of ice cream style beers that Buxton have been releasing recently. I have enjoyed drinking this beer but I am glad I have not stuck strictly to the numerical order of the cans with this one!
002 Strong Brown Ale – Wylam X Cloudwater 
 
I don’t normally go for this style of beer so this a new one on me. The appearance of this ale is quite dark for this style but I was pleasantly surprised by how sweet it tasted. I could taste quite a lot of malty sweetness with lots of caramel and chocolate flavours. There is also some coffee notes coming through which offsets the sweetness and reminds me of a Tiramisu. I was really impressed with how smooth and well balanced these flavours were. I think this is a good example of a traditional style of beer and is one I would definitely have again.
003 Mixed Fermentation Farmhouse – Wylam X Black Lodge Brewing 
 
For me this is an attractive beer. Beautifully hazy and looks like a mango fruit juice. The taste is very drinkable with flavours of mango, apricot and peach but it is too easy to forget the 7.5% ABV. However I could happily drink another can as this was gone in just a few mouthfuls! I also really enjoyed the earthy straw-like notes typical of this style as it still reminded me I was drinking a beer. Definitely one of my favourites from the range – just wish I could have another!
004 Pale Wheat Ale – Wylam X Thornbridge 
 
This is a delicate wheat ale flavoured with floral jasmine notes which are boosted by the clove-like characteristics typical of this style of beer. I got a little bit of the orange peel but this wasn’t the most dominant flavour. It’s more like the gentle ‘twisting’ of the orange peel to release the perfume much like you see in cocktail making. If your a fan of rose or elderflower drinks then I think you would enjoy this beer. 
005 Forest Fruit Kettle Sour – Wylam X Magic Rock 
 
You can tell by the colour in the pour that this will be a lip puckering sour beer and it does not disappoint. This beer is packed with berry flavours, mostly blackberry and raspberry for me. I love a sour beer so I am trying not to be biased but this has got to be one of my favourites from the box!
006 DDH Pale Ale – Wylam X Hawkshead Brewery
This DDH pale ale does exactly what it says on the can! This beer looks just like a fruit juice and my first taste is bursting with tropical mango flavour. Then you get the punchy hoppiness you’d expect from a double dry hopped beer that finishes with more sweet mango. The flavour and appearance of this beer seem more like the characteristics you’d associate with an IPA than a Pale Ale. I really enjoyed this beer but it is far too easy to drink!

007 India Pale Ale – Wylam X Northern Monk 
Although there is some grapefruit flavour there wasn’t much bitterness to this IPA as I was expecting. In my opinion this tasted a bit soapy and reminded me of some of the earlier IPAs I tried when I first started drinking beer. This beer unfortunately wasn’t one of my favourites. 
 
008 DIPA – Wylam X Box Social 
This beer has quite a harsh flavour that reminds me of neat spirits and left a burning aftertaste. The appearance made me think this beer would be juicy but I was surprised how much bitterness there was. This beer wasn’t for me but I expect it suits some other peoples palates.
Overall I think this box definitely champions beer from the North and exhibits a great mixture of modern and traditional styles. It is really hard to pick a favourite as all eight beers are so different and there has been some styles that I wouldn’t normally choose for myself. I do think though that this series is a perfect example of how diverse beers can be within the UK and that it is a great way to celebrate The North. I can’t wait to see if there will be a Northern Powerhouse Brew Series 2019 next year!
 

Under the Spotlight: Kettlesmith Brewing Company

Nestled within the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire sits the microbrewery Kettlesmith. After spending twelve years in San Francisco discovering American style beers, owners Antony and Caroline moved back to the UK to be nearer to family and to set up their own brewery. It was then that Kettlesmith was born with a mission to produce modern variations on classic styles and encourage more people to pair food with beer. This bank holiday weekend saw Kettlesmith turn two years old and the brewery opened its doors to celebrate!

Kettlesmith’s 6 core beers are influenced by Head Brewer Antony’s time in America and background in England. Some of the range has also been inspired by Belgian styles where he can experiment with different yeast strains. He says, “I love the variety and complexity that Belgian brewing styles offer. It’s interesting to move between English/American styles where hops are often at the forefront of the flavour profile to Belgian where the yeast gets a chance to shine.” Antony first started brewing, like most budding brewers, with his own home brew kit. He experimented with as many ingredients and styles as he could which he still has records of today. Faultline and Fogline were amongst the first to be developed over 10 years ago, named after the San Andreas Fault and the foggy conditions of San Francisco. This has inspired the branding to add the suffix ‘line’ to the end of each name – Coastline, Plotline and Skyline to name a few. Despite the brewing kit being upgraded to expand Kettlesmith, the home brew equipment is still in use to trial new ideas. Over the last few years Antony has been exploring the use of White Labs yeast so hopefully there will be something in the pipeline! 

The brewery has also taken the modern view to not clarify their beers with finings. The team are mostly vegetarian or vegan and so it was important to make the transition away from the use of Isinglass. A bold move as many consumers in the area are used to traditionally fined beers. The team at Kettlesmith have taken the time to talk to their customers about hazy beers and for the last 6 months all bottled, cask and keg beers are 100% vegan friendly.

Kettlesmith has already won many awards for its beer, most recently winning Best Food & Drink Producer at Bradford on Avon’s Business Awards for the second year in a row! A great accolade for a brewery that is passionate about good food and beer pairings. Antony is a Certified Cicerone and feels that beer has great potential to be matched with food in restaurants as well as at home. All the bottled beers come with food pairing suggestions on the labels and the brewery is always looking for local food producers they can partner with for tasting events.

When I arrived at Kettlesmith’s 2nd Birthday open day there was already a buzz of people queuing for beers. I noticed how not only were people stopping to have a drink but they were also coming away with cases full of bottles to sample at home. The bar was serving most of the core range as well as a new ‘White Label’ one off brew. Whilst all the range is great tasting and easy drinking, my highlight from the open day has to be Timeline. It had a real herby/floral flavour from the blend of American and English hops making it a standout from all the beers I tried. 
So what’s next for Kettlesmith? Well Caroline is waiting for a beer to be named after her though she hasn’t yet decided which style will suit her personality best! Antony explains that he wants to continue experimenting with new styles and has come up with Kettlesmith’s White Label range of one-off batched beers. He says, “We intend to release a wide variety of beers under this label over the next year including a Kolsch, a Tripel, German wheat beer and some sour beers.” Development of the taproom and brewery shop is also on the cards which will offer a more welcoming environment for customers. I think the team at Kettlesmith already do a good job of making customers feel at ease as they are really engaging and excited about their beers. The brewery is very community focused and holds many open days to interact with customers. It was great to see so many people chatting with the team, with many locals being recognised and offered their regular beers. This wasn’t my first visit to the brewery and it won’t be the last. I look forward to the next open day!