Craft Beer Rising

With our Duty Manager buggering off to Sheffield (sob!), another of our staff nipping over to Tokyo for a couple of months to help open the new bar over there, tonnes of tutored tastings, Meet the Brewer events, jaunts to Macclesfield, meetings galore and LOTS of rum, it’s been a hectic week at Molyneux North. Please excuse this shamefully late write up of an amazing weekend in London.

Friday morning saw me hauling myself out of bed and jumping on the train down to London. Bopping up Brick Lane, I joined an eclectic queue of middle aged chaps in suits, gorgeous angular young people in vintage cardigans, and old rockers in brewery t-shirts. It could only be the Craft Beer Rising trade session. First impressions were immediately favourable. The cloakroom was much appreciated, as I was visiting London for the whole weekend and was weighed down with bags, and a third-of-a-pint glass at events like this always wins me over. Peering through the crowds, I spotted the delegation from The Hope, Carshalton: my companions for the day. A tall bugger in a Wales shirt – Nick, one of the veterans of The Hope team, Korfballist extraordinaire, a familiar face in drinking dens from Farringdon to Brighton – and an ageing hippie who has been terrorising the pub scene since an unknown poet first declaimedHwæt!” – my dad, Molyneux Senior, DPS of The Hope and all round beardy beery.

“Well,” said father dearest, “I’ve been here for two hours already and have tried every dark beer in the place. Now you’re here, I can drink the hoppy ones.” Ah, my dad, he knows I’m a hop fiend. After a brief break for black pudding sausage rolls, we began to womble our way round the stands, chatting to brewers, sales kids, numbers people, landlords, and bloggers. I started off faithfully checking in my beers on Untapped, but as the afternoon wore on, it was sadly neglected; there were too many people to witter on at, and too many beers to sample. I don’t believe I’ve forgotten anything earth-shaking.

So, what did I love, and what did I find… interesting? I’m going to have to pare it down rather a lot for this post. Renaissance Brewing, from New Zealand, were pretty special. Their Discovery APA (4.5%) was delightfully zingy and rounded. I hope to encounter it in a pub, where I can relax and throw back a few pints of it. I indulged my guilty pleasure of alcoholic ginger beer with a 4% taster from Hawkes, which was actually rather lovely (an opinion shared by Nate of Booze, Beats & Bites). Mol Sr. was very impressed, and has ordered some for the pub, so if you’re in South London on a sunny day and fancy something gingery that will get you pissed, get your arse down to the Hope for a lovely refreshing bevvy.

Now, with a full day of sampling ahead of me I had intended to start off slow, but Arbor and Founders were staring me in the face from across the room, and so that resolution flew straight out of the window, as they always do. Arbor Why Kick A Moo Cow (5.5%) was on great form (don’t drink it with a sparkler, it doesn’t work nearly as well!), as was their Yakima Valley (7%), which has always held a very special place in my heart. Arbor do make some ruddy decent beer. A while ago I tried their collaboration with BrewDog Bar Bristol, Pirate Badger Attacks (7.8%), which was – well, it was full of coconut, and it rather divided people, but I thought it was nice, and deceptively drinkable. Next up was sampling at the Founders stall, manned by a lovely gent who, despite my assurance that I was familiar with most of the beers, insisted that I try almost everything. What an excellent chap! One beer I was not familiar with was their Breakfast Stout (8.3%), packed full of bitter chocolate, oatiness, and COFFEE. It deserves the Caps Lock. The tubby child on the bottle label is pretty unnerving, but this beer is good stuff.

Samples increased, chats were had, and all around there was an overarching sense of camaraderie. To me, it felt like the biggest Meet the Brewer event ever, and not just brewers – you could settle down to listen to discussion panels manned (personned?) by hugely knowledgeable people from many different sections of the industry. One of the highlights of the day was, of course, meeting various people I had only previously spoken to via Twitter, including the stellar It Comes In Pints? kids, who were so warm and lovely and clever, and who have, of course, also written about the afternoon and waffled far less than I have.

ici pints me

Bateman’s deserve an honourable mention for trying really hard, and for having a really lovely chap behind their bar. Their B Bock (6%) was alright, and their Black Pepper Ale (5.1%) was quite charming, reminding me of how as a child I was taught to put black pepper on strawberries. I’m afraid that I didn’t feel quite brave enough to sample their beers that tasted of chocolate and orange and all that bollocks. There’s a time and a place, I suppose, but I wasn’t feeling it, and a chocolate biscuit beer did not appeal at that moment. I’m sad that they look less old-school now, but hopefully it won’t be forever. Late Knights P.IPA (5.4%) was another interesting one, the P standing for Polish. I must say, I haven’t tried anything quite like it, but it was a solid beer. I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on these guys in future.

Oz Clarke, me, and Tom from Celt Experience

So, while I was exploring the offerings at The Celt Experience bar, I happened to bump into their head bloke, Tom, and, erm, the king of wine. After playing it semi-cool, I kind of went into nerd mode, and asked for a photo. What is it the kids say these days – yolo? Anyway, this is a photo of Oz (who I politely told off for not visiting any of the pubs on the Otley Run that actually serve cask-conditioned beer when he was on telly with whats’isface, hah, representing Leeds University Union Real Ale Society til I die) and me and Tom, who is an utter star and let us try some of a beer from Celt‘s Ogham series; Ash (10.5%), an imperial porter. Oh my, it’s a big beer. We sampled it with a very smelly blue cheese, which I can’t usually stomach too well, but paired with this beer it was absolute perfection. I love Celt‘s stuff, with Bleddyn (5.6%) rocking my world earlier this year paired with some Kit Calvert Wensleydale, and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for their beers in and around Manc.

I’ve saved the best til last. This feels like a bit of a cheat, as I drank so much of their stuff when I was at Leeds, and they are still a relatively local brewery to me; Ilkley The Mayan (6.5%). This genuinely was my beer of the day. So much chocolate and coffee and chilli and oh my god. In a day of rushing round bars and stalls, this beer brought me a moment of quiet in a whirlwind of activity. I stood, and tasted it, and the world melted away for a second. That’s what a good beer should do to you. Try it. You might not adore it to the extent that I do, but you’ll like it. If you don’t, well, I feel sad for you.

me and Nate Dawg
  Shut up, we’re fucking metal.

Shortly before five, security politely but firmly herded us all out of the building to make way for the next session, and, the old Truman Brewery being on Brick Lane, of course we all went to BrewDog Bar Shoreditch. I had seen some of my colleagues during the day at the trade session, and so I did feel bad for other colleagues I said hi to over the bar at Shoreditch as they were serving me! Would have preferred to throw back a few beers with them over the evening, but they were doing an admirable job slaking the thirsts of slightly tipsy beer geeks. Had a bevvy with a few of the Twitterati, including the inimitable Nate, spent far too much on Mikkeller SpontanCherry Malaga Barrel Aged (8.2%) (I’ll be talking about this beer in a blog soon), and eventually got on the train home to the suburbs with Mol Sr.

It was a marvellous day, and though I was gutted to have missed some London beeries due to TFL being silly, I had a wonderful time. I don’t remember who said it, but beer people are good people.

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