With all of the challenges that come with being a brewer, there’s also the fun stuff! Last Wednesday saw myself, Simon, Alex and Stuart Ross (Head Brewer of Crown Brewery at the Hillsborough Hotel) head down to Burton upon Trent to meet up with everyone’s favourite beer writer, Pete Brown at the launch of his new book.
As it’s summer and Sheffield is just a stone’s throw away, it is inevitable that it was going to rain. And rain it did, not being one to dodge the odd cliché, the heavens did open! In fact, I found later that we got a month’s worth of rain in 12 hours!
We made it to the fabulous Coopers Tavern, one of the coolest pubs I have ever been in. A stone’s throw from Coors Brewery, this unassuming pub opened up into a couple of front rooms and right at the very back, through a narrow door, was the tiny bar. Sitting behind it were a row of casks, all on gravity and jacketed up, making it as authentic an ale boozer that an innocent Kiwi like myself has been.
The reason for the visit was to go and see Pete Brown unveil his cool new book, Hops and Glory which I think you should all buy here. Pete was in fine form as always, and we also got to try the fascinating Calcutta IPA that had been his constant companion throughout the journey. Okay, so it wasn’t the actual beer that had crossed the equator a couple of times, but it was from the same brew that Pete and highly awarded Worthington’s White Shield brewer, Steve Wellington had brewed. We also got to try a cask version of Worthington’s White Shield, which was great. Nice and fruity with a solid malt base and a great amount of body.
I guess the Coopers being the pub that it is, I got chatting to the ladies behind the bar about Thornbridge beers, which they said sold really well. Always great news for a brewer to hear! Later in the evening, she came up to me and said I meet like to meet a group of home brewers that come in bimonthly to compare their beers. The crazy thing was that they were all comparing their clone brews of Thornbridge Jaipur! They’d based their recipes on the Bombay IPA clone recipe that Sara Carter had won the UK Craft Brewing Association Overall Champion Award with! I tasted a few of their attempts and was really impressed. I was stoked that people liked our beer enough to want to have a go at brewing it.
We finished up and hit the trains, only to be delayed as it had been raining. One thing I’ll never understand is that in the country that most people associate rain with, that when it rains, everything stops working! The tracks looked like rivers, but we eventually made it back to the Coach and Horses, had a couple of pints of Thornbridge beer and finished the evening with some Lost Abbey Inferno and Judgment Day and a Port Brewing Green Hop IPA… the latter a fitting finish to the evening, even if reading Hops and Glory at that stage was a little out of the question.
Friday saw myself and fellow Thornbridgers, Dave and JK head down to Birmingham NEC to the Beers of the World Live which coincided with the BBC Summer Good Food Show. We arrived a bit early and I parted ways with the guys as I was judging at the World Beer Awards. This is the third year in a row that I’ve judged in this and I absolutely love it. It’s fantastic to be able to sit around with your peers and analyse a few brews with like-minded people. It’s also great to test out your palate against other trained brewers and 99% of the time we all seem to come to the same conclusion. We tried a few interesting beers, a few great beers and a few that weren’t so good and were potentially infected, which was a shame.
Afterwards we walked around the stalls, all offering samples of the beers that had been entered into the awards, as well as a large selection of local and imported brews from breweries as diverse as Rogue, Samuel Adams and Redoak. Beers of the day were Rogue XS: Imperial Porter and Thornbridge Bracia (yeah, okay I’m biased).
Was a great day out and good training for next year’s World Beer Cup that Stef and I are judging in. Can’t wait!