Archive for February, 2012

February 27, 2012

Q&A: Flo Vialan, Purity Brewing Co

Pub Diaries Q&A has a Gallic twist this week with words from Flo Vialan, head brewer at Purity.

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Your blurb…

I was born in Lyon into a family of butchers and the eldest of three children. I studied in France, starting with agronomy then finally graduating in bio-technologies and fermenting processes. After two years brewing in the French Alps I decided to spend some time in England for a change and new challenge. What began as a few months work experience brewing cask ale ended up with me staying for the past eight years. Along the way I met my wife Sarah, a beautiful Cornish lady, and we have two wonderful children. When I’m not brewing I play rugby for Stratford-upon-Avon – I’ve been playing rugby for the past 22 years. I’ve been the Head Brewer at Purity Brewing Co for 5 years.

Which 5 words sum up your brewing ethos…

Passionate / Focused / Perfectionist / Artistic / Craft

Beer epiphany…

I had some terrible early experiences with beer, but at the risk of sounding clichéd my most memorable beer experience was when I first came to England and had a pint of Timothy Taylor ‘Landlord’. It was a beautiful pint.

Best beer find of the last year…

‘Postman’s Knock’ porter from Hobsons Brewery – it is outstanding in its category.

What sounds are to be heard in the brewery…

Pumps, barrels banging and brewer’s whistling.

If I wasn’t brewing I’d be…

A farmer.

Before I was brewing I was…

A typical student. Beer, rugby, women.

Your favourite thing about what you do …

When the whole team comes together in a feat of harmony to brew the best beer we can.

Your greatest brewing achievement to date…

Mad Goose winning the gold medal in its category at the SIBA National Awards 2009.

Which breweries do you look up to…

Timothy Taylor and St Austell for their consistent, flavoursome beers.

Pub heaven…

Warm welcome, no music, a log fire and a good range of quality pints behind the bar.

Pub hell…

No real ale, loud pop music, flashy lights and fruit machines.

Favourite local pub…

The Hollybush in Alcester

Favourite non local pub…

The Merchants in Rugby

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer…

Listen to your customers and don’t cut corners.

What’s on the horizon…

Building a bigger brew house.

Finally, can you tell us a joke about beer…

A French brewer, a Scottish brewer and a German brewer are in the pub having a few beers. They all go to the toilet together. When finished, the Frenchman goes to wash his hands and takes lots of soap and paper towels proudly stating “in France we are very hygienic”. Next the Scotsman walks up to the sink, takes a tiny bit of soap and one paper towel and says “in Scotland we’re hygienic but we’re also cost efficient”. Lastly the German finishes and marches straight past the sink and out of the door saying “in Germany we don’t piss on our hands”.

February 24, 2012

Man v. The Little Creatures

I’ve been locked in a battle that is as old as humans stabbing water with a spear… the battle of Man v. Fish.

I’m not a fisherman by any stretch but give me a bucket of bait and put a rod in my hand and a hardwired need to catch it, kill it, eat it, takes over.

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Fishing from the jetty and boat both day and night have seen me catch nothing more than an undersized bream, thrown back to grow an extra few centimetres that will see it stay in the bucket when we next meet.

My first fishing trip had caused a stir amongst the in-laws. My Huck Finn, dangle the rod in the water approach had seen the only proper catches of the day, much to the surprise of the assembled Australians. This time it seemed the fish had smartened up as they tug the bait from my line. I seem to spend my time rebaiting my hook after feeding another. Can fish laugh? I’m sure I heard some gurgled riverbed cackling. Maybe that was just too much sun.

Switching to crab nets saw no more success. As we dropped and raised the nets time after time it was like fishing for plastic ducks at the fair as I’d hook the buoy from the boat, hauling up an empty net, the bait untouched. Nice try, but no prize this time.

You may think that this all a demoralising fishy rout but trying to outwit the little creatures, dolphins darting through the water at a distance, black swans gliding in from above and pulling a cold Little Creatures Pale Ale from the esky isn’t a bad way to spend your time and there’s always tomorrow.

February 22, 2012

Rise of the Beer Cocktail

Beer cocktails, a beer trend which is likely to split the opinions of many. The purists will decry this as beer heresy while those more pioneering souls will see it as another step in the way we drink  and appreciate beer. For those in the middle ground it may just be a case of thinking beer cocktails are a little strange; as they associate liquor with cocktails – not beer. I wrote not long ago about the Kimchi Michelada; my beer cocktail epiphany. It got me thinking about the scene in London and beyond. I found the predictable patronising crap which suggests that women have been praying for them. Let’s just take a moment here. I don’t know any woman who has been looking skyward, hands clasped together, Oh God, if only I could drink beer without the stigma of a pint glass. Who knows I may be wrong – but I don’t think so (what do you think?). Added to which I am a bloke and partial to a cocktail. If there is one thing that Bond or Draper have taught us, it’s that cocktails are cool. 

courtesy: CraftBeer.com

A tweet out to those in the know threw up London’s top spots (know of others please comment) for beer cocktails:

Casa Morita in Brixton’s Market Row offer a Michelada, a great accompaniment to the freshest Mexican flavours South of the River.

MEATliquor  is the latest and permanent incarnation of the Meatwagon & #Meateasy in Marylebone. They serve up their Lagerita - a beer shandy, with a hit of tequilla.

Hawksmoor. London’s finest purveyor of steaks and cocktails offer Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew a mix of  Gin, Ginger Syrup, Lemon & London Pride.

Tap East at Westfield Stratford wouldn’t be most people’s idea of a Craft Beer destination but this new venture from Utobeer has recently launched it’s list of Hoptails.

So the picture is London looks good. Across the pond beer mixology is in full flight and being pushed further by figures within the Craft Beer scene. With the launch of BeerMixology.com this is set to open up the beer cocktail further and further. Ashley Routson has brought together top beer experts and mixologists from across the US in setting up the site. They are sharing their knowledge in the name of beer.  Ashley says that:

although still in its infancy, the beer cocktail trend will explode over the next 5 years. BeerMixology.com is at the forefront of this innovative trend, with the goal of becoming the most comprehensive resource for beer cocktails.

As for the acceptability of beer cocktails Tatiana Peavey puts it perfectly: 

at first I know many of us coming from the craft beer scene were wary of the idea but after some expertly created concoctions I know I was sold! BeerMixology.com is taking off and I’m very excited to be a part of such a hot trend!

So now you have no excuses – whether in the trade or just a budding home mixologist. Get out there (or in there) and mix it up people!

February 20, 2012

Life, the Universe and Beer

From the delirium of my mid transit Singapore blog post I’m coming to you at 3am, awake, as everyone else is sound asleep.

I’m sat on an observation deck, looking out across the blackness, the Southern Ocean in the distance, above me the Southern Cross and a chalky haze, smudged across the sky. Our host A, casually told me earlier that it was the Milky Way; as I looked up open mouthed in awe. I feel that I should be writing about the meaning of life rather than beer.

Having arrived on Sunday I seemed to have slipped into the Perth way of doing things seamlessly. Barbecues and meat pie have been consumed with the promise of more to come and with 5 days “down South” the obligatory visit to the bottleshop. A case of Little Creatures Pale Ale is a given. It’s easily in my top 5. If there is a beer that takes me back to good times it’s this.

a

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Looking at the fridges we also go for some Gage Roads Atomic. Another Perth brewer, based in Palmyra, I’ve had their Wahoo and Sleeping Giant the day before at a welcome lunch and I’m eager to try more of their offering. This American style Pale Ale sits well between the Kolsch (Wahoo) and the IPA (Sleeping Giant) on their roster and stands up well to the Little Creatures. I would do more of a considered comparison but the 6 pack got polished off hours ago. As we stood around the chopping block eating bread, olives and dukka it gets the seal of approval from the soon to be inlaws. I have a small sense of accomplishment that I’ve introduced J & A to something distinctly Perth in origin. Granted it’s not quite the Milky Way but one small step for this pomme.

February 18, 2012

In Transit: Tiger Signature Bar

So this is a new experience. Blogging against the clock. I’ve got 10 minutes free internet use at Changi, a dead iPhone and only a few minutes to cobble together some thoughts that when read back or read by you may seem a little disconnected. I’ve been up now for close to 26 hours or is it 28; i’m not quite sure. I cannot sleep on planes it seems and so I spend the flight to Singapore watching movies that I didn’t know existed – a “comedy” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson about extreme birdwatching. I hope someone has seen it an can verify that this wasn’t the first stages of sleep deprivation. Tell me it exists!

Anyway that’s a bit of context as I emerge from my flight disorientated, tired and in need of something cold to sate my thirst. Free wifi and 4square tell me that there’s the Tiger Signature Bar just 4 metres away. Perfect. I scan around me and tucked behind a concession stand I find it. I take a seat, order my beer – Tiger of course. There’s ESPN showing a Rangers press conference (Ally McCoists weary face looking down at me in triplicate). There’s an American talking into his iPad about golf, massages and his relationship with whoever is on the other end of his iPad (with another 10 hours of now sleep it would look like some freaky oversized iPhone).

The music is a strange mix of europop, Country and showtunes. Phantom of the Opera plays as the barman bows his head, hands my card back to me with both hands and tells me it’s no good. We finally work out that it’s the PIN which isn’t as common in Asia. I get back to my beer - it’s cold, fizzy and although usually i’d not drink it –  it’s a real treat.

I wander from the bar aimlessly through tyhe airport. For most if you don’t want to shiop whatelse is there to do? Well you can’t say it of most airports but here you can go the butterfly house or sit and watch the Koya Carp… or is this another figment of a brain screaming for sleep and for gods sake no more birdwatching films.

Ok… onto the next flight leg.

 

February 16, 2012

Q&A: Glyn Roberts, Utobeer & Rabid Barfly

This weeks Q&A comes from the other side of the bar with Utobeer’s Glyn Roberts.

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Your blurb…

I am Glyn Roberts, Operations Manager at Utobeer and Tap East. I ran the multi-award winning bar, The Rake in Borough Market for 3 years and recently opened Tap East, a bar and brewery in Westfield, Stratford City. I have guest brewed with breweries such as Otley, Kernel, Redemption and Brodies. I write the blog, Rabid About Beer under the name Rabidbarfly which you can follow me on twitter with too.

How does the Tap East crowd differ from the Rake (is there a certain amount of education going on)…

Quite a bit actually, a lot of Tap East’s customers are shoppers who happen to stumble on the bar purely by accident, they usually go away, do some shopping and come back later. I’m always looking to educate new customers about beer because I believe that the more people know about good beer the more people will order it! Knowledge is power n’all that.

Beer epiphany…

I don’t really remember my first really awesome beer (there have been too many since!) But the first sip of the first beer I ever helped brew was like a religious experience for me. It was the first time I’d visited a brewery and it was such a satisfying feeling to have conceived the idea, helped with the recipe, helped brew it and then pour the first pint out of the tap at The Rake. I got very emotional because for the first time I knew just how much hard work and passion went into making beer.

Best beer find of the last year…

Shit, good question! One with several answers I think.

Brewery – Buxton, I had a few bottles given to me for samples, superb stuff. Former Thornbridge Brewer JK is now their head brewer and he’s clearly doing something right!

Beer – Firehouse Brewery, Hops on Rye. A Rye IPA from the San Diego-based brew pub. Brewer Steve Donohue really has made a stunner here.

Pub – The Bull in Highgate, new Brew pub. Good beer, lovely grub.

Are retail beer geeks frustrated brewers…

Haha, yeah probably. I think a lot of them wish they could make beer as well as their favourite brewers.

Which brewers would you hold up as the way it should be done…

Nick and the team at Otley(Pontypridd), Evin and the guys at Kernel (Bermondsey), Mark Tranter at Dark Star (Partridge Green) and Andys Moffatt and Smith at Redemption (Tottenham). There really are too many to mention nowadays which I’m glad to say, says a lot about the state of the British brewing industry and the rude health that it’s in at the moment.

Pub heaven…

Good beer, good food, knowledgeable staff, comfortable surroundings and a relaxed atmosphere. Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd. Every time I go there, I wish I lived in South Wales.

Pub hell…

Anywhere that the management don’t know how to keep beer, lots of kids running around, staff ambivalence.

Favourite local pub…

Define local, the beer world is getting smaller all the time! In London I’d say it probably changes on a regular basis. To name a few…. The Bull in Highgate, The White Horse in Parsons Green, The Harp in Covent Garden, Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington. All good boozers.

Favourite non local pub…

21st Amendment in San Francisco. Top quality beers brewed on site with an extraordinary menu to match to beers. Top atmosphere on Giants game days.

What’s on the horizon…

The Sun?

February 11, 2012

I’ll have what she’s having

Friday evenings are a time for beer and pubs. They are not a time for shopping in Central London; but sometimes needs must and so I found myself browsing in Liberty. I say browsing, but what I really mean is that I wander from floor to floor, looking at items for a second before checking the price tag. Usually followed by a sharp intake of breath and a barely suppressed vocalisation of disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some miserly Northern stereotype (no really i’m not!), I suppose i’m just a product of my upbringing and as such i’ll always look for quality and the best price. Liberty does stand out from many of the other department stores in its buying in that you feel that it’s honed and what you’re getting is the best selection.

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It’s 6:30pm. Hunger and thirst is creeping in and I have a couple of hours until Lou is free. I’ve drawn some amused looks from tittering Japanese tourists (so i’m looking at how to knit a Pug… get over it). I retreat to the Liberty Cafe.

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I browse the menu much the same as I do the store. As nice as it looks, £6 for a piece of cake is a little steep and I opt for a toasted teacake. I fear I am becoming the misely Northern sterotype. The wine and champagne selection as would be expected from such a place is good but the beer selection is distinctly lacking, being limited pretty much to Peroni and Meantime. Some would maybe say that I was lucky to find the Meantime but I find it lazy and disappointing. My reasoning would be to take you back to my point about honing selection. In a place where so much thought seems to go into buying this albeit small point – is a failing.

It’s by no means Liberty alone that fall foul of this with plenty of restauarnts not quite (or far from) hitting the mark on beer selection. In a city which has such a rich seam of small independent brewers it would be nice to see some thought go into the selection, however small. In my recent discussions with restaurants, bars and pubs, searching for a reception venue i’ve asked about beer selection and time and time again i’ll be told, we stock Meantime. I’ll confess i’m not a huge fan. I’ll drink and enjoy a Meantime but if there’s a Camden, Kernel, Brodies or Redemption I’m there.

As I look around the cafe there are a few tables drinking beer. On those tables and others they are American, Japanese and assorted Europeans. As I watch an American girl (yes, I know that sounds creepy) take her first sip (even creepier) there is no wow that’s awesome moment, that I would safely bet on with the likes of Kernel. It’s those – When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having” moments that can spread. Watching food coming out of a kitchen and rubbernecking maybe a better analogy than feigning orgasm, but you get my point. And that’s got to be good for business? I’m not naive as to think that the beer selection at any of these establishments is going to bring them crashing down, but I do think that in the overall mix of customer expereince a little thought goes a long way. In the same way that Byron started pushing their craft selection and a partnership with Camden Town it would be great to see the likes of Liberty and many many others take note and give that little extra thought.

February 9, 2012

Q&A: Brian Allen, Mother Brewing Co.

Brewmaster, Brian Allen of Mothers Brewing Co. is this weeks Q&A victim, talking good beer and the need for spare socks.

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Your Blurb…

I started brewing in 1995 at Boston Beer Works, a brewpub across the street from Fenway Park. I attended the Diploma Course at the Siebel Institute in 1996 and returned to Boston to brew at Beer Works, Salem Beer Works, and open another Boston Beer Works. In 2002 I relocated to Madison, WI and after a brief stint at Capital Brewery I ran both Fox River Brewing Company brewpubs in Appleton and Oshkosh, WI. Prior to leaving Wisconsin I brewed at the St Francis Brewery for a few months to help them with opening. I moved to Springfield in 2009, the stars aligned and I happened to bump into Jeff Schrag. After a few months courtship I landed the brewmaster job at Mother’s Brewing Company and the rest has been full speed ahead.

5 words to sum up your brewing ethos…

Details, process, balance, flavor, quality

First beer memories…

My first beer memory was during a school trip to Europe in the 11th grade- Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and Austria – due to the expense of soft drinks and for cultural education purposes we were allowed a beer a day.

What sounds are to be heard in the brewery…

Aside from the hum high bay lighting, the whir of exhaust fans, the venting of fermenters, the rhythmic hiss of the air driven packaging line, and the rumble of the big old kewanee boilers, you can often hear dub, reggae, ska, punk rock, jazz, blues, and maybe a little bluegrass. When we are brewing Old School Oktoberfest there is often polka music playing, too.

Before I was brewing I was…

In college then bartending while trying to get a job brewing.

Favourite thing about what I do…

I like making something. The day starts and the tank is empty, at the end of the day it is full of wort, which will soon be beer, which will soon be a whole mess of bottles and kegs and then folks from all around will open one up, pour out a pint have a drink and (hopefully) smile.

Greatest brewing achievement to date…

This is the second brewery I have built. I am very proud of each. I feel good about the fact that I have trained over 20 people in various breweries and many of these people are still in the brewing industry.

Pub heaven…

Dimly lit. Character. Good music- bass. Good beers, good spirits. Good amount of patrons and a skilled knowledgeable publican / bartender.

Pub hell…

Bright lights – bad music – ovewhelming amount of throw away P.O.S., no patrons.

Favourite non local pub…

Impossible to answer- Ye Olde Mitre in London, The HorseBrass Portland, OR, The Plough and Stars Cambridge, MA, Resi’s Bier Stube in Chicago, IL are four of my favorites.

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer…

Be persistent, be observant, listen, pay attention. Probably most importantly learn from your failures and your successes. Bring extra socks.

What’s on the horizon…

We have our spring seasonal coming up and then it is back to summer. We are extending our Mother’s Others line. We are going through several expansion projects, two over the next few months. We are installing a bulk grain system, adding on to our hot liquor supply, expanding our two vessel brewhouse to a three vessel and are adding 33% more fermentation space. It will be a busy few of months.

Next week it’s back to the UK and a catch up with Glyn Roberts of Utobeer and Rabid Barfly

February 8, 2012

Brixton Beer Company: Urban Hops

Brixton. The image in your head may be of a burning Foot Locker? Of riots and looting? Not me. My image is a Franco Manca pizza, breakfast at Rosie’s, Brixton Village, and now of hops. Yes hops.

Brixton Beer Company, an initiative by City Farmers is bringing hops to Lambeth. The aim is to grow hops in local gardens and get local breweries to brew with the harvest. I know, you’re probably thinking the same as me… simple beery genius! Never has city gardening been so full of promise.

To get locals started, City Farmers will be releasing instructional videos and a starter pack containing all the basics required like hops rhizome, organic fertilizer, growing instructions and beyond that providing advice on how to prepare the ground. The planned Big Plant is 17th March and if you’re in the Brixton or Lambeth area and want to try your hand at a bit of beery horticulture you can contact City Farmers.

February 1, 2012

Groomzilla: In Search of the Perfect Pub

Asked for my perfect pub – is there such a thing? –  I’ve got my go to list of almosts that tick numerous imaginary boxes, but in recent weeks I’ve been faced with the ultimate challenge. To find the perfect pub for a wedding reception. My wedding reception. This may explain my New Year blogging splurge followed by a sharp drop. The pressure is on.

I’m in the throes of speaking to people, asking questions and making judgements. I’ve aimlessly walked the streets of London over the last weeks, looking at pubs and uncommonly for me discounted many without even a half to make it worth the trek. Lou will say that we should at least look inside but I shake my head. I’m becoming adept at first impressions. The painted words  “Sky Sports” “Big Screen TV” and “Good Food” are usually enough for me to turn at heel and move on but the sense is being honed to a greater degree. Stood outside a pub the sight of faded menus, overflowing cigarette bins and flags of all kinds are added to the turn at heel list which seems to be growing ever larger.

Then comes the most important first impression. That of the staff themselves. If i’m fobbed off, flannelled or otherwise get the idea that they’d be rather doing anything else than talk to me, it’s an immediate mental red mark. I don’t expect trumpets to sound and a red carpet to unfurl but a little interest is surely key to me possibly spending thousands in their establishment? I don’t know, maybe I don’t understand the whole relationship here?  

I find myself developing a system of strikes for details both big and small. When i’ve just explained that ages of guests are likely to be 4 to 95, nodding that is fine and mentioning Jager-Bombs in the next breath is liable to earn you a first strike. Hastily thrown together emails barely answering the enquiry, will earn you a strike; as will referring to craft beer as “difficult to come by”. Having doubled your original estimate, asking for a £1000 deposit and sending me a booking form, without sending any menu’s earns an immediate and irrevocable three strikes.

I’m sure anyone whose ever been on either side of these conversations would see these as unoriginal observations but all the same they are what seem to be occupying much of my time of late. It’s not all doom and gloom though. I’ve had some great conversations with people who know how things should be done; but invariably they are already booked well in advance. So the search continues and who knows maybe we’ll just have to get a bit more creative. This i’m sure won’t be the last mention of the impending nuptials but if Pub Diaries starts to verge on a wedding blog written by some rampaging Groomzilla, please, with my permission give me a verbal slap. For those of you who regularly share a drink with me – buy me another – followed by a slap.

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