The beer world to some is fragmented – whether it’s the Keg Crusaders versus the CAMRA Faithful, the Brewdog backlash (an almost monthly occurrence it seems) or arguments of what Craft Beer actually is. Strip all this back and there is one thing that unites – we all love beer and we all love hops.
Hops to put it simply – are cool. Sat in a session at European Beer Bloggers Conference ’12 (if it’s your first time here – yes we have conferences!) I didn’t realise how cool – but then should I actually say cool? Or should I say hops are hot? Bearing in mind their ability to spontaneously combust? Whether it’s hot or cool I think you get the point – hopefully.
For me the joy of hops goes beyond the obvious matter of taste – it goes to words – the reason why I write.
Amarillo, Bravo, Chinook, Sorachi Ace, Challenger, Apollo, Opal, Saaz, Nelson Sauvin – they could be a phonetic alphabet of beer, a military arsenal, character in a pulp novel or an indie band. They intrigue me, beguile me and are often part my undoing.
So the simple question is this. Tell me your favourite hop, whether it’s a taste thing or as random as looking in the Racing Post and picking by name alone – whether your a seasoned beer drinker or not – use the comments below, Twitter @thepubdiaries, email or carrier pigeon and let’s see what we get.
From the one man show of Pete Brown’s Beer and Music Matching I made my way to the second and sadly last of my booked sessions. I’ve joined up with one of my table from Pete’s session and we’ve made our way to the Library. It’s raining but bank holiday spirits are high on Stoke Newington Church Street as it can only be when you know you have two more days off work.
As we enter the wrong venue I announce to the steward “I’m here for the Gin!”… to be told with a smile that the Gin is round the corner. I suppress the urge to make a Hogarth, Gin Alley reference and head off as instructed. Entering the right venue I again announce with less vigour “i’m here for the Gin?”, to be told i’m in the right place. This one you may have guessed is a gin soaked two hander from festival sponsors Hendricks. Our hosts are David Piper, Commander of Special Operations and Duncan McRae, Hendrick’s Gin, British Ambassador. Think Nick Cave crossed with Terry Thomas and if Brains had given up International Rescue for life as a mixologist.
Piper, with a liberal flash of red socks perches on a vintage couch. In a low voice he purrs and growls into the microphone, reading from various works, leaving young and old, male and female, enthralled. Surely the desired effect. McRae bounds around the stage demonstrating his skills at mixing the perfect Hendrick’s cocktails. Vigorously shaking the mixer he tells us that he’s not allowed to make eye contact with Piper, for obvious reasons. There is the air of a seasoned double act here which makes the hour more than a sponsored plug for Hendricks. It’s a finely crafted theatre of botanicals. Sure, there are liberal mentions of the brand but honestly – it was £4, they were supplying me with excellent gin, a few tips on mixology (all of which I subsequently forgot) and a concise education of gin in literature, which will surely lead to a trip to Amazon.I think you cannot say fairer than that.
A pint of Truman’s at the Rose and Crown rounds off the afternoon and i’m sorry not to have sampled more of the less alcoholic sessions. From my view the Stokey Lit Fest is a real asset, supporting local businesses, writers and the community. Centred around the Library at a time when many are under threat. It’s over for this year but follow them on Twitter (@stokeylitfest) and make a date in your diary for 2013.
As the Jubilee flotilla set sail I was passing over Blackfriars Bridge and momentarily glimpsed the crowds on the Southbank. Any thoughts that I should be down there in the rain, amongst the plastic flags were put to rest. I had an afternoon planned that was essentially a few beers masked as cultural pursuits at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.
We are all familiar with matching beer (and wine) with food, but who would be able to match beer and music? It’s a subject Pete covered in Word magazine recently and for the first time was exploring it as a live session. There’s serious science underpinning the concept but I won’t go into cognitive priming theory as I simply wouldn’t do it justice with my E in GCSE Biology. What it did undoubtedly prove is that beer (and music) are truly a social lubricant. I entered a room of strangers took a seat and exchanged a few pleasantries to break the silence. Pete was finalising the matches at the front, glimpsing a half filled room, most likely wondering if it was going to fill up. It did and by 1:10pm it was full. As the beer flowed and the music played the table started to talk more and more – about beer, music, friends, memories and whatever was brought to mind. By the end, the five of us were happily draining any bottles left on our tables or those nearby until politely asked to leave.
The matches worked for me and I got the point of the session. More practice on my part maybe required and there is a thought to try the odd music match myself. I won’t list all the matches but Duvel and the Pixies was inspired – as was the description and comparison of Duvel poured into a Duvel glass and the chosen track – the foam rising up the glass ready to tear your face off (in a good way). This was the final match and by this point Pete like his audience was nicely buzzed. More than just a talk by a beer writer this was firmly in the territory of a one man show. There were plenty of laughs, those head nodding moments when something connects and Pete’s passion for music (and New Order in particular… can you taste the synths?) shining through and the odd candid moment when questioned from the audience. To hazard a guess I would think that Pete at points was loving it, as he breaks away from the mic stand and the language becomes a little sharper, but without straying too far. In between his spots when the music is playing I thought I could even detect signs that we may see a dancing Pete Brown at any second. I’m sure (hope) that this isn’t the last we see of the beer and music matching as a live event. I would go as far to say that this could even make it North of the border to the Fringe. Simply, it’s the perfect way to introduce people to beer whether above the White Hart during the Lit Fest, at the Fringe or in a festival field.