Don’t judge me.

Following my recent judging at the World Beer Awards, a family member commented on a Facebook post of mine from the awards.  His comments were “Sorry mate, but I don’t get how you can like a beer that you don’t like”

My response was as follows “well they weren’t being judged on whether we liked them or not.  They were judged on how well they were made and if they were true to style.  Each beer has a set of guidelines and each flight was judged accordingly, even if they weren’t to our taste”

That’s all well and good, but when it comes to buying our own beer, we’re constantly judging them before we’ve even tried them, which is wrong.  I’m even guilty of doing this.

Reading through the list of Country Winners on the train home from judging, I was amazed at some of the beers that were included.  What amazed me was that I’d seen some of these beers on the supermarket shelf and that I’d not bought them, because I’d judged them.  I’d never bought them, but yet I’d seen them, judged them and ultimately chosen to not buy them, which is wrong, so wrong.

How can you judge a beer when you haven’t even tried it?  We all do it though, every time we go into the bottle shop or supermarket, we do it.  We’re not just choosing the beers we’d like to drink, we’re judging those we’re not sure about or the ones we feel we don’t want.  These are the beers that lose out, or rather, we lose out because we’ve judged that they are not worth purchasing.  Which again is wrong.

They may not all be to our taste, or at least we believe they’re not, or they could be from one of those breweries that the craft lot don’t buy from, but, they are well made and are perfect exhibitions of the brewers skills.  But, none of this quality matters, as we’ve already judged it, made our minds up and bought something else.  Something that may be unsatisfactory, but then everyone else is drinking it so it’s fine.

I’m not cool with that.  It doesn’t matter what everyone else is drinking, or what they’re saying about what they’re drinking.

“Yeah but HopHead69 on Instagram is drinking this and he says it’s the bomb”

My mum always used to say “if he decided to jump off a cliff, would you do it too?”

No you wouldn’t.

Buy something different, buy something you’ve never thought of buying before, or better still, buy one of those beers you’ve previously dismissed and don’t judge it until you’ve tasted it.  You could be surprised.

Make up your own mind.  Judge beer for yourself and don’t always be influenced by others.  Drink something different, enjoy it, and be proud of it.

You are your own person and you are your own beer buyer.

 

 

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My work; outside of beer, with just a little bit of it inside too.

For over twenty years I have worked as an electrical engineer within the water pump industry, working with all sorts of pumps from domestic shower pumps right up to large industrial applications.  The work wasn’t just limited to pumps though, it was all types of rotating electrical plant; if you can think of a piece of equipment containing an electric motor, I’ve probably worked on it.

The largest of which was on board HMS Ocean whilst it was docked in Devonport.  We replaced bearings on the motors that powered the ships gun compressors.  These motors were huge, 265kw and weighing nearly a ton each.  The bearings were pretty hefty too, I could easily put my leg through the centre of one!

In amongst all this heavy industrial work, I’ve kept a few brewery pumps running too. The first brewery I can recall visiting for work was O’Hanlons.  There have been a fair few others along the way, but it all started here.

Prior to becoming just Hanlons and its relocation to Half Moon, the brewery was based on a farm just outside Whimple.  It was pretty rustic to say the least, the track that led to the brewery skirted a field and would have been the ideal playground for someone like Petter Solberg or Marcus Gronholm, but for me in my van it was ridiculous.  When you eventually reached the brewery you were often greeted by a large boar that pretty much roamed free, but it was fine, you just accepted it and got on with it.

Fighting through the cigarette smoke in the office, you’d check in and find out what needed doing.  The brewery itself was served by a borehole and a well, each having their own pumps and water treatment.  The equipment had a hard life and breakdowns were inevitable, regular servicing was required too.  Even though I got to know the equipment very well, you just never knew where the next failure would be.  But the one thing I did know, was that without water, there would be no beer, so the pressure was always on to get things working again.

Once the job was finished, I’d often leave with a few bottles of Yellow Hammer.  This was the Yellow Hammer I loved, bottle conditioned and slightly hazy, I could drink bucket loads of this golden fruity delight, and did too! It was just a beautiful beer.

Back then, the thought of being self employed never even crossed my mind, I had no reason to be self employed, so why would I be?  But, like everything, I had to change.  The driving force behind this change was the arrival of our baby, Ace, and for the last seven months I have been self employed and doing what I have always done, working with electrics, pumps and water.

The brewery work has continued too, I was approached by Two Drifters shortly before Christmas and asked if I would install some water filtration plant in their new brewery. How could I say no?  A new local brewery, promising new beers, with strong ethics in sustainability and carbon negativity; this was going to be a slightly different challenge, but one I was up for.

In late 2018, Gemma & Russ Wakeham began the massive task of setting up their brewery on the outskirts of Exeter.  Located near the airport and powered by 100% zero emission energy, everything about the brewery had to be managed and controlled with sustainability in mind.  Their plans were big too.

The finished product was to be delivered locally in the brewery’s own electrically powered van, which would only be charged at the brewery by their zero emission electricity.  The use of carbon neutral couriers would enable the products to venture a little further too.

To go beyond carbon neutrality and become carbon negative, the brewery will be working in partnership with Climeworks to remove CO2 from the air.  By using direct air capture, more CO2 is removed from the atmosphere than is produced in the emissions from the production, manufacturing and transportation of the ingredients that are used for brewing.

This technique will enable Russ and Gemma to create what they believe to be, the world’s first carbon negative brewery and distillery.

The plan for my work was to install a water softener, reverse osmosis unit and an ultraviolet steriliser, along with a pump and some plumbing around the brewery.  With this equipment in place, the incoming water would be completely stripped of its chemical and bacteriological load and later remineralised to suit any style of beer.  Various tappings were installed throughout the brewery to give the option of using raw, softened or RO water.  These different waters could then be used for different processes in the brewery, depending on the requirements of the process.  A mechanical seal cooling system for the brewery pumps was also plumbed in.

The RO water was also piped over to the distillery to be used in the production of rum.  The six stills all required a water flow and return, with individual isolation and flow controls.  I modified an underfloor heating manifold to provide exactly this.  Each still has its own isolation valve and manual flow regulator, giving complete control of the distilling process.  The return water is not wasted either, it’s collected or passed back to the brewery for further use.

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Following on from this, I was asked to install the chiller system for the four fermenting vessels and cold liquor tank.  This was a big job for one man, with over seventy metres of pipe to snake around the brewery and into each vessel, along with solenoid valves, pressure regulators and commissioning valves.  A continuous circuit had to be achieved and the flow through each vessel balanced.  It had to look good too.  With this pipework being constantly on show, the angles had to be just so.  Being predominantly solvent weld ABS, you only get one shot at getting the final assembly correct, so there’s no place for any inaccurate measurements.  But when finished, it was incredibly satisfying to take a step back and just admire those angles.

Shortly after completion and commissioning, the beer entered the fermenting vessels for the first time to do its thing.  Drifters Gold was the beer of choice, a light golden beer with the right attributes for some summer drinking.  Swiftly followed by Sunrise, a peach infused pale, generously hopped to amplify the adjunct.

Both beers were due to be canned and the contract canning company had been booked weeks in advance, way before I’d even started to install the chilling equipment!  The pressure to complete in time was immense, but it all came together in the end and both Drifters Gold and Sunrise made it into cans, nestled in biodegradable can holders.

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Seeing both of these beers, and the rum, available to buy in local outlets, and directly from the brewery itself, was incredibly satisfying.  After all of the work I’d put in, which totalled well over 100 hours of labour, it was really quite overwhelming.

 

An ode to Ace.

Sorachi was its name, the hop in the beer.  Ace was his name, the little baby, my son.

A hop content on confusion.  A heart intent on fusion.

The hop divides, but the baby unites.

Disagreement.  Enjoyment.  The bizarre.  Overwhelming joy.

The hop and the baby.

They’re both Ace.

In a stout it’s dark and mysterious.  In the dark he’s sleepy and mischievous.

He’s just Ace.  But not Sorachi.

Maybe you love Sorachi, maybe you love Ace.

Or maybe you love both, Sorachi and Ace.

It’s Just Business.

Believe it or not, Craft Beer, or the very business of it, is just like any other business.  It’s sole purpose is to create profit through the production of successful products.  It is not there to make friends with everyone it meets along the way.  It will however make friends along the way, but not in the way of ‘Hey, this is my new DIPA, buy it and I’ll be your friend forever’ It does it by saying ‘Hey, this is my new DIPA, buy it, enjoy it, and then I’d like you to buy the rest of my beer’ Which of course, is exactly what you do.

You do become friends, but at no point during this process does it permit you, or anyone else for that matter, to claim any form of ownership of the brewery, business.  However, the merest of contact with the beer turns instantly into perceived ownership.  You’ve touched it, held it, tasted it.  The haptic sensation of holding the beer in your hands, it’s yours, or at least you think it is.

The successful brewery, which it is now, as you’ve drank all of their DIPA and moved on to the rest of the range, is turning a massive profit and generating some interest from who you may perceive as being outsiders.  Which of course they are not.  They are people from within the same industry, who see your favourite new brewery causing a stir by producing some great beer, and like any savvy businessman, they want a piece of it.  The equally savvy owner of your favourite new brewery sees this as a potential for investment, a way to further improve his product and expand the brand he has worked so hard to create.

Now, he can do one of two things, reject it or take it.  Rejecting investment can be detrimental to your business, however, it could earn you some further respect from your hardcore fans who have stuck by you throughout your growth.  This respect is good, however, respect alone cannot make your business profitable.  Investment and future growth will make your business profitable.  This growth, however, can only be achieved if your product is good and you have loyal fans to support your product.  Now you can see it all needs to come together, or at least in the following order; good product, loyal fans, investment and future growth.

Your loyal fans may end up criticising your decision to expand, they shouldn’t though, as truly loyal fans should welcome and embrace this investment and see it as an opportunity for you to grow and fulfil your dream as a successful brewer, businessman. In return for their support, you will continue to produce great beer that will continue to be loved.

There are of course other forms of investment, including crowdfunding.  This is a great way to draw in funds from eager fans willing to donate generously to your cause.  It’s a great way to achieve that short term goal which will assist the growth of the business.  It will also bring your fans closer to your business and its development, thus solidifying its place in the market.

What crowdfunding lacks however, is the financial clout and potentially limitless expertise and knowledge that only experienced and seasoned investors can bring.  Another thing that crowdfunding can lack is the potential to spread your brand and its products to a larger market.  The large investors however, are professionals at this and your product could literally be catapulted into areas of the market that would previously have been beyond your reach.  Areas of the market where people still respect good beer, but are not caught up in the politics of what may or may not be craft.  They just want good, reliable, consistent beer that satisfies with every sip.  Something that your favourite new brewery is good at and will be even better at once it has a little injection of investment from the correct place.

There is another issue with crowdfunding.  It is as follows, ‘why should you invest in a company that is quite clearly profitable, and why aren’t they using their own profits to develop their own business?  Usually a profitable business develops itself by reinvesting its profits to further increase its growth.  So why would it need crowdfunding?

In addition to the above forms of investment, there is another option.  The owner of your favourite new brewery could approach the investors on Dragons Den.  If you saw your favourite new brewery on Dragons Den pitching for an investment to fund larger premises, which would allow for an increase in brewing capacity to keep up with demand, how would you feel?

There is one more thing to consider too.  Put yourself in the shoes of your favourite new brewery.  You’ve worked hard to set up your own business, created some amazing products and have amassed a base of loyal fans.  All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed and some pretty keen investors are on your tail.  What would you do?

 

The Australian dream.

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It’s that satisfying feeling of vigour you get from driving a 2cv with the roof off on a fresh, crisp winters day which is just unparalleled.

Actually, just the feeling you get from driving a 2cv anywhere is unparalleled.

Last Voyage

It’s malty, with slices of bread on its tail, but that was just the end of the voyage; with moments and levers in perfect harmony, what came before was pure IPA glory, with perfect balance in every aspect of flavour and figure.

A spicy concoction of bitterness precedes, led by an onslaught of tropical fruit with its oozing crevice hunting aroma. 

However, immediately prior to this display of wealth, it was just sat there, slowly showing off its gradually appreciating globe. 


The pour was insignificant, in that its qualities were as yet unknown. It’s removal from the fridge was as untroubled as it’s first voyage in my possession; from the bottle shop where I caught my first glance, shortly before its last voyage began. 

How was your last voyage? 

The Cretan Craft. Part 2.

Now with the Cretan Craft safely back in Devon, I will attempt to recreate a little bit of Crete in my front room.  With the heating turned up to the max and some sea shells sprawled about the place, it’s time I retrieve the beers from the fridge.  

With bold and simple labels the beers stand out.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand Greek either, you are given the style of each beer in English, along with abv, IBU and other instructions. 

Solo labels

One thing I had noticed is that these beers are not among the freshest of the fresh.  The Greek appear to seem happier that their hoppy beers are carrying a little age as opposed to the super fresh juice we seem to crave.  Kjetil Jikiun, Solos head brewer, also tells me that the Latvians seem to prefer their hoppy beers to be presented in the same way too.  

When Solo started brewing, and their current beers are contract brewed, although this will change in the near future as Solo are intending on setting up their own brewery, they were met with some resistance, as apparently their beers weren’t what the market required.  Although Solo appear to have had the last laugh as the Saison is one of their best selling beers.

Solo were responsible for bringing the first true IPA to the Greek market, which is also selling well.  As is their Imperial IPA, which again, they were told that nobody in Greece would want a 10% beer.  However, they seem to have proved their doubters wrong yet again.

Ok, so there are no shells, I just have the branded glass I was awarded in Heraklion, but it is time to crack them open. 

Horiatiki Saison. 

  • 90% pilsner malt & 10% wheat malt. 
  • East Kent Golding, Cascade and Saaz.
  • Danstar Belle Saison yeast.

Solo Saison

If ever there was a time that a banana could be a tart, this is it.  Its rich and sharp, and its voluptuous head dominates the pour, with notes of banana billowing out.  Delve in through an almost wooded area, it’s incredibly dry, and you’re dropped right off in the middle of a cereal field.  It ends as a dry, and beautiful, classic saison.

Americana Pale ale.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% caramalt 30.
  • Chinook and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo Pale

Straight away you can tell the hops have faded somewhat and the overwhelming maltiness is just beginning to creep in. Nevertheless, the Chinook still stands proud and the malts begin to level out into some breaded glory.  It is a straight up, no nonsense US style pale, with a body as smooth as freshly laid tarmacadam.  It’s not overly bitter and it still retains its balance.  I really like it.

Psaki IPA.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% light Munich malt.
  • Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo IPA

Slightly hop faded, the IPA approaches.  Apart from the step up in abv, taste wise, not a huge amount separates this from the pale.  Personally I don’t think its bitter enough; it claims to hold 50 IBU, whereas the Pale stands at 30, but it just doesn’t appear to come across with an increased bitterness.  It finishes fairly sweet too, and the Cascade lingers as a fruity fizzy sherbet.  It also has something savoury going on, not quite in the same way that Mosaic does, but pleasing.  Unfortunately though, I do feel it’s somewhat past its best; it had been in the bottle for about twelve months and I would have loved to have been able to try a slightly fresher one.  But then, this is exactly how the Greeks prefer their hoppy beers to be, so who am I to complain?

Fouriaris Imperial IPA.

  • 80% pilsner malt & 20% wheat malt.
  • Chinook, Magnum, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Vic Secret.
  • WLP007

Solo Imp IPA

Boy does this thing have presence, it’s in your face, but not boorish.  It’s complete and balanced.  The lack of freshness really isn’t a problem either and you remain tucked in.  The faded hops have been overtaken by the malts and it offers just a tickle of booze.  The sweet malts are at the forefront, but going deeper there is an overwhelming orangey pithy bitterness, and you get that same sherbet feeling from the Cascade as you do with the IPA.  I love this, it’s bone dry, smooth as silk and incredibly bitter.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to taste an intensely bitter beer, and this has brought it all home again.  I don’t actually care that its hops have faded, the bitterness of this thing is incredible.  I want more.


Trying to remain true to style, these Solo beers come across well and do meet all the requirements.  But I have to admit, I was looking for a bit of a Greek twist.  I did find it too, and it is that they are intended to be consumed after they have aged a little.  Although I do wonder whether this is due to a lack of understanding or just flavour preference.  

Either way, this goes completely against everything we have become used to in the last couple of years, with the whole drink it within a week or die procedure.  But if this is what it takes to get the Greek into craft, then go for it.