Self guided Bristol brewery tour, March 2019

A kind of “winter camping” weekend, with regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel and Steve & Janette. We get together a lot in the summer to go camping (and share and drink beer), but there’s always a long gap at the end of camping season, so we planned a city break in order to combat this.

We had loads of plans about how exactly we would do this, but poor transport options and various other factors meant that we opted for staying in a Holiday Inn in the city centre, rather too close to a very unsavoury area known as “The Bearpit”. Stay away from the subways…

The ladies were off on a wooly tour, we had planned a walking tour of the city, which just so happened to take in some brewery taps. Not all of them, since a few have different opening hours in the cooler seasons. Our plan was Moor -> Dawkins -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft and then back to the hotel.

This changed pretty quickly along the way, as we received some updated opening hours information, which then changed again. More on that story later.

We were camped on the doorstep of Moor, waiting for them to open at 12pm sharp. We were straight in, and seleced a couple of beers each, enjoying a nice relaxed start to the day. Others soon started to arrive and it started to get noisy with conversations and music.

I had a “Dead Punk All Dayer”, which was full of flavour wrapped up in just 3.5% – a super session IPA, and the right way to start! I also had Claudia, a session hoppy wheat ale, which was also really tasty.

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You can also see “Stout” and “B-Moor” which were favoured by Matt & Steve. A few items were picked up to take away.

At this point, had they been open, we could have gone to Left Handed Giant and Good Chemistry, but that wasn’t an option.

We were going to go to Dawkins next, but they had changed their own plans, so we made our way to Arbor instead. The Arbor tap room at the moment is just a portakabin in the car park, but they do have sockets so you can charge your phone (important when live tweeting a walking tour of the city).

Unfortunately they had no beer on cask (at a brewery!), and only a couple of things on keg, with lots more cans in the fridge. The problem with the cans is that Arbor favour the pint can for their beers, and that’s not necessarily what you want when you go to a tap room. I’m looking forward to thirds or halves of various different beers. Some people like pints, and they are almost always available everywhere, but it’s nice to have the choice to try different ones in smaller measures.

As it was they were only selling halves or pints of a couple of keg beers, so we were rather limited. I had Brut’n’Free, a gluten free Brut IPA brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It was one of the better Brut IPAs that I’ve had, a style I’m interested in but haven’t really found “the one” yet.

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Because they didn’t have much on, we didn’t linger. Matt & Steve had Basta Rosse which I really like, but they are not such big fans of the hoppiness. No takeaways here.

We were off to Dawkins next. Yesterday they tweeted to say that they would be open early for the rugby (not why we were going), and their new opening time of 2pm fitted perfectly into our revised schedule. However, upon arrival, there was a distinct lack of activity. We poked our heads in and were told that they weren‚Äôt opening as planned as they had to clean up after a large party the previous evening. So we left and went to Fierce and Noble instead. If you say one thing and do another, your customers will go elsewhere…

Fierce and Noble definitely had the rugby on, in the “main room” next door. We hung out in the bar area, and took the opportunity to grab some rolls and crisps for lunch (a simple thing to sell ham rolls, cheese rolls, etc. behind the bar, but many places won’t). A half of session IPA, nice and easy drinking, and a Masquerade Pale, full of lovely fruitiness.

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You can also see the black IPA (simply called Black IPA) which was tolerated by my drinking companions. Not pictured is Pain au Chocolat Stout, which one of us had but another couldn’t due to the presence of chocolate, which is something which doesn’t agree with many drinkers.

A very interesting building to have a tap room in, lots of wood panels, and much nicer than Arbor’s portakabin ūüôā A few takeaways were picked up here too.

Off to Wiper and True next. This was the moment when I slightly rued having taken up the offer of some rolls, since they had a pizza oven out in the car park. I love pizza and beer, a great combination, but always better to eat instead of hoping there will be something on…

I’ve had a few W&T beers over the years, so it was nice to find some new things on. I started out with a Sicilian Sour, which was just that, with gentle lemon notes. Perfect for a sunny summer afternoon, but not bad on a cool spring one.

After that was Phantasmagoria, fresh from the tank, a tap room exclusive and a balance of juiciness and bitterness. Right up my street.

You can also see the darkness behind, with a Pink Peppercorn Porter (not much peppercorn, but pleasant) and a Milk Shake Stout, which was very nice, but the presence of lactose ruled it out for one of our number.

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The next destination was New Bristol brewery. We didn’t quite time this right, as the England rugby match was about to start, and it was rather packed out. This prevented much conversation, and also meant that plastic drinking vessels were in use. Boo to that, but you can understand why.

Pictured are Lemon Jelly IPA (smooth sherbert lemon zinginess) and Pineapple Pale (a metric megatonne of pineapple which has stomped all over any other flavours that might have been present).

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Steve had the Coffee Maple Bacon stout. Nothing available to take away, so off to our final destination, Croft Brewery.

Nice to see glasses again. In them you can see B52 (simple session ale), Beast (a classic hoppy bitter) and Black Book (thin but tasty dry stout).

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Lots of different cans available here so we grabbed quite a few each as it was the last leg of our tour.

A lovely day out exploring Bristol breweries. On this particular route, there wasn’t much else, so you definitely need to take advantage of food where it’s offered (there’s a branch of Iceland next door to Dawkins). Moor was probably the nicest tap room, Arbor was a bit too “rustic”. Wiper & True opt for the long benches and trestle table approach but there was a nice atmosphere. New Bristol needs judging when there’s not rugby on, and Croft was a nice end to the day. I liked the character of the Fierce and Noble building.

Definitely a grand day out, as Bristol created Wallace and Gromit would have had.

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Mockery Brewing Co, Delgany Street, Denver, October 2018

In my “research” so far, I have uncovered some simple facts about Denver. One of them is that you can almost trip over brewery taps and great bars on every corner, on every block. I have been doing that this afternoon, and the final stop on my city stroll (before catching a train back downtown) was Mockery.

Another friendly welcome awaited here, and once again I picked a couple of beers for my final flight of the day, with advice from the bar staff for the other ones. A nice atmosphere inside, but given the sun was about to set over the Rockies I sat outside to enjoy the glorious pinks and reds of a Colorado sunset, and to enjoy some more beers.

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Continuing the musical theme from earlier, I started with Wish You Were Here, where the fruit was very subtle, and it was a nice easy drinking golden ale.

Blue Steel was next, another blonde ale with an interesting flavour, lightly balanced malts.

Something a little more lively next, a gose called Spruce the Goose, packed with super funky forest fruit flavours. Lovely stuff.

Proceedings closed with Farmhouse Ale, another one packed with dark fruit flavours, from 12 different malts, farmhouse yeast and rooibos tea.

And here’s that sunset.

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A lovely quiet space in the city, well worth seeking out.

Great Divide barrel bar, 35th Street, Denver, October 2018

The past!

If there’s one thing better than a brewery tap with a great selection of beers, it’s a brewery tap with a great selection of beers that’s playing a great selection of 1990s Americana, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Only a short stroll away from my previous refreshment stop, and I was soon settled in at a table here, and off to the bar for my next tasting flight. I asked one of the friendly bar staff for a few recommendations and picked some of my own, to sit back and enjoy on this wonderfully lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Let’s run through them from left to right.

Colette Farmhouse Ale, a 7.3% saison, had a subtle fruity note and there was a slight wheatiness to it. A nice starter to go with some Counting Crows on the jukebox (well, I think they call it Spotify nowadays).

Strawberry Rhubarb, a fruity sour with mellow fruitfulness and a nice touch of rhubarb, one of my favourite vegetables to feature in a beer.

Fresh Hop (2018) is this season’s freshest beer, brewed with “wet” whole cone hops from the Pacific north west, to give something that’s a little malty with light hoppiness. I think we’d moved on to Hootie & The Blowfish at this point.

Hazy IPA does exactly what it says on the tin, full of hazy hoppiness and a nice bitterness. A decent NEIPA that puts some of the others that I’ve had recently to shame.

It was a lovely drop, but I think it’s fair to say that I saved the best for last, in the form of Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale. Sticking an old ale into whisk(e)y barrels produces wonderful results, a beautiful maltiness in this grand old ale.

A great place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed and with a very chilled vibe. If you want to stretch your legs then there are tours every hour from 2-6 at weekends. There’s a food truck parked outside if you get peckish. Oh, and they love yetis.

Ubrew, Bermondsey, March 2018

[Editor’s note #1 : this post has been updated in light of June 2019’s mailshot from Ubrew where they explain some of their recent problems. These can be seen in some of the experiences that we had before, during, and after the brew day.]

[Editor’s note #2 : there is no editor, it’s just me.]

A day out brewing beer. A great gift to give someone who likes beer, and is interested in the brewing process, but is not about to get into home brewing any time soon, for various reasons. A great gift for me, from Mrs MOFAD.

It had taken a while to organise, because Ubrew are based in London (with plans to expand to Manchester and Copenhagen). [June 2019 edit : the expansion plans have been shelved to allow them to concentrate on core business.] I am not based in London, so we made a trip down for the weekend in order to do the brew day, as well as doing some touristy bits and pieces, and going to a (comedy) show.

The first thing to establish was whether it would be possible to do the brewday. You are expected to come back to pick your beer up after around 2-4 weeks. After a bit of back and forth, they confirmed that this would be possible and that they could ship the beer out using UK Mail. This was reconfirmed on the day with the staff, to make sure they knew the score.

So we arrive at the day itself. It was a bitterly cold day, only a few weeks after the “beast from the East” froze us all. Getting to Ubrew involves going south of the river, to Bermondsey on the Jubilee line. After that it’s a short walk to the railway arches along Old Jamaica Road to find Ubrew tucked away in the corner. On the other side of the railway you’ll find lots more beery goodness from Brew By Numbers, The Kernel Brewery and a few more besides. [June 2019 edit : you’ll now find Cloudwater down at 73 Enid Street too.]

The brewing experience day includes beer tokens too, so you can drink some tasty brews during the day. We’d arrived in good time, so whilst things were being set up I was enjoying a Chorlton Peach Lactose Sour and a collaboration brew with Old Kent Road, which was a lovely hoppy pale.

On to the brew. There were three groups brewing today, and it was too many, with only one “proper” brewer on hand to supervise and direct operations. Packing everyone in like that meant that everyone got a lesser experience.

The liquor was up to temperature, the malts had been weighed out, and it was time to mash in with my team mates (two nice chaps from Kent). We got on with the job, with some help and advice from Olga the brewer, who was also talking about the science involved.

After that it was time to sparge. Sparge means to ‚Äúmoisten by sprinkling with water‚ÄĚ, and is the process for separating the sugar from the barley. After the mashing process is complete, the grains, water and sugar are all in the mash tun. On bigger brewery kits, this is usually done with a sparging arm, so that hot water is sprayed across the top of the malt, and sinks through, picking up those lovely sugars on its way to the next vessel, where it will be boiled. This is ‚Äúwort‚ÄĚ. Sparging is best done slowly so that the maximum amount of sugar can be extracted from the malt.

Our process was more manual, with some foil with holes poked in it on top of the mash, and warm water poured over the top, which pushes its way through the mash thanks to gravity, and then out through the bottom.

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Once it is all sparged, the spent malt is left in the mash tun. Next is is time for the boil. The boiling process takes that lovely sweet wort and sterilises it. Boiling releases the alpha acids from the hops that you have just added, and they in turn release some bitterness to complement the sweetness.

While the boil is on, it’s time for some lunch, with some warm fried treats from neighbours Bone Daddies, very welcome on this cold day. Some more beer too, Peckham Pale from Brick and some lovely Export India Porter Mosaic from neighbours The Kernel Brewery.

After the boil, the beer is cooled and the hopped wort is transferred into a fermentor (FV) where the yeast is added, and the magic really starts. The yeast gobbles its way through the sugars, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is where your beer experience day stops, and your beer goes away to do its job.

An automated system labels up your FV and sends you an email with the next steps. All very efficient. You leave feeling happy with a day’s work, and confident that great beer will be coming to you soon.

This is where things start to break down. The beer was supposed to be ready 2 weeks later, when it would be bottled and shipped. A week on, and this still didn’t happen, so an e-mail goes back to enquire and suggest delivery dates. Six days later, a response arrives, very apologetic, and offering some extra goodies to make up for this. Another e-mail goes back, with two new potential delivery dates.

The new delivery dates sail by. Another e-mail goes back enquiring as to what is going on. Another three days later, and a response arrives, explaining that this is not a standard service. I know that, I’ve had countless discussions to ensure that this would be ok. ¬†Extra goodies are promised again.

Two days later, and it still hasn’t been shipped. Another enquiry. No response, but four days later the beer eventually arrives. Less than the amount that was agreed on the day, and without any of the bonus goodies promised on two separate occasions. By this point I’ve given up the will to live, and have written it off as a bad job. E-mails and tweets just seem to be ignored.

To add insult to injury, the beer was awful, just malty liquid, flat as a pancake. Even after leaving it to mature in the bottle for a good few weeks, it was still rubbish. The whole thing has left a rather nasty taste in the mouth, a shame after such an enjoyable day. Lots of friends were looking forward to trying a beer, but no-one got any because it was not fit for consumption. How did it get let out in the first place if it wasn’t good enough? Is there no quality control? It’s a lot of money to pay for 24 bottles of brown liquid that you’re not going to drink.

June 2019 update

Looking back now, you can see that the rot already appeared to have set in nearly 18 months ago. Some quotes from the e-mail sent out today:-

“Our members, course attendees, clients,¬† stakeholders, and the team deserved so much more and we failed you in many ways.¬†We / I sincerely and honestly apologise. We are embarrassed about how we acted or did not act in many cases. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.”

I hope that they get things back on track, but they have really destroyed the trust of a lot of people with their methods over the last year or so. I’ve since had an amazing brew day experience at a proper brewery, and the beer was brilliant. Maybe Ubrew can turn things around, because they were making some good beer, with great people. Maybe they can repair the reputational damage in time.

 

Become a Five Points funder

The Five Points Brewing Co, an independent brewery in the heart of Hackney has launched its first round of crowdfunded investment, offering you the chance to become a Five Points Funder and receive shares in the business. The funds raised will be used to meet growing demand, accelerate growth and bring everything back to where it all began; the brewery based on the landmark ‚ÄėFive Points‚Äô of Hackney.

The crowdfunding campaign is live on Crowdcube, with a target to raise £750,000 of investment. The money will be used to open the first Five Points Taproom at the iconic Pembury Tavern, as well as investing in state-of-the-art new brewhouse equipment and fermentation tanks which will triple production capacity volume, and which they hope will allow them to meet their ambitious plans to increase sales from 2 million to 6 million pints a year (34,000 hectolitres). A new research and development brew-kit at The Pembury Tavern will also be used to develop new recipes and research innovative brewing processes.

The fundraising will also mean investing in their growing team as well as expanding UK distribution and developing their growing export business. The Five Points Brewing Co was founded by two local Hackney residents who have always strived to invest in their local community as well as their business. Five Points was the first brewery in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer, it sources electricity from 100% renewable sources and helped set up an apprenticeship scheme for young, aspiring brewers at Hackney Community College. This is what the Five Points team have continuously aimed to create; tasty beer brewed with the highest standards of quality and a company ethos which is accessible and inclusive to everyone.

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The decision to seek investment comes as the brewery is struggling to keep up with high demand. They reached capacity in late 2016 and have since been brewing some of their beer with an independent family-owned brewery in Belgium. This investment will enable the brewery to treble production capacity in Hackney and bring back all brewing production to London. Crowdfunding will also allow Five Points to open their first taproom, allowing this long-cherished ambition to become a reality.

As part of the crowdfunding campaign, Five Points is offering a number of exclusive rewards for investors, ranging from free birthday pints, to up to 25% discount in their taproom and online, and exclusive shareholder invites to brewery recipe development and hop-picking experiences, as well as investors receiving shares in the company.

The minimum investment is just £10, and the campaign is open until until Sunday 8th April.

Brentwood Brewing Company, May 2017

The next door neighbour of Calcott Hall Farm Shop (and hence I usually visit one after the other), Brentwood Brewing Company moved in to this, their third premises, during 2013. Not many breweries find themselves in an old potato barn, but this is a perfect site, with so much passing trade from the farm shop, where their beers are also on sale if the brewery is closed.

Their are tours and events on certain days, or you can just turn up and buy some bottles, like I did. The door might be locked, just ring the bell, there’s someone always lurking somewhere during opening hours.

Today I went to pick up some new bottles from¬†their new “rebellious offspring”¬†Elephant School Brewing.¬†A British East India Company elephant training school was based in Brentwood and this remained an active army base as a depot for the Essex Regiment until 1959, when much of the site was redeveloped as the European headquarters of the Ford Motor Company.

The beers from this offspring are not your traditional cask ales, so there are plenty of different styles on offer,¬†and they¬†are always on the look out for new recipes…

Today’s haul contains:-

Sombrero – 4.5% –¬†a¬†burst of passion fruit and hint of mint start a fiesta in your mouth that you won‚Äôt want to stop. Tipping its wide brimmed hat to its European saison roots, its flavour transports you to Mexico for a party that lasts to the bottom of your glass.

Cheru Kol – 4.5% – a glorious embellishment of flavours brought together in this collaboration of styles from Belgium and England. The honeyed sweetness of the figs wrapped around the spicy, piney tang of the rosemary combine with the eccentricities of the Belgian yeast.

Porter in a Storm – 4.9% – for a taste that will have you singing in the rain, this rich porter showers your tastebuds with waves of chocolate, fruity and bitter with successive sips. Porter in a Storm is one to pour down your throat if you’re caught in a downpour or any time you want a great beer.

Looking forward to trying out this¬†haul soon…

Wincle Brewery, April 2017

What’s the best way to start a walk? By visiting a brewery to sample some beer, and then buy some beer. It’s not every day that you manage to achieve this, but today we did. Our walk started just over the road from Wincle Brewery, and whilst we waited for some logistics to fall into place, we popped over the road to chat to¬†John “the butcher” in the brewery.

I’ve encountered their beers before, at Bakewell market back in July 2015, enjoying Old Oak and Old Hag the most, but they have all been good.

We had a good chat with John, talking about beer, and then sampling some, as well as some cider (Mrs MOFAD particularly enjoyed that). The team were working away in the background, preparing some new beer. I departed with 4 bottles of beer that I’d not had before, and walking and drinking companion Mark also picked up some bottles to take away. Looking forward to sampling these soon.

Wincle open every day except Christmas day, from 10am until 4pm. Unfortunately we got back to the brewery too late the next day, so couldn’t do any more shopping. You can always buy online if you want to try some out.