The Friday Pint 2015 #8 – Beer In the USA Part 3

By the time you read this on Friday, I will have been back in the UK for a couple of days. As it is, for me writing this post, I have only been back for a matter of hours.

Thankfully, all of the bottles I brought back made it intact, including the three purchased for me by my good friend Will on a recent trip to Montana. I’ll be talking about these in a future post.

Friday night saw us head to the convention center in Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. The geek that I am copied the 95% beer list that had been made available on the website, and stored it in an excel spreadsheet I could access on my phone. This helped a lot in trying most of the beers I wanted to try.

One thing that would have been nice, and that we probably missed, is some maps or floor plans. Alternatively, sticking the breweries in alphabetical order. Much of the evening was spent hunting for the beers I wanted to try (or in certain cases, try again).

The weekend took us out to Columbus, where on the Saturday night we celebrated Will’s birthday, and also his engagement to his fiancee at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. I started with a pint of their pale ale, which was a pleasant companion to the food. They offered flights of four 5oz glasses, so I took advantage of this to try their IPA, DIPA, Porter and Imperial Stout. If I’m honest, first impressions of those four weren’t overly great. If I was going to consider trying one again soon, it would be the IPA.

Sunday was the turn of Fado’s and World of Beer in Easton. Fado’s is a chain of Irish pubs, that does rather nice food (at least, the Columbus one does). We went there so I could watch the Southampton vs Liverpool game and my fiancee could meet up with some of the people she went to College with. Saints lost to a rather good goal and we ended up staying at Fado’s much longer than expected.

Eventually though we made it to World of Beer. I like World of Beer. I usually end up drinking flights (4 5oz glasses for $10) and still rarely drink all that I’d like to each time I visit. Whilst I’d quite like there to be a World of Beer nearer the Pittsburgh area, I also think the absence of one would be good for my wallet.

So, that has been my visit to America, my last before I move out there to get married. I should probably get working on that… (34)

The Road To The Wool House #5 – First Impressions

Last night I was able to attend the second preview evening for The Wool House before this evening’s grand opening. For those of you who will be reading this beforehand, the ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 18:00.

Upon entering the building, one of the first things I noticed was the music playing. It was the same style of blues music you will hear playing in The Platform Tavern if you visit there. As Aidan said when I mentioned the similarity, their taste in music isn’t going to change.

In terms of the bars, there are 8 cask taps downstairs, and four upstairs. With the exception of Last Waltz and Congo Driftwood, the full core range was represented, alongside First Dance (the first brew on the new kit) and Sea City Gold (the beer brewed to celebrate Southampton’s 50th year as a city in 2014).

As well as the additions of many tables and chairs, one thing that has been improved since I was last in the building is the lighting. It makes a big difference too. In a previous post in this series, I said that The Wool House felt smaller than The Platform. Now that the tables and chairs are in, and the lighting has been improved, that clearly isn’t the case.

Some of the walls have had framed pictures put on them, with many of the images relating to the Titanic. Next to the Timber Jib Frame, stands a metal robot. Looking at the photo that I took last night, I wonder if it is supposed to be dancing. On the opposite side of the building, near the entrance to the brewery itself, is a smaller metal robot. These additions could easily feel out of place, yet in a way, they add to the industrial feel of the building.

I’m going back tonight for the proper opening, I’m expecting it will get busy. These are only my first impressions. Whilst I enjoyed the beer, I’ve chosen not to say anything about it. In a couple of months time, once everything has settled, I’ll come back to do a more detailed post. For now though, I’m going to celebrate that the new place is finally here, and drink a lot of beer.

(32)

The Road To The Wool House 4a – First Dance

I am currently sat in The Platform Tavern, drinking my first pint of beer since returning from America. It’s rather warm here in comparison, and a lot less white.

The beer I am drinking just so happens to be First Dance, the first beer brewed on the new brew kit installed in The Wool House. This would probably be a good time to remind you that The Wool House opens this Friday (27th February).

To me, it’s a rather enjoyable and quaffable ale. In fact, I’d probably spend whole afternoons drinking it. As it is, I can’t really spend all afternoon in here drinking it. I have things to do.

If you’re going to be in Southampton this weekend, don’t forget that The Butchers Hook are celebrating their first birthday with a lineup of Magic Rock beers. They’re open from 6pm tonight, and I’d bet that a few of the casks and kegs will run out before the weekend. (32)

The Friday Pint 2015 #7 – Beer In The USA #2

As I write, I am still in the USA, feeling significantly better than I was this time last week. Tonight I shall be going to the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival, and will probably write about this in some form in the near future.

My beer drinking this week has been somewhat thwarted by the weather. We’ve had a fair bit of snow, and temperatures have been below freezing most of the time I’ve been here. Wind chill has even had the temperatures go significantly below 0F.

Despite all this, I have enjoyed some good beers this week, such as Great Lakes Blackout Stout, Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine, and Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. I have also been consuming a few bottles of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, and Lagunitas Maximus.

Yesterday evening, we went out to two recently opened local breweries. Hitchhiker Brewing in Mount Lebanon, and Spoonwood Brewery in Bethel Park.

The bar at Hitchhiker is the smaller of the two, with the focus clearly on the beer. A small choice of food is available, including boards of local cheeses and meats, pretzels, nuts, and locally made jerky. I got a flight of three 8oz beers for $12. The beers included a kolsch, an amber, and a stout. Of those three, the amber was the beer that drew the most negative reaction. We ended up leaving with a 32oz growler of the kolsch, and made our way to Spoonwood.

Spoonwood Brewery is the newer of the two establishments, opening up to the public a few weeks ago. It’s much bigger than Hitchhiker, with more tables, and a bigger selection of food. One good thing about Spoonwood, is the fact they offered a sample size (5oz) glass for $2 (for most beers). This enabled me to try many more beers than I would have otherwise been able to if I was stuck to drinking 16oz pints.

Unfortunately, they only had 64oz growlers, which was too much for me, considering I won’t get much time to drink the beer until after the weekend. If I could have got a 32oz fill, I would have gone for the imperial porter. It’s that sort of weather.

On the way back, we stopped off in the store, and once again I looked in the beer section. To my excitement, I found they had bottles of Southern Tier’s Creme Brule. It’s also on at the festival tonight. I think I’ll try to finish with it.

Next week I’ll be back in the UK, and next Friday night I’ll be in Southampton, either at The Butchers Hook, or at The Wool House. If you’re not busy, you should come down yourself. Until then though, have a great weekend. (46)

The Road To The Wool House #4 – Beer

For all the stories there are to be told about the building, the people, and the process, there is perhaps one aspect that will interest people more than others. I am of course, referring to the beer.

The first brew on the new kit took place on the 27th January 2015. It was a Centential Pale Ale, and will appear on the bar over opening weekend as First Dance. I was at The Wool House on the day, taking many photos, and being shown round the still relatively empty building.

Whilst there were some issues, these were soon fixed, and much to Aidan’s joy, the original gravity of the beer going into the fermenter was spot on. There was very much an element of erring on the side of caution as Aidan and Ned started to learn their new kit.

During my talk with Aidan back in September 2014, I asked him about the beer plans for the new location, and also the plans for the old brewing kit.

The Wool House will open with six core beers in the Dancing Man Brewery range. These will be complimented by seasonal beers, and the Snake Oil series, a range of one off brews.

The six core beers are:

  • Pilgrims Pale Ale, a 3.9% pale ale
  • Congo Driftwood, a 4.2% pale ale, with mango and passionfruit
  • Jack O Diamonds, a 4.5% red ale
  • Fiddlers Jig, a 4.8% brown ale
  • Big Casino, a 5% IPA
  • Last Waltz, a 5.3% black IPA

Among the seasonal beers will be beers such as Cloud Cuckoo, Pole Axed, DNA, Organ Grinder, and Smoke Rye Sin.

The larger brew kit in The Wool House will give the Dancing Man brewing team a much better efficiency compared to the brew kit in the Platform Tavern. That old brew kit will be put to good use, with plans to use it to start a sour beer process, and for small bottle run processes.

The brew kit in The Wool House is very much the focal point of the building (if you ignore the spiral staircase, and the building itself of course). As Stewart said to Aidan during the first brew, “You’ll have to get used to brewing with an audience”.

The Wool House opens to the public on Friday 27th February. The same weekend sees The Butchers Hook in Bitterne Triangle celebrate their first anniversary with a Magic Rock tap takeover. If you don’t have anything planned for next weekend, come on down to Southampton.

The fifth part of this series should appear at some point on the 27th. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video of the first hop addition on the new kit…

  (58)

The Friday Pint 2015 #6 – Beer in the USA Part 1

Hello from the other side of the Atlantic to the one I usually find myself posting from.

I currently find myself a couple of days into a short trip to Pittsburgh to spend time with my fiancee. (Yes, I purposefully timed it to coincide with Valentines Day).

So far I haven’t been doing much in the way of drinking. This has mostly been due to suffering from the dreaded lurgy, which has now thankfully cleared for the most part. Being ill also postponed the fourth (and what would have been final part before opening night) of my series on Dancing Man Brewery’s new venue, The Wool House. That should appear at some point in the next week.

Back to now, and beer. I arrived on Wednesday night to a rather drinkable pint of Southern Tier’s 2xIPA. It was paired by a tired and still rather ill me with some cheese sticks.

Yesterday, after picking up four packs of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, I opened bottles left over from previous visits. Of the bottles I opened, the best was by far the 2012 Sierra Nevada Hoptimum. It still packed a mighty hop punch three years later.

Later today I’ll be off to spend a couple of hours at the bar in the restaurant where my fiancee. I’m sure some of you will read on twitter or untappd what I’ve been drinking.

Next week I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. The beer list goes up at noon tomorrow. I’m rather looking forward to it.

Until then though, have a great weekend. (53)

The Friday Pint 2015 #5 – You Thought I’d Forgotten, Hadn’t You

Okay, so probably not, but it is only a quick post this week to say a few things.

1. Tickets for the third Birmingham Beer Bash go on sale on Monday. If you’re not already following the @birminghamcubed twitter account, go and do so now. It’s your best source of news on all things Beer Bash related.

2. The Wool House opens on the 27th February. You should totally come down and drink some beer, or just admire the building. Actually, you should at least buy some beer, even if you don’t drink it. I’ll drink the beer if you don’t want it. Buy me beer.

3. I’ll be in the USA next Friday, so by UK time standards, the next couple of Friday Pints may actually be posted in the early hours of Saturday. There’s a lot of new breweries in and around Pittsburgh for me to visit. The following Friday will see me at the Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest too, so that should see me with something for the Friday Pint post after that, when I’ll be far too busy drinking beer in Southampton.

4. Part four of the Wool House series will be coming hopefully on Thursday.

 

Until then, have a great weekend. (62)

The Road to The Wool House #3 – New Space, New Ideas, New Identity

Whilst the beers will be familiar to Dancing Man’s current customers, the plans for The Wool House are to create a different space to The Platform Tavern. When I spoke to Aidan back in September of last year, he described The Platform Tavern as being a cosy and comfortable pub. The Wool House on the other hand, has been planned more as a brewery and an event space.

In talking about the plans for The Wool House, Aidan was keen to make it clear that they wanted to show off the building to as many people as possible, providing a space for all kinds of people, young and old.

It is hoped that The Wool House will build on the good reputation already developed by the Dancing Man Brewery and Platform Tavern team. It will also give people another reason to visit the quay area of Southampton. In my conversation with Aidan in September, he said that some people won’t visit The Platform Tavern, as it’s too small and often busy.

I’ll admit myself, that I have often wanted to visit on my way back home on a Friday evening. I haven’t because its often busy. (I also prefer pub drinking in the afternoon with a book or some comics, but the point stands, I’m put off visiting in the evening because of how busy it can get).

 

From the start of the project, the plans for the expansion of the Dancing Man Brewery were always centered around the local community. It was this that helped secure support from the council and the Bridging the Gap fund.

It would have been easy to find a bigger premises on the outskirts of the city, but they wanted to be located in the center of town. It’s hoped that the new venture will help to improve the quality of beer on offer in the town quay area. They also plan on working with local businesses, improving the local economy.

Amongst the local businesses who have already benefited from The Wool House are the builders firm employed for the project, the architect, and those within the Council and English Heritage who worked on approving the plans for the building. Along with those jobs created by the building of the new brewpub, there are also those which have been created by the need to run the new location. A general manager, shift managers, bar staff, waiting staff, kitchen staff and extra brewing staff will have all been employed by the time the doors open to the public on the 27th February. Depending on the success of the business, it’s possible that further expansion of the workforce will occur.

On my last visit to The Wool House the building was far from finished, yet the building had a very industrial feel to it. This is apt, given the building’s long history in which it has seen many uses. The additions to the interior also have a history befitting of making new use out of old things.

The bars use wood reclaimed from old railway carriages, and allegedly, Kentucky Racecourse. According to Stewart , this is what the seller on ebay claimed. Whether it’s true or not is unknown, but for the benefit of a good story, lets assume that it is. The downstairs bar also features a section made from an old snooker table, minus the wood and the felt. The downstairs floor has been made with the wood of barrels from a Scottish distillery, and the wooden pillars (part of the building’s structure for it’s 800 year old lifespan), have been carbon dated as being 1000 years old.

With the brewery installed, the downstairs area feels a lot smaller than it previously did. The spiral staircase and pulley system take up a lot of the downstairs spare now that the brewery and bar have been installed into the back half of the building. In many ways, it feels like the ground floor of The Wool House has the potential to feel smaller than The Platform.

The upper floor on the other hand, seems like it will be much more spacious. A mezzanine level has been added which includes offices, a green room for bands, and a balcony on which bands can perform. The addition of this balcony means that space isn’t lost when making room for the band, a problem encountered at The Platform Tavern.

Leading onto next week’s installment, in which I shall be covering the beer plans, I shall finish by saying that when I entered The Wool House I was hit with an aroma of hot wort. It’s an aroma I expect will become even more common as industry and productivity returns yet again to The Wool House. Eventually The Wool House will be used for something else, continuing it’s long and varied history. For now though, it’s purpose is beer, and being a space for people to come together. It’s a venue I believe that many people will enjoy, whether they are beer drinkers or not. (77)

The Friday Pint 2015 #4 – B³ 3

Regular readers of this blog will know that for the past few years, I have been part of the Birmingham Beer Bash team. For those of you who may have missed the announcements on Twitter and Facebook, there will be another Beer Bash this year.

As in previous years, this year’s Bash will take place at The Bond in Digbeth, over the last weekend in July (Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th). This year’s trade session will be on the Thursday evening, with four public sessions over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Whilst I have seen some of the plans and breweries we hope to get for you, I will as always, be leaving the reveal of those details to the official channels, so go and follow those Twitter and Facebook feeds. You’ll also be able to find information about this year’s event, as it gets released at http://birminghambeerbash.co.uk/

Tickets haven’t been released yet, but you can still book your hotel. Get ready, and prepare to hover that finger over the F5 button waiting for the tickets to go on sale. (73)

The Road to The Wool House #2 – Securing the building, planning and delays.

The bidding process for The Wool House was won at the end of the Summer of 2013. Over the course of the summer, the building had been used on a temporary basis by Element Arts, who used it as a space to display art, and put on a number of workshops, activities and events that drew over 10,000 visitors to The Wool House. In December of 2013 a separate group, calling themselves Wool House for the Community started a campaign to stop the Wool House from becoming a brewpub, and to keep it as a community arts centre.

The Southern Daily Echo news article on the Campaign’s demonstration outside The Wool House in December of 2013 (http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10882055.Groups_campaign_against_pub_plan_for_historic_building/) gained many comments, both in support of and against both points of view. If people wanted to express their views on the proposed use of the building officially though, the Wool House for the Community group had a petition set up that they could sign.

The petition (http://www.southampton.gov.uk/moderngov/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=55) signed by 414 people by the time it closed in mid January 2014, was met with a response in support of the brewery’s plans. In their response, the council highlighted The Wool House’s long and varied history, and also pointed out that they were already developing a number of arts spaces, including the new Arts Centre to be opened in 2016.

Whilst it certainly drew attention to the Wool House project, the campaign didn’t affect the date that had been set for the committee to make the final decision on whether or not the plans would be going ahead. The application for planning approval was received by the council in mid January 2014. In mid April, after three months in which the public and local residents were given the chance to express their viewpoints, the planning committee unanimously gave their approval to the project.

On the morning of the 23rd April, the news was broke that approval had been given for the Brewery to start converting the building into a brewpub. At this point, it was hoped that the new venue would be up and running around mid-August, certainly in time for the Southampton Boat Show in mid September. Health and Safety and structural issues however meant that building didn’t even start until August.

Whilst the initial plans and timescale may have been a bit overambitious, Aidan admitted when I spoke to him in early September that better decisions were being made due to the delays. Back then, it was still hoped that The Wool House would be opened before the end of the year.

During my visit to The Wool House in late January, Stewart Cross, owner and Landlord of The Platform Tavern, restated what Aidan had said. It was somewhat underestimated how long converting The Wool House would be. As a Grade 1 listed building, any changes had to be approved.

In addition to this, further delays were added by the delivery of the kitchen and lift, which were held up by Christmas. When I was at The Wool House last, neither the kitchen or lift had yet to be installed, but both were due to come in the next week.

All that being said though, the brew kit is in, and brewing commenced on it on Tuesday 27th January 2015. In a couple of weeks time, this series will look at that beer and the others you’ll be able to drink when The Wool House opens on the 27th February.

Next time on The Road To The Wool House: New Space, New Ideas, New Identity (265)