The Aftermath

I initially began writing this on my phone whilst at the after party for last years bash. The party itself had a very celebratory feel to it. Regardless of whether we have made a profit or not, we set out what we achieved to do, and the Beer Bash was a much bigger success than any of us could have dared dream.

Whilst it all went smoothly from a customer point of view (mostly, I’m sure there were people who are complaining to their friends about aspects they didn’t like), there were many learning curves behind the scenes, which we all adapted to accordingly to ensure that the Beer Bash went well for the customers.

Despite the final figures not being in from this year yet, there is already talk of next year. Many of the brewers, food stalls, and volunteers from this year have already said they’d like to come back, and all of the team want to as well.

From my perspective of being based in the Cash Office this year, I have already asked for a bit of help (A lack of volunteers meant that I ended up doing everything myself, which I fear may have been responsible for errors creeping in as I rushed around to keep tokens in circulation, and actual money safely locked away. ). An underestimation of how much beer the Friday evening crowd would drink meant a frantic rush around all of the bars, counting the tokens, and then returning freshly filled trays to the token desk.

Tomorrow, I return to my full time job. The one I do just because it earns me money. Last weekend I worked harder than I have done in ages. It wasn’t done for any money, yet it left me with the most satisfaction I’ve had from a job in ages. It has been a delight and privilege to have been a part of this team, especially as someone who is a visitor to the area.

There is a strong believe amongst the ten of us behind the Beer Bash that we changed something, we achieved something, and we defied peoples expectations. After all, why would you expect 10 normal people with very little experience in organising a festival to pull off something like the Birmingham Beer Bash?

As I write this, I’m sat in The Platform Tavern in Southampton. Having been a part of bringing great beer to Birmingham, I’d love to be able to do the same here. Maybe not on the same scale, but one step at a time…

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The Others – The Maltsters

The Others is a monthly series looking at the people who aren’t brewers that help to produce beer and get it onto your tastebuds. This month, the people responsible for the malt…

At the end of April, I had a revelation in terms of The Others. It’s much bigger than I first gave it credit for. The revelation came as I was being shown around Warminster Maltings, by Chris Garratt who started at the company in 1975 as Trainee Assistant Manager, and is now Managing Director.
I asked the question, as I have done with other people I have met, of how many people work at the Maltings? The answer was a rather modest 18, which doesn’t seem a large number of people, until you realise that this is just the number of people working on the malting process, in one malt house. For a pint of beer to reach your mouth, you also need  farmers and their employees for the grain, and farmers and their employees for the hops, people to look after the water supply, people to make casks and kegs and bottles and glasses, not least the people who drive the grain and hops and finished beer from one place to the other. Put simply, one simple pint of beer keeps a few hundred people in employment. The fact that it also tastes good is a pleasant bonus.

I left Warminster Maltings rather daunted by the prospect of writing this post. I left with a lot of information, all of which was fascinating to me, and some of which was featured in last month’s Introduction to Malt.

Warminster Maltings is one of two Malthouses in the country to still use traditional floor malting methods. The other Malthouse is Tuckers Maltings in Newton Abbot, which is open to the public for tours, and is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Back in the 18th Century, Warminster was said to be the biggest producer of malt in the West of England, with up to 36 Malthouses in the town. Today, the Malthouse that I visited is the only one remaining that still serves as a Malthouse, though you can still find the old buildings around the town.

The site in Pound Street was designed by William Morgan, who was from a family of Brewers and Maltsters, in 1879. Morgan handed the business down to his son, WIlliam Frank Morgan, who subsequently transferred the business to his brother in law, Edwin Sloper Beaven in 1902.
It was Beaven, who through his development of barley breeding, and liason with the Guinness Research Laboratory, helped seal the fate and future of the maltings. Beaven’s work led to him recieving an honary doctorate, and the malthouse a contract supplying malt for Guinness.

Guinness did try to close the Pound Street Malthouse in 1994, but found they couldn’t as it was still owned by the Beaven Family. In 2001 it was owned by the grain merchant Robin Appel, who could not only manage the supply of the raw grain to the malthouse, but also owns the marketing rights to Maris Otter, a variety of pale grain used by many brewers.
The Malthouse was listed as a Grade 2 building in the 1950s, and today runs 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, with a two shift, 24 hour operation in process. Approximately 50 farmers supply malt to Warminster, and the method used has been the same for over 150 years. In the 1990s, a second level was installed to double the production capacity, and chillers were also installed to allow production of malt in the hot summer months.

Today, Warminster Maltings pride themselves on the close relationship that they have with their customers, and also the quality of their ingredients and the cost they sell them for. The emphasis that Chris Garratt and Warminster put on the need for local quality has even travelled across to America, with an increase in maltings and the creation of the Craft of Guild Maltsters.The need for local quality also has a positive effect on local economy, as it creates jobs for local people.
I’m sure that across the two posts on Malt and Warminster, I may have missed something. I shall, however, leave you with this. If a brewer wants to brew a beer today, the malt that he will be using will have been negotiated with the grower around 18 months ago. The Others isn’t just about the people, it’s about time as well.

As I focus on moving house next month, The Others shall return in September.

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The Friday Pint 2 #28 – We Did It!

We did it. It’s finally here. Our little beer bash has descended upon Digbeth and there are actually people here. Real life people, paying us money to drink beer we’ve chosen, at a festival we’ve organised.

Firstly, if you’re attending over the two days, thank you. I have no idea how the others are feeling, but every time I walk through the crowds of people, as I move those small tokens around, I get an incredibly feeling of happiness overcome me.

461 days ago, or 66 weeks tomorrow, most of us had never met. It was a Twissup (a twitter organised piss up) that bought most of the Birmingham Cubed team together. I was only there weekend as I was up to see AFC Totton play at Stourbridge. I decided to join in on the fun, seeing as I was in the area.

A few weeks later, and discussion starts of organising a beer festival in Birmingham, the sort we’d like to go to, with beers served as intended by the brewers. All of this was before festivals like Indy Man had been announced.

Within an evening, the twitter discussion had led to a forum being set up to discuss details more in depth. Soon meetings were being held, which I attended as many as I could.

For what seemed like ages, nothing really seemed to be happening, we needed a venue. Once we had a venue, things could move forward. Several possibilities came and went before we settled on The Bond Co.

The time between us signing the deal on the hire for this weekend and actually being here today has flown by. People have been buying tickets a lot in the last week, with advance tickets selling out.

There are limited walk up tickets, but these are limited, so if you’re thinking of walking up, you should come early to avoid disappointment.

To finish, I’d like to say I’m extremely proud to be a part of the team that organised and put on this festival, and I’d like to thank David Shipman for all his hard work in organising the rest of us, and ultimately making this whole thing the success it’s been.

If you see him, buy him a beer, he deserves it.

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The Friday Pint 2 Midweek Special – The Rest of The Bash

Over the last three Fridays, I have been looking at the three main bars of the Birmingham Beer Bash, taking place this weekend. In this special midweek edition of The Friday Pint I shall be looking at what else there will be for those visiting the Bash.

Firstly, there are a further two bars for you to spend your bash cash at. The Cider and Sour Bar, sponsored by Liverpool Craft Beer, and The Bottle Bar, which will be run by Krishan of Stirchley Wines and Spirits.

As a fan of Sours, I’d be attempting to try all of the four that will be on the sour bar over the weekend. It’s the bottle bar however, that will get many beer geeks going. Magic Rock’s Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady and Un-Human Cannonball anyone? Just those two should give you an idea of the sort of beers that will be available for you to buy.

Of course, you can’t really drink the amount of beer we’d like you to drink (responsibly of course, we wouldn’t want any of you being refused service in one of the city’s drinking establishments after being at the Beer Bash) without consuming some delicious food to soak it all up. Both of the fine dining events on Friday and Saturday are now sold out, but you can still get hold of some of the best food Birmingham has to offer from the food stands.

Pop Up Dosa will be serving Dosas, a delicious savoury crêpe made from rice and lentils, served with a range of side dishes and chutneys.

Loaf, from Stirchley, make wonderful bread, and will be at the Bash at all sessions except Friday Afternoon. Having tried some of the bread from the store in Stirchley, I can say that it is very tasty bread.

On the Saturday, visitors will be able to feed themselves with burgers from the Original Patty Men, serving up the finest and filthiest burgers using five week dry aged longhorn beef with locally made brioche buns. If that doesn’t tempt the meat eaters amongst you, I don’t know what will.

Last, but not least, Squisito Deli will be at the Bash all weekend. For the Bash, Squisto will be serving their own delicious handmade sausages, containing at least 89% meat, and free from artificial additives, preservatives, gluten and added water. Sounds good to me.

As well as great beer, and delicious food, there will also be a number of talks taking place over the weekend. Spaces for these will be limited due to the size of the rooms they’ll be taking place in, but you should make the effort to go to one.

If you can, I highly suggest going and listening to Paul Corbett’s talk on hops. The man was a joy to meet last year, and I left knowing a lot more than I did previously.

If you’re going to the Bash this weekend, thank you. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I certainly am both nervous, and excited, and extremely pleased that we managed to get here. Friday Night Plus 10 tickets have now sold out, so if you were thinking of going, it may be an idea to buy those tickets today.

As ever, they are available from here

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The Friday Pint 2 #27 – The Birmingham Beer Bash Cask Bar

In a week from the time of writing this post, the final session of the inaugural Birmingham Beer Bash will have commenced. Around 2000 people will have passed through the gates of The Bond Co in Digbeth, exchanging some of the 35kg of black and white tokens (aka Bash Cash) for some of the world’s best beer, and some of Birmingham’s best food.

In a similar format to the last two weeks, I’m going to take a look at what’s going to be on the cask bar, and pick out three that I’ll be drinking, if I get a chance to.

The cask bar will feature 24 beers, from 17 different breweries (including one collaboration). Amongst these are a few that are making rare appearances on cask (Tiny Rebel’s NP10), and those that are the last casks available (Offbeat Way Out Wheat and Salopion Automation).

The full list of breweries present on the cask bar reads as follows: Arbor Ales, Art Brew, Blackjack Beers, Buxton Brewery, Howling Hops/Pressure Drop, Magic Rock, Marble, Offbeat, Purity, Sadler’s, Salopian, Durham, Waen, Tiny Rebel, Weird Beard, and Windsor and Eton.

If I was a paying customer, my first port of call would be, without a doubt, Sadler’s Dr Hardwicke’s. I’ve kind of reached a point in my beer drinking life where, whilst I’d like to try as many different beers as I possibly can, there are also beers that I’d like to drink as much of as I possibly can. Dr Hardwicke’s is one of these, as is Mud City Stout, which I’ll be hopefully drinking on the Monday following the Beer Bash at The Windsor Castle in Lye. As I’d be around that area, I’d probably try the other beer Sadler’s will be bringing (Lion Hart, 4.2%) as well.

My second choice would probably be Art Brew’s Hip Hop Experimental 366. I’ve rather enjoyed the beers I’ve previously drunk from Art Brew, and the Hip Hop series has been particuarly good. I’ve yet to try any beers that have been made with the recent influx of experimental hops, and the brewer in me is curious to know what characteristics Experimental 366 has.

My third choice, though not particuarly suited to the current weather, is Durham Hellfire, a 10% Chilli Imperial Stout. I’m not generally a big fan of chillis, yet I love imperial stouts, and I’m likely to give anything a go if you stick it in a beer (I discovered I’m not a big fan of beetroot through trying two different beetroot beers). I’ve had a few chilli beers before, with varying degrees of success. When balanced well, I quite like them. Too much chilli however, and the experience isn’t enjoyable for me, and beer should be enjoyable. I’d be trying this to find out just where on the scale it is.

You have less than a week to make your plans and buy your tickets. The Saturday Night dining session has already sold out, and the sessions themselves are sure to follow. Tickets (whilst still available) can be bought here.

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The Friday Pint 2 #26 – The Birmingham Beer Bash Keg Bar

There are now just two weeks to go until the Birmingham Beer Bash. Tickets are starting to go fast, and more details are starting to be revealed on just what beers the breweries will be bringing. Last week I highlighted a few beers from the international bar. This week, I shall highlight three of the beers that excite me on the Keg Bar.
On the Keg Bar, you’ll be able to find beers from Freedom, Thornbridge, Compass, Redwillow, Durham, Black Jack, Weird Beard, Hardknott, Buxton, Waen, Arbor, Hopcraft, Wild Beer, Magic Rock, Art Brew, Northern Monk, William Bros, Anarchy Brew Co, Howling Hops, and Marble.
I’ll be honest and say it’s hard to pick three beers from those. There’s a mixture of those I’ve already tried, and respect, and those I’ve yet to try, and have heard many good things about.
The beer that I’d like to try the most though, is Northern Monk’s New World IPA. The brewer behind Nothern Monk’s beers is David Bishop, also known as @broadfordbrewer on Twitter. I’ve not had a chance to try David’s homebrew efforts, but have seen the many positive reactions to his beers from fellow beery twitterers. David was also a big help with advice when I started home brewing myself.
The second beer that I’d like to try is Hardknott’s Rhetoric II, a black cherry imperial stout. I was fortunate enough to be given a pre-release bottle of the first Rhetoric, a star-anise infused Belgian Quad, last year, which I enjoyed enough to buy a further six bottles. The sound of a black cherry imperial stout appeals even more to me, and so naturally, I want to see if Rhetoric II is as good as it sounds.
The last beer that I’m highlighting on the Keg bar is Wild Beer’s Ninkasi. I bought a bottle of it earlier in the year, after seeing a number of people praise it. I suspect that it may actually be better suited to being served from a bottle, rather than a keg, but I am willing to be proved wrong. I just hope that someone has remembered to order the Westcombe Cheddar to go with it.

Tickets for all four sessions (which are now selling fast) are available at www.eventelephant.com/birminghambeerbash

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The Friday Pint 2 #25 – The Birmingham Beer Bash International Bar.

With just three Fridays (including this one) before the weekend of the Birmingham Beer Bash, and three main bars, I thought I’d take a look at the beers that will be available for you all to drink. This week, a look at the beers on the International Bar.

Announced so far is a list of beers that somewhat excites me, and frustrates me that I won’t be out there drinking them with you. That list includes beers from Evil Twin, De Molen, Ska Brewing, Rodenbach, Schneider Weisse, Mikkeller, Southern Tier, Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Schlenkerla, Westmalle, and Boon.

Of those, I’d like to drink Schlenkerla Marzen, Boon Kriek, and De Molen’s Rasputin on tap.

I’ve had the bottled version of the Marzen a few times. Perhaps the best way to describe it, is that someone took a load of smokey bacon and shoved it into a glass. Some people will find the taste too strong, but for others, it will be a glorious revelation of delicious flavour, after which, no other smoked beer will really taste as good.

I’ve had both draught and bottled Boon Kriek now, and I’m currently on a Kriek kick. Kriek is a form of lambic (a form of sour beer made in Belgium) made with cherries. As Kriek ages, it will become less fruity, and more tart. Being relatively new to the world of Kriek, I’ve not yet been able to try an aged and new Kriek side by side. Once I manage to hold onto one for long enough, it’s something I will be doing.

The Rasputin I’ve tried once before, in a bottle. I was expecting a deep rich, imperial stout, and had certain flavours in mind. I may have had a bad bottle, or I may have had a perfectly fine bottle, which went against my expectations of what Rasputin was going to taste like. Either way, I’d like to be able to confirm which it is.

Tickets for all four sessions of the Beer Bash are on sale here.

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The Session #77 – IPA: What’s the Big Deal?

Once again, it’s the first Friday of the month, and as usual, it’s time for The Session. The monthly series in which beer bloggers write upon a subject chosen by another. This month, Justin, of Justin’s Brew Review, questions why IPA is seemingly so popular.

To answer this, I think we should acknowledge that it is a certain type of IPA that is highly popular. The highly hopped (usually with American or New Zealand hops), high IBU, fruity IPAs that often go against what the uninitiated assume a beer to taste like.

I believe that the popularity of these IPAs can be attributed to those strong fruity flavours, and I think that as long as there are new drinkers to discover them, they will continue to remain popular. Eventually though, I suspect that as people get used to IPAs, they will drop out of fashion for the next big thing.

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