Whatever your opinions on the numbers of small brewers producing KeyKeg and keg beers, few can deny that the drinker has never had more choice of quality beers on both cask and keg formats. But there is one group who don’t like it – the big brewers who used to have a monopoly on the fonts at your local pubs.
The big national and international producers have found that drinkers are turning away from their heavily promoted brands. Like many other sections of society, beer lovers are increasingly looking at the provenance of what they buy, preferring to give their money to smaller artisan producers over what are perceived as ‘corporations’.
The response from ‘big beer’ has been putting beers on the bars that have the appearance of ‘craft’ brands but are brewed alongside the macro-brands. They’ve also been buying up successful smaller brewers to add flavoursome beers to their ranges.
Drinkers seeking new flavours often look to imported beers on draught and in bottles/cans – but what they are buying is often just a subsidiary of the corporations they are seeking to avoid.
In the United States, a ‘craft brewery’ has a clear definition set by the US Brewers Association. Sadly, the UK has no equivalent definition, and this has left the door open for marketeers at some of the UK’s largest brewers to attempt to hijack the term.
So who is behind the ‘craft’ beers at your local?
The world’s biggest brewer AB InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, owns over 140 breweries around the world including Camden Town in the UK, the USA’s Goose Island and Belgium’s Leffe (alongside the once iconic British brands Bass and Boddingtons).
Europe’s largest player Heineken hit the headlines when it purchased a 49% stake in Beavertown in late 2018 but already has a portfolio which includes own label Maltsmiths, Lagunitas IPA, Amstel, Birra Moretti, Zywiec and Irish stouts Beamish and Murphy’s, plus minority stakes in Brixton Brewery and Paulaner.
Japan’s Asahi added Fullers and Dark Star to their portfolio in January, joining their existing brands including Meantime, Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch, Peroni and Polish brand Tyskie.
Another Japanese company is behind many more brands – tech giant Mitsubishi’s finance arm owns the Kirin group which in turn owns Lion – the Australian based company which purchased Huddersfield’s Magic Rock earlier this year. Lion also owns London’s Fourpure and a host of Australian and New Zealand breweries include Little Creatures and Castlemaine XXXX.
Burton based Marston’s are behind Revisionist, Shipyard and Devils Backbone beers in the UK – the latter two under licence from their US originators (Devils Backbone in the US being a subsidiary of AB InBev). They also own a host of cask ale brands including Wainwright, Ringwood, Wychwood, Banks’s, Young’s and Jennings.
Despite boasting a range of 682 beers worldwide, Danish giant Carlsberg has been relatively quiet in the UK ‘craft’ segment. They recently relaunched London Fields brewery which they and Brooklyn Brewery purchased in 2017 so you can expect to see these beers on more bars. Shed Head from Sweden’s Backyard Brew is another common Carlsberg ‘craft’ offering in the UK (the ‘backyard’ in the brewery’s name being that of Carlsberg’s massive plant in Falkenberg, Sweden).
Molson Coors is behind the UK’s most common cask ale brand Sharp’s Doom Bar, but their most significant move into the ‘craft’ segment in Europe was the purchase of Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery. They are also behind curry house stable Cobra. Guinness is another staple brand in thousands of pubs but seeing its sales fall, parent company Diageo launched Hophouse 13 lager in 2015 and has pushed it out to a wide variety of pubs who also stock its stout.
Even our local family brewers are seeking to appeal to new markets with ‘craft’ brands. Joseph Holt acquired the four-barrel Bootleg Brewery when they bought Chorlton’s Horse & Jockey pub in 2012. Since then ‘Bootleg’ beers brewed at Holt’s Cheetham Hill site have appeared in cask and keg across the Holt’s estate and the free trade. Meanwhile Salford’s Hydes markets beers under brands including The Beer Studio, Kansas Avenue Brewing Co and Provenance.
In its basic form, beer is made from water, yeast, hops and malted barley. And malted barley naturally contains gluten – a family of proteins which help foods maintain their shape.
Approximately 1% of the UK’s population suffer from Coeliac disease – a serious autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. Another 6% report an allergy or intolerance to gluten. So does this mean that they are denied the pleasure of good beer?
Thankfully not. Malted barley and wheat are used in brewing to provide the sugars that the yeast feeds on to produce alcohol, but they are not the only cereals which can be malted. While other common brewing adjuncts rye and oats do contain gluten, there are alternatives including sorghum, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, rice and maize which do not.
Manchester based Green’s launched what they claim was the UK’s first naturally gluten free beer, Discovery Ale, in May 2004 (although the beer itself is brewed in Belgium). The beer was the result of years of research by gluten intolerant founder Derek Green, eventually teaming up with a Belgian professor who had a gluten intolerant daughter. Made with a combination of buckwheat, millet, sorghum, hops and brown rice, Discovery was followed by a naturally gluten free India Pale Ale and a dry hopped lager which are exported around the world.
The difficulty for those brewing with alternative grains is that as well as providing sugars, barley and other gluten containing cereals also impart much of the flavours and body associated with modern beers. Sorghum can tend to add too much sweetness to a beer and attempts to compensate for barley and rye flavours often lead to an unbalanced beer. Therefore, brewers like Greens need to work harder to match the flavour of traditional beer.
However, brewing with alternative grains is not the only way to produce ‘gluten free’ beers. In the UK and Europe, for a food stuff to be labelled ‘Gluten Free’ it must contain less than 20 parts per million (20ppm) of gluten. To take advantage of this, the brewing industry has developed special enzymes which break down the gluten proteins during fermentation of the beer. These have allowed brewers to produce beers using traditional ingredients and methods, but which contain extremely low levels of gluten in the finished product.
One such commonly used additive is ‘Brewers Clarex’ also known as ‘Clarity’, which is added to chilled wort at the start of fermentation. Clarex was originally developed to remove proteins from beer that could cause ‘chill haze’ and help brewers produce clearer beer. It was already widely in use before it was discovered that it also had the effect of breaking down the structure of gluten.
Pioneers in this new technique included Green’s, along with Yorkshire’s Wold Top and Hambleton Ales and Cumbrian brewery Stringers. They have since been joined by a whole host of brewers across the country, some who have added one or two gluten free beers in their range, others whose entire production is gluten-free.
One local brewery in the latter category is Salford’s First Chop who have a full range of gluten free beer available in cans, bottles, kegs and cask. The proudly boast that all beers are tested to show a gluten content less than 5ppm. All their beers are also suitable for vegetarians.
Brightside Brewery, based in Radcliffe, use Clarex on all their beers which go into bottle, can and kegs (including sub-brand Wildside). Sales director Carley Friedrich explained to Beer Buzz that in order to be able to label their beers as gluten free, a sample of each brew has to be sent to an independent laboratory for testing. They must pay for this test and wait four days for the results to come back before they can release each batch. Thankfully, they’ve never had a brew fail the test.
Carley told Beer Buzz that Brightside saw the introduction of gluten free beers as a sales opportunity having noticed an increasing interest in gluten free products. Some 8.5 million people in the UK are now believed to be following a gluten free or gluten reduced lifestyle, the majority by choice rather than on medical grounds so it was a timely move on Brightside’s part.
Another local brewer who has made all production gluten free is Green Mill, based at the Harewood Arms pub in Broadbottom, Tameside. Brewer Mat Wild told Beer Buzz that they brewed their first GF beer two years ago when a gluten intolerant customer at the pub made them realise there are plenty of ale lovers out there who were being denied a choice of ales. Their full range of beers has been Gluten Free since early 2018.
Other entrants into the gluten free market include Magic Rock’s Fantasma – a juicy 6.5% IPA available in can and keg and Origin, a 5.7% IPA from Leeds’ Northern Monk.
Processing beers to remove gluten isn’t the answer for everyone though. Although 20ppm is accepted as a safe level for most gluten intolerant people, some coeliacs are sensitive to the small levels of gluten in such beers. In UK and European legislation, no distinction is made between products which have been made without any gluten containing ingredients and those which have been processed to remove or reduce gluten – as long as they have <20ppm they can be labelled Gluten Free.
However, this is not the case in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. In the USA only beers made from gluten free ingredients can be labelled ‘gluten free’. Beers processed to remove gluten can only be labelled ‘gluten removed’ or ‘gluten reduced’. The US market also recognises “dedicated gluten free beer’ – this is beer made in a brewery which only produces gluten free beer and where there is therefore no risk of cross contamination.
Campaigners in the UK argue that the current rules in the UK fail those whose conditions requires them to avoid all trace of gluten, meaning they can’t rely on labelling to find naturally gluten free beers. There are also those that claim to industry standard test for gluten in beers (known as the R5 Competitive ELISA test – the latter an acronym for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) can show beers as gluten free which still contain the antigens which celiacs respond to.
The result of these concerns is a growing call from more naturally gluten free products. One relatively recent addition to the choice available is Steel Cut, a 4.5% naturally gluten free golden ale made with oats, buckwheat, maize and sorghum by Suffolk’s Burnt Mill brewery. It was developed after head brewer Sophie de Ronde discovered that she is gluten intolerant.
Science is also seeking to give yet another option for sufferers with the development of gluten free barleys. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has developed a barley called Kebari™ which has 10,000 less gluten than regular barley – around 5ppm. Edinburgh’s Bellfield Brewery has been running trials using the barley since 2016.
Pi (Altrincham) has a new manager. Zoe West (pictured with former manager Chris Bardsley) took the helm at the bar on Shaw Road in April, having originally joined the team from West Didsbury’s Saison in 2017. She brings a wealth of experience in Good Beer Guide listed pubs including Chorlton’s The Bar (now The Chorlton Tap) and The Macc in Macclesfield.
The vacancy at Pi arose when former manager Chris(Bardsley)departed to open a new bottle and keg shop in the town’s Kings Court with his business partner Will Brown. Batch Bottle Store opened at the end of May with six keg lines and one cask line. The cask line will mostly be Pomona Island Pale – a constantly evolving brew with different hops in each batch. Bottles and cans will predominantly be UK based to start off but once settled in they will be bringing in beers from rest of the world. The store will also be hosting Tap Takeovers, Meet The Brewer and Tasting Sessions. Opening times are Sunday to Thursday, noon until 9.00 pm; Friday and Saturday, noon until midnight
Also in Altrincham, Rustic has a new owner. American Summer Smith is new to real ale but getting stuck right in. It is likely that Bradfield Brewery’s Farmers Blonde will become a regular beer, with three changing beers.
Selected cask ales will be two for £5 Tuesday to Thursday. Opening hours have been extended slightly with an earlier opening at noon on Saturdays.
The Tatton Arms on the southern outskirts of Altrincham also has a new licensee, Mags Wiaczek, who reopened the pub on the 18th May. She is new to the pub business but has plans to make the pub more family friendly than it has been in some of its past incarnations.
Mags has given the interior a redecoration and tried to keep the traditional look and feel to the pub returning old photographs of Altrincham to the walls.
There is a dart board and pool table, and some of the TVs have been removed. Food will be available lunch times, with bar snacks in the evening. The menu will have a Polish twist featuring Polish sausage, Sauerkraut with a traditional Polish dinner with apple pie being served at weekend.
Three hand pumps are installed and beers from JW Lees should be available by the time Beer Buzz goes to press.
Retrospective planning permission was granted for Altrincham’s Old Market Tavern to convert rooms above the pub into letting rooms. However, planners refused permission for the owners to also convert the parts of the building which were previously used as band practice rooms and a martial arts gym and required samples of all materials to be submitted to the authorities.
Just before Beer Buzz went to press, management of the pub passed to Kev Winkley, who has long connections with the pub. Kev told Beer Buzz he has plans to expand the cask ale range to six or seven regular ales.
Alex Dunne who bought The Elk, Hale in November last year, has given it a makeover. The interior and exterior have been redecorated, and a new bar and back bar installed. This gave them the opportunity to add an extra hand pump, and they now aim to have three ales available.
When Beer Buzz visited, Marston’s 61 Deep was the current regular beer with the two guests being Marston’s Wainwright and Robinsons Dizzy Blonde. The two guest pumps are rotated for other local and national beers from time to time.
NEW BAR OPEN IN THE CITY
One of Manchester’s newest incarnations is that of Mash Tun, housed in the block which comprises 55 King Street. It’s at the far end of Pall Mall on the corner with Chapel Walks, taking over the former Grafene restaurant site (the bar being a joint venture with the owners of Grafene).
On the menu are up to eight revolving real ales from micros and other established regionals (although when Beer Buzz called only three were available), plus ciders, perries and a further 16 taps for keg ales and lagers. There are no pump clips shown; all the beers are indicated on a chalkboard above the bar. The bar is to the left of the entrance with the brewing vessels (not yet in operation) towards the rear.
Spacious areas give rise to wooden and tiled flooring, tables and chairs, plus some leather seating areas. A curious booth style raised into a mini-board room, with table and several chairs and differing window pane panels are to be found around the rear, where the room overlooks Chapel Walks. Food is also available, plus live music nights are a feature, with soft piped music playing at other times.
As reported in the last issue of Beer Buzz, the former Burton Arms on Swan Street has completed it’s transformation into The Rose & Monkey Hotel. The pub now offers a full line up of live music featuring both original artists and cover bands.
IS PLASTIC FANTASTIC?
The Knott on Deansgate, Manchester has become the latest bar in the city to go cashless. The bar which acts as tap room to Wander Beyond Brewery moved to only accepting card payments from 1st May.
The pub’s manager Simon Carroll blamed the move on rising banking charges for depositing cash and obtaining change. The statement pictured above was posted in the pub’s windows said they would rather not pass these costs on to customers in the form of increased beer prices. The proportion of cash sales made by pubs and bars across the city with many reporting that over three quarters of purchases are now made by card – at The Knott this had risen to 82% when they made the decision.
West Didsbury’s Wine & Wallop is another bar which has decided to only accept debit and credit card payments – with security being a factor in their decision. They join a growing number of bars across the city which now no longer accept cash including Cloudwater’s Unit 9, Track Brewery Tap Room, ÖL Nano Brewery & Bar on Oxford Road and Sandbar on Grosvenor Street.
The team behind GRUB food fairs and Fairfield Social Club have teamed up with Squawk Brewery to open a new cinema and tap room in Ancoats. Located on the fourth floor of Crusader Mill on Chapeltown Street, the Chapeltown Picture House is immediately above the Track Brewery Tap Room.
The cinema space has a 4k projector and 5.1 sound system while the connected Squawk tap room will have six lines from the highly regarded brewing team based about a mile away. When not screening classic films like Terminator 2 and Back To The Future, the big screen will be used for video gaming.
The extensive refurbishment of The Windmill on the top corner of Station Road was still ongoing as we went to press this has included major alterations to the building which include a new entrance, toilet block and smoking area to the rear. They have been closed for so long they had to reapply for a licence.
The former Good beer Guide entry The Cock & Swine has now reopened as an Italian restaurant called Siena and they appear to only have Peroni available.
Over the road at The White Swan their refurbishment has included an outside drinking area to the front, this was completed while the pub stayed open.
Next for this treatment was The Cricketers on Manchester Road which should have started in May. Staff member Maureen Black was celebrating at Holt`s awards when she took the award for best front of house staff member back in march. Maureen has been here for over 25 years.
Just along the road Roses ‘N’ Poses has been converted to a micro bar, and will open as The Wobberley Stool. (Hope they include a letter box in their plans).
Egstra celebrations at The House Of Hops over Easter when glasses were raised for their first year of opening, Increasing the beers available to ten was a real bonus, well done Clare, Scott, Des & Staff (including unnamed bear).
The Royal British Legion in Boothstown, have retained branch club of the year this year. The club puts on regular events and in November will be hosting the Boothstown Beer Festival.
Over at The Royal Oad work continues with the vault having a face lift, the dart board has been relegated to the disco area in the back room.
We have been informed that The Ellesmere in Winton has closed and that The Brown Cow & The Ship Canal have both been demolished.
Following a lick of paint and a general spruce up late last year, Craig and Nikki Waite have taken over the Carters Arms, a Marston’s pub in Sale Moor. They have made an instant impact with two real ale pumps in action at the weekend, featuring a variety of different ales from the Marston’s range to accompany the Banks’s Bitter which is a permanent feature. Activity in the pub is thriving too with two pool teams in action on a Tuesday, a darts team on a Wednesday, bingo and a quiz on Thursdays, karaoke on Saturdays and killer pool and darts on Sundays. The traditional Bank Holiday music festivals also remain a popular feature of the Carters, taking place at the end of the late May and late August ones’.
The Nags Head in Urmston has reopened after a major refurbishment. The pub which is on Davyhulme Circle between Urmston centre and the Trafford Centre, has been moved into the Craft Union managed division of owner EI Group (formerly Enterprise Inns).
Many interesting internal features have survived the refit, including a fine snug (on the right as you enter) and the remnants of a traditional vault at the rear (now opened out). Elsewhere there are elaborate tiling on the staircase to the function room, some stained glass in the windows, wood carvings behind the bar, and wood panelling at the rear of the main drinking area. Perhaps surprisingly, bench seating round the walls has survived in all rooms, with only two tall ‘posing tables’ to represent modern fashion.
There are large, flat screen televisions throughout the pub, and the rear yard has been opened up to drinkers as a modest beer garden with a heated shelter for smokers.
Cask ale is available at low prices. When Beer Buzz called, Sharp’s Doom Bar was £1.85 and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord costs £2.05.
Flixton’s Fox & Hounds re-opened mid May after an extensive refurbishment throughout (including the long-awaited new kitchen). The pub has been re-branded The Fox : Pub & Kitchen, pushing fresh food on a weekly changing menu. There are three cask ales; Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Robinsons’ Dizzy Blonde and another from Bombardier, Black Sheep or Doom Bar.
The pub is run by ‘Thornhill & Senior’ who also have ‘The Goose’ on Bloom Street in Manchester.
Chorlton’s The Beech Inn has been taken over by EI Group’s managed pub arm ‘Bermondsey Pub Co’.
EI denied long term tenant Chris Clish a lease renewal after he and his team had spent nine years returning the previously failing pub back to being a thriving community local.
The pub is due to re-open after refit in mid-July.
Marble Beers have been at the forefront of Manchester’s brewing scene for over 20 years. They have come a long way since the legendary Brendan Dobbin first helped install a second hand four-barrel plant in the rear of the Marble Arch pub with the fermenters in the cellar of the pub in 1997.
In 2009 the brewery moved just down the hill from the Marble Arch to a new 12-barrel plant in premises on Williamson Street. Now as they enter their 22nd year, they have said farewell to Manchester and relocated to new premises in Salford with a shiny new 2,500 litre (approximately 15 barrel) state of the art plant installed by premium brewery fabricator Gravity Systems, who have been responsible for installations at leading breweries including The Kernel, Wylam and Burning Sky.
At the helm of the brewery since the beginning has been director Jan Rogers.
Jan and then partner Vance de Bechevel were already successful operators at the forefront of the burgeoning micro-brewing scene in the 1990s with Vance having taken on The Marble Arch in 1988 and the couple going on to run Chorlton’s Marble World Beers Off-licence (living above the shop), followed by the nearby The Bar and Bar 2 when they began the brewery.
Beer Buzz met up with Jan at The Marble Arch to explore the Marble Beers journey.
Why did you decide to set up a brewery?
It was partly for the economics of selling our own beer but also to give people a reason to come to the pub. Even in 1997, competition was tough. Manchester was cool with the Hacienda, Dry Bar, etc, but the Marble Arch wasn’t cool. We needed to help keep the pub in the local consciousness – a brewery was a unique offering.
How did the brewery begin?
Right back from 1988, the Arch had sold beers from Brendan Dobbin’s West Coast Brewery along with Tony Allen’s Phoenix Brewery. Brendan found us the brewery plant and provided many of the original recipes. Mark Dade was running the pub and became the first brewer.
Initially we only sold the beer in our own pubs but others were wanting our beer elsewhere so we started selling the odd cask. Sales began to grow organically. When Mark left to set up Boggart Hole Clough brewery, it was Brendan that found us James Campbell and it was the triumvirate of James, Dominic Driscoll and Colin Strong that really built our reputation.
Why did the brewery move out of The Arch?
We had outgrown the space we had and the building was crumbling around it. We did look at putting an extension on the back of the pub to house the new brewery but the finances just didn’t work out.
So we moved to a railway arch with a brand new kit from Vince Johnson Brewing Design. The brewers had space and were having a ball making some amazing beers. As sales continued to grow, we learnt that a split-level site maybe wasn’t the best idea. By the end, it was not a great place to work – everybody was falling over themselves in the brewery and the office staff were half a mile away above 57 Thomas Street.
And so a move to Salford?
We spent a long time looking for a new site in the local area, we met with every agency, lots of developers. But with all the development around the Green Quarter, with every space we found, there was a more lucrative use for the space than running a brewery. So eventually we looked elsewhere and found the new site near Media City.
It’s great that we’ve been able to bring the whole team back together – head office and brewery all in one building. People are getting used to travelling a bit further to work and there is a bit of relearning of sharing a space required – the brewers can’t have their music as loud as they like it for a start – but we are getting there.
The first Marble brewery kit went on to a new life with Blackjack Beers. What’s happened to the second one?
We sold it to Brinkburn Street Brewery in Newcastle Upon Tyne. We’ve known the owner there Lee Renshaw for some time and helped him start his business. Now they are increasing their production, it’s great to have been able to help them again.
The new Marble plant is relatively modest by modern standards. Was there not a temptation to get a bigger kit?
We like the size we are. We are growing modestly but there’s a duty break at 5,000 hectolitres a year and we have no current ambitions to grow beyond that. The new plant and site does allow room to grow in the future but that will be something for Joe (Head of Production) to look at when the time comes.
The brewers have got a couple of 50hl tanks which allows the team to brew enough Manchester Bitter and Pint to meet demand – they are the backbone of the brewery and give the brewers the freedom to make other beers.
Joe may decide to grow beyond 5,000 hl at some point but for now we are happy.
So Marble won’t be appearing on supermarket shelves nationwide any time soon?
I have nothing against supermarkets and it’s great that people can pick up a great tasting beer with their shopping. But as a businesswoman, it’s not for me – I don’t like the control that big businesses like that can have over their suppliers. We did work with Waitrose through Fullers, but Fullers dealt with that side.
I don’t begrudge those that have gone down the supermarket route, each to their own and if that’s a model that suits them, all power to them. But ultimately, if supermarkets were the be all and end all, there would only be a handful of breweries left. We like being small, we like being independent and intend to stay that way.
Where do you see Marble fitting in to the ‘craft’ scene.
That’s for you to tell us.
I don’t consider us ‘craft’ – we just do what we do. We do ‘traditional’ and we do ‘modern’ – I don’t know what that makes us. We were called ‘New Wave’ at one point but that didn’t seem right either.
Our mission is to straddle the genres. We want people to appreciate the full spectrum that beer has to offer. There is still a lot going for the subtle flavours of a pint of traditional English ale. There does seem to be a growing appreciation that there is more to beer than 12% stouts and extremely hopped beers and that’s something we are passionate about.
Hopefully we are seeing the end of the beer scene arguing about different styles and different formats with people learning that it all has its place and is what makes beer great.
We’ve got a really great and stable team down the brewery. Joe is at the helm, organising and planning. He started at Phoenix in Heywood and through his time with Buxton and Magic Rock, he’s got the experience of a growing brewery.
Slaw is lead brewer and is about to step up to run the brewery while Joe is on paternity leave. I asked him recently if he was going to be OK when Joe goes on leave – “No problem”, he said, “I’ve done it before (when Matt Howgate left)”. Paul and Carl have been with us for a few years now, providing solid backup to Joe and Slaw, and we’ve just taken on Andy who has joined us from Phoenix. And last but no means least is Graham running the dray.
The brewery will have a tap room?
Yes, it won’t be large and it won’t be fancy but we are looking forward to welcoming people to the brewery. We’ve built a blockwork bar but the rest of the design is only just coming together. We plan to offer eight keg beers and three cask and will open Thursday and Friday late afternoon/evening then all day Saturday and Sunday.
With Seven Bro7hers and Pomona Island Breweries and taprooms just the other side of Weaste cemetery, we hope people will come out and see us.
We also plan to offer brewery tours – something we just couldn’t do at the old site as it wasn’t safe to do so.
The Marble Beers Tap Room is expected to be open by the time Beer Buzz hits the streets. It will open from Thursday to Sunday offering eight keg lines and three cask lines. It’s located at 7 Boston Court, Salford, M50 2GN. Nearest Metrolink stop Langworthy.
The Champion Beer Of Britain (CBoB) competition is one of CAMRA’s flagship awards and is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards by the breweries in the United Kingdom that win it.
There are eight CBoB areas, – these are London & South East, South West, East Anglia, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, Scotland & Northern Ireland and North West – these don’t mirror the 16 CAMRA regions, and some CBoB areas cover more than one CAMRA region.
There are currently competitions covering 11 beer styles – milds, bitters, best bitters, golden ales, strong bitters, speciality beers, old ales/strong milds, stouts, porters and barley wines/strong old ales, and bottled varieties. CAMRA is currently reviewing its beer styles guide so these styles may change in future.
Every year in September CAMRA members nominate their favourite beers, up to five in each style. Also at this stage, tasting panels from each CAMRA region have their chance to nominate beers they believe should go forward to the next stage. The results from members’ votes, and the tasting panel nominations form a short list of the most recommended beers.
Ideally the next stage is for local judging. This is usually at CAMRA or pub based beer festivals, to give the opportunity to select an area winner. This can be a prestigious local award. These choices can then go forward to judging at The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) and GBBF Winter (for the four winter beer styles – old ales/strong milds, stouts, porters and barley wines/strong old ales) and, hence, to find CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain (and Champion Winter Beer of Britain).
At the GBBF the final CBoB category judging of the area winners takes place, with one winning beer from the Speciality Beer, Mild and Strong Bitter categories, coupled with two each from the Bitter, Golden Ale and Best Bitter categories proceeding into the final round in order to judge the Supreme Champion, which is crowned the best beer in Britain. The reason for two beers each from the Bitter, Golden Ale and Best Bitter categories is to accommodate for the proportionate share of the commercial beer market these beer styles command.
Four beers are fast tracked to the final round at GBBF; these are the winners of each category of the Champion Winter Beer of Britain (CWBoB) competition, held at the GBBF Winter festival in January-February each year. As these beers were judged to be the Champion Beers of their style earlier in the year, they are entered automatically into the final round of CBoB.
The CWBoB competition is similar in its structure to CBoB, as the final round of judging is made up of beers having reached this stage via the process of CAMRA members’ and tasting panels’ nominations, followed by area competition success. The categories in this competition are Old Ales/Strong Milds, Porters, Stouts and Barley Wines/Strong Old Ales.
There is a separate competition for the Champion Bottled Beer of Britain (which now includes cans too). Like CBoB the structure of the competition relies upon CAMRA members and tasting panel nominations, followed by the area competitions, with the final usually held at the BBC Good Food Show in November.
Beers are categorised according to their ABV, as it is now considered that this is more reflective of style and easier for most beer drinkers to understand. To be eligible for CBOB, a cask conditioned bitter, best bitter, strong bitter or golden ale must be available for seven or more months of the year, and a cask conditioned mild or speciality beer must be available for three or more months of the year, or the cask beer must be one of the beer styles associated with the winter season. We also categorise according to their Original Gravity (OG). If we have two beers with the same abv then we turn to the OG.
Beers with misleadingly promoted geographical origin, brands with non-cask versions promoted using CAMRA awards, or beers which have sexist or otherwise discriminatory pump clips or other branding are excluded.
Beer festival organisers herald another successful festival
An extended version of the review from our April – June 2019 issue…..
There was a treat in store for visitors to the preview session of January’s Manchester Beer and Cider Festival when the UK’s only independent Master Cooper gave a demonstration of his craft.
Organisers invited Alastair Simms from Yorkshire Cooperage to complement one of the new attractions, the Beers from the Wood bar. Arranged with support from the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, both Alastair and the bar proved big hits with festival goers at Manchester Central’s great hall. The bar was so popular, it had been drunk dry three hours before Saturday’s closing time, as drinkers sampled both traditional and new beers put into oak and chestnut barrels.
Urmston’s Prairie Schooner Taphouse let Beer Buzz know about a new series of events,
Although their main commitment will always be to local brewers, they are launching a series of regional beer showcases on the first weekend of every month.
Their first ‘Beer Expo’ at the start of April focussed on London brewers. This will be ,followed by Wales and the Peak District at the beginning and end of May respectively (latter forming part of a larger beer, cider and music festival)
Showcases dedicated to breweries from Newcastle, Bristol, Scotland and Leeds are also being planned.
Dates for your diary:
Welsh Beer Expo is scheduled for the first weekend of May (brewers TBA)
Spring Cider & Music festival will kick off with a cider & cheese night on Weds, May 22nd. Local bands will be playing live music daily on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday (acts and cidermakers TBA)
Peak District Beer Expo will begin with a Thornbridge cask and keg tap takeover with street food on Weds, May 29th (other brewers TBA)
New craft beer bar & restaurant for King Street
As Beer Buzz Issue 2 went to press, news broke of a new venue set to open on King Street, Manchester.
The Mash Tun is due to open on April 19th in the site formerly occupied by Grafene Restaurant at 55 King Street.
The venue is being opened by Adam Regan who opened Stage and Radio bar beside Port Street Beer House in the Northern Quarter and Scott Martin who runs Fundamentum bakery on Piccadilly Place, working with Grafene’s former owners Paul & Kathryn Roden.
It promises a host of local ‘real ales’ and beers from local breweries including Cloudwater, Runaway and Beatnikz Republic and a range of their own ales. Advertising a total of 26 taps along a 12m long bar, it’s not clear if there will be any cask conditioned beers available.
The menu will include a mix and match selection of ten different sausages and ten different mashes, with choice of gravies. There will also be ligher lunch options and baked goods from Fundamentum’s bakery.
The venue will feature live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with the bar due to be open until 3am. at weekends.
An extended version of the article from Beer Buzz April – June 2019 issue.
In our last article we looked at the some of the containers that beer comes in. This time we are taking a look at something which divides many beer lovers – the role of carbon dioxide (CO2) in beer.
Let’s start by getting one thing out in the open – all beer should have carbon-dioxide dissolved in it. Whether it is a pint of Holt’s cask conditioned mild or Fosters made in Heineken’s factory in Moss Side, there is CO2 in your beer. There are many things that make the two drinks different – that one would be considered ‘flat’ and the other ‘fizzy’ is just one of them.
Carbonation, also referred to in brewing as ‘condition’, is measured in ‘volumes of CO2’. A volume is the space that the carbon-dioxide would take up at a standard atmospheric pressure at a temperature of 0° C. In other words, if a gallon of beer contained 2 volumes of CO2, the CO2 by itself would occupy the same space as two gallons.
A well-kept cask ale at cellar temperature should contain approximately 1.1 volumes of carbon-dioxide. A typical mass-market lager would be expected to contain 2.4 to 2.6 volumes of CO2 where a carbonated soft drink will typically have between 3 and 3.5 volumes. The reaction of the palate to the dissolved carbon-dioxide in your beer is part of the flavour profile – be it the gentle tingle on the tongue of good cask ale or the more pronounced ‘bite’ of a keg beer.
‘Nitro-keg’ beers (including the ubiquitous Guinness) are another category again – these tend to have low volumes of dissolved carbon-dioxide – in the 1.2 – 1.5 volumes region but also have nitrogen injected into them. The nitrogen has smaller bubbles which gives the characteristic ‘creamy’ appearance and mouthfeel.
There are several ways carbon-dioxide gets dissolved in beer, but the most common is that it is generated naturally during the fermentation process. As yeast sets to work converting sugars in the wort to alcohol, the main biproduct is CO2.
Many brewers will ferment in sealed tanks so that the naturally generated gas carbonates the beer while others ‘force carbonate’ either by applying CO2 at high pressure and low temperature or by forcing CO2 through the beer using a device known as a carbonation stone (for those of a certain age – think of a SodaStream in action).
During cask conditioning, the carbon-dioxide generated during secondary fermentation in the cask is trapped in the sealed cask and absorbed into the beer. Contrary to what some believe, fermentation in a cask does not stop under pressure. There is a relationship between pressure and fermentation rate but at the pressures found in beer production, the effect is negligible and does not slow down secondary fermentation.
Although commonly referred to as a process which takes place in the pub cellar, beer packaged with live yeast and sufficient fermentable sugars and held at suitable temperature will undergo secondary fermentation whether its in the brewery, in a warehouse or in the pub cellar.
The levels of carbonation in a sealed cask can be significantly in excess of the expected final 1.1 volumes but the brewer must take care not to allow too much fermentation as the closures on a cask – the shive where a cask will be ‘vented’ and the keystone where the tap will be placed – will only hold back a relatively low pressure.
Cask beer which has been allowed to become too warm will frequently ‘blow’ one of its closures, increased temperature resulting in an increased rate of secondary fermentation and increased generation of carbon-dioxide.
The amount of carbon-dioxide which remains dissolved in a beer is determined by two factors – temperature and pressure. Physics determines the amount of CO2 which will remain soluble in a liquid at a given temperature – the lower the temperature, the more CO2 will remain dissolved.
In a cask ale the CO2 produced during secondary fermentation stays dissolved in the beer until cask is ‘vented’ in the pub cellar – at which point any excess CO2 will then slowly escape to the atmosphere until it reaches the level which is soluble at cellar temperature. At 13⁰C this is 1.1 volumes and a vented cask beer needs time for the carbonation level to settle. Typically the time taken to vent off excess CO2 also allows other unwanted flavours in the beer to dissipate and desired flavours to develop.
In a kegged beer higher carbonation levels are maintained by applying pressure to the liquid to keep the CO2 in solution (the skills of applying the right pressures in the cellar are for another day).
In many mass market lagers, carbonation is used to stimulate the tongue and mask the generally low flavour profile. However, for many modern brewers producing ‘craft’ beers for keg dispense, the intended carbonation is very much part of the design of a beer.
‘Craft’ brewers will design their keg beers to have anything from 1.2 to 3.0 volumes of CO2. A carbonation of 2.4 – 2.6 volumes would be typical but lower levels are often used for stouts and porters while highly hopped IPAs may use higher volumes to push out hop aromas from and prevent them tasting cloying. Too high a carbonation for a given style and ‘carbonic bite’ can become overpowering and masks flavour.
It’s important to remember that all carbon-dioxide is the same gas – there is not ‘good’ and ‘bad’ CO2. Whether it is generated during fermentation in a tank at the brewery, comes from a cylinder or is generated by secondary fermentation, it is all made up of one molecule of carbon and two of oxygen and once it is in your beer, you have no way of telling how it got there.
Whether you enjoy your beer gently or highly carbonated is a matter of taste.
Cask ale lovers enjoy the creaminess that comes with low carbonation while other drinkers find cask ales ‘flat’ and ‘dull’ and seek the lift from carbonation. Different beer styles suit different levels of carbonation. There is no right and wrong.