Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Taking coals from Newcastle

From The Times, 14 October

You can take the beer out of Newcastle but you can't take Newcastle out of the beer. It may be a more robust drink than wine, with hops acting as a powerful preservative, but beer likes its roots and doesn't enjoy the game of pass the parcel.
Even if clever brewers use identical malt, hops, yeast and water, somehow the chemistry goes wrong and the taste of beer changes quite dramatically if a brewery closes and the brands are moved elsewhere. A good example is the classic bottled India Pale Ale, Worthington's White Shield, first brewed in Burton-on-Trent in the 19th century. When its owners, Bass, lost interest in the beer in the 1990s it was shunted around the country, to Yorkshire and then - ludicrously - to Sussex. The beer never tasted the same until it returned to Burton. It's now such a success that it's in the process of being moved from a small brewing plant to a bigger one cope to cope with demand.
More recently, Brakspear Bitter in Henley-on-Thames lost its flavour as well as its lustre when the Henley brewery closed and production was moved to Burtonwood in Cheshire. Henley was famous for its "double drop" fermenters - vessels ranged on two storeys – that created both a vigorous fermentation and a unique butterscotch note that was treasured by drinkers. Brakspear, complete with the original fermenters, is now back in Oxfordshire at a brewery in Witney and, with an almost identical water supply to Henley's, has got its butterscotch back.
In 2006, Young's, the legendary real ale brewery in Wandsworth, south London, closed and merged with Charles Wells of Bedford. Enormous care was taken in matching Young's Bitter and Special, with the former Young's head brewer, Ken Don, seconded to Bedford. At first the beers tasted radically different but three years later they have been restored to something like their former glory. But try telling that to diehard Young's drinkers in London.
Greene King in Suffolk has been brewing Ruddle's beers - originally from Rutland - for several years and doesn't pretend the beers are the same. The strengths are different and the hop varieties have been changed. Draught Bass has moved just a couple of miles within Burton-on-Trent to the Marston's brewery. It's a good beer but somehow that special magic has gone, not unconnected to the fact that Bass, in common with Brakspear, had a special fermenting system that created the beer's flavour.
The most ludicrous example of moving beer from its place of origin is the renowned Czech lager Pilsner Urquell. It was first brewed in Pilsen in the Czech Republic and the name means "Original Source of Pilsner". The beer is now owned by global brewing giant SABMiller, who brew the beer in both Poland and Russia. So much for "original source".
As for Newcastle Brown Ale brewed in Yorkshire... Man the barricades.


Anonymous Web designer said...

God wanted us to be happy and that's why he made beer. I won't be able to live on any other planet because only earth has beer.

14 October 2009 at 18:12  
Blogger Stono said...

But ultimately the breweries dont have to pretend their franchised beer brands are originally sourced anymore, it comes down to the branding and ads.

S&N proved for years you could market a beer as Australian and brew it out of somewhere near Reading.

Even in cask ale circles, a recent newspaper article celebrating 30years of Old Speckled Hen, didnt see the irony in describing it as a "Suffolk" beer (yes its brewed in Suffolk now, but it was a Morland beer originally and it was the Morland brew the article was celebrating)

14 October 2009 at 20:04  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Having lived in France and Germany i remember comming back to the UK and in those days my favorite beer was 1664. (dont say it I know, I know.)
I knew that the large bottles I bought from Tesco were imported and not brewed under licence like the cans and smaller bottles. So I purchased a larger bottle took one mouthful and wow it was just shocking. I looked at the small print on the bottle and low and behold it had changed to being brewed in the UK under licence.
I have never bought it again.
I have never agreed with this practice as the beer is never the same.
I never knowingly buy anything brewed under licence.
I am lucky i can drive to Beers of Europe near Kings Lynn. Its a Aladins cave of direct imported beers from all over the world. So i am able to find most of the beers I grew to love on mainland Europe.At the very least is should be very clearly marked on the label that it is brewed under licence.

I used to love the original Old Speckled Hen, but never drink it now. I am afraid Greene King is doing what it used to fight against years ago, and is just another large brewery organisation. With fancy marketing and gimmick bottles. I support small local brewers like The Beeston Brewery about 5 miles from where i live, where you can visit and chat to the owner great.

16 October 2009 at 16:17  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

I have reproduced the latest newletter from our local brewery
Beeston Brewery. To me this is what its all about. Support your local small brewery.

It's been a fair while since we have updated you on what is happening in our brewing world. We have had a flat out summer producing beer & found a little spare time to perfect some new recipes. Although the website is just about finished we haven't launched it yet for fear of not having enough brewing capacity to satisfy demand. Our existing regular customers are our focus both for quality of the beer & reliable delivery & service. We have also been doing some boring commercial stuff to help get the costs down.

As you may be aware hop prices have gone through the roof due to a shortfall in supply. The recent harvest has gone some way to improving the situation. We have expanded to the size where we are now able to negotiate a fixed price contract for UK grown hops. This is a big step forward for us in terms of cost stability (no exchange rate to worry about) & securing a future supply of locally grown ingredients. Local beer for local people!

We have always been prepared to accept the small cost penalty to use UK produced bottles. Our supplier is now producing a lightweight bottle & our testing with this bottle worked well. They contain less glass (but the same amount of beer!) meaning that they cost less to produce & transport. Again we have a secure UK supply with a cost advantage.

The good news for you is that we would like to share some of these cost advantages with our loyal customers. From 1st November the case price (12 X 500ml) will reduce to £22.

Our beer range has expanded as follows:

"The Squirrels Nuts" 3.5% Mild dark ale
"Afternoon Delight" 3.7% Blonde
"Worth the Wait" 4.2% Award winning
"Stirling" 4.5% Coming soon.....
"The Dry Road" 4.8% India Pale Ale to die for!!!!!!
"On the Huh" 5% CAMRA Best strong bitter in Norfolk 2009
"Norfolk Black" 6% Legendary strong stout

2009 Norwich Beer Festival St Andrews Hall
Starts 5:30 Monday 26th October & runs all week. A good selection of our beers are there but I will leave you to discover which ones. If you enjoy our beers please vote for them on the form in the program. I will be around at the festival helping out as usual so If I don't look to frazzled please come & say hello. My mum informs me she is going on Saturday lunchtime! If you do come along, have fun & don't forget to drink nicely (& have a safe way of getting home).

Many thanks for your continued support of our brewery & it's fine ales.

Mark the Brewer"

23 October 2009 at 15:11  
Anonymous Fun & Fact said...

In my fridge right now: a bottle of albarino, one of red burgundy, and several of Bell’s Oberon and
Dogfish Head beers. No reports of a food fight.

21 November 2009 at 10:16  
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