It seems like an age ago back In February, we celebrated the Hole Hearted 20th Anniversary Beer Festival. Thank you to all those who came and enjoyed the various Hole Hearted spin-off beers, music from Hooli, St Vincents College and Electric Eden. We received great feedback on the Crimson Heart, White Hearted and Double Hearted and will look to scale those up over the coming months where we can.
As much as we enjoyed celebrating Hole Hearted , and the wonderful Cascade hop that goes into it and the spin-off beers, we've been glad to have the pilot brew kit back to really experiment. We began by brewing a Ginger Pale Ale, which has since been scaled up and is available in all good pubs now! A bit of an interesting one with regards to our local history, our brewery resides on Mumby Road named after Gosport's Charles Mumby who resided in the town in the mid-1800's. He was a pharmaceutical chemist who sank a bore hole in Gosport in order to get access to, and sell Spring Water. Most famously though, old Charlie produced a Ginger Beer. We're excited for you to try our Ginger infused Pale which sits at 3.9% and has had incredible feedback thus far. We've also got a fantastic New World Bitter out at the moment called Stop Your Messing Around, similar in style to Twisted Oak but hopped heavily with New Zealand Dr Rudi hops, bringing about lovely lemon, piney bittersweet-ness.
Inspired by Winterfest's range of Baltic Porters, we thought we'd have a crack at one ourselves with a twist, we popped over to Gadsdens Tea Merchants in Portsmouth looking for a smoky tea to infuse. We came away with Lapsang Souchong, which has brought a lovely piney, smokiness to the beer. We lagered it for 4 weeks and taped it for our first Saturday tap room opening on March 31st. We've named this one, rather topically, Beast from the Yeast, as it survived the Beast from the East whilst lagering and is a bit of a beast of a style, funnily enough originating from the Baltic states.
Most recently on the pilot, we have a Belgian Dubbel, which has proved to be a bit of a bothersome yeast compared to our in-house strain, and also something truly experimental; a Berlinerweisse. This is a low ABV sour beer, and is our first attempt at kettle souring. We've got lots of ideas for sours off the back of this beer, don't hold hopes for this being perfect straight off the bat, it truly is an experiment at this stage.
We saw a very quick turn around of our American Brown Ale; Fake News. It flew out of the door, called Fake News due to the brew team initially reporting it would be an Irish Red Ale. A happy accident in the grist resulted in a much browner colour, thus it turned out an American Brown. We hopped it with Fire & Fury, Cascade, Simcoe, Chinook, Citra and Coment to be exact, and we look forward to its return next year.
Now that's beers covered, lets get serious on our industry for a minute. The Campaign for Real Ale has just completed its revitalisation voting. For nearly 50 years CAMRA have been campaigning for Real Ale, over the years the campaign has successfully brought about a resurgence in cask beer, and is in a large part to thank for breweries our size and smaller being able to operate. However, this weekend CAMRA members voted on a range of core values to broaden its horizons and take a more modern approach to what it campaigns for...
One of the major points up for vote was CAMRA's blinkered acceptance of beer from cask only. The term 'Real Ale' has become synonymous with being served from cask. Having said that, the campaign altered what it believed being Real Ale over past years, eventually agreeing bottle conditioned and some canned beer was in fact Real Ale. But the elephant in the room has always been keg, the rise of craft keg has been dismissed by CAMRA along with styles served from it that aren't exclusively British beer styles; i.e. Wheat beers, New England IPAs and various Belgian beers. The volume of craft beer on keg, and especially that from independent breweries like ourselves, has been rising in the last five years whilst cask beer volume has been decreasing. It is said this is due to quality issues around serving cask beer, however, there is also an abundance of bland cask beer that still dominates the market, especially in tied houses, that could be too blame.
The prices of cask are dictated to breweries by some pub companies, they pay a certain fee based on ABV. This massively limits the range of styles available, especially when the price gets lower and lower, year on year. The mega-hoppy beers, or flavoured ales cannot go into tied pubs due to the production costs outweighing the price the pub companies will pay. Aside from this, the price the pub company sell a beer to the pub doubles from what the pub company paid us, the independent brewery. Pub companies push well known, national brewery cask beers onto their pubs for a cheaper price though, this is why in tied houses up and down the country you often see the same mass-produced, often Cornish, beers wherever you go.
Our trade with the pub companies is very important to us, we choose beers we produce that we can afford to trade with them. However, that's not to say we wouldn't like to be offering them our seasonal beers and giving customers variety at the bar. We speak to customers time and time again who avoid tied pubs, based on the bland selection of cask beer they have to offer. That's usually no fault of the landlord, simply they don't have access to, or can't afford the more interesting beers, available to them through their pub company.
CAMRA spoke, in revitalisation talks, about being more inclusive of other beer styles, they also spoke about campaigning against the pub companies. They ended up voting against acknowledging craft keg and effectively writing off a lot of support the craft beer crowd would have brought with them. By alienating a passionate crowd of beer drinkers, who support independent breweries, cask as well as keg, and beer styles as well as British, CAMRA have cornered themselves will most likely now slowly disappear unless their campaign gets serious against the pub companies.
Over the past month CAMRA have awarded us a gold medal from our local beer festival, a festival in which customers, publicans and brewers have agreed is dwindling. CAMRA say this is because of the rise of the micropub, no one needs to go to beer festivals anymore because they can get a variety of beers in their local town without paying an entrance fee. Whilst we agree that there has not been a better time to walk the streets of Portsmouth or Southampton and sample many a beer, we do not think the beer festival is dead. It just needs a change, I'm fed up of standing at a CAMRA beer festival bar and requesting a unique beer and having a CAMRA volunteers opinion thrusted on me as they serve it about why it is bad because it's hazy, too hoppy, or has a unique flavour. I think there is much more value in having the brewery themselves rack, store and serve their own beer and be there to explain why they brewed it and what the taste is all about. That's why we are looking forward to the Beechdown Beer Festival on May 20th, where several breweries including us have been invited to setup and sell their own beer to the festival-goers. 11am - 5pm at Beechdown, Winchester Road, Basingstoke, RG22 4ES.