Loads has happened, both good and bad and I have had a little stab at rounding up some of the items that have taken my eye over the last 12 months, both through social media, conversations with other beer people and also from what I’ve read online or observed myself.
#PINTGATE and #Marbleis20
Back in June, Manchester City Council received a complaint regarding Marble Brewery’s ‘Pint’ which is sold in 500ml cans for off sales. The complaint was recently (in the last month) upheld by the group sitting in on hearings and discussions and the group felt that a beer called ‘Pint’ sold in 500ml measures is misleading with regard to the Weights and Measures act and a probably breach of trading standards.
The outline of the story is here:
and last response (at time of writing) from Jan Rogers of Marble here:
One can only hope that the complainant doesn’t buy a can of Chocolate Marble and expect to find something other than stout inside or a Kernel Table beer and… you get the picture.
On a more positive note for Marble, they reached their 20th Anniversary at the start of December and put on one hell of a party. I was lucky enough to attend through connections to the Ladies that Beer group and got to experience a brilliant procession, fireworks display and great beers.
Thanks to all at Marble for a wonderful evening!
A tiny rebellion crushed under a corporate boot?
Also towards the end of 2017, another case of complaint preceded the Marble #Pintgate issue, with Tiny Rebel suffering some rather crushing news. A complaint was lodged to the Portman group (who are a trade group set up to advocate sensible drinking and a pseudo-regulatory forum, albeit one with a poor cross-section of representation in the industry i.e. top heavy to conglomerates and microbreweries) by single individual about the style of packaging on Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch. The crux of the argument is that the colourful packaging twinned with the presence of Tiny Rebel’s mascot bear would be an attractive lure to underage drinkers, there are lot of very reasonable arguments as to why this is nonsense, which Tiny Rebel made, but sadly the complaint was upheld to the tune of upwards of £30,000 in costs to the brewery. Full details can be seen here: [https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2017/12/12/Complaint-over-Tiny-Rebel-can-design-upheld] and Tiny Rebel’s lucid and classy response to the matter here: [https://www.tinyrebel.co.uk/news/cwtch-vs-portman-group-the-lowdown/].
It is not the first time a newer ‘craft’ brewery has butted heads with the Portman Group, for example Brewdog have rather (in)famously clashed with them in the whole #sorrynotsorry episode and labelling present on cans of Dead Pony Club. Another case involved Beavertown, where the complaint lodged with the Portman Group centred around ‘comic book stylings’ on the packaging of Gamma Ray – in a rather hilarious and baffling display of double standards, the Group decided that the word ‘Ale’ made it clear it was a product for those of drinking age (though apparently the word ‘Ale’ clearly on a can of Cwtch is not enough to save its appearance). The issue that should really be taken home from this, is the fact that the initial complaint was raised by an anonymous ‘individual’, which in itself raises suspicions that it might be some kind of industrial sabotage at worst and at best, someone with too much time on their hands and a poor grasp on the social nuances of newer beer package styles.
Whether or not the Portman Group ruled in favour or against Tiny Rebel, surely now is the time for them to consider their make up and given the surge of smaller breweries, representation of these outfits is now a must in order for the Portman Group to be seen as fair and balanced. The second consideration is that surely complaints of the nature from the ‘anonymous’ party should be investigated for potential mischief from a competitor. Without wanted to get tied up in the web of legality posed by data protection, it cannot be unreasonable that there must be a function installed to prevent potential industrial sabotage. Especially where such matters escalate to hurtful levels for smaller breweries, who are walking a financial tightrope at the best of times.
Hopefully in the two cases above, we won’t see much more of this pettiness going into 2018, but it could be that the floodgates are ripe to open for the abuse of complaints processes in the industry and the current set up and mindset of those in charge can only seem to exacerbate problems for small breweries.
There have been a few more buy outs of breweries in the UK and across the pond in the US. Here’s a handy site that I found during my research for those who are concerned about giving their money to ‘craft’ brewers who are in fact subsidiaries of AB InBev who have bought out well respected US outfit Wicked Weed this year:
[https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/05/here-are-all-of-ab-inbevs-craft-brands.html]. Though this buyout caused quite a few ripples, it is not totally without president, given what happened with Ballast Point and with Lagunitas (also this year, selling the remaining 50% stake of the company to Heineken who bought the first half back in 2015). Another notable buyout was that of Anchor, which was bought by the 4th largest Japanese brewer in Sapporo Brewing.
In the UK, there have been two notable purchases for different reasons, the first was the buy out of London Fields Brewing by Carlsberg following the founder’s ignominious prosecution for tax fraud:
[https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/03/carslberg-buys-london-fields-brewery-craft-brewer]. It is said that the London business will be run in association with a distribution deal signed with Brooklyn Brewery in 2016.
Possibly the largest and most notable investment of a larger company was that involving the Lake District’s Hawkshead Brewery and Halewood International, where the latter has taken a controlling stake in the business. This was the first foray of the Lambrini and Crabbies producer into the ‘proper’ beer market, though the deal will supposedly allow Hawkshead to maintain total creative and a high level of business independence. The deal has also allowed for brewery expansion at Hawkshead and greater distribution through other routes to market. More on the Hawkshead and Halewood International deal is here: [http://www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk/news.aspx?search-terms=March-2017].
Finally, there was the partial buy out of Brixton Brewery by Heineken who have been expanding their portfolio of craft breweries for a while now, with more on the matter disseminated here: [http://www.brixtonbrewery.com/brewing-success-means-big-expansion-news/]. Though Brixton’s original crew will continue to hold the controlling stake in the company, the investment from Heineken has allowed a relatively large expansion of the business for new premises and larger brewery output.
I’ve always maintained that beer is for everyone on these pages, I have on countless occasions had conversations with people about various pubs, great beers and the fact that if they think they don’t like beer (full stop) then they just haven’t found the right style that is for them. Let’s face it; beer is more diverse than wine in terms of what can be defined as such. Whenever I have suggested that beer isn’t just for blokes at a barbecue or in a pub watching football, it has met with everything from extreme derision to very mild dismissive behaviour. Thankfully this attitude (which is pervasive through all types of people and across generations) is starting to erode and attitudes are becoming a bit more receptive.
This year has at least anecdotally seen a large number of complaints raised about everything from poor behaviour through to awful beer names and the perennial dreadful pump clip art, this in turn has generated a large number of articles on the subject too. Thanks to the work of many prominent writers on the scene, awareness on the subject is probably at an all time high and attitudes do seem to be changing. That said, there are still those who have old values instilled so deep into their make up and a stubborn attitude to boot, change is probably impossible for them and time will just move on leaving them behind. There is still much that needs to be done in combating sexism (not just towards women, as would be the obvious knee jerk assumption) and negative behaviours should be called out as they are seen. Things are steadily improving, thanks in the main to a number of both new and established beer writers, both female and male.
One case in particular kicked things off this year, with Italian outfit Deep Beer displaying a breathtaking level of ignorance as to the effect of inappropriate labelling and naming of a beer. Twinning the name of a beer called ‘Deep Throat’ (okay, they’re called ‘Deep’ Beer – but why throat, given the connotations of that name?) and imagery depicting a cartoon female putting her mouth around a maize cob is never going to sit well. They were called out on this faux pas by the Ladies that Beer group and responded in doubling down on the ignorance with a sprinkling of arrogance too, by inferring that because people didn’t understand the back story of the beer and (rather insultingly) stating that because the complainants were English, didn’t grasp the satire of the situation. The storm that followed resulted in Deep Beer removing their Facebook page, though there is little evidence of any contrition from the brewery to date.
Later on this year, Jaega Wise, brewer at London’s Wild Card Brewery spoke at the brewery congress in London to outline a number of ways in which sexism in the beer and brewing industry might be tackled. These in summary were to get SIBA to put feelers out for more information about females via questionnaires to establish firmer baseline information about females in the brewing industry, the introduction of a marketing code of practice and finally ban beers from SIBA and CAMRA festivals where they display sexist or demeaning imagery and names. We shall see over the next twelve months if any of these suggestions gets traction.
The ElectroKemist's Top Ten Beers for 2017
Now, as most of you probably already know, I don't do the #GoldenPints thing, as I have a bit of a scatty approach to writing things down and keeping tabs on what I have tried over any given year, I find this is my favoured way to present some of the best beers for the year... so here, is my top ten for 2017 (in vague order of how much I enjoyed them... not a strict descending order):
Brewer: Brass Castle
Beer: Life’s a Beach
A very, very summery wheat ale and a rather low abv meant something which saw me sink about 4 pints quite quickly. A super-drinkable cask beer with loads of fruit, which given that it is a wheat ale with mango, pineapple and coconut is about right! Many comments around this centred around it being ‘just like fruit juice’ which whilst not entirely inaccurate, is rather demeaning to a well made cask ale with subtle grain notes in the background and ultimately, it’s just great fun and a joy to drink. If you don’t like pina coladas (or getting caught in the rain), then this beer probably isn’t for you.
It certainly was for me.
Brewer: Tempest Brewing Co.
Beer: Marmalade on Rye
Dispense: Keg and Bottle
An imperial or double IPA, depending on how you read the label and which website/beer app you believe! At 9% with tonnes of deep and burnt citrus notes along with a massively bready character, it’s easy to see how Tempest arrived at this name for the beer. It really is a warming beer with balance right across the structure; plenty of fruit and cereal aroma into toasted flavours along with deep fruit and a lovely mouthfeel before a bitterly dry, toasty and fruity finish. On the threshold of an IPA and a barleywine, Marmalade on Rye delivers what its name promises and more. Great bit of brewing and has been consistent all year from the Tempest MTB early in the year, right through to a bottle drunk in Autumn 2017.
Brewer: Black Lodge
Beer: Mohawk IPA
Dispense: Keg (and now Bottle)
Whilst a lot of the commentary on this has been of the flavour of “not really going far in the world of NEIPAs compared to other beers”, I really don’t agree. There is something restrained and enjoyable about Mohawk where other NEIPAs deliver a payload of fruit, it shows layers of savoury notes and less overt and clouding mango/passionfruit notes that usually drown everything out. The first of Black Lodge’s NEIPAs, this was followed up by Axial Tilt, which will possibly a more complete NEIPA, again, doesn’t display the stripped back and more interesting tones of Mohawk. Good, solid and nice bit of brewing to mark a new age for Black Lodge. Drinking this in the sunshine outside the brewery was quite a memorable highlight in the year.
Brewer: Stone Brewing
Dispense: Keg and Can
Pretty much a cold and boozey hot chocolate, with some very clever brewing and a lovely well-judged use of winter spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla along with cocoa and coffee this Mexican hot chocolate inspired stout is an absolute joy to drink. First try this year came in Liverpool’s branch of The Head of Steam on keg, when a brand ambassador came to visit to introduce the beers for an evening. Stone took the recipe on, following the use of it by the winner of their annual homebrewing competition in 2014. The balance of spice, chocolate, coffee, bitterness and a rounded silky mouthfeel give something that works really well all year round and this year has really resonated with me. Put simply, it is a really great brew.
Brewer: Neptune Brewery (with CASK Pub and Kitchen)
Beer: Tamesis Oat IPA
Dispense: Cask, Keg and Can
Brewed by Neptune in collaboration with CASK for London Beer Week, this Oat IPA is a brilliantly brewed beer with plenty of aroma to back up an oat driven soft mouthfeel and enjoyable flavour. Using Falconer’s Flight, Mosaic and Cascade hops, the aroma is massively fruity and reminiscent of a NEIPA, but it retains a finish and flavour of something a bit more West Coast influenced. For me, this was the stand out beer from Neptune this year and big step up in what the brewer has shown they can do. On keg in Liverpool’s 23 Club, it was a go-to for the whole evening, with at least 4 being sunk. On cask it was in great condition, albeit a little less impressive than off keg dispense. In cans, it was again, massively enjoyable and has pinched the top spot in my Merseyside born beers for 2017. Bravo Neptune, bravo.
Brewer: Siren Craft
Beer: Proteus (II) IPA
Dispense: Keg and Bottle
This beer is part of the series of the Proteus IPAs, this was iteration 2, hopped with Mosaic, Chinook and Cascade to give the 6.9% 'shape shifting IPA'. This version of Proteus poured from the bottle a deep and hazy golden colour and the heavy carbonation provides plenty of head which stiffens up consideration following the pour. On Keg at Port Street Beer House it was in great condition too and a very easy IPA to sink earlier on in a session, though the bitterness might have made it more prohibitive to consume too much more later on once a palate is clouded. Lovely heavy bitterness and there was something really enjoyable about this IPA which pushed it into the forefront of my mind when selecting my top ten. Most likely the varied complexity of it, it really does shape shift down the glass with various fruit and cereal elements coming out at different moments and as the temperature of the beer slowly rises. Complex and rather enjoyable.
Beer: 3 Bean Stout
Dispense: Keg and Bottle
A big boy of a stout, at 13% and loaded with three types of bean (vanilla, cocoa and tonka) this is also loaded with flavour and a very classy mouthfeel and (not too) sweet finish. Oily, slick and a bit silky, this again caused ripples at the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo and again for me, when tucking into a bottle later in the year. The depth and complexity are quite something, though if you just want a beer to go with that chocolate pudding at the end of a meal, then you could not go wrong with this, with only hints of the booziness present, the finish really is sumptuous and I have really run out of superlatives to throw at how much I enjoyed this beer in 2017. Good skills Lervig, as ever.
Brewer: Gipsy Hill vs. Deya
Dispense: Keg (Liverpool Craft Beer Expo) and Bottle
A rather delightful Double IPA from a collaboration brew between Gipsy Hill and Deya, this little number caused some ripples at the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo on the first day as it went on. Word of mouth spread pretty quickly about how good it was and despite the strength, people sunk the keg in double quick time. The use of oats, Mosaic Azacca and El Dorado hops delivered a tonne of fruit both in the nose and structure, along with a brilliant lingering finish and silky mouthfeel. Dangerous for the smooth nature and 8% strength, the bottled version had (on this review blog) delivered pretty much spot on what the keg version had back in June. Ramblers was solid, decadent and enjoyable and massively worthy of a top ten spot.
Brewer: Firestone Walker
Dispense: Keg (Liverpool Craft Beer Expo)
A super strong 14.5% imperial barrel aged stout with an incredible complexity. At this year’s Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, the keg went in pretty quick fashion, but not before I managed to grab a couple of glasses of this wonder. Big flavours of bourbon, charred wood, vanilla and chocolate were backed up with amazing subtle layers, which were so enjoyable regardless of the rather hot summer weather. The stand out surprise is how restrained and smooth this beer was too; worth seeking out just for the experience regardless of whether you are a fan of this style or not.
Beer: Orange Velvet
Dispense: Keg (Indy Man) and Can
A beer I think you can (and I did) return to, over and over again. I managed to grab quite a few glasses at Indy Man, in favour of searching out at least another two beers, which some may think is madness given the scope of the event; however this is testament to how much I enjoyed Orange Velvet.
Quite possibly the most balanced beer I have tried all year, if not in the last 3 years, Orange Velvet is an IPA with lactose, oats and loads of hops to give something that the name lives up to. The mouthfeel is super silky and the aromas; structure and especially the finish just deliver on another level. Expect vanilla, lime, mango and other fruity notes to jump out at you from the first sniff and first mouthful. Orange Velvet is a superb bit of brewing and displays wonderful levels of restraint to keep the hopping to balance the beer right out.
Other notable mentions that caused me headaches in developing and deciding this top ten:
Omnipollo/Buxton – Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle and Texas Pecan Soft Serve
Top Rope Brewing – Line in the Sand
Northern Monk/Alefarm – Patrons Project 7.01 DDH Saison
Thornbridge – Tart (Passionfruit and Blueberry Sour)
Marble – Dobber IPA
Siren Craft – Kentucky Tickle Monster
Chapter Brewing & Fourpure - Roadside Picnic Celery Sour
Finally, we come to the last segment of this article, where some of the industry’s luminaries and enthusiasts pass comment on 2017, good and bad, what beers they enjoyed and finally what they think 2018 will hold for us all…
Jane Peyton; Head of the School of Booze, Beer writer and Author
What was good in 2017 for the beer scene?
"2017 was an even more bumper year than ever with new breweries opening, tap rooms and speciality beer retailers flourishing, amazing well-attended beer festivals featuring indie breweries, and above all, so many incredible beers. I was a judge on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme Food & Farming Awards and one of my favourite breweries, Wild Beer Co, won the Best Drinks Producer award.
What was the biggest downer during 2017 beer industry wise?
“Two things – the continued business model for so many pubs where they are tied to selling a limited and usually dull range of beer brands and styles. This means that customers have no choice and little reason to take their custom to pubs when they can buy delicious beer from shops and drink at home. Seven out of ten drinks sold in a pub are beer but if the beer is not appealing enough then people will vote with their feet and stop going to the pub. Then pubs will close and be turned into flats or convenience shops.
The other negative was the number of brewers and brand marketers who still think that using blokey, sexualised or misogynist images and language - usually about women, but sometimes about men too – is a way to market their beers. This is 2017 not 1917. It is changing though and in 2018 we will see less of that type of marketing thanks to Jaega Wise, head brewer of Wild Card Brewery who discussed it in a speech at a recent brewing conference. Her comments were all over social media and the Times newspaper covered the subject too. CAMRA and SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) released statements on the subject and even the Portman Group said they were considering adding sexist imagery and language to their list of no nos in drinks marketing.”
What were your top 3 beers of the year?
“Too many to list! These are three memorable ones though.
First up is Britannia’s Brew, a collaboration with Brewster’s Brewing Company, Stu McKinley of Yeastie Boys, and me. Britannia’s Brew is the official beer of Beer Day Britain. (Britain’s national beer day annually on June 15th). I am the instigator of Beer Day Britain. This year Stu pimped the beer with Earl Grey Tea and New Zealand hops. The beer was already delicious but with Stu’s suggestions it was even better. We had a launch at the Rake pub in London’s Borough Market and it was heaven. It was served in a pint glass as cask ale.
Next is Sheltering Sky by Siren, a magnificent Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter with Tamarind. I have yet to taste a beer from Siren that I have not really enjoyed. I tasted this one at the Rake too – there is a pattern emerging here! It had not yet been released at the time we tasted it and we had only one bottle shared between 5 people – just a few mouthfuls in a sample glass. It was sublime.
Finally, Transmission IPA by North Brewing Company. A vibrant fruity-bitter beer served in a glass from a can. I was at the Beer & Cider Marketing Awards at Truman’s Old Brewery in London. I had just won an award for my work on Beer Day Britain – Outstanding Individual Achievement in Beer – so I was very happy and the beer lit up my palate and made me even more happy!”
What are you looking forward to in 2018 on the beer scene?
“Beer Day Britain 2018 is already shaping up to be the biggest one yet with some very sexy breweries and brands getting involved in brewing special beers (FourPure is one of them), and hosting events in their tap rooms and pubs. And I can’t wait to taste the next iteration of the pimped Britannia’s Brew!”
Jaime Greer; Crosby Beer Bottle Shop Manager and member of the Liverpool Beer Collective
What was good in 2017 for the beer scene?
“It’s been a very good year for Liverpool and Merseyside beer scene. Although there has certainly been a long history with beer and excellent pubs, there now seem to be people embracing what good beer is, how it can be and how it is experienced. People really just seem to get it now.
You can see this by the number of craft beer bars and brewery taps that are opening up, not just in the city and the Baltic Triangle, but locally also in places like Crosby, Smithdown Road and Wirral. We even have restaurants taking on the idea of food and beer pairing in a more serious manner. It’s never been better.”
“Unfortunately, 2017, for many independent bottles shops, has been challenging. I could write a lot about this and how I fear for their future, but for now, I just want to highlight one of the more absurd challenges. It is the obsession with only trying the very latest released beers once and never again, regardless of whether the beer was enjoyable or not. This mostly, but not always, has something to do with collecting Untappd badges and adding to Unique beer check-ins. I realise this isn’t a new thing, but this year it seems to have made much more of a negative impact. Great beers are being left to hurtle towards the BBE dates, which isn’t good for anyone. This wouldn’t have happened a year ago. If people thought a beer was great, they would look forward to trying it again. I guess beer drinkers were more radical back then, rubbing their hands in anticipation of an enjoyable night in with beers they already knew they loved. Those were the days.”
What were your top 3 beers for 2017?
“My top 3 beers of 2017 are as follows:
3. Little Earth Project - Hedgerow Sour (Meadowsweet 16) This beer is a truly masterful and big effervescent sour brew. It does everything I think a sour should do in terms of its flavour, the mouthfeel and the palate cleansing qualities.
2. Brew York and Vocation Brewery - Sellout Juice 11. This one is all about the mouthfeel for me. Sellout juice has this supreme fluffiness, something like a beer candyfloss and it really is incredible! The strength isn’t hidden though, which may not suit everyone. But overall, this beer really is pretty exquisite.
1. Siren - Bourbon Milkshake. I was completely blown away by this beer. I remember saying “wow!” after every sip. Divine.” A big 11% Imperial milk stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla, honey and muscovado sugar this was something very, very special. I really do hope Siren make a batch in the future, as it would be shame to leave it consigned to such a limited brew run. Having had so many different beers this year, the quality of which has been pretty high, it took something special to stick in my mind and Bourbon Milkshake was it!”
What does 2018 hold for beer?
“I’ve heard a lot of predictions for 2018, but I honestly believe the scene will still be dominated by the appetite for big hazy IPAs and Imperial Stouts. Personally, I’d love to see more affection for sours, olds and browns. Fingers crossed we will see a bit more diversity in styles and some newer takes on old classic styles to make them more prominent!”
Lotte Peplow; Brewer’s Association and Certified Beer Sommelier
What were your best beers of 2017?
“New Holland Dragon’s Milk Stout, 11% a rich, smooth Bourbon Barrel Aged stout with notes of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and a big hit of booziness from the bourbon barrels. I don’t get my hands on this beer very often so it’s a real treat when I do!
Lickinghole Creek Magnificent Pagan Beast, 17.5% Barley Wine – an incredible monster of a beer that’s matured in bourbon barrels but hides the high alcohol content all too easily! It oozes with flavours of dried fruit, sweet caramel, muscovado sugar and a warming, rich sherry like note. A limited number of bottles came over (from USA) for GBBF and I nabbed one.
What did you really enjoy about 2017 from a beer perspective?
“I like the way beer drinkers are becoming more savvy about beer and more knowledgeable about Best Before/ Bottled On dates. It helps to keep everyone on their toes. Beer quality is a big issue and while it’s getting better, there’s still room for improvement. I love seeing and feeling the enthusiasm for beer at festivals, MTB and TTOs, opening of new bottle shops and at industry gathering like the excellent Brewers Congress held recently in London.
One of my highlights of the year was joining a Bottle Share which encapsulates all that is good about today’s beer scene. We’re a local ensemble of men and women from all walks of life bound together by a common love of good beer and meet monthly in a fantastic real ale pub, The Mitre in Richmond, to share the best beers we can find. It’s always such a fun night.
Other highlights were the amazing beer and food matching media dinners by the Brewers Association in Paris and London. I’m involved with organising these events and, of course, have to go along myself! Representing the Brewers Association at Craft Beer Rising, Great British Beer Festival and the Irish Craft Beer Festival in Dublin were also incredible experiences.
Gaining my Beer Sommelier accreditation was a huge personal milestone.”
What was less than welcome in 2017?
“The on-going closure of our pubs, now upto around 23 a week. It’s sad to see the very fabric of British society crumbling and one day we’ll look back and rue the day we ever let these bastions of British life fall by the wayside. Disgusting and offensive sexist beer labels and imagery really annoy me and it’s good to see the industry calling them out.
ABI buying up breweries, raw ingredients and rating sites and strangling the small and independent craft brewer is never welcome in my book.”
What are you looking forward to in 2018?
“I’d like to see CAMRA embrace keg beer as well as real ale, and cans as well as bottles. CAMRA gets a lot of stick for being traditionalist but I believe there’s a place for both keg and cask in the hearts and minds of all but the most cynical beer drinkers.
Women are making waves in the brewing industry but are still under-represented and it would be great to see more women, brewers in particular, coming to the fore in 2018. Of the 110 breweries in London there are only four female head brewers (I don’t have the national picture, sorry!). I would love to see more beer and food matching in pubs, diners and restaurants. In the States it’s a highly developed, sophisticated art form. The UK is still lagging some way behind. Finally, I’m super-excited to be attending the Craft Brewers Conference for the first time. This year it’s in Nashville, Tennessee 30th April – 3rd May and the World Beer Cup 2018 is taking place too.
It’s going to be awesome! Here’s to a great year in beer! Cheers!”
Jack Walker; Beer Bear and Head Brewer at Atom Brewery, Hull
What was good in beer in 2017:
Broadly speaking, it’s been a great year for beer. Good beer is seeing an even greater popularity, and some of the major beery events of the year have been mad.
Alongside this, there’s some great innovative new breweries, and more variety and innovation in techniques and range of beers.
“Biggest downer: It’s a shame to see several scalps claimed by big beer companies. I certainly can’t blame the breweries for earning some money, but inevitable quality suffers. Also, what I’ll call ‘fake craft’ brands emerging and confusing the market. “
What were your top 3 beers for 2017?
Top 3 Beers Going US heavy...but honestly some of the best beers I’ve ever had have been this year. I’ll also add that experience is as much a part of enjoyment for me, some great memories with these beverages. Bearded Iris Patina, at the brewery in Nashville; amazing and passionate people, and a fantastic taproom. They’re known for mega juice bombs, but this the beer that they drink after a day brewing. It was crisp, refreshing and fruity... Kolsch at its best! Keep your eyes peeled, they’re tipped for great things next year.
Tired Hands Alien Church Warpigs brewed version at the brewpub in Copenhagen. A beer so good, I left the Mikkeller Beer Celebration early to grab some more. Fully saturated hop juice, dripping with tropical fruit flavours, uber haze and thick soft mouthfeel. Jean, the owner of TH, is a genius and will change the landscape of beer. Guarantee it!
Finally, Track/Takk Brew Co Finca British Street Food Awards, GRUB Manchester. This is the coming together of two of my favourite companies in Manchester, I love Track Sonoma to death and Takk is my first pit stop when I hit Manchester. Perfectly balanced coffee stout, rich and thick, all the intensity and flavour of a perfectly served espresso, served cold and carbonated. Add to that an amazing event, venue and street food and I was in heaven.”
What are you looking forward to in 2018 for beer?
“I think this is the year that Hull really develops a fantastic beer scene. The City of Culture year has laid some fantastic foundations for new, young businesses to start in the city. The latter half of 2017 has seen the bar and restaurant scene explode, and lines of great beer are a frequent sight. Add to that the first Indy beer shop opening soon, a blossoming home brew scene, and the potential for a new Atom brewhouse in the city centre. Keep your eyes peeled, Hulls getting trendy these days.”
Mark Johnson, Beer Writer and Blogger
What has been good about the Beer Industry in 2017?
"Despite the negativity around some of the newer beer brands, it has been exciting to see an industry still growing. This past year has seen no halt in the growth of independent breweries, when most commentators have been predicting a saturation point for around three years. Especially exciting this year though has been the collaborative efforts of many independent businesses, not just breweries. Events, products and even new businesses themselves have popped up from those recognising the links between demand for quality beer and other quality produce, i.e. street food, coffee, Premier League football etc.
What was less than welcome in 2017?
"The biggest downer was, of course, the nastiness, sniping and bullying that seemed more prevalent in the industry this year than any other. In contrast to the collaborating business owners, the commentators weren’t as friendly with each other. Disagreements on various subjects are only going to increase the more that events occur and more people become involved in the industry. But this year it seemed that you couldn’t even have an opinion on a beer festival without it turning aggressive. A downside to the lack of facial expression and intonation behind Tweets and Blogs maybe, but some attempted character defamations went beyond any realm of debate. We all need to look at ourselves and take responsibility for our actions."
What were your favourite beers for 2017?
"This year I’ve drunk a lot of cask beer by the pint, in comparison to previous years. The two stand-outs have been Fyne Ale’s Jarl and Track Brew Co’s Sonoma – both on outstanding form when dispensed this way. Jarl I’ve had in bars in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bakewell, Stalybridge and London, suggesting it’s travelling particularly well right now. My favourite Beer of the Year though came in bottle form from Torrside Brewing and their Rauchwine: a stunning Smoked Barleywine part-gyled to technical perfection."
What do you think we will see on the beer scene in 2018?
"Going into the New Year, I expect more in the cross-industry collaborations to happen. This in itself will lead a little to the standard Beer prediction everybody gives every year: more bitters, more lagers. The lager and bitter prediction is rolled out every year and has still not come to fruition. In terms of core range beers, I don’t expect this to change much. But, with different industries creating different demand, I expect those increases to occur there. The prime example is Magic Rock Brewing working with Huddersfield Town to create two beers. They were, of course, a bitter and a lager as that is where the demand for the club and its fans remains.
Back within the bubble, I expect the IPA trend to continue with the newer breweries as that is where the sales will still be. Older hands, I feel, might return to Saison/Farmhouse style to stand out a little, with the more accomplished going further into the Sour market. There isn’t a great deal we can predict though as some said they expected 2017 to be the year of the lager and instead we got New England IPAs. A few more well-made stouts of reasonable strength – think Five Points Railway Porter – would be my preference, but as ever I look forward to whatever arrives."
I think that’s more than enough for one article! Regardless of your outlook on how positive or negative you felt that 2017 was for the beer and brewing industry, it was a pretty colourful year in many regards and it’s likely that 2018 will follow suit.
Special thanks go to the people who have contributed to this article with some insightful, entertaining and interesting comments on their thoughts on 2017 and into 2018. All the best for the New Year guys!
Thanks too, to all the readers and people that encourage me to continue writing. All the best to you all and see you at some point in 2018!