There are quite a few new places that are now open, or about to open their doors in time for a proper knees-up. Most of them are supplying more than a fair share of really good beer too! Scroll down and see if anything gets those festive thirsts tickled…
Craft Minded is the brain-child of Gareth Kellett and friends, looking to bring a hefty slice of craft beer sensibility to the Cains Brewery site. Whilst there are some decent beers on offer at other locations, the Baltic Triangle is still rather patchy on what is available. The Baltic Fleet, Black Lodge, Constellations and to a slightly lesser extent Baltic Social, have been flying the flag for craft beer and real ale without much baseline support beyond the odd bottle of Mad Hatter finding its way into more coffee orientated establishments.
The full long term stock is yet to be confirmed for Craft Minded, but expect a mix of local craft beer in keg and bottle alongside some of the more nationally minded brands that have been making waves in the UK, thanks in part to the influence of Crosby Beer Bottle Shop on Gareth’s infectious enthusiasm for good beer. The launch saw the six keg lines taken by two local collaborations with Craft Minded, Wylam’s Jakehead IPA, Mad Hatter Fat Stout, Brass Castle’s Bad Kitty and Chapter/Fourpure’s Roadside Picnic sour. The bottle fridges were full of goodies from Vibrant Forest, Wild Beer, Wylam, Sweetwater and many many more.
Craft Minded is now open, from 1pm on Saturdays until 1am, with other hours as per their website.
The scene in Liverpool seems to move in a very jagged and erratic fashion, rather pertinently as this round up article shows (with five new significant locations for beer enthusiasts to get onto). The city can go through a relatively quiet period with little changing for a few months whilst a few rumours circulate and then things either go very quiet, or pop into life. This period is certainly the latter for Liverpool. Since Gareth Matthews announced on Twitter his intention to leave Mad Hatter Brewing Company to pursue a new project, Gibberish has managed to get some beers together ready for a launch sometime at the end of 2017 or possibly in January 2018.
Gibberish is Gareth’s new project and will be taking off in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool. The former site of Mad Hatter’s operations on Caryl Street (before their shift to the Liverpool Waters area) will continue to host brewing by day and in the evenings, will become a fully-fledged brew tap. This tap will get on with selling cask and kegs beers, which Gaz can rule with a vice like grip to ensure the beers are served as he would want (given the shift away from cask by Mad Hatter a few years ago, simply due to being at the mercy of outlets).
The remit of Gibberish is simply to make interesting beers based on ingredients with good provenance where possible. The name of the new one-stop-shop for beer is linked partially to the madness of Gareth’s brewing and also to some of the pretence that Gareth feel surrounds the scene at times. The brewing itself will likely be as it was in the early days of Mad Hatter, with a cornucopia of hoppy and strong pales, Belgian influenced yeast monsters and an array of sours and saisons, with a fair old space present Gareth is also considering room for a meadery in the corner of the brewing premises to offer further interesting facets to Gibberish’s output. The thinking behind Gareth’s new venture is that whilst Mad Hatter became successful on the back of the weird and wonderful, this brewing project can focus on smaller batches with more expensive ingredients and still work due to being sold on the premises.
Gibberish is set to launch from the evening of Thursday 14th December, though there is no word on permanent opening hours at the moment.
It may seem like quite a lonely and awkward location for a tap room, but the Lightbox units in Birkenhead are actually rather accessible by own vehicle, public transport and on foot. Located overlooking the Birkenhead Mersey Tunnel (The Queensway Tunnel), Glen Affric’s premises have grown ever more impressive as time has passed. A ten minute walk from the Wirral Line station, Hamilton Square, will get you there to sample some of their beers at a rather reasonable tariff.
The Glen Affric Tap opened mid-November 2017 and is still in its relative infancy, but the work that has been put in really does make it seem that the team are quite an old hand at getting this kind of thing together. Well laid out seating areas, booths with USB ports, 8 keg lines (7 for Glen Affric’s own brews and one guest line) along with a couple of fridges for other stock are talking points for the tap room. Build in bespoke fashion, the whole installation is a testament to graft and upcycling of palettes of wood, reclaimed furniture with flourishes of newer elements and some obligatory brushed steel surfaces.
Glen Affric are currently pushing their core range on the taps, but as time goes on, they intend on having some more diverse beers present coming through the lines. As well as their current kit, the brewery has a larger set up waiting to be plumbed in and also a smaller kit ready for pilot and experimental brews. Glen Affric will be looking to get up and running with off sales too in the new year, with a number of set backs on their own canning line kit, they will look for alternative solutions and likely have canned beer such as their Payload Pale, Highland Suntan and Lazy Haze good to go at some point in early 2018.
The Glen Affric Tap opens on a Saturday from 4pm until 10pm, but they are opening up on further evenings in the run up to Christmas (at least Friday to Sunday) to enable patrons a chance to try some locally brewed craft keg beers. It is quite easy to lose a few hours in this tap, being strangely relaxing given its industrial setting outside and in proximity to very shiny brewing kit inside.
Higson’s Brewery (aka H1780 Tap and Still)
Since Stephen Crawley (formerly of the MD Caledonian Brewery) bought out Liverpool Craft Beers and acquired the Higson’s Brewery intellectual property, things went a little quiet in terms of what was actually going on with the two brands. Nuggets of information dropped out at the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo approximately 2-3 years ago, with a suggestion (now seemingly confirmed by the website branding) that Liverpool Craft would shift into its most famous moniker with ‘Love Lane’ (the site of the former Liverpool Craft Beer brewery premises) and the Higson’s brand would be coming back into the consciousness of the city it departed in 1990.
Though the Higson’s brand came back briefly thanks to Liverpool Organic Brewery circa 2010-12, none of the beers such as ‘Double Top’ came back into mainstream production; only the best bitter and stout made the roster. Now it seems that the team behind Crawley are going to make the brand a force again in the city it once called home, along with a distillery (Ginsmiths) and the Love Lane brewing (a ‘craft beer’ arm to Higson’s) in the new Higson’s Brewhouse on Bridgewater Street in the Baltic Triangle.
Bookings are being taken at the moment for tours and for tables (they are planning on doing food at the tap house too) and information is gradually trickling out all the time. A Twitter account for the H1780 brand and for the tap and still have come online recently, along with an announcement that the brewery will be open from 16th December to the public.
Luckily, I had a few questions for new MD, Stephen Crawley that he kindly answered:
Though this has been on the boil now for some time, what made the company think now was the time to bring Higson's back? Did they feel that there is a place for another 'traditional' brand given the shift in interest to newer and more innovative brewing?
I genuinely believe the time has been right for some time! – BUT to try and rekindle this brand in a really positive way that looks forward and genuinely give it the best chance of success has sadly slightly longer than we hoped – but that is in the past now and we are really excited by the future! Liverpool is the UK’s 6th largest city and it does not have a brewer of a regional scale…. E.g. Manchester and its environs has JW Lees, Holts, Hyde’s and Robinson’s and some high profile craft brewers. We’re proud of the innovative past that Higson’s has and it does not preclude brewing modern drinkable brews that the city can be proud of!
We do not see Liverpool as traditional, though there would be an opportunity if we did, as Liverpool does not have a traditional brewery – But I wanted to ground Higson’s in an urban setting and build something that could be seen as a real outpouring of confidence in the modern Liverpool and deliver 21st century beers!
So, what was the thinking behind buying out Liverpool Craft Beer, when Higson's could have been a stand alone brand?
It was going to take time to build the new brewery and the guys at TLCBC bought into the dream of building something that aspired to regional scale and they had a site they could not afford to develop in Bridgewater Street. It was going to be a much stronger proposition to add Higson’s to an existing business and it gave us time to plan whilst talking to pubs and drinkers about Liverpool and plan what we were going to create, get planning permission and so on.
Higson’s we suspect will not be a big seller in the UK outside ‘Greater Liverpool’ whereas Love Lane will and does already sell further afield… I genuinely felt we would be a stronger business with the Love Lane and Higson’s!
I notice that there is going to be a shift from Liverpool Craft Beer to 'Love Lane' for all the beers made by the former - does that mean Liverpool Craft Beer will be consigned to the past once that rebrand is completed?
Not necessarily – but we have Love Lane, Higson’s, H1780 Tap & Still and The Ginsmiths of Liverpool to get moving and we feel that is enough for now – we will revisit TLCBC when the dust settles. Essentially though we have lots of positive traction with bars and drinkers with Love Lane over the past 12 months.
Will any of the old Higson's beers be making their way back onto the market - e.g. beers like Double Top?
Never say never – but as you asked earlier – is there an opportunity for Traditional? But who would have though Pabst lager could have become a retro sensation in USA amongst the craft beer phenomena.
I noticed the first beer out of the traps is a lager - I assume that the Higson's Best and maybe the Liverpool Stout will also be coming back, but are there any other plans for developing a core range?
We wanted to get the lager right – not easy to produce – and we are very happy with where we are with Higson’s Pilsner. The next two products will be cask and we are excited by the response we have had to the prospect of two new Higson’s cask beers that will be very drinkable and sit nicely on the bar as an alternative to National brands. Higson’s Best and Mild were beers that polarised opinion – we aim to make our first two cask beers that Liverpool can be really proud of.
At the brewery/still - is the tap room going to be open all week, or is it just going to be a weekend?
We have invested a considerable amount of money in our new home. The brewery, distillery and our offices will share the site of our Tap & Still and be called H1780 Tap & Stll – a nod to the past – but proud of the future. We have wanted to create an ‘urban home’, a home that could easily be on the east coast of America, a home that is not polished concrete, chipboard and grungy but timeless and well invested with lots of original brick – a colour scheme running throughout and lots of steel. We look forward to hearing peoples reaction – but we hope we have built something that is a real positive statement of modern Liverpool.
So, are there going to be any other exciting interactive elements for the public with what Higson's are doing?
I think a new home, new Higsons beers, Love Lane, new gins from The Ginsmiths of Liverpool, 3 bars, a well invested kitchen, a tasting room, tours, tastings and events are probably enough for now. We have lots of other ideas – but we will focus on the above for now!
Another interesting development in the Baltic Triangle means, more than ever, the area is a draw for those seeking a night out, interesting venues and options for the discerning beer drinker.
To my knowledge this is amongst the first ‘Tank Beer’ outlet in Liverpool and for the moment, the one of at least three (Porky’s Ski Hutte and Haus being others). Whilst most places that indulge in dispensing Tank Beer in Manchester and Leeds have gone with Czech brand ‘Pilsner Urquell’, Tank Room has selected the Slovak brand ‘Krusovice’ as its lager of choice.
The bar is located on the site of the former Cain’s Brewery and is currently rubbing shoulders with the Dock Leaf and Bedouin at the rear of the main former brewery building, by the canning hall. As the site goes from strength to strength (with the food hall and its numerous pop ups and central bar, Ryde café, Alhambra, The Brewery Tap, Kiosk, Dock Leaf and other new addition the Old Gas Station at the North end of the site), competition is going to get quite fierce and only time will tell how each of these bars will play to their strengths.
Tank Room is quite a sparsely kitted out space, rectangular in shape, with a bar at the top end away from the door, two tanks of lager above the bar (with blackboard stating date of tapping) and a heavy blue paint adorning all the walls it’s not the most warming of places. There is plenty of seating and standing room and if you’re not keen on lager, there are a few other beers and other beverages to satisfy one’s thirst. Maltsmiths and Lagunitas IPAs are present on draught, along with Orchard Thieves draught cider, Guiness and Amstel. The fridges are a bit more inspiringly stocked, with Yeastie Boys cans, Liefmans and Mongozo bottles also present. Curiously, they also stock the IPAs in bottles, which seems a little like a waste of space where there is room for some more diverse beers. There are also wines and spirits available for other drinkers; the gin selection looks reasonably competent at first glance, though it is likely that local brands will find their way onto the shelves at some point. Tank Room opened in November this year.
In other news… in the run up to Christmas
There are a number of events and launches amongst those mentioned above, here are a few things to put into the calendar!
Black Lodge Brewery – 2nd Birthday celebrations, Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th December from opening until late close. Expect loads of great one-off brews, music and plenty of food and good fun.
Tap and Bottles Biscuit Brew Off – Saturday 16th December, from 5pm onwards. Local collaboration project with six new collaboration beers, flavoured themed on biscuits! Neptune, Chapter, Handyman and more making the beers!
Dead Crafty Christmas Quiz – Wednesday 20th December, 7pm. £5 ticket for the quiz, includes a mince pie and a beer with great prizes to be won!
Connoisseur Ales – Tap Openings. Every Saturday before Christmas from 12pm until 10pm, beers on cask draught and bottle packs available for off sales.
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