I love beer.
To an unhealthy extreme some might say.
They’re probably right, but I don’t really care, it really is something to get genuinely excited and passionate about… plus it’s something that the British are exceptionally good at.
The ales we produce in these fair isles are pretty much second to none in some categories. There has been a surge in the popularity of microbrewery wares in the last few years, this is probably due to a combination of factors including the skills of the brewers pouring their hearts, souls and bank account contents into their projects and sharing the fruit of the labour with the rest of us. Another big factor believe it or not, has to be attributed to former Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Mr Brown introduced a tax break for small breweries in the UK in 2002, the number of microbreweries has proliferated to double the number that year (http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2079988/CITY-FOCUS-Raising-glass-micro-breweries.html). Sadly, the number of pubs has been declining due to the harsher financial times we are all experiencing, but the quality certainly has been going in the opposite direction in some towns and cities. This is due to better food on offer, but more importantly a better range of beers with significantly better quality also present at these establishments.
A recent visit across to Brasenose Street in Liverpool to pick up some goodies for Christmas (2 crates of very excellent brews) from the Liverpool Organic Brewery (http://www.liverpoolorganicbrewery.com/) warmed the cockles of my heart. The brewery, who are currently preparing for the Waterloo Beer Festival (http://www.waterloobeerfestival.com/) and increasing the range of the beers they have developed over the last 3 and a half years (since September 2008), has gone from strength to strength and also had a major presence at the National Winter Ales Festival over in Manchester.
The atmosphere at the event was pretty good, there were a few seasoned veterans (you always get the obligatory ‘Stetson hat with goggles strapped to the top’ type along with several guys who look like they’re there for a Gandalf look a like convention) a few less eccentric people and surprisingly a lot more girls aged 20-30 which is something of a shift in the demographic over the last few years for Real Ale/Bitter drinkers. This speaks at length to how the image has changed for these types of beverages down the years.
With regards the drinks that were tried at the Festival, the 1/3rd measure of beer available was immensely helpful for those who wanted to broaden the range of drinks they were able to partake in; especially useful since there were a number of barley wines available (typically higher alcohol contents and much stronger all round). I have a full list of tasting notes and ticks next to all the beers tried at the Festival, but suffice to say the results from the CAMRA judging panel did pick out what I regarded as one the best of what was available by the Saturday session for an award. The full results can be found here: (http://www.camra.org.uk/article.php?group_id=4140).
Unfortunately, I have to caveat that this was not a scientific assessment of the beers available due to many of them simply having been demolished in the previous 3 days of drinking. This is something of a bugbear for me, but running out of a beer at a festival, especially ale that does sound incredible only for you queue for 10 minutes to be told it is all gone. The logistics of a festival are difficult at the best of times and an establishment simply can’t store as much ale to double up on what they provide, as such I know I can’t complain too much but maybe one day something will be done to ensure exciting sounding offerings such as the Lytham Gold will still be on for the final day of a festival!
Threshold Festival and Liverpool Craft Brewery
Linking into the beer theme, some of you may have noticed there is a recent addition to the current crop of Merseyside brewers in the Liverpool Craft Brewing Company (http://www.liverpoolcraftbeer.com/). They have recently created two new brews to add to the Liverpool Icon, Icon Dark, Viking and Hop Beast in their range. Most recently, Tane Mahuta has been pushed as a result of tinkering with the Hop Beast recipe. Intriguingly, there has been an ale which the guys have specifically brewed to link into the Threshold Festival which takes place in Liverpool (http://www.thresholdfestival.co.uk/).
The Threshold Festival began life as a collaboration between the Contemporary Urban Centre and Under the Influence in order to bring opportunities to push music, live performance, theatre and visual arts in a single setting. It is soon to have unshackled itself and pushed to be held at a multitude of venues to champion the grassroots artists that it prides itself on providing a platform to. The details of the venues and shows on offer are best sought out on the website for the Festival or by contacting the Festival organisers.
Following the success on a maiden voyage and going into its second year, the festival has won many friends and some critical (including journalistic) acclaim in many quarters. Kaya Herstad Carney, ------ said of the collaboration with the Craft Brewing Company: “When Paul approached us and asked if we would be interested in having Liverpool Craft Beers making a special Threshold beer, the answer was indeed easy - Of course! Being able to be part of the process, even from the measuring and mixing to separating vanilla pods just made it perfect for us; DIY with a root in knowing your craft and a big measure of passion: Ingredients.”
Rachel Dyer, a Festival Coordinator for the Threshold Festival also commented that: “It was great meeting Liverpool Craft Beer, I've never tasted beer let alone been to a brewery! Paul and Terry introduced us to the whole process and got involved with weighing ingredients, mixing and starting the brewing of the Threshold beer. The beer grain was so tasty I carried on nibbling at my sample! It's clear how passionate they are, and being self-taught independent and innovative, they're exactly the kind of people we want to call friends and work together for Threshold Festival 2012. Can't wait to see the final result!”
The festival takes place between the 10th and 12th February 2012 and tickets for many of the events are available now. Heading along, spreading the Valentine’s love and having a look and trying a delicious pint of collaborative ale would be the only sensible thing to be doing!
Threshold Festival 2012 (10th til 12th February 2012, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool). Bigger Better and Baltic Bound! Facebook for Threshold Festival: https://www.facebook.com/undertheinfluencenight?sk=app_134506053246185#!/undertheinfluencenight?sk=info
Follow the festival on Twitter (@thresholdfest), Tumblr (Thresholdfest) and Flickr (Thresholdfest). Buy advanced tickets through Skiddle.
Follow Liverpool Craft Brewing on Twitter (@Craft_Beers)
Follow Liverpool Organic Brewery on Twitter (@LivOrganicBrew)
Catch you all next time dudes!