Moor Beer for Bristol!

Bristol is already a great place for beer. There’s The Volley, The Beer Emporium and The Small Bar all in King Street – which is just around the corner from BrewDog – and then, close to Temple Meads rail station, there’s Bristol Beer Factory’s flagship pub The Barley Mow not to mention a host of other pubs and bars in various districts and/or suburbs. Could Bristol get any better for beer?!

Yes… because Moor Beer have just moved into town. Distance-wise it isn’t a big move, it’s just under 40 miles to Bristol from their former site at Pitney on the Somerset Levels, but going from rural to urban and to a much bigger site heralds a new era for this already great brewery headed up by Californian Justin Hawke.

Justin bought the site at auction earlier this year but didn’t get the keys until April, since when work has been taking place to turn a former auto repair shop into a state of the art commercial microbrewery. At 20 barrels it may not be the biggest but it is one of the best. That’s me saying that by the way as Justin isn’t the boastful sort.

What sort is he? He’s the sort of brewer who believes that attention to detail is absolutely vital. To describe it as an ethos of military precision in no exaggeration. A former soldier in the US Army Justin freely admits his attitude to brewing is partly influenced by his four years at West Point Military Academy. This is great news for beer lovers. Brewing is a skilled business where things need to be done properly. Those not able, or not prepared, to maintain the highest of standards probably aren’t cut out for the job – and certainly won’t make it into my brewing hall of fame.

Beer of course isn’t made by accuracy and precision alone. Justin’s love of beer was inspired by his father, who was a huge Michael Jackson fan (no, not the pop singer, the beer writer). He recalls his dad going on beer hunts and gaining a love of cask ale on trips to England. Justin himself began reading Michael’s books and eventually met him. A framed autograph hangs on the wall of the brewery as a memento of an important moment and proof (were it needed) of the passion behind the cool head for business.

Advice from the Beer Hunter

Advice from the Beer Hunter

Moor Beer’s new site combines the best of the former brewery with the benefits of a larger space which was a blank slate awaiting design. The same brewhouse kit and bottling line have been installed and four fermenters also made the trip up the M5. They will soon be joined by three additional fermentation vessels (FVs) and there is space for seven more – which Justin says he expects to fill in due course when the time is right for further expansion.

The new site has also allowed for improvements to Moor’s brewing process which will enable further efficiency, (“We learned a lot from brewing in a barn,” says Justin), which means there’ll soon be even more Moor Beer to enjoy!

Not only that, but come the start of 2015 Moor Beer will also have a canning line. A self-confessed can sceptic Justin and his team engaged in a lot of side-by-side testing of the same beers in bottles v cans until they were truly convinced cans keep beer perfectly fresh and are to be embraced rather than dismissed as a craft beer fad.

Work in progress: Brewing is already under way at the new Moor Beer site in Bristol, but it will be 2015 before the pictured steps become a canning line.

Work in progress: Brewing is already under way at the new Moor Beer site in Bristol, but it will be 2015 before the pictured steps are replaced by a canning line.

By far the most exciting part of the new site for me though is that it will have a tap room and ‘growler filling station’ which means the chance to drink brewery fresh beer on site and take a drop home with you too. There’s also an outdoor space – with plans to hold events and host pop-up food trucks so there’ll always be something interesting going on.

Moor's Mike Cable and Justin Hawke mime pouring beer. They'll be doing it for real once the taproom is fitted out and officially opened.

Moor’s Mike Cable and Justin Hawke mime pouring beer. They’ll be doing it for real once the taproom is fitted out and officially opened.

Opening hours and further details are yet to be confirmed but Justin says he doesn’t want the tap room to be an all day drinking place and will even have opening times that encourage people to make the most of Bristol’s many marvellous pubs.

It’s all very American.  Which is to say a fab place to go for a beer whether you’re local or a visitor; a great place to learn about how beer is made and how it should be served, along with being a part of the local community… so all in all I’d say the arrival of Moor Beer marks a lucky day for Bristol.

Work on Moor Beer’s new brewery and tap room site (a five minute walk out the back of Temple Meads station) is currently still ongoing but expect an announcement regarding an official opening in the near future – so keep an eye on the news page on the Moor Beer website.

Posted in All things beer, Profiles - breweries/beer people, Travel & beer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beer and pasta making with Brooklyn Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery’s Mash Tour rolled into London this week. It’s a week of various foody and cultural events in partnership with local venues and people all lubricated by BB’s marvellous beers. I joined one of the events, an educational session about pasta making, in Shoreditch.

I’m going to be honest with you. I wasn’t sure how interesting a pasta-making demonstration was going to be. I was more keen on finding out what beers Brooklyn Brewery’s new(ish) chef Andrew Gerson was going to pair with pasta – particularly those in tomato sauces which I think can be quite tricky to match. But I went with an open mind and ended up learning more than I thought I would.

The event was held at a tiny ‘pastificio’ – meaning ‘artisan’ – called Burrio e Salvia (where if you don’t want to get practical with pasta you can simply go for lunch) and was a double header with expert Sfoglina (Italian for pasta maker) Gaia Enria and the BB Chef.

Burro e Salvia, Redchurch St, E2

Burro e Salvia, Redchurch St, E2

What struck me as they talked about the importance of high quality, fresh ingredients (rather than ‘pasteurised eggs from huge containers’ used by industrial pasta makers) and traditional techniques (there’ll be no pasta filled with prawns, curry or beetroot here thank you!) through to the joy of eating something fresh and handmade (best consumed no more than a day or two after it’s made) was the comparison with craft beer – and I use the term on purpose. It was at this point that pasta-making and beer didn’t seem like such an odd combination.

Andrew and Gaia each made a different pasta – he a thin, flat ribbon-like one called ‘taglierini’ and she a filled ‘tortellini’ with spinach and ricotta – and talked us though the differing techniques required for making certain types. For example ribbon pasta styles need the dough to be kept quite dry so it doesn’t stick together whereas filled pasta benefits from being wetter to provide a seal for the parcels.

A bird's eye view of the pasta making

A bird’s eye view of the pasta making

But what I really wanted to know was what beers would they be matched with and how would the pairings work. I didn’t have to wait too long. While Gaia showed us how to make filled pasta Andrew went to cook his taglierini. After boiling for a couple of minutes he tossed it in some browned butter with a little sage and delivered us plates of perfect little pasta nests accompanied by Brooklyn Local 1 (9%).

Andrew's pasta was cooked in a little butter and sage and paired with Brooklyn Local 1

Andrew’s pasta was cooked in a little butter and sage and paired with Brooklyn Local 1

The pasta was incredibly light and fresh and delicately creamy – although it only had butter on it. Local 1 is a sweet, golden Abbey style beer. When the two came together the sweetness of the beer was knocked back and bubblegum-like, fruity and estery flavours came to the fore – being not the biggest fan of sweet beers this was a match that worked for me.

While we were munching and quaffing away Gaia’s filled pasta was being prepared for us in a tomato sauce. It was to be paired with Brooklyn Local 2 (also 9%) – another Abbey style beer but this one a brown ale. It’s a gently earthy beer with a restrained sweetness. It’s quite dry and caramelised sugars emerge in the finish as you might expect with a Belgian-inspired beer of this style. With the pasta in tomato sauce the beer became much fruitier. Although this wasn’t a pairing that sang to me – it did show that beer and tomato sauces can be paired. I should also mention there was limited amounts of pasta so if I get the chance to revisit and reconsider I will.

Overall this Brooklyn Mash ‘Edu’ event was good fun and everyone who attended was clearly having a great time. My only complaint was I’d have like to have heard more about matching pasta (and pasta sauces) with different beers – but I guess I can use that as reason to conduct some practical research of my own and learn by trial and error!

Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson

Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson

Brooklyn Brewery is not only a producer of great beers and home of renowned Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, it is a well known brand. Events like the Brooklyn Brewery Mash show the power brands have to make beer look good and to bring it to new audiences. So as well as enjoying the Mash – which continues its London leg until Sunday 3rd August – we can make it part of the knowledge share the brewing industry is so famous for.

Find details of the remaining BB Mash events here.

If you want to learn to make pasta at Burro e Salvia there are pasta workshops throughout August.

Thanks to photographer Ev Sekkides who took all the photos used in this post. Find Ev’s website here.

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Birmingham Beer Bash reviewed pt 2

I’ve composed this post via my ipad so please forgive any quirks of layout I will edit for style and readability when back at my desk!

If you read part one of my review of Birmingham Beer Bash you’ll know I had a marvellous time and rate the event highly. But what of the beers? Well, here’s what I had to drink during my flying visit…

Celt Experience Brigid Fire Smoked Rye IPA (6.3%) keg I began with this because I wanted something that would match the pizza I was having for lunch. The man behind the bar thought it would work and we agreed the smoked elements of the beer could be good in combination with the wood fired pizza – but I could barely detect any smoked flavours in the beer. That said it was a tasty drop. An attractive opaque orangey gold coloured brew with a big, resiny, piney aroma and a fresh grapefruity flavour leading to a dry, malty payoff. It went quite well with the pizza which brought out the sweetness of the malt.

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Next up I carelessly ordered some of Hardknott Brewery’s Squiddy (3.8%) keg and was shocked that it looked… well… green. One slight criticism I have of BBB is the lack of tasting notes in its beer list – but then again I know how hard it can be to gather such info in time to print a programme. I mention this here because I did not know the Hardknott beer had squid ink in it – although given the name perhaps I should have cottoned on! It didn’t make the beer black, as per squid ink pasta, though just dark green or murky gold when held to the light. The brew had a savoury, mineraly aroma which carried through to the taste and made me think it could have food matching potential but as a stand alone drink it lacked zest and wasn’t for me.

After two keg beers I decided it was time to hit the cask bar. While I was mulling over what to have my eyes alighted on a label telling me that Cheshire Brewhouse has made a beer called Sorachi Ace (6%) cask . Being a huge fan of the Brooklyn Brewery beer featuring and named for this hop I couldn’t resist (although I wasn’t sold on the Duvel Tripel Hop which featured it). The hop is renowned for bringing dill and lemon flavours to the beer but apparently some people also taste oak (yes, I looked that up in the Oxford Companion to Beer) and this is what I got when I tasted the Cheshire Brewhouse beer – so much so that I thought it must be barrel aged. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The beer was an utterly beautiful sunshine and golden honey colour – worth hanging on your wall although of course that would either be a waste of beer or it would just end up all over your carpet as you tried to hang it! A big, fruity aroma of apricots and peaches wafted from the glass and made the pronounced woody flavour of the beer a bit of a shock. It was an intriguing shock though that sent me back for sip after sip. It’s fair to say I was quite captivated by it. As well as the wood character the beer possessed a resiny bitterness with lots of piney notes and was very dry – but eventually the fruity aroma emerged from the wood to give a rather splendid jammy aftertaste. This was my beer of the festival

Just to be sure though I hunted down the brewer and interrogated him. No barrel aging, no wood chips, nothing like that at all. The beer was bittered with Magnum and then late hopped with ‘lots’ of Sorachi Ace including the use of a hop back (essentially a straining device that can also be used as a sort of infuser to add hops after the boil stage of brewing).

Freedom Brewery’s Barrel Aged Pilsner (5%) keg had a tough act to follow. This is the brewery’s standard pilsner which spends three months maturing in Glenfarclas Whisky casks that have previously housed bourbon – still with me?? Freedom isn’t the first to barrel age a lager in Glenfarclas casks as Harviestoun’s Orach Slie has also trod this path. The Freedom effort is subtle at first but whisky flavours build with each sip.

I decided to leave my trip to the designated Sours Bar, cleverly positioned next to the new Cider Bar to catch all those cideries who think they don’t like beer, until the end of my day. A man who didn’t like sour beers was working the bar – he clearly feared for his customers (not a bad thing!) offering a taste in case I didn’t like it when I asked for a third of Magic Rock Circus of Sour White Wine/Lychee (3.5%) keg . This little beauty is low ABV and gently sour in the Berliner Weisse style. As per the barrel aging it had an aroma of white wine. It was a very pale golden yellow colour and its refreshing tangy-ness was perfect for the blistering hot summer’s day Brum was having. I couldn’t really taste the lychees but I didn’t mind. This has got to be one to bring wine-lovers across to beer.

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My last beer of the day (on site – I grabbed a can of Four Pure Session IPA (4.2%) for the train) was from a brewery I keep hearing of but had not managed to sample any beers from. Lovibonds Henley Sour Grapes (5.4%) keg was dusky gold and smelled like a rhubarb fool. Softly sour, it was tart, juicy and contained hints of redcurrant and raspberry followed by an appropriately cheesecake base biscuitty aftertaste. Another summer’s day joy and just the sort of beer I might have in place of a dessert. I can’t wait to sample more from Lovibonds.

And so my day at BBB was over just as other people’s evenings began. The start of the evening session began as a PA was cranked into life and the noisy but marvellous sounds of Birmingham’s own Black Sabbath began to drift through the air. Sadly I had to leave just as the party was getting started but I hope to pay a longer visit in 2015.

The third Birmingham Beer Bash is already being planned and is provisionally scheduled for 23 -25 July 2015. Keep an eye on the BBB website for official announcements/confirmation.

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