Beavertown Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House – 19/08/2013

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(Welcome to Beavertown!)

I have a confession to make. I am a Beavertown Virgin! Or I was, until Logan Plant (Brewer) and Byron Knight (Ringmaster and hat wearer supreme!) rolled in and rocked up at Port Street last night!

If you’ve never been to one of these events, a brief introduction. For some time now, the guys at Port Street Beer House have periodically, on a Monday evening (when  otherwise shut) been inviting some of the best brewers in the UK (and further afield) to come in and showcase their beers. This is done in a structured fashion. You buy a ticket up front (these events ALWAYS sell out!) for which, upon entry, you receive 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each of these entitles you to a sample measure of each of – generally – 5 beers presented by the brewers throughout the evening. The brewers introduce each beer, talk about the genesis of each and give an overall potted history of their business. There!

Having forgotten all about the matchday traffic, then stressing out having got caught up in it, there’s something calming and reassuring about the organisation that Port Street bring to these events. Once I’d obtained my raffle tickets / beer tokens, I was much calmer. Once I had been presented with my first beer (Gamma Ray ) by Jaz, I just knew I was in for a good evening!

The Gamma Ray at 5.4% abv was a hazy gold coloured Pale Ale with a full aroma of mango citrus from the hops (Magnum, Columbus, Bravo & Amarillo), quite full bodied for the strength with loads of resinous piney hop stuff going on! Really fruity & refreshing with a wonderful dry bitter finish. A superb start.

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(Logan & Byron – Comedy Superstars!)

Then came the comedy! Logan and Byron bounced off each other all night, on occasion, like Run DMC but powered by hops! They explained their coming together in 2011 and the origin of the brewery being – until recently – attached to and an integral part of Duke’s Brew & Que a BBQ joint on Downham Rd in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney. “Beavertown” coming from the Cockney corruption of their locale. They brew on a 4 Bbl (Beer Barrel = 36 Gallons) kit and after originally having only 4 FVs (Fermenting Vessels) they now – following on from their recent relocation – have treble that number and are brewing 8 (EIGHT) times this week!

Logan apologised for any errors down to tiredness due to their hectic schedule, but he needn’t have worried. Both guys were on fire with the banter. Both obviously passionate about what they do, Logan was introduced as the brewer and Byron as the man behind Duke’s. Showing how integrated both sides of the business are, there  were several ideas given for food matching with each beer, something they obviously think carefully about and – more importantly – enjoy hugely.

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(Gamma Ray & Barley Champagne Saison)

Next beer up was the Bloody ‘Ell, a blood orange IPA at 7.4% abv arrived at by LOTS of ZESTING! Not an obvious fruit beer and truly more of an IPA. They used 25Kg of blood oranges in this brew with an extra pale malt, handpeeling the zest and adding the squeezed juice at the end of the boil. Byron described how well this went with a Duck a l’Orange burger in Edinburgh (Or Dick a l’Orange – eh Logan?). This beer was another crackling hoppy pale, with the oranges coming through subtly almost like a marmalade essence in there coming through at the end following the zippy and bitter hops. The trick with this, like many of their beers (as I was to discover) is that they taste light, fresh and WELL below their strength!

The third beer (and last of the pales) was Barley Champagne at 8.7% abv, made with a French Saison yeast and Bramley apple juice from their nearest orchard in Kent. A real lightness of touch again here, for me, a gentle yeasty funk with a tart sweetness from the apples coming through. Again a fresh fruity beer with dangerous alcohol levels hidden somewhere! Stronger, but comparable with Ilkley Siberia for me – never a bad thing in my book!

CHOW TIME! Smoky hot dogs fully loaded with slaw, jalapenos, fried onions and mustard. Genius! Just what Dr Beers ordered!

Now sliding across the street to the Dark Side…….

20130819_201242(8 Ball & Black Yeti)

Next up was Black Yeti, a Stout at 5.6% abv. Brewed with one of the brewers from Camden, they used a lot of paler roasted malt in this with a late dump of hops in the boil. Firmly on my home ground with this! Black, smooth, beautifully so. Smoky, lovely bitterness and a substantial coffee note for me. BUT not a coffee bean in sight! Nice dry bitterness in the finish too.  A classy beer and a definite winner for me!

Logan quickly talked about the “All Seeing Eye” imagery and the likeness to the imagery on the US Dollar bill. A really clever branding that features – in various twists – on many of their beers. Like Byron said, a “Cease & Desist” from the US Treasury would do their publicity wonders! They are using local artists now for their newer beers coming up with smart individual designs, but always with the pyramid in there. Superb designs that would transfer well to T-Shirts and other merchandise. Byron also related an interesting description of the term Craft Beer mentioned to him by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. A beer is “Craft Beer” when you know the brewer!

20130819_201321(Oh My!)

Imperial Lord Smog Almighty. A Smoked Porter. 10% abv. The biggest abv beer that Beavertown have brewed. A natural extension from another beer “Smog Rocket”. Sounds like it had its historic origins in a collaboration with Brewdog called Catherine’s Pony (named after Catherine The Great – A LEGENDARY fondness for equine capers! Cue LOADS of horsey puns). They take great pride in being the first UK Brewery to collaborate with the Aberdonian Pranksters, rightly so.

Containing more smoked malt, Jaggery, tons of hops (110 IBUs!!!). They had a face off with Brewdog in Shoreditch with this beer and “Kicked Their ASSES!!!”

This is a TREMENDOUS BEER! Oh my! Creamy as a Cornish scone, viscous, oily, quite bitter with sublime coffee notes. Buttered rye toast, a bit of whisky in there too which is surprising as it hadn’t been barrel-aged! Reminded me of one of my all-time favourite porters, Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18, but stronger. What a serious beer this is, but with a wink in the eye and a grin on its face!

One to watch out for will be the collaboration brew with Wild Beer, a sour provisionally titled “Wild Beaver”, coming soon! Maybe one that my buddy Damian O’Shea could get for his stall???

I had a chat with both Logan & Byron. Top blokes who hosted this superbly, confident public speakers who must have had a LOT of recent practice. Came across really well and obviously care hugely about what they do and how it’s perceived, which last night was very well indeed.

Cheers fellas. You busted my Beavertown cherry and put a lop-sided grin on my face! (Or was that the Imperial Lord Smog Almighty?)

Finished off the evening with a beer that wasn’t subject to presentation, the 8 Ball Rye IPA, lovely rich and spicy with even more hoppy goodness! The evening was rendered complete once I’d had a chat with Connor Murphy of the “Beer Battered” blog and the mighty Tyson the Beerhound, even introducing the two! A quick chat with a focus on the recent Tickety Brew / Crabbies nonsense – keep an eye out for this, ‘cos if it doesn’t sort soon, Manchester should make some noise!!!

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(Coming Soon!)

Right then, my back is creasing in agony after all this typing, so time to head for the fridge to see what goodies can anaesthetise me!

On that note…’til next time!

Slainte!

 

 

 

Meet The Brewer – Black Jack Beers – Port Street Beer House – 20/05/2013

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Ever had that feeling?

You know the one….when you look across a crowded room….you see someone and they look like the noose is about to be put around their neck. That very moment when the legendary “fight or flight” instinct kicks in. That moment when you think that that person is actually going to shit himself.

Well, last night, at approximately 18:15, that person was Rob Hamilton, the brewer / overlord at Black Jack Beers. You knew that he was cacking it, by his choice of drink.

“Magic Rock Human Cannonball to steady the nerves sir?” (I could almost hear Jamie saying it!)

A sellout MTB at Port Street is probably NOT the place to commence your public speaking career. However, swift gulp of Huddersfields’ finest and – following a gentle introduction by Jamie – he was off!

“Hi, I’m Rob from Blackjack!”

Rob, from Wrecsam, worked at Marble (both brewery and pub) for a number of years and, in his own words in 2012 he “needed a change of scene, being not very good at doing what I’m told”, so, he acquired Marble’s 4.5 Bbl brewkit, located premises on Gould St, and via begging and borrowing set off on his journey.

He quickly picked up plaudits from fellow brewers and drinkers and started to gain a devoted following (my words, not his!) Not bad for a bloke who had no ambition to brew!

Rob gave us a quick chat about how the brewery started out. Given the progress he has made, he is a very modest chap indeed! He had sheets of paper and pens placed on tables to help him with “tasting notes” because, in his words he’s “very bad at describing beers…..can’t do the waffling bit…….What’s this beer like? It’s pale, it’s hoppy!” Judging by the laughter, this was a comedy masterclass. He had his audience eating out of his hand!

The first beer sampled was The Pokies, a new pale ale at 3.6% made with all NZ hops (Pacific Gem, Pacific Jade and Waikatu), the first time he’s done this. (All BJ beers have gambling related names, this one was from the NZ word used for a slot machine!).

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(The two cask offerings – The Pokies and Aces High IPA)

I didn’t have one of Rob’s sheets of paper, but for me, The Pokies was nice and pale, gently hoppy and – as Rob rightly said – a nice sessionable beer. Strangely, I thought it reminded me slightly of Harviestoun Schiehallion, which though it’s actually a lager, is (for anyone who knows me) a hell of a compliment. Pale, refreshing with a gentle fruity hop character. There! “Waffling” over!

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(And so say all of us!)

We moved on to one of the kegged offerings – Lager at 5.2%. No gambling reference name here! Or was making a Lager the actual gamble? Made with Lager & Cara malts with Magnum and Hersbrucker/Saaz hops this beer was fermented over 9 or 10 days at a cool temperature (that’s a lot of capacity taken up!). Rob thought it came out “quite well”.

For me, it was a clean smooth tasting beer, fruity (from the Saaz?) with a lightly peachy touch in the dry finish. A really nice beer and one which I heard is (for a brief period) also available in cask condition. More on that later! (Rob thought it cold do with being slightly drier. Each to their own, but it was fine by me as it was.)

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(And…relax! )

Aces High IPA at 5.5%. This was the next beer and the final of the two cask conditioned offerings. Golden with an abundant citrus hop aroma (apricot & grapefruit). Nice grainy malt overlaid with citrus hops in the mouth. Far too easy drinking for a 5.5% abv beer and dangerously so! Slightly warmer than The Pokies in the glass (Jamie would probably say that my mouth was too cold!)

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(Pacific Jade)

Next – Pacific Jade (single hop) IPA at 5.2% – Rob on hops “If they let me have something good, I generally bang it in!” (I do love a bit of self-deprecation!)

Made with his standard 5kg of hops, being kegged, it was a bit colder than I would like but I got a bit of a fruity and malt toffee aroma. Smooth in the mouth and was initially quite fruity and dry. A bit maltier toward the end. Not as hoppy and assertive as I was expecting. Would like to see a casked version though.

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(The keg selection for this evening)

Finally, we came to the last beer for tasting. The King of Clubs Stout. Brewed in December 2012 and maturing in keg for 6 months. This elicited a “Whoo” from the floor! 6 different hop varieties, including Bramling Cross  (which got a cheer!). The strongest Stout Rob can normally brew “without messing around too much”. This was rich, dark as sin and smelling bloody gorgeous! A sweet and spicy dark chocolate nose and very roasty. BANG! Red winey hints in the mouth, sweet coffee roast whilst still finishing quite dry. An unctuous vinous mouthful of dark joy. I like it anyway! (What I would do for a whisky barrel aged version next year???)

Rob invited people to chat with him and “show themselves”. So I did. I don’t know why he was so nervous, he did a great job! My kind of bloke. Funny, doesn’t take himself too seriously and makes bloody good beer!

This is only the second “Meet The Brewer” I’ve been to. And it’s the second that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve never been to one, and you want to know more about how great beer is made, you really should! Really well put together by Jamie and the guys at Port Street, an engaging and frequently hilarious presentation by Mr Hamilton and superb beer. What’s not to like?

Another really nice element for me personally was the chance to have a bit of a chat with a few people. Jay Krause, Rob himself, Jamie and some of the local Home Brewers group. Really enjoyed chatting. I won’t be so reticent next time. Good people all!

The next MTB features Toccalmatto from Italy. £15 a ticket. I saw a few flying out whilst I was at the bar. So if you fancy it, you’d better be quick!

Now I had a plan. But first, time for a new beer on cask for me. Rouge from Summer Wine. Deep red with a huge and spicy citrus hop aroma. Really fruity and dry in the mouth. Nice and bitter. A nice end to my stay at Port Street. Cheers to Jamie for my tasting glass! (Yes, it got home in one piece!!!)

Now. The plan. I’d heard a whisper that the cask conditioned version of Black Jacks’ Lager may have been on at Bar Fringe. A quick tweet to that ‘force of nature’, Banana Charlie revealed that it was. “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to drink we go!”

Bar Fringe

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(Indeed she does!)

The reason for being here (aside from being a great bar) was this

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(Cask Conditioned – Black Jack Lager!)

I don’t know enough about brewing to understand why, but this is a very fruity lager. And I could certainly drink more of it! Smooth, fruity (touch of the hedgerow?). Yum! With beer like this, I don’t know why we don’t see more cask lager about.

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(If you mess with the Landlady, she shrinks your head and plasters it into the wall. It’s true I tell you!)

Right then. Bit of a break for a week or so whilst the finances recover. Possibly pop in to Yorkshire Ales and Bierhuis over that there hill this weekend. I’ll have some nice beers to tell you ALL about, won’t I? Not to mention the chance to watch some masters at work, making a new beer at Allgates next month. An Oatmeal Stout too. (I’m too old to feel THIS excited!)

On that note……’til next time.

Slainte!