Tag: V-Blogs

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July Video Blog: Scotland!

I bloody love Scotland, me.  I lived there for five years while at university, getting a degree and booking bands in the students’ union in St Andrews, going to buy records and get drunk in Edinburgh, going to chill out in the stunning beauty of the Trossachs.

This month I got to reminisce about all this as we attempted to cover the brewing scene of an entire country in about twenty minutes.


Because this particular series of video blogs is all about cask ale, and from an admittedly low base, cask ale is growing in Scotland at about 30% year on year.  When I was at uni there were three types of beer, all from Tennent’s, all a bit tasteless and horrible, apart from the ones that tasted of burnt sugar and were horrible.  So bad was Scottish beer I switched from being a cask ale drinker to a standard lager drinker.  It took me ten years to recover.

It is very, very different now.  Brew Dog, who we don’t visit here (their Edinburgh bar is all keg, and the man who pays the vlog bills wants to focus on cask) is merely the most visible of Scottish brewers who are currently displaying extraordinary levels of invention and enthusiasm.

In the Guildford Arms in the centre of Edinburgh I find one of my old favourites.  Then we go to Caledonian, where Peter looks round one of the most stunning traditional breweries you will ever see.  Many in Scotland are unhappy about the takeover of Caledonian by Scottish & Newcastle, and more recently Heineken. Not without justification, there was a feeling that things would be bastardised and cheapened.  But I visited before Heineken took over, and now going back again, the unique coppers, the hop room full of whole leaf hops, the open fermenters, the range of beers, are all unchanged.  The only real difference is a massive commitment to health and safety, a more corporate head office presence through boards displaying targets for reducing accidents and so on.  The brewing process and the resulting beers are unchanged.

I have a chat with Steve Crawley, MD of Heineken, in which we discuss whether the brewery’s flagship, Deuchar’s IPA, really is ‘not as good as it used to be’.

And then we’re off to Bridge of Allan, just outside Stirling, where Peter gets a bit tipsy talking to a round table of four brilliant Scottish brewers about the state of brewing in the country: Fergus from Inveralmond, Douglas from Traditional Scottish Ales, Amy from Harviestoun, and Tuggy from Fyne Ales (who I’m currently trying to persuade to adopt me).  I review a Scottish Wit Bier, try to sum up the style of stout in under a minute, and by the end we’re struggling to do a decent outro.  It’s hardly surprising.

Next month – next week in fact – we are filming our final video blog of this series at GBBF.  If you’re there on trade day, come and say hello.  If there’s anyone you think we should be going to talk to, please shout!

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June Video Blog: Celebrating the Great British Summer in Cornwall!

So last month we were sitting in Norfolk, in the sun, worrying about how the lack of rain was affecting the local barley crop.

Ah well, we thought, at least if it’s like this, we’ll have a great time in Cornwall next month – sun, sea, sand, seafood and a nice golden ale on the beach.

I didn’t realise we were planning on doing this the same weekend as Glastonbury and Wimbledon.

It was freezing cold, rainy, windy and unpleasant.  Of course it was. I returned from the Baltic the day before, and there was no difference.

Never mind.  We got to have a look around St Austell brewery.  I’ve been a huge fan of Tribute ever since I went to Portland, Oregon in 2004, and learned that brewer Roger Ryman was in a sort of cultural exchange with the brewer at Portland’s Bridgeport brewery.  Roger was teaching the Yanks about cask ale, and they were showing him the secrets of American hops.  Many readers probably don’t think of St Austell Tribute as a particularly hoppy beer, but ten years ago there were few beers like it in the UK.  It accounts for 75% of the brewery’s output, and has become a nationally recognised brand.

If you like Tribute, you’ll love Proper Job, a beer that truly cuts the mustard as a ‘proper’ IPA.  In this moth’s style guide, we take a 60 second look at probably the most argued over beer style the world has ever seen.

Then we’re off down to Falmouth, in search of all that sun and seafood.  We settle instead for a few beers in the Front, recently named Pub of the Year by Kernow CAMRA.  It should be obvious why form the video, in which we try beers from Skinners, Chough and Tintagel breweries.

Next month we finally make it to Edinburgh, where we’ll be looking at the Caledonian Brewery and seeing why Scotland is the fastest growing cask ale region in the UK.

And after that, our final Vlog will be from the trade day of GBBF.  If you’re going, bring along your ‘Hello Mum’ signs.  And whether you’re going or not, if you think there’s any particular aspect of British cask ale we should be looking at there, let me know.

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May Vlog: East Anglia

I think we’re quite slick in a rather chilled out way on our latest Vlog.

Peter Amor takes his bow-tie to Elgoods, a brewery like you have truly never seen before, that’s over 200 years old.  The young whippersnappers who took it over are now in their fifth generation, and there’s a lovely laid-back feel to Peter’s brewery chat.

I got to go to the Fat Cat in Norwich.  Norwich is a bit out of the way so the Fat Cat doesn’t get talked about in the same breathless terms as North Bar, Rake, Cask & Kitchen, Sheffield Tap etc, but it’s been doing the same thing as those places for much longer – 20 years this year to be exact.  Thirty cask ales on at any one time, and over 50 bottled craft beers from around the world.  How can they get the throughput they need to keep so many casks on?  Well, despite being in a sleepy Norwich suburb, it’s packed – all the time.  We were filming on a Thursday mid-afternoon and it felt like a Friday night.  A truly great pub, worth braving even East Anglia Trains for.

Next month we’re going to Cornwall to visit St Austell brewery.  If you think there’s a pub as good as the last ones we’ve been to in the vicinity, let me know!

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April Vlog: Burnley and Moorhouses

Our wayward ramble through the UK continues, and this month we hit the north west.


Because Lancashire Brewer Moorhouses has spent over £4m on a staggering expansion with a brand new brewery that increases their capacity by a ridiculous amount.  A confident investment for the future?  That’s an understatement.  Moorhouses MD takes a clearly jealous Peter Amor around the brewery, showing him where the money went.  As the most ambitious micros grow to the level of small regional breweries, some shrewd business people clearly believe the revival of interest in good beer is here to stay.

Then we go to Burnley town centre.  I have a strange relationship with Burnley because it’s in the north, has a crap football team and sounds a bit like Barnsley, so people often think I come from there, because I come from Barnsley, which is in the north, has a crap football team and sounds a bit like Burnley.

Anyway, I wish Barnsley had a pub as good as the Bridge Bierhuis (which is in Burnley).  If it did, I might not have left town as soon as I was able.

In various publications as well as this blog, I’ve written quite a bit over the last 12 months about ‘craft beer pubs’ – often moribund or failed pub sites that have reopened or repurposed themselves with a single-minded emphasis on interesting beer – real ale and otherwise.  One criticism that’s been fired back is that these fancy establishments might work well in That London, or maybe Leeds, but you can’t expect people in northern provincial towns to enjoy microbrewed cask ales, imported Belgian beers and German lagers.  The Bierhuis proves them wrong, by doing something quite rare – it combines being a beer shrine with being an excellent and important community Local.

I say all this in the video, actually – but I say more besides, so please give it a view and let us know what you think.

Next month: Scotland.

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Video Blog: The SIBA Conference

SIBA is the Society of Independent Brewers, kind of the equivalent to the Brewers’ Association in the US, and it’s doing a grand job of fuelling the growth of great quality beer from small producers in the UK.  It is a beer trade body, and as such it has its political struggles, battles with other bodies, internal strife and all the rest of the issues that plague every trade body in beer.  But SIBA events are fun.  And the people who organise and run them are decent, talented people who you enjoy having a pint with.  I wrote here about the time I had at the conference last year, so it was a pleasure to go back with the film crew this year.

So what happens in this episode? It’s twelve minutes long, so let me guide you through it.

First, Peter Amor talks to SIBA head Julian Grocock about the society, what its stands for and what it does to help promote beer.  SIBA organises a year-long brewing competition, where beers judged at regional heats go through to a national final, with the winners announced at the conference.  I then sneak into the bar while the conference is going on in the next room, and help myself to a sneak preview and tasting of all the category winners (or rather, all bar one in the final edit – not everyone likes the fact that SIBA judged a national keg beer competition this year).  This gets interspersed with interviews with some of the young, new cask ale brewers who were at the conference this year, where we seek to uncover the motivations behind a new generation entering the brewing industry.  This concludes with an interview with the brewer who created this year’s grand champion.  Which of the beers was it?  Well, if you’re eagle-eyed during the tasting segment, you’ll spot it well before I did…

These video blogs now have their own home on the web too.  Go to http://www.britishbeervideoblog.blogspot.com/ if you want to see them all together, and there’ll also be the odd extra bonus clip knocking around there too.  You can also find the embed code there now that allows you to feature them on your own site of you wish.

Finally, can I ask for some feedback?  This year of video blogs represents a significant financial investment, which aims to help spread beer appreciation beyond the usual community of beer aficionados and hopes to reach a wider audience.  If you’ve been following them for the last six months you’ll see that we’ve tried different formats and ideas, and also that we’re steadily learning our craft as presenters (the filmmakers already knew what they were doing).  We want to make them as good as we can. Any constructive comments would be very gratefully received!

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Beer judging and Burton on Trent

We shot this month’s video blog in Burton on Trent at the Brewing Industry International Awards, a prestigious competition that’s back after a six year absence.  800 beers from around the world judged only by active brewers – no beer writers, no industry figures, this was about excellence, peer-to-peer.

And there wasn’t too much emphasis on beers being ‘to style’.  The focus was on ‘is this a great well-made beer?’ and ‘is this a beer that drinkers would/should love?’

Anyway, the competition took place in the reopened national Brewery Centre in Burton – a great location to talk all things beer. We talked to Steve Wellington in the new William Worthington Brewery and tasted a couple of beers.

Hope you enjoy!

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January Video Blog – It’s Festival Time!

Went to the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester last week, and had a rather marvellous time.

The result is a video with me and Peter Amor – he gets to talk to people and I get to drink a lot of beer.  I almost manage to hold it together to the end…

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December Vlog – Christmas beers with the two Peters!

So, three weeks there with no posting.  Did you miss me?

If so, sorry about that.  Three reasons contributing to my silence:

  • I’ve been insanely busy, working 14-16 hours a day on stuff that pays money, not because I want to but because if I didn’t, HMRC were going to come round and auction off my rare beers and CD collection to pay my unpaid tax bill
  • My hard drive died and I was computerless for a while.  Today I heard that, for a mere £500, a specialist data recovery agency has been able to do what a mac engineer could not, and salvage all my data from the old hard drive.  Not only can I now do my accounts, look at 10,000 photos and listen to 30,000 songs, I have my entire archive of everything I’ve ever written back safely.
  • I was in no great hurry to blog anyway.  I needed a break from the relentless negativity that infects some parts of the blogosphere.  I swear that if I was to post an exclusive along the lines of “Brewer creates beer that cures cancer – and by the way, it tastes fucking awesome” – I would only have to count to about 40 before someone out there commented that it probably, in fact, tastes shit, or is brewed by the wrong-sized brewer, or is served under gas, or doesn’t have enough hops.  Sure I have my own rants, but I always try to be constructive – I did actually taste Stella Black, for instance, before writing about what an appallingly fucking shit beer it is, and I gave some very clear pointers as to what I thought was wrong with it, and how I thought they could have done it much better. But some of you seem determined to see only the negative in everything, to close down all options apart from the inevitability of shit.  It’s not your fault, it’s the internet.  It’s what it does to some people.
Anyway, it’s nearly Christmas – and I’ll brook none of that behaviour now.  
Annie Lennox doesn’t like Christmas.  She’s released an album with which she is attempting to destroy Christmas.  She takes Christmas songs and sings them like the ghost of a premenstrual Scrooge-ess whose puppy died one Christmas and doesn’t see why anyone else should enjoy Christmas if she can’t.  It was playing in a Starbucks I was in yesterday, and the snow began to melt, and turned to rain, and now London has no snow for Christmas.  Coincidence? Yeah, right.
I’m the opposite. I love Christmas.  For much of the year I’m George Bailey in the final third of It’s a Wonderful Life.  I’m that despairing, that pessimistic.  And then it gets to Christmas and I realise the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville is merely state of mind*, and I become end-of-film George Bailey.
That’s why we’ve done a Christmas beer blog. It’s fun-filled.  It’s cheesy.  It’s meant to be.  We also happen to taste some really good beers and give you a blueprint for a beery Christmas Day that you can take way and adapt to whatever beers are available in your locale.
Having finished his videos of the brewing process, Peter Amor joins me for a drink.  I drink one of his beers in one of his pubs. Then we drink some more.  We hint at what beers go with each stage of Christmas dinner.  We drink beer, enjoy it, and have a laugh.

That’s what beer is about.  That’s what Christmas is about.  No brainer.

From now on our blogs are available for you to cut and paste from Vimeo and disseminate into the wider world.  And in the New Year, while I’ll still be posting monthly video blogs here there will also be a separate British Video Blogs site attempting to spread appreciation of great British beer more widely.
So just ask yourself: are you a George Bailey?  Or an Annie Lennox?
*If you don’t get this reference, you need to stop reading, right now, and go and watch It’s a Wonderful Life before you do anything else.  This is important.  Your life could depend on it.

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November V-Blog: The Astonishing Rise of London’s Brewers, and the Jolly Butchers!

With just hours of November left, the team behind our video blogs have managed to pull together the edits of me in the Jolly Butchers, and Peter Amor’s latest instalment of brewing fun.

In previous V-Blogs we’ve gone around various pubs trying a variety of beers.  This time we stayed closer to home – very close to my home in fact – just around the corner from my house, and focused the whole episode on the astonishing rise of London’s small brewers.  Four years ago, London had Fuller’s and Meantime.  Both among my favourites, but a shockingly small choice for the nation’s capital.  A couple of years ago something exploded in the collective beery psyche.  The result, well, click below…

Pete Brown’s British Beer Blog – November from Ian Hudson Films on Vimeo.

By the way – I’m slurring a bit – that’s not drunkenness – just tiredness.

If you enjoyed these, and haven’t seen previous ones, check out my adventures in Nottingham and in South Wales.

Meanwhile, Peter Amor, after taking us through beer’s ingredients and the process in the brewhouse, moves now to fermentation – in both the brewery fermentation room, and the pub cellar.

Peter Amor’s British Brewing Blog: Episode 3 from Ian Hudson Films on Vimeo.

Just before Christmas, Peter and I join forces to taste some great seasonal beers.  See you back here in a few weeks.