Monthly Archives: October 2015

Craft beer calling

This Friday sees the doors fly open once again for the second annual Craft Beer Calling event right here in the heart of Newcastle. For those that missed out last year, this event marks the pinnacle of the craft beer calendar on Tyneside. 6pm last night saw the release of the beer list for this years event and for me, its once again a step up from last year. I really enjoyed the event last year, but the beer list alone this year has a much more exotic feel to it.

This event is very important to the region. Geographically we’re abit out on limb up here, but that brings about a real sense of identity. Our breweries very much do their own distinct thing. We’re not overly influenced by other nearby regions, more that we’re open to take the best things from the global craft beer market and give it a Geordie slant. And as a flag bearer for the region I think its very important that events like CBC continue to show off the best of the local beer alongside the global superstars. It’s a big draw having such craft beer titans as Stone, Mikkeller and Sierra Nevada, but while you’re there be sure to check out the local beers from the likes of Anarchy, Almasty & Northern Alchemy too. And be sure to be there for the star of the show Double Jakehead, brewed to 12% I look forward to seeing if taking the beast up to such levels the brewery have managed to keep that balance to the vast quantities of both malt and hops which have gone into it.

Im hoping that the success of last years event and the big ticket breweries and beers on this years beer list will draw in drinkers from outside the region to come and sample some Geordie hospitality. That’s where this event becomes important for the region. It’s a platform for the city to show off its great character and I hope those going give everyone a warm welcome to Tyneside.

So whats in store?

Having originally said that since I was doing Indyman this month I wouldn’t be doing Craft Beer Calling, last year I got a full fat ticket and was glad I did. However, this year Mrs l has discovered beer in a big way so she has decided that we’re going to Craft Beer Calling this year! Fine by me! So I got us both tickets for both Saturday sessions. We have friends joining us for the Saturday evening session but the two of us are planning on getting stuck into a few beers in the afternoon as a warm up!

But then the organisers dropped the Magic Rock bombshell! Friday evening sees a Magic Rock meet the brewer event and being a massive Magic Rock fan, I simply had to be there so jumped on board with a Friday night ticket too! So from not going Im now going to 3 of the 5 sessions….. and I’m not complaining! Really looking forward to the Magic Rock session, they’re a brewery I’ve followed closely since their inception and being a complete cannonball addict I for one can’t wait to get that stuff fresh out of those shiny new cans!

These meet the brewer sessions add a good element to the festival. Those of us who are obsessed with our beer lap up all the extra detail that you can get from listening to the passionate brewer speak about his produce. It’s also quite nice to step away from the buzz of the bar to the chilled upstairs room and slow the pace for a spell while learning about the beers beyond just what they taste like.

The Saturday afternoon session sees Lagunitas sucks….discuss… which could turn into one big craft beer brawl! No in all seriousness, this type of beery debate is fascinating. The dust is yet to settle on the Lagunitas deal and the consumer is yet to see the effects of the deal on the beer but it’s a sign of the times and the real issue here is what would happen to the industry if more and more of the craft brewers are acquired by the big players. Expect some passionate views on the subject!

Next up is a session giving you the lowdown on the Australian beer scene. And if the incredibly juicy hops from the region aren’t indication enough that there’s some good stuff being brewed, then get yourselves along and find out for yourselves.

The Saturday night meet the brewer session is genuinely very special. Wild Beer Co have a very distinct position in the UK with a range of incredibly unique beers which down to the quality of the brewers also happen to be amazing beers. If you go to just one session this weekend I strongly recommend that its this one.

Sunday sees one of the countries leading beer authors give a talk. For anyone who has read any of Pete Brown’s books, expect a very jovial yet incredibly knowledgeable talk on all things beer.

Then the now regular (can you call it that after 2?!) North East Brewers panel come together to chat all things north east and the challenges and strengths that the north east has going for it. I happen to know that there are some pretty big characters in the mix so expect good craick and fascinating perspectives on the future of the local market.

I for one will be around tonight and Mrs L is coming along for the day tomorrow. So she’ll be hammering the sours while I seek out the hops!

Bring it on!!!!!

Indyman reflections

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I’ve been itching to write up my feelings from Indyman, just struggled to find the time. However, for me Indyman was the most complete beer festival experience I’ve ever had. It’s difficult to put your finger on just why that is. Undoubtedly the venue is as interesting a building as you could ever wish an event to take place in, but that doesn’t define the event. You’d struggle to get as many top quality breweries in one place in the UK, with all the fantastic beers both experimental and the best of the UK’s craft beers, but even that doesn’t define the event for me. I think looking back, I was flicking through the photos that I took and surprisingly there are very few photos of beers in there, but loads of photos of people. It’s the people who define it best. There’s a widespread passion for good beer and a collective respect for the ability of good beer to bring good people together. Stepping back from Indyman for a moment, it was the social aspect that got me drinking in the first place and no matter how some may feel that craft beer can at least appear elitist, I still think that social aspect is the very core of the industry.

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I travelled half way across the country to a venue I’d never set foot in before, with no concrete plans to meet anyone, just very much a ‘see you there’ plan. Yet when I set foot through the door, collected my Craft master 1, I stepped into the foyer and Steve from the Beer O’Clock show appeared. He dragged me (ok maybe not kicking and screaming) off to the Buxton bar for a Wyoming Sheep Ranch and the great many other beers that followed were all fantastic. Am I being blasé if I say you can almost take for granted that the beers are amazing? It would be wrong to brush that fact off too lightly, the quality on display is impeccable. If I’m critical I would have liked to see more IPA’s and fewer sours, but I certainly didn’t go thirsty.

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Beer highlights include, Buxton Yellow Belly on cask, Magic Rock Bearded Lady desert edition, Burning Sky Vatted Porter, Almasty Cherry Imp Stout, Beavertown BA Moose Fang, think you can see a theme forming here, a lot of high abv’s were had….. But two factors prevent me properly reviewing these beers, clearly my palette took a hammering so specific recollections of certain beers may be alittle frayed at the edges, but also I didn’t really take the time to stop and analyse each beer. I was far too busy actually talking to the array of diverse and interesting people that attended.

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Representing the north east were Mark from Almasty brewery (assisted by some bloke from the Free Trade Inn…) with five corking beers on the Thursday and Friday and Saturday saw the Wylam lads arrive with the mighty Jakehead amongst others. I had many people asking me about Jakehead and not a single man was disappointed when they got the chance to try it.

I can’t reiterate enough just how much of a convention this is. It’s so much more than a beer festival, the people make it, from the enthusiastic volunteer army, to the passionate brewers, to the mass throng of jovial but well behaved attendees. I spent so much of my time there talking to people I’d never before met, that’s the thing I’ll take away from the event. And I very much intend being back there next year!

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Anticipation Indyman beer con!

So last night I dashed around packing for both myself and the kids as they’re off to grandmas for the night. Me? I’m off to Manchester and the Indyman beer convention.

Last year I sat watching tweet after tweet of amazing beers being supped and made a pact with myself that I would go this year.

As soon as the tickets were released I gobbled up a full fat affair. Such was my excitement.

That anticipation is a killer though. I spent much longer than I should have packing last night. Mainly due to the Twitter banter and keeping an eye on what beers folk at the Thursday evening session were drinking. That in turn meant that I got to bed later than I should and so when my son woke at 6:30 this morning I was knackered! Not exactly the best start to what will end up being a full days drinking.

I’m told that Indyman can be quite a relaxed affair, with not that many beers being consumed, more craick with good beery folk. Have to say that sounds great but I still suspect my excitement will see me drinking thirds quicker than they should be supped.

Oh well…..

I have looked at the beer list but have also decided to not get too obsessed with trying certain beers. My plan is to go with gut instinct when I’m there and talk to people about what’s tasting good etc.

I can’t wait to meet old beery friends and meet new ones too. That’s what Indyman is all about!

Look out Manchester, I’m on my waaaayyyyy!!!!!