I am a wine-maker, but I love my beer. For the last three months I have been living in Germany and have taken advantage of this time to travel around the western side of the country and neighbouring Belgium, and have sampled many varieties of German and Belgian beer. Upon hearing that London was about to host Craft Beer Rising in the old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, I packed up my car and headed west.
The event itself was a busy fair of enthusiasm and exchange; the vibe was friendly and casual and provided me with a great opportunity to try many a new beer, to get to know some of its producers, and to hear about their passion for their craft.
A mirror of the wine world that I know so well, the beer world also has its producers, writers, geeks and enthusiasts. I overheard a conversation between two passionate brewers discussing the production of Gose, a variety of beer local to Leipzig, Germany, in which ale-style yeasts are used in the brewing process. Had you replaced the words “grapes” for “malt” in their conversation, I could well have been overhearing a chat between two wine-makers. I had no idea the beer world was a parallel universe!
Having arrived at Brick Lane with a novice understanding of the production of beer, it was a tremendous learning experience for me. Who knew there were so many varieties of hops? Malted barley may be the base for this beverage but the hops seem to be revered as the magic ingredient. The brewers use hops the way an artist would use paint on a canvass, blending different quantities and varieties to get the outcome they desire in the flavours of their beer. It was eye-opening to compare the likes of Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop that introduces the fresh citrus flavours in Meantime’s Nelson Sauvin Cask Ale to beers made with Cobb, a Kentish hop variety used to make Curious Brew IPA.
Being a huge fan of Belgian beer, I was very happy to meet Stuart Howe of Sharp’s Brewery, who makes tremendous Belgian-style beer, my favourite being the Sharp’s Honey Spice, a Tripel style with an abundance of honey, clove and citrus flavours. I also met Dominic Driscoll of Thornbridge Brewery, a young, enthusiastic brewer who took the time to answer all of my many questions, and finally Ian Bearpark who oversees the production of the likes of the refreshingly citrusy pale ale, Crafty Dan.
My next stop was the Heriot Watt table, one of the only schools that offers a post-graduate program in both distillation and brewing. One of their PhD students, Abhi Banik, who has also been teaching distillation there for six years, kindly took the time to tell me all about the school’s educational opportunities, as well as answering a few questions on the various hops they had on the table to touch and smell.
Craft Beer Rising was a very enjoyable and informative meeting point of enthusiasts. I highly recommend attending future editions if you have even the slightest interest in beer. I think the wine world could learn a few lessons from these guys! And who knows, maybe there is some brewing in my future …
For more information on Craft Beer Rising, visit http://www.craftbeerrising.co.uk/