Hitting Monday reality after a beer weekend like Birmingham Beer Bash is like driving full-speed into a brick wall of disappointment in a vehicle of shattered hopes. Beer makes the world so much of a brighter place, and massive beer nerd love-in events like Birmingham Cubed are a totally crazy trip, but with the hardest of come-downs. I’m sitting here thinking of all the beers I didn’t get to try, all the folk I didn’t get to talk to, the post-event analysis is churning away in the back of my head and I can’t even sleep.
I did Saturday. Both the arvo and evening sessions. Though stretched out across not-too-many beers thanks to a lot of food and talking. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful venue – with just enough outdoor space to allow enjoyment of the weather, but without relying on the outdoors so that when it did finally chuck it down in the evening everyone could stand under-cover in some comfort. Venue: totally repeatable. The different “rooms” of the space added character, the canal interest, and while it initially seemed a bit “out of town” on the map it really was just a stroll from New Street.
On the Saturday evening Kat and I were booked into the beer-matched dinner. That’s my kind of thing really. The “match of the dinner” was Maisels Weisse with some banana parfait thing. (Peanut Butter Parfait, Caramelised Banana, Caramel Sauce.) Seems an obvious one – but usually the obvious ones are the ones that work the best. Otherwise I wasn’t too impressed by the matches. Purity ales are great – but I just wouldn’t really bother much with pairings of golden ale and best bitter types of beers with food in general. Finishing with Sierra Nevada stout and good Cheddar: great! But why not a British beer? The same goes for the Maisels really – a good match, but while a British weizen can be difficult to find – they do exist.
The food itself was outstanding. Simpsons are now on my “gotta go there one-day” list. Interestingly the dinner didn’t seem to be populated with many from the beer-nerd crowd, all the folk at our table were more food-led than beer-bashers. This made the conversation a little difficult at times – and I also feel they might not have got the best experience of the whole food + beer thing alas. But, perhaps I’m being too critical – I’m a step removed from reality in these things. None of the pairings were actively wrong, it’s merely that the beer was entirely overshadowed by the food in most cases. That said, the dude from Purity Ales talked a good talk, and was zipping around the room chatting to people about beer and food – and, importantly, it looked like everyone in the room enjoyed the event. The meal ended with the two best pairings and thus should have left everyone with a good impression of fine dining + fine beer as a “concept”.
Beer of the festival: Shnoodlepip. Not my thing at all. Almost awful – but not so bad I couldn’t drink all of my third of a pint whilst thoughtfully dissing it. I’ve had a handful of these “sour” beers this year that seem a bit off to me. I love a good sour beer, but this wasn’t it – I don’t want a dash of malt vinegar in a beer. It’s “pongy”. Yet it was brewed by Wild Beer Co, Kelly Ryan, and Mark Tranter. Basically beer nerd fairydust. So therefore it must be good and it is a sin to think otherwise? I pick it as my beer of the fest because it is the one still in the front of my mind a day later. It is challenging, it really probably isn’t a good representation of this whole “craft” thing. You’ve got a bunch of “craft wankers” (like myself) setting expectations sky high over a specific beer (everyone wanted to try it) and the beer itself is a bit wrong and twisted. I wish I’d been able to talk to more people about this beer while I was at the Bash as now here I sit thinking “what’s wrong with me”. But oh well… otherwise I think I’ve loved every Wild Beer Co ale I’ve supped. Redwood is right up my alley, it’s got the right funk. With that in mind: others think the funk that I like is utterly disgusting in a beer.
Is it ever right to say a beer is bad? Is it analysis, or is this a thing more like art – where a sort of cult culture can transcend the reality in your mouth. Fuck, this is too complicated for 6AM on a Monday.
ANYWAY. It’s all over now, it sounds like the Birmingham beer Bash was somewhat of a success so if the suffering of running such an event again isn’t too daunting to the organisers then we can hope to see it again next year. If it does happen again: GO. For an ambitious first-time independent beer festival run mainly by enthusiasts (rather than industry folk) B3 came together amazingly well. Good beer, good food, no daft boundaries. Oh – and damn good people too. Never forget the people… because that’s what this is all about really isn’t it? Beer brings us together, inspires conversation, and breaks down barriers.
Beer can also make us feel like we’ve woken up dead after being hit by a train. A harsh mistress indeed. [Update: No, now I’m suspecting a touch of food poisoning… not at all well today.]
That banana parfait thing as you call it looks bloody gorgeous!
Ref Shnoodlepip, as we sort of discussed earlier on twitter I really enjoyed it, but hadn’t read this I have to admit to understand where you or the brewers were coming from. From my perspective my first tasting was blind as it were, as someone plonked it front of me and said “taste that”. I only found out it was Wild after I’d tasted it and only found out it was the three way collab when I got home and looked into it for my blog post.
That said, I do agree with you that folks can be swayed into liking something, or even giving it the benefit of the doubt when they know it’s been brewed by someone they like or if peer pressure would make it uncool/controversial not too. But again on that point I also think that it’s then down to how the brewer/s interact, if you feel you know them as such, it’s probably human nature to feel a certain affinity with the product in beer or with anything really, all part of the experience.
No offence meant earlier if that is how it came across.
Thanks Phil – no offence taken by me! I’m far more worried about the fact that by coming across as a dick on Twitter I’ve upset brewers who I absolutely love. I had a thought process in my head at the time – and it came out wrong, and very critical. I posted a bad generalisation, and then should have shut the fuck up when asked for specifics – because the two together were not a fair representation of my thought process. I.e. “this is crap, they fucked up” is not a phrase I’d apply to Shnoodlepip. Though there are some cases where I *would* apply it with all that strength & anger. BrewDog’s 1st canning run (not to mention some other screw ups that weren’t merely “consistency issues”), something I had in NZ that that brewer later apologised about, a handful of buggered up casks (at least with cask there is typically little room for taints to be considered a good thing so you have some confidence when you tell a brewer their Ye Olde Bitter is buggered).
I didn’t like Shnoodlepip – but it wasn’t even a “drainpour” dislike. I detected a distinct “taint” (to my palate) in it which I have found in a couple of other beers recently. One was a Partizan sour/saison thing. Alongside all other Partizan saison-type beers I had at the time this particular one seemed “broken” to me. My guess was a sort of unintended infection – and when I encountered the same taint in Shnoodlepip the old mental cogs started whirring: will people love this beer because of who made it more than because of the beer itself. (I’d love to toy with some kind of blind tasting for this…)
I liken the taint to malt vinegar – in the case of Shnoodlepip this was in the sense of just a few pippet drops in a glass of beer, not in the sense of like drinking actual vinegar. I’m also well aware that whatever it is may be perfectly fine, possibly even by design and actively a good flavour to others. I don’t even like vinegar on my chips – yet many British folk consider a dousing with malt vinegar an essential.
On the other handy – *I* love some funky/bretty beers that some others I know don’t even want to be in the same room as.
Nice one, Shnoodle bottles coming soon so maybe organise that blind taste off.
I had another beer over the weekend that I thought I’d love but absolute hated, the problem was that I’d had a taste bud stripping IPA right before it and it was massively sweet, one for me to try again I think as loads of folk were raving about it.
(P.S where is the follow button on here?)
Shnoodlepip was my 1st beer of the day. I was really looking forward to it – given the brilliant brewers behind the crazy recipe. I had a few sips and handed it to Kat, complaining that it wasn’t right. (Kat mainly thought it was “too sour”.) I later ventured another third of my own – which I drank, but not with relish – IIRC aroma was more strongly wrong than flavour, but the two come so closely together it is difficult to separate one from another. (Of the many continental sours I have tried I have never come across this note – I have only found recently it in about 3 beers from small/new UK breweries.)
Of course, with Wild Beer Co at least the “M.O.” is “wild” – so love it or hate it, there’s always that that to consider. Their beers are not intended to be “normal” and, I suppose, anything goes.
Anyway – if I find bottles available I am definitely going to order one and subject myself to it again.
(Follow button… for what sort of “follow”? RSS? Something else? I’ve never really bothered with such things.)