What is this “natural” you speak of?

I’ve long been meaning to do a detailed write-up about beer packaging, so I have one place to point people to who’re somehow confused and have odd ideas about about “keg”. A poor and quite misunderstood three-letter-word is “keg”, and to be honest “cask” is pretty misunderstood too. I don’t have time to write that post… but I can address one aspect of the the pro-cask FUD that comes up frequently. The use of the word “natural” with respect to beer. To cut a long story short: it is pure propaganda.

What is “natural beer”? I think I can pick off a few obvious items that may make some people think beer has lost its “naturalness”:

  • Pasteurised – a process of heating the beer to ensure it is sterile – i.e. the yeast, and any other organisms that may change the beer are killed. Heating will of course change the beer in other ways as well, some volatiles (hop flavours for example) will break down. Pasteurisation is great for stability but perhaps less great for flavour. Stability? Well, perhaps not… live yeast has a known protective quality. It will sit in your beer and “mop up” some excess O2 thus reducing oxidation. (And no seal is perfect, so as well as helping with any O2 left in the beer after filling this helps with the small O2 leakage through capped bottles and probably even cans.)
  • Sterile Filtered – a different approach to achieve the same end. Rather than killing yeasts/etc it filters them out of the solution. But such a fine filter will also remove some large molecules that contribute to flavour. As for the beer now being “dead” – this has the same impact as described above. (If one of these two have to be used then I’ll prefer filtration… there is another approach: centrifuge. Thornbridge and BrewDog use this… and their bottled products are pretty fantastic.)
  • Contains “chemicals” – contentious. The obvious truth is that all beer is made from chemicals! What I guess we have to read into this in context is the addition of extra substances not normally used for brewing. What are these though? Near all breweries add chemicals to treat their water, malts come with the required enzymes for starch conversion, adjuncts like sugars/wheat/etc are perfectly acceptable for certain styles. So “chemicals” is really a pretty confused area and probably best considered bunkum. Some breweries may use added enzymes to speed up mash/fermentation processes I believe. I know a couple of good breweries adding an extra enzyme to de-glutenise beers without altering their flavour (a great thing for coeliacs!) I think that, like the word “natural”, the word “chemicals” is an all-too-easy-to-reach-for emotive word thrown around blindly in the whole cask/keg debate. (Were sulphites perhaps once used to stabilise beer?) (Where do finings in cask ale fit in here – isinglass and the various adjuncts used alongside it?)
  • “Extraneous CO2″ – what’s this then? In CAMRA terms it is use, in any way, of CO2 not created by the action of yeast in the beer. This is also a contentious issue. As there is argument even within CAMRA about the appropriateness of CO2 in the cellar. The big question is around aspirators (aka “cask breathers”) which let just enough CO2 into cask to protect the beer from air contact. And air, really, is the worst thing for beer. No good brewer wants you to be drinking oxidised, stale, beer. I go further and wonder what is so bad about CO2 full-stop. But I guess we hit a personal preference issue regarding fizziness here and I’ll leave it at that.

I think those four items are key to what is behind ideas about “unnatural” beer. The first two are ones I personally think are not really in the interests of good beer… and in fact in my book use of either of them is a line crossed. From what I’d consider a “craft” product to one that quite simply isn’t. Does it make beer “unnatural” … sure, I’ll buy into that a bit. It certainly makes it less than it was and, sure, one could say it makes the beer “dead”.

The whole chemicals thing is just puzzling to me. I’d like to know what these evil chemicals are… but I’ve yet to come across them in the brewing world. And as I said – without chemicals you cannot have beer. (Nor life, nor anything really…)

Now, CO2… the point of this post is to show that your ideas of “natural beer” wade into a big grey area in the world of modern brewing. We do have another point often brought up about what makes “cask ale” natural… that is cask conditioning. “Naturally conditioned beer”… i.e. carbonated by the action of yeast in the beer, not force-carbonated by addition of external CO2. So a natural beer is one that is conditioned in the container it is served from and that involves none of the items in the above list (assuming by “chemicals” we’re talking some odd crazy substances used to somehow adulterate the brewing process).

I bring to your attention the humble KeyKeg. An interesting little keg-type device in which beer is contained within a bladder from which it is extracted using pressure (air will do, but often CO2 is used). The important thing to know about KeyKegs is that many breweries who use them put exactly the same beer into them as they put into casks. Live, good, natural, beer. It conditions in the container it is served from. It does not come into contact with extraneous CO2. The only difference between this beer from keg versus cask is that the keg version will probably be served at a cooler temperature and with more (natural) CO2 remaining in solution.

This beer, from KeyKeg, is a fully “natural” product by any wild definition I can think of.

Moving on from KeyKegs… breweries filling conventional kegs usually do so from a conditioning tank where the beer has been “naturally” carbonated. Again. Live, good, natural, beer. Some even let the beer condition in these kegs (Moor, for example). The only point where the “naturalness” may come into question is when CO2 top-pressure is used to expel beer from keg. And frankly… that’s just a bit of an odd viewpoint to have, in my purely personal opinion. CO2 is CO2. The “extraneous CO2″ does not necessarily add “fizz” to the beer – if used appropriately it just maintains the CO2 level the beer is designed to have. That carbonation level has been chosen by by the brewer – it is as the brewer intends it to be. They’ve, naturally, brewed a beer to be served fizzier. You may not like that… but it is still live, natural, beer.

Next step is to swing across to the grey area of “cask conditioning”. Those “conditioning tanks” I mentioned before are used by many breweries to pre-condition beer prior to filling both cask and keg. So again – in all of the above keg scenarios identical beer is being put into cask. The difference is that the keg version has its natural CO2 level preserved by using CO2 top-pressure, and the cask has its CO2 level reduced via venting.

So sure – there are differences… but unless letting “naturally” created CO2 escape from beer to make it flatter is an essential part of being “natural” (really? really!?) then I think you can drop the silly cask-is-natural keg-is-unnatural approach.

(And I’m really really not saying you have to like cooler fizzier beer… I’m just staying stop claiming it isn’t “natural”. This is needlessly emotive FUD that does nothing for good beer except add confusion. If you want to play at politics (aka lying) then go join a political party… what the beer world needs is facts, not bullshit.)

Chemicals, sub-note: is there a finings Elephant in the room anyone? There’s the (emotive) “fish guts” isinglass finings, and alongside these many breweries use various finings adjuncts like silica-gel. There is an argument that these “drop out” of the beer and you don’t drink them. But there’s always going to be some trace of these “chemicals” left in suspension. Justin of Moor Beer also likes to use the word “natural” – in his case to refer to beer that has not been mucked with by adding finings (regardless of what container type the beer happens to be in). I have somewhat more respect for this usage of “natural”, but do prefer simply “unfined”… isinglass is, after-all, simply made from fish and fish are pretty natural.

[I’ve put up an additional post regarding some other iffy statements in the CAMRA article.]

Jolly Good Beer

jgb-logoI’ve refrained from saying much about this in case I bailed and left the project stillborn. Albeit I’ve not been particularly hush-hush… Anyway… I have beer in a cold-store now, and more beer on the way, quite a bit of beer all up… so this is most certainly going ahead.

What am I on about then? Simple: bringing more beer that I enjoy drinking into my part of the UK. That being Cambridgeshire and North Hertfordshire and areas thereabouts. We have some excellent pubs and some excellent local breweries, and I have nothing at all against the latter and enjoy their beer. But I just want to see a bit more variety. At the moment I get my variety mostly by drinking at home – and that’s just not right. The breweries in our area do do swaps with breweries elsewhere but they seem to bring in the same stuff over and over again. I’ve badgered breweries and pubs about this over the years and nothing much has changed… with many pubs simply saying they can’t get hold of this and that despite wanting do. FFS, we have several pubs here who can’t even get Dark Star and Thornbridge despite wanting it. (I’m not sure why, possibly due to not wanting to deal with the big distributors.)

So, thought I, if they can’t get hold of these beers… I know I can… I know breweries… I know pubs. How about joining these dots together.

Jolly Yellow Van

Jolly Yellow Van

Slowly this has come together, working out all the dull business-y bits took a while. Until now I’ve just been an office monkey so there has been a bit of a learning curve. Still have teething problems, like just discovering I have to hand a form in at a bank before I can actually pay money out of my Business Account. Useful… but I’m now ready to go. I have a big Jolly Yellow 350LWB Transit van (see right), I have sorted out an appropriate cold-store, and I have beer in it and en-route to it. The next part is getting it into pubs – several of which I already have relationships with… but for this exercise to be viable I need as many pubs as I can get. So now that I have actual beer on offer I’ll be bothering freehouses left, right, and centre. I just hope that enough are interested in something a bit different.

Hardknott Casks

Hardknott Casks

My initial selections bend a little to the conservative side – all cask and with a leaning to the lower ABV and less out-there styles. But I’ve included a scattering of IPA-style beers, some rich dark ones, and even a cask wit… to test the response from pubs. But don’t worry – my “conservative” includes great stuff like Redemption Trinity, Ilkley Mary Jane, and Hardknott Continuum – plus a lot of the core range from the same.

I’m also keen to do more than just deliver beer to pubs. I’m hoping to find some interest in more promotional activities and beer & food work as well. That’s part of why I did the Beer Academy course recently… it helps to have some sort of certificate, maybe? I’m pretty confident with my food and beer stuff, I come from an intensely foodie background (restaurant, parents are chefs, etc, etc). Also perhaps events, I’ll be getting my personal license sorted next week. Anyway – for the moment it is all about the beer.

The enterprise in question has been dubbed: Jolly Good Beer

A bit corny perhaps… but I like it. I’m an Aussie Anglophile… I like phrases like “jolly good!” Kat is responsible for the logo and will hopefully have time to brush up the website a bit soon as well. But that stuff isn’t really all that important. It is way behind: buying beer & selling beer and the vast amount of paperwork and back-office work that involves.



For my first wave I have Hardknott, Ilkley, and Redemption to thank for trusting me to look after their excellent beer. They’re all going to a nice safe 12°C storage container nearby which I will be monitoring with a data-logger just to be sure. This is just the start however and I have another three breweries in the pipeline… and more to come. I WANT ALL THE BEER… but sensibility dictates it comes in a little at a time at the moment. Anything not getting to the area that you’d really like to see? Let me know - via email, or via Twitter.

For information on where beers do get to follow @JollyGoodBeer… I’ll let you know who’s getting the good stuff.

Additionally – if you’re in my area (Cambs, N.Herts, and nearby) and know a good freehouse who might be interested in expanding their range let me know and I’ll be along to bother them shortly.

Hardknott Pumpclips

Hardknott Pumpclips

Aroxa “beer uno kit” – an evening of tainted Budweiser

Aroxa Uno kit

Aroxa Uno kit

I bought this Aroxa “beer uno kit” last year. They’re designed to make a litre of tainted beer per capsule so it seemed rather wasteful doing it with just Kat and I so we sat on the kit for a little while until we could organise an appropriate get-together (Note: BBE date on kit was July 2014 and kit was kept in a cool & dry spot). Eventually we managed to get a couple of other people involved and we did the tasting on Wednesday March 13, kindly hosted by The Table in Cambridge. It’s a pity we didn’t have a few more folk, but alas I don’t actually have that many beer-chums in Cambridge. (I should have popped down to North Herts for this I suppose.)



In the end our tasting panel consisted of Bob Arnott, Andrea from The Table, Kat and myself – plus a random chap who popped in for a coffee and tasted a couple of samples. I rocked up with 2 boxes of Budweiser (much to the amusement of one of the regulars), my own jug, and some plastic sample “glasses”. The Table folk provided water and some palate-cleansing plain bread.

The Table is on busy Regent Street – it has a huge plate-glass window and we were using the eponymous large central table. I definitely got some funny looks from passers by… twisting open colourful medicine-like gelcaps and pouring their content into a jug, whilst surrounded by cans of Bud…


Aroxa uno - Unboxed

Aroxa uno – Unboxed

The Aroxa kit is beautifully packaged. I appreciate the quality and look of it but do wonder how much it adds to the price. What you get for your money includes great presentation and plenty of information.

Want even more information? There’s a QR code on each card leading to the Aroxa page for the flavour. I’d thought at first this could be a useful tool for presenting the information on a large screen… but the format isn’t really right for that, it is also a bit of a drawback that the pages on the Aroxa site really don’t work well on small screens.

There is an instruction card which is clear enough. The only note I’d make is that some of the capsules were quite difficult to open… not so simple as “twist off top”. Half of them needed a firmer grip and a bit of a squeeze to loosen. I gave in and had to rip the top off one capsule.

I poured everyone a “control” glass of Bud, and then we worked through the flavours in the order listed in the box…



2,3-butanedione – Diacetyl – “like butter, or butter popcorn”

A classic? Also much debated – most brewers I know seem to hate even trace diacetyl, due to it being an indicator for a pile of sloppy practices. However as the notes for this one say, it is sometimes considered appropriate in some styles of beer. I have also heard it asserted by some brewers that this is total garbage.

All a matter of taste? Sometimes when you’re tasting beer and this one comes up you’ll overhear someone say what a wonderful butterscotch note it has – or what a great buttery mouthfeel. They love it – and this is not uncommon.

Diacetyl has interested me for a long while as it is much discussed and I’ve never been sure if I’m detecting it properly. All of us had some trouble picking this one up on the nose although I think it was pretty distinct on an initial short-sharp snort for me. In the mouth the difference was clear – albeit the taint quite light (according to all of us). The Bud had an added mouthfeel and even umami from the diacetyl. I think we all thought it was actually better than plain Bud!

dimethyl sulphide – DMS – “like sweetcorn or tomato sauce”

Another one commonly talked about – usually in the context of lagers. Not one I’ve given much thought to and I don’t think I’ve ever detected it distinctly in any beer – I don’t drink much lager in general.

Like the diacetyl we all had trouble picking this up distinctly on the nose – but there seemed to be something there. To me the first sip of the tainted beer was “horrid” – from my notes. And correct to its reputation – creamed sweetcorn I thought. The horridness quickly dissipated however, and a couple of sips later it was in “I could drink it” territory.

I really don’t know about the “tomato sauce” element to this. But I’m not really a user of tomato sauce.

ferrous sulphate – Metallic – “like ink or blood”

This one I know mostly from times when I open a bottle and sadly note a bit of rust around the top. Bad quality caps? I clean the rust off and hope the taint isn’t in the beer – invariably it is.

The taint gave the Bud a sharp astringent aroma, although only lightly so. On taste it was immediately obvious – and pretty undrinkable to all of us… except for a random chap who’d wandered in for coffee. I gave him a sample of this and of plain Bud and he preferred the ferrous sulphate tained one. So there you go… no accounting for taste.

I don’t drink ink, and only have a passing familiarity with blood – but yes, there’s a definite resemblance to the latter. More so iron nails – ever do some woodwork and for lack of a better option hold some nails in your lips? That. It might also be akin to heavily tannic wines.

hop oil extract – Hop oil – “like hoppy ale”

We weren’t sure what to expect from “hop oil” – given this is a bit of powder in a capsule we weren’t really expecting “hoppy” in the modern sense. And it wasn’t – it was a bit odd really.

This one divided us a bit. I got a peppery thing on the nose, not unlike some hop notes – but it really didn’t agree with my mouth. There was a pepper/resin hint but mostly a horrid sort of crushed-ant formaldehyde/plasticy thing at the back of my mouth and up the nasal passages. I found it quite unpleasant. On my side was the random ferrous sulphate lover… odd.

Kat and Bob didn’t mind this one so much, definitely seeming to have enjoyed it at first. Kat says that for her it built up from being OK to being unpleasant.

I’m not sure what the use of this flavour standard is… it didn’t give me an experience akin to anything I’ve had with a beer before. The card says “like hoppy ale”… hmmm.

hydrogen sulphide – H2S – “like boiled or rotten eggs”

The classic “Burton snatch” – the struck match of a Burton ale. I found this pretty much clear and as expected on the nose, albeit a bit on the stronger side than usual. Funnily enough it seemed to improve the beer in the mouth – adding an umami not otherwise present, that fended off the bland sweetness of Bud.

A pretty simple one really – although Bob found it at odds with his typical experience of classic Burton ales such as White Shield (which he drinks a lot of because as well as being a good beer the bottles are great for homebrew – labels come off with ease… noted!) I’ll grab some White Shield next time I see it… for “research” purposes. Bob also suggested trying Adnams Southwold Bitter for similar “research” reasons. (Both are beers I’ve had in the past – but not recently, and very infrequently.)

Personally this one hit home, reminiscent of beers for which I’ve often remarked “this seems heavily Burtonised”. Although I probably have my finger on the wrong button there as the sulphury note is probably caused by other problems.

isoamyl acetate – “like bananas or pear drops”

Yep, banana. Pretty distinctive… and really very odd to drink Bud with this taint alongside normal Bud. It really could have been a crappy Kristallweizen!

Not much else to add… flavour wise just a bit too lolly-banana compared to the real thing, but this is probably because it lacked other flavour elements of a proper wheat beer. Pear drops? I’ve never had one. I must find some to enhance my flavour education because this is used a lot in flavour descriptors. Albeit Bob and Andrea didn’t seem to get much of a pear drop note out of this one – it was all banana.

3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol – Light-struck – “like a skunk or freshly-brewed coffee”

This was an interesting one for all of us. A much discussed beer problem and one we all think we know – but without certainty. How many Brits have sniffed a skunk?

Immediately and distinctly obvious on even “arms length” aroma. I got strong whiffs of it as I prepared the tainted beer. And it really is that “supermarket lager” smell… you know, typical multinational brand clear and green glass sort of stuff. Now I’ve had it confirmed I know I’ve smelt this many many times before.

The taint even came through pretty strongly in the mouth for all of us – which I think isn’t usual when present in beer. None of us really “got used to it” either.

Skunks I don’t know… and whoever thinks freshly brewed coffee smells like this really needs to buy better coffee. Yuck! All of us were drinkers of good coffee in various formats, and we were sitting in a good coffee shop – the opinion on this was unanimous. However – the strong aroma gave me an immediate shot of nostalgic recollection. It’s a smell I’ve come across bushwalking back home in Western Australia. But from what? I think it is particular to scrubby coastal area. Most likely a particular plant. Sort of a heavy musky animal aroma.

trans-2-nonenal – Papery – “like cardboard or oxidized beer”

Ahhh… all cask ale drinkers know this one far too well. Sadly. It is a serious problem in UK “real ale” drinking, oxidation is rife in cask ale.

Yet I drink with folk who’ll happily down several pints of a really quite nastily oxidised beer and claim it is wonderful. Then there are the ones who’ll drink a good hop-forward golden ale and claim it “nasty” but love it when it is still on three days later because it has “smoothed out” and “mellowed”. Ah, anyway, enough of a rant.

On the nose this was pretty typical and what I expected. In the mouth *POW* … yuck. Worse than I’ve ever found in a beer, thankfully. It was pure “wet cardboard” – the flavour sense directly akin to a strong wet cardboard aroma.

2,4,6-trichloroanisole – Musty – “like corked wine or a damp cellar”

A slight odd-one-out being a taint none of us had really heard much about before. “Musty” beer?

The aroma was distinct and horrible. Mildew. Damp. I took a sip. I spat it out. Disgusting. It was like drinking the smell of damp. Retch. Quoting Bob: “Fuck, that is revolting!

In the distant past I’ve done a wine tasting and sales course and had to taste corked wine. And yes, quite similar – horrible mouldy flavour. Sometimes well hidden in big strong reds, but distinct if you know what you’re looking for. Thankfully I have never had this in a beer, and I hope that remains the case. However I do think I’ve had very similar in several ciders. Cider is a minefield of horrible flavours.

4-vinyl guaiacol – Phenolic – “like cloves or wheat beer”

On name alone this didn’t come out as we expected. In the beer world “phenolic” tends to be use a lot to describe smoky flavours, we were thinking Islay whisky – “yay” thought me, and “yuck” thought Bob. It’s Islay versus Speyside – I’m firmly in the Islay camp.

However – this is a different phenol, much to Bob’s relief. The aroma was a bit Belgian, and the flavour more so. Whilst the notes say a signature of German-style Wheat beers Bob though more Wit than Wheat. I thought Hoegaarden – so that’s about right.

This is another one that made the beer more palatable to me, even if in a very odd “flavoured beer” sort of way. As for “cloves” – I’m not so sure, maybe lightly so but with a slight coriander seed element, or that could just be some associative memory. I’m the sort of weirdo who will occasionally fish a clove out of the spice cupboard to chew on, so as a flavour I know it very well.

Wrap Up



All up this was an excellent fun exercise. I think if you have 8 or so folk in a homebrew club, or similar, it would be well worth splitting up the cost of a kit a like this and giving it a go. For some this will just be for confirmation and thus confidence… yes, that really is “skunk”, etc. For others it might be a bit more eye-opening. The advantage of having at least 8 people is that it won’t cost you much more than a tenner each. Not bad for the experience.

However – a single pass like this is fun and interesting, but I don’t feel it is enough. If I had such a club of people I’d try to arrange four dates and get four kits. Do the first run and then do a series of blind tastings. Really lock in some certainty. It’d still cost you less than 50 quid per person – if you’re a flavour and beer nerd like me that’s money well spent I reckon. I’m not personally sure the 10 flavours in the Aroxa kit are ideal though – and I’d carefully consider the competition, FlavorActiV is a bit more expensive but has a different set of flavours and also a 20-flavour kit. And I could really have done without that “mouldy” 2,4,6-trichloroanisole … despite hardly putting any in my mouth I thought I could still taste it an hour later. [Edit: Rich of The Beer Cast has now written up his experience with FlavorActiV kit – check it out for a comparison!]

A brief discussion was had about whether or not you could do this sort of thing as a paid-for gig. A format involving sampling tainted beer followed by some good beers and food would be the way to go we thought. But what would people pay? Probably not enough… the 10-flavour Aroxa kit is £82.80 (FlavorActiV do a similar one for £96 inc-VAT), the required 11 litres of Budweiser (or similar) is about £25, add in some food and decent beer at a price of, say, £15 per head … assuming 8 to 10 people you have a per-head cost range of £25-£30 quid. Would someone pay £50 for a session like this? (First test: would I? I’m not sure. I’d probably consider it… but then I’m a beer nerd, I’m shelling out much more to do a 2-day Beer Academy course.) Maybe with the good food and beer split out of the price as an optional “good food and beer will be available to purchase after” – and thus a price for just the tasting of about £35?

Thanks once again to The Table for providing space (and bread) for the tasting session. Do visit them – they have great food, excellent coffee, and also some tasty beers in the fridge. We were mighty glad to cleanse our tastebuds with some Pressure Drop and Five Points brews after the session.

Five Points - Hook Island Red

Five Points – Hook Island Red





Craft Beer Rising 2014 – The Experience

Craft Beer RisingLast year I was lightly scathing of Craft Beer Rising – I had fun, but it felt too much like the IT trade shows of my “real” life… just much more intoxicated and with slightly messier loos. There were few “target” breweries on the list for me and many of the new names turned out to be grim US mega-craft or similar brand-led swill. But there was definitely enough good beer and I enjoyed my visit.

Yeastie Pants (antipodean for trousers)

Yeastie Pants

Bring on 2014 – I almost didn’t sign up, but then I heard the Yeastie Boys were putting in an appearance with Melissa Cole. My favourite antipodean brewery with my favourite UK beer foodie… that was enough. When I finally worked out what breweries were going to be at Craft Beer Rising the deal was more than sealed. The list looked better than the 2013 offering… a mix of big boys, craft leaders, and smaller breweries who were probably taking a real “marketing budget” gamble to build their brand. Whilst it may not seem it sometimes, I’m all for brand and awareness building – it’s the commercial reality. I just get narky when, as all too often happens, the brand seems to become more important than the product. Anyway…

This year Craft Beer Rising delivered on the promise of that brewery list. I managed to keep myself fully occupied for two sessions and came away with a list of breweries I’d not given enough time, or actually missed entirely. Next year I might do a session on all three days, although the Cambridge train-fare is a blow to the wallet. Then again – maybe I should just talk at people less and drink more beer.

I have a recollection that last year there was a lot more gravity cask around as well less of a selection on the keg front. This year I think we could re-dub the event “Keg Beer Rising” – many stands hadn’t bothered with cask at all, and where it was present it was often overshadowed at the back of the stall by the keg fonts boldly standing proud on the bar front. I’m not knocking this – I think it is fantastic.

Marstons Revisionist Keg Beer

Marstons Revisionist Keg Beer

Craft Beer Rising is still an utterly different experience to my benchmark beer event: Indy Man Beer Con. IMBC offers a carefully selected list of the best of British micro-brewing (according to the crafterati?) and has a feel of being an event that, first and foremost, is for the drinkers. A lot of brewery folk are present, and they make it wonderful, but their brand isn’t in your face… it’s not really their event. Craft Beer Rising on the other hand feels to be first and foremost about the breweries – as with any trade show they get their own piece of floor & they get to put their brand forward. Breweries get to buy-in in a way not offered at IMBC*… I can’t imagine Greene King or Marstons being able to pay their way onto the IMBC list, nor Old Dominion or Point for that matter. But here they are, 150k-barrels-a-year brands alongside breweries that were home-breweries a year ago. It’s kind of cool and the big-boys-mingling-with-start-ups atmosphere harks back to RSA conferences in the tech security scene. It helps that the brewing scene seems to be just as incestuous.

There are great advantages to the trade-show format for the customer too. More tat, if that’s your thing… stickers, badges, beer mats, shirts. It’s branding city. There is also lot of opportunity to pick up special bottled beers to take away, many at very good prices. The breweries are here to sell themselves and, within reason, you can take advantage of that – beer samples flow generously.

Wiper & True Badges


I Love Jaipur


Carbo - Pouch

Carbo – Pouch

CBR is different. But that’s not a problem – good trade shows can be fun.  I think 2013 was a learning experience for both the organisers and the breweries involved and they’ve come back better for it in 2014. This year it was bigger, slicker, and more varied. Craft Beer Rising is a worthy addition to the growing annual line-up of craft(ier) beer events.

Colin enjoying a beer at Craft Beer Rising 2014.

Colin enjoying a beer at Craft Beer Rising 2014.

* True, there is the “Turkish Baths” – but that supports just the one “brand”. Last year that was Magic Rock. There’s also capacity for some breweries to pimp themselves more through talks and events. The 1st IMBC in 2012 was a little more brand-y with one pool having individual brewery-managed bars with a bit of branding present. The 2013 IMBC swung away from this with each room containing a single bar shared by selected breweries.

Craft Beer Rising – who’s going?

UPDATE: Glad to note that the CBR folks have put a sort of a brewery list online. It’s a PDF of brewery logos… looking good, check it out by clicking here!

I went to Craft Beer Rising in 2013 and it was a bit of a disappointing come-down from October 2012’s IMBC experience. Reflecting on it this week I’m thinking “cross between an IT industry trade-show and a concrete car-park – with the the bonus of beer”. As grim as that sounds, I did say at the time I’d go again and I enjoyed the day out.

It’s been a close one though. I was considering skipping the gig, the fact that the CBR people are too lazy to maintain a useful and informative website was a big drag factor. They’re in the “just posting random shite on FaceBollocks is sufficient” camp  – even their Twitter feed is mostly links into FaceBollocks. I don’t mind people using FaceBollocks but don’t make it your primary platform FFS. It’s a daft mess. People “doing it wrong” online really get my goat… but then…


I found out the @YeastieBoys would be along to do some tastings with Melissa Cole… sod. I’ve been keen on them and their beer ever since drinking huge volumes of it back in New Zealand in 2011. Coming to the UK you say? Maybe there’ll be some exRRex along, or failing that I’d settle for Rex Attitude. Phwoar! (They’re also brewing up a cask version of their wonderful tea-infused Gunnamatta at Adnams for the Wetherspoons fest while they’re here.) With this in mind I thought I’d have a closer look… still no damn list. Oh well. Websuck, vim, search, type… and I have this:

I think this is not complete – that last one was announced only yesterday. Anyway, as it stands it is a tantalising list of beery names – and it is definitely better than last year. In fact this list certainly makes it worth my while attending… why the CBR folks can’t simply put it on their next-to-useless website I don’t know. Not everyone has time to trawl through a messy social media backlog (I wouldn’t have bothered but for the Yeastie Boys info). At least I didn’t have to create yet-another-temporary-account to get to their stuff on FaceBollocks – they win points for not putting up the usual FB Brick Wall of No Data Access.

Anyway – see you at Craft Beer Rising’s Saturday arvo session if you’re about. Here’s where our day out at the event last year ended up:

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.