Monthly Archives: July 2014

Malteni Amber

malteni-amber
Malteni Beer, is based in Northern France very close to the brewery in Belgium. It was started by 2 cycling enthusiasts with branding for cycling fans. The beer is organic and gluten free.

Amber Beer, Malteni Brewery, Brunehaut, France
6.5% alcohol
Pours with a huge amount of foam, very carbonated. This is an agreeable malty amber ale, without any serious complexity of flavour or a memorable finish, but good to drink nonetheless. Certainly head and shoulders above any mass produced French lager for example. 6.0/10

To Øl Sans Frontiere

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To Øl is Danish for ‘two beers’, and it’s a collaboration between Tobias Emil Jensen and Tore Gynther, who were students of famous craft brewer Mikkeller and who, like him, are gypsy brewers.  Their goal is to make potent beers, full of flavour and character, and they started brewing back in 2010. This one is aged in white wine barrels, and brewed at De Proef Bruwerij, Belgium. For more about them: http://to-ol.dk/home/

To Øl Sans Frontière
7% alcohol
A Belgian ale dry hopped with European hops and refermented with Brettanomyces. Deep copper colour. Sweet, slightly yeasty nose with a hint of caramel and fine notes of malt and pepper. Rich-textured palate is smooth with caramel and malt sweetness and some tangy, spicy, herby notes. There’s a little bit of citrus/grapefruit and a hint of apricot, as well as a faint hint of wild funkiness. Salty caramel core anchors everything. Distinctive. 8/10

Why craft beer needs a definition

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Craft beer is on the rise, but it’s currently not properly defined.

What exactly is craft beer? At the moment anyone can put this term on the label, however the beer is made and whoever it is made by.

This is a problem, and I think that craft beer urgently needs some sort of legal definition. Big brewers are already producing boring, insipid beers and then dressing them up to look like craft beer, and this threatens the progress of the whole craft beer movement.

Why? Because if regular consumers try one of these ‘craft’ beers and find they are dull and unmemorable, then they’ll probably not try another.

The other threat is that of large breweries buying craft breweries, ramping up production, using cheaper ingredients, and slowly killing their reputations.

In the US, craft beer has been defined by the Brewers Association:

  • Fewer than 6 million barrels per year
  • No more than 25% of the brewery can be owned or controlled by a non-craft brewer

Interestingly, the rules were softened in 2010 when pioneering craft brewer Sam Adams grew beyond the previous maximum size of 2 million barrels. The Brewers Association also dropped the requirement that half of the brewery’s product be made from barely malt, rather than using corn or rice as a sugar source.
In the EU there is no definition. Scottish craft brewery Brewdog have proposed that craft beer should be defined thus:

  • Small – <500 000 hectolitres per year
  • Authentic – original gravity and no use of rice, corn
  • Honest – ingredient labelling and place of production on label, and all made at a craft brewery
  • Independent – no more than 20% owned by a brewing company operating any brewery that is not craft

The craft beer revolution has created a massive commercial opportunity for craft beers, and this is something that big breweries are eyeing up. Craft beer has exploded in the US, and this has led to the recent revolution in the UK. Consider the facts:

  • In 1978 there were just 89 breweries in the USA.
  • Now there are 2800, and the vast majority make less than 15 000 barrels. 25 have passed 100 000 barrels.
  • Currently craft beer is 8% of volume and 14% of value of US beer market, and this is expected to reach 20% by volume in 2020.

Imitation craft beers are now the big threat. Lines are blurring as some of the craft breweries get bigger, with the category becoming more mainstream. Shelves will likely fill up with products that look like craft beers, use the term on the label, but are actually boring industrial beers from big brewers. This is a big problem as it poisons the water for existing craft breweries who are making great beer.

This is why some sort of definition would be useful. But is there a better term? Might microbrewed beer be better than craft beer?

And, of course, it is possible for small breweries to make dull beer, just as it is possible for large breweries to make great beer. Generally speaking, though, the large breweries tend to make less interesting beer because they are catering for a mass market taste, and are using cheaper ingredients – when you are making serious quantities of beer, the accountants are not happy if the ingredients are pricey, and cutting this cost can save a lot of money.

Beerd Brewery Slivertip New Zealand Pale Ale, from a Bristol craft brewery

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This is interesting. It’s a bottled beer from Bristol craft brewpub Beerd, which is owned by Bath Ales. I’m not sure it’s so clear describing it as a ‘New Zealand Pale Ale’, when it’s an English beer, but this is probably the wine part of me being sensitive. It is made exclusively from New Zealand hops, including the famous Nelson Sauvin variety. Maybe New Zealand-style is better? I think this is something the beer fraternity need to address. But it’s a really nice beer. This bottled version is available as an exclusive from Bibendum to the on-trade.

Beerd Brewery Slivertip New Zealand Pale Ale
4.7% alcohol. Full gold colour. Lovely aromas of herbs, citrus and hops. The palate is fresh with a light sweet maltiness and savoury, hoppy, herby notes as well as bright lemon and grapefruit characters. Very refreshing and not as exotic as many craft beers. 7.5/10

Double IPA, London Fields Brewery

london-fields
London Fields Brewery,was born in August 2011, based in the centre of Hackney, under railway arches next to the oasis of greenery within the smoke that is London Fields itself. Now a part of a growing number of fine breweries in Hackney they help put Hackney on the map as a destination for great beer.

Double IPA, London Fields Brewery, Hackney, London
7.2% alcohol
Limited edition. Quite simply a lovely, balanced, relatively complex yet elegant, not overly hopped pale ale with hidden strength. It doesn’t have the rich mouth feel of other Doubles, a benefit meaning you won’t tire of it. The combination of amarillo, chinook and simcoe hops shine through the top notes of peach, pine, and spice. Nice. 8.1/10