It’s a brilliant time to be a beery Brightonian. The Pond opened on Wednesday and is offering Beavertown’s George, Bierhaus is imminent and looking like a fortress of boozy goodness, and, if you can contemplate more excitement, it is a sunny Tap Takeover weekend!
I was lucky enough to be in on the Meet the Brewer tasting and launch tour on Friday. Laines Pub Co offered wonderful hospitality and there is no questioning the passion of the brewers, who this year came from as far afield as Croatia and Barcelona.
It was the Croatian brewer Garden’s Citrus IPA that stood out in the tasting, both for appearance (it actually had a head!) and taste. It was smooth and rich without the saliva-sapping bitterness all too common with this style. The 7.2% strength adds depth and character and it has a balance and subtlety that so many others lack.
The sours on show were also good. Three of the six we tried were kettle or aged sours – more on that later.
The canning line at The North Laine is fun and a nice personal touch. I’m gutted my Sow by White Hag was picked up by someone else; I hope they enjoy it all the same.
I’ve heard a lot of people saying that the venues are places they would never normally visit for a beer, as if that were a bad thing. What would be the point in showcasing beers in the places you went all the time? You go there for good beer already. I loved visiting pubs I hadn’t been in for ten years.
Standouts on the tour included Fourpure’s Vanilla Porter in The Mash Tun, a silky smooth but hugely potent number; everything on offer from Fierce at The White Rabbit; Wylam’s Black Wit at Dead Wax Social was intriguingly bonkers; and the Fermentation Radio and Two Tribes NEIPA collaboration at The Mesmerist was hugely enjoyable.
It would be uncharacteristic for my blog to be a celebration of how great everything was, and so we reach the inevitable ‘but…’
As mentioned above, three of the six beers at the tasting were sours. Not wholly surprising as I wrote in November that they would explode in popularity this year. But why must the scene chase trends like this? Most recently we’ve had NEIPAs, before that it was Stouts that could sozzle an elephant. The modern IPA is still going strong with hops masking a cornucopia of dull-as-you-like beers, though most at the Tap Takeover are fine examples.
Each time a brewer tells me they want to open people’s eyes to sour beer my eyelids get heavier. My eyes were opened by Cantillon, Boon and Oude Beersel more than a decade ago. Since then I have visited Berlin to find their Berlinerweisse, then Leipzig to try authentic Gose. Years ago Siren released Calypso and Tool were producing great sours.
Rather than opening our eyes brewers seem to be behind the pace at times, only brewing new styles having been introduced to them later than a lot of us.
Creating fads is the quickest way to disenfranchise genuine fans while getting lost in the crowd. I thoroughly respect those who have brought Pilsners, mid-strength Stouts, Brown Ales and Bitters. So hats off to Five Points, Moor Beer, Garden, and Gypsy Hill for not telling me what I should be drinking, and for bringing beers that I like drinking. ‘Classic’ is not a dirty word, and classic styles are not easy to make or boring to drink.
The Tap Takeover is amazing and creates an unbelievable atmosphere around town – there are so many brilliant beers and lovely people to try them with. The sun is shining and this bonanza of brew is a wonderful excuse for you to visit a pub, discover great beer, and enjoy Brighton in all its glory.