A bit late? Or right on time?

I have been meaning to write this for some time now. I have been sitting on my thoughts, my feelings and yes, some anger for long enough. Maybe I wanted just to wait: store all my thoughts into a collective heap. That way I could keep ignoring them, get on with things. But no: working for a brewery based in the West Midlands doesn’t help the frustration! The collective heap kept staring at me, gnawing away, even growing. Is it ‘a bit late? Or right on time?’ for this blog? I guess you decide, but first I need you all to stare at the monster. Familiar to me, but a new horizon for you: The West Midlands beer scene….


I asked a question on Twitter in the form of a poll on the 18th July 2017: ‘Do you think the beer scene in the West Midlands is overlooked? If so, what could be done to improve it?’. I was taken aback by some of the responses. Impressed, deflated and left in shock at the overall thoughts of some people and the way they view the centre of the UK. Let me break this down first of all:  the poll was only answered by 231 people, a teeny tiny small percentage of the beer loving public. It also gives no geographical detail of those that responded: it could in theory have been 200 people from the West Midlands. Or, on the other hand, they could all be from elsewhere. Whichever way you look at it, polls are polls. What I did not expect, however, was the conversation that happened under the Tweet. For me, this was more fascinating. It also gave me (and a few others) a better understanding of what on earth is going on in the West Midlands at the moment.

Here are a few Tweets that I received; I tried to answer as many as I could. If you would like to go back and refresh your minds, or even Tweet me again, you can find the poll and the Tweets HERE!


Sensing a general theme? It seems like Breweries, bars and events aren’t shouted about enough in the West Midlands. I live in the area and am involved in the beer scene, so I know about the majority of things that are happening, and I can tell you that they ARE happening. We had our first ever Beer Week based in Birmingham this year: who knew about that outside of the West Midlands? The Birmingham Beer Bizarre happened this year too, a massive beer festival smack bang in the middle of Birmingham: who heard about this? There are taprooms open on Friday nights and at weekends around the Birmingham and Coventry area. Bars, bottle shops and pubs are now regularly opening their taps for ‘meet the brewers’  Do you know when the next one is?

There has been a like-minded group of people working on this issue in the form of The Midlands Beer Blog (Twitter: @midlandsbeerbc). They get around. A lot. If you are interested in the Midlands Beer Scene I would say this would be the best place to start… a lovely bunch of people who can direct you to the right places for beer around the West Midlands! For a start, check out their BEER MAP.

The West Midlands has been redeveloping its transport network for the last year or so, with trams now accompanying buses, trains and taxis as means of venturing in to places like Coventry and Birmingham, making it easier to get around. Places like Earlsdon in Coventry – home of Beer Gonzo – is very easy to get from the train station. Cotteridge Wines, Stirchley Wines and Wild Cat Tap are more accessible than you think with a 5 minute walk from Kings Norton train station. Yet accessibility seems to be a problem. With any trip away to another city/town, you will need to plan. Places like Leeds, Manchester and London etc. are well known for certain beer bars. Test yourself: how many do you know in Birmingham or Coventry? If the answer is none, ask yourself why you don’t? Is it because of a preconceived idea that the West Midlands is devoid of good beer and not served well? Any city in the UK has at least a few pubs or bars that will serve beer to your taste, why not give the West Midlands a chance?


I challenge that the breweries in the West Midlands are high enough quality already: Burning Soul are going to be taking part in Indy Man over the next week. Marstons (Banks’), no matter your taste in beer, are a high quality brewery: one that sells more beer than all other West Midlands breweries combined in a year. Bars in Birmingham are continually selling beer in the West Midlands. Even though we have fewer breweries in the West Midlands, we have a high number of breweries bringing out amazing core and seasonal beers, and still managing to sell a lot of beer outside of the West Midlands.


The final question I pulled out made me think a lot. What are WE as brewers, publicans, bottle shop owners and bloggers doing to get people looking at OUR scene. This is a hard one to answer, even looking to other areas: what does Manchester do to attract people there? How about Newcastle? Leeds? Other successful beery cities and towns? Regular events? The West Midlands does them. Social Media? All the main bottle shops, bars, and bloggers are very active online. So we are, in some ways, ensuring that people are looking at us. However, ensuring awareness of the West Midlands isn’t getting people into the taprooms here. It isn’t becoming a destination for people from Manchester and London. Why, because the scene has grown so slowly that people from other places do not need us anymore? They have their own bubble, their own unique places that they enjoy, why travel a few hours when you are happier at home? Well, come to the West Midlands – our home – and rather than wondering what the West Midlands can gain, find out what your City or Town is missing. Like this blog, our scene is not late. Our scene, the West Midlands beer scene, has actually arrived. It’s arrived like this blog: on time! But there is still more to come!




A bit late? Or right on time?

A year in beer.

Well, it’s coming to that time of the year again where beer enthusiastic bloggers and Tweeters are planning their golden pints for 2016. If you don’t know the golden pints are, it is each persons list of the top beers and beery people of the year. If you want to see how this works and want to be one of those people who cover my Twitter timeline with the hashtag #GoldenPints2016 you still have time… Maybe. If you’re reading this a little later, you certainly have time for next year. So go and get planning, while looking at my post HERE from last year and check out these awesome bloggers that have taken part this year:



As much as I would like to take part this year, I feel that so much happened to just name one brewery or person for each category: a lot have been more than wonderful. With that in mind, I wanted to break down the past year in beer for me on a personal/ professional level.

The year started with the mutterings that carried on from last year with the impending doom of a hop shortage. Brewers and breweries were tweeting about how they are worried about the lack of American, Australian and New Zealand hops coming into the country and how it would impact on breweries around the world. The output of these hops was drastically down on previous years. This meant all those lovely IPAs produced in the last year probably wouldn’t be produced as much. We were finally at an age of low bittered, low hopped beers, right? WRONG! Who would’ve expected it would be the year of the Double IPA. A beer that needs more hops than others; not just any hops but the fruitiest/ citrus tasting hops from the countries previously mentioned. Now that the yields of hops are extremely better this year, are we going to see this trend of overly hopped beers continue into next year? With the massive trend of NE American IPAs that has flushed over the UK this year, I doubt it will. Personally, I will be looking towards European styles of beers: Tripels, Hefes, Helles and even hoppy Pilsners.

Craft beer in 2016 was finally getting a definition in the UK. Then it didn’t. Then it did again. Then breweries were able to buy into a neat logo. Then they weren’t. It was a complete roller coaster of emotions (If you like queuing up and riding those things). Hoping for some form of press release/announcement/whatever in 2016 from United Brewer which didn’t come. A lot of people still had hope that the big micros of the UK could finally come to some agreement on how to protect the term ‘craft beer’. This in turn brought the term to the forefront of people tongues and, in my opinion, created an opportunity for breweries to label products how they see fit in marketing their beers. In August SIBA announced that, for a fee, they were offering their members use of a label showing they were a craft brewer. There have been many breweries out their pledging their support to this, but I am yet to see any breweries carrying this label. Is it a bit too late for breweries to market the term ‘craft beer’? Are we in the UK looking for something more to help sustain the smaller beer related companies, or has the craft ship sailed already? Why do we even need to define something that holds so many genres? I suspect as a form of protection for independents from the bigger breweries. With independents willing to sell their brand to the highest bidder and still remain carrying the craft label, is there any point? I am sure 2017 will be focused on this; with smaller breweries expanding, the big companies will surely be keeping an eye out on the movement of the market and how they can protect themselves.

Unfortunately, 2016 has seen the end of many things. Breweries that we knew and loved stopped trading. Some downsized, some even moved their product into smaller bottles. It was also the last year for a few beer festivals, whilst it was beginning or growth of others. We saw Off Beat brewery scale down, Waen brewery change to gypsy brewing and Otley brewery cease to exist. Tiny Rebel outlined their plans for a huge new premises including a taproom. Breweries like Cloudwater, Wylam, Magic Rock and Six Degrees North cemented their place in the UK brewing industry by showing that you don’t need to be in London to attract crowds to taprooms and bars, while making great beers appealing to all taste buds in the UK and beyond. More and more breweries are focusing on using dedicated taprooms for revenue; a model that London breweries have proved over and over again works. New breweries have made an impact also. Lost and Grounded have appeared with their foot firmly on the accelerator with a shiny brewery and talented brewers, all while being super friendly: they can’t really put a foot wrong. Though 2016 has been big for them already, I can tell that 2017 already has their name on it. Little Earth Project started life as Mill Green Brewery in 2008 but changed their name this year. With the name change came a change in brewing techniques, focusing on sustainability. Their brew house is heated by solar panels and a wood burner. If 2017 goes the opposite way to this year’s overly hopped beers, these 2 breweries will need to be on the front of your list for 2017.

This year also gave us some of the best beer festivals the UK has offered. Unfortunately, for one of these beer festivals it was it’s last. For the past 3 years it was my privilege to attend a small beer festival in a community centre in Salford, Manchester. Every year the organizer (Jim) and helpers have been excellent; the beer selection superb. Manchester has a thriving brewing scene and this beer festival is the perfect example of how good local beer can be. No brewery too big or small; every year it has provided a massive selection of old and new breweries: a ticker’s dream. This year, however, had a twist: EVERY (and I mean EVERY) beer was unique, each one made specially for this festival. This just added to the charm of it for me. I really could go on and on about Salford beer fest but I’ll spare you for now. Luckily for me, I was one of many to experience the final fest, as it won’t be back. Leeds beer festival was absolutely huge as well, this year being my first time attending. I was shocked and stunned as to why I’d never even thought about going before. Thanks has to go to the people at Raynville Superstore for pushing me into going and Maria for making that decision for me, it was one that I never regretted. I met old friends and tasted A LOT of really good breweries’ beer. The rooms were well thought out and themed, it wasn’t too cramped with people like at other festivals either. If you are going to go to one beer festival next year, make sure it is this one! That being said, beer festivals can only be a good thing to promote new breweries and to be the first place to get an honest opinion about the beer from the heart of the brewery itself: the people who make it.

From a professional perspective, I have been very busy. At the start of the year I made the choice to join the Twisted Barrel Ale team: one that I have not regretted. Not only have I managed to brew beers that I enjoy brewing and tasting, I have also had my eyes opened to new ways of brewing and adapting styles, which in my eyes is invaluable. On top of that I work with the friendliest bunch of people I can think of. Working here has transformed me: igniting the flame, the passion I have for creating a product for everyone (well, most people) to enjoy. It’s made me understand that not all people have a hidden agenda. It’s taken me to meeting up with Steve (@beeroclockshow) again, getting an even closer relationship to local breweries like Fixed Wheel, Sacre Brew, Green Duck, Rock n Roll, Frameworks and Burning Soul. All while being able to brew with people who I never thought I would be brewing with, like Abbeydale Brewery. With Abbeydale’s help we have taken our first step into barrel aging: something I am really excited about. We also had some visitors pop in – Dan Mayer from @UKbeermaps and Guy (@guy_latimer) – both of whom I’ve since become really good friends with. So while this year has been exciting, I am sure 2017 will be even more so. I am really excited about it and I hope you enjoy me ranting about it. Thank you all for making my 2016 the best year in my professional career of brewing so far. I do appreciate it all: good, bad and the abstract comments. They are what make the brewing and beer scene one of the best environments to work in. Thank you to everyone I have spoken to in person and through social media. You have all contributed to making me who I am at the end of 2016! 


SEE YOU IN 2017!





A year in beer.

Irate on Untappd



I recently posted a poll on Twitter asking whether it is fair that breweries can rate their own beers on Untappd. The response was huge. So big, in fact, that I decided to combine my own thoughts with those of others on the matter.

If you aren’t familiar with Untappd, it is essentially a web and mobile-based beer rating application. Nearly all breweries are using it nowadays and many bars are making the most of the recently added features that can quickly update their beer lists and broadcast them to the world. Unlike RateBeer (which also has an app), Untappd has rapidly become the beer drinker’s choice on which to rate alcoholic beverages. I think this is due to the intelligible and relatively user friendly interface of the app. For me, RateBeer seems to be the place where it is almost assumed that someone will write more than 140 characters about a beer, while characterising the technical details of its foaming ivory head or its peach-like aroma. A lot of people on Untappd tend to use it as a bookmark of sorts: to keep track of the beers they have drunk, whereas RateBeer, as the name suggests, places more emphasis on the rating of the beer.

Initially I decided to post this poll to gather general public opinion along with that of brewery affiliates. This quickly evolved in to the ethics of it all. Bars, bottle shops and people in general can’t collect every bottle in the UK, let alone the world (they aren’t Pokémon, after all); it’s impossible to taste every beer from every brewery, so to use some form of internet based rating app would surely separate the most wanted, well-received beers from the not-so-wanted, right? However, with people rating their own beers, or those of affiliated breweries, the temptation to rate them as ‘5 out of 5’ would surely arise. The call of the social media marketing opportunity. This would inevitably aide certain beers and help raise them to the top of the ‘pops’, so to speak. Make the brewery look good and the beer look even better. From my perspective, this creates a fake, undeserved hype.

When the poll went live, at least 20% of 176 voters disagreed with my thoughts on the matter.

Whichever option Purity Alex voted for is somewhat irrelevant (if indeed they did vote in the poll), as you can’t see the individual responses, however Twitter comments such as these added extra perspective on what people believe. Purity Alex has a very valid point. Untappd is a free tool that anyone can use. There are no restrictions on rating certain breweries or beers. My only gripe with the example given is that you can only vote for yourself once in an election. Untappd will allow you to rate beers multiple times, whether you have links to that brewery or not. Whether people do this to their own beers remains unseen, however the ability to create multiple Untappd accounts can facilitate, as Two Towers have alluded to:



There are many brewers that are honest and critical of their own work, who benefit from rating their own beers on Untappd. Following the progression of a beer through its time in the bottle/ keg is one example of how using a beer rating site can help to progress and improve a beer. How many times have you forgotten how a beer tasted, only to be surprised or shocked the second time around? You are, however, only judging based on your own taste buds; surely over time you will be slightly biased to your own product. A point Sean made:


After 3 days of polling it became clear what the majority thought. Be it brewers or beer drinkers, most people felt that rating your own beers on Untappd isn’t the way to do things. A massive 67% – around 119 people. There seem to be many reasons why people thought this way:


Boak and Bailey decided not to be too cynical about the whole episode but introduced me to the term ‘astroturfing’. Which equates to ‘the deceptive practice of presenting an orchestrated marketing or public relations campaign in the guise of unsolicited comments from members of the public.’ (Google can put it better than I can). At what point will rating beers on Untappd become a ‘deceptive practice’? Is it after the second rated check in, or the first rating without declaring that you work for the brewery in question?


Maybe the way forward is to be open and honest in all of this; by this I mean declaring that you are linked to the brewery in the comments section. Maybe not even rate the beer at all. This is one of the benefits of Untappd: you already have the option to do this. A lot of people who aren’t linked to breweries already do because they just use it as a way to remember what they have had. Either way, you are then not only being open to yourself, but also to everyone that buys the beer you have a link to. Alas, like most internet social platforms, you can use it however you want; business is cut throat sometimes. People will still use it however they see fit, even to further their goals, but all that effort could surely be invested in making and continually improving the beer, rather than concentrating on making your scores better on a social media platform. Maybe, just maybe, your scores will then go up on their own.

Irate on Untappd


Sorry, I have been out of the blog-iverse for the past few months. It has been very busy for me, however I am finally finding time to sit down and collate my thoughts.

This is about the fifth incarnation of this blog; honestly, I am hoping this is its last. I am using it rather selfishly to put a line under everything brewing/ brewery related, also to give a little peek in to my personal life. I am hoping it doesn’t bore you and that I don’t rattle on too long.
Over the past couple of months you will have noticed things being a little cryptic on my Twitter feed. This is because I was seeing out my notice period at the brewery I was previously working at. There were many drafts leading up to this blog; I had wanted to write about the different ways breweries operate and how it can have a good or bad impact on the staff that work for them, but after taking a step back and re-reading these drafts, I decided against it. They made me sound bitter about the past year and half and went off on more of a tangent that I had originally intended. To some extent I still do, but I’d rather that style than shaming people and breweries. It doesn’t make sense when I am still staying in the industry. I know from personal experience that ridicule of a brewery doesn’t tend to end well, for both the detractor and the brewery. Similarly, I won’t engage in bad-mouthing as although I may not agree with some of the methods chosen by the staff at certain breweries, they still have employees trying to earning a wage and get by. A dip in sales could ultimately leave people jobless.

What I will say is that I worked hard from day one trying to do what was asked of me: to build a brewery. When writing the recipes and creating the beer, I had to remember that that my thoughts were secondary to the theme of ‘making beer with a profit’. Ultimately, that should be any businesses game. Originally the brewery started with just the idea of producing bottled beer for weddings and commercial events, but with the cask side growing greater in demand, we concentrated more attention to it. As the months went on we expanded, doubling in size and tripling output. With the expansion came a shift from supplying selective freehold pubs to supplying Wetherspoons, Punch, Stonegate and Enterprise pubs. The concrete plan that was originally there had gone. A lot of things had happened behind the scenes by this point. I was getting more frustrated, maybe it was my own fault for not stepping up and pushing my point of view across more. My main reason for writing this is to hopefully rubbish all the negativity that is hanging around in my head. I know I can produce beer to a satisfactory level, but the beer I was producing was nowhere near that. It hurt reading comments and hearing people talk about the beer in a negative light when I knew I could do heaps better. I have a passion for creating beer, talking about beer and being around people who feel the same. I had to make the decision to get out: it wasn’t just effecting my mental well-being but my reputation locally as a brewer. However much I wanted to hang on and believe I could change the company, I couldn’t.

There have been many people that have helped me in the past few months, even year. A lot of them know who they are, some don’t, so I will be letting them know after this goes up. It has meant a lot to me to be able to unload pent up frustration to a select few and get a professional outlook on what has been going on in my short brewing career. I have learnt a MASSIVE amount from these experiences, all of which I hope won’t be repeated but will teach and aid me in the future.

To the present: 3 weeks ago I started at a new brewery. Already I knew this would be different. From the ethos of the brewery to the respect staff have to every single person that walks through the doors: I feel like I have found my place in brewing. I enjoy the beer that we make, everyday I feel I am going to work with friends that share a mutual understanding. Not having to worry about banging my head against a wall. It seems we are all travelling in the same direction. I feel I have joined at the right time as things seem to only be getting better and better. Now I just have to live up to the expectations I have of myself and help maintain the level of consistency and quality the brewery has already set. It looks like it will be a big year for them and I am ready to help them achieve our goals. I am just glad I can finally do what I love properly, and with a smile on my face.

Thank you all for the support, I hope you all enjoy the next part of my career in brewing as much as I do!


Golden Pints – 2015

This year has been a great year for beer. We have seen the emergence and improvement of various small and big breweries all over the country. With the boom in the beer industry, we are seeing heaps of different styles and experimental beers hitting the bottle shop shelves and bars. With that comes a rise and continuation of independent beer festivals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to taste every beer, go to all beer festivals or/ and read every blog posted online, so doing this post has enabled me to reminisce about 2015 in the world of beer. Reading everyone’s selection for ‘Golden Pint 2015’ has brought to my attention how varied the palates are within the UK’s, and in the ever evolving world of beer. Hopefully without sounding too controversial, here is my personal opinion: my ‘Golden pints of 2015’.  

Best UK Cask Beer: Jaipur X by Thornbridge. I was only able to try this at Birmingham Beer Bash. I was taken aback by the difference in taste between bottle, keg and cask. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will be seeing this around as often as I would like.

Best UK Bottled Beer: Tzatziki Sour by Mad Hatter. Absolutely amazing beer from start to finish. I have a few bottles of their latest batch which I am hoping lives up to my own hype.

Best UK Canned Beer: Life & Death by Vocation Brewery. Vocation hadn’t journeyed far from their hometown when I was looking for this beer, so tripping up on a few of their cans in a bottle shop in Leeds did please me. Okay, a bit of an understatement, but now the problem is getting my hands on a few more in my neck of the woods.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Geuze Mariage Parfait 2011 by Boon Brouwerij. I was lucky enough to have one of these saved. One drunken night with friends we decided to crack it open. I still have dreams about how this tasted. (Even though it was a 2011 beer, I drank it this year. I would advise you doing the same if you have one around.)

Best Overseas Canned Beer: Coconut Porter by Maui Brewing Co. Stunning beer. Problem is that I haven’t found it again since the first one. If anyone knows where I can get it from in the UK, please let me know.

Best Collaboration Brew: I have actually got 2 for this one (I know, I am a rule breaker) but both of these beers I feel ticked every box for me. Old Garde by Cloudwater and Burning Sky, also Yellow Belly Sundae by Buxton Brewery and Omnipollo.

Best Overall Beer: Tzatziki Sour by Mad Hatter.

Best Branding: Magic Rock Brewing Company. There’s no doubt their new can designs are outstanding. It’s really great to see the progression of their bottles and website.

Best Pump Clip: Lion by Hook Norton. Not the normal cardboard pump clip but the metal embossed one. Sitting on a tap handle it draws your attention so much that you can not help but ask the server to pull a pint of it for you.

Best UK Brewery: Out of all the breweries in the UK it is a hard choice, but for consistency alone it has to be Buxton Brewery.

Best Overseas Brewery: Mikkeller. Mainly because I am impressed at the variety in choice that their beers span. 

Best New Brewery Opening 2015: Cloudwater Brewing Company. Amazing set up and it’s great to see such passion and determination in the brewing industry.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Either Taphouse, Copenhagen or if you are going to stick to UK based bars or pubs – Shuffledog, Leeds.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2015: Tilt, Birmingham. Hands down the next big thing in the Birmingham beer/ coffee scene.

Beer Festival of the Year: Indy Man Beer Con… It was great. Atmosphere, beer and music. I’ll be back next year.

Supermarket of the Year: Our local Marks and Spencer has a great selection of beers, though I generally try to avoid busy supermarkets when beer shopping.

Independent Retailer of the Year: Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham: great selection of beers and great hosts of ‘meet the brewer’ events.

Online Retailer of the Year: Beer Gonzo in Coventry. Great selection and reasonable postage. Nice and local for me as well.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Ferment: a great new online publication, which looks fresh and exciting or The Brewers Journal, which is very industry focused.

Best Twitterer: @broadfordbrewer aka @twattybeerdoodles. Also the magnificent Melissa Cole: @MelissaCole

Best Beer Blog or Website: Total Ales all the way. Also, a massive shout out to The Beer O’Clock show!

Overall winner: BEER!

Golden Pints – 2015

A fresh start in beer?

It’s hard to sum up my views on the Midlands beer scene: not because there isn’t one, but because of the way that other cities have developed, it somehow feels like we have been left behind. This makes it a little more challenging to think of somewhere to liken it to. Firstly, the Midlands is a massive place, comprised of cities and towns including Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Coventry and Birmingham. I have more of an understanding of how the West Midlands specifically has evolved within the world of beer, particularly Wolverhampton, Coventry and Birmingham. This is less of an overview of the Midlands as a whole, more an overview of my locality.

Around 3 years ago, the yet-to-be giant that was Brewdog moved into Birmingham. A fresh belief in ‘craft beer’ crept into the city. As the already established Cherry Reds was situated just opposite, it looked like the traditional ale hold on Birmingham was losing its grip. Another brewery emerged called Beer Geek; things were starting to look good for the ‘craft beer’ drinkers. The traditional ale pubs, a number of which are scattered around Birmingham, were still not feeling the pressure. With the insurgence of ‘craft beer’, people just wanted to drink again. Two Towers from Birmingham and Byatt’s from Coventry were helping to steer people away from drinking cheap lager at home and bringing them back to pubs. Bottle shops spread their wings a little more to bring beers from the new breweries in London to the West Midlands. Things were looking good: our tastes were developing. The West Midlands was a bit behind many cities with the variety of beer coming from the tap and bottle, but we weren’t that far off some major cities outside of London.

Fast forward to today. Shamefully, nothing much has changed. Thankfully, Cherry Reds and Brewdog are still around and a number of bottle shops are still here. In fact, I would go as far as to say that these have been the true pioneers over the past few years. The real ale pubs are still around, but most freeholds have dwindled; taken over by the big breweries, forcing local breweries to adapt. Unfortunately, some haven’t: Beer Geek disappeared into thin air, leaving a lot of people (including me) confused. To say that we have gone backwards compared with other cities would be harsh, but we just haven’t progressed as quickly. Thanks to the bars, pubs and bottle shops keeping the beer flowing into the West Midlands, it has inspired people to start homebrewing and made people realise that they can help diversify and challenge the typical tastes that we in the Midlands expect. Only recently we seem to have had another injection of breweries, bars and real ale showing up in Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country. “Why has it taken this long?” is a question I am still asking myself. There is certainly a strong push to get people to try different beer, with the Pure bar opening a while ago in Birmingham, and most recently Tilt bar. Brew taps have opened: Black Tap in Redditch, Twisted Barrel in Coventry and Sadler’s in Stourbridge. Green Duck, Byatt’s and Two Towers have also increased their range of beers.

While pubs, bars and breweries have been struggling to get started, bottle shops haven’t. Places like Cotteridge Wines, Stirchley Wines and Beer Gonzo have been supplying beer to people locally for many years, continually extending their ranges. Our bottle shops have consistently been listed as the best bottle shops in the UK by Ratebeer, on numerous occasions. So does this mean that people in the West Midlands prefer to ‘take-away’ than go to a pub or a bar? Probably not, but it does mean the people of West Midlands have a lot more options when it comes to beer than some areas of the UK have. Maybe we are all too busy drinking beer here to care enough about running a pub, bar or brewery.

Despite the slow start, the pace has picked up and the future looks bright. With even more breweries choosing Birmingham and the Midlands as places to host ‘meet the brewer’ style events, it shows an increasing interest in being educated about beer. Bars and pubs are popping up sporadically around the West Midlands, all hosting a variety of beers from local and distant breweries. With the new brewpub phenomenon, we are definitely experiencing a boom in outlets for locally produced beer. Breweries like Twisted Barrel, Fixed Wheel and Sacre Brew are making their mark on the Midlands brewing scene and beyond, as are Sadler’s, Purity, Green Duck and Byatt’s, with drinkers being more than happy with their wares. Newcomers such as Glassjaw are making an appearance in Birmingham, and there are many more appearing in the West Midlands. It looks as though it has taken a while to get started, but now we are well on our way to producing high-class, quality beer. We have a very exciting year in beer coming up.

A fresh start in beer?

Are beer people good people?

Originally this post was going to be solely about what a fantastic time my partner and I had at a friend’s house on the cold last days of summer: enjoying various beers, meeting new and old friends, talking about recent styles emerging from different breweries. However, I feel that over the past couple of weeks and several beery places later, my thoughts have evolved since that drunken night.

One of the best things about drinking really good beer is the friends you meet. Once you meet people with a similar taste in something to you, there is an inevitable connection. It’s also fascinating how different people acquire different tastes from the same beer. Whether that be at a beer festival or on a general night out, it’s an experience to meet new people and try new beers. I was lucky enough to make such friends through Twitter, various beer festivals and general meet-ups. One of these friends invited me to his place to sample a few of the beers he acquired over numerous trips around the country. The list was huge, containing beers that I hadn’t even thought about trying. From Beavertown: Alpha series Number 11, Blood ‘ell, Lemon Yuzilla, Rubus Maximus collab, Blubus Maximus collab, Appleation, Skull King, Power of the Voodoo, Heavy Water, Lord Smog Rocket. Siren Craft brewery: Odyssey 005, Barrel-aged Calypso Gooseberry, Barrel-aged Calypso Dragon & Passion fruit, Barrel-aged Calypso Kumquat. These were well accompanied by others from Tiny Rebel and Sacre Brew. It was great to be able to compare such good beers side by side, while being able to discuss with like-minded individuals. Although no beer was a clear winner, or stood out from the crowd, it was great to see how these breweries put out consistently good beer. Beer that formed the catalyst of a great night. Interested in the names and appearances, people who would not normally drink beer were shocked at how different they tasted from traditional ales. These beers brought people together.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, the beer event of the year was finally here: Indy Man Beer Con. There have been many write-ups of the best beers from the weekend, and of the event itself (namely by Connor Murphy which you can read HEREMark Johnson HERE, YES! Ale  and Deeekos HERE) so I won’t go in to great detail. However, I will mention something that doesn’t seem to have been picked up on. This year was my first attending Indy Man. Having missed out on tickets last year and not being aware of event information the year before that, I was well informed that it was an event not to be missed. As with any event containing beer, I had great anticipation. Compared to beer events I had attended before, this was different for all the right reasons. In some ways similar to the gathering I mentioned earlier; drinking beer, talking to different people, asking for their thoughts. This was much more like that: a social event. Not somewhere that you felt unnerved by the person pouring your beer, or judged by those around you. The event was packed with people from all different ages and backgrounds, all with the common ground of enjoying beer with the people around them. Maybe it’s the warm atmosphere and the generosity of the people in Manchester that helped to bring us together, or the pure simple fact we were all there to enjoy a high quality of beer. There was an air of sharing, almost a community vibe to the event. This is what I would love to see more of in pubs and bars, something I feel that has been lost in the past years, while the cheap booze and multiple spirit offers have dictated.

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As with many of the nicer things in life, you often hear more bad things than good. With the bad press that binge drinking and high ABV, cheaply priced alcohol brings, it’s only fair that someone pushes the positives of what beer can bring. From the experiences noted above, and a few extra that I will touch on in later blogs, it is safe to say that alcohol or beer is certainly not the problem; this is created by certain individuals that drink it badly. Not once did I see any altercations at these events, but the complete opposite. Maybe it’s all down to the type of crowd ‘craft’ beer attracts, but that’s not entirely a bad thing, right? If we are all like-minded, wanting breweries to push the boundaries for new, exciting beer (with a hint of consistency thrown in there too) and if we respect each other no matter what background and focus on the future of beer in this country, is it possible we can change the stereotype that all ‘Brits’ are lager louts? 

Are beer people good people?