16 August 2015

Kent Brewery visit

On Saturday 25 July, a group of CAMRA volunteers from the Reading Beer and Cider Festival went on a coach trip to visit Kent Brewery, within the Birling Estate, near West Malling. We were given programmes for the day with an itinerary on the back cover, as we boarded the coach outside Reading station.
The brewery is surrounded by fields where hops used to grow. The fortified farmhouse on the hill behind the brewery is the home of Guy Nevill, whose family have owned the Birling Estate since 1435.
We were greeted by Paul and Heike Herbert and once inside were able to choose from three cask ales, at a very reasonable price.
Session Pale was the first choice for most volunteers. The 3.7% ABV Pale Ale has a balance of floral flavourings and aromas with a hint of citrus and elderflower from the Cascade and Citra hops.
Session Pale won Kent Beer of the Festival at the 2014 CAMRA Kent Beer Festival. This beer is not one of the brewery's main beers but has a strong following and was requested for the 2015 Great British Beer Festival.
Beyond the Pale (5.4% ABV) is a full flavoured golden Pale Ale with a powerful punch of hops. KGB stands for Kent Golding Bitter, this 4.1% ABV amber Bitter is hopped with Golding and Fuggles hops and features a rich variety of local malts.
Once everyone had a beer, Paul gave the group an introductory talk in the office area of the brewery. Paul and Heike both had a background in archaeology. Paul moved into new media technologies and developed an interest in beer. He was introduced to American beer styles at the Draft House, Northcote Road, Clapham. Paul went on to visit some breweries in the USA and attended Brewlab at the University of Sunderland in 2009. The idea for Kent Brewery came from a chance meeting between Paul and Toby Simmonds at Paul's local pub, the Bull at Horton Kirby. Toby had been brewing with Dark Star in Sussex for three years and wanted his own microbrewery. With Toby's brewing experience and Paul's broad business experience they had the right basis for a successful brewery partnership.
Paul explained that the brewery started in 2010, originally brewing at Larkins in Chiddingstone but switching to Birling in April 2011. Paul is keen to see new hops developed in Kent and would also like to see more hops grown near the brewery. Asked about the use of American hops in Session Pale, he said that hops producing similar citrus flavours could be produced in Kent. He warned that simply growing Cascade hops in the UK would not give the same flavours.
After a chance to refill empty glasses, Paul would talk about technical aspects of brewing and answer more questions from the main area of the brewery.
Paul told us that the main brewing vessels are based on a 10 barrel plant size. However, a possible expansion to 15 barrel plant size could happen in the future as the Mash Tun is big enough already and space will be found to squeeze in two new 15 barrel fermenters within weeks of our visit. Other plans include new label designs and bottling beers.
Asked about water supplies, Paul said mains water is currently used for brewing.
The brewery delivers to Kent, East Sussex and East London with beer wholesalers distributing their beer further afield. 
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Paul mentioned that all of the brewery's 1500 casks are plastic. He said they went for the 'most ghastly' colour scheme to reduce the risk of theft!  Their casks are made by Brewery Plastics Ltd of Hereford (formerly CypherCo). Only three of their casks have gone out of circulation due to damage in five years.
It would soon be time to thank Paul and Heike for hosting our visit before getting back on the coach for the short drive to the Nevill Bull pub in Birling.
Once everyone had obtained drinks from the bar and before it was time to leave for pubs in West Malling, there was a chance to gather the group in the back garden for a photo.
Special thanks go to everyone involved in the organisation of this trip and for compiling the programme, including Allan Conner, Melissa Reed, Nick and Joy Jerram.
Melissa, Joy, Allan and Nick
Also, who could forget Cuddles, the Reading Beer and Cider Festival mascot, who came along too!

Kent Brewery website: www.kentbrewery.com

06 August 2015

Windswept Brewing Co, Lossiemouth

The Moray coast
Lossiemouth, Moray, is 44 miles from Inverness on the North East coast of Scotland. RAF Lossiemouth is an important fast jet main operating base with both Tornado and Typhoon squadrons based there. Windswept Brewing Co is based in Coulardbank industrial estate on the edge of Lossiemouth and within earshot of aircraft noise from the RAF station.

Al Read and Nigel Tiddy, former RAF (Tornado) pilots enjoyed the outdoor life on the wild and unspoilt coast and nearby Highlands and established West Beach Brewery in 2012. The name was changed to Windswept Brewing in November 2012 due to legal problems.

Al Read in Windswept Brewery yard.
My visit to the brewery with locally based friends on 30 July 2015 had been arranged in advance and Natassia Barksby told us about the brewery and the beers in the white portacabin office and shop opposite the two main brewery units.
Natassia Barksby kindly posed with a West Berkshire Ullage magazine
The bottle range currently includes: APA a 5% ABV American Pale Ale hopped with Columbus, Willamette and Cascade; Blonde and Wolf in 500ml bottles and Weizen, Tornado (6.7% Citra IPA) and Typhoon (6.2% Amarillo IPA) in 330ml bottles. Wolf of Glen Moray, 9.2% ABV, aged in oak whisky casks, is also available in a special 330ml bottle pack.
Windswept Brewing Co has won several awards including SIBA Scotland Gold for APA and Wolf in 2013. APA went on to win SIBA National Bronze in the 2014 Champion Strong Bitters category.  Weizen was awarded Overall Champion award at the 2014 CAMRA Aberdeen and North East Beer Festival.
APA - label on back of bottle
Back in the brewery yard, Al Read (Director of Operations) told us about his interest in brewing that started with homebrewing. On a three year exchange visit to North Carolina (2003-6), Al discovered interesting new beers that were not generally available in the UK. An American navigator on an exchange stay in Lossiemouth who had experience of competition brewing was also an inspiration for Al. Visiting local breweries like Cairngorm and Cromarty he realised that apart from the scale there was no major difference between home brewing and commercial brewing. Al developed his tasting skills on CAMRA courses and with the Craigellachie Real Ale Club. He was invited to be a judge for the Champion Beer of Scotland and there he found that his tasting notes were similar to those of the experts. Al said that drinking beer socially in clubs and groups was an important factor in developing his tasting skills.
Al had brewery work to do so he left us with Natassia to take a look inside the brewery.
Assistant brewer, Doug Russell, digging out the mash tun
The success of the brewery has led to a requirement for more space. The brewery started in a single unit with the office inside. Later, a mezzanine level was added and the adjacent unit was acquired. The portacabin and space in the yard were added and there are now plans to add a third unit to give space for a bottling plant. There are two 10 barrel and four 20 barrel fermenters and a fifth one will be added. The kettle (copper), the middle vessel in the photo above, is 10 barrel capacity. The hot liquor tank is in the far corner. The spent grains from the mash tun end up going to a local farmer as compost for the sandy Moray soil.
Marooned, Blonde, APA and Aurora mini kegs for tasting
Natassia fetched some mini kegs so we could taste some of the beers including Blonde, APA and Marooned, a seasonal 5.2% ABV blackcurrant wheat beer. Marooned was maroon in colour, lively with a refreshing slightly sour flavour. We returned to the portacabin to purchase a mixed pack of six bottled beers to enjoy later.
Natassia told us about the music and beer festivals that the brewery is involved with including Moktoberfest in Elgin Town Hall, North Hop in Inverness and sponsorship of Speyfest at Fochabers.
Kirsty McLeod handles exports with beers from Windswept Brewing being exported to distributors in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, France and Andorra.
Before leaving I had a chance for a quick chat with lead brewer, Charlotte Cook. Charlotte said her favourite beer from the brewery is Wolf, the 6% ABV dark strong Scottish ale named after the Wolf of Bladenoch, infamous for burning down Elgin cathedral. She also mentioned that brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, for ageing in whisky casks, is planned.
Calum Stewart Trio on the 'Windswept Stage', Speyfest, 31/7/15
My friends and I would have another chance to tast Windswept beers the following evening at Speyfest in Fochabers where the highlight of the Friday night musical entertainment was a performance by Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham.
The Windswept Brewing bar, mounted on whisky barrels, was set up in a corner of the separate bar marquee. Brewery staff behind the bar included Kirsty McLeod (left) and Marketing Manager, Julie Smith (centre). Pam was disappointed that the seasonal Marooned blackcurrant wheat beer was not ready to be served but I was happy to find my favourite, APA, was available. Later I enjoyed my first pint of Wolf, one of the few Windswept beers I had not sampled by this stage!

Website: windsweptbrewing.com

Windswept Brewing Co
Unit B
13 Coulardbank Industrial Estate
IV31 6NG

Email: info@windsweptbrewing.co.uk
Brewery: 01343 814310

16 July 2015

New handpump at De Cervesia, Lucca

Lucca lies about 12 miles north east of Pisa in Tuscany.
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, Lucca
I blogged about De Cervesia, Lucca after previous visits in January 2014.

De Cervesia Tap Room, Lucca (Photo: Richard Lock)
In June 2015, I booked a room in a B&B in Via Anfiteatro, near to Piazza dell'Anfiteatro and only a short walk away from the De Cervesia Tap Room at Via Michele Rosi 20. The tap room is situated in a traffic free area opposite Ciclo Divino (wine bar) and customers from both establishments can take their drinks outside where there are benches and wide pavements.
Matteo behind the bar at De Cervesia Tap Room
 Revisiting De Cervesia tap room / beer bar with friends in June 2015, it was great to see Matteo behind the bar which now has a raised Angram handpump.
Matteo demonstrated how the housing for the handpump could be opened to provide easy access for maintenance (see adjacent photo).

'Blackout' stout from Birrificio Rurale, based in Desio, north of Milan, was an appropriate beer to serve through the handpump as it could be served less chilled and without gas pressure.

It was nice to be able to give Matteo the issue of  Ullage (Mar/Apr 2014), which included my article about De Cervesia and Orzo Bruno (Pisa), published following my previous visits.
There were three beers served through fonts from KeyKegs. The first beer we tried was Eva, a Pilsner from Birrificio Brùton, based at San Cassiano di Moriano, in the valley of the river Serchio, about 5 miles north of Lucca. This was a refreshing way to start the evening and it was soon time for a glass of Terzo Miglio, an American Pale Ale from Birrificio Rurale that would prove to be my favourite beer of the evening. 
Cheers Matteo! from Richard, Tim (with Ullage), Roger and Derek
A big change at De Cervesia since my last visits was expansion from the corner unit into the adjacent shop unit. This provides extra indoor space for customers and space for a cold room where bottles and KeyKegs are stored.
Cold room door on left in extra room (Photo: Richard Lock)
Kyle, on holiday from USA, asked Matteo for a beer suggestion and returned from the cold room with a bottle of Zona Cesarini from Birrificio Toccalmatto based near Parma. 
Kyle & Matteo in the cold room (Photo via Kyle Dean Reinford)

Matteo explained that Renato Cesarini played football for Juventus and was renowned for scoring in the last minutes of the game so that Zona Cesarini was another way of saying 'at the last minute'. 
Matteo said Japanese (Sorachi Ace) hops were added at the last minute to this beer and this explains both the name and the inspiration for the label art.

The third beer we tried was Jale, a 5.6% ABV ESB style beer brewed by Brewfist Italian Ales based in Codogno, near Piacenza and Cremona. This was full flavoured and a darker colour than our two previous beers.
Some of the beers we had been drinking were in Brewfist glasses labelled with their slogan 'More beer More people' (NB Not 'Mare beer Mare peaple'). Several customers asked for bottles of Brewfist Spaceman IPA (7% ABV) during our stay.
Matteo's brother, Michael, on a stint behind the bar
Matteo is an AC/DC fan and so are some of his customers. Matteo kindly put on some music by St Paul and the Broken Bones when I requested a change from his favourite music.
Derek, Roger and Richard - De Cervesia
By now we had all enjoyed a few beers at De Cervesia and as now food is served we asked Matteo for a Pizza restaurant recommendation. He suggested Tre Merli in Via Anfiteatro but when we got there it was 'fully booked' so it was back to Mara Meo in Piazza San Francesco for a late pizza.

As well as the beer bar / tap room, there is also a De Cervesia beer shop, open during the daytime at Via Fillungo, 92 (Closed Mondays).
Map shows position of De Cervesia beer shop (west) and tap room (east )
De Cervesia Taproom, Via Michele Rosi 20, Lucca.
Open: Tue-Sun 19:00 - 22:00
Website: http://www.decervesia.it

15 July 2015

New handpump at Orzo Bruno, Pisa.

I blogged about beer from Bientina at Orzo Bruno, Pisa, after my first visit to the beer bar in January 2014. All the beer for Orzo Bruno is brewed by Birrificio Artigiano di Bientina at nearby Bientina.

It was interesting to see a new Angram handpump on the bar when I revisited Orzo Bruno on Sunday 28 June & Wednesday 1 July, 2015.
Angram handpump and Livio serving at the bar

Valdera Rossa

Valdera Rossa is an Irish style red ale with plenty of malt character. By serving the beer from a handpump it is less gassy and chilled as appropriate for appreciating this style of ale.

Another innovation was the seasonal beer, Juni, a beer with Juniper flavouring that could be 'intensified' with an extra drop of juniper essence from a bottle on the bar.                                            
Juniper essence can be added to Juni
Unlike my January 2014 visit when it was raining and cool, in June / July 2015 it was hot, the front windows were open onto the street and customers were dressed accordingly.

Thanks to all the staff at Orzo Bruno for chatting with me and serving me with beer and food. A special thank you to Miki on Sunday and Livio on Wednesday who were running the bar. It was also nice to chat with Dave & Jackie, visiting from Yorkshire, on the Wednesday.

Miki with Yeti and Wombat fonts

The beer is very good value at Orzo Bruno. 0.3 litre costs 3 euro, 0.5 litre costs 4 euro (Prices in June 2015). There is a choice of glass styles, 'pint' or tall tankard.

Orzo Bruno opens at 7pm. There is some free food on paper plates on the bar at opening time. Meals can also be ordered from the bar and are reasonably priced.

Orzo Bruno,
Via Case Dipinte n. 6/8,
Pisa 56100
The Orzo Bruno website (Italian only) http://www.orzobruno.it/

La Torre del Luppolo, Pisa. Beer shop/bar

There are now at least two good beer bars to visit in Pisa!
La Torre del Luppolo is situated at Via Renato Fucini 13, within a few minutes walk of Orzo Bruno. This is on the 'Leaning Tower' side of the river Arno - cross the river on Ponte di Mezzo if you are approaching from Pisa Centrale railway station in the south.
View looking south from the north bank of the river Arno with Ponte di Mezzo on the right
La Torre del Luppolo only has a small frontage but you can't miss the sign above the entrance.
Via Renato Fucini 13
The five beer taps are positioned just inside the door, near the front window.
Just above and to the right of the beer taps, a flat screen monitor gives details of the draught beers (Birra alla Spina) - Beer, Brewery, Country, Style, ABV, Colour and Description.
On my visit on a Wednesday evening (1 July 2015), Alessandro Tomeo was behind the bar. He had just changed over a keg for one of the beer taps and generously offered everyone in the bar a sample of the new beer.
Alessandro Tomeo behind the bar
On the opposite wall from the bar space are wooden cubes and tall fridges holding bottles of beer for sale to drink at the bar or to take away.
I had a look around at the wide variety of beers on offer which included a good variety from the United Kingdom including St Peter's Brewery, Black Isle Brewing Co and Moor Beer Co.. There were also beers from Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and USA.
The narrow wooden bar is just deep enough for a beer mat and so there is just enough space to rest a glass or bottle of beer on it. Towards the back of the beer shop are more shelves of beer, and other items for sale including T-shirts, glasses and books.
Before leaving I enjoyed a (plastic) glass of Bianca wheat beer from  Birrificio Brùton, based at San Cassiano di Moriano, in the valley of the river Serchio, just north of nearby Lucca. The recipe for Bianca includes local Garfagnana spelt wheat. 

Ciao Alessandro!


Via Renato Fucini 13, 56127 Pisa, Italy.

Opening Hours (July 2015) Mon - Wed: 18:00-24:00; Thu - Sun: 18:00-01:00