Cask and Bottle
Red Coast West
Regular brewery tours and tastings sessions.
I was lucky enough to spend a day with Chris Kay, the head brewer at the Bristol Beer Factory, earlier this year. An enquiry about some start up brewing courses I was looking into was met with a unexpectedly welcoming “come along and see how it all works”.
I spent a day lifting, loading and weighing grain and watching Chris and his teammates Brett and Steve craft some of the finest beer Bristol has to offer. I say Bristol but given the awards they have won recently (Best Drinks Producer at the BBC Food and Farming Awards, Champion Strong Bottled Beer from the Society of Independent Brewers etc etc) their influence is stretching far further.
If you want a true indication of the current direction of the UK Brewing Industry then look no further than BBF. When future king of Bristol George Ferguson took over the old Ashton Gate brewery in 2005, British “real” ales were the order of the day. Some brown, some golden and some a bit darker, but all at or below 5% and relatively middle of the road in terms of character. Over the past couple of years Chris and the team have taken a more experimental approach to brewing, influenced in part by Californian assistant brewer, ex-chef and hop lover, Brett Ellis.
BBF retain their core range (Gold and No 7 remaining their top sellers) but take regular forays into arguably more interesting beer styles such as saison, wheat, IPA and imperial stout, with a healthy amount of hops and barrel ageing thrown in for good measure.
My favourite offering has to be the award winning US inspired India Pale Ale Southville Hop. IPA is becoming so popular now that you’ll struggle to find a small brewery that hasn’t had a go at it, often with variable results. But Southville, blooming with fruit flavours from large hop additions during and after the boil, is no second rate pretender. Fragrant sweet pineapple and passion fruit dissolve into bitter grapefruit and lemon pith. But good IPAs aren’t just about bucket loads of hops. It takes an accomplished brewer to balance this hop and alcohol overload into a truly dynamite beer and Chris succeeds where many others have failed.
I’ve drunk beer in a fair few cities over the past year. “Craft beer” bars are popping up all over the place like cartoon toadstools in the Magic Roundabout, selling Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Kernel, BrewDog, Brodies, Summer Wine and all the other bright young things of the UK beer scene. But more often than not you will find a Bristol Beer Factory on pump, kicking it with the best of them. Aren’t we a lucky city?!
(Beer selection current as at July 2012)