We’re making a 'challenging' beer today.
Not that our beer is usually dull, in fact we’re rather proud of it.
But in common with lots of other brewers, in order to sell enough beer to buy more malt, pay the rent and get the occasional tin of cat food, we have to keep the abv down to 4.2% and under. And this practice has led to one eminent beer writer complaining about
I take exception to this on two levels.
We sell to pubs as far apart as Rugby and Hexham, Fleetwood and
And we all know that the majority of beer festivals present the beers so poorly that it’s a work of art discerning any taste at all from the slops in your smeary, unwashed glass.
So, eminent beer writer, it isn’t just
But I'm more annoyed about the suggestion that lower strength beer is “unchallenging”.
Without singling out any particular beer, I know that the real challenge in brewing is to pack tons of flavour into a pint glass without using complex and arcane mixtures of six different malts, a bucket of coffee grounds, some dead sardines and a tin of Ovaltine. Some brewers manage it very well. Real brewers who know a lot more than I do about beer know this. I dare you, eminent beer writer, to try Thornbridge ‘Wild Swan’ at 3.5% abv and tell me that this isn't is a beer of true beauty.
So today we are brewing an ‘interesting’ dark beer, and it’s certainly proving to be challenging. Getting the right balance of flavours, fitting sufficient malt into our mash tun, and wondering where we are going to put it after it's fermented are the biggest challenges for us.
It’s a 5.5%, and we’re brewing 10 bbl of it. That will last us until around November, we think, because apart from the odd sale to pubs which pride themselves on never selling the same beer twice, we know it’s not commercially attractive. Pub-goers usually don’t want to drink more than one pint of 5.5%, and landlords don’t want to tie up handpulls with beer which will sit around for over a week. And we don’t want to see any of our beers sitting around that long.
We have one customer for our strong dark beer, and he sells 2-3 18’s a week (yippee). In the season. Come November, he’ll be down to one 9 a fortnight. Unless, of course, the eminent beer writer and his mates get together and come back to Cumbria to drink this beer - and the many other strong and beautiful beers brewed by Cumbrian brewers. You drink it, mate, and we'll make it. But you have to drink enough of it. Or adopt our poor starving cat.