Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Mid Atlantic Pale Ales

I have mentioned Steel City Brewing here before and noted from reading their website that they are shortly to get their own brewing licence from HMRC. Good for them. Bring some to a pub near me soon, because they are good. I note too that Gazza Prescott, one of the owners and beer hunter extraordinaire, has written an article on what he calls a new beer style, Mid Atlantic Pale Ale. This can roughly be described as very pale and very hoppy. Now I haven't asked Gazza about writing this article and heedful of his warnings about copying things from his website, I won't quote as such. Instead I'll just say that I agree with almost everything he says and urge you all to read it. His web site isn't a blog, so you can't comment there.

This is though a "revolution" that we have known about and written about in the North for quite some time and my own view is that it is now spreading and will continue to gain momentum. Gazza gives a list of breweries and beers too, just to get you in the groove and illustrate his point. When you read it, you'll be nodding and think "Yep, good brewery". Needless to say Gazza's money is where his mouth is. His beers are hoppy as hell. Another point of his I'd agree with from my own American experiences, is that of crystal malt ruining otherwise great beers and also his belief that here in the UK, slowly but surely, brown, caramel bombs are being pushed aside in the better pubs at least. I go along with his contention too, that this new style is virtually unique (I know, I know) to the British Isles.

I will add an observation or two of my own though and both of them are in the form of concerns. Too many British brewers, big and small, are still churning out the same old "toffee malt" laden cack and they ignore this new trend at their peril. Many small brewers have dismissed or disregarded the pale revolution, which has been around for a few years now and have done so at the expense of their own sales and future prospects, competing with the same kind of beers that the big boys churn out, while those like Phoenix and Pictish have forged ahead, selling all they can brew. Unlike American brewers who usually have wide portfolios of styles, too many of ours are one trick ponies and too many are stuck in the mud. Secondly, our largest independent brewers are so timid in hopping, that you sometimes wonder if they just show the casks a photo of a hop on the racking line. They need to look around them or be left behind. Just look at the success of Jaipur IPA if you doubt it.

Lastly, I'm not saying that there isn't a place for balance and for darker malts, but what I am saying is that some of the fundamentals are shifting, bringing a wind of change that can no longer be ignored.

You might find it difficult to find the article, but go to "Blog" date 26/05/2010 and click "here."


Alistair Reece said...

One thing I would like to do in my thievery, sorry, homebrewing, is to brew something akin to a cross bread between IPA and the American variant - that was partly the driving force behind my recent beer Old Baldy IPA, using a combination of American and British hops to get a spiciness and the citrus thing. Perhaps though next time I should go further with the Britishness of the beer and use a British yeast strain? The joys of brewing!!

Anonymous said...

gazza loves to rant but he has proved he can brew good beer.i remember your rant about too much brown beer in London well the tide has turned and i find plenty of pale hoppy beers in the more adventurious pubs in London.the Wenlock in London usually gets the new steel city brews .bring it on.cheers

Ed said...

Personally I think putting the boot into crystal malt is daft. There are some fantastic beers with crystal in the grist and I find all pale malt beers are often too thin and two dimensional.

Tandleman said...

Ed It depends on where and how you use it. Too often done wrongly.

Tandleman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with crystal malt. What's wrong with it is when 25 IBU's of East Goldings is your only hop addition.

Paul Garrard said...

I don't think it is all moribund and stagnant out there, but I know what you are getting at. There are quite a few Jaipur copy cats along with some equally interestingly hoppy beers. Could still do with a few more breweries to dip their toes in the water though.

Tandleman said...

Anonymous - I think you make my case for me. Thanks.

Mark Dredge said...

I get it but the name sucks. Mid-Atlantic as in the middle of the sea?! Does New World Pale Ale do the job? That's what Thornbridge are calling some their beers which use New Zealand hops so perhaps that can be stretched to work?

"...this new style is virtually unique (I know, I know) to the British Isles." That's because brewers here are making different beers for a different to market than in the US. I'm sure you've reminded me frequently that the UK and the US are different when it comes to beer and this is just another of the differences.

The US have different palates to the UK.

Tandleman said...

Not that sure about the name myself and it isn't mine as you know, but do agree with the sentiment and as importantly to me at least, the derivatives of the style. Or you could actually say rather, that the style has come somewhat from the derivatives.

I am not sure that we have different palates, just different offerings and different brewing obsessions. Whether the offerings could and should be adapted is yet another question. Questions are good.

Matt said...

Having read the article, it seems to me exactly the kind of down the nose, elite club thing that puts people off real ale.

I've enjoyed plently of pale, hoppy bitters, especially from Pictish, but why he dismisses those brewed with crystal malt is beyond me.

Presumably the session bitters I've drunk in and around Manchester over the last twenty odd years from Holts, Hydes, Lees and Robinsons are just brown and boring in his eyes.

Tandleman said...

Matt - Really? How can promoting or believing in a style of beer, even if you denigrate others, put people off real ale? Seems an odd leap of logic to me.

Gazza explains clearly why he reckons a hefty does of crystal ruins some beers.I agree with him.

As for Holts, Hydes etc, I think that's exactly what Gazza thinks. As a matter of interest neither Lees nor Holts use crystal malt in their bitter and Robbies and Hydes do. It explains a lot and why I'd rather drink the first two than the second.

michael-j said...

easier link straight to article: http://www.steelcitybrewing.co.uk/gen_midatlantic.htm

not read it yet, so no comment...

Tandleman said...

Thanks Michael. Look forward to your comments.

Matt said...

Tandy, I've just got a mental image of thousands of middle aged blokes in the more working-class bits of Manchester drinking cask bitter with probably not a CAMRA card amongst them whose tastes are apparently now beyond the pale (pardon the pun) because brown bitter has been deemed not 'challenging' enough.

As I said, despite having enjoyed pale hoppy bitters from Pictish, Phoenix, Saltaire etc., I'm not joining that one-eyed club.

And it's not just the long-established independents who brew caramelly brown bitters: Bollington Dinner Ale and Thornbridge Lord Marples spring to mind.

Tandleman said...

Matt - You miss the point. Well my point anyway. I don't know about Gazza. It isn't that brewers should stop producing brown, syrupy bitters (I know not all of then are) but that portfolios should be widened, more challenging bitters should be made not as a specialism, but as core business and that trends in the market shouldn't be ignored.

Don't forget, I've probably drunk more Lees Bitter than any other beer around, but that doesn't mean to say that I wouldn't appreciate something more innovative from time to time.

As it happens I don't think much of Lord Marples, but Thornbridge brew plenty that I do like. That's my point. Or some of it.

jefffrane said...

Mid-Atlantic refers to the region in the States from New York in the north to Virginia in the south (along, obviously, the coast of the Atlantic).

Lots of great beer there, but I'm not sure they've defined a style.

Gazza Prescott said...

First of all, thanks to everyone for the comments, all appreciated!

"it seems to me exactly the kind of down the nose, elite club thing that puts people off real ale"

I disagree. It's simply me writing about what is happening all over the UK but, in particular, around the NW of England and Yorkshire. Regional brown bitters are, to me, bland and boring; I'd not even drink Robbies or Hydes if you gave them to me they're so dull and bland, but people can drink what they want, obviously. My piece was purely to bring attention to a style of beer which I feel is growing hugely at the expense of said brown bitters and, IMO, the more the better.

I also don't see what's "elitist" about it either. It's my opinion, yours in obviously different, so does that mean I can say your opinion is elitist too? No, it's just an opinion, albeit the polar of mine. I'm not suggesting the beer-gestapo round up anyone daring to sup brown bitter and I'm not saying these drinkers are stupid for drinking it, I'm just stating my opinion about a trend I've been watching for many years now and one that doesn't get anywhere near enough column inches.

"I've just got a mental image of thousands of middle aged blokes in the more working-class bits of Manchester drinking cask bitter with probably not a CAMRA card amongst them whose tastes are apparently now beyond the pale (pardon the pun) because brown bitter has been deemed not 'challenging' enough"

IMO they aren't challenging or even drinkable, but that's me. I like beer aimed unashamedly at the extreme end of the market, have done for years, and see no problem with this - there's room for everyone in cask ale land and, when you think about it, the amount of brown bitter made still dwarfs the amount of pale'n'oppy by several magnitudes.

"As I said, despite having enjoyed pale hoppy bitters from Pictish, Phoenix, Saltaire etc., I'm not joining that one-eyed club"

I love almost all beer styles in the world - and Ive tried a few - but don't like, for example, weissbier and brown bitter. I'll happily drink a stout, a gose, a lambic, a baltic porter, a kvasnicove pivo... the list goes on, so as you can see I'm not "one eyed" at all I simply don't like brown bitter and feel that there's a groundswell of people - including many normal drinkers - who are beginning to feel the same way too.

"And it's not just the long-established independents who brew caramelly brown bitters: Bollington Dinner Ale and Thornbridge Lord Marples spring to mind."

I too don't really like Marples but Thornbridge do some great beer no doubt.

I'm just of the opinion that crystal malt in any beer with a decent amount of hops in turns the whole thing into a sweet, sticky mess and overshadows the hops rendering them worthless.

As for the name, I don't like "New World" as it implies that the beers are done in some style found overseas when, in my considerable experience, they simply aren't; try finding a beer as pale as the ones I name in the US and you'll be searching a long time. "Mid-Atlantic" hints that the style is half-way between the American ethos and the UK ethos and I'm pretty happy with the analogy myself.

Erlangernick said...

But to a Yank, as Frane's pointed out, "Mid-Atlantic" means "Delaware", where the beer *is* malted way up beyond where it should be, and often also munged up by Ringworm. East coast US brewers have historically sought to offer "balanced" beers in contrast to the "unbalanced, one-dimensional hopmonsters" from the west coast. They'll sometimes even decoct.

The poor, hapless Ratebeerian will think you're advocating emulating these beers. I suggest you choose a different, more appetising moniker.

"Transatlantic"? "Intercontinental"? "Global"?

What's with a strength range of up to 8% though? A beer of such strength can't really be enjoyed in the same way as a 3.5% session beer can. I've got no problem advocating pale-malt-only in strong ales & barleywines, so if you mean we should also say "Mid-Atlantic barleywine" as a style, for example, OK.

And on strength. Brew Dog lost the battle of the Bismark: the Franconian brewer got his up to 43%, whereas StB was "only" 31%. (If anyone really cares.) There was an amusing 10 minute tv show segment about it on German tv a few weeks ago.

Two of the very best ales I've ever had are Phoenix Spotland Gold and Hawkeshead Pale Ale (not the bitter), both in Manchester. These two would be counted among your new category, right? Just to make sure I'm properly calibrated.

And my only experience with Brew Dog is a bottle of the Punk IPA in Rome a couple of months ago. Outstanding, it was, though stronger than I'd like to have found. (And 5€ a bottle!)

Tandleman said...

Well Nick, you and Jeff, dear friends that you are, look out at this (understandably) from a Yankee point of view. It isn't my term and I have my doubts about it too, but Gazza's explanation seems reasonable enough to me, though "transatlantic" does seem to fit the same bill without confusing hapless Yanks.

Yes I like "transatlantic" as it meets Gazza's definition without the confusion.

Coxy said...

I don't understand the fundamentals of hops at all, im just a drinker, I love the new really Hoppy beers but find the tastes more similar across the ranges , while the old fashioned brown beers are more like Forest Gumps Box of Chocolates. In the end the large brewers will go with what sells the most, even if they have to do some catching up.
Gazza If hydes brought out another standard beer , would you not drink it for ticking purposes or are you not doing that now?

Erlangernick said...

Glad to be of creative help. (Suppose I could've posted over at Gazza's blog.)

Apropos pale and hoppy. I put down a couple of litres of Griess Kellerbier the other day at the brewery. The Bierkeller (*) was closed --oddly, for a sunny afternoon-- so off to the nearby brewery yard.

The brewer himself was pouring (gravity, from a tiny little wooden keglet) and thus too busy to be pestered with technical questions, but promised to answer an email about "real lager" vs. "real ale". Guess I'll have to write him then.

Very nice guy. Named Peter.

Perhaps the single best beer im Vaterland. And even fresher and better at the brewery than at the Keller a few hundred meters away.

(* "Biergarten", but one located where the beer is also lagered underground, for those unfamiliar with the term)

Scoop! German TV video of Brew Dog's Sink The Bismark not adding up to the claimed 41% is here: http://tinyurl.com/pro7sinkthebismarkfails

And hey, "somebody" seems to have taken the last minute or so and subtitled it, explaining the lab results:

Oblivious said...

"brown, caramel bombs" can be due to poor brewing and fermentation practices too!

Barm said...

I agree with Gazza on almost everything, but the name is awful. I suggest "Poppy" instead, short for pale an' 'oppy.