Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Microbrewing Bad Beer?


Boak and Bailey had an interesting thread a week or so ago about breweries that get more than their fair share of plaudits and those that don't and perhaps deserve to.  I did contribute to that but found that two of my key comments have vanished into the ether.  It has a habit of doing that to me has WordPress.  So, I'll continue what I was going to say here instead.

Buried in all the comments and unremarked was this "I am not concerned about brewers receiving too much, deserved, praise or others not gaining recognition. I would like to see a large number of micro brewers driven out of business and writers must tell the truth about the bad brewers and to metaphorically put the boot in. (For Northeners this would be just about any Dave Porter 3 day training course brewers)".  I think the writer of this - someone called Marwood that I don't know - is right about the number of poor microbrewers out there and also right about calling them out, though why he didn't take the opportunity to do so himself is a moot point. What caused me to respond though was the second bit about Dave Porter, which I suspect was not commented on because few understood it.

Dave Porter runs PBC who are the biggest supplier of microbreweries in the UK though they also supply worldwide.  (275 to date overall according to their website). They are based in Bury and Dave Porter, the owner used to run pubs in this area and supply them from his own microbrewery in Lancashire.  He is involved with Outstanding Brewing, is anything but modest,  but as sharp a businessman as you'll come across. He happens to be one of my CAMRA Branch members. He also brews good beer and teaches others how to brew.  What the commentator seems to be saying though is that Dave's plant and training produces bad beers. Now, were that so we wouldn't  be enjoying beers from, among others, Arbor, Bad Seed, First Chop, Ilkley, Kernal, Mallinson, Offbeat, Redchurch, Wilson Potter and Stringers to name but a few. Many of his other breweries aren't known to me, though plenty are. Far from all being in the North, they are nationwide and indeed worldwide. I don't of course know if all the brewers attended his training courses, but I do know the vast majority of his customers have done and acquired sufficient skills to produce excellent beers.  I don't doubt either that some produce a load of old rubbish.  That's the way of the brewing world.

Bad microbreweries exist because they have bad brewers, bad brewing practice and duff palates. Trust me Dave Porter has none of these.

In case you think this is inspired by Dave, it isn't. If he knew he wouldn't care and would probably tell me to eff off.  He has done so plenty times before in beery discourse.

39 comments:

StringersBeer said...

I saw that comment - didn't seem worth following up at the time. I don't know what Dave Porter's brewing course is like. We didn't feel the need to avail ourselves of it, But I'd guess it's like the kit he sells - basic but effective.

Birkonian said...

I do agree that there's a lot of duff beer around from newer breweries. You can spot them in the pubs that will only pay rock bottom prices for their cask beer. You get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

The comment was in regard to Dave Porters trainees and not Dave Porter. The main point of the initial comment was that the bad brewers are not taken to task by reviewers but good brewers are rewarded with column inches, for reviewing to be worthwhile the bad must be highlighted.

Dave porter is the mining equipment supply company getting rich during the gold rush. Nothing wrong with that. You can name all the 'good brewers' (iyho) but hand on heart, name all the bad ones. Then find out where they were trained.

Cheers,

Marwood.

Ps. After discovering that many brewers condition their own beers (Barclay Perkins) and secondary fermentation does not really exist, I will be converting to Heriot Watt graduate keg beers from now on.

Curmudgeon said...

Most "bad brewers" are probably just lacking skill and knowledge rather than knowingly putting out a poor product. So it seems a bit harsh for a blogger to knock a little guy who's making an effort, as opposed to knocking MolsonCoors.

Also, once you've had a couple of dud pints from a brewery you tend to avoid them, so you don't get the chance to form a view of their overall capabilities, unless you're a glutton for punishment.

So the fact that an established brewery never gets good write-ups from bloggers and journalists probably tells you all you need to know.

Having said that, I'd happily call out Cheshire brewers Coach House and Northern/Blakemere, both of which have been going for some time, for consistently making dull, mediocre beer.

StringersBeer said...

Hey @Marwood (or @anon or whatever) You want to actually name some bad brewers (and yourself?) or are you happy to insinuate like a little creepy insinuating thing?

Also @mudgie, say what you like about Coach House (and they deffo don't make my favourite beers), but they do good business and (I think I'm right) are run by a highly experienced, totally qualified, proper old-school Brewer.

Tandleman said...

@Marwood. What Stringers Beer said.

Anonymous said...

I will not engage with Stringer's beer, thank you. Plus, I am not a blogger serving up my opinions to the greater few. There is terrible beer out there and Camra stalwarts refuse to admonish the inept brewers, my point was that that is a shame. My other point is that any brewer who thinks £500 for a course on brewing is a fantastic deal is probably going to be bad brewer. NOT ALL BREWERS WHO DO THAT COURSE will make bad beer, frankly I am miffed that this is the direction you wish to take on the subject and it is ridiculous.

StringersBeer said...

What a dick.

Tandleman said...

Anon

You can be as miffed as you like. On my blog I decide the direction.

You are being told to put up or shut up. Don't expect to raise the issue you raise and not be called to account.

Bottle Beer Drinker said...

JB1
i think the points Anon raises are spot on CAMRA should out
the poor brewers and not pretend all cask is great

Curmudgeon said...

@Stringers - yes, they're a successful business, which goes to show that to succeed in brewing a good business head is equally, if not more, important than brewing good beer.

They're not actively bad beers, but to my palate they're always a bit muddy-tasting. Maybe that appeals to dining pub customers who are happy with something that doesn't frighten the horses and has a local label.

There are other breweries, though, like Weetwood, who will never get crafties' pulses racing, but who do brew good beer in a traditional English style.

Tyson said...

Erm, what Mudgie said. Who cares if Coach House have a nice brewery and run a successful business? Their beer is mediocre at best. As for Blakemere, I don't know what brewing course they went on but I can only presume they didn't pass. If you see them on the bar, your know they've been bought for price, not quality and your heart sinks. I wouldn't even wash my old pans in their output.

Curmudgeon said...

One of my local pubs, the Plough in Heaton Moor, is an ex-Orchid ()now M&B) managed house, so not a trad boozer, but does make an effort on the cask beer front.

The trouble is that they have an arrangement with Blakemere who supply two house beers and typically 1 or 2 out of 3 guests. So it's somewhere the discerning drinker tends to avoid.

StringersBeer said...

@tyson, the issue(?) was about bad brewers I think. I can't see it's meaningful to call someone who brews beer that's not actually faulty, and finds a solid market a "bad brewer".

John Clarke said...

It's always the anonymous ones isn't it?

Marwood: For Northeners this would be just about any Dave Porter 3 day training course brewers

Marwood: NOT ALL BREWERS WHO DO THAT COURSE will make bad beer

So, just the one in the North then?

Stringers is right about the issue here. There are a lot of people out there who equate "beer I don't like" with "bad beer". Yes, there's quite a lot of dull brown stuff out there but that's not to say it's "bad" stuff and plenty of people (well outside the craft beer bubble, or indeed any sort of beer bubble I'd venture)are happy to drink it.

Stono said...

maybe the micros get less press because they arent busy sending out free samples to beer bloggers all the time...

look you obviously agree theres a problem that bad beer is not called out enough, else you wouldnt have brought it up again,

where you disagree, is that its related to Dave Porters courses, fair enough I couldnt tell you which brewer has been on one or not, so its largely irrelevant afaic, I do know once I factor out all the usual variables, badly kept, badly served,just not to my taste, yes there are micros who I dont think make good beer and Id avoid drinking such as Arkwrights, Elmtree, Bartrams,Farmers or Tring.

no doubt youll get lots of follow up that just says oh I had a lovely drop of...which just proves everyones tastes are different, or you may get like when I started chatting to someone at a beer festival, this stuff tastes like homebrew all the time, no it doesnt homebrew tastes better than this.

Anonymous said...

Stop twisting my sentiments then and I will stop being miffed.

Anonymous said...

Typical stringer, all about the ad hominem. Cheers for confirming.

Bailey said...

@stono "maybe the micros get less press because they arent busy sending out free samples to beer bloggers all the time..."

I think you might be over-estimating the amount of free samples sent out, and those that are sent, as far as we're aware, aren't generally from the breweries that get the most attention -- bloggers are willing to queue up and pay top dollar for their beers, so why would they bother?

(By way of evidence.)

Tandleman said...

There is a lot less free beer than you might imagine. I certainly haven't had anything this year but so what? Not what it is about.

As for bad brewers they are out there but are usually local in that their issues are not widely known. But I very much doubt if any of it is down to DP.

StringersBeer said...

ad Anonym-em surely?

critch said...

hmmmmm my two p worth... as one of dave porters 3 day wonders(well actually 5 for me, and I was home brewing for a while before hand though....) id like to take this opportunity to tell
captain marwood or whatever your name is to sling your hook. others on that particular 3 day course were ilkley and shotover, both highly competent breweries. I brew for and part own Liverpool organic. As for mr Porter he is a highly skilled brewer, and the kits he supplies are competitively priced and make beer, what more do you want? ive seen plenty of good beer made on these kits up and down the country

Birkonian said...

I find Blakemere beers to be pretty poor and can only presume that they are cheap. They can be found in the Atwill pubs (Cock & etc etc)along with other beers that I wouldn't care to drink.

Curmudgeon said...

@Birkonian - what do you think about Brimstage? Their Trapper's Hat is a regular in our local Atwill pub, the Cocked Hat, and AFAIK they don't tend to go for Blakemere beers. The pub isn't really a favourite of mine but it is in the 2016 GBG.

Birkonian said...

Brimstage brewery is only 4 miles from Atwill's original pub the Cock % Pullet in Birkenhead. Trapper's Hat has a loyal following in Wirral and they used to sell cask after cask. It's not sold anymore, we believe because they don't offer discounts.
Trapper's Hat is still a very good beer, although not quite as good as a few years back before they had to source a different hop. However, their Rhode Island Red, Scarecrow Bitter and Oystercatcher Stout are excellent beers.

Jeffrey Bell said...

The anger directed at this commenter is a bit off. Dave Porter is a big figure in the microbrewing business (a bit like saying someone's the tallest dwarf but you know what I mean). I don't think criticism was levelled at Mr Porter particularly, but rather at those who on a limited budget and experience set up microbreweries and launch beer on to the market.

Because Mr Porter specialises in relatively economical, turn-key brewing operations and has done large numbers of them it's inevitable - and a well known matter of fact, let's be honest - that most of his customers end up producing so-so or ropey beer. The fact some end up producing great beer is neither here nor there.

Any consumer who calls out the fact that so much microbrewed beer is rubbish gets a thumbs up from me. The market is absolutely comedy at the moment, and the joke is on pubs and drinkers.

StringersBeer said...

The huge majority of "so-so" beer (by volume) is produced by larger breweries - simply as a consequence of the larger volumes they produce. Granted, by keeping the barriers to entry low, economy brewing kit suppliers have enabled some shit breweries, just as they've allowed some great ones to get a toe into the market.

We could blame the pubs for buying rubbish beer. Then foisting it on their customers. Or maybe blame the customers for paying for crap beer. No, hang on, lets blame the little brewers for making shit and forcing people to buy it. It's a well-known matter of fact that this is how markets work, right?

Curmudgeon said...

The large brewers certainly produce loads of dull beer, but it's not bad beer in the sense of displaying obvious brewing faults and off-flavours, suffering infections and being wildly inconsistent. Big brewers tend to be pretty good at reliably brewing to specification.

CAMRA and other beer lovers are sometimes far too indulgent in giving micro-brewers the benefit of the doubt because it's standing up for the little guy.

StringersBeer said...

@mudgie, for sure, larger brewers don't produce much faulty beer. So-so beer? Lots. But the alternative to overindulging micro-brewers is not to say that all (or most) of them are rubbish. It's simply not true.

Jeffrey Bell said...

Well Mr Stringers no one actually said that so you're arguing with yourself I'm afraid. I was very specifically addressing what the earlier commenter you were so angry with was referring to: the turn-key Dave Porter micros with the three day brewing course etc.

What I'm not saying remember - and I suspect when talking to someone on such a hair trigger it is well to make caveats explicit and to repeat them - is that Dave Porter's installs are no good. I'm just backing up the commenter earlier who points out a lot of people who are attracted to them are inexperienced and it shows in what they themselves produce. No blame goes to Mr Porter who by all accounts does his part well.

If you do want to move away from the specifics of the Dave Porter set-ups, I will however go as far as to say that in Greater London the majority of the 70 or so brewers produce beer that either isn't very good and/or isn't worth the money they want to charge for it. So there's a statement for you.

StringersBeer said...

"Hair trigger"? You planning to accuse me of being "chippy" next, Mr Bell?

My objection to the anonymous comments was that they were unspecific and unsupported (and, of course, anonymous). It's just not fair to say that this group of unnamed (northern!) brewers are all crap. Citing some kind of 'stands to reason'.

Matey-boy couldn't put up, so he shut up.

And what's the problem if a bunch of brewers in London aren't much good? They won't sell much beer, will they, surely?

Jeffrey Bell said...

Right listen you I've got a hangover I don't think I deserve - I hardly had anything last night - and I need to take some nurofen or I'm not going to cope with going outside

Tyson said...

Much as I hate to disagree with my learned colleague JC, I have to demur with his analysis of the issue at hand. It’s not a case of people confusing “boring brown beer” with “bad beer”, although granted that does happen, but specifically the quality of that beer. It’s one thing to support start-up breweries but I for one tire of them all being labelled “super” and “smashing” when plainly they aren’t. Brewing is a profession/industry like any other and in any profession/industry there are superior and inferior products.

That is why I stand by my assertion that Blakemere (and there are plenty more) are producers of “bad” beer. They are inconsistent with their core range and their beers often contain a myriad of brewing faults. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for brewers to get the basics right.

John Clarke said...

Tyson is correct - to a certain extent. There are quite a few mediocre start-ups around (and I am surprised how some of them survive) but I still say that few of them make truly "bad" beer. Sure there can be inconsistencies but I still think their greatest fault is to be reliably dull. But then again reliably dull does sell.

I also think the instances of confusing "bad beer" with "beer I don't like" are rather more common in the blogosphere and elsewhere online are all too common unfortunately.

StringersBeer said...

@Jeffrey, sincerely, my best wishes for your recovery.

DaveS said...

I'd agree with Tyson that it's not just about Boring Brown Beer or whatever. For me, a lot of the time, what's annoying isn't that pubs are full of best bitters and golden ales from local micros when I prefer barrel aged imperial saisons, it's that they're full of best bitters and golden ales from local micros to which I'd prefer something in the same style from Adnams or Woodfordes or Fullers or Harveys or Hook Norton (apologies for Southern bias, there) or any number of other traditional regional or family breweries. Which is still subjective, but probably not to quite the same extent.

In reply to Stringers - I don't think we should blame small brewers whose beer we're frequently unimpressed by, or slander small brewers in general. Just that we should be happy to name names, without being hostile, when we don't like their beer. Or to respond to "all the beers are from local micros" with "yes, but are any of them any good..."

DaveS said...

Sorry, that last sentence was gratuitously snarky - has a lot to do with repeatedly seeing new landlords at local pubs trumpeting their range of "real ales from local microbreweries", which almost always seems to mean "whatever's cheap regardless of quality..."

Birkonian said...

Dave S sums it up for me. In Wirral (population 320,000) there is one pub that takes Hawkshead beers regularly, another takes Hawkshead, Salopian and Rat. Other than that, the quality brewers of Northern England are nowhere to be seen. No Buxton, Thornbridge, Osset, Marble, Black Jack Liverpool Organic, Liverpool Craft or even Stringer's! You can add your own favourite to the list and it won't be available in Wirral. What is available is Doom Bar, Landlord, the beer formerly known as Tetley plus mediocre beers mentioned in previous comments often purchased close to end of their shelf life. There is quite a bit of Greene King beer around here usually well kept but I'm not allowed to mention that.

Anonymous said...

I have to say this post interests me, being in the industry as a properly trained brewer i have heard many stories about Mr Porter and his ways of doing things
His course is a watered down version of a brewlab course which is hardly comprehensive and he has a very i know best attitude despite not actually being qualified himself
I wouldnt blame him personally for the amount of badly brewed beer that is around as if your starting a business you should make sure your qualified to do so, however i do believe he makes his course sound better than what it is