It occurred to me that, with the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF)looming large in my thoughts, a catch-up of what I have been up to wouldn't be a bad idea.
In Manchester, this week, I was invited to the official unveiling of a new collaboration between JW Lees and Cloudwater Brewery,
held at Lees Rain Bar. The enjoyment of these things isn't wholly the beer - though this was more than interesting - but the chance to meet up with people. I had excellent chats with Lees MD William Lees-Jones about the industry in general and with Paul Jones from Cloudwater about the crowded craft beer market among other things. Great stuff. My friends from Lees Brewing Team were also on hand to talk about the beer. Yes the beer. Not Quite Pale... the star of the show, is a DDH beer of 5.2%. I had it on cask, though a keg version was also available, and if you like your beer bitter, well this is right up your street. I fear though this beer,
brewed in Lees Boilerhouse Brewery, might be hard to come by, as only 10 barrels were brewed. Certainly one to look out for. The Simcoe and Strata hops made their presence felt for sure.
A fine selection of Boilerhouse beers were also on offer and I can say without a doubt that Lees know how to brew a very good lager or three. Manchester Pilsner was a stunningly good beer with a spicy pepper Tettnang finish, while others sang the praises of Light Lager with its Mount Hood hops. More of these, please.
The night before the beer judging, on this flying visit, I decided to nip down to Farringdon to visit one of my favourite London pubs, the Sutton Arms. I went via Barbican and stepping out from the station on the very direct route to Great Sutton St, I noted that I was passing another Sutton Arms, in Carthusian St. "Two Sutton Arms in one night I thought?" Why not? So after my usual pleasant visit to my "normal" Sutton Arms, I nipped in on the way back. Let's just say it wasn't a great success, the welcome and service being a lot less than desirable. I actually filled in Fullers online feedback form while I was still there. Rapidly I received an apology, but you only have one chance to make a first impression and I doubt if I'll go back for the compensatory free pint I've been offered. And in these difficult times, that really is the point.
By way of contrast, after the beer judging, with a couple of fellow judges we went to another Fullers pub, the Warwick Arms. Rather an appealing little pub, and there we were greeted with utmost friendliness and charm. The landlady couldn't have been nicer, discussing the guest beer and offering tastings while checking on our wellbeing from time to time. The young bar staff were equally pleasant, and we stayed a lot longer than we intended. You see, as I always say "It's the offer Stupid". And being nice always works.
And so to GBBF. Continuing the theme, I'm looking forward to seeing many people I know and hoping my dodgy knee will stand up to days of serving the thirsty hordes. I'll be working on German and Czech bar as usual, so come and say hello.
I've had a look at the list of beers in the festival and there are some crackers. It should be fab.
Don't listen to any moaning about price. For £20 you get a glass, a programme and a couple of halves and the chance to see me. Compared to the average craft beer festival, we are giving it away!