Craft Beer Rising last year debuted at the Old Truman Brewery with Norman Jay on DJ duties and the cream of Britain’s breweries, both tiny and colossal, setting up shop to showcase their most interesting offerings.
From the big boys like Adnams hiding behind a “craft beer” range to real independent spirits like King Beer and Ilkley there was definitely a broad range on display. The Craft Beer Rising format means they were all able to set their own stalls and promote as they saw fit which allows for the personalities to really shine through.
2 Themes we noticed at Craft Beer Rising were:
- Black IPA – Almost everyone seemed to have one
- “Craft Beer” as opposed to “Real Ale” – The Americanisation seems a popular terminology designed to bring in the ladies 😉
There was also an immense focus on Hops – we had so many conversations about “powerful” combinations and the skill of introducing them at the right time in the process. Firebrand Brewing from Cornwall took this one step further by displaying their ever-so-homemade “Randaliser”. This is a device which adds an extra hoppiness without the bitterness at the point of delivery by filtering through and topping up your pint from the tap. It added a clean and refreshing extra taste although seemed more of a gimmick for the show than something they were seriously planning to roll out.
These guys were offering the Hibernation IPA a chilled wheat beer/ Pale Ale for charity. They have bought 1 million sqft of rainforest and give 5 for every beer bought – you can find out more at – mygreensquares.com/promotions/bearhugcbr. The beer itself was a fresh and interesting combination of styles. I’m not normally a fan of Wheat beers but this one had something a bit different about it.
With a corporate-looking frontage, Ice sculpture cooling device and boasting a cross between Stout and Cider, London Velvet didn’t fill me with excitement. It was surprisingly decent actually, although without the marketing clout I’m not sure how likely it would be to take off. The idea is it’s a bit more classy than half-Guinness-half-Strongbow and a lighter alternative to a hoppy Craft Beer.
Rev & Makers Thornbridge
Reverend and the Makers were DJing at some point over the weekend at Craft Beer Rising, but they had also teamed up with the Thornbridge brewery to create a Summer ale. We were dubious how much involvement there had been but were assured that Ed Cosens from the band is actually an extremely keen amateur brewer and had created his own batch which had then been tweaked and recreated on a bigger scale. It was a very decent ale and we were pleasantly surprised.
A poor placement of stall saw the Islay brewery tucked at the far end of the hall, sheltered from their neighbours and without even a booth opposite. I suppose they felt at home. We engaged with the chap working there but he seemed a little mournful, his colleagues had buggered off to visit the Tower of London leaving him even more isolated.
We asked what it was about Islay that made their beers unique. Was it aged in Whisky barrels? Did it have tinges of Scottish Heather? Was there a particular style favoured by the islanders? It turned out that no, they didn’t, the beer wasn’t really brewed for tourists or for export, it was for the locals who didn’t want to drink whisky all the time. We tried the pretty standard craft beer on offer disappointed that none of the potential USPs had been grasped.
I’d taken a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich for a friend’s Stag do and it was unlike any brewery tour I’ve done before. This guy – with the cap and his back to us is Big Al and he is a gregarious drunk who made the whole affair incredibly entertaining. He was wandering around the Craft Beer Rising festival filming for something or other – I’d love to find out what!
Truman’s reopened as a brewery in 2013 – although not at this site, and they were present to promote some fine ales. The thing I noticed, however was that the man from Sharp’s the previous year who had indoctrinated us into Quadrupel was here representing a different brand!
Perhaps the highlight for me was the enthusiasm and clout of King Beer. We were accosted on entry by a representative offering us a free CD (which contained a rather special mix of tunes curated to accompany their brews)
We got chatting to the head brewer who insisted that we try a selection of their offerings – and they have quite a range. He used to work for Truman’s and apparently could have gone back there but preferred to start his own operation.
We then chatted to his assistant, who I will admit I first thought was a junior but after a couple of minutes of conversation it became clear he was a prodigy with a real knowledge of the chemical make up of beer and the brewing process.
I hope Craft Beer Rising continues to flourish because it really encourages brewers to have a bit of character and allows them to show off their individuality in a way that other beer festivals do not.