I’m always intrigued when it comes to tap takeovers. Not because of the myriad of beers that are on offer, although this is a big draw, of course; more because of the reaction of the brewers themselves to seeing so many of their own wares on offer at once. Some are fairly blasé about it, whereas others react as if it’s their name up on the glittering exterior of the Palladium. Most, as you’d expect, fall somewhere in between.
Inevitably, that reaction changes over time, with experience; the first tap takeover being a very different proposition to the thirtieth. Without exception though, all brewers (who host events worth attending) take a keen interest in what is being poured – peering at clarity, carbonation and the like as the beers go out, whilst fielding enthusiastic comments about how they are tasting.
A reaction I’ve not often experienced occurred a couple of nights ago at the Hanging Bat, a few minutes before a Meet the Brewer event with Malton’s Bad Seed Brewery. I asked James, by far the more stoic of the pair, what it was like to look at the Bat’s board and see their brewery name repeated so often. “It’s quite weird, really, seeing the beers up there,” he replied, quietly. “Although I’ve never tried half our beers on keg to be honest, because I don’t really get out much.”
This shouldn’t really be that surprising – Bad Seed are hugely busy. They have only been going for a year and a half, and despite appearing on several radars, have done it all hand-bottling from a 4BBL kit. In brewing terms, their operation is tiny. James and partner Chris are fairly sanguine about it, though, and get as much beer out as they can by double brewing a couple of days a week, producing two 3BBL batches and combining them in their ‘roomy’ 6BBL fermenter.
After being called up at relatively short notice on the Bat Phone (due to another brewery withdrawing), they hoarded pretty much everything they had, resulting in a fairly astonishing 17 beers on in the one night. This has to be one of the more tub-thumping elements of the modern beer scene; brewers turning up to ticketed events with more casks/kegs that it’s actually possible to sample in one evening.
We gave it a shot, though. This was the first time Bad Seed had done their own tap takeover (previously they had only done a lone paired event, shared with another brewery). As anyone who’s tried one of their beers knows, their fingerprint is to do something different to the Yorkshire norm, such as taking the most Northern of styles – the Brown Ale – and brewing a wet-hopped version. Sours, too, were also prominent, including a seriously good rhubarb and ginger version.
When you speak to Chris and James, the initial enthusiasm is still evident – if anything, it’s been augmented by a ‘wow, this is really happening’ excitement. They have recently acquired a white wine barrel for ageing their saison, and have beers already in whisky casks. During their day at the Hanging Bat, they also brewed a Wee Heavy for cask-ageing. This is very much the next stage of craft; second level stuff.
Yet the beer that stood out for me was one of the most fundamental there – an October Ale. In the month where pumpkin beers have steadily crept their way into the specials bracket, it’s great to see a harvest ale being produced. You may disagree, but gourd-free barley wines are far preferable, in my book. This one was wet-hopped, as well, with Sovereign, and was sweet, with a subtlety of marzipan and pear drop on the taste.
Bad Seed are definitely on the right path, and will only attract more fans along the way – even in that most competitive of brewing counties, North Yorkshire. If they remain on this upward trajectory, James will find himself out a lot more, you would think…