All posts by Richard

Lovibonds Brewery on the brink

Establishing, operating and – with time – growing a brewery is a tough task, with unforeseen problems rearing their head at will. Irrespective of whether the recent boom in craft beer is sustainable or not, the everyday pressures of running a small business can leave some producers skating on thin ice through no fault of their own. As us consumers get caught up in the excitement of new sours and barrel-aged releases, the men and women who work all hours to create these beers sometimes have the rug pulled from under them. And that is exactly what could be about to happen to one producer in the south-east.

Lovibonds – a brewery with a hundred-year association with Henley on Thames – is set to close through one of the more unexpected threats to breweries – conversion into flats. Yes, the problem that has taken account of hundreds of pubs the length and breadth of the country isn’t often one faced by the people who supply those pubs with beer, but Jeff Rosenmeier and his team are facing the prospect of being evicted by their landlord, who has lodged a planning application to turn the Lovibonds tasting room and barrel cellar into seven luxury flats.

So rather than the shakeout of the modern craft brewing industry, or some lawyered-up trademark dispute crunching through the funds, all of a sudden one of the best small craft breweries in the UK looks set to be punted out of their buildings for the benefit of a landlord and just over half a dozen people. Even though it’s a long way from Scotland, I unashamedly love what Jeff and the guys do (I visited him in March 2015 for a piece I put together for BrewDog), and it would be a crying shame for the brewery to be kicked to the curb in this way.

Timing is never good for a notification such as this to appear on your doormat, but Lovibonds for years brewed at Luxters five miles from their taproom, transporting everything between the two sites. Now with a set up closer to home and the recent milestone of their 600th brew (the same as their 1st; Henley Gold) it’s a massive kick in the balls for Jeff to have to overcome. Urban renewal – appearing exactly when and where you don’t want it. But, do Lovibonds have a way out of this?

That parallel to pub conversions is more than an easy analogy as, like many of them, Lovibonds is the centre of the community in Henley. A town best known for its Regatta has much more going for it and many of that emanates (or is focused around) the brewery taproom. With talks, tastings, live music, charity events and even the recent fresh hop brewday, Lovibonds deserves better than being pushed aside for a few flats. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but let’s hop Lovibonds can hold on to the community hub aspect that sometimes stays the hands of developers looking at old pubs.

If you’d like to oppose the planning application, it can be done so by visiting this page and leaving a comment. Local fans of the brewery have set up a Save Lovibonds FaceBook group, too. Let’s hope the needs of the many in the town are recognised and Lovibonds can stay in existence, keeping the developers at bay.

Beer of the Week – Cromarty Ghost Town

Beer of the Week, take two that is. Sadly I ran out of time to post one last week so this is a double-edition, and following along from Swannay’s outstanding Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout we remain on the dark side but flick over to its other half and talk about another porter. I say another, as this series has already featured the enveloping charms of Williams Midnight Sun and Black Isle Porter. So let’s make it a triumvirate.

Cromarty’s porter is a bona fide classic – in thinking why this might be it struck me that the ten-malt payload makes it very similar to one of my favourite beers of all time (and a slam-dunk for unsung beers of the UK – but that is something for another time) Summer Wine’s Teleporter. Cromarty’s is just as good, so it deservedly has a place in my fifty-two Scottish beers that need a little more love – and let’s face it, with less than ten to go, there aren’t many more opportunities for these beers to shine. So let’s shine a light on Ghost Town.

43. Ghost Town (5.8%)
Cromarty Brewing, Cromarty
Style: Porter
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Cromarty’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

Unexpectedly the first thing that hit me from this porter was liqourice, which I wasn’t prepared for at all. After that the flavours mellowed into the dryer, roasted elements from the different malts but the finish then revealed a bitter, resinous element which rounded things off in fantastic fashion. I know Cromarty already make a Black IPA (Black Hop Down) but this is as near to an IPA-Porter hybrid as you can get, and all the better for it. It’s an absolute masterpiece.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado
41. Campervan Pacific Zest
42. Swannay Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout

Beer of the Week – Swannay Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout

Another week draws to a close with a beery recommendation from me on a great Scottish beer that might be flying under your radar. Two, in fact, as last week I ran out of time to get one up so it’s a twofer this time around. And in an act of true symmetry the beers this week are a stout and a porter. The latter will be detailed in a second post, so let’s get to the stout. And what a stout it is.

Swannay are no strangers to this list; I’ve already featured the all-world Old Norway barley wine and their blink and you miss it Orkney Session – but they are masters of the dark beer as well. As I said about two weeks ago, there are so many stouts on this list – far more than I would have thought when starting out this adventure back in January – but maybe given the weather here that shouldn’t have been so surprising. So if you’re looking for another great Scottish stout, you have to get a little sneaky…

42. Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout (4.2%)
Swannay Brewery, Orkney
Style: Stout
500ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Swannay’s online shop (as individual 500ml bottles)

This is a beautifully roasty numnber – as all the best stouts are. Dry, ash-bitter and chocolatey this beer is a triumph of roasted barley. Now there is another stout from a Celtic nation that prides itself on the use of this ingredient, but Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout delivers all that you would expect from a dark beer and then some. That extra push is down to dry-hopping, which just about appears to add a complementary input but never removing an ounce from the showcase of roasty flavour. It’s a joy to drink, particularly at this time of year.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado
41. Campervan Pacific Zest

Beer of the Week – Campervan Pacific Zest

Friday is here once again – they just keep on coming – and so that means another chance to pass on a tip about a Scottish beer that may well be flying under your radar. Every week throughout 2017 I will be doing this, giving a little love to a beer that deserves to be in your cupboard and then your favoured beer glass. With so much happening in beer – even if you just restrict yourself to this part of the UK – sometimes things slip past, unnoticed.

So for this particular Friday it’s a throwback to something that would have been great in the long, lazy Scottish summer. For all of those evenings on the decking, watching the sun slowly set, the ideal beer to have in hand is a tropical IPA that gives you bags of sweet, juicy fruit flavour to make that evening all the better. And here is that beer – Campervan’s excellent Pacific Zest.

41. Pacific Zest (4.5%)
Campervan Brewery, Edinburgh
Style: Pale Ale
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Hop Shop online (as individual 330ml bottles)

Citrus-packed American Pale Ales are nothing new but always welcome – and one of the keys to packing in the flavour is loading up those juicy C-hops. But there is another route – the South Pacific and the hops of New Zealand and Australia. And then there’s a third way (this is a brewery with the tagline ‘wandering but not lost’). Add as many hops as you can get and then include a big hit of lime zest. And you can certainly taste that in Pacific Zest. It’s fruity, pithy and almost verging on the tart – but the juicy hops come along at the end to leave you refreshed and seriously wanting more. If you see this beer on cask, buy it.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout
40. Windswept Tornado

Beer of the Week – Windswept Tornado

Every week throughout 2017 I’ll be running the rule over a Scottish beer that I believe deserves a little more love and a lot more credit. So it’s time for another recommendation of something to seek out and add to your drinking cupboard as soon as you possibly can. With around 150 breweries in Scotland at the moment there’s always something new and interesting to seek out – so sometimes the best beers can get lost in all the noise.

Noise is no bad thing of course, but in between the arrivals and the constant trying of new things sometimes you need to take a step back and revisit (or discover) a classic. And when it comes to hops, Citra has for the last few years been one of the must-haves in any brewers’ arsenal. So one of the most unheralded exponents of its use is without doubt a worthy addition to your beery schedule. I’m talking about the mighty Windswept Tornado.

40. Tornado (6.7%)
Windswept Brewing, Lossiemouth
Style: IPA
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Windswept’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

Tornado by name, and Tornado by nature (even though the beer is named after the aircraft not the weather phenomenon). It hits you with a big slug of oily, pithy citrus that also carries with it that US-payload of crystal malt. If you told me this was brewed in Colorado instead of Moray I would have believed you. There’s caramel, toffee and pine and the near-7% ABV comes through on the finish. All said, Tornado is one of the most underrated IPAs in the country, no question.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial
39. Williams Bros Profanity Stout

Beer of the Week – Williams Bros Profanity Stout

Friday is here so that brings with it another beer recommendation from yours truly. Each and every weekend this year will be kicked off with a Scottish beer I think is flying under the radar and needs just a little bit more love – because we have so much incredible beer up here, sometimes the truly great ones can get lost. So here’s another tip for you – as we swing into October, it’s stout time.

Mind you, it’s always stout time in Scotland. I don’t think there’s a style that a part of the UK does better than Scotland and stouts. There are nearly ten in my list already, for evidence – and the next beer to join them might just be the best of all. Williams Bros are no stranger to making dark beers, and they are so prolific that it’s inevitable some are arrived at later rather than sooner. But when it comes to Profanity Stout, all roads should lead towards it.

39. Profanity Stout (7.0%)
Williams Bros, Alloa
Style: Stout
330ml bottle

Pick it up here:
At Williams Bros’s online shop (as individual 330ml bottles)

This is a real sneaky one. It certainly doesn’t hit you like a 7% ABV beer should, which is quite something. However you should get a fair idea of its advertised strength from the sheer variety of flavours it fires at you, one after the other. Coffee and liquorice. Dark red fruits and salted caramel. Roasted malt and flowery hops. It’s a masterpiece of blending different elements into an overall whole. Profanity Stout is every bit as good as the sum of its parts and an absolute shoe-in for one of the best beers to come out of Scotland this decade.

Beer of the Week Series:
1. Fyne Ales Highlander
2. Swannay Old Norway
3. Broughton Old Jock
4. Traquair House Ale
5. Tempest Easy Livin Pils
6. Cromarty Brewed Awakening
7. Fallen Chew Chew
8. Black Isle Hibernator
9. Isle of Skye Red
10. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Engineer’s Reserve
11. Orkney Skull Splitter
12. Windswept Wolf
13. Kelburn Dark Moor
14. Alechemy 5ive Sisters
15. Loch Ness Light Ness
16. St Andrews Eighty Bob
17. Harviestoun The Ridge
18. Orkney Dark Island
19. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes
20. Cairngorm Black Gold
21. Strathaven Craigmill Mild
22. Black Isle Red Kite
23. Spey Valley Spey Stout
24. Top Out Schmankerl
25. Cross Borders Braw
26. Williams Bros Midnight Sun
27. BrewDog Kingpin
28. Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack
29. Deeside MacBeth
30. Drygate Ax Man Red Rye IPA
31. Swannay Orkney Session
32. Fallen Platform C
33. Black Isle Porter
34. Top Out Altbier
35. Black Metal Gates of Valhalla
36. Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer
37. Loch Lomond Southern Summit
38. Tempest Old Parochial