What first inspired me to make beer was shite beer. It was keg at the rugby club that tasted of fizzy acid. It was cans of Norseman Lager from Tesco that must have cost the brewer several thousands in hospitality for the beer buyer. It was these beers and hundreds of others that made London Pride, Admans Extra and Duvel such a stunning revelation.
As a beer lover I followed the advice of Roger Protz, Michael Jackson and Tim Webb. I saught challenging, idiosyncratic beers made on a tiny scale and loved nearly everything I tried. The romance and history behind the great beers made the whole process of finding and consuming them almost magical. These were the days when the history was magical in itself and didn’t seem to need embroidery by marketers
Throughout my training as a brewer I followed the path of science of production management best practice and grew to love balance and ‘commerciability’ in flavour. I learned that clear and clean is best. As a practicing brewer I learned to respect the ability to create and achieve this balance consistently within the contexts of changing circumstances.
The apparent conflict between idiosyncrasy and balance brings me to the question which I ask myself today. Am I trying to get a number one single or win the Turner Prize? Does there need to be a compromise?
For trained brewers of the yesteryear life appears to me to have been easier. Most were biochemistry graduates looking for something to do for a career. You loved the beer you made and enjoyed your job. Your world was fairly insular and your focus was on ‘your’ beer.
Nowadays we have the sexy brewers who are driven by the need to innovate to reinvent beer with wild and exciting ingredients and processes. Beer made with malt and hops which tastes of beer is no longer cool. Good beer must be brewed with 10kilos of hops per pint, be spiced with the stamens from an Icelandic orchid, be fermented to 18% ABV upside down in a supersonic jet, before being matured for 3 years in an old sherry cask covered in puffin shite half way up Mount Everest. It helps if it's called Crack Whore on a Skateboard.
I’m all for innovation but only when it makes delicious beer. There seems to be a growing enclave of the beer enthusiasts who seek difference for difference’s sake and for whom the process seems to be more important than the product. Is the world of beer at risk of becoming like the world of art where the top prize (Turner Prize) is awarded to what the vast majority of people consider to be complete bollocks?
Do wine producers of the world, seek to achieive greatness by making wine out of pumpkins and watermelons before spicing it with anchovies?
My raison d’être as a brewer is to make great beers which appeal to true connoisseurs but at the same time are accessible to the average drinker. Nice drinks in their own right. I don’t like bullshit and I don’t like mass appeal dross so I don’t want to make that. To me an insipid commodity lager is no worse than a beer brewed on a small scale with care and passion which tastes like sipping a Glade Plug in.