I was recently introduced by someone I have a lot of respect for as Stuart Howe, a brewer who used to make great beer at Sharp’s in Cornwall. I asked him what had changed and he said “well, you work for Molson Coors now”. Molson Coors have made a few changes since acquiring Sharp’s but one of them has not been to put up posters saying “Make Shit Beer”. They have also not changed any of the brewing team, raw materials, recipes or anything which has an impact on the flavour of the beer. Nor do they want to and nor shall they on my watch.
I can see to a degree where he was coming from. I have known a few brands which have been commercialised into banality. Chimay beers, in my opinion, are now good when once they were once great. That said historical precedents do not provide a crystal ball into the future.
To dismiss a beer because it is not brewed by a small brewery or because it not felt to be a craft beer is to me as obscene as going into a brewpub and dismissing the opportunity to try sample their wares in favour of a major brand, while defending this choice with “I only drink lager”. Any form of closed mind when it comes to food or drink is objectionable. Is there anyone on the blogosphere who is up for a row and wants to defend dismissing all beers brewed above a small scale? As always my mind is open but my convictions strong.
All organisations that make beer do so to make money, some are more honest about this than others. This is done in the context of the market. If you want to sell beer you need a market for it. In the last 10 years the market for drinks has become much more sophisticated. Beer writers, CAMRA, and bloggers should feel proud that their enthusiasm for and promotion of a great drink has changed what the market is looking for in a beer. Supermarkets and multimedia have also been instrumental. People who run large global brewers are clever. They understand that a sophisticated market where people seek exciting flavour and provenance in a beer isn’t going to fall for mass produced soulless brands, with a nice story and fancy branding. They realise that they need to make sophisticated drinks to sell beer to people with sophisticated palates.
So I am not Stuart Howe who used to make great beer in Cornwall, I am Stuart Howe the brewer who strives to make the best beer possible in Cornwall and will do for a good many years, with the support of Molson Coors.
This brings me nicely on to a bit of exciting insider information for you on some new bottled beers Sharp’s have on the horizon. A couple of the beers which under the last management I had to brew at the weekend and bottle after work, are making their first appearance at a full commercial scale. Massive Ale and Honey Spice Tripel will finally be brewed at a scale which means everyone who wants the beer will be able to get it. I hope to include an apology on the label to all the people who have asked for Massive and Honey Spice only to be disappointed. Also Sharp’s imperial double IPA and a single hop varietal strong golden ale will become a reality this year. None of this is official yet (and Ms McCready will probably punch me for revealing it) but they are firmly on my brewing programme.