Monday 19 April 2010

Away Day

I did get my day away from the brewery after all. The volcanic dust cloud did not affect the M5. I went up to London for a pub crawl. On my way up I popped into Henley and visited Jeff at Lovibonds Brewery. Jeff is a top bloke and a brews very good beer. He’s not claiming to be inventing the wheel. He’s doing something original (to the UK) and worthwhile, quietly and purposefully. I wished I’d had longer to spend with him and wasn’t driving because I could have easily drunk his beer all weekend! I also wished I’d had time to see Andy at Rebellion (sorry mate) and Chris and Steve at Loddon (sorry guys).

The dark side of Henley for me was a visit to the corpse of Brakspear crawling with very well-off maggots. The analogy is a bit unfair on the paying guests of the Hotel du Vin but looking in through the brewhouse window it felt like they were walking on my grave. The most poignant moment was seeing the mistletoe that I had hung up at Brakspear’s last Christmas as a brewery. Traditionally every Christmas the brewer or fortunate other was hoisted up to the eves of the roof to tie on a bundle of mistletoe. Legend had it that as long as the mistletoe remained in place the brewery would prosper. Mine was still there 8 years on but the brewery has been eviscerated. Maybe if Peter Scholey had done it we’d all still be there. Or maybe Mr Scholey knew something so delegated the morbid task to me!

The picture at the top of this post is of the malt barrow in the old malt store taken on the last day as a brewery by Nigel Grant the Bottling Manager. It’s the only time I have ever seen the room empty. God knows how many tonnes of Maris Otter this barrow carted across those noble old floorboards. He sent me the picture down when I started at Sharp’s and it brought a tear to my eye.

London was as expensive and fun as always and I tried to track down Gentle Jane without success at a few branches of ‘Spoons. I did try a number of the other festival brews and was impressed, underwhelmed and disgusted with an equal number. Two of the beers I gave back over the bar for disposal, one of which has been much-vaunted in the blogosphere. I’m not naming names because my opinion is irrelevant and this isn’t a beer review blog but to call this hazy and acrid beer, balanced and well-crafted is as to describe Katie Price as beautiful. Maybe I am out of step with 'beer fashion' as well as celebrity culture.


Tandleman said...

That'll be a beer from certain controversial Scottish guys then I take it? I said something kind about it in my blog, but then again my pint was superb and I had to queue for it, so I wasn't the only one on that showing that gave it high marks.

In London you may have got a duff pint? Many a good beer has been ruined by poor presentation. Or be right of course. It's all personal taste and opinion in the end.

Stuart Howe said...

As I said in the post Tandleman I am not here to slate brewers so I won't reveal which of the beers I returned. To me poor appraisals of my beer are like positive cancer test results so I know not to slag anyone else's off.

I shouldn't have got carried away on the blog and written that. My excuse is a hellish day and the prospect of an even worse one toay.

You are quite correct though cask ale is either the best thing on the planet or a total disaster depending on who is handling it.

Levi Stubbs said...

That picture brings back alot of memories.
Inside the hotel there are pictures of the brewery, not as it was but as a shell, devoid of the unique equipment and characters that made it so special. Having said that, i don't miss the bottling shifts quite so much.
I read in the Henley standard this week that "Bunny" Warren had past away, one pickled onion too many I guess.
Too bad you couldn't call in for a pint, maybe next time.

Stuart Howe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stuart Howe said...

I bet Bunny's passing broke a few hearts in Henely. There have been times since leaving Brakspear that I have remembered humid days in the bottling hall with warm fondness. Not many though!

Mark, said...

Gentle Jane wall all over Kent and London when I was there, and Leeds earlier in the week too. We must have been in inverse branches of Wetherspoons!

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Good to see you again Stuart, thanks for stopping in and for the mention.

Stuart Howe said...

We sent 1000 casks to out for the festival so I assumed that we would be stocked everywhere. Just my bad timing as always!

Mark, said...

Trappist IPA was bloody fantastic too (that wasn't from Spoons though!)

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