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Sussex Bottle Share

I’m writing to you today from the recesses of the Lindfield shop, hunched over a desk with a heated electric fan around 12 inches from my face, desperately hoping to see a pinky hue return to these rigid fingers. That’s right; it’s our bi-yearly, week long, deep freeze. It’s comically cold out there, and as you’ve probably heard James and I whinge, “not much warmer in here!”, so why the dedication to get this out to you?

Well! On the 22nd of February we had the privilege of hosting the monthly Sussex Bottle Share. This event, organised by a group of passionate locals, seeks to find the very best beers that the world has to offer. The idea is fairly self-explanatory, you purchase any beer (or beers) you wish to share from any source you want, bring it with you to the event, and crack it open to share it with everyone.   

From new breweries and envelope pushers such as ‘Verdant’ whose beers continue to surprise us with their consistency and originality to those who have been around long before the U.K. revolution started. Such as The Kernel, whose high quality has inspired a new generation of brewers and drinkers alike, the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ is well and truly with us and these nights allow you to enjoy a snapshot of what is out there.

However, there is no obligation for it to be English; we’ve tried a stunning American Stout from Firestone Brewery and a handful of super Saisons from Belgium. Continuing with the theme of being encouraged to bring any beer you like to the table, my offering wasn’t even in a bottle; Unbarred’s ‘PAPA’comes in a 440ml can. 

You may have seen DIPA’s (Double India Pale Ale’s) which tend to be punchier in flavour and higher in alcohol. Well, this is a Double Pale Ale. What attracted me to it was the vagueness in which it presents itself. Just under the beers title you can read, “A sort of double pale ale”. With the current trend for obsessing over the details, it was refreshing to see someone taking a more light-hearted approach (although I’m sure Jordan and the gang from Unbarred did plenty of obsessing) ...and refreshing it was! It sits in a gap it’s made for itself between a Pale Ale and an IPA - another beer to add to the portfolio of top-level beers from Unbarred. 

As we made our way through Saisons from the likes of Burning Sky and Cantillon and on to the richer styles from De Ranke, Brewdog and Modern Times it became clear that seated around the table there was every level of beer enthusiast, from those who have metaphorically only just opened the book, to those who have not only read it twice but have started their own line of Fan Fiction complete with painted figurines and questionable browser histories. It was a great opportunity to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and allow people who clearly love beer to share their experiences. 

The conversation we shared made several things clear. Firstly, how brilliantly the UK has carved out a name for itself in the world of craft beer. The hop-heavy style really sets itself apart from its European counterparts and the mimicry of long established styles has allowed the skills of British brewers to be showcased. This can be in the form of slight deviations from the ordinary or entirely new methods or processes. Secondly, just how many breweries, both new and old, there are right on our doorstep. Half way through proceeding, we were joined by Oliver Parsons from Arundel Brewery, who kindly brought along a few beers from their repertoire which were promptly consumed, further highlighting how close we are to quality beer both literally and figuratively. 

The evening was wrapped up with a rare treat indeed, a stout that had been aged in Chateau Yquem barrels. You may think you know perfection, but you do not. For the uninitiated Chateau Yquem is a dessert wine from Sauternes, France. A cursory look on Google shows a bottle of the 2009 on sale for £4,200. A dark beer with a treacle-like texture and flavour, deep and rich with a persistent finish that had us all doing a face that suggested we all had a new benchmark for which not only will we rate beer against, but possibly all things. I think I speak for all of us when I once again thank Peter for his contribution; you have set the bar very high indeed.

Sussex Bottle Share’s inaugural meet-up was held at Brewdog in Brighton in which seven were in attendance. This was the second iteration and the numbers have grown to 13. It’s great to see that a community-organised event is gaining such traction. If you want to join them for Part Three, it will be held at The Malt Shovel in Horsham on 15th March.  

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