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West-Midlands wonders, Coolship clock-watching, and Supermarkets stepping up their game? The Sussex Bottle Share.
Another round of the Sussex bottle share was hosted by yours truly and on this occasion, we had the pleasure of being joined by Janey; who had just ‘popped’ across the border from Wales. With her, came Deya. These relative newcomers have become hugely sought after not only for the high-profile collaborations with the likes of Beavertown, but the merits of their core range too. May a hushed silence fall upon those who argue the bubble around ‘craft’ has burst.
‘Hokum Stomp’ a 5.6% Oatmeal Porter and ‘My Phone's On Snooze’ a 3.5% Raspberry Berliner Weisse were the Deya beers we sampled and both were absolutely without fault. For a porter it was surprisingly light and crisp whilst maintaining all the depth and complexity of other, more dense porters. As for the Berliner Weisse, the Raspberries were immediate and vivacious; the 150kg of them that entered the tank were certainly not lost!
Staying in that area of the country (and raspberries!), we moved to Wild Beer’s ‘Jambo’; an 8.5% Imperial Stout with Chocolate and Raspberries. I’ve had my eye on this for a while so was delighted to see it pop up on the table. I’m pleased to say it exceeded expectations to the point where I will declare it was my favourite beer of the evening. Much like the darker offering from Deya it has held on to a slight carbonation and crispness whilst offering up an unctuous pallet of favour.
It wasn’t long after pleasantries were exchanged before we all boarded the hype train- destination Burning Sky. Unless you have been living nomadically at an overpriced yoga retreat, you probably saw or at least heard Burning Sky have invested in a coolship. “A coolship (Anglicized version of the Dutch/Flemish koelschip) is a type of fermentation vessel used in the production of beer.” – Thanks Wikipedia. Their first bottled brew using this method imaginatively named ‘coolship no.1’ has been making waves (sorry). Its release came after the bottle share but the hype that preceded it meant its discussion was inevitable so our conversation was locked on who will have it and where it will be found when they run out.
On a slight side note, following the bottle share, beer-twitter was going into a meltdown. Every beer shop in Sussex and beyond started calling suppliers hoping to quench this insatiable beer-lust of our customers. In the end, we were able to obtain 6 bottles for the 10 people who wanted one. Names were drawn and for four, the hunt continues.
Last on the agenda was H.M.S. Graham, broadsiding us with a beer from the isle of Tort-Tesco. Many moons ago, South Downs Cellars stocked Vocation beers before they decided to go down the 3-for-£5 supermarket route. Invariably, in our experience, when a brewery does this the recipe of their beers undergoes cost-cutting thus having a detriment on flavour and quality. For this reason, they were discontinued and, from a brief look on Untapped, we were spot on.
So here we are, staring at a Vocation Brewery and Yeastie Boys Collaboration. This isn’t a ‘safe’ 4% pale either; it’s a whopping 6.9% Waffle & Blueberry Breakfast Stout and is yours for only £3. Now for the tasting. Is it as good as Siren Brewery’s ‘Broken Dream’ or Brewdog’s ‘Cocoa Psycho’? (the latter of which we tried tonight) No, it’s not. But it was by no means a bad beer. Therefore, the larger question has to be asked, “Are the supermarkets now getting wise to the fact people want good beer and are willing to pay for it?”
If you want my opinion (and I assume you do as you have gotten this far!), supermarkets will never be able to do what we do. Firstly, the scale that many of these breweries work at means that the quantities required by a national supermarket, even at a regional level, would be impossible. Secondly, as mentioned, a brewery upping production to cover such a scale, or trying to meet an issued price-point means cutting corners. Finally, using this shop as an example, some beers work, some don’t. Annoyingly there doesn’t seem to be any formula to it either! A safe beer from a top brewery can be totally ignored whilst a whole case of sea salt and blood orange IPA disappears in a week. This kind of uncertainty, well…. That’s just not how supermarkets work.
Beers tasted (September)
Binary - Botanical Ale
Horal - Oude Geuze Megablend 2017
Boon x Mikkeller - Oude Geuze
Deya - Hokum Stomp & My phones on Snooze
Brewdog - Cocoa Psycho
Basqueland Brewery Project - Coastal Eddie
Meantime - Greenwich Ale
Vocation Brewery x Yeasty Boys - Breakfast Club
Wild Beer - Jambo
Fullers - Vintage Ale 2005
Beavertown x Omnipollo - Mango Milk
The next bottle share will be on Friday 19th October.