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Brewing Hoppy Hopkins


It was a 7AM start on Wednesday 15th June when Alex Hill picked me up to brew Hoppy Hopkins, the monthly special for July at Green Duck. First things first which in this case means getting the malt ready, Alex had already worked out how much was needed and got the bags, which were mainly pale lager malt open the night before. And fortunately the brewery is set up with a small floor for storing the malt and a hopper above the mash tun which makes things a little easier.

Whilst the mash was going rather than standing around we got to cleaning FV 1, firstly by myself with the high pressure hose and then a little while later Alex got into the vessel to give it a good scrub down with caustic. Once the mash was done it was time to get the sparging going which means keeping an…

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‘A Whole New World, A Whole New Different Point of View’

I can never resist a Disney Quote!

Today we officially launch our new website over at www.midlandsbeerblog.co.uk

We made the choice to switch to a self hosting new site as we felt our current WordPress.com site was limiting our ability to reach our stated aim, to promote and celebrate the beer scene in the Midlands.

We hope you like our slick new look and explore the site to find our new and improved Upcoming Events Page and People of the Collective.  We will have new features added over the next few weeks, all designed to make it easier for you to hear about and find the best brewers, breweries, bars and beers.

So what are you waiting for? 


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Watch This Space

I am afraid we do not have a new post this week but we hope you agree it is for good reason.

In the coming weeks we will be introducing our new website with some new features, all designed to promote and celebrate the beer scene in the Midlands and beyond. Watch this space for more detail.

On October 14th we will celebrate our birthday with the fine people of Peel & Stone Harborne for a Beer & Food pairing night.  We would like to thank all those that bought tickets and helped the event sell out in two days.

We have plenty of ideas for future events and hope to bring you more details about those once they are confirmed..another reason to ‘Watch this Space’


Brum Beer Profiles – Rock & Roll Brewhouse

The Jewellery Quarter is rapidly becoming a must visit venue for the drinkers of Birmingham, The Lord Clifden, The Rose Villa Tavern & The Church being joined by exciting new venues  like 1000 Trades, The Pig & Tail & the subject of our latest profile.  Upon hearing Nick Cave’s new album playing as Lynne met me at the Door of the Rock & Roll Brewhouse, I knew I was going to like this place.  Dave joined us a short time later and we got to know the people with such good musical taste.

The Rock & Roll Brewhouse can be found on Regents Place in The Jewellery Quarter where we found proprietors Mark & Lynne.  Mark has long experience of brewing, starting as a home brewer and then getting involved with the Rock and Roll Brewery when it was based at the Lamp Tavern in Barford St and the Bluebell Cider house in Hockley Heath.


Lynn used to write the “Lynn’s Letters” column in the Birmingham CAMRA magazine and met Mark when doing an interview with him for the magazine.  They soon discovered they had a shared interest in music as well as beer, and when the need arose for Lynn to get a bit of brewery work experience she turned to Mark.  The initial impetus had been the possibility of working in a pub on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border, but circumstance made this a bit difficult, so instead she concentrated on dividing her time between her shifts at the Post Office Vaults bar in Birmingham city centre and the brewery and being Birmingham’s only female brewer.

After a while the brewery job won out, and although there was a limit on what they could brew at the pub the enjoyment outweighed that.  Recently however, the chance came to move the brewery to its own premises and within 10 minutes of viewing the current location Mark knew it would be OK, despite its quirkiness.  The pair got the keys on 1st Feb and have worked hard to create the space they wanted.  At the time it was 6 different units with a couple of long corridors, and photography studios with band rehearsal rooms taking up the space, but after a lot of hard work it has now become a working brewery and tap room.


It has a 6 barrel kit plus a smaller pilot kit and they now have no constraints over what they can brew, which they are really enjoying, and are revelling in having control of their own product.  When we visited, they were brewing a green hop beer using hops from Mark’s garden, when a musician they had been chatting to at the Moseley Folk Festival turned up with a big bag of mulberries, which they popped into the brew because…well, why not.  One particularly impressive elements of their rebuild is their focus on sustainability, with much of the material from building being reused to create cladding and insulation for the brewery equipment.  This focus on sustainability, is fundamental to Mark & Lynne, echoed across all their practices and they have no desire to grow, as they believe small is beautiful.

When Mark came up with the name Rock and Roll Brewhouse, as well as tying into his passion for music, it enabled them to theme the beer names around songs, bands and puns, which we found quite cool…who wouldn’t want to try a glass of Brew Springsteen.  In the spirit of keeping things local they are getting their pump clips done by a manufacturer in the JQ.


We asked Mark & Lynne what help they had received from the local organisations and were pleased to hear JQ Development Team had offered support and encouragement, as well as a community to be part of.  This has taken the form of including them in the JQDT weekend and building community through litter picks Mark & Lynne have been getting involved in.    This left me wondering what would happen if this kind of support was available for the city centre.

Besides being available at the Brewhouse on a Friday evening, and, from October, the first Saturday of the month, their vegan beers can be found at the Lamp Tavern, the Bluebell, and various local beer festivals.


The decor of the bar revolves around the music theme with nods to the musical history of Birmingham in the shape of framed gig tickets and posters, shelves and a ceiling of 7” singles and the “beer garden” part of which featured, rather appropriately,  Nick’s Cave.  I don’t know if it is the place or the people but it wasn’t long before we moved off the subject of beer and onto a discussion music over a bottle of Bramble On, which I have to say was very nice.


Birth of a Brewery pt 4

So before I left for my vacation with Deb I found time to pop in and see Rich and Chris at Burning Soul on Tuesday 20th September for the last part of our Birth of a Brewery series. The place has changed a lot since we first visited and is looking, and smelling really good…on the day they were brewing a rye pale ale to add to their growing portfolio. This was also the first time I got to see their bottle bar…yes, although the rather poor photo shows a work in progress the results so far look p1000528-2pretty impressive. They had a visit from Robert Holmes whilst I was there and you could almost see his eyes light up, and like me he was working what he’d had. I can already see this being a great conversation piece when the bar opens. And when might that be I hear you ask… Well they will be opening in October, hopefully on the 1st if all goes according to plan, but keep an eye on @BurningSoulBrew for more information and updates, and they hope to have 8 beers ready to pour. I was fortunate enough to be able to try a few and even the ones not fully ready were pretty good. I started with the red ale that they were brewing on the pilot kit last time I visited, this was the one they split and used 2 different yeasts. Unfortunately one didn’t work so well but the one that did was nice, not overly hoppy but with a creamy taste. Next up was a blackberry saison, the fruit being freshly picked whilst Rich was walking his dog. It had a good solid fruit taste and an appealing dry bitterness at the end.  For a dark beer they had brewed a coconut porter using 3 whole coconuts and plenty of Sorachi Ace hops (natch!), and they also had a pale ale with a fairly new experimental hop called Orbit.  For the last 2 beers I tried a bretted ipa using a yeast from their home brewing days which had a great aroma, really full flavoured, but again with a dry finish, and an imperial stout.  For this Rich had soaked charred oak fingers in a bottle of bourbon for 6 months until there was none of the liquid left, and then used them during the brewing and aging process, and by golly it tasted mighty good.  They also had an ipa using Summit and Chinook that was ready for kegging, a Belgian ale that was fermenting away merrily, and plans for a double ipa soon. They seem happy with their malt and hop contracts and basically can’t wait to let more people try the beers and what works will be rebrewed on the big kit and the pilot kit will carry on being used for prototype brews.  There is still some work to do mainly the odd touch of welding that their friends are helping out with but all in all both in front and behind the scenes it is all looking pretty, pretty good…Now we just need to wait a bit longer before we can all get together and celebrate this great new venture.

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Bristol Weekend

ICYMI, a great time was had in Bristol…


      When we booked tickets for the Bristol Craft Beer festival we decided to make a weekend of it since we were aware of the many great places to drink in the city. And then we discovered it was the end of Bristol Beer Week on the Friday so there were a few events going on. One of these was at the Barley Mow, a pub that had been recommended several times, and was a Bristol vs USA keg match up (not a competition apparently) and since they did food it was a bit of a no brainer. We went the scenic route from where we were staying and with it being a nice, warm, sunny evening many bars in the city were quite busy.

      But the Barley Mow is a little bit out of the centre so I guess you need to be aware…

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Meet the Brewer ~ Paul Spraget

I originally met Paul Spraget at the 2nd Birmingham Beer1 Bash in 2014 when I was a volunteer and did a stint behind the Weird Beard bar. The following year we were both back but he had moved on to Mad Hatter. So when he came up to Birmingham for the 2016 Bash and included a tasting session at Loki Wine (read about that here) I figured it would be a good time to have a chat about his itinerant brewing career.

He started off by telling me that he’d had minimal dabbling in homebrewing and by 2010 was unemployed and living in a bedsit opposite Pentonville prison and a night of good drinking would revolve around a few cans of Strongbow. And then Daniel Vane took him to a central London pub that had a Kernel black ipa & Brodies Old Street pale ale which was the archetypal light bulb above the head. Further research led him to try US breweries such as Sierra Nevada and Goose Island, and then he got a job at the Clapton Hart pub in East London which had a pretty good beer selection. He got a homebrew kit and wanted to brew a Goose Island ipa clone and a friend of a friend got him some Cluster hops but it didn’t turn out that well. A year later he was running a pub in Walthamstow called the Chequers and buying Weird Beard and Redemption beers amongst others and was inspired to do a couple more homebrews which turned out better. And then Daniel Vane, now the brewer at Weird Beard, re-enters the picture in 2013. They had a job for a brewer’s assistant, and after having a trial brewday which Paul enjoyed he decided to work two days there, doing a 100 minute tube journey to get there.  After 2 months he took the plunge to learn to be a brewer, taking a pay cut in the process, and began learning from Dan, Bryan and Gregg at the brewery.  After 6 months they told him it was his turn to do a brew for Little Things That Kill, the low abv session beer that still packs a punch.  Each batch has the same malt and body but the hop bill changes, and for batch 8, since Paul’s favourite hop is Sorachi Ace that is one of the hops that went into it, and it also became known as Sorachi Face Punch.  This was taken to a further extreme by mixing the recipe with the one for Holy Hoppin’ Hell, a 9.6% imperial ipa to create Sorachi Face Plant.  I was suitably impressed the first time I had it in Brewdog on Neil Hemus’ recommendation, but there again I am a big fan of the hop myself.  At around this time his partner, Alex, got a job near Liverpool.  Somewhat fortunately he’d met Gaz from Mad Hatter Brewing Company at the Birmingham Beer Bash, had a few beers, got talking and found out they were looking for a new head brewer, and so he went from being Weird Beard Paul to Mad Hatter Paul.  They were in the process of expanding their operation and moving to newer, bigger premises and Paul began by brewing Penny Lane Pale, a hoppy, easy drinking low abv session beer.  Over the next 20 months he learned to brew lots of special and unusual beers including absencewhat was originally intended to be a strawberry and lime saison. However for some reason they did everything except add the strawberries, dry hopped it with mosaic, and thus the “absence of…” series was born.  He was also instrumental in the creation of one of the more unusual beers I’ve had, the Tzatziki Sour-here’s the description on Untappd – “A kettle sour: if you haven’t had this beer, then yes, it really does taste like tzatziki. Cucumbers, yogurt, mint, ouzo (no garlic, that would be weird). Delicious and strange.”  During this time his relationship with his partner became a long distance one when she moved back down to London, and eventually he decided he wanted to move back and learn what he termed high process brewing.  fourEnter Four Pure where he has now settled with both their big and 1 hectolitre experimental kits and is hoping to be able to brew a few sour beers and do some barrel aging in the near future.  You can check him out on twitter here – @MarshallStaxx – and having enjoyed many of his beers in the past we here at the blog wish him continued success and look forward to raising a glass and having a chat again soon…


Its A Wrap – News Round Up – 16/09/2016

It’s been almost a year now since Tilt opening at 2 City Arcade. They have gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the go-to venues for not only beer lovers, but also lovers of great coffee & Tea.  And not forgetting the magnificent collection of pinball machines. The guys have no intention to stand still, and they are committed to continue to improve on their offering to its customers. The latest additions is a rather magnificent fridge, stocked with bottles and cans from the best breweries across U.K., Europe & USA.  It really is a glorious sight, with the signage created by Jim at Seven 9 Signs, it’s a work of art in its own right.  Bottles and cans can be purchased to take away or buy to drink in store with a flat rate corkage charged. 

Sticking with Tilt, they will be getting involved with Oktoberfest (which happens in September) by creating their own little taste of Munich on Friday 16th September.  Beers will be provided by Anspach & Hobday, and fresh Pretzels will be available to buy.  The Tilt news does not stop their as they will be hosting Newport’s champion beer winning Tiny Rebel Brewery on Thursday 22nd October for a Tap Takeover.

Twisted Barrel Ale are also coming over all German and will be hosting their own Oktoberfest event on Friday 23rd September.  They continue their travels around Europe by turning Irish on Saturday 24th September for their Father Ted theme day; you’re going to go…ah go on, go on, go on, go on!

Other events coming up included:

  • The Chequers Inn Stourbridge will be hosting a Titanic Brewery festival – 19th to 24th September. Including a Meet at Brewer event on 19th.
  • The Cannock Beer Festival 2016 will be held at Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock from 22nd to 24th September.
  • Celebrate Cherry Reds John Bright Streets 3rd Birthday on 23rd September.
  • Check out the Vegan Food & Drink event at The Gunmaker Arms on 24th September.
  • The fantastic Manchester Marble Brewery head to Birmingham for a Meet the Brewer Event at The Craven Arms on Monday 27th September.

We are both big fans of Magic Rock Brewing, with Dave visiting the tap room, so we recommend  reading Matt Curtis’s article for Good Beer Hunting profiling the brewery. http://goodbeerhunting.com/blog/2016/8/17/magic-rock-brewing-company-bringing-the-west-coast-to-west-yorkshire 

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for more news and events.


Dave & Bob

We are celebrating our birthday in style with the great people at Peel & Stone Harborne.


If you are interested in attending this event get in contact ASAP as tickets are selling fast.


Four Pure tasting at Loki Wine

      In mid July, as part of Birmingham Beer Week and just before the Beer Bash launched Deb and I went to a Four Pure tasting and meet the brewer at Loki Wine in Great Western Arcade.  We thought it sounded fun as it was in an unusual location compared to previous meet the brewers, plus I hadn’t tried a lot of their beer and wanted to see how they had come on since Paul Spraget had joined them.  But first up Rob Davis gave a short introduction to the brewery which was started in 2013 by 2 brothers, David and Thomas Lowe, who had made a bit of cash in the tech world. One of them liked US craft and one Vienna style beers, and the original aim was to brew for 6 months and then take 6 months off.  They found a site in Bermondsey that worked but their original idea was shattered when they had 175% growth in the 1st year, and 225% in the 2nd, so they ended up brewing all year round.  They began canning in early 2014, putting in their order for a canning line just before Beavertown, with the aim of bringing quality, freshness and consistency to their line up. Earlier this year they expanded the brewing team including a new lead brewer from Siren, plus Paul, but we’ll come onto his story later…but first he introduced us to the stories behind a few of their beers.

      On arrival we had been given a can of Pils, one of their flagship beers, a nod to the tradition of the classic German pilsners but using modern techniques.  It was refreshing with a bit of sweetness from the malts and a slight bitterness from the noble hops that had been used. p1000505-2Next up was Shapeshifter, originally an Oregon style ipa but the recipe and technical process has changed to make it more like a West coast version.  Pale UK malt and West coast ale yeast are used with hardly any hops for bittering, some for flavour, but lots for aroma.  Both Deb and I were well impressed with this, great tropical fruit aroma and taste and dangerously drinkable at 6.4%.

      Flatiron is named after a Colorado mountain range and is an American red ale, which Paul described as a more malt forward American interpretation of a traditional brown ale.  It has crystal malts to give a bit of sweetness but lots of US hops to get a nice balance of flavours and a good clean finish.  He told us that the hops come from the hop farms directly in the form of pellets, and are always kept chilled.  Quite a change of style next as we moved on to a wheat beer named for the London skyline.  It uses torrified wheat, very little hops, this version using mainly Mandarina Bavaria, but the most important thing is the yeast which gives the clove and banana bread taste.

      The final beer of the tasting was one I had been looking forward to for a while, brewed on the 100 litre test kit and part of the Outpost series it came in a 500ml can and did not disappoint.  Although noting that it was a bit of a trendy style the judicious combination of Citra, Mosaic, and Cascade hops along with the addition of orange zest at the end of the boil gives this a really full juicy flavour, and once again belies it’s 5.9% abv.  Yep, once you’ve had one it would be quite easy to drink another.  20160720_200437The tasting finished with Rob explaining that they have tried to model their brewery in terms of sustainability and impact on the environment on the New Belgium Brewery of Colorado, check out here – http://www.fourpure.com/sustainability/ – for more details.

      So, there we have it, as stated earlier having the event upstairs at Loki gave it a different feel, I got the impression that Phil, Loki’s proprietor enjoyed it, as did the punters who had come along.  I definitely got the impression that this had opened their eyes to the qualities of what, for a better term, we are calling craft beer…The only thing to do after this was to take Rob and Paul along to the Craven Arms and carry on talking.