A Moment of Clarity

With noise and distraction all around us, we often need a moment of clarity to help us make sense of a situation, a niggle, an ambition or whatever it may be.  The picture above is a photograph I took while visiting Toby McKenzie at his Red Willow Brewery in Macclesfield.  The photograph is of a sight-glass which allows the brewer to view the wort running off from the mash tun.  These first runnings of wort will be re-circulated (taken from the bottom of the mash tun and pumped back to the top) until a grain bed / filter is formed which traps the grain debris and allows the sugar rich wort to escape to the copper.  The brewer knows it’s time to run from the mash tun to the copper when the wort is running clear.  It’s never going to be crystal clear at this point in the brewing process, but as the cloudiness dissipates, it signals the moment to move to the next stage.

I knew why I was visiting the brewery, I have an interest in beer, specifically brewing and have the obvious dream of going professional.  I try to be realistic and often get carried along, or rather away from, the things I most need to do to work towards my goal.  What I took away from the brew day with Toby, was that while there is most definitely a romantic notion of crafting a delicious drink out of water, barley, hops and yeast, there is also the serious business of, well, business.  Forget the dream of profit and fame for now, although nice if you can get them, I’m talking about the business of risk and of rolling your sleeves up far enough to get burnt.

Endless cleaning, Sleepless nights, Wreckless ambition.

Stood in the background, an imposter, watching and listening to Toby, Caroline and Ben as they went about a typical day in the brewery made my head spin.  I wasn’t naïve to the requirements of a professional brewing enterprise before today, but if I coin the iceberg analogy here, then it would illustrate where my homebrewing brain is currently residing.

I was lucky enough to get to help on many of the daily tasks, and for those that were beyond me I was afforded some of Toby’s time and patience in explaining what he has explained a hundred times before to well meaning visitors.  Amongst the bustle of the day, the array of smells and constant din, there were moments of giddy joy.  I tasted beer from the fermenter as it was bottled, I cut into vacuum packed hop bails which gasped for air as they breathed new life, and I was let loose with a rather powerful jet spray which could propel a plastic bucket across the length of the brewery with one blast.

So, thank you Toby and Caroline for having me along, I wish you the best for 2012 and beyond, and look forward to trying a few pints of Wreckless and as many bottles of Ageless as it takes before I’m satisfied that I have drunk one that I had a hand in getting to market!

Another blog on Red Willow here if you are interested in a bit more detail on the operation. The Brewery website and Toby McKenzie on Twitter.

Golden Pint Awards 2011

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer:

Winner: Buxton Axe Edge

Runner up: Hardknott Code Black

Honourable mentions: Ilkley Mary Jane, Magic Rock Curious NZ

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:

Winner: The Kernel India Pale Ale 100 Centennial

Runner up: Red Willow Ageless

Honourable mentions: Oakham Citra, Traquair Jacobite

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

Winner: Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout

Runner up:  Great Divide Rumble

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Joint:  Stone Arrogant Bastard / Pretty Things Jack D’Or

Honourable mentions:  Stone Cali-Belgique 2010, Flying Dog Gonzo

Best Overall Beer: The Kernel India Pale Ale 100 Centennial

Best Pumpclip or Label: Redwillow brand/logo instantly recognisable

Best UK Brewery: The Kernel Brewery

Honourable mentions: Red Willow, Buxton, Hardknott, Magic Rock, Adnams

Best Overseas Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Winner: Mr Foleys (Leeds)

Runner up: The Sparrow (Bradford)

Honourable mention: The Grove (Hudds) – will feature heavily for me in 2012

Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose

Runner up: Morrisons

Independent Retailer of the Year: Beer Ritz, Leeds

Online Retailer of the Year: Winner: MyBreweryTap

Best Beer Blog or Website:
Winner: Ghost Drinker
Runners up: The Good Stuff, New Briggate Beer Blog
Honourable mentions: The Beer ProleHopZine, BeersIveKnown, Beersay, Boak & Bailey

Best Beer Twitterer: Joint: @Filrd and @BeersIveKnown always on hand with friendly banter and beer (and cheese) recommendations.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: The Good Stuff: SummerWine Diablo IPA with Baked Feta

In 2012 I’d Most Like To… visit the breweries that have kindly extended an invitiation.  Learn about brewing beer.  Brew more beer.  Await lottery win.  Sell beer.  Kick back.  Bad Back.  Employ Brew Monkey.

Open Category:

Most prolific beer rating site in the North West: The Ormskirk BaronCaptained by @Baron_Orm and ably assisted by @Christoper_R – keep up the good work chaps!

Beer and Food Alchemist of the Year: Tyler Kiley (@Tkiley1), Chef at Mr Foleys.  Oh and rumour has it that his triple cooked chips aren’t bad either.

Ilkley Brewery Company Craft-Keg Launch

A brief bloggage on the Ilkley Brewery Company‘s craft-kegged beer launch at North Bar Leeds last night.  The place was packed, this may have been typical for Wednesday night, but there was also a strong showing from the Ilkley Brewery crew, easily picked out of the crowd in their branded rugby shirts and the odd flat cap [nothing odd about flat caps].  The format was more informal than a Meet the Brewer type event, but the guys were clearly enjoying the fruits of their labour and were as friendly and approachable as ever.

Alongside their cask beers the MJ Artisan Ales on offer were MJ Pale and MJ Summit and I was informed by someone in the know that the MJ Fortis wasn’t ready for public consumption.

Demand for our cask-conditioned ales continues to rise but in order for city centre bars, restaurants and hotels to serve our beers, we needed to create something that didn’t require bulky hand pumps and a time-consuming process in order to serve cask-conditioned beer …. Kegged beers are a perfect solution for bar areas with limited service and cellar space  – Luke Raven Ilkley Brewery.

Quote taken from the Ilkley Gazette (they have their headline slightly wrong but not to worry).  See also SIBA.

After a fair wait at the bar I tried the MJ Pale, a 3.7% Pale Ale, but not before clearing up the confusion with the bar staff who was merrily pouring me an Ilkley Pale (their 4.2% cask Pale Ale).  It was crystal clear, cold is ice and had a solid bitter finish.  It was certainly a refreshing beer, but maybe lacked a little of the anticipated fresh citrus flavour.

Moving onto the MJ Summit, a 5.4% IPA, once again there was some confusion over which Ilkley beer I was ordering, and once again the wrong beer was poured before I noticed.  With the correct beer in hand I enjoyed an aromatic, sweet beer with plenty of flavour packed in.  I preferred this beer over the keg Pale but wouldn’t drink many of them in one sitting as it was quite rich, only my opinion of course.

I also got to try a few other beers from around the globe, but the best of the bunch was Ilkley’s Smoked Witch, their 5% dark ale which has a lovely mellow smoky finish.  Must investigate this one further!

All in all it was a good night, lovely beer and great company.  I look forward to trying their 4.1% craft-kegged stout, MJ Fortis, another time.

Loch Ness Brewery

"Now there is something new in the water!"

I was thinking of writing a monster based introduction.  I thought about it and decided to leave it be.  I have been to Loch Ness as a boy but have very little memory of it, so the thought of manufacturing some sort of annecdote or fabricating an affinity with the place just doesn’t sit well with me.  Most likely I would end up regurgitating a pile of badly researched noise which would be unpleasant for everyone.  Safe to say most of us know the significance of the Loch!

So what do I actually know about the Loch Ness Brewery itself? As it happens, not very much, as they have only just started operating.  However, anyone who takes a look at their website will know that its been over 150 years since ale was brewed at Loch Ness, making this brewery a significant addition in the locality.  The new brewery site is situated at the Benleva Hotel, Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire.  Brothers and business partners Allan and Stephen Crossland run the hotel and have acted on their passion for real ale by developing their plot and making use of a cottage at the back of the hotel to house the brewery.  Joined by brewing enthusiast George Wotherspoon, they proceeded to build the plant and seek counsel from established bewers from the Highlands who were only too happy to oblige and assist where necessary.

I first became aware of Loch Ness Brewery back in July 2011 when I was writing my Mutually Oblivious blog posts.  Having taken a couple of years to conceive, plan and act on their venture, their brewery was installed and initial recipes tested by January 2011.   Through April to September of this year they have been busy finalising their brew plant and during that time they were receiving plenty of interest in their beer from local pubs and beer festivals.  To much surprise, including their own, they were able to get their first beers to the bar for the 10th Loch Ness Beer Festival which ran from 16th-24th September.

Amongst some fierce competition from the likes of Blue Monkey, Salamander, Saltaire, Isle Of Sky, Fyne Ales, Inveralmond, Highland Brewing Co and many others, their beer WilderNESS was voted as joint second favourite behind Highland Brewing Co Scapa Special.

The Brewery - 'cottage industry'

Their current range of six beers  includes a golden ale, a red ale, a mild, a stout, a traditional English Bitter and a hop forward ale all of which would serve nicely as a session beer.  Their pump clips are modern and straightforward using local landscapes along with clear and consistent branding which is most evident in their beer names.  This approach has worked well for other breweries entering a buoyant market, for example the Red Willow of Macclesfield whose owner and brewer Toby McKenzie uses ‘less’ in the same way Allan, Stephen and George use ‘ness’.  I often find myself annoying Toby with silly suggestions so I’ll take this opportunity to apologise in advance to Allan, Stephen and George.  So, good luck guys and we look forward to seeing and tasting your beers when they reach us ‘down south’!

The Loch Ness Brewery’s beer:

  • LightNESS – A golden ale, with a crisp and full flavour and mild hoppy aroma (3.6% abv).
  • HoppyNESS – Overly hopped and full of character yet still low on alcoholic content (3.8% abv).
  • RedNESS – A reddish ale with nutty overtures, malt flavours and a hint of citrus (4.2%).
  • DarkNESS – A bitter stout with its roasted barley and a slight chocolate aroma (4.6%).
  • MildNESS – A traditional dark mild with a slight roast finish (3.5%).
  • WilderNESS – A crisp copper coloured ales with a malty nose, a well rounded bitter finish with a hint of winter spice (3.9%).

Follow their progress on Twitter @LochNessBrewery

You are Mutually Oblivious 4

Pass it on

It’s roughly a month since I last posted my ‘Mutually Oblivious’ update and may make this the last one in this format.  Or maybe not, undecided as I write.  For anyone who hasn’t read one of these updates before they are basically a summary of British breweries large and small who I have recently become aware of on Twitter.  See also You are Mutually Oblivious, You are Mutually Oblivious 2 and You are Mutually Oblivious III.  So, if you are interested in adding a few more breweries to your network then please read on.

Through my brilliant deduction and ability to state the bleeding obvious, it is my opinion that the ever increasing number of breweries is being driven by beer drinkers wanting to try new beers and generally support brewers who innovate and gift us with thought provoking creations.  As well as gorging on these specialty beers, there is no doubt that we all still enjoy the staple beers in our diet and like me you should try to get your Five a Day.

On to the additions to my ‘Mutually Oblivious’ Twitter list.  I include breweries that I have yet to drink from, but believe me when I say that I practice what I preach, and I have a very long list to get through.  I have previously used an arbitrary number of <500 Followers to be included in the post, but I’ve decided to open it up to any breweries with any Following.  Afterall, size isn’t everything, right?

Aside from the above, the following breweries are in the newly opened or planning to open soon category.  So in the spirit of #ff (Follow Friday on Twitter) give them a Follow.

@TheKiteBrewery

@Craft_Beers

@BrewshedBrewery

@Hopfuzz

@OthertonAleman

@SteelCityBrew

@rawbrew

@ryelanebrewery

@lochnessbrewery

@HackneyBrewery

@xtbrew

@CromartyBrewing

@bantambreweryco

@EastLondonBrew

@BlueBeeBrewery

@Monkbridge_Ales

Thanks for reading and if you know of any new breweries that I haven’t mentioned here, then please do post a ‘Comment’ and let me know.

Point Break – Duty on High Strength Beers

#7point5

Updated 14/10/11

Please sign this petition  – ‘Drop the October Beer Tax’.

N.B. Please enjoy this post responsibly.  The UK Chief Blogging Officers (CBOs) recommend that men should not regularly read more than 3–4 blog posts a day and women should not regularly read more than 2–3 blog posts a day.  ‘Regularly’ means reading every day or most days of the week.  You should also take a break for 48 hours after a heavy session to let your body recover.

The High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) was introduced on 1st October 2011  (i.e. beer exceeding 7.5% abv (alcohol by volume) which is either produced in or exported into the UK), has got most of us that have an interest in beer and the welfare of the brewing industry riled.  I’m no exception.  It’s not a blogging line when I say I was chatting to a friend about this in the pub the other day.  It was a conversation which touched on many of the negative connotations  associated  with beer and beer drinkers.  No, not the connotations we see banded about to draw social divides between beer drinkers but the general bad press and overarching opinion of the government down, that drinking is fundamentally flawed (except from the tax revenue of course!).   You may have seen the blogs which focus on the brewers perspective, those working in independent retailers, and from a largely unified blogging fraternity including a Twitter ‘hash-tag’ collective (#7point5) over on Beersay and a piece for The Independent written by Will Hawkes.  Before getting on with life after 7.5, I wanted to add something hopefully a little different and from the heart of someone who can’t quite believe they have been taxed yet again.  If you feel the same, then write it down.  If you don’t like reading someone else’s rantings, then this probably isn’t for you.

It would be remiss of me to write what I’m about to write without acknowledging the valid points made by health professionals, social commentators and most importantly family members and circles of friends who are devastated by the undeniable effects of drinking alcohol too frequently and ultimately becoming dependent.  It can and does destroy lives.  However, it is so often the case that alcohol is only one of the contributing factors to the situation a ‘problem drinker’ may find themselves in.  Life is complex.  Furthermore, a problem drinker can mean so many different things.  Parts of the mass media and politicians, in general, would have us believe that our streets are lost and we are gripped by anti-social behaviour stemming from the consumption of cheap booze.  We see the footage on any given satellite, cable or free-view channel through one of the many extreme A&E/police/ambulance documentaries, and while there is no doubt in my mind that alcohol is a direct cause of the human and financial cost which burdens the tax payer, it is also my opinion that the governments reduction of the argument to the most simplistic form will reap  simplistic returns.  Quite simply, trying to disrupt the supply i.e. the ability to buy, and availability of, a product to meet the needs of a ‘problem drinker’ is far from understanding the issue.  There are many ways by which people who are dependent on any given substance will meet their needs.   See the governments full rationale for new duty measures here.  However, in summary and from the same document.

Policy objective:

The purpose of the measure is to tackle problem drinking by encouraging the industry to produce, and drinkers to consume, lower strength beers.

The new high strength beer duty is intended to impact on those “super strength” lagers associated with problem drinking. The reduced rate for lower strength beer will help to give responsible drinkers a wider choice of products.”

I am a man of 33 years and consider myself to be ‘doing ok’ and therefore a useful commodity to any government in power.  There are many like me.  Oh and I am a beer enthusiast.  Yet, despite my attempts to lead a “responible” life, my choice to buy alcohol of varying abv is being compromised by what appears to be a naive policy decision which is generally thought to be levelled at park bench or ‘shopping precinct’ drinkers.  Well guess what, these guys don’t drink every type or brand of alcoholic drink available in todays diverse market. Shocked? I’m not.   We have good reason to believe that these people are only buying mass-produced, cheap, high abv, low quality drinks from supermarkets, off-licences and some public houses.  They certainly do not find themselves enjoying a 330ml bottle of Russian Imperial Stout priced at £5, a bumper 750ml bottle of  India Pale Ale costing £8.99 or indeed a 500ml bottle of Barley Wine retailing at £10.99.  They might like to, but they cannot afford it, so they choose what the market has to offer them.   What is the governments solution to the problem drinker who has loopy-juice on tap? It is to sanction them along with the people who are so far removed from this chaotic world that you would need to recommission NASA’s ‘Endeavour’ to have any chance of reaching them. While we are all potentially only one pay check away from falling on hard times, it does not seem reasonable or logical to take a comedy sized brush and paint every Tom, Dick and Harry with tar and start a pillow fight.

I know that my knowledge on this subject is limited and that there are far reaching socio-political and economic factors which I can’t possibly know about to be able to comment on, but from where I’m standing, the tax hike on beer (yes just beer) that is brewed to an abv equal to, or above 7.5% is ludicrous.  There appears to be  some monumental legislative skimming-across both the route cause of, and the solutions to, the problems associated with alcohol misuse.  Maybe, even in the cash-strapped times our country finds itself in, we and our government should be more interested in addressing this ethically rather than apathetically. For the government to dress this up as positive action on alcohol misuse while they basically ‘look the other way’ is double-standards.  You cannot help a ‘problem drinker’ by limiting the availability of one contributing factor to their problems.  Real solutions may be expensive and extremely complicated, but this is purely a dismal attempt by the government to appear to be putting a ‘democratic’ foot down in response to this hot topic!

And breathe… and to lighten things up with yet another tenuous film link (a habit of mine).. . for Johnny Utah read:  ‘Craft Brewer’ or ‘Craft Drinker’ and I’ll let you use your imagination for the rest:

Johnny Utah:  Okay. I get it. This is where you tell me that ‘locals rule’, and that Yuppie insects like me shouldn’t be surfing the break, right?

Bunker Weiss: [smiling] Nope.

Surf Gang: That would be a waste of time…

Lupton “Warchild” Pittman: We’re just gonna f@ck you up!”

P.s. to those at the HM Treasury and anyone else who contributed to this legislation.  It may come as a shock to you that I can also buy enough ‘low’ or ‘mid-strength’ beer with the same budget and still be a problem drinker, or If I was to be a tad more cynical about this, then what’s stopping me buying any number of cheap alternatives to alcohol to help me forget my troubled life?

P.p.s. I’m not clever enough or close enough to the industry to understand what this change in duty really means to breweries in general, and specifically those breweries who have grafted for a piece of the market based on innovation and in creating beers that excite enthusiasts as well as enticing new ‘real ale’, ‘craft beer’ drinkers.  As far as I can see this change in duty is a clear message that beer brewers can still be creative, but with both hands tied behind their back.  Oh and us ‘responsible-drinkers’, and I use the term loosely, I guess we should just politely look at the floor and be grateful.  In part, I do believe that the governments intention is to use high strength beer duty to impact on those “super strength” lagers associated with problem drinking.  However, once again, the government seem to have turned up with their wrecking-ball to pick-the-lock.

Joking aside and in absolute seriousness:  Drink Aware.

I’m not the only person talking about this, check these out too:

Beersay – #7point5

Hardknott – Low abv, low duty, low IQ

Magic Rock Brew Co – New tax on high strength beers

Ghost Drinker – 1 week till judgement day

Beer Merchants – Today my job changed

Beersay – 7point5

Will Hawkes (The Independent) – Beer, the bitter taste of bad legislation

The Beer Boy (Zak Avery) – Higher strength beer duty, my view

The Beercast – Big beer month

Pdtnc – An open letter to my MP/MEPS on beer tax

It’s Just the Beer Talking (Jeff Pickthall) – Clutching at straws for a silver lining

Real Ale Reviews – High Strength Beer Idiotry

Moor Beer –  You can make a difference

Moor Beer – The rudest 4 letters hsbd

Gadds Beer Shop – Brewing betrayed

James Clay – High abv

Buntingford Brewery – http://blog.buntingfordbrewery.co.uk/?p=202

Wort ‘n’ All (The BlackIsle Boy) – High Strength Beer Rant

Taste Sensations (Dave Lozman) – Octoberfest? Octobertax Hike More Like It!

You are Mutually Oblivious III

PictureWell here it is, the third installment in an open-ended series of updates on British breweries large and small who have Twitter accounts but don’t necessarily have the number of Followers they need/deserve/crave.  As I can’t see any rolling-of-eyes I will assume that this is a worthwhile exercise and carry on filling my boots.  (See old posts You are Mutually Oblivious & You are Mutually Oblivious 2 if you have no idea what I am talking about so far).

My thinking here is that for the average beer fan, it can be interesting and at times useful to read what breweries are up to.  It may be information on the release of a new beer or details of an event, but the benefits are fairly obvious.  Similarly, the benefits to brewers are just as obvious (they are to me anyway), whipping up a frenzy of excitement and anticipation strong enough to coax money out of even the tightest of pockets has been proven to bear fruit.  The reason for blogging this is to show my support for those brewers I choose to Follow (always open to suggestions of ones that I’m not Following) and to help, in part, to build the network of beer drinkers and beer producers.  As I only have a network of 500 Followers then it makes good sense to try and get a little help spreading the word via this blog and its potential to be Tweeted and ReTweeted.  Well go on then!
You can see my old posts for the original list of breweries and their Twitter progress and you will notice that I decided on the arbitrary number of <500 Followers to be included, but I want to use this post to introduce some breweries that have shown up on my radar over the past month;Followers 13/09/11
@Tempest Brewery                      57              Tempest Brewery
@oleslewfootbrew                        58              Ole Slew Foot Brewery
@LivOrganicBrew                        128             Liverpool Organic Brewery
@AndwellBrewing                       137             Andwell Brewing Company
@TapEast                                         191             Tap East (Brewpub)
@kelburnbrewery                        295             Kelburn Brewery
@dancingduckbrew                     316             Dancing Duck Brewery
@DartmoorBrewery                    351             Dartmoor Brewery
@ButcombeBrewery                   445             Butcombe Brewery
@xtbrew                                           470            XT Brewing

Picture The list below are the breweries I included last month, but pay special attention to London Fields Brewery, who following their successfull launch 27th-29th August have a mighty impressive increase of 500 Followers in a month!   They plan a similar event and launch of two new beers on Saturday 24th September 11:00am until Midnight, at the Brewery.  Well done guys!

12/08/11     13/09/11
@chiltern_brewer
                 51            80            +29         The Chiltern Brewery
@hackneybrewery                115          204          +89          Hackney Brewery
@croptonbrewery                 136         164           +28          Cropton Brewery
@eastlondonbrew                  139          201          +62          East London Brewery
@hewittsbrewery                  152          181            +29          Hewitt’s Brewery
@allendaleale                          222          281           +59          Allendale Brewery
@ldnfldsbrewery                   416           916          +500        London Fields Brewery

So there you have it,  more new breweries popping up* and more established breweries embracing the power of Twitter.  So don’t be mutually oblivious, clickety-click that mouse button and help join the dots!

Thanks for reading.

(*99 in the last 12 months – Source: CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2012)

You are Mutually Oblivious 2 – The Retweet

If you have been vaguely following my fledgling blog, you may have read a post back on 26th July which looked at, among other things, the usefulness of Twitter as a network for breweries of all sizes.  The ability to keep in touch with collaborators; inform your loyal customers what’s brewing and to tap into a new market of people who may not be aware of your brand.  Now that all sounds a bit dry, but I was encouraged by the response that I received from breweries and beer enthusiasts alike to my original post.  I’d like to think that there a few of the previously ‘Mutually Oblivious’ Tweeps that are now reaping the benefits of a few extra ‘Follows’.

You may also remember that I decided to look at the Twitter accounts of all the British breweries that I am Following and list those with fewer than 500 Followers.  I explained that 500 is an arbitrary number and could easily mean nothing in terms of a brewery’s market share or relative success.  However, I was surprised to see a mix of fledgling breweries mixed in with those you would expect to have a much greater following.  A month or so on from this snapshot, I have looked at the same breweries again to see how they are fairing in the ‘Followers’ stakes!

You’ll see there are a couple of breweries that have had a sizeable increase in Followers.  Having seen the recent activity on Twitter, I would say that these are the breweries that Tweet the most and have most likely increased the number of people
they Follow too.  After all, when you are trying to promote your  ‘name’, it’s expanding your own side of the network which is most important.

Loch Ness Brewery have picked up 170 new Followers; and Brass Castle Brewery and Oldershaw Brewery have picked up 143 and 141 respectively.  Tidy work guys!

Picture

Followers 17/07/11       12/08/11         Diff
@bronteales                15                                 23                   +8          Bronte Ales
@shawsbrewery         70                                99                  +29        Shaws Brewery
@brasscastlebeer       84                               227                +143      Brass Castle Brewery
@ridgesidebrewer     126                             158                  +94       Ridgeside Brewery
@wensleydale_ale     137                            155                  +18       Wensleydale Brewery
@redchurchbrewer   145                            235                  +90      Red Church Brewery
@tobymckenzie          183                             223                 +40       Red Willow Brewery
@revolutionsbrew     188                             221                 +33      Revolutions Brewery
@wentwellbrewery    200                            255                +55      Wentwell Brewery
@orkneybrewery        200                            236                +36      The Orkney Brewery
@kentbrewery              207                            230               +23      Kent Brewery
@kirkstallbrew             219                             279                +60     Kirkstall Brewery
@stringersbeer            235                             280                +45     Stringers Beer
@quantumbc                236                             275                +39     Quantum Brewing Co.
@broughtonales         277                             302                +25     Broughton Ales Ltd
@sandstonebrewer    277                             290               +13     Sandstone Brewery
@lochnessbrewery     279                             449              +170   Loch Ness Brewery
@brentwoodbrewco   283                            312                +29     Brentwood Brewing
@durhambrewery       289                            326                +37    The Durham Brewery
@westerhambrew       296                             343               +47    Westerham Brewery
@ccookbrewery          338                             383               +45     Captain Cook Brewery
@quantockbrewery   349                             377               +28     Quantock Brewery
@mallinsons                  366                            402               +36     Mallinsons
@trianglebrewery       370                           392              +22   Golden Triangle Brewery
@bantambreweryco  381                             436              +55    Henry Kirk
@huntersbrewery      403                             438              +35    Hunters Brewery
@wharfebank                420                            468               +48   Wharfe Bank Brewery
@oldbrew                       455                             596              +141   Oldershaw Brewery
@conistonbrewco       467                            530              +63   Coniston Brewing Co.
@lymestonebrewer    472                            500              +28   Ian Bradford
@merlinbrewingco     478                            526               +48   Merlin Brewing Co.

Also, here are some additions to the list of breweries I’m Following which might interest you too.  A few new London breweries starting up which is good to see!

@chiltern_brewer                  51             The Chiltern Brewery
@hackneybrewery                115            Hackney Brewery
@croptonbrewery                 136           Cropton Brewery
@eastlondonbrew                  139            East London Brewery / Steve Lascelles
@hewittsbrewery                  152            Hewitt’s Brewery
@allendaleale                          222            Allendale Brewery
@ldnfldsbrewery                   416            London Fields Brewery

So, read into these increases in readership as you see fit, but whatever we do as a community of brewers, bloggers and drinkers, I think it is mutually beneficial to recipricate a new Follow and help promote our beloved beer!

Thanks for reading.

You are Mutually Oblivious

You may have noticed that I am an understated fan of Twitter *ahem!*.  It’s different things to different people, but for me Twitter helps me to become; aware of; chat with; maybe meet or network with; and most of all keeps me in touch with a large proportion of what is happening in the world of brewing.  It goes without saying that 140 characters is limiting when it comes to getting your point across, but Tweeting is just the front-end of the conversation and links to websites or offline chats can prove to be valuable for all manner of reasons.

One thing that needs to happen to make Twitter useful to individuals such as myself, and I imagine any other discerning Tweeter, is that you need to put a little bit of work in to build your network.  ‘Following’ other like minded individuals or businesses is half of the equation, the other being ‘Followers’ who will determine how far your own message will be heard by others.  It’s a network in the truest sense of the term, imagine the possibilities for a commercial business looking to get their name on the map and the cash registers ringing.    Beyond those in your immediate Twitter atmosphere you have the ‘Mutually Oblivious’, those who, like it or not, are only a click away from Following you! This is a resource just waiting to be tapped.  They Follow someone who Follows you or you Follow someone who Follows them, but whichever way you cut it, you are connected.

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Six Degrees of Separation

Before thinking about the status of Mutual Obliviousness, and becoming interested enough to blog about it, I was already aware of a couple of well known ideas that explain this better than I can.  You will probably be aware of the concept of the Six degrees of separation.  Wikipedia tells us that this “refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy. (Source Wiki).  You can see how this relates to Twitter without me stating the mutually obvious!
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Shrinking World

Karinthy describes a “Shrinking World…. Due to technological advances in communications and travel, friendship networks could grow larger and span greater distances…an ever-increasing connectedness of human beings”. He concluded that “despite great physical distances between the globes individuals, the growing density of human networks made the actual social distance far smaller” (source Wiki).

A study of social media and of 5.2 billion such relationships was undertaken by Sysomos (a monitoring company) and found that the average distance on Twitter is only 4.67. I.e. on average, about 50% of people on Twitter are only four steps (or degrees) away from each other, while nearly everyone is five steps away. (source Wiki).

But enough of that, I’ve made the point and have a tendency to labour an idea given large amounts of caffeine.  I decided to look at the Twitter accounts of all the British Breweries that I am Following and list those with fewer than 500 Followers.  500 is an arbitrary number and could easily mean nothing in terms of a brewery’s market share or relative success.  However, I was surprised to see a mix of fledgling breweries mixed in with those you would expect to have a much greater following.

@bronteales                 15     Bronte Ales
@shawsbrewery          70     Shaws Brewery
@brasscastlebeer       84      Brass Castle Brewery
@ridgesidebrewer      126    Ridgeside Brewery
@wensleydale_ale      137    Wensleydale Brewery
@redchurchbrewer    145    The Red Church Brewery
@tobymckenzie           183     Red Willow Brewery / Toby McKenzie
@revolutionsbrew      188     Revolutions Brewery
@wentwellbrewery     200    Wentwell Brewery
@orkneybrewery         200    The Orkney Brewery
@kentbrewery               207    Kent Brewery
@kirkstallbrew              219     Kirkstall Brewery
@stringersbeer             235     Stringers Beer
@quantumbc                 236     Quantum Brewing Co.
@broughtonales           277     Broughton Ales Ltd
@sandstonebrewer      277     Sandstone Brewery
@lochnessbrewery       279    Loch Ness Brewery
@brentwoodbrewco     283    Brentwood Brewing Co.
@durhambrewery          289    The Durham Brewery
@westerhambrew          296     Westerham Brewery / Robert Wicks
@ccookbrewery              338     Captain Cook Brewery
@quantockbrewery       349     Quantock Brewery / Rob Rainey
@mallinsons                     366     Mallinsons
@trianglebrewery          370     Golden Triangle Brewery
@bantambreweryco      381     Bantam Brewery Co. / Henry Kirk
@huntersbrewery          403      Hunters Brewery
@wharfebank                   420      Wharfe Bank Brewery
@oldbrew                          455      Oldershaw Brewery
@conistonbrewco          467      Coniston Brewing Co.
@lymestonebrewer        472     Lymestone Brewery  / Ian Bradford
@merlinbrewingco         478     Merlin Brewing Co.

There are of course a few that creep just outside the 500 mark (just to reiterate that these are just from my Follows);
@roosterbrewing             505     Rooster Brewery
@woldtopbrewery           537     Wold Top Brewery
@drinkmoorbeer              573     Moor Beer Company
(all figures as at 17/07/2011)

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The Tipping Point

Other than waffling on about something I happen to find interesting, I’m hoping that people reading this blog spot a few on the list that they are Mutually Oblivious to and may want to Follow?  The idea being that between us we increase the readership of our beer and brewing network and reduce further still the average distance or degrees of separation we are from each other.  We only need look as far as Malcolm Gladwell‘s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (ISBN 0-316-31696-2).  In his book Gladwell defines a tipping point [among other things] to be; “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”  The book seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do” (Source Wiki).

As unsavoury as it sounds, let’s spread the message of good beer like a friendly yet pleasantly inebriating virus!

Thanks for reading.

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Just as an after thought….and far from British, but a fun example of this theory put to the test can be seen with Tooheys Extra Dry Campaign in Australia – Six Beers of Separation .