HopZine: Homebrew Wednesday Vol 6- Aire Porter – youtube
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
I live in a small industrial town in the North of England, near to Bradford, opposite Leeds. Anyone else remember learning this for your French GCSE or O’Level? [insert your own town name above]. Well Shipley is my town, although I do admit to changing my story slightly depending on who’s asking. Shipley is known for very little these days, it has a dreary town centre and nothing much going for it (in my opinion), so I may sometimes stray from the truth and say that I’m from Saltaire, the quaint Victorian village and World Heritage Site, or from Leeds, my nearest city. What’s that you say? I’m closer to Bradford? Well you would be right to say this, but only in the geographical sense. Bradford is a sad reflection of its former self. There are of course some great places still to visit, but these places stand as individuals with nothing to knit them and Bradford together [pun intended]. I may go to the National Photography Museum and take in a film at the Imax or Pictureville, or at a push take the kids to the Alhambra Theatre, but that’s it. Even my trips to Rawson Market are now few and far between. I have no affinity with a place I should proudly call “my city”. If I was to translate the same idea to beer, I would be pushed to recommend Bradford as my go-to place for a session. There are of course some decent pubs in Bradford, including The New Beehive Inn, The City Vaults, The Fighting Cock, The Corn Dolly and of course the latest addition and what I would consider a reason to journey into Bradford, The Sparrow Bier Cafe. It’s only been open since May this year, but has already successfully bridged the gap between city-centre boozer and specialist beer joint. You can read regular reviews of what’s on tap at HopZine.
This is all well and good and I have enjoyed an afternoon or two there with a plate of pork-pie and pickles with a few decent ales, as well as a few evening sessions making my way through their superb beer menu, but its weakness is its location, unless I’m missing something? I don’t know exactly why they picked the location they picked, and I’m not criticising them in the slightest, it’s a brave move and one I applaud, but I can’t help but feel that Bradford will let them down too. I think that what they have on offer is strong enough to stand on its own, so don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, but I sincerely hope that other like-minded business owners start to make the same move and recapture the attention of its locals, and I’m not just talking about beer here.
A short train ride to Leeds and the difference is unbelievable. A city whose streets are fused together, with retail, eateries and bars and most importantly a sense of place. It feels like a city, it offers me choice across the board, but most importantly a choice of watering holes. Having only just discovered the likes of Mr Foleys and North Bar, I am still as giddy-as-a-kipper and rarely venture any further. However, I am aware of many other pubs and bars that I need to familiarise myself with and have recently bought Simon Jenkins book ‘The Great Leeds Pub Crawl’ to help me on my way.
So there it is, I live in Shipley, Saltaire, Leeds and Bradford and am lucky to be able to call Yorkshire my home. A wealth of beer on my doorstep and great places and events celebrating that fact. But one thing that sticks in my throat is that Leeds is not my city, I am cheating on my roots. While I support Bradford’s ‘vision’ of regeneration and know that a wicked combination of economic hard-times and planning tomfoolery have been crucial factors in the progress or lack-thereof, it is a Catch-22 situation for myself and I would think many other people. We are consumers and we can’t support something that isn’t there.
Following the debut Leeds Homebrew meeting a few weeks ago, I caught up with fellow homebrewer Rob Derbyshire of HopZine and dropped heavy hints in order to coercively obtain a couple of bottles of his latest brew. Rob being the nice chap that he is pretended he hadn’t seen straight through my obvious suggestions and was generous enough to go along with the ruse. It’s common practice among the twitter community and it may be a form of begging, but it appears to be acceptable on the most part. I used the same technique to ‘drop in’ on Rob’s brew day and helped him open and drink some of the beers he had no intention of touching that day. What can I say? I’m just a friendly neighbour.
So here’s what I swindled on this occasion. A 5.3% abv Pale Ale, brewed with Maris Otter pale malt, Munich and Cara malts and hopped with Amarillo and Citra (yeast US-05 and sugar). It opened with a pfft and poured a pale golden colour with a slight haze, most likely from dry hopping if I know Rob well enough. Once it was all in the glass it took on a pale amber colour and settled down, with only slight carbonation. The aroma was a mix of biscuit, tropical fruits and herbal, but the malts were dominant. First taste, again the grainy malty character of this beer comes through followed quickly by a floral, bitter and slightly tart finish. Nice alcohol and a little spice coming through in the after-taste. I’d describe the beer is quite dry and an easy drinker.
Aside from the beer itself, Rob has certainly put his design skills to good use when ‘throwing his labels together’. However, with far too much time on his hands, the label has changed since the Leeds Homebrew night. Unveiled to his peers as Venkman, this beer has been reincarnated as Optic Nerve, an Adrian Tomine inspired illustration (and named after Tomine’s ‘Optic Nerve’ comic series) cleverly adapted with Rob’s own dialogue. I was a little sorry to see that this beer was actually intended to be his entry in a homebrew competition, but had then decided against posting it off after the Leeds get together. And as Rob comments on the label, the beer is tasting better than it did on the night. Oh well, more to hand out to your deserving neighbours. Keep up the good work with both the brewing and the artwork, and next time close your ears and make sure you give the next competition a shot!
It was Axe Edge that introduced me to their beer, which is probably a little unusual as I would guess that a standard bitter or pale ale would usually be the first beer you might try as a way of introduction, followed by specialty beers or stronger niche varieties like the Double IPA. For it’s mighty 6.8% it does not wield any destructive sharp edges, it is smooth and rounded and delivers more of a pleasant bludgeoning. In short, I love it and its complex flavours and it goes straight onto my list of ‘beers of the year’. So, if you haven’t already tried Buxton Brewery’s offerings then I would encourage you to do so. In my opinion they are a shining ‘broad-spectrum (400-700nm) photon emitting’ example to any budding brewers! Follow @kempicus if you want to read what’s what in the brewery, and @BuxtonBrewery for general info and banter. Keep up the good work guys!
If you want to read more about Buxton Beers then it is testament to them that they have also been enjoyed and blogged about by: Are You Tasting the Pith, Reluctant Scooper and The Good Stuff, and you can find links to these via Eating Isn’t Cheating.
Meet the brewer JK – James Kemp – Beer Reviews.
Thanks for reading!
Through the process of asking a kind fellow to buy and retrieve a few special bottles of beer from my favourite shop @BeerRitzLeeds, I was taken aback by the generous offer that accompanied my bounty, as the said gentleman / beer trafficker invited me to drink and review a bottle of beer. “Me?” was the first thing I could think of as I thought it best to check that he wasn’t merely asking me to pass it on to someone else with a refined palate. After all there is nothing worse than that moment when someone in the distance smiles and waves enthusiastically in your general direction; you smile and wave back thinking how popular you have become; only to realise at the very last minute that you were not the intended recipient of this salutation and that a split second reaction is required to turn your outstretched-hand into a swoop-and-brush through the hair….. oh the shame!
Anyway, turns out the offer to drink and review a beer was directed at me and before I knew it I had accepted and was walking home worrying about my beer swirling/sniffing/gargling abilities.