Category Archives: Women and beer

Hair of the Dog: What we learned at Brewdog’s 2015 #PunkAGM

It’s been just over a week since Brewdog’s 2015 AGM. The hop-haze has finally lifted. My ears have stopped ringing. And I can be in a room with alcohol again.

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Note: not all mine

The ubiquitous craft beer company‘s AGM isn’t your average AGM, as I explained to my photographer, Will, when he asked if this was a tie and chinos or a jeans kind of event.

Back in 2010, the company started trading B-shares in an effort to raise capital. Its investors were, by and large, craft beer fans, drawn in as much by discounts and bonuses as brand loyalty. The scheme – dubbed Equity for Punks – was a roaring success and, in five years, has raised over £6M.

But as a business, what do you do when the majority of your shareholders are beer-lovin’, mohawk-sporting, tie-eschewing punks? Turn AGM on its head and hold a festival instead.

Hopefully not holding out for an actual AGM for punks

Hopefully not here because of a terrible misunderstanding about the title #PunkAGM

We arrived in Scotland – courtesy of Brewdog, who invited us and covered the trip – early Saturday morning, the slate-grey streets of Aberdeen glowing in the sunshine as we landed, slingshot (with Scotland’s angriest taxi driver) around the outskirts of town and on to the colossal warehouse that would house the event.

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Inside punks, PR and press – drinks in hand – quickly got down to business; the annual report that opened the day’s tastings. And oh, how beleaguered Tesco must wish its shareholders were punks. Brewdog’s founders, James Watt and Martin Dickie, crossed the packed arena floor to raucous cheering, through a forest of raised glasses full – or, in most cases, part-full – of the beers that they would reveal had underpinned a year of unprecedented growth.

It’s testament to Brewdog’s army of punks – of which there were 14,500 before the AGM – that the 6,000 or so of them in attendance (the maximum the event could host) not only showed up early enough for the address, but listened with rapt attention. I didn’t begrudge James and Martin the six-pack they had on stage with them – tie-wearing corporates their shareholders are not, but that doesn’t mean they’ll take bad news well.

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But of course, this is Brewdog; arguably one of the craft beer Renaissance’s most overwhelming success stories. There was no bad news. The company’s turnover for 2014 was up a staggering 64 per cent, to £29.6M. Their gross profit – up 66 percent – was £11.5M, and with overheads of £7.8M, ended up with a net profit pre-tax of £3.7M. Brewdog has grown by 71 per cent in the last three years. Behind it all? “We’re committed to making as many people as possible passionate about craft beer,” James explained.

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Brewdog comes under fire, particularly in the London bubble, for its aggressive marketing, its appropriation of punk, and doing too well, too quickly. A few years ago it was criticised for the inconsistency of its ubiquitous IPA, Punk. But is this a case of the classic, British distrust of success?

Speaking personally, I’m a fan of Brewdog’s brash, hoppy beers, which speak to my palate. I like that I can get them everywhere, from Sainsbury’s local to Wetherspoons, in Oslo via Florence.

I fell for them even harder at the AGM when I ran my stock feminist sort-of-trick question, “do you brew beers specifically aimed at women?”, past Alex Myers, Director at Manifest, who handle Brewdog’s PR, between drinks.

“All our beers are for everyone,” he said, immediately, and with conviction. 10/10 answer. Not a whiff of, “why, of course, we have a 3 per cent cherry-flavoured beer, and one that tastes like chocolate…”

Finally, you can’t deny Brewdogs’ fans’ passion – made manifest in the whopping number of shares sold – be they the punks, or the two Scots on stage clutching their cans of craft.

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Brewdog has done a comprehensive round-up of the AGM announcements here. Our top lines…

US EXPANSION

Brewdog, which incredibly still still brews out of one, soon-to-be-expanded site at in Ellon in Aberdeenshire, is expanding production and heading stateside, with plans to open a 42-acre sister brewery in Columbus, Ohio. Dog Bless America, indeed.

NEW BEERS

Born to Die, an imperial IPA with a life-span of just 35 days, was our beer of the weekend, so great news that it’s going to be made marginally more widely available. The plan is to brew two batches that will appear in 660ml bottles and be available on keg. The beer we tried (that will die on 4 July!) was extravagantly hoppy, delicious and citrus-fresh. Will swears he was sweating hops the next day. BD also announced its first Equity Punk-inspired brew, a 6.5% chocolate and coconut stout, and a collaboration with Beavertown called “Coffee and cigarettes”, which is exactly what those members of Team Beavertown aboard our early morning return flight to London on Sunday looked like they needed.

NEW BARS

Brewdog also announced a slew of new Brewdog bars, including (deep breath) Leeds, Glasgow, Berlin, Brighton, Oslo, Rome, Leicester, Brussels, and, most importantly, because it’s at the end of my road, in Angel, Islington as well as London’s Soho, which will apparently also have a beer-themed sex shop (Bd’s PR didn’t explicitly deny this, so… you heard it here first, until you didn’t…)

FULL OF SPIRIT and IN THE DOG HOUSE

Finally, BD also announced that they would be opening a craft distillery, promising “we are going to smash the world of spirits forever”, and shared some tantalising details about its planned hotel, The Kennel in Ellon, to be the first completely beer-focused hotel in the UK, with beer on tap in every room.

“2014 was ace,” James told us, a broad understatement.

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THE BEERS

With the AGM down, it was on to some serious drinking, with not a watercooler or peppermint tea in sight. In our experience, the layout this year worked well and queues for the half-dozen or so bars were short (except for the food pop-ups outside – we legitimately queued for 50 minutes for a burrito). The beer wasn’t breathtakingly cheap – £10 bought you six tokens, and most beers (served in pints, 1/2s, 2/3s and 1/3) cost two or three tokens – so at £2.50-£3 a third a hair’s cheaper than London prices for some, but a generous £2 a pint for others (like Punk IPA).

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Team ICIP drank our way round most of the bars (why do you think it took so long to write this post?); our top tips:

Born to Die 04.07.2015: Just glorious. Fresh, US-hops, with zingy grapefruit notes. Full-bodied hop punch. Did I mention it’s hoppy? Basically my dream beer.

Dog D: At 16 per cent, this hefty imperial stout was not a beer to mess with. Or drink at the end of the night, as I did, which probably explains why I had to have a nice lie down on the floor of the departure lounge the next morning. Aged in oak barrels, it exudes chilli, black treacle, vanilla and whiskey notes. For 28 hours after you drink it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Jack Hammer: Another hop bomber, this one a more gentle 7.2%. Looking back, it’s probably a bad sign that my tasting notes rendered this “gentle” by mid afternoon. No matter! More US-hops here, palette-meltingly bitter, also more widely available than the beers above. Might start a petition for Sainsbury’s to start stocking this one.

Ballast Point, Sculpin Habanero: There were beers other than Brewdog, and this stole the show. I can only really claim to have had a half pint of this, because so bowled over was I by the seedy habanero kick – unlike any other chilli beer I have ever tasted – that I offered a mouthful of it to everyone I encountered just to see the looks on their faces. Extraordinary.

THE BANDS

Turns out that after a few pints of double-digit strength beer, I both recall the words to and enjoy many more Idewild, Twin Atlantic and Pulled Apart by Horses songs than I realised. Leaping around like a lunatic to Scottish emo was the perfect end to a fab day. But, this is a beer blog, not a music blog, so this entry is mostly an opportunity to showcase the one good photo I took with Will’s camera.

SO PROUD

SO PROUD

THE REST…

We only attended one tasting session – with Brewdog’s own brewers, and of lovely Dog D – and it was great. You do have to fork over precious beer tokens to attend, but it’s well worth it; in fact, apart from booking the subsequent week off, making more of those sessions is pretty much all we’d do differently next year.

Because, Dog willing, we’ll be back, and we’ll see you down the front.

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Blame John… and the rest of your marketing department

This morning Melissa Cole drew our attention to this new advertising campaign by Manchester-based brewery, JW Lees.

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Screengrab taken morning of 5/11/14

Where do I begin? The assumption that only men drink beer? That women are shrieking harridans who prevent men from going out for a drink with their friends? Or that men are untrustworthy louts who lie to get their own way? You get the picture.

When I see things like this, I seriously cannot believe that we still live in a world where enough people thought this was a decent enough idea to go ahead with it. The attempt to push it on social media with a hashtag is even more offensive. Let’s spread the casual sexism and give it some real exposure. Fantastic. I know you’ve been around since the early nineteenth century, JW Lees, but what century do you think it is now?!

What baffles me the most about sexism in beer marketing is that breweries continue to alienate potential female customers. Yes, we know that there are a lot of women beer drinkers (and indeed brewers, sommeliers and writers) who will merely roll their eyes at this and move on to their next pint, but I’m not talking about them. Marketing like this solidifies the incorrect stereotype that beer is a man’s drink, and many women will continue to live in ignorance of beer’s fabulousness if we don’t remove barriers to entry. Women bombarded by this kind of bullshit may never build the confidence to go up to the bar and ask for a pint, even if they wanted to.

I #BlameJohn, and whoever else came up with this shit idea.

– PS

How should CAMRA campaign? Group responds in ‘sexist leaflet’ row

  • Organisation offers apology over leaflets some deemed sexist and says it wants to work with young members on new campaign.

The beer drinkers’ club CAMRA has apologised for any offence caused by recruitment leaflets it circulated to universities, which featured images of women in low-cut tops and dressed as pin-up models.

More: Read our original story on the leaflets

Keith Spencer, CAMRA’s Director of Membership, said that the leaflets had been withdrawn. “CAMRA’s recent young membership campaign has been met with both positive and negative feedback since its launch a few weeks ago. However, as a number of people have informed us they find the imagery sexist and are offended by this campaign, CAMRA has decided to withdraw this material from circulation.

“CAMRA takes all complaints very seriously and we would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused”

The campaign was discussed with young marketing professionals within CAMRA’s Young Membership Marketing Group, which is made up of men and women, and they supported this creative. However, CAMRA takes all complaints very seriously and we would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused,” he said. “Now that CAMRA has decided to remove this campaign, it will work with CAMRA’s young membership to create a new campaign. If any CAMRA members would like to feed ideas into this campaign then please email marketing@camra.org.uk

– ED

CAMRA offers to pull ‘sexist and insulting’ recruitment leaflets, but young drinkers demand public apology

Young beer drinkers have expressed outrage at a “sexist and insulting” series of recruitment flyers CAMRA has distributed to universities across the country.

The flyers, which aim to recruit new members to the real ale society, feature pictures of women in low-cut tops and dressed as pin-up models.

A copy of the leaflet reproduced on a website petitioning CAMRA to withdraw it

A copy of the leaflet reproduced on a website petitioning CAMRA to withdraw it

They were sent to university real ale societies to be distributed at Freshers’ Fairs.

The CAMRA Young Members board expressed their disapproval when they were consulted before print, but said they had been ignored.

Rowan Molyneux, a young beer blogger, said that she originally thought the leaflets were a hoax.

“What sort of people do they want to attract? Slavering ‘lads’, drawn to the organisation because of the use of attractive women as window dressing?”

Members who contacted CAMRA to complain were “brushed off”, she added, and the organisation rejected claims that it was being sexist because it had women in its board.

CAMRA has offered to withdraw the leaflets, but young members have called for a full public apology to the university societies that acknowledges “the sexist nature of the flyers”, an apology to the Young Members Board and the creation of a transparent complaints process.

A petition calling for action from CAMRA currently has 77 signatories.

Samuel McNamara, of the York University Real Ale Society, said: “We welcome everyone as an equal participant. Women are not window dressing for a boys’ beer drinking club.”

Matt Jones, who has worked on the committee of a university ale and cider society, said: “This campaign, with its sexist imagery, perpetuates the image of beer drinkers of lewd, old men that we have worked so hard to get rid of. Ale is for everyone, regardless of their sex, sexuality, age, race, creed and background.”

ICIP has approached CAMRA for comment.

-ED

And all because the lady loves… beer

ICIP is feeling a little bit intimidated.

Sitting on our table alone are a beer sommelier, an owner of a successful gastropub, an editor of an industry magazine and a brewer. And they are all women.

“A group of us got together to try to regain our voice in the beer world,” says our MC for the afternoon, Annabel Smith, co-founder of Dea Latis. “We recognised that there were a lot of women working in the beer industry who didn’t have a united voice. That’s why we set up Dea Latis.”

Lisa Harlow, Annabel Smith and Ros Shiel, founders of Dea Latis

Lisa Harlow, Annabel Smith and Ros Shiel, founders of Dea Latis

It is clear that much has changed in the five years since Dea Latis was founded. As Annabel rattles through the list of of achievements made by women in the industry, many of these trailblazers sitting in the room with us, ICIP feels a massive swell of pride and empowerment.

Women hold the current positions of Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Beer Sommelier of the Year, Brewer of the Year, BII Licensee of the Year and Director of Supply Chain at one of the biggest breweries in the UK. And that’s not all.

“We have two women in the room who brewed a beer for International Women’s Day. We had the first female beer inspector at Cask Marque. Broadcaster Marverine Cole founded Beer Beauty, bringing beer to the media. Jane Peyton and Melissa Cole are published authors of beer books,” Annabel continues. “Nearly 25% of CAMRA membership are women now. Considering that’s a membership of 160,000 members – that’s a huge number of women interested in and engaging with beer. We know from the latest Cask Report which was launched last September that there are 1.3m female regular cask ale drinkers in the UK. And yet it’s less than 100 years since we got the vote. I think to have done what we’ve done in the last 5 years – we’ve come a long, long way.”

Our heads are spinning with this seemingly unstoppable march of progress. But Annabel knows what we really turned up for.

“I can see you starting to think ‘“when will we get to the beer?’”

_0003975With a membership of over 200, Dea Latis runs regular events up and down the country to encourage women to discover and enjoy beer, and their beer and food matching events seem to be the most popular: “we found that one of the best ways to reach out to women is to match beer and foods; it completely changes the characteristics of the beer. We’ve done beer and chocolate, beer and breakfast, beer and cheese… perhaps most controversially we’ve done beer on its own!” says Annabel. “Beer works with chocolate in a way that wine can’t,” agrees her fellow Dea Latis founder, Ros Shiel.

We’re about to find out if they’re right as we are poured glasses of our first beer, Blue Moon, and handed out segments of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Blue Moon is a Belgian-style witbier originally hailing from Colorado in the States and now part of the MillerCoors leviathan. It’s not a beer that ICIP would usually pick off the pumps, but we’re prepared to be swayed.

DSC_0037We get – predictably – orange notes on the nose, and the beer is sweet and incredibly mild for its 5.4% ABV. “The conception that all beer is bitter is blown out of the water with this beer,” Annabel notes. “While we obviously went for the pairing of the orange flavour in this and the chocolate, the light carbonation is also important. When you eat chocolate, it coats your tongue with a little layer of fat. The carbonation scrubs that away and cuts through it.”

We actually found that the beer mingled with the chocolate as we chewed and spread it all around our mouths even more, spreading the mellow orangey flavours. While it was tasty, we likened the match to the Chocolate Orange you got at Christmas and happily ate, but you probably wouldn’t have bought one yourself.

DSC_0038Beer number two is a different animal (sorry) – Tiger, brewed by Everards Brewery from Lancashire and clocking in at 4.2%. “It’s a bit darker than the Blue Moon and has a real burnished, gold colour to it. This is what I’d call a very ‘traditional’ beer, and it’s got a very good balance between bitterness and sweetness,” says Annabel. “Rather than overpower it, we’ve paired it with Green and Blacks Butterscotch Milk Chocolate.”

This offers something very different to our orange experience. The beer is rich and malty, and the toffee sweetness from this really compliments the butterscotch.

Annabel points out that the bitter cocoa pairs with the hops in beer, while the sugar in chocolate pairs with the sweetness of the malted barley. It might seem obvious, but we it hadn’t really struck us before. “There’s also a similar mouthfeel between the two, so they really complement each other,” she says.

DSC_0039This is especially apparent with our third match, which is a massive hit on our table. We are poured glasses of ink-black Thwaites’ Tavern Porter (4.7%), and asked to shout out what aromas we notice. A variety of replies from around the room include coffee, liquorice and cinder toffee.

“You notice when you taste it you get an almost drying feeling in your mouth,” says Annabel, and it certainly ends with a bitter, almost astringent hoppiness. “When we talked to the brewer she was adamant that she wanted to counteract that drying feeling with something very sweet.”

My god, was that feeling counteracted! We are passed around those old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes that you used to get as a kid before the Hummingbird Bakery-style boom – the flat-topped ones with a thick, hard layer of icing on top. ICIP is developing diabetes just looking at it.

“This should be a perfect example of the contrast between a dry bitter beer and an intensely sweet dessert,” says Annabel. “When we go out for a meal, especially to Italian restaurants, you get very sweet desserts, like tiramisu, and invariably you have coffee to go with it. The bitterness of an intense espresso balances out the sweetness of the sugary dessert. We’re trying to demonstrate the same principle here.”

The smokiness and richness of the porter mingled with the icing as it began to warm and melt in the mouth, bringing the sweetness down to an acceptable level. This match also benefited from the soft, crumbly texture of the cupcake, as some were struggling with the concept of matching a beverage to hard, brittle chunks of chocolate.

DSC_0040The next beer is a little bit special, and comes in a gorgeous wooden presentation box. “This is Shepherd Neame Generation Ale,” Annabel tells us. “Only 3,000 bottles of this beer were produced and it went through a 12-month aging process. It was brewed to commemorate five generations of Shepherd Neame as an independent family brewery, containing five classic malts and five hop varieties.” We can tell that what we’re swirling around our glass is a very special beer indeed. Coming at a 9%, the beer is brewed in the UK’s last remaining wooden mash tuns.

We get honey, dried fruit and nutty notes on the nose – and several people liken the aroma to Christmas cake. This carries through to the flavour, which has hints of molasses, cherries and other rich fruits. “It reminds me of my mum’s Christmas cake when she used to inject it with brandy,” agrees Annabel. “You get the warmth of the alcohol coming through.”

“The brewer wanted to match that dried fruit, so we’ve got Green and Black’s dark chocolate with Hazelnut & Currant.”

As we begin munching, the genius of this match soon becomes apparent. Despite the high ABV, the beer hasn’t too much of a lingering, alcoholic burn, and is quite soft in character. This gentle booziness mingles with the raisins, accentuating that Christmas cake or pudding association, but at the same time it really brings out the bitterness of the dark chocolate. We are in festive booze choccy heaven.

“Gosh, that’s made everyone go quiet!” Annabel laughs. Making the most of our momentary silence, she hits us with the bombshell that this amazing, limited edition, 9% beer in its beautiful presentation box, costs just £17.50. “I’m never going to be able to experience the most expensive bottle of wine in the world. I will never be able to afford a £20,000 bottle of wine. But I do know that in my lifetime I will be able to sample the best beers because it is so affordable,” Annabel says. ICIP already has their phone out and is trying to buy out the other 2,999 bottles.

DSC_0044 Our penultimate match throws us a bit of a curveball. It’s another strong and special beer, this time brewed by ICIP’s pals up in Southwold, Adnams. Solebay was first brewed in 2009 to celebrate 350 years of the historic brewery, and was inspired by strong Belgian styles. It comes in with a 10% ABV, and pours hazy and golden.

We get orange and ginger on the nose, and also some estery notes like banana and pear drops. There is a distinct sweetness to this beer, thanks of the addition of Demerara and Muscovado sugars. They also add a few sprigs of lavender, so there’s a floral note.

“There’s a lot going on in this beer,” says Annabel. “It’s sweet, because there’s a lot of residual sugar, and it has some citrus notes, so this was the first brewer to say they wanted to pair it with a white chocolate.”

We’re not sure about this. While ICIP has an entire cupboard dedicated to chocolate (really), we are big on the dark stuff, and haven’t really touched its pale cousin since we ate white choccy buttons as toddlers.

We were wrong. We were so wrong.

We are handed around Montezuma’s Peeling Amorous, which marries white chocolate with lemon and sour cherry. The bitter and sour fruits easily balance the very sweet and creamy chocolate.

“White chocolate has a higher fat content than milk and dark chocolate,” says Annabel. “But there is such a high carbonation in this beer that it cuts through the fattiness.” As well as taking the edge of the sweetness, stopping it from being too sickly, the citrus notes in the beer match the lemon in the chocolate. It is mind-blowingly good, and a complete surprise.

DSC_0048Just when we thought our day couldn’t get any better, someone puts a bottle of Liefmans Kriek in front of us. Now we’re just being spoiled.

“If any beer could demonstrate how versatile beer can be, this is the one,” says Annabel. Some of the tasters in the room are about to get acquainted with their first lambic. “It is fermented using wild yeast which gives it a slightly sour flavour. They use whole cherries – the stalks, the stones, the skins and the flesh. So you might get a slightly marzipan flavour which comes from the cherry stones – sweetness balanced with the sourness.”

Chocolate and cherry can’t fail. We know that already. But Dea Latis has pulled the rug out from under our feet by passing around some Thornton’s dark chocolate… with chilli.

The addition of the chilli is certainly subtle. At first, several ladies on our table think they’ve been given the wrong chocolate. But it’s a few seconds after you’ve eaten it that you get a gentle heat at the back of your throat.

“If you think about about, a lot of people put dark chocolate in meat chillies to take the edge off the heat and add a richness of flavour,” says Annabel. “We already know this flavour combination of the cherry and chocolate never fails – like Black Forest gâteau on the tongue. Let’s mix it up a bit with the addition of the chillies.”

This is a beautiful match. It turns into cherry truffle in your mouth, with a gentle heat lingering on your tongue. The tingle of the chilli plays off the sour fizz of the lambic and brings your palate alive.

Once our hosts have finally prized the beer and chocolate from our vice-like grip, we take a vote on our favourite match. The Liefmans Kriek and dark chilli chocolate is the runaway winner, although apparently the Adnams Solebay and white chocolate surprise entry comes a close second.

Having spent a whole afternoon being plied with deliciousness in some pretty inspiring company, we’re feeling hugely positive about women’s ever-growing role in the beer world.

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Jane Peyton

“There is a way to convert women to drinking beer, and it is for other women to talk to them about it,” says Jane Peyton, beer sommelier and beer writer. “Let them know that it’s a drink for everyone, and give them a really flavoursome beer – not that pale, insipid, blank, watery thing that the industry seems to think women want. It’s the complete opposite. It’s about giving them permission to try it – I know that sounds patronising, but it’s true.”

“What we find is that although brewers are waking up to the fact that a lot of women are drinking beer, and are doing their own women-oriented marketing, as an overall generic campaign we act as an adjunct to that – we want to add to it, not replace it,” says Ros.

“Out of all alcoholic drinks beer is the most female, ironically, even though it is marketed at men,” adds Jane. “Women invented beer. Yeast is female. The female part of the hop plant is used in brewing. Historically women were the brewers. All the deities of beer are female… so it is actually a drink for everybody.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

Thanks to Dea Latis for some of the photos used above.

Want more? Check out our interviews with Annabel Smith and Jane Peyton, as well as our coverage of the most recent Dea Latis breakfast.

_0003950– PS

Second breakfast: a morning tasting with Dea Latis

Dea Latis, a group of women beer fans, movers and shakers, had two things to convert me to at their breakfast tasting in December. Having beer with breakfast, and having breakfast.

Just for starters, beer at breakfast is something I normally associate with festivals. The experience of waking up in a tent-slash-sweatlodge, with eyes trying to crawl out of my pores and nothing but a half-drunk warm tin of lager with which to rinse-spit dust, was not an experience I wanted to reconstruct in a pub in London’s Kings Cross the night after my works Christmas ‘do.

Oh, but on arrival at Somers Town Coffee House I realised I could not be further from the scorched earth of Reading ‘05. Long, communal tables lovingly laid ala Christmas dinner; bottles and bottles of beers stood to one side; mugs of coffee that chalkboards screamed was some of the best in London (and it was pretty good).

I should have known better, because the ladies at Dea Latis are a classy bunch. Named after the Celtic goddess of beer and water, they’re a group of women – brewers publicans, writers etc. – who want to reclaim beer for the sistahood because, they say, “it’s far too good to be enjoyed only by men”. It’s free to join, and they organise three-monthly social events like the Beer and Breakfast tasting. You can find out more in our interview with founding member (and MC for the Beer Breakfast) Annabel Smith in our interview from earlier this year).

annabel

A rousing speech from Annabel – a whistle stop tour through some of the industry’s many high points this year – ends “the more noise we can make the better”; an incentive our rowdy crowd hardly needs as we welcome the Breakfast’s main speaker, School of Booze founder Jane Peyton.

“Some people carry a bible, I carry hops,” Jane explains, proudly setting out her sample nuggets. Beer, she argues, is unavoidably female: women invented beer; yeast is female; the female part of the hop plant is used to make beer; female deities gave beer to humanity as a gift. “When women hear that, they think ‘we’ve got a part to play’,” she says. “We have to change men’s perception of women drinking beer. There’s a lot of work to do – but we can do it, can’t we?”

Can’t we just! Invigorated, we tuck into our first pairing – poached egg and smoked salmon with hollandaise drizzle, served with St Austell Brewery’s Clouded Yellow (4.8%). The citrus-y, hopped St Austell’s is a lovely compliment to the rich hollandaise.

eggMaking short work of that, we crunch into the second course, crispy smoked bacon with a herby grilled tomato, served with Freedom Pilsner Lager (5%) The Pislner, light, sparkling and refreshing, cut well through the oil of the grilled tomato; a good foil to the salty bacon.

Bacon

(At this point that I should reveal that your correspondent is a vegan and has consequently cribbed many of these tasting notes from her good-natured breakfast companions. But you will be relieved to hear that observations about beer are absolutely her own. ISINGLASS? WHAT ISINGLASS?)

Next up: Bombardier Rarebit Crumpet served with Wells and Young’s Bombardier (4.1%), a great success. The sturdy Bombardier paired well with the salty cheese, without the overall sense of stodge you might expect from cheese-on-crumpet.

crumpet

Black Pudding and Apple Crisp not only did the impossible and made black pudding look elegant, but matched well with Timothy Taylors Landlord (4.1%), itself bitter, brown and allegedly “blokey”.

black pud

Chilli Avocado on French Toast – big, tough flavours on sturdy bread – sat nicely with Thwaites Wainwright (4.1%) before the morning’s only misfire, a banana and strawberry smoothie served with Wells and Young’s Banana Bread Beer (5.2%). I’ve got a bit of a thing for Banana Bread Beer – it was one of the first “different” beers I remember acquiring a taste for – but it was rendered almost tasteless by the ice-cold smoothie, which seemed to numb every part of your palette except the bitter-preoccupied edges.

Smoothie

Nevertheless, pudding-breakfast was redeemed by the next course – the universally popular Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce and Blueberries served with Wells and Young’s Chocolate Stout (5.2%). An obvious pairing, perhaps – chocolate and chocolate – but good to note that neither strong flavour squashed the other. Added entertainment was had by mixing Banana Bread Beer and Chocolate Stout to create a delicious choco-banana hybrid.

pancake

Finally the women of Dea Latis voted, expertly corralled from noisy conversations and banana-chocolate beer experiments by Annabel, and the first pairing, egg and smoked salmon with Clouded Yellow, came out a clear winner. The Vegan Vote went to the avocado on toast with Wainwright – the citrus in the beer took the place of the squeeze of lime I’d normally douse my avocado with.

I leave breakfast tipsy and converted, states to which circumstances seldom lend themselves at pre-brunch. As someone whose breakfasts rarely stray beyond the instant (an apple! Half an apple! WHY HAVE I LEFT HALF AN APPLE IN THE FRIDGE?) to the bizarre (leftover Ma Po Tofu – because nothing wakes up your face like eleven Szechuan chilli), I was as impressed by the array of food as I was by the beer. The beer itself was brilliantly accessible – something you could pick up from your local supermarket instead of having to enter the GPS of your nearest hipstertastic deli and remortgage your house to buy.

But best of all was the company – tables of smart, beer-loving women (and one token bloke); who shouted out tasting observations with confidence and could guess the strength of a beer from the first sniff. If you haven’t been to a Dea Latis event before, then one of their breakfasts is a great place to start. And if you’re not convinced about breakfast, or beer, or the two together, a seven-course tasting menu like this one should be enough to make you think again.

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All photographs courtesy of Ros Shiel

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Just to rub it in, that seven course tasting menu:

  • Poached Egg and Smoked Salmon with Hollandaise Drizzle served with St Austell Brewery’s Clouded Yellow 4.8% (from St Austell Brewery in Cornwall)
  • Crispy Smoked Bacon with a herby grilled tomato served with Freedom Pilsner Lager 5% (from Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire)
  • Bombardier Rarebit Crumpet served with Wells and Young’s Bombardier 4.1% (from Bedford)
  • Black Pudding and Apple Crisp served with Timothy Taylors Landlord 4.1% (from Keighley in West Yorkshire)
  • Chilli Avocado on French Toast served with Thwaites Wainwright 4.1% (from Blackburn in Lancashire)
  • Banana and Strawberry Smoothie served with Wells and Young’s Banana Bread Beer 5.2% (from Bedford)
  • Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce and Blueberries served with Wells and Young’s Chocolate Stout 5.2% (from Bedford)

– ED

Back to school – an interview with Jane Peyton

Jane-Peyton

Beer made out of Christmas trees? Booze and witchcraft? All in a day’s work for author, sommelier and School of Booze founder Jane Peyton. We caught up with Jane this week to hear all about her work spotlighting British hops; learnt how and why women went from prolific brewers to a beer minority; and were treated to an excerpt from her new book Beer O’Clock.

It Comes In Pints: Your first beer – we’ve been told – was a pint of Tetley Mild. Can you tell us what your top beers are today?

Jane Peyton: It depends on my mood, the weather and reasons for drinking (i.e. quaffing or sipping) but beers I go back to again and again are:

ICIP: Have you found your tastes have changed over time?

JP: Yes – I really like sour beers – gueuze and Red Flander ale such a Duchesse de Bourgogne. When I was younger I was not keen. I also like big fruity barley wines, whereas 10 years ago I was not a fan.

ICIP: You have worked on some collaboration brews, most notably with Brewsters, Fuller’s, Ilkley Brewery. How did you make the jump from drinking beer to brewing it?

JP: There has been a trend for the past few years of some breweries inviting beer writers/sommeliers to collaborate/co-create brews. It’s great fun for the non-pros and hopefully fun for the breweries too. It brings in new ideas to a brewery for brews or ingredients that the brewer might not otherwise have thought of. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to collaborate on brews with several breweries from giants such as Fuller’s, smaller operations such as Brewster’s and Ilkley Brewery, and brew pubs such as Brewhouse & Kitchen in Portsmouth. And it is so fascinating for a beer lover to have chance to experience up close the magic that goes into creating their favourite drink.

ICIP: Beer O’Clock, the beer brewed for the release of your new book of the same name, was a green-hopped beer, which is quite a rare style due to the short-time frame available to use the fresh hops. What made you decide to go for this type of beer for the launch of the book? Does it have special significance for you?

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JP: I brewed the beer with Sara Barton, owner of Brewster’s and current British Brewer of the Year. I wanted to create a delicious golden coloured session beer that showcased how amazing English hops are.  I wanted the beer to have a single varietal hop in it so drinkers could think: “wow – one single hop can do all this for aroma, flavour and bitterness.” (Most British beers have between 2 and 4 different varietals of hops in them).

This meant finding a really significant hop.

I had other requirements of the hop too – I wanted it to have been developed by Dr Peter Darby, the world’s leading hop breeder (he is an Englishman based in Kent), for it to be grown on Stocks Farm in Worcestershire – this farm is owned by Ali Capper and her husband. Ali’s farm grows enough hops each year to make 45 million pints of beer. Ali is the publicity manager for the British Hop Association and is a great ambassador for the beauty of British hops.

And finally, to make it even more tricky in finding the perfect hop, I wanted to use green hops. This means that the hop is harvested the day before brew day and shipped overnight from the farm to the brewery where the hops must be used within hours otherwise they start going mildewy, ie. the hops are fresh rather than dried as most hops are. Green hops can only be used at harvest time, and hops ripen at different rates and at different times so the logistics of getting the hops is not easy. The hop we used for Beer O’Clock was ‘First Gold’ and it ticked all the boxes of my criteria. First Gold is also the world’s first hedgerow hop so it is more sustainable to grow as it is more resistant to hop disease and needs less spraying. It is a spectacular hop in aroma and flavour and I was so pleased with how the beer turned out. That is all down the brilliance of Sara Barton.

ICIP: Are you planning any other collaborations in future? Are there any ideas or particular types of beer you want to experiment with?

JP: I will be doing a collaboration with Ilkley Brewery in January. We have not decided what style yet but I have a few ideas. The last brew I did with Ilkley Brewery is called The Norseman and contains Christmas trees. It was just awarded Champion Beer of Otley Brewery (Yorkshire) and is now part of the main range of Ilkley Brewery’s beers.

I will also be brewing again soon at Brewster’s but have not decided what to do yet. The season will influence what style we brew as mainstream drinkers’ tastes tend to move with the weather – i.e. darker heavier beers in winter and lighter hoppier brews in warmer weather.

ICIP: As an historic booze expert you cover the cultural history of a range of drinks other than beer (and discuss them at length in your book School of Booze) – is beer your top tipple? Does its history interest you in particular?

JP: Yes, beer is my passion. I really like sparkling wine too but if I only had one choice of booze it would be beer. Beer also has the most significance to early human development and history than any other alcoholic drink. Its history is very colourful. Throughout history beer was a drink for everyone – whereas until recently, wine was for high status people. Consequently there are much more interesting stories about beer history than there are about wine history, or the history of any other alcoholic drink. Beer and wine (and mead) are the alcoholic drinks that have been drunk for longer than any other booze.

ICIP: We’ve read numerous articles and interviews where you describe the connections between ale-wives and witchcraft. Why do you think women have gone from being so prominent (70 per cent of brewers!) in brewing to barely being associated with even drinking beer over just a few hundred years?

JP: In England this was to do with the fact that beer was originally made at home by women. Surplus ale would be sold to people who did not brew at home. After the Black Death the demand for beer increased because labourers could get higher wages. They wanted to spend their extra money on ale. Around the same time England started fighting wars overseas. Soldiers received eight pints a day as their ration. This meant that a regular and secure supply of ale/beer was essential. Women brewing at home could not brew enough beer. From then on beer was made in bulk in breweries. Women generally did not work outside the home, they could not get credit from moneylenders to build breweries, and they could not own their own property (it belonged to their husbands). This, and the fact that beer became a lucrative industry that men wanted to get in on sidelined women as the primary brewers.

See here for an article I wrote for Stylist online about the link between witchcraft and female brewers.

ICIP: As a beer sommelier you know a lot about beer and food matching – can you explain some of the basic principles of pairing food and beer for a novice?

JP: Here is an excerpt from Beer o’ Clock to explain some of the guidelines of beer & food matching.

DSC_0032“Why is beer so perfect for matching with food?  For flavour and texture but also for the practical fact that beer is up to 95% water so it refreshes the mouth and clears the palate – and that is the number one reason why we have liquid with our food. Beer contains carbon dioxide an efficient palate scrubber which prepares the mouth for the next morsel. Even real ale with no discernible bubbles contains dissolved CO2 which adds a note of invigorating acidity and lightens up the richness of food. Hops contain varying degrees of bitterness and they also act like knives cutting through flavour and texture and both of these properties are refreshing.

When pairing beer with food this is the mantra – Cut, Complement, or Contrast.

Cut: choose a beer that cuts through the flavour or body of the food.  For instance fish & chips with a crisp refreshing beer to cut through the fat, and citrus hops to complement the fish.

Complement: choose a beer that will complement the flavours of the food. For instance, spicy food with a beer containing spicy hops.

Contrast: choose a beer that is a complete contrast to the food. For instance big flavoured chocolatey porter or stout with delicate salty oysters.

But rules can be broken and it is fun to experiment to see which beers work with certain dishes.”

ICIP: What beers are on your Christmas list? Are there any beers you can recommend to match with Christmas fare like the turkey dinner, the Xmas pud…?

JP: Lots of beers for Christmas dinner!  I would go for a flute of Deus (a French beer made with Champagne yeast) as an aperitif before dinner, a hoppy pale ale for the main course, a big barley wine for mince pies, porter for Christmas pud, or Christmas cake and Stilton cheese, Belgian kriek or Frambozen for trifle. Fuller’s Vintage Ale in a brandy balloon or snifter glass on its own as a digestive.

Beer O’Clock: Craft, Cask and Culture and School of Booze: An Insider’s Guide to Libations, Tipples and Brews are available now.