CRAFT BEER STORIES ARE MUSINGS AND OBSERVATIONS ON DAILY LIFE WHILE INCORPORATING A CRAFT BEER REVIEW FROM BREWERIES THAT ARE LOCAL TO US, AND CRAFT BREWERIES FROM FURTHER AFIELD ACROSS OUR BRITISH ISLES. TODAY'S STORY TELLS OF A TRAGEDY IN WARPED VINYL, WE REVIEW A HAZY AMERICAN AMBER BEER FROM A CRAFT BREWER OPERATING IN SWANSEA'S MARINA, BEER RIFF BREWERY, AND THE LONG ESTABLISHED MUMBLES BREWER WITH WHOM THEY COLLABORATED, PILOT BREWERY MUMBLES.
I sit in the garden, on a cushioned seat I have just brushed free of catkins, and flick at another as it falls from the tree above - I wish I knew what kind of tree it is, some casual research has suggested it could be an Ostrya, making it more plant than tree, with a couple of names attributed to it, one of which is the grand title of Ironwood, which I like, so I hope it is.
The can further explains that the collaboration is to mark Beer Riff’s third year of life. I like collaborations, the word projects an image of two groups of beer lovers, usually imagined with beards, ginger, if I’m honest, collecting around a group of experiments, merrily tasting their creations.
I push myself out from the comfortable cushions of my garden sofa and towards the table, I glance down at the vinyl record, which I can see through the bubble wrap of the plastic that covers the table’s glass, sandwiched between it and the plastic of the table's body, and I wonder if the glaring sun is yet hot enough for it to bake.
"The can-pull gives and pops, a little fizz rejoices and escapes, smells of hops and citrus fills the early afternoon air"
The can-pull gives and pops, a little fizz rejoices and escapes, smells of hops and citrus fills the early afternoon air, mingling with the scent of fresh cut grass, shorn from what remains of my lawn following what I optimistically refer to as landscaping. I pour it into my ready glass, a birthday present, and the red hued liquid encircles the base. I’m a little surprised to see that it’s red, having bought the beer on recommendation rather than from asking for a specific style - I re-read the label on the can: “[this] is something a little different, 100% red x malt leaves, a sweet malty base, then double dry hops of Simcoe and Amarillo leaves...” I nod, which I bet looks a little curious to any neighbour watching what I’m doing, more curious than a few minutes prior when I emerged from the house with a vinyl record and placed it between the table and glass, and so I carefully look up to see who might be watching - the neighbour two doors down has developed a recent habit of climbing atop the roof of the summer house he is in the process of building, which, apart from allowing him to work on completing the roof of said summer house, gives him a perfect view of the surrounding houses, this, if I happen to be outside, yields the same conversation:
“Nice day, ey?”
“Sure is ...much left? It’s looking good.”
“Few more weeks yet, waiting on some timber, I’ll invite you all around when it’s finished and we’ll have a beer!”
It, in this case, is a garden bar, masquerading, at least to his wife, as a summer house. I often wonder who will win.
The vinyl I bought the day before. I had dropped my fiance off for her haircut in what was once my adopted town, no longer, having since moved, and found that I had a spare hour to myself. The day was charmingly sunny, warm, and if it was later than midday I might have sought out a beer garden, as it was not I instead made for the nearest coffee shop.
On my way I came across a solitary market stall selling vinyl records, and being a sucker for such things I went to investigate. There was one couple, older, perhaps retired, flicking through the collection. The owner immediately smiled and greeted me as I strode up. His accent was european, if I had to guess I would say italian, but I am infamously poor at accents and so there is no merit in it. He was a delight, as happy as the summer’s morning required, and explained to me how he had structured his collection: second hand one’s here, these are singles, these one’s here are a little rarer, rock music there. I thanked him and dove into a tray. I had no idea what I was looking for but I now felt compelled to buy something from this terribly nice guy, which, as it happens, was my intention - I came across a Bowie LP, the Man Who Sold the World, picked it out, flipped it over and saw the price - one hundred pounds was more than I wanted to spend, I hoped he didn’t see my reaction as I carefully placed it back. I rummaged a little more and found Dylan and the Dead, the price was far more appealing. We exchanged finances for vinyl and I went on my way to the coffeeshop, bought a cappuccino, found a table in the baking sun and placed the vinyl in it’s full glare. I had no idea, being a relative newbie to vinyl, the sun would have such a devastating effect. When I finally picked up my fiance from her hair appointment I excitedly announced my new purchase only to find that it was horrifically warped.
"I get an orange smell, wafts of citrus, I don’t know what Amarillo smells like but I imagine it’s in there somewhere"
I stick my nose in the glass after sloshing it in my hand a bit - I’ve seen people do this and have no idea if it helps the scent - I remember my neighbours again and give a sly look around me. I get an orange smell, wafts of citrus, I don’t know what Amarillo smells like but I imagine it’s in there somewhere too, it is certainly sweet, orangey, and hoppy. I pour the rest until a little white head touches the edge of the glass, then I take a sip. I find Amber beers are a little thicker than IPA’s, it might just be me, this one is hazy and thicker than the IPA I was expecting before having read the label on the can: there’s a sweetness of syrup, an undertone by no means overpowering, and the previously promised orange and piney flavours coming towards the end. I raise the glass towards the sun and look again at the red, bubbly liquid inside, Beer Riff hasn’t disappointed me yet. I place it back on its coaster and catch another glimpse of the baking record and wonder whether my father’s suggestion - who grew up with vinyl and I imagine had to make similar corrections to his own collection - that I reverse the sun’s warping by heating it once again and press it tightly between something, will work.
We want people to know how awesome what you produce is, we want local people to discover the great liquid craftsfolk around them, learn more about how we can work together
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Buy craft beer directly from local breweries: At Love Our Craft we support not only our local craft brewers, but all brewers across the British Isles, we promote those craft brewers nearest to you so that you buy the best local craft beer directly from the brewers themselves, and the craft breweries in your area benefit from the support of local beer lovers. During the pandemic we saw the effect lockdown had on our favourite craft producers in our local town of Swansea, Wales, and desperately wanted to help them.
What is craft beer? The illusive definition of what Craft is in relation to beer, and even the wider drinks industry, which in itself poses a difficult question in terms of what Craft is: for example, can Craft be extended to cider, or even whisky?
Brewery tap rooms in Swansea: Swansea, not unlike other cities in Wales, and the wider United Kingdom, has seen an upsurge in Craft Breweries, opening their doors and providing the public with delicious drinks. Just take a look at our map to see the richness of craft breweries in the area.
History of beer in Wales: As the Craft Brewing scene booms in Wales as it does across the United Kingdom, with Craft Breweries popping up and producing top quality, interesting and intriguing new Craft beer, and with Wales stereotypically thought of as a beer loving nation, we found ourselves considering the history of beer and brewing in Wales which led to the rise of the Craft brewing industry itself