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 UNATTENDED BASIL, WE REVIEW A HELLES LAGER FROM A CRAFT BREWER OPERATING IN ENGLAND'S LAKE DISTRICT, FELL BREWERY.
My basil plant is depressed.
The coriander is fine, it seems to have thrived in the patch I allotted it and has developed a cloud of plumage that only seems to taunt the basil next to it. The mint in the corner seems oblivious to both as it sniffs around, sending creepers to explore its new environment.
"I pop the can’s pull as I kneel on my haunches to consider the ill tended basil, then I realise that the beer I’m about to drink fits perfectly with its plight"
Kitchen is also a bar, but I wasn’t able to experience it as such: they were closing early due to a quiet period and would open back up at six, they told me, but by then my schedule demanded I be somewhere else, and so I experienced Kitchen as a craft beer shop.
My gardening has levelled up recently, I have nearly finished what I consider Landscaping, likely referred to as “having a go” by proper landscapers. I’ve placed the blue can of Helles Lager on the artificial grass - the grass is bubbling in places because I need to pin it down but haven’t got around to it - and carefully avoid the sleeper-cum-step that I know is loose because I also need to fasten it and haven’t. As long as you avoid steps two, three, and seven, any awkward footing can be avoided, and that is fine with me.
I pop the can’s pull as I kneel on my haunches to consider the ill tended basil, then I realise that the beer I’m about to drink fits perfectly with its plight: lager is as unappreciated as the patchy basil plant, a poor relative to the cool kids of the IPA world, the NEIPA’s and their hazy sisters, lager has fallen entirely out of fashion and considered a lesser beer as a result. The reason is obvious, in a new world where the flavour of beer has exploded and intensified, where marshmallow is added to porters and a variety of fruit given to most everything else, to the extent where I roll my eyes whenever I see a label that advertises Passion Fruit or Tropical flavours, lager is considered flavourless in comparison. I also realise that this is the first lager I have bought in a long while and reproach myself for aiding its exile. The basil plant, too, I determine, must be saved; together we’ll show the coriander, the mint can do what it likes, I respect its independent style.
"I taste a sweet citrus, sweeter than I expect, pleasant and reassuring, with a bitter kick that tempers the sugars and leaves my mouth dry, there is a crispness that you'd expect from a lager"
Fell Brewery is south of the biggest lake, Windermere, powered by a small, passionate team, Fell are a progressive brewery and have been making beer since 2013. I really did want to drink more craft beer while I was in the Lake District, but I found it less available in the bars and only really available in specialist shops or dedicated pubs, two that I came across, including Kitchen in Hawkshead, which was also a shop, and so I found myself drinking more real ale than I usually do. I found this curious, I don’t consider myself a real ale drinker and ordinarily I prefer the taste of craft for the flavour related reasons above. As I tasted the ales on offer I found myself understanding their appeal, I'm intrigued as to what Real Ale might be able to offer me; I've shelved the thought for another story. Fell Brewery have a beer named Crag, which is an apparent recent addition to their core range following glowing feedback, a beer touted as a classic Northern Bitter, I'm starting to wish I picked up a tin of that too, and, as they're website merrily tells me, "a bread roll for dippin'".
For now, to the rescue of both the lager and my basil plant.
I pour Fell Brewery’s Helles Lager into a glass, the colour is golden, a little hazier than I would expect from a lager, I guess that’s because it’s a helles, but nowhere near the depth of an IPA. I sip and taste a sweet citrus, sweeter than I expected too, pleasant and reassuring, with a bitter kick that tempers the sugars and leaves my mouth dry, there is a crispness that you'd expect from a lager, without the acrid aftertaste that comes with the more common mass produced varieties. It is refreshing and cool and thirst-quenching. It also has substance, some lagers are almost unbearably light, alarmingly close to water, to paraphrase an old Monty Python joke, but this is light too, light enough that I could easily enjoy it with a large meal but not so much that it loses its purpose - the balance is perfect. I have a table lager from Fell that I bought at the same place; the comparison between it and the Helles will be interesting.
I place the glass back on the artificial grass, smoothing a bubble in the fabric, and pull out my Stanley knife. I watched a YouTube video earlier - where I learn everything I shall ever need about tasks I know nothing of - which suggests the key to keeping Basil alive is to prune it heavily. I don’t have any pruners, the Stanley knife seems a tad overkill but it is smaller than my hacksaw and I can wield it more deftly - the scissors are all the way in the kitchen and so not an option. I carefully plan my cut, folding the branch over and placing the blade against it. The blade isn’t as sharp as I had hoped and with a mixture of pulling, tearing, and slicing, the branch comes loose. Poor plant, but the effect has been achieved. I take another sip of lager as I admire my work, and, encouraged by its success I lean in and take even more swipes until the basil is as naked as a Love Island contestant. I think I can see it shiver despite the late afternoon sun. For good measure, and to stop its gloating, I take a few swipes at the coriander, I squint ruefully at it, then nod, before draining the delicious lager and heading over to fetch the hose.
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Craft beer review: Beck, Helles Lager from Fell Brewery - My basil plant is depressed. The coriander is fine, it seems to have thrived in the patch I allotted it and has developed a cloud of plumage that only seems to taunt the basil next to it. The mint in the corner seems oblivious to both as it sniffs around, sending creepers to explore its new environment.
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