European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012 #EBBC12

It’s been a barren couple of months on the blog front, weekdays have been incredibly busy, weeknights I can’t face the laptop again and weekends generally have been full of pleasant beery days out (on a happier note). However this weekend just past was a little different and I can’t let it go by without putting fingers to keys, it was the second European Beer Bloggers Conference!

Now before your finish those cries of “GEEK’, “How Exciting”, “BORING” or even a carefully hidden titter, I suggest you read on as things are perhaps a little “different” at our church of learning, we have beer and lashings of it for starters!

I should just say for those of you who have read several reports on the same subject already, I’m going to keep things brief and stick to a photo timeline of events with the odd comment thrown in, if that’s you, enjoy a trip back to memories of Leeds and a great weekend.

The festivities err learning experience commenced on Thursday night with a whistle stop tour of Leeds finest pubs and bars led by Leigh Linley. Starting at Mr Foleys we took in some of the lesser known pubs or at least to non Leodensians they were, The Cross Keys, Midnight Bell and the excellent hidden gem The Grove. (For anyone familiar with Stoke On Trent for The Grove think The Coachmakers, surrounded by modern high storey buildings.) The plan was to finish early for the night and be refreshed for the first EBBC session, this failed as we stumbled out of North Bar at 2AM after a rather interesting bottle session. The highlight of which was a Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus 12 blend at the hand of Will aka Ghostdrinker

Friday morning and a hearty breakfast/lunch followed before it was time to register and join the sponsors for welcome drinks. The full afternoons itinerary is below, sparing you the content details all were good sessions which held listeners attention with lots of tips picked up across the afternoon.

Friday, May 18, 2012
12:30 PM        Registration and Trade Show
1:45 PM          Conference Officially Starts
2:00 PM         Blogging – Beer Blogging in Europe
3:00 PM         Blogging – Improving Your Beer Writing
4:00 PM         Technology – Blog Platforms and Website Design
5:20 PM         Comparative Beer and Glass Tasting with Spiegelau

Williams Bros stand which was the star of the show for me, a great selection on show including a rather potent new version of Fraoch 12 (YUM)

Moray Neame preparing herself for the arrival of the thirsty hordes…

Badger Ales and some rather delicious cheese pairings. The Cheddar and Poachers Ale worked wonderfully.

More cheese please?

A little something to help lubricate the learning muscles as the conference commenced..

When was the last time you saw a conference table like this?

The most interesting session of the afternoon was an interactive one led by German glass manufacturer Spielglau, this was held classroom style but with an interesting twist. We were presented with four different Spielglau glasses one each for Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Lager and a Goblet/Tulip style for strong ales etc. These sat on a place mat beside your bog standard pub pint classic. The idea was to try each of the supplied beers in a selection of glasses dependant on style to see if it improved said beer in any way on aroma, taste, presentation etc.

Preaching to the converted here my friends as I’m a bit of a glass freak and I firmly believe that a proper glass does all of the above. Definitely worth seeking these out for your stay at home drinkies, they feel lovely in the hand and really do enhance the beery pleasure.

Reminded me of language lab lessons from old school days, minus the beverages of course..

Spot the Ilkley Brewer?


And so endeth the afternoon of day one, more on the evenings events to follow.


What makes a great beer city?

Following on from my post about the lack of availability of British keg beers other than the normal run of the mill bar toppers. Quite a few folks mentioned that they wouldn’t like to see the decline of cask ales in favour of keg. That is exactly how I feel, I don’t want to see one replacing the other, on the contrary they compliment each other, it’s great to see how one stacks up against the other and can be a welcome distraction when all across the bar is boring, bland or even too warm for the weather.

Take Magic Rock High Wire as an example. I was lucky enough to be at one of the first launch events last year, High Wire was there on cask and was an absolute stunner. However the next time I got to taste it other than in bottled form was at the meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House, on keg, the environment was warm and humid the beer lightly chilled with that extra kick of carbonation and it just sang. I said then that I’d like to see that on bars across the country as a real alternative to mainstream continental beers.

It extends further than keg though as even the rising brewing stars of cask seem to be largely passing us by here in the Potteries. Take Buxton Brewery as a classic example, widely regarded as one of the UK’s most exciting newish breweries, SIBA award winners and only 20 miles away. To date Stoke beer festival aside I’ve seen their beer here once and heard about it again in the singular, why?

Take a look at the Tweet below from serial beer traveller @6TownsMart, he’s talking to @kempicus, head brewer from Buxton Brewery:

It’s bonkers, Axe Edge one of if not the best beer from Buxton gracing the walls of one of London’s finest beer pubs as their beer of the year, yet I’ve never seen it personally in Staffordshire (although rumour has it that it once graced the pumps of The Congress, CAMRA Staffs pub of the year 2011).

I mentioned in my last post “forward thinking beer centric cities”, what I meant by that was a city or town that really seems to embrace new and exciting beer. Places like Craft, Mr Foleys, Port Street and The Grove exist and brewers are queuing up to showcase their new beer launches there.

Stoke does not seem to want to fall into that category and in my opinion we are as far from it as supping space beer in capsulated form at the far side of Cygnus X1.

It seems though we are not alone, even in the UK’s much debated second city things are seemingly similar as detailed in this post from Otherton Ales, “Where is the Birmingham Tap“. I’d sort of decided not to post this until I read about the similar plight in Brum. What is most annoying about that, is we are a city of beer drinkers, we have some great breweries and fantastic pubs in and around the Stoke area, with Buxton, Macclesfield, Burton, Shropshire, Stone, Cheshire etc all no more than about 30 miles away.

So I ask again why, is it the publicans, the breweries or the general supply chain, there are a few exceptions to the rule who manage to get the odd gem, so clearly it is possible?

Surely it’s not because the drinkers of Stoke are not interested in trying anything new, perhaps the local CAMRA guys can shed some light on that?

Why does one area thrive, whilst another seems happy to plod along ordering what they have always ordered because it sells, how long can that last??

I look at places like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne and am at times green with envy, meet the brewer events, home brew and bottle share meets and Leeds even bagged the European Beer Bloggers conference.. I can hear the crescendo of local voices saying “sod bloody off and live there then“, (don’t be like that). Yes it’s a whinge but I only want those things here because I’ve experienced them first hand and believe me, they are good.

The Saggar Maker Public House, Burslem by Steven Birks

Sadly, locally in the Mother Town we have seen the sad demise of many good pubs in recent years (although I hasten to add we still have some excellent ones) many have closed their doors forever and we now have perhaps only a handful of places where you are guaranteed a decent pint of cask beer in pleasant surroundings.

Sadder still is the fact that by far the busiest pub in town is The Saggar Makers, owned by the Last Orders chain and there’s not a pint of real ale to be seen.

Is that how you want your local drinking town to turn out?

I know I certainly don’t and I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to highlight anything and everything new and exciting to my local publicans. After all I want them to thrive, to grow and maybe be the catalyst to drive more folks away from supermarkets and back into the pubs of The Potteries and a city near you.