#TheSession 61 – Down My Local

This months tenure of #TheSession sits with the Hoosier Beer Geek. He asks us to talk about local beer, why is local beer important, specifically what if anything makes it better?

Anything for me is better if it has a local connection so that’s a good start. In other areas of my life personally when considering purchases local means a great deal, I love locally produce and will pay over the odds to get it. It’s fresher and just feels better if you know the area or even the producer who made the product.

In complete contrast, living in The Potteries I recall trying to by a locally produced dinner service, nothing fancy you understand just day-to-day eating ware. The only pre requisite being that it had to have been manufactured in Staffordshire or at least England. You would not believe how difficult that was… So how do those ideals/examples translate in the beer world, well in my case at least unnervingly close as it happens.

Local people reading my blog of late could be forgiven for thinking that I’m pretty anti local. After all I’m always harping on about “craft this and fancy foreign import that”, “local pubs are boring, where’s the exciting new beer on keg” etc etc etc.. In truth some of that may be true, as I love trying new beers in what ever guise they present themselves, but that goes for local too.

Most folk I suspect have a local brewery be that large or small, that churns out a bog standard “easy drinking” range aimed at the mass market one beer session drinker and it’s all too easy to dismiss one of these beer brands based on a bad experience. I am a firm believer though that most of them if not all have at least one or more little gem, a beer that stands out from the rest and deserves a try.

At the other end of the spectrum there are some local breweries that have fantastically exciting sounding beers, beers that I hear great things about that never see the light of day in these parts, despite being “local”. We get beers from Wales, Scotland and the far reaches of England too but it seems Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire are a no-no. Having discussed this with a few local brewers I was quite startled to learn about how hard it is to get their beers in “local” pubs and shops. Some of the stories of rejection I heard were farcical to say the least, I just don’t understand it, whatever happened to food and drink miles?

Both of these examples spawned an idea which is quite aptly linked to this months topic and to The Session generally.

Why not start a monthly or quarterly blogging topic on local beers to raise the profile of both camps where ever they may be, open to all and published in the same sort of way. I know that this is perhaps most appropriate to UK based bloggers but not prohibitively so and could serve as a sort of reference point to the best beer an area or brewery has to offer where you live.

This could tie in well with some of the work being done by quite a few UK bloggers, who are leading by example and getting hands on in their local CAMRA branch meetings. These guys instead of criticising perceived CAMRA failings, are getting actively involved and putting new opinions across, assisting positive change from within if you like. After all sharing information about the best beers your area has to offer must play a massive part.

What do you think, worth doing as a Session style collective or more of a one man band show?

Big thanks to Matt for hosting this month.

Cheers

Buxton Brewery – Axe Edge at Brown and Green

This post is unashamedly aimed at people in Staffordshire and the surrounding areas, but please check it out even if that doesn’t apply. There are still some fantastic beer reviews on show (although I hasten to add, not from myself). I will say from the outset though that I have no connection (financial or otherwise) with either brewery or store. I just think they are both fantastic and hope you will too, if you give them a try.

Brown and Green are folks that in their own words are “passionate about providing you with great local, ethical and artisan food and drink which we have selected personally with care“. I know this to be true as I’ve experienced it first hand. I met the guys at B&G properly for the first time at an event they held with Brad and Viv at the fantastic Lymestone Brewery.

Anyway, as the evening went on and the Lymestone brews flowed, I took the opportunity to tell them about a range of new beers that I’d heard about from the then newly established Buxton Brewery, knowing that they were keen to stock local beers from local brewers.

Anyway to cut a long story short, within a few weeks they had duly arrived at the Trentham store as a new addition to the established beer section and ever since dashing up excitedly to buy and taste them myself, clearly then seeing what all the fuss was about, I became a massive fan.

Now I’ve read loads of posts and video reviews about Buxton beers and Axe Edge in particular, not one bad report at all and quite a few copied as links below for your perusal.

As such I am not going to reinvent the wheel and wax lyrical with a review of my own here. I was compelled though to write this blog post after watching this video review made by Simon at the Real Ale Guide. It just reminded me of how I reacted when I first tasted Axe Edge (and every time I have since).. 😉

All the Buxton range are brilliant in my opinion but Axe Edge sits head and shoulders above the rest it’s phenomenal. They do stock a good range of Buxton beers at Brown and Green but if you are trying one, try Axe Edge.

Don’t just take my word for it though check these reviews..

Dave from Broadford Brewer talks about Axe Edge and the Buxton range – “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’.” Read more here…

Note: Dave’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

Eating Isn’t Cheating  – “These Buxton beers do something very difficult. They are both complex and hugely drinkable. You can concentrate and enjoy the depth of flavour, or simply sit back, drink them and enjoy. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing with the next bottle of either of these little lovelies.” Read more here…

Leigh at The Good Stuff (talks about the Buxton range) – “This is my first set of Buxton Ales, and they’ve really been a pleasure to drink. As a person, I like the juxtapostition of complex flavours, but carried out well so that each element stands out; Buxton certainly tick that box. Easy drinking, light beers with complex noses are the way to go with Pale Ale, and Axe Edge and Moor Top will probably go on to do great things.” Read more here..

Note: Leigh’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

A Swift One – “This is a 6.8% double IPA. Not for the faint hearted, it is just crammed with hop flavours from the selection used. How can a beer with nelson sauvin, citra and amarillo hops not be full of diverse and interesting fruit flavours, there is everything there, from orange to pineapple to lychees. A real classic beer.” Read more here…

Zak Avery (beer writer and owner of Beerritz) blog on Are You Tasting The Pith, talks about Moor Top – “Of the four beers in the boot, it’s not the never-ordinary, ever-dazzling Thornbridge beer that I’m excited about, nor the soon-to-be-crowned-classic Ilkley Mary Jane, but the Buxton Moor Top. I can’t think of a beer that is more of the moment than this one. Pale, low %abv, but absolutely stuffed full of hop character, it’s at once both no-nonsense and spectacular.” Read more here..

So it’s a big thanks to Brown & Green from me for doing what they do best, stock great local produce from equally great producers. Please pay them a visit, not just for Buxton, the rest of the local beer range is brilliant and it’s a foodies paradise too. BONUS!

If I’ve helped drive you there don’t forget to tell them Phil from Beersay sent you, you never know it may get me a few Brownie (and Greenie) points..  😉

Cheers

Merlin’s Gold – Merlin Brewery – 3.8%

It’s always good news to hear about a new brewery springing up, especially a local one. Which is why I was extra pleased about Merlin’s Brewery who are based just over the Staffordshire border in Arclid (near Sandbach) in Cheshire.

I got in touch with David Peart from the brewery via his Twitter feed @MerlinBreweryCo who very kindly alerted me to an imminent arrival of his beer at The Leopard in Burslem, quite apt for a mystical beer considering the pubs history and alleged supernatural past..

Merlin’s currently have four beers available, Spellbound, Merlin’s Gold, Kings Ale and Dragonslayer, it was the Gold available on Friday and Saturday night, with Spellbound due and probably on as as we speak.

As the name suggests, this is a light golden beer despite the rather eery picture.

It has strong citrus aromas predominantly of hoppy grapefruit. The taste too is dominated by that citrus grapefruit flavour with hints of lemon with a lip pursingly dry bitter finish where the hops take over. All in all it’s very refreshing and I would happily sup this all night on a warm summer evening as long as it’s served as cool as it can be without spoiling the flavour.

Merlin’s Brewery have a website which is limited at the moment but under construction with more to come soon.

Merlin is available in bottled form from The Beer Emporium in Sandbach, ring them to confirm stock, I’m not sure about any other online outlets at present. (If you are one and reading this please let me know and I’ll amend, or else just add a comment)

Merlin’s Brewery

The beers from Merlin’s Micro Brewery are distinctive craft beers. They’re full flavoured with an excellent finish. Brewed for a magical taste.