Posts tagged ‘keg’

February 12, 2014

Change? I’d rather you didn’t…

A warning: I shall repeatedly use the phrase “craft keg” to refer to a cross-section of beers currently available that do not fit in with CAMRA’s definition of Real Ale. I can’t think of a better term that would mean anything to enough people so that’s what I’ll have to use, even though I dislike the term. If you can’t deal with that, don’t read on!

Yesterday I picked up on a blog post by Tandleman here that itself referred to a letter in CAMRA’s What’s Brewing by Tim Webb. Apparently Mr Webb wants CAMRA to change and embrace the brave new world of “craft keg” and other great improvements in the world of beer. In his blog post Tandleman is, perhaps not surprisingly, somewhat more reserved about the level of change CAMRA should make, but agrees there should be some change.

What surprised me more, as a CAMRA member myself who has long said that the organisation needs to change it’s attitudes to avoid being left behind, and as part of the team behind one of the different sorts of beer festival that have grown up in the last couple of years on the back of the “craft” boom, is that I thought, “No!”.

I thought it quite vehemently actually. But I think I have sound reasons. I don’t suggest CAMRA doesn’t need to change in some ways, to become a little more tolerant and accepting of other’s (including a portion of its own membership) foibles. To modernise its language and eliminate misinformation. But to embrace and extend beyond its Real Ale focus? No.

The thing is, we now have a newly vibrant and I believe still growing beer scene where Cask Ale and Craft Keg can co-exist quite happily if proponents of one don’t take that to be the same as opposing the other – in fact you can be “for” both as many, if not most, drinkers are . A number of events have sprung up catering for the new market who want a mixture of great beers in both cask and keg – I should know, I’m involved in one of them. But what happens if CAMRA changes completely to embrace this? What if every beer festival they run starts to look like an IndyMan, a Craft Beer Rising, or a Beer Bash? Gradually, those events that set out to be something different all round start to lose some of their unique qualities. They start to look less different to every other event and eventually you might reach the point where they are simply an independent event of no real difference to the CAMRA one down the road. And when these events are seen as no different to any other, those with modest resources as opposed to backed by a large organisation, will be the ones to disappear. The (re-)homogenisation of beer festivals, just like the homogenisation of beer that was part of the reason CAMRA came to be in the first place. *

So yes CAMRA, acknowledge there are other good beers, be welcoming of the fact, don’t oppose them, but continue to fight for Real Ale, for pubs, for what you stand for. Strive for improvement. Leave room for others to do their thing and coexist happily, collaborate and be friends. But don’t feel you have to change because all good beer has to have a CAMRA-approved badge. Just to do the above well is change enough, and UK beer will be all the better for it.

* maybe that’s extreme. Maybe it would never go that far. But can you be sure it wouldn’t?

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December 25, 2013

Golden Pints

I’ve not attempted a Golden Pints list before, and within seconds of starting this I’ve realised how difficult it actually is. This has surely been my beeriest year to date and yet I feel in some ways even less able to pick out the highlights. Maybe that’s a good thing – I’ve been simply too immersed in good beer to be able to single out individual experiences as head and shoulders above the rest.

Still, I can try…

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Best UK Cask Beer
Tough one this. There’s been a lot. Not all good of course. But lots and lots of good, and a fair amount of very good. Having recorded most of these on Untappd I thought it would be easy to quickly pull up a list of those I’ve rated highest. But it simply isn’t that easy (hence I won’t be completing the best app category this year!).  Although there’s been loads of brilliant cask ales amongst the mediocre (and a fair few worse than mediocre, to be fair), I’m not sure that any one stands out above all others. If you were to hold me at gunpoint I’d probably say a good pint of Thornbridge Jaipur on cask is still pretty unbeatable – I have certainly had some good pints of it in the past 12 months, and it always a beer I’m happy to return to. There might have been a contender in Magic Rock High Wire, a previous favourite, but as I haven’t come across it on cask this year it doesn’t count. So, I’ll give Jaipur an honourable mention but I don’t think I can declare a winner for sure.

Best UK Keg Beer
There are again quite a few to choose from. Everything I’ve had on keg from Wild Beer for example – Modus Operandi, Ninkasi, and Schnoodlepip all spring to mind. Beers from Weird Beard and Siren have stood out too. Harbour’s Pale Ales, and those of the Kernel, are also up there. What would I put above all else? I’m going to have to go for Wild Beer, who’s name immediately puts a smile on my face when I see it on a bar, and I’d have to plump for their flagship Modus Operandi.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
I’d have to say it’s one of two here for me. Wild Beer Ninkasi or Kernel 1890 Export Stout. Both are beers I keep returning to, which to me illustrates the point.  I might have to call this one a draw.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Only really one contender for me. De Molen Rasputin which I had on keg at the Birmingham Beer Bash. Decadent and glorious. Loads of others that came close, the most memorable runner-up being Black Malts and Body Salts by To Ol – possibly at least in part because at IndyMan this marked a downward spiral towards higher strength beers and consequently is the last beer I can reliably recall from that day…

Best Collaboration Brew
A number of categories here have me divided – I can come up with a best in terms of the quality of the beer itself or best in terms of the experience I had with it. This is one of those categories. I’ve drunk a number of different collaborations this year but one was an experience like none other – my own collaboration with Blackjack Beers, an American Pale Ale called Phoneticus. As my first commercial effort it was an unrivalled experience. But honestly, the best collaboration beer I’ve had this year? It’s up there, but there are many others. Juggler by Magic Rock / To Ol, or the latter’s Buxton collaboration Carnage are both beers I enjoyed greatly. Wild Beer’s Schnoodlepip (which quickly became an adjective for brilliance at the Birmingham Beer Bash), and another from Magic Rock – Salty Kiss, these stood out. There were yet others, but favourite of all for me was the Weird Beard / Northern Monk Bad Habit.

Best Overall Beer
Really? No, sorry, just can’t do it. I think there’s too much a case of “the right beer at the right time” to say that in a fair fight any one would win.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
As I started writing this at the beginning of December a late entry in this category popped up when I saw a picture of the new range of bottles from Liverpool Craft. They’ve taken the fairly simple theme of their existing branding and developed it further to apply to a great set of bottle labels. At the same time I continue to love the raw simplicity of the Kernel brand, and Wild Beer’s printed bottles have a feel of quality oozing from then (although as a recycler of such bottles for my own beers at home I find it a pain not having a label you can just remove!). Another honourable mention goes to Magic Rock whose branding continues to catch the eye – there’s no doubt whose bottles they are on the shelf without having to go anywhere near to read the labels. And that’s the thing – your pumpclips and labels have to draw the customer to the beer, and all those mentioned above do that incredibly well. My winner? I think I’ll give it to Liverpool Craft.

Best UK Brewery
For consistency, quality, variety, innovation, and for simply being a jolly fine bunch of people too, it’s a clear winner for me. Not a brewery I’ve named as a clear winner in any specific beer category (although there was a late honourable mention for the cask beer), but probably the one where I’d be most happy to walk into a pub and see no-one else’s beers along a very long bar. Thornbridge it is.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013
As I’ve pondered over the past few weeks two names keep popping back into my mind. Siren, and Weird Beard. Another draw. Honourable mention for Northern Monk too. Though I begin to doubt myself and wonder if they are all 2013 startups…

Pub/Bar of the Year
For me, one place stands out clearly as the pub of my year.  Back at the start of 2013 a rather run-down, tired and uninspiring pub just the wrong side of Birmingham’s inner ring road got a new lease of life. More than just a lick of paint, the sensitive refurbishment returned a bit of glory to what is an attractive building, and the arrival of Chris and Sharon Sherratt made more than a modest difference behind the bar. Over the course of a year the Craven Arms has become a proper local for me, despite me living 30 miles away and not even working in the next-door Mailbox any more. It’s about a sense of belonging, being able to walk in after however long it’s been and feel you’ve come back to “your” local. And a cracking selection of beers guaranteed. I don’t think I’ve ever found a pub I’ve become so familiar with before, and so this is my clear winner.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013
As long as reopening under new ownership and new management counts, then my answer has to be as above.

Beer Festival of the Year
Another category where the element of experience interferes with the more subjective view. There can’t be many who read this who don’t know of my involvement as part of the team behind Birmingham Beer Bash. Naturally for me that was the festival of the year. It has to be. Not because of the sheer self-promotion of that, but because it was a truly incredible experience to bring that event to life, to build a festival that was how we wanted it to be. And, to be fair, moat people thought it was a pretty good effort. Was it better than the other festivals? No. Were any of them better than the Bash? No, actually. The real winner here for me is the whole range of modern, progressive beer festivals, in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London, that can’t quite be compared like-for-like because they are all different. United through their independence, and their sometimes radical approach. Here’s to those new wave beer festivals!

Supermarket of the Year
I have a rather grudging relationship with supermarkets. I’d rather buy from local independents but realistically that isn’t possible for everything and so there is a dependency on the supermarkets for some things. Beer isn’t one of those, and I generally find supermarket beer selections rather depressing. If I was selecting this category based on best selection for me I’d go with Waitrose because a) they have more beers that interest me than the other stores, and b) because they are slightly too far away to be a regular shopping trip and infrequent visits mean the selection always feels a bit fresher. However, I’m not going to award this category on the basis of which supermarket serves me best, but the one I feel has done most for promoting beer in general – that goes to Sainsbury’s, thanks to their Great British Beer Hunt which is probably the most positive promotion of beer from any supermarket.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Having no truly local independent in my corner of the land (for now, anyway) Stirchley Wines is my usual go-to retailer as they are most easily accessible for me and have a range that more than satisfies my needs. They face a stiff challenge from neighbours Cotteridge who I get to much less often but who always manage to provide some different options when I do – between these two retailers the south part of Birmingham has seen fantastic development in the quality of beer choice available and have done great things to help move forward the local beer scene. However, I can also head north for bottled inspiration now, and visits to Beer Dock in Crewe have started to feature in my occasional visits to that town. They’ve made the bottled beer shop slightly sexier, and added value with the ability to drink in (from bottles, keg or cask) and adding meet the brewer events to the repertoire. Quite a debut for them, so they get my vote this year.

Best Beer Blog or Website
I enjoy reading so many blogs but rarely get enough time to do most justice. Winner for me in this category is the one I can’t stop myself constantly dipping into. Ron Pattinson’s Shut Up About Barclay Perkins is an absolute treasure trove that keeps on drawing me in again and again.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
I enjoy the tweets of many, and it feels unfair to single one out. I can get round that, if stretched, by sort of picking two – Boak and Bailey have probably given me the most beer-related Twitter interest this year and so I’d plump for them as my winner.  Special mentions also to Phil Hardy, who used his beer tweet powers for good rather than evil when he arranged the reportedly excellent Macclesfield Twissup, and to Nate Dawg for his unrivalled services to swearing.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
This year has seen the pairing of beer and food become a much more dominant theme. I’m not going to try and pick out a single match that stands above the rest. For me the winner is simply beer, paired with food.

Inevitably the list above overlooks plenty of great breweries, people, and events, but like anyone else there’s only so much one person can experience in a mere 12 months. There are beers I’ve not had chance to try this year that might have changed the list dramatically, and there are people I’ve met or even worked with who are probably just as deserving of a mention as anyone else, but I couldn’t quite find the right reasoning while compiling these Golden Pints. To all in the wonderful beer community, thanks for being part of 2013, and I look forward to what the next year brings.

July 25, 2013

T-2 – a session sells out

One more day of setup to go. I’d say tomorrow but clearly from the time of this post it is actually today. I don’t think I’ve got a single one of these posts out on the day to which they actually apply, have I?

A slightly quiet day but not without its dramas and excitements. The high being the selling out of Friday evening tickets. We have tried to allow a few to be kept back for walk-up sales but maybe we should release these as advance tickets, given the level of demand. We’ll see.

An interesting fact about tomorrow. I think it may be the first time the team of ten behind the Beer Bash have all been in the same place at the same time. Seems incredible really.

Time for bed. It’s an early start for the biggest day of setup, T-1!

July 23, 2013

T-3 the build begins

It is both exciting and scary to see the cask and keg bars coming together today. Exciting because we’re getting close, and scary because, well, we’re getting close.

Having that final access to the venue gives some opportunity for getting to grips with some of the last minute details, to make sure that how we planned things is in accordance with how things are, or at least how we can rearrange them to be. You also start to feel a sense of the space for the event, rather than having to imagine it the way you want it. It throws up some interesting alternative views on how things really need to be and makes you question lots of things that you thought were all set and decided on.

It wasn’t just about the bars today, either. The beers are all coming together nicely now, with a few extra deliveries swelling the ranks. No further changes to the beer list but for an additional unexpected offering. Who are we to say no…

 

July 23, 2013

T-4 the road trip

Short and sweet today. We went north, and then east across the Pennines. Huddersfield was the target and we returned with three portions of keg bar and assorted ancillaries. We also returned west with beer from Magic Rock and Northern Monk. The North is, indeed, coming.

Back to Manchester for collections from Blackjack and Marble, plus a dodgy-looking backstreet exchange to take on kegs from Hardknott in the shadow of the railway arches while angry drivers waited for us to move the vans involved in this seemingly illicit deal. At Marble the firkin of Decadence was decanted from a vessel twice its size, the compensation for the Earl Grey IPA having failed to pass the exacting quality control standards. Plus the chance for a taste. If you don’t get the chance to try this at Birmingham Beer Bash then you clearly haven’t been trying hard enough. Wonderous, and exquisite.

Off then to deliver posters to friendly locations in the Northern Quarter, before returning back to the Midlands, ready to deliver to site at the crack of dawn (ish). All in all a lovely day, made even more lovely by ticket sales which went through the roof on what has proved to be our busiest day yet, double any day previously. So many tickets are now on the verge of selling out. That is a brilliant thing.

It was all great. Until later. Until an occurrence which shall remain undisclosed for another week, until I can do it justice.

For now though there is only one focus. Tomorrow (today), Beer Bash hits site.

July 21, 2013

T-6 and T-5 – the calm before the storm?

Well the intention of writing a post a day clearly failed.  To be fair Saturday was somewhat taken up by a barbecue for family, friends, neighbours and those of the Bash team who could make it.  Naturally conversation amongst certain of us was fairly one-tracked, but at this stage in the proceedings there’s only so much you can do by talking.  So T-6 came and went.

Today (well, once again, yesterday, as it is another late finish) has been a day of catching up on emails while I have the chance – for Monday is the start of the real setup activity.  We’re off first thing to collect a few beers and some of the bars, so it’ll be a long day on the road.  I’m sure there will be tweets from the team as we head up to Huddersfield and Manchester and back again, so watch out for news on our progress.

Great news today with the selling out of the second of our two dining sessions.  These are both full up and other than a last minute entry into the competition run with the Birmingham Mail and Post, there simply is no way anyone else can get in.  Tickets have been selling rapidly over the weekend too, and Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions are close to selling out.  We’ve had to reduce the number of walk-up tickets we were holding back to keep up with the demand for advance ones, so if these are the sessions that interest you then you really do need to get in there quick.

Also if you are still waiting for your e-tickets to appear in your Inbox, then please take a few moments to check your spam / junk mail folder.  We’ve had a lot of people who hadn’t had their tickets, but once prompted to check they’ve been found in the spam folder.  This isn’t always the case though and so if you still haven’t got your tickets please email us so we can get them resent.

So, not much of an update this time I’m afraid, but watch out for the reports from tomorrow when we start getting really hands on!

June 26, 2013

The final countdown…

If you know where to look, as you head south out of Birmingham New Street on the train (just as I did as I wrote this) and glance out of the window at just the right moment, you can briefly follow the canal cutting its way through the back streets of Digbeth.  A building stands proud above the former industrial district currently getting its second wind as a place of business and arts, its upper stories leaning out over the narrow strip of water, a large blue banner hanging down revealing its identity.

The Icehouse, centrepiece of the group of Victorian buildings now known as The Bond Company.  A place of history where once upon a time huge quantities of ice were produced for use in the local markets, surely making it the coolest place around.

Exactly one month from now, once again this site is destined to be the coolest place going as it makes another little dent on history.  The first Birmingham Beer Bash.  July 26th and 27th.

The list of breweries sending beer, and in many cases attending in person, has continued to grow and there are still a handful left to announce. It is, quite frankly, a stunning list, the like of which Birmingham has never seen.  From established breweries that have been at the vanguard of bold and progressive brewing for some time, to some of the new upstarts only recently coming to the scene and even launching their beers at the festival, we think we’ve found some of the best the country has to offer.  We’ve also had to make hard choices about breweries that aren’t there.  It simply wasn’t possible to include everyone we wanted to, but we think we’ve made the right choices and hope you’ll love what we’ve put together.

It isn’t just about drinking great beer though.  The “fringe” programme has been gradually coming together, and a week or so ago we finally announced our headline acts.  The seminars on hops and malt are a unique opportunity to learn more about what goes into the beer in your glass and they’ll both be presented by industry experts, Paul Corbett of Farams and Dom Driscoll of Thornbridge respectively.  We’re about to add to this with the list of tutored tastings that will be taking place throughout the weekend – places will be limited so you’ll need to sign up for these when you arrive at the festival, and if you follow our announcements on Twitter (@BirminghamCubed) and Facebook (BirminghamBeerBash) in the next week or so you’ll soon see why you’d want to do that!

Finally the food.  The beer and food matching dinners, served up by two of Birmingham’s finest chefs – Brad Carter (Carters of Moseley) and Luke Tipping (Simpsons, Edgbaston) – are a gourmet masterpiece and (if it really worked like that) would possibly make us the first Michelin-starred beer festival!  Take a look at the menus on our website and book quickly to avoid missing out on a fabulous opportunity because tickets are selling fast.  There’s also a great selection of local street food from great suppliers so there should be something for everyone.

We’d love to see you there.  All of you.  But we probably can’t fit you all in.  So make sure you get your tickets in advance because there really is no guarantee of tickets being available on the door.  Come and say hi to me (@OthertonAleman) and all of the organising team – Carl (@CarlDurose), Chris (@ckdsaddlers), Dan (@mediocre_dan), David (@mrdavidj), Jen (@ilovecherryreds), Krishan (@StirchleyWines), Shaun (@19irishdragon), Stewart (@TheRealStewbert) and Tim (@PolymathTim).

You might also want to watch out for an article on us and our stunning new poster in the Birmingham Post this week, and if you’re listening to BBC Radio WM on Friday morning you might just hear us on the Adrian Goldberg programme.

30 days to go.  My how time flies!

February 29, 2012

The constant quest for variety…

Variety. It’s a double-edged sword. I guess like everything else it is best applied in moderation. When it comes to beer I have a preference for trying new things, seeking out beers and brewers that I haven’t tried before, or dabbling in styles that are new to me. On arrival at a beer festival I’m almost certainly going to be heading towards the names of breweries that I haven’t had the chance to sample in the past. Sometimes this can result in finding a little gem, other times I find something I’ll know to avoid next time – that’s part of the beauty of beer, there’s so much scope for variety, as long as you open yourself up to the risk that there are some that simply don’t appeal.

On the other hand, taking this approach sometimes means I’m torn between the new and unknown territory waiting to be explored, and the more comfortable, familiar, favourites that you know are worth a revisit. Especially when it is a known favourite that you only get to have once in a blue moon. Exploring new things was what brought me to taste Magic Rock High Wire, which instantly became one of my top beers of 2011. Even better that I was able to taste keg and cask versions on consecutive nights and discover both great similarities and subtle differences in the two. As a result of this discovery, what was a new beer to me is now one that tempts me away from experiencing other new beers on the occasions when I encounter it again.

My favourite venues are also those that provide a good variety, particularly where the range is sufficient for me to swap between pale and dark, strong and light, hoppy and mild. But more than that, ideally I want to move between cask, keg and bottled beers too. For a new pub to really capture my heart it needs to offer me the maximum variety. There’s been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about how my nearest city of Birmingham needs to have a great new beer venue, and for me it will be one that offers me all of the above. The most recent new addition to the central Birmingham pub scene does well in the cask and foreign bottles stakes. The whispered-about rumours of a Brewdog bar would bring some great keg and bottled beers. Both will be priority detinations for me (assuming in the latter case it actually happens). But if swapping between cask and keg also means changing venue then I’ll reserve the right to remain just a tiny bit disappointed. I keep in my mind another firm favourite – the Euston Tap – which is not unique in its offering of a wide range of good cask, keg and bottled beer and very much look forward to the day when a similar “one stop shop” opens up a little closer to home.

However, the big question for me when constantly seeking variety is whether a one-off tasting of a particular beer can be a reaonable basis on which to make a proper judgement of it. Is it right to dismiss a brewer’s range because you tried it once and it wasn’t to your taste? What if it was badly-kept (confidence here depends how well you know your venue I guess) or at the end of a barrel? I’ve had the same beer in the same pub a few days apart, and it can make a huge difference. What if you’re basing your experience of a whole style on a single example which might even not be classified very well? If you never try anything of that style again on that basis you could miss out on something you actually would really like. And sometimes I find it takes time for some beers to grow on you, when it would be easy to dismiss on a first tasting.

I think the answer, for me, is that you can’t make a sweeping judgement based on a single sample, it is necessary to revisit, maybe at a different time, in a different context or a different place, and try again. But in the quest for variety, for new experience, sometimes that opportunity doesn’t always come again, or by the time it does, you’ve forgotten the details of the previous experience altogether. That’s what I find anyway. Maybe I should be keeping notes of what I’ve tried, so I can check back more readily. I certainly don’t want to give up on seeking out new beers, sticking just to what I already know. But perhaps there is also some merit in returning to old favourites more often as well.

What I do know above all else is that there is a stunning variety of beer out there, and I’m happy to keep experiencing as much of it as I can!

January 20, 2012

Where’s the Birmingham Tap?

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but it strikes me that Birmingham is missing out on the wave of craft bars (by which I mean those who sell “craft” beer whether it is in keg, cask or bottle) that are readily establishing themselves in lots of other places.  Don’t get me wrong, Birmingham has some great pubs and bars, and there are plenty of places to find a decent cask ale (some of which may or may not be craft depending on your stance in that debate!) both in the centre and further out, but where are the likes of the Euston / Sheffield / York Taps, the Brewdogs that are springing up north and south of the border, the various other craft beer outlets that I’ve seen or at least heard of in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Bristol, Nottingham even (and apologies if there are others I’ve missed).  Why has the “second city” (putting aside any other claims Manchester may make to that title!) not caught up with this exciting wave of new beer?

Is the Birmingham population not interested enough, or at least perceived to be interested, in quality beer?  I find this hard to believe.  Quality and variety in cask ales isn’t really hard to find.  Within a few minutes walk of New St Station, my preferred catchment area as it allows a quick stopover between trains, there is the vast range to be had at the Wellington, the newly opened Post Office Vaults, the Shakespeare, Bennetts, Old Joint Stock and several others.  They all have their own charms and flaws, but they all serve a good selection of cask and generally serve it well.  Some also have a good bottled range, but this tends to be European beers rather than the current UK stars.  Move northwards out of the centre and the Jewellery Quarter is establishing itself as another good beer destination, or head south of the Bull Ring and you can stumble upon some real gems too.  So we’re not short of places to find a decent pint.

So is there another reason why Birmingham is slow on the uptake?  One thought that occurs about the list of cities above, is that they are all big student centres.  Is that part of what fuels the spread of craft bars in these cities?  But Birmingham has universities too, so what’s different?  Comparing individual universities, the University of Birmingham has the 10th largest student population but is behind 2 institutions in Manchester and one in each of Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham – all of who appeared in my list of craft bar cities.  Moreover, once you start combining all the universities in each city London leaps right up the list but Birmingham still struggles to make the top five.

Now, I don’t for one minute think that the only factor involved here is student populations, but there does seem to be some correlation between that and the emergence of craft bars.  And to be honest, Birmingham never seems to me to have the same student vibe as say Manchester or Nottingham.  So maybe Birmingham just isn’t demographically quite right to be at the forefront of this new wave.  To be honest, when I think back to the opening of the Wellington over ten years ago, it seemed to be a turning point for the widespread availability of good cask ales in the city.  What I don’t know is how the rest of the country was faring – I certainly didn’t have the same awareness of the beer scene nationally that I do now.  It seemed like a revolutionary change in Birmingham, but maybe it was actually just catching up with other more lively cities then too.

Whatever the reasons, I guess Birmingham may just have to wait a bit longer before it catches the bug.  On the other hand maybe someone is planning something right now, and change may be just around the corner.  I look forward to the day when I can jump off a train at New St and see both cask and keg beers from the likes of Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Hardknott, Camden and lots of others, across the bar, and fridges stocked full of the best UK bottled beer as well as international ones.  In the meantime I’ll keep enjoying the good cask ales I can find there and get the rest of my “craft” fix where I can.

Or maybe you know where in Birmingham I’m failing to look hard enough, and point me in the right direction?