Thursday, 14 June 2012

State of the (Mediocre Beer) Nation - Brum

I have now been writing this blog for around 6 months, which has been a lot of fun.  I have enjoyed writing a load of nonsense about my beer drinking exploits and have tried in my own small way to promote good beer in Birmingham and highlight good practice.

Six months is therefore, probably a good point at which to take stock of where we are; and by 'we' I mean both me and Birmingham (as a whole).  [Due to my garrulous typing, this will be done in 2 concurrent posts].

Part I – Brum

At the start of the year, Birmingham had just welcomed the Post Office Vaults, which is now very well established indeed, with a massive range of bottled beers, great staff and a rising profile.  It is the best beer pub in the City. 

But...... from August onwards Brewdog will be coming to town, which will undoubtedly change things.  Now in many ways this is a dream come true, certainly it's something myself and other Brum beer bloggers and tweeters have begged for.  But could it be the tipping point?  I think 'Yes' is that answer to that one.  Yes.  At last Birmingham beer fans will have some tangible part of the national craft beer 'scene' to cling onto; at last we are being taken seriously, by one of the big players.

I fully anticipate that the arrival of Brewdog will spark the counter-arrival of one or two independent craft beer bars, at which point we really will be in the midst of an upward trend.  Equally, I think it will breed a new err breed of clientele, which will dovetail quite nicely with the fanbases of pubs like the Anchor, the Wellington and the Bartons Arms, which will still have a part to play, along with the Nicholsons and Bitter and Twisted venues.   

Off-licence-wise, Birmingham has also expanded it's waistline, as Cotteridge Wines have popped up to become the first real competitor to Stirchley Wines; having taken note of the quiet revolution which SWS have been orchestrating for over a decade.  Indeed, South West Birmingham has become something of a bottled beer haven.  If only East and North Birmingham could seize the baton in as enthusiastic a fashion: but then again, they are already well served for Polish and otherEast European beer produce, as evidenced by my ongoing off licenceproject.  

It seems strange to think that only 18 months ago, Brum had never laid eyes on a Mikkeller, Kernel, Nogne or Stone, but thanks to SWS, I think we already take for granted our access to these international beer icons.  Indeed, if the Twittersphere is anything to go by, the City's thirst for new national and international beer brands is getting ever more intense.

Talking of Twitter, April saw the first Birmingham Twissup, which was a great event in itself, but more importantly was the genesis of Birmingham’s first ever, (upcoming) Craft Beer Festival, provisionally entitled Brum Craft 2013.  Now this will be a fantastic event anyway, but my feeling is that even in 2013, it will still be the only opportunity for beer fans in the City to sample the UK’s best craft beer on keg and cask.  Whither Magic Rock?  Whither Kernel?  My tongue is already watering.

In short then, the beer scene in Birmingham is getting better and better.  It's still not as good as London or Sheffield, nor Manchester, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Ilkeston, Cambridge etc.  But we are moving in the right direction, and the pace of that movement is picking up (in the right direction of pace).

In my next post, which forms Part II of this State of the Nation report, I will talk about myself*...

*for a change

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