I attended an excellent beer tasting at The Botanist on Temple Hill, Birmingham, on the evening of the 8th February, hosted by Kieran Hartley, one of the two officially-titled Beer Gurus for the New World Trading Group which numbers this bar amongst its stable. There were 13 other participants drawn from amongst the area’s food and drink bloggers and some very interesting PR people, all intrigued by what might be on offer.
Kieran began with a simple but very comprehensive overview and explanation of the brewing process and types of beer, then gave a brief rundown of what he would be offering us to try. Everyone was impressed by his light and friendly presentation which in no way masked his comprehensive knowledge of the subject.
First up was a Belgian style wheat beer from the Camden Brewing Company, Gentleman’s Wit, which had all the characteristics you would expect of the type – slight cloudiness, a strong taste of orange peel and coriander, nice and fresh. One could imagine it as a splendid accompaniment to a lunch of cheese and bread, as happens in Belgium.
By way of contrast, we then tried a sample of Erdinger Weissbier, the German version of wheat beer, less citrusy and more forthright perhaps. This was a little reminder for me of what I hope are joys to come as I prepare for one of my regular visits to Munich where drinking always starts with Weissbier and graduates to the stronger, heavier duty dark Dunkelbiers. In keeping with the first sample whereby a brewery makes a beer typical of another country, we then tried Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery’s Honkers Ale which is their idea of an English Ale. It was damned good and very convincing. Talk amongst us included the use of hops and we wondered if, in order to get that “English” taste, the brewery would have used more genuine English hops in the brew.
The Crafty Dan Brewery (where do they get their names, I sometimes wonder) offering was 13 Guns, their idea of an American IPA which again had many of the characteristics of the real thing. This was definitely becoming an intriguing experience which had us thinking and talking not only about brewing but international marketing, inspiration for brews, keeping beer fresh when it travels, what makes a good commercial brew, and when does a so-called “craft” beer becomes a normal mass-produced one. And I thought I was only there to taste the beer…………….
Other samples consumed included a delightful Vedett IPA from the Duvel Brewery in Belgium, a Guiness Dublin Porter which was strong tasting, chocolatey with caramel and toffee undertones, Wild Beer’s Millionaire “Salted Caramel and Chocolate and Milk Stout” which was a real WOW, and we finished with another German Weissbier, this time from the Schneider Braueri.
Well, what can one say? It was an evening of education, enjoyment, great company, and enlightenment from a master. Thanks to Frankie and all who organised the event and especially to Kieran and NWTC staff. This was my first visit to The Botanist, never having been sure about a place which is in a part of town which I might call the “Afterwork Braying Suits Run” but there was a really pleasant vibe about the place and a good smell from the food being served so, one of these days, I shall return and try the cooking as well.
By Big Enn who can be contacted on @NcherryNorman #KnifeandFork