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Last weekend saw the third annual European Beer Bloggers’ Conference in Edinburgh and Shepherd Neame was there to show off its latest beers.
It’s been a fantastic year in beer, both for Shepherd Neame specifically and the beer world as a whole. New breweries have been opening the length and breadth of the country and drinkers are increasingly seeking old and new styles of beer. We took our two major releases from the past 12 months to the conference: the Classic Collection, comprising an India Pale Ale, Double Stout and Brilliant Ale; and our brand new Whitstable Bay range from the Faversham Steam Brewery.
The event was held at a stunning venue, just off the Scottish capital’s iconic Prince’s Street. Gothic arches and a huge pipe organ were lit in dramatic fashion by dozens of candles. They were the perfect accompaniment to the archive-based heritage of the Classic Collection, but added some unnecessary heat to the 30c-plus sunshine that’s more appropriate to the coastal, summer vibe of Whitstable Bay.
As you might expect, there was a plethora of Scottish brewers exhibiting at this year’s event. To the uninitiated, Scottish beer is the antithesis of our classic style. Whereas we delight in spicy, peppery, hoppy, floral bitterness, their beers have a biscuity, malty sweetness that would perhaps seems incongruous to a Kentish palate. It was great to see some of the local brewers experimenting with traditional ingredients; bittering their brews with pine and heather as they harked back to the medieval, pre-hop era.
The star of the weekend though was not a local; it was Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery. It beers such as his – alongside our partners Boston Beer Company and Sierra Nevada – that have redefined the beer world over the past 30 years, through boutique and craft beers. However, despite being well and truly inside the ‘beer bubble’, Garrett’s message was clear – beer needs passion, not nerds.
For all his technical experience, he hadn’t lost sight of the fact that what matters most is the enjoyment of good beer. They don’t want to know how many IBUs it has (Wiki it, if you’re sure you’re interested) or its Original Gravity (don’t ask) and they certainly don’t want to denigrate wine or other drinks in favour of beer. If those communicating about beer want people to share their passion and enthusiasm then only one thing really matters: taste.
So what of the ‘c’ word we’ve heard so much about of late: ‘craft’? Garrett was clear, while the US abides by strict criteria, they (and we) don’t really need a definition: “Craft beer is like pornography. I’ll know it when I see it.”