Fuller's unveils new bottle design

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Fuller's is about to change its well-known bottle design on its premium ales and it's quite a difference. In a nutshell, it's going from the design on the left, to the design on the right. NB - I probably haven't got those two images exactly to scale with each other, although the new design is supposed to look taller.

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Ian Bray, managing director of the Fuller's Beer Company said: "The first thing you will notice is the shape. We have changed to a sleeker, taller-looking design, although it is actually only 1mm taller than the old bottle. The label has been placed higher up to ensure that the brand stands head and shoulders above our competitors. The bottle also includes an embossed outline of the River Thames, the majestic heartbeat of London, on the banks of which our beers are crafted. We took some of our cues from the world of wine, so we think the new bottle is equally at home on the dining table as it is on the bar.

"The decision to change the existing bottle was not taken lightly, as it had done a fantastic job for us in its current guise for around 20 years. However, with single bottle purchases the largest sales format in the off-trade, stand-out on shelf has become critically important."

The new bottles are already beginning to make their way into the on-trade and will appear in shops and supermarkets from May.

I haven't seen the new bottle in real life yet - will be interesting to get hold of one.


Grain brewery plans 2013 "hop calendar"

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Grain Brewery is planning on producing a range of beers using the same recipe for the malt and bittering hop contents, but to change the aroma hop each month, having put a 'hop calendar' in place for 2013.

The Norfolk company will experiment with a different hop in the same beer every month.

I got the chance last year to sample some of Marston's efforts in a similar exercise and great fun it was too. Although the dangerous element to it, is that I feel you need at least two or three beers using different hop varieties lined up next to each other to get the full experience.

Hops are a fascinating, and complex plant, and the different flavour profiles that different varieties, grown in different parts of the world, create is astonishing.

In Grain's case, the hops will come from across the world as well as at home, and will include Topaz from Australia, Simcoe from USA and Spalt from Germany.

To support the pubs with the new beers, Grain will be taking a 'hop road show' to the pubs. This will give beer lovers an opportunity to meet the brewer, and try the different raw hop ingredients.
                                                                                               

End-of-year new beer round-up

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There has been a host of notable launches of new beers and new beery products, quite a few of which I have found really interesting, and then completely failed to mention. So in an effort to make amends just before Christmas, here's a round-up of what has been going on:
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Sambrook's, the Battersea-based brewery run by former accountant Duncan Sambrook has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. The celebrations coincided with the launch of the brewery's first ever keg beer, dubbed simply Pale Ale. The beer combines the characteristics of a traditional British ale with Germanic brewing techniques, and is available in around 10 bars throughout London.

Meanwhile, The Saint Brewing Co, based in West Sussex launched Saint, its 4.6% ABV craft on draught in London, with its first listing confirmed as the Distillers pub in East London. The beer was launched in bottles last year.

Rather more recently, another Sussex-based brewer, Dark Star Brewing Co, launched three new 'premium' beers to join its 10.5% Imperial, the Russian export strength Stout (pictured above). The new beers are: Six Hop, Green Hop and a Belgian IPA, all of which appeared on cask during 2012. The new range comes to market in 330ml Vichy bottles. They range from 6.5% to hefty 10.5%.

Finally, Meantime Brewing Company, the Greenwich-based craft brewer, has created itsfinal seasonal beer of 2012, the Belgian-inspired, 4.8% ABV Saison de Nuit. The new brew will be available on draught at Meantime's retail outlets as well as specialist craft pubs, bars and restaurants. Alastair Hook, Master Brewer at Meantime Brewing said: "We wanted to produce a special beer to mark the end of great year for Meantime, something that marks the festive season. The Saison de Nuit packs plenty of spice flavours unpinned with a subtle coffee aroma, so it's perfect for the time of year. This beer is one of my favourite seasonal specials of 2012."

Brewing of Truman's beer set to return to London

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trumans.jpgBrewing of Truman's is set to return to London after the owners of the once-ubiquitous brand secured a site in Hackney for a new brewery.

Founded in 1666, Truman's used to brew its beer in Brick Lane in east London but production stopped in 1989.

James Morgan and Michael-George Hemus refounded the brand in 2010 and have been brewing under licence in Essex since then. Its flagship beer - Truman's Runner - is currently available in more than 150 pubs across London.

James Morgan, one of the founders of the New Truman's Brewery, said: "We are delighted to be bringing 346 years of brewing heritage back to the local community. This is the biggest brewing investment in East London in several decades. The site is in Hackney Wick, one of the most exciting areas in East London. You can see the Olympic Stadium from the front door"

Initial investment has been secured and the company's 'Truman's Eagle' funding scheme closes at the end of the year. The official opening of the New Truman's Brewery is planned for the spring.

Michael-George Hemus, who re-launched the new brewery alongside Morgan, added: "It all seemed a bit daunting when we set out to bring Truman's back to East London. But we have had great support from the East London community, with a number of local people investing directly in the project via our "Truman's Eagle" scheme. We want to make the Truman's name great again - and we are only just getting started."

Fuller's launches Traitors' Gate limited edition beer

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Traitors' Gate2.jpgFuller's has launched a new limited edition ruby red ale called Traitors' Gate.

The new brew features the London landmark Traitors' Gate and a Tower of London Raven on the pump clip.

The beer will be available in 54 pubs across the Fuller's estate and some in the free trade.

The 4.5% ABV draught cask conditioned ale is made using a blend of Liberty hops from the USA and Galaxy hops from Australia. It is described as being "full bodied with a biscuity malty character, a refreshing citrus nose and subtle palate-cleansing zesty finish".

Fuller's Head Brewer, John Keeling, said; "The brewing team at Fuller's have been successful in producing new exciting ales such as Black Cab and Bengal Lancer that gives our customers extra choice. Traitors' Gate is the very latest, with others being crafted for later release.

"Traitors' Gate was developed to complement our core range of ales and to extend our seasonal ale portfolio. We are very pleased indeed with the end result.

"Our new ruby red ale is full bodied with a tropical fruitiness combined with a sharpness from the rye. It's a beer that leaves the palate with a zesty freshness."

Dea Latis beer and cheese pairing

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I've been lucky enough to be invited to a few beer and food events of late. 

The most recent was organised by Dea Latis - a group of brewers, beer tasters, publicans, writers and marketers "united in its passion for beer and a belief that it's far too good to be enjoyed only by men". 

That's right, beer companies. 

Us women like beer too. And it doesn't need to come with a fluffy moniker and poncy packaging to appeal either. Just make sure it's good. 

Beer writer Melissa Cole has written extensively and articulately on this very subject so in this instance I'll add my support by saying 'read this'.

Back to Dea Latis.

A bit of brewing history

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I was lucky enough to offer my own ill-informed opinions to the judging process at the SIBA South East beer competition the other day (see this link for information of winners).

Judging was set to take place some time back at a venue in Kent but owing to the horrible summer weather, and the fact that no-one fancied splashing around in a sodden marquee, it was postponed. Hoopers bar in East Dulwich, London, stepped in to hold the event instead. I was rather glad they did. Not only was it interesting to visit a place I had never previously been to, but I also had a chance to look at all the items of brewing memorabilia that hang on the walls there.

The best of these, for me, was an old poster ad for defunct brewer Rayment's. I used to live in the tiny Hertfordshire village where the Rayment's brewery was based until it was purchased by Greene King in the late '80s. Sadly I was too young to ever get the chance to taste the beer before the brewery was turned into a Greene King depot, and then, later, a set of apartments. So it's good to see that reminders of Rayment's in its heady days still remain.

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kestrel.jpgBrewer Wells and Young's is in negotiations to sell the Kestrel brand to one of its own directors.

The deal will see Nigel McNally, managing director of the Wells and Young's Brewing company, set up his own company, Brookfield Drinks, to operate the brewing, distribution and sale of the brand.

McNally joined Charles Wells as marketing manager in 1994, was subsequently appointed marketing director and then became the first managing director of Wells and Young's Brewing Company when it was formed in 2006. Since then he has overseen the acquisition of the Courage, McEwan's and Younger's brands.   
"Nigel has made a significant contribution to Charles Wells over the last 18 years" commented Chairman Paul Wells "and it's good to know that he will still be involved with one of the brands he's been associated with for the last few years.   

"Whilst Kestrel has been a good brand for us, it isn't central to our core brand portfolio so his exciting new venture means we're able to focus our energies and resource on developing our range of distinctive beers.  This is helped by Nigel's legacy as he instilled the culture of marketing into the business and steadily developed our ability to grow brands. On behalf of everyone involved with Charles Wells I'd like to thank him for his dedication and commitment and wish him every success in the future"

McNally said: "I've been on an amazing journey with both Charles Wells and then Wells and Young's. In that time we've grown Bombardier by over 700% taking it to be one of the leading premium ales in the market and launched Banana Bread Beer which is now a leading export beer.

"I'm excited about taking ownership of Kestrel and applying some of the successes at Wells and Young's into my own business and look forward to a new chapter of involvement in this fast moving and vibrant industry."

The formal transfer agreement is expected to be completed on 1 October 2012 at which point responsibility for Kestrel will switch from Wells and Young's to Brookfield Drinks.

So farewell then, Animée

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Despite its name, Molson Coors' "female-friendly" beer Animée has failed to enliven its target market, and the brewer is reportedly pulling the plug on the brand.

Molson Coors apparently spent £2m promoting the beer, which was available in Clear, Crisp Rosé and Zesty Lemon flavours. It was on sale in several supermarkets (including my local Morrisons, where at no point did stocks ever appear to run low).

This isn't the first time a beer aimed specifically at women has failed to take off - but should it perhaps be the last time brewers bother to try?

I can't see anything inherent in any of the good beers that I have ever drunk that would do anything to put off the entire female gender - quite the opposite. Ok, so not everyone is going to like them, but then that's the same for men isn't it?

Perhaps the problem isn't that the image of beer isn't "feminine" enough, but that it is still too masculine.

Beer has long been associated with men and male pursuits, and advertising has long targeted the male consumer and neglected - indeed excluded - the female drinker. There isn't much that can be done about that legacy.

But where brewers big and small have not yet embraced the idea that their product can be drunk by both men and women, and therefore marketed to both of them, then they need to start doing so. That means that rather than brewers giving women their "own" beer, there needs to be a lot less of this sort of nonsense: http://pumpclipparade.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/llangorse-brewery-maid-for-the-high.html



Chef Alyn Williams pairs food with American craft beers

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Beer and food matching, as your regular First Draught writer Neil Gerrard demonstrated in his last post, can work spectacularly well. 

I should know. I was the lucky colleague that helped him sample the 'delights' of our local supermarket paired with Cornish brewer Sharp's Connoisseur's Choice range - a selection of beers brewed specifically to go with food. 

There is an argument that beer need not be brewed with the sole intention of matching it with grub though. As my good friend and proprietor of Crystal Palace speciality store Good Taste Food & Drink Manish was keen to point out, all beer can be paired with grub as long as it's done well. And that's the real trick I suppose. 

If done properly, the experience can be sublime. So when Neil was booked to be on annual leave on the day of a Brewers Association beer and food matching lunch at Alyn Williams at the Westbury I was, to coin an irritatingly overused PR favourite phrase, delighted. It meant I could go in his place.

Hosted by top beer writer Melissa Cole and the Brewers Association American craft beer ambassador Andreas Fält, the event promised us seven brews for seven courses, each carefully considered to complement each other brilliantly.

Let's begin...

* click on pictures to see large versions

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