Posted by: Blog Administrator | 03/07/2012

Wine, Walking and Sun

Unusually for a Real Ale Walk we themed our last weekend around wine and a trip to Oatley Vineyard in Cannington (http://www.oatleyvineyard.co.uk) on Saturday.

Jane Awty talking the the Real Ale Walks group

Believe it or not the weather was lovely for our walk with bright sunshine for the 4 miles over to Cannington and our 9 keen walkers (I use keen reservedly!) enjoyed a stroll through the Quantokc countryside. On arrival, Jane Awty gave us a tour of the vineyard and a tasting of the Jane, Leonora and a special taste of the barrel aged (Jane in oak we understand). Fantastic picnic lunch under canvas (yes, we had the odd spot of rain)with homemade bread and patés, cheese and good cheer.

We then strolled into Cannington for a beer at the Rose and Crown(See Beer in the Evening – but ignore the last review – never had a poor pint there), before the bus home ready for a visit to another Rose and Crown in the evening for more beer, food and a light-hearted quiz.

All in all a perfect day – cheers to a very good group who really made the weekend.

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Posted by: Blog Administrator | 13/05/2012

Quantock CSI

What a fantastic weekend in the Quantocks. After weeks of rain, the sun finally came out for our eleven walkers from Cranham, Gloucestershire – not only did it shine – it was hot and we all got a bit red!

Friday night saw a beer tasting from the Stowey Brewery – including beer brewed by attendees from our last Brewery Workshop – well done Angela and Brian. After a chilli supper we all trooped off to the Rose and Crown for a nightcap, more beer and we think games of pool were played after we had left the pub and gone to bed.

Real Ale Walkers on the Quantock CSI experience

After a lively night, Four of the guests got up at the crack of dawn to go for a RUN! Having said that, it was a fantastic morning in the Somerset sun. The breakfast was polished off and we then embarked on our murder mystery walk – Somerset style – Quantock CSI, tracing the last steps of Jane Shorney, murdered by her husband after three weeks of marriage. Then into the Ancient Mariner for a sandwich lunch sitting outside soaking up the rays. In the afternoon the group went off on the Nether Stowey Treasure Trail, with Caitlin (we think) finding the prize (potentially worth millions!).

As the weather was so nice, we added an additional walk to the itinerary, a trip up the Castle Mound for a history of Nether Stowey up to the end of the fifteenth century – and then back to the Rose and Crown for dinner. Marcia won the Walking and the Detectives quiz and a bottle of bubbly – well done. Another late night with the guests outlasting the hosts yet again.

Funnily enough, no running on Sunday, but we had agreed to walk up to the Iron Age fort in the Quantocks as the weather was still brilliant. Walked up to Dowsborough in the Footsteps of Coleridge along the Coleridge Way. Good views from the top and the perfect end to a Real Ale Walks weekend.

Thank you to Kerry for bringing such a fantastic group – we really enjoyed having you.

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 07/05/2012

The French and Watneys

Angela and Brian making their very own wedding beer

A very damp Bank Holiday Monday and using the time to barrel beer for the various pubs and groups wanting some fine Quantock ale.

At our most recent brewery workshop our intrepid brewers, Angela and Brian, made two beers; a classic English bitter and a US style microbrewed ale with plenty of passion fruit on the nose and a lovely floral flavour. Apart from making a firkin for themselves, their beers will also appear at the Ancient Mariner and the Bridgwater Arts’ Centre as well as the Nether Stowey Twinning Association party – teaching the French about proper beer!

The Bridgwater Arts’ Centre is a new venue for us. Like many arts’ organisations, they have had their funding cut and are now opening reduced hours with volunteers running the bar. This causes additional problems in that large volumes of beer tend to go off. Therefore we are supplying our real ale in 8 pint mini-pins which can be opened as and when needed, allowing the Centre to serve good quality, local real ale whenever they are open. Interestingly, it was a very similar problem which kicked off the keg revolution and Watneys Red Barrel. In 1936 the East Sheen Lawn Tennis Club found their beer was going off. Coincidentally, Watneys’ head brewer, Bert Hussey, was a member of the club and Red Barrel was trialled there. I believe the barrel was painted red so that it was not confused with other Watneys’ products – although I could be making that up.

Of course, the big news this week is the wonderful article in CAMRA’s BEER magazine written by Des de Moor, who stayed with us nearly a year ago. We haven’t had our copy of What’s Brewing yet (a bit late this month) but we’ll do a bit about it when we get a moment.

Ian

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 07/04/2012

Doomed Bar

Good food, terrible beer and the Doom Bar in the background

For those of you who know me and my beer preferences, will also know what a downer I have on Sharp’s Doom Bar. This beer is what processed cheese slices is to matured cheddar – it’s bland, tasteless and uninspiring – and yet, it’s the beer of choice for many. The reason it’s so popular – the same reason McDonalds is liked – it doesn’t (on the whole) offend. Any brewer has to sell his (or her) beer and if the product has too much taste, is too hoppy or malty or too strong, then it will exclude some to the beer drinking population. If the beer is bland, then some may not like the lack of taste, but few will dislike it (me excluded!).

So, on my recent trip to Cornwall I decided to try a pint in Rock – the home of Doom Bar. We had the beer in (I think) the Mariners Rock. A very pleasant bar with lovely service from Ruby. The food was lovely, but the beer… In fact I gave up on mine and went over to Pilsner Urquell, which had far more taste.

So there we are.

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 08/03/2012

BEER Magazine Photographer

Some time ago we had a journalist from BEER magazine (CAMRA’s quarterly magazine) visit us for the weekend – last May it was and we had 14 of us walk over to Crowcombe on a rather wet Saturday. Now, nine months’ later the photographer arrived. We had been dreading a re-run of the weather of last year but, on the last day of February we had the most marvellous weather and Charlie Best (far too good a photographer for the likes of us) turned up for 24 hours in Somerset.

We started off and then started to strip off as the temperature rose to a very unseasonal 17°C. In fact as we neared to top of the Quantocks we had worked up quite a bit of a sweat. Not only did the weather do us proud, the wildlife came out in force with a rare glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon hovering above the tops and a herd of about 50 red dear sheltering in the shade of the trees going down the hill on the way to Crowcombe.

Photographing the photographer!

The pub, the Carew Arms, is a lovely place. The front bar can’t have changed in 300 years with a hatch from where beers appear as if by magic. This is one of our favourite destinations not least because of the range of beers and Jamie’s very competent cooking. On this occasion we tried Will’s Neck from the Quantock Brewery – very good, although I’m not sure if it improved our skittling after lunch. And then the walk home. Again fantastic weather – tee shirts in February!

So, keep an eye open for the article in BEER in May.

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 01/03/2012

To live in interesting beers

It’s been a fun month here at the Stowey Brewery. We sent out two very unusual beers to the pubs February and both were very successful.

Helen pouring Nethergreen

For the past few years we have grown our own hops in the garden. Whilst we planted three roots, only one of these took, although this one remaining plant grows prolifically. The problem is we’re not sure what it is. We think it’s an East Kent Goldings – well anyway we harvested the hops late last year and made a green hopped beer, guessing at the strength of the hop oils. We managed to guess well and produced a well hopped fresh bitter (Nethergreen) which was on sale in Nether Stowey pubs.

The 1st of a night on the Nether Nippon (Brewer and friends)

Then the Ancient Mariner commissioned a Japanese style beer for their Japanese night at the end of the month. We sourced some Sorachi Ace hops and produced a unique 5.2% real ale/lager. This turned out to be a stunning beer (Nether Nippon) with the whole pin going in one night. We have now been asked to try our hand at a medieval beer. Given that there would have been no hops to hand, the malt would have been smoked and the yeast wild and sour, we think we may have to tweak the recipe!

Ian & Lynne Stowey Brewery and 4ale (Real Ale Walks)

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 16/02/2012

Exmoor Magazine Interview

Text from information given to Adrian Tierney Jones for an Exmoor Magazine article:

Lynne and I gave up our London life in 2002. I was a solicitor in the City and Lynne a housing strategy officer for a local council. As we approached 40 we decided that there was more to life than office work and stress and set up The Old Cider House with the intention of running it as a B&B and base for a small walking holiday company.

After working out what our walking guests really wanted we set up Real Ale Walks where we take groups of walkers out into the Quantocks to appreciate the countryside, the historic villages and the local pubs. As part of this experience we used to supply free beer to the guests over the weekends and often got these from Moor Beer – just down the road.

It then occurred to us that instead of buying in the beer we should could it ourselves and after a few attempts started to get it right. The local pubs said that if we could produce it commercially then they would take it, so a quick call to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and we were away.

There are some fantastic pubs around the perimeter of the Quantocks (I’m not sure there’s one actually in the AONB) and practically all of these want local real ale. Given our half barrel size we can’t contemplate servicing all of these and concentrate on the local Nether Stowey pubs – in reality we only supply to places that we can drink the beer in – thus guaranteeing quality!

The brewery is a hobby, which happens to pay for itself. We love making beer and so many hops on the market can’t bring ourselves to stick to one particular style. As I type we have produced a Japanese real lager using sorachi ace hops for one of the village pubs who are running a Japanese night and I have just been down to taste a beer made with our own home-green green hops (Nethergreen). Style is therefore esoteric!

So where do we want to go from here?

We run the brewery as a hobby and when I fill in my monthly beer duty return I can see that this is never going to save the NHS, so we’ll stick with producing beer as a guest in the local pubs and the odd beer festival. We also pass on our enthusiasm and knowledge by letting guests brew beer with us during special weekends. We’re not thinking about expanding, just experimenting with the cornucopia of hops and malts on the market and really enjoying ourselves.

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 08/01/2012

Happy New Year

The end of 2011 was hectic, not only beer-wise but preparing for Christmas and New Year in the guesthouse as well as a host of other pre-Christmas activities.

Folk group with their own beer!

In early December we spent 10 days in Greece trying to taste a few different beers and even found a microbrewery. We’ll write this up for later in the year. Then there was the domestic front with a special old English very hoppy beer produced for the folk event at the Rose and Crown in the Village. Of course, the most exciting beer of the year is the Christmas brew and this year we produced a 6.9% old ale (loosely based on TOP) and sold it in halves in the local pubs. A fantastic beer and one which knocked spots of the other festive brews on sale over the period.

The real problem with Xmas brews is that breweries feel they should produce something, but are frightened to make it different –either because drinkers won’t like it or it is too strong to sell. We have the advantage of being able to make very small quantities and to sell it in pins (36 pints) on top of the bar.

At the moment we are on a New Year, No Beer January for a bit of fun and we using the time to drink beer – but without alcohol in it. And so you know what? It’s okay! Have a look at our mini-blog with tasting notes.

Just gearing up for the New Year – the next beer is already barrelled for St. Valentines day and is a green hopped beer and this week we are going to experiment with some Japanese hops. Watch this space.

Ian – 4ale.co.uk

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 31/10/2011

New Site Up and Running

It’s today – and we’ve just launched our new website.

This site is not just to tell our guests what’s on, but it aims to keep all those keen on real ale informed about matters that will interest them. We blog regularly and keep you informed of what’s going on via Twitter.

The one thing about our Real Ale Walks and Brewery Workshops is that we enjoy running them as much as we hope you will enjoy attending.

So have a look at the site and we hope to see you for a 4ale experience next year.

Cheers!

Ian, Lynne and Ozy (the Labrador)

Posted by: Blog Administrator | 16/10/2011

Hop Harvest and Green Hop Brew

Just sitting down to egg on toast thoughtfully provided by the Brewery chickens (the eggs that is not the toast) after a very busy morning.

The morning started off feeding the guesthouse guests and taking Lynne off to Oatley Vineyard to pick this season’s grapes. So it’s just me and Ozy to undertake all the Brewery activities. We started off measuring the gravity of the Brewery Workshop beer – 1012, just perfect for dropping into the secondary fermenter. Then starting the mash for the late harvest hop brew from our own hops, starting with a classic IPA base for this with a soupcon of torrified wheat just to give it a head when it goes in to the pub. And then on to the hop picking.

Hopping for a perfect IPA

It is very difficult to guess how strong the hops are (bitterness) and how many you need. Two carrier bags full (about 400 grams) seemed to be about right and they went in 200 grams at a time with 100 grams at the end of the boil for good luck. Could be a fantastic brews or like alcoholic TCP – only time will tell.

We have also come on leaps and bounds with the new website adding all the brewery weekends to it and now finalising the walks. Keep an eye on this for our 2012 events.

Back to cask cleaning now. Until next time…

Ian (& Ozy)

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