Hippo Beers Showcase – The Skinny

The Hippo Beers Showcase is taking place as part of Glasgow Beer Week which is running from 7th to 14th September in venues across the city. Our beer extravaganza is being hosted by Brel in Ashton Lane on Thursday 13th September and here’s how it is going to pan out.

We are running a fully booked beer tasting from 8pm which will highlight six beers that epitomise what we are going to have to offer in Glasgow’s first speciality beer shop. We will be sampling a beer from Scotland, England, USA, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The beer tasting is expected to last approximately 1 hour.

After that we will be providing off sales of a range of over 20 different beers. We carefully selected a mix of classic and modern beers to give you a flavour of the extensive and eclectic range we will have to offer in the shop itself. The off sales will run from 9pm to 10pm so be prompt and make sure you don’t miss out. We can’t sell you off sales after 10pm – it’s the law guv’nor!

To whet your appetite I can reveal that we will have beers available from Scottish breweries Tempest, Cromarty, Fallen and Knopps. We will also have some beers from south of the border from Magic Rock, Summer Wine, The Kernel, Hawkshead and Camden Town. It doesn’t stop there either as we’ve got some of the USA’s finest from Victory and Odell not to mention something very special from Green Flash. If you’re fan of Belgian beer we will have brews available from Gouden Carolus, Westmalle, Dupont and Boon. Finally, we’ve a fine selection of German beers that includes Andechs, Augustiner, Schlenkerla and Gaffel.

I think you’ll agree that it is a pretty special line up and one that you don’t want to miss out on! So get yourself down to Brel on 13th September to get in on the action. You don’t need to be booked on the tasting to come along to the off sales – everyone is welcome!

As if that wasn’t enough we have also hand picked some beers to go behind the bar in Brel as well so you can sample a few choice brews to get you in the mood for the off sales or just to kick back and relax with something a bit different to the usual beer selection. For anyone that wants to hang around for a chat after the off sales are finished we will be hosting drinks in the bar until closing and would be happy to chat about Hippo Beers, our favourite beers, your favourite beers – even the weather if you fancy it!

In the meantime stay up to date by following us on Twitter and liking the Facebook page.

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Glasgow Beer Week – Hippo Beers Showcase

The second annual Glasgow Beer Week will take place between 7th and 14th September 2012 and will build on the success of the inaugural beer week in 2011. It is unlike most other beer festivals in the UK as it includes a range of beer related events across the city rather than one big event in a single location. This year’s beer week includes a wide variety of events mainly hosted by local pubs and off licences. There is something to interest everyone and a full schedule of events can be found at the Glasgow Beer Week website.

In addition, this year’s Glasgow Beer Week sees the launch of Hippo Beers via a special showcase event being hosted at Brel bar and restaurant in Ashton Lane. Hippo Beers will be Glasgow’s first speciality beer shop offering an outstanding range of craft beers, real ales and world beers. We had hoped to have the shop open and running in time for Beer Week but we’re still waiting on the licence being transferred. So we’re delighted to be able to offer a sneak peak of what the shop will have to offer through this showcase event instead.

The Hippo Beers showcase will take place on Thursday 13th September in Brel and will incorporate a beer tasting event, opportunity to purchase off sales of a selection of the beers we will be stocking in the shop itself as well as the chance to enjoy some beers selected by us in the bar! We only have 25 places available for the beer tasting and they’re going fast so if you’re interested in booking a place then please see the full details of the event which can be found here.

However, don’t worry if you don’t manage to get a place on the tasting as we’ll be offering off sales until 10pm and will be hosting drinks in the bar until closing. So we’d encourage you all to come along and find out more about the shop and get your hands on some of the top notch beers we’ll be offering. Invite your friends too – the more the merrier!

We’re currently on course to open the shop in the autumn and will be located on Queen Margaret Drive just 5 minutes walk from the junction between Byres Road and Great Western Road and only 10 minutes walk from Hillhead Subway Station – see the map below. You can get all the latest information and updates through our Facebook page and Twitter feed so sign up to stay in touch with progress.

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Hawkshead Beer Festival

A delegation of four Scots descended upon the Hawkshead Beer Festival at Staveley in the Lake District on Friday. In true Scottish style we arrived with an unquenchable thirst for beer before the festival even opened and, not for the first time in my life, I found myself hanging about waiting for the pub to open. Although we weren’t quite as eager as those that had their noses pressed to the glass of the front door!

It was my first visit to the Hawkshead Brewery and I was very impressed with the set-up. The main bar situated just inside the front door was pouring a wide selection of cask beers from breweries including Dark Star, Fyne Ales, Kirkstall, Magic Rock, Marble, Redemption, Red Willow, St Austell and Thornbridge. It is also home to a rather impressive bottle shop which whipped me into such an excited frenzy we decided it might be better if we vacated our table next to it and headed upstairs to the River Bar.

The River Bar is located at the back of the building via glass panelled corridors that let the interested have a look at the inner workings of the brewery. I paused to watch some poor soul hard at work before heading off to grab a beer from the equally impressive array of cask beers on the River Bar.

The River Bar was home to all Hawkshead’s beers as well as cask ales from Bristol Beer Factory, Buxton, Coniston, Moor, Osset and Quantum. It also conveniently let you easily slip downstairs to the outside bar where for the first time a selection of keg beers were available including a handful of Hawkshead’s own and two from the Kernel amongst others. The full line-up was pretty special and we did our utmost to work our way through as many as possible. Particularly helpful for the partially booze addled was the massive beer list which pointed you in the direction of the correct bar for your beer of choice. We regularly dispatched beer raiding parties to the various bars whilst one brave soldier remained to guard the table. A stand-out for me was Hawkhead’s Damson and Vanilla Stout which is an incredibly complex and rewarding beer which I would recommend to anyone that hasn’t already tried it.

We were lucky enough to be introduced to Hawkshead’s brewing manager Matt Clarke who gave us and a small band of others a look around the brewery. He was also polite and understanding enough to answer my slightly drunkenly rambled queries about the various shiny silver things we were looking at. I believe they are something to do with making beer.

By now time was getting on and we had a train back to Glasgow to catch but we’re never one to defy the Scottish stereotype of being alcohol crazed with an insatiable appetite for beer. So that bottle shop was calling to us and we left with a comprehensive cargo for the trip back north although I saved my allocation for consumption at a later date.

All in all it was a great day out and I would thoroughly recommend you pop in and visit the next time you’re in the vicinity. I’ll certainly be heading back down the next time I get an opportunity. Well, that is if they’ll let the marauding alcoholic Scots cross the border again!

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Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival

I spent the weekend at the Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival – a beer extravaganza showcasing 13 breweries across 8 bars. The breweries represented included some of Britain’s finest such as Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Camden, Buxton, Moor, The Kernel, Tempest, Alechemy, Redchurch, Red Willow, Hawkshead, Bristol Beer Factory and Lovibonds. Each pub had at least one showcase brewery along with one-off specials of some of the best and rarest beers Britain has to offer.

A fantastic event and a testament to what can be achieved with a lot of hard work and collaboration. Aside from the outstanding beer selection, that was perhaps the stand out element of the whole event. From conception to execution in just over a month it shows how the independent brewers and pubs can pull together to put on an excellent festival showcasing great beer. A real testament to the spirit and nature of the independent beer scene in the UK.

It is a novel concept and seems like the kind of event that could be a more regular fixture in calendar. In particular, it gave an opportunity for the pubs and city to shine which you don’t get from a traditional beer festival in a local hall or tent in a field. All 8 pubs brought their own character to the event and it definitely added an extra element of intrigue by giving you an opportunity to explore the city at the same time.

A programme of rolling launches of specialist and rare beers kept interest piqued throughout the weekend whilst encouraging you to circulate around all the pubs. In addition, participants were provided an added incentive to visit all 8 pubs by a card which you could get stamped when you had visited a participating pub. Those that made it round all 8 and submitted their card were entered into a prize draw with cases of beer and a first prize of a brew day with Summer Wine up for grabs. It definitely helped to keep you moving and experience all the festival had to offer.

Overall, a great event bringing together an outstanding range of beers and the opportunity to explore various pubs across the city. Perhaps the only criticism that could be levelled is with the short lead-in time there wasn’t much opportunity for wider publicity. Future events could certainly be marketed to a wider audience and for a city like Edinburgh, the focus of so much tourist activity, it would be a great way to encourage people to see the city, the wide range of pubs and their rich heritage as well as the amazing beers our British brewers have to offer. I can’t think of a better way of showcasing our industry and perhaps an approach that could be adopted in other cities as well.

Well done to all involved. Planning has already started for next years event – maybe it will encourage a few others to try something similar as well.

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The Death of the Local?

We have heard much recently about the threat to our pubs with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) claiming closure of 12 pubs a week across the UK in the first quarter of 2012. Many will extol the virtues of the traditional role of the local pub at the heart of the community where people can meet, chat with friends and strangers alike and generally facilitate cohesion amongst the neighbourhood. CAMRA has led an excellent campaign to Save Local Pubs largely upon this mandate but pub closures have continued apace. Economic pressures, the cost of a pint and changes in drinking habits like a rise in home consumption have undoubtedly had a role to play in this but is there more to it than that? Has nipping to the local for a couple of pints ceased to be as attractive to the average pub goer as it used to be?

Perhaps the biggest non-monetary factor at work is the choice and information available to customers. Technology savvy pubs now regularly post beer lists on websites and social networking media, often on a daily basis, giving drinkers in towns and cities up and down the country up to the minute information on where they can find tipples of interest to them in order to make an informed choice about where to spend their hard earned cash. As such, being situated round the corner and offering the usual draught lager, a couple of ales, house wine and the standard array of spirits is no longer enough to attract the more discerning drinker. Furthermore, the range of places people can enjoy a drink have increased with restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs all competing with the pub for custom. Afterall, who wants to go to the same pub round the corner every time they go out?

As a result, local pubs in these areas have had to raise their game to compete and it’s possibly not surprising that a few have fallen by the wayside. The role of the local is perhaps being eroded away as well – no longer sufficient to just be a meeting place in the heart of the local area, it also needs to have something special to offer and let it’s customers know about it as well. In response, pubs are increasingly seeking to distinguish themselves by exploiting niche markets and offering themselves up as specialists in real ale, craft beer, whisky or gastropubs making them attractive to patrons near and far.

So is this the death of the local pub? Perhaps it is in some respects, particularly where drinkers have the luxury of a choice of venues and information technology on their side, as whilst pubs may remain busy the clientèle will be ever changing and sense of the local community may be eroded. However, in towns and villages where this isn’t the case the role of the local will always remain as the focal point of the community and it is these local centrepieces that will be most sorely missed. These establishments are the ones where the traditional role of the local can continue to thrive and where I believe we should be focussing our efforts to save our local pubs. In addition, the sense of belonging in a local is still one treasured by many regardless of location. Afterall, it will be a sad day when we no longer have a choice to nip round the corner for a couple of pints and a chat with the locals at all.

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Peace, love and good beer

In the 21st Century UK the beer battle lines have been drawn. In one corner we have the corporate monoliths churning out rather drab mass produced lager and in the other corner we have real ale with it’s renaissance fuelled by an explosion of micro-breweries and sterling campaigning for over four decades by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Oh, and in the other corner we have the burgeoning craft beer movement inspired by it’s namesake in America and the new avenues it has opened up to brewers through, for example, access to new varieties of hops and alternative takes on traditional styles.

So a united front has been established between the front line soldiers of real ale and craft beer against the common foe of the corporate giants, right? Well, unfortunately not. Rather than rising up together to give the suits what for and open the eyes of the wider public to the vast world of interesting and creative beers that are out there, real ale and craft beer have found themselves eyeing each other suspiciously with fixed grins when under the glare of the public spotlight and squabbling in a corner of the playground when the metaphorical teacher’s back is turned. Name calling and subtle digs at each other often seem to be the order of the day fuelled by a range of issues from the method of dispensing beer to the stereotypes of the opposition that now seem to have been firmly painted in the minds of those that strictly align themselves with one or other camp.

So who are the winners amongst all this? It certainly doesn’t seem in the best interest of promoting choice and good beer to the masses to spend more time focussed on bickering about the merits of real ale versus craft beer than trying to open the eyes of a public fixated with run of the mill lager to the alternatives available to them. Nor is it helping to allay the fears of increasingly panicky politicians that beer need not necessarily be a drink swilled by the case with the sole and only purpose of facilitating maximum intoxication in the shortest time possible but that instead it can be a high quality product enjoyed for the taste and character it possesses. I’m inclined to think the real winners are the corporate giants clambering to hang on to their precious lager drinkers in a shrinking market.

Thankfully, there do seem to be some that want to put the wagons in a circle with breweries such as Hawkshead, Hardknott and Dark Star to name a few positioning themselves on the fence between the real ale and craft beer divide. The Campaign for Really Good Beer (CAMRGB) has founded itself upon a pro-choice mantra and encourages all to take every new beer as they find it and judge it on it’s merits.

So, perhaps we are beginning to witness a united front focussing on promoting choice and the love of good beer and I sincerely hope this is the case. However, I fear that we have a long way to go yet and that whilst energy continues to be dispensed on arguing amongst ourselves the biggest loss will be those turned away from exploring the rich world of beer out there as a result.

Hey man, peace, love and good beer.

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