Yesterday night’s “meet the brewer” session got of to a slow start. There were, I would guess, around 30 of us sitting at a number of specially reserved tables at the Humphrey Bean, when Simon, the pub’s manager announced that the brewer, was going to be a little late. The cause of this delay was said brewer filling his van up with the wrong fuel. One or two jokers in the group came out with the quip, as long as he hasn’t filled the wrong beer into the casks, we would be alright!
We didn’t have too long to wait before Firebird’s Richard Peters arrived, but the delay at least gave us the chance to sample several of the Firebird beers on tap at the Humphrey Bean. The wait also allowed us to enjoy our pre-ordered meal of sausage and mash, which formed part of the admission charge for the event. Also included was a 25% discount on any of the Firebird beers on tap in the pub that evening.
The beers were, in order of ascending gravity:
Two Horses Pale Ale 3.8%; Heritage Sussex Best 4.0%; Citra Single Hop Ale 4.1%; Mandarin Vit 4.8% and Pale Face APA 5.2%. I sampled them all over the course of the evening; my favourite being the Pale Face, followed by the Citra.
Richard eventually arrived, and somewhat hurriedly set up his stall. He apologised for being late and informed us that filling petrol into his diesel engine van was the reason for the delay. He’d brought a small P.A. system along with him, but didn’t’ use it (probably because of having to trail power cables across the floor). Instead he went for table to table, telling us about the brewery and how Bill King and him, who were old friends from brewing school, went about setting up Firebird.
I won’t repeat the story, but you can read it in the previous post, should you desire. He did say that "subtlety", rather than in-your-face aggression, was the philosophy behind Firebird beers, and having sampled some of them yesterday, I think this was an apt description.
Peter had brought with him a number of bottles and cans for the assembled company to sample, but things got a little messy around the table, due to the mêlée of people who made a beeline for the “free” samples. I did manage to taste a very good canned, Coffee Porter, plus an excellent single-hop beer brewed using Pacific Gem hops from New Zealand.
It was clear from listening to him, that Peter knows his craft, and so he should, given the number of beers he’s spent in the brewing industry, but one particularly valid question cropped up. This was how come most of us had never seen Firebird beers on sale in West Kent, with quite a few of us not having heard of the brewery either.
Peter mentioned the rather crowded nature of the brewing industry, in this part of the world, telling us that Sussex had gone from having just Harvey’s, plus the odd micro, a couple of decades ago, to the situation today where there are nearly 60 breweries in the county. I didn’t comment on that, but can’t help thinking this number is unsustainable, given a beer market which is shrinking, as are the number of genuine free-houses and other outlets which might stock the beer.
All in all it was a good evening. I enjoyed all the beers I sampled, and I will certainly look out for Firebird Brewing on my travels. It was a good night for socialising as well, as not only was there a good turn-out from the local CAMRA contingent, but I met up with a couple who were customers at our former off-licence. Simon has run several of these evenings at the Humphrey Bean, along with a number of brewery trips, so it is good to see a local Wetherspoon’s manger taking this sort of initiative.
I left just after 10pm, along with a friend. Somewhat unwisely we called in at Fuggles, where the Moor Brewing “tap takeover” was just drawing to an end. We were still in time though to meet Moor Brewing owner Justin Hawke; the introduction being made by Fuggles owner, Alex Greig. The crowds had thinned out by that time, leaving the pub nice and quiet.
I enjoyed a half of So’ Hop 4.1% , plus a couple of tastings of Moor Fusion, the brewery's celebrated Old Freddy Walker Ale, matured in oak casks (cider and brandy, depending on the year). Justin had brought these down specially, and with a few bottles already opened, Alex generously left them with us to finish off.
I wisely allowed my companion drink the lion’s share of them as, unlike me, he didn’t have to go into work this morning!