Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Brighton Brewer's Market

Great keg beer isn’t easy to find in Brighton. There’s plenty in specialist pubs and bars, of course, but walk into your average boozer and you’re likely to find three or four handpumps, often dispensing excellent local beer, whilst the keg lines remain dominated by the usual macro lagers, Guinness and cider. Whilst pubs with brewery/pubco/chain ties might have some freedom to choose from either SIBA’s supply list or a pre-approved selection of breweries, I suspect this freedom doesn’t extend to kegged beers, subsequently making kegs harder for small breweries to sell. But with more established breweries like Burning Sky selling in kegs for a few years now and the likes of 360, Gun and Arundel now moving into this area, there’s an emerging demand for locally produced and full-flavoured keg beer.

I love cask beer too, of course, and would never state a general preference for either dispense method. Notably, the organisers of the Brighton Brewer’s Market, an outlet for local kegged beer, promoted the event without denigrating cask, and most of breweries pouring there produce cask beer too. It was a welcome chance to redress the balance a little bit and experiment with styles perhaps better suited to the keg format. Set in Yardy, a small courtyard adjacent to the Marwood coffee shop on Ship Street, there was food grilling at one end and beers pouring from a converted piano at the other.

Having written about Beercraft, the small pilot brewery based on the Watchmaker’s Arms premises, I was delighted to finally sample a couple of brewer Jack’s wares. A 3.2% Table Beer was seriously impressive – its easy-drinking light body and brisk carbonation made it really refreshing on an (occasionally) hot and sunny afternoon, and the hop flavour and aroma crammed into such a small beer is amazing. It’s truly sessionable in the sense that it’s difficult to stop at one – my plan to try as many different beers as possible was abandoned as I went back for two more glasses of the Table Beer.

There was also Zeit Weisse, a hefeweisse born out of a collaboration between BeerCraft and Brewtorial. This was excellent, too, familiar in its classic Bavarian yeast character – banana and clove – but a little different at the same time, with some gentle soft vanilla flavour in the background and just a touch of sharp fruitiness.

Brewtorial’s Logic Engine American Pale Ale recently won first place at the London and South East Craft Brewing competition, and I can see why – it’s an impressive beer. I want to say that it tastes like fruity sweets – Fruit Pastilles, or maybe Fruit Salad chews – but that would give an impression of cloying sweetness, which is far from the case. It is bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavours, though, with a gentle bitterness and a beautiful full body that makes each gulp super satisfying.

The dream would be for a greater number of Brighton’s pubs to kick off a couple (just a couple!) of the big lagers, halt the creeping presence of pseudo-craft sub-brands from large breweries, and extend their support for local breweries to the keg fonts. In the meantime, Brighton Brewer’s Market will be back on the first Saturday of August, and again in September.