I’m Sorry, We’re Fresh Out

Am I the only person not obsessed with the freshness of beer? Obviously getting a pint poured straight from a brewery tank is always a wonderful experience but once the beer has left the building I’m 100% more inclined toward an interestingly aged beer rather than one proclaiming “freshness” or with obnoxiously printed packaging announcing a premature best before date.

Obviously the promotion of drinking the hoppiest of beers at their best is a far cry from the Born To Dies and Enjoy Bys from Brewdog and Stone but there’s still an underlying exclusionary aspect to it. I definitely love the idea of bottling and canning dates popping up more and more frequently though.

Boak and Bailey have -as ever- worded it perfectly regarding Brew By Numbers’ move to print bottling dates on their labels.

the more information the better — even if we’re not wholly convinced by the fetishisation of beers that have to be consumed within eight minutes of leaving the brewery, at great inconvenience to distributors and outlets.
Boak And Bailey, A Craft Eat Craft World

This kind of information is not only interesting but useful to those who want to drink their beer as fresh as possible. That’s all well and good but on the other side of the country we have Manchester’s Cloudwater Brewery.  Their new plans for “cold chain distribution” would make it a lot harder for folk like myself, off the direct distribution roots, to get their latest beers. Damn you, Lincolnshire!!

Distribution partners that already or are able to preserve cold chain (storing the beer in a <8ºC cold store, rather than in a warehouse that could be conveniently cold in winter, or damagingly warm in spring, summer, and autumn) and retailers we can reach through direct delivery will take precedent over routes that see our most volatile beer warm up to ambient temperature for days or even weeks before it gets poured and consumed.Cloudwater, DIPA Evolution

Of course I see the huge benefits of this kind of system. Our beer looks after us and we need to return the favour. However I can’t help but to want to be selfish. I want to actually be able to drink these beers! When I read this post from Cloudwater I immediately resigned myself to not being able to regularly keep up with the Cloudwater DIPAs after v8. This “Crafter Than Craft” beer seems to be getting to a point of unattainable exclusivity. I remember glowing with pride when we got our first ever KeyKeg of Beavertown Gamma Ray in the pub I used to work in, but now the sight of Beavertown, The Kernel, Magic Rock and the like in Lincoln is a common one.

I love a new craze in Craft beer just as the next woman but when it needs an entirely different infrastructure to support it I can’t help but worry. Just as Lincolnites were getting accustomed to the latest beers actually being available here the bar has been raised yet again when we were already struggling to hold on by our fingertips.

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3 comments

  1. Hm… I have pondered reaching up in the Lincoln direction… but haven’t had much demand heard from up that way alas. It’s sort of a big and empty area. Sounds like it is sort of covered anyway… We do deliver to Grantham from time to time, but that’s as close as we get.

    It’s not so much a “crafter than craft” positioning thing IMO… it is a serious quality concern. The situation for beer distribution and storage in the UK is totally grim. It’s undoubtedly bad for the product – and the obsession of getting and stocking more brands in more places is more about tickers and nothing about the beer quality. Breweries like Cloudwater and Magic Rock have invested a lot in in-brewery coldstorage… and surely thus so should the rest of the supply chain.

    It’s not about ultra-drink-fresh so much either (madness like “born to die” aside), this comes mostly from just how badly good beer is stored in supply chain and shops here. If the supply chain and shops improve then these beers are all going to be awesome for longer. (And change is happening… look to Hereford Beer House, Stoneworks, etc al, I’m helping another 4C coldstore bar/retail site set up in Rushden, and more will come….)

    Beavertown, Magic Rock, and others all WANT their beer kept cold too… it’s not just Cloudwater. Beavertown’s new keg art actually instructs that the kegs be kept cold. Sadly it rarely gets the standards the brewers would wish for.

    (I say this in a self-promoting sort of way I suppose… being a distributor that meets Cloudwater’s requirements, and as far as I know the ONLY one that does for keg & smallpack… we’ve used coldstorage from day 1… unlike most “craft”/micro distribution, where you’re lucky to find it in place even for cask.)

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    • Thanks for the insight, there’s definitely a lot of information about storage that gets lost along the way.

      And yeah, Lincoln in pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there’s barely half a dozen bars that get the Good Stuff in.

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      • Half a dozen isn’t so bad! That’s about where Cambridge is if you don’t count the “plain old” decent more trad cask-only places, and well ahead of Peterborough! Albeit they do have Stoneworks now which is pretty good all on its own. (And try living in a badly connected Cambridgeshire village…)

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