Having been sucked into the ‘craft’ beer world like many others, I have been quite hostile towards AB InBev (who own around 30% of the global beer market) and any other large drinks conglomerate (Heineken, Constellation etc.). I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker based on propaganda from independent breweries about the tragic taking over of other ‘craft’ breweries – think Camden Town and Meantime to name a couple. It’s not just the propaganda though, it’s word of mouth from people who work in and around the industry, where the stories are that smaller breweries are just being absorbed into the machine, with brands being killed off or quality diluted, and people being made redundant as production moves elsewhere.
One thing that has come under fire recently (amongst many other things admittedly!) from the social media masses is CAMRA-run beer festivals. An interesting fact that many may not realise is that CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) were responsible for introducing beer festivals to the UK. Popular across Europe, mainly Germany, the beer festival concept wasn’t adopted in the UK until CAMRA launched the first ever one in St Albans, in 1974.
We are fortunate in Leeds to have a City Centre that is so well populated with great beer pubs and bars. Like many of our Northern neighbours (Manchester, Sheffield), the people of Leeds have really taken a shine to the recent beer boom and the vast choice of drinking venues available to us is testament to that.
Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Keir McAllister-Wilde. Introduced by a mutual friend, it was an exciting time as it was one more brewery to add to Leeds’ growing list and an opportunity to meet another brewer.
It’s astonishing to think that it was only just over 6 years ago that Leeds’ brewing scene was still dominated by Tetley’s. After Carlsberg’s decision to close the site and move brewing elsewhere, it was a tough time for employees, beer consumer support groups and for the city of Leeds itself. Almost 200 years of brewing heritage gone in the blink of an eye.
Traditionally, I’ve found alcohol free beer to be quite thin and tasteless. However, things seem to be moving on and brewers are looking at ways to produce low alcohol beer which is designed to taste more like it’s alcohol bearing equivalent.
Whilst taking in some sunshine and fresh air during a lunch time walk a couple of weeks ago, I happened across a small market taking place at Wellington Place, just by the historic wagon lifting tower. One of the stalls featured a brewery I’d not heard of before – Little Black Dog Beer Company.
Having attended the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), held at Olympia, for the last few years now, I feel like I’ve become a bit of a veteran! Although my years of attendance is a drop in the ocean compared to the 40 years that this huge festival has been going for.