Summer Wine Meet-The-Brewer @ Mr Foley’s
On Wednesday evening I attended a “meet the brewer” event with James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery at Mr Foley’s. I didn’t know that much about Summer Wine beforehand, other than they were a microbrewery in Holmfirth (hence the namecheck to Compo, Clegg and Foggy) and that Mr Foley’s have their beers on quite regularly. I’d previously only tried (and enjoyed) their Houblon IPA and their “Project 6 Brew 5”, the latter of which I’ll come on to in a moment.
I confess to not having taken any tasting notes at the event, but given that descriptors are not really my strength, I probably wouldn’t do the guys justice anyway.* However we tried a range of their beers and they were all excellent, lots of flavours but always superbly balanced. Tiberius was a nice, light hoppy session-strength ale; Portcullis was a surprisingly good, complex ESB; and Treason Treacle Stout was an excellent autumn beer (roasted coffee and, unsurprisingly, treacle).
Perhaps the most interesting thing that Summer Wine are doing is “Project 6”. They’ve released five different versions of a strong, American-style IPA onto the market and are about to release a sixth. We got to compare Project 6 Brew 5 (on cask) to bottle-conditioned samples of Brews 2 and 3. They were all really good and I’m not sure if I prefer 2 or 5 more. It’s notable just how different they were, whilst playing to the same strengths. I’m not sure about the ABV, but I think Brew 2 might be a slightly better companion over the course of an entire evening.
Beyond the fact that these were great beers, I thought there were two things that are especially of interest about Project 6:
Firstly, it isn’t simply the case that Summer Wine are foisting a bunch of rough drafts** of beers on the buyer. Whilst these are experiments, they work very well as beers in their own right and by no means is the drinker being short-changed.
James and Andy mentioned at one point in the evening that the first beer they ever brewed in bulk, they agonised over for about a week before deciding it wasn’t fit to release. Given the financial constraints facing a fledgling microbrewery (and the lack of consistency I’ve noted from certain others), it’s admirable that they should exercise such a commitment to quality.
Secondly, these are also genuine experiments, in the true sense of the word. They’re not just seasonal one-offs, or indeed limited editions for no good reason other than to exploit the collector-like impulses of beer geeks.
They’re trying to find a beer that they want to go on and brew on a larger scale. Summer Wine’s Project 6 is therefore the evolution of a real beer that we can enjoy.
James and Andy have big plans for Summer Wine, including upscaling their kit and getting Bath Ales to do bottling for them. They’re aiming to compete on the same level with interesting regionals like Saltaire Brewery, and I’ll be very happy to see more of their beers around. Currently they sell to Mr Foley’s, the Grove and the Cross Keys in Leeds and hopefully we’ll be seeing their bottles in places like Beer Ritz and on MyBreweryTap.com.
Other than the upcoming Project 6 Brew 6, we can also look forward to a new Black IPA from Summer Wine. I’ve just seen that James has a thoughtful blog, which I’ve added to my blogroll.
It’s a credit to Mr Foley’s and Dean that they held this free event and also threw in some nibbles. The exciting and constantly changing range of beers is the thing that keeps me coming back to Mr Foleys and, helpfully, you can keep up with what’s currently on at their It’s Your Round page.
I think Leigh from The Good Stuff (who interviewed James in June) and Fletchthemonkey from Real Ale Reviews were also there on Wednesday. Sorry I didn’t say hello, but I wasn’t entirely sure who was who with just their avatars to go on! I was looking out for a chimp who appeared to have been drawn in Microsoft Paint, though.
* My vocabulary in that respect just about stretches to “hoppy/grapefruity/malty/biscuity/chocolatey/coffee-ey”. Presumably if I ever get to try anything with Citra hops, “mangoey” will have be added to the list.
** This is not a pun. Please move along, nothing to see here.