Picture shows a group of intrepid tourists at The Peyton Arms, Stoke Lyne. Note the dimple handled glasses in view, recently voted as very hip. Not that you would expect anything else from us?
So it has been a while; recovering from the London Marathon was always in the plan, as 26.2 miles took it’s toll on a 43 year old brewing athlete. As I ease my way back into a slightly more relaxed dietary regime, it is time to reflect on the week that was. Or the last couple of weeks. And over the last couple of weeks, it has been another of those passages of time where beer in all it’s glory and social responsibility has been at the fore.
The North Cotswold branch of the Military Vehicle Trust meet at the brewery each month, and have a varied programme of activity. I was their guest speaker in April, and delivered a short talk on the history of the Brewery, including some of the impacts of conflict across the globe during the Brewery’s 165 year history. We started by passing round a small block of metal, asking for guesses at to it’s purpose. I won’t divulge it here, but a clue is in a picture hanging on the wall of the Pear Tree Inn, and the clue is the gentleman sitting down in the picture, but you will need some lateral thinking. So a group of over 40 people learned a little more not just about Hooky, but about the part the Brewing Industry played. Military history, social impact, and beer.
We run a basic cask ale course here, at which I have the pleasure to conduct a brewery tour. It is only the last few months I have been undertaking this, after not having done so for a while. I am really impressed with the level of interest and knowledge displayed. People understand so much more about styles, origins, and indeed provenance. They are hungry to learn, they know that lots of hops can be good, but so can less hops. They appreciate the range of colours beer can offer; and they’re not that concerned about craft. They are concerned with serving good quality beer, and for this they need both information and training, but also a good consistent prdcut delivered to them, which they can then finish the distribtuion process – the last six feet often being the most critical. They are keen, and I never thought I would see such interest in the water break test; I am impressed, and it will deliver reward. It really is about the beer, and how beer can drive successful pubs. After all, 1 in 7 drinks in a pub is still a beer.
I am honoured to be President of Hook Norton Brass Band which is sponsored by the Brewery, despite me not being able to read a note, let alone play one. The Band was formed by railwaymen when building the Banbury to Cheltenham Railway. Hook Norton required two sets of viaducts and a long tunnel; 400 navvies here for 4 years, thirsty, and needing some entertainment. Once the railway opened, it enabled us to deliver beer over a much wider area. The Band’s Spring Concert in the Parish Church of St Peter in Hook Norton was last week; stood there with a glass of Hooky in the interval, in a place where people had worshipped for over 1,000 years, long before the Brewery was in the village. Quite a special moment. We didn’t need an over hopped hazy beer that annihalated the taste buds; we needed something not too strong but refreshing, over which we we could chat with each other, and then enjoy the second half, without needing a sparkling water or double espresso to resuscitate the palate. Beer at the heart of community life.
Then Saturday, an epic day was planned. One minibus, one groom to be, 26 pubs. It was a tall order, carbohydrate foundations were laid, routes planned, and away we went. We managed 14 pubs; a lot of beer was consumed, and we covered some counties. But we all lived to tell the tale. We drank sensibly, we watched over each other, we stuck to two units per pub (mostly), we knew the risks, and we all wanted to enjoy the challenge. We didn’t drink 5, 6 or 7% beers; hop content was balanced, alcohol was in fact largely 3.5%. The Portman Group would be proud of us. But we just did what was sensible, for us, for one and all. I felt proud to be part of a group who respected beer, who knew what the physiological effects would be, who could take their drink. I think Mr Harris would have been proud of us too – we didnt need to be encouraged to drink fast or trash the streets, in fact the bus driver warned us from the outset to be on best behaviour.
So another evidence backed tick in the box for craft beer – real craft beer, balanced, drinkable, moreish, and delivering positive health benefit. And fact is, none of us suffered too greatly the morning after. As we often hear, pubs are part of the solution, not the problem. Beer is part of our life, and forever will be.