Author: ukbeer

Does your missus drink of the ale?

beer-in-the-evening-women-brewingDo you catch your good-lady gazing at your pint whilst she sips at her fruit based cocktail? Does she want to partake in your ale, but feels too shy to ask? Does she long for her own pint, but doesn’t want to be seen drinking one?

It’s a question that has been asked before but, could women be a part of the renaissance that the pub and real ale trades are looking for?

With micro breweries recently experiencing a lot of interest and growth, the real ale industry has enjoyed some gathering acclaim for brewsters within the business. Waen Brewery founder Sue Hayward has seen demand for award winning Waen beers rise year upon year. Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters Brewing Company reminds us of the long history between women and brewing, up until the 1600’s brewing was primarily a woman’s business. Alex Heeton and Zara Hale, of BrewDog Camden regularly produce interesting home-brews with a creative understanding of the brewing process. Although there are just a few female ambassadors being pushed into the lime-light, there is still plenty of room for more women within the industry. Women have been historically good at brewing, it’s time they were invited back on a grander scale.

The pub industry however is constantly under threat, CAMRA are reporting that pubs are now closing at the rate of 18 per week, with the trend of closures set to continue if not increase. On a brighter note though, since the smoking ban there has been a steady increase in the number of women pub-goers.

UK accredited beer sommelier Sophie Atherton in Cask Matters (Nov 2012) reminded licensees that around half of their potential customers are women. She also outlined some suggestions and techniques pubs can use themselves to help expose real ale to women in a more positive light.

Atherton suggested that the process starts with the equipment. Keeping your pipes clean and maintained isn’t often easy, but it is absolutely essential to maintain a level of consistency and pride over your beer selection.
She also asks licensees to consider the psychology behind attracting women to real ale.

Pubs should avoid advertising sexist pump-clip imagery and perhaps broaden their range of beers from just masculine names such as Spitfire, Mutt’s Nuts or Seriously Bad Elf, to embrace a softer selection that potential female customers can feel a connection to, such as Strawberry Blonde, Chocolate Orange Delight or Banana Bread Beer. It may seem patronising, matching flowery and flavoured names to female drinkers, but by introducing flavoured beers into the selection, licensees continue to dispel the myth to both sexes that all ale tastes the same, one enduring stigma that the drink has acquired. Who knows, if it’s on offer, perhaps even the bearded, port-belly, sandal wearing stereotypes may try a Cherry Fruit Beer after a long days rambling over the hills?

Then there’s the sales pitch, it’s proven more likely that women will sample real ale if it is suggested to them by a female member of staff. Women like to know the honest opinions of other women. Offering alternatives to their regular tipple could be the way. Red wine or coffee drinking women might like to try a porter, stout or dark beer. White wine drinkers may prefer a citrus or fruit beer, and sparkling wine drinkers may prefer a blonde more carbonated, citrus beer.

Lets continue to support the British pubs by by making 2013 the year we make an effort to share the ale with the women in our lives, and with Valentines day just around the corner, treat your missus to a pint down the pub, it’ll be an experience she’ll cherish and never forget. Cheers!

Does your missus partake in the ale? What is her favourite pint? If you’ve a comment feel free to leave it in our comments section below, or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

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There’s a fight brewing at Kelham Island Brewery

Kelham Island Brewery

There is something brewing at Kelham Island Brewery, and it’s not just beers. A unique mash-up of hops and comic book characters is erupting,  pale ale heroes are slogging it out against dark beer villains  in the “Light vs. Dark” battle of the brews. Who will win? Will the two join forces to fight the fizz-keg army?

Kelham Island, based in Sheffield, was the first independent brewer in the city  for over 100 years. It was at a time when real ale sales were falling and the big brewers were retreating from the area. Hope & Anchor, Whitbread, Stones and Wards breweries all closed in Sheffield during the nineties. Big things have such small beginnings, and from the beer garden of the Fat Cat, Sheffield in 1990 Kelham Island first began brewing with a 10 barrel capacity. Popular demand saw sales increase and the decision was taken to move the brewing operation to a more permanent 100 barrel capacity residence. Today, if you are lucky enough to visit the Fat Cat, the original brewing house is now a visitors centre dedicated to the success of the Kelham Island Brewery.

Kelham Island continues to maintain the small-team charm that it began with despite demand for its beers always being on the rise, their fortune is a heart-warming tale of achievement when so much emphasis is applied to the bad news within the real ale and pub trades. With over 20 different beers produced by Kelham Island today, designing the packaging for a range of beers needed to be cutting edge as well as tipping a hat to classic beer label design, it was time to call in a hot-shot…

Jim Connolly is a mild-mannered artist by day, but by night, he drinks the occasional beer and enters into a world where heroes strive to protect the ale from an evil fizz-keg army. Mixing two popular genres, comic books and beer, Jim has lovingly created a series of heroic beer labels for Kelham Island Brewery. The mash-up of beer and comics doesn’t stop at just the beer label artwork, each character comes with their own back-story to tell, and in true story-telling style, each pale ale hero comes their own dark ale nemesis! We were lucky enough to speak to Jim and ask him some questions about his part in bringing the beers, their labels and pump-clips to life.

Q. Who came up with the names for the Kelham Island Beers?
The Kelham guys gave me the basic concept for the heroes and villains and let me run with it. I did a pile of quick doodles and we chose the best ones and made the names up together. The King of the Rocketman & Radar Men Men from the Moon pumps were the brainchild of Little Mick who works for Kelham Island.

Q. Who or what has been your biggest inspiration for these labels?
In Superman 2 there are three great baddies in General Zod (the mastermind), Ursa (the tough babe) and Non (the muscle) and I wanted each side to pretty much fit this model. I looked at some of the early Marvel character designs by the likes of Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko as I wanted the colours to stand out and be fun. ‘Gentleman death’, ‘Mistress Flames’ and ‘Crimson Steel’ feel more like DC characters down the Batman route, with a hint of Tim Burton.

Q. Can you give us the back story to some of the  Kelham Island characters?

Kelham Island Brewery - Crimson Steel

Crimson Steel (hero) He started life as a homage to Sheffield United FC with his double swords but became more like an English knight. He’s a bit Aragorn and a bit Batman-esque. In comparison Crimson Steel ale is bright and amber in colour, described as very hoppy, it’s like the best of all things good, so it makes sense to have Crimson Steel as the lead-hero.

Kellham Island Brewery - Gentleman Death

Gentleman death (villain) He uses black magic to achieve his dastardly ends. He’s a bit like Skeletor crossed with Basil Fawlty. In comparison Gentleman Death is a rich, dark, Baltic Porter, it clings to the edge of the glass like a lingering evil magic.

Kellham Island Brewery - Mind Control

Mind Control (heroine) She’s quite Xmen inspired with similar mind powers to Professor-X, of course with added telekinesis, no doubt derived from her double IPA. The intense hoppiness of Mind Control is perfectly balanced with complex alcohol flavours, the ‘force’ is definitely strong with this one.

Kellham Island Brewery - Mistress Flames

Mistress Flames (villain) She’s a vampire but with fiery blood and flame-throwing abilities. By comparison Mistress Flames is a mild ruby ale with deep flavours and colours, it looks very vampire, very moody and comes with some spark.

Kellham Island Brewery - Tin Can Avenger

Tin Can Avenger (hero) His mission is to prevent the consumption of cheap dirty lager whilst wearing his trusty metal-head unicycle armour. He’s a parody of the earliest Ironman design with a nod to Ghostrider as well. In comparison Tin Can Avenger is a continental style lager beer with a lower alcohol content, it’s got a lot of strength in flavours but with it’s mildness it’s a beer you can keep coming back to.

Kellham Island Brewery - Dunkel Devastator

Dunkel Devastator (villain) He leaps across the universe delivering shattering blows to far-off worlds with his fizz-keg hammer of doom. If he could find earth we’d all be in trouble. Luckily he’s incredibly thick. By comparison, Dunkel Devastator is a powerful, dark German wheat beer. Here in Britain wheat beers are not considered traditional, which makes Dunkel Devastator sort of a very strong, loose cannon amongst the real ales.

Kellham Island Brewery - Radar Men From the Moon

King of the Rocketmen & Radar Men from the Moon: In a homage to the old 1940’s serials that pre-date Superhero movies, Kelham Island have also brewed “King of the Rocketmen” and “Radar Men from the Moon”. Described as “blazing adventures in a glass” these two use internationally sourced hops to give an out of this world aroma, light and refreshing with just enough “zap” to keep you tuned in for more.

Which was your most favourite of the beer label characters to create?
‘Mistress Flames’ is my personal favourite by a mile. She was inspired mainly by a Mike Mignola, Batgirl cover from the 1980’s.

Any thoughts on producing comic strips for any of the characters?
As both comic-books and real ale are enjoying both mainstream and niche markets success, it’s certainly food for thought. I’d like to see the Dunkel Devastator show up at my old local wielding his hammer of doom!

Will you be working with Kelham Island in the future?
I’m hoping to work with them on an art-print very shortly to tie-in with the labels I’ve done for them.

For other brewers out there, are you a gun for hire?
I’m always up for hearing about interesting commissions, beer label design has a long tradition in the UK, there’s hidden subtlety and meaning in each design.
For all those interested this is where I lay my cape…

If you are interested in Kelham Island Brewery beers you can read more or place an order on their website. For a list of pubs in Sheffield follow this link. If you have a comment feel free to leave it in the comments section below, or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Is it the right kind of snow for 2013?

The Bear at HorshamPubs this year have reported to the Morning Advertiser that trade has been significantly up due to the blankets of snow that have covered the UK this January.

For some lucky publicans there has even been up to a 100% increase in lunch-time sales. Family friendly pubs have cashed in during lunch serving hours thanks to winter revellers. Nicky Wragg of the Green Dragon, Lavington Wiltshire, in a statement to the Morning Advertiser commented, “trade has gone up by more than 100% , but that is just at lunchtime, it could go really quiet in the evening because it is so cold.”

Although it’s good news this year for many well located pubs; on country walk routes, or popular sledging haunts. Let us not forget that once the snow has cleared the real figures will tally… It’s most likely to be on par with last year and December 2011 when pub trade was hit by the freezing weather conditions, keeping many pub-goers indoors and out of the cold.

Some pubs this year have understandably reported almost no trade, with staff unable to come to work, or being inaccessible for patrons to visit they have even had to close entirely. Seeing some good from the unfortunate situation Licensee Tom Adams of the Nags Head Tavern, Thornfalcon commented “we’ve just got to enjoy the time off, publicans don’t get a lot of time off.”

Have you spent your “snow days” down the pub? Has your pub trade been hit by the UK’s inability to deal with a few inches of snow? You can let us know in our comments section below, or by joining the conversation on our Facebook page.


The Smoking Ban, 5 years on, should it be relaxed?

The smoking ban 5 years onOn 1st July 2007, a new British law came into effect that threatened to split a nation, The Smoking Ban. For non-smokers it was an opportunity to rediscover British Pubs, albeit, pubs still soaked in bleach and Febreze masking the smell of passive smoke, the non-smoker journeyed back into establishments previously deemed unfit for health in search of the British culture that they were so denied.  For smokers it was time to relinquish the British Pub and take their business elsewhere, although there was essentially nowhere to go, so they tended to stay at home or congregate outside pub doorways herded into makeshift cages, roped off areas and 3-walled constructions.

The smoking ban is an enormous topic, with many opinions and statistics, on-board an overtaxed industry riding a sea of economic down-turn. To condense the whole subject of the smoking ban 5 years on and the damage it may have caused the industry into just one blog post is not something that can be done easily, nor a task to be taken lightly.  The resounding conclusion seems that there is almost no-demand for the return of smoking in pubs, breathe a sigh of fresh, clean aired, relief there non-smokers. The decision has come from both groups, smokers and non-smokers. Yet still, some talk and petition has been brought about to relax the ban.  The social outcasting of ‘the smoker’ has seen small groups, committees and bands of men join together to try to re-evaluate the 2007 law and relax its position upon pub-goers.

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