Friday, 21 May 2010

Maersk in the middle of the Somerset Levels…

Old barns, cattle sheds, amusement parks and even the odd castle. Micros make their homes wherever they can. Yet, a visit to Moor yesterday left me with the distinct impression that Justin Hawke brews in something that looks like the kind of container you normally see branded with the words Maersk — plonked in a farmyard. Car parked, right address, down a country lane, birdsong and sunshine. No signage, nothing that said here be brewery. A radio somewhere, then the clang of a cask. Into a shed, past a tractor, the corrugated ripples of said container lookalike on my right. Outside again, round the corner, the clang of cask. The smell of malt in the air, there is a brewery here. But where. Brigadoon? Fairyland? I knocked on the wall. A panel opened and there was Moor Beer, Tom washing casks, Justin the man in the rubber boots waiting for the mash for Merlin’s Magic to finish. Compact is the word for the interior, though not crowded. On a platform, fermenting vessels stand, across the way casks tower. A wall covered with awards. Workmanlike, utilitarian, functional. And yet, from this space some of the more notable beers of the UK at the moment are emerging. JJJ, Old Freddy, Revival, Fusion, take your pick. ‘We brew beers we want to drink,’ says Justin, then goes on to tell all about his keg-conditioned beer — real ale, apparently, served from a keg, and a bit cooler. Peat Porter in the winter and Somerland Gold in the summer. I’m going back to find out a bit more about it next month as time was tight when I visited. I’ve always been up for exploring ways of dispensing beer that is not strictly within the guidelines of CAMRA — if it’s good beer, it’s good beer. But something that Justin said made me think, made me remember why I became entranced by beer. He says he came to the UK because he loved cask beer and that well made cask beer is an art in itself. Drinking a pint of Cornish Knocker later on at the Bridge I thought about it. It was a freshly tapped cask and had life and condition, a nose that suggested gooseberry jam (no one else agreed), a swash and a buckler in the mouth that set me up for another. Yes this is an art form, a Da Vinci or a Rubens, but we mustn’t forget that there are also other ways of expressing the art of brewing (a George Grosz here, Casper David Friedrich there) — and that in itself is the glory of great beer, whether it’s made in a container or castle (I’m talking about you Traquair).

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