Tonight I read with great sadness about the death of Dave Wickett, founder of the Kelham Island Brewery and the man who did more than anyone to bring Sheffield to its current status of one of the great beer cities (if not the greatest) in the UK. I knew him a bit, through work with the British Guild of Beer Writers and through general beer writing. He was a member and always supported our events. In fact, I first met him when he had a saffron beer brewed for a Guild dinner in 1999/2000. I remember writing an article about fish and beer not long after and interviewed the then head brewer about it: 'it was a one-off for two reasons,’ I was told. ‘It was for something special, such as the reopening and the meal, but saffron costs an arm and a leg. It's very expensive. If we sold it over the bar at one of our pubs it would be well in excess of £3 (!!!!).' Trust Dave to help out.
Then there was the time I organised a trip to Sheffield for the Guild and we met at the Fat Cat, a pub which I immediately fell in love with. This was also the time I really got to grips with Kelham’s Best Bitter, a beer I enjoyed as much as Pale Rider, one of those beers to change people’s perceptions of what you could do with American hops (he was a good friend of Garrett Oliver and I recall the Brooklyn Smoked Porter Kelham did in 2006). Dave the visionary. After we had been round Kelham, we then went out to see this new brewery in a stately home out near Bakewell. Dave was involved with it at the beginning and they had an Italian brewer. Dave the visionary once more.
On the pub front The Fat Cat was and is a fantastic place and stands as a great testimony to Dave’s vision: great beer, a constant collusion of ambiences and the chance to plant yourself into a local and listen to other people’s lives (naturally the Fat Cat is in Great British Pubs). A further example of the measure of his standing in the beer world is the fabulous DW that Stuart Howe at Sharps brewed in honour of Dave a couple of years ago with the proceeds going to a Cornish hospice charity.
Dave had been ill for some time and I knew things were not getting better so in some ways the news is not surprising, but it still shocks and saddens. One last thing: despite the plethora of controversies, egos and marketing ups and downs, the beer world remains a convivial world that I am always glad to dive into but tonight that world will mourn the passing of Dave Wickett.
|Dave Wickett and Garrett Oliver at the |
time of Brooklyn Smoked Porter