I was a staunch Republican from the start. Before Paul Greetham launched his Beatnikz Republic brewery up on Manchester’s Red Bank back in June 2017 there hadn’t been much incentive to ‘cross the tracks’ towards The Green Quarter. Since when pioneer Three Rivers Gin has been joined by GRUB and The Spärrows. Sadly after last week’s shock closure announcement Beatnikz will no longer be on the block and the city will have lost one of its finest breweries. Another victim (and not the last) of difficult times.
The name was inspired by the founder’s love of the US Beat movement of the Fifties and Sixties and iconoclastic kindred spirits who have revolutionised the American (and world) beer scene since. The Republic bit came from Paul’s view of beer as a democratic, affordable drink. This very drinkable manifesto was spread by a weekend taproom in the rail arches housing the brewery and then the Beatnikz bar, the Northern Quarter’s most copacetic watering hole.
Happily the latter is surviving under devolved management. Fingers crossed I will be able to get down there to purchase remaining cans of Tropic Fiesta Session DDH IPA as base for my own person cocktail tribute to Beatnikz Republic.
The back story? In March 2019 Paul generously donated a couple of cases to fuel a beer cocktail I was concocting for a ‘Too Many Critics’ fund-raising dinner at the Manchester branch of Dishoom. The annual event, where food critics cook dishes to be judged by chefs, raised over £20,000 for Action Against Hunger, as I recall.
The beer cocktail remit was an add-on I took more seriously than I might have. With guidance from Dishoom’s bartenders I came up with a winning formula. My original plan has been to use one of Russian Riot, a 9.4 per cent Imperial Russian Stout that would have put hairs on even Vladimir Putin’s chest – Beatnikz’s dark beers were exceptional.
Second thoughts, and bearing in mind the need for something exotic yet light to match all that Indian spice (my dish was a Goan fish curry with lashings of coconut and curry leaves) I changed tack to Tropic Fiesta, a sessionable 4 per cent packed with tropical hops.
Next move, it had to playfully resemble an actual glass of beer – ahead of a cocktail explosion dancing across your palate. After all, it was to be called Bhangra Beatnikz.
To create a creamy head I purchased ProEspuma powder online. This stabiliser gives volume and holds to make a light foam from liquid state.
I mixed it with the Tropic Fiesta to give a properly bitter edge. The body of the ‘beer’ was blended from pineapple rum, stem ginger syrup, lime juice and at the suggestion of the Dishoom-walla, a British aperitif new to me: Kamm & Sons.
Created in his garden shed by celebrity bartender Alex Kammerling it features 45 difereent botanicals, including crucially four variants of ginseng, macerated for 72 hours in neutral spirit. It’s herby, honeyed and bitter-sweet.
I got windfall bottle of the stuff four months ago when I was lucky enough to win over £1,000 worth of assorted spirits in the Tipples of Manchester liquor store’s Christmas draw. To complete the reassembled ingredients I am going to have to splash out £42 there for the required Plantation ‘Stiggins Fancy’ Pineapple Rum.
Not over-sweet, this slightly smoky, spicy pineapple-flavoured rum was created by Plantation’s Alexandre Gabriel as a tribute to Reverend Stiggins, a hypocritical character in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers with a penchant for pineapple rum.
Below are my ingredients with appropriate ratios. Enough for an ample toast to Beatnikz and Dishoom…
Plantation Pineapple ‘Steggins’ Rum 25ml; stem ginger syrup 10ml; lime juice 15ml Kamm & Sons 15ml. For an ample reservoir of beer foam 440ml Beatnikz Tropic Fiesta;
40g ProEspuma powder; 40ml simple syrup.
Method: Add the above ingredients (minus the beer foam) into a shaker, then shake hard, top with whipped beer foam, sip with relish.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/trop.jpg?fit=2048%2C1536&ssl=115362048Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2022-05-02 06:48:002022-05-27 06:48:34Farewell Beatnikz and your beautiful beers – here’s my tropical tribute
Not a Punk IPA in sight (thankfully) but the unveiling of Sureshot Brewing’s debut quartet of beers offered a bizarre echo of a seminal Sex Pistols gig, also in Manchester, a lifetime ago. The seeds of this fanciful link were sown by my brother – like myself, old enough to have been in the Lesser Free Trade Hall in the Summer of ’76, but neither of us claims to have attended. Unlike hundreds of of others. The actual audience for a band barely known outside London barely topped 40.
In contrast Keith and I, on the evening of February 25, 2022, were definitely at a Port Street Brewhouse rammed to the gills for a home-coming beer hero. The loose connection? Virtually all who witnessed The Pistols were inspired to form their own band. The Buzzcocks-to-be organised the gig and the futures of The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, The Fall, Simply Red were all forged that night.
Maybe everybody supping at Port Street (distinctly un-punk with the plethora of facial hair on show) will be inspired to launch their own breweries. The theory breaks down here since a good raft of attendees were already brewers – the elite of Manchester come to welcome back into the fold one James Campbell, already a legend in his own mash time.
Raised in the Black Country, James became head brewer at Manchester’s Marble in 2000 and for the next 13 years pioneered the pick of New World styles and hops without losing sight of native traditions. Manchester Bitter, Lagonda, Dobber, Pint, Ginger Marble and Earl Grey IPA – most of these are his creation.
It can be argued that his mentoring of the team there is equally influential (shades of that gig). These days you’ll find Dominic Driscoll at Thornbridge Brewing and Colin Stronge at Salt Beer Factory while not forgetting Rob Hamilton, who founded Blackjack, and others.
Later as co-founder and head brewer he launched Cloudwater in Manchester, gaining global recognition. Since leaving there, but not his adopted city, he has set up new brewery plant for a roster of equally cutting edge operations such as Verdant (Falmouth), Deya (Cheltenham) and in Manchester the new Bundobust Brewery.
Still, using my final music analogy, this was like an original talent recording an album of cover versions. Still plans for Sureshot – yes, it is named after thatBeastie Boys track – fermented away during lockdowns. Finally on the former Track site alongside Piccadilly Station, using initially their old equipment, it all took shape. Bannered by a beautifully random lion meets sun logo. No cask yet, but the kegs and colourful 440ml cans are launched. Buy the latter via the website. You won’t regret it. Yes, the initial batch will please the hopheads among you, but there’s a beautiful balance to them all. Hard to choose a favourite. Here’s the line-up:
How Much Does Water Weigh? (£4)
A 4.2 per cent pale ale hopped with Centennial, Galaxy and Citra. Crisp sipping with dry finish and fruit throughout. Built on an extra pale malt base.
I’ve Had My Fun & That’s All That Matters (£4.50)
A generously hopped 5.6 per cent pale ale with Mosaic, Centennial, Galaxy and Idaho contribute tropical juiciness with a silky smooth, almost oaty texture.
I Lost My Bag In Newport Pagnell, New England IPA (£5)
A 6 per cent NEIPA. Dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Citra & Idaho 7, all citrus, grape and pine.
Bring Me The Head Of John The Accountant (£6.50)
An 8 per cent double IPA juiced up on Strata, Mosaic, Citra & Centennial. Substantial tropical blast, mashing melon and passionfruit.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Sure-main.jpg?fit=1280%2C960&ssl=19601280Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2022-02-28 22:32:112022-03-05 09:33:37Marble, Cloudwater… Sureshot. How James Campbell rules the Hopiverse
It has been an epic journey across time and space and I’m understandably nervous when I encounter a scribbled sign at the picket gate into theBrewery of St Mars of the Desert. Private function today? Shut by Covid scare?
Phew. ‘Please don’t let Grimbold the dog out’ with a silhouette of the jet black bundle of fun I get to pat once I step across the ‘Welcome To Mars’ threshold. Fun is a good word, indeed, for everything that greets me inside this colourful cottage of a taproom. My benchmate, who budges up for me, recommends the ‘SMODFEST’ Festbier for its soft maltiness, continental hop character and absence of excess carbonation that can bedevil a lager.
OK, I’ve made him more eloquent than he was. Yet it is a great introduction to SMOD, who specialise in “hoppy koelship beers, foeder-soured stingos, rustic lagers, deep malty dark beers and Benelux-inspired creations”, according to their website. Koelship? Pronounced cool ship, it’s a long, slender, open top stainless steel vessel akin to those traditional Flemish/Dutch koelschips, originally made of wood, whose high surface-to-mass ratio allows for more efficient cooling of the wort in the brewing process. Won’t go into more detail – this is a nerd-free zone.
It’s the centrepiece of a modest scale brewing operation behind the taproom, where SMOD co-owners Dann Paquette and Martha Simpson-Holley, plus apprentice Scarlet, produce some splendidly niche and nuanced beers in the old industrial district of Attercliffe, surrounded by ranks of contemporary factories/depots.
Not the easiest place to get to, hence my ‘epic journey’ lead-off. On my last adventure in Sheffield my last port of call was meant to be here but my phone charge went dead and no local could guide me, even though I was within a couple of hundred metres. Even this this time, on a trek from a tram halt, I feel rudderless.
Once I arrive, then, I am in no hurry to leave, sampling in turn Clamp Koelship IPA, hazy and hoppy yet like all the beers very clean, Koel It! Jingly Bells, all my Christmases come early with oodles of hops married to a festive fruitiness and, finally, The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Dann and Martha’s ‘tribute to the original craft brewers of Belgium’. Artisan or what?
At 8 per cent, Frogs, a dark special brune, outmuscles the 6.3 per cent Mice, a Flanders golden bitter, but it is also smoother, fruitier and more complex. According to the SMOD beer menu it is “brewed with a recreation of the water profile of West Flanders”. Now that is an attention to detail.
Bizarrely, when the globally influential RateBeer site announced its 10 Best New Breweries in the World 2020, two of the three British breweries named had this Belgian resonance (SMOD and, understandably, Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire) and two had American founders/brewers (SMOD and Suffolk’s Duration, incidentally many of whose ales are farmhouse and saison, too).
Bostonian Dann met North Yorkshire lass Martha across the Pond and the pair ran the acclaimed Pretty Things brewery for eight years before embarking on peripatetic journeys across Asia and Europe. Along the way they fell in love with a smallholding near a village called Saint-Mars-du-Désert in France’s Pays de la Loire region, named after an eighth century hermit.
Maybe but for the prospect of Brexit they might have set up there; after considering Leeds and Manchester they went for Sheffield and took the monastic moniker with them. After all it was monks who first consolidated the brewing industry.
The pair’s fascinating story is recounted in a Pellicle online magazine piece by Matt Curtis, ‘Everything in its right place’ and SMOD is a featured brewery in his recently published Modern British Beer (CAMRA Books, £15.99). Read my review here.
It’s not just about the beer, though. The taproom faithful are a civilised lot, Dann and Martha host it all with real warmth and Grimbold is irrepressible.
St Mars had been on my radar since its inception in 2018. My yearning to visit has since become a catalyst for discovering a Sheffield beyond my Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker affiliations. This time around I was smitten by the diversity and raw vitality of The Moor Market and found Cutlery Works the most relaxing street food hall I’ve ever visited.
THE MOOR MARKET
Chicken livers, gizzards and hearts are all the same price – 90p a pound. The adjacent pig’s feet are priceless (in a nose to tail photoshoot way). Across the aisle a specialist Persian food stall offers ingredients I’ve only ever read about in Sabrina Ghayour or Yasmin Khan. On one fish stall I encounter a sturdy carp, not seen on most slabs. There is tripe and various intestinal siblings, feathered, ungutted game birds and a whole, skinned rabbit still defrosting I enquire about, to be told “it’s French, farmed, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for the English, wild, fresh.” I loved all this from the moment I walked into find a fine bottle shop, Beer Central, to welcome me.
The building is less than a decade old, cost £18m and includes 200 market stalls and eight shops. Situated off a pedestrian precinct rammed with every high street name you can think of, what a relief to discover this haven of independent traders, offering an affordable, browsable, diverse alternative to control freak supermarkets.
Its main northern rival, Leeds Market, benefits from its Victorian monumentality and better dining-in opportunities, but Sheffield’s really is hard to beat. Obviously not in comparison with the great markets of Spain, Barcelona’s Boqueria or Valencia’s Modernista-style Mercado Central. They reflect a whole different food culture. It has been interesting, though, to tick off across the Iberian peninsula the rise of markets morphing into food halls – in Bilbao, Madrid, Seville and notably Lisbon’s waterfront Time Out Market.
That Lisbon operation is a showcase for the city’s Michelin-starred chefs. Sheffield’s stand-out food hall is an altogether more modest affair despite its claims to be the North’s largest. Set in a converted cutlery factory, in the post-industrial corridor that stretches out from Kelham Island, Cutlery Works offers 13 different vendors across two floors, ranging from China Red’s Szechuan sizzlers to chocolate counter Bullion and coffee roasters Foundry, taking in Thai, pizza, fried chicken, burgers, sushi and Mexican along the way.
Foundry provide bottomless batch coffee for freelancers taking advantage between 9am and 5pm of designated co-working spaces with plug sockets and 10 per cent food discounts. All very cool and relaxing in my mid-afternoon slot, it lacked the buzz of Manchester’s Mackie Mayor, which I still love – despite my general weariness with the whole food hall experience.
The Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent summed it up nicely: “I need to ask a very honest question here: are food halls ever a truly satisfying dining experience? I’ve no doubt they seem so on paper and in the marketing meetings, they’re fantastic for filling old, unloved but historically important spaces and they’re good news for downward-spiralling city centres. Yet in reality they’re noisy, unrelaxing and the food is often patchy, with the occasional gem hidden among the colossal choice of menus.”
That was in last month’s review of the GPO in Liverpool, as the name suggests, a post office repurposed into a food hall. She was unimpressed by Nama, a Japanese small fish plates counter, created by Luke French and Stacey Sherwood-French of Sheffield big hitter Jöro (my restaurant review here), who have also transferred their other new venture Konjö.
The original of this Korean-influenced, fire-based “Robatayaki” Kitchen was my choice at Cutlery Works. It’s the first vendor on the left as you reach the first floor – preferable to the ground floor if only because it boasts the proper craft beer bar, Boozehound.
I spent £30 at Konjö, mainly because I over-ordered in my eagerness (and a desire for ballast ahead of my beer destination). Don’t expect a spin-off from Jöro down the road. There’s no comparable finesse. And yet my combo was hugely enjoyable. A duck bao was basically a take on the old Peking/hoisin sauce stalwart while chilli beef was sticky and punchy. Sides of subtle kimchi and refreshing sesame greens provided perfect balance ahead of my journey to Mars.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Smod-scaled.jpg?fit=2048%2C1536&ssl=115362048Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2021-11-25 09:48:012021-11-25 21:22:10I finally land on Mars (the brewery) in a fresh, fruitful mission to Sheffield
There was a time when Hay on Wye was not the gentrified Borders outpost of Bloomsbury and Notting Hill it is today after 30 years of Literature Festivals. When we hung around there a lot in the Seventies it had become the burgeoning ‘Book Town’ with up to 40 bookshops following in the footsteps of ‘King’ Richard Booth, who declared ‘home rule’ from Hay Castle in 1977.
Yet on market days it still felt the fiefdom of rough-hewn farmer folk from the Black Hills, their Welsh lilt heard in both stony chapel and smoky pub. The latter served a decent pint of Draught Bass is you were lucky, but some of the Welsh ales were thinner than sheep’s piss.
We were rescued in that same year,’ 77, by word of a new brewery – Penrhos. Its beers could apparently be found in the Llanthony Priory Hotel 12 miles south of Hay. A daunting quest, though, in our Citroën 2CV. The route is over the Gospel Pass, at 1,800ft the highest in Wales and heart-stopping both for its beauty and its narrow bends.
They were serving the Penhros Bitter by hand pull in the tiny bar of the hotel next to the ruined 12th century monastic remains. We had negotiated an overnight stay in the turret room. En suite it wasn’t – just a water jug for our ablutions and steep spiral staircases to the pissoir. It was to prove a hazardous schlepp with a torch in the wake of copious samples of the nectar. Honeyed and pure, ‘nectar’ was for once appropriate.
Next pilgrimage would be to the pioneering microbrewery responsible. It would take us a similar distance north of Hay into the heart of Herefordshire cider country to an organic project scattered with the stardust of Monty Python star Terry Jones’s involvement. A very naughty brewer?
You wonder what has brought on this à la Recherche de Penhros Perdu nostalgia? The sheer serendipity of an obit in Opening Times, one of the best CAMRA regional mags. Part of the reason, when the November/December issue dropped, I turned to the appreciation of Tony Allen first was that my nurse daughter had looked after him in his last days. She liked the man as much as I liked the pale and hoppy beers he crafted at his Phoenix Brewery at Heywood near Rochdale.
Penrhos apparently inspired him to become an independent brewer. He was working for Bass in Runcorn in 1980 when he read an article by Richard Boston, who promoted the resurgence of real ale in his Guardian column as well as editing his own eccentric eco mag, Vole, funded by Jones. The pair had now apparently joined with a certain Martin Griffiths to launch their own tiny brewery. Not the regular occurrence it is today.
Tony was hooked by the Penrhos aim to make a small amount of top quality beer. So he persuaded them to let him travel down on his four Bass rest days each month to help with the brewing. Indeed he had a hand in the creation of Penrhos Porter, reviving a dark beer style that had almost died out.
Penrhos Court its last legs in 1971 when Griffiths paid just £5,000 for the near derelict 15th century manor house at Lyonshall near Kington and embarked on a Sisyphean 30 year restoration project.There was still a mountain of work ahead when we visited to sample the beer and eat at the organic restaurant, the first to be Soil Association accredited, created by his wife, nutritional crusader Daphne Lambert. I still have her inspirational 2001 cookbook, Little Red Gooseberries based on what she taught in her cookery school.
We were familiar with the area, drawn by the traditional cider revivalism of the late Ivor Dunkerton along the road in Pembridge. The Cider Barn there is in the safe hands of the next Dunkerton generation; Griffiths and Lambert have been gone from Penrhos a decade and it is now a luxurious holiday home complex with an attractive cafe.
A far cry, though, from its maverick heyday when it hosted the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen (they rehearsed a soon-to-be-recorded Bohemian Rhapsody there) and Mike ‘Tubular Bells’ Oldfield, who lived six miles away on Hergest Ridge. Al Gore visited too. All must have been smitten by the glorious banqueting hall with a minstrel’s gallery and crux beams.
Less spectacular was the cattle byre that serial brewery builder Peter Austin converted into the Penrhos brewery. He had been enlisted by Griffiths, Jones and Boston and out of it flowed a trio of impressive cask beers, made with British malt and local hops. I recall Penrhos Bitter (OG 1042) , Jones’s First Brew and Penrhos Porter (both OG 1050) as beers ahead of their time. We even lugged a wooden firkin home for one Christmas, insouciantly forgetting it would be a 300 mile round trip to return the ‘empty’.
Launched in 1977, the brewery formed just one chapter in a remarkable 30 year epoch for Penrhos; it shut in 1983, the year the Pythons released The Meaning of Life with Jones creating the ultimate glutton/food critic, Mr Creosote. Beer continued to play an important part in Terry Jones’ life (which ended sadly in 2020).
In 2003 he contributed a piece to the 30th edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide. It was titled My Love Affair With Beer and confirmed: “Beer, for me, is more than something I like drinking. It’s a litmus of civilisation. If the society is making good beer, then it’s a healthy society… Real ale is a civilised drink. Keg beer is a dead parrot.”
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Terry-main-new.jpg?fit=1195%2C850&ssl=18501195Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2021-11-24 15:30:232021-11-24 15:44:41The Python of Penrhos – Terry Jones’ quest for the hoppy grail
Denver, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Boston, and in a few one horse towns in between, the magnet of new wave American brewhouses and tap rooms has proved irresistible. So much less concentration required compared with serious winery tastings. Not that I don’t take beer seriously – but more as serious refreshment. No swirling, sniffing and spitting involved.
Sonoma County in California, with its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, is the laidback alternative to Napa. It’s the New World wine country of my dreams. If recent trips have involved dodging raging bush fires or coastal fog stifling the Pacific’s famous sunsets, well every paradise can slip into occasional purgatory.
But why would you name a signature beer after Sonoma, as Manchester brewers Track have? Could it be the presence in county seat Santa Rosa of Russian River Brewing Company, whose Pliny The Elder, technically a double IPA, is one of the most sought-after beers on the planet? For any geeks reading, it’s named after the Roman natural philosopher, one of the first to reference hops in his writings.
My own go-to West Coast IPA, on a less stratospheric level is Racer 5 from Bear Republic in downtown Healdsburg 15 miles north of Santa Rosa. Malty but hoppy, floral, resinous and bitter, it has always made me happy as did the original Bear Republic brewpub, now forced out of an upmarket tourist town because of running costs.
Clever Track Brewing Company in Manchester for opening their new tap room at Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, definitely not a tourist honeypot but, close to the equally revered Cloudwater at 7-8. I’ve loved their Unit 9 taproom as a cool space, but Track’s (see pictures below) has trumped it. It is quite beautiful. Seven years after launching in a Sheffield Street arch, and a succession of not quite appropriate bars, it has a home fit for its beers.
And at the recent launch Sonoma Pale Ale, as befits a beer synonymous with contemporary Manc beer culture, was available as both keg and cask.
I prefer it as cask. All my lockdown beer dreams were of hand-pulled real ale, hopefully through a tight sparkler. These came true when Iinterviewed Matthew Curtis about his Modern British Beer (CAMRA Books, £15.99). A superb range of Cloudwater beers were on the lines at Sadler’s Cat but I stuck to three pints of cask Sonoma, described by Matthew in his book as “A beer that revels in the softness of a smoother pour, while losing none of its strolling-in-a-citrus-grove character. Its gentle ABV of just 3.8% also makes it accessible.” No wonder it accounts for half of Track’s production.
Matthew was at the preview with us. Unlike Track founder Sam Dyson, who is laid up with a horrendous fracture sustained playing five-aside, and wife Mel, in the final throes of pregnancy. We toasted them royally in their absence across a beer range that is testimony to Sam’s love of hoppy American beers. And the Patel Pies residency provided the necessary ballast.
• If you love breweries with an on-site bar and great food check out another new arrival in Manchester, The Bundobust Brewery. And it does its own facsimile of Racer 5. Here’s mywelcome to it.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Pint-copy.jpg?fit=1200%2C839&ssl=18391200Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2021-10-05 20:38:262021-10-06 16:51:20Sonoma dreaming as Track’s new taproom proves a destination of equal beauty
Time was there used to be a new brewery opening every month in Manchester with cosy taprooms hard on their heels. That torrent of craft has slowed to a trickle with the emphasis now on established operations upsizing to bigger premises. Track are shifting up to Piccadilly Trading Estate opposite Cloudwater while both Beatnikz Republic and Blackjack have expanded into neighbouring arches.
Bucking the trend (though it has, appropriately, had the gestation period of an Indian elephant), is the Bundobust Brewery, which is opening from 4pm on Thursday, September 16, offering the group’s full repertoire of Gujarati street snacks and craft beer, much of it their own, created on the premises. So the kind of major, major opening we’ve been starved of. And it’s dog-friendly. Our chihuahua Captain Smidge (below left) approved even though spicy veggie is not quite his thing.
It’s located in the Grade II-listed St James Building on Oxford Street, a swift stagger from Oxford Road Station or the St Peter’s Square Metrolink stop.
The last time I was on site was February 12, 2020 and we all know what inhibiting factor for hospitality happened shortly after. Kitted out in a hard hat, I quickly recognised why Bundobust co-founders Marko Husak and Mayur Patel had fallen for the former car park with its wealth of period features – vintage alarm bells, glazed bricks and ‘Drive Slowly’ signage – plus a show-stopping giant glass atrium mirroring the Piccadilly Bundobust’s glass apex.
This is all on a much bigger scale, influenced by US brewpubs and with a focus on sustainable furniture. Each chair is made from 40 recycled plastic water bottles, while school desks have been repurposed into beer hall-style tables, complete with “I Woz ‘Ere” etchings across a 150-seat taproom and restaurant. All within a fully-functioning brewery that gleams with all the allure of a new toy. A toy that’s in the hands of a very experienced head brewer.
Dan Hocking, former main man at Holland’s world-renowned Uiltje Brewery, has spent the past year perfecting recipes behind closed doors in the state-of-the-art facility.
Bundobust’s brand new Vienna-style Lager, Cartway Lager, will be available exclusively at the brewery upon opening, taking its name from the historic ‘Cartway’ space within the St James Building that the brewery occupies. Hocking says: “Vienna Lager has a fantastic balance of sweetness and bitterness, and it’s the best all-rounder beer style to pair with food”.
On the opening day the first 200 pints are being given away, with the purchase of food and we expect lager demand will make it Goodnight Vienna.
Marko tells me: “We were due to open in May 2020. The past 18 months have slowed us down, but the delay has meant that we’ve been able to develop our beer recipes. Expect the familiar Bundobust vibe and menu, with the bonus of being in a working brewery”.
That 10-hectolitre custom-build is capable of producing 20,000 pints per month. The beer range will only be available, on rotation, at the Brewery and at the other Bundobust venues in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. They are designed to partner the award-winning food.
CHAITRO. 5% Nitro Chai Porter. Smooth and creamy Porter with roast malts, a whack of our Bundobust chai masala, and fresh ginger.
PEELA. 4% Pale Ale. Easy drinking hazy Pale, brewed with Azacca and Ekuanot hops. Loads of tropical fruit flavour.
DHANIA PILSNER. 4.8% Coriander Lager. Clean and crisp Czech-style Pilsner with a hit of citrusy toasted coriander seeds.
KIPSY BHAI. 4.8% Kellerbier. Traditional Kellerbier-style lager with German malts and hops. Clean, balanced and crisp.
EAST IS EAST. 6.5% New England IPA. New England-style IPA showcasing ever-changing combinations of the freshest hops.
WEST IS WEST. 6.5% West Coast IPA. Dank and bitter IPA. Piney and resinous, brewed with a rotating selection of the choicest hops. An absolute stand-out.
Bundobust Brewery will also be collaborating with the cream of UK brewery talent. Recent collaborations include Andhera Hoppy Black Lager with Deya Brewing Company, New Delhi Dazzler India Pale Wit with Northern Monk, and Salted Lemon Sour with North Brewing Co.
On a personal note, I have a small role in the Bundobust Odyssey. I was an early reviewer, for Shortlist magazine, of Marko’s pioneering Sparrow Bier Cafe in Bradford, ensuring it made the Top 10 UK craft beer bars, and as a customer wolfed my share of dosas, choles and chaats at Prasad, the Patel family’s acclaimed restaurant, now in Drighlington. In 2014 the two friends combined beer and veggie small plates to create the first Bundobust in Leeds (yes, Zelig-like I was there). The Brewery is just the latest chapter in a delicious indie story.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Dan.jpg?fit=2048%2C1365&ssl=113652048Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2021-09-08 18:07:442021-09-16 10:16:26Brewer Dan fuels the Spice Odyssey as Bundobust Brewery finally takes off
Summer 2021 marks two milestones in the post-industrial bubble that is Kelham Island. Cutting edge restaurant Jörohas expanded beyond its upcycled shipping container base to open a four-room boutique hotel nearby, complete with chef’s table, while the homely pub at the heart of this buzzing urban community is celebrating 40 years of just being The Fat Cat.
A maverick umbilical cord links that almost bucolic cask beer mecca, whose in-house brewery spawned the iconic Pale Rider ale, to the sleek steel (well it is Sheffield) Krynkl complex where chef Luke French has transformed the city’s culinary expectations over the past four years. It reached No.34 in the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards (announced on August 16).
Post lockdown it seemed a good time to visit both pioneering venues. So a tram from the station (after a Thornbridge Jaipur refresher, naturally at the Sheffield Tap on Platform 1B), then across the busy Shalesmoor roundabout to a suddenly hushed warren of backstreets to establish the respective locations.
A detour might have been in order, too, to the Kelham Island Tavern, arguably the city’s best craft beer pub venue but – sign of the times – there was a Covid-closure note on the door. Still the pre-amble ramble did allow me to soak in the atmosphere of a district that defines industrial heritage and cool renewal…
Renewal, of course, means creatives clustering in shiny new build apartments or brick-heavy warehouse conversions with a casual bar/dining scene springing up to service the influx. And occasionally big hitters show up such as Mana in Ancoats, Brat in Shoreditch or Casamia on the Bristol waterfront. Sheffield has its own contender…
One slight tremor as I entered the penumbral interior, the normal 50 covers reduced as a Covd-safe measure. Would the widening horizons of Luke French and his wife and business director, Stacey Sherwood-French impact on the core operation? Not jut th hotel project but also street food spin-offs. Fear not this was an outstanding £65 eight course lunch that ate up three joyful hours. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the building, shaped from 29 shipping containers but I am of a serving staff that included one who had a sake qualification (thanks for the New Mountain Junmai recommendation) and another who knew his way round the new Spanish wine frontiers of Ribeira Sacra and Sierra de Gredos.
Chef Luke has previously expressed his desire to “find something similar to L’Enclume or The Black Swan at Oldstead, somewhere rural we can forage in and with a smallholding to grow our own ingredients.” For the moment he’s as urban as it gets, albeit with some amazing rural suppliers. Just a Michelin Bib for the moment but the food I encountered across my tasting menu surely deserve a star. Manchester’s own Mana deserves a second, but that’s a whole other matter.
Jöro Highlights? Virtually everything, from an early introduction to Chawanmushi, a savoury Japanese custard here flavoured with smoked eel, a tiny tranche of which also featured alongside salmon roe and pancetta. Wortley wagyu rump in a tartare with celeriac and mustard was less groundbreaking but equally wonderful. I should have asked about the Wortley provenance (it’s the fabled beef of Japan but reared in South Yorkshire’s grasslands); I didn’t make the same mistake with Doncaster peas. “You’ll taste them and know why,” was the enigmatic response. Their yoking with mint and lamb fat yielded more detailed exegesis. The key to the dish was ‘lamb garum’ where lamb mince and koji had been given 10 weeks in a water bath to create a fermented base for this incredible dish. For more on garum readmy recent article.
What I really loved about the whole experience was a straightforward punch of flavours, whether a pure tranche of Cornish cod on a bed of smoked haddock and creme fraiche sauce or among the desserts the stand-out strawberries with lemon verbena and organic yoghurt. You get the dedication to our own raw materials filtered through an appropriated Japanese and Norse (hence the name) sensibility.
Stays and JÖRO Packages can be booked online via thislink.
THE FAT CAT
Neither of my two destinations is on the island proper, man-made in the 13th by diverting water from the River Don to power medieval mills. So a distant seed sown for the Industrial Revolution proper, the catalyst for which in Sheffield was the opening of John Crowley’s Iron Foundry in 1829, tapping into river power abundant coal and iron ore.
If you want to get the full story visit the Kelham Island Museum, which was created 40 years ago. You can see it prize exhibition for free because the only Bessemer steel converter still in existence stands in front. This egg-shaped black hulk quickly revolutionised 19th century steel production.
Thirsty work, the industry in its heyday and pubs like The Alma just down the street of that name existed to slake those forge-driven thirsts. Then came the long slow decline of the Steel City. From the Seventies onwards recession and dereliction battered Kelham.
It took a brave man to acquire the Alma, change its name to the ironic Fat Cat and start brewing his own exceptional beer in the yard.
That was the grand plan of Dave Wickett, the new co-owner. The pub introduced Sheffield to a cavalcade of guest beers and by 1990 when Dave took sole control he created his own Kelha Island Brewery in the beer garden. The pub survived flooding in 2007; the level is charted on the exterior alongside that of the The Great Sheffield Flood of 1864. It survived Dave’s early death and is still brewing in premises across the street.
In 2004 their flagship beer Pale Rider was voted Supreme Champion Beer of Britain at The Great British Beer Festival. It has hardly been off the hand pull ever since, though a recent month’s hiatus perturbed devotees.
Matthew Curtis, in his highly recommended new survey, Modern British Beer (CAMRA Books, £15.99) descrIbes Pale Rider thus: “There was some malt character in the flavour, soft and candy-floss sweet, but only fleetingly. This allowed a crescendo of hop to build with notes of candied orange peel to the fore, but they were restrained throughout with a balanced bittersweet finish forming at the end of this orchestral flourish.
A touch flowery but a good summary of my ‘aperitif’ experience before lunch over at Jöro. Old meets new in one memorable Kelham Island afternoon.
https://i0.wp.com/www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Kelham-main-scaled.jpg?fit=2048%2C1536&ssl=115362048Neil Sowerbyhttps://www.neilsowerby.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/NS-typemark-v1c.pngNeil Sowerby2021-08-17 10:05:112021-08-17 10:14:26Saluting Jöro and the Fat Cat on Sheffield’s paradise Island