A Swarm of Bees Unbarred – That Friday Feeling

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After featuring Unbarred (Jordan) and Blind Side’s (Matt & Ben) Granola beer last week we decided to pay a visit to the scene of the brew. We also (naturally) concocted a collab of our own, featuring honey actually made in Hove. Together with the Blind Side boys and local beer legend, Brett Preston, who brought some honeycomb he’d made earlier, A Swarm of Bees was born and ready to get stuck in. 

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But first, beer. And plenty of it – the first thing that hits you is the sheer amount of beers that are being brewed here. 15 in the tanks at any given time with plans to expand. The concept here is simple: collaborate and listen. Inviting like-minded individuals to a space that literally oozes opportunities is exciting to see here in Sussex and we’re sure this place will be a success.

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Back to our brew; we dreamt up recipe to champion local and bee ready to drink by the time we actually open in Hove. The Honeycomb Milkshake Pale contains honey, honeycomb and an unconfirmed Crunchie bar. By bringing along the boys from Blind Side and Brett & Beer we hope to serve up an example of the sweet creativity buzzing about in our fair city…

UNBARRED x BLIND SIDE GRANOLA IPA – Meet the Brewer(s)

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Jordan (Unbarred) has always been extremely helpful and supportive to Matt and Ben (Blind Side) since they first met up to share a few homebrews, so when he invited them to create and brew a collab recipe together it was a no-brainer. Unbarred make exceptional hop-forward brews and Blind Side like to add something different to each of theirs, so it made sense to play to each of their strengths and go down the IPA route, but come at it from a slightly different angle. They played around with a few ideas before settling on granola as the “twist“, and this one made the most sense from a production perspective. Crafting the key elements of a bowl of granola into the recipe was challenging, and they settled on using the flavour profiles of Amarillo and El Dorado hops along with apricot puree and peaches to achieve those stone/tropical fruit flavours. It was never going to be easy to fully produce that crunch and toastiness you get from a granola cluster, but with the malt grist along with toasted almonds and honey both parties are very happy they’ve captured the essence of granola rather than the exact flavour, which would have been extremely difficult without the use of extracts and flavourings. Certainly there are smiles all round with the end product – a proclaimed full-bodied, juicy IPA with a toasted, malty backbone. It’s a beer for breakfast, what could possibly go wrong…?

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BISON & HOVE – BAR? BOTTLESHOP?

A BIT OF BOTH ACTUALLY FOR THE GOOD PEOPLE OF HOVE…

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We’re planning on opening a second store sometime in September and, whilst it’ll still be a crafthouse of sorts, 57 Church Road will be a hybrid. Think what Ten Green Bottles has done for wine in town or take a trip across the pond to Chuck’s in Seattle. Soon in Hove, you’ll be able to buy some beer to drink in as well as being able to take away like you can from 7 East Street.

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The premises is split over two levels with a bar housing draught beer and food offerings on the upper part, plus fridges and seating down on the lower level. There’s also the small matter of a stunning south-facing terrace at the front of the building that we’re hoping to get some use out of before the summer ends. With a very versatile space in design, we’re hoping to host some of the best breweries in the business and help in showing Hove what great beer is all about. Whilst we’ll certainly continue to support the Sussex scene, we’re excited to be joining the Cold Chain. Fresh beer is the best beer and, in addition to our own brews, we’ll be able to guarantee the quality of some select breweries from Brighton and beyond by completing the chain of events between the brewery and end user (that’s you!) through refrigeration. Expect the likes of Kernel, Cloudwater and Brew By Numbers to fill an ultra fresh fridge at 57 Church Road in the not too distant future…

Desserted Planet – Collaboration Series

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM IPA, 6%

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It’s no secret that we often start with a name (Beast Street, Sticks & Stones and Ryed With Us for example) before working back to create a beer. Whilst that’s not the status quo in the brewing industry, it’s certainly something we’ve seen success with. We see our customers drawn to beautiful can designs and buying beer in the hope that it’ll taste as good as it looks. To achieve that takes beerilliant teamwork, and the likes of Cloudwater & Beavertown have certainly set the benchmark high. Luckily, we’ve been working closely with Arundel brewery and have shared many beliefs (and beers). Since we made Dirty Rascal together last summer, we’ve gotten to like each other a lot – so much so that we now brew our original beer, See Side APA, at Arundel. Therefore, it should be no surprise that another collab is in the offing with our best work ahead of us. Desserted Planet brews will feature small batches of beer intended to be drunk super fresh, inspired by pure deliciousness.

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Brenden and Ollie have fired up the test kits and are working their way through a not so short list. For clues of what’s to come, beer fans should check out our first label as the other ‘planets’ are beginning to take form. Brighton based illustrator George Sharp has stepped up to take on the unenviable task of doing the can justice and, we think you’ll agree, has opened his account in style. Whilst we try not to take our beer too seriously, the same cannot be said for George when it comes to the design process – literally immersing himself in strawberries and cream. A mouth-watering job that simply had to be done…

Strawberries & Cream IPA will be available at Bison and Arundel shops in early August.

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THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE SEPT!

As summer finally landed in Brighton I cycled south for the final part of my Tour de France. First up, we joined up with the race before it crossed the border to Switzerland and circled around the epic Lake Annecy. By far and away the most picturesque part of#TheFrenchExchange, with a bit of local beer to boot. A few hours on the road landed us at a beach near Montpellier (the first I’ve seen since leaving no. 7 East Street) and it is home to La Brasserie des Garrigues. The Artisan outfit brew under the same basic principals as us – natural, unpasteurised and vegan friendly so I gave them a can of our recent collaboration at Arundel and asked for their ‘strongest’ competition. La Frappadingue is an imperial IPA, notching 7.5% ABV and just about classed as a DIPA. Our first attempt at Dirty Rascal aimed to enter the trend but it’s got a long way to go before we can class it as the kind of Bison Beer we strive to achieve. For starters, and not because of my (still) pathetic French, they couldn’t understand why we chose to strip the gluten, and some of the fruits from the Citrus Centre in Sussex were lost in the madness. That being said, the punchy brew packed way too many punches for the French outfit and turned out to be in a different league. La Frappadingue certainly looks the part and drinks super malty but there’s no bitterness to the finish and I probably wouldn’t have finished the bottle had it not been for work purposes. Dirty Rascal will improve and serves as an example to the collaborative approach we have in this industry – stay tuned for news on our next collusion with Good Chemistry in Bristol. That’s all from France, I’ll be back next week to sit on the stones of Brighton beach and celebrate Nick’s 37th Birthday. It has been an awesome adventure, but the frogs are much better with wine. See you by the seaside!

THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE SIX!

As Portugal upset the odds at #Euro2016 and Paris called full-time on the tournament and headed East to the Champagne region. If anything, the competition continued the year of the underdog and proved that teamwork is key. In Épernay, I found France’s finest champagne makers and I searched for a beer to take on Two Tribe’s introductory Saison. Dom Pérignon, a world-famous monk that made champagne his craft, worked at Moët & Chandon, which I toured and clearly saw the difference between making beer and blending champagne. The classification itself is complicated – it can only be produced in an area less than 10% the size of Sussex. To put this into context, Ridgeview wines (who The Bison Arms team visited earlier this year) is around the same size as Moët & Chandon – with plans to double in the next 5 years. It’s fair to says Dom and his successors are doing a decent job, producing 28 million bottles of bubbly every year (The UK produced 6m bottles of all wine varieties in 2014!). I digress, in between the vins of Reims and Epernay, I found a suitable Saison to take away. La Pirata’s effort with Green Street isn’t a match made in heaven but the 8.6% attempt was an ideal opponent. Barcelona to Moscow is the most random collaboration I’ve ever tried and, from the first sip, it was clear they struggled to find some common ground. It’s certainly not easy drinking like the Two Tribes brew and I found it far too yeasty for the style. That said, I’m certainly no connoisseur of Saisons, but I know what I like and the taut, limey finish did nothing for me. On the other hand, Supersonic Saison(should’ve been called ‘Insane In The Saison’) is delicious. Easy drinking with big hits of orange, it’s one that says the summer season is here and there’s always plenty of beer – for those that can’t guzzle champagne all day long!

THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE CINQ!

I’ll be honest, I picked this beer because of it’s label. But, isn’t that what everyone does these days? And fortune favoured the brave on this occasion as the final match for #Euro2016 scores just 29 for style according to RateBeer (Beast Street gets 71), yet you’ll see by the final score that the contest was much closer than that. Coco Nino are Charles and Hugo, friends who’ve brewed together for years and whose beers can be found all over France. Both Brewberry and A la Bière comme à la Bière know these guys personally and speak very highly of their personalities. The Hoppy Pale Ale is perhaps a bit more American in style than our Beast Street because the tropical taste is more akin to our See Side (being canned as I type this) than the bitterness Beast is more known for. Side by side, they look like best friends, with bodies of amber haze and dusty white heads. They both smell beautiful as well so, for me, it comes down to the taste to decide the outcome of these evenly matched brews. The Coco Nino is a bit stronger at 5.8% but the Beast Street is just that bit more rounded and possesses the type of experience needed to win a tournament. I’ll be on the move next week after the final on Sunday (allez les bleus) and embarking on the Tour De France so any tips on where to head once my current supply runs dry much appreciated!

THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE QUATRE!

I went back to Brewberry to find a match for Magic Rock’s sensational gose-style beer, Salty Kiss. The collaboration with Danish master brewer Anders Kissmeyer won gold at World Beer Cup 2014 so it seemed spot on that Ben suggested Sjavár Bjór brewed by The Wall. The Italian outfit sourced sea salt flakes from Iceland for this, which I found fitting considering both their teams’ progress at #Euro2016. The first thing that strikes me is the artwork on both beers – Magic Rock designer, Richard Norgate, can do no wrong when it comes to drawing on cans and The Wall’s Icelandic flag influence on their bottle is intriguing. Frequenters of Bison Beer will need no introduction to the Salty Kiss, as the 5/5 brew is seldom not on our shelves. The tarty number is in a different league to Sjavár Bjór. It pours flat and tastes so salty that I can’t be certain of its style – it says it’s an amber on the label but, apart from it’s appearance, shows no characteristics of it’s compatriots. It is still an interesting beer, with a bit of Bertie Bassett about it in a liquorice aftertaste. I’ll be sticking with my Magic Rock for sure and I’m sorry Sjavár Bjór, but it’s the sea for you – where you’ll fit right in because you taste and smell like seawater.

THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE TROIS!

If you can find a better bottleshop in France than A la Bière comme à la Bière, then I’ll buy you a beer. Simply step off the Eurostar and hop a couple stops up the Metro to find all of the beers. The guys have got a second shop further East and have recently opened a pub, which I’ll be sure to visit. The interior is typically Parisian with much of the drawing done by by local street artist, Urm Le Fou, who has a style not too dissimilar to Brighton’s Will Blood or Beavertown’s Nick Dwyer. I spoke to Nick before my trip and he’s hung out here a few times, which was evident by the amount of their cans sitting on the rustic shelves – although they’ve no chance of stocking Bloody Notorious. The shop clearly champions local too, so I asked for a contender to Brighton Bier’s collab with Choccywoccydoodah and got given a 6.5% stout brewed West of the city. I was expecting my closest encounter yet as the guys had plenty to put forward and, whilst I’ve been a big fan of Brighton Bier’s recent brews, I’m not blown away by Choccy’s chocolate. The 7% vegan stout exceeded my expectations, pouring with impressive carbonation and drinking so smooth you’d have to agree with the velvety description on the can. O’Clock’s stout was decent, with a nose of glorious coffee and a blink-and-you-miss-it copper head, it’s a solid stout but overall disappointing for a recommendation that never got out of first gear for me. Keep an eye on#thefrenchexchange as England and I enjoy an extended stay in France and get yourselves down Bison for all the Brighton Biers.

THE FRENCH EXCHANGE – SEMAINE DEUX!

I’ve been asking around after last week’s shocker and some locals pointed me to the Latin Quarter, where I found a Brewberry. On one side of the cobbled street is a bar with 20 taps and opposite is an offie. The tap room had growlers on display but no filling station so I sampled all the beers and hopped across the stones to the bottleshop. Ben, a true Parisian whose English is decent, sent me packing with a selection of France’s finest and a contender forTiny Rebel’s 5.2% red.  Les Brasseurs du Grand Paris  are based North West of Paris and their Porte Dorée provided proper competition. It pours deep red and smells fantastic – a tasty number if a little thin on the finish. Unfortunately for France, Tiny Rebel’s champion beer of Britain reined supreme and ran out with the win. Scant consolation after super-subs Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge got the England party going at #Euro2016. Fans of England, Wales and Cwtch can find it at no. 7 East Street.