Sunday, 12 January 2014
Beers Of London Series: 65 Upstart Brewing - Alpha 4.3%
Beers Of London Series
65.Upstart Brewing - Alpha 4.3%
I'm always excited when I come across a new London brewery, and when the founder and brewer turns up on my doorstep with two bottles of their first commercial beer and a t-shirt as well then that's probably about as good as it gets as far as I'm concerned. That, as you've probably guessed is exactly what happened just before Christmas when James Weir, a Yorkshireman (he grew up about two-hundred yards from Timothy Taylor's in Keighley) and former City fund manager having previously requested my address, presented himself at my door with his Alpha beer and appropriate t-shirt to match.
Unfortunately I was at work at the time so I've yet to meet James, a situation I should be rectifying soon, however he was kind enough to answer a few questions I e-mailed to him so I'm able to tell you a bit more about him and his new brewery before I get on to the beer itself.
Some of you may remember hearing about the Wanstead Brewery on twitter around the middle of last year, but James wasn't really happy with the name feeling it might be rather limiting, particular with the wider more European vision he has for his brewery and brewing. That's not to say the he is ashamed of the area in which he resides, far from it, he has lived in East London for the past eleven years and the last four of those in Wanstead itself and thinks it's a lovely place to be, but in drawing influences from the European lager tradition and British cask beer and to a lesser extent the US craft beer scene then 'Upstart' was chosen to emphasise the challenger nature of the brewery and its products. Identifying that many of the newer London breweries were brewing copycat West Coast IPA's and high abv hoppy beers, he want to challenge the assumption that this is the only way to go and look at our own brewing tradition here in the UK, as well as that of our European neighbours and mine the vein of our rich heritage and especially with regard to hops.
A self-taught home brewer with some ten years experience it was initially, by his own admission, very much trial and error at the beginning, but he began to get more serious about five years ago when he bought a commercial pilot brewery and set it up in his garage. This year he begins studying for his Diploma in Brewing with the Institute Of Brewing and Distillers this year and is currently learning a lot about the bizarre world of barley procreation. As far as beer is concerned, he has an Amber 'Steam' beer in development using lager yeast, fermented at ale temperatures and heavily dry-hopped as well as a Table-Beer produced from the second and third runnings of same beer with the aim to fill a gap in the market for the more discerning drinker who doesn't want a 7% hop bomb but desires something a little tastier than Greene King IPA.
Alpha is as I mentioned and you might gather from the name, James's first commercial beer, a Pale Ale brewed with Magnum, Fuggle and Hallertauer hops on a base of Belgian Aromatic and Wheat malts. It pours a beautiful dark honey colour with a fluffy off-white head, alive with a steady stream of tiny bubbles and, in my bottle, some clumps of yeast, testament to my haphazard and unobservant pouring. I'm not someone who is averse to a little yeast in his beer, and even if I were it soon settles to the bottom of the glass leaving the beer perfectly clear. The head takes a little while to settle down but when it does an aroma of banana, mango, lightly tangerine juice infused cream and a hint of white pepper spiciness. Surprisingly full bodied in the mouth, it prickles the tip of the tongue with its carbonation. There's a little pear, nectarine and some pithy citrus juice in there, more clementine this time rather than the tangerine I detected in the aroma, with a pervading woodland earthiness running through it that I've come to associate with fresh English hops. A light dusting of white pepper and coriander seeds completes the initial picture, leading to quite a crisp finish with a sprinkling of shortbread biscuit crumbs but the echoes of the tastes of the main body of the beer linger a while like flavoursome phantoms.
There is much to admire about this beer flavourwise but what I particularly enjoy is that having found out about James's background and influences I can see these perfectly reflected in every element of this beer, separate and yet united in a very balanced Pale Ale. I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes from here as his approach seems a little different to some if not all of the other brewers I've featured so far in this series, and I'll hopefully be able to meet him in person to discuss beer and maybe have a few drinks with him in February. I wish him every success.