I thought it might be interesting to shine some light on one of the people who make The Brew Club the site it is today! Bob the Brit has been contributing to the site since just about the beginning way back in 2008. Bob doesn’t mention it in the session that follows, but he’s a card-carrying member of the British Guild of Beer Writers which is impressive indeed!
If you’re somehow related to the craft beer world and think you’d make for an interesting Q&A post, please get in touch! Now, on to Bob the Brit!
If you have any questions for Bob the Brit, feel free to ask away in the comment section below!
In a nutshell, tell us a little bit about yourself.
As my moniker suggests, I’m a Brit. I’m from Essex, which is just to the east of London – I often describe Essex as England’s New Jersey.
I’m in my mid-fifties and my day job is working in IT.
How did you come to love beer and when? Any formative beer experiences you’d care to share?
I suspect it’s genetic; my great-great-grandfather (on my mother’s side) was an inn-keeper in the 1840’s and my grandparents (on my father’s side) ran a pub when I was a child. I still love the smell of pubs first thing in the morning.
Formative beer experiences? Well my family moved to Sheffield in South Yorkshire when I was 18, which probably accounts for my affection for Yorkshire ales.
My first trip to the United States was in 1988, which is when I first discovered Sam Adams and realised that not all American beers were like Bud.
I first attended the Great British Beer Festival in 1991 (and have only missed one since), and discovered how good American craft ales could be; the standout beers for me then were Chinook by Redhook, and Catamount Porter if I recall correctly.
For our US readers. You live in the UK, how did you come to write for TheBrewClub.com?
I know this sounds bizarre, but I stumbled across The Brew Club while I was investigating content management systems for my own website. I enjoyed reading the content and thought that I might be able to offer some insights on British and World Beers. That was three years ago, it’s been an interesting journey for me.
What’s the beer scene like in the UK. There’s lots of talk about pubs closing all of the time, but there’s more and more talk of a little beer renaissance as well. What’s your take?
Pubs are still closing at an alarming rate – even my local is under threat. There are a number of reasons for this, firstly the economy, people have less money to spend on ‘luxuries’, secondly supermarkets – people can buy beer for a fraction of the pub price and drink at home, and finally a ban on smoking that was introduced a few years ago.
However there is indeed a beer renaissance, more than fifty microbreweries have opened over the last 12 months, and like the American craft beer scene they’re run by enthusiasts and are brewing fascinating and exciting brews. Providing they can get their beers out to the masses things are looking good.
What’s the biggest problem for beer-lovers in the UK? I’ve heard that fizzy yellow lagers outsell Stouts in Ireland, does England have a similar beer dysfunction?
Well, back to pubs… a lot of pubs are ‘tied’ to, or run by the major breweries who dictate which beers they can sell, and the prices they pay (and thus have to charge) which stifles competition.
The biggest selling brews in the UK are indeed ‘fizzy yellow lagers’ – Fosters, Carling and so on – supported by massive advertising campaigns.
Oh… and taxation. The price of a pint in a pub ‘over here’ is now five bucks.
Are American craft beers popular in the UK? What are some of the top names?
Sadly, not many American craft beers make it over here, the general British view of American beer is tainted by the usual suspects – Bud, Coors and so on, mostly brewed under licence here in the UK but sold as ‘a taste of America’.
Some supermarkets stock ‘Sam Adams Boston Lager’, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Sierra Nevada Pale Ale’, but that’s about it.
Fortunately there are places like UtoBeer in Borough Market that have a more comprehensive range. I always grab a couple of American brews to try when I visit.
Do you think British beers get enough recognition here in the States? Why/why not?
I rarely see any British Beers on my occasional trips to the US, I think I’ve seen Bass, but that’s about it. Although I concede I don’t tend to get a chance to check out any beer specialists while I’m there.
I guess we’re about even.
What are a few under-rated British beers that we should look to try, (assuming they are available here)
Regular readers of The Brew Club will know that I have a great fondness for Yorkshire Ales… Samuel Smiths, Black Sheep and so on.
I would add Thornbridge Brews to that list; their ales are very sophisticated for such a ‘young’ brewery.
What brewers (anywhere) are you most impressed with? Why?
That brewers can create such wonderful flavours with such combinations of basic ingredients – water, grain, hops and yeast – is always a source of amazement to me.
However Weihenstephaner produce amazing beers, and Sam Adams… I am frequently impressed with where they take brewing.
Who in the beer world fascinates you, or at least engages your interest?
I always grab any new Thornbridge or Brewdog brews I see on the shelf, I know I’m going to be in for something different.
I’ve also invested a little in both the Mystery Brewing Company and Wilderness Brewing – through Kickstarter.com. I think it’s important to help people follow their dreams!