Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Mighty World Of Marble

To Cask Pub & Kitchen for their latest Meet The Brewer event, featuring James Campbell and Dominic Driscoll from Manchester's highly-regarded Marble Brewery.

I'd identified Marble as one of the 'Coming Wave' of new innovative British brewers in my GBBF piece, but they're no new kids on the block. The brewpub has been established for over a decade, and they've recently augmented their original 4.5bbl plant with a new 12bbl kit. Word is out and the rest of the country are keen to sample their beers. Mark Dredge fingered them as one to watch with his last post of 2009.

Leading up to the event, I was able to uncover some information about Phil Lowry's nascent London Brewers Alliance. This is a new umbrella group for all London brewers, from the smallest (Southwark's Kernel Brewery) to the largest, Fuller's, and Phil has made room for amateur brewers as well. It was interesting to me that, in the week that Roger Protz in 'What's Brewing' recounted the apparent antipathy of 'family' and regional brewers to their smaller colleagues during this year's GBBF, that Phil should have successfully been able to establish a collective that can accommodate brewers large and small. I'm sure I'm not the only observer of the UK scene who has looked at the US Brewers Association with some envy at the way they can leverage their influence into successful programmes promoting craft beer. Somehow we need to stop the confusing babble of different voices which dog British brewing's attempts to send positive messages about good beer. I'm hoping to report more fully on LBA in the near future...

Back to Cask and Marble, and while the gathering waited for the arrival of the Marble boys and girls, I chatted with Martin Hayes of Cask. Some year and half back, this pub was the notorious Pimlico Tram. If Ofsted did pubs, it would have been failing and in special measures. In less than 14 months, Martin and Peter have turned the place around, creating one of the most impressive destination pubs in London. As well as a commitment to offering well-kept cask ales, they, like other visionary operators, don't view keg as some ghetto at the end of the bar for crap lager and Guinness. A range of German and Belgian beers sit happily alongside the beer engines, and the recently-installed fridges offer a huge (but pricey) range of bottled beers from European classics all the way up to hard-to-get American spooge.

Visit The Rake at Borough Market, The Evening Star in Brighton, North Bar in Leeds. All of them are committed to offering the best beer they can, regardless of dispense, and they're all successful. In there somewhere is one of the challenges for CAMRA's 'fitness for purpose' review. Cask isn't the only way, 'craft' is in there, too.

Peter smiles nervously while waiting for Environmental Health to start asking awkward questions; Mark Dredge looking like he'd rather be in a bath of beer; are you sure Dobber is a big marble?; Dominic with his cupcakes; a cupcake

So, after a comedic interlude where BrewDog stoat-crashed the bar following their own launch of AB:03 at The Rake the previous night, it was Marble's show...

The Unusual Suspects

Ten casks on offer, punters four-deep at the bar, and Dominic Driscoll's cupcakes. I'd tried a couple of the beers previously, so this was a chance to have a proper look. As well as their regular offerings (the magnificent Pint being a standout), they brought some of their newer beers. They explained the odd numbering/coding of the beers. Prefix 'W' is from the new brewhouse, while four-digit numbers are from the old. The 1732 was fruity and refreshing, the W90 (a sister beer with different hopping) was drier with grapefruit bitterness, the Dobber (a big marble, says James Campbell) full and rounded with a long, slightly warming finish.
















James Campbell and Dominic Driscoll do their routine. Take That are from Manchester, you know...

My evening ended with scrounging one of Dominic's cupcakes. He was a bit down about them, as it seems Phil Lowry's were better in a taste-off earlier in the afternoon, but I thought it was pretty good. He shouldn't give up the day job, though...

Several of the attendees are regular visitors to the Marble Arch in Manchester, and after last night, I mean to rectify that omission from my own pub experience.

2 comments:

Mark said...

I thought the cupcakes were brilliant! As was the beer, of course.

Sid Boggle said...

I think Phil Lowry will have to bake us a batch so we can confirm who's the best...