Old dogs New tricks / by Oliver Bainbridge

For those of you who are regulars at The Grapevine you will know we have been selling some wonderful beers from a great new brewer called Harbour Ales.  These are typical of bold young breweries changing the face of British brewing in a very exciting way.  All of their beers are fantastic tasting, fresh, hoppy and very drinkable.  We have had loads of excellent feedback and customers have come flocking back time and time again to try these beers.  We had the full range from them and for me the best was their 6% pale Ale, full flavoured without being overly hoppy while delivering a long complex taste with a great dry finish.  Fantastic!! 


Check out their website and you will see another important part of why these guys are so successful, their design and style is modern and contemporary without losing sight of the core values of brewing.  Simple and stylish this brewer will go a long way and in my books will soon be the getting major plaudits their work deserves.

This and other brewers like them have got me thinking about the parallels between the brewing industry and the wine industry.  The old world wine countries of France, Spain and Italy amongst others got a real battering when new world wine makers came into the market.   They were making great wine with a bold and robust taste, that looked modern and progressive, it was great value and importantly they understood their market and were focused on delivering what the customer wanted (rather like Harbour brewing Co).  Importantly they respected the traditions of the wine industry and kept some of the old values but also were keen to emphasise the quality of the product and the process.  Always of course with a modern twist (rather like Harbour brewing Co).  It is no coincidence that modern wines are known for their big tastes, ABV, fruitiness and full bodiedness, the same things the best craft beers are known for.

There is evidence that the old breweries and their grip on British brewing is becoming weaker just like the old world wine countries, we are seeing large British ale breweries losing market share.  When was the last time you saw Courage Best in a pub?  They are even buying up smaller breweries to somehow prove they have local appeal.   The strongest evidence of the success these smaller brewers are having is that big brewers are starting to copy them in an attempt to try to compete.  I was speaking to a rep from St Austall last year (despite hiding behind their image as a family brewer are in fact a very powerful national company) recently, who revealed that they are to start brewing craft beers as a reaction to the undercurrent of demand started by smaller brewers.  Great news although I suspect these beers will not be as special as some of the beers we have had the pleasure of trying from the smaller more personal producers.  Craft beer by the very meaning of the word is best produced by smaller companies who love and care and cherish their beer.  Beer brewed in small quantities with genuine care and attention is the meaning of "craft".  This is something the big players may never be able to do...........I hope.