I guess it’s customary to review the year just past as we slide through the open door leading to a new Utopia. Ha! Well drinking a cup of badger sick would be preferable to going through another year like 2020.
Except….as brewers, we are eternal optimists: optimistic that our yeast stays alive and healthy, that each brew will be as good as the last, that we continue to achieve consistency, that there’s not a power cut half way through a collection (pump through)……
So from our view in the brew house there were positives in 2020. We introduced a new brew and counter intuitively t’boot , during the first lock down. We needed a beer to replace Hogshead Cotswold Pale Ale and there’s nothing a brewer likes more than an invitation to brew something new especially if it ends up on the permanent portfolio. We have a few home brewer friends who visit the brewery with samples of their work, and very good they are too. We are keen to expand our knowledge and I note and record the hop varieties they use and their flavour characteristics. So over a period of time this knowledge was brought together and a new recipe was developed. So, cue fanfare, introducing Uley Pale abv 3.8%, a golden beer made with Slovenian, English and American hops. A real departure for us as we have, with the exception of one seasonal beer, exclusively used English hops. Feedback was good. Folk told us that it was both full flavoured and refreshing, which is exactly what a pale ale should be.
A personal highlight of the brewing year was last year’s Uley Bitter Harvest Special. I’ve been doing this brew for a number of years now having picked up the idea from my friends at the East End Brewing Co. Pittsburgh PA. Every year in the UK, brewers are invited to ‘The Hop Walk’ on one of the hop farms in Herefordshire. It happens early in the picking season at the beginning of September. It is on this day every year that we pick up the fresh green leaf hops which have to be used more or less immediately. As hop harvesting is sequential, then it follows that if you go at the same time every year, you’re likely to get a similar hop and in our case they tend to be hops we use anyway. In past years, after a month of conditioning in the cask I’ve found it difficult to distinguish between Uley Bitter, and Uley Bitter Harvest Special save the fact that the HS is slightly more intense. But there was no Hop Walk this year and so fresh green hops were made available throughout September. So we waited until the end of September and the hop on offer was Olicana. Wow! A distinctive flavour to savour. It had a wonderful spiciness to it. It’s all gone now. We hope that many folk were able to try it.
The pubs we serve were either closed for much of last year or at best working in a limited capacity. This is heart wrenching. For people like us, pubs are the heartbeat of the community and we can’t wait to have them back. But we made friends last year so thank you to everyone who came and bought 5 litre minipins, 10 litre boxes, and 40 pint polypins. At the risk of sounding mawkish, you were our lifeline, our heartbeat in 2020. We’ll be here to brew another day. Keep taking the medicine.