It's a big thing for a brewer, a tap takeover, as you're there at the bar with all your beers being poured for thirsty (and sometimes critical) customers and there's nowhere to hide (except the toilet, but they even corner you in there to talk beer as I found out)....
Hopcraft have a long association with the Craft Beer Co, having sold them beer from the start of our existence, but we've never before been asked to do a tap takeover / meet the brewer at one of their pubs; in case you don't know, this is pretty much the equal of a musician being asked to play a gig at a massive arena they know well and have seen bands perform at.... scary, yet exhilarating, and giving a sense of having arrived somewhere, wherever that may be, but it's something you don't turn down as it's a one-shot opportunity.
We had to send 15 cask and 14 keg beers to the event and so saved up beer for a month or so beforehand, selecting brews we thought might showcase us in our best light. We also indulged ourselves in making up some one-off creations such as maple syrup milk stout, dandelion and burdock porter and and extra dry-hopped version of our CF127 UK experimental hopped beer amongst others.
So, 29 beers in all, with a few cask/keg repeats, were packed onto pallets, wrapped, and dispatched to central London for the event.... only to be told the next day by our haulier that there was a market in the streets around the pub (which we'd not been told about when arranging the delivery) so the beers would have to be delivered Thursday, meaning they'd have less time to settle for the event.... which should be no problem for our beer as it drops quickly, but still an annoyance and something we should have avoided really.
Then, out of the blue that evening, we had a message from the manager of the pub saying that beer we were launching on the tap takeover, our 250th brew "Another day closer to the Grave", had only arrived in keg and there was no cask... searching the pallet sheets we saw we'd accidentally (building pallets in a rush is never a good thing believe me) loaded two casks of "East Bay Pilgrimage" instead of one of that and one of Brew 250! ANY of the other beers and we'd have been able to say fine, we'll credit for the missing cask, but we were launching this beer so it had to be there in cask; a frantic phone call to our haulier the next morning and we were sorted with the single cask on a tiny pallet making it's way down to London in an expensive but very necessary piece of making things right!
So, Saturday saw Gazza and Sue Hayward (plus Twiggy, the Hopcraft brewery cat) set off for Reading with a full van of beer to drop at the Nag's Head before taking the train to London and then, after a tube shambles where everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what was happening due to a closure on the Circle line, we eventually arrived in Clerkenwell where the pub - and outside drinkers - were bathed in an unearthly golden sunlight... a good omen for the rest of the day, I hoped...
In the end, it turned out that Bacchus was smiling on us... the event took place, we sampled all the beers, and I was pretty happy with all of them with a few being extremely satisfying to drink, the cold steep coffee rye stout being a particular highlight. Even more satisfying, however, are the comments from drinkers who are sampling the beers and telling you how much they (hopefully) like them or (occasionally) dislike them.... to be treated like brewing celebrities doesn't happen very often, but it did on Saturday 22nd in Clerkenwell and, for a day, it felt like we'd arrived on the big stage. We even, on the way back to Paddington, called in on Craft Beer co Covent Garden for the simultaneous Vibrant Forest tap takeover; now there's dedication.
Then it was back to the real world and paying every penny we owe to the government in beer duty.... but still, for one glorious day, we were rockstar brewers....
|Tom Cadden, head honcho at Craft Beer co|
|photo - Steve Cassidy|
|Twiggy hard at work|
|"bloody hell, I helped make those!"|
|18 pints for the stag do upstairs....|
|we were happier than we look.|
|That's more like it!|
|Beer being poured|
|Nice bit of sales!|