This "craft beer" movement that you may have read about on the internet and the newspapers is a funny thing. I still don't think anybody really knows what craft beer is but as long as decent ales keep appearing I'm happy for the movement to continue. Some of the more established breweries have noticed that there's money to be made with this weird craft thing and more and more beers are now suddenly "crafted" by brewers. I find this pretty patronising mainly because it's obvious beer is crafted unless they've previously been digging beer out the ground or just cut open a tree and wait for the ale to spill out? But I guess if the breweries think they sell a few more bottles by slapping "craft " on the label then fair game to them.
One brewery that has embraced the craft movement further than just re-badging existing beers with a craft label is Brains. This Welsh outfit have started a new brand of beers from the Brains "Craft Brewery." They've got some beer writers and other non brewers in the beer world to help out with creating the ales. Now I'm sure these guys are excellent at tasting and reviewing beers but whether they know how to produce a decent one themselves is open to debate. I know if I was given the chance to make a beer it would probably end up being a horrific failure with an initial hoppy flavour leading to vomiting, paralysis and eventually death. That's why I stick to writing about beer rather than making it, and even the writing I'm not great at seeing as I completely failed to produce any new content last Sunday.
The Brains Craft Brewery beers were available in Tesco on a 4 for £6 offer so I thought it rude not to give them a try. I could tell they were craft beers immediately as they had trendy labels and were in kid sized 330ml bottles. First up was Barry Island IPA, labelled on the bottle as an American Style IPA and a collaboration with "YouTube real ale reviewer extraordinaire" Simon Martin. True to the description this was a hoppy, boozy drink. It was a good attempt at recreating the highly hopped, Lagunitas style IPA. Recommended.
The other brew I tried was the Boilermaker. According to the Brains website this is a collaboration with "Ben and Tom from Thinking Drinkers." I have no idea who they are but according to their website they are trying to "revive the lost art of discerning drinking." A bold aim but this beer isn't going to help their cause. Despite the label promising vanilla notes and a whisky finish, I could taste neither. Instead it was a rather muddy IPA flavour, nothing outstanding and nowhere near as pleasant as the Barry Island IPA. A shame as this beer sounded the more exciting of the two but it just didn't deliver on what was promised.
It's good to see Brains trying something different and getting the beer blogging community involved. More experimentation in the brewing industry is always welcome and who knows what winning formula they may hit upon. But some experiments shouldn't be released into the wild and while the Barry Island was definitely ready for release I think the Boilermaker could have done with a bit more work before being sold to the public. It's not the first craft beer I've tried that wasn't ready for public consumption, and luckily thanks to Tesco's deal it wasn't so much of a costly mistake to me as some other craft beers have been. Overall though I look forward to trying more beers from the Brains Craft Brewery.