What makes our Dwarfen Ales great?

Let us tell you what makes our Dwarfen Ales great.

It’s not that they’re the hoppiest, although we use whole leaf hops, selected from the finest hop yards in the UK.

It’s not the quality of the malts used, but we do use heritage products such as Maris Otter and the finest speciality malts from Germany and Belgium.

It’s not that they’re the best, however in the 4 years since we started brewing we’ve won 6 local and regional awards.

It’s not their rarity, that said there are only 10 casks of each beer brewed at a time.

No, it’s the investment; ours and yours.

We invest in British Hop Farmers, championing new and experimental hop varieties before they’re commercially available and contracting years in advance to allow their businesses to be sustainable.

We invest in malts that have been developed specifically for great flavour when brewing beer and trusted for over 50 years.

We invest our time in sending our Dwarfen Ales to CAMRA beer festivals to have the opportunity to be voted on by the public.

We invest ourselves in developing relationships with great people who’re running award winning community venues, so that when they supply our beer it’s in the best hands it can be and supports local jobs.

And the greatest investment of all; yours.

You’ve sought out our ales.

You’ve made the effort to discern the best places to drink.

You’ve left the comfort of your home to invest your time in the company of others.

You’ve embraced a brand proud of it’s epic storytelling and superb artwork.

You’ve spent your hard earned money on a premium product that can only be purchased from great gathering places of the community.

Only then do all of our investments pay off, at the moment you begin to savour our full bodied, flavoursome, hand forged beverages.

From the first twitching of your nose at the hop aroma, through the explosion of flavours across your tongue, the lingering sensation on the roof of your mouth to the last drop running out of the tankard, filling you with excitement as you head back to the bar for another.

Your investment was worth it.

Thank you for allowing us to do what we do best.

 

How do Dwarfs keep it clean?

Cask Cleaning Monday is in full swing.

Arguably one of the most important processes at our brewery, if the cask isn’t clean when the beer goes in, it doesn’t matter how good the beer was, it’ll turn rapidly. 12987184_1368894526531421_4570825565471702784_n

We start by removing all the cask furniture, shives, keystones, labels; then pressure wash inside and out. Next we scrub the outside clean with a caustic solution before giving it a blast with the pressure washer to remove the caustic.

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The cask is then moved to the cask washer where the interior is blasted with hot caustic to break down any biological matter such as yeast, dried on beer and the bacteria than can grow in these environments once outside of a temperature controlled cellar. 12718035_1368894963198044_6265847734726931135_n

The cask moves onto being rinsed inside with cold water to remove any traces of caustic and biological debris.

The last washing process involves the interior of the cask being washed with an acid to sanitize it before it is sealed for storage. This prevents anything else getting into the cask. 13007092_1368894563198084_2210268837815273914_n

Depending how long goes by between cleaning and filling the cask determines how much cleaning will need to be done again before racking. 13006660_1368894863198054_4153628320341345423_n

So there you go, another insight into the steps we Dwarfs take to bring you consistently epic ales.

 

2nd MABFest

1918189_1334008140020060_7489661819410284920_nThe 2nd Mercian Alliance of Brewers Festival took place at Twisted Barrel’s Tap House at Fargo Village in Coventry.

12495229_1334008143353393_5486520298917655544_nShowcasing the 2nd Mercian Alliance of Brewers collaboration, Cnebba – 7.0% Baltic Porter, brewed at our Dwarfen Brewery with help from Ritchie at Twisted Barrel Ales.

The festival was a fantastic opportunity to try beers from not just ourselves and Twisted Barrel but other members of the alliance including Broughs, Craddocks, Green Duck, Fixed Wheel, Rock n Roll Brewhouse and Two Towers.

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King Korvak grabs the Gold

You might recall earlier in the year King Korvak’s Saga was named the West Midlands Champion Porter by CAMRA.

Well we finally got to collect our certificate at the Regional Prize Giving Ceremony held at the Bartons Arms in Birmingham.

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Hopefully more of the same next year. Thanks to everyone who voted to get us into the contest, it means the world.

2nd Time Around

Story John entertaining Stafford CAMRA with tales of epic Dwarfen adventure during the presentation of their beer of the festival award to us at the Wheatsheaf in Walsall.12240082_1279193672168174_5118724059402378119_n

King Korvak’s Saga won the public vote for second time, the first was in 2013. Thanks to everyone who voted and we look forward to charming your taste buds next year.

Another Golden Chapter in Korvak’s Saga as it’s named 2015 West Midlands Porter of the Year

King Korvak's Saga CBOB slider

If you’ve met Tom, our (not so) Dwarfen brewer, you would be hard pressed to believe his reaction to the news that his favourite beer had just been judged to be the best porter in the West Midlands.

But before we get to that, let’s take a step back in time to end of 2014. CAMRA (the campaign for real ale) holds an annual competition called Champion Beer of Britain, CBOB for short. A lengthy process that begins toward the end of a year when it’s members are given the opportunity to vote for their favourite beers, in each style category, brewed within their region.

Once this data is collated, the branches within the region apply to host the second stage of the competition, whereby the top six beers in a style are ordered for their festivals, blind tasted by a panel of CAMRA volunteers, brewers and local dignitaries. This is the stage we arrived at. And on this occasion, the panel of judges declared that King Korvak’s Saga was the superior beverage amongst its peers.

Getting to this stage was no mean feat. The first stage of the competition relies on CAMRA members voting for beers they enjoy. So, in the case of a large regional brewery like Wye Valley or Salopian, they produce large volumes of beer and distribute it through a lot of outlets and advertise heavily in CAMRA publications. Lots of real ale drinkers will definitely have heard of these breweries and more than likely tried their beers. We, on the other hand, produce only 9 firkins of each beer a month which are distributed to a select group of hand picked pubs who exclusively supply our beer in their area. If you don’t go to one of these pubs, or try our ales at a beer festival then you aren’t likely to have heard of us. This was why it such a wonderful opportunity, not only getting to take part in a major competition but knowing that there is a small group of loyal fans out there who are doing their best to spread the word about our Dwarfen brewery.

On Thursday 25th June, at Finstall Park Rugby Club, Bromsgrove CAMRA opened their summer beer festival and hosted the West Midlands, Champion Beer of Britain porters competition. At the time the winners were announced, we were standing in the evening sun, outside the marquee, straining our ears to hear the results. Third place was announced, it wasn’t us. I had butterflies and Tom the brewer looked a little tense. Second place was announced, it wasn’t us. I was resigned to having not even placed while Tom was on tender hooks. So when first place was announced, I would have gone into shock, if not for what happened next. Upon realising he’d won, Tom sprinted off in the direction of the marquee. I’ve never seen him move so fast. I half expected him to run to the stage and take a bow. But no, he just kept running, completing a lap of the tent, arms held high and bellowing woohoo! Seconds later he was back by my side looking very pleased with himself. Not quite the composed response I’d imagined but there was no denying he was over the moon.

So what’s next? King Korvak’s Saga will go to Dudley Winter Ale Fayre to be judged against all the other winners from different beer styles from the region to determine the Champion Beer of the West Midlands. There will be a certificate presented to us at the region prize giving at the Bartons Arms in Birmingham on 28th December and after that Korvak will go to Derby Winter Ale Fayre in February to compete against the winning porters from around the UK.

Thank you to everyone who voted for our beers at the end of last year and look forward to continuing to enjoy your support.

James & Tom Fownes

Dwarfen Drafts Captured in Bottles

All of our bottles from last year have now been sold and today we’re about to do some more which should be ready in time for the start of February. So we thought we’d take a moment just to talk about what we’ve done so far and where we’re heading to in the future.

When we very first started brewing back in 2010 we always had in mind that it would become a business selling cask ale and as such we didn’t invest a great deal of time into bottling beer much beyond it being an easy way of transporting beer to people to get an opinion from them.

Then in 2012, when we started brewing commercially, we had so little beer available (just 4 firkins a brew) that bottling it seemed uneconomical as it was easier just to sell the cask to a pub. As time went by we appreciated that there was a demand for our beer in packaging that could be taken home, so, we experimented with bottling but were never entirely satisfied with the result when compared to the same beer served from the cask.

During 2014 we bottled on several occasions for events like the British Beard Championships in Bath and eventually had a system in place for bottling that produced good results and had drinkers asking for more.

But it’s not just what’s on the inside of the bottle that counts. The stories and illustrations are a big part of what we do here at our Dwarfen brewery and incorporating that into the label was a real challenge.

Should we just reproduce the pump clip? Well that would be so small on a bottle as to be almost unnoticeable.

Do we break up the pump clip into it’s constituent parts and rearrange to suit the new context? We then had something that looked incomplete.

Do we use 330ml, 500ml or even bigger bottles? Did the bottle need to be a unique shape? We settled on a slightly shorter 500ml bottle as it helped to identify the product amongst it’s bottle conditioned ale peers.

After many mockups and researching branding techniques we arrived at the current design.  Because we are Brewers of Epic Tales, with all our ales having stories written to go with them, we took our inspiration from book covers.

There is a uniformity to the design, with all the bottles having a similar appearance when lined up on a shelf, like those of book spines from a series.

When you pick the bottle up you are then able to rotate to the ‘front cover’ where you’ll find the artwork, or to the ‘back’ where you’ll find the ‘blurb’, telling you a little about what to expect inside.

As with any quality publication the bottles are hand ‘bound’ and individually numbered by the ‘author’ and have an ‘edition’ number. To top it off we’ve completed the dust jacket appearance by using a metallic material for the label with a satin finish varnish. Lots of the detailing is subtly hidden and only apparent once the bottle is picked up and being handled, adding to the effect by sticking to the age old adage that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. What from a distance may have seemed plain has hidden depths and deserves exploring further.

Since launching the bottles in November we’ve had them on sale behind the bar at the Wheatsheaf in Walsall where they quickly became very popular with the regulars and we’ve been back to re-supply many times over. Just before Christmas, Stirchley Wines in Birmingham took one case of each beer and they were restocked a week into the new year. Since then we’ve gone on to supply Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham and Moonshine and Fuggles in Ironbridge.

The bottled range will permanently include Frost Hammer and King Korvak’s Saga, with seasonal and occasional beers being rotated through the months.  In the case of the seasonal porters and special beers like Goat Rider and Leviathan, numbers will be limited to around 144 bottles of each.

The second batch of bottles is currently conditioning and will be arriving at an off licence near you in February.

Dwarfs in the Hood

We’re now back at the brewery, our hardened heels aching, our mighty shoulders sore but in high spirits. Where’ve we been? Why the Robin Hood beer and cider festival of course. It’s that time of year when we head to our favourite CAMRA beer festival and share our Dwarfen Ales with the thousands of people in attendance. Over a thousand real ales were on offer, seven of which were ours, eighteen gallons a piece.

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In short, it was a fantastic experience and the response to our Dwarfen beers and brewery was again spectacular.  Located in the Entertainment Tent ( which we specifically requested) on Bar E, we had the privilege of being the second beer down there to sell out (the first being Oakham’s Green Devil). There’s a great vibe in the smaller of the two beer tents on offer at the event held at Nottingham Castle and hosted by Nottingham CAMRA, with a wonderful cellar and bar management team most of whom we’re pleased to say we consider as friends and look forward to seeing throughout the year.

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One of the best things is when you meet CAMRA volunteers for the first time who try our beer and are so enthusiastic that they get behind the product wholeheartedly, wear their brewery t-shirt with pride and put so much effort into introducing new customers to them. A big thank you goes again this year to Suzy (Pub Geek) Aldridge who extolled the virtues of Broddr’s beers to the uninitiated and made sure everyone got a sticker to remind them of the experience. New to the Fownes team this year was (Beer) Matt Brooks who made it his mission to sell out of the first firkin of Gunhild by the end of Wednesday evening, and he nearly did too.

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But it’s not just the Dwarfen Ale virgins that we get to meet but also those people who have come back for another year and headed straight to our section of the bar for some more of Broddr’s finest. These ladies and gentlemen are so enthusiastic about the taste of beers but also the brand of Dwarfs and Epic Tales behind them.

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For the second year now the festival had it’s own app. Not without it’s little niggles, it allows festival goers with a smart phone to see all of the beers on offer, rate their favourite and keep tasting notes. What was great about it was being able to see how our beers faired against the hundreds of others on offer. By the close of the festival, five of our seven ales were rated in the top twenty five, an achievement we’re very proud of and grateful to all those who took the time to rate them. All throughout the event our seven beers shuffled for position but when the dust settled Gunhild was ranked 3rd of all the beers on offer by those using the app.  King Korvak’s Saga was 5th, Origin 7th,  Frost Hamer 11th and Firebeard’s Old Favourite No.5 15th.

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As you can tell Gunhild was a popular seller and next year I think we’ll take more. But an equally fast seller was Troll Hunter, both of which had sold out by early Friday evening. Hot on their heels was Frost Hammer, a firkin of which disappeared in a matter of hours on Friday. The casks seemed to just want to keep on giving, even when fully tilted! You’d be amazed how far beer goes when you’re selling it in thirds of a pint.

Many people enquired about our merchandise and they were all referred to the Dwarfen Store for t-shirts, bar runners and more. For next year we’re thinking of doing something a bit special with our t-shirts so keep an eye on Facebook for more details. There was also a huge amount of interest in the upcoming availability of our Dwarfen Ales in bottles which will be finding their way to a specialist bottle shop in the next few months.

It should be noted that our participation at Nottingham beer festival is made possible by the generosity of Anthony and Lynette Hughes from Lincoln Green Brewery who not only get our casks to the event but also give us a roof over our heads for the duration of the event for which we’re immensely grateful. You’ll also be able to regularly find our cask Dwarfen Ales on the bar of their new pub, The Robin Hood and Little John in Arnold and bottled ales at the Lincoln Green brewery shop.

So with our large hairy feet soaking in bowls of steaming water in front of the fire raging under the copper we bid farewell and look forward to next years festival.

That’s just how we roll

Plastic casks arrive

In order to keep up with the demand for our products and to make the most of our increased capacity we’ve ordered 1oo new plastic casks to add to the 100 we already had.

Lots of people ask why we use plastic casks as it’s not very traditional and the answer is simple, they’re very cost effective. As a small brewery we don’t have a lot of money for big expansions, so plastic casks offer an entry level answer to the problem. At nearly half the cost of stainless steel, it’s the difference between £4000 and £8000 for something that essentially is always away from the brewery.

It addition to the cost element you’ve also got the other benefits which include: light weight for transporting and handling, easy to stack to save space, easily identifiable and if taken care of you can expect five years plus use from them.

We also purchased some pins (4.5 gallons) at the same time to enable us to supply private functions with beer for those occasions when 70 pints is a bit too much.

Thank You

Korvak’s Triumph – 5.2% Honey Porter was voted LocAle Beer of the Festival by the public at Kidderminster CAMRA’s event.

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The festival took place at the end of May at the town hall in Kidderminster. Korvak’s Triumph was up against stiff local competition from the likes of Enville, Kinver and Sarah Hughes.

Korvak's Triumph award

This is the second award for Korvak’s Triumph having been voted Beer of the Festival in Wolverhampton in 2013. It was lovely timing as no sooner had the trophy been taken back by Wolverhampton CAMRA in time for this weekends festival but we found out the same beer had been voted LocAle beer of the festival in Kidderminster.

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Korvak’s Triumph is the second of our seasonal porters, each instalment continuing the tragic tale of King Korvak that culminates in our core range porter, King Korvak’s Saga – 5.4% Porter.

As soon as we find out when the award will be presented we’ll let you know the details and look forward to you joining us to celebrate our first win of 2014.