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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Korvak’s Triumph – 5.2% Honey Porter was voted LocAle Beer of the Festival by the public at Kidderminster CAMRA’s event.
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.
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.
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.
This week saw a group of beer festival committee members from Wolverhampton CAMRA come to the brewery and brew the first of two special beers for the 39th Wolverhampton Beer & Cider Festival.
As you may have read in our previous blog entry we’re sponsoring the staff t-shirts for the festival and wanted to have a bit of input into the theme of the event.
During the festival there will be two beers that have been brewed for the event, a Saxon ale and a Viking ale. Wolverhampton CAMRA joined us on Saturday 10th May to brew the Saxon beer.
The recipe was a variation on our Best of British Hops range of beers with the ABV reduced to 3.9% to reflect the fact it’s the 39th year of the beer festival. All the hops were British and the post and late hops being used something a little special. We’d been in contact with our hop merchant to see if they had any new British hops that were still in the development programme. They had a few kilos of 1180 available for us to test and our guest brewers were thrilled to be part of the resurgence in British hop farming.
During the day they had the chance to weigh out all of their ingredients, get hands on with the mash tun, see finings in action and look at beer at various stages in the process under a microscope.
We’re really excited about getting chance to sample this new brew later in the month.
Soon it will be June and we all know what that means.
Why it’s the Wolverhampton CAMRA Beer Festivalof course. It takes place from Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th June 2014 at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton city centre.
Now, this is a festival very near and dear to us, not only because of the support given to us by the branch volunteers but it was the venue of our first ever award. Back in June 2013 we were fortunate enough to have Korvak’s Triumph – Honey Porter 5.2% voted beer of the festival by the public. So to repay the branch for hosting this great event and therefore allowing us the opportunity to showcase our ales and porters we decided to sponsor this year’s festival’s staff t-shirts.
Now for a small brewery such as ours thats quite a large chunk of money so we wanted to make sure we felt we were contributing to the whole process and having some creative input. So we suggested that if the branch went with a particular theme for the festival then we’d be able to provide suitable artwork and expertise. And they kindly agreed. So the theme for the 39th Wolverhampton CAMRA beer festival is… the Battle of Tettenhall.
Let us provide some context. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wolverhampton, Tettenhall is a small village about 2 miles away from the beer festival venue and most widely know for its location atop a steep ridge referred to as the Rock. In 910 AD a battle took place against the rock face between the Vikings and the Saxons (more on that in a bit). Our Head Brewer, Tom, is part of a local Dark Age re-enactment group called Svartland Living History so the theme is very close to his heart and something he’s done a bit of research on. Stylistically our brand draws heavily from the artefacts of this time period so it was something we believed we could produce some eye catching artwork for and still being historically accurate.
As recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle the Battle of Tettenhall took place on 5 August 910 when the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex met an army of Northumbrian Vikings who had travelled up the River Severn to raid Mercia.
Although they were outnumbered the Anglo-Saxons slaughtered many thousands of Vikings, including the Kings at the head of the Viking army. Following the defeat of this army and the depletion of the Northmen, coupled with the rise of the house of Wessex, England was soon unified under one Anglo-Saxon monarch laying the foundation of the country that we know today.
So as you can see, a very significant event not only locally but with repercussions throughout history.
We began by creating a logo for the festival, something that would convey the theme and grounded in history so we went with a helmet. Now it turns out that complete examples of helmets from this time period are almost non existent so the specifics of designs are sketchy. Being that as it may we took what was available and came up with this.
The image was created using a lino cut, a method of relief printing that we’ve used on many of our own t-shirt designs as it allows for a distinct style that can easily be reproduced using silk screen printing. The figure on the nose guard was extrapolated from designs featuring images of Christ on helmets as by this point most of the British Isles had converted to Christianity.
For the t-shirt design we enlisted the help of Svartland to pose for photos. While there were many great poses the one chosen by the festival planning committee featured a Viking wielding a Dane Axe (an axe head on the end of a very long shaft) bringing it down upon a shield. The t-shirts are being printed by local Black Country company Teet Shirts, famous for their Black Country dialect tees.
As well as sponsoring over a hundred volunteer staff’s t-shirts we also offered the festival planning committee the opportunity to brew a special beer for the event, which they nearly snapped our hands off at the chance to do. Then Tom had an idea and a rather good one at that. The theme is a battle between the Vikings and the Saxons, so why not have two special beers for the festival? The Saxon beer will be brewed with Wolverhampton CAMRA and the Viking beer will be brewed by the re-enactors from Svartland. Both beers will be available side by side at the festival with customers encouraged to try both, vote for their favourite and thereby recreating the battle at the beer festival.
To get drinkers to the festival we’ve also designed the poster for the beer festival. Using the festival logo combined with images of hops and barley, then adding some typography inspired by other great festivals form around the world.
Members from Svartland will be around at the festival, greeting guests at the door and will be more than happy to explain more about Viking era Britain.
Having spent last year visiting beer festivals where our ales were on sale and standing the drinking side of the bar we thought this year we’d make ourselves useful and volunteer.
We care a lot about our beers and peoples reactions to them. Sure it’s nice knowing they’ve been drunk but there’s nothing quite like having that face to face interaction and talking about the process of brewing; the ingredients that went into a particular brew or the story behind it. It also allows people to see the faces behind the brand and get a clearer idea of what we’re about (believe it or not, explaining you’re a Dwarfen brewery can be tricky at the best of times). To be honest, it’s also a lot of fun working on the bar and meeting those who’ve given up their time to put on these great events.
Recently we volunteered for a few hours at Coventry beer festival, held at the Rugby ground. We had the opportunity to send some beer to this small festival in 2013 but didn’t have anything spare. This year with our increased capacity we jumped at the chance to get over to Coventry and support the local CAMRA branch and pick their brains for potential new outlets in the city. As always it was great to meet some of the regular faces at CAMRA beer festivals, those conosiours who take every opportunity to sample something new. King Korvak’s Saga, our 5.4% porter was our weapon of choice for this festival and the feedback was fantastic.
Later that day, although we didn’t have chance to volunteer, we popped into Walsall beer festival to lend our moral support (and money) to the CAMRA volunteers there, and again, see what the reaction to King Korvak’s Saga was. We’re pleased to say it was very good, an opinion backed up by Beer Beauty herself, Marverine Cole. We also met up with Big Ben (you’ll have seen him with us in the Express and Star newspaper promoting our Beard of the Year competition) who was proudly sporting one of our brewery t-shirts.
A week later we were at Stourbridge CAMRA’s beer festival in the town hall. This is a great local festival that supports local brewers and has many very enthusiastic volunteers only too happy to help those new to real ale and beer festivals to make an informed choice. As well as King Korvak’s Saga making another festival appearance it was the first outing for Maiden Meadow Mild, a 3.7% mild which was brewed in collaboration with Darren and Dawn Doughty. They’d won the brewer for a day experience at Dudley Winter Ale Fayre in November. Again there was some superb feedback on the mild, Wolverhampton and Dudley CAMRA members being amongst the most vocal in their appreciation.
Over the coming months the Dwarfs from Fownes brewery will be found volunteer and promoting their fine tipples at Wolverhampton, Kidderminster and Stafford CAMRA beer festivals as well as our own beer festival at the Jolly Crispin in celebration of Black Country Day. So if you see us stop and say hello, we’ve always got time to talk about our brews.
For a Dwarf, a facial hair is a sacred blessing, bestowed upon them by the Gods. They take immense pride in it’s lusciousness, length and styling. So the thought of shaving is quite horrific. But, Broddr and a team of human’s banded together during the month of Movember to raise money and awareness for mens cancers and mental health.
Led by James Fownes, his MO Bros Owain Millard, Chris East, Carl Henrik Padget, Tom Catton, Tony Sambrooks and Tony Colpitts, and MO Sista Linda Fownes spent the month raising money from friends, family and the general public by selling cakes, biscuits or a stroke of their mighty moustache.
Chris East was our Man of Movember raising £160. In return for his fundraising efforts he’s received 5 adopted Fownes brewery casks and the opportunity to spend a day brewing his own beer. Linda Fownes was our Lady of Movember having raised and donated £40.
We’d like to thank everyone for supporting our fundraising efforts and donating so generously. The final amount raised was over £600 which along with the millions raised by MO Bros and MO Sistas across the globe will go to mens cancer and mental health charities. In the UK the main bulk of the money will be going to Prostate Cancer UK.
Hopefully next year there’ll be many more people onboard with Broddr’s Brewery Team and we’ll raise even more for this excellent charity
Having ordered 14 casks of beer from us we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to go and promote our beers and brand, so from Wednesday through to Saturday we stood in front of our casks and introduced the discerning public to the marvels of Dwarfen Ale.
We knew we were off to a good start when CAMRA volunteers who’d been to the newly opened, by our friends at Lincoln Green Brewery, Falcon Inn in Canning Circus earlier in the week were coming up to us and saying how much they’d enjoyed Gunhild (a conversation which continued after they tried our other ales).
We’d sent 6 casks of beer to Nottingham last year and had been delighted to discover that when we arrived on the Saturday that nearly all of it had gone. And when there are over a 1000 beers on offer that’s not something to be taken lightly. But just to ensure it wasn’t beginners luck we went back bigger and bolder this year.
We were lucky enough to have with us Suzy, beer writer and Fownes Brewery groupie, for the duration of the event, enticing drinkers to our ales and ensuring they got a beer that suited their palate. In addition to Suzy we had other volunteers all too happy to wear Fownes merchandise and recommend our beers.
Among the most popular of the Dwarfen ales were Gunhild, Honey Ale, and Troll Hunter, an American style pale ale, 18 gallons of both were gone by late Friday afternoon. In the section of bar we occupied was a significant choice of dark beers and porters but when put to the taste test 9 out of 10 humans preferred King Korvak’s Saga. Goat Rider, our seasonal pumpkin ale, was completely devoured early on Saturday closely followed by Frost Hammer, leaving Firebeard’s Old Favourite No.5 and Ulfsberg Cross to satisfy the late crowd on Saturday.
Some of the most enjoyable elements of the week included the food and the folks we met. Catering at the festival was superb, providing a wide range of exotic meats that were right up any dwarfs alley. We sampled elk, springbok, wild boar, bison, zebra, venison, lama and wagyu beef although the highlight was a bison burger with stilton cheese melted on top. In terms of the folks we met there was of course all the Nottingham CAMRA members who’d been to visit the brewery a few weeks earlier as well as those we’d met at the Salmon in Leicester. Nigel Barker from the Wellington in Birmingham popped by to say hello as did Martin from Black Country Ales. Both Sadler’s and Craddock’svisited our bar and sampled our ales. There were also a number of Games Workshop staff on a work social who came over to see what was going on with our heroic beers and were excited by the prospect of drinking Dwarfen ale. We also met up with the organisers of Birmingham Beer Festival which we’re sending beer to and a nice man from Google who offered to map the inside of our brewery to add to Google Street View. Thank you to everyone who came and said hello. Lots of local people at the event were so impressed with our beers that they wanted to know where they could get them and we were only to happy to point them in the direction of the Falcon Inn which handily had an advert on the page next to our listing.
Never ones to pass up an opportunity to grab entrants for our Beard of the Yearwe were amazed at just how many beards there were so restricted ourselves to just inviting those who drank our beer to enter. The best find of the event was when we looked down the bar and saw a familiar beard. After a short introduction we discovered that it was indeed Big Ben the Executioner, a beard who’d be sent to us at the Wolverhampton beer festival but who we’d never met. You know it’s an impressive beard when you can spot it in a crowd.
On Thursday we also took Story John along with us to mingle with the drinkers and astound them with tales of Dwarfen legend and humour. He worked a difficult crowd at times but those who were enthralled by the tales came and sought out the beer and stayed for a chat. Thursday also saw us find our best customer. In a festival of over a 1000 beers, she decided early on in the day that Goat Rider was clearly as good as it was going to get and over the course of the afternoon must have partaken of about 3 pints, a third at a time. Saturday afternoon was Ladies Day on the bar and there was no shortage of volunteers wanting to get their hands on the very limited number of t-shirts we’d taken with us.
This years festival also had an app, enabling the drinkers who found it (or were so inclined) to rate the beers they’d tried and share their thoughts. Below are a selection of screen shots from the app. To put the number of votes in context, most of the bigger breweries didn’t get many more votes for an individual beer. Out of 28,000 visitors it could have perhaps done with better advertising.
It was an amazing week with fabulous feedback and some great fun along the way. But it wouldn’t be have been complete without our friends at Lincoln Green Brewery who not only stored and delivered our beer but also showed us great hospitality by putting us up for the week. Cheers guys.
We’re already looking forward to next years event and other opportunities we get to visit Nottingham and it’s CAMRA members.