It is strange how good ideas often come from the coming together of a set of disparate ideas and how great ideas can grow from rather casual beginnings into a Eureka moment. The origin of our new Albion Ales, British hops series is an example of all those things.
One of our passions is chamber music, and we have a friend, Fraser Wilson who works with our favourite Sheffield Chamber Music group, Music in The Round. Fraser also heads up Albion Choir, a venture of his own which brings together a small group of mainly young singers to sing Fraser’s new arrangements of songs from these islands. As the choir’s website says “Uniquely among choral groups, ALBION sings the music of "these islands" – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales – and further afield. The islands’ musical heritage stretches back a thousand years, offering a rich store of treasures: dances, folksongs, madrigals, plainsong chants, airs, anthems, and more. In their variety and beauty, they lie at the heart of Albion’s inspiration.” www.albionchoir.org.uk
Having met Fraser one day just before Christmas 2013 at Sharrowvale street market, where he was enthusiastically flogging the choir’s Christmas CD and Christmas concert in Millhouses, we went to one of the concerts and were completely entranced by the haunting arrangements, fabulous singing and interesting staging. We have been loyal followers ever since.
We arranged to have a Moonshine with Fraser before one of the Music in the Round concerts in May and he shared with us his passion for this music, adding that he thought some of the themes and names in these songs would make excellent names for beers in the spirit of many of the Abbeydale names. We discussed it again when Fraser and his friend Duncan visited the brewery for a rather boozier afternoon one Saturday.
Our initial thought was a little dismissive – so many people think they have good ideas for beer names and so few of them actually are good names – but this idea niggled and would not go away.
In our brewery we do use some English hops but most of our hops are from the US, Australia or New Zealand, mainly because these hops deliver the flavours we love. (–and we can digress for hours on why the flavours are different in English and new world hops). But there are some really good English hops around and English growers are developing new varieties which pack more flavor. We had done our Four Yorkshiremen of the Apocalypse beer using specifically English hops and the British Hops logo and recently we have used some experimental English hops to good effect. So perhaps the time was ripe for us to support British hop growers by doing more beers making a feature of English hops. Fraser’s suggestion melded well with that notion. Eureka!
The other aspect to selling beer is the pumpclip, and anyone familiar with our beers and especially the specials, will know that we have a very talented artist locked in a cupboard (for his own safety, honest) who generates amazing ideas and images for our pumpclips. So I ran the idea past him. As a patriotic soul with his own wide knowledge of music and poetry, he embraced it willingly. Eureka! And with a final homage to our friend Fraser and the Albion choir, the Brit-hop Albion Ale series of beers was born.
The first in the series is an extra-special beer made with freshly harvested green hops – there is a separate blog about this very special beer. Next up in the series is a Full English Breakfast Stout.
And do check out the forthcoming concerts for both Albion and Music in the Round, both local ventures providing world-class music and well worth giving a try and supporting.