Twisted Barrel Ale, Hmmmm
Twisted Barrel Ale launched onto the Coventry beer scene back in March 2014 as the UK’s first ‘pico brewery’. Wait, there’s a Coventry beer scene? Let’s start that again. From the beginning this time…
The inspiration behind Twisted Barrel Ale, arguably the pioneers of the Coventry beer scene, came from New Zealand some time before 2014. We’ll let head brewer Ritchie Bosworth explain.
“It all started for me whilst I was living in New Zealand where they didn’t really have much of the mass-produced lager I was used to drinking. So I started getting into ales. When I came home I realised all my friends had got into craft beer as well.”
His beer curiosity continued via a podcast called All Hail The Ale. The levels of beer geekery moved up another level when Ritchie and (fellow co-founder) Chris Cooper got home-brew kits for Christmas from their respective partners.
Not content with following other people’s recipes they began brewing their own creations for friend’s weddings and stag dos. This led them to question how hard it would be to register as a commercial brewery. According to Ritchie it’s actually rather straightforward. Twisted Barrel was born.
They started out as the UK’s then smallest commercial brewery, operating on a tiny 60 litre brew kit. It was a family affair too. Everyone mucked in.
“Our partners would come and help make about 120 bottles a fortnight which we sold to local off-licences, cafes and bars.”
In January 2015 the decision was made to take the brewery to another (larger) level and Ritchie swapped life in accountancy for that of a brewer.
Six months later Twisted Barrel opened the doors of their gleaming new 1,000 litre brewery and tap house. In Coventry. Yes, Coventry. Not a place we’d normally associate with a burgeoning craft beer scene is it Ritchie?
“The Midlands has a fantastic reputation as being the home of traditional ale. There is this massive heritage and fantastic history for brewing but in a way that’s almost holding us back from taking that next step. There are some fantastic beers but not that many free houses to sell to so that’s the difficulty we’ve faced. You’re starting to see that change and it’s getting exciting”
You’d be hard pushed to find a better site for a brewery too. Nestled amongst a host of other indie businesses, artists, coffee and bookshops. Their tap house is proving a popular local attraction with regular themed events, movie nights, home-brew club, open mic sessions and, err, the opportunity to taste their great beers. And we do mean great beers, we’re yet to try one that one of us doesn’t rave about.
Ritchie and Chris have built a fine team over the past 18 months. Although Chris has kept his day job in IT he maintains his position as the brewery director and can often be found helping out at the tap house of a weekend (assisting Aran, Jamie and Abi). Helping share some of the brewing responsibility is Carl - who many of you will know as @ThaBearded1 on Twitter.
Which brings us to this week’s beer, Hmmmm which we’ve nagged them into making in sufficient quantities for you lovely people. This is Twisted Barrel’s take on a classic pale ale. Only you’ll notice that it isn’t actually that pale. In fact, it’s practically amber. It’s only the impressive amount of hops that belie this beer’s pale ale inspiration. The result is a really well-balanced beer that is dangerously drinkable given its 6% abv.
It’s an unusual name for a beer. Ritchie explains...
“Hmmmm started out as a bit of an experiment when I was expanding the business into our new unit at FarGo Village, and I set myself the arbitrary task of creating a beer from ingredients that all began with the same letter. The first iteration was called Mmmm - named after Maris Otter malt, Munich malt, Magnum bittering hops and Mosaic aroma/dry hops. We put it on the bar on our opening weekend and it was very popular, and weirdly everyone that took the first sip went 'mmmm' so the name just kinda stuck.”
Err, okay. So where does the H come from?
“One snag we hit was that we only had Mosaic hops in pellet form and our big kit doesn't handle pellets very well… So, in the next iteration we introduced Huell Melon hops and the beer became Hmmmm! Huell Melon adds a nice light strawberry flavour to the beer and complements it well.”
For a pale ale it’s actually not that pale. This is down to the prodigious use of Munich malt which gives the beer those deep caramel and toffee notes. However, it’s the generous amount of hops that brings out its pale ale qualities. This is an easy drinking beer with great thirst quenching properties. The kind you want to drink with a pizza. Just watch out for the 6% abv, it could catch you unawares.