I had a chance to collar Sam Richardson, one of the partners of Other Half Brewing, on the occasion of the Brooklyn brewery’s tap takeover at the King’s Arms on Buckfast Street at the end of September. After that brief candid chat, a few choice quotes stuck in my mind. Here they are, in no particular order, along with my thoughts.
“I don’t think the IPAs travelled particularly well. If I was to do this again, I’d have them flown over.”
This statement of candour from the person who made the beer was more than appreciated. Quite often, you get a brewery rep, excited about the prospect of opening or expanding a market, wax lyrical about the quality of the beer the punters are sampling. While around me London beer fans were sampling and complimenting the flavors of the various IPAs the pub had on from Other Half, I couldn’t help but think there was a certain muted characteristic to them, or a lack of balance. The double IPA, All That and Then Some, in particular had a harsh boozy heat to it that I wouldn’t expect from such a hyped brewery.
According to Richardson, the beers had arrived via normal channels, by definition spending about a month at sea. However, with the size of their production, getting enough kegs for an event of this type meant that some beers inevitably waited for some time before the full quantity was shipped out. Compared to the freshness of India Pale Ales in the United States, the difference was marked. At the same time, it highlighted the quality and freshness of IPA available from domestic producers in the UK.
“This isn’t a sales thing for us. It’s an excuse to get over here, see what’s happening.”
Other Half are a small brewery. They are not in a position to export outside New York state, let alone outside the United States. This one-off was as much a learning experience for the brewery partners and a chance to network as it was for us drinkers to get to try their beers. Richardson did mention that they had space in their marketing budget for events like this, and I am glad they chose to use it this way, as the beers were by and large very, very good. The wood-aged and sour beers, in particular, were absolutely stunning.
“I don’t go to the Great American Beer Festival anymore”.
The US craft beer scene is huge compared to anything that is happening in the UK. The fact that a brewer can choose to deliberately distance themselves from the hoolabaloo that is the spectacle of GABF and still gain a momentous following is encouraging to artisan producers who do (necessarily) court mass markets. The fact that in a country as brimming with fresh, innovative beers as the United States, a brewery that is less than two years old can make waves like Modern Times have is encouraging to everyone interested in beer. There is scope for cool things, and we can expect to see plenty, even with the consolidation and acquisition initiated by the big breweries.