Beer Festivals

London Vegan Beer Festival

#LVBF14 logoI’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian – so it was with some trepidation that I decided “yes” to Jolly Good Beer being invited to the London Vegan Beer Festival. I respect people who choose the option to forgo meat in their diet, doubly so if it is meat and all other animal products as vegans do. I even sometimes wish I had the resolve to make the same sacrifice, but cheese would be my downfall, and probably seafood. So I do my best to eat ethically – but whilst knowing there will always be ethical compromise in participating in the animal products supply chain.

One area where there need be no compromise is with good beer. Use of animal products in good beer production is, in my opinion, non-essential. The non-vegan nature of a lot of beer is a result of a market that “drinks with its eyes” to create a demand for an ideal of beer that is “pin bright”. And a fine technical achievement that is too… however my experience of side-by-side tastings of fined and unfined beers shows no real advantage to using finings. (It is, of course, far more complex than this in reality… feel free to have a chat about it if you’re interested.)

Anyway – enough technicalities. Vegans can celebrate the new wave “craft beer movement” with everyone else as, for the most part, it is a world of vegan friendly beers. We also have more and more breweries going 100% unfined for everything including cask. Of the breweries Jolly Good Beer deals with we have three that are 100% unfined: Bexar County Brewery (Peterborough), Moor Beer (Somerset), and Weird Beard Brew Co (London). Moor is a strong proponent of unfined beer – arguing that it reliably tastes better than the fined alternative. This is widely debated – but with Moor beers being amongst the most highly rated in the British craft brewing scene there seems to be some substance to Moor’s argument. Then there is the growing keg market, nearly all progressive flavourful keg beer is vegan friendly. We have several examples of vegan-friendly keg beers from breweries who fine the cask equivalents due to market demand for cask beers to be bright, or rather the perception that hazy beer is “off”. (Beer being vegan-friendly is not only about finings of course, and some of these breweries will produce things like lacto/milk stouts and beers with things like chocolate in them that may not be vegan friendly.)

Anyway – on to the important stuff: the beer -our main strategy for the beer we’re bringing to LVBF is: bring far too much (we hope), and the more people drink the more different beers we will be able to present… *hint*hint*! Additionally there is a focus on providing a diversity of styles; lager, nitro stout, hoppy pale beer, hoppy red beer, hoppy dark beer, wheat beer, farmhouse ale… The confirmed beer lineup, including “backups”, is as follows. But please note that as some beers benefit from settling time we cannot guarantee the order they’ll be on nor that they’ll be on at all. We won’t serve anything we don’t think is 100% fantastic to drink.


  • Waen LlagerThe Waen Brewery – Llanidloes, Powys, Wales

    Llager (4.2%) a fantastic Welsh lager – unfiltered, unfined, uncompromising.

    backup: more Llager! Llager, llager, llager!

    All Waen bottled beers are vegan friendly, as are all their porters and stouts  – as is the Llager of course!

  • Infra RedHardknottMillom, Cumbria

    Infra Red (6.2%) There are Black IPAs all over the place these days, so why not a Red IPA? “Some people like beers that are pale and hoppy. Some people like beers that are darker and sweeter. Some people just see red whenever they hear the words “crystal malt” We’ll be honest in saying that not only is there a huge amount of hops in this beer, but also a healthy chug of crystal malt.” Deep ruby red, earthy orange and caramel nose, sweet toffee start, peppery dark roast parsnips and a long bitter finish.

    Azimuthbackup: Azimuth (5.8%) A clean flavoured IPA made with a mix of hops from around the Pacific rim, Some West Coast USA C hops, but rounded off with a balance of NZ hops just for the hell of it. At 5.8% it’s a perfect beer geek’s session beer.

    All Hardknott beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

  • Moor Somerset (depends on settling*)

    Moor-IllusionIllusion (4.5%) Illusion is inspired by the awesome beer style created in the States known as Imperial Black Ale (or Black IPA, or whatever you want to argue it should be called). Moor source the special malt required from Germany and the hops from America to create a beer of stunning depth and complexity. The result is a beer that wraps all the wonderful hop profiles of a pale ale inside a silky black exterior. It is truly an Illusion that deceives your eyes and dazzles your taste buds. Initially brewed as a special release, we love drinking this beer so much that we keep it on year-round. It is great on its own or with food – particularly at BBQs, including vegan ones!

    Moor-Radiancebackup: Radiance (5.0%) “This is the one I love to enjoy with friends on warm summer evenings. On cold winter nights it takes me back to those great times. Radiating a beautiful golden hue, the fresh herbal aroma invites you in and insists that you stay. Lovely cereal flavours give way to a clean, dry finish. As good by the fire pit as by the fireplace.” – Justin, Brewer/Owner Moor Beer

    All Moor beers (keg, cask, and bottle) are vegan friendly.
    * Moor beers are keg conditioned – which means they have a lot of sediment in the keg. If we treat them carefully in transit they may be good to go on the day. If we are not happy with them we will switch in some of the other backups instead. We shall try our best!

  • Wit-Marie_kegIlkley Brewery – Ilkley, Yorkshire

    Wit Marie (4.5%) Originally brewed for the inaugural IndyManBeerCon in 2012, it became a firm favourite nationwide and is now a recurring special from Ilkley Brewery. Wit Marie is a naturally hazy Belgian Wit Bier, brewed using specially sourced yeast. Ilkley also add orange peel and coriander seeds to compliment the floral aroma and to give the beer added depth of flavour. Delicately delightful.

    SiberiaKegbackup: Siberia (5.9%) Brewed in collaboration with Melissa Cole, we have used world famous Yorkshire Rhubarb to add a hint of sourness. There is earthy spice, and fresh vanilla from this naturally hazy Saison. Refreshing on the palate, with a long, satisfying bittersweet finish. Proving a big hit in the USA, this version is brewed specifically for keg dispense, and the carbonation lifts all of the composite flavours beautifully.

    Ilkley’s bottled beers are all vegan friendly, and of their keg the Wit Marie and Siberia are as well.

  • lanterne kegSummer WineHolmfirth, Yorkshire

    Lanterne Rouge (4.0%) – Tour de France Special! It is a red farmhouse ale – a classic French beer style more commonly known as “saison”, this is brewed using French Aramis hops. I have no brewery notes for this but I’d expect typical saison richness, slight funky fruit, and spicy tones from the Aramis.

    backup: TBC

    All Summer Wine beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

  • Axe EdgeBuxton – Buxton, Derbyshire

    Axe Edge (6.8%) Full flavoured, strong India Pale Ale. Now hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. This beer has a pale straw-amber body, and pours with a full creamy head. Its complex flavours include mandarin orange, schnapps, pineapple, and juicy tropical fruits. It is warmingly alcoholic with a dry finish. [It will take all my willpower not to drink all of this one myself!]

    Wild Boarbackup: Wild Boar (5.7%) Wild Boar pours a pale straw colour with a fluffy white head. It has aromas of spicy lime and mango, with distinct flavours of honey malt and fruit punch, followed by a dry bitter finish.

    All Buxton beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

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  • Outstanding StoutOutstandingBury, Lancashire

    Stout (5%) A true “nitro stout” – think the fantastic texture and look of Guinness but with bundles more flavour and vegan friendly. Brewed to be truly outstanding.

    No backup… we have 50 litres of the stout!

    All Outstanding keg products are vegan friendly.


Bexar County Brewery – Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

We have three cask ales supplied “bright” by Peterborough’s Bexar County Brewery, huge thanks to owner-brewer Steve for sorting this out for us! Bexar produces a lot of fun beers that are usually a bit different and exciting – and our three beers from him certainly shows this I think. Bexar is a 100% unfined brewery – so all beers they produce are vegan friendly aside from some specialities that should be obvious (i.e. lacto/milk stouts that use lactose).

  • San Antonio de BejarSan Antonio de Bejar (4.1%) Bexar’s take on the “pale and hoppy” style. With a silent “j” in the name. Like the brewery name it is pronounced “bear”… what is it with Texans…?! 😉





  • Coffee Mild Pump ClipTexas Pecan Coffee Mild (3.9%) Non-traditional mild with a hint of pecan coffee imported from San Antonio specially for this brew. Dark and delicious with the taste of coffee. A hint of pecan to finish.





  • Vegan Vampire Juice (blueberry)Vegan Vampire Juice (Blueberry) (6.0%)  A refreshing wheat beer with a fruity twist, this is the blueberry version – made by adding real blueberries to the cask! Not a special just for this event, Bexar has been doing various editions of VVJ for a while. A regular find at East Anglian beer festivals. We only have a “pin” of this, that’s 4.5 gallons, so get in quick!



Apple Cottage LogoApple CottageBaldock, Hertfordshire

Last, but not least, and also not beer… we have some fun vegan-friendly ciders from my friends at Apple Cottage. A pint of cider – one of your 5-a-day, right? Maybe your doctor wouldn’t agree, however it makes for a fantastic drinking option for people with gluten, wheat, and barley related allergies. We only have 20 litres of each of these – enjoy them while they last!

  • Apple Crumble (Med Dry)
    This cider has been made with apples from local orchards from around Baldock using a blend of different varieties with no chemical additives. This is a medium dry cider that has a distinct flavour.
  • Ginger Whinger (Sweet)
    This cider is made from local orchards around Baldock using a variety of apples with no chemical additives. slow fermentation keeps all the natural flavours to this fruity cider, smooth, sweet with plenty of flavour, matured in ginger storage containers giving it an extra ginger taste. The first barrel out went to Hitchin Beer Festival 2013 and won Cider of the Festival.
  • KT (Medium/Sweet)Made from a blend of Katy apples, fruity, appley aroma, well balanced finish, very light straw in colour with exceptional taste easy to drink.
  • Rumble – rum cask cider (Sweet)
    This cider has been made from local orchards from around Baldock using a blend of apple varieties, made without any chemicals or additives. Similar to Swish Cider, this Cider has been matured in Oak Rum Casks for a number of months giving it a blackcurrant sweet and fruity flavour.

Now, I’ve got to finish building the bar for this event…

Beer News

Beer Update

I just popped my weekly stock update out to the mailing list and thought I’d post a bit of it here! [Edited a bit, but mostly as sent.]

Some of the beers I want to source come at low prices, others have to travel further and/or come from breweries who’re selling their beers so successfully that they have no need to compete with lowest-common-denominator pricing. My stance on this is that you should price beers appropriately to their cost and not based on ABV. Some beers are simply worth more than others. This won’t work for everyone, I know – I think the beers are worth it but it is up to you to make your own decision on that.

Anyway, wow… the stock list is properly making me want a pint right now. It doesn’t help that this is a rather long email – they’ll be shorter usually! Feel free to scroll past my gumph straight to the list below.

Michelle at Offbeat is one of my favourite brewers, the brewery slogan is simply “great beer brewed by a chick” – and the beer really is great. If you ever have a reason to be in Crewe on the 1st Friday of a month do attend “Firsty Friday“… a proper “piss up in a brewery” featuring a range of beers from Offbeat and friends, plus live music and good food.

The superstar of the list this week however is Moor… a phenomenal brewery down in Somerset producing beers often described as “rare as hen’s teeth” in cask and keg form. Every Moor beer on my list has a RateBeer score over 90 for its style, four of them are 99 and 100 scorers. The Moor cask and keg beers are all secondary-conditioned in the container (yes, even the keg) and they all taste fantastic. In the case of the keg this does mean the kegs are best given a few days to settle before going on.

Now: UNFINED beer? Everything from Moor, Moncada, and Weird Beard is unfined. This is good news for vegetarians, not to mention vegans. But there’s more to it than that – Justin at Moor is probably the UK’s strongest proponent of unfined beers and has written this about them: What is Natural Beer? Justin has also written some details on the cellaring of his unfined beers: Cellar Management Tips – all good advice. The primary item of importance is that “unfined” isn’t meant to mean “murky”, with appropriate cellaring there should be no more than a light haze or cast – and some will drop totally bright given time.

As it happens, this morning Pete Brown has published an article that touches on this topic: With great beer comes great responsibility – it’s an excellent read. As usual from Pete Brown.

The other great breweries in the list have been discussed in previous emails. The Great Heck arrived at the coldstore yesterday and is ready and waiting to go out. Their Treasure IPA is a luscious 4.8% well hopped golden ale with a 98 on RateBeer – but I also have a more traditional beer from these guys in the form of Navigator. Sadly there was a problem with the Powermouse brew so that will not be available but the Treasure, Yakima, and Citra should keep the hopheads happy!

The stock list now includes RateBeer scores in the beer descriptions. I find RateBeer a good positive indicator of quality with everything above 50 for style being above average and anything above 80 being pretty damn good. It isn’t infallible but it is a useful yardstick. The colour “guestimations” remain, I’ll continue to do these.

To fill in the gaps in the above here’s the current stock-list table. I hope it makes you as thirsty as it makes me:

Beer Festivals

Spring Beer Festivals

Spring Blossom at Coniston
Spring Blossom at Coniston

I love a good beer festival – they’re excellent ways to explore a greater range of beers than are normally available. Part of the inspiration behind Jolly Good Beer is to help beer festivals out – in both expanding their range, supplying special requests where possible, and for those new to festivals we can also lend a hand and technical knowledge.

No need for the latter in the following cases however, three excellent festivals run by some of the most knowledgeable cellar folk in North Hertfordshire. Jolly Good Beer is helping out with all of them to varying degrees – from simply filling in the Coniston gaps in the Half Moon’s “every CBoB winner since 1996” list through to supplying a majority of the Our Mutual Friend’s list.

The Our Mutual Friend is an excellent pub on the edge of Stevenage – a multiple North Herts CAMRA “Pub of the Year” winner owned and run by beer lovers. They seek variety in their festivals lists and have asked Jolly Good Beer to help out with their festival that starts next week Thursday April 24th. Here’s what we have going to them:

  • Coniston Bluebird (3.6%) – 1998 Champion Beer of Britain & still going strong
  • Elland Nettlethrasher (4.4%) – copper coloured traditional “strong bitter”
  • Five Points Pale Ale (4.4%) – a fresh, zesty, aromatic pale ale
  • Hardknott Continuum (4.0%) – robust golden bitter with a big hop punch
  • Hardknott Lux Borealis (3.8%) – pale straw session beer with Aurora hops
  • Ilkley Joshua Jane (3.7%) – nut-brown traditional Yorkshire bitter
  • Ilkley Gold (3.9%) – perfectly balanced golden session ale
  • Ilkley Fireside Porter (4.2%) – wickedly warming porter
  • Mallinsons Indulgence (3.7%) – pale with loads of the 4 classic “C” hops
  • Mallinsons Kiwi Classic (4.4%) – pale with loads of NZ hops: Pacific Gem, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin
  • Weird Beard, Black Perle (3.8%) – milk coffee stout brewed with real coffee and Perle hops
  • Weird Beard, K*ntish Town Beard (5.6%) – hoppy “American Wheat Beer” brewed in collaboration with BrewDog’s Camden bar staff.
Our Mutual Friend beer linup
Our Mutual Friend beer linup
Coniston beers
Coniston beers

Moving a little north of Stevenage we have the Half Moon in Hitchin, another repeat PotY winner who’re regaining the trophy for 2014. This is Howard and Wendy’s “10th Anniversary Beer Festival” – celebrating a decade running the pub – and it’ll feature an amazing 60 different beers. This festival also starts next Thursday April 24th! (A good time for a train trip to North Herts?) A highlight of this festival is that Howard has collected together EVERY “CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain” since 1996. Jolly Good Beer helped out here by running all the way to Coniston to fetch:

  • Coniston Bluebird (3.6%) – 1998 Champion Beer of Britain and even now, 16 years later, it maintains a “99-for-style” in RateBeer. Fantastic.
  • Coniston No.9 Barley Wine (8.5%) – 2012 Champion Beer of Britain

That’s all we’re doing for the fest… but we’re very happy to have helped out and think the full list is absolutely fantastic. It was an excellent excuse for a bit of hillwalking followed by refreshments in Coniston Brewery’s own Black Bull pub.

Looking down on Coniston from the Old Man
Looking down on Coniston from the Old Man
Black Bull, Coniston
Black Bull, Coniston

Finally, a little further north again, we have the Baldock Independent Beer Festival starting on Friday May 2nd and running through Saturday and Sunday. This excellent festival is run by local enthusiasts to raise funds for charity. We haven’t finalised the list but it’ll feature many of the breweries already mentioned plus Summer Wine Brewery and Redemption Brewing Co beers will be making an appearance. Perhaps some other goodies from London as well if we get our hands on them in time. The photo below shows a selection of what we have lined up for Baldock.

Some Baldock Beer Festival beers
Some Baldock Beer Festival beers

Currently we also have beers at or destined for the Bank (Willingham), Mill (Cambridge), Maypole (Cambridge), Orange Tree (Baldock), Strathmore Arms (St. Paul’s Walden). And we’re working on getting the good stuff out further and wider and continuing to vary the range… as mentioned Summer Wine already teed up, we have an eye on Great Heck too, and Bristol Beer Factory down south – plus a wide-roving set of eyes focused on London. We’re always open to your suggestions… don’t hesitate to send your requests to @JollyGoodBeer on Twitter or via email to – or just use the comment form below!


What is "craft"?

We use the term “craft” – be it “craft beer”, “craft brewery”, and sometimes “craft bar”. But what does it mean?

That’s a very emotive & much-debated question in the British beer scene. The simple fact is that, whilst many have been proposed, we simply do not have a definition. Most arguments seem to boil down to “I know it when I taste it”… the utility of which isn’t really going to get us very far. The cynics (us, quite often) say it is a meaningless marketing term – to be used, and undoubtedly much-abused, by office-dwelling marketeers. Then there’s the nitty-gritty – folk who think it basically just means “keg” as opposed to “cask”, others who go by American definitions based on brewery size and ownership, and even those who will point out specific styles of beer as craft and not-craft. Basically, it’s all a bit of a damn mess.

But – if us Jolly Good Beer folk use the term – what do we mean by it? We’re a little hazy about this I’m afraid… but we think of it in fairly simple terms: good beer. We’re happy with an inclusive view of craft… and think that even if there was some industry definition a majority of savvy drinkers wouldn’t really pay it much heed and would stick with their own “know it when I see it” worldview.

So, what is “good beer”? In our idealised view it is beer that has been produced primarily for its own sake – not based on corporate budgets, market research, focus groups, and produced to the lowest-common-denominators. This doesn’t mean it is beer blindly brewed for love and not money! Brewers have to feed themselves and pay their rents and mortgages just like the rest of us.

We aren’t claiming this is “a definition of craft beer”… because how do you really measure any of that, and besides, even “good beer” is a subject of debate.

We regard all the beer we source and sell as bring “craft” – aka “good beer”. But we do believe that for a pub or bar to truly be a “craft” venue it has to embrace beer in all forms. The craft beer utopia is a pub where variety and excitement are available cask, keg, and bottle – no holds barred.


Getting the ball rolling…

I’ve been talking about doing a little bit of beer distribution in my area for several months now. Talking isn’t a hell of a lot of use though – so I’ve bought a van. I’ve made some lists… February 2014: it starts!

First stage is contacting the first breweries I’m keen to work with. Many of them are very popular and working at, or near, capacity already… but I have hopes that a few of my favourites will be accomodating. Watch this space.

Say hello to the Jolly Yellow Beer Van!

Jolly Yellow Beer Van
Jolly Yellow Beer Van