Taste & Swap Day 2012

The Oxford Brewers Group’s Annual taste and swap event was held on the 16th June, at the now customary Marston Scout Hut Hall.

This year’s speaker was Mattias Sjoberg, group member and founder / owner of the Compass Brewery. Mattias told us all about the journey of setting up his brewery and his beers.

Mattias took the decision with his brewery to pursue the bottled beer market. Cask ale predominates in the UK, and he got some strange looks from people that heard that he wasn’t going to supply pubs with casks, just bottles. But as the pub scene is changing quite noticeably in the UK (with many closing on a weekly basis) this opens up a lot of food establishments that do beer, rather than just pubs that do food.

By producing bottled beer it also allowed him to make use of underutilised brewery equipment in other breweries to produce his beer, and allowed him to store his beer, in bottles, that are much more portable and require a lot less capital investment (no need for lots of costly kegs).

Mattias then took us through some of his beers, with samples of them all to try. Additionally he also brought along a trial beer that will be introduced to his range later in the year that we all had a chance to try. A very nice Belgian based ale that will compliment his range well.

As his business expands, Mattias is now in the process of establishing his own business premises that will allow him to bottle, store and eventually brew all under one roof.

We then moved on to the tasting of our own beers.

The group challenge of brewing a kit beer, and seeing what you could make of it produced some quite different beer styles, but everyone that took part certainly looked at what they could do to add or enhance the kit base. The general consensus was that although the beers were better than their original beer kits, they proved to be much more expensive to produce (double was not an uncommon increase) but also lacked a maltiness that fresh pale malt produces. There is a belief that the malt extract contains high levels of barley syrup with added enzymes, rather than just pure malted extracts, this may account for it. Also a questions as to whether the process of removing the water from the malt extract to condense it may also drive off some of the malt flavours and aromas.

A number of other beers were also brought along to be tried, from soured ales through to beers produced to be clones of popular ales like Kipling.

Another great event, and thanks to Peter for organising this year’s event.

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