Can a small brewery lose three of their star brewers over a relatively short time and still be on top of their game? Chances are they can't. Nothing much has been written about it, but over the last two or three years or so, Marble, one of the most acclaimed breweries around has lost Dominic Driscoll, Colin Stronge and James Campbell. Has the beer suffered? Well I'd have to say "yes" - at least as far as the last few months go. Recent visits have found the beer to be distinctly lacking in the usual Marble character, with Pint being almost unrecognisable and Manchester a different tasting beer altogether. On a recent visit, as I sipped my beer tentatively, a lass beside me
asked if I was drinking Ginger Marble. I said I wasn't. "Just as well" said
she. "There's none in it!"
The beers just don't seem as well put together. Though not bad beers at all, they just aren't what they were. That of course is a common cry about breweries and worryingly, it is hard sometimes to get back to where you want to be, especially if collective brewing memory is gone. Now this isn't a pop at Marble. Brewing is an art and a science and good brewers are always very much sought after and have their own ambitions. They move on. That's as it should be. Recently Marble has recruited a new head brewer, Matthew Howgate, someone I've not heard of, but whose experience includes ABInBev, Molson Coors and Leeds Brewery. It may be that Matthew will produce a complete new set of beers and maybe that's fine too. Brewing doesn't stand still and while we all loved Pint in its best known incarnation, there may well be something different and even better to enjoy. You don't have to stay the same to be good, no matter how good you were.
From a Manchester point of view, I would like to see Marble continue to be recognised widely as one to seek out, but I'd say Matthew has a hard act or two to follow. I wish him luck.
Strangely (or not actually) the darker beers suffer less. Brewing good pale beers is that much more difficult. There is nowhere to hide.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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