On a new feature for the site, we at Inside the Cask have had the opportunity to talk with Chris France, the Founder and Director of BeerHawk.co.uk about the wonderful world of Beers.
I first met Chris France (and Mark Roberts also – pictured on the right),the co-founders of BeerHawk.co.uk, 16 years ago before any of us entered the world of spirits and beer. The company BeerHawk.co.uk was established in 2012 and acts as an online eCommerce site specialising in Beer and “hunting the World’s Best Beers” on our behalf, as they say!
Chris was kind enough to make himself available so we could ask some questions on the world of Craft beer and BeerHawk.co.uk.
Inside the Cask: so Chris, what does the term craft actually mean? Is it not just a fad/ trend?
Chris France: Weirdly for a term that’s so widely used that’s still a really big question. In America there’s a very strict definition from the Brewer’s Association of what constitutes craft beer detailing things like maximum size of the brewery. In Britain it’s not defined by any group so some breweries slap the word “craft” all over their beer and use it mainly as a marketing term.
For me it’s not easily definable but it’s to do with whether it’s a great beer, brewed by passionate people, using cracking ingredients.
What it isn’t is some sort of proxy for “new”. Some of the best beers in the world have been brewed using the same recipes for hundreds of years and it really winds me up when the likes of Westmalle and Weihenstephaner get overlooked because they’ve been around so long. Is it a fad? I don’t think so. It’s part of a wider trend of people getting interested in food and drink and it’s an industry in which Britain has a world class heritage.
Inside the Cask: OK, so help us understand what differentiates craft beer to mainstream beer? And anyway, why should anyone care?
Chris France: You should care because good beer tastes better. The beers we supply through Beer Hawk have all been through our tasting panel and vetted to be among the best on the planet. We reject over 95% of the beers that are sent for consideration and that moment when you taste a beer that makes you pause, look at your glass and say “Wow” is just an amazing thrill- it’s a country mile from the stuff you so regularly find on supermarket shelves.
Inside the Cask: Does that statement still apply when a craft beer company is purchased by a large global beer corporation? Should a craft beer not be independent to be considered craft?
Chris France: I think it certainly can. Take Goose Island which was among the first of the these acquisitions, they’re still making amazing beer nearly 6 years on and it was Goose IPA that first opened my eyes to the fact beer could be really, really special (it’s still a go to beer when I’m stocking my own fridge).
The larger companies that are buying craft breweries have bought them exactly because they make great beer.
If they went in and changed the recipes to use cheaper ingredients and completely lost the wow factor in the beer then they’d have destroyed the very point of their purchase in the first place. I think it also helps spread the word for brilliant beer as it means better availability of the great stuff out there. “A rising tide lifts all boats” and all that.
Inside the Cask: Is there a difference between beer on tap and canned or bottled beer?
Chris France: Yep hugely. I’ve lost count of the amount of times where I’ve tried a beer on cask or keg at a beer festival and then tried it in bottle or can later and thought “Meh! That’s not good enough for us” There’s a real art to getting your beer into whatever dispense method a brewery chooses and most breweries struggle to be great at mastering all of them.
Inside the Cask: How many different types or styles of beer/ ale are there? How can someone interested on this topic find out more if interested?
Chris France: The Brewers’ Association have defined about 150 different ones for 2016 and add in 5 to 10 per year as breweries are always innovating and pushing the boundaries and creating new styles. They’re websites a bible of information https://www.brewersassociation.org/resources/brewers-association-beer-style-guidelines/
Inside the Cask: What drives and acts as the main influencers of flavour in beer?
Chris France: There’s clearly an influence from the skill of the brewer and the kit they use, but the main influence is from the ingredients. There’s 4 core ingredients in beer; water, barley, hops and yeast and it’s the last of these three that are the main influencers. Lots of breweries do a single hopped beer where they just use a single hop variety – give some of those a try and you’ll really see the difference between a Sorachi versus a Citra hopped beer.
Inside the Cask: So, how can you define quality in beer?
Chris France: Just don’t be too snobby about it.
Beer should be accessible and if you love the way a beer tastes that’s all that matters regardless of what anyone else says about it.
There are some classic “off flavours” that you might look for if you’re getting technical about it – things like butterscotch, metallic flavours or cardboard, but if it makes you go “wow” that’s a quality beer.
Inside the Cask: Finally, what is BeerHawk and what service does it provide?
Chris France: Our goal is simply to help people enjoy beer more. We have a range of over 500 of the best beers in the world that we deliver to homes across UK & Ireland. Some you’ll know, some will surprise but they’re all amazing and there’s free delivery on purchases over £50 too.
Also the code insidethecask will get you an extra 10% off – Enjoy!
On that note, Inside the Cask would like to thank Chris France and the team at BeerHawk.co.uk for the time taken for this chat on the world of Beers and the very kind code offer for 10% off! Thanks guys!
Extract from BeerHawk.co.uk:
At Beer Hawk, we personally dip our beaks into thousands of beers, far and wide.
This is not just because we love beer. We also love using our beery tastebuds to hunt out speciality bottled beers for you, our customer, from artisan breweries all over the world. From Germany to New Zealand, Belgium to Norway, our selection of beers cater to all beer tastes and tolerances.
With a stock of more than 400 delicious ales to choose from, our beer store houses everything from best-selling Belgian beers to real ales and wheat beers, all made with a passion and quality that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. And if you’re looking for a beer-themed gift for the beer lover in your life, take a look at our popular beer gifts page – guaranteed to get you in the good books.
When you buy beer online at Beer Hawk, you not only benefit from FREE DELIVERY on all orders over £50, our quick turnaround means you’ll never be caught short of cracking beer or last-minute beer gifts.