As Borough Wines’ beer and cider buyer, who better than Mitch Adams to guide Imbibe Live’s beer programme? Just don’t ask who won last year’s beer and cider food matching against Tom Oliver…
What on earth tempted you to come back to Imbibe Live as Beer Ambassador for a second year?
I thought last year was absolutely brilliant. It’s really exciting putting that kind of programme of events together and hopefully we can build on what we did last year.
What’s making the UK beer scene exciting at the moment?
There’s a lot of exciting new breweries coming through. We’ve got 2,000 breweries in the UK at the moment and lots of people are experimenting with different styles of beer, so I don’t think we’ve ever had a more diverse beer industry in the UK. I think the most interesting things are happening at the craft end, and its reporting better results than mainstream brewers, hence the reason they’re buying into craft as Heineken just has with Beavertown.
Why did you choose lager as the subject of your beer challenge this year?
Lager is a huge trend at the moment with the smaller brewers tackling lager recipes and producing an array of different lagers.
Lager is seen as a very difficult beer to brew – there’s nowhere to hide and it doesn’t allow you to have any faults. From a brewers point of view it’s a challenge, and if they can brew a good lager, then that’s something to be proud of and shout about.
It’s still one of the biggest-selling types of beer in the world and if the craft market is going to grow further, they’re going to need to convert some of those macro-drinking lager lovers over.
Which lagers are going down well with Borough Wines’ customers?
Redchurch’s Brick Lane Lager, which is in the final, is a great seller with us, also Bianca Road Lager, which is a really lovely small brewer down in Bermondsey. Five Point Pils is a cracking beer as well and the guys down at Orbit produce some brilliant things in the lager realm.
How does the programme you’ve put together for the show reflect beer world at large?
One real issue is the dinosaurs in the industry who think selling beer is all about sticking a naked lady on the front of the label, or that to sell beer to women it has to be pink or have raspberries in it or something.
The industry needs to adapt, grow up and modernise, so I’m really excited that we’ve got Pete Brown and Jess Mason doing a talk How to sell beer to anybody, focusing on showing bar staff how they can be more open to different kinds of people and how to sell different style of people without assuming that if it’s a woman, she won’t like a double IPA and so on.
Another trend we’re seeing at Borough Wines is low- and no-alcohol beer, whether it’s Big Drop or Nirvana or Stiegl’s new beers. We started working on them in Summer last year and it’s a category that’s continually building. Emma Inch’s session on Free From, which’ll cover gluten-free and vegan as well as no- and low-alcohol will be great.
What is Ed Hughes’ Beer Street Feast going to involve?
Food matching is very close to my heart. It’s a different platform to talk about beer and cider, and to introduce them to audiences who wouldn’t normally go to a beer tasting. It’s gives a different perspective and point of view on beer. From my experience it often encourages people, who wouldn’t otherwise, to bring it into their drinking portfolio or just to try a new style.
The fact beer isn’t seen as an accompaniment to food traditionally is definitely a cultural thing, because it’s not the same in other countries. In Belgium and Germany, beer goes hand-in-hand with food, even with fine dining.
How did the Tapsters semi final go this week?
There were four really good teams, but we could only put two through, [which were Brewhouse & Kitchen and the New World Trading Company]. They were all really passionate and the front-of-house staff in our bars and pubs often miss out some of the praise sommeliers and chefs get, and don’t get the chance to show off their exceptional knowledge. It really showed that being a hospitality team should be a career and that’s a culture change that we really need in the UK.
The final was a hoot last year. I think we’re throwing cider again, not sure if we have a paddling pool again, but it’s always a giggle.
Anything else you’re looking forward to seeing?
I’m actually looking forward to going along to some of the cider events, which I missed all of last year.
Obviously I’m very disappointed I’m not going head to head on the food matching with Tom Oliver in Beer versus Cider this year, but we’ve decided we’re going to try and shoehorn it in next year if we can get invited back.
Who won last year?
We don’t talk about that. Beer will be having its comeback in 2019!
While you’re here…