A Maltese overview

george-cross

So what did I think of Malta overall, in terms of beery diversity? Not much change since the last time, if I’m honest. The giant that is Farson’s is still dominating and monopolising what is on sale to the public. I reckon they will continue to do so for a good long while. As I mentioned, they’ve even positioned themselves in a, fairly conservative, craftsploiting (acknowledgements to Boak & Bailey who inspired this term) niche with their higher ABV Double Red, IPA and bulked up Blue Label, complete with upgraded prices to match. Am I concerned here? About the prices … Yes, about the direction … No. Will they ever go into real ale … Cask? Never, it’s not the climate for it. Bottle conditioned? Maybe, lets wait and see.

Why do I say that? Have I got some insight? No, just a feeling because there are signs of a bit of a beer revolution going on in the Maltese islands.

At risk of sounding like Lloyd Grossman, lets look at the clues … There is already a history of strong links with the UK and with UK culture, particularly beer and football. You can go into British style, Maltese owned pubs that have endured for some considerable time, long after Maltese independence. Maltese blokes still go out drink British style pale ales, as well as local lagers. They also drink at home, and again there’s another similarity €6.54 for six 500ml cans in a supermarket against €3 a pint for Cisk in a pub!

Then, there’s the excellent Lord Chambray start up on Gozo. Professional set up, there seems plenty of financial clout behind it, two years on and they haven’t quite cracked it, but their beers are spot on. I’d love to see their products on every bar next time ago, on draught at a reasonable price instead of an overpriced bottle option.

Next we’ve got the first Brewpub on the islands Again, a very professional set up and money seems to be no option. I don’t see Ukranian money teaming up with established Maltese families for no reason. Personally, I see this venture potentially as the one that breaks the camels back, in terms of turning peoples heads against the mainstream monopoly. When this succeeds others will follow, and you then go back to Lord Chambray, giving them the ‘in’ I think they desperately need.

I didn’t mention another little brewery that I came across –The Phoenix. A small start up in an industrial unit out at Naxxar that stems from an Italian home brew enthusiast. I didn’t get chance to go and see him, but I tried a couple of the beers in one of the bars that is pushing out the beer revolution. You get a warning when you buy that this is a raw beer, something meant for those used to drinking the usual Maltese fare. Reasonably priced, very well presented real ales that have a pronounced craft style influence. Personally, if I could make home brew as good as this then I’d be like a pig in … Commercially? Just a bit lacking, a bit thin, a bit short and lacking in flavour. If Alessandro sees this, my genuine advice would be to keep going, keep improving, I think you are one of a few sparks that can get a bit of a blaze going. Be brave with your malt bill and go for bags full, as opposed to handfuls of hops.

The last piece of evidence is the existence of a chattering beery class, mainly younger people, as well as some established characters. Locals and people from the UK and mainland Europe who are enthusiastic about beer and who will pay the premium for something bit different, something new, as well as the established classics. It’s almost like a miniature UK, the only thing is, I see Malta going from a lager dominated marketplace and gently migrating to a more craft style environment, missing out the real ale rooted revolution that we experienced in the UK. Like I said earlier, Malta’s not really a cask real ale place, too many small outlets and anyway where would you keep it?

Harbour Brewing ‘Little Rock IPA’ – Day 2 of Coldwell’s Advent calendar

day-2-can

The can doesn’t want to come out at first, but as I ease it out I see the initials ‘H B’. I just bought a few cans of this Cornish brewers beer from Morribog’s on special offer; four cans for £6. On a positive, I like their gear, on the downside it’s currently available for  £1.50 a tin from the Potato King! Mind you, I’ve never seen or tasted Little Rock IPA.

Can: IPA style: That can only mean a period of isolation in the fridge with the other eight Harbour Brewing Co. cans in there. Just out of interest, there’s also; three bottles of Elvis Juice – I’m not keen and they have been donated to Mrs C, and three dozen cans of Bud. There’s also half a dozen botts. of St Austell Proper Job in the pantry, also on special offer at Morrisons – not half as nice as the cask version I had in The Globe, Weymouth  in the summer, not enough condition for me in these bottles. I could go into the merits of cans here? I like cans, for lots of reasons. I digress … let’s go back to Day 2 of the Beer Hawk Advent calendar.

Looking on a map I couldn’t find a harbour in Bodmin, Cornwall, where Harbour Brewing Co. are based? I couldn’t find any mention of Little Rock on the Harbour Brewing Co. web site neither? A few core beers and a few others in the shop (£3 per can!), but no Little Rock? Is it a one off special brewed for my Advent calendar? I doubt it. I found several references online, Untappd etc. and it’s described as an East coast style IPA, full malt body with Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic, £2.50 per can was the cheapest I saw it at. I like Harbour Brewing Co. beers, especially in cask, they’ve had them on occasionally in a few of the Leeds Brewery, now Cameron’s, pubs in Leeds and they are pretty decent.

day-2-beer

I poured my beer into a third glass today, leaving plenty of room to swirl it around. There’s no indication of when it was brewed on the can, only a best before date of July 2017 and the ABV  – 5.5%. The beer is quite dark amber almost brown, reddy brown, and bright. Initially there’s a head appearing as it pours which slowly disappears to leave a ring of foam around the periphery of the glass. The aromas are hops, hops and more hops, fruity hops. It’s dry, bitter, hoppy. There’s a malty taste of slightly burnt toffee, I guess some people might call that caramel? There’s some fruit flavours, but the overall impact is hops and a dark brown taste underlying it, not quite spicy cloves, more a woody barky feel.

Just checking out some of the tasting notes, from various sources I found online:

Caramelised hops – I get that, but thought it was the malt?

Thick peel orange marmalade – got the orange, wouldn’t go so far as marmalade?

Toasted white bread palate – not really.

Grassy green fresh pine needles – yeah, there’s some of that

Quick squeeze of lime zest – hint of, yes.

Strawberries – not really, but Mrs C detected strawberries on the nose and palate?

Pine, papaya, mango, Grapefruit, Red berries etc etc – Yeah, I got all the fruity, mainly grapefruity flavours you get from a mix of Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, Equinox and Amarillo hops.

It just shows again how widely tastes differ and there’s no real divergence from the Beer Hawk sommelier on their daily video. I hope she’s not wearing lip gloss today. Mind you, the flavours here would cut through any cosmetic grease.

I thought it was a bit like a bright version of Magic Rock Rapture. An American red style IPA. I like Rapture, I like Little Rock IPA, it’s everything you imagine a beer with all these hops in would taste like. You might not taste much else for a while afterwards! Overall? A nice drink. Acid test, would I buy it again? Definitely yes. I wished they had it in Morribog’s at four cans for £6.

Verdict – Advent calendar living up to expectations at the minute.

 

Day 1 of Coldwell’s Advent calendar – Two Roads ‘Workers Comp’ Saison.

2-roads-bott

Day 1 of Advent and here we go. Rip the flap open and there’s something nestled nicely inside. Out it comes. And it’s … a bottle of Two Rivers, Workers Comp Saison (4.8%).

Mmm? Not had one of their beers before. The brown bottle looks neat though. An attractive label in a sort of almost traditional, yet post modernist nineteenth century European style. The bottle is nice and clean, no dirt, no dust, or debris of any sort and it goes straight into the fridge, the Advent Calendar box having taken up residence in a corner on the first floor landing. I know it should have gone in the pantry-cum-cellar, with the bottles stood on the cool stone floor, but there’s no room for it. Nothing an hour in the door of the fridge won’t sort out though. There’s a whole debate on where we ought to be storing our beer for the optimum results, versus modern homes, but I’m not going there today.

So, what’s it like? Initially it’s quite lively as it pours from the 335ml brown bottle and forms a light but tall head, more bubbles than creamy froth, and they quickly dissipate leaving just a hint of a head and evidence of carbonation under the surface.

2-roads-glass

There’s an obvious sour aroma and citrus notes. In appearance it could be a real cider? It’s pale yellow/golden and very hazy. In fact almost cloudy. Doesn’t worry me, it says on the bottle that a natural harmless sediment may appear, and I expect it with this stye of beer anyway. What else does it say on the bottle? Brewed in August 2016 and best before May 2017.

At first it all feels a bit thin in the mouth. As you let things develop it gets a bit smoother and the initial sour, almost vinegar, hit calms down a bit letting other things through, whilst retaining the acidity.

The flavours I got were predominantly citrus, almost sherbet lemon at times, a hint of retsina like taste, and a brown coloured spice note underlying it. Not cloves, and a bit hard to put my finger on, almost black cardamon. In the background there was a touch of the bass notes you get in balsamic vinegar and caramel, salted caramel, because the finish was dry and salty.

I’m never going to go on a session drinking this style of beer, and I know that sour beers aren’t to everyone’s taste. Me? I quite like them, and there’s definitely a time and a place for this style. In terms of sourness, Two Rivers saison is not too sour. It’s nice sour, interesting sour.

That’s my take on it. But, what do others think? The Stratford Connecticut brewers tell me, on their web site, the beer is a, ‘complex, refreshing and distinctive example of this esoteric style. Intensely fruity (passion fruit, pineapple, mango, lychee), slightly spicy (clove, white pepper).’ Similar, but different to me, and different isn’t wrong.

Bottom line – Did I like it? Yes!

Did I enjoy it? Yes!

Sorted then, because that’s what matters. I don’t know where I stand on tasting notes? I will always respect other views, yet we all have different tastes and libraries of flavours. I mean, what if you’ve never tasted Lychees? What if you’ve set yourself up as a beer expert but your taste is a bit flat, like a dodgy piano, a bit out of tune? It’s an interesting debate, and I know a lot of people roll their eyes when someone publicly starts going all Jilly Goolden and Oz Clark with a glass of beer.

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What about Two Rivers? Started in 2012, four friends who have developed a unique twist on classic beer styles. Six standards and a plethora of seasonal, small batch and experimental one offs. They’re self styled as a craft brewery. No problem with that, it’s an American brewery and it’s an American term. It’s just that Saison is a Belgian brewing tradition going back donkey’s years. On that basis I would contend that my first beer is not a Craft beer! It is however, brewed in a traditional style by an American craft brewer who have done a very good job with this ‘Dry, Refreshing, Farmhouse style ale’, their words not mine.

If you go on the Beer Hawk  web site you will see they have a short video for every beer published every day. I’ve promised myself not to look at them before I write my own thoughts down. First criticism is the comment, ‘Happy December’ and references to shopping days. I’m not a big church goer or anything like that, but for pity’s sake, it’s an Advent Calendar and it’s Christmas. It’s not a dirty word!

Surprisingly, the brief notes from the sommelier, who had lip gloss stuck to her glass, were similar to mine.

Overall, on balance, I am very pleased with the first day of Advent.

 

Open First! For Coldwell’s Advent Calendar

advent-open-first

It suddenly dawned on me. When was I going to drink my beer? And then, when was I going to post about it? I don’t usually drink until the late afternoon, apart from Saturdays. Effectively I’d be drinking my beer in the evening and then posting the same day. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on this. Drinking and thinking, then posting the next day, seemed a much better idea. Only thing was I’d already posted the prequel, so to speak, and would end up with a day missing. I didn’t want that, I like a lot of order and continuity and if I’m going to post every day, then I am going to post every day. Any other way and it just don’t seem right to me!

Then it struck me, there’s twenty four days of advent, but the little flaps on the advent calendar are all neat and uniform, sort of square and grid like. You can’t have square and grid like with twenty four flaps, can you? No, there’s twenty five of them, all squared up, five by five. Perhaps there’s a Christmas day one?

There wasn’t. There was however an ‘Open First’ flap. So I did! Inside was, what might seem obvious, a glass! Actually, I had expected some instructions, notes maybe, at least a list of allergens or something?

advent-glass-in-box

What about the glass then. Plain glass, short stemmed, not quite a tulip, a bit wider at the top. I think it’s actually called a Pokal glass, a sort of a pilsner glass with a stem. I have seen them advertised as craft beer glasses. At first glance it appears half pint sized. I tried it using a stamped half pint pub glass, it’s actually quite a bit larger. I dropped a bit of Ribena into the glass to make it more obvious. In reality half of a pint only fills the glass about three quarters full.

Myself, I’ve taken to trying beer in a third tulip glass, mostly. I like the size and the way the inward curve of the tulip focusses the aroma. having said that, I realise that for a beer with a foamy, creamy head like a wheat beer you need wider top on the glass to let all the fluffiness of the head develop, without it rushing up and out of the neck of the glass. The small stemmed tulip suits me and what I drink the most though.

I thought the glass might tell me a bit about the beers I might get? There are a few pointers; there’s plenty room in the glass to led a head develop. Maybe to let a head develop from a single pour without spilling? Perhaps there’s a weizen in there? Maybe a bottle conditioned beer or three?

If I’m honest, without being cynical, I think I’ve got a glass that suits lots of styles. maybe not the best glass ever for each style I might get, but one that works. I mean, they can’t give you half a dozen different types of glassware can they? Not unless, there’s a deluxe case and I’ve only got the standard box?

I’ve had another skeg at the box and it actually says, ‘Craft Beer tasting glass included.’ So maybe my predictions are inaccurate and all I’ve got is a box of Craft Beer. But, what exactly is Craft Beer?

Coldwell’s Advent Calendar (or a visitation from Beer Hawk)

advent-adress

Wednesday morning, 1030am, somewhere just outside Wetherby, near Leeds, someone’s knocking at the door!

Not more Black Friday online purchases, surely?

The nice guy from UK Mail helpfully drags the heavy box in while Mrs C wrestles with the dog who’s intent on savaging the strange intruder struggling with the large carton.

“Enjoy it mate! Wish I was getting one.”

“What is it?” (How does he know?)

“Beer advent calendar, delivered loads of ‘em.”

(How does he know?) “Cheers!”

I look down at the buff coloured box, and notice the writing on the side, well all over actually; BeerHawk, Hunting out the World’s best beers, and other stuff. There’s some handwritten words on the address label ‘Advent’. I start to smile, I wasn’t expecting it.

Mrs C says, ‘Happy Christmas’.

Cool. Bang on time too. Only have to wait until tomoz to open it.

I notice the senders address, Ash Way, Thorp Arch, LS23 … almost the same postcode as ours. I heard Beer Hawk had moved, I could walk to their new premises in under 20 minutes. It’s not their fault, it just saddens me that it’s been driven from North East Leeds to South West Leeds, and then back again, a round trip of about 40 miles instead of 3? I could have picked it up when I was passing Beer Hawk’s premises. I couldn’t though, could I, that’s globalisation for you I suppose; already my present is carbon heavy.

advent-box

I open the box. It’s like a Russian doll, there’s an exactly fitting smaller box snuggled inside. This time it’s a multi-coloured one, I think this is it, but I can’t get any leverage to pull it out. The bottles, are they bottles or cans? Anyway, they clank as I slowly turn it upside down and ease the outer carton away from the contents, noticing the ‘This Way Up’ sign as I do. Yeah, I get it, the outer one protects the nice shiny one inside. Why do we routinely waste so much in packaging? I mean it’s not like it’s going to hang on the wall in the kitchen like the Advent calendars we had when we were kids is it? No, it’s not. It’s far too; big, heavy, bulky, awkward and it’s got no hooks or anything.

So, where are we going to put it? It’s got beer in. Craft beer it says, usually stick them in the bottom of the fridge, but it won’t fit in there. Doesn’t want to go near the fire or a radiator either. It’s sat in the middle of the kitchen at the minute. I’ll let you know how I get on with finding a, albeit temporary, home for it. Obviously it’ll end up in the Leeds City Council recycling bin, with a host of other Christmas packaging on Boxing day morning. Maybe there’ll be that much we’ll have to take the car to the corporation tip, sorry LCC recycling plant at Thorp Arch like everyone else does. We could even drop the boxes back off at Beer Hawk as we drive past? Now that would be recycling.

advent-calendar

Seriously though. I’m quite looking forward to this. Like which beers are in it? Where are they from? Will the storage/temperature be an issue? Will they be nice? How much did it cost? I know you shouldn’t ask how much presents cost but I’m a Yorkshireman and I demand VFM, yet remaining cognizant of the need to pay a premium, on occasions, for frippery and niceties.

Anyway, what I am going to do is open each of the little boxes, in turn, on the correct day, and describe my experience from start to finish. A post a day for a beer a day for Christmas. Think of it as my little advent gift to everyone out there that reads my blog.

There is someone out there reading it, isn’t there … ?

If you are reading, can I just reassure you that I haven’t received any payment for this. Only a nice little pre-Christmas present from my wife that gave me the idea to write about it. I don’t even know the people at Beer Hawk, but I’m sure they are very nice.

A Maltese brewer

farsons-neptuneOne of the highlights of the week was meeting John Pullicino, brewer at Farson’s Cisk, and a lovely man. As we walked out of the brew house our guide, Isabelle, pointed out this important looking bloke, saying we might want to speak with him as he was one of the brewers. Too right we did, and what a bloke he was. You could instantly tell that he was comfortable with himself, in all things, a clever man, contented.

He told us they used British hops for the darker beers and German ones for Cisk – Hallertau for aroma and H. Magnum for bittering, and that all the malts came from various sources in Northern Europe. John explained that you can’t really grow Barley on any scale or quality in Malta, the island is too arid and too small at only 17 miles long by 9 miles wide.

It was the little things he told us I liked, and the more you were interested the more he told you. He explained that originally the brewers were mainly British, with some German and Spanish brewers along the way, and it wasn’t until 1970 when the first Maltese brewer, Joe Naudi, was appointed.

John was very proud of the fact that he was the longest serving brewer at the company, where he’d worked for 32 years in the old brewhouse. He didn’t say anything, but I got the feeling he thought the old brewhouse was superior to the shiny, soulless modern one? A bit more hands on, an art more than a science.

All the companies brewers go to Heriot Watt to complete the four year degree in Brewing and Distilling, unless like him you are a double honours degree holder in Chemistry and Biology, when you only have to complete a one year course. John reckoned it was pretty tough to get into Farsons as a brewer these days. His son was currently studying for the same degree he took at The University of Malta, and having seen how much work was involved, John didn’t think he would be able to complete it himself. I think he was modestly underestimating his capabilities there!

He did say though, and this was the mark of the man, that when recruiting a new brewer he would rather see someone with enthusiasm, passion and dedication whom he could coach and mentor and allow to develop into their own style, as opposed to taking on an out and out academic performer.

One anecdote he related was about Joe Naudi’s son, Pierre, who followed his father and went up to Edinburgh to study at the companies expense, never to return, going to work at Tolly Cobbold instead! Looking back at past brewers, he said there was a newspaper advert in the company archives regarding a British brewer who was returning to the UK and selling his household effects, lock, stock and barrel including chickens!

John’s current role is principally developing specific projects these days. One of these included the management of the brewery water treatment plant. We all know how important water quality is in brewing, something even more critical in Malta as the islands scarce water is all obtained by reverse osmosis from sea water. If you’ve never drank Maltese tap water the best way I can describe it is just to say, you don’t really need to add much salt when boiling your veggies!

Because the public supply is the only source of water, this givers the brewer a big problem. Farsons operate their own reverse osmosis plant to turn tap water into a suitable brewing liquor. This isn’t exactly cheap, hence they operate on a 95% recovery of all waste water on the site, as well as  generating 7% of their own power from solar panels on the roof, and producing their own CO2.

Looking forward, John was hoping this season’s hop prices were going to improve. Farsons buy on the ‘spot market’ and have no growing contracts. He thought the outlook and potential prices looked a bit gloomy. So much so, he and some of his colleagues were experimenting by growing their own hops at home. They hadn’t had any rain for over twelve months, and so far only the plants in John’s garden had survived the hot summer. He didn’t ever think it could be a commercial option but he was hopeful he could eventually get enough to do a small scale brew with.

Chatting to John and seeing the immense pride that he, Isabelle, and everyone we spoke to had in the company, sort of restored my faith in big brewing companies. Well … Farson’s at least. They might not brew any real ale, but they brew something that’s pretty nice to drink and different styles of beer. They also seem to be a very good company to work for. The sort of company where neighbours comment in hushed tones that, ‘He works for Farson’s you know – ’ Enough said.

farsons-palm-trees

Lord Chambray

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Lord Chambray definitely has to go down as the brewery with the nicest, most glamorous,  friendliest tour guide ever! Valentina was an absolute star, she really made us feel at home. She’s passionate about the brewery and her role in Administration and Marketing for the company. I guess she would be really, her boyfriend Samuelle is both owner, director, and assistant brewer.

When I first looked to see if there were any new brewers on Malta, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to find anything, Farson’s have pretty much had things sewn up for a long time, so I was pleasantly surprised when Google enlightened me about this new craft brewery on Gozo.

Just to save all the cask ale diehards the trouble of reading further, they don’t do any cask ale, sorry. They do however produce excellent unpasteurised, bottle and key keg conditioned beers; sounds like real ale in my book.

When I visited there was only Valentina around, the rest of the team had gone to a beer festival in Genoa and had all their return flights cancelled, owing to tragic incident at Luqa airport. They offered to meet up later in the week when they got back, but my busy schedule meant I only had one window of opportunity to get over to Gozo.

To some visitors, the fact the brewery is on a small industrial estate, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, on the island of Gozo, may seem problematic. Don’t let it put you off, you can get a 7 day unlimited travel bus ticket for €21 and the ferry to Gozo is only €4.65 return. Make sure you are first off the ferry though, because the 301 bus which stops straight outside the brewery isn’t quite as big as the huge ferry, as soon as it’s full the doors shut, off it goes and you have to wait over 30 minutes for the next one! Me? We got Joe Baxi to take us to the brewery, €12 one way, and then continued on public transport. It’s only the buses at the ferry terminal that get rammed.

chambray-prices

Brewery tours are available Tuesday to Saturday, between 1000 and 1800hrs. They’re currently free, but you have to book, and any beer you drink in the modern tap room has to be paid for although I thought the prices were reasonable. They have four draught beers on at any one time, plus their full range of bottles, along with a natty range of Lord Chambray merchandise.

I quite like the sense of being a pioneer and sussing new things out? That soon disappeared when the CAMRA branded leaflet display full of the latest ‘Swiggin in Wiggin’ magazines on the bar told me that Wigan CAMRA had beaten me to it! Valentina explained they get quite a lot of UK visitors and she was well versed on the CAMRA ethos. The Lord Chambray team had recently been at the GBBF and Valentina said she’d had a field day doing, first her own Cascade hop trail (mainly IPA’s), and then a separate dark beer trail.

On the brewing front, they mill all the malt on site, most of which is sourced in Belgium and the UK, although I spotted sacks of German produced (Durst) Vienna malt lying around. All the hops are purchased on contract from Worcestershire based hop merchant Charles Faram and the liquor is corporation tap water that has been through their own reverse osmosis equipment and revitalised using the Grander technique. Currently they are using Belgian and Danish yeast strains, but they are looking to culture their own yeast in house. They already have a small, but state of the art laboratory, and biotechnician, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a large modern beer factory. Very impressive, as was the shinier than shiny centrifuge which they use to recover as much water as possible from the spent grains, as well as for the filtration process, a feature in general of the Maltese islands. In fact if I hadn’t seen the beer store and some labels still in the bottling machine then I wouldn’t have believed they’d ever used any of the kit. They’ve been open and brewing since June 2014, and everything still looks all shiny bright and brand new.

The head brewer is Andrea Bertola, an Italian master brewer, best known for his brewing exploits in a prison. He acts in a consultant role to Samuelle who is also Italian. In fact everyone’s Italian, even the Spadoni brewing kit, at Lord Chambray which the D’imperio family named after the iconic Fort Chambray where they made their Gozo home after having holidayed on the island for the last twenty seven years. Signor D’imperio must have some serious dough if he can afford to set his son Samuelle up in an enterprise like this. I’ve seen it described as a micro brewery, it’s not, it’s bigger than that and certainly as big as North Brewing, or the original Northern Monk set ups. I bet you wouldn’t have got much change out of £60K for the brand new bottling machine alone.

In terms of brewing, there didn’t appear to be any short cuts. The brewing process takes around 45 days with a 12 – 15 day fermentation, then conditioning and further bottle conditioning for 15 days before labelling and despatching.

lord-chambray-taps

So, what’s their beer like? Pretty decent I thought. We started with the Sans Blas (5.7%), it’s billed as an English IPA, but it’s not, it’s much more hop forward, more a US craft style IPA. It was very nice though and was tasty, but well balanced. The second we tried was the Special Bitter (3.8%) which comes with a Union Jack styled label. Again, it was very nice, but it wasn’t really a typical bitter. Light in colour, clean, crisp, citrus and a little hazy because Valentina got carried away talking to Mrs C, and poured the bottle bottoms. Tell you what, I didn’t mind, I tasted a bit out of Mrs C’s glass, she got the top half, and there was no discernible difference. The brief notes in my book summed it up, ‘Not really a bitter, but stunning!’

There’s also; Wheat beer, Blonde ale, and a Dry Stout. I tried the stout (5.5%) in a trendy bar in Valetta a few days later. Like the others, it’s not a typical stout, it’s sort of a cross between a stout and a Black IPA, again it was very nice, apart from the price. At almost parity between Euro and Pound it worked out at about £5.40 for a 330 ml bottle. Nice but not that nice, I’m afraid. That’s the issue here for me. The brewery’s good, the people are good, the beers good, it’s just that the market isn’t there in Malta yet. It’s coming I reckon, and Farson’s have just released some stronger, dearer, premium beers. Even in the southern Mediterranean they realise that they can upscale the prices on the craft niche.

chambray-bottles

At present they are turning out about 1500 bottles, and a small amount of kegs on four seperate brews per month, although they have the capacity to produce around 20,000 bottles a month. Most of the kegs go to Italy and more recently to Tallin, but the bulk of their production remains in the Maltese island. It seems to be proving a bit of a difficult nut to crack and they’ve had to appoint separate distributors for both Malta and Gozo. I asked the obvious, but it seems supplying to bars direct is a non starter. Most bars won’t take anything except through their established distributor and Farson’s own 99% of the dispense equipment, so, apart from one bar in Marsaxlokk, it’s bottles or nothing.

I really hope that Lord Chambray crack the market, and then maybe get the prices in the local bars down to something more reasonable, yet still reflecting the fact they are making a premium product. If you’re interested then I would recommend a trip to the brewery and if you’re really interested, they are currently looking to team up with UK based distributors.