Ben Richards presents Build A Beer

Pale ale3You might remember a few weeks ago that we posted 10 Questions for Ben Richards: Beer Sommelier.  I want to welcome Ben to the pages of Eating Exeter as he presents a guest post about beer and the fantastic Build A Beer event that he runs. All images courtesy of Ben Richards.

Right now is an exciting time for beer. There have never been as many opportunities to try new beers, discover how well it goes with food or get started on a brewing adventure, and many more people are rethinking our national drink with an open, inquisitive mind and seeking out new experiences.

Over the past couple of decades we’ve seen a drop in both breweries and pubs – there are 16,000 less pubs than there were 25 years ago. It’s a worrying trend, but it’s important that people also realise that there is a lot of exciting growth too. Different kinds of beer are emerging, our attitudes toward drinking are evolving and contemporary establishments are arriving. Smaller, more adventurous breweries are taking their inspiration from styles across the world and a host of new venues that specialise in variety and exploration of beer are popping up – all acknowledging that whilst the classic pint of British bitter is a wonderful thing, there are more than a hundred other types of beer out there to discover.

There is such an interest in British and international beer it’s now possible to find a range of dedicated events and books that focus on brewing, beer and food, beers from all corners of the globe and those that look back in time at our brewing heritage. Because of this I get to do a lot of interesting or fun events, but probably my favourites are the Build a Beer days. Aimed at groups of 15 or more, it’s a full afternoon or evening traversing a wide variety of different beer styles from around the world, learning about the ingredients, flavours and processes, followed up by the professional brewing of the group’s bespoke beer. It’s hard to imagine I would have been able to do this 10 years ago, but the demand for modern beer and renewed interest in homebrewing has allowed me to spend the time needed to train and provide these focussed events.

It’s great to be able to share something you really care about with other people, and Build a Beer is a good example of this. We start off exploring the different malts that are available, and how they can create something as light and crisp as a pilsner or as dark and decadent as 10% imperial stout. Next we look at hops and how the type and country of origin have a huge impact on flavour and bitterness, before seeing how yeast choice not only affects the alcoholic strength of a beer, but also the taste. During all this, we’re also finding out which of the different beer styles the group like most – this is important as this will allow us to create a one-off, bespoke recipe.

I then pass on that recipe to a great local brewery – located just north of Exeter and run by my friends Toby and Gemma, The Occasional Brewing Company specialises in small runs of really high quality, adventurous beer. Once they’ve worked their magic, everyone gets a case of truly bespoke beer, professionally bottled and labelled with their design. We’ve brewed beers for parties, weddings and even corporate events – it’s a really enjoyable one to organise and hopefully it sees even more people get into homebrew or start exploring the amazing range that’s out there now.

Read more about Ben and this event at his website 

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