It’s often puzzled me how brewers arrive at some of their brewery, and beer, names? Stood at a small bar on the mezzanine floor above Bad Seed Brewery, sipping a glass of Bad Seed St Clements, Chris Waplington explained that, ‘All adventures begin with a bad seed of an idea.’ So there you have it.
I visited the Malton brewery as part of an organised tour run by Brewtown Brewery Tours. I’m not sure what the other beer tourists were thinking as we turned off the main road into a small industrial estate? The breweries address was quite apt though, Rye Close, were we going to get a taste of a red ale or maybe a Roggenbier?
The brewery itself isn’t much to look at. If you’ve visited small breweries previously you’ll have seen exactly the same all before; light industrial unit, four barrel brewing kit and a line of fermenting vessels. The difference with this brewery was co-owner and brewer, Chris, who met us with a warm friendly hand shake. After that he never stopped talking; what a passionately enthusiastic bloke. His mantra for brewing summed him up exactly: full flavoured with innovative top quality ingredients!
It’s clear the Bad Seed ethos isn’t to take over the brewing world. Chris told us he wasn’t in the business to sit on some beach lording it up while the money rolled in. He’d rather be hands on, getting involved. Even though they’ve been going for four years now, there’s still only himself and partner James, supported by a delivery driver.
Bearing in mind the tour included people with varying levels of beer knowledge, Chris did a nice run through the brewing process. It wasn’t until he moved into issues around beer dispense that my ears really started to prick up though. Although I’m a very active CAMRA member, I’m also very open minded, on lots of things. Chris’s argument in dispelling most of the cask v keg myths was probably the most compelling I’ve heard. Bad Seed’s, roughy 4000L weekly, production goes into both cask and keg, and bottles.
He was definitely preaching to the converted with the two Australian female tourists who just couldn’t believe brewers added bits of dead fish into their beer. To be fair, they weren’t interested that the process strips most of the hop character, and hence flavour, out of the beer. Similarly, they were unimpressed when Chris explained this had been scientifically proved. No, no interest in the scientific at all, but on learning which parts of the fish were used they were just really, really pleased that all the Bad Seed beers we were sampling were unfiltered and UNFINED!
The discourse then veered towards one topic that regularly comes up; why are progressive modern beers, particularly live keg beers more expensive than traditional cask ales? I’ve heard this explanation before, but Chris confirmed that many licensees were only interested in sub £60 casks, a price he couldn’t even get near to with their high quantity use of quality ingredients.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been visiting far too many pubs and micro pubs recently where the range of beers was almost totally auric, and with far too many names like Old Dogs Cockwalloper and suchlike. Personally, although I love a good traditional pint, often I’d rather pay a little extra for something more challenging, with extra flavour and character. To my mind Timmy Taylor’s proves the rule here, quality beers made from quality ingredients by quality brewers, just don’t expect to get a cask for anywhere near sixty quid; you get what you pay for though. I don’t like using the ‘C’ word, but Timothy Taylor’s aren’t Craft neither, are they?
Chris said he was going to be doing a talk to York CAMRA, explaining the price differential between cask and keg, staid and modern. I applaud York CAMRA for hosting this. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many CAMRA die hards appear publicly foolish (even when they are quite erudite) at this sort of meeting, through total intransigence to an outdated eulogy. I hope Chris’s presentation will be successful. Personally, I just can’t help thinking that far too many ‘stick in the muds’ are still listening to Prog Rock (1.) when everyone else has moved on and embraced other diverse styles, old and new.
To be fair, I could have spent all afternoon listening to Chris. I wasn’t even disappointed when Brewtown Brewery Tours host, Mark, called time and said we’d have to move on to the next brewery, even when I found out we’d missed the chance of sampling another beer through talking too much! So, sadly we had to leave Chris completing the last minute logistics for Beertown2017, an annual event, now in it’s fourth year, which he set up together with local neighbours Brass Castle Brewery.
As the bus pulled away, I sat wondering; how come a small North Yorkshire market town like Malton can have two excellent cutting edge breweries, yet in four years of brewing Bad Seed had only ever sold two casks to Malton pubs (but regularly deliver into London). To my mind, a clear example of how Pubco ties and blind traditionalism can restrict progress.
Overall, this was a fascinating visit to a small, yet very progressive brewery. It really was a pleasure to listen to Chris and ask him questions. Unless you are very well connected or fortunate, it’s not often you get to chat to brewers like this in a very informal setting, so I will unashamedly plug Mark Stredwick of Brewtown Brewery Tours for taking me on his very excellent Malton & Pickering brewery tour.
1. A style of rock music especially popular in the 1970s and characterized by classical influences, the use of keyboard instruments, and lengthy compositions. Unfortunately the genre failed to live up to it’s name, in so far as it never really progressed any further; pretentious, pompous and overblown are terms often used to describe the genre.