"I know, I read your blog"
The knowledge that at least one significant head brewer in the UK brewing scene reads my blog was an enormous boost.
I have met up with John on several occasions since. I've even written about his brewery after a visit. He has convinced me that he and his company should have a very rightful place amongst the hotly debated definition of Craft Brewers.
When John phoned me and suggested we should do a collaboration I was thrilled. Of course, there is the inevitable little bit of extra PR it will provide us, but also I am flattered to be considered as worthy enough to be approached by a significant and historic brewery. I felt a little bit of responsibility towards the process too. Clearly Fuller's have to gain something out of allowing their Brewing Director to travel up to Cumbria and spend time with us.
What I hope they have gained is assurance of credibility. At a time when just being a long standing family brewer is not enough. At a time when there is a swing towards a more contemporary and cutting edge approach to brewing there is a danger that by not evolving, and seeing to evolve, a historic brewery will end up extinct. If you look like a dinosaur, there is every chance you will end up suffering the same fate.
Of course, when a brewer has a solid and substantial brand following such as Fuller's, with their ever successful London Pride, care needs to be taken not to upset this. To that end I was aware that we had a responsibility to somehow take care not to upset Fuller's significant reputation, but also to not undermine our own principles.
To make a beer that both Fullers and Hardknott would be proud of is the main objective. For it to comply with our objectives it had to be different, somehow. A contemporary spin on using all English ingredients seemed to be a good thing to do.
Charles Faram came to the rescue with their hop breeding program. We got Archer, Baron, Bishop and Landlady hops which I believe are the first year of a very small comertial release. Will Rogers from Faram had this to say;
"These four varieties have come from the Charles Faram hop development program and we are delighted at their application in this collaboration brew. They are in the traditional English style but with fantastic disease resistance to facilitate a sustainable future for the English hop industry. They have been selected for their excellent brewing potential with new flavours and aromas whilst still being recognisably English in their nature."
There will be a cask at The Rake Bar on Monday 11th June from 5pm. I'll be there and so will John Keeling.
Meanwhile, we also shot some video of the fun we had. It has taken me hours to get the 1 hour 20 minutes of footage down to this, so please watch it.