I often show contempt for some of the larger family brewers, and nearly any brewery larger than that. It's not surprising, I want some of their market and generally I don't care for much of their beer. I hope the observer can forgive me for this hot headed contempt. Some of the breweries bigger than me fail to hide their open contempt for the microbrewery industry, or their obvious aggressive approach to pushing out broader choice in pubs. I could tell stories and name names, but I've had my fingers burnt before when doing this.
There are, however, some very friendly brewing businesses, who could quite easily treat me with equal contempt, but don't. They have no real reason to treat me nicely, and even, on occasions, positively offer help. They do, and when they do they make me feel quite humble and genuinely pleased to be involved with the bigger world of beer.
Examples of great brewing businesses that have shown me genuine warmth include Fuller's of Chiswick. John Keeling is one of those great brewers who deserves respect, not only for his open embrace of the bigger beer picture, but his down to earth approach to life.
I remain tolerant of one of the biggest lager brands in the UK, Carling. This is not only because in all fairness it's very competently brewed, but because Molson Coors have, in the past, extended unconditional hospitality on a number of occasions.
I could mention many other breweries for which I hold a healthy respect, the list is too long to make here, so don't read too much into a lack of mention. There are some that I'd like to name and shame for what I see as underhand or irresponsible approaches to a wider goodness in the beer world. Your list, dear reader, will no doubt be different to mine. This blog entry is about a brewery that most certainly is not on that list for me.
Jennings are the biggest brewery in Cumbria. They are owned by Marston's, who have been very clever in avoiding controversy by keeping the likes of The Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth not only open, but by investing in it. Jennings, in my opinion, do make some very good beer and are above average in interest compared to other breweries of similar size, and indeed many who are much smaller. It would be churlish for me to do anything other than acknowledge the fact we are very fortunate that the biggest brewery in our county is Jennings.
Most importantly for me, when we first came into the industry, Jennings fitted out our cellar and supplied very nice brand new handpulls for the bar. Water jacketed beer engines are essential for the very best cask dispense. They are brilliant and made by Angram of course, I wouldn't endorse anything else.
When we decided to brew our own beer, and eventually decided to stop ordering Jennings beer, they could have, and would have been legally entitled to come and claim back their cellar equipment and handpulls. They didn't, and I'm very grateful to them for that. Of course I left them in the pub when we left and they have since been used for Jennings beer.
The other week I got an email from their PR agency asking me if I'd like to attend The World's Biggest Liar competition and blog about it. Jennings, you see, kindly sponsor the event and quite rightly wanted some ROI for their trouble. I was very tempted. However, for various reasons, I felt there were other things that required my attention. This didn't stop me finding a way to have a representation.
My American friend Ted was in the country and was persuaded, perhaps unfairly, to pretend to be me. I was glad about this because having agreed to be there I felt a bit of guilt about letting people down.
As it happens, Ted's blog about the night is probably more poignant than any ramblings I might have produced and gives an interesting insight into how a "large American" views such a unique and very special Cumbrian event.
The competition, by the way, was won by Jack Harvey, 25, who beat eleven other entrants to take the Liar cup at Jennings pub, The Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge on November 15th.