Blonde and Pale (not to be confused with IPA) beers started to make a significant entrance into the real ale market about 5 years ago, with some of the most notable entries from the Yorkshire area being Leeds Pale Ale and Saltaire Blonde, later entries from the area also including beers such as Daleside Blonde and Ilkley Mary Jane.  These beers were originally created as a lighter, refreshing beer for the spring and summer seasons, but recently there is a move to use them as way to tempt lager drinkers into the world of real ale.  Even major nationals such as Greene King are trying to get into the market with drinks such as their IPA Gold which I covered a couple of weeks ago.

The 18-35 year old market is being targeted, but this cannot be simply split into the two camps of lager drinkers and ale drinkers, its is far more complicated than that.  When looking at lager drinkers, some avoid ale because of the misconceptions of the drinks reputation and taste, other simply don’t like it.  The second group cannot be converted, but the first certainly can.  However there needs to be more just a good pale ale with a more “lagered palette” friendly taste and appearance.  Some persuasion is needed by the person behind the bar upon the customer approaching and once you break the “I’m not an ale drinker” barrier, enticing them to try different ales of that ilk is easy in comparison.  This conversion needs a good knowledge of the beers on offer by the bar staff to work effectively.  Appealing to life style elements such as the locality of the product (Calderdale has a thriving Totally Locally scene) with less carbon miles on the pint also brings a number of people across the lager – ale threshold.

I’ve discussed a good number of these ales (here and here) in recent weeks under the label of “hybrid beers”, a label which is misleading in a way now.  Some of the beers mentioned are brewed and marketed as a lager style ale and others not so specifically at that market, but indirectly aim to appeal to them just the same when branded as blonde / pale beers.  These beers do not appeal to everybody, and takes a commitment to give over 2 out of 5 pumps for an extended period to such beers in bring people over to them.  Lewins in Halifax has been doing this for the last few weeks with 7 ales picked for their crossover potential.  Demand has been good with sales of the beers going well against darker / heavier beers and stouts.

To this end, the pub has commissioned a beer of their own in this style in partnership with Bridgehouse Brewery, which has supplied a number of ales to the pub since it re-opened last year.  The beer is to be titled Septimus Prime after the long term landlord of the pub Septimus Lewin.  Bridgehouse Brewery is located near Oxenhope close to the town of Keighley and full use is made of the space in the small brewhouse which is dominated by 5 stills.  Located on a natural spring from which all the water is drawn to make the beer, they utilise on-site water storage and recycling to minimise waste of this resource.

The head brewer Harold Coburn ran Ryburn Brewery in Sowerby Bridge for 21 years before selling up and several years later he moved to his current role after being approached by the owners of Bridgehouse, now brewing alongside his apprentice.  Their range of regular beers include golden ales (Diken Gold, Blonde), bitters (Moorland, Stokers) and stouts (Heathcliffe, Bridgehouse Porter).

The new beer is made with the local water, their own strain of yeast which has been in service for 9 months now, a mix of malts to develop the colour and 4 hop varieties.  At the first stage of brewing German Hersbrucker hops add a citrus edge, while Challenger hops develop the aroma and the bitterness.  When it gets to the second stage Goldings hops are added, and finally Fuggles hops towards the end both bringing out the aroma more, with the resultant beer expected to have complex nose and citrus rather than dry hints.  The beer is the naturally filtered out through the left over hops at the end of the process.

The beer is being brewed as a limited run exclusively for Lewins with it going on tap at the bar in conjunction with a live event for young local talent on Thursday 26th April, and being available over that weekend while stocks last.

This article was written with the assistance of Bridgehouse Brewery and Lewins Ale House, Halifax.

  1. […] Pubpaper 653 – Septimus Prime and appealing to lager drinkers […]

  2. py0alb says:

    In my experience, the key thing about ale that the vast majority of lager drinkers dislike is not the taste or the image, its the serving temperature. The idea of drinking lukewarm beer just seems unpleasant to them. I am always surprised how few people manage to figure this out.

    It doesn’t matter how well you market a new blonde/golden ale in the pub, how much its made to taste, smell, and sound like lager, if its served at 10 degrees on a handpump, they’re going to find it unpleasant and will never be converted.

    If you served a chilled hoppy blonde ale it would go like wildfire. I’ve yet to meet a hardened lager drinker who doesn’t enjoy a weissbier/schwartzbier/Punk IPA when you introduce them to it. The key is: they’re still chilled like a lager, so its not too big a jump.

    Of course, once you get them hooked on more interesting flavoured beer its only a small step before they start drinking cellar temperature cask beer.