Secrets of a North East beer expert
PUBLISHED: 01:15 31 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 February 2013
Which is the North East's favourite beer, what makes a good draft ale, and how do you avoid 'fobbing'? We asked a man who knows
Im a champagne kind of girl myself. I know a bit about the bubbly stuff and how pretty it looks in pink. And I confess I know little about the dark side - the wonderful world of beer.
But I know a man who does.
Peter Cockerill is a bit of an expert. Steeped in beer, you might say, from an early age and a veritable walking encyclopaedia of beery technical terms.
Peter, who lives in Barnard Castle in County Durham, works as an Account Manager for Brulines of Stockton, who are leaders in the field of measuring the volume and quality of beer.
He started as a Cellar Service Technician at Whitbread Castle Eden Brewery near Hartlepool in 1982, then was involved in a number of projects - including introducing Boddingtons beer into the USA and Canada - before joining Brulines.
I started with a simple question: what makes a good draft beer?
Well, its a number of things, said Peter, warning to his task. Temperature is important - the temperature as it comes out of the pump. Clean lines are crucial, and it needs to be poured at the right speed.
That generates the right amount of head. If the speeds not right it causes whats called fobbing - which is when the heads too foamy.
I told you he knew. Another interesting fact is the Guinness two part pour - now I sound like an expert - where you pull two thirds of the pint, then rest it, then pull the rest, so you get that perfect head on a Guinness which is so much part of the brand.
So staff training in pouring techniques is also important, as is the temperature in the cellar and the right gas pressure. Also the right glassware. Believe it not, glassware can be too sparkly - filmed with rinse aids - and too new. They should be cleaned with a product that takes off all those cleaning deposits, otherwise the beer will be affected by the chemicals, giving a flat presentation. Complicated, isnt it?
Draft isnt the only way of drinking beer of course.
You can get it in bottles and cans, some with widgets in them to create a creamy head, said Peter. And of course there are Cask Ales served through a beer engine.
So whats the most popular beer in the North East? Its Carling lager. Its the single best-selling brand, and thats down to good marketing and consistency of product. You always know what youre getting with Carling.
Any other regional preferences? Well, draft beer drinkers in the North like their beer colder with a bigger head. Southerners like it not quite as cold, served flatter and up to the brim.
The North - in fact every part of the country - has seen a growth in speciality beers from around the world. But of course pubs are feeling the pinch, with a steady decline in volume of about five percent sold in pubs each year.
Its a big challenge for pubs, said Peter. The take-home market, coupled with the loss of the traditional, hard drinking northern industries has hit them hard.
Peters very knowledgeable about his beer market. Has anything ever really surprised him?
Well, I remember being part of a tasting of a new beer coming onto the UK market. It was a wheat beer called Hoegaarden. It was cloudy and frothy and tasted of oranges. I thought it would never sell.now its everywhere.
So what is Peters favourite beer. He smiles and waxes lyrical: Ah, that would be Innis and Gunn Original. Its an oak aged beer and it has a lovely toffee, caramelly taste. If I was on a desert island, thats the luxury Id take with me.
Im sure its wonderful. But Ill stick to champagne