Beer Sommelier and Writer

NOTE: Hammersmith and Fulham’s parking meters do not accept payment via a phone app. So I spent 10 minutes on arrival in the lovely borough running around looking for a cash machine, and then a shop to break my notes into usable coins for the meter. All I can conclude from this experience is;

  1. Hammersmith needs to get into the 21st century
  2. I need to be more organised.

Now legally parked and walking down Distillery Road towards Fuller’s new pub, the Blue Boat (opened 6 weeks prior to my visit), I round a corner and am presented with a wonderful view of the Thames in sunlight and Jane Peyton making notes on her Rhodia No 8 note pad.

Jane is a Yorkshire born author, journalist, fashion PR, documentary producer and currently an alcohol based events organiser with her ‘School of Booze’. This recently saw her become the first female ‘Beer Sommelier of the Year’, an award that involved Jane presenting a selection of beers to the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group’s annual dinner held in Westminster last July. Oh, and I nearly forgot, she is also launching a limited edition Beer of her own crafting this June.

  • No. 8

    From the No.8 family of pads

  • GRID

    A grid of continental-style 5x5mm

  • ORANGE

    Orange coloured cover

Now inside the pub, I ask Jane about the Rhodia no. 8 notebook I saw her with.

‘You were scribbling furiously with a fountain pen when I arrived, is it something you can share with us?’

‘Well I can tell you a little, but it’s actually top secret! I was making notes on the mix of botanicals being used in my new brew, Britannia’s Ale. It’s a Golden ale produced in a limited run of 1215 bottles which contains botanicals from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales to represent every part of Britain. It is being produced for me by the ladies of Brewsters in Grantham and will be being released on 15th of June 2015.

Does that date have any significance?

Well yes, a few! It’s the first national beer bay, which is called Beer Day Britain, which is something I have instigated with the help of several breweries, and is also the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta back in 1215AD. So at 12:30 we’ll all be having a Cheers to Beer, and raising a glass to Great Britain!

Is there any significance to the link with the Magna Carta?

There is, ale was mentioned in clause 35 of the Magna Carta;

“There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom.”

So it seemed appropriate to celebrate two of our nations most important treasures, beer and the Magna Carta on the same day.

What was it that led you into your drink related work?

About ten years ago I decided I wanted my own business, so in my Rhodia notepad I made a VENN diagram of my skills, my passions and what I’d like to do. At the intersection of all these things was indicated that I should start an events company that would educate people about alcohol!

Thank you Mr. Venn. I think many people associate ale drinking with bearded men of a certain age, is this still the case?

When I started the School of Booze nine years ago, beer wasn’t what it is now, and the beardy comment was quite accurate, being a woman talking about beers at that time was quite unusual. However in the last three years in particular there has been a real ‘craft beer revolution’ which has had a massive effect on the popularity of beer. There are more people drinking beer, in particular a younger age range and many more women.

Something I hear from women friends is their dislike of the pint glasses.

The pint glass is a very British thing, not very elegant, clumsy and big! Lots of women find the pint off-putting when drinking beer. At the School of Booze events, we always choose big, interesting beers that you wouldn’t want to glug a pint of, so we serve them in wine glasses, which really helps the aromas escape and changes the whole experience of drinking beer. You hear people saying “Oh my goodness! I can really smell that dried fruit” or “You can smell the pine in this”, and the surprise and amazement on their faces is lovely to see. So when drinking now, I always ask for a wine glass if I order a bottle of beer, and will often decant a pint into a wine glass too.

Is it just an aesthetic thing or does a pint glass have other problems?

Well practically wine glasses have stems which means the beer isn’t warming in your hand and keeps the beer tasting better for longer.

What I have noticed amongst friends is the lager drinkers moving over to more traditional ales, is that a wider trend?

Absolutely, I like to think we are living in a golden age for beer, and brewing in Britain, and it’s thanks in part to Gordon Brown’s time as chancellor! He introduced tax breaks for small brewers which meant a lot of dreamers who’d always wanted to make their own beer began starting up micro breweries across the country, some of which have become very successful. People are also more concerned about the providence of what they eat and drink, and the small brewers are by their very nature local, if you visit them you can meet the people making it, hold the ingredients, smell it, taste it and that person making the beer is local, employing local people and selling to local pubs, so the ‘beer miles’ on your pint are very low! The big international pilsner companies make beer with machines, and their focus is on the bottom line, whereas a small brewery is all about the people who are making this wonderful, crafted product.

Beer miles, I like that, so how does beer compare to other drinks?

Well over 90% of wine drunk in the U.K. is imported from overseas, so your money is going out of the country, and you are creating lots of ‘wine miles’ to get the wine from South Africa, New Zealand etc. In comparison around 89% beer drunk in Britain is made in Britain, and lots of ales will be produced within 20 miles of where they are drunk.

So by drinking Ale you are helping the British economy and the environment, sounds like a great reason to pop out for a pint to me!

Completely, brewing really is a British success story. There are more breweries in Britain now than since World War 2, and the choice in you local pub is far wider than it has ever been. The profile of beer drinkers is evolving too, I’m seeing far more women and professional people choosing to drink beer, rather than say wine. So you are seeing the beer drinking image being polished and it is now seen in a far more positive light.

Well thanks for that Jane, it was lovely to chat with you and I look forward to raising a (wine) glass of beer on the 15th!