For April Fool’s, Brain’s Craft Brewery declared they were releasing a lambic styled ale made with real lamb chops. It was, of course, a playful gag, but given the recent news from Conwy Brewery in North Wales, maybe Brains should have followed it up more seriously?
An article in the Daily Post reports how Conwy Brewery have made an experimental test batch of porter infused with meat juices from roasted lamb, titled Sunday Toast. The end result is, according to the Post’s man in the field, a bit ‘meaty’ with the potential of pairing well with roast lamb.
It’s unsurprising that the biggest take-up of this news has been the sheep and meat industry (for example, sheepusa.org were quick to copy a large chunk of the original article and post it on their own site), and various articles reveal that Welsh Lamb and Meat Promotion had a hand in working with the brewery.
In very small quantities, in the right beer style, a meaty taste is okay, but by and large it’s generally seen as a brewing fault, caused by autolyzed yeast cells (imagine Marmite flavoured beer). I would be interested to find out how Conwy’s Sunday Toast tastes but on first impression it strikes me as a beer that’s been influenced by the meat industry rather than the beer drinking side.
Given the cost and effort of roasting lamb and extracting the juices to achieve something that tastes ‘a bit meaty’ I don’t imagine it’ll be upscaled and made in significant quantities any time soon. So what’s the point? This noble experiment has me divided.
On the one hand, it feels like a gimmicky attempt to score a few column inches for everyone involved. There’s also a cringeworthy undercurrent of tackiness, the reinforcement of the stereotype that there’s isn’t much more to Wales than lamb and leeks. If there was a powerful leek-based lobby would leek beer have been the next thing on the list?
But flip it round and it’s great to see breweries experimenting and pushing at the edges of what we conceive as normal. In Caerphilly, Tom Newman’s test brewery, Cell Rebirth, is making beers with wild Welsh yeast, Chinese tea and god knows what else, so it all hints at a potential Welsh Renaissance in beer creativity.
What do you think of Sunday Toast? Just another naff Christmas novelty or an important effort in advancing beer?