The Session - Beer people
This month's Session (hosted by Stonch's beer blog) is all about beer people. I've chosen to write about a beery acquaintance of mine who I am proud to be able to call a friend; someone who has educated me and inspired me in the ways of beer, and someone I have shared many a happy pint with.
I first met Tom Madeiros soon after getting actively involved in my local CAMRA branch (West Middlesex branch) back in the UK in 2003 (or it may be 2004 - my mind is somewhat hazy!). At the time Tom was head brewer at the now-defunct Grand Union brewery. I met Tom at a branch meeting and soon after the bar I helped to run (the Questors Grapevine Bar) began stocking Grand Union beers - initially as guest ales, then on a more regular basis. The standard bitter (Grand Union Bitter) was delicious - a beer bursting with citrus hops and extremely flavoursome , especially given its low gravity. We quickly added it to the regular rotation of session ales, and continued to occasionally stock other Grand Union beers as guest ales.
Tom left Grand Union in 2005 and was out of work for a while. During this period he and I were both working at the Ealing Beer Festival, dealing with setting up and looking after the large number of real ales. I was extremely glad of Tom's assistance and I learnt a huge amount from him during that week. Tom is especially good at detecting faults and off-flavours in beers - don't put a beer containing diacetyl anywhere near him! He can sniff it out at a hundred yards! One of our main jobs at the festival was to carry out quality checks on the beers, making sure they were ready to be served to the public. Tom and I had a few 'robust' discussions with the bar managers who were keen to get as many beers on sale as possible, while we were keen to ensure that only beers in good condition were served. Having someone with Tom's knowledge and experience to back me up was very useful.
At that festival we had a few beers from the newly-established Twickenham Fine Ales. Sadly they were not in good condition. Tom spotted numerous technical flaws with the beers. Brewers always like to get constructive feedback on their beers so Tom gave TFA a call to discuss the problems. As it turns out, their brewer was looking to move on so in a supreme moment of serendipity Tom joined as the new head brewer. Pretty soon he had tweaked the existing beers and sorted out their quality problems, then he set about formulating and launching new beers. Twickenham Fine Ales has gone from strength to strength since then, their beers regularly winning awards at local beer festivals. The pinnacle of their success (so far) was at last year's Great British Beer Festival when Crane Sundancer won the Silver award in the Bitter Category of the Champion Beer of Britain.
Tom and I worked together again at the Ealing Beer Festival in 2006, as described in this blog entry, although by now Tom was very busy at TFA and unable to help out quite so much. This year's beers from Twickenham certainly didn't suffer from the same faults as the previous year's!
I have a great amount of respect for Tom as a brewer. He does the basics well - his core range of beers is varied and interesting with plenty of flavour across the range. When he was at Grand Union his beers were characteristically hoppy - in fact he launched the innovative One Hop series of guest ales, with each beer using the same basic recipe but with a single (changing) hop variety. This was a fascinating study in the effect different hops can have on a beer. Since moving to Twickenham he has introduced a broader palate, with more malty and balanced beers. Favourite amongst these for me is the glorious Daisy Cutter - a pale strong beer with a huge American hop hit. I could drink that stuff all day.
As previously mentioned, Tom is a constant innovator. He recently told me that he was trying out New Zealand hop varieties such as Riwaka, which will become more important if there are problems with the northern hemisphere hop harvest again. Regular visits to Belgium to sample the beery delights there no doubt spark ideas for new beers. Yet he resists the urge for constant tinkering and new beers - the core range and seasonals at Twickenham Fine Ales has remained fairly steady over the last couple of years - a very good thing in my book.
Since I moved to New Zealand I have kept in touch with Tom, although sadly I can no longer sample his excellent beers. He has been very encouraging of my nascent homebrewing adventures and I look forward to trying out some recipe tips he has given me when I get fully into all-grain brewing.
Tom is one of the good guys. He produces excellent beer, he knows his stuff and he's always happy to share the benefit of his knowledge, his passion and his experience.