From Suffolk to Seattle… meet the HopPlotter team!

We’re big fans of HopPlotter.com here at Nethergate. In case you haven’t seen it yet, HopPlotter is a website and iPhone app that uses GPS technology to help you find and visit breweries. For the independent craft brew scene, this kind of app is a great idea, because people love to see where their favourite beers are coming from. This week, we managed to catch-up with the beer loving team behind Hop Plotter to talk beer, internet and going global…

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Hop Plotter… first the USA, now the world!
At the heart of the team are Alex Cartmell and Ann Layman. Alex builds all the technology, databases and clever kit and Ann heads up HopPlotter’s marketing and product management side. Alex’s sister Lauren Cartmell, is a successful app designer working in their home town of Seattle, completing their small, high tech team. So how did they get started? Alex tells us the story…

“Ann and I came up with the idea. She had studied mapping and geography, I was a programmer for a Expedia the travel company, and we grew up in city full of microbreweries that sculpted us into beer lovers. It was kind of a no-brainer to build an online brewery map…”

In fact, when they began building Hop Plotter about a year ago, it was really a tool to help Alex and Ann find breweries to visit.

“We realised pretty early on we liked craft beer. But we didn’t realise how many breweries were open to the public with seasonal brews, public tasting rooms and great visitor experiences. It’s fascinating… we wanted to discover more places to visit but there wasn’t any easy way to do it. So we built one for ourselves, and that became HopPlotter.”

Since they launched their first official app in December, Hop Plotter has mapped thousands of breweries in the US. The craft beer and microbrewery scene really began in the US, and it’s a more mature market with huge variety and a very well developed commercial tourist scene for beers. However, mapping Europe is harder because the brewing scene is different in every country. We know how important a good visitor centre and tourism is for a brewery. At Nethergate, we’re planning a new visitor centre as part of the Brewery 2.0 project, because a it’s a key part of future brewery growth as our good friends at Hogsback and Adnams have found with their own visitor centres.

So how is Alex’s team going to tackle Europe?

“We’ve recently moved to Madrid to really get to grips with the European scene. In the USA, every brewery has a bar or restaurant, gives tours and so on, but in Europe everywhere is different and they’re not so geared-up for tourists at breweries. We’re hoping to help change that for beer lovers everywhere!”


So what’s next?
HopPlotter’s plans don’t stop at mapping every brewery in the world, and drinking every beer in the world as they do it… they see their app as the start of an internet of beer. Like Google for real ale lovers.

“Eventually HopPlotter will be the main craft beer resource online. It will help you do everything from brewery visits to beer festivals, finding new beers, booking beer holidays, buying beer and learning how to make it. The works. We want to bring the global beer community together in one unique place, made by beer lovers, for beer lovers everywhere.”

When you see the energy and enthusiasm of the HopPlotters (and how clever the idea is), you realise that craft brewing really is a unique business. On the one hand, it’s rediscovering ancient recipes and honing traditional skills, on the other, it’s very much a community of a high tech innovators. It’s a great business to be in and from everyone here at Nethergate, we wish the savvy tech team at HopPlotter the best of luck.

When we added ourselves to HopPlotter we were the only English entry on their global beer map. Since then, there’s a few more… but sign-up and get your local brew on there now! Do it for ale lovers everywhere!

Rugby Special! Get yourself a pint of Six Nations Glory…

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Let’s face it, this year’s Six Nations is a breath of fresh air for England fans. It’s a a decent showing for Scotland fans, disappointing but it’s a tight field, with France on great form, Wales and Ireland taking a while to warm up but still world-class teams. Great Rugby.

And what do you need to drink with great rugby? A great beer. And we’ve created Six Nations Glory Ale as the ultimate rugby watcher and players pint. We’ve applied all our brewing and rugby knowledge to this one…

  • It’s session beer strength (3.8% ABV) so you can drink it through the whole match (including the pre-match pundits and the post-match analysis) and not lose the plot.
  • It’s a refreshing, smooth pint of classic British chestnut coloured ale, with torrefied wheat to give it the texture of a best bitter (for when you’re thirsty after a match / watching a match).
  • It’s got the malty tastes that beer aficionados look for, with Crystal, Chocolate and Vienna malts to give it a rich, caramel finish. (Goes great with a roast lunch).
  • It’s got a classic bitter taste from British fuggles hops, and a little pizazz from Celia leaf hops that give it a spicy, earthy aroma and hint of citrus on the sip.

You’d have to go a long way to beat Six Nations Glory as the perfect rugby companion. It’s on at some great beer festivals around the country at the moment, but we’ve completely sold out at the Brewery.

Our entire brew (that’s around 3,750 pints!!!) went in a couple of weeks. It really is that good.

But we still have a cracking selection of beers… come down to our brewery shop and get yourself our special quick settling poly pins (drinkable in 3-4hrs), get your mates round (in suitable national dress) and settle in for a Sunday afternoon of great Rugby, great craic and great British brewing.

We’re also stocked-up with our full range of bottled beers including the award winning Old Growler, Umbel Magna, Suffolk County and Essex Border. Our shop is attached to the brewery in Pentlow… (near Sudbury… look for the Nethergate Brewery, The Street, Pentlow, Essex. CO10 7JJ). Most sat navs will take you straight there.

And here’s a handy map courtesy of Google:

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Goodfellas meets craftbeer!

You’ll never meet a brewer without a sense of humour… after all, you’re making ale not nuclear reactors. It’s supposed to be fun. And yes, you also get really geeky about hops, yeast, water softness and infusing the brew with coriander and bog myrtle.

So when we saw this viral video for Ballantine’s old school American craft IPA, with a bunch of craft beer hipsters recreating the “get your shoe shine box” scene from the classic gangster flick Goodfellas, we couldn’t help but laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a joke, right? Plus… who doesn’t love a proper old fashioned IPA, eh?

At 7.2% ABV, this old school IPA is unique among American IPAs and very craft-brewing in its approach. It’s both dry hopped and infused with hop oils imported directly from the United Kingdom in order to capture the balanced but defined hop flavour of Peter Ballantine’s original brew.

All IPAs were very hoppy and 7% ABV or more when it was originally shipped out to the British troops in India, back in the 1800s. The hops and the alcohol would preserve the beer for the long sea journey and the Indian climate. In fact, this US beer isn’t a million miles away from our own IPA, except ours is a little easier on your liver at 3.5% ABV. Well they say everything is bigger in the US, presumably, that includes the hangovers too!


A beer a day… keeps the doctor away!

These days, we’re all well aware of guidance to lower our booze intake. And we’re also well aware of the need to consume less processed food, less salt and less artificial additives. It’s all 5-a-day, fresh, organic, antioxidant rich health foods right? That’s beer, that is (except the 5-a-day bit).

Think about it. Fresh beer from a cask, the sort of thing produced by independent craft brewers like us, tick a lot of health boxes.

Most of the ingredients are organic these days (hops, wheat, malts etc.) And the water that’s used in the brewing process isn’t chlorine filled tap water, it’s “Burtonised” or mineralised to have the same composition as the water from Burton-on-Trent. And the additives we use for fining the beer are all natural products. There’s no bottles of artificial chemicals in our brewhouse.

But beer’s a lot better for you than that:

  • Hops contain Xanthohumol – a flavonoid – which is an antioxidant which inhibits cancer-causing enzymes.
  • Studies have also shown that Xanthohumol is also able to protect the brain from degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Dr Stephan Domenig, medical director of the Mayr Health Centre in Austria, has gone on record saying that analysis of beers has shown similar levels of nutrients as fruit smoothies.
  • A beer a day can help make your bones stronger. It is rich in dietary silicon, key to building bone mineral density (according to a study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture).
  • Dark beers are often lower in calories than either OJ or skimmed milk (according to research from Guinness).
  • People who drink a moderate amount of beer are 41% less likely to get kidney stones, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
  • Some beers are actually good for your gut bacteria, which can aid efficient digestion. Like Yakult.

Perhaps our favourite statistic comes from Virginia Tech university in America, where they discovered that regular moderate beer drinkers were 19% less likely to die than tee-totalers.

So there you have it. Make real, fresh beer part of your 2016 health kick. We reckon half a pint per day (or lay off it during the week and sink a few pints over the weekend) and you’ll probably do yourself as much good as slurping down a whole load of mashed kale and wheatgrass from that smoothie maker the in-laws got you for Christmas. Result!

And obviously, if you’re planning to get healthy with beer, our beers are organic and tasty. So think about your health… and think Nethergate!

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Do your bit for Great British beers with HopPlotter!

We love the internet at Nethergate, it’s done amazing things for the craft brewing industry. If it wasn’t for things like Facebook, crowdfunding and Google Maps it’s hard to imagine how so many small, talented brewhouses could connect with fans, build supporters and sell their quality brews all over the world.

Which is why we love HopPlotter.com. It’s a brilliant idea to map all the breweries in the world… except, until we added ourselves to it, there weren’t any from the UK!!!!

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Take a look at the screen shot above. Clearly, we need to get to work and showcase all the great little breweries that make the UK such a hotspot for real ales.

So… we’re calling all beer fans to sign-in to HopPlotter (you can do it with your Facebook ID) and add your favourite local brewery. Your country needs you!

Actually, spend a bit of time playing with the map and you’ll also discover hundreds of great breweries around the world, especially in the USA and Canada where the craft beer movement began back in the 1980s.

It’s also cunning way to sneak a crafty 5 min skive at work when you can’t face reading another email from Dave in accounts about the office biscuit fund (and so on).

There’s a whole world of beer out there! Do your bit for your local ale and add them! You’re country needs you… and who doesn’t need a beer? HopPlotter.com


Seasonal Spotlight: Umbel Magna

This beer caused a bit of a disagreement in the Nethergate offices. Our beer blogger, Andrew, thinks it’s our best brew. He reckons it’s one of the best beers in the world. But saying things like that in a brewery is asking for trouble… because we’ve got so many award winning beers, including a world champion (Old Growler). But on the other hand, Umbel Magna might just be one of the most flexible beers we’ve ever produced, with a truly unique character and taste.

It’s brewed using a recipe from the 1700s, when coriander was regularly added to beers around the London docks where spices came into the country from the east. Back then, beers were made with wild yeast that tasted sour and herbs and spices were used to improve the flavour. Of course, with modern yeast, they taste great without them… and even better when you add a little extra spice into the mix.

Umbel Magna a porter, not a stout. It’s a dark, refreshing ale, very light on the palette (not thick and creamy like a Guinness). It’s got a malty flavour, low on hops, getting a bit of a chocolate/coffee flavour from the black and chocolate malts mixed into it. But to give it that brighter, more refreshing character than a stout, we also add pale Maris Otter malt and crystal malt. It also gets a classic bitter finish from adding challenger and fuggles hops, making it a really special pint of beer.

But its party trick comes from the addition of coriander seeds in the boil. These infuse the beer with a zesty citrus tang and a light, spicy aroma. It transforms the beer into something really exceptional. The sort of beer that people who don’t like dark ales will sip and then say “No way! That’s delicious.” In fact, that’s why Andrew the beer blogger loves it so much. He was never a fan of porters before he tried our Umbel Magna. Now he drinks it with everything and tells everyone how great it is. Which is fine when he’s out in his local pub… but down at the brewery it gets a bit annoying after a while because WE ALREADY KNOW.

Drink it with pub grub: According to Andrew it goes brilliantly with and gourmet pub treats like venison… but the zesty character means it’s equally good with shellfish. (In fact, he’s tried with curry, pasta, roasts and even sticky toffee pudding because he’s mad for it.)

Don’t take our word for it: Awards…
Since 1994, Umbel Magna has won 21 awards, and achieved legendary status as one of the UK’s first breakthrough craft beers.

1994: Best Beer (Old Ales), Peterborough Beer Festival
1996: Best Beer (Speciality Beers), Peterborough Beer Festival
1996: Beer of the Festival, CAMRA S.E. London, Catford Beer Festival
1997: Bronze (Champion Beer of Britain), Great British Beer Festival
1998: Best Beer, CAMRA Salisbury & Wiltshire, Salisbury Winterfest
1999: Bronze (Beer of The Festival) & Gold (Stout and Porters) Peterborough Beer Festival
1999: Best Beer, CAMRA Salisbury & Wiltshire
2000: Overall Winner, CAMRA West Middlesex, Ealing Beer Festival
2002: Bronze (Champion Beer of Britain – Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2002: Best Beer, (Stouts & Porters), Portsmouth Beer Festival
2003: Silver (Speciality Beers), Peterborough Beer Festival
2007: Gold (Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2008: Bronze (Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2008: Winner, CAMRA Essex, Champion Beer of Essex
2009: Gold (Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2012: Bronze (Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2013: Champion (Beer of the Festival), Morecambe Beer Festival
2013: Gold (Speciality Beers), Great British Beer Festival
2013 Gold (Speciality Beers), Norwich Beer Festival
2015 Silver (Speciality Beers), SIBA East Reigon


(And here’s the Magna’s number one fan… caught “writing tasting notes” at 10.30 am in our General Manager’s office. He has been caught a few times writing more Umbel Magna notes because “he just needed to check something” too.)

Your local real ale pub NEEDS YOU!

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Have you ever wondered how the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) compiles its brilliant good pub guide? It’s all about what real ale drinkers think… and drink. Get involved and help your local get the recognition it deserves, and in turn help the great British independent craft ale scene keep growing.

It’s all about the NBSS (National Beer Scoring System). It works like this:

1. Go to the pub.
2. Visit http://whatpub.com on your smartphone
3. Log-in using your CAMRA membership number (membership costs as little as £24 per year, and comes with a lot of benefits for the real ale lover)
4. Add the location, date, score out of 5 and the name of the beer.

Simple. CAMRA have over 170,000 members in the UK, and it’s growing all the time as more and more people are becoming fans of high quality, local, craft beers. And if you’re that kind of drinker, you’ll also know that finding a pub where the beer is well kept (and the variety of brews is interesting) is very important… and not always that easy to find.

You’ll also probably be one of those people who likes to try new pints, and when you find a great one, tell all your mates about it. By scoring the pub and the ale with the WhatPub mobile site, you’ll be able to register your opinion with the rest of the CAMRA community and do a good turn for both the pub, and the brewery.

This is what smartphones were invented for. Sure they can surf the internet, post pics to Facebook and provide a few minutes of entertaining cat videos whilst your mate is in the loo and you’ve got no-one to chat to… but all that stuff pales into insignificance when you could be using your iPhone to do something genuinely useful. And what could be more useful than supporting your local pub and rewarding great little breweries (like us) for making an cracking pint?

You can find out more about it here… and remember, if you love pubs and love beer, it’s time to do your duty! http://www.camra.org.uk/nbss

Report shows local pubs are good for your health


If you have a local pub, where you pop-in for a pint on the way home from work, or maybe go out for a beer a couple of times a week, it’s having a very positive effect on your happiness and general sense of wellbeing. Professor Robin Dunbar (from Oxford University) has written a report for CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) which shows the results of a number of studies, showing how good for you a decent local ale house can be.

The local pub is part of a happy, well balanced life. Or more to the point, having a strong network of friends and acquaintances, and regular contact with them is… and that’s what you get from your regular local pub. And a moderate intake of alcohol also helps you build social skills and improve your general cognitive abilities and health (although they also decline pretty rapidly if you drink too much).


In the modern, fast paced, online world, there are relatively few places where you can go and meet new people face to face, building regular friendships. In rural and semi-rural locations, Local libraries, shops, cafés and markets have all declined over the last twenty years. Often the village pub is all that’s left of the old High Street when it comes to a place to socialise with your neighbours.

In cities the population has a lot more choice of venue, which makes it harder to identify your local. You tend to find large pubs and bars where you won’t find regular customers in the same way. The study showed people go to large city centre venues in larger groups, and tend to have shorter conversations. They also drink significantly more. This doesn’t offer the same benefits as a regular visit, familiar faces, a bit of a natter and a pint.


Of course, what this report really shows is something real ale drinkers know already. You make good friends over good beer. And as the chart above shows, you feel like you can tackle life’s problems when you’ve got friends you can share a worry with, and ask for help. People are happier when they feel part of a community, and the community needs a hub. And a pint. In fact, the report from CAMRA makes recommendations to Government, city planners and publicans about how important it is to keep small, local pubs open and accessible to people all over the country.

You can read more about Professor Dunbar’s work here, and in the mean time, find your local and get down there, a couple of times a week, for a pint or two of real cask beer. Don’t just do it for the beer, do it for your health and happiness.

Finally! Support CAMRA’s common sense beer tax campaign

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As a small independent craft brewer, we’re at the sharp end of the UK’s taxation on beer. And it’s a simple issue to understand. It limits the ability of pubs, the only outlet for fresh cask beers, to offer the beer loving public the huge variety of beers being produced.

Ask any beer lover and they’ll tell you fresh beer is than the bottled equivalent because of the way it’s kept, with live yeast in the cask maintaining the flavour and aroma at its best. Once it’s bottled, pasteurised, carbonated and so on it might still be an excellent brew, but those flavours and aromas are reduced in intensity and subtlety. Which means the pint in the pub is a more complex, tastier product.

With the price of a pint heavily taxed, the pub has to buy very carefully. Publicans don’t have the luxury to offer beers based on flavour or character, they need to buy based on sales volume. We’ve experienced this ourselves. We’ve won awards for unusual beers like our corriander infused porter, Umbel Magna, but some pubs don’t want to buy it because they can’t guarantee they’ll shift it fast enough. Why? Because it’s not a more obvious volume selling ale like an IPA or a bitter. Asking them to try a new beer is asking them to gamble on the tastes of their drinkers, and no business wants to gamble like that.

We’ve got some pubs on our books that regularly buy porters (like Old Growler) and shift them in volume, in fact, they have a core clientele that come specifically to drink porters in that pub because most pubs don’t carry cask conditioned dark beers. And that’s the problem. Not just for porters, but for hundreds of great craft beers that don’t get a chance at the bar because of the risk that a new brand (or a new flavour) might not sell in large enough volumes to make a decent profit. But without getting a shot at the bar, how are they ever going to build a big audience? It’s like a record company never signing a new act because they might not get a number 1 hit… and if that were the case, we’ll all still be listening to Shakin’ Stevens.

Rather than all pubs being healthy enough to vary the menu and serve up a wide variety of the great UK ales out there, they are forced to stick to the same popular brews because they know that they can sell them. Just think about that for a minute… pubs worrying they might not be able to sell a new cask beer? Shouldn’t pubs feel confident enough to sell all kinds of cask beers because they’re a pub, and that’s the only place where you buy cask ale? That’s a very bad indicator of the health of the British pub trade.

The pub business is a mixed bag, there’s a growth in premium pubs (according to the Cask Report) but a general decline in the pub trade as a whole. But if you look at the figures, there’s been a lot of growth in pubs offering a wider cask ale selection. It suggests cask ales, and cask ale drinkers are vital to keeping our great tradition of British pubs alive, and the statistics back that up.

It’s a no brainer, really. A lower beer duty would support the pub trade and support the growing UK craft brewing industry too, which is also good for creating jobs and good for the economy, as well as your wallet and your tastebuds. So visit the CAMRA Beer Tax petition page, and sign-up now! http://www.camra.org.uk/beertax2016


New Drinking Guidelines? Time for session beers again…

Okay, so disappointing news for real ale aficionados… there are new drinking guidelines for the UK and we all need to cut back a bit. The UK’s chief medical officers say new research shows any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer. The new advice says men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. But is this really bad news? After all, beers come in all sorts of strengths and varieties, so there’s actually more choice at the bar if you like a cask ale than if you’re drinking wine, cocktails or lager…

Craft Beers are healthy products… in moderation.
At Nethergate, we’re very keen on healthy stuff. Most craft brewers are, which is why cask beers and craft ales (like ours) are generally made from healthy organic ingredients and steer clear of chemicals, E-numbers, additives and so on. And if you devote your work to making healthy, fresh products, you want people to enjoy them and be healthy themselves.

So if you’re planning to cut back a bit on your booze intake, you should also consider drinking a lighter alcohol beer when you do get down the pub for a well-earned pint. Now over the last decade or so (as you probably know) beers have been getting stronger. The days when most of the pints on the bar were below 4.0% ABV are long gone (we can remember when you could get them as low a 2.4% ABV in Scotland with the legendary session beer, Belhaven “Forty Shilling”). And there’s a lot to be said for a light beer. For a start, you can drink a pint at lunchtime and still get your work done in the afternoon. Or you can grab a crafty one on the way home and (provided it’s a low ABV) still be under the legal limit to drive. And if you’re not driving, you can sink a few and still follow the football on the pub TV without getting confused about the offside rule…

So if you can find a pub with a selection of our beers, and you’re going for a session, try our 3.5% ABV Ian & Paul’s Ale (or IPA). It’s a modern take on the classic low ABV IPAs you used to get back in the last century, when IPA was often the only cask ale choice and most pubs were heavy on lager. It’s got all the light, refreshing attributes of an old style IPA, but where those old timers could be a bit bland after a couple, ours has a brighter character that keeps tasting great if you’re in for few.

Nethergate IPA gets more flavour from the late hopping we treat it to. There’s a fresh, citrus aroma, a light fruity tang on the sip and a light, clean, crisp bitterness on the swallow.

Drink it with: Pub fish and chips. It won’t overwhelm the flavour of the fish, and cuts through the starch in the chips very well.