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Nottingham Brewery recently had a visit from American citizen and New York state resident Steve Hodos, President of the Canadian Amateur Brewer’s Association. Steve is a frequent traveller to both Canada, and further afield.


Freelance food and drink journalist Richard Studeny stopped by and caught up with Steve and Nottingham Brewery MD Philip Darby for a few glasses or three of the Radford-made nectar...purely for research purposes you understand...


What does the Canadian Amateur Brewer’s Association get up to?
CABA is mostly Toronto based though it has pockets of members in Ottawa, Montreal and New Brunswick.   At first it was modelled after the American Homebrewers Association, but over time the national model did not work.  The Association mostly runs a series of day long beer events, three or four a year. All but one is based in Toronto. The hold out is an annual one day tour in Montreal.

 

How long have you been involved?
I started going to events in the late 1980's and realized it would be cheaper to join than pay the non-member price for events.  After a while I got involved and became an officer. I have served in a bunch of positions for almost 20 years, including two terms as president –  a office I am about to leave.

 

How did it all start?
It started as a homebrew supply shop sponsored club that meet at the shop (Fuggles & Goldings).  The owner eventually gave away the club name to a group of enthusiastic homebrewers who formally incorporated the club.

 

What are your impressions of the Nottingham Brewery and their beers that you’ve tried?
Keep in mind that I read copies of the Nottingham Drinker well before I was ever in the UK.  I was aware of the brewery and the beer range from the advertisements.  It sounds silly but I took a shine to the labels. Once I got to Nottingham I tried the beers in several pubs and found them to my liking. Then my host in Nottingham (William Taggart) took me to the brewery and the Plough Inn. It is hard to explain but something clicked. I loved the pub and Philip Darby and I hit it off right away.  I guess my favourites are Rock Mild and Extra Pale Ale.

 

How do you think the brewing scene differs back home to that in the UK?
There are a lot of differences. Keep in mind there was a reboot of all the alcohol regulations when Prohibition ended.  No place said let us do what we did before – they all started with a new systems. Another important facet is that there are 51 different regulatory systems (one for each state plus one for the Washington, DC). The biggest overarching principle in the US is the Three Tiered System which keeps the brewers from owning pubs.  Virtually every pub (bar would be a better word) is a free house.

 

How is the beer tax situation back home?
Much better than in the UK.  We collect a lot less tax and beer is by liquid volume not strength.  Also, the tax does not regularly go up. It is a big deal when they raise it. It is not done as part of the budgeting process.

 

Do you have free-houses as such back home?
The closest thing we have to a tied system is some of the low price, sit down national restaurant chains. Aside from that almost every place is a free-house.

 

What is your favourite style of beer back home?
I am a fan of what we call English style ales.  I like porter, brown ale, bitter and pale ale the most.  I also enjoy IPA though the most bitter versions are less of a favourite.

 

What do you think of our pubs and bars, and the UK real ale scene in general?
Clearly I am a big fan. I came over once and had such a good time that I have been back three more times. I am hoping to start making two trips a year. There are so many interesting pubs and such a range of good cask ale. I read about all the pub closings and how expensive beer is, but I just do not see it.  There are pubs everywhere and a lot of them are very good.

 

What is your favourite style of beer here in the UK?
The cask versions of mild, bitter and pale ale.  My choice is coloured by the fact I have a short time to try a lot of different beers.  To do that and feel good at the end of the day I have to be careful of the alcohol content.

 

As a tourist to the UK is there anything you would change with regards your perception as to how things are run in bars and pubs over here?
First I would have to warn of the law of unintended consequences. I do not know anyone who thought that freeing the pubs from the big brewers would result in so many breweries closing and pubcos growing so big. I think the biggest issue now is the control pubcos have over wholesale prices to pubs.

 

If you had one magic wish in order to change the beer or brewing scene back home, what would it be?
The franchise law. Most states have a franchise law. A brewer needs to sign on with a distributor and once they sign they are committed for life. About the only way to undo the relationship is to buy your way out. This has given distributors a near strangle hold on the market and keeps the beer selection down.

© Richard Studeny 2013


10 minutes with Steve Hodos