DINGBAT BEER - The Thrills & Spills
Dingbat Beer officially came into existence in November 2018. That is to say, one of us grabbed a phone and registered Dingbat Beer Ltd as our company name. Problem was, other than small-scale homebrew kit, we didn’t own a brewery. And we still don’t. Our first task was looking for existing breweries who’d let us use their set-ups. And in June 2019, we kicked off.
We brewed our first batch at a bar in Sutton Coldfield. Ten 30-litre kegs of DYNO IPA. A tiny volume compared to other producers, even by craft standards. But big for us. Off we went hawking kegs around the various bars we like to drink at. And, amazingly, bars bought them. Result.
But within 36 hours of dropping our first kegs of DYNO, we were contacted by one of our customers to say he’d taken it off because punters were complaining it was flat and overly bitter. We’d got the carbonation wrong. Our first rodeo. We’d misjudged the carb levels required. Gutted. We had to visit our customers’ cellars with our CO2 cannisters to re-carb the beer. Lesson learnt. The hard way.
Once we’d sorted the DYNO carbing issues, it sold OK. Not the best. A bit more lager-ish in flavour than we’d hoped but decent for a first crack. So, we brewed again. But this time we slapped a load more hops in and put it in casks, not kegs. Lots of bars had asked for casks, so we thought: why not? We brewed enough to fill eight 40-litre casks. We called it DYNO - cask edition.
After dropping most of the casks to customers, we were alerted that two of the casks still at the brewery had exploded. Then one of our customers called to say one had popped in his cellar. Nightmare. We had racked the beer before the yeast had fully attenuated. Which is beer geek speak for: the yeast hadn’t finished gobbling up the sugar when we put it in the pots. That meant we’d effectively created beer bombs. Waste of time and money. And we’d damaged relationships with customers. A serious low point.
Out of the beer bomb fiasco came a ray of light. We got talking with one of the bar managers whose cellars we’d exploded. Rather than being angry, he laughed and said he too was a brewer and he’d made the same mistake in the past, at the brewery his dad runs. Without shame, we asked for an introduction. Before long we were set to brew at this bigger set-up in Warwickshire. We named this beer ETNA, after the volcano on Sicily, in honour of the beer bomb episode.
ETNA, while not perfect, was our best beer yet. Hops aplenty. Mash temperature just right. We did a few casks but mainly kegs. The casks went brilliantly. Rave reviews from punters. Then for the kegs. The first bar we dropped to put ETNA on immediately. And within minutes called us to complain of a metallic taste. Our hearts sank. Were all 20-odd of our kegs afflicted with the same problem?
We tested and tasted beer from the offending keg. And it was spot-on. Drama over. The metallic taste had come from the bar in question’s lack of line cleansing. We used the exact same keg rejected by that bar to give samples to bars across Birmingham. They liked it. And bought it. One of the bars was BrewDog. Seeing Dingbat Beer up on the beer board under a ‘Friends of BrewDog’ was pretty cool. Thank you to BrewDog and to all the other bars who have taken a punt on us. We’re learning as we go. We, and the beer, will get better.
So, after October 2019 we had a break. Then coronavirus happened. We’re indefinitely paused. Ready for bars to reopen. When they do, we’ll brew again. Thankfully, Dingbat isn’t our main job. Our thoughts go to those in the beer industry suffering right now.
LATEST - Dec 2020
By late summer we were keen to brew and sell beer again. We’d paused long enough. Worked on our brand, done the website etc. So, after being mucked about for a bit by various folks, we agreed in late Nov to do our LUNA pale ale at a brewery in Swansea.
1,200 litres. More than we’d ever done before. A heavily hopped, fruity, low-bitterness banger. That was what we were aiming for. And in cans, not kegs, this time - a first for us.
So far, so good. People are loons for LUNA. We are seeing LUNA LUNA-cy unfolding. Thank you to all our customers. Your support means so much. And it makes the chances of us brewing more beer in the future much higher.
We’ve also learned quite a bit about postal couriers. For eg, Hermes will happily take your cash but then only when you drop it off does someone say they’ll destroy all liquids. Helpful.
Anyway, that’s it ... have a Merry Christmas and a vaccinated new year 👍
Oh, and at the start of Dec, we appointed Paulie Joseph Evans, the cat, as our chief exec. He’s a very skilled corporate operator and we’re thrilled to have him leading Dingbat Beer Ltd.