Published on February 12, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Life imitates art
What started as an in-joke between two cartoonists in Viz comic has transformed into a full English IPA brewed in County Durham. Collier’s Shivering Whippet was what the leader of stereotypical beer drinkers the Real Ale Twats would invariably mention when setting off for a pint in the Viz strip.
It refers to Alex Collier’s whippet Jim who accompanies him to the Three Horseshoes in Leamside, near Durham, along with canine companion – and whippet – Fran. Being a dog-and-pub man himself, fellow cartoonist Davey Jones picked up on it as a little game between the two as they write and draw the stories between them.
Working Hand Brewery head brewer Matthew Frankland Booth, whose dad Darryl owns the Three Horsehoes, had no idea what Alex did for a living, even though he had known him years. Working Hand operates in outbuildings adjacent to the pub, so when he saw the Viz article in a recent issue of Cheers he invited Alex to bring Shivering Whippet to heady, hoppy real life.
“Brewing the beer was great fun,” says Alex. “I never thought it would become a real beer. It was a case of ‘when can you do it?’ so Matthew and I did it that weekend, spending a full day brewing. But first he showed me around telling me what everything meant.
“We talked about what style the beer should be and decided on a classic English IPA. We had no particular strength in mind and when Matthew took a reading it was six per cent alcohol by volume.
“I always thought I had one of the best jobs in the world, but brewing beer is such a nice thing to do. It was a bit like black magic seeing what we could get out of it. Davey was over the moon when I told him about it.”
In between times boiling water, mashing in and sparging, along with all the other parts of the process, the pair would nip next door for a pint. Matthew’s reasoning is that it takes a certain mentality to watch water boil for hours so you might as well be enjoying yourself.
He says: “I love showing people what we do at Working Hand. We have an open-door policy and anybody’s welcome to come and brew their own beer – and now that we’ve got a small bottling line they can take it home with them once it’s ready. It also means we can do more specialist brews. There’s a five percent brown ale coming along nicely, for example. The grist we used in Collier’s Shivering Whippet is a fairly simple blend. Hops include Simcoe, Willamette, Cascade, Citra and Mosaic – and I might dry-hop it with a bit of Equinox. With the size of our kit you’ve got to dry hop to get big flavours out.
“Collier’s Shivering Whippet will be ready to drink in ten days or so (which takes us to Tuesday February 5, the day Cheers is published) and I’ve assured Alex he’ll be the first to know when the eight casks are ready.”
It’s perhaps just as well Alex will have met his current deadlines by then. Along with Viz, he writes scripts for animated cartoons such as Dennis & Gnasher, Danger Mouse and Mr Bean, which is commissioned by Baby Cow, Steve Coogan’s production company.
He says: “I’ve been working on a script for Dennis & Gnasher today which is in its second season and I have a deadline for Viz, so it’s a mix of adult and kids’ humour. Switching on and off keeps you motivated.
“Writing Dennis & Gnasher is a long process; I’ll pitch ideas and they’ll pick up on things and ask me to expand them, then it goes back and forth until we go to script. This one’s shaping up nicely. There were 50-odd episodes in the previous series, so it’s looking good for the new one. When me and Davey are doing the Real Ale Twats between us we’ll say things like, ‘What if they went to a library’ then go away and work something up.”
Somehow a book pulled randomly from a library shelf doesn’t translate well into beer. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead doesn’t exactly deserve a late hop infusion.