Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Mikkeller 'I Beat yoU'

An American-inspired India pale ale that's brewed in Scotland by the Danes? Now there's probably not a lot of them about, but here it is, an Imperial IPA, which I suppose is appropriate as a globe-trotting style right from the origin.

Powerful hop aromas explode from the bottle even before pouring - lots of the aromas associated with other members of the hemp family. Amber colour with a rapidly disappearing lacy head. It's full-bodied, with a sweetness from the alcohol and not too much carbonation. Lots of vegetal flavours; grass and pine with orange and other citrus fruit, and the finish is all hops. I did wonder after the initial aroma burst whether I might be put off by the excessive hops, but actually it was quite palatable. If anything I found the sweetness more off-putting, and by the end of the bottle it was a bit cloying, it kind of felt like I was drinking an undiluted hop cordial, it just needed to be a bit more refreshing. However, a good range of flavours, and an enjoyable beer.

9.75% abv. £3.99 (33cl) from Beers of Europe

Friday, 23 December 2011

Brewdog Nottingham (Part II )

So BrewDog are moving in to Hockley (or the Lace Market - I'm not sure where one begins and the other ends).

They'll be on Broad Street, on the former Shaw's site. It's next to the Broadway Cinema and Café Bar, somewhere that used to be franchised as part of the Castle Rock empire (the bar part anyway) but is now entirely independent. I think the it will complement its neighbours rather well, hopefully Broadway/Bar de Nada rather than Revolution anyway, and BrewDog's arrival will make broad street altogether more interesting than another Tesco opening.

For more details see here on the BrewDog blog.

Looking forward to having a checking it out in February, and I'll keep an eye on things when I pop in the Broadway.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

BrewDog 'Alice' Porter

I thought yesterday would be an ideal time to crack open a BrewDog, after they seemed to indicate one of their next projects would be in my adopted home town.

Black, with a cappuccino coloured head. Lots of roasted malt aromas as you'd expect. Some gentle coffee too. On the palate there is bags of cherry fruit, liquorice and a dry, earthy finish. Good BrewDog juxtaposition in getting a medium bodied beer with 6.2% alcohol and deceptively rich flavour. Top stuff.

£2.59 (33cl) from Beers of Europe

On a more serious note with respect to BrewDog Nottingham, it'll be interesting if it challenges the small brewing scene in Nottingham. There is a new brewery opening up next month (in the form of the Navigation Brewery), and it seems that they, like Castle Rock, the perennial darlings of Camra (as you'd expect from a company run by a former Chairman), and The Nottingham Brewery will be focussed on 'Real Ale.' That's not to say that that's a bad thing, but, while Blue Monkey seem to have more of a modern outlook they seem too small at the moment to re-invigorater an area that I think could do with sparing a thought for where the next generation of drinkers is coming from. A non-traditional new pub with a focus on good beer rather than some awful theme bar with the beer coming a way behind. I think they'll do really well.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Brewdog Nottingham

So it seems Nottingham might be dragged into the whole crazy world of Brewdog's Craft Beer antics. According to the guys on Twitter an announcement is coming soon, and it seems that the site might be a former factory in the Lace Market which ties in with the uber-trendy/post-apocalyptic/industrial thing quite nicely.

This is all complete speculation so far (just a bit of fun and Twitter rumour), but it is interesting nonetheless!

Dark Star 'Sunburst'

Another of the three Dark Star brews I got for my birthday last month courtesy of my sister-in-law in Brighton, and an entirely different animal to the Espresso.

There was a slight haze to it, a golden, beer with a lovely frothy head. I got lemon on the nose, and on the palate it's a tease, it plays and flirts with resinous pithyness, while still remaining gentle, never leading you right into the grapefruit flavours. It's all tempered by a subtle sweetness in the finish, with a touch of spice, which makes it very moreish. OK, this was in a bottle but I can well imagine that on tap this would be close to my ideal pub pint if I was out for an evening rather than a cheeky swift one on the walk home. It's not the world's most challenging beer, but it's tasty enough to be interesting, and not all beer has to be of the contemplative (navel-gazing?) sort to be enjoyable.

4.8% Again, it was a present but as a guide, Beer-Ritz sell it for £2.50 (50cl)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

St Peter's IPA

Sometimes being objective is no fun, and there are certain things that you try your best to like, tastes you try to acquire. I've always tried my best to like St Peter's beers, ever since we sold them in Oddbins. I like the character of the brewery, they seem like the sort of company I like to support with my cash. Unfortunately I've just never been that inspired by the beer. There's nothing wrong with it, I've just never found it that exciting.

So I was quite excited to try their IPA since it was one I'd not seen before, and I thought 'cool, more hops...' as you do. On pouring it's a chestnut colour, with malt more noticeable than the hops in the initial aromas. Unfortunately this heavy malting seems to clash with the hops on the palate, almost as if they've taken a more standard style bitter and just added hops without much thought to how the flavours balance with one another. Another disappointment.

£2.03 (50cl) from Waitrose.

[The Waitrose in Nottiingham's beer selection is pretty poor compared to most I think, it only being a relatively small shop.]

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Karmeliet Tripel

A tripel from Bosteels, the makers of Kwak, which is an old favourite of mine from my pub-running days (although I didn't enjoy having to wash the Kwak glasses out). They also make the Deus, which I still haven't got round to drinking from when I got it in for my birthday last month.

Looked pretty much as you'd expect from a tripel, although it was very clear, which makes me wonder how much fermentation really does go on in the bottle. There wasn't much on the nose - a slight dustiness, but nothing like as much as some of this style. The punch came on the palate, it's noticably fruity, and sweet, with lots of candied citrus fruits and a deceptive vanilla maltiness. There were sour milk and lemon cheesecake notes on the finish.

Overall it's a good beer, although I suspect it's deliberately made in a more approachable style than beers like Westmalle. I really found that sweetness a bit too much, and found myself wanting more of a dry, dusty kick from the wheat. It'd be an interesting one to throw into a blind tasting, I wonder if people might actually think it was a dark beer if they couldn't actually see it.

8.4% abv. £2.94 (33cl) from Ocado

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Brewdog 'Not So Punk' IPA

Something that Steve at Beers I've known mentioned in his post on Brewdog's new Camden bar got me thinking about beer and music matching. One of the more obvious of these is, of course, Brewdog's Punk IPA, but is punk really a good accompaniment to it?

It might make a difference what sort of punk. I've got bits of The Clash, Sex Pistols etc. in my collection, but the old stripped-down production punk ethos is far too raw for a slickly advertised, modern beer. Maybe some American stuff that's a bit newer; Rancid, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones?* Probably closer, it's conscious of how street-savvy it is, and brash and boisterous enough for Brewdog's style, but I'd suggest more the brewery than the beer itself. Maybe more hardcore? Life of Agony, Minor Threat? All a bit over-confrontational, too aggressive for a beer which, despite the marketing lead attitude, I've always found to be quite feminine, and far too floral for any punk tunes I can think of.

Alternatives? Well, at least in part because of the video rather than necessarily the original tune, but for me this is pretty close to getting those contrasts in one package... I hope you enjoy it.

* If you don't know it, check 'Another Drinking Song' out.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Badger 'First Gold'

I have a vague theory that labels indicating hop varieties will become much more commonplace. Perhaps not to the point where single variety beers become as common as seen in wine, but to the point where they are used much more as a shorthand, an indication of what the beer might taste like. In wine this has tipped over to the point where it has almost become meaningless. There are many wines on the supermarket shelves that, while ostensibly being varietals, only pay a sort of lip-service to the flavour potential of the grape variety.

That said, this beer confused me a bit. I'd suggest we're not really at that point of hop-variety shorthand yet,  and so for a beer to be varietally labelled, and not particularly to demonstrate the characteristics of that hop, was rather surprising.

Poured reddish-brown. There's a slight hazelnut aroma. The palate is mellow, malt dominated, with a faint orange pith background and there's a smokiness to the finish. Overall just an average bitter. In contrast to the Oldershaw Caskade, if you were to ask me what first gold hops taste like on the back of this beer, I'd be struggling to answer.

4% abv. £1.59 (50cl) from Waitrose

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Oldershaw 'Caskade'

Yes, I can spell, and so can they. It's a pun, see?

Anyway, a single hop beer I got from a local farm shop that comes from just up the road in Grantham. I kind of fell out with Grantham having been stranded there after the mickey-mouse outfit that is East Coast Trains managed to make me miss my connection the other week, thus turning a long day of wine tasting into a long, freezing, evening on a platform. This could well be redemption in a glass.

Unsurprisingly this is a good demonstration of what cascade hops can bring to a beer. Light (natural) carbonation, and a zesty liveliness that I think is often missing in bottle conditioned ales of this style. Lots of floral and grapefruit character and a little spice. I sure die hard hop-heads wouldn't find it that exciting, but, like the Thwaites IPA I had last week, I think there is a place for tasty, lower strength brews that go down a treat in the summer. The problem for me is that so many breweries have jumped on the band-wagon without making a beer that actually tastes of much, so fair play to Oldershaw for not falling into that trap.

It's Camra credited too - although I'm still interested to find out how this comes about. See discussion on 'a certain symbol' on the CAMRGB website.

4.2% abv, I can't remember how much I paid for it. A quick google and it turned up on The Real Ale Store for £2.90, which seems a bit steep, but I think it's limited/seasonal so I'm guessing there's not a lot about. (50cl)

Brewdog Camden

So Brewdog Camden is open. There's something about an aggressively marketed company reaching south of the Scottish border that sounds familiar, but you know I can't quite put my finger on it...

Maybe it's just my imagination. I mean, this is entirely new, cutting edge, never-seen-before stuff isn't it?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Beer Delivery!

Just for Steve, here's the beers I got today - for whatever reason I couldn't upload them to the usual site I use but here we go:

Winter Wonders


Other stuff!

Edit: In response to the question below (easier to put the links in here). The tall bottle with the star is the Spanish Estrella Damm Inedit. I'd seen it recommended by Fiona Beckett in the Guardian and thought I'd give it a go since it wasn't stupid money!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Brooklyn Brown Ale

Blogs are subjective. It's part of their appeal, and why it's fun to write them and fun to comment on them. I do drink more beers than I necessarily feel the need to blog about, sometimes due to time constraints but often due to the fact that a stand-alone tasting note is only interesting up to a point, and a blog that is just an extension of ratebeer or the like probably isn't that interesting to the people who are good enough to read what I do write!

This is different though. When I was doing the wine 'practical' part of my WSET diploma it was interesting to try so many wines that I could get to the point of recognising them as being very good, without them necessarily being something I'd buy - and not just because some of them were extremely expensive. Obviously this is more towards the beer or wine judging end of things, which goes away from my original point about blogs, but it was this beer that made me think of this and I thought I'd share. Do people encounter many beers that they objectively think are good, but just not really their cup of tea?

A dark brown beer, the head fades quickly. There's molasses on the nose and cinder toffee with slight floral notes on the palate. I got Marmite and other yeasty aromas as it warmed in the glass. Overall it's an interesting beer, with plenty of character, but I'm not convinced I'd buy it again.

5.6% abv, £1.69 (355ml) from Beers of Europe

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Beers, buying for guests.

Gutted to miss out on the spicy goodness that is Delirium's Christmas Beer, although it probably serves me right for not sorting my order out before I did. If you are still mulling over what to get in, I'd recommend you decide quick - get what you want while you can, Christmas orders are well under way.

One guest for Christmas (according to his wife) likes beer, good beer apparently; 'that triple-filtered one.' I take this sort of thing as a challenge, and so I've ordered in a lager that with a bit of luck will taste a lot better than Stella. I went for Meantime's Union - I've never tried it and so I'm hoping it's a good educated guess!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Colour Prejudice

I'd like to think that most people know that colour doesn't really equate to flavour, and hate to see things like this paraded as a truth (helpful quote from this article in the Morning Advertiser).

"If you’re eating as well, remember that darker beers tend to go better with strong flavours (pies and beef) and lighter beers with more delicate flavours (fish and chicken). For spicy foods and curries, lagers have the carbon dioxide ‘bite’ to cut through the strong flavours."

Incidentally, on the same subject, the Hairy Bikers, Tim Atkin and Meantime Brewing Company food experiment clip is brilliant. Have a look from about 23 min or so if you didn't catch it (currently on iPlayer but not sure for how long.) It showed that automatically equating dark beer to red wine and thus going down the same tired food-matching routes doesn't work, and it is worth trying something different!

Now I'm going to have a nice pale beer from someone like... Victory? Yeah, no danger that will overpower my delicate chicken salad lunch.

Edit: Hat-tip to Jeff Pickthall who tweeted about the Hairy Bikers clip.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The 'Golden Pint' Awards 2011

This one's prompted and organised by Andy over at Beer Reviews, all self-explanatory. (Or at least if it isn't I've failed to work it all out.)

  1. Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Blue Monkey BG Sips, best session beer I've had in ages.
  2. Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Currently the Williams' Profanity Stout, although since I've got a bottle of Deus Brut Des Flandres knocking about I'm hoping that's better given how much the wife let me pay for it.
  3. Best Overseas Draught Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap at the Bread & Bitter, if only because I was drinking it to celebrate the birth of our first child!
  4. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Delirium Nocturnum
  5. Best Overall Beer:  Brass Castle 'Bad Kitty' probably equal with the BG Sips (#1) so I allocated the two pretty much at random - maybe a summer and a winter winner. Also fair play to these guys for avoiding isinglass for guilt-free veggie beer drinking.
  6. Best Pumpclip or Label: I'll defer to The Pour Curator on this one, if you don't read his blog you should have a look. Some stunning artwork on there.
  7. Best UK Brewery: Black Iris, Derby. Totally biased since I was party to their opening night through some friends, and spoken to them a few times since. and they're just top guys.
  8. Best Overseas Brewery: Huyghe, because of #4, and because the pink elephant always does it for me.
  9. Pub/Bar of the Year: The Pipe & Glass, South Dalton
  10. Beer Festival of the Year: Robin Hood BeerFestival, Nottingham
  11. Supermarket of the Year: Sainsbury's (due to the Great British Beer Hunt)
  12. Independent Retailer of the Year: The York beer & Wine Shop, source of my first ever Hardknott beer.
  13. Online Retailer of the Year: Beers of Europe, prompt & knowledgeable.
  14. Best Beer Book or Magazine: Isn't that what the internet's for? I suppose the Oxford Companion to Beer has provided a lot of reading material without me actually reading it. Roll on the second edition.
  15. Best Beer Blog or Website: Tough one, I enjoy so many. But I'll go for HardKnott Dave, I think because he writes from a different perspective to ones I've experienced in the wine & pub trade.
  16. Best Beer Twitterer: Simon Johnson. Entertainment.
  17. Best Online Brewery presence: Summer Wine Brewery. Enjoyable blog,and tweets.
  18. Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Bavarian Obazda & fresh pretzels with Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfestbier. We had it for an Oktoberfest party that I never got round to writing about.
  19. In 2012 I’d Most Like To… Better the best beers of this year!
  20. Open Category: Steve at Beers I've Known, and The Campaign for Really Good Beer. Kudos.
Cheers, all the best beverages for 2012.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Thwaites 'Indus' PA

A really good, readily available, flavoursome beer that achieves flavour without having too much alcohol. That's not to say I have anything against strong beers, it's more a question of if Thwaites can get flavour at low alcohol volumes how come so many others fail to do so?

I thought this was quite a good beer, while there's a nod towards the more aggressively hopped American styles of IPA, it's weak enough to drink by the pint and has enough interest for the hop-head. Greene King IPA it isn't. Pours golden, with spice and pithiness and a good long toasty finish.

Although of course it's not an India Pale Ale it's an Indus Pale Ale, so I'm sure that any comparisons are invalid!

4.6%, £1.89 (50cl) from Ocado.

Dark Star Espresso

I've been looking forward to trying some Dark Star brews for a while, and my sister-in-law coming up from Brighton to visit gave me the opportunity to get some brought up.

As I have ranted about on this blog recently, there is a lot of rather mediocre beer knocking about. a lot of it seemingly constrained by having to be a certain style in order to fit into certain market brackets. This is a 'speciality beer,' and while I hate the term when used by supermarkets to describe anything that's not cans of generic lager or bitter, in the case of flavoured beers it's more appropriate.

It's a black beer and I initially found more 'export stout' aromas than coffee, but once you dive in the bitter coffee takes over. It's a lovely rich (without being sweet), robust beer, but multi-dimensional too. It's not just the coffee flavours, there's bitter cherry in there too, and an excellent smoky finish. The depth of flavour without lots of alcohol is impressive, and it doesn't seem to rely on the coffee to achieve it, there's much more to it than that.

Not sure how much it is since it was a (scrounged) birthday present! 4.2% abv (50cl) Beer Ritz charge £2.42.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hog's Back 'Traditional English Ale'

I have had this one before, and though I wasn't too impressed with it I gave it another go on account of it being delivered by mistake. Free beer always tastes better after all. Or not. It's a brown beer. Now of course there's nothing wrong with a beer being brown, but there is when it seems more to be a flavour profile than a colour, when it becomes a way of describing an unchallenging, middle of the road beer, then that's when I object.

As a parent of a six-month old daughter I find I also end up with objections to pink. Again, pink's just a colour, there's nothing to worry about surely? But when you are buying a pack of baby spoons and the nice lady needs to ask 'boy or girl?' with regard to cutlery for an infant, then something doesn't sit right. If you've no idea what I'm on about then check out this article about marketing science (c/o Pinkstinks). Or, if you can bear it, check this out - it's kind of a 'Guess the number of damning social constraints we can enforce on you from a young age' puzzle.

Oh yeah, beer...

Well it's about choice. Going into 'Toys'R'Us' and absolutely everything in the girls' toys aisle is pink is equivalent to walking into a supermarket's 'speciality beer' section and being faced with an awful lot of beer that is essentially just a minor variation on a theme. I used to work for someone who complained that Fosters we sold wasn't as good as the Carling they used to sell. But really, are the two that different? And are they that different to their competitors - and by the same token can't a similar thing be said about those speciality beers? I'm picking on this one in particular but the whole idea of traditional=good really doesn't excite me.

For me it's just lacking something, kind of hanging around in no-man's-land without knowing what it wants to be. Maybe with a further kick of spice or fruit or something it would be better, but as it is, not too impressed.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mediocrity... and Gueuze

So there I was musing about the commercialisation of beers we might well think of as craft/real/artisan, worrying that marketing people might be running off with our favourite brews, then everyone was all over twitter being offended by Jeremy Clarkson, which is nothing unusual. This is a guy who has a talent for finding publicity, he'd been given a prime time TV interview and he'a got a DVD out (this is a guess, it's Christmas soon.) And so, Clarkson ignored as usual, thoughts turned back to beer... but are there beers you might find offensive? Stella Artois is the biggest selling UK brand, and as such is fairly heavily mocked among those of us who consider themselves to have a tiny bit of taste, but is it offensive, or just... dull, at best 'reassuringly' mediocre?

Of course there are some amongst us who find mediocrity pretty offensive. Perhaps this is best left in the hands of Aussie comedian Steve Hughes*, a man who walks on stage to Slayer. There was plenty of people who got all hot and bothered about Angel of Death in 1987, but his rant? Boy bands or, as he puts it:

'Corporate Shells posing as musicians to further a modelling career.'

Still, at least they're not making beer... Bugger.

* Full clip is well worth watching here.

Jacobins Gueuze

So this is a beer that many might well consider offensive, but it's anything but middle of the road. I'm guessing Gueuze as a style is never going to hit the mainstream, look pretty, have a number one single. And I'm glad of that.

The Jacobins is actually a fairly low-key example (not that I've tried a huge amount), and I think is decent enough as an introduction to Gueuze. It pours a dark-gold, 'real' (ie. slightly oxidised) apple juice colour. On the nose there's earthiness and faint cider-apple. There's refreshing citrus; clementine flavours that border on the taste of Matlow's Refresher Chews but a short finish which means the sweetness is not too cloying, leaving you wanting more.

5.5% abv (25cl) £1.49 from Beers of Europe

Friday, 25 November 2011

'Premiumisation...' and Anchor Porter

Apologies for using a crass marketing term but it's something that's been going on in the industry for a while and it's also something that I think gets to the point often discussed in beer blogs and on the Twitter hop-vine. There has been a move, particularly in the spirits category, towards more interesting drinks, ones with provenance, history, and (at least according to the sellers) flavour. I would suggest that 'Fancier Pints' and the burgeoning UK 'artisan' beer sector are far more a part of this than they are a product of campaigning from consumer groups such as Camra.

Take an example like Grey Goose vodka, as made by a Cognac Master Distiller, with water filtered through volcanic rock (and however much marketing blurb you'd like to insert here). All well and good and it's good as far as vodka goes - I tried it a few years ago courtesy of a rep from the parent company, Bacardi (hardly a small artisan company). The fact is that it sells far more as a statement than a flavour choice. It's a bit like the vodka version of a Ferrari, everyone knows it, everyone knows it's expensive, but it's arguably a cosmetic thing. Another example from closer to home (for me) is in the wine industry where (anecdotally*) some winemakers have seen a big upsurge in sales by considerably bumping up the prices.

The Campaign for Really Good Beer has been attacked by some for not knowing what it stands for. Firstly I would have thought the clue was in the name. I think part of the charm, and maybe even its raison d'etre is the very fact that it defines good beer by something as simple as whether the the person drinking it is enjoying it. Although I'd suggest part of the fun is to be able to describe the beer and argue its merits - and maybe even cut through some of the bullshit?

So educate your palate so you can trust it. Try new things but don't be fooled, because people in marketing never miss a trick, they're coming for your microbrew.

* Remarked upon by the guests at an Australian wine day this week.

...and the beer.

I also tried Anchor Porter recently, and I really enjoyed it. Not too intense a flavour despite its 5.6% abv.

Good creamy-brown head that stayed around, not too fizzy.

Bitter chocolate, mocha, touch of sweetness on the finish. What I like about it is while it has plenty of character, nothing is too dominant, and so it has a lovely balance. Moreish to the point of being dangerously drinkable.

£1.85 (355ml) from Beers of Europe

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bottle Variations

It strikes me as odd that there isn't more variation in bottle sizes.

I worked for a while in pubs in Queensland, where the tradition is to drink pots; about a third of a pint - so the beer doesn't get warm - as the pseudo-Australian rubbish lager ad says 'well you wouldn't want a warm beer' and, in the case of XXXX 'Gold', you probably wouldn't want it cold either. I can only imagine how horrible it would be warm. Brakspear 'Oxford Gold' is a decent enough beer but if you sold it in wee stubby bottles, like French picnic beers I reckon it'd go down a treat in the summer. Just a thought.

It was the  Oxford Gold that lead me off on this tangent, which might suggest that the beer itself wasn't all that exciting. Perhaps a bit unfair, it's not exactly a beer particularly suited to a November evening.  However my point was more one of whether tradition sometimes interferes with selling a summery-style beer in a different way that might appeal to new drinkers. The same applies to the Cotleigh 'Golden Seahawk' I tried recently too - a beer I've seen described as bland - which I would say is unlikely to appeal to many beer geeks who've seen it all before. Do we need more mid-strength pale ales with a bit of a hop-kick in the finish? They might though be good beers to entice lager drinkers away from their favourite fizz. But would the the packaging help or hinder that?


Brakspear 'Oxford Gold' Organic Beer 4.6% abv $1.87 from Waitrose (50cl)
Cotleigh 'Golden Seahawk' 4.2% abv £1.89 from Sainsbury's  (50cl)

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Big Book of Beer. Or not?

I recently used one of my favourite books for a class I run. It's about sherry, it's called The Big Book of Sherry Wines, and it's commissioned by the Conserjeria de Agrucultura y Pesca - I don't speak Spanish but I can work out that that something we used to have a parrallel version of over here; The Min of Ag & Fish (Now, I think, under Defra).

It is a beautiful book, full of absolutely stunning colour plates from the region. There are chapters on Land, Nature and Scenery and The architecture of Sherry Wines to name but two. It thus functions as a history, a wine guide, and perhaps most importantly, a stunning advert for tourists.*

So what has this got to do with beer? Well it made me think about what we have in this country by way of an equivalent, and, while there are plenty of beer publications on the market, is it possible to imagine a government department thinking that beer and brewing is that important as an industry to get behind it in this sort of way?

I think it'd be moving into the realms of Sci-Fi and beer, and that's someone else's blog.

* Or at least it would do if you could get to have a look at a copy - it's not exactly a Waterstone's bestseller.

Additional: It's not just me! This was c/o Melissa Cole on Twitter 23/11/2011: Beer and Britain's Rural Economy. This article about the NFU asking for more support was also tweeted by the guys at St. Martin.

Hop Cheese

I got some of this from a local farm shop yesterday and I'm still undecided as to the best beer match. It's faintly aromatic (citrus maybe a giveaway to hops) but generally quite a creamy, subtle, earthy cheese. It would get blown out of the water by my original thoughts which were all 'big IPA' related. Research will have to continue.

I've got a good selection of beers in at the moment since I was allowed to splurge because of a birthday. This includes a bottle of Deus Brut des Flandres, which is not a beer that's in my usual price range, and I'm very much looking forward to that.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Great Beer or Great Times?

A piece Mark Dredge wrote about pubs with views got me thinking about how the situation you are in can affect the enjoyment of the beer you're drinking.

I'm going to assume anyone reading this is generally on the look out for a quality beer. It could be a pint of something you've been looking forward to for a long time, one you've read about, even to the point where it's been recommended as the best beer in the land, and finally you come across it in in a pub. A pub with a hen party/football team outing/karaoke competition/insert pet hate here, or any number of other extraneous factors that might just cloud your judgement.

I would argue that tasting is a subjective thing no matter how 'expert' we become at it. This is not a bad thing - I don't want to read opinion from someone whose writing isn't born of a passion. There can't be many wine show judges who would say 'I discovered my passion for wine by tasting and spitting eighty samples of a morning' but I'd like to think their passion got them there. When I worked in wine retail we used to get customers that came in saying 'I had this great wine on holiday, do you have...' but while I might have been able to sell them the wine I could never transport them back to the place and time they had it, although I hoped the fond memories would return irrespective of how good the wine was.

I commented on Mark's blog about drinking Worthington's Firewater in the Cresselly Arms in Pembrokeshire. Tide permitting we used to potter up the river from Burton Ferry to the Arms in my uncle's little dinghy. We'd sit on the quay overlooking the river enjoying a beer served, via a jug, straight from the cask. A great beer, or a great situation? A beautiful pub in one of my favourite parts of the world with people I love, and love to be with. On reflection I'd take an indifferent beer in those circumstances over the world's greatest beer and a hen party, but maybe it's just me.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Goose Island 'Honker's Ale'

Been off radar for a while since I've been busy doing the uninteresting things that I am hoping will earn me the money to continue my exploration of all things beer-related. It's also been a rather indifferent week on the beer front after the excitement of Stout Day and The Session.

So this post is due to, but not really inspired by, Goose Island 'Honker's Ale' which is apparently inspired by visiting English country pubs. All well and good making beer in an English style, but there are plenty of English beers out there that, although they are faultlessly made, are in the end just not that interesting!

Lovely brown colour with a hint of orange. It has a vague roasted malty nose, and there's a sweetness to start, which doesn't linger into the finish since it's taken away by a kiss of hops.

Not the sort of beer that inspires, although it was more interesting than the Lone Star by Pabst, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager, both which almost made my hop-thirsty palate feel like I hadn't drank a beer. Again, not unpleasant, but indistinguishable from many of its contemporaries. In its defence the Sam Adams had some richness that reminded me of some German Oktoberfest beers, but lacked the punch that the real thing has.


Apologies if this all comes across as a bit negative, since I don't like posting negative reviews, but it strikes me that with the Craft beer scene in the USA thriving, and feeding a similar resurrection of interest in different beers over here, it would be a shame if these sort of beers are held up as examples of a new beer scene in the US. And perhaps more worryingly it did make me wonder what sort of beers are ending up state-side and our friends in the US are thinking 'this is OK, not exciting, but OK... I hope my Sierra Nevada's cooled down so I can have that next.'

Goose Island Honker's Ale, 4.3%, £1.59 (355ml) Beers of Europe
Lone Star (Pabst), 4.7%, £1.59 (355ml) Beers of Europe
Samuel Adams Boston Lager, 4.8%, £1.59 (255ml), Waitrose. Also £30 a 24 bottle case at Majestic.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Oakham Ales 'Bishops Farewell'

The spectacle of beer advertising aimed at women came up again today courtesy of Greg at The Pour Curator and an innocent question about Sunday dinner from Emma Cole on Twitter. I have mentioned it before and frankly the whole thing is hardly worth dredging up again because it should be fairly obvious to anyone with even half a brain how patronising most of this stuff is, but hat-tip to Melissa Cole, not so much dripping sarcasm as standing in quite a deep puddle of it. I've yet to try Chick Beer or Uptown Girl - don't hold your breath.

I have, however, tried Bishops Farewell (sic) from Oakham. It's a pale blonde, hoppy beer, along similar lines to many that I tried at the Nottingham Beer Festival recently. Floral and pithy on the nose. Lots of citrus on the palate, and with a slight soapiness that I felt knocked the clean edge off the finish. Although this is probably bordering on the sacrilegious I think I might have been better off drinking this one cold rather than at cellar temperature, and I'm pretty sure it'd come across better on tap. Still, one of the more interesting pale ales that's generally available at the moment.

5% abv, £1.99 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Pipe and Glass

I was glad to see that the Pipe and Glass in South Dalton, East Yorkshire won the Michelin Pub of the Year award. I was brought up near there and it's a pub I've been visiting on and off most of my life since my parents still live nearby.

While it's generally had a good reputation locally, in the last few years it's really kicked on from there; good Yorkshire beer, an excellent wine list and superb food, which has earned it a Michelin star - and it's our venue of choice for birthday dinners and other celebrations. It also has good vegetarian options which, importantly, don't leave you wanting a snack by the time you have got home.

Highly recommended if you're ever in that part of the world. Friendly and unpretentious, proper Yorkshire hospitality.

More in The Guardian.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Guilty Secrets

My first contribution to The Session (#57)

I had to have a think about this one. I grew up in Yorkshire, where obviously all the beer was perfect (hmm). It wasn't until I went of to University that I got my first exposure to indifferent beer – and then that weird fizzy stuff which, I had to have explained to me, was lager.

It occurred to me to think about the guilty pleasure side of things. When I worked down in a London Oddbins which was next to a video shop, we used to try and match wines or beers with films, so I think what I'm asking is what is the ideal beer to go with the kind of film you might flake out of concentration (and probably consciousness) in front of, an accompaniment to the cerebral level required to fully absorb the delicate nuances of a mid-nineties Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster.* The film you rent to watch with some friends, that you're probably going to talk across rather than actually watch.

The great thing about great beer or a deep, complex wine is that it encourages thought, reflection and deliberation. However, if at all times you are analysing or deliberating and, almost by default, ignoring everything else life has to offer, then you are missing what it really does best, which is enhancing life. Even us beer geeks should sometimes ignore the beer, ignore what's playing on the idiot box, and enjoy the company we're in.

Recommendations? Polskie piwo dobre – 'nuff said (that's the limit of my Polish, and even then it's probably wrong!)

* For the record, it was Pirates of the Caribbean which stopped this sort of thing. Un-watchable no matter how many beers I'd had.

The Session #57 is hosted by Steve at Beers I've Known

Williams Bros 'Profanity' Stout

This is one of the beers that was in the Sainsbury's British Beer Hunt earlier this year (some of which I blogged about here) and since it was Stout day yesterday (a sort of Twitter-hashtag induced beer holiday) it seemed like a good excuse to getting round to trying this. As I've said before I'm a big fan of Williams Bros - and so I've been looking forward to this one for a while!

A smartly-packaged beer that pours with a hint of brown to the head - it's a black beer with a reddish hint when you look through it at a bright enough light! Serving it cold, as suggested, did seem to restrict the nose at first, but more of the malty/coffee aromas did pop up as it warmed a little. Full-bodied enough to carry off the alcohol, with an interesting, almost grainy texture (potentially from the oats) which contributes to the satisfying nature of the beer. Lots of dark-roast coffee flavours that are supplemented by dried fruit as it warms.

Like a good wine it's a beer that invites you to dwell on it and savour it rather than knock it back. A cold and rainy winter afternoon beer, to be matched with a good book or the Sunday papers.

7% abv, £1.89 (33cl) from Sainsbury's (although since the beer competition is finished it's probably not available there any longer.)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Victory 'Prima' Pils

Looks like a wheat beer - cloudy, straw-yellow and a short head retention, but got some big hoppy nose going on there, and when you taste it, there's a whole lot more. There's a herbal whiff of the more specialist Amsterdam café, and it snatches a bit of balance back from the big hop bite with a touch of sweetness in the finish. On further investigation, once you get past the hoppiness there is some spice (ginger) and lemon. Light bodied without overdoing the carbonation. All this contributes to a really rewarding beer, and it's refreshing enough to be deceptively quaffable.

I'm not sure how this is a 'German Style Pilsner,' I don't remember having had a German beer that was this intensely hoppy. The hops and malt may be German but the style? Although in the light of recent controversy surrounding the Oxford Companion to Beer (mainly surrounding Martyn Cornell's comments and how they were received) I think sometimes it's not that bad a thing to remain blissful in ignorance. I think I'll stick to drinking and thinking about it.

5.3% abv, £2.49 (355ml/12 fl oz - whatever they are) from Beers of Europe

I had to check up on the abv since it's not actually on the label. I'm surprised they get away with bringing it into the EU without it, but apparently there are reasons for this lack of information that go back to 1935 and post-prohibition laws, and some state legislatures still ban alcohol content labelling. Of course, the Surgeon General's warning about alcohol is still there despite them not telling you how much is in it. Crazy world indeed. More in this feature by Joe Strange.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Great Newsome 'Stoney Binks'

I picked this one up as part of a set while I was at the Beverley Food Festival at the beginning of last month.

I hadn't come across the Great Newsome Brewery before, and beer from a relatively new brewery (2007) from near where I grew up was far too tempting to pass up as an opportunity! The unusual name comes it being named after a local shale bank off Spurn Point.

This is one of their occasional beers,  an attractive amber ale with a malty nose and a hint of cinder toffee. There are toasty notes on the palate and a slight toffee sweetness which nicely balances the hint of orange. This isn't one for the hop-heads, don't be expecting a big hop kick, but it is a moreish, mellow, relaxing drop. Most enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to the others now!

4.1% abv, 50cl. Not sure on the price since I bought it as part of a set, although it's available for about £1.55 (£18.50 for 12 if you can collect) at the brewery.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pabst 'Blue Ribbon' Beer

I've had a couple of days of dealing with internet things I don't really understand so it was nice to get back to beer yesterday evening. I'm not really claiming to understand beer either, but since it makes me feel better then I don't really mind. Having said that I am grateful to all the beery people I follow and chat to on Twitter for dispelling some of my ignorance, and I'm also very much looking forward to the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Beer. This gratitude also makes articles like the hopelessly uninformed one from Peter Preston in this morning's Observer all the more irritating.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a pale yellow lager with a gentle lead-in sweetness, and a soft floral/blossomy finish. A decent enough apéritif beer, I suppose it ticks the boxes but it is not exactly an inspirational beer.

On the subject of uninspiring beers, according to the Pabst website they used to brew, or at least one of their subsidiaries (G. Heileman Brewing Co.) used to brew 'Carling's Black Label'. I was under the impression that Carling was a Canadian brand rather than American, so somewhat confused by that. The ignorance turns a full circle, but I suppose without ignorance we'd not have the fun of learning. Worth drinking to.

4.7% abv, £1.69 from Beers of Europe

Thursday, 27 October 2011

New Beer Blog Home

Due to bandwidth issues I am going to be posting my beer stuff here now. I've put a couple of my articles up from the old site from the last week while I get used to this interface. All good fun!

Thanks to everyone who has been reading, rather than robot spamming, my wineadvice blog - I guess someone must be or they wouldn't have stopped me using it. Older beer-related stuff and any wine posts should be back up on the wineadvice blog from the first of November.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hunter's 'Full Bore' Strong Ale

There's a lot of fuss on the Twittersphere (is that the right preposition?) at the moment about the government's increase in duty as applied to beer above 7.5%. The claim is that it will stop people drinking beer that's too strong - I am assuming the likes of Special Brew. Anyone with half an ounce of sense can see that this is not going to work (White Lightning anyone?) but what it will do is reduce the sales, and the stocking, of some really interesting artisan beers, especially 'specialist' imported beers that, and it may be because I don't hang around in the classier streets, I don't see people walking down the road swigging from a can.

If the tax was fair, then OK, but it means there is more duty on these beers than wines that are half as strong again - Blossom Hill anyone? I'm guessing that the House of Commons Cellar has a lot of wine, but not a lot of Belgian beer. Anyway, more of that here, and please sign the e-petition.

All of which brings me round to Hunter's Full Bore. I think that a beer that comes out at 8% should have massive amount of character to balance the alcohol. There is dried fruit in there, and a caramel sweetness, and it's certainly not a bad beer, but it's not really that exciting. So this isn't as good as a beer that's been brewed along similar lines by monks in Belgium for hundreds of years, it's no Westmalle Dubbel for example. But I guess the point is that if the tax man kicks the arse out of the market for potentially interesting beers that can be dwelt upon rather than knocked back, then we are going to miss out on the imports, and miss out on our brewers who will be less likely to brew this sort of beer, and therefore get better and better at it. In the mean time Carlsberg will carry on, and the Brew is unlikely to be influenced by the burgeoning domestic craft brewing scene.

£2.12 (50cl) at Sainbury's

I also tried McEwans Champion Ale recently. Certainly makes the Full Bore taste good. Deep brown beer with bunt toast aromas and flavours, a harsh, artificial, sweetness which really doesn't have any fruit flavours (like in the Full Bore) to back it up. Bitter finish but unfortunately a really inelegant beer, the hops simply fail to complement the sweetness, seeming almost completely at odds with it. Not at all clear what this is the champion of, but I wouldn't fancy tasting the competition!

7.3% abv. A quick internet check and it's available for £1.65 in Asda - I didn't buy this one.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fallen Angel 'Fire in the Hole' Chilli Beer

Spurious attempt to clear my cold/cough/bad chest/man flu the other night. This is one of two chilli beers that Fallen Angel brewery - I'll review the Black Death at a later date.

No head, amber beer, poured with a slight haze (I'd had it flat in the fridge due to overcrowding). Left a load of yeast sediment in the bottle, and there was a noticeable fizz - lots of secondary fermentation going on.

Loads of fresh chilli aromas. A real prickle on the tongue rather than an out and out fizz. Great sourness from the fruit and a gentle warmth. Reminded me somewhat of gueuze beer in terms of how the fruit came across. Really interesting and different, although a whole 500ml serving was a lot - if it were me I'd be inclined to go for a smaller bottle size - but only personal preference.
Not the first time I've had this one and no doubt it won't be the last, I first picked this up at the excellent chilli festival in Brighton. Love this one as a chilled, refreshing change.

4.0% abv (50cl) £2.29 from Beers of Europe

PS. While on the subject of chilli products, there's a new Doritos flavour out: Jalapeno Fire. Generally the more mainstream snacks come up with all sorts of claims about how hot they are and are nothing of the sort, but these do actually have a bit of flavour to them (even if it isn't really jalapeno) and I thought they were pretty good!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Nottingham 'Robin Hood' Beer Festival 2011

I went to the Nottingham Beer Festival last night, a Nottingham Camra organised festival - and a very well organised one at that. £12.50 gets you in, ten beer tokens (3 of which get you a half, 2 for a third of a pint) and a glass to put the beer in. There is a massive range (over 900) of beers, more than enough to keep you busy for the whole weekend should you feel so inclined.

What I think set this festival apart from, for example, Camra's Great British Beer Festival was the focus on it really being a Nottingham festival - local brewers and local bands providing a focal point, and a real festival feel rather than it being about beer geekery and nothing else. Small criticisms but I did think it wasn't that easy to find a specific beer if you were looking for it (although it might just have been me chatting rather than trying that hard), and if Camra are trying in any way to lose their image that they are often maintaining on numerous blogs is so outdated then that T-shirt stand should go - it's embarrassing.

Despite my rather scatter-gun approach to tasting the beers on offer I didn't have any that I didn't enjoy. I was looking for a couple in particular, the Brass Castle 'Bad Kitty' and the Magic Rock 'High Wire' but apart from that I tended to go for the ones I thought would have enough of a flavour punch to keep me interested - hops away!

Black Iris 'Intergalactic IPA' - The fledgling brewery's new brew, and a very good one too. Pale with a delicious hoppy bite. 6%
Brass Castle 'Bad Kitty' Porter - Excellent vanilla porter, like a vanilla and dark chocolate milkshake but without any cloying sweetness. Rich and satisfying. 5.5%
Empire Brewery 'Bedlam' - tucked away in the back of the entertainment tent, pale golden ale. 5.9%
Magic Rock 'High Wire' - American IPA style beer, great finish, long on the hops! 5.5%
Maypole 'Kiwi' IPA - One of the local brews but with Sauvin hops from Nelson, NZ. Really floral and with a citrus finish. 5%
Nottingham 'Knight's T'Ale' - A new one from the Nottingham Brewery, a traditional coppery bitter. 3.9%
Raw Pacific Ghost IPA - Another big, citrussy American style IPA, but made with NZ hops. 5.9%
Severn Vale 'Seven Sins' - Since we were waiting for Seven Little Sisters to come while chatting to Nigel who was engineering the sound this seemed the natural choice. Lovely dry stout - marked contrast to most of the big hoppy beers I went for but possibly all the more pleasant because of that. A  SIBA champion. 5.2%
Springhead 'Roaring Meg' - Although I'd tried this before I wanted to have a beer that was pulled through a sparkler (Northerners eh?). A more traditional style pale ale, not so much of a hop monster, and rather mellow for a 5.5% brew.

Had I had more time I'd have sought out Thornbridge, Dark Star and Blue Monkey beers, but there's only so much you can get through, so maybe next time.

Cheers to Nottingham Camra!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sadler's 'Worcester Sorcerer'

I enjoyed this one from Sadler's Ales - the packaging is a bit cheesy, not sure what Gandalf is doing there. Did he drink ale as well as having a go at the halflings' leaf?

Anyway, Lord of the Rings aside it's a really good, flavoursome bitter. Plenty of hoppy bite with a sweetness from the malt that gives it a good complexity, and all at a mere 4.3%. Moreish, and just what I'd want from a proper pint (or bottle as it is in this case) of bitter!

4.3% abv. £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Friday, 7 October 2011

Wye Valley Brewery 'Wye Not?'

Some beers are difficult to write about, not because they are necessarily boring, or bad, but because they are 'good, solid performers' - the beer equivalent of the box to box midfielder who 'does a job.' For this reason I am resorting to football writer clichés rather than a probably even more tired and clichéd tasting note. Well, not entirely...

Amber-gold beer with a clean white head. Slight malty sweetness but balanced by a marked pithiness and a bitter finish. A pleasant all-rounder (I'm stopping the sporting metaphors now.)

Just had a nosey at the Wye Valley Brewery website. It's no reflection on the beer but is the whole Dorothy Goodbody thing necessary? Anyway, it's there if you feel like a titter or two apparently - I think I'll pass.

4.5% abv. £1.89 from Sainsbury's

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ridgeway Brewing 'Ivanhoe' Pale Ale

Apparently made to have a balance between the malt and the hops. Fair enough.

It's a really refreshing beer considering the 5.2% abv - enough of an orange-pithy hoppiness to keep things interesting and malty enough to give it some body. Rather moreish though, possibly rather dangerous for such a strong beer - not that I'm complaining!

It's not as good as the 'Bad King John,' lacking a little bit of character to be at that sort of level, but better than some of the other, rather dull offerings in the hunt.

£1.99 from Sainsbury's

Friday, 30 September 2011

McMullen 'Stronghart' Bitter

Here we go, off the back of a chilly summer it must be time to have a go at the winter warmers as the nights draw in. Something warming and fruity to ward off the cold... Oh... Bugger... So that's what happened to the summer - it was down the back of the sofa all that time! Well, going for the beer anyway.

A deep, dark beer - ruby red colour when you hold it up to the light.

Powerful stuff, liquorice aromas with a fruit tang. Lots of burnt, smoky flavours - treacle but not overly sweet. Pleasant dryness on the finish. A well made beer - I can see why the McMullen got beaten in the GBBH by the Bad King John (see below) but that's an honourable defeat.

7% abv, £2.12 (50cl) from Sainsbury's - presumably while stocks last!

I'm still in the process of reviewing the beers, but the winners were announced today. First place went to Ridgeway's Bad King John and second to Williams' Caesar Augustus. Two very different beers, both of which I reviewed earlier this month, but both equally worthy winners - well done!

As far as I understand it these beers will be rolled out to 150 Sainsbury's shops for a 6 month run.

I also heard on the grapevine (twittervine?) that the 'British' beer hunt didn't run in Wales. Obviously the final had no Welsh or Ulster beers but I assumed this was because they had been knocked out in the qualifiers or whatever, but if they were just not included - and thus not included in the sales end for people to try - then that's not a good move by Sainsbury's.

Generally though, good beer, good fun.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Wold Top 'Golden Summer'

A confession to something of a local bias - I grew up near Driffield (my Mum worked there) and I have tried Wold Top's beers before courtesy of Roberts & Speight, who used to be my local wine merchants and off licence when I was far too young to be appreciating these sorts of things.

Having said that, I was prepared to be quite underwhelmed by Golden Summer. There are an awful lot of low to mid strength pale beers knocking about, and so many of them are very samey. When I was in a pub this weekend I tried three different ones which tasted so similar it seemed to be something of a misuse of two beer engines and space in the cellar.

Rant aside, this was actually very good - far from being another also-ran. It might have been because it was brewed up to 4.4% but they've done a good job of getting some character into the beer. There is a sneaky hop bite to it but it's not an American style hop-monster, you have to go looking for it lurking amongst the barley, which makes it all the more interesting!

Only criticism is that it seems a bit of an injustice to call it a summer beer - I reckon I'd be happy to drink this at any time of year. Hoping to get a chance to try it on tap - preferably in place of a bland, pale, 3.5% 'session' Deuchars IPA/Oakham JHB/Castle Rock Harvest Pale copy.

4.4% abv. £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Monday, 26 September 2011

Caledonian 'Flying Dutchman' Wheat Beer

Nicely designed, very dutch orange label, I'm sure the royal family would be proud. Unless they taste the beer that has shamelessly used their colours - because it's just a bit... Meh.

It's suggested that the beer is served chilled, but it didn't actually taste of very much so I let it warm up a bit. This didn't particularly help. It's supposedly flavoured with orange, coriander and liquorice but, certainly at fridge temperature, it's so subtle as to be wasted.

Light body, refreshing but really kind of disappointing. Talking about the label is rarely a good sign at the start of a review, it's like when you're at school and you say 'What do you think of that essay?' and the teacher says 'Well, the handwriting is good.' So I guess, 'can do better' is appropriate - and Caledonian can!

4.5% abv, £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Friday, 23 September 2011

Joseph Holt 'Two Hoots' Golden Ale

Well it was all going so well! The standard of the beers in Sainsbury's beer hunt has been excellent so far so I suppose it's almost inevitable that some are not going to be so great. Maybe I am being a little harsh but this wasn't up to the dizzy heights scaled by previous beers I'd tried. This one's from Joseph Holt up in Manchester.

A golden-brown beer that comes in a clear bottle - bad idea form the start, beer doesn't react well to light. Head collapsed quite quickly.

Pleasant malty aroma (coming from crystal malt as I understand it) and a decent hoppy bite on the sweetish finish, but overall it was nothing spectacular.

4.2% abv. £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Monday, 19 September 2011

Harviestoun 'Wild Hop' IPA

Another corker from the beer hunt range, this time from Harviestoun.

Gold colour with quite a short head retention.

I wasn't sure of the ideal serving temperature, so I tried it cold then again once it had warmed up to around cellar temperature.

When cold it's a big hop head-shot, almost making your eyes water! All citrus, particularly grapefruit, and the coldness seems to take away any floral hoppiness and replace it all with bite. Seemed a less feminine IPA compared to something like Brewdog's 'Punk' IPA.

When it warmed up it mellowed a bit (although it's all relative) and some of the floral hoppiness came through. Still a hop belter though.

5.2% abv. £1.99 (50cl) from Sainsbury's.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Ridgeway Brewing 'Bad King John' Black Ale

A black ale - the name's a giveaway I suppose.

Lots of coffee and dark chocolate on the nose. Coffee and chocolate continue through on the mid-palate, with a robust earthiness. Smack of hops stops the beer being cloying, keeps a refreshing dryness. Lingering burnt malt finish that goes on and on.

Another excellent beer, real multi-layered complexity. Picking winners out of this lot is going to be tricky! Label could probably have done with some serving temperature information - I drank it at cellar temperature but only through guesswork - although it was great.

6.0% abv. £2.09 (50cl) at Sainsbury's.

Oxfordshire Ales 'Churchill' IPA

A rich reddish gold coloured beer. Another entry to Sainsbury's Beer Hunt from Oxfordshire Ales - beautiful colour.

More malty than I expected - lots of toasty and smoky flavours and aromas along with caramel. Perhaps a little over fizzy for my liking. Decent if unspectacular old-fashioned IPA - reminded me of the old McEwans IPA that S&N binned years ago (although I am probably guilty of remembering it with a certain rose-tinted nostalgia!)

4.5% abv. £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Williams Bros. 'Caesar Augustus' Lager/IPA Hybrid

- A what?

- Lager/IPA hybrid - you know?

- No bloody idea what you're on about.

- Look at the back label then...

The first one of the Sainsbury's beers I picked out was brewed as a lager then had hops chucked in - presumably to give it more character. Fair enough.

Here's what Williams say about it:

"We use the term lager/IPA hybrid because we cold ferment this beer with a classic lager yeast. The initial fermentation takes at least two weeks, after which we lager (store) the beer at zero degrees for a minimum of four weeks, during which we add a chock load of classic IPA style hops and allow the two to marry - fanfare!"

The result? A really good beer. Gentle, floral hoppy notes, the lagering seems to have rounded out the flavour - holding back the aggression you can get from some IPAs. A crisp, clean citrussy beer with enough fizz to give it a pleasant, creamy texture, and a light, sweet, honey-like kiss on the finish.

One thing I've always liked about Williams bros beers (and I've reviewed a couple on this fledgling blog) is that they can do the subtle well, they don't feel the need to have 'shouty' flavours, character through a melding of different flavours rather than letting one go mad. Of course, I've not tried the Profanity Stout yet (I'm thinking that sounds less subtle.)

This is a really excellent beer, a bridge-builder if you like, that could be enjoyed by hop heads and lager drinkers alike. If this is the standard of the Beer Hunt beers than everyone is in for a treat!

4.1% abv. £1.89 (50cl) at Sainsbury's

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt

The big supermarkets are generally held up as being the enemy of the smaller producers of wine, beer, local producers, and high street businesses in general, often with considerable justification. However, it seems fair to point out when they do do something that promotes people who are making something other than the usual mass-produced, high volume product. In this case it is Sainsbury's attempt to address the micro brew market. It could be argued that once one of these beers is brewed on the scale required for a company such as Sainsbury's that it might lose its character, but again it is unfair to prejudge - and since I have only ever tried one of these beers (Wold Top comes from near my parents' place) - I am looking forward to trying this lot.

Bad King John: Ridgeway Brewing Company
Bishop's Farewell: Oakham
Caesar Augustus: Williams Brothers
Churchill Ale: Oxfordshire Ales
Flying Dutchman: Caledonian
Full Bore: Hunter's Brewery
Golden Seahawk: Cotleigh Brewery
Golden Summer: Wold Top
Ivanhoe: Ridgeway Brewing Company
Profanity Stout: Williams Brothers
Stronghart: McMullen & Sons
Two Hoots: Joseph Holt
Wye Not: Wye Valley Brewery
Wild Hop IPA: Harviestoun
Worcester Sorcerer: Sadler's Ales

I'll price the beers individually under their own entries, but they are currently on a 3 for £5 mixable deal.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Figures Fuel UK Alcohol Debate?

The British Beer & Pub Association’s Statistical Handbook 2011 has suggested that drinking in the UK has been falling since 2004, according to an article on the Drinks Business website.

Leaving aside my suspicions of such statistics and their interpretation, there is one assumption that I would be perfectly prepared to make with respect to this survey: It won't get any press coverage.

This is a shame - it would be good to see this picked up and analysed - but if it turned out to be accurate and without bias, then it would hardly fit in with scare stories about 'Binge Britain,' accompanied by the usual photos of drunk women in short skirts sitting on a pavement/drunk men bleeding on a pavement that keep us informed (providing we read the Daily Hate) about how broken Britain is. Thus, it becomes a non-story before it even gets started, and consequently the debate never happens... Back to the scaremongering. Now, where did I leave my blue WKD?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Black Iris Brewery, Derby

I had the chance to have a look round the new Black Iris brewery in Derby last night. It is at the back of the Flower Pot pub, a proper, independent (the owner has two pubs) boozer/live music venue not far from the city centre.

Black Iris' beer is a work in progress project, but they have released three - a pale ale, a bitter and a stout. Bearing in mind these are the first releases from guys who are learning on the job they have done really well - I'm glad to see that they intend to learn the basics, ie. get these styles of beer right, before leaping into more experimental projects. Each of the beer recipes only uses a couple of different hop varieties - again so that they can get an idea of how the hops effect the end product.

Here's the artwork for the first run of beers as designed by a local tattoo artist.

Nick, a proud Dad, and a small but perfectly formed brewery:


Note: This is actually a post from my old blog which kept going wrong, but I thought I'd add a bit and move it over (19/11) as it's something that not many people would have seen.

More backstory from This is Derbyshire here. You can also get more news from Black Iris on Facebook. Their Intergalactic IPA was a highlight of Nottingham Beer Festival for me.