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