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    Monday, 31 December 2007

    Looking Forward To 2008

    The end of the year is traditionally the time we vow to do loads of worthy things during the following 365 days, but rarely keep our promise beyond a week or three. However in spite of previous attempts of mine failing I'm going to try and keep the following resolutions and now that they are being published on this blog I cannot dent ever having said I will do certain things.

    As you would expect of a beer blog most are beer related, but not all are:

    1. Try to lose weight - Who hasn't tried to do this over the years? Truth is though that between the beginning of October and Christmas I lost 14 lbs. Christmas has seen five of these go back on, but a really concerted effort should see success for me this year. Mind you that doesn't mean cutting down on the beer

    2. Eat conscientiously - By this I mean only eat meat farmed organically, or at least that the meat is free range (I really cannot go vegetarian). I already do this at home but I need to stick to my laurels and abide by this when eating elsewhere, like others' homes and beer festivals for example. It's pretty inexcusable not eating more ethically; good food is more expensive but it is most definitely worth it.

    3. Leave more comments on other blogs - I'm sure people appreciate comments being left, I know I do, so I'll try to devote more time to show that I read and enjoy other blogs.

    4. Respond to comments on my blog - Sometimes I just read and publish without joining in the debate, I must get out of that habit.

    5. Don't be so bothered about drinking new beers - this will particularly appeal to some of my readers. I will have had 850 new beers in 2007 by the end of tonight. I aim to reduce that number in 2008.

    6. Drink more local beers - Wherever possible I will drink Northamptonshire beers whenever I see them.

    7. Revisit all of the following beers - I really need to try these beers again in deference to new stuff. To that end, one day a week I will only drink stuff I've had before.


    All three widely available Chimays

    Rochefort 6 and 8

    Westmalle Triple


    Thornbridge Jaipur

    Crouch Vale Brewers Gold and Extra

    Dark Star Hophead

    Bush Ambrée

    Girardin Gueuze Black Label

    Cantillon Gueuze and Rose de Gambrinus


    Okay that last one is a joke, but the list isn't exhaustive anyway.

    So let's see how I do, I'll try and report back in a years time. Meanwhile Happy New Year To All Of You, and thanks for reading my little space in surfdom.

    Sunday, 30 December 2007

    Trappist Lagers And Foreign Meantime

    I've written quite a few pieces highlighting journalistic nonsense. It really annoys me when people who are paid to write stuff for national or regional publications appear to be called to their editor and given the task of writing a little piece about beer, and get it so sadly wrong.

    Sadly these people's interest in the subject doesn't amount to much and their research skills are far inferior to what one would expect from anybody who takes such a job seriously. It's not that I have any great desire to write on a grander scale myself; I know I have many shortcomings, but I'd like to think my pieces have very few factual inaccuracies (although it seems I made a mistake with the Caledonian/S&N issue).

    In addition there are days when I don't have much to say so it gets things off my chest to give you all a laugh at the incompetencies of our writing bretheren. I'll continue to do this throughout next year, although I will understand it if it you think I'm wasting my time getting my heckles up.

    Only today I've laughed (cried) at two articles I've found. The first is in one of our worst tabloid rags and talks about how strong beers are the name of the game at the moment. Two quotes are reproduced below; spot the silly errors.

    "Supermarkets are now stocking strong overseas lagers such as 11% Kasteel Blonde, 10% La Trappe Quadrupel Strong Ale and 9% Chimay Blue."

    "Other dynamite imported drinks include 8.7% Hoegaarden Grand Cru, 8% King Cobra and 7.5% Meantime India Pale Ale."

    See what I mean? The second piece is from The York Press talking about that beer mecca Antwerpen. There's very little mention of beer - I guess it's just as well they didn't visit The Kulminator - but the one bit they have written: The local, amber-coloured Bolleke is a fine winter warmer is a really odd statement. I have never heard the 5% De Koninck described as a winter warmer, certainly when you can buy any sort of really strong beers in that fair city.

    I'd love standards of journalism to get better in 2008, but I don't see it happening.

    Friday, 28 December 2007

    The Dumbing Down Of Deuchars

    Nottingham CAMRA recently surveyed 102 pubs within their branch area. Pleasingly 98 of these sold real ale, and there were 178 different beers found.

    The most commonly found beer though was not something local, or something from one of the biggest English brewers, but a beer all the way from Edinburgh in Scotland.

    Yes Caledonian Deuchars IPA was found in 26 of those pubs visited. And herein probably lies the reason why this beer is not a patch on what it used to be. In 2002 Deuchars won Champion Beer Of Britain. At the time it was a lovely hoppy tasting beer with a nice fruity malty contrast and was wonderfully drinkable. Now the beer tastes like it has less hops and is sweeter than ever. It definitely wouldn't win any awards now and that's not simply because the competition has hottened up; it's because this beer has dumbed down.

    I could blame it on the take over of Caledonian by Scottish & Newcastle, and I am sure I am not far from the truth, but it's such a shame when a beer becomes too big for its own boots.

    Thursday, 27 December 2007

    I'm So Hard To Buy For.

    It's always great to get what you want for Christmas, but pretty rubbish when you get something which is bought with good intentions but actually turns out to be disappointing.

    That's why people don't buy me beer for Christmas. I'm so fussy! I either want beers I've not had before or really good stuff. Don't just nip to the nearest supermarket and buy a random selection for a tenner or, far worse, buy one of those rip off selection packs from British Home Stores or some such place. I will fail to appreciate it.

    Therefore this year I only received one beer and that after receiving a text message asking if I had heard of the particular beer. My Christmas gift was Locher Balik Beer, an 11% beer from Switzerland brewed "to an old Russian porter recipe with brown malt, Russian kwas, hops and water from balik's own source at Ebersol. It is then matured for one year in old oak butts and receives individual care up to its maturity".

    This all sounds pretty interesting, even if you can tell it's not as dark as you would expect from looking through its green glass bottle. I'll get round to drinking it sometime in the Spring probably. I'll feed back.

    Are Germans Losing The Taste For Beer?

    According to Reuters, Germans are drinking less and less beer year on year. An interesting quote from the Brewery Association Manging Director blames it on demographics. Oh that's alright then, there's nothing we can do about demographics! Let's not worry about it.

    My opinion differs though. The simple reason why Germans are drinking less beer is that it's just boring. Don't get me wrong I do like German beer (or at least some of it). Unfiltered German lagers are wonderful, as are the smoked beers of Bamberg, and the rich alcohol infused doppelbocks which I can't get enough of. But other than that it's just pretty boring ordinary lagers.

    A lot has been said about the Reinheitsgebot. I won't attempt to write a great ditribe about it. Ron Pattinson does it far better than I can which you can read here. Put simply, for me, it's time the Germans grew up and smelt the coffee. Beer is far more interesting than just malt, hops, yeast and water (and sugar for certain beers). They need to experiment like other brewing nations do. And they need to import more.

    The Germans are fiercely proud of their beers, but they need to let go and import beers from the other great brewing nations, and let go of their old traditions. Trouble is they will then realise what they are missing and there will be revolt.

    And the last thing we need is revolting Germans!!

    Saturday, 22 December 2007

    Found Today, Bacchus - Liefmans Replacements

    I found these two beers in Sainsbury's today. They are not Liefmans Kriek and Frambozen, but Van Honsebrouck Bacchus Kriek and Frambozen. It is however easy to get them mixed up, such is the nature of the packaging.

    This is obviously more evidence of the difficulties Liefmans have found themselves in. Reports from Belgium are that they have been declared bankrupt. Clearly Sainsbury's and Van Honsebrouck have moved quickly to produce replacements. It remains to be seen how good they are but I shall obviously give them a whirl.

    Thursday, 20 December 2007

    Northamptonshire Breweries Have Bottle

    Two breweries from the county where I live have just started having their beers bottled. Following on the heels of Frog Island and Hoggleys, you can now buy bottled beers from Great Oakley and Potbelly.

    From the former comes Wot's Occurring, Gobble and Delapre Dark, whilst from Potbelly you can find Beijing Black, Pigs Do Fly, Redwing, Jingle Bellies and Crazy Daze.

    Both these relatively new breweries produce some great stuff, so if you find any of these in your local beer shop, then treat yourself.

    Tuesday, 18 December 2007

    It's Christmas, Let's Put The Prices Up

    A couple of days ago Tandleman wrote an interesting piece on his blog about Christmas beers and how they rarely differ from regular all year round beers.

    I fully agreed with him. With a few exceptions they are ordinary beers with a seasonal name and a fancy pump clip.

    Today though I realised something else about beers with Christmas names: Wetherspoons can put their prices up. Just last month the guest ales cost £1.59 a pint. However my half of Grainstore Three Kings, another unseasonal beer cost me 90p. That's a colossal rise of 20 pence a pint. I'm convinced they get away with it because your average customer does feel Christmas beers are a bit special.

    Are Christmas guest ales dearer in your local JDW? I'd be interested to know.

    Monday, 17 December 2007

    Help For Heroes Spitfire - A Deception?

    Without trawling through every page on the Internet, I can find no proof that Help For Heroes Spitfire is a new beer. It is however described as such in various places.

    The beer appears just to be the regualr Spitfire but sold in 250 ml bottles. There is no doubt that Help For Heroes is a worthy cause but there does appear to be some deception here.

    Shepherd Neame are such a huge brewery that they could and should do better than this. If anybody can show me that I am incorrect, and that this is indeed a new beer then I would be glad to be proven wrong.

    Sunday, 16 December 2007

    A Beer For Women? Probably Not.

    Today's Observer carries a story about a new real ale designed specifically for women.

    19 year old Harriet Easton has spent 18 months and £35000 reserching a beer which she appears to believe will be perfect for women. Working together with Hanby brewery she has come up with a pale 4.2% ABV beer with orange extract.

    Confusingly she has named it Harry's Beer rather than the more feminine Harriet's Beer which her name may have led her towards.

    I fail to see this as being anything other than an expensive publicity stunt. Firstly I'm not sure women will go for this. If they like real ale they like it for what it is, and I am sure are not searching for a girly version. They will probably try it but will probably not agree it's a woman's beer. And if they don't like real ale I doubt they will try it anyway.

    Being brewed by Hanby there's little chance of it getting national pub coverage either so it's all set up to fail.

    I would be interested what female readers think. I'm sure you all have sufficiently discerning taste to agree that there is no need for a woman's beer. After all: good beer is for everyone.

    Wednesday, 12 December 2007

    Smoking Ban To Hit Munich

    The Bavarian Parliament passed a smoking ban today which will commence on January 1st 2008.

    I'm a big fan of the smoking ban in this country and wish Bavarians every success with this, but it's pretty short notice. We had months in this country to prepare. Mind you it tends to be the case that something which takes a long time in this country is done in a jiffy overseas (think Football stadia).

    So the Munich Oktoberfest will be smoke free next year. Not that I will be going, I don't really see the point of a beer festival with so few beers.

    Tuesday, 11 December 2007

    Watch Out India - Greene King On The Way

    I'm really not sure what they have done to deserve it. They have influenced the best post pub cuisine available in this country. They have given the World Sachin Tendulkar and Shilpa Shetty. Now what are we giving them back?

    Bloody Greene King Beers. Many years ago of course we exported heavily hopped strong beers to India; now we are sending them Old Speckled Hen and GK IPA. It's such a shame, how the mighty have fallen. Still maybe it will mean there's less of them in this country. We can but hope I suppose.

    Two Awards For Adnams

    Adnams Brewery has won two recent awards. Its Bitter was first named Champion Beer Of East Anglia and now head brewer Mike Powell-Evans has been chosen as Brewer Of The Year by The British Guild Of Beer Writers.

    I like Adnams beers; they are consistently good, and they haven't gone down the road of saturating the market with new beers on a weekly basis. My Dad states that Adnams Bitter is the only real ale which doesn't give him a headache. This is a pretty bold statement but it's clear that he enjoys drinking it and seeks it out wherever possible. Particular favourites of mine are Tally Ho and Old Ale both of which should be around the market at the moment, and certainly shouldn't be missed.

    There is one bizarre side to Adnams though. As reported by Stonch, they introduced a strange hybrid beer Spindrift last year. I've not seen it yet, but I'm not in a hurry.

    Monday, 10 December 2007

    Two Blasts From The Past

    I went into The Coach & Horses in Wellingborough today. This is an excellent pub with eight real ales all in lovely condition, and, following on from yesterday's theme, has a wonderful log fire.

    I was surprised to see, alongside local beers from Great Oakley and other more commonly found guest beers, two blasts from the past. These were Ansells Bitter and Ind Coope Burton Ale. Both of these are produced in much smaller quantities now they are brewed at the Carlsberg Tetley plant in Leeds than they used to be when brewed at either Birmingham or Burton. Indeed Burton Ale was very easy to find following its victory in the Champion Beer Of Britain competition in 1990. It was described around that time by Roger Protz as "one of the most succulent beers known to personkind".

    I couldn't resist trying these two beers, to see if I could recall any memories from when I previously tried them so many years ago.

    The Ansells has a sulphuric Burton type note to it and had friendly easy drinking bitterness. None of your modern American hops in this. It was fairly thin, but drinkable if you don't mind the sulphur. It would certainly appeal to ordinary bitter drinkers. I couldn't recall however, my experiences of drinking this previously.

    Ind Coope Burton Ale also was sulphuric and had some nice hoppy flavours. I did recall the fruitiness of yesteryear but found his far more restrained now. It had a lot of the same qualities as the Ansells but more fruit and more alcohol.

    I enjoyed both beers; they are drinkable and approachable. The sulphur was not off-putting like I found it to be in Marstons Pedigree when I last had it. They were fun beers to drink.

    I should add that I had some Great Oakley Delapre Dark straight after. This knoked the socks off either of the other two, but that's a progressive micro for you!

    Sunday, 9 December 2007

    The Best Of Winter Pubs

    There's a nice piece in today's Sunday Times written by Roger Protz in which he describes his favourite ten British pubs for the Winter. It's a list which takes in pubs the length and breadth of mainland Britain, no doubt to appease readers from all over.

    The best pubs are good all year round but some come into their own in the colder months either because of a wonderful log fire or a particularly good selection of Winter fare, be it alcohol or food. Roger only specifically mentions these things in a couple of cases and seems to concentrate on good walkers' pubs or those which are pretty damn good all year round.

    I've only been to one of the ten pubs mentioned: The Old Dungeon Ghyll in Cumbria, and it was at the end of a longish walk in December. It's a good pub but I don't see that it's necessarily better in Winter. Much better is The Britannia just a few miles away in Elterwater which has a roaring fire or two for those freezing cold nights, as well as a good range of real ales.

    It's worth attempting to visit all the pubs on Roger's list whatever time of year it is as I'm sure they are all lovely.

    It definitely seems to be the case that Winter is with us. Only on Friday at one of my locals, I sat next to my first fire of the season. You just can't beat it.

    Thursday, 6 December 2007

    Pigs Ear - My Impressions

    Apologies that my write up of the Pigs Ear Beer Festival is so delayed. I actually went on Tuesday, the first day. This is normally the date that the most beers are available and, if the festival is open all day, is generally the best day to go.

    I gave myself plenty of time to get there not really knowing that part of the World so well. In fact I arrived so early that I would have been first in the queue had I not spotted the Hackney Museum over the road, where I then spent a quarter of an hour taking in the exhibits (it's not the biggest museum in the World).

    So, having drawn the line of geekdom as being front of a beer festival queue, I found myself third (much better) when I returned. My friend Ian turned up pretty soon after and we waited for the advertized opening time of noon.

    As is always the case with London beer festivals though, the doors didn't open until 10 past. We eagerly bound up the stairs and grabbed a table near the foreign bar and worked out our action plan, whilst waiting for Chris to turn up also.

    It's not unusual for criticism to be levelled as a beer festival, indeed none of them are perfect, and where Pigs Ear disappointed was the number of cask ales which were unavailable for whatever reason. The list is excellent and pretty full of new beers and new breweries, but only about half of the 140 beers advertized were actually on. Don't get me wrong, 70 beers is good, but when you are expecting over 100 then it's not so impressive.

    The foreign list though was superb and all beers were available (just a couple of replacements), and 20 or so German beers added late to the list, were an added bonus.

    The condition of the cask beer was generally very good. Of particular good quality were Dunham Massey Big Tree, a crisp crunchy English bitter and Goode-Brown Neck Oil Porter, a porter from an Essex homebrewer who may or may not be going commercial!. We also tried this year's version of Pitfield Night On Mare Street which last year was a quite delicious 14% Barley Wine. It's 14.2% this year and entitled Night On Mare Street 2. This wasn't as good as last year but still powerfully drinkable and very smooth.

    The best beers though were from overseas.3 Fonteinen Doesjel is a beautifully funky Gueuze typical of the producer with lovely sour lemon acidity, whilst Ølfabrikken Brown Ale was almost as good as Mikkeller Jackie Brown which I chose for my fantasy beer fridge. Additionally I bought a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Hommage to take home. This is a beer I was crazy enough to miss at GBBF.

    I did have a good time in spite of the slight moan. It was my first big festival in over three months, a downpoint being its distance from home. I had to leave before other bloggers arrived unfortunately so missed the chance of meeting them for a good old chinwag. You can read their thoughts here, and here (with presumably more to come), and no doubt here when The Beer Nut gets a chance. Boak and Bailey went later in the week.

    Monday, 3 December 2007

    Beer Of The Month - November 2007

    I had 56 new beers in November which isn't a bad month especially when you consider I didn't really go out very much. I had a couple of trips to Leicester and a short session in Nottingham, but other than that it was pretty much bottles at home.

    The two best beers I had were both from the bottle. Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer is the beer which has caused the most controversy in my surfing month, but it is truly a lovely beer, with the character from the rum enhancing the oaky flavours which I&G beers have. The other top bottled beer is Consecrator Doppelbock from Bells Brewery in Michigan. I was lucky enough to be sent this beer by an American RateBeerian together with another couple of Bells' beers. I am a huge fan of doppelbocks, loving the sticky sweet alcohol fused beers, and this one didn't disappoint. It is perhaps not as rich as the classic German doppelbocks like Celebrator or Maximator, but it is still a lovely beer, and not noticeably American. Other commendable bottled beers were Jubeltrunk Altfränkisch, a dunkel from Pyraser Landbrauerei, and Winter Time Winter Warmer, the new seasonal offering from Meantime of London.

    Five cask ales have stood out this month. Two of them are milds and the other three golden ales. I did have some stronger winter ales, but they didn't match up to these five. The three goldens were Hype from BrewDog. A lot has been blogged about this progressive Scottish brewery but one thing is for sure: they are not afraid to use ingredients. This is very well hopped for a 4.1% beer, and very easy to drink. The other two I had one after the other and they were amazingly similar. Both very much brewed in the American Pale Ale mould with piney hops and a nice balance from the malts. These beers were 3 Witches from Oakham, and Gold Rush from Elland. Both are well worth seeking out. The two milds were Rock Mild from Nottingham which I had in the historic old Bell Inn in Nottingham itself. This was a beer full of flavour from the roasted malt, but also suprisingly hoppy. At 3.8% it was quite amazing. The other mild was the current Champion Beer Of Britain, Hobsons Mild. This was the first time I had had this beer in five years and my memories of it being an excellent beer were fully correct. I am not sure it is the best beer in Britain today, but it's pretty damn good, and all at the miniscule 3.2%.

    Overall I would have to award Innis & Gunn the overall beer of the month, and Nottingham Rock Mild the cask ale of the month, bot h very good beers, but I am very hopeful for better in December. After all we all treat ourselves aound Christmas time.

    Pigs Ear Beer Festival Tomorrow

    It's the first day of the Pigs Ear Beer Festival tomorrow and I'm happy to be going. Pigs Ear is so named as it is the cockney rhyming slang for beer. The festival is being held in Hackney for the second successive year after previously being held in Stratford until a problem with the venue meant that there was no festival at all for a couple of years. I'm pretty excited, not least because it's my first big festival in nearly four months, and because the cask and foreign beer lists are very good indeed.

    I am particularly looking forward to a couple of the lambics I've not yet had, and a fair few British milds and stouts look interesting too. Hopefully the problems of last year which were beyond the control of the organisers (powercut) will be a dim and distant memory.

    I'll report back later in the week with how I get on.

    Sunday, 2 December 2007

    A Pint Is Best With Your Pie

    It's nice to see beer getting a mention in a food writer's review of a meal. I found this piece on the blog of the Manchester Evening News' food critic.

    She clearly enjoyed the pint of Acorn Barnsley Bitter she had, and appreciated the part it played in the cooking of her pie. It's good that she preferred the beer a great deal more than the house wine on offer. Acorn is a particular favourite brewery of mine making clean simple English style ales which all somehow seem to taste like they know how best to use quality products. I mentioned them in my ten happening breweries piece, so it's good to see them enjoyed in this way.

    In spite of all this praise on the beer and the meal, I will have to say though that the picture of the pie, chips and peas does't make my mouth water nearly as much as the pint of bitter would!

    Saturday, 1 December 2007

    Around The World In 60 Pubs

    A 25 day, 12 country, 60 pub-crawl has been condemned as irresponsible by Australian do-gooders.

    The World Pubcrawl is organised by Thirsty Swagman in Australia is set to leave London in March next year and it is promised to participants that "the only sightseeing they'll do is the inside of a bar."

    The Australian Medical Association have unsurprisingly described it as "dangerous and irresponsible", and that it promotes binge drinking.

    Of course it is a rather stupid way of spending around £5000 even if a World Beer Tour is something we all aspire to. Our ideas of booze cruises though are very different to this which I am sure will be visiting what are laughingly described as trendy bars, rather than brewpubs and beer palaces.

    Still if anyone really feels they have the liver for such an event then the best of luck to them.

    Czech This Quadruppelbock Out

    A Czech brewery is launching a 21% beer. Not surprisingly, at this strength, it is dark and as it is a Czech beer, it's bottom fermented. It is described as a doppel doppel bock. So that'll be a quadruppelbock then?!

    It will hardly come as a shock that they are looking to export it to USA who get all the good beers in both senses of the word.

    This doesn't seem like the type of beer which would be too popular in its homeland but will appear to beer geeks the World over. I doubt very much though that we will see it in the UK sadly.

    Wednesday, 28 November 2007

    Duke Of Bronte - NOT The Strongest Bottled Beer In UK

    Old Bear Brewery in Keighley, England has bottled its 12.5% beer Duke Of Bronte. This beer has been seen cask conditioned, but has now been bottled "for the beer connoisseurs ".

    It's good to see brewers being proud of their products, and challenging the 'wine is better than beer' snobbery, and for that I commend Ian Cowling.

    Having a love of strong beers as I do, it's certainly the type of beer I will keep an eye out for. However (there's usually a however!) I am concerned at their misconception that this is the "strongest bottled ale in the country". They clearly have never heard of Shoes Farriers Beer.

    Throw Away Your Beer Fridges? I Don't Think So!

    North Americans are being urged to give up their beer fridges.

    It is claimed that having a second fridge, especially if it is on the old side is a drain on electricity, and unnecessarily damaging to the environment.

    I'm all for green measures and protecting the ozone layer and all that. But come on, we're talking about keeping our beer cold here. Let's have a go at something trivial instead.

    Monday, 26 November 2007

    15 Beers, 15 Countries, 15 Styles

    One of my interests other than beer is Fantasy Football, or soccer to people from across the ocean. For anybody interested, my team is currently top of the league. We have to pick fifteen players, limited to two per club, and to make it harder we operate an auction system so even then we cannot pick the best two players per club whilst preserving our budget.

    All this made me think of a fantasy beer fridge. I allowed myself fifteen beers but limited it to one per style and one per country. This really is much harder than you think and it took me quite some time to arrive at my final 15.

    How can I only pick one beer from Belgium and the US? How can I only pick one Doppelbock or one Imperial Stout? Additionally I am only allowed to pick beers I have actually drank already, and that are still in production.

    My final list will not please many people. My favourite beer Rochefort 10 is not even included; there is no lambic, no IIPA, no Barley Wine, no wheat beers, nor any trappist beers of any style. It's a pretty eclectic list but it covers enough styles that I would be happy if somebody told me these are the only 15 beers I am allowed to drink for the rest of my life. I have used the styles credited to each beer on RateBeer.

    I challenge readers to come up with their own list, either to post here or if you own a blog, on your own site. It really is hard, but great fun.

    The list is below, in alphabetical order by country.

    AustriaDoppelbockSchloss Eggenberg Urbock 23°
    BelgiumSour AleStruise Earthmonk
    CanadaBelgian StrongUnibroue Trois Pistoles
    DenmarkBrown AleMikkeller Jackie Brown
    EnglandMildPotbelly Beijing Black
    FinlandPorterHuvila Porter
    FranceSweet StoutAlphand Stout
    GermanySmokedAecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
    NetherlandsPilsenerChristoffel Blond
    New ZealandIPAEmersons 1812 India Pale Ale
    NorwayAPANøgne Ø APA
    PolandBaltic PorterZywiec Porter
    ScotlandOld AleHarviestoun Old Engine Oil
    SwedenImperial StoutNils Oscar Imperial Stout
    USAFruit BeerNew Glarus Belgian Red

    Sunday, 25 November 2007

    Notes From A Leicester Pub Crawl

    I spent a pleasant day yesterday imbibing in Leicester. Leicester is one of a triumverate of great beer cities in the East Midlands; the others being Nottingham and Derby. And with Sheffield a short train journey away, drinkers in this part of the World are thoroughly spoilt. Arriving by bus at 11:40 means that the vast majority of the best pubs are yet to open. However there's always a Wetherspoons open, so I nipped in The Last Plantaganet to see what was available at the pumps. I am usually disappointed with this member of the JDW chain, but on this occasion I was pleasantly suprised to find nice beers from Ludlow and Cropton. These were both in good condition and tasty. This was my first experience of a Ludlow beer which was pleasing.

    I moved on from here to The Swan & Rushes where there was one of their festivals in full swing. Here I met Simon and his friend John. Simon promised me he would be resurrecting his blog shortly, so let's see if he's true to his word. Beers were available from the handpumps, the cellar and the courtyard. All the beers were nice but it has to said those from the courtyard were impossibly cold. I guess though that's the joy of a British winter. I've yet to see a warming blanket for casks; maybe they should be introduced. I had beers here from Abbeydale, Hobsons (the champion mild), Potbelly, Thornbridge, Amber, Saltaire, and my first beer from Bridgnorth. The emphasis of the festival was Christmas or Winter beers, so a fair few of these were on the strong side. The Swan was, as ever, friendly, welcoming and good fun.

    However we decided to move on, as much in search of more temperate beer but also to experience more of the excellent hostelries nearby. Next stop was The Criterion which is my favourite pub in the city. The pub has an excellent range of real ales as well as great bottled beers and wonderful home baked pizzas. Today though was all about the beer, and I had stuff from Coastal, again a new brewery for me; Fyfe, and just for a change of continent, Flying Dog. The pub was bustling and seats were hard to come by, but we pearched on the corner of someone else's table and happily imbibed.

    The Criterion is quite near The Shakespeare's Head, a pub which could well win the ugliest pub exterior in Leicester prize. The pub serves beers from the Oakwell Brewery at crazy cheap prices, and tends to be frequented by an older clientele than is average for most pubs. I took the opportunity to taste the Oakwell lagers for the first time, and I have to say it was a mistake. Neither the Acorn nor Oakwell lagers was pleasant, even by English brewed lager standards. The real ales are not bad and certainly as cheap as anything available in this part of the World. I would certainly recommend these over the lagers.

    With the bus home rapidly getting nearer there was just time for a quick half in Out Of The Vaults, arguably the best pub for real ale in town. I had a new beer from Vale whilst watching the Wales v South Africa rugby match. One thing you will find a lot of in Leicester are rugby fans, as the city's team is more successful than the football team!

    It was now time to split, so homeward I went amply full of good beer, good pubs, and good company.

    Thursday, 22 November 2007

    Messing Up The Best Job In The World

    28 year old Helen Moore claims to have the best job in the World. She is chief lager taster (sic) for Tescos Supermarkets. She has tasted over 1000 lagers as part of her job. I suspect they mean beers of all genres rather than just lagers, but that's British journalism for you.

    Of course drinking 1000 different beers is not a particularly unusual feat, but the fact that she has done this in the name of Tescos whose beer range is fairly ordinary to say the least is strange.

    Particular 'gems' from around the World available in Tescos at the moment include: Kamenitza Svetlo from Bulgaria, A. Le Coq Premium from Estonia and Bergenbier from Romania. None of your World classics there which a woman whose tasted more than 1000 should be able to pick out and a supermarket with the clout of Tescos could arrange to stock on your shelves.

    I have a distinct hatred of Tescos and reading about this woman makes me even angrier. I mean just look at her favourite five beers. Is she really fit to have this job? Couldn't all of us do a much better job?

    Tuesday, 20 November 2007

    Speight's London Beerhouse

    Some months ago I wrote about the New Zealand pub which was en route for London. It arrived some time ago and ThisisLondon like it. They were expecting "pissy gassy lager" but instead get a choice of five Speight's beers which they clearly think don't match that description. The only Speight's beer I've had is the amusingly named Gold Medal Ale which certainly tasted like a pissy lager to me. This seems to be the best seller with the journalists favourite being Old Dark.

    The Speight's website says there are four beers rather than five with the others being Pilsener and Distinction Ale so perhaps the journos mistook an alcopop for a beer of something!

    It's unlikely I will get there but if you do, let us know what you think.

    Monday, 19 November 2007

    Burnley Micro To Advertize On Television

    Moorhouse's Brewery of Burnley, England is about to become the smallest brewery in the UK to advertize on television. Moorhouse's is not a new brewery; they were established in 1865 so have proved some decent longevity, and it seems strange that they feel the need to do such a thing. I'm not sure how beneficial advertizing is in the microbrewery world, but nonetheless wish them well and hope it reaps rewards.

    They brew pretty good beer. Black Cat won Champion Beer Of Britain in 2000, and was the first mild so to do. I had a half only last week and it was very decent. I have also enjoyed Pendle Witches Brew many times.

    Time will tell if this campaign will lead to other micros following suit. I will watch with interest.

    Sunday, 18 November 2007

    Does Stella Really Make You Violent?

    Stella Artois (if that's what it is still called) has been referred to as Wife Beater for as long as I can remember because apparently drinking too much of it makes you super aggressive and likely to go home and give the little lady what for.

    I'm not sure that Stella really is any different from any other 5% lagers, or if it's drank by a particularly volatile type of customer, but certainly a number of pubs in Sussex are no longer stocking it because of its reputation.

    As much as I think it is a crap beer I refuse to believe there is any special chemical within which accelerates violence. I'm sure a gallon of Kronenbourg 1664 would have the same effect. So while I'm pleased to see beers such as this being removed from bars, I am sure the replacements will be other dodgy 'European' lagers brewed in the UK.

    If anybody has any anecdotes about the Stella effect then please share them, but my abiding memory of being with someone who had downed a whole load of the stuff certainly didn't end in violence, and as that imbiber is female I won't go into detail.

    Saturday, 17 November 2007

    Duvel Triple Hop - Bugger The Expense

    Before today, the most money I'd ever spent on a bottle of beer was £8.99 for a 2003 release of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. It was well worth it even though the bottle was only 355ml worth of liquid. But that liquid was 23% ABV wonderful Imperial Stout, and when I drank it on July 4th 2004, I loved it to bits, and of course immediately regretted that it was the only bottle I had.

    Today though I spent £12.95 on Duvel Triple Hop. This is a 750 ml bottle, and the beer is 9.5% ABV, so arguably it is better value for money than the DFH, but of course, until I taste it I won't know that for sure. Triple Hop has three different hops: Saaz, Styrian Goldings, and Amarillo, which are used at different times of the mash which impart a much hoppier flavour than the regular Duvel. It is reckoned to age well and could possibly still be improving in 20 years time.

    Just 1500 bottles have been produced, and, it is said, there will be no more, although this might hopefully change if it is proven to be a massive success.

    I have no idea when I will get round to drinking my bottle and doubt very much I will buy any more, so it may well be saved for a special occasion many years from now. If anyone else does try it in the meantime I would be interested to hear what you think.

    It is a lot of money to pay for a beer but it's a beer I would hate to miss out on, and it is nearly Christmas!

    Friday, 16 November 2007

    CAMRA's Local Only Recently Real

    In a delicious twist of fate, the pub nearest to the headquarters of CAMRA has been operating for years without selling real ale. However only this week real ale has returned to the bar.

    Of course it's far from rare to find pubs that don't sell real ale but with such a keen audience on the doorstep it seems ridiculous that the place has been keg only.

    Not that the town of St Albans is bereft of decent real ale houses. One of my favourite pubs in England is The Lower Red Lion and one of my favourite brewers Alehouse is in town as well.

    So the bigwigs at CAMRA towers will never go thirsty.

    Wednesday, 14 November 2007

    I Don't Brew

    As much as I love drinking beer, talking about beer, reading about beer and writing about beer, one thing I've never done, always citing lack of interest, is brewing beer.

    I'm not sure I've ever had the room to do it in any of my previous homes, but since July of last year I am living in a house where there is doubtless enough room. Having said that I'm not sure my wife would be too happy about the room it would take up let alone the smell and the time this new hobby might take up. So although I really do fancy it now, I don't think it's going to happen.

    However I really feel I'm missing out by not brewing. I've spoke to professional brewers and serious home brewers, as well as having dialogue via this and other blogs with people who brew, and the one thing that strikes me about them all is the undoubted knowledge they have about beer and the brewing process. I also reckon their palates are pretty refined as well which could be due to all the practising they get trying their own products.

    There is a definite science to brewing and I am pretty ignorant of that. I know which beers I like and I know which flavours I like in a beer but I don't necessarily know why I like them or how they get there, but I reckon brewers do.

    So although I trust my love of beer comes out in this blog, I am sure there are inadequacies in my knowledge and my abilities to describe accurately what I am experiencing.

    I think the only way I am going to keep learning is to read others' work, but, and this may be more fun: DRINK MORE BEER.

    Monday, 12 November 2007

    Shall We Have A Bloggers Get Together?

    Reading around others' blogs and the European forum of RateBeer, it appears that a fair few European beer bloggers are up for The Pigs Ear Beer Festival in December. It's not easy for me to get to London at the minute, but I'm definitely aiming to get there on the Tuesday from opening time.

    It seems like a great excuse for a blogger's convention? What do you all think?

    Sunday, 11 November 2007

    Pissed On A Quid

    I stumbled across this article today where a 'journalist' gets pretty drunk on £1 worth of nasty supermarkt lager.

    I have a few questions:

    1. Even though the lager is clearly rubbish, do you not get the impression that she feels superior to beer drinkers and that her four times a week wine fix is altogether much more worthy.

    2. How can supermarkets get away with selling beer at 44pence per litre?

    3. What sort of point is The Daily Mail trying to make?

    4. Why is his woman such a lightweight? If she gets pissed on 3 and a bit pints of 3% lager then I dread to think what a good bottle of red would do for her. She probably drinks Lambrusco Light.

    5. Should I care? Actually I know I shouldn't, but it's a slow news day.

    Friday, 9 November 2007


    I had a few beers yesterday in Leicester. Mostly English cask ales, but I also had a couple of foreign bottled beers. I first had Mühlen Kölsch; one of Köln's finest. Then later I had Sloeber from Brouwerij Roman in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

    I am not a big fan of Kölsch. I think it lacks flavour. Not much in the way of hoppiness and not much in the way of malts. This one just tasted like a smooth refreshing lager with a creamy texture. What I mean by this is it didn't have what I describe as lager snatch, that nasty adjuncty bite that poor lagers give you.

    Sloeber is a Belgian Strong Ale, and is full of spicy peppery hop flavours as well as nice yeasty notes. It's got much more character than the Kölsch and is a far more interesting beer.

    However, these beers made me think about drinkability. As stated, the Kölsch was smooth and very easy to drink and even though the rain was sheeting down outside it was the sort of beer I could have had another of as it was pretty refreshing. The Sloeber on the other hand was a bit of a struggle. It was a little heavy from the carbonation, and the spiciness was a little distracting.

    Drinkability is not scored on RateBeer, and even though Sloeber scores higher using their scale, it was the Mühlen that was more satisfying. I wonder if I am going soft and mellowing into a lager drinker or if I'm just getting fed up of average Belgian ales?

    Tuesday, 6 November 2007

    Unusual Beer In Unusual Places

    One of the biggest joys of beer hunting is finding an unusual beer in an unusual place. Needing to buy some salad this evening, and wanting to avoid the ridiculous roadworks riddling Northampton at the moment, I nipped into Netto.

    Now I'm not a snob, but Netto is not my supermarket of choice. However a wander round the shoddily stacked shelves of the alcohol section, I stumbled across 500ml bottles of Bakalář Svetlý Lezák 12°. This is a Bohemian Pilsener brewed in Rakovnik, Czech Republic which is brewed with plenty of local hops. It'll take me a week or two to drink it probably, so I can't provide tatsting notes, but it's certainly a rare find, and makes me realise that I shouldn't ignore the cheap supermarket chains.

    And, by the way, they didn't have any bags of salad!!

    Monday, 5 November 2007

    Beer Of The Month - October 2007

    October really was a quiet month. I had just 18 new beers, and revisited Rochefort 10. As previously mentioned, I had no cask beer at all.

    In order to win a beer of the month category, I have to award the beer at least 3.5 out of 5 on the RateBeer scale. Just four of the new beers I drank acheived this score. Three of these are British bottled beers available in Tescos.

    Ridgeway Blue is brewed at Hepworth in West Sussex, and states it is "brewed deliberately to taste great chilled". I had it in the traditional manner, though, of cellar temperature and found it a pleasantly hoppy beer which stood up well to being bottle conditioned. Hepworth do brew some good BCAs. Williams Bros Seven Giraffes is another good beer from this excellent Scottish brewery. This has both elderflower and lemon zest in the brew, but these are not too obvious. Instead it's the US hops which come through and make for a tasty beer. Thirdly Tom Wood Jolly Ploughman which of course is brewed by Highwood which is another quality BCA. This is much more malty than the other two beers and has coffee and smoky notes. I would have to award this as the best English beer I tried in October.

    However the stand out winner of Beer Of The Month, and the hot, hot favourite for Beer Of The Year was Struise Earthmonk. I'm not going to repeat everything I said before except to say this is a simply beautiful beer, and scored 4.8 out of 5. If you have never tried this beer, do everything you can to get your hands on it. Why, if I didn't have one more bottle, I would consider selling my daughters (Only kidding!!)

    Sunday, 4 November 2007

    Innis & Gunn - Have I Given Them A Rum Deal?

    I seem to kicked open a can of worms over at Beer Pages with my comments that Innis and Gunn are a fake brewery. I stand by that assessment, not because I see contract brewers as the Devil, but that I am deeply suspicious of contract breers not divulging the plant where their stuff comes from.

    It seems a common understanding that I&G's beers are brewed at Belhaven although I am not sure I have ever seen that actually quoted from the source. Certainly there is no confirmation of this on their website, and Roger Protz has questioned whether the Greene King takeover of Belhaven may have changed that. One is for certain: the bottles say brewed in Scotland, so if it transpires that that is not the case then there is a serious amount of misleading going on.

    Having said all this, their stuff is actually pretty decent. In line with other Scottish brewers BrewDog and Williams Bros they are producing innovative interesting beers. Their website states "Using oak to age beer is unheard of. But, the flavours imparted by the oak barrels (previously used to mature bourbon) lend an incredible depth of
    taste. Think vanilla, toffee and orange aromas, with a malty,
    lightly oaked palate; soothing and warm in the finish."

    Of course oak aged beers is not a new thing across the Atlantic Ocean, but it is pretty rare in the UK. The barrel character comes through very strongly in all of their beers with real whiskey notes together with an oaky vanilla. The beers can withstand this character as well as they all have a decent kick of strength.

    This year's new product though is a little different. Rum Cask Finish Oak Aged Beer is first matured in oak barrels for thirty days before then spending a further 30 days in selected navy rum barrels. I cannot claim to be a rum fan and am certainly not an afficianado, but what I do know is this beer is bloody lovely. The rum is stronger in the aroma than taste, but what does get into the taste is unbeliveably mellow and smooth. It's a truly silky beer and at 7.4% ABV has just the right amount of alcohol kick. I would have to say that this is a quality product and comfortably my favourite I&G beer.

    So, to reiterate, these are good beers. They are great recipes and the maturation is spot on, but just be honest guys and reveal where it comes from. I hope that's not too much to ask.

    Water? Pah - Get Me A Fizzy Beer

    I promise I don't read The Daily Mail, but I did happen to find an article online yesterday which suggests that beer is a better rehydrant than water.

    So us beer lovers have been at the forefront of thinking forever. We know that beer is good for you; that's why we drink it isn't it;-)

    Actually my memory takes me back to the late 80s when after a game of 5-a-side football I would go immediately to the bar and order not one but two pints of Worthington E. That gassy fizzy keg beer was just the thing to quench my thirst after vigorous exercise. The first one didn't even touch the sides. So there you go, my street cred which I earned by stating I won't read the Daily Mail has gone straight out of the window by admitting I enjoyed Worthington E. Oh well! Just shoot me.