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    Tuesday, 31 July 2007

    SIBA Appoint New Chief Exec.

    The Society Of Independant Brewers has today appointed a new Chief Executive. He is Julian Grocock, who worked for pub group Tynemill rising from director in 1985 to Managing Director until his redundancy in 2006.

    Eager readers will recall that I am a big fan of the Tynemill group which would certainly win my Pub Chain Of The Year Award every year.

    I feel that Julian's pedigree, background, and obvious care for real ale and independant breweries can only help SIBA reach its goals to "actively raise the profile of genuinely independent breweries so as to provide a greater choice of craft beer to the public".

    Long may they continue to flourish alongside the more well known CAMRA

    Sunday, 29 July 2007

    Drink Locale

    I am very impressed with Nottingham CAMRA's initiative to drink local ales. This is a great idea for people who like to drink local produce and the pump clip crowns clearly advertize where a beer has been produced within twenty miles of the pub.

    For someone like me who likes to try as many different beers as possible it's not so relevant, although if I visit a pub where I have tried all the available beers I do feel inclined to drink local ales. My last three visits to Northampton pubs have seen beers from four county breweries, which is a very positive thing. Although the three previous trips saw none. Perhaps if more local CAMRA branches followed this initiative more microbreweries would be allowed to flourish.

    Happy Again At US Beer Flight

    Well after my two previous posts regarding the Foreign Beer List at GBBF; one of euphoria at the superb list including an unprecentedly great US cask list, and then the one of deep gloom that the US beers would probably not be coming at all due to ridiculous shipping laws, I find out that 34 casks are actually being flown over from the States. OK it's not as good as it could have been, but it's a damn site better than nothing. We will still be getting such exciting beers as Stone IPA, Pale Ale and Ruination, together with Three Floyds Romulus (note Remus hasn't made it), and the intriguing Martha's Exchange Velvet Elvis Vanilla Bean Stout.

    I would like to pay enormous tribute, and gratitude, to those that have arranged the flight and agreed the extra cost. I believe the 30th GBBF deserves as good a beer list as possible, and at least BSF is playing its part, even if the British cask list will be fairly dull as ever.

    Saturday, 28 July 2007

    The British Floods

    The flooding in England this year has been unprecedented, and it's had a really bad effect on the beer scene. Terrible floods in Sheffield a few weeks ago still see some pubs closed, although it is getting back to normal. All breweries now seem to be back in production. The landlord of The Kelham Island Tavern has his own blog with pictures of the devastation the flooding left. I am told the pub was only able to reopen last night, more than a month after the rains. At least local brewers have a sense of humour, Kelham Island produced a beer called Lost In The Flood.

    After the floods in the North came the floods in the South with whole towns in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire seemingly under water. This has led to The Worcester Beer Festival being cancelled. They have helpfully put up a photo on their website of the venue, and it can be seen that the right decision has been taken. I wasn't planning on going to Worcester but I know it's a great festival and feel the loss of those not able to go.

    Of course the most serious thing to result from the floods was the untimely death of John White the beer writer, traveller and undoubted expert. His untimely passing would never had happened if it were not for the enormous stresses caused by the flooding his home encountered. You can read a series of tributes here. The loss of a beer festival and the unavailablity of some decent pubs for a few weeks pales into insignificance against such a tragic event.

    Wednesday, 25 July 2007

    Well, The Kiwis Can Do It

    After my report yesterday about the likelihood of the US cask beer not turning up at GBBF, I find out today that a mobile pub is on its way from New Zealand.

    How ironic that there appear to be no problems with this cargo from so many more thousands of miles away. Drinkers are expected to be enjoying Speight's beers in London in a few weeks after the boat has travelled via Samoa, Panama, Bahamas and New York. This is a further kick in the teeth especially, let's face it, as Speight's beers are pretty inferior products compared to what was due to arrive from the USA.

    Tuesday, 24 July 2007

    A Smack In The Teeth

    I know Stonch has already covered this in his blog, but now I'm back from work I need to state how sad I feel that the cask beers from the USA may not make it to Bières Sans Frontières at this year's GBBF for the second year in a row.

    It is true to say that one of the casks seeped beer but for some reason this led to the whole consignment being condemned and then quarantined. Apparently in America beer is classed as 'hazardous'. This I really cannot comprehend. Do they feel in the land of the free that some liquid containing hops, malt, yeast and maybe a few other ingredients might be a threat to their security in these days of terrorism and various other heinous crimes. If a barrel were to burst on a lorry on some interstate highway would they pull the lorry to one side, put the cuffs on the driver, and hold a national inquiry?

    I absolutely do not blame the organisers of BSF who as I reported previously have put together an unbelievable foreign beer list. It's the unneccessarily security conscious folks across the pond I blame. This is a country that in spite of the thousands of quality beer loving people which arguably makes the best beer in the World still has some states where advertizing the alcohol levels of beer is forbidden. Such is the ambivalence seemingly held in some areas towards beer.

    I still don't intend buying an English beer this year at GBBF, but it will be harder than I planned.

    Monday, 23 July 2007

    Alcohol Free Day

    I'm having an alcohol free day today. I try to lay off the booze one or two days every week, and on at least three of the other days I won't drink any more than two pints. I believe it's pretty important not to overdo things, and to give your body a rest. However I've been indulging my other passion today - cheese.

    I've been eating Organic Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Baers White Truffle Camembert, Vintage Gouda and Barber's Extra Mature Cheddar. A pretty good cheeseboard that which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was just missing one thing. BEER!! Oh well never mind, there's always tomorrow.

    Sunday, 22 July 2007

    Ten Happening UK Breweries - The Near Misses

    Time got the better of me yesterday, so here's the list of those breweries which were close to making the top ten, but for one reason or other just missed out. I have chosen ten near misses but could easily have chosen more. There are tens of other great breweries in this island, so just because one hasn't been mentioned in the last three days, doesn't mean I don't like it, or rate its products pretty highly. Don't get upset if your favourite hasn't been mentioned, but please tell me why I am wrong!! I'm not going to go into too much detail of each brewery as that would be cumbersome. I'll just give a flavour.

    Atomic was formed in Rugby in 2005, and generally produces pale hoppy beers. They have their own tied house in Rugby: The Victoria, which is a very friendly establishment, but take note that it does not open all day. They do brew a 9% beer Disaster which I have yet to try but is on my wish list.

    Bradgy'r Bryn Cyf is a splendidly named brewery from Denbigh in Wales with a dual language website. This is another brewery formed in 2005. I must confess I have only had one of their beers, the simply named Bitter, but it was so good that the brewery deserves a mention. I need to find more of their beers!

    Dark Star would be on many people's top ten list, and it was close for me. This brewery was formed in 1994 at The Evening Star, a fantastic real ale pub in Brighton, but has since relocated across the border into Ansty, West Sussex. They brew a huge range of beers, all of which are pretty decent. Their Hophead is renowned for huge hoppy flavours for only being 3.8%, and is a multi-award winner.

    Durham is mostly famous for its strong bottled beers, although their cask beers are non too shabby. It was formed in 1994 in Bowburn, just outside Durham. Their 10% Temptation is a menacing Imperial Stout and the 8% Benedictus is a strong barley wine. A lot of their cask beers are very pale, and to prove this fact have the word "white" in their name. You can't go far wrong with any of these beers.

    Grainstore does not appear to have a functioning website at the moment but that doesn't mean they don't know how to brew. It has been in operation since 1995 in Oakham, Rutland, and brews their own range of beers as well as those for the fictional Steamin Billy Brewery. Rutland Panther was Champion Mild of Britain in 2005, and won the overall Silver for CBOB. In my opinion all of their beers are good whether they be dark or light but their Ten Fifty does seem to have a cult following. They have their own pub at the brewery location, called The Old Plough.

    Great Oakley was formed in 2005 in the village of that name in my home county of Northamptonshire. I am lucky enough to see their beers all the time, and they are all worthy of drinking if there are no scoops to be had. The pub I visit the most The Malt Shovel is their brewery tap even though it's a good 20 miles away, and features all of thir short run beers as well as the regular range. The 4.6% old ale Delapre Dark, originally a festival special has now become a permanent beer and has already started winning awards.

    Harveys is the biggest and oldest concern on any of the lists, being formed in Lewes in 1790. However age is not an obstacle to brewing bloody good beer. Harveys beers have a distinctive taste. I always find peppery flavours in their bitters, especially Armada Ale which is without question one of my favourite English bitters. Sussex Best Bitter is also a wonderful beer which won overall silver in last year's CBOB competition. However it is their bottled Imperial Stout which has made them famous throughout the world. I must confess to not being the biggest fan of this beer, but plenty of people are.

    Kilderkin is a brewery I have blogged about a couple of times previously. It is another brewery I have only had one beer from: Double, but that was a lovely beer, and I love the fact that they are trying Europen styles so much that they deserve a place on this list.

    RCH is a brewery which just brews consistently well. They were formed in 1982 in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, but have since moved to West Hewish. They brew a number of beers and bottle some of their most well known. Beers to watch out for are Santa Fe, a 7.3% barley wine, and their porter, Old Slug, both quality beers.

    Traquair is the final brewery on the list, and is included because of its wonderful strong bottled beers. Formed in 1965 in Innerleithen, Scotland, the vast majority of their produce goes onto bottles. House Ale, and Jacobite Ale are pretty commonly available and are both masterpieces. If you see them do not miss out.

    That's it then. The twenty most exciting, most consistent British breweries around at the moment in my opinion. Let me know what you think.

    Friday, 20 July 2007

    Ten Happening UK Breweries - Part 2

    So today it's the turn of part two of my exciting article about the ten most happening breweries in the UK. Yesterday I talked about the first five alphabetically Acorn, Alehouse,BrewDog, Buntingford and Crouch Vale. Number six and the first for today is:

    Harviestoun. Maybe a controversial choice due to their connection with Caledonian, but that doesn't stop them making good beers. The brewery started operations in 1985 and have moved in 2004 to their present location in Alva, Scotland. They are known Worldwide for Schiehallion, their cask lager which in bottled form is exported globally. This beer has won four silvers and three golds in its class at GBBF. However it's not their most decorated beer as Bitter and Twisted has won Champion Beer of Scotland twice, Champion Beer Of Britain once and a SIBA Supreme Champion of Scotland award. Both these beers are delicately hopped and full of flavour. My personal favourite though is Old Engine Oil, a 6% dark beer based on a 1970s recipe. This beer is full of malty flavours as well as licquorice and chocolate. It is sheer quality!

    Oakham is another multi award winning brewery. Formed in 1993 in the small town in Rutland after which it is named, they expanded and moved to Peterborough in 1998. They really need no introduction, but their JHB (Jeffrey Hudson Bitter) won Champion Beer Of Britain in 2002. Oakham make good use of American hops in their beers, particularly Mount Hood and Willamette, and it is pale hoppy beers for which they have become famous; Bishops Farewell being a stronger fuller flavoured golden ale. I used to think Oakham was a bit of a one trick pony, brewing lovely beers but not really diversifying. That was until I tried Hawse Buckler, a stunning 5.5% Porter which came out at the back end of 2006. If Oakham can brew dark beers this good as well as their goldens then they truly are a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to future occasional dark beers.

    Roosters was probably my favourite Britsh brewery back in the 1990s. They are based in Knaresborough in North Yorkshire and commenced brewing in 1993. As well as the Roosters label they brew short run beers under the name Outlaw and over a typical year they will brew many different beers including festival specials. Roosters makes a big deal of brewing with quality ingredients, and all their beers are wonderfully aromatic. My particular favourite is Yankee, an excellent beer with lovely citrus flavours and aromas which is possibly the most moreish beer brewed in these islands. Other beers of distinction are Oyster Stout, and Leghorn.

    Thornbridge is based at Thornbridge Hall in the picturesque village of Ashford-in-the-Water in Derbyshire, and is a collaboration with Kelham Island. They commenced brewing in October 2004 and quickly picked up a big reputation. Their beers are big on flavour, even their two 2.9% milds Pollux and Kastor are said to be outstanding beers. Their most well known, and the winners of most awards are the 5.9% IPA, Jaipur and the 7.7% Imperial Stout St Petersburg. Both of these are wonderfully brewed classy beers. They are also brewing other IPAs based on US West Coast hops. it is little wonder that one of the brewers at BrewDog (see yesterday) cut his teeth here.

    Williams Bros is the tenth brewery on the list. This Scottish brewery was formed in 2003 and inherited the recipes from Heather Ales. With this came an excellent portfolio including Alba, Ebulum and Fraoch, brewed with Scots Pine, Elderberry and Heather respectively. These are all interesting beers using interesting ingredients, but they are executed very well. It's not just these quirky beers that Williams are good at though. Their Black, Gold and Joker 5 are also excellent beers. With such a diverse repertoire of beers Williams fully deserves to be on this list.

    So that's the full ten, and for me is an excellent list of producers of many different styles from ancient recipes, through standard English bitters to modern beers using copious amounts of US hops. As I said yesterday, no one will agree with all ten on this list, but maybe your favourite is on here. Tomorrow I will discuss the near misses and those bubbling under.

    Thursday, 19 July 2007

    Ten Happening UK Breweries - Part 1

    I'm not in a position to try every single beer brewed in the UK, and neither would I want to be, but I've had enough to be able to form an opinion as to which breweries are consistently brewing quality stuff. Over the next couple of days I will talk about what I believe are the ten happening breweries in the UK at the moment. Some of them are pushing the boat out and brewing, what are for these isles, extreme beers, while others are just doing the good things very, very well. By no means have I tried all their products, but those that I have, and talking to others about those that they have, leads me to have great faith in my list. I am presenting my list alphabetically; five today, and five tomorrow. You will doubtless disagree with some of my ten, but hopefully you will agree with some of them. I would be interested to hear what you think.

    Acorn of South Yorkshire has been in production since 2003. It is a 40 barrel plant, and is a favourite with brewers in the Barnsley area, and of course, further afield. Acorn were awarded a silver award in last year's Champion Bitter section at GBBF with Barnsley Bitter. It's beers like this which Acorn do so well. Standard old fashioned English bitters are their forte, although their Gorlovka Imperial Stout is a beer to be reckoned with. I don't think Acorn will ever try to match the American style hoppy beers which other brewers are attempting at the moment. In fact I think their maltier beers are their best products, and seem to be what Yorkshire drinkers on the whole prefer, so I think they will, and indeed should stick to what they are doing so well.

    Alehouse is a brew pub in St Albans (their website is not up to much at the moment). It is based in The Farmers Boy which used to be the home of Verulam. Alehouse know their hops. The beers I have tried have all been very hoppy, even their Robust Porter, and they've all had a great malt backbone. A fair few of their beers tell you which hop they use in the beer's name, which I personally like as it educates you to the different flavours of each individual hop. Most of the beers are mid strength, although the 9.6% monster Rick's End Game Technique is a thing of beauty. You don't see their beers in pubs very often, but I am lucky that they are popular at my local Beer Festival.

    BrewDog of Fraserburgh, Scotland, has already been mentioned in detail in my report of Derby Beer Festival. They commenced brewing only three months ago, but have already built up a huge reputation with discerning beer drinkers. The two beers I had at Derby were the only ones I have tried so far (although I know there will be some of their range available at a RateBeer gathering I am attending next month), and they were both real beauties. BrewDog like big beers with big flavours. They describe themselves as "two guys trying to make the best beer we can", and I think they are doing a pretty good job. Punk IPA is one of the hoppiest British beers I've had and it can real carry off the hops. It's so very drinkable and moreish, and at 6% packs just the right punch. Riptide is their 8% stout which also goes down a treat. They have also produced a stronger stout which has been matured in various whisky barrels, and also produce a pretty decent lager. This brewery can only go from strength to strength.

    Buntingford may be a surprising choice for many, but this is one of the most consistent breweries around at the moment. Most of their beers are on the hoppy side, but they are generally delicate, well balanced, easily drinkable hoppy beers rather than bursting with flavour. Buntingford has been brewing since 2001 and is based in Royston, Hertfordshire. They have brewed quite a large range of beers over those years, and continue to brew specials in addition to their stock beers Highwayman IPA and Challenger. You may well have flagged their beers at festivals in favour of more decorated breweries but next time you see one try it, hopefully you won't be disappointed. Make sure also that you read the brewer's blog.

    Crouch Vale needs no introduction. This Essex brewer has won Champion Beer Of Britain in each of the last two years with Brewers Gold. This may not be the best beer in Britain but it is good enough, tasty enough and palatable enough to win such an accolade. This year is Crouch Vales 26th in operation, and despite their success they are still a tradition brewery relying on quality products. They brew decent milds and porters as well as Golden Ales for which they are famous. At one point Brewers Gold Extra, the 5% big brother of their flagship beer was ranked in the top 50 beers in the world on RateBeer, it is still in the top 100. All of their beers are worth having wherever possible.

    So that's the first five, and we're only at the letter C so plenty of choice left to fill the next five. Tune in tomorrow folks.

    Wednesday, 18 July 2007

    A Little March By Little People

    A protest march took place on Saturday in Wells, Somerset, against the English smoking ban. The organisers were two guys who object to the fact that they cannot smoke in their work van, nor whilst setting up their karaoke kit at various venues. I think it's pretty sad that these people don't appear to have the legs to walk outside for a fag, or stop their van and step outside, yet they can happily do a march.

    I'm hoping stories like this will go away shortly and I can concentrate on writing beer stories rather than stuff about the smoking ban, but I do believe in highlighting the vain idiocy of people who believe they can beat the law. The argument they use that "One aspect to remember when living in a democratic society is the free will to vote on changes, no such vote has been taken or even been offered for this matter" just doesn't wash. The British public do not, and cannot vote on every new law that is introduced. Why do these idiots think we should?

    On a lighter note, and what is hopefully a sign that people are seeing the sense in complying, only forty people turned up to march. And to think, because they were outside they could have smoked to their heart's content! Perhaps most smokers are just not fit enough to walk long distances.

    Tuesday, 17 July 2007

    A Beer And A Fag Rolled Into One

    I suppose it had to happen. The Old Bear Brewery of Keighley in West Yorkshire has brewed a tobacco beer. It has the original name of Puffing Billy! So now people can have their fix of nicotine without going outside .

    What I personally find surprising that it's such a small microbrewery which has produced this beer. I shall certainly give it a go if I see it, inspite of my disliking of smoking.

    I am not aware of their being another tobacco beer. Maybe you know different?

    Sunday, 15 July 2007

    Fencing With The Monks

    A Canadian fencer has spent five days in what can only be described as heaven on Earth. In order to prepare herself for a vigourous year of competition Sherraine Schalm experienced the silence and strict schedule of life with the monks.

    But these were no ordinary monks for she was lucky enjoy to stay with the beer brewing and cheese making inhabitants of Abbaye d'Orval. She was happy to be out of her bed before 4am, and pray seven times a day because, she says "Lunch was like, beer every day, supper, beer. And they make Trappist cheese as well. It was great." I'm pretty jealous of Sherraine's week of gastronomic delight.

    Everybody knows Orval, the weakest of the commercially available Belgian trappist ales, but not everybody gets it. I personally think it's lovely. A great hoppy beer with lovely peppery flavours, and a nice amount of funk. However it's not to everyone's taste and some people think it's overrated. I have also been lucky enough to try Petit Orval, the weaker beer which is supposedly brewed just for the monks' consumption, but does sometimes make its way out into the big wide World. This was a decent enough beer but certainly lacks the character of its big brother.

    I have never tried the cheese though, and that is something I would love to do. Cheese is a new passion for me. I didn't even like the stuff five years ago, but now I love it. The maturer, riper, or smellier the better. Maybe one day I'll try Orval cheese. Perhaps I'll take up fencing.

    Friday, 13 July 2007

    Derby Beer Festival

    The Assembly Rooms in Deby are pretty ugly from the outside, but at beer festival time we can ignore that for inside is a beautiful place to be.

    I went to this year's festival on Thursday in the celubrious company of haddonsman and DJMonarch. There was a huge emphasis on Scottish beers this year, as well as the usual selection from closer to Derby. Beers are available in two rooms: the (over) air-conditioned main hall, and the Darwin Hall, where a small selection is available on handpump.

    I was most looking forward to trying beers from BrewDog, a fairly new brewery in Fraserburgh in Scotland. Their beers have gained a good reputation very quickly and are rated highly on RateBeer. They brew beers with attitude. They are not frightened to use quality ingredients and lots of them. I was pleased that Punk IPA and Riptide were both available on my visit. Punk IPA is as heavily hopped as you would like it to be with such a name, and has a nice amount of malt together with 6% ABV, to give the beer a good body. Riptide is an 8% Imperial Stout and is big, bold and full of flavour. I really enjoyed both of these beers, scoring them 3.8 and 4.1 respectively.

    Two other beers I enjoyed and scored highly were Inveralmond Sunburst Pilsner and Kelburn Carte Blanche. Carte Blanche was champion beer of Scotland in 2006, and I found it far preferable to Highland Dark Munro which won the award this year, which I also tried at Derby.

    Other beers I tried were from

    Dove Valley

    All in all a great festival in a good venue with some top beers. The only dodgy bit was the pianist, with what could only be described as an ecletic selection.

    A couple of beers in The Alex on the way back to the train station, and I think you'd agree, a pretty decent day of beer.

    Beer Drinker Of The Year - More Thoughts

    I wrote yesterday's piece about Michel Roux on the back of a session at Derby Beer Festival, so you'll excuse the fact that I didn't cover all the points that I should have.

    Firstly the award is beer drinker of the year. There is no actual evidence of Michel drinking the stuff at all. He has just devised a bit of a beer list and thought about how beers may accompany food.

    Secondly it seems like a real throw away award. In the US there is a similar competition, won this year by Diane Catanzaro, in which entrants have to show a vast knowledge of beer including such things as beer chemistry, styles and history, to the finalists’ abilities to sing old beer-advertising jingles and recall esoteric beer trivia. They are quizzed by judges for two hours to demonstrate their commitment to, and knowledge of beer.

    It's not a pre-requisite to be a World Class chef, just a world class beer drinker. Diane deserves our adulation. I'm not sure Michel does.

    Thursday, 12 July 2007

    Beer Drinker Of The Year? My Arse!

    I was horrified to read that Michel Roux has won Beer Drinker Of The Year according to the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group. As much as I like Albert Roux and admire his culinary skills, I cannot accept that he deserves to win this accolade.

    Apparently the major reason for his winning is the eclectic beer list at his flagship restaurant Le Gavroche. Well I cannot accept that his beer list is any more eclectic than any number of specialist pubs in this country, but the fact that they don't produce Michelin starred food, obviously precludes them from this accolade. Michel is clearly so very proud of his beers that they fail to warrant a listing on his website. Surely if he were that serious about beer he would make a point of highlighting the fact. No I am sorry. This award stinks of the old boys network, and the 'I'll scratch your back' scenario, and I am sure members of the parliamentary group will be enjoying free tables any time soon in return for the honour.

    If you are reading this Michel, don't take it personally, but a table for two in the next couple of months would be lovely.

    Tuesday, 10 July 2007

    Getting Excited About GBBF

    Four weeks from today will be the trade day at The Great British Beer Festival. I will be attending the following two days and looking forward to it as it draws ever nearer.

    For the past two years, I have not bought a single English beer or cider. I have bought a few Welsh ciders and Scottish real ales, but it's the 'foreign' beers which really exite me, and what I spend my money on.

    The vast majority of the foreign beer list was published this weekend, and what a list. After last year's unfortunate experience with the American cask beers, this year's offerings must be the best ever. Three exiting hoppy beers from Stone and two new APAs from Three Floyds stand out for me, together with an aged porter from Thomas Hooker. Two small brewpubs never seen before in the UK feature also: Opa-Opa Steakhouse and Owen O'Learys.

    There are the usual high quality offerings from Belgium, Netherlands and Germany with stand outs for me being: De Graal SloCK (not a spelling mistake); t Hofbrouwerijke Hofblues; Schans Van Vollenhovens Extra Stout; Greif Bräu Annafestbier and the usual lambic offerings from Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen and Girardin.

    Additionally there are exciting looking beers from Sudbrack of Brazil (the Eisenbahn range); Yo-Ho from Japan, and Shongwemi of South Africa.

    But it's the Scandinavian beers which are really making me salivate. You only have to look on RateBeer to see how the microbrewery revolution is taking on, with a plethora of active raters and some superb beers. From Denmark we have beers from Mikkeller, Nørrebro and Ølfabrikken. Ølfabrikken Porter is the second highest rated Porter in the world and Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast is the second highest rated stout. These therefore are essential beers. From Finland we have two beers from Huvila and three from Plevnan. I had the Imperial Stout from Plevnan last year and it was excellent. From Norway we have three beers each from Haandbryggeriet and Nøgne Ø, both highly respected breweries, and from Sweden, beers from Nils Oscar, Nynäshamns, Oppigårds, Slottskällans, and last but certainly not least Närke whose Kaggen Stormaktsporter is currently the highest rated beer in the World. At the moment I am unsure if it is this version or its weaker brother which will be there. We can only pray.

    Looking through these fantastic lists I cannot see myself buying an English beer again this year. The beer orderers have really done us proud.

    Excited? You bet I am!!

    Sunday, 8 July 2007

    Drinking Lambic At A German Festival

    I went to Leicester again on Saturday, primarily for the German Beer Festival at Swan & Rushes. I'd visited their Belgian festival last year where ten or so draught beers were available in the courtyard together with some special bottles inside the pub. This event was somewhat similar and eight beers were served at a time from taps, rather than straight from the bottle. The list of beers available were mostly common ones, but was cleverly chosen with some world classics. Those on offer (with bolded ones on while I was there) were:

    Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel
    Andechs Dunkles Weissbier
    Andechs Spezial Hell
    Andechs Weissbier Hefetrüb
    Augustiner Dunkel
    Augustiner Edelstoff
    Augustiner Lagerbier Hell
    Früh Kölsch

    Greif Bräu Weisse
    Karg Weissbier Hell
    Keesmann Bamberger Herren Pils
    Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet Hefetrüb
    Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
    Tegernseer 1806 Max I. Josef Jubiläums Export

    Vierzehnheiligen Nothelfer Urdunkel Export
    Uerige Alt

    I have previously had all of these beers but was fascinated to try the Rauchbier on draught as I had only had it previously in the bottle. This sample was much more subdued than the bottled version. It was still full of Bamberg smokiness but was much more subtle, especially the aroma. It was still lovely though and thoroughly drinkable, a true World Classic.

    In the interests of trying new beers I then worked my way through various beers from England, Germany and Belgium:

    Grainstore 1050
    Hösl Süffikus Starkbier
    Hösl Stiflands Dunkler Bock
    Wittekerke Rosé
    Kapuziner Weissbier
    Grainstore Gold
    Thatchers Medium Cider

    All of these were decent enough, but then I moved on to some lovely lambics. Some beers are just made for sharing, and in the company of haddonsman, it seemed the proper thing to do to split two 75 cl bottles. We therefore had Cantillon Iris and Cantillon FouFoune

    The Iris was a 2003 vintage and dry and sour as one would expect from Cantillon. It was acidic and puckeringly sour, but truly delicious. The FouFoune was a treat to look at being vibrantly orange in the glass. Again it was sour and acidic. The nose was reminiscent of sweaty socks, and the taste was dry and tart. This lambic is brewed with apricots, although I really didn't pick out this specific fruit. It was, though, lovely.

    Both of these beers were a real treat. I wouldn't want to drink a whole 750ml to myself and am greatful to Simon for being there to share. We sometimes have the oddest beers in the strangest situations, but somehow drinking lambic at a German Beer Festival seemed the right thing to do.

    Friday, 6 July 2007


    There has been an interesting debate on RateBeer this last couple of days about pubs in St. Albans. What started off as an innocent question finished off in a good natured debate about one particular pub: The Fighting Cocks.

    Here is a pub which is old and historic and is a beautiful building, and some parties thought that made it worthy of a visit. Parts of the building date back to the 11th Century, and as can be seen it is very characterful to look at from the outside. Others said it's not worth a visit because the beer is crap, the service surly and it is full of tourists. In short, it's not a good place. I have never been so cannot add to the debate.

    Another pub which is as interesting and historical is The George in Borough High Street, London. To stand and admire the galleries of this coaching inn, is to take in a vision of architectural beauty, and we need to ensure pubs like this survive. I have been to this pub, and as some feel about The Fighting Cocks, my thoughts are it is too touristy, the staff are surly and the beer's crap. In short it's not a good place.

    Now, to get to the point, both of these pubs doubtless have ATMOSPHERE. But, is it the atmosphere I as a beer and pub lover really want. Do I want to be overcharged because tourists are happy to pay these prices, and because I am drinking in a piece of history? Or do I want to pay a fair price in a spit and sawdust drinkers pub, and take in the convivial atmosphere of like-minded people, and be served by people happy to serve me? There is no question in my mind that I would go for the second option.

    So atmosphere exists everywhere in all guises and for all people, but my preference is for no frills atmosphere over pomp, ceremony, tradition and overpricing.

    I'll stand outside and take a nice photograph of these pieces of history, that's as atmospheric as I need.

    Atmosphere is this month's session theme for beer bloggers. Click the link for other bloggers' views on atmosphere.

    Wednesday, 4 July 2007

    A Gift From Mexico

    Wooh. Lucky old us. A new Mexican beer is to be launched in the UK. Mexicali is described as "a highly drinkable and distinctive lager" which will appeal to customers who are "becoming more adventurous in their beer selections and are looking for authentic Latin beers".

    I am not sure such a person exists. Apart from people like me who will try anything once for a rating, the type of person who will drink Mexicali are those who think a segment of lime in their Sol or Corona is the height of chic. Looking at others opinions on RateBeer it's not a beer to get exited about. If any of you are lucky enough to have tried it, then let us all know. When I find it I'll give it a review here.

    (Bet you can't wait for that)

    Tuesday, 3 July 2007

    Leeds Brewery - A New and Daring Micro

    A new brewery has commenced production in England in the last couple of weeks. Leeds Brewery certainly seems to be going for it in a big way. They claim to have a wealth of experience within their ranks and are launching with a 20 barrel plant. They will have a permanent range of three beers to start with including a 4.8% dark mild, and are promising seasonal ales. Additionally they are offering party packs for home consumption which comprise three sizes of cask (up to 144 pints) and equipment to set up your own bar.

    What really takes my eye though, is the offer of a free 34 pint cask for anyone who gets a Leeds beer in their local. That seems too good to be true, but I guess it's a bold marketing ploy. I cannot see the offer lasting very long, but all power to them for this inventive initiative.

    I wish them well.

    Protesting In Vain

    So the moronic landlord I reported on a few weeks ago, went ahead with his protest on Sunday as threatened. Apparently a goodly number of protestors turned up and enjoyed their carcinogens. The landlord, though, may live to regret his actions, as he has already received his first warning for breaking the law. The next stage is a prosecution warning, and then a local councillor has threatened to have the pub closed down. Interestingly, landlord Nick Hogan who is now the face of the smoking protestor stated he is not looking for legislation to be overturned, just amended. Well to my mind an amendment is tantamount to the legislation being deemed not fit for purpose. There is absolutely no chance of anything changing, and even if, as Nick suggests, the voting smoker speaks with their 'X' in future elections, any future Government will not amend this law. I hope Nick has the bottle to keep rebelling, as I would love to see him made a big example of, and his, no doubt crappy, pub being bolted shut pretty swiftly.

    Monday, 2 July 2007

    Beer Of The Month - June 2007

    June 2007 was another reasonable month's drinking. I sampled 75 new beers during the month, and a fair few of them were pretty decent. I only visited one beer festival during the month, the Northampton BF, although I was there on the first two days of the month. I also visited two brewpubs: The Brunswick in Derby and The Fox and Hounds in Heacham. I also had trips to two great off licences: Beers Of Europe in Norfolk and Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey. I also had a few pub trips to Northampton, Nottingham and Leicester.

    In spite of the fact that June is usually the month of the dull golden ale, I have enjoyed a number of very good cask ales this month. Alehouse Robust Porter was just that: a porter in the American mould with great hop levels, quite rare for this country. It had a sumptuous aroma. From the same brewery, I also enjoyed Halcyon Centennial and Balance And Poise, both lovely hoppy beers. Another great beer at the Northampton Fest was Rockingham Black Forest, a very drinkable stout. I drank Derby Dark Temptress in Leicester at Out Of The Vaults. This was a lovely chocolatey porter which went down very easily. Another hoppy beer I enjoyed was Phoenix Midsummer Madness in The Newshouse at Nottingham. The final two noteworthy cask ales of the month were both brewed by Brunswick: White Feather and Derailed, very different from each other, but both very nice. My cask ale of the month goes to Rockingham Black Forest which I am very pleased about as it is a Northamptonshire beer. It also is my English beer of the month.

    Good bottled beers were abundant this month also. I had three great bottled beers from Scotland. The first one was Broughton The Ghillie which was suprisingly hoppy and tasted anything but Scottish. The second was Trossachs Lade Out. This is a dark 5.1% bottle conditioned beer. I had it down as a porter, but others have called it a mild. Whatever it is it's very very tasty and rich with good fruits and licquorice. The third was Black Isle Organic Yellowhammer. This is another hoppy beer which makes good use of the American cascade hop. Very enjoyable. I enjoyed two bottles from Mommeriete, a relatively new brewery from The Netherlands. These were Blond and Meibok both were full of flavour and body, and show that the brewery has great potential. I also enjoyed an unfiltered Kellerbier from Brauhaus Schweinfurt in Germany, a nice bready, malty lager. My 3000th beer since joining RateBeer: Ecaussinnes Archiduc de Nivelles was also enjoyable, although the ocassion maybe gave it an extra mark. My bottled beer of the month was Trossachs Lade Out. This was my first beer from City Of Stirling Brewery and thus wins my New Brewery Beer of the month also. It also wins the overall prize for Best Beer Of June 2007.

    Sunday, 1 July 2007

    Smelling Of Roses

    So I made my first trip to a post smoking-ban pub today, and how lovely it was. I went to The Malt Shovel, and, although I am sure it was suggestion, the pub smelled like new.

    It was as busy as usual, if not busier, for a Sunday lunchtime, and everybody was, of course, complying with the law. There's a small garden out the back with five benches, and that's where smoking is still allowed. People were nipping in and out whenever they thought it necessary, and that's what the law allows for.

    The free nibbles on the bar (black pudding, roast potatoes and cheese and biscuits) were all the better for the clean air. The Malt Shovel was never the smokiest of pubs but there was sometimes enough to put you off your beer. Not anymore though. I came out (almost) smelling of roses!