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    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.

    Friday, 2 November 2007

    The Session #9 - Beer And Music

    I have to be honest. When I saw the details for this month's session: , I thought, oooh. I don't really think of the two as going together at all. I like music, but it doesn't play that important a part in my life. I really only listen to it nowadays in the car, and then often it's not my choice of music as I am forced to listen to nursery rhymes!

    But then, of course, I realised that music is pretty omnipresent. There's usually some form of music playing at the pub. It's rare that a pub doesn't have either a juke box, or a radio or infernal piped muzak. Often you hardly notice it, but sometimes you actually hum along, or, God help us, sing under your breath. The music doesn't tend to bother me, except at beer festivals where it can be annoyingly loud.

    Looking back over the various stages of my beer drinking life, there are many examples of where music has been integral to the atmosphere and has actually been a pleasure.

    As a teenager, beer equalled pints and pints down the village pub with my mates. The jukebox was always playing; usually very loud, and often one or other of us was drunkenly swaying to the music. Looking back it's pretty embarssing but it was great fun at the time. As I grew up and started to appreciate beer more, I took my first trip to Brugge. Here I realised that background music is king over loud jukebox pap. The classical music in De Garre was, and remains, an absolute treat and seems to make drinking those Belgian brews even more palateable. Of course classical music is rare, if not unheard of, in English pubs, and pub staffs' ideas of what makes good music to drink to, can vary dramatically, and can be way off the mark.

    Probably the most apt and most beautiful music I've ever enjoyed a couple of pints to was in Charters Bar, Peterborough on September 6th 1997. This was the date of Princess Diana's funeral, and it seemed appropriate after watching the sad events to go for a beer. The pub was playing The Division Bell by Pink Floyd. This is a great band, and that is a great album, and somehow the sound of the bell just seemed wholly appropriate on that day. I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but it was an excellent choice of album. Give me a beer and Pink Floyd together and I'm well happy.

    Thursday, 1 November 2007

    Today I Went To The Pub

    Today is the first day of November. To celebrate, I went to the pub. Nothing unusual in that I hear you cry, BUT, I didn't visit a public house at all during October, and hence did not drink cask beer in all that time. Of course, I have had bigger fish to fry but in truth that didn't stop me going to the pub. When my first daughter was born we went (with her in her pram) to Leicester Beer Festival when she was just 17 days old.

    To be truthful I just fancied a wee break from the pub. It's not about refraining from alcohol; I don't feel the need to do that. I know of someone who doesn't drink at all each January. I would never take to such extreme measures.

    I guess the fact that I've not been to work since October 3rd has meant that I've been spoiled staying at home, and have just enjoyed doing so. However, sadly I return to work tomorrow, and am due trips to both Leicester and Nottingham next week so trips to the pub are definitely back on the cards.

    For those interested in such things, I drank Burton Bridge Speedy Sturmy and Dow Bridge Praetorian Porter. Neither were that special, but they were a gentle reintroduction to pub life!!

    The picture at the top, by the way, is what the pub I visited looked like many years ago. Pretty attractive wouldn't you say?