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    Sunday, 31 August 2008

    Marstons - Supporting Innovative Beer

    I can't imagine Marstons PLC aren't getting something big out of the Wetherspoons Beer Festival, but I am mightily impressed with the commitment they are putting into the furtherence of good beer by allowing their premises to be used yet again this Autumn.

    I advised previously that Yo-Ho, Firestone Walker and Mikkeller are coming over here to brew for the next festival. I have now found out that Yo-Ho are to brew at Banks's, Firestone Walker at Marstons, to make use of another union system, and Mikkeller is brewing at Jennings.

    We all saw what foreign brewers are capable of on English plants when Stone came to Shepherd Neame. Let's hope for more great stuff.

    The Queen Adelaide Beer Festival

    The Queen Adelaide is described as "Northampton's Best Kept Secret". Blogging about it here isn't going to change that, but perhaps a listing in the Good Beer Guide under Northampton rather than Kingsthorpe, the village totally within the town border where it is located would help.

    Kingsthorpe is at the other side of town from me. It's for that reason that I don't get there very often, but that's my loss. Paul Barton, the landlord, worked tirelessly in the build up to this year's Northamptonshire Beer Festival, and he deserves the custom of all local CAMRA members.

    This weekend Paul put on a Beer Festival, loosely based on the location of each of the twelve Rugby Premiership clubs. There was a bit of creating accounting with Newcastle replaced by beers close to Nottingham, but otherwise the geography wasn't too far out.

    I was there with the family so could only spend an all too short period of time there, but I still enjoyed a small selection of beers, all in good condition. I was excited on arrival to discover a new beer from Great Oakley. Marching In is brewed with New Zealand hops and English Whitbread Goldings hops. The NZ hops which are used to such good effect in Wagtail are here too, but the earthiness of the English hops make this a less citric punch of a beer. It's still good but more mainstream in its hoppiness than most GO beers. Phil the brewer arrived just as I was leaving, and I did compliment him on this new addition.

    Other beers I had were from Potbelly, Blue Bear, Twickenham, and, one of my favourite brewers, Alehouse. With the exception of Potbelly, these are breweries I rarely see in county pubs, so thanks are due forbringing these rareish ales to our door. A selection of ciders were avaialble also from one of my favourite producers: Gwynt y Ddraig.

    So a good festival at a lovely village pub ran by a real ale championing landlord. I mustn't leave it too long before I return.

    Tuesday, 26 August 2008

    The Next Wetherspoons Festival

    Those of you who have received September's issue of What's Brewing, may have been drawn to the advert on page four for the next Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. The festival is set to run from October 30th to November 16th and will feature up to 50 ales.

    The last festival was a great success and saw punters trek to Spoons pubs in their droves to sample, amongst others, beers brewed on these shores by the brewers from Stone of California, and Yo-Ho of Nagano.

    This festival promises beers brewed by guest brewers from Japan, America, Australia and Denmark. I have it on good authority that the Japanese brewer is again Toshi from Yo-Ho, who, I am sure will do us proud again. However in a change of tack the American brewer is said to be Matt from Firestone Walker, and the Danish brewer is Mikkel from Mikkeller. These are two great brewers with very exciting products, which I hope they can replicate in a similar vein to the Stone California Double IPA brewed at Shepherd Neame.

    I've yet to ascertain which brewer is coming from Australia, but as soon as I find out, I will of course share it. No doubt all true beer lovers in the land will want to join me in praising Wetherspoons for this continued support for excellent World brewers, whilst at the same time, bringing us a good range of home brewed stuff.

    Sunday, 24 August 2008

    Peterborough Beer Festival 2008

    I can get to Peterborough by bus from where I live. That's to say I need to leave my house before 8am to get to the festival before it opens at noon. It's a long journey obviously but armed with a good book and making occassional glances up from the pages to people watch, it goes by quicker than you'd think.

    Of course the timings aren't so perfect that you arrive at the festival just before it opens, thus I found myself fifteenth in the queue at 11:20 grateful that the weather was clement enough for the forty minute wait.

    The gates opened timeously and a table was grabbed and beer drinking commenced. I've always enjoyed my trips to the festival, and this year was no different, but somehow the beer quality seemed less good this year. It could, of course, have been my fault; I do have a tendency to buy beers from new breweries, and sometimes quality is sadly an issue.

    That said, I did have a couple of impressive beers. Son Of Sid Muckcart Mild is a full bodied mild with great smoky and roasty overtones. There is a slight lactic quality to it as well. Better than that though was Ascot Anastasia's Exile Stout. My second beer from this relatively new brewery. This is a superb dry, roasty stout with some excellent bitterness. It's a beer I'd heard good things from, and it didn't disappoint.

    I normally drink fairly sensibly at festivals, but something must have gone adrift in my head as two of the three last drinks I had were a brandy cask cider and a mead. I don't like brandy and I don't like honey, so I don't know what was going on here. The mead has one of the nastiest sweet aromas I've ever smelled. Please, please if anyone drinks with me in the future, don't allow me to make stupid mistakes like these again.

    In spite of feeling a little let down by the drinks, I shall doubtless return to what is the second largest beer festival in the country. It's a good chance for me to meet up with some drinking buddies; some of whom are recent friends, some I've known for years. If it were further from home though, I would certainly think twice.

    Monday, 18 August 2008

    LocAle Comes To Northamptonshire

    I've previously written about Locale, the scheme which promotes locally brewed real ales getting more exposure in pubs. The scheme is growing throughout the UK, and this week is launched in Northamptonshire.

    I'm fully behind this scheme. Even with my ticking head on, I still like to see local brews, and have drank more Great Oakley Wagtail this year than any other beer. Unfortunately I shan't be able to get along to the launch event in Kettering, but may be able to tune into the radio coverage.

    Whilst supporting this initiative as I like to see local businesses flourishing, and will support them wherever possible, I don't want to hear the words 'beer miles'. After all, the aforementioned Wagtail is brewed with New Zealand's finest Motueka hops. Hardly a local product!

    Sunday, 17 August 2008

    Struise Black Albert

    Struise cannot do much wrong in my opinion. I've enjoyed all the beers I've tried, and awarded Earthmonk my beer of the year last year. I was pleased to see Pannepot, another favourite of mine, on the bottled list at GBBF. Hopefully this is a sign that these exceptional beers are going to be imported more regularly to the UK.

    Indeed it's alredy started as BeerMerchants have got some Black Albert on sale. This 13% stout has fantastic tasting notes according to the description if you've clicked the link, and certainly make me excited to try the bottle I traded for at GBBF.

    Be warned that supplies are presently pretty small, so get in quick while you can.

    Out Of Date Beers

    I had a good old sort out of my beers the other night and discovered a fair few which have gone past their best before date. Given the two options of drinking them or tipping them down the sink, I took the first option. I've drank three of them so far and am still alive to tell the tale.

    The first beer I had was the 2006 Limited Edition Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer. The first bottle I had of this in late 2005 was very enjoyable with whiskey notes, vanilla and orange marmalade. This bottle had a best before date of November 2007. It definitely had a musky aged feel to it, but still tasted decent enough. The vanilla had disappeared but the whiskey was just as strong, if not stronger. The bitter citrus fruits were there as well. It tasted stronger than 7.2%, and went down very nicely.

    Beer number two was a can of Carlsberg Carls Jul badged in this country as Carlsberg Christmas Beer and with a best before date of August 2007. For a canned lager a year or so out of date, this was surprisingly good. It is a malty fruity lager, and was still as fizzy as the first can I had in February 2007. There were no signs of age whatsoever.

    Beer number three was Black Sheep Ale with a best before date also of August 2007. I'm not a big fan of Black Sheep beers at all, except perhaps Riggwelter. This tasted just like every other pasteurised Black Sheep bottle I've had - cardboard, caramel and grass - except it tasted slightly old. It was still drinkable, perhaps more so than fresher samples, but I didn't finish the bottle. It's just not my kind of beer!

    I've still got ten or so out of date beers to drink. I'll do so, because my stomach wasn't compromised in any way. I urge you all not to be frightened of out of date beer. In some cases you may actually prefer it!

    Friday, 15 August 2008

    Real Ale Sausages

    No sniggering at the back, but I like a nice sausage. I'm also a big fan of beer as you may have concluded by now. It's not uncommon to see beer and real ale sausages, but I suspect the beer used is not often declared.

    My village is lucky to have a very good butcher's shop where they make their own sausages. We also have a brewer living in the village (although his brewery is 20 odd miles away). So put them together and you have Pork and Delapre Dark Sausages. This 4.6% old ale brewed by Great Oakley is just the right type of beer to be used in such a product. Nice, malty slightly roasty beers are just perfect to be used in such a way. It's a pretty good beer to drink as well obviously.

    Next time then you buy real ale sausages try to ascertain which beer has been used. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the time it's not even a real ale which has been used.

    Wednesday, 13 August 2008

    BeerMerchants Brewsletter

    The latest newsletter from BeerMerchants is available here. It's heartening to see how well the Scandinavian beers they've recently got in are doing. I am very confident that they will continue to break the mould and import some of the World's greatest beers. Heck I may even have some very interesting news for you quite soon.

    Read the newsletter, click on the links and order some beer. Have fun!

    Triple fff - Picking Up The Orders

    Triple fff brewery are already reaping the rewards of winning Champion Beer Of Britain with Alton's Pride.

    Sales are coming in thick and fast with a huge order from Wetherspoons the biggest single transaction.

    The brewery seems content they can deal with demand and don't envisage expanding further. The only issue seems to be a lack of casks.

    I'm sure they won't forget the two pubs in their own estate though. I certainly hope not anyway. My cousin lives in the same street as one of their two pubs and I'm looking forward to popping in next time I'm down that way.

    Tuesday, 12 August 2008

    Not All Freebies Are Good Value

    I see Carlsberg and The Sun; two erstwhile World icons if ever there were any, have joined forces to offer a free pint of lager to anyone brandishing a voucher from the paper on August 24th.

    I won't be taking them up on the offer, although I'm sure there'll be no tears over that decision. I am reminded though of a time many years ago when I was in a lovely country pub in deepest darkest Northants which had nine ever changing ales on handpump. I was sipping happily on some beer or other when in walked "The Caffreys Girls". This decidedly nasty nitrokeg bitter was just being launched, and the pub, surprisingly, was supporting its launch. The girls were giving away vouchers for free pints of the fizzy stuff. I think by the time I left that evening I had accumulated at least a gallons worth of vouchers. I didn't claim even one free half.

    There are some decisions you later regret. I certainly don't regret saving myself a bob or two.

    Sunday, 10 August 2008

    Enjoying The Beer

    I went for quality rather than quantity at GBBF this year, mostly sticking to the full third pint of the beers I tried, or a large enough amount out of the bottles we opened. When I wrote my piece the other day, I didn't have my notes with me, and it may have come across that I didn't enjoy the range of beers I had as much as I should have.

    However now I sit here with my notes in front of me, I'm reminded that I had a pretty decent number of good beers. On the whole some of the IPAs and APAs from USA underwhelmed me, but they weren't bad by any stretch. What did it for me was the darker beers, and not just the strongest ones either.

    Beers I tried which warranted a score of at least 3.6 on the RateBeer scale were:

    The Tap Mansfield Sweet Stout
    Lost Abbey The Angels Share
    Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale
    Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale
    Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
    Gritty McDuffs Punch You In The IPA
    Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
    Cape Ann Fishermans IPA
    De Molen Amarillo
    De Molen Tsarina Ezra Reserva
    Mayflower Porter
    De Molen Bloed, Sweet & Tranen
    Warbird Warhawk Pale Ale
    Brooklyn Blast
    Cricket Hill Colonel Bildes Altbier
    Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout
    Marble Janine's One
    Smuttynose Wheat Wine

    I'm not going to provide tasting notes for all of those as that will be very boring, but reading this list tells me three things.

    That's a big list bearing in mind I tried just 52 beers
    I didn't score the Italian beers particularly highly.
    Taking notes on the beers does allow you to remember the good stuff from the crap. As much as it's nice to tinker about blagging and socializing, it is the beer that we go for.

    Thursday, 7 August 2008

    By Popular Request

    As requested and suggested at GBBF, I have turned comment moderation off. Hopefully discussion can occur at a better speed. I'm sure you'll all play nicely.

    GBBF 2008 - From My Perspective

    The great and the good of the beer world seemed to be at Earls Court this week as The Great British Beer Festival 2008 kicked off. Amazingly my group was at the very front of the queue thanks to Angelo arriving at 9:30. We eagerly watched the clock on the big screen near the door countdown towards 12 noon, and then beyond that advertized opening time. The staff inside didn't look like they were having a last minute brief so the short delay was somewhat confusing.

    Nevermind, 12:05 arrived and the doors opened. We piled through the turnstiles and the first face we saw was Roger Protz, on his way out of the hall. Perhaps he'd already had enough beer, but it did seem somewhat strange to pass him going in the opposite direction.

    The RateBeer crowd took up residence at two tables near the Biere Sans Frontieres bar. We were all keen to try Lost Abbey The Angel's Share, De Molen Tsarina Esra Reserva, and Dogfish Palo Santo Marron, amongst others. These 10% plus monsters could wait for later in the day for me, although a lot of table started with these beers - it can only be downhill from there!

    I therefore spent most of the day on the mid strength American beers interspersing the mad hoppiness with a German or Czech lager or two. It's great to see all those US casks but sometimes the palate needs a change.

    As good as the beers were, I spent more time than ever chatting and socializing. As mentioned on their respective blogs, I met The Beer Nut and Tandleman, as well as Stonch, and two members of The Young CAMRA Collectiv, who have yet to file a full report of the festival. I enjoyed the company of my fellow bloggers immensely, all of whom have a delightful enthusiasm for beer and blogging, and, I think our style of blogging comes out in our personality.

    So what of the beers? Well for the fourth year on the trot I didn't buy anything English. I did have a large sample of someone else's Marble Janine's One, which was possibly the nicest light beer I had in the two days I was there. It put the APAs and IPAs to shame.

    I am, though, a sucker for high gravity extreme beers, and the three I mentioned at the start of the article were all excellent. They're not for the faint hearted, and it would be fair to say the alcohol was a bit hot in the two US beers, but they were all just so sippably gorgeous.

    The Angel's Share was the best of the bunch. The bourbon barrel aging was a little obvious but it was good enough for me.

    Thanks then, to everyone I spent time with during the two days. Chris, my host overnight, as ever was the top man, but to everyone who made me laugh, paid me a compliment on my writing, or taught me something new; a big Cheers.

    Monday, 4 August 2008

    Champion Beer Of Britain

    Triple fff Altons Pride has today been awarded Champion Beer Of Britain at the 2008 Great British Beer Festival. A fuller report will follow when I return from the festival.

    If it's available in your local, go out and drink some tonight, before it's so popular the quality may diminish a little

    GBBF Here I Come

    I'm on the 9:33 train out of Northampton tomorrow for my two day residence at the BSF bar of GBBF. I shall be drinkng with the pretty large RateBeer contingent but should hopefully meet as many readers and fellow bloggers as possible.

    I'll be staying over in London Tuesday night, and falling back through my front door around 23:30 on Wednesday night. I shall hopefully give some sort of report on Thursday.

    There is a slight chance though that my home correspondent (aka the wife), may post something on my behalf tomorrow.

    Watch this space!

    Beer Of The Month - July 2008

    July has been the calm before the storm that is GBBF. I had 44 new beers in total, split fairly evenly between cask stuff and bottles.

    The choice for cask beer of the month is fairly tricky. The two highest scoring cask ales scored a mere 3.7 out of 5 on the Ratebeer scale. There were a few 3.6s, but that's not worthy of such an award.

    Those two beers were Red Squirrel London Porter, and Dark Star Hylder Blond. The Porter was roasty and full of chocolate flavours. It was the third pint I had on a beer and curry night in Northampton. Just beating it though as cask beer of the month was the saaz hopped beer from Dark Star. This is also brewed with freshly picked elderflowers which you really can taste. It was very nice and won my beer of the festival at Merton.

    The bottled offerings during the month were on the whole of a better standard. Two beers which were shared at Merton both scored highly. Marble Decadence and BrewDog Tokyo were big Imperial Stouts. The BrewDog was brewed with jasmine, but to me had a lot of lavender notes. Two more dark beers from Britain but less agressive were Leatherbritches Porter and Red Rock Humber Down. The latter a very flavoursome bottle conditioned mild, coming in at just 3.6%. This may well be the best bottled mild I've ever drank. I also enjoyed Hopsinjoor from Het Anker. This consistently good Belgian brewer has recently introduced this blonde beer, which had a lot of similarities to Duvel in my book. That, of course, cannot be a bad thing.

    I saved the best beer though until last and had it really to prepare myself for the hop bombs I hope to have at Earls Court. Great Divide Hibernation Ale is the kind of beer I could happily shut myself in a dark room and drink all Winter. Beautifully strong, beautifully hopped, and with a big malty backbone providing a great long finish. It's an absolute corker. My bottle was bought at Utobeer. I don't know if there's any left, but if there is you really should stock up. It's a clear winner of my beer of the month.

    Sunday, 3 August 2008

    Nils Oscar At BeerMerchants

    My favourite beer at last year's Great British Beer Festival was Nils Oscar Imperial Stout. It was an excellent stout coming in at a reasonable 7% but tasting much stronger with an excellent roasty body. Sadly there doesn't appear to be any beers from Scandinavia this year, but blog sponsor BeerMerchants have secured six beers from this Swedish brewery for your enjoyment.

    Amongst them is the excellent Stout, together with the almost as good Barley Wine an IPA, a smoked porter, and a couple of lagers; one in the dortmunder style and one in the vienna style.

    As stated before, BeerMerchants certainly know how to package their beers so you can order these safe in the knowledge that they will arrive snugly and promptly. I'm sure you'll enjoy a little taste of Sweden, especially the Imperial Stout!

    Saturday, 2 August 2008

    How Bonkers Is Prince Charles?

    Prince Charles has been photographed dozens of times in various pubs, cack-handedly pulling a half of bitter grinning from big ear to big ear. He's also well known for his love of the environment, organic farming, and promotion of all matters green.

    So it seemed a good idea to visit Adnams brewery, to applaud them on their production of the carbon neutral beer East Green.

    It's a great shame therefore that he chose to travel the short distance from Sandringham to Southwold by helicopter, landing a mile from the brewery, and travelling that last few minute by a gas guzzling Jaguar car. A major own goal there your Highness!