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    Thursday, 27 November 2008

    Beer Of The Month - October 2008

    Better late than never, I am able now to do my Beer Of The Month post for October. It looks like I had just 45 new beers in the month, almost all of them cask ales with two beer festivals at both Oxford and Nottingham standing out.

    The best beer I had at Oxford was Prospect Nutty Slack, an excellent roasty, yet fruity mild, which I was surprised to find out was the first beer from this Lancashire brewery I've had. The stand out beer at Nottingham was another one from a brand new brewery to me: Bollington White Nancy had lovely fresh orangey hops throughout. I'd mostly stuck to dark beers at the festival and this golden ale beat all of them. Honourable mention though needs to go to Mallinsons Mild Thing.

    The best cask ale of the month though was drank in The Malt Shovel in Northampton; the long-named Empire Pandemonium Vanilla Porter was a magnificent melange of coffee beans and vanilla. I'd been tipped off by a colleague at work earlier in the day, and wasn't sure I fancied vanilla in a beer but this really worked.

    Only one bottled beer stood out all month, but it was good enough to be overall Beer Of The Month. Adnams Innovation was available as a limited edition beer late last year rolling into this year, and came at a premium price in a presentation box. I had bottle number 740 and sadly have no more. It is, by a country mile, the hoppiest beer Adnams produce and at 6.7% has a great backbone to support the hops. I would be more than happy to see Adnams repeat this beer, but this time sell it without the packaging at a more realistic price.

    I always choose a non-English beer of the month as well. In October the best I had was Mysterious Myrtle Stout from Wales' Purple Moose. This was an interesting stout with a little something added. It wouldn't win prizes most months, but there wasn't a lot of competition this time round.

    Sorry the report's a little shorter this time but some of the memories have become a little distant!

    Tuesday, 25 November 2008

    Castle Rock Beer Of The Year

    I've mentioned on here a few times that I am a fan of the Castle Rock chain of pubs, which were previously called Tynemill. They have an excellent commitment to real ale and are comfortable drinking pubs.

    I was somewhat surprised therefore to read that its customers had voted Batemans XXXB as this year's beer of the year.

    XXXB isn't a bad beer but it's hardly Earth shattering. The chain sells much better beers on a regular basis, notwithstanding its own beers such as Harvest Pale and Black Gold which are both very good. Thornbridge beers are regularly seen through the pumps; Jaipur would have been a much worthier winner in my opinion.

    Perhaps Castle Rock's customers aren't as discerning as I imagined, or perhaps it's me.

    Monday, 24 November 2008

    BrewDog Beer Rocks Week Two

    Those of you paying attention will be aware of the Beer Rocks competition currently running on the BrewDog blog. Last week's result saw Black IPA beat Porter and Barley Wine to be the style of choice.

    Week Two is to choose the ABV and the malts for this beer which will form part of the reange next year. Watch the video for the reasons why the following are your three choices.

    8.5% ABV Munich Malt, Dark Crystal Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt
    6.5% ABV Pale Maris Otter, Amber Malt, Black Malt
    7.5% ABV Pale Marris Otter, Roasted Barley, Pale Chocolate Malt

    It's option three all the way for me, but then I wanted a Barley Wine.

    Sunday, 23 November 2008

    The Pub Cat

    Why is it that grown men appear to go soft whenever a cat wanders around a pub? I was in The Wellington in Birmingham last week; the bottom end of the pub was full of men drinking in twos or alone, and in waltzed the moggy. Almost without fail everyone made a fuss of it. Even me, and I really don't like cats.

    There doesn't seem to be the same fuss about dogs, which are much better animals! More pubs should have a pub cat, if only to give lone saddos like me someone to talk to.

    Friday, 21 November 2008

    Having Too Big A Range From The Outset

    I had a beer from a Cornish brewery yesterday, which has only been going two years and already has 91 beers listed on BeerMad. I've had a few beers from the brewery, and while none of them have been bad, they have all been a bit meh, to use the latest word to hit our dictionaries.

    To have produced this many supposedly different beers in just two years is a step too far, and makes me wonder which market they are aiming their beers at.

    If I opened my own brewery I would concentrate on a very small core range for at least the first three months to ensure my beers were appreciated and that they were consistently well brewed.

    I think three or four should be sufficient. A low strength bitter, be it golden or brown; a stronger 'best' bitter; a premium bitter, and a dark beer either a mild or a stout. The experimentation should start afterwards with the beer range increasing at my whim.

    It is either a very brave, very good brewery which brings out tons of beers from the start, or a pretty poor brewery producing a lot of different beers knowing that a fair few people try anything once, and would not need to revisit the same poor beer.

    Tuesday, 18 November 2008

    Pubs Are For The Community

    I had a very interesting and emlightening day last Thursday. My employers were holding a diversity week, part of which involved a cultural tour of Leicester. As part of this tour I visited a hindu temple, followed by a mosque.

    Never having set foot in either ever before, I wasn't sure what to expect, and there was a little trepidation. What I did experience though, was a warm welcome in both places and a real sense of the venues being meeting places which served the needs of their communities.

    Returning home that evening I went to the pub. The pub, which I had never visited before was an estate pub, albeit a nice estate, and was very busy, especially so for a Thursday. There was a poker tournament going on, darts and pool being played in the bar, and (and this is the reason I went), a demonstration outside by a cooper from Theakstons. There was a real warm welcome here and a true feeling of community.

    I'm not for one second suggesting that pubs are like churches, but in many ways they do the same job. It's where you meet like-minded people and make new friends. You are welcomed, even as a stranger, and maybe afterwards as a regular.

    We are losing pubs by the dozen in this country. Hopefully for the most part it is the poor ones, and those which provide a sanctuary from all the crap in the World will be allowed to flourish.

    Saturday, 15 November 2008

    BrewDog Rocks Project Week One

    Don't forget to place your vote in the BrewDog design a beer video blog. The choices are Black IPA, Porter and Barley Wine.

    For some background information on the project click here

    For the video and thinking behind these choices click here

    Friday, 14 November 2008

    Lost Abbey And Port Brewing On Their Way

    Anyone who enjoyed The Angels Share at this year's Great British Beer Festival will be excited to hear that yesterday announced the imminent arrival of beers brewed by Port Brewing/Lost Abbey. This excellent brewery which specialises in both American and Belgian beer styles has won multiple awards for its beers.

    Having only tasted the one beer at GBBF I'm very keen to try more beers from their range.

    I don't have details of which beers are coming yet, but hope to have that information soon. More information on the beer ranges can be found here and here.

    These beers won't be cheap, but they represent the pinnacle of US brewing and may never be seen in the UK again. You wouldn't want to miss out would you?

    Tuesday, 11 November 2008

    You're On The Committee Now Son

    It was my CAMRA branch AGM last night. I've only gotten involved with CAMRA since starting this blog, offering to help both publicise and work at the Northamptonshire Beer Festival. I decided it was time I gave something back to the organisation, and also enjoy the company of local beer lovers rather than just the usual crowd I hang out with at festivals who come from far and wide.

    I enjoyed working at the festival far more than I could have predicted, and have since enjoyed social trips and more branch meetings. It was suggested last month that I might want to join the committee. Our branch needs new blood and I was willing to step to the plate.

    I went to the AGM expecting to pick up the following jobs:

    Membership Secretary
    Brewery Liaison Officer Great Oakley
    BLO for any other brewery that others didn't want.

    I got the Membership Secretary job. It was uncontested not surprisingly, and looks like hard work if you do it properly, which I'll try to do.

    I got the Great Oakley BLO. I've championed their beers before on here, and will continue to do so.

    I volunteered in the absence of other volunteers to be BLO for Cherwell Valley. After all I wrote enough about them when they first kicked off.

    And finally, wait for it, I am now the BLO for Carlsberg Northampton. What have I let myself in for? When my accreditation comes through, I'll be dropping them a line. Not sure how we can work together, but if they're offering free trips to Denmark or bottles of Jacobsen Vintage 1, then perhaps I've made a wise decision. I'm not so sure though!

    Monday, 10 November 2008

    Help Design A BrewDog Beer

    Non-conformist Scottish brewer BrewDog are launching a project this weekend where you can have a big say in a new beer to be brewed. As an unprecendented act of total democracy in the beer world, akin to Ebbsfleet United Football Club, decisions will be made by readers and viewers of their blog.

    You can have the chance to choose the style of the beer, the malts and hops used, the ABV and starting gravity, any added extra ingredients (fruits/spices) and the beer's name and labelling.

    BrewDog have the full support of their overseas importers so the final beer will hopefully be on sale somewhere near you early next year.

    Beer Rocks as the project is called is open to all beer fans so tune in and have your say.

    Sunday, 9 November 2008

    Beer Of The Month Delayed

    Hopefully some of you have noticed that my Beer Of The Month piece hasn't appeared yet for October. This delay will be rectified as soon as RateBeer is available again. All my notes are on there and I have no idea whatsoever what the best beers I had during the month were.

    Just one more reason that we need RateBeer back as soon as possible.

    Beer And Coffee

    I've mentioned my eldest daughter before. She's the one who likes going into churches, paying no respect to my atheism. Now this weekend, she has started to drink coffee. Coffee is the only foodstuff I don't like, but wish I did. Until five years ago I couldn't stand cheese, but now I love the stuff - the stronger the better - but I cannot get past that coffee barrier.

    I'm partial though to the taste of coffee in beer. I have had beers which are brewed with coffee beans and liked them, so I would strugle with the correlation except there are coffee beers which are too much for me.

    One is fresh Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast. This is just too rich for my palate. I've drank the beer slightly beyond it's best before date and it's really lovely; the coffee flavours and the hops working in perfect harmony, but I guess the coffee lost its intensity as the beer aged. The other one I've struggled with is bottled Meantime Coffee. This was just 100% coffee. No beer flavours at all iin the bottle I had.

    Last week though I had the cask version at the Wetherspoons festival. The coffee is there of course, but it's much more mellow, and works nicely. I'm convinced this is a different recipe even if it does use the same Fairtrade Rwandan coffee beans. They must be at a lower ratio.

    Other beers brewed with coffee I've liked, off the top of my head, are Dark Star Espresso Stout, Darwin Java Jolt and Founders Breakfast Stout

    I'm interested in recommendations for really heavy coffee flavoured coffee beers that I might try to see if I can get over my issues. I may even start liking coffee itself one day.

    Thursday, 6 November 2008

    The Tetleys Closure And Northampton

    It's interesting that Carlsberg are blaming, admittedly amongst other things, the current economic climate for their decision to close the Tetley Brewery in Leeds. I wrote this article back in June of last year. It was apparent at the time that one of the two breweries in England would close.

    At the time of course I hoped Northampton would stay open and I'm glad that it will. Inspite of the crap they are producing, it is still an important part of the town, and that site really should be producing beer.

    I am sad for Leeds, and feel for people who face losing their jobs. The World's not a good place to be in at the moment with litle income

    I'm therefore shocked to see comments from Northampton MP Sally Keeble in this article that "Hopefully this should be excellent news for Northampton." She is being just a little too parochial here even if she does add "So I am sorry for Leeds, but it should be really good news for Northampton."

    Carlsberg have suggested that production of cask ales will not transfer to Northampton, but will instead be outsourced to other Northern breweries. There are suggestions here though, that the brewery in Northampton may be in line for a serious extension. Time will tell of course. I'll keep my eyes and ears peeled.

    Tuesday, 4 November 2008

    RateBeer Second Home

    My first home on the internet is RateBeer. I'm on it far too often for my own good, and it's one of the reasons I don't post here as often as I'd like. Well, sadly it is down at the moment and has been for a couple of days due to some serious hacking compromising the security of the site. For anyone who is a regular on RateBeer and is missing the camaraderie or just needs to contact a fellow user, you may find this site more than useful.

    Massive thanks go to Phil Lowry of my favourite British online beer store for the leg work on this.

    Milton Keynes - Giving Wetherspoons A Bad Name

    I'm not a Wetherspoons refusenik by any stretch of the imagination, although I generally prefer to drink in other pubs. I have an issue with chains as a rule, preferring independently run businesses.

    I tend to frequent Spoons more regularly during their festivals, as, I guess, most of you do too. So it was with a sense of interest that I ventured in The Secklow Hundred, and the eponomously name Wetherspoons, whilst in Milton Keynes on Saturday,

    The pleasure was not all mine though, as both these establishments are definitely below par. The Secklow Hundred is a Lloyds No 1 branded pub, but from experience that shouldn't make it inferior to a regular Spoons in terms of beer range or quality. I wish that were the case here though. Just two of the festival ales were on, and the one I tried Hydes Mumbo Jumbo was bland and soulless. Maybe it's meant to be like that but I doubt it.

    I ordered a cheese baguette - described as mature cheddar with salad leaves, tomato and onion - and was presented with a baguette with barely a serving spoon full of grated, dry looking, cheese with no additions at all. In fairness it was exchanged with much apology, but the guy who served it me should have noticed it was hideously underfilled.

    Onwards then to Wetherspoons, and at least the festival appeared to have been acknowledged. Our thirds, though, of Caledonian Smokey Pete, Highgate Red Rogue and Moorhouses Premier were again substandard.

    I was shocked to read in a copy of the Milton Keynes CAMRA newsletter when I got home that this pub is a former branch pub of the year. I really do trust that it was much better once, as if not I do feel sorry for the people living in that area.

    These experiences won't stop me drinking in Spoons over the next couple of weeks during the fest, but may make me more reluctant to pop into new ones without doing a bit of research first.

    Monday, 3 November 2008

    Milton Keynes Beer Festival

    "Come To Milton Keynes", sang The Style Council back in 1985. There aren't many reasons why you would. It's hardly worth a trek for anyone. It's a decent enough place to shop, but it's not really worthy of a visit for the beer lover.

    I ventured there on Saturday though as the Milton Keynes Beer Festival was on its third day.

    I was driven there by my wife, and we did a bit of shopping in the morning. It's a good job we were in the car with decent directions, as the venue seemed to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and hideously undersigned as far as directions are concerned. I'd read earlier in the week how tricky it was to find, and that is correct.

    I met fellow RateBeerian Hughie there. He works in Milton Keynes luckily, so knows his way around. Otherwise I'm not sure I would have found my way back to the bus station to get home.

    The festival featured 57 beers, four ciders and one perry. This is a low number for a festival but was probably just about right given the hard to find location. The number of punters when I was there was much lower than you would expect for a Saturday lunchtime, making a seat easy to find, and being served was a fast process..

    The beers were predominantly local with fourteen brewers covered by the locale rules. All the Northamptonshire breweries were there including the brand new Silverstone Brewery. As predicted though their beer had ran out by the time I got there.

    I was disappointed with the beer quality; I often am at indoor festivals except where extra effort has been made with the cooling. Sadly there appeared to be no cooling at all here, so the beer was a little on the warm side also.

    The best beer I tried on the day was Golcar Dark Mild. I was shocked to realise I've never had a Golcar beer before and this was a decent lightly roasty dark mild to acquaint myself with the brewery. The Dark Star Porter was close behind.

    We left the festival after a few hours to take in the delights of MK's Wetherspoons during their festival. More on that next time.