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    Monday, 15 June 2009

    End Of The Line

    I've decided to put the blog to sleep. To be honest I've gotten bored with it and lack the motivation to post with any regularity. I shall keep the blog here rather than shut it down, and will still be twittering or whatever it's called and the latest tweets will still appear at the top of the front page.

    I'd like to thank all of the people who read the blog especially those who read it regularly and those who took the effort to post comments; the vast majority of which were interesting and thought provoking.

    Special thanks obviously go to BrewDog and BeerMerchants for the sponsorship. Their adverts will remain because they are companies I believe in who are doing the right things in the beer World.

    If you are a fellow blogger and I like your blog, I will continue to read it and will attempt to comment more regularly.

    Good luck

    Wednesday, 10 June 2009

    Presentation Night For Our Pub Of The Year

    18 or so members of the Northants Branch of CAMRA attended the Pub Of The Year presentation at The Coach & Horses in Wellingborough in Monday night.

    It was a good evening (even if I did have to drive) with Phil our branch chair doing us proud with a good speech as ever, whilst John the landlord provided a full bar of ten real ales for our delectation.

    Leicestershire Branch who judged the seven pubs on our shortlist did a good job in choosing the Coach as winner. One I wish was just a little bit closer to home.

    Sunday, 7 June 2009

    Britiah Summer Ales

    It seems very strange writing about Summer beers whilst sat in my conservatory with the rain absolutely lashing it down and disturbing the peace of an otherwise empty house, but the pubs are starting to fill with beers which brewers choose to name Summer ales.

    I am often filled with dread as these beers appear. They are pale, around 4% and often very ordinary. Using pale malt whilst utilising the usual boring earthy English hops does not a Summer ale make.

    However my recent experiences seem to demonstrate that more and more brewers are getting the hang of putting flavour into their beer, and that flavour may be described as Summery.

    It really is, for me, all about the hops, and where good brewers like Oakham and Pictish have led with their heavily hopped beers using stuff like Willamette and Centennial, others do appear to be following. You need a bit of citrussy flavour to be a Summer beer. You get that from using the right hops. US stuff, New Zealand stuff, First Gold from here all do the trick. Fuggles and Goldings really don't.

    Loads of the pale beers I had at our beer festival last weekend hit the spot because they used the right hops. Hats off to those brewers that haev realised this and are prepared to spend a little bit more on imported hops. I like flavour in my beer and a Summer beer on a hot day needs just the right type of flavour.

    Friday, 5 June 2009

    Other Pubs In Brighton

    As well as the usual suspects, I did visit a few other pubs whilst in Brighton. Most of these were in the current Good Beer Guide or on the local CAMRA branch's ale trail.

    The exception to that was The Pump House in The Lanes which I visited twice. This pub sells five real ales, and the three different ones I had: Dark Horse Whip Cracker, Harveys Sussex Best and Taylor Landlord were all in really good condition. I'm told by friends that the food, especially the sausages, was excellent too. I do wonder why the pub doesn't currently feature with the local CAMRA bods.

    The Great Eastern is at the bottom of Trafalgar Street, down the hill from The Lord Nelson, and sells three beers. I had a reasonable Ballards Best and an underpar Hop Back Summer Lightning. The pub does stock around 40 different bourbons if that's your thing.

    Southover Street is in the Hanover area of Brighton and has the steepest street I ever wish to walk up. I went to two pubs; the interesting Greys being the first. Greys has a good selection of Belgian beers and promotes a different Belgian brewer each Tuesday. I stuck to the local stuff though with a reasonable Harveys Best, Landlord being the only other choice. Further up the hill is the ex-Gales, now Fullers, Sir Charles Napier. Four beers from the London brewer were available. my choice was Summer Ale as I rarely see it. It was OK. no more.

    Near the London Road shops is The Mitre which is a Harveys pub, and sadly was the quietest pub I went in all week, which was a shame as I liked it. The Hadlow Bitter I had was good too.

    Another pub in The Lanes is The Victory, three beers were available including two from Arundel of which Sussex Gold was my choice, and decent enough it was.

    Finally I went to The Waggon and Horses near the theatre where I passed over the two beers on offer in favour of the Westons Perry (we all need a change sometimes), which was decent enough in an unchallenging manner.

    There are countless other pubs to try and next year I'll do so. I may just uncover a gem.

    Wednesday, 3 June 2009

    Brighton Pubs - The Obvious Go-Tos

    I enjoy going on my annual sojourn to Brighton, as there are a handful of pubs which I could never tire of, all of which sell beers I rarely see up here.

    My first pub was The Lord Nelson on Trafalgar Street which is a Harveys pub. Harveys beers are not universally popular but I like them a lot. I had pints of Armada and the light mild Knots Of May, both were on good form. I didn't return there during the week but did sample other Harveys beers namely Sussex Best and Hadlow Bitter

    I paid two visits during the week to The Evening Star. This pub is almost faultless. The cask beers, especially the Dark Star beers were superb (I tried American Pale Ale, Mild For May, Old Chestnut and Hophead); the guests are well chosen and the foreign list is superb. I really loved the Oaked Arrogant Bastard. This is one of the pubs I'd give anything to have in my town.

    A pub I didn't get to last year, but I had to do this year was The Basketmakers Arms. This was a Gales pub, but of course is branded as Fullers now, and sells five from that stable as well as two guests. It is always very busy, but is definitely worth a brief visit.

    Finally of the old favourites was my Brighton local, as I stay just around the corner, The Hand In Hand. I only went in a couple of times and am pleased to report that the home brewed beers are still available and are better than I've ever had them. There are three of fours guests too, which are in good nick.

    These are the pubs I will go back to year on year, but there are others which are worth an occasional visit which I'll write about next time.

    Tuesday, 2 June 2009

    Coming Soon From Adnams

    I'm going to Suffolk for a week towards the end of June, and will be staying very near Southwold, which is, of course Adnams country. Looks like I've timed it well as this new beer should be available.

    I do like Nelson Sauvin hops.

    Monday, 1 June 2009

    Northants BF - That Was A Mad Weekend

    The sun shone, and the drink flowed. This year's Northamptonshire Beer Festival had more beer than ever and far more cider than ever. It also had our best weather ever, with temperatures in the mid twenties.

    The beer list numbered 238 although there were a few barrels doubled up making around 250 casks in total. We didn't sell out of beer, although we were quite close, but therein lies the good planning in the beer ordering because there is no point having gallons and gallons of beer left at last orders on the last day. We did run out of cider at around 8;30 though. There was a bit of beer left for the staff to have a quick drink and a sing song after closing which was very pleasant.

    I didn't catch any of the entertainment, which included an allegedly successful attempt at a World record motorcycle jump; the sealed knot and plenty of bamds, but I'm sure they were a success.

    My efforts were restricted to selling beer and helping back of house, and I hope visitors thought we ran a good show. We didn't have sufficient glasses on Saturday night, but it was busier than expected. Nobody went home thirsty though.

    I did manage to sample around 40 different beers over the three days and have to say that they were in great condition. It's long been an assertion of mine that outdoor festivals work better than indoor as far as beer quality is concerned. We had to soak the barrels with cold water to keep them at optimum temperature; something which is easier to do when the water can flow into the ground rather than a linoed floor.

    Favourite beers I tried included Boggart Rum Porter, Green Mill Big Chief and Chocolate Mild, Beowulf Wuffa and the festival special Great Oakley Abbey Stout. Honourable mention also to Nobbys Chilli Summer; proof again that chilis is a great additive to beer.

    So, it was really hard work and my aging knees felt the pressure, but it was great fun, and we'll be doing it again. Same time same place next year. Roll up, roll up.

    Tuesday, 26 May 2009

    Last Minute Changes

    Everything is up on the stillages for this week's festival and there are surprisingly few alterations to
    the list I posted at the weekend.

    Boggart Dark Mild replaced by Trad Mild.
    Boggart Dark Rum Porter is actually Rum Porter.
    Elland Anniversary Ale is 7th Anniversary Ale.
    Bridestones TJ5 is actually TJ's.
    Rockingham Black Forest replaced by Dark Forest.
    Brampton Best replaced by Golden Bud.

    The following are no shows:

    Red Squirrel Colorado American IPA
    Sawbridgeworth Malt Shovel Porter
    Sawbridgeworth Chocolate Orange Stout

    Sunday, 24 May 2009

    Northamptonshire Beer Festival 2009- The Beer List

    The Northamptonshire Beer Festival starts this Thursday at Delapre Abbey in Northampton at 5pm. It is then open all day from noon. The beer list which should be final is listed below. I will update with any changes as and when they occur.

    Abbeydale Brimstone
    Abbeydale Belfry
    B&T Gold Leaf
    B&T R101
    B&T Black Dragon Mild
    B&T Edwin Taylors Extra Stout
    Bank Top Flat Cap
    Bank Top Volunteer
    Bank Top Pavilion
    Bank Top Port o' Call
    Beowulf Wuffa
    Beowulf Goldwork
    Beowulf Chasewater
    Beowulf Swordsman
    Blue Cow Best Bitter
    Blue Monkey Original
    Blue Monkey Evolution
    Blythe Blythe Bitter
    Blythe Staffie
    Blythe Ridware Pale
    Blythe Tetty's Tipple
    Boggart Hole Clough Dark Mild
    Boggart Hole Clough Standard Pioneer
    Boggart Hole Clough Sun Dial
    Boggart Hole Clough Ray of Sunshine
    Boggart Hole Clough Dark Rum Porter
    Brampton Best
    Brampton 1302
    Brass Monkey Best Bitter
    Brass Monkey Mandrill
    Brass Monkey Monkey Pooh
    Brass Monkey Silverback
    Brewdog Zeitgeist
    Brewdog Punk
    Brewdog 77Lager
    Brewdog Dogma
    Brewdog Trashy Blonde
    Brewdog Paradox Smokehead
    Brewsters Hophead
    Brewsters Marquis
    Brewsters Cheval Mort
    Brewsters Kiyo
    Bridestones Pennine Dark Mild
    Bridestones Brown Ale
    Bridestones TJ5
    Bridestones Sandman
    Brunswick White Feather
    Brunswick Pilsener
    Cathedral Magna Carta
    Cathedral St Hugh's
    Cathedral Black Imp
    Cherwell Valley Larkrise
    Cherwell Valley Cropredy Bridge
    Cherwell Valley Kineton Fight
    Cherwell Valley Duke of Cumberlands Head
    Concrete Cow Ironbridge Brew
    Concrete Cow Cowzat'
    Dark Star Hophead
    Dark Star Espresso
    Dark Star Festival
    Dark Star Original
    Dent Dent Bitter
    Dent Aviator Ale
    Dent T'owd Tup
    Digfield Fools Nook
    Digfield Barnwell Bitter
    Digfield March Hare
    Digfield Shacklebush
    Digfield IPA
    Digfield Mad Monk
    Dowbridge Centurion
    Dowbridge Fosse
    Dowbridge Legion
    Dowbridge DB Dark
    Dowbridge Morgans Beez Neez
    Elland Mambo
    Elland Beyond the Pale
    Elland Anniversary Ale
    Elland Space
    Empire Golden Warrior
    Empire Pilgrim
    Empire Valour
    Empire Longbow
    Frog Island Fuggled Frog
    Frog Island Best Bitter
    Frog Island Shoemaker
    Frog Island Natterjack
    Frog Island Fire Bellied Toad
    Frog Island Croak & Stagger
    Full Mash Brass Monkey
    Full Mash Stapleford Stout
    Grainstore Cooking
    Grainstore 1050
    Grainstore Silly Billy
    Grainstore NIP
    Great Oakley Welland Valley Mild
    Great Oakley Wot's Occurring
    Great Oakley Wagtail
    Great Oakley Harpers
    Great Oakley Gobble
    Great Oakley Delapre Dark
    Great Oakley Tailshaker
    Great Oakley Abbey Stout
    Green Mill Chocolate Mild
    Green Mill A Bitter T'ale
    Green Mill Chief
    Green Mill Big Chief
    Hart Nemesis
    Hart Dishy Debbie
    Hawkshead Bitter
    Hawkshead Lakeland Gold
    Hawkshead Brodies Prime
    Hoggleys Northamptonshire Bitter
    Hoggleys Kislingbury Bitter
    Hoggleys Mill Lane Mild
    Hoggleys Reservoir Hogs
    Hoggleys Pump Fiction
    Hoggleys Solstice Stout
    Hoggleys Slum Hog
    Hopshackle Historic Porter
    Hopshackle Double Momentum
    Iceni Celtic Queen
    Iceni Fine Soft Day
    Iceni Cranberry Wheat
    Julian Church Parson's Nose
    Julian Church Wonky Spire
    Julian Church Martyr
    Leatherbritches Copper Classic
    Magpie Fledgling
    Magpie Dark Secret
    Magpie Best Bitter
    Magpie Monty's FIrkin
    Mallinsons Amarillo
    Mallinsons Statue of Zeus
    Mallinsons TR7
    Mallinsons Jubilee Tower
    Maypole Little Weed
    Maypole Major Oak
    Milestone Raspberry Wheat
    Milestone Loxley
    Milestone Rich Ruby
    Milton Icarus
    Milton Nero
    Naylors Pinnacle Bitter
    Naylors Pinnacle Blonde
    Nethergate Old Growler
    Nethergate Essex Beast
    Nethergate Umbel Magna
    Nethergate Lounge Lizard
    Nethergate Essex Border
    Nobbys Best Bitter
    Nobbys Guilsborough Gold
    Nobbys Claridges Crystal
    Nobbys Monster Mash
    Nobbys Chilli Summer
    Nobbys T'owd Navigation
    Oakham Endless Summer
    Oakham Attila
    Oakham JHB
    Oakham Inferno
    Oakham White Dwarf
    Oakham Bishops Farewell
    Oldershaw Grantham Dark
    Oldershaw Regal Blonde
    Oldershaw High Dyke
    Oldershaw Harrowby Pale
    Oldershaw Grantham Stout
    Oldershaw Ahtanum Gold
    Grainstore Phipps IPA
    Grainstore Phipps Red Star
    Potbelly Welland Truly
    Potbelly Black Sun
    Potbelly Potbelly Best
    Potbelly Aisling
    Potbelly Ambrosia
    Potbelly Beijing Black
    Potbelly Inner Daze
    Potbelly Crazy Daze
    Purple Moose Black Hand Porter
    Purple Moose Madogs
    Purple Moose Snowdonia
    Purple Moose Glaslyn Ale
    Purple Moose Darkside of the Moose
    RCH Old Slug Porter
    RCH East Street Cream
    RCH Double Header
    RCH Steampole
    RCH PG Steam
    Red Squirrel BSPA
    Red Squirrel London Porter
    Red Squirrel English IPA
    Red Squirrel Colorado American IPA
    Red Squirrel Blonde
    Rockingham A1 Amber Ale
    Rockingham Black Forest
    Sawbridgeworth Malt Shovel Porter
    Sawbridgeworth Chocolate Orange Stout
    Shardlow Kiln House
    Shardlow Whistle Stop
    Shardlow Golden Hop
    Silverstone Pitstop
    Silverstone Chequered Flag
    Southport Golden Sands
    Southport Carousel
    Spinning Dog Herefordshire Owd Bull
    Spinning Dog Mutleys Dark
    Spinning Dog Celtic Gold
    Spinning Dog Mutts Nutts
    Spire Ruby Tuesday
    Spire Land Of Hop And Glory
    St.Georges St George is mild
    St.Georges Order of the Garter
    St.Georges Dragons Blood
    Tower Steamin Billy Last Bark
    Tower Steamin Billy Skydiver
    Tower steamin Billy Fox's Revenge
    Titanic Golden Age
    Ufford White Hart
    Ufford Golden Drop
    Vale Vale Best Bitter
    Vale Edgar's Golden Ale
    Vale Hadda's Spring Gold
    Vale VPA
    Vale Castle Bitter
    Weatheroak Light Oak
    Weatheroak Victoria Works
    White Horse Village Idiot
    White Horse Wayland Smithy
    White Horse Black Beauty
    White Park White Gold
    White Park Kellihopter
    White Park Cranfield Bitter
    Whitehaven Ennerdale Breeze
    Whitehaven Ennerdale Bitter
    Whitehaven Ennerdale Blonde
    Whitehaven Ennerdale Copper
    Wild Walker Old Big Ead
    Wild Walker Last Orders
    Wolf Golden Jackal
    Wolf Lavender Honey
    Wolf Woild Moild

    Friday, 15 May 2009

    Coach & Horses Dronfield

    I didn't realise that most pubs I take my wife in are a bit dodgy until she exclaimed "it's really nice Mark" when we walked into The Coach & Horses at Dronfield. It appears she was expecting somewhere a bit "spit and sawdust".

    The C&H is owned by Sheffield FC and sells beers from the excellent Thornbridge Hall brewery. It also though sells a deecnt range of foreign bottled beers and carefully chosen draught keg products. It's anything but spit and sawdust being actually pretty smart.

    Thornbridge beers available on my visit were:

    Wild Swan
    Lord Marples

    I tried them all except the Redbrick and particularly liked the first two on the list. Jaipur was a bit disappointing, being a little warm which I'm told is very unusual here.

    Although I didn't eat the menu looked really appetizing wih some lovely looking choices.

    It was a well spent hour and one I hope to repeat again. The pub is having a beer festival on the next bank holiday weekend with a large selection of Thornbridge beers but also a good range of other brewers beers such as BrewDog, Dark Star and Marble. I wish I were going.

    Wednesday, 13 May 2009

    Hello Again

    Yes, it's been a while hasn't it? Sorry about that. I've been a bit busy with one thing and another, but to hell with excuses.

    So, what have I been up to since we last met? I went to the beer festival at The Merchants Inn in Rugby, where all beers had an animal in the name and we were encouraged to order merely by animal name rather then the whole beer (Bugger that). I went to the first festival at The Victoria in Northampton, which needed to have more beers on at a time. I spent a week in the Peak District and only went to four (yes four) pubs the whole week. I had no internet access and precious little mobile phone reception, but that's not always a bad thing. And finally, and more pressingly, I've been puttiing together the tasting notes for this year's Northamptonshire Beer Festival which runs from May 28-30 at Delapre Abbey. This blog will be the first place the beer list will be published and there are some good beers to behold.

    I'll try to get the blog back on a regular roll now that things are quietening down. I'm off on my annual pilgrimage to Brighton on Sunday though. That will be fun.

    Thursday, 30 April 2009

    Bucking The Trend

    In the last few weeks I've heard of four oubs reopening in Northamptonshire and only one closing. And that single closure is said to be temporary according to the notice on the front door.

    I'm not for one moment suggesting this is the end of the bad period for pubs, but it's a step in the right direction.

    Monday, 27 April 2009

    Opening Hours

    When I first started drinking pubs had to close during the afternoon, then the law was changed so that drinking was allowed between 11 and 11 on every day except Sunday where it was noon until 10;30. I lived in a village at the time and my pub of choice flirted with opening all day on Saturday only. It was usually just us lads in there, playing skittles and listening to the football on the radio.

    It was a far cry from what we have today with pubs effectively able to open all the hours they want to but where generally speaking the vast amount of pubs choose to open all day at least at weekends and Fridays. The pub which closes during the afternoon is in a definite minority, especially in towns or near tourist attractions.

    Not all pubs do though and I'm confused why last orders is called at 3ish with a number of customers still spending their money. I know the same could be said for 11pm but people do have beds to go to.

    So why do pubs which probably could open all day choose not to? Sure staff need a break but if there are enough staff and shift patterns are sorted correctly this shouldn't be an issue. The question of profit doesn't come into it as I've already identified that these are busy pubs only.

    No, it's been suggested to me that pubs close to enable cleaning and general sprucing up between services. This may seem a valid argument but I can honestly say that I've not noticed an all day pub being particularly grotty in the evening.

    So. what's the reason? And if you ran a successful pub would you consider an afternoon of no money going through the tills?

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    CAMRA - A Romantic Notion

    The following is a verbatim quote from the Weekend supplement of The Times dated 11 April:

    The Campaign For Real Ale (a worthy cause) travels around the country holding festivals to promote the beauty of real ale, cider and perry.

    It really is a lovely thought that a troupe of individuals hold a beer festival and then load the lorries and move on to the next town where they unload and start all over again. If that's a real job then I want a piece of it. Does anyone know to where I should apply?

    Thursday, 16 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 5 - The Pumpclips And Bottle Labels

    I first thought up this series of posts whilst sat in a pub looking at the pumpclips all over the wall situated about ten feet away. Even with my good eyesight some of the clips were hard to read and if I could make out the beer's name I couldn't neccesarily make out anything else. Even stood just inches away from the bar there have been occasions when reading the beer name has proved problematic. It shocks me why a brewer would make it hard for potential punters to order their beer correctly.

    In my opinion a pumpclip needs three things: the beer name, the brewery name and the ABV. The brewery logo may also be included if it's not too intrusive. Anything else is just superfluous. And all three of the required things should be clear enough and large enough to be read. I think that interesting shaped pumpclips are OK and that that can set a particular brewery's beers apart from others. A good example of a clear pumpclip with the necessary information is those from Milestone, whilst those from Leeds are clear and definitely distinctive.

    The same principles apply for bottle labels. They should be kept plain and simple. The joy of a bottle is the opportunity to use the back label to really go to town. Standing in an off licence struggling to work out what is what is too much of a pain for a grouchy old drinker like me.

    So to paraphrase, like my beer naming policy my labelling is going to be simple and traditional also. I just wish more brewers were like me.

    Monday, 13 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 4 - The Occasional Beers

    So we've ascertained from comments left that some people agree that beers don't need to have leftfield or interesting names to sell and that where a name gives an obvious indication of what the customer might expect it will lead to a more informed choice.

    The naming policy for my permenant and seasonal beers may be a tad boring, but the beers won't be. They will use the best ingredients and a sufficient quantity of each to impart good flavour. My beers won't simply be one mess of Fuggles and Goldings after another. It's fair to say they won't be particularly extreme though. These are going to be high production beers that will appeal to your ordinary beer drinkers as well as your aficionados. The occasional and one off beers though are likely to be more extreme and appeal to a more niche market.

    I am a member of that niche market myself. I've regularly blogged about interesting foreign beers that are being imported and have sang the praises of the more daring progressive brewers like BrewDog and Thornbridge. It's with these beers that I'm going to have some fun

    I'm not going to complicate matters too much though. Again you're going to have a fair idea what you're going to get by the way the beer is named. So my single hopped IPA brewed with Simcoe is going to have a name to reflect itself, and its' going to be really hoppy, the same goes for my other IPAs. I'll brew proper fruit beers with proper fruit, no juice but the real thing, and I'll experiment with ingredients like coffee, spices and barrel aging, but not too many of anything at a time.

    The beers will be produced when the time is right to source the right ingredients. It's not quite seasonality but there will be a method to the madness of why each beer is produced at a certain time. These beers will be bottled as will as produced cask conditioned; my other stuff may not see a bottle. And quality control here is of the utost importance as sadly all too many British BCAs are substandard. I won't allow mine to be

    Hopefully the consistency and quality of the regular stuff will see interest in these beers, and export deals will be on the table. It all seems too simple to be true, and of course it is all my fabrication, but it's a workable model I'd have thought.

    Next time I'll do pump clips and bottle label designs.

    Wednesday, 8 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 3 - The Seasonal Beers

    I've been picked up, possibly fairly, for the boring naming policy of my imaginary beers. They won't taste boring though.

    As well as the permanent beers I will have seasonal beers. These seasonals though will be representative of the season or a celebration of an annual occurrence. They won't just be any old new recipe with a name to match the time of year. The same seasonals will be brewed year in year out, and drinkers will look forward to each year's output.

    It's far rarer in UK than in USA for regular and relevant seasonals to be produced, and it actually tends to be the older, perhaps more traditional brewers who do it. Harveys do it probably better than others although Shepherd Neame seasonals are anticipated highly in Kent although perhaps not so much further afield. I also look forward to finding Youngs Winter Warmer each year.

    As is my want the beers will all be named so as to inform the punter what to expect, so the following beers will form part of my portfolio:

    Light Mild for March (the alternative mild month)
    Chocolate Stout brewed with massive amounts of Chocolate Malt for Easter
    Strong Mild brewed for May (the current mild month)
    Summer Lager a real and authentic lager, brewed throughout the Summer
    Green Hop using the first pickings.
    Bonfire Smoke a smoked style beer for the period around November 5th.
    Winter Warmer a true strong warmer for those sipping nights around the fire.
    Christmas Ale strong and spicy.

    That's probably enough to cover the whole year. There's no need to brew beers for Valentine's Day or Halloween or St Georges Day or any other nonsense just to get another beer under your belt. These will be proper quality meaningful seasonals.

    Having said that though there will be other beers brewed as and when the time is right. More on that next time.

    Tuesday, 7 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 2 - The Permanent Beers

    Beer is a serious drink and as such deserves to treat its drinkers like serious people. My brewery therefore will produce a number of permanent beers in various styles, and will have serious understandable names.

    All too often we order beers not having a clue what we are going to receive. We can of course ask the bar staff but sadly they are not always fully in command of the knowledge to tell us whether the beer will be a golden ale or a dark mild. ABV doesn't tell us as much as it used to. That pint of Old Gutblaster could be anything.

    Sure, sometimes it's nice to be surprised, but that can occasionally be problematic.

    My dark mild will therefore be called Dark Mild, my porter Porter and my barley wine Barley Wine. No jokey names thank you very much. It may be boring but breweries back in the day didn't feel the need for odd nomenclatures.

    You'll know what you'll be getting with my beers. Tomorrow I'll do the seasonals.

    Monday, 6 April 2009

    If I Owned A Brewery Part 1 - The Name

    My brewery's name would be based on one of two criteria. It would either be named after me or it would be named after its location.

    It seems a modern phenomenon to give a brewery a 'joke' name or something totally irrelevant to anything in particular. If you look at the oldest breweries still in existance, they are all named after their founders.

    So we have Shepherd Neame; Harveys; Palmers and Elgoods who are the only existing independent breweries from pre 1800.

    The oldest brewery still in existence named after its origin is Old Swan from 1835, but that's probably cheating slightly as it's actually a brew pub, although Felinfoel wasn't far behind.The oldest brewery still around not nammed after its fouders or loaction seems to be Caledonian from 1865. Even then there is a link with Caledonia being an old name for Scotland

    So being the traditionalist I am I'll be going either with Edwards' Brewery which has been done before or Wootton Brewery.

    Tomorrow I'll talk about the beers.

    Sunday, 5 April 2009

    Beer Of The Month - March 2009

    The beer I probably drink the most of at home is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It's easily attainable; cheap and tasty. In addition it's as consistent as you'd like a bottled beer to be. It was the only bottled beer I drank in March which was above average, so therefore has to win Bottled Beer Of The Month.

    There was more competition for cask beer of the month, although there was an outright winner. The highlights of the month were Leicester BF and Liverpool. I was ill for a lot of the rest of the month so drinking opportunities were at a premium.

    Both the articles linked to go into detail about the better beers on each day, so I won't bore you by repeating myself. The best beer in Liverpool was Wentworth Black Zac followed by Northern Two Tone Stout, but these pailed into insignificance against the wonder that was Atomic Firebox. I liked reading the comments that were left and can easily see that beers brewed with chili might divide opinion, but this was a work of true genius. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if it doesn't end up being the best cask ale I drink all year.

    Thursday, 2 April 2009

    Northants POTY

    The Northamptonshire CAMRA pub of the year has just been declared. The winner is The Coach & Horses in Oxford Street, Wellingborough.

    I'm pleased for this pub which beat far more well known freehouses The Malt Shovel, Northampton and The Alexandra Arms, Kettering.

    The Coach sells up to ten real ales but is careful not to have too many on at quieter times of the week. Service is always quick and friendly and for those who are that way inclined a choice of straight glass or handle is always offered. I've never been disappointed in the quality of the beer and I'm led to believe the food's pretty good as well.

    I've written about the pub once before here. That real fire I referred to is still there and is roaringly lovely at the relevant time of the year. So a big congrats from me.

    Wednesday, 1 April 2009

    My Liverpool Crawl

    The one thing that struck home whilst walking around Liverpool on Monday was how many quality pubs there are within a short walk. I did five pubs before dinner, then headed in the other direction after dinner and did two more. I'm a bit of a lightweight sadly as there are a number of other pubs the seasoned drinker should really have done.

    There are a few jottings below of my experiences:

    Pub one - The Dispensary; smart and clean; nice wood panelling; despire being owned by Cains only one of their beers on. I had Wentworth Black Zac which was very tasty and TSA Golden Thistle which was very bland.

    Pub two Roscoe's Head; quaint little pub, nice snug, institution, untouchable by which I mean its place in the GBG may well be sacrosanct. My Jennings Bitter was a little vinegary.

    Pub three The Fly In The Loaf; modern and almost trendy, good selection of foreign beers well chosen; four Fullers beers and only one from owners Okells. Why is that? I had Wild Walker Last Orders and Okells Bitter, both were bland.

    Pub four The Pilgrim; Bohemian; great tables; cheap food; mostly students. My Phoenix White Tornado was hoppy and crisp.

    Pub five Ye Cracke; tatty; interesting; doesn't need to smarten up; interesting guest beers. I had All Gates Mild At Heart and Hornbeam Winterlong Dark Bitter, both were decent enough if a little ordinary.

    Pub six Thomas Rigbys; walked in just as someone appeared to be being ejected so a good start; good draught foreign beers, would have had the Aventinus Weizen Eisbock if I could guarantee I would keep it down. Instead I had Fullers Hock which was pretty nice.

    Pub seven Ship & Mitre; big beer selection; intriguing beer board; fast service despite the pub being busy. I had Betwixt Storr Lager and Northern Two Tone Stout both good beers doing what they say on the tin.

    I trugded home, unwittingly passing Dr Duncans where a quick glimpse through the windows revealed just Cains beers which at that time of the night didn't float my boat.

    In summery a crawl around Liverpool is not hard on the shoe leather and is sure to result in a wide selection of interesting and old favourite beers. I'ev not been since 2000, I hope I'll be back before 2018.

    Saturday, 28 March 2009

    Official Beer Of Welsh Football

    That rather splendid title is given to Brains 45, a new beer from the Welsh capital's own brewery. It is being advertised big time at The Millenium Stadium at the moment.

    Don't ask me what it tastes like as I've not drank it, nor does the description help me. I really don't know what a "continental style Welsh beer with a classic continental taste" is.

    Anyone any clues?

    Monday, 23 March 2009

    Going To Liverpool

    I'm staying in Liverpool next Monday for just the one night at a residential training seminar. There's a disco arranged in the evening and we've been told to "bring our dancing shoes"

    Bugger that; I'm going out drinking. It's been years since I've been on the beer in the land of Scouse. Where should I go? I'm staying centrally and will probably head for The Ship & Mitre first.

    Anybody want to design me a pub crawl? Something in the region of six to eight pubs.

    Sunday, 22 March 2009

    Leicester Beer Festival 2009

    Leicester Beer Festival this year was as good as ever. I managed one four hour session drinking with Simon and his friends, whilst the ale-affinity guys were also in the room. I'm late doing a write up but those lazy bloggers take the biscuit.

    As usual there was a vast selection of beers to be sampled and a vast selection of tickers to spot. It's not really my thing but the sixteen festival specials certainly are attractive to the uber-beerspotter. Beer quality was excellent; I've got a thing about indoor festivals with insufficient cooling opportunities equalling substandard beers by day three or four of the fest, but as I went on day two this really wasn't an issue.

    I've already written about the outstanding beer of the day, but other top beers were had in the form of:

    Bollington Oat Mill Stout
    Old Spot Spot O Bother
    Bragdy'r Nant Monkey Nells
    and BrewDog Divine Rebel and V2009

    Opa Hey's Engels Best Bitter was poor whilst Potbelly Captain Pigwash was disappointing. Hopefully I'll get to retry that one though.

    I'll be back again next year. My birthday week wouldn't be the same without a trip to Leicester.

    Sunday, 15 March 2009

    50 Pence A Unit

    The recommendation from Governmental adviser Sir Liam Donaldson regarding the pricing of alcohol in the UK is all over the news today.

    He has suggested that as a minimum alcoholic drinks should cost 50p per unit of alcohol. This would result in wine costing upwards of £4 a bottle, which of course decent wine already does; and supermarket beer and cider prices would need to increase and the ridiculously low price promotions such as this would have to stop.

    This article cleverly informs us that a pint if beer would cost over £1. Now JDW would be putting the price of Ruddles Best up, but would anybody else be reducing their prices? I certainly don't think so. This is just another attack on drinkers and should be rejected at all costs. I'm pleased to see therefore that James Purnell who is effectively my boss and is a man I rarely agree with has suggested it won't be happening.

    Saturday, 14 March 2009

    Not A Real Ale Festival

    I got quite excited when I read that a pub chain I'd not previously heard of was holding a six-week long beer festival in its 98 pubs.

    The festival was brought to my attention by this article about a pub not a million miles from me. There's even the offer of free beer and a trip to The Czech Republic for a decent beer reviewer, if only I knew one.

    Further research however reveals that the Vintage Inns showcase will see, according to this piece from their website just seven real ales (sic). One of which is the Czech pilsnerBudweiser Budvar. The mind boggles.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to drink decent lagers at festivals and often do, but at least recognise the fact that they are not real ales. People shouldn't spread so much ignorance. Just call it a beer festival; there's nowt wrong with that.

    Friday, 13 March 2009

    The Future's Chili

    I've seen the future. Stuff juniper berries, stuff fairtrade Rwandan coffee, stuff raspberries. The future is chilis.

    Not your Cave Creek one chilli per bottle overkill, but a more subtle 100 chilis per nine gallon cask.

    I went to Leicester Beer Festival yesterday; more of which another day, and thoroughly enjoyed the second such beer I've had from Atomic Brewery of Rugby. Atomic Firebox had just enough heat from the little peppers that your tastebuds were dancing an overjoyed spicy jig.

    Truly delightful. I implore more brewers to brew with the little blighters.

    Tuesday, 10 March 2009

    Beer Of The Month - February 2009

    February was far quieter for beer drinking than I had envisaged. In fact the same can be said about updating this blog. I must change both of these indiscretions.

    I make no excuses for bigging up Great Oakley beers. I may be the BLO and live in the same village as the brewer, but if the beers were poor I would say so. They are not poor though by any stretch of the imagination, and the new beer Monkey, brewed to celebrate the 500th brew was very good. Brewed using a mix of the hops and malts used in all the other beers it is pretty complex. Most describe it as malty but on the second occasion I had it the hops were really blossoming. It's a shame that we will probably never see the beer again.

    Abbeydale Vespers, Julian Church Midnight Mass and Thornbridge Ashford were the best three beers I had at Wicksteed Park Beer Festival, all three being darker beers; Ashford having the hop profile of a New World Brown Ale as it is described.

    The best cask ale of the month though was Castle Rock Screech Owl. It's odd how I've had just two beers in The Kean's Head in Nottingham this year; both of them strong, pale and hoppy, and both of them cask beer of the month. Lovely stuff and all over Castle Rock pubs at the moment.

    Only one bottled beer I had in January is worth a mention and it is a beer I've written about before. Mikkeller All Others Pale is a delightfully hoppy American Pale Ale from Denmark's finest and is so wonderfully drinkable. It uses four different hops: simcoe, centennial, amarillo and nugget, and is delightfully balanced. It just beats Screech Owl to overall beer of the month. Buy it in the UK while you still can from Beermerchants

    Friday, 6 March 2009

    Pedigree Chump

    I'm not sure I understand why Marstons are increasing the strength of bottled Pedigree.

    They've kept the recipe the same yet have changed the process and this has resulted in a stronger beer which now tastes more like the cask version. In my opinion the best process they could have changed is the pasteurisation process. Make it bottle conditioned and maybe then it'll taste like its cask brother.

    Better still brew it like they did in the 1980s; there is no doubt in my mind that the present Pedigree is a sad reflection of what it used to taste like.

    Tuesday, 3 March 2009

    Bells Brewery Branching Into Pubs

    I wrote about Bells Brewery's off licence here and again here after it relocated. Well sadly it's no more. That's a real shame as it was a very decent offie with a good selection of bottled beer.

    The brewery though is branching out into the pub scene and has already taken over two in Leicester with plans to increase its stable to five. The two pubs they have started with are The Queen Victoria in Southampton Street and The Leicester Gateway in Gateway Street. Both these pubs have been good real ale pubs in the past but with the Victoria closing and the Gateway changing hands the Leicester real ale scene diminished a little.

    I trust with Bells commitment both to real ale and quality imported beers these are going to be great pubs. Beer festivals should feature fairly regularly in both, and I hope to report with more information in the near future.

    Friday, 27 February 2009

    Castle Rock Screech Owl - Available Now

    I wrote back in October about Castle Rock Screech Owl winning SIBA Beer Of The Midlands in spite of its apparently being a one off beer.

    My learned friend Mr Reluctant Scooper commented that it would become a permenant beer in the New Year. Well it appears he was right (not that I ever doubted it). I went to three Castle Rock pubs yesterday, and it was available in all three. And very good it is too. Nice and hoppy with a lovely long, almost warming body. I'm glad that it has turned out to be a beer I would recommend and that, indeed, it may be coming to a pub near you soon.

    Wednesday, 25 February 2009

    Wicksteed Park Beer Festival

    Wicksteed Park is Northamptonshire's premier amusement park. You could say it's our county's answer to Alton Towers, but that would be lying.

    Unlike Alton Towers though Wickies as us locals know it hosted a beer festival last weekend. This was the second such event and follows a successful fest in the Summer. I went on the Friday night together with a group of others from the local CAMRA branch, and had a great time.

    The beer list which numbered 35 was well chosen with a reasonable selection of local beers and some from further afield. The beer ordering was done in part by Nip from Kettering's premier free house The Alexandra Arms. Beers I had were from the following breweries; Thornbridge, Silverstone, Atomic, Abbeydale, Downton, Twickenham, Julian Church, Elland and Blue Bear. All were in good condition but particular good ones were Thornbridge Ashford and Abbeydale Vespers.

    The next festival is planned for 30 July to 2 August, and I did hear discussions that there may be 52 beers for that one. I'm looking forward to it.

    Tuesday, 17 February 2009

    Greene KIng And Spoons Kill Off Micros

    The news that Ruddles Best has replaced Greene King IPA as the 99p per pint beer of choice in Wetherspoons pubs is a dreadful thing for lovers of microbreweries and an unreal coup for Greene King.

    The brewers are said to have been worried that "given our obsessive attention to quality and the consistently high level of investment we have made in building IPA’s brand equity, we are understandably concerned about anything that might undermine this", yet they are apparently not worried that a beer which "is a well known cask brand full of flavour and character but with a relatively low abv. It is a great value, quality beer with a fine heritage and wide appeal.” might suffer the same negativity.

    No, the truth is that Greene King IPA will be joined in the top two best selling cask ales in the country by its stablemate. Greene King are on an absolute winner here and will increase their share of the market even more.

    This may initially be to the detriment of other larger breweries, but they will think of ways to fight back and the micros will lose out.

    I'm beginning to wonder if a spoons is just for festival times and best avoided otherwise.

    Monday, 16 February 2009

    An Epic Beer At Wetherspoons

    This year's first Wetherspoon International Beer Festival runs from April 15 to May 4 and is planned to be the biggest and best yet.

    There will be six 'foreign' beers available (i.e. foreign recipes brewed at British breweries by their original brewer). The first of these that has been announced is Pale Ale from New Zealand brewer Epic.

    What is interesting is that this beer which is said to have fifteen different hops (Thanks to Mr Reluctant for spotting my mistake here [see comments] although it seems it's a common misconception) is to be brewed at Everards in Leicester, rather than one of the Marstons stables of breweries. Clearly more breweries are becoming interested in aiding the brewing of interesting and tasty beers

    It is the first time this beer has been served from the cask. It should make for good drinking as, hopefully, will all the other festival exclusives.

    Sunday, 15 February 2009

    It's Not All About The Lovely Bottle

    For the umpteenth time yesterday I overheard someone in the supermarket stating how lovely a St Peters bottle was as it went into their trolley.

    It's an interesting method of choosing your beer of choice, but I guess St Peters are to congratulated as the bottles are both a talking point and obviously a selling point.

    Beer purists would state that the green glass isn't conducive to the best maintenance of the drink therein with the light able to see its way in, and the green brigade would comment how heavy the bottles are. Compare them to the new Adnams bottles which are positively lightweight by comparison.

    For me though, it's all about the beer and I'm not really too convinced with much of the range. I've just opened a bottle of Amarillo, and although it's palateable enough it's a pretty poor example of a beer which uses this wonderful hop. So bearing in mind that the art of marketing seems to be something they have mastered, better efforts in brewing would now be welcome.

    Sunday, 8 February 2009

    Rather A BrewDog Than A Watchdog

    The ongoing saga between BrewDog and The Portman Group is set to move on apace with the "bad boys of British brewing" (their words) threatening to sue the namby pamby self proclaimed watchdogs of alcohol morality.

    It's a shame things are dragging on like this and that my earlier advice appears to have been ignored.

    I'll watch proceedings with great interest and hope that common sense eventually prevails.

    Thursday, 5 February 2009

    Beer Of The Month - January 2009

    I'm not going to distinguish from now on between beers I've had before and those I haven't, when I choose my beers of the month. The only beers which are excluded are past winners. I'm not as bothered about seeking out new beers as I once was, and am far happier revisiting stuff I know is good.

    January was a quiet month on the beer front as it usually is. I didn't get out much and the beers in the garage are so cold I just couldn't be bothered bringing them in and getting them to a desirable temperature.

    As far as cask beers went I enjoyed Ascot On The Rails a dark bitter from a brewery I've consistently enjoyed. Castle Rock Black Gold in the brewery tap: The Vat & Fiddle in Nottingham; was as good as ever; a roasty yet citric mild, very much a modern beer. But the best cask ale was Thornbridge Jaipur IPA in The Kean's Head, also in Nottingham. This is the first time I've had this beer through a handpump and I think that extra pressure really brought out the fantastic hop flavours. I'm hoping to get to The Coach & Horses in Dronfield in May; that'll be a lot of fun.

    As far as bottles go I had real high hopes for Struise Mikkeller. When two fantastic brewers get together and produce a 9% hop monster IIPA, then I've got to be excited. Except I didn't get a hop bomb. What I did get was a strong Belgian ale with that Struise sweetness. I did enjoy it but it fell short of my expectations and desires.

    Far better was the first beer I had this year: Fullers Vintage Ale 2006 was as complexly fruity, bready, malty, hoppy and vinuous as I've come to expect from these annual offerings. A great beer which just shades the Jaipur as overall Beer Of The Month.

    Tuesday, 3 February 2009

    Good Beer Guide - Play Your Part

    There are over 1000 members of our CAMRA branch. Sadly there are probably less than 30 who are what would be described as 'active'. That is they attend branch meetings and take part in surveying and campaigning.

    A huge factor in this is that geographically we are a bit area, being most of the county of Northamptonshire. Meetings are spread out as much as feasible over the county, but that brings the added compliaction of driving which doesn't mix well with the consumption of ale.

    It is probably impossible for the small number of active members to visit every pub in the county to ascertain their worthiness for the Good Beer Guide; it's probable that between us we know of all the good pubs but it's not certain that we would know if pub A in tiny village B has become the real ale haven we'd all love to have on our doorstep.

    For that reason I am actively trying to promote the CAMRA National Beer Scoring Scheme, which can be found here. Scores are awarded for each pub visit with those scores ranging from nought to five with half marks allowed. Nought means the beer is undrinkable whilst five means the beer was perfect. Sure it's not a perfect system. Better beers are likely to acheive better scores than boring mass marketed beers even if they are served in the same condition because the beer experience is better, but at least it gives branches an idea of how pubs are doing throughout the year if the site is used regularly.

    In my opinion CAMRA don't promote this website enough or explain how useful it can be at Good Beer Guide selection time.

    Please consider logging a score each time you are down the pub. It really only takes seconds. And please try especially hard if you are in Northants, we'd really appreciate it.

    Sunday, 1 February 2009

    GBG Survey Woes

    Like Tandleman, our CAMRA branch is currently considering its entries for the 2010 Good Beer Guide. With that in mind I took the bus into town on Saturday to do a bit of surveying.

    My plan was to visit seven pubs; five of which are in the current GBG and two are possibles. It wasn't a successful day. I'm not going to name the pubs to save their embarrassment, but as you will see I won't be promoting the inclusion of some of these pubs based on this visit.

    Pub one on my itinery was the town's flagship real ale pub. It's a nail on certainty for each and every GBG until it has a major change of business plan. My half of Red Lion White Lion was ok. It was in decent enough condition so any flaw in the beer wouldn't have been the pub's fault. It wasn't worth staying for a second; it'll be getting my vote based on the regular trips I make in there throughout the year.

    Pub two was a very short walk away. A pub I've visited probably three times in the last five years. Beer quality in the past has been below average with the sole decent beer in memory some J.W.Lees Plum Pudding a few Christmasses ago. I ordered a half of Wentworth Bee Smoked. I was warned this was an acquired taste. Well if you like heavily vinegared beers behind a sweet smokiness then yes you've acquired yourself a strange taste. It was almost undrinkable. That's that pub off my recommendation list then.

    From here I decided to go to the furthest outpost on the itinery, and work my way back to the bus station and thus home. I've heard good things about the next pub which is in the current guide, but due to the fact it doesn't open during the day on week days, I've not been in since it's been this good. But it opens all day at the weekend doesn't it? Actually no. I walked all that bloody way to discover it's a four o'clock job at the weekend too. Bugger, bugger, bugger. I don't appreciate a long walk for no sustenance. I'll have to go back soon, but it's a bit of a nuisance to say the least.

    Pub four, or three as it happens, is a nice corner local which serves four ales all in good condition usually. I had two halves to make up for my earlier disappointment. The Newby Wyke Bear Island was good, but the Sharps Doom Bar was a bit disappointing. I'm not a big fan of Sharps beers normally, but it worth noting that by the time I'd finished my half the barrel had gone.

    My next stop is a GBG entry, but I get the feeling it got in last year by the skin of its teeth. It's a pub I do go in occasionally and it's ok but no Earth stopper. My beer if choice was Abstinence Ale from Greene King. My impression of this beer which again suffered from an undesired acidity was that this is very probably a rebadge of XX Mild. It was not in the best form and this pub will also struggle to get my vote on this performance.

    My final two stops were the two Spoons. However both were absolutely heaving and getting near the bar to order a drink proved too much effort for someone who'd had such a rubbish day's drinking.

    The reason for this overcrowding appeared to be football related. Northampton were playing Leicester; pretty much a derby game. The streets were riddled with police. Time for an early bus home which at least meant I felt like the bottle of Spanish red we opened in the evening. Alas that too was disappointing. It just wasn't my day.

    Wednesday, 28 January 2009

    Welcome Back Quaffale

    Some time ago, I reported that Quaffale had been removed from the internet. For those of you who had no idea what this website was about, you couldn't, of course, go and have a look to see what the fuss was about.

    Well, I'm pleased to be able to report it's back. Go and have a look and discover all you need to know about British breweries, both those in existance now and forthcoming ones. What Rick Pickup doesn't know about future breweries isn't worth knowing.

    Friday, 23 January 2009

    Why Is There A Champion Winter Beer?

    Oakham Atilla has been crowned Champion Winter Beer Of Britain at The National Winter Ales Festival.

    Well done Oakham say I, although I'm calling for this competition to be scrapped and the Champion Beer Of Britain judging in August to include all styles of beer. The only time I've had the beer was in October 2004 at The Bedford Beer Festival which it could be argued is the Winter although I'm not convinced. Looking at the other ratings on RateBeer most people on there drank it in the Autumn or even the Summer, so although it the type of beer that just doesn't see the light of day at GBBF, it's probably inaccurate to call it a "winter beer", so even the name of the competition is folly.

    The categories which are judged at NWAF are old ales and strong milds; porters; stouts and barley wines. Any beers fulfilling these categories struggle to gain floor space at Earls Court, instead being showcased in Manchester. I really cannot agree with these beers being described and judged as Winter beers. I'd like to see them available all year round, but CAMRA calling them and judging them as such is not helpful to the necessary promotion of these styles.

    So CAMRA, by all means have a huge beer festival in the North at this time of year, but let both festivals have the best of all British beers and just have the one big best beer of Britain competition.

    Wednesday, 21 January 2009

    Portman Group Being Prats Again

    The ridiculous Portman Group are up to their old tricks.

    Admittedly the BrewDog boys don't shy from a fight and maybe they shouldn't provoke the poor loves so much, but when are the old fuddy duddies going to get a sense of humour? It may be time to all a truce now. Sit down, have a bottle of Speedball together, admit there is no harm in labelling beer in this way, and reach the final conclusion that actually the group are a waste of space and money and disband.

    Job done - I should work for ACAS

    Searching For Dogbolter

    Oh dear. Poor old Ken Clark. I do hope he doesn't walk too many miles looking for his favourite beer which hasn't been brewed for many years. I'm sure he's fully aware of its demise unlike the typically ignorant journalist.

    Mind you it was definitely my favourite beer that the defunct Firkin chain brewed so I do admire Ken's taste.

    Friday, 16 January 2009

    It's Dark

    I don't know which is worse: the bar person who warns you that the mild you've just ordered is dark, or the bar person who pulls the mild and then says "ooh that's dark isn't it?"

    Person number one is perhaps trying to be helpful, but I don't need warning thanks. I usually associate mild with darkness and I'm not frightened by a bit of colour.

    Person number two should know his product. Pulling a beer for a customer shouldn't be the time they discover what that beer actually looks like.

    Maybe I'm a moody old git but both these scenarios wind me up.

    Tuesday, 13 January 2009

    Down The Pub On A Quiet Monday

    I went to the pub last night for a CAMRA meeting. It's a pub I've not been to before more's the pity as I liked it, and the two pints I had were more than acceptable. Sadly I was the nominated driver or else I would have drank more.

    Apparently this particular pub, like so many, is struggling a little and I fear for its future.

    It's interesting to see the regulars faces when a group of strangers enter their pub, and although my experiences have always been positive, I think there's a certain suspicion as to what we are doing on their territory.

    Similarly I take great interest in looking at the regulars and wondering what brings them to the pub on a Monday night. There's usually an interesting character or two on the quieter evenings; last night there was a man wearing a bowler hat which must have been two foot high. Thanks to The Beer Nut for spotting my error. It was, as the picture suggests, a TOP HAT.

    People watching down the pub is always fun.

    Friday, 9 January 2009

    Beers Of 2008

    I've updated the left hand column with my Beers of 2008. It's excellent that an English microbrewed stout Old Chimneys Good King Henry turned out to be beer of the year. I had the beer at the excellent Merton Winter Beer Festival; this year's is only four weeks away and is promising a agood list already.

    The stout isn't quite as good as its elder brother the special reserve, but is truly wonderful, with roasty, fruity flavours and a bit of rich soy. The finish goes on forever.

    One thing which was apparent when going through my notes was the low showing for new beers from Belgium and Germany. It would be nice to rectify that this year.

    Black IPA And Other Projects

    Following hot on the heels of IPA And Black, we have the latest update on the BrewDog Black IPA they will be brewing. In case anyone is interested I have voted for Ginseng and dry hopping.

    It's going to be a busy year for BrewDog as far as brewing IPAs is concerned. The project to brew a 19th Century IPA and age it as sea is moving on apace, and is looking very intriguing.

    Britain needs more innovative brewers and these boys are certainly delivering. More power to their elbows.

    Tuesday, 6 January 2009

    IPA And Black

    The 99 pence Greene King IPA is, as expected, shifting like hotcakes in Wetherspoons establishments. No one knows how to shift cheap beer as well as JDW; their client base is well used to bargains and this is the bargain of all bargains.

    It's no surprise it's selling so well. People are always looking to save money and if you're undiscriminating about what you drink then you'll part with a pound for an average pint and a penny piece back.

    I'm amused though at stories of people adding blackcurrant to their pints. This is presumably evidence of not liking the stuff in the first place and buying it merely because it is cheap. Surely that's a step too far. Save money if you like on substandard products, but don't buy the stuff if you don't like it. That's just ridiculous.

    Sunday, 4 January 2009

    Beer Of The Month - December 2008

    December truly was a quiet month for new beers partly for the reasons mentioned yesterday. In total just 35 new beers passed my lips, nicely balanced between cask ales and bottled stuff.

    The first cask ale worthy of mention was Wooden Hand Black Pearl. I've not been impressed by the previous beers I've had from this Cornish micro, but this was a nice salty, smoky stout. Following that came Adnams Explorer, the second beautifully hopped Adnams beer I've had in a row after the bottled beauty that was Innovation. This beer has Columbus and Chinook, but these are quite delicately used, and give more of an impression of a well hopped English style beer than an American hop bomb. The third good cask beer was Quercus QB found in The Romany in Northampton whilst delivering our branch newsletter. This is a pub I must get to more often if they are going to come up trumps not only with great beers but also with new breweries for me. As for the beer, it was a dark malty full flavored beer with chocolate, caramel, coffee, bread and fruit in the mouth and nose. Fourth and finally came Great Oakley Santa's Yuletide Log, this year's Christmas offering from my local brewer. This exceeded expectations with roasty flavors, as well as sourness and a great late bitterness. And yes, it had that chocolate finish we were promised. I had it twice during the month and it was excellent both times, and is a worthy cask beer of the month.

    As for the bottles, two really stood out and they were both from Danish brewer Mikkeller: Stateside India Pale Ale is full of juicy citric hoppiness. Flavours of oranges and lychees abound on the tongue. It really was a fruity bitter number which I am pleased still to have another of. Still good but not quite as good was All Others Pale. This slightly less strong beer is still very hoppy, but this time they are more piney. Also very tasty and well brewed as I have come to expect from Mikkel.

    It was a close call, but Stateside just beats Santa's Yuletide Log as overall beer of the month, maybe I'll get to try the latter again before it all runs out?

    Saturday, 3 January 2009

    That Was That Then

    So Christmas and New Year are well and truly over; I was back at work yesterday and now need to resurrect the blog.

    So how was it for you? I had the lurgy, and together with sleep deprived nights, my time wasn't as good as I'd have hoped. I didn't intend on getting drunk each day, but I certainly intended to drink more beer than I managed. I should have known something was wrong when two new beers I tried: BrewDog Hardcore IPA and Nice Chouffe. although good did not live up to expectations. However it was proven to me that my palate wasn't all it should be when old favourites Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and BrewDog Punk IPA didn't taste as excellent as ever.

    Thankfully things were a bit better by new year, and my beer choices Mikkeller All Others Pale, and Fullers Vintage Ale 2006 were both great beers.

    I hope you all had a great festive season and imbibed sensibly. I'm looking forward to trying plenty of new stuff this year, but also revisiting more old favourites. I must spend more time in the pub too.