Friday, 23 December 2011

Golden Pints

So here we go then! Of course my top bar is always North and my beer of the year is Little Jim BUT I'm not gonna vote for meself am I?

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer
Winner: Redemption Big Chief
Runner up:Thornbridge/Kernel: Burton Ale

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Runner up: Buxton Axe Edge

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Winner: Sierra Celebration 2011 (Best ever! Lovely jammy swiss roll going on in there!) 
Runner up: Uinta Labyrinth

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Runner up: Anderson Valley Hopottin IPA - best case purchase.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Winner: Magic Rock (any)

Best UK Brewery
Winner: Magic Rock - Never seen anyone hit the ground running so hard. They've set out a whole new way to open a UK brewery.
Runner up: Marble - still dope - for the Belgians especially and letting me clean the kettle...

Best Overseas Brewery
Winner: Brooklyn (watch this space)
Runner up: BrewFist (watch this space > f'kin spaceman!)

Pub/Bar of the Year
Runner up: The Sparrow
Not in the North of England: Brasserie 4:20 (thanks to the Roma cigar club!)

Beer Festival of the Year
Winner:GBBF
Runner up:Leeds Pudsey

Supermarket of the Year
Winner: I'm not playing
Runner up:M&S (nearest my house)

Independent Retailer of the Year
Winner:Beer Ritz
Runner up: Latitude Wine 

Online Retailer of the Year
Runner up:Beermerchants

Best Beer Book or Magazine

Best Beer Blog or Website
Winner: The Good Stuff - Mr Avery put it best - 'statesmanlike'
Runner up: Hopzine - love the tasting vids

Best Beer Twitterer
Runner up: Beer Prole

Best Online Brewery Presence
Winner: Magic Rock
Runner up: Brewdog¬!

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Winner: Imperial Stout & Salt
Runner up: Grated cheddar sandwich, proper thick cut bread, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, tobasco sauce & Sam Smith's Nut Brown ale.

In 2012 I'd Most Like To:
Get published more.

Open Catagory
Top three British brewers to watch in 2012
1. Andy Smith (Redemption)
2. Colin Stronge (Black Isle)
3. Stuart Ross (Magic Rock)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Partizan's Advent Day 14

Phew, so I'm two weeks in to Christmas and two weeks in to my case of brilliant beers from Andy Smith at redemption.

If you're interested in some thoughts on Andy's brewing, thoughts on pretty much every style of beer you could imagine or just how I'm managing to keep up another blog over Christmas when clearly there's a fuck load of work to be done at the bar and even more boozing in-between then hop on over to Partizan's Advent...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Marble Brewery & Little Jim

So back to a recurring topic to see how one of my all time favourite breweries Marble are getting along since the departure of one Dominic Driscoll to Thornbridge last year. Dom's move did send a few ripples through the beer world with some bloggers even suggesting that Thornbridge might be becoming a bit of a brain drain, i very much doubt this but it was certainly interesting seeing a brewers move to a bigger brewery getting press. Mr Colin Stronge also moved on recently to Scotland's shining new hope - Black Isle, really one to watch as they're picking up a lot of business where the Brewdog bars are setting up and, from what I've heard, somewhat undercutting their wholesale accounts.

I was invited over to The Marble Arch pub and the new Marble brewery to witness the launch of a collaboration brew and a few days later - to help brew one myself.
pic nicked from single track world.com

Old Manchester is a collaboration with a member of brewing's old guard - Fullers. A traditional strong ale with that characteristic marble hop twang and some great complexity. It's an old ale and as such I'll be sticking a bit in the larder to get a bit of age on it. It's worth keeping an eye on Fullers beers, they've got an amazing history and are currently delving through the back catalogue, reviving some of the types of beers that are so inspiring to todays scene. 

Also I URGE you to try both of Marble's belgian style beers. The chocolate dubbel is utterly brilliant and I really can't get enough of it. It is quite simply as good, if not better than most of the dubbels I've ever drank, ultra complex nuttiness interplays with caramel and chocolate bitterness and Marble's signature hoppy length. The tripel is also right up there, a truly beautiful drink that's all biscuit and restrained floral notes, super body and long dry finish.

Marble are still doing great, great things and are a truly artisan and experimental operation under the steadfast guidance of Mr James Campbell. They've got a solid foundation and a much bigger and lovely new brewery. Add to that a couple of bars and the legendary Marble Arch - things look good, if you do call by the pub try the gingerbread venison it is, as they say, shit hot.
And so then, on to the brew! Always super exciting stuff and more this time, as I wasn't quite as smashed as when I went to Brewdog last year - well it was my stag do... Again all the credit goes to James as he is a brilliant brewmaster and without his input my beautiful assistant Mark and myself would likely have made a bosh. BUT we had a solid idea of how we wanted the beer to taste in terms of a massive malty body with a spot of balancing rye. The idea being to make a really full bodied ale that displays malt AND hops. This is something I've been banging on about to anyone who'll listen for the last six months!

Also a hop bill similar to Alice Porter - the idea being to use old school British hops for bittering and mix it up with new world stuff for aroma. In Alice Porter the contrast was fuggles and bramling cross Vs Sorachi Ace. In our new Marble brew we went with Goldings Vs Centennial with a spot of the more herbal williamette chucked in for a laugh! The beer was to be named little Jim after the new born kidder of two ace guys that work as supervisors at North bar.

So fast forward and we're staring in to the mash tun after loading half a ton of various malts in and we're somewhat scuppered by the fact that it's taking 2 hours or so to sparge through. James duly informs us that this massive extraction might just miss our target gravity of around 5.5%. By the end of the boil we're looking at 6.9% - oops.
Now I've always wanted to make a big beer but there are practical considerations. We're going to have a shit load of this brew to sell so it has to be easy drinking and affordable. I reconcile myself with the fact that the last collaboration from my boss at North bar, one mister Christian Townsley, was a very BIG smoked rye beer brewed at Sierra Nevada - lovely but challenging and yes it did make me hallucinate. So fuck it eh?
So I was shitting it a bit when we came to tap the first barrel, I should have had faith knowing the skill that Marble have and the knowledge of beer that we have but I couldn't help freaking out a bit. I needent have worried - it's everything we wanted it to be It’s big and bold on the nose with lovely sweet interplay of caramel, cereal and lovely citric notes and some juicy fruit.

The sweetness of the malt is tempered by a rye tang and more deep earthier notes. It’s extremely quaffable and hides the alcohol very well indeed. Smooth nuttiness hints of cherry and chocolate. Top end it’s that clean bitterness from the centennial, slight citrus and then more citrus from the Citra on the finish. Bit of herbal more rounded spicy notes too. VERY VERY pleased - hope everyone else enjoys it too!

Thanks as ever to James Campbell, the wonderful people at Marble Brewery and my employers at North for letting me do such an ace job.
X

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Partizan's Advent

So this is a run of short posts about Redemption Brewery's Andy - @partizansmith and his amazing home-brews. Pretty much everything that I have tasted that Andy has brewed has been brilliant, whether it's been part of Redemption's output or as a home brew.

I was super lucky to win a case of beer for entering his design a label competition on Facebook. This is an extremely good idea and I encourage every home brewer to do the same.

My thoughts on the beers are on this 'sub blog' right > here...

Thanks to Andy and Eve x



Thursday, 1 December 2011

Home Brew

To celebrate the fact that a bunch of sterling chaps in Leeds have formed a homebrew club I thought I'd open a couple of bottles to see what the potential of the homebrew scene can offer.

Homebrew is pretty big in the US and so very, very many brewers started in the kitchen with a pan and some plastic buckets. This, the romanticised genesis of plenty of breweries has so many possibilities and has been something I'm happy to encourage whether it's saving bottles for eager homebrewers at North or actually getting a kit myself.

Homebrew in the UK is a due a bit of a revival so here's a little rundown of some beers I've tried recently - I hope it reveals some of the possibilities out there and shows you where home brewing can take you!

Red Room by @GhostDrinker is a hell of an attempt for a first time brew, it's a red rye ale, quite strong and quite complex too. Really interesting on the nose with quite a pear like quality and a touch of boozier deeper fruit. The rye's there too, cereal notes and that tell tale sourness that I love about anything that's got rye in. In profile it's got a lot of similar qualities to a rye whisky - which is a good thing - plus more pear and a nice toasty, slightly boozy finish. Very good indeed. Poltergeist is also excellent, full bodied and robust for an amber ale, it tastes to me to be somewhere between an alt and a brown ale - with a lovely hop bite and lingering bitterness.

Konstruckt had been mentioned by a bunch of Leeds bloggers recently, all to do with the fact that @cheeseboiger is part of the prolific Leeds fraternity (and it is a fraternity, not a woman in sight) and the same chap is also firmly behind the reigns of the world famous Roosters brewery in Knaresborough. As we await what's going to happen in this most brilliant brewery with a complete change in management there's a drip drip of interesting beers popping up.

pic nicked from the lovely, wonderful Real Ale Reviews

Konstruckt is intriguing, an Imperial Dark Ale which doesn't really give you too much clue as to what's going to be in the bottle. I was expecting an imperial stout what with the Russian inspired label and imperial moniker but that it ain't. It's a riot of nutty flavours, lovely feeling in the mouth and certainly lighter in body that I was expecting. It's quite reminiscent of oloroso sherry - a lovely drink that is very cheap indeed, if you haven't tried it you should. Nice sharpness and good length to boot - it probably could pass as a doppelbock, something that British brewers should attempt more. So... Very good indeed.

Another local chap who looks like he's going on to great things is Andy Smith, now brewer at Redemption in London and happily brewing some extremely good brews, and helping redemption head up the burgeoning London micro brewing revival. But alongside his day job Andy produces some of the most extreme homebrews I've ever had the pleasure to taste.

Mephistopheles is a bruising quadruppel ale that comes in around 15% - really powerful stuff but delicious and balanced with it. Andys christmas ale was also obscenely strong but went down an absolute treat. His coffee imperial stout has also blown off back doors during Andys brief visit to North for our London beer festival.

So there's the rub - one top blogger brewing dead interesting stuff, one guy starting out at a great brewery, one guy who's well in to what looks like a sparkling career. I've been chatting to various people recently and everyone is in agreement that the UK beer scene is some way off peaking yet, in spite of shit all help from the Government. Whether you want to get a job in brewing or just want to have a bit of fun, get some kit and have a crack.

Want on opinion on your brew? Pop by North Bar, we have some of the best palletes in the business and we'll give you a straight opinion on your brew, we'll also save you bottles in return, and I'll try and blog about as many as possible.

NB. I've just taken part in Andy's competition to win a case of 24 home brews, I won a case and I'll be drinking the majority of them over Christmas, I'll post my notes HERE.

http://leedshomebrew.blogspot.com/




Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Charts - Saison

OOOOHHH!

One of the most consistently satisfying beer styles and perhaps also one of the most misunderstood. There's a double #1 in here as the farmhouse IPA is a hybrid BUT it tastes more saison than IPA so I'm fucking rolling with it...

1. Flying Dog/In De Wildeman - Farmhouse IPA
1. Glazen Torren - Saison D'Erpe-Mere
3. Quintine - Saison 2000
4. Silly Saison
5. Fantome Saison
6. Saison Du Pont
7. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
8. Saison du buff
9. Saison De Dottignies
10. Nogne O - Saison (draught)

Apologies for the lack of links I'm on t'mobile and blogger isn't playing links today - will update in due course xx.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

In praise of MALT

HOPS HOPS HOPS, it's all we get nowadays isn't it?

HOPS and MORE HOPS!

I love em of course but malty beers don't get as much of a look in. The mass of new converts to beer seem to progress along a pretty steep curve, as demonstrated thus...

GRAPH

I was training a couple of new staff the other day and found myself dwelling for some time on the subject of malt. Of course my North 'mega beer talk' always starts with malt, it's where all beer starts, it is the main ingredient, beer is essentially seasoned, fermented malt juice! But it did prompt me to get something on t'blog that I've been meaning to do for some time.

Hops have taken centre stage for some years but I feel a clarion call for malt coming on and it all goes back to balance... You see the other day we tried a few beers and yes we had a bunch of hoppy beers on, great beers but the paler beers lower alcohol British beers really didn't come over to the new kids as well as the stronger, sweeter more malty beers.

Case in point 1: trainee A doesn't get the hoppy blonde british ale (we'll call it 'plantagenet') at all  - too bitter. But give her a 10% double IPA from bleeding Norway, (we'll call that 'oris') and she's after another one. Now there's a ton of exotic hops in both beers but oris has loads more than plantagenet, but it is also DAMN STRONG and the only way you can get extra strength in beer is by mashing up loads of extra malt.  oris is also, a much more balanced beer, now I'm not sure whether it is easier to achieve a better balance simply by putting in more of everything and thus gaining a stronger, bolder and subsequently less nuanced flavour but that perhaps is too much fiddle-de-de. What I'm saying is that my friend that has a very limited knowledge of beer is more charmed by the mad strong beer than the lighter very hoppy beer and the reasons for this are malt and balance.

Case in point 2: The Roosters brewery in Knaresborough is famous throughout the world of brewing for a very specific type of beer. It's the type of beer that really brought British brewing to the fore and that beer is the pale ale. Specifically it's a type of beer that dragged so many drinkers back to cask due to the trick that looks quite like lager and whilst complex is not challenging. Every first generation UK micro has one of these beers, Roosters have taught a lesson through Sean Frankiln's strict adherence to the use of pale malt as a canvas to show of the qualities of aromatic hops. Roosters standard hop presence is ultimately restrained by many of todays standards and has occasionally been denigrated for being too restrained by those new to the scene who have had access to so much extreme beer that they have become... Hop zombies.

What Sean has achieved through his brewing is balance, if you're gonna use pale malt you can't bang in so many of those ultra citric US hybrid hops else you'll loose the character of the malt, and that is a part of the beer that is, just as, if not more important than hops.

Now here's a thing, has balance in beer changed over the years, does it change according to where you're from? Perhaps so or perhaps just truly great brews achieve balance. For me i've been beginning to tire of solely hop led beers - ALL the truly great, extremely hoppy beers are only great in my book because they have a heavy malt presence, very pale thin bitter beers fail to carry me past a pint.

In addition many of the great beers that people hark to in the past seem very much less led by the hop and these great beers are the British tradition and that tradition is balance.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Charts

Ok, here's an idea that I've nicked off my good friend Nick Frizzell who is a music producer, DJ and music blogger.  His blog is lovely and he occasionally produces the odd chart. Not a chart in the top of the pops sense, but a chart of what he thinks is good at the time he is writing.

It's a great way to recommend new music.

So I'm going to give it a go for beer, I'll go a step further and give the charts an occasional theme, the idea being that it's not necessarily number 1 that is the best, more that it's just the one in the forefront of my mind at the time of writing. So a simple list of recommendations and acknowledgement of what I think great beer is, it's pretty personal of course and perhaps may just be for my own benefit in getting the constantly changing list in my head down on digital paper. Who fucking knows eh?

I'll mix up the links  so fell free to click em all, and I hope that you'll find something new to try or something you didn't know about these beers. Either way I invite comments and discussions in any form...

Of course...;|)

All time favourites...
1. Orval
2. Westveleteren 8
3. Flying Dog/In de Wildeman - Farmhouse IPA
4. Brewdog/Mikkeller - I hardcore you
5. Zinnebir
6. Unita - Labrinth
7. Schlenkerla Eiche
8. Stone Ruination IPA
9. Marble Dubbel
10. Weltenburger Kloster Asam Bock


*easier than I thought


Saturday, 15 October 2011

Beer & Food: Easy

Beer goes great with food - NO SHIT!

It's pretty straightforward, and I'm going to do this without pitting beer against wine, I'm not even going to mention wine!

Put simply beer has plenty of different ingredients, in that it has many opportunities to pick out, balance, quash or brighten the flavours in your food.
Check it out - malty flavours will balance rich flavours just like the bread they give you with your meal does. It will augment fruit flavours. Rather than fight against foody flavours malt joins up flavours - it is integral to the beer and food thing in that it provides a complete and continuous experience. Soft, sweet, bready and caramelised flavours just melt together and dance across your tongue because that's how your tongue works. Nothing goes beter with deep rich meats than a roubust beer with a strong malt presence.

Bitter or floral hops in beer will lift rich flavours and balance sweetness. Acidity, bitterness and pungency fill the mouth but don't dominate food, they ride alongside. They will balance hot flavours and moreover they are one of the only things other than milk that will quell very hot chilli. They will also cut through fat. Let it be known across the land that it is a travesty that you can't get IPA in curry houses - they are an unexploited market. The multitude of flavours that you find in hops can echo and counterbalance food flavours and provide an appetising bitterness that makes you want more.

Hops are the top note of beer and can go anywhere from extremely bitter to fruity to flowery to any combination of the three, the flowery and fruity flavours complement some subtler dishes like fish and chicken or salads. As a basic rule the stronger tasting the beer the stronger tasting food it will work with.

Fizz is usually provided from CO2 and CO2 is the one thing made when yeast works with sugar. The other is alcohol which is a pleasurably intoxicating thing. Fizz works with lighter, zestier flavours in beer and will lift fatty foods away from the palate, leaving it fresh for more. That yeast presence itself will provide flowery flavours if you're lucky and all sorts of high notes that work with a myriad of different types of food, the more pungent of yeast notes work especially well with cheese.

Most beer will match most food - the right beer will provide a contiguous experience that expands the flavours in both things. I'll be expanding on this theme in the coming months, in the meantime get drinking.





Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Weisse not...

Hmm yes... You may hear me occasionally denouncing light wheat beers.

I'm not right keen on em see and there are only a few that I really enjoy and only at specific times.

I'm not that keen on overripe bananas either - they belong in cake. It's something to do with that ripe ester stench, something shared by many wheat beers.But I'm not a total refusenik when it comes to white weisse and Belgian style wit though.

I do find them one of the most palatable drinks when you have one of those crackling, mother fuckers of a hangover.
I'll clarify slightly just to say when it comes to darker wheat beers (Schneider Original being at the lightest end of this spectrum) I'm all over it. I talk a lot about balance in great beers and that extra roasted malt in darker brews for me provides that balance alongside, usually, a higher alcohol content.

But as a little guide for those types of people who are turned off by cloudy bright yellow wheat beers, here's a few that work every time for me.

Standard Weihenstephan is pretty good - it's got the thing I need in weisse which is that touch of acidity that the great ones have, it's brisk and full bodied. Snappy and thirst quenching on the finish.

Beyreuther Bio also has this citric edge that provides balance to the softer fruit flavours. The biggies like Paulaner Hefe that are becoming more and more common in the UK in places like Bierkeller are too cloying for me and that is not something that I want in beer. I can go a few rounds with Erdinger Urweisse and Oktoberfest, they are pretty meaty and celebratory!

If you're looking at Belgium then I'd go for one of the following... Brugs Tarwebier is super refreshing, the Belgians are much softer than their german counterparts but the best have some great bonus flavours that usually come from the addition of orange peel, coriander and other herbs and spices. Another to look out for is Watous Wit, which is interesting for its toffeeish quality.
You might see some places serving this type of beer with fruit, I'd avoid it in general. It is practiced in Germany, Belgium and Holland and if you try it and feel it's better then go for it. But beware - for me the addition of lemon, lime or orange is often used to bulk up the flavours that should be prominent in the original beer. Blue moon being a particularly shitty example of this habit/marketing tactic.

I haven't ever had a brilliant US version but Sierra Kellerwiesse works and Flying Dog do a decent job too.

So to summise then; some are better than others, but don't be put off if you try one and don't like it try some more. Once you've tried lots you can then form an opinion. How's that for lazy blogging...?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Licensing gets tough?


So I'm an advocate of the pub industry, I believe that alcohol is a valuable social lubricant and that under the right kind of supervision great fun can be had, great ideas can be exchanged and great relationships formed. 

For me pubs and bars are a vital part of communities and, when looked after by responsible owners, landlords and managers, are the best places for the consumption of alcohol to take place. 

What really grinds my gears though is walking through town and seeing once great pubs and some potentially great bars suffering in the recession. Further on you go past 'super bars' and tacky shit holes which are full to the brim with gyrating masses laced out of their tiny minds on chemically produced beer, fluorescent fizzy cocktails in bottles and semi viscous, flavoured and coloured industrial spirits.

Why's that then? Because if you make products very cheaply you can sell them very cheaply. Sell cheap - attract customers, young customers who want to fraternise with other young customers and find that getting smashed as quickly as possible is the best way to do that.

So here for once is the licensing authorities doing something half decent that should level the playing field for those who sell proper drinks at responsible prices and still uphold the duty of care that everyone in this industry should uphold.

Please see the message below from West Yorkshire Police Licensing:

With Freshers' week approaching West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City
Council are more than aware of some of the heavily discounted prices of
alcohol being advertised throughout the city at various premises on their
specific student nights. We view some of this pricing and the associated
promotions as completely irresponsible. I write to remind you of the
mandatory conditions on all of your licences in relation to irresponsible
promotions. I also warn you that we consider 'students nights' and severely
reduced pricing of alcohol at these events to fall under the following:

'activities carried on for the purpose of encouraging the sale or supply of
alcohol for consumption on the premises in a manner which carries a
significant risk of leading or contributing to crime and disorder,
prejudice to public safety, public nuisance, or harm to children.

Should premises choose to continue with these irresponsible promotions West
Yorkshire Police will have no option other than to consider review
proceedings against their licences. Please remember that we will also
disclose evidence at any hearing of other incidents associated with your
premises.

This is the first and only warning we will be giving and we expect
appropriate action to be taken immediately.

SO...
As the students return to their universities let's all show them what drinking and pubs should be about. Many of us have suffered from the media portraying the industry as unhealthy and debauched - we need to teach these 'students' what it's all about...   

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The man from ranti - BEER SOMMELIER?

Beer sommelier? BEER SOMMELIER?

Give me a break. Whilst all quarters of the beer community should be rightly proud of the progress that beer has made in recovering ground lost to wine in the last 30 or some years it's important not to forget the roots and potential of our national drink.

Yes - beer is by far and away in almost all cases the most appropriate beverage to enjoy with many foods but we must steel ourselves and refuse to indulge in pretentiousness.
With the proliferation of new, delicious and complex brews is coming new and more complex understandings of a humble drink. Don't get me wrong I love new interpretations of beer, drink them regularly and of course I spend much of my time indoctrinating new followers to the massive possibilities and exciting flavours that are available like never before in the UK. But as one majorly influential and highly respected purveyor of great beer noted to me recently; we must guard against the 'wineification' of beer.
It's a difficult task - the vocabulary of describing beer is derived directly from the techniques used by experts in analysing wine and thus it's hard not to sound preening when talking about 'nosing' a beer and discerning the metaphorical flavour associations of multi level flavours. We also need to redress the balance as regards food and 'go after' the wine drinkers for sure. But hoighty toi ghettoisation ain't the way. People need to be engaged and remember that in the UK we are lucky to have the perfect platform for furthering our cause - we still have (for now) tons of pubs.

As we slowly convince down at heel landlords about the benefits of great beer the customer will respond in demanding better drinks in the bars, 'gastropubs' and restaurants. Yes of course there's going to be some top down influence but on its own, top down will isolate the ordinary drinker and provide yet another platform for people to look down their noses from.

It will also lead us further down the path of singular venues with great beer selections that are poor in almost every other area. Bad staff, horrid decor, high prices.

High prices is the elephant in the room here of course as I often have to defend the prices I set, it's fair enough criticism, it is expensive to drink super serious beers in North but we always make sure there are some very competitive options as well. But remember tax on beer has increased 35% in two years, imported beers have had huge price increases due to the crazy fluctuations of the euro, dollar and pound and ingredients - especially barley malt - have also soared in price.

That's not to mention all the myriad costs of running a small independent bar in a city centre... But that's by the bye, you pays your money and takes your choice. Trust me when I say we're working really hard to try and get some great deals in the coming months and years. But still if you don't have a brilliant experience in North then you are likely dead (!) We compete through great service, brilliant booze (yes that does include the one of best selections of spirits in the land and yes wine and yes cocktails) the importance of music and atmosphere on an afternoon or night out. This is something that I have not yet found in venues purely focused on beer.

It's really hard not to appear snobby when you know a lot about something but everyone needs to at least try...


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Alice Porter 1 year on...

Well it's been around a year since I dragged a bunch of loyal mates to the arsehole of world to brew at one of the worlds finest breweries.

I can confirm that I am still married and the former Alice Porter is in great condition - but what about the beer eh? HO HO!!

Well... Super high marks on ratebeer and beeradvocate, it's also cropped up in various far flung places across the globe and has received some brilliant reviews and been drunk by many, many people in bottle, keg and cask. It's pretty amazing really as this beer was conceived in a truly advanced state of refreshment, but then it was my stag do.

We did have an idea of what we wanted to make, a strong baltic style porter around 6% it needed to be rich and balanced with a porter type tang plus if we could squeeze some smoke in there - all the better. Well hot damn - with the help of the legendary brewery team at Brewdog, it worked!
this is what a legendary brewer looks like

I've saved a good size batch of the original brew with the intention of seeing how it ages. I also bottled a little right from the keg and dosed it with Belgian yeast and a bit of rudimentary brown sugar syrup. More on that another time though, lets stick to the original.

So a year in the bottle and I've got some interesting developments and I'm pleased to say that the beer has improved - it's deeper, better balanced and more intense. There's tons of fruit on the nose and that touch of German smoked malt comes through lovely - something that I have noticed improves with time in the cask.
Please believe me when I say I'm trying to be objective here... But it's just a really great beer despite my obvious bias. It's also much better for a years ageing, the intensity is great and it's still very much a classic porter. I'm very happy with the combination of hops we used; there's some great traditional Fuggles fruity bitterness in there but the stars of the show are the Bramling Cross which gives you all those lovely deep blueberry and soft fruit flavours and of course the Sorachi Ace which we added to see if it would help achieve that porter-y acidic tang. It does add a touch of citric sharpness and also that creaminess which makes Sorachi ace such a difficult hop to like in lighter beers and IPAs but perhaps a really, really great hop for darker beers - take note brewers!!

There's also that touch of vanilla in there and the mystery ingredient just seems to bring the whole thing together (what is it eh?).

So anyway I'll pat everyone who was involved heartily on the back once again and watch as our creation goes global... Alice Porter will be available in a shop, supermarket, bar or pub near you pretty much NOW!
pic courtesy of digital newsroom

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Beer and Sex


Watch out for the hits! Here they come!

But sorry to disappoint any one who's looking for a beer related wank as I'm moved to write about the nagging subject of beer and Women. Or rather the disgraceful attempts by various brewers to 'appeal' to the female market and the laughable response from some of the beer community in attempting to handle this issue.

Put simply the overwhelming majority of beer drinkers and beer industry types in the UK are male. As such the overwhelming majority of coverage and marketing is dominated by men. Like any clique, beer fanaticism is naturally exclusive and tends towards insularism, despite the efforts by enlightened individuals to widen the appeal of this particular beverage. The sticking point comes when some bright spark in the marketing department of a global brewer of 'shite' decides to come up with a 'womens' beer... Cue pink beer, lychee flavour and flowers on the label. Utter rubbish in other words.

I hold a very simple view - beer is a drink. Anyone can enjoy beer and these poorly executed and utterly sexist beverages and marketing campaigns serve to defeat the purpose they were conceived for.

If you come in to North and turn your nose up at a curvy half pint glass you will be told straight that it's a glass and as such is sexless, if you order 'something a girl would like' you will be questioned as to your motives. If you're a brewer and think that putting 'buxom wenches' on pump clips or 'cheekily' named brews will impress people you'll get no dice with me. Mass marketeers beware - you will fail in these outings because there's no bloody need to add silly ingredients to try and entice the other 50%. You cannot polish a turd so why don't you drop the patronising rubbish, make something decent and advertise it responsibly.

Taste is pretty much universal, now instead of ghettoising any section of society we should all just try and use your passion to sell beer to people who don't know enough about it? The reason why we have such a low percentage of women drinking beer in this country is because like so many human endeavours the beer industry is so utterly and disgracefully sexist - we need to change this now.
Read around the subject a bit folks, everyone likes a drink!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

vice Versa


Yeah!

US beerfest time at North - I'm currently musing over an arrogant bastard whilst musing over an incredibly successful Tuesday night whilst musing over the fact that beer interest is so high at the moment.

Why, even the mainstream press are writing about it!

Even... People in London are in to it!!!!
It's funny how the US kinda gave us back our beer culture.

Now I'm not under-doing the sterling work UK brewers and UK beer types have put in BUT the proliferation of beer, beer bars, beer interest and the explosion of enthusiasm in all beery walks of life has been stoked by the influx of new thinking from the US, and it isn't just the UK that's feeling it.

Look at any of our exciting breweries and you'll see at least one world class beer being made and I bet you a dollar that it's got some American hops in it. When the US got serious about hops they found that what they were growing contained new flavours; brighter, sharper, more resinous and more bracing flavours. They also did what the US does best and gave us more variety, way more variety.

Eat it up - I'm not shitting you and I'll challenge anyone to give me a better explanation.

It's led to a rediscovery of styles. We were so complacent as to almost forget some of the UK's most brilliant beverages, but the US has been directly responsible for the rehabilitation of IPA and Imperial Stout. Also they've lovingly delved through The Worlds back catalogue and revived so bloody much and, very importantly, they've adapted them in to influential new styles.
You likes a double IPA? I fucking do too!

Hyperbole?

Raise a glass, I know you will.

This post is dedicated to Ghost Drinker coz he remembrered me to write somat...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cloudy with a chance of idiosyncrasies part 2

So leading on from my pondering over cloudiness in the last post here's some examples and explorations...

You'll find many, many British bottled beers with instructions to "pour gently to leave the sediment in the bottle." But Each beer is different and using the sediment will have different effects.

Duvel is a classic case of a beer that is better without sediment, it dulls the bright snappy classiness of the beer. When you get your Duvel in a straight glass that you have to top up, or worse you're just given the bottle and no glass you know you're being served by a plankton who knows shit all about his/her job. I've nearly set about people who insist on swirling the Duvelsediment and chucking it in the glass. I've found that this is best done with a dimple tankard.
Buxton's excellent Moor Top has a fair amount of cloudiness to it - I poured it pretty steadily and it has a beautiful golden haze, this is due to a touch of hop haze as well as a touch of loose sediment. The beer itself is delicious; light on the palate, brisk but firm bitterness balanced by fruit and a full, long finish. It has a haze regardless of how you pour it so don't

The Kernel's beers have a massive amount of sediment in them and for me you don't want it all in the glass, again it tends to dull the beer very slightly and there's so much that you do feel like you're drinking beer milkshake. The ideal serve for me is to leave the sediment and a bit of beer in the bottom of the bottle swirl it and then serve it on the side as a shot. This is common practice on the continent for heavily sedimented Belgian beers and it should be more common in the UK as it's a really nice touch that gives you options. Try one beer with sediment added and one without, or perhaps keep the sediment back and just stick it in halfway through your drink. The hardcore types will just shoot it down. I've heard tell of pubs and brewery taps in Burton actually keeping a supply of sediment to serve to punters as a tonic.

Marble's Tawny no.5 ale is one of my all time favourite beers - it's really up there with the best but the most recent bottled batch fell a bit short of my expectations. That is until I realised I was being a softy and forgetting to get the sediment in... BANG there it is - that full juicy, tannicalmost woody, bitterness. The sediment adds just that touch of body that the beer lacks when clear.
So from here on in I don't want to hear any complaining about the look of a beer until you've tasted it, you just don't know until you experiment.

Now labels and pump clips - they are a whole different ball game...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Cloudy with a chance of idiosyncrasies part 1

We're pretty proud of our idiosyncrasies in the UK - you know, things like our wonderful sense of irony and intimate understanding of sarcasm.

Interesting headwear, tea drinking, stoicism and a tendency towards inebriation on holiday, at the weekend, midweek and at weddings, births or funerals.
A confusing propensity for self flagellation in our inability to understand the terrible nature of the Conservative party and thusly electing the fuckers again and again...

It has been said that we enjoy warm beer (not always a bad thing) and are somewhat obsessed with clarity in our beverages.

Now I like a beautifully clear golden pint as much as anyone else but it doesn't always have to be like that. If the beer has a haze or is cloudy it doesn't automatically mean it's off now does it? There's plenty of reasons why a beer could be cloudy and most are to do with GOOD STUFF.

Just looking at a couple of beers I've had recently there is plenty of cloudiness or haziness about, but you still get the odd punter bringing them back or turning their nose up - but why do we care about this at all?

I trace a hell of a lot of drinking habits back to the bad old days before CAMRA took hold of the cause of championing real ale in the UK. I say this as I've found that gentlemen of a certain middling age (yes only gentlemen!) get quite freaked out about their beer being served in a dimple tankard. One of the explanations for this is that they were once closely associated with gentlemen of a certain older, flat capped generation. Another is that they make fairly solid weapons in a bar 'swedge'.

My informed opinion is that the aversion to cloudy ales comes from a similar time when cloudiness indicated an oxidised and thus 'off' beer. There's some mileage in this explanation as it was common at one point for a landlord to save his waste beer to squeeze a little extra profit. So old beer, bar and cellar drips would go back in to the barrel. More oxidisation will usually mean more chance of the beer spoiling and getting infected with dirt, unwanted wild yeast and bacteria, sling this back in to good beer and you're going to turn it sour.

Quite a few places still use the dreaded 'auto vac,' basically a drain in the drip tray that recycles the drips back in to the line or worse into the barrel. For me it's too much of a risk and strikes me as a little tight, and I'm a Yorkshireman.

All of this however should not put you off drinking cloudier or hazy ale. Most bottled ales will have some sediment in, and stronger hoppier beers will carry a 'hop haze'. Don't panic! Taste the beer and trust your tongue!


Thursday, 24 March 2011

A little bit of backbone



Quick one...

I've been stoking up my cellar a bit, firstly because I like a stash of beer. Secondly because I like a stash of beer.

My general opinion of keeping a well stocked larder is that you need enough in it so that when you hit it hard you'll have a job to get through the lot.

I do keep, or rather, collect beers for ageing as I've always been a collector of stuff and beer is much better than the other things I've collected in the past. These being coins, matches, beer mats, stickers, interestingly designed wrappers, bouncy balls, tickets, bottle tops, stones and at at one point in my life you could say I collected experiences.
So anyway I've got a crate going which has recently been full of beers I wish to drink without worrying about them getting better over time. It's full of hoppy beers then, it allows me to forget about the stuff that's ageing whilst still drinking good stuff at home. It got me to thinking about the massive amount of hoppiness going on at the moment in beer and how I've been a little disappointed by some beers that lack body.

Here's something for you brewers out there, IPA needs body and backbone, this is provided by malt and the subsequent sugar it produces in the brewing process. The more IPA becomes a dominant style in craft brewing the more I almost cringe as approach a new one. They get thinner and more bitter and in some cases blacker and I think that sometimes people are missing the point.

You need to balance a beer to make a truly great one and that means malt and hops together. The more bitterness the more sweetness is needed.

I'm drinking a beer right now that exemplifies this balance: Bell's Hopslam.

Donated to me by Michigan (Agent) Al, and I am drinking this in honour of the brief closure of the Beer Ritz bottle shop in Leeds. If you haven't gathered by now it's been closed and now it's open again! Yes shut, the world is a lesser place without it but as much as I mourn its semi passing I celebrate the amount Zak at al have contributed to the cause of beer in the UK and of course my drinking life. If I look at the top beer bloggers in the country I'd say the majority have been to beer ritz and many have been inspired to write by trips to Beer Ritz. I'd also like to add that something of this stature and someone of Zak's expertise will not be held back for long - something new and exciting will come from this no doubt.

Hopslam is more eloquently described my Mr Zak right here but in my opinion it is a tour du Force and rightly rated as one of the finest in the world.

You can smell the hops and honey all round before you even get to drinking. Heavy bitterness on the tongue at first is just chopped neatly down with every second that passes by in to candy sweet honey and pineapple, orange, mango and peach. It's as gluggable and easy to drink as I Hardcore You (which has not yet been beaten in this category for me) because it has that real deep malt and honey sweetness that exemplifies a proper backbone.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

WE interrupt this broadcast

Justr to say that I'm rekindliing a great love for barley wine...

I love Brooklyn but Mr Oliver's balery wine ins incompplpetgv

Sauljlel sikiothsjk isnnmoihuibs

Oh god but strong golden!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A war of admiration...

There's nothing that gets people frothing at the mouth more than perceived bias. There's a thread rolling around the beer world at the moment in which the admirers of beer are being pitched against the... Admirers of beer!

There is it seems a perceived or real disconnect between the lovers of broadly traditional type ales and the lovers of, broadly, more modern type ales. Essentially people who like one type are likely to slag off the other type! It's a war of the beer geeks people and you should all pick sides immediately!
I've witnessed some of the skirmishes in the build up to this battle first hand. I've seen big, burly, beardy men attack skinny bespectacled men with ancient yeast strains and I've seen stars and stripes wrapped 'hop bombs' lobbed directly in to CAMRA meetings! It's not fucking pretty.

More realistically I've talked to utterly respectable CAMRA top bods who completely dismiss the entire range of certain modern, sharply marketed, breweries with no heed to taste whatsoever. I've also had heated conversations with younger savvy drinkers who will slag off more subtle traditional British ales whilst rendering their palettes entirely useless with yet another 'edgy' 1000000IBU, hard to find uber beer.

It's all well and good but where does it get us?

One of the actual real life problems that is exacerbating this disconnect is that you find some classic ales in some dubious locations. I was slagging off London Pride in an earlier post, the reason being is that it's widely available and can end up in the hands of landlords who don't know or care about keeping beer well.

If beer is not kept properly you are likely to find that at best it's flat, at worst it's vinegar. This unfortunately happens a lot and can happen to all beers as breweries grow and get their beer in to more pubs. More pubs mean more sales but less control over how the product is sold.

Thus the modern beer type who drinks a classic ale like London Pride can be disappointed, I'd say that this is often to do with the way it's kept and how it is served. This doesn't do the brewer any favours. We do have standards like cask marque but really, I've seen it in plenty of shit branded pubs. I've also been served plenty of rubbish in cask marque accredited pubs so that's not doing anything for anyone.

You've also got to take in to account the level at which people enter the market. If you start off, like many people these days, drinking hoppy IPA's like Brewdog Punk you're going to struggle to get the subtlety in a softer but complex pint of traditional bitter.

But what of the traditional types? Well to be honest the ones I come across on the whole really appreciate all types of beer, they have their favourites and that's just fine. Most are knowledgeable and are perhaps just a little irksome about the stereotyping that can go on in the growing, trendier circles of the beer world.

There's no point in brawling it out, I think brewers have an important role to play in backing the full gamut of ales and physically getting in to the places that sell them to make sure they are being served properly. True appreciation of beer about open-mindedness and experimentation. That works both ways - god I've had some obscure stuff in my time but I'll still tell anyone who wants to listen than one of my best pints was a super malty, fruit gums juicy, John Smith's Magnet in the boozer closest to Northallerton train station about 5 years ago.
I've gained my knowledge by working with beer, talking to people who know about beer and reading about beer. It's up to people like me to help to educate the new market and it's up to the new market to educate themselves too - this is not about ticking boxes or bragging, bandwagon jumpers and trend followers will show themselves up eventually...

Oh yeah and beer should in pretty much all cases should be served through a sparkler! What the hell is wrong with you bloody southerners and your crappy bubbly heads eh???

Read more on this subject:




Monday, 7 March 2011

Arsing about in London - day 2

Well we've got some work done today!

We visited one old friend Andy (@partizansmith) and one new friend Andy at the Redemption brewery in the depths of Tottenham. Now I've been extremely lucky to try a good few of Andy's home brews and they are seriously good work, his Christmas beer was one of the top beers I drank last year. This brewery is without doubt one to watch, the range of brews we tried was lovely and they brew in a modern British style - that is the beers have depth and balance with plenty of thoughtful hopping.



I can also say that due to the beer spotting bun fight that appears to be hitting London currently I have decided to rise above and transcend the beer 'box ticking' stage and am now a brewery malt delivery system spotter. Every brewery I've been to has a different Heath Robinson type contraption for this job. I feel that this is going to be the new 'passion' for many as they tire of yet another conversation that entails what rarities they have quaffed, where and when and why they know more than you when they patently don't! I could perhaps of course be guilty of this on this very blog but then I do try not to be a cunt.

Anyhow perhaps we should get back to the point with a soothing picture of Andy Smith and his homemade heat exchange...



Ahhhh that's better - thanks Andy you're a true gent.

We had lunch in the wonderful BaShan on Romilly street, I can confirm it's one of the best Chinese meals of my life and Chairman Meows braised pork is a gift from the gods.

Next up the harp, CAMRA pub of the year no less, lovely joint, kinda mostly brown and slightly theatrical feeling. Good knowledgable staff and brilliant beer.

I've been using facebook to 'check in' to places which simply to wind up everyone that's at work. It's also been quite funny as a good friend of mine who's been in more pubs than most, posted that when he was in this award winning pub he found the atmosphere a bit snotty, which is exactly what I got when I answered my phone in the Harp. Admittedly in a slightly loud Northern way but was a slightly discomforting air of self satisfaction and some rather large red noses were being looked down, this really grinds my gears so onwards...

Pip pip to the White horse! The aforementioned Andy and many others say this is their favourite watering hole in the big smoke. I'm inclined to agree with them as I've just had a chat with a brilliant bar man who took me through the finer points of the three Vintages of Lees harvest ale that they stock! Really comfortable, wecoming and not too pretentious .

Which is more than I can say for the Euston tap. Don't get me wrong this is a great bar, it's an inspired location and really interesting US style set up but I do have a gripe or two.

This leads on from my experience at CASK and a general feeling from people I've spoken to. These places lack atmosphere! You can find the beers you want and the rarest of beers you didn't even know you wanted but really they are for ticking boxes and geekery. This is fine but fails to address the reason most people drink in pubs, in cask the music was like listening to a car stereo in a ford fiesta, in the 80's. Same in the tap.


I'm FIRMLY in the music in pubs and bars camp by the way. It should be as diverse as possible and at appropriate levels for the atmosphere, no music only suits busy old school pubs - too much is made of silence!

Both places are also a tad uncomfortable, I'll let the tap get away with this as it's in a teenytiny building which is interesting in it's own right but CASK should sort out the badly designed chairs and planks of wood that you have to sit on immediately!

Hey ho - I'm sounding old now, that'll do...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Arsing about in London day 1

Alright so here's some real time boozing and writing in the big smoke...

I'm in the Pembury Tavern in Hackney quaffing the first of the day. It's a bit of a gem from the Tring brewery - Colleys Dog. At 5.2% it's an eye opener and is a pretty fine ruby ale with plenty deep malt and a satisfying fruity hop bite.

Now I've obviously had a couple while I've been down here but I've been in west Sussex limbo for 24hours and drunk a little too much ordinary brown stuff for my own good. I don't mind a maltier, brew at all but London Pride is only really good for a pint, I am also firmly in the sparkler camp - I'm a tight northerner and like a tight northern head on my pint...

The Pembury is well worth a visit, open plan, feels a bit like it's got some history to it, if you visit the website you'll find an appeal to anyone who knows about the joint so we're none the wiser... The boozer is nice and airy with a lovely selection of ales and a kinda community pub feel. Nice way to start a Sunday..




Getting a whole lot more hardcore we head o'er to CASK in Pimlico, loads and loads of amazing beer! Loads! There's pretty much everything you could want EVER. This is tick list time - we have Southern Tier, loads of Mikkeler, UNITA, Nogne, De Molen, Founders, The Bruwery, Shorts!!

Oh my fucking lord! Cancel all other plans... I'm staying here



The food is good, although the chef needs educating on how to make a proper Yorkshire pudding. Although he more than makes up for this aberration with the sticky toffee pudding.

We drank a super opaque mikkeler IPA, lovely if a little unbalanced as mikkeler can be sometimes. Currently on a Beer Here Lupulus which is gentle enough pale ale with enough malt to deal with the roast beef.




Next up some 8wired hop wired IPA, outrageously fruity, deep satisfying IPA.

Ok so it'd be rude not to, let's go mikkeler crazy!


Mikkeler coffe IPA - good, curious, it works but I'm not gonna drink pints of the stuff. Beer geek breakfast - bacon is really thick and deep, very bitter mouth-coating stout. Very long smokiness - bacon? Not really bacon just smoke... If I were to make a beer and call it bacon I'd be looking for some of that sweet, meaty, saltiness in there... But that's me and I'm not a brewer at the moment.

What I am however is a terrible bore to my drinking friends as I'm writing, and not talking so I'll bid you adieu for now. The next beer is Mikkeler protégés TOØL black ball...

Ladies and gentlemen: We are descending in to darkness!

Location:London,United Kingdom

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Open it! Don't open it...

Open it! Don't open it... OPEN it!!!

Don't

ok do... *sigh*

Yeah so it's the end of January and I'm still catching up on some interesting threads from last year. Who knows? Perhaps by the end of 2011 I'll have dealt with all the loose ends rather than sitting in the larder looking at the 'collection' of beers I've managed to gather up, painstakingly working out which one is the PERFECT beer for this particular moment...

I was semi-inspired by an initiative towards the end of last year from Mark Dredge called 'open it'. Essentially a rallying call to beer types to get out those beers that have been lingering in the cellar. Those beers that have become resident, hoarded or stashed. Those special beers regarded by oddballs like myself as to be worthy of not being drunk just yet, they are being saved for the perfect moment.

If you have a bottle of Ambrosia - do you drink it straight away? Or do you save it for the evening before the Great Reckoning?
Well the gods seem to have omitted guidance on bottle ageing and certainly didn't give a fuck about best before dates or suchlike.

That's the problem with collections you see.

I suspect that most bloggers/experts/aficionado/nerds are collectors or indeed hoarders. It doesn't necessarily mean they all have cellars full of hard to find delights (they do). It does mean they collect experiences, tastes and memories (and beers). That's what's unsettling about an initiative like 'open it'.

I regularly find myself sitting in the larder procrastinating over my small but respectable stash, angst ridden, attempting to decipher which particular drink fits the moment perfectly. That's also why I'm ohhh 7 weeks behind the rest of the beer blogging world (and a comfortably detached 52 in the wikio wankings).

So in mitigation...

I did open a few from the stores over December they were lovely, I'm not going to brag... but they were all rare and all aged to perfection! HA! You see I run a brilliant bar, as such I drink fair bit and drink well. I drink fresh beer, aged beer and everything in between. I constantly train people and I sell people stuff that they have never tried before (it's ace!) It's my bread and butter. I also quite like drinking brilliant beer in the company of friends, in bars and sometimes in a state of disrepair. This clearly does not lend itself to good writing and thus, reader, I have spared you the details.

Apologies to Mark Dredge

- OPEN IT - I HAVE BEEN DRINKING -

Hitachino Nest - Red Rice Ale - 7%
Hmm, now then, Rice Ale? Now of course I've slagged off the use of Rice in beer on many an occasion, Budwieser are the most prominent 'bastard adjunct' brewer but this is different of course and is a beer brewed with Red Rice - apparently it's ancient. It certainly makes for a bonkers ale.

Golden amber with a reddish tinge, strawberry scented, grapey and tangy with gentle fermented rice almost miso edge.

There's a little bit of umami soy sauce-ness there along with Blackpool rock. It's a bit like a tripel in body but is tangerine-tart enough to quench a 10 hour bar shift or indeed a 3 am thirst.

People who I have spoken to about this brewery have variously described their beers as OK, brilliant, cute or intriguing. I am falling in to the latter camp, this is a very good beer - it takes the japanese sweet/savoury umami sensibility and holds fourth a complex, slaking, oddity of a beer.

Oh yeah and it's dead fucking cute and their website is suitably bonkers...