Tuesday 28 December 2010

A bit of a year in beer?

What ho!

Oooh inactive for two months eh? Broken computer innit guvnor? Can't write proper posts on them damn mooble phones...

Thought I'd do a bit of a catch up then and hopefully a little round up of some of the good stuff that happened this year. Let's see how it pans out...

I got on the radio again the other day - it was yet another industry opinion needed to try and rationalise some inordinate twattery by the government or scientists of somewhat. My advice to everyone - let the craft beer industry do its work. It has incredible potential to provide work, products and exports that we can be proud of. Drop the taxes on craft beer, penalise irresponsible pub management, and stop people selling chemical drinks for stupidly low prices.

Society will thank you for it.

In a similar vein I urge everyone to resist whatever government cut is relevant to them - it is your responsibility. We need heavyweight politics now and what we have, on all sides, are lightweight ideas that have no respect to the progress human beings have made in the last century.

ENOUGH! That's politics out of my system...

I noted that Zak Avery ran a competition to write something about 'beer' and 'time' I of course am ready and on hand to delve in to my most creative depths. Although I wasn't and thus missed the deadline. But better late than never.

HA! All I did was googled beer and time!!! You can almost see the 'A hole' there!

Anyway the following entry to Zaks competition did inspire me no end and I feel was the most eloquent exploration of the theme. Apologies to Stuart - it wasn't an instant association with the image above

Now please do not feel this video mere whimsy - this is one of the UK's finest brewers in action! We've had the pleasure of many a Crown brewery beer at North bar this year from the inspiring heights of Django Reinhardt, named after my cat, a wonderful collaboration with the aforementioned Avery. A deep fruitful damson porter (often surreptitiously spiked with port by the denizens of North).

Crown's Brooklyn heights is also been an utter winner this year - now this is no lie - I haven't heard anyone mention this wonderful bright hoppy ale without waxing lyrical about its brilliance. SERIOUSLY! Good fucking work Stu, please someone get this man a bigger brewery!

The other big hitters for me were Marble and Brewdog. For me these seem at almost opposite ends of the spectrum, which is just fine.

Marble have upgraded this year and have produced some stunning beers which have now stepped fully in to the national market. Dobber! Good god man this beer is such a brute! Probably one of the finest IPAs I had and I have had a hell of a year folks.
With a solid stable of regular beers, marble do the job right. But the specials have been of such a high quality too - Ginger 6 on draught, Special, Vuur & Vlam and their peerless Chocolate Dubbel. Just reciting those few beers makes me want to get on the train to Manchester and go burgle the brewery right now!

Of course there's no review of the year that can be complete without mentioning Brewdog. Fine tuning in the brewery has turned brilliant US inspired beers in to flawless UK classics. Hardcore IPA anyone? I've a man in the bar that pretty much goes through an entire case a week when it's in. It's genius and deserved winner of gold medal in the World Beer Cup.

5am saint in kegs? Tokyo? The Mikkeller collaboration beers?

I have never smelled mangoes like I do in I Hardcore You - not even in mangoes. This sums up the beer, with the irksome omission of mangoes.

Of course the highlight of my year was my role in picking the hops and malt for this beer.
It was made as a one off. It has been drunk and appreciated beyond my wildest dreams and is actually in production now (!!!). Considering the rather chaotic inception of the beer I'm so pleased that it came out so well. It's a testament to the guys at the brewery could turn a somewhat deranged concept in to a winning beer.

I can't help but gloat of course - it wouldn't exist without me and a few 'artful' friends...

And yes of course my wife... and of course getting married was the non-beer highlight of my year darling xxx

Oooh look I got through that whilst drinking a DFH Palo Santo Marron and a FD Raging Bitch and I don't think I made any spellingg mistakles.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Blockage in a de sistim...

New computer on the way... I refuse to post using my phone as it will give me arthritis in later life and I have people to socialise with...

Why don't you go and read a book?

Like this,
Or this...
Or this...

Or just listen to sense and start questioning the system we are allowing to rule us... http://www.dancarlin.com/

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Stagger do! My Visit to Fraserburgh to brew something NEW

You may or may not know and perhaps care even less, but I've recently tied the knot! It was brillant actually and wholeheartedly recommend it to all of you!!!

So of course it was my stag do a few weeks back and rather than going go-karting or some other nonsense we decided to pay a visit to the chaps at brewdog where Brewdog's Emperor Penguin had invited us to try our hand at brewing. How good was it? FUCKING BRILLIANT! The guys up there are fantastic and incredibly hospitable. It was, despite my somewhat accelerated state of stag do 'refreshment' a really great insight in to what goes on at this now world famous brewery and what makes it utterly special.

It was pretty damn interesting for me to feel the atmosphere of the brewery and to meet the brewers and workers - there's a great collegiate kinda feeling with young brewers from around the world as well as local lads doing what must be one of the hardest and most fun jobs you can do! Brewdog have a great background in collaboration with the likes of Three Floyds and Mikkeler - the gypsy brewer, it's the way it should be and I congratulate James and Martin for fortering this kind of atmostphere. Frazerburgh is one hell of a place, right on the very edge of Scotland, stuck right out in to the North Sea. It's a place of extremes. Extremes that I discovered whilst camping in the most unsheltered campsite in the UNIVERSE and I didn't feel so fucking clever at 4am in the morning, clutching a bottle of Sink the Bismark while my tent whipped around me in the salty lashing rain, 'you should have pegged it in properly' I hear you say... No that campsite is the devils own work, don't go there in Winter, you'll die.

It makes sense that what's made there is equally extreme and Brewdog have made such an impact on the UK scene, they've ruffled plenty of feathers and in the process have created some beers of true brilliance. Several of which I sampled, regularly, throughout the weekend... In particular we drank a shed load of 5am saint right from the tank.
I was pretty lucky to try a brand new IPA made Bramling cross hops which was bang on. Bramling is a British hop with a distinctly American aroma but a brilliant British fruity taste. The beer is cracking and has a juicy traditional IPA roundness, coupled with a great level of bitterness and a salty bite - this in particular is intriguing and something I've only really noticed in a couple of beers before now. I love it. Is it something to do with brewing with the North Sea literally at your back door? Is it something to do with my tastebuds being fucked after the weekend?

We're just about to put on our creation at North Bar. It's named Alice Porter in honour of my wife (her maiden name) and of course it's a porter! It's 6.2% and smooth as hell, we used alot of the aforementioned Bramling cross as well as a great hop called sorachi. The idea was essentially to brew something pretty stout but use the fruit of the Bramling and the lemony-ness of the sorachi to add that porter tang! It's worked and has produced a highly quaffable beverage along the lines. If you can't get down to North over the next month or so then you may find it at Further North or the Marble Arch in Manchester. A small amount has also been released in London and Aberdeen under the name 'Santa doesn't exist'.

So there you go - ace eh. I must credit the brewers with the creation of the beer - we picked hops and malt and did a load of donkey work, those guys are amazing and I'm looking forward to seeing them at North so I can return the favour... So to speak...

Friday 24 September 2010

Raise your glasses!

I was interviewed by Radio Aire today.

"What did they want?" I hear you cry... In my head...

Was it for some insightful advice on the Craft Bar scene? To talk about North's brilliant Oktoberfest that starts, incidentally, next Wednesday... To recommend that people drink sensibly and carefully and eschew beers made of corn industrial enzymes and rice syrup?

Nooooo. It was about the proposed ban on Glass in pubs. Yes this is a real hot issue and no mistake. Up and down the land marauding thugs are slashing innocent punters with stella 'chalices', bludgeoning with branded tankards and slashing with Strongbow etched nonics...


Far be it for me to make light of a serious issue, a 'glassing' is a nasty, vindictive act which permanently damages the recipient physically and mentally - I've seen it and it's horrible.

Not at North of course... Why is that then? I mean if it's such a problem as to require a total ban then surely it must be A HUGE PROBLEM???

No, it's not. The problem is... The people who hit other people with glasses. Now how do we deal with this. Simple - good staff and good security. In 'cattle market' venues this seems to be and thus trouble can lead to violence. But for the majority of licensed premises well trained staff will refuse service to people who have had too much and people who are aggressive. Well trained doormen know not to let in known troublemakers, they will also, in one or two swift sentence be able greet the punter and discern whether they have had too much or are likely to be aggressive. People who know their jobs, know the signs and thus are able to deal with problems before they turn nasty.

Of course there is always the chance that perfectly calm and sober people could suddenly lose it and smack some poor fool in the face with a glass. They could also use a chair, I mean they are heavier and better for bludgeoning... They could tear the pictures from the walls, the bottles from the bar, pool cues and bits of the staircases in some kind of mock cowboy brawl. They could use guns or knives!!!! God the world is scary!

Don't fucking believe it. The streets and bars and pubs are safer now then they ever have been. Horrible things can happen but it's well within our means to keep them to an absolute minimum.

Bars and pubs with persistent problems should have their licenses revoked. Venues with good training and good records should be held up as examples to the rest, not tarred (yet again!) with the same brush as irresponsible booze trough venues.

This sort of nonsense puts fear in to people's minds so they stay in their homes and drink; 'unsupervised' towards a miserable, frightened, cheap booze soaked death.

The glasses aren't the problem. It's the hands that hold them...

Of course we could always ban hands, have everyone drink their allotted number of units through a fucking straw and then stagger back in to the streets and bash together like a half pissed army of demented weebles...

Of course if you do get in to a bar fight a bit of advice is always useful:

Thursday 23 September 2010

Czeching the Saigon situation

Ha now there's a good title, czeching! Ha it's a pun... And we all love a pun don't we? Don't we?

Yet again you find me in another improbable beer drinking situation, a Czech style brewpub in Ho Chi Minh city, known locally and formerly as Saigon. I'm quaffing the local Hoa Vien Tmavy Lezak... That's a mouthful, quite literally!!!! Ha ha ha ohhhhhh. Yes dark roastily bitter Czech style beer in Vietnam and brewed in the lovely copper brewhouse right on the premises...

Beer is great eh? It's something that seems to transcend boundaries, borders, classes... Every great pub, brewhouse or bar seems to me to have a similar mix of young and old, both sexes, loners and boozy groups. It's commonly said but I'm going to do it again, beer is an unrivalled social lubricant!

It must remain as such.

In the whirlingly stupid morality of today we are within the reach of legislation to curb drinking. I see it regularly in reactionary local policing and council anti binge policy. Did you know that it's now illegal for me to pour booze in to someones mouth in a pub?

Nice work the council!

When I was in Erding a couple of weeks ago on a bit of a jolly I was stuck by the unity of the people of the town at their annual harvest festival. Erdinger beer IS the focal point of that little Bavarian town, young and old rally around it and all hang out together in their massive beerhall, eating stupid amounts of pork! They are inspired to wear leather shorts and chicken hats! Even the cool teens get in on the act sloshing down litre after litre of the stuff.

Now what the hell is wrong with that?

Anyhow, I can say with pretty much complete Euro-beer-snob authority that I am drinking the best beer that Vietnam has to offer, lovely shit and no mistake.

Now, where's my fucking weiner schnitzel?

Friday 17 September 2010


How's about that then? I'm in Vietnam on my honeymoon and I'm on a beach with tropical flowers, palm trees, coconuts, amazing seafood, mopeds and amazing beers!

Fucking a!

Travelling through the forests and jungles of Vietnam is amazingly like watching the films I so loved in my youth. You almost expect hueys to come panelling over the horizon and hard bitten GI's to start shouting shit about DANANG and LV'S!

Of course they don't and clearly the 'traveller' world has moved on a bit since I took a drug addled year out in Mexico some 11 years ago. Back then (yes I cringe to say it) all we had was an out of date rough guide and a will to get smashed on anything we could get our hands on. Cue dangerous incidents in shanty towns, loud hallucinations and worrying weight loss.

Right now I'm sitting in an agreeable colonial-ish bar on a strip of road, adjacent to a beautiful beach, listening to a big Mexican chap playing Eric Clapton, Louis Armstrong and Hey Jude and bleeding Lady in Red! Fuck it eh - wherever you go in the world there's always a fat Mexican playing the Beatles...

It's nice!

Even nicer as this particular bar is Joe's and Joe, knows good beer. We have all the Belgian biggies and a spot of Hofbrau too... Granted in comparison to the, very good, Saigon beer it's a bit pricey but hey what's £2 when a lobster costs you £4?

So Saigon export red is tops, clean and full and not so far from a Dortmund lager, saigon green is pilsner-esque and lighter but unfortunately not better than the local brewed heineken.

My Chimay has travelled many miles and is better for it, we get through plenty at north so it's aleays pretty fresh and the stuff I've put down to age really isn't ready yet. So of course I have to come all the way to Vietnam to try the aged stuff...

Genius eh? While all the nobs in Europe are buggering around with this and that there's brilliantly conditioned Trappist ale right under their noses at the other side of the world!!! Goddamittttt.

This Chimay red is woody to smell with a sherry barrely thing going on, get inside it and there's tons of fruit. Predominantly and unexpectedly it's strawberry that really comes through followed by layers of malt and softer fruit flavours, hints of pear, Blackcurrant, berries etcetecye.... Nice? O god aye...

I'll go do a blue...

Sunday 15 August 2010

Trading on ale


that was a sweaty night - busy again at North, which is great, there's something to be said for putting everything to one side and just hammering out loads of great beer to happy punters. The last year or so has been difficult for the on trade. Disastrous for many landlords I'm sure but I'm lucky to run two great forward thinking craft bars that can adapt to the new market...

YES the new market. You see the recession has hit pubs and bars just as it's hit everything else, the reliable routines have become erratic and the tea time rush/11pm rush/last orders rush have gone out the window and licensees have been fretting as people just haven't been drinking in the same way as they did in the early part of the 2000's.

For those who haven't picked up on the craft beer boom the recession has been a sorry tale. Yet despite pressure from the Government, the prohibitionists, the scare-story-medical-bandwagon and underhand supermarket 'below cost price selling' tactics, pubs and bars who have embraced real ale, decent drinks, food and service are glimpsing light at the end of the tunnel.

Eyes are open once more to the immense potential of beer and it's wondrous health giving properties! There's a million reasons why the on trade has been in decline but it's a fact that the rediscovery of real beer in its many forms has become a rallying cry and a boon for those who give a shit about pubs and the communities they maintain.

A good time to drink exceptional beer then, tonight I had a good hour or so after a busy night having the obligatory after work bevvy with my staff. I've been fairly exhausted over the last few weeks what with one thing and the other and I've been eyeing the 2008 JW Lees harvest ale, knowing that with 2 years of age on it there will have been some fantastic things happening inside those bottles.

Aging beer can be a little hit and miss, some won't take it - others, especially those with lower ABVs might only improve slightly before dropping off. Even then light, temperature and randomness can damage beer. Not so for the good barley wine of which JW Lees are purveyors of.

Harvest is regularly right up there with the best, a UK beer coming top of the polls in the mainly US based beer advocate. When I first tasted it there was full fruit, massive oloroso sherry-ness and a swish of bitterness to balance a very sweet beer. I caned it occasionally and it occasionally took the wheels off leading to out of hand whisky type incidents that I won't bore you with tonight. Two years in the cellar and it's even more delicious - light enough on the tongue but choc a bloc with amazing walnutty depth, datey sticky toffeeness and yet that tiny bite of bitterness that balances the sweetness. Marvellous.

What to follow that with? Well I'm on the case of a Paradox from Brewdog - Isle of Arran to be precise. It's heavy but the Arran cask that this imperial stout has been aged in has treated it well. You get all the wonderful bitter chocolate and lively espresso flavours that you expect but with a dollop of vanilla ice cream too...

You like the sound of that? If you're a licensee open up you mind and your pub to craft beer - you won't regret it. If you're a punter - don't accept anything less than a really great, satisfying drink, if your local doesn't do good beer, ask why, demand it. You might just be doing them a favour...

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Great British booze haul

Reet! So right now I'm writing from the Great British Beer Festival, this is an experimental post to see what happens when I try writing through a session.

A quick note on our morning as Mark and myself popped to the ace St John bread and wine for a coffee and some madeira and seedcake at breakfast after a gruelling national express ride in the bogey seat right by a particularly fruity bog. Apt I suppose as St John is the home of the nose to tail eating of Fergus Henderson. Unfortunately we didn't have time to go the whole hog (HA!) but the Madeira set us up nicely to ease in to the festival. If you ever get down to the big smoke please visit either restaurant, they do some great stuff with some dubious animal parts - the food is amazing and it's really well priced.

Replemished by madeira and joyous of a public transport system that works, we are in full effect and have a crate in tow so we can haul some treats back to Leeds and a loaf of brilliant sourdough to soak up the booze.

For a few days a year Earls Court turns in to the centre of the beard wearing world as thousands of beer botherers descend to get rotten pissed in a celebration of beer. It's like any local CAMRA beer festival but MASSIVE and today is trade day so it's full of jockeying press types and strug out bar/pub workers dearly in need of some time off.

We quickly realised that buying thirds is the way to go... Taste as many as possible, and you know, pulling a third ain't so easy, the venerable voulenteers at the GBBF quite often miss the line, which for our purposes, is just the ticket.

Flash forward 2 hours and we've motored through through 14 beers and now been joined my mr Ed. Standout beers so far? Tons!

Thornbridge have managed to make a balanced eldeflower ale in which the elder matches the hop in a way that is so fucking good that it seems obvious, I've never tasted an elderflower beer like this and it's brilliant. I'm not always as convinced as most as to the brilliance of everything Thornbridge do but this is tops and highly recommended.

There's a beer from Spectrum in Norfolk called Stoatwobbler which I urge everyone to try for its sheer brilliance in malty depth, powerful fruit and balanced bitter core.

Flash forward another 2 hours and the sourdough loaf from st john is really showing its worth. A third of old hooky is a little bit of a levller after some discombobulating ales from Liverpool organic - their IPA is as true to the traditional style as you can get and delicious to booot.

Shoom! Forward to 4pm, an hour left and things are starting to go west I think I just confused Pete Brown or someone who looks like Pete Brown with some heavy ipa form Green Flash. He's smaller than I expected and the IPA much bigger, I feel that the combinatiknof these achievemnts makes me level. So. on to de molen....

Crap... The de molen is better, it points out the
K utaec I'd British berr when something ha suceh abcenyw. Nwybny. KoeUZ

z)) nuyj

The. End. Only my good friends know the rest x

Thursday 22 July 2010

Flim fram...

I've been in the middle of a post about 'balance' for some time now, four or five weeks at least... I clearly can't write properly in Summer, or some other such excuse... Perhaps 'balance' is too poncey a subject, we'll see...

Good, now I've got that out of my system I'm going to talk about raspberry beer or rather framboise or even frambozen if you fancy.
I don't drink a great deal of fruit beer but I certainly appreciate a good one. For me a good one has to be lambic, a beer made with wild yeast. The wild yeasts in lambic beer create a multitude of sour flavours - perfect to balance fruit. Some use just this type of brewing some a portion of lambic added to a more robust ale. Get in to lambic - it's ace...

I was dismayed when duvel moortgat decided to kill off Liefmans Frambozen. This beer was a thing to behold, a Flemish brown ale laced heavily with raspberry and for me one of the truest expressions of fruit beer. Sweet and perfumed with the fruit and the complex sour maltiness befitting the king of Flemish brown ales. Unfortunately the big boys didn't see it that way and tossed the little pink beverage into the canal... Beautiful packaging and all.

This left somewhat of a void in the world of raspberry beers. The better known Timmermans falls at the first hurdle by 'virtue' of being utter rubbish. Bacchus stepped in and made a perfecty good brown ale based Framboise that North still sells on draught. There's also a very good one from lambic superstars; Lindemans but it's two and a half percent alcohol so really it's a fizzy drink. Incidentally it's a good beer for anyone who's lost faith in rehab or indeed has only just fallen off the wagon - we have a good offer on at North, I won't tell...

The other I know well is Girardin, this is a famous lambic house that makes spectacular, balanced gueuze - blended young and aged lambic. The Girardin framboise is light, bracingly sour and almost champagne like in its sherbet fizziness, this is truly a beer to rival the frambozen BUT it's not got everything I want, it's amazing but not so balanced and not as good as what I'm drinking now...

A while back I met a lovely chap called Alan Kovan, it was actually about a year ago during our US beer festival. I took him on a boozy tour of north's finest tipples and, bless him, he gave me a bottle of unbelieveably brilliant Belgian red from New Glarus in Wisconsin. It was a cherry beer of true distinction and considerable rarity. I've only ever seen empty bottles since as it cannot be exported from Wisconsin. The empty bottles are usually on the shelves of the type of people who speak about beers like this in slightly hushed tones if you catch my drift...

Cut to the chase - my good, old friend Mr Simon mentioned a few weeks back that he was on his way over to that part of the world. I duly lashed him to his chair and made him promise to bring back New Glarus beer... Thanks Si!

I'm drinking some Raspberry Tart right now... It's delicious, the smell of the damn thing hits you before you take a sip and is so bleedingly perfumed and bright that it actually makes you stop before take a sup. The beer is a raspberry shotgun full of sherbert and sorbet and bang! It lasts forever on your palette and has a brilliant almost salty bite... Yes Salty!

If you are ever in a situation where you can get hold of anything from this brewery... You bring me some back... Fucker...

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Genitalmen prefer blonde

It's nice when summer kicks in isn't it?

Just the changing of the seasons makes you think of new drinks... Yellow ones!

Surely every hankers for something clean, bright and blonde on a warm day, you know; Sun scouring your shoulders, invisibly, relentlessly... silently. The deceptively quaffable 'summer water' slipping down, intoxicating slowly but surely... Until you eventually end up frazzled inside and out and wake up in the pissing rain, sunburnt to fuck.

OH BUT OF COURSE! I'm only joking, we're sophisticated drinksers here I'll have you!

Yellow beer was invented ages ago, it comes in many variations and has similar characteristics; Lager type beers, blonde or pale ales and light wheat beers are all blonde or indeed yellow in colour in the most part light in body and easy on the tongue. Lagers have an intense history and run the gamut from majestic golden refreshing brews, to dry but bright pilsner and indeed piss water laced with rice, corn syrup or some other unnecessary complication of the relatively straightforward brewing process.

Light wheat beers criss cross Europe and range from complex, phenolic German types to subtle, delicate and zesty Belgians. Cloudy but bright, big on refreshment and good with food. The former you can slosh about all day and night long, the latter deserves to be quaffed from a smaller glass next to a canal...

British pale, or more correctly; golden or blonde ale also has a deep deep history. But many of the beers you'll find on the wickets in your local 'decent beer' establishment are a slightly different breed from the traditional amber beers of this particular island. Bright, blonde or golden ales have surged in popularity and good job too as they were developed as a response to the rise of the afore mentioned piss water. The lightly roasted malt makes light beer and a great background for more volatile flavours, many of these subtle and lingering. The best way to drink these is in a good boozer, from the cask.

Ahem - you can of course get shite wheat beer and shite British ale of course, it's just the unfortunate state of affairs that the lager brand shite is particularly pervasive.

Anyhow, you want really great blonde ale? Try Roosters, Crouch Vale or indeed Wensleydale's Semmer Water which is fucking magnificent and has an amazing 'working brewery' pong.

We've been getting through a few of the Americans at North recently, especially the super snappy Brooklyn summer - a beer that I tried straight from the cask at the brewery. The bottled version is bracingly bright and fresh. Also one of my all time favorites of which I'm partaking of right now... Also Sierra Nevada and Goose Island Summer beers are worth looking up.

Anchor Summer is made from 50% malted wheat and the other half malted barley. A 'modern American wheat beer' no less... It's a down and out winner and I try to keep a case in at home all Summer. It marries the best of ale traditions with a dose of bright wheat, clear golden colour and fizzy fun-time! It's smooth, snappy and bright - the wheat brings a touch of acidity and a really good length...

heh... length.

Thursday 27 May 2010


Yeah ok so I haven't been writing much recently... May is a busy one for me and I've been doing some partying which is lovely but means that I don't feel right motivated to write.

Ho hum - I'm not going to harp on about it, I'm just going to post some links instead to get the ball rolling again.

This is the quarterly night I help run and DJ at, we play a big mix of genres and have a great time. Fear ye not beer lovers as I haven't written anything recently so I'm not neglecting you.

The chaps dressed as penguins are the people behind some of the most interesting developments in UK beer brewing and marketing. They brew some pretty amazing stuff and are actually top guys to boot. It's easy to love what they do and easy to knock it, as many beer bloggers have done. James came over to do a tasting with us at the Cross Keys the other night which was top flight and one of the best we've done, due in no small measure to the utter enthusiasm and dedication of James and Brewdog... Oh and Tokyo* is a work of genius.

I'm currently eating a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich with tobasco, salt and pepper. This is also a work of genius, I'm washing it down with 2 day old Sam Smiths oatmeal stout. It's better than it sounds and still a bit fizzy...


Tuesday 20 April 2010

Asam Aleikum

Christ... So a fair bit's happened happened since my last post. To be honest I found writing about my holiday a little trying...

I had a really amazing time as you may have gathered, but I don't like feeling that I must to write something and one of the original intentions of this blog was to publish writing and tasting as I am doing it... With hilarious consequences!

So I'll get back to that eh...

I've been damn busy recently, if you've not been to Leeds recently then you've won't have seen our festival and you won't have seen me sweating cobs over a shit load of Belgian beer at North.

I'm really happy with the way the whole thing went down, it's amazing how people have become so much more receptive to new beer in the last few years and it's great to now be in a situation where some of these weird and wonderful examples of the brewing art aren't such a hard sell as they used to be.

That said and thoroughly ... and flying in the face of such a wonderful experience, I'm just getting down some German beer.

Weltenburger Kloster - Asam Bock

My fucking christ what a beer.

Smooth as hell, like being thrown down some 'block o flat' stairs whilst wrapped in a duvet. It has bumpy caramel malt like nothing else and deep hops, god knows, perhaps they are hallertau... I don't right know but I've reached a point in German beer where I'm starting to marvel about the nutty, tawny, fruitgum flavours that seem to run through so many beers of so many styles....

This is one of the best beers I've ever had.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Brooklyn Brewery Part 2: Blast & Wild 1!


NYC is really leading the world in terms of beers and bars. FACT, whatever you think of the US they embrace variety and quality more than anyone else. The service is second to none and an experimental attitude is ingrained in the craft beer industry across the board.

Most of the bars I visited also had 15+ beers on tap and the majority were over 5%. They were also innovative and engaging venues and the staff were really knowledgeable and more importantly friendly and engaging.

Barcade in Williamsburg

The Black Rabbit in Greenpoint

Of course my view could possibly have been tainted by the fact that I went to all the best places dahling... Aged beer night at Barcade anyone? A bar full of 80's arcade machines, 15 aged imperial IPA's, Imperial Stouts and Barley wines on draught aged Gonzo, Brooklyn intensified coffee stout?... Come on now.

Britain and British beer are of course my first love but we're only very slowly waking up in this country - I'm sick of hearing about the "cask ale revolution". It's a fucking "revival!". In the past there were masses of beers on offer in pubs of varying strengths and compositions. It's only since pale cask conditioned ale came back into fashion that modern British brewers have started to delve in to the past. The "Great British Public" are slow to pick up on the diversity of ale available.

As such we're getting there but resting on our laurels is something we do in this country all too often.

As such Brooklyn beers in the UK have taken a while to take hold, whereas in the US everyone seems to be sampling the many and varied delights of Mr Oliver and his brewing chums! So lets think back a little to a couple of weeks ago... Through the mists of drunkenness to Williamsburg and the Brooklyn brewery.... diddley doo... diddley doo... diddley doo

One of the first beers we tried with Garrett Oliver was Brooklyn Blast! A US double IPA that really exemplifies the style. US IPA was the first time for me that I was convinced that the US has a style to call their own, extremely bitter, dense and sweet with a complex depth of flavours.

Blast is a wonderful honey orange beer with big big hops. The hoppiness is on the floral side and for me that's something you don't get so often with US beer. Garrett had a lot to say about balance in ale, he's schooled in the UK you see and that subtle approach has translated in to something quite profound in the US - full flavoured, distinctly American beer with a nod to the past. So Blast! is choc a bloc with tropical flavour, sweet malt and flowery cannabis-y goodness. It also has a notable dry finish which make it super moreish...

I was also incredibly privileged to try a beer called Wild 1. This is a bit of an experiment that has been kept within the brewery and is not available to the public! OH! In simple terms it's Brooklyn Local 1, wine barrel aged with brettanomyces added. Oh god how we love the wild yeast - it does something like no other to beer. Wild 1 has a nose like nothing I ever smelt before; full, dusty, winey, sour and utterly spectacular! The beer is ultra complex and intense with spice and citrus alongside fuller black grapey, raisiny, woody notes. A bit of a Willy Wonka beer.

I suppose you'd call it a double saison or something then... Cheers Garrett!

'Representing' in the Brewery

This is exactly what many US brewers did from the word go but then they had a bit of catching up to do I suppose.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

And now for something...

So just before I go back to my adventures in Brooklyn I just thought I should draw attention to cask ale week. Like it really needs boulstering any more to be honest - cask ale in the five years I've worked at North has gone from being something that had to be really pushed to the general public to No.1 in sales.

It's natural in most cases, it's FACKIN BRIDDISH MAYTE, in most cases it's very good indeed, in many it's exceptional and unique and it's ALIVE!!


Saturday 20 March 2010

Brooklyn Brewery Part 1: Garrett Oliver's Dark Matter

I'm not given to hero worship... I try to avoid celebrities if I come near them, as I always like to speak to people on a level which is difficult when said people are interesting, inspirational or extraordinary. Also I have a tendency to trip them up, trip myself up, spit in their face or make fumbling, embarrassing remarks about their shoes. Despite this, oddly enough I seem to meet them quite regularly.
The head brewer at Brooklyn, Garrett Oliver, is an absolute legend and the foremost authority on beer in the US so i was a touch nervous. Mr Oliver's beers are renown throughout the world and his collaborations with brewers, chefs and fancy cocktail types are the stuff of beer legend. Moreover I was in a bit of a state from the silly amount of strong beer and rye whisky I consumed the night before so the whole meeting heroes thing was on my mind a little.

We had brilliant tour with Carla at the Williamsburg brewery who was utterly wonderful to us and took us through some lovely beers - in particular a cask of Brooklyn Summer that was a year old and tasted really fresh which was remarkable for the low alcohol level. Then Garrett rocked up and showed us things in a bit more depth.

I had a butchers at the conditioning rooms and some of the stuff that they have been working on recently. Garrett, luckily for me, was tremendously affable and interesting and had some unique insights into some great great beers which I try and incorporate in the next few posts. In particular on Dark Matter, Blast, Local 2 and Wild 1.

Brooklyn Dark Matter is a brown ale aged for four months in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels. Some barrels previously held a beer called Black Ops, some contained a beer called Manhattan Project, others came straight from the distilleries as soon as the whiskey was decanted.

It's a great brew with that wonderful bourbon vanilla cask-ness but with a soft milky chocolate sweetness and a rye beer oiliness that coats the mouth. Not too much mind blowing alcohol taste which means that it creeps up on you a bit. Bearing in mind that it is 7.5%... Yes... It creeps up on you a bit... Bearing in mind that we had tasted pretty much everything else available it was probably time to get on the road before I did anything daft...

Thursday 18 March 2010

Outtatown! BROOKLYN & NYC

Oh yes I am!

Holiday time and I'm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I really hate flying (all the best people do) and I think that it seems that my horrible flight with American Airways ended in disaster as I have crashed and died and gone to beer heaven!!

We went out for a couple of scoops last night in Greenpoint and over the frigging moon with the number of beers available and the quality of the bars...

The day had started in rather a different fashion at about 9am in Heathrow having a Guinness and a Jamesons for St Patrick's Day - that was fairly ropey and put me off having another one all day but at least I'd payed my dues to my 25% Irish blood.
Get out ye snakes!

Greenpoint is just above Williamsburg in Brooklyn, you're constantly aware of the madness of Manhattan on the skyline but it feels a world away, it's fairly quiet but in a gnarly NYC way. Plenty of Polish delis (that's another 50% of blood accounted for) and some great great bars...

In particular the Black Rabbit which is a fantastic bar, it's a perfect balance of old black wood fittings and booths and quirky mismatched lighting and paintings. It has a really classy beer menu and cracking snacks including mini burgers! I drank some cracking 'soft hoppy' Green Flash IPA and Black Rabbit porter which was also a rather good, caramelllllly and fairly light bodied session-er.
Also on my list was Diamond which was also quite lovely, with a classy, wooden, curved bar and an ace mini shuffleboard which caused no end of amusement despite the 'no shouting' rule! I had some cracking malty German Maibock on draught whose name escapes me and some Otter Creek Copper which was an alt beer - another malty beer style which I have a great amount of time for. This one was fruity and smooth.

So we crawled on a little - starting to feel a touch lagged - to the Brouwerij Lane, a smashing little beer shop with space to have a drink and 20 beers on draught... Yes. owner Ed Raven has been collecting great beers for 10 years and the selection in here is second to none... The phenomenon of the Growler is very much in effect here - essentially a half gallon jug which you fill up and take home. It hasn't quite reached the UK yet but I'm sure it will... Watch this space.

We'd popped in earlier and had a glass of Southern Tier Unearthly IPA which was utterly brilliant, along with super resinous hops it was extremely thick and bitter which sounds a bit much but it really worked. It also has a really interesting pear drops kinda thing going on which I thought was smashing.

So anyway we brought home some Pigslap pale ale and some Hitachino Nest beer. The pigslap was mentioned by Leeds blogger Leigh a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to try it. Quite interesting - good beer in a can! Kinda creamy, tropical-fruity, buttery APA and rather good. The Hitachino has probably the cutest label in the world but I ain't drunk it yet...

So looking back that's a good amount of beer to drink after an 7 hour flight combined with 4 hours of pissing about in airports... I've drunk some great stuff today too and I'll let you know about it soon no doubt...

Saturday 13 March 2010

Supermarket beers 101

Soopermaaarkit! Soopermaaarkit! Why has there never been a song about supermarkets?

Why? Because they are horrific places... Conveyor belts of woe, choc a bloc with stuff you don't really need, let alone want. Their myriad sins are only just being figured out, that's right figured. We have had to look extremely closely to understand the crazy shit they have been able to pull off.
That said, they do sell some stuff that's good, if they didn't no one would go eh? Luckily for drinkers and unluckily for pub goers they do sell booze. Usually at a loss! Ha! How can a boozer compete with that? We should start selling beans at a loss in pubs... That would confuse the fuckers.

Anyway I decided a while ago to start an ongoing post about supermarket beer, I made some notes and then realized they were rubbish and so started again and got to here... I'll update this as I go...

M & S
My closest supermarket, the domain of cosseted mummies and mummies boys, home comforts and posho ready meals. They probably do the best food of the lot and have recently opened up their doors to all comers including HP sauce and, predictably, beans.

London Porter (Meantime)
There's a good fun beer somewhere here but it's the colour of coke and has the same fizzy-as-fuck-ness. Why is it so fizzy? There's good chocolately malt and a hint of bitterness but it dies in a jacuzzi of burpy CO2.

Lincolnshire Bitter (Batemans)
Malty Maris Otter and soft hops, good solid brown beer.

Irish Stout
Very good, dry as Irish should be, toasted and nicely bitter - hint of fruity hop. Raisin, good dark chocolate not too sweet.

Thursday 4 March 2010

2 Westvleterens died to make this post...

So much good beer.

So much.

Do you know that good beer has penetrated pretty much every market? Did you know that excellent beer is available if you are willing to spend just a bit of your spare time looking?

Really top class beers are there, ready to drink, more readily available than ever. You just have to give a fuck...

Easy for me to say as I'm sat watching Question Time reverently sipping wes-T-fel-eter-en, with"an air of nonchalance". It's one of the holy grails of drinking. It's truly unique.

It has however, been joined in recent years by several other beers. Yes, there are other beers that claim to be utterly excellent, and yes, some of them are. Moreover the stage has been set for beer to take the initiative... and it has. There is nothing on earth that displays the range of flavours available to the human palate quite like beer.

That said; I know NOTHING of the palate held by dogs, cats, alligators, fishes, deer, meerkats or indeed any of the animal kingdom. Or crustaceans.

But they can't write so it's beside the point. Beer is great, and it's just getting better and betterer. Drinking Westvleteren is tremendously enjoyable. It has the most wonderful, all encompassing 'rotting rum barrel' smell. It has a still look about it. It's light in body but really very deep in flavour. It's long and deep flavour has a particular and dryness which all of the truly great beers seem to carry. It's sweet, savoury, dry... wet, it's soft but not subtle.

Sherry, vegetation, rum, alcohol, measured hops, raisin, stewed dark fruit bitterness.

Bob on eh?

It's made by monks who don't really like to sell loads of it and as such it's hard to come by, by limiting supplies and making it utterly brilliant the monks make this beer extremely valuable. Luckily it is, otherwise it would be monk spaff...

Food for thought eh? Or perhaps not...

Friday 26 February 2010

An Orcadian

So I've been a little slow on the writing for a couple of weeks. Excuses - I have a few...

You can possibly see in my last post that I've been having a little fun, that particular post was a bit of a struggle despite being only a few lines. It was really one of those where I was writing with one finger and has one eye shut... To use the technical parlance I was 'shitted'.

I also see looking back that I was having some sort of existential crisis, I was wanting to tell people about particular drinks whilst NOT ACTUALLY DRINKING THEM. My self imposed rules plus a large glass of whisky did for me. I had to give up and go a wake the missus to explain to her that at 5:30am it was essential that I hang my socks in a small tree in the bedroom. I'm told I was somewhat flamboyant in this act.

So do I take notes on beers and then diligently transcribe them for the small number of 'unique visitors' to my humble blog or do I carry on getting home after a load of drinks and try and cobble some 'entertainment' together.

Perhaps I should put up a poll?

Orkney beer anyway... I knew bugger all about it until Mr Zak brought a bottle by the bar the other day. A bottle of Orkney Blast, no less, from the Swannay Brewery. Really good stuff, so I bought a few when I was back home in Knaresborough.

Quite odd really because Orcadians have popped up throughout the start of this year, I've met a couple of inhabitants and also been asked a couple of times for Orkney beer. Woooo! Perhaps it's fate that this brilliant stuff landed in my glass.

Blast is 6% and powerful at that, it pours a warm gold colour with an egg white head. It's choc a bloc with juicy malty goodness from the nose to the tongue. It's exceptionally well balanced with plenty of hops that are certainly there but don't take the lead in the flavour.

It's MERINGUE-Y! Yes there's a definite meringue kinda thing going on, at first I thought it was just me but the crunchy, frothy edge to the blast is also carried by a couple other of their beers. It's most likely something to do with the yeast. Most brewers have a house yeast and I love brewers that manage to keep the same character running through their products whilst making them distinctly different things.

Real top stuff - I'm looking forward to getting some casks in at the bar. Now I've got to find something for Mr Zak which is no mean feat as he has supped of many a beer.

Saturday 20 February 2010

wokkin like a dog

Loads going on,

just finished work, plenty of really lovely new beer being drunk. I had a couple with my good friend Jimmy James Wood this evening post labour.

In particular...

I have words about

Sierra Nevada - Unrivalled

Will I get round to writing them? Who knows?

I'll attempt to avoid bullshit and shit beer, I'll try to write as I drink the beers and I promise not to:

1. Be aloof.
2. Twitter on.
3. Lie.
4. Get needlessly technical.

So I'd be breaking my own rules to just post some notes about UNR that I made earlier.

Or summat.

ta ta