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...