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