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
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

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.

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.