Friday, August 28, 2009

The Owl and The Barge Beer & Music Festival 2009

..Is this weekend. I checked it out last year - very pleasant it was too. Beers from Local faves Leeds, Saltaire, Naylor's and Elland to mention a few. So if you've got nothing on, have a wander on down and sip a beer by the canal.

Another upcoming festival that has caught my eye is The Bull's (Horton Kirby, Kent) Pictish Festival. I really like the idea of a festival dedicated to one brewer, as perverse as that may sound. Pictish are a good lot and don't shy away from making single-varietal beers, something which I admire greatly in a brewer. The festival takes place 03/09/09 and you can read about it here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Orkney Brewery

Scotland seems to be the place to be at the moment when it comes to beer. Personally, what I like about Scottish brews is that they seem to be able to maintain a certain identity; there's not mistaking a Scottish ale these days, from the innovation of Williams Bros Brewing Co to the ever-popular Harviestoun, to the regal air of Traquair. It's that locality that any region that wants to hold its own in brewing needs to latch onto and keep.

The most impressed I've been of late was with a couple of bottles of Orkney's beers. One was brought back from a Scottish visit at the start of the year, when these beers were somewhat rare in my neck of the woods. Last week I topped it up with another, and was struck by how easy to get Scottish craft beers are now.

I have a predilection for beers that included with word 'Red' in the title - for me, it conjures up heat, roasted malt, depth of flavour and a little sweetness - which is essentially true of the superb Red McGregor. It pours deep, ruby red, and there's a real bitter hop-hit towards the end of the sip, and a floral nose, but there's a huge heart of malt in this beer. A friend of mine remarked that he thought it tasted a little of Anchor Steam - and in respect of the sweetness, I can see his point. I'd like to think that on cask the hoppiness may be toned down a little, but I wouldn't even know where to start with finding this.

On the opposite end of the scale, Northern Light (sounds like a whole new style, doesn't it) is a super-easy drinking Pale Ale, although I thought it was more in line with a Golden Ale. Again, there's a bitter, citrus hoppiness that fades surprisingly fast, and the aroma is that wet grass/hay that you get with beers like this. The body is a little thinner that its darker brother, but overall this was a perfect summer quaffing pale. Fans of Harviestoun's Bitter & Twisted, Goose Eye's Wonkey Donkey and Hopback's Summer Lighting should head here.

I bought the Northern Light from Simpson's - an unashamedly posh deli near The Adelphi and Pin. They've overhauled thier beer range and now have a decent stock including Leeds Brewery's Pale and Midnight Bell. Do have a look.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Quick London Hop

...And so it was a mini-session around London that was in order this weekend, seeing as though I was spending some time visiting a friend.
Bellies full of Bratwurst from the (having as usual) Borough Market, we duly joined the ranks amassed outside The Market Porter. Ever dependable, our pints of Bay's Best started lunchtime off very nicely, and although I had never even heard of Bay's, they certainly make a tasty, malty-sweet best.

At the opposite end of the scale, Meantime's London Pale was the catalyst to a major breakthrough - my good mate Rich, who prefers maltier beers and is the only beer-drinker I know who baulks at 'Over-Grapefruity hops' in beer, declared his MLP as 'actually rather nice'. Huzzah.
After a early -afternoon raid on Utobeer and a quick shower later, we emerged into a lovely sunny afternoon. After a couple of beers along the way, we finally got to The Lamb & Flag, where a decent pint of Young's Special hit the spot after a hot tube journey. I really do like this sweet but fruity beer, and it was nice to find some.
Food-wise, La Perla, (A mexican cantina in Covent Garden that I've blogged about before) was as good as it was in 2007. Street Tacos - Soft flour tortillas with pulled Pork and Prawn meat with lashings of chilli salsa and sour cream managed to be sweet, hot, sour, salty and sweet all in one mouthful. A couple of Dos Equis washed them down. Good Food, Good Prices, Good Staff.
Full of Mexican food, we sauntered to The Harp to finish the night on Darkstar Hophead and Original (A beer that I have neglected in the past but am developing a serious jones for) before giving into familiarity and ordering some Taylor's Golden Best.
Overall an entirely pleasurable Saturday night.
Kudos of the Weekend go to whoever parked their black VW Polo outside the Market Porter on Saturday lunchtime - with two Leeds United Badges in the back window and a dangly Leeds Badge on the rearview mirror, you certainly drew a salute. Nice to see, in the middle of London!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co.

If that's not an evocative name for a brewery, then I don't know what is. Rolling hills, glowering skies and no-nonsense brewing. That's what I think of when I think of 'Yorkshire' and in a lot of ways that's what the two beers I've just enjoyed from the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co are.

First up is Great Shunner (4.2% abv). A dark amber-hued beer, the aroma is mostly cola, with a sweet malt and a hint of biscuit. Quite dark for a 'session bitter'. it turns out to be fairly thin in body but with a nice, late, bitterness. The head stays around for a while, and its an easy pint to drink.

Much more complex, but strangely lighter in alcohol, is the Darrowby Dark (3.7%abv). The first thing you notice is the smoky aroma, which does carry through to the taste. Hopped milder, this beer is firmly pitched at the Dark Mild clan, and does a respectable job. There's a slight hint of bitter chocolate in the body, aloing with a late cherry/red fruit hit, but the lively carbonation again renders the mouthfeel a little thin - when in this case it could be more strong.

Both beers are decent enough, and I would certainly make a beeline for their cask counterparts - there's a lot going on in these beers, flavour-wise, but the bottle-conditioning gives them both a lively feel that doesn't quite do them justice. YDBC have a decent array of bottle-conditioned brews, and I'll buy more in the future.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Station Inn, Whitby/ The Vic, Leeds

It's been ages since I reviewed a pub - simply for the reason that no new ones (or ones worth writing about) had popped up recently. That all changed at the weekend when I was pleasantly surprised by The Station Inn in Whitby.

Now, I like Whitby. Really; I like the beach, the Fish & Chips (although getting pricier each visit) and the uneasy alliance formed between the Goths and Chavs that make up about 80% of Whitby's tourist population at any one time. One thing that Whitby does not have, however, is decent pubs. Sorry - my opinion - but I really can't say any appeal to me. Except The Station.

Situated, well, opposite the train station, it's a small, three-roomed pub with an excellent array of beers on offer. I counted Timmy Taylor's Best, Sharp's Doom Bar, Copper Dragon Challenger IPA, Daleside Blonde, Black Dog's Whitby Abbey Ale, Adnam's Bitter and Courage Directors. Not changing the world, admittedly, but a fine lineup. Being a nice day, I plumped for the Daleside Blonde and Black Dog's Whitby Abbey Ale - the latter being a lovely, moreish tawny best that warranted a second pint. The beer was in excellent condition, too. I'll be visiting again, for sure.

Last week, at the presentation to Foley's of the CAMRA Pub of the Year award, we got talking about The Victoria & Commercial Hotel in Leeds - a pub that I had visited in ages. It's still a quiet oasis from the screaming bars of millenium square, with all the ornate windows and woodwork that I remembered. The huge main room is a wonderful place to sit and have a drink. Situated just behind the town hall, Nicholson's have done their usual efficient preservation job and the result is a lovely, unfussy yet grand pub. The beer is good too - when I visited, Tetley's Dark Mild, Acorn's Barnsley Bitter, Cairngorm's Nessie, Sharp's IPA and Morrissey-Fox's (or whoever brews it this week) Proud of Pubs Best Bitter. Out of curiosity I ordered a pint of Mo-Fo (please shoot me if I ever use that phrase again) and nearly fell over; for it was actually rather good. A thick, creamy head gave way to a huge, malty best with a massive sweetness at the end. A slight smokiness lingered - fans of Milds and Dark Milds should hunt this one out.

So far a week of pleasant surprises, all in all.

The Station Inn, New Quay Road, Whitby, YO21 1DH - Tel: 08721 077 077

The Victoria & Commercial Inn, Great George Street, Leeds: Tel - 0113 2451386

Saturday, August 01, 2009

BrewDog Tokyo - tasted...

...Well, I've spent the last couple of hours tasting the most talked about beer this week - BrewDog Tokyo. At a massive 18.2% abv, the alcohol content of this stout has gained most of the press, but we've had very little on taste so far. I've never had anything this strong before, so it really was a first.

Once the incredibly lively, orange head dies down, you're left with a stout as dark as a Newcastle supporter's mood. It really is black. The nose is where you get the first hint of how strong this stuff actually is - there's a brininess to it that, for me, was a little meaty. Before you drink it you know it's going to be hot, but the once the initial warming alcohol fades, you get a surprisingly round, raisiny fruitiness with only a whiff of smoke - just before the final bitter tang and another hit of alcohol to warm the throat. It's certainly not as dry as I thought it would be, being an imperial stout. It is dry-hopped,but for me the malts and oak chips dominate the flavour profile.
Of course, It is ludicrously strong; you can't get away from that. In fact, one bottle is a struggle - furtive sipping is the way to go with this one. However, I found it surprisingly well-balanced, and quite unlike anything I've managed to get my mitts on yet. And that's the point of beer-hunting isn't it?
Now, I'm feeling a little sleepy...