Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Copper Dragon's Trueman Ale

Copper Dragon, those stalwarts of the Yorkshire Beer scene, have announced a new, one-off brew to celebrate the birthday of Fred Trueman OBE, who was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame this year.

Although not a cricket fan, I'm eagerly awaiting this new brew - CD don't veer from their standard range often, if at all, and Golden Pippin will hold a special place in my heart - as I'm sure a lot of Yorkshiremen will agree with - and their Challenger IPA is a firm favourite, too
The first 200 bottles of the ale will be individually signed and numbered by Head Brewer, Gordon Wilkinson and made exclusively available to guests attending a Gala Dinner in aid of the Freddie Trueman statue appeal, created and supported by train operator Northern Rail. Beer and cricket lovers will join stars from sport and showbusiness in the celebrations at The Queens Hotel, Leeds on Wednesday 17 March 2010. So it's not available quite yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

Steve Taylor, MD of Copper Dragon (pictured, along with Gordon Wilkinson and Veronica Trueman), describes the new beer as 'A Golden Ale that brings memories of Cricket Summers' ,and it will be available in Cask as well as bottled via the usual outlets.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why Bother?

The universe moves in funny ways. Recently, I was asked no less than three times in one week, by three different people in three different pubs, why I write about beer. Given that I’d read a couple of articles in the blogosphere recently along the same lines, I thought I would put together an answer - at least for myself. Why do this?
For me, it’s simple philanthropy. When I enthuse about something, I simply want other people to enjoy it too. Whether it be beer, films, music or books, I simply have to tell people I know about what’s good out there – hence one reason for the name of the blog.

Alongside this, I have somewhat of a social conscience. Our family trade was Butchery, and I grew up valuing ‘the smaller guys’ in terms of food retail. I never shopped for meat or veg in supermarkets until I had to (ie moved out of home, to somewhere with no Butchers, or Grocer’s). This saddened me - and at the same time that I was learning to fend for myself, food-wise. I’ve always been into food and travel, and getting into beer was just an extension of that. I started TGS as a food site, with recipes and supplier profiles, but as the ‘Farmer’s Market’ explosion happened a couple of years ago, so did the number of sites that did what I did, only much better. Then, over a pint, I realised that my twin obsession – Beer – needed the love.

These breweries that I loved were not getting airtime. As simple as that. So I switched focus, and the site remains that today. I wrote my first post proper, and haven’t looked back since.
The only way I know how to do this is to write. I’ve always written in my spare time – mostly short fiction, with a couple of published stories under my belt. But whereas writing fiction is essentially a narcissistic and insular thing to do, blogging about beer and ‘shouting out for the smaller guys’ fills another need; giving me that philanthropic glow.

People may scoff at the odd food/beer matching article. But I really don’t care – the amount of friends and colleagues I have nefariously weaned off cheap lager by serving them great meals alongside a great beer more than justifies it as a going concern. Without it, they would not have made the leap, and that’s what it’s all about.
It’s the same for highlighting the smaller, independent breweries. I know full well that the majority of you who read TGS regularly (ie, my trusted buddies who I link to) are in the same boat, so in some respects I’m preaching to the converted. But for everyone of my fellow beer geeks, there are one or two ‘interested unknowns’ who drop by. And if they go up to a bar and pass over a pint of ‘Italian’ or ‘Danish’ lager brewed in the UK, for an independently produced beer – and enjoy it – then that’s the bullseye. That’s one more customer for the craft guys.

The Micros and Crafts that we all love don’t get into supermarkets; they don’t have publicity budgets or sponsorship deals with Champions’ League football teams. So I will do it for them. For free. Why? Because I want them to do well and not disappear because if they did, I would have one less great beer to drink.

Don’t get me wrong - It’s not all good. For every great beer I drink, I’ll drink two that are dull, plain, boring, or just bad. But I don’t blog about those – because it’s not the point. The blogs’ called The Good Stuff. Plus, taste is subjective, and what I consider pisswater could be another man’s nectar. I will always try to be constructive. As a rule of thumb, if the beer moves me to write, then it’s good. The rest of them – well, if they want to get mentioned on here, they must simply try harder.

TGS is not primarily a beer news site – again, there are tons of sites out there that do that better than I do. I will not wade into arguments about Beer ties, PubCo’s, or Binge drinking. It’s not my place. I may comment on other sites simply to throw my hat into the ring. I’d much rather debate the ‘bigger issues’ over a pint, in person. And, as those who know me will testify, I do, often.

Speaking of ‘in person’, another way that blogging has brightened my life is by bringing me into contact with some genuinely great people, and to some great pubs, breweries and bars. We all have beer in common and I’ve yet to meet a fellow beer blogger or beer professional who had turned out to be a complete twat. We all have a common goal, and I think we do pretty well, between us, of championing the right beers, breweries, and issues at the right time – in a much more honest way than the mainstream press. We are the ones at the pumps, buying the stuff. I’m not a journalist; I work full-time, so I do what I can do. I have no ‘party line’ to tow, or editorial bias worries. This is all a hobby and I try to treat is as such.

So there it is. A long post, so thanks for reading, if you did. Here’s to more great beers coming our way. And If I had one piece of advice to give to people who love beer it’s this: Brew your own all-grain beer. You’ll learn more about beer brewing it than any amount of reading or tasting. Not only that, but you become the first rung of a ladder that ultimately provides great-tasting and unique beer to the masses. This is the spirit of truly Independent Brewing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nogne - O pt 2: Brown Ale

Ok, I’m continuing my NO love-in with their Brown Ale (Bottle-Conditioned, 4.5%abv). Remember last time - I said that I thought that their tastes lie more US that UK – well, Brown Ale confounded that one. Smooth in the body, dark ruby in colour, and with a gentle, spicy hoppiness rather than a massive kick to the face, this is one subdued, elegant Brown, rather than the steroid-pumped, chest beating US Brown that I expected.
There’s a slight creaminess to the body, and a residual sweetness that makes this one very smooth, drinkable beer, with a whisper of smoke at the end of the sip. This is one beer I would love to try on tap and can imagine many a cold night in Norway was soothed along with such a wholesome beer as this. Again, it’s Brown Ale, but a new version, and I quite enjoyed it. Not as much as the IPA though!
All in all, NO push all the right buttons for me - passionate about beer enough to make a life out of it, and stamping their own mark on styles as they go along. Here’s the second part of Greg Koch's NO video for you to get the full experience; showing off their wonderful looking brewhouse and larder. I’m off to go order some more; from their site, I can see there’s plenty more out there for me to try. Do check the site out, it's full of info for any NO nerd. Recommendations are welcome, guys.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

'Spanish' Pasties

Now that Autumn is well and truly here, may I suggest this warming little spanish treat. Loosely based on the Spanish or Portuguese Empanada, these are a typically Yorkshire version; bigger, and with more of everything. They also taste good cold, so bake some up, and take them along to your bonfires next month. I also totally advocate using frozen pastry; the quality is excellent these days - although feel free to make your own, if you like! As usual with me, all measures are approximate - so put more or less in of whatever you like. But here's what I did.

1. Firstly, take one large potato and chop into chunks. Par-boil the pieces until soft enough to put a skewer through. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. Now, make the filling. In a large frying pan or wok, heat up a large glug of olive oil, and add: your potato chunks, 200g of diced turkey thigh, 100g of Chorizo, chopped into small cubes, one large, diced red onion, and one 1 small diced pepper. Fry gently until the veg is soft and the meat browned. When done, add a little more oil, and about 4 tbspns of Tomato Puree. Mix and coat the mixture. Then add 3 chopped or minced cloves of garlic and two chopped chillies. Add a dash of Tabasco, too - it adds a little sweetness. Add a teaspoon of water, and season the filling mix with salt, pepper, and some dried Rosemary.

3. Leave the mix to cool - very important - and preheat your oven to 200c.
4. Roll out your Puff pastry, and re-knead if frozen (I find this just helps it get more pliable). Roll into sheets and, using a saucer, cut out four circles. You should be able to get two from each sheet.
5. When the mixture has cooled, divide it onto the sheets, and fold over and crimp to make pasties. If the mixture is not cool, your pastry Will fall apart, so don't jump the gun here.
6. Glaze with oil, butter, egg or milk and bake for about 20 minutes until crispy.
7. Crack one open, and enjoy.

You can make these as hot as you need, but do add the chilli - it makes them what they are. You could also experiment with the fillings, and add fish or pork, if you like. You'll notice I've used Turkey thigh meat rather than chicken or turkey breast - I find that the thigh is not only tastier, but remains moister much longer. These pasties can be frozen, too, as long as all of your meat is fresh the first time around.

To combat the heat, I washed these down with some of William Bull's Red Angus Pilsener. this chilled Australian offering had a little earthiness in the body, but was certainly crisp enough, and had masses of lemon and lime sherbertiness on the nose and the end of the sip. Very refreshing indeed, and stove off the chillies with no problem at all.
Overall, an interesting beer that I would drink again, if only to give a more serious appraisal. Still a pint of this on a hot day wouldn't go amiss at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nogne O - pt 1

I can honestly say I’ve never had a beer from Norway before. This, along with the fact that Nogne-O (‘Naked Isle’ in Norwegian) was started up by two enthusiastic homebrewers made me make a beeline for a couple of their bottles whilst perusing UTOBEER earlier in the summer. I had to pick them up there and then, because I hadn’t seen their wares further North at all.

Although I didn’t know what to expect, I’d seen some excellent videos featuring them on YouTube and had a feeling that their tastes would lie more American than English. I was right, at least in the case of the IPA (Bottle conditioned, 7.5% abv); Chinook and Cascade hops give us that US-Style grapefruit/citrus punch on the nose straight away. And, in my bottle, it was this huge aroma that impressed me the most. Aroma can be hard to maintain in bottled beer, so Kudos where it’s due.
Another really interesting aspect of the IPA was the colour – it’s really quite dark for its style; easily the darkest IPA I have seen. This complexity presumably comes from the addition of Munich malt to the grain bill alongside the classic combo of Maris Otter pale malt and Crystal/Caramel malt. This nice twist gave a biscuity, slightly wheaten undertow to the firstly sweet, then massively bitter taste. It’s also a thick, chewy mouthful, with tons of body. For me, a great beer – and this is what I really enjoy – ‘twists’ genre rather than overhauls. I want my beers to give me something new whilst staying recognisable, and they boys from Nogne-O have done that with their IPA.

Anyway, I’m tasting these beers this week, so I will let you know how I get on with Brown Ale, a style very close to my heart, in a few days. In the meantime, here’s some Nogne-O Vid-eo to enjoy; Greg Koch from Stone visited the guys in 2008 and made a diverting little doc whilst enjoying great food, beer and scenery. That guy has a great job.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Foley's Oktoberfest/Ciderfest

A little news update - Foley's are hosting a little Oktoberfest of thier own throughout October, with additions to their bottled range of Jever Pils, Lowenbrau Oktoberfest, Paulaner & Flying Dog Dogtoberfest Marzen to name a few. In addition, they are doing thier bit for independent Cider makers (is that the right term?) by running a Cider Festival alongside - all ciders on tap, and rotating weekly, all month. Do go and check it out, if Cider's your thing.

Also, congratulations are in order for Williams Bros, who have had an excellent run at the recent International Beer Challenge. Midnight Sun won Gold, Alba picked up a Silver medal and the perennial stalwart Fraoch won a Bronze. Williams are a bit of a cult hit right now, with thier beers picking up consistently good reviews for both flavour, diversity and label design - this might sound a bit wooly, but this means a lot to me. So well done, lads. I can heartily recommend both the 7 Giraffes and Red Als. Interesting, forward-thinking brews.
You can check out Williams' new website here, and read the rest of the result of the IBC here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Weekend Jaunt to Edinburgh

...Time for a long weekend, for sure. Work's been pretty stressful of late, and planning a wedding on top leaves much room for taking a weekend off every once in a while. So, for no real reason other than it seemed like a nice place, we took off to Edinburgh.

It is a nice place, with a new and old town - each offering a very different view of Edinburgh's rich history. Obviously, amongst all this sight-seeing and (as always) shopping, comes a few chances for that refreshing pint along the way. Firstly we lit upon The Abbotsford, situated in the heart of the New Town. Busy enough on a Friday lunchtime, the staff were friendly and the beer in good condition. We sat at the bar and ordered up a pint of Brewdog's 77 Lager. I'd never had this before, but a lager, or pilsner it ain't. Maybe the bottled version is. What it is, is a light copper-coloured, unremittingly dry (thanks to that Amarillo),bitter Pale Ale, with slight honeyed malt coming through on the body. I liked it, but am not sure if I could have managed another one - it was a 'big' beer indeed.

Later on, we ate in The Mussel Inn, a busy seafood restaurant not far from The Abbotsford. Busy & vibrant, this place is definitely one to go to again. The food was excellent value for money (half a kilo of mussels with fries for under a tenner) and the service snappy and friendly. An improved extraction system in the kitchen wouldn't go amiss, though...

We spent the next day largely sightseeing, but with Leeds playing Charlton, we both (honestly, Louise is as mad about Leeds United as I am) needed to find 'A bar with Sky Sports on, but not filled with twats' for lunch - which luckily we did in The Albanach, on The Royal Mile. Belhaven 80 Shilling and Best provided smooth, fruity and completely easy drinking post-lunch accompaniment (the game was a draw, if anyone cares).

Later on, post-supper, we managed to squeeze into the Cafe Royal. Although Deuchars IPA is ubiquitous up here, it was nice to see most (men, anyway) people in here drinking Ale, rather than Tennent's. My pint of Kelburn Carte Blanche hit the spot - again, pale and fruity, but with a slowly appearing bitter hit at the end of the sip. I wonder how many people were drinking this, rather than Deuchars. Red Smiddy was also on, but not tried. Cafe Royal is worth checking out, although I'd like to go back when a little quieter - the decor is wonderful.

Finally, worth a mention is Royal Mile Whiskies - great staff, and enough Whisky to satisfy every taste - as well as a decent range of scottish ales (McWilliams, Brewdog, Orkney, Fyne). Thanks for the advice, guys.

Things I learned in Edinburgh: 1. Deuchars do loads of beers - not only IPA and 80 Shilling. Seasonals range from Blueberry infused creations to IPA's with US hops. Didn't see any of them, though. 2. There are a lot of Americans. 3. Despite bars and pubs having hundreds of Whiskies available, people still drink Bells and Jack Daniels. Sigh. 4. Next time I must leave enough time to visit the Bow Bar.