Monday, December 27, 2010

The Good Stuff 2010 Review

Ok, here’s my roundup of what floated my boat in 2010. Personally, I’ve had a pretty cool year. I got married, which was great fun and I can recommend to anyone thinking of popping the question, and I also decided to come out from behind the laptop and meet some of you. I’m glad I did; what a cracking bunch of chaps and chapesses you all turned out to be. You know who you are. Thanks for some great beers and banter.

Ok, here we go -
Overall Beer of the Year – a bottled one this year – BDB/DFH’s’s My Antonia. 2010 was the year I finally got to taste some Italian Craft Beers, and this was one hell of a jumping-off point. Aroma spilling out of the glass, thick with herbals and citrus, this Imperial Pilsner left some mark on my consciousness. Still, and I suspect will be for some time, my favourite BDB beer – albeit a collaboration.

Beers of The Year - Brewdog Edge/5Am Saint. I’ll whisper it; I’d fallen out of love a little with Brewdog in 2010. Too much high-abv, freeze-distilled antics for me; just personal taste. Then just when I’d wrote them off – BANG – Edge appears, being quite possibly tastiest pint for it’s abv I’d had. Masses of red fruit, plummy, malty, refreshing – but all with an abv of 3.8%. Then, my lazy ass picks up 5AM Saint, which must be one of the best aromas I’ve experienced for quite some time – strawberry and lychee all the way, sitting on top a very respectable, sweet Amber ale. Welcome back, BrewDog - I’ve missed ya.

SummerWine BreweryProject 6 IPA Series. If there’s one think I love in anything – be it writing, comics, music or indeed beer – it’s one-off’s. Exciting little diversions from core ranges, beers to actively seek out and savour. SWB’s P6 IPA’s have been pretty much the beer of my summer; waiting until the next one comes out, and trying hard to pick out the combo of hops in this particular edition. Simply excellent, fragrant, British IPA’s with a sense of adventure. I’d say check them out – but they’ve gone now; and therein lies my point.

Other memorable pints
Highland’s Orkney Blast – Strong Pale Ale par excellence – woody, earthy but sweet and aggressive English-hopped Strong Pale Ale.
Abbeydale Last Rites – A late entry, Last Rites slipped under the radar a little with its release this month. Super-easy drinking for its 11% abv, this richly golden Barleywine was smoother than Swiss Tony and satisfyingly rich, all without being cloying. Can we have some bottles of this, Abbeydale?
Wharfebank’s CamFell Flame – It’s not all about strong beers, and WB’s Camfell Flame is rightly the most lauded of their range. No-nonsense, it’s a rich, malty, warming pint with a lovely cinder-toffee profile.
Baladin Open – Wow. The stand-out beer of my honeymoon in Italy, and even the better for the fact that my bottle was given to me as a gift from a beer-loving barman in Garda. Again, aroma is what sets Open apart, loaded with Strawberry, Pineapple and Lychee.
Williams Bros Joker IPA – Williams continue to innovate and pleasantly surprise with a clean, refreshing, super-balanced IPA; restrained in hopping and yet all the better for it.
Marble Dobber – A great beer with that grapefruit led nose that I’ve come to expect from Pale Marble beers. This is one more about context; it was the first beer of the day on the Twissup and over it I finally met the likes of Baron Orm, the Hardknotts, Rakebar Glyn, Andy Mogg etc etc...
Ola Dubh 30 – on Cask at The Angel, Manchester, was not only one of the most pleasant surprises of the day (Twissup) but perfectly fit the mood of collaboration; a beer to be savoured and even shared – mouth-coatingly rich, loaded with chocolate and a whisper of whiskey heating everything up. Wow.
Thornbridge 2009 Halcyon. Green. Fresh. Refreshing. Moreish. Wonderful. Thanks, Stefano and the lads.
Crown Brooklyn Heights - IT constantly amazes me how much milage the Pale Ale style has, especially when this strong, sweet and floral Pale Ale hit my lips. Wonderfully hoppy, well-brewed, Pale Ale. Simple as that.

..And as ever with lists, there were so many more – but these are my ones, these are the pumpclips I want to see in my 2010 pub. Speaking of pubs, my pub of the year goes to The Grove in Huddersfield this year. I’d never actually been until 2010 and I rue that fact dearly. Pleasant, informative barstaff, great beer (and lots of it) all in a nice space. The Grove is one of the few pubs I would get on a train specifically for, so Thanks, Brian. Those that know me know I spend a lot of time hanging out with Dean in Foley’s – so I don’t want to over-egg the point for fear of being acused of nepotism – but Dean and crew at Foley’s deserve my thanks for really improving their beer range. In the past few months drinkers in Leeds have been spoiled with offerings from Summer Wine, Crown, Hardknott and Dark Star to name a few, as well as championing newer faces such as Revolutions. So I guess, a ‘Much Improved’ sort of award!

Finally, I just want to mention a couple of blogs. HopZine I love; clean, clever design and - more importantly – ratings I trust. That’s the key. Rob and Matt know their beer and bring the more esoteric beers to my attention, so for that, HopZine go as my blog of the year. They are both bloody nice blokes, too, which helps! I’d also like to throw some kudos out to Beer.Birra.Beer. Mark’s style appeals to me, it's knowledgeable and, more importantly, balanced. Again, another blogger I trust. Keep up the good work, Lads.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The dilemma I often have when buying beer online - in fact, buying beer full stop, is how much of something to buy. I often have to go online or drive up to Beer-Ritz to buy beers that particularly come from the south, and this means it's usually quantity over quality, so to speak.

There's always one beer I wish I'd bought more of. Moor JJJ IPA (9.5%abv) is one of those beers. Jesus, this is a good beer. Burnt amber in colour, there's a nice, heavy mouthfeel that totally befits a beer of this gravity; a real tongue-coating sweetness that lays a rock-solid foundation for the bitterness that occurs towards the end of the sip. Pine, Lemon Sherbet and Orange Peel leave the finishing hop attack very much leaning towards the familiar fresh citrus, despite the nose giving away a little biscuity malt and a more herbal, black-pepper-like feel.

It's a big, big, beer and to be honest, I like to think of it more as a hopped barleywine than an IPA - simply due to that massive body. However, when all is said and done, JJJ's balance and complete harmony won me over. Big, but tasteful. Brash, yet subtle. I do wish I'd bought some more.
Do jump over to Moor's website, it's a great-looking site and I, for one, love Moor's design. It's pretty safe to say that Moor's wares will feature heavily on TGS during 2011!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Leeds Gyle 479

Leeds Brewery have created a one-off beer for the seasonal period, Gyle 479. It's an itteresting point in itself that Leeds have created a special like this; despite being incredibly popular in Leeds (thier popular, rapidly-expanding Pub portfolio serving as a case in point), they do normally keep things simple and straighahead - a strong core portfolio of beers with now-regular seasonals.

So, is this foray into experimentation any good? In short, yes. For some reason I assumed it would be a stout-esque beer, but it's not; Venkatesh (Head Brewer) described it more as a 'Vintage Ale', and he's spot on. The base beer was brewed in the summer, and then matured in Bruichladdich Whisky Casks until now.

Sitting in the brewery, all neatly in a row, the Casks certainly impose. Cask-ageing of beer is the perfect flavour profile for this time of year, and I'm at a loss to even begin to explain the variances of taste that every single cask can add to a uniform base beer. The beer itself pours a rich mahogany colour; when held to the light there's a lovely plummy red hue shining through. There's some estery fruity-yeastiness going on in the nose, alongside a subtle vanilla note that you'd expect from a cask-aged beer, and a slightly smoky, treacle-like sweetness underpinning the whole thing.

Gyle 479 is smooth; and very easy to drink. Rounded sweetness, full of cherry and sultana, turns slightly spicier as the sip finishes, and that finish is unexpectedly dry - which makes it surprisingly moreish.

Very seasonal, Gyle 479 is a lovely beer, and I'm happy to see Leeds experimenting a little more like this. Venkatesh certainly seems very proud of his creation - and so he should be. It would seem that Leeds don't plan to let the casks sit idle, so I'll be keeping an eye out in the future. If you're thinking about cracking one open to eat with lunch over the yuletide period, I could'nt help but think that a nice slab of rare beef with horseradish would be a match made in heaven for it; in fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that that's exactly what I'm going to do. It's available from The Brewery, Beer-Ritz (Headingley), or Latitude Wines in Leeds.

Thanks again to Venkatesh, Sam and Michael to taking time out of thier busy day to speak to me yesterday. Hopefully next time I come over it'll be warmer out, and my feet won't be frozen!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Week in Beer: Heretics and Dogmen, Yarrow and Vinyl

There's been some really interesting beers knocking around in Leeds this week. Whilst in The Adelphi for lunch last Monday I spotted a bright orange pumpclip advertising North Peak Brewing Co's Vicious American Wheat IPA. Wheat? IPA, you say? Count me in. It turned out to be terrifically hopped, all the usual pine-led and grapefruit accented hop bitterness that you'd expect from an IPA, and was in good condition. The addition of wheat however, smoothed things out and rescued the beer from being too astringent, adding sweetness and a bit of body. A good beer - not sure if I could drink a lot of of, but one for hopheads to seek out, for sure. And any pumpclip with a 'Dogman' on it gets my vote. Did anyone else catch this?

Next up, I was pleased to see Sharp's Abbey Christmas Ale (4.6%abv) on. I wasn't expecting a great deal from it given my usual aversion to 'Christmas' beers, but this really was a great pint. Tonnes of caramel and spicy, peppery notes on the nose, the beer has a really big, rounded, fruity body - like a lighter, tasty dark mild on steroids. It's brewed with an Abbey yeast, which does add a little more wild fruitiness to the already moreish proceedings. Easy to drink, and as moreish as Mince Pie, this is one Christmas ale that really is worth trying. It's got Yarrow in it, too, but I couldn't even begin to describe what this even tastes like, so it passed me by completely. A great beer. You can read what frame of mind Stuart Howe was in when he brewed it here. On a personal note, it's nice to see Sharp's beers on offer in Leeds.

Moving back to my more usual haunt for lunch today (and by lunch, I mean Beers), Foley's, I finally got my mitts on Revolution Brewing Co's 45 Porter (4.5%abv). Raisins and biscuity malt dominate the nose as opposed to the smokiness that I, for some reason, was expecting. The beer is light, and has a great balance of creaminess and gentle, dry bitterness on the sip. There's a slight hint of milk chocolate as the sip finishes, and overall it's a very easy-drinking, moreish Porter. An auspicious start for the new boys on the block at Revolutions. See below for an interview with the lads.

And lastly, but by no means least, comes SummerWine's latest foray into beers to make you sit up and take notice, Heretic Black IPA (7.2%abv). Those used to SummerWine's style and the P6 IPA project will immediately recognise the hallmarks; a big, rolling hop attack both on the nose and the sip, although Heretic's hoppiness is only gently fruity and more on the herbal side than a grapefruit bomb. The addition of darker malts does lend a little more sweetness to the body to keep things balanced. I know that one of the aims of the beer was to seem like a regular IPA if you closed your eyes - and I think that James and Andy succeed in this. There is none of the smokiness or chocolate notes that you'd expect from darker malts, and in return you get...well, a great IPA that just happens to be black.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rooster's GCB (Bottled)

In the Summer I attended a colleague's wedding, which took place in a well-known (but not to be named in case they read this) castle in North Yorkshire. To be honest, I had steeled myself for a day on the wine, but my spirits lifted immensely when I saw that the token cask ale on offer was GCB, brewed by Rooster's.

GCB (or Good Cheer Beer) proved to be exactly that, and by the time the day was over I had switched four (yes, four!) of my lager-guzzling colleagues to sample copious pints of GCB. Not surprisingly, I count this as the major success of the day. And yes, we did drink it all. Because at 3.7%abv, you can. Judging from the label ('Crack open a Conversation'), Rooster's simply want GCB to be a relaxed, easy-going beer to be drunk whilst catching up with buddies or dissecting the weekend's football results. And in that respect, it succeeds; and yes, I'm talking about a session ale.

The dreaded 'S' word. Sessionable beers, especially good ones, should be the ultimate test of the brewer's art; and I disregard any comment around 'Session' automatically equalling 'Boring'. It's a boring argument that has some credence due to the amount of bland beer out there. But show be a good brewer and I will show you at least one good beer in their range that you would describe as 'Sessionable'. Brewers that make boring session beers usually make boring beers, full stop. Anyway - GCB is a vibrant copper-yellow colour, and has a hint of wet straw on the nose, alongside a digestive-biscuit note. On the sip, you've got a surprisingly assertive yet well-rounded flavour; that sweet malt-biscuit body again and a lemon/lime bitterness, which fades out with another pithy, grapefruity note.

All in all, a great beer to stock that fridge with. Rooster's have made waves this year with the likes of Mocha Stouts, Jasmine IPA's and Pumpkin Ales to choose from alongside the usual Pale range. Now, if only we could get more bottles....

The question on the back of the bottle asks: 'Beatles or The Stones?'. My answer? Both. Sorry. what mood I'm. Although Revolver takes some beating any time of the day.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Asahi Black

Asahi Black. A somewhat arcane beer that I'd seen a few times when reading old, old beer books with titles like 'The Worlds Greatest Beers' or 'Beer: An Aficionado's Guide' and usually written by Jackson or Protz circa 1990. I don't mind Asahi, as It goes, as long it's it's colder than cold and there's something suitably fiery food-wise that's it's dousing down. But Black? Never had it.

Not until Foley's Dean alerted me to the Leeds branch of Gerry's, a pretty good wine and whiskey merchant that's opened up in Leeds. Aside from Wine and Whiskey, they have a decent beer range - so drop by if you want to buy some decent beer in Leeds City Centre.

Anyway - back to the beer. Asahi Black. Looked great in the fridge, with that cool gold label, and it somehow fits this weather, being all lager-y but also a bit roasty. And...well, that's about it. With a tawny head and a great red streak coming through the glass it if you hold it the light, there's a slight hint of Liquorice on the nose. There's not much body to speak of, just that dry Asahi sort of graininess. The finish has a little bitter chocolate, and a weird lactic creaminess to finish. It doesn't taste 5%, but you wouldn't want loads of the stuff.

Would I try it again? Probably, yeah, but I wouldn't go out of my way to. Still, that's another one from the vaults that I can 'tick' off.

Gerry's is just next to North Bar; and if you don't know where that is, you shouldn't be reading this blog!

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Chat With Revolutions Brewing Co.

It's not often that concept - rather than the beer - hooks me into a new brewery, but when I landed on the Revolutions Brewing Co site via Twitter a few weeks ago, I found myself reading every page on there.. I liked Mark and Andy's attitude so much that I contacted them for a quick chat. Plus, anyone who listens to Interpol, The Smiths, Decemberists and The National when brewing automatically becomes 'my kind of people'.

Leigh: How did you guys meet? Andy: We met in 2008 at a business seminar. It was quickly obvious we had a number of shared interests, particularly cricket, beer and music. We have managed to combine two of these in our brewery theme. The requirement to get up early on brew days is currently hampering our efforts to stay up late and listen to the Ashes coverage! I worked for 15 years as a transport planning consultant latterly concentrating on demand forecasting work for train companies. It was varied and interesting work but there comes a time when spreadsheets and macro-economic models no longer quite generate the passion. I've travelled quite a bit over the years and seeking out local brews and learning the local word for beer is top of my list of travelling tips.
Mark: Formerly I worked as a Quality Systems Consultant, most notably in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, where I was an advisor to their Government. Contrary to common opinion, alcohol is widely available, but 14 years of getting by on draught Heineken / Amstel and cans of Boddingtons / Tetley’s made the all too rare trips to pubs on holidays in Britain a great treat!

How did you get into Brewing?
Mark: Since my return to the UK in 2008, I’ve been more a consumer of beer than a brewer. I have a little experience of kit brewing and recently full mash brewing, but fortunately Andrew has long been a keen home brewer. Andrew: I've been home-brewing for over 20 years and for the past 4-5 years full mash brewing in what has become known as the Headingley nano-brewery. I went on the Brewlab introduction to brewing course in 2007 and the idea for the micro-brewery took shape there – it just took 3 years for the theme to come together!

So what, or who, inspires you to brew?
Mark: We are inspired to brew by the prospect of providing pleasure to beer drinkers. There really is nothing more to it than that. Andrew: Whilst totally agreeing with Mark's comment, I'd add that for me the idea of bringing in ideas from other countries – beer styles and ingredients – is quite inspiring. I feel that there is far too little coverage given to beer choice and style in the quality press and I will feel very satisfied if we can do our bit to broaden the appeal of craft beer/real ale in the UK.

Tell us about your beers, then...Our beers are inspired by and make reference to music through the ages, with our core “Original” beers being named 33, 45 and 78. Primarily however, our beers will be inspired by post punk and new wave music. We feel there are parallels between this music and modern craft brewing – both have changed the landscape of their respective fields. We hope to contribute in a small way to continuing this. We're particularly keen to have dark beers available regularly as it is a style we both enjoy and we believe there is ample scope for interesting experimentation.

Beer Geek time - What's your 'Desert Island' Beer? Mark: Having lived on a desert island for 14 years, I can honestly say I always looked forward to a Timothy Taylor's Landlord on my return to the UK for a holiday. Now having returned permanently, it is rare that I pass on a Thornbridge Jaipur or an Acorn Gorlovka if they’re on the bar. The beer that sticks in my mind as the best I’ve tasted in 2010 would be My Antonia by Birra del Borgo / Dogfish Head. It’s rather rare though, so to take a whole cask of it to my desert island might be construed as rather selfish. Andrew: The first beer I can remember drinking outside the UK and falling in love with was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It will always be a favourite. Here in the UK, I too think Acorn Gorlovka is pretty special and in the past few months as Mark and I have been engaged in some serious 'research', Dark Star Hophead and Grainstore Rutland Panther have both registered strongly with me.

How are things going so far then? Good feedback?
It’s being launched this week. We live in hope! What we can say is that the trial brews we've done at home have gone down very well with friends so we're optimistic that we'll get a similar reaction when our commercial brews hit the pumps.

Where can we get our hands on your wares in the next few months?
This week we are launching at The Shoulder of Mutton, Castleford. Also available in York, Huddersfield, Wakefield, elsewhere in Castleford and around Halifax. Once the winter relents we expect to have it in Leeds, Sheffield, Pontefract and Doncaster before Christmas.

Revolutions Brewing Co Launch event is on Thursday evening (9th Dec) at The Shoulder of Mutton in Castleford from 7.30pm though their beers will be on for most of the day. Music will come courtesy of harpist Fiona-Katie Roberts from 8.30pm. Do check out thier website and blog for the full lowdown on thier range and the ethos behind them.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Open It! JW Lees Harvest Ale 2007

Here's my entry for the Open It! weekend being hosted by good buddies Mark and Andy. The concept is simple; find a bottle you've been hoarding, and Open It. Then tell everyone about it. I love it. Plus, we all know beer geeks are hoarders at heart.

JW Lees's 2007 Harvest Ale is my choice. I know that in the grand scheme of things, 2007 is hardly a great vintage - only three years - but in many ways, the beer represents a watershed for me. 2007 was the year that I took the plunge with all this 'Real Ale' that I'd been sniffing around, and finally gave up the Chrome font for the Pumpclip. Not only that, but I wanted to tell people what I'd found; how good these beers were, and why I think they should stop pissing around with Carlsberg and put their money elsewhere. A rabid technophobe, I discovered Blogger, and the rest is history.
Buying beer then meant going up to BeerRitz, and stocking up. If I had never seen it before, it went in the basket. Although leaning heavily towards US brews in the early days, this bottle caught my eye. It had a nice-looking Autumnal label. It looked a little...hand-crafted. Plus, it had a date on it; I knew then this meant it was special. So in the basket it went, and before long it was sitting in the Beer store, ready to be enjoyed. Or not. Thousands of beers have shared JW's living space since then. Compatriots from all over the world; in, out, in, out...JW must have been either really pissed off, or breathing a sigh of relief at being spared one more time. In truth, I couldn't open him -he was from one of those nascent, cherished trips to the BeerRitz where I knew nothing. Fast forward to Manchester, earlier this year. Having a chinwag with Mark over Marble's wares in The Marble Arch, and discovering he had an even older Harvest Ale. I decided pretty much there that it was time to Open It.

So - a snowday yesterday and a free evening to relax and enjoy the beer. Was it worth the wait? Yeah, of course it was. Truly seasonal; the 2007 Harvest Ale poured toffee-amber, without much of a head. As some of the yeast settled, I took a whiff and got a noseful of alcohol warmth and residual sweetness; toffee, raisin, biscuit, vanilla - in fact, at one point I convinced myself it smelled of Bakewell Tart.

On the sip it's much smoother than expected; a thick mouthfeel was offset by a faint prickle of carbonation which lifted the beer away from being too cloying. Like I said, the taste is filled with masses of Dundee Cake and Brown Sugar, with hints of smoke, a touch of cherry and a faint hit of chocolate - or is that the vanilla again? Despite its' strength, it remained balanced and easy to sip and with the snow falling outside this made an excellent companion to the evening.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Black Sheep's Porter; Copper Dragon's Three Kings and Stouty Ham Besides...

I've been watching the progress of Black Sheep's Wooly Jumper Porter (4.0abv) for a good month or so now; simply due to the fact that they don't brew seasonals, specials, or one-offs all that often. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter I found out that Veritas in Leeds has snagged some, so I trudged through the snow on Tuesday to sample it. I'm glad I did. It's a great beer; although I must admit, I didn't really know what to expect. However, I'm pleased to report that Black Sheep have done a really good job. When held up to the light there's a lovely red hue coming through the black, as all good porters should have (if you ask me).

Through the tan collar there's not a great deal going on in the nose apart from some lovely woody smokiness; which sort of sets you up for a sweet beer - but it's not. There's a little almond-biscuityness in there, the aforementioned hint of woodsmoke, and a nice, dry bite at the end. Kudos to Veritas, too - the pint was in tip-top condition too - very clean, very moreish. All in all, it's a really good beer, and one that I hope Black Sheep sell enough of to make it a regular; I think it would be a valuable new addition to their tried and tested, familiar range. Give it a try if you see it about.

Another of the 'bigger' Yorkshire brewers who are adding a new seasonal offering to their range is Copper Dragon, who have rolled out Three Kings Ale across Yorkshire this week. I've not tried it yet, but I hear it's inspired by German Altbier and Red Ales rather than the usual 'Christmas Pudding in a Glass' efforts. It sounds good and certainly worth a try, so if anyone hears of any being spotted around my manor, give me a shout. Finally, staying in Yorkshire, I've been told Lishman's Butchers of Ilkley have cured one of their Christmas Hams in Ilkley's Stout this year - so if you're up that way (visiting Booth's, perhaps?), then drop in and see if they've got any left.

Monday, November 29, 2010

SummerWine P6 #6 & Crown's Brooklyn Heights

Decent Pale Ales. Like buses, you wait ages for one and two show up at the same time. Foley's had both these gems on over the weekend, and I managed to taste both today. First up, Crown's Brooklyn Heights; a 5.8% US-inspired pale that I've been wanting to taste for a while (forefront of picture). It didn't disappoint - copper-hued, with a firm, cereal-led body and a green-pine and grapefruit hop profile that was both soft and dry at the same time. A serious pale, at a serious abv, that ends up wholly drinkable, super-refreshing and well-balanced. Simple, yes, but strangely enough can be hard to find in pale-world. Let's get more Crown into Leeds; North and now Foley's have stepped up to the plate - who's going to be next?

Summer Wine's final Project 6 IPA doesn't fail to disappoint either - as I kind of knew it wouldn't as I held it to my nose and caught a whiff of all that lemony aroma. With a little darker malt in the body, there's enough sweetness at first to balance the bitterness that you know is coming; and it does arrive in style. Softly juicy at first, then getting dryer and bitterer (is that a word?) as the sip continues, P6 Brew 6 certainly lets you know it's an IPA. Check out both breweries' blogs too; both are enlightening as well as entertaining.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Hop & Ilkley Beer Festivals - A Reminder

The Hop, Ossett's Brewery's Leeds bar, is hosting a beer festival next weekend, if you fancy some warming up during this cold snap. The beer list should be available from tomorrow, and entry is free, with live music on very night. Also worth pointing out is that Ilkley Beer Festival's tickets go on sale next weekend too - so get yourself into the usual MTT branches around Yorkshire to pick up tickets - and have a pint at the same time, of course. The festival itself takes place in February, but it is a popular event and I would strongly recommend picking up tickets sooner rather than later. You can hop over to their site on the above link for the beer list and further details.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bateman's Rosey Nosey - Holidays Are Comin'

Well, that's it. Christmas is on the way. I've seen the new Coke advert, I've started thinking about my forthcoming 'Beers of the Year' post, the diary is full of yawn-tastic 'work' Christmas parties (half of which I zero intention of attending), and my corner shop is selling Rosey Nosey.

That's right. Corner Shop. I only ever buy milk and papers from there - but this time of year, without fail, Bateman's Rosey Nosey (4.9%) hits the shelf alongside the obligatory Spitfires, Old Speckled Hen and Golden Sheep. It brings a smile to my face and a warm glow to...well, my nose, I guess. I love the stuff. I probably fund the family's summer holidays each year with my Rosey Nosey spends.

Non-esoteric it may be. Uncool, even, it may be. For godsakes - is it even a 'novelty beer?' - many Christmas beers seem to be, so half-hearted they are. But RN is different - a just great beer, full-stop. Sultanas, Plum and Raisin dominate the palate along with an underlying nuttiness, warming alcohol and a dry, bitter finish. The first time I tasted it, many moons ago, I remarked that I thought it tasted like Bonfire Toffee - and I still stand by that today. The fact that it does all this and remains not-to-sweet is testament to the balance of the beer. It's a cockle-warming, deep - red Christmassy hug of a beer and I will be drinking about 50 more of them by the new year. The label pithily recommends pairing it with Turkey, but I'd put it alongside any roast meat, sharp cheeses and - of course - Christmas Pudding. Anyone else out there rate it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Smoked Croque Monsieur & Marble's Tawny #3

Ok, this is what I'm about to tuck into for an early lunch. The smell of Bratwurst that awaits me as I've been leaving work this week courtesy of the German Market has left me a distinctly Germanic frame of mind - So I've gone for a quick, smoky version of the artery-killing french classic.

First up - heat your grill. Cut door-stop sized wedges of bread, and butter one side - the outside. On the the other side, smear a hearty portion of mustard, and lay on slices of smoked ham,. Top with crumbled smoked cheese.

Put the other slice on top,butter the outside of it, and whack the whole thing under the grill under the bread toasts and the cheese melts. Sprinkle the top with a little rock salt, and away you go. Smoky, salty and hot - all at once. Wonderful.

...And it's even better if you've got a bottle of Marble's Tawny #3 (5.7% abv) to hand. Much more than an average 'bitter', there's a well-rounded, burnt-sugar, fudgy sweetness underneath that tan collar, which warms up as the alcohol comes through at the end of the sip into a herbal, dry finish. I actually think it's closer to a Belgian Brown, such is the complexity of the beer. Perfect for big, bold flavours like this.
Apologies for the quality of the piccy. It's a little murky here today, and the iphone camera doesnt seem up to the job.

Monday, November 15, 2010

JDW's Autumn Beerfest Round-Up

Ok, now that the latest seasonal beer festival has finished, it's time for me to look through my notes and reflect on Wetherspoon's latest efforts. All in all - and I know from chatter that a lot of beer bloggers did the rounds - the usual sounds were being made. Range decent, Quality variable. Still, Wetherspoon's festivals do provide decent diversion, especially in the form of their festival specials.

Take for instance Birra Del Borgo's Castagnale (4.4%). Given my new love for Italian craft beer, this was the first on the list and, for the first time ever, was the first beer I got my hands on. Taste? Well, I was a little let down if truth be told - not because Castagnale was a bad beer (despite being served incredibly cold) - I just think that the bar has been set so high with the bottled likes of My Antonia and ReAle that Castangnale just ended up being a solid, nutty, sweet beer that I could happily drink about ten of.

Lion Stout (5.0abv) ended up being much more satisfying; creamy in a way that the bottled version just lacks - there was a perceptible milky smoothness underscoring all the coffee and chocolate on top. A good beer, and an unusual one to boot. Titanic's Wheat Porter (4.2abv) was an odd one though - ruby in colour, with a woody, resinous nose that held some promise - however there was a strange floral, parma violet note in it's drying finish that I just didn't get.
Young's Ram Rod (6%) hit the mark for these colder nights - full, rounded fruitiness in the body with a pleasant cereal base, finishing off with a fruity sweetness. As for Brewdog's Edge - well, I think I've said all I can about it here - it never disappoints and I'm seeing more and more of it in Leeds recently which is a great thing.

Wadworth's Pixley Blackcurrant Stout was a revelation; sweet, full-bodied and loaded with fruit-cake and plummy flavours, this beer finished my session one night and it's fair to say tipped me that one toke over the line. Dangerously drinkable and stealthy at 6.0abv, I hope I get to drink a while lot more of this before long. Ditto the other surprise of the festival -

Woodforde's Once Bittern (4.1abv) - in small packages come big flavour. This pint was spot-on; clean, fresh and balanced, with a wonderful juicy-fruit aroma that lasted all the way down to the bottom of the glass. Sure, maybe I got a really fresh pint, but of all breweries, Woodforde's really surprised me with this one. Will be seeking this out again, for sure.

So, these are the beers I chose to comment on. Rest assured, there were a number of beers inbetween these that were just 'ok'. But that's the nature of a festival isn't it. I'm a little gutted I didn't catch the Sam Adams Blonde Ambition, the Nelson-hopped Palm, and Adnam's Ghost Ship, and I heard excellent things about TSA's Double Espresso. Oh well, Maybe next time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kirkgate Market and Free Beer...

I don't do this often, but I wanted to quickly draw your attention to a decent article by Rod McPhee on Leeds City Markets in yesterday's Evening Post. The Post usually does a good job in promoting the market - not only in the variety of goods you can get there, but also in the way that the Market is bound to the people of Leeds.

I feel that there's a little surge of support for the Market gathering pace right now. Friends of Kirkgate Market are doing a great job in raising it's profile - something Leeds City Council should be doing but clearly have other things on their minds like making sure our journey home on the buses is as hellish as possible or setting up Leeds Arena so that we can all go see Kylie in a few years (not that I'm down on the Arena or anything. As long as Pearl Jam play there at some point then I'm happy). They organise events, guided tours and generally do a sterling job. See their permanent link on the right if you want to get involved.

I normally visit early on a Saturday morning to buy fresh Fish; whilst I'm picking what normally-still-moving treat I'm going to eat this weekend, I'm surrounded by young and old, and more than a fair share of chefs from the numerous restaurants, bars and pubs in Leeds. There's still a stigma around the market that needs to be smashed; we, the patrons, could visit more and understand the place, and the council need to use this groundswell of support to really pump in a little money, make life easier for the traders and make it more attractive for new traders, embrace the diversity of Leeds Market and make it a destination. There's absolutely no reason why, with a little vision and attention, Kirkgate Market can't stand side by side with Borough and La Ramblas - seriously. The old market is a wonderful space, just needing some love. Finally, I've always thought that a Utobeer-style Beer stall is exactly what's missing. If there's anyone out there who's feeling a little entrepreneurial, there's your niche right there.

There's also a diverting little tale from Oliver Cross in yesterday's edition; the practise of giving away free beer at closing time in the 60's. This really made me smile - can anyone out there shed any light on this practise? Does it still happen?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Williams Bros Joker IPA - A Seriously Good Beer

...And it is. I've always had a soft spot for Williams Bros's beers - from my first taste of Red to personal favourite 7 Giraffes. Well, personal favourite until Joker came along.

What a beer. Despite IPA's popularity these days, I still count it as a tricky style to get right. Many IPA's simply don't live up to promise, and as a style, there are fans on both sides of the spectrum. Some people want massive hopping for a real puckering bitterness. Some favour aroma over that, and some (and I have to say I'm firmly in this camp) want a little of everything - balance, I guess. It doesn't have to be a hop bomb to be a good IPA.

Joker (5%abv) hits the mark - Gold in colour, a creamy, slightly biscuity body, and that wonderful, pithy juicyness running throughout. There's lemon, lime, grapefruit and pine on the nose, and there's enough carbonation to ensure a lively, prickly sip. Eye-opening, refreshing, bitter and sweet with a wonderful aroma, this is almost my perfect IPA. Wonderful.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

BrewDog Alice Porter & 5a.m Saint

Going to BrewDog to brew a beer for your stag do is a pretty cool thing; for most mere mortals, it's just a pipedream, but Matt Gorecki (of North fame) managed to land such a day for his own celebration. The result? Alice Porter, which I managed to sample on Monday.

The idea could have gone so terribly, terribly wrong; but full credit to Matt, James and Martin for creating an undeniably lovely beer. At 6.2%, Alice Porter is no slouch - but you wouldn't guess the abv from the taste alone. Pitch black with a tan head, the beer is massively smooth, with a cream-vanilla note riding through it.

It's got a really well-rounded fruitiness (courtesy of the Brambling Cross hops - a much underrated hop in my opinion) to finish things off, and the aroma is sweet, with just a touch of smoke and wood. A really, really drinkable porter, and if there's any left at North now, I'll be surprised. Jump here to read Matt's account of the day - and what HopZine Rob thought of the beer here.

North had another treat for me on Monday - 5Am Saint on Keg. Since trying Saint a few months back, it's firmly leapfrogged up the list to (at the moment) my favourite BD beer. It's the nose - the tropical-fruit, lychee-led nose that lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts...whenever I crack one of these open at home I spend as much time with my nose in the glass as I do pouring the stuff down my throat. Once you get past the aroma, there's a well-balanced Amber ale there; a slight hint of smoke again, and plenty of chewy toffee, but not too sweet. Things finish off with a wonderful, rising, sappy bitterness. Awesome beer - one of the best of the year for me.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Anchor Humming Ale

Anchor Brewing. The mere thought of the brewery evokes the feeling a warm bath to me; Steam is one of the my gateway beers that maintained status in my beer cellar - a go-to, reliable, tasty ol' friend. Anchor Steam is rightly an icon in American Brewing; sure, it's not particularly cutting-edge, it's not a hop-bomb, it's not an 'extreme' beer. In fact, It's standard - but in a good way - and I hpe thier new owners carry this ethos on. Find me a 'California Common' that's held in such high regard, if you can. Their range of Christmas Ales are anticipated with bated breath, the artwork alone rendering them near collector's items without even starting on the beer held within the bottle.

Aside from Steam, Anchor's entire range stands for reliability - so when the likes of Small, Ninkasi and the aforementioned Christmas Beer come along, they really stand out. Humming - their latest- I like. It's different, but I like it. It's pale (rather than the burnished gold of Steam), not so sweet, and thinner than Anchor beers usually are. I suspect that Anchor wanted to get a more hoppy feel for Humming, and they've certainly succeeded in that - the hop aroma is fresh, astringent and grassy (courtesy of Nelson Sauvin) and the bitterness builds nicely. It's actually the last thing you expect from an Anchor beer. I'll have another one or three, for sure - I just wish Anchor did this sort of thing more often - and I'll be saving my next bottle for warmer weather. And the label and artwork is just the icing on the cake. Gorgeous.

If you've never visited Anchor's website, do so here. It's one of the best out there. Also, for further Anchor-lovin' , Zak alluded to his love of the stuff on Real Ale Reviews a while back - check it out here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Turkey Ravioli with Sage Butter and Durham Evensong

Ok, here's the last of my pasta and beer recipes for the time being. I hope you've enjoyed them - I've been really pleased with the results, the feedback has been good. I've really learned a lot about Pasta since visiting Italy, and I've been super-pleased with the results with the beer matches that I've suggested. As I said, here's the last one - and it turns out to be a little seasonal. Good timing!

Ravioli is super-easy to make, because all you need do is make sheets and cut them. I use a glass actually, but any shape you want will be fine. Just make sure the edges are crimped otherwise the water will seep into them, rendering all your fillings tasteless. Serving relatively plain Ravs with a flavoured butter is very popular in Italy, and after tasting something similar to this, I can see why. The breadcrumbs do need to be fresh, though. Don't use the stuff in cans; just leave a couple of slices of bread out overnight and blitz.

Turkey Ravioli with Sage Butter (serves two)

Firstly, the filling. Take a large pan, and a drop in a large slug of Olive oil. Brown 250g of Turkey mince and two finely chopped Shallots. Season with a little salt and black pepper, and add 20g of breadcrumbs. Stir in one heaped tbspn of Tomato Puree, and one minced/crushed garlic clove. finally, add your chopped herbs - Rosemary and Thyme. Stir well, add a little more oil if the mix is on the dry side, and take off the heat to cool whilst you make your pasta.

Make your pasta in the usual way, and cut out shapes - whatever you want. Fill the middle of the shape with filling, put another shape on top, crimp the edges and set aside. Do this until you've got enough.
Boil your water with a load of salt, and cook your Ravs. They will be done in a matter of minutes; when the Rav goes white and gets soft, take out and leave on a colander to drain. Making your butter couldn't be easier: gently simmer a block of butter, seasoned with a little salt, and a generous helping of chopped fresh Sage. When the Sage gently crisps, take off the heat and pour over your pasta. All done!

I enjoyed this with Durham's excellent Evensong. A robust ruby beer, the slightly herbal, woody nose perfectly compliments the herbs in the dish. The vinous fruit and full-on, toasted malt-led body lends a little depth to the turkey filling, whilst the slightly warming, alcohol edge to the beer really makes it a seasonal match. A fantastic beer from a fantastic brewery. Let me know if you try this one out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autmunal Pickings; Tumblers and Blasts

Yep. It's here. Officially. We are in Autumn (in fact, Winter's around the corner) and incidentally, my favourite season for beer. This might sound strange coming from a self-confessed Pale freak, but Autumn - and Autumnal Beers - are so varied, from Strong Pales to Porters and Stouts, that I really look forward to October. Plus, as a cooling, slightly chilled Pale is to Summer, a full-bodied, warming Strong Mild or Stout is to Autumn. However, you don't have to default to the more obvious darker beers - so here's a pick of what I've been enjoying at home for the past month or so.

First up is Brooklyn's Winter Ale (6.0abv). I guess it's Brooklyn's take on a Scottish Ale, and I like it. True, it's not quite as full-bodied as we are used to in the UK, but there's plenty to recommend; a biscuity, satisfying blend of malts in the body, and a restrained hoppiness that makes a nice change for Brooklyn; a touch of spice at the end rather than a full-on hop assault. One I'd like to try on draught; preferably on a chilly Autumnal, New York afternoon. I'd had this in the cellar since Spring, and it held up perfectly well.

Sierra Nevada's Tumbler (5.5%abv) is a relatively new addition to their stable. The label and legend on the neck is Sierra Nevada at their idyllic best; talk of long afternoons and falling leaves. The beer itself is an odd one; the nose is all cola, black pepper and cloves, but this doesn't really translate into the taste of the beer. There's a savoury, almost vegetal note which fades to a sweet, maple-led finish - along with more restrained hopping. I'm not saying I didn't like it; far from it - it's an interesting beer, although I'd like to drink some more before I can fully get my head around it's taste.

My final American beer is Dogfish Head's Raison D'etre (8.0% abv). I love Raisin in beer - it's a flavour we don't do enough over here but I can always rely on DFH to produce something flavourful and rich. Crystal-clear Mahogany in colour, the nose is herbal at first before that rich, sweet vine fruit note pops up. On the sip, however, things are a little less sweet than you'd expect - there's Demerara/Burnt sugar there, and little drying coffee on the edges. It's much less cereal-led than Cain's Raisin, for example - much more in the ballpark as, say, Chimay Red. My bottle was a little short in the way of head, although carbonated fine - again, another beer I'd like to sample on Cask (if such a thing exists!).

Ok, onto beers from our fine shores. Rodham's beers are micro in the truest sense - produced by Michael Rodham in his house, and sold through a very limited selection of outlets, mostly in Yorkshire. I picked this up in the Temple Newsam farm shop, where I understand Rodham works in the grounds. Old Albion Porter (5.5%abv) is probably his best beer in my opinion; a porter which ticks all the boxes - slightly smoky, sweet, satisfying and rich with a firm, biscuity malt spine. You might not be able to find this one easily, but if you're going to seek one out, seek out Old Albion. It occasionally finds it's way into beer festivals - one assumes when Rodham finds time to brew it!

Autumn doesn't have to mean dark - Orkney's Orkney Blast is a perfect example of a warming, satisfying beer. An Award-winner (and rightly so), it's one of the most complex golden ales you're likely to find in the UK. Juicy malt, with a herbal (Thyme or Rosemary?) note running right through the taste, your tastebuds try to process that lot when a massive tart hop profile hits you right on the end of the sip. One of my friends actually thinks it's more along the lines of an IPA than a 'Strong Golden Ale', and I can see where he's coming from. It's an aggressive beer, but one that begs to be enjoyed slowly, as the nights draw in and that heating gets turned up.

It's not all bottled fun - BrewDog Edge remains my stand-out beer of the season so far, and Wetherspoon's Autumn Beer Festival (on now) will see the beer popping up at a 'Spoons near you. Saltaire's Harvest Moon is one of the best beers they've produced for a while in my opinion, and York's excellent Centurion's Ghost should be doing the rounds a little more often now. Rooster's Mocha Stout is also filtering through to handpumps near you right about now - speaking of Rooster's, their peppery, gingery Pumpkin Ale pretty much sold out in a couple of days in Leeds from what I understand. I liked it; but obviously it divided opinion. Personally I thought it was one of the better Ginger and spice -led pales I've tried. Good work, lads.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twissups, Treason and Tapping The Pumpkin

Christ, it's been a busy week. Enjoyable, but busy nontheless. So I find myself with a spare ten minutes, on a Friday night of all nights, tapping away when the majority of Leeds beer-folk are hunting Pumpkin Ale. But more on that later.

Twissup kicked off the madness in style last Saturday; a hop to Manchester and then onto Huddersfield. There was also a hop to Stalybridge, but I got on the wrong train and missed that (honestly). A lot's been said over the past week about this event, so I don't want to dwell too much on it; but I would like to put my 'official' thanks to Mark and Andy for organising it. Apart from the great locations and beers on offer, It was a great opportunity for me to finally meet some of the people I've been conversing with more or less every day for the last god-knows-how-long and actually share a beer and a chat. I made a comment a few weeks ago that Blogging is like being in a virtual tap room when at it's best and most dynamic; well, this weekend, it became real, and it was an absolute pleasure - you were all top lads and lasses. Highlights? All of it. From the cask Ola Dubh we shared in The Angel (whisky-tinged, smoky, chocolate milkshake) to the wonderful surroundings of The Marble Arch, to finding the creamy Moravka (one of my faves) available at The Grove, the day was great. I'll be doing it again. Read here, here, and here for much better rundowns of the day.

Wednesday saw me hook up with James and Andy from Summerwine again; this time in Foley's for a Meet the Brewer event. Having met them previously we basically carried on chatting where we left off last time over a few of their own brews; tax on beer, the government, the joys of homebrewing, and future plans. Future plans is what these lads do well; this Christmas will see a Chocolate Orange Stout appearing in our glasses, as well as the last of the (surely now-famed) Project 6 IPA range. Next year sees another project; the Nerotype Black IPA's, the dark sister of Project 6. I for one can't wait. Myself, Chris, Dean and Fletch happily sampled the range whilst the lads gave a good account of themselves to a decent-sized crowd. Apart from spending every waking hour brewing, they do find time for these sorts of thing, and if they come to your town - go see them. Have a pint and a chat. I can recommend the Treason Treacle Stout in particular. Here's what BeerProle thought of the evening.

This afternoon my work schedule prevented me from getting too much time away from the desk; which as typical given that Rooster's were hopping around Leeds dropping off their Pumpkin Ale like evil little beer-elves. However, I did manage to catch the delivery of Foley's beer-filled treat, and hung around for the tapping and a subsequent cheeky sip. What's it like? Well, I did only have a couple of mouthfuls and a good ol' swirl, but there's masses of black pepper and spice on the nose, but a much smoother, sweeter and unmistakeably vegetal body to the (amazingly clear) beer. I liked it - and hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on more of it this weekend. Twitter was rocking to the tune of a lot of bloggers going out to North and Foley's tonight, so I imagine there will be a lot of good chatter about this beer over the weekend.

Right, I'm off to crack open a SWB P6 Brew 2 and put my feet up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Summer Wine Brewery Visit

One of the disavantages of working full-time is that sometimes I simply can't spare the time to do beery, bloggy things that seem like a lot more fun than work. One such occasion arose a couple of weeks back when Dean Pugh, of (Mr Foley's Cask Ale House fame) texted me to tell me that he was going to see Summer Wine Brewery, and would I like to join him? Well, Dean, yes. Yes I would. But I can't. Work beckons. After shaking my fists in the air for a good five minutes along with a stream of cuss-words that would make Kenny Powers blush, I asked him if he'd be as kind as to provide a report of the day to share, and he duly obliged, along with some pictures. So I will hand over to Dean....

...Having been informed that my choice of day to visit happened to be brew day for Brew #6, the final instalment of the highly successful Project 6 IPA series, I hurried over to Honley, the home of Summer Wine Brewery. After rushing through my morning errands and paying a visit to the Head of Steam on Huddersfield train station where I enjoyed a pint of Brass Monkey Bitter, I awaited my connecting train. The brewery was a bit tricky to find; it’s a small site which they are fast outgrowing and is tucked away at the back of an industrial estate. Unfortunately Google Maps let me down slightly and a quick phone call was needed. I arrived just in time to witness the late hopping of Brew #6, which was described to me as a West-Coast style American IPA, higher in IBU’s than the previous 5 in the series using a blend of hops, such as Chinook and Centennial to name but a few. There’s also a little Crystal malt to give the beer a little more body and sweetness to balance the hops, as was done successfully in Brew #5 (my favourite so far). I was offered the chance to do the late hopping myself but thought it best to leave it to the professionals and just grab a snap or two instead...!

With the wort then cooling, James (head brewer) and Andy (managing director) took a well deserved break to chat with me all things beer; how they have found their first 2 years as brewers and the future of Summer Wine Brewery. I knew brewing was hard work, but stories of racking through the night and Andy having not left the brewery for 4 days to complete orders I quickly realised how dedicated these guys were to their passion. They tell me that those days are in the past now, but with plans to move to a bigger site and an increase in brewing capacity there is no chance of them sitting back and taking it easy any time soon.

Discussion turned to their beers (a Teleporter was quickly put in front of me, followed by Project 6 Brew #2) and plans for future brews, including the next experiment following Project 6 and some extremely exciting plans for 2011. I’m not about to steal their thunder though, I will let James and Andy break the news to you at our ‘Meet the Brewer’ night with them on October 27th. However I can say that Mr Foley’s will be featuring as much of these as possible.
Our chat was briefly interrupted when it was time to run off the Brew #6 wort to the conditioning tank and yet more hops were added for dry hopping. I also witnessed a fermenting brew of Treacle Stout, as you can see the addition of Dark Treacle to the brew sends the yeast on a bit of a sugar rush!

As we compared tasting notes on beers from many US and UK brewers, both James and Andy’s passion and love of quality beers was obvious as I stood like a sponge trying to take in as much knowledge as possible. As if my magic a bottle of 5am Saint appeared as I listed the Brewdog beers I had yet to try, and plans were made for us to meet up again to continue our chat - but this time in the comfort of a pub, and when Andy doesn’t have to cycle home!A thoroughly enjoyable day was rounded of with an evening at Huddersfield CAMRA Oktoberfest beer festival where Fernandes Rum For Cover (6.5% specialty ale) was the pick of the 6 I sampled.

....Thanks mate. Andy and James will be at Foley's this Wednesday evening (27th) from 18.00 onwards, where you'll be able to have a chat with them and sample some of their excellent beers - including the last hurrah of the P6 IPA series, and thier Portcullis ESB. Get yourself down there - I met them both on Saturday, shared a beer or 6, and can confirm they are both 'top lads', as we say in Yorkshire.