Tuesday, January 26, 2010

...And The Winners Are:

Belatedly, here are the CAMRA Winter Ales Festival/Champion Winter Beer of Britain award winners:

Old Ales and Strong Milds -

Gold- Breconshire, Ramblers Ruin (Brecon, Powys)
Silver- Leeds, Midnight Bell (Leeds, West Yorkshire)
Bronze- Beartown, Black Bear (Congleton, Cheshire)

Porters -
Gold- Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)
Silver- Sulwath, Black Galloway (Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway)
Bronze- RCH, Old Slug Porter (Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset)

Stouts -
Gold - Acorn, Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)
Silver- Beowulf, Dragon Smoke Stout (Brownhills, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Wapping, Stout (Liverpool, Merseyside)

Barley Wines
Gold- Robinsons, Old Tom (Stockport, Cheshire)
Silver- Kinver, Over the Edge (Kinver, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Otley, O8 (Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan)

OVERALL -Gold- Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)
Silver- Breconshire, Ramblers Ruin (Brecon, Powys)
Bronze- Acorn, Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)

A big well done to Elland for thier silky porter. Deserved, I think. Nice to see (blatant nepotism aside) Leeds' Midnight Bell getting kudos. I've maintained since day one that although Pale probably is more popular, Midnight Bell is Leeds' best beer by far. And, for personal taste, I would have rated Otley's masterful 08 a little higher. But that's just me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

National Winter Ales Festival 2010

...Well, a good day was had by all yesterday at the National Winter Ales Fest in Manchester. Before getting into the beers, I'd just like to thank the Venue and the Organisers for such a good festival - it doesn't sound like much to organise the basics such as friendly, knowledgeable staff, a great, spacious venue, and a cracking beer list, but if you go to enough of these events you'll know it is - and CAMRA did really well here. The boys, so to speak, have done good.

Anyway - onto the beer. Despite my initial despair at missing Robinson's Chocolate Tom (but that's what you get for going on the last day - damn having to work!!), my pint of, well, Marble's Pint more than made up for it. I've had this a few times before but I really need to start lobbying pubs in Leeds to get it - such grapefruit on the nose, a burst of tropical fruit on the tongue and a surprisingly restrained bitterness for such a fruity beer. It's wonderful stuff, put a smile on my face, and set the tone for rest of the day.

Despite what you might personally think about Cain's, I am a stickler for their Fine Raisin Beer - so to try it on draught was a real must for me. Dark amber in colour, with an exceedingly malt-cereal body, it's a great beer. The juicy, slightly candied raisin note comes in right and the end, and stops the beer being cloying. A treat.

Other beers to impress me throughout the day were Hawkshead's Organic Stout, which managed to be wonderfully smokey and roasty without being heavy, Bernard's Pilsner, which provided a great, cold zing and cleansed the palate after lunch, and Otley's wonderful 08 - pale, really smooth and refreshing, but then finishing with a big hit of warming alcohol. Perfect for weather like this, and proof that a well-brewed strong golden ale can still be found in the UK.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Odell St Lupulin EPA

...After reading a glowing review of this beer on, amongst many others, Thornbridge's blog, I thought it sounded right up my street and got some ordered. And I'm glad I did.

Not only does the beer look great on the eye - Odell's artwork is wonderful and completley in tune with the breweries' ethos - it backs it up with taste.

St Lupulin (6.5%abv) is an Extra Pale Ale - which to me sits somewhere inbetween and IPA and a full-bodied Pale. Orangey-amber in colour, the aroma is a very sugary, very sweet citrus - I got mostly oranges from the nose. This carries through onto the taste, where you get a lovely hit of marmalade and boiled sweets before the bitterness comes in; lemony and fresh at first but finishing grassy. Despite it's somewhat thick mouthfeel, this is a complex and well-balanced beer, and one that I wish I'd order more of.

Check out Odell's excellent website here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haand Bryggeriet Norwegian Wood

...Continuing my recently-sparked love affair with beers from Northern Europe, I got my hands on a bottle of Haand Bryggeriet's Norwegian Wood this week. Apt, it would seem, as I sipped it, looking out across my snow-bound garden and the frozen streets beyond. Hell, the landscape would almost be pretty if it didn't add an hour onto my morning commute.

Anyway, back to the beer. Before reading the label I thought, for some reason, that this would be a pale beer - maybe it was the pine tree on the label. The beer poured russet-brown, and the first aroma lifting out of the glass was smoke - sweet, deep smoke. This carries through to the body, where that smoke - which is much subtler on the tongue - joins up with red fruits courtesy of the Juniper berries added to the beer, and ends with a lingering coffee note. Despite all these heady, strong flavours, NW is not heavy at all - well balanced all the way.

The finish is surprisingly grassy for a dark beer, and that late, warming alcohol note you want in a cold-weather beer pops up late on the swallow as it should.

Wonderful stuff, perfect for this week's cold-weather traumas. Gimme more.

Totally unrelated, but does anyone know how to rid oneself of spam comments? I've been getting loads this week - and I don't know how to block them. It's doing my bearded little head in.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mussels with Hebden Wheat

With the current cold snap, I've been eating so much heavy food that I found myself craving some seriously tasty, warming, yet light meals this weekend. So, like a comfy pair of old slippers, I turned to somewhat of a classic standby - Mussels steamed in Wheat Beer. Mussels are excellent right now, so get yourself down to the market.

Although Hooegarden is commonly used (unless in Belgium, I would imagine), I've kept things local with Little Valley's Hebden Wheat. Win Van Der Spek creates interesting twists on classic recipes, and I constantly find thier beers intriguing. The award -winning Hebden Wheat is more of a Wit, heavy on Lemon and peppery coriander, rather than the banana and clove accents of German style Wheat Beer. This makes it perfect for this dish.

The recipes is simplicity itself - buy a bag of Mussels, and de-beard and wash them all under a tap, discarding any that are gaping open. While drying in a colander, chop three cloves of Garlic, one medium chilli, and chop a load of fresh coriander. Please use fresh - you won't get the same flavour with dried.

In a heavy pan with a lid, melt a knob of butter, and add the Garlic and Chilli. when just sweated down (not burnt), add about a third of a bottle of Hebden Wheat, and the chopped coriander. Up the heat a little to get it nearly to boil, and then turn to simmer and add the mussels. Bang the lid on, and leave for about five minutes. When they are all open, shake around a few times to coat, and then lift the mussels into bowls. Turn up the heat, reduce the broth down a little, and then pour over.

What you'll get it is tender mussels and a fresh, vibrant broth, with enough kick to it to warm you up. Serve with warm bread for the broth, and enjoy the rest of your beer alongside it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Session: New Beers Resolutions

This month's Session is being hosted by those lovely ladies over at Beer For Chicks. Reflecting on the last year and looking forward to the year ahead seems to be the theme, so here's my scribblings and jotted-down-neuroses....

So - what was your best and worst of beer for 2009? Well, as the previous post suggests, my favourite beer of 2009 was a tie between Flying Dog's Raging Bitch (available soon, be still my beating heart...!!) and Nogne-O's awesome IPA. As for the worst beer...well, I couldnt possibly say. Taste is subjective. But i'm not a fan of Badger’s Golden Glory. I think it tastes of air freshener. Which is a shame, because I don't mind Blandford Fly or First Gold.

What beer mistakes did you make?
I planned to do a round up of Supermarket beers during the summer, but with the exception of one or two, they were all so supremely bad that I couldn't bring myself to post about them.
Also, I became too freindly with some Fuller’s London Porter in exceelent condition in York earlier on in the year, and almost missed my train home - which was important as I had a birthday meal to attend. I made it (just), but was so drunk that I could not enjoy the lovely Thai feastthat had been laid on. A shame - and I was well and truly in the doghouse that night.
What beer resolutions do you have for 2010?
One – to drink more in Pubs. Simple as that, to simply drink in pubs more. Not much of a hardship, is it?Also to provide more coverage on the blog for beer festivals and more small brewer interviews. That's what's important - not how many free lunches I've attended.
What are your beer regrets and embarrassing moments?
Beer regrets? Well, simply not doing more! There’s always beer festivals, events and launches that I can’t attend due to short notice or location. Working full-time can really be a bind on your beery adventuring. Embarrasing moments? Not any that I can recall! No regrets!
What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010?
I have a gap in my knowledge when it comes to Italian Craft Beer, and as I'm visiting the North of Italy in September, I'm hoping to find some time out of my honeymoon to try some great beers. I'm incredibly lucky to have a partner who is very open to beer and my passions and is happy to indulge me!! I'm also going to try and see if I can avoid temptation to do the inevitable 'World Cup of Beer' posts in the summer. Really. It's been done. Really Done.