Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thorne Dutch Pale/Saltaire

...Apologies for the lack of activity recently but I'm incredibly busy at the moment, with work and sorting wedding stuff out - but with it being Cask Ale week and all (What? You didn't know?Shame on you...), I've been substituting lunch for Beer and getting some midweek drinking done.

Thorne's Vermuyden Pale Ale (4.7%) has been the pick of the beery bunch. I've sampled Thorne's Best before and found it to be solid enough, with a nice depth of flavour, but I really do like this self-proclaimed Dutch Pale - although what makes it Dutch I'm not quite sure. Straw-coloured, with a fresh, zingy grass-like hop aroma up front, the body is nicely cereal and incorporates a little hint of almond towards the end. It's a good example of a pale with actual depth of flavour.

Thorne are a hard-working community Brewery set up by enthusiasts - if you want to know more about their beers then jump onto their page via the link above. And if you see any of their beers knocking about this week, give them a try.

And finally some news for Saltaire fans - the ever-popular brewery are expanding their bottled range, with Blonde and Siba Gold Award-Winning Triple Chocoholic hitting the shelves soon. Huzzah!
Edit: Anonymous - yep, you're right. Looks like I need to lay off the lunchtime beers! Edited, needless to say.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hop, Leeds

I've always liked Ossett Breweries' beers - they do a great line in pales, and their beers always satisfy in a non-complicated, typically Yorkshire way. The Hop is their latest foray into real estate, and I dropped by yesterday evening after work to see how they were doing.

The Hop's a nice space - vaulted ceilings and the (strangely comforting) occasional rumble of trains overhead courtesy of the Dark Arches location. Downstairs boasts a faux-pub decor, whilst the extra seating upstairs is welcome, given that it's practically standing-room only at the bar.

Onto the beer. Ossett's standards are all here, rebadged and all shiny and new. Silver King and its stronger cousin Excelsior are great pales, sherbety in mouthfeel and grapefruity on the nose. Yorkshire Blonde does what it says on the tin, but Big Red impresses. Very red in colour, this ruddy, deep-flavoured ale provides a tastier diversion from pale overload.

Nestled beside the Ossett beers are guests from Roosters (more pale), Great Heck, and Goose Eye's wonderful Over & Stout, and the fridges boast the usual roundup of Belgian, American and German bottled gems.

So, it was a night for Pale fans, without a doubt. And what do I think of The Hop? I like it; a little more variation on the bar would be appreciated, but pale ales, like Roosters, are Ossett's style of choice. The place is bustling, and there's a lot of people in here, all drinking ale. That's a good thing, no mistake. The Hop is a welcome addition to the pubs and bars of Leeds in my book, and it's location serves as a handy pitstop on the way down to the River Aire run. Kudos, too, for using the Dark Arches. We should be making more of this beautiful, unique space - and hopefully others will follow The Hop.

Apologies for my crap photos. It's a very gloomy bar, especially at 18.00 on a friday night. Bring on the sunshine!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Praise of Pales

I've been in a distinctly Pale frame of mind since an afternoon on Acorn's Motueka IPA a few weekends ago. What a beer; refreshing, bitter and incredibly well-balanced, its a must-try if you see it. They'll be brewing single-hopped beers throughout 2010, and I personally can't wait for the next one. What with that, the clocks going forward soon and the spate of -dare I say it - sunshine - we've enjoyed in the last ten days or so, it's been pales all the way at TGS Towers.

Hook Norton's Hooky Gold's a decent drop; straw on the nose with an earthy undercurrent, the beer itself is light, bright and packs a decent citrussy wallop. We had a couple of bottles of this with some Paella recently, chilled slightly, and it went down a treat, cutting through the strong, garlicky flavours of the food with ease. Another solid, classy beer from a solid, classy brewery.

Another interesting one (although I'm not sure how widely available it is) is Copper Dragon's Freddie Trueman. A one-off beer brewed to remember the great man, it's not what you expect; almost Koelsch-like, it's a zesty, lively pale with masses of sherberty lemon & lime on the nose. Copper Dragon may have had a rough time of it of late but it's always a pleasure to drink new beer from them - but they don't often branch out into seasonals. A shame - CD certainly have their fans.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Leeds CAMRA Beer Festival 2010

...Well, that's it. Over for another year. Leeds's beer festival seems to get more popular year on year, and that's got to be a good thing. The beer list for this year's fest really did impress me - there some great beers coming in from all over the UK, and although we love local beer, for me, the main point of a beer fest is to try something you've never tried before. And we had lots of opportunity to do that this weekend - so many thanks to the hard-working folk of Leeds CAMRA. Stars, the lot of you.

Anyway, onto the beer - and I'll try to keep it to stand-out beers only. Mordue's Workie Ticket is an award-winner for a reason - it's a great pint and stood head and shoulders above quite lot of what was sampled over the weekend - if you look up 'Great, solid english bitter' in the dictionary, this should pop up. Slight raisin in the body but predominantly toffee-led, with a nutty, rich finish, a pint of a good beer like this makes you appreciate 'brown beer' again. Really, it does.

....But it wasn't beer of the festival. For me, this was Nottingham's Rock Mild - another bitter, although on the milder scale of things. Lusciously dark, with a full, red fruit-led body, the aroma of blackcurrant with a hint of smoke coming off this beer was amazing. Of all the beers tried, this left the biggest impression, and yet I probably expected the least from it. And therein lies your first beer lesson: try everything. You may be surprised.

Onwards and upwards. I can't say no to a Purple Moose, so the ever-excellent Dark Side of The Moose was followed by another Welsh beer, Tomos Watkins's OSB, which was another flavourful bitter, full of biscuit and nuttiness, and massively satisfying.

Back to Yorkshire. Wharfebank's Slinger's Gold went by way too fast - super-easy drinking pale ale with a pleasing grassiness/straw on the nose. I'll be keeping an eye on this new brewery from Otley. Keeping things in the pale ball-park (and urgently resisting temptation to get involved with the keg of Summer Lightning), I opted for Spire's Good as Gold, which again hit all the right spots in a sherbety, pale, slightly lemony pale ale that refreshed the palate. Again, I don't get to try Spire's ales up north all that much, but I always enjoy it, and at 3.8%abv I could have drunk a lot more of it. The same goes for Goose Eye's Hop Pot, which although drew giggles at the name, turned out to be a real find, with a great grapefruit/fresh cut grass aroma and a super-pale body that only reinforced my view that the Keighley-based Brewery are one of the unsung heroes of Yorkshire brewing.

Green Jack's Orange Wheat proved to be a disappointment - neither orangey or wheat-y, but Liverpool Organic's Bier Head was another pleasant surprise, a clean koelsch-type beer that would chill down wonderfully. This was my last beer of the festival and refreshed a weekend-jaded palate perfectly.

Bring on 2011.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Beer Fest @ Foley's

...Foley's Irish Beer fest is well underway, and we jostled our way through the craic-seeking crowds last night to sample some new (to us) beers from the Emerald Isle.

First up, Fransiscan Well's Friar Weisse - and our favourite of the night. Not much of a head, but a gorgeous hazy yellow colour, sweet in the body yet clean, and with plenty of almond and banana notes. A seriously easy pint to drink, this refreshing version of a favourite style of mine hit the spot.

An IPA next - and by that I mean White Gypsy's Emerald Pale Ale. It does what it says on the tin, really - a bitter, straw-coloured pale with a smooth body and a decent floral-hop aroma. Again, very good indeed, and a beer whose smoothness belies a 5%abv hit.

Hilden's Scullion Irish Ale brought way more to the table in terms of malt bill - this amber packs a lot of flavour in. Toffee and a little smoke on the nose, but with an intensely fruity taste that dries out quite quickly. Powerful, and even a little warming, but thoroughly enjoyable. Hilden's offshoot College Green Brewery's Belfast Blonde returned us to a paler land, and this was another highlight of the night. Ultra-pale, ultra clean, but with a grassy hop aroma, this is another beer I'd like to drink a lot more of. Wonderful.

It wouldn't have been right to not try a stout, so College Green's Molly's Chocolate Stout got a look in. Although a decent stout - smoky, with about the right balance of roastiness to soft bitterness, I couldn't really discern much chocolate in the body. Still, with all this good beer in front of me, I was more than content.

Do try and get yourself over to Foley's to partake - although I don't know how much will be left by the weekend! And if anyone can recommend any Irish Craft Brewers I need to seek out, please do. I've been fairly impressed so far.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guest Blogging @ The Guardian

I've done a little guest blogging for The Guardian this week - a run down of my personal favourite pubs in Leeds City Centre. The Guardian have set up city-based blogs for a few places now, and are a decent read. You can check it out here, as well as contributions from other Leodensian Bloggers such as the always-on -the money Leeds Grub and My Life In Leeds.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Foley's Irish Beer Fest

If you fancy an alternative to the usual stout-related antics this St Patrick's day, head to Foleys for thier Irish Beer festival. Beers from Hilden, Franciscan Well and White Gypsy on offer plus more. Needless to say I'll be about, and reporting as such soon after the event. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Sierra Nevada Wet Hop 2008 (Yes, 2008!)

I'm a ditherer when it comes to 'special beers' - whether it be limited editions or certain vintages. To prove exactly how much, It took a friend of mine to point out that I could escape this choice by buying two of each beer, but I was so caught up in personal turmoil that only Dante could dream of that this obvious answer could not present itself.

And it's with this in mind, and this exchange over on The Beer Nut ringing in my ears, that I finally got round to cracking open 2008's Harvest Wet Hop.

Well, despite my fears and advice, it didn't taste too bad. Mahogany in colour, it had that usual SN taste of boiled sweets and marmalade, although ramped up somewhat. I can certainly echo TBN's assertion that these Harvests are big beers, made even more so by a thick mouthfeel.
There was a definite pronounced hoppiness on the nose, which was a relief as I thought that would be the first to disappear. Peppery at first, but then mellowing out to a pungent citrussiness, my notes proclaim the aroma to me pretty similar to what I get in my kitchen when I'm chucking hops into my homebrewed beers. There's a certain green-ness that does set this out, aroma -wise, from a regular SN beer. The beer is bitter, obviously, but in much shorter terms than I'm used to.

Overall - an interesting beer that I think hasn't suffered too much from it's time in hibernation. I enjoyed it, anyway, so one could argue it served it's purpose. Saying that, I would have loved to have tasted it fresh and compared the two. Oh well - lesson learned. Buy two next time.