Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ilkley's Mary Jane Inflitrates Parliament...

Kudos to local boys Ilkley Brewing Co - thier pale thirst-quencher Mary Jane is now a guest ale in the House of Commons, just to top off an award-winning few months. Good work. Other local tidbits - keep an eye out for some excellent sounding one-offs from Rooster's in the next few weeks, including an UK-hopped IPA & a Whiskey-Barrel aged Stout, amongst others....popular Saltaire are holding a beer festival on September 17th - tickets will be available from Saltaire Brewery directly from 1st July...Great Heck Brewery have bought O'Donaghues in Wakefield, so there will be a regular outlet for their beers there - as well as an upcoming launch for the newly minted Ridgeside Brewery, who are currently brewing their first batch of beer...and finally, moving out of Yorkshire, belated congrats to The Highland Brewing Company, whose wonderfully complex Orkney Blast has won Champion Beer of Scotland at CAMRA's recent national real ale festival. A fitting award for a wonderful beer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Here's an interesting one for the upcoming sunny weather - Dunham Massey's Blossom Honey Beer. I love the idea of honey in a beer, but find it often fails to hit the mark, potentially thinning and drying out beer instead of enhancing it with lush, sweet honey-ness. One that I can wholeheartedly recommend is Saltaire's Olympia - if you can find it (it's a seasonal).

Dunham's Honey Blossom Beer however, does work, and the addition of Duerr's honey not only gives the beer a lovely smooth finish (which is quite unexpected from a spritzy, golden ale) alongside a mouthful of orange-citrus notes but also adds a floral, slightly wild-flower aroma to it. The head lasts a long time, and you can chill it slightly for the weekend's heat-wave - or whilst watching England vs Germany, perhaps? Anyway, one to keep an eye out for if you're in the market for something refreshing but slightly different, for sure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Holmfirth and Beyond - A Chat With Summer Wine Brewery

Keeping it local (locale?) and staying in Holmfirth, I've had the pleasure of having a quick chat with James Farran, head brewer at Summer Wine Brewery. This little outfit have big ideas, and that's a quality I really like about new breweries - a sense of adventure. Whether it's creating a relatively large core range of nine beers rather than the usual three or four, or devoting this summer to IPA, there's a questing nature underneath underneath it all that certainly comes through in their beers, which take usual styles and simply make it their way. This sounds like the easiest thing in the world, but in my opinion, too many breweries tread the same path. Anyway, I'm rambling: I'll let James do the talking.

Leigh: Summer Wine - tell me how it started.
James: Good question. Well, I was set on the track as a brewer around 9 years ago when I had one of those beer epiphanies, you know when you drink a beer and it changes everything you thought you knew about beer. I was 18 and the beer was Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Bros; it was malty, spicy, slightly sweet & extremely well balanced - it instantly changed my ideas of what beer could be.

To cut a long story short, I decided to start homebrewing – first, those dodgy syrup kits & eventually full grain mash. I brewed over & over honing my skills as I went, learning all the time about mash temps, pH, sparge temp, hopping, yeasts etc. & how they all can affect the finished product. Many brews followed. I then decided I wanted to brew commercially as what I was brewing was very well received. I wanted a brewery with a name that was synonymous with its location & as I lived close to Holmfirth what better than Summer Wine? So I incorporated Summer Wine Brewery Ltd & trademarked the company name.

I brewed on a small half barrel plant for two years, until I ran into Andy Baker (Summer Wine MD) & another one of our directors at our place of work. I wanted to take the brewery to the next level & Andy was looking for an opportunity to blood himself in the business world after he had graduated - and never one to shirk a challenge, he put his money where his mouth is and jumped in. Everything then moved very quickly we had premises and a working brewery within 6 months (would have been quicker if not for brewery equipment lead time.) Nearly 2 years on the brewery is in huge growth, the beers are well received far and wide & we have some exciting plans for expansion in the pipeline.

Who, or What is your motivation to brew? Where do you look for inspiration?
My motivation to brew comes from lots of sources. I have heard it said that ‘brewing is in your blood’ & when you’re in this industry brewing just feels right and when you have the passion for brewing you don’t feel like you have a job and it’s easy to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes the motivation can come from drinking a great beer or opening and fresh pack of a new hop variety - or maybe even a blog debate (At least we're good for something - Leigh). Inspiration is everywhere.

My favourite SW beer is Helios - a fruity, spritzy blonde that's massively sessionable. Can you give me the lowdown on some more of your core range - and what's your favourite?
We believe choice is a right, not a privilege, and that is why we have a core range of nine ales. Our range carries all styles from Dambusters Dark Mild (3.5%abv) a true mild, Invictus Copper Ale (4.5% abv) our take on a Bitter with punch, up to Apache American Pale Ale (5.2% abv), my personal favorite is Teleporter (5.0% abv) our ten-grain porter that is subtly fruity & chocolatey, with real depth & class. It’s a really great dark ale.

What's your favourite non-SummerWine beer?

Oooh that’s a tough one, so many great beers in the UK & the world for that matter. I’m a great believer that there is no such thing as a great beer only great gyles, however my favourite cask ales being brewed at the moment would have to be Marble Pint & Thornbridge Jaipur - but I am also a huge fan of dark ale as a style. My favourite bottled beer would have to be the Brewdog/Stone collaboration, Bashah.

Project 6 - what's it all about and what can we expect? Project 6 is our new monthly released IPA at 6.6% abv. The first was released at the beginning of June and the start of every month thereafter. The 6 beers will all be Pale IPA’s that showcase the world’s best hops; six varieties in each brew, kettle, aroma & dry hopped to create intensely fruity beers that have real balance despite the huge amount of hops going into each brew,

You can expect each beer to be different from the last in that bitterness levels will change from brew to brew and some interesting dry hopping with some more unusual hops will give the beers an individual character. IPA’s are at the forefront of such an exciting brewing scene at the moment & it is really a pleasure to turn our hand to a series of them.

Apart from Project 6, what else is on the horizon in 2010?
We currently brew two monthly specials to accompany our nine core ales, which vary in style. We also have some very exciting ideas in the pipeline for this year and beyond; without revealing too much one project will include the fusion of two styles whilst another will involve some interesting aged beers.

And finally....You've got one day off this year - how do you spend it?
Probably spend the day sat in a old chesterfield reading some of the ever increasing pile of books waiting for me, mainly factual things regarding evolution, physics & cosmology whilst drinking a selection of the world’s finest bottled beers… heaven!

So there you go. Brewers by day, Science buffs by night. P6 Brew #1 certainly hit the spot: amber in colour, with a sweet, caramelly body, it delivered a green, grassy, slightly herbal hop bite thanks to a mix of Ahtanum, Willamette, Herkules and Liberty - and two secret hops - that increased on the sip. The balance between the body and the hops was spot on - although James warns that P6 Brew #2 is even better. Keep an eye out for it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Nook Brewhouse

...And so it was: Friday night meant getting oneself settled in the pub of your choice, with a few good mates, gearing up for a night of World Cup drama. Two days later, we reflect; drama, yes, but not of the good kind. More of the 'What the hell are we going to do now?' kind. Luckily, the best thing about watching games in the pub is that you've got an array of beers to provide ample distraction as you groan from another overhit cross failing to meet its mark.

As someone that drinks a fair old amount of beer, and attends a fair old amount of festivals and events, you'd think that I'd have pretty much lost that little buzz that happens when you spy a beer you've never had before -or even better - a brewery you've never tasted anything from before. But no - it's still there in spades- and at least this was the case on Friday. When I saw two new pumpclips, I was in there with speed and accuracy that our national team could only dream of right now.

The Nook Brewhouse is based at The Rose & Crown pub in Holmfirth; once known only for "Last of The Summer Wine", but now building up a rep for being a little brewing hotspot - including Summer Wine Brewery (more of whom to come shortly). Brewpubs are a rarity right now, but it's great seeing The Nook's beers making their way to Leeds. Even better that they were both wonderful.

Oat Stout (5.2%abv) does what it says on the tin; velvety smooth and loaded with slightly smoked, bittersweet flavours, with a big whiff of Liquorice and Bonfire Toffee on the nose. Deceptively easy to drink for its strength, this was an instant hit, with second pints being ordered. Fans of York's Centurion's Ghost and Leeds's classy Midnight Bell should give this a pop.

Something altogether lighter can in the form of Blond (4.5%abv), which again displayed The Nook's skill at making no-nonsense beers very well. Perfectly balanced, it was sweet and refreshing at the same time, with a hint of citrus on the nose. Not too much - this isn't a hop-fest, but just enough. Clean and crisp - lovely.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dutch Wink: As Brewed By Beer Writers

...It might have been available since March, but I finally got around to ordering a pint of Cropton's Dutch Wink. This is of note due to the fact that it was overseen by esteemed beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham - presumably before they got into their Doner Kebab period.

Anyway - onto the beer. It's very good. Very good indeed. Super-pale, clean, and very smooth in the body. There's a load of citrus in the nose and that comes across right at the edge of the swallow with a lemon/lime kick - presumably from the Bobek Hops used. For a summery, easy-drinking pale, it's perfect stuff, and bang on for people's moods right now (ie, watching footy en masse in pubs.)

You can head here for the lowdown, and here for a cheeky little video on 'how they made it, innit'. It's on sale at Nicholson's pubs up and down the country, so if you're in Leeds, that's The Palace and The Vic.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cinnamon Spirals and Hobson's Old Henry

Here's a little treat you can make yourself with leftover pastry, as I did last weekend. Perfect for sharing , these beauties take no time at all and their spices sit really well with a number of beers. Basically, you need a lump of shortcrust pastry - about the 150g's worth.

If you don't have any left over, you can make your own by taking 100g of Plain Flour, and cutting 25g of butter and 25g or lard into it. Add a pinch of salt, then rub it all together until it turns to breadcrumbs. Add lukewarm water a little at a time until it turns to dough. Cover in cling film, and rest it in the fridge for 15 minutes. Then, knead it again, and roll it out on a floured surface.

Ok, here's the fun part - over the pastry, sprinkle Muscovado or brown sugar, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and ground Almonds. You can put as much on there as you like. Roll the whole thing up so it's like a sausage, wrap in cling film and chill again for 30 minutes. You can use this time to preheat your oven - about 180c should do it.

When ready, using a sharp knife, slice into rounds and place on a greased baking tray. Brush the tops with Honey, and then bake for about 20 minutes until golden on top. I find you get good results if you baste with honey again ten minutes in. Leave to cool, and there you go. Little pastry treats, ready to be shared.

I enjoyed a few of these with a bottle of Hobson's Old Henry (5.2%abv). Old Henry is described as an 'Auburn Ale', which sounds good, I have to admit. It's a smooth, nutty ale, and deep amber in colour. There's not much in the way of hop profile apart from a pleasant bite at the end of the sip, but there is a fudgy, moreish richness in the body that fans of Courage Directors or Old Speckled Hen would like. This malt-led richness lends itself perfectly to the sweet but slightly spiced flavours in the Spirals.

Shropshire-based Hobson's are an interesting brewery - I would recommend a hop over to their site, where you can watch a decent clip detailing their involvement in saving The Sun Inn, the last parlour pub in the UK, and read about their eco-credentials, which are impressive. Kudos, Hobsons.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Burton Bridge's Stairway To Heaven

...Or a beer of the week, if you will. Seeing Burton Bridge's beers on tap in Leeds is great, and I try not to miss out wherever possible. Stairway To Heaven, sampled at Foley's on Friday was a brilliant case in point.

Light copper in colour, with a floral, almost juicy-fruit aroma hitting the nose, the first thing that strikes me after tasting it is just how well-balanced the whole thing is. At 5% abv it's not entirely sessionable, but the firm, biscuity, almondy body more than compensates for the mouthwatering, tongue-tingling bitter hop-hit at the end. For sheer flavour in a glass, it takes some beating, but it is a big, big beer.

In many ways it's an ideal representation of what I think of when I think of Burton Bridge in general; a brewer that courts tradition, with old-school pump-clips and history, yet often produces quite off-kilter beers. Off kilter in a good way. Take this example, for instance. My drinking buddy remarked it was like 'A regular amber bitter but amped up', and I have to agree. In a stroke in serendipity, I had a bottle of Empire Ale in the cellar, and enjoyed it in the baking sun yesterday afternoon. Crisp, dry as hell, strong and relentlessly citrussy, it's a classy IPA for all intents and purposes and a bloody good one at that. Extreme...but not, if you know what I mean. Wonderful.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Festival Round-Up

Ok, folks, just time for a quick beer festival round-up; just in case the World Cup isn't your cup of tea (or pint of beer). Clifford's first Beer festival takes place at the village hall on 19/06/10, and is raising funds for the hall and the local footy team - so it's all good. The beer range is a showcase for the region with Acorn, Elland, Saltaire, Abbeydale, Brown Cow, Great Heck, Hawkshead and Ilkley breweries all supplying for the festival. Clifford's a lovely part of Yorkshire, too.

Speaking of lovely parts of Yorkshire, The White Bear in Masham is holding their 9th annual Beer fest on the weekend of 25/06/10. Much bigger, and across the pennines, is Chorlton's Beer Festival on the 2nd and 3rd of July. With over 50 ales on offer, I'd expect the usual eclectic festival mix. Last year saw local heroes like Marble stack up against more travelled breweries such as Purple Moose, Dark Star and Dunham Massey.

For our friends north of the border (of which we have many, you lovely, lovely people), there's the big one - The Scottish Real Ale Festival 2010. Held on the 24th. 25th and 26th of June at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, beers from Black Isle, Harviestoun, Sulwath and Williams Bros are likely to be amongst many on offer. And if in Wales - don't despair - there's one for you too: The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival is taking place at Cardiff International Arena on the weekend of June 10th. There's plenty of great welsh beers on the list, too - Breconshire, Evan Evans, Otley and Vale Of Glamorgan to name a few.
So - support your local independent breweries and pubs as well as your team in the upcoming month.