Sunday, February 27, 2011

Camden Town Brewery Pale Ale

Visiting York yesterday with the Twissup gang gave me another chance to sink a couple of pints of Camden Town's Pale Ale (4.5%abv). I've been wanting to get my hands on more since my initial sip in London a few weeks back, refreshing the throat and reviving the soul after a three- hour train journey. It's just a great beer; straw-pale, light, packed with simple Grapefruit and Lemon flavour and aroma. A testament to the beautiful simplicity of a well-made pale with no airs and graces. I drank two of them - and sticking to one beer in Pivni is tough, as others will testify. I'm glad to see beers like this still being made, a beacon of simple pleasure in what can often become a high-concept, over-thought and overwrought beer landscape. Viva la Pale.

You can read up on Camden's excellent-looking setup over on Pencil & Spoon here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Beer Journey (Or The Birth of A Beer Geek)

In a break from the norm, this is a guest post from Adam Tuncay, a chap who I've met, along with many, many others, through Twitter and following this blog. He contacted me a few days back to ask if he could host a piece about the indroduction to Beer that he's had in recent months. Given that one of the reasons we write about Beer is to get more people to drink it, I was happy to oblige and interested to hear his views. Take it away, Adam....

My path to being a fully fledged beer geek isn’t unique by any means, we all have to start somewhere. Whether it is something you have grown up with, found yourself or - in my case - had introduced to you by friends.

Not so long ago a night in or out would consist of bottles of Italian or Indian lager. I would try the odd supermarket ale but nothing really enthused me enough to move away from what I already liked and was familiar with at the time.
That all changed on a Saturday afternoon in late August. I was encouraged by a friend to spend the day drinking in Sheffield and the surrounding area; and he was very keen on visiting a pub next to the train station. My experience of pubs at train stations had been somewhat tarnished over the years, mainly due to visiting many unimpressive establishments that offered poor quality beer and unwelcoming surroundings. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes when he suggested a visit to the Sheffield Tap, boy was I wrong. First up was a pint of Thornbridge Jaipur, one sip and I was blown away, the balance and depth of flavour was beyond anything I had experienced before. It was easily the best pint I had ever had, I knew then that I had to experience more beer like that. I could have stayed in there all day, but drawn by the promise of more Thornbridge beers we headed to the Coach and Horses in Dronfield, where we tried pretty much everything they had on.

That day changed my outlook on what good beer is and showed me that I shouldn’t be happy to accept average or worse beer. Since then my love for beer has taken on something of a snowball effect. I was initially obsessed with anything Thornbridge, but I quickly moved on to trying everything and spending a large amount of my disposable income on it.

Any visit to an unfamiliar pub is now accompanied a frantic scan of the bars' cask range in the hope that there is something I like or would like to try on offer. One of my favourite pubs and first place on the list for a good pint in Leeds is Mr. Foleys, however less than a year ago I didn’t even know it existed. I would probably have thought Brewdog, Summer Wine Brewery, Saltaire? Where is the proper beer like draft Becks Vier or Peroni!? Not that there is anything wrong with either of these, they are just no longer what I look for in a beer. I can still understand why some people would drink them or a similar mass produced option, if that’s what they like then fair enough but I would encourage any beer drinker to try something different, you never know you might like it, I did.

It's amazing how quickly my perspective has changed. I’m now trying to introduce friends to the great range of quality UK and US real ale, craft beer whatever you want to call it. I don’t want them to miss out like I did. My wife argues that this new found ‘hobby’ is a waste of money. I think her perspective comes from a view that beer is gone once you drink it unlike physical possessions and it’s hard for her to understand my sudden fascination. But is it a waste to spend money and get enjoyment out if something you truly love and are passionate about? I don’t think so. Beer is now a massive part of my life and one of the first things I talk about, think of and look forward to, spending too many hours reading the plethora of blogs on the web. My level of interest is such that I’m finding it easier writing this piece on my lunch than focusing on my job the rest of the day.I’m not quite at the stage where I can fully describe the aromas, flavours or underlying notes with any confidence, perhaps that will come with time, for now I’m just happy enjoying great beer and meeting new people that share the same passion. Through this new obsession I have been lucky to meet many likeminded people through Twitter who have been very welcoming to a relative beer geek newbie. I hope to meet many more of you and share a conversation over some great beer at Twissup in York on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Durham White Magic IPA

I've always been a fan of Durham's beers, and White Magic IPA does nothing to dissuade me from that view. Magic (or White Magic, as the website and small print on the label says) weighs in at a respectable 7%abv and certainly drinks it; the golden - hued body is robust, well-rounded and sweet. However, this bulk is offset by a really well-balanced bitterness; clean, green and rising, and pleasantly assertive.
There's not much going on in the nose to suggest anything other than a decently hopped strong golden ale, but don't let that put you off if you're a self-confessed US-Style Hophead. This IPA may be hopped with unfashionable Goldings (no US C-Hops here!), but there's loads of them and balance in abundance. The beer was in excellent condition, with a lasting, thick head, and it's not only one of the best beers I've tried from Durham, it's one I'm going to go back out and buy more of.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rotherham Real Ale & Music Festival 2011

I just thought I'd give a shout to some very worthy causes being promoted by Rotherham's Real Ale & Music Festival this year (2nd-5th March). The festival is in aid of The Rotherham Hospice, Weston Park Cancer Charity, Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice and Safe at Last . Not only is the festival being held in very good cause, Magna have donated their facilities for this year's fest.

So, good causes and a unique venue. What about the beer? Judging from the beer list, you've got an excellent display of Northern Brewing, with my personal pick being the range from Crown and the new Nerotype Brew 1 from SummerWine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adnam's Kolner

...I'm a bit late getting round to this one; Adnams released Kolner last Autumn as part of thier 'Handcrafted' range. I didn't manage to get any on cask, but did manage to get a couple to enjoy at home, and Kolner was the one I kept (The Stout was swapped in The Grove; I think Fletch might have ended up with it?). Adnams are a big favourite of mine - for me they manage to achieve a perfect balance for a big-selling core range and satisfying the more curious of us by often branching out into seasonals and one-off's - so I had high hopes.

I wasn't disappointed. Despite expecting something like a Koelsch, Kolner (4.8%) comes off a lot spicier, with a rangy, wild, fruity aspect running through it. There's plenty of Peach, Lemon and a touch of Honey on the nose, and this is complimented on the sip with a hint of Coriander. I guess a near-match would be a Witbier in terms of flavour; but all those delicate notes are wrapped up a robust Golden Ale. An interesting beer for sure; and one I certainly recommend.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BrewDog Single Hop IPA Launch

BrewDog will be launching their new Single-Hopped IPA range Wednesday (16th Feb) at North. The new range is esentially the same base beer with four single hopped versions available: Citra, Bramling Cross, Nelson Sauvin or Sorachi Ace. North will be presenting them with thier hops for comparison and I'm sure they will go do down a treat with hop-heads (with the beers weighing in a 75b IBU's each) and BrewDog fans alike.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feta Burritos and Kelham Island Blonde

It's not often that I cook 100% vegetarian dishes - or indeed crave them -but a recent night out in Covent Garden which culminated in a fantastic (and incredibly reasonably-priced) meal at Wahaca ended with me declaring that my eating-buddy's meal was nicer than mine, Veggie or not. So a few weeks ago I caved and set about recreating something like it; and this is what I ended up with; Makes two large Burritos.

Pre-heat your oven to 175c. Firstly, you need to make your rice filling. Cook some rice according to packet instructions, drain, and set aside. In a large pan, soften one large white Onion in Olive oil and a knob of butter. Add some chopped Chestnut mushrooms, and one sliced Courgette. When the Courgette is soft, one clove of chopped Garlic. Add your rice and blend together. Season with freshly-ground black pepper as well as generous shakes of Smoked Paprika and finish off with mild Chili powder to your liking.

Spoon your filling onto the middle of a wheat Tortilla, and then add crumbled Feta Cheese on top of this. Roll, seal, and then roll inside another tortilla. Lay on a baking tray and repeat until your Burritos are made.

Cook in the oven for about ten minutes - you want the tops just crispy, and warmed through enough for the cheese to melt or soften.

Serve with a dollop of Sour Cream on top, and a fresh Mexican salad; Tomato, red onion and fresh coriander, doused in Lime Juice. If you wanted to 'meat this up', you could add chicken or Chorizo to the rice - even left over chili if you have it. To make things hotter, add chopped chillis (jalapenos would be nice and zippy) to the rice. I kept things simple, as for me, this dish is actually more about the melty, oozy cheese mixing with the rice.

I washed this down with a 'Island' from Kelham Island. This 4.0%abv Blonde doesn't look like much on the outside, but this deep Golden ale has a lovely, honey-sweet nose and body, but rounds things off nicely with a flinty, dry finish more reminiscent of a Pilsner than a Golden Ale. It's a lovely quaffing beer and chills down really well if you want something refreshing but with flavour to douse Mexican heat.

Do go to Wahaca; the food's lovely.

Monday, February 07, 2011

SIBA's Keg Beer Competition

....Sort of in line with recent conversations about Beer Dispense, SIBA are holding a Keg Beer Competition tomorrow onwards, at The Canal House in Nottingham, as Ed reported a while back. Castle Rock appear to be sponsoring it, and you can find the beer list over at Ed's site, and although small, it'd probably be worth going to just to see what's going on. Brewdog, Coniston, Freedom and Harviestoun amongst others all have offerings on show - if anyone goes will you let us know how it was? I can't remember seeing an all-keg festival before. It appears to be the first day of a wider beer festival.
*Update* - Here's what ATJ thought of proceedings.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sharp's Monsieur Rock

Like many beer nerd, I have a 'Wants' list. It stretches as far as the eye can see most of the time, but since late last year, one beer has been firmly at the top; Sharp's Monsieur Rock (5.2abv). Luckily, those nice lads at Beer-Ritz recently nabbed a haul, and I managed to fight my way through the scrum and secure myself a couple.

MR was hyped by us Beer Bloggers upon release, and I'm now proud to say rightly so, in my opinion. It's quite unlike anything I've drunk before but in subtle ways; yes, it's lagered, but it's so much more than lager. There's a complex nose, which I'm sure I haven't really nailed yet, but I'm getting Peach, Pear drops and Orange pithyness all wafting upward. It's quite possibly the palest beer I've drunk (you were right, Ghostie) and - this is something I don't say often - perfectly lively; the bubbles are light and champagne-esque, lifting all that summery, light, complexity out of the glass, onto your tongue and up your nose.
There's a little malt-biscuit backbone to hold things up, and it drinks with a little more Lemon poking through than on the nose. It's 100% hopped with Saaz, and that grassiness is evident in the final part of the sip - the cleanest lagered ale I've drunk, without a doubt. There's almost zero aftertaste.
Aplogies - I know this has been a somewhat hyperbolic post from me, but I really can't get across how much I enjoyed this beer enough. Grab some whilst you can. Stuart Howe's blog can be found here, and he details how he made MR with Orval's Jean-Marie Rock. Do read. It's one of the best blogs out there.

I'll also take this opportunity to wish Stuart and all at Sharp's best of luck for the future, whatever that might hold.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Cask vs Keg vs Bottle vs Can

The Session: It's like a Royal Rumble of dispense.

This argument has been rumbling on for a while, and I doubt that I'm going to add anything meaningful to it apart from my own point of view. However, seeing as though one of my favourite blogs, Reluctant Scooper is hosting the session, I thought I'd wade in. Hey, that's what the blog's for, so here goes.

Firstly - Bottle vs Can. Along with the true identity of Jack the Ripper, or why people ever rated Rafa Benitez, one of the true mysteries of life is why brewers put beer in clear glass bottles. It simply makes for a badly-kept beer, and one that tastes, no matter what beer it is, like all other beers in clear glass. Skunky. Harsh. Oxidised. Yuck. In the grand scheme of things, putting beer into cans holds no great pain for me; I've tried a few average US Pale Ales in cans and enjoyed not only the novelty, but the taste of the beer too. Some purists argue that the can taints the beer; let's get glass right first, eh? Bring on Canning, I say. My view will stay that way until I drink a beer that's genuinely been ruined by canning - the process, that is.

As for Keg...well, I have to agree with what Zak says in so much as that I'd like to think it's horses for courses; some beers suit being Keg-Dispensed, some not so. The turning point for me was when I took a trip to Edinburgh in 2009 and enjoyed a pint of BrewDog 77 Lager on cask at The Abbotsford. Lovely it was; but at the time - for the first time, I might add - that flash of 'might be better served in Keg' came across my mind. Since then, there have been many beers that I've enjoyed on Keg, and those that I wish I had enjoyed on Keg - such as SummerWine's Project 6 IPA series. I know Andy and James are pro-Keg, but I really believe this. Powerful, aromatic beers that do well slightly colder are great on Keg, as are excellent lagers such as all-time-fave Moravka and, more recently, Thornbridge Italia. Foley's Brewdog tap and North's constant Keg presence means we are sorted in Leeds, and The Grove (Huddersfield) unashamedly flaunts Keg as a dispense system for their US range; and that's not even mentioning BrewDog Aberdeen's all-Keg lineup. It's popular, and that's just here. When I open the West Coast Good Beer Guide, and am flicking the pages, gazing upon row upon row of Keg taps, I'm slightly romanced by it. It's not a fad, and there's no need to be scared of it. It's just another option.

Old Peculier from the wood? Stouts, lush, velvety Porters, fruity Ales and Brown Ales? Give me cask. Summer Ales, Weiss, Wits and Pales at a Summer Barbecue? Chill those bottles. The best dispense system for any beer is surely the one that suits it the most.

...By the way, if you've got the Good Beer US West Coast, flick to Page 97 and check out the Maiden Publick House. That's what I dream of: a bar in woods, with neon signs in the window and a shitload of great beer. If I win the lottery, that's what I'm buying. You're all invited.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thwaites' OBJ

I've been meaning to get my hands on some of Thwaites's new Signature Range since seeing them advertised at last month's Winter Ale Festival. OBJ (6.5%abv) landed at Veritas this week, so I loped off for a pint.

OBJ (Oh Be Joyful) is a copper-hued Winter ale - the fairly sizeable abv comes through in the thick mouthfeel, but it remains a smooth pint. Tan of head, there's not a great deal going on in the nose except for Toffee and Caramel, and this continues through into the sip. Underneath all that toffee-apple sweetness there's a touch of Dundee cake spiciness, and a subdued bitter finish. It's a difficult beer to place at times, because it's strong enough to not really be sessionable, yet smooth and balanced enough to fit that bill. There's hints of a Barley Wine in there, but again drunk in a pint that seems at odds with OBJ's image. Maybe bottled - so it can be sipped over an evening - OBJ might find a little niche.

OBJ's altogether an intruiging and enjoyable beer. I'm a fan of seasonals, one-off's and specials, and I commend Thwaites on stretching thier muscles and giving us something new to look forward to in 2011. You can see the whole range here. If you want more Thwaites action, you can read Fletch's recent encounter with perennial favourite Nutty Black here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Kernel: The Darks

...So let's wrap up my long weekend of unabashed Kernel-worship with a jaunt through their darker beers. First up, London Porter, weighing in at a moderate 5.5%abv. It's a super-amiable, easy drinking porter, which is surprisingly complex. There's digestive biscuit on the nose, finished off with a hint of woodsmoke - and the full mouthfeel turns out sweeter than you'd expect, with loads more biscuit and a drying seam of coffee towards the end. It's wonderful stuff, and I fear I drained my glass rather quicker than I really wanted to. This beer would be awesome with some smokey ribs or sausages.

Getting a little stronger at 7.8% abv, Export Stout (London 1890) is an absolute riot of Stouty goodness. Through the thick, tan-hued head peeps a nicely Phenolic nose, layered with even more smokiness than the porter. The tongue-coating mouthfeel only adds to the richness of the beer, which explodes with a vine-fruit profile rather than being the dryer taste you might have been expecting. The finish is all about bitter, black chocolate - drying at the end, only slightly creamy at the start.

I'm not the biggest fan of Black IPA's - simply because I've yet to find one that blows me away - but Kernel's (6.8%abv) comes damn close. Easily the best example of the style I've tasted, beneath the jet-black exterior lies tropical fruitiness; Lychee and a slightly peppery note on the nose, and a drying sip that leaves you wanting more. Balanced subtly, it's a big, fruity beer that comes wrapped in a smooth, smoky disguise. This beauty was joint-brewed by Evin and our favourite degenerate Bar Manager, Rakebar Glyn.

Finally, Imperial Stout (12.5%abv). Wow. This is a massive beer all right, as you'd expect. Rather than being Export Stout on steriods, there's a much more Dundee-cake, Raisin/Sultana note to this rich brew, with bitter chocolate and a hint of Vanilla coming in at the end. It's sweet, but ultimately smooth with it, and the hallmark of Kernel's beers is here in abundance; flavoursome, complex beers that remain drinkable. I mean really drinkable; I'm pleased to report that this beer saw in the New Year with a few others, and rather than tip me over the edge, it warmed the belly and gave me no headache the day after. If that's not a sign of quality then I don't know what is.

Tell you what, it's been an absolute plasure drinking these Kernels. Best of luck to Evin, and long may The Kernel prosper.