They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Gypsies For Life!

The last couple of weeks at the shop have been manic, and I mean MANIC! I suppose when you sell four times as much beer in a week as you normally do that's to be expected though. That's my excuse for the lack of posts out of the way, but while I've had time away from the writing, it's still been very fun to read about what others have been getting up to during the holiday period. It was also very nice to see all the local Bloggers and beer lovers in the shop over the past couple of weeks, it made me feel a little inadequate when I saw shopping baskets full to the brim of glorious beer. I clearly didn't drink enough this Christmas. I even spied Tandleman at one point paroosing our specialist beers and we had a decent chat. (He even nearly went away with a Brewdog Badge!)

One thing I did read which made me chuckle was a post by Simon Johnson about his bug bears of the social media and the online writing scene. It made me laugh because, not only do I agree with some of them, I also indulge in some of them. So tonight I'll give out a shout to Scooper by writing about a Rare Collaboration beer which looks totally AWESOME (yup, I love saying awesome, I bet this is pretty craft too...) ;)

First the blurb; Mikkeller's Our Side is a collaboration brew between two 'Gypsies' - Mikkeller and Stillwater: a 7.5% ale in a large and very stunning bottle. (label designed by Lee Verzosa)

"Mikkel and Brian are two of the world's most unconventional brewers. By designing beers at various breweries around the globe, they have found the freedom to experiment and innovate, resulting in unique beers that often blur the lines of definition. After having met at a festival in Bodegraven, NL, the two realized that their first creations both were called Stateside. It was then an obvious decision to make the two recipes into a new product, packed full of piney, resinous hops, and backed by the esters of a farmhouse yeast strain."

The aroma is making my mouth water. It reminds me of the big Italian brews we used to get at the shop from breweries like Baladin and Borgo. Imagine if you will; Hoppy Saision meets IPA and that's the aroma.

It's intensely lively, the first sip fills your mouth with carbonation and CO2, amongst lots of Belgian/peppery yeast - so you don't really get an initial impression of flavour. Give it time to warm and a bit of a swirl to kick some of the gas out, and it reveals a really interesting and complex beer. Soft and floral. Really fruity. It reminds me quite a bit of the Pretty Things Jack D'or Saison. A soft, slightly sweet caramel malty-ness is matched with a drying, peppery Belgian quality which makes it very moorish. Some bitter orange, vanilla, honeycomb and a little citrus peel are in and around the body and the finish is long a drying.

It's a really interesting beer, but if both these brewers are 'cuckoo' brewers, then I'd like to know where they made it...

Would I call it Craft? Would I prefer it on Cask or Keg? Would I pair it with food? Will I give it a video review? ..ahh ballz to it, I'm far to busy drinking the beer! Now can I have a RT Simon?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Either Or Neither Nor

I've never had a beer from Cigar City before. (Interesting name for a brewery as a side note...) I saw this one in Craft in London a few months back and decided it looked interesting enough to stump up for a bottle. Turns out this is a beer in a four part series of beers, each respectively called; Either, Or, Neither and Nor. I spied they had some Or in Craft, but the wallet dictated that I just purchase the one. I'm not sure what the other beers in the series are, but it sounds like a really cool idea, I really like the artwork on the labels too, it's really well designed.

It's been called a Black IPA, but the label suggests a Black Ale, and at a hefty 11.2% it's certainly a snifter job. It's made with "Ty Ty Honey, copious amounts of hops and aged on toasted Spanish Cedar"

If you give the glass a bit of a swirl and get some foam forming you get a decent aroma of all sorts of stuff going on; chocolate, honey, burnt toast, sticky resinous hops, roasted malt and raisins. If you let it settle down a bit you start to get more of, an almost smoky, woody aroma - just enough to give an essence of a Rauch Beer.

It's quite a strange beer. On the initial sip you get a really smooth beer and you expect something really thick and oily. This disappears though, the body and mouth feel is light, and your left with your mouth burning of pure flavour. There's a big orange tang on the back of your tongue after the swallow, but the most obvious element is the powerful woody flavours which dominate your senses. (I've worked with Cedar before in furniture making, it's got really powerful and distinctive aromas, and takes a while to get the smell off your hands... not that it was a bad thing) It's slightly charred, lots of the burnt toast coming through with a drying quality making it very moorish. It's obviously alcoholic, but not in a way which makes you think 'slow down' - I don't think it's as warming as a 11.2% beer should be, which makes it a little dangerous in my opinion.

It's a great tasting beer, I think it would have been nicer if the honey had a little more umph in the flavour - I think it gets a little dominated by all the earthy Cedar wood. A good first beer to have from a brewery which I've not visited before though, I hope I can try some more from Cigar City. If your down and about in Craft, ask them if they have any left!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Epic Black & Tan

Naylor's Brewery, 'The Peak of Perfection' from Keighley. West Yorkshire - The home of UK Brewing.

Naylor's produce a solid core range of 'Pinnacle' beers with a Bitter and a Porter being just two of the range. They also bottle a Black & Tan themselves with two said beers but this was, somehow, not enough for me so I thought I'd blend the two beers for myself. I thought I'd get the proper experience if I blended the two originals myself instead of the pre mixed bottle.

I was going to try and layer the beers like I did with the Yin, Yang mix, but it didn't work this time. I tried really hard too, poured them really carefully, but the Porter just didn't sit on top of the Bitter. Maybe it was something to do with the Bitter being lighter in % than the Porter, or maybe they were both too light. Maybe you can't layer everything, but I still like to try - someone has to, it's tough but I'm willing to do it in the name of science!

I really like the mix. I didn't save a little of each to compare though, I got a little over exited when pouring them together, so I don't really have anything to compare them too. It's not too much of a problem - my giant glass of Black & Tan still tastes great. This was a spur of the moment thing really, and most of the time, spur of the moment things are the best.

Would I suggest you should try it? Well I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't. It goes really well with home made brownies too!

Note: Brownies made by Sister, not me.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Ilkley: New Beers, New Look

Ilkley's back in my 'awesome books'.... not that they were ever in my bad books. They've moved up from my 'good books' to my 'awesome books' because they've started bottling my favourite Ilkley beer: Lotus IPA, as well as their Stout Mary.

Ilkley Lotus is a 5.6% IPA, and I really love how informative their bottles have become. The label states: "Malts - The finest Marris Otter and Crystal, Hops - Cascade and Summit, Water - From the Yorkshire Dales". It's things like this which us beer geeks are interested in, and something we'd love to see on more beers.

The beer itself has a fantastic fruity aroma of orange, lemons and apricots with just a hint of biscuity malt in the background. The taste is a riot of ripe juicy fruits - bittersweet and incredibly easy drinking for an almost 6% beer. Now I'm not one for telling you how good a beer is in comparison to another bee..... oh, no wait I totally am that guy! I had a bottle of Goose Island before this bottle and this is sooooo much better! Plus it's in a bigger bottle! Woop Woop!

Next along the 'new in bottle' chain comes Ilkley's Stout Mary - a 4.5% Oatmeal Stout. The bottle states: "Malts - Pale Malt, Roast Barley, Chocolate and Crystal, Hops - Galena and Bramling Cross, Water - From the Yorkshire Dales." It's not as dark as I'd have expected but each to their own.

A really nice roasted malt and burnt rubber aroma. (I sometimes find burnt rubber in my stouts, and people say it sounds really unappetising.. but that's how it smells, and I'm not trying to put it across as a bad thing.) The flavour is rich and creamy. Big on the burnt malt roasted bitterness but light in the finish, which is really good as it doesn't feel like it's filling you up - a problem I'm finding recently drinking pints of stout.

A point I will mention is that if you doubled the strength of this beer you'd get a perfect Imperial Stout.

Two great accompaniments to the Ilkley range in our shop then. I also mentioned about the new look too though. It looks like their going back to the bolder more colour prominent labels, which is fine by me, I prefer them. I'm not really a fan of the taller bottles (shown left in comparison to the ones above) that are coming into the shop at the moment though. Decide for yourself, but it seems Ilkley rethink their bottle branding every 6 months and continue to improve and develop the brand, which is either - quite expensive, or a passion to produce the best beers they can!

Once again: Look British - we're awesome at making beer.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Ghostie's 2011 Golden Pints

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer
Winner: Ilkley Mary Jane
Runner up: Ridgeside Desert Aire

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Winner: Buxton Black Rocks
Runner up: Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12yr

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Winner: Mikkeller Black Imperial Stout
Runner up: Stone Arrogant Bastard

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Winner: Dogfish Head 120min IPA
Runner up: Avery Maharaja IPA

Best Overall Beer
Winner: Marble Dobber
Runner up: Hawkshead NZPA

Best Pumpclip or Label
Winner: Black Sheep Imperial Stout
Runner up: Left Hand Fade to Black

Best UK Brewery
Winner: Marble
Runner up: Ilkley

Best Overseas Brewery
Winner: Stone
Runner up: Dogfish Head

Pub/Bar of the Year
Winner: Arcadia
Runner up: The Rake

Beer Festival of the Year
Winner: LS6 Beer Festival
Runner up: GBBF

Supermarket of the Year
Winner: Waitrose
Runner up: Morrisons

Independent Retailer of the Year
Winner: Beer Ritz
Runner up: Bacchanalia

Online Retailer of the Year
Winner: My Brewery Tap
Runner up: Beer Merchants

Best Beer Book or Magazine
Winner: Michael Jackson's Beer Companion
Runner up: Pete Brown's Man Walks into a Pub

Best Beer Blog or Website
Winner: Real Brewing at the Sharp End
Runner up: Rabid About Beer

Best Beer Twitterer
Winner: @broadfordbrewer
Runner up: @Mrfoleys

Best Online Brewery Presence
Winner: Summer Wine Brewery
Runner up: Hardknott

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Winner: Punk IPA Cans in Chicken Arse from Dredge
Runner up: Leigh's Roast Potato Fish Pie and Adnam's Spindrift

In 2012 I'd Most Like To:
Brew some beer with Zak Avery whilst drinking a 4 year old bottle of Dogfish Head 120min IPA.

Open Catagory
Biggest Sellout of the Year: Cooking Lager >> We thoroughly miss his postings about raiding supermarkets for cheap lout and spending evenings with his squeeze. Now he's just another beery geek :(

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Vitesse Noir and Lots of Whisky!

I was pretty damn exited, and slightly confused when I first heard about Hardknott's Vitesse Noir. Mainly because I thought; 'A Triple Imperial Stout... awesome!'  and  'A Triple Imperial Stout... what??'

After finding out more about the beer though, it sounded like it was going to be pretty great. A Triple Imperial vanilla mocha Stout, and at 11% too. Those crazy hardcore Hardknott's produced this by double mashing a double Imperial Stout and then throwing in really rich flavours consisting of chocolate, vanilla and coffee. Sounds good on paper, but the proof is in the pudding beer, so to speak.

It pours pitch black with the darkest of brown hues coming in at the sides of the glass under strong lights. At first appearance it looks pretty lacking in carbonation, but be assured this beer is perfectly conditioned. The aromas are pretty obvious for this one. Chocolate covered, heavily roasted coffee beans leap forth from your glass. Its slightly oaky but I was expecting a little more from the vanilla - I suppose it was always going to be a little overpowered by the chocolate and coffee. The initial taste is thick and syrup like. The flavour is really well balanced, with all the aspects of the beer working together really well. The 11% is masked really well, and makes the beer drink much easier than it should... danger beer! It's not as warming as I thought it would be, but it's still really rich and has a great long lasting roasted bitterness about it.

This beer is pretty innovative. The guys at Hardknott are always trying to push the boundaries of what a beer can be, and why shouldn't they, it's quite refreshing. I thought, in the spirit of innovation and experimentation, that I'd have a bit of a play with this beer too. Not that the beer needs to be tampered with, I just like to have a bit of fun with my beer. I wondered what the brew would be like with a bit of oak aging behind it. I'm quite confident that you know I don't have any barrels to my name, or the quantities of the beer to do this though, so I'll have to improvise...

I decided to drink the rest of this bottle with one of my favourite drinking methods: mixing in a few drops of single malts to give a different thought process to the evening.

First up was Aberlour a'bunadh :- a 59.9% cask strength, straight from the cask Speyside rich, fruity beast. Of course it only takes a couple of drops to get the point across, so that's how things went down. I think this little addition worked really well. The powerful rich fruity flavours of the whisky melded really well with the big beer and made a great warming brew. It was now really woody and nutty, with hints of figs and a lot more vanilla now. Good match.

Next up I thought I'd try it with some Islay Whisky: Bruichladdich Rocks to be precise. I may have gotten a little over exited at this point and added a few more drops than necessary to this glass. I thought an Islay malt would add a different complexity to the drink, but the match didn't really work. The massive zesty, seaside quality of the whisky really didn't work with the rich, fruity and bitter flavours of the beer. Oh well, you have to try these things out to see if they work.... Bad match.

The last choice turned out to be the best. A Highland malt; Glenmorangie Nectar D'or. This whisky is matured in Bourbon casks and then finished in Sauternes barrels giving it great lemon  and honey syrup flavours and sweetness. The additional sweetness of the whisky gives a great, but not overpowering, match to the beer giving it a really long, warming and oaky finish. A really good match.

Vitesse Noir is a really good beer, on it's own, or even with a few drops of whisky added too. (you know us Ghosts love our spirits..) I'm not sure about the wording on the label though... Instead of saying it's "just the tonic that you needed" I would have said - 'Vitesse Noir; it gets you really drunk!' ;)

Everything in moderation, including moderation itself...


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gotta Take The Power Back!

I have to apologise. Some of my posts over the past 2 months have been a little negative, and in truth, that's not the sort of person I want or try to be so it's going to stop. So get ready for the feel good post of the year! :)

Take a decent look at the picture below. Yes it's a little out of focus, but I'm sure you can see what it's meant to be.

This is the face of British Beer! (at Beer Ritz anyway)

Two years ago this would have been a much different picture. Look at the colours, (except Kernel) look at the design ((including Kernel).. they just won brewery of the year at the BGBW awards, they can have a bit of teasing)  Three years back, this sort of thing was a bit of a pipe dream. Sure there was brewers doing innovative stuff, but not on scales like this.

A couple of years back, we were still in USA mode, lapping up all they could give. We were were American Beer crazy, on some levels we still are a little bit.

Last year we thought Italian Craft beer was going to really take off in the UK. Unfortunately that didn't really seem to materialize as much as some of us (me) had hoped.

In todays environment, with the huge increase in costs for such loser increases such as the Higher Strength Beer Duty and costs which are being piled on like, transportation and distribution costs, it's not surprising people have started being choosy with their extra cash. We are in a very good position at Beer Ritz to see where in the world people are choosing to spend this money, beer wise.

People are starting to look British. Even more than that, people are starting to look local.

It is a fact that at this moment, people are buying more British beer than ever in our shop. And I'm pretty damn sure it's not just because of price too. You look back at the picture at the top. Our British shelves have never know such outstanding  'desire' appeal. The up and coming brewers are really going all out in delivering the whole package when it comes to their produce. Great design, great range, and really bloody great beer. I'll be perfectly honest, looking at the two sides of our shop, the British section makes the American section look just a little drab at the moment. It may not be obvious from the image above, so you'll just have to come and see for yourselves. And the image isn't even scratching the surface of the British beer scene. In the year 2000, there was around 500 breweries in Britain, now there are over 750 (is this right? I thought there was more...) (a third of which comes from Yorkshire, Woo!). There really has never been a better time to start getting back into, and being proud of, your local beer. It's full of modern design, full of eye catching and clever marketing, and most of all it's still full of tradition.

You can be pro cask or pro keg, but it's not hard to see that cask ale has made a real come back in the last few years. People want it, they want to try new ones, old ones, crazy ones. You only need to visit any CAMRA festival to see that. Even young people want it! I'm young(ish) and I drink it all the time, I can't get enough of the bloody stuff! Others want it too. I've heard great stories of cask going over to the USA, to be drained dry in under a few hours by queuing customers just wanting to get a taste of pure British cask beer.

A couple of years back there was a bit of a void in the British beer scene. That void has been well and truly filled, stuffed, and is bursting out the seams. Some may argue that the movement was started by brewers like Thornbridge and Brewdog, but I say this movement was started by us, the consumer! We are voting with our feet, now more than ever, and people saw this gap in the market and went for the jugular. They gave us what we wanted, gave us great beer - local beer - and at the end of the day it was DAMN GOOD BEER!

We still have something to address though. There is still too much bickering within our own drinking scene. People are still arguing about the pros and cons of Cask vs Keg, drinking at home vs drinking at the pub, macro vs micro, craft vs everything else, etc...
It's time we stopped focusing on the insignificant differences that separate us, and it's time we started focusing on the things that bring us and this great beer drinking nation together! THE LOVE OF GREAT BEER!

And you know the best thing about this British Beer Revolution....

We're just getting started!!!!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chav Beer

Please note: If you like good beer, this is what your government thinks of you.

Yo geezers! I was in t'market t'other day and I saw this stupid looking beer stall. It had loads of stupid looking beers from loads of foreigners, I passed them by cos I don't want to associate with foreigners.. I did see one though which was a tinnie. I drink my beers from a tin, it's the way God intended it! My beer of choice is Stella, I usually get through 6 pint tinnies a night and bloody love it! I picked up this beer tin because it said on the side it was 15.5%, I thought bloody hell! that will get me pissed real quick, I'll buy one of those tings.

I thought it would be real cool to drink this before a night out in Oceana, after all I needed to get drunk before I went out, those stingy bastards are always charging too much for vodka and coke. I was proper disapointed once I opened the tin, there was a bloody bottle inside! Rip off or what! And the bottle was tiny as well, I paid nuff for this, and the tin wasn't even full of beer.

Oh well, I bought it now and I aint returning it, I'd look like a proper muppet. The brewers from this 'O' brewery must be cool anyway, cos their label is covered in proper Egyptian graffiti innit. It had a real cool name. I poured it out and it was proper dark innit, it was like a Guinness me dad drinks.

I started to drink this stuff and thought right away I'd made a bloody mistake. Why the hell did I buy this, it smelled like a a hazelnut coffee me mum used to drink. I had it out of my prized Stella glass which I robbed from t'pub down the road, I drink all my drink out of that glass, even my high end Smirnoff vodka like. I tell you what this beer got me pretty pissed quite quickly blud, even if it did taste like a coffee that my mum had made with ten sugars in it.

The beer got me reaching for my fridge before I went out, so I went for the only thing I ever eat with my beers:

I bloody love a few tinnies and pizza, I'd eat it for the rest of my life if it didn't kill me by 45... The beer might have been in a stupid small bottle, and it might have been really bloody expensive, but it did get me really pissed, and after that, and loads of WKDs in Oceana I managed to pull a proper fit bird - I'm gonna have to start every night with one of these from now on, It's a guaranteed lay maker!

Once again, if you drink beer, this is what people in any sort of power think of you, regardless of what beer you may drink.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Twigs and Berries

- Hey! I know. Lets make a beer from barley. We'll make it strong, about 9% or so and we'll chuck in loads of honey in the mix while were at it. On second thought, let's put loads of muscat grapes in there too, and some saffron, yeah saffron for good measure! -

It sounds like a bit of a bizzar way to make a beer, but the Dogfish Head boys are no strangers to making crazy beers. Look a little more into this Midas Touch though, and you realize there's a lot more method to the madness that this beer seems to be. It's apparently the first beer they made in their Ancient Beer series. According to DFH the beer was made using the same ingredients found in some epically old (2700 years+) drinking vessels found in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between a wine and mead it certainly smells sweet, I wonder if they used any hops in the production of the beer, it does have a little old IBU of 12....

In the aroma it doesn't really smell like a beer at all. Sweet honeycomb, grape and especially melon skins are the most predominant items on the nose. The only real indicator that this is still a beer is the slight buzz of the carbonation on the tongue, which over all, is still rather light. I have no idea of what saffron tastes of... and I don't want to get into the argument of "What does saffron taste of?" - "Saffron" - "But what does it taste of?" etc etc.. I have heard that it tastes a little like a savory vanilla, I suppose I'll just have to get a pot of the stuff from t'market.

It's a very interesting beer, very sweet and quite vegetal. You get the feel that it's just a really rustic beverage, whilst still being made only months ago. Like most meads I've tried, the alcohol is dangerously hidden, but it's been a long day and I'm not complaining. I look forward to the day when DFH can start getting their beers back into this country!

I'm a big fan of things like this, I like historic styles of beer, it gives a good insight into the past, and is something I've always wanted to try myself. Which style to reproduce is the question though. I've always been interested to try a traditional Gose, and me and Matt have even had a joking conversation of making some Sahti beer - the king of twig and berry beers! (and yes I know these styles aren't extinct yet, but It's damn hard to find them!)

Till next time, Nastrovia!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Single Hop Blendige!

It seems single hop beers are still around, still going strong. I've gotten a little bored of them recently though. We've just got three more from Mikkeller in the shop and before I even tried them I had an inkling of what they would be like; "More Mikkeller single hop beers, hoppy - yes, great tasting - yes, informative - yes.... boring - yes. (I can recall saying, with a sigh, to a regular "yeah they taste awesome...") I've gotten a little tired of the massively hopped uber beers. It should be said that it's my own fault, it's all I've been drinking recently, and for my point of them being informative (in the way of how a certain hop tastes) that's sort of loosing it's value; if you try to many of them, it's kinda hard to remember what each tastes like.

I did try these three Mikkeller beers last night, and yes they were awesome, and you couldn't really fault them. (apart from having no real malt presence) It got me thinking about the whole single hop beer thing though. These three beers had the exact same recipe, even alcoholic strength as each other, apart from the variety of hop. Apparently a tweet from @MagicRockRich also informed me that the bitterness levels for the beers should be adjusted to around the same levels. This then came to me in a moment of clarity, no a moment of pure genius (in my opinion)...

Oh Yeah!

I had found out what these hops had been like by themselves. I now wanted to find out what these hops tasted like together!

Result?: Bloody awesome - without having to sigh!

It was my very own uber glass of Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Tomahawk (isn't that Simcoe?) IPA - tasting fantastic. The reason I thought of this was for reasons of home brew. Yes a single hop beer can give you an insight into it's own particular taste, but that's where it ends, and most home brewers I know like to use a few hops these days. There are plenty of single hop beers out there at the moment, and they usually have the same recipe, apart from the hops. Blending these beers together can give a proper insight to what different hops taste like together. It's up to you really. If you want to know what hops taste like, try them on their own, just don't try to many that you forget what the first tasted like. If you want to know which hops work well together, this is a pretty perfect method. Or chose not to, make some beer on guesses, but be warned - Some hops do not go well together!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Ghostie is a 1 Year Old!

Yes it's my first birthday. And no, I'm not an incredibly talented toddler, but a beer loving maniac.

It was one year ago today, on the 13th of November, that I posted my first post and Ghost Drinker was born. I guess a little reflection is called for then. Looking back at my first post, I thought about how it was full of punctuation and spelling errors and quite rubbishly written, but the sentiment still held true. (I'm still not much better on the spelling and punctuation, and writing well, these days. oh well...)

I thought about what I've learned, about the beers I've drunk and the places I've been in the search for said beer. But most importantly I thought about all the people I've met, talked and chatted to, read blogs from, and been inspired by, all from the love of a simple yet amazing drink; Beer.

Here is a little list of some of the people, some I've met and some not, who through reading their blogs about beer, I've come to respect and admire. I'd like to think I can call them all mates, and would happily by any one of them a pint of their favourite beer. After all it takes a special sort of person with a big passion to write blogs about beer ;)

Dredge - A man who loves to put beer cans in chicken arses.

Leigh - Cannot stop eating Pork Belly.

Rob - Makes some unusual facial expressions in his Hopzine video reviews.

Curmudgeon - For someone who doesn't smoke he's pretty obsessed with the subject.

Tandleman - Loves to argue with Dave Bailey about beer on Twitter.

Dave Bailey - Hates CAMRA.

Cooking Lager - Has an equal love of squeezing beer cans, and squeezing his squeeze. (or at least we thought he loved beer cans...)

Stuart - Is a biologist not a brewer.

Broadford - Will Re-Tweet anything you write about beer.

Pete Brown - Loves a bit of self promotion.

Neil - Is more of a ghost than me for the amount of beers he reserves at the shop.

Nick - Is a Leeds man and proud of it, and loves to put a "corsenDONK" on it!

I still don't know why Ron Pattinson has a beef with Barclay Perkins.

Martyn - Loves the 'Z' word.

It doesn't seem like Simon Johnson ever stops drinking beer.

Fuggled - Has a massive Pilsner lust.

Ormskirk Baron - Can't say no to a free beer. (and actually is a stand up gent who helped me sort out technical issues of my blog, so thanks Baron)

Andy - Nearly killed Tom Fozzard with some lethal Bombay Mix.

Rabid Bar Fly - Loves to run around terrorising shopping centers whilst drinking cans of Special Brew.

Mark - Prefers his beer straight from a 9 pint metal container rather than a glass.

And last but not least, the boss man, Zak Avery. To be fair I think I've worked with him long enough now to know what makes him tick. He might not like to admit it, but this blog was started because of him. When I started reading his blog a couple of years back, it was because of the so called 'blogaratti' and reading his and all of your blogs which made me want to write my own.

That's my list then. Of course in some cases I jest... maybe...

There are quite a few more that I've not had chance to mention, but this list got a bit bigger than 'little' fast, so if I missed you out my apologies. This blog goes out to everyone in my blog roll really. While it may be my blogBday I will be raising a glass to all of you tonight.

It's been a hell of a year, and one one I see as just the start of my online beer journey, so here's to many more.

Now where did I put that special reserve Imperial Stout I was saving for my first Birthday celebrations drink?... oh yeah, the fridge.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

My First Berliner Weisse

Berliner Weisse was always a style of beer I had wanted and longed to try. I had heard tales of it being so dry that it had to have sweet syrups added to take the edge off the acidity and make it palatable to drink. Michael Jackson described not just Wheat Beers, but Berliner Weisse's as some of the most refreshing beers the world has ever seen, and probably ever will. The only thing I've ever seen (and tried) come close to the style was Dogfish Head's Neo-Berliner Weisse; Festina Peche, which in all honesty, I was not too impressed by.

This was all set to change however, as I heard that North Bar had an actual Berliner Weisse from Berlin in the bottle for sale. I had never even seen a proper Berliner Weisse in this country, let alone a bar in Leeds.
I was down there the very next day.

Berliner Kindl Weisse has got to be the most bizzar beer I've had this year. Probably the most bizzar beer for many years!

It comes across with a pale, cloudy, greeny-yellow appearance. It smells a lot like many Gueuze beers I've had in the past; really vegetal and mineral like with lots of apple and green plum skins. Some lemon rind, and a flowery aroma is thrown in there too.

The flavour is unlike any other beer available to me. It starts with a puckering light sour tartness, which eventually fades into a sort of vegetal acidity. Lots of fruit tartness comes about too, think Granny Smith apple skins mixed with lemon skin and that's about right. It's intensely drying, a quality which coats the sides of mouth for quite some time, making it obviously moorish in a big way.

While I was in North Bar I managed to sample some of this with a dash of Grenadine mixed in. It certainly added an initial sweetness which was then overcome by the previous acidity and fruity aftertaste. What followed was a conversation with me, Foleys Dean, Good Stuff Leigh and North Matt about what we thought was the more 'traditional' way of consuming this beverage, with or without the syrup or sweetener.

Of course you can serve the beer with other accompaniments; some like a Berliner Weisse laced with Kummel (caraway) schnapps or in the winters, have it served hot with lemon juice! Some even come with herbal essences of woodruff, but most will just be served with fruity syrups. (Kevin definitely wouldn't approve!) The 'tradition' conversation was certainly an interesting one. It was argued that the first brewers will probably not have brewed a beer which intentionally needed a sweetener to balance out the acidity, but if people used these syrups - and looked at you funny when you didn't want one - which was the most traditional method of serving?

A little food for thought I guess, but it's certainly a beer style worth trying if you can find it. It's been called 'the champagne of the North', a beer as good as any sparkling wine, it's usually brewed with lactic cultures such as Lactobacillus delbruckii and more often than not has a low abv like the Kindl's 3%. An extreme beer, very much so. One I'd have more of, Hellz yeah... and I preferred it without the syrups...

Have you tried the style before?

How do you like it?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Wasting Time, Productively

There are times for us at the shop (and it's probably about 1 hour in every month - we're hard workers you know) that the stocking is done, the deliveries are put away, no customers, not much else to do really. We usually use this time to read up on a few beer books, read about styles we could know more about - you know use our ("free") time productively.

But sometimes, like everybody, we do like to have a bit of fun. It's not 'normal' fun  though, as no one who works at our shop is 'normal people' (you have to be a bit crazy in the alcohol industry)

This is the kind of thing we get up to when we really wish we could have customers to talk about beer to, welcome to our own little insane world:

The Tongue

We've all probably heard of palate fatigue. I certainly get it after a few hours at a beer festival. What I've never understood is why some drinkers are adamant that you should start with lighter coloured beers and then move to darker ones in a session.

I'm really never bothered when I start with a pint of Stout and then move onto a Pale Ale, and I don't think it changes my opinion of taste of the latter beer. Of course there are exptions to this. I'm not going to have a bomber of 14% barrel aged Imperial Stout and then move onto a bottle of Lager, but I'm not talking about that here. I'm just talking about the regular cask beers you might find in your local, usually the same sort of strength, some light some dark. (if your lucky to have a range)

Some of us might like to think of our tastebuds as delicate things, which, give it a taste of something a little roasty and you'll be unable to pick out anything else for the evening. Hogwash. (...always wanted to say that) I believe my tastebuds are pretty hardcore and can manage a difference in flavour, be it light to dark or dark to light. I know there's plenty of people out there who will disagree with me, but once again it's about 'personal tastes' at the end of the day.

Next time you are having a pub session though, just think that if you want to hold off on that dark cask till the last pint, remember - it could have run out by that time.

Be brave, have a pint of Porter or Stout first. Drink what you want, when you want.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Red Or Brown?

Flanders Red Ale or Flemish Brown Ale?? Two styles of beer which can be a little confusing sometimes, (even to us whilst we try to explain which is which) and can quite often be blurred into one as they're usually very similar to each other.

They have their differences though, so I wanted to look into what makes them different, that called for a little dip into Michael Jackson's 'Beer Companion' - the ultimate tome for beer geekery.

He states that;

"The sweet-and-sour character is common to the brown ales of East Flanders and the 'red' of the West, and the two are brother brews, but there are differences between them. One is obviously that the brewers of West Flanders seem traditionally to have used malts that provided a redder colour. Much more significantly, the classics among the redder brew, while having their primary fermentation in metal, are aged in uncoated wood (not casks, but ceiling-high vertical tuns), and this makes for a teasing blend of caramels, tannins and acidity. As the brew matures, lactic acid begins to build up, and there is some interaction with acetobacters in the wood itself. Some of the lesser producers use metal tanks, but add lactic cultures. Unlike the most famous browns, the classic reds are stabilized by pasteurization."

It seems to me that there is a bit of an East-West divide going on in Flanders, with the East making Brown ales (or provision beer) like Liefmans' Goudenband, and the West making the Red Ales like Duchesse de Bourgogne for example. Michael does also go on to say that "There is no acknowledged appellation to identify the style" although the book is getting on in the years now, and this may have possibly changed.

I'd like to take you through a few of the Red Ales we have been stocking at the shop for as long as I can remember, (probably since we opened about 12 years ago) but because of their shelf location, they often get overlooked. This is a massive shame because these three are probably some of the most complex and deeply intriguing beers we sell, and their shunning is something that needs to change. They can be slightly challenging to a first timer, but if you stick with it, you'll be hard pressed to find anything else like it that you can enjoy.

I'm starting out with The Rodenbach classic. It's a 5.2% Red Ale which is produced by blending 3/4 of "young beer" and 1/4 of beer that has matured for over 2 years. It has a distinctive dark red/brown appearance and a very inviting cherry aroma. The first sip and flavour takes you a little by surprise. It's very dry and incredibly moorish and refreshing, with a lot of that sweet and sour-ness that Michael was talking about. It's slightly vinous with a long lightly tart finish. Apparently the slight acidity of the beer suits shellfish dishes and salads, and to be fair, I reckon it would go fantastically with some jumbo king prawns... This would be a perfect beer to start out with if you've never had any Flanders style Red Ales, although it may put a few people off if I said it smelled a little like smelly socks! ( I suppose that will be the Brettanomyces...)

To complicate things a bit more, next comes along Petrus Oud Bruin (Old Brown). It's complicated because, while it may be called Petrus Old Brown Ale, and is rather brown in appearance, it's actually part of the Red Ale family. It smells quite sweet, with notes of candy sugars and caramels. It has a big sweet and sour effect going on, but also has a big drying earthy/woody flavour too. Lots of fruits like cherries and grapes add to the sweetness and it's matched excellently by a big moorish sour dryness from lots of oak.
The beer is apparently aged in the huge 25000l casks "during 20 months". I'm not sure what they mean by 'it's aged during 20 months' though, I'm just going to tell people it's aged for 20 months in wood...

Last but not least is the big daddy, one for the more adventurous; Rodenbach Grand Cru. Pretty damn dark brown, with only slight hints of a red tinge coming through under the lights. This 6% beer is produced using a blend of 1/3rd "young beer" to 2/3rds beer which has been aged for over two years. It truly is a fantastic and amazingly complex beer. It's like Stout meets Gueuze! You get a much bigger slightly sweaty 'horse blanket' Brettanomyces aroma and flavour to this beer, and much more sourness too. Funky cherries, earthy drying wood, vinous, but wine beating complexities, acidic and magnificent. I've put down a few tasting notes here, but in truth this beer is really hard to describe, it's something that really needs to be experienced first hand.

These beers have a reputation. A reputation for being awesome. If you've not tried them before then they are a must for the adventurous beer geek out there.

So in conclusion..... what are you waiting for??

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What Happened To The Big Beer Mats?

Whilst clearing out some old stuff from the attic, I took another nostalgic look at my fathers 10,000 plus beer mat collection, and wondered - "When did beer mats become so boring??"

And no, I wasn't thinking that about any of the beer mats I was rummaging through, I thought it about the common beer mat you find in your modern pub.

Where did the huge beer mats disappear to???

Yes that is a big beer mat, not a tray.

I think beer mats today have lost quite a bit of their fun appeal, and a lot (if not all) have lost all their imagination in design. It seems everybody is content with sticking the logo for their brewery or beer on a mat and mass producing it, without even giving it a single thought. It's too easy these days, and it seems whenever you walk into a pub, you'll have a beer mat from one brewery with it's logo, plastered on every table in the pub. Create something different. Beer mats from just 40 years ago had much more character, and sometimes they weren't even for beer.

More art than bad drink....

The humble beer mat gets a bit of a beating these days. It gets torn into little bits, ripped up, put in empty pint glasses, stacked at the end of the night and thrown straight in the bin. Seriously where's the love? After all the flak that our beloved beer mat gets, the average beer lover would still prefer it's place to be under our pint pots, and not something to be discarded so easily.

Even some of the bigger brewers used to produce really nice looking beer mats, that more often than not, (if your like my dad) you'd take home at the end of the night and not treat it badly.

It wasn't just limited to the alcohol industry either. The tobacco industry saw the image market potential, and came up with some really fun ideas for the beer mat.

I could name over a dozen new breweries with awesome designs for their branding, beers and bottles, but for me I think you have to be a bit more imaginative when it comes to your beer mats. They deserve a little more respect and consideration, after all they've been holding your beer for a lifetime!

Get designing people. And don't make them square....

P.S. I do notice that the pictured bar mats aren't to the highest standard of design to everyone, but I like them. Besides it would have been a very long post if I'd pictured all the mats in the collection which I thought were interesting, design wise...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Epic Black IPA Battle: Kernel vs Kernel vs Kernel

We are currently stocking these three beers.

There has been a bit of talk recently on the blogosphere about Oxymoronic beers recently (see Velky Al's post about the buzz here) and how putting the word 'black' in front of existing beer styles could be a bad thing, a fad, or just plain wrong. I have my own opinions on this subject, but today I'd like to go back to (for me, what is) the source of the Black IPA: the Kernel Brewery.

The first time I ever tried Kernel's first Black IPA, I instantly fell in love with it, and no other Black IPA has been able to measure up to it. We now, however, stock three different Black IPAs from the same brewery, so I thought this would be a good chance to give them a side by side by side tasting and see what's going on.

I'm still 50/50 on some brewers trying to make all their pale beers black, but still pale tasting. It seems to me like a bit of a hark back to when all beer was pretty much black (things go round and round in the world of beer) and quite a few of them get it wrong, which is unfortunate, but this Kernel tasting screams of good times, so how could I object! And while the lightest of the three came in at 6.9%, I was confident it was nothing a sunday roast with all the trimmings couldn't handle.

Coming in at number 1:

Kernel Black IPA, 6.9% - an instant classic in my eyes.

The beer presents itself with aromas of citrus, oranges and mangos. Some dry straw and a little blackberry sweetness. Initially you get a big roasted bitterness and quite a bit of coffee in the body, but it's not as big as some of the other Black IPAs I've tasted, which I think can really spoil a brew. You get a lot of dry pine, apricot fruit and some peppery dryness too. This pepper lends itself to a nice spicy finish which is very long lasting.

I know it goes against my love for this beer, but I don't think it's an Black IPA, it's not close enough to an IPA for my tastes. I do think Kernel has produced a completely new style of beer with this one though, I don't know of any other beers like this.

Black 2 comes in at number 2:

The new recipe for the original.

Now I don't know the details of this brew. I don't know if it will be completely replacing the old one... but for now, thank goodness they've called it something else, and lets hope they continue to call it something else - because it's a completely different beer. I for one hope they make the two black IPAs side by side and don't discontinue any one of them. (yes, I'm looking at you Brewdog.)

You can see instantly on the nose that there's a much bigger dose of fruit to this beer, loads more mango, loads more blackberries - it's a regular fruit cocktail. It's a lot smoother in the mouth feel and with a much bigger fruity/juicy flavour. It's lost pretty much all of the dryness and spiciness and all of the roasted bitterness, except from the tiniest hint of coffee in the back of the mouth. This is a Black IPA in the truest sense of the style. Mangos, lychee and a long bittersweet finish. Is this a preferable beer to the first though? No, because it's completely different to the first.

And then came forth the monster:

Kernel Double Black IPA; a 9.8% leviathan!

This is a DBlack IPA and once again, is completely different to the previous two. If fact this beer is like no other I've ever tried before!

The aroma is incredible, think coffee and thick cream and your on the right track. My main observation though, is that this beer stinks of strawberry and raspberry yogurt! It really does, there's no getting away from it. And it's not a bad thing! It's a bizzar thing! The beer is super smooth, and uber rich. It's almost like a mixed fruit beer; massive amounts of strawberries, raspberries and black currents dominate the initial flavour. As I sit back and enjoy the last of the three beers I've had today, I can't help but think that this beer is like strawberries and cream on a crisp autumnal evening whilst the sun goes down, and your reminded once again that;

Beer is never static, it changes and evolves like everything in our planet, and it's a fascinating evolution, and one I'm very happy to be riding alongside. The boundaries of the Black IPA may still be a little blurred, but at least we're pushing those boundaries. And for beer, (and us) that's fantastic.

Now, in the words of someone else... where's my Pale Schwarzbier!

Oh.... I almost forgot, the first of the bunch still remains my favourite!

Friday, 21 October 2011


I got this email today from a shop up in Scotland who have just expanded their range of beers:


(Much like your waist band will be...)
We are always on the look out for great new beers.
Here is a selection of recently acquired new products.
(Click on links below for product details)
ANCHOR Steam (4.8%) £2.15
ANCHOR Liberty Ale (4.8%) £2.35
ANCHOR Porter (5.6%) £2.35

WEIHENSTEPHAN Hefe Weisse (5.4%) £2.65
WEIHENSTEPHAN Kristal Weiss (5.4%) £2.65

ODELL 5 IPA (5.2%) £2.85
ODELL 90 Shilling (5.3%) £2.85
ODELL Cutthroat Porter (4.8%) £2.75

TRAPPISTES Rochefort 10 (5.4%) £2.65
A good cause for celebration when anyone gets in better beers, but it seems they have got the last line rather wrong! Trappistes Rochefort 10? Sounds more like Rochefort 5 at that strength.

I know I can't talk when it comes to typos, I do them all the tyme, but if your trying to promote a new exiting range of beers to people, get the details right.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ghostie's Rough Leeds Bars Volume 1.

I suppose it's only fair that, because I did a list of my favourite 10 Leeds bars, that I do a list of some of the bars/pubs in Leeds which are for the clientele with more stones than (me) the rest of us...

First on the list is the Three Legs.

This was the only picture I took. I was a little concerned for my personal property when I finally plucked up the courage to go inside.

An interesting sight was seen when inside. The building itself was very nice. That was the only real nice thing about it really. Groups of people (middle aged men/women, grey & round) propped up the bar whilst shouting at each other whilst standing 10cm away from each other, it was like I just walked onto the set of the Jeremy Kyle show....

I popped myself down on a bar stool (which was broken) and tried to keep my eyes down as I felt everyone else's eyes stare holes through me. There was two hand pumps which looked like they hadn't been used in years - and had nothing on, so my choice of drink was something smooth-flow or of the cider/lager type.

I asked for a half of the first beer I saw; John Smiths smooth. It came in a straight sided tumbler and it was ice cold. I supped as quick as I could; a large group of large gentlemen had turned up behind me and were shouting about the races which were blaring out of the big plasma flat screens.

I didn't dare visit the restrooms, least of all ask for where they were.

I don't think I've left a pub quicker.

In fact it wasn't a nice experience. At all.

I'm not going to entertain this idea. I don't want to visit any other pubs like this.

One and done.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

We Grow Our Own Round Here

This is a picture of Headingley Cricket Stadium, about a mile away from where I live. You can see to the left of the photo there is quite a large bush sticking out into the street.

On closer inspection, whilst on my afternoon walk, I discovered that this bush was of this variety:

It's quite impressive that, knowingly or not, the residents of this house have a substantial amount of hops growing in their own back garden! You can also see that the bush/tree/vine (whatever you may call a hop plant) is rather large and is in good health (or it appears to be)

It was really interesting to find these growing right next to the hop plant as well!

Now I don't know who lives here, but I'd like to imagine that whoever it is, is a keen beer and wine maker. Either that, or he's making some sort of beer/wine hybrid. Or he just likes grapes...

Now it's a bit of a shame because these are obviously someone's property - they're no wild hops. I say it's a shame because the first thing I thought of when I saw them was "I wanna put those in a beer!"

It's interesting the things you can find whilst your on an afternoon walk...

Friday, 14 October 2011

Brew Number 2, Collaboration - Go!!

I am currently drinking my second collaborative home brew and it looks a little something like this:

This collaboration is a 6.66% amber ale called Poltergeist and was brewed a few weeks back with a good friend of the Ritz and us: Matt Lovatt (or @braukerl as he's twitter bound) - and is tasting pretty damn good! Here's a little look back at how we went about making the beer... I say we, Matt did most of the work:

- The Kit. A pretty much essential mix of containers needed by any keen home brewer. Yes they may look a little like pick-nick equipment, but I assure - they are all very essential indeed.

Here is the specs for the recipe we made up:

Recipe Specs
Batch Size (L):           20.0
Total Grain (kg):         5.975
Total Hops (g):           300.00
Original Gravity (OG):    1.067  (°P): 16.4
Final Gravity (FG):       1.015  (°P): 3.8
The mash - Matt decided
batch sparging would be best.
Colour (SRM):             16.7   (EBC): 32.9
Bitterness (IBU):         77.5   (Average)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 69
Boil Time (Minutes):      60

Grain Bill
4.000 kg Maris Otter Malt (66.95%)
1.000 kg Munich I (16.74%)
0.425 kg Invert No. 2 (syrup) (7.11%)
0.200 kg Caramunich I (3.35%)
0.200 kg Carared (3.35%)
0.150 kg Crystal Extra Dark (2.51%)

Hop Bill
20.0 g Warrior Leaf (18% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)
20.0 g NZ Cascade Leaf (10.7% Alpha) @ 35 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)
20.0 g Simcoe Leaf (12.2% Alpha) @ 20 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)
20.0 g NZ Cascade Leaf (10.7% Alpha) @ 5 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)
60.0 g NZ Cascade Leaf (10.7% Alpha) @ 0 Minutes (Aroma) (3 g/L)
80.0 g Simcoe Leaf (12.2% Alpha) @ 0 Minutes (Aroma) (4 g/L)
80.0 g Warrior Leaf (18% Alpha) @ 0 Minutes (Aroma) (4 g/L)

Misc Bill
4.0 g Irish Moss @ 15 Minutes (Boil)

Single step Infusion at 66°C for 60 Minutes.
Fermented at 20°C with WLP001 - California Ale

- This was the Californian Liquid Ale yeast that we used. It needed a starter, hence the interesting looking bottle. To be honest it didn't look like something you'd ever want near your beer! Matt was initially a little worried because it seemed it didn't want to, or ever seem like, it would stop fermenting. Luckily, after a few more days than it should, it managed to settle down enough so that it could go into bottle.

- Beer boiling away nicely... 

We had intended to dry hop the beer in secondary with 100grams of Bramling Cross, but, as nothing is ever simple or certain in brewing - it was decided that this would probably not do the beer any good. For instance; I had intended to make this a brown ale, because I was sick of too many people making crap brown ales, but after looking at the wort samples, it seemed it would be a bit more amber than brown. Oh well... (more on that below)

The steeping part at the end of the boil was new to me. - It looked a little too much like a bomb too. 

Whilst we waited for a massive amount of hops to steep their goodness into the beer the process seemed a whole lot more like cooking a large vat of stew that anything else. (which is never a bad thing!) After that the liquid yeast was, slightly unceremonially, dumped into the beer and all was packed away - content to ferment into the night. It was a fun day for me. A lot of the techniques in brewing that Matt used, I had never even seen before so it was quite educational. While he may have been a little 'down' on his own creation (probably just an effort to not set his hopes too high) the beer itself, which I'm now finishing, couldn't have turned out much better for what we tried to achieve.

Turns out the beer was slightly darker than we expect, and could have stood up to it's Brown Ale name I wanted for it. Oh well, you live and learn.

It has a great aroma with loads of fruit. Mangos, peaches and lychees are all very prominent. The flavour is all about bitter fruits to begin with. Some orange pith and lemon sherbet flavour in the body which makes the bitterness quite lasting - in fact it goes on for quite a while after the swallow. As it warms a little some carmel sweetness starts to show mixed with hints of hazelnuts. It's quite a dry beer and rather moorish - quite dangerous at 6.66%. I gave my friend a sniff and a taste - he said it smelled like a Barley Wine... I'll take it as a compliment.

Overall it's been a great conclusion to a project that's been more than a few weeks in the making. I can't wait to see who I'll get to brew a collaboration beer with next! Hey it could well be Matt again...