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

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Oldie Beer 3 :(

Now it's not just me, Tom and Zak who work, run and regulate the Beer Ritz shop. There is another couple of awesome people who work with us, who we count as very good friends and are a pleasure to work with. Rory Morris has been a dedicated employee for a few years now, who is an awesome member of the team and always will be, even if he's moving up to Glasgow soon. (he will be sorely missed)
    Jeff (or Juffage as he's know on Twitter) Is a new-ish member to the team who hales from the States. He has just been away for a couple of weeks living it up on the rarest of the rare that the USA has to offer beer wise, and has been kind enough to bring some back to us to share around.

The image of the orange-y beer 'Cane & Ebel' was one of the treats he brought to share with me. It's an 'Overly hopped Red Rye Ale' which has been produced using palm sugar. It was such a fantastic brew that I've hopeful plans to brew a replica styled beer with a friend some time soon. (if I can only get a recipe sorted!)

So with the notion of sharing beer floating around which I'm all too fond of, I thought it would be good to whip out an Oldie Beer to share with Jeff, which has been catching my eye now for some time. The beer has been aging away for the best part of 4 years now, and I was very fearful of actually trying it. This is because at the time of production I heard that the brewery was having a little trouble with some sort of filament issue? which was making some of the beers taste a little burnt. I know this not to be the case nowadays (an easy fix for them), and they produce great beer, but back then it was one of the first beers to go into the collection so I was well up for storing it.

Back then I think this was the strongest beer in the UK! (O how times have changed!) I'm of course talking about Capstan F.S. from the Old Bear brewery. I was immediately concerned when I opened this old brew and it proceeded to cascade out of the top like an over shaken bottle of Coke!! Initial nosings were promising. Good strong aromas of caramelized apples mixed with a sour-esk vintage ale abounded. Unfortunately that was as good as it got. The beer had indeed been spoilt by a small brewing imperfection. It was basically a burnt beer, simple as.

It was a real shame. The first time I had this beer 4 years ago, it was one of the most interesting things I'd ever drunk at that time. This is a big thing you need to take heed of when thinking of storing a beer. No matter how well you store it, how dark and temperature controlled it is, It is brewed by someone who is only human! Not every beer you ever buy will be perfect.

I wasn't disappointed though. It was just another beer experience. You have to take the faulty beers with the un-faulted. It's what will make you a better beer drinker. (or a bigger beer nerd) I'm going to try see if they make this beer still, and grab a few more. Some to drink right away, and some to store, hopefully for another fun eve in a few years time. :)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Good Old New Beer

As normal activity returns to the best beer shop in the world, I thought it would be good to write about a new beer we got in just before our doors shut. It's an old ale. It's a collaboration ale. It's from Thornbridge and Darkstar. (I do hope Darkstar don't mind me pinching their image, my cameras at the fixers at the mo! sorry xx)

Apparently this 7% old ale has spent 20 months in a conditioning tank and 4 plus months in the bottle before it was released for sale! So yes it's old, but has the aging process been beneficial to the end product? After all it's a long time to wait if the beer doesn't come out right in the end!

Well, YES, it was worth the wait, below is what I thought:

A dark gold/amber looking brew, with a quickly disappearing chalky head. The beer comes across the nose with hints of lemon grass and gooseberry and a slice of orange pith, do I detect some glazed cherries in there too? I do get a little honeycomb like the label suggests but not a lot.

First impressions on the flavour - It's a tangy beer, lots of orange rind and caramel malt sweetness. Quite thick, still with a good carbonation zing. Some bitter citrus notes all along the finish, mixed with a burp of honeycomb sweetness. Some peppery alcohol warming-ness which makes it very moorish, dangerous at 7%! A soft beer with some woody resinous notes, one to sip and savour with some strong cheeses :)

Overall: a perfectly planned beer has been created within the minds of Darkstar and Thornbridge, and is now available for regular human consumption. You can still get plenty of the beer from Beer Ritz as I've heard there is quite a bit up at the warehouse! Seek it out, it's definitely worth it. There aren't enough fantastic old ales around these days, it's always nice to see modern breweries brewing gems of beer styles.... it's good to be back as-well!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

WE'RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!


As of today I am emplyed once again to sell amazing beer to the masses of Leeds, no.... the World! All thanks due solely to Zak and his crack team up at wearhouse. He is a Legend, a superhero and champion of all things great in beer and I'm so grateful he got my job back, not just for me, but for all of you that read this. You can shop here once again.

We do need your help though!! We have been closed for about a week and a half now, and that's what the majority of thousands of people think - that we're closed. WE ARE OPEN!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!! We need you loyal customers back through the doors, and you need to tell others where to come. Tell your friends, get on twitter, pass on the good news!! BEER RITZ IS BACK, WE'LL NEVER DIE!!!!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars Volume 8

On such an amazing day as we had yesterday, I thought it would be good to take the bike and visit one of my favourite pubs, which is probably the furthest away from my place of residence. (the first drink was much appreciated!)

Yes yesterday I visited one of the greats:

"But the Cross Keys isn't in Leeds though it's in Holbeck"  I hear you cry! Well that doesn't matter too much to me really if you know where exactly it is. And it can be a tricky place to find too as there's a water lane in Leeds as-well, so make sure you sat-nav the right one. From the outward appearance, I'll be honest, you're confronted with what looks like someone's house. I'm pretty sure we both even have the same front door! But as we all know (if you've been following these bar/pub volumes) - it's not what's on the outside that counts.

It's what's on the inside were looking for:

The Keys has an interesting but not unfamiliar bar. It's split in two by a wall separating two rooms. It's very welcoming and spacious, and with the addition of another bar upstairs there's a good chance of getting served quickley. (but more on that in a bit)
Their selection of 4 cask lines and 8 keg lines will always have something interesting to offer. Today's selections for me were some Roosters Citra, Great Newsome Pricky Back Otchan (that's a hedgehog to me and you) and one from a brewery that I'm unfamiliar with - an oat stout from Nook Brewhouse. All beers were in perfect condition, I've never had a bad pint at the Keys, although I'm not sure I had them in the right order; refreshing as it was my taste-buds were a little fuzzed after starting with the tasty Roosters Citra! A vast selection of international bottles is available as well, but that's come to be expected from a a North owned pub. After a bit of a chat with the friendly bar staff, I found that the Cross Keys has only been open for around 5/6 years now. I was blown away, I remember coming here a few years back and you just got the impression that this place had been here forever!

Great as the beer may be, I think the Keys will be more famed for the quality and choice of food they serve. So epic is the choice they need 4 menus! One for lunch, dinner, pudding and sunday lunch. Now unfortunately I didn't have time to sit down for anything, but these would be my choices to make you start salivating:

For lunch there's a great selection of light sandwiches, but if you wanted something a little bigger the Roosters beer battered pollack accompanied by all the trimmings would go down a treat!

Interesting decor.
Come dinner time you get a vast selection of starters and mains. The ox cheek casserole with horseradish dumplings and spinach sounded fantastic.

The menu for the puddings left me wanting. Who would turn their nose up at some walnut and whisky tart served with honeyed clotted cream, elysium and black muscat?? Bliss....

Sunday lunch is proper sunday lunch, nuff said. Check the board below for more tantalizing feasts. The pub is very proud of their food, and very pleased to serve 'traditional british food' and state that they're not just another 'Gastro pub!'

If your looking for a treat as-well they make and package their own special chutneys on site!

The big party piece for the pub has to be the James Watt Room, their upstairs bar as mentioned before. An interesting story was revealed to me about the name of this room. Apparently back when the building was an Inn in the 1700's there were 2 rival engineers in the area; James Watt and Matthew Walker. The story goes that James got all of Matthew's workers pissed in this room and stole all of their ideas!! So the room got it's name for that and aptly so as people continue to get pissed here on a daily basis. (I don't really mean pissed, I just mean socially relaxed)

The room is very often used as a venue for certain beer events, such as beer and food tastings set up by specific breweries, or in the case as it was today, an Erdinger beer tasting night - looks festive yes? I have been to a couple of the events myself, such as the Dogfish Head beer and food evening and the Sierra Nevada night. Both were fantastic occasions to meet new people, eat great food and drink wonderful beer. If you want to book out the James Watt room for yourself, then give them a call on 0113 243 3711 or just get on the web at

That's my number eight then, who knows how many more of these I can fit into the mass volume posts. I reckon they could be endless due to the amount of great places there are to drink in Leeds. It's places like this that you don't visit, you experience them. Get yourself down here, and create your own experience!

The Cross Keys, Holbeck, West Yorkshire, LS11 5WD
Opening hours: Midday everyday till; Mon - Thursday: 11pm
                                                      Fri & Sat: 12-midnight
                                                             Sun: 10:30pm

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Day in the Forest

Today was spent walking in and around a large forested area just outside Otley, with a very good friend. The walk begins as always, with a big trek up a steep slope to take advantage of one of the best views around. Now obviously today wasn't the clearest or sunniest, but it's still a great view.

Once at the top, it was definitely time for something to put us in the mood for a 2 hour hike through the woods. I thought it would be good to stick to Yorkshire beer for this journey as we were in God's country. Que a modern classic:

Just the thing called for!
Just two blokes rambling through the forest, with nothing else but some ham sandwiches and each other's company to spur them on. It's a great thing to do, really gives you time to relax and have a good chat about things. (I say relax but I'm so out of shape it was a slow walk!)

When we got back to the car, we thought as we were in the area, it would be nice to pay a little visit to the Hunters for a swift half and see how the new owners were getting on.
    Seems things are going really well, and despite loads of kids running around eating Haribo whilst their parents got drunk, the beers were on excellent form. A half of Golden Salamander for me, and a half of Easy Rider for my mate - two very fine ales! My only gripe is that they seem to have taken down all the old cool looking bottles from the shelving!
    "They were all too dusty" ....Well get em dusted then, don't throw them all away :( (suppose it means we can force them to make a new stock of old/new bottles)

I look forward to the next walk, and some more great Yorkshire beers.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

"But it's my one night to be fancy!"

We all love a bit of extravagance. Who out there doesn't feel great when they put on their best suit or most glamorous dress for a evening out? Sometimes the occasion may call for it, but sometimes you just want to look great, and who is going to tell you you can't?

The same can be said for many things, we like to make our selves feel 'fancy' or a little more special than normal. Hell, if your not doing it every once in a while you're just boring!

This goes a little bit of the way to explain my drinking for tonight:

Yeah baby....

Now this could possibly upset a few people I know... a little. One such may be Gavin Frost who has just joined the blogging scene by writing a great piece about 'the right branded glasswear' for Real Ale Reviews, check it out here.

Gavin calls for the right branded glasswear for his drinks in pubs, which is perfectly acceptable. I think if you don't get the glass you should, that is available, then the staff have either not been trained right or are just lazy!

But I'm talking about drinking at home. We all have our favourite glasses, the ones we'll wash right after having a beer, so it's ready for next time. The glass that sits pride of place on our shelves, always ready to deliver.
    This is not that glass. This is the fancy glass! This is the glass that gets brought out on the special occasions when I want to feel like I'm a bit of a super man! I also like the way it perfectly holds 75cl of perfect golden ale. (just don't tip it up too quick, as users of this glass will know only too well!)

What of the beer though? Well, I think, it's the last of the 30th anniversary editions from Sierra Nevada. This is the big-un', their Grand Cru ale! It's a blend of beers, Oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale and fresh Pale Ale all merge together to create incredibly special beer to celebrate 30 years of brewing at S.N! Powerfull stuff at 9.2%, it's a beautiful beer, and made even more special because it's in my 'fancy' glass :D

So next time your at home thinking, I'll get this in my usual glass right away, take a moment to think about how your actually going  to consume the product. You wouldn't eat soup off a plate! Pick something that's not only going to fit the mood and the beer, but also make you feel good about drinking it.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Oldie Beer 2.

I've decided to start cracking into a few of my older bottles in the stash recently. I've been staring at them for years now and think they're in need of replacing with new age-able products.

So, tonight I'll be having a bash at this little dusty chap:

I tell a lie really, it's not a little fella. (it is dusty though)

I know many of the "beeroids" that read this will have already had the good fortune of drinking the beer already, and I've had my fair share of De Molen beers before, but this one's a first for me.

Well... Tsarina Esra is a big beer from De Molen, situated in the Netherlands. It's an Imperial Porter coming in at 11%. (Original Gravity: 1108, Final Gravity: 1026 for the homebrew buffs) I had planned to share this with a colleague, but unfortunately some things have to change. (and I'm a greedy bastard!)

Now while this bottle may state that it's good to be cellared for up to 25 years!! I was only satisfied waiting a few. As the bottle also states, it was brewed on the 11th of July 2007 and bottled on the 22nd of August 2007, so I think it's had a fair sleep.

As you can see though, as is usually the case with De Molen beers, it's still full of life which the carbonation clearly shows. "Amerikaanse and Tsjechische hops" are used, (iphone translator app apply here) also some Challenger and Saaz for bittering. (De Molen love Saaz, as do we!) Packed full of hops too for an Imperial Porter coming in at 92ibu's.

The aroma is epic, lots of hot bitter oak, vanilla, a little smoky peat and a little syrupy liquorice. The taste just gets better. Someone please tell me this has been barrel aged, because I'm convinced it has been. It's like Ola Dubh 40yr old but a lot more woody, and with a slight tartness coming from the super rich roasted malts. The beer screams 'respect me' and believe I do, this is one to savour throughout the night :)
    Some coffee and roasty tobacco. Spice coming from the richness and that classic dried fruit chewy-ness, mixed with some plummy skin tartness. World class beer indeed.

Well, that's it for this aged episode. I shall sit down to enjoy the rest of this whilst, catching up on my beer blogger reading (I've missed a couple of days) and listening to ABBA... yes I'm Awesome... B-)

Once again, get aging some beers for yourself, and look out for the next 'tale from the cellars'!!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Saying Goodbye

I do not exaggerate the title of this post. It will soon become common knowledge that Beer Ritz has ceased treading. I will be perfectly honest with you. I was told today by Zak, and after what was said the doors were shut, probably forever. I then resigned myself to a collapsed state in the middle of the shop and literally wept for a good solid hour. That's how much the place means to me. Word's not need be spoken by me and Zak at that time, he put an incredibly brave face on things. Please wish us the best for the future because we are lost. Long live the memory of Beer Ritz... The Best Fucking Beer Shop in the UK.
 We have lost a Legend That's all that need be said.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Oldie Beer

I have a big passion for aging beers, I think it's a really interesting 'hobby'; buy a couple bottles of beer, drink one right away and save the other for a couple of years later. I dunno why, it just seems an interesting thing for me to do. I know some basics about the beer aging process. I asked Zak today what was the main difference between aging beer and aging wine, and the discussion which followed, on the properties and physics of oxidation and other aspects of molecule binding etc... may have been a little much for my limited brain. (took it in though, otherwise I couldn't have just wrote all that!)

As with many things in life, to get the best out of something, you have to follow some basic rules. The basic rules for aging beer couldn't be simpler. 1. Keep it cool, not cold. 2. Keep it preferably in a dark place (avoid any sunlight). 3. Try to keep it upright.
    That's about it really. You need to be aging the right sort of beers though. Your basic lagers will not benefit from any aging process, they're better drunk fresh. That's the main point of the cellaring, it's to see if the beer will benefit from some extra maturation. How does it develop, or evolve in the bottle. Does it become more balanced or mellow, or will some flavours become more prominent, thus making the beer more than one dimensional. (if it may have been before)

Beers which you should be getting in your cellar;
    - Beers high in alcohol, it will help the preservation of the beer.
    - Bigger the better. Big bottles will usually be better for aging.
      (not to say that you can't age some 'nips')
    - Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines will go great.
    - Old ales, usually high in alcohol.
    - Most Belgian Strong ales will do perfect.
    - Beers that are bottle conditioned.
I know there's probably more but I can't think of any right now.

I'd been looking at my stash, and thinking, I should probably start drinking some of these really - space is becoming a concern in this cellar!

So tonight I decided to share a wee old bottle with a good couple of chaps at the Ritz:

After trying the new version of Thornbridge's Bracia and thinking it was an awesome beer last week, this one had been staring me in the face somewhat. From the best before bottling date, we guessed this beer to now be 2+3/4 years old - not a bad age to get tucking in.

The bottle quotes: "Bracia is the Celtic name for a beverage brewed in Iron Age Europe with reference found on a Roman inscription at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. Little is known about this except it was high in alcohol, brewed with cereals and, most probably honey." Sounds good to me! In fact the list of ingredients in this beer is quite staggering. 4 hops, 7 malts and tonnes of dark and bitter chestnut honey (I won't list them all specifically, that would take a lot of spell checking!). They've thrown in plenty of champagne yeast too to finish it off.

It's hard to say if this beer has been affected that much from my cellaring. The bottle says it can be cellared for up to a year, maybe more, but it seems it could stand the test of time for at least ten years! I'll leave the tasting notes up to your imagination, I say that because you can still get plenty of the new batch and try some aging for yourself :)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Are you Punk?

"It's like when Stella brought out there Stella 4%!!)

...Well not really, but I could kind of see where the customer was coming from. I think he may have been trying to say; If you have a brewery whose majority of success has been based upon a flagship beer, why on earth would you want to change it?!?!

We were of course talking about Brewdog (as we do so very often)

Looks like two ordinary Punks? Wrong. This week we were intrigued to discover the Punk that had been delivered was the new recipe of Punk and not our regular 6% stuff. Brewdog state: "Punk IPA was the first beer we ever brewed when we set up BrewDog. A few months and 4 prototype batches ago we set out on a mission to use everything we have learned about brewing beer since we started BrewDog to try and make our flagship beer even better."
    That's fair enough by me, but it has really drawn battle lines in the sand with a lot of people I've been talking to in the shop. I've spoken to people who will say that if there making it better how could it be bad? Well unfortunately it's Brewdog's dictator quality of "this is the Punk you will drink now" that really ruffles feathers. There may have been a vote yes, but how many people were actually asked.

We have a regular supply of Punk lovers, some of whom buy a case full every couple of weeks, and more than a few who buy a 6-pack regularly every Friday. When it was announced to them that there favourite beer was going to be changed, you should have seen the looks on there faces! 

"Better or not the beer may be, But it wouldn't be the same bloody beer would it!"

People who have fallen in love with this beer, will no longer be able to drink it. Even if they have there prejudices about a 'better beer' before even trying it, they still may or may not like it, which is too much for some. I've even heard someone say "I'm gonna have to start drinking Brooklyn Lager again now" - which is a great beer mind you, but if someone has to say that before they've even tried the new Punk, they must have had some strong feelings about the beer before hand.

I won't bore you with my notes on both beers. If anyone actually reads this stuff they've probably already made up there judgement on both. I will say that there both completely different. both have there good points and BOTH have there bad points. If labeled differently I wouldn't have been able to tell they were both "Punk"

It's still far too early to say if the old Punk die hards will enjoy the new batch, but if you want to try a comparison for yourself, we still have about half a dozen of the old style left. If you pass us on a nice tweet, we can easily put you one of each in the back :)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Well I didn't expect that!!!

At my place of occupation, Beer Ritz, we often get new beers in. It keeps the local "beer geeks" happy (and I include all who work there in that catagory, myself included) and it's very cool to work where you can always get to try new beers. This is always due to the fact that Zak is a beer guru, and being the excellent business man he is, makes sure all parts of the customer basis are catered for.

We got a new beer in on Wednesday from the great importers of foreign beer, that is James Clay. It's called Pepe Nero, and it comes from Goose Island - the super Chicago brewery. It brags about itself to be a belgian style farmhouse ale (that's saison to those who are beer geeks) made with peppercorns. (possibly to get that peppery-yeasty drying quality that some Belgian saisons do)

This is the most interesting beer that I've tried this year. Those of you who've had saison beer before will know that it's not supposed to look like this!....

What the hells going on there?? Goose Island have seemed to have produced a black saison!! But what's it like, before all of you start burning your books? Well it's exactly as it sounds. It has a massive saison feel to it. There is an obvious peppercorn flavour to it which I really enjoy (drying and moorish) There's American presence in there too, you can taste the sweet caramel malts and there a lot of hop zing character. It's kind of, saison meets black IPA! An awesome beer from a consistently good brewery. Come grab some while you can.

I say while you can because new beers come and go quite quick in our shop. We don't have an infinite amount of shelf space, and so some beers must have an end sometimes. That's not to say that they may come back in the future, just that some beers are not a constant permanent feature for us.

So tonight we say goodbye, for now at least, (because I just bought the last bottle and am drinking it now) to Stones IPA. This is a beer which needs no explanation, they can do that pretty well themselves! All I will say, If you don't want to miss out, then get the beers in!!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars Volume 7

Today saw a visit to a old classic. Only a stones throw away from the train station, you can never put down a visit to the Scarborough Hotel for a great pint of 'local' ale!

With the amount of large business, bold headed gentlemen making the establishment a bustling busy lunchtime environment, this would have to be a quick visit. That's not to say it's that kind of place, it's just where people like to grab an excellent bite to eat for lunch!

The length of the bar in this place is crazy. You'll never be short of a great beer. The range of fonts boasts 11 cask lines (one cask cider line too - Old Rosie - Proper Scrumpy) and a staggering 21 keg lines!! Fair enough most of those lines are repeats, but it means that you'll never be waiting for your imported lagers! I also saw someone getting served a pint of Stella Black. I was deeply disappointed, I thought it might actually be a black lager like the one Guinness have done, but no it was a crystal clear golden lager?? An ok selection of bottled beers and wines is also available, but it's mainly about the cask ale!

So many pumps, so little time!!!
This is a PUB. A proper English PUB. The whole place screams out that there hasn't been any change for over a hundred years. Old pew seating, armchairs and gamblers, the whole place is oak clad! I love it. It reminds me of the places we got taken whilst camping in the countryside.

The opening times were a little hard to press for. What I obtained was; Mon - Thurs 10:30 - 10:30 and Fri/Sat 10:30 - 12. Sunday it depends on the day apparently!

As you can see there proud of two things. Serving as many pints of real ale as they can and serving as many pies as they can. Sounds perfect on paper! In fact the food available is something to yurn for. It's quality English pub food all the way. Pie and peas, fish and chips etc.. you can have all the classics. If your feeling particularly adventurous there is a "Mini Pie Platter" to slake you pie desire.

If you can make out from the blurred photo, there keen to rotate there ales. But don't be fooled into thinking that you can vote for the next one. No, what gets chosen is an ale from a list of about 25-30 different beers, mainly local to Yorkshire, but sometimes from further afield. Beers had today consisted of a great pint of Acorn Barnsley Gold and some Thornbridge Wild Holly Winter Ale. Both were on top form, could find no complaints about the quality of beers served in this pub.

Great place for a visit. Long train journey into Leeds? Perfect stop off to get you back to full strength!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Detour to Beer Art

Looks nice Doesn't it? Yes it does. That's because the label was designed by an artist.
    Detour double IPA is part of the Crooked Line series of beers from Uinta Brewery (earth, wind and beer apparently) The series consists of 4 beers; Detour - a 9.5% double IPA, Cockeyed Cooper - a 11.1% bourbon barrel aged barley wine, Tilted smile - a 9% Imperial Pilsner and Labyrinth - a 13.2% black ale.
   The interesting part about these beers (not that they don't already intrigue) is that the labels for each one are unique and were designed by 'local' artists. It began to dawn on me "why aren't more brewers taking advantage of there local artists/designers to create innovative and cool looking labels?" I know Brewdog are keen to use artists on some of there specials, and Magic Rock brewery sourced a great designer for there new range of beer, but it just seems like people aren't taking notice of local talents and using them. Who knows I could be wrong, but if they are it's not being promoted very well.

These are the 4 labels which were produced, and it's safe to say there all pretty awesome. I also wonder how expensive it was for the brewery to acquire these labels, I know I'd do some labels for free, or at least for a case of beer! That must be my Que. to plug some of my own artwork! hint hint.... The picture below was the last painting I produced a couple of months ago, and I know it doesn't have anything to do with beer, but bear with me. It's all about thinking outside of the box, it may not look like anything you'd see on a beer label, but it very easily could be! If you just use some imagination you could see it scaled down, slapped on a bottle, from a near seaside brewery, bit of blerb on the back, and hey presto; you have an amazing looking product. It couldn't hurt to try, Uinta have and it seems to have worked brilliantly for them.

This is not my only style of work, don't think me weird: I don't want to stick seascapes on beer everywhere, but you get the concept. Get others involved in your product, it's not just what's in the bottle that counts - people need a reason to want to buy it in the first place. Unless your beer has the accolade of being so awesome that people will buy it label-less you need something to draw there attention, something to make them say, "Wow that looks nice!"
    I'm not just passionate about beer, but everything that is involved in beer, from the bottle to the label to the beer itself. In this world of such great beer diversity (which is awesome) you need something a little extra special to stand out, and to get people buying. (maybe that's why we see so many breweries beer labels in Beer Ritz changing on a monthly basis)

What about the beer then, as that's what you came for?

Well for a start it looks amazing. You don't really get it from that light but I don't think I've ever seen such a clear colour of  wicked amber red in my beer drinking days. And the smell: WoW! Imagine caramelized lychees and your there. Tonnes of fruitiness going on -apples/grapefruit/grapes and raisins, some rum going on in the back there too.
    The flavour is bizzar, your nose says hoppy IPA but your mouth says MASSIVE HOPPY BARLEYWINE! It's so intense. Really woody, lots of piney resin abounding, and a smooth and mellow bitterness which gives you a bit of heat/warmingness. It's drying and very moorish, would be perfect with a masala, but tonight's treat will have to be a ham sandwich! (goes great with that too btw!) I fear the tasting notes I've given in the past few blogs have been a bit similar, but it's just the level of great beers I've been drinking! Lots of caramel malts in the body, and that juicy fruitiness leaves you refreshed and wanting more. Seek it out. Hunt it down. Then share it with a good friend or two.

I think beer and art should go hand in hand. It just feel like a good fit for me. If Stella can make ice sculptures to promote there beer, (see there christmas TV advert) why can't anyone else? Break the mold people, get out of your bloody comfort zones!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Week on the Unknown

This week has been mainly dominated by drinking 90% new beers, and 10% favorites. These have largely come from the shop, but some have come from colleagues in the form of "Biere a la maison" and others from online breweries. I started Monday off with a bang; consuming a 10.4% beast from the ever inspiring Sierra Nevada brewery.
     Hoptimum is a new beer to the shop, and one we have been looking forward to in anticipation for many many weeks! It wasn't surprising when it came in then, when 2/3rds of the case was allocated to orders even before the cardboard was torn open. With this observed we thought it best to procure another case for Wednesday. (which could be all gone by now too!)

My musings on this beverage; This Imperial IPA comes across the nose with piney resin and some grapefruit. It's aroma's not as massive as I'd expect from a 100ibu beer, but the treasure is in the drink itself. The mouth feel is quite thick, and as you might think, hugely bitter from start to finish. All the classics are there - grapefruit, orange rind, some caramel mixed in with a hint of honeycomb, and a nice rich smooth malty-ness leaving the beer quite well balanced. I've heard a few bad comments about this beer, but it was no disappointment. Fulfilling my expectations is always a win for beer, and this one may have invented a new style; a sipping IPA. (my mate called it a quad IPA)

Tuesday brought on a homebrew from the Zak man himself, his Citra Pale Ale. I didn't write many notes at the time, mainly because Zak seems to have found himself to be a bit of a brewing fiend as of late. He seems to be churning out the homebrews on an industrial scale, and with great success. I remember the flavour of this one was light but prominent. There were notes of lemon-grass and a, sort of, sweet melon flavoured Starburst sweets (or Opal Fruits depending how old your are.)

Wednesday was accompanied by two new but familiar faces to our shop shelves. Williams Brothers Good Times & Thornbridge Wild Swan were two beers which have not graced our shop doors before, but come from very respectable breweries. These two light ales were just what the doctor ordered after 60 mins of 5-aside at the end of the day, refreshment incarnate!

Thursday had to be a light one with a early morning on Friday, so I opted for a new to the shop, but familiar favorite of mine; Sharp's Atlantic IPA. Some may not share my enthusiasm for this beer, some think it's a little too sweet, others dislike the clear glass look (myself included a little). But this was one of the first IPA's I had when I was first getting into "good beer" and I've really enjoyed it ever since, and will continue to do so in the future.

Friday night was a bit of a mish-mash of beers, as I spent a good part of the evening in Arcadia, my 'local' as I like call it. It was a fun and rambunctious night of drinking Ilkley Best, beers from Elland and Durham breweries, and generally having a good time in a pub/bar. We won't talk about Saturday morning though.

Saturday night came around again, and after serving great beers all day I was ready for some more. I began round at a friends with some more homebrew, from my colleague Tom; his much talked about Baby Faced Assassin. I told him I'd tell him what I thought *truthfully* so here goes: The pour is good, a lasting rocky head from a nice level of carbonation. You are approached with a waft of lemons and sherbet, with some more melon sweets, but thats come to be expected from a beer made with half a kilo of 100% citra hops! There's a faint aroma of the peppery yeasty zest that you get in Delirium Tremens hiding in there as-well amongst some candy apples. Flavour-wise it's an intensely bitter beer. Huge juicy fruits and a long moorish finish, and a certain dryness which coats the mouth and throat. The aroma is much bigger than the flavour, which drops away a little, but the bitterness stays. My mate tried some, then went onto drinking some Rogue Dead Guy ale, and said he couldn't really taste it after the baba! 6.4% I don't think so, think 2% and then it's gone! (he says he's making it again though :D)

The second beer of the night was the much anticipated AB:05 from Brewdog's Abstrakt range. A Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted coconut and cacao, and at 12.5% it's no slouch. "Brewdog's best beer to date?" maybe. But I'm not sure it was as good as AB:04 or Tokyo*

I got rich plummy aromas, with burnt coffee and a slight silky oakyness around the aromas. It's very thick and light on the carbonation, but it's not flat, quite zesty infact. It was very sweet, but that was a good thing for me. After the initial swallow you thought "mmm tasty" then you get a huge backlash of flavour clawing its way back up your throat, which makes you really take note! It's creamy and slightly chocolatey, lots of sugars and a hint of liqourice. It's woody as-well which leaves a good drying quality to the finish. My mate said "I'm not a big beer drinker, but that's incredible!"

The only thing that could suffice after the mental break down of our taste buds from those 2 beers was some Bruichladdich Rocks to whisk us away into the wee hours of the morning. Bliss.

Sunday, as with all things brings, a day of rest from the booze, in anticipation of a new week ahead and new beers to try, my mouth is watering already!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

IPA is Dead & Blind

So it turns out Brewdog have produced a 4-pack of beers. It's a 4-pack of the same 4, 7.5% IPA's, with one difference between them; the hops used in each. Yes each is either hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Sorachi Ace, Citra or Bramling X hops. There idea was to showcase 4 different hops and there merits in a sensible way.

They quote; "Can you say you've ever experienced 100% pure hop awesomeness?"

Yes. I was just drinking Thornbridge Kipling and Acorn Atlas IPA just last week.

They also quote; "We felt it was time hops went solo and got their own prime-time show."

Quick, someone tell the 20% of breweries in the UK that have never done a single hop beer.

Maybe I'm being a little mean (if you read on you'll find I love em') My main gripe comes from the next quote they plaster all over there beers;

"At Brewdog we are insanely passionate about hats, rock 'n' roll penguins, avoiding ghosts and hops. We bloody love hops"

Seriously, what you got against ghosts?!? Are you scared of them? There's one right here writing about your beers, and I'm sure your familiar with the notion that even bad press is still good press.

Anyway down to the beers;

But wait, someone's removed the labels!?!.... Oh yeah, that was me.

Don't colour me crazy just yet though, there is reason to my madness. Brewdog have said that they wanted to showcase the best that hops had to offer, and they've certainly gone for 4 greats. I do however think that if you know what your going to drink before you drink it, you'll build up expectations on what you think that beer will be like, and that will slightly mask what it's actually like and its merits. I have my own pre-conceptions of what all these hops are like and I didn't want that to interfere with my tasting experience. So I went in blind, completely unawares to what each beer would deliver - to fully appreciate what just a simple change of hops would deliver, and how it would affect a beer. (in truth though, these hops are all completely different, and I could pick out each without trial, which has it's good and bad points. It was still much better than knowing what I was drinking.)

This might make sense to some and not to others, but I really think not knowing what your drinking can really open your eyes fully to what your consuming in that specific time and place.

Let's get down to business.

Beer numero uno; Aromas abound of lemons and grapefruits. There are small hints of caramel malts underlying, but it's mainly about the fruity hop. You get an immediate blast of big juicy flavours, which quickly subside to a nice bittering finish. The initial flavour drops away rather quickly, but the bitterness is well lasting throughout the finish. Flavours of grapes, lemons and limes, and a slight honeycomb sweetness amongst a big lychee hit. From the honeycomb comes some smooth caramel malt character. It's moorish and balanced, with the classic IPA orange rind pithy-ness which I'm fond of.

Beer number 2; Aromas; big on blackcurrents with a sort of un-ripe plum tartness going on in there, and some vegetal skin. It's a light beer but it's big in a bitter body. There's big citrus hints and flavours of tomato/plum skin tartness. Some blackberry jam and a sour tang in the background. Smooth in body and texture making it easy drinking. It's more of a fruity malt beer rather than a hoppy bitter beer, but hey, that can be the hops playing there part.

Beer number 3; Strange aromas of thai green lemon and lime rice. I never thought a beer could smell so like a curry before. There's a hint of spice (ginger?) hidden amongst some fruity character. It's rather floral on the first sip. It sounds strange, but I'm thinking thai green chicken again! It's very dry, there's lemon grass flavours all around, and a nice 'grainy' texture which lends itself well to  the bitterness. There is a warming effect in the throat, but most of these do at 7.5%! A very bizzar beer, not something i've had before.

Last beer, number 4; The aroma to this beer is pure lemon sherbet, I can't quite get anything else, it dominates. The beer is balanced but the flavour is not overpowering. It's kind of, your regular big IPA, hints of citrus with some usual background caramel malts leading to a smooth body quality. The flavour, again, drops away quite quickly making it very moorish and refreshing. Not the worst of the bunch, I couldn't pick one out, but not my favourite.

After all that, I certainly feel refreshed. 4 great beers, strangely familiar, but completely different at the same time. (I suppose that's what they were trying for. Pulled it off like they always do.) More modern classics coming from the kennel then, I suppose. I would recommend the 4-pack to anyone in Beer Ritz, whilst it's not a new idea, it's definitely an interesting one. I have some AB:05 sitting in my room right now, might be interesting to see what "Brewdog's best beer" has to offer, as they put it! Might even write about it if they let up on my ghostly brethren.

*For those who are interested; Beer 1 - Citra. Beer 2 - Bramling X. Beer 3 - Sorachi Ace. Beer 4 - Nelson Sauvin. I knew this because I'm good at what I do. There was no cheating going on!*