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

Friday, 30 September 2011


Quite a few months ago (about six months in fact) I wrote about how home brewers were stepping up their game, and even putting a few commercial brewers to shame with what they had to offer.

Back then I was given a bottle of strong Stout from my (at the time) work colleague Tom Fozzard called Konstrukt. It was an interesting item for many reasons. Mainly because it had a sticker on the top saying "Do not open till October the 1st", but also for all the things this prospect and the bottle brought about.

At the time I can remember saying "Bollocks! I'm opening this next week!" ... It seems though, that my magical beer chest of wonders can make time fly by pretty quickly when beer is hidden away, out of sight, and out of mind.

Awesome label aside, Tom's taken quite a risk with this one. After all, he's given out quite a few of these, and who knows - it could be crap by now. It could have even been crap to begin with!

I've taken the wait though, and come hell or high water, I'm blogging my findings on this beer at October the 1st, 00:01, be it good or be it bad... Tom has made me wait so I'll honestly tell him what it's like in my personal opinion. After all I can't resist a strong dark brew.

Well, It's midnight now! Time to drink some late night beer.

Konstrukt is a 9.2% beer, coming across with a devishly dark pour and a large lively white/tan solid but rocky carbonation. The aroma is light and very reminiscent of the flavours you might find in a strong German Dark Lager like Kaiserdom Dunkle. Chocolate, some wood and a little light coffee and vanilla.

The first thing that's immediately apparent is that over six months this beer has not lost any of it's carbonation or liveliness, you also notice straight away how roastedly bitter the beer is. Dark malts and woody/chocolate body overtones mix amongst a little smoke and a bit of dried rich fruits like figs and raisins. A little sweet in the body, but the carbonation lends itself well to a dry, moorish-ness which makes the beer very quaffable. If I had to classify it, it would be like a Russian Imperial Stout mixed with a German Black Lager - it's like nothing I've had before in all honesty.

I'm not just trying to blow smoke up Tom's arse, he clearly knows how to make a good beer, and has a firm understanding of how to create beers of varying styles - it seems he's in the right industry then I guess. This is a very nice beer.

This beer has got me thinking about the first annual Home Brewers Meet-Up at Mr Foleys on Thursday the 20th of October. We should all be bringing down our own samples to evaluate and enjoy together (hopefully). And that's (for me) what home brewing is all about. It's not about being a cheap skate and brewing for yourself. It's about making something that you love, and sharing it with the people you count as your friends. Something that Tom has done very well, so thanks mate, I shall be returning the favour in a couple of weeks....

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Leeds Beer. Beer from Leeds.

It's been a while since I've had one of these, and there has been good reason for that.

The first time they came in the shop was many months ago and we were all very exited about them, whisky aged beers were still a massive talking point in beer. (maybe they still are today, but at the time we couldn't get enough of them) I had one as quick as I could which, looking back, was a mistake because it had just been bottled a week previous and had not had time to finish conditioning in the bottle. As a result it was still rather flat and I was left a little disappointed. I certainly saw it's potential though and bought a couple more to leave alone for a few months. I know this one is old because it went out of date in June 2011 - a little early don't you think guys for such a strong beer? (it being bottle conditioned I had high hopes for aging)

Time, it seems, can do wondrous things.

It's still a Vintage Ale so you shouldn't expect a great carbonation anyway, but the few months in the bottle has done this beer a great deal of good, and no, this time it wasn't flat.

Gyle 479 is a 9% Vintage Ale that has been aged in Bruichladdich casks. I only know this because I asked the brewers. If I had one beef, it was the fact this was not mentioned on the bottle. It just stated 'Aged in Islay Whisky Casks' - and that for me was not good enough. I'm sure 90% of the people buying this would be really interested in what sort of cask, what age of cask was used in producing this beer - it's what whisky cask aged beer is all about, just look at the Harviestoun range.

Rant over though, we'll look at the beer. It's certainly dark, but held up to the light it's clearly deep dark brown. Aromas of caramel, dark toffee (almost bonfire toffee), dark malts, hazelnuts, a touch of honey, a little spice and some smoke come forth from a seriously inviting brew.

As the carbonation has had time to sort itself out the flavours really come around. Immediately very fruity. Lots of orange rind and raisins. You get a nice bitter, warming alcohol tang from the strength of this beer, and it has great toffee/nutty Vintage Ale flavours. Rich and hearty, it's a really great beer. The whisky is certainly there, but it's light and it's really well balanced within the body and aroma of the beer. It's not as in your face (and throat) as many of the cask aged beers, which makes it quite refreshing, dry and moorish.

I have heard talk of more casks at Leeds Brewery. I've also heard that in the next few months they're bottling the 'Best' again along with their 'HellFire'!! - One beer I'm very exited to try again, and out of the bottle this time.

Drinking a Leeds beer from the past, and looking forward to Leeds beers of the future!

........and it's over 7.5% ;)   one day left tomorrow...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

What Happens At Mr Foleys....

So tonight was another of the Mr Foleys; meet up-bring loads of bottles of crazy beer-get heartily drunk with good friends-and for Beer Geeks to celebrate everything that is good and righteous about great beer. 

In attendance tonight were some great chaps; hosting us at Mr Foleys was Dean. Leigh from the Good Stuff and Mark from Real Ale Reviews were there. Rob from Hopzine and Martin Bell (@mbell739)-Beer Geek aficionado, and Adam Tuncay (@tunks23)-lover of all things great in beer also joined in our motley crew.

This is a little photo blog of what goes down when seven big Beer Geeks get together and drink more beer than they probably should - and have one hell of a good time!! I think it's pretty self explanatory... 

Nice one, once again, Dean. Here's to the next one! Long live good beer.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

1 Week Till Judgement Day

Warning: This post may contain strong language..... and sarcasm.

Do you like your Imperial Stouts? Do you love a good Barley Wine or Imperial IPA? Is your favourite tipple a Belgian Triple or Quadruple? Or most of what Belgium has to offer for that matter?? Well if your like me and you answered yes, then you can count yourself in the apparent minority. You can also be comforted by the fact the current government doesn't give two shits about your beloved beverages or you in fact.

Yes, we have one week to go before the imbeciles we call our country leaders increase the beer duty by 25% on beers over 7.5%.

They may as well handcuff our beer industry to the radiator and repeatedly punch us in the face.... but wait, what's that I hear you say?? they already do that?? hmm I could never have guessed. I guess this will just be one of those knife blows to the neck in a further attempt to put us down for good and stamp us out for ever.

But what's that I hear you say? they've also given us a gift by reducing the beer duty of beers under 2.8%? Well it all sounds well and good, so I did a bit of counting today. In our specialist beer shop 'Beer Ritz' we stock about six hundred fantastic beers. Would you like to know how many of them are over 7.5%?? ONE HUNDRED AND NINE. And how many do we sell that are under 2.8%...... hmm it seems that number is ZERO!! - So thanks a lot for that amazing gift you've given us there!

It must only be fair if they do a similar increase on wine, cider and spirits though? Surely? Fat Chance! Because of course, if duty was raised like that on something like wine, there would be an uproar. But stick it to beer and commoners like us will just grumble and eventually except it right? Well this commoner wont! You can shove your beer duty up your polished arse!

Do they really think that increasing duty on beers above 7.5% will really fix the alcohol problems of this country? Naah, it's not the multi discounts on cheap bottles of wine, not the 3 litre bottles of cider for a couple of quid, not even the bottles of spirits you can buy from the supermarkets for under a tenner. No, It's those beers over 7.5% - those beers which have heritage, those which have a classic artisan production, those beers and styles which have been produced for hundreds of years - they're the problem - so screw em! Because let's face it, why else would the government be doing this if it wasn't for all the millions of hoodies swilling all that Trappist beer out of their chalices and causing trouble?? And of course, those who actually need our help and education will once again get ignored and brushed under the rug.

I really do feel sorry for our customers who are going to either have to stump up the extra cash for beers they may have loved all their lives. I also feel really bad for the brewers who make the beers. Will brewers like Thornbridge be reducing the strength of their Saint Petersburg from 7.7% to 7.5%? I personally hope they don't. And the fact of the matter is for these 109 beers we sell, if they don't sell we will have to de-list them, and the harsh truth is that they may never grace our shelves again. Simply put, if a beer is too expensive to purchase, and/or no one buys it, it gets de-listed. We can't stock beers which don't shift.

So tomorrow there will be six days left. I for one will be having a massive party on September 30th, and will be drinking loads of Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines - in much the same way that so many partied the day before they banned drinking on the tube - I hope you'll be joining me!

One final message to our so-called-leaders; Your already crippling the beer industry - the last big industry of our country. Pubs are closing, taxes and duty on beer is rising at a ridiculous rate, and now this.

Seriously... fuck off and LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE!!!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Does This Taste Right???

The human brain is an incredible organ.

They say that 80/90% of what you actually taste comes from what you smell, hence why food doesn't taste so great when you have a cold. All this 'taste', & of anything in that matter, still gets processed by our brains and we all can perceive it differently.

I heard a story a few years back about a man lost at sea, and while I'm not sure if it's entirely true it does throw up some interesting thoughts. Like I said, he was lost at sea, but fortunately so as he had a small supply of water, and was in a spot where the fish were abundant and easy to catch. After a couple of weeks of eating nothing but fish flesh, he apparently found himself absolutely detesting the flavour of fish meat. At the same time he was beginning to get massive cravings for the other parts of the fish most people would find revolting, like for the eyes to note one example. When some sciency dudes tried to explain what was going on they summarised that while fish meat is very good for you, it does not contain everything that the body needs to survive. The other parts of the fish which are often discarded do have many vitamins and minerals which, in survival situations, are quite essential. When this survivor (he was eventually picked up) turned from the meat to craving the un-desirables, it was his brain that saved him. It forced him to believe that eating fish eyes was the most delicious thing on the planet, which when you think about it, is quite a remarkable feat.

Now I'm not to big on my science so someone could possibly tell me that that's all hogwash, but it seems plausible.

It is certain that if you eat too much of something in the long run, your body can become intolerable to it. But that's probably more of a physical reaction than something to do with your brain muddling you up.

That did get me thinking though; if you drink too much beer could you become intolerable to it?? Would your body start to reject all that malty/yeasty goodness?? Well it's certainly true that some people are intolerant and even allergic to some ingredients in beer, but after further thought, it doesn't seem like something that could happen over a long period of time and over consumption, from looking at history. Let's face it, we can all say we have some sort of a varied, balanced diet, and we're not in a survival situation.

But what if we drank so much of the same beer that our brains started to play tricks on us, and the beer we once new, didn't really taste the same anymore? Would we even notice, and if we did would we blame it on something else? "Oh that breweries' beer doesn't taste the same these days..." - When it's probable that we've probably had a bit too much of it in our lifetimes, our taste buds have become dull to it, and our brains are telling us to "Try a bloody new beer!!"

Another big point is perceived taste. I'm only going to touch on it because it's a massive point but it seems to me;

If you think, and are convinced, that a beer is going to be horrible - then most likely - your not going to enjoy it. Also if you think a beer is going to be amazing, your most likely going to experience that, and even if you don't you'll try to make it out that it is.

Let's not even start on influencing tastes as well... I remember long ago when me Zak and Dan were sampling a brew, and me and Dan couldn't pick out any flavours from it. Zak said it tasted of marmalade - and unsurprisingly that's all we could taste for the rest of the beer!

Taste is an amazing thing. As individuals we will all taste differently, that's why some of us might love a beer and some hate it. But for me all of that 'taste' is manipulated by our brains and comes from a variety of influencing factors from age to experience to even our sex, for example.

.... or something along those lines.

Try to taste with your brain, and listen to what it's trying to tell you! It's much more clever than you give it credit for. So the next time someone disagrees with you about how a beer tastes, don't be so quick to shoot him down as a fool, that's just his taste.

The mad musings of this Ghost were brought to you whilst enjoying a lovely bottle of Stone Smoked Porter and a Peanut Butter and Jam sandwich.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Three Bears. Which Saranac Is Just Right?

Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Imperial India Pale Ale - where should it end? Does, or should, one have more merit than the other? Why brew three types of seemingly similar beer when you could just as easily focus all your attention on making one fantastic beer? Well tonight I'll try to find out wether Saranac's range of the Pale stuff amounts to the production of three separate beers or not...

It certainly would seem that the biggest of beer geeks would say that there's a massive difference between a Pale Ale and a Imperial IPA, but is that really the truth? Could the difference between the three beers only be the strength, or do varying ingredients and a lust for flavour bring out the beast in the big boys? And who's to say that a perfectly made Pale Ale can't be better than a Imperial IPA - I've had some Impys that are absolutely shocking!

Apparently this Pale is "A classic English Style Pale Ale brewed with six speciality malts and perfectly hopped with hand-selected English Kent Goldings and Fuggles Hops." Well for one I'm not sure how you go about hand selecting English hops - that could take rather a long time - but it's nice to see an American Pale which isn't so predominately hop forward. Not too strong for America - 5.5%. Aromas come forward of grapefruit, lemon, marshmallow and a big bouquet of amber caramel malts. It's big on the spicy malt flavour, and certainly not as hop forward as you'd expect. It's fruity, hints of melon and light orange dominate. A pleasant bitter tang in the body and certainly in the finish - not a beer I expected but very nice.

The India Pale Ale comes in at 5.8% - just 0.3% higher than the Pale, so I'm hoping that some bigger ingredients will make some difference. "A hop lover's delight! ...This brew is very hoppy in both aroma and flavour from the generous amounts of Cascade Hops used in brewing." No mention of the malts now, that theme has disappeared - It's all about matching this beer with different foods now on the label. (Seafood, Pizza and Mexican - A little vague really..) So what's the difference? Well not much really. A lot of similar flavours and aromas to the first but much more of an orange bittering pithy flavour. There is more amber spicy malts in the body but overall the flavour is lighter and fruitier. A lot more of the sweet fruits and caramels come across in the body and a big bitterness comes about in the long lasting finish. Once again - less hops than I expected, but still a good beer.

This Imperial IPA comes in at 8.5%. "Mt. Marcy, Skylight, Algonquin... Majestic Adirondack High Peaks - They are the Inspiration for our new 'High Peaks' Series; a line of beers that are bigger, more complex and flavourful; beers that are meant to be sipped and savored." Apparently the brew is made with ten malts and ten hops and at the end of all that it's not too much different than the previous two - it certainly is bigger in all aspects - but does that make it a better beer? It certainly has a big caramel sweetness and malty body in aroma and flavour. The flavours are jumped up and in comparison from beer one to beer two, beer three is miles above the first two. Slightly floral and slightly nutty - not bad - but could be improved. Anyone can make a strong hoppy beer, but it takes a genius to make it work well.

So which Saranac is just right?

Well none of these.... I had their Imperial Stout a few months back and it was a BEAST!!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Beer In The Palm Is Worth Dobbel The Fun!

I enjoy a bottle of Palm. It's Belgian beer but it's very British in taste. It's a top selling European beer brewed with English hops, French barley and Belgian yeast. It also contains a proportion of Champagne malts which give it it's alluring amber colour. (apparently)

I could not give up the chance to sample one of these then, especially as the bottle was a couple of years out of date!

I'm guessing this is their take on a Christmas beer, and so, with the arrival of some Christmas decorations in some shops (I know!!!!) I thought I'd have my first Christmas beer of the year.

Rich brown/amber red in colour. Pours quite flat for a Belgian beer with a light rocking of white bubbles on the surface. Aroma is yeasty with notes of caramel and a nutty sweetness. Slight fruit mixed with a brown bread maltyness.

Not that strong for a Belgian 'Dobbel' at only 6%. It's really not all too dissimilar to regular Palm to be honest - but you can't say that's a bad thing. Light, sweet malts, a nutty body with caramel and citrus flavours. I was expecting a much bigger, thicker, more sherry like strong dark ale - and while there's essence of that in here it's pleasantly not overpowering - so what your left with is a light and delicate beer which is very easy going.

Good beer. But if I see any more Christmas decorations going up in the next couple of weeks then I'm going to start punching Elves!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Hell of a Week!

This week was meant to be a week of restraint. Not unlike most plans however, this never happened, in fact I've had some amazing beers this week in what I like to call - a week of debauchery!

It all started on Saturday. (Saturday to Saturday is a week...) It was my last shift with my colleague Jeff (@Juffage) before he left for the states again. So after we closed down the shop we decided to drink some special beers.

First up was La Roja from the esteemed Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in the States.

I'm not sure Jolly Pumpkin make any beer without barrel aging them, but this was their oak aged Amber Ale.

Aromas: Huge vanilla and loads of fresh pear skins - very similar to Petrus Brune or even Rodenbach. Flavours consist of toffee, chocolate and cream and a tiny amount of cinnamon. It's a very earthy , woody beer. Very puckering and dry. Sour notes mingle with slightly musty/sweaty essence. It's definitely a farm yard sort of beer - and a fantastically delicious one at that!

The second beer of the night was Olde Gnarly Wine from Lagunitas.

This was crazy stuff! It smelled like steak, corn and Worcestershire source for crying out load!!

It was a beer of four stages. First of all it has a massively sweet body and mouth feel. Secondly the flavour drops away immediately after the swallow at the back of the tongue. Thirdly you get a massive punch of sweet caramels clawing their way back up your throat. And last of all your left with an amazing flavour that coats your mouth of sweet pineapple and bitter tomato skins!

Sunday was only a reminder that after starting with those two beers on the night previous, it was not a good idea to grab many more pints in various bars before going to a house party in Hyde Park.

Sunday was a write off.

Monday I didn't feel up to it either.

Tuesday I came back with a vengeance and had one hell of a night with Imperial Stouts and PIE!

Between Tuesday and Wednesday I also had many the pint of glorious Kirkstall beers and various others in Arcadia and surrounding bars.

Thursday night was really interesting. After serving up really great beers in the Ritz all day I took the cycle out to North Bar for a sampling of Zak's beer. It was a beer brewed with Great Heck brewery: a 5% Amber/Brown Ale called Heckstra Ordinary. It was a dark brown and spicy beer. A big hit of amber malts flowed forwards amongst a robust body perfectly complimented by a powerful fruity lychee and orange flavour.  The levels of fruit, spicy malt and bitterness were in perfect balance, and whilst it was drying and very moorish I'm not sure I could drink too much of it. It felt a little like it had more ingredients in it that it needed, but that's just my personal opinion.

Whilst I was there I managed to grab a half of Pretty Things Saint Botolph's Town Brown Ale. This beer is something else. You can tell straight away that the influence for this beer comes from the very heart of Yorkshire's brewing scene - and that of Theakstons. A great beer, and very much recommended if you can get your hands on a pint.

Thursday's early morning also brought the arrival of my first nephew: Charlie Matthew Briggs into the family, so Friday evening I decided to open up something a little special with Ben after we finished work.

This is what I chose.

Williams Brewery's 20th Anniversary whisky cask aged Fraoch ale is a different monster altogether.

It's rather strong at 11%. Aromas of apricots and honey comb sweetness come across. There's also a huge whiff of a Gueuze. It starts with a big sour oaky bite. It's obviously warming and strong. It has a tart but floral heather flavour. You get some honey sweetness but it's blended with a good deal of rustic spice. It also has a huge carbonation (in fact it went everywhere on the open) almost like a champagne, but with none of the champagne flavour that I dislike from too much CO2. A great beer for a special occasion, well played Williams Brewery!

Saturday came full circle again with one of the best. Shared with Ben and Beth in the back of Beer Ritz (because it was huge and strong) after closing, this beer needs no explanation really....

Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial
Stout Is AWESOME!!

What a week then!

Who knows how many units I may have racked up! According to the "guidelines" I must have been over my "limits" - but I don't really care - It was a fantastic week, and those suggested unit guidelines are just made up anyway.....

Let's see what I'll be drinking this week!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Beast


I've heard some pretty amazing things about this beer, let's look at the stats:

Firestone Parabola - a 12.5% Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels.

This 2011, No. 002 Reserve Series is aged patiently for 12 months in the barrel before the 3000 cases are packaged. An OG of 29.5 (plato), 82 IBUs, British Ale (house) yeast used and a 167SRM colour rating, (if anyone knows what this colour rating system is I'll be impressed, but apparently 167 is Midnight Black)

This beer smells insane.

Tar, varnish, tobacco, dark rum, dark chocolate, bourbon, oak, vanilla, liquorice, oats soaked in whisky and a bucket load of dried fruits. Quite possibly the most complex aroma I've ever smelled to an Imperial Stout, minus, maybe only a couple.

I've only ever had one beer before from Firestone, which was a lone bottle of the Firestone Walker Pale Ale many moons ago, which I thought was OK, but nothing extra special.

This however, is one of the best beers I've ever drunk from the USA!

It's so thick it's like treacle. You get an immediate sweet oaky bourbon flavour that fills the mouth and dominates the senses. This is certainly a sipper, although the 12.5% is rather masked with lots of rich chocolate and dark malt flavours. Woody with big vanilla essence comes through in the finish. It's strange, for all the flavours I stated in the aroma, this beer is ridiculously balanced, and even the most experienced taster would probably find it hard to get much more from the flavour. That's not me trying to boast about my tasting skillz, that's me stating how amazingly complex but perfectly balanced this beer is, that it really leaves you lost for words.

I thought I'd pair this with some food.....

I know, it's not really my territory, I should leave it to Leigh and Neil, but I thought I'd give it a bash.

My immediate thoughts were drawn to what to pair this beer with. I thought rich meats maybe? Some blue cheeses or maybe even some fine chocolates or the richest of deserts? Any of those would have done the trick I thought.

But then the inner YorkshireMan inside my belly started punching my stomach.

He said to me "Any self-respecting YorkshireMan like yourself knows the ultimate food to go with beer!"

And he was right, I did know the ultimate food for beer, the ultimate food to go with ANY beer. And I'll believe him to the bitter end, I'll eat this with Imperial Stout, with IPAs, with Lambics, with Wheat beers etc....

You know it, you love it, you can't live without it!:


Monday, 12 September 2011

A Friendly eMail

I recieved an email from Eric Michaud the other week and decided to share his news. Eric was a very friendly chap that I managed to do a beer swap with a while back, and I really hope he doesn't mind me sharing the news. It's things like this that make me really happy to be in the industry that I'm in, and I think it's amazing to be able to share my passion with different people on a daily basis - and it certainly rocks when the people I share my passion with develope a passion of their own about great beer! So thanks for news Eric, I look forward to hearing about what else you get up too in your beer travels :)

Hey Ghostdrinker!

My name's Eric, I'm the guy that brought you those Quebecoise beers last spring.

I'm writing to you mainly for three reason now.

First I have read your post on Smuttynose beers, that's another one of the beers I brought back from Portland, Maine to Montreal a couple of weeks ago and that I haven't drink yet. I got there one of their barley wine also. So before you go on and spoil all my blog subjects, I want to testify that I brought back some Allagash, some Jolly Pumpkins (get your hands on that, it's fabulous!), some Rising Tide, a lot of Southern Tier (don't you dare make a post on Unearthly VS Unearthly Oak Aged...!) and couples of others.

Ok, I'm just kidding, that wasn't why I'm writing to you!

The two reason why I'm writing to you now are:

1: A friend of mine is going to study for a semester at Leeds Uni next winter. I'll try to convince her to bring with her some more things from Montreal for you. There is already two incredibly bold barley wine I have in mind (and in my cellar!), both from small local brewpubs, and maybe till then, January I mean, I'll have other ideas. Anyway, we'll see for that.

2: When I came back home, I realized that we don't have a lot of beers from UK available in Quebec. There is Fuller's and a little bit of Samuel Adams, nothing to get excited about. So I decided to import the breweries that catch my imaginations while I was there. After a couple of weeks, that idea developed into a small British progressive beer festival in Montreal. I've worked on it for the last couple of weeks and now, I am proud to say that the ten breweries I had in mind accepted (or were interested!) in participating to that event. Those breweries are: Kernel, Darkstar, Moor, Thornbridge, Summer Wine, Magic Rock, Marble, Brewdog, Meantime and Hardknott.

The events are going to be hosted in three places: the main one at Brouhaha (brewpub, a smaller event with probably just the traditional brews at Albion (brewpub, and a food/beer pairing event at Silex (restaurant All of this is going to happen at the end of next April.

For now I'm working hard to get my orders done by the middle of October and after that I will see with my partners the opportunity of including some local brewers to the festivities with different concepts.

Why I'm telling you all that? Maybe it's just because I feel that I owe you one because I have known some of those brewery through your blog.
So thanks for that!

I'll provide you with more details if your interested while the process goes on.

That's all for now, keep me posted Eric..... and I'll be bolgging on Jolly Pumpkin later in the week ;)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Blogging on Location: Roosters

I remember the first time I tried this beer. It was a cold day in the shop, we had just taken our deliveries and Tom produced a test tube sort of item out of his bag with some ominous looking yellow liquid inside. "You have to try this!" was his proclaim, to which I was rather skeptical, but after a whiff of the aroma It wasn't long before the thing was finished. A few weeks later, and the beer was bottled. So many hops were used in the production that not that much beer ever did make it to the glasses, it was mainly eaten up and soaked into those little delicious green bastards. After a time when all the beer had gone, and everyone who had tried it had stopped asking Tom when he was going to make some more, the thought's died down a little about the lust for making crazily hopped beers which were never going to be viable for consumer release.

How times they do change...

Tom has once again showed his generosity by giving me one of these individually numbered (70 in total?) bottles from his new place of work Roosters Brewery. I know the recipie has been a little tweaked to make it slightly more commercially viable, but I have no doubts that it will be impressive before I even open it.

So tonight I'm on location. Not at Roosters mind, but in the back of Beer Ritz, ready to share this with my colleague Ben Corkhill, who writes Hails 'n' Ales, to pass on a little of the generosity I was given. - Because as we all know, it's nice to share something nice!

Here's what we thought:

A beer with a massive floral aroma, mangos and peaches dominate the smell. It's a beer that tastes about 3% even though it's 6.1% and is so refreshing it's hard to put it down. Deliciously fruity with a really pleasing bitter sweet body. Not one dimensional at all considering it only contains 1 hop - Citra. Really complex but surprising simple to drink, really easy going, it ticks all my bases for what I thought it would be.

Over to Ben:

This is a great beer and not too dissimilar to one of my favourites, the Sierra Nevada Souhern Hemisphere Harvest, but with more of a lingering bitter quality. The aroma literally had my mouth watering, and a few swirls down the glass bring out that fruitiness again and again. I was surprised when Ghostie told me it was single hopped due to its complexity. Deceptively drinkable - well done lads! 

It's really interesting, I still remember the first Assassin, and whislt this one is different it still has an incredible impact, and seems to have aquired a bit of the Roosters spirit of flavour along the way.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Stock Ale

I know nothing about Stock Ale. I only heard about them a few months ago when I bought my first - the Pitfield's Stock Ale pictured left from Cambridge.

Over to Michael Jackson to tell us a little about it then:

"A style dating from the days when it was impossible to brew in the warm months, and made to be cellared during the summer, was known as Stock Ale", "The old generation American IPA's and Stock Ales were winy-tasting brews, often made with water heavily treated with calcium sulphate to resemble that of Burton. They were seen as autumn and winter drinks, and were often served at room temperature, sometimes 'still', from casks behind the bar."

So now that we have that, and a little more subject matter on the subject, let's look at what we have to drink tonight. Obviously it's going to be my second Stock Ale...

This is the Limited Release, 11.5%, 2009 Vintage Old Stock Ale from North Coast Brewing Company from the States. These guys are probably better known for making the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, but tonight we're talking Stock Ales.

A quick check on RateBeer reveals some interesting facts...

"It’s brewed with classic floor-malted Maris Otter Pale Malt and Fuggles Hops imported from England, so it’s a beer to be served proudly. Like a fine wine, North Coast’s Old Stock Ale is intended to be laid down. With an original gravity of over 1100 and a generous hopping rate, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round-out and mellow with age."

Only Fuggles ey? ... well not that there's anything wrong with that!

This beer evolves a lot over the time it takes to drink it. The aroma is abundant of caramel apples, some candy sugars, a hint of Belgian  peppery yeast and a lot of chocolate cherries. It starts really sweet, thick and rich - and even with a really big carbonation for a 2+yr old beer. There's some almost lactic flavours in the mix, it seems a bit like a Milk Stout mixed with a Barley Wine. Smooth toffees and a marmalade richness. The finish is long and quite drying, with just a hint of bitterness creeping back up the throat. As it goes down slightly, the alcohol becomes a bit more present and a bigger spicy-er fruitiness comes out.

An amazing complex and completely unique beer. I've never had anything like it before, and now it's all I can think about! Pure deliciousness!!

This beer was purchased from the Cask whilst in London.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A New Leeds Pub

So Leeds Brewery have opened up a new little pub, in an old one mind, but The White Swan is open for business! I was a little confused when I went in for a quick look around the other day, I didn't know whether or not to order a pint, or to book a room. It was a little fancy for me, I felt a little out of place with my holes-in jeans... It wasn't like any pub I managed to fall out of on a night.

The beer on service was from a selection of twelve handpulls and many keg fonts. Great wines, Champers and a good selection of bottled beers was available too. The cask ale seemed to be perfectly tasty, a tiny touch too cold, but I'm just splitting hairs.

Below is just a small collection of snaps that I managed to take. Give them a look over and see what you think for yourself....

Yes, that is a giant piano

If you would like to visit the Swan in person you can find it on Swan Street off Briggate, directly opposite the City Varieties Music Hall.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Best Cask Ale.... NZPA??

Hawkshead has always been a bit hit and miss with me. Their Red leaves me slightly disappointed, whilst their Citrillo/Cumbrian 5 Hop is a revelation. Their Brodie's Prime is just a little too drab for me, whilst their Organic Stout is a pint worthy of the 'Supreme Champion of Britain' Award. And don't even get me started on Windermere Pale Ale - I could drink that all day and night!!

The brewers up Cumbria-side have decided to brew a beer of magnitudinal proportions now though. Matt from Hawkshead has brewed this himself and it's only fitting, because he's a kiwi himself, that it's a beer dubbed; New-Zealand Pale Ale.

A New-Zealand Pale Ale through and through. 6%, and packed to the rafters with 4 amazingly flavour-full New-Zealand hops; Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka and the classic.. Nelson Sauvin.

Think Jaipur, think Dobber, but I have to be honest, and say that this was a much better beer in a similar vein of styles.

I never did get much from an aroma in a straight sided pint glass, so this experience was always going to be all about the flavour. It's very complex beer, there's a lot to be explored within it's depths.

From the get go, you are bombarded with juicy, fruity flavours. The beer abounds with drying lemon sherbet, and almost seems so packed full of hops that it's quick thick and almost chewy. With just the subtlest of hop hazes, the beer evolves and presents more flavours as it goes down. I'm thinking apricots, peaches an cream, green apple skins mixed with a slight pine resin.

From the lemon sherbet flavours comes a massivly dry and bitter finish, so moorish that you can't help but pour more down your throat - extremley dangerous at 6%! Warming, puckering, it has all you can want from an uber - pale ale, and more so...

Can I say this is the best cask ale I've had this year? It's hard to say really... It's certainly up there! And the fact that it was Arcadia - my local - that managed to get two casks of it made things go even more in its favour. (the first cask ran dry in a matter of hours..) I really don't know how they managed to get their hands on two casks.... but I'm sure the "special relationship" between @mattHawkshead and @thumbsprain had something to do with it ;)

I think it's difficult to put a "best" on something/anything these days because everything is always changing and evolving. It would be foolish and ignorant to believe that we live in a static and unchanging world. The same can be said for our beer industry. Brewers are constantly perfecting their techniques and constantly delivering better and better beers. I always like to think your only as good as the last success you've produced, and this beer is certainly the best success that Hawkshead have produced to date! Well played Matt and the Hawkshead team this beer is one for the archives!! (now get some in the bottle so I can pour it in my snifter....)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Three C's and Mikkeller's Single Hop Series Musings

We're no strangers to single hopped beers these days, it seems it may be the new 'In Thing' for brewers to produce a range of single hops beers, but to be honest brewers have been doing that since we first started hopping beers, so it's not big and it's not clever.... or is it?

We've just received a selection of Mikkeller's single hopped beer series at the shop, and for all accounts, they look great - and a lot of us have been keen to get stuck into hops they've not tried before. Not myself though, I wanted to revisit 3 of my big boys and do some investigating. All shall be explained, but first the beers I tried...

It would be foolish to think I could have tried all eight beers in one session to pit the hops against each other, they're all 6.8% for crying out loud! So I went for my tried and trusted three C's: CASCADE - The American Pale Ale dream, CLUSTER - An American hybridization of styles, and COLUMBUS - The USA big guns, high in alpha acids, high yielding, it's what you need! Yes I know they're all US hops, so what? US hops are really nice!

As you can see, hops impart no visible colour difference, I just wanted to be sure.

I started with Cascade: A classic aroma for a beer if there ever was one. Grapefruit, mangos and a very slight hint of lychee. It's a super fruity beer. Citrus fruit mixed in with mango skins. It's also quite grassy, and rather dry with some straw flavour coming out of the body. It's a really interesting hop, slightly similar to Citra, but loads better in my book.

Cluster was next: Different from the first, but still fruity as hell. Peaches and pear skins are what's on the menu. There's also a slight touch of strawberries and grapes in there too. This brew is much lighter and a lot more floral than Cascade. It has that classic American sweet caramel and juicy fruitiness which so many look for, and to accompany the finish you get a great bittering kick.

Last up was Columbus. I expected a beast, but as with most beers, I was left surprised once again. The aroma and flavour were very subtle; It sounds strange but it smelled very dry... like dry straw almost. The flavour is drying as well, but there still is plenty of fruit in the finish. Nectarines and lychees dominate this beer. It almost seems like a mix of the previous two.

This brings me onto my musings.

I was pretty certain that there was the same amount of hops used in the production of each beer. After all the label makes it pretty obvious that everything was kept the same apart from the hops, so why would they add more in one rather than the other? My beer geek senses were touched when the IBUs of each beer were mentioned on the side of each bottle.

There was a reason to my choice of where to start with with my three beers. The bottle of Cascade was only '38 Theoretical IBUs'. The Cluster was 66 and the Columbus was 114! I wondered to myself 'If everything is the same, how come some have more IBUs than the others?' - I still wonder that, so I make a shout out to all home brewers and brewers to explain this to me.

I went in with this mentality thinking the Columbus would be the most bitter, so drank it last. That's why I pictured the Columbus and the Willamette above. Out of all the eight Mikkeller beers, the Columbus has the highest IBU of 114 and the Willamette has the lowest of 35. I thought to myself again, 'If you want a really bitter beer, you'd use the Columbus - it obviously gives more bitterness.'

So after I started with the Cascade, was the Columbus the most bitter with it's massively superior 114 IBUs?? Hell no it wasn't! It was the Cluster. That bad boy took the title without a fight in my opinion, and remember it was in the middle ground of the three when it came to IBUs. I can't work out why this may be, if someone can tell me, the knowledge will be very welcomed.

Everyone seems to boast these days, "Oh I've had this beer, it was well over 100 IBUs and was intense!" - It doesn't seem to me that the IBUs of a beer even matter after trying these three beers, and knowing that the ingredients are the same (apart from the hop) and the IBUs are still different. Beer - it always get more and more confusing and complex the more you look into it.

Now of course, bittering qualities all depends on when you actually put the hops into the boil, but this experience has still given me loads to think about. So yes, single hop beers may not be a new thing, but they're still taking me to school.