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

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Beer Fusion

Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus.

 - A beer which is synonymous with pure quality and flavour when it comes to what beer can be. A beer that is so drying, so moorish, so epically brilliant, you feel it sobers you up more than it gets you drunk. A beer for the ages; one to share with your grandkids as they get older.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

 - A Game Changer of a beer. It's probably the only Chocolate Stout you ever really need to try, but more likely the one that all others will get judged against. A powerhouse of a liquid, a beer to warm your heart and pump warm blood through your veins. One you reach for in the depths of winter, but also in the heights of summer to pour over your Salted Caramel ice cream as Rick Furzer would have it.

I think you can see where this is going....

What's better in a dessert than dark chocolate combined with tart raspberries? It doesn't get much more delectable and decadent when it comes to the finer things. Black Chocolate Stout comes forward bringing the booze and the body. Luxurious vanilla and caramel, supreme roasted malts with a really smooth body which makes the chocolate presence seem almost like it's been melted into the glass. Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus provides the little bit extra. That tart hit of fruity flavour which you see in a Black Forest Gateau, that something which balances and enhances the sweet and sour. Herbal leaves and an oaky mouthfeel only contribute to a flavour that is not overpowering, but balanced and composed.

Blending these two together is a match made in heaven, which creates something so unique, so different, but still familiar to both beers - only joined in unison. There are simple rules to follow when doing this though. When using the fruit beer, you do not need a lot. You may think the BCS would be big and overpowering to anything, but you can also see from the picture how much Cantillon I used. You do not need a lot.

What you end up with is a fantastic union of flavours which were meant to go together. It's pretty hard to describe too, so I can only suggest that you try this for yourselves. It's something I hope, something that should catch on. I've had a lot of opposition in the past when blending beers together. People say "That's not how the brewer intended it to be drunk!" ...but you know what, I paid for it, I can do what I want with it! There's almost limitless combinations of of beers that can be mixed together, just ask anyone who likes a Black & Tan.. but at the moment I can't get enough of mixing Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout with fantastic Belgian Fruit Beers.

Blending these two beers together isn't crazy.

It just makes sense.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Six Styles Of IPA

I thought it was about time I gave this a go...

I wrote a little while back about whether or not IPA was still IPA because of the vast multitude of styles that were available these days. It's a bit of a problem, not just because of mindless quibbling between the blogarrati, but because it's also a big problem to outsiders wanting to get into the beer world who are left puzzled, confused and sometimes annoyed about what an IPA really is.

I've come up with a list of six different categories that IPAs can fit under to try come up with some sense of a "more organised" field of vision... at least for me, and for people I need to explain IPA to. (it's a constant question in Beer Ritz.. "what's the difference between these??") I'm sure others will have their own lists...


First Style: American IPA
You know them, you love them, at one time you knew this was all you needed from a beer... That great clear golden caramel colour. That juicy, fruity, resinous citrusy aroma.. all those classic American IPAs.

The IPA to the left is a classic example which comes from Ska Brewery. Modus Hoperandi comes in at 6.8% and has all those flavours you're looking for in an American IPA. Lots of caramel malt and big candy floss sweetness mixed with that huge hit of grapefruit which leaves that clean and moorish finish. Ska Modus also has a bit of a difference in flavour which lies in the banoffee pie region, very tasty indeed! American IPA is my first style, and it's an all-encompassing style too. From North to South, from East coast to West coast, they all come from the same land of the US and need to be unified as such. You can't really go wrong with, I'd say, 80% of American breweries that produce a standard IPA... my classic examples would consist of beers like Goose Island IPA, Odells IPA and Stone IPA.

Second Style: Continental IPA
This style has a lot and a lot of variety to offer, but still needs to be under the same flag. Belgian IPA, German IPA, French IPA it all goes in the same category; all IPAs from the continent (some clarification will come at the end) It's a style that's a bit difficult to explain, but you know when you're drinking an IPA from the continent.

Vuur & Vlam is a 6.2% IPA from De Molen. This is the original Fire and Flame IPA, and you can't say they're not trying with the hops. Galena, Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe and Amarillo are all in the mix. The aroma is pure grapefruit and peach juice. It's got a big carbonation on it, but it's still obviously an IPA... an IPA from the continent. Purely delicious, and that's all that really need be said.

Svea IPA is a 7% gem from De Struise. It has an aroma about which leads you to believe it could fit into the English IPA style which is to come next, but it's not. Loads of malty sweetness , with extra sweet drawn from lots of Belgian candy sugars. It has a soft and subtle carbonation for a beer from Belgium , and it's very refreshing to see. A nice balance of some herbs and spices interplay with malt sweetness really well making it better than the sum of it's parts. It reminds me quite a bit of wood aged IPAs from breweries like Green King, and I guess the uber beer geeks will get that reference.

Third Style: English IPA
English IPA is a style like White Shield is an IPA. White Shield would be the poster boy for this style. All the malt backbone and non of the fuss! Hops take the back seat of the carriage here...

Crate IPA is 5.8% and has an aroma like an English giant of a beer. Loads of orange rind and sweet hay. A touch of jam and brown sugar is there to back things up and make you want to dive straight into the glass. While the beer might be all about the malt, there's still the small dose of bitterness to be found in the finish. It's perfectly balanced - sweet then bitter, with a fantastic body. Some woody hints, lots of dry straw and a big mixture of sweet fruits; grapes, peaches and apricots. It's a very good beer, but I can't help thinking the label needs a big "Crate Brewery" stamp on it right in the middle.

English IPA - More about the malt than the hops. A beer that can be aged!

Fourth Style: Experimental/Flavoured IPA
Who's not tried an experimental of flavoured IPA? You all must have seen them at least... The Black IPAs, the Coffee IPAs, a lot more people are making them these days.

Arbor Ginger IPA drinks easier than it's 7% label. It has a subtle ginger aroma about it, the ginger gets a little dominated by the hops - a sort of juicy ginger orange. The ginger is certainly there in the flavour, but it's just not very prominent. It fights a bit of a losing battle with the big bitter hops, but you needn't take that as a bad thing. IPA? Yes! And it's a very good one at that.

Experimental and flavoured IPAs are most welcomed these days. Things like Black IPA and Coffee IPAs are proof that brewers are trying new things and getting good results. If we didn't have that, beer would probably be a lot more boring.

Fifth Style: Uber IPA
Time to bring out the big guns. This is another wide style fitted into one. All those Double IPAs/Imperial IPAs... The IPAs which probably have too much hops in them to be financially viable, or more ibus than the human palate can handle.. The monsters of high flavours and high abvs - you know the sort - palate destroyers.

Moor Hoppiness is a new one to the scene, and although it's 6.7% might not seem too 'out-there', it more than makes up for it in flavour. Overwhelming aromas of citrus and sherbet.  It's flavour enhanced, pushed to the limits. Peaches, apricots. Tonnes of fruit and loads of bitter pith. It drinks no where near it's strength and becomes dangerous because of the fact. An instant classic and an evident bruiser.

Uber IPAs have their place for sure. Like before, if they didn't, beer would be a much duller place for it.

Sixth Style: The "What were you thinking IPA" Category
We've all had one or another at some point. A so called IPA where you really can't see what the brewer was trying to produce, or you can and it just turned out in a big mess. I'm sure you can think of one or two..

The Flying Dog and Brew Dog International Arms Race beers come to mind here. Calling these two IPAs is going one step too far for me. They're beers made without hops. It's like cutting the fat off a fine cut of beef and eating that.

The Flying Dog version has a huge woody and herbal aroma, but far too much spearmint has been added in. It's all over the place. Far too many flavours trying to compete and it makes it too unbalanced. It's messy. There's lots of fruit. Orange and elder-flower are up front, but it's not redeeming. The Brewdog version is slightly better, but that's only because it's a little more balanced and subtle; flavour-wise. It's just a cinnamon and ginger beer though. It's the furthest thing away from an IPA I've ever had. Two unfortunate drain pours..

I like to blow the malt trumpet when it comes to IPAs, but it needs to have hops in it too, not even a lot, just some.

It's easy to say, "Oh, IPA is just IPA at the end of it all" but that's just not the case anymore. So I shall be promoting new IPAs that come into the shop under my six styles from now on:

1. American IPA
2. Continental IPA
3. English IPA
4. Experimental/Flavoured IPA
5. Uber IPA
6. What were you thinking IPA

That's not to say these styles can't interlink though. Of course you can have an Uber American IPA, or an Experimental Continental IPA. English IPA will always be a bit of a firm stand point for me though. English IPA tastes like White Shield does.

I'm open to any other styles, as long as they can't already be incorporated into my current six.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Homebrewers Visit to Copper Dragon Brewery - 7th Oct

This post has been in the pipeline for a while now so apologies for being rather slow in delivering...

You may remember the homebrew competition that myself, Beer Ritz and Copper Dragon set up a while back entitled: Operation Remix. I mentioned at the end of the competition that there would be a special event for any homebrewer or would-be homebrewer to take part in.

Come the 7th of October (the first Sunday) we will be having a little get together at the Copper Dragon Brewery for a bit of fun, drinks and prize giving! An invitation has been given to homebrewers far and wide, Beer Ritz staff and the judges and everyone who took part in the competition to come down to the brewery for the night.

Brew beer? come along!

The itinerary for the evening is as follows:

18:00 - 19:30 > Brewery tour and question time
19:30 - 20:00 > Prize giving. (winners who can't attend will be mailed)
20:00 - 21:00 > Couple of drinks in the brewery and a beery chat.

The Bistro serves food until 6pm on the Sunday, so if anyone needs a bit of feeding before hand they're welcome to turn up earlier. I've been informed that the brewery is just a short 10/15min walk from Skipton Station, and is easily located on Google Maps for those who have not visited before.

We hope to see you all there on the 7th of October at 18:00. It'll be a great opportunity to gain a bit more brewing know-how, whilst having a good time with like minded people over a nice beer.

See you soon!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

OK Comics (and beer)

Last night saw one of Leeds' beloved shops turn ten years old: OK Comics! They decided to throw a little party for anyone who wanted to come along. And while it was a slightly odd sort of side street-street party, the guys were incredibly generous by managing to dish out twenty boxes of pizza and an assortment of drinks to anyone who decided to pass by, for free! Pizza, beer, cake, cookies and comic book heros... what's more to want?

Well turns out in the next street over, Leeds brewery had put on a special beer for OK at the White Swan. So after things were packed away in one street the gang moved one lane over to try the beer. I ordered a pint and was disappointed. It was sour. Damn. I took it back, worryingly noticing the bar maid still going at the hand pump. "I think this is the last one" I said. "Sorry" was the response, "we've just hooked over the next one, can I change that for you?" Turns out they had four barrels of the stuff in the cellar. Hurrah! Game back on..

The beer had perfect clarity, but it was a shame the glassware was slightly dirty.. I'd say get the renovate out guys, but that's just splitting hairs really. OK is a gently citrusy bittersweet Pale Ale with a nice fruity malt backbone to it. Dry straw, lots of orange pith, lemon and lime and a little cooking apple skin which contributes to a lasting moorish, drying bitter finish. It was a perfect example of what Leeds can do well - light % Pale Ales and Bitters, and while I left the White Swan at half nine I do get the sneaking suspicion that they probably got through all four barrels last night...

I had a very fun night. Thanks, and Happy Birthday to OK Comics, here's to the next ten years!


Monday, 10 September 2012

Leeds International Beer Festival Part 1

Last night saw the close of Leeds' International Beer Festival, and myself and another Leodensian Beer Blogger; Leigh have decided to team up together to share our own thoughts and sum up a few different beers we tried at the festival and our general impressions.

I began my night with an unfamiliar scene of arrival. Leeds Town Hall seemed to have been descended upon by beer lovers from all walks of life and beer experience.. all drinking the good stuff on the steps of the mighty Hall with carts and vendors of food dotted around and in between the fest-goers dishing out hearty foodstuffs. It was welcoming.

I purchased my ticket on the door and wandered in. This was my first ever visit inside the Town Hall, and all expectations were met as the building interior truly lived up to all the hype that I've heard about it.

Band in full swing

Stunning interior

Anyone spot Zak Avery - A last man standing...

When I got my free glass it was time to fill it with some beer! I headed straight for the American selection and got stuck in straight away with;

Beer 1: 10% IPA from Ska Brewery: Decadence.
I'd like to think I'm no stranger of the notion that is decadence, but this beer didn't really stand up to that word, or did it?? It was surely a formidable beast of a beer, but it certainly didn't drink anywhere near it's strength, and like many other festival goers, my half was gone before I realised it! It was really great though. Big citrus fruits punched above their weight whilst soothing caramelized malt and alcohol blended together to warm your throat and make you want more at the same time...

This was my only real issue with the festival... no one serving proper thirds, the amount of strong beers on display would have benefitted from this.

Beer 2: Hardknott Thank Chinook It's Friday, 4.3% Bitter.
As I crossed the Hall I was confronted by two familiar friendly faces from Hardknott. After a quick peruse of their wares I decided to go for the Chinook Bitter from keg rather than the cask version that was on offer as well. Whilst being decidedly colder than the cask, it was still a very pleasant bitter. Fruity bitter tones made for a refreshing and easy drinking beer from Hardknott, and the conversation of when will we see some more low abv beers like this in the bottle from the guys ensued (light heartedly of course..)

Beer 3: Ilkley VPA, 3.3% Victorian Pale Ale.
Crossing the Hall once more I "bumped" into Melissa Cole by the Ilkley stand and managed to get her to sign my book of hers, which I just 'managed to have on my person' at the time... Magic Rock Stu then rocked up for a chat and after I declared the opinion that I thought Ilkley were the best brewery in Britain at the moment we all decided to try some of their beer.

The VPA Dinner Ale is another one of their Origin series, and like the others in the series, is one I hope that will see a regular place in the Ilkley roster. Combining hops from Kent, Australia and New Zealand this beer is an incredibly flavorsome, but light and easy going beer. It's the NZ hops that really shine through here though, releasing their classic juicy fruit flavours into a beer of only 3.3% which you tell yourself; "I really could drink this all day!"

The picture also shows off beer 4 of the night which was next: The Chief, 7% Double IPA.
I've tried The Chief once before and was confused by it originally. The first time I tried it I had the version made with a Belgian yeast and whilst it wasn't what I was expecting, (from a American style DIPA anyway..) it was still a very good beer. On the night however, this version of The Chief was much more to my preference. The Belgian influence had been ditched and more of that 'America meets Yorkshire for a Double IPA showdown' was able to shine through... and shine it did.

For my last beer of the night I moved to the stand next door which just happened to be manned by Thornbridge.
Beer 5: Chiron, 5% American Pale Ale.
This was something that went great with the odd bit of ham from the Friends of Ham stall in the centre of the room. Meat being carved, good friends all around and a refreshing, spicy but citrusy pale ale was a great way to finish the night, and the perfect palate refresher/cleanser after many different beers.

I had a really good time, and while some people had a little moan about the layout and organisation, I would back up the guys here saying it's their first fest and I think they did really well. Being an International Beer fest it could have probably done with more International beer, but there was enough great beer for me to make it a great night. Thanks to all who made it possible, and here's to next year!


Like I said though, I've been working with another Leeds Beer Blogger this weekend to try get as much coverage of the fest as possible. So, for another perspective, and another few beers from the festival, I'll invite you now to head over to Leigh's blog; The Good Stuff for 'Leeds International Beer Festival Part 2' and Leigh's impressions of his night.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A Special Brew

We sell a lot of different beers at Beer Ritz, around 600 in fact, but there is one out of all those 600 which is more well known, more famous than any of the others. You tell people the name and they know it, even if they've not tried it, they know it. I know I've never tried it and I know it. The reasons why it's so well known in this country are probably for the wrong reasons... You see, this beer is rather strong, but looking at the bigger picture you can buy a lot of beverages these days which are much stronger than 9%...

We hardly sell any of this beer these days at Beer Ritz, in fact I can't remember the last time I sold one. The reason for this is a simple one... when the Strong Beer Tax was introduced last year, the price of this beer was raised so much higher than previously that people turned their noses up at it. This, a beer brewed since 1950, which I can add is probably decades older than most UK breweries, has now been relegated to a corner of the shop to gather dust thanks to a tax which seems so unintelligent it borders on the obscene.

Looks rather nice wouldn't you agree? Apparently this is how it's served at the end of the brewery tour where it's produced. It's seen as one of their best beers and is served in chalices and shown off to people. It's only in the UK where it's looked down upon, something which the brewers do not understand.

As I'm drinking it, I don't really see what all the fuss over here is about. Sure it's not the best beer I've ever had, but it's by no means the worst I've ever had. I've had so many beers that weren't even up to this mark and I know this by fact. It would be very interesting to put this in with a group of Belgian Triples or strong French Ales and have people taste blind to see their reactions. I reckon no one would actually be able to tell what it is. After all, how many of you out there have pre-judged this beer without ever trying it... I know I did.

But we now end up in a situation where it no longer sells because of tax laws... could other beers go this way?

A Special Brew... we don't sell it anymore

People round here buy cheap Vodka instead

Well played Government.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Just Call Me Phone Man!

I like my new phone, it lets me take silly but awesome photos of Beer Ritz in one big blurry wall of beer greatness like this:

That is all....