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

Monday, 30 April 2012

A Quick Reminder

Just a quick note to tell you all that tomorrow's going to be the Cheese & Beer night at Beer Ritz between 6 and 9pm.

The pairings for the evening will be as follows:

- Loch Ryan Extra Mature Cheddar and Goose Island IPA
- Delamere Mature Goat's Cheese and Orval
- Sandham's Lancashire and a Dark Mild (TBC)
- Jervaulx Blue (from Jervaulx Abbey in Yorkshire) and Elland 1872 Porter
- Saxon Cross Smoked Cheddar and Schlenkerla Rauchbier

The Beer Ritz team and 'The Good Stuff' Leigh will be around for a chat and a chin wag whilst the festivities are flowing, so even if you're not a fan of cheese (we'll try change your mind) you can still try some great beers and have a geeky beer chat.

We hope to see you tomorrow, it's going to be a great night!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Turning Japanese

It's good to have connections.

The ways people can be linked together is sometimes a strange thing. For about two and a half years I lived with two brothers called Giles Edsall and Piers Edsall whilst I was at furniture college. During my time spent with my homies, I learnt that the brothers had another brother who resided in Japan called Dominic. It was only about a year after we had all left college and moved in our separate directions that someone called @domu888 started to follow me on twitter. It turned out that it was Dom Edsall, and after a few clarifications it turned out that Dom was a usual reader of this blog. This came with a bit of good fortune, because after reading my post on the Hitachino Nest beers, Dom was heading back to Leeds for a visit and asked me if I wanted to try some uber Japanese beers.

I of course said yes...

These are the beers he brought along with him for me to try:

The first comes from Sankt Gallen Brewery and is a 8.5% Imperial Chocolate Stout made with Goldings, Cascade, Willamette and Nugget hops. It's quite a fresh bottle from 2011, and it certainly has a lot of character around the aroma. Not exactly pitch black in appearance, but it has a very dark brown burnt sugar head on the swirl. I don't get much chocolate in the aroma, but it's there, surrounded by lots of hazelnut, dark sweet toffee and burnt toast. It's strange. It's light in the body for a beer like this, but it's so packed full of flavour, it really grabs your attention. Really easy drinking for a beer of this strenght. It's slightly meaty with small lactic creamy hints coming through, there's also some soy sauce and liqourice. A good alcoholic bitterness in the finish, but it's not overbearing and makes it quite moorish. I get a lot of bitter dark chocolate too, but not as much as I thought I would. Slightly woody in the finish with some dry coffee too. A really nice beer to start with.

The second beer of the night comes from Hyoko Yashiki no Mori Brewery, or Swan Lake Beers. At a full 10% this promises to be no slouch! This beer does pour pitch black, with a dark tan head which quickly dissipates. The beer is much more bitter chocolate, but also in the aroma there's a huge amount of vanilla and charred oak character amongst a bitter vegetal (ashen corn) character. The bottle states; '12. 06. 07.' on the bottle, I'm now wondering if that's a bottled on date or a best before date - either way I'm pretty happy! This is a thick and very rich beer. An obvious alcohol bitterness is the first obvious sign of a big beer but that then melts away to make way for caramel malt sweetness and a lactic creaminess which begs the mouth for more. It reminds me a lot of drinking some Danish Imperial Stouts from keg in North Bar for some reason... It's a perfect Imperial Stout - it hits all the right notes and does not leave you wanting. My only regret is that it's probably the only time I'm ever going to drink this beer.

Time is infinite though, and who knows, there may be some more time for these beers in my life again. I hope there will be.

If someone wants to give me beers of this caliber off their own back, then they'll be a friend for life, so Dom, your pretty awesome in my book. I hope the beers I gave you in exchange do you right and I'll give my thanks once again.

As for this post, Dom's a English teacher in Japan, so I hope I got the spelling and grammar right in this post!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Johnny F's

It's a bit of an obvious idea when you think about it really. If your looking to open a new restaurant in a city, why wouldn't you invite all the local food and beer bloggers down for a free dinner in exchange for a bit of free promotion to kick the place off...

When I got an email from Johnny F's asking if I'd like to come down for a free meal and a chat about the place, I asked myself; "Burger and a free drink...?? Why the Hell not!"

It's a typically American styled Burger joint. In fact one of the only things that Nick thought was missing was that the waitresses weren't rolling around on skates with mini white aprons.

I really enjoyed the place. The great deals they had would be something that would draw me back. One example would be the; '2 pints of MJ Pale, 1 portion of fries, 1 portion of cajun fries and 6 flavoured wings' for £9.99 - a bit of a steal in my book...

MJ Pale was the only British beer available. (on draught) The rest was a selection of US Lagers and Ales consisting of: Anchor Steam, Blue Moon, Brooklyn Brown + Lager, Lone Star Lager, PBR and Sam Adams Boston Lager - A good selection to be fair, it's more interesting than most restaurants around the area.

I went for my tied and trusted method, which rarely fails me. Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a bottle of lager. And yes it's PBR... so sue me, I've never had it before, but when in Rome, as they say (or a US inspired diner). I've had worse Lagers in my day, and I wasn't the only one who thought that, or who was drinking it!

There's a very interesting choice of burgers available. I would love to come back an try the pulled pork burger, but it wasn't available on the night. A veggie burger option is also available.

The service time was a bit random for our group of bloggers, and some liked it a bit less pink than others, but mine was pretty perfect I have to say. It's only early days for the place, and like anyone, there will be a couple of teething troubles to iron out. With that said, it's a place which I'll most probably be making my way back to very soon. (I was very impressed by the selection of Bourbons on the menu!)

Johnny Fontanes is a place where you can have some fun! And that's all that really need be said. I don't think I've been somewhere where I can get milkshakes, freshly squeezed lemonade and a double 18yr Glenlivet Single Malt in one place before.

Open 11am till late (when's late guys?)

I'd recommend taking a trip down!

Here's what a couple of other beer lovers thought here and here.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The World's Best IPA: Old vs New

I have a few people to thank for this post, whom I'm incredibly grateful to. This post is all about trying Dogfish Head's 120 minute IPA side by side with one another. My first thanks go out to Jeff (@Juffage) for bringing along a 4 month fresh bottle of the stuff. My second props go out to @D_I_N_G for providing me with a 5yr old bottle of the stuff.

First a little bit of a background:

I first tried this beer about 3 years ago, whilst I was still only a relative noob beer geek. Back then, upon consumption, I thought it was the best beer I'd ever had to date, I mean, it took up two pages in my beery note book at the time for crying out loud. (still the only beer to do so!) It was the epitome of beer nerd-ery, and the holy grail of Imperial IPAs. Time has passed since though, and when I finally got my hands on another bottle 3 years later, I couldn't help but feel quite a few apprehensions about another taste. I really didn't think it would be able to stand up to my unbelievably high expectations of my first experience - let's face it - these things hardly ever do.

I should probably explain a little more about how the first bottle (the 5yr old one) came into my possession in the first place. I'd been on Twitter a while, and had always moaned about how I'd never had the chance to try this beer again after my first sampling. It was then that @D_I_N_G sent me some DMs saying he was coming back to Leeds and was willing to bring a bottle with him for me. Despite being a little skeptical, I pretty much said DO IT! and a meet up was arranged, and the rest is history. You may get the Twitter impression that me and @D_I_N_G don't get along, but that (hopefully!) couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, I like to tease him a little (a lot) about session beers and beer cocktails, but in reality he's a fine upstanding gent who has my respect for trying to live an Englishman's lifestyle in the Cask Ale desert that is the US.

Let's rock on to the beers then:

You can see an obvious colour difference between the two. I'm not sure if this is to do with the aging process, or the fact one is 3% stronger than the other. (bottles pre 2009 were 21%, bottles after are 18%) Me and Jeff were too keen to get stuck into them to think about it though.

Fresh bottle: I didn't get too much aromas to begin with, it was served a little too cold, but I did get a big dose of aniseed, gooseberry and watermelon. From the first taste you can tell it's boozy. It's like someone's shoved a spade full of brown sugar in your mouth and set it on fire! There's tonnes of pure hop resin and a super orange bitterness which is kind of like a cointreau spirit flavour. It's sweet sweet caramel with an almost medicinal oaky character behind loads of toffee. Think Imperial IPA meets Quad Barley Wine.

5yr old bottle: I took a nose of the beer and my exact words were; "This smells so fuck!ng good!!! It smelled like the ultimate vintage ale. Massive amounts of marmalade, chocolate wood, caramelised orange rind and raisins and a heap of burnt sugar. I thought the fresh bottle was sweet, DEAR LORD! This was a beer which was so sweet it coated your mouth and refused to let go, it was so cloying it almost left you speechless! (it did for quite a while) Carmelised apples and burnt pear skins, you get the idea that the first has a bit more orange bitterness about it when compared to the old one - this is the best beer and will be the best beer I have this year. The bitterness of the IPA has completely melted away to produce something that's so complex, so dominating it pretty much takes your breath away. The bottles state; "ages well" - Sam, I wanted to think you were wrong, but you couldn't have been any more right.

It's true, the fresh bottle let down my expectations. It was never really going to live up to my first taste experiences, and how much I bigged it up in my head. Having said that though, trying the aged version DESTROYED my expectations, and wrote them completely anew!

Just for a little fun at the end of what was an amazing experience, we decided to try a little bit of both beers together. It was pretty much what you'd expect. It still tastes just like an awesome beer, with the sweetness of the older bottle dominating, but with a tiny bit of young bitterness creeping in the background.

I gotta get me some more of this beer! That was one HELL of a beer moment.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bad Boys

Considering the fact I'm slightly over run with Imperial Stouts at the moment, I figured I'd give a couple of new ones a quick review.

Summer Wine KopiKat - A 9% Imperial Vanilla Coffee Stout.

A beer brewed with Rick Furzer and Daniel Vane. The bottle states: "So this is where you're probably looking for tasting notes. However, taste is subjective, so we won't tell you what this beer 'should' taste like. (I don't think it would really hurt guys..) We'll leave you and your sophisticated palate to decipher this beer." Ok..  It pours luscious black with a booming dark tan, tightly knitted head which kind of looks like a perfectly toasted marshmallow. The aroma is solid coffee and vanilla pods, it dominates. Faint hints of leather, oak, tobacco and a touch of dried fruit are there too. The mouth feel is thick and the body has obvious boozy qualities. I thought I'd be getting more vanilla, but from the start it's powerful waves of massively bitter black coffee which are most obvious. Some drying dark chocolate, leathery oak, a little pine resin and a lot of character. Simply delicious. (can't wait to try the whisky aged version)

Time for a quick glass of water before I move onto the second.

Next up comes from Bristol Beer Factory.

It's their base 10.7% Imperial Stout aged in Glenlivet Whisky casks. After spending 6 months in the casks it's pretty obvious from the aroma that the beer has been amplified. I get a massive hit of sweet sweet malts and candy sugars. (it kind of has a whiff of apple juice about it too!) It looks a lot flatter on the pour than KopiKat, but don't let that fool you, it's a rich and sweet beer, a lot like a dark sherry. It's completely different than any other barrel aged Imperial Stout I've ever had, but it still confirms my beliefs that Speyside and Highland casks are better for aging this beer style than Islay casks. Loads of sweet toffee and a lot of grain/malt character. Rum soaked dates and figs, big old flakey oak cask essence. Once again, a beer which is full of character!

Two down tonight, lots more on the way. I salute Summer Wine Brewery for making a delicious beer which was the hardest to open I've ever had, and Bristol Beer Factory for making a great beer, and also reminding us that responsible drinking requires a hard hat! (why can't the fatties drink the beer though...)


Monday, 16 April 2012

Beer Ritz At It Again

Do you like your good cheese?

Do you like your good beer?

Well if you'd like to try matches made in heaven of both these glorious items together (for the ludicrous price of £0!) then you will want to come down to Beer Ritz on Tuesday, May the 1st.

That's right, come May the 1st, Leigh from the Good Stuff will be presenting his second beer and food matching event at Beer Ritz, and you can take it from me, if the matchings were anything like the first - you will not want to miss this night.

I won't be spoiling anything be naming anything that Leigh will be bringing along, I'm going to leave that to him, which I'm sure is something he'll let you know of soon enough. This is just a prequel to get the word on the street.

May the 1st.
6 - 9pm.
Beer Ritz is going to be the place to be if you are a true believer that good beer can be an amazing pairing device when it comes to good cheeses.

Put the date in your diary.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

3 of 6 - The Number of the Hawk

It seems Hawkshead have been going from strength to strength these days. A brewery which I originally thought of as one who would only produce a core range of, good, but somewhat tried and trusted beers are coming out with what can only be described (by me) as master-classes in brewing. They know where the boundaries are in this current climate. A business has been built up upon solid foundation by a group of dedicated people, and and they're not afraid to go that little step further in the search for the perfect drinking experience. I just think it's a shame that they stopped making the Organic Stout, I thought that beer was fantastic.

We've just had a delivery of three newish beers that they've put into bottle, and to be fair, it's pretty hard to keep them on the shelves... but then again, that's because I keep forcing everyone to buy them!  

Windermere Pale, 6%.
I believe 'Pale' is the perfect descriptor for this beer, I've not seen one so pale in a long time. (the pic does not do the colour justice) It smells just like the cask version, even at almost double the cask version strength. (I'm not 100% positive if the 6% will be going on cask, I think it probably will though) Aromas of bone dry straw and lemon sherbet are very abundant with just the slightest of hints of caramel apples. I get an immediate alcohol bitterness in the first sip and wonder if the higher strength is going to be a hindrance to this brew. As it goes down (very quickly) though, it becomes more mellow, more fruity, and with caramel malt sweetness which suggests a good malt presence. I still get the boozy bitter bite on the sides of my tongue though, and wonder if I prefer the, half strength, original version. It's only a small bottle so I reckon it's too early to say.

Cumbrian Five Hop, 6%.
Darker than the first, with a inviting light amber hue. Interesting aromas of caramel, lychee, grapefruit, marshmallow and a little candy-floss. Much more malt presence in the initial taste than you'd expect, but then the big hoppy bitterness creeps in and begs you to take that second sip. There are a lot of hops in this brew. Fuggles, Citra and Amarillo are mentioned, but the other two aren't, I wouldn't mind knowing what they are. It has a really nice juicy body full of caramel, apple a hint of banana, orange rind bitterness and a touch of fresh hay. (yes I know I've never eaten fresh hay, but I think you know what I mean)

NZPA, 6%.
What can you say about this beer that has not already been said. It's an absolute champion of a brew - a game changer if you will. A beer so chock full of New Zealand hops, I'm surprised there's any left for any other breweries. Probably just as pale as Windy Pale, and I'm not trying to be funny here, but I'm kind of getting the impression that this beer smells quite a bit like marijuana from the bottle. (it's not a bad thing) It's truly a A-class beer. Fruity, juicy, bitter, immensely easy drinking - it's what you want from a beer, and more.

I should make special mention of Arcadia here. I've had the pleasure of drinking the previous three beers on cask there, and quite a few pints of the beer to the right, which is quite a different and special monster of a beer.

Hawkshead Imperial Stout, 8.3%.
The pumpclip for this brew said "Trial Brew" on it. Well if it is, I can only say it had it's trial - now it needs to be in full production. A big aroma of liqourice, sweet hazelnuts, chocolate malts and a big meaty side push forward even out of a, topped to the brim, straight sided pint glass. It's thick and smooth (I like a sparkler on my beer, even on my Imperial Stouts) Rich flavours pour forth. Tonnes of dried raisins, leather and tar, it's super moorish you don't really want to put it down.

It's fair to say I managed to get though quite a bit of this beer, and unashamedly so. Over the last week, I've drunk more Hawkshead beer than any other style or from any other brewery. The bottles are great. If I had only one suggestion, it would be to change the shading of greens on the labels... they just kind of look all the same on the shelves. Other than that, I will say don't stop what your doing. I don't really need to tell you though, because I know you won't regardless.

I'm looking forward to what comes next!

Lake pic from here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Introducing: The Beer Ritz and Copper Dragon Home Brew Competition

It's time for something a little different:

Operation Remix

Here at Beer Ritz and over at Copper Dragon things are changing, and for the better, which is always a good thing. Over at Copper Dragon they're going through big expansion over the next year, and the brewers are going to be getting their own trial plant. This means they'll be able to start producing one off specials, lots more experimentation and possible collaboration, tastier and more exiting beers and more general progress towards the way the beer market is moving these days.

It's because of this and many other reasons (another main being the growing interest of local home brewing) that me and Rob (one of the brewers at Copper Dragon) have decided to come together to put on a home brew competition, one which should be a great and interesting exercise, and one which we hope all you home brewers out there will take part in.

Now Operation Remix will be a bit different from competitions past. What we have below are three lists. These lists are ingredients that go into three of Copper Dragons main, and frankly delicious, beers. We won't be giving amounts, or where hop additions are given, just the ingredients - what you do with them and how much you use is completely up to you! You could try and impress by making something as similar as the original as you can, or you could go crazy and make either of the three into a 9% hop monster. You just have to choose the recipe that you think will be best and run with it - it's a Remix!

The beers are as follows:

Copper Dragon Golden Pippin
Marris Otter Malt
Cascade Hops
Columbus Hops

Copper Dragon Challenger IPA
Pale Malt
Marris Otter Malt
Crystal Malt
Challenger Hops
English Pilgrim Hops
Northdown Hops

Copper Dragon Black Gold
Pale Malt
Marris Otter Malt
Black Malt
Roast Barley
Chocolate Malt
Wheat Malt
Pilgrim Hops
Northdown Hops

But what's in it for you home brewers you ask? Well, we have some great prizes up for grabs:

1st place will include: A 25% discount voucher for a spree at Beer Ritz. Copper Dragon gift packs, polo shirt and other memorabilia. And finally, a brew day with Rob at Copper Dragon.

2nd place will include: A gift pack (including beers and glass) and memorabilia from copper dragon. A personal aged bottle from Ghosty's own Imperial Stout cellars. A 10% discount voucher for a spree at Beer Ritz.

3rd place will include: Beers and glassware from Copper Dragon. A 10% discount voucher for a spree at Beer Ritz.

What we'll need from you:

We'll need about a litre of beer from your chosen recipe. This could be in 2 50cl bottles or 3 33cl bottles, it's your choice. All we ask is that you label them with you name (obviously) and your chosen beer to remix, abv's and what went into the beer. The closing date for this competition will be May 31st, so your submissions will need to be at Beer Ritz or Mr Foleys by then.

Judging will take place in Mr Foleys on the first Sunday in June (3rd) and will be judged by the Beer Ritz Team, Zak Avery and Rob from Copper Dragon. The beers shall be poured anonymously by our impartial taster Dean so no favoritism is given.

Things won't be over after the winners have been announced though.

For one final exiting incentive: Everyone who takes part in the competition, the Beer Ritz Team and the Foleys Team have all been invited for a private evening brewery tour at Copper Dragon and drinks at the brewery. (date to be decided later) It's not something your gonna want to miss!

That's our competition then. Grab your kits and get brewing! We look forward to what you can Remix!

For any other additional information please call Ghosty: (Will) 07939 592 501 or Rob at Copper Dragon: 07970 046 841