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

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Red God

When you think of Cambridge Brewery you think of a brewery situated in a very academic little town down South... so Massachusetts isn't where I expected this beer to come from. Sometimes I forget that the US has named lots of places after our cities..

Cambridge brewery is a little shrouded in mystery to me as well. We only got two of their beers at the shop, and only five of each at that apparently. Zak was a little reluctant to give any info on where he got them from and anything about them, so they were a bit of a mystery... I decided not to try and find anything about them and just give one a go.

Red God is a 9% Imperial Red ale with a very stylish looking design and label, even efforts have been made to make the bar code look stylish - that's going that little bit extra.

The aroma is aggressive but inviting. It really seems like the large amount of hops is battling for supremacy over the huge addition of red malts. Even though it was bottled June 2012, it has that really pleasant fresh wet malt flavour you smell when you first step foot in a brewery. The juicy citrusy hops also smell very green too. Mangos and peaches, it's very tropical.

It's truly an amazing beer, it's the only reason I'm writing about it... you know when you have that moment when you first sip a beer and think that you have to put letters on screen about the experience. Lots of brown sugar, sweet caramels, lychees and mangos and more tropical fruits. It's sweet, but not cloying, in fact it's somehow moorish - probably coming from the light spicy rye qualities and the obvious obscene amount of malts to back this beast up.

Looking it up a bit, the commercial description gives some pretty cool info:

Blessed be! Our ridiculously big, hoppy I.P.A. returns to the rapturous exaltations of worshippers far and near. Featuring Simcoe, Amarillo, and Columbus hops at an unheard of rate of over three pounds per barrel, with American pale and Belgian caramel malts providing a malty but dry pedestal upon which this hop fest rides until its long, lingering,hop-bittered finish. Beware this vengeful, Old-Testament God. Say your prayers…

But my description just needs to read: See this beer? Buy this beer.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Three More Imps

Another three Imperial Stouts were consumed this week.. doing pretty well so far this year! This week's selection has come from the other side of the pond rather and it was interesting to see how these US bottles shaped up.

The first came from Lagunitas rolling in at 9.9%. It's quite a bizarre beast to be sure. Not much coming off of the aroma, just a little brown malt biscuits, dried fruit and light coffee. The thing you notice most on the initial taste is that the beer drinks nowhere near it's strength, it's like it's half the labeled percentage! Flavours abound of light coffee, some oak syrup, caramelized popcorn and "deep fried butter" according to Jeff. It's a really sweet beer, and not in a bad way, it's got heaps of caramel malt sweetness running through the whole body. There's not a lot of bitterness coming from the supposed 72 IBUs to speak of. Sure, there's plenty of orange pithy tang, but this beer's almost juicy for an Imperial Stout. It's almost like it's similar in style to a Black IPA - dark in colour, but tasting much lighter. Tasty!

This 21% monster from Dogfish Head was produced ten years ago and was quite a privilege to open. I've tried this beer fresh before and it's a big bitter bruiser of a beer, full of burnt meaty power... what a difference a decade makes. You got a whiff of the scent from the slightest hiss when the bottle opened. Aromas were powerful - Old leather, burnt steak, oak, black chocolate coated liquorice, plum skins and raisins, some honeycomb and some Port like qualities. With the sheer amount of flavour that's packed into this beer, it almost makes your mouth shrivel like a prune! It's an ultimate beer, and it's still got plenty of life in it even at this age. It has mellowed a lot though and it's done the harshness a great deal of improvement, the alcohol is well hidden also under a nice vanilla and toffee sweetness. It's interesting to note that this batch of World Wide Stout was apparently only produced for the UK market and California... It comes with the perfect quote on the bottle too from Michael Jackson: "Dogfish Head is America's most adventurous and extraordinary brewery." - sums it up pretty well.

The last Imp is a true eye opener, and it's almost a little annoying... A brewery that is best know for producing Pale Ales and IPAs at such high quality, for their first commercial Imperial Stout (to us) to taste this damn good, you can't really help but admit that Sierra Nevada are truly a great brewery and know that there isn't really any style of beer that they couldn't make. The aroma has a lot of juicy hoppiness about it with a slight indication of roasted bitterness with a touch of white spirits. The flavour is immediate, intense and powerful. A very black, roasted burnt beer. Torched toast, charred oak turned to charcoal, molasses, black coffee, some dark honey and treacle and a very well hidden 10.2%. A truly inspirational beer which is going to be very interesting to see how it evolves over time.

Three new English Imperial Stouts, three new American ones in a couple of weeks... and which did I prefer?

Impossible to say...

Friday, 25 January 2013

A Night With A Poet

It's Burn's Night again and what a perfect opportunity to drink some more Scotch... Or should I drink Scottish beer?? I know, I'll drink Scottish beer, that's been aged in whisky casks....   and then I'll drink Scotch. As you know You can never have enough Scotch....     SCOTLAND!

The beer I'm going for tonight comes in a range of beers from one brewery, which I think proves the point that whisky aged beers can be fantastic. I've written about Harviestoun's beers before and I'm sure this won't be the last.. onto topic though.

Harviestoun's Ola Dubh range comes in various forms, all aged in different Highland Park Whisky casks going through the 12yr, 16yr, 18yr, 30yr and the epic 40yr. I'm going for the 18yr version tonight. It's strange, as the casks get older you'd probably expect the flavours to get bigger, stronger and more aggressive, but in fact it's quite the opposite. Aromas of toffee, scorched wood and vanilla sit along bitter chocolate and brown sugar. It's quite easy drinking but still very complex. A little smoke and a big nutty quality. More vanilla on top of a rustic oak quality and the satisfying and hearty finish mellows out into a lasting bittersweet flavour which is hard to shift. Ola Dubh - Always and forever a classic.

After the beer (and a large portion of Haggis - seriously, can this foodstuff BE any better!) it's time to move onto the warming (and almost magical) properties of good old Scottish Scotch, cos let's face it, no other whisky can ever really match up.

Tonight's dram comes from the Blair Athol distillery around about the center of Scotland. This bottle was a gift from my good friend Avon for my birthday, and I've held off drinking too much of it, because it's great, and there's not too much of it. I've never tried much of Blair Athol's range, but they are situated right next to Edradour distillery which is a personal favourite, and I can see one or two comparisons and this bottle is currently becoming very difficult to ignore.

This 12yr, distilled in 1999, comes in at 46% and a couple of drops of water is no bad thing. It's un-chill filtered so adding water causes a little haze, but I don't taste my Scotch with my eyes, I taste it mainly through the nose. It's got a really fruity nose with quite a bit of sweetness, almost reminiscent of pear drops. A little toffee, wet hay and some wood polish. Spicy, but not overpowering, it's luscious. They say you should keep whisky in your mouth for one second of each year of age before the swallow, but twelve seconds is a tad too long for me tonight. The spice comes through straight away, warming and bitter. This doesn't last long though and while there's an obvious booze presence, it's smooth and mellow and doesn't destroy you're throat, making you want more, as you should! I'll give my thanks again to Avon for my gift, it was very thoughtful of her, and it was delicious. And to those of you who think giving whisky to someone who likes whisky is an easy cop-out; there's thousands to choose from, so getting the right one is harder than you think!

It's been a very pleasurable Burn's Night. Tomorrow at Beer Ritz we have some Scottish beer on tasting with some foody bits to look forward to just to make things last that little longer...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Three Imps

It was one of my wishes for 2013 to see (and drink) more Imperial Stouts from UK breweries. It's not even February yet and it seems I've already had three new ones come my way! Hashtag Winning!

The first was a gift passed on to me by brewer Ed. You know Ed... if not, check his good and informative beer blog here. Tsar Top, "...a beer to ruminate over", certainly looks the part. I've only ever had a couple of beers from Old Dairy Brewery and none of them have ever been 10% before. Leigh wrote a good piece recently about some of their other beers here. The first thing that struck me about this beer was the blurb on the bottle: "this export strength Stout undergoes a secondary fermentation with a Brettanomyces yeast isolated from an English Stock Ale in 1910." - That sounded like something I wanted right away! I opened it with a friend (Matt Lovatt) who's well into his Brett and we discovered an absolute gem of a beer.
     It had a really large fruity aroma, blackberries, plum and apple skins ran riot with dark smooth chocolate. It started quite sweet with tiny hints of toffee and honey. Obvious booze warmed the throat while you got flavours of liquorice, slight tobacco and some black treacle. The finish drops away quite quickly but we both agreed this was one of the best things about the beer. It was so packed full of flavour, but the dryness and accessibility of it doesn't destroy your palate and you're left wanting more and more. Thanks to Ed for passing this beer along, I'll look forward to more being available for purchase in about 6 months!

The second Imperial Stout confused me slightly, because I wasn't sure if it was one I'd had before just under a different name... (Impy Stout.....Goo Goo g'joob??) We got Arbor Impy Stout in the shop a couple of weeks back but it didn't take long for James to sell most of them, likening it to De Molen's Hel & Verdoemenis Imperial Stout. It was big on the roasted coffee aromas, very big... quite a bit of dry dark chocolate too with some woody notes. I also thought I possibly got a little hint of sulphur? On initial sips you really notice how thick the body and mouthfeel is, it's truly a bruiser at 11%. Burnt and bitter, a perfect winter warmer. Earthy and nutty, it has a great amount of flavour. The finish is really worth noting. The bitterness just goes on and on, in fact it's quite the opposite of Tsar Top, where Tsar drops away quite quick making you want much more Impy is rather extreme making you wait for the next sip.

Last but no means least is a very new beer to us, in fact it came in the shop today and I heard so much about it I just had to try it tonight! I take an inhale and have to double take... People who want an Espresso usually go to somewhere like Starbucks... they should really come to Beer Ritz. You wanna talk about a beer with coffee in it, you talk about Wild Beer Co's Wildebeest!! I've heard this beer is produced using the finest chocolate available and coffee from Columbia and it certainly shows. At 11% it's another one to respect, but you could probably get that sense from just smelling it. It's an incredible beer for sure. It takes you back to your childhood, when you got desert in a buffet restaurant. You rocked up to the self serve ice cream machine, put some vanilla ice cream in a big bowl and filled the rest up with the chocolate sauce until it was almost overflowing. Now this child has grown up and discovered coffee though, and you've ladled that on top of the bowl too - it's just like that. Decadence in the extreme. Truly stunning, and I'm really not just saying that. It's up there with the best Imperial Stouts I've ever tried, and I only paid £4.99 for this beest. We have another few beers from Wild Beer Co at the shop, and if this is the quality to go by you can bet the rest will be coming up in a blogpost very soon. Get it. Drink it. Trust me

Three new Imps in a month... can't wait to try some more. Keep it up GB!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Beer Snow Cones

Those of you who like to crunch your drinks' ice cubes will know it's fun to eat snow sometimes...

The question of whether or not you should make a beer snow cone is irrelevant. The question is which beer should you use to make it? ...and of course, is there any snow??

With more snow finally here it's time to get on with cutting out card cones again! Just like last year, you should follow the same sort of rules, but this year I've decided to tweak rule two and not go for the strongest tasting beer I can and go for beers which will compliment the snow with their distinctive flavours.

The first one just kind of makes sense...

Take your Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, with it's roasted chocolatey flavours and warming boozy quality and it goes together perfectly with a cone full of snow. Munching on this bad boy as I watch people walking their dogs looking miserable in the cold weather, I can't help but have an overwhelming sense of joy in the face of a bitter January - and it's a beer that did that.

When I was thinking about making some beer snow cones another beer did pop into my head though, and it's one that's featured alongside the Black Chocolate Stout before in my musings...

Time to sweeten things up a bit...

As snow cones are usually a sweet treat, it figures a sweet beer would work well in the mix so I opted for the classic that is Mort Subite Kriek. Not much of the sweetness comes out when poured over the snow but you still get lots of that pleasant cherry taste making it a fine afternoon snack. It's been the best half an hour ever, and it's something I really recommend you try for yourselves!

And if you really wanted to liven things up, considering how well these two beers go together, you could have yourself a half and half....

Make your winter a bit more FUN!

Monday, 14 January 2013


If you've not been to the Brudenell Social Club before, it's quite a place. It acts as a sort of student hub where gigs are usually put on which always seems to draw in Leeds' geek music scene. Being a social club you'd reckon the drinks selection would be left wanting, but Brudenell has always served above par when it comes to beer, and is something which continues to get better and better. It's the kind of place where the carpet's probably older than you, giving it so much character that you only wish the walls could speak - oh the stories to be told.

It's certainly not the place I thought I'd ever find a beer festival...

Not as pretty as Indyman, but we're here for the beer right??

On entry to the beer festival we could barely move! We found some of our comrades all in good spirits and enjoying the beers, there were brewers, bloggers, students, locals and many more. We heard tell of queue length horror stories. Apparently there had been twenty minute queues and even longer at some points just to get a pint! Sure the line was still long when we arrived at half nine but it was only for about 5-10 mins or so. The problem that occurs when beer queues get long is that people think they'll never get back to the bar so they order loads more drinks making the waiting time even longer. This probably wasn't helped by the strange paying system they had in place. Things did calm down around ten though and it became much easier to get a pint.

Speaking of pints, pints is what I had! Starting out with a pint of Oakham Green Devil, I had chats with Zak and Magic Stu as to why this version had Motueka in it as well as Citra... It didn't bother me, it still tasted pretty epic! I then moved to a pint of Harbor Mocha Imperial Stout, which put simply is liquified brownies in a glass infused with super warming booze qualities! Delicious.

The prices were almost irresponsibly cheap but I wasn't complaining to management, and the beer selection itself couldn't have got much better. Breweries like Kernel, Magic Rock, Ridgeside and Kirkstall were there alongside others like Harbor, Darkstar, Camden and many more. Beer Ritz supplied a lot of bottled beer for the fest too, so that list was pretty extensive.. I opted for a can of Snake Dog IPA for my walk home.

Was it a good beer festival? You bet your sweet ass it was, but it didn't feel like a beer festival. It felt more like one giant party! The bands who played were great and dancing and drinking didn't stop. It was more about the people, the atmosphere, friends and the sense of the here and now than the beer - and yes I said that, considering just how good the beer selection was!

If I had to sum up what the BrewDenell had more of than other beer festivals it would be this: Soul.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Is Waitrose Taking Over Beer??

Well, no.. not really.

It is hard to deny though that Waitrose has produced a significant improvement on the regular 'supermarket shelf' when it comes to the choice of beer they stock. It's a really good selection and falls into the position of; there's something for everyone here.

When it comes to own brand supermarket beers, let's face it, they're usually abysmal. I do get the feeling that Waitrose actually cares about the beers they sell though and with the new own brand beers that they've started selling they've gone to proper breweries to do it for them.

Let's give them a go!

First up is the Belgian Blonde at 6.3%. It's brewed at the Brasserie Du Bocq in Purnode and apparently is "made the authentic way with orange peel and anise". It has a good aroma about it. Honey and spice with a touch of apple skin and pineapple, it's kind of like your Leffe or Maredsous Blondes.. It's a very sweet beer, soft, but very thin. The finish depletes rapidly leaving you with a sweet malt flavour which isn't all bad but it isn't brilliant. A little spice comes though after a few more sips, but overall it's pretty inoffensive, which means you could easily sell it to anyone really.

Next up is the German Pils; a 5% Pils brewed at the Memminger brewery in Bavaria. The aromas are pretty mundane. Corn and rice with some straw and a little apple scented malt. Once again, it's very sweet with only a slight hint of dryness about it. It tastes a lot like watered down malt syrup, with sweet corn and tinned carrots in the flavour. The bottle states: "Crisp, dry and refreshing with a subtle hop flavour" - That's probably being generous... the hop character was too subtle for me to find.

Last of all is the Czech Pilsner coming in at 5% brewed at the Herold Brewery in Bohemia. This one I had high hopes for because I've always really liked the lagers produced at Herold, especially their dark lager. Not really much to write home about I'm afraid. A little straw and citrus fruit skins in the aroma. It's very light and soft in the body with quite a bit of bittersweet apple malt flavour. I was expecting a bit more..

Overall three pretty average beers. But at the price they're being sold for, they'll sell plenty enough, and it's something a bit above the normal tinnies. They're certainly better than own brand beers I've had before, but I don't think I'll be buying them again, saying that the Belgian Blonde would be my pick of the bunch. I reckon you don't need to go to European breweries to brew your beers, we make it good enough right here.