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

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A Night On The Town Full Of Beavers

It seems we can't have a week without listing a new brewery to the shelves at Beer Ritz these days..! Not that I'm complaining mind! Heck no. It's an incredible thing, and considering 95% of the new breweries we do stock are British, it's much more of an excuse to look on the good side of things.

Last week saw the arrival of the Beavertown range. Five different gorgeous looking bottles to get stuck into... Here goes!

Gamma Ray - 5.4% American Pale Ale
Aroma: Mango, peaches and lychees, a regular fruit cocktail. Some strawberry and raspberry yogurt too!

Taste: The initial flavour seems slightly burnt on the first sip, and I'm wondering if it may be faulted..? After a few big gulps this dies away though to a huge orange and peach juiciness. This is followed by a big, but not overpowering hop bitterness. Other flavours including pine and lemon which linger in the refreshing finish. Looking over my notes I wrote "It's one Hell of an IPA!" - I didn't even see on the label it was a Pale Ale before drinking it...

Smog Rocket - 5.4% Smoked Porter
Aroma: Smoked Beechwood chips are the name of the game here. There's also some burnt toast and charcoal and a hint of underlying chocolate malts.

Taste: The smoke is actually quite subtle and balanced in this brew. It's packed full with tonnes of malt flavours. Caramel, toffee and dark chocolate. Burnt cereals and a lot of woody notes giving a slight souring effect. A super smooth body and finish - Delicious!

Bloody 'Ell - 7.4% Blood Orange IPA
Aroma: Surprisingly enough, the aroma is chock full of orange! There's is also a strange gin and vodka essence on top of some caramel and pine and maybe a tiny amount of aniseed?

Taste: To make a comparison with Gamma Ray, this is a much more earthy style beer. It still has plenty of hoppy juicy qualities mind, lots of bitter grapefruit and the big orange too. Some interesting herbal notes balanced with sweet earthy caramel malts. Something a little different and well worth a try.

8 Ball - 6.2% Rye IPA
Aroma: Peaches, rye malts with a touch of chocolate malt too. Lot's of raw drying cerials here.

Taste: Loads of malt, straight away and in your face. The rye malts are very evident, am I also getting some cara red or Munich malts too? It's clearly not an IPA about the hops, and you know, it's refreshing to see! The hops are still there though, a gentle bitterness in the finish reminds you that they don't skimp on the hops even for this style of beer which could easily be carried by the amount of malt here.

Black Betty - 7.4% Black IPA
Aroma: The beer has a classic BIPA aroma (if you can have one...) which reminds me of the Kernel BIPAs of last year. It's more floral with citrus fruits, rather than roasted and chocolate like.

Taste: The body is light and very fruity. Sweet to begin with (caramels) which then moves through to fruity but drying body and long lasting bitter finish. I've been really impressed with the recent offering of BIPAs at the moment, like the Salopian Vertigo I just posted about previously, this BB is an absolute stunner, and certainly my pick of the whole range.

I think what I like most about this range of beers is the flavour consistency. You can really tell that they're made the same way across the board, and the same amount of effort that goes into every beer really shows. I must make special mention of the artwork on each bottle as well. The attention to detail in the Beavertown labels is stunning, and they look absolutely great!

Wouldn't you agree...?

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Salopian Brewery are a new one to the Beer Ritz shelves, and a very welcome addition they are indeed! I think they fit in very well with their classic range of Bitters and Ales which are all very nice, but the brewery also creeps into the bigger beer range too with a couple of newbies that I'll be trying tonight... (by "bigger beer" you could take that to mean - craft beer, geek beer, stronger beer, more experimental beer.. and so on, etc..)

Before checking out the beers below, do read the opener over on the Beer Ritz blog here.

First up is Automaton 7.0% IPA
It's certainly a very lively IPA with a big chalky white head filling a third of the glass. It has a lot of Citra aromas about it, but the addition of Saaz mellows and balances the scent slightly. Fresh melon, peach and mango flesh fill the nose making for one juicy looking beer. Lots more citrus in the flavour though. Good body, perfect carbonation. Lots of orange and tangerine with some lemon and lime spritz mix with some caramel malt sweetness making the perfect bittersweet balance. Slightly grassy, slightly floral - soft and accessible, it's dangerously drinkable for a 7% beer! After trying (and thoroughly enjoying) the three (more classic) other Salopian beers I can say this is a little out of step from those mentioned, and that's pretty damn OK with me!

Next up is Vertigo 7.2% Black IPA
I'm not sure if this will make any sense, but this beer smells cold, and I don't mean temperature wise... The aroma is certainly different - it's sort of minty, rocky and earthy, some mineral elements with wood elements too, pine and oak chips. All these aromas are massively amplified in the flavour and body of the beer. It's certainly a bitter beast, but I feel it lends a lot of that bitterness to earthy woody flavours rather than citrus fruit hoppiness. Looking a little deeper there's quite a bit of orange juiciness coming forward now which masks the alcohol very well once again. It's a really nice beer, and one I'd highly reccomend..

I think the overall look, feel, taste and presentation of these beers (all these beers) is pretty great. I reckon this brewery is going to be lurking around our shop for quite some time...

Thursday, 23 May 2013


I've drunk a lot of Ola Dubh in the last few years. Whenever someone asks for a good whisky aged beer, it's the shops go-to select for the perfect example. Burns' Night is the usual night for myself to get through quite a few of them, but I'll happily have any of the range throughout the year. As we all know Ola Dubh (Black Oil) is a beer aged in Highland Park Whisky casks. The base beer used in this process is Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil, which is a beer that's forming quite a family tree these days!

As you might see, there have been a few new additions to this tree recently. It seems Harviestoun's generosity knows no bounds too, as when I asked them where I could purchase some of these new beers, they said they would like to send me some for free! I'm truly grateful for the offer, and so am going to put my thoughts down here.. maybe they'll let me to send them some of my beer some day :)

The first of these dark looking monsters to grace this part of England is Ola Dubh 1991. I don't think there was much going on in 1991, but that's because I probably don't remember as I was only 5! Apparently a man named Tim Berners-Lee launched the first ever website promising to provide links 'to all the world's information' - whatever that was.... I do know that Highland Park were filling whisky casks then as they are today, and that's what this latest addition of the Ola Dubh range is aged in, a limited edition 1991 cask. Not only that, it's been amped up in alcohol too.. most Ola's are 8% while this one is 10.5%! My only gripe with this whole concept (and it's only a minor one as I'm a whisky geek too) is that it's a shame you don't find out how old the whisky laid in the wood before the cask was used for aging the Dubh... it could have had whisky in it for four years or ten... I'd be interested to know.

Onto the beer though...

You get a lot from the aroma on this beer.. From initial swirls I get hints of oak, vanilla and possibly a little sulphur.. some costal elements amongst toffee and roasted caramel and dark chocolate malts.

The body is so thick and smooth! The flavour is rather dominating as well.. Lot's of the usual suspects are in this beer - oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, tar, more than a touch of alcohol, sweet caramels and dark burnt delights. I'm also getting a slight costal sea salt flavour too which sets this apart from Dubhs I've had previously which makes this beer taste really fresh and lively. That might be because it was bottled in April, so I reckon this would die away after a bit of time... not that it's a bad flavour mind!

This is a beautiful beer. Not only because it looks like a solid lump of jet in my glass, but because it fills all my dark beer loving criteria... Full bodied, complex yet balanced, subtle but powerful, warming and moreish.

I think it's pretty damn perfect.

Another dark daemon that Harviestoun have just rolled out from the tree is a 9% version of Old Engine Oil :- Engineer's Reserve. This beer has a very powerful nose on it. Some black strap molasses mixes with dark chocolate malts, figs and prunes, some woody toffee and a roasted earthy quality which is slightly reminiscent of it's little brother. The body and flavour is thick and rich here, burnt oak, charred caramels and chocolates. Black tar and oil, a slight tart effect from so much roasted flavour. It's not as powerful as the 1991, but it's still enough to kick your arse if you don't show it respect!

If I'm going to be honest, I think the only thing that lets Old Engine Oil down slightly, is that I find it a little thin in the body. This Engineer's Reserve hits all the bases! It's a stunner of a beer, and one I'll be seeking out again.

I'm dedicating this blogpost to Simon Johnson. A man I didn't know personally, but a man whose beer blog I loved to read... The blogosphere and the people that loved you have lost someone truly special. Rest in peace beer warrior.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Anyone For A Cuppa?

They say a good cup of tea will cure most things in life... right now it feels like I could do with a firkin full. That being said, This isn't a blog to moan about personal problems, and it certainly isn't a blog about tea...

I can blog about tea beer though! :)

The only tea beer I've ever had was Lindemans Tea beer, and when I had that about five years ago I thought it was not only really tasty but a really fascinating beer too. When we finally got Earl Grey IPA into the shop from Marble and Emelisse I didn't hesitate before picking up a bottle to tuck into.

Well, it's certainly the colour of a strong tea... The aroma, well... it just sort of works! That classic new world juicy hop character that these guys do only too well with, put simply, notes of Earl Grey too! Herbal, with lots of fruit - orange and peach, lemon and kiwi with some honey.

It's difficult at first to know what to make of the flavour (probably because I don't actually drink that much tea!) It's very herbal, tannic and quite drying. Lots of honey and some caramel, some pine and floral grass mixing into a perfectly balanced bitterness with sweet juicyness on the sides of the tongue.

It's a really pleasant beer, and one I think I'll take to the comfy sofa  whilst I look out for the three boobed woman in the 2012 version of Total Recall, which will most probably be terrible...

Peace ya'll!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cloudy Beer

Many different thoughts about the subject of cloudy beers started racing through my mind whilst I was drinking Un-Human Cannonball last night. It was certainly a cloudy beer, but I knew why it was cloudy, and it was something that didn't bother me at all. I'll come back to that later...

There are quite a few reasons why you get a cloudy glass of the good stuff these days... You can have the most obvious of cloudy beers which would be the Wheat beer, these are fine, I don't mind a nice Weisse every now and again. You can also get a hop haze to your beer, which is completely fine too - just a visual indicator of how many hops went into the brew. There are some beers which get their appearance from fine sediments - these do not go down well with me as I'm a little intolerant to yeast. There's also unfined beers, but I'll leave those for now. Lastly there's that soupy cloudy pint that comes at the end of the barrel, which no one in their right mind would respectably drink, unless they're on a stag night....

This is where the problem lies.

If you're not a beer geek (and let's be fair that's 99% of the population) and you buy a pint that's cloudy for any of the above reasons, 9 times out of 10 the average punter is going to think that it's the end of the barrel and take it back (unless they're ordering a German Wheat beer) I was fine with my cloudy Cannonball, but that's because I knew why it was cloudy and it was good to go. It concerns me to think about others who might not think the same. Hop hazes, unfined beer, slight sediments - these all look like the end of a barrel to most people.

So what can be done? Well let's be fair here. It shouldn't be left up to the barmaid/man to explain to every customer why the beer looks like it does. Let's be realistic, they're not going to explain it to everyone at the end of the day anyway. And if you have a queue at the bar and the people behind see a cloudy pint being served, they may be more inclined to get something else...

Image from a similar post
from Neil here.
'So make everything pin bright then' would be one solution, but that's not realistic either.

I've seen a couple of breweries start labeling their pump clips with 'cautions' and I think this is certainly in the right direction. We need more of it though. It might be a step in the right direction, but it's not enough - It's all about education. It's easy enough to sit in our beer geek bubble and pretend this isn't an issue, but it really is. I can't count the number of times I've seen perfectly acceptable drinks taken back to the bar before, some times even with just a chill haze! Some of them were Belgian and German too, so it's not just a case of British beer!

I'd love a bit more information on a pump clip. As I said before I've got an intolerance for yeasty bits these days, and I've bought too many pints from new breweries where I don't know if it's yeast, hops or wheat in my beer making it opaque. It's up to the breweries at the end of the day though. If you want people to always think your beer is at the end of it's barrel, then that's up to you. And if you don't then you have to do something about it. I tell people about bottle sediments on a daily basis, but maybe I wouldn't have to if there was more information on said bottles...

Friday, 17 May 2013

It's Magic

Beer Ritz - sold out in a few hours...

Ales By Mails - sold out too...

Beer Paradise - yup all gone as well...

I'm pretty sure any other establishments who purchased this beer to stock won't have any left either. It seems like this beer is the most anticipated beer of the moment, and with beer geek driven sales, I actually can't remember the last time a beer was given this much hype and came and left the shelves so quickly.

The beer you ask?

It's a tad cloudy Stu! ;)
It's the very recently released Un-Human Cannonball Triple IPA from Magic Rock. When I first saw "Triple IPA" I thought there would be some Belgian aspect involved... turns out it was just in relation to the 12% this bad boy brings to the table... funny how they then put it in the biggest bottle they've ever commercially put out ;)

So does the beer stand up to the hype, the geek banter and the expectations??

Well the aroma is very intriguing, as you can't really nail down any one specific dominant flavour, just a multitude and complexity of different aspects. It smells of peach skins, candy floss, lemon drops, some chocolate orange, citrus peel, caramel malts, green apple skin, mango and apricot and almost a little floral perfume, it's probably the most subtle but in your face aroma you'll find in an English IPA, if you can call it that... and if that makes any sense.

The flavour?

Well, it's a little all over the place to begin with. You get an immediate huge hit of caramel malt bitter sweetness which is atop some butterscotch flavour among some green salad, strangely.. (cucumber?) There's a lot of watermelon fruitiness alongside peaches, mangos and lots more citrus fruits - it's a basic fruit salad in a glass! As the flavour and the decent carbonation fizz fade on the swallow you're left with an incredible warming sensation from the 12%, and why wouldn't you to be fair... Trust me, it's not a beer you can drink quick, you really do get the sense that this is a powerhouse. Some pine notes now with some evergreen tree bark, which might just overshadow the citrus a little too much for me, but the bitter bite is still clearly there.

As it goes down a bit more and warms up, a lot more of that caramel sweetness comes about, it kind of reminds me of a Dogfish Head 120min I had a while back, which wasn't exactly fresh, but I didn't exactly complain about it...

I think it's the complexity and the randomess that really makes this beer work for me. Every time you take a sip (gulp) you get a different aspect to the beer, and that's something that I think makes this beer really interesting. I've had far too many pints before in the past where I've gotten bored of the flavour by the last few gulps... this continues to change and evolve on the palate. That might not fly with some people, but that's why I really enjoy this beer.

Fair play to Magic Rock. They're one brewery that I can proudly say, like to stretch those boundaries, but don't push them down your throat.

Long may they continue.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Beer Ritz; Reborn

It's fair to say the past month has been incredibly stressful and packed to the rafters with extremely hard work for the entire Beer Ritz and Beer Paradise team. The past 30-odd days has seen a lot of blood, sweat and, on occasion, almost a few tears, but we're finally done with the restoration of one of the finest beer shops in the country - Beer Ritz has been reborn!

Follow me now on a short (....long) photo montage of what we did...

The first job was to get rid of the tired old shelving
Sort of sad to see it go, we've been with it for so long, but they had finally called time

After that, the walls and ceiling needed a paint job
It seemed the shelving had hidden a few surprises for us...

Next came the installation of new shelves

and the subsequent filling of said shelves...

That took about a week, which then of course had to be replicated on the opposite side of the room, ending up a little like this

We then got our window displays revitalized and modernized 

Even the front door got a look at

We got rid of this junk yard

In favour of these gigantic monoliths

There were a few beer breaks over the few weeks, that's the truth.
more painting then followed

It then finally came time to sit back a little and look upon all our hard work

I could fill up many other blog posts on the things we did, went through and how it all went down, but I'm not going to. All I can suggest is you come down and have a look for yourselves, have a bit of a geeky beer chat and maybe take a couple of amazing beers away with you.

Like I said, this has been a long and stressful time for us, but it's finally coming to the end and we appreciate all your patience in bearing with us... and you know what - all the time and effort that has gone into the shop, all the aches and pains, it's been 100% worth it, I know I'd do it again and again for our shop.

Here's to another 15yrs of selling amazing beer to the people

Feel free to use any of these photos to spread the good word! 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

New D.T.H.

A few months ago I tried a beer from the continent which I truly regarded as one of the best Belgian beers I'd ever tried. Many others also held it in such high regard, and I believe it'll be a long time before I see anything as game changing come out of the Belgian beer scene.

That beer was Duvel Triple Hop, Citra version.

That beer has come and gone however, and something else has taken it's place. Uncharacteristically for a Belgian brewery, Duvel has produced a new beer (same beer, different hop - they can't be called equals though) but I have a feeling this version isn't going to be as universally praised as the previous.

Citra hops. When they first came on the scene it seemed no one really wanted to use, or drink anything else. It's truly a powerful hop, I'll say again, game changing. I'm not sure I can say the same for this new Triple Hop incarnation....

Sorachi Ace.

It seems to be a form of Marmite hop variety these days, with people either liking or disliking it... with myself being on the latter side of things. I've been told I'm right, I've been told I'm very wrong, but hey - it's actually alright to have a difference of opinion sometimes you know! And looking at how memorable Citra Triple Hop was maybe, just maybe this new Duvel can alter my opinions on a hop I had previously written off.

It certainly comes across the nose with that unmistakable aroma (to me anyways) - lemon and limes, sherbet, thai green/lemon grass curry but here I think the Saaz and Styrian Goldings also used in the brew might be helping to mask/lift the flavour to a better balance. There's a very obvious difference in this beer to all the others I've tried with a predominant push towards Sorachi... This has the power of abv behind it. I really think it's this high 9.5% that actually makes this beer much better than what I expected it to be. It's packed full of flavour, but not to my disliking this time. Ripe, tart but juicy green apple skins, loads of orange rind and lemon pips, peach skin, it's a full on fruit salad riot! I was almost convinced by Wild Beer Co's Wild Saison... maybe it's the Belgian effect (yeast?) that makes this hop work...

I think this beer will still divide opinion on the hop, which is fine but in this instance, I've been convinced.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

That Time Of Year

It finally feels like it's getting a little warmer out there. It's about time too seen as it's now May! It can only mean one thing... the start of a few golden months of drinking glorious Pale Ale! As I transplanted my veg from the conservatory to the outdoor plot only one sort of Pale Ale was on my mind. Feeling the sun on my face for the first time in a while I knew it was time for some Saison!

I'd been eying up some of the new (to us) Partizan Saisons for a while now so I thought I'd give a couple of them a blast... after all, the excellent branding really does a good job of drawing you in.

Grisette Saison 4.8%
I'm a little confused by the name of this one, Grisette is either an edible toadstool or a young working class French Woman... I can only take that this beer is named after the working classes and farmers who used to brew it in the French speaking part of Belgium in the colder months to sup during the summer time... I'm sure I'll be told if not. It has a stunning aromatic bouquet of floral spice and citrus fruits. Waxy lemon rind and soft peach skins mix with a mild white pepper and clove. The flavour is something I was not expecting at all! It has the perfect beginnings of a Saison, good zesty carbonation with plenty of fruity citrus bite, but this then moves into a big earthy caramel malt backbone and finish. It's a bit of a twist on the classic, and sometimes hard to pin down style. An excellent drop indeed, something I'd more than happily try again.

Galaxy Saison 5.4%
This beer does not smell like a Saison. If you were to go into this blind you could easily pass this off as a heavily new world hopped IPA powerhouse! There's just a tiny hint of some drying pepper and spice to hint at something more. Primarily the aroma is all about the juicy fruits; mangos, lychees, tangerine, peach and apricot - it's all there. Galaxy is truly a stunning hop. The taste is a whole bag full of tricks. It's very different from the aroma (something I found with Kernel's Galaxy Pale last night) there's still lots of stone fruit flavour in the body, but here like the last there's a big earthy caramel malt presence taking it one step beyond the norm. This is like no Saison I've tried before, it's completely different...

And that's exactly why you should try it.