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

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Thornbridge And A Tale Of Smaller Beers

I'm currently drinking this very old bottle of Thornbridge Saint Petersburg Imperial Stout. The older recipe bottle at 7.7%, before it got reduced to 7.4%.. (thanks government!) It went "out of date" in 2010 so I'm going to guess it's maybe 7/8yrs old now..

It's aged amazingly in my opinion! A perfect amount of carbonation still left leaves a great tan foam which lasts and leaves delicate legs as I consume. The large yeast sediment is left stuck to the bottom of the bottle as it should be and the flavour is just phenomenal. Dark chocolates and black forest gateau fruits are dominant in this smooth and rich beer. Drinking far much easier, than what is probably a stronger than 7.7% beer, it's a proper winter warmer. All hail Catherine II!!

The whole experience leaves me saddened though. I know I'll never have this beer, like this, again.

Thornbridge don't leave as much sediment in the bottle like they used to anymore. They also have reduced the strength of this beer, which in all honesty I can't blame them for..  The thing that really gets to me for some reason though is that Thornbridge have moved from 50cl bottles to 33cl bottles.

Bigger bottles are just better, end of. You try a big bottle of Chimay Blue next to a small bottle of Chimay Blue and tell me they're the same.. They're not. And the difference only gets more obvious as they age. Putting all your beer in 33cl bottles just seems like following the current trend of all UK brewers, which I think should be avoided! People don't want less beer. No one wants a 33cl bottle of Kolsch!! Sure, maybe for your big, special beers, but the whole range? It was the same for Buxton a few years ago, I would get so many complaints in the past that Axe Edge was now in 33cls instead of 50cls..

We're English, not American, we want a bottle of beer that's going to fill our glass without us having to go back to the fridge twice as much!

Let that sentence sink in just a little..

But I'm rambling though, none of this is going to change anything. I'll sit here and throughly enjoy my last bottle. It's been an absolute treat, and one to be remembered! One last thought however; Should monetary gain and beer industry trendsetting define you and the product you bring to market?

In terms of integrity, I don't think it should. Do you want to follow the crowd? Even if what everyone else is doing seems to be successful, it doesn't mean it actually is.. Just because everyone else is going to 33cl bottles, that doesn't mean that's what the customer wants.

I'll follow my Buxton method with Thornbridge now, and pour two bottles of Jaipur into one glass. Not because I have some sort of problem, but because 33cls is fuck all beer!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Saying Goodbye

I have never been a fan of change, but sometimes change is necessary to move on in life.

I've been working at Beer Ritz for over a decade now. I started when I was 19, and in just under a week I'll be turning the big 3-0.

Saturday the 26th of November will be my last official shift at the shop. Now while some people might think of me as a bit of a dick, I'm not, so I will be working a couple of weeks mid December so I'm not leaving them at the worst possible time. For arguments sake though, the 26th will be my last 'official' shift. Do come by if you can spare the time, I'd love to see everyone one last time.

Looking back on my time with the Ritz I can only bring to mind truly wonderful experiences. The shop really feels to me like my second home, I know every nook and cranny of the place! I've probably shed enough blood, sweat and tears in the place to fill a swimming pool - and every second was worth it.

Beer Ritz has allowed me to grow massively. Not just in my knowledge of beer, but as a person - it's been a place hugely influential on my life and I'm without doubt grateful for everything I've been taught, learned and experienced. The business links I've acquired will never come close to compare to the friendships I've gained and will treasure as I move forward.

I've watched the industry completely change over the past ten years, but throughout all the change one thing has always remained the same. The alcohol industry is the best, and always will be the best industry to work for! I won't be going into something different, I'll be sticking in it. The blogging will increase too.. I don't personally know of another industry that's as kind, as loyal and as generous as the one I'm in and the one I'm gonna stay in!

For a long time I wondered how I could ever leave Beer Ritz. It's a place I love. BEER RITZ IS A PLACE I LOVE. I've already had to bear the anguish of closure once before, so people close to me will know my true feelings about the shop. Once Zak bought out the company though, I was the first man back through the doors. I opened the shop back up and got the word out there that we were not closed, but starting a new and exciting chapter. I can leave feeling very proud of that..

Some people go their entire lives in jobs they hate. That's definitely not something I can say. I've worked at the best job in the world for over a decade, and while I was very happy to get paid I never did it for the money. Once again, I couldn't be more grateful, proud, emboldened and ready for the next chapter of my life. I'll never forget my time in such a small little off-license corner shop. I'll never forget the people I've met, the places it's allowed me to go, and bonds I've managed to forge.

I could write a million words in this blog post, but sometimes things must come to an end.

Beer Ritz will live forever, It'll be a part of me always. I will miss it every day.



Monday, 14 November 2016

Strength to Strength - NMBC IBNT

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, but it actually feels really good to get behind this keyboard (for the evening at least) to tell the truth!

I don't think there's anyone out there at the moment who would disagree that Northern Monk Brew Co has had a bit of an explosion in the last couple of years. Their improved product quality has certainly not gone unnoticed to us!

So time to put them to a classic Ghosty test! Can you make a good Imperial Black N Tan out of their beer?!

Turns out you can....

Speaking of cans though, Double Heathen and Black Forest Strannik are a force to be reckoned with on their own, let alone blended together! A 10% DIPA meets a 10% Russian Imperial Stout. Good combo!

Now this is the second time I've done this in two days, and for a good reason. The first day I just blended them straight together to make one beer. Tonight I've layered them to create a whole different drinking experience. The first night was great, but this night has been really cool..

When you layer a latte most people will just mix them straight together, which is fine, but tonight I didn't mix the two beers together.. I just drank them layered. This meant that for the start I was just getting great DIPA. Around the middle however, you can't really tell where the DIPA ends and the Impy Stout begins, so you get a fantastic blend of the two without even knowing it. By the end of the glass I knew I was drinking Imperial Stout sure, but that middle part.. I really need to do that again!

I've always found when making black and tans that one beer will always over power the other, but when drinking them layered without mixing I found an amazing transition from one to the other without one beer ever out shining its kin. You get the best qualities of one beer and the best qualities of the other, but the middle ground is a fascinating experience. Less than more of one overpowering the other, but more of two meeting in the middle.

I want to see a Black N Tan like this as a regular occurrence in the Northern Monk Refectory!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Worrying Trend?

It's no lie that Leeds has been seeing a bit of an explosion of "craft" beer bars over the past few years. Existing pubs, old and new, have also been expanding their ranges, getting refurbishments and trying to move with the times. It's not a bad thing by any means, but there is something worrying I have been noticing...

I've visited a few new bars only to be wowed with very impressive selections of drinks, beers/spirits/wines everything really, and then left disappointed with the level of staff knowledge.

As an example, me and a friend visited a newly opened bar recently and stood at the bar whilst we had our drinks to try have a chat and see how things were going. It was a big place so they had a lot of staff. There was a woman changing a couple of barrels whilst a man was frantically running round seemingly telling everyone else what to do. The rest of the 10-odd staff looked to us to be 20-25yr old young ladies - which don't get me wrong, I have no problem with.

What I do have a problem with is that no one we really spoke to knew anything about the drinks they were serving! We chatted to one barmaid, who said she'd never tried the beer she was pouring us.. fine, I guess. We chatted to another, she said she didn't like beer... Ok, well I guess you can't please them all... Over the course of the night though it seemed to be an increasing trend. Were most of these people hired for their looks? (doesn't matter if they were all ladies, could have easily just have been a bunch of 10-odd attractive lads..) Was the man running around telling everyone what each product was and where they were on the keg fonts?

It's basic staff training. You need to have staff that know the product. You wouldn't go into a big chain like Starbucks, ask for a recommendation only to have the 'barista' come back with "oh, I don't really drink coffee, I don't know.." You wouldn't stand for it, and we shouldn't have to stand for it in our bars.

It's a fundamental part of the business, and if you open up a new bar with 20+ beer lines - you need to be able to give recommendations, give advice, tell people about what you're selling, or at the very least have an opinion!

Of course, knowledge comes with time and experience, but it's not hard to go through a few of the beers with the staff when they arrive and give little samples to them. They can then easily see what they like and what they don't, and even if they don't like it at least they can explain to customers what they think of it.

And after some time if they don't like anything at all..? they're probably not right for the job, and not good for your business, and you should consider why they were hired in the first place.

I'd go to a bar which had 1 or 2 great beers on that the staff new about rather than a bar with 20+ beers which the staff knew nothing about..

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Welcome Gifts!

Hawkshead were kind enough recently to send me some bottles of their new 'specials' range of beer, so I thought it only fitting that I share my thoughts in an open environment here!

Low quality photo,
because my phone hates
me right now........
The first beer I tried was the Chuckle Berry Sour - a 3.5% Berliner Weisse aged on Chuckleberries. It pours cranberry juice red with just enough haze to make you think it's not just another wet fruit fail. The aroma off the lively head is full of gooseberries and red currents, candy floss and toffee apples, a real mix of things here. The body starts with a classic refreshing tartness which leads to a red current flavour which then jumps unannounced to a big green leaf and lasting sourness.

Next up was Tonka - a Tonka beans and cocoa nibs Imperial Porter. A thin looking beer to pour, but don't let that deceive you. The aroma leaps forth with vanilla and chocolate. Heavy on the toffee and sweet burnt caramels too, surely desert in a glass if there ever was. The beer itself has a real creme brulee vibe going on to start. Lots of really sweet burnt meringue, but not overly sweet, it has a very nice balance of flavours. Quite a bit of charred toast bitterness creeps in the finish to make it that little bit more moreish.

The final beer was the Northern Imperial Stout. I'm no stranger to Imperial Stouts, and it's good to see a brewery not going mental and making a 14%, barrel aged, cinnamon and nutmeg added monster, just a straight up 9.5% sipper. That's what this beer is, just a really great beer to sip, savour and enjoy. Nothing here to over think, just great flavours, and quite literally the definition of what an Imperial Stout should be. Top marks on this beer.

Once again thanks to Hawkshead brewery for sending these beers though, they were a pleasure to drink, and keep up the great brewing!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Supermarket Shenanigans

I'm a massive fan of Williams Brothers beers from Scotland, but recently we've been having a very hard time getting them in. They've given some reasons, and every time we get in contact it's only the same couple of beers available.. which is a bit of a downer when their range is so massive and they do so many good beers. So we're now at the point where we have none left, and that's annoying because they're very good selling beers.

Other people have their beers though. I've seen their beers in supermarkets, and they have plenty of stock it seems every time I go. Is the reason we can't get any of Williams beers because it's all being taken by the supermarkets? I've not been told this is the case so I can't confirm that, but it's just something in my gut that tells me that's what's going on.

Something else I have heard recently that may or may not be true is that Vocation brewery are going to be going down the supermarket route. How long might it be before I can't get any more Vocation beers.

People seem to forget that breweries are still a business at the end of the day, and getting a big portion of stock sold to a company is better for business than selling small amounts to independents.

But I want my Williams beers BACK! And I don't want Vocation to go either!!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Styles For A Season

Saison in December.. Imperial Stouts in Spring.. Has beer style brewed for particular months or seasons died a death? Is there no more use for the 'beer calendar' any more? These thoughts have arisen over the past year or two as I've seen that every new brewery that pops up these days has to brew a year round Saison it seems. Also I've not seen any Bock beers around this Spring. I've heard there's been some around, but I've not seen any...

Have we got to a stage in the beer industry where breweries don't actually care about the time, just what they brew? I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but does anyone follow the old time methods of brewing for the time of year any more?

Maybe I'm just a little tired of so many breweries bringing out a similar type of Saison.. Funny how a beer style that literally means 'Season' has now become a year round thing..

Thursday, 3 March 2016


Maybe I've not been looking hard enough but it feels for me like the 'hype' or excitement about new release beer cans has just dropped off a little as of late. I'm going to rectify that now by telling you about one of the best beer cans I've had in a very long time!

The experimental Outlaw arm of Rooster's Brew Co have just released their first can, and what a thing of beauty it is! Roots. Rock. Reggae.  is a pineapple and grapefruit IPA, and we're not just talking about flavours here. They shoved so much pineapple and grapefruit zest and juice into this beer it hardly even tastes like a beer to me, more something like Lilt or tropical fruit juice. Perfect balance and not too sickly. I could drink this all day, which is a dangerous thing at 6.4%

Now apparently this is a 'limited' release beer.. but I've heard that before and I don't pay too much credence to that statement these days, but if you do see this beer, BUY THIS BEER!

As a side note, me and a colleague were talking about this beer at the shop and he reckoned that the beer would sell better under simple, solid Roosters packaging, instead of the Outlaw labelling. I have to agree a little bit, but I'm not 100% sure why.. Not letting that take anything away from this beer though!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Healthy Beer!

I enjoy bottles of Purdey's. It's a multivitamin fruit drink which I pay a bit more for, for for a drink whose effects are probably no better than normal fruit juices... But I like it though! Plus it calls itself an "Elixir" and ever since I first played Final Fantasy XII many many years ago, I've always been a sucker for an elixir!

I was thinking the other day that if I felt so inclined I could add a bit of rum or vodka to some Purdey's and make it an evening drink rather than morning drink. I tell myself because it's got extra vitamins, it must be better than having a vodka & coke for example.

Now there's plenty of vitamin drinks out there, but I've started wondering if you could actually brew a multivitamin beer??

Before anyone starts though, I know that beer is horribly horribly bad for you and that there's "No safe limit" to drinking, so I'm not pretending that anyone try make any claims that beer could be good for you. Oh, heavens no! Daily Mail save us!

Joking aside, could you make a multivitamin beer and not label it as being good for you, just add the extras on the ingredients list..? There's plenty of beers with caffeine in them.  Hell, Erdinger Alcohol Free advertises itself as an isotonic drink. I know I get a better (most probably false) sense of well being from drinking Purdey's so why not get that from beer too? (It's probably all the placebo effect if we're being fair)

Pint of Jaipur with extra C, B2 & B6 please!

Things to ponder on....

Monday, 18 January 2016

Beer Experiments

I got a bit of stick recently from more than a few people for stocking a new lager in the shop, and I think unfairly so.. I think this stick might come from quite a bit of beer snobbery, so I decided to do a bit of an experiment...

I've been craving lager recently, not sure why but I've been drinking quite a bit of it. The beer itself I recently started stocking is Primus - that (yes that) Belgian lager. I feel it was badly received in the shop, considering we also sell beers like Carling, Fosters and Corona ect.. Yes we actually do sell those kind of drinks! We are a local off-license as well as a specialist beer shop!

So I decided to grab a can of Primus and another two beers, we also sell, and see if I could pick out each one in a blind tasting. I made sure I was completely withdrawn from the pouring so as not to give any bias, and also made sure the name of each beer was stuck to the bottom of the glass for later.

Beer 1: sweet malts, corn flavouring and hay with some biscuit malt aftertaste. Ice cold and refreshing.

Beer 2: Sweet again and creamy, slight creamed corn flavour. Softer than the first and a little more mello.

Beer 3: Pretty much exactly inbetween the first two. Still ice cold and refreshing.

They all tasted pretty much the same to me, if not for a slight discrepancy in texture, a slight colour difference in one and a bigger carbonation in another.


After peeling back the paper it turns out beer 1 was Stella, beer 2 was Jupiler and beer 3 was Primus. So a pretty interesting experiment if not for the only conclusion that these beers are all basically the same. Yes, all these beers taste the same. And I'm not just saying that, I know the differences in beer, even when it comes to the "same" beer, look here at when I did US Sam Adams vs Kent Sam Adams.

Don't go judging beers without trying them, and certainly don't go judging them because you think they're crap.. There's a beer for everyone. And I'm happy to report since stocking it last week, Primus (which I actually preferred, probably because of the extra carbonation) has easily out-sold Stella and Jupiler.

It's cheaper than Stella too.....

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Brewdenell 4

What a great way to stick two up to the new ridiculous alcohol guide line bollocks than with a cracker of a beer festival in January!

Yes this weekend saw the fourth annual Leeds based beer festival at the Brudenell Social Club - Brewdenell! Fourth time held and fourth time visited for this ghost.. and once again it didn't disappoint. The whole venue was rammed full of people, more so than last year I'd say, but this was no bad thing.. I got there slightly later than my Beer Ritz colleagues but we soon found a nice spot just by the keg bar (under a well placed fan) and tucked into a lot more beers.

My tipple of choice for the night was the strong IPAs from places I've never heard of, and places I can't remember! I do however recall trying some Edge Juggernaut DIPA and thinking it tasted far too much like hop oil. I then followed that with some Odell Myrcenary and once again was throughly impressed at how good that beer is!

I sampled a few dark beers too, but nothing really stood out apart from some Founders Dark Penance and Kirkstall Barrel Aged Drop Hammer, which had a very good condition to it compared to the last time I tried it and it was completely lifeless..

That's something I did notice about this year compared to last, there wasn't that much beer on offer. Maybe it was just because I went late on Saturday night and a lot had run out, but the selection seemed pretty slim in my opinion. That's to be my only gripe, I had a good night indeed and look forward to the next! Still going strong at the fourth showing and continuing in popularity, it's definitely on the beer festival calendar of the not to miss category.

I was interested to hear that Friends Of Ham had a stall down this year, but was unable to sample any meaty goods as they'd gone by the time I'd arrived. Oh well.. It's not like the pub is far away!

January is an interesting time to have a beer festival if you ask me. I think it gets missed off a few people's Golden Pints beer festival of the year as they might have forgotten about it by December. Only a minor point, it takes nothing away from a great festival.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

When Did Beer Shops Stop Selling Beer?

Beer Ritz has been a shop selling beer in Far Headingley for coming close to twenty years now.. That's older than most breweries.. Well all the "crafty" ones anyway. We've moved with the times we like to think, but have remained relatively unchanged in what we deliver to our customers.

We brought Belgian and European beers into the heart of Leeds before it became cool. We started to stock Brewdog beers when they first opened way back when, and still do regardless of their "punk" rhetoric. We saw the mass importation of American hop forward beers, and subsequent following of style from British brewers. We've seen duty rises, brewery openings and even the unfortunate closures.. Hell, we nearly even closed ourselves, and would have if it wasn't for a man who's just as passionate about beer as I, if not more so.

The fact is that we've seen a LOT in this industry, and I can personally maintain that we've always given the customer what they really want... Beer.

It's no secret that over the past few years there has been a flourish of specialist beer shops opening around the UK over the past 2/3 years. More than a couple on our city doorstep as well. Now I'd never say this is a bad thing, in fact we're loving the competition!

The thing that interests me though is what the shops deliver. While these shops have good beer selections (some better than others) I've personally found that there's a lot of extra things to be bought in said establishments. Things like beer T-shirts with the shops logo printed upon. Beer mats in the similar ilk, carrier bags too.. it seems like it doesn't matter what beer you've bought as long as everyone knows where you bought it from!

Don't get me wrong, of course getting the word out there is important for business - so I guess the open question here is, do you think Beer Ritz is missing a trick buy not having lots of personalised merchandise?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

An Old Enemy

Well I hope you're all rested and well after Christmas and New Years celebrations, because there's an old foe rearing it's ugly head.

It seems Dry January is back once again, but this time I personally think they've gone a step too far with their advertising... If you haven't seen it already there's a TV advert doing the rounds at the moment to promote this most ludicrous of "months" which I take a great deal of offense towards.

In the advert itself it's claimed that by partaking in Dry January you have "One less sin to worry about". Sin? SIN?!? Since when did drinking anything become a sin?? Except for drinking dragon seamen maybe!

Being not only a religious man, but also a man who's income is based upon alcohol, I find this term which is used in such relaxed referral to be very offensive! You know what really worries me about this advert though? ..
There's plenty of idiots who watch TV...

Let's not fudge the issue. There are a lot of people in this country who have a problem with alcohol, but these people aren't who the advert is directed at! Hell, most of these people probably don't even have a TV! The advert is directed at some people who will blindly follow the rules to make themselves feel better about themselves for no real reason.

Am I being too harsh? I don't think so.. Because If we start so publicly demonising alcohol in this way and making everybody think they're doing something wrong for consuming it, how long will it be before the Temperance prohibitionist movements come back and take the pints out of your hands?!

Want to give money to cancer funds? Just do that! It's a damn good cause, but you don't need to come up with an excuse to give money or raise money!

I just read the other day that the recommended daily limits are going to be changed soon.. Hands up if you think they're going to put it up...

If you put enough crap out there about how drinking is wrong, and how it's really, really bad for you it won't be long before enough idiots follow on and call for restrictions and bans to be put in place.

Since when did you people let someone else tell what and what not to drink? These snake oil salesmen have let themselves into your lives and made you think that you need to do what they say. Drink what ever the hell you want, just do it in moderation. I've seen this Try January thing going round at the moment. At least some people out there have some sense and don't want to see the fun/relaxation/joy/jobs/industry/fucking beer taken out of the common mans hand.

Just have a bloody beer, it's a miserable enough month already!