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 It went "out of date" in 2010 so I'm going to guess it's maybe 7/8yrs old now..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!