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

Thursday 30 December 2010

The Perfect Beer?

Generosity is contagious round these parts.

One of our devoted shop regulars (Tony Farrar) who regularly frequents our premises to clear us out of Gouden Carolus, has just come home from an interesting sounding holiday to Amsterdam, and he thought it'd be nice to bring Zak home a little surprise.

- Zak

Now I'm a little vague on the details of how this came around in Amsterdam but so happy with his bottle was Zak that he decided to share out the generosity. So out of the goodness of his heart, the big boss man grabbed 3 glasses and poured equal measures for me (a ghost) and my work colleague Tom Fozard, and we all can safely say it was quite an experience!

Now for anyone who doesn't know the beer - it's Pliny the Elder, an imperial IPA from Russian River brewery in California. On Rate Beer it scored 100 out of 100 for both 'overall' and 'style' scores, with more than 1300 ratings. If you know not of rate beer just know that that doesn't happen. If your still unsure just know it's a beer above all others!

Now I know we've all done this but when I tried my first sip I thought immediately that it was the BEST beer I've ever had. We've all done it, any other examples out there of first sip bowl overs?

I thought though I can't keep trying new beers and saying there the best I've ever had, so from now on, any beer that is sufficient to blow my mind respectively will simply be known as a 'Perfect Beer'

This beer was a 'Perfect Beer' not just for me but I think I can speak for my colleagues too that they would agree. It was helped a little by the fact the beer was only just over 1 month fresh, seriously hops have never tasted so fresh! Any one think of any beers they've had that they might call 'Perfect'?

*If you see any beers
from this brewery
buy them all!!!* ------------

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Fresh Excitement! (Roosters)

At this time, just before the new year, the alcohol industry faces a bit of uncertainty and unrest about what the new year will bring. We all know that next year will bring more pub closures.... breweries will be moved and shut.... and of course beer and all things alcoholic will be increased in price by millions of pounds! (especially if that beer is over 7.5%!!) The government will keep trying to find ways to ban alcohol (as an A class drug) but then raise taxes massively on the stuff. People will continue to argue the toss about hops, sparklers, full measures, clear and cloudy 'cask ale', keg vs cask, 'cascadian dark ale'(or Black IPA to us in the UK) and fight amongst ourselves..... I could go on but I shan't (all-though I love a bit of drama/confrontational debate) Add in all this to the economical unrest , unemployment figures and governments making decisions which they said would be very unpopular - it's enough to make one feel a little down about next year.

BUT I SAY UNTO THE PEOPLE!; Fear not! for I tell thou it is the time of great change, great productivity and we should be greatly optimistic! Yes times they are a changing, but change doesn't mean bad, it just means things will be different. We should all be looking forward to the next years challenges and changes because to be fair, were they much worse than the year before? We got through that one didn't we?

It is because of our resilience that I urge people to look forward to some great changes, rather than constantly see the 'little Daily Mail' bad side to every walk of life. I have some great examples of the kind of thing we can expect and hope for in the new year which have occurred to us in the past couple of weeks;

- We all cry about Leeds Tetley's Brewery which will be closed and moved down south, which will be a big loss for the city, don't get me wrong, but we should rejoice in the fact that within 10 miles of the city there are up to 40 breweries growing up and going strong (a few of which are popping up right on our doorsteps.) I've loved Tetley's beer before and I will again I know, but when people say were loosing part of our history I can't help but laugh. You can't lose your history, you keep it forever. We can remember Tetley's for what it was, made first in Leeds. It has had it's history, now we are building our own! A new start, new craft breweries which people will look back on in 100 years and say, how good was that, isn't that worth building for?

- Breweries and pubs will close and move as I said before, but the main point is they are always remembered. And another main point is that something new will always fill the hole they left. The same applies to brewers. No one could ever replace Kelly at Thornbridge brewery and he's not really gone, but look at the list of expertise they got on board to fill the void he left. I expect good and interesting things from those guys  in the new year.

- New exiting things are coming in every week from abroad. We can all appreciate the the union of beer styles and flavours from all over the world, we can only get stronger for it. Just look at some breweries in Belgium - Saison Dupont the epic brewery that it is, have made a new beer! (well an ancient recipe style they found in there cellars) 'Monk stout' is a new beer for the world beer market, and it may be a few months before we get a try but it's definitely something to look forward to. So YES if those Belgians can brew new beers why can't we?

My final bit of inspiration comes from a small brewery in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. The brewery in question is no other than Roosters.  

Now the brewery is know round these parts for it's awesome cask range of beers but if you look below, there is something a little out of the ordinary for them.

Roosters do not normally bottle there beers but when they do, they sure know how to hit the mark. (I've even heard crazy stories of brewers there filling the bottles with nitrogen before filling them with beer to expel the risk of oxidisation!) These are 4 new beers we've received at the shop, and everything about them screams 'we're looking toward our future!'

GCB - (good cheer beer) - a fantastic pale ale which spits in the face of anyone that says that flavoursome beer needs to be high in %!

Oxymoronic - A black IPA which makes "your eyes say stout, but your taste buds scream IPA" 
-on bottle label- "OX-Y-MO-RON
                           A rhetorical figure in which
                           contradictory terms are
                           combined. as in a deafening
                           silence and a mournful optimist.

Mournful optimist - We should all be more like that!

2XS IPA - A big bad massively hopped IPA (100+IBU's.) At 7.1% it's not for the faint hearted tinny drinker! (Thats 7.1% 'mr accountant!')

XS - American Pale Ale - I drink this beer as I write and all I can say is that it's like I've slapped my lips on the tap of the fermentation vessel! Beers of 5.5% and flavour such as this will win awards next year, I'm sure of it. If Roosters can push above there expectations and wow the market with beers such as these why can't anyone else? Power to the innovators!

So in the new year I plead to people; be positive, see the good in things, it will all be worth it in the end. We've all got a lot of good things coming, so don't focus on the bad times, we all don't need the extra stress, so just remember to..... 

Smile and embrace it!!!
(it's gonna be great.)


Wednesday 22 December 2010

Just say no!

Some drinks to avoid to make your Christmas that little bit nicer;

 And of course........

Sunday 19 December 2010

Home Brew Boys!

Over the past couple of months I have seen an upsurge in the amount of people who are making there own personal drinking supply lately. Now I'm not sure if these people have just started brewing or if it has become cooler to talk about, but the big theme has been the notion of sharing! The 'if I try yours will you try mine?' idea is a great one for many reasons, many of which are to do with the furthering of the notion that beer is great, and needs to be shared.

Now the home brewers I speak of, in our quiet little corner of far Headingly aren't your average 'bath tub hooch boozers', there methods are a little more modern professional than that. With so much information available on making beer today, and with technological  innovation matched with some of the best ingredients available to man, it's no surprise if you put in a bit of hard graft you can make really good beer. Everyone also seems to be brave enough to really experiment with what they want to make. New ingredients getting involved, new beer styles, if it works great if it doesn't, try something else (just look at Stuart Howe from Sharps Brewery and his 52 brews project).

Working where I do I've been blessed with the gift of home brew from 3 different generous sources. Matt Lovatt, Zak Avery and Tom Fozard have all been kind enough to share some of there own creations with me to try out, so I know will tell you all about them!

Matt's Beer;

Matt had a difficult task with his beer (well it sounded difficult to me!). From what I understand the brew was a homage to Orval, and to make it that little bit extra special he collected and cultured his own strain of Orval yeast from what I presume was left in the bottom of his Orval bottles. The beer came in at a hefty but understandable 6%abv and gave off a nice golden amber hue in the light. The beer came across the nose with quite a bit of straw and a lot of 'sour fruitiness' quite like a few gueuze beers I've had recently. Initial thoughts on the flavour; I thought it was bone dry and super moorish. There was a little malty sweetness in the body which lead to a big lemony bitter sourness. You get a good Belgian dryness in the carbonation coming from the yeasts. The sourness is not that overpowering after a few sips, and it leads to some of that nice brett straw/hay flavour. Very good beer overall I'm sure Jean-Marie Rock would agree because it must be difficult to get a beer like this right.

Zak's Beer;

Avery's ale has brought quite a bit of attention in the blog and twitter world, especially whilst he was in the initial production of the brew. It comes in at around 6% and again has a great amber hue with a slight lacing of chalky bubbles. Initial aromas abound of lychee and lemons. There was also a big aroma of gooseberry crumble that I couldn't get out my head. Taste wise you get a nice initial sweetness, followed by a nice fruity malt body, then a drying citrus aftertaste. There is some amber malty-ness in the body but overall I think this is a good pale ale with dry hints of hoppy sherbert, mixed with a big orange zest, which leaves a nice bitter finish. A beer at 6% but tastes around 4%, good or bad? probably best I only had one for its drinkability. When asked, Zak said the beer had a bit of a confused style as there was a big citrus aroma, but a lot of fruity malt. To me though, it was the melding of two great worlds. A deep fried mars bar is a bit confused, doesn't stop it from tasting great.

Tom's Beers;

Tom was kind enough to give me two different beers he'd made. Also being a bit of a design fiend, he named and labeled the beers he produced.

The first beer - 'Fifty-Third and Third' is an American pale ale coming in at 6% (I'm seeing a little pattern in these beer strengths!) It comes across the nose with a big candy citrus aroma with big hints of dry wood-chips. Initial flavous are again very dry with a sort of dusty woody body coming from the big hops, leading to a bitter fruity aftertaste. Orange and some pear, a little lemon bitterness too. Everything about this beer says U.S.A. to me apart from the fact that it 'was made in a bathroom in Kirkstall' according to Tom!

The second beer 'Admiral Nelson' was a liquorice stout coming in at 5.3%. A devilishly dark concoction with a huge rich aroma of liquorice, (duh) some creamy mint and Bassets sweeties. It's a thick beer with lots of warming dark heathenism. Liquorice and spicy dark malts  all the way down. A full of flavour beer that really delivers on the name. Tom knows I'm not too keen on liquorice and to be honest I did struggle a bit with the last of this brew, but it's testament to his abilities to produce a beer exactly what he wanted too. This is liquorice stout all over, and it didn't go too badly with a mince pie either!

There you have it then, 4 beers, 3 different makers, and I can say in all honesty they were all a lot better than my first attempt! (really, mine was like vinegar) So cheers to the home brew boys, it was a really nice experience. My only suggestion to Zak, Matt and Tom would be next time you brew, make them around 4%. Those 4 beers last night were more than enough for one sitting, but hey I love it! The more people we can get into the H.B. scene the richer we'll be for it, so go forth..... make beer, drink beer, and be merry!!

Monday 13 December 2010

Two Wee Nippers!

I thought after a long day it was time for a bit of indulgence, and time to bust out the old snifter! The two beers on tonight were rather nice indeed. The first - O'Hanlons Brewers special reserve - 12.9% 25cl bottle. The second - De Molen  Hemel & Aarde - 9.5% 18cl bottle; two wee nippers! Both have a little of a story behind them so  I shall unwind my tale.

To start with I shall begin with the O'Hanlons. I bought this beer from the shop where I work. From the get go this looked like it would be a top notch beer, and it did not disappoint. Rich abundant flavours abounded. It was a thick resinous beer, full of caramel and dark toffee. It was alcoholic with hints of sherry coming through, it also displayed a great nutty character with after-tones of rum soaked oranges. Truly a great beer in its own right, but there was more. I heard from a source that this beer could be the re-branded version of Thomas Hardy's Ale! Please correct me if I'm wrong but I was told that O'Hanlons could not renew their license to keep brewing T.H.A. so it was rebranded as Brewers reserve. A shame for T.H. no doubt, but it's great that people still want to get this beer out after so many decades.

The second beer has a bit more of a personal story behind it. I first tried Hemel & Aarde at the Great British Beer Festival 2 years ago. It stood in a large barrel (not a firkin, a barrel) which had previously been used to age Bruichladdich whisky. It was one of the best imperial stouts i've ever tried. My college was surely convinced. When given to Zak for a taste we made sure to tell him to swirl it round his mouth for quite a while, to which he responded "come on guys I know how to taste beer." After he swallowed he didn't say anything for about 30 seconds but gave us a look as if to say "Oh Yeah!!" No words needed to be spoken, it was one of those moments when you knew you'd found a very special beer.

Now of course a tiny bottle of the same beer would be no comparison to a hefty barrel of the stuff but there was still enough essence of the beer to be able to take me back to that day, and what a great day it was! Proper nostalgia, as I sit getting powerful aroma whiffs from my empty glass, sometimes a wee nipper is all you need for great memories.

Do you add drops to your dram?

As much debate as there is about how you should get served your pint, there is and always has been a similar debate on how to get served your whisky. - Do you add a few drops of water? a couple of cubes of ice? maybe a splash of ginger? And if your thinking 'I have mine with coke' then don't bother reading on. There is a thought amoung many whisky drinkers that if you add water you are doing something unspeakable, just like a bunch of northerners in a southern pub complaining that all the beer is flat.

The adding of water was not just about the flavour, it had a much deeper past than that. To get into this though you have to know about chill-filtering and un-chill filitered whiskys. Today nearly all whiskys are chill-filtered, it's a method of filtering which removes some fatty acids, protiens and some esters which can cause a bit of a clouding haze in the whisky. In an un-chill filtered whisky if you add a dash of water it can cause this haze to be more prominant, so for most people chill filitering was mainly for cosmetics. In the past most whiskys were un-chill filitered, and you wern't seen drinking a cloudy whisky - so no water. Today a lot of distillerys release both kinds so you can have a choice.

For some though the big argument comes from the idea that chill filtering can remove some of the flavour, or 'essence', of the whisky. This in many ways can be related to a few beer discussions i've seen recently (sound familiar anyone?). I think there is a lot of truth to this point. For example I've not had chance to do a side by side comparrison but in case of Edradour the plot really thickens. Edradour chill filitered 10yr old is a classic single malt at 40% strenght. However Edradour un-chill filitered 10yr old comes in at 46%. Can it be purely the filtration process that removes this 6%? And if it is then surely it will effect the flavour.

So when it comes to ordering time there is pleanty of choice; filtered? un-filtered? water? plain? At the end of the day, as with beer, it all comes down to personal choice but I think there are a few exceptions. I recently receved a bottle of Ardbeg Supernova which when it was released it was labeled as the 'peatist whisky ever'. This has now been taken over by a bottle by Bruicladdich. (Distilliries compete like that too)

This scotch comes in at a massive 60.1% and must be treated with respect! I won't bore you with my tasting notes but at one point I did note that it was like drinking fire. It's whiskys like this which need a shot of water to really enjoy. With so much alcohol it can be very difficult to pick out flavours and actualy enjoy the drink itself. When you dilute them back a bit you can much better appriciate whiskys of higher strenghths. (even if it has a slight cloudy-ness) I have a bottle of cask strength Teaninich at home which is so strong it states on the box it should be poured 1 part whisky to 3 parts water!

Don't be afraid of asking for what you really want when it comes your beverage. If people tell you your drinking it wrong, tell them there wrong because thats how you like it. (unless it's single malt with coke, you heathens!)

Can people look past the haze to enjoy there drinks more?

Saturday 4 December 2010

Marble Decadence Frambozen

Before I start my review of this beer, I will clarify it has nothing to do with the 'Open It' theme that people are on at the mo. I put this beer in the fridge this morning because it was very cold outside, and whilst reading a few blogs at work, it occurred to me that people were raiding there cellars for beers to blog on. Dredge had even blogged on the counter part of this beer; Decadence Kriek. Fair do's to those who want to share there aging beers with others but for me, my cellar beers aren't aged well enough so I will just have to drink a few that I possess many off. (I'm big on aging beers, you could call me a hoarder.)

I really love beers from Marble brewery. Their what I consider to be 'Modern Classics', and bloody delicious ones at that. When people come in the shop and ask for recommendations Marble is defo top of the list. Coming from Leeds myself, quite a few of our patrons have the attitude "beer from Manchester? It can't be that good can it?" I can surely say that if I had a face, I would be asking these people if it looked bothered? (ghosts have no face) Manchester does brew good beer, no doubt about that at all! (I guess I can say this because we still beat them 1 - 0)

Joking aside though Marble is an outstanding brewery. We can barely keep there Dobber and Lagonda on the shelves! And asked for the Tawny - well thats been out of stock for weeks. 

Decadence imperial stout was one of the first special beers we got in the shop from Marble, and being a dark beers fiend I definitely  snapped up a few bottles. It was an epic beer, but being Marble, and not being complacent with just being excellent , they decided to brew a few 'variations'. And so forth became Decadence Frambozen and Decadence Kriek (Imperial stout with raspberries and cherries.)

So, on to the beer; D.F. Is an exquisite looking drink with the black like quality's of the darkest night sky, from which abounds a huge tan foaming head, which does not dissipate. There is a massive aroma of raspberries (obviously) which completely dominates the smell.

The flavour is nothing like anything which can be said for an imperial stout. I remember a few years ago I made a little 'beer cocktail' by mixing one bottle of Brooklyn chocolate stout to half a bottle of Timmermans kriek. I thought the cherry beer would be no match for the stout but no, completely the opposite way round, I found it hard to taste any stout at all. It was the same for this beer. It was raspberries all the way, and not sweet ones, no no. This beer was full of tartness, sour berry flavours abounded. Great carbonation and a super 'Tang'. There was only a faint hint of bitter chocolate malt in the background, which was the only clue to the epic beer that was once Decadence. 

Marble - don't stop what your doing it's awesome, we can't wait to get our hands on some barrel aged 'Special' maybe I'll review that after crimbo, but for now I will much enjoy this beer in the snow.     

Friday 3 December 2010


Some times parents can be very cool. Yes I said it, very cool indeed! Whilst away on one of their annual trips to Florida I asked them if they would bring me back a few bottles of craft beer - they said yes. I did not expect much as my parents have no clue about craft beers, there more interested where they can get the cheapest oakiest chardonnay, or shiraz from.

To my great surprise, what do they bring me? Only the bottles displayed below;

Now I'm one who can get easily exited by the simplest of new beers, so these really hit the spot. They were bought, apparently, in a offie in Florida which sells around 1000 different craft beers from different U.S. craft breweries. This is not a massively advertised feature though, as the main selling product for the shop is different wines, apparently 1000 different craft brews is not a big thing in the U.S..

So yes parents can be quite cool sometimes, if somewhat unknowingly! They had no idea about any of the beers, they just thought they looked cool.

Two of these I tried tonight - Harpoon's Leviathan series - Double IPA and Stoudts - Fat Dog barrel aged imperial oatmeal stout. The DIPA was great - big aromas of candy floss, lychee fruit, grapefruit and a big hoppy bitterness. The flavour was a little smoky with some woody bourbon flavour in the big caramel malty body, mixed in with the citrus/orange zest. With the big warming effects from this 10% beer, it is definitely a major cross between a DIPA and a barley wine.

The second beer I had was Fat Dog's barrel aged imperial oatmeal stout (can they fit any more styles in there?) This was a big beer at 9% with huge aroma hints of a dairy/milky, oatmeal smell. The flavour was exactly what it said on the tin - velvet silky smooth with a big oaky body leading to a nice bitterness. Very balanced and expertly produced, a winner in my books.

So there you have it, my advice to everyone is - don't underestimate anyone! I think I will keep the other two beers to share with some staff members ;)