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

Sunday 30 January 2011

Gone a Hunting

Last night I had the good opportunity to take a trip out to Wharfedale and visit a well known pub better called as 'The Hunters'.  Those not already accustomed to the Hunters will be pleased to find out that this is a good ol' fashioned 9 cask ale pub definitely out in the middle of nowhere. You can get a good impression that a few years back this would be the place to be after a good morning of running around on horse back...

My 'out of normality' trip at night to the Hunters had a small purpose to it. I had heard small rumors that the owner Jeff was planning on selling or leasing the pub to new proprietors. So I made it my investigatory mission to find out if it was going to be turned into a place of evil, or continue on with its proud history of serving real ale. It's fair enough to say though, that after a few pints that plan went right out the window, and all I could find out was that the new people were 'big real ale fans'... so I guess thats a bit of good news.

So instead of giving you any actual useful information, I'll just tell you a little about the place. Whilst I was trying to find a little history about the Hunters (couldn't find none) I did stumble upon someone else who had done a pretty good review of the place here, but newcastle brown ale was not on our beer menu for tonight. No, as well as some Tetley's and Theakston's (Regulars) there was a selection of pumps from local breweries which I have to say, had not really heard of. (and can't really remember the names of now, if you can guess them from the clips I'll be impressed)

Honey ale and red ales were the drink of choice for the night. (and large chardonnays for the ladies) All beers were in good nick as always, hopes abounded that nothing will be changing about this place in the next few months, apart from the Carlsberg bar towels maybe.

The atmosphere was welcoming, the fire was roasting, and you get a general feeling of cosy whilst wishing you'd brought a sleeping bag. The place was 'spick and span' - bar, seating and toilets all nice and clean - this is a proper pub. In fact if you needed a dictionary definition of what a pub is you'd probably find a picture of this place.

You just don't see these anymore!
Of course it wouldn't be a Ghost report if I didn't pick out some beer geek information about the place. As you know I like my little things which make places that little bit more special, like Foley's cellar 'pump clip paradise' as I'm a proper beer geek. Now you might not be able to see them that well, but I couldn't help but spend quite a while looking these shelves up and down.

Yes all round the pub was row upon row of ancient looking beer bottles, old beer mats, drinking trays and other old school beer memorabilia. It's not really hard to see a beer nerd like myself being just a little interested by all that tat.

That was the night then, taxi booked, off home for tuna mayo subs, job done! If you ever find yourself romping through Wharfedale, do give them a look in, it would make any ramblers day. Good luck to whatever happens to the place in the future - keep the real ale flowing!

The Hunters Inn, Harrogate Road, Pool in Wharfdale
Otley, WestYorkshire, LS21 2PS
Tel: 0871 223 8000

Friday 28 January 2011

Black or White???

..... Or should it be; black or sweet amber gold??

You may have heard of a man named Evin. A good ol' chap who runs a little ol' brewery called Kernel brewery..... ringing any bells? Yes, no? It should be doing, unless you've not been on the scene for the past few weeks. (seriously, where you beeeen!?!?!)

Now I had the opportunity to visit this infamous brewery last week, and one of the questions I asked Evin was, "what kind of beers do you like to brew?" His answer was simple: "Pale and dark beers!"

So what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't test out (for me) what (could) be his best versions of dark and pale?

Roll on Kernel Citra and Kernel Imperial stout!!!

Numero Uno: Kernel Citra (cos lets face it which dumb ass is gonna have the I.S. first?)

Kernel single hopped Citra is a 7.2% IPA (for those who think it's a different ABV :- they like to change there beers and make them better, so don't be surprised if it's different!)
You can see what colour it is so I won't bore you, lets move straight onto the aroma. As it's hopped with citra hops it is fairly abundant with all the aromas of; mangos, grapefruit, peaches, lychees and all the similar smelling fruits. The aroma overpowers the taste for me. While the flavour and body might have the similar taste to the aromas, it's all about the sniff. It starts quite sweet but sharply forms a long drying, bitter-ing, tangy finish. You cannot tell this is 7.2%, more like 4%, and I recon the huge sediment goes a long way to improve the 'Vitality" as Leigh puts it! I wouldn't get sick of drinking this beer, I could drink it all day - it rocks!

Beer downed, time for another hit; Kernel Imperial Stout!!

Black cauldron of witches hate, this is an evil looking brew! A 12.5% beast! Not much to the aroma, a little dairy-ness mixed with a little orange zest and a lot of roasty but light malt coming though. Taste: F. the aroma this is an uber beer! So bitter, so thick and rich! It starts a little sweet, but it's super moorish. You get liquid packed full of tar and treacle, small amounts of bonfire toffee and mega dark caramel. There is a little tart-ness in the finish, but you want more before that really hits. It's like someone has got a massive batch of black malts, chucked a bag of raisins in there, and sparged with pure alcohol! Extreme beer indeed.

I've only got one beef with Evin; I've only had two of your beers tonight and I know for a fact whatever I pour now from my room will taste of nothing! All except one form of alcohol!

... Yes it's come down to a 21yr old!

I heard stories about this beer, and if an imperial stout 'could have too much flavour.' I have tried well over 100 imperial stouts and no this one doesn't have too much flavour..... however it's in the top ten, and I have to resort to some of my favorite whiskies, because after this beer, no other beer will cut it for the night.

Agree - Great! Disagree - Suck it! I love the way I drink, and I'm gonna keep blogging about beers I think rule, and for the moment it's all about the Kernel! Ghost out.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Ghosties Favorite Leeds Bars Volume 2.

Yesterday I took a wee trip to another of my favorite Leeds bars, and will now try to portray the establishment in a good light. (un-biased as always!)

Volume 2 of Ghosties favorite Leeds bars is subject to the one and only; Mr Foley's Cask Ale House! Yes this is place to be if you need to get your real ale fix on after being behind a desk all day.

To start with, the interior; Foley's boasts a large interior cladded with beer memorabilia and alcohol POS items. Seating is very comforting, one can either choose to stand up the bar, racked up with cushioned stools, or find space elsewhere and get swallowed up by the large sofas - a good way to get people to stay in your pub.

It's a light and spacious pub/bar, a kind of restaurant meets real ale house meets sports bar. No time in the day does Sky Sports not shout the scores of some sort of sport from large flat screens. Not much of a bother to me, I like sports and it beats listening to mindless drum and bass while you drink real ale! 

Foley's is also know by some as an award winning pub. The ale house was awarded CAMRA's pub of the year for 2008-2009 by the Leeds branch of CAMRA - not a small award, and coveted by many!

The bar displays a great shiny selection of 20 different beer nozzles and 1 cider nozzle to choose from. You can always find a supreme selection of 10 cask ales and 10 keg lines for international beers. Having big ties with york brewery however, will mean that 4 of the cask lines will be permanent York beers such as Terrier, Guzzler or Centurions Ghost. Not a York fan? not to worry as the other 6 pumps will have a constant rotation of different ales, from around 12 great local breweries. A few that were on today were Brooklyn Black from Crown Brewery,  Diablo from Summer Wine, and beers from Roosters and Kelham Island.

Still don't really know what you want? well you could always do what I did; Yes, Foley's has a great tasting box deal on all there cask ales. The deal goes - four 3rd pint measures of any cask beer for only £3.60! - a really good, nice idea I think, and a good price too. Trying 4 different ales in quick succession like this definitely got me in the mood to buy more beer.  The next selection for me would come from a new addition to the taps for Foley's - not sure it needs much explaining though. And no it wasn't San Miguel or Leffe blond, but some Zeitgeist and some Punk from Brewdog.

If you fancy a bottle of something, there well stocked up with favorites coming from; Belgium, such as Orval and Abbaye des Rocs. The USA, such as Brooklyn, Goose Island and Anchor. And Germany, such as Schneider and Weihenstephaner. Guest bottles will usually be available, at the moment there still getting through a backlog of Christmas beers. (they still have some Anchor x-mas 2010!) 

If your partial to a wee dram though like myself, then you wouldn't be disappointed by the vast selection of single malts they have. A few more 'out of the ordinary' whiskies include; Bowmore 18yr old, Auchentoshan, Jura, Balvenie and Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. - once again something for all tastes. 

If your looking for something to eat, look no further, as this place has a great selection of light bites. If your looking for a light lunch then grab one of the deli boards, or choose from a wide range of sandwiches. If your looking for something a little more, then the legendary Foley's Burger is a treat to slake the biggest of hungers. The menu is also home to a great looking selection of meals which you would expect to find in your cosy-est country pub.

Now writing about places such as this are rather easy as everything is so damn good, but I look out for the little things in places which make them that little bit more 'extra special'. Being a big beery nerd as I am it's not hard to see why I like this place so much.....

.... Just a small example of the place.

So, whether your visiting Town Hall or just popping out from the Courthouse, do make sure you pop in to grab a quick drink, the friendly bar staff would be happy to welcome you.

Mr Foley's Cask Ale House
159 The Headrow
0113 2429674

Opening hours;
Mon - Thurs: 11 till 11
Fri - Sat: 11 till 1
Sun: 11 till 11                       Be sure to look out for Volume 3 
                                               (... once I decide where to go!)

Sunday 23 January 2011

The Kernel Brewery

The Kernel Brewery got a visit from a friendly spectre the other day. Yes a couple of days ago I was fortunate enough to pop down and visit, not only London's, but one of the U.K.'s most exiting up and coming breweries.

Now the day started by trying to find out if I and Ghost Girlfriend were in the right place exactly. As you can see below, I don't think I've ever been to a brewery which looked so much unlike a brewery. As we all know though, don't judge your beers by the labels!

Kernel brewery is situated right under the railway arches which pass over Druid Street. When I asked Evin if the rumbling trains were a nuisance he came back with the obvious answer "what trains?" The front of the unit can be quite deceiving though as the area inside is rather large. Inside houses not only the brewery but also fantastic meat and cheese producers, who all like to get together on Saturdays and sell there wares (with the brewery) in front as sort of a mini market. Beer, cheese and cured meat - what else could a man ask for?

Now Kernel is a small but inspiring 4 barrel plant run by 3 good ol' beer renegades (apologies if I get these spelt wrong) - Evin O'Riordain, Chrigl Luthy and Toby Mann.

Above you can see Evin and I (using the camera) Eating some sneaky cured ham while Toby weighs out some simcoe hops! mmmm....

Some supplies for the road!
The brewery normally produces bottled beer. Sometimes they might make some beer for cask, but when asked why they don't make more cask, Evin simply stated that casks were quite expensive, and it was quite hard to move them around. You may think why's that? hard to move casks, just get a van you say..... but Kernel has a method a little different for delivering there beer;

Nice. This is why the Rake sees most of Kernel's beer, as it's a ten minute walk away. It's also why when I stated that it would be great to see these beer's in Beer Ritz, Evin asked if I had a small van on hand to get them up there. Maybe if I asked Zak nicely we could take a little transit trip down to London.... ;) (just like old times, heh)

I was lucky enough (for me, not for them) to get to the brewery right in the middle of a brew, so the whole place was filled with bustling brewers and familiar aromas of delicious hops and smooth malty wort. 

You can see above the usual hot liquor tank (background) which pipes into the middle mash tun and then into the kettle (foreground). The mash tun even has it's own classic squeaky sparge arms. After Evin showed us around the rest of the unit, looking at the fermentation tanks and how they get around to bottling, It was time for some beer, whilst Toby filled the kettle with a shed load of simcoe hops.

Evin was nice enough to crack open a couple of bottles for us to try; there infamous black IPA and a new brew - S.C.C.A.NS. IPA - which translates as IPA with simcoe, citra, columbus, apollo and nelson sauvin hops. (sounds good right?) All the breweries beers have a large amount of sediment to them - even the paler ones, which I think creates a proper beer, and I think it may have been a contributing factor to how fresh these beers tasted. (maybe, maybe not - they could have just been super fresh.)

The black IPA was a great beer - Evin said he was trying to find a great balance of bitterness in the beer. He didn't want the bitterness of the hops to clash with the bitterness of the dark malts - and for all accounts, he pulled it off perfectly. The other IPA was a crazy beer. It was so juicy but at the same time it was so moorishly bitter and dry that you couldn't stop drinking it - dangerous stuff at 7.5%! a proper hop punch in the face of a beer.

When asked what beers they brew or what they like to brew I was given the response of "pale and dark beers" - nuff said really, if it ain't broke.... After a few more minutes of nerdy beer conversation with the guys, it was time for me to buy an amount of beer which I would regret after carrying it round London all day, (worth it though) and push on letting them get back to brewing.

Ghostie and Evin (wonder if he'll mind the graffiti I slapped on the wall?)
So that was my trip to the Kernel Brewery. It was incredibly nice of Evin to let me and G.G. to look round the brewery, especially as it's not open to the public during the week, and they were in the middle of a brew. It does a great deal for my firm notion that brewers are the most interesting, nicest and strangest people around, so thanks to all you guys - it was really cool of you. I will continue to sing the praises of Kernel brewery, and will try find a way to get there beers in Beer Ritz, even if I nag Zak to death. If you see there beers grab em! If your around London, you should be able to grab some from the Rake, or take a little trip to the brewery itself on a Saturday, it's well worth it. Give Beer Merchants a look in too for supplies.

A brewery to definitely look out for in the next few years - I see big things in there future. As for now, I'll enjoy my little bottle of Kernel IPA only hopped with citra - beast of a beer! thanks again to all who work at The Kernel Brewery, hope to see you guys again at some point.

Friday 21 January 2011

Ghostie Haunts London

Me and Girlfriend Ghost took a day trip to the big city yesterday. A good day it was indeed, if not for being a little cold. I should really give my apologies to G.G., whenever we go down to London, it's just a big excuse for me to buy lots of beer, lots of whisky and drink in great pubs, whilst she gets dragged along. Ohh well, she gets some good meals out of it, and loves to look at jewelry which costs more than houses!

There are 3 main haunts which I cannot help but visit every time I descend the streets. And while Zak may have shown me to all these places a few years ago, (you may have cost me all my wages for a year of my life - wouldn't change it though!) I've been a frequent visitor of the 3 ever since.

1. - The Whisky Exchange

If you like whisky, you have to come to this diamond grotto of Aladins caves at some point in your life. Even if you don't like whisky - they have something for everyone! Name a spirit - they have it.

The W.E. boasts the best the the spirits world has to offer, and there prices are ridiculously reasonable! You can even ask for tasting samples which they will always have to offer, and if you want a sample from a real cask - they have that too, in spades!

Just one wall of 3 for different spirits.

Any one interested in a dram - check the link above and enjoy saying goodbye to your wallet!!!

2. - Utobeer

If you've not heard of Utobeer by now, and you buy beer in London - then you're not doing it right. It's in the centre of one of the best markets I've seen - Borough Market - your one stop shopping ground for great food and drink alike. If your looking for an example of what it's like at Utobeer, those of you out there who are familiar with how Beer Ritz looks can expect pretty much the exact same thing - but not all the same beer. Pictures always speak louder than words though... so hear you go;

Nice hey?...... a few of my purchases;

Now while Utobeer may be the beer lovers paradise - you can't go around opening bottles - it's against the law. Fear not though as the third stop on the list - is directly supplied by Utobeer, and so has an extensive selection of beers to try.

Managed by a rabid bar fly, better know as Glyn Roberts, (doesn't drink as much as he makes out - promise) the Rake boasts a wealth of beer and a wealth of knowledge behind the bar and packs a super atmosphere into such a small space.

You can always find something for everyone here, and they usually promote special nights when they may launch a new breweries' beer, or get in a brewer to do it for them. I heard there was a brewer from Dark Star brewery in last night promoting one of his new brews - big shame I wasn't around for that one.
I topped off my afternoon here with a great pint of Levitation ale form Stones, and then moved onto the black IPA from the Kernel brewery - good stuff indeed. 

What's the best thing about these 3 haunts though? (if they weren't already good enough)
There all within 60 seconds walking distance of each other!!!  
Yes not only is it a beer/whisky lovers dream, but it's the lazy mans dream as-well. So what are you waiting for? get yourself on the London Underground, and head for Borough!

P.S. - as these places were so close, that's not everything we did in a whole day in London. Another great place of haunting note was the Kernel brewery itself - but thats for the next blog to unfold.....  

Wednesday 19 January 2011

The Last of the ReAle's

Sad news was heard round the country a few days ago; Birra del Borgo beers will no longer be imported into the country! and to quote the famous band Metallica "O it's so sad but true."

Now grab the opportunity while you can people. Beer Ritz has done a good job of hovering up quite a lot of stock, so supplies shouldn't run low for a few weeks, but do what you can to try these beers while there still around. (who knows, if we buy it all quick enough maybe there may be a rethink of a restock)

I've taken the opportunity whilst down south to not drink much beer from either the north or south but lots of beer from Italy! Yes it's time to revisit some of my favorites in the Borgo range before they run dry, because I have loved them so much.

A few notable favorites include the ReAle Extra (above), the regular ReAle, My Antonia (Borgo and Dogfish Colab.), a tobacco porter - Ke To Re Porter and a strong 'bock' style ale - Ducale, as well as others. I drank the ReAle Extra yesterday, and it's such a great beer I'm considering buying a case of the stuff! I remember thinking when I first tried it that it was 'great to try beers of this flavour and quality' which weren't from the U.K. or the U.S.A. etc... and it was still true yesterday - this is a supreme brew!  

Now the supplier of this beer to our little island is Vertical Drinks - a small but impressive drinks importer. (which is rather useful to us at Beer Ritz as it's warehouse is just a few miles down the road!)
They are know to import great beers from such breweries like Dogfish Head, Stones, Odells and Sierra Nevada (mainly U.S. yes but unfortunately I'm not sure of there whole portfolio.) and are always devoted to making sure shops like ours and bars like North Bar have something different and interesting on offer.

The reason for the sudden cut of Italian ties is purely due to the fact that Vertical have not been able to shift as much stock as they would have liked, even with beers tasting this good. It's a huge shame, but as we know beers come and go.... and the brewery is not gonna shut down any time soon too (trip to Italy anyone?) Who knows maybe we could see a BrewDog-esk 'Bring back Chaos!' - 'Bring back Borgo!' sort of thing going - if enough people demand it then it would be back. For now though I'll enjoy revisiting a few beers which I thought were epic, and hopefully see them in my future.

P.S. - Holiday times all going well, though we were in a pub the other day where the etiquette out-shined the beer. I was forced by management to remove my very nice Highland Park Whisky hat before I was allowed to drink a single drop. Polite it may be to remove one's hat whilst indoors, but it's never been a point of being refused service! - took off hat and had a good pint of Timmy Taylors Landlord.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Pub Quizzes, Unicorns, Flat Beer and the South

This week is a very welcomed week off for me, and at this point in time that only means one thing; going down south to spend some much appreciated time with Ghost Girlfriend!

Now G.G. lives in the tiny village of Wingrave, a few miles out from Aylesbury (firmly down south for you of poor geographical knowledge like me!) No word of a lie that this is a 1 pub village, you know the kind, like the villages you see in films like Hot Fuzz where everyone knows everyone, it's a bit surreal really. 

This one pub, however quiet, would not be the place to take the G.G. for a romantic 4 year anniversary meal! Instead we ended up eating Swedish meatballs in Ikea, but that's another story entirely! (don't worry, she'll be getting treated later in the week.)  

The area that G.G. resides in has many good inns though, I call them inns because they remind me of the inns my dad used to take us as a boys when we went camping, and because they are places to go to eat (and drink) rather than places to drink (and eat), you know the ones where you burn your face on an open fire as you talk politely.

It really confuses me how most of the pubs down south boast about how southern beers are so full of flavour they don't need sparklers, and will keep a decent head all the way down. It's confusing because while this may be the case, 95% of the pubs I've seen here insist on serving 75% of there beers (in a 4 pump tavern) from Yorkshire breweries, which are better with a sparkler! The thing that really gets to me though is the fact that if you ask to have a beer with the sparkler off up north, bar staff wouldn't bat an eyelid, but if you ask what a sparkler IS in a pub down south most people won't have a bloody clue! I asked this once a couple of years ago and I was looked at like an idiot, I said " you know that bit at the end of the pump? where the thread is? there's a little plastic bit missing from there - other wise every pump I've ever seen, EVER, wouldn't have that little thread! I'd love to take a sparkler round with me but that would be a bit twattish.

One of the decent haunts me and G.G. do visit though is the Unicorn in Cublington (another small village a couple of miles away from Wingrave.)

If your still not sure of the size of the villages that I now dwell in, see the image below;

Now our reasons for visiting this pub last night were 2 fold; one, to meet up with old friends and 2, to take part in the pub quiz. Now the quiz had 3 parts to it, each of which had no similarities to anything to do with drinking, 1st - Disney films, 2nd - Relationships, 3rd - Cross-dressing! In the section where you could actually win some cash though there was one alcoholic related question though: "What is Manzanilla?" Now (sorry Zak (he knew it)) but I'm not very old or into my fortified wines, however the answer was sherry. It's very safe to say that we came dead last in this quiz (it was firmly pointed out to us) even after we were second after the first 'Disney" round :(

The pub itself is a very decent one. This time we were greeted by 4/5 pumps being off unfortunately, so I decied to take a picture of what the pub looked like in the 50's (it's safe to say not that much has changed, thankfully);

Thanks for listening, tune in in the next couple of days for more 'Tales Down South!'

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Ghosties Favorite Leeds Bars Volume 1.

After my little review of the Grove I thought it would be nice to do a mini series of posts this year reviewing pubs/bars and other places I like to frequent and drink good beer.

Now this will be a purely objective and un-biased set of reviews, of public places in the great city of Leeds, called Ghosties Favorite Leeds Bars! 

I thought the best place to start would be one of my frequent haunts, where I like to cause mischief and mayhem - North Bar.

Not much to look at on the outside, tucked away down a side street in the town center, but momma ghost always said to 'never judge a book by its cover!' and this is a perfect example. It's a great cosy little bar based on European/American style bars with a little bit of home comforts and product tucked in as-well.

Now for drinks; North has a great selection on offer, something for all tastes. They usually have a permanent line of cask Wild Mule from Outlaw, a few other real ales, and a great selection of draught German/Belgian lagers and speciality beers on tap. Today's selection looked a little like this; (and a few taps I didn't capture)

Marble Special Ipa
Summer Wine Boreas American Pale
Fruh Kolsch
Schlenkerla Rauchbier
Marble Dobber
Summer Wine Teleporter
Brooklyn Lager
Belgian Specials; Liefmans Kriek
Chouffe N'ice
Delirium Noel
DeKonick Noel

Now you may think that its all about the beer at North and from the looks of the photos wouldn't be wrong for thinking that.

But North has a lot more to offer than just your plain selection of  fantastic beers, oh yes. A few of North's extra qualities include;

This was a whole bare wall.

Constantly changing local and great artwork.

A line of there own clothing!

A fine selection of spirits, including some great single malt whiskies, you can even get some good cocktails if you like.

North also boasts a very good selection of treats for the peckish among you. Their cheese and meat platter boards go down really well with a pint, and the pies are super, enough all round to satisfy the hearty-ist of appetites. The bar also boasts a great selection of bottled beer, you know, for those occasions where you might want to take some away or just try something completely different. Of course if your not in the mood for beer there is a good selection of wines, a couple of 'real' bottled ciders, and as always a bottom-less coffee.

If this is all the stomach + guts of the place, then who's the brains and heart?

Roll on magical manager Matt, who obviously loves a brew as much as the rest of us. Completely clued up on the craft he sells, he makes sure he passes his expertise onto the rest of his friendly, competent staff, who are more than happy to recommend you a good drink anytime. It's Matt who also brought home the excellent idea of how to deal with the massive graffiti problem they had in the toilets. After a trip to a pub in Amsterdam, Matt brought this idea home to get people to stop writing on the walls, saving the place a lot of time/effort and money painting and re-painting the walls. Well I say 'stop writing on the walls'......

They've gone ahed and covered the toilet walls in blackboards! It's a great idea! and according to Matt it really works - no more harmful graffiti. Well played I say, would be a nice addition to any gents.

They are sure to keep a clean shop; cellar and pumps all kept in a good clean, organized order, which leads to the great quality of the beer you can drink from the barrels. Both the Marble beers I tried today were in great form, and would make me want more (dangerously as they were 5.9% and 6.5%!) For now though I had to settle with halves as I have others I need to haunt today, but hey! there's always tomorrow, and I'm sure another trip to North Bar won't be that far away.

Great bar, super pub! 
Closing times - Mon, Tues - 1am
                          Sun - 12am
                          Rest of week - 2am

North Bar -24 New Briggate
                  Leeds LS1 6NU
                  0113 242 4540
                  - Look out for Volume 2!!