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

Saturday 26 February 2011

I'll Have What He's Having!

Following on from the post I did about how awesome is to work in Beer Ritz and to share beer I thought it nice to share with you all an interesting tale about a beer I shared with Tom tonight when we shut-up.

The beer in question is one I brought back from UtoBeer in London's Borough Market; Bommen & Grananten!

A De Molen beast if there ever was one. This is what you may like to call an Imperial Barley Wine. An IBW you ask?, but Barley wines are already strong enough? Not this one! It destroys all your 'old skhool' ideas about what a barley wine is and shoves them down the drain.

This beer is 15.2%. Not your average barley wine now is it?

This beer pours thick and flat as treacle or golden syrup. A deep brown reddish beer with huge abounding aromas of sherry, caramel, treacle and most of all rum soaked raisins. Now according to "Rate Beer's" commercial description, this beer lends itself more towards the female beer drinker? Not having breasts though (yet!), I couldn't really care less about gender when it comes to drinking my beer. As it's pretty obvious, this beer is flat. Flat as witches tits, thick and rich, as you may expect in body. (*tip for those drinking flat beer like this: use it in your mouth like mouth wash and feel the atomic bomb of a flavour explosion on you tongue!*) Flavours; what's not to taste! Sweet caramles, maple syrup, brown sugar sweetness, sweet apples, orange rind, treacle, a little liquorice and some peat in the background. Very warming but not intense on the flavour, because it's so sweet it drinks very easily, but you end up sipping because it's so cloying.

Bottle number 235. Good for 25 years if kept cool and dark, I could only wait 2.

This beer really interested me and Tom. It didn't really fit under my 'Perfect Beer' category, but it defo fit in my new 'Interesting Beer' category. The definition of an 'Interesting Beer' is one that you might not of thought as the best beer you've ever had, but one you will remember for ever. This ticked all the boxes.

Until we must open together again..........

Friday 25 February 2011

Bark or Bite???

Over the past two days, I've tried two very similar but very different beers. I say similar only because of there labels and names. Since getting them to the shop, we always keep forgetting which one to stock up! The two beers in question come from Sharp's Brewery, hailing from the land of Cornish Pasties mmmm :D

Yes Chalky's Bark and Chalky's Bite are two new beers the shop has just received and I've been really looking forward to trying. I'll start with barking rather than biting.

 This is the second collaborative brew coming from Rick Stein and Stuart Howe of Sharps (from the two beers.) They make a point of noting the beer is a classic aged beer, which has spent four months conditioning at the brewery and in the bottle, and is brewed with ginger. The aroma is quite subtle on the ginger, lots more big lemon-grass and a light sweet caramel. The flavour and body is subtle and refined, it's what I've come to expect a great Cornwall beer is like. The ginger is again quite restrained, but it leaves a nice spice on the tongue, with a tiny hint of cinnamon? My only bad points about this brew are that, 1. it's too easy drinking & 2. the bottle is too small! ;) Apart from that it's a great 4.5% classic.

The second beer (and by that I mean the first Rick and Stuart produced together) Is Chalky's Bite; a strong 6.8% beer aged with fennel. It's once again aged in the brewery and the bottle, for 3 months this time. It's a drying spicy beer, big bouquets of orange peel, coriander and lemon soaps. I'm not sure if it's the aging, but it has a distinctive carbonation feel, which is very appealing to me - it's not too gassy but still quite zippy. It's soft fruity and really easy drinking for a almost 7%er! It says that this beer is inspired by classic belgian beers, which confuses me because it sh*ts over quite a few belgian classics that I've had in my past.

There you have it, two beers to try get your hands on. I know Beer Rits has quite a bit. They didn't go too shabby with the food I paired them against too. (No pasties unfortunately, I settled for some shepherd's pie and steak soup)

Wednesday 23 February 2011

The Perks

I love my job.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when I hate it (not many though), just like I'm sure everyone does with any job, but days like today always do well to remind me how much I love working in the alcohol industry.

Working in a shop as great as Beer Ritz comes with a few little perks. Yes we get first pick of anything new that comes into the shop, and yes it's great to take our work home with us. We also love to share interesting and 'rare' beers with each other. Tom recently got a 6 pack of American beers from North Park Brewing Company, Michigan. Zak recently received a couple of beers from Bells Brewery. I've been getting some interesting huge bottles from De Molen, & Jeff is just about to jet off to the states, and was kind enough to ask us if we wanted anything getting! So what better way to fully appreciate the fullest of what beer is all about, by sharing them together!

When I said I love my job, this is the kind of thing that makes it so much more 'extra special'.

So we gathered once again for what I like to call a 'staff training session' to try some really interesting beers. I love sharing beers. Whenever I get a big or rare one I tell myself "well I can be greedy and have it myself, or share it with someone who will appreciate it as much as I will." (the latter usually proves more favourable)

I wrote notes on the brews, but I think there better described by the boss man himself here, check it out!

After some great stuff from the land of Michigan, we were a little thirsty still, and Tom & Zak had just brought in some of there freshly brewed homebrews....

It was a great little example of two home brewed black IPA's with Tom's 'Pressure Drop' and Zak's 'Project X' 'Mystery Black Ale' (Or as Tom called it: Zak's answer to Black IPA is DEAD! :D)
Two very nice beers again boyos. And thanks again for the share-fest.

That's the thing about sharing beers, if your still unconvinced. If you share something you know is great then you'll usually get to try something else that the other person thinks is great too in return. Nothing ventured nothing gained, so crack open that suped up bourbon barrel aged, dry/wet hopped, vanilla and chilli infused double imperial stout with some of your good friends!

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars Volume 6

So we turn to the 'New kid on the block'!
The bar which has only been open for around 4 weeks now.
The place to be, which is certainly turning heads round the hip and happening Meanwood;

Today I visit Alfred.

On a grim, dark and cloudy day, there is not much too much to see from the outward appearance. A sort of log cabin/spa feel about the place, that is if you can get too it, the surrounding roads are a nightmare to traverse!

As we all know though the outer appearance of a place only goes so far as to hide the gems within.

Once inside, you're immediately confronted by the bar. The space is warming and clean, very cosy indeed. Alfred is part of the North Bar chain, and although it's not as small as Further North, this is a small bar indeed. You get the feel on a busy night, this is a quick pace, come and go bar. You feel the whole place could fill and empty of the same people whilst still staying full all the time. That being said though, I reckon if you brought enough people with you, you could take over the place quite easily.

Once again, the interior is very cosy. You get a certain log cabin feel to the place, with the wooden seats and tables, comfy couches and ambient lighting. (the extendable tables are a nice touch too!) With such large windows to the place, it's definitely not a gloomy place, but I'm not sure the view of the road is that great. I'm more of the kind to stare at the bar anyway!

The bar itself boast a fantastic selection of beers, which anyone familiar with the North Bar range will come to expect. The selection consists of 3 cask ales and 4 keg lines. North boasts that they've served over 100000000000 (I counted the 11 0's!) different beers since they opened through all there chains, but I find that a little suspect. I did spy over 28 different bottled beers in this place though, from specialties like Rochefort 8 to Anchor Humming Ale, to Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, there's something for all. The cask lines boasted the best that Marble, Elland and Rooster's had to offer today, but they may be suspect to change. The Keg lines offered a super Schneider Weisse and Brooklyn lager, as well as a couple of others. Coffee, soft drinks and wines also available for the alternative drinkers. From the reds to the whites, from the rose to the prossecco, even the fortified gets a look in on the super selection.

Marble Bitter was the favourite of the day, with a game of Dominos of course! After a couple though we became a little peckish and decided to go for one of the meat and bread platters - very satisfying for a reasonable price;

Half was gone before I could take the photo!

Alfred certainly has it's quirks. They open 5 - 11pm, Mon to Fri and 1 - 11pm, Sat and Sun. Pop in for a pint and a game if you have the chance, no pies as of yet, they are waiting on heating implements. (watch this space) A new bar, but one which has hit the ground running. I shall add note of the toilets, a very bizarre experience. I've never been confronted by so many football playing spider-men before!;

Monday 21 February 2011

A Beer Legend

In 1990 a man named Dave Wickett decided to open a little brewery called Kelham Island in the heart of Sheffield, he may have had an idea but I don't think even he could have forecast how famous the brewery would become or how many awards his beers would accumulate!

Brewers such as Crown/Magic Rock brewer; Stuart Ross and Thornbridge's; Steff Cossi have both come from brewing backgrounds, working under Dave, and I'm sure there not the only two. It's pretty safe to say that Dave is a legend amongst the brewing scene, and I've not even had the privilege to meet him before. This being the case I will leave the tributes to the people who know him best and his friends and family, they could tell a story a thousand times better than I could about him.

What I do want to talk about is a tribute to Dave from another well known brewery; Sharp's.

Sharp's brewery have produced this beer in homage to Dave. From the looks of things it's going to be a great beer. A brew late hopped with Hallertauer Northern Brewer, Perle, Willamette and Cascade hops, and then dry hopped with Amarillo for good measure. Brewed using 'Artisanal techniques' the beer is unfiltered and bottle conditioned, and 'should be enjoyed fresh!'

But how's the taste?

DW is stated to be a 9.5% Deep Golden Ale, and I can say with no doubt in my mind that this is the best beer I've ever tried from Sharp's.

On the nose; Big hints of belgian yeasts and candy sugars, rich fruits and that old ale feel, peppery caramel, warming alcohol, over ripe bananas, bubble-gum and candy-floss, a super aroma.

To taste; The label says golden ale, but I'm thinking belgian triple meets barley wine all over. Rich sweet caramels meets drying peppery mouthfeel meets rich fruity malts. More of the same flavours which you get from the aroma; what your presented on the nose is what you get in the mouth. I'm also getting a good old ale feel - I'm craving some stilton right now! Predominantly comes the belgian triple meets barley wine though - think that and you've got it. (the warming alcohol is there too, but at 9.5% that's to be expected!)

There you go.
A great man, a great brewer and a great beer brewed only because of him. This was an expensive beer, but I'd happily buy it again and again as all the proceeds from the sale of this beer go to Cornwall Hospice Care. Thanks to Stuart from Sharp's.

For all you've given us

Thank you Dave.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars Volume 5

I feel quite ashamed that I've lived in Leeds for my 24yr ghostly life and never taken a trip down to this area of Leeds history. This is a really new pub/bar, in fact they only opened last year in March! New they may be, but they sure as hell can crap all over your conceptions of a good pub! I was so taken aback by this places aesthetic-al features, that this bar volume will be mainly compromised of pictorial evidence.

 If you ask me this is a fantastic entrance-way to any sort of drinking establishment. To get there you have to cross over the treacherous waters of Leeds, and underneath the heavy rumbling of train wheels overhead.

You can just about make out the end of the watery tunnels
as you walk over the bridge!
Have you guessed the bar yet? Yes, for those of you who have shouted right, it's the HOP!

As you may or may not know the Hop is an Ossett owned bar, which welcomes you with a great view of all the casks available only an agonising few inches away.

Walk past the ferkin beauties and you are confronted by a great looking bar to slake the lust of any real ale/lager boy fan.

The bar is host to a wide selection of beers. 10, yes count em, 10 different cask lines! and don't go thinking there all Ossett beers, only 4 are regulars, the other 6 feature a multitude of local cask ales. Not in the mood for ale? there is a fantastic selection of 9 different keg line fonts, presenting a super selection from the best that European breweries have to offer.

This is just the 'small' range that I was presented with today;

And of course there is a great selection of bottles as-well; (and some ciders on keg, cask and bottle)

What really impressed me was the look of the whole place. You couldn't tell the place was new. It looked fantastic, a real haven for the beer lover. Heres just a couple of snaps of the interior;

These bottles needed to be super glued down
because of the trains running overhead!

Even the bloody toilets had class about them!!

Overall - a great par! (pub/bar) I will defo be dragging Ghost Girlfriend down here for a few drinks - she'll love the arty/gothic student feel of the place, as did I. I heard that there are quite a lot of the 'suited and booted' types that frequent the place during the week, but I know if enough 'real beer' loving fans get off there Ghostly arses and get down to the Hop, this place can be a real fantastic spot to sup great beer!

Open hours - 12 till 12 everyday.

Pies, pies and more pies served on a daily basis till 7PM.

Live music played on a Fri/Sat - providing a great atmosphere.

I'm Hop Bound!

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Going East

I wanted to do a Leeds bar review of the new branch of North Bar - Alfred today, but upon arrival I found that they open at 5 on a weekday :( Will have to go down at some other time to haunt them.

Luckily there was another great pub literally across the road to get a great pint - East of Arcadia. Now I don't need to put this in the Favourite bars volumes as I have already reviewed it here, and it goes without saying that it's a Favourite Leeds Bar. I can say from recent visits that there going from strength to strength.

A very nice and modern looking bar as I'm sure you will agree. (the interior is a little more interesting.)

Today was just a casual quick visit, to sample two of my new favorites (amongst the thousand others!) - Ridgeside IPA and Ilkley's Stout Mary. Ridgeside is a new brewery to Leeds and is certainly going places. There 'Proper' IPA is a great pint - coming across with a pale golden hue and lovely hoppy, fruity/orange aroma. It drinks very bitterly in the body and aftertaste, and has a certain drying throat feel which leads you on to sip after sip. Good hints of citrus/orange pith flavours and 'well refreshing beer.'

Ilkley's Stout Mary is probably a perfect drink to try next, that is if you like your dark beers. A dark powerful beer with a small tan looking head. Great hints of roasted barley bitterness, paired with a little chocolate/coffee smooth malt body. Strong in flavour but very easy drinking so sup up people there's plenty of beer to be had! (just the way us Ghosts like it :O)

From all stories East has not seen any loss in sales from the recent opening of Alfred over the road. Both bars have taken on board a form of friendly competition, and it seems to be working in the favour of them both. Although I'm not sure East's new addition of Brooklyn Lager at 50pence cheaper will fly too well....

(lets see what Alfie pulls out....)

Monday 14 February 2011

Of Boxes and Bitches!

There's been a lot of banter and agro about beer styles recently in the blogging world, so I thought it was time to throw in my 2 pennies; Welcome to the world of Boxes and Bitches!

Tonight I will be sampling two beers of the same style which come in the Belgian Double IPA style (I know Bitch is only called Belgian style IPA but it's 0.3% stronger than Queboid's 8% so trust me the lack of calling it a double IPA makes no difference to me!)

This is not a comparison of the flaws (if any), or which beer comes out on top, no, that would be unfair to both brewers. This is a "educated" post about the stylization of beers in today's society.

I came into this drinking session thinking that both these beers would be completely different, and I did have an idea that one would be better than the other from what people had told me about the beers, but that's not what this post is about, and you will come to find out what I thought about both (and how wrong I was!). You can make your own judgements about both by buying and sampling both.

Lets start with the darker, but lighter % of the two, Queboid. This 8% brew comes from the relatively new, up and coming brewery Hardknott, up in the cumbrian district. (run by a man/wife/puppet combo!) The beer confronts the senses with a big fruity malt aroma. You get a big whiff of oranges, grapes and some dusty hay. I'm thinking plum crumble all over. Big on the malt body, it makes itself known. A thick and juicy beer body, there's a big fruit salad zing about the beer which leads on to a really drying peppery belgian yeast finish. There is alcohol warming-ness in there within the orange pithy tang, but it's so moorish you can fall into a drinking trap very easily! A really superb beer and one I would definitely visit again, a great meld of IPA's and belgian ales.

The second brew comes from the American brewery; Flying Dog. In terms of scale you could see this as the mass market producer of craft beer when it comes to the 2 breweries (don't get confused though - they both make 'well good beer')
This lighter looking but stronger beer comes across the nose with a bouquet of fruity hop aromas - I'm thinking lychee, lemons and grapes. To the body, start thinking caramel apples, mixed through an obvious smooth belgian yeast carbonation. A great brew with a super bitterness which leaves the mouth wanting, it has some of that straw like, biscuit malt flavour that makes you want to drink and drink. - really well made beer.

Beers drunk... so what is my point about drinking both these beers, both the same styles of beer? They may have there similarities but they are (as I thought) completely different beers. (Even though they are the same style!)

It all comes down to a compromise from both parties.

We (as drinkers) have to realize that any and all beers do not taste the same, even if there in the same style; All pale ales will not taste like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, all imperial stouts will not taste like Thornbridge Imperial Stout, all wheat beers will taste like Erdinger hefeweizen, ect!...
If a brewery produces a beer and names it in the style they want, that is there interpretation of that style of beer, and it's not for us to say there wrong! It's there interpretation. Take it as it is! Drink it and be merry, thats all!

The same can be said for the brewers. If you brew a beer to a specific style, one would assume that you have done research on the beer you are trying to create, and will try to produce a beverage in that specific style, in your interpretation. So if it doesn't pay some respects to previous beers then you can imagine you'll get some flack for it.

Both these beers fit into the Belgian Double IPA category, really well! I was really impressed, if I'm being honest, with the Queboid. It was exactly what I needed at the end of my shift. I could never pick a favourite from the two though, as there so different. So if you have a problem with a beer because you don't think it fits into your style knowledge... tuff luck, it's not your beer is it? Take the beer as it is, as a brewers interpretation.

Once again, I would certainly recommend these both to anyone looking for a flavoursome beer, so get your ass down to Beer Ritz and grab both! Ghost out.

Friday 11 February 2011


Been posting for a little over 2 months.
Tried to make a few new friends.
Seems to have worked OK.

Wikkio Ranking - 119!

- WOOOO, Yeah Baby!!!

* this is genuine exitement. I'm quite pleased with my ranking. Lets see if I can break the top 100!*

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Ghosties Favorite Leeds Bars Volume 4

Today's visit was one to a new little bar (to my knowledge).
Want a traditional German experience?
Want some German beer?
Want it in a MASS STEIN? Look no further, Bierkeller has you covered!

An interesting place to try find, they are situated at the bottom of an old school Victorian stair set on Park Row. There web site boasts an opening time of 11am - 11pm from everyday (and 11am till late, Fri, Sat, Sun) but when I went today (wed) the place was not open till 4? A little hard to know if I was in the right place, but the friendly people in the bar upstairs informed me of the times. Bierkeller is situated in the bowels of the remodeled vaults of The Old Bank of England. "a real piece of Bavaria in the heart of Leeds city centre."

On arrival, you are greeted by row upon row of large wooden tables and pews, in what seems to be a sort of European dungeon or some sort of crazy grotto. There is German beer POS and material on every wall, and all the staff have the traditional outfits on, so the place really fits the part (The music as-well!) Not a fan of the Christmas German market and there beer tent? then this is not the place for you. It does also unfortunately have the atmosphere of a place where a lot of business men will come at the weekend to get wrecked on giant beers, but come down on a weekday (or just not on a Fri or Sat night) and you'll be in for a treat - beer and food wise.

Looking at the menu takes a bit of concentration so best to thoroughly read through before you have too much lager. When there's options like Kruitborgers, Nuremborgers, Kaserbrot, Schinkenbrot + Eirebrot I think it's good to know what your getting. (Unless you go for the Cheezborger though)

Not in the mood for burgers or sandwiches? A pretzel tree may be more in your favour, with 6 freshly baked pretzels and dipping mustards - only £6.95 - great for sharing. The deserts sound even more obscure with a Spaghettieis Sunday, or a Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. I think I'll stick to a traditional Apfelstrudel!

Enough about German food, you came here for the beer right? If you've not really been into your German beers before, then this is a great spot to get introduced. (or re-introduced!) The taps include a great selection; Paulaner lager and wheat beer, and a Paulaner Original Munchner Dunkel are for starters. Flensburger and Kaiserdom are 2 great pilsners available. There is a golden Haus Bier and an interesting looking Rosarda (but that's a Belgian rose fruit wheat beer.) And you probably want to avoid a mass stein of St Thomas Bavarian Blonde as it comes in at 6.8%!

There is a good selection of bottled beer including things like Schlosser Alt and Fruh Kolsch, and some more Belgian fruit bottles, but I got the feeling I was supposed to be drinking as much lager as I could.....

Yes, Bierkeller boasts it's own 'Keggie' but I think at £79.95 for 22 pints I don't think it's just great for parties, it's only for parties. (and for you without math skillz - thats £3.63 per pint - not too bad!)
They like to make it obvious that you can book the place for private parties but it's interesting how many signs there are to not dance on any tables!.... If you want to get some bookings in give them a call on 0113 243 2300, or just give the web site a look in.

While the place may be trying to create the perfect 'Bavarian atmosphere' I think a few little things let it down just a little, like the old man pub style chalk boards all round the bar, and the big flat screen behind the pumps piping out Sky Sports. Maybe I just need to come back when they have the Oompah band blaring and the pews filled with happy beer swilling campers. 

All in all, this is a really interesting bar and quite a different bier drinking experience all together. Very worthy of hitting the Favorite Leeds Bars list, and definitely one you should take a trip to. Especially if you like great lagers in giant glassware! If you need some more convincing; check out some of the gallery photos on the website and ask yourself if they look like there having fun.


Tuesday 8 February 2011

The Pros & Pros of Barrel Aging

Over the past couple of days I've tried a couple of beers from a very respectable brewer. I'm not sure of his full name, so lets just call him Mikkeller.

The two beers in question were a couple of barley wines from the same man; Big Worse and Big Worst. Big Worse was a good ol' fashioned Barley wine coming in at 12% (yes I think that's good ol' fashioned!) and Big Worst which was a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine coming in at 19.1%! (beers easy to get confused with each other, until you drink them of-course)

I've not done any sort of 'scientific online research' into why these beers had such a massive % difference. I just postulate that the brewer brewed them this way. (If you have an actual answer - answers on a blogcard.)

Let us begin the ode with Big Worst;

To begin with, these beers came from the Grove. A pub better than a 4 leafed clove..... ok that's enough rhyming. This was an epic beer. Probably good enough to fit into my 'Perfect beer' category. From the looks it was like staring a brown soupy pond in the face, it was thick and uninviting. I got a huge wave of obvious bourbon and sweet alcoholic caramel aromas coming forth from my outrageous snifter. I thought, treacle, tar, honeycomb and a face full of wood.

To taste was to delve into a world of beasts and monsters. It was a massively woody beer, as I sat there the scents and flavours took me back to my favorite childhood forest. It was very sweet, you get an initial big bourbon alcohol burn, which develops into a complex oaky sweet, tree sappy, sugary naturalist beverage, then the alcohol slaps you in the face and reminds you that your sitting in front of a computer. It didn't taste overly hopped, and there was not much bitterness, but with the caramel apple, mead like qualities, this drink was pushed well above the boundaries of what makes a beer.

There was small hints of orange and citrus zest, the honeycomb sweetness was almost intoxicating. I was almost finished when I started longing for rich foodstuffs to pair the beer with. But as with all the greats in life, it was a fleeting experience :(

The next day brought the Big Worse;

After having yesterdays beast I had high hopes for this brew. I must admit though, I had tasted the manner and had been left with all beverages henceforth failing to hit the mark.

Don't get me wrong, this was another great beer, aromas abounded of caramel biscuits, treacle, molasses, rich dried fruits, toffee, pure liquor and a woody essence. It had a great body, huge caramel initial sweetness and a really drying/dusty woody aftertaste, but there was just a little something lacking. It could have used just a bit more carbonation, and the body was slightly thin, but it did remind me of some old English B.W's that I've tried in the past. It was intensely warming, but surprisingly the alcohol% was well masked, and there was a good dose of piny bitterness creeping back up the throat after the swallow.

So what can I take away from this short but sweet comparison? I did come into it thinking that barrel aging didn't really matter. That if a brewery/brewer was so good at making beer, it wouldn't really matter how a beer was conditioned, because it would be great either way. This was a bit of an eye opener though, these two beers were massively different, but strangely similar on a sort of level. You could argue that the difference was due to the % difference, but I argue that it was purely due to the 4 month aging in a bourbon barrel. Who knows, someone may tell me there 2 completely different beers, but I'd find that difficult to believe having tried both of them. (and the only difference on the label being a single letter and a pair of sunglasses)

But they were different. One definitely came out on top. I think it's obvious which did.

To barrel age or not to barrel age, that is the question.