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

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Clash of the Titans!

Tonight there brews a battle.

No, not a stupid battle like the pros and cons of CAMRA. Or a pointless battle like the battle of Cask vs Keg.... but a battle non the less!

It's a battle of flavour! A battle of two different whiskies! A battle of beer meets oak, and a battle of wood that's slightly older than other wood sort of battle....

Tonight there can only be one!

Or can there???

Tonight it's time to face the two Aether Blaecs, and let them battle it out to see which will prevail as my number one! Which tastes will come out on top, and will they be massively different? It's time to find out!

The Hardknott team have thought quite a bit about this one. Last year they released the Aether Blaec in only one cask aged style. This time while both have been aged in Speyside Casks the two distilleries are vastly different. The 28yr old Inchgower cask and the 27yr old Balmenach cask should impart subtle but different flavours to each Imperial Stout.

I'll start with what I'll assume to be the lighter - 27yr old, 7.2% version.

It pours thick and black, with a livley thick bourbon (biscuit) brown foam. There's lots to the aroma. It smells warm and fruity. Big woody/oaky vanilla tartness. Burnt black malts and a little bonfire toffee.

The flavour is very interesting. Perhaps a little young, but not in a bad way. (this sort of beer would age very gracefully) Lots of burnt malts in there, leading to a big bitterness which verges on the side of tartness. Overpowering dried fruits such as raisins and a little fig mixed within the huge woody body. A quite thin body, I was expecting a little thicker observing the pour.

Next comes along the 28yr old, 7.7% version.

A slightly different aroma - a little bit sweeter to nose with more caramel in there.

Thicker and richer in mouth-feel than the last. Big hints of liqourice mixed with big plummy tartness. Flavours of oily sandalwood. Some tar mixed with some chocolate coming through the finish. Some burnt cake and a little herbal-ness comes through in the finish alongside the power of the oak.

Two different beers then. They have their similarities: both have a rocky, smoky, slate like flavour in the background. They also have their differences: the 28yr is fuller and thicker. This is not a slag-off at the 27yr, no no, they're just different.

Both beers are quite different to your average Impy Stout. That's fine by me, I know this is how they were designed, and I'm happy to drink them. Very happy in fact!! They both have that rich fruitcake flavour, whilst lying behind a great plum tartness, with everything else going on in there to deliver an incredibly complex and delicious set of beers!

Cheers Dave and Ann and the rest of the team. I'm waiting for some Aether aged in a 25yr old Ardbeg cask now! ;)

It's been a fantastic night of enlightenment.

That's all it should ever be.

Drink good beer. Write about good beer. End.

Monday 30 May 2011

A Message

Just a quick one to those out there who think all us blogarati write about are new beers, so pay attention because it's important.....

Saturday 28 May 2011

Good News!

So apparently (from the powers that be) I've heard that in about six weeks we should be getting a new shipment of Exciting beers. Within that shipment is a range of four beers you may have heard of:

    Cockeyed Cooper: A bruiser of a Bourbon Barrel aged Barley Wine at 11.1%
    Detour Double IPA: A fierce 9.5% juicy gem of an IPA
    Labyrinth: A destroyingly drinkable 13.2% Black Ale
    & Tilted Smile: a 9% rock and roll Imperial Pilsner

These are a range of beers in the Crooked Line Series I'm sure you've seen before from the Uinta brewery. These 75cl corked bottles of art meets beer are absolutely fantastic just to look at, let alone drink. We've had them before, and we'll be having them again soon! (as well as a lot of other special American stuff that I'll keep as a canned and bottled surprise!)

So I thought as we're getting some more in I'd open the last bottle I have of the ginger Cooper, just for a bit of a good night to my gluttonous self!

It's not a beer to be poked with a stick I'll tell you now!

It's a very dark brown and dangerously inviting looking brew. The bottle states: "Launch into the exquisite flavours of bourbon with splashes of vanilla. Watch for currents of dark chocolate and dried fruit" - and I couldn't disagree with any word of that. (I was up for writing my on tasting notes but that pretty much sums it up!) I will say it leaves a taste in the mouth like you've just had a strong cup of tea with a few too many sugars in it??

It's been a great privilege in the past to share this with some close friends, but tonight I'm being a greedy bastard, hell I think I've earned it :)

I look forward to our new arrivals as I'm sure the Leeds Beer Round Table will too. (you know who you are...)

Friday 27 May 2011

Sander's at it again...

Is that Ghostie getting his own pint?!?!?
Tonight was my first taste of the newly brewing Kirkstall Brewery. Bring on Three Swords!!

Yes Three Swords graced the fonts at Arcadia as I was stepping through the door last night. It must have been my lucky day! How could I not try one of Dave Sander's new brews at a brewery in a not too dissimilar area than one closed many many years ago.

3 Sharp bits is a 4.5% pale ale, and when I say pale, I'm sure you can see by the picture I mean pale! It was a brew with a fantastic clarity. Not that I would have minded a bit of a haze, but it was one of the first pints pulled. Many brewers in the UK still see clarity as a form of success, (which I have nothing against) but there's always room for a bit of a hop haze!

I couldn't get much from the aroma, but then again, I didn't expect to get that much from a, filled to the brim straight sided, pint glass. What I did get was a very clean smelling aroma. There was some minty hoppy whiffs in there.

Like any good pint in the pub, it's all about the first flavourful sip. It's a light beer with very floral and grassy flavours. Hints of hay and a bit barnyard-ish. You get that bitter sherbet flavour that you find in a few of Ellands pale ales - not too surprising to be fair, but it's a lighter and much more balanced flavour. Lots of citrus fruit flavour too, orange and a touch of lemon add to the refreshing body, it's a tasty beverage.

Very pleasing stuff. I would like to have a go on their Porter, I've only heard good things about that one. I guess I'll get some sooner or later!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Last Orders

At Beer Ritz we usually get a shipment of special and unusual American beers every few months. It's a great thing, it keeps all the local Leeds beer geeks happy, and we all fill our boots while they're around. The bad point of this is that with some of the breweries beers, once they're gone, they're gone - and unless we all take a trip out to the states, or the beers come back around, it'll probably be the last time we drink some of them. :(

The beer I drink tonight is the last of my collection from this brewery. And as stated, will probably be the last time I drink it. So, as with all beers which I may not drink again, I shall send it off with a slap-bang-kick-ass review!

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA is a deeply copper coloured 6% Indian Pale Ale. It has the massive resinous hoppy aroma that so many of our hop-head regulars are looking for. (and crave!) Hints of peach, apricot, some citrus and a little pine resin all abound - it's a fruity smelling brew.

This is such a juicy beer, it starts quite sweet but ends with a really refreshing drying bitterness. The white lacing of the foam hugs the glass - longing to stay around, and I can't blame it - I wish this wasn't my last bottle. It's a rich IPA, flavours of caramel, toffee and some pine needles - if it was about 3% stronger you could mistake it for a Barley Wine, but this is so hoppy it would fit anyones IPA category! There's loads of fruit to this beer - a massive flavour of mangos amongst some orange peel zesty bitterness - it's really good.

That's it really. I'm going to sit back now and fully appreciate this beer to its fullest - my last order from the brewery..... for now anyway - shall we meet again, it won't be a bad thing  ;)

There is one positive point to take away from this though. When we run out of new beers at the shop - they quickly get replaced by more new beers! And I'm sure you can all agree - New 'good' beer is NEVER a bad thing!!

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Belgium vs Germany - Bring it on!!!

Tonight is a night before a day off, so I thought it'd be nice to compare, if I could, two very strong and two very respectable beers, which if you've never tried before I seriously suggest you do!

The first of the night is still relatively new to us, but was an instant classic with me the first time I tried it over two years ago. An 11.5% monster. A deep dark copper devilish looking brew. One perfect for aging, and drinking right now with your friends. (unless your greedy like I am with this beer) There's a bit of lumpy sediment to the brew, but it quickly sinks and besides, a bit of Belgian yeast will always keep you regular ;)

Start thinking Belgian Barley Wine - because that's pretty much what this is. Some could call it a Quadruple, but I'd rather not get into that beer style argument again. It's intensely warming, like a fine cognac. Big rich flavours. Think caramel, raisins, dried apricots and a touch of fiery toffee. It's quite sweet to start, but it has the classic peppery dryness in the finish. A great beer, one that deserves your respect, for more reasons than one!

The second contender for the strong beer title of 'my' night comes from the ever classic Schneider Brewery: it's Aventinus Eisbock! Apparently this beer was made by mistake when some barrels of regular Aventinus partially froze during transportation within Bavaria. Being baffled by the awesome liquid brew-master at Schneider, Hans Peter Drexler, decided to produce the beer in a more 'controlled manner' :)

This 12% dark wheaty monster needs respect too. They say you shouldn't bother aging wheat beers, but I'd age this! Darker than the Samaranth, it comes across the nose with the ripest of banana aromas. Not as much carbonation as you normally get from wheat beers. You get an initial 'massive icy sweetness' round the silky  start but rocky finish mouth-feel to this beer. WoW, just plain WoW!!! This is a fantastic beer! Candied fruits, it's quite a sticky beer. There's spice in there too, I'm thinking drying cloves. Quite a bit of red berry fruit going on in there to massively push up the sweetness - so much so it almost becomes tartness.

Two HUGE beers then. But after all that I kind of prefer the Samaranth. At the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste, and while the Eisbock was the bigger beer I preferred the Belgian.

Roll on a sore head....

Monday 23 May 2011

Kindness is Contagious

Jeff Pickthall (being the kind bloke he is) dropped these bottles into the shop last week for Zak. Zak then (also being the kind bloke he is) gave one of the Barley Wines to me as their were two of them. And now (being the moderetly kind bloke I am) will now give it a little review. Let's face it how good do these bottles of beer look!!

I've never seen anything like these beers from Coniston before, and I certainly haven't smelled anything like this from Coniston before! It has a HUGE Barley Wine aroma. Big hints of sherry, massive rum soaked raisins, caramelized dates and burnt toffees. (a little over ripe banana fruitiness creeping in there too)

The first thing I thought when I gave it a whiff was, this smells a little like dialed down Thomas Hardy's Ale!

The flavour is thick and very rich. Very sweet, fruity and warming. At 8.5% though, you'd be well within you rights to expect it to be a little warming. Kind of like drinking liquidated Christmas cake! (that imagery appeal to you? get some of this beer then!) The bottle says it's a sipping beer, but I'm finding it so delicious that I'm rather chugging it back - yes I'd be one of those sorts of people who would like this in a bomber instead of a nip bottle :)

One of my favourite things about the beer though is the bottle statement "Best served by a log fire with snow on the ground at The Black Bull Inn Coniston" - A man can only dream.....

I'm hoping we'll be able to get some of these newbies for the shop, although I'm not sure what's going on with the Infinity IPA? I liked the old school look of the regular bottles, this (for me) just looks a little too similar to labels like a few others are doing nowadays. Oh well... I would really like to try it anyway!

More "bigger breweries" making awesome new beers....

Friday 20 May 2011

Is 'Style' In Fashion?

Ponderings of a Mad Ghost:

There's a lot to be said about beer styles in todays modern beer culture. A lot of breweries seem to be coming up with new styles and others seem to be copying them. I say new styles, but what I've seen of it recently are beers such as Black IPAs, Imperial Pilsners, Black Saisons, Belgian style IPAs, Triple IPAs.... you get the picture. But when it comes down to it, does placing an extra word to an already existing "traditional" style make it any different? And more importantly, can you really call them new styles? By adding 'Imperial' to Pilsner does it make it so much different to an existing Pilsner? Some may say yes, some may disagree.

Who even came up with definitive list of beer styles and stated what they had to be?!? I can imagine a tortoise shelled looking, lengthy bearded man, kept in a study, surrounded by books of beer history and memorabilia, who looks into every beer made and if it doesn't fit into his definition of a "traditional" style - he disregards it as a crap beer. We know this not to be the case, but sometimes with some people, it seems it could be!

Let's say I produced a beer. Let's call it a Coriander Pale Ale - or a CPA for short. Others may want to brew it in the same style, maybe, but would people actually accept it as a style? maybe not.

I like to fit people's ideas into two camps: People who look towards modern methods of brewing, let's call then 'modernists', and people who favour the more traditional stance on brewing, let's call them the 'traditional peeps'. Now I'm not trying to say you can't join both camps, absolutely not, I think both camps of thinking need each other but consider this (taking into account of all the new and exiting beers brewers are producing today):

We have a brewer, let's call him Dave. Dave wants to brew a beer, but it's very different to the style "laws" at the time. He knows if he makes it, and calls it the style he's thinking of the 'traditional peep diehards' will sample said beer and completely refuse it as it doesn't meet their standards of style. So what does Dave do??? He ponders, and guesses he can add a couple of words to the existing style and keep the 'modernists' and the 'traditional peeps' all happy, by making it sound interesting, pay respect to the old styles, and still make a delicious beer!! But is it a new style of beer? Once again some may say yes, some may say no.

Some say it all boils down to personal experience. A few months back I drank, side by side, Anchor Bock and Schonramer Saphir Bock. This was interesting because while the American Anchor was a dark bock, it was light in % - only 5.5%, and the German Saphir, while being strong at 8%, was very light golden in colour. Which would you think most describes the 'traditional style' of bock beer?

Image "borrowed" from the Baron!
Sorry dude, my cameras at the shop :(
Hope you don't mind :)
Tonight I drink a new beer to me: Kernel and Darkstar collaborative Imperial Marzen 9.1%. It's a new beer style to me too. (thinking about it, can you call Collaboration beers a beer style?? and what about cask aged beers - they need a name!)

It's a very interesting beer indeed. A sort of barley wine meets strong German lager. It has a an interesting aroma of sweet apples and pears, a bit of German pepper? and a big alcohol sweetness. The taste comes through the same. A big malt sweetness, mixed with some toffee, caramel and fruity flavours. A big deception beer, You get some alcohol in the body, but it fades away rather quickly, making you have your second, third and fourth sip in about ten seconds! A very pleasant concoction, even if I've never heard of Imperial Marzen.

Don't write off beers before you try them. That's all that need be said, if it doesn't conform to any style of beer you have in your head, chalk it up to one of life's experiences, and if you enjoy it, search it out and preach of its merits to others!

Call it what ever you want. If it's good I'll keep coming back.

Friday 13 May 2011

Home Time

For me there's nothing better than getting home after a long, hot, sweaty day and grabbing one of your favourite bottled beers, sitting your tired ass down in front of the TV and really getting stuck in!

Now I know there will be people out there, booing and hissing, that I'm not drinking great beer in the pub, with the number of pubs we lose on a weekly basis  in the UK. Tough luck I'm afraid I'll have to say to that! Yes I like drinking beer in a pub, and yes I like drinking beer at home - it's probably an equal amount of 'like' involved. But as much as some people out there would like me too, I don't drink everyday, and I certainly can't go to the pub everyday!

I think both drinking environments are completely different too, drinking in the pub is a social thing for me. I chat with friends, act merry and have a good time. I think sometimes a pub can become quite a stressful place at times too. Drinking at home is completely different - it's so much more relaxed for me. No cares on your mind, you can just easy back into your chair and give the beer your supping your full attention - It's great - and not a thing to be scorned!

My first beer of tonight is a beer I've probably been quite a bit more exited about, than people I've been trying to sell it too, these past few days. Ilkley Pale in bottles!! Here's the link in the post.... I've loved iPale for as long as it's been around - but that's only been in cask form. It's only recently that Ilkley have decided to bottle the stuff, which I think is fantastic!

It's a superb beer, in both formats. There's just a time and a place for both.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Story Telling

The Day was the same.

The dark clouds hung in the sky like unforgiving memories of the past.

Dave slowly trudged his regular route from his home to the familiar frequent haunt down the road. The trip would once again be a journey to meet with regular long time friend Jim. He was nervous. Nervous of the things he might say, nervous of the things he'd have to say.

Arrival at the pub was greeted by the familiar sound. "Two pints Dave? Is Jim joining you tonight?" It was Terry. Terry had been the landlord for as long as Dave could remember, he didn't trust anyone else to pull his pint. In fact, the only reason his favourite beer was still on tap was because Terry knew they would drink a firkin dry in a week.

"It's looking grim out there tonight Dave. Looks ike there's a storm brewing!"

"Oh there's certainly a storm brewing Terry."

Terry gave Dave a puzzled look to which he responded with a nod, as if to say that he wasn't just talking about the weather anymore. Two golden pints of ale poured, Dave went to his regular table. Other regulars he knew only by face and not name all sat around, the pub was quiet tonight. That was fine. It was a quiet pub anyway. Even with the excellent selection of real ales on the bar the clientele didn't seem to be too bothered when a new type or breweries ale came upon the bar. Dave sat back, took a few sips of his pint and waited for Jim.

About 15 minutes passed before a familiar ginger haired bloke poked his head through the door.

"All right big fella?!? You lookin kinda glum tonight, is this for me, ah your too kind!"

Jim takes his pint and downs about half of it with a familiar gulp. He was always like this, Dave was used his boisterous type. The pair sit rather quietly in their corner. They discuss the normal mundane aspects of regular everyday life, and get on like they always have over the beer they love so much.

"two more boys?" Terry had gotten a little bored with such a quiet pub tonight.

Another 20 minutes pass while the fabulous ale is supped. "Well I best be off, we both gotta be up at 5 remember!" Jim was anxious to get to bed.

Dave takes a long deep look into his half drunk pint as Jim goes to get his coat. He looks deep into Jim's face as he comes back and with one deep breath states: "They're closing the brewery Jim!"

Jim doesn't understand. He can't believe what he's just heard, the two have worked side by side in the brewery for twenty five years. Jim's speechless, dumbstruck. He sits back onto his stool and probably speaks the quietest he's spoken all night. "What do you mean?!? Why.... How's this happened??"

Dave then goes on to explain how the brewery is being moved down south in the next couple of months, and there's nothing that any of the employes can do about it. Dave again, looks deep into his pint and for the first time in the night, he's the one who now has nothing to say, and just sits there silent as Jim takes in what's just happened.

Jim sparks up. "Two more pints Terry, I think we've got quite a bit more to talk about!" The two long time friends begin to chat about the outcomes that this move by the heads of the company have for them. "Can't we move down with the brewery?" suggests Jim. "  You know we can't do that. We both can't afford it, and I can't uproot Marlene and the kids just like that, it would just never happen." The two, almost brothers, talk about their fate for another hour or so, whilst accompanied by the beer they worked so hard to produce and maintain for the past 25 years.

After a few more pints of the regular Jim sparks up again. "Maybe we could start up our own brewery?" Dave looks at Jim as if he's had a few too many. He tries to push his point. "Just look at the bar. The only beer that's constant is the one we make. All the others are from local breweries, which I bet aren't much smaller than when our company started out! What have we got to lose?!?"

Dave takes a long scanning look across the pump clips along the bar. As he notices the new, modern pump clips with old traditional beers styles behind them he thinks deeply to himself, "Just maybe this idea is possible!" As the pair of long time friends sit staring at what could be their future, a long beam of sunlight cuts through the dark and dreary place that they'd know for over twenty years.

The day was different.

For the first time in the day, a smile crept over Dave's face.

To be continued??

Monday 9 May 2011

Look For The Kernel

So it was last week, after Zak's super wrangling skillz, that a pallet of Kernel beers arrived at our warehouse (not a few boxes, a pallet!). This lead to a mighty fine looking 8 cases of 8 different beers being delivered to the shop last Wednesday! Woooo :)

Word spread fast and within 4 days the beer geeks (including myself) had taken their prey & these 8 cases was whittled down to around 8 bottles!

It worked out that over these 4 days The Kernel was our best selling beer in the whole shop! So it would be rude not to tell you all about the one I'm trying tonight, before another 8/9 cases come in on Wednesday.

An Export India Porter is not a style of beer I've ever had chance to try before to be honest. It smells fantastic though!! It whiffs of a real dairy/creaminess mixed with tonnes of oats, give it a swirl and you get a tiny hint of Islay whisky mixed in with a bitter orange touch.

It's a really interesting beer indeed. You get an initial roasty malt flavour in the body, but then it doesn't lead to that familiar tarty/big bitterness, it leads to a juicy fruity hop quality, which leaves it light, easy-drinking and quite refreshing. A little roasty warm alcohol quality comes back up the throat after the swallow but I'm really impressed how extremely balanced this beer is. (and you certainly drink this like it's half the strength!) You get some chocolate and a little light coffee creating a good dryness. It's strange, after the beer's gone down a bit, I'm starting to get a slight aroma of rubber tyres, that fresh fitted kind - not a bad or unpleasant thing at all, just another interesting aroma. The more I smell it the more tyres I get, It's really peculiar! Don't let this put you off, it still tastes and is an awesome beer.

There you have it. Another great beer From The Kernel. (not had a bad one yet) So the next time you pop into Beer Ritz, tell us The Kernel sent you! (sorry....)

Sunday 8 May 2011

My First Brew!

This day has been a long time coming - My first full mash homebrew!

Being that this was my first, and I've been telling people for ages that I was going to get down and stuck in, I wanted to make it a memorable one. To do this, I didn't want to just make another pale ale that people would think was nice, and probably forget about in the next few weeks. (not that there's anything wrong with that, I just wanted to jump in with both arms and legs forward!)

So I decided after trying a few beers a colleague had brought back from America that I wanted to brew an Imperially hopped Red Rye Ale. Now this would be no easy feat, for a green-horn such as myself, so I thought it would be good to procure a little help. It turns out we get a couple of brewers who frequent our lovely shop - Beer Ritz. It would be stupid not to ask if one was able to give me a little had in the first ghostly beer production.

Step up one of the nicest men in brewing today.... Gordon McKiernan! Yes, not only is Gordon a head brewer of a very respectable Yorkshire brewery, but he's also a (non practicing) organic chemist!, so who better to take me through my introduction of making my own recipe beer.

So... the day went a little like this: An early start for myself lead us both to an art studio, where Gordon already had his homebrewing kit set up. First things first after sterilization: the mash in. The malt bill for this beer consisted of 3750g of Marris Otter, 1000g of Rye malt, 254g of Cara Red, 254g of Crystal Rye and 480g of Munich malt. It was a very thick 90 minute mash, which lead on to a good sparging. This sparging was also accompanied by some first wort hopping to create some good bitterness, with 18.5g of Amarillo and 15.5g of Columbus.

Whilst we were sparging, we thought it wise to put in another special ingredient - our 250g of Jaggery cane sugar!

Time for the 60min boil then. We let it go for a while, then at 45 mins in we put in 10g of more Amarillo, 10g of Columbus and 8g of Citra for a good flavour. This was followed at 0mins with another 10g of Amarillo and 10g of Citra for a good aroma :)

Colour looking good!!
The original gravity for the beer was 1054 and we ended up with a final gravity of 1070. Don't ask how we did, or why we did this, it will be our little ghostly brewing secret :) We ended up with about 15 liters of the gorgeous looking, and smelling, stuff. It was then time to chill the beast down to prepare it for the process of fermentation.

This involved on of the strangest contraptions I've seen in brewing: the wort chiller. Tubes were going from barrels to taps to other barrels - through thermometers and over sinks! It was a bit of a interesting sight, and quite impressive how an almost boiling bucket of wort could be chilled so quickly using a tap, tube and metal box. After the wort had been chilled down for a bit, it was time to add the magical ingredient - yeast. We used US05 for this brew, Gordon thought the large drying effect the yeast strain has would be a good countering effect on the huge amount of sugars used in the brew.

That was it then.... for now. In about 2 weeks we will be back for a bottling day, and about 2 months after that it will be passed around to a few deserving homebrewers around the area. It was a great day, and a lot of knowledge was gained , not just by me too! There was a couple of cock ups, but by the sounds of it we just made more of an extreme beer in the process. The forgetting of some Protoflock, Gordon would not let go. I kept telling him I didn't mind if the beer had a bit of a protein haze - it was all about what it tasted like, but he was clearly annoyed. I know it's going to taste so good it will take his mind off it.

My only requirement for the day was to help come up with the recipe, bring some beers along and design a label for the beer. This is what I have come up with so far, but it could well change in the next two weeks. So in the meantime....

See you in two weeks o beer of mine!

Friday 6 May 2011

Beer.... On The Rocks!

I love Barley Wines. Fact. They're my second favorite style of beer behind Imperial Stouts (yes I'm an extreme beer lover, what of it?) This blogpost was inspired by one I drank last night to tell the truth. I was drinking Anchor Old Foghorn last evening and was thinking.... this is so good, I want more of this sort of thing over the next few days! Anchor Old Foghorn is one of my most favourite. Not only because the beer tastes awesome, but because it has a great story behind it too: The year was 1975, and the owner and head brewer of Anchor Brewing Company, Fritz Maytag, took a trip to England to gain some inspiration for some new beers. On said trip, he did not find many traditional techniques but more rather, conventional brewing techniques. He'd never even heard of the style 'Barley Wine' before and wanted to know as much about it as he could. Indeed nothing at the time resembled it in the U.S. and at that time he was keen to jump on board the Barley bandwagon.

Once back in the U.S. he produced his first batch of Old Foghorn in November 1975, and it was later bottled after many months of dry hopping, in the spring of 1976. Many people will say that this was officially the first Barley Wine to hit the U.S. market, and while it took a bit of time for people to come round to it, it soon became a very prominent style in the U.S.

So tonight I decided I wanted more Barley Wine beer. I remembered I just bought a new bottle of the stuff not too long ago, and it had been waiting patiently in my room! :) It's not a new beer to me, but it's a new batch of beer. It's none other than Hardknott's 2010 Barley Wine - Granite!

Granite is a fantastic beer. Possibly a little rough around the edges, and a little different the your perfect example of the B.W. style, but it's for exactly this reason that I love it so much! It's a very dark beer. It has a great aroma of Burnt caramel and dark toffees. There's a sort of fruit salad, fruitiness going on in their too, amongst some burnt toast and a little Speyside whisky notes.

The flavour is intense but not overpowering. You get an initial sweetness with a big alcohol presence behind it. (10.1%) There's good caramel apple flavours, really smooth sweet malts amongst a burnt toffee edge and a hint of treacle in there too. A real big alcohol zing/zest/tangy-ness comes though on the swallow, which leaves just enough bitterness to make you want more.

It's a really nice beer. Different but similar. My only problem with it is that Dave only delivered on case of the stuff to us, and that went out of stock a long time ago. So I think I can speak for everyone when I say... "Please Dave, can we have some more??"

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars Volume 10

I'll start off by saying this will be my last 'Favourite Bar Post'. It's been a fun ride, but one can have only so many favourites that he can call his own.

As the title suggests this was a series of 'MY' favourite bars and pubs which I frequent in Leeds and will continue to do so.

The last on my list is not one that's known for its amazing selection of beers. It's not known for its amazing interiors or decor. In fact if you walked past it, you might not even know it's there! I love it purely for the fact I think it's a great pub, I've been there many times with good friends, and I've had many happy memories there.

I am of course talking about The Wrens!

I won't say a lot about this pub. Mainly because the people who already know about it will already have made up their minds about it - good or bad, and the beery geeks who read this blog will not be keen to seek it out because it doesn't have the 'most amazing selection of beer in the world!'

If I've got the surrounding art work correct the pub was established around the 1820/30s and was built by a man named John Briggs - quite cool as it's the same name as my father! The bar/s are split into two separate rooms with adjoining seating areas. Both bars serve the same selection of 4 cask ales and a regular choice of keg lines from the 'you know who' breweries. The cask lines are always in good nick with, most of the time, a great cross-section of Yorkshire beers. There's music too, old school music as well! (use your own definition of old school and they probably play it.) It's a great old fashioned pub. It's one of those ones which is in the middle of town but if you went in and sat down for a pint, you'd feel like you'd been transported into the middle of nowhere!

The bar is open from 12-11 Mon to Thurs, 12-1 Fri & Sat and 10.30-10.30 on sunday. That's all I really need to say about it really. This was one for me. It wasn't to say this is the best pub I've ever been to - just that it's one of 'MY' favourites. That's what the whole list has been about, my favourites! Yes I've been to many others, and loved many others but these are my ten. If you feel I have missed some epic ones of Leeds out, or some bars or pubs which you think are fantastic then feel free to mention them, who knows.... I could be starting a Ghosties Recommended Leeds Bars!

So in no particular order here is the official list of Ghosties Favourite Leeds Bars:

1: North Bar
2: Mr Foleys
3: Arcadia
4: Bierkeller
5: The Hop
6: Alfred
7: The Scarbrough Taps
8: The Cross Keys
9: Veritas
& 10: The Wrens!!

That's it for now then.... 10 and done! I may have to start a list of my favourite 10 Yorkshire Breweries and see if any of them will have me down for the day :) ....after all, I make a good cellar monkey! Do visit the pubs. You won't find many other places around Leeds with such nice, friendly people willing to give you an ear, and recommend you an amazing pint.

Cheers to the greats, until next time we meet, don't stop being awesome.

Monday 2 May 2011

Black Sheep Whaaaa?!?!?!?

I'll begin this post be stating this was the one and only beer I have been looking forward to the most this year. (ever since I learned about it 4 weeks ago that is!)

There are certain breweries out there, breweries that you know, breweries you trust. Breweries that make a core range of about 4/5 beers and never make anything else. Beers that you will see, and think I'll have a pint of that - it's safe. You know the breweries I'm talking about.

That's why when I heard about this beer I knew I had to get my lips on some! I mean, just look at it!! Introducing Black Sheep Imperial Russian.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this limited edition Imperial Stout was created in a batch of about 50 casks mainly for a journey. Like Pete Brown and His IPA journey to India before it, a group of 12 breweries have all created a batch of imperial stouts for a sea voyage to Russia by yacht! If that doesn't wet your whistle enough, I've heard hear say that Black sheep are bottling a small amount of the beer, and we should be getting some for Beer Ritz :)

If you ask me, if you needed proof that the beer industry is alive, well, and doing amazing things at the moment then this is proof. Not just because another brewery has made another imperial stout, but because Black Sheep, with the fantastic history and legend for brewing that they have, have made a beer, a new beer.... which really is this good!

The beer is fantastic! Its a black hole looking beer with an aroma to match. Flavours run through the nose of big liquorice, tonnes of dried fruits e.g. raisins, with some big woody oaky tones coming through.

And what a flavour to taste! Initial impressions abound of burnt toffees, over-ripe bananas and a big roasted malt bitterness. It really is a beer that's too easy drinking for 8.5% You could have two pints of this before you knew why or what you'd just done. You get some hot alcohol, slight woody effect amongst a rich, smooth, silky, lactic/oatmeal body. There's a slight tartness coming through in the finish from the overflowing fruits. So much raisins! Hints of cherries and melon in there too. It's a fantastic beer.

So does this mean all the old school daddies of brewing are stepping into the fray and producing beers to match the nations lust for the most flavourful beers on the market? Yes or no? This brew would certainly would give most "Craft" imperial stouts a long run for their money!

For me this is a little bit of a statement to the beer scene: Long established breweries know how to brew beer, fact. They can and will brew beers that people will not only buy, but rave about! Lets hope this wave of new/experimental brews is not just a blip on the radar of a long story of some big name breweries. So raise your glasses! Here's to the noise makers, cheers.