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

Sunday 31 July 2011

IPA Wars: The Southern Tier Clan vs The Myrcenary Batallion

It was time for war!

The two IPA factions could no longer keep the peace, diplomatic solutions had fallen on deaf ears and the discussions and civil cries had been a waste of time. There was only room for one IPA in this town, and that would have to be decided on the battlefield.

It was a misty morning. Troops were assembled and moved into position, the battle lines were drawn. The Southern Tier Clan were nervous. Even though their army was impressive, the Myrcenary Battalion was huge, double in fact! The ST Clan would not let this fact deter them though, they knew they had perfect strategy on their side, and many years of conquest under their belts. Both commanders locked eyes from across the field, they knew what was at stake and what needed to be done, the time for talk was over, there could only be one victor.

The ST Clan were first to mark their intentions. They blasted their mighty battle trumpet which boomed over the rolling hills with the notes of light lemon grass, charred caramel and dried straw. It was an intimidating war cry - there was no doubt about that. The Myrcenary Battalion responded in kind however. A flood of dried apricots, orange pith and marshmallows reigned down upon the plains, scattering the faint of heart.

Movement commenced. The ST Clan cried "Forward!" The malt body of their forces surged forward, confident of the combat skills they knew only too well, after all they got a 6.9% in their percentage trials and a 96 on the tables of RateBeer.

Grapefruit bombs were unleashed, and their presence was immediately acknowledged. But the M Battalion were swift into battle as well. They loved a challenge and with their 9.3% on the percentage trials and a 98 on the tables of RateBeer, they already could smell the sweet scent of victory in the air. Their caramel cannons fired great mango bombs into the ST malt troops and were instantly overwhelmed by the sticky sweetness.

ST Clan were expecting these casualties though and proceeded to drive their hop division to flank the M Battalions position. The spicy hop division were very green though and immediately ran into problems. M Battalions own hop divisions had anticipated this move and were already storming over the hills and swarming over the ST Clan. This didn't worry ST though as they had a larger number of hops and quickly dispatched of the issues. Hop explosions shook the battlefield for many hours, it was quite a scene to behold.

The battle raged on.

Malt bodies fell in their thousands as yeast artillery pounded each side. The devastation was overwhelming. Just as it looked like no side would be the victor, the ST Clan deployed their secret weapon, their Trojan horse if you will: their ability to regroup and call for reinforcements!

The M Battalion were really in trouble now. ST had called upon a new batch of warriors; a new IPA, fresh and ready for battle from the training fridge. Would this be the final downfall of M Battalions forces? The ability of ST Clan to produce and use their batches at a quicker pace? Only time would tell.

As the moon rose over the crimson stained battleground, both commanders were still locked in battle with one another. No one ever managed to find records for the battle. Some say there was a lone figure standing atop many fallen brethren, some say the battle never truly ended. Say what you will about it, just say and echo until the next IPA Wars that it was a war of epic proportions!

Long live the memory of our IPA brethren.

Friday 29 July 2011

Meantime Re-Vamped

There's something about the first beer after a long shift, especially when you've not had one in four days, that really makes you sit back and just say aaaaahhhhh! I'm not sure what this says about myself or how much I like beer, but I was definitely craving one today. I've not had some Meantime beers in a while. One of my fondest memories of my introduction to good beer was sharing my fair share of bottles of Meantime IPA (75cl) round the poker table in college with some of my good friends.

We've just acquired some new bottles in the shop from Meantime and I think it's pretty safe to say that the makeover they've received has been well received! Meantime has always had a knack for producing beers in packaging that's well designed, but these ones look just that bit extra special, I couldn't help but write about them.

Meantime London Lager;

Aromas: Light lemon, pale straw malts - reminds me of a few pilsners I've tried in the past.

Tastes: Starts with sweet malts, clean, crisp, refreshing - it ticks all the bases. A pleasant drying finishes leaving a moorish malt flavour in the mouth making you want the next sip before you've put the glass down. 

Overall: a beer showcasing the best of Kentish hops and East Anglian malted barley. At 4.5% this little bottle of the fizzy stuff will be much better to get down you than any other commercial lager out there. It's not a hop bomb. It's not going to blow you away with it's IBUs or alcoholic content. But it's not meant to, it's a London Lager - and that's all it should, and needs to be.

Meantime London Pale Ale;

Aromas: Light sherbet, grassy and an inviting citrus fruit appeal.

Tastes: Initially, lots of orange rind bitterness. Grassy, slightly floral. A little melon fruitiness and a mineral quality. Clean malts and a hint of earthy hops.

Overall: Although it has a good carbonation to it, the head seems to disappear almost immediately. At 4.3% it comes across rather light, but very easy going. Goldings and Cascade hops used in this brew that "embraces London's past as the brewing capital of the world." London Pale Ale; it certainly is!

I think it's easy to try beers these days and compare them to your favourite beer ever. A few people might try these two and say they don't like them because they're not hoppy enough, they're not strong enough or rare enough. I think maybe we're a little spoilt today, with the range of beers out there, and brewers trying to push the boundaries, that we could have lost a bit of the magic about what beer really should be - a pleasurable experience. Meantime and these beers do a very good job of bringing us back down to earth to enjoy good, well crafted and enjoyable beers... and they're pretty tasty to me too! (and a bargain at £1.49 a pop!)

I think the art work on them is excellent. You can't really get a great image from the photos, so you'll just have to get out there, buy a couple, and see for yourself.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Cambridge Round Up

So draws the end of this 'mini break' from everyday activities. I say everyday activities, but there was still lots of beer involved. And what have we learned on our visit to a new city? Well a few things actually...

Firstly it seems that there's more Green King pubs round here than post boxes. That didn't bother me too much actually. The beer might not have been at the best of selections, but it was more about the quality of the company which made our pub visits extra special. It was a nice change of pace to be honest.

That's not to say we didn't find some absolute gems of pubs (see previous post) which weren't Green King, but you can read about them for yourself.

I did find this Green King though which we just had to go in to. Wonder if there's any links in the name?

Had a nice refreshing bottle of Tyskie in The Avery, It's a vey pleasant beer, and a lot better than the Speckled Hen they were serving. It seemed I'd come up with the conclusion, after drinking so much un-sparkled beer this week, that any amber coloured ale poured flat like this tastes like malty water. Who knows, this could just be my years of taste bud abuse from too many Imperial Stouts!

Some of the Green King pubs were serving really tasty beers though, like this one for example in the Champion of the Thames:

I also learnt that if a building has a big brewery sign on the top of it....

It's most likely an antique store...

There was the visit to Bacchanalia, one of my most beloved beer shops, second only to Beer Ritz.

I lean't that a Korean Lager is not as s**** as I thought it would be, very refreshing actually!

And last but not least, as we all know: dinosaurs rule!!

That was my mini break then, I shall now attempt to take my incredibly heavy bag, laden with exiting beers to share with people, back home on the train. Till next time Cambridge!

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Cambridge Pub Crawl

"Knowledge is power, and it is freely available to those who would wish to seek it.... on Google of course!" : G.D. 24th July,... after 3 pints.

It was with a little anticipation then that I had my first day all to myself in Cambridge. What better to do then? Pub Crawl of course! See what the city has to offer in the way of ales and the like. Of course when it comes to wandering around a new city, Google is always your friend, so after drawing up some route battle plans from Google Maps it was time to set off and haunt some new pubs.

The first on the list was The Golden Hind, not an independent pub (Spirit owned, then Punch owned, then back to Spirit) But still an interesting sounding one to start off with.

I was allured by the promise of 6 cask ales. I came to find that the main offering of these was Black Sheep, Speckled Hen, Ruddles and the like. They were serving some Adnams Explorer and Broadside so I had a half each of those.

The whole place was actually rather impressive, and the beer was on excellent form and was served expertly. Not a bad place to start off with, even if it was a chain. You got a big family feel from the place, and even though the walls were plastered with 'Food Hygiene Star Awards' all the regulars were still getting new pints from the same glass... I kinda liked that. But enough about that though, on to the next pub.

The second haunt was The Mitre, in a more central town setting. It did have a big town centre feel to it, but being Cambridge and being directly opposite one of the colleges, you felt very welcomed and pleased to venture in.

They have a good selection of 8 rotating cask ales. Todays selection boasted the best from Sharps, Adnams, Rudgate and other local ales. I went for the Incubus Hopdeamon, just because it looked great, and had a fantastic name! It was in fact, not a Hop-Deamon, which left me feeling a little disappointed.

The next two pubs that I visited had big reputations and many awards to their names but unfortunately only served to remind me that some pubs aren't open in the afternoon...

The Kingston Arms and The Empress would have been great to visit, but unfortunately didn't open their doors till 5. I can't help but wonder if it means they loose much trade??

The last pub really was the jewel in the crown, and goes a long way to show that it's not what you know, it's not even who you know, it's who you communicate with and the questions you ask! It was though, with a little scepticism, when my taxi driver said the best real ale pub in Cambridge was down this street... doesn't look like a great pub street, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained!

Turns out the pub right at the end, The Cambridge Blue, has the qualities to rival most of your 'great pubs'!

It doesn't look like more than your average pub down a back street, but it's this kind of place that usually works out for the best I find.

7 Cask lines, two rows of pump clips on each. I was a little confused to begin with. I started out with a half of the Oakham Green Devil IPA (a beast of a beer at 6%) and assumed they would be operating a double tap system or something like that. The bar maid disappeared round the back though. Turns out all the pump clips on the bottom were served from casks in the cellar, and the clips on the top were served straight from the barrel in a little side cold store just in next room. I thought I'd found my heaven! Straight from the barrel could also explain why the Green Devil was tasting so damn good.

The cask beers weren't the only good thing about this place. The food was great, they had a bottle selection that could have probably rivalled North Bar, and every square foot of wall space from ceiling to floor was plastered in old and new school beer memorabilia. It was a real beer geek hunters dream, and I think the next time Cambridge gets a haunt, it won't be for a pub crawl - it will be for a proper sesh in this place!

One other little side point, whilst I was in my first pub - The Golden Hind, I got chatting to the bar man about beer and we had ourselves a little geeky beer chat. I asked the dreaded question of 'if they had any sparklers on site at all?' He said that they did, but they'd never been used before - not once. I asked him if I could see one and he said 'yeah no problems, if I can find one!' 

Now, I don't know what relation this has to a sparkler, or anything about what it might do for the beer, but according to the South this is a sparkler:

If anyone can shed any light on this strange looking piece of metal, please let me know, because it's the only 'sparkler' I saw all day, and it hadn't even been used ever! The beer out of the casks in the Cambridge Blue certainly made up for the lack of sparklers though. Till the next time I decide to roam the streets, Cheers!

Monday 25 July 2011

A New Belgian Beer!

Belgians aren't specifically know for their Stouts. In the twelve years that Beer Ritz has been in operation I can only think of one that we've ever stocked - and that one went out of stock a long time ago. That was Stouterik from the De La Senne brewery and was fantastic, I'm not sure why we don't stock it anymore. Sure the Belgians make loads of amazing (really dark) beers, but they're not stouts. They make a few very popular Imperial Stouts, La Quintine Hercule and Podge certainly come to mind, but when it comes down to it I've only ever had the one Belgian Stout.... That is until now!

The Belgians also aren't specifically known for making new beers either. All these Trappist Monasteries and old school beer producers... when was the last time you saw them make a new beer. When was the last time you saw a new Belgian Beer? (I can't think of any) Now the beer I'm having today is new to me. Some may say it's cheating because it's a beer that was in production in the 1950's - but it's only recently that the brewers have started making it again. So, it's a Belgian Stout, it's relatively new (use your own definition of new) and it's from the much beloved and highly respected (in our shop especially) Brasserie Dupont!

Monk's Stout is probably one of the lightest Belgian beers I've had in quite some time; at 5.2% it's certainly not going to knock you out, but don't go thinking it's light in flavour! Not a shred of light creeping through this devilishly dark brew, and not too much in the ways of aromas, but it's the flavour which really sets this beer apart. It's packed out with sadistically roasted malts and quite a bit of smokey oaky flavours to the body. A good peppery, drying carbonation leaves you wanting more and drinking up fast, but it's really the smokey burnt malt flavours that really linger. A Belgian Stout - Hell Yeah! Your average Stout (or what you may think of as a Stout) certainly not.

I think it would be great if a few more Belgian Brewers could start making a few different beers, especially ones as great as Dupont. Even if they weren't 'new' beers, just revitalised old recipes, it would certainly be something to talk about. I understand the constraints of a monastery, but could you imagine it.... Chimay IPA.... Imperial Orval, just something to think about. (or dream about)

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Pretty Things Indeed

Pretty Things Brewers.

I say 'Pretty Things Brewers' because they have no real 'brewery' of their own. Dann Paquette and his wife Martha have been brewing beers they like for a while now at other people's breweries, and they make it work very well by all accounts. If you want to know the full scoop on the couple and their brewing roots then you need to check out Leigh's posts on Pretty Things here. The bit I'm most pleased by is the part that the couple are very influenced by Yorkshire, and everything that is great about Yorkshire, and although the beers we have here aren't really classic Yorkshire styles - I get the feeling there is some influence in there! (cos you know.... Yorkshire rules!)

Jack D'Or is a Saison Americaine, and comes in at 6.4% It's made with 3 different grains and 3 different Belgian yeasts and is inspired by the Belgian farmhouse ales. It has a really appeasing golden yellow appearance when held up to the light, with only the slightest of hazes.

The aroma consists (to me) of a delicate floral dryness. Hints of lemon and a tiny bit of apple accompanying a Belgian yeast, and almost peppery, spiciness.

To taste: Yep, that's definitely a Saison for sure. However there is a little too much hops in the bitterness for my Saison tastes, which overpowers the Belgian dryness a little, but hey - it's an American Saison and big hops is to be expected. (and there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not to my taste - but that certainly doesn't mean I don't like it!) There's a lot of fruity flavour in the beer; bananas, apricots, lemon, apple skins and a touch of pear. It's quite bready, and has a good zingy carbonation. An excellent quality, and very fresh, interesting beer.

The second beer of the Duo is Field Mouse's Farewell: A rustic golden ale brewed with barley, oats, wheat and rye. Not as big of an explination about this one on the bottle, but it's a 7% Golden Ale and that's all you should really need to know. (apart from what it's like of course!)

The colour is darker than the Jack and it's pretty safe to say it looks great! It pours thick and hazy, with a rocky chalk white head which quickly crumbles away. Rustic Golden Ale says a lot for the aroma. There's big hints of marmalade and huge orange mixed in with some plum skins. There's also a tiny hint of a Belgian Brett. character coming through.

The beer starts sweet and very smooth. It's thick and full in the body (probably helped by the oats) with loads of fruity malts. There's a lot of banana flavour coming from the wheat, and the finish is long and spicy. It's a robust but balanced, and again, excellent quality beer. For me it feels a bit like Yorkshire meets Germany meets Belgium...

Two very nice beers. Only bottled in May as well - so very fresh, and big props for getting them over here this quickly! There's been a lot of say about the Americans making beers in the Belgium style recently. A few people like it, but more people aren't willing to pay the pumped up, extra shipping costs, that accompany these expensive beers from various breweries. And in some cases most people are just going for the 'real thing' - the actual Belgian beers which are half the price.

The Pretty Things beers however, are very fairly priced, and are the most interesting American/Belgian crossover beers I've had so far - so are definitely worth a punt. I've not even mentioned the awesome labels yet - which are drawn and designed by Dann and Martha themselves. Pretty Things beers: Come get some!

Saturday 16 July 2011

Metallica Beer!

I don't really know if this beer was named after a famous Metallica song, but I'd like to think that it is. ;)

Left Hand's Fade to Black (Volume 2) is a 7.8% Smoked Baltic Porter. The label is designed by Moxie Sozo and the artist is Nate Dyer, and looks, well... fantastic!

This is the blackest beer I've ever seen - completely opaque and not even a hint of any light getting through. It has aromas of dark chocolate, a little coffee and burnt malts. Not really getting much smoked malts but a little lactic essence. It's a really interesting beer, really complex with loads of different things going on. It starts with the sweet spritzy maltiness you get in Baltic Porters, and then leads to a some bitterness in the finish with lots of coffee, a splash of wood and a small amount of smoke creeping in. It seems a little all over the place, but I think that's what makes it work so well. I think it would go perfect with some black peppered steak.

A really good and cool looking beer from Left Hand Brewery. I really like their artwork and their new beers we can get. I got this bottle from North Bar, and would suggest you pick one up. Their 400 pound Monkey IPA is a real treat too if you can grab one while there still around.

Friday 15 July 2011

Westmalle vs. Westmalle

Old stuff rules. Fact! Don't believe me? Tough luck, it just does.

I love aging beers. I have about 50 bottles in my cellar patiently awaiting my drinking approval. Every time I take one from the age old stocks I replace it with a new beer perfect for aging. It's a good system, and allows me to always be in contact with some very old beer. If it sounds like I'm bragging, well I am! It's taken many many years of self control to create a perfect balance of the perfect amount of beers so that you can follow the drink one, save one routine and still end up with old beers all year round.

Tonight I had the privilege (once again) to get my senses around a very old beer with one of my co-workers from the stash.

Westmalle Triple.

It's not a beer I like. At all. I have nothing against the brew, It's just a matter of personal taste, and the fact that it's not to mine. I think it's over carbonated, over alcoholic and a beer which is too gassy and out of my beer 'likes' to enjoy. (a bit much like Duvel...)

Don't get me wrong, there are many Triples I absolutely love, Karmeliet Triple is one example, but Westmalle is certainly not one of them. I've spent many years introducing people and friends into the world of the -none mass market- Belgian Triples, and I'm happy to say that no one has ever disliked anything I've ever recommended. (I know this because they've all, always come back for more... that may be a statement about how good Belgian beer really is.)

Moving onto the beer of tonight though, Yes, it is Westmalle Triple. A beer I really dislike, but age the beast and you come out with something truly fantastic, something completely different, and something certainly worth the praise of the greatest beer writers in history! It really is that good.... if you are willing to give it the time.

I shared this with Beth tonight, the newest addition to our Beer Ritz team, and someone who certainly knows her way around a drink. (trust me!) As with most things we had to have a old and new comparison, so that's what we have to our right in the picture. The bottle of aged Westmalle was about 7-9 years old, (it's always hard to tell with the massive sell by dates the Belgians put on their beers) the other was fresh in this week, and I think it's pretty obvious to tell which is which.

The first thing that stood out massively was the colour. Now I'm pretty sure that, being a Trappist Brewery, they will not have changed their recipes.. ever. So how was the, such huge, colour difference brought about??

Enough about that though, I'll tell you why you should age beers....

Fresh Westmalle: massive aromas of banana, bubble gum and lemon sherbet. It's a beer that's trying too hard. (for my tastes) It's over carbonated, far too boozy and alcoholic, and too dry and spicy.

7/8 Year old aged Westmalle: This beer is so different it's untrue. It has aromas of Barley Wines meets Vintage Ciders. It's caramelized and super sweet - think massive honey comb crunchiness. There's not a lot of carbonation left, and give it a couple more years and it would disappear completely (which is something I've sampled... and makes it better!) Think caramel apples, not bananas. There's loads of spice mixed with a dried apricot fruitiness, with the lemon sherbet still creeping in.

This is something that really needs to be experienced to be believed. I say to the people then, buy as much as you can, so that you can keep some away from your self control lacking. Keep them for ten years, I would say it's the optimum age for this beer. (big bottles would be better) And in ten years time, indulge in a beer that is not only older than anything you've drunk before, but better than most that you've drunk before!

Aging beer rules! End of...

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Old Dan

I've not had many Thwaites beers in my time, don't get me wrong I've had my fair share, but none were as good as this.

I managed to spot this lurking next to the Thornbridge beers in Waitrose last week, and for a 7.4% bottle conditioned ale, I took my fair share for £1.48 per bottle!!

Up to the light it has a beautiful amber/mahogany hue, with only a slight chalky-big bubble appearance. It has a massive old English ale aroma, hints of chestnut, orange rind packed marmalade, a little spice, some burnt brown sugar and a dose of rum soaked raisins from the alcohol punch. It's your Gran's fruit cake in a glass!

To taste: It's very soft with a light, smooth carbonation. Very sweet and boozy with a full on dried fruit body. Lots of caramel and toffee sweetness coming from a fine selection of malts (Maris Otter, Pearl and Crystal - English malts used) and a little woody hint creeping in the finish with a touch of bitterness coming from the hops. (All English again: Fuggles and WGVs)

I'm not sure how new this beer is, after all Thwaites have been brewing since 1807! I'm sure the beer Isn't that old but if they continue to churn out beers like this, I'll continue to buy them. I really enjoyed this beer, and as the bottle suggests, I may even lay some down to age and allow the beer to "mellow over time, with increased fruitiness" So Cheers! to Thwaites, and to Waitrose for bringing us (me) the bargain beer of the year! (so far...)

I wonder what other awesome beer bargains I'll find later whilst shopping for my bread and milk....

Friday 8 July 2011

Bear With Antlers!!! RUN!

I managed to pick up a couple of these beers at the North Bar American Beer 'look in' the other day. I'm not sure why a few breweries in the U.S. seem to have taken a liking to blending animals together, but oh well... on to the beers! They come from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company; Boonville, from Mendocino County, California. According to the bottle neck, this brewery is "Consistently judged one of the World's Finest Breweries." It doesn't say who it's judged by, but who am I to argue? These are just two beers from a brewery that I know nothing about that looked interesting to try....

Boont Amber Ale, a Gold Medal Winner, (once again, doesn't say in what...) is a 5.8%  ale and is apparently the first beer produced at Boonville Brewery. Described as "an essay in balance" it has a really nice dark copper almost light mahogany colour, and a big grassy/malty aroma with some mineral hints and a touch of light menthol?? Now I'm not a big fan of American Brown/Amber ales, and I'm not hugely sold on this one, but it's a perfectly decent beer. The alcohol is masterfully hidden, and it has a nice light caramel/nutty malt flavour, with a gentle refreshing aftertaste. "It's Bahl Hornin" ('It's good drinkin')

Hop Ottin' IPA, hitting high at 7%, is more my sort of thing. Very floral in aroma with loads of hops, and an interesting sweet marshmallow smell. It's a fantastic beer! It starts very fruity/juicy and sweet on the tongue from the huge hop bombs being delivered, but don't worry, this beer is very approachable. In the body there's a great caramel sugary malt sweetness if you give the beer a good roll over the tongue which leads to a long bitter, drying, moorish finish. A tiny hint of alcohol heat crawls back up the throat to remind you that even though this is a very easy drinking beer, it's still 7%! "Hop Ottin' bites like a can-kicky bluetail" ('Hop Ottin' bites like an angry rattlesnake looking for a fight.')

Two new beers to me, one very good, one not to much to my tastes, that's just fine - it's all experience. But a very interesting experience at that, because as you know, I love new beers. I would definitely recommend you get down to North Bar to grab a few of these bottles before they all disappear!! Ghost Out!

Thursday 7 July 2011

But I Don't Want Craft Lager

Take a good look at the image below. Now, the beer of the right is one we've had for quite a while now, in fact as long as I can remember (that's 5 years of working at the shop). The beer on the left is what came in today, fresh with our delivery. Yes they are the same beer.

But can you spot the difference? Surely the eagle eyed amongst you have.

Now this annoyed me a little bit. It wasn't for the 'craft' word in 'craft brewed lager', they've had the words "craft brewed in Scotland" on the bottles for as long as I can remember, and if they wanted to jump on the craft beer band wagon some more they would have put 'Craft Brewed Pilsner'

But they haven't, this is now a "Craft Brewed Lager" not a "Craft Brewed Pilsner". It's the word "Lager" I have an issue with. Yes I know Pilsner is a style of lager, but when you think of it in loose terms they're quite different, and most would say when it comes to Pilsners and Golden Lagers - they're very different from each other. I mean come on! This beer won the "World's Best Pilsner" award at the WBA 2008 (World Beer Awards) and it seems even that epic title has been stripped from the bottle neck. Calling it a Lager just makes the whole thing really vague, and detracts from the fact that it's an excellent and award winning Pilsner, and for me, changing the label to this does not do it (and it's awards) any justice.

Now I love Schiehallion, It's one of my go-to beers, I've loved it since the first time I tried it 4 years ago! It's a fantastic Pilsner; lovely floral bouquet of hops and a crisp dry finish - it makes for one damn refreshing beer! Now I know the beer hasn't changed, but that's not what I'm trying to say: this beer is a (craft) brewed Pilsner, not just a (craft) brewed lager! Hey, maybe it's not for me to say, maybe it's for the brewer to decide, after all he's pretty entitled to call it what he wants - he blinking made it! I just want to ask the question of why??? Maybe I'm getting a little over-passionate and a little pedantic, but consider this:

Would you be happy to be supping on Lager Urquell tomorrow??

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Wikio July Ranking Preview

So It's come round once again, time for another look at the Wikio rankings for the top Beer & Wine bloggers. I say preview, but they're going live at 2PM so It's a couple of hours for a preview, that's what happens when you don't check your e-mails!

Say what you like about the rankings, how there put together, or even the "false glory" some people talk about, but I'm always interested in them. And I think you all are a little too, otherwise why would you be reading on to see who's hit the top twenty this month?

There's been quite a bit of shuffling about this month, It's interesting to see some of the Wine boys making their presence felt, and I see Hardknott Dave furiously climbing the charts. It only seemed a matter of time before I started to drop places so I'll use this post to unashamedly plug my last blog post of Magic Rock Beers here! (I'll be back too, watch out Dredge ;))

So anywho, here are the July Rankings for Wikio's Beer and Wine Lovers!:

Monday 4 July 2011

Genie In A Bottle

So tonight I had my first proper taste of what Magic Rock are all about.

I missed the launch at the Grove a couple of weeks back, and then I missed the Leeds launch at North Bar last week. They still had plenty of bottles left though at North though, and you know me well enough by now to know I love my bottled beers. Something to take home, get proper intimate with and really give it your full attention and respect. I knew nothing about these beers apart from what was stated on the bottles. I know others have written about them, but when it came to what they tasted like I skipped over those parts, not out of disrespect, but because I love to go into new beers not knowing what I'm getting into. (once again, apart from what's stated on the bottles)

Overall I've always said they look very nice, the design is very well thought out, although I think it's slightly busy and if it wasn't for the stark differential between the colours I believe you'd have a hard time to pick out the different brews. The labels do have their individual qualities through colour though, so this pitfall was masterfully avoided. My only problem with the bottles was the white bottle caps, something about them, to me, just didn't sit right. It would have been nice to see them in the classic gold shine caps or with some of the Magic circus creatures on the tops.

On to the beers though....

I started off with the High Wire: a 5.5% West Coast Pale Ale. A beer inspired by, and is a tribute to the Pale Ales of the West Coast of America.

Apparently this beer is a "tightrope of taste" that is "unapologetically hop forward in character."

It certainly came across the nose that way, To me there was large hints of grapefruit, pithy orange rind and some pine needles. The taste is very interesting. It's really light, and very soft. A subtle carbonation, I was expecting a little more like in the Common Ale examples like Anchor Steam. It's an extremely well balanced beer and it certainly drinks lighter than it's 5.5% - I could easily happily get though a 6-pack of this! A little malt/spice in the body and finish, but it's mainly about the juicy fruit hops; a very refreshing beer indeed.

My second beer of the night was the extremely red looking, 4.6% Red Hop Ale; Rapture.

This beer is produced with 5 different types of malt and 6 different hops, and is packed full of bottle which makes for "a truly elating experience."

There's a huge malt aroma to the brew, lots of light caramel and a little, very dry hopped whiff. It's a very malty beer, not as hop forward as I though it would be, maybe I had these two the wrong way round? It's certainly a full bodied beer, with a good toffee and caramel malt backbone, but it's backed up by a good bitter bite of citrus and orange flavours.

The last one was the daddy.

Cannonball; their 7.4% India Pale Ale was the beer I had most been looking forward to. An "IPA in the true tradition, high in alcohol and massively hopped."

A beer that, after the pour, absolutely stinks of hops! Pick a fruit, you wouldn't be far off. Melons, Mangos, Grapefruits, even a little hint of mint was creeping in there. It's quite a thick beer, but with a good balancing carbonation. Quite piny with an obvious alcoholic nature. Lychee and big orange pith abound, it certainly is a devastatingly big and powerful beer. I got the slight impression that it was more like a sweet warming Barley Wine, rather than a big 'bitter punch in the face' huge IPA. Call it what you like, It was certainly a damn fine beer.

Magic Rock then.... what more can be said about them? My three magic genies in bottles all opened tonight, and all delivered as good as promised.

"Same but Different" Not really.... I'd say "Same but Better!"

I'm really looking forward to getting some of these beers in the shop, I'm really wanting some more now! I can't help thinking the High Wire would go well in a bigger bottle though.... ;)

Sunday 3 July 2011


Ok, this is my second experiment into skunked beers. After the lack of findings from my previous experiment I decided to look at the times most people have told me about skunked beers. Turns out, the times most people tell me about it is when they're drinking pints in a sunny beer garden and by the time they get to the last couple of inches of their beer, it tastes foul... apparently.

So, from my last experiments conclusions and what I learned, this is where my second tryout came from.

I took two (as suggested) very highly hopped beers and put them both in the same glass.

I left one inside....

And the other was placed outside under direct (very strong) sunlight. (the clingfilm over the top was just to stop any unwanted visitor bugs getting a taste!)

I left both beers exactly for an hour, as I really can't see anyone taking longer than that to finish a pint outside. After an hour in the sun this beer had got slightly warmer than the one left inside, but I think I proved in my last experiment, that heating a beer up (very highly, for 5 hours!) does nothing to the flavour. (none that I could sense anyway)

So after this second experiment, did it work? Was there any difference??

Oh Hell Yeah!!

Success!! I've managed to create and taste my very first skunked beer! I'm a little bit proud actually, I was beginning to think skunked beer was a myth :)

So what were the differences like then? Well with the un-skunked beer you get the classic juicy fruity hop aroma and great pleasant bitter flavour.

The skunked beer smelled pretty rank. It gave an aroma of sweaty musty hay and a little lemon acidity over some underlying, almost processed and moulding, malt essence. To taste you get an immediate sharp badly bittering quality on the tip of your tongue. It's quite tangy, sort of like moulding orange skins. Although it's not  pleasant beer to drink, you do still get some of the initial flavours on the swallow, but It's certainly not a beer I'll be finishing, and is in no way near as good as it's un-skunked counterpart.

This was my first ever skunked experience, so it may differ to many other peoples. After all many other peoples experiences of skunked beer differ in many different levels of hatred. I wouldn't say I absolutely despised it like some may, but I wasn't about to finish the glass either. So there we go, exercise completed with success!

Skunked Punk! .... say that quickly!