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

Wednesday 29 February 2012


Norway boasts some spectacular breweries. Tonight I'm trying two new different beers from two different, but very respected breweries.

Let's dive straight in!

First up is Dobbel Dose - a 9% Norwegian Double IPA from HaandBryggeriet. Now this is an interesting one because when I picked it up I didn't notice on the bottle is said "Brygget 03.06.10" which I'm guessing means brewed or bottled on. That sounds a little worrying for a Double IPA, but the bottle also states "In this Double IPA we use all the hops our kettle can take, we recon it will stand the journey to India and back" - could it be, an IPA which isn't meant to be drunk fresh? I'm sure it is great fresh, but it's possible this may be a bit like White Shield, and after a bit of aging, may get a bit more character to it. (instead of turning into a flat, lifeless, no flavour IPA which seems to happen all too often when you drink an IPA which is a few months old... I've gotta say, is anyone else bored of getting old hops in their IPAs and having a beer which only tastes great for about 2weeks??)

It's certainly got a big muddy sediment to it (left in the bottle) and the nose is certainly inviting. Big on the orange and marmalade, quite a bit of toffee, and almost bonfire toffee. You get the impression that, while they may have packed this beer to the rafters with hops, they didn't scrimp on the malts either.
    It's a fantastic tasting beer, even after almost a couple of years. Rich sweet caramels, burnt toffees, ripened oranges, pears and apples with a hint of honey coming in. Just enough of a bitter tang in the finish to make you crave the next mouthful, and deservedly so - it's really really good beer.

Anyone can put shed loads of hops in a beer - it's easy. Can you make a beer which doesn't taste like shoes after 3/4 months? That's the mark of a great brewer. I've had a few beers from HaandBryggeriet now, and if you need any advice about them here it goes: See their beers - buy their beers - simples.

The second beer of the night goes to Beer Here's Pumpernickel Porter. This beer's a little confusing. Where's it brewed for one thing? I read on the side; Nogne O, so most probably it's brewed there - by who I still don't know. Secondly it says it's a "Pumpernickel Porter", and in the description, it's called a "Stout brewed with spices added" - I think this may confuse a few people. I lastly got thinking about what Pumpernickel actually is. Is it just a bread or is it a type of spice/grain that you add to make P.bread, I'm not too sure, so I really don't have a clue how you add it to a beer!

Let's just drink it though ey? It's dark, it's 7.5%, and it smells great! It stinks of dry rye bread, or those crispy rye crackers you spread your cheese on - it's really strange. There's a little lactic, burnt malt/burnt toast essence going on in the beer too which reminds you of the Porter/Stout side of things.

It's really good. A thick, smooth and rich mouthfeel. The flavour is instant and intense, but not too overpowering that it would put a lager drinker off. Lots of the flavours that you want, and would expect from a beer like this (or what you would imagine this to be) Dark chocolate, liqourice, burnt coffee, oak, a little smokey whisky, raisins, rye and rye spice. Rye Rye Rye! There's plenty of burnt bitterness in the finish too, making the beer great all rounder.

As they say on the bottle:

"Hops were harmed in the production of this beer"

Go get some beers from Norway. Oh... and you don't need to go to Norway to get them, I got these from Cambridge.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Close It!

Last night was redonkulous!

Massive props go out to Rick for setting the whole gig up and much love to all my beery geek brethren who were also in attendance.

What started out as a few drinks in Mr Foleys (I didn't get chance to go for the meal) turned into one of the most epic drinking sessions ever seen. The amount of beers which were brought along and consumed was of such a magnitude and quality, that I'm pretty sure not all of them were opened by the end of the night. (glad to see that no one was sick off Gav's 70something+ year old beer.)

I didn't managed to get snaps of everything that was brought along, but Zak managed to put together a good photo selection here.

So here's my "mine's bigger than yours" photo selection of the evening. Cheers to Open It, and Cheers to all day hangovers ;)

Friday 24 February 2012

It's Electric!

Electricity is a funny old thing.

....and by 'funny old thing' I mean it completely dominates our whole lives.

For the last day and a half our street has been without power. Obviously it's back on now, finally, otherwise I wouldn't be able to write this post. It was evident how much we really rely on electricity whilst I was making myself some lunch today. It was midday so I was oblivious to the fact we had no power, and just went about my normal business. I quite fancied some beans on toast to set me up right for the afternoon. I popped two slices in the toaster and opened a can of beans. I tried to put the toaster on, but it wasn't working... duuhhh! 'There's no electricity' I thought to myself! Thoughts then raced through my head about how I could toast these two slices of bread... "I know, I can grill them.... wait.. duuhhh again! The grill is electric!"
     It was about another two minutes later before I realised that all of this was mute, as I had no microwave to heat up the beans either!! I was a bit lost then. "What can I have for lunch now??" I scoured the fridge for some food, but to my lack of surprise, everything needed to be heated up by some method which I was not in possession of. Turns out a ham and cheese sandwich wasn't too bad.

All this does relate to beer, before you go elsewhere... It really got me thinking about our dependancy on the sparky stuff and what that could mean for the brewers of today, be it at home, or on a massive industrial scale.

Say your ten minutes into your boil, and there's a blackout. What do you do? Is that a wasted batch, or do you wait for the power to come back on? What if it doesn't come back on for a couple of days... is all the mornings hard work and effort to making your beer a waste, and do you have to pour it down the drain? It would certainly be annoying but maybe not too much problem for a homebrewer, compared to a commercial brewer with maybe hundreds or even thousands of gallons to pour away.

It got me thinking of how people went about making beer before the emergence of electricity. I mean beer has been made for quite a many number of years pre 19th century. I thought about how you'd go about an average boil. Fire is the obvious answer, but it's hard to imagine people making beer, in the same way as cooking, on the levels of scale that we have today - even for a small brewery.

When industries started using machines and electricity, things changed for ever, and very dramatically in fact. I reckon brewing in some breweries today would be almost unrecognisable to people from just a few hundred yeas ago.

While all this innovation, progress, change, whatever you call it, is a fantastic thing, what happens when something goes wrong with it? I reckon we're pretty damn useless if our new computerised breweries fell foul of a little electricity hiccup. I mean I wasn't about to crack up a fire just to make my beans on toast.

All this came together while I was drinking a beer from Short's Brewery. Why did it come to me? Because I didn't need electricity to open or enjoy it. (I did need it to take and upload the picture though..)

Short's Ginger in the Rye is a 7.8% Imperial Rye Munich Ale, "A most distinguished effervescent potable of total consciousness." and you know what? It's just plain delicious! Let OpenIt continue!

Tuesday 21 February 2012


Today's post, and FABPOW, is brought to you with inspiration found from many forms.

First off It's Shrove Tuesday. Secondly, it's OpenIt this weekend, so I thought I'd start cracking a few early just to be cheeky. Thirdly, I got quite a bit of inspiration from Mark's FABPOW, and decided to make some pancakes and beer for myself. The last bit of inspiration comes from BrewDog's 'PunkCake' twittering ideas - I read some interesting ones and thought I'd make my own. Turns out I had the perfect beer to bring it all together too.

Anyone remember this one?

I guess it was bottled in 2008. That's one thing I do like - when a brewery puts a 'bottled on' date on their strong beers.

You get a massive earthy, woody coffee aroma from the beer. It pours quite flat, but it seems to still have a good amount of carbonation about it. More of the same in the flavour. Huge earthy coffee and loads of oak, with a long bitter chocolate finish - a fantastic drop.

It has a really long drying finish as well. While I thought about sweet pancakes, I didn't think this Imperial Stout would work too well with them.
    So the match this time was with a savory pancake. I've never really had savory pancakes before, previous Shrove Tuesdays where usually a competition to see who could get the most golden syrup on one pancake, so this shall be a little different. The best foods I've ever matched with Imperial Stout have always been strong cheeses, rich foods, stuff like that - so I didn't really know where to start when it came to making up my own savory pancake recipe.

In the end I thought I'd try my hand at making some Spicy Pork & Blue Stilton Pancakes.

There will be no photos here. It didn't matter what I did, I wasn't going to get an appealing photo of this meal... but you know what they say - sometimes the messiest meals are the best! I had it quite hot too so the creamy Stilton ran from the pancake. I didn't use too much though as I feared it might overpower the spicy pork, turns out it was just the right amount. The dry earthy coffee flavour in the beer went really well with the spicy meaty pork in my humble opinion, and the rich Stilton just topped the whole thing off into on decadent meal for the evening!

That was my FABPOW OpenIt PunkCake for the night. I'd love to hear what other people will be indulging in on this magnificent night of nights: Shrove Tuesday.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Watering Holes

Considering beer is (usually) over or about 95% water, you could take pubs to be considered as watering holes. The following is a round up of my favourite 3 I have visited in the past few days whilst visiting Cambridge.

First up was the Cambridge Blue.

This pub is most probably the best in all of Cambridge. It's not the first time I've written about it and it probably won't be the last. I've only been here a few days but I've already been twice. The other day I had a fantastic pint of Oakham Citra straight from the cask with the juiciest bacon and cheese burger. If you don't already know, the Cambridge Blue offers a range of 14 real ales, seven of which are on the bar through lines, and the other seven (the upper pump clips) are served straight from the cask from a cold room next door - a beast of an idea if there ever was one! Today I tried a great pint of Osset Snow Drop; from God's Own Country, and some more Oakham - Preacher - a 4.3% dark ale with the best looking pump clip.

The Cambridge Blue is about to undergo some serious building renovations, and will be closed for about a week, but I'm sure it will work out for the best.

The second pub on my list would be Live and Let Live.

This would be my first visit to this pub, it was recommended by a number of people on Twitter so I thought I'd give it a go. Turns out I was to be pleased and disappointed in quick succession. My first look in was late at night so I only managed a couple of halves. Oakham Dreamcatcher and Darkstar Smoked Porter were the order of the night. I wanted to get a proper sense of the place so I popped back the next day to be disappointed that they were closed on my arrival. Turns out I fell into my usual trap of thinking that all pubs were open all day, a mistake I make a little too often when I venture down South.

What I did see and partake of the place the previous night was all excellent though, and I shall be making tracks back here hopefully sooner rather than later.

The third pub on my charts to haunt was an excellent recommendation and find: The Kingston Arms

This place is great. It seemed like a very friendly, family oriented, foody pub during the day when I went. In fact the food menus looked great too! I don't think I've ever been in a pub where I got to choose my selection of sausage with my mash, or my choice of cheese for my panini! I may have not been in many pubs in my life, but I've never seen jars full of freshly baked cookies either. If I hadn't just had another warm meal in the Cambridge Blue, I think the Marinated Baby Squid and mixed olive salad would have been my choice, but I did enjoy perusing the "Recession Section" - a selection of standard (but tasty) meals all for £4.99 each. Oh.... they had Mars Bars too for 49p each!

The pump selection was vast and varied. It was very nice (for me) to see Jaipur alongside Harveistoun's Bitter and Twisted - two supreme beers. From the selection of 13 hand pumps I spied some Leeds Gathering Storm Stout also, and decided to see how it travelled. 

Turns out beer from my home town travels quite well indeed! I think this dry Stout is a perfect example of how distance isn't an issue when good care and good cellar manship come into play. 

I was a big fan of the massive hop vine that
spanned the entire bar.
I enjoyed my drinks here. I like it when you find games like Buckaroo alongside books which look like they're 1 hundred years old.

I've really liked my time down South in Cambridge, I usually do, similar activities are usually undertaken, just see last time. I can't shake the feeling that drinking down here reminds me of when I get a lock in up North: you know, when you get a beer, but all the sparklers have been taken off to be cleaned... Even though It's not what I'm entirely used too, it's still not so bad.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Wild Ale

"Why would you want to make an IPA with Westmalle Yeast?!?!"

As you can probably tell from my reaction of hearing that Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild Ale was produced using a Westmalle Yeast, that I'm not a fan of Westmalle. Well I'm sorry but I'm not. Unless you give me a ten year old version of their Triple, there's quite a lot of Triple's which I'd find more appealing.

Sumpin' Wild is a 9.4% Belgian IPA with a very fruity aroma; big hints of apricot blast your face mixed with some Belgian biscuit notes. I'm not getting the biggest of aromas though to be honest, as this was the only glass I could find in the flat I'm staying in Cambridge, so I'm going off raw taste today.

You get an immediate super drying, super yeasty bitter bite to the flavour. It's mixed in with a lot of fruity flavours, but it's different than your juicy/fruity flavours your used to from a big American IPA, there's a lot of fruity/dryness. More of the same apricot in the flavour, peaches too with a little bubblegum and a touch of lemon. It's very drinkable for a 9.4% beer, but I guess that comes from the dryness. The finish is rounded and balanced with that crazy sort of lingering flavour which is only really brought about from Belgian Style IPAs.

It's not a bad beer, certainly not - it's a perfectly made and complex beer. It's just not really for me. I should probably explain my first statement. I'm not a fan of Westmalle because I think it's far too dry and far too over carbonated - it fills up my belly like a balloon. Give me a ten year old sample and I'm in true beer geek heaven. Ten year Westmalle Triple is one of the best beers on the planet, but I don't have any currently ageing and I don't really have the patience to start again. I just got a little too much of the fresh Westmalle in this beer for my liking, give me Hop Stoopid any day of the week instead. Then again, the beer to my liking probably wasn't helped by my existing opinions on Westmalle. Was I pre-destined to not find the beer to my taste because of my own opinions? Would I have had a different experience if I'd not read what the beer was before tasting it? Who knows... probably not, but it's always fun to ponder.

I think I'll leave on the fantastic words which are always (differently) printed on Lagunitas bottles: "So, we're all on collective disability. That's cool. Let's put some ice on it and keep ourselves elevated for a while. So, what's on the tube..? Honey..? Get me a beer from the fridge... Will ya..? Sweetie..? Pleeease..?"

Sunday 12 February 2012

Merry Men

Sometimes you just need a good old pint of Bitter.

Bitter gets a bit of an unfair 'bad rep' these days. Some people like to use the words "boring brown bitter" and others like to say that's it's a bit too "plain" or "one dimensional". I am here to tell you otherwise. I think some people have been a little too drawn in by all the hype about what's 'new' at the moment, or what 'new style' is all the rage at the time. I can say though, every time I go back to a really good pint of Bitter, you can't help but take the smile and the satisfaction from my lips. After all Bitter, partnered with Ale, is what made this country! I challenge anyone who is a lover of beer to have a really well produced pint of Bitter and not enjoy it.

Tonight I'm drinking three variants of Bitter from the same brewery, a brewery I'd never even heard of before, if it had not been for my sister's christmas present. The brewery is Magpie Brewery and comes from Nottingham - Sherwood Forest country.

First up to bat is Hedgehopper; a 3.9% Refreshing Golden Bitter.
I think this beer has the best head retention I've ever seen. Bright white thick froth which feels like the milk foam you get when you steam for a cappuccino (but obviously cold) It might as well have been poured through a sparkler. A really inviting aroma which leads you to thoughts of instant refreshment; lemon, fresh cut grass, straw, sherbet and a hint of lemon curd. More of the same comes through in the flavour. Refreshing bitterness which lingers. The citrus fruit peel notes die away just in the finish long enough for a straw like biscuit malt fullness to come about. Very pleasant beer, I could drink all night.

Unfortunately I won't be able to as it's time to move onto a different Bitter. Second along comes Thieving Rogue: a 4.5% Smooth Blonde Bitter. A similar quality of beer to the last. Aromas are a lot dryer to this one; lots of dry straw and a little musty hay. There's a little wheat about this brew too which is different. The real difference comes about in the flavour though. A lot more green skinned fruits to this beer. Fresh apple skin, just like the skins which got chucked in a big sack, off the cooking apples your Grandma used to use for making crumble with. The flavour is just what you'd want from a Blonde Bitter, and the finish is dry and very moorish, with just a hint of tartness coming from the bitter bite.

Save the best for last ey? Well I did. The 4.2% Magpie Best Bitter certainly comes across with a different shade to the previous two. As you can see Bitter is not just classed to the 'boring brown' colour. The aroma on this last beer is beautiful; cascades of toffee, caramel, orange pith, fruit salads, a little chocolate and a combination of the previous two beers really shines through, but with a sense that this really is the Best Bitter. The flavour is just fantastic. Rich, juicy, it has all the components that you want, and crave, from a 'Best Bitter'. Smooth caramel, a little honey sweetness, juicy fruits and a bittersweet flavour which just makes you want to drink sip after sip, mouthful after mouthful and pint after pint of this delectable and invigorating beer.

Were these three beers boring, plain or one dimensional? Hell No they weren't! Were they excellently made, full of flavour beers which were also full of character? Hell Yes! And while the branding of these beers wasn't really anything worth writing home about, I just proved a point that the beers themselves were worth writing about, cos I just did! And I loved them!

Anyone who want's to bad mouth the name of Bitter around these parts, or any parts for that matter - For Shame. For Shame Indeed.

Thursday 9 February 2012

A Lesson In Style

Hitachino Nest beers aren't new to this country but they are new to me. I'm not even sure what to call these beers. The brewery named on the back is stated as 'Kiuchi Brewery' so I'm not sure where the Hitachino Nest comes into it really. I think we'll start with the most obvious point first: The two beers I'm reviewing from Kiuchi tonight are some of the finest looking beers I've ever seen - the branding is excellent and quite frankly, puts hundreds of other beers to shame.

First up comes Nipponia - a 6.5% Golden Ale made with Sorachi Ace hops (a hop bred in Japan) and Kaneko Golden - an ancient barley from Japan. (am I correct in thinking this would be a Spelt?) I've never been a fan of Sorachi Ace, I've constantly thought it smelled like Thai curry when used in a beer by itself so this will be interesting. The beer has a bizarre aroma; It's starts with lemon and straw, some light spice and some sweet malt, a tiny hint of sweet honey and pine. I'm also getting a lot of mushroom and cheesecake because Rick Furzer suggested that's what it was like for him, and I can see what he means.
    The flavour is really nice, smooth and complex. Quite soft with a big floral edge and some underlying spicy malts. A little purfumey with some biting citrus notes, and while this is a perfectly made, executed and balanced beer, I'm still getting that Sorachi Ace flavour a little too much. It's a little more restrained in this beer than others I've tried, but I'm still thinking Thai green lemon grass chicken curry. A good beer though, a must try for anyone who's looking for something a little different.

The second of the evening is the XH - Extra High 8% - A Belgian style Brown Ale aged for quite some time in Sake Barrels. (we have six of these Nest beers at the shop now, and they sure do like to make them strong! Apart from the Nipponia, they're all over 7%+) For a beer that's aged in such interesting barrels, the recipe for the beer seems a little less than; Malts - Marris Otter, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate. Hops - Chinook and Styrian Goldings. That's about it, but let's not forget, we don't judge a beer by what goes into it, (well, we try not too) we judge it on what it tastes like.

I first tried Sake about 3 years ago. It was mental and it really messed me up for some reason. After I had my first few sips I felt like I had become instantly drunk - in an amazing way - it was crazy. This beer smells like that. *Danger!* Quite nutty with woody hints, some Belgian dark fruit malt flavours too in the aroma.
    The flavour is quite sweet in this beer too, a little like dark Belgian candy sugars or a really nice, good quality brown sugar. Other flavours consist of brown bread, some toffee, light malt spice, grapes, pears and a good dose of Sake! The finish is sweet and moorish, with no indication of how strong the beer is... it's gone before you even knew it was poured.

Two really great beers from Japan. We have a range of six in at the shop at the moment, and I really suggest trying them. My only experience of Japanese beer so far has been Asahi in the past, and while Ashai Black was OK, it wasn't anything to write home about. Apart from that, it's always been the Japanese Whisky that's floated my boat, some/most of them are good enough to rival any Scotch Whisky, they clearly know what they're doing. It's a similar story with Kiuchi Brewery - They clearly know what they're doing.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Dark vs The Light

It seems Durham Brewery have produced a White Stout. Don't be fooled into thinking that this is one of those oxymoronic light coloured beers which tastes like a dark one though, as this is nothing like that. This beer has history in mind. The bottle blurb states; "Before porter breweries claimed the term 'stout' for dark beers, any strong beer was a 'stout' beer."

So with tonight being WhiteStout night on Twitter I thought I'd crack open a bottle and find out what it's like. I've had it once before on cask and thought it very pleasant, but bottles can always be different.

At 7.2% it comes across with a very restrained but still aromatic aroma. I'm getting green apple and pear skins, a little lemon, grape, straw and some subtle spice. There's a lot of fruity malts in the body, and you get an initial malty spice too under the bittersweet flavours. A sharp lemony/orangy tang is soothed by hints of caramel and toffee. A beer with a lot of complexity and good old fashioned British flavour, with a long, drying and moorish finish - so much so, you want to take another sip before you put your glass down.

My one and only issue with the beer comes with the labeling. A few people have been a bit confused by the naming of the beer, only to have me point out the blurb, then things become clear. It's perfectly acceptable to call it a White Stout, but In my opinion, putting Pale Stout underneath doesn't really help with the confusion of some. I think it would be better off saying; "White Stout, Strong English Ale".

With all the backstory behind this event tonight from the good people at Durham (on Twitter. Elle has been loving the Temp. as well as the White) it would be a little unfair to not open a Temptation as well, to give a little yin to the yang.

Durham Temptation is a 10% Imperial Stout - a style which is renownedly recognised by being strong and dark. Lots of flavours come about from the aroma of this one. Rich dark chocolate, raisins, woody tones, burnt toast and plenty of burnt malts, a little molasses mixed coffee and generally all the dark good stuff you want from an Imperial Stout.

The flavour is super intense. Thick and rich like an oil slick. I think I'm correct here by saying that this I.S. is a lot different to pretty much all the American I.S's because, while they're driven by a huge overly hoppy bitterness, this beer is driven by a huge main beer ingredient: MALTS... and so much of them. Yes it has a big bitter bite in the form of some orangy pith, making it rather morish - and probably a little too easy drinking, but the malt bill in this beer must be huge! Loads of bitter chocolate, rich dried fruits, mocha, liqourice and even a little vegetal flavour from this perfectly produced and balanced, but decadent beer.... skillz!

I've had a few chats recently with Elle Bell on Twitter about both of these beers. One night I suggested that we should pour one of each into a big jug and find out the results of a blend - being the crazy fool I am. She said it would make for a really interesting experiment, and she tried it before I could. She wasn't too keen on the results as she thought it made the overall experience a little unbalanced and a little to overly hoppy bitter... a bit like a BIPA. I for one, like some BIPAs, and with a third of each beer left in front of me, I couldn't help but resist and pour them both together to find out!

The result: It certainly presents itself with a different aroma! All of those big chocolate dark malts get a little replaced with the aromas of the White Stout. Elle was right! This does taste like a Black IPA, and what a Black IPA it is! She may not have been a fan of the blend, but it's something I'm loving right now - I think all the flavours perfectly mar themselves into one glorious beer. I seriously suggest you get one each of these beers and try it out for yourselves, it's worth it! White Stout meets Black Stout - Loving it.

Appreciate it, for all that it is individually, but - at the end of the day: Have some fun with your beer!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

No. Sleep. Till BROOKLYN

I've always been a major fan of Brooklyn Beer. That's why it's always made me a little sad that we don't get as much as we probably should in this country. Don't get me wrong, we get plenty, I even managed a few Brooklyn Blasts! about a week ago, (a truly fantastic beer) but it seems to me that a lot of the specials and the more sought after brews never really grace our shop.

That was until last week!

First up to bat in the list of possible greats is Brooklyn Monster Barley Wine. This beer comes across with a gorgeous rich burnt amber hue. A faint wiff of caramel malt comes about, but it has a classic aroma of a Brooklyn beer - it's pretty recognisable. Plenty of toffee, a little candy floss and some brown sugar.

The flavour is instant, intense and smoooth. A bitter beast of a beer, but you can still tell there's plenty of malt richness about this 10.3% behemoth. Flavours of candy apples and lots of orangy pithy goodness. plenty of brown sugar and caramel too, mixed with a touch of vanilla and a nice marmalade quality. A brilliant Barley Wine, no disappointment at all - one for the keeper shelves!

Second up comes a beer which needs no introduction, because apparently, it doesn't have one.

While all the blurb on the bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops, being it the beer that doesn't exist, is an interesting read, what I really wanted to find out was whether or not this beer was worth the 25 squid I coughed up for it. And also if I could tell if there was any sort of outside (or mental) influence which dictated my opinion on the beer otherwise. This was something I had started to wonder about in a post a couple of weeks back. Let's dive in then I guess!

Brooklyn Black Ops, I can tell you, is a beer which does exist. It's a 10.7% Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 4 months then bottled flat and re-fermented with Champagne yeast. The aroma is rich, powerful but mysteriously inviting. Lots of vanilla and spicy/woody Bourbon. Burnt malts and a little lactic dominate also. Cherry skin like spirit and a fired up essence that hits the back of your throat making you realise before you even drink it that it's going to have it's way with you.

It's light in body/mouthfeel, not what I was expecting. I get so much chocolate... sooo much rich dark chocolate. It's like liquidated chocolate truffles aged in Bourbon! It has as much boozy goodness in it, you could probably say it's leaning a little more toward a liqueur than a beer. It's quite a sweet beer. A little hazelnut and milk. I'm not sure if it's the Champagne yeast but there's definitely something very different about this beer. It's hard to put your finger on, whilst still being completely blown away. Soy notes and a little liqourice, raisins and blackberries, woody molasses and a deep, deep long finish which tells you; your going to have a good night tonight!

Was it worth the £25?? Only time will tell I guess... I'm only a 3rd in with 2/3rds left to go! It's going to be great fun finding out.

Bring it on.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Imperial Stout Snow Cone

After reading Glyn's post about snowy beer pairing it got me thinking about my own snowy beer.

He stated that he preferred IPAs because he thought Imperial Stouts were a little bit unimaginative, a view which he's completely entitled to, after all it's been done to death a little of late - "it's cold! I need something strong and dark" It got me thinking though, does it really have to be unimaginative? After all I've been bastardizing the drink for many years now.... adding whisky to it, pouring it over ice cream, blending it half and half with Imperial IPA and even mixing it with fruit beer. After a bit of thought and the fact there's 4 inches of snow on the ground, it suddenly hit me;

I'm making me some IMPERIAL STOUT SNOW CONES!!!

I'm about to blow the doors off this beast. Sounds crazy right.... well, it is. There's just something about my hatred for the snow that just brings out my inner idiot, and for once I just wanted to have a little bit of fun.

Check this out:

Now with Imperial Stout Snow Cone making, there's a set of rules you must follow;

1. - Firstly make yourself a good cone. Get a good piece of card, cut a circle out of it and cut a quarter out of that circle, then stick together with tape - simple! You want to make sure you get the freshest fallen snow here to pack out the cone. We're not looking for yellow snow here, we're looking for the purest, whitest snow which we can turn into brown snow.

2. - You need to choose your Stout very carefully. As we're basically watering it down by pouring it onto snow, (to release the flavours, like a whisky don't you know...) you're going to need one with the most booze, the most flavour, so it really shines though in the icy goodness. I went for Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout - A personal favourite of mine. There's just something about the power of this beer, I knew it would beat the crap out of a little bit of the fluffy stuff.

3. - Realise what you've just done by pouring a very expensive beer into snow, try not to smile while you take a giant bite, savour, enjoy and repeat, then rush back inside to your fire and enjoy the rest of the bottle of beer.

That was my experiment then, and I loved every minute of it. I couldn't help but smile and laugh when I started to pour the beer over the snow. When are you going to do yours? Just remember, it's just beer at the end of the day - have some FUN with it!

This post was brought to you by the 'Stop GhostDrinker being a moron foundation'

Saturday 4 February 2012

Nice Surprises

A month or two back, whist we were on our Christmas do at The Grove, a man named Martin rocked up and asked if I was 'the ghost?' Whilst I was wondering how he knew that, he placed a bottle of beer in my hand and started to explain.

Martin (or @6TownsMart as he's known on twitter... things made a little more sense after that little bit of info) had enjoyed reading one of my past posts about Flemish beer. It was incredibly kind of him to then bring me a bottle of Struise Aardmonnik - Earthmonk for my consideration, if I remember correctly he said it was his favourite and a 'must try' for any Flemish beer lover.

I didn't know anything about the beer at the time, but my interest was heightened when Zak leaned over and whispered "That's an incredibly rare beer you got there." After looking up a quick commercial description on RateBeer (it's the only useful thing I use RB for..) I knew I had to try this monstrous looking brew.

It pours flat as a pancake, but at about 4 years old, I'm not too surprised. The aroma is immediate and intense, you can smell it before you even lift the glass to your nose. Now it may not sound too appetising, but it smells like; earthy sulphur, vinegar, sour oak, sherry, rum raisin and a touch of floral vanilla.

The flavour of this beer does not stop. It coats your mouth and refuses to let go. It's aged for 18 months in oak, and you can really feel all the 8% beat you senseless. Sour, vinous, sweet notes coming  in at certain points, oak, sherry, rum, dark spice, earthy malt, tart cherry and a little acidity.
   I've not had many beers from Struise, but this one kicks so much ass I think it's going to be pretty hard to beat. I will be keeping my eye out for more of their beers in the future, but for now I think I'll sit by the fire and enjoy the rest of this glass while the two inches of snow stop me from painting the outside of Beer Ritz....

Martin Ridge, you get my upmost gratitude for passing this beer along, next time you come to the shop give me a shout and I'll have a beer waiting for you.

Answers on a postcard as to what animal that is...

Wednesday 1 February 2012

2 More to Add to the Litter

I don't really enjoy siding in massive debates which can sometimes get out of hand, I just like to drink beer.

Tonight I'm breaking out two new beers from Brewdog for scrupulous examination; AB:08 and their collaborative brew with Lost Abbey - Lost Dog.

Lost Dog comes out of the cage first. An 11.5% Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Porter has a lot to live up to, so let's get the crack. I was really exited about this beer, not just because of what it is, but because it's made with the guys at Lost Abbey. I've had a lot of beer from the guys from Southern California, and I've been blown away by all of them, so let's hope that they lost nothing on the way over here.

It's not as dark as I thought it would be. It's more the colour of a very dark rum rather than a dark brown/black porter. There's no getting away from the aroma, it absolutely stinks of rum drenched raisins and fire kissed vanilla coming from the heart of oak barrels.

The flavour is instant, rich and intense. I do wonder however, if aging the beer for almost a year was a little too long. It's a very sweet beer, plenty of almost dried fruits, you can't really get any note of alcoholic strength. (not sure if that's good or bad here) It's a rather strange beer, I get no real presence of hop bitterness or malt backbone, in fact after the swallow the flavour just seems to drop away really. It's sort of like a watered down dark rum. I think it would have been a lot better if it was backed up by a long thick, dark and full malty flavour - maybe a Rum Aged Imperial Stouts is due here.

While it may have the fantastic packaging and look as the Paradox range, I'm afraid it fails to deliver in the way I expected. It kind of reminds me of Innis & Gunn's rum cask beer, and while that's my favourite I+G beer, this has a much higher strength which doesn't really come across. An interesting beer which I'm glad I tried, but not one I'd get again.

Second up: AB:08 - an 11.8% deconstructed Imperial Stout.

I think I'm right in saying the idea was to create a beer with all the qualities of an Imperial Stout, but without the colour. I can't really see the point apart from it being gimmicky, but hey let's give it a go. Let's face it, if there's one beer I know - It's Imperial Stout, so let's see if it's a crowd pleaser, or just another April Fools.

Aroma wise, there's lots to pick out. It has a predominant burt ash scent which is worrying, but there's hints of chocolate & coco, some vegetal/tomato skin and a big bite of strong espresso to back it up.

Sorry guys, this is not an Imperial Stout. What it is though is one hell of an interesting and tasty beer! I'm not sure you'll ever be able to replace and recreate those full on flavours which come about from the darker malts but It's full on in flavour and complexity. Lots of coco nibs, you can tell there's a decent amount of hop bitterness under quite a bit of chocolate smoothness. The smoky nose comes into play quite a bit with the flavour, but it's nothing bad. Marshmellow, caramel and vanilla, sweet bonfire toffee, orange rind, a little sticky pine and a lot of complex complexity!

I'll tell you one thing, I couldn't shake the flavour of Coco Pops out of my mouth with this beer. Suits me just fine, I love me some Coco Pops!

Is it fair to pump a beer full of flavour adding elements to take away from what it should be in the first place?.... I'm not really bothered. At first I didn't want to like this beer, but by the end of it I was kinda in love with it. Is that what strong beer does to you? Well if so, that's part of their charm I guess.