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

Wednesday 30 May 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree. Day 5

I'm at the end of my 5 days of Barley Wine-ing it up and I've unfortunately fallen at the last hurdle. I had a couple of doozies lined up in the fridge too for a final double feature spectacle, but circumstances have dictated that I shan't be drinking tonight.

If you're out and about tonight, or just drinking leisurely at home, spare a thought for the odd Barley Wine that's not getting drunk this evening. Most will be because some people think it's too warm for that kind of drink. I never really got that. I drink big BWs and Imperial Stouts in the depths of winter to the heights of summer, just the same as I drink Pale Ales in summer and in winter.

My Barley Wines sit alone in the fridge for tonight, untouched and unopened. Crack one open this week won't you? It's an amazing style of beer. You won't regret it I'm sure.

Here's to beer.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree. Day 4

I felt I had given a bit too much time to the Americans, so tonight I'm pulling out the Big British Guns!

Marble Brewery.

One of the specials.

10.7%, 750mls of pure amber glory.

It pours very flat, which was rather surprising. Aromas are heavy. I'm thinking similar to the Blithering Idiot, but twice the amount! Sweet sherries, oak and vanilla, some whisky tones, bonfire toffee and caramels mixed with fudge.

It's super sweet on the first gulp. Burnt brown sugars is what it's all about, it's fantastic! Woody pines, a tiny hint of aniseed, slightly meaty and vegetal, but not enough to get in your way. Quite a bit of hoppy citrus and orange bitterness coming in the finish making it very moorish, which is surprising too as I think this could be an old bottle from what I can make out on the label. It's very much dessert in a glass. As it warms the sweetness is starting to dominate. It's slightly lacking in carbonation, but apart from that it's pretty much perfect.

It hits all my Barley Wine sweet spots dead on, it doesn't get much better than this. The only problem is what do I follow it up with for Day 5?? To be honest, I could keep this going for a 10Day spree with the amount of Barley Wines I have right now, but I think I best not....

...I do love Barley Wines though!

Monday 28 May 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree. Day 3

I'm finding it quite interesting to see the massive amount of difference in all these Barley Wines at the mo, it's fun trying them back to back to back.

Anyways, Day 3

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - 11.1%.

Aromas: Sherry, plum sauce, figs, dates, cherry stones and flesh. There's some toffee sweetness, but this smells a little more like a Vintage Ale combined with a Belgian Quadruple. I'm also surprised about how much loose sediment there is to this US BW. (not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Initial thoughts: It's thick and syrup like on the tip of the tongue, but that then fades away into a fortified wine like flavour without any great deal of sweetness, more like a woody, rum soaked raisin flavour. It is very much like a hybrid of Vintage Ale and Quads. Lots of resin, pine and tonnes of dried fruit. It has a lot more in common with the SK1 than with it's US brother Back Burner. It has a lot of English IPA about it, it's chock-a-block full of malty flavours. I think it's great! A tiny touch thin in the body making it lack that boozy punch, but it's not a bad thing. It doesn't really have any sweet carmel flavours either, but I'm still really enjoying it...

Could my Barley Wine specification walls be crumbling?

... Roll on Day 4!

Sunday 27 May 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree. Day 2

Second up in the Barley Wine spree comes a monster bomber from Southern Tier.

Back Burner: a 10% fiery beast.

The aroma is classic American Barley Wine. Huge on the sweets. Lots of toffee, fudge, caramel. There's lots of lemon sherbet and orange rind too suggesting a good dose of hoppy bitterness. It should do really, apparently there's "voluminous" amounts  of Chinook in the kettle, Willamette for aroma, Amarillo and Centennial for dry hopping in this brew. Like I say though, I prefer my BWs to be more about the malt, which, in this description just gets a bit of a side mention really.... "2-row pale malt, light & dark caramel malt" as if to say, 'yeah, this is here, but it's not that big a deal.'

Thick and rich in the body, intensely sweet to start with and nearly no bitterness that I can find. This sweetness then just dies away enough for a lingering vegetal dryness to come around in the finish to make you want more. Rum, Rum, Rum. However, not really much boozy presence, it's dominated by the candy sugars and candy floss flavours in the body. Thinking about it, the big vegetal essence in the finish is slightly distracting, and not as moorish as it really should be. Some fruit too in here too though. Pineapple soaked in brown sugar with some fresh raisin bread. A nice sipper, which is kinda hard cos there's so much of it, and besides - I never really was much of a sipper, but then again, that's what happens when you drink Imperial Stouts all the time...

It's a great beer, but somehow there's just something about the vegetal aftertaste that I think it could do without.

Join me on day 3 tomorrow for more Barley Wine won't you!

Saturday 26 May 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree. Day 1

I seem to have amassed quite a large number of Barley Wines over the past few months, so the next five days will see an attempt to sample a few of the ones I've never tried before. 5 days, 5 different Barley Wines, 5 mini reviews - Should be fun!

I will say before I start that I'm quite particular about my Barley Wines. I like my BW to have lots of boozy goodness. It should also have lots of caramel malt sweetness - too much hoppy bitterness does not do it for me. I also like a little bit of a drying, fruity finish making it very moorishly drinkable. (think Anchor Old Foghorn - that's one of my favs.) These are just the things I really like out of my BWs - if you like it otherwise that's fine, this is just my preference.

To start off with I'm breaking out the Stronge Krause SK1. It's a collaboration BW from Quantum Brewery and Colin Stronge (formerly of Marble, now of Black Isle Brewery) This is apparently a Strong Amber Barley Wine and at 7.4% it looks a little darker than amber. It has a huge carbonation on it too, which is a little puzzling as I'm sure this bottle is getting on a bit now?

The 'generous' amount of Nelson Sauvin, Super Alpha and Motueka don't really shine through in the aroma, but I am getting a lot of fruit; apples, pears, a little mango and some grapes with tangerine and apricot. Some woody and burnt notes in there too, but it's on the swirl that the aromas are really starting to lift.

It's definitely boozy in the body for sure. My initial thoughts are it has a big bitter-sweet body with a little bit of acidity. Slightly winey with lots of oaky woody dryness. I'm getting a lot of dried fruit flavours, some burnt toffee, and it's all set a buzzing really with a high level of CO2.

It's an excellent beer indeed, but it doesn't really hit that sweet spot for me. It has the booze, it has the drying fruity finish but I would of liked a bit more sweetness in the brew and then I think it would have been perfect. That's just my opinion mind, and I will now take this upstairs to enjoy, and to see how it evolves as it warms up a little. (I'm already enjoying it more as I finish writing this - the warmer the better!)

See ya'll for more Barley Wines tomorrow!

Thursday 24 May 2012

Don't Forget the Classics

In our modern day beer world, with it's multitude of styles, varieties, huge amount of new breweries and beers popping up, it's easy to get a little lost or disconnected. That's when I look to the classics for a bit of perspective, or to put it another way, sometimes you need an old time champ to remind you that a beer is a beer is a beer.

My classic beer of tonight is Coniston's XB Bluebird Bitter (*waits for Tandleman to slate the glass-wear* - the bottle calls for a pint glass though...)

It's a fantastic ale. Citrusy and grassy on the aroma and in the body. Just the right amount of bitterness. Lemon, straw and a good deal of moorish dryness within a perfect amount of condition.

Check out what the bottle states:

"Bluebird XB combines two of the great themes of ale brewing to produce something distinctive and new. The fine tradition of English Pale Ale is about quaffing, refreshment and complexity of flavour without alcoholic strength.

Then throw in new wave American hop variety Mount Hood with robust citrus aromas. ... Not too much mind or we might have an American Pale Ale on our hands?

Bluebird XB familiar... but different"

Sound familiar? Well back then it didn't! Coniston started up in 1995. Back then there wasn't the beer scene we have today, quite the opposite, some would say. The beer scene has moved on though, and things have changed dramatically, but one thing hasn't; Bluebird XB.

I'm not trying to say that all this change isn't great, of course it is, but sometimes it's just nice to remind yourself of the past classics. After all, a lot of the beers today, if not all some would say wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the classics of the past. That's not to say there isn't some modern classics though. I can think of a few right off the bat now; Ilkley Mary Jane, Kernel Citra, Marble Dobber, and even Brewdog Punk IPA (say what you will about it, but it will be around for many, many years)... but this is another blogpost.

What can you think up for old classics though? I'm thinking of beers like Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Black Sheep Bitter, Timmy Taylors Landlord, Sam Smiths Imperial Stout, White Shield IPA, Batemans XXXB, Fullers Vintage Ale, Jennings Sneck Lifter and Green King Strong Suffolk, the list could go on and on.

The new brewers that are coming out and growing up fast should be praised for the things they're doing. But I rarely think that they're new things, and one would be wise not to forget the classic beers that, in some situations, probably came before you were even born, I know in my case that's rather a lot.

Sunday 20 May 2012


This weekend, they came from far and wide... (but mostly from around Leeds). They came with beers, cameras and note books. This weekend the beer geeks assembled on mass with only one thing on their minds: This weekend was the European Beer Bloggers Conference at the Met hotel in Leeds.

This will be a sort of photo-journal of my experience of the weekend. I'm sure everyone else has their own experiences and those will come out I'm sure in their posts, but this is mine.

The weekend really started off in North Bar for me, with the launch of draught Tipopils from Birrificio Italiano. (great pilsner, but I really don't understand all the hype behind it) It was on the back of the 'Introduction to Leeds pub crawl' organised by Leigh Good Stuff - which, may I add, was expertly organised considering how many people showed up.


When I arrived at the hotel the next morning, I was confronted with a room full of beer geeks and beers. My first beer of the conference had to be the 9% Generation Ale from Shepherd Neame - hey, start as you mean to go on right?

Massive cheese and beer samples:
Perfect breakfast!

The room was packed out with brewers, promoters and their wares for all us to try. I think the most impressive stand had to be from William's Brewery - with the Double Joker being a big hit!

After we were quite lubricated, we moved next door into the main conference hall where we had our first couple of talks. The first talk was a look into beer blogging in Europe - the idea was to let everyone know that the conference wasn't just people from the UK visiting.

The second talk was from Adrian Tierney-Jones and Simon Jenkins about improving your beer writing. I was looking forward to this one, but there was no real mention of bad spelling or grammar, so I think I'm safe... ATJ talked about having short sharp blasts for your posts, but this is probably my longest post ever, oh well.. What I really took from this was; Write about what you want to, and what makes you happy.

The next talk was on blogging platforms and website design. This all went a little over my head, as I'm not a tech minded sort of guy (hell, I can barely use this) and when the term 'domain name' is something that's easy enough to confuse me, I'm not really going to take in much.

I managed to smash one of the very thin
glasses taking it out of the dishwasher this morning...
Next up back in the first room was the comparative beer and glass tasting hosted by Spiegelau. We kind of felt a bit like naughty school kids at the back of the class in this set up - that's what happens when you sit next to Matt Gorecki and Phil Hardy...

It was an interesting experience, but I couldn't really take anything from it. I know that different glasses can have different effects on aromas, but when we were using such small amounts in such large, tall glasses, I didn't really see much of a difference.

By the end of that, all I'd eaten for the day was a few cubes of cheese, so was very ready for some food.

The meal was put on by Sharps and Molson Coors. All the Sharps beers were great and the main course of Hake was delicious. I wasn't too sure about the salad with fruit for starters though.

All throughout the meal there was a slide show presentation on the big screen. What people who weren't at the conference didn't realise was that every tweet that had the hashtag #EBBC12 after it came up on that big screen. Our table got a little bit preoccupied with making sure things got up there, which to NickiQuote's downfall, was rather amusing. You'll have to ask him of the things said though...

After the meal we broke straight into the night of International Beers.

I'd never really gotten palate fatigue before, but after a while everything started tasting a bit same-y, so I decided to tuck and run at about half eleven and save myself for the next day.


We started at 10am on Sat and broke straight into taking your beer writing to the next level with Mark Dredge, Zak Avery and Marverine Cole. The talk was really a look into taking your writing further through different mediums, be that working for a brewery, working for a big beer company or getting yourself on the tv by composing tastings.

The next talk was about social media and what it can do for your writing. Again, thinking all new technology is witchcraft, this was a bit lost on me. I did however think the pinterest idea was a good one. (although I thought it was 'Pint-erest'...)

Following this was the state of the Hops Industry by Paul Corbett which, while being quite technical, was really interesting to see where all the different hops come from, new verities coming out and how the hop world is changing.

The key note speech was up next from Stuart Howe from Sharps. I won't go into much detail here, but it was very obvious to me that he's clearly a passionate and enthusiastic man about beer and brewing for sure.

We then broke into one, sort of, massive focus group in the room and had a few very good discussions over some beer related matters, over some beers, which was really enjoyable. Then we were treated to 10 different beers in 50 minutes for the Live Beer Blogging event. It was a sort of speed dating but for brewers. Each brewery had 5mins to show and explain their wares whilst we drank and asked them questions. After a beer explosion all my notes were ruined, furthering my thought that maybe I should get a ipad, but I think Nick put down what happened pretty well here.

We then moved onto the Pilsner Urquell meal at Anthony's in the Corn Exchange, something that most, sorry, all of us were looking forward to.

We had a nice talk from the guys about Pilsner Urquell, and the story about the first barrel of the stuff ever made was probably the most captivating story about beer I've ever heard in my life - that man knew how to tell a tale! We also got to try out our pouring skills.

Ghosty and Gorecki going head to head!
We all took our places and sat down for a utterly fantastic meal accompanied by regular and wooden barrel served unfiltered Pilsner Urquell. It was literally quite amazing.

After that I couldn't really move anymore, and when I discovered that a couple of the beers in my bag had been smashed to bits, I conceded defeat and decided it best not to move onto the after party and pub crawl of Leeds and sneak off into the darkness.

This has been an amazing weekend.

Made possible in no small part to the sponsors and organisers of the event. I'd like to give a big shout of to; Allan Wright and Elle Potter for their organisation skills. I'd like to thank all the sponsors, much love goes to; Molson Coors, Magic Rock, Brains, Shepherd Neame, Spiegelau, Badger Ales, Williams Bros. Brew Co., Marston's, SIBA and all the brewers that came along to share their wares.

It has been fantastic to finally meet the rest of the beer blogging world. You're all amazing guys and I love and respect you all. I learnt a lot this weekend. I laughed, I drank, I ate, I needed a little sleep and we partied!

I hope my hometown of Leeds did you guys justice. I know I won't forget it for a long time, and can't wait till I can drink with all you guys again.

Ghost Drinker signing off, for now..

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Red & White

Dogfish Head are one of my favourite American breweries (it's tied with Stone really) so when some comes over to England (rarely) you can tell I won't be far behind. My drink of choice for this evening is Dogfish Head's Red & White; an Ale brewed with coriander, orange peel and Pinot Noir juice added. It's then 11% aged in Pinot Noir barrels, and the other 89% aged on oak barrel staves. Sounds pretty impressive to me...

It is.

An intense and fruity aroma. Caramel soaked grapes. Fresh apples and pears. Dried apricots an tangerine skins. Some lemon straw and a whiff of difference coming through as it sits in the glass with the light shining through the pure amber gold hue, begging for the first sip.

The first mouthful is an experience. Still elements to tell you that this is a beer in the background; the faintest of light malts, a hint of bitter tang. It's more than just a beer though. The wine and barrel aging elements transform this drink into a monster of complexity, but still within a perfect balance of subtlety. Sweet honeys and syrups. Big juicy flavour, with the big 10% hidden almost completely under a layer of coriander, herbal and floral elements.

It's one hell of a beverage, and an utterly unique one at that.

... love a bit of midnight blogging me.

Off for some crispy duck spring roles and the rest of the bottle...

Monday 14 May 2012

Offbeat is Off The Hook!

It's been a while since I've come across a few beers from a brewery that I've never even seen let alone really heard of, that really stands out, really makes me sit up and say WOW while it grabs hold of my face and screams THIS IS THE NEW SHIZZLE! You've probably all had these moments before. First time you tried Magic Rock beers maybe? Or Kernel? Those moments when you can just feel a brewer's gonna be a big-un.

I had one of those moments last night whilst in Arcadia.

I turned up to see three odd but stylish looking pumpclips; Out Landish Pale, Out of Step IPA and a Mild made with fruit which escapes me now. (never have my camera or note pad when I need it!) The beers came from Offbeat Brewery, which started up in Novemeber 2010 in Crewe. I went for the Pale straight away, and it did not last long. It's a beautiful sessioner. Think Buxton Moor Top or Thornbridge Wild Swan, but with a bigger bitter bite. At 3.9% it's probably got more character about it than most of the other beers in this catagory coming from he UK, I could have drunk it all night - but there was others to try.

I went for the Out of Step IPA next and it was so good I stayed on that for the rest of the night. Probably not my best idea as it was 5.8%, but it was so good I couldn't get enough.

You can buy beer from their website, and I see they may even be bottling some of their whisky aged stout; Far Out Stout. I really hope they can start to bottle the whole range of beers, they would be an awesome addition to the Beer Ritz shelves. I'd recommend this brewery to anyone. If you see it at the pumps, grab it fast because it's simply delicious. I just hope it will come around more often than not at Arcadia. I just get the feeling that this brewery's going places fast.

Great beer. Stylish and attractive design. A nice mascot too, it's the whole package.

Pictures taken from website.
Check them out here.

Saturday 12 May 2012

International Beer Swappin

It's that time.

My international beer buddy Eric Michaud from Quebec sent me a few beers again a few weeks back, so it's only fitting I tell you all about them here!

It was a pretty similar deal to the first swap, but there's just more beer this time. So with some great beers that Britain has to offer sent back his way, let's see what Montreal has to offer up this time;

Broue Pub Brouhaha Gaz de Course Barley Wine.
First up comes this big ass 11.9% Barley Wine. It has an intensely sweet and rich aroma. Loads of sherry, raisins, honey and toffee, big - full on resinous hops and a lot of charred caramel. The colour is great. Really, really dark for a BW but held up to the light you get a super red velvet colour coming through. It starts really sweet with loads more honey and some dark chocolate. It's slightly grainy in texture. It's big on the fruit too, grapes, apples and oranges are all the order of the day. Floral with the alcohol completely hidden. The next time I make a beer, I must remember to use Centenial, Simcoe and Amarillo in the same brew, and then age it for 8 months before consumption - Delicious.

Benelux Grande Armada Reserve Whisky Aged Vintage Ale.
This beer straight up stinks of American Whisky. It's huge on the American oak and vanilla, I don't really get much else in the aroma. To be fair it's quite a dominating aroma, but there is still loads going on here. Almonds and vanilla is in the flavour with some herbs, some spice and some smoky bitterness, but it's all about the whisky in this brew. I'm not too sure about this beer, and I don't really know anything about it. How long has it been in the barrels? Which barrels? It's a little difficult to make impressions on it, it's very unique. As it warms up I'm enjoying it a little more though... you know as well as I that I'm a big fan of whisky...

Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique Grande Cuvee.
I know for sure I've never had a Baltic Porter that was 10% before, so this should be fun (and in such a big bottle too..). It has a big aroma about it. Wood smoke, chocolate and cherries, alcohol, a little salt (it would be a perfect beer to pair with seafood) and a heap of decadence. Winner of the World Beer Awards 2010 Best Baltic Porter award, it has a lot to live up to. It certainly does not disappoint! It tastes like pure luxury. It has a fantastic sweet cherry stone quality which eventually dries out into a very mild lingering bitterness. You don't get any booze, in fact it's already half gone - it's a very dangerous beer indeed. A little more drying wood, a lot of bitter dark chocolate, the label stating mochaccino is pretty spot on.
Simply Stunning Beer, I'm not surprised it won. I just wish I had a few more of these, it's a perfect sharing desert beer.

That was my three beers. I do hope that Eric enjoys the beers that I sent him back - there's some pretty good ones in there! I'll say my thanks again to Eric here, we'd all be better off if more people had your generosity, and a little drunker too, you do like to send Quebec's strongest... I mean finest ;)

I'll be in touch soon,

your beer pen pal, Ghosty.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Home Brewer Turning Brewer

David Bishop (@Broadfordbrewer) has been quite busy as of late with his garage brewing. He's given me four samples of his recent home brews, and to be honest, he's put a lot of hard work into these, and his recent home brewing in general. He asked me to let him know what I really thought, so instead of writing a couple of (slightly impersonal) 140 character tweets, I thought I'd let him really know what I think here.

Four different beers, four different styles.

Stylus; 4.5% Pale Ale.
I was talking about home brewing Pale Ales earlier today. I think it's a lot easier to brew a Porter or a Stout, because they're so full of flavour regardless, from the flavourful malts used. I think it's much harder to produce a good light % Pale Ale well, that has something more about it, these days. A little darker than expected. The aroma is all about the citrus fruits, grass and fresh hay topped off with loads of sherbet. It's slightly thin on the mouthfeel, but it has a nice, refreshing, depth of flavour which is similar to the aromas. Dry with a nice lasting bitterness.

Aire; 4.5% Porter.
This brew pours very dark brown with a chalky white head. The aroma is fruity with quite a bit of chocolate biscuit malt. I get a lot of light roasted bitterness and just a hint of that dairy like creaminess, you sometimes get in darker beers, in the body. A lasting chocolate malt dryness in the finish is quite prominent. As the beer warms up a bit I get a really nice burnt toast flavour, making the beer really moorish.

Damn Nation; 8.3% Belgian Golden Strong Ale.
This cloudy Golden Ale has some great aromas. Bananas and cream, lemons, rhubarb and custard penny sweets. It's certainly a Belgian Ale for sure. Loads of buzzing carbonation, a nice yeasty bready bite, all the flavours mentioned in the aroma and then some. It's a beautiful beer, which is definitely my pick of the bunch. It's better than a lot of Belgian beers we sell! I think I saw Dave asking if it would benefit from some more time in the bottle last night? (it's very fresh) - I don't really think so, it's pretty perfect now.

Progress; 6.1% IPA.
Last of the bunch comes an IPA. Progress sits in the glass with a clear deep amber orange hue. It has a lot of big juicy aromas. I'm getting grapefruits, tangerines and again, lots of sherbet dryness. I (and others) talked about IPA in my previous post, and this really seems like a UK style of Indian Pale Ale rather than a IPA. (Think a more fruity version of White Shield rather than a hop bomb US IPA.) Loads of sherbet tang in the the flavour. Moorish, easy drinking, and a pleasure to sup as I type.

I can only say thanks to Dave for passing these beers along to me. It's obvious that a lot of thought and hard work has gone into these beers, and when you do that you end up with something that you can be truly proud of. For now I'll keep a keen eye on what's happening in Bradford, but what I will say though is; when is this beer going to come along??

Monday 7 May 2012

Is IPA Still IPA?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about IPA. He hadn't really tried many, just a couple for a starting out beer geek, but we still managed to have a good chat on the subject. He asked me what I thought of beers like Green King IPA and others in that sort of range, and while I said that they were kind of IPAs and not IPAs, we didn't really come to much of a conclusion to the conversation - such is the way with beer - It's always open ended. (which, to me, is a good thing)

It did make me think though about the modern day beer world and where IPA fits into it.

When you look at a modern day IPA what do you think of? What would be the most obvious that comes to mind, or which would you consider most traditional, or the best? It's a very tough call to make, look at the (very small) list below:

Goose Island IPA        Burton Bridge Empire IPA
Green King IPA           Ilkley Lotus IPA
White Shield IPA         Copper Dragon Challenger IPA
Williams Joker IPA     Thornbridge Jaipur IPA
Brooklyn East IPA       Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Ten different IPAs. (some may or may not be in your opinion) But not one of them is the same. They all have big differences to them - their own personalities, their own qualities. Some are bottle conditioned, some are not, some are hoppier than others, some are stronger than others but they're still all IPAs. Does IPA still only stand for a beer that's highly hopped, and stronger than usual? I think not.

Things get more confusing around the subject of IPA when you look at all the varying sub-styles and extras that can sometimes go into the style. For instance; Double IPA, Extra IPA, Imperial IPA, Black IPA, Red IPA, Rye IPA, Wet Hopped IPA, Belgian IPA - these are just a few of the ways IPA has been treated over the years, and it's hard to say if it's helped or hindered IPAs style in some people's minds.

Is it any wonder that someone who's just beginning to get into good beer and IPA as a style (like the friend I had the conversation with) might be a little confused about the way us beer geeks see IPA. They might also see IPA as a confusing beer style, and as it's so vast, maybe a little daunting as well.

I'm not trying to call for IPA to be unified here. I'm not going to try and lay down some Reinheitsgebot rules on what IPA must be, and if it differs from the rules then it can't be called as such - that's a very restrictive and damaging view. And we could argue about that set of rules for an age as well. At the end of the day, we already argue about the style enough, and is that really getting us anywhere? Instead of arguing, why aren't we educating?

What I'd love to call for is a bit more of an open mind when it comes to IPA. I'd love to see more of an understanding that in this modern age, it's a very broad style which contains many branches of IPA, but they all stem from the same style tree. You can look at all these new great breweries popping up everywhere, is IPA going to get more restrainable? No, it will become more diverse as more brewers create their own versions of IPA. This shouldn't be seen as a bad thing - it's just the new thing.

There are so many interpretations of IPA and variations on the style these days, how can one description, or individual specimen, be the definitive and end all to the style? It can't, it would be impossible.

After all, it's the brewers who are producing the IPAs. They produce them to their own recipes and interpretations. If they choose to put the label 'IPA' on their beer, they must have a good reason for it. It's their choice, and I don't think it should be for us to tell them otherwise, it's their product.

Is IPA still IPA? I don't really think so. I think it's evolved into a vast and accommodating style of beer. A style of beer which should allow all who want to be included, to be included - and nuts to the odd beer historic fanatic who says otherwise. This isn't the late 1800's anymore, the style has moved on - like a lot of things.

Nothing is static.

Long Live IPA. Next time you want to argue that it's not to style, remember the four words of the bottom of this IPA can:

Friday 4 May 2012

Friday Session: The Beer Moment

As I'm sure you've heard this month's Friday Session centers on 'The Beer Moment' which is hosted by Pete Brown.

When I first thought about it, all I wanted to say was, the beer moment for me is, the first beer of the evening after a long working day. There's nothing better than that. It really takes the edge off. It doesn't matter what you're drinking, where you're drinking it or who with, it's just so damn good.

I thought about it a little more though, and I guess there are special 'beer moments' which you'll always remember for specific reasons. A couple of my examples will be;

 - Drinking aged vs fresh Dogfish Head 120IPA with Jeff after closing time at Beer Ritz.

 - My first trip to GBBF. The first thing that was handed to me, after a very long (hot) journey, was a glass of cold Alt beer from Zak (it was rejuvenation personified!)

 - The first time I ever tried Thornbridge Halcyon.

 - Drinking beer and shooting the breeze with Garrett Oliver.

 - Brewing with Stu at Crown Brewery.... whilst rather tipsy.

 - The first time I tasted a drinkable homebrew I had a hand in making.

 - Drinking Ale in a beach side shack in Florida. When I responded "a big one.." to the question of "Would you like a big or a small glass?", I was then asked if I would like another free, as it was happy hour. God Bless Happy Hour.

- Drinking De Molen Imperial Stout out of a giant Bruichladdich cask at GBBF.

These of course, are just the personal beer moments of a big beer geek. I still maintain that the one beer moment that will live on forever, is that first pint (or whatever you fancy) after your shift.


Wednesday 2 May 2012

Last Call

Zak's post on 'favourite beers' the other day got me thinking about my own favourite beers too.

If I had to really think about it, I'd say it would be pretty impossible for me to pin down a list of even ten of my favourites. Instead, I like to steal a well used quote (although I can't quite remember who it came from right now) and when asked what my favourite beers are, I'll respond;

"The ones I'm drinking."

One way I like to think about beer favourites is to imagine it this way:

If you visit a new specialist beer shop, your most likely to go for the beers you've never seen or heard of before - the NEW beers. (that is if you're a beer geek like most of the people who will read this) But what if you knew it was the last time you'd ever go to that shop, what would your choices be like then?

I had this unfortunate decision to make just over a year ago. You may all well remember this time last year Beer Ritz closed it's doors for just over a week. It has to be said that it was a bit of a miracle ( - extreme hard work by Zak and Karen) that it reopened, because we were pretty confident that we had about a 25% chance of it ever opening again.

When the doors closed on the Monday, it immediately dawned on me that this was going to be the last time I could ever shop here and get a great selection of beer right on my doorstep. It was a saddening and sobering feeling, but also a confusing one, because I had to make my final decisions - which would I choose?!?

While I may have gone away with over 100 quids worth of beer, the choices I made were quite interesting.

I went for the classics. I also went for beers which I knew could sit in my room for at least a year or two without having to worry about them going off. I went for Belgian beers like; Orval, Saison Dupont, St Bernardus ABT, Cantillon Gueuze and Boon Gueuze. German beers like; Weihenstephan Hefewiesse, Aventinus Eisbock and Schneider Hopfenweisse. American beers like; Anchor Old Foghorn and Goose Island Bourbon Count Stout. (just to note that's a pretty good list of ten beers...)

While I may have gone for the odd Harveistoun Ola Dubh, and Sam Smiths Imperial Stout, I didn't really take much British beer. There was a reason behind this. I can still get British beers pretty easily, because I live here. I went for about 90% European and International beer because I knew I might never see them again, and I didn't want to forget some timeless classics that beer has to offer.

Now of course, beers like mentioned before are readily available now in the country, thanks to specialist importers, online beer shops and specialists like Beer Ritz. I think if all that were to go, I reckon our thoughts of some beers from overseas would radically change, and maybe so would our ideas of our favourite beers.

I'm so thankful we have the choice though. I really don't approve when people say we have far too much choice these days. The alternative sucks far so much more.

The magnitude of the choice available these days might make it a little harder to pin down your favourite beer, but don't put beer down because of that, it just means you've got that many more favourites!