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

Friday 22 June 2012

Good Stuff: Adnams

We had many a healthy discussion at the European Beer Bloggers Conference about 'Free Beer'... so I thought I'd tell you what I think of some of the free beer I received from said conference.

I got chatting for a little bit with Sarah Howe from Adnams, and after I told her about my blog, and after she told me about things that were going on at Adnams, she kindly offered me a bottle of Ghost Ship - a beer right up my street really. It was unfortunate however that this bottle got smashed during the Pilsner Urquell dinner and so I a poured my sadness out in a few random tweets, not directly at anyone, just into the time stream. I'm not sure how but Sarah managed to see this and told me if I got my address to her she'd send me some more. "Very kind" I thought and obliged. A few days later a box arrived for me from Adnams. I didn't realise it would be a mixed selection of six bottles though... insert smily face here.

Here is the low down on what I received and what I thought:

Southwold Bitter, 4.1% - The first of the lot has a deep ruby brown colour about it, slightly darker than I'd expect for a bitter. The aroma is full of oranges, it's big on the marmalade. The English malt presence is obvious, and a toffee/caramel smell is welcomed. It's a refreshing and easy drinking beer. Big on the fruity malt flavour. A big orange tang leads to a long, almost citrus-y, bittering aftertaste making it quite dry and rather moorish. A pleasant starter.

Going off a different direction I had the strongest next; Broadside, 6.3% - It's a beer quite a few are familiar with. A couple of shades darker than the previous but with a beautiful amber brown with a red ruby hinted colour. The aromas in this one are all about the aniseed and pears. It's quite floral too, and it's a single hopped beer (cos they're cool) with First Gold making a big presence. The flavour is big on the toffee malts making it quite sweet in body. Slightly woody too, with hints of vanilla. Big on the fruit cake flavours with a touch of rum soaked raisins. Brewed to commemorate the battle of Sole Bay it warms the heart with it's boozy kick. I should also note that Sarah gave me a taste of their recent Adnams Spirit distilled from Broadside ingredients, and I must say without conviction that it was incredibly impressive.

Third up to bat was Gunhill, 4% - Donations from the sales of this beer go to 'The Prostate Cancer Charity' so it's a beer I'd happily buy again and again. I thought it had a great citrus/grassy aroma for such a dark looking beer, lots of lemon and lime going on. Whilst drinking I thought I was starting to get a feel for a classic sort of Adnams malt character, but this one was softer, lighter, with much more fresh fruit than the previous two. A little apple and grape mixed with some sweet caramels. Perfectly balanced with an orange malt backbone.

After a bit of a break it was time for Explorer, 5% - In colour it's the lightest of the lot so far - a big Chinook and Columbus Pale Ale. The aroma is fantastic fresh lemon grass. Citrus fruits and honeycomb sweetness are also present. It's a great refresher, served  chilled as is bottle requested. Grapefruit and lemon is the main presence with a little dry spice in the finish. It's just the kind of beer you want after a long shift.... and if that sounds rehearsed, I just finished my shift as I type this, and it's really hitting the spot!

Next is Lighthouse, 3.4% - A pure gold, light Pale Ale. It smells a little of sulpher and green apple skins. Slightly worrying but it looks good so I dived in. The aroma carries through to the taste quite a bit. It's not that off putting, but I'm not really sure I'm a fan of this one. Some toffee and pineapple in the body with a nice bitter finish, but as I smell the empty glass, it smells a little like a beach... sorry guys. It's not a flawed beer, it's just not to my personal tastes.

And finally, the beer that brought me here, the one I was most looking forward to and the one I'd heard the most about... and the one that almost got away; Ghost Ship, 4.5% - 'A Ghostly Pale Ale'... how could I not like that? Am I right in saying that Citra hops were involved in this? It has a huge aroma of lemon and lime, lots of grapefruit and lemon sherbet, quite frankly in smells delicious. It's delicious too! Oranges, limes and lemons assault your tongue while the perfect balance of fruit, sweetness and bitterness interplay to create a beer that is so refreshing, so drinkable, so damn good, that I'm typing with one hand right now!
This Ghost Ship steals the whole show! And I have the pleasure of my bag smelling of this for a while now...

They say free beer always tastes better, and there may be some truth to that. It's still pretty obvious however, that Adnams can make some pretty fantastic beers: Regardless of whether or not I got these free, I should know - I've paid for many a pint of Adnams in the past, and my opinion of them has yet to change.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Real Beer In The Village

There is a beer festival coming.

It's one that has got many people round my local area very exited. The reason for this is mainly because it's just a few minutes up the road, but also we think this is going to be a pretty fantastic do.

The venue is at the Village hotel at 186 Otley Road in Leeds (LS16 5PR). The pub it's situated in is named the 'Victory' pub/bar. I've never really heard it called that name (and I've drunk in it many times before) so I'll just be calling it the Village Beer Festival. I've had many chats with the main organizer of this festival - Andrew Atkinson - a passionate and enthusiastic man when it comes to proper beer. He's given me the beer list for the festival, and I have to say, not many people would regard the list as unimpressive.

Here's the beer list for the Village Beer Festival as it stands:

Ridgeside, Jailbreak 3.8%
Ridgeside, Desert Aire 4.8%
Ridgeside, A long way from home 5%
Ridgeside, Southern Cross 5.7%
Kirkstall, TBC
Kirkstall, TBC
Wensleydale, Rowley mild 3.2%
Wensleydale, Gehrman 4.2%
Hawkshead, USPA, 6%
Hawkshead, Windermere Pale 3.5%
Red Willow, Ageless 7.2%
Red Williow, TBC
Offbeat, Out of Step IPA 5.8%
Offbeat, Outlandish pale 3.8%
Magic Rock, Rapture 4.6%
Magic Rock, High Wire 5.5%
Raw, Stout 4.5%
Marble, Dobber 6%
Marble, Motueka 4.9%
Darkstar, Hophead 3.8%
Darkstar, Saison 4.5%
Burley ST Brewery, TBC
Thornbridge, Jaipur 5.9%
Thornbridge, Brother Rabbit 4%

Turn your noses up at that! I think it's a pretty impressive list, with some great beers coming from some very local breweries, especially for a first time beer fest (I think?)

The dates for the festival are the 5th, 6th and 7th of July - so it's coming up soon enough. This is just a real reminder to you lot to get yourselves up to the Village to drink some great beers. After all, if it's a success, then I'm sure it won't be the first and last time this sort of thing is undertaken.

And who could really be against something that's as good for great beer like this is?

Village pic from here:

Monday 18 June 2012

And The Winner Is....

Rob giving the 'Judge' look
Last night we had the pleasure of drinking some fantastic beers - from some great homebrewers.

Last night me, Zak, Rob from Copper Dragon and Ol from Roosters got together at North Bar to judge the entries for the Beer Ritz/Copper Dragon homebrew competition me and Rob set up together a while back.

Credit where credit is due, Matt from North was extremely hospitable and accommodating for us. With this week seeing North's anniversary celebrations, it was so kind of him to offer us the space to host this little shindig, so thanks again Matt. Chris should also get a special mention for being our excellent server for the night making sure we tasted all the beers blind. We only used one bottle each for judging so the others have been given to the North Staff as a little gift for their anniversary.

Down to business though...

Zak explaining the score sheets
Zak brought along some official (very comprehensive looking) beer judging score sheets which were handed out to the 4 of us and used for each beer. These completed forms will be handed back to the brewers soon enough as a method of giving our own personal feedbacks.

We managed to get through all the entries with relative ease. I personally thought they were all very good, with a couple that were a little strange, but not in a bad way. It was interesting to see the different ways brewers took the same ingredients and played with them to create such a range of different brews. It's very important to note again that these were all tasted completely blind. It was in the interest of fairness, after all, we know many of these brewers personally and we didn't want that to effect our decisions.

Beer drunk, totals collated, senses satisfied and fears of major flaws quelled. There could only be 3 winners of prizes though, and that's probably what you came here for so without further rambling here's the winners in ascending order:

3rd Place goes to Simon Tucker - a late entry creeps in at the end to steal the 3rd place ribbon - a great take on Copper Dragon's Black Gold with an 8.1% bruiser.

2nd Place goes to Matt Lovatt - Another classic Lovatt brew - a twist on Golden Pippin with a Belgian kick. The most balanced beer of the night.

1st Place goes to David Bishop - A brewer who's going from strength to strength. A deserved winner - it was after a few sips that Zak stated; "I'm sorry, we have to talk about this". Another Belgian Golden Pippin that stole the show.

Congrats to these 3, but also congrats to everyone who took part in the event - you should be proud of what you've made and should keep it up.

Prizes will be making there way to the winners shortly. And let's not forget that Rob has promised an evening of drinking at the Copper Dragon brewery for everyone who took part. The date for this little trip is still to be decided.

I believe that's all I have to say for now. Brewers, you'll be hearing from us soon enough. It's been a great experience, I'll give my thanks to everyone who took part, and to the judges for making my first official beer judging so much fun - hopefully it won't be the last.

Another competition you say??

Thursday 14 June 2012

Staying Sharp

Back at the European Beer Bloggers Conference we had a meal presented by the guys, but mainly Stuart Howe from Sharps Brewery. During the course of the meal he was presenting a new range of beers called the Connoisseurs range.

During the meal, there were so many beers on our table, and we were just having fun drinking everything that was put in front of us (especially Tandleman and Mark Fletcher - out of the big 'oversized wine glasses') I thought it would be good to give two out of the three some serious consideration tonight. I did try the beers on the night, but like I said, there were so many beers on our table, I managed to take two of these away with me.

First up comes the Honey Spice Triple. Lovely pale gold in colour with a buzzing carbonation and big 10% punch. The most obvious points about the aroma are big waves of honey, caramelized bananas, some candy floss and Belgian sugars - it's sort of Belgian Triple meets Cornish Honey Ale. It's dry and spicy. Good juicy fruit flavours - apples and pears with a little citrus peel. Good caramel mixed with the Belgian sugar, and a certain sweetness mixed with the drying spicy finish that makes it a beer that drinks nowhere near it's strength. A super beer, which went really well with the 'Poached pear, watercress with a minted melon salad' and the 'Pan seared hake with a light horseradish and pea cream' on the night - A great all rounder.

Next up comes the Quadruple. Another fire starter at 10%, it looks like a devilishly dark Ale which is not to be taken lightly. I'm getting a surprising aroma from what I can remember. Lots of fresh fruit; lychees and grapes with a juicy melon and apple scent, with a bit of banana and brown sugar in there it's a regular fruit salad! It's a big sweet fruity boozy beast of a beer for certain! Once again a slight drying spicy Belgian influence, with a hint of vegetal flavour in the long powerful finish. Good caramels and toffee flavours mixed with a perfect warming sensation. It's a great desert beer, which would go equally well with the fine cheeses, or the sweeter options. I will say it went pretty damn well with the 'Banana and rum toffee pie' on the night.

The bottles themselves look very nice - well designed, and with a look of quality about them. The spiel on the back of the labels is incredibly (and refreshingly) informative, I'll give many props to that, but I think the text is far too small. I know my eye sight is crap, but I don't really want to be squinting though what is an excellent description of a beer.

It was a pleasure to meet Stuart Howe, if only for a brief conversation. Something that was made blatantly obvious from his key not speech at the conference was how much passion (and balls) he has in this industry. I loved the story he told about when they merged with Molson Coors; He went up to the interview with his resignation letter and told them that if they wanted to try change anything he did, then here was his letter - Stuart, you are hardcore.

It's because of Molson coors' money that Stuart has been able to produce this range of beers. The Triple and Quadruple as well as the Sharps Single Brew would be very welcome additions to the Beer Ritz shelves, and I would point that if Zak and Stuart are as good friends as they keep going on about, then I hope it's only a matter of time before I get to sell these beauties.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Of Whisky & Wood, Coffee & Beer

I consider the first man or woman who thought it would be a good idea to age an Imperial Stout in a whisky cask something of a real genius, mainly because it combines my two favourite beverages, so it just kind of makes sense to me. However, you'd be fool of epic proportions to think that you can just stick any old thing in any old barrel though. True perfection of barrel aged beers (specifically whisky aged) comes about only when a brewer has formulated an A-class recipe and chosen a specific cask on the merits of it's flavour properties to pair with said A-class recipe. For example, from personal experience, I really don't think Islay casks make for good barrel aged Imperial Stouts. Highland and Speyside casks work much better for my tastes. That's not to say it will work 100% of the time, no. Barrel aging has it's pit-falls, and sometimes things can go epically wrong in the process. Persevere and remember the rules though, and you can produce something of exquisite taste and delectable decadence.

I was waxing lyrical about Off Beat's beers a while back and noticed that they did a big stout aged for three months in Glenfarclas casks. It was the only beer they bottled and I was really keen to get my hands on one. Turns out I was in luck as Phil Hardy placed one of these very bottles in my hand (who received them from Michelle from Off Beat) at the recent European Beer Bloggers Conference - A very nice chap indeed!

It pours pitch black, and initially it looks a little flat, but then rises a bourbon biscuit coloured rocky head. It has a wicked aroma about it; rum soaked raisins, figs, dates, vanilla and oak, a hint of smoke, burnt toffee and toast. It has a great flavour and the barrel matching is working really well here. Very smooth, with not a great deal of carbonation leaving it a little thin in the body. Lots of vanilla and sweet raisins in the body. Sweet apples and pears and some rugged mineral essence. It doesn't really have the presence of it's 7.4%, maybe it could do with a bit more of a warming effect? It has a really good balance - the whisky is not overpowering.

Very nice beer! Now if they could only manage to find the space and time to bottle the rest of the range ;)

My second beer of the evening contains another genius element of Imperial Stout brewing which features the inclusion of coffee. I guess a few 'coffee flavours' weren't enough for some people in their Stouts so they decided to put the real McCoy in there to give it a real caffeine kick. And why the hell not! I think it's a great idea, as I'm sure any like minded Imperial Stout and coffee lover will agree.

Tonight's study comes from Flying Dog brewery; Wild Dog Series Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout, 8.9%

I will comment on the label first. I really like the Off Beat branding, but this looks like a proper monster, I never get tired of what Ralph Steadman comes out with for FG. The aromas are pretty obvious in this one; dry coffee from the get go. Dark sweet chocolates, toffee, vanilla and some cream - I may as well be in an espresso bar right now.

The flavour is pretty huge, thick and rich. It's not really got a massive roasted coffee flavour, rather a really big drying coffee flavour. As you'd expect this makes it amazingly moorish - this being a good and a bad thing at the same time for something this strong, if you know what I mean. The alcohol is hidden under so much coffee, and it's so dry, you really do get the impression that you could drink this all day - and then implode under a napalm infusion of too much caffeine and booze.

It's pretty much spotless (heheh... dog joke - see what I did there!) I really can't get enough of this beer, it's really hitting the spot at the end of this; grey sky filled eve of many TV repeats on a Tuesday night.

I've been reading quite a bit about these types of beer recently. And a lot of it has been a bit too negative in my opinion. If a big crazy uber stout is something you only crack open as much as you crack open a big macro breweries' can of Lager - that's fine, but don't try to convince us that there aren't people out there who really love this stuff and drink quite a bit of it!

I know I'm one of them.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Ghostie's Rough Leeds Bars Volume 3.

3rd up to bat: The Duncan. (it's the nice tan looking building to the left of Subway...)

As close as I got with my camera out.

This time I had actually heard a bit about this place from random sources. The best one I heard was about a friend who upon arrival, opened the door to have a glass thrown in his face by someone who was allegedly trying to run from the police.

I decided I had probably best take a little extra muscle on this trip, namely, some American muscle. Hey, I figured if the game got messy, I probably wouldn't be the first to get put down... My partner in crime for the afternoon would be the ominous Tyler Kiley, of 'Mr Foleys', soon to be of 'Friends of Ham' fame.

We decided to start the afternoon by limbering up at North Bar, then to head down to Whitelocks as it was en-route to the Duncan. It seems Tyler's reputation precedes him, and was bought a free pint, and a shot of tequila in North bar once he sat down, by some friendly gentlemen may I add.

Having never been to the Duncan before (either of us) we weren't really sure what to expect. Neither of us knew that it was a Sam Smith's pub, that's for sure.... we do now.

I told Tyler there was a certain etiquette to be had before arrival. I told him the plan usually goes; go in, see what's not great looking on the bar, order a half, drink it as quick as possible whilst keeping eyes down and finally visit the gents before leaving to get the full effect. Tyler got his phone out right away however, and started taking a few snaps...

Ghostie, trying to work out what the hell those spirits were...
I've probably drunk in worse places, we even stayed for 2 halves, half a Bitter and half a Extra Stout each; both nitro, (Craft Keg Yo!!!) both super duper cold. Saying that, we both commented that we'd never set foot in the place on a dark Friday or Saturday night. It's the kind of place you'd probably see 17/18yr old kids getting taken by their 48yr old dads (but who look 68) for their first pint.

I was certainly enjoying the size of the 'incident book' stuck by the till, it was about the size of a referee notebook with about two pages left in it. Tyler wanted to play darts. I didn't think they would be very sharp any more... After listening to a curious looking woman shout for a bit, we had one last quick look around and decided it best to take our leave.

We then headed back to Mr Foleys for burgers and pints of Magic Rock Curious. Intact, emboldened and heads held high.

What a day!


Monday 4 June 2012

Keeping it Simple

I don't usually do many nice food and beer pairings. I normally leave that up to the more experienced Leigh and Neil. When I do though, I have one rule - Keep it Simple.

I think it's the simple pairings and minimalist style that works so well in creating delicious matches. Think of beer with cheese. Pizza and Lager or Pilsner. Or my personal favourite: Beer & Burgers.

Now beer and burgers are pretty simple enough, but I like to keep it a little more simple than that. Forget your fancy salads, forget trying to make up your own patties - just buy some ready made (good) ones, it's so much easier with less of the hassle. Keep it simple - Burger (beef fillet steak haches from Waitrose). Bun (a nice ciabatta roll) . Cheese (smoked applewood cheddar is on order - I'm a bit obsessed with it at the mo..) and of course, a beer.

Minimalism is always something that's been obvious to me. The ingredients in the mix are top quality, why mess about with them, keep them as they should be. This sort of thing was perfectly summarized by Gordon Ramsey once when he said that you wouldn't put ginger ale in a high end Single Malt - it would ruin the flavour. It's the same with food. And he's right, why ruin something that's already delicious by trying to over-complicate things.

The Match:

I've chosen an Arbor Ale for tonight. It's a 7% IPA called Yakima Valley which goes really well with the burgers, but you could also go more mainstream, and anything from Goose Island IPA, Sierra Nevada Torpedo to Brewdog Punk IPA would all be perfect IPAs for the food. I think the suped up hoppiness cuts through the fat really well. The beer is going down really well, it has a big bitterness and it's a nice comparrison. I'm a fan of giving my burgers a bit of a burn. I'm a massive fan of roasted, toasted dark beers, so I like a bit of burnt flavours. I guess a dark ale would go pretty well with the food too as a nice similar match.

I think it's pretty safe to summarize that I'm stuffed and spent. It's a pretty perfect match up. Who doesn't really like a good burger and beer?

Just keep it simple.

Sunday 3 June 2012

5Day Barley Wine Spree - The Real Last Day

It's been a long week, and I've already had a couple of pints tonight.

It's late and I should really be in bed, but I'm not going. No. Tonight I'm finishing off by drinking one of the Barley Wines I had promised you all for the last day of my spree, and thought it would be nice to share it with you while I have the chance.

Bigfoot BW from Sierra Nevada has always been a bit hit and miss with me. I can remember the taste of previous batches, with it's uber bitterness and overly hopped glory, far too much for any BW in my opinion. What can I say, old habits die hard, and I felt compelled to come back to this monster once more for the 2012 edition.

Well, it definitely smells hoppy. Caramels and candy floss play host to bundles of sappy, pine like fresh cut grass. Slight honeycomb sweetness creeping in the back too on the aroma - it smells like a destroyer before you even get close to it.

Most of this kind of dies away in the flavour though. There's still plenty about it, don't get me wrong, but it smells much different than it tastes. The taste is very rich. Dried fruits are the main player in this story - I thought it would be much more bitter than it is. It's still a crazy beer, and I'm finding it pretty hard to describe, so I'll just recommend you go out and grab a 2012 bottle for yourselves.

Is it a Barley Wine? Yes and no in my thoughts.

For reference, the second BW I was going to have on the fifth night was from Nils Oscar - a personal favourite. As it happens though, I think I may have had enough beer tonight, for once, and will retire to my cave to slumber before my next run in with the barley infused beverage.

The next 5Day series will probably focus on my personal favourite: Imperial Stouts.

Friday 1 June 2012

New Threads

I received a package this morning from the famous Baron, and I'm very grateful he took the time to get this sorted. Mainly because, off the back of the European Beer Bloggers Conference, when your avatar is not your actual face, this is the kind of thing which could and does make introductions a lot easier.

Thanks Baron. Beer for t-shirts. Pretty good deal if you ask me!