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

Sunday 29 December 2013

Golden Pints 2013

No muss, no fuss, nothing funny, clever or angry.. just the facts, the cold hard facts this year.

Best UK cask beer - Any Single Hop beer from Mallinsons

Best UK keg beer - Beavertown Black Betty BIPA

Best UK bottled or canned beer - Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA

Best Overseas draught beer - Victory Ranch DIPA

Best Overseas bottled or canned beer - Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel

Best Collaboration brew - Wild Beer Co/Burning Skies/Good George - Shnoodlepip

Best Overall beer - Based on what I've drunk the most, I'll say Ilkey Lotus IPA

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label - Partizan, for you know what...

Best UK brewery - Ilkley

Best Overseas brewery - Founders

Best new brewery opening 2013 - SIREN

Best new pub/bar opening in 2013 - Kirkstall Bridge (Leeds)

Beer festival of the year - Friends of Ham Tipi beer extravaganza (at Leeds Beer Festival)

Supermarket of the year - Morrisons

Independent Retailer of the year - Beer Ritz (cos we are...)

Online Retailer of the year - Beer Ritz (cos we always were, since the beginning..)

Best beer book or magazine - Melissa Cole 'Let me tell you about beer'

Best blog or website - Enormous Face 

Best beer app - What's a beer app?

Simon Johnson award for best twitter account - RedWell (@Redwellbeer) brewery for their Red Bull defence this year.

Best brewery website - Tiny Rebel

Food and beer pairing of the year - Marble Dobber and Fairy Cakes

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 25

Christmas Day.. it's been a long month so far!

Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Kaiser - In a boot...

Today's not a day for tasting notes, it's a day for celebration.. This is my beer and I'm going to drink it with the family.

Merry Christmas all!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 24

So it is that Christmas is nearly upon us, and what sort of beer advent calendar would this be without a little visit from an old friend...

The Kernel! - Summit Chinook IPA - 7.3%

A punnet powerhouse of glorious summer fruits. Totally tropical too, juicy peaches blend with ripened mangos with just a spicing of caramel cake.. I could wax lyrical about the aroma, but it's Christmas eve and I wanna get stuck into the drink!

Plenty of juicy fruits yes but this beer also displays a fierce amount of malt and surrounding body - a beer with proper heart, not just all scented talk.. Warming alcohol and yeasty spice in the finish, it has the whole package.

What lots of IPAs wish they were!

'nuff said.

Monday 23 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 23

Can you have too much flavour in a beer?

Durham - Bede's Chalice - 9%

The aroma on this beer is so big it made me choke a little when it got right to the back of my nose! Orange liqueur and watermelon are huge here, but the incredible amount of spice is almost overwhelming... bananas and caramel with a very floral scent, peaches and lychee too, but that spice, bloody heck that smells good!

The carbonation in this beer is huge but strangely it really doesn't detract from the flavour. Sure it gives the beer a a big foaming action which completely fills the mouth, but it's not a super charged CO2 flavour which far too often puts me off a Belgian style beer. It's absolutely packed to the rafters with fruit flavour leading from the aroma. It's the finish that displays the big hit of spice and warming booze hit, but strangely the fruit comes back again making it almost tropical.. Double dose, ninja finish!

Super good beer, I'd love to try this when it's had a few years on it...

Sunday 22 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 22

You'd think I could get tired of drinking Imperial Stouts... You'd be wrong

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30th anniversary - 8%

Pouring flat obviously from spending quite some time in a 30 year old Highland Park whisky cask, aromas are pretty full on. Dark chocolates and espresso, sweet caramel and a little honey, treacle and liquorice, vanilla and oats with some oak creeping in too.

This is a beautiful complex beer. Hell, it's just beautiful full stop! It's an intensely rich and sweet beer, a brew that could be paired with the finest deserts available. Sweet caramel and melted brown sugar put upon dark and dairy chocolate. The finish provides just enough warming alcohol to give you a merry sensation without being overpowering. It's a perfectly balanced beer and SO drinkable it's impossible to put down!

I feel quite privilaged and thankful to Harviestoun for sending me a couple of these..

Saturday 21 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 21

It's been a big day, so I need a big beer!

St Austell Brewery - Big Job IPA - 7.2%

Bigger brother of their 'Proper Job' IPA this beast has glorious aromas of grapefruit and lemon sherbet.. the Centennial and Citra hops obviously doing their magic right now. Don't forget about the Cascade and Nugget hops either, it's got big names behind the hop agenda. All these big ingredients clearly lead to a big fruity smell... some grapes, lemon, a little pear, peach and mango.

It's got a great flavour to it. Juicy and fruity just like the nose would suggest but there is also a little hint of some dandelion spice which fills out the body and finish nicely. Bittersweet brew with a finish which belies it's true strength.. it's gone before you know it! Slightly bready with thoughts of straw and wet hay creeping in too, after a very busy day it's certainly doing the job of restoring this ghost!

Like I've said before, Go big of go home!

Friday 20 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 20

Another night, another Imperial Stout, this time on location! Coming to you from my favourite local, Arcadia...

Black Sheep Imperial Stout (cask) - 7.5%

Aromas consist of dark toffee mixed with hazelnuts. Plenty of dark chocolates and roasted coffee too... creeping in the back is a noticeable hit of vanilla with overlying floral tones.

The body itself is quite sweet - plenty of honeycomb alongside the big nutty character which is very prominent in the finish. There is also some treacle and molasses in the body which is complimented by a big woody aspect, the vanilla and wet oak coming back in here.

I first tried this a couple of years back, as a one off back then. It's great to see it's now become a winter seasonal special, very good beer indeed!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 19

Another day, another Imperial Stout..

Brewdog Old World Imperial Stout - 9.5%

Pouring thick and dark, the brew has a decadent aroma of chocolate malts, vanilla and toffee ice cream, some lactose, dark chocolate covered raisins, a touch of oak and sulphur, leather and treacle with faint hints of dark cherry skins lurking in the depths.

It's thick and creamy in the mouthfeel but the most evident thing about the flavour is the huge amount of roasted bitterness you get in the body and finish. It's a very woody beer, pine and oak are the main culprits. Drying and earthy with plenty of toffee malt flavour and creamy roasted coffee notes. A tiny bit of charcoal and sun bleached leather mixed with the formidable force of burning rubber - these are the things you want in your Imperial Stout.

If there's one thing Brewdog are very adept at it's making dark beers, and this one doesn't miss the mark. Props should also go to Johanna Basford for the excellent label artwork.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 18

One week to go folks!

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout - 10.2%

I first tried this brew last year, and what a beast of a beer it was! Still just as great too... Luscious aromas of freshly ground coffee are complimented by the finest dark chocolates, burnt rye toast and very dry dates, it's almost sinful! Bonfire toffee and treacle also complement this jet black beer with subtle hints of liquorice backing up the nose.

The beer itself is magnificently smooth and quite sweet in the main body. Dark plum skins and cherries provide a very fruity feel with burnt brown sugars and caramalized chocolate malts. It's the finish where a roasted bitterness comes through with the charred liquorice and burnt toast. You're left with the faint warming hit of the (well hidden) 10.2% that wonderfully lifts the spirits.

For a brewery that's much more well known for it's hoppy pale ales, it's beers like this that give you the firm confidence that Sierra Nevada could never make a bad beer!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 17

Tonight's brewery has really impressed me over the past few months. With a re-brand and a new wave of really great beers I can see them stealing shelf space at the shop for some time to come..

Arbor Yakima Valley IPA - 7%

The aroma is floral and fruity. Grapefruits with orange and lemon. A little sherbet and just a very mild hint of earthy spice.

It's big in the flavour, but it's very (and dangerously) quaff-able for 7%! Drying and bitter, it would probably go down a hell of a lot better on a sunny Sunday afternoon instead of a bleak winters night. There's apricot and a little melon, dry straw and an orange rind tang which lingers long into the deep finish.

Great beer, great new branding, looking forward to more of Arbor's offerings in the future!

Monday 16 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 16

The brewery on day 16 is probably better know for one of it's other beers, but that doesn't take anything away from this one...

Bell's Third Coast Old Ale - 10.2%

Classic big American 'in your face' aroma... While many English old ales would be a little dusty round the edges this beer is much more like a suped up barley wine in the aroma. Lot's of boozy sweet caramels, brown sugars melted and poured over warm raisins, dates and roasted bananas, toffee and a little hazelnut, a little rye toast and shades of barbecue creeping in the back. Complex? No doubt!

Really not as sweet as I thought it would be. Woody, earthy with burnt leather notes, it's certainly an ale to be sipped, I'm not going to though... Some slight sweetness comes in the finish in the way of burnt toffee, and while the alcohol is there it doesn't feel as strong as it is. A little pine and beech wood, the flavour lingers in the mouth, quality beer indeed.

I do feel Americans need to discover the difference between Old Ale and Barley Wine though...

Sunday 15 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 15

Day 15 sees the first collaborative brew in the list..

Harbor & Bristol Beer Factory & Arbor - La Trippale - 8.5%

It's basically a big hoppy American style IPA meets a Belgian Triple. The aroma is pretty huge to be fair! Massive amount of peach and mango flesh, green apple skins and a little strawberry mixing with the peppery spice.

It's incredibly juicy to begin with in the body. Fruits carrying on from the aroma dominate the palate and give a very vibrant and fresh fruit salad flavour. This is complimented by a big dose of caramel sweetness in the malty backbone - a perfect pairing if there ever was one! The finish then brings out the big Belgian character to the beer. Lot's of drying spices and dusty hay, plus a perfect amount of carbonation to lift the alcohol giving you a pleasantly warming finish.

Hits all the bases/sweet spots/good points... Three brewers, one great beer.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 14

Sometimes you just gotta say "what the hell..."

Ska Minthe Stout - Stout made with milk sugar, peppermint, spearmint, cocoa and vanilla beans... hmmm..

Well it smells like After Eight mints.. nothing more, nothing less. I can see some people liking that, I personally love After Eights so this is a pleasing aroma, but is it what I want in a beer?

Initially it tastes just like the liquidated mints - full of dark chocolate and vanilla with all the mint character working quite well. This disappointingly disappears in the finish though. It ends up being a little thin and leaving you with the "what was that then?" feeling. If it only followed through at the end I could see myself enjoying this beer but I have to say it falls at the finish unfortunately..

Still, a very interesting beer and a must try if you're looking for something different.

Friday 13 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 13

Passing the half way point folks!

We've been really, really impressed with the offerings coming from Siren Brewery lately. If you've tried any beers from this brewery then you'll know why...

Siren Soundwave IPA - 5.6%

Talk about a juicy smelling IPA! That classic tropical fruit aroma which is becoming quite common in the new wave of British IPAs - all the better for it too. Peaches, mangos and a little honeycomb. Some earthy caramel and grapefruit and a lot of hoppy resins.

Absolutely packed full of flavour, but it's not in your face about it - it's a deliciously drinkable beer. Big on the orange rind in the body leading to a juicy bitterness. Sweet peach flesh in the beginning leading to an earthy resin in finish - Lush!

It's also named after a bad ass Transformer! Soundwave superior, other beer inferior!!

Thursday 12 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 12

A few months back I wrote a post about how it's not really acceptable (in my view) to have nudity on your branding, in any sort of form.. While the post did heavily focus on one brewery in particular, some said unfairly so, I didn't think I was too harsh in my thoughts..

Turns out that brewer was listening....

Partizan Amarillo Saison - 7.2%

The aroma is big on the clementines and lemons. Very floral too with shades of that Belgian yeasty spice. A little grapefruit flavoured bubble gum and a little wet straw - positively summer like!

While it looks like it will deliver a hefty carbonation the body is quite subdued (certainly not flat at any rate though!) Strongly leaning towards the green fruits, slightly tart green apple skins, it makes for a very drying and very quenching beer indeed. This is certainly a case of Belgium meets London, you can see both sides of the beer world and how they meet in a great balance in the bottle...

But what of the label?

Take a look for yourselves...

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 11

Day 11 rolls around and it's time for a Black IPA..

Buxton Imperial Black - 7.5%

Now this beer has the aroma of a regular IPA! It's a tropical fruit explosion.. Peaches, mangos and grapefruit, lychee and lemon with just a pinch of black pepper and carafa malts creeping in too.

The taste is light and refreshing but jam packed full of flavour at the same time. Jam is probably the right word to use too, I'm getting a lot of black current and blackberry jam mixed with the tropical fruits, which is slightly dominated by a big helping of peaches and cream. Most BIPAs fail to deliver in the sense of fooling people into believing they're drinking a regular IPA but I think this one is the best example in store..

Buxton are flying at the moment, and rightly so! Some people moaned when they switched from 50cl to 33cl bottles - but this was only because they wanted bigger servings of the beer, I'm not seeing that as a bad thing, it sounds more like a compliment to me... I can honestly say that the re-brand looks fantastic too.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 10

Day 10 deserves special mention, not just because It's my favourite UK brewery, but they've also busted their backs bringing out a new selection of incredible beers this year and should be praised for it.

The Ilkley Brewery - Lotus IPA - 5.6%

This is probably my top -go to- IPA when I'm in the mood for hops. Orange like malt, grassy citrus freshness and a straw dryness all are evident in the aroma. There's a lot of fruit too, plenty of peach and mango come to mind...

It's a bittersweet beauty from the get go. Candy floss balanced with bitter apricots, it hits all the good spots. Floral and smooth with a very gentle spice in the finish. The thing that gets me about this beer is that it's subtle, but not bland. It doesn't vie for your attention or shout and scream at your tastebuds, it gets it's point across quietly, respectfully and most importantly gratifyingly.

Big, Bold, Modest and quintessentially Yorkshire.

Monday 9 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 9

Day 9! Time to get a little bit weird...

Beavertown Alpha Series Uncle Joe - Russian Kvass - 3.9%

Let's just say I've not heard or know anything about this beer, so it's a bit of a blind one. The aroma is quite unusual, but not displeasing. Bananas and cream, peach skins, gooseberry, dried apricots and a big vegetal note.

Well from the looks of things what I've got here is a Berliner Weisse beer (I'm not familiar with Kvass)... Immediately sour and puckering. Tart, dry and earthy with the big focus on the vegetal notes once again. A little salt and acidic tones amongst some vinegar. Caramelized red cherries and a lot of lemon acidity and granny smith apple skins - weird, but I can dig it!

Since Beavertown came in this year their Gamma Ray and Black Betty have been firm fan favourites at the shop, and props to the guys from creating experimental beers like this.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 8

I'll jump straight into this one, as It's a beast of a beer!

Liefmans Goudenband - 8%

This beer has an allure of obscene delectability about it, ...smells pretty darn good too! The aroma is just one big black forest gateau, dark cherries and plums, dates and raisins, oak and polish with just a hint of nuttiness in the background.

The flavour is immediate and amazing. I'm not sure any other aged Belgian browns come close to this one.. Initially sweet, brown sugars, vanilla and a little wet oak. This then moves to the tart fruit aspects which are incredibly refreshing.. Dark cherries and unripe plums once again, it also has a sort of balsamic note going on too. The finish is drying, earthy and very smooth, it's a real treat for the senses.

Complex? You're damn right!

Saturday 7 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 7

Beer tasting on Location tonight, sharing a drop or two with @Juffage in Beer Rizzle.

It's Stone..

17th Anniversary IPA - Gotterdammerung (answers on a postcard...) - 9.5%

Aromas - Sherbet, peach and honey - rather subtle too, I guess that's all the German ingredients..

This beer is a real mystery to me. It's almost 10%, but it seriously drinks like a 3% beer! I'm not sure if it's me, but this is nothing like a stone beer.. it's too subtle! This isn't a bad thing mind, heck no, it's nice to see them make something that doesn't strip your taste buds off. I still can't find much to say about it though.. I'm just going to enjoy it with a colleague... More sculptured tasting notes tomorrow.


Friday 6 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 6

Another welcome addition that we've had to our shelves in the past couple of months is the recent bottle offerings from Kirkstall Brewery, and believe me when I say, it's a difficult beer to keep on the shelves!

Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA - 6%

A big fruity aroma for an IPA.. Oranges, mangos and peach skins.. I don't get much more than that, but what more do you really want??

This beer is a true masterpiece, plain and simple. I've never tried a beer from the bottle like this, which tastes almost (if not) identical to a beer straight from a cask. You might have as well poured it straight from the fermenter for me! The texture of the body is so smooth, I'm surprised there isn't a sparkler on the end of my bottle..
It's all peaches and cream, malt cereals and mangos with a touch of yeasty spice. It's the finish that really gets you mind. A perfect mix of bitter and spice masking the alcohol, leaving your mouth in an almost parched state, ready and wanting more...

Good job it comes in a big bottle!

Thursday 5 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 5

Flying Dog have always been a great brewery, you don't need me to tell you that, but I have a special sweet spot for tonight's beer. The reason behind this is because it was the first beer I drank from my first visit to UtoBeer in London. Very fun times were had on that trip as Zak Avery can attest!

Tonight's beer: Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine - 10.2%

It has the colour you'd want from a Barley Wine - Dark caramel, and the aroma's not too far from that either. Among the dark caramels and sweet toffees there's quite a bit of red berries mixed in with a mineral quality overlying with strawberry and black current jam.

It's a powerhouse of a beer in the initial body. Super sweet malts and caramelized brown sugars. It's packed with lively forest fruits and some earthy honey tones. This flavour initially dies away surprisingly in the finish, but then the big alcohol bite draws the sweetness back up your throat somehow giving you a second blast of flavour.

Go big or go home as the saying goes...

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 4

The Wild Beer Co were a welcome addition to our shelves this year. What started out as a regular supply of Pale Ales and IPAs quickly moved into bottles of more unusual bottle offerings, one of the best being supped tonight.

The Wild Beer Co - Modus Operandi - 7%

Take an old ale, oak age it for 90 days and then add lots of wild yeast.. What do you end up with? A beer with an unbelievable complexity! Aromas are comprised of various elements; dark cherry skins, cocoa, wet oak, yeasty funk, a little mineral/slate like quality, some caramel malts and strangely some banana and nut.

The body of the beer is very dry and earthy, like really dry! Loads of oak and subsequent vanilla. Dark cherry stones now with a citrus tang and a yeasty, dough like vegetal note. Not a beer for the faint of heart, but persevere with it and it continues to change and evolve as it warms becoming ever more intriguing.

Champion beer.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 3

I always like suppin a bottle of Lagunitas. Dark or light, their beers have always been a particular joy to drink... It makes me miss the times a couple of years back when we could get them in the shop.

Tonight I go with the standard (anything but standard) IPA - 6.2%

The aroma is a full on fruit cocktail, exploding with a vibrance and freshness of a fruit plantation. Mangos, grapefruits, orange and lemon, some pineapple and brown sugar coated lychee - it's got a lot going for it.

This is a dangerously drinkable IPA. So juicy, so refreshing it's SO easy to forget this is 6.2%... The lovely bittersweet body is backed up by a strange mix of sweet brown sugars, a lot of fruit skin pith and a little mineral quality in the finish - however they do it, it works!

And just like that, it's gone! What a beer. What a brewery.

Monday 2 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 2

Day two, probably time for something at least a little festive...

Time to try Mack in Black from Holy Mackerel brew co - An Imperial Black ale fermented with pomegranate juice! - 8%

If it sounds like it'll be a strange beer, well that's because it is.. There's so much going on in the aroma it's quite hard to pin point individual flavours. Fruit juices poured over sweet caramels and dark chocolate. Dark cherry flesh, fresh cereals and a hint of lactose.

The beer itself is made more intriguing by the use of Belgian yeast used in fermentation. It's certainly a lively catch (do you see what I did there!!!) but most of the Belgian character is drowned out by an immense forest fruit character - think Imperial Stout blended with a touch of Belgian fruit beer (something which is a fantastic concoction!) For a beer that I've never heard of, from a brewery whom I've never heard of, this is an absolute gem of a find and something that I'd definitely try again. "Winter seasonal"? I'd happily drink this in summer...

I hope to be just as pleasantly surprised tomorrow on day three...

Sunday 1 December 2013

Beer Advent Calendar - Day 1

Forget a chocolate advent calendar, I'm having a beer one!

25 days. 25 beers that I've been meaning to get down my thoughts about... Should be fun!

Day one begins with Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout - 8%

One of the less intense Imperial Stouts from the USA with aromas hazelnut, cocoa, dark chocolate covered raisins, a whiff of vanilla and a little earthy quality. It's not as thick in the mouth feel as the intensely black pour would suggest.. This is no slouch when it comes to packing in the flavour though - it's a roasted beast of a beer! Burnt oak bark, singed malt ears with toffee and caramel after tones. It's rather sweet in the finish making it very drinkable, and very pleasant too!

Great way to start the list if I do say so..

Thursday 21 November 2013

Thoughts For Tomorrow

I've been thinking a lot recently about how people go about buying beer and the habits that can form among people in their shopping trips. Over the eight or so years I've been working at Beer Ritz there's one thing I can be sure of. People do not have the same tastes. Many factors lead to this of course. Some choose by preference of taste, some by style of beer, a few by allergy restrictions. Others buy by what they might think is a good beer and what isn't - by appearance of said product.

It's an untold truth that with, like most shoppers, some who come to ours will buy with their eyes rather than experience. This is fine at the end of the day.. it means the beers they choose have done a great job with their marketing to get you to buy.. but does that beer fit the customer's bill? Do you trust the name that much? Do you like they brewery that much to say they'd never make a bad beer?

Is there a reason why I bought a beer from a well know Huddersfield brewery when there was eight other different breweries on tap last week in the pub? Even when I hadn't had the beer in question before..? I didn't even think about it, I saw the badge and went straight for it... It does make me wonder why sometimes.

What would sell more? A big champers-style cork and caged 75cl bottle, wrapped in paper and put in a wooden box, or the very same beer sold in a milk carton...? What if the milk carton (of which the beer tasted the same) costed a full £10 cheaper?? Customer behavior can be a fascinating thing.. I've heard on more than one occasion when I've pointed out a good beer; "I'm not buying from them again.. I had a really bad one last week." People can be very loyal when it comes to beer, but there will always be people who can be extremely fickle.

If style and design are such a powerful force behind selling beer how come one of the "top ten beers in the world" has no label... just a brown bottle... or is that a design in itself??

This variation of consumerism is a good thing for us mind.. With such a verity of products we can always be sure that we'll have something for everyone.

One last thing to think about though. Say there was a brewery you knew... It's quite a famous one, you all know it. Say they were going to have a complete re-brand and shake up in the brewery.. They were going to increase production and start selling to supermarkets. Let's say they were going to add this and that to make it taste exactly the same from the new mega-brewery. Propose I bought an old and new version of the beer and yes, they were identical in every aspect...

What if said beer looked like this?

What now? Would you still be loyal?

Monday 18 November 2013

Back To Work

Reading Curmudgeon's recent post and subsequent musings from Boak and Bailey on the similar theme about how the beerosphere has gone a little quite recently got me thinking about my own writing efforts.. I've not been posting as much recently, and that's got me feeling a little down. Time to rectify that though with a good old dose of ghosty ectoplasm and beery goodness! Blogging about beer isn't just something that happens on it's own, it's something you actually need to work at to keep going, and it's something that I really enjoy so it seems a shame to have it slacken.

I've been so busy recently that I also missed out on the fact that Ghost Drinker turned Three yrs old as a blog about a week ago!

I agree with the comments from Mudgie and B&B when they talk about the increased use of Twitter... but for me that disheartens me slightly as I feel the 140 character limit removes the most important aspect of the beer world - the personal aspect. The Beer Ritz Twitter account seems a bit faceless to me sometimes... I think that's why we started a instagram account (follow us at beerritzleeds) - I think it's going to be a great way for all the staff to individually (but collectively) post about what we are drinking and what's good at the moment. I think it has a chance to have a little more personal feel to it, we'll see how it goes.

Enough about that stuff though... I'm here for beer tonight, and it's been a good few weeks recently! The past few days have been made subsequently more enjoyable given the recent offerings that Brewdog Leeds procured. I won't start to guess how they got a supply (and such a large range at that) of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel from Quebec but I'm very happy that they did. Ever since my first encounter with the brewers' beers I've longed for more of the same! Even if it was a little bit of a strange first encounter...

While the Penombre Black IPA and Aphrodisiaque cocoa and vanilla Stout were brilliant offerings, I'm choosing this one to write about tonight:

Isseki Nicho 9.5%

Imperial Dark Saison

Honestly a style of beer I can say I'd ever even think of!

The aroma is quite stunning. Think of a Saison/Imperial Stout blend and you're almost there. Burnt coffee and roasted pine nuts. Dark chocolate with some yeasty spice - black pepper upon dark cherries.

I thought the beer itself would have a huge Stout-like presence, but initially the beer presents itself as more of a very strong Belgian Quad. Lots of warming booze and dried fruits. It's only after the swallow that you get a huge roasted barley flavour and charcoal mix which brings it back to Stout. It's a hybrid of styles really, but it's not a mess, it's perfectly produced and very well thought out.

It's good to be writing again. It won't be long before I'm back behind the keyboard once more...

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A Beer In A Can

Are there any benefits or advantages to canning your beer? I guess there could be a few...

Are there any disadvantages to canning your beer? I could probably think up a couple if I tried...

I guess as long as the beer tastes good, you could put anything in a can right?

So how does my favourite beer style hold up in a can?

Well, if you'd given me a glass of this and told me it was bottled, I would of said "ok.."

If you came to me with the same beer and told me it was kegged, I would have said "cool..."

And if someone brought me a glass and told me it was served on cask, I would have said "it's a little lively for cask, but sure..."

It's beer. It tastes great.

Who cares if it comes in a can....

Saturday 28 September 2013

Bear Fighting A Lion? That's Asking For Trouble!

Considering the first beer I ever had from Firestone Walker was Parabola, it's safe to say I was immediately more than impressed with the brewery. That being said, when Brewdog Leeds got their hands on a fair few different bottles of the Firestone range it didn't take me long to get on the bus to town centre!

Now a few of the bombers took my attention more than others, and below are my thoughts of what I consider to be the more interesting finds.. (these were not all consumed on the same night! this would be very foolish..)

First up was:
Wookey Jack - a 8.3% unfiltered Black Rye IPA.
On the darkest of pours this beer displays aromas of caramalized oranges, lots of brown sugar and the hefty (and obvious) amounts of spicy rye. There's also some lemon sherbet kicking about with watermelon, peaches and apricots. It's pretty much exactly what you want a Black IPA to smell like, and more!
Initially you get a lot of burnt wood on the first gulp but this is very quickly replaced by a huge tropical fruit flavour. After you're done dancing the hula pineapple fruit salad dance the spicy rye creeps in delivering a very dry finish. The whole beer is wrapped up in a bone dry bitterness which leaves a sharp tang on the roof of the mouth. It's this and so many more factors that make you want to drink more and more and more of this beer. The alcohol is completely masked too which makes this beer all the more dangerous! What a way to start things off! firmly into the top three best BIPAs of all time (that I've tried..)

Second up was:
Walker's Reserve - a 5.8% straight up Porter.
It's a beer which pours dark, but not pitch black. The aroma here is all about the dark roasted malts - you know, big time on the roasty toasty flavours you love in a great Porter - Dark Malts all the way! Lots of chocolate, some coffee and plenty of brown sugar (again) with burnt caramel smeared on toast.
On the initial gulp the immidiate thought that crossed my mind was that this was a very, very dangerous beer. The one reason for this is because it drinks SO much quicker and SO much easier than a beer that's almost 6% should! There's a lot of brown toffee initially in the flavour. Burnt woody malts play around with dry and roasted bitterness in another beer that screams "You've just swallowed, it's time for more!!" The body of the beer itself is quite light and thin, which adds to it's accessibility in my opinion. Porter? Very much so! And a little more English in representation of the style than some might think...

Last up is:
Double DBA - Imperial Special Bitter 12%
When I opened this it smelled like I was opening a bottle of whisky. The Bourbon on the nose is pretty damn extreme. Huge on the vanilla and solid lumps of hard fine brown sugars. The levels of banoffee pie is pretty starward too - SO much caramel!
The initial sip was a introduction to what is a very thick and rich beer. There is a lot, no, loads of Bourbon here, perhaps too much - it really does dominate the flavour. The ridiculous amount of bitterness that is still present in the beer still baffles me and the prickly heat of alcohol in the finish will always be a statement of the power this beer possesses. The thing that really took me was what happened to the beer as it warmed up though. Normally I'm not a fan of beers barrel aged which present too much Bourbon - I'm not a fan probably because I much prefer Scotch to Bourbon. But as this beer warmed I wasn't too bothered about the huge amount Bourbon, I began to enjoy it... It felt like I was drinking a very fine example of the stuff, and not just any old barrel they could get their hands on. This is where this beer wins. It has a LOT of Bourbon, but this time I can respect it's presence.

Once again, I'm left unable to find a beer from Firestone Walker that I don't find so interesting it captures my beery imagination, or is so good it puts other beers to shame!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Caution: Contains Explicit Images!

Where do you draw the line these days..?

A few bottles we've recently received at the shop have caused a little debate between myself and others at the shop recently. I guess it focuses on my question of; When is nudity, be it semi or full on, male or female, become appropriate to sell your product?

If you're reading this blog then you'll have no doubt heard of Pump Clip Parade.. a blog and twitter account which has set out to name and shame brewers who use scantily clad women and bad puns on their beer labels or pump clips to sell their beer. I have nothing against this movement, and I think it's something that needs to stay around. Take a look at some of the new Partizan labels though, and on a few of them you'll end up finding a bit of flesh here and there (as in the image pictured).. some a bit more full on than others.

The statement could be made here that Partizan labels are all art pieces, and should be free to display what they want. I could probably argue about the merits of art for purpose, vs art for publicity vs art in the wrong place endlessly here, but I won't. The cold hard fact is that Partizan sell beer, of which some have semi naked ladies on the labels. Art piece or not, do you think that is ok for your beverage?

Yes, yes. I know that the beer industry has come a LONG way from this...

...but when it comes down to it, Partizan are producing beers with labels that show women's breasts on the labels, be it art or not. I'm really not trying to pick on Partizan here.. I really do enjoy their beers, and think the branding on a whole is fantastically produced. It does make me wonder what would happen if another brewery came up with a label with a bit of a nip-slip in the design? If it was not seen as "craft" as others, would it get away with it? And where can the line be drawn? If we say these label images are fine because they're art, where might it stop? Might we see genitals appearing soon? True, alcohol is a adult product, but as clued up consumers are we still under the archaic notion that sex still sells?

We like to look at the world as a place that's black and white when it comes to what is appropriate, right or wrong and acceptable, but the truth is we live in a world of grey.

One man's pornography may be another man's modern art masterpiece. There is still the massive argument of wether 'artwork' like this is suitable for products for mass consumption, but that's another essay altogether.. Maybe I'm making mountains out of mole hills here, but what I see are beer labels with semi naked women on them, and no one seems to be batting an eyelid...

I guess it's up to what you think.. unless the Portman group get involved unfortunately..

Once again, I have nothing against Partizan.. I truly do enjoy their beers and wish them nothing but the best, but I think this topic should be debated..

Sunday 8 September 2013

Seeing Red

Belgian Red Sours/Flanders Oud Bruins are a complex variety. They come in many different shapes, form and even degrees of 'red-ness', but no one can disagree with their pedigree when it comes to a great beer style.

Martin Ridge (@6townsmart) has sent me a few different Red ales recently and it's been really interesting to see different breweries examples. I often find it difficult to precisely describe the Sour Reds as a whole... my tasting notes don't usually get past "very sour and fruity" so I thought I'd try review a couple of the more interesting examples Martin gave me here..

These two come from Strubbe brewery. Ichtegem's Oud Bruin was to come before the Grand Cru being a lighter 5.5%. Well the nose is certainly sour and fruity! There is also a lot of earthy, musty flavours too. Dates and figs mix with a slight pine nut and woody note. You get the sense there's a lot of amber malt to be had here and the flavour seems to back that up too. Lots of refreshing fruits in the main body; dark and red cherries, raisins, black currents all lay on top of a finish that's not very sour but still complex and delicious.

Like the difference between Rodenbach and Rodenbach Grand Cru, the Ichtegem Grand Cru is a very different animal. Coming in only 1% higher at 6.5% the difference in complexity is rather large. The aroma is similar to the last but more amped up on the earthy, nutty character. There's also a little sulphur amongst the oak and a slight vegetal overtone. The level of sour-ness is pretty perfect in this one. In comparison to Rodey Grand Cru, it's quite restrained which lends to it's favour as you're more likely to be welcoming to the style as it's not so in your face. Sweet caramels and ripe cherry sugars make it a very drinkable beer, and that's all need be said really - this is a really drinkable beer.

I'm off to find some more...

Saturday 24 August 2013

When Did Beer Become A Fashion Accessory?

How to start:

- Come up with a name for a brewery.

- Come up with names for all the beers you're going to make.

- Come up with all the beer styles you like the best and which you will obviously need to produce.

- Get a design student to create branding and a logo for your brewery which looks mega flash amazeballs.

- Get this logo and branding put on glass ware, and mock up some bottle designs.


- Buy a small storage unit.

- Purchase an old kit from a brewery you've never heard of.

- Find out what the new hop on the block is and if it's been used in a single hop beer yet.

- Find a distributor who will put your beer in bars and shops all over the country.

...and after all this has been done

- Make you're first ever beer.

- If it turns out wrong, call it craft and sell it anyway.

Is this really what brewing is becoming?

Monday 19 August 2013

Insanity of Balance, Subtlety of Extremes

Why can't you ever have an extreme balance in beer...

It seems these days in the brewing world you have to go big or go home, and any brewery not making 'extreme' beers is boring... and certainly not 'craft'.

So what happened to the subtle beers? What happened to the balanced beer? Extreme beer certainly isn't anything new... people were actually drinking very strong stuff before I, or even you were born. Most of that stuff had crazy ingredients and was barrel aged too! (and pretty awful so I hear.. has much changed these days, honestly..?)

When was the last time you had a British pint of, say, 4% Pale ale or Bitter that was so balanced, so drinkable, with just the right amount of flavour that one pint turned into three before you knew what happened? Can you name five of these beers? I still see them around, and when they're good they're great! It seems in a lot of bars these days I'm more likely to find a big bruiser of an IPA or Imperial Stout pushing upwards of 8% rather than a 4% Pale ale. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough anymore, I don't know...

This begs the question though, why do these stronger 'extreme' beers have to leave you feeling like you've been hoofed in the face by a donkey every time you take a mouthful? Why does every beer these days have to shock, be the biggest, be the strongest or hoppiest.. Why does beer have to have so much flavour it stops becoming enjoyable? Any brewer can put intensity into a beer, all you need do is whack in a boat load of ingredients and then stick it in a Chardonnay barrel or something. To make a strong or 'extreme' beer balanced, to make it subtle and drinkable whilst having all the noise behind it too - that takes skill. That's a true craft.

Over the past couple of days I've had a few 'crazy' beers when you look at them from the outside, but once those bottles were poured what I found was something much more; I found something extreme and something drinkable at the same time, something that was strong and powerful, but subtle at the same time so I didn't wince every time I took a mouthful.

A couple of those beers came from Magic Rock.

The first was the recently released Strongman: A 12% Barley Wine aged in Amontillado Sherry casks with more hops in it than you can shake a stick at. Sounds like a beer not to be trifled with on paper, but is it all that? When it came to the aroma of the beer I immediately thought of diacetyl, I was wrong in this though. What I thought to be a butterscotch aroma opened up into a very sweet caramel playing among a mass of earth-pine like smell. There was sweet summer fruits too, and these aromas continued to evolve as the beer warmed. It was evident from the first sip this beer was big, thick, sweet and rich. Lots of watermelon with sweet toffee. Pine needles and oranges soaked in a 30% desert wine (if such a thing exists) loads of earthy bitterness too which leads to a finish which belies it's true nature.

This is the point. This beer is 12%, it's barrel aged, it's pretty darn extreme... On the one hand it has a powerful presence, but on the other it's perfectly balanced. It's not in your face. It's not cringe making beer it's dangerously drinkable beer. Subtle flavours mixed with powerful design. Perfection.

The second was another bomber of magic: A 10.5% Imperial Stout aged in a Bourbon barrel - BBA Bearded Lady. Once again, sounds like it'd be a bit too much for the average drinker... but it's not.

On first examination the beer presents itself with aromas of chocolate fudge brownies and vanilla. It's literally desert in a glass - almost like someone's taken a scoop of vanilla ice cream and poured a bit too much chocolate sauce on it. There's wood too and raisins. Lots of decadent dark cherries go well alongside just just a hint of spice - a fantastic aroma if there ever was one. The beer itself is almost stupidly drinkable. Magic Rock have really hit the nail on the head with this one. Once again, it's rich, it's devilish, it's full bodied and packed out with flavour - but it's amazingly and perfectly balanced, it's brilliantly drinkable and it makes me want more and not want to stop drinking.

This is how to really brew beer.

It's taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but I now feel that you can make any kind of beer you like. If it's not drinkable though, if it doesn't have balance, what's the point?

Tuesday 18 June 2013


Redwell Brewery are new to the scene from Norwich who were kind enough to send me a couple of their new bottled beers so I thought it'd be rude not to give them some proper consideration.

Redwell Original Lager - 5%
With the weather getting a little warmer Lager is what I've been craving the most recently. This little gem has notes of lemons oranges and peach skins in the aroma on top of some straw and grassy malt. A very soft carbonation makes this brew one you could easily knock back a sixer of whilst grilling up a barbecue. The flavour is heavily malt forward in the body, with the finish producing a really satisfying stone fruit minerality which really lingers, quenching the thirst. Anyone that says Lager is easy to make, well, is lying. It's a very difficult process (and a very lengthy one at that!) to get right, and this Lager is pretty spot on the money.

I have a feeling you'll start to see a lot more breweries in the UK producing a Lager very soon... but that's another post in the making.

Redwell IPA 6%
Well the aroma on this beer is really something to write home about! It's absolutely rammed full of tropical fruit! Peaches and mangos, grapefruits, oranges and limes. There's also enough caramel and brown sugar in there too to make the malt presence known. All these flavours and more transfer through to the flavour really well. It's one big juicy and full bodied IPA which any lover of the hoppy stuff would be a fool to miss. I know I got this bottle for free, but I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best IPAs I've had this year. And that's not because it's the most extreme, the most hoppy, the strongest or the rarest. It's because it's the most balanced, it's so accessible, so dangerously drinkable, that's why it gets up there, that's what makes it great.

Fair play Redwell.

These are a couple of very fine beers, but I think I'm most impressed with the whole package of the brewery. The design work is crisp and clear, bold but not in your face. I love the ticket stub style labels on the bottles, it's something different, and something that I think will stand out. I'll keep my eye out for the rest of their range, I know these two are worth seeking out alone.

Picture taken from their website here.

Thursday 30 May 2013

A Night On The Town Full Of Beavers

It seems we can't have a week without listing a new brewery to the shelves at Beer Ritz these days..! Not that I'm complaining mind! Heck no. It's an incredible thing, and considering 95% of the new breweries we do stock are British, it's much more of an excuse to look on the good side of things.

Last week saw the arrival of the Beavertown range. Five different gorgeous looking bottles to get stuck into... Here goes!

Gamma Ray - 5.4% American Pale Ale
Aroma: Mango, peaches and lychees, a regular fruit cocktail. Some strawberry and raspberry yogurt too!

Taste: The initial flavour seems slightly burnt on the first sip, and I'm wondering if it may be faulted..? After a few big gulps this dies away though to a huge orange and peach juiciness. This is followed by a big, but not overpowering hop bitterness. Other flavours including pine and lemon which linger in the refreshing finish. Looking over my notes I wrote "It's one Hell of an IPA!" - I didn't even see on the label it was a Pale Ale before drinking it...

Smog Rocket - 5.4% Smoked Porter
Aroma: Smoked Beechwood chips are the name of the game here. There's also some burnt toast and charcoal and a hint of underlying chocolate malts.

Taste: The smoke is actually quite subtle and balanced in this brew. It's packed full with tonnes of malt flavours. Caramel, toffee and dark chocolate. Burnt cereals and a lot of woody notes giving a slight souring effect. A super smooth body and finish - Delicious!

Bloody 'Ell - 7.4% Blood Orange IPA
Aroma: Surprisingly enough, the aroma is chock full of orange! There's is also a strange gin and vodka essence on top of some caramel and pine and maybe a tiny amount of aniseed?

Taste: To make a comparison with Gamma Ray, this is a much more earthy style beer. It still has plenty of hoppy juicy qualities mind, lots of bitter grapefruit and the big orange too. Some interesting herbal notes balanced with sweet earthy caramel malts. Something a little different and well worth a try.

8 Ball - 6.2% Rye IPA
Aroma: Peaches, rye malts with a touch of chocolate malt too. Lot's of raw drying cerials here.

Taste: Loads of malt, straight away and in your face. The rye malts are very evident, am I also getting some cara red or Munich malts too? It's clearly not an IPA about the hops, and you know, it's refreshing to see! The hops are still there though, a gentle bitterness in the finish reminds you that they don't skimp on the hops even for this style of beer which could easily be carried by the amount of malt here.

Black Betty - 7.4% Black IPA
Aroma: The beer has a classic BIPA aroma (if you can have one...) which reminds me of the Kernel BIPAs of last year. It's more floral with citrus fruits, rather than roasted and chocolate like.

Taste: The body is light and very fruity. Sweet to begin with (caramels) which then moves through to fruity but drying body and long lasting bitter finish. I've been really impressed with the recent offering of BIPAs at the moment, like the Salopian Vertigo I just posted about previously, this BB is an absolute stunner, and certainly my pick of the whole range.

I think what I like most about this range of beers is the flavour consistency. You can really tell that they're made the same way across the board, and the same amount of effort that goes into every beer really shows. I must make special mention of the artwork on each bottle as well. The attention to detail in the Beavertown labels is stunning, and they look absolutely great!

Wouldn't you agree...?