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

Sunday 31 March 2013

British Hop Haunted

 British hops.

What makes them better or worse than hops from any other country? Well I think the answer is; nothing! It was not long ago I heard a brewer say there's no reason that British hops can't be used to match beers from across the globe. I also truly believe that used in the right combination and with the right amount, British hops can create a beer which can equal and rival in flavour the likes of German and Belgian beers, and even those from New Zealand and the USA.

With this in mind me and Matt Lovatt (@Braukerl) formulated our latest homebrew recipe with, shock horror, 100% British Hops! As they're saying these days - We gotta use em, or lose em! Which hops did we use? We went for Admiral, Pilgrim and First Gold with the big alpha acid profiles of 14.32, 12.68 and 8.34 respectively. Additions were as follows:

    15g Admiral for first wort hopping  
    20g Admiral @60mins
    20g Admiral @20mins
    40g First Gold @5mins
    60g First Gold and 80g Pilgrim for after boil steep

Add in a mash consisting of Maris Otter, Munich Malt and Carapils and ferment with some West Coast Danstar bry-97 yeast and you have a combo for a brilliant British Pale Ale.

So what's it like? Well it has a really lively, summertime aroma; lemon sherbet, orange rind and peaches jumping forward bringing up some biscuit malts, hay and straw. The flavour is really delicious, and I'm not trying to be big headed just because we made it, but it really does taste good! Really sweet caramel flavours are first to hit the tip of the tongue which then lead on to a refreshing bitter body and bite. Citrusy, grassy, light and perfectly balanced... sweet candy sugars and caramelized peaches, British hops are a truly good thing indeed.

To quote a brewer I gave a bottle to; "You two have succeeded in two factors principally; created a beer that does not taste/feel like 5.7% and does not taste/feel like English hops. V impressed with how you've showcased English hops, v impressive, wonderful flavour and balance.. Honestly wouldn't think it is English"

Ok... maybe I am getting a little big headed now, but I think if you use British hops like this (like many do!) then I reckon you're allowed to be just a little bit proud...

Monday 25 March 2013

A Step Beyond Oak

Oak Aged beer gets a bit of a harsh rap from some people these days, and unfairly so I think. Just because something's not to your taste, that doesn't make it bad, it just means you don't like it. Of course there are many oak aged beers out there that do suck though. These are products of lazy or inexperienced brewers that reckon that shoving any old thing in a cask will produce something wonderful - this usually ends up being far from it. Done correctly though, I fully believe oak aged beer can be something truly game changing.

Tonight I'll be comparing and contrasting the delights of three different beers, from the same brewery, aged in the same oak but still different beers. I poured all three of these at the same time to get the best idea of the comparison of flavours, but the big question was which one to begin with! I thought the idea of drinking the one with the least intense aroma would be the best bet. That would be the Brodie's.

Brodie's Prime Reserve aged in Bladnoch Casks, 8.5%
It's a beer with a lighter aroma than it's counterparts, but still very imposing none the less. You get an immediate sense of a huge quantity of chocolate malts poured from a bag with dried fruits poured in at the same time. Dry and woody with an essence of hazelnut and pine twigs, it evolves further as it warms. The flavour of this beer is nothing short of enhanced epicness - A true devilish dark piece of decadence if there ever was to be such a thing in liquid form. It's charred, roasted, like it's been plunged in a fire, but it's also stunningly rich like a fine desert. Too many OAB's have no body or conditioning to them, this is perfectly carbonated (in fact all three are) which really aids in lifting the flavours further. Some dark chocolate and mild coffee lay the foundation to a subtle and well balanced whisky flavour in the finish. Perfectly balanced, perfect poetry.

Damson & Vanilla Imperial Stout aged in Bladnoch Casks, 8.3%
The next step up in aroma was the D+V Imperial Stout...  maybe that was the Lyth valley damsons and the Madagascan vanilla pods. This bad boy almost has a candied sweet aroma about it. Sweet apple skin, a little wet hay mix it up with a lot of the aromas which played host to the previous beer. The flavour in this beer is astoundingly different though. It's got a lot more tartness in the flavour, mainly coming from the dark fruits and big time oak. It's this tartness that really takes the beer a step beyond the previous here making something completely different. I'm not getting much vanilla, once again, it's the dark fruit skin tartness that really sells this beer, and once again - this is a perfectly thought through and wonderfully crafted beer.

Imperial Stout aged in Bladnoch casks, 8.3%
This one smelled and looked like the real deal before I even tried my first sip. Almost like a combination of the previous two this beer smelled like a symphony of flavour. Hazelnut, dark forest fruits, green fruit skins, charred wood as well as wet sawdust amongst burnt caramel, toffee and honeycomb. The body is full, thick and rich, which at this point in the tasting has become very much the norm. It's far too hard to explain but this last beer really tastes like a blend of the two previous, and I've got a bit of interest in that area, so this is right up my street! There's clearly a lot of oak about this one, lots of dark chocolate, sweet treacle and almost a hint of liquorice mixed with a great moreish cereal/nutty malty body. I don't really know what more you can want, or say about this beer and this sort of beer, it's pretty damn perfect in my eyes

I dare anyone to tell me why oak aged beers don't work when done right like this....

These beers were given to me by Matthew from Hawkshead, and I can't thank him enough.... I have no reservations stating that these have been the best beers I've tried this year, without a doubt.

p.s. turns out the beer with the least aroma (Brodie's) was the beer I preferred the most...

Thursday 21 March 2013

Brewdog Leeds

I'm finding it hard to write about the new Brewdog Leeds bar. I don't want to repeat what's already been said by other respectable bloggers on the subject, or any of the other Brewdog bars in general. I popped down to the press launch last night with a bunch of other industry and writer types, it wasn't my first time in the bar but this night was certainly more busy than the first.

Upon arrival Leigh Goodstuff kindly offered to buy me a drink so I opted for Brewdog's new Pilsner which was rather subtle for a Brewdog beer but no less enjoyable. We mooched upstairs to sit down with James to let him tell us about the bar and to sample some of the beers available. When he began his spiel I kind of felt like someone was reading the back of a Brewdog label to me in a kind of, how many adjectives can I fit into one sentence about big brewers, way. While a couple more samples of beer were brought out for us he then went onto talk about how he and Martin went about starting up the brewery to begin with. It seemed like he turned into a different person then, it was much more of a personal approach, which I reckon he should probably stick to. He told us about when they used to homebrew together, but it was the part about when the late Michael Jackson told them (beer legend, not singer) that they should quite their jobs and do what they enjoyed full time which is when I was really impressed... which of course, they did.

After the talk he stuck around with us to have quite a few more beers, and it was great to quiz him about future endeavors. The bar itself has a very impressive selection of beers. Very. It's also kind of nice that the selection does not conflict with the likes of Friends of Ham or North Bar, it's quite unique, but at the same time familiar. People have spoken that the bar is rather small, and while that might be true, I think the space that is available has been used very economically and it feels a bit more spacious than it actually is. The upstairs is nice and cosy, and I think one of my favourite things (being a nerd) is that you can stare out of the window to the viaduct above whilst the trains fly past.

It's a great little bar, and a very welcome addition to the mega choice that is the Leeds Bar Scene. I think I like it more than anything because it has a personal feel about it. The staff and enthusiastic, friendly and genuine. The place feels relaxed, which is what a bar should really be, and while I have some niggles about the place, who doesn't have niggles about any and every bar. I believe that it's going to be a place where I'll be spending quite a bit of my time in the future and am personally looking forward to my next visit...

Monday 18 March 2013

BraufactuM. Rauchweizen?

I never used to be a fan of smoked beer until a couple of years ago. The style best known from the upper Franconia Bamberg usually gets its flavours by kilning its malts over an open fire producing a very prominent smoky (mostly dominating) flavour. It took a while for me to get into the flavour of these kinds of beers but I'm very glad I persevered with it as the benefits outweighed the number of facial winces. (Trying lots of smoked beer with food helped a lot!)

BraufactuM produce a Rauchweizen called Roog (German for... Roog.. Dutch for eye). Their label states (translated from German) "The classic Rauchbier has a very dominant smoke flavor that is often perceived as too dominant. Roog, the smoke of wheat BraufactuM collection, has defused the smoky taste, but without the beer to take the smoked beer-typical characteristics. The triad of smoke and wheat beer and Spezialmalzaromen is well matched."

It seems very dark and cloudy on the lively pour, and while it's not too strong at 6.6% it comes in a very large and very attractive looking bottle. The aroma is full of flavour. Classic banana and bubblegum coming from the wheat with a little earthy/mineral like quality (lemon/lime and slate). The smoke is definitely there in the flavour, but it's been massively dialed back. This takes the beer to a different dimension almost, and produces a very accessible but completely different sort of beer. Lots of bready malt and a big mineral flavour - slate, orange, lemon zest and a little hay. It's almost meaty in parts and the finish has a great smoky caramel flavour which lasts. It's a very refreshing and really easy drinking beer, I think Rauchweizen will be something I'll be looking out for in the future!

Big thanks go out to Rob from Copper Dragon for passing this beer along for me to try.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Beer Ritz Meet The Brewer

As you may or may not have heard, Beer Ritz holds weekly tastings on Saturday afternoons/nights these days. It's a great opportunity to open a new beer or an old favourite, give samples to customers, have a chat about the beer and have some nibbles. It's all about giving the consumer something that they've probably not had before.

To recognize the fact that Rooster's Brewery has started bottling some of their fantastic beers we have Tom Fozard coming down this Saturday to talk about the beers whilst we open some up for you all! So if you haven't tried any of these bad boys in the bottle yet we suggest you pop down and have a chat with Tom and get the proper down-lo from the person in the know.

The tasting will kick off at 3 in the afternoon. Spread the word!

Wednesday 6 March 2013

The Young Ones

Something always seems to be going on at Friends of Ham these days. Whether it's a beer launch or a meet the brewer the place always seems to be abuzz  with a positive atmosphere.

Tonight the Revolutions home brew entries will be judged alongside the shuffle board. Later this week Nigel from Sunbeam Ales will be putting on one of his first casks of Yorkshire Pale Ale for sale. Even the bar has seen a bit of a recent transformation and elongation to make things more streamlined.

The reason for my quick visit today however was, surprise surprise, to try a beer I had heard that was on cask for a limited time...

Juvenia (Latin for young ones) sounds like it was a collaboration above what most people would imagine. Brewed by the younger members of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, the list of people I heard were involved included; Rob from Copper Dragon, Ol from Roosters, Brian from the Grove and Bitches Brewing, Ben Adams from Wye Valley, a few guys from Joseph Holts, some from Purity brewing and a few from Coors, amongst others, and Thornbridge of course! After communicating via email about what the recipe should be like they came up with the idea for a hoppy Porter. The hops for the brew were picked on the day and the ladies from Coors chose the combo of Celeia, Columbus and Motueka. I had been told that Thornbridge Dom had a bit of a fear of amber malts on the day also....

It's a dark beer, but not the darkest. Strong aromas of coffee, earthy hazelnut and wood are present too. The initial mouth feel is a bit light but the flavour is big! Lots of tart, bitter black burnt malts, dried fruits (raisins) and a good dose of chocolate - a bit like a black forest gateau. Fresh, moreish, roasty and excellent! There's been a lot of talk about how you can't really tell the difference between a Porter and a Stout, and trust me, there's been plenty of respected people write about how Porter and Stout are basically the same thing. Drinking this tonight though, I can't help but think that you couldn't call this beer a Stout, this could never be anything more than a Porter in pure form.

Grab some while you can, it'll go quick! Whispers of another colab brew circled around the pumpclip though...