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

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Is It All About Image - A Night With Rogue

There's a lot to be said about design when it comes to the industry of alcohol. Get it right and it can lead you to great success, no doubt.. get it wrong though and it can lead to failure, or even ruin. While I've come across my fair share of what to me is good and bad design in the beer world, I wouldn't say I've come across many beers whose design outshone the beer. When looking into what sells beer, it's initially how it looks on the shelves compared to it's competitors.. If it looks better, it must taste better surely? That gets the product sold in the beginning, but if the product fails to live up to the customers expectation then they'll be very unlikely to repeat another purchase. Consumers are fickle beings.. I should know, I'm a consumer after all.

Where am I going with this though you ask? Well, A few years back I saw on the Rogue Brewery website a few beers which, quite frankly, looked more like fine sculpture of modern art rather than beer. The monolithic bottles displayed such aesthetic beauty that I just had to have them! Unfortunately, I couldn't find anywhere in the UK to buy them at the time. A few years passed, and last year (was it last year, or is it two years already? boy time flies!) Friends of Ham in Leeds opened. In a happy coincidence a few months after they opened I saw some tweets from Bacchanalia in Cambridge that they had some of these allusive Rogue bottles for sale. Thinking nothing of it at the time (as it would be silly of me to go all the way to Cambridge just for a bottle of beer) I couldn't help but wonder if FoH would get any in as they usually take a van down there every now and again I'd heard..

Turns out they did. And just like that, I was back to four years ago, the big feelings of excitement you get when you know you can get your hands on a beer you've wanted so bad since the first saw it. Geeky, yes, but it's true. I do get exited by the notion of new interesting beers. It brought all the feelings that make me so passionate about beer, which I know is just a drink at the end of the day, but it's something I'm damn passionate about. I don't think I'd still be involved in the industry if I wasn't. I just had to have some of this beer, it had now become a personal mission.

And tonight I did.

Did it live up to my expectations? Did that beautiful package, that black obelisk of precious cargo, did it do the beer justice inside?

You're damn right it did. 

Thursday 20 March 2014

A Greene King 'Craft Ale House' (Woodies)

So tonight was the launch of the new crafty version of our local Woodies pub. You can ask the question, what happens when Greene King throws loads of money at one of their pubs and tries to jump on the "Craft Beer" bandwagon... Turns out, they do a pretty damn good job of it!

I'll now take you through a bit of a photo montage of my evening tonight...

The first thing that was evident when we walked in was the selection of cask ales displayed on separate mini interchangeable chalk slates... making scanning the busy bar a thing of the past:

Next up was the bar itself.. Smart, professional and looking good, with 8 permanent cask beers (mainly local) and 4 guest ales. Tonight we went for some St Austell Proper Job, Abbeydale Pale Ale and Roosters YPA, amongst some bottled beers.. (pretty good right! All were in great nick too.)

Speaking of the bottled beers, this was the main centre piece behind the bar, with a very large variety of spirits either side:

The selection was quite honestly impressive for a Greene King pub. I think what impressed me most was the sheer variety though. Goose Island IPA sat alongside Becks, Punk IPA alongside Budweiser, Anchor Porter alongside Fruli, St Stefanus alongside Newcastle Brown Ale and Brooklyn Lager, and many more.. There is literally something for everyone!
    Speaking of which, they even had my personal favourite of the Greene King range:

Not only was the selection great, but it was brilliantly informed as well with a variety of menus giving plenty of tasting notes..

The decorum of the new interior is especially nice, and gives you the feel of a cosy village/country pub. They have a lot of interesting features also, like stools made from books:

And polished floors, where sticky carpets used to lay:

Woodies even passed the toilet test (new pubs getting a face lift but not fixing up the loos...) Passed with flying wall colours!

It's clear they're still passionate about the 'deal' factor. There are plenty of chalk boards around to tempt you with great looking foods, or bargains like "buy a bottle of wine, get a free cheese board" sort of thing.

Overall I went into the pub tonight getting ready to be let down, but silently excited.. Turns out I wasn't disappointed, quite the opposite! I genuinely think what they've done with the place is actually special, be it Greene King or not! You can't help but smile when people are drinking keg Punk IPA and keg Greene King Yardbird alongside one another... Bringing me back to the choice factor once again, Woodies really does now have something for everyone. Fancy a really nice beer? They have it.. Fancy a Yager bomb? get two! With a side of Lagavullin 16yr!

Woodies is definitely worth a visit now, I do recommend. And considering it's literally next door to Beer Ritz, a few of my other favourite haunts do finally have some true competition! they have battleships in the board game section.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Generosity - It's Contagious!

A couple of months ago I received two parcels in the post. There was no note on them, or letter attached, so I was slightly shocked when I opened them up and found 48 bottles of beer with my name on them! The bottles came from Harviestoun Brewery.. 24 of their new Pale Ale and 24 bottles of their new Amber Ale. At first, I thought there must have been some mistake, and they only meant to send me one bottle of each and not a full case each. I received no e-mails or letters on the subject mind, so could only assume that this was part of the huge generosity that is Harviestoun life.

It would be incredibly rude not to post my thoughts on the beers here then, and with my last two bottles I'm going to do just that now! (had to make sure I liked them right!)

The Ridge - 5% Pale Ale
Named after the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, this fresh and zesty Pale Ale combines hops from both the US and the UK producing a bold flavour.
    The aroma is intensely fruity - big on the peach and mangos, with subtle hints of grapes and lychees creeping in the background. With an added mixture of lemon, lime and orange peel zest in the aroma, this Pale smells like the perfect accompaniment to any summer barbecue, or even just a mild spring doing the gardening!
    The flavour is initially light and floral leading you into false sense of quaffable security... - That's when the very powerful bitterness hits you, completely coating your cheeks and throat in a beautifully moreish and refreshing manner. The smaller bottle size will also have you reaching for another before you even sit down... Possibly dangerous at such a drinkable 5%!

Broken Dial - 4.5% Amber Ale
A beer packed so full of Simcoe hops you'd be forgiven for thinking this beer had come from America not Alva! This beer has such an incredibly juicy aroma it's almost impossible to put it down.. It smells almost like a mixture of jam and marmalade. Sweet peach and pear flesh on top of a sweetness which makes you recall honey drenched oats.
    The flavour is perfection. A true cut above any other Amber Ale I've tried before, and believe me, I've tried my fair share... American Ambers just don't do it for me, and British ones are normally just too boring in my eyes. This however, is packed full of flavour. With a perfect balance of sweet meets bitter it commands your attention - think candyfloss sugars that meet orange rind bitterness which then has strawberry syrup poured on top. More than that I can't say with words.. It's a beer which needs to be drunk to show you what it is, and I'm seriously not just saying that. Maybe I've been blinded by how much I love this beer, but right now I don't really care...

P.S. I bloody LOVE that mouse! ;)

Note: These are 100% my genuine feelings on the beers, they were a gift to me from Harviestoun Brewery, one which I managed to pass on a little when I shared a good portion of the bottles with staff and a few customers in Beer Ritz.

Sunday 16 March 2014

The Beer Wanker

So there we were, last night, propping up the bar in one of our frequented drinking establishments. Beer was flowing and we were having a great time of it with some very tasty sampling! There was a couple of blokes standing next to us at the bar having their own conversations just as we were when one of the gentlemen grabbed the attention of the bar staff..

"This beer is off"

Now being a customer, he's well within his rights to return a beer which he's not keen on, but he had already drunk half of the pint.. "I know what Jaipur tastes like, and this is not it" he continued. As any respectable bar staff member should, apologies were given and he was asked if he'd like it replaced with, what we were told was a fresh barrel of Jaipur that had just been put on. The barman had enough sense to only replace the half of beer that had not been drunk mind!

No issues there really. Half way through his new half though he spoke up again saying this was not right either.. "It doesn't have that normal tang that Jaipur normally does, it's still not right." After much explaining from the staff how it was a completely fresh new barrel they eventually ended up giving him a free half of a different beer.

We asked to sample the Jaipur. It didn't take us 3 quarters of a pint to realise that there was nothing wrong with the beer whatsoever.

Beer wanker.

Friday 14 March 2014

The 'C' Word Is Spreading

I'd like to think I've come a long way from my first pints of Tetley's Smooth flow, at 18, in one of my locals - Woodies, down the street. My tastes in all things have grown and evolved significantly since those days gone by, but looking at the world of beer today I would still NOT call myself a c***t beer drinker.

I've always refused to get involved in the 'what is c***t beer' debate as I think it's pointless, well to me it is anyway. I took a degree in furniture construction... I know what a real craft is and what isn't. What is interesting about the term however, is how it's transferring from the beer label to the pub name or shop window etc..

As mentioned, one of my locals is Woodies. It's the kind of pub where you'll down five pints of generic lager whilst sticking to the floor and then go for a dirty kebab afterwards, but it's also the pub where you learnt to drink beer so you still love it when you grow older. Woodies has been closed for renovations for the past couple of weeks now, and I didn't really think anything of it till we got one of the bar staff in the shop the other day...

"We don't know if you guys know but we're re-opening next Thursday and would like to give you some free vouchers for drinks!"

That's fine, I thought to myself, thinking I'd go check out the new paint job over a free pint of Carling... The bar man continued to explain what they we're going to be doing though.. Turns out it's going to be called "Woodies Craft Ale House" which will be serving a selection of 12 different local hand pulled beers, and will have 20 different c***t beer bottles in the fridge selection.

Immediately I figured it was another pub jumping on the c***t bandwagon, but I wondered whether or not that was actually a bad thing... Woodies had been expanding their cask selection for a couple of years, and taking better care of it. With that in mind and the addition of 20 different bottled beers behind the bar I can only say it's going to be for the best! ...or is it? I reckon it could go either way. It might just be 20 different varieties of Blue Moon...

I guess I'll get to find out this Thursday...