Thursday, 28 June 2012

In Support of Deaf Beer Fans

Sometimes, you happen on something that you didn't know was there before.  This is a short tale of when that actually happened to me.  It was this evening, so not a long time ago, but it moved me to get off my lazy arse and actually write another blog post.

The title may seem odd and it is ever so slightly tongue in cheek, but if you think about it, (which I did, however briefly), you realise how cut off deaf people can be from the world that we all take for granted.

I was doing some admin type bits on my Youtube videos (which can be found  HERE) and wanting to check what I had said about a beer I had had before, (I'm not a computer or Hopzine and don't have instant recall of every tasting note I've ever made).  As I was doing this, the cursor lazily hovered over a button I hadn't really had sight of before.  It's a little icon that looks like a cc.  As it hovered, words came up on the screen, it took me a few seconds to realise they did bear relation to at least some of the words I was saying on the screen.  

What I had come across was the Beta version of Youtube subtitles.  What I had also come across, was a source of amusement.  So, in part to raise awareness of how some people are left outside of the brave new digital world, and partly for some cheap laughs, here are some choice quotes on beer, as interpreted by this service.

Here is a quote from my review of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye:

'theres not stempel, asking this is just what kind of boja peninsula cannot simply be strip for me, is not their because its a strong god wants it and a half percent'

Makes perfect sense, no?  I thought it was maybe me, with my lazy, west-country accent and my occasional tendency to use slang and colloquialisms.  So, I thought I'd better confirm this by watching some of my fellow beer chums on their reviews.

So, Mrs Real Ale Guide Mrs Real Ale Guide on Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale, she's the poshest person I know, so it should turn out great, yeah?

'probably, its gonna make me back useless equipment, uh, now its not as good as some of that America during peacetime...basically kidnappings arms'

Insightful stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.  I didn't know Mel was so keen on international relations.

So, what happens when Somerset Real Ale Reviews gets in on the act with his review of the excellent Thornbridge Wild Swan?

'tonights fix it takes a lot this topic of nation and is a very call culmination, congregate colours that too, but you get all of these qualities are so for every death for his release'

Just for a second, it made sense, then it started getting all Lord of the Rings.

It was getting serious at this point, so I thought I'd better find a cockney accent, everyone can understand those, yeah?  Eastenders is a kind of cultural touchstone that everyone in the world understands, even googles robots...yeah?  So, to the Urban Viking and his review of Stone Sublimely Self Righteous :

'at this hour, chocolate fruit, heres whats on your time, sprout, you know its completely finished on this'

Now, I've not had this beer, but I doubt that Stone were looking for sprout as the thing that you would take away from that particular beer experience.  Also, I'm not sure Dave was going for the rap style middle to that section.

Anyway, enough ramblings.  There is a serious point to this blog and it is so serious, it isn't even evading me.  Youtube have a lot of work to do on this service, but I'm glad they are doing it.

Until next time.  Cheers.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

An Open Letter to UK Brewers - Social Media


I'm new(ish) to the blog/vlogosphere, and I've got some observations for you based upon my short active time as a blogger and a long-standing fan of beer.  They relate particularly to how social media can open up doors for you and conversely how it can backfire.

To give you some background as to my expertise in this area, I work in education.  I've been lucky enough to work on some interesting social media related developments and had some exposure to consultants in the area.  The university sector is starting to catch up with Social Media as a concept, but for most people it's kind of a blind area and although I don't blame you for not being up to speed (after all, for most of you, social media is not your main field of expertise, brewing beer is), I think some of you could do with some help.

So, below are some propositions and ripostes for you to consider:

1)  Social Media is where it's at - I must do whatever I can to gain exposure via it or I will fall behind the competition

In part this is true.  Social media does look to be the dominant area for exposure in the future and finding a way to get yourself exposed through it probably is quite important.  However, it is up to you to do your research.  If you are contacted by a blogger or a vlogger tapping you up for some free beer, work out what the value of their goods and services are to you.  It's the same as paying for an advert.  Do your research.

Would you pay anything for an advert that was full of poor grammar, ill informed or that came from a less than reputable company (possibly with a history of stealing underwear from washing lines)?

Check out the person on the internet, read their work, watch their videos.  Check out their viewing figures.  Look at what other people in the beer community make of them, either by studying Twitter, Facebook or Youtube (or get someone conversant with social media to do it for you if you aren't).  You can tell a lot from what is available in the public domain and very easily and quickly too.

2) If I send this guy some beer, it'll get me a good review on the internet

All publicity is not good publicity.  The men (and women) of beer world know their stuff, they are very often geeks.  This is not a crowd that will be impressed by a disingenuous reviewer, particularly one that is talking complete nonsense.  If they suddenly see a beer that they know is not great being proclaimed as the greatest thing in the world since, err, the last beer that person did, the penny is very quickly going to drop.

You are better off with a genuine reviewer who will, if your beer is not awful, (and why do you make it if it is?), do their best to pull out the style, flavours etc that will mean that their rating, whilst personal to them, may be irrelevant to the person watching who may still go out and buy it because of what has been described.

3)  Wow, this guy is writing a book (probably the oldest form of social media), I've got to be in that

Seriously, are you really going to fall for this one?  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a book deal?  See also my comments about literacy above.  If someone says this to you, ask to see confirmation from their publisher that this is true.  Ask to see some of their writing.  If they can't produce both of these...tell them to cock off.

Here endeth the rant.  I just don't want to see you guys taken advantage of.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I haven't been slipped the odd free beer (5 at the last count).  I am grateful for each one and do my best to do them justice.  For me though, I'm new.  I wouldn't ever expect to receive anything for free unless I had something genuine to exchange.  If someone checks me out and decides I'm worth a punt, well, that's pleasing.

Thanks for reading


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

That tricky word beginning with S...

In my last post I touched on how long a session might be.  Ignoring (on purpose) the tricky question of what is the ideal ABV for a session beer.  Forgetting briefly (and conveniently) that I haven't yet defined for you what I take to be the meaning of the word, I'll carry on typing.

Given the recent 'Session Beer Day' in America (which Chad from Chad'z beer reviews tipped me off about), I thought I'd tackle the subject here and pass on my lack of received wisdom.

I'm going to be controversial and say, there is no ideal ABV for a session beer.  I'm going to continue down the road of controversy briefly stopping at the realms of surprising town and say that the ideal ABV for a session beer for me is absolutely not any lower than 4% and I would consider something up to 10% to be 'sessionable'.  Does this make me mental?  Maybe.

I am not an enormous fatster, coming in under the 9 stone mark (and never have been over).  I don't have the capacity these days to continue for half a day, so a session for me is locked around the the 4-ish hour mark.

Does this mean I drink a 10% beer at the same rate as I do a 4% beer?  No, that would make me a complete moron and probably dead (if for no other reason than my wife would give me a good hiding for drinking like that).  However, I might sup 2 10% beers for 4 hours when I might have 5 4% beers in the same time period the next day.

As well as the ABV consideration, I have to take into account the body of the beer, I simply couldn't stomach  drinking beer that was heavily carbonated for too long without ending up like that scene in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory where Charlie and Grandpa Joe fly up to the ceiling and have to burp to make their way back down.  Similarly a big heavy stout (which would end up the next day with a scene similar to the demise of Augustus Gloop  - actually I'll stop the Wonka comparisons now, it's getting disgustingly clinical), would sit too much on my stomach and stop me having fun.

So - as well as the complex equation I drew your attention to last time, there are more factors to introduce.  namely, abv, body and carbonation.  Or if you like A, B, C.  It's as easy as that.

So, what have I learned from writing these companion pieces?

1.  A 'session' is a period of time when you can have a drink, no more, no less.
2.  I definitely don't think that ABV should be considered the defining quality of a 'session beer'
3.  The term 'session beer' should only apply to those beers that you think you could have more than one of (dependent on ABV) in a given amount of time

Let me know what you think


Monday, 9 April 2012

What does a 'session' really mean?

I've been thinking about this recently and had a couple of conversations with some of our revolutionary friends over the pond about drinking culture in the UK, and I've come to a few conclusions.  Bear with me whilst I blurt my thoughts out onto the page, then you can have your wicked way with them.

There are a number of questions I think that need answering to get to a decent definition, but as with so much about beer, I think essentially, it is a moveable feast.

For the purposes of writing here though, a session is time spent in the pub.  I do not count fancy wine-bars, nightclubs or the local disco as being a place where a session can occur.  A session should involve, friends, bar-snacks (I'm thinking frazzles, scampi fries, dry roasted nuts), lots of great conversation, a bit of piss-taking and either a light snooze, an Open University programme or a repeat of See Hear as a finale (depending on time of end of session).  You will likely be a bit tipsy by the end of a session and may encounter mild double vision, slight staggering, spoonerisms and mild declarations of people being your best mate.

Now, that's out of the way, so, how long is a session?

Right - well, this is where it gets tricky (right at the start), but I think I can draw some conclusions here, the length of your session is defined by some kind of tricky equation involving the following factors:

Being a student/amount of children/time spent married/age/weight/ability to drink/gravity of beer being partaken

If each of these factors is low, the odds are that your 'session' time is going to be longer, so for example, the session for the 18 year old student with no children (unmarried) that weighs 12 stone and can handle his booze is more likely to be able to undertake a long session than the man who is holding down a job (and therefore has limited time for a session), has several children (and therefore has to consider how responsibly he might have to be acting), has a wife (and therefore is statistically more likely to be in IKEA than the pub), weighs 12 stone and can handle his booze.  It's a bit like The Seven Ages of Man really, but with beer.

So, to briefly sum up the nonsense above, let's try and put a label on what a session is for a couple of sectors of society - this is not by any means an exhaustive list and is for illustrative purposes only.

1)  Student
A session is an amount of time defined only by how long the pub is open, what time they managed to get out of bed, and how big their overdraft is.  Potential for 12 hours.

2) Young working professional (20-30)
A session is defined by the fact that they will likely be confined to weekends because they will be too busy being together, being professional and searching for a wife/husband.  A session may still be a decent length of time but is likely to be tempered.  Likely session 8-10 hours (including time for the gym, getting fancy haircuts and going to Habitat).

3) Married professional (30-40)
A session is defined by how much time they can either get away from their other half (or if they are lucky if their other half drinks - how old their children are), whether or not they have made the journey into quality beer products and how high their cholesterol count is at the moment.   The session is likely to be no more than 5-6 hours unless they get lucky.  

Warning, sessions that last longer than this may get you into trouble with your wife (if they weren't present) for such acts as 'weeing in the garden', 'repeating yourself endlessly' and 'falling asleep in front of MOTD'.  You may also end up in IKEA the next day as punishment.

I haven't gotten any further than the third category yet, but I'll be sure to update you all when I do get there.  My kids will be in their teenage years by then, will it go full circle and I'll enter a world where an overdraft is no longer a necessity for a 12 hour session - or will a long session no longer be an attractive idea to me?  If you are older and wiser, feel free to let me know what you think.  I have to go now to mentally prepare myself for IKEA in the morning.


Friday, 6 April 2012

Does beer have medicinal qualities or what?

Right, just to give you the background to this, I've been poorly.  I don't mean man-flu or whatever the derogatory term for a man's illness the female of the species choose to be dismissive about.  I mean I've had a sore throat...for ages, and now it's turned into a full blown head cold so bad that I have been forced to consult a 'neti-pot' for some simple relief (actually they are quite good, I recommend them).  

Rest assured (in case you are worried), I've seen the doctor and it is apparently nothing sinister and doesn't even require antibiotics - and no, I didn't take any time off work and yes, I did still get up and do the early shifts with the kids.

Ah, I hear you say, but if you have been ill, I bet you haven't been drinking have you?  Well, you'd be wrong in surmising that.  Very wrong indeed, and you'll have lost your bet.

The life I have chosen as someone who reviews beer has meant that my actual reviewing has been somewhat stymied as I would want to get the best out of any beer that I reviewed.  So instead I chose, nay welcomed this ongoing throaty nemesis to be part of a grander experiment, one that spoke to all man.  The answer to the question that is as old as life itself...what beer should I drink when I am unwell?  Where do I find the answers I hear you ask?  Reader, I wrote them underneath here.

The first question to resolve for me was, should I waste decent booze on me whilst my ability to enjoy it is curtailed?

The simple answer to this is, YES, of course you idiot.  Beer is one of my few vices, so even to glean some enjoyment after a hard day at the office (other than that my wife, children, dog and Xbox obviously bring me), makes it worthwhile.

The second question to tackle involved me identifying the symptoms quite precisely in order that I came up with the right 'treatment'.  In the early stages (bearing in mind I started feeling grotty at the end of February) I was suffering from a sore throat and an ongoing sniff (some of you may have spotted it on my videos, apologies for that).  So I experimented with several kinds of beer.  So, what then, is the best medicine for this stage of illness?

In 3rd place, a chocolate porter was quite good, and I went for the Meantime one several nights running, not a big bottle and a high-ish ABV, so no bloating involved.  Quite smooth as well and the flavours were not subtle.  

In 2nd place, I experimented with a few different stouts, in my weakened state, they were all much of a muchness in terms of taste but I picked up the basic and obvious tastes, but the generally lower ABV meant I could lubricate my throat for a longer while.

In 1st place though and by an absolute country mile, it was the DunkelWeiss Beer from the Arcobrau (which is sold by Waitrose).  I am surprised that this stuff is not available on presciption via the NHS.  The smell, the taste and most importantly how it felt caressing my mouth and throat before winding its merry way down to my belly was absolutely spot on.  Two of these and I would feel a temporary release from the chains of man-pain.  Maybe there is something medicinal about the cloves?  Maybe the water quality is the thing?   Maybe the carbonation is just right to make it all better?  Maybe Germany was right the whole time (no, wait, not that one).

You can clearly see the winner, well done Arcobrau.  The only difficulty is that Waitrose have run out (mostly because I bought it all).  Luckily for me though, I am no longer in need because as mentioned above, this bug has now matured and turned into a massive headcold, so I think I am going to have to alter my medication.  My head tells me that the way to go might be quite spicy, mega hoppy beer, my heart says go with the Arcobrau, my hands say, stop typing and just go and get yourself a beer.  Ok I will.  

If you've got any recommendations for beer as medicine, please feel free to detail them in the comments below.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

A bad pint? Or a Sneaky Hangover? YOU decide.

Now, I'm an experienced drinker, I don't want you getting any misconceptions about that.  As such, and particularly since I started blogging/vlogging my tolerance for beer (although strangely not other kinds of alcohol) has increased.

So when I go out for a 5 hours or so, and have a grand total of 4 pints, accompanied by a substantial lunch half way through the session, I expect the following:

1) Fall asleep in front of the TV upon returning to the house
2) Having a little 'beer-sleep' between about 7:00 - 8:30
3) Waking up refreshed and having another nice beer (maybe just one strong one) to round the day off
4) Wake up next day, clear as a bell, with possible penchant for bacon

See if you can spot the difference with my routine yesterday:

1) Fall asleep in front of TV upon returning to house
2) Have a little 'beer-sleep' between about 7:00 - 8:30
3) Wake up feeling slightly odd, put it down to vertigo
4) Hurl the entire contents of my stomach out into the kitchen sink due to not being able to make it to the bathroom
5) When I did make it to the bathroom, well, I had to use a lot of bleach, let's put it that way to avoid me being indelicate
6) Wake up next day, drink tea, go back to bed till lunchtime, surface about 3, feel human by about, well now (21:49)

So - the culprit?  It wasn't the food as my mate had a different meal to me, and apparently he was rotten as well.  So, my bony finger of justice points at a bad pint.  The worst part of this, if that is the case, neither of us spotted the fact that we were imbibing something bad...which is of course, dreadfully embarrassing, unless you dear reader can reassure me.

Have you had a bad pint, disguised as a pint that was ok?  Have you had a similar experience?  If so, I'm sure there is some kind of no win, no fee solicitor that will be able to get us a big fat cheque each for the mental anguish suffered as a result.

Monday, 23 January 2012

BOMBAY 106 Original India Pale - Durham Brewery

Sometimes, 140 characters just isn't enough.  I'm also finding tha,t sometimes, a vlog isn't the right thing to do either.

I've been sent some beer by the Durham Brewery doubtless due to my connection to the best and most passionate beer reviewer I know (Check out Simon on real ale guide on Youtube).  The least I could do is give it a full write up here.  Otherwise, that degree in literature would have just been a big waste of three years.

I am a big fan of IPA's in general, whether it be the big hop styles or whether it be the more traditional.  I've had a curry for dinner in preparation (curry is optional but helpful with IPA I find).

So - to open it.  The bottle does warn you that this may be a little lively and to have a glass ready.  I didn't do this, I would advise you that you should.  I had the foresight to buy a keyboard that is able to drain liquids (due to having three children), you may not be so lucky.  In my rush to move the beer away from the PC, I got some on the chair as well (which I didn't notice), so I also now have a damp backside.  It's amazing how little beer it takes for your buttocks to become uncomfortable.

Anyway.  Enough of my damp behind.  To the beer, batman.

It pours nicely, plenty of carbonation in here, tellingly the smaller type of bubble indicating that this is a well conditioned beer, the head has developed quite a lot (see pic), but I think that's because I used what is actually a lager glass (schoolboy error).  The head does leave some nice lacing on the glass though (I know this before tasting it as I had to surrender a couple of gulps to the wife).

The texture?  A viscous mouth feel, gives you a warning that this is coming in at 7.0% abv, but that's no bad thing.

The flavour?  First of all you pick up quite a lot of the malt in this, and a traditional English golding hop flavour.  The bitterness develops in the mouth and leaves in a crescendo of bitterness on the after-taste.  It's a beer you'd want to savour over a good hour or so, not a thirst quencher, but something you'll want to keep supping at.

This is a beer to respect and not only due to the abv, but because it's clearly been brewed to a very high standard.  I can recommend this and the other beers in their range, you can buy directly from their site and you probably should as they haven't yet got as far as distributing to lowly Wales which seems to be a long way down the beer pecking order at the moment (curse you Brains).

A rocking 9/10 from me, and whilst you are here, I can heartily recommend their Temptation Russian Stout and the St Cuthbert IPA (and yes, it was free and no, I'm not sucking up - this blog won't work unless I'm honest).  All excellent, I hope to get hold of some more of their stuff soon.


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Stout - and why you should give it a go or Thornbridge St Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout

Let's get on with talking about this beer.  No pissing about here.

As you'll have seen in the bio, Stout isn't my favourite style of beer.  Recently though, I've started appreciating some of the darker arts involved in the process, with some black lager rom a local microbrewery/pub and a wicked black IPA from Buxton.  So I picked up a couple of these when I did my ales by mail shop.  One admittedly was for the wife who is a confirmed stout fan, but as I'm such a fan of their other beers, I thought I should give it a go.

So what do you get?

Well, as always, it's a nice looking bottle and a lovely label - but you didn't really want to know about that did you?

Cracking it open doesn't reveal much, a wisp of smoke and you're done.  Not much doing in terms of smelling the bottle either, so on to the next stage.

When you pour it, it pours, for want of a better word, smoothly.  The picture shows you what happened once I'd finished pouring.  I'm not an aggressive pourer of beer, but it did require me to stop for a moment and take stock of the situation, I spent the few seconds waiting time checking the fridge for likely snacks, you may wish to do the same.

It didn't give away much on the nose either, despite the lovely off white creamy head.

So, first impressions?  It was smooth in my mouth.  Then it wasn't, the bubbles, miniscule though they are, were slowly working their way through the ever so slightly viscous texture and moving the flavours around my mouth.

So what were the flavours?  I picked up some chocolate in there, lovely bitter dark chocolate, some mild hoppiness which was surprising but welcome to a non-stout person like me and then at the end, some lovely coffee, but not an overpowering lasting on the palate forever kind of coffee like some stouts, just some residual decent ground coffee, enough to give you that bitter hit.  I didn't catch much of the peat - but I've been smelling Jura whiskey all over xmas, so I'm a bit spoilt in that sense.

At 7.7% abv, it's a bit of a beast, but it's definitely a beer to savour, I'm savouring it right now in fact.

This beer has opened the door to stout for me, no longer will I worry about the memory of trying the last dregs of a warm can of Mackesons my mum used in her christmas cake.  This has really opened my eyes, and my mouth.

I think the moral of this post is the old, old story, 'try this beer'.  You really won't regret shelling out for it.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Kipling - Thornbridge Brewery - A foolish tale

When I first started drinking proper beer, something initially made me stay away from the Thornbridge beers in Waitrose.  Part of the reason was the higher ABV that came with the Jaipur and the Kipling (the only ones they carried), because I was still quite interested in being able to get three or four beers down my neck in a single sitting.

Part of it was beer ignorance as well, as I dipped my toe into the beer water, I didn't think that I would be able to appreciate a beer that was at least 20p more than some of the others, besides which, the range of beers had plenty to keep me amused.

Then one day last summer, I threw caution to the wind and I picked up a Jaipur and a Kipling.

Here beginneth the lesson:

That evening, I cracked open the Jaipur and was blown away (I'll write about Jaipur another day), but what it also blew away was my ability to really appreciate the Kipling.   Kids, if you are doing this at home and trying them for the first time, don't try and drink them in this order.

Luckily, a chance for redemption came my way.  The next week, they had run out of Jaipur, so I thought I'd give the Kipling a proper go, reasoning that although it wasn't great, it was still pretty tasty.

When I drank it that evening, I was immediately seized with the urge to pour a large amount of (metaphorical) egg over my face.

Not only had I been not buying this stuff for a long time, I had inadvertently written it off as a junior partner to Jaipur.

When I guested on the Real Ale Guide (on youtube - check it out HERE ) - I said it was the smarter younger brother of Jaipur.  I'd like to revise that comment now, it's the smarter, younger, step-brother.

It's a different style, it's a hoppy golden ale, but it's surfing perilously close to the outer borders of an IPA, it's still big and hoppy and swaggering all over the place with it's amazing fluffy white head, a cracking grapefruit and gooseberry bitter taste.  It's carbonated with the tiniest of bubbles so doesn't even for a second get near bloating you and you would never know that it weighs in at 5.2% if someone gave you it blind, the alcohol burn just isn't there.  I have recommended this in the supermarket when I've seen people looking lost and I really regret doing it now as it means there is more competition for it.

This is the first beer that I ever felt like giving a 10 out of 10.   It's a beer that you can sit down with for an hour and sip at, experiencing the range of smells that come out of it as the temperature changes.  Equally, it's a jauntily refreshing pint that you could sink just to quench your thirst on a hot day.

So if you are going to the shops later and you see some of this and you haven't had it, buy it, immediately.  I guarantee you that you will be back the following day looking for more, like a zombie hunting for Brains (ooh zinged another brewery there, controversial).

So, in summary
Lesson 1 - Buy this beer ( a lot)
Lesson 2 - Enjoy this beer (a lot)
Lesson 3 - Don't tell anyone else about this beer (it can just be our dirty little secret)


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Thornbridge - Versa Weisse Beer

My package of many beers arrived from Ales by Mail this morning, I'll do a little list in another blog post, but having chosen them by hand, I'm pretty sure that most, if not all of them are going to end up in this blog.

The choice I had to make was what to go for first from my hard-won beer bounty.

I had several Thornbridge beers in the package, this, Tzara, Kipling (which was a replacement for a Kill Your Darlings) and the Saint Petersburg.

I'm not going to lie to you.  Two of my favourite beers are from the Thornbridge Brewery (Kipling and Jaipur) so the choice of brewer wasn't really a hard decision to make, especially as I've not managed to get my hands on any of their stuff since before Christmas.

I went for this because I've been enjoying (very much as a third choice) from my local Waitrose their own brand weisse beer, so I've developed rather a taste for it.  

So - the experience?

I opened it.

I sniffed it.

I recoiled from sniffing it rather quickly before the contents tried to break into my nose by force, seems an air pocket had formed inside the bottle (or maybe the transit had fizzed it up slightly), so I lost a mouthful - which I was absolutely gutted about.

At this point, this was reminding me of an incident when as a much younger man, I had tried to put on a condom the wrong way round and there was a bit of a delay until I had gotten another - it was important then that I do that, and it was important now that I save the beer and clean the floor (health and safety should always come first in either matter).

Once the bottle had settled and I had ceased cursing and mopping the kitchen floor.  I returned to my new friend.  I sniffed the bottle.

Not wishing to lose the moment, I poured the lot (rather carefully) into a pint glass.  It looked good.  Not like some beers in this style in that it wasn't that cloudy, but in Thornbridge we trust.

Another sniff, a deep long sticking the nose in gave me some amazing smells.   Intense sweet (but not sickly), it reminded me of the ham my mum used to cook at Christmas and it reminded me slightly of bazooka joe.

I couldn't hold on any longer.  So I took a mouthful.

The smell translates directly into the taste, it tastes of heaven, if heaven were German.  It stays refreshing, the sweetness in no way impedes the fact that on a hot day, you would want to surround yourself with endless halves of this, nicely chilled.

This is an excellent example of the genre.  I heartily recommend it.  I have to go now as I am salivating at the thought of opening another and the keyboard is getting messy.


Friday, 6 January 2012

London Pride by Fullers

I'll give you a little bit of history on this one.

I started on real ale in earnest probably about 3 years ago now.  I was in Loughborough for a course and determined that if I was ever going to stop my love affair with red wine (having already jilted lager several years previously), this was the ideal opportunity.  The pub (and it's an excellent one) was the Swan in the Rushes and I have returned there every chance I have had since.

The chap who was my guide that night was a man a few years ahead of me on his own personal beer journey and I asked him for a few pointers.

London Pride was one of his first recommendations and I can see now, with the benefit of hindsight why this was.  Hence this blog post.

For someone new to beer, this is an excellent introduction.  As you may have seen on my twitter feed, I have mostly noted it as being 'middling', well, that's because it is.  There isn't loads of malt (too much malt would scare a newbie away), too much bitter hoppiness would perform the same feat. This beer doesn't have an enormous bouquet, indeed, it doesn't smell all that different to some lagers.  

All of these things don't make it sound like it is going to blow your socks off, that's ok though, because it isn't.  It's not trying to dress itself up as something special, it already is.  It's a good, honest English style ale, no more, no less.  If you don't try this or something similar as a starter, you probably won't develop the need for some of the more excellent beers out there like Kipling from Thornbridge (my current favourite) - and that would be a real shame for you.

This beer can be a gateway to all other beers.  Therefore I commend this beer to you, 7/10 if you are a seasoned beer guzzler, but if you are looking to make that first step towards your real ale awakening (and please do), 8/10.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Buxton Spa - Special Pale Ale from the Buxton Brewery

This, and let there be no mistake about it, is a cracking beer.

Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a pale ale from up North, it's not something to be put in the same league as the traditional English (think Sammy Smiths) style of pale ale.

So, first things first, what happens when you pour it?  Presuming you've followed the instructions, the sediment will be settled at the bottom (this is unpasteurised), you'll get a nice smooth pour which won't leave you with an icecream head, what you get as you tip the last of it is a few little bits of sediment which will land on the head.  If you aren't squeamish about consuming the fingernails and the foreskin of the original brewer, leave it in there (or don't tip the bottle up), if you are, you can scoop it off the head quite easily.

Now, get your nostrils over the edge of the glass and inhale deeply.  You'll be hit by an amazing wallop of ruby red grapefruit, I'm guessing it's a Nelson Sauvin hop that has done that, the bottle doesn't say.  A second whiff will give you something akin to the smell of undiluted Um Bongo.  Don't panic about this.

Now, take a sip (or a big long draught), you'll get the grapefruit straight away,  you'll get the bitterness (it's tart but not so much it's unpleasant) hitting your taste buds once the beer has been round your mouth and is down your gullet.  It's not that fizzy - so don't be too concerned about the lack of burp, one will come and it will be worth it.

For my money, this is one of the best new style pale ales out there and the beauty is that unlike some of the other big hoppy English beers, it only weighs in at 4.1% abv, which means that it's a great beer to session.

In terms of food, this would sit well with a thai curry or a chilli.  The way it would wash away the lingering heat from the food whilst complimenting the spiciness and aromas would be excellent.  However, it can equally be enjoyed just sitting down and looking at the telly/the sea/a mountain (everywhere) on it's own.

You must try this beer, it is absolute nectar.

9/10 from me.