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.