Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Bricklayer's Arms Yorkshire beer festival

We got up to Putney for the Bricklayer’s Arms Yorkshire beer festival yesterday. It was a very impressive affair for a pub, with well over 100 beers on. When we arrived morris dancers were doing their thing, banging sticks, waving hankies and jingling bells. Sadly the excitement of this spectacle wasn't enough to make people shift outside to watch it on a cold February day so the pub was packed. I was suffering from a severely dry throat by the time I got to the bar so I just picked one from the handpumps in front of me and had a Timmy Taylor's Best. It was good in a like Landlord but weaker kind of way. 

We shuffled in to the marquee out the back after this to have a look at the range of beers available on gravity dispense.

I spotted a beer from Daleside, and as my mate Rob works there I had to have it. The beer, Pride of England, was good stuff, and unusually for Daleside a pale hop driven beer. Next I had Copper Dragon's Freddie Trueman's Ale, as I could remember seeing him at a charity cricket match when I was a child. Sadly the beer was so boring Geoffrey Boycott's Ale would have been a better name! As I was finishing this pint the entire Ramblers' Association seemed to arrive at the pub, a long line of people in outdoors gear (some even with walking poles) streaming into the pub. As we knew they'd have to go to the bar and pay a deposit for their pint glasses before they could get any beer we dashed back into the marquee where I had a pint of Summer Wine's Houblon on the carefully considered basis that I liked the name. It was another pale and hoppy one but it lacked in excitement. 

At this point I was starting to look longingly at the pints of mild my friend Dan (who normally drinks lager) had been supping. Is lack of bitterness combined with a slight sweetness the way to win lager drinkers over? I may come back to this one...

It was time food next, and as we often seem to in London we ended up in a tapas bar. Amongst the quality pork and potato products there was some mucusy octopus. This was unfortunate as the effect on the lovely Lisa was as bad as a green crisp or moldy peanut and she was definitely a bit peeky this morning.

We called in at a Fuller's pub next but it had not one, not two but three big telly screens so we thought bollocks to that and moved on to the Duke's Head. This was an ornate looking old pub (though not up to Sam Smith's standards). 

The beer I went  for was Young's London Gold, which though I'm not generally a fan of Young's wasn't bad at all. 

It was back home after that for a well deserved rest, though we didn't sleep well. The full moon was out which is sure to mean a restless night, particularly as some people I could mention seem to have lycanthropic tendencies.  

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Royal Oak, Knaphill

We tried out a different local pub last night. We're not that taken with anything nearby so we thought we'd give the Royal Oak in Knaphill a go. I haven't been in here in many a year and it seems to have grown an extra room since I last visited. This was handy as it meant we could get away from the giant telly screen but the beer selection was pretty dire (Young's bitter and Bank's original) so I don't think we'll be back in a hurry. I've never been a fan of Young's (apart from Special London Ale) and thought I accept session beers have their place the Bank's was just plain boring. 

The lovely Lisa and I are off to the Yorkshire beer festival at The Bricklayer's Arms today so at least we'll get some decent beer in this weekend. I hope they won't go too Northern and do any of that sparkler nonsense though.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Session beer

I was back in the lakes at the weekend, meeting up with a load of friends in Braithwaite. Though we were out in the hills for the day I knew this was going mean long sessions in the pub in the evening. So what I needed was session beer. Nowadays for me this means something less than 4% ABV. I’ve heard that at this strength you can even rehydrate on the beer which is a bonus after a hard day’s heroism (we had to put on crampons and everything!). 

We were in the Royal Oak, which means Jennings beers. Jennings aren’t bad if you get the infernal sparkler removed but they’ve suffered some tribulations of late. The brewery in Cockermouth was flooded out and production temporarily moved to somewhere else in the “Marston’s” empire. Production has recently resumed at Cockermouth so it was unclear exactly whether the beer we were drinking had been brewed in the Lake District or the midlands. Either way it seemed a bit below par.

For Friday night I drank Jennings Bitter (3.5% ABV) for most of the night, with only a modest amount of Sneck Lifter (5.1% ABV) at the end of the night as I wasn’t pissed enough to keep out the Winter chill. Despite its low strength Jennings bitter has a lot of flavour and I prefer it to its paler brothers Cumberland and Cockerhoop. Though a lot of beer bloggers like to complain about ‘boring brown bitter’ I find the profusion of pale thin beers more of a problem.

Drinking a session beer at a sedate pace for most of the evening worked a treat for getting up mountains the next morning without too much trouble. Things didn't work quite as well the following night as my drinking rate crept up a bit, and I moved on to the stronger beer a bit earlier with inevitable results. Still, on the plus side I did get pissed quicker.  

Balancing the need to control your intake with your desire to get pissed is a tricky one. And lets face it the desire to get pissed usually wins, but session beers have their use when there's things to be done the next day. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Doppelbock? Demi-bock more like!

I was excited to see that Cain's doppelbock is out on draught this month. I sought it out when it first came out in bottle and it's 8% ABV syrupy delights well worth the search. The cask version is a poxy 4.5% ABV which I'm sure my fellow beer nerds will agree doesn't even make it a bock, let alone a dopelbock. Pah, I won't be seeking this one out. 

Monday, 15 February 2010

Rejoycing in heaven!

I've managed to make some beer my humulophobic brother likes! There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent!

Sorry about going all biblical there. I certainly don't know my brother biblically, we're not that sort of family. I am excited though. As regular readers of this blog may remember I made an unhopped ale flavoured with honey, spices and pine back in May in the hope that he might like it. The ale had a pretty rank taste for many months but has recently matured into something I find quite pleasant, if slightly odd.

At a family get together at the weekend I shared a bottle with my brother and though he was a bit unsure about it he managed to drink it.

The real surprise came when he then dug out a celebration ale I'd made on the birth of his daughter Phoebe. Now this beer is a bit of an abomination, as another beer blogger might put it. I'd tried making a strong barley wine that would mature over many years but on the brew day the mashing was not ideal as the display on my thermometer packed up. Fermentation stopped far too soon and adding champagne yeast didn't do much to help. As the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed cheat. So I added some dry beer enzyme (presumably amyloglucosidase or pullulanase for those of you that care about such things) and the fermentation was soon going well. In fact rather too well. When it finally stopped the gravity was less than 1.000 (which means it had fermented much further than any normal beer for those of you that don't care about such things). It also meant the ABV was over 16%.

What sort of person would want to drink such a thing? People who normally drink spirits seems to be the answer as my brother actually likes this beer. You can read his full report here.

Another positive development was young Phoebe taking an interest in Pete Brown's Hops and Glory. She's showing great promise already!


Sunday, 14 February 2010

One for Valentine's Day

Beer perfume anyone?

A company in Seattle has developed perfumes using esters extracted from spent organic brewery grains.  It seems the selling point is it's petrochemical free and carbon neutral, not that it will make you smell like beer. Shame really. More info here

Friday, 12 February 2010

Dogfish head brewery recommendations anyone?

My mum's off to Delaware again so it's time to put an order in for some more Dogfish head beers. Last time I got some 60 minute IPA which I wasn't that taken with so I'm looking for something different. 90 minute IPA is the obvious next step but if anyone has any recommendations I'm all ears.  

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Drink to freedom!

On the twentieth anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison let's raise a glass to the end of apartheid. But what beer should it be? There's only one answer: 


Monday, 8 February 2010

Beer, bones and books

Having heard that there was more news on beer boosting bones had been published I got on to google to investigate and saw the principle author was Charles Bamforth. As a dedicated beer nerd I recognised the name as a beer academic so I googled him next. On the list of results was Authors@Google: Charles Bamforth. So I clicked on that next and got through to:

Professor Charles Bamforth visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his book, "Grape vs Grain." This event took place on January 22, 2009 as part of the Authors@Google series.

This gets you through to a 40 minute talk followed by a Q&A session.

It's interesting stuff. 

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Pukka pints in Paddington

We managed to track down Fuller's latest take on IPA last night. Heading up to Paddington we went to the excellent Victoria for some Bengal Lancer and very good it was too. The beer was smooth and hoppy with plenty of body.

The second pint tasted even better, but at 5% ABV we were a bit worried we were guzzling too quickly. We had steak and Guinness pies with mash to help soak up the drink. Quite why the pie was made with Guinness when you can buy steak and ale pies made with Fuller's Golden Pride in my local Waitrose I don't understand but there you go. 


After eating it was time to stretch our legs so we wandered on to the Cleveland Arms

This is a run down looking boozer that looks like an old fashioned locals pub, complete with dart board and pool table. We were ordering pints of Harvey's Best when I spotted bottles of White Shield stacked up behind the bar. We've been trying to track this down since reading Pete Brown's Hops and Glory. A couple of bottles to take home were purchased and bag carrying duty passed over to me. Free peanuts were provided in this pub but after a brief conversation about the (admittedly dubious) stories about how many types of urine could be found on pub peanuts we decided to passed on them. Unbeknown to us these peanuts would cause problems later.   

Next stop was the Leinster Arms. This had the look of a chain pub about it, being owned by M&B, but the beer selection was good.

And they had jugs to serve the beer in which got me all excited. 

The lovely Lisa showing off her jugs.

There were some old beer adverts stuck up on the wall which I always find fascinating.

They knew how to name beers in those days.

One of them showed a beer with kola nuts as an ingredient.

I wonder if it tasted anything like Brewdog's Dogma?

A sign in the pub toilet let them down though, being microbiologically incorrect (Legionella is of course a bacterium). I tried not to let such a shocking scientific lapse upset me.

As Pratt's Celebrated Invalid Stout wasn't on sale we had Thornbridge Kipling, a very hoppy beer flavoured with the latest hip hop Nelson sauvin (Cascade is sooo noughties). Good stuff it was too but at 5.2% ABV our alcohol levels were pushed even up further so it was time to move on.

Our next port of call was a Young's pub, the Mitre.

I'm not generally keen on Young's beers but the Winter Warmer was on, an old style Burton ale which goes down very nicely. Lisa was slowing down at this point so only had a half and I decided to get in touch with my feminine side by doing the same. The Mitre's a rambling pub with lots of nooks and crannies where we found a sofa to sit on and delicately sip our halves. 

Posters were up advertising a meal deal with wine, which seems to confirm my suspicion that all the efforts at promoting beer and food pairing have got absolutely nowhere.

Lastly we staggered on back to the Victoria for more Bengal Lancer before heading home. We managed to get a seat in one of their upstairs rooms called the library which looked like somewhere out of a gentleman's club. We'll definitely be back here. 

We felt a bit grotty this morning, despite our modest intake (I mean, sometimes we even drank halves!). As green crisps or dodgy peanuts are the most common cause of feeling bad after a night out on the lash we wracked our brains for where we might have eaten anything we shouldn't have but drew a blank. Then I remembered the bowl of peanuts on our table in the Cleveland Arms. Though we didn't touch them I have no doubt we are now suffering from passive peanuts. I would urge the government and press to do everything they can to publicise these dangers, and surely further measure such as minimum pricing are necessary to protect us from this menace. 

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Lead the charge!

Fuller's seem to be revamping their IPA, bringing out Bengal Lancer at 5% ABV this month. The lovely Lisa and I* will be charging up to London to skewer some. Or some other contrived lancer guff, maybe: our thirst is growing like a boil that needs lancing so we're charging off for some IPA? No, that's even worse. Anyway we're going to find some and we're going to drink it.

We're looking forward to this as we missed out on Fuller's excellent 4.8% ABV IPA on draught when it was last out, though the reappearance of the bottled version at 5.3% ABV has been some consolation. The Bengal Lancer will also be available in bottle at 5.3% ABV so we're guessing they're the same thing, and we will conduct a carefully controlled scientific experiment to investigate this. 

*Apparently 'Me and the lovely Lisa' would be grammatically incorrect. It's strange the things you can learn working as a brewer.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Beer on the radio

I was later into work today so my radio selection was a bit different. Much to my delight there were a couple of beery items from unexpected sources. First up was Mary Beard on Desert Island Discs choosing this song as one of her selection:

The Man That Waters The Workers' Beer


I am the man, the very fat man
Who waters the workers' beer
Who waters the workers' beer
And what do I care if it makes them ill
If it makes them terribly queer
I've a car and a yacht and an aeroplane
And I waters the workers' beer

Now when I makes the workers' beer
I puts in strychnine,
Some methylated spirits and a drop of paraffin
But since a brew so terribly strong
Might make them terribly queer
So I reaches my hand for the water tap
And I waters the workers' beer


Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
Who's thirsty and tired and hot
And I sometime has a drop for myself
From a very special lot
But a fat and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear
So I reaches my hand for the water tap
And I waters the workers' beer


Now ladies fair, beyond compare
And be ye maid or wife
Oh sometime lend a thought for one
Who leads a wandering life
The water rates are shockingly high
An' meth' is shockingly dear
And there isn't the profit there used to be
In watering the workers' beer

Now as it happens I personally know the man who watered the workers' beer, Professor Graham Stewart , and a wonderful human being he is too. He was the brains behind the development of high gravity brewing, where strong beer is produced and watered down post-fermentation. I think it would be fair to say he’s no stranger to the pie shop but I’d be very surprised if he owns his own yacht and aeroplane.

Next was a history of the world in 100 objects. In this program a small clay tablet that was made in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago was described. It is covered with sums and writing about local beer rationing, as beer was used as currency. It seems they had no problems with liquidity in the economy! I look forward to fellow beer blogger Ron Pattison posting about ancient Mesopotamian brewing records.

It's your round next

Thursday, 4 February 2010

How many beer list books?

The beer list book market is set to get very crowded. A new edition of Roger Protz's 300 Beers to Try Before You Die has coming out. Adrian Tierney-Jones has upped the ante with his forthcoming 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die and Zak Avery is rather reassuringly avoiding the whole death thing with his simply titled 500 Beers.

Even to a dedicated beer nerd and piss artist like myself this seems a bit excessive. I'm only about half way through the first edition of 300 beers to try before you die. I also know it's  impossible to finish as some of the beers are no longer made, but knowing I'd never be ready to die was kind of comforting. I've also got a copy of Ben McFarland's recently published World's Best Beers: 1000 Unmissable Brews from Portland to Prague which has given plenty of ideas for new beers to seek out. 

Though I always keep an eye out for new beer books, and tempting as it is to combine them into an omnibus edition 'Thousands of beers to drink until your liver packs in' I think I'll have to pass. Even if they overlap a lot, as Roger Protz does with Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide: The World's 500 Best Beers (which I also own), I've got more than enough to be going on with.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Rare pleasures in the lakes

I was up in the lake district for more excitement this weekend. Dusting off an old copy of  The Dentist's Guide to Hens Teeth, also known as Winter Climbs in the Lake District I managed to catch what looks like the end of the routes being in winter condition and heroically battle my way up a couple of grade I snow plods. Touching the Void it was not but you can't help but have fun when you get to swing your ice axes. 
I also managed to take in The Golden Rule in Ambleside, a pub that to my shame I'd never been in before despite the frequency with which I'm up that way. 

It's an great pub, that looks just like a pub should. On the downside the brewery is Robinsons, which is not one of my favourites. I will definitely be back but I don't think it will become a regular stop like the Watermill at Ings has. 

The beer highlight of the trip came thanks to Booths. I popped in hoping that their excellent beer selection would include some Worthington's White Shield as since reading Hops and Glory both myself and the lovely Lisa have had a thirst for it. Sadly it was not to be but I did manage to stock up on Coniston Old Man, York Guzzler, Daleside Morocco Ale and a favourite of mine I wasn't expecting Brooklyn Chocolate Stout.

As I take the current fashion for health scares about alcohol very seriously I shall have a sip only out of each of these bottles before disposing of the rest of the contents in a government approved waste dump. You can't be too careful you know.