Tuesday 31 August 2010

Libations in the lakes

The lovely Lisa and I were back in Langdale for the August bank holiday. As the journey is long and tedious we stopped at the Watermill once we'd left the motorway. We both went for their own Collie Wobbles at 3.7% ABV as we know it's nice and refreshing, but as we sat down I spotted a Stringers beer mat and sure enough looking at the boards behind the bar I saw one of their beers was on in the bar next door. 

As I like the Stringers blog I'm keen to try the beer but one was enough so it wasn't to be this time. We did manage to find one beer we were after later that day as one of Lisa's favouries Coniston Old Man Ale was on at the Sticklebarn

The next day we were lucky enough to see the dangerous low water levels recover somewhat as horizontal rain drenched us for most of the day as we went over the Crinkle Crags. Delighted that the reservoirs, and our clothes, were now filled with water we stopped at the ODG to celebrate. There's a good beer range but it's not the cosiest of pubs so after a swiftie we headed back towards the hut. Not that we got there for a while as we passed the Sticklebarn on the way... We did manage to get past the New Dungeon Ghyll without stopping though, as despite the currently low interest rates we didn't fancy having to re-mortgage to be able to afford a round.

The next day was somewhat different from our usual lakeland excursions as we walked over to the Grasmere show to watch one of our friends compete.

The two main competitions were Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling and a short fell race. Our mate was in what looked by far the most painful option - running up this hill: 

He made it though, and here he is once he'd got back down:

We managed to find something that suited us and did our bit for Cumbrian culture by visiting the Jennings beer tent. 

Wednesday 25 August 2010

IPA challenge bout six: Meantime IPA Vs Greene King Very Special IPA

It took a long while to organise this bout - how do you find a match for Meantime IPA? Weighting in at an impressive 7.5% ABV this beer is clearly in the cruiserweight category, and coming in a 750ml Champagne bottle has far more stamina than any other cruiserweights I've seen. It would take a brave beer indeed to take on this gladiator from Greenwich.

Fortunately my favourite brother in law found a young hopeful prepared stepped up to the plate. 

Greene King Very Special India Pale Ale.

When they squared up at the weigh in the audience were visibly shocked at what looked a terrible mismatch. But unbeknownst to the crowd the British Board of Beer Control had borrowed something from the rules of professional wrestling in order to ensure a fair fight. Greene King would be fighting as a tag team.


The formalities over it's time for the main event. 

The Meantime starts with a flourish as the cork pops but the jab looks weak. A good IPA should have a crisp penetrating jab to the nostrils but all we get is a slight floral smell.Greene King counters powerfully in the brutal, unsophisticated style all fighters from that stable favour: that's right it, smells like every other Green King beer. 

When it come to the taste the slugger from Suffolk stays true to type and tastes like Green King IPA on steroids: plenty of alcohol but also a nice full bodied toffee taste that drinks very nicely. 

Meantime is looking very pale and is thin and lacking in body. It can only offer up a hint of grapefruit which is brushed aside by Greene King and it shows it's very special by throwing a rich rounded and full bodied counter. A slug to the liver causes Meantime to sink to its knees and in the biggest upset since Buster Douglass knocked out Mike Tyson the ref steps in and starts counting. 

Meantime struggles to its feet but the fight's gone out of it and a fresh bottle of Greene King is leaning over the ropes, eager to be tagged in. The once mighty Meantime fades throughout the rest of the round and the bell sounds like an act of mercy. 

A win for Greene King Very Special IPA by 10-8.

Sunday 22 August 2010

A beer banquet

We had a family do on Saturday and were all asked to bring some food to share. The lovely Lisa had the brainwave of cooking some beer based food which sounded like an excellent idea to me. Though I'm not one for the beer and food pairing which seems popular with my fellow beer bloggers I do enjoy it when I see food made with beer.      

Here's what we brought:

Chicken liver and Titanic stout pate

Slow cooked gammon in alcoholic ginger beer

Beer bread made with Badger's Fursty Ferret

Here's a lovely pair of baps 

Birra misu made with Lee's Harvest Ale

Porter cake made with one of my own beers

All went down very nicely and I'm sure we'll be cooking some of these dishes again soon. 

As to what I drank with the meal, I'm afraid I had a beer nerdery failure. I haven't got into the beer and food pairing thing, so I finished off the glass of fizzy I'd been given on arrival and that was it. There was a good fight card lined up for the IPA challenge later on so I wasn't letting the side down entirely.  

Thursday 19 August 2010

Minimum alcohol pricing is coming our way

Some gossip I picked up from the SIBA do the other day is that the government are very keen on minimum pricing for alcohol. Apparetly alcohol duty is unlikely to have any major reforms, but as soon as they can figure out a way of doing it a minimum price per unit of alcohol will be brought in. And guess what? The main reason seems to be to keep the newspapers happy.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Woman's hour

There as piece on Woman's hour yesterday about the rise of female ale drinkers. Having just said how dubious I am about the benefits of promoting the 'beer is healthy' message the item was first introduced with the 'surprise fact' that beer is less fattening than wine. So I've now revised my opinion and will be posting my new article 'Beer: it won't make your bum bigger' soon. 

A woman from Prospect brewery and noted beer expert Melissa Cole talked about beer being good for you and had three beers with a range of flavours to taste.

The presenter sounded a bit wary to me and I'm not sure if she actually tried any of the beers on offer. But it was something positive about beer on national radio and if it helps get more women drinking beer it can only be a good thing. 

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Beer and health propaganda

I've been sent a few things promoting the health giving properties of beer recently. SIBA emailed round something about how drinking beer can help you lose weight, and the IBD magazine had a supplement in it extolling the benefits of beer when drunk in moderation.

Dedicated beeroid that I am I still don't find it really strikes a chord with me. I'm not really concerned about my silicone intake being boosted by beer or that beer has less calories than wine. The two things that interest me about beer are that it tastes great and it gets you pissed. I suppose with all the anti-alcohol nonsense currently being pushed by puritans it's good to have some stuff coming back from our side but are these worthy tracts the best way of going about it? 

Monday 9 August 2010

More beers in Borough

After all the foot slogging of our last research trip we went for a more concentrated effort this time, focusing of Borough. 

Our first stop was The Wheatsheaf, a cellar bar. I spied Titanic Steerage amongst the handpumps, and fresh from enjoying their Lifeboat at the GBBF I had no hesitation in ordering a pint. Sadly it wasn't in good nick, unlike the lovely Lisa's Ufford's Golden Drop which was on top form. 

It seemed a nice enough bar but I was getting a bit twitchy as I wanted to get to Utobeer before it shut so we hurried on.

I'd checked out the Utobeer website again before we set off, but as ever the promise on the holding page that a 'New website is coming soon' had not been fulfilled. Not having any advance information of what beers are on offer does make it difficult to plan your shopping, and the annoying (and quite possibly illegal) lack of prices on display doesn't help when you get there. Though they have started putting price tags on the really pricey beer, which no doubt saves the person on the till a lot of aggro from shocked customers. 

As it was I nearly didn't spot one of the beers I was very keen to get as they were in a different section from the other British beers. Fortunately on my way to the till I spied them: Hardknott Dave's beers. These were pricey enough to qualify for price tags but we had to have one, so we forked out for a bottle of Infra red before heading on to the Market Porter.  

We always seem to end up in the same spot in this pub, and whilst the view through the window (picture above) might look like an ordinary street seen it is in fact a form of entrapment. If you look closely you'll see the guy giving away free cheese samples which draws us into the shop every time. So one swift cheese  purchase later we were ready for our next stop: Brew Wharf

There won't be much change coming back from that £20 note

The last time we were here they didn't have any of their own beers on which is a bit crap for a brew pub, but I'd heard they'd improved so we gave it another go. They did actually have one of their own beers on this time, but they don't half crank the prices up here. It must be a Borough market thing. Their abc was a weak (3% ABV) beer that tasted of hops and nothing else. Really quite pleasant but at £3.90 a pint I should hope so too. 

Never having been to the Rake, a bar connected to Utobeer and renowned for its beer range we thought we really ought to. Of course the Utobeer holding page doesn't do anything useful like give an address, if it did we might have made it there sooner. 

The bar is tiny but they did have a lot of beers. On hand pump were two beers from Otley brewery, who are normally good and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout from the States. Excellent I thought and I asked for a pint of each. "I can only give you a half or third of the Stout" said the bar maid "It's 13%". Whilst we were conferring about whether this was really the sort of thing we should be buying the bar maid pulled us a half so I guess it was. The round came to £12.50 which I think is a record for two and a half pints. The Bourbon County Stout was good though. As flat as a pancake and syrupy in texture but very, very tasty. I've been meaning to brew a strong stout for a while but it might have to have be aged on spirit soaked oak chips now.  

Our news pub was a much more normal boozer, The Shipwrights Arms, and I had a much more normal beer, Timmy Taylor's Landlord. It's a favourite of mine and I was glad to see it was runner up in this years Champion Beer of Britain competition. 

Things must have been catching up with me at this point as we somehow ended up getting a taxi to a Mexican restaurant where we drank margaritas. 

I didn't feel well the next day. 

Thursday 5 August 2010

The Great British Beer Festival 2010

A good day out, if slightly constrained due being there on a Tuesday. I mostly failed in my ambition of meeting up with fellow beer bloggers due to insufficient mingling but I did manage to catch up with Pete Brissenden for bit of brewing gossip.

I was also woefully ill prepared with no tick list, despite the help of Mark. I just couldn't get excited about a list of foreign beer I'd never heard of. So I had to improvise.

As I was meeting the work people by the Belgian beer bar that seemed a good place to start. I've just made my first Saison beer so I had a Saison IV by Jandrain-Jandrenouille, because I've read good reports about it. It was very Orval like in its taste, which is a good thing, but at 6.5% ABV a bit strong for a first beer. 

As a day at a beer festival is a marathon not a sprint I decided to switch to a mild next and I perused the list of 300 Beers to Try Before You Die to make up for my lack of preparation. Sure enough there were some ticks from that to be had so I went for Cain's Dark Mild. It was nice enough but like most milds on the thin side.

Next I tracked down Holden's Black Country Bitter. This was a pale pleasant beer with the tang of Harvey's brewery taste to it. I always thought that was down to the yeast, by as I've also tasted a touch of Harvey's in Sambrook's beers now I'm not so sure. 

It was back to mild for the next one and I was pleased to find Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde Mild, one I've been after for a long time, and it was well worth the wait. I'd heard my friend Rob waxing lyrical about this beer when we were at Heriot-Watt and as milds are not normally my thing I wasn't convinced. But it really is an excellent beer with a rich full bodied taste.

As drinking the last three beers had brough me 1% closer to death I decided to go free style. One of my work mates spotted our closest rival Rother Valley had a beer on, so I thought I'd give it a go with a half of Level Best. It was a bit grainy but apparently it's usually better.

Next I made an even bigger departure from my usual drinking by drinking a lager. Budweiser Kroužkovaný Ležák. I don't really like lager. No, not even the good ones. But I'd heard the unpasteruised version of Budveiser Budvar is something special so for the benefit of my beer education I tried it. And to my surprise it lived up to the hype. I was very pleasant with a touch of honey in the taste and if I saw it again I wouldn't say no to another.

The next thing that caught me eye was a beer made by someone that posts at Jim's. I didn't think much of it so I'll move swiftly on.

By this point we'd linked up with a mate of the boss who was originally from Yorkshire. So we stopped at the Theakstons bar where I had a Lightfoot (which was boring) and everyone else had a Grouse beater, which was flavoured with blueberries. As Theakstons employ a cooper they could easily have barrel aged it and then by freeze distilling it they could have been edgy, innovative and quite possibly post modern. But they didn't so it was just crap. 

Titanic Iceberg was my next choice and I definitely remember it was good stuff though I can't actually remember why, but one to watch out for next time. 

We were starting to flag now, despite pies and pork scratchings. As we drifted around we passed the American beer bar, home of many a beer with more hops than you can shake a stick at. It was a gruit, an unhopped ale, that caught my eye though. I've had a few goes at doing unhopped ales myself but this was the first commercial version I'd seen so I had to try it. It was slightly spicy and with a sweet worty taste. Quite similar to my attempts but still not as good as beer with hops in. 

With work to get to the next day that was it for us and we poured ourselves home.