Sunday 31 October 2010

Wandsworth Common beer festival October 2010

It was back to Wandsworth yesterday, to the latest beer festival at the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. 

We got there in the afternoon and slightly disturbingly some of the beers were already off. I don't know if this beer festival is getting more popular or what but it looks like it's one to get to early. Fortunately I managed to find most of the beers that had caught my eye.

Camden Pale Ale from what the programme described as the Camden Town nanobrewery was slightly cloudy but a pleasant drop. I don't know how big a nanobrewery is and the website doesn't say a lot, presumably we're talking about the sort of set up a keen home brewer might have. 

At a slightly lager scale the Shepherd Neame microbrewery had brewed Royal Victoria Patriotic Bitter specially for the festival. One of the people I work with did some work experience there so I thought I'd give it a go but sadly it wasn't up to much, a bit like a slightly stronger version of Master Brew bitter.

Windsor and Eton's Guardsman was more like it, with a nice body to it and plenty of hops. Phoenix Brewery's also got the thumbs up for their hoppy White monk. 

I was intrigued to see that Downton brewery had a wheat stout on offer. An interesting idea resulting in a beer as black as your hat yet with the unmistakable taste of a wheat beer. I've been playing around with some yeasts recently to see their effects on flavour and I have a strong suspicion that the taste of wheat beer owes more to the yeast than the wheat. Investigations will continue...  

An old favourite, Sarah Hughes, was on hand pump in the inside bar. She wasn't her usual self sadly, tasting decidedly thin.

There may well have been one or two other beers consumed but the details escape me now. We finished off by sharing a bottle of one of my own brews that I'd brought with me. Bringing beer to beer festivals isn't something I normally do but some of my mates were interested in one I made recently and it seemed like a good opportunity. 

Wednesday 20 October 2010

A sober decade?

The governor of the Bank of England has warned that we face a 'sober decade'. 

I don't think so. Barring unforeseen circumstances I'll be proving him wrong on Friday!

Monday 18 October 2010

Alcohol 'cheaper than chocolate'

There were more dubious 'facts' reported by the anti-alcohol lobby today. It was claimed by the Core Cities Health Improvement Collaborative that a 'plague' of illness has been caused by youngster getting drunk on booze costing half the price of a bar of chocolate

When you look at it a bit closer the figures don't add up of course, as further in the article the claim changes to become women [who have lower recommended alcohol limits than men] can drink more than their recommended daily allowance for 30p. As the recommended allowance for women is the ridiculously low two to three units per day (equivalent to a pint to a pint and a half of standard beer) it's still not that much. And you'd have to be prepared to drink the cheapest white cider you can find to do it. But that doesn't really make a sensationalist headline does it? 

A boozer on the beeb

On the BBC website there's a slide show with commentary about a South London pub, a proper boozer with a grotty floor, a dart board, and old men playing dominoes. You don't get many pubs like that any more.  

The manager puts the fact it's still open down to it not being tied, so he can get beer for 80p a pint cheaper than tied houses. That's quite a difference.

Saturday 16 October 2010

A small experiment

The general consensus seems to be that if marketing annoys you don't buy the product. Pretty straight forward you'd have thought. But I remember reading on Zak Avery's blog that when it comes to Brewdog resistance is useless.

So I decided to test this hypothesis when I was in Sainsbury's:

The evidence is that Brewdog can in fact be resisted, so it's no more Punk IPA for me until the stupid tags have gone.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Hurrah for CAMRA!

I ended up doing some deliveries to a beer festival today. As I may have mentioned I have had some problems with delivering beer before. 

Following google map instructions through an area of South London I've never been to did not go entirely smoothly, and by the time I'd arrived I wasn't quite on my 19th nervous breakdown but it didn't feel far off. When I rang the bell on the back of the hall I was delivering to I was fully expecting to get no response, and preparing to wander round the front and see if I could find someone who knew what I should do with the beer but not expecting much luck. My worries were entirely misplaced though. Ringing the bell was like disturbing an ants nest. 

After a short delay people came scurrying out, already equipped with proper cask trucks, and the firkins were whizzed off to the main hall, where they were immediately covered with a damp cloth to help keep them cool. Whilst waiting to get the paper work sorted I looked around to see volunteers scurrying around all over getting the 17th Croydon & Sutton Real Ale & Cider Festival ready. It lifted my spirits to see these enthusiasts giving up their free time just to promote, encourage, and of course partake, in the drinking of quality cask beer.   

So hurrah for CAMRA, a great bunch of people.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

How far can you go with beer nerdery?

I got an email from Fuller's Fine Ale club today saying they've got a new advert coming out on the telly. They then helpfully gave the date and time it will first appear. Now I know I'm a hardened beer nerd but surely no one is going to make the point of specifically watching an advert are they? Or am I letting the side down here? 

Monday 11 October 2010

Visiting the nether regions

The Lovely Lisa and I spent the last week in the nether regions of Wasdale

The small village has two pubs, one with a brewery, and a hotel bar. But no shop. With priorities like that it sounded just the place for us. 

Our first bit of beer excitement happened en route when we called in at the Brown Cow Inn for a livener. There on the bar, calling to me, was a beer from Stringers, the renewably powered pro-situ brewery. At a modest 3.5% ABV Dark Country was a delight to drink with a fruity taste but not sweet or harsh in taste despite the black colour. I could have had a few more of these but for the fact I was driving.

We were staying at Woodhow Farm, which at one point seems to have tried rebranding itself as The Cumbrian Goat Experience. I think it would be fair to say has not been a massive success.  

Unusual tourist attractions do sometimes take off, like the nearby Sellafield nuclear power station for example, but it seems the masses aren't flocking to Cumbria to see goats. 

The nearby pubs were busy though, and we didn't waste much time getting ourselves down to The Strands. Their 3.8% session bitter 'Errmmm' was a delight on the first night, with I thought a hint of chocolate malt and some citrus flavoured hops. The owner refused to discuss such matters with me so this is only speculation. I wasn't quite as taken with the slightly stronger 'low flyer', but when we returned later in the week I thought the opposite. Such is life with cask beer. There was good food here too, and one night Lisa reckoned the guy behind the bar had been on telly with noted mountaineering expert Julia Bradbury, and I thought the guy he was chatting to sounded like the bloke off Gardeners' Question Time. 

The other pubs in the village weren't as good. The Screes was a Robinson's pub and I'm not very fond of their beers, particularly when they're on the turn, and the hotel bar was very plush but only had something dull by Yate's on. 

The Wasdale Head Inn at the other end of the valley was our other main haunt. Funny how all the routes off the mountains seemed to lead to its door. It was once home to the Great Gable brewery but that's now gone elsewhere, along with the beers. Some of the replacements were Grasmore Dark Ale and Loweswater Gold, favourites of ours from Cumbrian Legends, so we managed to wash away our disappointment.  

By extending our stay by a day at the climbing hut at Brackenclose we were able to stick around for the Wasdale Head Shepherds meet and Show.

There was a fell race a mate of ours was entering, and that was only one of the many attractions. There were lots of sheep too obviously, and some goats, but by that point I think we'd experienced enough of them, and you could cut the air with a knife the tension was so great during the walking stick judging. 

Once our mate was safely down it was back to the Wasdale Head Inn. The barman from the Strands and his mate were there, and I found out that the guy who sounded like the bloke off Gardeners Question Time was in fact Eric Robson,  the presenter of Gardeners Question Time and president of the Wainwright society. Which is interesting in that I could recognise his voice heard briefly in a pub, but slightly embarrassing as my friend knew who he was immediately. At least I know who Julia Bradbury is!


Friday 1 October 2010

Restoring my brewing credibility

After revealing myself to be a total lightweight when it comes to handling firkins I needed something to restore my credibility as a brewer. Fortunately the very thing came along the next day. No, I haven't won a competition or some award. Mere baubles that I'm sure are decided on by uninformed punters or jealous rivals. Well, until I win one that is. 

Reading the blogs of my fellow brewers I've realised that the thing with most brewing cred is having a bloody long day at work. Stuart Howe regularly puts in 70 hour days and Pete Brissenden often gets up before he's gone to bed so he can get to work. 

Much to my delight a late malt delivery lead to me only mashing in at lunch time yesterday so I ended up getting home 14 hours after I'd set off for work. Now I know this won't set any records but I'm sincerely hoping it's something I can build upon.