Tuesday 28 December 2010

What's in Ned's head?

For me Christmas is a time for drinking copious quantities of beer, washed down with more beer and followed by beer chasers. What makes it different from a weekend is that you get to stuff your face with huge amounts of food and you get pressies too.

The drinking kicked off at the Ship in Ripley on Christmas eve. They had four beers on: Abbot which is too strong, Courage best which is too rubbish, some filth from the unrighteous brewery I used to work for which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole and Fuller's London Pride. I went for the Pride and fortunately it was on form as I had quite a few.

As the evening progressed the lovely Lisa took to building a scale model of the lake district out of sweet wrappers, such is the power of beer. Bonus points if you can name the valley on the top left.

Extensive supplies were in stock for Christmas day. Not quite up to Drinkalongwithronathon standards, but suffice to say that there was no danger of running short.

I'm going to make a change from the normal drivel I post by not waffling on about what I drank. No, I'm going to post about one of the presents the lovely Lisa got me: 'What's in Ned's head?', a relatively simple game where you rummage inside a model of Ned's head to see which of a variety of revolting object you can pull out.

For some reason I fail to understand this game seemed to cause enormous delight to everyone except me. They must be easily amused.

Monday 27 December 2010

The Golden Pint Awards 2010 - nominations from me and the lovely Lisa

Here's the Golden Pint Award nominations from myself and the lovely Lisa. Though it must be said that at this time of year the lovely Lisa turns to the dark side and doesn't drink many golden pints.

Best UK Draught Beer: Timothy Taylor's Landlord
Best UK Bottled Beer: Young's Special London Ale. Which makes reports it's gone a bit shit very worrying indeed.
Best Overseas Draught Beer: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Brooklyn Chocolate Stout
Best Overall Beer: Timothy Taylor's Landlord
Best Pumpclip or Label: I should really go with the choice of SIBA but I liked DB Number 1
Best UK Brewery: Timothy Taylor's
Best Overseas Brewery: Goose Island
Pub/Bar of the Year: Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater
Beer Festival of the Year: Wandsworth Common
Supermarket of the Year: Booths
Independent Retailer of the Year: The Homebrew Shop
Online Retailer of the Year: Beers of Europe
Best Beer Book or Magazine: Amber gold and black by Martyn Cornell
Best Beer Blog or Website: Oh Good Ale
Best Beer Twitterer: I've only really dipped my toe in the water with twitter but I've liked the tweets from FullersJohn
Best Brewery Online: - dunno
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: A pint of whatever cask beer I'm drinking with cheese and onion crisps.
In 2011 I’d Most Like To…finish all the brews I have planned with a various yeast strains and species
Best free piss up: IBD beer and pie night

The lovely Lisa:
Best UK Draught Beer: Loweswater Grasmore
Best UK Bottled Beer: Saltaire Triple Chocaholic
Best Overseas Draught Beer: A dark German wheat beer , can't remember the name though
Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Best Overall Beer: Loweswater Grasmore
Best Pumpclip or Label: Old Dairy Brewery Copper Top
Best UK Brewery: Old Dairy Brewery
Best Overseas Brewery: Sierra Nevada
Pub/Bar of the Year: City - Cask Pub and Kitchen; Country - Kirskstile Inn, Loweswater
Beer Festival of the Year: Wandsworth Common
Supermarket of the Year: Booths
Independent Retailer of the Year: The Real Ale Shop
Online Retailer of the Year: Realale.com
Best Beer Book or Magazine: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown
Best Beer Blog or Website: Cooking Lager
Best Beer Twitterer: Mark Dredge
Best Brewery Online: -
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Marstons Oyster Stout and beef stew
In 2011 I’d Most Like To…drink more Cumbrian beers
Best free piss up: IBD Beer and pie night

Thursday 23 December 2010

Victory is mine!

I've won a prize in the Protz Shield competition over at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins.

The competition was to "Find a piece of made-up, innaccurate or generally bollocky beer history writing and send it in...The Protz Shield is for British writers"

I nominated beer writer Ben McFarland for the some of the things I ranted on about here and here.

I would to thank Ron for picking my entry, the lovely Lisa for buying me "The World's Best Beers" but most of all I'd like to thank Ben McFarland for not letting the facts get in the way of a good story and making my entry possible.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Great Baltic Adventure

I noticed in the latest issue of the IBD magazine that master brewer Tim O'Rourke is going recreate the original journey of Imperial Russian Stout by sailing from Greenwich to St Petersburg with casks of beer from British breweries.

This follows the excellent tale of beer writer Pete Brown trying to take IPA to India by the original route (the Great Balti Adventure?) and home brewer Christopher Bowen reviving Allsopp's Arctic Ale.

The Great Baltic Adventure website is a bit clunky but when I could get it to work I saw some interesting stuff. For starters there was an official launch party at a beer festival I went to. I can't say I noticed anything but looking at the list of beers they've already been promised does explain why a number of regional breweries had Imperial Russian Stouts on sale at the festival. It was also interesting to see that Heineken currently have the rights to Courage Imperial Russian Stout, so it's not the fault of Wells and Young's that it hasn't been revived.

As I find beer history fascinating I'll be eagerly watching to see how they get on, but I'm not going to get involved in any export recreations myself.

With the historic export of IPA, Burton Ale and Stout from Britain now covered I think there's a gap in the market for historic beer imports. So watch this space to see me go to Calais to cram as many bottles of cheap French lager into my car as is physically possible and recreate the famous booze cruises that made the St Omer brewery the biggest brewery in Kent.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Mushroom ale

Mushroom ale is another beer I've had thanks to Booths supermarket. This time it wasn't because of their excellent beer range, it was because I found some Chanterelle mushrooms there. 

I'd been wanting to have a go at making a mushroom beer for ages. Amongst the wide and varied range of beers Randy Mosher talks about  in Radical Brewing is a section on mushroom beers, including Nirvana Chanterelle Ale. As he says this is one of his regular house beers I thought there must be something to it, despite my initial reservations that using mushrooms to flavour beer sounded a bit rubbish. 

Having no experience of making mushroom beers I followed the recipe in the book fairly closely, which was a beer at the Belgian tripel end of things, with a vodka extract of Chanterelle mushrooms added to the beer to give it an ethereal fruitiness.  

At the bottling stage I also made two types of control beers so the effect of the mushroom extract could be assessed scientifically: one with plain vodka added and another control with nothing added. 

By triangle testing each of the beers I was able to scientifically determine that the mushroom beer and each of the controls did indeed taste different. 

But what, your friend may ask, did they taste like?

Well, they all tasted like something strong from Belgium, so I guess the yeast did its job. 

The mushroom beer had a mellower, more rounded taste than the plain vodka control, and compared to the nothing added control there was certainly a fruitier taste. In fact it was more than that, there was something else I couldn't quite put my finger on...could it have been an ethereal fruitiness? 

It's good stuff, but I'm not sure I'll make it again, or  if I do I'll at least get some smaller bottles first. A beer in the style of a Belgian tripel with added vodka is a bit much to be drinking by the pint. 

Saturday 11 December 2010

CAMRA xmas party

As CAMRA often seems a topic of conversation (or should that be contention?)  amongst beer bloggers I thought I'd better get to a meeting of my local CAMRA branch to see what they're like, as I haven't been to a meeting in years. 

The Christmas party seemed like an ideal opportunity so the lovely Lisa and I headed off to Woking railway club on Friday. I knew it wasn't going to be a beards and sandals affair, as it was far too cold for sandals and when I'd emailed the Branch social secretary a woman had replied, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I opened the door. 

At first I thought there must have been a power cut as it was very dark inside, but then I saw at the far end of the room two flickering candles on what what looked like a makeshift altar. A robed figure was standing behind it, and ranks of similarly attired followers were seated in front. I didn't like the look of this so I turned to leave but when I pulled on the door handle it wouldn't budge. We were trapped. 

Out of the darkness a cowled figure loomed menacingly towards us and asked "Are you CAMRA members?". Fortunately the lovely Lisa had recently joined so I was able to hand over our membership cards. "Welcome brother and sister" came the voice and we were handed two robes and lead to our seats. The high priestess, I mean social secretary, was in full swing: "Our plans to hold back innovation in British brewing have had a great success this year. Working with SIBA, the BPPA, the masons and the illuminati we have forced the government to raise taxes on beers above 7.5% ABV. Our goal of making only boring brown bitters between 3.5% and 4.2% ABV available in pubs is drawing closer!" The assembled masses cheered at this and in the flickering light I saw the barman turn slightly pale and discretely turn round the pump clip on a 4.3% beer. 

"Except in May that is" the social secretary continued. I could see this caused a wave of doubt and uncertainty to sweep though the congregation. But this woman knew how to work a crowd: "Because in May only milds below 3.5% ABV will be available" she thundered to a chorus of cheers. There was no doubt about it, every single thing that anyone has ever whinged on about regarding CAMRA was entirely true.   

Next the mood turned darker "To ensure our success it is now time for the sacrifice" said the social secretary in a sombre tone. Two acolytes then dragged out a heavy object bound tightly with ropes. I asked my neighbour what it was and with a gleam in his eye told me it was a keg of Lovibond's beer. Surely they can't have anything against Lovibonds I thought. They don't even filter or pasteurise their beer. But these people brooked no compromise. "Gnat's piss" shouted someone in the crowd. "Chemical fizz" yelled a bearded oldster as he shook his fist. The keg was manhandled onto the altar and the social secretary clutched a dagger in both hands and raised it above the keg. That's not going to work I thought, but to my horror the knife plunged towards the keg and sliced straight into it. Extraneous CO2 filled beer spurted out showering the front ranks who howled with delight at seeing the keg dispatched. Truly these people are fanatics literally hell bent on achieving their aims.   

Actually you may be surprised to hear it was nothing like that. It was in fact pretty much what you'd expect from a Christmas party at a social club: beer, buffet, quiz and raffle. As a beer enthusiasts party there were six beers on and I found the Rudgate Olde Honey Stout particularly good. And I met someone who follows this blog (hi Magnus!) which was nice. The buffet was at 8.30 though, and as we'd started drinking at 7.30 our food/beer balance was a bit out of kilter, but we enjoyed ourselves and strangely enough didn't find any evidence of an evil conspiracy. 

Saturday 4 December 2010

Open it! Dogfish head World Wide Stout

I was quite taken with the Open it! idea. In my beer cupboards are a few beers that have been lurking there for years and it's about time one got guzzled. 

I dusted off a beer I bought from Safeways supermarket, so according to Wikipedia it's at least five years old.  Dogfish head World Wide Stout weighs in at 21% ABV, so is way stronger than anything I normally drink.

It went down surprisingly easily for the strength as I didn't have to chew before swallowing. The alcohol didn't sit too well on my stomach though, and despite sipping carefully I really had trouble finishing the bottle. It poured fairly flat and holding it up to the light I could only conclude that it could be no more black. The taste was sweet, which suited me as I'm not too fond of astringent stouts, but the years haven't done it any favours and it definitely seemed a bit oxidised.

Oh well, that was well worth the wait. 


Wednesday 1 December 2010

Blame Canada?

The news that the government are going to increase tax on strong beers really got on my tits. Unsurprisingly Brewdog, who brew a lot of strong beers, are more than a little miffed as well. More surprisingly they seem to blame CAMRA:

In our opinion, CAMRAs support for the proposed legislative changes reflect their own agenda. Not a concern about drinking issues in the UK but a preoccupation with pushing the same bland cask ales that never vary greatly in ABV, flavour or imagination. It's as unimaginative of them to come out in support of this legislation as it is unsurprising. As long as their boring beers, defined on a flavour spectrum of bland 3.5% mild to boring 4.2% bitter are unaffected they remain obliviously content and are callously indifferent to the greater development of the craft beer in the UK. It's a real shame these people are seen to represent the craft ale industry in the UK. They don't represent contemporary thinking about beer and they certainly don't represent BrewDog.

Now I know they were writing on their blog, and as my good friend Rob says beers bloggers like nothing better than slagging off CAMRA, but really isn't this getting a bit silly? 

The actual position of CAMRA about the forthcoming change to beer tax is that they're disappointed about the increase in tax for strong beers but welcome the reduction in tax for very weak beers. 

I would like to have seen CAMRA put the boot into the tax increase a bit more. And it would be nice if CAMRA took up The Pub Curmudgeon's suggestion and campaigned for real ales to be exempt from the tax rise, as the tax rise is supposedly to discourage people from drinking tramp juice lagers, not rare expensive beers. 

I can't help but think though that the antics of Brewdog in baiting the Portman group would weaken the case for the products of 'craft' brewers being exempt from this tax rise.