Wednesday 26 January 2011

I still don't get the Beer Bloggers Conference

When I saw that Mark Dredge had gone to the American beer bloggers conference I was a bit bemused. What exactly happens at a beer bloggers conference? Do listen to lectures on correct grammar and web layout? Do you sit around with fellow beer nerds blogging about blogging? Or do you just see how much beer you can pour down your neck in one weekend?

When I saw a beer bloggers conference was going to be held in London I still didn't get it and looking at the website didn't really help. There seems to be absolutely no content apart from 'meet the sponsors', 'have the sponsors suck up to you' and 'get pissed under your own steam'.

Now I do enjoy a nice bit of brewery hospitality but of the sponsors listed the only one I'm fond of is Fullers, and their do is on the Sunday lunchtime. If I was to go I'm sure that by this time my liver would be begging me to stop, and I'd have to go to work the next day so it doesn't seem ideal.

Am I being a miserable git here or would I have more fun spending my hard earned cash on a pub crawl that weekend?

I still don't get the Beer Bloggers Conference

My latest post is here but due to a slight technological cock up I managed to post it last Thursday so it's not at the top of the page.

Sunday 23 January 2011

A trip to Shepherd Neame brewery

On Monday I went to the IBD SE AGM at the Shepherd Neame brewery. After the business part there was a talk on 'the Green Agenda' which, being sat on an uncomfortable chair, went on a bit longer than my arse was happy with. The chairman must have sensed the audience was getting restless as he ruled out anyone asking any questions after the talk and finally it was on to the networking.

As I was driving I couldn't really have a major networking session so I opted to go on a brewery tour whilst waiting for the buffet to arrive. Sheps wasn't quite what I was expecting. As they brew a number of lagers under license I thought it would be very modern so coming across a wooden mash tun built in 1914 was a surprise. It was still in use for making ales too, though for both the ales and the lagers they now have a PDX wort heater which "uses direct steam at supersonic speeds to atomize wort components stripping off volatiles and providing the necessary surface for the boiling reactions to take place", which I think counts as very modern.

Though I've never been a huge fan of Sheps I have drunk a lot of their beer in my time. When I was a Wetherspoons regular Spitfire was going for £1.29 a pint so it would have been rude not to. I have noticed more recently tastier short run beers from them like "4-4-2" which I suspect have come from the four barrel pilot plant I got to see on the trip round the brewery. I know for a fact the very drinkable Amber Ale I had that night was from the pilot plant because I was chatting to the bloke that brewed it. I don't think Shep's main brands will ever excite me, as I've a suspicion that "supersonic steam" doesn't make as good a beer as an old fashioned rolling boil does, but I hope they continue to make good use of the pilot plant.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

European Tax Rates on Beer

Following the news that government is trying to stop the frightful oiks drinking those ghastly drinks they do by bringing in minimum alcohol pricing I was quite surprised to see that some tosser was actually claiming that we have a very low rate of tax on alcohol.

Being a dedicated beer nerd I happen to have to hand some facts from Charlie Bamforth's latest book that says otherwise:

Tax rates on beer in Europe, April 2009 (pence per pint):

Finland: 61.74
Ireland: 51.99
UK: 45.89
Sweden: 43.15
Denmark: 19.42
Slovenia: 17.95
Netherlands: 17.08
Italy: 14.76
Estonia: 12.88
Austria: 12.56
Cyprus: 12.51
Hungary: 11.12
Belgium: 10.74
Slovakia: 10.36
Poland: 9.46
Greece: 8.54
France: 6.91
Lithuania: 6.44
Spain: 5.71
Czech: 5.55
Latvia: 5.35
Luxembourg: 4.98
Germany: 4.94
Bulgaria: 4.82
Malta: 4.71
Romania: 4.15

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Fuller's "Past Masters" XX

It's been a while since I've been this excited about a beer. I love beer history so when I heard a historical beer was being revived by the combined efforts of one of my favourite breweries and one of my favourite beer bloggers I couldn't wait to try it.

When I finally got to the brewery shop I had a slightly circuitous route home which ruled out guzzling the beer immediately but the next day I was ready to try it.

The beer poured an amber colour, with a good head and the araldite like Fuller's yeast stays safely on the bottom of the bottle.

The taste is, as was claimed on the video, definitely a bit different. There's a subtle aroma of orange with a bitter, slightly astringent taste, with some sweetness in the background and surprisingly easy drinking. The beer it most reminds me of is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Fuller's 1845. The XX is lighter in body though, despite its higher strength. This gives the beer that dangerous Duvel like quality of going down far too quickly, so don't forget it's 7.5% ABV!

It's not my favourite beer from Fuller's, but I've been impressed by the effort they've put into making it, and I've enjoyed drinking it so I'll no doubt be scurrying up to Chiswick again when the next beer in the "Past Masters" series appears.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The Rowbarge, Guildford

When someone who looks like Charles Bronson (the criminal, not the actor) walks over and grabs your pint it would normally be a matter for concern. But not so in the Rowbarge. The bloke was the landlord and he was whisking away our pints because he'd spotted that they were slightly cloudy. Clutching our beers, he immediately offered us a pint of any of his other beers as a replacement.

As it happens despite the haze we'd decided we were happy with the beer as it tasted fine. So we said we'd stick with them, and very nice they were too.

We'd been out for a Sunday stroll and decided to tick off the Rowbarge on the way home. It's a large pub in a riverside setting which would be really nice, if not for the A3 being just on the other side of the river. We couldn't stay for long as we had pork to roast but I dare say we'll return. A pub with a landlord that takes that much pride in his beer is definitely worth visiting again.

Monday 10 January 2011

Research trip to West London

When I told the lovely Lisa I needed to visit Chiswick to stock up on Ron's beer she immediately recognised another research opportunity. Dedicated research scientist that she is, a route along the Thames was soon planned from the Fuller's brewery to the Bricklayer's Arms.

First port of call was the brewery shop so I could get my hands on the "Past Masters" XX (or XXK to those in the know). It was four quid a bottle, which I suppose is fair enough but I was a bit peeved to see the latest Vintage Ale (which I also had to have) was a fiver a bottle. I'm sure that in Waitrose last year it was £3.30 so I'm not sure why buying it direct from the brewery is this costly.

There was a slight hitch early on as the pub on the corner of the brewery, and the one next door ;-) , was shut but we managed to meet up with our mate Dan without much bother and were soon safely ensconced in our first pub, the BlackLion.

Two of the beers here were off leaving the choice of Adnam's Broadside or Wells and Young's Courage Best. Now Courage Best, or Courage Worst as we more commonly called it, was one of the beers I had to drink in my youth when big breweries owned most of the pubs. I was mystified when Wells and Young's decided to revive it and have steered clear of it so far. But as I was starting a pub crawl, and I didn't fancy a Broadside I thought it was time to give it a go. The beer was recognisably Courage Best, though perhaps slightly better than I remember it. Still pretty dull though, so is one to avoid generally. The round of two and a half pints came to just under a tenner which really made me think "Toto, we're not in Wetherspoons anymore". It was a nice looking pub but to charge prices like that their business model must be based on ripping off tourists.

Moving swiftly on we soon came to a Young's pub, the Old Ship. I had a pint of Winter Warmer in this one but it wasn't on form. I thought there was a strange tang to it giving it a hint of dodgy homebrew. Still, it wasn't off putting enough for me to take it back so it can't have been that bad.

Dan was quite taken with his kegged Double Chocolate Stout and it's another nice looking pub, though the water dripping from the balcony was annoying.

Moving further along the Thames we soon came to a couple more pubs and after peering inside the windows we decided to call in at the Blue Anchor. After some deliberation we went for a beer called Fagins from the Itchen Valley brewery. This was a well balanced bitter at a very drinkable 4.1% ABV.

Continuing our wanderings I was surprised to see we'd passed William Morris' house. I wonder what he would say about breweries producing up to six million barrels a year being called "craft breweries".

Close by was The Dove , a Fuller's house. I believe this pub's claim to fame is that it has a tiny snug, and sure enough there was a very small room on one side of the bar. The hand pumps were on that side of the bar, but with the badges turned round so you can see them from the main room. Whether this odd arrangement influenced my friends choice of drinks I couldn't say but the lovely Lisa had a bottle of Bengal Lancer and Dan had a bottle of porter, having recently discovered its delights at the Sloaney Pony winter ales festival. I don't really hold with drinking bottled beer in pubs as a) I can usually get the same beer for cheaper from shops and b) I can't get cask beer anywhere except in pubs. So I had a pride.

At this point we stopped doing original research and wandered on to one of our favourites the Bricklayers in Putney. Sadly it seems there are still problems with deliveries from Timmy Taylor's as none of their beers were there. There was an excellent selection though with lots from Dark Star. Unfortunately my beer nerdery let me down and I went for Acorn's Barnsley Bitter. I could remember Pete Brown writing about this and it was the first time I've seen it so I couldn't miss it. I wish I had though as it wasn't much cop. Maybe my pallet was a bit jaded by this point.

We went off for some food next, where I had a Mahou to wash my tapas down. Drinking lager can't be good for you though as I felt a bit rough in the next day.

After it was on to Dan's local, the Pelican, for a pint of Harveys Best.

Friday 7 January 2011

History in the making

I was delighted to see that there's a video online of the beer bloggger's beer blogger Ron Pattinson with the big cheeses of Fuller's brewing making the first of their 'Past Masters' beers.

The lovely Lisa and I will be heading up to Chiswick tomorrow to stock up on some bottles and do a bit of research into the local pubs.

Thursday 6 January 2011

A tsunami of craft keg beer set to sweep across Nottingham!

Here's the provisional list of beers for the SIBA keg beer competition.

(Sorry about the formatting, it's: Brewery, beer, %ABV)

Brewdog Ltd Punk IPA 5.4

Brewdog Ltd 5am Saint 5.0

Coniston Brewing Co. Ltd Coniston Thurstein Pilsner 4.8

Coniston Brewing Co. Ltd Coniston Oliver's Lager 3.4

Elgood & Sons Ltd Black Dog Smooth 3.6

Elgood & Sons Ltd Cambridge Smooth 3.8

Freedom Brewery Ltd Freedom Pilsner 5.0

Freedom Brewery Ltd Freedom Organic Lager 4.8

Freedom Brewery Ltd Freedom Four 4.0

Freedom Brewery Ltd Freedom Organic Dark Lager 4.7

Freedom Brewery Ltd Freedom Stout 4.0

Fuller Smith and Turner Fuller's London Porter 5.4

Fuller Smith and Turner Fuller's Organic Honey Dew 5.0

Fuller Smith and Turner Fuller's ESB 5.9

Fuller Smith and Turner Fuller's Export London Pride 4.7

Hambleton Ales Hambleton Nightmare 5.0

Hambleton Ales Hambleton Stallion 4.2



Hepworth & Co Mitchell Krause Pilsner 4.2

Marston's Beer Company Banks's Bitter 3.8

Marston's Beer Company Marston's Oyster Stout 4.5

Marston's Beer Company Marston's Smooth 3.6

Noah Beers ST Mungo 4.9

Noah Beers Hefe-Weizen 5.2

Noah Beers Dunkel 4.9

Noah Beers Munich Red 4.9

St Peters Brewery Ruby Red Ale 4.3

St Peters Brewery Organic Ale 4.5

The Caledonian Brewing Company Caledonian Old Seadog 5.2

The Inveralmond Brewery Ltd Sunburst Pilsner 4.8

Titanic Brewery Titanic Stout 4.5

Tunnel Brewery Limited Munich Style Lager 5.2

The craft keg revolution continues! As aficionados of keg beer might have expected Brewdog are in there, and Fuller's London Porter. But not only that, there's also such delights's Smooth. Clearly the days of cask beer are numbered.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

My new drinking hero

Whilst looking through the news on the BBC website one topic in the section on Sudan caught my eye: Gin brewers thrive despite Sharia. In an interesting article I learnt how on the outskirts of Khartoum a drink called araki is made by fermenting dates and then distilling the liquid. This is despite the fact that Sudan is an Islamic country and the usual Sharia punishment for being caught drinking is forty lashes and a fine. Brings a whole new meaning to getting lashed I suppose.

Though some of the boozers didn't want to be photographed one called Maysara insisted on having his picture taken, adding: "I like it, I like drinking - why should I be deprived of drinking?"

So for fearlessly carrying on boozing despite the threat of religious and state authorities here's to you Maysara, my new drinking hero.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

More fascinating facts

One of the beer books I got for Christmas this year was Charlie Bamforth's 'Beer is proof god loves us'. It's a rambling collection of writings on beer, brewing, football, politics and spirituality. It's all very readable but I must say I prefer the beer based amusing anecdotes to the politics and god stuff.

In amongst the vast footnotes (which take up almost as much space as the main text) there were some figures on beer tax that really show how much we're screwed over in Britain:

Total revenue from taxing beer in 2004 (Euro):

Austria 202,000,000
Belgium 196,760,000
Finland 415,000,000
France 291,841,950
Germany 787,408
Ireland 457,100,000
Italy 306,714
Lithuania 31,804,000
Netherlands 324,000,000
Portugal 84,000,000
Switzerland 68,393,951
United Kingdom 4,516,000,000

I'm a little suspicious that some of the figures may be wrong, surely British beer drinkers can't pay nearly 6,000 times as much as the Germans! In fact earlier he says the British tax rate is about nine times the rate in Germany. But having said that I don't doubt that we're well ahead of everyone else in how much we pay overall.

Saturday 1 January 2011

What's worse than a hangover?

A hangover with a cold.

After not having had a bad cold for years I've been struck down with a couple of stinkers in quick succession recently. After guzzling whatever beer I could get my hands on (guinness, abbot and red stripe) when seeing the mighty Hawkwind I felt so rough the next day that death would have been a merciful release. It was a relief when my nose started dripping as at least I knew I was proper ill and not just a total lightweight.

I recovered from that cold in time for the Christmas celebrations but was soon struck down with another one, which meant I ended up staying in on New Year's eve.

I'll still not feeling quite right but I'll be going for a stroll soon to stretch my legs, and if I happen to find myself walking past a hostelry I may pop in for a pint or two of therapy.