HopZine: Homebrew Wednesday Aire Porter

Rob at HopZine recently reviewed my Aire Porter (recipe here).  You can watch his review by clicking the link below.

HopZine: Homebrew Wednesday Vol 6- Aire Porter – youtube

The Durham Brewery White Stout

I don’t really go in for reviewing beer myself any more, I gave it a go and decided that I got more from reading other people’s thoughts.  But now and then something fun comes along, usually through Twitter, and when The Durham Brewery announced a hashtag (#whitestout) beer tasting I thought I’d get involved.  Having already commented on the White Stout concept I’ll just cut to the chase.  More details on the event here.

Billed as a Pale Stout, it was unsurprising that a pale golden beer emerged from the shadows of the bottle.  I didn’t have to waste valuable time agonising over the concept as I had already read what Sean (the brewer) had intended when making what some might call an oxymoronic beer.  In my mind it stays clear of bold claims and it is the chatter surrounding it that has been cleverly harnessed to make the most of its assets.

The bottle opens with a pop and a quick sniff reveals a strange aroma of straw and what I could only describe as the Jelly Belly Bean toasted marshmallow flavour (yes I know a flavour is not a smell).  It pours with crystal clarity and is a lively little so and so.  A billowing head forms and then settles, but didn’t go anywhere until I drained the last mouthful. The aromas in the glass were subdued, and as I read over and again on Twitter, the beer definitely changes with temperature.  I started from chilled.  The flavours were still pronounced, with biscuit malt and grapefruit/lemon bitterness and only later realised that they were subdued by the cold.  Over the next 30 minutes as it warmed a little, the aroma released more of the fruity hops and as one person described it as “Haribo-esque” character.  I’d agree with this, but would also say that it had a more grown up Belgian candy sugar quality to it.  The malts were coming through as musty and or damp, but I kept coming back to the toasted marshmallow jelly bean flavour.  The last third of the glass really started to show the beers true colours (no pun intended).  The alcohol was heavy and refusing to let anything else stand up to be counted.  I broke out the mature cheddar and can report that it saved the beer at this point in its transformation.

I must say that I enjoyed the beer cold and would buy it should I see it in the pubs, but I’d definitely want some cheese to go with it if I was having more than a refreshing quick-half.  Thanks to the brewery manager Elly (@durhambreweryel) and Sean (@dbrewersean) for the beers, and to those who helped coordinate, for an enjoyable and light-hearted interlude to my evening.  Keep up the good work!

When Black is White

Colour is a means of communication, we instantaneously recognise a meaning or a message where colour is present.  It’s a non-verbal cue that taps into our learned associations and we use it on a daily basis to help us stay safe, fit in to our surroundings and determine what we will eat or drink.  We can have a lot of fun with colour and it is possible to manipulate a recognisable object and make most of us look twice.  The novelty value of engineering a red banana or blue carrot is likely to be short lived, but try convincing a child that green rice pudding isn’t brilliant!

The colour of beer is determined by the malt and is measured using one of several scales, the  Standard Reference Method (SRM – “Degrees Lovibond” or “°L” scale) being one.   Colour is important (to some) when characterising or categorising beer, there is of course the opinion that colour isn’t everything, but lets not go there.  We know where we stand when we order a lager or a stout, we know instinctively know what the first sip will offer.  Well we could rely on visual priming until now anyway.  If you keep up-to-date with the latest beer news, then it won’t have escaped you that there have been some recent developments which are causing a stir, some debate and in one case an affirmation of tradition.

Richard Fletcher – Journal Live –  got a great quote from Durham Brewery owner Steve Gibbs in his article back in December 2011.  Steve isn’t about reproducing a beer, he prefers to take original styles and “Durhamise” them.  Which is exactly what they have done in brewing a 7.2% abv White Stout (launched Nov 2011) .  They describe this as a “modern pale stout“.  That’s right, it’s not just in the name, this is a pale, full bodied – and taking the word ‘stout‘ literally – it’s a strong beer.  I tried it on keg at Mr Foleys and it didn’t disappoint.  I bought a pint just to make sure.  From my memory it was a golden syrup sweetness, fruity, big mouth feel and oh so bitter.

While the word “stout” has come to mean a dark beer, the original meaning was strong and true. Before the porter brewers commandeered the word to mean a stout, or strong, porter it referred to any strong beer – Durham Brewery

Interestingly, and most likely a facet of being Durhamised, is that they use American Columbus hops, not a ‘traditional’ hop choice for representing a 200 year old beer style, but where would the fun be in being traditional?  If a brewer decides that Columbus is the hop that will produce the bitterness, flavour and aroma they desire, then that is the best hop choice.  While we’re talking brewer creative licence, I happen to think Durham have got it spot on.  Their White Stout is a heavily hopped (72 IBUs bitterness), strong beer and crucially it has the body to carry it off.  Just to add, heavily hopped doesn’t always equal ‘bitter’, they could be used as late copper hops for subtle bitterness and maximum aroma, which this White Stout also has in abundance (the aroma that is).  The only blog reviews and resulting comments I’ve read are few, and with mixed reactions.  I think this is more to do with the limited availability at present, but expect to see more opinions as the bottles hit the shops.  Also, I think that a change from the ‘norm’ is a challenge for some people, with their initial reaction almost predetermined: “but it’s not black” and reject the idea as ‘no added value’, to which I disagree.

There are other examples of this alchemy and more readily available in the form of the much debated Black and Red India Pale Ale’s, but the only other brewery to get involved with pale stout’s is BrewDog with their Abstrakt AB:08 an 11.8% abv “deconstructed imperial blonde stout” no less, which I’ve read is amber/gold in colour (a 6500 bottle release December 2011).  Pleasing to see a brewery steal the march on BrewDog for once.

So I understand from eavesdropping on @DurhamBreweryEl ‘s Tweets  and a brief email conversation that the second brew of their White Stout is bottled and nearing distribution.  Always worth waiting for your beer to taste just right before releasing it into the wild.  The beer plains can be a harsh environment.  So having casked the first brew and bottled the second, the third brew will be on cask and keg and hitting pubs next week, but if you really can’t wait that long then get yourself over to the brewery’s bar on Saturday (21st Jan 2012) and fill your boots, so to speak, although that is one way of taking beer home with you.

HopZine: Homebrew Wednesday

Rob at HopZine recently reviewed my Black IPA effort.  You can watch his review by clicking the link below.

HopZine: Homebrew Wednesday Vol 2 – Nebulous India Pitch-Black Ale http://t.co/oPA1koka

Red Eye Rye Ale

For anyone familiar with Leeds you will already be aware of the growing homebrewing scene, so much so that we now have a homebrew forum and meet to taste and discuss our craft.  The group is organised and have a great meeting place in Mr Foleys Cask Ales House.  Dean, the manager, also brews and has made us welcome in a back room which is more familiar with Meet the Brewer events for commercial breweries.  I mention this because I have attended a couple of these events and take inspiration from their association with the venue and the encouragement and knowledge from the guest speakers.  The first meeting in October 2011 was a huge success, well attended and supported by the Summer Wine Brewery.  The second meeting is scheduled for January where we will be joined by Dominic from Thornbridge Brewery.

One of the beers we tasted at the first meet-up was from Dean’s Blue Suede Brews, his Mackem Mild, a beer he told us would not normally be his first choice for brewing purposes, but he had brewed it with a particular family member in mind.  A strategic brew, and very tasty too!  This evening I tried another of Dean’s creations, brewed in collaboration with Neil from Eating isn’t Cheating.   The beer is a 5.8% Red Rye Ale, brewed using Maris Otter Crystal, Cara Red and rye malts (not sure if malted or flaked rye).  They hopped with Riwaka (bittering), Amarillo and Galaxy (aroma) and dry hopped with Amarillo.  The yeast was US-05.  You can read the write-up from the brew day here.

It opened with a promising fizz and there was immediate hop aroma from the bottle.  It poured a hazy, deep berry red colour and a small head formed and stayed throughout, nicely conditioned.  It had a fruity aroma with a pleasant pepperyness.  First taste had some of the fruit but much more pepper coming through, the bitterness was there but all at the front of my tongue which I’ve not experienced from many beers I’ve tried.  The aftertaste was again the pepper and a nutty crispness, most definitely all from the rye.  I don’t know what percentage of the grain bill was rye, but I’d say that it’s character won through.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is also some fun to be had with the outside of the bottle too, and the spiral label on this bottle was designed by Neil.  I’m guessing they were a total bitch to cut out, but they add another element of interest and certainly give the bottle a great look.

Nice work guys and I look froward to swapping some more homebrew soon.  Cheers!

Golden Pint Awards 2011

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer:

Winner: Buxton Axe Edge

Runner up: Hardknott Code Black

Honourable mentions: Ilkley Mary Jane, Magic Rock Curious NZ

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:

Winner: The Kernel India Pale Ale 100 Centennial

Runner up: Red Willow Ageless

Honourable mentions: Oakham Citra, Traquair Jacobite

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

Winner: Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout

Runner up:  Great Divide Rumble

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Joint:  Stone Arrogant Bastard / Pretty Things Jack D’Or

Honourable mentions:  Stone Cali-Belgique 2010, Flying Dog Gonzo

Best Overall Beer: The Kernel India Pale Ale 100 Centennial

Best Pumpclip or Label: Redwillow brand/logo instantly recognisable

Best UK Brewery: The Kernel Brewery

Honourable mentions: Red Willow, Buxton, Hardknott, Magic Rock, Adnams

Best Overseas Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Winner: Mr Foleys (Leeds)

Runner up: The Sparrow (Bradford)

Honourable mention: The Grove (Hudds) – will feature heavily for me in 2012

Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose

Runner up: Morrisons

Independent Retailer of the Year: Beer Ritz, Leeds

Online Retailer of the Year: Winner: MyBreweryTap

Best Beer Blog or Website:
Winner: Ghost Drinker
Runners up: The Good Stuff, New Briggate Beer Blog
Honourable mentions: The Beer ProleHopZine, BeersIveKnown, Beersay, Boak & Bailey

Best Beer Twitterer: Joint: @Filrd and @BeersIveKnown always on hand with friendly banter and beer (and cheese) recommendations.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: The Good Stuff: SummerWine Diablo IPA with Baked Feta

In 2012 I’d Most Like To… visit the breweries that have kindly extended an invitiation.  Learn about brewing beer.  Brew more beer.  Await lottery win.  Sell beer.  Kick back.  Bad Back.  Employ Brew Monkey.

Open Category:

Most prolific beer rating site in the North West: The Ormskirk BaronCaptained by @Baron_Orm and ably assisted by @Christoper_R – keep up the good work chaps!

Beer and Food Alchemist of the Year: Tyler Kiley (@Tkiley1), Chef at Mr Foleys.  Oh and rumour has it that his triple cooked chips aren’t bad either.

A Baby-Faced Assassin

Having recently received a bottle of Roosters Brewing Co. Baby-Faced Assassin India Pale Ale I was of course interested in drinking it, but also keen to learn a little bit more about how it made it to my house.

In the last couple of years I have become a homebrewer as well as someone who seeks out new places to buy beer so that I can try as many as I can.   These two past times crossed paths when I started buying my beer from Beer Ritz and sharing the odd Tweet with other beer fans as I drank them.  Through Twitter and then beer blogs I learnt that Tom Fozzard, working at Beer Ritz at the time and now of Roosters Brewing Co., is a keen homebrewer.  I’d read about one of his bathroom-brews via Real Ale Reviews and got to read more about the brewer through Beer Reviews – ‘Meet the Brewer’.  The brew was Baby-Faced Assassin (BFA) IPA, but I didn’t get the chance to try the beer at that time.   Fast forward only a matter of months and the news breaks that brothers Tom and Oliver Fozzard are to take over the reigns at the Roosters Brewery from Sean & Alison Franklin.

Baby-Faced Assassin was conceived as a home-brew recipe in the back office of Beer Ritz in Headingley, Leeds, on a dark winters afternoon in early 2011 – Tom Fozzard

Since that news, I understand that the Fozzards have been working alongside the Franklins to ensure a smooth transition for all concerned, not least the beer!  Having only chatted a little to Oliver (Ol) on Twitter and maybe just the once to Tom, it was of little surprise when the call didn’t come to join the select band of blogging brothers to attend a get together back in August.  Those who attended came away with full stomachs, hop fuelled endorphins and a lovely 750ml bottle of Tom’s BFA, brewed at Roosters this time so I’m guessing that on this occasion he wasn’t sitting on the toilet while he sparged.

A few weeks later I went for a couple of beers with Ol and to my absolute delight he brought a bottle along with him.  I had in fact gone out and bought a bottle already, from the very limited stock at Beer Ritz.  Rather than hog both bottles I passed a bottle on to a young chap who lives in a cave somewhere over the North Channel.  He seemed appreciative until he received the bill.  Anyway, we decided to drink them on the same evening.  You can read my tasting notes over on Beers I’ve Known, and here is Steve’s (@BeersIveKnown) take on the booze:

We started drinking at 8pm.  Its a 750ml bottle, I wonder how long it will last? Dave and I are drinking at the moment and James will join us later.  Mine is bottle 20/70.  It pours with a big fluffy white head and is a hazy amber in colour.

On the nose is lychee, kiwi and mango, a veritable tropical fruit salad of aromas. On to the flavours and we are treated to grapefruit bitterness and tangerine pith with increasing mango as the beer warms up.  Very drinkable for its ABV (6.1%).  Finishes fairly bitter but with a moreish sweetness that prompts you to drink the rest of the bottle.  I hope this becomes a regular in the coming years because its a very drinkable beer that desrves to be tasted by more than just a privileged few.

As for this joint blogging/tweeting effort it seems to have done pretty well. We’ve had comments from various others during the process and @Jamesbwxm even opened his bottle to join the tasting.  Perhaps if we find something more ubiquitous next time we could have  mass twitter tasting….who knows?

Cheers Steve and as you say, it would be great do this again with a few more people involved.  You can read more about this beer on the following blogs:  The Beer ProleThe Good StuffThe Bottled Beer Year and The Beer Boy.

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Arrogant Bastard Ale

"You're not Worthy"

Walking too and from work the last couple of days got me thinking about Snickers…and beer.  Yup, the chocolate bar formerly known as Marathon.  It wasn’t the perceived energy boost that got me thinking, but one of their advertisements.  The star footballer with pin-up girlfriend at his side, sat in the Chairman’s office negotiating his next contract with the club.

You see, I am a man of modest earnings, happy with my modest lifestyle and like to think that an invincible bank account wouldn’t turn my head.  If my wife needs the car, then I walk to work, which is great.  Fresh air, time to wake up properly and the only exercise I get.  I don’t long for a second reasonably priced car or begrudge sharing a perfectly nice people-carrier.  This time last year there was a guy driving past me in a black Lamborghini with personalised plate , twelve months on and the same plate adorns a red Ferrari [couldn’t tell you which model].  I don’t begrudge him his prize for being good at making inordinate sums of money, he may even spend the same amount on charitable causes, he’s probably a great guy, but the fact that he floors the thing at every opportunity just winds me up.  “Look at me! … hear my roar!”

Player: “I want a boat and a Ferrari . Well actually I want a Ferrari boat.”
(The chairman consults his accountant and nods. Agent hands player a dictionary and he starts to read from it) “Oh and I want an aardvark and a ballerina“.
Chairman: “Why not have two?”
Player: “And I want to change the name of the team to (stares lovingly at his girlfriend) The Gwendolines.”
Chairman: “Sound’s reasonable” (Stares to heaven.)

A Ferrari [to a car lover – and it turns out you can actually buy a Ferrari Boat] is undoubtedly a thing of beauty, a masterpiece of engineering and I imagine they are lots of fun to drive.  To us, the us on the outside of the heated glass, the ones that don’t feel the hand-crafted leather seats, the grip on the tarmac and its magnetic effect on the rubber-neckers, it’s more of an annoyance.  If he was to drive the car normally then I would bear no malice.  Like many negative things, it’s possible for a beer geek to balance things up by thinking of beer.  What can I say, it’s my ‘happy place’.  But then it happened.  I caught a glimpse of myself staring into my beer fridge, ogling the finery with wonderment and smugness.  I knew straight away that to write about this petrol-head would turn the spotlight on me, a guy who writes about his beery conquests and publishes it for all to see.  Me and the guy revving his engine at the lights aren’t that different.  He just wants others to appreciate what he appreciates, he just wants to share the experience with the people within earshot.  I should admire the guy.  Instead of leaving his pride and joy in the garage until the sun comes out, or his next invite to a track-day, he drives it through rush-hour, from A to B and on roads more suited to a Hummer.  He’s enjoying it.

ar-ro-gance (ar’ o gans) n.

The act or quality of being arrogant; haughty; undue assumption; overbearing conceit

Then there’s me.  Aside from the truly important things, the love of my life [at the moment] is beer.  Reading about beer, brewing beer, drinking beer, talking beer.  I also have a ‘thing’ about beer and like to keep some of it locked away, the more precious I perceive it the further I push it to the back of the cupboard.  I’ll enjoy it at the right time, hopefully when everyone else has consumed their limited edition bottle and then…. dah dahhhh! I will unleash its splendour upon the good folk of Twitter and beyond, who will tell me “nice choice” and enquire “where did you get that“.  There are some that will slowly shake their head before clicking ‘unfollow’.

This is just an elaborate ‘open it‘ post, but one that gave me some much needed perspective on something I should enjoy now and before the moment has passed.  Take for example the  bottle of Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale I’m drinking on a cold and wet November evening…alone.  I bought it back in May and put it straight in the fridge for a special occasion.  Everyone else that bought one drank theirs, pairing it with food and sharing their thoughts on Twitter.

So I can tell you that this 7.2% American Strong Ale is packed with flavour, sweet fruits and amazing bitterness and would probably have been even better had I opened it in its hoppy prime and while the evenings were still light.  I should have enjoyed it.

Ilkley Brewery Company Craft-Keg Launch

A brief bloggage on the Ilkley Brewery Company‘s craft-kegged beer launch at North Bar Leeds last night.  The place was packed, this may have been typical for Wednesday night, but there was also a strong showing from the Ilkley Brewery crew, easily picked out of the crowd in their branded rugby shirts and the odd flat cap [nothing odd about flat caps].  The format was more informal than a Meet the Brewer type event, but the guys were clearly enjoying the fruits of their labour and were as friendly and approachable as ever.

Alongside their cask beers the MJ Artisan Ales on offer were MJ Pale and MJ Summit and I was informed by someone in the know that the MJ Fortis wasn’t ready for public consumption.

Demand for our cask-conditioned ales continues to rise but in order for city centre bars, restaurants and hotels to serve our beers, we needed to create something that didn’t require bulky hand pumps and a time-consuming process in order to serve cask-conditioned beer …. Kegged beers are a perfect solution for bar areas with limited service and cellar space  – Luke Raven Ilkley Brewery.

Quote taken from the Ilkley Gazette (they have their headline slightly wrong but not to worry).  See also SIBA.

After a fair wait at the bar I tried the MJ Pale, a 3.7% Pale Ale, but not before clearing up the confusion with the bar staff who was merrily pouring me an Ilkley Pale (their 4.2% cask Pale Ale).  It was crystal clear, cold is ice and had a solid bitter finish.  It was certainly a refreshing beer, but maybe lacked a little of the anticipated fresh citrus flavour.

Moving onto the MJ Summit, a 5.4% IPA, once again there was some confusion over which Ilkley beer I was ordering, and once again the wrong beer was poured before I noticed.  With the correct beer in hand I enjoyed an aromatic, sweet beer with plenty of flavour packed in.  I preferred this beer over the keg Pale but wouldn’t drink many of them in one sitting as it was quite rich, only my opinion of course.

I also got to try a few other beers from around the globe, but the best of the bunch was Ilkley’s Smoked Witch, their 5% dark ale which has a lovely mellow smoky finish.  Must investigate this one further!

All in all it was a good night, lovely beer and great company.  I look forward to trying their 4.1% craft-kegged stout, MJ Fortis, another time.

Supermarket Sweep – Part 5

Fear not, this is the last in this series of posts.  I drove a different way home from work one evening last month, well 10 miles out of my way in truth, but my nearest Waitrose store is in Otley.  I wanted to see what they had in the way of beer so I can report back for anyone that’s interested.  As with parts 1 to 4 I was only looking at those beers brewed for and branded as the shops own (although they do in fact have a growing range of great beers on offer, including Thornbridge, Bath Ales and Sierra Nevada to name a few).

I can see from their website that they are aware of the need to market in some small way towards beer-drinkers and they have made an honest effort, however it doesn’t really tell me a great deal about the beer they sell.   Not a bad effort, but maybe they should ask someone to help them out, maybe someone who knows a thing or two about beer, or just read a few blogs every once in a while to get a feel for what’s happening outside Head Office.  (prices correct as at 20/10/11).

Waitrose Bavarian Dark Wheat Beer,  5.3% abv, 500ml, £1.85

Brewed by Arcobräu Brewery.  A strong aroma of banana as you open the bottle, fruity yeast notes and sweet caramel.  It pours cloudy and the colour of an ice-tea with a frothy head, which reduces to a thin lacing after a few minutes.  It has a fairly thin mouth feel but the flavours grow with sweet banana, malt. pear, alcohol.  Lovely long after-taste.  Added yeast sediment. Really enjoyed this beer and would recommend it.

Other reviews: Rate Beer.

Waitrose Bavarian Weissbier,  5.3% abv, 500ml, £1.85

Also brewed by Arcobräu Brewery.  This beer pours a hazy, straw colour and has a faint aroma of banana and spice, with some fruity yeast coming through.  Taste is of banana, some pepper and spice but fairly thin and no real after-taste so nothing much to write about.  I drank it chilled and would say that it is a refreshing beer and would certainly be happy to buy it again.

Other reviews: Des De Moor, Ratebeer.

Waitrose Duchy Organic Ruby Ale 1905, 5.0% abv, 500ml, £1.89

The next two bottles are beers from the Waitrose Duchy Originals range “a partnership preserving our heritage“.  The grand labelling and the care and attention to the value and sustainability of their produce is sadly lacking when it comes to tasting this particular beer.  I don’t even feel I can review it as I took a few sips and relegated to the drain.   I may have been having an off night, but it tasted like Top Deck.  Sorry to the brewery, but I think this is one of the worst examples of a bottled beer on a supermarket shelf I have ever tasted.  Just to clarify that it wasn’t off, no bad smells or tastes, just a poor example of beer.  They do recommend on their site to use 400ml of this beer in the Duchy recipe for Beef stew.  Why stop at 400ml? put the remaining 100ml in too.  I think it best I move on.  I’m told, and have read on ratebeer that this beer is brewed by Wychwood, (Refresh UK – Marstons plc).

Waitrose Duchy Organic Golden Ale, 4.2% abv, 500ml, £1.89

In contrast to the Ruby Ale, this bursts from the bottle with sweet aromas of honey and golden syrup.  Lively when poured, golden in colour, good carbonation and retains the head.  The sweet malts shine through with flavours of golden syrup and fudge.  It does have a slight bitterness which is quite pleasant and I think they have played it straight with their hop combo of Fuggles and Goldings.  Not a bad beer, but not what you would expect from the packaging, though I do think they have been true to their line on value.  At £1.89 it’s not like you have paid a premium.  Ratebeer also informs me like the Ruby Ale, that this beer was also brewed by Wychwood, (Refresh UK – Marstons plc).  One bottle from the range states Oxfordshire while the other states Staffordshire, I know this will look bad but I’m too tired and uninterested to look into this further.  So much for provenance.

So there we have it.  I am breathing a sigh of relief that this research is over.  It was fun to start with but soon became a chore.   Onwards and upwards!