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.

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I Will Follow You into the Dark

I’m enjoying my beer and relaxing into it a little more each month.  I have re-read a couple of my earlier posts and see my initial instincts were to hoard my beer and make sure nobody was looking before enjoying them all to myself.  I’ve always been aware of the merits of sharing and as I have previously explained, I’m aware that sharing beer is something that adds to the experience, but try telling that to the me of 6 months ago.

So tonight I have a wingman, he’s a beer rookie, whereas I’m more a pilot who still can’t get insurance, but flying solo nonetheless.  My brother-in-law Ben (@boodrums if you Tweet) has the enthusiasm about beer that will see him go a long way to quench his thirst.  He’s already been to Cask on the recommendation of some friendly Twitter folk and came home with his knapsack full of Mikkeller treasures.  He frequents the excellent Sparrow Bier Cafe in nearby Bradford, shops at Headingley’s Beer Ritz and I have a sneaky feeling that he’ll be hard to stop should he ever find out that there are online bottle shops.  During a recent chat he told meI’m not sure I like ‘dark’ beer…how could I possibly let that slide?  So last night we got together to try a few ‘dark’ beers to see if I could get him to retract such a statement.  I supplied the beer, he dutifuly adorned the table with cheese and oatcakes.  Don’t mind if I do!

After some much needed advice from the friendly folk on Twitter (thanks to those that chipped-in but especially Steve Lamond at Beers I’ve Known and the knowledgable Matt at Cheese and Chutney, Saltaire).  Ben brought along a mouthwatering selection including Steve’s recommendations of Vintage Lincolnshire Poacher, Tuxford & Tebbutt Blue Stilton, Old Amsterdam Gouda and a couple of picks by Matt in Smoked Wensleydale and Bronte Black.

We decided before we sat down that this was to be an informal session with no real agenda, other than making the odd tasting notes.  So we set about the beer in an order I felt would work best, made a few observations, chatted a while and then nibbled the cheese as we went to see how the choices worked.

First up was Ilkley Brewery‘s Ilkley Black, a 3.7% Dark Mild.  It poured black and had a red hue when held to the light, a small head which didn’t last and had very little carbonation as you could expect from the style.  Aromas of roasted malts and chocolate carried through into the first sip and had a good roasted after-taste.  When paired with the cheeses it didn’t really have the depth to stand up to any of our selection, with fairly dire results with the Poacher and Old Amsterdam, “wet dog” tastes will never be a winner.

Moving onto the Anchor Brewing Co. 5.6% Porter.  A firm favourite of mine and one I thought Ben would want to try early in his beer tastings.  It poured black and had a red hue when held to the light, lively head which lasted the duration of the drink.  With aromas of sweet caramel, black treacle, vanilla and woody notes it’s a beer you just have to keep on sniffing.  Its smooth, thick mouth feel and bitter/sweet balance is spot on in my opinion. Best match was with the Stilton, but a definite no no with the Poacher.

Some may say my next choice is the odd one out in the evenings line-up, but I had just received it the day before and was looking forward to trying it.  I also thought it would help break things up a little and it is a ‘dark’ beer after-all.  Hardknott Code Black, is a bottle-conditioned 5.6% Black India Pale Ale (see here for links before you comment).  Dave of Hardknott also explains that “Black IPA is completely contradictory and silly.  We all know there’s no point to such a beer, apart from to keep all those beer geeks happy“… and you can’t say fairer than that.  All said and done, it immediately brought a smile to my face, the huge citrus hit, mainly grapefruit, bursting from the bottle. Rather surprisingly it poured more a murky-browny-red but with a good head which stuck around.  Before tasting, the freshness and big fruity notes are in your face and led nicely to the punchy bitterness and gentle roastiness.   As it warmed in the glass the roasted malts came through much more.  My opinion was that aside from the Smoked Wensleydale, each cheese went well and more importantly the beer stood up to the Poacher.

The next choice was to be the Buxton Brewery Tsar, a bottle-conditioned 9.5% Imperial Russian Stout.  As with the Hardknott IPA, I was looking forward to finally trying this coveted beer.  It poured pitch-black and with an obvious oily appearance, the suspense was killing me so I got stuck in! The aroma had a fair bit going on with on overriding earthiness, peat, burnt malts and the alcohol was upfront and letting me know it was there.  First tastes brought liquorice and a roasted, smokey deep hop bitterness.  As it warmed a little the sweetness was more noticeable along with hints of coffee, 100% cacao and more alcohol!  A lovely drop!  At this point I had given up on the Smoked Wensleydale, and yet again the Poacher didn’t pair favourably.  This was fine by me and I enjoyed more of each of the Stilton, Bronte and Amsterdam.

Maybe rather naively I thought we should save the Summer Wine Brewery Barista until nearer the end of the evening due to its caffeine bomb status.  I think with hindsight this should have been drunk before the Buxton Tsar.  This 4.8% Espresso Stout announced itself with unmistakable honk of freshly brewed coffee, along with tobacco and whiff of ashtray.  Pretty potent stuff.  The result of drinking this after a 9.5% RIS is that the Barista came across as thin and reminded me more of drinking an iced coffee, strong iced coffee.  Its flavours were well-defined but as I have no reference point I can’t be sure whether this beer was spoilt by the previous beer or maybe I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other beers I’ve tried from Summer Wine.  To add insult to injury the cheeses didn’t get along well with this beer either.

To round the evening off I had plucked a bottle of The Kernel Imperial Brown Stout London 1856 from the back of my beer cupboard.  Bottled on 15th February this year, this 10.1% stout has received the plaudits and I couldn’t wait any longer to try it.  Whether it was the beer taking over or just a cumulative effect of the other beers, I didn’t make too many notes.  We both enthused over its luxury.  With flavours ranging from caramel and vanilla through to black treacle and dark chocolate and its smoothness in the mouth were just a joy.  Loved this beer! and I didn’t bother with any more cheese at this point.

All in all a cracking evening and something we will be looking to recreate again soon with a few other people involved.  I’m thinking beers of Belgium may be the way to go next time around.

Steve – my CABPOM would have to be Hardknott Code Black and Old Amsterdam Gouda.  It sounds like a Mission Impossible plot.  But to be honest I think I need to undertake further cheese/beer pairing research to get the hang of this.

Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011

 PictureWhen I bought my ticket for the Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival 2011 (September  16th-17) back in July, I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I usually leave it until the last minute and miss out.  When the Brewery started sending updates about the beers they were sourcing I couldn’t wait for the date to come around.  Just as Saltaire confirmed its lineup, CAMRA released its Good Beer Guide for 2012 with the news that Yorkshire has welcomed an impressive 16 new breweries in the past 12 months, making it the number one region for beer in terms of its choice of real ale and wealth of new and established brewing talent.  You can see all the details of the CAMRA findings in the Yorkshire Post.  Saltaire took full advantage of having an embarrassment of amazing beer right on its doorstep and chose a mouthwatering line-up including Yorkshire’s; Magic Rock, Kirkstall, Old Spot and not forgetting Saltaire Brewery’s six offerings, including Saltaire Blonde, South Island Pale and a couple of new ones in Madagascan Ale (5% Pale) and Bulldog a 4.6% Brown Ale.  South Island Pale being my pick of the bunch.
Other breweries of note and of particular interest to me were Buxton and Hardknott as I have tried and continue to return to their bottled beers time and time again.  And as if all that lot wasn’t enough,  you could also feast on beers from Marble, Liverpool Organic, Captain Cook and Dark Star to name but a few.  I did also find myself drawn to the cider tent, no not for the cider, although the choice matched that of the beer, but for the Sierra NevadaPale Ale and Kolsch.  At times I had to pinch myself, as there I was in Shipley, struggling to decide what I wanted to drink next, knowing that I had my alcohol tolerance working against me.Saltaire outdid themselves on the beer front (28 in total plus 10 craft ciders), but also on the infrastructure which has been born out of their successful monthly Beer Club.  In addition to the marquee, there was also extra seating under heated parasols, which as the weatherman had predicted were much needed and most definitely appreciated – it rained a little bit (ahem!).  Add to all of that the barbecued food on offer and it doesn’t take a beer geek to tell you that it was a very good night indeed.

I’m not sure if there was an official vote for the beer of the festival, but I do know that it was Magic Rock Brewing Co’s Curious a 3.9% Original Pale Ale and the breweries flagship beer which sold out first.  For me, my favourites of the night (from the 10 that I tried) included Magic Rock’s High Wire, Buxton’s Axe Edge and Captain Cook’s Schooner Grenville, although my pick of the festival was Marble Brewery’s Utility,their 5.7% IPA.  For anyone that tried it, no explanation needed here, for anyone wondering, I suggest you hunt it down and see for yourself! delicious!

Excellent work by Saltaire’s team and I’m looking forward to next years festival already!

Buxton Beauties

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Craft beer brewed in Buxton, in the Derbyshire Peak District
It’s always a little awkward when you find yourself waxing lyrical about a particular beer.  I’ve noticed that some people view this kind of feedback with suspicion, or at worst with an air of contempt that there may be an ulterior motive.  But having considered the fall-out from such declarations, I have decided that the only thing one can do is to proudly stick a hand-in-the-air and shout it out loud!A couple of months ago I was made aware of the Buxton Brewery.  Now, it’s no longer a secret that these guys are turning out some fantastic beers and they have received some well deserved applause from many.   But once in a while there is a beer, or in this case a brewery, which makes me pay a little more attention.  It’s not the marketing as I’m yet to see anything other than what I see on Twitter, and it’s not that the bottles jumping off the shelf, as with the greatest respect the labeling is standard and tells you what you need to know with no unnecessary frilly-bits.  The reason I mention this, is that there is a case for selecting a beer based purely on its looks and there are a few breweries that commission artists or other creative types to design their range of labels (check out Ghost Drinker’s blog on ‘Detour to Beer Art’ or Real Ale Reviews ‘Like Trousers, Like Brain!’ for an insight into the importance of label design).  Well in the case of Buxton, it appears to me that there is no emphasis on the look of the bottle and they are letting the beer and its growing reputation speak for itself.  Having said that, if you read the bottles you may well be swayed by their liberal utilisation of big American and New Zealand hops.  So it’s not the marketing; the packaging or indeed due to a personal connection with this brewery; it is the beer that maketh me doth my cap to their excellent ale and the honest brand they continue to grow.  Bravo!

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So, onto the beer.  I’ve said this before, but for anyone who hasn’t read it, I’m not a ‘beer reviewer’, I was not gifted with the tools necessary to reverse-engineer each beer I taste and inform the good people what they are missing out on.  I am an enthusiast and a beer drinker, an enthusiastic beer drinker if you will, and I either like the beer or will choose not to drink it again and move on.  However I have, and will if asked again, dabbled with reviewing beers, but in this case I won’t attempt it.  But having chewed the ear of the local bottle shop owner to stock Buxton’s beers, I felt it only proper to buy some and report back.  From the full range available I selected: Moor Top, Buxton Spa, Axe Edge, Black Rocks and Buxton Gold.  You can find reviews for Black Rocks on HopZine & The Beer Prole, so I won’t mention much other than it is a 5.5% abv Black IPA with predominantly blackcurrant, liquorice and grapefruit flavours.  The Buxton Spa is a 4.1% abv Special Pale Ale and the bottle I had was really fresh; lively and had really impressive hop aromas.  The showcasing of Citra in this beer brings a whack of citrus on the nose and juicy tropical flavours and I’m told that it’s propped up with Columbus, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin.  In my opinion it is on a par with their Axe Edge Double IPA, but is obviously much thinner in the mouth and much less boozy.  I think Buxton Spa makes for a great session beer!
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4.1% abv Special Pale Ale

Buxton Gold is described as a Golden Ale and in comparison to the Spa has a noticeably bigger mouth-feel and its 5.2% abv is reassuringly warming.  Again, a huge hop presence, this time through Amarillo, Liberty and Nelson Sauvin.  One thing with these beers is the strength and freshness of the aroma.  I think this may be due to the fact that I have bought them so soon after they have been brewed and are quite possibly at their best?  Finally, and I would say my favourite of the bunch, is Axe Edge, a Double IPA weighing in at 6.8% abv.  I was lucky enough to try this at Mr Foleys on cask as part of last weeks International IPA Day celebrations, and it did not disappoint!

Picture It was Axe Edge that introduced me to their beer, which is probably a little unusual as I would guess that a standard bitter or pale ale would usually be the first beer you might try as a way of introduction, followed by specialty beers or stronger niche varieties like the Double IPA.  For it’s mighty 6.8% it does not wield any destructive sharp edges, it is smooth and rounded and delivers more of a pleasant bludgeoning.  In short, I love it and its complex flavours and it goes straight onto my list of ‘beers of the year’.   So, if you haven’t already tried Buxton Brewery’s offerings then I would encourage you to do so.  In my opinion they are a shining ‘broad-spectrum (400-700nm) photon emitting’ example to any budding brewers!  Follow @kempicus if you want to read what’s what in the brewery, and @BuxtonBrewery for general info and banter.  Keep up the good work guys!

If you want to read more about Buxton Beers then it is testament to them that they have also been enjoyed and blogged about by: Are You Tasting the Pith, Reluctant Scooper and The Good Stuff, and you can find links to these via Eating Isn’t Cheating.

More links to Buxton reviews Beersay, HopZine.

Meet the brewer JK – James Kemp – Beer Reviews.

Thanks for reading!

IPA Day – the IPAftermath

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Fact

For full details of International IPA Day (#IPADay), please see my blog below.
But, as the dust is settling, just a quick post to say that the International IPA Day feels to have been a huge success, in my humble opinion.  I can’t really put it better than Pete Brown does in his blog post ‘Cheers to International IPA Day‘.  However, if you don’t have the time to read that then Pete sums the event up nicely when he says: “…As far as I can tell there is no central organisational structure, no big budget or organisation, and yet it’s an idea that has caught the imaginations of beer lovers and gone global.”  And as I have commented on one blog already this morning, the concept and execution of this global event is testament to the notion that ‘Beer People are Good People’ or that “Good people drink good beer.” (Hunter S. Thompson).
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IPAin

Considering my heavy-eyes and painful head, I’m going to be lazy here and just point you to a handful of blogs that tend to agree with said notion;
Eating isn’t Cheating

Make Mine a Half 
She Likes Beer
The Pub Diaries

The Crafty Pint
I’n Here For The Hops

For my IPA Day celebrations I decided to join the crowd at Mr Foleys (@MrFoleys), Leeds.  I knew from my advanced stages of acute Twitteritus that there would be at least a couple of people going along that I already knew well enough to recognise and to talk to, as well as many others who I had yet to meet, but hoped to.  It was a tough call between Mr Foleys, The Grove and The Sparrow all of which were treating beer lovers to a veritable hop feast, but a persuasive Dean (Manager of Foleys) and a cracking line up on the bar gently twisted my arm.  I managed to sample all of the cask selection and a couple of the bottles/cans and can honestly say I enjoyed each and everyone.  Most importantly to me though, I was lucky enough to chat (briefly) with brewers and owners alike, from Roosters, Hardknott, Magic Rock, Buxton and Ilkley (the latter just there as punters like the rest of us – i.e. they did not have a beer on the bar on this occasion, but see Lotus IPA if you are yet to try their superb offering.  It’s not often that you get to ‘meet the brewer’ in the flesh, so to speak, but I took the opportunity to let most of them know that they inspire me to believe that I can make my brewery dreams a reality.  Along with the beer writers and bloggers there were the geeks and fanatics adding their own brand of passion to the evening, some more amorous than others.  But probably most poignantly for me, and by total chance, I found myself talking to a young guy who, in all fairness looked like he might have walked into the wrong bar, sharp suit and proud fiancé on his arm, he was making strides to convince his wife-to-be that beer is amazing and that she should jolly well drink some.  Despite his enthusiasm it transpired that the lady wasn’t for turning, but you can’t win em’ all.  He also revealed he is a blogger, new to the scene with – Geek Leeds, but who has been watching from a safe distance.  Each person I tried to name-drop, he responded with a knowing nod of the head.  This meeting may not seem too impressive to most, but he wasn’t connected to anyone else in the room and wasn’t even on Twitter! yet the friendly atmosphere and sense of occasion presented everyone there with the opportunity to talk about good beer.

Anyway, I’m sure there will be more in-depth blogs to come to show and describe the night at Foleys with more finesse, but that was my two-penneth.  I look forward to the next beer event whenever or wherever that may be.  Thanks to one and all for a great night out (especially Dean and his staff @MrFoleys – bravo!).

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@MrFoleys @Tuff86 @BGRTRob @LeedsBrew @Nickiquote @LeighGoodStuff @EisntCNeil @TKiley1@Ol_Foz @Cheeeseboiger @mbell739 @fletchthemonkey @realalereviews@misterfrosty @ZakAvery @BrewDogUpNorth @MagicRockRich @BuxtonBrewery @HardknottDave @HardknottAnn @HardknottSooty @IlkleyBrewery
(Honorary affiliates: @Filrd @Tunks23)