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

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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

A Tale of Two Cities

New Victoria/Odeon Bradford - Early Exterior

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

New Victoria/Odeon Bradford - Exterior Now

I live in a small industrial town in the North of England, near to Bradford, opposite Leeds.  Anyone else remember learning this for your French GCSE or O’Level? [insert your own town name above].  Well Shipley is my town, although I do admit to changing my story slightly depending on who’s asking.  Shipley is known for very little these days, it has a dreary town centre and nothing much going for it (in my opinion), so I may sometimes stray from the truth and say that I’m from Saltaire, the quaint Victorian village and World Heritage Site, or from Leeds, my nearest city.  What’s that you say? I’m closer to Bradford?  Well you would be right to say this, but only in the geographical sense.  Bradford is a sad reflection of its former self.  There are of course some great places still to visit, but these places stand as individuals with nothing to knit them and Bradford together [pun intended].   I may go to the National Photography Museum and take in a film at the Imax or Pictureville, or at a push take the kids to the Alhambra Theatre, but that’s it.  Even my trips to Rawson Market are now few and far between.  I have no affinity with a place I should proudly call “my city”.  If I was to translate the same idea to beer, I would be pushed to recommend Bradford as my go-to place for a session.  There are of course some decent pubs in Bradford, including The New Beehive Inn, The City Vaults, The Fighting Cock, The Corn Dolly and of course the latest addition and what I would consider a reason to journey into Bradford, The Sparrow Bier Cafe.  It’s only been open since May this year, but has already successfully bridged the gap between city-centre boozer and specialist beer joint.  You can read regular reviews of what’s on tap at HopZine.

This is all well and good and I have enjoyed an afternoon or two there with a plate of pork-pie and pickles with a few decent ales, as well as a few evening sessions making my way through their superb beer menu, but its weakness is its location, unless I’m missing something?  I don’t know exactly why they picked the location they picked, and I’m not criticising them in the slightest, it’s a brave move and one I applaud, but I can’t help but feel that Bradford will let them down too.  I think that what they have on offer is strong enough to stand on its own, so don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, but I sincerely hope that other like-minded business owners start to make the same move and recapture the attention of its locals, and I’m not just talking about beer here.

A short train ride to Leeds and the difference is unbelievable.  A city whose streets are fused together, with retail, eateries and bars and most importantly a sense of place.  It feels like a city, it offers me choice across the board, but most importantly a choice of watering holes.  Having only just discovered the likes of Mr Foleys and North Bar, I am still as giddy-as-a-kipper and rarely venture any further.  However, I am aware of many other pubs and bars that I need to familiarise myself with and have recently bought Simon Jenkins book ‘The Great Leeds Pub Crawl’ to help me on my way.

So there it is, I live in Shipley, Saltaire, Leeds and Bradford and am lucky to be able to call Yorkshire my home.  A wealth of beer on my doorstep and great places and events celebrating that fact.  But one thing that sticks in my throat is that Leeds is not my city, I am cheating on my roots.  While I support Bradford’s ‘vision’ of regeneration and know that a wicked combination of economic hard-times and planning tomfoolery have been crucial factors in the progress or lack-thereof, it is a Catch-22 situation for myself and I would think many other people.  We are consumers and we can’t support something that isn’t there.

Optic Nerve Pale Ale

Image from '1979 semi-finalist' blog

Following the debut Leeds Homebrew meeting a few weeks ago, I caught up with fellow homebrewer Rob Derbyshire of HopZine and dropped heavy hints in order to coercively obtain a couple of bottles of his latest brew.  Rob being the nice chap that he is pretended he hadn’t seen straight through my obvious suggestions and was generous enough to go along with the ruse.  It’s common practice among the twitter community and it may be a form of begging, but it appears to be acceptable on the most part.  I used the same technique to ‘drop in’ on Rob’s brew day and helped him open and drink some of the beers he had no intention of touching that day.  What can I say? I’m just a friendly neighbour.

So here’s what I swindled on this occasion.  A 5.3% abv Pale Ale, brewed with Maris Otter pale malt, Munich and Cara malts and hopped with Amarillo and Citra (yeast US-05 and sugar).  It opened with a pfft and poured a pale golden colour with a slight haze, most likely from dry hopping if I know Rob well enough.  Once it was all in the glass it took on a pale amber colour and settled down, with only slight carbonation. The aroma was a mix of biscuit, tropical fruits and herbal, but the malts were dominant.  First taste, again the grainy malty character of this beer comes through followed quickly by a floral, bitter and slightly tart finish.  Nice alcohol and a little spice coming through in the after-taste.  I’d describe the beer is quite dry and an easy drinker.

Aside from the beer itself, Rob has certainly put his design skills to good use when ‘throwing his labels together’.  However, with far too much time on his hands, the label has changed since the Leeds Homebrew night.  Unveiled to his peers as Venkman, this beer has been reincarnated as Optic Nerve, an Adrian Tomine inspired illustration (and named after Tomine’s ‘Optic Nerve’ comic series) cleverly adapted with Rob’s own dialogue.  I was a little sorry to see that this beer was actually intended to be his entry in a homebrew competition, but had then decided against posting it off after the Leeds get together.  And as Rob comments on the label, the beer is tasting better than it did on the night.  Oh well, more to hand out to your deserving neighbours.  Keep up the good work with both the brewing and the artwork, and next time close your ears and make sure you give the next competition a shot!


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!

Stand well back – I’m a brewer, blogger & beer reviewer

Through the process of asking a kind fellow to buy and retrieve a few special bottles of beer from my favourite shop @BeerRitzLeeds, I was taken aback by the generous offer that accompanied my bounty, as the said gentleman / beer trafficker invited me to drink and review a bottle of beer.  “Me?” was the first thing I could think of as I thought it best to check that he wasn’t merely asking me to pass it on to someone else with a refined palate.  After all there is nothing worse than that moment when someone in the distance smiles and waves enthusiastically in your general direction; you smile and wave back thinking how popular you have become; only to realise at the very last minute that you were not the intended recipient of this salutation and that a split second reaction is required to turn your outstretched-hand into a swoop-and-brush through the hair….. oh the shame!

Anyway, turns out the offer to drink and review a beer was directed at me and before I knew it I had accepted and was walking home worrying about my beer swirling/sniffing/gargling abilities.

The beer is a bottle of Brodie’s Prime Reserve 2011 brewed by the Hawkshead Brewery and the review can be found on the excellent beer review and discussion site HopZine.