Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pub crawl in Belgravia

As we're currently between the two alcoholic onslaughts of Christmas and New Year me and the lovely Lisa have taken to getting out into the country for healthy walks.

Well, we did for two days then we decided to get into the city for a not so healthy pub crawl. Normally when planning a pub crawl the lovely Lisa will after doing all the necessary research print out a google map with all the details. Not being at work we were lacking in office facilities so based the crawl on one in London Pub Walks. The Belgravia pub walk, having seven pubs in 1.7 miles seemed to have just the right ratio of drinking to walking. 

First up was Horse and Groom, a Shepherd Neame pub.

Like other Shepherd Neame pubs it had a functional bare boarded look to it, but it got us out of the rain, and more importantly on to our first beer. Not that the beer was up to much, I had a Kent's Best which was a bit yeasty and Lisa had a Master Brew which had a harsh bitterness to it. 

We moved swiftly on to the next stop, The Grenadier.

This is a free house with a lot of character, various military gizmos adorning the pub. The log fire was cordoned off in the dining area though which was a bit annoying as we were still pretty soggy from the long wet walk to the station. I had a Rydale Winter's Tale, which was dark but a bit boring, and Lisa had Roosters Polar Beer, which was pale but with a whiff of wet dog about it. 

Next up was the Nag's Head. This seemed quite appropriate as we were wandering around old cobbled mews. 

This was a cracking pub, with a fine selection of hats behind the bar, and caricatures of famous visitors. We also got to sit by the fire which I thoroughly approved of. They had a couple of Adnam's beers on but we tried the Purity Pure Gold, having been previously impressed by their bottled beers. Sadly we didn't think much of this one, as it was a bit too lagery for our taste.  

After that we went to the Star Tavern, a pub we've wanted to go to for some time. It's been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide so it was really time we got round to ticking it.

It's owned by Fuller's so it was Pride for the lovely Lisa while I threw caution to the wind and had an ESB. Very good they were too, if a bit on the cold side. The bogs were very impressive, with gleaming copper pipes, but I thought it best to not start taking pictures in the toilet so you'll have to take my word for it.

We squeezed into the Antelope next, another Fuller's pub which was surprisingly busy. Pints of Pride were swiftly dispatched but we were really in need of some food by now and they didn't seem to be serving. 

We were saved by the Duke of Wellington, something which doesn't happen often nowadays, what with him being dead since 1852.

Chips and pork products washed down with Spitfire soon had us raring to go again and it was on to the Fox and Hounds. We had Young's Winter Warmer in here, and it was on excellent form, like liquid liquorish. 

We called in at a Sam Smith's pub The Cardinal after that. It doesn't have the character of a lot of Sam Smith's pubs and their draught beers aren't anything to write home about, or write on the internet about for that matter, so we didn't stay for long.

We decided we had time for one more so we staggered on to The Buckingham Arms. This has also been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. It's a funny old world isn't it? You wait ages to go to a pub that's been in every edition and then two come along at once. The Winter Warmer in here wasn't a patch on what it was in the Fox and Hounds but barman's facial hair more than made up for any disappointment. He looked like a teenage Terry Thomas, with a magnificent handlebar moustache that any man would be proud to sport. Well, apart from me because I don't want to look like a twat the lovely Lisa says it would tickle, but the rest of you should get to it

At this point our meticulous note taking had descended into making brass rubbings of the old coins that made up the table surface so it was time to call it a day.  

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Xmas beers

It's around this time of year that I like to drink my own body weight in beer. In the past I've managed to assemble 13 Beers of Christmas (why stop at 12?) but I only had about half a dozen xmas beers for this year. Good job I had plenty of normal beers to make up the numbers!

We kicked off with some of my very own mulled ale. This went down surprisingly well with the non-beer drinkers in my family so I must have done something right. 

Next was Cropton Breweries Rudolph's Revenge. This didn't have any spices in but the combination of Cascade and Styrian goldings hops gave it slightly spicy taste making it a reasonable effort for an xmas beer. Naylor's Santa's Choice apparently had some added ginger but I wouldn't have guessed from tasting it and it could just as easily have been called a Summer beer. Hop Back Pickled Santa also apparently had some spices in but was too thin for my taste. We finally got what we were looking for with Anchor Breweries Christmas Ale. This was smooth and dark with a chocolatey taste but still very drinkable. Annoyingly the label just said "made with natural ingredients and natural flavourings" so I don't really know what's in it but I will be trying to track some more down next year. The last of our xmas beers was Ridgeway brewery Bad Elf. Ridgeway do some interesting beers but you don't see them very often as they're mainly bound for export. This one was pale and hoppy, but not really what we were after. 

Aside from the xmas beers alcohol levels were maintained with copious quantities of Fuller's London Pride and a bottle of Meantime London Porter my favourite brother in law shared with me and the lovely Lisa. And come to think of it a Fuller's Winter Ale may have been in the mix somewhere too. Oh yeah, and the Fuller's Vintage. I'd better stop now before I remember any more. 

As has been noted by other beer bloggers many xmas beers don't really fit the bill and I'll have to make more effort to find some decent dark and spicy ones next year. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Going pro again!

I can now reveal the most exciting news in the history of beer blogging, if not the internet!

Sorry, I went a bit Brewdog then.

I do have some news that is pretty exciting to me though: I've got another brewing job. I'm going to be the brewer at a new small brewery starting in Kent. It's out in the sticks, with I think Tonbridge being the closest town. I'll be starting in January and the beer is due to go on sale in Feb.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Bath ales

I've been impressed by Bath Ales recently. I've occasionally had their beers before but not really been too taken with them. The case me and the lovely Lisa guzzled has made me change my mind though, all of them were very enjoyable - they've even managed to make an organic beer that tastes good and a stout that Lisa will drink.

I must admit I only bought the beers because Lisa's family are all rabbit lovers and the beers have what I thought were rabbits on the label. The rabbit turned out to be a hare but the beers were good so I'll be buying their stuff again.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

McFarland's standard is turbid*

I've now finished Ben McFarland's The World's Best Beers. It's really opened my eyes to how much my international beer knowledge was behind the times. It's not good enough to have read Michael Jackson's stuff, things have moved on. I've got loads more beers I need to seek out now, and many from countries I wouldn't have expected. I was also pleased to see that Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy, made by my mate Brian Westcott, is rated as the best beer in Canada.

Beer tasting notes aside there are, as I pointed out earlier, a lot of factual errors in the book. I'm going to ignore the minor niggles, like not knowing his beer purity laws properly, so I've more time to rant on about the things that really got on my goat.

When talking about the (excellent) lambic brewery Cantillon he says: "Before white-coated boffins with spectacles, clipboards, pipettes and brains the size of Luxembourg discovered pasteurization in 1860, all beer was made using spontaneous fermentation". This really got me foaming at the mouth.

For starters, Pasteurization was not 'discovered' by some un-named stereotypical lab geeks. The bloke who invented it is actually quite well known and if you can't remember who he is the clue's in the name - Yes, that's right Pasteurization was invented by Louis Pasteur. The bigger point he seems to have missed entirely is that Pasteurization has nothing at all to do with pitching yeast into wort instead of waiting for spontaneous fermentation. Ben McFarland has clearly got confused at some point.

Pasteurization was invented in 1864, but by having a quick peek at what Horace Brown had to say we can see that it was in 1860 that Louis Pasteur concluded that it is living yeast cells which cause fermentation of wort to take place. Perhaps this is what Ben McFarland meant to say.

The other part that I can't resist ranting about was an article on Pilsner Urquell. The general tone of the article is like advertisement from the brewery about how wonderful and unchanged the beer is, which just doesn't fit in with my own experiences. I can't produce any scientific evidence for how Pilsner Urquell has changed but I do know I used to like it and now I don't. I also know it's now brewed under licence in other countries which isn't mentioned in the article.

When he says though that [Prior to Pilsner Urquell being brewed in 1842] "all beer was dark, cloudy and, more often than not, a little lousy." and "all beer was darker than a coal miner's worst nightmare" I do know for a fact this is rubbish, and so should he.

In the same article he mentions that the person who developed Pilsner Urquell studied the latest English malting techniques. I'm not quite sure what he thought brewers in Britain were doing with their pale malt if they weren't brewing with it (making horlicks?) but British brewers were making pale ales, such as India Pale Ales, long before pilsners were invented and a fellow beer blogger has gone on at great length about earlier pale ales here.

I did enjoy the book but as a hardened beer nerd the errors in it really stood out to me. If any other beer writers out there would like a professionally qualified brewer to check their work before publication I'll be happy to review it for my usual fee.

*This in fact a microbiologist's in-joke. I don't just do lavatory humour, I can do laboratory humour too!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Burnt rubber and marmalade

We stayed in last night as the lovely Lisa was recovering from her work's xmas do. It seems she ate a bad crisp.

Being denied the delights of the pub I had a look in the beer cupboard and thought it was time to polish off few Sharp's beers that had been hanging around for some time. The Doom Bar was, as it always seems to be nowadays, pleasant enough but a bit dull. And to think I used to get excited when I saw this beer. The Atlantic IPA was decidedly unpleasant, having the unmistakable taste of light strike about it. The flavour reminds me of burnt rubber, though those more familiar with the emissions of the skunk's anal gland refer to it as 'skunked'.  It didn't make for pleasant drinking but it did answer the question I've been pondering about Sharp's beers - do they use isomerised hop extracts? 

Discerning beer nerds will know that putting beer in clear glass bottles leaves them vulnerable to light strike, unless they've used hop extracts instead of actual hops when making the beer. When brewers like Sharp's, who aren't dumb, sell their beer in clear bottles I get suspicious about what the beer is made of. Having a light struck bottle of Sharp's beer shows that they are still using actual hops, but it also shows that the marketing people can overrule the brewers on bottle choice. 

Having had enough of Sharp's and with a Fuller's tasting evening still fresh in my mind I dug out a bottle of Vintage Ale next. I went for the 2003 vintage, made with Goldings hops and Golden Promise malt. It was an excellent choice as the beer was fantastic. The first sip was, as always, too sweet but after that I got the spicy taste of the Goldings and for the first time in a beer I tasted marmalade. Spicy marmalade might not sound like the sort of thing you'd look for in a beer but it was really very good. 

I've often seen beer writers say they get marmalade flavour from ESB, one of Vintage Ale's little brothers, but I've never noticed it myself before so I was quite excited about this. I'm clearly turning into a proper beer writer - I'll be tasting horse blankets next, you mark my words!  

Thursday, 10 December 2009

My spicy xmas ale has worked ...

... after a fashion.

I was commissioned by the lovely Lisa to make a strong dark spicy beer for xmas so I brewed up a batch of a dark delight with added spices, orange and dried fruit. As I said at the time I was a little concerned I would end up with 40 pints of something undrinkable but thankfully that hasn't been the case.

However, as is often the case with experiments it hasn't turned out quite how I expected. Despite all the dark malts that it contains when I tasted it I found it had quite a citrussy taste which didn't seem quite right. This lead me to try seeing how it worked as a mulled ale, as a lot of ingredients I had put in are found in mulled wine. After gentle heating (to minimise any loss of alcohol, I don't want it to go to waste) I had another taste and it was almost there but a bit too bitter. As with mulled wine I thought some sugar was called for so added a small amount and that did the trick - it's like mulled wine but beer!

It should keep the chill out when me and the lovely Lisa have some over winter, and a lot will be going to family and friends, so hopefully they won't freeze either. I'll also be keeping a few bottles back to see how it ages. Being strong, dark, fruity and spicy I'm sure it will be a different beer by the time next xmas comes around and the changes will be interesting to see.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Fuller's IPA

The bottled version me and the lovely Lisa got on Wednesday didn't disappoint.

Not as good as it is in cask, but that's hardly surprising. Let's hope we see it more often in both versions. 

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fuller's Fine Ale Club 10th Anniversary Celebration

Me and the lovely Lisa hot footed it up to Chiswick last night for the Fuller's Fine Ale Club 10th Anniversary Celebration. We got to the brewery a little early so briefly considered popping into a pub for a livener. I thought it would be prudent to check out if the event had started first though as Fuller's have always been very generous with the free beer whenever I've been to the brewery. Sure enough, we checked in at the shop and soon had glasses of honey dew clutched in our mits. 

I hadn't been to the brewery shop since it's been refurbished and it's greatly improved. I'd always been a bit disappointed in the past as it mainly seemed to sell wine and I could get a better range of Fuller's beers in my local supermarkets. Now they've opened up and tarted up the shop and greatly expanded the range of their beers on sale. I'm not sure if everything Fuller's bottle was available but to the lovely Lisa's delight the IPA was. 

Look at those beauties

We both have this on our list of desert island beers but I haven't seen it in bottle for many years (I think it's one of those beers that are annoyingly done mainly for export) and it can be hard to track down when it's available on draught. We failed in our quest to find any when it was out in September despite our best efforts. Phoning round Fuller's pubs got a mixed response, some had never heard of it and some had but didn't want it. Well done to the manager of the White House in Guildford though who actually made a point of ordering some after we'd phoned him. Sadly for us we were on holiday when it arrived and he'd sold out by the time we got back a week later. What a disaster.

It would be nice if Fuller's put on their website when their seasonal beers are coming out, or even send out emails to Fine Ale Club members. I've only got one email from them this year and that was some guff about sensible drinking. 

Anyway, having found some IPA at last we clearly had to buy some. We only had a small bag with us so I wasn't sure how much we could carry. Probably three I thought. "We'll need to get at least six" said Lisa. You don't want to come between Lisa and her beer so six it was. 

We carried on knocking back the honey dew for an hour or so until the event officially started with some speeches. There was a Fuller, a Turner and sadly not a Smith but the marketing man behind the Fine Ale Club whose name escapes me. The speeches were mercifully brief short and sweet and then it was on to the main event.

We trooped into the hock cellar for a tutored beer tasting with the Head Brewer John Keeling. Having looked at the seating plan I'd noticed that a lot of beer writers were present, as well as a fellow beer blogger Ron Pattinson. He seems even more obsessive than me so it was interesting to meet him.  

Me and the lovely Lisa had been put on a table right at the front which gave us a good view of John Keeling, and him a good view of us. You might be wondering why he'd want a good view of us, and so am I, but some of the first words he said were: "Is Ed the beer blogger here?" Having an hours worth of free beer inside me I cheered and waved. The lovely Lisa was even more surprised when he turned to her and said "you must be Lisa then".  He'd read we were coming. It's a funny thing putting stuff on the internet, you never know who's going to see it. A photographer lept in at this point and Lisa was a bit perturbed having a big camera pointed at her as she's camera shy.

John Keeling awestruck after meeting me and the lovely Lisa

There was a half of pride for each of us on the table to get us started and ESB came round soon after. In the talk we heard that some beers are best served fresh but some are better after having some time to mature. So Chiswick is best drunk ASAP, but ESB is better after four weeks in the cask. We were asked what we thought of the ESB and my immediate thoughts were "it's free so it tastes great to me" but on reflection it wasn't the best I've had, not as rounded as it normally is. One of the professional beer writers piped up that she found it phenolic and tasted pear drops. Now phenolic and pear drops (due to esters) are well know terms used by beer tasters but the chance of spotting them both at the same time sounded like bollocks to me. John Keeling was more diplomatic however and simply said he hadn't noticed any pear drops. 

Melissa Cole discussing phenolic esters (sorry Rob, that's the best picture I've got)

If I remember rightly it was London Porter next, one of my favourites from Fuller's. They do cask, keg and bottled keg versions of this which led to some discussion on on the merits of cask or keg, as apparently some people prefer the keg version to the cask. 

Beer writer Pete Brown is in the middle pondering the merits of cask vs keg beer. He's shorter in real life than he is on his blog.

The question is a bit of a no-brainer for me. I mean come on guys. Yes, I know it is possible for the keg version of a beer to be better than the cask -  Wetherspoons casking De Konnick proved that for me as it was just too sweet on cask. But really, London Porter will always be a great beer but it's only the cask versions that people will seek out.

Next we were on to 1845, the beer which revived amber malt for British brewers, as it was recreated so 1845 could be made. I've just used amber malt recently so I should be grateful but I've never been a huge fan of 1845. Not to say I didn't drink it, but I've always found it tastes a little harsh. 

Brewer's Reserve followed, a beer matured in whisky cask, which I must admit I wasn't taken with when I tried some at an IBD do. It's funny how perceptions change your tastes though. When I first tried it I was chatting to the Fuller's lab chief who talked of the micro-flora from the casks and it seemed quite sour to me from the bacterial growth. This time we heard about the amount of whisky still left in the casks and it tasted more like a whiskier version of Innes and Gunn. Either way I'm not fond of whisky cask aged beers so it wasn't really my thing. 

May well have been Prize Old Ale next. That would make sense. God, I should have scribbled some more stuff down. Maybe I should check with Lisa. Anyway, we definitely heard about how it was originally matured in unlined wooden vats where all sorts of bugs would grow in it. And how the last Gale's Prize Old Ale now lives at Fuller's in a steel tank where it is blended in with new batches, and topped up with fresh wort to keep it going. All good stuff, and I like the Fuller's versions of the Gale's beers, but I still miss the corked bottle Prize Old Ale used to come in. 

The Vintage Ale comparison was definitely last. We had three to compare, one the latest batch, one about five years old and one about ten. Or thereabouts, it was all catching up with me by then. The new one was definitely too sweet, the middle one very good and I was quite taken with the oldest version too. The difference in the flavours and mouth feel were huge, with the oldest one tasting quite thin compared to the others, no mean feat for a beer of 8.5% ABV. Having had a lot of Vintage Ale in my time I've learnt to always leave it at least a year before drinking but after this I really think I should try and be even more patient. 

The main event was over then and the buffet arrived. The tutored tasting was meant to have lasted an hour but had over run by 45 minutes. I'd enjoyed every minute of it so it was fine by me. One thing I can remember from early in the talk which I've been pondering since is how the importance of balancing quality and consistency with character and flavour was stressed. This is an excellent philosophy for making beer, and it shows through in the beers Fuller's produce.

I still think there's a place for  the occasional unbalanced beer though, but I know I won't come back to them as often. 

We then chatted with Ron and another beer blogger Knut Albert briefly. I know parti-gyling was part of the conversation but I can't really remember why. Probably because we were at Fuller's, who famously make their core range through this wort mixing method. I'd had a lot to drink by this point though and my brain was battling valiantly but I could feel the alcohol had nearly managed to wrestle it into submission. It was time to go home, so we made our excuses and left. We got a goodie bag each on the way out, which amongst the key rings, beer glasses and bar towels we'd been expecting had some rather classy coasters, , a natty ESB mug, a T-shirt for very fat people and more Vintage Ale. Free beer and free stuff, what more could you ask for? There was a certificate of attendence too, which will have pride of place in my training folder at work. 

Thanks to Fuller's for a great night, we had a fantastic time. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Free beer at Fuller's!

Me and the lovely Lisa are off to Fuller's brewery for a tutored beer tasting with the head brewer. We got tickets thanks to the Fuller's Fine Ale club.

I'm really looking forward to this. Fuller's one of our favourite breweries, and free beer always tastes better, so it should be a cracking evening. 

Beers in Botswana

When I meet people from other countries I take the opportunity to learn some useful phrases in their language.

Well, OK, one useful phrase: how to ask for two beers.

I was recently working with some people from Botswana so here’s how to ask for two beers in the native tongue Setswana:

Biri tse pedi

Or to be more polite:

Ke kopa biri tse pedi

So if you're ever in Botswana you're now fully equipped for an enjoyable stay.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Ethiopian food and Bati beer

I ate in an Ethiopian restaurant on Saturday. A friend of mine is moving to Ethiopia soon to do volunteer work and wanted to know what the food is like.

Ethiopian cuisine seems to be based on curries served on injera, a type of bread that looks like a crêpe crossed with a crumpet. You tear off a strip of the bread, scoop up some sauce in it, and stuff it in your gob. It was about ten by the time we finally got to eat and I was so hungry this cutlery free way of eating put my fingers at real risk. Fortunately I managed to keep it together enough to just eat the restaurant food, and very good it was too.

For refreshment we first had Bati beer from the Kombolcha brewery in Ethiopia, mentioned in the beer book I'm currently reading. Described in the book as "crisp and refreshing" I found it quite malty for a lager and a pleasant drop. St George beer from the same brewery was more bog standard lager of the thin and sweetcorn flavoured variety.

We tried tej after after that, the Ethiopian version of mead. It was brought to the table in a unlabelled wine bottle and, staying with the wine style, I was poured a small amount to taste first. It was cloudy with a definite lactic taste amongst the honey but never having had tej before I've no idea if it's meant to taste like this or not. Being well brought up I truthfully said to the waitress "that's the best tej I've ever tasted", leaving off the fact it was also the worst tej I'd ever tasted, and it was glasses all round. Most of my mates weren't too taken with it but I found it went down well enough. That practice drinking lambic beers paid off I guess.

The Ethiopians also have a big thing about serving coffee ceremonially, and thought it was far too late for me to be doing that sort of thing some of my friends indulged. This involved having a pan of what I can only assume were roasted coffee beans wafted round the table (though to me it smelt of burnt toast) before coffee pots accompanied by burning frankincense were brought out and put on the table. It was certainly memorable but I might be suggesting people miss out on the coffee in future, incense smoke in my eyes isn't really my thing.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

King Charles I, Kings Cross

I was up in the big smoke yesterday to have a meal with a friend. We arrived a little early so needed to find a pub for a pre-meal beer. The lovely Lisa had researched some pubs in the area but none were very convenient so we decided to us psychogeography to find somewhere to drink. We soon came across Northdown street. I had recently used northdown hops for the first time in my last brew so there was clearly a case of synchronicity at work here.

Sure enough we found a pub at the end of the street we'd both heard of but had somehow failed to included in our research notes: the King Charles I

It's an excellent cosy little pub with quirky character and more importantly, Brodies beers on draught. I hadn't managed to find anything from this recently launched London brewery before so was delighted to see them. The lovely Lisa started with the English Best (3.9% ABV) and I had the Amarilla (4.2%). The best was a great session bitter, that reminded me of Timothy Taylor's Landlord though it was darker. The Amarilla was, as I suspected, a golden ale flavoured with citrussy amarillo hops. We liked them so much we stayed for another and had the delicious Red at 4.3% ABV, dark in colour but with refreshing hops. All were great beers and I'll certainly be seeking out this brewery's beers again.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The World's Strongest Beer... 1988.

Amongst the beers tucked away at the back of one of my many beer cupboards I have a bottle of Roger and Out from the Frog and Parrot brewpub. The label on the back of it proudly boast of it being the world's strongest beer.

No alcohol content is listed, just the Original Gravity of 1.125. No champagne yeast or freeze distillation was used, it was just a very strong beer. 

It tasted foul too. I wonder if the years have improved it...

No minimum alcohol price in Scotland

Minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland is to be blocked but more daft ideas are still in the pipeline.
New fees for retailers are proposed, which no doubt big supermarkets will welcome as small shops have to stop selling alcohol, and raising the drinking age to 21 is also being considered, which I'm sure will reduce responsible drinking in pubs and increase irresponsible drinking in parks.

The BBC news item is here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Shot for collaborating

Well, I should be for my poor efforts at doing a collaborative brew

Whilst on young Rob's stag do we discussed the possibility of doing a joint brew. It seems the in thing for brewers do be doing at the moment. It also seems to be taken as an opportunity so show how zany and cutting edge you are, so naturally my thoughts turned to doing something like a black IPA or a pale, hoppy mild. Fortunately I must have sobered up at some point and thought bollocks to that and we decided to do an IPA. After a discussion about the recipe we decided on doing this:

In the mash tun.

Pale malt: 96.5%
Crystal malt: 2.5%
Amber malt: 1%

(Note: all percentages refer to extracts not by weight)

Target OG: 1064

In copper.

Boil for 1 ½ hours with the following additions.

Northdown 90min (for 40 IBU)
Northdown 15min (for 3-5 IBU)
Challenger 3min (for 1-2 IBU) + copper finings
Fuggles 0 min added after wort had cooled for 30 min

Rob had the first go and didn't quite hit target gravity but otherwise seems to have done OK.

I propagated some EdsLab Chiswick yeast last week as it's similar to the one Rob used. Brewing  started on Sunday morning and fell at the first hurdle. I rummaged around my grain store and saw I didn't have any crystal malt. "Oh, bugger" I thought. I'd forgotten I'd used up all my crystal malt stocks doing my Christmas beer. I had some British cara malt so I used that instead but felt bad about introducing another variable to the collaboration so soon.

The rest of the brew day went fine until I check the original gravity of the wort. It was way over. I'd aimed to go a bit high so I could liquor back to the gravity Rob had achieved but not this high. I used to be very stable in the extract efficiency I'd get out of my home brew set up but since having a university brewing education, working as a brewer and of course discovering Jims beer kit I've been making some changes. I'm getting higher efficiency now, and making better beer, but the change in efficiency means I misjudged the amount of grain I needed. 

When I was diluting the wort down to get to the target gravity I had to bring in a second fermenter to hold all the wort. At this point I realised I may be diluting the sugars to the amount I want but I'm also diluting the hops past the point I want. Once again, I found myself going "Oh, bugger". 

I'm disappointed that I didn't do as well as I'd hoped at matching Rob's brew. Simon will be doing his version soon and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. I suppose I can take some consolation in the fact I have gallons of IPA fermenting away, and it will still be interesting to see how it compares to my friends efforts. 

Saturday, 21 November 2009

World's Best Beers by Ben McFarland

The lovely Lisa bought me this book recently. It's subtitled 1000 unmissable brews from Portland to Prague so I think seasoned beer nerds will know very well the type of book it is. I'm trying to read it from start to finish but I keep flicking forward to check out some of the beers he's included from around the world. It looks like a good selection and I'm sure it will give me some new ideas for beers to seek out.

The author has won Beer Writer of the Year twice, which is slightly embarrassingly for a beer nerd like me as I've never heard of the bloke before! If I'd won Beer Writer of the Year I'd be slightly embarrassed about parts of this book though. In the opening chapters the author displays a surprising lack of beer nerdiness technical and historical knowledge:

  • The opening line in the history section saying that beer is the oldest fermented drink in the world is straight out of wikipedia and clearly nonsense. The malting and mashing process required to get fermentable sugars from grains is a lot more involved than simply getting juice from a fruit. Recently another beer blogger comprehensively demolished the idea that beer could have been the first alcoholic drink. 

  • The box on International Bitterness Units (IBUs) says: "An IBU rating is a complex calculation that takes weight of hops, alpha acids, wort and alcohol strength into account". In fact IBUs are simply the amount of isomerised alpha acids present in the beer expressed in milligrams per litre i.e. 1mg/l of isomerise alpha acid = 1IBU. How many IBUs you'll get in a beer is complicated by factors like the weight of hops, their alpha acid percentage, the strength of the wort and the length of the boil but how the IBUs are calculated is not at all complicated.

  • In the section on mashing he says: "For less potent beers the mash is often sparged (sprayed with water) to achieve the right level of sugar content". It would be more accurate to say for just about every beer the mash is sparged.

  • In the yeast section lager yeast is called Saccharomyces carlsbergensis despite the fact it has been renamed several times in recent years and is currently called Saccharomyces pastorianus.
I could go on, in fact I probably will. There's nothing like using the internet to point out other peoples mistakes!

The better beer writers, perhaps not surprisingly, seem to have backgrounds in journalism and I would assume this is the case with Ben McFarland. When they start talking about technical stuff though they should really check their facts with someone who knows what they're talking about before publishing.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

That was fun while it lasted

My local Sainsbury's seem to have realised that they're making a mistake selling Fuller's Vintage at £1.99 a bottle. It's gone up to £3.29, and it isn't included in their current '4 for 3' offer.

So it's a good job I got my favourite brother in law five bottles last week :-)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Woking beer festival

Woking beer festival rolled round again this weekend. It's the only beer festival I can walk to, being about 20 minutes from my house. Well, on the way there it took 20 minutes, it seemed to only take five to get back. Such is the power of beer.

The festival is held in the local leisure centre, so it's a bit lacking in atmosphere until the third pint kicks in.

Beer of the night for me was Acorn's Barnsley Bitter.  I'd read about this beer on another beer blog and wanted to try it for myself. Despite it's modest strength (3.8% ABV) it's an excellent beer packed full of flavour. Session beers really are something British brewers do best. And speaking of session beers, I'd have been better off sticking to them all night I felt a bit poorly this morning. The lovely Lisa had to call upon the power of pork to save me, praise the lard!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Breweries on the beeb!

A couple of breweries have briefly featured on the BBC recently:

You get a brief glimpse of Wayland's brewery on Escape to the Country, as the owners are looking to move to Dorset. It's a property show so apart from eyeing up out-buildings and garages and going 'you might fit a brewery in there' there's not much else of interest for the beer nerd. I was probably more interested than most as Wayland's is quite close to me and I had a brief email exchange with Scott (the owner) to see if I could come over and do some work experience when I was studying at Heriot-Watt. Nothing came of it though so Wayland's missed out on the chance to gain the coveted status of righteous brewery.

There was slightly more to see on Countryfile, for starters it had quite a lot on 'the pub is the hub' showcasing the excellent Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket, Britain's first co-operatively owned pub.

Also they had one of the presenters taking the barely from his farm to Warminster floor maltings and then he went on to Hook Norton brewery. When I was working as a brewer I once spent a day at Hook Norton learning about how they do their lab work. I met the bloke introduced on Countryfile as the head brewer, James Clarke, though what they didn't mention that he is the Hooky heir. They were very nice people at Hook Norton so I had no hesitation in including them on the list of righteous breweries.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Well, well, well

You heard it here first.

No sooner have I posted “I’m also getting a bit tired of James Watt’s attention seeking but that probably won’t change in a hurry " than James Watt's latest wheeze upsets the blogosphere.

A lot of my fellow beer bloggers do seem to be genuinely very pissed off. Can't say I'm surprised, as the deliberately courting controversy was wearing a bit thin and the Portman group aren't really the best target. If the Portman group's voluntary regulation was done away with then it would only be replaced with compulsory state regulation which I'm sure would be a lot harder on brewers like Brewdog.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

CAMRA and Brewdog

I see from my fellow beer bloggers that James Watt from Brewdog has put the boot into CAMRA again. He said: “I blame CAMRA for single-handedly holding back innovation in British brewing”. He has said similar before, when he charmingly added the following regarding CAMRA members: "We've got better things to do with our time than worry about whether 200 fat idiots are drinking our beer or not."

He also likes to slag off session beers “Pretty much all the small UK brewers make the same boring 4% ales with the same boring hops and then package them in a folksy, old-fashioned manner”.  But then as he lives in a run down shithole in Scotland that no doubt has no decent pubs it’s hardly surprising a night in the pub on cask ales isn’t his thing.

Now, as a dedicated beer nerd I know that James Watt is prone to sweeping statements that provoke debate but in the cold light of day don’t really add up. But having said that his latest pronouncement does give me an excuse to go on again about my particular bugbear with CAMRA: their line on bottled beer.

CAMRA basically define real ale as beer which has not had the yeast removed from it, so can still undergo secondary fermentation in the container it is dispensed from. This means cask beers in pubs and bottle conditioned beers. I’m quite happy with CAMRA’s promotion of cask beer. If I’m in a pub that’s what I want to drink. Cask is the best way of serving the modest in strength beers I normally drink when I’m out for an evening. You get the best flavour from the beer that way, and keg beers of similar strength seem at best bland in comparison.

When they extend the line on ‘must contain yeast’ to bottled beers thought I think it starts to break. Bottled beers, with or without yeast, have a higher level of carbonation than cask beer so the difference between real ale and keg is much less noticeable.

When CAMRA were formed there were only five bottle conditioned beers produced in Britain , so it was fairly minor issue. The premium bottled beers market has grown greatly since then and now there are hundreds of bottle conditioned beers. I’ve had some great bottle conditioned beers, but I’ve also had some great bottled beers that don’t have any yeast in. And I’ve had a lot of god awful bottle conditioned beers from microbreweries that may well have contained yeast but also contained huge amounts of bacteria.

Brewdog mostly produce bottled beers, and though they’re not all to my taste some are excellent. They are however filtered and CAMRA’s line on bottled beers is that unless they have yeast in the bottle they are not real ale so are pretty much ignored. If they’re made in Britain that is. If they’re made overseas CAMRA ignore this and say that as they have different brewing traditions it’s perfectly OK for beers to be devoid of yeast. So for example CAMRA have been prominent in defending the Czech beer Budweiser Budvar which is certainly filtered and in all probability pasteurised too.

You can start to see why Brewdog may feel hard done by by CAMRA at this point. They’re mostly ignored except when their beer is in cask, which to be honest doesn’t show it at its best. The American microbreweries who Brewdog draw their inspiration from (or blatantly copy depending on how you want to put it) have also been pretty much ignored by CAMRA.

CAMRA does seems slow to change, which is perhaps why to many younger beer nerds that don’t remember the dark days of keg they now seem part of the establishment to rail against.

I do think CAMRA need to reassess how they look at bottled beers, as the simplistic ‘does it contain yeast’ just doesn’t work as well as it does for draught beers, and as foreign brewers are exempt from this it doesn’t make sense anyway.

I’m also getting a bit tired of James Watt’s attention seeking but that probably won’t change in a hurry either.


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Wandsworth common halloween beer festival

That looks suitably gothic for Halloween doesn't it?

On Saturday night I went to the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. Patriotism is of course the last refuge of the scoundrel. Fortunately for us the scoundrels had seen fit to fill their refuge with casks of beer.

They has their first beer festival here back in March which was all good fun but a lot of the beers were in short supply. This time there were good stocks, though sadly no Sarah Hughes, despite the claim on the website they'd have three barrels of it.

I started on a Purity brewing's UBU as I've enjoyed it from the bottle I couldn't pass up the chance to try it on cask and very nice it was too.

Then I worked through some of the offering from brewery's I like, such as Hop Back, Dark Star, Twickenham and Timothy Taylor. The lovely Lisa was a bit under the weather so we didn't stay too long. This gave me an excuse to wander into the stronger end of things, after I'd had a suitable warm up of course. Some of my fellow beer bloggers seem to drink whatever takes their fancy, either down the pub or at home, but I tend to stay at less than 5% ABV when I'm out and about, saving the strong ones for when I'm at home.

This is beer of the less than 5%ABV variety

I had a feeling that Ballard's Wassail was in 300 beers to try before you die and it looked like some stronger stuff was called for so that went down next. You could taste it was strong (6% ABV) but not overpoweringly so. Then for what was the last of the night I had a Orkney Skull Splitter (8.5% ABV). This went down surprisingly easily, which perhaps shows that it was not just time for the lovely Lisa to be heading home.

The crowd at the festival was surprisingly young and mixed, and hardly a beard or beer gut to be seen. Though it wasn't a CAMRA festival it certainly followed the same format:

Perhaps cask beer really is becoming more fashionable.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Poncey gastro-pub goes bust

The Morrisey-Fox pub has gone bust, despite having a TV series about it to help it get started. Morrisey and Fox did come across as arrogant plonkers who managed to piss off a lot of the locals so it's hardly surprising. The beers are still being produced, but who by remains a mystery.  

Friday, 30 October 2009

Alcohol is the fifth most dangerous drug

Professor David Nutt has just been sacked as the government's drugs advisor.It seemed he favoured scientific facts over political expediency.

I haven't managed to find his full ranking of drugs danger but the article I've linked to contains this snippet:

"Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively"

So be careful out there!

EDIT: The full report from Professor Nutt is here.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Rob's stag do (part two)

After dragging myself out of bed to fill myself with fried pork products it was time for round two.
Thanks to a tip off from a Daleside drayman we knew that the beer designed by Rob himself would be on at a Wetherspoons pub. So, shortly after twelve we found ourselves there ordering pints of Daleside Autumn Leaves. I must admit I wasn't at my perkiest at this point but the combination of malts and hops brilliantly blended by Rob produced what was without doubt the best pint I'd had that day.

Rob posing by his beer

We moved on to Brigantes after that, a posh looking bar with and excellent beer range. One of the beers had a silhouette of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on the clip so I couldn't resist a pint of 'Living in the cask' by Elland brewery. It was a good pint too (similar to Landlord), though drinking it reminded that I saw Jethro Tull back in '85 which made me feel like an old git. Not as much an old git as Ian Anderson though, he was no spring chicken back then.

Rob and his dad in Brigantes

Next it was back to the maltings. I felt at this point that the pub crawl planning ability of the lovely Lisa wouldn't have gone amiss. In a beer oasis like York, with so many pubs still to visit, I think we were a long way from the need to make any repeat visits.

I took a detour to do some shopping as the lovely Lisa wanted me to bring her a beer from the York brewery. I also took the opportunity to get myself a pork pie as down South we can't get proper ones like you get in Yorkshire. Sadly the one I managed to find was a disgrace to the county and I may as well have had one from a Southern supermarket. Anyway, back to the beer.

By the time I caught up with the others Rob had already had a bottle of Lee's Harvest Ale and was polishing off a Rodenbach Grand Cru. I had a sip of that one and it was, as ever, sour but superb. It was back on to the cask beer for me though and I had a pint of Rooster's Yankee. It's another of pale hoppy beer full of Cascade hops. I'd avoided it when I'd seen it last night in the Ackhorne as it's the only beer in 300 beers to try before you die that the lovely Lisa had had but I hadn't and she was quite pleased having one over me in the beer stakes.

This time I was having it though so down it went. We started wending back to the hotel as some people wanted to get changed for the evening but we managed to call in at the Corner Pin on the way where I had a pint of Jenning's Little Gem. It was only a modest 4% ABV but managed to pack in a lot of flavour, especially considering it was served through the typical Northern sparkler.

I didn't bother getting changed but I did have time for a cup of tea to refresh me before starting out again. We were meeting some people from Daleside brewery at the next pub, the Postern Gate. This was our second Wetherspoons pub of the day. One Wetherspoons pub can be considered a misfortune but surely two is carelessness? Still, the beer range was good, and of course cheap, though the Wetherspoons policy of not turning round pump clips for beers that are off gets on my tits. I had an O'Hanlon's Port Stout, which was OK and an Exmoor Gold, which was good.

Next stop was the Phoenix, a pub which has just had a nice refurbishment. It was Landlord for me again here.

We shuffled on to the Edinburgh Arms next, a big pub that seems to be trying to compete with Wetherspoons on price. I'm not sure if this is the best business plan. Still the beer I had (York guzzler) was good. We only had a brief stop here as time was running low for the guys from Daleside as they had a train to catch. We dashed on to the Ackhorne where I had more Rooster's Yankee.

After that we those of us that were left went on to some god awful rock bar. They had crap beer and to be honest the place smelt like a toilet. At this point I made my excuses and left, along with the more aged members of our party. I guess there comes a time in a man's life when he just really doesn't want to sit in bars that smell of poo.

We did managed to call in at the lighthorseman on the way back to the hotel for a another pint though. I had a Golden Wunder, which was Thwaites 'Oktoberfest' beer made with German hops, though with a name like that surely it should be made of crisps? Anyway, that we me done for the weekend, all that was left was to sleep it off before re-fueling on fried pork for the journey home.

Young Rob resting after a busy weekend

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I've just got back from my local Sainsbury's laden with clanking bottles again. Last week it was Fuller's Vintage Ale going cheap that got me, now they're selling off beer competition leftovers for 50p a bottle. I piled all the Brewdog Chaos Theory into my trolley but I thought taking all the Williams Brothers IPA would be going too far, so there's still some of them on the shelves in the Brookwood branch. If you have a Sainsbury's nearby it's well worth checking it out ASAP.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Rob's stag do (part one)

I've just beer to the beer oasis that is York for young Rob's stag do. I know Rob from when I was studying brewing at Heriot-Watt. He now works for Daleside brewery.

First stop was the Lowther pub:

It was only a brief stop though as the only cask beer they had on was John Smith's, so we made our excuses and left.

In York you're never far from the next pub so we called in at the King's Head.

The is a Sam Smith's pub and was a keg only establishment, as it didn't even have their piss poor Old Brewery Bitter on. More annoyingly it didn't have their wheat beer on either so I had a bottle of pale ale. It was OK but nothing special.

After this things improved as we got to the Ackhorne.

This had some decent beers on but I wasn't too taken with my first choice Saltaire Blackcurrant cascade. It had the citrussy smell of Cascade hops but I found the flavour too much in the way of blackcurrant. My next choice was more like it, Wylam Summer Magic. This was a pale beer with Amarillo hops that really hit the spot.

The it was on to the Maltings, an excellent beer pub I've been to before.

My first one here was Outlaw IPA. It seems Outlaw brewing is the name that Roosters brewery use for their experimental beers. Outlaw IPA was beyond being a pale hoppy beer and was in fact a full on American style IPA. I'm not convinced cask is the best way to serve this type of beer but it certainly worked in this case. If Roosters fancy doing any more experimenting I'm quite happy to be a guinea pig.

For my next beer I was looking for something darker. No matter how good golden coloured beers are I don't generally make a session of them as they don't seem to sit that well. So I went for Summer Wine brewery's Teleporter. This was at the other end of things from Outlaw IPA, being as black as your hat and made from ten types of malt. It was excellent and put me back in balance.

Then it was on to the Guy Fawkes, the pub I stayed in when I was last in York.

The sign's had a V for Vendetta makeover.

I went for a Timothy Taylor's Landlord here and it was as lovely as ever. There was a brief outbreak of arm wrestling at this point for reasons I can't quite remember. It was clearly time for some food now so some of us went off for a curry, whilst others moved on to the next pub. Still having my wits about me I opted for the curry, washed down with plenty of water.

We caught up with pub goers at the Old White Swan.

They were looking a bit worse for wear and had decided that maybe food wasn't such a bad idea after all.

I had a Yorkshire terrier, another pale hoppy beer, but a good example of the style.

It was getting late by now and some people there was talk of going on to a club. That's not really my thing so it was bed time for me, and as the talk the next day was of Chardonay I don't think I missed anything.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Beer ties are staying

The Office of Fair Trading has rejected CAMRA's complaint about beer ties. It says it has found no evidence that ties between pub companies and landlords are harming competition in the pub sector or contributing to higher prices.

I've heard that managers of pubs tied to chains have to pay around £30 a firkin more than the free trade price, so if it doesn't contribute to higher prices it must just contribute to pub managers being screwed over.

The BBC story is here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

This one's a bit different

On Sunday I made my Christmas beer. As you can see from the picture of the inside of the copper I've posted above this one's a bit different. To get that Christmas flavour I've added to a dark beer spices and oranges, and it's going to get dried fruits added when the fermentation has died down a bit.

I'm a bit worried about this one though. Normally when I brew something a bit wierd I only use a small proportion of the wort and use the rest to make something a bit more normal (see e.g. here). With this one I've done a five gallon batch so I've potentially 40 pints of something I don't like. Oh well, fingers crossed ...

Monday, 19 October 2009

Pale ale ponderings

Me and the lovely Lisa went to the Crown in Horsell on Saturday night. After extensive research we've decided that it's the only decent pub in walking distance. The beer of the night for us was Itchen Valley Pure Gold. I'm sure all my fellow beer nerds can guess what this was like just from the name: yes that's right its pale and hoppy. We found it to be a good example of the style and it went down very nicely. The fact that like most golden ales it had a slight haze to it got me pondering though.

Why are the golden ones usually a bit hazy? Is it just because they're paler so it's easier to spot? Or does the lack of dark malts mean that the mash pH is too high and more tannins are extracted leading to more protein-polyphenol complexes in the beer? Should the brewers chuck in a bit more AMS/CRS to the mash liquor to bring the pH down for gold beers?

Down the pub it may have looked like I was just staring into space after my third pint but these are the important questions that were going round my head.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The 50 best beers

Today's Independent has a four page magazine article from a selection of beer writers choosing 50 best beers. They're mostly British though a few classic beers from overseas are included. It's a pretty good selection, though with nothing really new for a hardened beer nerd and nothing to really object to either, except for maybe Kirin lager.

The article is online here.

Fuller's Vintage Ale has arrived.

It's that time of year again: the new Fuller's Vintage Ale has hit the shops. I have extensive stocks already but they still need regular topping up. It was a bargain this year as my local Sainsbury's is selling it for £1.99 a bottle, cheaper than Golden Pride (or 1845 for that matter).  Economics was never my strong point but I really don't understand this one, not that I'm complaining mind.

It's best if left for at least a year before drinking, so it's to the back of the cupboard with these for now.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The all new Tribute

The new unpasteurised version of bottled St Austell Tribute I mentioned here has now hit the shops.

Me and the lovely Lisa did a carefully controlled scientific comparison of the old and new version and the new one definitely tastes better. It's 25% off in Waitrose at the moment too so time to stock up!

Spot the difference.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Do I drink too much?

Not something I'm overly concerned about, though I did have to have a bit of a break after getting back from my last holiday.

'Do I Drink Too Much?' was however the title of an interesting programme on BBC2 last night where an addiction expert looked into the effects of alcohol on people in general and himself in particular. He clearly liked a drop so though he stuck to the party line of '21 units a week for men, 14 for women' he didn't get all moralistic or spread scare stories. 

The research into alcohol has shown the effects on people varies enormously, which will influence ( though not determine) if you're going to turn into a chronic alkie. It also showed how the effects of alcohol varies greatly with age, with adolescents affected much less but more likely to lose their memory. That certainly fits in with my own experience as I feel a bit of a light weight nowadays but it's a long while since I haven't been able to remember what I've been up to. 

The alcohol research included the presenter mainlining it whist having his brain scanned and trying out a drug that is being developed to get the effect of getting pissed but without the harmful side effects. He said he preferred to drug to actual booze, but I don't think I'd ever go for taking a pill over having a pint. And come to think of it I seem to remember the powers that be getting quite upset when youths started preferring pills to pints! I quite like that you could taken an antidote for instant sobering up though, but the guy seemed a bit freaked out by going from pleasantly pissed to stone cold sober so maybe we're better of sticking with what we've got.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Sam Smith's Shame

It's a well known fact that Sam Smith's Brewery boss Humphry Smith is, to say the least, slightly odd. A recent BBC programme (available here) shows that he's not just an eccentric with a taste for old fashioned pubs and cask beer from wooden barrels.

It seems he acts like the lord of the manor running his brewery, and the town of Tadcaster, as his own private fiefdom, and woe betide the peasant who gets in his way. He's certainly caused a lot of misery to his staff and neighbours. Next time I end up in a Sam Smith's pub the bad taste in my mouth won't just be from the Old Brewery Bitter.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Liver damage in the lakes

Me and the lovely Lisa had a fortnight's holiday in the lake district recently. We spent a week in Great Langdale and a week in Loweswater with our mate Paul. There was lots of trudging around in the sodding mist and lots of beer drunk.

Trudging around in the sodding mist

Highlights of the beer drinking included:

  • The Three Shires in Little Langdale. Lisa is now mulling over whether to add Coniston Old Man to her Desert Island Beer list. It's a rich copper fruity beer.
  • Tweedies Bar in Grasmere. Crap name but good bar, it had an excellent range of beers and friendly staff.
  • Walking over from Great Langdale to the Wasdale Head Inn, a pub with its own brewery. The lovely Lisa like the Wasd'ale best and after five hours of trudging had several pints. I tried a few ranging from some god awful pale rauchbier (Smokey Joe's?) to the excellent strong mild Yewbarrow. 

In the Wasdale Head Inn

Mostly though we went to the Kirkstile Inn in Loweswater, as it's an excellent pub and the lovely Lisa had managed to find us accommodation within spitting distance of it. Sadly the brewery has gone from the pub as they bought another brewery in Hawkshead and now brew from there. Even more sadly for me my previous favourite from here, Loweswater Pale Ale (LPA), wasn't on for most of the week. The replacements weren't all bad though: Langdale at 4% was a cracking pale beer with good citrussy hop taste, Loweswater Gold at 4.3% went down very nicely but was a bit too thin in the body and Grasmore at 4.3% was a good dark beer to re-balance me when I'd had enough of drinking golden ales. Fortunately the LPA was back on towards the end of the week so I didn't miss out, it's rare I go for beers this weak (3.6%) but it's got loads of flavour packed into it despite its modest strength. 

Paul and the lovely Lisa at the Kirkstile Inn

And it wasn't always trudging around in the sodding mist on the hills. We had some sunny days with fantastic views too.

Crummock water from Melbreak

I was even in shorts and a T shirt at one point. Stripped off in the sun, did I get a tan? No, all I got was a tick attached to my leg. 

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Boozing in London

I went on another pub crawl in London yesterday. As some peoples memories were a little hazy from the last one we had to do some of the pubs previously covered again. The lovely Lisa had it all worked out on google map so we had the map and directions sorted: 

First stop was the Edgar Wallace, and an excellent pub with a fine beer selection. I started on the Edgar Pale Ale, or Nethergate IPA as it is normally known. This was good stuff for a 3.5% ABV beer, plenty of hops, if a bit lacking in body. Next I moved on to Ascot Gold Cup which had the smell of wet dog but tasted OK. I'm not entirely certain what I had next. I'd asked for Ottley's California, but I've a strong suspicion I ended up wit Ascot's Octoberfest. It definitely detected the vegetable flavours I associate with lager and I can't say cask lager does it for me. Or keg lager for that matter, not often anyway.

Then it was on to the Old Bank of England for a pint of pride and some food. We had the pie selection, the seafood selection and the vegetarian selection between us all. Plenty of variety but I think we'd have been better off with just plenty of pies. Who needs vegetables when you can have pies?

After that it was the Seven Stars where the always have something from the Dark Star brewery on. This time it was Dark Side of the Moon, a quality dark and hoppy beer. We also had a bowl of peanuts here which I fear was my undoing. The way I'm feeling this morning I'm sure one of them must have been mouldy. How many times have I told myself to watch out for mouldy peanuts and green crisps? Yet once again I've woken up after a session feeling really rough. Good job beer's good for you or I'd probably feel even worse. 

Next stop was the Bierodrome, a Belgian beer establishment. The lovely Lisa had De Koninck, the beer which Wetherspoons imported and casked. They shouldn't have bothered though - it's better on keg as the lower carbonation of cask beer makes it too sweet. I went for something from the holy fathers, having a bottle of Orval. I've gone off a lot of Trappist beers recently but Orval was still good stuff. It undergoes a secondary fermentation with a Brettanomyces yeast, the yeasts named after Britain as they were found in beer made by the old British system of maturing for months in large vats. That's pretty much gone by the wayside now so Brettanomyces is much more associated with Belgium. They give the beer a distinctive, and not entirely pleasant, smell but I do like the taste. And it has a cool glass. 

Time was getting away from us at this point so we scurried on to the Princess Louise in Holborn. It has a fantastic interior, and the world's most ornate bogs but serves Sam Smiths so the beer's not up to much. I had their keg stout which is better than Guinness anyway. 


Last stop before people had to head home was the Salisbury. Fantastic interior but the beers were a bit boring. We had a Doom Bar which at this stage of the evening didn't stand out. 

The ill effects of our dedicated beer research do mean that I've got to have my favourite beer and food pairing today: drink enough beer to get you wankered then have a big fry up the next day.

I hope the lardy goodness works as we've got a six hour drive to the lake district ahead of us today.

More tales of dedicated beer research and hills and stuff on our return ...