Showing posts from September, 2011

Today's Booze News

Another day, another crazy supermarket alcohol-ID story. James Hood, 27, popped into his local Tesco in Chineham, Hants for some barbecue supplies. He stocked up with sausages, buns, ribs, and burgers. And Jack Daniels barbecue sauce. It was this prospective purchase that brought him woe. For on attempting to buy the sauce, the checkout person asked him for proof of age. Unable to provide any, the embarrassed Mr Hood was forced to abandon it at the checkout. Why? Because it contains 1% alcohol and Tesco have a “Prove It” policy where anyone looking under 25 who is attempting to buy booze is required to prove their age. Now most people may not regard 1% alcohol as “booze” and Mr Hood has rightly complained about it. For their part, Tesco have said that an automated message would have flashed up reminding the salesperson to check proof of age. Which may be correct, but are we to take it their staff are merely automatons unable to think for themselves? Meanwhile, literally, concrete proof…

The Cask Report 2011-12

The Cask Report 2011-12 is out today and, as usual, makes for interesting reading. Despite very tough economic times and the government’s continuing war on pubs and drinkers, there are still some promising signs:
 Despite a 7.8% drop in overall on-trade beer sales, cask sustained only an estimated 2% drop. This disparity helps explain the fact that cask actually increased its share of the on-trade market to 15%.Cask ale is more widely available than ever. A 4% increase in distribution in 2010 led it to being available in an additional 2500 outlets. Of course, not everything is rosy-the 35% rise in duty over three years has a lot to answer for, but, in a declining market, the evidence is there that cask ale is still punching above its weight.

The report contains some interesting statistics: 69% of cask drinkers now fall within the ABC1 demographic. So perhaps Tony Blair was right after all and we are all middle class now? There’s also an attempt to clear up some of the still prevailing …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Dark Star Imperial Stout

Dark Star Imperial Stout is the West Sussex brewer’s interpretation of this famous style. Earlier this year they, along with several other brewers, were involved in a project to bring the style back to St Petersburg.

Basics: It’s 330ml and is bottle-conditioned. Tipping the scales at 10.5% by alcohol volume, it’s definitely not a session beer. Is it just me or are these breakfast beers becoming stronger?

It poured dark as expected with a very small beige head. The aroma was a rather enticing heavy dose of dark fruits, liquorice and a little chocolate.

Taste: Full bodied and velvety. The alcohol is there, but is extremely well hidden. There’s liquorice and a hint of pepper, but the overall impression is a very drinkable blend of dark stone-fruits: cherries, plums and jujube.

Finish: Dried dark fruit and a little coffee.

Conclusion: The moreish strong fruit flavours are combined with the Target hops to deliver a very impressive beer. This would be a good beer at any strength, but at 10.5% …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Indigo Imp Winter Solstice

The nights are drawing in. Well that’s my excuse for trying Indigo Imp’s Winter Solstice. That and the fact it was the first one I pulled out of the beer cupboard.

Basics:It’s brewed in Cleveland, Ohio and is bottle-conditioned. It’s 12 fl oz and is brewed with four types of malt, Cascade hops and some cinnamon and orange peel is thrown in for good measure. It proved very lively and poured a somewhat murky amber/chestnut colour. Aroma was a moderate mix of malt and a little grapefruit. Taste: The initial smooth mouthfeel gave way to some sweet malt/toffee notes and a warming, spicy tingle. Gets drier as the hops kick in to restore some balance. Finish: Short and dry. Conclusion: Once you get past the rather murky appearance, it’s not bad, if not exceptional. The added cinnamon and orange peel seem rather wasted as the overall effect is of a more standard malt and hop brew.

Brewdog for Manchester

With terms now agreed, it’s time to reveal the location of Brewdog’s proposed Manchester outlet. Opening next spring, it’s on the junction of Dale St/Newton St and Port St. Yes, Port St. So, with its proximity to a certain Port Street Beer House, and with the Soup Kitchen also nearby, there’s potential for a good mini-crawl. It also rather exacerbates the fracture of the traditional N/4. With other new openings planned, it looks as though this side of Manchester is definitely on the up.

How will Mancunians take to the bad boys of "craft" brewing? How will all keg go down in a cask heartland? As always, the proof will be in the drinking.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Madcap Scotch Madness

Sometimes you just need a good strong Scotch Ale to give you that kick in the balls in the morning. Or so the mad Scot who lives opposite says, anyway. Taking him at his word, I thought I’d try some Madcap Scotch Madness.

Basics: It’s an 8.5%, bottle-conditioned, 330ml Scotch Ale. And no, it’s not named in honour of the fact that the Scots are considered only a little less barmy than the Welsh. Although they are, obviously. It’s brewed in the wonderfully named Eccelfechan and poured a very dark tawny colour. It was very lively, but settled down to a middling, beige head. The aroma was predominantly sweet malt. Taste: Quite creamy initially. There’s some caramel and toffee, but also a noticeable vinous quality to it. Easy going enough considering its ABV, but lacking any real depth of flavour. Finish: Brief burst of sweet malt. Conclusion: Disappointing. I’m not a huge fan of this style of beer, but I think this one lacked anything to justify the heavy alcohol content. One for the mad Sco…

The Tracks of my Beers

Technology moves on at an ever increasing rate these days. No sooner have you splashed out on a radiogram only to see it quickly usurped by new-fangled transistors and music centres. The latest piece of groovy kit that is de rigueur is the Smartphone application.

This is a piece of electronic software tomfoolery that operates on your mobile telecommunications device. So instead of a map and compass, you can have sat-nav (satellite navigation) and instead of carrying your portable television everywhere, you can click on an app and watch TV on your phone. Some of these can be useful when searching for the most important of life’s essentials: where to find the nearest decent boozer and where to source a decent pizza, for example. Some claim to be educational and helpful; calorie counting, for instance, could prove helpful for the diet conscious. And now we have the NHS Drinks Tracker. This promises to quickly calculate your drink units, keep track of your drinking, and then give you pers…

Black Bull, Lowercroft Road

It’s always heartening to see an underperforming pub come good again. So has been the case with the Black Bull on Lowercroft Road. Once a thriving community local, a change in management led to this Thwaites house see a spiral decline in its fortunes, and the removal of real ale only hastened the process.

Now under the steerage of Chris & Christine McClung, late of the Rose & Crown in Ramsbottom, the pub has seen a marked improvement in all areas. A sympathetic refit has given it a light, contemporary feel, and real ale is back in a big way with the full Thwaites range and a guest beer.

Once word had got out that the BB was back in business, customers-local and otherwise, started to flock back. Beer quality is excellent and the food operation is also of a very high calibre. So much so that, unusually for a non-rural pub, diners pack it out midweek lunchtime. Having at last had the opportunity to try the food out myself, I can confirm the quality. My benchmark of homemade cheese…