About Me

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Manchester, United Kingdom
Tyson is a beer hound and cheese addict living in the beery metropolis paradise known as Manchester
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Prototype 17

Take 77 lager, Belgian yeast, several old single grain Scotch casks and some local Scottish raspberries. Mix together and you get Brewdog’s take on a Belgium fruit beer. But will it pass the Christmas Day Breakfast Beer test?

Basics: It’s a 33cl bottle, 4.9% and pours a very lively golden hue with a large white head. The aroma is promising; lots of citrus hops and ripe raspberries.

Taste: Medium bodied, the Belgium influence was evident throughout in the form of a slightly sour, dry bitterness that lingered on the palate. No sign of the sugar candy effect that bedevils some Belgium beers. Just plenty of tart raspberries that are matched by a good hop bitterness.

Finish: Dry, slightly sour.

Conclusion: I’ll confess to not knowing what the Scotch casks gave to this brew, but I liked it. It comes down just on the right side of tartness and slipped down very easily.

A good start to the day.

Merry Christmas

In this era of austerity, cuts and enforced reclycling, I present you with last year's season's greetings. Just substitute 2011 for 2010.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Scotch Ale

Basics: It’s 7.5% and is brewed with eight different malts and some honey thrown in for good measure. It poured a very dark brown, almost black, with good carbonation and a large tan head. The aroma was a strong belt of chocolate and caramel and a hint of smoke.

Taste: Quite rich. It’s a heady mix of bitter dark chocolate, caramel and toffee as the malts battle for dominance over the hops. There’s definitely some peat in there as well

Finish: Slight honey tinged dryness.

Conclusion: Presumably Brewdog’s take on an American Scotch Ale? It’s different enough to be distinguishable from its traditional counterpart, but it’s not really my cup of Brewdog. Still, if you like honey and malt sweetened beers; this may be the one for you.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What Price A Pub?

It’s no secret that pubs are having a hard time of it and have been for some time. There are various theories espoused for this, but one partial explanation is the behaviour of the pubcos themselves. Far from nurturing their assets, it seems that they far too often frustrate their licensees and put barriers in their way.

Whilst they stand accused of poor management and restrictive practices; they themselves act as coy and innocent as an Irish dairy maid. But what is the truth? Do they really mislead potential landlords as to the viability and potential of pubs before tying them up in punitive contracts? Or is it a case of caveat emptor?

Well, to try and find out, when the lease of a pub I know well came up for sale, I took myself along to the open day to discover just what Punch were offering. The Railway is located at the tail end of Ramsbottom. Its main asset is its proximity to the East Lancashire Railway which is particularly useful in summer and during special events. However, it’s struggled in recent years and a succession of licensees have failed to improve it.

Punch were, naturally enough I suppose, marketing it as “an exciting business opportunity”. They were asking for an initial investment of £17,953. This included items that I thought they should provide for free. For example, as they have a vested interest in the pub’s success, charging me the princely sum of £1,195 to go on their own training course seemed rather mean.

The annual rent was initially pitched at £16,076. However, it soon emerged that, realistically, this would actually be at least £23,027 as this was the minimum required to join the Punch Buying Club. The PBC is heavily promoted along the lines of offering free of tie options on wine, spirits and minerals, and a tied barrel discount of £100.

But to me, an equal incentive for joining the PBC would simply be access to rights that I would take for granted. You have to pay for the privilege, but it’s the only way to ensure that you are fully covered for repair costs. Interestingly the more you pay, the more rights you seem to acquire. So if you want to be free of the controversial beer flow monitoring system, then you can be; but your rent will be £35,172 a year.

What you don’t get for this large sum is the freedom to buy your cask beer from whom you choose. They don’t really have an explanation for this restriction. This is particularly disappointing given that they do mention the importance of cask ale in their promotional material about the Railway.

What you do get from the PBC is BOGOF on real ale. So you have one line tied to their product list, but the second one can be chosen from their Small Brewers list. Ramsbottom is very competitive in cask ale terms and for £35,172 a year, I would really expect to be able to pick the beers that I want. In the meantime, you were committed to taking 271 barrels a year from them.

But now to the real nitty-gritty. What are your expected annual earnings? Punch estimate £20,150, but were keen to stress that it could be considerably more. For example, they were projecting food turnover at £10,833 which possibly could be increased. Even so, and accepting that their figures aren’t optimistic, the returns for your hard graft seem minimal.

What did I make of the whole experience? They seemed overly enthusiastic as to the pub’s potential and any tricky questions were batted aside. They kept on stressing their professional support system. Not one, not two, but 16 (count ‘em) support teams. But the real impression you are left with is that they blind you with science and then take your money and run.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Blitz!

And now for something completely different. They tried, and failed, with Nanny State, but now they’re back with another low vol, high-hop beer.

Basics: It’s 2.8%. It poured deep amber with a medium beige head. The aroma was very promising: plenty of citrus and grapefruit and a little pine.

Not as thin as Nanny State-what could be-but still not very much body. The taste experience goes very quickly from zero to an explosion of rough, almost woody, resinous hops. There’s also a harsh bitterness that’s like biting into a bitter leaf that makes you wish you hadn’t.

Finish: Brief burst of woody bitterness.

Conclusion: Nanny State was just a mass of hops dumped into cold tea. This is much more accomplished with the feel of more than just a gimmick. However, the lack of depth to fulfil the early promise, and an unwelcome aftertaste means the search for a sessionable sub 3% beer continues.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Hops Kill Nazis

Basics: It’s 7.8%. That’s it. No other information is given. I did have this on draught several months ago, but a lot of piss has washed down the urinals since then, so I only have a vague memory of it.

It poured deep amber with low carbonation and a large beige head. The aroma was pungent: floral, spiced and citrus hops.

Silky smooth in body, it belies its strength. Completely unbalanced, hop aficionados will have no trouble picking out Chinook and Centennial as they are there in bucketloads. A sliver of malt tantalises you before the hops batter your tongue into submission. It's like 5am Saint on acid.

Finish: Long and bitter. Leaves you panting for more.

Conclusion: Do hops kill Nazis? Damn freakin’ right they do.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Meantime Yakima Red

Basics: This is 500ml and only 4% by alcohol; a veritable stripling by breakfast beer standards. It’s unpasteurised and gets its name from the Yakima Valley in Washington where the five different hops in the beer originate.
It’s copper in colour and had reasonable carbonation with a large off-white head. The aroma was a quite pungent mix of pine and grapefruit.
Taste: A light to medium body is packed with a level of hops you don’t usually get in a beer of this strength. Less pine than in the aroma, there is much more grapefruit and zesty citrus flavours. Not much evidence of malt at all. The pine eventually comes through and lies on the tongue.
Finish: Medium bitterness leaves the throat comfortably dry.
Conclusion: If you like your hops, but not your beer, strong, then you’ll enjoy this. Punching well above its weight, this American style IPA really is a breakfast treat

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Blood Money Booze

Giving blood is a worthy cause and a reward in itself. However, there’s a never ending demand and only so many willing donors. How then to encourage more people to donate? A PR company in Leeds thought they had come up with the perfect solution by offering teenagers free booze in return for their blood. Students would register online and, in return for their donations, would receive free samples of the 4% Turbo Shandy.

Sadly, a po-faced NHS spokesperson said that “they do not welcome or condone this sort of promotional activity.” Taking the hint, the promotion has now been dropped, But, apparently, there is a shortage in sperm donations, so...

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Rogue Brutal IPA

Basics: This is a man size 650ml bottle and is 5.8% in strength. The beer is brewed using three varieties of English malt: Pipkin, Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat. The only hop used is Oregon Crystal which is a triploid variety that combines the best of Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green.

It’s amber in colour with an off-white foamy head. The aroma was quite noticeable citrus; pineapple, grapefruit and some sweet malt.

Taste: Medium bodied, it appears very well balanced. The expected hop blast never happens. Not brutal, in the literal sense, at all. There is a good initial hop bite with clear citrus tones, but the biscuit malt soon comes through to tilt the scales. You're left with a quite mellow mix of malt and grapefruit.

Finish: Short blast of medium dryness.

Conclusion: An accomplished piece of complex brewing. Nicely balanced and easy to drink, this is a class act.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Two Out For The Count?

In less than seven days, doubt has been cast on the future of two of Bury’s pubs. In Ramsbottom, the onetime Good Beer Guide stalwart and corner pin of the Rammy crawl, the Good Samaritan, has been having extensive renovation work. And, despite earlier soundings suggesting a positive future, the reality looks somewhat different.

In a planning application to Bury Council, the Glasgow based owners have signalled their intent for the Peel Brow premises. And that is to operate it as a restaurant. Submitted plans signify toilets and kitchen downstairs and main dining on the ground floor. The previously private upstairs area is to accommodate overflow seating and a function room.

Meanwhile, the future looks even grimmer for the Bird I’Th Hand on Manchester Road. Another ex GBG pub, this mid-terrace boozer has been ordered to remain closed by the local authority licensing committee.

Originally closed voluntarily by Admiral Taverns after a number of complaints, the premises licence has now been withdrawn after an intervention by the police. This means that the pubco will have to reapply-basically start from scratch-if it wants to reopen the pub.

Sadly, history tells us that this is unlikely and it’s much more likely that Admiral will cut its losses. The terraced boozer is a dying breed; what with changing drinking patterns and new neighbours much less tolerant than in the past to have a public house as a neighbour.

What is frustrating in cases such as the BIH is that the licensing committee seems much less disposed to them than their town centre rivals. Community locals are quickly judged and dealt with harshly. Meanwhile, town centre licensed premises are given chance after chance. It’s almost as if they make more money for the authority?

British Guild Beer Writers Awards & Camden Brewery

London is a strange town. Or so the Jam said way back in 1979. And indeed it is. However, despite the early closing, congestion and lack of decent pizza, there are actually people who work and live there. And everyone from the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers to the British Guild of Beer Writers hold their piss-ups there.

So it was once again that I found myself wandering the lonely, mean streets of the Big Smoky with nothing in my pockets but hope and fortitude. Now, one has to make careful preparation before attending a function such as the BGBW awards. And, being one for correct form, I did my bit by having a little tour of the capital’s watering holes.

Conveniently, the Euston Cider Tap had just opened the previous week and I was the first in on that day. The very helpful barman kept me company until I was joined by some chirpy cockney sparrows newly arrived from Manchester. After sampling sparkling, still and some Normandy cider, the bonding was complete and I was soon telling them to, affectionately, "fack off, you slag."

But man cannot live by cider alone. I know. I’ve tried. So it was on to the main event.

British Guild Beer Writers Awards

But first things first. How did an old soak like me blag his way into the BGBW’s knees up? Well, like Garth Brooks, I have friends in low places... But obviously they couldn’t help me, so I had to go to the top.The very top. No problem, said Tandleman. Just mention my name.

So, my cunning plan was to doff my cap and present myself to the hotel saying Tandleman had sent me. And it worked. They welcomed me with open arms and I was ushered into the austere company of the great and the good. Ok, I had to don a waiter’s disguise and dish out amuse-bouches, but it got me in.

It was an interesting evening. Meeting people you only know from posters on your walls can often be intimidating, but everyone was too polite to tell me to fack off. And Jeff Pickthall never even mentioned sparklers once. There was a lively discussion on the relevance of cask, but all taken in good fun.

And, of course, there were winners to be announced. All deserved, no doubt, but sadly my prediction that Hardknott Sooty would sweep the board came to nought. That’s the last time I go into Ladbrokes pissed.

Best beers of the evening: Kernel (Brewer of the Year winner) and Wadworth Orange Peel. There was, naturally, more supping to be done afterwards, before the mad rush for takeout freebies began. The remaining hardcore, led by the rather marvellous Marverine Cole, moved the party downstairs to the ChinoLatino bar where fun was to be had until the wee small hours.

Staggering alongside the Thames later, I eventually remembered this was London. No wonder Tesco and the 24hr petrol station were closed. No chance of pizza or curry here. Dejectedly I returned to my abode. But my spirits quickly soared when I realised that one advantage of staying in a proper hotel was being able to acquire a Margherita at 0245. Well done to the Park Plaza.

Camden Town Brewery

Friday saw me reminded why I never get buses in London. Get a bus to Liverpool St Station, says Tandleman. A great idea-if you want time to grow a beard. Otherwise, forget it. And that was only the beginning of our travel woes.

However, we eventually reached our destination: the Camden Town Brewery. Here award-winning Mark Dredge, who I’d met the night before, was eager to show us his new toy. And very impressive it was too.

I’d imagined him brewing in a bathtub over a Camden pet shop. But no, this was state of the art stuff engineered and fitted by Germans. Whether you want the Sudetenland annexed or a state of the art brewery, those German lads will sort you out.

The Dredgester (or Dredgeinator-he’s still tweaking his nickname) turned out to be a great host. And we were soon joined by bloggers Mark from Beer Birra, Beer and Fletch from Real Ale Reviews.

A very jolly time ensued with Tandleman even boasting about just how much keg he’s drunk over the years. Just don’t tell the CAMRA secret police. We all took a shine to the nanokeg that fits in your backpack; you never need be without a drink again. Tandleman was sorely tempted to ring Mrs T to ask if they could adopt it.

What can be said about the beer other than it was excellent? Well, it’s filtered but unpasteurised. We even got to try their new Stout made with Northdown hops. And whilst not a fan of nitrokeg Stouts, their version clearly puts Guinness to shame and will do well, I’ve no doubt.

Their lager was light and refreshing but, even though it’s currently being tweaked, the Camden Pale was my favourite of the early sampling. However, we really were spoilt for choice with a hefe weizen making an appearance and a superb Belgian style Witbier.

A great afternoon out and thanks to Mark for arranging it and Mark(2) and Fletch for their company.