Showing posts from May, 2012

Heading for Size Zero

Anyone who thought the government were already taking the proverbial with their fantasy targets for alcohol consumption woke up this morning to some late April Fools’ Day news. Researchers are suggesting that the guidelines that dictate the number of alcohol units that adults can safely swig be revised downwards.

Yes, you heard it correctly. And not by a little, either. Currently government advice is that women should drink no more than two or three units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units a week. Men should imbibe no more than three or four units a day and no more than 21 units in a week.
However, in an article for BMJ Open, Peter Scarborough and three co-authors, all researchers in the department of public health at Oxford University, suggest a limit of half a unit a day. Now one unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Which is one 25ml single measure of whisky (40% ABV), or one third of a pint of beer (5-6% ABV) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (12% ABV)…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Buxton Tsar

Some people like to keep their bottled beers for months or even years before sampling their hidden delights. I, on the other hand, like to get it down my neck. Hence it will come as no surprise to find that this morning’s morsel is the recently acquired treat from Buxton Brewery.

It’s a 9.5% Imperial Russian Stout. Or so it claims. But is it really a Russian Imperial Stout? Beer geeks go confer. Either way, it’s bottle-conditioned. It poured black as night with a nice tan head. The aroma was powerful: lots of big roast flavours, chocolate and coffee.
The beer itself was lovely and thick. It was quite a smooth drinking experience which was surprising given the strength. Flavour wise; there’s plenty of roast, dark chocolate and liquorice in there. There’s also a good dose of hops that deliver a dry, bitter finish. I’m reminded of espresso as the full flavour hits the back of the throat. This is a complex, rich, beer that belies its strength. Easy to drink, it delivers flavour in spades an…


On a warm, light evening a not so young man’s fancy turns to beer. So it was rather convenient to find myself at the Port Street Beer House for the latest in their meet the brewer adventures. Convenient as it was Buxton, who are known for being rather good at this brewing lark.

Each brewer has a unique presentation style and the guys from Buxton chose an informal approach. Which worked well and suited me as, let’s face it, I’m only there for the beer. We did learn about how they have progressed as brewers over the years and about their plans to join the keg brigade. But, ultimately, we were there to try some beer.
Moor Top
This is a favourite of mine. A 3.6% Pale Ale that uses Chinook hops to deliver a crisp citrus bite. Delicious.
Buxton Best This is an interesting one. They didn’t want to produce just another “dull, brown Best”, so instead went down the experimental route. This amber ale is a blend of various malts and both English and American hops. And, crucially, rye.

It certainly po…

It's Your Round

And talking of cheap beer; if a pint of industrial fizz is your thing, then you should book a holiday to Tajikstan. Sure it’s got a poor human rights record and is some 3300 miles away, but the lager is cheap. 29p a pint cheap, in fact. Which is ten times cheaper than the average pint in the UK.

If a trip to central Asia doesn’t float your boat-and the buses from Manchester are pretty infrequent-then try Panama. There you’ll only pay 2p more at 31p a pint. Then there’s Bhutan (south Asia) at 36p and Burundi (Africa) at 37p.
However, the research by also reveals the places to avoid. Top of the list is Greenland where you can expect to pay £7.35 for your favourite tipple. And Norway and Qatar will both fleece you to the tune of £6.
To aid you choice of this summer’s holiday:
The cheapest 10 places
Tajikistan £0.29 - Panama £0.31 - Bhutan £0.36 - Burundi £0.37 - North Korea £0.38 - Madagascar £0.38 - Myanmar £0.38 - Rwanda £0.38 - Philippines £0.42- Congo £0.44
The most expensi…

It's the Booze wot done it

Booze shock: Alcohol puts a child under FIVE in hospital every week

This alarming headline screamed out of the newspaper at me. WTF? I was shocked. Even Mr **** the dodgy local off-licence retailer would draw the line at serving five year olds. And how could they reach the stuff anyway? But no, it wasn’t as entertaining as that. The silly season is upon us; phew what a scorcher etc. Although it never really went away as far as demonising alcohol in the media goes. When not trying to frighten people with ill-judged and downright false health statistics; it’s been blamed for everything from social disorder to the reason why the odds-on favourite in the 1530 at Chester races fell.
And of course, what better way to drum the anti-booze message home than through the plight of children. So we have this story. A child under five is taken to hospital every week after consuming alcohol, we are told. In six cases, they were actually under 12 months old.
These are worrying statistics, many would agre…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Jai Alai IPA

The arrival of that rarest of English commodities; the sunshine, ties in nicely with this morning’s morsel as it’s from the sunshine state. Yes, Cigar City Brewing are from Florida, home of Jim Morrison, Debbie Harry and Disneyland.

Its 12fl oz and is 7.5%. It poured light copper with a thick creamy head. The aroma was more delicate than I was expecting: a nice blend of citrus including grapefruit and tangerine. There is some pine, but also a little sweet malt.
The taste was similarly unexpected and followed the pattern of the aroma. There was no sudden hop explosion as is often the case with a lot in this genre. Instead there was a multi-layered feel to it. Citrus and tropical fruit up front with a carefully proportioned malt backbone balancing it out. The dry finish builds leaving a pleasing floral/pine aftertaste.
This is a solidly good performer. From the aroma, through the mouthfeel and onto the finish all demonstrates an accomplished level of brewing. It never tastes like 7.5% and …

Into the Valley

Beers to right of them, Beers to left of them, Beers in front of them
Sheffield: the valley of beers. So called for its abundance of choice of real ale. No fear of meeting the “usual suspects” in the hostelries of this part of South Yorkshire, but does choice equate to quality? There was only one way to find out.
The Sheffield Tap is well known to lovers of the beery stuff. Handily placed at Sheffield station, it offers a range of Thornbridge beers alongside a number of guest beers. A good start was made here with the choice of Thornbridge Kipling; lots of tropical hop flavours here to get the palate stimulated.
Then it was onto the Supertram. For those who care about such things, this is a proper tram and not the bastardised abomination that is the Metrolink. A conductor-yes an actual human being, will happily sell you a Dayrider (£3.90) which allows you unlimited travel on the tram and on Stagecoach buses.
The New Barrack Tavern is a classic, multi-roomed, old school-boozer. It still be…

The Winner Takes All

It was a case of another night, yet another award for the multi-awarding winning Hare & Hounds in Holcombe Brook last night. This time it was the turn of the Rochdale Oldham and Bury Branch of CAMRA to honour landlord Andy Grant by presenting him with the Bury Area Pub of the Year award.
A jolly time was had by one and all and well done to Andy and his better half Lynn. Their next beer festival starts on the 21st June: catch it if you can as it promises to be the best one yet. In the meantime, don't forget you now get 20p off a pint on production of your CAMRA card. You know it makes sense.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Evil Twin Cats Piss

Can you imagine something more repulsive than the smell of cats piss? Not really - go on, open up and inhale the sharp nose of cats piss extracted from the heavenly dry hopped Nelson Sauvin.

So reads the blurb for this morning’s little treat. Controversy has raged over the name; some people have condemned it as being in the Top Totty puerile name league, while others have jumped to its defence.
Can Johnny Foreigner “craft” get away with it and not the British bulldog? I don’t know, but hell I like it. Simply because it affords me the opportunity to tell everyone I meet today that I have had cats piss for breakfast.
This is a dry-hopped IPA from Denmark’s Evil Twin brewery. I believe that the guy behind it is the twin brother of the brewer at Mikkeller, hence the name. It’s a 33cl bottle and is 6.5%. It poured a very cloudy deep amber and was very lively; the head was nothing short of massive. Aroma was unmistakeably Nelson, with plenty of tropical fruit on the nose.
The taste was more o…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Green Flash Double Stout

It’s time to go to the dark side this morning with this black ale from San Diego’s Green Flash brewery. It’s a 355ml bottle and is 8.8% and rates a score of 45 on the IBU scale. It certainly poured well, with plenty of carbonation and a thick tan head. Black Stout by style and certainly black in colour; the aroma was more restrained than I was expecting. There’s some molasses/chocolate and some roast malt.
The mouthfeel was smooth. It’s definitely got a creamy edge and the initial taste was of sweet malt and chocolate. This gave way to more noticeable coffee flavours, but still quite balanced in nature. The alcohol, which you might expect to be more prominent, was kept well in check by the roast flavours. It finished with noticeable, but not overpowering, roast bitterness.
Overall this was a solid performer. Perhaps not the greatest ever example of an Imperial Stout, but if you’re a fan of this style; once it’s warmed up, there’s lot of enjoyment to be had sipping this one.

The Macc Lads

Saturday dawned bright and early and saw a large group of thirsty imbibers launch a full scale raid over the border into Cheshire. Macclesfield and Bollington and all lands in-between, to be precise.

First stop was the Egerton Arms in Chelford. This was originally built as a 16th century coaching inn and formed part of Lord Egerton’s estate. The family sold it and it eventually became part of the Chef & Brewer chain before returning to private ownership in 2009. It’s the local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year and stocks a number of local ales alongside Bombardier and Golden Pippin.
Next up we had three hours to try and do justice to Macclesfield. Macc has long had a reputation for its density of pubs. However, in recent times, as elsewhere, both pub companies and family brewers alike have streamlined their estates. But here, unlike most places elsewhere, this has led to the vacant pubs being snapped up and transformed into free houses by keen individuals. This has totally changed the t…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

It’s a long day ahead and what better way to prepare than with a quickie to wash away the Friday night blues. Or should that be the Friday night booze? Anyway, the beer randomiser has thrown up this little doozie by Great Divide brewery of Colorado.

It’s a 355ml bottle and tips the scales at an impressive 10%. Well, I suppose it is a double IPA. It poured a deep amber with little carbonation and a tiny tan head. The aroma was surprisingly subdued. Or more accurately, well balanced. There is plenty of pine hops here, but also caramel and toasted malt.
Taste wise, there’s the expected punch of pine and herbal hop: it registers 85 on the IBU scale, after all. But there’s also a complex, powerful malt backbone that complements the hops. The high alcohol content is masked incredibly well.
In a beer of half its strength, the smooth finish and balanced hop bite would be unremarkable. In a beer of 10%, it points to some serious brewing skill. This is a surprisingly easy to drink beer. And whil…

Here Kitty Kitty

How long before the exception becomes the norm? I recently found myself pondering (not for the first time, it has to be said) this sociological conundrum after observing some unusual drinking patterns. Unusual, that is, in the context of my drinking world.

The Tyson drinking model is of a traditional nature. Rounds are entered into and everyone involved knows the unwritten rules that underpin this fine English institution. This unspoken knowledge also prevents the round getting too large (law of diminishing returns) or individual abuse (fear of social exclusion) for example.
Now kittys are not an unknown phenomenon in drinking circles. They have their place in certain circumstances and are used for the Jolly Boys outings. There is, of course, always the one who doesn’t want to be part of the group and prefers to be on their own. See Tommy in Early Doors for illustration.
However, in my experience, kittys are the exception to the rule. Certainly I don’t tend to encounter them on ordinary …

Brewdog v Diageo

Brewdog: they just won’t go away, will they? The latest press coverage concerns their attendance at the 2012 BII Scotland Annual Awards and their subsequent non-award. Allegedly. And, shock horror, this may actually be PR that they haven’t engineered. Whatever next? Or then again...well it is Brewdog. You can decide for yourself after reading about BD’s allegations here.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog HBC

And so to the last in the IPA is Dead range. Surprisingly this is not named after HSBC’s stock symbol on the New York Stock Exchange, but a new type of hop. So new that it hasn’t got a proper name yet, but is called Hope Breeding Company after the guys who brought us Simcoe.

It poured light amber with good carbonation and a very small off-white head. The aroma was very pleasant: plenty of tropical fruit-passion fruit and pineapple in particular. The body seemed quite light and the mouthfeel was tangy. I got plenty of passion fruit, mandarin and mango in the taste with a medium bitterness level and a good, dry resinous finish.
I liked this. It was full of juicy flavours and delivered a clean tasting, interesting IPA. More fruity and tangy than bitter, the fruit sugar element does very well in disguising the alcohol level. I can see this working in combination with other hops, but here it stands proudly on its own.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brewdog Challenger

Keeping up the Brewdog theme, I decided to kick off the working week with the third in their series of IPA is Dead single hop beers. Once again the basics are the same as the first beer, so the faces stay the same, but the focus changes to Challenger.

Challenger is very much the quintessential English hop and is a favourite dual-purpose hop for many brewers of traditional Bitters. The beer poured amber with little carbonation and a small off-white head. The aroma was pungent: an earthy hop smell with some pepper and toffee.
The body was light-medium and unmistakably Challenger in taste. There’s a lot of earthy hop bitterness, pepper and tea flavours here. You do get a good blast of bitter aftertaste, but it’s all a bit one-dimensional. It may be a good bittering hop, but let loose like this reveals Challenger’s limitations.
So, they’ve obviously packed a hell of a lot of Challenger into this, but is bigger necessarily better? Not on this evidence; it may handle its isolated exposure bett…

@Brewdog Manchester

Yes, you heard right. It’s here. The phenomenon that is Brewdog has finally arrived in the nation’s capital; well you can’t take Borisland seriously, can you? Having been knocked back on their original plans to open in the Northern Quarter, they have ended up more somewhat more central in Peter Street.

Thursday evening saw the press invited to have a look around and taste some of their wares. With all the beautiful people there, naturally I felt right at home. Actually there was a high level of non-CAMRA beardies there-I blame the Port Street boys for trying to make beards look cool. Which they aren’t, obviously.
The place was certainly very busy. I suppose that’s to be expected when word got round that I would be there. It’s quite compact and very much in the now customary utilitarian Brewdog style. The small mezzanine level adds a nice touch and offers a good viewing platform, but I prefer the layout of their Camden bar. Smokers and al fresco drinkers are catered for by a drinking ar…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Fullers Mighty Atom

This is the latest venture in my ongoing quest to find that elusive “thirst-quenching” game-changing sub 3% beer. This one promises no less than five hops that should give us floral grapefruit and plum notes, but with a spicy overtone. It sounds good, but can it walk the walk?
It’s a half litre bottle and is the now de rigueur 2.8%. It’s copper coloured and had medium carbonation with a small off-white head. The aroma was pleasant enough; dough and sweet malt. Mouthfeel was, I suppose not unexpectedly, light. The beer is thin and it’s hard to disguise that.
There is definitely some bitterness there that raises hopes, but it never really gets going. That initial tingle dies off and ultimately you’re left with the impression of a watery beer. The slightly dry aftertaste is a false dawn. So, promising initially and far from being the worst of its type but, like them all so far, it fails at the last hurdle.
The search goes on.

In My Liverpool Home Pt 2: It's Not the Leaving of Liverpool

In Liverpool all police stations with cells were known as bridewells. Hence the Liverpool One Bridewell in Campbell Square where Charles Dickens was made a special constable for a day in 1860 whilst researching a novel. It’s an interesting concept that failed under its original guise as Colin’s Bridewell. It’s vastly improved now under the ownership of the Liverpool One Brewery and stocks a good range of their beers.

The Grapes on Roscoe St in the Georgian Quarter mixes the old and the modern very well in a very small space. The bar is literally crowded with nine handpulls, but quality didn’t seem to be an issue. Nor was it in the Blackburne Arms or the Caledonian. Even better was to be had in one of my favourites; the Grade 11 listed Belvedere.
We were on the home stretch now, but felt obliged to call in at the historic Philharmonic. Everyone always goes on about the toilets here, but it’s the beer I’m interested in. Luckily since the Nicholsons group took it over, quality has improved…