Showing posts from 2013

Merry Christmas


Christmas Eve Breakfast Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Saison

It’s Christmas Eve and so why not kick off this very traditional day with a very traditional drink? Well, traditional if you’re from Belgium or France, perhaps. But it is made by one of our own brewing upstarts, so it is as English as apple pie. It’s actually part of the Weird Beard single hop series which gives them a chance to play around with various styles using, you guessed it, a single hop. In this case; Nelson Sauvin.
It’s 500ml and bottle-conditioned. Now it’s styled as a Farmhouse Saison which I always think of as weaker, but in fact a lot of them are stronger: this one is 5.6%. It was very lively and poured golden with a large off-white head. The aroma was spiced yeast, honey and a little mango. Taste wise it delivered a good Saison kick of floral spice and some tart fruit flavours that led to a medium/fruity dry finish.

Tyson says: Does what it set out to. Recommended for the Saison fans.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Beavertown Smog Rocket

After last night’s party excesses; no more reindeer hats, please, it’s time to steady the ship. London’s Beavertown have made an impact on the micro-brewing scene and won over a new legion of fans with their meet the brewer night at PSBH. With their Gamma Ray being one of the beery highlights of the year, it’s time to shake off the cobwebs with Smog Rocket, their smoked Porter.
This is a 330ml bottle-conditioned little number and weighs in at 5.4%. It poured very dark brown with good carbonation and settled down to have a medium tan head. The aroma was very pungent: lots of dark chocolate, damsons, a strong burst of roast malt and most definitely a healthy dose of peatiness. The beer itself was quite heavy and felt nearer 7% than 5%.

Taste wise there was a little spice and some hops, but mainly all of the aroma but in spades. It felt like chain smoking had been encapsulated in a beer with the finish leaving an unpleasant half-lit cigarette tang in the back of the throat. Any balance…

Golden Pints (Live)

Well it’s that time of year again when the great and not-so-good dish out the awards for the year’s best offerings. In something of a pilot experiment I’m doing mine whilst out drinking as (a) everything, except driving, is better that way and (b) it’s a good excuse for any memory lapses. So before I spill another drop of my Hawkshead, I proudly present...

Best UK Cask Beer: Oakham Citra. An easy choice as I’m using the simple criteria of what I’ve supped the most of and enjoyed the most.

Honourable mentions must go to Allgates, Arbor, Buxton, Hawkshead, Magic Rock and Summer Wine who continue to set the standard. Also as one-offs, the Wetherspoons American beers have produced some crackers: Stone Supremely Self Conscious Ale and Devils Backbone Eight Point IPA were outstanding.

Best UK Keg: Ooh, this is tough. Either Summer Wine and their Devil Loves series or Summer Wine Diablo. Or maybe Beavertown Gamma Ray. Or possibly the Harbour Pale Ale series. Christ, if I know.

Best UK Bottle/C…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Thwaites Big Ben

Hot on the heels of local brewery Ramsbottom Craft yesterday, today we see us move just up the road to Lancashire proper. Daniel Thwaites should need no introduction-well I’m not going to give them one-as they’ve been a presence on the brewing scene since before even Big Brother started. They’ve stepped up to the plate in recent times to meet the challenge of the emerging craft beer scene and have produced some excellent specials on their in-house micro-brewery. This beer is part of their Crafty Dan range and aims to carve a place for them in the lucrative take home market.
It’s a craft sized 330ml and is a 5.8% Brown Ale. The packaging is excellent and the label tells you all you need to know: the hops (Fuggles, Goldings, Challenger, Citra, Chinook, Summit), the malt (Pale Ale & Crystal), the brewer (John Williams) and even the recipe (LBA14, in case you were wondering). It poured lighter, more ruby, than a true Brown Ale: to be expected with the malts involved. There was good c…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Lanky Stout

Dark nights. Dark days, in fact. No, I’m not talking about the state of the country but, as usual, beer. Yes, with winter nights drawing in, the taste buds have had been trying a few more than usual from the dark side.And so to this morning’s little offering. No help from Santa required It’s a 500ml, bottle-conditioned, ‘White Label’ pressing and promises to be a “Lancashire Stout with New Zealand hops.” Sounds fun.
It poured nice and dark with only a little light passing through. That’s always a good sign as too many so-called Stouts are transparent. This had good carbonation and settled to having a small tan head. The aroma was a balance of roast, dark chocolate and some dried fruit. It was medium bodied and had a smooth, almost silky texture. Roast flavours came through but were matched by presumably the NZ hops to give a dry, slight fruity finish. Tasty and easy to drink.

Tyson says: A well-balanced and accomplished Stout with a twist.


York is one of the top destinations for real ale in the country and has a fantastic array of old and new boozers to keep you entertained. Just when you think they couldn’t fit anymore in, they do. As it doesn’t take much to get me drinking there, the opening of 2 new outlets was reason enough. Throw in a Jolly Boys outing and the day was set for merriment and profligate consumption.
The obvious place to start and finish a crawl is the Station Tap. Handily located at the, erm, station, this former tearoom is now a real ale Mecca with no less than 18 handpumps. Frankly it’s tempting to stay there all day, but then that wouldn’t be a crawl would it? We had to show some of the old geezers the Minster Inn with its multi-roomed layout to remind them of their youth. This is a classic pub where it’s all about the ambience rather than the beer; which is sadly just Marstons.
Another classic is the Blue Bell which no trip to York is complete without a visit to. Don’t bother looking in the GBG…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ramsbottom Craft Fuggly Do

It’s Christmas. Or so the continuous cacophony of Yuletide tunes that have assaulted my eardrums in Tesco for months, tells me. Time to check Santa’s sack and drink some mediocre Christmas themed brown beers? Bah humbug. I think not. Let’s carry on as usual seeking justice, liberty and fine ale. And as I’m off today, I thought I’d start by a dip in the beer randomiser. That’s the big box under the stairs, in case you were wondering.
And that brings us to Fuggly Do. A “white label” beer. What’s that, I hear you echo. Well a white label record is a test pressing and something of a rarity that is prized by collectors. Matt at Ramsbottom Craft seems to have brought this philosophy to beer and describes this series as when a “batch is so small that printing labels is too costly to consider.” So, a bit of a collector’s item. Perhaps it is Christmas. But will it be Christmas cheer or Christmas fail?

It’s a 500ml bottle-conditioned 4.2% beer. It poured very lively and settled down to an appea…

Local News

It’s nice to have a bit of positive local news to report. And while both the town centre Wetherspoons continue to dip in form; there’s a new kid, or should that be monkey, in town. The Monkey House Brewery Inc is situated on Silver St and brings a welcome cask outlet not only to the Silver St crawl but to the town centre generally. This one-roomed bar has something of the Belgian brown bar about it and while it is a work in progress, the early signs are promising. Three handpumps adorn the bar and all three, including the house beer, are from the Marstons stable. However, it is free of tie and this may well change in the future. The manager is very keen and so is the pricing. £2 a pint during the week had even Uncle Albert singing its praises. One to watch.
Meanwhile the refurbishment of the Greene King estate continues its roll-out. The Wellington on Bolton Road has been done and the good news is that part of the makeovers seems to be an expansion of the guest beer policy. Black She…

Turn That TV Off Now

Do not watch this advert. It will warp your mind. You will lose all grounding in reality and enter some alternative reality.

So say the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) anyway. The advert, part of the Let There Be Beer campaign, funded by the Coalition of UK Brewers, was found guilty on four counts of breaching the ASA's code.. That the ad implied alcohol could contribute to an individual’s popularity, that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success, for portraying alcohol as indispensable and that drinking could overcome problems. Not convinced? Watch it again. You can clearly see that that alcohol accounts for the lad’s confidence when meeting his girlfriend’s father. And alcohol is blatantly behind the office worker’s relaxed attitude to a mountain of work. Imagine the damage that could be done if office workers throughout the land aped this approach.
Now the Coalition of UK Brewers, which represents the ad’s creators AB InBev, Carlsberg UK, Heineken UK, Miller …

Is The Reinheitsgebot A World Treasure?

A few eyebrows were raised on the news that the German Brewers Union have submitted a bid to have the Bavarian purity law designated a UNESCO world cultural treasure. Probably because when one thinks of UNESCO and heritage, images such as Stonehenge tend to come to mind. However, UNESCO expanded its remit in 2008 to include things such as customs and traditions. And this is where the purity law, the so-called Reinheitsgebot, comes in.
According to the statue, first enacted in 1516, only water, barley and hops are to be used in brewing. The president of the Brewers Union, Hans-Georg Eils, said: “It is thanks to the beer purity law that Germany, up until today, is unchallenged as a beer nation. It guarantees purity, quality and salubriousness.” Of course this is nonsense as the purity law actually allows for (perhaps understandably) yeast as well as things such as wheat malt, cane sugar and no longer allows the use of unmalted barley.
The measure probably had more to do with controlling …

And The Winner Is

Congratulations to Kaserei Champignon who have emerged victorious at the World Cheese Awards. In an amazing feat their entry, Montagnolo Affiné, a creamy blue cheese, not only scooped first place but second as well. It had been entered into two different classes and when judges re-judged, tasted and voted the final 15 Super Golds, the cheese came both first and second. Now Germany isn’t usually classed as being in the premier league of cheese making; so this award is very significant.
John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food, organiser of the competition, said: “After 25 years of the World Cheese Awards this is the first time that a cheese made in Germany has won the top honour.Our judges were united in their praise for the Montagnolo Affiné with one judge describing the cheese as ‘visually beautiful with a soft blue grey bloom and melt in the mouth, velvety flavour’.This is a very worthy winner from an accomplished cheesemaker.” David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery in the USA, one of th…

Mild No More?

In a riposte to yesterday’s bad news cheese story, it was good to read recently that sales of quality cheese are up while the dreaded “mild” variety is seeing a slump in popularity. Yes craft cheese, just like craft beer, seems to be winning over a new generation of fans. Mild cheddar, that polythene-wrapped monstrosity of rubbery-blandness, has long been the cheese of choice for the casual buyer. But figures from Mintel show that it has seen a 6% fall in sales over the last year. It now accounts for just £161m of the total £2.6bn cheese market. Over the same period, sales of extra mature have risen an impressive 12% (hooray) while blue (14%) and continental (10%) have also seen impressive rises.

So what lies behind this switch of allegiance? It seems that customers are simply seeking more flavour. Just as Mexican is tipped to become the nation’s top cuisine of choice, cheese buyers are also becoming more adventurous. Fewer than one in five of those questioned by researchers said a mil…

EU Takes A Bite Out Of Cheese Awards

Today marks the start of the World Cheese Awards. Held annually as part of the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC, it’s a true box of delights for the dedicated cheese lover. Over 1000 square metres of display encompasses nearly 3000 entries, 79% of which are from outside the UK. Make no mistake, when they say it’s the biggest in the world; that’s no lie. And with 80,000 consumers expected to try a nibble or two, everything was looking rosy. But no, there looks to be a fly in the curd that threatens not only this year’s event but future ones as well.
The underlying cause, according to the organisers, is a new Brussels directive. They have appealed to the Food Standards Agency to help overturn the EU ruling that prevents Japan, South Africa and several countries from South America, including Brazil, importing cheese to compete in this year’s Olympics of cheese. But the real problem may simply be DEFRA, which is following the strict letter of the law of the EU directive. The directive follows…

Those Were The Days

Mass Observation was a social research organisation founded in 1937 to record the minutiae of daily life in Britain. Its army of around 500 volunteers kept diaries, answered questionnaires and, somewhat controversially by today’s standards, recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in and out of work. A bit like the NSA, really. This went on until the 1950s when it was discontinued and then restarted in 1981. Although methodologically dubious: its surveyors were hardly representative of the populace as a whole, it does offer some fascinating insights. Its archive resides with the University of Sussex and it has recently moved to a custom-built, climate-controlled centre called The Keep.
To commemorate this move, several snippets were made available to the press. One immediately caught my attention. In 1938 one of the questions they wanted the answer to, for reasons lost in time, was what was the average supping time for a pint? One could only imagine that this was at the behest of …


Cologne: so good they named it twice. Köln, as the Germans insist on calling it, is a bustling city. Still scarred from the effects of WW11-the rebuild seems never ending-it boasts a famous cathedral and, no doubt, some other cultural highlights. However, the important question is, as always, is it worth visiting? That means, of course, what’s it like for a drink? The good news is that it scores well in that regard. Yes, I like Köln. If Dusseldorf is the older, steady brother, then Köln is its slightly rebellious younger sibling. Of the two, I’d prefer to be having a nightcap in Köln rather than facing another Alt in Dusseldorf. The drink of choice in Köln is Kölsch which just happens to be the name of the local dialect. At one time Köln could boast the most breweries of any city in Germany. But although the brands live on, most of the breweries have closed. The remaining brewers each produce a Kölsch subtly different from their rivals and, as in Dusseldorf, everyone will have their fa…

Ratinger & Wuppertal

Ratingen is a town located just 7.5 miles to the northeast of Dusseldorf. Fun fact of the day: it’s twinned with Cramlington, Northumberland. But its main appeal lies in two areas; one is that having suffered very little wartime damage, it retains a number of interesting old buildings. The second is that it’s a virtual microcosm of the Dusseldorf beer scene, with several of the breweries having pubs here. As always, Ron Pattinson has been there first and you can read his review here. One amendment to note is that the Diebels am Markt now appears to be a Lowenbrau outlet but is still worth a visit. There is the Ratinger Brauhaus but common consensus was that the Schlüssel Brauereiausschank "Zu den drei Königen" was the best. This is a smart, well run establishment where you can sit at the bar and chat with the very amiable Serbian barman. Wuppertal. So good they named it once. To be fair, it’s surrounded by greenery. However, the city itself looks quite dismal and seems to hav…


Dusseldorf is the capital of North-Rhine Westphalia and a major industrial and financial centre. It’s also, apparently, the fashion hub of Germany. But for our purposes, its real fame lies with its beer. Ok it’s just one beer-no claim to be the craft beer capital of Europe here-Alt. But avoid the malt gloop clones and stick with the quality stuff and a glass or two isn’t the worst way to pass time. And there are certainly some decent pubs in which to drink it. Indeed, the Alstadt in Dusseldorf lays claim to be one mighty pub crawl, albeit not all of them great ones.

We certainly covered all the bases on our weekend in the Fatherland. A good starting point is any one of the four Dusseldorf brewers still producing a distinctive Alt. Ueriga is a very famous one and their brewery tap is well known and not just because Auf Wiedersehen Pet used the back room for filming. It’s what you’d expect from a German boozer; think olde-world Sam Smith charm with plenty of character. And character…

Another Brewery For Bury

It’s a well-known fact that Bury is the brewing capital of the UK. The air is heavy with malt and hops as out mighty breweries work tirelessly to quench the thirst of the working man. You might think the last thing we need is another brewery, but you’d be wrong. After all, you can’t have too many breweries. So, in a move that can only cement Bury’s reputation, Silver St Brewing Co have launched their first beer. Based in the so-to-be-opened Clarence pub on (wait for it) Silver St; this is labelled 001 and tells you that it's a light ale.. It’s made with NZ hops and is a pale 4% beer that has a good, dry, bitter finish. Very promising, I have to say. Look out for their beers at the upcoming Bury Beer Festival.


Beer festivals. You either love ‘em or you’re a bit weird. I mean they are the only legal thing that you can do without feeling guilty that you should be in the pub. Ok maybe one of two things. But back to IndyManBeerCon. This beer festival, that had its premier last year, was back. Back in the splendour of the Victorian Baths, but bigger and better. Yes, it wasn’t just their abbreviation that had been upgraded. The whole festival had been supersized. But bigger isn’t necessarily better; so how did it fare?

The basic setup was the same as last year. Entry was by advance ticket only and once inside tokens, equivalent to 50p and £1, were purchased in batches of £10. This year, however, the festival had expanded to take in Thurs-Sun sessions with a varying rota of beers for each day. To accommodate this, more use of the Baths was made with bars in Rooms 1-3 and Magic Rock holding court in the Turkish Bath room. I thought this an excellent layout with the live music, which was pretty good …