Beer drinker, beer brewer and lover of all things beer.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Witches Up in Arms it Must be Halloween

This article in Indyposted tells us of how American Microbrewers 'The Lost Abbey' have enraged Wiccan groups with labels for their 'Witches Wit' beer. The label depicts a witch being burnt at the stake during the Salem witch trials of the 17th century. The label has caused a stir as there are many practising witches who take offense at what they believe is offensive to their faith. Are they being over sensitive as most of us see witches as something from fairytales and not a serious subject to be concerned with. Or do they have the right to be offended as they feel they have the same standing as main stream religions and should receive the same respect they command. Personally I think they have their broom sticks stuck up their arses. I don't think the Lost Abbey are too upset by the storm they have caused as this just gives them publicity and it has never hurt Brewdog to be controverisal. Check out Lost Abbey's site:

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Wetherspoons Ale & Cider Festival

The much maligned 'spoons starts one of their beer festivals on Wednesday 27th October running till Sun 14th November. 'Spoons pubs aren't everyones cup of tea but I have always been a fan personally. In town centres where you can struggle to find outlets selling Real Ale a 'Spoons always comes up trumps with a good selection of Cask Ales all at a great price.
This festival will feature 50 different beers from as far afield as the USA and Sri Lanka. There is a real range of styles including bavarian lagers, wheat beers, a double espresso scottish stout and a chocolate ale. Top brewers such as Thornbridge, Samuel Adams, Titanic and Brewdog are featured.
Many of the beers are brewed especially for the festival and many others aren't likely to appear at your average boozer. The festival is celebrating it's 20th anniversary and I feel it's a great advert for quality ale that will hopefully carry on for another 20 years. For more info click on this link :

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Free Beer!

I have finally arrived as a blogger it is all worthwhile now I have received a free bottle of beer! Ok it would be sad if that was all I did it for but it is certainly a nice perk. It is certainly a bonus if you thoroughly enjoy the beer aswell.

Cumbrian Legendary Ales

The beer was sent to me by the wonderful people at the Old Hall Brewery where Cumbrian Legendary Ales are brewed.
Cumbrian Legendary Ales was launched in June 2006 by David and Liz Newham with their partners David and Gill Frost. In March 2009 Roger and Helen Humphreys, owners of the Loweswater Brewery acquired the business. Production continues at the Old hall Brewery under the supervision of experienced head brewer Hayley Barton. The brewery is in an idyllic setting in renovated barns at Esthwaite Old Hall on the Graythwaite Estate near Hawkshead in the Cumbrian Lake District.

Croglin Vampire
Sightings of this Dopplebock are as rare as sightings of the Croglin Vampire itself. Taking it's name from the legend of a vampire from 17th century Cumbria, this dark Munich lager is an unusual and pleasantly surprising offering from the north west brewers. At a hefty 8% this is not a beer to be necked (get it vampire - neck! ah forget it) but savoured like a fine wine or brandy. This ruby red beer is all about it's layers of malt. There is caramel on the nose with an element of blackcurrant or berries. The palate is met with toffee and treacle and light spiciness. There is also nuttiness evident and the overall feel is more of a sherry than a beer. The finish has a touch of apple and is slightly sharp. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy but not cloying. This is a warming beer and would be great on a dark cold evening. Great effort that I hope I come across again, I score 4 out 5.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Back The Pub

The Government are currently reviewing taxation on alcohol and the outcome of this review will no doubt have a great impact on beer drinkers and the future of pubs in the UK.
With an average of 30 pubs closing in the country every week it is critical the government get it right. We all must use our voices to tell the powers that be that we are sick of the constant tax increases on beer and that they must protect the British institute that is the pub. You can do your bit by contacting your local MP via this link : Back the Pub

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Gone for a Burton Part 2

After leaving Marstons my next destination was the Burton Bridge Inn for some lunch and a pint. I had made enquiries about a tour of the Burton Bridge brewery but was told that they only made group bookings, I suppose I wasn't going to get the personal treatment twice in one day! My cheese sandwich took a suprisingly long time to arrive but as the barman was keeping himself fit by running aup and down the stairs to collect the food orders I doubt the kitchen was staffed by more than one chef. The sandwich was washed down by a pint of Burton Bridges Sovereign Gold. A straw coloured ale with citruis and caramel on the nose. Very fruity on the palate with more than moderate bitterness. Light in body with a dry refreshing finish. This ale slid down nicely and gave a good impression of Burton Bridge as a brewer of quality ales.
My next destination was the National Brewery Centre, a ten minute walk up Horninglow street. The site which was originally the Bass Museum re-opened on the first of May in a joint venture between Planning Solutions and Molson Coors. The centres closure in 2008 prompted action from the local CAMRA group along with local councillors to get the centre re-opened. It was worth while as this is a gem of an attraction. Staff are all decked out in Victorian dress to add the nostlgia experience. As you enter the museum you are taken through the brewing process with short films, exhibits and artefacts demonstrating the process of making beer that is still in essence the process used today. As you follow the signs you are taken through suprisingly many different rooms and buildings with hundreds of different displays. These include a massive scale model of Burton from 1921 when the town was still the brewing capital. There is a shed with working steam engines and array of vintage vehicles used by the brewing industry. There are a couple of resident Shire horses but they are rather lively to say the least so I wouldn't recommend trying to pet them. The tour ends in the mock Edwardian pub where you can use your tokens to sample the beers on offer. You could waste these small tasters on some of the Coors lager offerings but you would be a fool. On offer was the smooth and delicious Worthington White Shield and the golden hoppy Worthington E. These beers have been revived by the much respected Steve Wellington who brews them at the museum microbrewery. I went on to the Brewery Tap restaurant/bar after and had a pint of Red Shield a lighter more sessionable version of the White Shield. My last two tokens were used on the much vaunted Imperial P2 stout. This complex 8% offering delivers quite a kick and would be a challenge to consume more than a half. This multi-layered stout is a master of the style but it's a style that is a bit too far for me as the alcohol level is too evident in the taste for me.
After leaving the centre and stepping into the fresh air I felt the P2 stout (and all the other beers) going to my head a little and I needed to clear it before returning to the train station and attempting to get on the correct train home. I took a walk back down Horninglow street to check out some more of Burton's historic brewing related buildings.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Gone For a Burton Part 1

I arrived in Burton upon Trent after my first train trip in many years (my chauffeur wasn't available due to work commitments, I prefer the luxury beer angel usually affords me but needs is must!) Stepping out of the train station there is a sense of history in the air straight away with buildings on the horizons that would have found their birth in Burton's golden era. 
Although Burton has been hit as hard as anywhere in the country for pub closures you still don't have to walk more than 100 yards to find a boozer in the centre of town. Beer is in the soul of this town.
A 15 minute walk took me to the Martson's Albion brewery on Shobnall rd. This Victorian brick building built originally by Mann Crossman and Paulin dominates the skyline and gives you a vision of days gone by. After exiting Shobnall rd on to the site I was welcomed by a friendly if somewhat rough round the edges security guard. Till this point I was unsure if I had come to the correct point as signage was limited. Directed to the visitors entrance I was greeted by the lovely Lesley Sweeney. A Burtonian herself Lesley is fiercely proud of the towns brewing history and the Albion brewery's place in that history. I was expecting a guided tour with a group of six others. I was informed that they had cancelled at the last minute. I felt slightly uncomfortable but very privileged that the tour would continue for me solely. I was given a more in-depth tour than Lesley usually has time to give and benefited greatly from the personal treatment. 
The name of Marstons is rooted deeply in the history of the brewery if not in the current ownership. John Marston started brewing in 1834 but Marston's (& Thompson) acquired  the Albion brewery in 1890 fromMann Crossman and Paulin. Marston's are not the most popular brewing company amongst beer aficionado's largely due to their takeovers of Wychwood and Ringwood. The company is what was once Wolverhampton and Dudley breweries but the Albion brewery is very Marston's, a brewery steeped in history. A brewery that was thankfully kept alive after the take over by W&D. The irony is the buyout was prompted by moves by Marston's to buy out W&D!
Wolverhampton & Dudley had the good sense to to change their trading name to Marston's and use the provenance that the Burton link brought. The site in Burton is piece of living history has fortunately been kept alive. This is no sterile 21st entity. The equipment being used comes from a natural progression through better brewing processes and advancements that meets the demand. Oak edged mash tuns and decades old coppers have been replaced with stainless steel but these date back to the 1960's from another acquisition. The truth is the Marston's brewery wouldn't survive if it didn't improve and advance and these stainless steel monsters are a beautiful creation of our time. My only criticism is the Mash tuns and coppers that are no longer being used have been neglected when they should be pampered and polished as a proud reminder of their part in the history of Marston's.
I was very fortunate to have my visit on a Wednesday as I got to see the Burton union in it's full bubbling frothy glory. This system of fermentation was widely used in Burton and was a major advancement  in brewing at it's birth in 1830. Pedigree is the only ale left to be fermented in this manner and it is important factor in creating the character of the beer. The rows of vats with the frothy barm were a compelling sight with a strong temptation to go for a dip, that would be my kind of foam party!
The tour concluded at the bottling line. This segment of the tour didn't create the magic that the other processes created but it was still a sight to be marvelled. Long lengths of track carried thousands of bottles as they were filled, capped, sterilised, labelled and boxed. Millions of bottles run along these tracks every week and there was surprisingly few staff needed to run it. This sort of efficient production would have blown the minds of John Marston and his colleagues. Bottles not making the weight were discarded in to containers. It was heart breaking to see such waste but the percentage of loss was a small fraction of the volume that flowed out successfully. 
Once the tour had come to an end I was taken to the mock bar which is decked out in Marston's breweriana. I was given the obligatory sampling of Marston beers that all good tours should end with. On the menu was obviously Pedigree along with Oyster stout and their guest ale for the month Royal Ryder. Oyster stout is a very smooth easy drinking stout with a good balance of sweetness against the bitterness of the roasted malts. Royal Ryder is a pale session ale with creamy texture and a light hoppiness which suited the lovely summery day we was having.
Lots of bodies started milling around as a conference was being held in the function room. Lesley was successfully balancing being the hostess to the exec's looking for a bit of lubrication and talking to me by including me in conversations. She was having a conversation with a gentleman about oak aged beers and I piped in with how I had a new love for such beers, what a great innovation they were and how I liked the beers from Innis & Gunn. Lesley then informed me that the gentleman was actually Crawford Sinclair DIrector of sales at Innis & Gunn. You can imagine I was glad that I had been praising his beers and not the opposite!
All in all I had a great time and left with a positive image of Marston's in Burton which was in small measure down to Lesley and I am sure I will return agin one day in the future to see how the Albion brewery changes if at all.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Downtown Chimera IPA

Downtown brewery is a micro based unsuprisingly in Downtown, a large ancient village just outside of Salisbury in Wiltshire. Founded by and ran soley by Martin Strawbridge  who learnt the trade in a six month stint at the Hop Back brewery. Martin kept close ties with Hop Back leasing equipment from them in Downtowns early days and initially selling his beers exclusively through them. The brewery has grown to a 60 barrel a week output and half of there sales are now off their own backs.

This light refreshing ale has the right to call itself an IPA as it is true to the traditional style and as they say in their own words 'Chimera would certainly win in a fight against Greene King IPA & Deuchars IPA's softer, less traditional alternatives.' At 7% abv it's not an Ale to take lightly but the generous balance of hops give the beer a light refreshing drinkability that can be quite deceptive.
There are notes of orange and grapefruit on the nose and a sherberty sweetness. The palate picks up the grapefruit and orange but not in an over-powering way and there is a good bitter-sweet balance. The finish is dry with a satisfying tang and the more-ish-ness of this beer is quite dangerous given it's strength. A very impressive ale that I score at 4.5 out of 5.