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

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hop Daemon

Brewing in Newnam near Faversham Kent Hop Daemon are based in the heart of Hop country. Started by Tonie Prins, a Kiwi, in 2000 they are quite literally brewing in the shadow of Shepherd Neame Britains oldest brewery. Supplying 70 outlets in Kent the brewery has grown rapidly in it's 10 years existence. All ingredients are produced locally but it would be sacrilegious to use hops not produced in the counties hop gardens.

Skrimshander IPA

A copper coloured  ale with lots of peppery hops on the nose balanced by a sweet breadiness. Fruity and sweet on the pallate with a light body. The finish is a sharp citruis fruit bitterness leaving you with a dry mouth feel. A real thirst quencher and very more-ish. This is a very satisfying IPA but lower in alcohol at 4.5% abv than more traditional versions.
A great find that deserves to have a much farther reaching outlet than it currently has. I score 4 out of 5.

Friday, 23 July 2010

More Attention Seeking From Brewdog

This article on the BBC news site reports on BrewDogs latest publicity stunt. They have surpassed themselves with their principle of 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.' Packaging their new world record beating 55% beer in stuffed animals was always going to ruffle many feathers but it gives them the attention they seek. At £500 a bottle this is a brew that would never pass my lips but a 55%  beer is not likely to either. I can't imagine what a beer at this strength would taste like but I don't think it could resemble anything else that calls itself beer. All 12 bottles available were sold within 4 hours ang good luck to those who have that kind of money to waste on a marketing gimmick.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pubs on the Net

When I plan to go and stay somewhere in England I like to know before hand what the pubs are like in the vicinity. I look for pubs that are family friendly because we have the kids with us and pubs are where we tend to eat our evening meals so I like to have an idea about what menus are on offer. Of course I also want to know what pubs are likely to offer a quality selection of Ales.
The cask Marque website is very usefull as you can determine what pubs have been accredited and this should be a guarantee of quality. Their website really could do with updating but it is a good starting point.
There are plenty of pub review sites on the net to search through. Many of these are very limited on the amount of info they offer and have far few reviews available. The site that seems to be most comprehensive is Beer in the Evening which I find gives me a far better success rate than any of it's competitors. It is a user friendly site but ultimately you are at the mercy of the users who have made the reviews.
Out of the thousands of people who step foot through the doors of these pubs you may get reviews from about 6 or 7 people which is really just a drop in the ocean. As people tend to be more vocal in their disaproval of things than they do in their appraisal it is likely that many of the reviews are going to be critical. The pub experience is a very personal experience and what is an issue for one might not be for another. There is also the suspicion that when a glowing review is left that is has been made by a propietor or member of staff. Ratings aren't helpful too because they don't show what exactly points are being given too or what is being scored down for.
More and more pubs have there own websites now. For me these are the best way to find out about a pub even if they don't offer a critical view of the establishment. A good site will have plenty of pictures from inside and outside of the pub. For pubs that serve food at least a sample menu should be a given. Upcoming events or a news page is a usefull addition and is good way of gauging the kind of atmosphere you can expect. What is sadly lacking on a lot of sites is information about the beers they serve. This may indicate that the pubs doesn't offer anything to crow about but often it is just a sad oversite.
Not enough pubs have their own websites yet but this does seem to be something that is changing quite fast and hopefully the quality of the sites will improve as well. I also hope that pub review sites can increase their quality dramatically because for me they have a long way to go yet.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

St Austells Join British Lager Producing Ranks

After brewing ales for 159 years ST Austells in Cornwall are moving into the lager making market. They are launching there first premium quality lager. The Lager is called Korev which is the traditional Cornish name for beer. The lager will only be available at the current time in pubs in the Cornwall, Devon and Sommerset area.
St Austells are joing the ranks of the The Cotswold Brewing Co, Freedom, Harviestoun, Mitchell Krause and West Brewery in producing crafted lagers. Although I am aware there are many quality Pilseners available they are not something that really appeals to me, I would just rather drink a blonde ale than a lager. I do however think it's a good thing that there is more and more qaulity lager being produced in Britain so we don't just have to turn to the Europeans for quality alternatives to the mass produced piddle on the supermarket shelves.
LOBI are a group that are trying to promote quality lagers in Britain by independent breweries. One can hope that this is a movement that can snowball like CAMRA and have the same impact that they had on ale in this country. The main problem I believe they face is the fact that ale had a long established history in this country before the brewing giants  monoplised the industry. Lager does not have this background and craft lagers are a new movement but one that hopefully has a bright future.
I am ashamed to admit that Beer Angel has been consuming rather a lot of Budweiser of late. I do not despair though because I have hope that I can entice her in to trying some craft lagers as part of my plan to move her on to drinking pale ales (just don't let her know!)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Piper Beer Festival

Another beer festival within walking distance of my house, 5 minutes across the rugby field. I am sure the Beer Angel will be giving me permission to make an appearance over there so if you enjoy quality beer come and join me.

Beer Demon Pale Ale

This is the first review of one of my own creations, I won't score it because I am hardly impartial but I will try to be honest in my assessment. This rich golden ale was brewed with pale malt, a little honey malt and some torrefied wheat for body. Hopped with Amarillo and Willamette I also added honey blossom to the boil.
It pours with a good fizz but the head is very short lived which is disapointing as I hoped the torrified wheat would help head retention. The nose is dominated by orange from the blossom and there is a lovely honey sweetness coming through. I was hoping for a good kick from the hops but they are more subtle. They still provide a pleasant spicy citruis flavour and a satisfying moderate bitterness. The mouthfeel is quite dry  and allows for speedy supping. This is definitely one for a hot summers day and very sessionable at an abv of about 4%.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Wicksteed Beer Festival review

I ventured over Saturday evening with Dave1985 and was met by Maff and over friends during the course of the evening. It was a beautiful summers evening and was pleasantly suprised to find the event was being held in a marquee rather than the usual venue of the pavillion. We took some chairs from inside the marquee and sat in the sun where the majority of the other festival goers had placed themselves.
At previous stagings of this event an admission fee has been payable and a programme with a list of beers received. I was pleased to discover due to the layout an admission fee was not required this time but I had to scrat around for a discarded programme as none were forthcoming.
I opted for a half pint glass at the 'bar' as I always like to sample as big a variety as possible. This was to be swapped for a pint glass in due course as after our first sampling the queue grew extensively and stayed that way. This was my first issue of the event. The queue was caused by the fact they had a very small bar area in front of a seperate tent for the casks. This could only house a few people serving drinks at one time rather than  many usually in employ at the pavillion.
This set up was also the cause of my second issue. By the Saturday evening many of the casks had been finished but you only discovered which ones after you had ordered and the bartender returned without a beer. In other festivals I have attended the casks have been on display in the main marquee behind a long serving area and you could see which beers were off.
My next gripe and the most important one was the condition of the beers. Now I know the logistics of setting up this kind of event must be very difficult. Event organisers don't have the luxury of storing the casks in cool cellars for days before the event and only serving when they are at peak condition. Considering this though it doesn't excuse how badly they failed on this occasion. The beer was all served far too warm to be considered refreshing and the flavours also suffer. The majority of beers were flat, I don't expect champagne bubbles and ice-cream like heads but I do expect a bit of life. I couldn't judge any of the beers really as they were not served in a way that did them any justice.
The evenings entertainment was provided by some old couple singing to a backing track. The stage was right at the back of the marquee, the marquee that was uninhabited as everyone was seated outside. It must have been soul destroying for the act to sing to any empty tent. I don't know why the organisers didn't just hire a DJ and put some decent speakers outside.
Moaning over. Despite all my issues with the event I still had an entertaining evening, this was largely due to the company I shared. We all drank enough to end the evening rather merry. DaveBa took 2 attempts before he realised that he couldn't actually jump into a densely foliaged bush and was just left with red prickle marks up his arm. Fatty Matty discovered that if he threw a traffic cone at my head I would sit on his kneck and give him a pummeling (all in good spirit though.)

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Why I Love to Brew

As I am about to embark on my latest brew (a weissbier) I feel the ususal surge of excitement I experience at this point. So I ask myself the question 'what is it I love so much about brewing?' You might think the answer is 'to make cheap beer' Although that was why I started many years ago if that was the only or main reason I would still be brewing from tinned beer kits.
 I have been full mash brewing for about 18 months now and everytime I have my latest recipe in the fermenter I am thinking about and planning the next one I will knock up.
An obvious reason for loving brewing is at the end of it I have a stash of beers to drink! Now ultimately this is what I brew for and I love nothing better to sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labour. But I wouldn't get excited before the mash if this was all I enjoyed.
So I obviously enjoy the process. I do enjoy preparing the ingredients, I enjoy the mash; checking the ph levels and seeing the sugars being broken down. I love adding the hops to the boil and the aromas they give off. I love seeing the yeast do it's magical stuff as the sugars are eaten and the ethanol and carbon-dioxide are produced.
But there is more to it. I am taking part in a tradition. I am doing something that has been done by our predecessors for 5000 years. Brewing your own beer was a way of life many many people. You can buy beers from microbrewers and know them inside out. You can go on brewery tours and learn about the brewing process from books. You can be an expert on all the different beer styles and variations but you don't really get into the soul of beer without making it yourself.
There is something very enriching  about being part of that process and this is the real crux of it.
Now just to find some time to make this Weissbier!