Southend & Crewe for Beers No.249 Fraoch Heather Ale, No.250 Erdinger Pinkatus, No.251 Chouffe N’ice, No.252 Kriek De Ranke, No.253 Manns Brown Ale and No.254 Our Special Ale. 

Southend & Crewe for Beers No.249 Fraoch Heather Ale, No.250 Erdinger Pinkatus, No.251 Chouffe N’ice, No.252 Kriek De Ranke, No.253 Manns Brown Ale and No.254 Our Special Ale. 

Crewe has a population of around 80,000, Southend on sea 180,000 more than twice as many. Crewe has a brewery and tap room, a place that specialises in Belgian beer, a bottle shop with over 3000 different beers and a variety of craft beer bars including a new one that has just opened in December.

But Crewe isnt an anomaly. Colchester has many craft beer places and Queen St Brewhouse with one of the finest selections of Belgian beers I have ever seen. Chelmsford has the Alehouse, the newly opened Moulsham tap, the hop beer shop, and a population 60,000 less than Southend on Sea.

I in no way want to be negative to the businesses we do have in Southend but it certainly seems slow to embrace the revolution. There is Mawsons, a micropub in Southchurch and the first one of the new wave really. I had a few off my list here so it has been mentioned before.cof

There is The West Road Tap. Which is more craft than Mawsons which are more Real Ale and Belgian. West Road is a small renovated toilets, there is usually 4 keg and 4 cask options available, which are always varied and often exciting.22002303

Then there is the Crafty Half, which is the towns bottle shop. They sell a nice selection of beers including one from my list I had never tried before called Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Brothers in Scotland.cof

Though this beer does contain some First Gold Hops which wouldn’t have been available at the time, they are only used for preservation. The taste is pure 2000BC. This beer, based on how beer was made that far ago, has the traditional flavourings of bog myrtle,  ginger and of course lots of heather.mde

It’s not as challenging as you may think and is really rather enjoyable. Floral notes with a pepper flavour, it’s quite sweet  but with a dry finish.

But that’s it for Southend really, there’s the occasional good one in the Alex and it’s a good pub but it’s not a beer destination by any means.

Hopefully I can add something to the beer scene with the opening of my bar in the not too distant future, and sometimes scenes can emerge with a single spark. So fingers crossed. We’ll soon find out.

Crewe is geographically between Manchester and Liverpool, but in terms of size and feel I think it’s between Rayleigh and Southend. It’s bigger than Rayleigh for sure but it’s not sprawling like Southend, more confined to a town centre like the former. As we were visiting Michelle’s parents we decided to go on a little pub crawl with Charlie and Karen.

We only went to a couple of places but both had great choices for such a small town. The first is called The Borough Arms. Not much to look at from the outside but an Erdinger pub sign hanging outside was a welcome sight. 9 real ale taps and plenty of kegs with lots of bottles too. I spotted one I needed too, and it was an Erdinger! Maybe the sign outside was a sign if you know what I mean.2008428

Erdinger Weissbrau is a large family owned brewery just north of Munich. They sell more wheat than any other German producer and they date back to 1886. Erdinger Pinkatus is a departure for them though. Its a 7.3% weizenbock that was first brewed in 1968 when Werner Brombach was revitalising the brewery after realising Bavarian wheat beers were not in demand as much and fearing the trend would continue. mde

The beer itself is a lovely full bodied beer with a dark red colour and is lovely and smooth.

After finishing up we made our way round to a bar called Hops. Hops is a Belgian Style Cafe Bar just off Crewe high street. Its got a great range of continental bottles and kegs and also some lovely cask ale from across England that has earned it numerous awards from CAMRA amongst others.getlstd-property-photo

I started with a bottle of Chouffe N’Ice and at 10% ABV its certainly a strong start. The Achouffe brewery from the little Belgian village of Achouffe is very recognisable due to its “chouffes” which means gnomes. The N’Ice beer is a seasonal winter beer from 1998 which has survived to become a regular. It’s a similar colour to the Pinkatus and has a lot going on for it in terms of both aroma and flavour. There is fruits, nuts, herbs, sugar, honey all coming through. A very enjoyable drink, especially in the winter as it’s a real warmer.mde

I followed that up with a bottle of Kriek De Ranke, more for a challenge to my fellow drinkers than anything else really and it didn’t disappoint! dav

Kriek which means “cherry” in Flemish is a cherry lambic. These beers are always difficult for people who have never tried them before though something like a Timmermans is still much more accessible than some gueuze. I always presumed they were old beers and of course traditionally they do go right back, but this example Kriek De Ranke, was first brewed in 2000. Its sharp, tart with lots of farmhouse notes. Its a good beer but expect to be drinking it alone if you are trying it with people who are used to the mainstream.

To bring it back to the old school my next beer was Mann’s Brown Ale which have been continuously brewed since 1902 and is now produced by Marston’s. This beer was first brewed in 1902 and at just 2.8% it’s certainly a lot lighter than most of the beers I had been drinking that night. Charlie told me it used to often be used as mixer with other beers such as mild. It was certainly not unpleasant but I felt it was lost amongst the other big hitters of the evening.dav

And finally they had a bottle of Anchor Brewery’s Our Special Ale from 2016. This is their winter warmer they have been releasing every year since 1975 which makes the one I tried the 42nd annual release. It changes its recipe very year but is always made with seasonal spices with a malty backbone. mde

Anchor Brewery who hail from San Francisco were originally founded in 1874 and seem to have quality running through them as a company. This beer was no different and I really admire its a different beer each year and they change the label ever so slight by featuring a different species of tree on the label.dav

So there we are, that was a small section of Crewe, and as I mentioned at the beginning really opening my eyes to what is possible in a small town with beer choices.

Southend is sadly lacking in the amount of variety but hopefully I can go someway to changing that. Watch this space….

 

 

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Copenhagen for Beers No.227 Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast, No.228 Mikkeller Black, No.229 Eclipse Imperial Stout, No.230 Founders Breakfast Stout, No.231 Limfjords Porter, No.232 Celis White, No.233 Bombay Pale Ale and No.234 Maisels Weisse. 

Copenhagen for Beers No.227 Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast, No.228 Mikkeller Black, No.229 Eclipse Imperial Stout, No.230 Founders Breakfast Stout, No.231 Limfjords Porter, No.232 Celis White, No.233 Bombay Pale Ale and No.234 Maisels Weisse. 

When we think of Danish beers we immediately think of Carlsberg, and for good reason. Though they probably don’t make the best beer in the world they have furthered the possibilities of manufacture immeasurably.

Founded in 1847 they set up the Carlsberg laboratory in 1875, dedicated wholly to the science of brewing. Here, amongst other things, they introduced the concept of pH levels which we all still study at school. According to Wikipedia the Danish chemist Soren Peder Lauritz Sorensen introduced the concept of pH, a scale for measuring acidity and basicity of substances. While working at the Carlsberg laboratory, he studied the effect of ion concentration on proteins, and understood the concentration of hydrogen ions was particularly important. To express the hydronium ion (H30+) concentration in a solution, he devised a logarithmic scale known as the pH scale.

Now whatever all that means I’m certain they took their beer pretty bloody seriously.

Emil Christian Hansen became the first person to isolate a pure cell of yeast whilst working at the laboratory in 1883. It was named Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis and it’s the yeast all yeasts in lager beers are derived. I don’t know why I felt the need to put that bit of Latin in italics. It just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyway times have moved on, people have taken what Carlsberg have done for the industry and have done wondrous things with them. Of course Carlsberg are by far the biggest brewer in Copenhagen but it’s the smaller companies that excite me. Smaller is relative of course as Mikkeller in the craft beer world is massive.

Founded in 2006 Mikkeller are a cuckoo, or gypsy, brewery. This means they don’t have an official brewery, they use other breweries equipment. This is obviously not too much of a drawback though as they have become one of the world’s most respected breweries. Not bad for a journalist and a teacher who were self taught home brewers.

Beer Geek Breakfast was their first beer that was critically acclaimed and won an international event, so it seems fitting that it was our first beer in Copenhagen.

This is a beautiful beer, seven malts, roasted barley, flaked oats, American hops and real coffee it’s certainly indulgent but lighter than you might expect. It had a slight brewers yeast smell and isn’t quite what your expecting to taste. Every mouthful surprises you due to the aroma and takes you on an unexpected journey.

We had this beer at the Mikkeller bar in Viktoriagade which I think was the first one they opened. It’s so cool, everything we were expecting from Scandinavian style. Cosy, small, minimal with on point decorations and a warm and welcoming vibe.

Our second beer there was Mikkeller Black and this is a different prospect entirely. It’s defining character is its strength. This beer, that was brewed in Belgium weighs in at a hefty 16.1% and definitely packs a punch. Michelle hated it and I wasn’t over bothered, it’s an experimental that’s worth trying but I’d be flabbergasted if it’s anyone’s go to bevvy of choice! Like a can of bloody jagermeister!

We tried a couple more from the beer geek series, namely the vanilla maple shake and the triple flat white and we enjoyed them all immensely.

It was time to push on with our crawl but before we did I noticed one last drink on the bottle list I needed and didn’t expect to see. Eclipse Imperial Stout. The person who made these beers, Todd Ashman, is a bit of a pioneer when it comes to barrel aging beers and this one you can choose which bourbon barrel the Imperial Stout was aged in, we went for Elijah Wood 12 year old. At 11.9% it packs a punch but it’s richness and full flavours envelopes for a luscious mouth filling warming rich delicious beer. With burnt toffee apple up front it seemed appropriate we had it on Halloween. It was smooth with an alcohol that wasn’t overbearing and a pleasurable expensive whisky coming through late. Two thumbs up. IMG-20180125-WA0003[1]

Our next stop was the Orsted Olbar. I absolutely loved this place. It was definitely a craft beer place with some new hip breweries such as Anarchy and Track on their 20 taps, but it had a real pub feel about it. Lots of wood, candles in bottles (but Speedway Stout bottles), football on the telly when there’s a match and a table football. I loved the place. It was probably the closest I’ve seento what I want. The Mikkeller bar was fantastic and super stylish, this place just seemed a bit more fun time.

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They had a good bottle list too. We found lots of different beers that interested us including Founders Breakfast Stout.

This is a bit of a celebrated classic and certainly not that rare but it was the first time I had come across it I think. First made in Michigan in 2001 this strong coffee flavoured Stout not only help save the Founders but pushed them into being a major player in the craft beer scene.

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​​Onwards and upwards and we strolled off to the more bohemian side of Copenhagen, crossing a bridge on the way.

 The river was weird. It stopped when it got to the bridge then resumed the other side of the road. I can’t explain it, I suppose it was a dam of some kind, I dunno, I ain’t no geography teacher.

What I do know is the Norrebro region of Copenhagen  is very cool, and within this area is one of the coolest bars around Himmeriget the Evil Twin tap room.

Evil Twin is named as the inventor is the identical twin of Mikkel from Mikkeller. Arriving on the scene 4 years later supposedly he called himself  Evil Twin a wind up as they hate each other. How much of this anomosity is real and how much is media stroking no one really knows. A lot like the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, it’s seems convincing.

Jeppe of Evil Twin has moved to Brooklyn  now but his influence remains and this place is full of his his crazy inventions.

For example Big Ass Money Stout is dry hopped with pizza and dollar bills. It was 60 quid a bottle so I didn’t have one, but I deeply regret that decision now!

They had a beer I needed though, even if it wasn’t from Evil Twin.

Limfjords Porter is a baltic porter. These are typically sweet, strong and bottom fermenting. The Thigsted Bryghus (Brewery) has been around since the 19th century. They first took their Limfjords Porter from another brewery in 1986 when that brewery closed down. They tinkled with it a bit and created a fine example of the style. Smoky and malty. It was incidentally commented to be the favourite of the bar man in Himmeriget and seeing the wonderful smorgasbord of world class beers he’s surrounded by that means a lot, well to me anyway.

Onwards and upwards through the tight roads and past a million independent shops in a community that just breathed life. Unfortunately the next bar we visited in the area was the first time we were disappointed really.

The barman didn’t have time for us. Only half the taps had anything on due to the fact they were “changing to winter beers” the next day. He had no interest in engaging just wanted to get back to his newspaper. Hey, I know how he feels sometimes for sure but it did take the wind out of our beer sails a bit.

It did have some amusing art up though that Michelle liked. IMG-20180125-WA0008[1]

And a beer off the list that I liked too!

Celis White is a Belgian spiced wheat beer first brewed in 1992. It tastes like a classic witbier like drinking half a Hoegaarden. It’s gone some orange tones coming through which must be due to the added Curaçao orange peel alongside the other addition of coriander.

Nothing else of the list and no other reason to stay so we went to the next stop on my predetermined crawl which is a brewery.

The Norrebro Bryghus is a cut above the other places we had been to. Super fresh like the new Mange Tout in Southend, it was very clean, very friendly and was a shame not to eat there.

We came for two beers but unfortunately one of those, the Little Korkney was now out of production. They did have the Bombay Pale Ale though.

And very pleasant it was too. Juicy, a little spice and some mango coming through, this European take on the US IPA made by a former Carlsberg brewer ticked all the boxes for me.

We were sad to leave but the clock was ticking and we had a few more places to visit believe it or not. We were starting to seriously fall in love with Copenhagen.

We popped into a couple more bars that were both very different but didnt have any of my beers.

SKAAL  was cool and funky, bit young for us, reminded us of East Coast Social. They did however have an excellent tap selection, and an even better TV set up to tell us what beers are on, what style they are and how much is left of each one.

Lord Nelson was the complete opposite. It was more like a dive bar yet still cool. Very rocky, the bar person was cool and you could smoke sitting at the bar which is super rare. We were drunk by then and got carried away by the USB ports all along the bar. Genius, can’t believe we haven’t seen that anywhere else. Yoink.

Our final stop was in a bar called Fermentoren, back in the meat packing district where we started. By now it had taken a bit of a rougher edge with the local rehab centre or shelter or whatever it was kicking some colourful characters out on to the street. It was the first time in Denmark we felt a little uneasy.

Still we found the pub easy enough and they had Maisels Weisse there.

Maisels Weisse is a weird one for me as I used to sell it in the Paul Pry when they had their first wave of craft beer bottles. It was pretty prevalent but seems to have dropped away a bit. Still, I can’t believe I had never tried one.

This beer is one of the main reasons for weissbiers resurgence as the brewer’s spent a lot of time and money advertising all over Germany. It’s a great example of the style, it has a long lingering fruity hold with plenty of banana esters.

The pub itself had a good outside area, the best we had been to in the town, it was cool with a little rough edge, we were surprised it closed at 12.

It also had the best toilet graffiti I have ever seen from one of my favourite films.

Do you know the quotes? If you do post it in the comments section and you can win a bottle of Maisels Weisse! Terms and conditions apply.

So that was Copenhagen. The next day we walked to the ferry via the indoor food market which I highly highly recommend.

And the little mermaid which you can take or leave really but is quite pretty. IMG-20180125-WA0010[1]

This is the longest blog I have ever written I reckon and I have a feeling I am writing to myself. But if you did make it this far well done and thank you very much.

One last thing, Copenhagen has more bikes than I have ever seen in my life. Bye!!!sdr

Budapest for Beers No.207 Dreher Bak and No. 208 Keseru Mez

Budapest for Beers No.207 Dreher Bak and No. 208 Keseru Mez

Many people go to Budapest for many different things. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is cited as the most liveable city in Central and Eastern Europe. It is also ranked as the second best city in the world by Conde Nast Traveler whoever they are. Michelle and I however were there for the beer, two in fact. We also had a particular interest in the ruin pubs of Budapest that lived up to our expectations and the famous Spas that we never even bothered going to in the end!

We had booked our accommodation through Airbnb and our host picked us up from the airport which was a nice little bonus. Where we were was a grand townhouse of apartments which reminded me of many classical capital cities in Europe especially Paris.

I had already done some research as I am a massive geek so we didn’t hang around long in the apartment even if it was very impressive.

Our first stop in this very bohemian and culturally on point city was a little bar called Neked csak Deszso

It was pretty cool but didnt have much we we’re after. We drank their own brew which was pretty tasty and very cheap. We had already seen a Dreher Bak in the off licence but there was no sign of the Keseru Mez, so we decided to push on to the infamous Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ruin pub.

And what a pub it was…

I have never to any bar or pub that what so exhilarating and exciting.  It was massive and buzzing. I’ve seen so many that has the same kind of vibe from The Sunrooms back in the day when Mark Hey had it, to The Railway now, that sort of cultural, cool, indie look, but I’ve never seen done it on a scale like this. Kert means market, and this three storey giant apartment block had a massive courtyard with so much going on. There is films projected on the wall, a band playing in the corner, a smoking area complete with shish pipes and even an old Trabant car to sit in whilst enjoying your drinks, as seen in my photos.

Upstairs was loads of old apartments that are now individual bars, or kitchens, or just places to chill out. There doesn’t seem to be a square inch that hasn’t got graffiti  or a sculpture or a photo or some kind of art adorning it. It really is an experience, and I would emplore any one who loves bars to go and visit it.

Again we were there for beer though, so when we saw Keseru Mez on the menu our excitement levels were raised, only to be dashed when told they were completely out of stock. We were getting closer.

Hunger was coming and luckily immediately next door was a super cool food market called Karavan.

It was excellent, we had this sausage in a pastry cone thing. Gawd knows what it was, but it was delish and crazy messy. Again where we were just oozed cool, so young, so hip, so happening, we were starting to fall in love with Budapest.

Onwards on to the next pub, with a walk through this lively city with surprises round every corner.

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Lehuto bar is on the corner near the Elektrotechnikal Muzeum (!). It is unashamedly craft, very heavy on the Brewdog.

It was nice, and Michelle had a lovely Coconut Coffee Porter that she thoroughly enjoyed.

One thing caught my eye on the blackboard behind us

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They had Four Pure cans for 1390 Forints which works out at about £3.95. In England in a craft beer bar you can not get one for that cheap. We sell them at my bar for £4.65, thats an increase of around 20%. What’s annoying is that the Four Pure Brewery is in Bermondsey, 2.6 miles away from my pub, whilst where we were, selling the exact same product is 1009 miles away.

This isn’t due to the business owners wanting to line their products, they operate on very fine margins in this industry, instead its the amount of tax we, the English, pay on beer. So much so its 20% cheaper to buy English beer in Budapest than England.

For every pint of beer sold in Spain (I couldn’t find the figures for Hungary) approx 4p goes on alcohol tax, whilst in England its a staggering 50p!

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This makes it so difficult to keep the prices down. As many of you know I would love to open my own craft beer bar, but its so risky taking this kind of punt as taxes are just so high. More and more people are staying home, as having a few drinks with friends is becoming increasingly a luxury due to this very reason.

I’d love to start a campaign, but it ain’t gonna happen, so I’ll just go along with it, like the rest of us sheep. They’re gonna get their money off us somehow.

On that happy note we went back to our apartment and went to bed.

The next day we went sightseeing and again Budapest is a beautiful city.

Not that my photos do it any justice but thats the Danube, with some beautiful historic buildings over looking it.

We seemed to walk forever before finding one of the most striking bars I have ever been to.

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It’s called Jonas Craft Beer Bar, sitting on the Danube, it is I presume named after Moby-Dick, as it is housed in a huge whale looking building, but I could be completely wrong. We had a few drinks and it was nice surroundings, but there was nothing I needed or was inspired by beer wise.

I was starting to worry a little. Just like Moby-Dick is modeled on the notoriously hard to catch actual albino whale Mocha Dick, we had had no more sightings of the legendary Keseru Mez beer, and we were leaving the next day.

It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to Raday Street which is known as Restaurant Street in Budapest.

We wanted a couple more drinks before we went for a meal as we thought we might go back to the apartment after the meal so we went to a bar called Puder Barszinhaz.

It was cool, in a ruin style and I had a couple of interesting beers, lots of that sort of throwaway furniture and old bikes.

No Keseru and I was starting to get toothache.

We drank up and strolled over to Voros Postakocsi (Red Stage-coach) Restaurant. There we had a couple of results. They had Dreher Bak so we could try it somewhere nice and Michelle had the best meal she has ever eaten in her life!

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Bak means bock in Hungarian and the 7.4% ABV lives up to the style. The Dreher part of the name comes from Anton Dreher who was an Austrian brewer, a very important figure in the development of pale lager, so much so he invented Vienna Beer which was ironic as thats where we were going the next day.

Dreher Bak itself was dark but quite thin. We didn’t find it very drinkable, in fact we tried to drink three times over the course of our trip and left it three times.

The food on the other hand, we didn’t leave a single morsel. Michelle had been desperate to try goulash since we arrived and we had noticed that it is traditionally served as a soup, so we ordered 2 for starters and a couple of steaks.IMG-20170501-WA0017

Sorry for the unflattering photo, but my God it was delicious. Melt in your mouth meat, so much flavour packed in the oily sauce, it was fantastic. The steaks were forgettable, in fact I have forgot them but the goulash was the best thing Michelle had ever eaten!!!

So that was Hungary, we had a goulash, visited a ruin pub, had a beer of my list and had a thoroughly good time.

I was sad as I only wanted two beers and I couldn’t find one of those. I had a little Google to have a look at the now, mystery legend that was Keseru Mez.

Hold on a minute, I think I recognise that label! I think I’ve seen that beer! I think it was in Lehuto!

We rushed back, me delirious with pain from toothache, Michelle delirious with oil from goulash and low and behold…

What a great way to end a couple of days, we were really happy to find it, and it felt for the first time that we sought out a difficult to find beer. We’ve travelled to breweries before to get rare beers, but we have always known where we were going, this felt like the first time we tracked one down.

Keseru Mez which means bitter honey is one of the forerunner of Hungary’s craft beer revolution. It is a hoppy lager quite like anything else, it has a really cool bottle and is a lovely drop.

But most of all we found it, and we found Budapest enchanting and exhilarating,  well worth a visit.

Next stop Vienna.

 

Beers No.185 Deus, No.186 Windsor & Eton 1075 Conqueror, No.187 Arrogant Bastard Ale, No.188 Stone Ruination IPA, No.189 Espresso, No.190 Southville Hop, No.191 Schneider Weisse and No.192 Timmermans Framboise Lambic.

Beers No.185 Deus, No.186 Windsor & Eton 1075 Conqueror, No.187 Arrogant Bastard Ale, No.188 Stone Ruination IPA, No.189 Espresso, No.190 Southville Hop, No.191 Schneider Weisse and No.192 Timmermans Framboise Lambic.

 

Hello everyone and welcome to this action packed blog of fun, action, laughter and beers. Well one out of the four anyway. I visited my friend Jack up in London. We met at Lowlander Grand Cafe which is a cool little Belgian/Dutch joint on Drury Lane. We had a nice mixed platter…wp-1487339782194.jpg Followed by, more importantly a great bottle of beer.

Brouwerij Bosteels Deus is a crazy complicated beer and certainly made with love. After normal fermentation it is refermented with Champagne yeasts in Epernay. Epernay is in the Champagne Region of France so it’s certainly authentic. Thats not even the end of it, the beer is then kept at a steady temperature for nine months then tilted and rotated for a week for yeast removal. It really is a crafted beer in the truest sense of the word. It’s served in a champagne bottle with flutes and comes in at 11.5% but doesn’t taste it. It’s light and quite wheaty even though not made with it. It’s really good and definitely worth your effort.wp-1487339754934.jpg

I persuaded Jack to move on to The Maple Leaf near Covent Garden to try some Canadian Beers. Complete waste of time. It was just an English Sports pub really. Fosters and Amstels on tap, football on the telly (Premiership). They had one tap called Maple Leaf lager, but I found its Canadian authenticity spurious.

On the stroll home we decided to pop into the local Wetherspoons, Penderel’s Oak. Lo and behold there was only a beer on my list.wp-1487339853188.jpg

Windsor & Eton’s Conqueror 1075, a stronger hoppier version of their Conqueror named after the year William the Conqueror built the original Windsor Castle. It was surprisingly sweet, on the side of being sickly, with a little bit of smoke in there.

Good to see Wetherspoons keeping up their diversity. They have a lot of knockers for a lot of valid reasons I’m not going to go into now, but you can certainly pick up some interesting beers there from time to time.

This months ever excellent box from Beer52 was centred around one of my favourite’s, Stone Brewery. It included a couple of beers including Arrogant Bastard Ale, I couldn’t wait to try.

One of the many reasons I don’t like Brewdog is what is written on their Punk IPA bottles, though I’m not sure it still includes it. On their 2007 released bottles it read:

This is not a lowest common denominator beer…This is an aggressive beer…We don’t care if you don’t like it…It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sopistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.wp-1487344188862.jpg

Now compare that to what Stone have been writing on their 1996 Arrogant Bastard Ale.

This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory – maybe something with a multimillion-dollar ad campaignwp-1487339998854.jpg

I’m sure they’ll say thput it on as being a homage, but I just don’t like the fact a company who are so rebelliously original have to practically cut and paste another beer’s blurb.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is the best selling large bottle craft beer in the US. This beer alongside their IPA has launched Stone Brewing into the stratosphere allowing them to even open another brewery in Berlin. Not bad for a beer that was supposedly created by accident.

I thought it was a great bitter drink. The girls who I drank it with wasn’t sure though with their reviews being:-

Michelle: Lingering bitterness at the back of your throat. On impact its not that bad, it’s not horrendous, it is very hoppy but that bitterness takes away the goodness.

Heather: YEURRCHK no goodness, tastes horrible, tastes like tut tut tut Eurgh proper lingering Eurgh

So maybe Stone are right when they write on their can “You probably won’t like it”.wp-1487340020415.jpg

Stone Ruination IPA was the second Stone I had from Beer52. This was another great strong beer. I really am becoming a big fan of Stone and look forward to going to visit them in Berlin in the summer. It’s very hoppy and very bright. Everything you want wish from an American take on an IPA and more.

The next day Michelle and I took a lovely trip down to Brighton.

We were really lucky with the weather and had a great day. After a spot of lunch at Café Rouge, where Michelle particularly liked the French Onion Soup, we strolled up to The Craft Beer Co. Brighton. It was good to see one of our sister pubs and it had a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately it had no beers I needed so after a couple of stouts we pushed on.

We arrived at The Evening Star, which happens to be the birthplace of Darkstar Brewing.wp-1487340089876.jpg

I went there expecting to pick up one or two Darkstar beers but as luck would have it they had an excellent selection and I found 4 I needed.

The first Espresso was the only Darkstar beer I had from where it all started. It’s made with real coffee supplied by a Coffee House in Brighton and you can certainly taste it. In fact Michelle remarked it tasted more like cold coffee than cold coffee does. It was dark, bitter and very good.

Southville Hop by the Bristol Beer Factory was next and this 2012 SIBA Gold medal winner didn’t disappoint. It’s golden thick and very hoppy. The English name of both brewer and beer doesn’t give away the massive tropical hit this beer delivers.

Cross the North Sea into Germany next with Schneider Weisse. First brewed in 1872 this beer certainly has the heritage it will take the previous two over 100 years to attain. This beer is a classic Weissbier, it is orange in colour with banana on the palate. A great example of this refreshing style of beer.

Finally Timmermans Framboise Lambic. These brewers have been around making Lambic in the Senne Valley since 1781. It is matured for six months before raspberries are added to start a secondary fermentation before being left for a further six to months. It really delivers what it promises. Loads of raspberries. It’s red in colour and though being compared favourably to pink champagne it also closely resembles a cider you’d pick up whilst sitting down the Peterboat on a sunny day.

So that’s it. Just time to tell you we stopped off on the way back at The Darkstar Brewery where I bought some socks as I’m a nerd

Thanks for reading, as I always say it’s doubtful anyone has made it this far but if you have I am grateful. Give us a like to let me know you’re there. Thanks, see you next month!

 

 

Beers No.177 Dirty Stopout, No.178 Gonzo Imperial Porter, No.179 Cantillon Iris, No.180 Combined Harvest, No. 181 Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, No.182 Evil Twin Hipster Ale, No. 183 Rising Sun Pale Ale and No.184 Echigo Stout.

Beers No.177 Dirty Stopout, No.178 Gonzo Imperial Porter, No.179 Cantillon Iris, No.180 Combined Harvest, No. 181 Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, No.182 Evil Twin Hipster Ale, No. 183 Rising Sun Pale Ale and No.184 Echigo Stout.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Bloody hell doesn’t that seem like an age ago already. I can’t believe New Years eve was less than three weeks ago, I think it just starts so early nowadays that by the time it comes around it seems like it’s already over if you know what I mean.

Anyway blah, blah, blah. Its been yonks since I last wrote a blog and so much has happened. I started my new job at The Craft Beer Co. and I’m glad to say I love it. It’s a great little pub in Limehouse with a really cool, friendly clientele and obviously an unbelievably good selection of beers. I would recommend anyone coming to pay a visit and I’m not just saying that to see me! It’s directly opposite the train station and has just got a really nice vibe, and of course impeccable service.

There’s certainly better pictures of it out there but you get the idea.

For our training we went to a couple of breweries. We went to the Kernel brewery in Bermondsey who make the Export Stout I reviewed (if you can call it that) in a previous blog. It was quite a big affair with everyone who worked there being beautiful girls or wooly hatted bearded hipsters looked over by a Glastonburyesque tied died public school bloke. You know the sort. It was all very hip but something about it seemed a bit self aware.

But then we went to something that really oozed effortless cool. The Partizan Brewery just down the road was as sexy as hell. It was just one lot under the railway arches, a bit like Kernel but much much smaller. They made their own beer in this one little room and had even constructed a little bar with 6 taps to sample their wares. The brewer was very welcoming and super natty. I loved it there.

The brewer is the blonde haired bloke on the side not the doofus in the cap whom I work with.

It was a great introduction to such a small, exciting and vibrant scene. We had a preview night and many of the brewers including those from Partizan and Kernel came down. The owner of Beavertown came down too who just so happens to be Robert Plant’s son!fb_img_1484856824385.jpg

The first couple of beers on my list were no way connected to work though, I picked them up from Marks and Sparkles when I was doing my Christmas shopping in Bluewater.20161130_222419.jpg

Dirty Stopout is a rarely made stout by those in demand Welsh boys Tiny Rebel. It has 9 different malts with some dry hopping making this complex beer and it’s worth it. It’s a lovely drop. Tiny Rebel are really doing some great stuff at the moment. Someone said to me that Brewers are judged on consistency and from what I have tasted from these chaps they consistently knock the ball out the park. Cwtch is obviously a great beer but try Clwb Tropicana too. It’s a taste explosion and available on draught from your local Craft Beer Co. outlet. 😉

The last beer I picked up from M&S was Gonzo Imperial Porter.

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This Hunter S. Thompson inspired beer won a gold medal in the 2008 World Beer Cup. It’s a very nice sippable beer with a marmitey, soy sauce smell. It’s dark and warming and tastes stronger than it’s 7.2% ABV.

After I went on my brewery tour with work we visited a few of our sister pubs. In the covent garden bar I found a bottle of Cantillon Iris.20161202_173551.jpg

We were joined by Tom Cadden, who is the Operations Manager at The Craft Beer Co. He is the one on the far left, not the doofus in the cap whom I work with.

Tom has got very good pedigree. He was Brewdogs first ever customer and has invoice 001 from them for some Punk IPA he got for his pub. He is now paid vast amounts for his beer tasting skills and is in high demand from all the brewers. I thought it was a perfect time for me to ask him for his tasting notes on the Cantillon Iris and they were obviously far superior to anything I was going to think of! He first informed me straight from his fountain of knowledge that it is the only Lambic that is made without wheat and is dry hopped so it isn’t actually a Lambic at all.

He remarked the smell was of lemon, grapes and horse blanket(!) Whilst the taste was reminiscent of walking through a Romanian field then face planting into a citrus fruit bowl.

A whole other level from my “nice but a bit marmitey” reviews but hey ho. He said a lot more and I feel I’m not doing him justice but I was a bit merry by then and didn’t write everything down.

More locally I went to The Broker to watch the football. When it finished I popped over to Costcutter to pick up a couple of takeaways and lo and behold there were a couple beers I needed.

Combined Harvest is a lovely Amber from Batemans Brewery. It is a gold medal winner from the International Beer Awards and unlike any other beer I have tasted. It has a great nose, and it’s use of oats, rye, wheat and barley (hence it’s name) gives a lively bouncey mouthfeel with bubblegum coming to the fore.

Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout made by former Guiness brewer Peter Amos’ Wye Valley Brewery is a nice, dark and, though it sounds funny to say, very stouty. God I am a million miles away from Tom’s tasting notes aren’t I?! Very stouty, ha ha, don’t quit the day job. It’s a great beer though and did pick up the 2002 Champion Winter Beer of Britain Award.

To make the run up to Christmas a little more bearable I bought myself an Advent Calendar from Beerhawkfb_img_1484860517515.jpg

It was pretty good and had some interesting Belgian, Brewdog and American beers. It was a nice variety of cans and bottles and came with a lovely glass. It only had one beer I needed at this stage of my journey (plenty if I had just started). That was Evil Twin Hipster Ale.20161211_020639.jpg

Evil Twin are a funny old lot, the make some really interesting beers, their forte seeming to be the super strong dark stuff like Yin and Even More Jesus. The brewery was created in Denmark by the brother of the even more famous Mikkeller. But now after moving to the states I have a feeling Evil Twin may be suppassing his brother in terms of recognition and and certainly excitement. Thats what Evil Twin seems to thrive on, excitement. Quirky names like “Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room” for their Imperial Stout has definitely created  a buzz. Hipster Ale isn’t quite as out there but it’s still bursting with flavour and a bloody good drink. If you see any Evil Twin out there have a taste, you don’t know what you’re gonna get but it’s always impressive, if from a technical aspect alone.

Finally, my old mate Ad Rads who I miss dearly paid a visit from his new home Japan over Christmas. I had spoke to him a few times before he came back and he really enjoyed hunting a few beers down for me. He said it reminded him of his record buying days which was a really nice way to put it as I feel the same. He very graciously brought me back 3 beers to try. One was a Hitachino Nest Dai Dai Ale which even though it wasn’t on my list was actually my favourite of the three. It was very refreshing and pleasant, no doubt lovely on a hot day, unfortunately I was drinking it January but it was still great.

The other two were on my list.

Rising Sun Pale Ale is made by an American who created Baird Beer in a small fishing town called Numazu. It certainly tastes American and that is, of course, because of the use of West Coast hops. For me it tasted like marijuana and nettles. I wasn’t that keen on it (sorry Ads) and with so much competition with these beers it didn’t have any distinguishing features.

Echigo Stout is made by Japan’s first microbrewery. It stems from a brewpub that I would love to go to visit. The beer itself has an OXO personality with a little copper thrown in. It has a licourice bitter sweet taste that goes quickly.

All in all some interesting beers from Japan but ironically by far the best one was the one that was included on my list.

OK thats all for now. Thanks for reading anyone who’s made it this far. Give us a like and all that just so I know you are there!!

Cheers My Dears

 

Beers No.174 Dead Guy Ale, No.175 Stone IPA and No.176 Old Hooky.

Beers No.174 Dead Guy Ale, No.175 Stone IPA and No.176 Old Hooky.

So I’ll start this blog with some good news. The book 1001 beers to drink before you die has already taken me on some adventures. I’ve visited towns in England I didn’t know existed, have made a pilgrimage to Belgium, found little unknown bars in Malaga and Cork and just generally had my eyes opened to brewing and even made my own. Now though it’s influence has gone one step further.

If you were lucky enough to read my previous blogs you may recall I travelled all the way to London to visit a Craft Beer Company pub in St Mary’s Axe. Well they are now employers! It’s a very exciting prospect for me, I was interviewed by Martin Hayes who I was actually reading about in a book called Brew Britannia at the time! Here is a little extract about their first pub….

The Craft Beer Co. Clerkenwell was hailed a beer lover’s paradise with 16 cask lines and 21 keg taps, as well more than 200 bottles. In fact, before the year had ended, the pub had been crowned Best Bar in the UK on RateBeer.

So all in all I am chuffed, to work for a small company that have the best bar in the UK is such an honour. The Craft Beer Company Limehouse opens on Wednesday 7th December, come on down for that bottle of Alesmiths Speedway Stout I know you are after.

Anyway to the beers.

I have signed up with Beers 52. It’s pretty cool. For 29 quid a month you get a box of 10 or so beers, a magazine and a little snack (this month was hot pitta bites from a little place in London somewhere). The beers are always interesting. Michelle had the best milk stout she has ever had (Mochachocolata Ya Ya! by the Electric Bear Company ) and she’s becoming quite the expert, so that’s no mean feat!

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Included in this month’s box was Dead Guy Ale by Rogue Ales. This beer from Oregon is perfect for Halloween supping as it comes in a glow in the dark bottle (I’ve heard, I didn’t try mine). It’s got quite a weird taste with some quite toffee flavours coming through. It’s another one of those beers that’s makes my mouth water for some unexplainable reason. Lots of malt coming through too. An enjoyable tipple but quite difficult to describe, try one if you see it!

The next couple of beers I picked up in Marks and Spencer’s in Bluewater. Their Craft Beer and Real Ale selection is pretty darn impressive. They have beers produced exclusively for them from the likes of Meantime, Adnams and Robinsons. Michelle picked up a Spiced Porter made by the aforementioned Meantime and I saw they had Champion Beer of Britain Cwtch by Tiny Rebel in there too. They also had…20161129_192214.jpg

This beer seems to be a bit of a classic, a stalwart and a trend setter even though it has only been around since 1997. Stone IPA doesn’t contain any Cascade but it does contain plenty of bold flavours. It’s really bitter and quite woody, it has a strong flavour with a little bit of peach. I could knock this back all day long.

Finally after my little liquid sojourn to the states I end with an English classic.20161129_215055.jpg

The label says handcrafted on it. These old classic ale breweries are really the original craft breweries but there seems to be a divide. Craft beer is an umbrella term in my eyes, and I think the real ale brigade is desperate to be included after they have seen the rejuvenation from the young start up businesses like Brewdog et al. Hook Norton’s Old Hooky won the silver medal medal in 2015’s International Brewing awards, which is bloody impressive for beer that’s been in production since 1849, fending off the competition from those young businesses.

I think when I drank it I served it too cold as it was put in the fridge when |I put away the shopping. I think the temperature consumed a lot from it as there was no aftertaste and hardly any smell. There was one big burst of flavour which vanished very quickly. I could pick up cherry and this copper beer was an enjoyable sup.

So there we go. Only 3 beers this time. Hopefully there will be a lot more doors opening with my new job. I would recommend anyone who has a passion to chase it, or a hobby to throw yourself at it. It’s not too late to decide what you want to do, and if you’re not doing it, change it. Only 3 years ago I had been working at HMV for 5 years with no real plan. So much has happened to me in those 3 years because I decided to chase a dream of having my own pub it’s unreal. And Christ if I can do it you sure can.

Beers No.166 Reserva 1925, No.167 Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, No.168 Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss, No.169 Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss, No.170 Boont Amber Ale, No.171 Emelisse Imperial Stout, No.172 Andechs Weissbier Hell and No.173 Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel.

Beers No.166 Reserva 1925, No.167 Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, No.168 Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss, No.169 Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss, No.170 Boont Amber Ale, No.171 Emelisse Imperial Stout, No.172 Andechs Weissbier Hell and No.173 Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel.

Malaga has really embraced the craft beer revolution. Of course the Malaguena Victoria and San Miguel, brewed near the airport, still dominate. There is now a few places popping up all over the city putting it at the forefront of the craft beer scene in Spain.

First we had a few days in my flat on the Mijas Costa where I found 2 beers in the local supermarket. One of which I was expecting and one of which I was very surprised to find.

img_20161101_230800.jpgAlhambra’s Reserva 1925 is a pretty standard bottled beer on the Costa Del Sol found in every supermarket I went in and nearly all the bars too. Of course it’s brewed in Granada which is only a couple of hours away as so I’m not sure if it’s widespread across Spain. It’s a nice beer and tastier than most widespread beers in Spain or England for that matter. Surprisingly it was the only Spanish beer I had on my journey.

The second beer I didn’t expect to see. I picked it up from Alcampo in La Canada just outside Marbella.

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Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer is a Scottish beer that I wasn’t looking for on my journey to Spain. It’s a interesting beer as (you can probably guessed) it is aged in Oak barrels similar to whisky. In fact it came about after the brewers were contacted by a whisky producer who wanted a beer flavoured whisky but this beer came from it (I don’t know if the whisky is in production). Saying that don’t go into this thinking of Ola Dubh, it’s a nice beer and interesting concept but not much flavour is imparted. They do a few different varieties, the one pictured and in my book is the original but I preferred the Toasted Oak IPA I picked up in The Alex.

After a lovely week in Calahonda, we drove up to stay in Malaga for the weekend.

Malaga is an exciting city, it has got some pretty rough looking areas, which is where our first hotel was. It’s bustling and alive though. It seems modern yet steeped in history, and the Calle Larios is superb with the restaurants all having tables on the second floor overlooking the street. It has loads of great street art too. Yeah it’s graffiti but it’s clearly sanctioned and had time spent on it so I’ll use the more pretentious phrase of street art.

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Very close to our first hotel is a little bar selling Belgian and a couple of other interesting beers called Het Boste Bierje. It was cool with the menus outside and a friendly bar man.

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At this bar I found a beer I needed on draught which is so rare these days I was over the moon. Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier is a German beer from the South of the country. It has a head that disappears very quickly. It’s refreshing and very light for a white beer. It has a fruity orange nose and some bitterness in flavour.

After a stroll into the city, and finding it peculiarly hard to find some Tapas we sat in a café on the square. I wasn’t expecting to find anything on their little menu but Bingo!20161104_173919.jpg

I’m never sure if this is the right Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse but after a little research I think is and they have just changed the label slightly, bringing the Hefe bit to the bottom of the bottle. It’s a pretty popular bottle on the Costa, I’m not sure whether that’s because of all the German tourists or whether the Spanish have just developed a taste for this particular white beer. This one has a long lasting froth, especially compared to the last one I tried, though this may sometimes be down to glass management. It had less flavour though and the flavour it did have leaves very quickly. It did taste very clean.

Finally on our little trip we sought out a tiny little bar called La Botica de la Cerveza which basically means the beer store. It had loads of bottles in the fridges and on the walls and a great beer menu which had five beers for me!

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It was a great little place with a really friendly barman. I found it all quite inspirational. No draught, peanuts in a little self service dispense machine on the counter for a euro and a very limited tapas menu that he gets out the fridge behind the bar and pings in the microwave. It obviously works as it got busy, and mainly with the locals.

So going through the five beers I had…

Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. It had a very cool label but an unappealing colour. This Californian beer is pleasant yet quite unassuming and has a nice caramel flavour

Emelisse Imperial Stout was not the easiest drink to get through, a definite sipper. A Dutch beer rocking up at 11% it is thick, sweet with an almost burnt flavour. It’s nearly treacle like and gets sickly sweet the more you drink of it. One for the Pros.

Jever Pilsener is a nice dry bitter Pilsner from Germany. It has a bit of a nutty taste and actually reminded me of Harvest Crunch bars. It is very pleasant but the bitterness does hit you at the back of the throat, maybe surprising some lager drinkers.

And to finish with, 2 beers from the same brewery, Andechs Weissbier Hell and Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel. Andechs Brewery looks like a beautiful Benedictine priory so it’s a little bit of a shame I no longer have to visit there for the purpose of this list. The Weissbier Hell is a centuries old beer dating back from 1764. It is creamy for a white beer with not too much fruit. The Doppelbock Dunkel has a nice toasted smell but I found it a little disappointing. It was pleasant but quick underwhelming for a beer so revered. It had a certain fig taste to it.

So that’s that. Malaga. Very enjoyable but I was disappointed I didn’t manage to tick off a few more Spanish beers I am after. All in all though I would definitely recommend a visit, and if you do go let me know and I’ll come with!!!!!