Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pabst 'Blue Ribbon' Beer

I've had a couple of days of dealing with internet things I don't really understand so it was nice to get back to beer yesterday evening. I'm not really claiming to understand beer either, but since it makes me feel better then I don't really mind. Having said that I am grateful to all the beery people I follow and chat to on Twitter for dispelling some of my ignorance, and I'm also very much looking forward to the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Beer. This gratitude also makes articles like the hopelessly uninformed one from Peter Preston in this morning's Observer all the more irritating.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a pale yellow lager with a gentle lead-in sweetness, and a soft floral/blossomy finish. A decent enough apéritif beer, I suppose it ticks the boxes but it is not exactly an inspirational beer.

On the subject of uninspiring beers, according to the Pabst website they used to brew, or at least one of their subsidiaries (G. Heileman Brewing Co.) used to brew 'Carling's Black Label'. I was under the impression that Carling was a Canadian brand rather than American, so somewhat confused by that. The ignorance turns a full circle, but I suppose without ignorance we'd not have the fun of learning. Worth drinking to.

4.7% abv, £1.69 from Beers of Europe

Thursday, 27 October 2011


I am going to start separating wine and beer stuff I'm blogging on, so I have started up where I am going to put my beer musings.

Wine stuff remains at so long as the bandwidth allows!

New Beer Blog Home

Due to bandwidth issues I am going to be posting my beer stuff here now. I've put a couple of my articles up from the old site from the last week while I get used to this interface. All good fun!

Thanks to everyone who has been reading, rather than robot spamming, my wineadvice blog - I guess someone must be or they wouldn't have stopped me using it. Older beer-related stuff and any wine posts should be back up on the wineadvice blog from the first of November.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Hunter's 'Full Bore' Strong Ale

There's a lot of fuss on the Twittersphere (is that the right preposition?) at the moment about the government's increase in duty as applied to beer above 7.5%. The claim is that it will stop people drinking beer that's too strong - I am assuming the likes of Special Brew. Anyone with half an ounce of sense can see that this is not going to work (White Lightning anyone?) but what it will do is reduce the sales, and the stocking, of some really interesting artisan beers, especially 'specialist' imported beers that, and it may be because I don't hang around in the classier streets, I don't see people walking down the road swigging from a can.

If the tax was fair, then OK, but it means there is more duty on these beers than wines that are half as strong again - Blossom Hill anyone? I'm guessing that the House of Commons Cellar has a lot of wine, but not a lot of Belgian beer. Anyway, more of that here, and please sign the e-petition.

All of which brings me round to Hunter's Full Bore. I think that a beer that comes out at 8% should have massive amount of character to balance the alcohol. There is dried fruit in there, and a caramel sweetness, and it's certainly not a bad beer, but it's not really that exciting. So this isn't as good as a beer that's been brewed along similar lines by monks in Belgium for hundreds of years, it's no Westmalle Dubbel for example. But I guess the point is that if the tax man kicks the arse out of the market for potentially interesting beers that can be dwelt upon rather than knocked back, then we are going to miss out on the imports, and miss out on our brewers who will be less likely to brew this sort of beer, and therefore get better and better at it. In the mean time Carlsberg will carry on, and the Brew is unlikely to be influenced by the burgeoning domestic craft brewing scene.

£2.12 (50cl) at Sainbury's

I also tried McEwans Champion Ale recently. Certainly makes the Full Bore taste good. Deep brown beer with bunt toast aromas and flavours, a harsh, artificial, sweetness which really doesn't have any fruit flavours (like in the Full Bore) to back it up. Bitter finish but unfortunately a really inelegant beer, the hops simply fail to complement the sweetness, seeming almost completely at odds with it. Not at all clear what this is the champion of, but I wouldn't fancy tasting the competition!

7.3% abv. A quick internet check and it's available for £1.65 in Asda - I didn't buy this one.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fallen Angel 'Fire in the Hole' Chilli Beer

Spurious attempt to clear my cold/cough/bad chest/man flu the other night. This is one of two chilli beers that Fallen Angel brewery - I'll review the Black Death at a later date.

No head, amber beer, poured with a slight haze (I'd had it flat in the fridge due to overcrowding). Left a load of yeast sediment in the bottle, and there was a noticeable fizz - lots of secondary fermentation going on.

Loads of fresh chilli aromas. A real prickle on the tongue rather than an out and out fizz. Great sourness from the fruit and a gentle warmth. Reminded me somewhat of gueuze beer in terms of how the fruit came across. Really interesting and different, although a whole 500ml serving was a lot - if it were me I'd be inclined to go for a smaller bottle size - but only personal preference.
Not the first time I've had this one and no doubt it won't be the last, I first picked this up at the excellent chilli festival in Brighton. Love this one as a chilled, refreshing change.

4.0% abv (50cl) £2.29 from Beers of Europe

PS. While on the subject of chilli products, there's a new Doritos flavour out: Jalapeno Fire. Generally the more mainstream snacks come up with all sorts of claims about how hot they are and are nothing of the sort, but these do actually have a bit of flavour to them (even if it isn't really jalapeno) and I thought they were pretty good!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Wine Recommendation

San Gimignano Sangiovese 2008

Another one from Majestic that's on a deal at the moment (2007 is advertised on the web site) - £8.99 if you buy two.

One of the first places I visited in Tuscany. A slightly unusual area in so far as it does have its own DOCG (DOC 1966-1993) for whites, under the guise of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, from a local strain of Vernaccia thought to be unrelated to any other, but at the moment is awaiting DOC status for Rosso di San Gimignano despite it having had success with Sangiovese for quite some time, and more recently with super Tuscan style international blends.

But, given all of this red-tape means the price might well be more competitive, enjoy this one at the deal price! Fruity enough to be approachable, lots of characteristic cherry flavour, but balanced with enough oak and savoury tannins to make it a more satisfying drop.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Nottingham 'Robin Hood' Beer Festival 2011

I went to the Nottingham Beer Festival last night, a Nottingham Camra organised festival - and a very well organised one at that. £12.50 gets you in, ten beer tokens (3 of which get you a half, 2 for a third of a pint) and a glass to put the beer in. There is a massive range (over 900) of beers, more than enough to keep you busy for the whole weekend should you feel so inclined.

What I think set this festival apart from, for example, Camra's Great British Beer Festival was the focus on it really being a Nottingham festival - local brewers and local bands providing a focal point, and a real festival feel rather than it being about beer geekery and nothing else. Small criticisms but I did think it wasn't that easy to find a specific beer if you were looking for it (although it might just have been me chatting rather than trying that hard), and if Camra are trying in any way to lose their image that they are often maintaining on numerous blogs is so outdated then that T-shirt stand should go - it's embarrassing.

Despite my rather scatter-gun approach to tasting the beers on offer I didn't have any that I didn't enjoy. I was looking for a couple in particular, the Brass Castle 'Bad Kitty' and the Magic Rock 'High Wire' but apart from that I tended to go for the ones I thought would have enough of a flavour punch to keep me interested - hops away!

Black Iris 'Intergalactic IPA' - The fledgling brewery's new brew, and a very good one too. Pale with a delicious hoppy bite. 6%
Brass Castle 'Bad Kitty' Porter - Excellent vanilla porter, like a vanilla and dark chocolate milkshake but without any cloying sweetness. Rich and satisfying. 5.5%
Empire Brewery 'Bedlam' - tucked away in the back of the entertainment tent, pale golden ale. 5.9%
Magic Rock 'High Wire' - American IPA style beer, great finish, long on the hops! 5.5%
Maypole 'Kiwi' IPA - One of the local brews but with Sauvin hops from Nelson, NZ. Really floral and with a citrus finish. 5%
Nottingham 'Knight's T'Ale' - A new one from the Nottingham Brewery, a traditional coppery bitter. 3.9%
Raw Pacific Ghost IPA - Another big, citrussy American style IPA, but made with NZ hops. 5.9%
Severn Vale 'Seven Sins' - Since we were waiting for Seven Little Sisters to come while chatting to Nigel who was engineering the sound this seemed the natural choice. Lovely dry stout - marked contrast to most of the big hoppy beers I went for but possibly all the more pleasant because of that. A  SIBA champion. 5.2%
Springhead 'Roaring Meg' - Although I'd tried this before I wanted to have a beer that was pulled through a sparkler (Northerners eh?). A more traditional style pale ale, not so much of a hop monster, and rather mellow for a 5.5% brew.

Had I had more time I'd have sought out Thornbridge, Dark Star and Blue Monkey beers, but there's only so much you can get through, so maybe next time.

Cheers to Nottingham Camra!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sadler's 'Worcester Sorcerer'

I enjoyed this one from Sadler's Ales - the packaging is a bit cheesy, not sure what Gandalf is doing there. Did he drink ale as well as having a go at the halflings' leaf?

Anyway, Lord of the Rings aside it's a really good, flavoursome bitter. Plenty of hoppy bite with a sweetness from the malt that gives it a good complexity, and all at a mere 4.3%. Moreish, and just what I'd want from a proper pint (or bottle as it is in this case) of bitter!

4.3% abv. £1.89 (50cl) from Sainsbury's

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Trinity Hill 'Trinity' 2002

Dug this one out of the depths of the wine cabinet this evening. It's a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah blend from Trinity Hill in Hawke's Bay.

I had the chance to look round some of Hawke's Bay's wineries in 2005 courtesy of another ex-Oddbins staff member Greg Beachen at Grape Escape - it's a diverse and interesting wine area often overlooked because of Marlborough's dominance, although Stonecroft wines used to pop up in Oddbins and CJ Pask wines are available from my local independent, Weavers.

The brick red rim of the wine gave an indication of its age but there was still plenty of fruit on the nose, lots of Plummy Merlot. The palate was more lifted, red currants mixing with leather and earthy flavours, all supported by the oak ageing. Not sure there was much more life left in it so it's probably a good thing it got drunk this weekend - but an enjoyable drop, and one that brought back a few kiwi memories to add to the brand new one brought about by Wales' fine victory this morning!

Interestingly, according to my New Zealand Wine Atlas, these guys grow Montepulciano, as well as the grapes Hawke's Bay is rather better known for.

I'm not sure where I got this one from or how much I paid for it but similar blends from more recent vintages seem to be around £12-£13. (Label)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Wye Valley Brewery 'Wye Not?'

Some beers are difficult to write about, not because they are necessarily boring, or bad, but because they are 'good, solid performers' - the beer equivalent of the box to box midfielder who 'does a job.' For this reason I am resorting to football writer clichés rather than a probably even more tired and clichéd tasting note. Well, not entirely...

Amber-gold beer with a clean white head. Slight malty sweetness but balanced by a marked pithiness and a bitter finish. A pleasant all-rounder (I'm stopping the sporting metaphors now.)

Just had a nosey at the Wye Valley Brewery website. It's no reflection on the beer but is the whole Dorothy Goodbody thing necessary? Anyway, it's there if you feel like a titter or two apparently - I think I'll pass.

4.5% abv. £1.89 from Sainsbury's

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ridgeway Brewing 'Ivanhoe' Pale Ale

Apparently made to have a balance between the malt and the hops. Fair enough.

It's a really refreshing beer considering the 5.2% abv - enough of an orange-pithy hoppiness to keep things interesting and malty enough to give it some body. Rather moreish though, possibly rather dangerous for such a strong beer - not that I'm complaining!

It's not as good as the 'Bad King John,' lacking a little bit of character to be at that sort of level, but better than some of the other, rather dull offerings in the hunt.

£1.99 from Sainsbury's