Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Jean -Luc Colombo 'Les Lauves' St Joseph 2003

I had this wine back in 2005 when it was very much in its surly youthful phase. It was interesting to see what seven years or so of being kept in the dark did to the unruly teenager.

On the nose there's lots of spicy, almost mulled fruit; black cherry and blackberries. The autumnal, earthy fruit has really come to the fore on the palate, and it really wears its nine years well. Back in 2005 the fruit just wasn't expressive enough for me, but with the mellowing of those drying tannins the wine has become far more elegant.

12.5% abv. £9.49, although this has been cellared since 2005.

Purple Moose

Do some beer styles just not 'translate' that well from draught to bottle? Whenever I'm in the pub I almost always have one of the beers that are on tap. Exceptions would be rare, usually imported beers that I know wouldn't be available on draught or from the usual places online where I buy beers to drink at home.

I don't think it's the same thing as I come across in wine classes. Some wines don't show themselves too well in a rather sterile, 'classroom' environment; most quality wines are made to go with food, and actually don't come across that well compared to a modern fruit-driven, 'TV wine' when they're sampled on their own. I might be wrong but, while there are many great food matches for beers, there are fewer of them that are made specifically to go with foods. I think it's maybe a bit more like 'dance' music that might be great in a club when played through a large PA, but somehow falls a bit flat when it's on your home stereo. Or maybe it's like a recording of a gig you really enjoyed when you were there but, when you watch/listen again, you wonder quite how you didn't notice how bad the sound was at the venue?

I don't blame breweries for wanting to get their products out there; selling bottles is a brilliant way of raising the profile of a brewery. I think that coming up with and producing a recipe for a beer that works on draught is the best way to go about it; the beer should be as good as a brewer can make it in the medium it is created for - it's just unfortunate that sometimes it doesn't do itself justice served in a different way. Simon has mentioned a similar thing over at CAMRGB, where, when trying one of these same beers, he concluded his interest was piqued a lot more by stronger bottles beers when drinking at home.

The three Purple Moose beers I had to try were a present from when my parents visited North-West Wales a while back so I don't know any prices. 

Snowdonia Ale: There's a smack of pale malt on the nose, it's a lovely, fresh aroma, with lots of meadow hay and meadowy notes.The palate is light and floral, and it's very drinkable, with a touch of sweetness and umami notes on the finish. 3.6% abv.

Madog's Ale: Pours a lovely red-amber colour. This has a bit more of a spicy, metallic aroma, and is more pithy than the Snowdonia. The sweetness of the Snowdonia is gone, with the hops coming through a bit more, there are hints of orange, and again, marmite in the finish. 3.7% abv.

Glaslyn Ale: Once again the nose is dominated by the malt, the hops on the palate are a bit soapier, and it's more fruity than the other two; showing red apples and honey with a more rounded character. 4.2% abv.

So three beers which, while I think would be perfectly good session beers on draught, at home are decent enough, but don't really exhibit a great deal of character. What I do like is that they share certain elements - it suggests there is a 'Purple Moose' flavour profile - which means they are far from being another homogenised beer

Sunday, 26 August 2012

A Year in Beer

It's been roughly a year since I started blogging about beer. Although this Blogger blog only really got going after the Robin Hood Beer Festival in October, I had written some pieces before, some of which I transferred over when I recently found copies. If you'll indulge me just a little recap here are, in alphabetical order rather than one of favouritism (making it much easier for me to decide), my favourite five bottled beers I have reviewed in the 140 or so posts I've written on this blog in the last year:

Brasserie d’Achouffe 'Houblon Chouffe'
Bristol Beer Factory 'Southville Hop'
Hardknott 'Queboid'
Harviestoun 'Ola Dubh' 12
Thornbridge 'Raven'

And so a conclusion can be drawn - I'm still a big IPA fan all these years after my conversion in the first pub I was ever assistant manger of, years after Youngers IPA has gone the way of all things. There is the caveat however, and that's that big hoppy IPAs (and big imperial stouts) are liable to stand out clearly in the memory. Witness how many times new world wines 'are better than classed growth chateaux' in whatever latest wine challenge.

The most read article I've written was this one questioning BrewDog's policies about topping up in a couple of their new bars. This is mainly because of this post on their forum, which I can't read because I'm not a shareholder - so I still have no idea what it's about. Oddly, the most searched for term that has brought the most people to my blog is 'Peter Griffin no bones.'

So what's the other lesson? Well, if traffic is important to you, and you'd like to boost your Wikio ranking, whatever that is, then the wisdom I can share from my first year of blogging is: Say something controversial about BrewDog, preferably involving Peter Griffin. Sweet.

I'm kidding, don't send hate mail (again).

On a more serious note I'd like to say thank you to everyone that does read this blog, everyone who chats to me on Twitter and keeps my beer and blogging enthusiasm going, and in particular to B&B, Zak, and Steveowners of the blogs that people read before stumbling blindly into this one.

Cheers all!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Peelander Tripel

Peelander is a completely new brewery on me. This triple was a present from my brother and my sister-in-law who were over from The Netherlands to visit recently. Given where the beer is from I think they probably got it when they were down in Zeeland - my sister-in-law's mum lives down there and so they probably picked it up while visiting.

Having left it to stand for quite a while it initially poured clear. Once I'd got to the bottom there was some yeast sediment. It's a light gold colour with a good fluffy head. The nose is dominated by citrus fruit, mainly lemon, and with a touch of spice. This is reflected on the palate where there's loads of tangy apple, juicy citrus and pine flavour that really gets your mouth watering. It doesn't have the dustiness that I associate with its near neighbours over the Belgian border, although it does have a lingering, yeasty finish. Overall I thought this was an excellent beer, lots of character, as you'd expect from a triple, but really fresh, accessible and probably quite dangerously moreish considering the alcohol content!

8% abv. I've got no idea on the cost, sorry! (33cl)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Skinner's 'Betty Stogs'

Melissa Cole was on fine form yesterday, launching herself at the sexism of certain breweries' marketing techniques over on her blog. It was great to see lots of support in the form of comments and re-tweets from people I talk to in the beeriverse on Twitter. I've mentioned it before but I think it's something that is worth re-iterating. In order to convince a new generation of drinkers (of both sexes) to drink beer, the sexism and schoolboy humour really ought to stop. I'm not talking about censorship or some sort of ban, I just think that good beer should be treated with some respect; it deserves better.

That's not to say that everything has so be constantly and slickly managed by an expensive PR company, but breweries should have, and be seen to have, some pride in their product. The fact is that bottle labels and pump clips are often the first thing a prospective customer encounters, and if they look shabby and out-dated then it will discourage a generation of extremely brand-conscious drinkers for whom sophisticated drinks advertising campaigns are completely normal fare.

If you think it's harmless, and that the casual sexism and cartoon images contained on many labels and pump-clips are just a joke, then fine; but when the 'real ale' selection in your pub is reduced, and a new bar fridge is put in chock-full of Smirnoff Ice, then you had it coming.

Breweries; leave the alienation of women to the big brands like Foster's and Carling - please let them go under rather than something that's worth being proud of. Of course, if you're not really proud of your beer, then feel free to put a large picture of a dog-turd on the label. I suppose at least it's not sexist.

And so to beer, and why that rant is somewhat relevant. My other half was in the supermarket the other week and gave me a bell to say 'Have you tried...' I said I hadn't, and so she bought it. I would have stopped her if I'd have thought a bit more. Skinner's are responsible for, amongst others, the travesty that is 'Cornish Knocker' and, as I think I probably illustrated above, I would avoid of their beers because I think if they're prepared to associate themselves with that sort of branding then I don't think they'd particularly care about their beer.* I'm not saying that's how it is, but that label is the only impression of them that I have and therefore, before drinking their beer, have nothing else to judge them on.

The 'Betty Stogs' pours a pleasant reddish-amber colour and the head didn't hang around very long. On the nose there's a touch of lemon but mainly I got caramel biscuit aromas - kind of like Jacob's Trio if anyone remembers them! On the palate there's an initial light fruitiness; citrus in particular and there's not much to the finish. I think this is just a beer that doesn't translate that well to a bottle. I'm sure it would be a perfectly enjoyable session beer on hand-pull, but like many similar beers it doesn't work so well in a different format. That's not necessarily a bad thing - it keep pubs open after all.

4.0% abv. £2.09 (50cl) from Beers of Europe (I don't know what my wife paid for it.)

Edit: Stephen Beaumont has weighed in on the issue too. It's not just the 'real-ale' stereotype, it happens everywhere, as you can see from this Session #66 post from The Pour Curator (aka Greg).

* Since I've not tried it then I won't pass judgement on Cornish Knocker as a beer. Simon over at CAMRGB did here though.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A Brooklyn Brace

Whilst up in Yorkshire for most of the last couple of weeks I picked up a couple of Brooklyn beers from Roberts and Speight in Beverley. I originally bought the EIPA for my brother to take back to Holland with him but he forgot it, and because the best before date was next month I did the decent thing and drank it for him. The other was a chocolate stout; since my other half seems to be developing a taste for them, she wanted to give this one a try. More self-sacrifice was required; I had to help since she felt she couldn't finish a whole bottle of 10% beer on her own.

Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale is fairly restrained on the nose, with caramel and maybe a little stone-fruit. The hops are more noticeable once you get to the palate. There you get more of the dankness which I generally associate with the more hop-heavy American offerings - and their British cousins.* A faint wood-smoke and pine bitter finish rounds it all off rather nicely.

As a side note, I'm not sure I'd classify it as an 'English' IPA (apart from for the obvious reason, maybe a New England IPA?) but it's certainly different to the lighter-bodied, tropical/citrus fruit offerings that you get from most American craft brewers, and so I suppose the classification serves a purpose. Having said that it strikes me that IPA is such an abused and misused term that it is in danger of becoming almost meaningless it's so broad. None of this detracts from this as a beer though, I thought it was excellent. Although it owes most of its flavour to the hops the malt is not ignored, and I think this gives it a complexity that often gets overlooked in modern IPA.

6.9% abv. (355ml) £2.19 if you order it from Beers of Europe.

Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout is a different beast altogether. I'm not sure that full-bodied even begins to describe this one. It's almost chewy! I actually found myself swirling it round my snifter glass to see if it had the viscosity of a Pedro Ximénez sherry - it's not quite that thick but you get the idea. It's sweet, stopping just short of being cloying, which is helped by a bitter finish. As well as the rich chocolate flavours I got a touch of liquorice too.

10% abv. (355ml) £3.39 if you order it from Beers of Europe.

* Many thanks to David (see the link) for giving me a word I can use to describe something that reminds me of weed!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Magic Rock 'Human Cannonball' IIPA

Since I left the pub trade a huge number of breweries have started up, completely changing the face of the UK pub and beer scene. Many of these escaped my notice since I was immersed in sitting wine exams and trying to get my head round grape clones and rootstock types. Since I started beer blogging and re-discovering British beer in particular, Magic Rock have been one brewery that has been constantly recommended and raved about, but I've just never got round to trying. The day after IPA day was therefore IPA day squared, a chance to relive #downDIPA perhaps?

Given I'm not a massive fan of Imperial IPA as a style, I was impressed by this one. It was getting close to its best before date, which might have affected the freshness, but if so I suspect it mellowed rather than deteriorated. It poured a deep reddish-amber colour, and there's bags and bags of hops on the nose, delivering rich citrus and tropical fruit. On the palate the hops are, relatively for a double IPA, held back; which I think gives the beer a better balance, allowing some of the caramel sweetness of the malt to come through. On the basis of this my appetite for Magic Rock beer is well and truly whetted, I'll continue to be on the look out for more of their beers.

You can have a bit of a read of the story behind Human Cannonball here.

It's a very well disguised 9.2% abv. I got this one from Beer Ritz, although I'm not sure what I paid for it. Slurp are charging £3.90 (33cl.)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

BrewDog 'Never Mind The Anabolics'

I popped into BrewDog in Nottingham the other day because I fancied trying this one, and it seemed appropriate enough for a second IPA day beer. If you have a high enough tolerance for BrewDog's publicity antics and you haven't seen the things they did for their 'Olympic' beer it's over here. Me? I like IPA, and given an opportunity to try a new one I'm always up for it, and that's unlikely to be changed by how little or much noise the brewery make.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect given the claims about 'controversial' additives. It pours a lovely coppery red colour. |On the nose there's pine and an earthy, herbal note, presumably from the ginseng. On the palate here's plenty of juicy tropical and citrus fruit hops as you'd expect from a BrewDog IPA, but overall I just wasn't that impressed. It's decent enough, but not that exciting or different.

The acid test of these things is usually the question of would I buy it again? Well, I don't think I would. I don't think it's really that much better than BrewDog's staple Punk IPA, assuming it's on form - I have heard there are some issues, to justify the extra money.

6.5% abv. £4.66 from the brewery if you buy six.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Durham Brewery 'Bombay 106' IPA

I don't think I had any involvement in IPA Day last year, it was a bit early in my blogging days so I probably wasn't aware of it in all the hubub. Anyway, here I am celebrating my first IPA Day. A day to celebrate what is probably my favourite style of beer. What's not to like?

First up was a beer I've been looking forward to trying for ages. Much as I like the American styles of IPA it's British IPAs that are my first love from way back, and in the wake of British performances in the Olympics which have actually stopped my usual cynicism in its tracks it seemed doubly appropriate. As far as I'm aware Durham Brewery (admirably in my opinion) won't sell their beers through supermarkets, so this isn't something you're going to find outside of specialists or on-line. Look out for their #sourpower day to celebrate the release of the really exciting sounding Diabolus that's happening on the 6th of September.

Enough pre-amble, on with the beer. It's bottle conditioned and leapt out of the bottle after opening so it didn't pour very clear, although I just about managed to miss my phone and hit the glass with only minor spillage! Crisis averted I dived right in. It was well worth the wait, a really excellent, unashamedly bitter beer. None of your new world tropical fruit in this one; there's some lemon and grapefruit on the nose but it's just luring you into a false sense of security before the steely metallic flavour on the palate hits you with everything it has. Short, sharp and definitely to the point. The finish is crisp, the mineral hop hit doesn't hang around long enough to get unpleasant, rapidly moving on to spices; pepper that urges you to try more.

Obviously IPA Day deserved more than one IPA, but the Bombay deserved its own post. A superb beer; BrewDog's 'Olympic Beer' will have to wait.

7% abv. £3.36 (50cl) from Beer Ritz.

Credit: IPA Day logo, with the date 'corrected', taken from Martyn Cornell's Zythophile blog. His posts debunking IPA myths are well worth a read.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Saltaire 'Triple Chocoholic'

Yesterday was Yorkshire Day, so a bit of a rummage round the cellar unearthed a couple of appropriate beers, and the Saltaire 'Triple Chocoholic' was voted in by my other half as the one to celebrate with. It was perhaps inevitable that we'd compare it to the Meantime Chocolate Porter that we had last week.

For starters this seems to be far less of a 'beer for people who don't like beer.' (See Pintsized Ticker's experiment here.) The nose was dominated by the chocolate malt, despite being only 12% of the malts involved, but it was the aromas that reminded me very much of nosing the chocolate malt at the Gwaun Valley Brewery the other week that stood out - it was in one of the jars pictured. On the palate the chocolate definitely comes through but it doesn't have the viscous texture of the Meantime that leaves it being a lot more 'beery' rather than a more indulgent 'dessert in a bottle' style. If this sounds negative then I don't mean it to be, I think that the two beers, despite obvious similarities, are very different. The Saltaire uses chocolate to complement the beer rather than being the be all and end all of it; the bitterness of the hops is still there and the power of the malt means there's cocoa and biscuity qualities that add another layer of complexity. The name Triple Chocoholic, to me, does suggest something more of a chocolate overload than the beer delivered, and while I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing in terms of making a beer I wonder whether some people might be disappointed.

4.8%, £2.69 (50cl) from Beer Ritz.

PS. A reminder it's IPA day today. Hope you've got your hop-bombs in for the occasion! Potential menu includes Durham Bombay 106, BrewDog Never Mind the Anabolics or Moor Illusion. Nice decisions to make.