Saturday, October 25, 2014

From field to festival: the story of First Gold Brass Castle beer

The Bloke from Hull writes...
As September approached, I remembered that it would soon be harvest time for Yorkshire Hops at Chris Bradley’s farm at Ellerker near Brough. I rang to check, having had so much fun last year with business partners Chris and Matthew Hall at the home of Yorkshire Hops.
The first of two harvest days took place on Wednesday 10th September. Following a successful trial on the previous evening, we hoped for a good yield this year. Once again, I was asked to join in and the eight rows of First Gold hops were efficiently gathered in before the mighty grading machine was put to work in one of Chris’ outbuildings.
Hops were bagged up and eager brewers, mainly from Yorkshire, came to collect sacks of the little beauties. Some were even stroking them like pets. Just a bunch of softies really! Of particular note were Paul Spencer and Lisa Handforth from Ossett Brewery who joined in the collecting and grading activities.
Green hops are at their peak at the point of harvesting so all of the brewers were soon in action performing their magic either later on or the following day.
I had met Phil Saltonstall, the Brass Castle Brewery chief, quite by chance in the Chequers Micropub the previous week and he asked me to go along and assist with the brewing of a beer with the First Gold green hops at his brewery in Malton. Matthew from Yorkshire Hops also works at Brass Castle, it was all arranged just like that. 
Matt picked me up in his van full of green hops and we drove to the brewery via a very interesting route, most of the roads of which I had never been along before. The brew team of Aron, Phil and Matt were soon in action and were joined by myself and local beer enthusiast Racheal. The normal brewing process was followed until mountains of the First Gold green hops were added at which point stirring became a most important issue – that’s where Racheal and I excelled. Sadly Matt and I had to leave the team to get back but we had played our part.
Even before the harvesting took place, from at least early August, Ossett brewery had been planning a green hop beer festival for September 25th to 28th at the Shepherds Boy pub in Dewsbury. As a change to the usual meet the brewer thing they were hoping to set up a meet the grower session on the opening evening. Matt and Chris had no hesitation in accepting the offer and we were on. The intention was to get around six to eight beers from outside the Ossett stable and make up to a round dozen with beer from their own breweries. I was lucky enough to attend the festival where Chris and Matt explained their work. I was able to try all of the beers, many of which had been made using the hops I had helped to pick and sort and the Brass Castle “First Gold” beer that I had helped to make. I was so honoured to be part of it all.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Great Yorkshire Bottled Beer

Great Yorkshire Bottled Beer by Leigh
Linley is out on Monday. Price: £9.99
This Monday sees the publication of Great Yorkshire Bottled Beer.
It's been written by fellow blogger Leigh 'The Good Stuff' Linley. It is the follow up to last year's Great Yorkshire Beer.
The Bloke from Hull has kindly obtained this image and a press release, which tells of the featured breweries. Huddersfield has four included: Magic Rock, Mallinsons, The Nook Brewhouse and Summer Wine.
Rather than cutting and pasting the press release, I'll direct you over to Leigh's Good Stuff blog where he discusses his reasons for writing the book and where to get it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Its Wetherspoons Festival Time Again

Last weekend saw the start of the biannual Wetherspoons beer festival, and now, after some dedicated sampling I can give you an overview of some of the beers I have found.

I have spoken of the festivals before, and the same system applies this time. 50 beers are available over three weeks at their pubs, with most of the beer pumps being taken over by the festival beers. The beers are fortunately available in thirds of a pint (but only if you buy three at once) which is handy when you see the strength of some. 

All the beers are brewed in the U.K, but there are 10 brewed by visiting foreign brewers at established breweries in their own distinct styles. There does appear an imbalance between the north and south of the country with a predominance towards the latter, and likewise between weak and strong beers. But enough of this, what do they taste like ?

I must admit to a slight disappointment. I have only found one beer with the 'wow' factor, but plenty of average ones and some that are downright weird. Black Sheep, Roosters and Theakstons are the only Yorkshire breweries, and the Black Sheep 'Reaper' is a red ale, unusual for them, but frankly not my sort of thing.  Likewise the Butcombe 'Crimson King'. Hook Norton 'Chinook Gold' was more to my taste, but frankly needed more hops. It seems to be a problem endemic in a lot of the beers - they look good on paper but there is a disappointing lack of hops in many. 

That argument cannot be used when describing Batemans 'Freak of Nature', brewed in conjuction with the USA's Wicked Weed.  A 7.5% double IPA, full of flavour, that dangerously does not drink like its strength. I did enjoy Innis and Gunn ' Edinburgh Pale Ale' which had a pleasant malt and hop balance, at a more sensible 4.2%.

But there are some beers that are just odd. And, in my opinion, not in a good way. Adnams '1659 Smoked Ruby Beer' was too smoked to kill all other flavours in the beer, Coach House 'Toffee Bitter' is 5% but tastes thin, and sickly sweet, and Wychwood/Elysian 'Night Owl' is a spiced pumpkin ale, which contains everything I do not want to taste in beer. Of course this is all personally subjective, and some people may love them.

As I said, I did find one really good beer, from an established English brewer. Titanic 'Hop Abroad', uses a collection of hops from all around  the globe, and blends them into a very tasty 5% light beer.
I hope this becomes part of their regular portfolio.

The festival does run for another fortnight, and there are still plenty of beers to come, so may be I have been a little overcritical too soon, but time will tell. But if my ramblings have whetted your appetite get down to 'Spoons and give some a try.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Taking The Pith !!

It is not usual that I take a trip on the keg side, not for any deep rooted distrust of the style, but I prefer my beer cask, but yesterday in the Grove, I came across a beer that just intrigued me. I had to try it.

Magic Rock are always an innovative brewery, and being local, if I find a new beer from them, I will try it. Some are to my taste, some not. Yesterday's example was a revelation. 'Pith Head' is a 4.5% beer - I use the word in its loosest sense here !

It is just crammed full of citrus notes, lemon and lime in particular. A bit like a citric cordial but with fizz. May be not the sort of beer for a damp October afternoon, but ideal for sitting watching a game of cricket on a summers day. Massively refreshing, and clean tasting.

I have searched the web site but can find no reference to it,so you will have to put up with my notes. It is key keg, but even so I could find no real body in  the beer, nor any discernible hop or malt notes. Whether that was deliberate or not, I cannot say, and how it was brewed was a mystery to me. Was it made with real fruit juice, or concentrate ? Did it use the whole fruit ? It presumably has pith in it, or the name would suggest so. It was just a mystery, but a very interesting beer.

So if some of my fellow editors happen to be in the vicinity in the next few days, maybe they could sample it too and see what they think. I was just sold on it, and in the very near future will return and resample it for my own benefit. It will certainly count for one of my five a day !!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New site for Sheffield CAMRA festival seems somewhat familiar

I know where I'm going
Sheffield CAMRA's 40th anniversay beer festival may be moving to a new site but ale aficionados won't need a map to find it.
The festival is relocating from Ponds Forge to the spiritual home of real ale in the city, Kelham Island
To be precise it's being held in the Kelham Island Museum, which is behind the Fat Cat pub.
It kicks off on on Wednesday, October 29 and runs until Saturday, November 1.
Everything you need to know is on the festival website including some of the 150-strong beer list.
However, the Bloke from Hull has sent us this handy crib sheet, which looks like it's from festival organiser Andy Cullen. Here it is in full:

Sheffield CAMRA's 40th (Ruby Anniversary) Steel City Beer Festival
Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th October 2014, open 5pm-11pm
Friday 31st October and Saturday 1st November 2014, open 12pm-11pm
NEW VENUE: Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Alma Street, S3 8RY (down a driveway next to Fat Cat pub)

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: buses 57/79/79A/81/82/84 to Shakespeare's pub on Gibraltar Street or buses 47/48/53/87 to Harlequin pub on Nursery Street. Alternatively Shalesmoor tram stop is about 5 mins walk away.

ENTRY FEES - vary by session, see website

GLASS - choice of pint glass or half pint glass, cost £2, unwanted glasses can be returned and cashed in on exit.

PROGRAMME - £1. This is the first time we have charged for the programme, this was a condition of budget approval. However much of the content including the beer list will be available on the website so you can avoid paying the £1 by printing your own!

BEER TOKENS - all bars only accept beer tokens. These are sold in £1 and 10p denominations and are spent like cash. Unused tokens can be either refunded or donated to charity.

FESTIVAL LAYOUT - There will be four areas to the festival and the beer list indicates which area each beer can be found. The Upper Hall contains bars and the main music stage, Millowners Pub is a traditional pub scene created in the museum and we will be using it's bar, Marquee contains further bars and stalls and outside area includes hot food outlets.

BEER LIST - the work in progress is now accessible at It’s our ruby anniversary! | CAMRA Sheffield & District . These are the beers ordered by myself (Andy Cullen) although you will spot some blank lines against certain breweries where I am awaiting confirmation of the beers - in most cases these are local breweries that are sponsoring a brewery bar, in Clarke's case Smoggy Dave off of the KIT has arranged for two beers to be brewed to the same recipe but with different yeasts. A further 20 beers are still to be added to the list which are being ordered relatively last minute by Dave Unpronounceable - these are all likely to be new/rare/interesting beers.

BEER AVAILABILITY POLICY - Our aim is all beers will go on sale at opening time on Wednesday evening and remain on sale until the cask is empty. If the beer is not ready to serve it will not go on sale until our cellar manager is confident there are no quality control issues. The only beer that will be 'held back' is where we have duplicate casks (cask 1 will go on sale from the start, there MAY be a break between cask 1 running out and cask 2 going on sale)

ENTERTAINMENT - bands on each evening except Wednesday in the Upper Hall. Some acoustic acts in the marquee to be confirmed. Pub quiz Saturday afternoon. Pub games running all sessions.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Huddersfield Oktoberfest 2014 results

The results of Huddersfield CAMRA's beers of the 2014 festival are in.
The Oktoberfest medallists were announced today on twitter.
This is just a quick post highlighting the winners, but the full list and voting patterns can be found here
Empire won the mild category with Moonraker Mild, 
Bitter of the festival was Riverhead's American IPA.
HDM's Genuine as Whole won the strong bitters competition.
Riverhead scored another gold with Marsden in the speciality beers category.
Rat Brewery took out the stout/porter crown with Ratsputin.
There was also a cider competition with Udder's Orchard's Whisky Cask a resounding winner.
Congratulations to all the gold, silver and bronze medallists.
Roll on next year!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Like Customer Service - but This Was Not It

People who know me know I am a fairly laid back chap, and do not often get annoyed, especially so when I am in a pub and see a couple of 'ticks' on the bar. But yesterday, in a certain pub in Halifax I think I came across the worst example of customer service I have ever encountered.

Let me set the scene. It was 2.30pm, the pub has about 8 handpumps on the bar,  2 of which were new to me, and no customers. There was a young girl behind the bar, I assumed she was the barmaid. When she had stopped texting and noticed me, she very politely asked what I wanted. I pointed out the required beers, but for some reason one had an upside down pump clip

She started pulling my halves but just got water. She goes off and returns with a bucket and starts pulling the water through the pumps. Ok so far, except I would have expected this to have been done before opening. I mentioned the inverted pump clip. 'Oh I don't know, I will have to ask'. Cue a phone call, out of my hearing. She then wandered off to the cellar. And after a couple of minutes returned and carried on pulling.

All seemed well, and beer started coming out of the pumps. 'I think the gas has gone'. Even though the beer seemed to be coming out of the pump without any particular problem.  Cue next call. And another trip to the cellar.

I was then joined by a very cheery chappie. He stood around for a second or two and started rapping his nails on the bar. After a minute or so I was getting irritated and said the girl was in the cellar. Off he went to the cellar, and there was a discussion at the top of the stairs about a delivery he was making, and a barrel he had to collect.

The girl reappeared. I assumed, wrongly, to serve me. No,back on the phone, another conversation, this time about the missing barrel. Information imparted, the girl then started a long discussion with him about more irrelevant trivia. The customer being completely overlooked. I asked what was happening with my beer. 'Oh, sorry its run off.'.

This was my tipping point. A frank interchange of ideas with her, and the drayman, and I left. 17 minutes after going in, with no beer. I dread to think if two customers went in the place at the same time. But I can understand why I was the only customer in the place, and it will be a very long time before I call in again.

Just goes to prove that it may take years to build a pubs reputation, but less than 30 minutes to destroy it.,