Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beer Of The Day - 29th January

Those of you who have read the previous post will be aware that Mallinsons 'Citra' is around town. I managed to catch it in the Star last evening and what a beer it is. It is 4.1 % and full of all the Citra hop flavour I had hoped for in the beer.

I will not become repetitive and go through all the tasting notes again, all I can say is get out and hunt it out. If you love your hops then this is a classic, hopefully the perfect accompaniment for Town winning at the Emirates and Andy Murray winning the Australian Open. Could be a good day !!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beer of the Day - 25th January

A couple of weeks ago Will posted about the wonderful Ossett 'B2K' with its massive hit of citra hops. Well, I have now come across its smaller, less potent, but equally tasty brother.

On the bar at the Rat & Ratchet is the latest in the Mallinsons Space series. 'Binary Star' is a light coloured 4.7% beer that is again full of the wonderful flavours imparted by the Citra hop. There are masses of fruit flavours in there, I found mostly mango notes but others were there as well to make it a refreshing beer that lacked the alcohol background of the Ossett beer.

The hop itself is an American hybrid that has been around for about a couple of years but has only recently started to be used regularly by British brewers. It is a combination of Hallertau Mittlefruh and US Tettnang, with various others strains also playing their part. An alpha acid rating of 10-12 % gives it a bitterness, but not to the point of being astringent.

If you get chance to get to the Rat, then at the moment you can be treated to both the Mallinsons and Ossett side by side to compare and contrast (in the interest of science obviously!). This is another winner from the Mallinsons brewery and shows that not only does Tara brew great beers but Elaine can as well, since this was one of hers. Watch out for the next Mallinsons single hopped beer as this will be 'Citra' - I, for one, cannot wait.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just to confuse the tickers!!

Those readers who subscribe to another beer web site may already be aware of this, but I thought it makes an interesting point, so bear with me.

Last weekend a pub in Salford had a beer from Elland brewery on the bar called 'Greland' - it is a seasonal special and described as a 'robust porter' on the pump clip. I was there but did not try it, so I am writing from someone else's experience, but the beer served from the pump was a light IPA style beer. Obviously, some confusion then. A check of the barrel revealed that it was labelled 'Greland', a check at the brewery revealed that they had sold it to a wholesaler as 'Greland' and had no reason to disbelieve what came out of the barrel would not be 'Greland', so what has happened? The obvious answer is that no one knows.

This does lead to an interesting point though. If we are collecting beers by name, are we sure we are getting what we believe through the pump ?

There are all sorts of reasons why there may be confusion. Has the brewer labelled the barrel correctly? Does the point of sale information match up with the information on the barrel? Has the barperson actually served you the right beer? You can see now that this is a non exact science. There are at least three reasons why what is in your glass may not be what you assume it is.

The 'Greland' example is easy to spot, a porter and an IPA are different colours to kick off with. I have been told of a case recently in a local pub where a busy barman managed to confuse Tetleys with Black Sheep, as they are on adjoining pumps, and personally, I have accidentally served 'Landlord' instead of Taylor's 'Best'. It is not difficult to confuse beers in a pub cellar either. Two identical casks with a small label that has been damaged in transit sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between the casks, especially for beers that you are unfamiliar with.

I am not suggesting that anyone is being unprofessional, or deliberately misleading, merely that mistakes sometimes happen like in any walk of life. It is not a big event in the scheme of things, just a little irritating at the time. Just makes you think, how many of the beers I have drunk in pursuit of my hobby are not exactly what I believed them to be. Hopefully very few, but you never know do you!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Try it while you can

If you are near The Grove, in Huddersfield over the weekend, call in and see if the latest Marble beer is on the bar, be warned, if it is it won't be there for long.

'Driscoll's End' is the final brew made by one of the regular team of brewers, Dominic Driscoll (right,) and this is his swan song before moving on to pastures new. The Grove had two barrels, the first selling out in the space of an evening, the second is promised this weekend but no one is sure when it will appear.

It is a masterpiece of brewing, 5.5%, robust and packed with fruity hop flavours - the sort of beer to gladden the heart of any hop monster. Hopefully Mr Driscoll will leave the recipe with the rest of the team at Marble and we may see other incarnations of the brew. If not, get up there and sample it if you can, and see what a class brewer Marble have let go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cricketers Deal

The splendid Cricketers Arms in Horbury has just announced an incredible deal for CAMRA members. Visit the pub between noon & 6pm, Monday to Friday, and pay just £2 a pint for any real ale upon production of a valid membership card!

Ossett's B2K was on the bar last time I checked, so here's a great opportunity for those retirees amongst you to make some serious savings and get the year off to an inflation-busting start. This outstanding offer will be available until March.

Festival Time In Manchester

A couple of weeks ago I promised a few hints as to other places to visit in Manchester if the Winter Ales Festival does not hit the spot for you.

I have discovered at least two festivals in pubs to coincide with the big event. The New Oxford (right) at Salford is promising around 50 beers, mostly through the bar but with cellar runs available when staff are free to do it. (Its worth it just to watch Tim running outside to the cellar with his tray!). The Smithfield on Swan Street has also mentioned a festival and is nearer to the larger event, but I have no more details.

If these are not to your taste, then other pubs in the area do make an effort to source more unusual beers at this time. The Angel, The Crown & Kettle and Bar Fringe are usually worth a call and are all in easy reach of the Winter Ales Festival and Victoria Station.

So if you are at a loose end this week then maybe a trip to Manchester may lift the Winter Blues.

BrewDog: The Next Generation

Controversial is a word often ascribed to cult Scottish outfit BrewDog, and in a move that's bound to divide opinion once more, the brewery has decided that it's future is now in keg. What's more West Yorkshire's number one dawg outlet, right here in Huddersfield, has wasted no time installing a brand new font to ensure that fans old and new are on the receiving end of the re-vamped output.

The Grove at Spring Grove Street is currently offering both Proto Punk (5.6%) and 77 Lager (4.9%) at around the £3 a pint mark and very good they are too. Having drunk a lot of bottled Punk IPA, the transition was an easy one for me. Carbonation was just right (no gassy rubbish this!) and if temperature's an issue then a couple of minutes hugging your glass will soon sort it. As a life long cask fan I was initially a little uneasy about this radical move but have to admit that BrewDog's States-style beers are perfectly suited to this dispensing method.

However where I feel the boys have really missed a trick is in the font design. Free from the shackles of the traditional handpump, surely here was an opportunity to really make a statement on the bar. Rather than the length of drainpipe we see here, why not have something truly eye-catching. My vision? A steampunk themed dispenser that wouldn't look out of place on the bridge of Jules Verne's Nautilus - now that really would be the dogs!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Now is the Winter of our Content

With apologies to Will, (the Bard that is, not the blogger !!)

In the first two weeks of January, generally a quiet month for the beer enthusiast, we have been privy to beers from at least five new breweries at The Star. And pretty good some have been too.

In these days it must be a brave man who sets out to make a living out of brewing beer, especially having the courage to open up a new brewery. We have mentioned several that have started recently in West Yorkshire, but at the moment they are proving elusive to track down. However, we have been treated to some recent additions from Cheshire, Lancashire and Derby and if their first offerings are a sign of things to come we should be in for a treat when they really get going.

The first up was Offbeat Brewery from Crewe with their 'Outlandish Pale'. Admittedly it did divide opinion a bit, but personally I was happy with their 3.9% offering. Light coloured and a decent session beer, it seemed a pretty fair first attempt. The Cheshire connection continued with Happy Valley Brewery who gave us the 4.2% 'Lazy Days' (a fruity bitter) & 3.8% 'Sworn Secret' (another light coloured and very drinkable session bitter), and Redwillow Brewery who bucked the light trend with a darker beer. 'Feckless' was a 4.1%, the clip called it a winter ale, but it was not lacking in hop character, although more malty that the previous beers.

Irwell Valley, from Ramsbottom, provided a mid range bitter, 'Steam Plate', which started with lots of promise but sadly started to fade towards the bottom of the glass. The real star (if you will excuse the pun - been drinking with Denis for too long!), was Dancing Duck 'Ay Up'. Another light beer at 3.9% but packed with flavour and far too drinkable. It lasted less than an evening, not bad for a new brewery.

On the subject of beers from over the border, there is also Phoenix 'Low VAT Bitter' doing the rounds. I have been a fan of the brewery for a long time and this does not disappoint. Only 3.5%, but packed with flavour. Who needs a strong beer when you can get taste like that in a weaker one? (By the way, if you see their 'Lancashire Pale' give that a go, another classic)

A year that started with promises of gloom and doom from every angle has suddenly picked up. If these few beers are a snap shot of things to come then 2011 could be a classic year for beer drinkers. Lets hope so.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We have had our chips....

.....or in this case our pie and mash!!

I was speaking to Rob Allen, the manager of the 'Rat & Ratchet' yesterday, and it seems that the need to start cost cutting has started early in the Ossett empire.

Rob recently returned to manage the Rat and one of his visions was to place the pub on the map for its food as well as its real ale. To that end a new kitchen was installed in the pub and they have started selling pie, peas, and mash at selected times. That was until he advised us that as from this coming weekend the kitchen would be closed and the pies no more.

Normally such a decision would not directly bother me, I rarely eat in pubs so I would not see this as a great loss. However, those who drink in the Rat will have not failed to see the concrete monstrosity at the rear of the place, which is going to become Huddersfield's new Technical College. This is why Ossett's decision has baffled me. Here, in a few months time, is a gold mine on their doorstep. A pub, a short distance from a complex that is home to loads of students and lecturers, serving food and beer in a perfect position to cash in. Surely the Ossett hierarchy could see that? So instead of closing the kitchen, why have they not stuck with it, with a view to expanding the food range when the time is right. They have the equipment and the chef to do it. It all seems very short sighted.

Whilst I am on this theme, Rob also mentioned the 'The Shepherds Boy' at Dewsbury is also closing it's kitchen. It is the pub Rob previously managed and holds in great affection. It is not a particularly busy place, partly because of its location, but it did do a good trade on Sunday lunchtimes which brought the punters in. Not only would they get a decent meal but also spend their money over the bar to boost the wet sales. To remove the kitchen here would be even more devastating than at the Rat and may even sound the death knell for the pub. Another piece of short sightedness or an essential cost cutting exercise? I will let you decide.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Salamander Brewery

One of the breweries that is often overlooked on 'A Swift One' is Salamander of Bradford. Admittedly they are not easy to find around Huddersfield, but are becoming more regular at the Rat & Ratchet and sometimes make an appearance at The Kings Head and the Cherry Tree, but in my opinion is a brewery well worth searching out.

The brewery started about 10 years ago in an old pie factory (an old factory, not a factory that made old pies!!) in the Bradford suburb of Dudley Hill. In my previous life I worked just down the road and it was great to go out for a break and smell the brewery in action.

They brew four core beers, 'Axelotl' at 3.8%, 'Mudpuppy' at 4.2%, and 'Golden Salamander' at 4.5% all named after salamanders, and 'Stout' at 4.5% which obviously is not. The first three are lightish, my favourite being the 'Axelotl' - an uncomplicated, hoppy offering.

Checking up before writing this, I discovered they have brewed in excess of 400 other beers as well, a quite phenomenal amount to keep up with. They used be very good at brewing very light beers and very dark beers, the former usually 3.8%ish and the latter 4.8%ish but very rarely did I find anything in between, either colourwise or in strength.

More recently their range seems to have encompassed all sorts of strengths and styles and although I have not been as impressed by their attempts at brown beers, the light and dark go from strength to strength. The problem is that there is little on their pump clips to suggest what colour or style the beer is, so it is often pot luck as to what sort you may be getting. To try to recommend any of such a massive range is pointless as they very rarely brew the same beer twice except for their four regulars, but all I can say is if you see one, give it a go. I always do, and am rarely let down.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Beer of the Day - 6th January

Actually probably beer of the week (at least) this one, with it's promise certainly living up to expectations. Single hopped with Citra, this powerhouse of an IPA is Ossett Brewery's 2000th beer but only a very limited amount is available at the company's pubs and even less in the free trade.

There's nothing shy or retiring about this accomplished ale, from the eye-watering aroma to syrupy finish, B2K really delivers, and fans of this relatively new hop strain are in for a treat. I managed to catch up with it at The White Horse in Emley where sales have been brisk since it first appeared at the weekend - so don't hang around, 'cos when it's gone, it's gone!

Update: On now at The Shepherds Boy (Dewsbury) and in the cellars at The Sportsman (Hudds), The Cricketers & Boons in Horbury plus Fanny's Ale House (Saltaire). The beer will also feature at next month's Bradford Beer Festival at the Victoria Hall.

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE: Ossett Brewery releases a monster 7.5% ABV Limited Edition Beer next Tuesday to celebrate their 2000th Brew. B2K, which stands for Brew 2000, is the strongest beer the real ale brewery has ever produced.

At a whopping 7.5% ABV, B2K even tops their current strongest and very popular beer ‘Hercules’, which features once or twice a year as a seasonal at 6.5% ABV.

B2K is what is known in the brewing industry as an Indian Pale Ale (IPA) and is golden in colour and very bitter. Generous quantities of American Citra hops give the beer intense aromas of tropical fruits, particularly mango and pineapple.

Paul Spencer, Head Brewer, said: “We wanted to do something really special to celebrate this momentous occasion, for us to achieve 2000 brews is quite something. Our usual brews are of a moderate strength; this is definitely a special beer that should be drunk in moderation to appreciate its unique qualities.”

B2K is available from this Tuesday, 21st December. Publicans are advised to get their orders in early as only 55 x 9 Gallon Casks of this Limited Edition Brew are available.

If Ossett Brewery’s recent success is anything to go by this beer will be well received. Only last month the local brewery walked away with a record FIVE awards at the largest ever Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) beer competition and festival. Awards included the overall best bottled beer for Treacle Stout, which actually has black treacle as one of the ingredients, and Gold for their new bottled Yorkshire Blonde Premium.

Beer Festival News

The White Cross Inn at Bradley will be holding it's annual festival next month - details below:

Also a date for your diary this March:

"Gledholt Male Voice Choir would like to inform you of our forthcoming beer festival
at the Heritage Mills Bar, Plover Road, Oakes, Huddersfield. Same place as last year at Wellington Mills.

Friday 11 March 18.00 to 23.00

Saturday 12 March 12.00 to 24.00

Sunday 13 march 12.00 to 15.00

There will be a choice of 15 beers including a Festival Special & one cider.

Saturday evening will include a ‘Big Sing’ for both Choir & festival goers to join in.

We would be pleased if you could inform your members & give us advance publicity if it is not to late."

Trevor Briggs
Gledholt Male Voice Choir

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A New Barnsley Brewery

Courtesy of the 'bloke from Hull' we have been advised of the start of another new Yorkshire brewery, this time in South Yorkshire. 'Two Roses' have announced their intention to start brewing around March this year with a plant based at Darton, near Barnsley.

They hope to have their 8 barrel plant ready for test brewing then and hopefully, the first brews will be available in April. There is no information as to what style of beer they intend to brew but the information we have been given suggests a core range of beer supplemented with seasonal specials. If they can emulate the success of Barnsley's 'Acorn' brewery then we should be in for a treat.
Release from the Two Roses Brewery

The New Year will see the opening of a new brewery in Barnsley, the old
Shaws carpet factory at Darton will be the home of "Two Roses Brewery". The
new brewery will be operational from March 2011. Finishing touches to the
brew house are still being made and the brewing equipment is scheduled for
installation in March. The 8 barrel plant has been commissioned from David
Porter a well known brewery consultant and successful brewer, test brewing
will commence in March and the first batch of beer will be available in
April. Beer will be available in bottles and 9 gallon casks and can be
purchased direct from the brewery.

The name of the brewery stems from the fact that the owner is originally
from Lancashire but has now made Yorkshire his home. A long time member of
Camra the head brewer and owner has been passionate about real ale for a
number of years.
Brewery tours will be available and can be organised by contacting the
brewery or by phone on 01226 388375 or 07771942908.

The brewery plans to brew a number of regular beers complemented during the
year with seasonal beers.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Have Beer Festivals Had Their Day ?

This post is a direct response to a comment made a couple of days ago by 'Jibber' and one I feel worthy of a bit more exploration.

He rightly says that nowadays there are beer festivals virtually every weekend, some are accessible, some less so; some large events, some are smaller club or pub type festivals; some are good, some less so. But have they outgrown their usefulness ?

On a personal note, with some of the larger Camra festivals I tend to agree with him. Even though I am selective in the ones that I attend, I often see the programmes for others and it is not unusual to see the same beers appearing time after time. Is that what the drinkers really want ? I suppose it depends on your reasons for going. If you are happy to drink whatever beer is provided, then this not a problem, but if, like me, you want to sample new breweries or new beers, it can be disappointing. They are a still a way of catching up with like minded people and old friends, so, irrespective of the beer on offer, they can be classed as a 'social event'.

Some of the smaller festivals are possibly a better bet, particularly those pub based ones that strive to source the more unusual beers, but even then you cannot be sure things will not be duplicated. It seems unlikely that a pub festival in Liverpool,will have the same contacts as one in Newcastle, and therefore, there is more of a chance to find something different, whereas, the larger festivals may be using the same agencies to supply their needs, and hence the same beers may appear at more than one. I do know many publicans, and organisers of festivals who constantly strive to be different and long may this continue. I, for one, appreciate the effort and will try to support them.

Alongside this is the comment he makes, that by a little forward planning, it is not difficult to plan yourself your own festival by visiting several pubs in an area on a certain day. I am a firm believer in this, as are may other enthusiasts, and that is why places like Manchester, Sheffield and Derby, as well as Huddersfield, figure so highly for beer 'tickers'. Provided the research is good enough, then you can find enough new beer in a day, and in vastly different environments, to negate the reasons for visiting a festival anyway. Lets face it, the human body can only drink so much after all, so whether the choice of beers is 40 or 400 it is impossible to drink them all at one go.

May be some of the larger festivals have outlived their usefulness, some of the smaller ones are still vital, both for the drinker, but also as a way for the publican to bring in some extra revenue, albeit with a lot of extra work. There is a place for them I am sure. But I will still enjoy my days out somewhere new, sampling what is on offer that I rarely see at home. Its just a way to get the best of both worlds.