Monday, December 31, 2012

Say Goodbye to 2012


What can I say about 2012? In global terms it has been the year of a very successful Olympics, the year when it has never seemed to stop raining, and the year the blue & white Brazil finally managed to extricate themselves from the lower eschelons of the football league -  not to mention English and Yorkshire cricket on the up again. But what does this have to do with a beer blog? Frankly not a lot but I have to start somewhere.

In brewing terms there are more and more new breweries coming on stream, I have sampled more than 100 myself, some good, some less so. And I have aired my concern previously that soon the bubble will burst and we may have a situation where supply outstrips demand and we start to lose breweries rather than gain more. All we can hope is that the good ones keep going. Locally, we have over a dozen, that seem to do reasonably well, thankfully, and keep us interested by producing new beers on an almost daily basis. 

2012 has also been the year when 'craft' breweries have cornered a market niche all of their own. I don't want to go into the 'craft' brewery debate at the moment, that will be for a later date, but I am frankly getting a bit cheesed off with some of them. Likewise with the key keg debate. Key kegs seem to be here to stay, and in general terms I have no real issue with them. I just wish that if I want a key keg beer I could pay a reasonable price for it, not the hiked up prices that the brewers seem to expect us to pay. This is my gripe with the 'craft' brewers too. Why are their beers more expensive than 'non craft' brewers? The ingredients are usually the same, the cost to produce must be much the same, so why is there such a difference at the point of sale. The same applies to 'craft beer' pubs. They seem to be on the increase. We all know who they are, and you will no doubt say that it is my choice to drink there or not, but why is the beer so expensive there? And if we are in an economic recession, (all right, may be in strict terms we are on the way out of one), who can afford to drink at these inflated prices on a regular basis? 
It sounds as though I am a real curmudgeon. And maybe I am. Or just a realist. My hopes for the new year will be for every brewery to make superb beers. For prices to remain reasonable. For the good pubs to  go from strength to strength. For beer duty to be abolished. And for people to realise that beer is good for you. It should be on prescription!

But seriously folks. Thanks to all who read 'A Swift One', to those who take the time to comment on it, and hope you all have a very enjoyable and successful 2013. We are looking forward to the challenges it will bring.   

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Back On The Road Again

One of the things that has been put on hold for the past few months have been my trips out to check on the ever changing transport scene and the even more quickly changing beer scene, but Thursday opened up a window of opportunity after the Christmas excesses, so it was up and away. I had three places I wanted to visit but the easiest was Manchester. So fully equipped it was off and out across the border.

Manchester has been the subject of one of my pub crawls before on 'A Swift One' so regular readers will have a rough idea of where I would be heading. And being a creature of habit, I started with a 'Spoons breakfast at the 'Paramount' and a half of some odious Christmas beer I erroneously thought was new to me. My next stop was to be the 'New Oxford' in Salford.

I had not been to the 'Oxford' since earlier in the year, and, although it has long been one of my favourite pubs, I was a little concerned after hearing other drinkers reports of the pub. My first shock was that the pub was open around 1145 am, it does not usually open till midday. That was a welcome sight since Manchester had kept up to its reputation and the rain was starting to fall fairly steadily. My second shock will become apparent shortly.

I was greeted like a long lost son by Jean the barmaid, who promptly thrust a piece of paper in my hand and said 'You'll be needing this, they are all available' . A quick glance around the pub revealed many fellow tickers..I had accidentally fallen across my final beer festival of the year.

I was totally unprepared for this. So it was a case of ticking 'on the hoof'. It did not take long for my system to kick in though. A couple of beers off the bar from a new brewery seemed the way to start, and I was pleasantly impressed by my choices, one light and one dark, from Manchester's newest brewery, 'Privateer'. Time to check on the list for what else was available. A quick glance revealed even more new breweries, none of which I encountered, or even heard of before. So it was time to fill in the chit, and wait for my namesake, the irrepressable Mr Flynn, to produce the goods from the cellar.

Soon I was sampling 'Welly 3' a 4.2% offering from Healeys in Ulverston. A little hazy and may be best called a work in progress. Better were Talke o' the Hill 'Citrade' and 'Alesager', the former with a good hit from the citra hops, and Deeply Vale 'Still Walking' which also impressed.

My next selection included another beer from Privateer, and Deeply Vale; 'Saturn Ale' from Townhouse brewery who I particularly rate, and confusingly a Rat Brewery beer which I had not seen in Huddersfield. All were good, and despite being taken straight from the cask, were well conditioned.

As they say, time and buses wait for no man, so reluctantly I had to say goodbye to the 'Oxford', my fellow tickers, the craic, and the rest of the beer list, and make my way back into Manchester whilst I was still able to reasonably function. A great way to end the year, and better so, for being totally unexpected.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apologies from the team

Regular readers will notice that there has been nothing new from us in the last fortnight. We are sorry about this but to circumstances beyond our control, mainly, we have been unable to keep you up to date in our usual erudite fashion. Hopefully all our problems are over and normal service will be resumed shortly. Let us take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and plenty of good beer and great pubs to drink it in. Timbo

Ps I knew no good would come of drinking Xmas beers !!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Flowerpot Men

Well it has to be said that the boys from Ossett have done Mirfield it's biggest service since the educating of Sir Patrick of Enterprise with this absolute stunner of a pub. The locals have been crying out for a boozer of this quality for a decade or more and whilst it's taken that long, the wait has been most definitely worth it.
 
 
It's been around twenty years since I last set foot in here and I can't recall any of it, but hell if it had looked anything like this back then I might well have settled down in the town of my birth. I've included one or two hastily taken shots here but there will be more to come, of that there is no doubt!
 
 
The pub officially opens to the public on Friday 14th and will feature beers from the four Ossett controlled breweries plus a guest or two and a dedicated Fullers pump. Real cider will be available in due course. 

Someone's Listening

And that would be Acorn Brewery.
 
Whilst polishing off a pint of 4.1% Cracker I was reminded of Tim's Christmas beer tirade of the other day. It would seem that a non-conformist approach is being taken by some brewers when it comes to producing seasonal ale after all.
 
This rather moreish bitter/lager amalgamate with it's crisp citrus clip is exactly the kind of beer that normally goes into hibernation during the yule. I must admit a partiality to the odd quirky herb concoction at this time of year, but there's no rule that says a Christmas themed beer must have the consistency of tar.
 
So well done Tim, and to the lads and lasses in Barnsley for listening. 'From small beginnings* come great things' as they say.
 
Acorn Cracker can currently be found at The Huntsman in Chidswell and elsewhere too I imagine. 
 
* Reference to an acorn of course... not Tim's brain I hasten to add!   
 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Star reaches 7,000

Last week The Star at Folly Hall managed to reach its 7,000 th guest beer on the bar. And just for good measure it had a connection, albeit unintentionally, with 'A Swift One'. The beer was Mallinsons ' Dabchick' which my co editor has produced the pump clip for as part of their bird series.

Congratulations to Sam, for continuing to provide us all with plenty of interesting and new beers over the many years, and also to Will for his superb photos.

Its time to chuck stuff in beer again

Bah Humbug ! And a happy Christmas to you too. 

I have no real problem with Xmas, no I have but that's another story. This is about my dislike of brewers buggering about with beer. Beer should be made of water, hops, malt and yeast in my humble opinion. There  is no reason why a lot of  breweries have decided that Xmas is a good time to throw all the ingredients of a Xmas pudding into my beer. I do not want a sweet, sticky beer full of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and the like. I want a beer to taste of beer, and more preferably, hops.

A look at any real ale bar at this time of year generally reveals at least one of these so called 'Xmas beers'. I can maybe tolerate the odd one, but when they are taking over pump space for better beers then my tolerance becomes a little thin, especially when they have no warning on the pump clip as to what they contain. They often sneak up on me without warning, and I am faced with a beer that is  sickly and frankly not pleasant. And even worse, because I am a beer ticker I have to drink the stuff. After a wander around collecting new beers at this time of year, it is a real pleasure to find a beer with a Xmas name that is light and hoppy, and unadulterated. And rare. 

If brewers want to celebrate the festive season why not brew 'normal' beers with a Christmas theme, instead of  emptying their store cupboard into the mash tun, thinking that people actually enjoy it.

Or, is just me. The drinkers version of Scrooge !! 

I could have featured several pump clips on here to show what I mean but I have no intention of upsetting any particular brewers at this time of good will. Especially since I hope to enjoy their proper beers for years to come !!

John Gray - RIP

The name John Gray may not be familiar to many of our readers but the magazine he used to publish certainly will be. John was the brains behind 'Pubspeak' and later 'Innspeak', which combined his journalistic knowledge with the Halifax Courier with his love of pubs and beer. I got to know him many years ago when I lived on the other side of the hill, and always found him warm hearted and good company with a story for every occasion.

I had heard rumour of his passing a few weeks ago but I only found it confirmed in 'Ale talk' this weekend. He passed away on the 1st November after a long illness. He will be sadly missed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Flowerpot to Reopen

A community pub in Mirfield is set to reopen at 4pm on 14th December after a huge joint investment of £360,000 by Ossett Brewery and owners Punch Taverns.

The Flowerpot, situated in Lower Hopton, has been closed for two months whilst refurbishment work has been carried out to update all areas.

 
The pub has been redecorated in a contemporary design with a modern feel, whilst accentuating some of the original features of the pub, including three open fires, Yorkshire stone floors and exposed structural beams, to provide a warm and cosy atmosphere.

The pub has introduced a new menu of traditional, homemade bar snacks and sharing platters.

The Flowerpot, which has maintained a good reputation for quality drinks, will now serve a range of continental bottle beers and nine cask ales, with some of Ossett Brewery's national award-winning ales on tap on a permanent basis (Yorkshire Blonde, Silver King and Excelsior) and others will be seasonally rotated and sourced from local microbreweries.

Outside, work has been done to improve the large car park and the beer garden has been landscaped to make the pub more family and dog friendly - a children's play area is even planned for the summer. A cycle rack has been installed, which will facilitate cyclists who ride on nearby routes.

And with the new look, comes a new team behind the bar.

Ossett Brewery, an award-winning independent brewery based in West Yorkshire, will be operating the pub using their high quality service standards.

Jamie Lawson, Operations Director, said: "This is our first Punch site and we took the opportunity to work with Punch as they shared our vision for the pub. We could see the Flowerpot's potential, considering its location looking over the River Calder, as a local community, family-friendly pub in a picturesque setting.

"The pub looks fantastic, it has a real traditional, community feel, but has been given a modern twist with the new décor and contemporary finishes. With the large car park, we can also attract visitors from the surrounding areas.

"We have appointed one of our very experienced and also local managers, Chris Osman, to oversee the day-to-day running of the pub and I have every confidence he will help the pub go from strength to strength.

"We have lots of events planned, with a Christmas Family Evening from 5pm on Sunday 16th December. The evening will feature Christmas carols played by LB Brass Band, free mulled wine and mince pies, a children's lucky dip and a hamper raffle drawn on the night. This will be a perfect opportunity for local residents to meet Chris and the new team.

"We are really excited about the reopening and we look forward to welcoming some old and new faces back to the Flowerpot," he continued.

David Rowland, Senior Partnership Development Manager, said: "It's great that Punch can invest in its pubs and with the refurbishment the Flowerpot has been completely transformed.

"I am excited to be working in partnership with Ossett Brewery, and considering their reputation as high quality brewers, they will be able to strengthen the pub's image as a destination for good quality and authentic real ale.

"We expect the opening night to be busy with local residents eager to see the new look and I look forward to seeing the customer's reactions."

Flowerpot, 65 Calder Road, Mirfield, WF14 8NN, Telephone: 01924 496939.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hastings - a brewery, not a battle

One brewery that seems to have slipped under my radar, well they have been going since 2010, is Hastings brewery. Starting in September of that year but moving to larger premises in the town in the following year, they have concentrated their efforts selling close to their home town. Their beer first came to my notice at the Star festival last month, but today I have found one of my beers of the year that has come from their brewery.

The festival showcased their 'Blonde' ,'Best' and 'Pale', all very acceptable beers and very drinkable beers, but  their 'Porter' which has appeared on the bar this weekend is one of the best dark beers I have had in some time. It is 4.5%, not massively strong but crammed full of flavour. It is not sweet, like some porters, but there are a  myriad of things going on in it. Roast coffee, chocolate and a hint of liquorice are all there, but balanced with none of them overtaking the others. It is a very cleverly crafted beer. Not thick, but on the lighter side. A porter not just for those long winter nights, but as their web site says,' a true all year round porter'. 

If you cannot get it at the Star, and you'll have to be quick (sorry, Gary) it looks like you may have to get down to Sussex and try it there, it does not travel far from the brewery. I am booking my summer holiday there as we speak!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

December At HDM

December looks to be a good month at the HDM Beer Shop, at 28 Wood St. They have managed to get 4 local breweries to take over the bar with a selection of regular, one off and new beers on different weeks throughout the month.

First up, between 6th and 9th December, comes HDM brewery itself. Ostensibly their brewery launch, this will showcase 6 cask beers, and 4 key keg beers. The following week, 13th to 16th December, sees Magic Rock take centre stage, again with a total of 10 casks with a mixture of casks and keykeg available. At the end of the month, between 27th and 30th of December sees Mallinsons showcase 6 of their beers, all in cask. The month, and the year finishes with a one night one off event on New Years Eve. Summer Wine take over the bar, with 6 cask and 6 keg beers. This night is ticket only at £20 each which will include food and free beer. Speak to Rob for full details.

So, if you have never been, seems like a good time to call down and sample the wares. There are not only the beers on the bar to attract the punter but also the wide bottled range and some decent food always available there.  

There is also a cider festival going on until 2nd December with 15 ciders and other cider products available.

This is a bit silly....and wrong !!!

Whilst having a quick beer, for research purposes only you understand, in the Grove yesterday I came across a beer that pushes the boundaries of silliness to a whole new dimension. The beer was Raw 'Porter   Giest IPA' (sic) at 5.9%. What !!!! I had absolutely no idea what to expect. What sort of beer was this ? 

It says it is an IPA. Really ? It has the IPA strength but that is all. It says on the pump clip it is a wheat beer. Is it ? I could not tell. The taste was dominated by the taste and colour of a porter. It was a dark beer, and if it had been called a porter and left it at that I would have been quite happy. (well, that is not quite true because I did not enjoy it) but why did the brewer think that calling it both a wheat beer and an IPA would make it more appealing ? It is just silly. And if the brewery wanted to be so descriptive on the pump clip, why did they not spell 'Geist' right ? Raw do other 'Geist' beers and they are spelt right so they have no excuse in my opinion. Not a good idea, not a good beer, and shoddy point of sale,  I cannot say there is much there in its favour is there.  

PS Sorry about the photo, looked ok on phone, a bit fuzzy when placed on blog, before Will makes comment about it !!!     

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Star festival review

Well, the day finally arrived. No snow this time, just a lot of great beer to try and sample over the next few days. The list looked impressive, well more than impressive, in fact better than many other bigger festivals recently. My problem was where to start.

That's not quite true. I knew I would start with the two offerings from Mallinsons. Both were excellent, but the 'Saaz Starz' just edged it in my opinion. Hoppy but subtly flavoured, another great Mallys beer. Next up were a plethora of new breweries for me, coming from far and wide. Innocente 'Bystander' was a very hoppy amber beer but with a malt background that held the beer together pefectly. Another Scottish brewery was Moulin and their 'Light' hit the spot as well. So far so good, four beers and all excellent. Continuing the Scottish theme I sampled River Leven ' Blonde', 4% and light but seemed to be lacking a bit of the hop character of the other beers, nevertheless a very acceptable offering. 

Time to try something different. All Hallows 'Peggs Fayre' was a very good mild, with lots of taste in a 3.9% beer; Mor 'Mor Tea Vicar' was a pleasant, amber session strength bitter and Stamps 'The Russian' was another good light beer. One beer I did find a little disappointing was Downlands 'Ruskins Ram' where the tasting notes promised elderflower and vanilla but I could get neither from my half.

This is only a small snapshot of the 46 beers on offer, and as usual, the beer was served handpulled, at a good temperature, and came in at a reasonable £1.40 a half. All that remains is to revisit again today and sample some more. Thanks to Sam and her team for another great effort, and hopefully it will be another success.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Star festival list

Festival starts 1700 hrs Wednesday 21st, on 1700 hrs Thursday and all day
Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

1. Wilson Potter....Pacific Star..3.9%
2. Mallinsons.......Tilli Hops....3.8%
3. Downlands........Ruskins Ram...4%
4. XT...............Four..........3.8%
5. Moulin...........Moulin Light..3.7%
6. Salamander.......Flame Licker..5.2%
7. HowardTown.......Castle Ale....4%
8. Stables..........Old Miner Tommy..3.7%
9. XT...............Nine..........5.5%
10.Goose Eye........Mill Dam Pale.4.2%
11.Black Hole.......Starry Night..4.4%
12.Yorkshire Dales..Skyholme......3.9%
13.Exeter...........Fraid Not.....4%
14.Redwillow........Heartless.....4.9%
15.Yorkshire Dales..Old Wife's Pot Hole..4.4%
16.Mor..............Mor Tea Vicar..3.8%
17.Windsor & Eton...Canberra.......4%
18.Hesket...........Black Sail.....4%
19.Yorkshire Dales..Maiden Castle..6%
20.Innocente........Bystander......4.5%
21.Mithril..........Movember.......4%
22.Two Roses........Copper Beach...4.2%
23.Hastings.........Pale Ale.......4.7%
24.Scarborough......Snowy Bay......4.1%
25.Wilson Potter....Gingery Does It..3.5%
26.Hastings.........Best Bitter....4.1%
27.Scarborough......Sea Lord.......4.3%
28.All Hallows......Peggs Fayre....3.9%
29.Arkwrights.......Tarquin f'tang..3.9%
30.Walls County.....Katzenjammer...4.2%
31.Bridestones......Chocolate Stout..5.3%
32.Walls County.....Beaters Choice..4.6%
33.Elland...........Calypso Chinook.4.2%
34.Welbeck Abbey....Bay Middleton...3.8%
35.Lincoln Green....Marian..........3.8%
36.Arkwrights.......Chocolate Cherry Stout..4.7%
37.Owenshaw Mills...Holly Hop.......3.7%
38.Stamps...........The Russian.....4.2%
39.Mallinsons.......Saaz Starz......4.2%
40.Salamander.......Mustard Cutter..4%
41.An Teach.........Bunn Kharg......3.8%
42.River Leven......Blonde..........4%
43.Wensleydale......Stuka...........4.2%
44.Goose Eye........Tilli's Tipple..4%
45.Junction.........Blonde Lady.....4%
46.Pictish..........Pride of Ringwood...4.2%

All above in outside marquee bar on handpull. Remainder on pub bar and will
appear when space allows

47.Pictish..........Pale 'n' Hoppy..3.9%
48.Little Ale Cart..Somerleyton Hall..4.3%
49.Green Mill.......Autumn Gold.....3.5%
50.Stables..........Beamish XB......4%
51.Arkwrights.......Hells Bells.....4.2%
52.Hackney..........American Pale...4.5%
53.Hartshorne.......Floss the Boss..4.6%
54.Hastings.........Blonde..........3.9%
55.XT...............Three...........4.2%
56.Hastings.........Porter..........4.5%
57.Black Paw........Polar Paw.......4.4%
58.Downlands........Trueleigh Gold..3.7%
59.Lincoln Green....Scarlett........4.8%
60.Bridestones......APA.............5%
61.Tryst............Nelson Sauvin...3.9%

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sour Beer - more than just a Belgian taste

'Sour beer' has been around for centuries. No not that nasty stuff when a cask beer has started to 'turn', but rather a style of beer produced deliberately to taste sour. The Belgians have always been the fore runner in this sort of beer with their lambics and guezes, two beers that I especially shy away from because I do not find their taste particularly appealing, but this week 'The Grove' has managed to get its hands on some key kegged Brodies sour beer. I felt obliged to give them a go.

I am unsure how Brodies made their beer, but the traditional Belgian method is to allow natural airborne yeasts into their barrels to allow bacteria into the brew, or alternatively use fruit to encourage a secondary fermentation in the cask. Often with cherry or raspberry to give the tart flavour they are seeking, which creates a kriek or framboisen beer respectively. 

The Brodies sour beers on offer were a cherry sour, a white peach and a 'randalled' blueberry beer. As I said, all were key kegged, and all 3.7% so the assumption was that they were all made from the same initial brew. Despite my initial misgivings, the taste was certainly different to what I had expected. There was a sourness in the beer, as would have been expected, but it was not as sharp or overpowering as the Belgian styles, and blended with the fruit gave an interesting flavour. It would have been hard for me to drink a lot of any of the beer but a 1/3 of each was quite acceptable. 

A bit of research has shown that the style is also becoming popular in America, and no doubt what they do first, we soon follow, so may be sour beer may become more common. Having said that, I can still take it or leave it. I enjoyed it for a change but I doubt it will replace my preference for 'proper' cask beers.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Walk on the Dark Side

I am not really a fan of dark beers. Well, that's not actually true, I do like some, but I prefer them bitter rather than sweet, and not over roasted. This weekend however my tastes seem to have changed, and I have come across some really excellent ones. 

First on the list is Revolutions ' Severin Dark'. Only 3.3% but with a fair amount of body for a beer of its strength, it is apparently named after a Banshee. Confused? so am I ! Anyway, aside from that it has a complex malt background, a subtle bitter flavour, and is almost black with a nice white creamy head. And a decent beer as well.  On the bar at the same time was Moorhouses 'Black Moss'. I assumed this was another dark beer, and was proved right. But this one was 4.9% and had some pleasant bitterness coming from the English hops in the brew. It was a stout, full bodied and dry, just how I like them, and with just a touch of coffee and chocolate in both the aroma and the aftertaste. I was almost becoming a convert to the dark stuff.

Marble ' Stouter Stout' was next on my list. Another excellent dark beer from an excellent brewery. This one again had a roasted taste and a bit of coffee in the background. A very rounded taste with nothing exactly predominating but everything well balanced from the hop hints on the tongue to the smoothness of the malts. These black beers are not too bad after all !!

If the previous three beers were beginning to give me a taste for the dark side then the next two were real classics of the style. Both are fairly new brews, one being a seasonal special, and maybe a little hard to track down but well worth the effort. The first is the Rat Brewery's 'Black Rat' . A 4.5% porter and everything that is good in a dark beer. A balanced bitterness complements a complex array of malts, not too sweet for a porter and crammed with flavours. It is hard to define any particular one but roast, and coffee hints come forward with each mouthfull and each mouthfull brings something different to the party. Not always available but well worth it if it is on the bar. 

The last beer in my dark experience comes from Elland Brewery. We know they can brew great dark beer as their '1872 Porter' testifies, but this week I have discovered 'Traitors Gate', having saved the best till last. I am not quite sure what the beer style is, the pump clip says a 'black powder stout' so who am I to query that. It is not like any stout I have sampled before though. This has a mass of hops in the mix and is jet black with a full body. Roast and bitterness come though in the taste. A real classic.

So there you have it, a snap shot of dark beers lurking in our local pubs this weekend. Maybe I have not been fair to dark beers before, or maybe I have not been in the mood, who knows. But I will certainly try more in the future. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

You Cannot be Serious...

....but unfortunately they were.

After sampling the beer at the Wakefield beer festival, all of which I tried was brown I hasten to add, myself and Rob managed somehow to miss our train back so with an hour to spare we decided to hunt out a pub to while away the time, and maybe pick up a couple of new beers in the process. Wetherspoons seemed to fit the bill, and with nothing obviously new on offer I ventured further into the pub and found a second bar. There I found this lurking. I was advised by the bartender that it was a 'bit strange'. That, my friend, was an understatement.

I won't embarass the brewery by naming it, or them, but it came from a newish Sheffield brewery, and it was, as you can see, green. Described as the tone of green as dodgy line cleaner by another licencee. Well, one could always hope that it tasted better than it looked. Sadly it didn't. And is up there with the most unpleasant beers I have ever encountered. No obvious taste and sort of slimy texture on the tongue it did beer no favours at all. 

Why any brewer should think that green would be an appealing colour for beer is beyond me. I have had green beer before, incidentally, and it has not been bad.Once you have trained your mind to taste rather than look what is in your glass. This took it to a whole new level. 

The only thing in its favour was the £1 price, and I think that was due to the outlet rather than the brewer, or they were just desperate for some mug to drink it. 

So please, brewers, don't mess about with the colour. Strange taste I can handle, strange colours I can't. And I don't think that I am alone in that. 

London, and bits of Devon come to Wakey

One of the festivals that I try to visit every year has been the Camra festival at Wakefield. This year however, with a change of venue I was somewhat undecided, that was until I saw their beer list. Then it became a 'must visit' event with a plethora of new southern breweries to sample. The decision was the easy bit, trying to locate the venue was a little more troublesome, and without our intrepid guide and the Wakefield Free bus we would never have found it.

'Space' is a basic looking ,converted industrial unit just by JCT600 on the Denby Dale Road but inside was one of the poshest looking venues internally I have drunk in, with chandeliers and as befits a function suite, plenty of space and seating. On getting settled, the next task was a swift perusal of the beer list to select a starting point. I decided, as is my usual habit, to clear up breweries new to me first. And to pick up those from a distance away initially. First up was 'Tap East' from Stratford and their 'JWB' hit the spot, a light quaffing beer with a dry finish. Other new London breweries followed; 'Moncada' Notting Hill Bitter, was a bit darker and sweeter, but again a decent beer. Their 'Amber' was not available though. 'Hackney' Best Bitter was again a similar style and equally as good. 

Time to start looking elsewhere, and towards the South West. 'Windy' Tornado was a fruitier beer than I had sampled previously, likewise 'Small Pauls' Elder Sarum, with hints of elderflower, 'Isca' Gargoyles was stronger and had more bitterness, but on the whole I preferred the London beers.

There were other good beers too. My first beer from the 'Shiny Brewery' in Derby was a very light, fresh tasting bitter with loads of condition for a beer off stillage; Whitby's 'Conquest' brewery first effort, a dark beer called 'Black Death' - strange name for a beer - was a perfect antidote to the light beers, but the real star of the show was saved till last. 'Hop Studio' Spark Ginger was a great beer, with plenty of ginger but not overpowering. By now it was time to wave the white flag and retire gracefully with plenty of interesting beers left untouched. And looking at my notes, only one dark beer sampled. Shameful, I hear you shout.

Obviously this is only a small snapshot of beers available, and all came from one bar, the other bar being home to Locale beers, most of which I had encountered previously. Beer was decently priced at around £2.80 a pint dependent on strength, but I found the £4 admission for non Camra members a bit steep, but it did include a non refundable glass.

Nevertheless, all the beers I tried were in good condition and served at a decent temperature, and I enjoyed an  pleasant afternoon catching up with old  friends. Not a bad way to while away the day.   

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Mallys on the move

Those of you who have read the previous post will have noticed that Mallinsons have moved from their previous address at Lindley and are now fully operational at their new premises at Lockwood Rd. Again a Dave Porter brewery production, with the odd bit of input from John Yendall, that Heath Robinson of brewery design !

The girls have been very cunning though, and no one knows which of the current draft of beers about are productions from the new brewery and which have come from the Lindley plant. Thereby saving any problems of comparison between the two plants. Obviously quality control has been done and no beer has left the new brewery without the Mallinson's seal of approval.

Checking their website does not assist either, all the information there relating to the Lindley premises. When I know any more I will pass it on.

Another new Huddersfield Brewery on stream

Yesterday I managed to track down my first beer from the new Huddersfield brewery, 'Hand Drawn Monkey' or 'HDM', in short. The name may sound familiar, as it has been operating a a beer shop on Wood St in the town centre for a few months now. It has now branched out into brewing its own beer.

'HDM' is managed by Rob Allen, the former landlord at the Rat & Ratchet, and brewing is at the old Mallinsons plant at Plover Rd at Lindley, with duties shared between Rob and Tom Evans, latterly a brewer at Blue Monkey in Derbyshire. So they should know what they are about.

The first beers from the brewery were available at the Huddersfield Camra Beer Festival, but they were collaborative brews with Mallinsons and in one case with Golcar. Their first independent brew turned up at 'the HDM shop last week, but by the time I heard about them, someone had managed to drink the first barrel so I had to wait until yesterday to try one. And pretty good it was too.

The first beer was a 4% light beer, but the one I tried was a 5% light beer based on the style of an 'IPA' but as Rob readily admits was not hoppy enough for his liking. I had no such complaints, and found the blend of 4 American hops excellent, giving a clean looking, clean tasting beer that was very moreish, a shame because of the gravity. 

If you want to try the beer then the obvious outlet is the shop, but it is not always available at the moment, but when brewing becomes more regular, hopefully the beer will be more permanent and more widely available. Rob says that he intends to brew regular beers of various strengths from 4% upwards and when he has confirmed his recipes he intends them to be named rather than numbered as they are at present. His next beer, which is being fermented as I write will be a 7% double IPA, and knowing Rob, will not stint on the hops, which due to supply problems will all be of the America 'C' varieties.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slurping about

One of the newest breweries about is Wellcross based in deepest Lancashire near Skelmersdale,  the 2.5 barrel plant only starting up in August this year. I have only encountered two of its beers 'Hops' which does what it says on the tin, and 'Slurp' which is - to put it mildly - a bit unusual.

Not that it is a bad beer, it isn't. It just does not taste like beer. I have no idea what ingredients the brewer has used to create the taste, but the 4.1% beer (if you can find the abv hidden on the pump clip) seemed to taste more like cider than beer in my opinion. It is light coloured, and looks like beer but the more I drank, the more it tasted of fresh apples, a very clean, appealing taste I must admit, but not quiet what I expected.
Maybe I need to try it again to give it a proper judgement and I will. If you come across it it is well worth a pint, see if you agree, or if my taste buds have finally given up the ghost (seeing as it's Hallowe'en!). which starting brewing.

I have read Jibber's comment and may be I have giving the wrong impression, especially as I have drunk several pints of it since writing this post. It does not really taste of cider as I suggested but more like green apples, and not in a badly brewed way. I have tasted beer, as Jibber rightly says, that is too young or has some sort of infection, this is not the case here. It is just an interesting taste, that admittedly, you either love or hate, there seems to be no middle path The hops used, I have since learned are Atlas, which does not, or has not previously, give the taste I have tried to describe, so may be we looking at the yeast. Who knows, I just like it !!   

Further Spooning about

I know readers will have hardly been able to contain themselves since my last post, so here is an update on the Wetherspoons festival. It seems that 'Spoons have used the same approach as they have used at previous festivals and released the range of beers in 2 drafts, so one seems to find more or less the same beers at each venue, give or take the odd one here and there.

Luckily I have managed to find the Liberation 'Rouge', the first beer I have encountered from the Jersey brewery, but I was somewhat disappointed. It was a fairly ordinary red beer, which is not my favourite style either, I must admit. In fact very few of the beers have had the 'wow' factor, many being mid brown and lacking in something.
 
Admittedly, I have not tried many of the collaborations with foreign brewers which seem to be everywhere at present, preferring to try the efforts of the British brewers. however, one of them that did appeal was the Wadworth/Cambridge brewing 'Heather Ale'. The brewer came from Massachusetts  and for some reason best known to himself used Scottish heather and herbs and honey to produce a very pleasing 4.0% ale which was certainly distinctive and different, and well worth another try if I come across it again.

The only other beer that I would try again was the St Peters 'Fruit Beer' which had a decent strength at 4.7% and a massive hit of fresh grapefruit, and judging by the amount being sold in the 'Cherry Tree' yesterday seemed well received by everyone.

Having said that, the value cannot be faulted, costing £2 a pint for any of the festival beers, even up to 6.5%. So get down and try something different, it goes on until mid November.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Festival at 'Spoons

I always await the Wetherspoons festivals eagerly, they generally have a decent range of breweries on offer, with foreign guest brewers doing their stuff on British plants plus an interesting selection of beers brewed in Britain on offer too. So when the festival opened yesterday I made my way to 'The Cherry Tree' with quiet anticipation after seeing the list, I was frankly disappointed with what was on offer.

Unluckily for me there were only two of the festival beers available on the opening day. Maxim's 'Double Maxim', not the most inspiring of beers, I must admit,  and of the foreign collaborations Tree Brewing from Canada 'Thirsty Beaver' was there - brewed at Caledonian brewery, and not bad although a bit too sweet for my liking. 

I tried 'The Lord Wilson' (Lloyds Bar) too, but that was even more disappointing. Even though the festival is heavily advertised, there were no festival beers on the bar at all.

 
What was I hoping for ? Well, there are 50 beers on the list from a mixture of breweries. 10 of them are either pure foreign beers, from Palm in Belgium, or foreign collaborations brewed in British breweries by brewers from abroad. Of the remainder there is plenty of variety, and a range of styles and strengths to suit all tastes, from a 3.5% bitter to Lees 'Moonraker' at 6.5%. 

Personally I am looking forward to Mordue 'Lubelski', a hop I particularly enjoy, St Peters 'Fruit Beer' which I had years ago and has a massive grapefruity hit, and Liberation 'Rouge'. This is a brewery from Jersey that I never expected to see on the mainland, let alone at a Wetherspoons festival.

The festival runs until 11th November so I should have plenty of opportunity to hunt them down, and part of the interest at 'Spoons festival is to get to those places in their estate that I never usually visit to see what is on offer there. So armed with the festival programme and a bus ticket it is onwards and upwards. And at around £2 a pint for the weaker beers it is not going to break the bank.
 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I am not sure if the title is a correct quote, but it doesn't really matter. It just goes to illustrate a point that occurs when lots of people get together and vote. For anything, not just elections. It just happens that this occasion refers to beer, (well, obviously, or it would not be on 'A Swift One' )

I was messing with my mobile telephonic device, (see Timbo reaches the 21st century) when I came across a list of the 50 favourite beers in England. Bearing in mind these have been voted for independantly by a group of beer minded individuals from across the globe and do not relate only to draught beer but also bottled beer they have sampled, the results were a little confusing in my eyes. 

The voting covered between 2854 and 27 samplers, each of whom rated each beer in various categories to achieve an overall score. The overall scores were averaged out to rate the top 50 beers overall. So far so good. But when I looked at the outcome I became a little concerned.

My worries started when I discovered 'Mackeson' at no 50 in the list. Why ? I cannot recall having seen it for years and it is not a beer I would consider in the best 50, so who did  ? Well, apparently 990 people. This made me look a little deeper. There was a disproportionate amount of dark beers, especially Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines on the list, and a few India Pale Ales to provide a balance. Some of the beers were the same beers but aged in sherry or whiskey barrels, presumably bottled versions rather than cask.

Another thing that surprised me was how up to date the list was with our local brewery 'Magic Rock' featuring  3 times, with an imperial stout and  a black IPA, the former having an entry from being aged in a bourbon barrel. Another surprise was to find JW Lees there, with 4 entries, until closer inspection revealed 3 of these were different aged casks of the same beer. I was beginning to see a theme here. Sam Smiths, The Kernal and Marble all had multiple entries, often for versions of the same beer casked differently. I am not saying there is anything wrong with beers, but there seems to be a certain bias in the voting.

It was getting a bit difficult to find something that I could consider in my favourite beers but after a lot of searching I discovered Oakham 'Asylum' at no 46, but had only been tasted by 32 people. There was no hint of Pictish, Mallinsons, Newby Wyke, or Abbeydale. Maybe this was just a case of a lot of like minded people sitting around a table, drinking the same bottled beers and voting. It certainly appeared that way. 

I know that you need to vote for a beer to get it recognised on the list, and obviously the more and higher votes it gets, the higher up the list it gets, but if someone says to you that the best beer in England is Old Chimneys 'Good King Henry Special Reserve' ask them where they got their information from or were they one of the 273 that voted for it. I for one am a little dubious, I have never even heard of it, let alone drunk it !! So it wasn't me. I will be starting to vote for sensible beers though and see if I can make a difference as the  political polls always say. Lets get some light, hoppy beers represented, at a decent strength.

When I said this poll was up to date I did not realise how up to date it was. When I tried to explain to Will what I was on about, I checked the site again and there were different results, no Mackesons for example, and Moor JJJ Ipa there. All in the space of 12 hours. Maybe I have been a bit harsh....but I don't think so....if you want to check for yourself, 'ratebeer' is the place to look.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dutch Dave

It is with great sadness that we hear of the passing of David Barnsdale. Affectionately known as Dutch Dave, the 54 year old from Leeds was a regular visitor to the pubs of Huddersfield and oftentimes contributor to 'a swift one'.
 
With trademark orange jacket, his unwavering motor-mouth enthusiasm for real ale was infectious and made for a colourful character in more ways than one. We shall miss him.
 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Key Keg... is it really worth it?

A comment made a few days ago by Jibber made me think, is key keg really the beer of the future ? Well, we have already had a discussion about this, and more learned and erudite people than me have made their points, both for and against, in various publications, and I do not intend to go over old ground again. Suffice to say, that for the moment at least, key keg appears to be here to stay.

My concern is not the method of dispense on this occasion, but rather the price we are having to pay for the privilege of drinking it. We all have a limited amount of money to spend in the pub, and it is up to the individual as to how he spends it, I accept this. But as a person, with an interest in beer of all types, I feel that the producers of key keg are in some cases 'ripping me off'.

If we ignore foreign kegs,  which will obviously attract a higher price due to their rarity value and import costs and concentrate on those brewed within our isles, it seems that to buy a key keg product is generally more expensive than their cask cousins. Taking them side by side it is often the case that the cask is a third or sometimes a half cheaper than the keg product. What I cannot see, or accept, is why this should be the case.

The product is the same, although packaged differently, and obviously dispensed differently. Is the punter paying through the nose for the packaging of keg rather than cask?  If so, why? Surely a plastic ball and cardboard packaging is no more expensive than a metal or plastic cask.

Only one brewery, 'Hawkshead', seems to price its keg and cask similarly, others seem to make a large hike on their prices when selling their keg products. If the brewers see key keg as the way forward, which some obviously do, then why not make them as affordable as cask. Or is it another way of showing that they wish to be classed as 'craft breweries' and are therefore pricing themselves to reflect that they consider 'keg' to be their premium product?

I have not spoken to any brewers to try to clarify this difference, or explain why it should be, but I as a drinker will continue to shy away from many beers that I should like to try because of the prohibitive price placed on them. Come on brewers, make them more affordable, and maybe more of us will try, if not convert, to your 'keg' products.

Armageddon has finally arrived

Yesterday's 'Daily Mail' had an article about beer. If you missed it let me paraphrase it for you. What do we consider a 'strong beer' ? Well, personally, anything above 5% makes me think a bit, but I have tried beers on draught up to 14.5%, and lived to tell the tale. But the latest beer, believed the world's strongest, makes that look a boys bitter.

'Armageddon' tips the scales at 65% , thats right, I haven't missed a decimal point. It is brewed by a couple of guys in Aberdeenshire, called 'Brewmeister' and their bottled beer has just been released onto the market. It will cost around £80 a bottle in the free trade, although direct, will be cheaper. 

There has been a recent history in trying to have the title of the world's strongest beer. Twice 'Brewdog' have held it but each time it has been wrested from their grip by European breweries. The latest being a Dutch one  with a beer called 'Start The Future' at a mere 60%. That was in 2010. Now the title has returned to Scotland.

The beer itself is brewed by freezing the beer, removing the water content, but not the alcohol. This makes a smooth beer, obviously massively alcoholic but retaining the basic taste of beer, because the base ingredients are still the same with hops, and malt and yeast. Apparently, and bear in mind I have not tasted it, it does look like beer, tastes bitter with a background maltiness, and is slightly viscous on the tongue. 

As I said, each bottle will cost £80. Obviously a beer for sharing, and savouring. The high price reflecting that around 85% of the brew is discarded during the freeze process. So, if you want something a bit unusual, this could be your thing. It certainly won't be mine, not unless those six numbers come up anyway!!  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dark Star does it again

Regular readers of 'A Swift One' will know that the editors, or at least of them, has a soft spot for beers from the Dark Star brewery. Consistently good, consistently well crafted and always interesting, it is the first beer I try if I see a new one on the bar. And in Huddersfield we are lucky that we have some pubs that have a regular supply to keep us happy.

Their excellent 'Hophead' is usually available at The Kings Head, it is so good there that Philip Charlesworth, the 97 year old stalwart of CAMRA, travels down daily to get his two pint fix. The Grove has a rotating Dark Star pump, no I mean the beer rotates, not the pump, so we are usually able to sample their specials here. Occasionally other pubs dip their toe in the water too, and this weekend we have been treated to one of my beers of the year at The Star.

'Kiwi' is their September special. It is brewed with three New Zealand hops, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Riwaka, which are all added at different stages in the brewing process and finally, after fermentation, the beer is left to rest over Kiwi fruit to complete the process. Sounds good. But it tastes even better. The hop blend is superb with none predominating but all adding to a fresh fruity flavour in a light coloured masterpiece. Admittedly I could not recognise the Kiwi fruit, but that hardly matters. It was very easy drinking at 4% and another classic from the Sussex brewers.

Totally different was their August offering. This time a Belgian inspired beer, using Belgian yeast, Saaz and Hallertau and Styrian Goldings hops. Again a light coloured beer, but this time 5.8% 'Ardennes' uses wheat and pale ale malt to fashion another wonderful beer. Another I could not get enough of, it was one of the best takes on a Belgian beer brewed over here I have drunk, so they must have done something right.

I can hardly wait to see what specials the rest of the year brings.  

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Holderness Hotspots

The hotspots in question are pubs rather than wi-fi, though a little info on the latter would have been useful last week as we struggled big time to connect. Modern communication issues aside, the area east of Hull has one or two pleasant surprises hidden amongst it's charmless villages and ever-growing forests of wind turbines.

First up is beer guide regular The Plough Inn at Hollym (below). The pub effectively acts as the brewery tap to nearby producers Great Newsome, whilst during our visit Bradfield Bitter, GK's OSH & St Edmunds also featured with permanent Tetleys completing the line up. Make sure to decipher GBG's opening hours for this place before setting off. If you are fortunate enough to gain entry, the welcome and quality are spot on. At £2.70 a pint, pricing here is good for the region.      


Patrington is a large village and able to support three hostelries, two of which can be found in CAMRA's guide. The third, The Hildyard Arms, is possibly the most attractive inside and out but seems to have fallen under the GK banner with just the IPA available. Last year I could swear we were treated to a decent drop of York here but signs of any recent guests were nowhere to be seen.


Across the road is The Holderness Inn which has York Guzzler on as a perm along with Tetley Bitter and the excellent Wye Valley HPA. Cornish St Austell was also on the bar to add further west country interest but at £2.75 the Wye steals the show here. A varied and very reasonably priced food menu plus Sky Sports complete the picture at this friendly village hub.

Just outside Patrington is the recently refurbished Station Hotel. A very attractive bar area was serving a couple of guests alongside the Black Sheep Best. Both priced at £2.80, Blue Bee Nectar Pale & Saltaire Blonde were available though neither was in the sort of condition we've come to expect. Without exception the lunchtime crowd were supping BS and smoothflow, so perhaps a lack of interest is the problem. Food looked very good here and priced very reasonably.


Finally I've included the Crown & Anchor at Kilnsea as due to it's proximity this was the most used. No guest policy here but a fine pint of Taylor's Landlord albeit at a hefty £3. Tetleys is also available as is a very good and nicely priced selection of hot and cold food. So should you find yourself waiting for better weather or at a loose end and fancy a beer, then Holderness  isn't exactly the end of the world, just the county. 

Girl power does it again !!

No, not those girls . This time I am writing in praise of another couple of up and coming brewsters, whose beers have always impressed me. Wilson Potter are a brewery based in Middleton on the outskirts of Manchester and have been brewing there for a year on a 6 barrel plant.


From small beginnings, test brewing in their kitchens, Kathryn and Amanda have sought advice from other brewsters and been on courses until finally their dream reached fruition last October when they produced their first commercial offerings 'Cascale' and 'Making Progress'. I first became aware of their beers at beer festivals, and was impressed by their 'In The Dark' and 'In The Light'. Both are 4.2% and both part of their core range of five beers. The former, a dark beer obviously, they class it as a stout, with licquorice and malt dominating the after taste, but pleasantly smooth and easy drinking. 'In The Light' is a fruity and fresh light coloured beer, and again very moreish.


In the last year I have come across several of their beers, their website shows 17 in all, and am usually impressed, especially by their use of hops in the lighter beers. Sometimes single hops, sometimes subtlely blended (sound a bit familiar !) they always seem to hit the spot with me. However yesterday I managed to sample their 'Brewers Gold' which is a single hopped beer at 4%. Brewers Gold is a hop often used by brewers and usually results in a fruity, clean tasting beer but their version has taken the hop to a new level. Maybe it was the strength which just added a little more body, or the malts used that accentuated its characteristics (thanks for the tip Elaine) but their version was one of the best beers I have drunk for some time and judging by its popularity and how quick it flew off the bar in the Star, I was not alone.

If you want to try it, or any of their range and cannot find the cask versions available, all their beers are bottled and available at HDM in town. So hunt it out and give it a try. It is well worth the effort, believe me.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A tale of two festivals

It is unusual to find two Camra beer festivals in close proximity at the same weekend but this is what has happened this weekend with both Huddersfield and Sheffield festivals taking place. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so over the last couple of days, myself and my younger namesake went out to compare and contrast.

In broad terms both were similar. Held in large halls near the Centre of the respective towns, they were ideal for the purpose with plenty of seating and light and airy. Admittedly Ponds Forge was bigger, and because of this maybe a little soulless but there was none of the elbow to elbow drinking that occurs at other venues. The cost to enter both was the same,and one can hardly complain about about £3 entry and a refundable glass. Both adhered to Camra policy and served 1/3 pints so that the 'ticker' could enjoy as many beers as possible, and the beer price was not bad, a pint costing less than £3 usually. But there the comparison ends.

To take Huddersfield first, the beers on offer, 90 in all, were mainly from the Yorkshire area, with a few sourced from further afield. It showcased the first beers from Rob Allen's 'Hand Drawn Monkey' brewery. These have been initially brewed on other brewery's plants until he gets his own up and running and we were treated to 'Inceptio' brewed at Mallinsons and 'HDM 4 CC IPA' brewed at Golcar, both decent beers. Mallinsons were also responsible for the festival charity beer, 'Mrs Bloke', brewed to commemorate Dave Litton's late wife, Maggie, who died earlier this year, and an excellent beer it was too. I selected several different beers in several different styles, the quality was always good, and the condition likewise. I was impressed with 'Sand House' the first beer I had sampled from the Doncaster brewery,  Rat Brewery 'Green Hop Ale' was different but packed with fresh flavours. Wentworth 'South Island Ipa' was full of New Zealand hop notes, likewise Ironbridge ' ANZ Bitter'. Obviously plenty of beers had to fall by the tasting wayside so this is only a small snapshot of what was available.


Sheffield Beer Festival
However,  with the taste buds refreshed, the following day saw the Tims take on the massive beer list at Sheffield. Again there were plenty of Yorkshire breweries on offer, with several duplicated from the Huddersfield list. But this time there was an emphasis on beers from the South West which are rarely seen in our area, and therefore several brewerys new to me. One criticism was the beer list which in several cases was incomplete with several beers and the odd brewery missing from the list I had previously downloaded from their website. It took a little while to sort out the beers on offer, but gradually the system became clear and likewise what was available. This time we adopted different approaches, Tim the younger trying beers from his preferred breweries, being particularly impressed with the 'Steel City' beers, whereas I was sampling the new South West breweries. Some were good, some less so, and Garage 'Radiator Spring' just downright strange. Again, I encountered a variety of different styles from dark to light, from milds to Ipas. Unfortunately many lacked condition and consequently a bit of a zing. One that did have condition and bucked this trend was Dancing Man ' Pilgrims', a clean tasting light bitter. Unfortunately for me, but not my namesake Pixie Spring ' The Boss' ( a collaboration with Steel City) ran off before I could try it but was so good that Tim tried it twice. We did both agree that  XT 'Four' was among the best beers there, along with their darker offering 'Eight'.
Oddly, for those who think that beer festival are purely for hopheads, the first beers to run off there were a wheat beer and a chocolate and vanilla stout.  

So in the space of 24 hours we had sampled a vast array of different beers, with plenty of variety and plenty of new breweries to try. Thanks must go those Camra workers who had worked tirelessly to create both festivals and those who offered their services free to man the pumps. Roll on next year !! 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Get it while you can !!

A few days ago, I hinted that the Grove had a few Brodies beers lurking in the cellar. Well, that hint has come to fruition and a quick visit yesterday revealed four of the London brewery beers on the bar. I know that I often complain about one brewerys beers dominating a bar but on this occasion I will make an exception. It would have been rude not to have sampled them all, purely for quality control purposes.

If you are unfamiliar with the brewery's output, I am not too surprised as they very rarely seem to leave  the capital, but the Grove is now onto its second batch, so successful was the first. The brewery started in August 2008 at the William IV pub in Leyton, and has brewed around 150 beers covering every style from malty to hoppy, weak to strong, dark to light. 

What of my sampling though ? Starting with the weakest 'Shoreditch Sunshine'. A 3.9% perfectly balanced quaffing beer, it would have been ideal for a hot summers day, but seemed to hit the spot on a wet autumn Sunday as well. Light and hoppy, it was a real gem. Despite the temptation to try a second I was being drawn to a clutch of their stronger offerings. 'Amarilla' used to be a session strength single hop variety beer, it now weighs in at 5% and tastes even better at this strength with the powerful orange flavour of the Amarillo hops coming through. Next up was 'Old Street IPA' at 5% again, and another light beer with a powerful hop taste  but a very pleasant malty background. The quartet was completed by 'White IPA', this time 5.1% and the hops here were perfectly balanced by the wheat used in the mash. A strong wheat beer I suppose, but I enjoy the style and this was one of the best I have ever come across.

If you have never tried Brodies before, a quick call to the Grove in the next week of so should remedy that, but beware, the quick call may extend into a long session. I just feel sorry for those poor souls who have taken themselves off to the coast for the week !!  

Monday, September 24, 2012

The medicine man rides again !!

In August 1995, a brewery started brewing in the Abbeydale district of Sheffield. Many names were suggested for it but it was eventually decided that the simple was the best and it became 'Abbeydale' brewery. Patrick, the owner, had a vision of what he wanted the pump clips to look like and recruited Ivan Bradley,  a graphic designer, to bring his ideas to fruition. The clips are always interesting and always have, somewhere, an image that continues throughout the range, of an old arch in some shape or form. You can tell an Abbeydale brewery beer by this alone, even without the name. However....

Ivan had an idea for producing another range of pump clips based on a theme of a wild west medicine man. Initially the idea was to use these solely for bottled beer but Patrick bowed to pressure and in March 2008 their range of Dr Morton's beers started to appear. Since then there have been regular additions to the range, mostly true to the original theme, with such wonderful names as 'Goat Flush' and 'Snake Oil'. The idea being that if they look good on the shelf in the old medicine shop then they will look good on a bar. Not only is the Dr Morton's range full of excellent beers their pumps clips are unique too. Ivan inventiveness in names is shadowed by his invention in explanations for the names on the clips, they are often amusing, sometimes risque, but always worth a read. In fact, they have even become collectors items.  

Lets face it, if you want to call a beer 'Corpse Nailer','Clown Poison' or 'Reindeer Repellant',  (the best ever name for a Xmas beer ) you need some sort of selling point. And Dr Morton's certainly have that. Not only does the sight of a Abbeydale clip on the bar set the heart racing, the sight of a Dr Mortons beer equals that, and gives you a good laugh in the bargain. Occasionally it makes you think as well, it took someone else to explain 'Myar Skikt' to me, and I still cannot say 'Mule Cooler' !!! So if you have never taken the time to read the dark green clips, give it a go, and see what a weird sense of humour Ivan has. Then drink the beer, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

(Thanks to Abbeydale's wonderful website for the information, and if you want to view the full Dr Mortons range click on it and take a look)  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rat & Ratchet festival

Yesterday heralded the long awaited return of the Rat and Ratchet beer festival. Of course, the editorial team had to visit to check it out, well it would be rude not to. After some initial difficulties the festival was up and running, with beers served on the normal pub bar, (15) and 20 others on the makeshift bar. All were cellar cooled and served through handpumps and the quality of the ones that I tried was very good.

The beer range spread from the light and hoppy to the dark and fruity, from strong to not so strong and everything else in between, in fact, there was beer here to suit everyone's taste. Plenty of the beer was new to me, but Katie had managed to get some old favourites on the bar as well. The only question, as at most festivals, was where to start. Since it was the Rat festival, it seemed appropriate to kick off with their new beer 'Domain'. 4.5% and brewed with Marynka hops, a good start. I then stayed with the lighter beers for a while, Riverhead 'White Cloud' was full of citrus notes, Goose Eye 'Migrator' a rather too typical beer from them, and Leeds 'Samba' a delicate, pale beer.

Time for a trip onto the 'Dark Side'. My dark beer expert raved about the 'Plum Porter' from Titanic, but I started with the 'Rat Brewery 'Queen Rat'. A 5% porter, with roast malt and chocolate, and a bitterness coming through in the aftertaste. Another beer with chocolate hints was Wood Street 'Ebony Stout' but this time blended with coffee. Milltown 'Maltissimo' again did not drink its strength but for a 5.3% beer seemed a little lacking in flavour. The star of the show, at least on this short visit, was a new IPA from Ilkley brewery, called 'Chief' . It was 7% and managed to pack lots of flavours into to the beer, just a shame that the strength was a little too high to allow it a second try.

This is only a small snapshot of what is available, a second, or third visit will definately be in order to sample the rest. Scarborough 'Zest' sounds interesting, as does the dark lager style beer from Elland 'Frau Brauer'. The two beers I am really looking forward to were not on at the outset of the festival however, being kept back as reserves. Both are brewed with fresh green hops, harvested the day before brewing. One is a light beer 'Green Rat IPA' and the other a porter, 'Green & Black' from Riverhead. Looks like I may even have to make a fourth trip !!