Monday, January 30, 2012

Its a Revelation - its Dark Star !

One of the breweries that has featured quite regularly in the recent past on 'A Swift One' is Dark Star from Sussex. We are lucky in Huddersfield in having the Grove, which has a dedicated pump for their beers, so we have a chance to sample plenty of their range. And as I have said before, the range is pretty good, covering every style of beer imaginable and some you cannot.

The most recent addition to the core beer range is 'Revelation', and quite a revelation it was when I found it on Sunday. It was only released earlier this month, so this was my first chance to sample it. It is a light coloured beer at 5.7% and contains 4 different types of hops; Centennial, Liberty, Citra and Cascade, then  dry hopped. Maris Otter pale malt provides the background. It sounded good and it did not disappoint. A beautifully rounded beer, with plenty of  balanced flavour and dangerously drinking nowhere near its strength.

When I read the hops listed I thought one would come to the fore in the taste, but that was not the case, all  blended together to create interesting tropical fruit flavours both in the nose and on the palette. Certainly one of my beers of the year so far. And with it being one of the core range of beers it should be available all the year round, both in cask and keg. At its strength, it fits perfectly into the brewery portfolio. So if you are unfortunate enough to miss it this time, no doubt there will be plenty of other chances to sample it.        

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Navvy festival this weekend

One of the local festivals I usually try to get to is at the Navigation at Mirfield, for some reason this weekend's festival seems to have slipped under my radar and I have not managed to trip across, but 'The Bloke From Hull' has managed it and provided us with a beer list. He says all beer is £2 a pint, so that seems a good enough reason for calling in for a start.

Last time I went across, Kev, the licencee, was struggling with his knee and had to cancel the previous festival so it must be good news that he is well enough to do another. He has sourced beer from all over the country, from Kent to Scotland, and plenty breweries in between, with a smattering of new beers rubbing shoulders with old favourites so that there is beer there to suit everyone's taste.

So should you have a spare few hours this weekend, get over there and see what's on offer, and enjoy one of the friendliest festivals about.    

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Birthday John

If you are about in the next few days and see a Mallinsons pump clip for 'JMY 70' take a look at the faces on the clip. Well, that's not strictly correct, all the faces are the same bloke, Elaine Yendall's dad, John.

Its possible that some will not know John, or why he has a beer brewed specially for him. The simple answer is that John will be 70 on Friday, a good enough reason for any one to have a beer brewed, but John, who lives in the West Midlands, is an integral part of Mallinsons success. I don't know him well but well enough to know what a good bloke he is. And he is a guy that makes people like me very envious. He can make anything out of anything. 

Much of the interior of the brewery has been custom made by John to make Tara and Elaine's life easier, from air vents to hoists. He has been working behind the scenes to help make the brewery the success it has become.

So when you see it, raise a glass of 'JMY 70' to John. One man who really reserves the accolade. And a Happy Birthday from all at 'A Swift One'.       

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roosters - a blast from the past

Years ago, it seems like a different time, when beer dinosaurs roamed the country and the big breweries dominated, a small group of men, each with their own ideas of how beer should taste, started to bring the taste of hops to the masses. One of those men was Sean Franklin.

He started brewing initially as 'Frankins' brewery (remember them?) at the back of  a pub near Harrogate. He and his wife Alison then moved to new premises and Roosters brewery was born in October 1993 at an eight barrel plant. His knowledge and use of hops quickly made his beer sought after as something different to the normal fayre and the brewery went from strength to strength. Over time Roosters, and their experimental brewing arms Pioneer and Outlaw, introduced the discerning drinker to all sorts of tastes and the wonderful world of American hops.

However eventually other breweries started to get the hop bug and Roosters, in my opinion, became just another brewery. Good, but not exceptional, it did brew some beer I especially enjoyed but mostly the beers failed to stand out from the crowd. In the recent past it seems to have regained it's mojo, and is brewing beer as good as anyone at the moment. Maybe the use of hops is not as innovative as before, or maybe we have other breweries who have taken over the mantle in the hop stakes, but it's core range of beers are  wonderful session ales. Possibly better suited to a warm summer day than a freezing day in winter, but nevertheless still very good.

Now brewed on an industrial unit, with Sean taking more a back seat in the brewing, Roosters goes from strength to strength. Most of it's regulars fall into the 3.9% to 4.3% range, and are light and hoppy - Roosters traditional territory. Wild Mule mirrors the subtle taste of Sauvignon grapes, Yankee is softly bitter with a hint of lychees, YPA is made with Styrian Golding hops with their fruit flavours, and Leghorn is made with four aroma hops for an interesting collection of gentle tastes. There are other beers too, including occasional specials. Cream for example, weighing in at 4.7% and blending US Liberty hops with the softness of Yorkshire water, being one.

So if you are one of those people who like their beer light and hoppy but subtle and well crafted rather than 'in your face', then Roosters could be the brewery for you. Let's face it, any brewery that once brewed a beer called 'Tachy Tim's' can't be all bad!       

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beer through a font - the shape of things to come?

The Grove has never been afraid to try to be a little different to other pubs in the town. They have key kegs for one thing, and lots of bottles for another, but this week thy have tried something a little off the wall, even for them.

They have Abbeydale 'Transformation' on the bar. Nothing unusual in that I hear you say. The method of dispense is though. Instead of coming through the usual beer lines, it is served through one of their 'lager' fonts for need of  a better description. In the interests of science I thought I would give it a go and see what the difference was.

Before I go on, I should explain that I don't know the science that actually gets the beer from the cellar to the bar, but the beer was served without the carbonation that goes with lager, and the beer is from a cask, not a keg, so to all intents and purposes it is a cask beer. Onto the beer itself. It is a light, hoppy beer, typical of the Abbeydale stable, their tasting notes say it has a biscuit base, with a generous amount of hops from America, Australia, and New Zealand giving tropical fruit notes and a hint of toffee. What did I find? Well to be perfectly honest, none of these came though. The font dispense means the beer comes through a chiller, making it colder than your average cask beer, and the temperature of the beer seems to kill the subtle flavours there. I could tell it had hops, but would struggle to get any defined flavour from it and the background maltiness that ought to be there was missing. My half was enough, I would not have wanted any more.

So a bit disappointing. It was interesting to try it, but I do not think it worked, and it certainly did not do justice to what sounded like a good beer. Admittedly, I have not tried the beer in its 'proper' cask form yet, so cannot compare it (though it is on the taunting pole at the Star so I will have a chance soon), and to make a true comparison it may have been better to put one of the regular beers through a font. But there again, if you get chance, try it and see what you think.  

I actually managed to get the beer served through a hand pull at the Star yesterday, it did taste different to the font version, the malt and hop flavours, although fairly subtle, did come through and the beer was well balanced. May be if the Grove want to try again, a more hoppy beer may do the trick, possibly one they have regularly so we can contrast with what we are used to. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Revolution Rock

Since the move to new premises in Castleford, the Revolutions Brewing Company has increasingly been catching my eye. Clearly someone there has a very similar taste in music to my own, and their ability to produce pump clip artwork very close to the original album sleeves has become a cause for comment, and not a little nostalgia, whenever encountered.

I recall being especially excited when  The Scream appeared on the bar at a  Huddersfield pub not too long ago, instantly transporting me back to my first hearing of Metal Postcard on the John Peel show in the late seventies. Unfortunately my beer appreciation wasn't challenged in the same dramatic fashion that night as my musical perspective had been some thirty-odd years earlier, but nevertheless - thanks for the memory!

The latest batch of beers to be launched include The Clash, Joy Division and Kraftwerk inspired brews, and these will be appearing at the brewery's next gig, namely a mini-festival at Mr. Foleys in Leeds on Friday 10th February (with accompanying soundtrack). I shall hopefully be giving them all a spin, whether in Leeds or elsewhere, and whilst previous offerings from Revolutions have yet to really hit the mark with me, I'm expecting nothing short of absolute masterpieces where London (Calling) Porter & Unknown Pleasures are concerned.

Special thanks to Leigh at The Good Stuff  for bringing the festival to our attention.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Star has regular Mallinsons Now

Huddersfield has another pub with a regular Mallinsons pump with the Star at Folly Hall introducing one at the turn of the year. This is in addition to the Sportsman who have had one for some time.The Rat and Ratchet, although not having a dedicated pump due to the output of their own beers often has Mallys on the bar as well.

It is obviously great news for supporters of the Lindley brewery, and a testament to the hard work put in over the last 3 years by Tara and Elaine. We wish them every success for the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Minimum pricing - the shape of things to come ?

I have heard, although seen nothing official to confirm it, that one of Yorkshire's councils has finally bitten the bullet and imposed a minimum pricing policy for beer across the pubs within their jurisdiction. Is this a case of where one goes, the rest will follow ?

As of yesterday, all pubs or bars in Doncaster, will be selling their drinks at a minimum of £1.20. Obviously a bargain if this is a pint, but not so good if the pub sells thirds or halves. Presumably this is an effort to prevent binge drinking but again seems to hit at the wrong people, and takes the initiative away from publicans to charge what they want. Let's hope its not the shape of things to come.        

Monday, January 09, 2012

Black IPA - Why ?

With apologies to Buxton
A trip yesterday to one of our local hostelries, which had 4 'Black IPA's on the bar, started me thinking. What is a black IPA ? And what is the point ? Before I start, let me say that I have no problem with the beers themselves, even though they vary between the excellent and the average, its just the term 'Black IPA' that I take exception to.

I have always thought an IPA, by its very definition, should be light. Why else should it be called an India Pale Ale ? A black beer is not pale, and never can be. I have explored the provenance of India Pale Ale in a previous post, and will not bore you with it again, except to reiterate that I expect IPA to be what it says on the pump clip, i.e a pale ale. However in recent times, there has been an outbreak, mostly from brewers who consider themselves part of the English 'craft brewing' fraternity, of these black IPA's. 

I assume the term has come from across the water in America which is well known for butchering the English language, and  our brewers have latched onto it for some reason. As far as I understand, beer styles, are named after two things, that being tradition or ingredients used. I have touched on the tradition question earlier, an IPA should be light, or pale, in my opinion. A black IPA is an oxymoron that bucks two centuries of brewing tradition for no apparent reason. Many have other names. Surely calling a beer 'Imperial Black ',or 'West Highland Black' gives the drinker enough information to know he is drinking a black beer, why add the additional rider 'IPA' to the name ? Are they just jumping on a bandwagon ? Does it give the drinker any more information? I personally think not after drinking several of them. 

The other side of the coin relates to ingredients used. I accept that to use the hop character of an IPA and adding darker malts creates some sort of hybrid , but is that enough to justify a new genre of beer ? It could just as easily be a bitter stout, or hoppy porter. I am of the opinion that it doesn't. I am not even sure that the balance of hops and malt in this hybrid are often right, and it seems that often one or the other dominates the taste, dark malts and resinous hops do not seem to blend well to my taste, and I have yet to find one that I am totally happy with.

Maybe I am being pedantic, (who,me !), but for me, an IPA will be forever Pale, and the 'Black IPA' maybe  just a passing phase, the sooner the phase passes the better as far as I am concerned. Or may be in years to come I will be proved wrong and the 'Black IPA' will be a recognised name in English brewing. Only time will tell.  

The picture is no reflection of Buxton brewery, and its beer, it merely illustrates a point.  

Thursday, January 05, 2012

That old chestnut again !

One of the things that concerns me as a beer 'ticker' but not necessarily as a beer drinker is the provenance of certain beers, and only a few days into 2012 another has raised its head on another beer forum. It has been suggested that Meantime 'London Pale Ale' is not actually brewed by Meantime, but is actually brewed miles away from London in Suffolk, at Adnams.

As a drinker, this makes no difference to me, it is a fine beer, and if it is brewed at Adnams, they are a  fine brewery, and I will continue to enjoy it when I see it. Result. If it is a good beer most beer drinkers will have no issue with who brews it, just that they like the end product.

However, 'Tim the Ticker' has a slightly different view. I often drink beers and have no idea who actually brews them. I take it from the pump clip, and accept that information at face value. I do not usually have the chance to scrabble about in a pub cellar to check on the cask to verify the information, and even then, that is not always a definitive answer to the brewer or the beer. If I do find a beer has been brewed at somewhere other than the brewery I assume then I do feel somewhat cheated.

I possess a GOBBS guide, and thanks to Alan's dedication, I can often trace a beer I have drunk through that, but not always, and it is a time consuming project.

Would it not be better, and fairer for everyone, for the pump clip to show where the actual beer was brewed to save anyone any confusion ? Those in the know can read a 'Steel City' pump clip and know exactly where their beer has come from. Why do other breweries not follow their example ? As I have said, it will make no difference to the many drinkers who just drink the beer because they want to, whoever may brew it, but to those of us who are 'anoraks' it makes a real difference. And if the brewery has nothing to hide, why should they not be transparent. It will not make a good beer less good, just because it is brewed somewhere else.  

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Rat Beer Festival

The Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield will be hosting a mini-beer festival from 10th - 12th of February 2012.

A brewery viewing session will be held between 2pm and 5pm on Saturday 11th of February, when you are invited to meet the brewers and ask questions about the beers and brewing process.

A discount of 50p per pint on Rat beers will be offered to card carrying CAMRA members.

The usual range of Ossett and guest beers will also be available as well as ciders and perries.

Showcasing their own-brewed Rat beers, at least ten will be available on the bar at any one time, with as many as 15 different Rat beers appearing over the course of the weekend. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Draught v Key Keg

It is not very often that one gets the chance to sample, side by side, the same beer dispensed both on draught and from key keg at the same time in the same pub. Yesterday was one of those occasions, so in a totally non scientific experiment, I set about doing it; these are my non scientific results.

The beer I chose was Magic Rock 'High Wire', not difficult to choose since it was the only one available in both forms in the Grove.  I have had it several times before on draught but never on key keg, and I must say the draught version was on form. It is a 5.5% American style IPA, bitter yet with a subtle malt base and crammed with tropical fruit flavours. The draught version did not disappoint, living up to everything I expected. But what of the key keg ?

The first thing I noticed was it was considerably colder that the draught, obviously from the method of dispense,  and that seemed more carbonated, with a slight fizz on the tongue when I drank. To make sure that the test was as fair as possible I let it warm up as much as I could, but even then it was cooler. The problem with that seemed to be that it killed the taste to a certain degree. Whereas it was easy to taste the subtle notes in the beer in the draught version, the key keg version seemed to mask them, none of the hops came to the fore, and the background seemed almost non existent. Worryingly though, it did not drink like its strength, more like a 4% beer than a 5.5%. In short, it could have been anything, certainly not the classic I expected.

I am not averse to drinking key keg, and I understand there is a certain market for it, but on this small experiment (and it is one I hope to repeat with other beers to confirm, or negate my findings) I have to say that the draught version is a far superior beast, and slightly cheaper too. 

This is not a criticism of Magic Rock, nor their brewing methods, but merely that it was their beer that allowed me the chance to contrast the styles, and I thank them and the Grove for the opportunity to do so.