Monday, April 30, 2012

Get yourself a Gadds

One of the breweries we are fortunate to have a regular outlet for in Huddersfield is Ramsgate, otherwise known as 'Gadds' whose beers can regularly be found at the Grove, and who have a pump dedicated to their beer. There is always one of the brewery's beers available on the bar, whether it be one of their regular range or one of the frequent specials they produce.

Ramsgate are one of those breweries who can turn their hand to anything, from light and hoppy, to dark and malty - their regular range covering five beers. No3, No5, and No7 being bitters of varying strengths and styles, Dogbolter is a porter based on the old Firkin recipe, and Seasider is an amber ale. However it is their more infrequent beers that especially hit the spot with me.

Whether it be their 'Green Hop' ale, 4.8% and with a massive fresh hop taste, from the new seasons hops or their smooth and rich 4.6% 'Oatmeal Stout' every beer brings something new. They have attempted a Scottish style 80/-, a Soviet style Russian stout at 8% and packed with flavour, and several takes on American style IPAs. Each one is different, but each one maintains the quality I have come to expect from the brewery.

Never afraid to think outside the box, Eddie Gadd and the team use all sorts of different hops, from the traditional Kentish varieties to more exotic styles, making everything from 'Oyster Stouts' to lager beer using German Noble hops. American 'Cascade' dominates their 'She Sells Sea Shells',  and the blackberry flavours of 'Bramling Cross' come through in 'Rye PA'.

Likewise malts are not overlooked with all sorts of different types and styles bringing smoked, smooth, chocolate and peaty malt tastes to the breweries portfolio. Each beer having a very considered  mixture to bring out the flavours the brewer wanted.
If you have never tried a Ramsgate beer, what has kept you? You don't know what you are missing, so get up to the Grove and give them a go. Or go one better and try them in Kent in their own backyard.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You put what in beer???!!!

Brewers seem to have been putting odd things in beer for ever, anyone who regularly drinks Belgian beers will have come across their Framboise and Kreik styles, with raspberry and cherry respectively. Blackberries seem to figure fairly frequently too, and apricots and peaches, all of which give a distinct fruitiness to the beer and are quite acceptable to the average palette. Even us British are not averse to adding the odd special ingredient or two, ginger for example, or chocolate and orange in stout which seem to work ok. It's when the brewer gets a bit over experimental that things can get weird.

Yesterday's reminiscences included Blackmoor 'Banana Madness', definitely an acquired taste, or even Charles Wells 'Banana Bread Beer' equally strange and a beer that one barman I know could not pull because it set off his allergy to the fruit. I recall coming across a Devon brewery at a local festival, I think it was Suttons, who brewed a mint beer - it was like drinking toothpaste! The list is endless, if it grows, someone somewhere will stick it in a beer. Several breweries chuck lemons in their beer, to a greater or lesser degree of success. Others use toffee, or coffee for flavouring.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes I think these beers do work. Wapping 'Orange and Black Pepper' is up there in my top ten list of beers, and Coach House (whose beer I am not generally a fan of) brew an excellent 'Blueberry', but go for the 5% one not the 4.4%. In fact, looking at my beer lists, both these breweries have used all sorts of different fruits to make beer but neither were a patch on one local brewer for inventiveness with all things market garden.

If you came across a Kitchen beer, it was once tried never forgotten.  They were never that easy to find in Huddersfield but I came across a few on my travels, including those made with parsley, carrot, potato, apple and gooseberry, and they were just the tip of the iceberg (the Titanic thingy not the lettuce!). Onion, turnip, parsnip and celery were also all used in the beer. It only brewed for 5 years, between 1996-2001 but has left an indelible mark on the tastebuds of local drinkers. Never to be forgotten.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fernandes Festival

Tomorrow sees the start of the Fernandes beer festival in Wakefield. A bit different to many festivals i attend though, this one promises over 20 beers brewed on the premises. A sight of the list shows beers old and new, strong and weak, light and dark, something brewed by Fernandes to suit each and every taste. 

It goes from the 27th through till Sunday 29th at their Brewery Tap in Avison Yard. Seems a good excuse to get out and about again !

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Sportsman

It's three years since the reinventing of this town centre classic - just the excuse I needed to capture some new images.

Big thanks to Mike Field, Sarah Barnes & Sam Smith for creating this now essential addition to my ale-ing agenda and making the match-day experience more bearable!     

Friday, April 20, 2012

Milnsbridge Socialist Club Festival

Having a bit of time to spare, and a willing driver, I decided that a trip to the Milnsbridge Socialist Club Beer and Pie festival would while away Thursday evening. The club is at the bottom of Bankwell Rd only a couple of minutes walk from Manchester Rd but for some odd reason it is somewhere I have never been before.

It is a small club, with a small bar area with 2 handpumps on, and for the festival a makeshift stillage had been erected in what I assume is their concert room. The festival promised 18 beers, all from outside the area and some interesting breweries as well. Unfortunately all were not available on the first night as some still had to clear but there were still a fair amount to sample so I settled down with a couple of halves of Truefitt, a Middlesbrough brewery new to me. One was a full flavoured stout, Ironopolis, and the other Mydlisburgh IPA. Both were decent beers in good nick. Next on the list was Hunters 'St Georges Dragon' a 4% beer with a subtle hop flavour and a honey background, but not quite to my taste.

There were a couple of Northumberland beers available but I bypassed them to sample Barley Bottom 'English Heritage Bitter'. I had tried their beers before at a festival and was less than impressed, and unfortunately this offering did nothing to change my opinion. My final beer came from the bar and was Nelsons 'Dragons Revenge', made with East Kent Goldings and had the taste of a typical English bitter, unsurprisingly.

On the pie front, all 15 selections were available, and were not, as I expected small pork pies, but slices from a larger meat pie. The ones I tried were excellent, although a bit expensive at £1.50 a slice. Choices ranged from turkey and cranberry, through ginger and chilli, and curry, to mustard or walnut. Certainly some different flavours to sample.

All in all, it was a good experience, with some decent and interesting beers and fascinating pies. The staff were friendly and knowledgable and the club is certainly somewhere to revisit, I always assumed Milnsbridge to be a beer desert, seems I was wrong. The club has a commitment to real ale, and hope in the future to increase their pumps from 2 to 4. I, for one, think they deserve to suceed.    

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time to raise a glass (or 2/3) !!

It is common knowledge around these parts that 'the Grove' is closing soon for refurbishment. (don't ask when, I still have no idea). However this week has seen some of their new glasses arrive on the bar, and pretty good they are too. Sturdy oversized pint glasses with a discreet logo on them. The glass feels good in the hand, and as is the pub policy they are lined.

The smaller glasses have baffled me a bit. Again, they are of the same style as the pint glass but are 2/3 pint size rather than half pint, although lined for half pints. I am a bit confused as the measure. I understand 1/3 measures, great for sampling the stronger beers, but 2/3, what is that about ? I have yet to find anyone who goes into a pub and consciously orders 2/3 of a pint. The measure makes the glass brimful, thereby negating the reasoning for an oversize glass, which seems to defeat the object a little. I have already heard of punters complaining they want their half topped up because they feel they have been  shortmeasured because of the glass size.

Maybe I am missing something, if I am I am sure someone will let me know, but is this measure really useful to anyone ? The drinker is used to pints, halves and, more recently, thirds, the bar staff will have problems working out the price of the beer, some of which does not easily divide into thirds of a unit, and the possibility of confusion over volume is endless, wasting the time of the bar staff explaining the measure to customers.

So enjoy the glasses, enjoy the beer. May be I am just a moaning dinosaur, only time will tell !!  

And before you tell me, I know the picture is a pint glass, have not a picture of the offending glass yet ! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Festival with a Difference

Thursday sees the start of one of the more innovative festivals about locally when Milnsbridge Social Club  host their first 'Beer and Pork Pie' festival. Sounds just up my street!

There will be 30 ales on offer from various interesting breweries, some of which are rare in these parts, such as Scarborough, Hunters and Nelsons, all  hopefully St Georges themed. They will be paired with 15 pies, all chosen to complement the different styles of beer available.

The club is at 42 Bankwell Rd, in Milnsbridge (HD3 4LU for the sat nav literate amongst us), and the event runs through till Sunday.

Sounds like another festival not to miss!!

Opens at 7pm Thursday and Friday. All day Saturday and Sunday

Sportsmans 3rd Anniversary

It can't be just three years since the Sportsman came on the Huddersfield Real Ale scene, seems it has been around for ever, successfully cemented its place in the must visit pubs on the town circuit with an interesting selection of beers, good food, and on site brewery. This weekend the pub is having a celebration. 

It starts on Thursday evening and £10 treats you to a meet the brewer night with Mallinsons and Outstanding representing beer and Pure North cider makers. Your money pays for three sample ciders, six sample beers and one of their famous suppers. The fun starts at 7pm.

Friday promises food, drinks and dancing, along with their presentation from local CAMRA for pub of the year - a great achievement.

On Saturday there will be four birthday beers on the bar from various different breweries, and an evening barbeque with 'Mad Jack and the Hatters' playing at 9pm.

Finally the event closes on Sunday with Morris Dancing, a brass band and the showing of  the films 'Kes' and 'Brassed Off'!

It promises to be a great weekend, get down there and help them celebrate in style.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Your chance to sink a Titanic

It may not have escaped your notice that this month is the centenary of the launch, and sinking of the famous ship 'Titanic'. To commemorate the event, the eponymous Staffordshire brewery have teamed up with the Head Of Steam chain to showcase 18 of their beers throughout the month.

The idea is to try to have beer on offer to fit each different part of the voyage. So we start with '1912' and 'Slipway', through 'First Class', 'All Aboard', and 'Steerage' to '9/10 Below' and finally 'Iceberg'. Where 'Chocolate and Vanilla Stout' fits in I am not quite sure, but its there nonetheless.

If you manage 12 of the beers and send off the 'boarding card' you will receive a free polo shirt, and if you manage all 18, then a free commemorative glass and a bottle of 'Pier 54' can be yours.

As  it happens I am quite a fan of the brewery's beer, so this is a perfect chance to sample most of the range over a short period. It seems like an opportunity not to be missed.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Two Hops are Better than one

I know dual-hopped beers have been around for a long time, often masked by their name. Who could tell that 'Wayfarer' for example, is a beer made with amarillo and cascade? There is no clue in the name, or on the pump clip. Nevertheless it is an excellent beer. Recently Mallinsons have started to make it clear that some of the beers are dual-hopped.

We have been treated to 'Summit Summer'  and 'Citrella' for example. Both made with a combination of two hops. This weekend I have sampled 'Columbus Nelson', in my opinion the best of the three. A mix of  American 'Columbus' and New Zealand 'Nelson Sauvin' has produced a stunning beer. Both are renowned as high alpha acid bitter hops and I was concerned that the product of them both may be too bitter or astringent. How wrong I was!

Mallys have brewed a beer in which both hops perfectly balance each other and rather than one overpower the other, their flavours complement each other to give a fresh fruitiness than develops throughout the glass into a superb brew. Columbus is the bittering hop, Nelson the aroma, the combination bringing out hints of grapefruit and a subtle tartness. It is a sensible drinking strength at 4.4% allowing it enough body to support both hops, without making it cloying or sweet. It is around in pubs now, give it a go and see what you think.     

Huddersfield Breweries Come Top

If you read Huddersfield Examiner you may have been a little surprised to find their lead article on Saturday being devoted to real ale, or more precisely the amount of real ale breweries in the Town. It seems that per head of population the town has the more breweries in Britain. It just goes to show what steps forward the town has made in the last few years.

Some of them have been around for some time such as Linfit, although totally rebuilt after its recent fire, and Riverhead. Others are new kids on the block, Rat and Milltown for example. Some have developed a countrywide reputation for their fine beers, Mallinsons, Summer Wine and Magic Rock spring to mind.

However whatever category the brewery falls into, it is a great achievement to top cities like Derby and Sheffield whose brewing pedigree if without question, and just shows how great the commitment to real ale is in the town. We should be justly proud of these people who have put the town on the map in another sphere of excellence, just get out there and support them.    

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sorry if I sound critical ......but

One of the 'must have' books in the beer drinkers bag is the CAMRA 'Good Beer Guide'. Plenty of us have a copy, and often rely on it to point us in the direction of good pubs with good beer. Most of the time it does what it says on the cover, but just now and then I am somewhat concerned about the content. Let me tell you a story.

A couple of days ago when I had nothing special to do, I set out armed with my beer guide to check out a pub I rarely visit. Since I trust the guide, I accept what they write at face value until I can confirm it otherwise from my own observations. The pub I  refer to will remain nameless, for reasons that will soon become obvious, as will the write up in the guide which led me to visit it. All I will say is that it is within West Yorkshire.

I was led to believe that the pub was clean, pleasant and had a good range of real ale, what I found was a little different. It did have a range of beers, that was true. However, the pub, although not run down, was in desperate need of TLC and a good deep clean. It had a member of staff whose afternoon I seemed to spoil by ordering a beer and stopping him from his more important tasks of chatting to his mates and playing on his phone. I ordered a swift half and left. The pub is no stranger to the guide, just one I rarely get round to visiting. It will be a long time before I return again.

I am a broad minded chap (really) and can tolerate a certain amount of writing up to make a pub more attractive. This went beyond and was almost misleading. I know that local CAMRA members make the choice of pubs to go in the guide, but I must query what makes a number of them choose such a pub for inclusion. Maybe a year out of the guide may make the owners take a look at what they provide and spruce the place up. Maybe they have just become complacent. Or am I  just hypercritical. Does the 'Good Beer Guide' merely suggest pubs that sell good beer, for I cannot criticise the beer quality, just the pub? Or would an honest write up prevent customers from going?
Strangely enough, I went to another pub about 200 yards away. It was not in the Guide, but had attentive staff, was clean and pleasant, and had a good range of beer as well. I know where I will go to next time.  

Its only 5 days too late !!!

With the news that Royal Mail will be raising the prices of its stamps this month, members of the Marketing Department have been trying to find ways to take the bad taste out of people's mouths. At last they have the problem licked, and are please to announce a new scheme, in conjunction with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

A new series of six collectible stamps will be released at the end of May 2012 featuring prominent Real Ale breweries around the UK. The face of each stamp will feature a picture of that brewery and will be available both as part of a collectible set and for individual purchase in Post Offices.

The crowing glory of this new collection lies not on the face but rather on the reverse. In a new method known only to a team of scientists at CAMRA's top-secret research laboratory, the signature glue on the back of the stamps has been carefully blended with a batch of beer from each of the breweries. Following a treatment process to remove alcohol and enhance the flavour, the glue is applied to the back of the stamp relating to its own brewery.

This is a direct lift from an e mail sent by the 'Bloke from Hull' , not sure if he received the original on April 1st though !!!