Thursday, August 30, 2012

Champion beers at The Head of Steam

In the near future drinkers at the Head Of Steam will be able to sample all of the winning beers, along with the silver and bronze beers from the recent British Beer Festival.

All have been ordered and will be on sale at the pub while stocks last. The only unfortunate exception is the actual winner, since there is so little of Coniston no.9 Barley Wine brewed that it was unavailable.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Inn starts brewing

It is hard to keep track of the new breweries this year, it seems that there is a new one every day, some being easier to find than others. One of the more difficult is the New Inn Brewery, Roberttown. The reason being that the beer does not seem to leave the pub so it means a trip there pub to sample it.

I had heard rumours a while ago that they had intended to start brewing and after a chance meeting this week heard that one of their beers was already on the bar at the pub. Seemed an opportunity not to be missed so I trekked across yesterday to see what was on offer. And there, alongside the other five beers on the bar was 'Golden Bob' at 4.0%, a decent quaffing strength and a pleasant enough beer. It was well balanced, with a decent malty background and a smooth rather than bitter taste which I suspect comes from English hops. All in all not a bad first beer.

I believe, although cannot confirm because the staff at the pub were busy with customers, that they brew on a 1/2 barrel plant in the cellar of the pub and produce just two beers that come on the bar in rotation. Again I am unsure if the intention is just to brew for the pub or to sell outside as well but no doubt a further visit may answer my questions, unless some one out there can fill us in.

A welcome addition to West Yorkshire's breweries (after yesterday's geographical cock ups I know that Roberttown is in West Yorkshire, or as my namesake may insist, the West Riding!), and easy enough to reach from Huddersfield should you fancy sampling it. And at £2.50 a pint it does not break the bank.

Thanks to Bloke from Hull for the head up about the brewery.   

Friday, August 24, 2012

Milnsbridge Socialist Club Festival

Yesterday Milnsbridge Socialist Club in Bankwell Rd, opened its doors to its second beer festival. This time the beers had a nautical theme. I was very impressed by their first attempt so it seemed sensible to  check this festival out too.

Free admission and beer at £2.80 a pint seemed a good start. There were only 10 beers on however, compared with 16 at the first festival (there were 2 further ones to follow over the weekend but were not ready in time for opening). There were 4 from Nelson brewery, 2 each from Storm of Macclesfield (that well known seaside resort !), Milton from Cambridge, and one each from Navigation and Amber. Some of the nautical connections were a bit tenuous but the beer was generally good.

The Milton 'Bondi' a 3.7% pale ale, had plenty of flavour for a low strength beer, as did the Storm 'Gale Pale' at 4.3%. For the more conservative beer drinker Navigation 'Traditional' was a decent version of a standard bitter. Nelson provided a mild and a porter, but their best beer in my opinion was the honey infused 'Jammin Jack'. The missing beers being Titanic 'Deck Chair' and a Geeves 6% offering.

If seafood is your thing then reasonably priced prawns, mussels, cockles and crab sticks could accompany your pint. 

Maybe not the best beer range in the world but an interesting selection to while away a couple of hours. Should you want to visit, the festival runs from 11am each day over the weekend through till Monday evening.       

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hop Studio Blonde

Launched in May this year, The Hop Studio Brewery of Elvington near York has been getting great press from those lucky enough to sample it's wares. It's taken me until this lunchtime to get on the receiving end, and I'm more than a little impressed.

The 3.5% Blonde is simply stunning, being incredibly light and refreshing yet brimful of tangy bitter hop taste with plenty of residual for a beer of this strength. I'm used to the likes of Abbeydale, Bradfield and Acorn accompanying my chicken and chips on a Thursday, so it takes something pretty special to grab my attention.

Knowing next to nothing about this new outfit (the website is in coming soon mode), there's little more I can add at this time, suffice to say that if you spot the distinctive logo on a bar near you, don't be shy! 

Hop Studio Blonde is currently guesting at The Huntsman in Chidswell near Ossett.         

Monday, August 20, 2012

This weekends Huddersfield festivals

This weekend sees two more local beer festivals.

Milnsbridge Socialist Club in Bankwell Rd,Milnsbridge hosts its 2nd beer festival, this time with a maritime theme, and starts at 11am on Thursday. It runs through till Monday. Free admission and a promise of seafood in addition to a range of interesting beers.

The Nook Aleympic beer festival starts on Friday, at the Rose and Crown at Holmfirth and runs through till Sunday and promises around 40 beers, but if the pattern of previous festivals is continued all are not available at the same time.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is this the way to market a festival ?

This week I got a bit of a shock. No, not that the Mallinsons beer I wanted ran off before I got to it, (although it did !) . I happened across a poster that advertised Huddersfield Camra Oktoberfest. I was a little amazed when I saw the prices for admission, it shows a £10 admission fee for non Camra members and £8 for members. I think this is a little excessive, sorry, a lot excessive, for entry to a festival.

I did read the small print which explains what my money would pay for; a glass, a programme, and £5 of beer tokens, the actual admission costing £3 or £1 respectively, more or less the same deal that applies at a lot of other festivals. But why did Huddersfield Camra take the step to advertise it in the way it did?

A quick look at the poster does no one any favours. The casual visitor would be put off by the admission price. The hardened festival goer would think twice about paying the fee. 

The pricing policy of paying for everything on entering also goes against the grain. I accept that there has to be an admission charge to the hall, to cover the rent and electricity, there is no problem with that. My problem is that not everyone goes to a festival to drink, odd as it may seem. If I take my partner, who cannot drink, or does not want to drink because she is driving, do they have to pay the £10 admission irrespective of not drinking ?  Surely the better system is an entry fee and then the option  of buying tokens for what you want, when you want it. The wider view of their customer base seems to have been overlooked.   

I have not spoken to any of the local Camra members responsible for the festival advertising so I am not sure of the actual thinking behind it. Is it to speed up entrance times ? To make cash handling easier ? Or some other reason ?

Whichever reason applies I think it is very shortsighted, since several people who have seen the poster made the comment that they would not attend because of the prices shown on the poster. They never read the explanation further down. If this is a small but representative sample then I fear they have got it wrong. It is not encouraging people to attend, rather the opposite. I hope not. I want the festival to succeed like everyone else.    

Incidentally, and this may have escaped the organisers notice, if they check the poster in the latest copy of the 'Imbiber' then the entry fees are shown as £1 and £3 not £8 and £10.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Food & Drink Festival yet

Yesterday the sun shone, the crowds came out and the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival got under way. As I mentioned before there is plenty there for everyone and a walk around the stalls revealed food to suit every taste under the sun, whether you like sweet or savoury, pies or curry it was all there. And by early afternoon the air was rich with the smells of cooking.

But this blog is primarily about beer. So what was there to suit the beer drinker. Plenty as it happens. Local pubs The Star, The Sportsman and the Kings Head all have stalls, as do local breweries Nook and Elland. There are those that dislike the use of plastic glasses (don't you Jibber !) but I suppose health and safety has its place, and to be honest the beer tasted fine.

It was not hard to find a beer to your taste from Bobs 'Chardonayle'(C) at the Kings Head stall, to the Nook 'Oat Stout', from Mallinsons 'Mild Summer' at the Star stall to Elland's 'Day Tripper'. All were in fine fettle and a testament to how much work the stall holders had put in to provide a decent product.

The Sportsman doubled up as both a local brewery and a pub stall, showcasing a couple of their beers, 'Town Mild' with its new 2.7% gravity and 'Sup Porter' alongside their own 'Festival' ale and a couple of others. Everywhere you looked there were people drinking, and hunting down their favourite. For some reason, with all the good beer about some philistines insisted on drinking lager ! 

If you have never been, this year is well worth the trip, but beware, what starts off as a quick look round soon turns into an afternoon in the sun, meeting old friends, sampling good things, and generally chilling out. 

The festival runs all weekend, and has a late opening Friday and Saturday. Just hope the weather stays fine for everyone.    

Thursday, August 09, 2012

GBBF Beer of Britain 2012

It's that time again when the Great British Beer Festival gets its combined taste buds together and chooses what they consider to be the Beer of Britain. The full results are as follows -

Overall winners-
Gold- Coniston, No.9 Barley Wine (from Coniston, Cumbria)
Silver- Green Jack, Trawlerboys Best Bitter (from Lowestoft, Suffolk)
Bronze- Dark Star, American Pale Ale (from Horsham, West Sussex)

Mild category-
Gold- Rudgate, Ruby Mild (from York, North Yorkshire)
Silver- Hobsons, Hobsons Mild (from Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire)
Bronze- Son of Sid, Muckcart Mild (from Little Gransden, Bedfordshire)

Gold- Purple Moose, Snowdonia Ale (from Porthmadog, Gwynedd)
Silver- Tintagel, Castle Gold (from Tintagel, Cornwall)
Joint Bronze- Flowerpots, Bitter (from Cheriton, Hampshire)
Joint Bronze- Fuller's, Gale's Seafarers Ale (from London, W4)
Joint Bronze- Salopian, Shropshire Gold (from Shrewsbury, Shropshire)

Best Bitters-
Gold- Green Jack, Trawlerboys Best Bitter (from Lowestoft, Suffolk)
Silver, Salopian, Hop Twister (from Shrewsbury, Shropshire)
Joint Bronze- Oakwell, Senior Bitter (from Barnsley, South Yorkshire)
Joint Bronze- Milton, Pegasus (from Milton, Cambridgeshire)

Golden Ales-
Gold- Dark Star, American Pale Ale (from Horsham, West Sussex)
Silver- Cumbrian Legendary Ales, Langdale (from Hawkshead, Cumbria)
Bronze- Hobsons, Town Crier (from Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire)

Strong Bitters-
Gold- Dark Star, Festival (from Horsham, West Sussex)
Silver- O'Hanlon's, Stormstay (from Whimple, Devon)
Bronze- Highland, Orkney IPA (from Swannay, Orkney)

Speciality Beers-
Gold- Dunham Massey, Chocolate Cherry Mild (from Dunham Massey, Gtr Manchester)
Silver- Little Valley, Hebden's Wheat (from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire)
Bronze- Nethergate, Umbel Magna (from Pentlow, Essex)

Champion Winter Beer of Britain (from category winners announced in January
Coniston, No.9 Barley Wine (from Coniston, Cumbria)
Hammerpot, Bottle Wreck Porter (from Poling, West Sussex)
Cairngorm, Black Gold (from Aviemore, Highlands)
Driftwood, Alfie's Revenge (from St Agnes, Cornwall)

Champion Bottled Beer of Britain winners-
Gold- Stewart, Embra (from Loanhead, Midlothian)
Silver- Great Gable, Yewbarrow (from Egremont, Cumbria)
Bronze- Molson Coors, Worthington's White Shield (from Burton upon Trent,

Thanks to scoopgen for the information

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A 'Wheat' good beer, or two

One of the styles of beers that is often overlooked is the 'wheat beer'. And in my opinion this is a shame because us British seem to be able to provide some excellent examples of the genre. Like many beers, a lot depends on the brewer's skill or the drinker's own taste as to what is good or what is less good but when a good brewer gets it right there is no better beer for a summer's day.

The foreign standard seems to be 'Hoegarden' with its tart wheat taste and hints of coriander and orange overtones, an excellent fall back if this is your thing. But it is foreign and kegged so if you've never tried an English wheat beer, why not hunt them down? I am sure the variety will impress.

One of my favourites is Mordue 'A'l Wheat Pet'. This is a superb example of a balanced beer with a fresh taste and an almost flowery background with plenty of fruit. At 4.1% an excellent session beer. Locally 'Little Valley' produce a slightly stronger brew that is more reminiscent of a foreign 'wit bier'. 'Hebdens Wheat' uses Eastern European hops and a touch of coriander gives a hazy wheat beer with lemony hints. It is not hard to find around this part of the world and is fairly widely available in bottles too. If you can track it down Brodies' 'Whitechapel Weizen' shows how good a wheat beer can be with subtle notes and a massive mouthfeel from the wheat. A classic.
And talking of classics, one that I have recently encountered is Abbeydale 'Wheat Beer'. At 4.5% it's not especially strong but a beer that has a unique flavour. Not real bitterness there but a massive grainy taste unlike many wheat beers, and in my case, dangerously drinkable. Another wheat beer that has been brewed this year for the first time in many is Pictish 'White Out'. I have yet to sample this but the 6% gravity and the Pictish pedigree is making my mouth water at the very thought.

If you thought wheat beer was just another foreign beer, then think again. And try it. Then try another. I think I may.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Its all go for Food and Drink festival

This Thursday sees the start of the 3rd Huddersfield Food & Drink festival, and it promises to be another cracker. Based around St Georges Square will be around 40 stalls, showcasing every sort of food and drink imaginable. From cheese to garlic, cupcakes to venison it will all be on offer there. And if the food is not enough to make your mouth water, then the drink should be.

This year we have stalls from local pubs The Star, The Sportsman and The Kings Head; from local breweries Elland and The Nook with Cider, American craft beers, and flavoured vodkas thrown in for good measure.

Add to this the massive array of food cooked on site then it is a trip out worth a few hours of anyone's time. Just pray for a bit of decent weather and get down there and soak up the atmosphere and sample the stuff on offer.

It starts at 10am on Thursday till 6pm and then late opening until 9pm on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is 11am till 6pm.  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Randalling - does it work ?

Following from my previous post, it seemed churlish not to actually try the 'Randall' in action. I was informed there are only two in Britain at present so it was a chance too good to miss.

In the interests of scientific research, (believe that and you would believe anything!!) I settled myself with a standard key keg version of Magic Rock 'Cannonball' and alongside its 'randalled' soulmate, with additional Centennial hops. 

Admittedly my beer was the first one drawn, and maybe the device needed a little time to settle in, but I was only able to detect a mere hint of additional hopping, certainly not the massive hop hit I expected. Nevertheless it did change the character of the base beer a tad, making it a more rounded, and  less aggressive than the original. A fact I found a little surprising. 

Does it work ? With a key keg beer it is a way of adding an additional hop kick to a beer, similar to the cask version of dry hopping, and no doubt certain brewers will say this is worth the hassle and expense. At the moment I will reserve judgement, and may be try again today.    

Addendum - I did manage another 'Randalled' beer and this time the effect was quite remarkable, giving a massive hop hit. Admittedly the hops used were a mixture but the flavour was something I have rarely experienced in a beer with a combination of fruit flavours giving a taste of raspberry, strawberry and citrus. Maybe the system just took a little while to get sorted.   

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Randall Your Beer

As I mentioned in the previous post, hopefully The Grove will be showcasing a 'Randalled' beer during Thursday's IPA day. But what is it? This is what I believe from what I have been told and what I have picked up off the web. If I am wrong I apologise in advance.

To Randall a beer is essentially a way of dry hopping a beer between the cask and the bar. The idea was initiated in 2002 by 'Dogfish Head', an American brewery to make one of their beers even more hoppy at the point of sale. It comprised a water filter filled with hops and the beer was drawn through the filter between the cask and the pump, giving a massive hit of fresh hops.
The system was slightly amended during the next ten years and they are on sale commercially for around $400. Not only hops can be used, anything can be put in the Randall to flavour the beer, from coffee beans to Jalapeno peppers or oak chips soaked in Bourbon!
If you do not have a few hundred dollars lying about then it seems that they can be improvised by using transparent water filters and a stainless steel filter bed.
Now you know some of the science, get up The Grove tomorrow and see it in action. 

World IPA Day

I am sure all you beer monsters know that Thursday 2nd August is the second annual International IPA Day. If you want to celebrate the event in style then The Grove is the place to be.
From 4pm on Thursday they are promising more IPAs that you can shake a stick at. They will be there on cask, in bottles, on keg, you name it, they will have it. There will be a demonstration of Randalled beer (explanations later), and during the evening a talk from those guys at Magic Rock. Seems like a night not to missed.