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 !!    

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Brodies are back in town

A little bird told me there will be a pallet of Brodies beer en route to The Grove in the very near future.

It will be mainly cask with a few key kegs, but will include their famous 'Citra'. Just the thing to banish those autumn blues.

More information when details are confirmed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Upcoming beer festivals

This month Huddersfield is blessed with a festival a weekend should this be your thing. But if it is, these are the dates for your diary.

This weekend, 15th and 16th September, (12-9 on Sat and 12-6 on Sun) is the 2nd Crickfest at the Cricketers at Deanhouse (Hd9 3Ug). Promises 25 cellar cooled beers, 8 ciders and an all day barbeque.

Thursday 20th at 3pm then all weekend from 12 noon is the Rat and Ratchet,(40 Chapel Hill)  beer festival. 50 plus beers on offer, ciders and perrys, and food throughout, Camra discounts available.

Friday 21st at 6pm till 10pm and Saturday 22nd is the Shelley beer festival. Held at the The Village Hall, (bus 80 or 81 from Huddersfield). 14 beers on offer, plus a couple of ciders. Entry is £5 which includes a glass and your first drink.

Mid afternoon on Thursday 27th September sees the Navigation at Mirfield holding another South Western themed beer festival, but with different breweries to their previous ones. Will be open all day Friday through till Sunday.

Thursday 4th October at 1800 hrs sees Huddersfield Camra Beer Festival open its doors. at the Sikh Leisure Centre at Springwood (Hd1 2Nx) . 90 real ales are promised from local, regional and new micro breweries. £8 for Camra members and £10 for non Camra members that includes glass deposit, and  £5 beer token. The festival is then open from 12 noon on Friday and 11 am on Saturday.

Happy festivaling !!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cobblers - but they brew good beer !!

One of the overlooked English counties, well overlooked by me at least, is Northamptonshire. It just seems to be one of those places that you pass by going between A and B and rarely gets a look in when one thinks of places to visit. But there again, this is a beer blog and not a post on behalf of the county's tourist board. So why am I interested in it. Well, it actually houses two breweries that I am quite partial to. No not the one called Carslberg, a massive fizz producing factory, that is housed there, but a couple of smaller real ale ones that occasionally make their way to the King Head and when they arrive on the bar are often worthy of attention.

Great Oakley brewery have been around since May 2005, but moved to new premises in February 2012 in a small village outside Towcester. For a while I overlooked their beers, being a bit malty for my taste but then 'Wagtail' appeared. A revelation; light, hoppy and very easily drinkable. An ideal session beer. It has great floral notes, and the New Zealand hops in the brew impart a clean, fresh bitterness. And due to its success is now part of the breweries regular portfolio of beers. This has been joined by 'Wot's Occurring'. Another 3.9% beer but a totally different beer. This time an amber beer, and less hoppy but again well received, and good enough to be a Beer of Britain finalist at the GBBF for 2 out of the last 3 years. Add the 4.5% 'Gobble' to the list and there are 3 light(ish) beers that any brewery could be well proud of. And that is without their excellent 'Delapre Dark' , with its burnt, roast and cholocate undertones, and the 5% 'Tailshaker' that is a stronger beer that perfectly complements their weaker cousins. If you have not come across them, hunt them out, they are certainly worth the effort.

Kettering is home to another of the county's excellent breweries. Potbelly have been brewing since 2005 and use a 10 barrel plant. Their pump clips all depict cartoon pigs, and quite frankly are not to my taste but the beer certainly is. Their regular beer range consists of 6 beers that cover all types, and are supplemented by seasonal and monthly specials. These are rarely seen in our part of the world but their regualrs often make an appearance. Like Great Oakley, their beer did not do much for me at first, but some of their range now just hit the spot. 'Pigs Do Fly' is a 4.4% beer, single hopped with Styrian Goldings to make a far too easy drinking golden beer; the same is even more true of 'Inner Daze' that weighs in at 5.5%. A light coloured  beer that is subtly hopped, it does not drink its strength. However, the classic in the range, in my opinion, is their 'HopTrotter'. Spicy, citrus, and with a pleasant kick complemented by a light malty aftertaste, another beer that is great for drinking on a summer's day.

Like I said, the beers are not always easy to find, but when you do find them they are well worth the wait. I may even have to take to a visit to Northamptonshire and take a look round. Who knows. I may be even more impressed.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sorachi Ace - a curate's egg of a hop ?

One of the strangest hops about is 'Sorachi Ace'. It just seems to divide opinion. People either like it or hate it, there seems to be no middle ground with it. Which I find a little strange.

The hop originates from Japan, which is unusual in itself, and has been around since around 2008, when it was produced to plug a gap when there was a shortage of Western hops. It is high in alpha acid, between 10-16% and imparts a flavour in beer that it similar to lemon, or at least it was back then. The problem with the hop is that later years' crops seem to taste more of lemongrass than lemon and has a vague background flavour that could be reminiscent of dill pickle according to some sources, or bubblegum according to others. This is probably why it divides opinion.

The real problem comes with how to use it. I am not a brewer but it seems that the taste is one that can easily be overdone if too many hops are used, and this, according to some brewers, is accentuated if hop pellets, rather that the hop itself is used. It is probably a hop that does not lend itself easily to a single hop variety beer, being better used in tandem with other varieties to give a background taste.

To be perfectly honest, although I know I have tasted the hop in single hopped beers, I have never knowingly encountered it with other hops, so I cannot be sure how it would taste then.
At present the Mallinsons single hop beer is around. If you see it, give it a go, see what you think. It could just be the taste you are looking for on a warm sunny day, or possibly not according to your taste.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Well, why do we do it ?

A chance meeting with a beer drinking friend and his partner threw up an interesting question,'Why do we drink real ale ?' and as an aside why do we travel miles looking for it?

A pretty fair question for a middle aged female who had travelled around 50 miles to drink cider that she could have found within 10 minutes from home. It started me thinking. Personally, my beer drinking started at 'The Barge & Barrel' in Elland  around 1990. I found that it sold beer different to the usual stuff that I could find in Huddersfield and it frankly tasted better. That was the most obvious reason. I have always been a collector as piles of bus photos, and football programmes will testify, but I had never considered beer as worthy of collecting. But the more I went to the Barge the more beers I found and someone then pointed out the 'Good Beer Guide'.

Not only did this essential publication give me a list of beers that I had never heard of, it also gave me a list of pubs in which to drink it. I have never been afraid to sample new places so, armed with my guide I began to set off for pastures new. Soon my underlinings in the guide were getting more and more, and the natural progression was to start making lists. Anyone who knows me will know that I have to make a list. In those days it seemed I was a 'loner', never encountering fellow enthusiasts, even though because of the guide I assumed I was not alone in my quest.

Somewhere along the way I encountered a beer festival, I cannot exactly recall when or where, but I do remember that there were about 25 beers available. Many of them were new to me, and in addition I came across people who were like minded in their search of ale. By this time I had eschewed the fizzy products so loved by my collegues and spent my time in pubs that they would rarely, if ever visit. It was like drinking in the underworld. 

I had developed a taste for 'proper beer', and 'proper pubs' and would never return to the plastic world promoted by advertisers. It was a little difficult to persuade the opposite sex that this was the way forward so my search for pubs and beer was a solitary hobby, except on holiday where my enthusiasm became more tolerated.

Gradually however, more real ale pubs appeared locally. And with it, fellow beer geeks seemed to come out of the woodwork. I still drink in many of the pubs I did then, in fact, in some, I am part of the fixtures and fittings. I still drink with the friends I made back then, not just beer friends but proper friends. Through them, I have travelled countrywide in search of the 'holy grail'. I have been miles to get one new beer, or sample a new brewery. Lets face it, can you think of any logical reason a right minded person would visit Salford, or Cropton, or even Middleborough ! I have had plenty of trips to meet fellow enthusiasts and swap notes. My lists have become excessive, and are now computerised, a far easier way to 'tick'.

And now, there are new beers every day, new tastes to explore, new hops to sample, and new breweries and new pubs to find. It is no longer the hobby of the few, it seems to have reached the mainstream, as the plethora of real ale pubs that have appeared seem to testify. 

So, does this answer the original question? I think so. Real ale and real pubs bring me a reason for travelling about, finding new beers, finding new pubs, meeting friends old and new. And for making lists. Just a few reasons to be thankful for that chance visit to the 'Barge' all those years ago.