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%
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%
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%
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%
57.Black Paw........Polar Paw.......4.4%
58.Downlands........Trueleigh Gold..3.7%
59.Lincoln Green....Scarlett........4.8%
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.