Friday, 2 September 2011





Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Dear beery comrades.

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last couple of days or so.
It is due to us slowly moving over to our bespoke website.

Take a look!

Shortly all of this blog will live over there as well as all new posts.
Shouldn't take long.

In the meantime here's the flag of our Republic Of Really Good Beer to raise a toast to.

Maybe we need a National Anthem?
Any ideas?

(Milk And Alcohol by Dr. Feelgood perhaps?)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Moorhouse's Pendle Witches Brew (5.1%)

Brewing since the mid 1800's, Moorhouse's of Burnley are a stalwart of the North West.
I remember drinking this beer in pubs around Lancashire in the past (and I mean the dim distant past) but I've never tried them bottled before.

Interestingly for us here at CAMRGB, this well established "olde worlde" brewer filters its beers.
No sediment here.
They've decided that filtered bottles are best.

No waste and no mess you see.
I hear your shocked cries of, "But that means this brewer of one hundred and fifty years' beer is not REAL!"
Perhaps in the bottle its a simulacrum of the cask?

Anyway, the beer.
Pendle Witches Brew is a lightish golden ale with delightful honey malts, some good dark woody notes with a hint of spice and a hit of black pepper.
Did I get traces of chocolate orange?
It's certainly in my notes.
This is a fantastic, easy drinking ale. Perfect for a slow drink on a warm evening.

Visit Moorhouse's Brewery.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Magic Rock Brewing Rapture (4.6%)

Another brewer really going out of their way to have products that look fantastic as well as tasting fantastic.

I've been hearing quite a bit about Magic Rock and so when I saw them on the shelf in The Offie yesterday I just had to pick up a couple.
Rapture is, and I quote, a "Red Hop Ale".
I opened the bottle and out popped a big fat smell of Vimto - All sweet and sticky, it made my mouth water.

The beer sits in the glass all ruby red, looking rich and thick.
But on taking a sip this beer is not the beast you expect.
You are given the floral fizzy pop smell but only just before you have your palate raked with lime juice.
There are hints at red berries that lead you to think the red ale roundness is coming but it's another evil ruse to lure you into a false sense of security before the enormous, fat, brutal hops rips out your tongue and smacks you round the chops with it.
This beer is what red ale is when it's reinvented by the hard case in the pub who nudges you as a "joke" while you're having a wee but always wins you over with a bastard charm.
Truly wonderful beer, though I'm unsure whether I'm excited or terrified at the prospect of my next bottle.

Visit them.

Odell Brewing Co. IPA (7%)

So, my first taste of an Odell beer.
As a friend pointed out last night Odell's branding and artwork are superb - beautifully designed labels and bottle caps that make you want to pick up the bottles and investigate.

So what about the beer?
Well, this is a really complicated India Pale Ale.
On opening and pouring you are given a zippy sherbet pop hit before the rich yankee malts (sorry, but that's the only way to describe that flavour that many American IPAs share) fill your mouth.
Hidden away in there is orange rind, thick oozing caramel and toasted brown bread.
Yes you read right, toasted brown bread.
Just before the incredibly long dry bitter finish you get really resinous hints of maple syrup
Our American friends are very good at India Pale Ales aren't they?
This is super duper.

See for yourself.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Thwaites Old Dan (7.4%)

Is it just me or is the supermarket big shop much more rewarding if you treat yourself to a couple of ales in the trolley?  (N.B wait until you get home to enjoy them responsibly - drinking and shopping is still frowned upon in some regions of the United Kingdom). Well I always take a look at the beer aisle and on this occasion spotted a name that I had recently read in another blog (Ghost Drinker).  I don't choose all of my beers based on other peoples experiences as this can be a sure-fire way to miss out on great beer, but on this occasion I was happy to take Ghosty's word for it.

This bottle conditioned ale is described by Thwaites as a delicious mellow beer with chestnut hues and a smooth finish.  Its all English malt bill consists of Maris Otter, Pearl and Crystal with the hops keeping to this trend with Fuggles and WGV.  It pours a a deep amber/copper colour as suggested and smells sweet and chewy... that is if a smell can be chewy?  Upon my first taste I found it hard to place the specific flavour I was getting and found it difficult not to accept the 'boozy fruit cake' description on the bottle.  But as the beer warmed a little in the glass I found the flavour easier to place as a sweet muscat pudding wine.  No real bitterness comes through but I'm sure this is true to the style.

Much the same as the Naylor's Premium Brew 1000, Thwaites suggest that this ale will improve over time.  So, if rich sweet and fruity beers are your bag, then you can't go wrong for £1.60 (in Morrisons) and for this price you can get a few for now and a few for the beer cupboard.

The Hogs Back Brewery Shop

In an attempt to discover a viable alternative to buying beer from supermarkets we paid a visit to the Hogs Back Brewery shop in Tongham, part way between Farnham and Guildford in Surrey. And it didn't disappoint. They have an impressive range of own brews, and whatever brews they currently have on the go can be sampled - by dint of the chap disappearing off into an anteroom to fill a small cup. I tasted TEA (Traditional English Ale) and BSA (Burma Star Ale), and there are many other fine brews, some of which aren't even TLAs. Needless to say we bought a gift pack of mixed ales for future tasting.

What was equally impressive was the range of other local, national and international ales on offer. This is where the Hogs Back shop will undoubtedly come into its own as a future beer shopping experience - I was particularly pleased to see both Arran and Fyne ales in stock from our Scottish expedition,along with a grand selection of
European and American beers including Brooklyn Lager, a particular fave from previous visits to the Big Apple.

Some other nice touches included the viewing gallery where you can see part of the brewing process in action (they do brewery tours too, which is surely a pencil-in for a free Saturday afternoon), and a "tasting notes" sheet expounding on what sorts of beers are recommended to go with various meals. I'm much in favour of promoting beers as an accompaniment to meals in the same way that wines are matched - there must be an untapped market for beer somelliers!

All in all a good find, and generous
opening hours too. As a bonus we also popped in to the Shepherd and Flock, located in the middle of a huge roundabout on the edge of Farnham, and opposite the self-proclaimed "best shed display in Britain". They had Hogs Back Summer Ale on tap, so it couldn't be passed up - and it was surprisingly potent for an ostensibly light ale. To use my new favourite interjection, Giddles.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Naylor's Premium Brew 1000 (10%)

I'm a frequent visitor to my not so local bottle shop in Headingley, Leeds.  Sometimes I can be driving and then find myself parked outside said shop.  I tell myself that it's more a calling than a compulsion.  That makes it all OK.  At my last 'calling' I asked the obligatory question, the question that you know you shouldn't really need to ask when faced with wall-to-wall choice: "what's new in stock?".  There are usually a few, but on this occasion I was presented with just the one, Naylor's Premium Brew 1000, 10% abv Strong Ale.  I quiped on Twitter that the beer sounds more like a futuristic kettle, but that's because I'd just finished a 10% beer and was feeling giddy.  This beer was brewed to celebrate Keighley (West Yorkshire) based Naylor's 1000th brew and was aged for two months before being bottled.  Naylor's began brewing in 2005 based at the Old White Bear pub in Crosshills (near Keighley), but sold the pub in 2006 to concentrate on brewing their hand-crafted ales.

Upon opening there were some roasted malt notes and it poured deep amber in colour, the roasted aroma  had moved on after pouring.  The initial taste was light and sweet and incredibly smooth, which then gave way to some bitterness and then a lingering fruity after-taste.  At 10% you won't be surprised to read that this was a warming beer!  I'm probably safe in assuming that this beer would lend well to ageing, if you are that way inclined, but why wait?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thornbridge Versa (5%)

As summertime didn't bother to show up I find myself with more than a couple of beers sat solemnly in the fridge waiting for their moment in the sunshine. Thornbridge Versa is no exception to this rule, and by rule I obviously mean drink it when you please, but I love a cold weisse beer after a hard days work.  This 5% abv weisse is every bit the classic and is a new beer in the impressive Thornbridge range.

Bavarian yeast strain with Tettnanger hops
& Bavarian wheat, pale, cara and crystal malts.

The bottle tells you all you need to know, and while not everyone would agree, I for one like it when the brewer helps you out with a few tasting notes.  It's not always easy to pick out the hints and hits of flavour that they intend for you to enjoy - go ahead connoisseurs and seasoned beer geeks, roll your eyes if you will, but if we are all honest here, it's not always possible to describe every beer we try. Also and rather importantly, Thornbridge have recently started selling their beers through Waitrose and surely its a good thing to help the punters choose their beer, as they would their wine?  When I am selecting an unfamiliar bottle of beer or wine, I often want to know what I'm in for, especially if there isn't a beer sommelier on hand to see you right. Well, in this case even my cardboard palate enjoyed the banana, clove spiciness and pleasant bubblegum after-taste.  It poured a hazy orange colour and the abv was spot on which made it easy to drink and very refreshing. Weisse beer may not be everyone's tipple of choice but if you see this on tap or while doing your weekly shopping, then I'd say try this at least once and then make your mind up.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hardknott Infra Red (6.5%)

Hoppy as a bucketful of frogs!
I've been aware of Hardknott for about six months, roughly the time I have been exploring the world of beer. Sure, I'm new to this game but I'm also susceptible to influence and I was told that I should be drinking Hardknott beer, so I have.  "Hardly a ringing endorsement!" I hear you say, but in fact it's quite the opposite.  If you're being advised by those 'in the know', that is to say; people who have absorbed enough malt and hops to be in danger of  spontaneous fermentation, then you can be confident that they will know a thing or two about beer.
To date I have tried Hardknott's Queboid (Belgian Style Double IPA), Dark Energy (Stout) and Granite (Barley Wine), [check out Beersay for some notes on these], as well as some Æther Blæc in the cupboard, but for some reason I had bypassed the Infra IPA!  Now, I like an IPA but this one is out of the ordinary, it pours a deep ruby red, far from pale, but hey black IPA is all the rage so what's the problem here? none!  So, if the colour is an issue to you, then close your eyes and you are smelling and tasting an IPA, with berry fruits aplenty.  It's malty mouth-feel is down to the crystal malt and the Cascade and Centennial hops deliver the satisfying bitterness you would expect from the style.  This may not be the strongest of Hardknotts beers, but it's just as loud as the brewer!  In short, this is a really good beer.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The 1st CAMRGB AGM Minutes

Last night saw the inaugural CAMRGB AGM.
Or, to describe it another way, a nice evening in a good pub having a natter and a few beers.
We met in my favourite pub, The Wrekin Tap (mentioned previously in this blog and probably to be mentioned again in the future) sits on the Holyhead Road in the heart of Shropshire.
The evening opened with an extraordinary pint of 3 Tuns Clerics Cure (5%). The high ABV really works with this well malted, crisp hoppy golden ale.
And it certainly got our heads in the right place to begin CAMRGB business.

Firstly we talked in general about what CAMRGB is all about and drew up a shortlist of important points:

1. Good beer is something to be enjoyed.
2. CAMRGB must maintain a lightheartedness and not become overly serious about itself.
3. Everyone is welcome as long as they a) enjoy a good pint and, b) are willing to have a bit of fun.
4. Brewers are like modern day magicians who should be celebrated and supported.
5. (we may have moved a few pints in by this point).

Paolo (pictured right) is CAMRGB Member Number 2 and as such has taken it upon himself to create a CAMRGB Twitter Group. We'll direct you to it once it's up and running.
Then he went to the bar.
He came back with a pint of Sadlers Thin Ice (4.5%) for himself and a pint of Cotleigh Owlzatt (4.4%) for me.
The Cotleigh was well kept (as all the beer is in this pub), had a lovely citrus aroma and a sharp crisp bite. Needless to say it didn't last long.
The Thin Ice I'm told was equally good.
Talk moved from CAMRGB business to music, family, and various amusing anecdotes before it was time to return to the bar.
While having our drinks poured I got talking to the landlord who, as the patron of CAMRA's Shropshire pub of the year for about the last million years, loved the idea of CAMRGB and agreed wholeheartedly with many of the now slightly slurred points we touched on.

Then he took my money and handed me two pints of Hobson's Town Crier (4.5%).
Hobson's are a local brewer who are the only constant in The Wrekin Tap's ever changing range.
Town Crier was long and deep, with a decent malt and a hop that reminded both myself and Paolo of a good cup of tea.
Towards the end of the evening while waiting for Paolo's taxi I wanted to end with a stout.
I'd noticed on the board that Gertie Sweet Dusky Maiden was on.
Now, I love a dusky maiden and went to the bar to order one.
Sadly it had just come to the end and the Wrekin Tap's beery boffins were busy cleaning pipes so there would be no stout for me.
Instead I returned to our opening beer. Another pint of Cleric's Cure was a powerful way to end the night and a wonderful bookend to a very constructive and fun evening.
Our final decision for CAMRGB?
No more AGM's.
Instead we will be holding Bi Monthly General Meetings (CAMRGB Bi-MGM).
We'll let you know where and when the next one will be.
You're all welcome.
Beer Hunter on The Wrekin Tap.
The Wrekin Tap at The Cock Hotel.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The CAMRGB Mini Interview #2: The Revolutions Brewing Co.

A little nepotistic maybe, but Revolutions Brewing Co. are tremendous beer-makers as well as friends in the real world.
I'll let them introduce themselves.

Hello, could you please introduce yourselves.
We are Andrew Helm and Mark Seaman and tonight, Matthew, we're going to be The Revolutions Brewing Company.

What was the moment that made you think, "I know what we'll do. We'll brew beer."?
Andrew: I've been homebrewing for over 20 years and moved on to all-grain brewing about 4 years ago. Put myself through the 3-day BrewLab course in Sunderland (birthplace of my father so there must be something fatalistic about it) in 2007 to find out more about the commercial side of micro-brewing and to learn how to improve my homebrew. Put things on the back-burner until last summer when a combination of push (consultancy business squeezed) and pull (light-bulb moment about how to theme a brewery around my other passion - music) kicked things off. Hooked up with Mark, who I'd met in 2009 at a business seminar and we developed the ideas through the late summer and early autumn of 2010 to a launch in November 2010.

Mark: I lived and worked in Bahrain for 14 years, with a distinct lack of access to decent beer – I’ve had my share of Heineken, Amstel, Singha and Kingfisher! On returning in 2008 I was toying with the idea of a microbrewery independently. After I met Andrew, a few other issues conspired to remind me that life is short and that you regret the things you don’t do, rather than those you do, so I did not take much persuading to dive headlong into it.

You're making beers that accompany music or are influenced by music you like. How different are your musical tastes and is there any arm-wrestling that goes on when one of you has an idea? I mean, what would happen if one of you said, "Let's do a Yes style concept beer that has to be enjoyed over several pints"?
Andrew: Interestingly our historical tastes are subtly different but with quite a bit of overlap. The music I was really into in the post-punk/new-wave era was electronic and synth-pop (Heaven 17/Thomas Dolby/OMD etc) but I also liked the more guitar-based stuff around that time. I think now our contemporary music tastes are quite different! Can probably be summarised as me liking stuff in minor-keys and Mark liking major-keys!! A Yes concept beer ain't gonna happen - our year zero is 1978. We've started referencing albums from 33 years ago i.e. 1978 and it's a pretty fertile period for music. We've so far done a Parallel Lines beer and have just launched an Elvis Costello special called This Year's Model. We have one, maybe two, classic album brews coming before the end of the year.

Mark: I’m just a few years older than Andrew (old enough to have bought Yes albums with my paper round money!) – Back in ’78, “year zero”, I was heading for college with ears full of The Clash, The Stranglers and my favourite band then or since probably, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Fortunately I haven’t got stuck in any era and enjoy contemporary music. As Andrew says, our contemporary tastes are a little different, though there is plenty we both appreciate – hurrah for Interpol, Richard Hawley and The XX!

With regard to ideas / beer names etc. it has to be consensus, luckily we’ve found plenty of common ground, so no problems so far. We’re actually very happy with our core range names, I mean “Clash London Porter”, what’s not to like?

Hopefully people will enjoy seeing what new ideas we come up with, we’re excited about the 33rd anniversary stuff, This Year’s Model is just being delivered to pubs. The next one in a couple of months will be fun too – look at 1978 album lists for clues as to what it will be!

Where are you brewing? How big is the operation now?
Andrew: We've recently commissioned a 8BBL plant near Castleford, West Yorkshire. We're brewing once a week at the moment but expect to have doubled that before the end of our first year. We have 5 core beers at the moment with plans for a couple more. With those on rotation in the brew cycle we will probably do a special around 8 times a year and we'd expect those to be references to classic albums, brews to tie in with album launches or whatever collaborations we come across along the way. We have a very exciting collaboration in October which I'm not yet at liberty to divulge but keep an eye on our blog pages and website for more details.

We're inviting people (via our Facebook page) to name one of our fermenting vessels after an 80s Leeds band. I hope your readers will visit our page and vote!

Mark: Why did we pick Castleford? Competitive rents, no existing brewery, one of the country’s finest maltsters is there, excellent transport links, it’s about halfway between our homes in Leeds and Selby – all those things are relevant. We also became attached to Castleford after our first serious meetings on the brewery idea were held in the town’s Shoulder of Mutton, a place for anyone who appreciates what a traditional pub could and should be.

You recently did your first bottled beer for an album launch. Will there be more bottled beers coming our way?
Andrew: The bottled beer we did for Sarandon's Age of Reason album launch was a good experience for us to understand the economics of bottling. We do want to have a permanent bottled product and the two future core beers we have in mind probably lend themselves to bottling more so than the existing five beers so watch this space.

Mark: We definitely want to offer a bottled range and continue to research the best way to go about it to ensure commercial viability. This is likely to be a project for early next year.

How do you see the future shaping up for Revolutions Brewing Co.?
Andrew: Ultimately we will be judged on the quality of our beer. If we get that right then I think we will attract people to us who share our love of beer and music and then who knows what will happen. There are so many doors that might open that it makes the whole business really exciting.

Mark: Absolutely, it has to be about the beer. So far, so good on that count. But realistically we have only done 6 brews on the Castleford plant. When we achieve consistent quality over 60 or even 600 brews we can be happy. The music tie-ins are the fun part – fun for us and fun for our customers – but it is all under-pinned by tasty beer. Hopefully the readers will seek our beers out at pubs, clubs and beer festivals – if you do, let us know what you think!

The Durham Brewery Magic IPA (7%)

As the bottle tells us, The Durham Brewery Magic IPA (Gyle 2176) is an original replica India Pale Ale.  It uses lots of East Kent Goldings hops which provide a rich spicy bitterness against pale maris otter malt.

Poured hazy and orange in colour.  The haze could have been due to the excessive chilling! although most likely due to the fact that Durham do not filter or pasteurise to ensure that all the flavour and quality is retained in the finished beverage. A good haze if you will, so drink on!  It is a well carbonated beer and quickly formed an impressive head which did not fade, in fact it looked much like the krausen on a happy fermenter...did this indicate a great example of a well looked after bottle-conditioned beer? hell yes!

The aroma wasn't really leaping out of the glass but it did smell fresh and spicy.  I would say its aroma was reminiscent of a Belgian beer.  First taste delivered good hop bitterness and then a fudge or dairy toffee flavour coming through.  I wouldn't describe the overall flavour as complex, but this is no criticism as its so well balanced.  There is a lingering bitter/sweet aftertaste which I found to be moreish and most satisfying. Finally, considering its potent 7% abv (50cl bottle) this was an easy-drinker and one I will be buying on my next trip to the bottle shop.  Good work guys!

CAMRA says this is real ale, we say this is really good beer!

More on Magic IPA over on The Good Stuff.

(Having just been in touch with Durham Brewery, I now know that Magic IPA is in the process of being re-launched as Bombay 106, as well as the bottle labels, their branding has also undergone a facelift. More information here The Durham Brewery.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

St George's Paragon Steam - 4.0%

When I fancy a pint these days it's not straight down the pub at 5pm for me (although there are exceptions!) but I prefer shuffling down to the local around 9pm onwards to sample one or two pints from the ever varying six handpump selection.

It also has other benefits too. For example a beer may just come on one night and initial tasting suggest er, a big no thanks. But a quick one or two pint visit the following evening may suggest otherwise once it has settled in the barrel.

That certainly was the case with Paragon Steam, a 4% beer from Worcestor micro St George's Brewery. First impressions were that it wasn't too unpleasant with fruitish hints which may have been lychee or melon for all I know such was the confusion wrecked upon my tastebuds. Suffice to say it lacked a certain something and didn't warrant another.

However the following evening I gave it another go after a disappointing encounter with O'Hanlons Firefly. It had cleared up beautifully and the hoppy citrus taste was as clear to me as this golden American style steam beer was in the glass. It also had that sulphur smell I associate with beers whose recipes are based on yeast and hops which are used for lager. That may be off putting for some but to me that's the sure sign of an thirst quencher. Oh. Did I say two pints?

St Georges Brewery has a website but there is nothing to see. This is more interesting.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Borough Pub Crawl

We had been discussing a pub crawl in London for some time down the local and as the resident barrow boy it fell upon me to organise a trip to the capital. I chose the area around London Bridge due to the close proximity of the venues and the diverse range available.

A group of us set off from Mid-Bedfordshire on the first Saturday in August and arrived at the Charles Dickens on Union Street. However we arrived so early that it was shut (2pm opening) we mooched off to the Rose and Crown which was deserted and all the handpumps were off. It wasn't a good start so begrudgingly we headed to the second pub on the list which was The Lord Clyde just a couple of minutes walk away.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Mushroom Hall, Albert Village

This charming man is called Paul. Alongside his wife Sue he owns and operates the wonderfully unmodernised The Mushroom Hall public house in Albert Village in the heart of The National Forest. Luckily, for Paul and Sue, theirs is the only pub in the village. Luckily, for the people of Albert Village though, Paul likes his beer.

When we popped in this lunchtime he was quite excited to announce his latest arrival; Samuel Smith's Pure Brewed Lager. I can sense some of you already losing interest at the very mention of lager, and understandably so. If it were not for Paul's enthusiasm I would have gone straight for the immaculately kept Pedigree or perused the pumps to see which guest beers there were on offer. But a sample was in my hands within seconds. A moment later I am reconsidering my plans for the day and wondering if I can get away with staying there all day and drinking the stuff in very large quantities.

At 5% it becomes a 'Premium Lager', and so it has to compete with the Stella's and Kronenburg's on the market (interestingly, at £2.50 a pint Paul has found it shunned by some hardened lager-boys as being some cheap and inferior pretender!)
But this massively quaffable and delightful drink really shouldn't be considered alongside the standard and mainstream Euro-fizz with which it shares its name.
The 5% ABV delivers the alcoholic bite at just the right level to perfectly compliment everything else going on in this well balanced brew. The malt is playfully light and only a little sweet. The hops are fresh and understated, imparting a fruity bitterness which doesn't dominate the palate. I'm sure that even the yeast adds to its flavour. I was even aware of the quality of the water used in its production.

In short, I have fallen in love again and I am hastily re-arranging next weekend's plans in order for us to spend as much time as possible together. It's a lovely pint, it's a lovely pub.

The Mushroom Hall is not too far from Burton, Leicester, Derby or Nottingham and is definitely worth seeking out. Call them on 01283 217464 if you're lost.

Getting Fruity!

I have noticed that as I have got older my palate keeps changing when it comes to beer and over the past 18 months I have really enjoyed citrus beers whether flavoured with fruit or using the citra hop, a recent US variety combining the likes of Hallertau Mittelfreuh, E.K. Goldings and other varieties.

Grapefruit beer is my favourite at the moment and I have been in love with such beer after trying the St Peters Grapefruit Beer many moons ago at their excellent Jerusalem Tavern in London. Luckily the landlord at my local (more on that soon!) shares the same passion and he has plenty of brews matching the aforementioned description the past couple of months alone.

My favourites to date come from the Lincolnshire brewer Oldershaw which is based in Grantham. After drinking their beers you soon forget the town is best known for that grocer's daughter!

Heavenly Blonde is an excellent refreshing beer for the humid weather we have been having of late and despite being 3.8% abv packs in plenty of floral flavour combining both grapefruit and the citra hop. It's bigger sister is Blonde Volupta which packs in a far weightier punch at 5% abv. It's very fruity and you soon forget it's strength such is it's light, grassy flavour.

Whilst I am waiting for the middle sister, Regal Blonde, to show the local has had a few more of Oldershaws beers on and they too have been impressive. These have ranged from the Harrowby Pale Ale (3.9 abv) which is ideal for a session to the Grantham Dark, a nice mellow but rich at the same time mild at 3.6%.

Linky > Oldershaw Brewery

Friday, 12 August 2011

Viven Imperial IPA (8%)

Now, I'm an IPA lover.
I love IPA.
Talk about wearing your beery heart on your beery sleeve.
I'd been keeping this beer in my secret stash for a while - Looking at it and wondering, "shall I have it this evening or shall I keep it for another time?"
I had a feeling it would be good you see, a feeling that I was going to pour this little 330ml bottle into a glass, take a sip, and wish I'd got a whole case.

I was right too.
Viven Imperial IPA is a supercharged, tamarind heavy slap in the chops.
The malting is clever and subtle providing a background of toffee - Like the big lad at the back of every gang.
In front of him stands the angry, wirey thug.
In this case that thug is all orange rind and peppery all-spice that gives you a hefty dose of floral hops and leaves your mouth puckered with bitter happiness.

More over here.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Beer Here Fat Cat Red Ale (4.7%)

So, my first of the new Danish beers.
I've heard a bit about the new wave of beer in Denmark and now I understand the fuss.

This beer pours without too much sparkle though there's enough life in it to give a fresh tingle on your tongue.
Fat Cat Red Ale provides you with a fistful of lovely dense fruits and malted milk biscuits underneath a good dose of dark burned sugar.
And then, just when you thought this was all about the malts, you get zapped by a terrific twist of grapefruit from the New Zealand hops at the end.

A really lovely beer.

Here Beer just here!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The first CAMRGB Annual General Meeting

My dear CAMRGB comrades.

We will be holding our first AGM on Friday the 19th of August at The Wrekin Tap, Shropshire.

The first Bi-AGM will involve drinking good beer and having a pleasent evening.

There may be talk of how CAMRGB can grow and ideas may be formed on how to get some interesting CAMRGB events happening.
Or we might just have a good time.

If you would like to join us please arrive after 8pm and find us in the main bar.
We'll post contact details nearer the time.

The Wrekin Tap is here:

Cock Hotel
148 Holyhead Rd

Visit their website.

The Kernel Brewery Amarillo IPA (7.5%)

Several people have told me I need to try the beer made by this brewery based just south of the Thames in the heart of London.

It took me a little while to track some down but I'm very glad I did.

Kernel's Amarillo IPA is a breathtakingly good ale.
My little 330 ml bottle gave me whisky laced sticky toffee pudding, crunchy black pepper and a knife sharp citrus tang followed by hops that punch you hard in the face and leave an amazing and long lingering finish on your palate.

No wonder people are talking about this brewery.

More here.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Traquair Jacobite Ale (8%)

Another new one on me and this really is a little bit special.

I knew I had to try a bottle when I saw the design of the label - There's a real beauty in the simplicity of something that can look exactly right for the product it's depicting (sorry, it's my Graphic Designer ways coming out).

According to the brewery's website it was "Brewed to celebrate the anniversary of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion [and] proved to be so popular it has become a permanent addition to the range."

I can see what it was so popular, on opening and pouring there is a lovely chocolatey christmas pudding aroma.
Taking an initial sip you get seriously strong dark rum, then plums & spices (lots of spices), before hints of lemon which leads into a delicious dry finish.

What a wonderful way to finish the evening.
This is a superb beer that needs to be tried if you get a chance.

Visit the brewery here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Lymestone Brewery Stone The Crows (5.4%)

This is the first time I've come across this Staffordshire brewer and I'm really pleased I've found them.
Stone the crows looked and poured like a brown ale, but then I took a sip and was knocked for six by it's deep dark stout-like qualities.
There's intense bitter chocolate, rich nuts & red berries, then a lovely long crisp bitter finish. This is an absolutely delightful beer and I'm looking forward to trying more from the range.

More information from their website.

A Scottish Odyssey

This year at Glastonbury I made a pledge, ostensibly to the Somerest Wildlife Trust but mainly to myself, to drink more local ales. By this I intended to mean drinking ale bought as near as possible to where it was made. So when a long-awaited trip to Scotland came around at the end of July, it seemed the perfect opportunity to put my pledge into some serious action.

So, day 1 and a brief stay at a Premier Inn at Dumfries. Not the perfect start, as the only ale on offer was Belhaven, an Edinburgh beer. I'd had this before, but only in my local when we had a Scottish landlord. He also used to stock Deuchars, which was teasingly present on the pumps in the Premier Inn but not in the pipes. Belhaven it was then, and what I would come to consider as the John Smiths of Scottish beers - ubiquitous, creamy and cold. It would do for now, but it would soon become the beer of last resort.

Arriving at Arran for a two-night stay, Belhaven was the only ale on offer in our hotel. However, brighter times were ahead at our friend's party, which had bottles of Arran Brewery ales. We'd sampled these on the ferry en route and been impressed with the Blonde and Arran Ale - both fine, light beers for a sunny trip on deck. At the party there was darker fare - the appropriately nutty Red Squirrel, sales of which also help with funding the preservation of this beautiful animal.

Back on the mainland (after a brief stop to buy some Arran single malt whisky, a splendid smooth and smoky taste) and on to Loch Fyne, and the discovery of the Fyne Ales brewery shop. Here we were greeted by a friendly lady who gave us generous samples to taste. Impressed enough to buy a 12-bottle crate of mixed ales, including the light, grapefruit tinged Avalanche and dark, zingy Vital Spark. Happily the George Hotel in Inverary served Fyne ales too, to accompany the evening meal.

Over to Pitlochry and a visit to the Moulin Hotel and micro-brewery. The brewery here mainly serves in their own hotel and selected venues in Pitlochry, so is a rare treat. Four ales were on offer, the highlight being a smokey, chocolatey Old Remedial, though the Braveheart and Moulin Light were also good, hoppy drinks. A nice little three-bottle presentation case was of course purchased as a souvenir.

In the evening we ate at the Auld Smiddy, which served up the gloriously named Thrappledouser from the Inveralmond Brewery of Perth. The Auld Smiddy usually has one of the Inveralmond ales on, so is worth a visit if you're in the area - the pork belly is delicious too, and a perfect accompaniment to the light, fruity Thrappledouser.

Finally we stayed over in the Lake District to break up the journey home. While at Buttermere we sampled Yates Bitter and Hawkshead Cumberland Gold. The Yates is a CAMRA prize winner, though I found it a little bland compared to the punchier Hawkshead. However, Yates was the more local ale of the two so I was happy enough to support them.

Of course, it wasn't just a beer tour, though the pleasure of discovering and tasting a range of interesting, locally produced ales brought an extra dimension to a highly enjoyable week's holiday. My pledge is well on track.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The CAMRGB Mini Interview #1: Brouwerij de Molen

So here we go with the first in CAMRGB's series of mini interviews with Brewers that we love.

First up it's the astonishingly great Brouwerij de Molen of The Netherlands.

Please introduce yourselves.
We are Brouwerij de Molen. Owned by Menno Olivier and John Brus (that's me).

When did the brewery begin?
The brewery was founded in 2004 by Menno Olivier, moved to a historic mill from 1697 in 2004 and since early this year we have a second location. Just 100 meters from the old mill we have a larger and more modern brewhouse and warehouse. The old brewhouse is still in production.

Have you always been brewers or did you do different jobs before this?
We have always been into beer. From the age of 15 or 16 year old both have been trying different beers and later on we started home brewing. Menno was way more productive in homebrewing. And more successful as well. Next to his regular day job he started brewing at real breweries in both Holland and Belgium. After 12 years of experience he decided to start on his own. John never brewed professionally but joined Menno in early 2010.

You have a restaurant too - Did this exist before the brewery?
The restaurant was founded shorly after the brewery. So no, it wasn't there yet.

Do your beers fit into a tradition of Dutch beer or are the flavours you are creating something brand new?
The beers we make couldn't be less traditionally Dutch. We brew many styles but none of them could be called Dutch. Even our Bockbeer isn't a traditional Dutch Bock (which is different from German Bock). We make beers from English and German origin but more aggressive, more complex in flavour and aroma. Our beers are more like the Danish new micro scene or even American. Although most of the American craft brewer are going really extreme or not at all. We tend to be in between.

I love the idea of small runs of beer in numbered bottles, but what made you decide to do this?
We thought it was cool :-)

What are your plans for the future?
We have so many plans for the future. But none of them is concrete enough to reveal it right now. Right now we have more than our hands full with the new brewhouse and bottling line. It's running but we still need to tweak it and learn to use it perfectly. But we are so happy with the beers flowing from the new tanks since June this year. Same quality or even better but more consistent in carbonation, yeast in the bottles, et cetera.

I cannot urge you enough to track down some of the beers these chaps are making.
Take a closer look here.

Brouwerij De Molen Sladek Hopburst (6.2%)

Another extraordinary beer from this wonderful Dutch brewery.
Boiled sweets, black pepper & ultra intense hop.
The malting is sublime - caramel & hazelnuts, rich and viscous.

The beers from this brewery are very special indeed - they do very small bottled runs with hand-numbered labels.
Like drinking heaven.

We have an interview with these guys coming soon.


Visit them here.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA (7.1%)

Today is IPA day so last night to celebrate the eve of this momentous day I had a few bottles.
Best by far was this one.
Flying Dog isn't the easiest beer to find here in the UK. For a while Tesco stocked a little but since then it's just specialist ships at specialist prices.
It's definitely worth the extra pennies though.

Snake Dog is a quite brilliant American IPA.
It has an orange rind zing, sweet sherbet notes and a thoroughly mouth watering resinous woody malt backbone.
Then there's the hops.
This beer appears to have been hopped forever.
The finish is loooooooong and dry and bitter and...and...well, the best.

Wrapped in a label drawn by the immaculately mental Ralph Steadman, this is a beer I wish I could have in my fridge every day.

We have an interview coming soon with Flying Dog's Brewmaster Matt Brophy - I can't wait to talk to him.

For more info go here.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Adnams Spindrift (5%)

Whoever is doing the purchasing for Sainsburys at the moment is doing a pretty good job of it.
Lovely deals with Meantime and Brew Dog, some decent American bottled beers and now a special Adnams 330ml bottle called Spindrift.

Generally I like Adnams - They make no fuss, flavoursome if unadventurous beers (that said Broadside is a belter, a beer I love to drink).
Spindrfit claims to be a dry amber ale with a touch of wheat for extra sparkle (whatever that means).
In actual fact the wheat doesn't add much to this beer at all.
Spindrift gives you fresh green hops and a fine malt backbone.
It's a good summer drink in a bluebottle, but be careful as it's lightness of touch masks the over average ABV.

Visit Adnams.

The Dog And Gun, Syston. A Steaming Billy Brewing Company House.

The first thing to drop onto my virtual doormat this-weekend was a membership card (virtual) for the CAMRGB.
I must say that I do like the notion of celebrating beer simply because of its gorgeousness, regardless of whether or not it ticks all the boxes of the hardened beer-buffs. I am myself usually too sozzled to remember anything of the provenance of a beer and the only detail that really interests me is the all-important ABV. And I do attempt to remember the names of those which particularly please me.

I quickly decided that it would be appropriate to mark this most auspicious of occasions by conducting some serious *ahem* research with a mind to contributing to the blog which serves as a mouthpiece to this most worthy of causes.

I love summer, and being English, I spend at least 11 months of every year longing for hot lazy days, during which I become more saurian than human. Perversely, though, there is nothing which I enjoy more than wasting one of these gloriously rare afternoons by sitting inside a dark pub drinking, well, too much.

It didn’t take too long for a plan to emerge (about 2 seconds) and after an agonisingly long wait for opening time to come around I found myself installed into the Dog And Gun, Syston, a small town to the north of Leicester. This fine old building has been a pub for centuries and has recently been converted to a ‘Real Ale’ pub by the Steaming Billy Brewing Company. This was a brave decision by the brewery considering that, due to its location, they will rely, to a large extent, on the existing local drinking population for much of its trade. They clearly believe that there is a desire for quality beer out there; Carling boys simply aren’t catered for at-all here.

Steaming Billy operate 6 pubs in which they showcase their own excellent beers as well as many others, although they do tend to favour local producers. The food on offer is locally produced too, and is sensible beer-drinker’s food; crisps, ploughman's, pies and the like. They describe themselves as a ‘Classic Alehouse’ with a decor that is both ‘snazzy’ and olde-world in a well balanced way. I spent the first hour or so of my tenure sat in a winged armchair. Very pleasant.

The beer here speaks for itself and was being quaffed greedily and appreciatively by its many customers. I get the impression that Steaming Billy are keen to attract those of us who like a Bloody-Good-Pint but might be a little reluctant to venture into one of the sometimes slightly intimidating bastions of card-carrying CAMRA members. I heard a regular state that whilst he was ‘not really a real-ale drinker, the beer here is really nice.’ It seems to me that good beer is losing its image of fustiness and that the small breweries finally look set to shake the brewing giants’ grip on our pubs.

As I sampled my final pint of the afternoon the landlord said to me, ‘Its like a mini beer festival coming into here.’ I had to agree with him and burped happily as I tried to find the door and thus started on my long journey home.

All of the beers sampled were well kept, fresh-tasting and served with a smile. What’s more, I felt as fresh as a daisy the following day; another sign of a good pint. Highly recommended.

The Grainstore Brewery Gold 4.5%
Wood Farm Brewing Co. Victorious 4.3%
The Grainstore Brewery Rutland Panther 3.4% (Best of the day, and a Mild too!)
Wood Farm Best Bitter 4.2%
Steaming Billy Bitter 4.3%

Steaming Billy Tipsy Fisherman 3.6% (Accompanied by Huntsman Pie and pickles)
Steaming Billy Skydiver 5.0%

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Hopshackle Resination (7%)

Hopshackle Brewery of Lincolnshire are new to me.
I found a whole range of their beers recently and was intrigued.
It took me a while to choose which would be the first of their beers to try, but in the end, being an IPA lover I went for Resination.
It's a massively hopped Imperial IPA and as such may not be to everyones taste.
The first mouth full hits hard - Deep, stinging, crisp and bitter floral hops take your breath away.
Then just as you wonder if you'll ever get your palate back there's a wonderful creamy biscuit malt that puts everything in your face back in balance.
I really didn't want this beer to end and savoured every mouthful.
I'm really looking forward to trying some more.
Hopshackle, you have a new fan.

Visit them here for more.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Brew Dog Alice Porter (6.2%)

People who know me know I love Brew Dog.
My favourite beer in the world is Punk IPA and I drink a bottle after work every night of the week.
Now and then I open a bottle of Hardcore too.

Last night I had my first bottle of Alice Porter.
It's a damned fine drink.
You begin with that classic puddingy porter feeling before the bitter dark chocolate kicks in.
Then there's the wash of rich red wine and that Brew Dog hit of floral hops.
Every Brew Dog needs its hops.
At 6.2% it's not too heavy either.
Though at only half a pint-ish I wish I'd bought two.

Meet Alice here.

The Offie, Leicester

After work last night I drove over to The Offie on Clarendon Park Road, Leicester.
It's a specialist beer seller stocking over 500 different beers from around the world.

I was met at the door by the shops lugubrious owner Muree Squires, a man who likes a natter as much as he likes a beer.
Muree wandered around the store with me chatting and pointing out beers he thought I might find interesting.
On the shelves are some pretty expensive drinks - Brew Dog's Abstrakt 06 and Tokyo, Thornbridge's Bracia and a few heftily priced American imports. We talked about them but at no point did he try to make me spend anything at all.
It was a very clever ruse.
I spent a few quid.

I lined up my chosen purchases on the counter and we started adding up the cost.
All the while we talked.
Of beer, of Leicester, of CAMRA and its ways.
And we laughed.
We laughed a lot.
Muree is a man who likes to drink beer, and talk, and laugh.
It took longer to have my purchases totted up and for me to pay than it had for me to browse the shop.

Go and visit The Offie, it's a real treat and its owner is a very nice man indeed.
But be warned, time will stand still and you'll come out with your pockets much lighter.

The Offie is on Clarendon Park Road, it's open from (usually a bit after) 4.30pm until 9pm Sunday to Thursday, from (a bit after) 4.30pm to 10pm on Fridays and from 11.30am (or nearer 12) until 10pm on Saturdays.

The Offie website

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Our position - An open letter to CAMRA-ites

Dear beer lovers.
We love beer as much as you do.
We don't want a war - of words or otherwise.
We want more people to think about the beer they drink and become more adventurous in this world of watery bland lager.
We have enormous respect for much of the work that CAMRA does and many of the battles CAMRA has fought.
However, we believe that many of those battles were won some time ago and that imposing such stringent rules on what is a Real British Ale alienates not only many of the small artisan brewers in the UK but also many of the people who enjoy the beer made by them.

This country of ours makes an extraordinary range of craft beers and we should celebrate them by supporting them.
That means buying their beers and telling everyone else about them too.

We are uncomfortable with the stranglehold that CAMRA and its rules has over British brewing.
The imposing of rules about kegs and casks, yeast quotients etc. are holding back the world of modern brewing in the UK and is definitely alienating many many people in the UK who would otherwise start drinking the products of our small brewers and enjoying them.
There's a whole generation of younger people who look at the archetypal CAMRA member as a beard wearing, sandal sporting beer geek.
That is a great shame.

Drinking and enjoying beer, sitting in pubs and talking / discussing / arguing.
Meeting new people.
Getting slightly tipsy and giggling.
These are all wonderful and fun and important things to do.
Let's not hold people back anymore by imposing draconian measures on what is and is not the "real" pursuit of good beer.
Let's enjoy good beer for good beer's sake.
Let's thank all our amazing brewers for the astonishing range of drinks they provide.

Let's sit down and discuss the parameters of getting people involved.

Thanks and cheers.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dolphin Inn R.I.P

I learned today that one of the best pubs in Shrewsbury has closed it's doors for the last time. It was a free house and was always a friendly place to visit and had a variety of good local ales and even had it's own micro brewery. When I first started going in there I recall it had loads of cats roaming around and was more like a living room. Eventually it got sold when the landlord moved on and was taken over but always continued its friendly environment. Half the excitement of a visit would be to see the new "guest" beer. Normally an ale from the excellent Rowton Brewery or Wye Valley Brewery. A highlight was when they had Brew Dog Punk I.P.A on draft.

See links.

The Dolphin Inn

Great Beer

(The second link is very old but you get the idea)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Places to go #1: The Wrekin Tap, Wellington, Telford

My favourite pub in the world.
Handily it's situated about 100 yards from my folks' house so I'm able to stagger over on my regular visits.
Situated in Wellington, Telford, The Wrekin Tap has won CAMRA's Shropshire pub award for several years running.
And with good reason.
The pub is split into two rooms, a large comfortable lounge with a small bar and a small (nee tiny) low-ceilinged and properly old fashioned smoking room with a long bar.
The pub has eight taps with only one constant beer - Hobson's Choice is a locally brewed bitter and is definitely worth a try.
The rest of the taps host guest ales from around the midlands.
There is always one stout or porter and one cider alongside the ales.
The staff are warm and friendly and most importantly, they know the beers they serve and are happy to offer a taster if you're unsure what to choose and to discuss the merits of each beer on offer.
One of my favourite things about this pub is that there is no TV or jukebox just the background hum of other drinkers conversations.
If you're in the area pay a visit, you'll love it:

The Wrekin Tap AT The Cock Hotel

Saturday, 23 July 2011

An introduction to raise eyebrows

Hello There.

Welcome to the blog for CAMRGB.

We'll be posting beer reviews and pub reviews and inviting contributions from various writers.
While we get all this off the ground, here's what our Facebook page says about CAMRGB:

A Campaign for Really Good Beer

Tired of the forced self righteous beard grooming of CAMRA and the ridiculous rules used to decide what is a "real" ale and what isn't, we think it's about time we celebrated really good beer for its own sake.
Good craft beer is good craft beer and it doesn't matter if it comes in a cask or a keg or a bottle or a can.

It doesn't matter if it contains a specific amount of yeast.
It doesn't matter that it doesn't have a slightly chauvinistic name or pump clip.