Monday, 26 December 2011

For the motherland

Imperial Stouts are often very dark and are accompanied by deep rich roasted flavours.  This one is Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout which succeeds on one of those.

Imperial Stout - 7%
Brewed to withstand bad weather transporting to Russia, this style of beer was a favourite of nobility.

Well see for yourself it's clearly dark coloured so sadly it's the rich flavour I found lacking.  There just wasn't that much to it and I could have been drinking almost any generic beer.  Perhaps the traditional styled label oversold it to me?

It wasn't terribly expensive but for all the build up in terms of writing and labels I was expecting more than I got.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Massive Anchor

From the mists of American history, or about 150 years ago, comes the Anchor Brewery.  Based in San Francisco, it's had quite a rocky period, what with earthquakes, prohibition and the rise of mass production all taking a chunk out of it time and again.

Anchor Porter - 5.6%
They make a selection of beers at Anchor but today I'm looking at Anchor Porter.

Introduced in 1972, dark and aromatic with a rich creamy head, Anchor Porter is the first modern American porter, modern in this case being post prohibition.  It's a gentle introduction to the world of porters, flavourful but not overly powerful.  Perhaps a touch lighter than I would have expected, and perhaps desired, it was a welcome drink at the end of the day.

Inexpensive and easily to drink makes this a wonderful beer to while away these winter evening.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ostriches out of Flanders

From West Flanders is a new brewery called de Struise Brouwers.  Apparently named after the ostrich farm managed by the brewers.  Rather and odd combination but then who am I to judge.  The link to their website is currently down, and I would easily believe that is because they are proving too popular to keep it up with demand.  Feel free to go take a look and let me know if you get more than an error page.

Pannepot 2010 - 10%
A Pannepot is a fishing boat and this ale is a tribute to the dark ales that they would enjoy.  Unpasteurised, unfiltered and bottle conditioned this dark rich ale has a hint of spice about it and is another of the collection of somewhat chocolate flavoured.

It is especially strong at 10% and you can just about taste it, to let you know it has some bite.  At the same time you aren't just tasting alcohol.

It seems supplies of this beer are limited so if you see it I recommend snapping one up to sample.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Not quite a General but pretty close

For tonight's main event I decided to give The Kernel another go at something I was more likely to enjoy.

Imperial Brown Stout - 9.2%
This is their Imperial Brown Stout which I have been informed is what made a name for themselves.  I served mine a little more chilled then people say it should be but given a choice of about 4C, and somewhere in the region of 15C, I know which I'm going for.

Everybody got one of their own to drink along?  Careful pouring as it's another bottle conditioned beer.  As you can see from your own glass, or my picture if you aren't playing along, it's not so dark as to make viewing the bubbles impossible.

A lovely full roasted flavour with only a mild bitter after taste this has slipped down dangerously easily.  The alcohol content is masked completely by the flavours and, if everything has gone to plan, you should now be experiencing a warm feeling.

I'm glad I gave The Kernel another shot, this is far more palatable to me.  This does of course make me wonder if there is an IPA out there for me though...

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Summer fruits in the dead of Autumn

A few times now, quite by accident, I've stumbled onto a smaller independent brewery.  This though wins the prize for apparently smallest and most independent.

The Kernel India Pale Ale - 6.8%
The Kernel Brewery is on the Thames not especially far from London town.  For those inclined you can actually watch a video of the man in action brewing, bottling and labelling his beer for you all by hand.

Take a look at that label.  Another minimalist example but very eye catching in its simplicity.  You can't quite see from the picture but up close you can see, and it's confirmed by the video, the text for the beer type and hops is hand stamped.

Speaking of the hop type we have Citra and Riwaka.  Citra is relatively new and incredibly flavourful of citrus fruits, as its name suggests.

This beer shares a lot in common with the Lotus IPA I tried a few weeks back.  From the strong citrus flavours through to the bitter after taste.

Perhaps in summer time I would enjoy this a little more but it has not put me off delving into whatever they have happened to brew this month.

Friday, 2 December 2011

If there is one thing the Belgians can do...

It's brew some delicious beers.

Brasseries des Rocs is from Belgium and I recommend giving the video on their website a watch and the beer itself will tell you how it is made.

Abbay Des Rocs Brune - 9%
I have the Brune (Brown Ale), a rich chestnut colour and a short lived head.  Triple fermented, with the last stage in the bottle, it is slightly gassy but the flavour is so full and fruity so I can forgive a little fizz.

Remember what I said about Belgium beer labels?  Picture of an abbey cellar, coat of arms, big red script lettering.  Yes much like Delirium they are going all out, to stand out.

Pace yourselves with one of these it's dangerously drinkable and, at a surprisingly well disguised 9%, it would be all to easy to have one too many.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Of course it's organic, it's food.

Ignoring for the moment my personal distaste for the misappropriation of the word organic, I have here something from the minimal school of label design.  Or I suppose you could also say, this was clearly not bottled in Belgium.

Chocolate Marble - 5.5%
Marble Beers have possibly the cleanest design of bottle labels out there, backed up by an equally minimal website.  It appears that their brewery is attached to a pub in Manchester called The Marble Arch Inn and that they have certified themselves as "organic" as well as vegetarian.

What we have with Chocolate Marble is a Stout like beer which actually does have a faint chocolate taste.  Delivered in the 500ml bottle it requires the larger glass and is a dark brown colour.

Bottle conditioned mean you have to be a little careful pouring it and while it suggests to ensure it's cooled not chilled, I think it would actually benefit from a little time in the fridge if you lack a suitably cool storage area as I do.

A good inoffensive beer that went down rather well on a chilly evening.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Super Williams Brothers

The Williams Brothers Brewery is a micro brewery in the centre of Scotland.  They produce a range of historic ales, they have developed over the impressive 20 years they have been operating.  Along side that they have expanded their range of regular beers, one of which I've been drinking this evening.

Midnight Sun - 5.6%
Yes this is another porter styled beer, which since starting this blog I've discovered I really enjoy, especially now the nights are drawing in and it's a little chilled out.

To look at Midnight Sun it is a dark brown with a dark cream coloured head, it's a little washed out by the flash in the photo.  Taking a deep breath over it there is a gentle aroma of chocolate.

The roasted flavour is especially pleasant leaving a pleasant toffee sensation in the mouth.  It is a smooth and surprisingly light drink, this bottle being a pint rather than the 330ml size, necessitating the larger glass for this occasion, and by the end of the bottle it's not lying heavily on the stomach.

Midnight Sun can be purchased direct from the brewery at £16.84 for a case of 12.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

And now for something completely the same

I have to admit that I am a sucker for an interesting bottle.  Be they painted strange colours or odd shapes.  It was this urge that lead me to tonight's offering from Estonia.

Viru 5.0%
Named for Virumaa, formerly a country, but now a pair of counties in Estonia, and it's brewed in Tartu, which is is in neither of them.

Viru is a lager and after one sip I was thinking of Fosters, but in a good way.  This is the beer that Fosters is trying to taste like, with a nice gentle flavour, refreshing, and no hideous wet sock after taste.

Also this is likely the cheapest most inexpensive beers I've gone through lately and can thoroughly recomend it for when summer rolls around again.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thin and watery

But frankly just what I needed at the time.

I spent a couple of weeks away on a ridiculously lavish holiday which included, to my delight, a free bar.  Once I recovered from the shock I set about exploring the beer options.  And it appears that the Caribbean it something of a one trick pony.

They do Lager.

Just Lager.

I can certainly see why.  It was punishingly hot for someone like me who is used to winters actually getting cold, where water has been known to get hard outside without the influence of a freezer drawer.

Wadadli is the original name for Antigua (as in pre Columbus) and was used for the local beer.  Sadly it's not quite so local any more and is now produced on St Vincent for cost reasons.

Red Stripe
Red Stripe is far more famous and comes from Jamaica originally but is produced under license from the Antigua Brewery.

There isn't a huge amount to separate these two drinks in terms of flavour or look.  Both are pale and fizzy and I would be hard pressed to identify one over the other in a blind test.

What they are though is massively refreshing in a hot day provided you drink them before they get warm.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Who or what is Alice Porter?

Well I'd say it's a porter with a highly pretentious label.  Brew Dog was founded in 2007 and have set about making a strange collection of beers, frankly if I can ever spare the £30 or so I would love to give Tactical Nuclear Penguin a try.

Alice Porter - 6.2%
But enough about beers I haven't drunk on to one I have.

Alice Porter is surprisingly light, I would even say watery if that weren't a massive disservice to it's taste, more it's highly drinkable despite its background.

How they have managed to get so much flavour into a porter without making it excessively rich is something a few other breweries could stand to learn.

Alexander Wines stocks it but it doesn't appear on Brew Dogs website any more so I don't know how much longer this one is around for.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Great Minds Drink Alike

Somewhere in the wild outdoors there lives a creature of legend.  Spoken of in hushed tones around camp fires miles from civilisation.  Tall and dark the Yeti roams the high places of Nepal.

Or rather it would if it actually existed.

Yeti Imperial Stout - 9.5%
Instead I have this Yeti to drink, brought to us by Great Divide Brewing Co, one of Americas most decorated micro breweries.

Another dark and viscous beer, this one an Imperial Stout, it is filed with chocolate flavour and an impressive 9.5% which is masked by the big taste but felt about half way through the bottle.

Not a cheap beer by any stretch of the imagination but you definitely get your moneys worth.  Stick with the one bottle for a night, it's rather filling.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Pink Elephants on Parade

Brewed by the Belgian Family Brewery in Brouwerij Huyghe, which I wouldn't know where to begin pronouncing, this exciting and complex beer has a rich caramel scent, and boy can you taste the alcohol.

Delirium Nocturnum - 8.5% 
Triple fermented with live yeast added to the bottle to perform final fermentation there the flavour will change depending now how long it has been left.

I love the bottle this comes in. Under the grey paint with blue flecks is a normal brown glass bottle but the colours are so distinctive. They go especially well with the pink elephants that dance around the bottle.

Poured out this is a dark ale with a tan head with light carbonation. Thankfully the bubbles are not intrusive nor excessive and the overall taste is smooth. If it weren't for the high alcohol content I could drink this all evening.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Not as Halloween themed as it first appears

On the spur of the moment I decided to arrange a trip to my favourite pub, The Red Lion for an evening meal and, by a happy coincidence, I was also not the designated driver which makes a nice change.

Settling down for a meal with the smell of wood smoke from the fires I fancied something stout-ish, and this is what I found.

Batemans Salem Porter - 4.7%
Batemans Salem Porter.

Another dark porter though you can't quite tell from the photo that it's not completely black when backlit.  Sipping this down with truly great steak was wonderful.  It complimented the meat with a slight taste of burnt sugar.

By the time dinner was over, and it was time for a second round of drinks, the other interesting looking beer had been drunk dry by thirsty bar patrons.  I decided to go for a second pint which I regret just a little.

Without the flavours of the food it wasn't as nice an experience.  The after taste, while not terribly bitter, I could have done without, and being as thick a drink as it is made finishing the second on a full stomach a chore.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

From the undead brewery

Brains, a food and drinks brand rather than just a brewery these days, is probably the most mainstream manufacturer I've happened to come across so far.

The Reverend James - 4.5%
The night I came across this I was out with a friend after a long week of work.  By the time I had decided to try it, my friend I was with, had mustered the courage to try something, that was not a lager, and joined me.

Definitely a session ale it is remarkably easy to drink and as such was an easy and pleasant entrance into the world of ale for him, and as a pleasant surprise for myself.

Simple flavours with nothing overpowering I cold quite happily sat there and drink a few more of these had I not had other places to be that evening.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Strong in alcohol and strongly hopped

At the end of a long week what could be better than hunting down a new beer to try?  I found this one lurking in the basement of a Birmingham hotel.

Lotus IPA 5.6%
IPA or India Pale Ale was first named in the 1830's for export overseas.  This one, Lotus IPA, is made by Ilkley Brewery which is a new modern brewery founded in 2009 making quite a range.

You can see from the picture that it's a straw coloured ale and that my camera flash makes it look like the head has been fashioned from cream.

The flavours are citrus and peach with a slightly disappointing bitterness to the after taste.  Overall it is a very floral drink and perhaps a little perfumed to enjoy more than one, the taste being perhaps a touch ungrounded.  With some spicy foods or something rich, like a winter ploughman's, it may sit better.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Some more black oil


Another one from Harviestoun in Scotland.  Yet again it's named after oil, Ola Dubh meaning black oil, is made by conditioning in whisky casks, in this case ones from 18 year old malt whiskey.

Ola Dubh -Special  Reserve 18 (£6 Inspire)
It's derived from their Old Engine Oil, which has already become a favourite of mine, and shares its same rich full texture and flavour.

There are two warnings to apply to this drink.  Firstly do not attempt to drive after drinking it.  It's good and strong and went straight to my head.  Secondly it is not cheap.  That little bottle you see on the left there?  Six of your finest English pounds.  But you know what?  Totally worth it, every single penny.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"A wheat beer from the good old days"

Now I do like a good wheat beer, and a brewery who does a good one is Erdinger.  Founded in 1886 they now make a wide selection of wheat beers providing something for everyone.

Erdinger Dunkel (Inspire)
With the chance to head to Inspire for some lunch and the promise of a drink or two in the last dying days of summer.  Erdinger Dunkel was the choice of the moment for me.

Dunkel is matured in the bottle which is claimed to give it its flavour.  Dark and rich with a full head it is very easy to drink this down.

Not overly fizzy, which I like, too much fizz leaves me burping for hours, and while I like the taste of beer going down I am not such a fan of tasting it on its return.

Credit to the staff at Inspire for recommending this one to me and indeed the one I chased it down with.....

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Bitter about Coventry?

I am not a big fan of bitters. I've tried a fair few and they are not typically not to my taste and this one only made it as far as my kitchen because it was local.

Urban Red (£2.25 - Alexander Wines

Made at Byatts Brewery in a Craft Brewery in Coventry on Lythalls Lane industrial estate. Urban Red is Byatts "Best Bitter" weighing in at 4.5% and will set you back about £2.25 in an off license.

Not being much of a bitter drinker I find it hard to give you great guidance on this one. It was reasonably drinkable and lacked an unpleasant after taste.

I've got another one of Byatt's beers waiting in the wings which is hopefully more to my personal preferences but, if you are a bitter fan, give it a try and let me know what you thought. I've got a feeling that this is a nice one for those with a compatible pallet.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Viscous Bittersweet and Dark

This is a beer I saw a friend with and I coveted it. As the designated driver for the day I had to cope with a smell and watch him drink it in front of me.

Old Engine Oil £2.30 (Alexander Wines) 
Old Engine Oil is a dark porter and is extremely rich, and heavy. I would happily nurse one of these all evening and not feel the need to rush it.

The label declares it as the heading of this post, Viscous Bittersweet and Dark. All true, it really is a thick velvety, almost creamy, drink which probably contributes to the weight of it.

It's not just dark it is black, with not much of a head at all, and for once when a drink labels itself as having a chocolate flavour, I can taste it. As far as an after taste there is a slight bitterness but not so overpowering as to ruin the flavour, or to make you regret sampling it.

This is a seasonal beer from Harviestoun which is situated in Scotland in the Forth Valley. You can buy direct from them at prices that are not dissimilar to what you would expect in a bar, and if you can't find this locally I urge you to buy some from them and give it a try.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The unexpected lager - Samuel Adams

For my first beer I was after a dark porter, something I saw a friend enjoying a few days before.  But the lure of a cool lager from one of the fridges proved too much on September day that was hotter than California.

With this in mind I'd like to introduce Samuel Adams by The Boston Beer Company.

£1.60 for a 355ml bottle (Alexander Wines)
The label proclaims, "Samuel Adams is handcrafted in single batches with extraordinary care and attention to detail.  Following my great-great grandfather's recipe, we use only classic ingredients: hand-selected"

Frankly I can believe it.

I've heard about this beer repeatedly from Americans and I thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt and try it for myself.

It's a rich golden colour with a slightly creamy head.  It's a much richer flavour than the cheaper lagers you find in the pubs up and down the country (I'm looking at you Carling) far more refreshing with no bitter after taste   Perfect for a hot summers evening when you want to sit down and relax.

The Plan

I'm a big fan of a local bar.  It's called Inspire, cleverly because it is in an old church spire.  They serve a large selection of beers from around the world, have a wonderful atmosphere and a great staff working the bar.  It's not cheap but you get what you pay for.

Because of Inspire I was introduced to Alexander Wines which is managed by the same people.

Last night after a particularly long week of work following a series of long weeks at work I realised it's been quite a while since I sat down with a really nice beer.  Coincidently I had my car with me so on the way home dropped by to pick up something cool refreshing and interesting.

It's a common saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy and the quest for a cool refreshing beer turned into a carrier bag of delight and the seed of an idea.  That idea is this blog which gives me a perfect excuse to drink more interesting beers.  If I manage to try everything in Inspire and Alexander Wines I'll sneak further afield but I don't think I'm in any real danger.