Thursday, 30 July 2009

Are non-beer publications starting to get beer?

Here's an article about women and beer in a mainstream publication that isn't complete crap! Hats off to Zoe Strimper for seeking out a source who knows what she's talking about.

Articles like this make a refreshing change from the usual rubbish served up in the mainstream press. Far too often, other articles don't go beyond lazy stereotypes about beer bellies and flatulence and the conclusion is the patronising "stick to wine, girls". If you're lucky, the hapless female reader is recommended tedious mass-produced fruit beers.

But Melissa Cole has done a great job here of choosing beers that demonstrate a wide variety of flavours and aromas (even if it is still a bit fruit-heavy).

As the furore over BrewDog Tokyo* shows, most people, unfortunately including health professionals dealing with alcohol abuse, still don't grasp the concept that beer is not just a fizzy yellow liquid you drink to get drunk (as it tastes so vile there is no other reason to drink it). Sadly it has often seemed overly optimistic to expect journalists to be better informed than the rest of us.

And it's not so long ago that newspapers would habitually just assign any story about beer to the member of staff who generally drank the most pints at lunchtime.

More articles like this are needed. More specialist off-licences where you can actually buy the good beer they write about. More tastings. More weird experimental beers. Good beer in bars and restaurants, not just real ale pubs.

"I hate Stella, Fosters and Carling," says Zoe Strimper in the article, and if that was what I thought beer was like, I'd think I didn't like beer too. Let's drink to hating Stella, Fosters and Carling!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Test the West!

Last week I was sitting in West again trying their pale Bock. There's a blackboard announcing that it's "double brewed and double hopped". I keep asking what this actually means, but nobody's been able to tell me yet. Whatever it means, it's a very good beer, with citrussy hops, though for my taste it's slightly lacking in body for the strength. I think it might be better brewed to have a bit more body and less alcohol. It's not much like the German Bocks I've drunk in the past, more like a very strong pilsener.

I've always thought that Munich Red (the original St Mungo) was one of their best. There is no such thing as red lager in Munich, but I suppose if they were to tweak the recipe a bit they could come up with something akin to a Franconian Lagerbier. Now that would be awesome.

The Dunkel is developing into a very nice beer with chocolatey, coffeeish notes sadly absent from actual Münchner Dunkel from the big Munich breweries, which I have always found quite disappointing.

I noticed that the beer is cloudy recently and apparently the filtration system has been broken. The lager looks like hefeweizen and the hefeweizen looks like soup. However, the brewers think it tastes better unfiltered anyway, and I'm inclined to agree. One leading Glasgow pub has even asked to keep getting the unfiltered version once the filtration system is fixed.

I went for a quick drink and ended up scooping

I popped out yesterday to the Clockwork for a refreshing glass of crisp beer and ordered their Oregon IPA. It was one of the most confusing beers I can remember drinking. It's very heavily hopped and has all these sweet, spicy, perfumey aromas where you're not quite sure whether they come from the malt or from the hops. It tastes a lot stronger than it actually is at 5.5%. I finished my pint without actually being able to decide whether or not I liked it.

It's pretty much a straight line by bike to Blackfriars in the city centre where I was meeting a friend. Salopian Hoptwister and Lemon Dream were on; we tried both and I thought Hoptwister was the better of the two. It has grainy, vanilla, lemon and creamy aromas and a lovely bitter finish, but apart from that finish it's not nearly as hoppy as the name suggests.

Blackfriars has always had great beer, but they've really been pushing the boat out recently in getting more recherche craft beers that you just don't see in any other pub in Glasgow. We went for two American bottles from the fridge: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter and Great Divide Titan IPA. My friend really liked the latter. I thought it was nice enough, but dull, uninspired and less than the sum of its parts.

As we were drinking those, a new draught beer appeared on the pumps – BrewDog 5am. What's that then? A scoop? We ordered two pints. Massive grassy hoppiness (my notebook has "massive hops" twice, which probably means something), grapefruit and, bizarrely, Oxo cubes. I liked it but I'm not sure my friend did. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that this was related to the recipe for How To Disappear Completely; it has the same gorgeous autumn-leaves and chestnuts colour.

The bar manager said they had two casks of it, so I might go back and get some more.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Amberfest

I'm off to Derbyshire for a few days, and I hope to be able to get in a visit to Amber Ales' Amberfest in Ripley while I'm there. Amber are a fantastic little outfit, and all their beers I've tried have been brilliant. There are some new, interesting-sounding concoctions promised such as a strawberry pale ale and an lemongrass and ginger beer, as well as their notorious Chocolate Orange Stout.

A nice extra is that the guest beers include Thornbridge Seaforth, which I'm looking forward to trying if there's any left by the time I get there.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A regional brand

I just heard the rumours that A-B InBev may be planning to sell off Tennent's. I will write more on the subject later but wanted to post this which I found on Glasgow University Library's Flickr feed:


From the University's explanation:
In 1892 Tennents were exporting to 126 destinations … This is a photograph of a Cuban beer label promoting Tennents Pale Ale and Tennents Stout, produced at the Tennents Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow. Scotch Ales, porter, and stouts which were extremely popular in the Caribbean. The people of Cuba favoured the use of stoneware bottles as seen in the image here.

Strange that 117 years later, the brewery's current owners are thinking of getting rid of Tennent's, ostensibly because it's a 'regional' brand. More later on why this argument is nonsense.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Got some beer

A couple of us got together to take advantage of BrewDog's insanely cheap special offer on Zeitgeist dark lager. It's not my favourite BrewDog -- it's a bit clean and prim for that, although that didn't stop us getting stuck in when we saw it on cask a couple of weeks ago, but it's well worth the regular price and at an incredible 70% off it's a no-brainer. You too can get Zeitgeist at an amazing 70% off by ordering online at zeitgeistbeer.com with the discount code 'SHEEP'.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Hide ye not your new wine under a bushel

To completely mix up two biblical metaphors, why do more pubs not take advantage of modern technology to tell people what new beers they have available?

Some get it. Homebrewjapan got an email from his local specialist beer bar when they got Ruination in. The Gunmakers tweet when they put a fresh cask on.

Costs approximately the same in effort as putting the pump clip on, and attracts hordes of beer tickers to your bar.

OK, I suppose I understand now.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Shepherd Neame Goldings Summer Hop Ale, and some nice Fyne Ale

There's not been enough beer ticking on this blog recently. The other night I was all set to write a review of Shepherd Neame's Goldings Summer Hop Ale, but unfortunately it is so dull that I can't be bothered.

(The glass is for all those pint-glass haters).

On the way home last night though I dropped into my local and had a couple of Fyne Ales brews. First was Crannog wheat beer; the aroma makes clear this is brewed with regular ale yeast, and it has a splendidly bitter finish; the wheat might contribute to its having a very light body, but if it didn't say so on the pump clip I would hardly know there was any wheat in it.

Followed it up with Fyne Vital Spark. I nearly went home after one pint but I'm glad I stayed and had this. I have a note of having this in the Judges back in March, but for some reason we only consumed one pint of this. Either we didn't like it then, or we got the last pint. It's very hoppy. Are those Cascades I can taste? Slight roastiness which marvellously doesn't fight against the hops. Reminds me rather of a dark Punk IPA. Fyne are making some tremendous beer these days.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Unpopular opinions

I've been reading beer blogs and brewery websites for a while now and I have five opinions about beer and pubs that for some reason do not seem to be widely shared:
  1. Women are not going to start drinking beer just because you put a pink label on a bottle of mediocre lager or serve it in a flowery glass.
  2. The Nonic pint glass is a great design.
  3. Great beer is well worth £3 a pint.
  4. Bad beer, or competently made but nonetheless dull beer, is not worth £3 a pint.
  5. If you run a pub, charging people for tap water makes you look like a tightwad no matter how justifiable it is.
I do have other opinions, but happily there are others who agree with me on those issues (even if we still remain in the minority).

The question of silly beer names is of sufficient importance to deserve its own upcoming post.