Thursday, 30 June 2011

This little piggy went to market....

...and came back with some appropriately named beer from the Hogsback Brewery. TheBeerNut already talked about their statement on the label which mentions: "Brewery conditioned, for all the taste without the sediment"

An interesting idea and rather simple. You condition the beer in conditioning tanks and then transfer it to the bottle using counter pressure, or at least I imagine that is how it's done. This is a method used by homebrewers who keg condition their beer when they want to bottle. Personally I just pour from the tap in to the bottle but I do lose co2 that way.

Now it is time for some tea...

Tea in this case is Traditional English Ale perhaps answering why the English are so obsessed with tea. Someone made a mistake years ago and people being the cattle that they are followed suit and tea became the national drink over ale? Well probably not....
This is a solid English ale and quite similar to Hobgoblin I thought. Sort of heavy with toffee and bread notes and some fruit. I don't think it is very interesting but it is a tasty beer and I would like to try it on cask some time.

BSA is Burma Star Ale, no I have no idea what that means. Possibly something to do with Burmese that fought the Japanese in WWII? Or simply a medal.... And that is all I have to say about it because I could not tell the difference between this and TEA. That is not a bad thing as TEA was nice but still, I am not sure what the point is unless they are the same beer and this is renamed for export reasons?

Hop Garden Garden Gold was next, A lovely beer I thought. The aroma is sticky toffee pudding. Plenty of apricot and other dried fruit. The addition of tannins in the flavour made this taste a little more like tea than TEA. A slight metallic note was there but not off putting, instead it was just part of the experience.

Another garden beer? Gardeners Tipple was another tasty beer. The aroma was fruity with caramel and mandarins but a strong prune aroma and rather grainy as well.
The taste had most of these qualities as well, though it was a little thin on body, however the slight spiciness and earthy quality more than made up for that. This makes it a very refreshing thirst quencher for a hot summers day and a wonderful session beer.

More from this brewery please. I need to try some darker beers instead of lighter session beers.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Sorry about the picture, it is pretty rubbish. You can just about make out that it's a picture of Brewdog's Dogma, a rather odd beer brewed with guarana, poppy seeds and kola nuts along with Scottish heather honey. The beer is big, not only because it comes in a large 660ml bottle but it is also just shy of 8% ABV.

This beer might be more popularly known by it's original name of Speedball but that was shelved due it's name being a drug cocktail. I'm not sure where I stand on that sort of thing. I can see the sense of naming the beer speedball but I don't see how naming something after a drug cocktail is likely to make the kids want to try such a thing. Anyone who drinks the beer in question is likely to be quite happy getting their kicks from alcohol and probably in a very responsible way as well.

Anyway I found the beer rather boring. There was just too much herbal tea and not enough beer for me. I also don't see the point of the guarana to be honest but then I don't get red bull either, a product I think is far more dangerous to ones health than beer. Thin and somewhat boozy and tasted like a mix of herbal tea. I did not dislike it, I just did not see the point and see no reason to drink it again.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bitch Please!

I like collaboration brews and Brewdog has been on a bit of a collaboration roll recently. There is a certain level of insanity in everything Brewdog does and this is no exception.

This time they teamed up with the 3 Floyds guys, yes the ones that make a beer called Dark Lord that creates a queue to buy some like a queue for U2 tickets.

The aroma is pretty much like a Scotch. Peaty and woody. There is a little dried fruit in there too but the peat is fairly strong. The taste? Well if I described it as a fizzy water scotch it might not make it sound to appealing would it? While that is essentially what it tastes like, it does it very well and I loved it. The earthy peaty flavours were some of the best I have ever come across in a beer.
If I had a choice between a glass of Bitch Please and a peated scotch, I would probably take the Bitch Please to be honest.

I thought this the perfect beer to sit at a roaring fire when the weather is cold and nasty outside and just sit around with the TV off, perhaps reading a book and sipping away for an hour or more.
The name does not go with that image though.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Three Fyne blonds

Drinkstore, as always, strive to get whatever they can in to their tiny little shop and online store. Recently they got in beer from a Scottish brewery called Fyne Ales. It may be new to us over here, but they have been around now for about 10 years.

Starting off light with Hurricane Jack, a Blond ale that is a lovely thirst quencher. The crystal clear amber liquid and white fluffy head will have any lager drinker convinced this is their usual. If they stop to take a sniff they might get a whiff of soapy lemon. Once you take a mouthful you realise that this is far more bitter than you might expect. It was along the lines of Pilsner Urquell, or at least not too far off. There are a lot of citrus qualities going on here with a fruity vegetal middle. All in all this is a shockingly good beer to knock back in the garden.

Jarl is another blond but of a lower abv. At 3.8% this is a perfect session beer. The aroma was somewhat peppery with lemon citrus and some honey. I did not find the taste quite as appealing and found it a little metallic and watery but it was very refreshing.

Pipers Gold is not exactly billed as a blond, it is more of a regular pale ale. The aroma is some more honey and lemon with that sort of crisp lager grainy malt aroma you get from a lot of lagers. Unfortunately it gets less interesting as you take that first swallow. It is rather thin and watery although there is a nice earthy and herbal bitterness. A refreshing but uninteresting beer.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Witty Fella - One week taste test.

A short post today.

Yesterday I cracked open a bottle of Witty Fella which has been conditioning for 1 week to see how it is coming along.

It's young but I seem to have brewed Hoegaarden. There is not a whole lot going on here except the spice from the coriander and the slight lime aroma. It should develop in to a nice and refreshing BBQ beer, in fact I was using my new kettle BBQ while drinking it.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Orval & Brett

It is surprising how long it has actually taken me to write something about Orval. It's a beer readily available but one I never think to get, as a result I only tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Orval is one of those beers I like to think of as a comparison beer. People will often use it when describing another beer citing that it is a little like orval or maybe even orval-esque. The reason for this is that Orval uses a yeast called Brettanomyces in it's bottling stage. The result is pretty dramatic.
Brett creates a sourness in beer, usually this would be seen as an infection and the beer would be classified as spoiled but for the adventurous, a good sour beer can be a wonderful thing.
Bottle conditioning your beer with Brett also has the effect of giving you different characteristics depending on the age of the beer. All bottle conditioned ales of a higher ABV will usually mature and age for years with the character of the beer changing with time but doing so with Brett is said to be very interesting. 
My bottle was only about 7 months old but the sourness was there, if only in the background.

As a beer on its own this is a wonderfully well made Belgian Trappist ale. It explodes in to the glass with a massive foamy head. With the first sniff you know its a Belgian beer. It is peppery, yeasty, fruity (fruit cake) and citrusy (lemons & oranges). Once in the mouth you experience reason for the explosion of head during pouring. This is a very carbonated beer and no doubt the brett has something to do with that. One downside I thought was the it was a little bit on the thin side but I don't think it detracted from the overall experience.

I am very curious to try some Orval that has been sitting around for a few years.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Brew # 33 - Witty Fella & Brew # 34 Brown-EyePA

A few weeks back I brewed this witbier. It was just a simple wit for the sake of brewing. I did not have a proper wit yeast so I used S33 and fermented it warm.
It should be a nice light summer witbier judging from the sample I took kegging it today.

Witty Fella

16-A Witbier

Author: Reuben (Saruman)

Date: 07/05/2011
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 25.0 L

Efficiency: 72.56%

Attenuation: 75.0%

Calories: 166.65 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.050 (1.044 - 1.052)

Terminal Gravity: 1.016 (1.008 - 1.012)

Color: 9.04 (3.94 - 7.88)

Alcohol: 4.47% (4.5% - 5.5%)

Bitterness: 9.5 (10.0 - 20.0)



3000.0 g Optic Pale Ale Malt

301 g Munich Malt

2500 g Wheat Malt

10 g Progress (6.3%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

15 g East Kent Goldings (4.0%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

10 g Saaz (2.1%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min

2.0 ea Lime Zest - added during boil, boiled 6.0 min

20.0 g Corriander crushed - added during boil, boiled 5 min

1.0 ea Fermentis S-33 SafBrew S-33

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.16

Today I brewed a dark IPA. Essentially a standard American pale ale with brown malt. I wanted to keep the ABV lower than my last IPA so it is a little more sessionable.
The name does have a meaning, it might make sense to Americans. It was my wife's idea.


14-B American IPA

Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)

Date: 12/06/2011
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic
Size: 23.04 L

Efficiency: 82.22%

Attenuation: 81.3%

Calories: 177.89 kcal per 12.0 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.054 (1.056 - 1.075)

Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (1.010 - 1.018)

Color: 33.58 (11.82 - 29.55)

Alcohol: 5.75% (5.5% - 7.5%)

Bitterness: 59.3 (40.0 - 70.0)



3000 g Optic Pale Ale Malt

740 g Brown Malt

600 g Light Crystal

500 g Wheat Malt

400 g Munich Malt

30 g Chinook (13.6%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

10 g Cascade (5.0%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min

24 g Amarillo (8.9%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

30 g Citra (13.8%) - steeped after boil

1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

1 ea Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04

30 g Cascade (5.0%) - added dry to primary fermenter
Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.16

Friday, 10 June 2011

Saugatuck is a lovely town so how is the beer?

I have fond memories of Saugatuck in Michigan. As a town it is pretty as a picture and a wonderful place to be in the summer. As near as I remember I had my first craft beer in Saugatuck so it will always hold fond memories. I don't think I ever had any beers from the Saugatuck brewery however as it only started in 2004 as a small brewery allowing people to brew their own beer. It was not until 2008 that they started brewing at a new larger brewery. Technically it is not even in Saugatuck, it's in Douglas but let's not get pedantic here.

The first beer was Pier Cove Porter which as you can see from the image has a lot of foam. The aroma had a lot of what I would expect coffee, toffee, liquorice but there is also a sour note... hmmm
The taste confirms it. I am thinking something has gone wrong here. Either it is infected or they do some sort of sour mash. I did not enjoy it though I did finish it.

OK an American IPA is much harder to ruin due to the obscene amount of hops usually used. Singapore IPA was far more to my liking with plenty of lemon, pine and grapefruit.
In the mouth the initial hit was lemons then grapefruit and pine resin. It was a very nice IPA with a bitter and somewhat fishy finish. What (apart from Oysters in a stout) causes a fishy taste in a beer? It was not unpleasant, just unexpected?

The ESB Amber not a bad beer despite what beeradvocate users seem to think. It does not look very exciting when poured but take a sniff and you are met with juicy oranges, biscuity toffee malt and some fizzy sherbet. So a pleasant aroma then... but how does it taste? Well similar to the aroma of course, it starts out bitter and then moves in to the crisp and refreshing direction making it very easy to drink. A spicy herbal finish leaves you wanting more.

Considering the very different reviews of the ESB Amber and what I thought of Pier Cove Porter, I would say that Saugatuck have some quality issues. Their beers do not appear to be consistent. Next time I am in Michigan I will be sure to visit them, along with Bells of course.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Golden Pheasant (Zlatý Bažant)

A few weeks ago I popped in to The Czech Inn to try another regional beer. Already being in love with the Herold beers, I decided on one I have noticed many times but not been able to bring myself to drink instead of Herold Dark.
I was hoping for an eye opener like Herold but instead I got a sub par Pilsner. There is pretty much nothing interesting going on at all, not even the wonderful bitterness from a Pilsner Urquell. However as a thirst quencher you could do a lot worse. It is actually quite dry and not too fizzy so you will not be bloated by drinking too many of them. I can now say I have had a beer from Slovakia though.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference - Day 3 - Fullers Brewery Tour

As Sunday dawned I realised two things. Firstly it was the last day of the simply wonderful weekend. Secondly, I had no way to get all the beer and paraphernalia home that had been given to me. I got up and went to the main street a few minutes walk from my hotel. I walked in to one of those souvenir shops that seem never to close and got a good sized hard shell suitcase for £79. I was in need of a new suitcase anyway so it was not just an expensive way to get beer home.

I then packed everything up and decided to spread the beer over my two suitcases figuring I would just pay for the extra suitcase at the airport.

I then lugged each suitcase down 5 flights of narrow creaky and dangerous stairs. This had to be done one at a time and took quite some time. Yes I was staying in the worst hotel in London I think. Apart from the stairs and lack of lift issue, there was one shared toilet/shower in the whole building, though there was another single toilet as well. If I had not pre-paid I would have left and gone elsewhere. It is probably fine for backpackers who want their own room rather than a hostel.

Anyway I checked out and left my luggage behind rather than carting it all the way to Chiswick.

The Fullers brewery is in Chiswick. It is a bit of a walk from the tube station but following the directions on the Fullers website is pretty easy. I had no Internet access any more so I had to text my wife and have her text them to me.

We arrived to a cosy cellar with an open bar available to us. There was also lots to look at while we were waiting for everyone to arrive. I arrived bang on time which is unusual for an Irish man but we had plenty of people to wait for before the tour.

The tour was brilliant. We were slit in to groups and I like to think we had the best tour guide because ours had been working at the brewery all his life. I forget his name which is unfortunate. The image above shows the original mash tun with false bottom. It is no longer in use but he remembers it.

Now this is what I call a hot liquor tank. The image does not do it justice but needless to say if I fell from the top I would not survive.

The kettle (copper) is nice and shiny

Also nice and shiny is the mash tun they use these days.

Our guide still recalls what it was like working with dray horses and when the brewery was wet as opposed to dry now. If you don't know what that means then read on as it is very important. A wet brewery is one where you are allowed, maybe even encouraged to drink on the job. Our guide recalled people drinking 15 pints during the working day. They would not be drunk as such because a lot of the alcohol sweat out of them it was such hot and physically demanding work. They used to get tokens that could be exchanged for beer.

A little more brewery porn, this time the top of the conical fermenting vessles of which there is more than 30.

My phone, which had not been charged all weekend was almost dead so I switched it off to conserve battery. I got no more pictures of the tour. I had stupidly packed my camera in a suitcase and left it at the hotel.
The bottling and cask lines were pretty cool. It was not operational being a Sunday so we did not get to see it in action but at the same time we got to walk where no tour ever goes because it was safe to do so. It would have been great to see their £1m robot working though.

After the tour we went back to the cellar bar and enjoyed some wonderful food and beers as well as a talk about beer and ingredients by Derek Prentice (brewery manager).

I will talk about the beer itself another time as again, Fullers gave me beer to bring home so I had some re-packing to do.

In the end I had 28 bottles of beer to get home to Ireland. It turns out though that BMI will not let you check in more than 1 bag, even though you are willing to pay for it so I re-packed yet again at the airport and put all the beer in my new suitcase. It was fairly heavy so I was expecting a hefty weight charge but to my surprise they did not even flinch and I had nothing extra to pay. It looked like the weight was 32kg which is quite heavy especially for a short hop from London to Dublin. Fair play BMI as Ryanair would have eh... buggered me.

Out of the 28 bottles I got 26 home intact. I also lost my Camden Town glass but that's fine, I have plenty of glasses. My Bombardier and St Martin were the ones that lay down their lives for the greater good and are sorely missed. At least Bombardier is available here so not a great loss but I can't say the same for St Martin.

So finally I want to thank all those who put the event together at Zephyr Adventures along with Mark Dredge at Pencil and Spoon for helping them with the organisation. Of course Fullers deserves a round of applause (and got one on the day).

I also want to thank all of the sponsors:
Molson Coors (UK)
Wells and Youngs
Fuller Smith & Turner
Pilsner Urquell
Beer Academy
Society of Independent Brewers
British Beer & Pub Association
Budweiser Budvar
Adnams Southwold
Shepherd Neame
Brains Brewery
Badger Ales

A very special thank you goes to the largest sponsor, Molson Coors who paid for the conference facilities and provided some wonderful meals and beer from their smaller UK breweries.

The only problem with the conference is simply, how the hell are they going to top it next year??? I can't wait to find out. Here is hoping for Burton on Trent which is a brewing Mecca.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference - Day 2 - Part 2 - The Piss up - Bang On

Saturday late afternoon was the end of our time at The Brewery and the conference section of the weekend. The talks were over and it was time to relax, feast, drink and be merry.

Before we could relax though, we had a little bit of a walk ahead of us. What better way to work up a thirst. We emerged from The Brewery to a very sunny London. The whole gang of us, some seventy odd people were on our way to Dirty Dicks for dinner. Of course no guides with umbrellas for us as that would be far too odd on such a sunny day. Instead we had people walking on stilts and dressed in old clothes with baskets of hops.

Like Royalty the hops were thrown along our path and on our heads. OK perhaps it's not rose petals but still... We were treated like royalty all the same.

After a lovely and interesting stroll through London we arrived at Dirty Dicks where we headed downstairs to the private basement. We were greeted by, well Tavern Wenches I suppose you would call them. They held out trays of Bombardier at the bottom of the stairs which is a service I find lacking in most pubs.
I wonder is this standard service at Wells & Youngs pubs?

We were treated to a wonderful dinner and as much beer as we could manage.

There was also a personal video from the General and then we were shown the new Bombardier ad featuring Rik Mayall as the Bombardier. The one on TV recently is a much shorter and family friendly version.

Part of the entertainment was a snail race for charity. Which one I do not recall but it was £1 to enter. I picked number 2 who was about an inch from the finish line for a half hour and it seems he gave up. The prize? The winners went in to a draw for a years supply of beer!!! So close but it was not to be.

At some point during the evening, Dave and Mark got up and started some sort of odd dance...
Actually it was a series of questions where you answered with either hands on head or on hips. In the end it came down to Dave and Mark.

Hands on hips was the correct answer and Dave won a years supply of beer. Lucky sod is a brewer (Hardknott) and has no shortage of beer himself. Well that's not true as he needs to sell all that to make a living.

Later on we had a Q & A with some of the brewers etc from Wells & Youngs which included Paul Wells (head honcho). It was very informative and lots of fun.
All too soon it was time to go. Wells & Youngs gave us some goody bags with beer, T-Shirts and other stuff.

Many thanks to the good folks at Wells & Youngs for a wonderful evening of food and beer. As always I enjoyed the Double Chocolate Stout.
They put up a Flickr page with photos which can be viewed here.

We were provided with taxis to take us to Camden Town Brewery for The night of many beers.

Oooh Shiny

I did not get to actually tour the brewery, there was far too much drinking to do. I might get to rectify that some other time.

Marble from Manchester was there with some fine beers. Interesting stuff and I can talk more about them in a later post.

I was a little excited to see the stand from the Czech tourist board because Kocour was supposed to be there. Alas it was bad. I was given a taste anyway but it was infected too badly to drink.

Our hosts for the evening were also showing their wares. They were solid beers and great people. I look forward to more from them.

Christopher Williams and I had some good chats during the conference events but tonight he was on duty for the family brewery. I am a big fan of many of their beers and he had a great selection available.

And here we come to the most interesting table because I have had and heard of absolutely none of these beers. Alas I was too full to drink much of anything here. The night of many beers had really started at Dirty Dicks. I had some very small samples but I did get plenty of bottles home to try so I can talk more on these later. Italy and Sweden were well represented though.

I would have loved to have some Irish beers over to be honest. Perhaps next year, especially if it happens in Burton on Trent as rumour suggests because I could drive over and bring plenty of beer. There are a number of Irish micro breweries selling their beer in the UK and the rest of Europe after all. In fact a few are having a good crack at the US market with great success.

The Swedish and Italian table was very busy. Easily because these beers are probably very scarce, if available at all in the UK.
There were of course other breweries present, too many to list and I did not get to try everything. I did start off with some Rogue Ales when I walked in the door. I visited the Rogue Alehouse in San Francisco but only had one beer as I assumed I would make it back but I never did. Thankfully many of their beers are available in bottles here in Ireland.

At kicking out time, those of us who were still around walked to the tube station and headed back to our hotels. I had a rather good sized box of beer requiring both hands to bring back to the hotel. I was already thinking that I have way too much beer to get home....