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Monday, 28 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas one and all. Hopefully a good time is being had by everyone and New Year is being eagerly looked forward to. This is just a quick entry to say that the blog isn't dead, but there will be a period of inactivity over the Christmas break.

Looking forward to writing more in the New Year and hopefully having some good discussion with anyone following.


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Nanny State

By way of a recap for anyone that missed it, some weeks back Brewdog released a beer called "Nanny State". Think IPA, super hoppy, super bitter and you're not too far off. The only difference being the ABV. Where you might be expecting an alcohol content anywhere up to 6 or 7 percent, this little number only weighs in at 1.1 percent.

Many beer writers, better than I, have written about the reasons behind the production of this beer and the events that lead to its creation. However, what interested me personally, as a home brewer, was a unique chance to a taste a "proper" beer with one of the key components missing. That component, of course, being malt and therefore alcohol. By tasting something like this you can better understand the role each component part plays in a finished beer, meaning you can better adjust that part in future beers you make. Hopefully allowing you to get both a better end result and an end result closer to that which you were aiming for.

Of course, adjusting ingredients from one beer you make to the next will allow you to achieve the same result. The only problems with this being that you aren't brewing to commercial standards, so cant be sure 100% of the impact on taste that your processes are having without you being aware of it. Secondly, beer ingredients aren't cheap, and home brewing a batch of beer from grain to glass takes a significant amount of time. Money for ingredients and six weeks of maturation time is a lot to spend on an experiment, that could end up being poured down the drain.

I was lucky enough to hear that The Rake had a limited amount on hand pull, so I popped in after work to check it out.

As you'd expect, the nose is all hops with no sign of maltiness at all. Despite this, the aroma does go some way to hiding the beer's secret. As soon as you taste however, it's immediately obvious that something's up. It isn't the alcohol void that's the problem, it's the complete lack of body and any sweetness at all. What you get is a thin, insipid, watery drink that finishes with insane levels of hop bitterness. The bitterness of the finish is so much in fact, that you're left not wanting another sip. Imagine putting a tea bag in boiling water and coming back to drink it the next day, that's what this beer is like.

Point proven then, I guess. If you're going to make a super hoppy beer with bucket loads of complex hop flavour, you need the malty sweetness (and consequently the ABV), to balance it all out and make it drinkable.

Whilst I do agree with this and understand the reasoning behind Nanny State, I don't think it's beyond the talents of Brewdog to produce a super hoppy 3.5-4% "IPA", that tastes great and you can easily drink several pints of. Infact, I don't think it's completely beyond my talents as a home brewer, at least to get pretty close.

Watch this space!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Münchner Helles and Brezen

Helles is a beer style from Bavaria Germany. Pale in colour with a malty, crisp, clean flavour, it can be compared to lager and has a typical ABV of 4 to 5 percent.

"Brezen" in German. "Pretzel" in English. Not the small, dehydrated, cracker style pretzels we get in England. These are big with a leathery outside and doughy centre. Studded with sea salt, they're sold by street vendors and in beer houses.

This pairing works because the salty pretzel leaves your mouth dry and thirsty whilst the crisp, clean Helles provides great refreshment. The slight yeastiness in the pretzel echoes the slight yeastiness in the beer and the sour dough compliments the tangy bitterness in the beer's finish.

I really don't understand why these Brezen haven't made the leap over to the UK. Beer drinkers in this country would love them, they really are the prefect bar snack.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Thirty Pence Beer

I'm just back from a holiday in Germany. Munich and Nurnberg to be precise. Germany is the third heaviest drinking country in the world, so naturally there are a few beer related blog topics I've brought back with me.

The first is about a beer I found in a supermarket that cost thirty pence (€0.33 or 29.8p to be exact). It's called Grafenwalder Hefeweiss and has an ABV of 5.5 percent. The bottle I bought weighed in at 0.5L. Thirty pence for, near enough, a pint of beer. This is insane.

So what does it taste like? Well, I assumed it would be terrible. Cheap as chips and in a plastic bottle ... "this will taste flat, dull and synthetic" I thought. Well, not at all. Banana and clove on the nose, sweet and yeasty on the palate. Not bad at all. Not as well rounded as the Erdingers, Paulaners and Hofbraus that I was drinking, but not bad at all.

So there you have it, a beer in a plastic bottle that's cheaper than water and doesn't taste half bad.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Fruit Beer & Big Macs

Last night I was introduced to a whole new type of beer, and by total chance. I've drunk Kriek before, quite a few beers that have very fruity notes, but I've not had a straight up fruit beer. On many occasions I've passed them by on supermarket and beer shop shelves, always with the opinion that they'd be overly sweet and just a bit naff.

With a couple of guys from work, for no real reason, we ordered several Mongozos at a local Belgian beer pub. I'm pleased to say that I was right. They are naff, overly sweet and in your face. There's no real complexity to the flavour, no depth, they don't even taste like beer. Despite this however, they're delicious! What starts with a sweet and fruity nose, begins with a sweet and fruity taste and then ends with a (you guessed it) sweet and fruity finish. The thing is, if you're in the mood for sweet and fruity, they're just so damn tasty. At 3.5 percent and served chilled they're also mightily refreshing.

This reminds me of McDonald's. Take the humble Big Mac. It doesn't try to be craft or artisan, nobody's going to spend time dissecting it and analysing it's flavour profile. But there are certain times when there's nothing I fancy more than a Big Mac and fries. It's beef in bread with a tangy sauce. It's honest and, when you're in that frame of mind, it's delicious. For me there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Fruit beers. The Big Mac of the brewing world. Perfect for those few occasions when you know exactly what you want. Summer evenings that follow roasting hot days, when you want something cold, refreshing, sweet and fruity.

For completeness, the flavours we had were: banana, honey, mango, passion fruit and coconut. Something else that struck when drinking these was the potential appeal for non beer drinkers. My other half hates beer but loves fruit ciders. I'm willing to stake my bottle of Tokyo* that she'll love these ...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Beer Blogger Awards 2009

In response to Mark Dredge's beer awards post at Pencil and Spoon, my picks are:

Best UK Draught Beer: Shepherd Neame Late Red
Best UK Bottled Beer: Brewdog Bashah
Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Best UK Brewery: Brewdog
Pub/Bar of the Year: The Rake
Beer Festival of the Year: Great British Beer Festival
Supermarket of the Year: Tesco
Independent Retailer of the Year: Utobeer
Best Beer Book: Brew your own British real ale - Graham Wheeler
Best Beer Blog: Pencil and spoon
Next Year I’d Most Like To: Attend more beer festivals

Monday, 14 December 2009

Beer Roundup - 14/12

A quick roundup of some of the beers I've had recently. I don't want to write tasting notes as such, so I'll just give a bit of a summary on each beer with some notes on flavours as I go.

Gadds' India Pale Ale. I was expecting a big IPA from this one with a dry body and big English hop flavour. In actual fact, it's quite different to that. The smell is alcohol, yeast, pear and apple fruit and then a distinct butter scotch aroma. The taste is yeasty with big buttery and butterscotch notes, leading to a dry bitter finish. I was impressed but I'd opened this one with a taste for IPA, I think this is closer to a Belgian blonde if anything. This is definitely a beer I want to drink again, if I have this knowing what to expect, I think it'll be truly excellent.

Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale. What a glorious colour this beer is. Flame, copper, red. When I get round to brewing an American IPA, this is the colour I want it to be. The smell has some maltyness to it but is mainly big American hops. Orange and lemon, a really juicy smell that makes you thirsty. Some sweetness up front, quite thin tasting in the middle, quite subtle hopiness towards the end then a dry bitter finish. For me, the taste doesn't quite live up to the smell though, the body is a bit too thin and fizzy and there just isn't quite enough punchy hop. What results is something that reminded me of an orange soluble Aspirin dissolved in water. Tangy, soapy and fizzy, too diluted, too weak, not concentrated enough.

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter. Jet black in colour, like looking at oil, with a medium tan head. The smell is big American hops with a malty, roasty, alcoholic background. The taste is massive, loads of bitter chocolate going into roastiness and a real earthiness. It then all moves on to a citrus zingy finish that fizzes it's way across your tongue. There's a real cleanliness to the finish that means the big flavour doesn't over power, you finish one sip ready for the next. I can see this working with a heavy pudding, something like a Christmas cake where the fruits will be complemented and your palate will be lifted of all that heavy cakeyness. Great beer.

Badger Tanglefoot. I'm finding it really difficult to get interested in English bitters, like this one, at the moment. The colour is a lovely copper with a fluffy white head that actually does stick around for a while. The smell came across as very lager-esque to me, with some extra hop spiciness and sweetness. Taste is okay: crisp, clean and refreshing with some fruitiness as it warmed, but it suffers slightly due to some distinct metallic notes in the finish. To me this beer feels somewhere between a lager and a bitter and I think would appeal to a lot of lager drinkers. This isn't bad, it's just nothing to get excited about.

To be honest, when I had the Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale, I think I was in a bit of an IPA groove and was unfairly comparing it with other big American IPA's subconsciously. When you're in that kind of mood, anything that doesn't have huge hop flavour will always disappoint.

This Blog

I appreciate craft beer and craft brewing. I appreciate the work, knowledge and effort that goes into a craft beer and I find the knowledge and skill surrounding the art to be interesting. An extension of this is that I enjoy learning about and tasting craft beer, refining my palate and applying these things in the beer I make myself.

For these reasons, I think its safe to call me a craft beer enthusiast/fan/geek and I want to use this blog as an outlet for my enthusiasm.

Hopefully I'll achieve that, producing a record of things I come across along the way. A record that I can look back on in times to come. Maybe a few other people will even read it!

Anyway, on to the content. My plan is to write about anything beer related that I come across: good pubs, good beers, bad beers, tastings, general goings on in the world of craft beer. I don't think I'll write too many tasting notes because they tend to be very subjective and, to be honest, quite boring to read. I also really like to brew my own beer, so I'm sure some home brew related stuff will make its way in too.

Let's see how this goes then ... cheers!