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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Brewdog Blitz!

If you want to learn about beer, you’d do much worse than to start homebrewing. What better way to understand the ingredients and processes integral to beer, than to get hands-on with them? I’m always reminded of this when I drink beers like Brewdog’s Blitz!. Beers of super-low strength that aim to deliver the same flavour hit as their heavyweight rivals.

Attempting to brew one of my own made me appreciate just how difficult it is. 5 IBUs either side of target and you’ve missed by 25 percent, a final gravity that’s 5 points too low and you’ve screwed up your ABV and dried out your beer. It’s a balancing act where everything sits on a knife edge, the slightest mistake will stand out like a sore thumb and there’s nowhere to hide.

Step up Brewdog Blitz!, a modest 2.8 percenter that’s clearly inspired by recent legislative change to halve duty on beer brewed between 1.2 and 2.8 percent ABV. Described as a West Coast hop bomb, it’s brewed with a grist of only caramalt and is probably best described as a US amber ale.

There’s lots of caramelly, malty, sticky toffee aroma that follows through into the taste. I’m thinking sweets with too much sugar in them, Flumps and candy floss. Sitting atop that is a load of American hops. Not in a traditional citrus and pine West Coast IPA sort of a way though; more a reserved, jammy, tutti frutti ice cream, candied peel sort of a way. The body is thin and watery, but whatever, what were you expecting for 2.8 percent!?

5am Saint Junior.

Consider me a fan. This is the beer that Nanny State should’ve been. Beers of this strength might not deliver the depth of flavour and character of those that are stronger, but what they do offer is a decent alternative for those that want something weak but worthwhile.

I tried Blitz! when the Camden bar opened and I loved it. Here, in the bottle, it’s great too. This should be on at all times in Brewdog bars, I would drink a lot of it and I can see other people doing the same. Top marks.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Letter From An Old Friend

I received a letter from an old friend. It felt like something I should post:

Dear Mark,

I’m hoping you can help me. I’m worried my parents don’t love me anymore.

It started when they sent me away to boarding school at Meantime. Lost in a foreign land of cockney accents and jellied eels, they promised I’d be made here for the export market only, but people are drinking me in the UK and they’re asking questions. They say I’m slowly losing my punk spirit, becoming more Meantime by the day! My noble hop character and biscuity malt base seem to be vanishing, replaced by indifferent aromatics and a cut-green-apple flavour so similar to London Lager that it’s difficult to defend myself.

Things move so quickly at home and Christmas was as busy as ever. The new bar was opened in Camden and everything went to plan. Everything, except my invite to the party. They were all there, the parents, my brothers - Punk IPA and Hardcore, the cousins - Paradox and Tokyo*, even friends of the family - the foreign imports. Not me though, no space for me on the draught lineup. Overlooked again.

I feel like they just want me out of the way. They hide me in an Equity for Punks blanket, my bottle label says nothing about me anymore, nothing about the way I taste or the ingredients that make me, just generic blurb about shares and international importers. Why me!?

So what do you think? Am I overreacting?

I’m just worried. I used to be their pride and joy. I used to be a statement. You could compare me to mass-produced lager and I’d stand head and shoulders above, encapsulating the Brewdog ethic and mission statement in every mouthful. Now I just feel neglected, like I’m no longer part of the family; I don’t feel like I’m the type of beer that Brewdog should be associated with.

77 Lager.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Golden Pints 2011

Well I knew I was indecisive, but this took ages! Here are my Golden Pint winners for 2011.

Best UK Draught Beer
To pack so much flavour into a beer so small; Redemption Trinity really is a triumph. Camden Town managed to change my mind on a whole style with their Gentleman’s Wit. Brewdog took a beer that’d become one dimensional and too bitter, and they turned it into an IPA that rivals anything from the US. The winner however, is a beer that had me coming back time and again, a beer that takes the Nelson Sauvin hop and makes it dance on a pedestal. Thornbridge Kipling.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
I had some cracking bottles of Oakham Citra last year. There’s one brewery synonymous with bottled beer though, and that’s The Kernel. Their Imperial Brown Stout was fantastic, but even better was batch 2 of the Coffee IPA.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell was there at one of the best beer-related nights of 2011 - the European Beer Bloggers Conference. It was there when I finished a magical trip around the brewery cellars in Pilsen, and it was there when I drank one of the most ridiculous-but-delicious pints of the year. Inimitable, beautiful, delicious.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
A runner up and a winner linked by age. I drank Great Divide Wood Aged Double IPA on Christmas day and it forced me to think about the ageing and storage of beer in a completely new way. I drank Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus at the brewery recently and the bottling was so fresh that it felt like I was drinking framboise for the first time all over again. The Cantillon takes it.

Best Overall Beer
Unfiltered, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. Simply put, if you love beer and you’ve only tried the standard version, you owe yourself a trip to Pilsen.

Best Pumpclip or Label
Whenever Johanna Basford works with Brewdog, the result rocks. The bottle label for Sunk Punk (above, from here) was a true work of art. I also think Badger are worth a mention for the overhaul they gave their bottles, and for the way they consistently display flavour profile and food matching information on their labelling.

Best UK Brewery
For picking up where they left off in 2010, The Kernel. For seizing 2011 and making it their own, Magic Rock. For most exciting me about 2012, Camden Town.

Best Overseas Brewery
Mikkeller rarely put a foot wrong, and when you consider the number of variables brought about by brewing in so many borrowed breweries, the opportunity for a cock-up is huge. Testament indeed to the sheer brewing skill and expertise of Mr Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. In truth, however, this is the easiest category to pick a winner for. The Cantillon brewery is one-of-a-kind. I could happily spend every Saturday morning there, watching American tourists recoil at their first taste of lambic and drinking some of the best beer in the entire world.

Pub/Bar of the Year
Moeder Lambic Fontainas has an awesome draft beer lineup and the kind of service that every barman should aspire to. Barcade in Brooklyn is the best beer bar I’ve ever been to. Ever.

Beer Festival of the Year
For its location, beer list, and for the amount of Gadds’ beer involved ... Planet Thanet. The London Brewers Alliance Showcase was great again too.

Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bottle Shop in Canterbury. Customer service to rival Moeder Lambic.

Online Retailer of the Year
For quality of service and product range, it has to be My Brewery Tap.

Best Beer Blog or Website
MrDrinkNeat. Video beer reviews the way (I think) they should be done – informative, well edited and succinct. Pencil & Spoon goes without saying.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and pulled pork at Fette Sau. (To be completely honest though, the bourbon we had was even better).

In 2012 I’d Most Like To ...
Write more outside of the blog, visit the US again, see Paula Radcliffe win the Olympic marathon.