Tuesday 20 August 2013

Weekly Beer Diary - Inspired by Pete Brown's "Sociable History of Beer"

As a result of too many "one click buy" incidents on my iPhone's Amazon app, I once again have piles
of used paperback books that I'm never going to read sitting in my flat. "People who bought this book also bought..." sorts of books. The sort of books that when purchased, reinforce Amazon's already terrible opinion of your reading habits. They get bought, they get delivered and they all too often get squeezed into the crevice beside my bed - pristine and unmolested forever. Like Marvel action figures still in their original packaging, you must never touch or open them or they'll become worthless forever.

Books. Still there.
Every once in a while though, when the internet isn't working very well, there's no one to play video games with and nothing on the telly, I'll open one of these depressed and neglected tomes and start to read. And it turns out its easy! This reading stuff. (Look! You're doing some of it right now). Especially when you open a book that is as thoroughly enjoyable from off as Pete Brown's "Man walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer". Within the first chapter or two, the author invites the reader to log everything he drinks (beer wise) for a whole week with the promise that the results will be surprising if nothing else. 

Once upon a time when living in a squalid basement flat in Newcastle with bandmates, ants nests and  up to 30 pet slugs at any one time,  this sort of weekly beer diary would have consisted of Carling x 56 and half a bottle of dry cooking sherry. I'm imagining my tastes have moved on a little bit since but lets find out. Its not like there's a beer festival to write about this week or anything. 

Monday 12th August 2013

1 x Kernel Single Hop Pale Ale (Cascade)
1 x Odell St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale

Both were drank at work in celebration of 4pm and 7pm respectively. Its extremely hard to not drink a beer when you are surrounded by 400 excellent beers. Picked them because Hoppy Pale Ales are my favourites. I guess.

1 x Lindeman's Framboise

This is one of those few beers my girlfriend will happily drink so I always try to have one or two in the fridge if she ever wants one. Nothing else in my flat and these taste just like lovely refreshing sour fizzy Ribena. Definitely not ashamed. 

Monday is one of the few times in the week where I selected a beers without fear of being judged just a little. Weird to think about that. Shall I drink alone more?

Tuesday 13th August 2013

1 x Adventure Brewery East Galaxy Bitter
1 x Adventure Brewery South New Zealand IPA

These two were work. Really. I had to drink them. For test reasons. Because Beer. There were really nice. I went for the hoppy IPA and the Hoppy Bitter because I have no imagination and go straight for things that say "Hops" on the side apparently. 

1 x Goose Island IPA

Finishing work beer at The Prince of Wales, Putney. They have a few decent bottles but sometimes you can't beat a Goose. Unless you're an overly aggressive turkey. Drinking with my girlfriend and her mate so feeling the need to drink something that doesn't make me look too much like a beer snob. Attempt failed though. 

1 x Asahi

 My girlfriend took me out for dinner after to celebrate her new job and our favourite Japanese restaurant sells it. So I drank one. I don't remember being disgusted by it but I can barely remember drinking it either. There was no other beer available. Didn't really give it any thought. Would have definitely forgotten that I'd drank it if I didn't write it down. Mildly unsettling thought.

Wednesday 14th August 2013

1/2 a bottle Adventure Brewery North
1/2 a bottle Adventure Brewery West

Again... these two were work related. I was delivering beer all day around central London, often having to swerve wildly to avoid/run down men in kilts and came back to find the other two samples open. Would have been foolish to turn them down. I needed to try them for work reasons too. They were pretty good by the way. Cool labels. 

3 x St Austell Korev (Pints)
1 x Tripel Karmeliet
1 x Flying Dog Snake Dog
Maybe an extra pint of Korev at the end. 

Got pretty silly this evening with a couple of mates. I suggested a trip to The Windsor Castle - a cracking little pub in Notting Hill. A combination of me suggesting this and my friend bestowing upon me the role of "beer expert" for the evening I felt compelled to only drink nice stuff so as not to shatter the illusion that I really don't know nearly enough about beer to be called an expert. Having said that - they made me taste the Snake Dog blind and I guessed what it was which seemed impressive at the time. 

I ate a battered sausage after this with chips and went home. Definitely a drunk.

Thursday 15th August 2013

Had a day off beer and went to York to see my parents.

By which I mean I drank two bottles of Kronenbourg 1664 just before bed. They don't count right? I had accidentally taken a train to York without packing sufficient beer supplies from The Beer Boutique. And after a day spent home brewing with my old man, I needed a beer. There's nothing wrong with that. Stop looking at me. I could have chosen Carling or Strongbow which were also both in the fridge. I think I picked 1664 because its the least terrible tasting and my parents would think there was something wrong if they saw me drinking Carling. 

Friday 16th August 2013

Another day off sort of. Half a pint of Old Golden Hen in the Skyrack pub in Leeds before watching Leeds Rhinos lose to Hull. Went to the bar to buy a two pint cup of Carlsberg for during the game but couldn't face it bought a king size Twix instead. Felt like a twatty beer snob for about twenty minutes after. Can't bear to drink bad pints in front of people I don't even know. Plus it tastes awful and seeing them all in the pouring rack just made it look unappetising. 

Managed to sneak a very cheeky half of Magic Rock High Wire in at The York Tap while waiting for Firuze to arrive at York station. It was 11pm at night. What have I become? Really good boozer though.

Saturday 17th August 2013

Ahh....treat day. Nice. You can do what ever you like on treat day. No reasons needed.

Half a pint of Thornbridge Chiron. 
A bottle of Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA - Both in Pivni. Awesome place in York.

A pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord. 
Half a pint of Red Squirrel Jack Black IPA
Half a pint of Citra Pale Ale by someone else. Not Oakham
Half a pint of Blueberry Ale that tasted like it MIGHT have once been in contact with a half a blueberry. 
A pint of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin. 

A plate of Brisket with Salad followed by a massive bloody steak. "Double Beef" if you will. 

Banoffee Pie (Would have gone great with a Flying Dog Raging Bitch but we're in a steak house so no can do.)

Sunday 18th August 2013

Oh no I couldn't possible drink a beer. Absolutely not. 

Oh OK since we're in York station again I'll have a pint of Magic Rock Carnival and half a Sierra Nevada Torpedo. But that's all. Nice relaxing pre-train journey beers. 

In summary:

I drink way more than I thought I did. For far stupider reasons. This week I'm drinking nothing until my birthday on Saturday at The Sloaney Pony. And when I get there I'm gonna drink whatever the hell I like.

Friday 9 August 2013

Tasting Evening @ The Lazy Fox, Fulham. *Burp.

Nearly three days on from visiting The Lazy Fox and I'm still a little full. Oh the shame. The lovely deep fried shame. 

To help showcase their recent transformation into fully fledged craft beer haven, The Lazy Fox (incidentally a new client of The Beer Boutique's) held a tasting evening on wednesday night with a selection of its ample beer and food offering. Who could say no to that?

Best. Vending Machine. Ever 
The Lazy Fox is situated only five minutes walk from Fulham Broadway near a charming pedestrianised zone full of coffee houses, wine shops and restaurants. I'd actually had the opportunity to go there for dinner a few moths ago to review it for a nightlife app but I ended up not bothering. Back then it was a fairly standard place with the usual macro brewed lager on tap. The only difference? You could pour your own from the table and pay as you go. A novel idea. But without good beer, whats the point? 

Well thanks largely to new management, there's now pretty much exclusively awesome beer. The first thing you notice on entry is the "Beer Wall" - an electronic self service area that will one day potentially bankrupt me. I opted to try Tony Rebel Brew Co's Aussie Pale Ale "Billabong"on cask and found it to be absolutely singing as I sipped it outside in the sunshine and silently wished I lived in Fulham. 

Later on in the dining room, a group comprising various brewers, beer lovers and bloggy chancers (me) were treated to samples of what felt like every beer in the house and seemingly never ending platters of pub grub. Beginning with The Kernel's Motueka Pale Ale, we rattled through a selection of great beers including more Tiny Rebel, Lindeman's Pecheresse (palate-cleansing peach lambic), Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout (paired with deep fried mars bar and salted caramel ice cream), Brugse Zot, Windsor and Eton Guardsman, Fordham's Ramshead and more Stout from Titanic.  

All the beers were coupled with miniature versions of the menu ranging from mini pork chops and mash with Red Devon Cider gravy, to awesome sliders, mac'n'cheese balls (these were especially good) and onion bhajis to name a few. Seemingly wanting to make double sure no one left hungry, a second helping of each was brought around as yet more beer samples were being passed around. Did I mention Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest and Longhammer IPA? There was really way too much to drink and eat all at once. But somehow I managed. 

So two days on though and I'm still feeling full. Of beer but also of the damn good grub. I'm still wishing The Lazy Fox was my local but that's not gonna stop me visiting. As far as I'm concerned its every bit as much a destination pub as any other. 

If beer is your thing - get yourself along. Along with the beer wall and other kegs there's a wide selection of bottles and three on cask. And along with all the amazing food, if you ask them nicely they'll deep fry any chocolate bar of your choice. Now that's commitment. 

The Lazy Fox, 18 Farm Lane, Fulham SW61PP 

Monday 29 July 2013

Cornish Crown Brewery

My job is probably one of the best on the world. Not only do I get to drink from a constantly expanding range of around 400 craft beers from around the world, on occasion people just walk in and give me free beer in the hope that we’ll stock.

While there’s never any guarantees on that front, the upside of course is that I can always write about them here. So to that end, today I’m reviewing Mr Josh Dunkley’s, Cornish Crown brewery. Or more precisely – His “Causeway” session bitter and a “Strong” Pale Ale. Though as we’ll see its really not that strong.

Causeway Bitter 4.1% 

Its a brown bitter. The type my Dad would go for in a pub. There's nothing wrong with keeping it traditional every now and then is there?


Pours a clear amber colour with virtually zero head that diminishes faster than I can say "is that it?". The labels looks nice enough although its a good job they are plain white and not red or it would look like Royal Mail branded beer. 


The hops come through nicely with the an almost spicy wild garlic like hum that I can only assume comes from the summit. Works very well with the bready notes that come through from the malt. There's also a light and familiar floral note. 


Quite sharp on the palate and very full bodied caramel, toffee like flavours. From the hops we get a tiny more of that vegetal spiciness from the summit but not a great deal. It's meant to the be the session beer of the range so we're not after massive hoppy mind-blowing effects. Still there's a pleasant citrus grapefruit-like flavour that hits the spot. All in all its actually very good. 

Strong Pale Ale 4.7% 

Its a traditional pale ale. Although I'd wouldn't call it strong exactly. I'd go with SS Pale Ale but that sounds a little like Hitler Beer so probably best I wasn't involved in the naming process. 


Hazy orange/amber with lots of sediment. Did I store this one upright? Nope. Virtually zero head once again and what there is fades away quickly. 


More of those lightly spicy vegetal hops with light citrus thrown in as well. Faintly sweet malt aroma but its the hops that are dominant on the nose. Not exactly mind blowing but again its worthwhile remembering we're on the traditional end of things. 


Caramel, biscuit and a lot more of those citrus hoppy notes mix together pleasantly enough. There's some oniony aspects too which I'm enjoying along with the tomato salsa I'm eating. Not at all bad. 


Still a very young brewery and they are playing it very safe to start with with some fairly standard issue beers. Clearly its aimed not at the 18-25 market and it should appeal to the more beardy, beer lovers out there but I can't help thinking at those East London Brewing beers I reviewed this month. Still quaffable, easy-drinking session ales but with modern twists added that help set them apart. Cornish Crown don't quite manage anything that lofty but its good quality, well made session beer that your Dad will like all the same. 

Monday 15 July 2013

East London Brewing Company - Pale Ale and Orchid.

When Brad at ilovefreebeer asked me to review this brewery my response was: "Say who now?" I'd never so much as heard of East London Brewing Co before last week - much less tried their beers. Which I'm actually quite pleased about going into this review. Nice and impartial. Like Paxman.

East London brewing have been brewing commercially since December 2012 and comprise a husband and wife team of Stuart Lascelles and Claire Ashbridge-Thomlinson. This is literally all I know and I got it from stalking them on twitter. I do that to people.


Its a Pale Ale. A friend of mine recently drank it in her hairdressers. Maybe I should get my haircut*

Branding wise I think they've played a blinder with this range. Its exactly the style of label I want to pick up and coo over and would easily fit into the range at The Beer Boutique. Modern looking but also classic. Best of both worlds. On pouring: a promising cloudy orange with an energetic but sparse head that doesn't hang around for long. 


The hops are incredibly floral, the malts are subdued. Lasting impression is certainly the perfumed aspect with hints of very light citrus and a generous hit of Elderflower. 


A biscuit malt with hints of buttery syrup remind me faintly of cheesecake while the hops that were floral in the aroma become more citric and fruity. Orange and lime bitters, rosewater and that malty background all combine to make marmalade on toast. I hate marmalade on toast but I'd happily wake up to this every morning. The floral hops come back into play in a textbook long bitter finish that you'd want in any pale ale be it 4% or 6%. Can't wait for my next sip. 


Its a Mild. Brewed with vanilla. From Madagascan orchids. Madagascar is far away. 


Nearly black with lighter hues of brown and red thrown in. A rocky and fast diminishing beige head. This glass is absolutely awful.


Certainly getting the vanilla! Its gentle though with a slight spice and huge chocolatey base from the malt. Very promising. 


Chocolate with hints of coffee and more of that vanilla. In short pretty much everything you'd want. A little more viscous than I was expecting for 3.6% and certainly much more flavour than I'd bargained for. The finish is long, creamy and brings back more vanilla with hints of lactose and very little bitterness. All sweet and all good!

The Verdict

Awesome stuff. The Pale Ale does exactly what the branding does - combines all the best of the old and the new. Floral, aromatic hoppiness and biscuity malts but in perfect balance - for my palate at least. Not trying to out bitter anyone. There's a similar story with the lower ABV Mild. There's everything you want in a Mild (chocolate, coffee, roasted flavours) but with that great twist of vanilla to give it that extra something. Super nice beer and looking forward to drinking it at Urban Sessions. Or the hairdressers. Whichever I manage to get to first.

*Beer aside. I probably should. 

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Sainsbury's "Taste The Difference" Pale Ales - reviewed

A few years ago, when I was just getting into craft beer and living in Newcastle I had all kinds of great beer right on my doorstep. Big Lamp Brewery's Prince Bishop, Tyne Bank's Southern Star and Brew Star's (as it used to be known) Anarchy Lager to name a few.

Despite this, I'd still make regular trips to Tesco at 1am to bag a few beers on the cheap. Punk IPA was a favourite but one I really loved was Tesco finest Double IPA. I hadn't twigged on to the Brewdog Hardcore Double IPA connection at this point - not that I cared who brewed it especially. It was a great Beer, at a good price and free of condescending marketing schtick on the label ("condescending" of course means: to talk down to someone). It remains a favourite.

Fast forward four years and I'm walking though the Putney branch of Sainsbury and wondering what to drink when I thought I'd gamble on a couple of "Taste the Difference" beers - brewed for Jamie's favouritist supermaket by Genesse Brewing Company in Rochester New York - hoping optimistically that they'd be along the same lines as Tesco's little hidden Gem.

Sainsbury's American Pale Ale 355ml 5.3% 

Looks: A fairly dirty orange colour. That's not a bad thing. Head is kinda rocky but lasts all the way down to the bottom.
Smells: ....of nothing in particular. The commercial description tells us to look out for citrus hops but I'm not really getting any to speak of. Light pine aroma but mostly malt-led. Not a great start. 
Tastes: Lots of lager notes coming though and a sort of bitter caramel flavour. There's a lazy hoppy bitterness in the finish - again not a strong one - so we can just about call it a Pale Ale. Its very malty and the lager notes really dominate. Not what I was hoping for from an APA but earlier I had drank Beavertown's excellent Gamma Ray so maybe I'm setting the bar a little high.  
Pairings: BBQ fodder, Footage of people falling over, Nachos. 

Marks out of Beer: Not unpleasant to drink but very forgettable. Not nearly enough flavour to be mad at but what is there isn't too bad. Seems like it doesn't really know what it wants to be - in the middle of a Lager and Pale Ale so as to appeal to anyone. Meh. I'll give it 4.5/10.

Sainsbury's Tap Room IPA 355ml 6.3%

Looks: A nice deep Amber. Head is decent and much creamier than the APA. 
Smells: There is a slight citrus hit and some maltiness but not nearly enough of either. I want tropical fruits and hoppy resin. Doing a grumpy face now. 
Tastes: One dimensionally hoppy. There's a blend of three hops in there apparently so really we should be getting more than one but at least its punchy enough and pleasantly floral. The bitterness becomes more pronounced as it heats up in the sunshine too and there's also a slightly spicy characteristic. Not at all bad actually. Enjoyable. 
Pairings: The hops are enough for something spicy like Indian or Fajitas. Would be decent with a good burger though too. 

Marks out of Beer: The aroma is disappointing. I opened a bottle of Punk IPA afterwards and as soon as the top came off I was reminded what a good IPA has in the aroma before I'd even poured any. A definite improvement on the APA and actually not at all bad once you start drinking. 6.5/10

Thursday 4 July 2013

Harviestoun / Gourmet Burger Kitchen Beer and Burger Afternoon

Welcome to my beer blog. Its new and very very white but don't worry I'm sure it will soon accumulate plenty of weird, dark and inexplicable stains. I'm still finding the tags on most things so bear with me till I can make it look brilliant. Its basically a 4-4-2 beer blog written by a guy who tastes, buys, sells and lives beer to earn his (liquid) bread.

This afternoon I managed to wangle an invite to a beer and burger event brought to fruition by the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and an excellent British (Okay, Scottish but lets make the most of it) brewer Harviestoun. In celebration of "Bitter and Twisted" - Harviestoun's flagship golden ale - being launched into GBK's nationwide, a bunch of lucky punters got to go along to the N1 Centre and fill their faces with fistfuls of meat and beer.


I was expecting good things. Having tried Old Engine Oil, Ola Dubh 12, 16 and 18 and The Beer Boutique favourite lager, Schiehallion, I know that Harviestoun are bloody good brewers. Bitter and Twisted isn't the most exciting of beers but it definitely didn't disappoint. Drinks more like a lager than a Golden Ale. The first bottle I was served was freezer cold which pretty much negated any flavour the beer might have had. Second bottle was much better though....

Looks: Golden
Smells: Lemon, Light toast and Light Marshmallow
Tastes: Dry, Bitter and slightly sweet with a lemony finish.
Mouthfeel: Fairly pronounced carbonation in the bottle, would be interested to try the cask. Sets off the lemony noted nicely though. Average duration.


....were actually sliders. Which was actually brilliant as it meant we got to try different varieties of burger alongside the beer and weigh up which combos worked best. An exact science you see. We tried the Classic, A Wild Boar, A Buffalo and another Classic at the end. I loved the Wild Boar burger but don't think it really works particularly well with the beer - ditto the Buffalo. WIld Boar has a very bold flavour and the beer just didn't quite stand up to it. Hopefully GBK will consider taking on more from the Harviestoun range to match up to some of the more robust flavours. Bitter and Twisted does just about stand up to most of the beef burgers on the menu though I suspect it was chosen for its appeal to a wider audience than the like of Old Engine Oil which pairs fantastically with Beef and would provide a nice alternative to the classic Burger/Pale Ale combo. 

Overall though, it was a tasty afternoon and kudos to Harviestoun and GBK for giving us another choice in craft beer in a high street chain. And of course, thanks to Harviestoun for the invite :-)