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Saturday 29 March 2014

Changing tastes and developing my palate

Hello World, its been a while. I'm not even going to apologise for my absence but the truth is that I do sometimes fall in and out of love with blogging. My motto is usually if you haven't got anything to say do not bother saying anything, so that's kinda why the blog has been a bit silent lately.

Anyway....... I have got something to say today, so here it goes.

Taste, flavour and aroma have always played a large part in my life. Some people are very visually driven, others like to touch the products they are dealing with, but for me it has always been taste that pleases me the most. This got me thinking recently about how tastes change and how my own have developed over the years. We often think about children and young adults as being picky and driven by sweet flavours. A survey by the University of Copenhagen in 2008 found that it is not quite as simple as that. They concluded by saying that adult palates simply need more stimulation than children's do.

Recently I have also bought two books/kits which tie in with my current fascination with taste and my own palate. Firstly I purchased something which I have had my eye on since my days wandering through the vineyards of the Rhone Valley, Le Nez Du Vin (N.b You can get this product much cheaper by sourcing through the usual tax avoiding website with the name of a South American river, but I wouldn't want to link to them). Le Nez are a series of aroma kits compiled by renowned French wine buff Jean Lenoir. The idea is that you are provided with little glass bottles of liquid which you can use to hone your nose and ability to pick out flavours. Le Nez are currently selling wine, whisky and coffee kits but I would argue that many of the flavour compounds are going to be pretty universal, pineapple in an IPA and in a glass of Gewürztraminer are still pineapple. I am still at the early stages with my aroma kit and haven't got through all the guides that come with it but already I find it easier to pick out certain flavours I couldn't get a grasp on before by using the kit.

© Editions Jean Lenoir

Secondly I spied a book in a local book shop by Niki Segnit called The Flavour Thesaurus ™ (a phrase which she has rather craftily trademarked). Whilst veering away from beery themes slightly more than Le Nez does, she explores flavour combinations in food, giving a subjective view of what works and why and what to avoid and why. It is also packed full of recipes which contain ingredients people, certainly I, would never have combined before. I'm making a West African Mafé (Maafe) on Tuesday, I'll post on Twitter how it goes. 

Both of these books made me remember how excited I get by flavour and aroma. They also make me realise how varied but at the same time narrow my palate can sometimes be. I'm happy with a nice rich malty beer with loads of chocolate, dates and plum and I am also happy with a glass of Campari and Soda (I know, I know). My palate has definitely changed over the years, just four or five years ago the idea of drinking a full bodied red wine over 14% would have had me screaming for a bottle of IPA, whereas now my palate has tuned into the flavours that the big boozy wine gives. It's proof that you really can train a palate if you try hard enough.

And that my friends is the reason we should never give up when we hear that dreaded phrase......

'I just don't like beer' 

They just haven't trained their palate to appreciate good beer yet!

I won't leave it so long before the next post, promise!!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale

The lovely people at Shepherd Neame sent me a bottle of their 7% Christmas Ale to review- here is what I thought........

Looking nice in a Spiegelau glass

I have to be honest from the start, I shouldn't like this beer. I am not a huge fan of the stereotypical Christmas flavours and I despise Christmas pudding. I suppose I was expecting to be a bit Paul Daniels on this one- I thought I would like it, not a lot, but I'd like it. 

Paul Daniels after enjoying some Sheps

There was quite a lot going on in this beer. Plums, spice, red wine, all laced through an inviting malty sweet backbone. It is the sort of beer that really suits this time of year and I couldn't see myself with a glass in hand in the middle of the summer. It did remind me of some of the 'Christmas flavours' I usually don't care too much for but it just all worked so well together. Maybe I am growing up!

I would say it is a real pudding or cheese beer. I enjoyed mine with some Taleggio cheese, which is a lovely soft Italian number. The sweetness of the beer cut through the creaminess of the cheese, although the spice may have overpowered some of the more subtle flavours Taleggio usually shows.

All in all, this is a great example of a style that I do not usually care for, but Shepherd Neame have somehow pulled it off. You can get some in good bottle shops or on the Sheps website .

Cheers and Beers!

P.s I was not paid for this post, although Shepherd Neame were kind enough to send me the beer for review. The above review is an honest interpretation of my thoughts on the beer and has not been influenced in any way by the brewery or anyone else. 

Tuesday 13 August 2013

European Beer Bloggers Conference - A month on

It has been nearly a month since Edinburgh glistened in the sun for the European Beer Bloggers Conference. I haven't written since then because I wanted to let the allure of the conference wear off a little before I talked about how great it all was (and I have been pretty busy).

I always worry slightly that blogging immediately after these events, or even during them, can lead to long rambling posts about how great everything was; usually without thinking about who the intended audience is. After all it would be silly of me to post something littered with references which only people who were there would get. So I have decided to pick the highlights from my perspective, both beer and events.

 The greatest event for me at this years conference was the keynote speech by Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery. Mr Oliver, who gained some notoriety for his boating hat during the weekend, delivered an inspiring but yet honest and at some points blunt speech about his involvement in craft beer. The general gist is that we are all in this together, craft beer is open to interpretation and we should stop fighting about creating a definition, and that he has had an amazing career from music to beer. I had the pleasure of chatting to Garrett during the Pilsner Urquell dinner at Edinburgh City Council Chambers and it was a pleasure to speak to someone so inspiring and totally down to earth about how great beer is.

That same night we were taken to the new Stewart Brewery at Loanhead. It was great to see another brewery expansion in the flesh (or stainless) and meet the Natural Selection Brewing team too. The hospitality that all from Stewart's showed us was great and the beer was all in great condition. Hat's off to a brewery which mainly focusses on the Edinburgh cask market for letting all of us reprobates into the new facility to have a nose around. Was great to taste a lot of the newer keg offerings too.

There were many sessions at the conference which I have not forgotten about but find they help me with my writing more than they will be of interest to you, the reader. The talks on Scottish brewing history, barrel ageing and becoming a beer sommelier have influenced some ideas for future blog posts; whilst Susana Forbes gave some great tips which will influence my writing in the future.

 For me the conference ended with the Williams Brothers and Fyne dinner, which was very good indeed (minus the cranachan, which could have given a small horse a heart attack). Some lucky bloggers went to Traquair the next day, but I don't think I could have faced the journey.

The beer highlights for me were : Toccalmatto Russian Imperial Stout (shared with Chris and Baron) , Williams/Stillwater Stravaigin, Birra Toccalmatto Surfing Hop and Ilkley Siberia Speyside Edition

 All in all I would like to thank all those who made the conference happen, including the sponsors, venues and organisers. Thanks also to all those bloggers who made sure I had a great time and never stopped laughing all weekend. The conference has provided me with plenty of inspiration for the months ahead and hopefully now that my University experience is finally over I will have the time to post much more often.

 For those looking for more regular updates make sure to follow me on Twitter!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Live Beer Blogging #EBBC13

Here is my live post from the European Beer Bloggers Conference . This is written live so excuse any spelling errors etc.

This is like speed dating for breweries. 5 minutes per brewery and the chance for them to impress bloggers.

Firts up is Birra Toccalmatto Surfing Hop-Double American IPA at 8.5%

Looks chestnut brown. Not typical of style but thats due to Belgian malt used.
Tastes of peaches and apricots. Resinous from Amarillo and warrior hop.
Will take a lot to beat

2, Inveralmond Blackfriar Scotch ale at 7.0%

Looks exactly like scotch ale should. Toffee coloured.
Esters dominate with toffee and fruits. Not too rich. Could drink a lot of this. Im very impressed by this.

3.Harviestoun 30th anniversary Ola Dubh single barrel 11, 3%

Dark as night.
Lots of wine, sherry and cherry with some chocolate.  Im told this is a once of. I love this beer , would be great as a nightcap.

4.Shepherd Neame Brilliant Ale 5.6%

Lovely golden colour and nice to see it in brown glass.
Refreshing session beer. Its a tad boring after a double IPA and a whisky cask beer. I can see this as a gateway beer for non ale drinkers.  Overall very drinkable.

5.West St Mungos 4.9%

Im very familiar with this beer.
Looks like typical Helles and tastes like a good example of this. Herbal and great lager. Tasty stuff.

6.Ilkley The Mayan 6.5%

Lovely dark chocolate colour.
Smells like terrys chocolate orange or bournville. Like liquid chocolate with a chilli kick and a touch of orange peel. Lovely sweetness but with balance. I love it!

7.Badgers Roaming Roy Dog 7.5%

Dark chestnut and a bit hazy due to non pasturisation and filtration.
Boozy on nose with loads of berries.
Massive sherry and berries with Bramling X underpinnings.  Spicy finish and very warming

8. Traquair Jacobite Ale 8%

Lovely colour  light chestnut.
So complex, touch of coriander and very modular. Vineous and sorry to state again, very complex  I love this stuff. Traquair are my favourite Scottish brewery

9. Innis and Gunn Oloroso Cask 7.4%

Looks dark golden like regular Innis and Gunn.
I can only smell vanilla, honey and clove.
Sherry and cream . Oak is too dominant.

Thanks for reading

Thursday 11 July 2013

Adnams Native Britten and more

A collaborative vlog with Phil from

Sunday 7 July 2013

It's time to cut tax for "On Sales"

It's time for me to get a little political about beer. They always say that there are several things you should not talk about when booze is in the mix; religion and politics being two, but it's time to break that rule and face up to the damaging tax regime facing our publicans and restauranteers.

In the UK pubs and bars have an annual turnover of £21 billion, that's quite a lot. It would be fair to say that they contribute a great deal to the economy. However, they are still closing at a record rate according to consumer groups such as CAMRA. The current and previous UK governments seem to have done very little to protect the precious British hospitality industry that we all know, love and use. Of course you could mention the Beer Duty Escalator scrapped by Mr Osbourne this year but I would argue that is too little, too late.
Picture the scene: large, corporate, clinical boxes- able to retail food at below market value in order to obtain a steady footfall of punters to sell more things to. On the other hand we have small and medium sized businesses who are seeing their peers closing doors all around and who have to try every day to raise standards and come up with new ideas to keep their customers coming back time and time again- no stack 'em high deals here! Which business do you think benefits from 0% VAT on the majority of products? The large, corporate, clinical boxes.... 'em I mean supermarkets.

 Its time to reduce VAT for pubs and restaurants. Customers buying food in pubs are forced to pay 20% VAT compared with 0% VAT for supermarkets, giving supermarkets a further advantage over and above the many they already have. I understand that people can't and do not want to eat out every night but when an estimated 600,000 jobs could be created with a VAT drop to 5% it is important that we make our politicians listen (ALMR, 2013). Last year, the pub and bar industry created 1 in every 8 new jobs created, we can't turn our noses up to that.

 France have tried it, and it meant a creation of 225,000 jobs in the first year alone. Mr Osbourne should sit up and take note. It is a campaign that the Scottish Government are already looking in to but we need action for the sake of our pubs and restaurants. The ALMR, Morning Advertiser and Jacques Borel Vat Club campaign are spearheading this campaign. Brains, Shepherd Neame, Fullers, Cains and JD Wetherspoon are just some of the names supporting this important campaign.

 Just think what a VAT drop could do for the hospitality industry, for the people who rely on it for their livelihood and for the community spirit that pubs can bring to our villages, towns and cities.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Elixir Minception audio review

Here is a first attempt at an audio review. This is for Elixir Brew Co's Minception 6.2% Fruit Mince Porter. Brewed with smoked malts, Irn-Bru, raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries and citrus zest.


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