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Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year (well almost....)

Tonight there shall be lots of craft beer drunk all around the world to celebrate the end of 2010 and the start of 2011. I shall be honest, 2010 hasn't been the best year for me as it has seen quite a lot of family illness and almost every travel plan I had planned this year fell through (Twissup, BrewDog Bar opening etc) Nevertheless lots of great things happened this year. I got the chance to work at BrewDog which was great and gave me a much better understanding of how hard the whole process actually is (brewing and selling) I have tried such a fantastic range of beer this year including some from 3 Floyds, Stone, Bierra Del Borgo, Moor, Marble, Thornbridge, Nøgne Ø and Mikkeller to name just a few. I realised I actually like Lager (thanks to WEST in Glasgow). I finally got to visit The Rake in London. Lots of other things happened too but I was probably too drunk to notice.

Tonight will be totally the opposite for me though. So spare a thought for those of us who won't have access to craft beer tonight! I am working as I write this (well not really, its a scheduled post that I wrote days ago) Every New Years eve my DJ and singing skills help me to earn a few bob but it does mean that I will probably be drinking Guinness tonight or maybe wine but I will almost certainly be raising a glass of whisky to the blogging community as 2011 comes in. Although I haven't been that active with posting this year, I have been keeping up to date with all the regulars that I read.

So all the best for 2011 and have a safe night wherever you all are.

Have a craft beer for me eh?

Michael

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Stirling University Craft Beer Society; An Update

You may all remember a while back that I floated the idea that I was thinking of starting a Craft Beer society at Stirling University. Although there was some controversy at the time about how much Craft Beer actually meant to people in the UK we seem to have done pretty well so far and I thought I should let you all know how we are doing in the few months we have officially existed.

We started well. Without any official members apart from a good friend and I we already secured some sponsorship from the very kind Richard Burhouse at www.myBreweryTap.com. He agreed to send us the 52wk Beer Club boxes so that we could be guaranteed a good selection of beer for our tasting events. This has been a lifesaver as although we have several great breweries within 30 miles (TSA, Harviestoun, Williams Bros, Tryst and WEST) it is still great to have some choices from all over the UK for our members to taste. Thanks again to Richard.

So then came Freshers week. We had a fantastic response and quickly became one of the largest societies in the University. This was amazing since we were a new start up. I couldn't quite get my head around the fact that a University with no Craft Beer representation previous had gone on to create a great group of people. The most important thing about our group is how diverse we are. We have hop heads like me, some people who only like dark beers, some who are new to the craft beer game, some who are CAMRA lovers, some who are not. What brings us together though is a love of well made beer; whatever colour, strength or style it may be.

We have achieved a lot in a few months and we have a firm plan of action for the next few. I took the place of El Presidente in the first few months although I knew all along that this was temporary as I am moving back to France in January 2011. We have it up and running though and what a great team we have. 2011 will see us brew our own beer, take over a pub for the night ( a la Oz and Hugh) and visit even more great breweries than we did in 2010. Not forgetting that I will be back in September 2011 to take the helm and hopefully get some great new people excited about the mini revolution that we have started.

Don't get me wrong its been hard. We have battled against a lot of red tape about what we are and what we are not allowed to do. We haven't had everyone on board and some people have tried to make it hard for us. We have also been accused of being 'nothing more than a BrewDog sales club' due to the fact that I used to work for them and gave them some publicity at our sign up table (along with many other UK and world breweries) Surely that's like claiming the UK government is propping up the News of the World because the head of communications used to work there?!?

Through the bad times and the good we have come out on top. We have helped to creat a strong group of craft beer lovers who are already managing to increase the profile of good quality beer in the local area. I am pleased and proud that we managed it. Thanks for reading and expect more posts than there have been lately. Ive been lazy; Sorry!

Michael

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

My favourite hop is ..........

For a long time now I have been trying to find that one hop that I consider my favourite. I think I have now found it. Don't me wrong its taken lots of hard work (drinking beer, brewing beer and smelling hops mainly) but I think I'm finally there.

These are some pellets of my favourite hop!
Can you guess what it is yet?

I shall give you a clue. Its a relatively new hop only being first sold in 2000 and it is registered which means it is controlled by one producer. BrewDog use it in 5am Saint (which was where I first got to brew with it), DogFish Head use it in 60 Minute IPA (So I'm told) and The Kernel Brewery make an IPA with it.

It delivers pine-like qualities and gives a wonderful floral and tropical bitterness. It is simply wonderful and I used to love measuring this hop when I was at BrewDog because of the lingering smell it left. 

Got it yet?

Its Simcoe! 

This may seem like a pointless post but I needed to tell the world how much I love this underrated hop (with the hope that it may encourage some people to give me some tips on beers with a huge Simcoe hit, any ideas?)

  Copyright www.real-ale-reviews.com, I hope you don't mind!

Raising the Bar

For the past week or so I have started watching a BBC show. It was a farce from the beginning, it involved lots of misunderstandings, someone who wasn't really sure what was going on and quite a lot of booze. You would be forgiven for thinking I was talking about the 1980's comedy 'Allo 'Allo but just like that the BBC have cracked the mix of farce and comedy once again with Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar. The pairing of Oz Clarke and Hugh Dennis is much more fluid this year and seems much more professional than last years Oz and Hugh Drink to Christmas.

                                                               Copyright 2010 BBC

Don't get me wrong it certainly doesn't live up to the comedy pairing of Oz Clarke and James May in their wine series or in their tour of Britain and it isn't nearly as good as some American examples of shows in this genre (see Three Sheets and Brew Masters if you haven't seen them). To be honest though we have never really done unpretentious booze focused shows in this country full stop and we have a lot to learn from the aforementioned shows.

As far as UK shows go though Oz and Hughs' latest offering has been entertaining whilst still remaining pretty easy for viewers to engage with. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see a program of the same type which really went into the finer details and explained a bit more about the beer,spirit and wine making process in finer detail but the fact is that the Beeb need to ensure that programing is accessible. There would be no point in making the exact show all of us bloggers wanted to see as there would probably only be around 200 viewers per episode- all of them us!

So I say well done to Oz Clarke on another great series, even if Hugh Dennis has been a touch annoying. I know that some people object to a 'lush' such as Dennis being paid by the license fee payers to go around the country getting trollyed, but honestly if he wasn't there just think what Mr Clarke would get up to on his own. Surely it would cause more uproar from the licence payers!

Please BBC......bring back James May for another wine series!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Trashy Blonde New York Dolls

Well thats it........my days as a punk are over. I now go back to drinking beer and listening to Morrissey. I had to go out in style though.....something very 'Punk'.

After getting a new venue on the BrewDog bandwagon- The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen; I noticed that they had a gig from one of the only Punk bands I actually like. The New York Dolls

Since it marked the end of my time with BrewDog, I had to go. David Johanson rocked, as did the rest of the band too. Nevertheless there was only one star of the show, Trashy Blonde. Its been ages since I had it on handpull. I may have been baking within an inch of my life inside a hot room with low ceilings. I may have been served my pint in a plastic pint cup. I may have been getting impatient because being rock and roll The Dolls were keeping Aberdeen waiting. That all didnt change the fact that my pint was stunning.

Not many beers are nice warm. Very few are drinkable from a plastic cup. Trashy Blonde still held its own though and it made me happy to have worked for such a great team of people. I have never seen so many BrewDog bottles and pints of Trashy in one place in my life before but it made me smile a little to know that I made sure it was all available to enjoy that night.

I will be posting a full round up of my time as a Punk before too long but in the meantime I have my life to pack up into boxes (yet again) and a BrewDog BBQ to attend.

Slàinte

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Thornbridge Je t'aime

The time finally came- the night when I had nothing to be up for the next day nor any other beery flavours already tainting my pallate. It was Thornbridge night! Well I say Thornbridge night, more like me drinking three of the beers back to back.

Jaipur (which I know and love), Halcyon 2009 green hop (a new one to me) and Saint Petersburg (one I have heard lots about), were all on the menu.

I started with Jaipur and I dont need to say much more than it was brilliant, as always. I have to admit though that I had kept this bottle maybe a little longer than I should have and the hops were noticably restrained but when you live in the middle of a beer shop desert you sometimes have to stockpile. Although a slight faded hop profile it was still noticably the Jaipur we all know and love. Its punchy, a touch resiny, herby and its generally a party in my mouth. Jaipur is 5.9% and is appearing in wonderful little places all over the UK. I never know when I am going to walk into a good cask pub and find it and thats one of the reasons I like it.

Now it gets a bit more serious- Halcyon. At 7.7% its immediately noticable that it is a bigger beer and unlike Jaipur, not one I could drink all night. Thornbridge had some issues with this green hop batch of Halcyon which basically resulted in the yeast not compacting correctly and combining that with the green hop party it was all a little cloudy. I love it though and I honestly dont care and in fact if I am going to have something different and quirky like a green hop beer I almost expect it to look a bit different. Note to Kelly @ Thornbridge- Dont worry if the 2010 batch doesnt come out clear, I will willingly take delivery of the whole batch! Halcyon 2009 is a truly epic beer and maybe one of the best I have had this year so far. Not sure how much is left now so if you come across it- grab and take (and by 'take' I mean pay for like a responsible person).

Lastly I had Saint Petersburg- a 7.7% Imperial Russian Stout (no not stoat). It was like a coffee with foam on top (ed- surely a latte?). Dark and inviting, just the thing for the miserable night I had it on. It was herby and spicy, lots of chocolate and coffee and a little chicory. My only gripe was that I was getting quite a few metalic notes of this bottle (something which a friend also found with his). It wasnt an unpleasant metalic taste but not one I actively look for. I will try this again to see if I find it the same in future. Saint Petersburg was still a cracking beer though and has not reduced my opinion of the mighty Thornbridge at all.

I had a great night tasting these beers and I must say thanks to MyBreweryTap for the latter two bottles.


Only two weeks left with BrewDog and still loving it. Expect the blog to be back to full posting capacity when I have more free time!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

My big fat BrewDog tasting night

Ok so its not quite as catchy as My Big Fat Greek Wedding but you get the idea. It started off as a small affair. A few guys round to the house to open the bottle I have been keeping since I bought it back in Feb.

Love it or hate it. I couldnt give a damn
Sink the Bismarck!

The evening quickly became a twisted plan in my head taking on a new darker and more boozy side everytime I thought about it (which was a lot). Eventually I had the troops rounded and a beer list printed. 7 men,5 women, enough food to sink a ship (no pun intended) and some of the craziest beers made in the UK today. It made for an intersting night as I knew that most people werent beer geeks like me and would be baffeld by talk of IBU and Original Gravity, so I kept it as beer novice friendly as possible. Only the gents wanted to do the actual beer tasting at first but this quickly changed. 

We started with a bottle of Alpha Dog which fortunately for me our bottling machine decided would never reach Norway because it was a bit underfilled. I gave everyone a sample in the bottom of the posh tasting glasses I bought and I was amazed at how quickly everyone became an expert. Holding the glass up to the sun that was very kindly beating down on us, swirling it about a bit and even smelling before tasting. I was proud, very proud. The troops did not dissapoint, the closest comment that I remember nodding and agreeing with was 'very much like that 5am Saint but more reserved and more nutty'. I beamed like a new father......maybe this beer convertion is easier than I think.

We raced through my collection of rare BrewDogs that I have been collecting over the last year or so. TM:10 was up next. This divided opinion more as some people werent so keen on the carbonation but we all agreed that it was very nice if not a little too polite. After moving our tasting table back into the sun which had moved around the shadow of the house I opened the first of the real rare ones. This time it involved two samples, some Hardcore IPA and some of the madness that is Prototype 27. We tasted the Hardcore first so we could see what the original beer is like and then we tasted the P27. 'Its quite sweet and a little bit medicinal' said David 'I dont really taste the whisky' said Peter. It should be pointed out at this stage that Peter had decided in between the TM:10 and now to run home a fetch the biggest Montecristo cigar I have ever seen (not the best idea when you are tasting beer I told him).

We all agreed that as a result of the enormous cigar Peter was smoking we were going to listen and see if he could detect any flavours from the rest of the beers on offer. After opening AB:01 and AB:02 it became apparent that we had found a champion (or so we thought) in AB:01. It was very rounded and has aged amazingly since its been bottled. AB:02 is a little big for me right now give it another 10 months to let the booziness mellow a little and it will be spectacular. I think we all agreed at this point that the very pretty AB:01 was winning so far.

Next up was the reason why everyone was invited. Sink the Bismarck. We watched the video to get everyone in the mood (you know, that controversial one with the two brewers, one dog and a ship). This was a beer I knew was going to divide opinion and it did to a certain degree but much less than I thought. Remember that most of the people tasting this are not beer geeks or even wine buffs but they do know when they taste something they like (they just dont write a blog about it). I filmed the tasting and after I edit it down it will be posted soon. I dont want to give too much away but its fair to say that it went down well and the women couldnt hold back any longer and got fired in too. 

We all had a great night tasting some beer that I will probably never get my hands on again (mainly because a lot of it was a once off brew). It was great to see non beer drinkers getting really fired up about the taste and characters of these beers.

I also thank David Bald for bringing Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, Victory Golden Monkey and others too which we enjoyed after the tasting died down a bit. Also thanks to my parents for allowing me to invade the house with almost 20 people although it was mostly there friends as well as my own!

Soon on the blog I will be reviewing Thornbridge Saint Petersburg and Marble Lagondola IPA. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A night at the Dogs

First of all I start by saying sorry. Sorry for not writing more about my time at BrewDog. Along with a rather busy working life a family illness is also reducing my desire to blog at the moment but rest assured all is coming on well and I intend this blog to be tearing through the posts sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, this weekend I have decided to have a bit of a clear out. You see, ever since I started collecting beer Ive kept a heck of a lot of BrewDog beers in my collection. I still have bottles of the original Hardcore IPA, an early TNP, a second batch Sink the Bismark!, some Dogma and some Chaos Theory (and this is just the tip of the Iceberg)

So this Friday (9th July) I am having some friends round who are just as passionate about craft beer and some who will be more so by the time they leave. Craft beer is to be enjoyed right? And thats why Ive decided to share the following with the guys tomorrow

Alpha Dog - A rare treat as its only available in Norway (Mine has an odd fill line and couldnt go out in a case, I happily agreed to make it vanish)

TM10- Brewed for the Tates 10th Birthday (Another short filler)

Prototype 27- Hardcore but more Hardcore with smoke and mirrors (or raspberries maybe, I forget which)

AB:01- One from my personal collection, really looking forward to it

AB:02- Still young but I bought 3 so I will age the other two

Sink the Bismark!- Another one from my collection. First time I will have tried it bottled and not right from tank

TNP- My last bottle :-(

Some of the guys are bringing some Americans too (beers not the people, although American people are welcome anytime). It should be a fun night and I am looking forward to unwinding and getting really excited about great beer.

There will be plenty tweets throughout the evening and a full review appearing here a few days after (probably Sunday or Monday)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Guinness in a can? Yes please

Forgive me....you may think that I have gone mad but the other day I had Guinness in a can that I actually ENJOYED! No it was not infact a trick someone was playing on me by sticking a Guinness logo on another can it really was tasty Guinness from a can....well almost.

Before I tell you how to get a pint of good Guinness from a can I should explain one thing. Guinness has always been my fall-back drink. Im sure most of the beer bloggers have one. We've all been there, you go into an unknown pub and find they have absolutely nothing in the way of good cask or bottled beer and it leaves you with a bit of a problem. Certainly near where I am if a pub doesnt specialise in cask beer then it is likely it will have Greene King if you are lucky or Belhaven Best or Tennants Ember if you are not. The prospect of any of those drinks never fills me with confidence so I usually bounce straight back to the drink that was infact my first ever pint in a pub, Guinness. So there you go, I am not saying that Guinness is the best thing since sliced bread (though it is a bit like drinking it) but I am saying that I do enjoy a pint when the bar is barren.

Back to the canned stuff though. Guinness tried and failed in 2009 to launch 'surger' units in Tesco. The idea was that you paid £16.99 (yes, its a crazy price) and you get a pint glass, a surger unit and two tins of special 'surger' Guinness. The Guinness that is in the can is apparently the stuff that is in the keg before it goes through the chiller etc etc. After you used the two tins you then went back to Tesco and bought cans of the surger Guinness to use because the usual stuff explodes everywhere when you put it on the surger.


Basically the surger sends a sonic pulse through the bottom of the glass and up through your flat pint of Guinness and it eventually settles out to look like a nice pint of the black stuff. Nevertheless it never took off. Tesco were lumbered with huge amounts of stock and Guinness never really bothered with a full advertising campaign so it faded away. That is until now though.....Diageo are slowly starting to reintroduce pub sized versions of the surger into places that struggle to sell a full keg of Guinness during its peak freshness. In other words small rural pubs and that is exactly where I got to give the surger a whirl.

I was very sceptical about tinned Guinness as I have had it once before in first year of University and I swore never to have it again. In my opinion canned Guinness is to the world of beer what Christine Hamilton is to the world of professional darts, bollocks. So very worried I cracked open the Guinness surger can and poured away. It could only be described as black and VERY flat. A little drop of water on the surger (I have no idea why but I am sure there is a reason) and place the glass on and press the button. What happens next is a little moment of magic as you watch the head mysteriously appearing and shooting up the glass as if Paul Daniels was in the room. You need to give it the same time to settle as a regular pint and it does look the part I have to be honest.

Now for the most important part- The taste; Well it tastes like a pint of Guinness as if it was poured from the tap. Maybe even a bit creamier or that could have been my imagination. I was quite shocked I have to be honest but it does really taste like a normal Guinness. As far as cost goes I think it levels out at about the same. The pubs that they are targeting with this gadget this time around are small pubs which normally lose a lot of Guinness to the drain as they cant sell it quick enough. Therefore when you factor in that the cans are more expensive cost price but wastage will be reduced, it probably works out the same for both landlord and (hopefully) consumer.

I have to be honest, I dont see this kicking off in Weatherspoons as they have a big enough turnover to sell kegged Guinness but for places which struggle I can see this being a great alternative. Personally I struggled to tell the difference between this and normal Guinness but I would be interested to see how a regular Guinness drinker faired with this device. In the meantime I think I will stick to seeking out craft beer and just use Guinness (surger or not) as a fall back drink.

Cheers

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Jaipur- A legend in its time?

You know that beer right? The one with all the hype. In every beer community whether it be in Chicago, Kent or Brussels there are always a handfull of beers that get an unbalanced amount of airtime on blogs and in conversation about beer. Not that I think all hyped beer is a bad thing right enough. There are many breweries and beers that I would probably never have touched hadnt it been for someone blogging and hyping up the beer. Whether it be Mark Dredge and his praise for Marble or Richard at MyBreweryTap telling me that I had to try some Crown Unpronouncable IPA.



One beer that springs to mind when I think about hyped UK beer is Thornbridge Jaipur. From the very first smell of this beer I could tell I was in for something that I hadnt quite bargained for. The aroma was fresh, a little pine and a balance of citrus and malt. The nose is very well balanced but that doesnt quite prepare you for just how balanced this beer actually is. Every sip of Jaipur is a pleasure with its perfect balance of sweet malt and a shovel full of citrus and pine hop. It is quite simply a piece of art in a glass.

Jaipur makes me wonder why more UK breweries dont give a little bit more trust to the powers of the hop. Jaipur is a perfect example that you can make (under UK standards) a well hopped beer and still balance it out and make it perfectly quaffable. It has inspired me more to finally seek out Thornbridge on cask and this is a little trip I am already working on. Naturally I'd also love to see the brewery but maybe I will wait till after September so that they dont think that I am a spy!

So thanks Thornbridge, thank you for restoring my faith in English IPA. I have another two offerings to drink from Thornbridge in the coming weeks, St Petersburg and Halcyon thanks to MyBreweryTap and I am looking forward to these even more now. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing a part of my craft beer education. Next review should be coming very soon for Great Divide Hercules Double IPA too

Sunday, 30 May 2010

A promise from me to you

I realise that this blog has come to a point where I need to make a choice. I now work for one of the breweries which features quite heavily on this site and that means that many people are now put off whenever I talk about beer at all because it is hard to be fair and balanced.

The promise that I make to anyone reading this now is that from now until september (when I finish my job with Brewdog) I am going to make an effort to keep the reviewing down to other beers. There might from time to time a couple of mentions about Brewdog beer but I intend to channel my writing down two roads

1. Writing about my time with Brewdog and anything that may be of inteterest such as new beers or mad goings on at the brewery

2. Reviews of other breweries beer, starting with a review on Jaipur very soon.

I dont want people to think that this blog is paid for by brewdog and this is an issue which has been brought to my attention recently by a fellow blogger. For the next few months I want to use this blog to give you an insight into the brewery I work in but also to objectively review other beers and this is why I will keep my reviews on Brewdog beers to a minimum this summer.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Brewdog- The first week

Well it's been an interesting week. I started working at brewdog on Monday and I've had a blast so far. I've seen most of the backroom goings on I.e brewing, bottling and packing. Next week I plan to see a bit more of the sales and marketing aspect. Good news all round.


There is one thing which has become apparent though. Bottling is a secret way to put you off beer for life. I spent most of my week on the brewing side of things and I'm thankful for that. However I did get a taste of bottling on Wednesday and I have to say that the whole process destroys any romanticism you may have with craft beer. Bottling turns beer into a commodity. Naturally this is true, beer is a commodity and I am probably the one at fault for having such a romantic view of craft beer. I would like to imagine that it is made by a very highly skilled craft brewer and then somehow ends up in my hand thanks to some sort of intricate pully system. This is not the case though. This is not an attac on brewdog at all as every brewery in the land naturally has to have a method of getting the product out of the fermentors and into a glass.







All I say at the end of week one is that I am having an absolute blast. Also be very wary of thinking too much about the mystery of craft brewing. Maybe we have the marketing to blame. Something which I am sure by this time next week I will have changed my tune on. Just think about the long and difficult process that beer making is and do not take it for granted.

Lecture over, have a good weekend.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Provost Milne Dr,Fraserburgh,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Brewdog- Day 3

Well a long time has passed since my first day at Brewdog, ok 2 days have passed but I do feel like part of the team already. I never thought I'd hear myself saying this but I am loving the grind of being a 'brewer'. I say 'brewer' and not brewer because I am infact still being shown the ropes and probably would make a large batch of toxic, sour cat piss if left to my own devices.


There is a very strange sense of reward that comes with making beer. Im sure this is something only micro-brewers and home brewers will understand. Even although I havent tasted any of the beer that I have actually made yet there is still something rather rewarding about making beer that you know is going to make people happy. People will use this social lubricant you have made to do all manner of things; hopefully the main one being having a good time.

Yesterday was the culmination of a huge order of Saison which is going to the Tate Modern for its 10th Birthday. Every bottle was hand labelled and this took a lot of man power and time. It was worth it though and I encourage you to go to the Tate this weekend if you can. It is afterall the only place you will get a bottle. Except if you are me that is ;-)




I must say that TM 10 is the most un-Brewdog beer that I have tasted made by Brewdog. Not that this is either a good or a bad thing but rather it is a step away from heavy hops or barrel aging and its a little more restrained. TM 10 plays itself very well though, it may be restained but I think it is a very elegant beer. Delicately spicy and quite polite but most of all VERY well balanced. I think Brewdog have hit the nail on the head here by producing a beer that will go down well with loyal fans but also wont scare the pants of any Brewdog virgins at the Tates birthday weekend.

Yesterday also included a visit from two lovely Americans who are on a tasting tour of Europe. My morning included talking with them about the brewery and tasting all our core range and some very special ones too! I may have had a sip of Tokyo* before noon! My point is though, do feel free to pop around and ask for a special tour, it gives me a chance to talk beer and more importantly sample some too (hope James isnt reading)

Today was more hand on (and less boozy). Our next batch of Trashy is almost ready to meet my three others in the fermenter and will be on their way to a supermarket near you soon. I will tell you all the batch number when I know it! Haha

In other news 12hr shifts make you tired and I want to go to sleep soon. More Brewdog news soon, off for a Punk and an episode of Oz and James!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Day 1 at Brewdog

For those of you who havent been following today was the day that I started my new summer job at Brewdog. I will be up in the north east from now until September and dont panick, this blog isnt about to become a paid for Brewdog advert. Although I cant promise that I wont report quite a lot about them. So if you are a Brewdog hater look away now!


Today started by meeting all the cool gals, guys and dogs in the brewery. Everyone seems great and I can see why James and Martin are so passionate about what they do because they have such a great team backing them up. A great deal of my day today was spent on a secret project. Something that not only am I uncertain about whether Im allowed to tell you about, but also something which you will probably never see so there isnt much point.  Not unless you have tickets of course.

Anyway.....this afternoon I mashed a batch of Trashy Blonde. So if your Trashy tastes particularly good in the coming months personal cheques can be made out to Michael J Ironside!

Whilst still giving reviews on other brews that I try and general beer news and critiques from world breweries I plan to use this blog to give you an insight into life in a VERY busy brewery. Now that I am back in the UK updates will be coming much more thick and fast.

Updates soon....

Monday, 26 April 2010

Election beer

No this isnt some sort of cruel joke. On May 6th I will be sitting down after a long day of pushing for last votes in at least two Scottish constituencies (yes Scotland has more than one). I will be helping my party out and then it will be time to sit down and watch the results come in.


Aside from the fact that I will only have been home for one day and will probably want to get stuck into some of the lovely beer I have waiting from Crown Brewery, Thornbridge, Brewdog, Marble.........I also want to have a little drink to celebrate the election.

Ive not been able to do much campaigning for my party (being in France for 7 months) but I still want to show that some of us are watching the election and do feel that this may be an important one.

Anyway the point is......I want to find a beer which speaks for each of the leaders. Whatever your political views are it would be nice to have some suggestions. For example should I toast old Gordon Brown and his party with a bottle of 'Stella'- Watery, worn out and a bit bland. Or maybe you think Gordon and the Labour guys and gals deserve a bottle of Old Speckled Hen- There is something you dont quite like about it but its better than that bottle of Green King IPA lurking in the wings. Maybe Nick Clegg and his smooth performance in the debates mean he deserves to be toasted with a bottle of BrewDog/Stone Bashah- Dark, stronger than it seems and a little bit confusing. Is David Cameron and his party a bottle of the same but with a different label?

Who knows? Have a think about it. I know I will be and I will be posting my choices on the eve of General Election day. Happy thinking

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Am I still a hop head?

Its been a while since I posted. Just checked and apparently the date is the 19th of April! Woops. I havent forgotten about you all, honest. Rather Ive just not had that much great beer recently which has inspired me to write. I tend to find that I only get in a beer mindset if I am drinking some nice beer or I am anticipating a box of nice beer. Since I am currently in France and all my boxes of nice beer are in the UK, this is a problem.

Recently though I have been questioning my self declared status of 'hop head'. That was until the other night anyway.....but more about that in a bit. The reason I question whether I am such a hop head is because I seem to have been drinking a large amount of beer that I wouldnt really class as hoppy. Since the weather got nice again in France ive switched to a lot of Lambic, which the more clever among you will know use aged hops and therefore do not have that zingy hop taste. Also on the darker cloudless nights Ive been sticking with a bottle of Orval or something equally lovely and Belgian. My excuse for this though is because I am in France. Its not that I dont enjoy these beers, I do, a lot! Rather my status as a hop head will just have to be put on hold until I get back to the UK in May (if the volcano stops by then).

I was reminded the other night though of why I do classify myself as a hop head. Valeir Extra.


Image from RateBeer, my own image to follow

On a recent visit to my regular Belgian beer bar the local called me over and told me she had a bottle for me. Something that she wasnt selling because it was only a sample from the brewery so she could decide if she wanted to stock it. I was quite excited, not because I was getting a little exclusive but because I know she thinks of me as a hop head and immediately I knew it might be something good. Anyway, she produced a bottle of Valeir Extra, this is a beer I have never seen or had before. In short its a Belgian IPA and it is probably the most hoppy Belgian I have had maybe aside from De Ranke XX Bitter. The two beers are hoppy in different ways though. Whilst De Ranke has a dry refreshing hop bite Valeir has a lovely tropical and fruity hop body. It reminded me of a certain little Scottish beer I have a thing for!

Proper tasting notes will follow, but I thought I better let you all know that I am still here and that normal posting will resume soon. There is after all a very large collection of great beer waiting for me at home.

Stay tuned folks.....

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Brewery visit- Harviestoun

It was the 17th of February and I didnt have many days left of my 9 day visit back home to Scotland. Along with seeing all the family and close friends it was important to get a few beer related things done too. Thats why on Monday the 15th of Feb I went to visit James and Martin up at BrewDog in Fraserburgh. Not content with just one brewery visit, on the 17th I set my heart on visiting two of Scotlands best breweries. I visited Williams Brothers which you can see here and also the wonderful Harviestoun.


I've been trying to make a visit to Harviestoun for a long time. For two years I lived just ten minutes away but yet I still never made it along. Ironic being that I now live about 1,200 miles away and I only visit now. I look forward to living ten minutes away again after september. Anyway, all that aside, the guys at Harviestoun were very welcoming. Stuart Cail, the head brewer, showed us around this small brewery tucked away at the bottom of the Ochil hills in central Scotland. The day we visited they were brewing bitter and twisted and the unmistakable smell of it was in the air. Bitter and Twisted has always been a session favourite of mine. Some people say its a little bit 'girly' but I like it and it was one of my first real session loves. Although I now might rather a glass of Schiehallion, I still remember my first pint of B&T like it was yesterday.



One of the things that I have always loved about Harviestoun is their ability to make consistantly good and flavoursome beer. Ok it might not have the highest ABV or the most hops but it has a real sense of drinkability and enjoyment about it. I have tried a lot of Harviestouns offerings, including their seasonal stuff like Mae Best and Mr Sno'balls and I havent really ever had one that has been off or on the turn. Thats usually because they dont last long enough.



Considering that we really just dropped by to take a few photographs and see the place we spent a long time in the brewery. We smelled hops, we tasted malt, we talked about the costs of brewing these days. All in all it was a great time and even although I'm sure Stuart was very busy that day, he took an hour or so out of his time to show us around and make us feel welcome. I picked up a few bottles and Stuart very kindly gave us a bottle of Ola Dubh 40 to take away and taste. I havent opened mine yet as I am in France and the bottle is in Scotland (there is a small problem there) but expect to see it on review anytime after May.

If you are in the Stirling area this place is a must visit Brewery. I will hopefully be persueding some of our new members at Stirling University Craft Beer Society that this is a good place for a visit after we start meeting in September. If you havent been along, give the guys a phone as Im sure they will be happy to show you about. If not, look out for Harviestoun specials at a pub or beer fest near you.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Task for today- Get students interested in craft beer

When I woke up this morning I felt inspired. I have no idea why, I just did. Its been playing on my mind for a while; When I get back to University in September how can I get other students interested and involved in craft beer and real ale?

For some of you, you may think the question of how to get students interested in alcohol is a silly one. It is infact much harder than you think though when you consider the masses of drinks promotions that are thrown at students on every night of the week to attract the student pound. Afterall we have all seen the horrific binge drink statistics for 18-25 year olds (however wrong these are). The task though is to get young drinkers to switch from a pint of stella for £2.25 in the Union for a bottle of something made by craft brewers that tastes of something. Do not get me wrong, I do not want my horse to be too high. I know that some people simply prefer a pint of fizzy blandness. The same way that I might prefer a bottle of Lambic to a bottle of Mild. So the most important thing I need to remember when I start on my crusade is that not everyone will jump on the bandwagon.

The first step is to set up a craft beer society with the university officially. This is something I started today and we will be officially called 'Stirling University Craft Beer Society'. I have avoided the use of 'real ale society' for two reasons;
1) We have previously had a group called SURAS and they vanished off the face of the earth due to a mix of bad management and people moving on
and
2)Students invariably associate the term 'real ale' with socks and sandals, if you know what I mean

So I have now set the ball rolling and through a dedicated team of students at SUCBS I hope that we can get a few more people convinced that the best beer in the world is not infact a 'Danish' lager marketed in green. We plan to do brewery tours, beer swaps, craft beer campaigns (alongside national groups), beer tastings, pub tours and much more. Its my challenge for the next year at uni (along with my degree of course).

I will let you all know how it goes.


p.s if anyone has experience in this sort of thing leave a comment or email me at michael at heavyhops.com

pss We are looking for Brewery sponsorship/association if anyone is interested please email me at the above address

Monday, 22 March 2010

Meet the Beer Wench

It's Monday and that can only mean one thing; its time for some unashamed self publicity. I have just been featured on a fellow beer bloggers site as part of her 'Meet the Blogger' series. Its been really interesting so far and I urge you to check it out. Click here to read my interview

Cheers

Friday, 19 March 2010

Its Christmas....

Ok so maybe it isnt Christmas.....but It will be sooner than you know. Its been a while since I actually did any reviewing on the blog. There has been lots of articles about Brewdog, my trips for beer and some general discussion starters but a lack of actual reviews as of late, and for this I am sorry!


It was a cold night when I had this beer. I may have had it in the south of France but it certainly was not T-Shirt weather this night. I had been looking at it in the beer fridge of The Gambrinus bar in Avignon for weeks. I had heard rumors about this beer. Some said good things others were not so nice. I went into the tasting with a very open mind. Samichlaus, meaning Santa Claus in Swiss-German, is a 14% lager brewed once every year on the 6th of December and is allowed to age for 10 months before it is bottled. This is really a beer to age but the bottle I could get my hands on was only from 2008 but at least thats had a year and a bit of aging behind it.

It poured into the glass you can see above with absolutely no head. It was thick and a lovely hazelnut colour out of the bottle. The smell wasnt overpowering like I thought it might have been. There was a nice alcohol smell but nothing to destroy the senses. Straight away I could smell figs, over-ripe red fruit, a jam of sorts and something I described as 'sugared blackcurrants'.Ive never had a sugared blackcurrant, but Im sure thats how they smell.

Dont worry, I didnt drink two!

Taste- So finally after taking ages trying to pick out the smell of blackcurrants 'sugared' or not, I tasted this bad boy. In a word.......wow. I totlally wasnt what I was expecting and although my first words were ' it could do with aging more' I did really enjoy it. The taste of figs, candied apples, caramel and a sticky-sweet malt hit you first and then it gives way to a warming alcohol burn. Its not the smoothest high ABV beer I have tasted but I think thats something that would get better with age. It warmed really nicely and was overall a very pleasant drinking experience. It is definately a sipper, maybe round the fire with a good album on in the background. I really enjoyed it and I will revisit Samichlaus but I think in future I will maybe age the bottle a bit first.

Well there it is, the first review in a while. Not long left in France now and I will be back to bombard you with lots of videoblogs as there are boxes and boxes of stuff to try back at home. Hope you have a good beer in hand and enjoyed reading!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Best beer in the World.........NOT!

This discussion has been going on for a VERY long time. Probably since they first started making beer. Which one of the thousands of choices out there is actually the 'best'. I would like to argue that there isnt one and even if there is, it certainly isnt what we all think it is. Recently a wonderful beer called Pliny the Younger from Russian River took over the title of 'Worlds best beer' on some beer review sites. Usually this place is reserved for Westvleteren 12 and on BeerAdvocate.com it still reigns as the best.

Ive had Westy and to be quite honest it was good. Very good indeed. Nevertheless, it just can't be the best beer in the world. Im not sure that anything can be really. Beer is such a fickle thing; mood, place, temperature, how its kept, glassware. So much can change the feel, taste and overall experience of a beer. I don't want to sound like Im reading off the back of a commercial lager bottle too much, but a lot of it does come down to the overall experience of the beer. Maybe for some people Westvleteren is the best they have ever had. Maybe thats because of its rarity, its reputation or maybe it is the taste. For a lot of people it could be that they try it in Belgium, near the brewery or in a backstreet pub somewhere. This of course will add to the whole experience and the allure of the beer. Drink a bottle of Westy in a Wetherspoons in the centre of a British city on a warm saturday afternoon with a game of football between Aberdeen and Dundee United and its unlikey to gain the same praise. I know that the same can be said for any drink but to me when it comes to beers like Westvleteren it might be more about the allure than anything.

Another point I have to make on 'the best beer in the world' is that surely we cannot group beer together when we talk about it being 'the best'. Sure I'd be happy enough with someone saying 'The best stout I have ever had was.........' but I just do not think you can really compare that with a Belgian quad or an American IPA. The different styles of beer are so very different and I dont think that it is really fair to try to compare them. If I were to try and compare Hardcore IPA from BrewDog and Rosé de Gambrinus from Cantillon I would be a nutter. They are just so different that I dont really think it does any beer a favour to try to put them in a table.

Sure Ive got a list of beers that I like and lots of them are totally different from the next. I honestly do not think I could put them into a top 10 list though, its just not fair on the brewers that work hard to make them so great. Fair enough if I only ever drink Lambic for the rest of my days but I can't see that happening anytime soon. I really wish that people would stop attaching so much importance to these lists. I see them for what they are, a little bit of fun. I honestly do not think anyone will ever make 'The Best Beer in the World'

Monday, 8 March 2010

My visit to Cantillon

The other week I started to write a post about how my new 'thing' was lambic beers. I started to write and then I kept on removing and adding bits and now it seems as if the original feeling of the post is totally gone. I decided to scrap that post for the time being and then I remembered what it was that got me really excited about Lambic in the first place; The Cantillon Brewery.

 
Me peering into a very scary machine
Some of you may have read about my trip to Brussels. That seems like such a long time ago now. I did lots of great things there and I visited many great watering holes. One place sticks out for me during my trip though and that is the Cantillon Brewery. They claim to be the last traditional brewery in Brussels and they make the love it or hate it style of beer, Lambic. Personally I love Lambic beers and when I say Lambic I mean traditional stuff like Cantillon and not overly sweet Krieks that you can find in almost every French and Belgian bar and in many British supermarkets. Don't get me wrong, there are good krieks out there but probably not in your local Tesco.

Our trip was on foot from the centre of Brussels right out into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We thought we had got lost but all the street signs still had the right names from my very sketchy written directions. We turned down Rue Ghuede and there it was, Cantillon.


Our welcome was short and sweet and we were let loose to have a look around the brewery on our own. We had chosen to go early and this seemed like it payed off as we were the only two people looking around the brewery at the time when we first arrived. We took our time and peered into every vessel and looked at every piece of machinery going. I dare say we may have even tasted some malt (just dont tell the brewer). It was great to see inside a live working Lambic brewery. Ive seen quite a few 'regular' breweries now but this was the first Lambic one I have seen. Everything was so natural, from the cobwebs that hung from the walls to the Cantillon cat that one day may be as famous as the dog from BrewDog. A little note about the cat, if you do see the cat on your travels around the brewery it is nowhere near as friendly as it looks, just ask my mate. 



Im sure you all know how Lambic is made so there is no point in launching off into a discussion about that but it is fair to say that the whole self guided tour, for a mere €5 was well worth it. At the end of the tour and after having looked at every corner of the brewery we were rewarded with two tasters of the beer that they make. On the day we were there it was their 100% Bio Lambic and then a choice of either Cherry or Raspberry. Natually there being two of us we had one of each fruit beer and swapped to compare. I think Raspberry wins but thats because Im a bit sour that way.


 

At the end of the tour we bumped into some fellow beer tourists from St Albans CAMRA. Oh joy I thought! They turned out to be very nice guys and we shared a bottle of Saint Lamvinus between the four of us. This lambic is my idea of heaven as it mashes my two favourite drinks, beer and wine. Made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes it is the perfect blend of beer and wine (I could work in marketing, that honestly did not come from the bottle). After that bottle we all toddled off on our own seperate ways. They were in search of more Lambic and we were in search of Westvleteren (more about that later in the week). 

If you havent been to visit Cantillon I really recommend it. We had a great time. Ive heard that the busier it is the less fun the tour actually is, so maybe visiting off season is a  good idea. Cantillon has really sparked my interest in a style that I never even dreamed that I would like and I would really love to see a UK brewery try their hand at making a Lambic. Go on prove those Belgians that say 'it can only be made in one area' wrong. I want to see a bastardised UK lambic. Anyone else?


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Williams Brothers tour

Video from my trip to Williams Brothers. Its a bit noisy but thats how Breweries work. Enjoy.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

VBlog 13- Nanny State

Here is a joint VBlog for 2010 Nanny State. Recorded the day after the release of Sink the Bismarck

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sink the Bismarck! Don't be fooled by imitations

Today (or rather tomorrow if Aunty Beeb hadnt gotten so excited) controversial Scottish brewery Brewdog make history once again with the release of the worlds strongest beer. Sink the Bismarck is 41% and £40 a bottle, and the price tag already seems to be putting some fellow bloggers off the trail.

It has taken a while to make and is designed to knock the smile of the face of the silly brewer at Schorschbraeu who brewed a 39.44% beer which knocked Brewdogs TNP off the top spot. This is all about a bit of fun, even reading the name Sink the Bismarck you know that its all a bit tongue in cheek. Brewdog are all about good beer and although some people are already point blank refusing to part with cash for this 41% IPA, I beg you to change your mind.....

Heres why-

Yesterday I made a little trip to see the boys up in Fraserburgh, the reasons why will all be revealed soon. After entering through the front door and being greeted by the head brewer, I was ushered through to meet James who was dressed like this.....

 Photo from Brewdog ©

Its at this point where James must have thought 'we have bottles of Sink the Bismarck all over the place and I am dressed like a fool, what can I say?' After swearing a secrecy oath, all was revealed. I felt myself smiling from ear to ear. Mainly at the thought of the angry german brewers at Schorschbraeu who will now have to go back and try again. We talked for a while and after trying another top secret brew from the tanks James disapeared with my tasting glass and came back with a very interesting looking beer.

It was Sink the Bismarck. It sat like a spirt in the glass, golden and thick with absolutely no head at all and fantastic spirit legs. I have to point out at this stage that I had it before it was carbonated as I believe its going to get a light carbonation before bottling. It smelled wonderful, bitter and slightly alcoholic (oh the irony!?!). How did it taste......

Simply wonderful. There was no other first thought that popped into my head. Its very difficult to get really passionate about a beer when the two men who make it happen are sitting an arms length away from you but I just wanted to get up and dance about the room. It was perfect, bitter concentration with a healty dose of malt, sweetness and alcohol kick. THIS DOES NOT FEEL LIKE 41%.Its oh so very hoppy and as the title of the blog suggests, I like that! As much as I the love the pengiun, the Bismarck plows through the ice where the pengiuns struggle and slide about. This blows the penguin to Africa...who knows maybe even further.

I ask people to stop talking about the age old Brewdog related question of publicity or good beer and actually get your hands on a bottle of this. If you cant justify buying one yourself, hey, chip in with half of your street. It is worth it I promise. Also this beer isnt mildly xenophobic or racist, its simply a bit of fun. If you can't laugh at it, dont buy it and go and watch a Michael McIntyre DVD or something. Dont start flinging up bits of wikipedia past, just accept it for what it is.

I think its great and I look forward to welcoming a little Bismarck into my cellar. Now whats next?.........



P.s Dont mention the war....some beer bloggers don't like it


Sink the Bismarck from BrewDog on Vimeo.

P.s.s This is not an advert for Brewdog no matter how much it seems like one!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Beer Holiday 1- Brussels

If you follow the tweets or read the blog regularly you will know that I've just been to Brussels. I make no effort to hide my love for Belgian beer and although not every Belgian is going to fit into my favourite aggressive hoppy style, they are consistant if nothing else. This is really the first beer pilgramige I've done. I've visited my favourite wine regions but never travelled a lot for beer. This is something that since my trip to Brussels will change. The trip was worth every single minute and every single euro.

The European Parliament

I travelled up from the south of France to meet another beer geek friend, David Bald. We met in the train station on the Friday and the rest is history. I learned so much in my weekend. My main realisation has been that in future I'm going to stop drinking mass marketed rubbish totally. I will from now on be having good and tasty alcohol or no alcohol at all. As a student this is something that prior to now I've never adhered to. Don't get me wrong that doesn't mean that I will only drink 'expensive' or 'fancy' drinks but there are many pints that are now off limits (except in dire straits). This decision has mainly come from the sensory experience that I have in Brussels. I just think if its not good then whats the point really?


 Me enjoying a non-Belgian in the Hoppy Loft

We visited many great places during the course of our weekend there. I had been given many places that we simply 'had' to visit, so we did! 

Day 1- We met in Brussels Midi station just after 4pm. We found our hotel after fighting our way on the metro and we were pleasantly surprised as to how central we were. I was a little apprehensive as to what we were going to find after the views of an industrial wasteground on the way into Brussels on the train. Nevertheless the centre of Brussels itself was great. First stop was food, after 5 hours on a train with only pringles and a banana, I was a bit hungry! We decided to play it safe on our first night. I had detailed directions to Café Delirium, which although a tourist trap, was great and very close to us. The first drink in Belgium......Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA. Ooops! Sacrilege! That night went well, quiet really as we were both tired after travelling and had a terrible dinner that evening. The highlight of the evening though was our first vist to the Hoppy Loft in Delirium and mainly our first visit to Moeder Lambic. The most memorable part of this evening was ordering my travelling companion an apple juice off the menu even although I speak French, woops the alcohol must have started to set in!

 Deliriums Hoppy Loft- Full of American and Belgian Hoppy goodness

Day 2- It stated early. Too early. We visited Cantillon Lambic brewery in the morning which I am going to write a separate blog for as the visit was so good. We went from there on search of the 'holy grail' and we almost succeeded. At Beer mania in a shady part of town we found Westvleteren 8, which it seems is not actually that hard to come by. It was great but it still left me yearning to try its big sister (as wrong as that sounds). For those of you reading the tweets you may have noticed the tweet ' I seem to have walked into the past' this was in reference to the lovely place we chose to eat that afternoon. First clue that it was to be a bad idea, we were the only people there! We both ordered the same, a Grimbergen Brune and the lasagne. The lasagne was made with ham rather than beef mince, need I say any more about our walk into the 80's. We went from there to A la Mort Subite and it was a refreshing change. Busy, great beer on every table, non matching tables and decor, Bliss. I had their white lambic which was refreshing and well needed after the Grimbergen. The rest of the afternoon is a bit hazy to be honest. Back to Delirium? To Moeder Lambic? Tick, Tick. 

Then we made our way to find another beer geek (I hope she doesnt mind) @ tania_nexust. She was saving us a seat in La Porte Noire, which I'm sure she immediately regretted when we poured ourselves through the door. I ordered a Duvel Green?!? Sorry come again?!?! And David made a slight faux pas by ordering a 10% beer in a pint glass. No wonder we had some issues getting back to the hotel. However, drinks aside meeting Tania was great and I hope to bump into her again on a twissup somewhere along the line.

Day 3- My Birthday- Waking up with some hesitance we decided that sunday would be a calm day. What a lie that was. We did a lot of walking and some drinking too. Orval cheese and some Orvals, even if my one year aged bottle wasnt quite a year aged (thanks Delirium). We ended off our time in Belgium with a visit to a strange museum bar near our hotel, which was very atmospheric and arsty and then our last drinks were...............
Cocktails. Yes thats right! Im ashamed but they were girly mixed drinks. Sometimes too much good beer is just too much of a good thing.

Overall my trip to Belgium was fantastic. I tried so many great Belgian beers and even lots of American stuff too. Westvleteren, St Bernardus, Westmalle, Orval, Flying Dog, Great Divide, Cantillon, Mort Subite, Rochefort......the list goes on and on. We made a pact that we would both order two different beers everytime at the bar so we could try as much as possible and I think minus our Grimbergens and our comparing aged Orval, we did it. If you havent been to Brussels, or in fact Belgium, you must go! I had the time of my life, learning about beer and my tastes all the way. I say thanks to people for reading my blogs and tweets. Thanks to Belgium for allowing two Scotsmen into the country for a weekend. Thanks to Tania for putting up with two babbling Scotsmen and finally thanks to my fellow Scot, David Bald for coming along on our journey! Cheers everyone

This is David before the booze kicked in!

Monday, 1 February 2010

This is only the start

Ive been feeling melancholic recently and thats nothing to do with my unhealthy passion for Morrissey and The Smiths (for once). However I also find myself looking back at the journey this little hobby has taken. In fact its no longer a little hobby for me. This beer malarkey has already taken over.  Mark Dredge from Pencil and Spoon warned me about this and he was right. Whilst I know I will never be able to have the levels of dedication to this blog that Mark does to his, I have still come to realise that craft beer is a passion which slowly but surely takes over day to day life and thoughts.You may have noticed today the site became a .com and although I still use blogspot to post etc, Im hoping to attract some more traffic this way.

I now have confirmation of my first beer related job (more details to follow when Its all in black and white). Its fair to say though that I may soon be fighting off 'the peguins'. I will also be back in the UK in a week and I am going to use my 10 days in Scotland and my 4 in London to full advantage. Mainly by trying as many new and different beers as possible. Top of my list is the Thornbridge offerings that I have waiting at home and also the chance to finally try some Jaipur on tap. I am also trying to arrange a little viewing at Williams Brothers, Harviestoun and Tryst when I am back so that I can do some virtual tour style blogs (how posh!) Ive just given lots away now, woops.

 At the forefront of my thoughts though is still my trip to Belguim and my very close proximity to most of the great beer bars. Its fair to say that this blogpost has been a little bit rushed and its a little bit all over the place. Bits of news here, bits of new there. Nevertheless, I think it shows my passion for the world of beer, or at least thats my excuse. I am just about to turn that scary age, yes 20! And I think its fair to say that my interest in beer is a little bit 'kid in a sweetshop' at the moment. I am hoping that time and experience will help focus the content of this blog. Thanks to everyone who has been reading in the early stages and for putting up with my, often rambling posts.

If anyone is in or near London from the 19th of Feb give me a shout and the first pint is on me.

Slainte

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Next stop Brussels

Well this time in a week I will be as high as a kite. The bag shall be packed and I will be thinking about the day ahead. Brussels is the destination and it will be the first of three for my month off in February. Im headed there with fellow beer geek David Bald and Im sure that Brussels wont know whats hit it with two Scotsmen in town.

We have been planning and have several reccomendations already but this is a cry to anyone who has spent any time in Brussels before.....anywhere we should definately include or avoid? I speak French so I am not too bothered if they are a little off the beaten track, just so long as they are good.

I am just starting to get into Lambics so I am hoping that I can spend some time getting to know them a little better when I am there. It is also my Birthday on the 7th so I am hoping to do/drink something a little special for that.

Any suggestions would be great guys. Cheers.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Videoblog 12

Recorded very soon after No 11, or at least before the booze set in

Videoblog 11

The bottles are weighing me down

Rather than a real blog post like my last rather controversial post about terroir this is a general question to other bloggers out there to see if I have actually gone mad. Ive started to keep to empty bottles of what I've been drinking!

This is a very small amount of 3 months in France

Ive always been a collector of 'excellent' bottles though. For example, when I finished Brewdog Atlantic IPA or Mikkeller Black I decided to keep the bottles as they would not only look good but remind me of when I drank them. The problem seems to be that I now seems to be keeping EVERYTHING I drink (with the exception of doubles or really bad beers). I know I've probably lost some of you already. You think why can I not just remember them in my head or in a review without actually keeping the bottles. The truth is, I kinda like to see the bottles now and again. If Ive had a particularly crap day or I'm drinking a howler of a beer they help to keep the faith that its not all bad. Bottles like Atlantic IPA look good too, and quite frankly at £9 a 330ml I want something to show for it apart from memories.


See even some Brewdog snuck in my suitcase to France

Don't get me wrong, I don't just finish the bottles and let them stack up. They are washed, dried and if I remember to keep the cap, I recap them too. I realise that my collection in France will have to go soon, which I'm quite sad about. Nevertheless, collection at home is slowly growing too and I have no plans to chuck them soon.

Basically the whole point of this post is for someone, anyone, to tell me they do the same......PLEASE! Im not mad. Honest!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Terroir for beer?

Its no secret that I like beer but one of my other big passions is wine and whilst I have no interest in persuing a wine writing career, there is one aspect of wine which I believe can be transfered onto beer also. Terroir ,pronounced[tɛʁwaʁ]. Terroir is an extremely important concept when it comes to wine, especially in France where every wine maker has this word on his lips at most times of the day: James May once famously said that if terroir were to be entered into the French-English dictionary it should read 'French- Terroir, English- Cobblers'.

In fact though the term terroir is used to describe the special characteristics that certain factors in production bestow upon the wine, or in this case beer. Some of these factors may be the angle at which the vines face the sun, the type of soil, general weather conditions or farming techniques. Nevertheless I would argue that the concept of terroir can also be applied to beer. 


Think about the amount of very similar beers that you can find from a lot of the great micro's that we have dotted around our country. Some of these session beers that are made by the micro's are infact being replicated by many other small breweries the length and breadth of the country, the difference? Terroir! For example I have tried many beers very similar to Harviestouns Bitter and Twisted, and infact I know many of them use the same malt and hop combinations. However, because Harviestoun use very pure central Scottish water and they make it in their own way and in their own brewery, it tastes MUCH better. The same principle can be used when you think about beers that are brewed under license. The brewers can try as much as they can to replicate the original taste, but 9 times out of 10 it just isn't the same.That is why I am a little wary of Stone Brewing Co's idea of brewing in Europe. If they can manage to create the same great Stone taste that I love, then great, if not I would rather pay the extra money and have the stuff made in the USA. 


So there are many factors which can effect the terroir of a beer. Water quality, quality malt and hops, the brewer and the brewing environment to name a few. One of the best examples of this that I can think of is Brewdogs Atlantic IPA. I am not sure whether I have ever had a beer with such a great strength of terroir.



Image courtesy of Brewdog ©

This beer was aged like the traditional IPA's; at sea. 8 barrels were loaded onto the North Atlantic fishing trawler where Brewdog co-founder James Watt spends a month at a time on. The 8 barrels did not survive though and only 7 made it out into the North Atlantic. 2 months later and Atlantic IPA was ready for the bottling line. I can quite honestly say that drinking Atlantic IPA was a journey, I could litterally taste the salt as I guzzled the bottle. Although it wasnt the best beer I had in 2009, I can probably say that it was the one with the greatest sense of time and place. Many people are still going to argue that this notion of terroir is in fact a lot of old cobblers. It genuinely isnt though. There is a reason why there can be a £100+ price difference between bottles of wine that are grown in adjoining vineyards and it all boils down to this concept of terroir. The product, whether it be beer or wine, adopts heaps of different characteristics from all the different factors it is subjected to. It doesnt matter if this is as subtle as drawing the water from a different county to make it or as extreme as sending it to sea for 2 months, it all makes a difference.

As I argued above, this is why I worry about breweries such as Stone changing their game plan too much. Geography is the most important issue when it comes to terroir and I worry that they may not be able to recreate some of that magic that they previously have done. Im sure they will do well though, even if their beers do not have quite the sense of place they once had. I think place is everything though and I firmly believe that the concept of terroir is a very important one for the beer industry to think about. Maybe thats just because Im a converted wine ponce! Lecture over!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The TNP Videoblog has arrived!



Its taken my sanity, but it did upload!

Whats in store for 2010?

I realise this is quite a late look back at the year past and ahead to this one and Im sorry for that! To be honest, Ive been travelling back to France and settling back in and just didnt get around to it till now!

Anyway 2009 was a great year of beer for me. 2009 was really the year that I can say I 'got into' beer. Im still a young drinker and I only turned 'legal' in 2008, so 2009 for me was a real year of taste discovery. That discovery ranged from generally trying beers to find out what I liked and what I didnt to making a 320 mile round car journey to see the BrewDog brewery in the North of the place I call home (thats Scotland by the way!!). I think I tried a lot in 2009, from all corners of the globe, some close, some definately not as close.

To have thought 3 years ago that I would be sitting with an American beer that wasnt some mass marketed rubbish in hand would have been crazy. I suppose it shows how quickly the craft beer bug can actually take over. I didnt even drink really before I turned 18 and now only two years later I can pick out flavours, scents and sometimes hop varieties . I always thought beer was 'just a drink', something to wash away a bad day with. How wrong I was!

Beer means so much to me now. I realise that not all of my friends and the people around me understand this (you all just think I like a good drink, which isnt that far off the mark) but genuinely beer has become such a huge thing for me. Bests of 2009, well I named a lot of those in the previous golden pint awards post but if you ask me to name drop; BrewDog, Mikkeller, Stone, Trappistes Rochefort and Westmalle have all been tried and tested with thumbs up in 2009. I realise I am making sweeping generalisations and just naming breweries and no specific beers, but thats what my reviews are for!

Hopes for 2010? Well I have a box of Thornbridge beers to try and I cant wait. Marble is another that is right up there on my must do list. I am also making a trip to Belgium this Feb and I will obviously be making a little search for the holy grail, need I say more? Obviously I will be trying lots of other fantatic Belgian beers there too so I am looking forward to this. Also on my way back to France in mid/late Feb I will be making a stop in London for a few days and hope to check out the much hyped bars I have heard of; The Rake, The White Horse etc. Anyone who lives around the area and would be willing to show me the ropes would be much appriciated (leave comments if you think you can help, or just want a piss up in London). Im back to Scotland in late April and I think I may have something very exciting lined up for the summer, all Im saying right now is that I think I may have a much better understanding of beer when Im done! After that? Who knows? Back to the grind at Uni I suppose, fitting in as many beer trips and tastings in between work.

Finally though, all I can ask for in 2010 is to try as many new beers and breweries as possible. Broadening my horizons has been the challenge for 2009 and I think Ive done it, so I want to make them even broader in 2010. The best of health and happiness to all the readers of the blog, thanks for your support in the first few months of this blog. Its nice to know people are reading! Cheers

M

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