As of today (Thursday 1st November) Aldi stores in Scotland are running a beer festival of all Scottish beers. I should point out in the interest of impartiality that I was sent some of the beers directly from Aldi to review. This doesn't take away from the fact that it is exciting to see more and more food retailers taking beer seriously.
The promotion will run until all the beers have sold out and there are 27 to choose from. Most of the beers are priced between £1.29 and £1.79, which I think is pretty fair for the beers on offer. Don't get me wrong not all of the beers exactly tickle my fancy and not all of them are that hard to get elsewhere, such as the Broughton beers, but it is still great to see a retailer taking in 27 beers for a once of festival.
The breweries taking part in the festival are- Barney's, Deeside, Broughton, Innis & Gunn, Caledonian, Cairngorm, Harviestoun, Colonsay, Inveralmond, Kelburn, Strathaven, Williams Brothers, The Isle of Arran Brewery, Tryst, Traditional Scottish Ales and Sulwath.
Aldi have also prepared one of their usual marketing magazines which details exact beers, prices and handy tasting notes.
I for one would like to see more and more retailers taking beer this seriously and giving smaller microbreweries a chance to get listed in national stores. I will be reviewing 6 of the beers that Aldi sent me during the course of the festival via the blog and YouTube reviews.
If you are near a Scottish Aldi store in the next few days/ week(s) I would go in and have a look and grab some bottles for the looming dark evenings.
A little update on progress with SUCBS (Stirling University Craft Beer Society).....
Around a month ago we were extremely lucky to have Jon Gamble, the sales director of Spiegelau UK, come to visit us in Stirling. We did a comparative tasting evening which I will be writing about when I have the pictures sent on to me! We had a great evening and I will give you a run down of the beers and the reaction as soon as I get some of those photos.
Another event which we are just getting ready to launch is our 'Brewing Competition'. All members will be invited to submit a recipe idea for a beer to be brewed on the pilot brew plant at AllanWater Brewhouse in Bridge of Allan, Stirling. The actual recipe can be as specific or as vague as members want, depending on their specific knowledge of writing home-brew recipes.
The winning brew will be served at our Xmas party for everyone to taste. We are very grateful to Mr Douglas Ross, the owner, for allowing us to do this and we hope the ideas don't cause him too much of a headache.
So Chai infused milk stout anyone? Dry hopped wheat? Ale with locally foraged Stirling goods? Or just a simple balanced winter porter? The brewer, Douglas and his staff will be the judges and the winner will even get to go along and help brew the beer.
I will make sure I personally take the photos this time! Members will be contacted by email to get the ball rolling
This is a late post on the second European Beer Bloggers Conference which was held in Leeds in May
This years conference had a great attendance and it was great to catch up with other bloggers and people from the industry (more on this later). Leeds is a great city for beer and this would still have been the case even if the conference wasn't in town. Mr Foleys, North Bar and The Grove in Huddersfield are a must do if you are in the area. Its taken me so long to write this post because I went straight into exam period after the conference. In fact I left Leeds at 7pm on the Sunday and was in an exam hall at 9am the very next day, and I still passed!
We tasted glass with Spiegelau
Firstly I must say a big thanks to Zephyr Adventures, the company who organise the event, and also to MolsonCoors and Pilsner Urquell, whom without this event would cost a bomb to attend. One of the things that came up most often at the conference was the idea of ethics and writing. I have always believed that this is important and I always declare when I have received free samples. I should make it clear then that MolsonCoors did pay for my attendance but I feel that both my readers and I, as the writer, are adult enough to see that this has minimal influence on my writing here on the blog.
Another theme was referencing other bloggers in our work. I agree with many that this should be kept to a minimum as it risks alienating readers who are here because they want to know what I think about beer and not what Tandleman did at the conference. I am going to heed this in future and engage with other bloggers via their own blogs but not turn this blog into a giant 'circle jerk'.
My favourite event by far was the Comparative tasting with the glass company Spiegelau. We had five glasses and four beers- you get the idea. We had 4 Spiegelau glasses which a stunningly thin and so light- Tall Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Lager and Tulip and then the usual thicker glass you would find down the pub. The four beers were Camden Wheat, Krombacher, Lotus IPA and Stout Mary (both the later from Ilkey Brewery). This event cemented in my mind that good glassware is as important as most factors. I know have quite a hatred of standard pint glasses. If you havent tried it already try pouring your favourite beer into different glasses tonight and smell, look and taste the beers; you will be surprised.
Like 2011, the Pilsner Urquell evening also rocked. Fresh Pilsner in the wooden barrels, need I say more? The evening resulted in several drunken bloggers and pretzels being worn on top of party hats. Pilsner Urquell have a special birthday coming up and you should look out for more fresh Pilsner hitting our shores soon.
I will be writing about the Magic Rock trip in the next couple of days but I have a graduation ceremony to get ready for soon. Over and out for now.
This is my live beer blog from the European Beer Bloggers Conference. Apologies in advance for any bad grammar, misspelling or likewise. This has been written live and in stages as I am tasting the beers.
Brains Dark- 4.1%- Brains and Co SA- As its name suggests this is dark. Loads of chocolate malt on the nose.First thing that hits me about the taste is how much liquorice comes through. Lovely savoury flavours.I am being told this beer is big in Cardiff. Its a lot lighter (in taste) than many of us were expecting.
Marble- Earl Grey IPA- 6.8%- Cloudy and I presume unfiltered this beer is really pleasing to the eye. On the nose this delivers big style. A wonderful balance between hop character and the bergamot and I get some tangerine. Earl grey notes are lost a little bit more in the taste than I expected but it is wonderfully balanced (to my surprise). I know I am only on the second beer but this will take a lot to beat. As a massive Earl Grey fan this is brilliant.
Roosters- Baby Faced Assassin- 6.1%- Lovely golden colour with great clarity. On the nose I get loads of citra on the nose which makes sense since its 100% citra hopped. A little bit of something I can't quite pick up in this short time. Lovely residual sweetness from this beer. I am impressed by this too. This started life as a homebrew beer, it doesn't taste like one at all.
Great Heck- Stormin' Norman- 6.5%- Nice clarity from this too. On the nose I am getting some nice hop character (centennial?) . I think this is a little unbalanced and needs to have a bit more depth. This is dangerous as it doesnt taste anything like 6.5%. This is going to linger on the palate for a while, which I have no objection to at all.
Slaters Ales- Top Totty- 4.0%- And now for a controversial one. Lovely labels. This is very pale and absolutely cristal clear in terms of clarity. Quite lagery on the nose and very clean. Terribly fresh on the palate and probably the most refreshing beer of the day. I am very impressed with this after the previous 3 IPA's
Camden Town- USA Helles- 4.6%- Lovely and slightly cloudy almost milky pale colour. Smells fu*king brilliant (nothing to do with the fact that I am now into my 6th beer). Its totally not what I was expecting. My favourite beer of the tasting now. This is quite hard to describe. I have tasted the original and this is better and its very good.
Adnams- Ghost Ship- 4.5%- Golden colour. Citrus, rye, toffee and many other things going on on the nose. Lemon and lime on the nose and also nice level acidity lingers through to the taste. Its very nice if not slightly forgettable compared to some of the rest.
Innis and Gunn- SPA- 7.0%- Golden and quite pleasing to the eye. Vanilla and butterscotch (oh dear). Banana and toffee on the taste. Being nice about this is easier than I expected. This is a marmite beer. Taste it and make up your own mind.
Leeds Brewery- Hellfire- 5.2%- Very pale and inviting to the eye. Doesn't deliver much on the nose and a little metallic. It really makes up for it on the taste though. Its crisp and quite refreshing. I am not sure it was the right beer to bring to this event. It makes the brewery feel a little corporate.
Otley- Oxymoron- 5.5%- Dark and rich in appearance. Lovely intense hop aroma on the nose with a great coffee backbone. It is the citrus that drives the nose. Taste is a big contrast to the nose. Lovely coffee and citrus compete for main flavour. It is epically balanced and impressive. Creamy and hoppy. I don't know how this is possible but it is.
Thanks for following my live beer blog from EBBC12. I hope it made sense. Now to be beered and dined by Pilsner Urquell
Well that's it done; I have booked my train for European Beer Bloggers Conference in the great city of Leeds. Not that I would know that Leeds is a great city since I have never been before, but for arguments sake I will say its great.
I am really looking forward to EBBC12. Mainly because I have lasting memories of how good London was this time last year. I can't quite make up my mind about what I am looking forward to the most; all of the great beer friends I made last year, meeting the people that couldn't make it last year, all the great beer and food. There is one thing I can't wait for though....... The Thirsty Brewmaster is back! Václav Berka, the senior brewmaster from Pilsner Urquell is due to be back at this years conference. If you haven't met him he may be one of the funniest, eccentric and enthusiastic beer guys I have ever met. I must remember to get my picture taken this year!!
Zephyr Adventures 2012
In all seriousness though, there are so many great breweries, companies and people descending on Leeds later this week and I simply cannot wait. If you are going to be there come over and say hi. If you are not......then why??!?!
Oh and make sure you are using the #EBBC12 hashtag before,during and after the conference
I have long been frustrated with Stirling. Not because of its historical importance or its beauty but rather its reliance on Belhaven pubs. Stirling was only made a city during my lifetime but it is a spectacular place and it really deserves a great beer scene.
We have great breweries nearby; Bridge of Allan, Harviestoun, Williams Brothers and Tryst are all not far away. A great beer scene has always been missing though. For a long, long time Belhaven have ruled the roost. Thats not totally a bad thing but it has stifled creativity and the desire to search for new beers among local bar owners.
Castle Rock (or Whistlebinkies as it is currently known) has changed that. Mark and the the team have really made a difference. Stirling has gone from Abbot Ale to Hardcore IPA in a few months. They still have lots of hard work to do, only last night Mark was rattling off breweries that he wants to bring to Stirling in the coming months. Magic Rock, Thornbridge, Dark Star, Oakham, Kernel and Mikkeller were only a few of the names mentioned.
Whether or not Mark and the team manage to deliver on even half of these remains to be seen but I am almost certain they will. Whistlebinkies has turned from a souless and average pub to a place that you need to be seen in. Things are only going to get better too! Its not often I write such a glowing review of a place which I have no emotional stake in but this place is going to be hot!
Watch this space, Stirling is going to become exciting for beer very soon. Not only for the fact that a new beer brand will be launched here soon........
It’s been a whirlwind year so far at University. Firstly
since I am now into my last few months of classes the work is piling up. Always
being one to try and make things more difficult for myself, I am currently in
the throes of an election to (hopefully) become Students Union President.
Regardless of all this, Stirling University Craft Beer
Society (SUCBS) have been coming on leaps and bounds. Since February we have
successfully had a beer from Williams Brothers installed in our student bar ‘Studio’.
It’s really taken a lot longer to come to fruition than I make it sound but we
were more than happy to work to get this into our bar as we previously had a
choice of mass market lager and the black Irish stuff. It has been great to see
our members where they belong, socialising in their own Students Union with a
pint of something they actually enjoy.
Tomorrow will also see us home brew as a group for the first
time. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to this. The ability
to teach members old and new, beginners and experts about the quality of hops,
the cold break and many other brewing geekery does still fill me with an odd
sense of joy. I think it probably takes me back to the first time that I
learned about all these things from my days at BrewDog and continue to learn
since then. It often does make me realise that I still have a lot to learn
though when a member asks something I am not quite sure of.
Our Logo for the beer
Equally exciting is the launch of ‘Procrastination’, the 5% IPA that we have brewed with Douglas Ross
of Allan Water Brewhouse in nearby Bridge of Allan. A beer that is made by
students, for students is something that we have waited a long time to see.
This will be a limited release beer which will be exclusively sold in the city
of Stirling, namely Studio and Whistlebinkies to start with. This really is a ‘fait
accompli’ for us, it’s taken so long to come to this stage that I know I will
be walking around with a massive smile on my face on Wednesday when it goes
live. We also plan to bottle the next batch so I may even be able to squirrel
some bottles away and bring to EBBC in May.
Anyway that’s the update for now. More beer news, reviews
and rants to come very soon but now back to the election.
As many of you will know the UK beer scene is a very
friendly place. People sharing pints together in pubs or at home with friends
and family. Brewers sharing resources in times of trouble and often
collaborating together. This is the way it should remain.
The last few days have seen a comment in a very good book
splattered across the blogging community for others to comment upon. I am all
for being able to pick people up when they do or say things that upset others
but let’s keep focussed guys. Positivity is the new black. Little is achieved
by starting online wars over a comment that has been taken out of context so
many times I almost lost track.
Let me make it clear, I am not standing up for one side or
the other but let’s just get on with promoting the thing that brings us
together in the first place: good beer. Squabbling makes the industry and us
bloggers look unprofessional.
I started home brewing in 2011. Whilst I have had experience brewing with an actual working brewery, I had never taken it upon myself to brew any of my own. I only managed two brews in the second half of the year and they were really just my trial run's but I was so pleased with them that I am going to set down a bit of a brewing plan for 2012.
First up will be a Simcoe dry hopped Ruby Red IPA (name suggestions welcome) which I think will probably take my FV up to early Febuary if I kick off soon. Nothing particularly fancy here, no extra ingredigents and just a regular ale yeast but I think it will be a good spring beer which is hopefully when it will be taking shape in bottle after a few weeks conditioning.
When the FV is ready for action sometime in early-mid Feb I will be going for my first ever beer using a lager yeast. I figure that even although I do live in Scotland I probably shouldn't leave it too much later in the year before attempting a lager yeast without some decent cooling equipment. So a Kolsch it will be. Nothing challenging but a good beer to stick away and forget about about for a bit until our (hopefully) very hot summer comes along.
Next up (probably not till April) an I/APA hopped with something big and tropical (I haven't decided what yet). I brewed an IPA as my last beer of 2011 and it was great but I thought it was a little darker than I wanted it to be. This beast will be golden with a tropical nose and a decent amount of carbonation. If I get bored of my Kolsch on those long hot Scottish summer days (ahem) I can always switch to something more hoppy.
Something like this would be very nice
Next up I want to do something with a bit of fruit but this will be totally dependent on how hot the summer is. I don't plan on having a FV full of beer and fruit if we do actually get a decent summer. No extracts, no concentrates, REAL fruit. Probably something like pink grapefruit or blood oranges. I will likely have to ferment with an ale yeast unless I invest in some better cooling but I might go for one of the fancier yeasts rather than the usual one I buy.
I figure that with my own life, university work, my job and other commitments that should take me up till the end of the summer. With the uncertainty of what I will be doing after graduation its probably silly for me to plan any further ahead than that right now but winter will probably see me drinking home brewed Nespresso Stout (probably not the cheapest way to do it I know) and if I get a bit braver maybe an Imperial Stout.
Any suggestions for names or ingredients are more than welcome. Have a great 2012 whether you are a home brewer, a beer drinker or you stumbled upon this site by accident.