Birthday beers 

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A lot of people seem to see the 30th birthday as a bit of a negative milestone… no longer in your 20s, over the hill, time to start growing up?! Personally, it didn’t seem too daunting at all and in fact created a great excuse to have a bit of a get together with friends and a few beers. The Bavarian Beer House http://www.bavarian-beerhouse.co.uk/ seemed as good as place as any and drinking steins of beer in good company made for a great night.

Beer – Krombacher pils

Brewery – Krombacher

ABV – 4.8%

Description (from website) – With Krombacher Pils you enjoy a distinctive, finely bitter taste and a full-flavoured aroma – this is a genuine premium pilsner beer with an alcohol content of 4.8 %. Our modern production processes enhance the traditional recipe whilst complimenting the natural products that have been used for generations to create the unique brew that is Krombacher Pils.

A pleasantly drinkable pilsner which was particularly nice accompanied with pretzels and bratwurst. Fresh and tangy and somewhat dangerous when consumed in 2.5 pint steins!

6/10

Thankfully many of my friends share the same love of beer as I do and as a result, many hours of discussing and evaluating beers is a common pastime. Coupled with this, when it comes to birthdays, beer always seems to be a prominent influence on presents. My father in law kindly booked a brewery tour for me to attend (at the Bath Brewery) which I thoroughly look forward to and one of my best mates (Joe) got me the beer equivalent of a chocolate selection box! Please see some of those beers below…

Beer – Karwendel Hell

Brewery – Baruerei Mittenwald

ABV – 4.9%

Description (from website)- Pouring a clear deep gold, this is as light and fresh a Helles Lager you will find. Pouring with a small head the taste is of spicy hops with a slight granular body. Perfect for a summer’s day and barbecue!

A nice light German lager which is fresh and fizzy on the palate. Poured smoothly into the glass with a nice amount of life. Really reinforced to me how much better German lagers are to the vast majority of the samey English ones.

6.5/10

Beer – Kriek Lambicus

Brewery – John Martin and brewery Timmermans

ABV – 4%

Description (from website) – Another Timmerman’s fruit lambic, this time cherry-flavoured! Produced in the same manner as the Framboise and Strawberry, the Kriek has rather sweet aromas of cherries, almonds, and maybe even Dr. Pepper. The flavour is not as sweet as the nose implies, rather there are some hints of acidity alongside the sweet cherries. Highly-carbonated and dry, expect a rather sweet beer with a touch of tart.

The beauty of this selection box from Joe was that it really introduced me to a number of beers I would otherwise unlikely try. The cherry beer from Timmermans certainly fits this category and was certainly interesting! It poured very much like a fizzy lager but the aroma and taste were extremely strong with sweet cherry. It tasted when immediately sipped like cherry coke and a slight bitterness came through later on ending in something a bit more like beer. A very interesting beer but certainly an acquired taste which makes it quite niche.

4/10

Beer – Orval

Brewery – Abbaye d’Orval

ABV – 6.2%

Description (from website) – This Belgian Trappist brewery only makes one beer, but it is one of the most sort-after beers in the world. Brewed by monks within the walls of the monastry, Orval is an orange-hazed Belgian pale ale bottled conditioned with a special yeast called brettonomyces. When fresh the beer is sherberty sweet with a herbal hop profile and a hint of funky, farmyard-like brett. But after around six months the beer changes character completely, becoming dry and pithy almost like a Negroni, lifted by that lovely hop hit and remaining hint of sweetness. Truly one of the world’s most enigmatic and brilliant breweries.

Very zesty with prominent hoppy and herbal undertones. Was certainly full in body and packed a punch with a complex profile of flavours.

7/10

Beer -Broken Dream Breakfast Stout

Brewery – Siren Craft Brew

ABV – 6%

Description (from website) – A 6% breakfast stout with a gentle touch of smoke, coffee and chocolate. Broken Dream is deep and complex. She lurks in your imagination. She binds smoke and coffee aromas with chocolate, milk and oats to create something thick, velvety and slick.

The beer selection box really makes you deviate from your tried and trusted ‘go to’ beers and sample some you probably otherwise wouldn’t. This Breakfast Stout certainly fell into this category. Despite not being a huge Stout fan, I was pleasantly surprised. The coffee and chocolate flavours were rich and it had a nice hint of smoke in the background too. It was lovely as a one off drink and certainly one to sup in the winter months.

8/10

Beer – Doggie Style Pale Ale

Brewery – Flying Dog Brewery

ABV – 5.5%

Description (from website) – The alpha of the pack, Doggie Style Pale Ale complements a wide range of foods. Flavor notes: Grassy, citrus, and slight perfume hop aromas with subtlety sweet malt body Pairs with: Cheddar cheese, burgers, barbeque, Thai, Mexican

Definitely one of my favourite of the selection. An extremely well balanced pale ale with a lovely blend of citrus and hop flavourings. Certainly one I will be looking to buy again!

9/10

 

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USA

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When you mention beer and the USA stereotypically I always think of huge commercial lagers like Coors Light and Budweiser. Nevertheless, there are a number of far more interesting American beers now being stocked in UK supermarkets like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Blue Moon. Heading off on a three week holiday to the States I was firstly keen to visit a country I had never been to before but also eager to see the range of beers available along the West Coast. I have to say I was staggered by the sheer volume of choice and the number of microbreweries in every town and city we visited!

Here are some of the highlights: 

Beer – White Ale

Brewery – Telegraph Brewery

ALC – 4.5%

Very Belgian/Dutch tasting in terms of its appearance and flavourings. Slightly cloudy and was punchy with the coriander and grapefruit layers. One of the first beers I had on the trip and the backdrop of the Santa Barbara coastline watching seals in the sea and pelicans in the sky set the tone for an amazing holiday and discovery of new beer!

7/10

Beer – Go West! IPA

Brewery – Anchor Brewing

ALC – 6.5%

A superbly balanced IPA which was one of my absolute favourites on the whole trip. The stunning landscape of the Big Sur certainly added to the overall enjoyment of this ale. It was pleasantly carbonated and really zipped into life on the palate with a citrus fruit zest. An extremely morish beer which I will be keen to source in the UK!!

9/10

Beer – DBA

Brewery – Firestone

ALC – 5%

Thankfully the campervan we hired had a roomy fridge so I was always able to keep a well stocked supply of local beers on the trip. Every supermarket we stopped at I was keen to explore the beer section and spent a bit of time (probably a lot in my wife’s eyes) pacing the aisles. DBA reminded me of many British ales in its style and it was pleasantly malty and had hoppy/oaky undertones. A great beer to sit back and sup on in the campsites in front of a fire. The vanilla flavours might become a bit overpowering if you had a few of them.

6.5/10

Beer – Pale Ale

Brewery – Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company

ALC – 5.5%

Santa Cruz was a brilliant place to explore and after being recommended this brewery by our air bnb hosts my arm didn’t take much twisting to check it out. It was a really cool venue and the smell of fresh hops from the working brewery was very enticing. This pale ale was full of life and had a lovely tang to it. I was gutted I had to drive as otherwise I would have happily worked my way through a few others on the list!

8/10

Beer – Racer 5 India Pale Ale

Brewery – Bear Republic Brewing Company

ALC – 7.5%

Another of the bottled beers I got to accompany our camping. At 7.5% it tasted strong and the other flavourings became a bit dwarfed. Quite sweet and although certainly drinkable, not my favourite of the trip. 

5/10

Beer- Mt Tam Pale Ale

Brewery – Marin Brewing Company

ALC- 5.5%

Another of the breweries we visited – this time just north of San Francisco. A really thirst quenching beer which had balanced hoppy flavourings. A constant stream of small bubbles rose in the glass and was very much enjoyed in the afternoon sun.

7.5/10

So, I will definitely be shunning my previous preconceptions of the USA being a wishy washy lager guzzling nation! A thirst for a variety of well made ales is hugely evident and I didn’t even have a chance to scratch the surface! What a brilliant trip with some fantastic beers to boot. 

Summer Lightning – The Hickory (Barge) Inn

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Summer-Lightning

One of the massive perks of teaching is the holidays and it’s always great to head back to Devon for a few days to catch up with Mum and Dad. Devon is blessed with some great pubs and it is really disappointing to have seen many being forced into closure over recent years. A lot of contributing factors have been suggested for the closures including the economic downturn, smoking bans and rising costs. Despite this, I think a village pub can hugely improve a community acting as a meeting place which boosts cohesion. Therefore, it is incredibly important to support them!

I had heard from a couple of friends that the Hickory (Barge) Inn at Halberton had recently changed hands and we decided to walk along the canal for lunch on Sunday. There were a number of real ales on offer and Summer Lightning caught my eye so I went for one of those. I was also thoroughly impressed by the array of American craft beers and IPAs available in bottles.

Beer – Summer Lighning

Brewery – Hop Back (Wiltshire)

ALC – 5%

Description (from website) – A trendsetter in the brewing industry; the original Summer ale brewed all year round. An extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish.

Have to say both me and Dad were impressed with this pint. Lovely fresh tang to it with a really nice balance of hops and bitterness. Possibly a little dangerous at 5% but a top ale.

7.5/10

The food at the pub was also thoroughly enjoyed and definitely something a bit different in comparison to other pubs in the area. The menu reminded me of a lot of trendy London eateries that currently feature popular US dishes such as slow cooked pulled pork and brisket. All of us who attended were more than pleased with our meals and it set us up well for the walk home after.

Overall, it is fantastic to see a pub being run with enthusiasm and new ideas to get people interested and through the door. The service, food and beer is highly recommended. We will be visiting again!

It’s been a while…

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My beer blog has been somewhat neglected over recent months, with me becoming a married man one of the main factors! Nevertheless, I was really keen to get writing again and I have a homebrew and a few other beers to review.

My previous post centred upon a batch of Coopers Australian Pale Ale which was incredibly easy to make and proved to be equally easy to drink. It was a light Ale and through the use of priming drops the carbonation was pleasant enough. It was crisp and refreshing and although the flavour didn’t blow me away, it was a real thirst quencher. It was best served slightly chilled (half an hour in the fridge sufficed) and it has encouraged me to follow up this brew with a Coopers Australian IPA so, watch this space – should hopefully offer more depth and some more hoppy undertones.      

In all honesty, this next beer is mainly included to show off the location in which it was enjoyed (see below). My wife and I had the pleasure of going on honeymoon to the Gili Islands off the coast of Bali in Indonesia. It was a stunning location and in between the fruity cocktails, a fair few Bintangs were consumed. They were always served ice cold and were thoroughly enjoyed throughout our stay.

Beer – Bintang

Brewery – Bintang (Indonesia)

ALC – 4.7%

8/10

Description – The beer is styled as an American Pale Lager, yellow in colour with an ideal serving temperature of 7 °C.The 4.7 per cent Pilsner has a malt and hop flavour. Its taste is often compared to Heineken.

Quite often when it comes to beer, the location in which it is consumed adds to the overall memory. The beer, like the location, was idyllic. I have no doubt that if I was to drink a Bintang back here in the UK it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. Therefore, I won’t and I’ll retain the memories from our amazing trip!

Finally, Rugby had to feature at some point with the World Cup semi finals looming on the weekend. Me and the old man were fortunate enough (or not depending on how you look at it) to be at the Wales V South Africa quarter final last week. In what has been an engrossing tournament, Wales just ran out of steam in the last 5 minutes with a depleted team. Prior to the game I met up with Dad in Richmond and we caught up over a couple of pints…

Beer – London Pride

Brewery – Fullers (London)

ALC – 4.7%

7/10

Description – Brewed under the watchful eye of our Griffin since the 1950s, London Pride is unmistakably London’s beer. With its well-rounded flavour and rich history, everything about this authentic, characterful beer binds it to our capital city and the people who love it.

One of the most readily available ales across London and I have to say, it is extremely reliable and a good bench mark of how well a pub keeps its beer. This was served in the Princes Head http://www.princeshead.co.uk/ just off the green. It always has a bubbly pre match atmosphere.

Beer – London Gold

Brewery – Youngs (London)

ALC – 4.8%

7.5/10

Description – Youngs London Gold is key member of the Youngs range. As the name suggests its a golden beer with a refreshing taste. London Gold is available as a cask beer and also as a bottle conditioned beer.

A really tasty ale which ticks all the boxes for me in terms of its colouring and flavouring. Just a shame it wasn’t backed up by a more positive result at the end of the day. Thoroughly looking forward to the southern hemisphere fixtures this weekend and no doubt a few more beers.

New home brew and reviews

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So, two weeks post marathon and beer is well and truly back on the agenda! I thought ahead and got another home brew on the go prior to the run with a view to it being ready in the summer. I opted for a Cooper’s Australian Pale Ale kit (on the recommendation of a couple of mates) and it should be ready at the beginning of June. Due to heavy carbonation in my previous batch of IPA I decided on carbonation drops as opposed to sugar as this should be far more accurate. I will get a review up as soon as it’s ready.

    

Admittedly, I didn’t totally abstain from beer during my running training and a couple of beers in need of a review are some Belgian beers I received as a present:

Beer – Corsendonk Agnus

Brewery – Brouwerij Corsendonk (Belgium)

ALC – 7.5%

Description – Wonderful quality abbey ale, a cut above the rest. Hints of lemon and elderflower on the nose cut through the full body, leaving a long, moreish finish.

I thoroughly enjoyed this beer as it really offered a lot. It was extremely lively when poured into the glass from the champagne style corked bottle and a healthy head formed – something I would deem quintessential of Belgian beers. There was a lot of depth in the flavour with hints of citrus, dried fruit and spice. This triple brewed beer subtly combined these host of flavours and was extremely smooth. In terms of the alcohol content it packed a punch and this would certainly be a drink best enjoyed in moderation!

7.5/10

Beer – Corsendonk Pater

Brewery – Brouwerij Corsendonk (Belgium)

ALC – 7.5%

Description – Brewed with roasted malt, hence its deep dark reddish colour. It is a mellow, dark, top-fermented beer, refermented and matured in the bottle to obtain a lively, bubbly beer with a rich head.

The second of the Belgian beers was a darker example from the same brewery. It had chocolatey, fruity and malty aromas and despite this, the flavour certainly wasn’t too sweet. The head formed similarly to the Agnus but this soon receded in the glass and it didn’t retain the vibrancy quite as well. The 7.5% volume was also far more noticeable with this drink and it did become a little heavy by the end.

7/10

  

Beer – Blandford Flyer

Brewery – Badger (Dorset)

ALC – 5.2%

Description – With the hot summer sun beating down, the patient fly-fishermen of the Dorset Stour await their catch. These ‘Flyers’ are celebrated in this warming ale with ginger overtones, rumoured to be originally included to remedy the bites of the infamous Blandford Fly.

I really fancied a couple of nice beers for a Friday night in front of the TV and hurriedly picked this one due to some positive experiences with Badger brewery in the past. I didn’t really take much notice of the label when buying them, but on returning home noticed the “beer with a ginger hook” description. Initially this really put me off, as with the currently popular ginger beers on the market like Crabbies, I really dislike the sugar saturation! Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with this ale as it wasn’t overly sweet and the ginger was well balanced just offering a bit of heat on the palate. Quite an unusual beer and not something I would regularly go back to. A sort of ale/ginger beer hybrid.

6/10

A year of beer

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So, it has been a year of reviewing beer and indeed embarking on my first homebrew production – many fine (and not so fine) ales have been sampled. I have thoroughly enjoyed broadening my knowledge and appreciation of ale but whilst flicking through some pictures on my phone, I noticed a glaring omission! Earlier this year I attended Claire’s brothers wedding in Germany and was lucky enough to try a number of local brews and I never got round to writing up my observations. We visited Bamberg in the South of Germany and I was not only excited by the sheer volume of breweries in the area but also that we were there whilst the annual beer festival was taking place – a fantastic coincidence.

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Beer – Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
Brewery – Schlenkerla (Bamberg, Germany)
ALC – 5.1%
Description – Bamberg’s speciality, a dark, bottom fermented smokebeer, brewed with Original Schlenkerla Smokemalt from the Schlenkerla maltings and tapped according to old tradition directly from the gravity-fed oakwood cask in the historical brewery tavern.

This was described as a must by all locals we talked to and is one of the most famous beers being produced in Bamberg. The smokey flavour was very apparent on first tasting but this did begin to mellow when more was consumed. This distinct flavouring comes from the malted barley which is dried over an open flame. The beer is steeped in history and has been produced since 1678 and traditional techniques are still used within its production today. I have only really experienced these types of flavours in a few British winter ales but unlike them, Rauchbier is no where near as heavy or treacly. I was really pleased to have tried this beer and the setting of a German beer garden certainly added to the experience.
7.5/10

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Beer – Konig Ludwig Weissbier
Brewery – König Ludwig GmbH & Co. KG Schlossbrauerei Kaltenberg
ALC – 5.5%
Description – The specific selected yeast gives this “Weissbier” the unmistakable taste of diverse fruity beer flavors. A special brewing process with traditional bottle fermentation results in a particular bubbly, naturally cloudy “Hefeweissbier”.

I am very partial to Weissbier and often pick up a few bottles from the supermarket and particularly favour Erdinger. This beer has Royal Heritage which can be tracked back through the Kingdom of Bavaria. The current Prince of Bavaria has a hand in the production and it received the accolade of the ‘world’s best wheat beer’ in 2008. The fruity tones in this beer were really well balanced with a nice mix of sweet and bitter. It was fresh on the palate but slightly too fizzy for my personal taste. Overall, a really solid wheat beer.
6.5/10

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The wedding itself was fantastic and was hosted in a German castle a short drive outside of Bamberg. There were two barrels of beer at the reception and the pictures above show the two types of beer supplied by Held Brau http://www.held-braeu.de/home.htm (this directly translates to Hero Brew). The lighter of the two had a Pilsner feel to it and was very moreish, it also had a well balanced aftertaste. The darker of the two was extremely similar in colour to the Rauchbier however, the flavour was no where near as smoky. It had pleasing malty undertones and was definitely the one I preferred out of the two.
Combined score 7.5/10

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Beer – Kapuziner Weissbier
Brewery – Kulmbacher Brauerei (Schörghuber)
ALC – 5.4%
Description – The most refreshing beer in the world. Malted wheat and special yeast give Kapuziner Weissbier its light touch and distinctive taste – a yeasty tang offset by a solid malt body and a delightful tropical fruitiness. Unfiltered yeast lends a hazy, seductive look.

This was my beer highlight of the trip to Germany. A really vibrant Weissbier which had a lovely fruity tang which contrasted effectively with the notable wheat and yeast flavours. It was smooth and slipped down extremely easily. A nice head formed when it was poured and this remained all the way down the glass. Had a nice level of carbonation too.
8/10

Overall, a lovely insight into beers from the Bamberg area and I would love to have a crack at brewing some wheat beer at some point in the future based on my experiences!

Moving into the new year it is extremely likely my blog is going to fall by the wayside for a while as I will be in training for the London Marathon in late April and am going to cut right back on alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, I really hope to start a few more homebrews after this and also do some more ratings.

Happy New Year and a special mention to my beer of the year – The Meantime London Pale Ale.

The first taste of homebrew

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So, I have jumped the gun a little bit and only left my IPA to clear for 11 days as opposed to the suggested 14 but I simply couldn’t wait any longer! I cracked open the bottle and there was a pleasing fizz which meant there was sufficient priming sugar for carbonation. When pouring into the bottle it is preferred to do it in one hit but it was at this stage I realised the carbonation was a little too heavy as there was an excessive head which formed (the picture was taken after it had settled a bit). I then proceeded to pour in the rest apart from the dregs which were a little murky. The instant aroma before drinking was hoppy and citrusy and it certainly smelled like an IPA (which was promising). The first taste was similar to the smell with clear punchy hop flavours accompanied with subtle fruity undertones. It was very smooth and did have a fairly well balanced bitter aftertaste. I feel the carbonation did detract from the overall flavour though; this will certainly be something I will look to tweak in my future brews.

It was very drinkable and I was keen to try another just to make sure the batch was consistent. Unfortunately, the next bottle was nowhere near as pleasing – the carbonation was through the roof which resulted in a champagne like moment where half the beer ended up on the floor! When I bottled the beer I did make sure I separated the top three quarters of the brewing bucket and the bottom (where more bi-products were) and to be fair the second bottle was from the bottom.

Overall, an enlightening first experience of brewing and I am left with hopefully around 30 drinkable bottles which I would happily pay money for. Certainly some areas to work on, but not an absolute disaster!

6.5/10

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