Tuesday, 29 March 2011

MANOWAR-A week end away/ some beer talk

Ahhhhh. 4 days off work, good friends and a ticket to see ManOwaR....Its all a guy needs. (well also beer but we'll come to that later.) Me and a few friends made an epic (I'm going to be using the word "epic" alot...but if you know ManOwaR, you know why) journey up to Birmingham last weekend to see THE heavy metal ManOwaR play their first gig on English soil for the first time since I was 4 years old. (that's 16 years for everyone who doesn't know me) The 02 Academy in Birmingham was a funny choice for the venue of this epic (see...told you) event because it only has a capacity of about 3,000 people which was silly 'cause they could of easily of filled out somewhere with a much greater capacity, but then I suppose Birmingham is the true home of heavy metal. (Metal pioneers Black Sabbath hail from Birmingham and also Judas Priest do aswell.....and so does Jasper Carrot, but we'll forget about him

To keep this beer and pub related I wont go into FULL detail of my weekend, but I will share some of what we got up to. We arrived at our hotel on Saturday (which was conveniently just across the road from the 02) at 1:30pm, and after unpacking our crap and having a bit of a sit down and a drink, we made the natural decision to go to one of the two pubs we were intending to visit on our little trip. First up was Scruffy Murphy's, an Irish themed metal pub (dream team). After spending a good hour lost and confused trying to find the pub, we finally stumbled upon its location and after such an epic (and again) quest for a beer, we hastily went inside to find the bar. Disappointingly it didn't have any ale at all, but what the pub lacked in beer choice, it more then made up with the atmosphere of the place. There was a great feeling inside that pub that made it comfortable and relaxing, which in a metal pub, is a rare and unusual thing. There was good metal music playing through the speaker system, but it wasn't loud and offensive to people who just wanted a drink and a chat, and it also didn't feel intimidating like some metal pubs can, so all in all a bloody good pub and one I would come to alot if I lived here. (Also, on Sunday, the pub had a ManOwaR day, so naturally we spent most of the day there before the gig...The pub got bloody packed)

Next on our list of watering holes was The Actress And Bishop. We heard news that this place had a couple of bands playing that night, (one being a ManOwaR cover band creatively named DanOwaR) so we grabbed a taxi and made our way. Once we arrived I was pleased to see on a sign outside that they sold cask beer, great, but once inside things started to change very rapidly. First problem was that this didn't seem like the kind of place that would have metal bands playing, it was more of a trendy bar...but the group of metal heads by the bar and a poster on the wall confirmed that this was the right place. The second problem was that my hopes of a good beer were dashed when we got to the bar and found that the only ale on was Marston's Pedigree, well...one ale is better then no ale, or so I thought. Warm as hell and with a smell more eggy then Easter, it was bloody horrible, but hey ho I moved on to keg beer and bottles and enjoyed the rest of what was a bloody good night.

The next day, as I said earlier, we spent mostly in Scruffy's, but not before spending over an hour walking around lost in the Bull Ring shopping centre. As the time to make our way to the gig arrived, we walked from the pub to the 02 and joined the queue...the bloody big queue, thank god we're English and queueing is in our DNA. Not before long though, we were inside and were ready to rock, but annoyingly I lost the rest of the guys in a queueing cock-up. (well...it was that, or they saw their opportunity and ditched me :D) On my own, I fought my way close to the front to somewhere I could get a pretty good view. Waiting for the show to start, the atmosphere around the arena was immense, 3,000+ people all chanting and waiting for what was to be one of the greatest nights of their lives to begin, and when it did...it didn't disappoint. Over 2 hours of a pure, epic and glorious metal onslaught was being played and I loved every damn minute of it...well apart from being crushed by sweaty, 6ft people from all directions, but apart from that it was great.

Straight after the gig, we had to drive back because some of the guys had work the next morning, but the late night drive was worth it. Next morning I felt fine apart from my neck hurt from excess headbanging, but it wasn't until I tried watching TV later on that I noticed my hearing was messed up as well....the cost of metal I suppose.

Well that's my story of the weekend. My next blog post will be about my latest home brew experiment, but you'll have to wait to find out what it is :D

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

IPA IS DEAD!!..Brew Dog's as modest as ever/ Mad March Fair

4 bottles of I.P.A, all the same base beer with the same strength at 7.5%ABV and all the same I.B.U (International Bitterness Unit, for those who may not know what it means...bloody technical jargon :D)...Th only difference?? Each beer gets its flavour from one of four completely different hop varieties.

Brew Dog being Brew Dog, they couldn't just brew and advertise these beers like a normal brewery....ohhhh no, the beers have been hopped and double dry hopped (never bloody heard of double dry hopping before?...Those crazy Scottish brewers) and also the packaging makes very clear that these beers contain nothing but pure and unadulterated hoppy awesomeness.But if there's anything that's made Brew Dog what they are today, its their OTT marketing....oh yeah,and their consistently brilliant beer (cant forget that now, can we?)

Well lets start with the English hop first shall we? Bramling cross (or how Brew Dog rather expectantly call it...Bramling X) starts with a warming blackberry and apple crumble aroma with a slight hint of ginger and a plummy finish makes it seem like a very homely beer, take a sip though, and all the comfort is tossed out the window like Hans Gruber in Die Hard. The first noticeable thing in the taste is that pretty much all the rich fruity notes in the aroma are replaced by a crisp earthy flavour that reminds me of nettles, dandelions and other grassy flavours tingling the tongue, but it also has an underlying sweetness which marks the return of the blackberries and now also pears from the smell which brings the beer together nicely and leaves the palate with a sweet richness, but also feeling refreshed.

Next we're turning Japanese (I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so.....oh God I'm sorry) with Sorachi Ace. Wow this is a strange little bugger, this brew smells like bubblegum
bloomin bubblegum!! With raspberry, strawberry and watermelon aromas also present, I cant say I've smelt any other beer like it, but what the hell is it gonna taste like? Hmmmm, well stickily sweet, rather chewy and not very pleasant. (and for anyone who doesn't knows me, its not often I don't like a beer) The clingy, strawberry sweetness is followed straight by a minty, Herby taste that just seem to fight each other for supremacy and the end result is a car crash of flavour that goes together as well as a Pot noodle would on Masterchef. Maybe its just me but I reallllly don't like this one. (I still finish the beer....never waste a beer, that's how I was raised and that's how I live.

Now its New Zealand's turn. Nelson Sauvin has a full on creamy, fruit aroma of grapefruit, apricot and lime which would make a bloody good yogurt, but also a dang nice smelling beer. Ohhhh bloody hell that's a mighty fine brew. Much more smoother then the other beers, its friggin wonderful, and also unlike the other beers so far, it keeps all of its flavours from the aroma in the taste but also adds a dash of zesty bitterness to the tongue which doesn't stay around for as long as the other beers....but it just make you wanna go back for more.

Last and very not least, from our American friends we have Citra. As the name suggests, the nose is full of citric fruits such as lemon, grapefruit and orange, but it also has a very slight piney note that you'll find in a lot of American I.P.A'S.Very nice, but nothing special. The flavours are very similar to the Nelson Sauvin, but more crisp and not so pronounced. Citra's a really tasty beer...but unfortunately its just too ordinary, probably from being a over used hop type in I.P.A'S, so I cant really blame it.

All in all, not a bad batch of beers from Brew Dog (again) but I will hesitate to try anything with Sorachi Ace from now on. This is a limited edition brew so I fully recommend getting a batch before its all gone.

Just for a side note. Its the Mad March Fair at the Queen's Head this weekend, with more creative things to do then you can shake a stick (or paintbrush?) at, I hope you can make a trip down to enjoy what is sure to be a fun couple of days of craft for ye arty folk.

Take care everyone.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A little taster...

Evening all. I'm having myself a little tasting session tonight and I'm including an early taster of my latest home brew experiment in to the mix, just to spice it up another notch. BAM!*

One of the reasons I've become so fascinated with beer (apart from the fact that it gets you drunk...which there's no point denying is a bloody good plus) is that there are sooo many varieties of it, much more then wine or any spirit. From your basic best bitters, milds and I.P.A's to your lambics, raucbiers and to one that I'm trying tonight...gruit beer. Not to go into a whole nerdy history of beer (for A: I'll probably get all my info wrong anyway. and B: I most likely sound nerdy enough as it is.) but basically gruit is the old fashioned herb mixture used to flavour beer before the introduction of hops to England in the 16th century. Link here to find out more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruit

Alba from Williams Brothers Brewery is a 7.5% beer brewed with the addition of spruce and pine needles and as I pour it into the glass it shows its wonderful tawny red colour with a very slight carbonation producing a very faint head. The aroma of berries and Carmel are dominate with a faint whiff of pine lingering in the background. The taste starts with a rich, malty sweetness with flavours of blueberries, juniper, apples and pine coating the tongue with a slight herbal taste, probably coming from the spruce, coming slowly into play to balance the sweetness. Very, very drinkable and I wouldn't guess that this was a 7.5% beer. Its a shame that gruit beer isn't more popular then it is, because in my opinion...who the hell needs hops?!

Right, now here's the one Ive been waiting for. My banana, honey and maple syrup wheat beer! Its been bottled for 3 weeks now so its still kinda young, but as I pop the top off it shows plenty of carbonation, with it also frothing up fast on pouring giving it a big white head that starts to fade rapidly. The beer has a orange "fading sun" type colour and probably due to me not bothering with finings, its not particularly clear...but who cares?? Smells of sweet honey and sherbet tingle the nose with the faint aroma of bananas following. it has most of the classic smells of a good German wheat beer. The beers mouth feel is pretty thick, probably too thick for a beer this pale and strength (around 5.5% ABV) but luckily the high carbonation balances things up nicely. The honeys flavour and sweetness comes through more then any of the other ingredients, but the maple syrups taste is also noticeable and adds the richness that was needed. Unfortunately there's no banana flavour to be found. Although its not immediately obvious, the spiciness of the Tettnanger hops used, slowly creeps in and tingles the tongue in a battle for supremacy against the honeys sweetness, which after a bit of a scuffle, it ultimately loses and fades away.

All in all, not a bad batch. If I brewed it again, I think I would let it ferment longer, but its still a pretty good beer, and after a tad more maturing it should get better.

*Anyone who gets this reference....give yourself a goldfish!!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Dealing with violence...just apart of the job??

I would like to chat about something seriously today, if you don't mind too much.

When I first started this job almost a year ago, some of the first things I was told I would need to learn, but only I could through experience, was to be aware of my surroundings and to be always watching whats happening around the bar, even doing so without making it obvious I am. More seriously then that though, I would have to learn how to handle the situation if a fight ever broke out or if a customer became violent and aggressive. Learning these things was never going to be the most fun aspect of the job.

This Friday gone, for the first time, I dealt with one of those situations. It wasn't too big and I wont go into the full details of it, but a glass pint jug was thrown, a window was damaged and there was a scuffle outside. I was told I dealt with it really well but to be brutally honest, I knew the person causing the problem well and had it been a complete stranger, I don't think I would of been so fast and confidant with dealing with it. I'm a pretty small guy and I'm also fully aware that I'm a weak, un-intimidating person to boot, so in hairy situation I'm not really the best guy in the world to handle someone being violent, and in a fight, I'm just as likely to back away and give in as the french. (sorry, bad joke...but you didn't really expect me to be 100% serious did you??)

I'm really lucky to be where I work. Its mostly a very friendly and calm place, with this scuffle being probably the 2nd major problem in 10 months, I would say that this was pretty good going. Not all pubs are this lucky though, and there must be places all round the country were things like this happen most weekends, and also... most likely, much worse. I know that working in a pub where there is a constant treat of violence would really worry me and I would probably not last very long in the job, but what about the people who do work there?? Do they just take it as apart of the job and take it in their stride or do some spend the last hour before work praying for an easy shift??

Maybe I'm looking too much into it, and maybe nowhere is really that bad, but it does make me think hard this job could be and just how lucky I am.

Would be great to hear some peoples opinion on this. Thanks and see ya next time.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Beer: part of the balanced diet!!...For those who are silly

First of all, I would like to say that I realise that I'm posting blog updates like a rabbit this week, but when you have as much random crap as me to say...well....what else can you do??

I heard something yesterday that got me thinking (and God we all know that it takes alot). I bumped in to a regular on the way to work...naming no names, but you know who you are...anyways, after a quick chat with Ben, I asked if he was coming to the pub anytime soon. The reply was no because he was trying to lose some weight. Now this shocked me because being someone who knows about these things, I've come to learn that weight put on through beer drinking is an important and healthy part of our diet and stopping could cause more harm then good.

Beer fat as I like to call it, is designed to keep us warm on those long walks back home on cold, wet and windy Saturday nights and also to create extra padding around the liver to stop anything from the outside damaging it. (cause again, God knows how much help that the livers gonna need). Beer also helps us relax, ease high blood pressure and its also full of nutrients. Below is a pie chart that shows the results of many minutes of very scientific and technological guesswork that shows that we need beer in our daily diet.

So there you have it! Undeniable proof that beers good for us and we need it to be healthy...so no more of this funny business about not coming to the pub. OK

DISCLAIMER: I, Matthew Turner openly admit that the above information is total rubbish and it holds no scientific or medical truth, but its my day off and I'm bored, so what else am I gonna do?? I'm sure a pint or so a day wont cause you any harm anyway....probably

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A bitter dissapointment with a nice hoppy outlook

Well bugger. That's another plan shot to shit*. If you read the last blog post then I'm sure you saw the bit at the bottom where i said that i applied to go on the first leg of a trip known as The Great Baltic Adventure. Well annoyingly i received a reply back today and was told that the first leg was now fully booked so I would either have to go on another leg or not at all. Unfortunately this would mean costing at least £200 extra plus also a heap more hassle organising getting to and from ports, so it had to be not at all.

Its not all bad though because my new back up plan is to go to this years Oktoberfest instead, which is something Ive been thinking about doing for the last few years anyway so it makes sense to go now as I've got this shiny new blog to tell ye all about it. I may also try to go to this years Great British Beer Festival as well so I can look and write about comparison between England's and Germany's biggest beer fests. Plus an excuse to get drunk is always handy.

Ive really got alot going on this year. GBBF, Oktoberfest, my 21st this year, MANOWAR in just under 3 weeks (EPIC!!) and I've got a few other little ideas floating around as well, so yeah, busy, busy, busy.

Another beer related topic (i suppose they almost always are really) I want to chat about is that last month marked a year since I started home brewing. My first batch was a standard 20 liter brew which the math wizards among you can guess made 40 500ml bottles, I have since reduced the size of my batches just because it makes life easier, but I've still got 5 bottles of this original batch left. The beer is a 6%abv dark ale, just right for a bit of ageing, so what i thought i would do is drink a bottle, write about it and then age the remaining 4 bottles for another year to see what difference it makes. If that goes well, I may just age the remaining 3 bottles even longer...but ill think about that more in a years time.

Appearance: Really dark, almost black in colour, but if held to the light the beer turns an amazing shade of ruby. A decent amount of carbonation with a nice golden head.

Smell: Prunes with a slight hint of cherry. Faint yeasty smell.

Taste: Rich and very creamy. starts very bitter, kinda like burnt coffee (can you burn coffee??) but it fades pretty fast and is then followed by a faint tartness (which is a good sign for the ageing) which brings the fruity flavours that were in the aroma in to full swing and finishes with a slightly sweet port-like flavour

Right I'll come back to that next year I suppose. Now I'm off to get ready for work.

Take care all.

* I'll try and keep this PG most of the time, but hey, I'll swear if i need to.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Festival update

I write this feeling drained, sleepy but also, amazingly...sober. Well as expected, its hit the weekend and its been busy, really busy. The festival is going great now with unlike the last festival, we actually have all the beers selling well rather then just a couple of really popular ones. My personal favourites have to be Cairingorm Black Gold Stout, a rich, warming full bodied stout with wonderful flavours of bitter coffee, roasted barley and with slight malty finish makes it a pretty tasty number, but of course my favourite has to be the Hop Top.

What can i say?? boy did it live up to the hype. With a rich golden appearance, an aroma of apples, pine and a hint of grapefruit and a wonderful, complex taste that makes it sooo much better then some of the other beers in this style that I've tried. The first thing that is noticeable is the flavour of rich bitter marmalade that is perfectly matched by a smooth blackcurrant sweetness. The next slightly alarming thing about this beer is that for being 9%...its dangerously drinkable. you can tell that its strong, but the flavours blend so well that it hides the strength like a ninja. I don't know if The Old Dairy intend to brew this beer again, but my god they should, and if they do, they should make more hype about it, because its a great beer and beats some of the American brews at their own game.

The weekend really as been enjoyable so far...busy and knackering as hell, but still fun. We've seen alot of new faces and a bloody good chunk of familiar ones (which is always good to see) but there's still a few days left to go so i hope to see some more beer being drunk by you all soon.

In other news. I've just applied to join the first leg of a trip called The Great Baltic Adventure. http://www.wix.com/seanor/gba I wont bore you with all the details, but its basically a 5 leg trip, sailing from London to St Petersburg in a 60ft clipper carrying 12+ cask of beer. Sounds bloody good to me.

Right, I'm off to bed now cause I'm bloomin sleepy. Night all.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Spring beer fest!!

Ahhh yes, believe it or not, but it really is March already. Its getting warmer (OK...ever so bloody slightly, but still) outside, days are getting longer and if you didn't think things were already good enough...The Queen's Head is hosting its 3rd beer festival!! (you lucky, lucky bunch.)

With the stillage set up, and with the beers waiting to be drunk, all we need is you jolly people to pop in and join us in a little celebration in saying bye bye to winter and hello to the rest of the busy (and i have full belief that it will be) year ahead. Kicking off on Thursday at 12:00pm, we are mostly focusing on stouts and porters, so expect some pretty interesting brews from the likes of Darkstar, O'Hanlons, Rother Valley and Potton brewery amongst a healthy range of others.

One beer that although is neither a stout or porter but none the less, i think deserves a special mention because its going to be such a unique beer is Hop Top from local brewers, The Old Dairy. A 9% ABV, double IPA, it already was going to be a interesting beer to try. One reason being that despite only being open little under a year, and after proving to be such consistently good brewers that The Old Dairy have the bulls (can you see what i did there??) to take on beer styles that you'll normally not find in this country...let alone being brewed by a small microbrewery, but this a special batch because its spent the last 5 months or so maturing. So something tells me its going to be pretty tasty.

There will be some great music Friday and Saturday night, and the kitchen will be open from 12pm-3pm and 6pm-9pm everyday with its usual delights, so you don't have an excuse to not come along and have a good time.

Of course, i don't want to miss out either, so Ive got Friday night off work so ill be there drinking, punning (sorry, but i just cant help myself) and having a good laugh. So next time you hear from me i should have some pics and a story to tell of a good night out.

Toodle pips all