Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Beer and a book....but what goes best??

One thing that Ive found myself to enjoy more and more over last couple of years (other then beer and now blogging of course) is reading. Now I know for most people, reading is no big whoop, but for didn't always come naturally. I spent time from time at primary school in a special needs class for reading, writing and maths which also carried on to secondary school until due to budget cuts etc... they got rid of special needs classes (nice one). So stuck in a school that unless you had a medical reason to struggle i.e dyslexia, ADHD wouldn't get much more help above the ever helpful "well pay more attention then" so reading proper books was something that always seemed daunting, and reading a novel...unlikely. Luckily, in my later years at school, I started to get better at reading and writing (although as I say often in this blog...its still not great) and in year 10 I read my first novel which was owing to a new film coming out at the time, a James Bond book...Casino Royale in fact. After that I started to read more and more and now I would say that my readings as good as it needs to be, and I'm enjoying reading books that as an early teenager...I would of never guessed I could.

Right. I went slightly off topic there, but I'll bring it back to beer with this...what type of beer goes best when reading a good book? This is something that I know could have a lot of factors. The genre of the book, where I'm reading and just what mood I'm in, but I feel its something worth me testing just to see for myself (and for you dear readers aswell).

I'll try this over a course of a few evenings because wile having a beer or 2 might relax and make the book reading experience more enjoyable...getting smashed when trying to read just wont end well. The book I shall be reading is "Dragon Haven" by Robin Hobb which is the second novel in the Rain Wind Chronicles, and if its as good as the first...should be a bloomin good read. I'll say this now...I'm not reviewing the book in the blog and I wont be going into as massive detail of each beer as normal, only enough to give a good idea on how it suites to going with a book.

O.k. First up is a barley wine. Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot barley wine. A rich burgundy colour, chewy and with a sweet raisin flavour that's balanced nicely with the classic citric character of American hops gives this beer a distinctive taste. A 9.6% ABV its alcohol content is noticeable in the taste, but its matched well by the other flavours which helps its last longer on the palate and becomes a beer to savour, which in turn means this beer lasts a few chapters before the glass is drained. Just the kind of thing I'm looking for.

Next up is a German beer style...a weizenbock. Erdinger Pikantus is a rich deep brown beer with a sweet banana and cloves aroma which is typical for the style, but its creamy and full bodied mouth feel matched with an overly sweet prune, maltyness and a flavour fight that's joined with cloves, banana, brown sugar, a tad medicinal flavour with a slight yeast astringency sends this beer off in many different directions and makes it probably too complicated to enjoy when trying to concentrate on a book. A reasonable beer, but it has too much going on.

Now for a classic English premium bitter with Black Sheep Ale. A wonderful chestnut brown with the classic thick northern head. This beer is packed with flavour starting with the refreshingly dry bitterness of English hops that's soon followed by a sweet richness of oranges and toffee that's coats the tongue with lasting flavour. Plenty going on but unlike the Erdinger, its simple and quaffable and because its got a crisp, lasting taste it means you can just get down and enjoy the book. Fits the bill nicely.

Back to Germany for a lager, but not just any old larger ohh no, this is a Kellerbier.Kellerbier is one of the oldest beer styles in existence and its unfiltered, unpasteurised and is full of vitamins from the yeast still in the never mind the health pills, drink this! St Georgen Brau has a lovely toasty malt and slight tart fruit aroma with a nice buttery mouth feel and a strong malty back bone. Flavours of sweet honey, caramel and a smack of earthy hop bitterness...its very refreshing. Very similar book reading value as the Black Sheep Ale, but it goes down a bit faster, which is both a good and bad thing. I just wish all lager was this good!

Now we have Oerbier from De Dolle Brouwers (literally means "the mad brewers") brewery in Belgium. A deep tawny, chestnut brown colour with a faint lacing head with a good show of carbonation. Wonderfully Bramley apple nose with a sweet berry and malt background that's followed by a good alcohol kick. Creamy with a silk smooth body that flows beautifully over the tongue. Tart apple, a sweet Caramel maltyness and currents dominate the flavour, but with sharp oranges and honey following make this a lovely complex beer, but unlike the Erdinger, its
balances well enough to allow you to read and enjoy this beer for the fantastic brew it is. I wish had more room to describe it but I must move on. A new edition to my favourite beer list me thinks.

Well this is part 1. So far, I feel a good Strong beer with good flavour, but with not too much going on seems to be best for reading what I will say is a blood good book. I will continue this quest soon. Cheers for reading, and don't forget to look out for part 2 :)

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bank holidays-A beer to celebrate with.

Well can you believe it!! Its a bank holiday weekend (and rather nicely, not the only one over the next month) and the sun is shining! The pessimistic (English) part of me is expecting it wont last very long or we will pay for it with a really crap June, July and August but that's why we should get out there and make the most of it now.

As most people will know, the bank holiday isn't the only reason some people are is for me....but some people are also looking forward to the waste of tax payers money royal wedding and that's fair enough, I'm just here for the beer suggestions :)

Champagne and beer. Some would say the two are as far apart from each
other as two drink can be. Beer, seen as the drink of the every man
(and women) wile champagne is seen as the drink of the wealthy. But a
semi recent development in beer brewing brings a new style to the beer
world and draws the two rather special beverages closer then ever.
Bière de Champagne is a style of beer in which the brew is normally
matured for a lengthy amount of time and then goes under the ‘méthode
Champenoise’ to remove the yeast. Just like champagne.

And today I’m tasting what is probably the most easily obtainable of
these beers. ‘Deus’ is brewed in Belgium and then transported to
France to undergo conditioning and yeast removal . As you pour the beer
in to a champagne flute (well, you’ve got to have the appropriate
glassware don’t you) it instantly foams up the glass with a thick,
white head, so its like champagne already, but it quickly fades and
leaves only a thin lace at the top of the beer. Just looking at it, you
can tell this isn’t your normal beer. Straw gold and with the
carbonation creating thousands upon thousands of tiny bubbles, it
certainly looks the part. The aroma is loaded with fresh slightly tart
apples and pears with also a subtle hint of honey in the background
that’s making it smell so inviting. So why fight it. Time for taste.
Peaches and zesty oranges are the first flavours that come through the
onslaught of carbonation on my tongue, but this is meant in a good way.
It makes the beer ultimately refreshing and with other tastes of cider
apples, a nice wheaty taste (probably coming from the yeast) and a
slight spiciness balancing out the flavours, leavening the finish it
crisp and dry on the palate .

Overall a very nice beer and certainly one to experience. But as you
may of guessed it comes at a price. £13.99 being the average price
makes this one expensive beer. But I think its better then most
sparking wines and Champagne I’ve tried (which to be honest isn’t that much, and when I
have its only been the average £30ish pound a bottle type. But that’s
not the point) and with it being a time to relax and celebrate, why not give it a go??

Monday, 18 April 2011

Avery, Brown, Dredge-Brew Dog again/ cider brewing

If you could do anything you wanted (and lets try and keep this in the realms of reality riding on the back of dragons wile burning your enemies to smouldering ashes.........that wasn't my wish) what would you do? Race a Ferrari round a track? Score a goal for your football team? (add random persons name here for the obvious joke)? For me, I think its gotta be to have one of my beers brewed in a proper brewery...well this beer that I'm trying today was brewed by 3 lucky (lucky, lucky, lucky) beer bloggers who where given a chance by Brew Dog to come up with a recipe for a beer and have brewed for a limited edition release. (lucky, lucky, lucky).

The result? Avery, Brown, Dredge. A 7.5% ABV imperial pilsner that's a mix of traditional malt and hops with modern brewing methods such as continuous and dry hopping. The beer pours a nice pale amber colour, showing an almost champagne like carbonation with thousands of bubbles screaming to the surface and a thick white head making it an enticing sight. The beer smells of wonderful grassy and slightly herbal aromas with a faint orange/apricot whiff hiding in the background. Full bodied and smoother then Barry White (pre-cremation) it tames the carbonation wonderfully, but it still allows it to help the Strong saaz hoppyness tingle everything from your tongue to your lips. The hops grassy/herby flavours dominates but there is a slight citric undertone witch balances it well, and along with its good lager malt backbone, brings the whole beer together nicely. All in all, a pretty good beer and one worth trying. I will say that it tastes very similar to Bohemia Regent Prezident, but its definitely got a bit more zing to it owing to its extra kick because it was knocked up a notch with the hop weasel*

Also this week, as I said a post or 2 ago, Ive started a batch of cider this week, but to jazz it up a little bit, I'm adding rhubarb in to the mix. Ive got no idea how it will turn out, but I will be sure to let you know. That's all for now folks. Tutty byes.

*If you don't get this reference, all I can say is one thing......FUTURAMA

Friday, 15 April 2011

Westy 12 and a plea for music

Morning everyone. First of all I wanna say thanks to you all because this blog has been getting more readers week on week, and considering I wasn't expecting to get any bugger reading it...I just thought it would be a good idea to raise a virtual pint and say cheers.

I'm going to be a slightly lazy bugger today and post a beer review that I wrote about 6 months ago, but never got posted. There is a reason to my blatant laziness....A) Because this was my first ever attempt to write a beer review (so that's why I was kinda hesitant to publish it). And B) Its a bloody rare and special beer to try. Enjoy.

" Well Its been a wile since I’ve treated myself to anything special, and in the never ending quest for beer…I thought that I would go all out this time, so with a lot of looking around and a bit of splashing the cash (£30 for one bloody bottle) I'm going to review the famed westvleteren 12. This being a beer I've been waiting to try for sometime and as some of you out there will know, has a lot of high praise. Its kind of nerving to see what I make of it because as much as beer is about personal tastes, if I don’t like something that is consistently praised to be the best beer in the world (and is by far the biggest pain in the arse to get a hold of because normally the only way to get it is to phone ahead, drive to the brewery in Belgium and pick up just one case…no wonder is so damn pricey) does that mean I should just pack up this whole beer blogging malarkey and leave it to the big guns?? Naaa sod that. On to the beer!

pouring the beer in to a Belgian chalice. hand shaking, not wanting to over pour and for it to froth up everywhere and waste any of the precious beer. its appearance is dark and sinfully rich, with a dark chocolaty colour that if held to the light, just shows a faint shade of crimson trying to get through. luckily I poured it slowly because although it only has a thin, lacing head, there's a hell of a lot of carbonation in this bad boy. well that's wired. now amazingly the strongest aroma I'm getting from the glass is that of a blue cheese, which is oddly pleasant because it doesn't just stand there alone, wafting up the place, but is backed up by a rich plummyness and is then balanced by the unmistakable smell of dark Candi sugar. Here it is, the moment I've been waiting for. The taste. Wow. Teeth tackingly rich, wonderfully dark bitter chocolate coats the tongue which is then massaged with the flavours of cloves and a faint liquorice aftertaste coming up behind. the highly visible carbonation is amazingly tamed by the smoothness of the beer, which in turn helps the finish of sweet dried fruits and a delicate rummy flavour balance out nicely.

I have to say, its a damn fine beer, but...but not the best beer in the world in my opinion. not even the best quadruple either. I think the Rochefort 10 and St Bernardus alt 12 just edge it on being better beers. I cant explain how, but they are. plus the asking price the average Joe has to pay for this beer, just isn't worth it, but is defiantly worth the experience and if I ever found myself in Belgium, I would certainly try it again."

Now I would like a little word about something important. As those of you who have been coming to the pub since we first opened almost a year ago now will know, one of the main draws during the summer was the pubs open mic nights. Talented musicians from Rye, the surround areas and further afield (if I remember rightly, we had a very talented singer, song writer from Canada at some point) would come and play all manner of music styles. From jazz to blues, classic rock to folk and prog to someone begging to play Raining blood by was all there. The pub was always busy, with often only enough time for 1 or 2 songs each, it created at great atmosphere and became another reason why I loved working here...but sadly, since winter came, open mic has all but died. Now that we are coming into summer again, I ask for your support in getting these fantastic evenings of music (and other talents!!...story telling, comedy and poetry etc.. are welcome) running again. I'm not asking this because I have the takings in the till at mind...but because I know that there are sooo many people around here that are fantastic musicians and don't always get a chance to show it in front of other people...and plus it keeps me entertained as well :). So guitar players, song singers, drum beaters, trumpet blowers and people of any skill and talent at any level...please come on the 28th of April and show your support....thanks!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bottle that brew! things to look forward to.

Well today's the day when I decided to bottle my latest batch of home brew. My nettle, dandelion, juniper Berry and honey beer. It had a pretty lively fermentation and it has got its self down to the level that I can bottle it a few days earlier then I thought it would, which is a nice change. (if only southern rail was that efficient...)

It was probably the first time Ive bottled something without at least one thing going wrong like me spilling a load of beer on the floor (my dad didn't appreciate that one much) or me sterilising all my bottling gear and then accidentally dropping it all on the floor wile trying to carry it upstairs....and having to clean it again. (I'm a clumsy git....I know).Annoyingly, now's the fun part where I have to wait at least 3 weeks to try it properly...but I can say one thing, there was a small amount left over that was pointless to put in a bottle, so I gave it a try in its un-matured state...and it was surprisingly nice! It had a faint lemony zing that cut through the honeys sweetness, but it also had a nice floral after taste. If its like this now...I cant wait to try it in 3+ weeks!

I'm going to give cider making a go next (Ive got a brand new combine harvester, an' I'll give you the key) but I'm going to be cheating a bit (a lot) by using apple juice that Ive brought rather the pressed etc... myself. No need to be boring though...I'm going to find some way to kick up a notch (Chuck Norris style) and make it interesting for ya.

In other news. I got my latest delivery of beers from around the world for me to try and most likely review on the blog today. It includes special beers such as a Kellerbier (One of the oldest German beer styles...but Ill tell you more about it when I drink it), another Brew Dog beer that was brewed to a recipe designed by beer writes Pete Brown, Zak Avery and Mark Dredge (these names mean nothing to you don't they?), some specials from Sierra Nevada in America and a few Belgian brews in the mix as well. so look out for posts on them. (oh yeah....I can tell you cant wait)

Well I gotta now. Take care all.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Beer in society-a competition loser

Since I first started writing this blog, I've come to find that I actually enjoy myself doing it. I'm by no-means a born writer and I make no attempt to hide that fact, but I've had a certain amount of feedback from people and a few actually like reading it (God knows why?) and some even find it entertaining, so for someone who only got a U for English in my GCSE's (I'm not sure if the U stands for Unclassified or Utter shit?)...its pretty good. Back in march, wile I was reading some of the various beer blogs that I look at to fill my days with, I came across a post that was informing people that the Wells & Youngs brewery was hosting a competition for amateur beer writers to write a piece on the social importance of beer...and with £2,000 for 1st prize, I thought I would give it a pop. Well the winner was announced on Friday 8th April, and surprise, surprise it wasn't me. I don't mind because I really didn't think I would win, but I just thought it would be nice to share my entry with you. Enjoy!!

" Beer, glorious beer. I personally think Oliver would of been a far better musical if that was the song in their hearts in that famous seen. Yes, I know they’re only children, but come on…this was the Victorian times. Now I know saying this all sounds rather silly, but I think breaking into spontaneous song about the joys of a good beer sounds just like the kind of thing that would happen after necking a few, don’t you agree?

It never really ceases to amaze me seeing the influence that beer has on how people act and how it can change a social situation in a completely different way then I think is possible with any other form of alcohol, and not just by people acting up and letting loose when being drunk. Nothing beats the kind of banter you get when talking at the bar, pint firmly in hand, as you discus such important matters as work, politics, religion, who on TV you would like to have sex with etc.. such things couldn’t be spoken about over a glass of wine or a gin and diet tonic, it just wouldn’t feel right. Beyond all that fake macho rubbish though, beer just makes you feel more at ease with yourself and with what your doing. Its the drink of the everyman, it doesn’t try to be something its not, it doesn’t demand a special setting for it to be drunk and enjoyed, it can be drunk by everyone, man and women, young an old, Newcastle united fan and Sunderland supporter (although probably not best for them to drink together) and its the only drink other then tea that you can drink in large quantities without getting bored of it. Well you try drinking that much orange juice and find out for yourself.

I think that really though, one of the best things about what beer brings to society is that although people who enjoy beer can be split into more subgroups of fans then you’ll get with any other kind of drink, alcoholic or not, and more so then with any band or TV show. Be it your devout cask ale drinker, your trendy craft beer enthusiast, someone who enjoys a nice cold pint of branded lager and all of the groups in-between, these people are always brought together in the end at the pub. A national institution that’s grinded deep into this countries culture, founded by the need to drink beer, relax, to get away from the stresses of life and most important of all…to socialise. Some say that pubs have changed, they say that you can no longer just go out, find a pub somewhere that you’ve never been to before and be welcomed in and included in the banter at the bar just like a normal regular. Be it in a small village in the middle of nowhere or in London. Being a barman myself and by being a great fan of all things beer related, I can honestly say this just isn’t true. I’ve been to countless pubs and bars all-around, and of course yes, there are some exceptions to this , but the people in pubs are just as open and friendly as they’ve ever been. And the greatest way that this has been shown to me around this sceptred…if slightly boozy isle?? By the offer to and from locals to buy each other a pint.

Beer as been with us, in one form or another, for a long, long time and I expect it will be around for much longer. It’s a necessity of life, some would even say that it was what drove civilisation to be what it is today, I’m not a historian and I don’t know enough about how the world and its cultures developed to be able to prove this theory, but I can say one thing for certain…some of the best things that have happened to me in my life, and some of the greatest things I’ve done, have all been achieved from the love and influence of beer. Who knows how beer will change in the years to come? Some people are worried by the future, believing that beer drinkers are destined to be forced to drink bland, flavourless beers…both lagers and ales, but they shouldn't be. If history has shown us anything, the development of beer can only get better, that’s how we’re drinking some of the best beers ever brewed right now.

Get behind the geekiness that surrounds beer though, and just appreciate that it's there for you, through good times and through bad, at celebrating a new birth and at wakes, at weddings and at celebrating the divorce going through, but also, it's there with you when you're just relaxing, at home or at the pub with friends, just sitting there, adding its own bit of character to the scene, almost like it's apart of the gang."

Hope you enjoyed it. My next post will be some beer reviews and me letting you know how bottling my home brew went. Tutty bye.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Brewing again....but not your average beer

Its another sunny day off work and as I promised in my last blog post, this one will be about my latest dive into beer brewing. " But Matthew! Just what is your latest brew?? After keeping us in suspense for over a week, We just cant take it any more!" I here you cry, (I like to make myself feel good O.K) well its a 5.5% ABV wheat beer (yes again, but I had ingredients left over to use up) but I'm going medieval on your asses and instead of using trusty old hops, I'm going to be flavouring it with stinging nettles, dandelion leaves, honey (and yes I know....again!!) and juniper Berries. O.K. Now I can hear cries of " Why the hell are you brewing that for you sick bastard!?" and "That's going to taste like green tea crap you stupid pillock" but Ive looked into it and all of these ingredients have all at some point been used to flavour and preserve beer, but unfortunately have all but died out since the introduction of hops in the 16t century, and I for one think its about time beer flavored with these plus a hole range of other wild and forgotten about herbs, plants and botanicals get brewed again.

First task on my list of things to do was to go out into the wild and often treacherous countryside of Rye and pick myself some dandelion leaves and stinging nettles, and let me tell you wasn't as fun as it sounds. The sun was out and the walk was nice but lets just say that the nettles lived up to their bloody name...I knew I should of worn gloves. When I got my merry self home (well O.K. I wasn't THAT merry...fucking nettles) I cleaned my greens and all my brewing equipment and got on with brewing ye beer. I wont go into the full brewing procedures 'cause the details of it really isn't interesting, but I made a base beer that was pretty similar to the banana, maple syrup bla bla bla wheat beer I made last time but just a tad weaker and also, in a step that's different from standard practice, but I read was the best thing to do, I boiled the flavourings separately from the wort and blended the two together when ready and poured into the fermentor ready to cool down so I can add the yeast.

Pretty simple brew in the end, I just have to give it 10 days or so to ferment and then I can bottle this little number...but then I have to wait at least another 3 weeks to try it :(. I'm going to call this batch "Britannia beer" as I got the idea to brew it wile playing a board game called Britannia (which is kind of like Risk, but set between the roman invasion of Britain and ends with the Normans coming in at 1066) with some friends at the pub. These guys will also be lucky (or maybe unlucky?) first tasters of this brew aswell

Well that's it from me today. Take care all and tutty bye.