Sunday, 29 May 2011

109 Year Old Beer....And A Bit Of A Party

Well like I said last time, the pub celebrated its first year anniversary on Friday, and we did so with gusto. A damn tasty cake which was lovingly baked by queen of puddings, desserts and all things sweet Charlotte, good music provided by Tener Duende and a great atmosphere being proved by a bar filled with all the locals and regulars that have made this first year of business so special.

If you've been reading my blog often, you may of picked up on the fact that I'm fascinated by old and aged beers, and with the recent Thomas Hardy Ale tasting being the oldest brew I'd ever been fortunate enough to try, it urged me to go full on and find a beer with some REAL maturity, and I found it with Bass Kings Ale 1902.... EBay can be a wonderful thing. Brewed by the historic and formally great brewing superpower Bass in 1902, it was called Kings Ale not for the often given reason of being to celebrate the coronation of the newly crowned king Edward VII, but was named so because the aforementioned king turned the valve that allowed the hot water to flow and start the mashing process.

Being the rather interesting beer it is, I thought that saving it for a special occasion seemed like the most appropriate thing to do, with suggestions of saving it for my 21st birthday that's coming up in August or to open it on the 110th anniversary of its brew day next February floating around, I then decide that I was too impatient to wait that long and that the pubs anniversary was just as good of a reason to crack it open as any. I waited until the band took a well earned 20 minute break, and then rounded up the selected few who I decided I would share this special brew with, and then made our way to the pubs function room to drink and talk about this historic bevvie.

After a bit of trouble popping the cork (insert crap joke here...I think I'll go with "we all have that problem from time to time eh lads") , which is perfectly understandably given the age. I carefully pour the rich smelling beer into 5 brandy snifters in which somehow ends up being a 3 man job, and after taking a few photos, we all clink glasses and go nose in for a pleasantly surprising smell, and then to sip the first taste of a 109 year old beer. Amazing, truly amazing. A rich, almost syrupy mouth feel that carries the beers superb and outstandingly still drinkable flavour that's remarkably reminiscent of a very rounded sherry, raisins, honey, a hint of brandy and Dundee marmalade that brings a deeply layered sweetness that balances the foretaste together with the subtle, but noticeably there aftertaste of a marmity saltiness that's less full on then it was in the Thomas Hardy Ale I tried, but was more embodied and layered in to the flavour of the beer.

The most surprising thing to come out of tasting was that we found there were noticeable differences in the taste between the 5 glasses that was dependant on the order in which they were poured. The glasses that were poured first had significantly more sweetness to them then the ones poured last, which had a more rounded flavour to them, which wasn't a bad thing, it just made it even more interesting to pass them round to get a sample of them all. The other noticeable thing was just how fast the oxidation of the beer affected the taste, it certainly needed to be drunk there and then because I think that being left open for even just 30 minutes would of spoiled the beer...and I think I would of beaten someone with the bottle if that happened.

Its was a truly special beer, a brilliant evening and definitely worth the money I paid for it. Its one of the things I love about beer, it really is suited to be drunk with friends, no matter if its just your average 3.8% best bitter or your over 12% 109 year old barley wine...its just the one true social drink.

Once again, thanks to all the people that made this last year so enjoyable for me and the pub, and I hope that I can continue writing this blog and working in this pub so that I can keep you all liquored up and having a good time for years to come. Thanks!!

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Queens Head...A Year On

Well as some of you may know, this Friday marks the first anniversary of the reopening of the place of my employment, The Queen's Head, Rye. To celebrate the occasion we're having one of our favorite bands Tener Duende back at the pub, the kitchen is going to be baking on hell of a cake (and as any of you regulars will know, Charlotte can bake cakes that would make Chuck Norris jealous) and we are going to be having some bloody good beer flowing aswell...So all we need is everyone who's supported the pub over the last year to come and help us make a damn ( I was going to say "f#%kng" there....but felt swearing was unnecessary at this point) good night.

Most people know my feelings about the pub, after making it clear in my very first blog post that the Queens means more then just a place of work to me, and that the people I work with/for are like a second family to me, but so much has changed in this last year for more people then just me as a result of the pub being here. For me, its given my life a sense of worth and understanding that's helped me learn more about myself and the world around me, its given me more friends then I've ever had in my life as I've come more and more out of my shell and also its given me more laughs and memorable moment then a back to back Monty Python marathon.

Now obviously I cant leave out the beer. I've tried so many different beers this year that I'm putting the full blame of me gaining one and a half stone (thank god I was a skinny bastard to begin with) this year on tasting all of the sometimes astounding amounts of beer the pub has gone through, and with our ever changing bar and with so much fantastic stuff out there (From all the great local breweries that keep popping up, to ones from further afield), it shows no sign of slowing down. With all the great stuff the pub is doing with beer, we've already gotten into the next edition of the Good Beer Guide, which is a bloody big achievement for being open less then a year and a testament to what the pub is doing, so again....thanks for supporting us.

I also know that a lot of you people out there appreciate what the pub is and also what its trying to do, and its all of you people that come for music, the arts and craft events, to play random 5 hour plus board games that hardly any bugger has heard off or to just simply relax and enjoy a drink, that has kept the pub alive. So to you all....I raise a glass.

I hope as many of you as possible can make it down on Friday to join us celebrating the year behind us, but also to look forward to the years ahead. There's so much more that could be said about the pub and how much we appreciate all our customers, but I really think that if you make it to the pub or you've already will find out for yourselves all that you need to know.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Thomas Hardy ale...A pretty tasty 18 year old

Sorry about the slightly pervy title, but it was the best I could come up with :P

As you may of guessed from the title, tonight I’m trying a bottle of Thomas hardy ale…but what you may have also noticed (cause I know what an observant lot you people are) is that this is a rather special bottle of beer because it was brewed in 1993, and as those whiz kids amongst you can work out…makes it 18 years old.

Now I know that to most people, drinking a beer that’s almost as old as they are would be seen as a rather stupid thing to do, with worries of gut rot etc.. coming in to mind, but luckily for me though, Thomas hardy ale is famed for being a keeping beer and is often quoted with lasting for 25 years or more …which is a good thing because it is unfortunately no longer being brewed.

Thomas hardy ale was first brewed by the Eldridge Pope brewery in 1968 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the authors death, and to make it one hell of a special beer, it was brewed to 12%abv and was matured in oak sherry casks for 9 months which was then conditioned in distinctive bottles, and over time was found to mature and improve after being laid down over a number of years. As I said, the beer is no longer being brewed, with production stopping in 1999, then being picked up by another brewery after the turn of the millennium, for it only to be stopped again in 2008. You can still find vintages from 1968 onward on eBay (which is where I got a hold of my bottle from), but obviously its not gonna be a cheap brew to buy.

Being the special brew it is, I'm shearing the drinking experience with my friend and boss Chris who's knowledge in beer...well pretty much in everything really is beyond human and I would probably ask him about anything and everything first before checking wikipedia.

As Chris does the honors and pours the beer carefully into two Belgian chalice glasses, the air is filled with a sweet plum, coco, slightly nutty and a deeply spiced malt aroma that's reminiscent of a Christmas pudding, and with its rich mahogany colour and a thick bodied appearance as I swirl it around the glass so I can dip my nose in to get a deeper whiff, creates an image in my mind of sitting round a fire with friends and tasting a fine port with cheese like a scene from a classic Dickensian Christmas...but I suppose standing at the bar chatting is just as a picturesque moment as any. Oh God, the mouth feel of this beer is fantastic. Velvet on the tongue and as smooth of a body as I think could every of been possible from a beer, the distinct lack of carbonation also really helps gives this brew the feel of a fortified wine. A wonderfully deep malty flavour that feels layered from all the years of ageing that coats the palate with the tastes of smooth milk chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, sherry and rich plump dried fruits, but there's a subtly undertone of marmitey saltiness that just cuts through the beer and fantastically brings the beer together. I'm sorry for waxing lyrical about this beer but it really is that fantastic, and I'm glad I shared the experience with someone because this is something that would of been wrong to keep to myself.

I really recommend trying to get hold of a few bottle of this stuff if you can, because it truly is history in a glass and is probably the best and most complex beer Ive every tried.

Next up should be another post about a rather special beer....but I'll keep it under wraps for now :D. Bye all!!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Stinging nettle and dandelion beer taster- Fingers crossed!!

Well after a good 3-4 weeks of waiting, its finally time to give my Stinging nettle, dandelion, juniper berry and honey (note to self...think of a catcher name) beer a try. Unlike most beers I've brewed, I have absolutely no idea how this is going to taste and I'm really hoping I don't end up with 10 bottles of a crappy beer that I end up pouring down the drain....because that's the kind of thing that can make a grown man cry.

If all goes well, I may brew it again some point soon, but with a few slight changes such as using a wild yeast strain or adding more flavourings (ginger might be nice??), but lets see how its goes first. My next batch of home brew is looking like its going to be just a basic English bitter (oooooh yes, I really know how to make things exciting :P) but I'm gonna try a few variations on what hops and grains I use so it makes it a tad more special. Right...enough of me banging on. To the beer!!

The beers appearance is a deep, hazy amber colour that has a very small white lacing head, but it does seem to have plenty of carbonation, with plenty of bubbles racing to the top of the glass. The aroma starts with the sweet smell of honey, but it also has traces of apple, mandarin and a faint herbal nose. Its mouth feel is crisp and refreshing but its body is lacking something and it is pretty thin. Wow. The flavour is very surprising. Its starts of with a pretty tart, almost citric flavour that gives me the feeling that its infected with some wild strain of yeast (which can be a good thing...and also now means I wont have to bother brewing it again!), but after the initial sourness, the honeys sweetness come into play and coats the tongue and slowly balances out the flavour. I'm also getting a faint juniper taste lurking in the background, but no sign of grassy/herbal notes from the nettles or dandelion. Totally unexpected and not bad. Maybe a bad thing to get a wild yeast in the brew, but I think I should give it some proper ageing before trying again so that the flavours develop and hopefully improves the beer as a whole.

My next blog post will be a tad of a long one, but its taken a week or so to write and its not ALL crap (well guarantees), but its all about beer and reading, so it could be worth a look!! Bye, bye all :)