Monday 13 February 2012


Ahhhhh......There's nothing like a good beer festival (that you can legally do in public.....keep with me people!!) and although not quite as big as the GBBF, CAMRA's Winter Ales Festival is up there as one of the main events of professional beer drinkers calender. A proud celebration of those rich, strong and well matured brews that we do so well in the UK, plus a great range of not-so-merry-making- but-still-pretty-darn-tasty bitters, stouts, milds and everything in-between (including a chocolate orange stout.....but we'll come to that later).

Convenient for me, this beery spectacle is held in my new home of Manchester (this place just keeps getting better!) and even more awesomely, owing to my great skills at being a barman and knower of lots-o random crap about beer (I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet.....but I do fucking rock behind the bar), I was giving free tickets to get into the trade event by the head of the local CAMRA branch because, it was, in his words "great to see someone so young taking such pride and interest in working behind the bar". (side note - I was sacked from this job less the a month later......I wont go into the details, but basicly, J.D Wetherspoons don't give a flying fuck about good service, only care about how much money the can milk from customers) so I was able to be there when they announced all the winners and to make sure I could get in to try them before they were consumed by all the beardy-sandle people (sorry about the stereotype.....but it makes me chuckle).

Being the geeky git I am, I took pen and paper so I could take notes (also to doodle if I got bored.....or drunk enough to start drawing random crap) and other comments to make writing this here blog easier and so I didnt have to strain my brain too much trying to remember what I tried. I wont bore you with everything I tried, but I'll tell you about my picks of the bunch......and also the worst and most evil brew at the festival.

The first brew of note was kinda chosen just for its name. Black Sabbath by Brunswick (I'm a metal-head.....of course I was gonna try it) is a wonderfully dark (yes, I shocker given the name) strong mild. Punching in at 6% ABV, it had all of those great attributes associated with a good mild- rich chocolate, sweet autumnal fruits and a dash of coffee, but being stronger then the average mild ( bear joke!), it had a good hit of alcoholic warmth that just seemed to amplify all the flavours and just let them tingle down your tongue and right to your cockles.

Next brew was chosen because it was brewed back down south (Kent, not Sussex....but its close enough for me). Goacher's Old 1066 Ale is a beefy (it doesn't taste of beef, but ya know what I mean) 6.7 ABV barley wine that is full of deep complex flavours of sinfully rich chocolate maltyness, sweet dried fruits, redcurrants, plum and the slight tartness of a Bramley apple, giving it a superb taste that demands to be respected and and savoured on the tongue.

Now for my favourite beer of the festival. A delightfully golden barley wine punching in at 8.5 ABV and packed full of the warming flavours of brandy, marzipan, a hint of honey and stewed fruits makes Coniston's No 9 Barley Wine a deeply satisfying brew. Its depth of character and its unbelievably smooth body for such a strong beer means that it should come with a warning label reminding you of its strength.....but I would probably ignore it anyway for such a fantastic beer.

Time for the sin bin (or perhaps it should be sin cask??). Tasting of fairy liquid, stale water, that really crap chocolate you get in advent calenders and something that the brewers must of thought was orange, but turned out to be a urinal cake, Amber brewery's Chocolate Orange Stout was just foul..... beyond foul..... in fact, so beyond foul that I cant think of a word fitting to describe it with out making one was vomarseshitingly bad!!

It was a great day full of beer, laughter and some other things best left unsaid (the toilets got pretty bad) and I look forward to next years event. Hopefully I will get round to writing more soon.....but until then, take care!!

Friday 30 December 2011

Brewing up a storm in Manchester

Well hellllllo people. Once again I find that I have to apologise for my sporadic blogging, but still with a lack of a proper computer to write with and being epic busy with playing Skyrim (well......that game was always gonna take over my life) I've only just found time to write. So this is a quick update on my life as of now:

- I'm back where I belong.....Working behind the bar! I'm currently working at The Gateway in East Didsbury and all is going well and the cellar is NICE.
- I'm living in my own place.......well.....I say my own place....its a house-share, but I've got my own keys and everything!!
-Life in Manchester is going pretty darn well. I could probably do with meeting more people, but hey, I love the fact that you cant blink an eye without a new brewery opening its a bit of give and take.

Anyway...... that's enough of me, lets take about beery things. Now one of the first things I did after coming to Manchester (other then blowing ALL of my cash going to ALL the pubs and tasting ALL the beer........I should probably get round to blogging about that as well at some point??) was to resume home brewing, but not for hobby purposes, ohhh its for research. To shake things up a bit, this time I would have a partner in beer-science with The Ara brewing with me......well....I say "partner"...Ara came up with the types of beers we were going to brew, what hops and malt we were using and did most of the work......I mostly did a brewing of another kind.........the tea :D.

I've been sworn to secrecy under punishment of castration on the recipes and specific details of the brews, but what I can tell you is that Brew 1 was a smoked red ale and that Brew 2 was a spiced pumpkin bitter that was also slightly smoked. We made only a small batch of each as we didn't have much brewing space and to say our equipment was....well...."rustic" is a bit of an understatement, but as would later prove, didn't make a difference on the finished beers. What did though was a calculation error on my part for Brew 1 that meant we ended up with a beer a 7% ABV rather then the planned 5%.......worse things happen at sea.

2 months later and we decided it was time for the first tasting, and what can I say?? Both beers left me more then pleasantly surprised. Brew 1 was slightly hazy so we made a bit of a cock-up on the finings, but it did still have the slight red hue that we were looking for. It has a sweet caramel malty aroma, with a slightly herbal note and a lingering smokiness on the nose. Its taste, like its aroma, is predominately sweet, but with the caramel, joins a faint chocolateness that trys to coat the tongue, but is stopped by the rapidly following dry, herby flavour coming from the saaz hops (Crap!! No one saw me write that OK? I think I got away with it......If anyone asks, you don't know what hops we used. OK??) that along with the deep background smokiness, cut through the flavour nicely to stop it becoming too sweet. Saying that though, it does feel like its lacking something and may need to be brewed again for some tweaking (WHAT A SHAME) or just needs to be aged longer......not a bad start at all though.

Brew 2 though, well.....just wow!! It was a "hit the nail on the head- bobs your uncle- send your answers in a postcard please- awesome-balls" success!! (someone told me last week that I may be a bit crazy........I think their theory holds water) Its a perfect balance of deep, spiced ginger-nut biscuit maltyness, a good amount of sweet pumpkin flavour that rather then feeling odd or out of place, just fits amazingly, and pleasant tingle of hoppyness on the tongue and finally, a light smoky note bringing everything nicely together.......Without wanting to blow our own trumpet......It was the best home-brew I've ever tried and also better then a lot of commercial stuff I've had.

I know I'm always gonna write up a beer I had some part in making to make it sound better......but with this one I'm really not.......this was a brewing win!!

Well, that's all for now.......until next time (which I hope isn't as-long as last time) bye all!

Friday 14 October 2011

Why the gap?? And Manchester's beers pt.1

Well hello everybody! Its been too long I know (well that's if you ignore the short post from a few days ago, so lets just pretend for the sake of the story that it never happened), but a lot has happened in the last few months that I've just been too busy to blog about it.....also taking in to account the fact that I split beer over my laptop keyboard and knackered most of the keys and thus making it a real pain in the proverbial arse to write with and in the end I just couldn't be bothered to use it.

But I'm back now baby, and I'll give you a little update about what's going on. Basically, you remember the fantastic pub that was my place of work and my home away from home?? Well......its not any more. I wont go into details but there were some management changes, some work issues and a few other problems that I decided it was probably the right time for me to leave and move on with my life. I loved that job, I loved the people and I would just like to say that I wish them the best of luck for the future and I hope that all goes well for them.

Well that explains that then, but why the trip to Manchester I hear you ask?? (well that, or I'm hearing voices in my head again) Well as some of you may of read in my last post (yes, the one I just told you to ignore) I'm up here to visit my wonderful girlfriend (who fucking rocks and is really pretty :D), but also wile I'm up

here, I'm going to hopefully land my self a job in one of Manchester's many great pubs.

Now one of the first things that surprised me as me and the beautiful one made our way around the various pubs and bars of Manchester, was just how many places were not only stocking a great range of cask ales on at the bar, but were also keeping a fantastic range of bottled beers as well. American, Belgian, Scottish, French, Dutch, German, Spanish and they most probably had a beer from the moon if I'd asked for it! It was amazing, it was beer heaven, and it suddenly made leaving the pub not seem so bad after all. The establishment with what was probably the most impressive range was the Port St. Beer House. choosing from their bar was like trying to choose who would win a fight between Mr T and Chuck Norris......a bloody tough decision, but either way the result was sure to be awesome. The place was heaving, with not a seat available in sight, but yet the service was fast and the staff were pleasant and seemed more then happy to help me choose what to drink. The only real downside there was to the place was that it was pretty darn pricey, even for bottled imports in a city centre, its prices were high, but to be fair, there were cheaper drinks available if you just went for a more standard beer.

Other places of epic beeritude (its my own word, I just made it up then. It means "lots of beer available") was The Marble Arch. Serving as the brewery tap for the Marble Brewery, and being situated in a wonderfully old building decorated on the inside in beautiful tiles and some historic Manchester breweriana, it looked and felt like a proper pub. Again the range of beers was really interesting and the staff were very helpful, so with it also having a pretty tasty food menu and having a really enjoyable atmosphere on a rainy Sunday afternoon, makes it a bloody good pub in my book and its well worth a visit if your in the area.

There is just so much to write about here in Manchester, that I'm going to have to stop for now and tell you more about it in my next blog post. I hope it wont be as-long of a gap as it was before, but thanks for reading and take care! :D

Saturday 8 October 2011

Tis grim up north...

Why would anyone go to Manchester? More specifically, why would a southern (any more southern and I would be French) Newcastle United supporter want to go to Manchester?……Its just not going to end well!! Well the reason for the journey….like the reason men do most things….is for a beautiful woman. Now I could go on like a love sick poetic puppy for hours about this fantastic woman, but this is a beer blog and I’m sure you don’t really care that much about my personal life. Making the best of the situation, I’m going to visit a vast amount of the great pubs in Manchester so I can try all the beer made by the local breweries in and around the city so that I can tell you all about them and hopefully in the process, show these northerners just how us southern jesses can drink!!…….like I say……Its not going to end well.

P.s. I'm back baby!!

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!!