Cliff Quay Brewery: Bitter

20140106_195800Here’s another beer that was brought to me by my father-in-law.  As father-in-laws go, I can’t complain at all: he has a decent line in conversation, an appreciation of scotch, decent coffee and beer.  What more could I ask for?  More beer probably, but that might be taking the piss – packed to the gunwales as I am with beer at the moment.

The Cliff Quay folks are based in Ipswich and seem to have a sea-faring based range of beers on offer.  This is my first experience of them as a brewer and I certainly can’t say I’m unimpressed…

Pouring out a healthy mahogany-brown, Cliff Quay Bitter also possess a nice, almost lacy, lasting head

The nose is slightly sulphurous, with a grainy, malty aroma and some nice yeast notes.

The hops and malt pair up very nicely to deliver a thirst quenching first sip, which is backed up by a nice flinty bitter quality that pervades through the swallow.

This is a very nice example of a classic bitter. A Yorkshire brewer would be proud to have made something this good…

Well worth seeking out, especially if you’re down Ipswich way…

Siren: Sound Wave IPA

SoundwaveAs I was still reeling about after drinking Sound Wave, I forgot to photograph it.  If this is your photo let me know…

Ah.  Siren’s beers…this is where the effusiveness-o-meter generally starts going off the scale a bit; I’ll try to be objective and not gush too much.

Sound Wave pours a really lovely clear amber-gold colour. I don’t know how they work out their carbonation rates (I’ve tried working it out for my beers and always go with a half to a quarter teaspoon of unrefined cane sugar – with variable success) but Siren have it pretty much smack on.  As I never tire of saying, thoughtful carbonation can only do your beer good.

With a delicious looking head atop and a slight haze – most probably from dry hopping (yum) – this is a tasty looking and pretty beer.

The aroma is gorgeous: candyish sweetness, floral and citrus hop notes, fruity yeastiness, and with a smooth malt note running through, it’s bloody glorious.

On the taste I get resin, pine, citrus and floral notes from the hops, a little bitterness and a subtle honeyed malt character, with a dry and not over-the-top bitter finish.

On the after-taste lingering echoes of bitter and pine needles and floral dominate.

This is a special beer and is something that a lot of other brewers would do well to study in order to understand what beer should be aspiring to in 2014 and onwards.

On balance, I think I prefer Siren’s Liquid Mistress ( as that has a smidge more malt sweetness, whereas Sound Wave is a touch drier…but that’s just me.

Pick either of them and enjoy – they’re both bloody marvellous.

North Cotswold Brewery: Cotswold Best


Very pale for a best, with a decent stickyish-looking head and a slight haze…but it was served rather cold, so might have been a touch of chill haze?  The nose was pleasant and grainy and didn’t contain much in the way of hop character – but why should it?  It’s a best bitter…

The body was generous, and had a light maltiness about it with an almost nutty quality.

There was a good strong bitterness in the after taste, and a nice long lingering maltiness about it, too…

Not my idea of a best bitter, seemed more like a summer beer to me.  In any case it was tasty, thirst-quenching, refreshing and just what I was after on a lunchtime in Stratford-upon-Avon.

We ate at No.9 Church Street ( which we always make a beeline for whenever we’re in Stratford.  They do a nice fixed price lunchtime or pre-theatre menu, which is always excellent – especially the Steak Bavette.  Mmmm.  Their friendly and knowledgeable staff are an additional bonus, too.

Flying Dog: Raging Bitch

20140103_195432Hold onto your hats, we’re off again with another offering from Flying Dog…this time it’s the charmingly named Raging Bitch.  As I said previously I’m kinda liking Flying Dog’s style (if maybe not all of their beers)

I was particularly interested in trying this one as it’s a US IPA made with Belgian yeast and I like an IPA, and I most definitely like Belgian beer too…

Raging bitch pours with a really charming looking sparkly dense head and has a really lovely amber colour about it.  Extraordinarily, the Belgian yeast is detectable in the aroma from over a foot away; in my book that’s a very good thing indeed.

On the nose I got clean floral hops and some of the sweet Belgian yeast phenolics, plus a nice background dose of bready malt too.

To be quite honest I expected the hops to leap and punch me on the nose in the typical IPA manner, but they didn’t…but I guess too much hoppiness would rob one of that pure joy that is a nice Belgian yeast aroma.

 In the taste, both the hops and the yeast character arrive together – making for a powerful hit, couple this with a powerfully alcoholic wallop and you really get something to think about.

The aftertaste has a lovely lasting hop note and echoes of the Belgian character.  There’s also a good long, lasting, bitterness too.

It’s all very interesting but I just don’t know if the hop-forward and yeast-forward styles can be melded together like this.  I guess, a bit like Magic Rock’s Dark Arts, it’s something that I’ll have to try and reconcile as I taste, enjoy and re-evaluate many more bottles of it.

Definitely worth a punt if you should see it…

Orange Glow Oaty bread

As is the tradition these days, I’m handing over to Eve to give you another of her bread recipes.  I took the liberty of calling the recipe Orange Glow Oaty Bread a) because it’s my blog  and b) because I’m old enough to remember the Ready Brek adverts of the early eighties!


650ml warm water

30g warmed, soft butter
2tbsp sugar
150g Ready Brek or instant oats
850g white bread flour
2 x (7g) sachets of quick yeast
3 tsp salt
Olive oil, about 20ml in total (10ml for the dough and 10ml for oiling the work surface to prevent sticking)


Add all ingredients to the mixer bowl in the order above, without mixing yet – and also keeping back the oil for a later stage, ensuring that the yeast and the salt are kept apart on different sides of the bowl.

Because all of the ingredients are layered in the bowl – with the water at the bottom and the yeast not getting wet and activated yet – I have found that you can leave it to sit for a couple of hours or so, allowing you to put children to bed/feed the baby/walk the dog, etc.

It also allows time for the warm water to soak into the oats.

Note: If you do decide to leave it to soak for a bit you might need to add a touch more water when at the kneading stage later on…

Using the dough hook, mix on speed 1 for about 3 minutes, stopping every now and then to scrape the dough off the dough hook.

If it looks dry add more water, if a bit wet add more flour.

When the dough, is smooth and elastic and starts to sticks to the dough hook, it should be about right.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, and pour a bit of olive oil (a further 10ml) over the dough whilst scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula.  If you can, try and coat the entire dough ball in oil, which will prevent it drying out.

Cover the mixer bowl with a plastic disposable shower cap and put it somewhere warm for at least an hour until the dough doubles in size.  The dough may be a bit slower than normal to rise as the Ready Brek is lower in gluten than the white bread flour, so it slows down the rising process a little.

My dough takes about an hour in the boiler cupboard.  Your mileage will vary…

Oil the work surface and your hands then tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two.

Flatten each lump of dough into a rectangle and roll it up into a Swiss roll shape – being sure to tuck the ends of the dough underneath.

Place each rolled loaf into a oiled bread tin, inside an upside down carrier bag and put it in a warm place for the second prove.

It took my dough about 35 mins to rise the second time. So, pop the oven on to 200C (fan oven) about 20 minutes into the second prove.

When fully risen, remove from the bags, slash the top of the loaves lengthways and place in to the oven gently, cook for 30 minutes or until the top has a nice nut brown colour and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

When cooked, remove from the tins and allow to cool down on a wire rack.

Enjoy the lovely moist texture and subtle oaty flavour of the loaf.

Flying Dog: Underdog Transatlantic Lager


Hmm.  Lager is one of those styles that seems to carry more baggage than Joan Collins on a trip to Barbados.

The English drink more lager than any other type of beer – an interesting fact that I’ve just made up, but surely must be true…  Theoretically the English should be connoisseurs of the style…

…but unfortunately they’re not.  The English tend to like mass-produced fizzy piss in cans or served out of kegs “down the boozer”

Generic Lager is usually a bland, tasteless, uninteresting vehicle to oblivion…and if that’s not bad enough, big breweries encourage English drinkers to “enjoy” it ice cold (it’s all the rage you know) so it tastes of even less.  Your average punter may as well be drinking yellow soda water…

So with all of that in mind, I buried my prejudices and took an objective stance when tasting Underdog from Flying Dog…hoping that it might be a revelation and open a whole new avenue of beer enjoyment to me.

My beer arrived in it’s bottle accompanied by a dirty glass – a glass with someone’s phone number in lipstick on it that was only partially washed off.  Nice.  Fortunately the staff at The Pinto Lounge in Banbury were able to replace it with minimal fuss.  I’m afraid that I can’t be too effusive about the burger that I ordered, I mean it was nice enough, but it was so small and measly (as was the portion of chips)…and was a complete non-snip at nearly a tenner.  Look:



Anyway, the Underdog bottle itself is a work of art…literally.  Good Old Ralph Steadman – my edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is illustrated by him…

Underdog was a typically lagery yellow with sprightly running beads of carbonation.  The aroma was fresh smelling – just like a lager should be – with a slightly grainy note and a faintly bready malty sort of thing about it.

The taste was fresh, clean, and not that remarkable. I know lagers are supposed to be clean-tasting but this was too clean – almost empty tasting, I was able to detect some hoppiness and then an inevitable clean bitterness.

Maybe I’m just not a lager liker…I think I’ll have to try a couple of others to see of I can find an example I really dig…

Gentse Stadstbrouwerij: Gruut (Bruin)



Well this is exciting isn’t it?  A beer without hops, instead using a variety of herbs and spices to bring flavour instead…so far as I understand the herbal mixture that goes into Gruut can be anything along the lines of: sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, and heather.

Other herbs used over the years have included: black henbane (which I thought was a constituent of witches flying potions – as it is powerfully and sometimes fatally hallucinogenic?!), juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sometimes even hops!

Like all good producers of Gruut, the Stadstbrouwerij folks are letting on what’s in theirs.  Suffice to say that I’m sure there isn’t any Henbane…at least I’m fairly sure there wasn’t as I definitely wasn’t flying by the end of it…

Out of the bottle it was best bitter brown and bore aloft a fine, off-tan head.

The aroma was yeastily fruity, a little phenolic, with some banana, and a nice background note of sweetness – also in the mix was a little spicy note, too.

Once I’d ploughed through the ample effervesence, the taste was sweetly malty – or maybe even herbally sweet?  With bubblegum, phenol and some considerable alcohol.

The aftertaste was of lingering sweetness, a nice alcoholic warmth with a touch of peppery spiciness on the end.  There was pretty much zero in the way of bitterness, but that’s to be expected…I suspect a herbal bitterness is very different animal to a smooth hop bitterness, so I can see why the style ended up being sweetish.

On the whole, I liked Gruut, but would have liked some bitterness, if only to trade off against the alcoholic strength.  This is without doubt Belgian in origin as the yeast is so much a part of the overall product.