Bad Beer and Lemonade…

Have a read of this:

What do you reckon to that, eh?  I reckon shandy has it’s place, but only if it’s made with rubbish beer.

As a brewer I couldn’t bear to think of someone making a shandy up with one of my creations…surely that’s what Fosters, Carling, John Smiths and all the other mass-market stuff is there for?  They’re the beers to have Lemonade “tops” in – especially if you don’t like the taste of beer…

If you want to drink sweet fizzy stuff with a tiny bit of alcohol in why not try WKD, alco-pops, alcoholic ginger beer and all that other stuff?

I guess you could mix quality beers into some sort of godawful beer cocktail, but what’s the point?  I know Lambic and Gueze are blended, but that’s just because they have to – for quality control.

You wouldn’t have a Laphroaig single malt and coke, would you?   (Please don’t tell me you do.  That’s just not on…)


20140712_205016There, I’ve said it…

I’m still wondering how in the name of all that’s holy did Aldi manage to get hold of this American IPA in sufficient quantities to sell it at a quid a bottle in their stores?

Don’t hang about long enough to read this review, get down there and stock up before they run out.  It’s an absolute, complete and utter bargain.

Aldi, will you start stocking up on more US “craft” beers, please?  I’ll be shopping at your stores every week if you do – hell, you can even appoint me as your chief consumer taster of new beers if you like…now THAT’S generosity.

Shipyard IPA is that typical US IPA colour of bronzey-copper-orange with a good solid head retention.

While it’s not as madly hoppy in the aroma as I’d normally like IT’S STILL A QUID A BOTTLE.  The fuggles hops that are there are solid enough to let you know this is a US IPA and the malt is more than evident.

Shipyard is well carbonated and has a good solid malty mouth-feel.  A sustaining and tasty bitterness is backed up with malty sweetness and a hefty dose of lovely hoppy goodness.

This is a typical representation of the US IPA style – even if it’s not the standard US IPA “C” hop types and isn’t as completely mental as others, it’s a great introduction to the style…

I still can’t believe it’s only a quid.  STOCK UP NOW!

Certainly not taking the piss: Piddle – Dorset slasher

20140706_151012You’ve got to love us English for revelling in rude words, haven’t you?  Piddle brewery, despite not actually brewing with any urine at all, are located close to the river Piddle in Dorset.

I’ve always found the name to be amusing; so much so that when – as a young UNIX admin – I was asked to choose the name of an English river to call my new Solaris workstation, I chose the name “Piddle”.  Oh, how I laughed…

Even though I’m now a seasoned and practically over-the-hill infrastructure architect, I still have a Linux workstation named “Piddle”.  Oh, how I laugh still…even though everyone else stopped many years ago.

This particular beer is called Dorset Slasher…which again prompts more hilarity, even though it’s years since I really heard anyone say that they were just off for a slash.  Maybe we ought to revive the term, just for old time’s sake?

Aaanyway.  Onto this beer review:

The bottle was so full, I mean literally a few ml from the cap – that’s value for money.  And it kept it’s carbonation, too.

Pouring a translucent lagery-yellow colour and bearing little in the way of head I was all ready to be a little disappointed.  But, I’m happy to say my fears were unfounded:

The aroma was zippy, spritzery and lively – almost like those little bottles of French lager that we all drank as kids when someone had done a booze run to Calais, riding over the top of this was a nice hoppy twang that certainly made my mouth water.

In the taste was a good solid body with a nice leading malt sweetness, followed by rounded light maltiness; then, finally, some tasty hoppy note accompanied by a gently bitter finish and a really lovely creamy after taste.

You really could drink gallons of this at the right temperature in summer.  As you can see I chilled mine to stream temperature in my back garden.

A very accessible, accomplished and quite lovely pint.  Well done, the Piddle crew.

(Just seen their marvellous-looking Black IPA – brewed with Galaxy – on their website.  I like Galaxy and I’ve got a thing for Dark IPAs.  I’d love to sample and review that.)

Great beers at the Hook Norton Beer Festival

20140719_144946Humour is most definitely alive and well in the land of the beer festival…

This was my first time at this event, and on the whole I was impressed:

Good things:
  • 100+ beers and ciders on cask
  • Fast attentive bar service
  • £1.50 a half, which is very good value
  • Good tasting notes
  • Camping available if you wanted to
  • Live music
  • Good selection of non-alcoholic options and foods to keep drivers and kids topped up
Not so good things:
  • Billed as being family friendly, but there wasn’t much for kids to do – apart from a horse and cart ride around the car park field
  • Far too many people crammed into too small-a-space, especially when groups of folks turn up with their gazebos, chairs and the like

When you organize this event next time, please try to make a bigger area for festival-goers to congregate – give some room for people to spread out a bit and make sure the stage with the music is somewhere where everyone can see it.

My kids only managed to last about an hour and half before they became over-whelmed by the sheer amount of people compressed into such a small space – especially when we all had to pile in the tent to escape the thunderstorm.

It was difficult to navigate the site without tripping over gazebo guy ropes, dog leads, folding chairs and lord knows what else.

And please: next year have a free bouncy castle…most people I saw leaving early were going because their kids were bored or kicking off about something or other (mine included).  Beer festivals are normally a great family day out and mine usually get wildly over-excited at the idea of going to one (Arthur couldn’t sleep the night before the Hooky one, as he normally gets cake, crisps and pop all afternoon, plus unlimited bouncy castle time with his mates…imagine his disappointment when there was no castle at all)

Parents with happy children will stay a lot longer and spend so much more on food and drink…

Despite the above, the festival was well organized and there was a MAGNIFICENT beer list: with really great tasting notes that helped me choose the four beers that I sampled:


Dark Star – Hop Head:

Oh god, this was so good. Tons of hops, maybe Simcoe – but not at all catty. Pretty much excellent.  I love this beer to death.


Hyde’s – Anvil Sharp Motueka:

A beer I just had to try because I’ve been curious about this particular New Zealand hop. The beer turned out to be almost fresh cigar-like, thick malt and caramel, some graininess and a good non-citrussy hop hit. (I can’t actually find this beer anywhere on this site?)


Hopshackle – Hopnosis:

Lightly citrussy and ethereal. A tasty light maltiness and an excellent bitterness, Good pervasive and lasting after-taste


Oakham Ales – Scarlet Macaw:

On cask this is just like the bottle ( but even lovelier. All-round-excellent. Hoppy, bitey, makes you all screechy – just like a Macaw (that’s copied verbatim from my festival notes and was the last drink of the day…could you guess?)


Will definitely be going back to Hooky next year as long as there’s more opportunity to keep the kids amused while I sample beer…  :o)   I’m also happy to report that ALL of the money raised at the festival goes to charity.  So good on them.

Craft beer at the Indian? The Standard – Walton Street, Oxford

20140726_193933How bloody nice is that, eh?

I went out for a curry at the Standard on Walton Street in Oxford with some friends on Saturday night and was astounded to find that they had a craft beer menu.  Yes, you read that right.  A CRAFT BEER MENU.

James told me that he booked the restaurant solely because they had Thornbridge Jaipur as a drinks option.

I salute him and The Standard…which, as it turns out, was far from standard: really excellent food, cooked to perfection.  I had a bit of Pand’s poached prawns in coconut, lime and chilli and it was heavenly.  My Mirch Massalla (not far removed from Chicken Jalfrezi) was magnificent, too.

And if you don’t like Jaipur (maybe because you’ve got something wrong with you) there’s also Isis Pale Ale from the Compass Brewery – which is also an absolute corker of a beer, plus a whole small supporting cast of other choices.

Go, book a table and enjoy first class food served with first class beer:

An Antique of a Beer: Greene King Strong Suffolk Dark Ale


You’ve just gotta love things that have been aged in Oak, haven’t you?  I’ve been reading about the 5X Suffolk Strong Ale for quite some time and how it may or may not have influenced or been influenced by the lambic brewing folks in Belgium, so I was glad that Eve picked up this particular bottle, as it’s a blended beer that contains some of that special oak-aged Strong Suffolk Ale.

GKSDA pours an impenetrably darkly colour with some, but not much, in the way of garnet around the edges.  There’s no head at all.  None.  Nada.  Zero.  I guess over time the head producing proteins and sugars, etc, that you get in younger beers just degrade or deteriorate (or maybe even get fermented out by a wilder type of yeast).

The aroma is vinous and alcoholic, with yeasty fruitiness.  OId leather and mahogany themes dominate. I also got way over-ripe wind-fallen orchard fruits, pear skins and the such-like.  It’s a very complex aroma indeed and worthy of this aged and well-blended beer.

The taste is all dark malts and warming alcohol. Softly fruity, it’s a lovely mouthful.  Towards the swallow you’re once again regaled with oak and mahogany woody notes with rich leather and coppery metallic decoration.  A gentle malty sweetness rounds the whole experience out.

If I had to sum up Suffolk Dark Ale in two words they’d be “Antique Shop”.  Probably best enjoyed on a dark winter night by the fire.  Marvellous.

God.  At this rate I may actually start to like Greene King as a brewer.  Even more so if they ponied up a few beers for me to review…


When buying your pants and socks, pick up a bottle of this too: M&S (by Adnams) – Mosaic Pale Ale

20140711_204150I had to go to London the other week and was merely browsing in Marylebone station for something to break up a twenty and get me some loose change.  I’m glad I looked past the packets of crisps to the beer section…

I’ve been intrigued by Mosaic hops as they seem to be the new variety on the block and they’ve been mightily hyped by our brewing cousins in the US, so I wanted to see if they deserved that hype.  Isn’t it great that some of the supermarkets are engaging decent brewers to cook-up some excellent “own-brand” beers?  By Adnams brewing this up for M&S I was able to take the Mosaic taste test without too much worry of the beer being a dud…

Mosaic Pale Ale is a marvellous gingery-brown and has a head that doesn’t hang about.

The aroma…my crikey, the aroma…rich and heady, almost like – as spike Milligan would say – the incense-drugged bazaars of the Occident;  for some reason it reminded me a bit of Turkish delight – it’s that intoxicating.  Now I remember where I’ve smelt it…the Souk in Marrakech: that’s what it’s like and it’s all fragrant and mysterious and unusual because of it.   As well as that beautiful overlying aroma there’s also tropical fruits by the bucket.

Blimey, folks, this is a single hop beer and it delivers all of this.  Marvellous.

A velvety smooth mouth feel with a pleasing bitterness starts off our journey to taste-town.  Like a can of Lilt it’s totally tropical, whilst also having a definite complexity about it…but – and it is a but, I’m afraid: there’s a little too much carbonation for my liking, especially for this strength of beer (4.2%); and the malt could also do with beefing up a bit – so that it really shines through.  The carbonation and the current malt bill make this beer seem just a teeny bit “thin”.

I’d have liked to have a real slab of solid biscuity malt in the taste (but no crystal malt, thanks!) to make this an absolute belter of a beer.  Hops with this power, potency and delicacy need to be supported by a more forceful malt bill and maybe a touch higher alcohol (late 5’s to 6% would not be unreasonable.)

But:  It’s a supermarket own-brand beer – and for that M&S and Adnams should really be commended.  As M&S are stocking this, lets hope the masses get to drink it instead of the lagery-piss and joyless “bitters” that they normally pick up from other supermarkets.  Folks, maybe we are starting to see our beer market properly craftifying (you heard that word here first!)

In honour of this beer, I will be making something big and hefty featuring Mosaic.  It’s a hop that’s just too good too ignore…

PS: Just read the back of the bottle – which says that Mosaic Pale Ale goes well with (Morrocan) Lamb Tagine.  That seems absurdly apposite – especially when only a few lines back I was rambling about the Souk in Marrakech…

PPS: Pimms beer, that’s what Eve reckons it is.  Something for tucking away on sunny Saturday afternoon….

PPPS: When getting the link for the M&S website I see they have quite a range of exciting-looking beers.  Maybe they’ll send me some to review.  Bet you a tenner they don’t…