#7point5 – The Office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s response

I received a reply from my MP today in reference to the letter I wrote expressing “concern” over the changes in alcohol duty for higher strength beer. My original post is here but there were plenty more folks writing similar stuff at the time and since.

Sadly the House of Commons staff had made an error when enclosing the full response from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith (which is to follow), instead sending me someone else’s reply referring to gift aid.. a good start..

I do have the summary from my MP’s letter for now, which is detailed below and I’m assuming covers what it says anyway albeit in brief:

“According to the Minister, health and homelessness groups have indicated that “super strength” lagers play a significant role in the consumption habits of heavy drinkers and that the changes to duty on beer will therefore encourage consumption of lower strength beers.

In regards to your point about specialist Belgian-type beers, the Minister states that as such beers are often served in small volumes, the increase in price will be comparatively small. The Minister also states that the government are to ban supermarkets selling below cost alcohol. ” 

So basically then, alcoholics, tramps and homeless folks are meant to stop drinking their normal Tennants Super, Special Brew etc and switch to lower strength cheaper versions to become healthy, responsible UK citizens.

Then in another display of pure genius, the government is going to pass legislation to stop supermarkets from selling the low-cost cheaper versions these groups are meant to gravitate to.. “Hmmm clever thinking”

For the rest of us who like a drink of something a little special from time to time above the 7.5% threshold, it doesn’t really matter because we don’t drink that much of it anyway.. So basically the message to you is “live with it…”

No mention of the knock on effect to brewers, publicans, specialist beer retailers and importers etc so far, so you’re either insignificant or if you’re lucky detailed in the mystery letter…

Cheers!

Please sign the petition in support of #7POINT5 which unfairly targets high strength beers:

Please sign the Government petition against unfair taxation on beers over 7.5% ABV, click HERE

#7point5, what’s that all about?

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Twissup and an impromptu beer tasting..Sharing the love – #7point5

Arriving late, we made a bee-line for Bacchus

Twissup, what a fabulous thing. Pick a city, spread the word and get beer lovers from all over the country to gravitate towards Newcastle upon Tyne (in this case), at a set date and time.

Then get some of the country’s finest brewers and breweries involved, so that they too can use the occasion to showcase the best they have to offer to an eager captive audience.

Finally, get local beer geeks, enthusiasts, bloggers and publicans to arrange a top notch itinerary, making sure that the finest establishments the city has to offer are stocked and visited to complete the mix, making it a day to remember.

LOVE IT! 🙂

The view from The Free Trade Inn

That’s where I was on November 12th, where I had too many fine brews to mention.

However two in particular stuck in the mind because they were particularly special, in fact they were two of the additional reasons why I was really looking forward to going so much.

These were Summer Wine Brewery‘s “Cohort” and Hardknott Brewery‘s “Vitesse Noir“, both new additions to each breweries range, two big bold beers and both available for I believe the first time anywhere, on the bar of The Free Trade Inn. Each one was as I expected, fabulous, so good in fact that I had three Cohorts, but sensibly stuck to one glass of the seriously savour-able Vitesse Noir.

Being at Twissup, sharing and talking about fabulous beers, rekindled a spark of an idea, it’s something that I have wanted to do and hopefully progress for quite some time. That is introduce some of my friends, drinking buddies and general Stoke on Trent pub going folk to something new, beers that a good proportion of them probably would never have heard about yet and probably never would. To share the love of geek beer if you like.

I’d very kindly been given a bottle of Cohort from Andy and James from SWB at Twissup, also as part of the BETA test team of Hardknotts new online store too, I’d been allowed early access to bottled Vitesse Noir. So fast forward exactly one week from Twissup and I’m setting up a mini tasting session in my local, The Bulls Head. Nothing official, formal or fancy, just a bottle of each spread out over three glasses between three small groups. (After all we all have to start somewhere)

Up first was Cohort, a roasty “Double Belgian Rye PA” at 7.5% abv.

Pouring a black is pitch you could see a few folks doing a double take and giving me the “I know I’m not going to like this” look. Then they took a sniff and the first sip before that expression changed to a sort of perplexed “I thought I wasn’t going to like this” face, then finally (after lot’s of OOOH’s and HMMM’S) we reached critical mass, the smile broke out and I got the reactionary comments, “WOW”, “what the bloody hell is that”, “SOOO much flavour”, “it’s lovely”, “I want some”. Popular then I thought, you get the picture…. 😉

We then progressed to Vitesse Noir, a Triple Imperial Vanilla Mocha Stout at 11% abv and a very different animal indeed. I had tasted both and in my mind I thought Cohort was always going to be enjoyed by a wider audience. The former being lighter in both alcoholic strength and easier to drink, whereas Vitesse Noir is in my opinion a beer to be savoured at length, perhaps late in the evening or after dinner (or with desert), having an intensity and alcohol levels that would perhaps simply frighten some people off

Therefore as this was by no means intended to be a test of one against the other, when serving I wanted to make that distinction clear from the outset, so this time I opted to serve the beer in brandy bowl style glasses. Basically as this was how I imagined myself drinking it at home at my first tasting, slowly warming away in a cupped hand as an indulgent treat.

The tasting passed in a similar fashion to Cohort, only this time I think people were ready for me. There were one or two that screwed their noses at it, too strong, too sweet, to much chocolate and coffee, but that was to be expected, this is a BIG beer and just a step too far for some. Generally though another resounding success, with lots of contented oooh’s, aah’s and extremely happy faces.

In truth I could have taken half a dozen bottles of each and still not had enough to go around as each went down equally well for different reasons, with folks asking where they could buy them or would I get them some when next I ordered. Of course I’ll oblige as I want to keep that interest bubbling away. We’ve already got a food and beer pairing night in the planning stages, I have big ideas for beer and cheese too.

Above all though I want to get something regular like this going, whether that be more informal tasting sessions or if possible a bring a bottle night where folks bring along new and interesting beers that they want to share in return for friends doing likewise. I see that happening all the time in other cities like Leeds, London, Manchester and indeed the Newcastle-upon-Tyne AKA “The Toon”, where everyone has a great night out whilst chatting over really interesting beery treats.

So what about it Stokies?

You can order Cohort and other beers from Summer Wine Brewery’s online store HERE.

You can order Vitesse Noir and other beers from Hardknott Brewery’s online store HERE

Incidentally, if you are in Manchester tonight 23 Nov 2011, Dave and the Hardknott gang will be at Port Street Beer House for an official launch of Vitesse Noir, entrance is free so get yourself on down there, details HERE

The Cumberland Arms, our Twissup accommodation and a great friendly boozer too.

Please sign the petition in support of #7POINT5 which unfairly targets high strength beers:

#7point5, what’s that all about?

Please sign the Government petition against unfair taxation on beers over 7.5% ABV, click HERE

CHEERS!

Viven Imperial IPA – 8% abv – #7POINT5

I first discovered Viven Imperial IPA back in May 2011 when I visited Bruges for the first time, it was in a large spacious lounge style bar call De Republiek. This is what I had to say about it back then:

De Republiek – Described as an American Diner meets Student Union, we had no idea what to expect when we made our way to De Repbliek. On entering it’s a large open plan room with small raised alcoved areas and a wooden floor, a large bar with details of cocktails, food and upcoming events dominate one side. This though was where I made my personal best beer discovery of the week (Westveleren aside), it was the Viven Imperial IPA… It’s a really outstanding beer, pouring a reddish amber colour with punch you in the face fruity American hops.

Now for a beer that I rate so highly you may be thinking that’s a pretty piss poor review and you’d be quite right, however this has to go in my top beers list so I plan to revisit again to revel in it’s full glory…

So here we are almost six months down the line, probably a dozen or more bottles sunk and hopefully in a better place to comment on a truly outstanding imperial IPA.

Well here goes, it’s hazy reddish-orange in the glass with busy bubbling white head which lingers around the glass from the first sip to the last dregs.

The aroma, oh my goodness THE AROMA! Great big nose filling fruity aromas of Tomahawk and Simcoe hops, for a Belgian beer it’s very much in an American IPA style with tropical fruits aplenty. Lychee, mango, grapefruit tangerine all with a light strawberry undertone. This follows through on the taste, a real flavour bomb medley of citrus fruit, with hints of strawberry and lychee completing the 5 a day in a glass. A freshly cut fruit salad mouthful….

This beer is a real hop monster, but it also has a great mouthful of caramel malty balance, all of which hides it’s beefy 8% ABV dangerously well. A beer you just don’t want to end and definitely one of my favourite beer discoveries this year.

Available by mail-order from BeerMerchants or at least that’s where I get mine from, if you stock it and would like to be listed give me a shout.

Please sign the petition in support of #7POINT5 which unfairly targets high strength beers:

#7point5, what’s that all about?

Please sign the Government petition against unfair taxation on beers over 7.5% ABV, click HERE

Boon Mariage Parfait Kriek – #7point5

You may remember a post I wrote some time ago about Boon Mariage Parfait, it was a beer I really liked from a stye that I sometimes struggle with.

Anyways some time after that, my good friend Mart Ridgeway,  ( aka 6TownsMart ) kindly brought me the Kriek version back from one of his many ventures into Belgium.

At the time Mart mentioned it was “a bit special” and quite rare, but I hadn’t quite recognised just how special it really was, only being brewed in small batches every two years.

I popped it in the fridge before stumbling across the review below which includes the following quote:

“Exceptional indeed. It has a drink-by date of 2030, and I’m wondering if I should have put it down in the cellar for a few years first…” Andrew Stroehlein – 40 Beers at 40.

Unfortunately for me I’d already severely chilled mine before I’d read that or I too would have put mine aside for a a year or twenty.. Freakily, the only other person to comment on Andrews blog post was…

So anyways on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weekends back, whilst enjoying the last remnants of the extremely late British Indian Summer I cracked it open at last.

The beer poured a deep claret red with an initial lively pink head that soon died away to nothing. From the glass comes an amazing aroma of sour cherry and what I’d describe as a sort of rich Christmas spiciness.

As you take a first sip the taste is sharp but not screamingly so as with even some of the more fruitier lambics. Then as you swill it around the mouth to release the hidden character the flavours develop further, there is still some sourness, but it is balanced by a big old sweet hit of cherry pie fruit, there is a sherbet note too with a subtle but earthy oak backbone.

Quite fizzy on the tongue which probably accounts for the sherbet feel, but the finish is warm with alcohol and refreshingly dry. Very more-ish indeed..

It’s just the perfect beer for a hot afternoon and one that you could just keep going back to again and again as there is nothing sickly here at all, nor is it too lambicly acidic. Sadly due to it’s rarity not many of us are ever going to get that chance, but if you do come across any BUY SOME, it’s the law!

P.S Please get me a couple of bottles too… 😉

Cheers

#7point5, what’s that all about?