Golden Pints 2013

Igp2012-225x300t’s Golden Pints time yet again, only this time I hope that my excruciatingly annoying use of Untappd has paid off, allowing me to actually remember all (or at least a damned good proportion) of the beers I’ve sampled. The only negative side of that fact being that if I can remember or recall more, the bleedin’ choices are now much wider and decisions therefore more difficult to make…grumble, grumble, grumble…
Here goes….

Best UK Cask Beer

Well, that has immediately buggered up my new “foolproof system”, as Untappd only logs the beer and not the dispense method. To add to my pain, I’m a bit of a keg-head generally as and when it’s available and drink shit-loads of bottled beers. I “think” I can remember which ones were cask, but if I get this wrong and you brew and KNOW it was keg only please don’t crucify me, it was still obviously a memorable beer. Even then, taking all my excuses into consideration I still can’t pick one winner and I’m edging towards three, with several runners-up..(Decisive I know, you should see me ordering a meal)

Roosters 20th Anniversary IPA  & Marble Old Manchester both sit fondly as being excellent in the memory with Roosters Baby Faced Assassin a very recent and most welcome third front-runner. All three followed very closely on the heels by the Red Willow/Offbeat collaboration Shapeless, Thwaites “Craft” 13 Guns, Weird Beard Mariana Trench and the ever-present and always stunning Buxton Axe Edge and Hawkshead NZPA. Dare I also mention Marble Decadence…? (Hides under table)
Wow and I thought cask was tough, these next two categories are going to be killers..

Best UK Keg Beer

There are SOOOO many contenders for this, 2013 has been absolutely amazing for keg, new beer festivals embracing it, new bars opening and showcasing it, even specialist beer shops peddling it in store and by the growler, all of which suits me absolutely fine. The Wild collaboration “Shnoodlepip” and Arbor/Moor “Double Dark Alliance” were both superb at the Birmingham Beer Bash and I can’t forget the Bitches and Black Jack collab “Isosceles” I helped with for the Macclesfield Twissup, I may be a little biased here but it was pretty darned good. For once though I am going to stick my neck out with one beer that has stuck in my head as being top dog, that beer was Buxton “Wild Boar”, as sampled at the Euston Tap, funnily enough during the Wyoming Sheep Ranch launch tap takeover.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

As with keg, there has been an explosion of bottled beery goodness this year and it’s getting so much more accessible too which is grand, with more and more high street and internet retailers fighting for thirsty drinkers pound notes. Without a doubt the bottled beers I’ve drunk most of were some in the Great British Beer Hunt, Harbour IPA and Porter, Thwaites Crafty Dan, Hardknott Infra Red and Williams Bros Hipsway being notable mentionables. I also was lucky enough to get a super fresh case of Buxton Axe Edge earlier this year too and immediately decided then that this was my bottled beer of the year. However, there have been developments, new beers, different beers, all of which have clouded my mind along with old favourites that have prodded me in the ribs to remind me “I’m still here”.. Of those I have to give credit to Red Willow Ageless, always impressive. Wild Beer Co for Ninkasi, surely one of the most beautiful bottles of beer, inside and out ever, and finally Salopian Automaton, Kashmir, Black Ops, Boomerang (basically all of their other recent stuff) what the hell has happened at that brewery, they were always pretty good but these new additions are just brilliant!
Still, there has to be one winner, but despite wittering on for ten minutes it’s none of the above, although I stand by them all regardless. This years top banana bottle award goes to The Kernel for Double Citra, a stupendously flavoursome and aromatic beer I wish I had more of..

Best Overseas Draught Beer

We spent almost two weeks in Europe this year for one reason or another, most of it exploring Gent, Antwerp and Bruges, but also another two wonderful days in Bodegraven for the De MolenBorefts” beer festival. So you can believe me when I say I’ve done the rounds in terms of sampling foreign draught beer in 2013. With the latter particularly I could rattle on for hours about the seemingly endless selection of new and interesting beers on offer, with absolute certainty more than I can remember or noted. Outstanding efforts of note include “Rime of the ancient mariner’ and “Hot & Spicy Naga Jolokia” both from De Molen, “Mademoiselle Aramis” Brasserie Du Mont Salève, “Ot the explorer” and “Utrecht Strong” by Rooi Doop and “Buffalo Trace Barley Wine” from  Emelisse. There were others you can read about here, but not all were draught and so don’t meet the criteria.. Another notable mention must go to Troubadour Magma Galaxy, as supped at Cafe Rose Red in Bruges..mmmmm.
However…we do still have a winner and it’s as big a surprise to me as no doubt it will be to you as it’s nothing new, or weird or rare etc.. I’m giving this to Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel as served to me at “Het Waterhuis aan De Bierkant” in Gent earlier this year. The sun was blazing and we sat outside by the waterside, the beer arrived and was as fresh as I’ve ever tasted it and on banging good form, smelling and tasting it was just perfect, so perfect that I had a couple more. (You can’t beat “the beer moment”)

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

Another bloody tough call this, but for once I’m keeping it brief. Toccalmatto have been outstanding, Bedda Matri Barley Wine Marsala Wine BA and their Russian Imperial Stout (aged in Sagrantino di Montefalco red wine barrels) being two that stand out, the latter being one of the best presented beers I’ve ever seen, I’d love to get my hands on either of them again. Also De Dochter Van De Korenaar, new beers on my radar, but all so far have been delicious. But, the “White Label, Buffalo Trace BA Barley Wine” from Emelisse just pips Toccalmatto to the post for me, a deserved first place. It tastes like bottled molten Crunchie on boozy steroids…

IMG_7921Best Collaboration Brew

Surely 2013 has to be the “year of the collab”there have been so many it’s hard to keep up and the standard beyond belief. Wild/Good George/Burning Sky with their wondrous concoction Shnoodlepip,  Weird Beard/Elusive with a particular favourite Nelson Saison, the Red Willow/OffBeat Shapeless and Bitches/Black Jack Isosceles, both absolute belters, the latter of which I assisted with and chose the hop additions (proud of that). The highest accolade though goes to Thornbridge and St. Eriks Brewery for the sublime Imperial Raspberry Stout, rich and dark with that cutting tartness of raspberry goodness..Mmmmm

Best Overall Beer

Always difficult, this year almost impossible, the standards have been incredible. In the CAMRGB awards I voted for the Kernel Double Citra as mentioned above and it would be so easy to stick with that. Zona Cesarini too rocked my world in bottles I’ve had a few of and really wish I’d got to try on cask at Indyman. However I do think the best overall beer needs to be something accessible, a beer that you can and want to return to again and again which takes me back to Buxton “Axe Edge”. It’s still a beer that makes my eyes light up and my heart sing if I see it gracing a bars hand pumps, keg taps or bottle fridges.
IMG_7961STOP PRESS: As if I haven’t procrastinated enough, I’ve had three new beers this week that I feel deserve a mention as being “must try more of” material. Moor – Hoppiness, great value and absolutely stunning. Pressure Drop – “Pale Fire” as seen on keg at Red Willow Bar very recently and finally “Ogham Oak Exotic Belgian Triple’ by The Celt Experience, a whirlwind or flavours and aroma.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label

I’m pretty sure this is almost the same as last year, Harbour, beautiful branding, highest quality labelling ever. New entry for Weird Beard, inventive, beautiful, entertaining, fun and tasty to match. Top dog though is again Red Willow, simple but stunning logo on complimentary contrasting coloured backdrops. The labels and pump clips are instantly recognisable and look second to none on a shops shelves in my opinion, something I revisited earlier today at one of the UK’s largest specialist beer shops.

The Craft Bandwagon award for successfully reinventing themselves as such

😉 …goes to Thwaites “Crafty Dan”. Hands up, I moaned about them jumping on the “C” bandwagon last year and have been made to eat (drink) my words. The new brews have all been delicious and the new bottles look ace. As for the worst, well there have been a few, with Greene Kings TV advertising bringing the biggest guffaw, other candidates shall remain nameless although it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work them out

Best revitalised brewery

Salopian, unlike the all others, just “quietly getting on with it” as their website states and launching beer after superb beer in the new black bottles, not shouting about it, but gathering pace all the same…2014 watch out!! #DoffsCap

Best UK Brewery

Tough call, Magic Rock have been ace but are rarely seen around these parts, as are Kernel, Summer Wine, Tiny Rebel. I’ve really loved the Weird Beard bottles I’ve sampled this year too, along with lots of specials at various festivals etc too. I think though I have to declare this one as a draw between Buxton and Wild Beer Co.

Axe Edge still sits as one of my favourite beers ever and as I said earlier that fresh case I supped was outstanding, then of course we have Wild Boar, Wyoming Sheep Ranch and Colin “Stronges Extra Stout. Whilst Wild Beer Co have just been so inventive and got away with some stunning concoctions. Ninkasi, Wildebeest, Madness IPA, Epic Saison and Modus Operandi, and not forgetting the fine collaboration brews Shnoodlepip and Cool As A Cucumber  

russian-imperial-stout-toccalmatto-b000275Best Overseas Brewery

Toccalmatto, no arguments, although I have to add that it has been fantastic to see more European countries (and beyond) with emerging new breweries where before all seemed desert like, with only yellow tasteless fizz lapping at their borders. I love the Toccalmatto branding, the labels leap out at you screaming buy me, and you are very rarely disappointed with a range of interesting delicious brews. Great guys too.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013

Weird Beard, hmmm maybe not new this year but not far off and thankfully still going great guns. Northern Monk Brew, yes, new and bristling with beery magic and mystery. But I reckon I’m going to go for Siren Craft Brew as leading the pack of brand spanking new masters of the mash tun.

IMG_6369Pub/Bar of the Year

I could quite easily pick The Grove in Huddersfield in this category but as I haven’t made it there this year, a fact which both surprises and disappoints me I can’t really do so. As normal I’m splitting this in two and choosing a pub AND bar as both are very different places to drink in my view.
The Wharf in Macclesfield still sits as firm favourite for me with it’s mix of a homely welcome, pleasant atmosphere and superbly presented beer (in fact it’s worth noting that two of the three top cask beers were supped here) making it top dog on the pub front. Port Street therefore takes the crown on the bar front, I love the atmosphere, the staff are amazing and friendly folk and the beer list goes from strength to strength. Another fine year for both.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013

No brainer, Toby and Caroline Mckenzies “Red Willow Bar‘ in Macclesfield.
20131112-192254.jpgI never thought I’d see the day that would see a venue serving 15 ever-changing keg beers, 5 cask and 50 gins a short 15 minute train ride from my home. I fills me with hope that Stoke will soon catch on and follow suit. Everything in the place has been nailed down to the finest level of detail (I know this as I was lucky enough to watch it grow), again the staff are brilliant, knowledgeable, friendly and welcoming. It’s hard to choose to go anywhere else these days. One to watch next year…

9rlfhvBeer Festival of the Year

As with beer in general 2013 has seen a most welcome explosion of new and exciting beer festivals, happy to embrace fine brewing in all it’s guises. Sadly due to unforseen family issues I had to miss Indyman Beer Con this time around and so as with The Grove, she’s out of the running which is a real shame as I’d love to have made that comparison. However it’s also quite a happy thing as it gives me the greatest of pleasure to give this nomination to Birmingham Beer Bash, an event conceived and run admirably well by good friends of mine. I had two fabulous days in Brum this year and can’t wait to see what the guys come up with for 2014.
Overseas, no brainer again, De Molen Borefts, the one fest to rule them all. Relaxed, no barriers, no security, just the most stupendously good beer list you can imagine, combined with tasty food and the worlds finest beer folk. If I could choose to go to one place each year it would be here.

Supermarket of the Year – Although none are really worthy I think Tesco’s larger stores fair better than most.

Independent Retailer of the Year

Cotteridge Wines, I think I have to be a shareholder by now? 😉 In all seriousness I really don’t know how Jas and Kal manage it, two of the most hardworking passionate blokes I’ve ever met. An Aladdin’s Cave for any beer lover.
I also have to give credit to three local retailers who are also growing fast and are a most welcome site in these parts, Brewtique in Macclesfield, The Beer Emporium in Sandbach and Beerdock in Crewe. God help my wallet… Plus of course not forgetting Beermoth in Manchester, a must visit on every Mancunian beer trip.

Online Retailer of the Year

Being honest because the high street presence has grown and the standards above have been so high, I haven’t used online so much in 2013, but when I have then Beermerchants have been my go to click of choice. Honourable mention goes out to another local business Best Of British Beer. I’ve got to know these guys well in the last few months and have been really impressed by what they are doing and have done over the last year or so. Another one to watch for 2014.

Best Beer Book or Magazine

Great Yorkshire Beer by my good friend Leigh Linley. I love Leigh’s writing style anyway and it early comes across well in this mix of venue and brewery guide, with fine recipe ideas to pair it with. GYB kept me entertained this year during a short hospital stay, although it didn’t help that I was on a “nil by mouth” regime at the time.

Best Beer Blog or Website

Leigh, again with his online persona “The Good Stuff” (Leigh send the tenner to the normal address please…) After that anyone that keeps me entertained, light hearted, fun writing hopefully with a humorous edge, Oh Beery Me, Pencil and Spoon, Are You Tasting The Pith being some that immediately spring to mind.

Best Beer App

Untappd, although it’s flawed and I do think creates friction in some circles, it’s a great tool as a memory aid and I’m intent on trying to keep that restricted to the app whenever possible next year.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer

I, as many others no doubt would want to award this to Simon himself this year, he used twitter as it should be, with cutting wit and sarcasm alike if needed. Not afraid to take the piss out of himself as well as others, but always with dignity and the craft of a master wordsmith. I’d rather one tweet a day like that any day of the week than a deluge.
Winners of this most prestigious award this year are, Dave, aka “@broadfordbrewer” who always makes me smile and I’m so glad to see him back online after a short absence. Plus of course my partner in crime Chris aka “@ckdsaddlers“, my partner in crime, the Staler to my Waldorf, an entertaining drinking partner and a bloody good egg, even when he’s talking Wolverhungaristonian.
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Best Brewery Website/Social media

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at brewery websites to be honest, but I’d say I’ve visited Weird Beard more than most and enjoy their blogging too. I also quite like a cheeky voyeuristic peek at the Magic Rock chaps via their webcam.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Various beers along with loads of cheese, bitterballen and these mahoosive molten cheese filled sausages at Borefts has to be mentioned.
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But I’d go a long way to find better than Cheshire Brewhouse “Bondi Blues” paired with Great North Pie Co’s “Isosceles Breakfast Pies” at the Treacle Tap during this years Macclesfield Twissup. That was an amazingly good combo.
That’s it, decisions made and committed to cyberspace forever.. Many thanks to Andy and Mark for hosting this again, and a massive thanks to all the brewers who’s beers I’ve drank in 2013 and to all the bars and retailers I’ve bought them from.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Borefts Beer Festival 2013 – Brouwerij de Molen

IMG_7124“We went to the Brouwerij de Molen “Borefts” beer festival last weekend, it has a reputation of being one of the finest beer festivals in the world, it is.

The end…”

This blog post could have been that easy, you could have read it, raised an eyebrow, and moved on (you may have already), but of course there is more…

We arrived at the Tulip Hotel in Bodegraven at about two in the afternoon, it could have been earlier but for a detour to Dranken Geers beer warehouse in Oostakker on the outskirts of Ghent, a small sacrifice of missing a couple of hours drinking for a car full of fabulous bottles at bargain basement prices.

IMG_7112We checked in, went back to reception where we saw numerous folk milling around wearing various beer t shirts from breweries scattered around the globe. Asking for directions we were met with pretty much blank faces staring back at us from hotel staff, surprising really as you’d expect them to be aware why on this weekend each year all their rooms sell out. Weirdly though it was pretty much the feeling we got in most places in the town, “you’ve been/are going where”, “to what beer festival?” That’s not a negative thing by the way, very much the opposite in fact, the festival is sort of anonymous except to those in the know. In the town it’s business as usual apart from a few thousand international beer geeks wandering around the town raiding shops for cheese, sausage, breads and pastries. There’s no big show, no banners strewn around nor a sign of a crappy hot dog stands and the like, just Bodegraven, its friendly folk and beer at the windmill.

IMG_7111Now in its fifth year Borefts has again evolved to meet demand but has still managed to keep its friendly laid-back atmosphere, it’s only my second visit but talking to long-term veteran John Clarke a good friend of mine from the North West of England he explained how it grow from its tiny roots based at the windmill itself, to now, two large marquees (plus a new food market section) that sit either side of the road from the new brewery extension. They manage to keep the relaxed feel by keeping the whole thing open plan. There are no tickets, nor barriers. Security guards are jobless as checking tickets is not necessary so no one is holding back queues one in one out style either. Just buy your programme, pick up your official festival glass and you’re at Borefts!

Photo by Ipanema Bar

Photo by Ipanema Bar – http://ipanemabeerbar.blogspot.co.uk

Each year head brewer Menno Olivier chooses a beer theme for each brewery to try brew for the festival, this year that was something completely new to me, seeing Braggot and Gruit Ales baffled me completely and to a certain extent still does. None of my beer references are much help now I’m home, but I’ve gleaned these two descriptions from my old friend Mr Google:

Braggot (description from beer advocate) The Braggot is quite an old drink, there is a mention in Chaucer, Canterbury Tales in the late 1300’s, and there are earlier references dating even further back to the 12th century in Ireland. Braggot is simply made by blending spices and herbs with mead and beer, to produce a strong concoction with uncommon flavors. Many taverns would make this blend right at the bar though brewers would also blend them as well. There should be a balance between the honey character and malt flavor with the hop bitterness not overpowering the sweetness yet should be noticeable. Today’s Braggot may or may not be spiced.”

Gruit, (from GruitAle.com)  “In a not so distant past, beer was brewed with an extended and varied array of botanical ingredients. Herbs, roots and spices where used by our European ancestors in order to give their beers distinct tastes, flavours and properties. These botanicals where sometimes referred to as Gruit, hence Gruit Ale. Today however, beer is almost exclusively brewed with only one, single herb addition: Hops.

Hops, of course are wonderful for brewing. They have the combined qualities that few other plants have, being at the same time bitter, aromatic and antiseptic, all qualities greatly valued in a good beer. Would this explain why Hops have supplanted all other herbal alternatives? What’s interesting about beer history is when you ask ‘why hops?” the answer is, because of Gruit.”

It was a really enjoyable experience tasting some of these beers and the diverse range of each brewers interpretation, The Kernel‘s “Borefts Special’ (Gruit) Unhopped, unboiled sour, Toccalmatto‘s “Mediterranean Braggot”, with orange flowers, Macchia Sardinian honey, lemon zest and bergamot and De Molen‘s own “Braggot Barrel Aged”, with malts and honey barrel aged on bourbon, then cognac oak barrels with extra honey and more honey being fine examples. All very different, all equally enjoyable learning experiences.

IMG_7115As usual, the list of breweries in attendance was astonishingly good. From a personal perspective it was great to see new faces from other areas of Europe in particular that are not normally famed for great beer, France, Spain and to a lesser extent Italy. Some of these new boys beers were in my top ten of the weekend which is a really exciting prospect, as soon, no longer will every trip to Spain for example have to be dominated by drinking Mahou!

The full list of beers on offer is here, (or at least the last published by De Molen) I sampled far too many to mention or to describe, but I’ve tried to narrow my favourites down to two or three from each brewery below, with my top ten (from memory) listed in red:

Brouwerij de Molen,
Bodegraven, Netherlands
Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Eisbock 18%
Hot & Spicy Naga Jolokia 10.2%
Rime of the Ancient Mariner 11%
Brouwerij Emelisse,
Kamperland, Netherlands
Barley Wine Buffalo tracé BA 12%
Creme Brulee stout 8%
Emelisse Brett Bees 10%
Laugar Brewery,
Gordexola, Spain
Cypress Valley 6.5%
Aupa Tovarisch (Calvados edition) 11%
Amager Bryghus,
Kastrup, Denmark
Honey Quad – a Borefts special
Xiquic And The Hero Twins (w. Cigar City)
Arctic SunStone (w. Three Floyds)
Jopen Brouwerij,
Haarlem, Netherlands
Grateful Deaf Zythos IPA brewed with Grateful Deaf 6.5%
Frans Hals Kuit 6%
The Kernel,
Londen, England
Imperial Brown Stout Glen Spey Whisky Barrel Aged 10.3%
Borefts Festival Special 4.3%
Thornbridge,
Bakewell, England
Halcyon 2013 7.4%
Bracia Bourbon BA 10%
S:t Eriks Collaboration 10%
Alvinne,
Moen, Belgium
Honey-B Bragot
Melchior
Morpheus Dark
Närke Kulturbryggeri,
Örebro, Sweden
4-5 different “forest” beers with ingredients from the woods
Viking IPA 7.6%
Mikkeller,
Copenhagen, Denmark
Drinkin’ the Sun 13 1.4%
BA Green Gold ChardonnayIt’s Alive! BA Chardonnay Mango
Toccalmatto,
Fidenza, Italy
Mediterranean Braggot 10.5%
Russian Imperial Stout (Wild) Sagrantino Red Wine BA 12%
Bedda Matri Barley Wine Marsala wine BA 12%
Brewfist,
Codogno, Italy
Terminal Pale Ale
Green Petrol
Struise,
Oostvleteren, Belgium
Black Albert 13%
Cuvee Delphine 13%
O.N.E. Our Nastiest Effort Barrel Aged 10%
To Øl,
Copenhagen, Denmark
I’ve Seen Bigger Than Yours 14%
Special Borefts Braggot Forca Victory Xtra Ekstra Edition 0.8.2
Naparbier,
Noain, Spain
ZZ+ American Amber Ale 5.5%
Aker American IPA 6.7%
5 Titius Aniversary IPA 7.3%
Fyne Ales,
Cairndow, Scotland
Jarl 3.8%
Mont Salève,
Neydens, France
Double IPA 8.0%
Imperial Stout 13.0%
Mademoiselle French Pale Ale 6.0%
Rooie Dop,
Utrecht, Netherlands
Double Oatmeal Stout Bourbon Barrel Aged 9.6%
Ot The Explorer Double IPA 8.7%
Utrecht Strong Ale 9.1%

It’s almost impossible to try and pick out a particular favourite, the servings are in small 15cl glasses which may seem minuscule in normal drinking terms, but in reality is ample and allows festival goers to try more beers in a day that you’d imagine possible. Yes I saw the odd stagger now and then, even the odd sway in a non-existent wind, but no rowdiness, argument or worse self-inflicted illness.

If you forced me to try and pick a top three, I’d say in no particular order, the Emilisse Buffalo Trace Barley Wine has to be there, it was like drinking an alcoholic molten cinder toffee (think Crunchie). As does the Thrornbridge S:t Eriks collab Imperial Stout with its lashings of raspberries. The final beer to make the podium would have to be either the Impy Stout or Barley Wine from Toccalmatto, both were superb but the stout which was bottled, being probably the most stunning bottles of beer I’ve seen in terms of presentation. If only I’d stopped ogling it long enough to take a bloody photograph…

IMG_7098To mop up the beers of course munchies are required and again Borefts organisers upped their game and provided a small area where stalls sold cheeses, burgers, cold meats, bitterballen (of course) and possibly the best sausage I have ever seen.

These beauties contained lumps of cheese that melted as they cooked slowly in the rotisserie, each sausage was then sliced and served as a massive mound of cheesy meat on a plate, bloody delicious it was too.

So that was it for another year, an absolute triumph of a beer festival and well worth the trip. If you’ve not been and fancy it next year it normally falls on the last weekend in September, stick it in your diary and start filling that piggy bank.

Cheers

More De Molen hits The Mother Town.

I posted a little while ago in my post “Burslem twinned with Bodegraven” about my delight that after some gentle nudging my local pub, Titanic Brewerys “The Bulls Head” had taken the plunge and was getting a larger stock of foreign import bottled beers, in particular those from Dutch brewers De Molen.

Well I am doubly thrilled to tell you that they have been a roaring success and that from today another eight are being added to the beer menu. I’ve gleaned a few tasting notes from various internet sites to give an idea about what to expect, but I stress, I have only tasted one of these so far so don’t hold me to them.. If reputation is anything to go by though you won’t go far wrong.. 😉

Engels: Our attempt at creating a real English cask ale. And we certainly succeeded. At the Great Brittish Beer Festival our Engels was appreciated by all that tried. Cask ale from the continent? Yeah! Also available bottled by the way.

Hemel and Aarde: Made with the most heavily peated malt in the world from the Bruichladdich distillery. Almost pitch black and opaque, small head. Furiously peated aroma, hiding the malt, licorice and dark chocolate somewhat. Very full-bodied, thick mouthfeel, like fluid bread. Dark chocolate, loads of peat, lapsang souchong tea, chocolate cake, culminating in an almost endless aftertaste that also has licorice.

Op & Top: Light IPA/Bitter using European hops and late hopped with US Cascade and Amarillo. Light floral aromas with notes of lemon, bread & caramel. Fresh and delicate flavours of citrus fruit, grass, and yeast. An uncomplicated light refreshing style.

Hel & Verdoemenis: Brewed with brown malts, an English traditional specialty malt, we created an Imperial Russian Stout that has won prizes at festivals across Europe from Sweden to Italy. It’s big (10% ABV), black, roasted and complex. We are convinced that not trying this ale will be a mortal sin to your taste buds and beer experience.

Bloed Zweet & Tranen: The standard Bloed, Zweet en Tranen (Blood Sweat and Tears) is a beer inspired by Bamberg smoked lagers, but upped in alcohol and with the addition of English peated malt to the Franconian smoked stuff. This variant is the result of an incident in which Scottish peated malt intended for Bruichladdich whisky got into the mash tun by mistake. (courtesy of Beer Culture with Des De Moore)

Man & Muis: Copper cloudy, with aromas of grass, grapefruit, citrus zests and some malts. Taste is light malted, good sweetness, still quite light and drinkable. Finishes with nice american hops combined with grassy saaz hop bitterness

Geboren and Getogen: Born & Raised’ is a smoked pale ale, the beer has lovely light citrus & bittering hops, & the smokey embers are ever present throught the flavours

Licht and Lustig: Described as a speciality grain beer,pours a hazy medium orange colour. Aroma is slightly malty, toasted caramel, hops bring tropical & citrus fruit, banana, slightly yeasty. Taste is citrus again, wheats, some caramel, banana and toffee.

All good news for the drinkers and visitors to Burslem.

If you’ve not tried one you’re unlikely to get the chance to drink 13 varieties all in one place anywhere in the UK I’d bet, so come on down and get stuck in. Oh and when you do PLEASE pop back on here and let me know what you think in the comments section below and give the staff at the Bulls some feedback too.

Cheers

Burslem twinned with Bodegraven?

The brewery in the Windmill

OK so that might be a teensy exaggeration…

Bodegraven is the home of Brouwerij de Molen (or “Brewery the Mill” in English). I think I can safely say they are one of the worlds most respected breweries, if the list of old, new and would be collaborators is anything to go by, not to mention the many guests for their famous Borefts beer festival and stunning beer pedigree.

Being a massive fan after sampling many different beers from their vast range I was really excited to hear them being mentioned as a potential addition to my local pubs foreign beer menu. Of course I heartily recommended them amongst others available and to my deep joy was over the moon to see not one but FIVE arrive.

The venue is The Bull Head in Burslem, Stoke On Trent, the Titanic Brewery Tap. It’s a cozy friendly pub with of course the obligatory selection from the Titanic range, a regular 5-6 pump ever changing cask ale selection and also quite a healthy stock of foreign beers both on the font and in bottled form. Being an antagonistic soul with the latter I’d always thought most of the selections as being a little “safe”. I can understand that of course from a commercial point of view, it’s a standard drinkers pub and not a swanky big city craft beer bar and the clientele reflect that, they are far more likely to go for say a Chimay Blue over a fridge full of completely unrecognisable labels.

That’s why I think this time around management team Bob and Jim at The Bulls have really excelled and perhaps popped their heads above the parapet a little, a brave and most welcome move. What needs to happen now though is for more and more people to go in and support their efforts by trying the beers, taste, chat and tell friends about them to make their arrival a resounding success.

This in turn will hopefully lead to a more and more adventurous customer base willing to try more new and interesting beers from around the world and so the cycle continues and the menu grows.. 😉

So what of the beers themselves? Well I’ve tried all of the De Molen beers on the list and although I’ve not made any tasting notes would recommend each one at the drop of a hat. Amerikaans is  a light and hoppy beer with a taste that defies it’s 4.5% abv, fruity, perhaps slightly floral in flavour and very very fresh on the palate, a spicy bitter finish cleans everything up nicely.

Vuur and Vlaam (or Fire and Flames) is an absolutely stunning IPA and is one of the best beers I’ve had in the last year. First tried from the keg at Port Street Beer House and many times since in bottled form. Loads of citrus and tropical fruit flavours are evident from the first sniff and follow throughout, at 6.2% easy to drink for a dabble in the fridges at any time of day, looking forward to warmer summer sunny days ahead in particular though.

Jaar & Dag is a Saison, pale and hoppy with (from memory) hints of orange spice and banana, it’s been a week or two since sampled this so it’s a little vague, one to revisit at my next session methinks. Going darker we have the Hamer & Sikel, a dark roasty porter coming in at a very easy-going 5.2%. It’s smooth and very drinkable with a good helping of bitter chocolate, espresso and dark boozy winter fruits.

Finally we come to the Daddy, the dark destroyer, Mooi & Meedogenloos. “Some people say it’s served in Mordor on Saurons breakfast serial and that by drinking it you sell your soul to the devil” (unless of course you are ginger and suffer from Gingervitus), “all we know is that it means in English “beautiful and ruthless” and is absolutely gorgeous”. It’s described as a Belgian Strong ale and I’d say it’s almost quad-like, rich malty flavours, sweet caramels, dark chocolate, liquorice, fruitcake and more, there is so much going on in this beer I’m not going any further without any notes or a sample as I simply won’t do it justice. Try one..

As a side note there are a few more additions to the fridges in the Bulls, notably from American brewery Rogue with Juniper Ale, Mocha Porter and Dead Guy Ale, again another welcome sight in the Mother Town, plus these two newbies for me St Fueillien Grand Cru and Gulden Draak 9000 Quaduple.

So what are you waiting for, the Burslem drinking scene looks set for a revival, get down here, support the cause…”POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!” 😉

Cheers

UK drinkers & pubs, are you happy that price of your pint is up 35% in 4 yrs? No I thought not, so please spare two minutes and sign this online Government e-petition to stop the beer duty escalator: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29664