The Wharf Macc Hardcore’s You

Last but by no means least in my round hop of what’s on for the BackInMacc tour tomorrow (Sat 13th September 2014), is one of my favourite pubs anywhere. Friendly local, music venue, community pub, beer geek heaven, it manages to pull them all off at one time or another, making it a must visit.

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Chris in action at last years Twissup

As usual Chris Stairmand has pulled a series of extremely rat-arsed rabbits out of the hat, a tres continental sounding one at that in terms of what he has lined up for our drinking pleasure.

We have our new brewer in residence, James Bendall from Wrexham based Axiom Brewing, with his first beer to market New Dawn. A fine offering to start a commercial brewing career it is too and can quite easily stand alone, but to add to the intrigue tomorrow it’s planned to be served via a randall stuffed with hops yet to be revealed. A Welsh rarebit..

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Mancunian with a southern hemispheric hint up next we have the delicious collaboration beer from Marble’s Matthew Howgate and New Zealander ex-pat James Kemp, who’ s collective talents created Howgate & Kemp New Zealand Pale Ale. Full-Product-Range-HowgateKemp

Continuing our transcontinental tour-de-biers we go all Soviet, via Nottingham’s Flipside Brewery, going dark and mysterious with their SIBA award-winning stout Russian Rouble, Da!RussianRoublePumpClip

Onward weary traveller to Europe, where we are set to meet some exceptionally special beers featuring brewers from Scotland, Denmark and of course Belgium. Beers that need no explanation to delight and amaze so I won’t bother, apart from to say, feast your eyes on these bad boys!!

T1_8438b5580d1ec292a9f2a5e9bd145515_84530pannepeutBoth will be available on keg of course rather than in bottles, with the Pannepeut being the 2013 Vintage rather than the version shown.

A truly knockout selection, with more on offer across the bar too. Step three of our beer adventure, The Wharf…

Another reminder to please like the Facebook page and if possible show you are coming along. If not for Twitter users you can tweet myself @filrd, @redwillowmacc, @thetreacletap, @thewharfmacc, or @tobymckenzie, or why not all of us at once. If none of that is your thing, like the post or comment below. But most of all, please share with your friends and come along for the day, all are welcome to join, itinerary again below with a little slack for walking etc.

The itinerary too for those who have missed it…

*Saturday 13th September 2014*

Treacle Tap – 11am- 12:45

RedWillow Brewery – 12:50-14:45

Wharf 15 -17:15

RedWillow Bar 17-30 – 20:00

20:01 Feel free to circulate and do it all again..

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A cheeky one for the “brew dog” lovers…

maggie2Meet my dog Maggie, or at least a cartoon version of her. She’s a fine ales connoisseur, a canine “some-smellier’ of all things beery. I call her the brew dog in chief as she’s probably tasted a wider selection of beers than most humans I know and definitely knows a tasty tipple from a dreary drop.

It’s true she’s proper fickle. It may sound odd but she very quickly sniffs out when I’ve got something really hoppy or conversely dark and malt heavy in a glass and she’s straight on my lap hoping for a little taste of beery goodness. Sadly she can’t get her paws around using ratebeer or untapped so no stats are available of her conquests…

She doesn’t get much, a finger dipped in the glass, hastily licked clean (until I run out of unlicked fingers). All in moderation of course before the animal cruelty brigade are on my case, she’s well-loved and I wouldn’t dream of hurting her, she only gets a few drops of each and never enough to leave her feeling RUFF!.

Anyway, that’s not the real reason for the post. Maggie also loves a trip to the pub (see here), as do most dogs. Lots of fuss, lovely smells and the odd tasty snack from friendly punters.

For anyone who shares the pleasure of taking or seeing dogs in pubs this will really make you laugh or at least I hope it does. It’s a brilliant bit of animation and I can just see our Maggie each time I watch it, I’m sure you’ll see it in your dogs too, enjoy…

Thanks to Jim of Bulls Head fame for sharing.

Cheers

#BarleyCon13

Well there it was, gone!

Yes Christmas is well and truly over and hopefully the last of those generally awful generic Christmas beers should at last be jingle belling their jolly way off your locals hand-pulls, making way for something thing new. For most of us it will still be dark and strong winter ales with a smidgin of hoppy pales breaking up through the gloom, fighting for light like maples in a forest dominated by mighty oaks. (Neil Peart eat your heart out)

Time then I thought, to give your taste buds a run out in the form of another hashtag tasting session, this time exploring the much under rated Barley Wine. Still a winter ale some might say, but I’d disagree and say it’s an any season beer if the mood takes you.

Down-Deeperer-300x300I think barley wines get a bit of a rough ride with lots of drinkers. People are unfamiliar with them apart from the obligatory can of Gold Label that sits forlorn at the bottom of many a bars fridge and I think the high ABV scares them too, generally sitting upwards of 10% in a lot of cases. I thought the same I have to admit, until a couple of years ago when I started to explore beer more and I think that perhaps was because the only British beers I’d tried that were anywhere near that strength were like drinking Castrol GTX.

Like the British/World beer scene though I’ve moved on, higher strength beers are featuring more and more especially in the more forward thinking bars (refuses to use the c word) and whilst I treat them with respect, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at trying a new Paradox at 15% or so in somewhere like Brewdog for example.

9781862059146 copyAs a bit of a style introduction, I’m going to use a quote from Melissa Cole’sLet Me Tell You About Beer” and although as you’ll read, it doesn’t go into detail at this stage on what they (barley wines and Scotch ales), actually are like (she does later in the chapter), I think it speaks volumes about what to expect and how to treat them…

“If beer styles were people, then barley wines and Scotch ales would be someone like George Clooney: respected by men and loved by women, growing old gracefully, with an air of sophistication, but retaining a puckish charm that could get you into trouble but convincing you to jump on a jet to Vegas instead of going home for dinner”.

So to the uninitiated, a little more.

Usually malty sweet, but with any decent example, always with a glorious complexity of tastes that should stop them being cloying. Expect caramel, treacle toffee, oranges, marmalade, bitter chocolate, rich boozy liqueured orchard and vine fruits in varying combinations, with quite often a surprising amount of spritzy bitter hops bursting through to finely balance the heady malts in this delightfully warming elixir..

Think of a cold dark night, you are sitting in a high-backed winged leather arm-chair in a dimly lit room, the flickering glow of a roaring log fire warms your face and sets shadows dancing on the walls around you.

Sit back, relax and savour the flavour of a luxuriously sumptuous barley wine.

Date to be confirmed for hash-tag #BarleyCon13 as I’m working on a few ideas that hopefully will up the stakes a little, but I’m thinking late Feb to early March which gives you lot plenty of time to find some interesting examples. I’ll list a few suggestions in a few days.

Oh and did I mention that a barley wine was CAMRA’s Champion Beer of the year in 2012? No, well watch this space on that front as I may have some interesting news….

Cheers

(Down Deeperer image courtesy of CAMRGB who also designed the rather spiffing label, check out his review of the beer here.)

I was drowning in keg… (and loving it)

During my recent trip to London, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will no doubt have seen my many messages about the beer I was drinking at the time. Or as one friend kindly put it “Stop filling my bloody timeline up with pictures of bloody beer!” (Edited, “polite” version…)

There was a reason for this albeit a personal one, I wanted to try to keep track of what I’d drunk and where, over a rather hectic pub crawl.

Anyway here’s that list give or take a few that I forgot about or can’t now find.

Quite a decent list but nothing over the top, lots of hops evident of course as is my preference especially on warm spring days. What surprised me when looking back though was the dominance of keg beers amongst my selections. I hadn’t set out to purposely target these beers, each choice was made as a spur of the moment decision based upon what was presented to me on each bar top.

Oddly though my two favourite beers of the three days were from different ends of the spectrum in terms of style, strength and serving method. Shoreditch Sunshine as found at the Southampton Arms was light quaffable session beer, fresh, fruity and extremely hoppy too. I went back for another which is odd for me on a beer pilgrimage, but it was just that good.

At the other end was the Mikkeller and Three Floyds collaboration, “BooGoop” barley wine. A rich and resinous sipper, full flavoured with bags of syrupy citrus fruits, a warming mouthfeel and dry bitter hop finish to boot.

One of those beers that you could just sit swirling around the mouth allowing the taste buds to pick out more and more flavours, if only I had the time..

As you can see though, I liked it, I liked it long time.

Reminiscing over though and back to the question, why was my shopping list dominated largely by beers served via keg lines, was it simply lack of choice? No, too much on offer for that surely??

I think the answer though, does lie in the above question albeit in reverse. The type of beer I chose is the sort of beer that I actively seek out in bottled form, rarities, stronger imports, big fat juicy American IPA’s and the like. Seeing them being served fresh on the bars is just too much of a draw for me, I get that Willie Wonka kid in a sweet shop grin on my chops and am sucked into the pure indulgence of it all.

Conversely, after only a couple of days though, I have to confess to finding myself soon longing for a normal pint, a quaffer, something equally tasty and refreshing to sup and sup again without fear of being pickled in my own alcoholic juices. This I found in a pint of Summer Wine Breweries Rouge Hop at the Euston Tap, the place where all London beer tours should start and end, it was my last taste of London and was beautiful..

So what is the point I’m so long windedly trying to make I hear you groan?

It’s this, I want more keg, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again, not just imported keg but good, solid British keg of all strengths and styles too to sit in harmony with it’s foreign bedfellows. I don’t want it to replace real ale dispensed from the cask, I want it to exist everywhere in harmony, giving punters across the UK a real choice of what they want to drink and how it is served to them at that moment when stood in front of the polished bar top.

I drowned in keg in London because I never see it locally or anywhere else for that matter, unless I travel to other cities specifically to get it.

When I get there I enjoy it immensely, but must miss countless other lovely local beers in the process as I’m panic buying it like stamps, petrol or bread on New Years Eve, knowing that once I leave there’s no more to be had back home…

London Calling – Day One

So my birthdays just gone and the lovely Mrs Beersay had bought me 1st class travel and sorted accommodation for a two day beer tour of the capital city’s finest establishments all I had to do was find them and get there. First thing to do as always was ask Twitter. In true beer lover fashion the recommendations came flooding in, so I made a list and set about matching them to their respective closest tube stations so we could work on some semblance of a route.

Planning done, quite a few folks asked me to try to map out our journey so that they could follow in our footsteps, (or at least dip in and out of it as they choose), so here goes. Please bear in mind that we are not Londoners but maybe that’s a good thing as you’ll get it from an outsiders perspective.

The starting point, as should any visitor by rail to London should was Euston Tap, it’s literally right outside Euston Station and offers a fantastic range of beer served from cask, keg or bottle in pleasant surroundings. A good place to refresh after your journey and plan the next stop.

I love the tap the layout is great albeit a little small downstairs, if I was to open a bar I’d model it on this place for the serving area at least, great use of space and really stylish too.

Next stop was the Bull at Highgate, taking the Northern Line (Northbound) it’s about a 12 minute journey so not too far, on arrival it’s a short walk to the Bull (13 North Hill, N6 4AB). The Bull is a very modern looking place inside and out and is also the home of The London Brewing Co micro brewery. The meals looked great and there was a cracking decking area outside for sunny days.

They have a good range of beer including their own, including some foreign imports on the fonts from Sierra Nevada, Pretty Things and more, well worth the journey and definitely a place to return to.

A short trot back to Highgate tube station and two stops down the Northern line to Tufnell Park which is a short walk away from The Southampton Arms (139 Highgate Road, NW5 1LE). This a real old school pub with ales and ciders only from small independents. Inside is a similar picture to the exterior, aged wooden floor, furniture and fittings, genuine too I’d say, none of this plastic old that some refurnished pubs go for. In here I had the best cask ale across my two-day stay in London, Brodies Shoreditch Sunshine, a light zesty and incredibly refreshing session beer I could have sunk all afternoon long. I should mention that the walk from Tufnell Park Underground took us through an area of flats that although looked fine in the day, I wouldn’t like to wander through at night especially alone. Lots of alleyways etc that could be ok but you never know.

Luckily though there’s no need to go back that way as the bus stop is right outside the door and both buses go via Camden Town which was our next stop for Brewdog Camden. A short stroll just off the High Street, head away from the tube station head a way from the market until you see the Vodaphone store on your right and Burger King on the left, turn left here and Brewdog is straight ahead.

Brewdog is as far away from the Southampton Arms in terms of style as it possibly could be, modern, bright, bold with brash garish branding but it does have friendly knowledgable staff and loads of great beer.

Lots of other sights to see in Camden too, the market (and it’s inhabitants) great pubs, Camden Town Brewery which is currently only open on Fridays to visitors and the great burger bar Byrons with a bottled craft beer selection available to match your meaty munch fest as chosen by our Mark Dredge of Pencil & Spoon fame, see here for details. Again just off the high street back past Camden Town underground Byrons offer great food in an environment not dissimilar from Al’s from Happy Days. The food was great but I was a little disappointed that little was made to push the beer and burger/food matching as it was the main reason I singled it out, can’t knock them for doing it though.

From here you have a choice of venues/routes all within a few tube stops, The Bree Louise back at Euston, The Gunmakers at Baker Street for example, for us though time was against us and we wanted somewhere to relax after a days yomping and travel so opted for Craft Beer Co which is a short walk from Farringdon Underground (82 Leather Lane, Clerkenwell EC1N 7TR). Take the Northern Line from Camden, change at Kings Cross to the Circle for Farringdon, journey is about 20 minutes including the walk from the station.

“Prestigious beer bible Ratebeer.com listed the newly opened Craft Beer Co first venue the 4th best beer venue in the world. This honour and praise has been followed by glowing reviews in the Guardian and Telegraph amongst others in its first few weeks opened.”

Craft is a lovely place to while away an evening, afternoon or whatever, a long bar jam-packed with a vast array of beers from home and abroad on cask and keg lines, top dollar bottle range too.

Not to forget the lovely range of high quality pork pies and scotch eggs stocked to soak up all that lovely beer.

Another pub/bar we were recommended to try but ran out of time on the day was The Dovetail Bar (9 Jerusalem Passage Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JP) apparently its a Belgian style bar with food to match and best visited during the afternoon to avoid the rush. One for next time for sure. Cheers

Day 2 to follow..

Vive la Révolution, sadly it’s not reached us yet?

I was going to use “Brewdog Stoke” as the title of this post, in fact I may still list it as a tag to see how much the search term is used out of interest. This was to try and gauge how many people particularly from the Stoke and surrounding areas would sit up and take notice if that started popping up on twitter, Facebook and Google search results. Craft keg, in Stoke, surely not?

Instead I used a quote or a slightly amended Twitter quote from James at Summer Wine Brewery:

This was my tongue in cheek response:

People who know me may be puzzled by my reply as they know that I love Belgian beer, in fact it was my love of their fine brews that ultimately led me to start blogging. The thing is though I am not against Belgian beer on keg, I embrace it with open arms as it deserves a place on British bars, I love to drink it and I’m sure James does too. What riles me though is the general reluctance in all but the most fashionable bars in beer centric drinking cities to put British beer on a keg line which I’m sure forms the basis of James’s point.

Can I just say here that this is not an intent to start the craft keg v cask debate again, far from it. CAMRA seem to be now at least openly considering the possibility of change in response to its increasing popularity (as written here by Tandleman). As a CAMRA member myself I obviously love cask real ale, I’d just like the opportunity to choose now and then but not have to travel 50 miles in order to make that choice.

Locally to me almost every decent pub has keg lines, I mean proper premium keg lines not those spewing out “beverages” at £1.50 a pint. We get Leffe, Staropramen, Timmermans, Blanche De Bruxelles, Babar, Budvar, St Feuillien, Gouden Carolus etc etc, I could go on and some would say we do pretty well, I’d have to agree but “why no British craft keg“!

Some of the best beer I’ve had this year was kegged, Magic Rock “High Wire”, Summer Wine’s Cohort and Saison series, Brewdog 5AM Saint and Kernel IPA all stand out as exceptional easy drinking and full flavoured beers that would shake some pubs to their very core, maybe even convert the odd lager lout along the way.

Of course I’m generalising here and speaking as it feels personally from my own back yard. We have several pubs in these parts that could bite the bullet and give it a try but seemingly won’t or can’t. I have asked the question on several occasions with varying responses, “it’s too expensive”, “people wouldn’t drink it”, “it’s not available to us”. Well it should be, make it your business to get it and stand out from a crowd as being the first, how do you know people won’t drink  it if they’ve never had the opportunity?? “Stock it, people will come…”

What’s it like where you live, do you have a choice? Is it always imports or are you one of the lucky ones who gets worldwide keg including those from our own shores?   

If you are one of the latter I’d love to hear how it all started for you and how it went down initially, it may come in useful in converting more folks in the area.

We need a craft beer truck, touring the UK bring new and exciting beers in keg bottles and of course cask to cities and towns across the country. It would be like that famous Coca Cola commercial that everyone comments on in early December. You’d first see it coming around the corner “Craft on Tour” in flashing neon and instantly get that warm feeling inside, Christmas has come early…

Vive la Révolution 😉

British Guild Of Beer Writers Awards 2011, a brief recap..

On Thursday 1 December I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the annual awards dinner for the British Guild of Beer Writers down in that London. I hasten to add I was there as a guest at the table hosted by John Humphreys and Shepherd Neame Brewery and not as a member of the guild, or by virtue (directly at least) of anything I have written here on Beersay.

I’ve meant to write a quick post ever since but haven’t as things have been a bit crazy with work, Christmas and hosting The Session etc. Then I saw this video put together brilliantly by Nathan Nolan AKA @MrDrinknEat and my spark was re-kindled, it’s a great piece of film which captures the event perfectly in just a couple of minutes.

The Menu and beer pairings (apologies for the quality)

I did take a few photographs myself on the night but the lighting was very low and to be honest they are all pretty awful. I’ve dropped a few below though anyway, to give you a flavour of the great food I lucky enough to sample on the night. In all honesty it was probably the best food I’ve ever eaten anywhere, even the canapés beforehand were fantastic. The beers chosen to pair with them were awesome too. My particular favourite was the passion fruit cheesecake paired with Brewdog’s Alice Porter. The roasty notes of the porter really enhancing the biscuit base brilliantly.

Trying for once to keep this post short and sweet I’ll leave you with a few more photos.

But before that I just wanted to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to John and Shepherd Neame for inviting me and my table fellows. Also to everyone I met and shared a beer with on the night, I absolutely loved every minute of it. If there’s a space next year, count me in.

Seared albacore, white asparagus, shallot, mustard with soy dressing - Served with Kelham Island Brewery "Pale Rider"

Scallop and crab, mushroom soup dumplings - Served with Wadworth Brewery "Orange Peel"

baby chicken, foie gras mousse, cabbage, black pepper sauce and vegetable parcels - Served with Kernel Brewery "Pale Ale"

Passion fruit cheesecake with passion fruit marshmallow - Served with Brewdog "Alice Porter"

Something a little special as a gift from Shepherd Neame - Review to follow very soon…

Roll on the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds May 2012.