Twissup Macclesfield II – #BackInMacc

twissupA date for your beer diary, at last, after much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth, we finally have a date that fits the bill.

After last years event I had no idea that we’d be “Back In Macc” (hashtag alert). #Twissups don’t tend to be annual, they are usually wild sporadic beasts that pop up, create a fuss and are gone before you know it, at least for a year or two. However, the feedback from last year was ace, people have asked if I can pull another together and the venues seem game, so hey, let’s do this thing!

The aim will be to try and improve a little on last year, but keep the format similar. A group of great venues within a short walking distance of the train station each with some hand-picked beers for your delight. A brewery visit to Red Willow and all the joys that such visitations bring, plus, if all goes to plan, at least one completely new beer at each place we visit, hopefully with brewer/s in tow, and of course a selection of quality munchies to mop up some of the many beverages consumed.

That is the plan at least, it’s tough, but there’s only one way to find out if I manage it, turn up.

September 13th is so far away though, why wait so long I hear you ask?

Well it’s a number of things really, the first is time. Ask anyone who’s pulled together anything like the above and they will tell you it doesn’t happen over night. Then there are dates that clash all over the place. Last years date for example was scuppered by both an extended Barnaby Festival (a local Macclesfield event) and the European Beer Bloggers Conference, excluding lots of potential attendees. Of the other three potential dates, two clashed with large “craft” beer festivals in Leeds and Liverpool, the other was just too short notice to make it viable. On top of all that, August was pretty much wiped out by some of our protagonists taking three week well earned holiday.

In short, the next five months are just a bit mental, it also gives you all plenty of time to plan ahead..

As usual, more info will be posted up here as and when things develop, please share this post register your interest in comments or via Twitter.

(Read more about last years event here and here, there are lots more too, just follow the links on the pages)

Join the Facebook Page too, there you can get easy access to last years updates and chat to each other and social-mediarise or sammink!

Cheers all

Memories 

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The great Westvleteren “best beer in the world” debate…

A lot of “stuff” happened yesterday, and as I lay in bed last night, brain fuelled (distorted) mainly by Buxton “Jawgate” and Colin Stronge Extra Stout, it sort of all came together into this outpouring of thoughts, views and observations, some of which relate to a bit of a red rag to a bull debate and others of things still yet to come..

Image courtesy of CAMRGB

Image courtesy of CAMRGB

It was a quite inoffensive comment on a friends Facebook profile that started this off and linked to the events that fell before it, the comment (and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying so), was written by Simon from CAMRGB and was as follows: “Westvleteren 12. Supposedly the best beer in the world. It Isn’t. It’s just f*ckin hard to get hold of”

Now this isn’t a dig at Simon, we are mates, he knows his stuff and goes on to write a balanced review of the beer itself which you can read here, apart from perhaps slightly falling into the old “best beer in the world” trap again at the end.

That small section though is what gets the hackles up, and being completely fair, Simon is not alone, far from it. For every person I hear that has sampled Westvleteren 12, I probably hear two more that say something along similar lines. “It’s not as good as beer X”, it’s not the best beer in the world”, very expensive for what it is”, “I think St Bernardus Abt is nicer”, “don’t believe the hype”etc. etc. But what most people don’t seem to grasp is that they themselves are the ones that perpetuate those myths, feeding the hype that will keep this beer on it’s perceived marble pedestal.

detail silhouet groenThe Trappist monks that brew this beer have never claimed this beer is the best in the world, they are I believe quite embarrassed by all the fuss it causes it to a degree, although clearly the mystique around it helps them survive. However you’ll see no Rolls Royces driving out of the Abbey gates, all money made is ploughed back into living costs, the monastery upkeep and or goes to charity.

Back in December 2012, BeerPulse posted an audio interview with one of the brothers, it’s half an hour long, but I feel it gives the listener a real insight into what goes on behind those monastery walls:

The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren’s Brother Joris speaks

In my view there is no secret GRAND MARKETING campaign at work to propel it to stardom (geek-dom). If there was, it’s rubbish, incredibly “slow burn” and surely fatally flawed, as surely the whole idea behind marketing is to make people buy more and more? If you visit the brewery there is no vast loading bay with truckloads of beer leaving the building, there is one man, checking number plates on vehicles as they pull up to his little hut and loading two crates in each, hardly Anheuser-Busch world domination, unless of course they have secretly bought it and the whole thing is an elaborate front.

Of course not all of those daily callers are collecting beer to drink, that same hype feeds a huge black market, but do you really think the Monastery see a penny of the additional revenue made from the often 500% mark up on the original sale price as it filters out to bars and shops across Europe and the rest of the world?

Westvleteren isn’t hard to get hold of either, it just takes a bit of effort. Get on a ferry, train and travel to the abbey and taste it there, sitting in the sunshine.

The first time I did that, it was the best beer in the world, for me, right then, it isn’t now, but that isn’t the point. On my first trip I was so excited to try some, that I had this leering moon-faced grin that I just could not suppress no matter how hard I tried. I love Belgian quads, and in my mind this one was going to be so special. The planning, the journey, the anticipation, the beautiful setting with my wife at my side, even that “hype” fuelled that moment and by god I was going to enjoy it. Last year I had a similar moment drinking Houblon Chouffe in Gent, it’s all relative.

Of course not everyone can make that journey or even want to, but don’t expect to always “get it” if you are drinking it at home or in a bar after shelling out £10 plus a bottle for the privilege.

What I really don’t get most of all though, is why Westie gets singled out so much for criticism just because they limit sales. The St Bernardus connection probably doesn’t help, is it the same, is it different yeast, one is better than the other etcetera.

pliny-the-youngerI wonder for example, if Russian River get the same treatment for Pliny The Younger, surely even more limited in it’s distribution and availability? Similarly much-lauded as the best Double IPA in the world or even as a challenger to Westvleteren’s mighty throne, I am absolutely positive it is amazing. If I ever make it to queue for my half a glass I’m sure too that I will again involuntarily don that ridiculous moon-face, just then in that moment, but it will wear off shortly afterwards and I’ll be back to my usual miserable grimace before I know it.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no best beer in the world, only the best beer in your mind or in the moment you drink it, so if you get your hands on a Westie, Pliny or perhaps a can of SKOL found at the back of the cupboard from 1987, put all comparative thoughts aside and enjoy it for what it is.

Cheers

SupSaison wrap up

Wow time has flown, the #SupSaison weekend is almost a week old and I still haven’t posted a wrap up. I haven’t posted at all to be honest I’ve had a crazy few weeks with work and after long hard days I just couldn’t face another few hours tapping away at a laptop, so, I’m sorry…

I know the guys at the venues I mentioned last week had a real blast and I thank them and everyone else who joined in, wherever you may be, most sincerely.

At “Chez Hardy” I hosted a tasting night that lasted quite a bit longer than normal, it lasted way after midnight as it happened and well past Saisons too as it goes.

I opted for a mix of various styles, traditional well-tested standards, international attempts at mirroring the style, home-brew, flavoured, hybrid variations using saison yeasts and an Imperial. The results were quite surprising as none of the real favourites voted for were what I’d consider bang on typical style with most having a twist of some description in the mix. I’ve added a full list further below which includes descriptions not of my writing, this info gleaned from brewery websites etc and presented as a formal beer list to guests on the night. (Glamorous eh?)

We had seven tasters all of varying experience and all with slightly different personal tastes in beers and styles, each had two votes each and this is what came out as a top 5

  1. Red Willow – Faithless XIV Gin and Tonic Saison (Macclesfield) 4 Votes
  2. Baird Brewing Saison Sayuri (Japan) (Equal first place) 4 Votes
  3. Brasserie de Silly – Saison (Silly – Belgium) 3 Votes
  4. Belgoo – Saisonneke (Brasserie La Binchoise, Binche, Belgium) 2 Votes
  5. Green Flash – Saison Diego (San Diego – California) 1 Vote

So there you have it, the top two most enjoyed Saison beers of the night came from Japan and Macclesfield, who’d have thought it..

The night didn’t end there though, as because we were in such good company, I decided to open my long overdue bottle of Roosters Baby Faced Assassin, closely followed by a bottle of Stone Double Bastard. Thankfully as this was after midnight and SupSaison had unofficially closed the top five remained as they were otherwise the Roosters would have swept the board, it was absolutely stunning even though it was a year old.

We had a blast on the night, I hope you did too. I’ve already had requests to get another started, with suggestions of either Barley Wines or Lambics as the featuring beer style, what do you think, it’s of course open to further suggestion/debate??

Cheers

Note: There were no real tasting notes taken as this was supposed to form part of the wider twitter tasting event and therefore any comments made would have been live on the night, but here is the beer list:

Order of beer service ~

Traditional Belgian/French styles

St-Feuillien – Saison (LE ROEULX – BELGIUM)

St-Feuillien’Saison is what the Belgians call a beer of the terroir,
A traditional farmhouse ale with all the rich savour of the fertile land of southern Belgium. Saison, a warm golden blonde ale, is a top-fermented classique. Thanks to secondary fermentation in the bottle, Saison has an unmistakable flavour full of rich nuances and a slight tang.

Belgoo – Saisonneke (Brasserie La Binchoise, Binche, Belgium)

Dry hopped Saison, A really refreshing flowery hoppy beer with not that too much of bitterness going on. The hops are really more of a kind of flowery-fruity-citric aromas.

Brasserie La Chouffe – La Chouffe (Ardennes – Belgium)

LA CHOUFFE is an unfiltered blonde saison beer, which is re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg.  It is pleasantly fruity, spiced with coriander, and with a light hop taste.

Brasserie de Silly – Saison (Silly – Belgium)

Its taste is remarkable, light and favourably combined to offer a tone that is both modestly sweetened and fruity, leaving the mouth with a refreshing feel as is constantly asked of it.

 Brasserie Fantôme Saison (Soy-Erezée, Belgium)

This is a tremendously delicious, textural, and fizzy county ale, bright gold colour, citric and sour, reminiscent of a good champagne or lambic but in a class all its own.

Fantôme – Golden ale, 8% alc. by volume, with a wonderfully musty and characterful aroma. There are many drinkers out there who believe this is the “Nectar of the Gods.” Certainly no other brewer makes beer like this, in Belgium or anywhere. How many beers of 8% plus offer such fresh fruitiness? A solid Belgian saison beer at its base, with an unusual overlay of fruitiness.

International Efforts

 Green Flash – Saison Diego (San Diego – California)

Unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, brewed with Seville orange peels, Chinese ginger and grains of paradise. Light, bright, spicy aromas, lively carbonation and earthy flavors co-mingle with musty notes that add funky complexity.

Baird Brewing Saison Sayuri (Japan)

A fascinating mixture of down-to-earth simplicity and understated complexity. Brewed entirely with pale base malts and Japanese candy sugar (except for a hint of roasted barely for color contribution), Saison Sayuri is relatively light in body and sprite in flavor. The nose is an immensely complex amalgam of aromas – bubble gum-like phenolics from the Belgian yeast, floral and fruity notes
from dry hopping, and a subtle hint of citrus and spice from the addition
of Japanese daidai peels (daidai is a very sour type of Japanese orange). A splash of sour daidai juice also was added to the wort which manifests itself in a stealthily citric-sour finish.

Leeds Brew – Saison de la Maison  (Neil Gardner – Leeds)

Very classic, dry Saison, medium bodied with fruity yeast and peppery phenols dominating.

A massive thanks to Neil from LeedsBrew for sending me this at his own expense (I owe you one). It was not at all out on it’s own and I’d guess with some certainty that if I hadn’t said it was home brewed, nobody would have known.

Flavoured and style variations

Red Willow – Faithless XIV Gin and Tonic Saison (Macclesfield)

This isn’t just a Saison with a splash of Gordon’s and a glug of Schwepps added to it. The G&T flavours are provided by use of juniper and lemongrass respectively.

Flying Dog – In de Wildeman Farmhouse IPA

Brewed for Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman’s 25th Anniversary. This brand new brew is an unfiltered American IPA hopped with Citra and fermented with Saison yeast.

 The Bruery – Saison Rue

Saison Rue is a unfiltered Belgian/French style farmhouse ale. This is a beer of subtlety and complexity, with malted rye, spicy, fruity yeast, biscuit-like malt backbone and a slight citrus hop character.

Cigar City – Guava Grove

One of Tampa’s nicknames in addition to the CigarCity is the Big Guava. It earned the moniker from local newspaper columnist Steve Otto in the 1970’s. The nickname eventually gave rise to one of YborCity’s most popular annual events, Guavaween. We brew Guava Grove in tribute to Tampa’s fruity nickname. Guava Grove is brewed with a French strain of Saison yeast and sees a secondary fermentation on pink guava puree. Slightly tart with a dry finish this is a refined beer that is perfect for sharing. Pairs well with a wide variety of cheeses, seafood and light fruit salads.

 Brasserie Fantôme – Pissenlit

Dany, the offbeat brewer at Fantôme, will try anything, and the results are always interesting. A beer made from dandelions would be worth a try if only because no one has ever brewed one before, but the great news is that this is actually a very good beer.
Dany and some cohorts get busy every spring picking bushels of dandelions that grow in the fields around the picturesque farmhouse brewery. The yellow flowers are removed and dried in the sun, then soaked in water for a few days. The thick, dark dandelion “tea” that results is the basis for the Pissenlit, which is made also from traditional barley malt and hops. It resembles a classic saison beer – golden spritzy brew, strong and very flavorful, with a good hop bite. You may have to strain to taste the dandelions, but you know they’re in there.
It should be noted that uncooked, the dandelion has a diuretic effect and is known in France as Pissenlit (literally, “wet the bed” – this also happens to be the British folk-name) for precisely this reason.

Imperial Saison

Marble – Special Imperial Saison (Marble & Dark Star colab, brewed in Manchester)

Imperial Saison brewed in partnership with DarkStar. Classic spicy yeast notes with with a warming alcohol kick.

Fin…

Are you local?

This is a really quick post but I’m hoping it will be interactive, therefore comments on the blog itself are crucial so PLEASE, PLEASE comment.

It concerns the local, your local, my local wherever you may be and more specifically the role of the landlord or licensee. For overseas readers I’m referring to in England the Pub/s where we regularly go to drink beer, but that could be a beer bar, brewery, or just simply the place where you go to most to get your fix of beery goodness.

The question stems from experiences I’ve had over the last weekend on my return from two weeks holiday. People and places shall remain nameless as it’s not important.

The Evidence

Bar 1: This is one of the pubs I would truly call “the local”, I visit maybe three to four times per week. On my return in this establishment after two weeks, said licensee barely gave me a passing glance, no words were spoken to me that that night, nor on any subsequent night since, not a sausage, zero, zilch.. Complete indifference, (the same cannot be said of the other serving staff I hasten to add, all of whom did the opposite, but not from example).

Bar 2: This pub I visit infrequently largely because of distance and transport, perhaps once or twice a month at most. Here the story was different, we were greeted with cheery smiles and a genuine “hey, hello, good to see you, thanks for calling in” sort of attitude from the licensee and all the staff (basically made extremely welcome). This from folks I’ve probably met say six or seven times.

So who’s got it right?

Is the licensee/bar managers role purely one of keeping the place in order, ordering and selling beer in good condition, or is there more to it than that, is the customer king and is a cheery welcome a mandatory requirement too?

What do you think, what’s it like in your local??