Dinner with Pilsner Urquell

As one of the official sponsors to EBBC you’d expect a big brand like Pilsner Urquell to push the boat out a little when it came to EBBC. A captive mixed audience of well over a hundred brewers, beer writers (professional and citizen), drinkers and industry specialists of all kinds and they did just that.

Dinner was set in the well respected restaurant Anthonys inside an equally impressive Leeds Corn Exchange. All other outlets in the building were closed so that our hosts could set the scene perfectly for our arrival and a few surprises too.

As we entered staff attentively took coats and served us all with our first glass of liquid gold Pilsner. The hop decorated room had spikes of rustic circular bread sticks or pretzels I’m not sure which, they reminded me of quoits sitting there piled high on wooden spikes.

The waiting staff circled with plates of olives, breads and cold meats set on slate beds, bright colours and smells inviting picking hands to delve in and indulge the senses.

We sat at no particular table but soon were all chatting away excitedly about what was to come before being addressed by all of the high and mighty within the organisation, seriously these guys had shipped everybody who was somebody within Pilsner Urquell to this dinner which is  a testament to the collective influence the rooms attendees must have.

There too to celebrate 170 years of brewery history, brewing this beer to the same recipe handed down through the years (if the marketing is to be believed). In typical style and I believe as a repeat of last years conference, their team had bought rarely seen wooden barrels of unpasteurized, unfiltered Pilsner Urquell over for us too, expertly tapped by “The Thirsty Brewmaster” Vaclav Berka.

This lovely brew flowed freely throughout the meal of soup, salmon and goulash served in traditional style followed by strudel and ice cream. All of which was fantastic but the salmon in particular absolutely smashed it for me. Crisp salty skin on the outside, juicy flesh beneath, I could have eaten the lot myself.

As the meal progressed we were invited table by table to three rooms, one after the other. Each room had a different theme and was the place where one of five questions were to be found, the last two located at two Leeds pubs to be frequented later that evening. The first was all about the pour and those brave enough had the chance to try their hand. The Second was host to a storyteller who relayed a tale of old. The final the Thirsty Brewmaster himself with talk of the beer and its history.

All the answers were then to be logged at an EBBC event exclusive website where one lucky entrant had the chance to win a trip to Czech and visit the brewery. The winner is pictured below sporting a slightly demonic pose, I suspect dark forces were at work..

As dinner finished we were all given shirts in either green or red and split into two groups to allow the party to continue in two separate venues at first due to numbers culminating in the one as the night drew on. The beer of course followed along with the aptly barrel shaped cake to celebrate the 170 years in style.

The event finished in the early hours of Sunday morning or at least I think it did. As I wandered off into the night in search of my hotel I left a few hardy stragglers huddled close to the last barrel of unfiltered pilsner. As I trudged wearily into the night my thoughts turned to tomorrows Magic Rock brewery tour, wondering what was to come in the last part of this excellent beery adventure, but also of memories burnt forever into my mind of a fantastic night spent with Pilsner Urquell and a hundred very happy beer lovers.

Cheers

Part’s one, two and three of this series can be found here, here and here.

Note: You may have noted that my photography skills have improved ever so slightly in this post. Not so, the pictures are courtesy of Pilsner Urquell and were sent out to all in attendance, so a big thanks again to PU.

Dinner with Molson Coors and a night of International beers

Following on from yesterdays post on the European Beer Bloggers Conference we move swiftly on to Friday evenings event, which was a three course beer and food matching dinner kindly sponsored by Molson Coors and the exciting sounding “Night of International Beers”.

Dinner tables were heavily laden with beers on arrival, including a selection of new beers devised by Stuart Howe, head brewer at Sharps.

Stuart explained that although overall ownership of the brewery had been taken over by MC, they had injected sponsorship and were happy to let him and his team lead on new projects such as this away from the mainstream brands without any intervention, the result, “Connoisseurs Choice”.

Each course was served with a choice of two beers to try and compare as to which beer matched each course. Great conversation pieces.

Out of the three new bottles for me the Honey Spice was a clear winner in terms of best beer, a spritzy little number full of citrus fruits and flowery aroma as I recall (it had been a long day). We were also served a Honey Spiced IPA from cask too at this point, I didn’t catch any details but it was bloody gorgeous.

It was the quadrupel though for me that won bast beer/food pairing. The dark roasty notes in perfect harmony with the rum toffee and banana. Not quite your conventional Belgian style quad I hasten to add, definitely hoppier and lighter in body too, it reminded me more of a strong black IPA if I’m honest. Good beer though and one I want to taste again to see if my opinion changes with a clear mind and palate.

Hmmmm, banana and rum toffee pie with a nice quad…

Dinner finished we moved next door to the other large room to the last event, Night of International Beers. This one had me salivating from the beginning as I love trying new beers, especially from far flung places.

The basic premise was that beer bloggers and brewers travelling to Leeds from all over Europe were to gather together a selection of beers, ship them to the UK and present them to the rest of the delegates as a good representation of what each country had to offer. We had beers from Holland, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Czechoslovakia to name but a few.

Unfortunately the guys from Holland had encountered a small problem. On the day before their flight, it was advised that the beers they had selected would not make it to the UK in time for the conference. Not to be beaten, flights were hastily cancelled and in the true spirit of beery endeavour, they hitched a trailer up to their car, collected the beer and set off at 5AM in the morning to make sure we all got to try their country’s fine wares that night. TOP MARKS GUYS!

Can we have the vote for Holland please? 11/10 points.
For the beer selection and dedication to duty.

Sorry about the blurry pic, camera shake or alcohol? This was a cracking beer made in a really extraordinary way. More on that on another day.

One of Italy’s many offerings, they have a great beer scene and are a must try. In fact make that a must visit, see Mark Dredge’s post on Rome http://www.pencilandspoon.com/2011/04/rome-beer-trip-veni-vidi-vici-i-got.html

Despite appearances this beer was not Nipponese, all beers were from Europe. I can also confirm that it was particularly tasty.. 😉

and so it went, late into the evening until all but the hardiest had drunk their fill and gone to bed…

A great night all in all and I offer my heartiest thanks to all that pulled this together. Some memorable beers and a few to revisit with my local tasters courtesy of samples kindly donated on the night. Watch this space for that on a later date.

Cheers

This is EBBC Two

Day two started with a hearty breakfast to soak up the night before where a night of international beers had kept me busy until the early hours, a swift trip to Mr Whetherspoons fine diner sorted that out..

Michelin Star?

Saturday’s agenda was to be slightly more conventionally conference up until 5PM. Still we had beer to help us along with some interesting sessions commencing with a discussion on where next to take beer blogging should you so wish, led by Zac Avery, Marverine Cole and Mark Dredge.

Stuart Howe delivered a fine keynote speech to an almost silent conference, eager to hear his story. The final session was definitely the most useful though as in the wrap up we all questioned each other. Debates raged about the ethics of free beer, the do’s and don’ts, basically anything and everything…Loved it!

10:00 AM      Blogging – Taking It to the Next Level
11:00 AM       Technology – Social Media and Your Blog
12:00 PM       Lunch on your own
1:30 PM         Industry – The Current State of the Hops Industry
2:30 PM        Keynote Speech with Head Brewer Stuart Howe from Sharp’s Brewery
3:30 PM        Wrapup Group Discussion
5:00 PM        Tasting – Live Beer Blogging

We then came to what was to prove a test of a bloggers manual dexterity and nerve, live beer blogging. A test I have to admit I failed at miserably with my ham-fisted mash the keyboard approach to Mavis Beatons typing, plus my inability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time..

Picture the scene, we sat at our numbered tables, laptops, iPads, phones and notepads at the ready. At the back of the room 10 breweries represented by brewers, marketeers and helpers. Each had one beer of their choice with which to woo us all, they had 5 minutes to pour and sell the beer to our collective senses.

We too had the same 5 minutes to listen, smell, taste and scribble down our thoughts on paper or better still live to a blog before time was called and they all moved on..

10 beers, 50 minutes BOOM! Result, no blog for Phil, I managed rough notes for three beers before giving in to the inevitable..

This was a great beer to start us of with Otley’s Oxymoron Black IPA

At this point it all got a little exciting as at first the guys from Marble Brewery approached with an unlabelled bottle of what I soon found out to be Earl Grey IPA. I hadn’t tasted this before but knew of it’s existence, brewed in collaboration with Kees Bubberman of Hollands fine Emelisse brewery. Fresh and fruity with a slight hint of floral tea, think Marvel not Marble.

The best was yet to come though when next the brewers moved tables, enter Roosters Brewery with Baby Faced Assassin. To British beer geeks this needs no introduction but I’m not sure if any made it to Europe, USA, etc. The classy flier below explains it all better than I can, for reviews try some of these: here, here, here and here or just plug it into Google.

It had extra significance to me though as I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to rare beers, I save them until “that moment” but often that moment is too long and some beers are best drunk fresh. I managed to get a bottle of the original about a year ago now and you’ve guessed it, it’s still waiting to be drunk. Speaking to Tom and Oliver (the brewers) gave me some reassurance, they opened one about a week ago which had stood the test of time, I can’t wait much longer though..

Anyways to cut the waffle, I was excited alright, it was here, fresh and on perhaps a once in a lifetime cask, it was awesome, made my day. Privileged…

Kneels and bows down and pays homage in the presence of a legend…

This one was served by a blonde dressed as a schoolgirl, do you think the brewer knew he was following Baby Faced Assassin?? 😉

Another really good beer from Camden, not available at the moment but set to return very soon I believe. I hope it’s soon, would be absolutely perfect for this warm weather..

I confess to being surprised by this, not normally my cup of tea but it was very pleasant indeed.

This beer from Leeds Brewing was described as being aimed at the younger audience, the label to stand out in trendy bars and nightclub fridges as an alternative to the regular choices. I thought the label a little confusing tbh, the beer was pretty good though.

There were two more beers that I failed to photograph, perhaps because they are so well known, or perhaps I just forgot.. Slaters Top Totty and Adnams Ghost Ship, no offence intended both tasty and enjoyable in their own right.

Frenzy over as time was at last called on proceedings, all the brewers retreated to the back of the room, where we were invited to join them for further samples and a chat under less stressful conditions. Guess where I made a bee-line for… But someone beat me to it…

Taps foot impatiently….

Cheers everyone

Part’s one and two of this series can be found here and here

European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012 #EBBC12

It’s been a barren couple of months on the blog front, weekdays have been incredibly busy, weeknights I can’t face the laptop again and weekends generally have been full of pleasant beery days out (on a happier note). However this weekend just past was a little different and I can’t let it go by without putting fingers to keys, it was the second European Beer Bloggers Conference!

Now before your finish those cries of “GEEK’, “How Exciting”, “BORING” or even a carefully hidden titter, I suggest you read on as things are perhaps a little “different” at our church of learning, we have beer and lashings of it for starters!

I should just say for those of you who have read several reports on the same subject already, I’m going to keep things brief and stick to a photo timeline of events with the odd comment thrown in, if that’s you, enjoy a trip back to memories of Leeds and a great weekend.

The festivities err learning experience commenced on Thursday night with a whistle stop tour of Leeds finest pubs and bars led by Leigh Linley. Starting at Mr Foleys we took in some of the lesser known pubs or at least to non Leodensians they were, The Cross Keys, Midnight Bell and the excellent hidden gem The Grove. (For anyone familiar with Stoke On Trent for The Grove think The Coachmakers, surrounded by modern high storey buildings.) The plan was to finish early for the night and be refreshed for the first EBBC session, this failed as we stumbled out of North Bar at 2AM after a rather interesting bottle session. The highlight of which was a Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus 12 blend at the hand of Will aka Ghostdrinker

Friday morning and a hearty breakfast/lunch followed before it was time to register and join the sponsors for welcome drinks. The full afternoons itinerary is below, sparing you the content details all were good sessions which held listeners attention with lots of tips picked up across the afternoon.

Friday, May 18, 2012
12:30 PM        Registration and Trade Show
1:45 PM          Conference Officially Starts
2:00 PM         Blogging – Beer Blogging in Europe
3:00 PM         Blogging – Improving Your Beer Writing
4:00 PM         Technology – Blog Platforms and Website Design
5:20 PM         Comparative Beer and Glass Tasting with Spiegelau

Williams Bros stand which was the star of the show for me, a great selection on show including a rather potent new version of Fraoch 12 (YUM)

Moray Neame preparing herself for the arrival of the thirsty hordes…

Badger Ales and some rather delicious cheese pairings. The Cheddar and Poachers Ale worked wonderfully.

More cheese please?

A little something to help lubricate the learning muscles as the conference commenced..

When was the last time you saw a conference table like this?

The most interesting session of the afternoon was an interactive one led by German glass manufacturer Spielglau, this was held classroom style but with an interesting twist. We were presented with four different Spielglau glasses one each for Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Lager and a Goblet/Tulip style for strong ales etc. These sat on a place mat beside your bog standard pub pint classic. The idea was to try each of the supplied beers in a selection of glasses dependant on style to see if it improved said beer in any way on aroma, taste, presentation etc.

Preaching to the converted here my friends as I’m a bit of a glass freak and I firmly believe that a proper glass does all of the above. Definitely worth seeking these out for your stay at home drinkies, they feel lovely in the hand and really do enhance the beery pleasure.

Reminded me of language lab lessons from old school days, minus the beverages of course..

Spot the Ilkley Brewer?

YUM

And so endeth the afternoon of day one, more on the evenings events to follow.

Cheers