The new New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, a “go-long’ post

1310790120_motorheadNineteen-Eighty what a year that was. The year of the Heavy Metal Barn Dance at Bingley Hall in Stafford, possibly one of the most inaccessible music venues I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit, but still one that evokes memories of amazing nights and very long journeys home or worse sleepless nights on rail station platforms.

Apart from the night of Motorhead led mayhem listed above, I saw Rush play there two nights in a row, two years in a row at the point in time where I at least think they were at their musical peak. I saw Ritchie Blackmore smash up his “favourite” Fender Stratocaster at Bingley Hall too, what a sight to witness at a Rainbow gig, and then shock horror, he only managed to repeat this event the following day, just WOW!

Reading-80-advert-350It was also the peak of the musical phenomenon known as the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” or NWOBHM for short.

Rock gods Slade made a huge comeback, as did ACDC with “Back In Black”their first studio album after the death of frontman Bon Scott. Reading Festival was loud and wasn’t full of crappy pop acts, in fact it wasn’t even Reading Festival at all it was “Reading Rock”. Look at this line up of bands, some long forgotten but some still rocking to this day, albeit with flailing hair with an ever so slightly more silvered tinge..

It was a great time to be a rock music fan for sure, big bands made come backs, new artists got airplay and toured constantly. Monsters Of Rock held the first ever Rock/Metal only festival at Donington Park, Lemmy even made it on to Top Of The Pops!

xpartyseven-990I wasn’t even old enough to drink back then, I was pretty close and without doubt did, with cheap cider and anything I could glean from the drinks cabinet being my tipple of choice, I even recall once getting hold of a Watneys “Party Seven”, anyone remember those quality items?

Thankfully take home beer has improved somewhat since then as has the beer scene as a whole, but I do think we can draw some comparisons to the 1980’s and the rebirth of the head-banging rocker and todays “craft beer” explosion.

Agnetha and the other one...

Agnetha and the other one…

Back then I was still finding my musical feet, not for dancing, for listening. My tastes varied wildly as I struggled to shake off the alluring hold Agnetha Fältskog had on my young psyche as she shook her ‘rear of the year’ in skin-tight spandex jump-suits. Sid Vicious tried and failed to break the spell, but lets face it out of the two who would you choose to have posters of on your bedroom wall.

As punk hit home, the likes Sham 69 had better luck with such school-disco stopping classics as Hersham Boys, it got cooler to like bands like them or so it seemed at the time as I pogoed myself uncontrollably around the school assembly hall. Then of course there was the influence from my older siblings who had long since progressed from their own immature musical dabblings into progressive and old-school rock. The likes of Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, King Crimson, Cream, Caravan, Black Sabbath et al were constantly spun on our old stereogram, the precursor to the living room Hi-Fi, the next “big thing”. These faired better and slowly but surely my tastes expanded, my hair grew and when the NWOBHM hit us in the 80’s in all it’s eardrum bursting glory, I’d found my space, I was a new wave heavy-rocker, with roots firmly stuck in 1970’s rock but branches reaching out into 80’s metal.

Fast forward the $^%$^^8 years or so to now, and beer is smack bang right in the middle of a similar renaissance to that of the rock and metal stars who’s images adorned the roughly sewn patches of my cut off denim jacket in 1980. Beer is capturing my imagination in a way that the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ian “Lemmy” Kilminster and Ted Nugent did way back then. These days though, it is rock star brewers (and I use that phrase in a most complimentary fashion) who inspire me with tasty concoctions that set my taste buds alight with newfound vigour.

To expand a little on the “rock star brewers” quote, what I’m getting at is that the guys that brew the new and tasty beverages that are spreading like a hurricane-fed wildfire across the UK are no longer faceless. Beer in many forms like music genres has been around for a long time, but how long have most people honestly known much about the guys at the sharp end. Social media has helped in many ways as drinkers now often have direct instant access to brewers and breweries through Twitter, breweries have websites and Facebook pages that once “liked” can entice customers with the promise of things to come, some like Magic Rock for example even have live webcam feeds taking you straight to the heart of the action.

Then you have meet the brewer events where these guys are uncerimoniously thrust into the limelight, beer lovers feeding on their every word, gesture and jar full of hops. Some are natural performers, others are not, either way it is sort of expected as part of the job in most parts or else risk falling by the wayside as unknown or perhaps just being forgotten. I wasn’t around the beer industry as much a few years back and definitely not in the 1980′ and 90’s but I can’t imagine many brewers straying far from the brewhouse unless it was for a quiet incognito pint to gauge opinion, whereas now they travel the length and breadth of the land to showcase and even pour you your beer.

As with the musical new beginnings of my teenage years, this New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Brewing has changed my tastes in more ways than one, you could almost say its been life changing. Beer has always been part of my life since I turned (cough) eighteen, however in the past it featured as a casual bystander rather than something that drove me in any way. These days beer has a tendency to influence far more than I ever imagined it could or even it should. I consider it when I plan my holidays, where I spend weekends, who I spend time with and even how I relax at home. As a beer writer or blogger if you prefer, my mind rarely rests as I try and think of things to rattle on about on Beersay and as a result beer is very often the last thing on my mind as I drift off to sleep.

The changes driven home by the new, forward thinking beer styles of todays brewing industry have also had implications to my other drinking habits too and looking at recent trends I’m not alone. If you’d asked me four or five years ago to drink a continuously hopped IPA or maybe a sour beer for example, I’d have done so but would I have embraced it, I’m not so sure. These days however, face-scrunchingly bitter makes me very happy indeed. Then look at the emergence of coffee shops, artisanal coffee roasters and their newfound popularity on the high street and at home, with espresso machines, aeropress, syphons and such, now common place in many kitchens and for me at least, are banishing milk and sugar from my mug as I seek to extract every dark and roasty bitter flavour I can get. Gin too is making a comeback with new and not so new quality brands replacing your typically green Gordons bottle in drinks cabinets, even tonic as a mixer has to be a quality ingredient, it matters and continues the trend towards fresh, bitter flavours.

Like the wannabe bands of the 80’s, new breweries are springing up faster than baby rabbits at a Bugs Bunny Viagra-fuelled love-in, some will survive and thrive whilst others will be inevitably dazzled by the headlights and end up as roadkill.

Similarly though, as with the old school rockers, the precursors to NWOBHM if you will, the existing brewing behemoths will continue to churn. Feeding the masses with comfortable, familiar beers, the beers you or I either remember fondly or would prefer to forget, but seemingly last forever on bars in the pubs of the land. But beware, these monsters are still watching, squinting greedy eyes glance fleetingly from balance sheets and market share graphs towards these new upstart brewers and their “craft brews”, they want a piece of this new pie and will try every trick in the book to get some. Starting with hijacking the word craft and making us hate it, stage two it would appear, is pairing dry rubbed smokey barbecued pork ribs with Carling Zest…

…….

This meandering post is part of Boak and Bailey’s challenge to get beer writers to go long

Cheers

 

Wishlist? #isosceles #twissup

Macc Triangle Aged 2If you’ve followed the updates for the Macclesfield Twissup, you’ll know that already we have some pretty exciting brews available for your drinking pleasure on the day.

If you’ve not been following, (where have you been/shame on you *delete as applicable), I’ve listed the updates below.

Twissupdate 1 #isosceles

Blood Orange Pale Ale and Breakfast Pie – #Twissupdate 2

Elusive Brewing Weird Bearded Beer Geekery (or) #Twissupdate 3

Pretty damn groovy I’d hope you’d agree, but there are still a lot of empty cask and keg lines to fill and that’s where I’m hoping you guys come in.

beer1If you can spare a few minutes, note down a list of three beers you’d like to see on the bars that day. Be realistic, they have to be something the venues have a chance at getting, so no Pliny etc if you please.

Maybe it’s new stuff like Snowball, the next release from Magic Rock you fancy, or perhaps something old school, or just your favourite tipple?

Drop them in the comments box on here, on the Facebook page or even via Twitter and I’ll pass them on.

Whilst I can’t promise anything, maybe at least some of the most popular or recurring suggestions will make the cut?

Cheers folks

A Rapturous, Curious Carnival of Dark Arts at Magic Rock Brewery – EBBC12

Rapture…beautiful plumage

EBBC was almost over and had been excellent throughout, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in reserving the main source of my excitement for the final act, the culmination of all events, the visit to either Magic Rock or Roosters Breweries.

It was strange talking to many people on the Saturday evening about which one they were attending, both were a going to be fantastic and even Tom and Oliver Fozzard from Roosters were genuinely disappointed that they could not join the Magic Rock tour themselves, this after stepping in to host a group themselves due to the overwhelming demand.

I too felt that pang of sadness in missing out on the Roosters visit, but was still on pins as I shoe horned all the bottle swaps and home-brew samples into my broken wheeled hold all and literally dragged it to the station to meet the excited throng of bloggers, writers and brewers on platform 16a. Repeating the mauling slog on arrival at Huddersfield and in doing so missing the first two mini buses I finally arrived at the brewery to a wonderful sight which instantly soothed my weariness and anxiety.

Five yes FIVE pump taps on a specially ordered font built into the cold store wall.

The guys at Magic Rock had clearly put some thought and effort in planning this event. This was immediately evident from the smells of barbecued food on the go that met the nose and the sea of happy faces chatting away, raising glasses to the light or dipping noses deep into glass like sieges of hungry waders at low tide.

Wandering around the brewery yard happily clutching my very first glass of delicious Carnival summer ale, I could see that the ranks had been swelled somewhat by other brewers and writers from all over the UK. All keen as mustard to join in the carnival in Oakes, Huddersfield and who could blame them, it’s almost overnight become a Mecca for beer lovers worldwide.

It was also really plain to see how happy and proud all the guys at the brewery were to host the event, whether flipping burgers, mingling with the crowd or taking one of the many trips around the gleaming brewery, all walked around with beaming smiles, no doubt feeling ten foot tall. Looking around me and joining the tour it was easy to see why, its a fantastic place and one that most brewers would kill for. Interestingly though it seems it is already nearing it’s shelf life, demand already exceeding possible production Magic Rock will have to make plans to move at some stage and very soon.

The place where all your beery delights are pulled together, MRHQ

Tour over, burger munched and five beers sampled no one in attendance would have batted an eyelid had the event slowly been drawn to a conclusion there and then, but true to form there were more enchanting tricks up the proverbial Magic Rock sleeve as Rich and Stuart conjured yet another beer for our collective enjoyment.

Remember that earlier picture of five gleaming taps each proudly displaying the delights within, well look again, there were six.. Enter the lady…

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the launch of Bearded Lady back in 2011 and she was beautiful.

She’s aged a little since then and boy has it done her some good. After several months spent maturing in a bourbon barrel, she’s become a real smoothie, rich and curvaceous , dark and voluptuous, stunning beyond the many other superlatives I could have thrown her way. Seriously the effect it has had is beyond belief and it was without doubt the most enjoyable whisky aged beer I have ever tasted to date. As is the norm generally at times like this, I opted to spend more time enjoying and less time taking notes and when I say less time I actually meant zero. Thankfully though Rob over at HopZine was far more professional and took the time to produce a video blog review with special guest the Ormskirk Baron, you can check that out here. A fantastic finale to a brilliant day at Cirque De Rock Magique.

In closing this post I’d like to thank everyone involved in organising this fantastic occasion, I  felt immensely privileged to be there and join in the fun.

Brian from Huddersfield’s finest pub The Grove, examines his Bearded Lady and plots stealing the recipe to add to his collection..

Special thanks of course go to the guys at Magic Rock, to take such time from a clearly manic brewing schedule must have taken its toll, but you pulled it off and in some style. A brewery visit that will I assure you take some beating and be talked about by everyone who made it to Huddersfield that day for a very long time.

Cheers

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…

Clash of the Titans – #IMPOFF

Over the past year I’ve had the privilege to be involved in some great Twitter beer related events. We’ve had #openit, the #whitestout night and the #7point5 campaign night to name but a few. They are a really enjoyable and most importantly, are a very effective way of getting lots of people talking about a common theme or message regardless of location.

Next up is #IMPOFF, brainchild of the ever effervescent Elly Bell of Durham Brewery and brought to life by various twitter folks including Simon at CAMRGB, myself and several other beery types.

The basic idea is that if possible you get yourself a bottle of Durham Brewery’s Temptation to start with, the reason being that the whole thing began with Elly suggesting that Temptation would stand up to or generally be superior to most imperial stouts out there in the market place today. Bold claims huh? 😉

In all seriousness though it was all tongue in cheek and not boastful. Elly is passionate about her breweries beers and quite rightly so, they are top dollar. The main premise was to follow-up on the massive success of White Stout night and get people to check out Temptation, whilst comparing it to those on an initially “suggested” list all being available from Beerritz online to make it easy for folk to buy them all in one place. That list is below:

Magic Rock – Bearded Lady 10.5%
Dark Star – Imperial Stout 10.5%
Durham Brewery – Temptation 10.0%
Kernel Brewery – Imperial Brown Stout 9.8%
Buxton Brewery – Tsar 9.5%
Thornbridge – Saint Petersburg 7.7%
Bristol Beer Factory – Ultimate Stout 7.7%
Samuel Smiths – Imperial Stout 7.0%

That list is by no means full and comprehensive nor is it meant to be restrictive, these are suggestions only so get involved by drinking what you have, what you can get hold of, or even what you are comfortable with. After all these are BIG beers and obviously too much to handle for one person in one night. It doesn’t even matter if you can’t get any Temptation to compare yours with just join in anyway and lets get folks talking about Imperial Stouts… Don’t forget to use the #IMPOFF hash-tag.

I’m planning another mini get together tasting session for my #IMPOFF night, on a smaller scale than my last with four to six lucky imperial stout loving guests. On the night we will be comparing the merits of all or a selection of these fabulous beers:

  • DURHAM BREWERY – TEMPTATION 10.0%
  • MAGIC ROCK – BEARDED LADY 10.5%
  • HARDKNOTT BREWERY – VITESSE NOIR 11%
  • BRISTOL BEER FACTORY – IMPERIAL STOUT 8.5%
  • BLACK SHEEP BREWERY – IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT 8.5%
  • SUMMER WINE BREWERY – KOPIKAT 9%
  • LYMESTONE BREWERY – STONE DEAD 6.66%
  • EMELISSE – IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT 11%
  • GREAT DIVIDE – YETI IMPERIAL STOUT 9.5%
  • NOGNE O – IMPERIAL STOUT 9% 

That’s the plan anyway which may change dependant on how I arrange the tasting on the day. Official kick off time is below but again this is not restrictive if it doesn’t fit with your plans on the day, do it before, during or after, just do it and enjoy…. 🙂

Temptation and Friends #impoff
31st March 2012

8pm onwards 

Note: If you are a beer specialist, bar, shop, beer retailer or a pub etc and are running an #IMPOFF Imperial Stout night yourself and want it advertising here, drop me a response on the blog with the details, links etc and I’ll do the honours. Please pass this on, RT, Facebook, email whatever and help make this another great night for beer.

Cheers


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 😉