Monday, 25 November 2013

Caterham Beer Festival

A new beer festival just around the corner from our mates home so it would have been rude not to go along to this. Organised by the local Round Table and extremely well organised at that, with ticket presales which allowed them to work out beer needed for each day and very helpful friendly staff! It was held at what used to be the local council house, saved for the community by a group of businesses when the council were looking to sell it off. Lovely venue for the festival. They focused on a lot of local breweries and beers, a nice touch as many aren't seen in the local pubs so this is a good showcase for the travelling beer drinker.

As the glass sponsors were local accountancy firm I thought it amusing to have Audit Ale as my first beer, one of the strongest beers at the festival at 6.2%, according to the festival tasting notes it was brewed to the 1938 strength and using the same ingredients as the original best selling bottled beer of the Black Eagle Brewery. It is a sweet beer, reminding me of a barley wine, gorgeously morish which is a tad dangerous at that strength. After this one I went for a weaker beer in the shape of Pilgrim Brewery's Porter at 4.1%, fantastic porter with more flavour than some stronger beers and their Moild mild (3.8%) was also very very good. I'm hoping to try some more of their beers soo.

Old Dairy Brewery's Gold (4.3%)  and Blue (4.8%) tops didn't disappoint either, hoping one day to see their imperial at a festival but these two were lovely, Blue Top disappearing before the bell at 5pm. In fact Kent was very well represented at the festival with beers from Westerham and Tonbridge.

Cronx, a new brewery in Croydon had two beers at the festivals, one was their bitter called Standard (3.8%) which would be a fantastic session bitter but Nektar (4.5%) was the second beer we had to throw, some may enjoy it but personally it just didn't work at all although it did smell of blackcurrants as per the tasting notes but just tasted plain weird. Looking forward to trying some others of theirs, hoping for more like Standard than the other.

All in all the festival had some crackers, a couple of pourers but that's the way of it. Hoping the Round Table put this on again.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Wandsworth Common's Halloween Beer Festival

I missed the last one of these sadly due to work pressures but it was great to go back, the festival beers were better organised so that they had run out of interesting beers on the Saturday. Saturdays for this festival get very busy indeed, whilst there were a few missing beers there was a heck of a lot of choice still.

Sadly Fuller's Imperial Stout had gone on the Friday night so I didn't get to try that but the bar inside had a hidden treasure from Fullers. A cask of their Vintage Ale... It was interesting to later see tweets with people mentioning it and others going "Really? Where!", for my part it was a great beer to try on tap. I actually far prefer it on tap to bottle same as with Golden Pride to be honest. It was everything you could hope for in a strong winter beer, sweet fruity notes balanced with just enough sweetness and bitter. Thomas Sykes, the barley wine from Burton Bridge just didn't live up to it normal self, it was extremely sweet and cloying which made me wonder if they had stopped fermentation too soon? Not sure as I'm not a brewer but it just wasn't the barley wine I have had in previous years, I will try it again next year this could just be a blip and I only see it at this festival so...

From the Highlands, Orkney and Cairngorm breweries impressed with their two beers, both warming and morish for winter. Moorhouse's Ruby Witch was delightful with its toffee spice and their Black Cat which is a firm favourite of mine didn't disappoint at all. Robinson's had provided a cask of Old Tom, again I much prefer this on cask to bottle, the chocolate and port flavours seem to meld better this way to me.

Unfortunately again we missed out on Snowflake from Sarah Hughes brewery but then we weren't surprised, CAMRA tend to hit this festival on the first couple of days so we knew this would have gone alongside Fullers Imperial Stout, we were surprised to find out that they actually died on the Friday, good planning for the beer lifespan by the organisers I felt!

Windsor and Eton provided their Conqueror 1075 which was an odd beer, it had a salty after tang to it which just seemed to really work. The biggest surprise of the festival was Downton's Roman Imperial Stout, it was everything you want in an imperial, rich chocolate married with warm roast coffee and that thick comforting mouth feel... And it was a Downton's! Normally we as a group at Festival, with the exception of my partner who really likes their beers, avoid this brewery as there is usually a weird aftertaste that we just don't like but that wasn't there and to my partner great joy then found we also like Nelsons Delight by them too. Ok, it didn't match the notes description but it was a very good beer and we will be trying their beers again now.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Guinness & How To Do An Advert Right The latest Guinness advert certainly shows how to do advertising right, the beer is as usual for this brewery advertised right at the end but the whole advert is based on showing friendship rather than a mock up of hells chorus with overblown 'obstacles' to get around or oneupmanship against your mates. Ok, Guinness isn't my favourite beer by any means but I have to give them credit for this.

Monday, 19 August 2013


Never realised that Guinness once attempted a wheat beer, only realised now as someone left a branded glass on my desk.

It was discontinued as it didn't take off but I thought it was an interesting beer for them to attempt.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Shepherd Neame - India Pale Ale

6.1% ABV

This is made according to one of the historical recipes that they have found in their archives and it is very different from the American or Scottish IPAs that are out there. Yes, it does have that alcohol fruity sweetness that you get from the higher ABV and the tropical fruit notes in smell and taste but that's all in common. With this beer you get a biscuity bitter backbone to the beer, I found myself wishing I had brought more of these which is unusual for me and Shepherd Neame beers.

I do wonder if the fact that these historical beers are bottled in proper brown glass helps the flavour and in turn my perception of these beers. I have had bottles of Bishops Finger which have been undrinkable thanks to clear glass and strong sunlight in shops and so I approach their beers with caution normally.

The beer itself pours like a bitter rather than a IPA and smells like a bitter that has been crossed with pineapple which was unusual but not off putting, it's the taste where it really shines. That bitter backbone I mentioned stops it from just being another hoppy beer but gives it a nice bite.

Personally I hope this beer says around, it is an enjoyable tipple.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Hanging Bat

This was one of those happy coincidences where you are heading to a new town and someone on the internet writes up a good review of a place which you subconsciously file it away in the filing cabinet of your brain only for it to guide you to the door.

It is a bit of a walk from the main drag of the Royal Mile but this is not a bad thing, means you get a seat without a struggle and also waiting time at the bar is short… or it is until the locals fill it up as they clock off work. It is a modern bar but unlike a lot of craft beer places in London they have decided to make use of the high ceilings by creating a multi layered bar instead of havingall that echoing space.

The staff are friendly and fast whether serving behind the bar or dashing out to deliver food to a waiting table, speaking of food they serve a nice range of smaller food which are good for soaking up beer. Nice to see this instead of the usual pork pie offering which is all you get in some craft places in London, yes pork pies are lovely but you do sometimes need something a bit more.
The Bat has its own microbrewery; it’s tiny especially compared to the Tap East. Their own beers are very good, the beer selection seemed to cater for all tastes plus they do a tasting flight with a difference. If you order one then you pick out your first beer which they serve to you but then they give you tokens so you can go back to the bar once you have finished or you can order all the ones you want in one go. Good idea we thought and took advantage of doing a majority of our drinking that way whilst there.

Highly recommended bar!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Nothing to do with beer this one, but many of us beer drinkers also enjoy a good whisky.

My partner and I decided to book a whisky tasting experience on the good advice from friends who had been here and said that it was a great morning out. We decided to opt for the Gold tour and set out for the place after a leisurely breakfast, after getting my picture taking with the statue of David Hume (Philosopher before anyone asks) on the Royal Mile we ended up running to the venue as the skies opened with an impressive thunderstorm for a Tuesday morning.

We had booked the 10am tour figuring by the time for tasting it would be 11 or so, the tour was small mainly I suspect due to the time in the morning so apart from my partner and me there was only one other guy who as it turned out worked for the Johnny Walker distillery, interesting guy to chat to.

The tour itself was very good but the whisky collection which was all collected by one man and sold for unnamed amount was jaw dropping! The collector had mainly brought two bottles of each, one for his collection and one for drinking, if he could only get the one bottle it went into the collection. I have to admit to the awe I felt at seeing this collection, from an artistic view it was fascinating to see how the labels for some distilleries have changed over the years and in some cases how their newer elusive bottlings echo the designs of yesteryear.  

Our guide was entertaining, rather than a scripted talk he tailored what he talked about to our questions and asked us about our opinions on some of the bits and pieces. He was just as good when it came to the tasting, this is the first whisky tasting I have done to be honest and it was good fun. The tasting for this package was done with explanation of the whiskies and how they can vary due how they are made, we also did a nose test… this I did enjoy not only because I got 14 out of the 20 which apparently puts me in the top 5% of people for identifying smells but because it was a great eye-opener to how difficult it can be to smell something without a sight or taste clue.

But yes, I mainly enjoyed it because I was top of the class!

After this we did a long taste testing of four different whiskies, from blend to single malt to single grain to a grain/malt brend. It was interesting how different they are in comparison; normally I buy whiskies from certain distilleries because I like their taste so the chance to experiment here was good.

Of course we finished the tour off by a midge of shopping, a lot more whisky tasting at the bar and then lunch at the restaurant on site which was needed after the off-piste tasting we did in the bar. Highly recommend going along if you are in Edinburgh.