Monday, 29 November 2010

Sambrooks - Powerhouse Porter

4.9% ABV

It was rather cold with a stiff breeze on Sunday so my partner and I headed to the Harp in Covent Garden to warm up before going off seasonal shopping. Didn’t see the Thornstar beer on pump which we were there but there was a rather nice mild from Crouch Vale and the newest of the Sambrook beers.

Just the ticket to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, strangely it was only a few months ago that we were discussing Sambrooks and were in agreement they needed a darker beer to complete a triad of good beers. It was great to see they had brewed a rather attractive looking and tasting porter.

This was an enjoyable pint, admittedly my husband’s pint but in marriage you share everything. Tang-wise I can usually always pinpoint certain breweries by some part of their taste, for me Sambrooks has a metallic tang. I assume this must be something to do with the water they use or something in the brewing style as Fullers always has a marmalade tang and McMullen’s a dried herby taste. All enjoyable but sound slightly weird when describing.

Looking forward to what they brew next now.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Darkstar Green Hop IPA

6.5% ABV

Didn’t think I was going to enjoy this one but I was wrong on so many levels of assumption. It is like many hoppy beers, a light honey golden pint with a fluffy head which disappears apart from a fine lacing around the top of the pint Attractive but usually the only part I find attractive. A lot of the hoppy beers I have tried are unbalanced, nothing to 'stop the hop' from overwhelming everything else. This time the beer was light in mouth, sweet but bitter and really amazing.

Light citrus taste, grapefruit in syrup is the thing that springs to my mind. This is a really gorgeous balanced beer; despite its strength it is really smooth in the mouth. The sweetness is more a honeyed syrupiness which counters the earthy hops leaving a lovely bitter hint of taste in the mouth. Highly quaffable is my other thought, so much so I had drunken half a pint before remembering the strength.

Darkstar once again you have gotten me to change my assumptions and suspicions, well done for such an excellent beer!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Time For Another?

It doesn’t matter if you are sitting down at home with a beer and a book or whether you are in the pub with your mates for your Saturday meet-up, having a beer is your time.

For me, beer isn’t just a beverage to knock back as fast as you can just so you can go onto the next one, its role is varied. It’s the drink I enjoy whilst curled up with a good book, it is part of the enjoyable experience of having those couple of hours of peace. Times spent with friends either passing various glasses around so we can all taste the various pints brought or individual pints drunk during a good afternoon of talking and laughing.

Perhaps this isn’t the right subject matter for what sparked this post off but when I think of time and beer it’s memories rather than good aged beers I remember. A group of friends chatting around a bottle of wine is one of the most used advertisements for wine there is and I think it’s one that beer adverts don’t use enough. Memories of great evening can be brought back by the mere sight of the pump clip on the bar and those thoughts tend to influence you on your choice too.

Time for another? The phrase we often hear used with an empty glass being shook gently by a mate as they head to the bar. Beer is a sociable drink and it’s amazing how much time can be made for just one more pint with a mate and how much we look forward to it. National institution in a way, not alcohol marred by drunken idiots on cheap vodka shots that make the cover of the Daily Mail but beer enjoyed in a social environment with friends. Happy but not drunk, that stage where time seems to linger and you make it home in time for a good night’s sleep before getting up still feeling good in the morning.

Time has a lot to do with beer, the whole process it takes to make it, age it at home if you like but the most important time to me is when it is time to drink it.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


OK Chaps pay attention, I know how much you all enjoy the lady wife’s missives but I feel the need to interject.

For those of you who are unaware we currently 10 days into Movember , what’s Movember? I hear you cry.

Well Movember is when we chaps spend the month attempting to look like Cooking Lager’s profile picture while raising money for the fight against prostate cancer, all with the support of the good lady of course.

Further details on this splendid event can be found here

Wonderful stuff but you are of course here to read about beer and so I won’t disappoint you; the splendid chaps at The Warwickshire Beer Co. ( are supporting Movember with a special edition pump clip designed to raise awareness of Movember in pubs across the country. A contribution from every pint sold is going to support Movember so look out for it.

Should you wish to support this correspondent’s effort his MoSpace page can be found here

We now return you to your regular programming.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Is It Real Or Not?

So if it's not real ale then is it just a shadow on the pub wall?

Of course not.

Camra define real ale as:
"Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide."
Taken from here:

If it doesn't work according to this then it's not real ale/beer, however surely this should be rethought on a regular basis? For me dogma is a useful tool, if everyone agrees to the basic points then everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and can march forward as one. Where dogma goes bad is when it becomes so embeded in stone that it becomes a millstone around the neck of the movement, causing it to fall out of sync with the world which is moving ahead unencumbered.

The first paragraph on the Camra page for me is more important, it was defined as a way of showing the customer the difference between traditional beers/ales and mass produced beer by creating a brand image of their own for the product. And lets be honest they did the industry and the customers a fantastic service by doing this, beer in this country really improved with their work educating the customer on the differences between products.

However the emphasis they place on cask now still has a point but keg and non-bottle conditioned beers have improved by leaps and bounds. There is a big difference in my opinion between good keg beer and mass produced beer such as Guinness, and this should be celebrated as cask beer was back in the first days of Camra.

I don't believe cask will stop being made with good keg beers being recognised, I think it would be another string to the bow of any brewer. Inform the customer on the differences between cask and keg by all means but also inform the customer on the differences between good keg and bad keg.

These are just my first thoughts on this from reading Pete Brown's blog here on the subject:

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Brewdog American Double IPA

9.2% ABV

As stated before I don’t really go for overly hoppy beers but this was at a price that was reasonable for a try. I do wonder though if this is Hardcore IPA under another name, as the style of IPA and the alcohol percentage is exactly the same. However Hardcore is £2.39 and not available around here, so I can’t do a comparison. Not that I wouldn’t pay £2.39 for a beer before anyone says anything, I just prefer one more balanced than a hopped for hell one.

It pours into quite an attractive drink, deep golden liquid with a fluffy light golden head which stays until the last sip. It smells of syrupy hops to me with a citrus edge, I didn’t get candied orange peel as was suggested on the bottle but a fresh citrus scent. First gulp wise I got a big whack of hops and alcohol tempered by the syrupiness that I could smell, however as I drank the sweetness disappears totally and it gradually just gets more and more bitter. This is quite a challenge to drink and if I’m honest its one that I couldn’t say was necessarily a worthy one.

The alcohol taste is harsh, which I do wonder if after a year’s or so aging would improve and soften out. It is to this end the other two bottles I brought are safely tucked away, hidden from cat paws and thirsty beer drinkers alike.

If this is Hardcore IPA under a different branding then I can’t see the reasoning behind doing this, it isn’t an easy drink and I doubt it would win many fans without the ‘Brewdog’ brand to temper its taste. Guess we will find out if the Finest labelled version ends up on special!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

November’s Novelties

My cold is clearing up and I hope by the weekend I will once again be able to drink beer and taste it. My local Tescos has the new-ish Brewdog beer in their Finest collection and I have three bottles at home to try although I may age one or two of them. From what I can see on the label it is a hoppy hop hop beer which is not normally to my taste as a style but I like to try these things every so often. Trashy Blonde, which I didn’t think I was going to enjoy was a nice beer on pump so I’m not about to write this one off without trying it, especially as the price is more than reasonable. Currently on three for £4 pounds at most branches.

Fullers have Bengel Lancer back for their November seasonal which is a fine beer and I will be back to have that again at a pub soon. But lets have a brief look at what else is available this month;

Darkstar Brewery: Green Hopped IPA 6.5%
Little Valley Brewery: Gustibus 5.2%
Loddon Brewery: Oarsome 4.4%
Sharps Brewery: Abbey Christmas 4.6%
Tom Wood’s Brewery: Jolly Ploughman 5.0%
Ossett Brewery: Winters T’Ale 5.0%

I confess I have already tried the Tom Wood’s seasonal which is a nice pint but does remind me of the chutney that goes with a good ploughman’s lunch so I will probably try this again with one as a food and drink comparing.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Wandsworth Halloween Beer Festival 2010

Despite having the reminder of a cold, I headed up to this festival with some friends for a good afternoon of beer drinking, comparing and chattering. The beer was reduced by the Saturday but not as much as the March festival where I am sure they were caught out by how successful the beer festival had become by word of mouth.

This is a great venue for a festival although I wish they would clear the restaurant area and allow folks up there earlier rather than confining folks to the bar and garden. However this is only a small niggle, as the festival is always friendly and charming with great people working behind the bar.

Ascots’ Anastasia Stout was a real highlight for me, probably my beer of the festival. Thick syrupy style of stout that coated the mouth in it’s gloriousness of taste. So good we ended up getting it again later on in the afternoon. Ascots’ Double Trouble was a good example of a Belgium style beer but it was too flat, it needed the fizzy bubbles of a Belgium beer to lift it in my opinion. However the Penguin Porter was termed as a hug in a glass by our table, warm and comforting. It would be perfect for a cold winter’s day to curl up beside the fireplace with.

Blindmans Brewery did extremely well at our table; their beers were all consistently good. Eclipse being my favourite with its Green & Black’s chocolate style top notes, Icarus was a good second and Siberia coming last even though we all enjoyed the beer it just wasn’t as good as its stable mates.

Moorhouse had a very good showing at the festival too; Black Cat is still the best mild in the world for me despite good competition from Sarah Hughes. I know that definitely one of our group will not agree with me on that one but that’s the great thing about beer you can disagree but still enjoy the beer.

All in all we had a great time at the festival, lots of new beers tried and enjoyed. A few beers we couldn’t get, but are available as bottles for us to track down, an idea was mooted for our own beer festival which if it happens could be an interesting time. I just wish my cold hadn’t removed a vast amount of my sense of smell which impaired my sense of taste for the festival. We were going to head to Putney the following day for the Cider Festival at the Bricklayers but the Saturday night was a bad one with the revenge of the recurring cold so we had to give it a miss but maybe next time.

The glass was a nice addition to my growing collection, although one question: Is it a ‘northern’ style glass? As the gap between the one pint line and top of the glass is over half an inch which I feel, would allow for a larger fluffier head than I’m used to in a pub.