Friday, 30 January 2015


Now here's one of those random Twitter-advertised events I actually agree with. An excuse to drink more different types of beer during the month of January in spite of neo-prohibitionist driven 'Dry January'. Obviously a vicious evil ploy to crush the beer industry. But let's not forget the truth; the moderate consumption of beer increases bone density and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. So all in good health, the aim of the game was to try many new 'never tried before' beers.

First up, from Adnams more experimental arm. Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager. The crispness of a pale lager with tangerine and tropical notes. Overall quite pleasant. Next up, from Roosters new canned range, Fort Smith. A rather good beer it is too, brewed by none other than Oliver Fozard a brewer who was trained by the same master as myself. Although I would argue that Craig taught me some things that Olly didn't. Namely the five-move exploding heart trick. Nonetheless Fort Smith clean and up front with grapefruit, pine and tropical hops leading to a snappy lingering bitterness.    

January also brought some IPAs, my favourites were both the most balanced. Siren Soundwave was resiny, smooth and all tropical and citrus. Lagunitas IPA surprisingly had more body to it than hop attack. Lovely, fruity, balanced and reminded me of my first ever Goose Island IPA. Salopian Sentinel and Tiny Rebel Hadouken were both big abv, heavy malt presence with lots of Cascadian hops struggling against the tide. Not really my sort of thing.

Moving on from IPA Schlosser Alt was a class act. Lovely waves of toast malt leading to caramelly finish. On a similar note Augustiner Edelstoff was a finely tuned 5.6% export lager. Bold and malt forward yet crisp and toasty with virtually no hint of alcohols. Obviously put together by textbook perfection in brewing practice.

Bigging up the malt front also was Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout. Which is sweetish and roasty with lots of coffee and dark fruits going on. A nice Imperial stout with good drinkability. Although to top things off I had to have a beer and food pairing somewhere down the line.

Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out is a smoked outmeal stout with a subtle smokeyness and brooding bitterness. A quality pairing for chip shop smokey sausage, chips and curry. A rather splendid end to the month.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The twelth Geordie beer of Christmas

Durham Brewery 1994

Landmarks are a sentimental aspect of the brewing industry. These days the Anniversary ale is a statement of perseverance, resilience, survival and pedigree. Every successful brewery on earth will one day be seen as dated; Will lose shelf space for the 'new kids on the block' and will be pressured into evolving their product range to suit the new market. This isn't about siding with the old timers, this it seems is the natural way of things.

For me the bold and eccentric bottled beer range of Durham Brewery is what sets them apart from the early days. Long before your Warheads, Imperial Cherry Stouts and double IPAs Durham's strong British and Belgian style ales were the region's high-octane, highly sought-after mega brews. Make no mistake this was in an era where putting out such beers that didn't 'play it safe' took balls.

In obvious honour to this heritage, Durham's anniversary ale is a 10.2% strong ale brewed with pink peppercorns and orange peel. It's certainly an interesting beer. Sweet orange and spice with an almost opal fruit like nuance ride on lively carbonation. The weighty, sweet orange like feel is stripped down by drying carbonation giving a kind of Belgian Tripel/Golden Strong ale like elegance to it. It's more tangy, snappy and racy than it is voluptuous. It's certainly worth trying but for me doesn't rival some of my best experiences with Durham beers.

Then again who am I to judge 20th Anniversary beers, It is after all my turn next...

So that's all from the twelve beer series and, despite restricting this series to local beers only, the overall standard has been great. This year the cheesy cartoon labelled bottles from random micros under dodgy names like Santa's Scrotum have been avoided. The same goes for discount supermarket offerings, all chosen in past series' to fill out the numbers. But sadly, after five successive years of 'twelve beers' this is in fact the last beer of the last series of 'beers of Christmas'.

It's been a long saga of festive beers. Many great memories of festive indulgences over heavy warming brews and sessions livened by festive spice. Every series for me has brought the odd two or three exceptional beers, but there was one especially memorable beer from one of my favourite brewers worldwide. It might have been the right mood and moment but hell there's loads more worth mentioning. Salutes go to Old Dairy, Williams Brothers, Mikkeller, Anchor (year on year), Wold Top, The Bruery, Hook Norton and more. It's been good.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The eleventh Geordie beer of Christmas

Camerons Brewery Festive Frolics

Now then, an important point to make with this entry is that it's not all about virtuoso craft kids in sheds lobbing kilos of hops, orange peel, fruit or whatever else into the mix. As you may have guessed, the Hartlepool-based Camerons brewery is huge (the 11th biggest in the UK) with its own pub estate.

Like many of other Camerons' beers 4.6% Festive Frolics is unapologetically old school, bready characterful and laced with dark fruit and prickly English hops. It's simple, well composed and not so heavy you couldn't easily knock back three or four pints of it in a sitting. All in all, this is a quality pint.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The tenth Geordie beer of Christmas

The Bridge Tavern Micro Brewery Saint Agnes Black

Aside form all breweries great and small, comes the brewpub. Newcastle's Quayside based brewpub The Bridge Tavern to be more precise. It houses a two hectolitre posh looking kit run by Newcastle's own brewing mercenary Joe Roberts, formerly of of Allendale, Tyne Bank and Anarchy.

Joe has the ultimate freedom as a brewer churning out one-off specials on a weekly basis. Saint Agnes Black is a 4.5% fruit-infused festive black ale. It drinks like a slightly weighty, creamy, smooth stout with some interesting blackberry like dark fruits building in the finish. Certainly worth a try.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The ninth Geordie beer of Christmas

Northern Alchemy Dark Chocolate and Mint Milk Stout

I've always loved the diversity of the brewing scene. From the grand enterprises efficiently churning out vast volumes of national brands to... Well... These guys.

Northern Alchemy at present is one of the region's newest breweries. A tiny brew kit operating within a 30-foot converted shipping container run by brothers-in-law Carl Kennedy and Andy Aitchison (former Anarchy and Hadrian & Border). Together they produce beers of a creative nature, of often abstract hybrid styles that raise intrigue and curiosity all unfined, unfiltered, unpasteurised in keg and bottle form. I seem to remember Coffee and Orange Oatmeal pale generating an unforgettable  WTF moment at first sip. A complete mind bender. Raspberry and Mint Dark Saison was sensual, harmonious and professionally done.

Moving on we have a Christmas beer like no other (but from what I hear this isn't exclusively a Christmas special). Dark Chocolate and Mint Milk stout is the closest beer will ever get to After Eights. Velvety and light then dominant dark chocolate. Try it alongside an After Eight mint  only the slight bready, yeasty finish separates the two. This is a very refined stout from one of the regions most creative and technically proficient brewers.