Saturday, 4 October 2014

The wall of yeast thing

During my beer quest I've always seen myself as being open-minded. I have never been adverse to any specific beer style or approach to brewing. I try to appreciate every beer for what it is although admittedly have some preferences. Outside of this you have the sparkler debate. The advantages of kegged, canned and unfined beer but the thing I have never got my head round in recent times is this...

Now I have nothing against wheat beer, that's where lots of yeast is a good thing. But it seems in this modern age many 'craft' beer fans have a perception that if their pale ale/IPA has the appearance of carbonated pond water the beer is somehow in the crème de la crème of freshness and condition. What I'm wondering is how they did it? Surely from a cylindroconical vessel you couldn't get beer this cloudy unless you say... used a very non-flocculent yeast strain or added some kind of starch adjunct to the copper. Maybe a lot of yeast was added later in the process?

On top of this I have found these beers to taste a bit muddy, like the beer beneath would actually be very good but the flavours are all muddied up and all your left with is a wall of resiny hops clung to suspended yeast (which is apparently supposed to be what it's all about). Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone against the theory that unfined beer is supposedly better. Back when I was in Rome practically every beer looked like it was straight from the secondary tank and had slight haze on it. Nobody seemed to care and they were mostly all really good beers. But there's a difference between 'the slight cast' beer and the opaque sample shown above (obtained from the bottom of a fermenter for demonstration purposes). Pouring the sediment in from a bottled conditioned beer or serving from a CT = slight haze. But carbonated pond water... Just no.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Beer and Food by Mark Dredge

Not often I get hold of a book that has been written by an author I have already met. After reading enough of Dredgie's blog you sense this book sure has his stamp on it. From page to page it reads like Dredgie's work and it's almost difficult to imagine the sheer length of research the bloke has compiled here. I imagine many, many nights in the kitchen, with multiple half-empty bottles and cans scattered on surfaces. Then again everyone knows Mark's a veteran beer and food experimentalist.

OK but the first obvious question is; what separates this from all the beer/beer and food books? It covers the obvious mandatory territories such as beer styles and brewing. Food affinities for beer styles are covered. Beer affinities for various worldwide dishes are covered. Recipes including beer, also covered.

It's quirky, and Mark's writing style strays away from pretentiousness (given the inclusion of fast food and bar snacks) with a 'not taking this too seriously but keeping it real' sort of approach.
All in all for a general beer and food pairing guide I have found this the easiest to use, go to user friendly partner. So when the wife's cooking up something well known you can easily flip it open to find what beer would ideally pair with it.

So all in all I would rate this highly. Big up the Dredge.

FABPOW! (bitchin)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Mary and Archie

For those who don't know, Mary and Archie is a craft beer bar based in Didsbury, a slightly up-market part of Manchester. It isn't all that often I get to visit quality beer outlets outside Newcastle or even Alnwick so this had to be worth a post. Right? From memory the last beer hunting adventure after a day's cricket landed me at the The Rake.

To start, I would note that myself, my old man and uncle were among the few only non-hipsters in the vicinity. The interior and ambiance is quirky, laid back and individual. It reminded me of a half-way point between the now closed 3 Wise Monkeys and some of the crazy craft beer bars of Rome. The food available was top notch and good value.

More importantly the beer range on the whole is very good. Enough to keep you interested for a day but not the ocean of choice approach some bars employ. Dark Star was leading the pack on the hand pulls whilst Camden and Brew Dog highlighted keg options. The bottle/can range was equally as contemporary but with a nice balance of classics such as Augustiner Helles and, Duvel and Rochefort 10. Tripel Karmeliet seemed a tad cold for my liking yet still a great brew. I've concluded that most Beavertown beer is very aggressively hopped, and that Brew Dog Mashtag 2014 tastes a bit like a really strong 5AM Saint with other bits like blood orange in the mix.

Overall I would recommend Mary and Archie to any beer fan passing the West Didsbury area. A quality boozer unique to anything I've encountered in the Toon.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

30th Birthday Week

As is often found in blogging, many weeks or even months can go by without anything interesting to blog about. Then somehow multiple events can come along at once without sufficient time gaps between them to rapid fire out the blog posts. Last week was one memorable week. Thirty years old and partying harder than I did at 21. Here's the highlights.

Wednsday night Apollo 40 presentation

This was a good night, where I was presented with Newcastle Beer Festival's battle of the beers award At Pleased to Meet You. All of the local CAMRA crew were there including Mordue's lead dray man Dr Dray. Apollo 40 was good on keg (although a different beer to the cask version) and the last cask of Endangered Species (now extinct... At least for now) was getting a pounding.

Thursday. My birthday and I brew what I want to.

Dartfrog transfer to fermenter

Dusting myself down for a 6am start it was back to the brew house to brew the next Panda Frog. More specifically the next Dartfrog-48 Dunkel Rye Weizen. The name really explains it all except for the inclusion of New Zealand hops. This has the makings of one crazy brew and the brew day was intensive. Got some kick ass presents from workmates also.

Thursday night. Birthday night.

Killswitch cake. A surprise from the wife.

I turned thirty. A beer dinner at home cooed by my lovely wife Helen was highlighted by a rather nice cherry wheat beer by Huyghe brewery (makers of Delirium Tremens) with Nutella Cheesecake. Got loads of cool presents including whisky, slippers and the new book from Mark Dredge. Other than that not much happened.
Friday night. Panda Frog Pandamonium re-launch night at The Free Trade Inn

Back into town again. This time to the long-standing, well-respected Free Trade Inn for the re-launch of Pandamonium IPA and its new crazy branding (soon to embrace future Panda Frog beers).

Big resinous citrucy Pandamonium was being served in bottled, keg and cask form alongside more Apollo 40 and Workie Ticket.

Saturday night - Meal at Pleased to Meet You followed by beer and cheese

Camden Wit with mussels was the highlight

So it was back to Pleased to Meet You again, this time with Helen. Some quality scran was enjoyed with a wide variety of beers. Camden beers are neatly put together and branded with a sort of clean-cut style that doesn't overly scream for your attention. Camden Wit is no different, and is simply sublime with mussels served in a cabbage and pancetta sauce. After this it was onwards to the cheeseboard...

It's not often I have a beer and cheese night but this one was one of the more memorable ones. Camden 2013 Beer Tripel with Wooky Hole Cheddar and Panda Frog Pandamonium with Northumberland Elsdon were pairings worth a mention. But the pairing of the night (and possibly the decade) was the traditional Biere de Garde St. Sylvestre 3 Monts with Vignotte. An all-French harmonious combination that's excelled by an up-front carbonation that just lifts away the creaminess of the cheese.

None the less it was a great night. Finished by a beasty looking cigar and some Yamazaki 12. It's not so bad being thirty. One thing you notice is that your older than more people now. I was getting really used to being in my twenties, it sure was fun. None the less, a great birthday week.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Northumberland Beer Festival

Here's an event we had to go back to. Northumberland Beer Festival is based in Longframlington Memorial Hall and run by the Coquetdale Round Table. Last year the festival opened its doors for the first time as a small affair driven by community spirit. This year it seemed the aim was to raise the game and double the beer range.

But wait, this wasn't just a bigger beer range, this was a fine selection of the region's beers with various new beers on offer. Starting things off I had Allendale Fermata, a 3.1% citra-hopped table beer that's made its name on the local scene. It sure goes down easily. Light malt base, citrus and melon overtones, and a light finish of more resonating citric hops. Sticking with Allendale, the slightly peculiar Belgian wit Cumulus sure hit the mark. A little like the excellent Allendale Weizen but with a big hit of raw, zesty, orange peel at the forefront. But then in the same off-centred wheat beer ballpark, Anarchy Grin and Bare it surprised as an impressive display of contemporary brewing. Soft-bodied orange and bubblegum yeasty fullness meets bold resiny hops. This beer was first released as a 2013 Newcastle Beer Festival battle of the beers entrant. Back then it seemed noisy, complicated and without a clear direction but now it seems Anarchy have made the concept work. 

Some nice session blonde ales filled out the range like Wylam Magick and Mordue Summer Tyne then we meet Five Towns Strange Brew. A big burly 7% IPA that featured soft, floral, melon-like tones with a brisk, brooding bitterness. Not entirely that strange but a little odd selection of hops I'm thinking. But hey you don't always need odd-ball new wave beers to steal the moment and from what I was told my Mordue Panda Frog Project Endangered Species was well received. As a 6% strong mild it was designed to be a big, dark, characterful old school beer. Also holding the line of the dark and traditional was Cullercoat's Polly Donkin Oatmeal Stout,.a smooth velvety chocolate led affair backed by blackberry fruit and prickly English hops that develop in the finish.

Me and the bar staff (showmon)

After the sixteenth half this was a hell of a lot of fun. The bairn seemed to like it to.

Garry the militant militia guerrilla joined us for a short period

So overall a great day was had by all and various great beers were tried. I will certainly be looking forward to a re-visit next year.