Sunday, 18 March 2018

What is your favourite beer?

As a beer enthusiast I have been asked the question many times. What is my favourite beer? I always gauge that the person asking me the question think that I rate beer on a fixed set of parameters. This would be true if it was a different question like what are your favourite brand of crisps? The obvious answer is Kettle chips. The same with Sainsbury’s own tomato ketchup, in my opinion the best one going. Leeks are the best vegetable, but asparagus and mushrooms are close contenders. Samsung do better phones than Apple, Branston make better baked beans than Heinz but Shortbread are the finest form of biscuits without question.

Then again with beer a similar deduction process to select one all superior brew isn’t possible. It maybe could be if I only ever drank a narrow range of beers like say cask blonde ales or mega brand lagers but no. By this point in Rob’s Beer Quest I have turned more to rating a beer experience as a moment or experience as much as it is a beer.

Take for example the first time I tried Rochefort 10. For Rochefort 10 to be my favourite beer I have to compare it to other inspirational moments like discovering Pliny the Elder. But Rochefort and Pliny can’t really be compared. That’s like steak vs pizza, both are very different. What I also notice about these occasional perfect beer moments is that they are rarely the same second time round. Sometimes the beer has changed or you are just in a different moment but other times a beer can be better on second tasting. But inevitably the answer to the question ends with a no, there is no favourite beer or greatest beer in the world. Often I may attempt to brew the greatest beer in the world at work but I know it won’t be, it would just be a tribute. Like the greatest song in the world, a matter of opinion.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Snow Interval

As many of you are probably aware, it’s been snowing a lot lately. With Northumberland being one of the worse hit areas this means no work for me. Lots of work for the journalist other half and lots of time with the children. With it being March now it’s like spring is having some problems loading.

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My final journey back from work on Tuesday afternoon seemed to follow a clear gradient from the moderately snowy Wallsend to the grim, dark, desolate isolation of Siberian themed Alnwick. Our friends the yeast don’t like it too cold I explained to the bairns, it slows them down. Luckily the blokes at work have been re-heating those fermenters. But no work means no free beer, and supplies are getting short on that front.

I bring you the co-ops finest. McEwan’s Champion is another one of those supermarket strong beers that no one noticed it was 7.3% before pricing it. It’s decent stuff, all fruit cake and burnt caramel. After this I got to the end of the Flavourly box.

Beatnikz Republic Beach Bumpstead is a US, NZ and Australian hopped pale ale that's tastes of pure nectar from the gods compared to some heavily filtered/pasteurised supermarket equivalents. Tropical zesty but clean. According to the can meant to be drank in the sun or reminiscing about drinking in the sun. Sadly will have to settle for the latter.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The show goes on 2018

Alas it is 2018. 2017 is over, Last year was a mainly neutral sort of year that went very fast. There was operation Serpent Shadow  (winning Newcastle beer festival Battle of the beers again) and some nice holidays.

The main agenda at Mordue Brewery this year is Beeronomy, the ultimate Mordue and Panda Frog beer and food experience. But plenty of other stuff is on the horizon, not to mention getting a new canning line. The coming spring obviously means SIBA events and all their grandeur. Then there’s Newcastle beer festival and Battle Of The Beers 7. Obviously if I were (although statistically unlikely) to win this year it would make Mordue the only brewery to ever achieve a three year hat-trick of wins at the event. Not just a chance of winning, a chance of immortality. But who knows, I’m just a man and his will to survive.

Finally Killswitch 51 is back from a long break of missing 2017,  and a new Panda Frog E=PF2 (or squared) an Ekuanot - El Dorado hopped wheat beer is on the way. The new ‘Mash Sessions’ set of seasonals will bring back past Battle of The Beers winners Code Red 40 and 5PA along with some new beers. In all possibility 2018 could be a bumpy ride.

New pump 

Hopefully I can maintain enough effort to keep blogging. These days life isn’t as compatible with beer blogging as it was back in the day. Then again the beer blogging scene isn’t what it was either. Back then you weren’t just a beer blogger, you were part of the REVOLUTION! And every delve into the blogging world was like going to the theatre. Where Beer vs Wine and beer duty were considered serious debates that could easily escalate into a punch up. New beer or beer an food pairing discoveries were embraced with awe like newly discovered species of butterfly. So many diverse views and characters but at the end of the day everyone just wanted to enjoy good/preferred beer in good company... That and all fall on Alistair Darling and give him a good drubbing, like a proper good drubbing.

So I’m obviously hoping for some kind of beer and cheese like event some point this year (already in the pre planning stage). Going to France again to get more way underpriced Rochefort 8 and brewing a sour beer. An interesting sort of line up.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Holidays and the GBBF

Last month it was a great honour to again represent Mordue Brewery at the Great British Beer Festival. Again Workie Ticket was the nominated beer but sadly this time no victory. I recall Roger Protz mentioned in the latest What's Brewing that US hopped beers took the majority of awards this year. In our category of Best Bitters Tiny Rebel's Cwtch was the winner, tasted more Red IPA than best bitter. A great beer none the less.

So results aside my third ever visit to the GBBF trade session was a splendid day. The G-Man (Mordue MD), Grey Wolf (External sales man) and myself ventured south via train for the day. We encounterd various people from across the brewing industry including  (for the first time) beer writer Melissa Cole.

A somewhat surreal moment given that back in 2010/11 meeting Melissa Cole was classed as a life ambition.  Me old muckers from Heriot Watt Uni, Ed and Simon also came out of nowhere around the same time.

Herriot Watt 2007 reunion group 

Another encounter made was the Dredge. Mark Dredge, former lord of the beer bloggers, now beer writer.

I got to sample various London beers and from brewers that you don't often see in the North East. All in all the GBBF was a cracking day out and what followed was the remainder of a short frantic week before going on holiday.

The Vendee region of France is somewhere I'm semi-confident I have visited before on one of my many camping trips to France as a kid. It is quite flat and hosts a scattering of independent breweries. Given that this was not an all inclusive holiday, beers on site weren't served over carbonated and in very small measures. They were however exceedingly expensive.

Beer and French cheese

A highlight of this trip would obviously be a beer and cheese night. This time with exclusively all French cheeses, and the selection on offer was normally vast. Local beers explored were very Belgian influenced with a tendency to be very yeasty and served ether from keg or bottle. Though on this occasion Grimbergen Blonde was the best overall cheese pairing beer.

The holiday overall lacked in session beers (unless you like Kronenbourg). It was rather good however to be able to get some top of the range Belgian beers like Rochefort 8 at around £2 a bottle from the supermarket.

As of most holidays of recent the balancing  act of beer hunting with parenting was in play. Beer budget aside at times the Bairn/s will stress the desire for a certain toys that it is really absolutely essentially mandatory you buy them. Then you will end up carrying that toy around for the rest of the day. Having only one toy that both kids want can trigger protests that could upgrade to a Paddy.

Common triggers for paddy;

a: too much ketchup on plate
b: wrong cup
c: tired
d: Nam flashback

So in short the kids were not entirely used to long car journeys and long days in the sun but still had a great time.
I give the French lots of marks for effort on their beer scene, it seems to have expanded a lot since my past ventures to the country. I did drink a few Belgian ales but one beer I went back to a few times was Fisher Tradition. Sort of like the French equivelant of McEwans Champion in the sense it's cheap as chips, decent, reliable supermarket beer.

Vaguely a Marzen style lager, clean toasty grain and a rounded hint of boozyness in the finish from the 6% abv. Supermarket beer perhaps but the Triple Hop version at 7.2% was one of the beers of the holiday showcasing the effect of much under-rated low alpha European hops. A tad paler than Tradition with creamy burnt caramel and Peach. Really soft with good drinkability.

So overall the France holiday was great. I recommend it if you like Belgian esque type beers and don't mind getting away from the current cloudy hoppy pale beer/cloudy sour (with fruit/ other stuff thrown in) UK trend. It's also good for cheese.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

This Summer

Longframlington beer fest

A summary post you could call it. After not blogging in so long I thought it would be fitting. So far it's been a fairly mixed summer, with June not being the predictably mild to overcast type of month it normally is. Pale ales and lagers were on the agenda, or more specifically cloudy, hoppy paler beers. I noticed this also at Longframlington beer festival, the annual amalgamation of well-selected local and non-local beer meets cider, face painting and a bouncy castle. 

This year the Longfram fest hosted beers from the likes of Box Social, Two By Two, Tempest and Cullercoats brewery. A memorable one was Flash House Hazelnut Stout, Nutella meets liquorice in this medium-bodied, smooth affair. Cullercoats Storm Porter was like a Fuller's London Porter crossed with Old Peculiar. Good substance to it. Tempest Cascadian was also substantial but Two By Two Grapefruit IPA was very pink grapefruit forward but a tad too alcohol and ester heavy for the higher 5.7% abv. A lovely day out of beer with the kids also having fun.

So another highlight this season is WT20. A beer to mark the twentieth annaversary of Workie Ticket winning Champion Beer of Britain. As the folks who work at Mordue know Workie Ticket to be abbreviated to WT on stock labels and the likes. The Mordue equivalant to 1966, 1997 was the biggest year and biggest award in Mordue history. So this year we will be brewing a 6% tribute to the history and the beer. 

An all-round interesting project. The aim here isn't a first runnings or just a higher gravity version of the 4.5% original. I aim to smooth a few edges out taking a slightly different angle but keep largely loyal to the original template.

Moving on. This month has also been my birthday. Thirty three seems irrelevant but the kids are growing, becoming more demanding and learning new things like how to identify beer in pictures and how to wind parents up. New beers are coming out at Mordue. The brewing scene is seeming more and more overcrowded with new breweries, new trends and new breeds of beer elitists buying into them.

Trans-Atlantic Pale Ale in the underback

On the Panda Frog front this summer we have released Amphibious Four. A 4% amber ale brewed with four malts (pale, munich, cara red, crystal) and four hops (Galaxy, Comet, Citra, Equinox). We also have a Blood Orange IPA in the pipe line along with a few re-releases like New Zealand Pale and Oatmeal Stout.

So by no means a dull summer, especially not considering that other new development;