Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Having a very merry (Samuel Smiths) Christmas

Greetings once again readers, or should I say seasons greetings? As it is still officially Christmas. As I have mentioned in earlier posts much as been expected from this years Christmas day beer session and indeed it was successful. As with last year the Christmas turkey was well matched with the savory character of Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome ale whereas the real gamble came with the match of Christmas pudding and Chimay Grand reserve. This match seemed to work well as the rich fruity flavours of both harmonised well. The afternoon also brought some excellent tastings, including Samuel Smiths Imperial stout and the very rare, oak aged Samuel Smiths Yorkshire Stingo at 8% abv. As a beer I have hunted for some time I found this prestigious offering completely fascinating. As a rich amber ale one would expect rich fruit and malt and possibly toffee nuances, and although this was present the beer seemed to possess and extra dimension (probably from American oak) that brought an unorthodox strawberry and vanilla like tang that bounced off the malt intricately balancing the beer. What was also interesting was how this beer matched Wensleydale cheese (matching Yorkshire with Yorkshire) and I could immediately tell that Wensleydale with cranberry would have matched better.
Sadly the session seemed to deteriorate in the evening as I fell asleep unexpectantly, maybe I'm getting old? But overall it was a great day mainly highlighted by Samuel Smiths and its masterpieces. As a long favourate of mine I have noticed how not only are Samuel Smiths arguably one of the best brewers in Yorkshire but are highly reputable on a worldwide stage with big followings in America and various other countries. But lets not forget the other great brewers of Yorkshire, such as York brewery with its sublime session bitters with cascading hop characters. Acorn with its full bodied chocolaty award winning old moor porter. Black Sheep and Theaskstons with true classics, and not to mention the mighty Daleside brewery with its wonderfully structured malt masterpieces such as Monkey Wrench and Morocco Ale.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Winter Update

Greetings again readers and a seasons greetings to all with only 12 days to go till the big day. Tragically it is sad to say that my 'operation winter beaver' mentioned in a previous post has had to be restricted due to financial problems. Although some good winter warmers were found most have now been consumed, and as a backup plan I have asked for a range of exciting seasonal beers from my good lady for Christmas. This should ensure that Christmas day should bring a mighty all day session of ale similar to last years December 25th session which started at 11:15am with the Christmas dinner appetiser beer.
From memory Christmas dinner was matched with Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome Ale, a classic winter beer. Following this I would have normally matched Christmas pudding to the obvious Youngs Christmas Pudding ale but due to its unavailability went for a more chocolate based dissert matched with Meantime Coffee porter (this was a very memorable experience) . Feeling rather full a very large bottle of Chimay Grand reserve saw me through most of the afternoon before a range of medium to heavyweight beers filled the evening.
This year this list is probably alittle different but should still be good. But dispite this quite a few things have changed since last year. For example the recent news that Carlsberg-Tetley is closing its Leeds site (also its original site I belive), more evidence of the bigger brewers struggling. Sources say craft brewers are surviving well, and this is reflected at my work where demand is heavy at the Daleside brewery over the winter season. Another positve factor is that the the world hop shortage situation seems to have eased off. Interestingly from what I've heard the world hop shortage was not just due to crop shortages, but was worsened by a loss of interest by hop growers (since prior to the shortage the price of hops was very low).

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Tribute to Heriot Watt

As many brewing student readers may know last month saw the graduation of all MSc and Diploma students of the Heriot Watt University. Because of this would like to dedicate this post in tribute to all the folks on the MSc Brewing coarse, congratulations to all. Its been an amazing year doing truly unimaginably awesome theory work, and some very helpful practical stuff as well. Here are some pics from the best bits.

Inside the mighty Blue Blazer, the pub that quickly became our adopted local.

Me Edd and Brian, at the Blue Blazer.

This was me in the taxi home with simon. I think this one was taken during one of my enthusiastic Clubber Lang (from Rocky 3 the movie) impressions. At this time I belived Simon was taking the highest degree of interest to my ramblings.

A quiet review of some cask ale during a session with the Canadians.

Anyway as things have gone I have heard my fellow students have fell to a variety of different fates since leaving Heriot Watt. Some have moved into big brewing corporations, some (like myself) have went into smaller breweries. Whereas others are still looking for work or are working in a completely different industry. None the less, since December is a month to reflect on the year just gone, it is always good to look back on the sucesses that have been made regardless of the failures to give a positive outlook for the year ahead.
What is also exiting is the up and coming bottling of my very first vintage ale on December 30th. After 4 months maturation, this Panda & Frog Brewery Vintage ale 2008 at 11.7% a.b.v will be bottled from its two 1 gallon demi-johns under the kitchen tables into the smallest beer bottles I can find. The beer was formulated from pale, crystal and cara malts, four hop varieties including challanger and goldings alongside a highly attenuative ale yeast. In fact this beer will be served to selected guests only (maybe just the best man) at my wedding in approximatly one years time, now that will be something to celebrate.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Operation Winter Beaver

As I’m sure you’re all aware, the nights colder and longer winter is setting in. For this reason every year I decide to make a few visits to my favorite beer shop the ale cellar in Darlington, a humble corner shop like outlet with walls filled with beer and glassware from around the world. Here I usually spend great lengths of time scoping the selection picking out both well known classics and beers not tried yet whilst trying not to spend too much money. In fact of recent times the Ale Cellar has got even better, bringing in superb beers for both Meantime and Samuel Smiths, check it out on, you can even order online.
Anyway as my very own home brewed ‘Panda’s Christmas reserve’ ale is slowly maturing, I hunt for more examples of great winter beers to help celebrate the season. Obvious ones like Fullers ESB and Black sheep Riggwelter are easy to find and great full bodied winter warmers but various other gems can be found outside the supermarket range such as Sierra Nevada Celebration, a Trappistes Rochefort or perhaps a Daleside Morocco Ale. But what is it I question that makes a great winter ale? Must it be dark and full bodied? Heavily spiced? In fact some Christmas beers such as Wylam breweries legless Santa have been quite pale. So definitions are quite broad with some beers marrying well with the season naturally without being designed as Christmas beers.Melissa Cole reviews in the recent edition of Beers of the world covers some good ones. I myself will be looking for some new releases with the little budget I have available.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Discovering the Fox

I'm sure that all beer fans out there would have seen the debut episode of Neil Morrisseys Risky business mentioned in my previous post. Yes, I thought, eventually a program to raise awareness and respect for real beer, and I suppose it does. However some areas were disappointing (as a CAMRA member it is my duty to moan). Firstly were the gimmicks, I mean who has bath in beer!? Its just a waist of good beer. Secondly what is the point in getting some guy who's known for drinking beer in quantity and speed alone as a taste advocate. At this point in the show I was questioning weather they had lost the plot in favour of just trying to give the show a laddish persona? Furthermore no real brewer would simply homebrew up a test batch on a 5 gallon home brew system before asking members of the public if they liked the free samples. They obviously have no ideas of the unpredictability’s of home brewing compared to commercial brewing.

Apart from these points I admired their passion to succeed, and it was only the other day I managed to find a bottle of Morrissey fox blonde ale on the supermarket shelves. From my sources I have heard these blokes have been using some pretty nice brewing kit, under supervision from staff of Roosters Brewery in North Yorkshire. This explained why the beer itself was very much on the bitter side especially in the finish. Very pale in colour It opens well, clean and balanced with soft malt presenting apple and peardrop, before the finish brings mouth puckering bitterness and dry hop resins that bring almost a touch of astringency. Interesting beer though, from my guess very simple in design, which isn’t a bad thing, but my parents didn’t like it much. Overall I would recommend it to fans of dry German pilsners.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Small dying market?

I will always remember the lecturer at University who told me on repeated occasions that British cask beer is a small dying market. But to be honest I have struggled to believe this. Recent news has told of nothing but survival of small independent breweries in the current economic crisis. In reports from both CAMRA and Alistar Guilmore Small brewers have began thriving in the current credit crunch, these have included reports that brewers such as Allendale (Northumberland) and Mordue (Tyneside) have struggled to keep up with demand. Further more if this was not so at the Daleside brewery in North Yorkshire I would not be working in my current position. But the reasoning behind such survival has been put down to various theories. Take for example pricing, the price of a pint of standard mass produced lager at the pub is equivalent to that of a cask conditioned ale, considering that the drinkers have less money they thus want more for their money. Secondly in the current age real beer has gradually gained recognition, in America more obviously than over here. But the UK has seen more and more brewers springing up in various areas as well as more pubs selling at least one cask product or even just expanding the beer range alittle (believe me Iv seen it in my area). Beer festivals are frequent and conducted in all areas of the country and events such as Beers of the World live have aimed to bring the experience of craft beer enjoyment and understanding to a wider audience.
Coincidently this can be compared to the food market. Today health conscious customers want to know more about what they eat and are attracted to products that are not packed with artificial colours, flavours, starch adjuncts, trans fats etc, etc. One can easily argue that this can be applied to beer. Even more good news is that late this year will see more beer related programmes on TV thanks partly to Neil Morrissey and Co's new documentary about opening a brewpub in North Yorkshire. So finally after all these years of wine stealing the limelight of being the greatest respected fermented beverage (mostly due to social snobbery) Beer can finally gain back the respect it deserves.

I'll drink to that. Cheers!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

More or less?

Greetings again readers apologies for the late post. Of recent times I have been given the opportunity to do my first official Beer journalism work, and by that I mean writing for an official beer magazine, Beers of the World. As a guest taster I have had to taste and review 9 imperial stouts (although one was a porter). Many of these I had been hunting for a ages now, so it was a great privilege. The list included:

Samuel Smiths Imperial stout: An old favorite of mine and looks like a baby at only 7%abv. Nicely drinkable, roasty and elegant as always.

Great divide Yeti Imperial stout: A bold masterpiece that perfectly integrates huge caramelized malty flavors with brisk hop and roast malt bitterness.

Zywiec porter: A lovely middleweight dissert like beer with soft creamy textures. Scored highly but seemed out of place as the only porter.

Brew dog Rip Tide: A nice assault of hops balances this one leaving slight dryness.

Brooklyn Brewery Black chocolate stout: Bold, elegant and smooth with dominant roasty dark chocolate notes. Not the masterpiece I had hoped for considering Roger Protz gave it full marks

Left Hand Brewing Imperial Stout: Sweet malty flavors signature. Plenty of toffee, candy and caramelized crystal malt influences.

De Struise Brouwers. Black Albert: This one I was particularly fascinated by. All the usual funky yeasty character you find in a Belgian ale well integrated into a 13% abv stout that exceptionally drinkable.

A Le Coq. Imperial extra double stout. 9% abv. 2003 vintage: Drinks more like a port wine with virtually no carbonation, but tends to grow on you with an intriguing lethery/ oily texture and big ‘alcohol soaked fruit’ like flavors.

Dogfish head. World wide stout: Basically an 18% abv monster of a stout that attacks full on with warming alcoholic flavors and tastes half way between a brandy an a stout/barley wine. The thing is, after hearing so much about Dogfish head and hunting them for so long I was intrigued to get hold of one. But the term used by one of my Uni mates from Canada often used, ‘over the top’ seemed somewhat fitting for this example. Another term, ‘insanely over the top’ also fits as the palate blasts one with a whole spectrum of malty and warming alcohol flavors all at once. However although overpowering at first the beer does seem to grow on you and develops into a lovely warming after dinner drink of huge complexity.

Overall the two highest scoring were the Black albert, creative and elegant, against the bold and beautiful Great Divide Yeti Imperial stout from Denver Colorado. In fact most of the American examples seemed to aim for a similar effect of boldness to the palate, Left hand seemed to go alittle on the sweet malty side, whereas Dogfish head seemed go for the stronger the better approach. But do you really need to push things to the extreme to make the best extreme styles? Examples from Zywiec and Samuel Smiths proved this wrong whereas Great Divide Yeti suggests extremism could be the way forward in the style. In my opinion there is always wrong ways and right ways to develop massively flavored beers. For this the brewer needs to keep in control various elements of brewing for example the temperature of fermentation, the quantities of colored and roast malts used and the level of attenuation. But a major factor of imperial stout brewing as with other high gravity beers is time, as such beers can take years to develop in character.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The beer before time

Greetings all and as we know it is the start of a new month and thus a new beer style of the month. This time I have taken the option of another age old British beer style, originating from London, that became the most popular beer style in the UK during the Industrial revolution. As with IPA porter helped fuel the British empire, except where IPA was sent abroad Porter was drank in-land. Originally the beer was created from an innovative beer called 'entire butt', a beer brewed to mimic the palate of blend of beers called three threads, a blend of old and young beers that had to be blended by the publican in the cellar (as they had no beer engine and thus no hand pumps) before serving. The popularity of entire butt amongst the porters of London eventually gave the beer its current name.

But after the 1830s the style went into decline as the public slowly turned their favour to lower gravity less aged beers such as mild or pale ale. Today the style is recreated by craft brewers across the globe, commonly crafted from grist combinations that include pale, crystal, chocolate and black malts often bittered with old style British hops such as Fuggles, Bramling X or Northdown. In fact from word of mouth I have heard recent praise for the porter made by the Daleside brewery which I work for, by CAMRA members, and currently my home brewed example of the style is slowly maturing under the stairs.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Anniversary of the Book.

It was only the other day when I suddenly realized I had missed the chance to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of myself reviewing beers in my personal beer diary, which I commenced on the 18th of September 2005. Since then I have nearly filled 4 volume in small pocket sized jotters and volume 5 is defiantly on its way. Not only do these books hold dear memories of some of the finest moments in my beer drinking days but also autographs of head brewers and other important people in the brewing industry. Autographs so far include:

John Keeling: Brewing director of Fullers.
Ken Don: Ex head brewer Youngs.
Vankatesh: Head brewer Leeds brewery.
Craig Witty: Head brewer Daleside brewery.
Tom Hicks: Head brewer Allendale brewery.
Martin Dickie: Head brewer Brew Dog.
Brian Westcott: Head brewer Alley Cat brewery (Canada).
Roger Protz: Beer Writer.

Many of these I have considered selling copies of on e-bay but am not sure how much they would make, anyone with offers let me know. I shall also note that since it is IPA month I have decided to home brew my own interpretation just yesterday. My approach has been to make a classic British style IPA of gravity 1.070 and bitterness units appox 70IBU using Challenger, Target and First gold hops. So far it looks like a hell of a lot of trub material has been thrown off by the cold break, probably due to the heavy late hopping. I shall keep all informed on how this one turns out.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

India Pale Ale

Greetings once again readers, as you may have guessed this is my first entry in along time now, and that is because I have been preoccupied with end of year project as well as starting a full time job at the Daleside brewery in North Yorkshire. Another thing you may have realized is that I have decided top appoint this month as India Pale Ale month, as it is harvest season and the fresh 2008 harvest hops will soon be out and available to brewers worldwide. But as many will be familiar with IPA as a pale ale that’s higher in alcohol and hop bitterness than usual there are others only familiar with the more modern English IPAs (e.g. Green king IPA or Deuchars IPA) which are basic low gravity pale ales re-labeled.
Over the past decade or so the so called modern style IPA has been fairly common however there has been exceptions in the bottled beer market of stronger ones and of recent times I have noticed some cask version creeping up in gravity to closer to the 5%abv mark. OK, don’t get me wrong I am not discriminating against low gravity IPAs as many modern low gravity IPA interpretations are of great quality. But by definition a traditional IPA should be of considerable strength and hopping rate to enable the beer to survive the duration of long shipping voyages from England to British troops in India during the 1800s. Non the less hopefully this month I shall be brewing my own interpretation of the style at my very own Panda and frog home brewery (/kitchen) which shall be over 70 bitterness units and 7.3% abv. Although the hop combinations have not been fully confirmed, as a first attempt at the style the results should be interesting.

Stone Brewing Ruination IPA a modern extremist version of the style (termed double IPA).

Friday, 29 August 2008

A tribute to the legend

As many of you may be aware, tomorrow (30th august) marks the 1st anniversary of the death of the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson. In his time Michael was by no doubt the worlds number one ambassador of beer. His writings, presentations and documentaries educated and informed those curious of craft beer, whilst being an inspiration to those already passionate. It is sad to say that Mr Jackson was never as well known in the UK amongst the likes of Roger Protz, but unlike other British beer writers he chose to educate his readers on beers from all around the globe without focusing to strongly on British cask ale. But the truth of the matter is it was Mr Jackson that helped get numbers craft breweries greater recognition worldwide as well as educating about beer styles, matching beer with food and how beer is generally, often degraded in quality and image (by global brands)  should be given more respect as the noble and sensual beverage it can be.

A Tribute to Michael Jackson

Because of this tomorrow I shall be in my local, The John Bull Alnwick, to find the finest beer for the moment to make a toast to the legend, Michael Jackson beer hunter. Cheers!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Chance to write for beers of the world.

Recently I have been in contact with the editor of the well known beer magazine beers of the world. According to her I could be in with a chance to enter the magazine as the guest taster by around October time as they are looking for readers or journalists to enter as guest tasters. For me I shall count it as another step towards becoming the next Michael Jackson (our lord). However to get recognised I recon I would have to throw out work comparable to there already well established taster Jeff Evans. Now iv seen this guy at work during one of his beer master-classes and his descriptions are nothing less than concise, accurate and professional and the same can be said for his written work, check him out on

Also to mention, in relation to my last post, this month I shall be attempting to home brew a my very own example of a historic porter style beer which should be around 6-7% alcohol by volume, over 40 bitterness unites and very black malt influenced. What I can not account for however is that porter in the 18th and 19th centuries was matured in wooden vats for a number of months before going on sale to the public. On the upside this brew should last a long time in the bottle due to the effect of both hops, alcohol and roast malts in adding a preservative effect on the beer, so hopefully my 4 gallons should last all winter, but that’s also affected by how good it turns out.

Friday, 22 August 2008

The dark side of the brewing force

Greetings again readers, and apologies for the later than usual post as I have been currently submerged in my end of year project and new job at a fairly local pub, the Shoulder Of Mutton. Thankfully upon going for the initial interview I realized I would be working in a decent pub, no bumpy-bump music, plastic chairs, disco lights, or hordes of chavs and trendys filling the place on weekends. The three cask ales available include Directors Courage, Deuchars IPA and one guest, all served with sparkler (which does mask the aroma alittle), but non the less a decent beer range on tap with what Iv heard is top quality food served in a relatively ornate interior. On the downside however, I have noticed that around 85% of the clientele order nothing but mass market water flavored lager, chemical infused cider or nitro-keg pap, which concluded that this aims to be more of a pub for everyone, not a true beer haven.
Never the less It was only the other day I got thinking about consumer behavior and how it linked in with my project. Many of my long term readers may recall using the terms ‘brainwashed by the media’ and ‘will live out there lives deprived of any knowledge of what beer really is and can be’ (stuff like that). It all relates back to (and I will cover this in my project), the rise of (what I call) ‘the dark side’. The truth is shortly after the end of the second world war in the UK the brewing industry assembled itself into collated beer companies that later grew into brewing giants (also known at the time as the ‘big six’). These brewing giants expanded there empires, aggressively trying to dominate over the beer market, and this was done in a number of ways, for example;

- Companies established there own tied estates i.e. pubs they owned which thus only sold the beer they wanted to sell.
- Beer became produced in keg and bottled form instead of cask, meaning the beer was filtered and pasteurized for a longer shelf life and a more stable product.
- Beer increasingly evolved into a minimalistic product, brewed with more flavor reducing, cheaper, carbohydrate sources and less hops in order to design beers with lass flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and general character.
- To make sure nobody noticed that beer was so bland, the new generation of beer drinkers of the time were enticed with mass market advertising specifically designed to present the product and product image in a fashionable and appealing way to the target audience. For example bottled lagers were aimed at the trendy younger gentleman, wanting to look cool and laid back at the bar, the nitro-keg bitter is designed for the middle aged straight talking working class etc.

As you might have guessed, the rout of the dark side is to try and push and present beer as a basic staple product, to be consumed in large volume in order to get drunk and be in with the guys whilst steering all away from any thought it could be anything more… And then CAMRA came along.

But the thing is, no matter how many times you grind your teeth over it, when you look back through the history books there’s always been those brewers trying to stock it high and sell it cheap (for example porter ale was often adulterated in the 17-1800s, and mild ale was often watered down to get more out the barrel come the early 20th century). But on the other side there’s always been brewers committed to the art of producing fine brewing, the main difference today is that in most cases its financial wealth that divides the two.

So remember folks, stay away from that dark side, and keep exploring the wonderful world of beer.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Angel of the North ale

In my recent review for Northumberland Now supplement I have taken pleasure in reviewing some of the finest summer ales in the Northeast of England, and this time the beer quality was defiantly moved up a notch since last months edition (where a bunch of average beers were bowled over by the mighty Triple Karmeliet, a Belgian triple). However, without disrespecting the classic local brews from Hadrian and Border and High House Farm brewery, the clear winner was actually a newly released beer from the well respected Wylam brewery called Angel. This beer was released this year to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the structure known as the angel of the north (as shown on the bottle). Although no one actually knows the clear reasoning for the Angel being erected in the first place, and this was discussed allot back in 98 (some though it was artistic symbol of regional identity, others a waste of money), my theory is a bunch of designers got bored in the 90s and decided make some giant structure from an old aeroplane and other bits.

Non the less the 4.3% cascade hopped filtered ale is a very refreshing, well crafter beer indeed. Deep copper in colour with a signature ‘fresh mowed lawn’ hoppy aroma. Grassy and citrus hints lead to the full, fresh and crisp palate that finishes rather rounded with sweet lingering caramel and cherry notes. Good stuff all-round indeed, next month I shall be aiming to review some of the more amber to brown ales and maybe even some Halloween specials if I can get hold of them in due coarse for October.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The New beer style of the month is … pilsner.

As many of you may know the name pilsner originates from the Bohemian city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, where the beer was developed in the 1840s. Its popularity spread fast and the Germans soon adopted the style before interpretations were springing up all over the world.

Sadly in the commercialised world of brewing today the style has been taken up by major brewing corporations and manipulated into mass market, pasteurised, fizzy, bland as possible lager. Interestingly this topic also links back to an older post from my old blog on Here I discussed how although CAMRA as an organisation has raised awareness about cask conditioned beer, most beer drinkers are now perceive the market as simply dispersed into two camps, those who drink lager (mass market) and those who drink ale (with the addition of the usually middle aged customer group who prefer nitrokeg ales). All knowledge seems present of the diverse range of styles and varieties of lagers available, in fact some people even fail to recognise that lager is beer and thus divide all beers into ether lager (mass market stuff) or beer (anything else).

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Great Lawn Session of 2008

Last Monday saw the advent of the great lawn session of 2008 due to a day of brilliant sunshine. The session opened at early afternoon after much scrambling to prepare and frustrating traffic on the A1 south. With the only thing missing being my shorts, I opened the session at 13:31 with a Bitburger pils, before moving into weizen territory which included the full bodied flavour packed Meantime Grand Cru Wheat. Some quality pale lagers featured strongly in the mid afternoon including the maverick of all lagers Brew Dog Cult Lager. Next in the line-up were the pale ales, and although the annual attendant Landlord did get drank, the bottle consumed seed a little on the tired side.
Clear skies and some patchy cloud continued to dominate the day before gradual cloud cover came in at 19:50. Indoors the session continued with some Belgian blondes and the very sweet, potent barley wine Samuel Smiths strong golden finished the session. Overall a lawn session almost as good as the ones from the old days of 2003-2004 era, but defiantly much better the GLS 2007.

Claims to fame.

Note that this week I am featured in a small column in the supplement Northumberland Now with myself reviewing three summer beers. Furthermore I am also featured on the Allendale breweries website with some reviews I did for them the other month. See it now on

Monday, 21 July 2008

The most peculiar of sessions

Last weekend me and my fiancée Helen went to visit my aunties in their caravan over in Whitby for good long sustaining session whilst playing board games inside (because it rained most of the evening). Tragically I was expecting brilliant sunshine and so packed mostly summer beers meaning I ended up drinking them in the incorrect mood and moment. However the darkest beer of the evening, Theakstons Old Peculiar, a well known old ale, I decided to drink later in the evening whilst playing trivial pursuit. It was around this time that my aunty Judy decided to test if Monty (my grandmothers chocolate Labrador) liked the smell of old peculiar ale by giving him a sniff of the bottle in which Monty replied by giving the bottle neck a good lick.
How peculiar I thought, and decided to pour alittle into my hand and gave him a try in which he frantically consumed with much enthusiasm. After our doggy friend had licked up a few handfuls he did nothing but beg for more, looking at me with those puppy dog eyes saying “please Rob, more beer Rob, give me some more beer”. So I poured a few hundred mils into Montys water bowl and he happily slurped it up. Althoght we didn’t want to give him to much more fearing the consequences (him barking abuse and starting fights with other dogs of the campsite, before staggering lifelessly about and throwing up in the gutter after his Jumbo kebab and fries). But still to be confirmed is the question of would Monty like other beers if on offer? And if so which style of beer would he prefer? Because of these event I have decided that later this year I shall attempt to home brew my very own brown ale dedicated to Monty called ‘Montys Brown ale’ by whole grain. Although I wasn’t thinking of making the recipe complicated at all, a simple beer to reflect the character of a simple minded but rather strong dog.

Monty: A dog with good taste.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Beer Drinking in July

Beer festival in the John Bull. 9/7/08.

Last Wednesday saw Alnwicks very own beer centre the John Bulls host its very own beer festival which featured some classics such as York Guzzler and Al wheat pet, an old favourite that sold out before I could even get a sample. Highly ranked by myself was Okells summer storm, a soft textured wheat beer with plenty of hop complexity in the finish as well as Banks & Taylor fruit bat, a refined easy drinking fruit beer of very pale appearance with over-toned blackcurrant and plumb. It was overall an eventful evening with all the regulars taking part and as usual, as with every night in the John Bull I ended up chatting away with some old folks I never knew about beer and anything related to beer, something that only happens in the John Bull of all the places in Alnwick.

Improving weather gives hope for great lawn session.

As the summer twists through unpredictable turns of rain, sun overcast and light cloud it is noticeably this month that the weather has seen more frequent sun which means more possibilities for the Great lawn session of 2008 to be executed. Already are the beers in place in my parents spear fridge, lined in order of consumption. Hese include the likes of Bitburger pils, Brew Dog Lager, Timothy Taylors Landlord and a couple of good wheat beers.
All that really hangs in the balance is having free days in the right places to get the event underway, and in the meantime I can concentrate on my new beer drinking project. The Northumberland Gazette (who I wrote beer reviews for last winter) has given me the offer to do reviews on summer beers in there Northumberland now supplement. I have over a week left to submit my work but already have the first review written. Also to mention to any readers of beers of the world magazine that I may already be slightly famous. In this months issue the opening letter by the editor mentions a single hardcore fan at the beers of the world event who followed Roger Protz around with a notebook and carefully studied the back of all bottles. Funny thing is I don’t remember anyone else participating in such activities whilst at the event. All another step towards world stardom for not only myself but craft beer in general, good show.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The rules of beer drinking etiquette.

Here are the rules of beer drinking etiquette, follow these rules at all times in all places to become a true connoisseur of beer.

1. Never drink directly from the bottle, even at house parties or picknicks always use the appropriate, clean glassware.

2. Always use the correct glass for the beer your drinking. For example always use a champagne flute or pilsner glass for pilsners, a wheat beer glass for wheat beers and the standard nonic for most English style ales, find out more on

3. In restaurants always order a beer that will complement the food you choose to eat… Correction, always choose a dish that will complement the beer you will be drinking, this applies at home, picnics, barbecues, dinner parties or anywhere else.

4. As continuation to rule 3, if a restaurant or any establishment licensed to serve alcohol does not sell any interesting beers do not give service to these establishments.

5. Avoid all beers served by nitrokeg or any beer promoted as ‘light’ or ‘extra cold’.

6. During session drinking, always start with the beer of the lightest palate.

7. In a session always choose at least one beer you have not tried before.

8. Have shame on those who think all beer is classified as ether lager, beer or Guinness, but also be open minded that these people can better themselves.

9. Always try to control the speed of which you drink in accordance with how many new beers are available, how much time you have and how many beers you are planning to drink. I usually make a mental time plan of the session before I start so I know which beer im starting on, finishing on, matching with the first course etch. Remember getting to plastered to fast spoils the enjoyment of each individual beer. Stay in the comfort zone, be at one with your beer, focus on it, and ignore anyone urging you to down it so we can move to the next bar.

10. Don’t drink and drive. This can cause spillages leading to sticky beer damaging the electrics. Its also Illegal.

Final note: although I do not always live by these rules I do consider them as strict guidelines. For example sometimes in restaurants I accidentally missmatch the wrong food with the wrong beer, and sometimes rule 6 must be broken in times when only a limited choice of beers is available.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

New beer style of the month

As mentioned earlier last week I conducted my John Bull birthday session with a few mates which after opening with the wonderfully balanced Batemans Middle wicket and a few other cask beers turned into a Belgian beer fest. It began with a craving for a good sour red ale mid session, which led me to choose the Rodenback Grand Cru, the sourest beast of a beer in the house. After this it was getting late, and I decided to venture into the heavier beers. A peculiar newcomer on the board, Grimbergen Optimo Bruno at 10% alcohol proved itself with a distinct, refined, but ultimately complex palate of bold treacle tart and golden syrup reinforced by warming alcohols. A very rich beer that’s strangely clean and well integrated, defiantly recommended to match sweet desserts such as treacle tart or sticky toffee pudding. The night was then finished with a Trappistes Rochefort 8, an old favourite served in its correct glass.

As we know it is now July and therefore mid summer, but also time for a new beer style of the month. The new beer style of the month weizen, and this included all German wheat beer styles including hefe weizen, weizenbock, dunkelweizen and steinweizen. So if anyone has any good weizens they’ve tried lately, feel free to comment and I shall scope my records to see if I’ve reviewed it. Adversely if your out hunting for some Germen wheat beers feel free to let me know how it goes and remember in restaurants (good ones with a range of beers) that weizens are renown to be well matched to fish based dishes.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

24 today!

Photograpy by Brian Westcott.

As some of may know I have now reached the grand old age of 24. In celebration of this I will be heading off with some mates to no where other than the John Bull in Alnwick where I shall hopefully discover some quality cask ales or if not so hunt out some of the prestigious bottled Belgian ales I have not yet tried. Considering the John Bull is by far the greatest beer haven in town I have made it clear that there is no chance of us going to any trendy bars of clubs with ‘bumpedy-bump’ music or big screen TV’s like all the young-uns go to. Strategically I shall open with the lightest of cask bitters, then shall move through the mid range ales, the brown ales, the lambics, Belgian blonds until I eventually finish on one of my old favourites, Trappistes Rochfort 10. All served in the correct glassware and possibly with a single malt scotch to finish off the session, I simply cant wait.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Great lawn session postponed.

Friday, 21st June, the great lawn session of 2008 opens with more or less constant rain. So in accordance with the weather forecast I prepared for the worst by stocking up on beers more suited to drinking indoors with hope that some sunny spells would allow some lawn time. However this was not so and light to heavy downpours continued into the night and the entire session was conducted indoors with Helen and my mate Chris. Because of this sad turn of events I therefore decided to re-name the session ‘the great rain session of 2008’ thus postponing the great lawn session till some point next month. This session certainly lived up to its name as the rain was non-stop all day and to match the weather beers consumed included Wynchwood Hobgoblin, Bateman’s Dark Lord and Theakston’s Old Peculiar, all pretty standard supermarket stuff, but all good quality non the less.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Visit to beers of the world live

Last Saturday saw me and my fiancée Helen drive down to Birmingham for beers of the world live at the NEC. Upon arrival we were confronted by numerous small stands in a large hallway all selling cheese, wine, cider and other food and drink products with plenty of free samples available left right and centre. The beers of the world festival was actually a sectioned off area with numerous beer stands from both individual breweries and importers alike and I ensured that we managed to get near the front of the queue for the opening at mid day.
Dissimilar from the regular beer festival, drinkers are supplied with very small taster glasses which hold around 100-150ml of beer, enough for a review and small enough so that you could sample greater numbers of beers than with the traditional half pint glasses. Another difference is the stand up shows and master classes which were free to watch on the stage area so time was carefully balanced between beer sampling from the stands and watching the shows. The first show of the evening was conducted by two bearded northern blokes known as the hairy bikers. These guys took us on a world adventure matching beers from around the world with various food dishes going through one beer-food combination at a time whilst giving members of the audience free samples.

OK, admittedly these guys only knew the very basics of describing beer, and didn’t really tell us much information about processes, raw materials etc except for saying (for example) “its from Argentina, and its very light, but its not overly bland like some other lagers”. You get the picture. But the main point was it was a funny show and the crowd liked it which made the important massages they were trying to across more effective which was basically telling your average ‘Jo’ about the diversity and versatility of beer on the dining table.

After the hairy biker experience we decided to hit some more beer stands and I got some good reviews in such as Purity brewing gold, Grolsh Weizen and Destutes Mirror Pond Pale ale (from Oregon USA). And after awhile we decided to check when the next talk by Roger Protz was on and then it happened. “Is that him?” Said Helen. “It has to be” I replied. It appeared that someone who looked exactly like Roger Protz, famous beer writer, Journalist and beer god (remember that Roger Protz is the editor of the Beer Bible AKA Good Beer Guide which each year guided followers of the beer faith to the best quality pubs and hence cask ale selection in whichever area they are visiting).

Anyway there was Protz sat by the side of the stage with a mysterious clearance of people in his area. Maybe the beer force is so strong with this one that the regular humans are unworthy of being in his presence. “Go and get his autograph” Helen urged, and with much courage and hesitation I managed to make it to the beer writing being himself to introduce myself.

Me and Roger, note here that my eyes are closed in the picture due to being overwhelmed the sheer beer power of the force that Protz possesses.
He seemed a very pleasant chap, quietly spoken and polite. I showed him my beer diary and he signed it for me, I told him I had a good number of his books and we even shook hands.

The signature in my ale diary (volume 4).

My right hand, the actual hand that shook Roger Protz's hand.

Following this experience we decided to pay the £8 to participate and thus get front row seats in Roger and another bloke called Jeff Evan’s beer master class the only master class of the day specifically focussed on the beers of England. As many will know Mr Protz is often a very patriotic beer writer, in fact the bloke himself seems to be a 100% embodiment of CAMRA itself (

Most of the beers assessed were well known and those participating got served a sample of each beer analysed. Taking things one beer at a time Roger and Jeff unravelled the palate of each ale in great detail without being too elaborate. They talked about how Breakspear Triple had under-laying diactyl notes that added to the complexity of the palate, how Wynchwood Hobgobling used Cascade hops in part to give undertoned citrus hop resins adding to the already toffyish caramelised malty palate. We covered the simplicity of Coniston Bluebird bitter with its palate constructed from pale and crystal malt with challenger hops, as well as how the porter style beer by Oakham ales Haws Buckler, used (unusually) Amarillo hops for aroma, and how the layers of pale, crystal, wheat and black malt interplayed in the overall palate. In short this was professional stuff, taking each beer back to its raw ingredients and accurately pulling out flavour nuances that I had often overlooked in my personal reviews.

Alongside taste analysis Roger got onto some good history lecturing about the breweries themselves and the roots of India pale ale (at which point I was thinking ‘yeah I remember that’ but then thinking ‘ah but where did you learn it in the first place? Answer being from Mr Protz’s books, the bloke whose talking about it literally 3 meters in front of me’). All in all the most exiting 20 minutes of the day.

After the long day of sampling and watching Protz we decided to use the bible (good beer guide 2008) to tack down some good pubs an Birmingham and hopefully find food on the way but sadly our adventure never took us to anywhere too exiting, mostly Wetherspoons and wetherspoon-a-like pubs with the odd decent cask pint here and there. All in all great day tho.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Great Lawn Session date confirmed

As mentioned in my previous blog the great lawn session is an annual event of mine that I conduct every summer which involves the consumption and analysis of various world beers on my parents lawn, in the sun. In years past (when I lived with my parents) I could simply decide soradically on any given sunny day that was free to conduct this event. However since I now live with my wife to be and we have no lawn I must choose a suitable date in advance and hope for the best. Last year say the event delayed due to bad weather till early september, but this year Im deciding to strike early and have set the date of sat 21st of june, the longest day of the year (which means more session time).

Landlord pale ale: A traditional attendant of the GLS since 2003, an old favorate of mine that usually enters mid session after the pilsners and wheat beers.

So all eyes to the forcasts and the sky as the date draws in and fingers crossed for clear skys. Also joining me this year will be my old mate Chris, an attendant of the 2007 session who witnessed me drunkardly layer myself with various jumpers and coats in an attemp to fool myself into thinking the sun was out (what I really needed was a large UV lamp). Any how, I shall report on that next week, also stay tuned here at rob's beer quest for my review of Beers of the World from last saterday, pictures yet to be transferred.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Work experience in Allendale Brewery

This week I have been on work experience with the Allendale brewery in Northumberland, a little country 10 barrel plant on the outskirts of Allendale the village. Here I was greeted by the head brewer Tom Hick, who I have known from phone conversations dating back to November that concerned both my beer reviews for the local paper and job hunting. In person, Tom seemed like one of the friendliest head brewers ever and the actual brewing being himself showed me round the brewery and signed his autograph in my beer diary before we got onto some proper work.

Over the three days of work experience I was given some of the greatest hardcore brewery tasks imaginable, including cask filling, manual bottling and o-yes, digging out the spent grains from the mash tun. However the greatest honour of them all was being given the chance to add both bittering and aroma hops to the pending Curlews return brew. All in all a great experience making some lovely beers, most of them I have reviewed ether recently or along time back. In fact I showed Tom my reviews and he was very impressed, so much so that he says he will be using them for his web reviews when he gets a chance, check it out on Overall I have found the Allendale beers noble in character, with an edge of creativity but true to the roots of British brewing.

Also, as many may know from my previous posts on my old blog, the beer style of the month it is now golden ale here at Rob’s beer quest. If anyone has any interesting golden ales they have tried let me know and I can try and dig out my reviews from my records. For my next adventure this weekend I will be attending Beers of the world live down in Birmingham. Stay tuned for more on that here on Rob's beer quest.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Greetings all

Greetings all and welcome to my official blogspot. As some of you may be readers of my old blog at for the heriot watt former brewing society ( I have decided to do any posts from now on for both blogs. As an introduction I would like to firstly say what I do. I am an official beer 'ticker' as they say, a one who searches out as many beers of the world as possible to review them in my very own personal beer diary which I carry around with me on a daily basis. I am also a student of the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh doing an MSc in Brewing and Distilling, which has led me on many adventures concerning brewery visits, beer festivals and generally meeting people in the industry. Anyway here I shall be covering both my adventures in the world of beer as well as dicovered beers. Currently I am doing voluntary work for the Allendale brewery in Northumberland which is pritty exiting stuff. I shall keep all posted.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

What kind of beer drinker are you?

What beer drinker are you? Below is a list of the subclasses of beer drinkers I have picked out from my experience of visiting pubs, bars, house parties and generally blabbering on to people about beer. So after you have decided what kind of beer drinker you are feel free to give us a reply and let me know.

1. The chav: The chav drinks whatever beer or alcoholic beverage he can find to become in a drunkard and disorientated state enabling him to have the courage to start fights for the purpose of showing off to his fellow chavs. Considering chavs will usually drink alcopops and super strength cider and are actually sub-human, they are not strictly a class of beer drinker but are known to be major consumers of the cheapest of supermarket lager multi-packs.

2. The single brander: Common amongst the working class are the single branders. These drinkers are keen consumers of beer, but are only inclined to drink one or a very narrow range of mass market brands. As victims of media interference and mass globalisation, these chaps will most likely live out the rest of there drinking lives knowing nothing of the world of beer and will use it for such traditional methods as getting slowly drunk with other folks whilst watching football.

3. Ale drinker type 1, Flavour picky: One of the most common types of craft beer drinkers are those who are inclined towards specific flavours in beer. This can be the fans of the sweet an rich malty brews, light bitters or that touch of spice. Ones within this category of beer fans are generally open minded.

4. Ale drinker type 2, Session beer preference: These are the ale drinkers that aim for drink-ability above all else. Many of them will prefer golden ales an possibly be inclined towards lager now an then. A common ritual amongst this class is to determine which real ale at the bar is most suited to there palate and then conduct a session on this particular favourite beer.

5. Ale drinker type 3, Bold beer lover: These are the craft beer drinkers that love something to really stand out in a beer. This could be a big on hops or warming rich malts, but since most beers produced in the UK aim for subtlety there’s always going to those hunting for something more assertive or different.

6. Ale drinker type 4, turned to the dark side: Often found in pubs with a cask stout or porter complaining about how real ale of recent is all ‘golden’ this and ‘blond’ that and there’s not enough of the dark stuff going around. These drinkers usually prefer the darker beers, rare as they sometimes are a pint of Guinness is often the only way.

7. The curious drinker: These are drinkers that have not yet discovered the world of craft beer and are more or less discerning about what mass market brands they drink as they are under the illusion that these beers are the best available. I myself used to be within this class, many years ago.

8. The Connoisseur: These are the proper beer geeks, dedicated to searching out and appreciating the beers of the world. Many of these types are very passionate about proper beer and respect it for its true beauty. Many of these are CAMRA members and maybe even publicans or brewers themselves.

9. The extra sensitive: These creatures are offended by all but the very subtlest of beer flavours and tend to stick to the familiar territory of bland mass market lager, shandy, cocktails and alcopops. In some cases the specimen can be simply insulted by the colour of a beer (usually if its darker than your typical bud light they don’t want to go near it).

10. The poser: These are often wine drinkers that think that drinking any beer without a multi million pound advertising campaign behind it will give them a bad image. The drinker views wine and cocktails superior to beer which to them, beer is beer, and any mention of craft brewing is thought of as some weird cult run by old men with pipes and beer guts, but then again some people choose to live in the dark ages.