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.