Sunday, 27 June 2010

O no, not the Germans again!

Everyone knows England vs Germany, world cup knockout stage = tension. For those who remember 1970 then 1990 (the Aurthur suddenly notes a chilling pattern, 1970, 1990 now its 2010... could defeat confirm some kind curse that every 20 years we get knocked out by the Germans?) best not to think like that now. For myself this tension was eased by the distraction of my birthday yesterday, which involved some good presents and a quality meal out with family and friends at The Keelman/Big Lamp brewery accompanied by the lovely beer selection available. As the only brewery restaurant I know in the North East its food, beers and service are pretty good. Here we had some lovely pints of Keelman Brown and Summerhill stout before gannin yem for a special elite select cheeseboard featuring some classic French and Northumberland cheeses accompanied by La Trappe Quadrupel. I love Belgian Quadrupels, and rarely get hold of them. This one happens to reside from Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven of the Netherlands, the only official Trappist brewery situated outside Belgium. I found it quite odd for a Quadrupel to be a mid amber in colour and it drinks quite easily for its 10% abv with peachy toffyish notes on the back of upfront carbonation. Not a massive amount of depth to it for the style but still very enjoyable and a little easy going (it is Dutch).  

I did, for this particular session avoided any German beers, not that I don't like them. Many dislike the Germans for beating us at football but I find it hard to dislike any nation that makes good beer. That's why for this world cup I have been backing any nation that makes great beer (except Germany), England, Netherlands, USA (until yesterday) are my favourites (England being top of that list). But whether we win or lose I'm sure we'll give it a good go.

Another interesting present I got this year was a book about George Best, in tribute to that certain grandmother I have that worries that my obsession with alcoholic beverages could lead me 'down George Best's road'. At least now I can read about old 'George Best's road', and accompany my reading pleasures with my new bottle of 8 year old Dun Leire single malt Irish whiskey. Classic.

 'ah, this should ease some pre match tension'

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Video beer reviews, pointless or educational?.

Most of us have seen them. You know the video of some bloke pouring out a beer, talking for a while about the brewery, swilling it around in the glass before taking a good 120 seconds describing the aroma before taking a sip. Up come the adjectives and moments of silence pondering over what other adjectives to use.
Those who remember when Sausage had an independent blog will remember all the venomous hatred he used to spit at the video beer reviewer. But there are still plenty of them about, and I'm not saying I'm against them but the question is are they really worth it? I mean if you really want to find out a beer you could always read about it on Beer Advocate, Rate Beer or similar sites. But maybe sometimes it might be nice to get a more personal account from a blogger you like of a particular newly released beer.

Take for example my dog Troy, he loves reading Mark Dredge's posts. Here he watches Mark's review of Brew Dog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin. See the intrigue on little Troy's face, proof that video beer reviews can be deeply fascinating.

Obviously a good review. And there is little doubt that at the time Mark had taken his camp bed up to Scotland with the purpose of getting the front of the queue by the Brew Dog bottling line. From this position as soon as the first bottle is capped he can grab it, get a flight back to Kent (or some kind of beer reviewing studio), scurry for the video camera, and post a video beer review online before anyone else can touch the stuff. That's dedication for you.

But this doesn't answer the question. Obviously video beer reviews can be done well, but can also be done badly. I find the likes of Mark and Zak Avery do good video reviews, but it could be just me being biased because they a\re amongst my favourite bloggers. But I have found with the not so good ones, there seems to be a certain amount of time (usually between 20 and 60 seconds) it takes for you to stop watching. The likes of Zak keep things moving at a fast pace, maybe even adding a bit of home cooking in for visual variation, and afterwards you often want to hunt out the beer being reviewed. I don't know about anybody else but I know where myself and Troy's thoughts lie with video beer reviews.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The big night, July 14th, official beer & cheese evening

Like the poster? A little traditional but good enough to serve its purpose.

By god I have been so  cheesed out recently. Every week another cheese, another set of beers. It seems beer and cheese pairing has become not only a weekend activity but through the week I've been drinking and munching as well. My research is almost complete now. The pairings almost set, each one like a track on a live set list ready to rock the world of the audience. I have never done a beer seminar before, but I have talked to people about beer for great lengths of time and done public speaking in my university days. Learning about cheese has also been fun. But there's still that unnerving afterthought of failure. What if no one turns up? What if I have to change the pairings in the last week?

But if glory is had the rewards are strong. To put it simply were thinking of turning this into a monthly event, each month having a different theme. Each month we will focus on ether different beer styles with different foods or different beers from different countries. Without giving too much away that's kind of the idea. If it works.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Brasserie Ellezelloise Hercule Stout with Cave aged Gruyere

Now I have never tried pairing Gruyere with beer before but I thought this 9% Belgian Imperial Stout from the cellar/reserved beer cupboard would be a good place to start. The cheese; nutty, salty, grainy and dry with a kind of muscular sweetness. The beer; full of malt substance with big typical imperial stout roast grain notes.  Rich fruit and chocolate are in abundance. Then you have that touch of Belgian funk from the yeast moving things to a new level. A great pairing picking off good harmonies. Think dry bitter, grainy, earthy, salty and malt sweetness combined into one. If you have you ever seen the film Freddy vs Jason? Well imagine Freddy and Jason on the same team. Dark hardcore imperial stout with a touch of eccentricity meets dry robust cheese. That's what this is all about. Totally brutal.

Alright Jason mate? Fancy some cheese an beer?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Interview with the Wench

Doesn't look like much of a Wench to me

This week I will be featured on the beer blogger interview series by Ashley Routson AKA The Beer Wench. In the beer blogging world this is the equivalent of being on Parkinson. Except with better questions and you don't in have to sit opposite an old bloke in front of a studio audience. I would boast about being a 'chosen one' more but it appears a couple of other UK bloggers have been featured. Apparently this particular bloggers ambition is to become the female equivalent of our lord Michael Jackson beer hunter....

Two words,

That rules.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Summer time

Summer is a great time to drink beer. You can kick back on the lawn with a few bottles (as above) or enjoy a pint of golden ale in your local pub's beer garden. A traditional practice of mine carried on from when I first got into beer is to hoard up a number of session beers for a few months before taking a day off to sit out on the lawn at my parent's house on a sun bed drinking beer. Sometimes I would invite mates round once or twice I even used my mobile phone to ring the house and order my mother to bring me the next beer. 

The great lawn session (GLS) I called it and the picture above is from GLS 2008, the last one where a single hour of sunshine was witnessed the entire day. But things change as you get older, these days I don't have a lawn and just can't be bothered/have other stuff on. The good news is that the new place I'm moving into in a month or so will have a lawn. I plan to hoard a few bottles together to have a few lawn sessions that's for sure but nothing's stopping me cracking open some summer beers now.

The thing about summer beers is, a lot of them are quite subtle.  Anchor Summer beer is no exception. The label description classes it as an American Wheat beer, but it doesn't drink like US Hefeweizen at all. Lots of fluffy wheaty texture but no subtle yeasty orange peel-coriander notes. In fact when I first tried this beer a few years back I wasn't that impressed but this time I kind of fell for it. So did my wife Helen, so I'm glad I had the sense to buy two bottles. The thing with this beer is it has that property that many beer geeks dislike and many non beer geeks admire, it's 'delicate'. Easy drinking and great for kicking back in the summer heat, with enough flavour to keep it interesting. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Beer vs Wine

So what's the obvious thing on most people's minds when they hear 'beer and cheese evening'? Maybe this is some kind of crazy twist on the wine and cheese evening thing? Or maybe it's hosted by Morrissey Fox like characters telling pub jokes and seeing who can burp the loudest? But it isn't like this kind of thing is unheard of, check out events here, and here.

Beer and cheese, both born on the farm from natural grasses, both fermented, both sharing similar flavour ranges. Earthy, spicy, grainy, pungent. Like two similar characters. One liquid, one solid. It just makes sense. Apparently the Belgians have been into beer with cheese for along time now.

But another interesting thing I came across the other da , was this event of beer vs wine on the dinner table. Here Stone brewings Greg Koch and wine boffin Barry Wiss paired various dishes with wine and beer to determine which paired with food best.

Beer vs. Wine 2008 from Redtail Media on Vimeo.

I'm not against wine, in fact I'm quite fond of the stuff. But here's my opinion. With matching beer/wine with food, you have the possibility of a million and one combinations. Maybe the beer/wine guy picks the best/worst combination, it depends. It depends on who picks the bests flavour harmonies (or contrasts). At  least on some level the above competition is just as much about Koch vs Wiss than beer vs cheese.

 Then you have the audience. If the audience is say, myself and a bunch of other beer enthusiasts and bloggers some could say the audience is subjectively biased in the favour of beer over wine. The same could be reversed if the audience are a team of wine writers. I myself have tried pairing wine and food but have more often paired beer and food. There is no doubt the two beverages have different chemistry with food, to me the beer and food chemistry makes more sense, the argument of which goes better is an entirely closed loop and subjective (on the subject, at about my fifth beer you may hear me mentioning that beer basically beats wines ass with food due to its greater diversity and versatility with food but to be PC it's more accurate to say its subjective). So yeah you know which side I'm on.

Finally you have the food itself. Most experts say beer goes with virtually anything but in a competition with wine pairing with Mediterranean cuisine then you might have problems. With Belgian or German cuisine the situation could be reversed. Food elements like sausage, chocolate and dare I say it, cheese can be used in beer's favour.

It seems Greg's little project back in 2007 and 2009 presented proof that the tables of beverage superiority laid down by the decades of media hype and pretentiousness behind wine could indeed be turned. What does it all mean?? Well that would be subjective. What is the moral of the story?? Well my advice would be to drink whatever the hell you like with whatever you like and never be afraid to try new stuff or experiment. Giving guidelines is all good but everyone tastes slightly differently.