Friday, 30 September 2011

Norfolk Red Ale

Flanders Red is a beer style you don't come across too often. So when I spotted this example brewed in Norfolk I was instantly intrigued. Ole Slewfoot Red Wing Flemish style red ale is a 5.1% ruby red interpretation of a classic spontainiously fermented Belgian beer style that comes in a paper wrapped champagne corked bottle. Spontaneous fermentation means that no yeast is used to pitch the wort, all the fermentation work comes from wild yeast that drift in from the air and micro-organisms hidden within the oak barrels used for fermentation. Flanders Red is usually made from a blend of old and new products, with this one I'm not sure.

On the nose it smells like being back in Brussels. Tart cherry and raw earthy, funky yeast, it sure smells Belgian. The palate sure opens well, loads of barnyard yeasty spice, caramel and sweet cherry with a subtle acidic sourness throughout and a medium slightly oily texture. I'm giving it the thumbs up, good complexity yet quite subtle. What I found it lacked, compared to the Belgian original versions of the style was that hardcore sourness in the finish that really adds a kick. Perhaps my bottle could have developed it better with age but to me it seemed a bit like listening to Dragonforce without the guitar solos, it was just that one element away from being truly awesome (but still sour enough to make the wife pull a funny face). Despite this, still worth a try.  

Monday, 26 September 2011

Community spirit

As the folk of Alnwick are aware, last weekend was the annual Alnwick Food Festival and Alnwick Beer Festival all taking place in the centre of our market town. Many of my favourite stands were out in force, cheeses, meats, ice cream, spiced chutneys and relishes, it was all there, and being a volunteer this year it was all about the community spirit, mucking in for the event and celebrating local produce.
Local cheesemaker Margeret-Ann Maxwell ran the Doddingtons cheese stall

Allendale Brewery completed the food festival with a range of bottled beers

So with a good turnout and the sun shining all was set for a splendid and entertaining weekend. The same faces, the same costumes, the same good cheer and the same end of festival freebies, in this town the food festival surely signifies the end of September and rounds off the summer. It was great being a volunteer, and this year we not only got illuminous green tops to show how important we were but our own walkie talkies. So with organisation and staff co-ordination stepped up it really made me feel safer knowing that if any trouble did occur I could easily radio in an air strike at any time.

"Alpha one this is Gray Wolf, we have a situation here at stall five involving a dog and some upturned bins, requesting an Apache strike, over"
You can probably guess why mine was confiscated.

Cookery demonstrations were frequent in the Northumberland Hall and this year celebrity French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli was the star of the show with his cookery presentations. Additionally this year there were a few cook-offs between (mostly) different chefs from around the region. The most controversial of these was obviously the local derby match between the lovely Miss Northumberland (Laura Hickey) and Miss Sunderland. I'm not sure what was cooked but the good word was out that Laura pure destroyed her ass so good for her. I suppose we can't just keep leaving it to Newcastle United to maintain the natural order of these things.   

Lewis's rendition of Slipknot's 'Duality' was excellent, but it did seem to intimidate passers by and upset a few children

Anyway's on to the important bit.

From out of town visitors to festival workers and John Bull locals, like most people, I ended up at the beer festival... More than once. Even Miss Northumberland stopped by for a few beers. The fifth Alnwick beer festival, for some reason this year was dominated by Scottish beer.

Stewart Brewing, Fyne Ales, Williams Brothers, Cairngorm, Belhaven and more, beers I had not seen on a regular basis since my time at Heriot-Watt University. So in short a lot of big guns from across the border dominated this year's beer festival. Not that I'm against that, the Scottish brewing scene of today is varied and innovative yet some brewers still hold a torch for tradition. Raj IPA for example from Tryst brewery was a brilliant take on an old school British IPA. Inveralmond Trappledouser was straight-forward enough and the Fyne Ales beers were as big and as hoppy as ever. But you wanna guess which beer sold out first, claiming the prize of beer of the festival???

Beer of the festival

Back of the net!

Since Alnwick beer festival has existed, Hadrian and Border brewery's Tyneside Blonde has won beer of the festival. All respect to them, but this year Mordue's newest core brand has breaten them to it. Head brewer Andy Burrows was probably grinding his teeth for a long while when he found out. He maybe even did an 'Eastenders' and shamshed the place up a bit in a distressed rage. Sorry Andy. 

But anyways yes, Alnwick food and beer festival, a splendid day out for all.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Mr Flibble says......


That's right, just like the death of the sinister puppet Mr Flibble in the BBC programme Red Dwarf the madness is indeed over. That's not saying that the last few weeks have been anything like being chased round a spaceship by an insane hologram with his sinister homicidal puppet. But the surge of relief once the several hundred casks of Red Rye Riwaka were taken away was almost similar to that felt by the characters of Lister and co in those penultimate moments of the quarantine episode of Red Dwarf..

But it hasn't all been about the hard work, in fact it's been quite eventful. Just the other week the bad ass Jeff Pickthall took his bad, invincible beer blogging CAMRA bashing ass to visit our crib. Here he got free samples of our Red Rye Riwaka beer and he himself said it was the dogs bollocks. There you have it, straight from the horses mouth. Then just the other day saw a visit from (long time no see) Daleside breweries (often tired at laybys) number one dray man Dave Pritchard, who picked up a cask of Red Rye Riwaka for a beer festival down his neck of the woods.

So now all I need to do is get myself to my nearest Wetherspoons when the Octoberfest beer festival is on to try my creation straight from the hand pull. It shouldn't be too hard now I've got my life back. I can also do stuff like have breakfast with the wife, go to the pub in the evening, and even get stuck in traffic on the way to work. It's all to come.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Recovery time

Well it's been a long week, and next week all the Mordue crew are very excited about the big Red Rye Riwaka order going out. Hundreds of parcels of joy to be delivered all around the UK, it sure is gripping stuff.

Anyway, this weekend (due to lots of hard work) I have had the pleasure of a Saturday off work, and by some wierd coincidence the sun decided come out. So out to one of the many awesome rural pubs of Northumberland it was, and the Joiners Arms in High Newton-by-the-Sea was not a bad choice.

It was also the first time I had been to a pub serving only Daleside and Mordue beers on cask (for those that havn't read the small print, Alnwick IPA is contract brewed in Harrogate). So to start things off I decided to quality control some excellent St Mary's Ale, straight-forward golden British bitter with a subtle kick of lime and spice. It paired brilliantly with some outstanding fish and chips.

A classic British combo, fish and chips with a pint of bitter

I did wonder for a moment if Alnwick IPA could match fish and chips better so I gave it a go. I was also curious of how my ex homies back at Daleside were doing and if their product quality had changed. Funnily enough it tasted just how I remebered it but with fish and chips it seemed distinctly malt balanced. My conclusions; St Mary's Ale rocks with fish and chips but Alnwick IPA went better with the wife's Ploughmans. None the less, it was time to move on.

Back in Alnwick I got to watch the sun steadily go down as I supped on a Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. The thing is, getting a staff bonus for extra hours in beer has its advantages. The main one being that if I had got it in cash the wife could have got hold of it and used it for other things. So all the beers I've previously wanted but couldn't budget for at Coppers I now had access to. One of these gems was the excellent Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizen bock which paired excellently with the wife's seafood concoction of lemon sole and seabass with a creamy scallop, mussel and chorizo sauce.

  The silky smooth texture of the beer simply glides over this dish, harmonising with the sauce whilst subtle clove and spice gently enhancing herbal lime notes in the dish. Honestly the 7.7% abv is hardly noticable and the beer drinks more like an excellent regular Weizen than a Weizen bock. German wheat beers are incredibly versatile food. Fish, seafood, Brockwursts, Thai, Chinese and even desserts they really do rock and I really should give them more attention.

So overall a rather relaxing if somewhat fish themed day. But to finish things off...

It has to be the cheese!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Coming to a Wetherspoons near you this October

Apologies for the lack of posting folks, but recently things have been rather busy at Mordue Brewery. On top of the seemingly endless hours of racking, brewing, washing casks, sorting out brew schedules, rescheduling brew schedules and so forth has come the risks of utility and ingredient shortages and the burden of watching over so many fermentations. Why do they come to me to die? Why do they come to me to die? For the last few sundays now (the only day I'm not working around 12 hours) I have felt unable to do hardly anything at all but sit slightly traumatised for most of the day within a fantasy world of lying on a reclining chair sipping camomile tea in a Japanese garden with no sound but that of the running water features.

Brew 1, first mash, 7:30am: Check ma bad invincible brewing self.
But anyway, one of the best things about Riwaka hops, apart from there broad spicy lime and Thai spice like characteristics is the sound of the name spoken in a North East accent. Here you can really exaggerate on the Ri-WA-KA! It sounds almost like a word of the native dialect but sadly these hops aren't grown on the banks of the River Tyne but hail originally from the Riwaka hop research centre of New Zealand. They are quite up front, and combined with a couple more of my favourite hop varieties, malted rye and various caramel malts the results are intriguing.

For my first Mordue beer, I'm chuffed I've pulled off something quite individual and it seems more composed than my home-brewed version. Like I wanted it bouncing with lime and spice intertwined with dark berry and stone fruit before finishing with dry peppery notes. Not over the top but commercially the craziest beer I've ever produced.

But even though were working our asses off, the best thing is that this stuff's going to be served to the Wetherspoons pubs around the whole nation during the Wetherspoons annual Octoberfest beer festival, which is quite an exciting prospect. I myself am hoping to get myself down to one during the festival for some quality control tastings. As you can see ma man Matt is helping himself already to the pre-conditioned stuff.

The boss man brewing in the crib, Matt Fawson help himself to a Red Rye Riwaka
I sure can't wait for the festival, but for now readers, see you on the other side.