Monday, 31 December 2012

New year post. A happy new year from Rob's Beer Quest.

Well, it's been a big year. But 2012 is finally over.

For me the obvious highlight was becoming a dad for sure, yet plenty of other stuff happened. For a start we got IPA in keg, which was cool. Then the whole Panda Frog project kicked off (also very cool). Later there was a beer battle. We didn't win (but with regard to all those who put out formidable entries, arguably no one won) but for the record look out for Killswitch 51 next year. Then we were nominated for GBBF, again no trophies there but hey at least we were nominated.

Closer to home Alnwick had a food festival, it was good. Alnwick had a beer festival, it was better. Then we can't forget that new pub that opened. I met various brewers and tried some great beers. On a whole I'd say the entire North East brewing scene produced a good number of diverse and interesting beers.

This year I also realised the difference between a bar that serves a good range of bottled and kegged beer and a great pub with great beer. Not that I have anything against Brew Dog bars but for me real pubs just offer much more. Some random sporting events were on the TV that had no relevance to beer. Then straight out of the blue came the SIBA awards.

But hey it isn't all about winning, I myself tried to define craft beer and like many others failed miserably. That was before a great blogging legend from the past rose like a pheonix from the flames to use his great knowledge and wisdom to finally put the issue to rest with one of the greatest blog posts of all history. But hey I can't compete with that.

But for me, besides all the ups and downs, trials and trivulations this year was mainly about three things. In order of occurance these were;

Panda Frog rises

The bairn

Panda Frog award

And that about wraps it up.

Happy new year everyone.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The 11th Beer of Christmas

Old Dairy Brewery Snow Top

Another one coming from all the way down south. It seems my old Heriot Watt homie Ed Wray has been focusing his brewing activities on on what he likes best; old school British strong ales. He sure hasn't gone wrong here.

Snow Top comes in at 6% and is hopped with Challenger, Bramling Cross and East Kent Goldings hops although that isn't obvious in this porter-esque/old ale like brew. There's an alcohol warmth instantly, but it's countered by sweetness and not challenging at all. It's all rum and raisins, figs and smooth fruitcake with underpinnings of prunes and milk chocolate. Probably my favourite Old Dairy brew to date, well composed, delicious and nourishing.

Good work Ed.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The 10th Beer of Christmas

Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper

So it's Christmas day. Time to pull out the big guns. The big number ten this year comes from Denmark from the folks at Mikkeller, brewers of the delightful From via To (last years 9th beer of Christmas) and this year I'm reviewing their 10.5% barley wine/Belgian strong ale like thing Santa's Little Helper.

Been a while since I've been near this category of beer so I'm intrigued. The colour is deep, deep, deep crimson, the nose is very perfumed cherry with quite a few upfront volatile esters and fusel alcohols. In short this is one big sappy, juicy hit of warming rum soaked raisins,  coffee, cherry and chocolate. The viscous almost liqour like alcohol hit rips through a syrupy, sugary sweet backbone that seems to come back in the finish.

So at first I wasn't sure on this one, but it does grow on you. Rich enough to take on any christmas pudding Santa's Little Helper is a fine example of a high octane seasonal brew. From Rob's Beer Quest, a merry Christmas to one and all.   

Monday, 24 December 2012

The 9th Beer of Christmas

Batemans Rosey Nosey

So, finally made it to Christmas eve. And it's time for an old faithful. Year after year Rosey Nosey adorns the supermarket shelves as one of the better readily available seasonals. Same old bready, boozy malt heavy winter warmer. At 4.7% it gives you dark fruit and caramelised malt, you could almost call it a textbook British winter seasonal. I get it as a Christmas present most years. Not a bad beer at all.  

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The 8th Beer of Christmas

York Stocking Filler

Here's a nice 4.8% chocolatey, toasty, nutty brown ale-like seasonal for you  Lots of dark fruit and subtle spice in the finish. Always regarded York brewery highly for well-crafted session beers and this one goes down rather easily. Nice beer indeed..

Monday, 17 December 2012

The 7th Beer of Christmas

Thornbridge Alliance Strong Ale Reserve 2007

This ones from the reserved cupboard. As far as I know Alliance was brewed once as a collaboration between Thornbridge and Brooklyn brewery's Garrett Oliver. A big 11% beast of a strong ale/barley wine like thing. This version is unoaked, and considerably different to how I remembered it.

For a start the carbonation is way more exagerated. Fruity fleshy almonds and a central sherry, saccarin like sweetness is countered by spritzy carbonation. Warming restrained boozy alcohols and lingering caramel in the finish. No longer your straight forward barley wine with a slight almost Belgian-esque sort of feel.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Panda Frog Panda Clause the 6th Beer of Christmas

Mordue Brewery Panda Frog Panda Claus

Meet Panda Claus, the fourth instalment of the Panda Frog saga. Panda Claus fun, cuddly and sweet-natured. Amber hued and loaded with juicy almond, orange, cinnamon, vanilla and clove.

Interestingly Panda Claus had another life a long time back. The winter of 2010 was mighty cold for home brewing within the confines of Daleside Brewery, Harrogate. It got brewed twice. At the time I had no idea that I would ever upscale this to a ten barrel brew at Mordue Brewery. The distinct orange/deep gold like colour of the runoffs and aromas of oats and sweet cinnamon brought instant nostalgia.

The current version isn't an exact replica of the original (different water, yeast and brew kit) I would probably argue it's better. But like the other Panda Frog beers Panda Claus is an endangered species, this time only available on cask so hunt it out.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Rob's Beer Quest Celebrates Blog Post 300!

Well I finally made it to post 300. You could say for over four and a half years it's not a great number of posts. But hey I made the score and I'm still blogging, call me the Geoff Boycott of beer blogging. But I can tell you it's been quite a journey.

A lot has changed since the early days of beer blogging. Beer blogger numbers seemed to have multiplied several fold, and plenty of them have thrown in the towel. Subject matters have changed and the hype and fanfare the beer-blogging world used to have about it seems to have faded off a tad. Beer blogging it seems almost had its period of adolescence, a period of thriving. Back when it was all about the next new Brew Dog release, the next new Thornbridge brew. Collaborative brews. Beer and food FABPOW! Why CAMRA have got it all wrong, why the government has got it all wrong, why these Brew Dog gimmicks are getting so tiring. Why beer should be featured on more TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and hey it's Christmas what beer is the ultimate pairing for Christmas dinner? What are we brewing this week? Pete Brown knows the score, he reads between the lines (Wikio ranked number 1 undefeated champ and overall beer blogging messiah) BACK DOWN GOVERNMENT SCUM! Cask vs Keg, Wine vs Beer and that old time Punch and Judy like pantomime between Woolpacker Dave and the legend that is Cooking Lager.

Since then things seemed to calmed down. The UK seemed to have been swamped with such an array of new brewing ventures and new beers that it's hard to keep up. For most of the old pre-2009 bloggers it's all 'seen it before' or everything's similar to what's already gone before. What would once be a big boundary-breaking, innovative brew to capture the imagination of the beer blogging community now gets a fraction of the limelight a 'well that's interesting' and then we move on. But at the end of the day it was always about improving consumer choice. Recently I've seen a few veterans turning back to appreciate non-contemporary orthodox beers.

But aside from blogging things have changed massively since way back then in 2008. Back then I was a Heriot-Watt post grad with a notebook reviewing beers and taking head brewers autographs. Now I am the head brewer, and for a local brewery I have always been fond of with my own personalised side project in Panda Frog and a contingency plan in young future assistant brewer baby Susie (the brewing force is strong). The notepad and the autographs are no more (the ultimate turning point was getting my own autograph back in post 200) and I've grown to understand more and more that a head brewer does way more than just turn up, brew beer and go home. Over time I find myself thinking more and more like my old mentor Craig from Daleside (although when things go wrong there isn't stream of hot steam coming out of a bald patch at the back of me head).

My job is cool. Double brew day, 4:30am. Rain, ice, snow. The almost therapeutic influence of the brewing process. The nice warming effect of shovelling out hot spent grain from the mash tun. The office staff are great fun whilst the two brothers Matt and Gary make all the decisions. Although if both decisions are contradicting the lights go down, we go to deadlock and turn to the public vote.

Wash some casks, count some stock, fill some casks, empty another fermenter and oh look a film crew have randomly turned up. I once remember poking my head out from the mill area to find Matt introducing a crowd of 30-40 college students to me. All forty odd pairs of eyes staring up at me expectantly I was tempted to come out with "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!". It's all great fun and at the end of the day it's all about the beer.

Anyway, enough of that, back to the twelve (slightly more budget than previous years) beers of Christmas.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The 5th Beer Of Christmas

Wold Top 5 Wold Rings

A fitting name for the post I thought. And a good beer indeed.

Sweetish caramel, apple and lemon on the nose. Juicy malt on the palate overlapped by spicy resiny Northdown and Cascade hops. This beer has a bit of an edge to it and overall speaks pure smooth pale ale with resiny spice in the finish. A delicious, highly drinkable offering.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Glen Garioch Founders Reserve

The problem I've found with exploring whisky, wine or brandy is the price and availability. Whereas good beer these days is pretty easy to find and cheap by comparison. Because of this my exploration of whisky has been quite drawn out and at times expensive. 

Glen Garioch Founders Reserve is quite a sweet-natured yet warming speyside malt. You get aromas of sweet cinnamon spice, pepper and Elastoplast. Mouth filling sweet malt and spice open things up. Alcohol heat from the 48% abv lingers in the finish with nutmeg, apple and cereal notes. Founders reserve sure is a fine drop in its own way. There's a slight heaviness to it. Loads of smoothness, warmth and spice, to me at almost tastes like Christmas. I also found that it goes great with rum soaked Christmas cake.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The 4th Beer of Christmas

Harviestoun Mr Sno'balls

Mr Sno'balls is a 4.5% copper hued best bitter brewed with pale and crystal malts, roast barley, Challenger and Styrian goldings hops. A pretty straight forward affair here. Opens with some subtle leafy citrus hops and plum notes. Finish is dominated by bready biscuity crystal malts. More of a mellow best bitter than your typical seasonal. None the less a well composed, tasty beer from a good brewery.