A New Beer Festival (With cheese!)

Just a quick one today to let everyone know of a cheese and beer festival to be held at the Strongroom in Shoreditch next week (5th -9th June). As you're all tired of hearing by now, cheese is another love of mine alongside beer and if I were based in London I'd certainly aim to be there. (I was asked to help out, but didn't have enough time to make it happen!)

 There sounds to be a good range of cheeses available plus a great selection of 65 beers from 22 breweries, (see below for more details) including some that only opened this year! There's a few festival one-off specials too for the tickers amongst you. And for those of you who don't fancy beer, fear not as ciders are available.

There are also tutored cheese and beer pairing sessions, something which is close to my heart. You can book in advance here, which I'd advise doing as they're sure to be popular considering the lineup of experts and beers.

Obviously being in trendy Shoreditch there's plenty of decent food and music too, but the main event is obviously the cheese and beer.

The festival opens from 5pm Wednesday, see here for further details. If you do head along, let me know how it goes and highlights and I'll certainly aim to make it along in 2014!

Strongroom Bar & Kitchen
120 Curtain Road


The Beers!


Barnet (2013)
Pepper Porter
Porter 5%
Pale 4%


Ladbroke Grove (2013)
Bitter 4.3%
American Pale Ale
APA 5%


Leyton (2013)
Sweet Bee Honey’d Wheat
Wheat beer 4.5%
Tip Top Hop

Pale 6.0%


Croydon (2013)
Strong Mild
Mild 4.1%
Golden Ale
Golden 3.8%


Hanwell (2013)
Black Perle
Coffee milk stout 4.5%
Marina Trench
American Pale Ale 5.3%
Hit The Lights
IPA 5.8%


Hackney Wick (2012)
Crooked Stout
Stout 4.6%
Golden Ale dry hopped with Motueka (one-off)
Golden Ale 3.8%


Hackney (2012)
Golden Ale
Golden 4%
Best Bitter
Best Bitter 4.4%
American Pale Ale
Pale 4.5%
New Zealand Pale Ale
Pale 4.5%


Chessington (2012)
IPA 6.6%
Porter 5.8%


Kew (2012)
Gone Pacific
Golden Ale (4.2%)
Kew Green
Wheat Beer 4.8%
Humulus Lupulus
Pale Ale 3.8%


(Clapton 2011)
Foundation (dry-hopped with Pacific Jade– exclusive to festival)
Amber/ Best Bitter 4.2%
Oatmeal Stout 5.8%
Golden Ale 4.8%
Orchid (new!)
Vanilla Dark Mild 3.6%


Wandsworth (2011)
Double Diamond Geezer
Red Ale 5.5%
Lambeth Walk
Porter 5.1%


(Highgate 2011)
Pale 3.9%
Blood orange IPA
Ginger Ale
Ginger Ale


London Fields (2011)
Weiss Monkeys
Wheat beer/IPA 5.5%
Shoreditch Triangle
APA 6%
Black Path Porter
Porter 4.2%
Hackney Hopster
Pale ale 4.2%


Notting Hill (2011)
Notting Hill Ruby Rye
Ruby Ale 5.2%
Notting Hill Bitter
English Bitter 3.8%
Notting Hill Amber
Amber Ale 4.7%


Herne Hill (2010)
IPA 4.2%
XX Mild 4.0%
G ‘n’ T
Golden Ale (made with botanicals from City of London distillery) 4.3%
Full-bodied Golden Ale made for cheese – exclusive to the festival 4.4%


Windsor (2010)
Park Life
Bitter 3.2%
Classic IPA 5.5%
Black IPA 5%
Best Bitter 4.2%


Tottenham (2010)
Light Ale 3.0%
Amber Ale 4.5%
Big Chief
IPA 5.5%
Pale Ale
Pale Ale 3.8%
Urban Dusk
Dark Ale 4.6%


Ilford (2008)
London Stone
Amber Ale 4.5%
London Particular
Ruby Beer 4%


Battersea (2008)
Best Bitter 3.8%
Powerhouse Porter
Porter 4.9%


Borough (2005)
Cranberry Common
Steam Beer 4.3%
Imperial Jack (collaboration with 21st Amendment Brewery, San Fran)
Imperial Bitter 7.2%


Twickenham (2004)
Pale Beauty
Wheat 4.7%
Pale Ale 4.4%
Naked Ladies
Golden Ale 4.4%


Chiswick (1845)
Golden Pride
Strong Golden Ale 8.5%
London Porter
Porter 5.4%
Summer Ale
Blonde 3.9%
Wild River
APA 4.5%
Extra Special Bitter 5.5%


Jura turns 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jura distillery,  this week being the Fèis Ile whisky celebrations. Today sees the distillery open day, with plenty of tutored tasting sessions, live music and other goodies. I managed to get in on the action from here in Northern Ireland by signing up to a tweet tasting with the Whisky Wire(thanks for the tip off Pete (drinks)!)
There have been distilleries on Jura for almost 200 years, but the current incarnation of Jura distillery dates back to 1963 when architect William Delme-Evans designed the "unusually large" stills that give the whisky its light character.

I'm fairly familiar with Jura, having visited them on my Islay tour last year. Five whiskys this time

 Turas Mara is a new addition to their core range but available only at certain travel retail outfits
. Fittingly the translation is "long journey" and it has been aged in bourbon casks from the USA alongside others from Spain, France and Portugal (I'd assume sherry, brandy and port, but could be wrong). As confirmed by Steve its Spanish sherry butts, French oak barriques & Portuguese port pipes. It's also named for a poem written by former Duirach* Jessie Scott, with her own departure point marked by a plaque on the beach.
At 42% its pretty close to the usual dilution mark of 40% and an attractive mid-golden-blonde colour. On the nose its spicy and boozy with caramel sweetness and some fruity port (?) notes. Its quite sweet with blackcurrant, toffee and a long rich finish.
Adding in some water brought out orange peel plus an earthy spicy quality, cardamom perhaps bringing to mind an imperial wit beer on the nose. The whisky warmth increases in taste and some woody, slightly oxidised cardboard notes appear, that I'm not all that keen on.

With the remainder of the sample I mixed a micro-rob roy, 10ml of vermouth rosso and a generous dash of angostura bitters, stirred over ice. That's a nice way to have it.
Well worth a look in but drink it undiluted!

From jurainfo.com
Another new addition to the range is the 30 year old, bottled at 44% ABV. This spent the latter three years of its ageing process in Gonzalez Byass Olorosso Butts. Named Camas an Staca for the largest of 8 standing stones on the island, this whisky is just a fraction of the age of the stones (estimated at 3000years).
An attractive burnished gold this fella. Nose redolent of a walk in a damp woodland, with some butterscotch notes, quite hot and boozy up front but a lovely woody spiciness and some vanillins and weirdly baked ham after that initial alcohol has subsided.
A splash of water really rounds out the mouthfeel and releases a cloud of peaches and cream to the flavour. The reminds on a sweet shop/ nail bar with sticky pear drops and a hint of nail varnish alongside vanilla and juicy stewed fruits. Its a fantastic drop of whisky, but one I'm unlikely to try again due to its £350 price tag!

From Edinburghwhiskyblog.com
The 1977 vintage is named Juar, Gaelic for Yew Tree symbolising immortality and rebirth. The whisky comes from three bourbon barrels finished for a year in a ruby port pipe. 498 bottles @ 46%ABV were released for this one. It pours fairly pale gold with black pepper and burnt paper on the nose on swirling there's some almond and floral notes. A really interesting burst of fruit in the mouth at first, sweet raspberries and peaches, followed by plenty of alcohol warmth, finishing with some golden syrup and meaty umami notes.
Adding water reduces the fruit and brings out the porridgey nose of a whisky mash accompanied by Christmas cake spices. To taste its a different beast, the fieriness has been tamed revealing a hidden sweet core, well rounded and enjoyable.

From abbeywhisky.com
Delme-Evans was the famed architect that resurrected the distillery in 1963, and a cask strength whisky was released in his honour. A 1988 distillation cask number 1796 was re-racked into olorosso sherry before being released as 586 bottles. It sold out quickly, but a few bottles were retained for tasting and that's what we're privileged to try here.
Another mid-gold pour here with a rich savoury umami nose balanced by undercurrents of geraniums. Its sweet and warming with washed rind cheese, sherry flavours, oak and furniture polish. Adding water to it brings cherry stones, lots of alcohol, spent grains, and sawdust to the nose. Rich parmesan, sea salt and iodine flavours. Still fairly strong to taste and the sherry is right up making itself known. Certainly a sipper but you're rewarded by a long sweet heather honey finish with some green apple notes.

Final whisky to write about is the oldest, soon to be the new 40 year old bottling but currently 39 3/4 years old. As its not being released until 2014, there are no bottle pictures yet! Its a hefty 51.4% matured in sherry and finished in amoroso sherry for a year.
This is a gorgeous dark ruby gold with rummy molasses, strong solvent, weet-a-bix and a big boozy punch here. Very high alcohol with long legs, evaporates off the tongue, strong alcohol, marmite umami, fairly mouth puckering astringency, tannins and plenty of sherry character, a bit of a challenge. No hiding that sherry influence at all here.
With water its still fairly alcoholic but theres smokey campfire, some peaty phenols and tangerine pith. The flavour is completely subdued, but allows it to evolve instead of being overwhelmed by alcohol. Its a seaside barbecue seaspray and smoke. Takes some getting used to but ultimately rewarding.

A completely varied bunch showing how age and different finishes can really change the character of  whisky. For me the Juar was the most enjoyable, though the Delme Evans certainly challenged my perceptions of whisky!
Thanks a lot to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire for organising this tasting, its been great fun and tasty too of course. Thanks to Jura @Jura_Whisky for the samples, I hope to visit you guys again soon as my Duirach's own is running low!

*Duirach: a resident of Jura. You can sign up to become an honourary Duirach on Jura distillery website, entitling you to a free dram and reduced ferry fare.


Another loch, another brewer

It seems its becoming fashionable to name breweries after loch's these days. Fyne Ales have been around the longest (since 2001) then a small outfit called Loch Leven opened in 2009.  Loch Ness set up brewing in 2011 and 2012 saw Loch Lomond brewing based in...yes that's right Loch Lomond well, in nearby Alexandria. I got hold of the six bottled beers in their core range, reviews after the obligatory group shot...

I enjoy the striking label design on the bottles, mono colour for easy identification with imagery from central Scotland, they'd certainly make a good tourist gift. The beers are all well conditioned (not bottle conditioned) too, with no clarity or taste issues as you sometimes see in new start-ups.

Bonnie N'Bitter is 3.6%. Dark golden with white head. Herbal tobacco on the nose. Dry mouth feel, vegetal, competent but dull. I couldn't finish it as its not what I want in a beer.
Bonnie n' Blonde @ 4% Pours golden blonde. dry cereal malt nose, dry bitterness and some fruity hops. A non thinking beer that would make an okay foil for food like fish and chips.

Silkie Stout, 5%, is everything I look for in a stout porter, dry fruity blackcurrant and earthy licorice on the nose of a handsome brown black pint with foamy tan head. Full bodied with spit on carbonation, more blackcurrant and licorice, some chocolate malt, touch of burnt toast and long dry fruity finish. This is how I wish my homebrew had turned out.

The West Highland Way at 3.7% has crisp malt on the nose. Medium carbonation and body, dry, pleasing citrus bite and honeyed shortcake malt. Uncomplex but a step up for the lager drinkers.

Ale of Leven is an attractive copper blonde with thin white head at 4.5%. Spicy earthy hops aroma, medium body, peppery bitterness tempered by toffee malt. Fairly enjoyable and certainly makes a good accompaniment for white rinded cheese (like Camembert) and hovis digestives.

Kessog, another 5%-er is dark ruby copper with fluffy beige head and bonfire toffee oatcake malty nose. I'm guessing its an interpretation of a classic 80/- or suchlike. Full bodied with light carbonation, fairly sweet with toffee, fruity coffee and fudge cake. Perhaps a little underattenuated but some dry toast in the finish to keep things moving. As it warms deeper fruit and milk chocolate flavours appear; so well worth taking this pint slowly and you'll be rewarded.

Overall a competent if mainstream selection of beers, with more interest in the dark side of things. Loch Lomond also produces a whisky beer, which I'll hopefully get to taste at some point in the future.I bought these from the fantastic Alesela, go check out their webstore for a selection of Scottish beers.

Loch Lomond


A taste of the Ridings

I've always felt an affinity for Yorkshire, it feels similar in part to my home county of Somerset but with friendlier, more down to Earth people. After being welcomed with open arms to Leeds for the beer bloggers conference last year and numerous trips to York, I find myself wishing I were living there. One of the Leodesians playing a significant role in the organisation was Leigh Linley (of The Good Stuff) who ably led a group of maybe 40 thirsty beer bloggers around town on the Thursday evening; so when I heard he was writing a book on Yorkshire beer I knew it would be a great read.

The book!
After receiving Great Yorkshire Beer I can say I certainly wasn't disappointed. It perfectly catches Leigh's personality that's shown so well on his blog by providing a whirlwind tour around some of the choicier movers and shakers in the Yorkshire brewing scene, interspersed with beer reviews, food recipes and other choice tidbits. I'll definitely have to try the beer battered mussels which sound like a perfect beer snack.

Its great to have a "book-shaped" book after most of my last book purchases have been abnormal sizes and shapes...they're OK for coffee table usage but not practical to take in hand luggage! I like the pump clip design for the front cover and wonder when Leigh is going to turn his hand to brewing ;).

For me its interesting to hear some more of the back story for breweries I know and love, plenty of familiar faces of people I've shared pints with in the past but also the chance to put a face to a name for some of the other breweries I love. Alongside these better known brewers are people that not even I have heard of, which I'll try to rectify ASAP! This book is very much about the stories behind the beers and breweries with the tasting notes as an aside.

Leeds Brewery's Hellfire
There are also plenty of fantastic pictures throughout, and the font is a sensible size for all of you whose eyes have become weary over the years.I think Leigh's doen a great job at picking a variety of breweries to showcase the region and I'm on the look out for the beers as we speak - though if you're looking for an exhaustive tick list, look elsewhere.

There are a few layout bits I would have done differently, not least having the brewer contact details at the start of their sections as it took me a while to find them! Also, I was surprised to not find twitter names alongside the more traditional addresses, given what Leigh said about the breweries' use of social media. Not even his own account or blog link is given! Would have been good to include at least the postcodes of the pubs mentioned as well.  I think all of these data plus some handy Google maps could be included on the Great Yorkshire Beer page of Leigh's blog which would add some great functionality and allow for periodic updates in the same vein of Des De Moor's London pub guide. A few of the beer pictures/ pumpclips don't match up with the tasting notes opposite, which may cause confusion particularly if you're reading after sampling a few Great Yorkshire Brews...
Would also have been nice to have a beer index and bibliography/ further reading section, though that's probably the inner list geek in me speaking!

Beer taps at Magic Rock, Huddersfield
Overall a fantastic book and I'd love to see more regional efforts cataloguing the rise and rise of local brewing, that's a challenge to you, dear reader to get out and chronicle your own counties! You can pick up the book for the reasonable price of £10 post paid on the publisher's website or if you're within travelling distance the fantastic York Tap is hosting a launch party next Thursday 30th (details here).


IPA is dead Part 3

In what is now becoming an annual tradition, Brewdog have recently released a batch of single-hopped IPAs. I bought a set of four bottles but also managed to snag a couple of one-offs in Brewdog Bristol, which I'll comment about in here too. This little lot took my Brewdog sample rate to a round 100, still 75 yet to try!
2012 reviews plus some mixed drinks last year.

First up: the four pack. Dana, a Slovenian Styriandescendent, Golding a UK hop that needs no introduction, Waimea an antipodean tropical workhorse and El Dorado a new proprietary US variety.

Dana was nothing to write home about. Nettles, melted plastic and cheap perfume on the nose not a particularly auspicious start. Medium carbonation, cloying sweetness, higher alcohols, herbal. Just not well balanced. Astringent notes but mostly sweet bready malt.

Golding (PDF)behaves as it should  peppery hops and citrus on the nose, balanced by a sweet caramel from the malt. It just doesn't have the power of the US varieties. Full bodied with a herbal hop bitterness, malt sweetness, slightly cheesy hop and dry finish. A solid UK style IPA in the realm of Marston's Old Empire. 

Waimea (vy-me-ah) (PDF) was the star of the 4-pack for me not so much with the saponic citrus hops nose redolent of fairly liquid but the lightly acidic sweet citrus juices, lime was very refreshing, overcoming the heavy malt sweetness that plagues some in the range. The result is a deceptively easy drinking IPA that could pass as a session beer if the ABV wasn't 6.7. See here for an Allgates brewed session beer using Waimea.

El Dorado is a really interesting hop. In keg aromas of kaffir lime and green tea abound. Its fairly herbal to taste, with tea tannins and some licorice notes, creating a very dry finish. In bottle its more of the same really, though some more traditional passion fruit an dpine on the nose, the tannins, kaffir lime and licorice are all there in abundance.

Simcoe single hop was snagged in bottle form on a trip to Brewdog in  Bristol last November. This American hop needs no introduction from me, Even at six months old it was one of the better offerings, pouring dark amber with white head collapsing to a lacing. Pithy orange on the nose. Orange peel and juice, bitter, medium bodied, medium carbonation and a sticky finish.

I was able to try Amarillo on keg in Brewdog Bristol. Hazy amber with off white lacing. Sticky pithy Seville orange, caramel and orange juice, medium bodied, fairly pithy dry finish. My favourite of all single-hop efforts to date, possibly helped by the freshness and perfect carbonation in the keg.

Not a bad showing this year then, I wonder which four we'll be treated to in 2014. This year's 4-pack is still available for £9.50 on Brewdog online and at other usual suspect outlets.


Love & Death Inc: The beers

Its taken a little longer than planned to get this post written up, but etter late than never!
As previously mentioned, Belfast cocktail destination Love & Death Inc have recently launched a new  beer range, which I gather has been brewed at ??? I've had no replies to my attempt at contact, but I was told Lurgan when I picked up the beers (see below for more details). They are priced at £4/ bottle but I was given a couple of bottles for review purposes.

 photo 2013-04-22183828.jpgThe first beer labelled Gold I (Dry hopped) (4.7%) pours clear pale gold with slight white fluffy head. Resinous pine and pithy lemon on the nose. Fairly high carbonation, with a big lupulin hit but little hop flavour, there's some grassy/cereal malt there instead. Bitter and dry finish. An enjoyable beer but needs more late hops. Great level of dry hopping though, and impressive for a first iteration, I could see this being well received by the lager crowd looking for something different.

 photo 2013-04-22194926.jpg
IPA 3 (5.7%) on the other hand pours a hazy amber with a creamy dense head. Tangerine and Weet-a-bix on the nose is a promising start but none of those aromas translate into flavour - possibly they're obscured by the high carbonation. Instead we get a dry, rasping herbal bitterness and plenty of vegetal hops. Very much a traditional English style IPA, not sure if that's what the bar was going for. Again, missing the flavour addition. Pleasant enough, but for me just wrong choice of hops.

Its great to see another brewer on the Northern Ireland scene, there's plenty of space for more! A quick back of the envelope calculation suggests 18 breweries per million people in England; so Ireland's 1.8 million people could support a few more, especially brew pubs (more on that in a future post perhaps)! Of course antiquated licensing laws and the purchasing power of that well known South of the border conglomerate don't help.

I think the first trial batches have already flown out, but if you happen to be passing through, make sure to ask as I expect future releases will soon be forthcoming. Let me know your thoughts if you've already tried them!


The original whisky barrel aged beer

A new limited edition Ola Dubh has just been released from Harviestoun, aged in a 1991 Highland Park whisky cask. 20,000 bottles are available in various places around the country and also soon from the Harviestoun websiteThe plan is to release a single age-statement batch of Ola Dubh every year from now on, with the "core range" of 12, 16 and 18 to continue.

The 10.5% imperial porter is a full 2.5% stronger than its previous (not necessarily older!) siblings with a sweeter flavour due to the previous use of the barrels for sherry.  
"delicious smoky-sherry notes on the palate, the flavours deriving at least as much from the whisky-infused-wood as the spirit itself."  
The release comes 5 years after he initial launch of the Ola Dubh range, the first beer in the UK to be aged in whisky barrels from a named supplier and traceable to the batch. The original 40 and 30 y/o releases are currently the best in Scotland on rate beer and bested only by Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve in the whole of the UK.

I wrote about some of the previous releases for the inaugural international stout day in 2011 and if I find a bottle of this one I'll certainly get my thoughts up on here! 22 years old will put it between the 16 and 30 year old varieties; so I wonder how will that reflect in the taste. Let me know if you get to try this before I do! 

Fun Facts: 1991 was also the year the first website was launched, Terry Pratchett released his 11th Discworld novel Reaper man and Freddie Mercury died of AIDs. I turned 5 years old (unconnected to previous facts!) 

This release coincides with the 30th anniversary year of the inception of the brewery.  In that time its been through a number of changes, but the current head brewer Stuart Cail has been with them for the last 18 years. 
That's who those of us attending EBBC will be lucky enough to hear give a talk on whisky cask ageing, which along with the keynote speech by Garret Oliver will be one of my main highlights of the weekends. There may also be a sweetener in the deal, but you'll have to come along to find out what it is! 
Its not too late to sign up to EBBC (11th-13th July 2013); so head here and do so now. Its only £95 for the weekend, which may seem a lot, but given the average cost of a pint is somewhere north of £3 these days is only about 11pints worth, which you'll more than manage to recuperate over the weekend! On the same weekend is the second Edinburgh Independents Beer Fest and Annual CAMRA Scottish Real Ale Fest; so you'll be spoilt for choice. Hope tosee some of you there.

Edit: there's even more on that week than I'd realised, check out Rich's Blog, the Beercast for more details.


Beer Blogger's Conference


The Improved Barley Mow

From @Barleymowbris Twitter feed
On my previous visit to Bristol I managed a swift pint in Bristol Beer Factory pub the Barley Mow. It turned out to be my pint of the year, scoring a perfect 5 on ratebeer. However I was lucky to have a got a pint as it was at closing time and the pub was empty

Fast Forward a few months and on a Friday evening and the pub is rammed. Its recent refurbishment has given it more than just a lick of paint but 10 keg and 8cask lines too as well as a tasty food menu.

There's plenty of seating for diners and drinkers alike, with friendly staff and plenty of beers to choose from.

This time around I had a half of Bristol Beer Factory's Acer but the sampling was all about the guest beers. Rich and sweet Summer Wine Mokko Milk Stout went down a treat and made a great latte Stout when mixed with Roosters' coffee creation Londinium. This went well with the sharer platter as a starter (curry scotch egg!)

Magic Rock Dancing Bear was a fantastic pils style beer, but with an antipodean feel due to the tropical flavours that appeared (despite using noble hop varieties Strisselspalt, Herrsbrucker and Hallertau). A lovely beer that Daisy enjoyed too.
From @Barleymowbris Twitter feed

I picked up a number of interesting bottles, (some of which are now safely cached in my dads flat). What caught my eye were the barrel aged variants of Southville Hop and West Coast Red. This is barrel ageing done well, with nothing too aggressive transferred, though I can't help but feeling some of the vibrancy from each of the beers was lost in the process.

I managed to have a chat to manager Emily too, though I didn't realise it at the time!

I couldn't pass up the chance to have Buxton Imperial Black Rocks on keg either, which was even better than the previous batches I've had in bottle... Another 5/5

The Barley Mow comes highly recommended and is a welcome (re-) addition to the already thriving Bristol pubs scene. It makes an ideal starting/ finishing point for a Bristol pub crawl within 5 minutes stroll of Temple Meads' grade I listed splendour.

39 Barton Road
St Philips
Bristol, BS2 0LF


Noster Not for me

 photo P1010074.jpgAn interesting bunch this. My eye was caught by the sleek, shapely bottles on the Drinkstore page and before I knew it I was cracking them open one Saturday evening with Reuben (Tale of Ale).

VG Noster is a Spanish brewery, who seem to be fairly new, (if the lack of ratebeer reviews is anything to go by...). These beers are all at session strength, but in a classy 750ml bottle which suggests to me they're supposed to be challenging wines' dominance in the Spanish market, whilst not being too challenging for those used to likes of San Miguel and Estrella Damm. As all good breweries know, it is the brewery name that needs to be emphasised, beer names are not as important when first launching (as long as its nothing stupid like this lot).

 photo P1010075.jpgCopper is  pale copper in colour (say what you see?) with a hazy, off-white head, metallic nose with redcurrant, very high carbonation, sweet redcurrant flavours and a short finish at first but as it warms lasting blackcurrant appears. A rose wine substitute perhaps?

Golden Ale Hazy golden with large bubbly white head, fairly metallic nose and some pineapple yeast esters in behind. Slightly tinny flavour with sweet malt and yeast esters, very high carbonation, v easy drinking.(No picture as I drank it too quickly...)

 photo P1010076.jpgQuercus Pale pours a clear ruby-amber with a foamy, fluffy creamy coloured head. Earthy sage and parsley notes on the nose. Again with the high carbonation of its siblings, there's herbal apricot and caramel notes plus a fairly heavy body and long dry finish. Like a vermouth or dry sherry. This is the beer I found most interesting, but 1/3 bottle is sufficient, then the herbal flavours become too much, without the food to help counteract it. Translating the Spanish from the website, this beer is suggested for oily fish and dark meats, and I can certainly see it working on these occasions. Couldn't work our why its named after the latin for oak though...

So whilst I'm probably not their target market, I think the beers are decent enough, though wouldn't be my first choice when pairing food. I hope they find their place in the market and will certainly look out for future offerings.


Buxton Small Batch

 photo P3130021.jpgI've not been shy to proclaim my love of Buxton beers, from the aggressively hoppy yet oh so tropically fruit moreish Axe Edge to the loving caress of chocolate enrobed orange of Imperial Black Rocks and all beers in between I've been pretty impressed by their range. So when I heard about their special reserve releases, I did my best to get hold of some of them, resorting to jiffy bag posting from Beer Ritz (Thanks Zak!).

There have been five in all, though the Berlinner weisse has only just been relased; so hope to pick that up somewhen soon. And if anyone happens to be sitting on a stash of Tsar Bomba...

 photo P3160023.jpgSo in order of release we start with number one, barrel aged Tsar. Original Tsar is a brash brute of an imperial stout, full in body with plenty of coffee and chocolate.

Half a year in the barrel certainly tones it down a bit, but at the same time becomes more complex. Vanilla, caramel and cola on the nose with dusty molasses in behind. Full bodied, coffee, caramel, dry hop bitterness, tobacco, lemon and dry malt towards the end. After allowing to warm up a bit notes of honey sweetness and a long dry, slightly wild yeast finish appear. This is barrel ageing done absolutely right.

 photo P3130022.jpgNext up is Smokey and the Band Aid an "Imperial Smoked Rye Porter". Sometimes rye beers can be unpleasantly meaty, and this started off that way with an Intriguing aroma of roast lamb and smoked ham with slightly sweaty washed rind cheese. Its a fairly light bodied beer for its 7% strength, with plenty of bitter roast barley and some cocoa combat the gentle peaty caress and sticky sweet meaty rye. A well balanced brew that has probably mellowed with age. Another winner in my book

 photo P3210045.jpg
Last up is James' forray into the world of DIPA, Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Hold-up, i hear you dry, isn't Axe Edge labelled as a double IPA too? Yes, that as may be, but its 6.8% ABV is paltry in comparison into this 8.4% behemoth. But unfortunately I wasn't a fan. They say you drink with your eyes, which didn't bode well for this Super hazy soupy amber pour. 
The nose was promising with subtle mango and passion fruit on the nose. A heavy body with floaties and fairly boozy obscures any hop flavours that were once there.Maybe I got a duff bottle? At least Buxton yeast fairly flavour neutral but the hop hit I was expecting from axe edge was missed.When you come to expect perfection, even an acceptable beer is disappointing, but I'll give it another go if I see it elsewhere!

The maverick genius behind these brews has now moved on from Buxton (you can follow James here on twitter) but his sizable boots have more than ably been filled by Colin Stronge of Marble* and Black Isle pedigree. Here's hoping he carries on with these more niche brews.

*Coincidentally, James has been spotted wreaking havoc in the marble brewhouse...


CABPOM: Luckie Ales 56/ and Comte

 photo P1010004-1.jpgThe French and Scots have teamed up before, but never has a pairing been as successful as this (even if I do say so myself!) Luckie 56/ is part of Stuart's Resurrection series, that is beers that have been rescued from the history books and brewed anew. I always enjoy trying these and to my knowledge its the first Scotish brewer to resurrect beers in such a way (please correct me if I'm wrong!). This particular beer was last brewed over 100 years ago by McClays of Alloa, falling out of favour as pale ales grew in popularity.

The beer pours clear deep ruby-garnet with a light off-white crema of a head, giving off a nose redolent of an autumn trek through a forest, with red berries, damp soil and crunchy leaves. The body is fairly full, yet light, with gentle carbonation. Its fairly rich, with a big booze hit up front, slightly astringent burnt toast malt and plenty of dried fruit sweetness afterwards in a long fruity finish.

CC Myrabella
Comté needs no introduction, as probably my favourite among the alpine cheeses I buy it whenever I see it. This particular piece is from Tesco's finest range, (its not half bad youse cheese snobs and certainly one of the better cheeses i can buy in my part of the world!) with a rich fatty milk, slightly sweaty socks nose, firm, chewy paste with a few salt crystal crunchy bits. Fruity and rich, a perfect match for the beer. The mushroomy rind brings a contrast to the rest of the cheese, with more umami notes and a very savoury finish.

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But the cheese also helps to neutralise the heavy booze of the beer, coaxing out deeper dark fruits and milk chocolate flavours. In turn the beer makes the cheese more vibrant in the mouth, leaving a sharp mature cheddar punch at the back of the palate. The umami from the rind helps emphasise the malts bringing to the fore something akin to spiced apple compote that I associate with mulled cider, but is welcome here too, whilst our old friend carbonation cleans away all those fatty remains.

I enjoyed mine with a few cheese and basil biscuits from M&S, but you can have yours straight up, with a slice of toast, with an oatcake or whatever works for you: experiment!

So for my first cheese and beer pairing in 6 months I'm recommending Luckie Ales 56/- and Comte.

If you're quick you can pick up a bottle from the excellent Alesella.

Luckie Ales



A Ness-essary Review

This weekend my friend and fellow drinking blogger Reuben (@TaleofAle) headed up for a spot of evening imbibing. After an enjoyable meal and a catch up with brewing developments at the Brewers House we proceeded to drink our way through some of my amassed stock, beginning with a selection of seven stunners from the fairly new Loch Ness Brewery. Based in the Highlands and Western Isles CAMRA Pub of the Year 2012, I'd certainly like to visit after having tried these. Reviews after the pic.

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First comment has to be that the branding is simple and eye catching, i love the one beer, one colour approach that fellow Scots Black Isle also employ to great effect. The 330ml format is great for getting through a number of different beers in the night, but as will become apparent, some of these beers would come into the own in the larger 500ml format.

 photo P1010051.jpgUp first; LightNess (3.9%) Pours pale blonde with a fluffy open textured white head and strong pine and grapefruit zest on the nose. Fairly high carbonation, light bodied, touch of sweet biscuit malt up front, followed by grapefruit pith for a pleasing long bitter finish. Slight cattiness appears on aroma with warming.

 photo P1010059.jpgWilderNess (also 3.9%) pours dark blonde with a slight, off-white head. Sweet bruised peaches, mango, tangerine on the nose.Prickly carbonation with sweet, juicy fruit, some orange pith, caramel and a dry bitterness that numbs the tip of the tongue leading to a sticky pithy finish.

 photo P1010063.jpgLochNess (4.4%) is the eponymous 80/- style Scottish ale, pouring light chestnut with a toasted marshmallow head. Sultana and caramel dominate on the nose. Its pretty sweet but balanced by burnt toast malt and a touch of ashen coffee. A developing redcurrant and milk chocolate flavour lead to a long fruity finish. Certainly one of the better 80/- I've tried thus far.

 photo P1010061.jpgRedNess (4.2%) is hazy dark ruby-brown. Sultana, milk chocolate pudding on the nose; slight rum truffle notes. Light carbonation,medium body, sweet toffee little in the way of hopiness.Like a ruby mild, another grower.

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HoppyNess (5%) has pungent mango pith, orange rind and cats piss on the nose. It pours hazy pale blonde with fluffy white head. Mango pith, sweet tangerines and long orange-flecked shortbread finish. A touch over-pithy but very easy drinking American Pale Ale.

 photo P1010064.jpgDarkNess (4.5%) is Stephen's take on a dry stout, though as with all of the brews, this one is a little different. Dark ruby brown with fluffy tan head, raspberries and pipe smoke on the nose. Full bodied, medium carbonation smoky brew with dry roast barley and a touch of chalk. Sweet & fruity malt middle and an earthy long dry barley finish.

 photo P1010070.jpgThe experimentation reaches a zany conclusion with the addition of curryspices and leaves to Darkness (or something very similar) to give Ness Un Korma(4.5%).  Very hazy dark ruby brown with tan head. A sweet chocolate spicy cardamom nose with some marmite. Very lively on the pour with medium carbonation, citrussy cascade notes and curryheat on the tongue and at theback of the throat. Very warming. Chocolate and redcurrant in the finish. Its pretty well balanced and enjoyable.

So thanks to the brewers for making these beers, not a duffer among them and also to AleselA for getting my order to me so quickly and very well wrapped. Check out their range of beers here. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try some of their other brews when I'm Edinburgh in July for EBBC.

Loch Ness Brewery