Partizanal Ales

 photo P1010005-1.jpgI've been trying a lot of London beers recently thanks to the sterling efforts of Ales By Mail with their "Best of London" cases, 15 beers from breweries from all over the capital. They're now on box 15 which has a black forest stout and Windsor and Eton's excellent Republika pilsner among them.

But I digress, this post is about one brewery in particular, and those of you clued in have probably already twigged who I'm talking about, but for the rest of you read on! I would probably class thisbrewery as in my top five* London brewers, no mean feat considering there were over 40 at last count! So who holds my affections so rabidly? Partizan, that's who.

Springing up out of the dust left behind in Bermondsey's arches by Kernel's move to bigger premises and even using the same kit is Andy Smith's new venture. I've been an avid collector but I'm struggling tokeep up with their prolific output! I've managed about 10 of their beers so far and no duffers amongst 'em! I'm a particular fan of their saisons, properly Belgian in character with plenty of hop interest.
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 photo P1010017-1.jpgThe pale ales are crisp and bright flavoured, showing off the hops to the full and the porters are amongst the best in the business, Partizan truly are ones to watch. Special mention must be made of the eye-catching labels which are superb individual works of art in their own right, each crafted by Alec Doherty. Hop bills are clearly stated, and even better a brewed on date lets you know exactly how fresh the beer you've picked up is. Bottle conditioned too which means the mouth feel is spot on.

 photo P1010004-2.jpgSo if you do spot these when you're out and about, don't hesitate to pick them up! There's still some left on Ales By Mail's website too if you fancy doing some mail order (tip a box holds 24 bottles; so may as well get your monies worth postage wise...). I look forward to you thanking me for the recommendation later ;)

*Subject to change, mail me to find out which brews are currently floating my boat!


More wood aging

Bristol Beer Factory have plenty of successful forays into barrel ageing under their belts with the 12 stouts of Christmas releases, but these two beers are the first of the core (pale and hoppy) beers to receive the wood treatment. I picked these two up at the excellent Barley Mow in Bristol last month.

West Coast Red was aged in Glenlivet barrels. Medium carbonation, plenty of fruity kiwi, touch of cardboard, tannins, spot of phenol but not much whisky...I’m guessing a lot of fresh blended in for balance, warming booze in finish. Dry, woody notes and some marzipan vanillin appear long after hops have faded. It doesn't have the same urgency as the original but enjoyable all the same.

Was at my dad's new flat
- no beer glasses
Southville Hop was allowed to get familiar with a white wine barrel.
Pours hazy dark amber with lacing of off white head. Vibrant mango and kiwi hops on the nose. Fairly high carbonation, pithy citrus, very dry finish, slight grape must. Bitter but fruity slightly oxidized. The edges on the usually zingy Southville Hop have been dulled, butthere is an extra layer of complexity underneath makingthisbeer for contemplation rather than quaffing. A partial success.

As blogged a month or so ago, Harviestoun are expanding their fantastic Ola Dubh range to dated releases and Ewan was kind enough to send me a bottle (plus a selection of other beers) to try. It looks very attractive in the bottle and would make a good present for the beer lover in your life. Its not just on the outside that it excels however, with the beer inside shining too. In fact its my favourite of the Ola Dubh's to date, and I've tried a few.
It pours dark brown-black and (unlike some barrel aged beers) is able to retain a handsome thick tan head. Fairly sweet nose of caramel, sherry, lactose, camp coffee, and on swirling some meaty umami and iodine thatcan onlyhave come from the whisky. 
Thick, mouth filling with gentle carbonation and sweet red berries up front followed by a cornucopia of flavour. Dry toasty malt, astringent wood, meaty booze sweet vanilla, coconut appears on nose, dark cocoa, latte, both sweet and savoury, iodine whisky, dry woody notes, rich caramel. The booze very well hidden but creeps up on you with a knock-out blow. Long rich dry finish.

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Cuvee Delphine is a member of Struise breweries black Albert range. Aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels it comes in ata hefty 13% Alcohol by Volume! I picked this one up at Bottleshop, Canterbury (mail order).

Pours dark brown with fluffy dark coffee tan head that starts off at a few inches then collapses to a more manageable few mm (yes mixed measurement systems...deal with it)
Slightly sour, tart red fruits, milk chocolate and coffee. extremely full bodied, sultanas, maltloaf, rich coffee, slight sourness, astringent coffee roast barley, gentle caress of whisky with more coffee building in the finish. Finishing quite dry with some balsamic fruit notes. Lovely and hides its strength magnificently.

Four very different beers, again highlighting that when done well and to enhance the beer rather than hide defects, barrel ageing can produce some fantastic results.


New Irish Brewers!

There's a fantastic number of new brewers opening south of the border (take note please you lot up here and get some more breweries open!)*. There's at least five I can think of and this Beoir article gives the gossip.

I've been lucky enough to pick up a number of them; here are my thoughts:

 photo P1010091.jpgFive Lamps craft lager has a bit of secrecy surrounding it, but after some digging was able to confirm it is currently brewed at Eight Degrees. Its pleasant enough for a pale lager, pouring pale gold with fluffy white head. Sweet grainy nose crisp, dry maltiness, biscuit moreish finish. I'm hoping they branch out to a few other styles as there have been a lot of lagers and golden ales released recently.

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Next up is 5% Kinsale pale, a bottle I was kindly sent by the brewer. Its fantastic, probably the best Irish Pale I've tried to date. slightly hazy burnished gold with lacing of white head. Mango pith and dusty lemons and some cattiness on the nose. Medium carbonation, digestive biscuit malt, citrus pith and slight mango with dry bitterness and lemon shortcake finish. Almost spot on, a little less carbonation and it’d be killer. It launches officially this Friday at the Folkhouse, Cork if you live down that way. Here's what some fellow bloggers thought.

Finally the return of the Brown Paper Bag Project, re jigged recipes and rebrand in hand. This is Dublin's answer to Mikkeller or Northern Monk Brew Co, being a band of brewers sans brewery. Another two impressive beers.

 photo P1010098.jpgStarting off with the (relatively) lower 5.8% ABV is Oxman, brewed at Dancing Duck brewery in Derbyshire. Pours opaque cola brown with thin beige head. Rich chocolate, cocoa and prunes with a touch of sweet spices. Medium body and carbonation, milk chocolate, burnt toast, some menthol, dry red berries, some leather giving a long dry finish. Some licorice and burnt paper on warming, a porter dunkel hybrid?

  photo P1010099.jpgGraduating onto Dr Rudi a single hop Belgian ale, this new version is brewed by veteran contract brewers De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium (Previously at 8 degrees). Pours hazy mid amber brown with fluffy beige head that soon collapses. Spicy coriander, yeast esters, tangerine and kiwi on nose. Full bodied, light carbonation. Sweet sticky malt tempered by juicy satsuma and spicy black pepper. Belgian yeast to the fore, building hop bitterness and pithy citrus with a touch of astringency and ling sweet malt finish that you can feel on your teeth.The first iteration was dominated by the yeast esters but this time the hops have been invited to the party too, good stuff.

*Remembering of course that red hand** and love and death inc are both working on going full scale this year!

**I've got a post pending on these guys!


Wemyss Dreams

Steve at The Whisky Wire has been busy recently organising tweet tastings and I've managed to get myself invited to another one, this time from independent blenders and bottlers Wemyss.

Wemyss are based across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh at the family seat (a castle) and have had connections to the whisky industry since the 1800s. They have a core range of blended malts plus single cask releases representing different regions of the country.

I can't claim to have tried any of their wares before;so I'm going into this evening blind apart from the names and age statements on some of the bottles. More details after the obligatory group shot...

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We started the evening with spice king, which had sweet butterscotch and Murray mints on the nose, with green cardamom and pipe smoke in behind. Its very light in body with an (Ardmore?) smokiness up front followed by a great whack of sweetness and boozy waft and a peppery elderflower finish.
Adding a touch of water ruined it for me, with pear skins, bakewell tart and burnt paper taking over. Trust the experts on this one, they get it right before the bottle gets to you!

Next came ginger spice, a whisky distilled in 1988 in Glenrothes also at 46% ABV. Again buttery esters and alcohol up front in the nose but fruity green apple too. Its very hot (booze forward) with woody vanilla, apple skins whilst the booze numbs the tongue. A dash of water brings out some sandalwood, toffee covered peaches and white grape skins. Finishes fairly grainy.

Peat Chimney an Islay accentuated blend gives a vanilla punch at first, reminding me of Icelandic yoghurt skyr (a fairly obtuse reference i admit). Rich peaty smoke notes (but not overly medicinal) long heavier fractions legs and a little buttered toast. The smoke is up front in the mouth, a beach-side BBQ, chocolate, wood burning stoves and a grapefruit mojito. Sweet demarara sugar and caramelised meats in the finish.

Finally came Chocolate Honeycomb a 2001 distilled (12 y/o) whisky from Bunnahabin. Crème caramel with a side of Pledge furniture polish. Honey covered plasticine. Its sweet and fiery with a lengthy umami finish. Even with some water its very sweet, a whisky for the after dinner cheeseboard if ever there was one. Washed rind cheese would work well, warm orange peel and cinnamon notes - think orange cocktail bitters develops on the nose. Certainly one that benefits the dilution.

Peat Chimney was my favourite for the night, perfectly balanced peatiness vs drinkability and at a very reasonable price, I'd look to buy a bottle once my current stock has been worked down a bit.

You can follow the thoughts of everyone else on the night by reading through the #WemyssTT2 tag on twitter. Fellow bloggers were also present in force, here's a few of their reviews. Cheers again to Steve for organising the evening and Wemyss for the chance to try some fantastic whiskys for free. Follow Steve on Twitter for a chance to take part in future tastings.

Wemyss Malts

My third and final tweet tasting (for the time being!) is a blind selection of American whiskies this Wednesday courtesy of Arkwrights. So if you're interested in the delights of corn and/or rye, tune in from 7pm by following the hashtag #LiquidAmericana and Steve's @TweetTastings account on the night.


I don't think I've drunk enough beer to understand that.

above quote from the Lost Continent
I've been reading Discworld books for at least 12 years, maybe longer, though the series itself is actually 30 this year. Ales by Mail have collaborated with local brewer Brentwood to brew a range of Discworld themed beers.

There are three in the range filling the common bitter/ blonde ale pathway but also an oatmeal stout and a honey beer. I picked these up at various times and here are my thoughts:

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The core range of three
I love the labels on all of them, very much in the Discworld style with amusing blurbs. They'd certainly make an attractive gift for any Discworld lover, especially being brown glass the beer has longer staying power (less risk of skunking from light exposure).

 photo P3020009.jpgBledlow's Silence, 5.5% ABV. Dark amber with minimal cream head. Slight mango aroma, some pleasing bitterness/ low carbonation again though.

Hix's Darkside Ppours flat as a pancake, faintest of heads, dark ruby brown. Rich dried fruits, sweet sultanas, some solvent, molasses, carbonation could make this drinkable but drainpoor I’m afraid. Too near a dubbel in flavour too; so wouldn't be my favourite kind of beer even with carbonation.

 photo P3020006.jpgBugarup blonde, is 4% and pours Burnished gold with little in the way of head. Light apricot on the nose, low carbonation, slight bitterness, mild fruitiness. Ok but hop light.

 photo P4070047.jpgHoney Ale comes in at 4.6%. This is more like it, a bigger 500ml bottle that pours hazy amber blonde with light fluffy white head. Dry dusty herbal goldings nose. Fairly sweet, medium body, low carbonation, digestive biscuit malt, floral dry honey notes and long finish. Good sessionable drop.

 photo P3020008.jpgModo's Midden 4.5% Light amber with fluffy off white head and some yeasty dregs. Pithy nose which unfortunately fails to come through in flavour. Good carbonation, slightly sharp citrus. So so and too similar to the Bugarup really.

I'm a little disappointed with these beers. They could have been so much more but instead they all fell short of expectations, with the exception of the honey ale perhaps which is done rather well.


New Beer and Curry

Perhaps the most anticipated UK beer release this year was Magic Rock's Unhuman Cannonball Triple IPA, which sold out in its entirety in less than a few hours. It seems most of the bottles have been snaffled by bloggers and tickers. I luckily managed to get hold of a bottle from Ales By Mail and decided to indulge in a spot of beer and food pairing.But first, the beer.

As you can see the label is lovingly screen printed onto the bottle and surprisingly (given its 12% strength) its a 660ml bomber. I had no trouble polishing off the entire bottle by myself though.

The beer pours super hazy mid amber with a pillowy head. Strong resinous pine on the nose, robust malt sweetness and rasping bitterness, juicy tropical fruits, tart citrus, some warming booze. On warming passion fruit comes over to the fore on the nose and distinctive watermelon notes in flavour. Perfect carbonation and medium body.

I went for the classic India Pale combination of curry, a vegetable rogan josh to be precise, with plenty of added corriander. The medium spicing really played off the hops to bring some tropical fruit flavours to the fore and the corriander seemed to help bring the bitterness to a more managable level. Tasted great with the lime pickle too! Curry and IPA are a much-touted pairing for a reason.

If you missed out, its set to be an annual release so watch out for announcements next year! A fantastic first release of a super-strong IPA from the Magic Rock guys then, catapulting to second-place marginally behind Odell and Thornbridge's Pondhopper and tied for second with Moor's JJJ IPA. Estimable company indeed.

Magic Rock


Got Them!

Thanks to getting the brewery to post me them direct (thank you Denis) I've finally been able to try Buxton's 2012 release of Tsar Bomba after trying the other special reserve beers last month. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.

I also picked up the new special reserve Der Nord Sekt, a truly sessionable 2.8% ABV Berliner weisse. We've seen a  few of these cropping up recently with Brodies doing a whole series. This particular example pours the hazy pale blonde of a hoegaarden but with that tart lactic note familiar to any lambic drinker. Full bodied due to the wheat with plenty of carbonation and a refreshing citrus flavour. 330ml wasn't really enough of this for me!

So on to the main event. Tsar Bomba is regular Tsar Bretted with 1978 Courage Russian Imperial Stout dregs and aged in barrel for 9 months. and boy does it show. Gone are the pithy hops you'd expect from regular tsar and instead the mouldy leaf litter and farmyard scents of Brettanomyces are strongly to the fore.  On swirling comes rich chocolate fondant and Curacao orange peel. 
Still very full bodied with medium carbonation, slight tartness up front then an exposition in malts from sweet molasses through burnt toast and bitter barley to rich roast coffee with a constant undercurrent of Brett dry woodiness and woodland floor. 
Increasing hop bitterness builds with some minty hot chocolate and flintiness to taste. Its a different beast to the original, but the malt hallmarks are certainly there.Fruity melon and dry barley in the lengthy finish. 

 Its complex and makes me hanker for the days when beers like this were de riguer rather than one off specials. Not difficult to drink despite the strength (10%) and difficult to fault. A sign of a good beer is that you'd happily drink the same again and I'd certainly do so with this one (if I could afford to...). More bretted stouts please UK brewers.