Beers 52

Beer 52 is a monthly beer delivery service providing direct access to a preselected range of beer. I was kindly offered a trial "box of brew" by Brian, which I was happy to accept with the proviso I'd write as I found. The box arrived last week and here are my thoughts.
Its certainly well packaged with a double thickness cardboard box and plenty of polystyrene. It also comes with a stylish leaflet, which I'll return to later.
Unboxing the beers reveals a range of 8 beers, two from the company's native Scotland and six from further afield, with a duo from US brewery Point (brewed in the UK).

I was pleased to find a beer from Grain in the selection (which I've heard good things about from local Nate) and old favourites Oakham Citra and Top Out Staple.  It was decent, a sessionable lager like beer with some more fruity hop notes...a hybrid blonde beer if you will without the sweetness that usually accompanies these. 

Barney's Good Ordinary Pale does exactly what's expected of it, easy drinking, non-thinking bitter which is easy to finish.

There's even a brewery new to me - Church Farm. It certainly shows initial promise, with plenty of interest in the nose, bu falls flat in the taste department, not helped by the lack of carbonation...one to return to on cask perhaps.

Tickety Brew Dubbel tastes exactly as a dubbel should, with heavy sugars, fruity esters on the nose and plenty of stewed fruit and higher alcohols - exactly what I dislike about a dubbel, but if you do like dubbels then go for it!

I'm not sure why there are two from Point...they appear to feature fairly regularly in the boxes, which disappoints me as they are available in major supermarkets and from my past experience haven't been particularly flavourful (read: some were downright nasty). I was pleasantly surprised by the black ale which had the hallmarks of a decent dunkel (rather than the schwarzbeer aimed for) but the "Belgian Wit" despite looking the part tasted of raw grain steeping water and went down the sink.

Returning to the overall concept then I think it works well. There's tonnes of information on the leaflet, alongside  succinct tasting notes and the brewery ethos, there's suggested glassware, recipe and even IBU. Plenty of information for even your more avid beer geek. Well packaged and arriving quickly it certainly provides a good service - but is it good value for money? At £3 per bottle delivered its perhaps 30% more expensive than buying the equivalent bottles at your local bottleshop, but perhaps you wouldn't find all of them. I found it quite enjoyable ot knowing what would turn up at my door, but this may frustrate others.  
I certainly support their ambition to promote microbreweries What I did not enjoy was receiving mediocre beer but perhaps that's the luck of the draw. I would advise Brew52 to not feature Point brewing quite as regularly though. There's certainly plenty of more interesting beers listed on the website!

So its a service which should appeal to those new to beer and more seasoned alike. I've certainly found a few breweries that I'll be returning to. If anyone else fancies giving it a go then there's an offercode I've been given for £10 off a box. For £1.75 a bottle its surely worth a punt? Excellent value especially to Northern Ireland. Go to beer52.com and enter the following voucher code at the checkout stage. 
If you do try it out, please let me know how you find it. As for myself I may use the service every now and again if I fancy a surprise, but I think I still prefer being able to pick exactly what I'm going to get and filling up my box with 24 bottles to minimise postage cost per bottle.

Thanks to Brian and James for sending me this box to try. 


A decent Scottish lager?

There is a dearth of decent lagers in the UK, could probably count them on one hand. This applies even more so North of the border where (aside from one of my all time favourites, Harviestoun Schiehallion) there hasn't been anything worthy of note - until now that is.
But first a beer launch by a novel approach - a You Tube livecast. A chap called Fergus (the managing director of Inveralmond, the brewery in focus) introduces us to the concept "Inspiration" -  a series of beers showcasing the best styles the world has to offer, in respect of the greats if you like. Four have so far made it through the tasting stage and tonight sees the first of those released in bottle - Sunburst Bohemian Pilsner.

Involving all levels of brewery staff from Kirsty in marketing to John the van driver, nevertheless head brewer ken's fingerprints are also all over this, its his personal homage to the traditions of the Czechs. Ken's fascination with Czech language (and more lately beer) came about when his mum convinced him to sing in a production of the Bartered Bride - learning to sing Czech about bears and beers. "Strangely enough years later this is revisited...without the bears!" Ken has visited the Czech Republic in the years since, drinking Světlý Ležák in the Golden Tiger (U zlateho tygra) in Prague and the Old Brewery (Na Spilce) in Plzen.

I first met Ken at the beer blogger's conference in Edinburgh last July and he certainly knows his stuff, which came across very well during the launch. He also knows how to spin a great yarn and enjoyed many a beer with him over the course of the weekend. These stories certainly help to build a back story for the beers which all too many breweries seem to lack.

Its an all malt beer, so it needs " a reasonable amount of bitterness to balance the sweetness" (25 IBU fact fans) and a hop aroma "like the atmosphere after a thunderstorm...lightning creates ozone and its that freshness you get from this beer's aroma. Its beautiful on the nose, soft maltiness down the throat with a gentle soft lingering finish that wants you to take another sip. An absolutely perfect balance of sweetness with bitterness". Its crisp and clean on the palate due to its 10 day fermentation with Břevnovský Pivovaryeast and 8 weeks (56 days) lagering at -1°C.

 Fergus recommends oversized glasswear to allow a decent foam "I like a big head without getting my feet wet". Its about maintaining presentation and having respect for the beer. That foam also helps capture the essence of those lovely floral Saaz and Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops.  Those flavours would work well with whitefish or salmon, or perhaps as Ken recommends with a salad of fresh finely sliced courgette with plenty of lemon juice and pepper.

So, enough about the genesis, how does it taste? Clean sweet malt and fresh herbal nose gives way to medium bodied floral nettle bitterness well balanced by the malt with a dry snap in the finish inviting another gulp. A 330 ml bottle certainly wasn't enough, I'd have cracked open the second if I'd chilled it. Instead I have a bottle for another day when I may do a taste test vs Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and some others. Like Pilsner Urquell I'm sure this beer would be even better in its unpasteurised, unfiltered nefiltrovany form. I'll leave you with a Ken montage and a thought for the day “my mission whens it comes to brewing beer is to improve the human condition through the medium of brewing beer...its my way of trying to make the world a better place”. I'll drink to that, na zdraví!

Inveralmond Brewery

Disclosure: I received two free bottles of the beer, but I'll certainly buy it again if I see it.