Thursday, 19 July 2012

Beer Review
Summer Wine Brewery - Teleporter 5.0%

Continuing my exploration of Summer Wine Brewery beers brings me to Teleporter tonight, and those who of you who have journeyed with me thus far will know that I've also explored definitions of their beer names.
Putting aside, for now at least the obvious Porter beer association (I know this is actually the point, but humour me) and looking at the word 'teleporter' as a whole, it is a name that anyone who has ever seen an episode of most future-space science-fiction show will be familiar with. Broken down into two distinct parts, the Greek 'tele' meaning distant or distance, and 'porter' from the French meaning to carry or bear, it's meaning becomes clear.
This Summer Wine beer has been carried to me all the way from Honley, a large village with a population of around 6,000 on the banks of the River Holme, near Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. Holmfirth is famous for it's association with the gentle situation comedy Last Of The Summer Wine and it is from this that the brewery gets its name.
It's time to drink it.
It pours a rich dark brown with a deep port red when held up to the light it has a thin beige head which settles to a thin dusting. The aroma is quite thin and malty with a little roastiness that you may expect from a beer that boasts ten malts on its label. There's also a subtle citric hoppiness in there but it is so slight that its evading identification. Initially quite thin over the tongue it suddenly steps it up and becomes more robust with a nice bite to it. Cold black coffee with a touch of milk chocolate becomes a nice nutty roast dryness with a light floral hint. A dry cold milky coffee finish is absolutely delicious and manages to be both dry and 'wet' (for want of a better word) at the same time.
Teleporter is a very nice take on a Porter, ticking all the right boxes for the style. I initially thought I'd like it to be a bit hoppier and was actually expecting that, but the high malt bill would off-set it and it would be more of a battle than a balance. Summer Wine have taken the 'less is more' approach here, and it all works together perfectly.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Beer Review
Summer Wine Brewery - Rouge 5.8%

Rouge is an odd word. In French it means red. Fair enough you might say, good name for a Red Hop Ale and so it is but before I get onto the beer I'd like to do a little exploring.
Rouge, in English is most commonly used as a cosmetic term as a product used to redden and emphasise the cheekbones. This is also commonly called blush, or blusher, and as a consequence all of these terms have come to mean red or reddened, for example, sun-blushed tomatoes or blush rose wine.
It is also commonly misspelled as Rogue, which when it comes to beer means something else entirely.
According to the Summer Wine website, Rouge is dry-hopped with Simcoe & Cascade. I'm sure most of you reading this are familiar with the term 'dry-hopped' however, just in case, it's a process whereby (mainly) aroma hops are added after the wort has cooled and as the beer ferments to enhance the 'hoppiness' of the finished product.
Let's get stuck in.
It pours a reddish amber reminding me of the colour of damson skin, and with a loose off-white head. There's a lovely fruitiness in the aroma with some enticing plum and tangelo notes and a touch of spicy peach. Very dry and biting over the tongue, there is lots more fruit here but it's far more subtle. Satsuma, red grape juice and the merest hint of cherry tartness is all underpinned by some gentle rolling grapefruit sharpness. As dry as it is over the tongue, the finish by way of contrast has some little pockets of juiciness and I am surprised to find a little kiwi fruit coming through which hadn't been apparent earlier on.
This is a wonderfully light but punchy beer with loads of fruity flavour which skips and dances its way around the palate evading the grasp of the ever-present dryness. Simply delightful.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Beer Review
Summer Wine Brewery - Maelstrom 9.0%

Maelstrom, a powerful whirlpool, a large swirling body of water with considerable downdraft. You may have noticed that I like a definition, dictionary or otherwise, and also like an interesting beer name and Summer Wine have given me another to conjure with.
A double IPA is a bigger, hoppier version of a standard IPA. It's one of those descriptive styles that is used to conjure an image in the head too. The US 'Beer Judge Certification Panel' style guidelines of 2008 description (and that of all IPAs) can be found here but generally it's an IPA in excess of 7.5% although as it states, 'Imperial', 'Extra' or 'Extreme' are also valid. I've yet to knowingly have an IPA which describes itself as 'Extreme' but it's something I'd quite like to experience - maybe!
Back to the Maelstrom.
It pours a beautiful orange-amber with a fluffy off-white head that fades to a pleasant bubbly but sustained disc. Tangerine and cough-candy aromas are the first to register but there is a definite resinous tartness lurking at the rear. Surprisingly smooth and silky over the tongue, initial light tangerine coupled with dense oily grapefruit is pushed through firmly by some wet wood and biting resin which reminds me a little of myrrh in its bitter spiciness. This becomes increasingly bitter and more dense before evaporating into wonderous but intense citrus peel finish that has a little tobacco smoke edge.
Make no mistake, this is a big beer and even though the flavours are big at no point does the alcohol really become apparent. This is also definitely a different double IPA to others I have had. It's certainly big on hops, Columbus, Warrior, Simcoe and Centennial in this case, but whether it's the best double IPA I've had I'm not so sure. However, it certainly is a very good beer and one that I'd have again, and recommend if you've not tried it.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Beer Review
Summer Wine Brewery - Diablo 6.0%

Diablo. The Devil. Summer Wine's flaship IPA, described at being loaded with US hops and dominated by Citra, seemingly hop-du-jour amongst many brewers and breweries currently.
Citra hops from the USA were launched at World Brewing Congress in 2008, and were bred as a hybrid of several varieties : Hallertauer Mittelfruh, US Tettnanger, East Kent, Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold and possibly some unknown others. Used for both aroma and flavour, it is a popular in single hop brews.
Time to see how it works with the other hops in Diablo.
It pours a pale orange with a clean white head. There's a big lychee and grapefruit aroma with guava and mango in there too, it's a real tropical fruit cocktail on the nose, zesty, zingy and absolutely mouth-watering. Coarse, dry and biting over the tongue, big peach, lychee, mango and passion fruit explodes in the mouth before a big blanket of whole grapefruit, pith, peel and flesh smothers it all with a sharp citrus bitterness. The best bit of it all is the freshness, all the flavours are vibrant and rich, this is IPA in technicolour, and I'm guessing it was brewed quite recently. The finish is more of that sharp, sharp grapefruit fading gently but definitely, inviting you to taste and experience it's magnificence once more.
I was expecting a hoppy IPA, but having had many many hoppy IPAs I was expecting a good beer but not exceptional. I was so wrong. This is a beautiful tropical fruit bomb of a beer and incredibly fresh tasting, it's almost juicy. I'm going back for more.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Beer Review
Summer Wine Brewery - Cohort 7.5%

Cohort. It's a word that has several meanings.
For example, it is a taxonomic rank of zoological species in Biology, a sub-class if you will.
In education it is a group of students working through the same academic curriculum.
It is the basic tactical unit of a Roman Legion and consisted of six 'centuria' of 80 men, each commanded by a centurion, not 100 men as we would think.
In beer a Cohort is a Double Black Belgian Rye PA by Summer Wine Brewery from Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, and it is this particular meaning that interests me today.
Ingredients include Pale, Rye and Carafa malts, Summit, Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Amarillo hops, and some Belgian yeast.
It's time to see how it all works together.
It pours a thick deep dark brown with the merest hint of port red right at the edge, with a beige head that settles to a small disc on top of the beer. An aroma of blackberries and pine dominate with some vanilla and mango buzzing in the background. A oily and slick over the tongue, there is also a touch of the roughness associated with a rye beer in there too. More blackberry with blackcurrants, coffee and passion fruit immediately smack you in the mouth. These flavours are big and bold, making absolutely no apologies for their bluntness. Grapefruit with a hint of lemon sweeps in before a touch of liquorice and pine pounce on them from the roof of the mouth. Dry tropical fruit flavours with a small but yummy amount of milk chocolate round out the finish, leaving a whisper of passion fruit, mango and pine lingering a long time. This is an astonishingly good beer.
I have only had a few Summer Wine beer before. Looking back through my beer notes, my first, the Lime and Coriander Saison was 'sweet with a little lime and some floral hop'. I have written 'Ok - just' next to it. For Santo, my next experience I have noted ' very dry with a light lime and sharp grapefruit citrus, much better than I was expecting'. However, it was Barista on cask (that I will be reviewing from the bottle soon) that was the turn-around beer for me, and reading what others had tweeted and reviewed I took the plunge and bought all I could online.
I'll be tasting and reviewing many more of there beers over the next week or so, and I'd be more than happy if yo could join me.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Beer Review
Old Worthy - Old Worthy Scottish Pale Ale 5%

Like some other bloggers, I have been fortunate enough to be sent a pre-release bottle of Old Worthy Scottish Pale Ale from the Old Worthy brewery on the Isle of Skye.
Old Worthy is run by Nick Ravenhall, erstwhile coach of the Norwegian Mens Lacrosse Team at this years European championships, and the term 'worthies' comes from the book 'The Whisky Men' by Gavin D Smith, and refers to distillery workers who cheekily helped themselves to the 'wash' prior to distillation. This malted barley was a form of beer (the process prior to distiilation is very similar to brewing) and the men went to sometimes daring lengths to procure it.
I have taken Nicks advice and poured the beer alongside a Single Malt (Scapa from the Orkney Isles in this instance), as the interesting and well designed press release recommends this as the perfect partner. I am not mixing the beer with the whisky, unlike one distributor who had been dropping the scotch straight into the beer. He was soon re-educated, and enjoys the beer and single malt seperately and correctly now I assume.
It pours a golden amber with a clean white head, and it is a very good looking beer if that doesn't sound too obvious. There is a real peaty aroma coming from the glass underpinned by a subtle malty sweetness. Initially smooth over the tongue it begins to bite pleasingly with a touch of oiliness. The smokey peatyness fills the mouth but this is quickly followed by a honey sweetness and a hint of golden caramel. The finish leaves a drying smokey malt and honey smear on the palate which gradually fades.
Taking a sip of whisky prior to tasting brings the honey to the fore, creating a wonderful, almost peach juice, fruitiness for a brief instance before the smokey peat crashes through, leaving some floral and sweet flavours in their wake.
This is a lovely smokey beer, very unlike those matured in whisky casks that I have tasted and thank goodness nothing like Adelscott, the French beer which I find incredibly overpowering. This isn't gentle, but everything seems to work in harmony, however, when paired with a single malt this beer truly shines. It metamorphosizes into a rich and glorious thing bringing out the characteristics of it's partner but asserting and revealing itself more fully.
I'd like to thank Nick for sending me this beer to review and wish him every success with this venture, and if, like me, you are partial to a good single malt scotch whisky, then I urge you to grab a bottle and experience the symbiotic relationship for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Beer Review
Ilkley Brewery - Siberia, Rhubarb Saison 5.9%

This is a beer I've wanted to taste for a while, right back to when I saw Melissa Cole was at Ilkley Brewery actually brewing it through twitter. I enquired as to the ingredients and both parties tweeted back at the same time, rhubarb puree, vanilla and grains of paradise. I was intrigued but it has taken me until today, approximately 3 months later to finally open a bottle.
A saison is historically a beer brewed for harvest-time consumption by farmworkers in the Wallonia region of Belgium.They do not tend to share identifiable characteristics but are generally light, zingy and refreshing, ideal for summertime drinking.
Pouring straight from the bottle it is a lively beer, throwing up a large but feather-light bright white head. This takes a while to dissipate, meaning that it takes several careful pourings and several minutes to obtain a reasonable glass of beer, but as the old adage goes: good things come to those who wait.
It is a beautiful cloudy honey-colour, inviting and rather delicate, I can't wait to taste it.
There is a dry spicy lemon aroma coming from the glass, reminding me a little of a good cloudy dry cider, and giving it a swirl around I can pick up a little of the vanilla. If I was offered this is a blind tasting I'd be convinced it was Belgian from the smell of it, but it probably lacks a little of the forcefulness you would tend to associate with beers from that country.  It skips and dances smoothly across the tongue, initially quite thin but then the flavour becomes more intense. There are snatches of white pepper, glimmers of tartness from the rhubarb and some oily orange peel flavours, both seperate and intermingling to create quite a rounded and enveloping mouth-feel. It has a wonderful dry yet fresh taste, and this continues into the finish which has a little vanilla and some orange peel bitterness in the mix.
This is a deliciously refreshing beer that very much appeals to the Belgian ale loving part of me. I cannot remember having a beer quite like this from a British brewer before and while it is clearly inspired by a Belgian saison the inclusion of rhubarb, although an imported vegetable (it's not a fruit). somehow adds an element of Englishness to it.
I was pleased to read that due to demand, Ilkley Brewery have now made Siberia a permanent addition to their range, both in cask and bottle-conditioned, so I hopefully won't have to wait too long for my next one.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Session 65 : Drinking Alone
Just me, and the beer

I drink alone a lot.
It's not that I don't have any friends, although you may suspect otherwise, it's just that quite often my drinking doesn't coincide with when others can make it.
If you follow me on Facebook then you may be familiar with my 'Inn-trepid Adventures' series of photographs. These were taken by me on my travels around the country, but most are in our nations capital, and I would estimate that over 85% of them were taken when I was on my own.
The big advantage of this was that I could travel at my own pace, and I could pace myself with my drinking (I have had a drink in all but a handfull).
I mainly drink alone after work however.
This is my time.
My break.
The dividing line between work and home.
It is my oasis of calm, a bubble of beeryness when I can leave behind all that has happened in the office so that it doesn't impact on my home life. It needs to be noted that I do not drive to work, facing a drive home would, I suspect, negate all that I have gained in the pub. I am not a patient driver.
I'm fortunate to have a good pub, with a good changing selection of beer just up from where I currently work, and whilst my stops are often for 10 minutes or less, it is an invaluable haven.
I will of course talk to the bar staff, I have known some of them for some years and there is the usual banter and story swapping during service. Once I have my pint though I make my way to a table far removed from the bar, or into the garden if the weather permits. There I have my own space. I can concentrate on the beer, for it is the object of my desire and the instrument of my unwinding.
I will, on occasion, tweet about what I am drinking, giving a brief appraisal of the taste of the beer and this also helps. Concentrating on something I love is the perfect focus way from the world, if only briefly. I am unsure whether responding to a tweet or e-mail counts as drinking alone however, I suspect not as the connection is there, but I don't find that this affects my solitudinal experience adversely. I am at liberty to respond or not as the mood takes me.
I will not speculate on drinking alone in company. I'm sure that many you have done this but it is generally down to personal introspection or being ignored, neither of which capture the essence of what I am trying to convey.
Drinking alone can be a wonderful thing.
I use it as 'me' time.
Pure self-indulgence.
Selfish ? Possibly but I see it sanity preservation, and as such a vital part of my routine.
And relax......

Thanks to Nathaniel Southwood a good friend of mine, for hosting this edition of the session and the first I have contributed to. I have had a few drinks with him in Norwich, thus proving that I don't always drink alone.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Beer Review
BrewDog - Mr. Squirrel 11.3%

Nuts. I said it, and you thought it.
I mentioned in a review last month how BrewDog like to do hype, well they also do skewed brews too. Call it pushing the boundaries or call it brew and hope, they like to chuck it in the kettle and give it a good old stir. Take Euston-Tap-managing-Masterchef-winner Tim Anderson brewing a black lager with some Miso, Sorachi Ace hops (reflecting his Asian influenced cuisine) and some toasted walnuts for conditioning and you can see where this is going. Age it on apples in Bourbon barrels, ramp-up the alcohol and it sounds like a huge confusion, a real mish-mash of ideas and half-notions all shoved together to see what happens.
Genius or folly ?
Let's see.
Pouring a dark, dank brown with a beige head that flourishes then withers to a light cap of foam, it has masses of the oaky vanillins that you would expect to find in a barrel-aged beer. There's also a big scoop of chocolate ice-cream with a booze-soaked raisin topping giving a not-so-subtle warning of its strength. Initially silky smooth over the tongue it drags and bites at the back of the throat as if resisting being swallowed. There's a creamy burnt-sugar nuttiness that spreads itself over the tongue before some wonderfully rich alcoholic raisin and date flavours rise up in a huge wave bringing with them a light tang that reminds me of a crumb of stilton. Whatever it is, it really seem to work in there. Some oily chocolate with an abrasive edge takes you by the hand and leads you into the unctuous finish with more of those vanillins and the echo of those boozy raisins.
I can't really seem to categorise this beer mentally, but I'm guessing that's the point and while I enjoyed the ride there's something nagging at me that wonders if it actually really works. There are flavours in there that I've certainly had in other beers with less esoteric ingredients, and I think that the barrel-aging may have wiped out some of the subtle nuances.
I'm not saying its a good beer, it certainly is, very drinkable and packed full of flavour. Perhaps I was expecting too much given its pedigree but I'm just not sure it really equals the sum of its parts.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Beer Review
Le Brewery - Norman Gold 4.9%

So, it's the final of Euro 2012 as I write. Spain have taken a 2-0 lead over Italy and rather than take the obvious route and have a beer from one or either of the finalists I have opted for a brew from France, or more precisely Normandy, but with a peculiarly English twist.
Le Brewery was started by Steve Skews, a commited home brewer, in Joue-du-Bois, a commune in the Orme department of north-western France, in 2001. Hop rhizomes from Kent and Hereford were planted and the 10-barrel brew plant started producing a range of beers taking inspiration from the Norman Conquest and using label imagery based on the Bayeux Tapestry. There are currently 7 beers in production according to the website and I recently picked up this bottle of Norman Gold at Utobeer in Borough Market.
Brewed with Challenger, Cascade, and Styrian Golding hops it pours a hazy golden amber with a creamy white head from its large corked and caged bottle. The aroma of floral grassiness has an underlying lactose sweetness which is quite enticing. Quite rough and agressive over the tongue there is a big hit of wet straw and prickly light maltiness. Crisp dry apple juice and a hint of orange peel develop rather nicely before the finish crashes in with wave of drying foaminess sweeping away all the flavours that were there before, leaving a sensation of satisfied tart bitterness.
A rather different take on a Golden Ale, and very welcome it is too. I love the rough artisanal feel to the packaging and the product. It's all rather rustic which gives it lots of character, adding mental imagery to the wonderful flavour and enhancing the whole experience. I will certainly be seeking out the rest of the beers to see if they have similar characteristics.