Biere Here (at last!)

Having been born and raised in York, the UK’s very finest city for beery pubs and general great nights out, my current home town of Southampton has always been a hugely miserable let-down. If you follow my Instagram you’ll be more than familiar with my almost weekly escape armed with a good train beer to somewhere, anywhere that’s not Southampton. If you’ve ever been misfortune enough to witness the drab concrete wasteland of this godforsaken pit you may have been hard-pressed to find a decent drinking establishment. Even if you did, the chances of finding anything more exciting than a ‘well kept pint of Landlord‘ or some other uninspiring real ale are slim. Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent breweries emerging but they are a lot more scarce than in the North and pubs favor the big familiar names over smaller, more interesting brewers. That has been the story until now. But things have started to change…

The opening lineup

The opening lineup

On Friday I was lucky enough to witness the opening of Southampton’s very first micro pub, The Butcher’s Hook, quite possibly the most hotly anticipated new pub I have ever witnessed. Rumors that a small unit in Bitterne Park had been taken on by a pair of aspiring publicans seem to have started way back in autumn 2013 and progress on the re-fit has been slow and steady but my goodness – the wait has been worth it. Local beer enthusiasts Anthony Nicholls and Daniel Richardson have restored the one-time butchers’ shop to a miniature gem and I would say easily the best pub in town.

Following the warning on Twitter that it may get a little cozy, we arrived for the 6pm opening, made ourselves comfortable near to the stillage and watched the pub steadily fill up with real ale aficionados in their favorite vintage CAMRA shirts, hipsters and anyone else from the general area until there was a queue out the door! In the constant rush the proprietors remained charming and attentive as they darted back and forth from the stillage, serving beer to the punters right where they were sat or stood. Seating is communal (think Wagamama) which means you could even make a new friend and all the folk we ended up chatting to were just lovely.

When we say micro-pub here we mean really micro but somehow there were three cask and two keg beers

We drank it dry

Yes Southampton’s thirsty – we drank it dry in less than two days!

available along with a fantastically well-chosen selection of bottles. I was excited to see beer from two of my favorite Northern breweries, Hardknott and Magic Rock on tap for the first time ever in Southampton, It wasn’t all about the imports though and two of the most exciting new local breweries, Vibrant Forest and Dancing Man also had beer available. Spoilt for choice? Anthony and Daniel certainly seemed to know their beers and never seemed to run out of energy helping their customers choose. Oh and did I mention that they also have day-jobs? Initially they will only open all day on weekends then in the evening on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but if demand continues at this rate I’ve no idea what the plan is. If the opening night was anything to go by, there is a thirst in Southampton for more interesting beer and they’ve certainly got something for everyone. We had such an awesome time on the Friday night that we were eager to return on Sunday until we saw the following tweet on Saturday: ‘We stillaged as much beer as we possibly could and you drank the whole lot.’ I don’t think these guys have anything to worry about except for keeping up with demand. I cannot wait to go back to see what they have on next.

Lucky for me, if we manage to clear the Butcher’s Hook out of beer again, there’s another ray of light on the beery landscape and it’s just round the

I wasn't shy with the pickles

I wasn’t shy with the pickles

corner from me! Among the clubs, takeaways and shops of London Road, a rather special little burger joint has appeared. Chalk Valley is the latest of a string of burger restaurants to open recently around here but what sets this one apart is that all of the meat is traceable and grass-fed and happy cows make happy meat. The pork and lamb are raised at proprietor Will Buckley’s farm near Stockbridge and the suppliers for most of the rest of the menu are proudly displayed on a chalk-board above the door. With so much care and attention put into creating an ethically and, where possible, locally sourced food offering, they clearly did not want to let the side down with the drinks so for their excellent organic beer selection they turned to northern favorites Sam Smiths! Yet another first for Southampton so at last I can go out and enjoy a bottle of Sam Smiths’ delicious cherry beer (an old favorite) with awesome food and (dare I say in case you all go and clean them out) ….unlimited pickles!


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Where’s the bierebabes?!

Wish I'd seen this for the last blog!

Wish I’d seen this for the last blog!

When I first started writing this blog, I made a conscious decision not to push the whole gender issue. I believe women of the world have enough inequality to worry about and for many their choice of beverage is a minuscule concern compared to other social expectations, threat of violence, the pay gap and so on. In the cozy English world I live in, I am privileged in that I can drink what I want. If you’re a woman and you don’t drink beer because that stupid advert offended you or you think nobody will fancy you and you’ll die alone, grow up. Seriously. In this day and age it’s only the twiggy real ale (see Pump Clip Parade) and boring big brands that use sexist advertising. None of this is relevant to what I drink.

I wanted my blog to be appreciated as a beer blog rather than a feminist statement and I stand by this but then I read Hardknott Dave’s recent controversial blog and was inspired to chip in. The title was ‘Beer Drinking Women Are Not Attractive’ and it turned out too hot for WordPress as he ended up taking it down. Unfortunately I only had the opportunity to skim-read it on my lunch break. I recall that I wasn’t that thrilled about his opinions, but at least he had some opinions which should be perfectly allowed and celebrated as a conversation-starter in this dreary world we live in. I wasn’t that thrilled to learn that he takes such pleasure in observing women in bars drinking beer and judging them on attractiveness. Then I thought about my own behavior at beer festivals and it turns out I can be just as bad – I challenge anybody to say they haven’t. You’ll see if you read on how generous I am about the appearance of the average CAMRA member. It’s what people do. Being looked at by the likes of Hardknott Dave as I sup my beer is the least of my worries as a female beer drinker.

Unfortunately, until recently, the realm of beer drinking just hasn’t been very appealing to women like me. I’ve always favored beer over wine as a social drink to have with friends and with food but I haven’t really felt like I belonged in the ‘pub scene.’  Despite all of its best efforts to modernize, the typical CAMRA chap still appears to be a beer-bellied, red-faced blokey bloke who isn’t accustomed to being nice or helpful to girls. How many women reading this have been elbowed and jostled out of the way at a beer festival bar by these guys, or even simply ignored? Who has had blokey noises made at them about girls drinking pints (I can seldom understand the words over the blokey noise). They can vary in attitude from slightly old-fashioned to downright patronizing. I’ll never forget the CAMRA GBBF where I went to the German bar and asked the server for his finest rauchbier. He was very quick to recommend his most favorite, then quickly started backtracking telling me I wouldn’t like it because the flavor was too strong! Same happened at one of the other bars at the same festival with another style of beer. Funny that my boyfriend doesn’t get the same advice. And then we’ll go back to the pump clips and beers with names that may well have been invented by a pre-pubescent boy. Not a world that’s relevant to me.

OK so ale this rubbish needs shock tactics to boost sales.

OK so ale this rubbish needs shock tactics to boost sales.

Thankfully beer has moved on a bit in recent years. Dave – you’ll find the good-looking girls, along with all sorts of other people at the nice craft bars and festivals. From my experience the real ale scene seems to be stuck with this weird chauvinistic crowd and that’s fine as long as I don’t have to look at it. Don’t get me wrong – I am by no means a beer snob and real ale is not the problem. I have a lot of love and respect for well-made real ale. I can’t speak for every woman out there but the problem with beer for me is the company more than anything. I don’t know what the answer is for the ‘old man pub’ scene but there seems to be a new generation of pubs and bars where everybody is welcome and that’s where you will find the beautiful women, balding men, men who look like their dogs, average women, women with beards, men who just stepped out of an Urban Outfitters shoot, all drinking beer. I’m not going to try to define it but there’s something new happening that’s accessible for all.



Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bicycle Belle

Maybe you'll be this happy with coffee?

Maybe you’ll be this happy with coffee?

Hello 2014! A new year, a time for looking towards how we can all be better people in the coming 12 months. Some may have emerged, sickly and bleary eyed on the morning of January 1st and uttered those all too familiar words: ‘I’m never drinking again.’ But here’s the thing. January is a long month. Payday is far away, Christmas has cleaned you out. January is a long, long month. Lets face it, Dryuary is a kick in the gut when you’re already down.

A wise man once said ‘Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee.’ These are words I live by to keep myself happy and relatively sane. Sometimes it’s chocolate, sometimes it’s clothes, often it’s beer. If we all just chill out and enjoy our little ‘presents’ in balance with all the other things we need to do, I think we can all be happier and healthier people. I love beer. I drink inappropriately strong beer at inappropriate times of the day. Who cares? I keep a balance, I don’t need to go without the things I love or beat myself up about it. It’s that simple.

You may or may not know that as well as beer I am pretty obsessive about health and fitness and in particular cycling. I cycle commute, I ride a mountain bike, a road bike and in my spare time I do spinning classes and then when I can’t do any of that I have a spare bike ready to go on a turbo trainer at home. My New Year’s motto (ripped off from my new favorite t-shirt) has become ‘ride bikes drink beer get awesome.’ So beer’s supposed to be bad for you? Well, to me, beer and bicycles just make sense. I love beer, I love to ride. I don’t feel guilty about the calories in the beer. I don’t feel like I’m punishing myself when I do what I love to do so I keep fit without really thinking about it.

What more does a girl need?

What more does a girl need?

At the end of a long day in the saddle there is simply nothing better than something cold and hoppy. I’m not alone in this – ride any route in the Great British countryside on a beautiful day (or even a not so beautiful day) and the first pub you encounter with a beer garden will be full of cyclists enjoying a pint. Before you say anything, there is a legal limit of 80mg/100ml in the UK and I assure you a pint will not be a problem. One of my favorite rides last year was 100 miles from Reading to Bristol which rather conveniently ended at Brewdog where I enjoyed possibly the best schooner of Libertine I have ever tasted. I also have fond memories of watching the sun set on a beautiful day zooming around the Isle of Purbeck sitting outside The Lord Nelson with a cold pint of whatever the hell summer ale was on then. The point is, your beer will actually taste even better if you worked for it.

Get on your bike…

Need motivation to get on your bike? There’s nothing like signing up for a group event with a little added incentive…

Spin Up In A Brewery

The Dark Star and Morvello Spin Up will be back for the third year on May 24th. With a road and an off-road route to the brewery from Hove seafront, there’s no excuse not to. If all that sounds like hard work, there will be a pint of Dark Star’s finest waiting for you on arrival along with a barbecue, roller-racing, music, and lots of beer and bike kit for sale. Morvelo will even be offering a generous 15% off their kit so you could even treat yourself to a Dark Star jersey as a souvenir. Don’t worry too much about wobbling back to Brighton as there will even be a coach to return both you and your bike safely to the city.

CTC Brewery Rides

To keep you motivated to carry on riding over winter, national cycling charity CTC have organized a genius series of brewery rides starting at the train station at Great Missenden. So far they’ve been out to Chiltern Brewery for Christmas shopping and a pint but there’s more to come. Join them for a jaunt out to Tring Brewery

Appropriate refreshment?

Appropriate refreshment?

on January 25th or Lovibonds on February 15th.

Lovibonds MTB

If you like the sound of Lovibonds and you’re anywhere near Henley-On-Thames, join Team Lovibonds MTB for off-road adventuring every Sunday morning. You can even look the part in one of their awesome custom jerseys. Maybe you’ll work up a thirst for some of that awesome 69 IPA.

Firkin Challenge

For the past three years the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham has been involved in the Firkin Challenge which raises money for Wooden Spoon. Previous editions have offered a choice of two routes at 100km or 160km and the longer route will take you right up to the highest pub in England at Tan Hill! Both begin and end at the brewery where a celebratory pint will be waiting for you. A date for 2014 has not yet been announced but it’s worth keeping an eye on!

Big Bike Bash

For a more family oriented mountain biking event, the Big Bike Bash is a three-day camping extravaganza packed with races, food, a lake jump (yes it’s a ramp you can ride off into the lake) and, of course a beer festival. Don’t be put off by the shambolic website – the Twitter account promises that they’ll be back for more in 2014.

Be inspired at the velodrome

OK so I don’t think you’ll be doing any actual riding on this one but the annual Manchester Beer & Cider Festival will be taking place right in the middle of the velodrome at the National Cycling Center on January 22 – 25th. Since track-cycling is serious business the velodrome will remain open for practice for the duration of the festival. Whilst there’s no guarantee of who you might see bear in mind that this is the home of Team GB so you never know…. If you’ve never stood in the middle of a velodrome whilst world-class cyclists fly around the track above let me tell you it is awe-inspiring.

Make like Hopworks and get on your bike!

Make like Hopworks and get on your bike!

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Year in Beer

Hello and Happy New Year to all you awesome beery people out there! Goodness me it’s been a pretty busy year I’ve barely managed to stop to blog about any of it so this is my round-up of the best beery things from 2013 and a look forward to 2014. Bonne année!

Bierebelle loved…

Among the many beers of 2013 there were quite a few which stood out so it was tough to narrow it down to a top 3. Sorry to all you hop-heads but for me the dark side is still the clear winner…

Mikkeller Cù’t Cà Phê Bia Port  Barrel Aged

I still have no idea how to pronounce this one which I encountered at Mikkeller & Friends. I found myself pining after it over Christmas. Wouldn’t it have been perfect on Christmas day with its sweet aromas of port, brandy butter and coffee and festive flavors of Christmas pudding soaked in brandy sauce and Quality Street coffee creams…

The Bruery Fruet

This was the beer I actually had on Christmas Day and the first I’ve ever had from The Bruery. It was at the higher end of what I normally spend on a beer so a bit of a gamble but my goodness the internet reviews were right! Unbelievably huge and awesome with those Christmas pudding fruit flavors, brandy sauce, prunes and caramel. Powerful stuff.

Brewdog Lumberjack Breakfast Stout

A totally unexpected bonus at the Indy Man was this exquisite creation by Chef Tim Anderson, with the help of his friends at Brewdog. It came as a surprise accompaniment to the pudding at the end of the gorgeous sit-down meal, also created by Anderson. Whilst I’ve almost forgotten the pudding, the beer made a huge impression. Smoke, blueberries, bacon and plenty of chewy, dark, chocolate malts.

Bierebelle travelled…

My favorite thing about being a beer geek in 2013 has been the awesome festivals attracting the best of brewing from all over the world. There’s getting to be too many to choose from but here’s the two major festivals of this year..

Indy Man Beer Conference

I was kind of jealous of Manchester when I found out they were getting a Taco Bell (still one of only three in the UK) but I am now ultra-jealous because I’ve also learned that they have possibly the most awesome

The dazzling Magic Rock bar

The dazzling Magic Rock bar

beer festival in the country. OK so the only one I’ve been to over here that you could compare for scale is the CAMRA GBBF which isn’t a fair comparison since the GBBF is full of patronizing old men and the IMBC isn’t. Instead, the IMBC was largely populated by friendly beer-loving men and women of all ages and backgrounds. It was held at the beautiful shabby-chic Victoria Baths which meant you could be served your drinks in the bottom of a swimming pool – pretty surreal. Magic Rock were given free reign to transform the turkish baths into a dazzlingly colorful bar and rooms upstairs were used to host lectures from the likes of To Øl and Wild Beer among others. There were plenty of different rooms to explore and places to sit including the old changing rooms. Guests were well catered for by a well-chosen variety of street-food vendors from Guerrilla Eats and there was even a delicious beer-matched meal prepared by chef Tim Anderson – possibly the only opportunity I’ve ever had to eat something by a famous chef! This may need a repeat visit.

Copenhagen Beer Celebration

So at work it went something like this….’Don’t forget I’m off next week.’ ‘Off anywhere nice?’ ‘Just a beer festival.

Celebrating with Mikkeller & Friends

Celebrating the beer

It’s in Copenhagen.’ ‘Errr…that’s a long way for a beer festival.’ OK so I agree that it’s a bit extreme to go to a whole other country for some beer. However, this wasn’t any beer festival. This was an international spectacular hosted by Mikkeller featuring some of the top brewers from Europe, America, even as far as Singapore. Held in a sport hall, the atmosphere was cozy but not crowded as tickets were sensibly limited. Standout beers were Westbrook Mexican Cake and Boxing Cat King Louie (Bourbon Barrel Aged) but I hear the 3Floyds offerings, including Dark Lord and Zombie Dust, were also unmissable. Shame I missed them – a mistake I will not make next year. Like at the IMBC, many of the brewers were serving at their stands and were all so happy to chat and enthusiastic. Another mark of an awesome beer festival – the food! Or rather, the cheese! The Mikkeller cheese was almost as good as the beer! OK there was other food but I still think about the cheese!

Bierebelle propped up the bar…

So there are far too many outstanding bars to mention them all and there seems to be more popping up all the time. Shame none of them are in Southampton where I live but a change of scenery is always fun yes? Here’s some of my favorites.

Mikkeller & Friends

So I went to Copenhagen for a beer festival in May and I fell in love with the city. So I went back in October. Copenhagen is full of awesome bars and it was tough to decide on my favorite. If you’re a sucker for elegant cool and having 40 taps to choose from, you would love Mikkeller & Friends too. Peckish, try a delicious beery chocolate or sausage from their small range of bar snacks.

At Mikkeller & Friends

At Mikkeller & Friends

Brewdog Bristol

It was easy to pick my favorite Brewdog. OK, Camden has yummy pizza, Shorditch has special guest street food and the beer is pretty much the same at each branch but a) Bristol is the one I visit the most and b) the staff are awesome. Despite being part of a growing chain, it’s maintained a friendly, ‘local’ atmosphere.

The Hanging Bat

As their motto goes, ‘Happiness is measured in schooners.’ 5 schooners seems like a good quantity and at the Hanging Bat in Edinburgh you can buy that many for £12.50 and legitimately keep the glass. Choose from any of the 6 cask and 4 keg lines. Make sure you’re hungry because you’re probably gonna be hankering after that fine barbecue food. Want Scottish? Try the haggis hotdog. Mindblowing.

Enjoying the Brighton sunshine at the Evening Star

Enjoying the Brighton sunshine at the Evening Star

The Evening Star

No it’s not just a favorite because it’s close to the train station in Brighton. OK it’s small-ish but this Dark Star owned pub never disappoints with its wide cask and keg selection from the best breweries up and down the country. Expect to find Magic Rock, Brodies and Arbor regularly.

Bierebelle met…

Apart from the beers (obviously) the best thing about the UK beer scene is the people and it’s been awesome to meet some of you this year. It’s like having drinking buddies in every city. Which  may be dangerous

Bierebelle still has lots to do! 

Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, Get Awesome

It’s my new motto for 2014. It’s even on my t-shirt.2013 was pretty quiet on the blog but I’ll be taking it in a different direction in 2014. I’m planning on fewer reviews and more

Get Awesome

Get Awesome

editorials and cool stuff. I’ll also be taking on a few cycling challenges, some of which may even turn up on here. I’m hoping to finally get around to Dark Star’s Spin Up In A Brewery and possibly the Coast to Coast  which will inevitable earn me a few beers and who knows where else I’ll end up. The tickets are already booked for the next Copenhagen Beer Celebration and Borefts is a possibility. Any ideas…I love beer and will travel.

Thank you for reading and have an awesome 2014!

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


Bierebelle doesn’t have her head in the game

wpid-wp-1380728417789.jpgNo Game day beer last week.Or the week before. I apologize. There are many reasons for this.

1) I was far too busy mocking the other half about his beloved Miami Dolphins’ defeat at the hands of my New Orleans Saints

2) A game-day trip to Wembley for Vikings vs. Steelers meant I spent one Sunday evening on coca-cola (come on you wouldn’t drink Carlsberg at £4.70 a pint).

3) I went to Copenhagen for a few days.

Copenhagen more than made up for Wembley on the beer front. One in particular really stood out which you should really pounce on with all paws should it ever appear in a bar near you. Mikkeller Cù’t Cà Phê Bia Port  Barrel Aged, encountered at Mikkeller & Friends and ordered embarrassingly by the number of the tap it was on (you try pronouncing it). It smelled like everything good in the world. Port, brandy butter and a steaming cup of joe were evident in the sweet aroma of this deep black viscous beauty. I believe Nostalgia plays an important role in our tastes and although this is not a Christmas beer it embodies all my favorite flavors the festive season. Sticky Christmas pudding soaked in brandy sauce (by Birds,out of a carton, obviously) followed by the coffee creams nobody else wanted foraged from the bottom of the Quality Street tin. I’ve skipped the dinner and gone straight for pudding. Sticky lips and warm belly. Christmas is early.

Of course, since Copenhagen I realize the blog’s been a little quiet but I have also been to York and Manchester because I’m a very busy girl. More on Manchester later… Normal game-day service will be restored soon.


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Pan-galactic wit?

Oort Cloud

Oort Cloud

Week three of the NFL season sees the Arizona Cardinals pay a visit to the New Orleans Superdome to face the mighty Saints. Unfortunately for my Gameday Beers series, getting some Arizona beer over in the UK has been pretty impossible so I had to think outside the box a little. This week I’ll be torn away from my game at half-time as I set out to the local theater to see a live performance of the awesome radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so I figured instead of a game-related beer, I could get away with something a little different this week and go for the space-themed Belgian Wit, Oort Cloud (5.1%ABV) from relatively new brewery Rocket Science. Since I’ll be taking-off to the theater very shortly and I have one eye on the game, I’ll need to keep this blog brief.

Out of the bottle, it looks like a typical Wit, cloudy and golden yellow like a field of corn but it’s got a really fresh aroma with pine and grapefruit – very lively compared to some Wits I’ve had. The slight carbonation really opens up the banana sweetness combined with a slight hint of herbs and bitter lemon. It’s pretty light for the style but super-refreshing.

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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Wit


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Swing when you’re winning (I hope!)

Continuing with my Game Day series, I’ll be raising a glass to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who will be this weeks’ rivals and, like last weeks’ losers the Atlanta Falcons, they’re also divisional rivals of the formidable New Orleans Saints. For those unfamiliar with the NFL, the teams are divided into the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) and the winning team from each of these conferences eventually goes on to battle it out in the Superbowl. The two conferences are divided into four divisions each and my team, the New Orleans Saints, are in the NFC South division along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We’ll see each of our divisional rivals twice during the season and the winner in each division will go through to the play-offs. Although the divisional games have slightly higher stakes because of this, I find it difficult to dislike the Bucs who I’ve lovingly nicknamed the ‘Sucks.’ This is partly because a good friend of mine is a fan and partly because, well, they have a cute logo. Oh and they haven’t been much of a threat in recent times. The last time we met was a 41 – 0 beat-down, but as we know anything can happen on any given Sunday. Since I’m writing this before the game, it won’t do me any favors to get too cocky and I may end up eating my words.

Swinging Harry

Swinging Harry

Whatever happens, this is an excellent opportunity to crack open that very special beer that came back from Copenhagen with me way back in May. Since I’m in London at the Anamanaguchi All Dayer on game day Sunday, I’m enjoying my game-day beer slightly in advance. Any excuse will do – I’ve been excited about the Mikkeller collaboration with Tampa Bay brewery, Cigar City, ever since I saw the label which takes me right back to being a kid playing Pitfall! on the Atari. Swinging Harry (11.4%ABV) is a Belgian style quad brewed with Papaya and Mango and aged in Grand Marnier barrels and if you think you might wanna risk your neck swinging from vines over alligator infested swamps to get your hands on a bottle, you may find it worthwhile! Unlike the awesome label illustration by the ever-talented Keith Shore, the actual beer is a little dull to look at – a swampy slightly orange murky brown with a lacing of tiny off-white bubbles. The aroma is on the stronger side of what you expect in a Belgian ale with a really sweet waft of orange, candy sugar and super-warming alcohol. The taste is not as alcoholic as the smell and instead is full and thick with ripe tropical fruits. The bready malts take the back seat to the papaya and mango with deep woody notes and juicy figs and raisins soaked in bitter orange and masses of caramel. It’s like a boozy fruit cake that leaves you with sticky lips and a warming glow. It had been in the fridge for about an hour before I lost patience and hauled it back out, but I think the flavors really came out to play as it warmed in the glass so don’t worry about chilling it too much. Just relax and enjoy and wish the Saints the best of luck. Who Dat!

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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Fruit beers, Memoirs of a Bierebelle


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