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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Too many cooks…..?

I am counting down the days until the weekend. This weekend is the beery-ribsy-pulled-porky weekend I have been waiting for. Yes Grillstock is here at last! Apart from the barbeque extravaganza, I have a couple of days either side in one of the best cities in the South, Bristol, home to a great many awesome breweries. In the area, there’s Bristol Beer Factory, Arbor Ales, Zero Degrees, RCH, GWB and Bath and they’re such a friendly bunch. So friendly they got together this year to produce the Bristol United Brewers Collaboration Smoked Porter.

Well I’ve never had a beer made by so many different brewers and honestly, I was ever so slightly concerned that this would involve too much compromise. How does that even work? Does everyone just chuck a little something in and hope for the best? Clearly not – my partner and I have just bought a load of kit with the intention to start home-brewing and it looks like I’m about to open Frankenstein’s lab there’s so much science involved! This must have been quite an interesting operation but is it any good? First impressions say oooh yes indeed. Wow that aroma! So roast toasty with fruit and nuts and a touch of cola. Not a lot of smoke but I don’t miss it. There’s not much smoke in the taste either until a tiny waft right at the back but who needs it with a beer this deliciously rich. The mouthfeel is velvety and thick and it’s brimming with coffee and hazelnuts, cut through with the tangy orange of the hops.There’s a little candy sweetness through the soft center. and a slightly herbal hoppy bitterness through the end which makes the mouth water. Not a very well-smoked porter but still very beautiful.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Porters

 

Black Magic

Bierebelle is having another shocker of a working week dear readers. Don’t fret though. A black mood can only be cured by one thing and as we all know that can only be a black IPA! Black IPA is a relatively new phenomenon in craft brewing from over in that big ole USA. In a recent CAMRA festival programme I noticed with a little chortle that it can still only be spoken of in quotation marks. On the basis of the beers of this style I’ve been lucky enough to try, a black IPA is characterised by the same crazy levels of hoppage as American IPAs but with added complexities of dark roasted malts and a high ABV.

Moor Illusion, at only 4.7% ABV, is an attempt at a ‘session strength’ version of a black IPA. Sold in a generous 660ml bottle, it’s great for sharing but who would blame you for keeping it to yourself? This deep, sleek, black beer pours from the bottle with a thick head which, though short-liked, leaves an elegant white lace shimmering on the surface and sloaping down the sides of the glass as you swirl. The aroma of toasted malts and orange zest are comforting and energizing at the same time. This same toasted malts are the first flavor to hit but there’s a sweet orange-blossom honey trickling through and a tangy citrus hop with a coffee bounce at the end. It’s not quite as over-hoppy or powerful as some of the black IPAs I’ve had, but I think Illusion is perfectly joyful as a light and lovely expression of the style.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Black IPA

 

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Bitter-sweet Christmas

Yesterday evening. Thursday.Tough week. One day to the weekend. The weather’s taken another turn and it’s end-of-the-world storms yet again. I have a secret weapon though. There’s a bottle of Christmas beer waiting in the kitchen and this lovely British summer evening is the kind of evening it was made for so let’s crack that bad boy open. X-Mas Zinnebir from Brasserie de la Senne (7.8%). We like Christmas beers at Bierebelle’s base. Warm, generous fruitcake and spices….exactly the right thing for a cold, rainy evening. The perfect night cap. Poured from the bottle, X-Mas is a beautiful, deep red and smells like rich banana bread with plump raisins…very appetising.

Taking a sip it’s…hang on…go slower monkey what the holy hell is this!?!? Seriously I’ve had some bitter beers in my time but this is just so stark and alien and just weird. It takes me back that’s for sure. As a teenager I had a friend determined to stop biting her nails so her mother bought her some bitter-nasting nail polish designed to help discourage her. That’s what it takes me back to. I bravely go for another sip because my mouth is starting to dry. I swirl it over my taste buds for a little while longer than the first sip and I start to realise the worst bit is actually the initial taste. Oh and the after-taste. But what about that fabulous bit in the middle, the bit that seems to get better with every sip? Am I even building immunity to the bitterness? There’s nutmeg, allspice, bananas and the burnt currants picked from the edge of a freshly baked scone and even a slight sweetness under that bitter exterior. But the bitterness hits back at the end, coating the roof of the mouth and the tongue with a dryness, almost sticking them together. The most genuinely surprising beer I’ve had in a long time but did I like it…really I can’t say…Try one and see for yourself.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Imperial luxury

Bierebelle is a very happy girl at the moment. Happy even though it’s Tuesday, work is crackers and hayfever season is in full swing but just try to pull me down from this cloud. I finally gave in to temptation and prized open stout number 11 of the Bristol Beer Factory Christmas 12, the Imperial Stout which had been aged for six months in Glenlivet casks (then kept in my kitchen for a further 6 months). To the nose, there’s class and intrigue, dark chocolates, roasted malts and coffee bound in luxurious butter-soft leather. The aroma is intoxicating but doesn’t do justice to the fabulously full, perfectly well-rounded flavour. There’s an initial sweetness, giving way to bitter chocolate and orange peel. There’s romance, drama, many, many leather-bound books, in an apartment that smells of rich mahogany. The warming, roasty, bitter-sweet flavour coats the mouth and develops to a woody, slightly charred warmth with a subtle smoke as it warms the belly. The best way to enjoy this would surely be in front of a fire in a deep leather armchair.The brewery reccomend it as an after-dinner drink to accompany strong cheeses but since all I have is Laughing Cow Light, I’ll just have to imagine how utterly deliciously decadent that would be. Following on from the absolute pleasure of the Laphroaig Cask-aged Stout, I know I’ve missed out on a whole other world of flavour. I really have to get involved with this whiskey stuff!

 

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Stouts

 

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Chilling out with Zerodegrees

If you like craft beer and you want it fresh from the microbrewery, Zerodegrees is worth a look. It’s one of my favorite places in Bristol not only for the yummy freshly baked pizza but also because they serve a cracking pint. Since I haven’t had the pleasure of taking a trip to Bristol for a while, I was starting to miss their lovely Black Lager (4.6%ABV). Lucky for me, they also have a bar in Reading where my OH was working this week so the lovely chap hauled a whole 5litre keg all the way home on the train for me! How’s that for service! Now I know for some folk ‘lager’ might still be a dirty word. Most of the tateless upright-drinking chav-fuel you see in your local pint-and-fight venue unfortunately go around calling themselves lager which gives the style a bad name. Contrary to popular belief, lager is a style of beer which has been fermented and conditioned at low temperatures and can be as complex and tasty as any other style. For a cold, light, easy drink, black lager is one of my favorites. When I’m up north and near to Pivni or the York or Sheffield Tap, I’m a big fan of Bernard Black. Back in the South, if I get a chance to go to Bristol, I rely on Zerodegrees for my black lager fix.Everything on the taps at Zerodegrees is brewed on site and they prefer not to pasturise it or remove the yeast which allows it to develop character which sets it apart. However, this means the only way to get it is to go to one of their bars or have some kind and lovely soul bring a mini-keg back. There are no bottles. This is fine if you can get through 5litres in the reccomended 3 days (it does actually start to go on the turn after this – trust me). Previously this has resulted in pretty drunken long weekends in the hotels of Bristol but I’m sure we’ll be more sensible this time as this bad boy is coming to a party with us tomorrow. OK it’s a first birthday party but the kid’s gotta start somewhere.

One neat thing about getting a mini-keg is you get a little tap on the front to dispense it. I don’t know why I find this exciting – maybe it’s because I never fulfilled my secret ambition to work behind a bar. Dispensed into the glass, the lager is a deep black as you would expect and has a pretty thin tan head which fizzes away fairly quickly. The aroma is lots of dark roasted malts with coffee and chocolate characteristics. It’s packed with delicious flavors and is almost like a light, carbonated take on a porter. There’s a little bitterness at the back when I swallow it down but the sweet, smooth coffee flavours steal the show, highlighted by a small hint of dark fruit and vanilla. As lovely as it always has been.

 

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Castles, Ravens and…Piddle in Dorset

So as you know, my adventures up North, where all the best beer is, have come to an end. Until I get up to Leeds and Bradford at the end of August, I’m stuck in the South so I figured I might as well make more of an effort with what we have down here. There must be some pubs and beers worth getting out for. Following on from my recent trip to Salisbury where I made the lovely discovery of The Village pub, I plan to actively seek out the best of what the South Coast has to offer. OK, I haven’t encountered a town quite like York, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle yet in terms of the sheer concentration of pubs serving good quality, varied beer but there must be some good stuff?

This week we have had the in-laws to entertain so we took a little trip with them to the beautiful Dorset village of Corfe, home to the famous Corfe Castle. Although the pubs seemed to have a rather uninspiring selection on the pumps, we settled on a rather delicious lunch at the Greyhound which boasts the honor of the ‘most photographed pub in Britain’ with good reason. It’s situated slap bang in front of the castle itself. The food was served in generous portions and cooked to perfection; I went for a fresh, locally caught mackerel with perfectly cooked garlic potatoes, but the ale was a choice between Doombar, some other dullness (can’t quite remember!) and Mallard IPA (4%ABV) from Cottage Brewing (Somerset) One poor chap at the bar was so confused he ended up with a half of Guinness and a half of Doombar. In the same glass. I was later advised by Twitter that this is an actual ‘done’ thing known as ‘Black & Tan.’ I am now intrigued. However, since I had never tried the Mallard before and have a soft-spot for train geekery, I ended up with a pint of that. Although it was a lot more mellow than the IPAs I’ve been enjoying recently, it made for a decent lunch time pint with very played-down, mellowed out fruity floral hops.

No pretty little English village is complete without a lovely little village shop and luckily this little shop was well-stocked with Dorset Ales. Surprising that none of these local breweries seem to have made it into the local pubs I saw in Corfe. At least I can get bottles to try at home! First was Corfe Raven (3.9% ABV), a traditional English Porter named for the ravens who have always been resident at the castle. The word ‘Corfe’ is actually derived from the ancient French for raven and it has been said that their presence at the ruins is a good omen. After a little drama with some liveliness opening the bottle, the porter poured out as black as a raven with a light and frothy head, oozing with aromas of chocolate, hazelnut and liquorice. Despite its relatively low ABV, it’s packed with delicious flavours of milk chocolate with some of the creamy characteristics of a milk stout. There’s a little bitter coffee at the back balanced by a touch of sharp raspberries. Pretty impressive!

Next up was the Ise of Purbeck amber ale, Studland Bay Wrecked (4.5% ABV) which actually comes from a micro-brewery at the Bankes Arms Inn, Studland Bay. First impressions were good – the colour was a lovely cloudy burnt amber with autumn aromas of burnt toffee and spices. However, I found the flavour a little thin on the ground and somewhat hollow. Flavours of apples, toffee and spices were finished with a small zing and a touch of bitterness, but it was all too short-lived and straight-forward.

The Dorset week finished with a pair from Piddle, a relatively new but well-loved brewery with a rather childish sense of humour. The first bottle we cracked open was Little Willie, named in honor of the world’s first tank which now resides at top Dorset attraction, the Tank Museum. As we have come to expect from bottle-conditioned beers, this one was just bursting to escape and had an impressively huge, thick head when poured out, although my pouring skills could have also played a part. The deep ruby-hued ale was bursting with bready, fruity aromas with black and red currants. The sweet and sour taste of raspberries and blackberries had the softening touch of toffee and vanilla rounding all the flavours off in a soft little fruity bunde. I found it slightly gasssy but this didn’t spoil it. This was a good example of how I want an English ruby ale to be.

The final drop from Dorset was Piddle’s take on ginger beer. Since the fabulous Grandma’s Weapons Grade Ginger Beer seems to have disappeared, I am again on the search for a new favorite ginger beer. Sadly, Piddle Leg Warmer (4.3%ABV) doesn’t quite live up to the tag line of ‘Proper hot and ginger,’ but it’s still fairly pleasant none the less. It was a very pleasant clear golden colour with no bubbles and it felt quite thin which gave it  a summery beer-garden-guzzler feel. The aroma was full of pure delightful candied ginger which carried into the flavour. It was a very sweet interpretation of ginger with a slight bitterness lurking in the background. The slight bitter dryness left in the mouth reminded me of the feeling after eating under-ripe bananas. Despite the sweetness, there was a little belly-warmth at the end. So the search for Grandma’s special sauce will continue, but if I’m hankering for ginger this one fills the gap nicely.

So, although the style is a little bit lighter than what I go for, Dorset seem to be doing pretty well for beer. On the way back from Corfe, we made a little stop at Swanage to have a look around which seemed to be doing a lot better in terms of serving local beer in the pubs at first glance. This will, of course, warrant further investigation so the Dorset report will continue in the near future…

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Amber, IPA, Memoirs of a Bierebelle, Porters

 

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A night in with The Kernel

The Kernel – where have you been all my life!? How could I have missed this brewery? As a bit of a social media tart, I’ve seen quite a few people chucking back a bit of the Kernal’s special sauce on Untappd and Instagram. I’ve been fairly intrigued since everybody seems to think quite highly of them but for some sad reason, although we’re not far from London, there’s only one place I know of stocking these beers and they don’t have the Export Stout London 1890 (7.1%ABV) which I’d heard so much about. This made me such a sad panda that I brought one all the way back from The Bottle in York on the aeroplane and winding down from my trek around Salisbury seemed like just the right excuse to get it open.

I say – this Kernal’s rather dashing

The Kernel are proud to say their beer is ‘bottled alive’ so it can grow and develop in the bottle. This little monster was kicking and screaming when we let it out; even though the bottle was sitting in the kitchen for a week since we bought it we got a little bit of a spray. Maybe it was all that beautiful flavour waiting to burst out. In appearance it’s everything I would want in a porter – total opaque darkness, the alcohol evident in the slight oiliness on the sides of the glass as I swirl it around. The aroma is outstanding rich, dark chocolatey malt. The taste is all this and more. Rich, thick mouthfeel with bitter espresso and sour red berries. A bite of decadent dark chocolate is lifted with a touch of vanilla. Perfectly balanced. Why is it called ‘Export’ anyway? I want it for myself!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Stouts

 

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Salisbury Saturday

So after a few trips up north, Bierebelle is stuck in the south, so what does a girl do for fun here? Today I went for a little explore to see what Salisbury has to offer. I had a little ulterior motive too; although I have a weekly coffee delivery from Hasbean which is awesome, I still crave my visits to the exceptional Quetzal Coffee on the Saturday market. That chap is a legend – he sources and roasts his coffee personally and his Old Brown Java is second to none! But a girl can’t live on coffee alone, and I certainly couldn’t drink the coffee beans till I got home. Thanks to the Twitter hive mind, I had a few places in mind so first stop was The Village. Well I can’t believe I hadn’t found this place before! So close to the station but a real hidden gem in the opposite direction to the city center. I knew I was onto a winner looking at the bar policy on the chalk board outside; 5 real ale pumps dispensing Downton Quadhop, Tim Taylor‘s Landlord, two guests and a dark. Refreshing to see that commitment to darks even at this time of year, especially at this end of the country. I can almost forgive the Landlord!  There’s even a whiteboard in the pub saying what’s on next board and space to write requests! This place is a little shabby and smells proper pubby but it’s got character. There’s an awesome vintage collection of bottles on a shelf behind the bar and loads of train memorabilia. It does carry out, Sky Sports, even yummy Snyders of Hannover treats.

First selection from the Village pumps was the Box Steam Tender Mild (3.6%ABV) which turned out to be a pretty good drop for a mid-morning. Quite thin feeling but lots of sweet blackcurrant aroma and hedgerow berries flavour with bitterness at the end. The OH had Downton Eurohop (4.4%ABV). Fairly acceptable but not really my thing. The main characteristic seemed to be bitterness. My next choice was Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby (6%ABV) which unexpectedly had the dark looks and thin body of a Cola with tiny bubbles. The OH thought it might have been bottom of the barrel, given the sourness, but I didn’t mind since it was quite refreshing. There was quite a bit of tongue tingling sour cherries or raspberries and a fruity red wine vinegar aroma – quite unusual. The boy went for a Liverpool Craft Beer IPA which turned out to be a lovely satisfyingly rich beer with lots of herby lemony hops and a big hoppy aroma.

After a little wander round the shops and a bite to eat, we headed on to the Wyndham Arms, Hop Back‘s first pub. Unsurprisingly, all 6 hand pumps were devoted to Hop Back, a brewery I have mixed feelings about. I love their Entire Stout and Summer Lightening is fine for a hot day, but I find a lot of their stuff is variations on the same theme so I was fairly disappointed that all 6 pumps were devoted to the paler side. Although it is June would it be too much to ask for Entire Stout? Unlike their Southampton bar, The Waterloo (in my opinion a warmer, more lively place), there were no guests-pumps although Fosters, Thatchers and Murphys were on tap to placate non-beer lovers. Since I was there, I had a half of Pioneer (3.7%ABV) which is a perfectly fine amber ale for summer but nothing exceptional. Easy drinking, unoffensive honey and cereal aromas with a slight citrus zing and long bitter finish. The OH was slightly more impressed at the Heracles (2.8%ABV) since, for a very low strength pale it was fairly satisfying  and had an admirably hoppy flavour.
So after the Wyndham there was just enough time left to check out Twitter-reccomended pub number 3, the Duke of York, another very traditional little pub near to The Village. Again, the decor was slightly shabby but this was a place which cared about beer and displayed a nice selection of pump-clips and old posters. On the mantlepiece was a fairly admirable library of Good Beer Guides going back to late 80s, as well as other beer and whiskey publications. I always like to sit in a pub where the staff and punters are chatting about beer too, especially the more opinionated ones. Favorite overheard quote in The Duke of York? ‘Green King Abbot I wouldn’t give you tuppence for!’ Although I did note the Stella, Becks Vier and Red Stripe taps but I guess they need to cater to those crazy fools who don’t like beer too. On the bar, I was most excited to see a certain little red barrel proudly sitting there. As CAMRA would say, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Watneys Red Keg but I wanted to try one of the Duke’s guests instead so maybe next time (plus poor old Watney’s is no more). I selected a Jennings Tom Fool (4%ABV) which was an easy drinking amber ale; bitter, spicy, a little touch of sweet toffee apples. I could imagine this is nice in autumn, although I have a feeling it’s a seasonal offering for summer. Not amazing but a good little sup. My sturdy drinking companion had a Shardlow Five Bells (5%) which wasn’t dreadful but just wasn’t that interesting. A little dark roasty malt but not a lot else.

So Salisbury, of course I’ll be back for the coffee, and so far two out of three pubs will see me again. Not a bad start to my beery adventures down south!

 
 

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How Bierebelle learned to Hardcore the Hop

When it comes to food and drinks, I’ll try most things once. Rather surprisingly though, as a lover of beer and real ale, I have actually been fairly conservative in my choices of beverage, deciding if I’ll buy a pint mainly on colour. Porters and stouts will always be my first love, my bangers & mash, my comfy old sweater, the ones I go to for comfort when it’s cold outside and I need a hug. We can all relate to liquorice, berries, chocolate, coffee and malt but when it comes to floral bitterness…really? Part of my long-standing disdane for the lighter side of beer is no thanks to the bland, ‘traditional’ watery pints that  are so common on the real ale scene in the UK using boring old Fuggles and Goldings. Yes, fine if you want to sit in a pub all day getting a gut and cursing ‘her indoors.’ Of course you wouldn’t want something too challenging on the tastebuds, but I’d rather drink water.

It has now come as a bit of a shock to find out in recent years that pale can really be rather interesting! How much I missed out on! Especially on the craft brewing scene. Maybe my tastes have grown up a little, maybe I love a challenge or maybe it’s the sheer variety of hops and all the different flavours they bring to the mix. Pale doesn’t have to be dishwater! It hasn’t been easy – there has been the odd shocker (Stone ‘Ruination’ I’m looking at you) where I’ve literally had to screw my face up from the sheer bitterness. What I say these days is that it’s better to be impressed by how close against the face of undrinkability they can push than be disappointed by slightly flowery, forgettable, frothy water.

So, with my new love of IPA , I was pretty excited by the new project from current darlings of craft, MikkellerBrewdog who have formed an unholy union of ‘I Beat YoU’ and ‘Hardcore IPA’, but would ‘I Hardcore YoU’ be too hardcore for me? Initial reactions at first whiff? Me: ‘Jesus what does that smell of!?’ hands the glass over to the OH whilst listing the hops which prompts the reply ‘they’re asshats.’

Mikkeller ‘I Beat YoU’ (9.7%) is an impish little double IPA which was created at Brewdog, who were probably a bad influence anyway. It features the mighty and relatively new hop Herkules from Germany alongside old friends Centennial, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus. I had a dance with this little gremlin a few weeks ago and found it immense, intense, beautiful but bruitish in its full-frontal attack. As I said in my review, ‘it whollops you in the chops with a bouquet of lemon, lime, bitter hops, more bitter, but stays sprightly and lively.’ Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA ain’t that shy with a roll in the old hopsicles either; once the Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe are all packed in nicely there, it’s dry-hopped with Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe. So, naturally, the two beers have been chucked in together and those IBU perverts have dry-hopped the living hell out of the unholy mix not once but twice.

The result is a beautifully clear burnt amber golden IPA with the most beastly hop aroma which is floral, herby, piney, citrusy, almost an exotic greenhouse complete with honey bees buzzing in through the windows. The big, generous flavour is surprisingly sweet with a thick texture. There’s lemon zest, grapefruit and honey coating the tongue with a little spicy kick towards the back. It leaves the mouth feeling dry and watering for more all at once as the alcohol sizzles all the way down. As a DIPA goes, it’s more well-rounded than some hop-missiles I’ve tried but still packs an eye-watering punch. I think I’m in Hardcores with this beer.

So now that Brewdog, with help from their friend Mikkeller, have pushed the boundaries of hop insanity, what could they possibly have planned next? Hmmm….how’s about we give the hops a bit of a break boys? Ever heard of ‘No-IBU IPA?’ You would think only Brewdog would be insane enough to attempt an IPA with no hops, but it turns out that they have a rival accross the pond who will also rise to the challenge. The competition in this so-called International Arms Race comes from the crazy fools at Flying Dog. Who will win? I don’t really care either way. I just can’t wait to see what they come up with! All will be revealed this month apparently!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in IPA, Memoirs of a Bierebelle

 

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Back to York (again)

Well I’ve finally finished typing up my previous visit to York and now I’ve only gone back for more! As well as another beautiful wedding, there was also a fabulous birthday party but I did get time to try a beer or two in between running around seeing people. Yet again, events up North prevented me from managing to get to a major beer festival in Southampton (this time the main CAMRA festival) but the beauty of being in York is that you can make every day a beer festival. Around the taps and bottle shops, I would not even like to hazard a guess at how many there are to chose from on a given day, although if you are a York resident I would encourage you to get involved with the census which will give us a better idea of the variety available! On arrival, after spending an afternoon with my mum we didn’t have a lot of time before needing to be out again so we paid a visit to our favorite bottle shop on Stonegate. Although we couldn’t really pop upstairs to visit Trembling Madness, we managed to pick up a few treats to enjoy whilst we got ready for our night out back at the hotel.

I was a little bit ambivalent about the first one we chose to open, Struise Rosse (6%ABV), an amber ale,  Perhaps I had expected more from Struise since I always get really excited about their beers and have never had a bad one. Not to say this was bad, just a bit ordinary. It’s a pretty syrupy amber color out of the bottle with a little bit of a bubbly head but the aroma wasn’t particulatly outstanding; a little honey cereal going on so perfectly fine. It did taste a lot better than it smelled. It was fairly dry with notes of cereal, pine and a zingy, short and slightly citrusy finish. Absolutely nothing wrong here, just not nearly at the level of the others I’ve had from these guys.

Moving on from the familiar Struise Brouwers to the distinctly unfamiliar Sweedish Nils Oscar Rökporter. I’d seen the God Lager in Waitrose but never been interested enough to try it; maybe I’ll give it a go now though. As a fan of smoked porters with absolutely no knowledge of the Sweedish language, I

This stuff Roks!

made an uneducated guess at the style of this beer based on the name and I surprisingly got it right. Rökporter was actually a bit of a pleasant surprise, dark and opaque and a little carbonated with a malty bitter chocolate aroma and a delicate smoke. The taste of dark chocolate and malt was clean, crisp, refreshingly well-rounded and had a hint of smokiness that built with each sip and lasted through to leave behind a lovely smokey aftertaste.

After another night on G&Ts (the party venue was all about the John Smiths and Fosters), wandering the shops in York I had beer on my mind again and, window-shopping on Fossgate I was quickly drawn to the lovely little deli, The Hairy Fig. Since I don’t cook in York, I’d never paid much attention to the food shops so I had totally overlooked this place multiple times, but it turns out that they actually stock a small selection of local ales from small brewers, none of which I had actually seen before! I ended up selecting just one bottle since we already stocked up the day before but it turned out to be a pretty wise choice. Brown Cow is a small brewery run by a husband and wife team from Selby which has many awards on it’s trophy shelf so I’m pretty sad I missed it when I lived up north. Deciding which beer to buy was a tough choice as Captain Oats sounds yummy (I’ll definetly try it next time) but I went for Mrs Simpson’s Thriller

Sweet and delicious

in Vanilla (5.1%ABV), their porter flavoured with fresh vanilla pods. The dark chocolatey coloured beer gave off gorgeous dark chocolate malt and vanilla aromas as I poured and reminded me a lot of Titanic‘s Chocolate and Vanilla Stout. Although the mouthfeel was fairly thin and effervescent, it carried a lot of rich and complex flavour of vanilla and milk chocolate and was still incredibly satisfyingly rounded.

Being a responsible aunt, I arranged to meet my sister with her partner and my young neices at the York Tap. Obviously because it’s spacious enough for the pushchairs. Nothing to do with the selection of beers. But since we were there, it would be rude not to and it was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to try a beer by Hardknott straight from the tap! Hardknott are one of my very recent discoveries but they have quickly become one of the breweries I seek out – the first bottle I had was particularly memorable as I only bought it because the stout, Aether Black 28 Year 2010, had been matured on oak from a whisky dating back to the year I was born. I loved it so much I have another bottle set aside for my birthday this year. At the Tap, I was lucky enough to try their Black IPA, Code Black (5.6%) which surprisingly smelled like a stout, looked like a stout but tasted like an exceptional Black IPA. The hoppy aroma was almost clove-spiced. very bitter sweet tang with hint of roasted malt to round it off with style. The bitter, citrus flavour had a little chocolate tone and a long bitter finish and pleasant alcoholic warmth.

As a Brewdog fan, I was also pleased to see Growler (4.5%ABV), the blonde lager they made especially for the Tap/Pivni family, on the bar. This turned out to be a pretty special summery tipple with a tropical fruity aroma of tinned peach with a delightful blossom garnish. Quite sweet and light in flavour but also smooth with a hint of vanilla custard towards the end. Yummy golden effervescent summer pudding. More a happy purr stretched out in the sun than a growler. Super for a sunny session. In true Bierebelle style though, it wasn’t long before I was back on the dark stuff. This time it was two from Thornebridge. My OH had the Black Harry (3.9%ABV) and I went for the Beadeca’s Well (5.3%ABV), but who had chosen the best?

Battle of the Thornebridge darks – Beadeca’s Well (front) v. Black Harry

Black Harry was what I would expect if I asked for a dark, drinkable ale for sessions. At 3.9%, you could neck a couple of pints of these without worrying a great deal. The flavour was a perfectly pleasant dark roasted malt with notes of dark fruit and carried some of the burnt toffee from the aroma. The mouthfeel was pretty thin and in all made for an ale that was not really that challenging, but perhaps fine for a little guzzler. I’m pretty sure I came out the winner of this round with the exceptional Beadeca’s Well. The second smoked porter of the weekend, it had a much more luxuriously opaque dark colour and foamy head than the Harry.The rich flavour had a delicate spice about it with semi-sweet chocolate and sightly dialled-back smokiness (it put me more in the mind of a smoked cheese than sausage). The fullness came to quite a dry end with a waft more of smoke. A truely elegant porter.

After the third (and final) wedding this year, we only had half a day left in York. Having heard about the very limited (only 346 bottles and one barrel made!) Maltings/Brass Castle collaboration for the York 800 years celebration, I was keen to get to the Maltings to try it before it disappeared! At 8%, this Russian Imperial Stout had six different malts and grains in the boil as well as a touch of vanilla. I was impressed by the beautiful dark colour and vanilla espresso aroma. It wasn’t as thick as some stouts I’ve had recently but this had no impact on the masses of complex flavours. At first taste, it was slightly sharp (according to the OH almost geuze-like) but the taste developed into a delicious, but still slightly acidic, well-rounded espresso with dark roasted malts and a

The guy on the bottle looks awfully familiar…

tiny citrus tang cutting through. Gorgeously complex and refreshing, and another stout which was actually incredible served cool! If you live in York, you need to be quick as The Maltings is the only place to find it and it is very limited. I’ve read online that the landlord, Shaun plans to crack open the only barrel in July so if you want to go along it might be a good idea to follow their Twitter. Also, in July the brand new extention and outdoor terrace should be complete so there will be even more room to enjoy their brilliant selection of beers. I was lucky enough to have a guided tour by Shaun when I was there and, although it’s still a work in progress, it’s going to be pretty cool when it’s finished. Let me know how it turns out if you go – I sadly won’t be back in York until Christmas.

Now that the wedding season has drawn to a close, Bierebelle is mainly staying in the South, apart from a little trip to Leeds and Bradford at the end of August. This means I will be making an effort for once to hunt down the great pubs and breweries of Southampton and the South Coast! If any of you readers can tell me about anywhere round this way I should check out, get in touch on the comments or via Twitter. Also, if you are a beer geek and haven’t made the discovery yet, you can also follow my little ‘mini-reviews’ at Untapped. Until next time…

 
 

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