RSS

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.

 
1 Comment

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.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Black IPA

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

 
Leave a comment

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!

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Stouts

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , ,

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…

 
1 Comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Stouts

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,279 other followers