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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Further adventures in the North

A super selection at the North Bar

Wow it’s been a busy month! So little time to blog so sorry about the general silence from Bierebelle HQ. What an amazing month of an amazing year to reach that milestone 30 – it’s been a whole month of birthday! Between spending my evenings glued to the Olympics and now glued to the Paralympics, I managed to fit in a short trip up North to the wonderful West Yorkshire. Before heading off to Bradford for a music festival, first stop was Leeds where I just had to call in at the lovely little North Bar asap. Part of a small family of Leeds pubs which includes the cozy Cross Keys and even a beery ice-cream van,  although not for much longer since they’re selling it. How long ’till Christmas? Although it looks tiny from the outside, North Bar actually boasts a pretty enviable selection. On the day we went, out of 16 taps I saw 6 dark beers which for me is a pretty admirable ratio, although it makes sense on a rainy August day.The range on the bar includes a Dunkel from Erdinger, Coffee Porter from Flying Dog, a Cream Stout and two IPAs from Sierra Nevada – there’s something for everyone! The prices are pretty much what you expect in London. I had an X-Ray (8.5%ABV) from the Italian Brewfist at a fiver for a half but I guess it’s pretty rare to find in the UK. Tasting it I soon forgot the dent in my wallet (well, my boyfriend’s wallet). You could get lost in this luxurious dark Italian stallion of a beer. It had the aroma of delicious caramel with tones of burnt wood and in the flavor the sweetness hit first. Treacle toffee oozed through before a bitter coffee sweeping through to a woody leather finish. Sophisticated, elegant and complex. The OH was lucky enough to try a gorgeous Brooklyn Mary’s Maple Porter (6.9%ABV, draft only so fairly special!) which was a big mama of a sweet malty drama with voluptuously unctuous maple syrup taking it to the limit of what could turn out sickly but staying damned drinkable.

Next on our whistle-stop tour of the bars of Leeds was Friends of Ham, located on New Station Street which has become one of my favorite streets in the city. Nestled alongside Laynes Espresso, serving the best coffee around, and brew-pub Leeds Brewery Tap, Friends of Ham is the tiny bar station with a big secret in the basement. Descend below street level and you’ll find yourself in a cozy, laid back lounge complete with comfy sofas, eclectic-chic unmatched tables and chairs, sociable long dining tables and a  Shuffleboard (which somebody must explain to me some time)! Check out the gorgeous photos on their Facebook page if you’re not convinced.

Hey little piggy!

It boasts a brilliant cask and keg range for such little bar space. I finally had the chance to try Williams Brothers Birds & Bees (4.3%ABV) after admiring the artwork on the website ages ago but never seeing it in real life. It was exactly what I wanted it to be, like a hazy summer afternoon of snoozing by a river-warm amber gold with sweet honey aroma. Honey is perfectly balanced by floral hops. Imagine this with crusty baguette and soft cheese lying somewhere in a field, if summer were ever to return. The OH had a Dark Star Revelation (5.7%ABV) which also had a little of the honey flavor like Birds & Bees, rounding off the overwhelming huge hops and a lingering dry bitterness to finish. Another win from Dark Star – can they ever go wrong? We loved this place so much we actually called in on the way out of Leeds to sample their charcuterie delights. Well it is just next door to the station. As a light lunch, the two of us shared a mixed meat and cheese board which came with delicious fresh bread, cornichons and a duo of delightful onion marmalade and a warming orange habanero jelly. The smoked goats cheese was the best I’ve had so far with a mild goats-milk tang and perfect amount of smoke and the garlic cheese wrapped in garlic leaves was incredibly delicious without anti-social amounts of garlic. I was pleased I took the suggestion of the lovely lady at the bar and went for the salted beef and I also tried the fancy salami studded with fennel seeds which gave it a pretty refreshing twist.To wash it down I indulged in a half of Delerium Red (8.5%ABV) which I had never actually encountered before. It was gorgeously full of rich and juicy cherries with a trace of bitterness in the after-taste. Still not as good as my much-loved Sam Smith’s Organic Cherry Ale but tasty nevertheless.

The gorgeous bar at Mr.Foley’s

Thankfully, we also had the chance to drop in on the York Brewery‘s Western outpost, Mr.Foley’s. It’s a lovely proper pub and the huge bar has a high ceiling so while you wait for your beer there’s plenty of interesting bottles to browse, although many are from times past and may just invoke fond memories. There’s 3 or 4 taps devoted to York Brewery so it’s a must-visit for me if I’m not actually going to York! Alongside are about 6 on cask including some changing guests and 4 on keg. I had my beloved Ghost Ale (5.4%) which we all know by now is one of my desert island ales and I love for it’s rich creamy chocolaty goodness. I don’t know whether the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ saying is appropriate or whether this was just perfectly well-kept but I swear this was even better than I remember. The OH went for a delightful Sierra Nevada Summerfest (5.0%) which was a delightfully light, citrus hopped Pilsner style. To round off our one night in Leeds, I decided to try a Bellerose which is the blonde from Brasserie des Sources, a brewery founded by by Gerrard Depardieu. In all, it was pretty typical of the style with all you expect including the off-putting aroma (or is it just me who finds that?). The flavour was smooth despite the herbal zingy hops and joyful carbonation. Although I was quite content with the Bellerose (6.5%ABV), I did find myself fairly jealous of the OH’s Buxton Imperial Black and couldn’t wait to finish my beer so I could pour myself some of his.. Had Brewdog Libertine? This is Libertine’s bolder, larger-than-life swashbuckling cousin. Hoppyer with a truckload more blackcurrant and a zesty citrus pow!

So, as you can see, mostly I haven’t been blogging because I’ve actually been out and about on my travels. You could even call it research. We had barely had the chance to unpack on our return from Bradford before we were back on the plane to the Emerald Isle… More on that soon!

The York Brewery Pumpclip Collection

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Memoirs of a Bierebelle, Uncategorized

 

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The Ginger Beer that could possibly blast a Hole in the Wall

Everyone loves a ceiling covered in pump clips

Living in Southampton, it’s frustrating that good pubs are so few and good beer is mostly only available to drink from bottles at home. Sometimes it’s nice to drink somewhere outside the home where it’s friendly and the beer selection is good. Thankfully, since I only live a short walk from the train station, the South of England is pretty much my oyster at the weekends and one place I love to go is Portsmouth – a girl can’t just survive on beer. She’s gotta shop once in a while and Gunwharf is lovely for a potter around. Just a short walk along the seafront at some point Portsmouth melts into the gentle seaside town of Southsea which is where you will find one of my favorite pubs down here,The Hole in the Wall. It’s such a cozy little pub it almost lives up to its name so it’s a good job the patrons all seem so good-natured every time you have to squeeze through to get to the bar. Since Portsmouth is a Naval town, there’s folk from all over the country and I find it comforting to hear Northern accents whenever I wander into The Hole.The first thing that attracted me to the place was that I heard they were selling a proper real ginger beer, a ginger beer that would make the Famous Five weep with joy.

Wheal Maiden’sGrandma’s Weapons Grade Ginger Beer has become the standard ginger beers must

Poor Bierebelle got the wrong one. Lucky it was only a half!

live up to for me. It’s allegedly 5.5%ABV although I would not be surprised if there’s still a bit of fermentation occuring in that white plastic barrel it’s served from. Although it used to be on the bar at the Hole In the Wall every time we went in, it’s become slightly more random now. Thankfully there’s plenty of awesome ales to choose from so we always end up staying. The landlord must be something of a connoiseur as he keeps his ales perfectly and sources them from the very best breweries up and down the country. The last time we went in, I made a duff choice on my first drink, Quantock Royal Stag (6%ABV) which had a bit of a sicky smell and no real hop flavour, despite being marketed as a ‘traditional IPA.’ However, the OH had a pretty delectably nutty Irving Admiral (4.3%ABV) oatmeal stout which I managed to trade with him halfway though. To my delight, also on the bar was Magic Rock Carnival (4.3%ABV), a gorgeously golden summer ale with a full hop aroma with candy lemons. Magic Rock do a cracking job and The Hole is one of the only places down this way where I have seen it on tap. With the initial hit of lemons the Royal Stag had become a distant memory and then the hoppy bitterness and a trace of bitter orange at the end provided a magnificent full finish. Also on the bar was the slightly dialed-down but still very refreshing Curious (3.9%ABV) which the OH was more than happy with.

Finally the Weapon’s Grade is back!

Although the Magic Rock had been awesome and a really rare treat, I was still missing my lovely ginger (as were two other people who came in while we were there and asked after it). I hadn’t had any since the day I celebrated completing the Great South Run at The Hole a year before. Thankfully, last weekend my luck had finally turned and I got a pint of what I had been waiting for and it was indeed worth the wait. As is usual when ordering a pint of this stuff, it came with the usual ‘watch out love, it’s a bit strong’ warnings from regulars propping up the bar which is a sure sign of a good drink. The lemon and ginger aroma is so clean and fresh, it’s almost worryingly like something you could clean your sink with it it’s so sharp. Any readers familiar with those lip-tingling plumping lip-glosses will already be familiar with the ginger burn but you get the bonus of the lovely sweetness and a mouth-watering dryness at the end. Looking at the milky white colour, the OH did point out that it had more in common with cider than beer, and he may be right but I love it no matter what it is. The only problem is I can’t normally drink more than a pint without getting giddy!

 
 

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A birthday to remember!

Well the Olympics is over but what a fortnight it was! If you are anything like me, you will have been glued to the Olympics at every spare moment! At work, I’ve discovered the very best reason to have an internet browser with tabs. I have absolutely no idea how I passed the time in the dark days before the games came to London! What a memorable week to hit a milestone birthday! Last Monday I hit the big 3-0 and I really don’t mind if you know that since I still get asked for ID (so there!). We had meant to get tickets for the Olympics on that day but

Birthday beer time!

weren’t lucky enough. Since we’d heard London was actually not too manic we decided to venture up there to spend the day generally wandering round and soaking up the atmosphere. In a dramatic but very fitting diversion from the usual coffee train-beer, I had been keeping a special birthday beverage to one side. Æther Blæc 28 (7.7%ABV) is Hardknott‘s phenomenal Stout Beer aged in barrels which had been used to distill Inchgower Whisky way back in the year I was born. Out of all the barrel-aged stouts I have tried, this stands out as one of the best, if not the best. Well-balanced, rich, dark fruits, bitter and hypnotic depths of complexity. So far I’ve had two of the 420 bottles made. I will count myself very lucky if I get another!

The Æther Blæc set me up for a crazy awesome day combing the streets of London in search of the painted Wenlock statues dotted around the city – there’s apparently 80 in total! Since this was hungry work, I had the ideal excuse to try out Tonkotsu the new ramen bar in Soho which I’d heard about from various beery sources on Twitter and had pretty much the best ramen ever! The mains on the menu consist of only two pork ramen and one vegetarian but they excel at what they do! I have never raved about hard-boiled eggs so much – you will not regret ordering extra! The reason it’s popular with beer fans, of course, is its rather enviable and fairly-priced beers from local breweries Beavertown & The Kernel, as well as Brewdog. I went for a Beavertown Smog Rocket (5.4%ABV) which was a deliciously smokey porter and the OH went for their impressively hop-tastic IPA, 8 Ball (6.2%ABV).

More Wenlock-spotting called for more thirst-quenching beer. Just my luck then that The Cask had a ‘Meet the Brewer’ event with Red Willow brewery! What a fantastic place to watch as Jason Kenny took another Team GB gold in the mens sprint, an event I became a little obsessed with. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to let out a cheer as he crossed the line. I drank halves so I could try as many as possible and I can pretty honestly say that I didn’t have one bad one but the stand outs were the liquorice black IPA SoullesS (7.2%ABV) and sweet but smokey and incredibly drinkable porter, Smokeless (5.7%ABV). Unfortunately, the day had to come to an end early as I had to be at work the next day so to round off a rather lovely birthday we got a lovely pudding to take on the train. The perfect pudding? A cakey, figgy Vanilla Tree Dubbel (7.5%) by Westbrook Brewing Co. Only another two working days until we’re back in London for the Great British Beer Festival and seeing the Olympics for real.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Memoirs of a Bierebelle

 

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I believe in IPA

It’s IPA Day! I love living in these days of social media – would we have IPA day without it? Doubtful – it’s become a global phenomenon amongst lovers of Craft Beer. It doesn’t mean much to most but it’s a cracking opportunity to get talking about the IPAs we love around the world and it’s been fun reading all the tweets and Untappd checkins. I’m inspired by the sheer variety out there. What will your next IPA be?

My IPA Day beer had to be that Struise bottle I’ve been hoarding, Elliot Brew (9%) which was part of the haul the lovely OH brought back from his recent trip to Brussels. I’ve always been stupidly amused by this one just because of the creepy Elian sketch (I have to say the name of this beer in the same way). Dumb animation references aside, this was a pretty darned nice beer to celebrate IPA day. It was a pain to pour since it was so very lively but it’s settled to a beautiful, cloudy, almost opaque golden colour. The aroma is definetly hoppy in a citrussy way, but also has a touch of cereal conjuring images of a joyfully golden cornfield. It’s beautifully balanced with bags of candy-sweet, bitter citrus (216 IBU!) at the front and a refreshing tidal wave of pink grapefruit sizzling on the tongue. The aftertaste is long and mouthwateringly dry. This gorgeously moreish quality is perhaps why we have a whole day for IPAs in the first place.

Since I’m on the subject, I should really use the opportunity to post my review of Mikkeller‘s wonderful Nelson Sauvin single hop IPA (6.9%ABV) which I had the pleasure of drinking the other night. Since I’ve started home-brewing, I’m quite interested in trying single-hop IPAs to get a feel for the different varieties and their cheeky characters so I know what I have to play with. I’ve been pretty impressed by the very much in-vogue New Zealand varieties so far and if anyone knows how to hop, it’s Mr Mikkeller. Well he’s really done an awesome job here; the invigorating bitter citrus aroma hits you right in the face the moment you get the lid off and beams out like the sunshine. The hazy sunset colour is crowned with a delicate lacing in the glass. If there’s a beer equivalent of an exotic cocktail served in a pineapple, this might be it. Tropical acidic pineapple is followed by luscious pine and a long, juicy finish. The aftertaste leaves you with the aromatic memory of lychees. A beautiful showcase for a stunning hop from over at the other side of the world.

I hope you found something delicious for IPA Day – I’d love to hear about any discoveries. Don’t forget, any day can be IPA Day so hop to it and make your taste-buds smile.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in IPA

 
 
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