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Category Archives: IPA

It’s not rocket science but it is a craft!

I’ve been finding myself staring into space a lot recently. It’s so awesomely huge that it makes my head hurt to think about it too much but thankfully I have beer so it’s never too stressful. It’s been hard not to think about space, what with real-life Major Tom Chris Hadfield hitting the news with his performance of Space Oddity actually filmed on board the International Space Station! Then the amazing opportunity came up on Kickstarter to back the first publicly accessible space telescope, Arkyd and have a ‘selfie‘ sent up and photographed. In space! Then another opportunity on Kickstarter to support the fantastic band Ananamaguchi in their quest to make even more mind-bendingly colorful beepy awesomeness. What do they have to do with space? See their latest video Endless Fantasy and prepare to be impressed.

Joining the Space Race

Joining the Space Race

I was very excited when brand new Bristol brewery Rocket Science Craft Ales got in touch to see if I wanted to try some of their new beers. Well since they have such a cute logo how could I refuse. After a long day in London seeing the V&A’s exhibition celebrating the original Space Oddity, David Bowie, it was fitting to open a nicely chilled bottle of the IO (6.5%ABV) to unwind. Named after one of the moons of Jupiter studded with over 400 active volcanoes, this American IPA has a lot to live up to. It’s unfined, unfiltered and unpasturised so it’s about as back-to-basics as brewing gets. In the glass, it’s cloudy dark amber – not what I was expecting – and the aromas are fresh, sharp citrus and slightly sweet honey with a touch of pine. It’s a surprisingly really accomplished American-style pale for such a young brewery – the bitter lemons and grapefruit really hit the taste buds hard making the mouth water and the dryness at the back is so crisp, The acidic pineapple brings a touch of tropical sunshine and there’s a little sweetness in the aftertaste like sherbet lemons.

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I was most excited about the Jet Black (5.4%ABV) since it’s a Cascadian Dark Ale which is one of my current favorite styles. I’m fairly particular about Cascadian Darks and very few fit the bill for me. This was a very promising pour, jet black like it says on the bottle with a lovely lasting whispy head and an aroma like a charred hedgerow. The dark malts give a burnt crust characteristic to the fabulously bitter hop but it’s lifted by a delicious fruitiness, like a playful cocktail of lychee and cranberries. This is perfectly balances with deliciously bitter dark chocolate – think of your favourite bar of 80-85% cocoa solids studded with crystals of burnt brown sugar. The finish is wonderfully dry with a bitter-sweetness that’s so moreish. I think I’ll be strapping on my jetpack and blasting off to Bristol very soon – I gotta get stocked up on these! Impressive for such a new brewery!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Black IPA, IPA

 

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Jingle-Belles, Jingle-Belles….

As usual, the flights up North for Christmas really should have come with a health warning or possibly an in-flight detox on the return journey. There’s so much choice of real ales and craft beers in the many many pubs that every day feels like a beer festival. Having spent a day enjoying the fabulous pubs of Leeds, we caught the train to York where, there in the station, is one of the best pubs in Yorkshire, the York Tap. It was just my luck that after I had been trying to track it down for so long, the Tap were serving Marble Earl Grey IPA (6%ABV) brewed in collaboration with Emelisse. It looked pretty much like an IPA, smelled like an IPA, albeit an IPA that  had a little stroll in a floral meadow. The taste was initially typically hoppy and satisfyingly bitter, but there was this beautiful gentle bergamot and orange blossom drifting in and the tea itself glides in at the end and leaves a slightly over-brewed bitterness which totally compliments the hops. Worth tracking down!

No sign of the Apocalypse yet!

No sign of the Apocalypse yet!

Of course, one of our first stops is normally the bottle shop on Stonegate for hotel beers. However, we had procured some hotel-room refreshments already at the lovely Beer Ritz in Leeds. The beer we selected to toast the morning of the End of the World was To Øl Moccachino Messiah (7%ABV), a classic breakfast beer. It could have been mistaken for Coca Cola on its deep red-brown colour and  a fizz to almost match. If those four horsemen were to actually show up, I felt that this exceptional dark roasted espresso wake-up call was a good way to start the day. There was a slightly harsh bitterness at the end but the  lactose sugar lightened it up and smoothed over any sharpness.

Since being absolutely spoilt in Canada for delicious pumpkin ales, I’ve been missing them so much that I have brewed my own! Naturally I was delighted that when I visited the cozy Pivni to see that they had a Pumpkin PA (6.8%ABV) on which is the result of a collaboration between Tempest and Cromarty. It certainly looked like the real deal with a really lovely cloudy amber colour (maybe helped with the addition of carrot juice to the brew) with pumpkin and vanilla in the aroma. The first flavour to hit was the pumpkin and at first I didn’t really get much spice but once it had a chance to build up, there was a definite spicy cinnamon and ginger spice which warmed the throat along with cracked pink peppercorns. This was the proper smooth, thick pumpkin ale I had been missing so badly.

A ray of sunshine

A ray of sunshine

One of the biggest surprises of our trip came from Sunbeam Ales which I had never even heard of before, but that’s not surprising since they are the ‘smallest brewery in Leeds. Seriously, go to their website and look at the pictures. This guy makes 50 litre batches in a regular kitchen in a back-to-back terrace and has picked up several home-brew awards. No wonder if the Honey & Lavender (4.9%ABV) I tried was anything to go by. What a joy even to look at, such clear, golden, straw-coloured liquid sunshine with a beautiful honey aroma. The honey sweetness stood out and the lavender (from brewer Nigel Poustie’s garden!) was so delicately lovely. It made the bus out to Beer Ritz all the more worthwhile.

No trip to York would be complete without a visit to the Maltings, conveniently situated about a two minute walk from our hotel Of course if the river level had come up any further we may have had to swim to it. Despite the flooding of the cellar, we still managed to get ourselves a bowl of some of the finest chilli and chips in Yorkshire and more importantly, an exceptional Old Ale (8%ABV) courtesy of Kirkstall, with a little help from Doug of Colorado brewery Odell.who just happened to drop in on a trip to Leeds! I feel slightly bad mentioning this beer here – landlord Shaun had kept his cask for a year so it was pretty unique as far as I’m

You can't argue

You can’t argue

aware (although I’m still wondering if it was also available under the name Aquitane). What a beer!  It was complex, strong and fruity, almost like a beer version of a dark rum with a red wine aroma and a slight woodiness. .

For our last night in York, we cracked open the Hardknott Rhetoric Edition 1 (10.2%ABV) chilling out in the hotel and what a special yet ever so unusual beer that was. Beautiful beery dark gold with an exceptional aroma-sweet sweet treacle and star anise like a festive spiced bread. It was malty and sweet up front with an almost minty, kind of metallic cool freshness. The exotic star anise after taste had received a light sprinkling of cinnamon which made me recall a distant memory of some Chinese pork dish I can’t quite remember but certainly enjoyed.

Christmas is always a busy and sometimes stressful time of year, rushing around to get around all my friends and family. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have such a brilliant choice of pubs and bottle shops in and around the city I grew up in so I can relax with real treats in the time I have for myself. They don’t call it God’s Own Country for nowt!

 

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Caught in a Twit-Storm!

I can’t believe how quickly time has gone since I was in beautiful Vancouver but at least I can relive it by sharing it with you in my blog. One of the things I find most bizarre about Canada is that so many websites look like they were made about 10 years ago and a lot of them may have not even been updated since! Many retailers had websites that would make CAMRA websites over here look polished in comparison (for overseas readers, CAMRA UK websites tend to be shockingly bad). However, unlike in the UK, the beer industry and its aficionados seem to have really got the hang of this internet thing. The Most Awesome Website award (which would see the average What’s Brewing reader have the whole bar condemned for sorcery)  would probably go to St Augustine’s Brewpub. Imagine if you could see exactly what beers are on as well as what colour they are and how much is left at a glance before you leave the house. Imagine no more thanks to the Live Beer Menu. As well as on-line, it’s also shown on screens around the bar.

As an avid Tweeter, I didn’t need to be in Vancouver long to find the awesome YVR Beer Tweetup. They’re a

The menu at Smileys

group of craft beer lovers who organise and promote craft beer events such as the Hopscotch event held over two nights as part of the Craft Beer Month celebrations and as a warm-up for the Hopscotch festival. The Tweetup event featured 8 Highwood Distilleries Whisky based casks of amazing beers. On each table, along with the beer menu, there was also a list of hashtags and Twitter IDs to enable drinkers to tweet their opinions and shout-outs which were displayed on screens around the bar. There were also competitions where prizes were awarded to the first person to tweet an answer to a question, Pretty clever since as more people tweet, the event starts trending and this means free publicity – sweet!

The two nights were held at two different bars which are part of the Donnelly chain (like ‘Spoons but with good food and good beer), Smileys and The Bimini. Of all the beers, the best was easily the Lighthouse Imperial Whiskey Marmalade IPA. The bitter hops totally intensified the Seville orange marmalade to the max. This was closely followed by the Central City Spanish Oak Aged Vanilla Bean Whiskey Stout. Hopefully if they ever bottled it they’d have a think about the name, A superb stout with plenty of coffee bean, it picked up a fair bit of the woodiness from the oak which was offset by delicate vanilla. I also loved the Howe Sound Pumpkin Ale Spiced Whiskey. Their original pumpkin was one of my favourites but the warmth of the whiskey and the round woody flavour pushed it over into a new level.

 

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And the winner is…

Armed with tasting notes, I get stuck in!

It was just my luck that the third annual British Columbia Beer Awards & The CAMRA Harvest Cask Festival happened to fall on Saturday October 18th my first full day in Vancouver. We were quick enough to purchase a pair of the much sought-after tickets over the marvellous internet (what did we do before it!). Prior to this I had no idea that CAMRA had distant, younger, trendier cousins in such far-flung and exotic locations as British Columbia. Chapel Arts was the venue for this illustrious shindig which had the atmosphere of a lively but very friendly house party. Walking in, we were greeted with the usual beer list, commemorative glass and starter tokens (plus bonus tokens for our food donations for the harvest festival!). However, there wasn’t the usual line-up of pint or half. These glasses were teeny 4oz tasting glasses which were ideal for sampling all the beer one could hope to try without hitting the floor too early. I’ve always been fond of the ‘tiny glass = more beers’ approach to festivals and I was glad that throughout our stay we discovered this was a common feature in craft beer pubs across Vancouver.

The chill-out-and-eat-pulled-pork room

The crowd was a far cry from the stereotypical beer festival crowd one is probably all too familiar with. These were young, fashionable people all interested in beer, discussing home-brew and their favourite pubs in excited tones. It’s the very first beer festival I’ve been to which made me feel slightly old! Rather than the familiar setup of casks all racked together, the BC folk set up a table for each brewery and it was fun to meet some of the brewers who were happy to chat about their creations to anybody who came along. As a young woman who is often patronised at CAMRA festivals (GBBF being one of the worst sadly), it was nice to not have to negotiate with narrow-minded old men to try the beer I like and it was encouraging to see female brewers at some of the stands. In fact, the brewers were really the stars of the show and were recognised in the awards and their names appeared alongside their beers in the tasting notes. No attempt was made to separate cask and keg either – refreshingly both were listed and shown together.  CAMRA had the usual recruitment table and as a special treat for their members they had an exclusive ale for card-carrying members only. Thankfully, they were kind enough to accept my UK CAMRA card so I was allowed to sample a glass of Driftwood’s crisp and refreshing Sartori Harvest IPA and I also managed to blag a sticker and a pin badge for being such a dedicated CAMRA member.

The coveted awards

The awards ceremony was the highlight of the day. Beer-loving star of film and television, Jonathan Lloyd Walker who I believe is best known for his role in sci-fi show Continuum but has also appeared in the film Red and the Flash Gordon TV series amongst others, was a very charming and funny host. A beer awards bash is probably the best event to get in to at the start of a trip to an unfamiliar country. Although I recognised a few of the names from a previous trip to Vancouver, it was a great way to find out about the beers and breweries to watch out for. The judges came from a host of backgrounds, from qualified beer judges to sommeliers to ordinary bloggers and foodies and sat down to the gruelling task of tasting prior to the awards. The sleek tap handle trophies were awarded to the top three beers in 12 distinct categories in addition to the Homebrew award and ‘Best in Show’ which, to my surprise, went to a Pilsner from Steamworks. Of course Steamworks do make fabulous beers. You can see a full list of the winners here.

So what did Bierebelle spend her precious beer tokens on?

Big Ridge Brewing – Tariq’s ESB (5.9%ABV) by Tariq Kahn

Lovely clear amber red with more of an IPA than ESB character. Pink grapefruit citrus thirst-quencher with lots of carbonation. Part of the MJG family of brew pubs along with Flying Beaver, Whistler Brewhouse and Yaletown. Normally only brew for consumption on-premises so nice to see them at a festival!

Dead Frog Brewing – Hop Forward IPA (7%ABV) by Timmy Brown

Big bitter hop assault. The lemon sharpness takes a hold on the taste buds and doesn’t let go through the warmingly alcoholic bitter finish.

Driftwood Brewing – Sartori Harvest IPA (7%ABV) by Jason Meyers

CAMRA Exclusive! Very overtly hopped with a lot of citrus in the aroma. Refreshing, crisp and clean lemony liveliness.

Howe Sound Brewing – Imperial Pumpkin Stout (6.5%ABV) by Franco Corno

Heavy burnt treacle on the nose with almost a hint of tobacco. Really thick mouthfeel with pumpkin pie spices, burnt sugar and rounded out with earthy cacao nibs.

Lighthouse Brewing Company – Belgian Quice IPA (8%ABV) by Dean Mcleod

All I knew about quinces before is that posh TV chefs like to put them in jelly but it turns out over in British Columbia they have an even more totally righteous use for them! This easily won the People’s Choice award of the festival. A sharp candy aroma intensified by a fistful of hops, this pale and cloudy wonder had a remarkable combination of cranberry and rhubarb yumminess with a long bitter finish.

Parallel 49 – Chocolate Pumpkin Porter (6.5%ABV) by Graham With

Interestingly slightly sharp dark malt aroma. Very dark opaque brown with quite a bit of carbonation. Really bitter dark chocolate and a little touch of the vegetable,.

R&B Brewing – Cucumber Mint IPA (6.5%ABV) by Todd Graham

Imagine Thornbridge Wye, but add a trace of subtle mint and a more sturdy, robust citrus hoppiness. It’s a very cloudy yellow amber which is almost like a saison in appearance. The initial feeling is a big juicy bite of beery cucumber with a tingly mintiness at the end, exaggerated if you stick your tongue out (which was pretty fun). This was probably second only to the Quince IPA in my view.

R&B Brewing – Seasonal Squash Ale (5%ABV) by Todd Graham

Another cloudy one but a beautiful dark tan colour. I found this one rather zingy for a squash ale and not much spice was evident but there was still a lovely earthiness imparted by the squash. Interestingly it also shared characteristics with a cream ale.

Steamworks – Espresso Stout (9%ABV) by Tak Guenette

Mmmm… a real espresso stout with bitter coffee and a lactose sweetness at the end, although interestingly the OH was not too fond of the high acidity in the flavour. I thought it reminded me a lot of Titanic or Dark Star.

Storm Brewing – Imperial Sour Cherry Stout (11%ABV) by James Walton

I loved Storm and especially this one – they excel at pushing sour beyond the brink. James is pretty much the rock star of the BC brewing scene with crazy bleached spikes and awesome punky style. The aroma on this one was almost eye-wateringly sour cherry and citrus and the flavour was unbelievably sharp with a candy aftertaste that leaves your mouth feeling like you’ve been eating sour laces.

Townsite Brewing – Porter (5.5%ABV) by Cedric Dauchot

Wow this took me back to Ireland! Very carbonated with a massive head and properly bitter.

Tree Brewing – Jumping Jack Pumpkin Ale (6.4%ABV) – Stephan Buhl

This very dark golden amber ale was initially slightly disappointing with not much aroma but it was definitely a grower. More heavily hopped than others of this style, initially there was not much spice but this developed further down the glass and complimented the delicate pumpkin flavours.

The beautiful beer-loving crowd

Somebody had to…

Conrad Gmoser of Steamworks

Every beer festival needs pulled pork sandwiches

 

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Rebel Belle

Taking over the taps!

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to go for a day trip to Bristol for the Tiny Rebel tap takeover at the Bag O’ Nails. Having tried only one of their beers previously, the magnificently hoppy Fubar, I had been desperate to try more but sadly none have made it as far as the South Coast. Having never been to the Bag O’Nails before, it was a good excuse to discover another pub in Bristol. I’d heard excellent things about the place so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pay them a visit. I was also keen to meet Malcolm, the handsome chap who runs the pub (he’s actually a cat so he has a human called Luke managing the place). I hadn’t expected such a lovely, bustling little pub as the one I walked into. Luckily, we found ourselves a table, although we had to be on our best behaviour as the boss was enjoying a well-earned siesta there.

I started with a lovely Koochie (6%ABV) pale ale which had that lovely fresh and exotic new-world hop flavour. It didn’t take long to feel quite at home. I really appreciate going to a pub where the landlord is as passionate about good beer as I am, although Luke and I do not seem to share the same opinions on Irish craft. One of his other passions seemed to be his music collection; instead of CDs, there was a turntable with a collection of well-chosen classic albums on vinyl from classic artists such as Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath and The Doors.

Malcolm wasn’t really interested in the Chocoholic. More for me then.The Doors, Black Sabbath and Johnny Cash.

As I got stuck into my second beer, a delicious Cwtch (4.6%ABV) English Bitter which had that classic biscuity taste with a hint of fruit, I got talking to the guys at the table next to us. I was amazed that they had come all the way from Newport, Wales, where Tiny Rebel is based, to support their local brewery. The OH did have to remind me that it’s not that far from Bristol by train, but still I’m impressed they love the beer so much.

It was an absolute delight to meet the two guys behind Tiny Rebel, Gazz & Brad. We spent a lot of time chatting to Gazz who was such a massively likeable beer geek. He told us about how they started out as home-brewers and we chatted about what we had been brewing at home. It’s always handy to get tips from professional brewers, especially as he still brews small batches to test new ideas. He was particularly proud of the Chocoholic (6.8%ABV) which was a beautifully bitter, smooth, rich chocolate stout. The extreme dark bitterness, I was told, was down to the raw cacao nibs used in the settling tanks.

Before the mad dash for the train, there was just enough time to remind myself of the beer that had made me want to go to Bristol that day in the first place. Fubar (4.4%ABV), with its lovely refreshing hops and really big after taste of bitterness, was just as good as I remembered. Oh and I even managed to grab a growler of Koochie for the train home, although since cats evidently rule the roost at the Bag O’Nails, Luke insisted on a swift ‘customisation,’ covering the Brewdog logo with a Tiny Rebel one. I kinda like it. Although that was also when Brewdog Jonny walked in. It’s a shame we had to catch a train relatively early but you can tell what a fun day out we had by the fact that I didn’t really get round to writing many proper words about the actual beers which is even more reason that I demand that you track some down for yourself!

Bespoke customised Tiny Rebel growler!

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in IPA, Memoirs of a Bierebelle, Pale Ales, Porters

 

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Exploring the beers of the Emerald Isle

Although my birthday was at the start of August, I had to wait a whole month to enjoy my super-awesome big birthday treat but as they say, good things come to those who wait. My lovely kind boyfriend had booked tickets for us to spend four days in Dublin! Bleary-eyed, we set out on a 7am Saturday morning flight to embark on our Irish adventure. Why so early? That day we were seeing the Emerald Isle Classic, a massive American college football game between long-standing rivals Notre Dame and Navy. Although technically it was a Navy home game, the Notre Dame, also known as Fighting Irish supporters, vastly outnumbered those there for the ‘Midshipmen.’ With 35,000 Americans over for the spectacle (and a couple of bewildered American tourists who couldn’t work out why there were no Irish people in Dublin), it was pretty lively out on Temple Bar even as early as 9am when we arrived! With the bars and pubs filling up with yanks on a morning pre-game bender, we installed ourselves in The Temple Bar to soak up the atmosphere and hopefully find some Irish beer. I had set myself up for disappointment on the Irish beer scene, having heard about the dominance of the mighty Guinness having crushed any hope of a craft scene. How wrong I was!

The first Irish beer of the trip had to be a Trouble Brewing Dark Arts, their 4.4%ABV porter which I noticed

Trouble’s Brewing!

as soon as we reached the bar due to it’s super-cute label. Established in 2009 by home brewers keen to take things to the next level, Trouble Brewing only has two beers in its line-up (the other is Ór Golden Ale) but also do the odd seasonal brew now and then. I’ve just found out their next one will be a pumpkin ale which they really should consider exporting to Southampton, UK (pretty please, hint hint?). There may be a little Irish black magic in this deliciously full but refreshing stout. There was a tiny hint of hops compared to a lot of the ales I’ve enjoyed recently, but the bitterness of the coffee made up for it. The rich port flavor at the back was intriguing, almost as if it had enjoyed a brief stint in port cask. The rich, black smoothly balanced beauty at only 4.4% was surely the product of pretty skilled brewers. Even the artwork’s adorable. The OH tried a Dungarvan Black Rock Irish Stout (4.3%ABV) which had the more traditional bitterness of a stout with delicious dark roasted espresso flavors. We also managed to try the sturdy Knockmealdown porter from Eight Degrees which was set up by a kiwi and an Aussie who came to Ireland and wondered where all the craft beer was. As they say in their tasting notes, it’s ‘like tackling the Knockmealdowns in a blizzard, this beer is not for wimps.’ A full bodied porter with a slight carbonation to open up the bitter dark espresso and berries, ending with a warming charred woodiness. Along with some delicious Bloody Mary oyster shots and posh goats cheese on toast, we were all set to make our way to the stadium. After such a good start on some pretty impressive local beers and food, the Guinness at the game was a little lackluster.

Oyster Stout & Oysters = The ultimate treat!

It’s a good job that, despite the dominance of the black stuff, Dublin seems to have a pretty thriving craft beer scene and it’s easy to find a good pint. Porterhouse, with all its dark nooks and crannies where you can take a relaxing time out, has been a long-standing favorite in London and not just because it’s the site of the first date with the OH. Opened back in ’96, their Temple Bar premises was the first ever brew pub in Ireland, serving a fine selection of beers from around the world alongside its own range. It has all the character of Covent Garden but benefits from live Irish music every night played from a stage which looks precariously suspended above the ground floor bar in a kind of crazy arrangement where you can see the band whichever floor you are on. They also proudly display an impressive collection of old bottles in glass-fronted cabinets covering the walls. It was interesting to see some of their earlier take-offs of the big brands which made me think when they started they may have been quite the enfant terribles, courting controversy like Brewdog do today. These days, their line-up of exceptional beers speaks for itself. Their Oyster Stout (5.2%), with its uniquely indulgent creamy head and masses of rich chocolate flavour, is made even more special served with three oysters on the side and remains my favorite beer in that style. At Porterhouse, I also had my first try of their Wrasslers 4X Extra Stout (5.7%ABV) which left me wondering what took me so long – again a thick and deep black beast with more of a roasty roundness than the Oyster.

Another favorite haunt in Dublin turned out to be the F.X.Buckley Bull & Castlewhich is a cozy gastro-pub

Where to start?

serving traditional pub-grub made from local produce to an extraordinary standard at street level, but upstairs you will find a wonderfully spacious Beer Hall, complete with sociable long tables and sport on TV. Although their international bottle selection was pretty well thought-out, I was most impressed by their dedication to Irish beer. They always have 8 on the taps and even more to choose from in the fridges. To allow drinkers to find out more about the craft scene on the Emerald Isle, they have even produced a small guide book available to buy for a few euros. Conscious that I had been getting carried away with all the delicious stouts and porters available around Dublin, the 8 third-pint tasting tray was an ideal opportunity to see what else the Emerald Isle has to offer. Amongst the line-up was the famous Galway Hooker (4.4%ABV) made by a couple of guys who just wanted something other than the traditional stout, red and lager. They ended up producing a multi award-winning dry, floral, refreshingly fun pale ale which I rather enjoyed. I should mention here as well that if you do eat at the Bull & Castle, I order you to try the ribs – the sauce is actually made from Galway Hooker and my goodness can you taste it (if you are reading chefs, if you send me the recipe I promise I won’t tell anyone). Going back to beer, the Irish brewery that really wowed me the most for pales was Metalman. I had already tried their summer seasonal, Windjammer (4.8%ABV) which features the current favourite Nelson Sauvin hop but somehow stands out with its delicate spice, dried strawberry, biscuits and vanilla. On the tasting tray, I had a sample of the Metalman Pale Ale (4.3%ABV) which was a very American zingy, zesty, limey, mouth-wateringly dry hit of refreshment. Of the stouts on the tray, my firm favourite was still without a doubt the Dark Arts from Trouble Brewing, although Carlow’s O’Hara’s Irish Stout (4.3%ABV) was a pretty smooth operator with a luxurious lasting tan-coloured head and big roast malt and chocolate flavours with an edge of bitter hops.

A selection of the bottles at the Bull & Castle

I could go on and on about all the wonderful beer we had and bars we visited. I was so at home with Irish craft and really don’t understand why so little of it appears over here. Not only do you find a vast array of stouts and porters to choose from all year-round, but brewers are also trying more American and European influenced styles and the standard is pretty high. My only concern was that, in general, beer was served a little bit gassier than I am used to. Maybe it’s just me? Another observation was that there still isn’t a lot a lot of terribly hopped beer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and this is just based on the bars I went to in Dublin. There are exceptions such as Porterhouse’s superb hops-all-up-in-your-face Hophead (4.8%ABV). I was pleased to see no noticeable cask/keg divide. Bars serving good beer just served good beer and didn’t really tell you how it was made or served.

To learn more about the Irish Craft Beer Revolution, take a look at Beoir, the ‘independent group of consumers with a primary goal of supporting and raising awareness of Ireland’s native independent microbreweries.’ Their website has an excellent directory of breweries, as well as the bars and restaurants where you can try their beers.

Come on – Guinness is better than nothing at a sports game!

 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Amber, IPA, Memoirs of a Bierebelle, Porters, Stouts

 

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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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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

 

On the train again…

Earlier this week, I took a little trip to Bristol to have a look around the Bristol Beer Factory. As is now the tradition, we began our train journey with a lovely coffee, this time courtesy of Sweedish brewers Nils Oscar. Opening their Coffee Stout (6%ABV), I knew it was the right decision for a morning wake-up drink from the aroma of strong espresso with a hint of malt. Like anything poured into rubbish plastic glasses, it bubbled enthusiastically which made it look more carbonated than it was. Holding it to the light it was slightly thin in appearance and a cloudy black-brown, but the flavour was a lot more impressive. As a coffee enthusiast, I have done bad things with coffee in the name of experimentation. Ever wondered whether  iced black coffee carbonated through a soda stream would be any good? Don’t – it’s just bitter weirdness. Black coffee freeze-pops? Not a good idea when all the flavour seems to gravitate to the center. Save your effort and try this Coffee Stout instead; somehow it brings back all the best bits of those intense coffee flavours through rose-tinted glasses. Big on immense bitter coffee with a touch of red berry and slight sourness to balance. A nice little morning cuppa.

Moving on, the next ‘sharpener’ for the morning was a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%ABV) and why not on a sunny day off from work! I can be a little daft sometimes and rarely look properly at supermarket beers, dismissing them as dull as something I have had before and have no further interest in. Wrong and foolishly ignorant. I almost missed this one as Sierra Nevada is so widely available I rarely give it a second glance. My OH had to point this one out, despite the bright and summery green and yellow label. It’s from all the way over in California where they probably know a thing or two about sunshine beer and they seem to have poured a few rays into this joyful golden IPA which shimmers with lively bubbles and a tiny amount of froth. The hop aroma was herbal, reminiscent of the forest in the rain and the flavour was a lucious bitter herbal and citrus bouquet, a little like a beer version of Riccola sweets. The end was long and dry with a waft of pineapple. A perfect refreshment to set us up for the day in Bristol!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in IPA, Stouts

 

Classic Twoo!

The blog posts haven’t been that regular of late since I’ve been working on the home brew which is going pretty well. It’s mainly been the OH getting all the details right and doing the precision work so I’ve been more of a ‘creative guide.’ Seriously, if you want to understand beer, get brewing. Don’t think you need a massive shed or garage to have a go. We live in a flat so we’ve been doing small batches using the BIAB method which means we’ve been able to mash our own grain; the incredible aromas mean this is my favorite part. I’ll do a proper post soon about our adventures.

All this experimentation is thirsty work and sometimes you need something classic. Kiuchi Brewery Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale (JCA) (7.5%ABV) is a ‘Recreation of the first Japanese beer made in the Edo period…Aged in cedar barrels like the old IPA style method from England.’ I love this brewery just for their super-cute owl mascot but I’m  pleased to say everything I’ve hd from them so far has been impressive. This one is a really gorgeous hazy sunset colour with the scent of apples and wood and a tang of lime, playing alongside honey and plump juicy fruits. Despite the downpours of our Great British Summer, I can imagine the warm sun rays as I enjoy the sweet, fruity orchard fruit flavour with a warm alcoholic fruit liquor taste at the back. The juicy, full flavour becomes dry at the end with a little citrus on the tongue. I can’t wait to try more from this charming range – which one should I try next…?

Tweet twoo

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in IPA

 
 
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