Introducing Team OS!

When I found out that my employer Ordnance Survey would again be the official mapping partner of The Pearl Izumi Tour Series I was hopeful about the possibility of blagging my way to an event to hand out leaflets or maybe the marketing team might procure some merchandise to give away as prizes. I never imagined that I’d be taking part and yet there I was in the pit area, discussing hill-climbing technique with Team NFTO Director Sportif Dave Povall waiting for the race to start.

The calm before the race

The calm before the race

The Tour Series is five weeks of adrenaline fueled pro-level crit-racing in city centers up and down the country. Some of the top teams in the UK battle it out racing laps of courses featuring tight corners and unpredictable British weather. It’s the only domestic crit series to be televised and attracts thousands of spectators to every venue. The Canary Wharf stage also features the Pro-Am Corporate Grand Prix which is a unique opportunity for event sponsors and Canary Wharf residents to race on the same circuit as the pros in a relay.

Pro-team talk

Pro-team talk

Whilst it was clear that some businesses clearly had a more scientific method of selecting a team of 5, we decided to approach the event with a healthy dose of fun and chance; the team was selected by pulling names out of a hat and luck was on my side. As the only woman in the whole of the business to volunteer I was determined to get a place; most cycling events have a woefully minute ratio of women to men (the last sportive I rode had a shameful 47 women to 614 men – that’s 7%!) so it was important to me to hopefully set an example that other women might follow if we send a team next year. So, the debut line-up of Team OS ended up as me, Andy Revell, Ray Patrucco, Richard Brettell and Matt Whitely.

Smile for the cameras!

Smile for the cameras!

OK I’ve never raced on the road before but neither had the rest of the team. What better place to start though; the positive energy and atmosphere on the day took care of any nerves. So what if the other teams were rocking up on carbon-fibre beasts that cost the same as a small car whilst in our team there was a cyclocross bike complete with Brooks touring saddle and my bike had a bell on it? What we lacked in form we made up in enthusiasm. When Ned Boulting, in a rather surreal moment, asked me on camera if we were in it to win, I wasn’t lying when I said we were going to ride our hardest.

Team OS with fan Ned Boulting (l-r Richard Brettell, Matt Whitely, Ned, Ray Patrucco, me, Andy Revell)

Team OS with fan Ned Boulting (l-r Richard Brettell, Matt Whitely, Ned, Ray Patrucco, me, Andy Revell)

The format was simple: each of the five team members takes a 1km lap, hand-clapping the next one into the race in the changeover area. The final lap is taken by a pro-rider and we couldn’t have asked for a better choice than Ian Bibby of NFTO, the winner of the sprint competition at the previous event in Croydon. The course, a long rectangle, is deceptively simple on paper but a lot more fun in real life. By the time my turn came, the team already had a lot of ground to cover and I can honestly say I have never ridden that fast in my entire life. I was flying up the first long straight and it seemed like it took seconds to reach the first corner which I almost flew into but somehow managed to get round. Taking the short back straight and hitting the second corner all too quickly, I found myself on the long finishing straight, lined with spectators cheering and banging the advertising boards. The support was overwhelming and gave me the energy to push myself back to the changeover area to tag in the last man of team OS. I’ve no idea where we came in the standings. I know we were was close to the bottom but I think we went home feeling like winners that day.

Whee!

Whee!

Our pro Ian Bibby shows us how it's really done

Our pro Ian Bibby shows us how it’s really done

Post-race chillaxing in the VIP area yeah!

Post-race chillaxing in the VIP area yeah!

Biere Here (at last!)

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

The opening lineup

The opening lineup

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

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

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

We drank it dry

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

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

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

I wasn't shy with the pickles

I wasn’t shy with the pickles

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

Where’s the bierebabes?!

Wish I'd seen this for the last blog!

Wish I’d seen this for the last blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bicycle Belle

Maybe you'll be this happy with coffee?

Maybe you’ll be this happy with coffee?

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

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

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

What more does a girl need?

What more does a girl need?

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

Get on your bike…

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

Spin Up In A Brewery

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

CTC Brewery Rides

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

Appropriate refreshment?

Appropriate refreshment?

on January 25th or Lovibonds on February 15th.

Lovibonds MTB

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

Firkin Challenge

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

Big Bike Bash

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

Be inspired at the velodrome

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

Make like Hopworks and get on your bike!

Make like Hopworks and get on your bike!

The Year in Beer

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

Bierebelle loved…

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

Mikkeller Cù’t Cà Phê Bia Port  Barrel Aged

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

The Bruery Fruet

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

Brewdog Lumberjack Breakfast Stout

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

Bierebelle travelled…

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

Indy Man Beer Conference

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

The dazzling Magic Rock bar

The dazzling Magic Rock bar

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

Copenhagen Beer Celebration

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

Celebrating with Mikkeller & Friends

Celebrating the beer

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

Bierebelle propped up the bar…

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

Mikkeller & Friends

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

At Mikkeller & Friends

At Mikkeller & Friends

Brewdog Bristol

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

The Hanging Bat

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

Enjoying the Brighton sunshine at the Evening Star

Enjoying the Brighton sunshine at the Evening Star

The Evening Star

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

Bierebelle met…

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

Bierebelle still has lots to do! 

Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, Get Awesome

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

Get Awesome

Get Awesome

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

Thank you for reading and have an awesome 2014!

You can’t take it with you

Some girls buy shoes. Others buy handbags. I seem to be in the business of collecting beers and they’re taking over my flat! One of the things I love about beer is that there’s no end to the special editions, barrel aging, new hop varieties, new methods…. those creative and clever brewers just keep surprising us which means you could try a new beer every day and never have the same one twice for as long as you live! In fact, you could try more than one every day and never repeat or, like me, you could just come back from the local bottle emporium a couple of times a month laden with clanging bags of beer to pile up with the beer you just bought online and the beer you bought last year but you are saving for a special occasion.

Epic Christmas

Epic Christmas

On Friday decided to be brave and actually open one of my ‘special’ beers on the train to London It was extra-brave since it was not a breakfast stout, nor had it been anywhere near coffee – a complete change from my usual train beer! This particular one-off bottle was the final chapter from Stone‘s Vertical Epic series, 12:12. The series started in 2001 with ‘Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch suggesting we release a different  Belgian-inspired beer suitable for aging each year on the date when the day, month and year registered by the same digit.’  They ended up with a series of 12 epic beers which were designed to be tasted as a set. Sadly I was late to the party so I only had this one bottle which now makes me a little sad because it turned out to be a jaw- dropping amazing Belgian Christmassy ale. I had no appropriate glassware on the train so I had no idea what it looked like but I imagined a dark chai with a garnish of slices of orange and cinnamon sticks. Larger than life, warming, luxurious, very extravagant for a breakfast beer. Maybe it was one to save for a dark and stormy evening with rain pattering against the window. There were massively chewy fruit cake flavors with bitter dried orange, big cloves at the back, not that sweet but really big and beautiful. I haven’t been this impressed by a beer in a while, possibly because I’m hoarding all the best ones..

Anything to declare…?

It’s been two days since I returned from Copenhagen and it’s been hard making the adjustment back to regular life which sadly does not involve a steady intake of hotdogs,beer and sunshine.Thank goodness it’s Grillstock Bristol tomorrow! Another weekend of great beer, awesome food and the possibility of sunshine (although more likely rain). Just to tease you before I get round to my write-up of the CBC, here’s a little look at the beery booty I hauled back to the UK.

Didn't she do well!

From left: Stella 4, The Forager, Pastrami on Rye (Pipeworks), Beer Geek Breakfast, Black Maria (with To Øl), Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter, Sea Buckthorne ale (HaandBryggeriet), Tequila & Speyside barrel aged Black, In The Name of Suffering (with 3Floyds), Water, Swinging Harry (and a Nøgne ø Dark Horizon which I forgot to include in the picture – it’s in a pretty box too!)

Sunshine and crooked moons

Crooked Moon

Crooked Moon

With less than a week to go until the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, I thought to relax after lots of bicycling around today I should really get stuck in to one of those Mikkellers I’ve been stockpiling. After a day of changeable weather I was instantly drawn to the beautiful sunshine bright label of the Crooked Moon (9%ABV). We’re all familiar with Mikkeller’s tendency to collaborate with the world’s finest brewers, but this is actually a beer he brewed with the Swedish tattoo studio Crooked Moon to celebrate their first birthday.Even if you’re not a fan of tattoos, it’s totally worth visiting their website to see their incredible artwork. The two brothers running the show, Jacob and Jonas, each designed their own label – I chose the more colorful one designed by Jonas. It’s a ‘violently hoppy’ double IPA and uses pretty much all of the current favorite hops. There’s amarillo, citra, nelson sauvin, simcoe and sorachi ace. The result is a cloudy sunrise orange cocktail of fruitiness which bursts with aromas of lemons and pineapple cubes. There’s more of that beautiful sweet pineapple in the flavor garnished with a wedge of lime and offset by a super-dry bitterness. It’s like a keylime pie topped with exotic fruit and packed with sunshine – a pretty awesome birthday celebration drink!

Is beer the best medicine?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a little quiet on the blog recently. Please do not take this to mean Bierebelle in any way condones or participates in Dryuary. I am just a girl who, like any other normal girl, ate and drank way too much over Christmas (the North of England is always dangerous for this!) and put on a little extra unwanted padding. In an effort to ditch this, it’s been a pretty clean-living regime since the debauchery of New Year. This has meant switching daily mince pies for apples and tangerines and beer has been abandoned for fresh juice and tea. However, I do still recognise that there are occasions when a little tipple is absolutely necessary, for medicinal purposes more than anything. Beer has historically been for many the healthy alternative to dirty water and stouts have a long standing reputation as essential nourishment. Although the clean-living regime seems to have significantly boosted my immune system to the point that I have not contracted any of the foul bugs doing the rounds at the office my poor OH is unfortunately suffering from the mother of all coughs. In sympathy, I have used this as an excuse to open the Summer Wine Brewery Dr Paracelsus (8%ABV) Bombastic Indigo Elixir which I had been saving for an emergency such as this. .

This mysterious brew was a bit of a devil to pour, cloudy and lively and golden with a spicy coriander  leather and tangerine aroma that was reminiscent of a warming exotic cocktail. It may not be medicine, but this concoction was still pretty uplifting. Although it was at first terribly bitter, a spoonful of sugar was not necessary once it had a chance to work its charms. The charismatic blend was an unusual mix of orange peel, coriander, blackberries a touch of liquorice root and black peppercorns at the end. There was definitely something sticky, woody, leathery about it, like a dark, dirty cocktail lounge where measures are poured freestyle and menus stick to the table. It’s not for everybody and it probably won’t make you better, but it might just transport you somewhere a little more interesting for a while.

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