Thursday, 30 September 2010

Bunker Summit no. 1

Last night saw a marvellous evening's tasting over at Ed's house, Bunker HQ, in the charming village of Ringwood.

As well as the commandant's fine home made pizza (home grown vegetables and self cured ham!) a tidy range of ales were sampled which I think I can recall in order and attribute a vague personal Bunker rating to:

Postman's Knock (Hobson's) - a beautiful treacle ruby from Staffordshire (8)
Bootlegger (Independence) - A facsimile of a sturdy northern UK brown ale, not bad (6)
Boondoggle (Ringwood) - A summery Ringwood ale that sits quite well in a bottle (7)
90 Min IPA (Dogfish Head) - Delicious and strong, a wonderful US IPA in a Belgian style (9)
Raison d'Etre (Dogfish Head) - US, raisiny and lush. Lovely texture and pour (8)
Kingfisher (United) - Nice fresh lager to have with the pizza! (lager/unrated)
Great Bustard (Stonehenge) - A fine hearty ale, malty and rich (8)
Hobgoblin (Wychwood) - Chocolatey and involving. Good enough for a President. (7)
Old Engine Oil (Harvestoun) - I loved this. Syrupy, viscous and black as the devil's heart. (8)
Ola Dubh (Harvestoun) - Amazing. A christmas pudding of an ale. Sumptuous, luxuriating and rewarding (9)

I think that was it. Things got slightly fuzzy....

- The Broadside

Monday, 27 September 2010

Pale Ale (Independence, TX)

Pours a bright amber, smells of grassy hops and pine resin.

Starts with a deep malty taste, a crisp fresh middle, powerful hop bitterness floods through. A strong dry bitterness to the finish is followed by a delicate sweet balance leaving a lingering dry hope tone.

8/10 Leaves the palate craving more with every sip, the most morish beer I’ve had in a long time.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Independence Brewery Texas

Whilst out in Texas I couldn’t resist a tour of a local brewery, I was on holiday after all. The experience was simply fantastic, I’ve got to hand it to the team at Independence Brewery, and they know how to keep fans happy! It wasn’t your normal stuffy tour of the brewery as I’ve done so many times in England, it was more like a party for locals, what I can only imagine Tailgating is like, without the football.

A queue of about locals gathered pre the opening, wristbands on entry, and a live band. Being a true English man I immediately began looking for a bit of shade from the 37c Texas heat, second on the list was a beer, obviously.

There were six beers on offer (which you will see me ),review in the weeks ahead), I started with the enigma to the English beer fan, the US Style IPA. The Stash IPA is a beast of a beer, beautiful malt, powerfully hopped, but in such perfect balance it’s effortlessly drinkable. What followed was the special release Saison, a brew they were very proud of, and I can understand why, a delicious beer with all the delicate flavourings of the European style, cardamom, grapefruit wrapped in a creamy smoothness.

As the day rolled on the beer flowed, the band (imagine Crosby, Stills and Nash going a cappella) sounded sweeter and the company got more entertaining. My thanks goes to all the great people of the brewery who make such days so great, I don’t doubt a lot more Stash IPA gets sold every time they hold one of these events.

During my visit to the USA it struck me that there many American craft breweries, who despite much love and care for what they do, simply go through the motions of trying their hand at recreating the standard styles of US beer, and European clones, with rather bland results.

There is however another group, who thrive to innovate and dare to do something different, in a way that only a handful of English brewers can say they do.

There is no doubt which category Independence fall into. Their approach is typically Texan, not affraid to break the mould and lead the charge on innovation.

You can take part in the tour on the 1st Saturday of each month, details here.

Goldings (Shepherd Neame)

Even at the death of September, warm days are still alive on the south coast, so today it's the turn of "summer hop ale" Goldings, from Kentish brewers Shepherd Neame.

It's in their usual pot-bottle, 4.5% abv and pours clear and golden - a lion's mane of a colour which is beautiful in the fading afternoon light.

The nose is a little resiny with a touch of apple. The hops are complex but never overpowering. First draft is smooth and bubbly, but it's a springy piquant fizz rather than a tongue jacuzzi.

The taste as expected is summery and refreshing, and I wonder if perhaps I should have cooled it a little. Through the mainstay of the sip the pint throws tiny flowers about with a dusting of herbs. The opinion-polarising Neame yeast is there, but adds a slant of crunchy character rather than interfering too much.

The finish is abrupt and not very bitter. This is a beer for savouring on a sunny lawn and still being able to notice the scent of cut grass.

Allegations that could be made are that it's perhaps a little watery and not hoppy enough for the hopheads, but as a subtle ale with a hint of zest it's certainly built for purpose. This is one of the more user-friendly Neamish numbers, and I found it a pleasure to drink.

6/10 - Very agreeable, but perhaps lacking the character definition to tip it into the 7-grade bracket. If you dine al fresco frequently you'd do far worse than stock a few of these if spotted at the right price.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Punk IPA (Brewdog)

Brewdog, always in the news, always trying to create the next benzine / propanol / yeast combo and spawn 3,000% ABV ales.

The above is my conception (mis or otherwise) of the Scottish enfants terribles of the contemporary brewing scene. Their products are sold in slim Banksy-style bottles and are pricey, but The Broadside thought he'd have a crack at one as the clock swung round past midnight and the manor fell silent.

It pours like an IPA, a straw-coloured lagoon but with a lumpy, high head which falls uneven over time to a Matterhorn-profile of creamy foam. The bold nose is an assertive barrel of grapefruit laced with pine tacks and stoppered by a bread cork.

The first taste impression is wet and bitter, although it dries with the second and third impressions through to the finish. The bitterness has a go at the mouth throughout the experience, never quite enough to anaesthetise the drinker's tongue but fairly close. Curiously, the hops are all around yet a hop flavour isn't so present - Brewdog have gone all out to make this an individual effort, like a carbine with a pearl handle.

At the back end, the 6% abv is apparent, as is the grapefruit kick. In fact, this is a grapefruit and hop lovers weapon of choice if a quick inebriating hit is required at the start of an evening. If you ever get to the point of pouring a beer for breakfast (don't) then you'd do worse than consider this.

With Punk, Martin and James at Brewdog have thrown their hat into the US style tough-as-nuts IPA ring. As an English gent, I prefer my ales with a touch more balance but I'm sure this drink will find plenty of fans - in the war against bland this is a field commander.

7/10 - perhaps not one for the armchair malt and balance buff, but a fine bitter cannonball across the bows of convention.

- The Broadside

Bengal Lancer (Fuller’s)

Light copper almost amber in colour, the smell is not heavy dry hops, its fresh but very malty and sweet on the nose.

The initial flavour is full and malty, caramel taste, similar to the warming nature of an ESB. But just when you are expecting further sweetness and spice it hits you with a powerful hop punch. Dry lingering hops remain in the mouth up until the next sip. That famous Fullers yeast bite is as present as ever.

8/10 A great beer, more malty than most IPAs, reminds me of a US style IPA or strong Pale Ale.

The Fuller's online shop is now open, with full online beer sales coming soon. Until then check out your local Waitrose or Occado who stock the full range.

Thanks! Harviestoun

A Big thanks goes out to these beers from Harviestoun for me to review.

I've had their Bitter and Twisted once before and loved that, so looking forward to trying these!

Buy their beers here

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Ruby Red Ale (St Peter's)

I love the idea of ruby ales.

Some may say that a pale straw is the colour of beer, but there's something about a deep tawny depth that resonates with high backed leather armchairs, games of chess with good friends and general class.

This Suffolk ale, made with Cascade Hops, won the silver medal in the 2010 International Beer Challenge. The Broadside, being a Suffolk bred lad, was already a fan of this brewery prior to approaching this bottle. Their Best and Organic bitter are firm 4* beers for me, and I may dare to review the 6.5% Cream Stout before long.

The Ruby pours with a fleeting head, creamy white which strikingly offsets the red undertow depths beneath. The nose is herby with smidges of caramel and sherry.

In the mouth it slides about like satin, no fuss, little effervescence and initially serves up a light kiss of biscuit-malt. The body to the back of the tongue is almost tea-like, with a vague but never intrusive oil texture. The tail is all about spiced bitterness and rolling hops. It may be a little too hoppy for some, but for me it's just fine. Once swallowed, like Barnstormer it evaporates to a dry echo, inviting the next sip.

An excellent and discerning all-rounder. Whilst the colour may advertise mince pies and snowy cancelled-school days, it is in fact a light 4.3% all rounder that would be enjoyed at any time of the year.

A solid 7/10 - another fine ale from the Bungay brewery.

- The Broadside

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Old Empire (Marstons)

Smells of biscuit, slight hints of wood or oak.

Its a light malt taste, followed by a rather lacklustre middle, gentle biscuit flavours but not enough to really enjoy. Finishes with lingering sweetness and gentle hop flavours.

Really lacks the punch of an IPA, or any other key flavours along the way.

4/10 Not a dislikeable beer, but lacks any key flavours, let alone managing to do the IPA title justice.

Gunhill (Adnams)

Smells of roasted malt, pours a lovely ruby brown.

Taste is malty, crisp, not overley sweet. Hints of chocolate and maybe oranges?! Smooth finish, not bitter.

6/10 A lovely well balanced malty bitter.

Kindly provided by Adnams, buy a selection of their beers here.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Irresistable Premium Ale (Natural Brewing Co.)

"Irresistable Ale" is rather a weighty monicker to live up to. As the bottle descended from the cupboard visions of addiction clinics flitted briefly through The Broadside's pre-dinner mind.

This little wonder arrives with a suitcase marked 4.3%, but no other faff. The label promises nothing else but "barley, hops and springwater" and comes across as very ecologically knowing, one feels this brewery is where people might smile a lot and sport the occasional kaftan.

Toffee coloured, the scent of the pour is very subtle. No chances of this ale being accused of overpowering the senses. The first sip is, well, a bit underwhelming. The character of such ales as Duchy Organic or Bath Gem isn't here, but yet something is.

The three part taste mechanism doesn't seem to apply here. The opening gambit is pleasingly hoppy without ever being in the face, the taste continues in a quite unruffled way through to a smudge of sweetness and a hoppy tail which doesn't outstay it's welcome. The whole experience is of a breeze touching it's unfettered way through a field of barley.

So, bland? No. I wanted another sip or ten and before long the glass was empty. If you're looking for a simple, fresh, fudge-coloured session ale to drink as you reflect on how summer is finding it's beautiful age-old way through to autumn, then this is the beer for you.

7* This could well be the Evian of the ale world, and I mean that in the best manner.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Goat's Leap (Cheddar Ales)

"Simply gorgeous" is the tagline to this handsome brown package... let's see..

First glance, a clean stylized label sits on the bottle promising a strong (5.7%) bottle conditioned IPA. The British pale malt ales can be something of a favourite of mine, so I was looking forward to settling down with this.

Pouring gives the hallmarks of the marque - a hoppy fizzy nose, coppery nut colour and a busy head that sits up like a small batch of bread for a minute or two before settling down to a creamy long-lasting disc.

The hops on the nose stride diligently towards the tongue on a sip, a heady tangy mouthful of hoppyness arm in arm with a picnic basket of toffee nestled in flowers. The advantages of the stronger bottled beer are apparent here, much complexity and involvement riding pillion on the horsepower of the alcohol.

The finish is a grassy carpet of bitter, but a well-kept carpet that it's quite nice to lay down on for a while. It's an elegant finish, and if it's extended (see my other reviews for this pitfall) then it's a welcome extension as it's gourmet-tasty, and perfectly in balance with the opening note.

Added to this, the name come from a Bangalore river spot where the Hindu god Shiva leapt a ravine and left enormous hoofprints in rock. You need to go some way to beat that class of nomenclature.

8/10 - a good, honest, but thoroughly interesting ale, and one of the strongest beers I might consider as a session drink. You might not get many down, but you'd hugely enjoy each one.

- The Broadside

Best Bitter Organic (St Peter)

Smells sweet and grassy, almost hints of honey. For a Best Bitter it pours amazingly golden.

Light malt is followed by gentle caramel. The finish is a light bittering with a lovely lingering taste.

7/10 A surprising little beer, light, but well balanced, very drinkable!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Broadside (Adnams)

On pouring its a dark and moody brown, it smells of malt and caramel.

The taste is warming, full malt taste leads to a treacle sweetness coating the mouth. The finish is tangy with an almost burnt bitterness edge.

After a cold walk on a winters day this could be a rewarding treat by a fire, but for me it lacks a balance of flavours, and the alcohol content is not hidden.

2/10 Treacly malt, lacks the rounded flavours to hide the high alcohol.

Kindly provided by Adnams, buy a selection of their beers here.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Bitter (Adnams) Alc 4.5%

Pours with a beautiful toffee colour head, smells of hops and grassy aromas.

First taste is one of gentle dry bitter hops, quickly followed by a smooth sweet malt, finishing with a dry bitter finish.

A cracking session bitter.

7/10 A fine example of an English Bitter, malty and dry. Very drinkable.

Kindly provided by Adnams, buy a selection of their beers here.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Barnstormer (Bath Ales)

Pours a beautiful deep copper colour with hints of ruby. Smells of sweet caramel with a hint of smokiness, a really distinctive and beautiful aroma.

Starts with a smooth creamy malt that washes the palette, hints of chocolate follow through. It finishes with a light caramel finish, light bitterness, very moreish.

8/10 A deliciously drinkable dark bitter, smooth creamy and sweet.

You can buy Bath Ales here, or pick them up in your local Sainsbury's or Waitrose/Ocado.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Eric The Red (Septimus Spyder)

I knew very little about the county of Shropshire before deciding to spend a week in the Vivat Trust's Summerhouse, but what an idyllic rural haven of winding rivers, secret woods, airy hills, walks and ales it is.

I picked up various bottled gems even before spending a day at the Ludlow Food Festival, where ales from Ironbridge, Wells, Corvedale, Hobsons and Kingstone "fell" into my rucksack (via a till of course).

Eric the Red was found in the local section of the food market at the beautiful Weston Park, home of V Festival for a loud weekend every year, when the acorns are shaken in their cups by several million watts of music.

Against type, I was after a rumbustuous little pict of an ale - something old and hearty. Eric comes in a charming little dark bottle, adorned with a home-grown label stuck rather haphazardly on, methinks in someone's shed.

The label text promised "dark ruby ale", and so it was - a very attractive deeply ochre pint sits sturdily in the glass, small bubble lines hinting at a touch of excitability on the tongue. The head is patchy, a Fresian cowhide pattern mottling on the surface.

To the nose, this is a pungent number, and images of a medieval banquet floor sprang to the Broadside's mind. Not perhaps the most attractive of smells but ask for traditional and ye shall receive, a sharp, hoppy odour piling up the nostrils like a minstrel doing thrash metal requests.

As for the taste - giant hops volley through at the homebrew-style opening second, a chomping early biter of a taste, like pac-man in a hessian singlet. The middle is pure spiky barley/wheat BEER in CAPITALS. Not subtle, but then it was not to be expected. My achilles heel, and perhaps something others may admire, is a dislike for beers with an aftertaste outstaying it's welcome and so this proved - a squawking bitter clarion call, the taste equivalent of an angry heron on methadone chasing you round the house with a bag of pins.

Not really for me, but hearty enough to not be baulked at if it was slipped in mid-session at an outdoor party in high wind. 4/10.

- The Broadside

Old Ruby Ale (Dutchy Originals)

Pours crystal clear copper with only hints of the expected ruby. Smells of light fruit and charcoal.

Taste is initial malt sweetness followed by a fruity middle of summer berries. Finish is gentle bitter with a tangy edge.

This says “Brewed in Oxfordshire” so i’m guessing its Wychwood, although no mention on the bottle. Reminds me very much of bottled Ringwood Old Thumper.

4/10 A rather gentle fruity beer that lacks any real stand out qualities.

Friday, 10 September 2010

East Green (Adnams)

Pours crystal clear gold with a head as white as pure snow. Smells of light caramel.

Initial sharp fruity flavours of grapefruit and melon, followed by a smooth creamy middle malt. Finishes with lingering citrus and grassy hints.

5/10 A light golden beer with packed with plenty of citrus.

Kindly provided by Adnams, buy a selection of their beers here.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Boondoggle (Ringwood)

Pours a bright golden straw colour, fresh bitter hoppy smell. Featuring an interesting mix of old and new hops "Flavoured with just 2 aroma hops, the highly prized Fuggles and the new dwarf variety, First Gold."

Gentle lemon sweetness to start which is followed by that big trademark Ringwood biscuity crunch, with a few fruity high notes. It finishes with a strong crisp citrus finish.

7/10 A delicious crisp summer beer with some simple and delicate hop flavours

Thanks Ringwood Brewery!

Big thanks to the people of Ringwood Brewery who provided me with a bottle of their Summer beer Boondoggle to review.

They currently working towards making it a permanent year round member of their range, and have received the first batch of the bottled version for their online store.

You can buy bottles here, and often as a guest in your local.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Censored (Lagunitas)

So called because they were censored when they tried to call it "The Chronic", pours deep copper and smells very strongly of malt, freshly steeped malt to be precise.

This is really really malty, not overly sweet but full of malty goodness like a kilo of melted Maltesers. Gentle burnt smokiness with limited bitterness or traces of hops in the finish.

6/10 If Maltesers made beer it would taste like this.

Raison D'Etre (Dogfish Head)

Deep copper in colour, pours with a lovely yellow foamy head. Smells like burnt muscovado sugar.

Its a full on taste of sweet raisins and molasses, lingering to treacle finish. Not overly sweet but certainly limited in its bitterness. Hints of gentle spices, mask a very well disguised 8% beer.

7/10 Something different, bordering on speciality, very raisiny.

US Beers from Spec's

Imagine your local big size B&Q, but it only sells beer, wine and cigars. And its staffed by highly intelligent and knowledgeable staff who love beer and wine as much as you do....possibly more.

Simply amazing. Sadly its only in Texas. Its called Specs

This is just a selection of what i picked up. Sadly limited by space in my suitcase to take home to England.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Torpedo Extra IPA (Sierra Nevada)

Took a gamble and picked up a 6 pack of these in Austin, TX.

Pours a lovely tan colour, huge aromas flood out, full of powerful but delicate fresh hop smells.

Rich warming malt, perfect sweetness following through to one of the best hop finishes I've ever had. So much flavour, a psychedelic mix of fresh grass, juicy citrus and lovely lingering bitterness.

Leaves the palate begging for another sip! Its 7.2%, but you would never know, so perfectly balanced is the malt and hops.

10/10 Wow, one of the best beers I've ever had, a mind blowing American style IPA

New Belgium Beer Selection - USA

Picked up this New Belgium selection box at the local Mini Mart in Austin Texas, here's what i thought

Fat Tire - The lead brew, a lovely malty beer with limited sweetness and a gentle dose of hops to finish, quite a distinctive middle biscuit bite. 6/10

Mothership Wit - A delicious wheat beer, light zesty, gentle sweetness, spicy cardamon notes. 7/10

Skinny Dip - Their Spring seasonal, dry bitter maltiness initially, with a fresh lingering lime aftertaste. Similar to the Fat Tire but with the noticeable lime finish. 5/10

1554 - Brewed to an old Belgium recipe taken from records dating back this far. Bitter chocolate flavours with zero sweetness and a dry finish. Not one for me sadly. 1/10

The Mothership wins it, a great wheat beer.

Beer Tasting at 40,000 Feet

As long haul flights go this was as good as it gets. A whole row of 3 seats just to myself, Chicken Tikka Massala for dinner, and unlimited cans of London Pride to drink!

Ok so its nowhere near as good as draught, but until British Airways perfects their on board keg system I'll be happy with this.

Anyone ever drunk a better beer on a plane?