Monday, 19 August 2013

+++ Bunker Raid on Purbeck Folk Festival +++

The Bunker hits the road again this coming weekend, as we check out the highly rated Purbeck Folk Festival down at Wilkswood Farm in beautiful Dorset near Swanage.

I'm partial to a bit of folk, but the main attraction will be a selection of 40 real ales and (whisper it) 20 ciders. It'll be mostly local stuff from Hop Back, Purbeck, Corfe, Piddle and exciting new Hawaiian-themed brewery Sunny Republic, but we also hope to spot the odd exotic gem.

Bulletin to follow!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Viru (Tartu)

Here's an odd little beer.

Viru is an Estonian pale lager. On the pour it generates a thin fleeting head with wisps of corn on the nose.

The mouthfeel is equally thin,  and the sup veers to overly sweet malt. Negligible bitterness and an overly watery length.

Really cool octahedral bottle though, I believe based on ancient Estonian architecture. It's really the only standout feature of a rather unmemorable 5% abv beer.

4/10 - Anonymous body underneath glamourous clothing.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

St George and the Dragon (Wadworth)

This is a bottled version of the Wadworth seasonal favourite, and is 4.5%abv.

Cracking it open, a mildly metallic-fruit whiff of barley and hops greets the nose. It pours a fine beery amber, with a fluffy and moderately persistent head.

First sup shows the signature biscuit-malt Wadworth are known for, but for me the digestive-factor is dialled down compared to some others they bottle. Plenty of fruit to be had here, some orange and a tangy grapefruit hint. Mid section is tending to florid, with a drying hoppy bitterness veering to crisp at the tail, biscuit notes echo throughout.

It's actually a rather nice beer, and I can see why Wadworth have extended this away from the traditional seasonal batch and made it available at other times.

The flavours don't amount to anything revolutionary, but for a steady English pint with a little kick you could do far worse than go with St George. Fine stuff, Wadworth.

7/10 - Good seasonal session beer, much superior to Henry IPA in the bottle, a pleasure to drink.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

First Gold (Badger)

Is it me or does nearly every ale have "award winning" on the bottle these days?

This one proudly proclaims it's a "world champion", winning double gold at the "Brewing Oscars", or Brewing Industry International Awards in 2005. In fact Badger are so proud of this one they've even given it its own URL.

It pours a chestnut brown with a thin, but foamy and persistent head. The nose is rather citrus, and hoppily pungent. Its 4%abv, so fairly weak.

The body is fairly thin, and a minor hint of smoke gives way swiftly to a fruity, mildly metallic mid-section.

The chart on the back gives it 4/5 bitterness, and its hard to disagree. They only use a single hop in this one, the eponymous First Gold, the bittering is pleasant although a little one dimensional.

Probably a food-accompanying ale due to its consistency and strength, this is ok beer, and if you prefer your ale bitter perhaps a fine choice for a session bottle. For me, a touch more balance and flavour would be a welcome addition, although don't tell Oscar I said so.

6/10 - Good beer but not the "wow" I was expecting. If you're a bitter flavour fan then add +1 for its hop punch.

- The Broadside

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Grooves on the Green

It's heartening to see real ale moving front and centre of so many events in the past couple of years.

Long established festivals held up and down the country have increasingly seen that punters want to be offered choice, and massive unit-shifting bars of just Budweiser, Fosters or Carlsberg have ceased to be so common.

Here on the south coast, several premises and festivals are rising to the challenge of offering proper real ale choice, and one such event going ahead this weekend is Grooves on the Green, at Parkstone in Poole, Dorset.

Grooves on the Green is a music festival with a homely feel, and raises good money for charity. As well as music, the organisers offer food, poetry, comedy and plenty for children to enjoy. The organisers have hooked up with six local real ale brewers to offer a tantalising menu throughout the weekend of 14th and 15th July.

New Dorset brewer Sunny Republic continue their strong local presence (most notably at the fine establishment Chaplins) by offering up six beers, including a very tasty draft Friesian (north German) style Pilsener, Shark Head.

Shark Head, which we hope to do a full review of soon, is made with Spalt Select and Pacific Jade hops, although the truly interesting thing for me about it is it's run for 24 hours through a Sierra Nevada-style hop torpedo.

The torpedo allows a column of whole-cone hops to impart aroma and flavour over time without stifling the beer with bitterness. The actual hop used in this case is "king of hops" Citra as well, which all leads to a uniquely richly flavoured pilsener

Additionally, Sunny Republic will be dispensing Shark Head at the festival using their 'Draft-Craft' system, not previously used in the UK and developed originally by Ankerbrau. It essentially adds tightly regulated CO2 at the point of dispensing allowing unpasteurised storage and enhanced original flavour retention. I've yet to try it out but this seems a great opportunity.

In addition to Sunny Republic, beers will be on sale from:

Isle of Purbeck
Yeovil Ales
Piddle Brewery
Corfe Castle
Hopback Brewery

With the weather promising to bless the south coast with sunshine, this mini-festival is well worth a visit if you're in the area.

- The Broadside

Friday, 5 July 2013

Old Bob (Greene King)

I'm starting to get the suspicion that Greene King frets about its popularity amongst real ale drinkers. Here's another brand from the past, resurrected for a GK drink, much like the banner of Tolly Cobbold was for Phoenix (6/10).

Founded in 1842, Ridley's was the longest established brewer in Essex until 2005 when, struggling under high debt, Ridleys was bought up by it's behemoth East Anglian neighbour. The plant was closed and the brand assimilated into the wider GK business.

Old Bob is a "Strong Premium Ale", and at 5.1% abv they're not wrong about the clout.

It pours fairly flat, with a whiff of toffee and grass on the nose and a deep potent chestnut colour. The brief suggestion of a head makes a fast exit within seconds, like a sweetshop robber making off with a marshmallow.

First taste is a bit toffee, with some slidey citrus flavours segueing into darker fruit. It's quite pleasing, and the biscuit-malt lilt at the tail end is verging to sweet but capped off by a brush of hoppy bitterness.

The brewers making this have done some good work here - there's no doubt this is a sweet beer, but the tangy fruit and hops really staple it down so that it has no chance to become sickly.

The alcohol carries gravitas throughout, and the final effect is a creamy, robust cold-weather pint, well suited to the bottle.

I'll likely never get a chance to sample the original Ridley brews, but whatever you think of large brew corporations hoovering up smaller competition, this still stands as a fine ale.

7/10 - A fine example of acrobatic balance in the stronger pint. Rich, creamy quality.

Friday, 14 June 2013

T.E.A. (Hogs Back)

Pours with very little fizzy, the foamy head comes with a bit of a push at the end. A very malty nose, big hints off toffee.

The tongue is subject to an initial tingling blast of carbonation, sharp and fizzy like lemonade. Hidden after this is a deep malty taste, not sweet but rather dry. The middle is rather fruity, leading to tangy sharp lingering end. The finish is rather thin, a bit watery and lacking in hop notes, a slight hint of toffee.

3/10 Far too fizzy, thin and bland, tastes like malty commercial lager. I imagine this tastes better on cask with less fizz.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

+++ Bunker Raid on Portsmouth +++

Today the Beer Bunker will be live tweeting the real ale joys of Southsea, Portsmouth.
Follow us on @BeerBunkerPaul and @BeerBunkerEd for updates, thoughts, pub comments and the like.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Black Forest Porter (Vibrant Forest)

Here's an interesting number, one of the darker beers from the enterprising micro brewery Vibrant Forest, situated on the edge of Totton, in Hampshire.

We've already assigned a 9/10 to the outstanding Vibrant Pale Ale, so big things were expected. It cracks open with a little roasty woosh and pours cleanly with an energetic head.

The usual porter hallmarks are all present and correct -  coffee and chocolate malt notes sing up from the glass. The first taste is very front-of-the-mouth sensual, lush coffee and chocolate threads interweave across the sup. The carbonisation is spot on, tickling the tongue with a light piquancy but never too boisterous to interrupt the flavour.

It's just sub 5% at 4.9%ABV, so is not competing with the big nutter porters like Flying Dog or perhaps even Fuller's London Porter, but the alcohol is more than enough to carry it's intent and ship decent complexity to the drinker. This beer won Hampshire Beer of the Year at a CAMRA event, breaking the traditional Bowman & Oakleaf monopoly, and it's easy to see why.

Fully recommended, and easily earns an 'excellent' 8/10.

8/10 Cracking and involving ale, interesting and murky, it sews a blossoming tapestry of classic porter tastes. 

- The Broadside

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bunker Summit no. 7

And... go! 

Bunker Station no 1 has had a significant barracks upgrade since our last summit, with a vast kitchen diner installed and various rooms moved about. So what better to christen the new layout than a Bunker Summit in the now well-honed format.

Again we had three judges (myself, Ed and Summit evergreen Glenn) blind tasting 12 different ales, then dishing out various subjective opinions, ripe for shooting down like so many clay pigeons, before the bottles were revealed for surprise and delight.

Food this time was an awesome honey and mustard glazed ham from Ed, and two breads from myself - a caramelised onion and cheese Ploughman's loaf made with a whole bottle of Butcombe Best bitter, and a mixed-flour sultana plait.

Here are the runners, riders and average ratings.

1. Wheatwave (Vibrant Forest) 4.2%
An excellent first beer from a local New Forest brewer. Fruity and sweet hazy blonde wheat ale with an easy drinking character: delicious, sprightly and refreshing. 7/10 

2. Six Hop (Dark Star) 6.5% 
Outstanding early winner for the evening. Luxurious aroma and mouthfeel with a whoosh of hops that deliver their staggered payloads with perfect timing in a pine and marmalade carpet bomb of flavour. Complex, multi-layered and one of the best IPAs in it's class. Ed gave this a 10!  9/10 

3. Red MacGregor (Orkney) 4.0% 
A fine bitter red-brown classic ale, session potential written all over it. A little caramel and toffee to savour, and fine British hop flavours, slightly smoky finish. 8/10

4. Head Cracker (Woodforde's) 7.0% 
The first nuke of the evening, a fun and fruity barley wine, with a slight floral character. Orangey sweet with plums, a liqueur style dessert beer, with a flashing muffled hop tail. 7/10 

5. Raven (Thornbridge) 4.2% 
A delicious black IPA, it won plaudits for the best nose of the evening, just something to drink into the nostrils (not literally). Proper hoppy, this is an authentic bullet of IPA, fresh as a field of daisies and sharing similar character to the accomplished Magic Rock IPAs. 8/10 

6. Sovereign (Corfe Castle) 4.9% 
A slightly farty sulphurous nose gives way to a lager-thin golden ale, a little mulchy in the tail, and a bit too dissonant for our tastes, receiving two 5s and a 7 (Ed was a fan). 6/10  

7. #100 (Nogne) 10.0%
A barmy 10% ABV nutter of a beer, delivered in a whopping 500ml bottle. Tricky to navigate for the unwary, it's packed full of just about every flavour you can angle for, supported by a roaring no-messing alcohol skeleton. Heavy coffee-ish finish. An evening ender really, although we have a few to go...  7/10 

The most delicious bread to have at a beer tasting. 
It was consumed with Bristol Beer Factory's excellent West Coast Red,
some corking cheeses and succulent ham.
8. Milk Stout (Bristol Beer Factory) 4.5% A creamy, wet, alkaline stout. Not as bold in character as some of the fuller stouts, but a pleasing chocolate dessert character that luxuriates on the tongue. Silky mouthfeel, very pleasant.  7/10 

9. Hebridean Gold (Isle of Skye) 4.3% 
A capable grassy picnic beer, made with porridge oats. A little characterless amongst this company but certainly not a bad beer, just a trifle thin and missing the wow factor.  6/10  

10. Funnel Blower (Box Steam) 4.5% 
A dark brown porter, Glenn warmed to it's sweetness. Nothing to complain about here, although perhaps missing some dynamism. One of the better Box Steam beers, and has picked up a few awards so others will agree. 7/10

11. Chiron (Thornbridge) 5.0% 
Big old fruity nose on this golden ale, the second entry from Thornbridge tonight. Ed called it the "Phil Thompson of beer." Subtle biscuit, pine and fruit notes, creamy and another clean example of Thornbridge quality.  8/10 

12. Organic Chocolate Stout (Samuel Smith) 5.0% 
The actual evening ender. A mix of rich organic cocoa and chocolate malts, it's pretty damn chocolatey. Some vanilla notes twist it away from the usual affair. Wholesome and smooth, this vegan beer nails a straight7. 7/10 


- Six Hop (Dark Star)

Silver Medal - three way tie! 
- Chiron (Thornbridge)
- Raven (Thornbridge)
- Red Macgregor (Orkney)

Bronze Medal
- #100 (Nogne) 

- The Broadside

International Arms Race (Brewdog)

Bit of a novelty challenge from those nutters over at Brewdog this one - a zero IBU IPA, in the IPA style but using no hops....? Er..

Essentially a competition between like minded souls with the rebel-hearted US brewing company Flying Dog, the 7.5% alcohol BV is given length off the leash and the bittering and flavours come from berries, herbs, roots and whatnot.

You'd think it might taste a little plain if not downright rank. However, these chaps know how to brew and the aroma is fruity and alluring after the transient head disappears in seconds.

The sup is light for it's strength, herbal as you'd expect and fairly citrussy. The drinker experiences ginger, some aniseed traces and a light pepperyness.

It's pretty interesting but that's as far as I'd go. Hops have been in beers for gazillions of years and for good reason, I for one missed the crunch and whoosh of that hop hit, and the overall effect is of a stiff beer cordial.

Flying Dog also brewed a version for the showcase blind tasting event, I still don't quite know who won but everyone looks like they had jolly fun.

More power to them for this sort of thing, although for £3.99 a bottle, I'd probably head over to the Brouwerij Huyghe shelf for my quota of this kind of ale eccentricity.

6/10 - A decent enough beer but fun in the way you might find buying a dragonfruit fun at the supermarket. Nice to try the once but you're soon craving a good old apple.

The Broadside