Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Gravity Station, Cardiff's newest beer shop/bar

If you read Craig's piece last week on the Gravity Station opening in Cardiff, then this is just an additional piece to follow on from it. If you didn't read it and visit/drink in cardiff I would suggest you catch up!
I received an email a month ago from the manager Jim explaining the progress and idea of the shop, selling bottles and having up to 8 beers potentially available on tap.

Anyway it opened on Friday just gone, I learnt this via a little exchange with Jim on arfur' s untappd entry for a Waen beer called 'Snowball'. As I was going into Cardiff the following day that nicely fitted into my plans of wandering aimlessly whilst my wife shopped.

Oopps, blurry!

As you can see from the photos there is a nice selection of beers European and American, Odell, Flying Dog and Anchor to name a few. Wales is obviously well represented, and owners The Waen Brewery showing off their range, and a nice selection of British brewers including Brew by Numbers whose Nelson Sauvin Saison 01/07 I picked up. The aforementioned 'Snowball' by Waen is a seasonal offering, a vanilla coconut chocolate stout, 7% abv and so I got one of these too.

Monday morning they only had 4 beers for sale on gravity, two from Waen themselves their delicious chilli plum porter and 'Gravity one', and one from the Off Beat brewery 'chocolate stout' which I tried, smooth and tasty. Prices if remembered correctly was £1.75 a half, and they do tasting paddles too. They have seating inside and out, and it was really nice to meet Jim, a top bloke happy to talk about their plans, the setting up and general beer chat. To have somewhere in central Cardiff offfering that range of bottles is an excellent addition to the beer scene Cardiff is developing.
(In the initial period of opening they are still awaiting the card machines so its cash only)



After I met up with my wife we went for lunch at the Grazing Shed which is a couple doors along from the Gravity Station, it's a 'gourmet burger' establishment , all ingredients are locally sourced, welsh beef, chicken and lamb, drinks too. I had the Uncle Pedro beef burger which was really good, nicely spicy and fresh, and you can do meal deals of a burger and a beer or cider. Celt experience and Artisan brewing co. are available, I had the latter's hefeweizen which was excellent.

The Gravity Station
Facebook – www.facebook.com/thegravitystation
Twitter - @TheGravityStn
Website – www.thegravitystation.com

The Waen Brewery
Facebook – www.facebook.com/groups/waenbrewery
Twitter - @TheWaenBrewery
Website – www.thewaenbrewery.co.uk

Sunday, 9 March 2014

it's all gone crafty!

(Adopts booming voice)
Yes it's craft craft craft here at Tesco.
You too can be hip and happening, drink cool beer, and not need hang around in craft beer bars with people that have tattoos and strange facial hair.
Now that Tesco is stocking more more more craft beer from small independent breweries such as Greene King, Marstons, Fullers and Brains. Gasp at the range, bask in the coolness of a beer produced in a shed/nanobrewery round the back of the car park of the megamassive main brewery.


Don't miss out, go craft craft craft beer crazy!!!!!!



Ok so a bit piss takey but it's how my mind worked when I went into the mega super massive Tesco yesterday. 'Oh new bottles' I thought as I looked on the shelf, and quite a number of new ones too. Quite a few were 'craft lager' but a red ale and a hefeweizen also. 
If stocking Brains Craft beers most shop's will only have Barry Island IPA and Boilermaker, so it good to see some new ones, 'Bragging Rights' which is a braggot style ale and quite nice, and ' Ides of Marzen'.
Looking at the other bottles though you soon notice they are all from the larger breweries, mentioned above.  Over the last week a few bloggers have been commenting on the Sixpoint beers appearing in Wetherspoons (and I hope to get some soon) and it possibly being a turning point/milestone for craft beer (and I hope it is) I look at these on the shelves and do wonder. With the power and foot already in the door that these big breweries have, and the almost instant ability to supply the 'latest trends' you see small independent producers could always be struggling against the tide.

Anyway enough thinking it hurts my head. What about the beers, and yes I did buy some of them, like you I like to try new ones when I see them.
The two Marstons 'Revisionist' label beers I got were the red ale and wheat beer. Both being fairly innocuous, the wheat beer being a bit spicy but otherwise bland as a very bland thing. The Brains Craft marzen was nice but I prefer the 'Bragging Rights', nicely spiced and balanced.
I also picked up one from Greene King 'Suffolk Strong' because it says its been blended with their old ale 5x.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Tenby (holiday break) and beer update

After a few days in Tenby during half-term, expecting poor weather and being pleasantly surprised that most days stayed dry enough to get on the beach with the kids for walks and rock pooling, I thought I'd post a sort of beer update on the town. (My previous post on Tenby's beer scene.)

The Lamb pub, owned by Marstons, has been closed.

The Preseli brewery which is based in Tenby has changed its name to 'Tenby Ales'.
I've yet to see any of their beers on cask in the pubs I've visited surprisingly, but I saw their bottles in a Welsh tourist shop on Frog St. and in the Deli. But I'm not buying them at £3.69 a bottle, they were pretty ordinary beers when I tried them a couple of years ago, and unless they've significantly improved i'm not sure they can justify those (tourist) prices.

The Brains pub 'The Crown Inn' now also serves an ale straight from a cask on the bar, that day it was from their Craft Brewery 'Farmer Walloon' a 4.5% saison which was ok although a bit tired and tellingly they took the cask off soon afterwards.

The Giltar Hotel up by the South beach has one cask beer on in the bar that's open to non residents. I had Celtic Pride from the Felinfoel brewery, which was perfectly fine but uninspiring to be honest.



As you can see the eyesore that is the Waters Edge development is progressing at rate of knots. Well, no actually its not. A company now in administration has stalled the building work, leaving it as you can see going nowhere.
 


 The South Beach Grill, owned by SA Brains of Cardiff is part of the development, and been open for a while. I've not been in yet for a drink, I will remedy next visit. Wonder how much they've been affected by the building uncertainty and delay.
A photo on their Facebook page showed a van delivery from Brains and the Craft Brewery so it will be interesting to see what's on sale.
As you can see in the photo they've had to dig themselves into work following the recent storms!



As always the best pints I had were in The Hope and Anchor, guests on were from Otley, Purple Moose and Skinners.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. 'The Full Nelson'

Tiny Rebel Brewery 'Full Nelson'From the Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.  is a bottle of 'The Full Nelson', not a new beer but a damn fine one that I always enjoy.
Style wise it is an American pale ale but they described as a Maroi pale ale due to the use of the excellent Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand.
330ml bottle, 4.8% abv.


Aroma is a wonderful sweet apple and white grape effort, some peach also, smelling crisp and fresh, and with a fluffy white head.
A light lively body, again the crisp and freshness come across your tongue immediately, light biscuit malt, more peach, and a dry citrus end rather than an overly bitter one.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Wetherpoons 'Mount Stuart', Cardiff Bay

A couple of times in the last month I have had the opportunity to drink in the new Wetherspoons in Cardiff bay. I say new, but it actually opened in July last year but this is this first chance I've had to visit it.

The Mount Stuart is well located in the Bay, in the old Harry Ramsden restaurant I was led to believe, close to the car park and Techniquest, a big tourist attraction if you have kids.
The first visit was with the family, in the Christmas holidays, and we went to have a meal after a day out.
My initial surprise was that this did not look like a Wetherspoons.
You know what I mean, their pubs do have a tendency to look all the same, but this is open, all glass and chrome, open area's. A number of long raised bench's to sit at in large groups, with plenty of table seating also downstairs. The bar staff to me the upper area includes an open outside area that was very popular last summer.
















They have the standard menu, the food was good, served and priced well.
They have about 8 hand pumps, a couple of keg lines and then the usual others in lagers and ciders.

That day they had a couple from the Celt Experience on thankfully, including a Xmas offering called Divine Yule Saison. A collaboration with the Waen brewery, this was a beautiful 5.3% saison that had an earthy sweetness from the pumpkin, an aroma and taste of lemon and pine.
Tangy, bitter and dry it was incredibly refreshing.


 The second visit was at lunchtime midweek, it was reasonably busy, maybe three quarters of the tables taken.
I was about to met some work colleagues for a meal elsewhere but took the opportunity for a second visit.

So glad I did as on tap was the Adnams and Six-point Brewery collaboration 'Righteous Ale'.
A rye style at 6.3%, deep red/brown in colour, a real malty sweet aroma. A comforting richness swims by, plums, brown sugar,with a nice bitterness with orange and lemon tones. A hugely enjoyable pint.
 
The Mount Stuart seems a welcome addition to the bars in the Cardiff bay area, competition to the Brains brewery pub Terra Nova,  and for those used to the identikit Wetherspoons a nice alternative viewpoint.


Monday, 27 January 2014

Brains Craft Brewery 'Black Mountain'

One of the things I like most about the Brains Craft Brewery is the labels they use, nice cartoon style brewery set up depicted, and usually little unique characters or items added for each different beer, lovely little details have gone into them.

'Black Mountain' is described as a 'hoppy Black IPA' , 5% and as with all their bottles 330mls. I picked this one up at Wally's Deli in the Royal Arcade in Cardiff, paid £2.35. It was brewed in conjunction with the Craft Beer Youtube channel.

Poured pretty black but with a small head that went soon after the photo.
Nice medium body, little toffee aroma, and a little floral and spicy elements. It does not however give the 'explosion of hops' promised from the Amarillo, Pacifica, Citra, Summit and Apollo hops used. The 'coffee, liquorice and burnt toffee' is there but also quite muted.

Overall its an okay beer,but compared to other well known Black IPA's its a bit of a light weight.
Its been reviewed reasonably well on untappd on cask so I thought that perhaps it has lost some of that freshness in the bottle, but seeing as it was only available in late December in Brains pubs this bottle isn't that old really.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Last year and the next

Happy New Year to beer drinkers everywhere, and everyone else too.
Drink beer, none of this dry month garbage, that's what I say.

Anyway, like several other bloggers that commented over the last couple of months, I am also guilty of slacking on the post front, in fact I think I averaged about 3 posts a month which is rubbish compared to previous years. Ah well, must try harder!

The promise I've made on this blog about this time in the last couple of years has been to feature more Welsh beers in reviews, and whilst not increasing the number it has held at about the 35% mark.

I again didn't do the Golden Pints awards but I suspect Tiny Rebel and The Celt Experience would have come out well, especially Celt. They are going from strength to strength, and looking back on untappd last year I rate them usually as a 4/5 most of the time, and am always impressed.

The new year looks good, and with the news from Craig that Brewdog are locating a puppy factory in Cardiff that's a great start.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Threat to trappist beers - become a monk!

Quick link to post whilst on my break at work.
The Independent has a story about the declining number of monks and the threat to beers such as Orval as a result.

Link

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Brains Craft Brewery 'A Pils from the Hills'

A 5% abv, 330mls, this Pils uses the hops Saaz and Hallertau with a pilsener malt.
'A Pils..' is crisp, light, the hops especially the Saaz are obvious and beautifully aromatic. A nice pepper spice element, lemon, and the over-riding freshness was great. Typically golden and well carbonated.

And that's the problem with these craft 330ml bottles, its over far too quickl!

Another from the truly exhausting list of beers that the Brains craft brewery have produced.
Which again is a fairly decent offering, as are a lot of the beers on that list, but I've had only few which are really really good. They just feel like they are ticking beers of a list of styles, and producing reasonably well made, well crafted beers, and thats great (to drink).

When they take a beer and re-do it, like Bragging Rights (a 5% Welsh beer style called bragawd)  one of their better beers in my opinion, they seem to be tinkering to improve and really getting it right. More of that tinkering  please.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Brains 'Santa's Beard'

Brains Santa's Beard"What with Brains Craft brewery busy producing literally everything from the 'big handbook of beer styles', you could easily forget that occasionally the big brother SA Brains does sometimes bring something new/seasonal out."

That was my opening words in the draft post but then I looked at the Brains website for a hyperlink address, to find that the craft brewery had indeed been involved in the test brews of this beer before being scaled up for production.
So when is a craft beer not a craft beer then?!!
'Perfected' in the craft brewery, and then brewed and bottled in the main building, does that 'un-craft' it?
Who cares, what matters is if it tastes any good to my mind.


Santa's Beard is a 4.5% abv milk stout, bottle only i think (with other Christmas cask beers coming out), 500mls, £1.99 (Tesco). Good body, an initial sweet hit but that goes with the subsequent mouthful's. It's replaced by a slight acidic sharpness, burnt flavours, toffee and coffee as Brains say, a good head that stays.

I really quite liked this, it was nowhere near as sweet as other milk stouts i have tried, and possibly will pick up another couple of bottles next time I see it.
They recommend it goes with rich Christmas puddings and strong cheeses.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Welsh Cider: Gwynt Y Ddraig and Dunkertons

Like many others this last summer I have been indulging in cider.

What's different about that is that I've not drunk cider for about twenty years. As a teenager trying to find out what it was that I was going to waste the next few years drinking I tried some cider's but always got an instant blinding headache after about 1 pint so that crossed it of the list.

Gwynt Y Ddraig Farmhouse ScrumpyForward to this summer just gone, and one day the wife and I fancied something cold and refreshing so bought a few lagers and I also picked up a few cider's from Spar, including their own brand bottles. And we liked them. The dry cider's seemed to be our preference, and so started a new avenue for me seeking out new bottles on shelves that had gone untried. Packing boxes of cider/scrumpy for camping was a great move, and exploring some well known Welsh Cider producers was very enjoyable and tasty.




I still think it unlikely I'll be drinking pints of it in a pub but in certain circumstances I can see myself sipping the apple stuff.
A few that stand out over the summer for me were not always for good reasons. Some of the Bulmers fruit flavoured bottles were just so sickly, red pressed grape springs to mind. A Perry that was so acetone it was undrinkable, and the Cidre Pear by Stella Artois was foul (sorry to my mate who gifted it to me but it was).

Gwynt Y Ddraig Black DragonHighlights include 2 from the Welsh brewery Gwynt Y Ddraig, their Farmhouse Scrumpy,  5.3 % and the 3 litre box is a bargain, delicious full flavoured with good body, some cider seems so thin, this scrumpy on a campsite in August just hit the spot perfectly.
The second from them is Black Dragon, a 6.5% medium sweet oak matured cider. This is probably the one that I've drunk the most. It's a darker colour than most cider's, perhaps that lends some gravitas when judging by eye rather than some straw urine you might pour (as a nurse I see plenty of different shades of urine produced trust me!) A dry aroma, red apples and woody, a bit 'funky' if truth be told. For a medium sweet it seems quite dry to me, a pleasing bitterness creeps in too. Perhaps bitterness is the wrong word, tartness is more appropriate.
Dunkertons Black Fox Cider



Another nice one was a bottle that I picked up as a present for a friend, and got another for myself was Dunkerton' s Black Fox cider. What is it with cider names and black animals?!
Black Fox is a 7% medium dry bottle, from a cider mill in Pembridge, Herefordshire. Quite a solid tasting cider, tart dry and musty, and a great sweetness pushing through. Certainly if I see anything else by Dunkertons I'll snap it up, suggest you do the same. Nice label too, simple and striking design.

This new found avenue also looks like having benefits when my friends and I go on our annual Cornwall holiday next year as I'm sure that there is a cider producer nearby, a tour could be our boys day out sorted I think!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse and Oettinger Hell

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe WeisseHacker-Pschorr's Hefe Weisse is a 5.5% Bavarian Hefeweizen, from one of Germany's most well known breweries, who were involved in the original celebrations in 1810 that have evolved into the famous Munich Oktoberfests you see today.

Deep orange in colour, medium size fluffy head, light lemon and yeasty aroma.
Ice cream smooth, with banana in it. More lemon, that yeast again, it's so unbelievably drinkable, that just this one was nowhere near enough.

Oettinger Hell





After posting about some purchases including these two, I was given a heads up by Curmudgeon that Ottinger may not be the best thought of of the breweries in Germany.
Looking at their wikipedia entry they are the best selling brewery in Germany, but are low cost sellers, rarely seen in pubs, keep costs down by not advertising and predominately selling bottles in supermarkets.

But lets not pre-judge, what about the beer.
Light yellow in colour, small fizzy head, this is a 4.7% Helles style beer. Aroma is lightly bready and malty, the body is quite thin, good carbonation. Some lemon, a bit herbally and a light honey sweetness.

Honestly it not the best Helles I've ever had, and as I've said before they are not anywhere near favorite style of beer anyway, but its certainly not a terrible beer.
It's clean, and refreshing, they're are flavours in there, and I'd probably choose it over most of the main branded lagers, but yes it is also watery, light, and quite forgettable.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Tudor Brewery Black Rock Dark Ale

Tudor Brewery Black Rock Dark AleThe Tudor brewery are based in Llanhilleth near Abertillery, which is not far from the Brecon Beacons South Wales. Although being aware of them I've not seen their bottles my way, and I actually cannot recall where I picked this one up!

Black Rock Dark Ale, 5.6% abv, 500mls.

Very smooth,  with good body it has a light brown head that settles to a thin covering. Aroma of milk chocolate and cereal, with those also in the tasting, a little bitterness at the end but lightly done. 

I see on their website they also do a Black Mountain Stout, and Skirrid, another dark ale, leading me to wonder what differences you would spot doing a side by side tasting.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Aldi - whats happened?

Over the last few years I've always found that Aldi, the discount supermarket, would on occasion stock some great deals and one off 'specials' when it came to beer.  Schofferhofer hefeweizen 
 
Often these would be linked to various international celebrations, like Samuel Adams Boston lager at July 4th/Thanksgiving. Oktoberfest would see some German beers, in fact given that Aldi is originally based in Germany you used to see beers such as Franziskaner Weissbier and Schofferhofer Hefeweizen at random times in the year also.


Arcobrau Weissbier Hell was another example of a great beer, they followed that with the same brewery's Winterbier which was a good example of it's style.
It was this time last year we saw the Schwaben Bräu brewery 'Das Helle' and 'Das Schwarze' which were okay to be fair.

But it is now a year since our branch, and another couple I have visited on occasion, have had anything interesting, the only 'special' on in the last few months is cans of Courage Best.

The regular stock on the beer shelves is the same boring unchanging line up, even Batemans do not seem to have supplied any celebration/sporting event/holiday seasonal beers that I noticed .

I was wondering if this is a regional or national thing, is your Aldi still stocking good beers or have they disappeared too?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tiny Rebel - Urban Tap House - now open!

So two first's here yesterday in South Wales, Tiny Rebel opened their first bar/pub and I laid some lino.
Photo from the Tiny Rebel blog, mine was a bit blurry!

I was quickly decorating the utility room on my week off....

Oh, you don't want to hear about that?

More about Tiny Rebel then?
oh Okay.

Following on from the death of craft beer bar Fire Island it was quickly announced by Tiny Rebel that they were taking it over.
Phew! went a collective sigh in Cardiff.

And going from the announcement date quickly to opening night last night it was obvious that it interior was going to be largely unchanged, mostly cosmetic changes, pictures, furniture, logo's etc. And some spankingly large bottle fridges!! Filled with goodies from your dreams.

The bar is called the  Urban Tap House which thankfully was a good choice, esp. considering some of the others that were suggested on their blog. Externally the building is largely unable to be altered due to regulations.
Staffing wise they managed to pull of a coup, imagine Man Utd selling their most recognised player to Swansea, the young kids on the block playing a beautiful game. That's what happened as they hired Chris, formally of the Brains pub The Goat Major (well how many other Cardiff landlords can you name/would recognise).

I hopped on the train  yesterday and got there early evening, quite busy inside but not rammed with people. Loads of staff on, some obviously experienced but there were a few young guys with 'rabbit in the headlights' look in their eyes.
Eight cask lines and ten keg lines are on offer, plus some cider lines and a smaller fridge with a good range of bottled ciders including some US ones.
I started with one I knew would not disappoint, The Kernel's Pale Ale Cascade Citra Galaxy. 5.3%, keg, hazy yellow, well carbonated, lovely fruits, pineapple, grapefruit, lovely bitterness but not tongue stripping. Excellent start.

2013-09-25 20.01.44


They have a separate line for experimental beers, with the Dogfish Head Brewery Randell 3.0 you can infuse hops and spices on the bar into the chosen beer. This was not on last night but stands prominently on the corner of the bar .
2013-09-25 20.01.52
Arfur had already raved about the Camden Town Brewery USA Hells on untappd, which sat alongside their unfiltered version which I went for.
 Really good stuff, a golden haze, lovely hop and fruitiness to it with a great bready/cereal taste also. I really enjoyed this, wouldn't hesitate to have this again if it was on next time I visit. And look there's Arfur over the other-side of the bar.

Around the place is their beer menu, a list of over 100 bottled beer from around the world, many names you'd all expect to be there, prices from reasonable to insane for the sharing/rare/v.strong bottles, although I'm sure that's what you'd pay for those bottles in other craft bars.
What I was pleasantly surprised with was the bar prices for craft and keg, I was expecting to pay more really for the two mentioned beers above, both London based and on keg, but prices were competitively placed. Which means I can buy more then.

2013-09-25 19.47.05
Look a man bun! although the only one I spotted. Top bloke, very helpful.
I'll have the IIkley Brewery Siberia, the Rhubarb Saison. Thin in the mouth, you certainly get the rhubarb, some malt, its a good palate cleanser, different but I liked this.
Unlike the Caveman Brewery's Neolithic, which was poor, a bitter but the hops seemed unpleasant, a bad soapy taste and I didn't finish this one.



So I thought I'd finish the night with one of the house beers, Tiny Rebel's Dirty Stop Out which is my favourite beer they make I think. Great condition, a little smoke, burnt malts, smooth, the best way to end a night definitely.


Overall a welcomed edition to the Cardiff beer scene, and a well deserved step forward for Tiny Rebel. I'm sure over the next few months they, with Chris and his team, will turn this place into a success and put their own stamp on the place.
It felt comfortable there, relaxed even though it was busy, and enough choice to keep your mind whirring.
It'll certainly be my first choice venue drinking in Cardiff going on last night.



For another photo and opinion read Craig's post here.