Thursday, 28 April 2011

Batemans XB

I picked up a bottle of Batemans XB from Aldi, a bitter 4.1% 500ml, not bottle conditioned (camra says its not real ale). I drank this last week, our first meal outside at the start of the half term with the weather being unseasonably good.
In the glass its a light red brown colour with a small frothy head, a caramel malty aroma. Taste is biscuity , its got a almost ginger nut spice to it, pepper, flowery hops with a nice subtle bitterness. Bateman beers tend to have a very distinctive taste about them, you know when your drinking one, but its much more subtle with this bitter, and better for it too. I possibly served this too cold to be honest but on such a hot day it went down a treat.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Quantock Brewery Quantock Ale

As i build up towards their award wining stout, i rounded upon the Quantock Brewery Ale, the first beer they brewed in Somerset. Its an amber bitter, 3.8% abv bottled conditioned 500mls, using a blend of Maris Otter pale malt, crystal malt and wheat malt.
 A golden colour with a small white head, a small ring that lasted down the pint. Aroma of earthy hops, roasted malt is the dominant element. Well balanced and a good weight in the mouth, this is a good example of a session bitter, its weighs in with all you expect from one, the lower abv with the full flavour, hops malt and that 'another one please' quality. The bitterness sits at the front and upper part of my mouth, whilst a dryness follows on alongside, begging to relieved by another mouthful.
Alongside the Royal Stag, this bitter is my favorite so far.
You can buy Quantock beers from local farmers markets, or from myBrewerytap, or West Country Ales.
Again, thank you to Rob from Quantock.

Aldi Hoegaarden deal

Just as i post that their latest deal is not quite as good as a current Tesco one, Aldi produce one that is better, and one i probably will buy. 
Deal: Hoegaarden 75cl bottles for £2.29, and this beats Tesco's current 2 for £5.
Recently this has been a sunshine go-to-beer, one sitting in the fridge, a cool damn refreshing beer. Crisp, lemon, orange, light spice hints, its a classic beer. I'm certainly going to tuck a couple away.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Aldi: Badger Beer offer and Batemans XB

Sitting in the middle isle of my local Aldi is a Badger Beer 'Spring/Summer' box of 12 bottles. Costing 15.99 it has three bottles each of Tanglefoot, Long Days, Englands Gold and Fursty Ferret.
That works out at £1.33 a bottle which normally would be a reasonable bargin for lovers of Badger but in view of the current 4 for £5 Tesco offer, the Aldi offer is beatable.
Granted though the Long Days bottles are not currently in my local Tesco branch, perhaps they are in yours and included in the offer, but i was not keen on it when i reviewed it , so three bottles sitting around waiting to offload on a visitor is an option but one i'm not taking here.

I did however pick up a new bottle from Aldi, the Bateman's XB, little brother of the perennial shelf stocker XXXB.  Its the first time i've seen it in the Bateman's own form, they previously both appeared on their shelves in the 'specially selected' range.

Aldi used to have quite a good selection of beers, they often had new and interesting british and european bottles like 'Franziskaner Weissbier' and 'Schofferhofer hefeweizen', but over the last year they seem to have fallen into a rut of just supplying the same old things, never a new line, the same old honey bottle from Skinner's, Banks Bitter, quite disappointing really.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Brupak's BruBox

So following on from the homebrew memories post, i left it talking about my dad's Xmas present, a Brupak's Brubox. This is an all in one beer kit,  a plastic cube with a tap that you ferment in and dispense from, unless you decide to bottle it. My dad  bought me an extra fermenting bucket and siphon tubing, being concerned about it sitting in all the sediment and dead yeast whilst pouring your pint.
This one was the London Bitter kit.

I looked the kit up online for reviews and found two interesting entries, one who enjoyed it and thought the end product not to bad but the instructions a bit confusing, and this one which is a retailer (who no longer sells refill kits though) who gave a great step-by-step guide to brewing with the kit. On the Beoir forums some people had also posted questions regarding its use.

I agree with the first poster, the instructions were a little unclear in the draught or bottling section with regard to adding sugar. I started with the sterilizing, then onto the grains and hops bags which are left stewing basically for 25 minutes in total.

Malt extract added, water, yeast and then should be placed in a warm place for 7 to 10 ten days, tube in place in the water.
This is where it got me in trouble with my wife. The problem is i have no where really to brew beer, no where safe enough from childrens fingers, or out of the way enough to not annoy my wife. I found however that our bedroom keep a pretty constant 20 degrees that was required so i moved the Brubox and water jug into my wardrobe.
All was fine until i was awoken at 4am by my wife elbowing me asking what that noise was. "what noise?" i reply until 30secs later i hear loud bubbling coming from the wardrobe area.
Like a proud father i lovingly claim "oh good its started fermenting" to which i am briskly ordered to move a big liquid bag of beer down the stairs in complete darkness.
Placed under the stairs its temperature was an average 16 degrees, and i did try to insulate it, and sometimes moved it back up stairs during the day to bring it back up again to nearer 20 degrees.

Between days 7 - 10 after the bubbling had slowed down i then added the sugar, removed the tubing and left it to settle, removing some gas via the tap when the bag looks like its about to explode!
Eventually i poured myself a glass, two days after moving it into its dispensing position in its box.

Not a bad colour, but a bit murky, little carbonation also. Taste wise, well its wasn't dreadful. It did have bit of a twang to it, reasonably malty but being a bit flat didn't help. I may have drunk a pint or two but i think it would be difficult to have the whole lot. I do see how it was described as a softer version of London Pride though, shame it didn't come out right.

I am assuming that the fluctuations in temperature during the fermenting stage didn't help, i do not think it was the kit that failed but more my process. And i was reasonably encouraged to defiantly try again. Homebrew experts please comment if you think that was probably the fault.

Whilst it was brewing i looked at the BruPaks literature for other kits i saw the pilsners require a lower temperature, ideal for the spot under the stairs, and its better bottled. So with a holiday in March with some friends in mind i ordered and started over again!
Update soon on the North German Pilsner.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Review: Boar's Head, Tyla Garw, April festival

Well unfortunately its only a review of the tail end of the festival as plans for a Friday attendance were scuppered and i got to go this evening (Sunday) instead.
Firstly well done to the girl behind the bar this evening, seemed to be on her own in a busy pub, excellent service.
According to a guy i spoke to on the Friday and Saturday, as well as the bar pumps, most of the casks were on outside, this evening though it was only the beers left on the pumps but seeing as i had not tried any of those before that was fine with me.
Attending on my own, with a book, (William Burroughs 'Junkie' - probably why no-one spoke to me!) ) i found a nice armchair and tried:
Centurion Ghost ale -  very dark almost black in the glass, aroma was blackberry and burnt, good body, with a lingering bitterness, smoke/roasted malts, chocolate. Very nice.
Oakham White Dwarf - pale lemon and hazy, small foam head, citric sharp, wheat, bitter hop end, astringent/lemon, would be a lovely pint on a hot day.
Banks & Taylor Shefford Old Dark (SOD) - very little aroma, maybe some malt, creamy head, slight sweetness, hint of coca cola, its very drinkable but light with little body, no weight in the mouth.
Westerham British Bulldog - beautiful shining bronze colour, medium amount of maltyness, biscuit, some fruit comes through, flattish/little carbonation, fairly standard bitter, nothing exciting.
 Buffys Bitter - again a bronze malty bitter, fairly drying in the mouth, earthy, not to dissimilar from the last one to be honest, a little fruit and malt, but again average stuff.

Well they had great weather all weekend so i hope it was a success, the wife and i are hoping to get out there for a meal very soon, being walking distance is very handy. I noticed they had their 'awards' from the Mid-Glam Camra branch for their service to real ales, and also from the R.A.T.S on the walls.

If i had to buy another pint i would have chosen it from between the Ghost Ale and the White Dwarf, and i think the Dwarf would have won it, perfect for the sunny Sunday evening.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Ridgeway Bad King John

This is one i picked up a couple of months ago, and its been sitting my leaky and dusty shed, but i got it out this weekend. Its listed as a 'very english black ale' on the bottle, which has a beautiful label, really in keeping with its description and gives it a tapestry 'ye olde beer' impression. Its 6.0% abv 500ml and bottle conditioned. It also seems to be a bottle thats for US import originally judging by the label information.

Is it black ale? what is a black ale? i'm not sure how one is defined and i've certainly had beers similar which described themselves as stouts, and i notice some rating websites also call it a stout. Anyhoo its a beer and i drank it. What did i think.

It has a small off white bubbly head that soon goes to just a ring, and its colour is pretty black, with its carbonation its appears almost cocoa cola like.
It has some sour notes and ash, and tasting, well its bitter, coming with some coffee, and dark chocolate. These keep on going throughout the bottle, and its has smoke down to the last drop. It has a thin not quite medium body, and some fruits keep popping through, lovely blackberry, certainly blackcurrant involved in its bitterness. Overall though not bad, i'd have i again it offered.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Boar's Head in Tyla Garw, April Festival

The Boar's Head in Tyla Garw, South Wales is having a beer festival this weekend 15th - 17th April, this is a cracking little pub, an oasis in a little welsh corner.

Anyway yesterday the  Brew Wales  blog had a great post with a beer list and lovely history of the pub, head over there and check it out, and then head over to the pub this weekend.

I'm hoping to get there friday evening, for you others its very accessible from Cardiff central station. Get off at the Pontyclun station, (you should be on the opposite side to the Brains 'Brunel Arms' side),  and with your back to the high street walk ahead over a wooden bridge into an industrial estate. Keep going straight and when you get to the end there is a thin path on your right through the railings. Go through, bare right and keep going down the road and you come out with the Boars Head on the left. Sounds more complicated than it actually is.

Boar's Head, Tyla Garw, Pontyclun, CF72 9EZ, 01443 225400

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Quantock Brewery Sunraker

Seemed like an appropriate beer to have on such a glorious day, must have been the hottest of year so far. So after a day starting in Cardiff Mermaid Quay, walking the length alongside the bay to the barrage at Penarth, and catching the water bus back, a cool light refreshing beer was exactly what was needed.

Sunraker is a golden ale, described as a 'delicately hopped refreshingly light beer' on the label.
Very light gold indeed in colour, it had a small bubbly head although it didn't last to long. Aroma was flowery, grassy and a little metallic. Crisp and citric also. A light to medium body, a little oily, and i tasted earthy dry tones, a little herbal almost, some pepper?
Damn refreshing. It has again a little metallic notes, and with the dryness that all makes it seem not to dissimilar to some pilsners. Its the slight fruitiness that brings it into the golden ale camp.

I can imagine that on a hot day, pub beer garden, on cask, this would be hitting that spot just right. A sweet thought for the summer ahead i hope.

You can buy Quantock beers from local farmers markets, or from myBrewerytap, or West Country Ales.
Again, thank you to Rob from Quantock.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Tesco Finest Belgian Wheat Beer

Following a timely and informative post from the Pub Curmudgeon i found a reason to pop down to my local Tesco's. At 4 for a £5 I picked up a few of the Morland Crafty Old Hen, Fuller's Bengal Lancer and ESB, and Adnams Broadside.  I've not tried the Crafty Old Hen before mostly due to its usual price of £2.79, and because its a Greene King bottle, i seemed to have an aversion to paying that price for a bottle of theirs, i tend to find their bottled beers tasting very similar to each other.
Anyway as i clunked my way down the isle with my basket, in the 'world beer' section they also had reduced several bottles, one of them being their Finest range Belgian Wheat beer.

Recently i've been buying quite a few wheat and abbey beers, they've been my 'go to' beers, i have a Tesco express around the corner as well the main store (it is Tesco after all) and having cold Hoegarden or Leffe has become a frequent thirst quencher. Seeing as the weather was so bloody nice today i thought ahead and pictured myself, kids in bed,  enjoying a large cold wheat beer. The Finest Wheat beer is normally about £3.30 but now in promotion it was about the £2.20 mark for a 750ml 4.9% abv bottle which seemed good value, and worth trying.

Brewed by the Huyghe family in Belguim its a lemon yellow slightly cloudy beer, with hints of sherbert, lemon and coriander. Very crisp, quite dry and short in the mouth it had a reasonable amount of lemon and orange pithy dryness, vanilla, quite floral, banana. Its was okay, nothing outstanding, reasonable for the price i suppose.
Would i but it again? Well if it was still at that price maybe, in the Express store but they dont sell it there, in a main store there is a better (!) selection so i would doubt it.

Terrible label also, bad font, bad graphics, looks like some GCSE kids knocked it up for a project.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout

A bottle i picked up when i went to the Otley Bunch of Grapes a fortnight back.
An imperial stout, it is 10.0% abv in a 355 ml bottle. Classically appropriate design, it looks so inviting.
Pours black into the glass, a thick creamy tan head sitting majestically on top. It has a lovely expected aroma of coffee, sweet milk chocolate. Its smooth as hell, a creamy medium body is just right, with roasted malts coming through strong for me, bitter coffee, the bitterness carries on to the end also.
This was a great one to sip, shame it didn't last to long, as i loved the chocolate coming on more as it warmed, balanced by tangy dark fruit and alcohol warmth.
Highly recommended.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Home Brewing = Memories

Home brew conjures memories of childhood for me.

Utility rooms, full of muddy football boots and bubbling airlocks. Drawers full of tubing, wooden spoons, bungs and foil packets of yeast. The aroma of fermenting beers and wines pervading the house, and garage shelves lined with dusty bottles marked 'Elderflower 1986'.
My dad was the brewer, mostly it was wine but he did also brew beer. He helped found the local wine circle which went for many years until he lost interest, more people were going with bought wines and looking for a wine appreciation club than making it themselves.

I remember summers traipsing through fields, my brother and i eagerly gorging on ripe blackberries, my mother filing large ice cream tubs full, shared for cooking and brewing once home. 
Damsons, pea pods, elderflowers, all were used, staining work surface tops, occupying huge white bins.
 Visiting my grandmothers house, Sherborne in Dorset, and whilst we played in the overgrown and frankly probably dangerous (did anyone service those old parks, rusted Witchs Hats, bottles in concrete tunnels in hill sides?). The fields at the back there grew elderflowers and nettles, all used.

The Wine Circle barbeque's, an annual event. The ones when i was 10, 11, 12 years old all evoke memories, long summer days with trestle tables heaving with blackened sausages, burgers galore and home labeled bottles everywhere. These BBQ's were probably my first introductions to his beer via 'the half a shandy'. My dad or another of the adult men guarding their home brew would pour us a generous helping of lemonade and top up with their own beer. And then at opportune moments when our glass was half empty we would scoot over and top it up from the barrel, gradually thus increasing the beer to lemonade ratio in the alcoholic favour. We all thought it was terribly naughty and daring,  in truth i bet the dads saw it all and thought it funny, the distraction methods we employed.

Why the nostalgia trip?

Well when i bought my first house i went 'home' and entered my dads attic, the space that grows and never empties. Its so full of stuff that might one day be useful it gives my wife shivers fearing our attic will end up like it too. I acquired some of my dads old brewing equipment to take back with (thus proving my wife right!) but the truth is we literally do not have the physical space to attempt to brew properly. 
But last xmas my dad gave me for a present, with the words 'i hope it doesn't get you in trouble with the wife', a Brubox. 
Currently as i type i can hear the bubbling of air through water every 20 seconds or so. 
I'll post soon with first efforts at brewing my own beer, and why it got me in trouble with the wife.

Summer picture pinched from The Tortise Tearoom

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Quantock Royal Stag

There's an interest in deer in our house, as we often take the kids for walks at the weekend to Margam park, and one of the sights if your lucky is the wildlife.

Last time my son (4 last weekend), and I managed to creep up close enough for this shot, although one thing it made me realise was i need a better lens for the camera. Then i would have been able to get a close up on the stag on the right who stayed watching us the whole time whilst the others grazed.

Anyway tonight i had a stag in my house, and not any stag but a Royal Stag. Courtesy of Quantock Brewery   this was their 3rd beer i opened, a 6% abv traditional IPA, 500mls and bottle conditioned.

A lovely earthy and malt aroma, with fruit coming through also, orange and a touch of caramel.

The colour as you see is a red brown with white frothy head.

It is a lovely smooth beer, strong malts and fruity also, hint of orange, big fat rich oranges that you cut into quarters and suck on in a cartoon style mouth.

It has a slight dryness also, towards the end mostly, bready undertones,  but it carries a nice bitterness too. This is very enjoyable, good solid medium body, i'm sure if you gave it to an american and told them it was an IPA they would disagree, 'where are the hops' would be the reply, but they are there slowly curling round your mouth just not punching you on the nose in a baseball cap.
 I've enjoyed some good beers recently, from lots of different styles, but you can't beat this, your pint glass feels huge as you grip it and swig down another satisfying gulp.

You can buy Quantock beers from local farmers markets, or from myBrewerytap, or West Country Ales.
Again, thank you to Rob from Quantock.