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.


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.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Bristol United Brewer's Colaboration 2012 Smoked Porter

Lots of people in the mix here, a who's who of the south west brewing scene really.

*intake of breath* Collaboration beer brewed by  Arbor Ales, Bath Ales, Bristol Beer Factory, Great Western Brewing, RCH & Zero Degrees, with the bottle coming from Bristol Beer Factory and the cask was from RCH. *phew*
This was brewed for the 2012 Bristol Beer Festival, so my bottle has been sitting around for a while obviously then, but I actually drank this back in June.

Bristol United Brewer's Colaboration 2012 Smoked Porter

Pours so dark, lovely depth of inkiness with a great lingering head. Coffee, chocolate and cream aroma, and plenty in the mouth too.
Rich, almost a strong toffee, kinda burnt element, a little oily but the creamy part balances it. Its not as smokey as I was expecting, perhaps that has dissipated with age?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Brains Craft Brewery 'Weiss Weiss Baby'

Brains Craft Brewery Weiss Weiss BabyFrom the Brains Craft Brewery department tucked in a corner of the Cardiff Mega Brewery is a bottle of 'Weiss Weiss Baby', their Weissbier.
I must admit I kinda like the name, being a nice gentle pun, enough to put a little smirk on the lips and acknowledgement of achieved amusement.

The bottled version is slightly weaker than the keg version, 4.9% vs 5.9% abv.
Slightly cloudy yellow, a fizz of a head briefly. A light yeasty aroma, it has a light mouth-feel, with some banana and yeast there but on the lighter scale of things.
Very refreshing, cold in the summer it would be perfect. It would struggle if put alongside some of the more recognised weissbiers out there but I certainly enjoyed it.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Otley Oxymoron

Otley OxymoronOxymoron, a black IPA dry hopped to hell and delicious to boot!

When I first had this a few years ago at the Great Welsh festival it was my first BIPA, I wasn't totally sold on it but since then its a style I've enjoyed more and more, some great examples being from The Kernel brewery and Hardknott.
But I've also returned to the Oxymoron a few times since then, cask and bottle, and its become a real favourite of mine.

Excellent roasted malts but over the top pine and grapefruit burst out and up your nose tickling receptors.
Huge but balanced flavours.
The strong and dark sit beautifully with the bright, clean and striking hops.
Chocolate, roasted malts, grapefruit and pine singing, the bitterness has a great tartness to it.
5.5% abv.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Wooden Hand Brewery Cornish Gribben

Wooden Hand Brewery Cornish GribbenEvery year when we go to Cornwall I seem to end up drinking or bringing back some of Wooden Hand's beers, based in Truro they seem to have reasonable penetration of the south west market.

The only one I brought back this time was Cornish Gribben, a 4.1% bitter.
There was some lemon and orange aroma, but as I poured it the lack of carbonation was evident, this bottle was totally flat.
Shame really as the few mouthfuls I had were quite promising, with some toffee and citrus clearly there.

Oh well, there's always next year.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Keltek Brewery King

Keltek Brewery KingAnother from the south west of England, this time its the Keltek Brewery, based in Redruth Cornwall.
King is a 5.1% ESB style of beer, 500ml bottle also purchased from Tesco like in the last post.

My photo makes it look a little darker than the amber it actually was, little aroma which was mostly of malt, toffee, and rich fruit.

Traditional in style, good body, strong flavours of malt, caramel, again some rich fruit alongside some spiciness.
Nothing complicated and a nice pint.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Clearwater Brewery Real Smiler

Clearwater Brewery Real SmilerClearwater brewery, based in Devon has been going since 1998 but a buyout in 2009 and the introduction of new personnel including a new head brewer all in the last few years has greatly increased their presence locally and now starting nationally as well.

Real Smiler is a 3.7% Golden ale I picked up in a Tesco on the way back from our Cornwall holiday back in May.
Well carbonated, golden orange with a small fluffy head that quickly dissipates.
A little perfume in the aroma with some sweetness too, wiff of honey.
Medium body, crisp, dry, apply, balanced caramel malt with a light hop character that give enough bitterness for the style, some toffee too.

Overall a very nice golden ale, crisp and hit the spot.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Hardknott Cool Fusion

After a few jobs the other weekend and with the lawn mower packed away in the shed it was time for some liquid refreshment.
Hardknott Cool Fusion
Hardknott's Cool Fusion is a 4.4% abv beer that strongly features ginger. Whilst it was the prominent spice there was also lemon which made it seem incredibly fresh tasting.
Lovely white fluffy head, good body, unlike a lot of ginger beers this avoids being too dry, balanced well with its malts, citrus, and candy sugar sweetness.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Battle of the breweries - Boars Head 12-14th July

This weekend the Boars Head at Tyla Garw, South Wales, is holding a 'Battle of the Breweries' beer festival,  featuring Dark Star,  Oakham, Crouch Vale, Salopian and the Welsh Champion Brewers Tiny Rebel.
With the glorious sunny weekend ahead where else would i want to spend my birthday weekend!!
BBQ on Saturday.
Looking at the list today with Wayne behind the bar they have some cracking beers on, loads from Tiny Rebel.

Directions to the  Boars Head here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ayinger Urweisse

Ayinger UrweisseYum Yum.
That's almost all you need to say about this comforting pillow head, yeasty and cereal malted aroma, smooth and gorgeous peach, banana and some subtle spices that swim through your mouth firmly cementing wheat beers as your favourite style of beer.
Just yum.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Brains Organ Morgan

Organ Morgan is a 4% abv golden ale, one of the beers that Brains name, along with Milkwood and Jack Black, with links to Dylan Thomas.

It has a light sweetish aroma, honey, and some light malt notes.
The taste is similar, light honey sweetness, some light fruit, orange, and some caramel. Light body, this golden ale falls into the  perfectly drinkable, but not terribly exciting category.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Wild Beer co. 'Bliss'

(Entirely coincidentally I wrote this post yesterday with the children/pubs comments, before today's topic du jour)

After a cycle ride with the family we went into the excellent Boars Head (often mentioned here) at Tyla Garw. After having an excellent 'American Rye' from Buxton, 4.3% abv, my attention was brought to the fact that they were selling new bottles from the Wild Beer company. (Those interested, or not, in the craft vs camra yawn-a-rama might like to read their thoughts on it).

Whilst my kids were behaving well playing trumps and reading, disappointingly so to the 'children ruin pubs' brigade out there, I picked up two bottles.
'Epic Saison' 5% is a  "transcontinental fusion of Belgium’s eclectic beer culture and the feisty hops of North America brought to life with the aid of West Country artisanal brewing wizardry and judicious use of the US-grown Sorachi Ace hop".
First though tonight I'm trying 'Bliss' described on the website as Belgian-style saison into which they've added "a dash of funky Brettanomyces yeast plus roasted apricots and a hush-hush blend of spices".

Pours a murky light brown colour, very lively, needs a moment to settle to get it all in the glass. Aroma is lightly fruity, dry, and yes funky. Initial taste to me is quite spicy, a lot of pepper coming through alongside a dry fruitiness. As it went on I found the pepper/spiciness smoothing and the dry fruit of the added apricots does come out.

The bottle comes with a lot of information on it, regarding their brewing ethos and each individual beer, this one they also suggest food pairings of chicken jalfrezi or a lamb tagine.
Certainly it was interesting, I'm looking forward to the next one, and the chap at the bar who pointed the bottles out was very impressed with the 'Wildebeest' their Imperial Russian Stout.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival 2013: Friday

For once it was sunny, warm, and shorts weather on the trip into Cardiff for the GWBCF 2013.

After catching the lunchtime train in I waited for one of my friends to catch his (slow) train in. As he was delayed I moved myself into the Prince of Wales, a Weatherspoons pub, and ordered a Celt Experience Bledynn 1075. One of the Breweries that I was keen to visit once at the festival, this is their excellent IPA which I've had in bottle many a time, but this was the first time on cask and wow it was a palate stripping hopped up pint, superb and juicy. I could only hope the rest of the day's beers will be this good.

I pick up my glass, programme and tokens and head in. As much as I was eyeing up the specials on offer I thought sensible to start lower down the abv scale, and so picked on Brains 'Touch. Paws. Engage.' their rugby themed golden ale and 4%. Light, moderately fruity and refreshing citrus edge, very good start.
Always an impressive stand, the Otley boys and girls had an huge array of pumps, I went for the 'Hop Angeles' 4.8% an American Red ale which uses 9 different hops apparently. It had a nice light citrus aroma, with a dry woody strong bitterness in the mouth. I'd certainly seek this out again.
Next came a tick. One from the '300 beers...' book that I'd planned to get was the 'Oscar Wilde Mild' from Mighty Oak and I was glad I did. Bags of flavour, a great example of what a mild can be.

My good start continued as I moved onto the Tiny Rebel stand. A busy stand soon to get busier. Standing proud nearby was a pimped up old ice cream van in their colours.

Flux, a black IPA at 4% which was fantastic, juicy, citrus, roasted malts, another great beer from them.
The time then was just before 3 pm and it was the announcement for the Champion Beer of Wales results.
Okay, lets remind ourselves of my prediction in my previous post " will be interesting to see how many gongs they pick up. Champion Beer of Wales for Tiny Rebel?? I wouldn't be surprised."
 Well, no not very surprised, (perhaps at the clean sweep though) and yes feeling a little smug, but hey I called it!
Frankly though anyone drinking in the capital this last year probably is also not that surprised, such is the quality and consistency of the Tiny Rebel beers. A quick chat with Gaz and congratulations followed.
I also managed to publish my first post then on my mobile successfully, announcing the result (previous mobile attempts never worked).

 Violet Cottage were listed as a Cardiff brewery, one I'd never heard of, so i thought I'd try their 'Zigzag', a 5% IPA, which was nice and light, uncomplicated, a little lighter with the hops compared to others but as nice as many other IPA's out there and reminded me of Wye's HPA. When reading the programme a bit later i realised that they are from the award winning Gwaelod-y-Garth pub.
Back to one of the main stands now for one from Celt experience, 'Cat Scratched Celt' 5.8% a big amber ale, with nice strong malt backbone, caramel, pineapple from the hops, another great beer from Celt.
A side step takes me back to Otley and '09', a clear wheat beer I've not had before, lovely and light with orange and very spicy, 4.8%.
Redstone Brewery , based in Brecon Beacons only started last year, had just the one beer, 'Gorsey' 4.2%  a pale ale, lots of lemon and woody.
Brains Craft Brewery Low Hanging Fruit 4.8% - this was really good, 4.8% dark/mild?, on untappd I posted "Good dry earthy, sour aroma, a real lactic bitterness. Cherry lingers"
The only beer I didn't enjoy unfortunately was from Artisan, 'Alt' 5% although I cannot remember what was putting me off it but I didn't drink much off it.

Back to Brains Craft, and 'Stars and Stripes', an American wheat 5%, hazy, light and easy to drink quickly, citrus but not to bitter, fruity too.
I thought I'd go strong for my last beer and went for one of the Tiny Rebel specials, their 'Grand Regal Stout' this one aged in an 'Ardbeg Barrel' 7%.
My god, this was thick, chewy, so strong, like chewing a cigar. I couldn't finish it, wrong choice for the last beer of the night. Another night with this being the only beer in front of me I think I could give it more time but that night at that point it was palate overload. Not saying its a bad beer at all, my friend who enjoys whiskey liked it but agreed that it was a monster mouthful!
Thus I high-tailed back to the champions stand and got a 'Full Nelson' 4.8% with buckets of Nelson Sauvin hops, which refreshed my mouth immediately.

Overall this was one of the best GWBCF I've been to in recent years, a great range of beers from the headlining breweries, and all but one beer were thoroughly enjoyed which was a greater return for me than last few years. Loads more tables/chairs - excellent!
Many thanks to Arfur and the rest of the CAMRA guys for putting on a top show. I also managed to have a quick word with Arfur, although poorly timed as it was five minutes before the awards were announced, his steely focus on the stage as he wafted the results under my nose with a wry smile.

Main disappointment was not meeting Craig (top post btw) despite our girlish untappd posts pinging back and forward!
In sober hindsight I realised that 1 - telling him I'm by the winners stand was not making it easier, and 2 - me trying to spot a man just by identifying his beard at a CAMRA festival is like <insert cliché here> A real shame as I fancied a good chat, which is something, as he says in his post we'll have to sort out soon.

Full results:
Champion Beer of Wales 2013
1. Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out
2. Tiny Rebel Fubar
3. Tiny Rebel Urban IPA
Category Winners
Rhymney Dark
Purple Moose Madog's Ale
Best Bitter
Brain's Rev James
Strong Bitter
Tiny Rebel Urban IPA
Golden Ale
Tiny Rebel Fubar
Bullmastiff Welsh Black
Facers North Star Porter
Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out
Barley Wine
Tiny Rebel Hadouken
Old Ales/Strong Milds
Breconshire Ramblers Ruin

Friday, 7 June 2013

Tiny Rebel sweep Wales festival

Tiny Rebel sweep the board at the Great Welsh Beer and Cider festival, for the first time ever one brewery has taken all the top three places. Announced minutes ago, Fubar, Urban IPA took second and third, with Dirty Stop Out taking the Champion Beer of Wales.
Fittingly I'm currently supping their Flux, an excellent black pale ale, another top beer from the guys. Well done fella's

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A (sort of) Ode to Magic Rock Dark Arts

Magic Rock beers
could drive a geek to tears,
and I know I've only tried two
which is far too few,
but damm they taste good.

An aroma of roasted malts and coffee
Beautiful tan head on a medium body
Dark, dry with a lingering bitterness,
Hints of chocolate, make a perfect sweet kiss.

Its a shame there's so little left in the glass
this is one you just want to last
and taken with a strong cheese
this will not fail to please

why am I doing this review in this form?
I wanted to try something that wasn't  the norm
whether it was a success i doubt,
In a week I'll check my post count

So now to all you readers i must say sorry
subjecting you to such poor standard poetry
I'll go back to my normal photos and reviews
which I suppose is (slightly better) news.

(yeah sorry!!! but you have to do something outside your comfort zone every now and then!
If you want to read real poetry, often alcohol inspired (i.e he was a drunk) I suggest you try Charles Bukowski)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Great Welsh Beer + Cider Festival, Cardiff 2013

Yes its that time again to roll up in Cardiff and sample the delights of an increasing number of excellent Welsh Breweries offerings. The Great Welsh Beer and Cider festival runs from this Thursday to Saturday 6-8th June.

For updates I would keep an eye on the offical site and twitter feed, or the organisers well known blog Brew Wales .

I'm attending on Friday again, and this year I'm probably more excited than for many years. Why? A few reasons.
Tiny Rebel last year - sold out before you knew it

1 - Tiny Rebel - I think its fair to say they stormed the event last year. Now that they are eligible to be entered into the national competitions it will be interesting to see how many gongs they pick up. Champion Beer of Wales for Tiny Rebel?? I wouldn't be surprised.

2 - Brains - What?? A couple of years ago I commented on why do people at the festival crowd the Brains bar, they can get SA and Dark everywhere in Cardiff, why? But with the Brains Craft brewery I am actually looking forward to standing at their bar and being caught in indecision over what to choose. Never thought I'd say that, and I almost can actually picture the Head brewer Bill  skipping to work these days, getting to play with his brewkit rather than overseeing a gazzillion pints of SA. Excellent work Brains. Tiny Rebel could have a fight on their hands for those gongs!
Also read this great recent article on Brains by Craig. In it he proposes an excellent point, a craft dedicated Brains pub/bar. My opinion - they have so many establishments in Cardiff centre, next time they focus on a refurbishment they should go the whole hog and strip out and SA and Black lines and go just Craft.

Okay a little of point there so....

3 - Celt Experience - what with their new funky website and range of beers they have seriously stepped up a gear it would seems. Their 'standard' range has always been very good, and I've yet to try the new range but Simon's reviews at CAMRGB over the last few weeks have me very excited also, and I've recently discovered where I can buy these new bottles so a little tasting before is in order.

4 - New beers from Otley - always good to see.

5 - Foreign bar - gone through a few changes in recent years, so interesting to see the festival team up with a local shop 'The Bottle Shop' to supply the foreign beer. A small but enticing selection, I really hope this works and expands in years ahead. Really need to get to the shop soon also!

And who knows I might bump into Arfur there to shake his hand and say thanks, I bump into him on occasion at food&drink festivals throughout the year but not here yet!!

Okay.... race you to the chairs!!!!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Marks and Spencer Single Hop Varieties Cascade, Citra and Sovereign

Marks and Spencer Sovereign Golden Ale
Marks and Spencer's continue to take the best beers from breweries across the country and re-brand them for their stores.
Seeing another beer trend/bandwagon/niche they have released some 'Single Hop' beers, using the hops Sovereign, Citra and Cascade.
All these bottles are £2.69 which is a lot compared to most supermarket beer prices, but they are also 1 pint bottles not 500mls.

Produced by the Elgoods brewery the first was Sovereign, a 5% golden ale. Good golden/orange colour, sweet toffee aroma, and this followed on, i found it a bit too sweet, cloying with toffee and honey, bits of kids sweets from your memories. Not for me.

Marks and Spencer Citra IPA

Second up is Citra, an IPA from Oakham thats 4.9% abv which is a little higher than their own well known Citra beer at 4.2%.
More yellow in colour, lovely hop aroma of grapefruit and gooseberry, bags of fruit flavours with that expected bite of citra hops. Very enjoyable.

Marks and Spencer Cascade pale ale

Third was from the Castle Rock brewery, Cascasde single hop, 5% abv. Light golden in colour, light grass aroma and sweet oranges, pleasant drink with light body, easy, earthy malt holds up flavours well, making this a very good pint.

Of the three the Citra was head and shoulders above the other two but I did enjoy the Cascade too, leaving the Sovereign trailing far behind in last.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Jacobi Brewery of Caio 'Winter Warmer'

Jacobi Brewery of Caio Winter WarmerWhen the sun came out a fortnight ago and ushered in Spring we went for a walk in the Brecon Beacons, there is a mountain centre and walks at Libanus, and it includes a tourist shop, a cafe downstairs which serves some excellent food, this time we didn't eat there but I positively salivated over another's steak and kidney pie with some wonderfully aromatic red cabbage.

A good sign is that there is usually queues for the food, and they sell local beers, with bottles from the Breconshire Brewery which I didn't see until I'd paid for our drinks, although those included one from the Carmarthenshire 'Jacobi brewery of Caio'.

This was an English strong ale 5% called 'Winter Warmer'.
This was a deep copper red colour which had a half finger of head that stays, looks good.
The aroma was strong rich and fruity, whilst the raisins, toffee, a very malt sweetness and heavy alcohol body, is matched with good hops providing a lingering bitterness.
Its not a classic heavy winter beer such as Adnams Broadside, it lacks the body of that but it was a good strong bitter that was enjoyed. And it probably would have paired very well with the pie and red cabbage if I'd had that. Missed opportunity!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Fullers Brewery Tour Weekend, and Lamb brewery, Chiswick

So as I said in this post we went on the tour a few weeks ago. We only spent the one night in London but crammed in plenty of beery goodness.

IMG_0422We started by having lunch in the Crown and Anchor, which was a Young's & Co pub but now seems to be part of a small group under the name of 'Convivial London Pubs'.
This was quiet at the time, with some very friendly and helpful staff, happy to give us the directions to get to the Tour. He also suggested we later visit their sister pub 'The Lamb'.
A great jalapeño burger washed down with a fresh Wandle by Sambrook's Brewery was a good start.

Onto the Fullers Brewery then, I'm not going to go through the whole thing here, I suspect a lot of readers here have either been on a tour before or are reasonably knowledgeable of the workings of a brewery. It was very professional in the set up of the tour, I think the sheer size of it amazed me most and I'd recommend the tour to everyone.
There are more photos of the brewery here on Flickr.

Entering 'The Hock Cellar' is where most people want to be though if your truthful, your served half's of many of their excellent beers, from pump or bottle.
They suggest you start with the lower abv beers and work your way up to the stronger ones, but most people went for their favourites it seems.
DSC_7297I  started with the ones I'd not tried before, Gales Spring Sprinter the seasonal golden ale 4%, Gales HSB at 4.8% (Horndean special bitter) which was really nice, a lighter bodied ESB. I then  tried most of the Fullers they had on offer, they were happy to open bottles too. And as you'd expect all were in great condition, London Pride never tasted so good!
My wife went for their Honey Dew, Discovery, Golden Pride and Bengal Lancer, her favourites being the first two.


Later on after food we went to the The Lamb as previously suggested, as it houses its own microbrewery in-house. I opted for the taster tray, 4 of their own brews and 1 from another pub in the group housing 'The Botanist Brewery'.

Their 'Helles'  (not a favourite style of mine) was very nice, 3.8%, well carbonated, fresh and light, good malt and some butter. The Hefeweizen, 5.5% I felt was a poor example, very little of the characteristics you expect from the style.
Up onto the American Pale Ale quickly then which was pretty nice, 5%, on Untappd I commented 'Peach, lychee, soapy, dry'. They nicely picked the ball up again with that one, and carried on well with the Imperial Stout. This was a lower abv at 5.5% for an IS but held a good body, nice and smooth with chocolate, coffee and just the right amount of bitterness, a well made stout.

The Botanist Brewery (which is housed very near Kew Gardens) provided a nice finish, a strong ale/red ale at 6.2%, rich and malty, chewy malts, with good hop profile. I'd certainly recommend The Lamb if your in Chiswick high street as a great place to drink, its was very popular that night also.

We then went back to the Crown and Anchor as they had some live jazz on, i think my wife was a bit on beer overkill by this point and wanted a different form of culture! A great quartet playing New Orleans style jazz, with patrons and staff dressed up in 'day of the dead' costumes and make-up.
I had a bottle of Anchor Steam beer, and then a pint of Sharps Cornish Coaster whilst tapping my feet into the night.


The word verification system on blogs and websites annoys me greatly, but like some other beer Bloggers I frequently read I am unfortunately going to have to turn it on due to the increasing amount of spam I'm currently receiving.
I had only ever had a trickle coming through but over the last couple of weeks its massively increased in frequency on a daily basis.
I'll remove it at some point in the future to see if the torrent has subsided to its previous trickle, until then its here to stay.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

J.W. Lees Manchester Star Ale

JW Lees Manchester Star AleWow, surprise here. Not one I'd seen before, and only picked it up on a spur of the moment trip to Morrison's.

J.W. Lees Manchester Star Ale, I didn't note the abv or style when i bought it, I was in a rush and quickly put in the basket as one I'd not had before.
Answer: Porter, 7.3% and damn delicious.

I got a frothy off white head, the aroma was light and roast chocolate, and sweet dark fruit.

Good body for the style, and lovely rich fruit, plum, raisin, coffee, and a little spicy too.

Good carbonation as you can see from the photo, this is a really, really good beer and next time I'm there I will pick up some more without a doubt.

Monday, 8 April 2013


DSC_7400I was reading the great posts on their recent Munich trip by The Beer Nut and The Bitten Bullet, and decided that as I was over the other side of Cardiff for a meeting I should do some beer shopping. German beer shopping, after reading their exploits.

As always this involved heading to the Cardiff Beer shop/Discount Supermarket, but again, despite good intentions to only buy a few German beers, I was swayed by their great choice and ended up with a bit more than intended.

The first I decided on was a name I recognised from their Munich posts, although I couldn't remember the opinions presented.

Ayinger  Ur Weisse  5.8% Dunkelweizen
Hacker-Pschorr  5.5% Hefeweizen
Oettinger 4.7% Helles

These two on the left will be my first US Craft beer in a can experience.
Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA 6.8%
Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA 7.1%


 Moving back to Europe I got  a classic, the Tripel Karmeliet, an Abbey tripel weighing in at 8.4%.
Back to Blighty and one from the Kernel, always reliable, although this is a collabaration beer with Brodies, a black IPA and 6.9%.

After two good beers from Hardknott I went for a hat-trick and got their Cool Fusion, 4.4%.

In the shop they were also doing a deal on the beers from the Brains Craft brewery, 4 bottles for a fiver. Whilst i was a little underwhelmed by their Barry Island IPA, although a fairly decent beer, I had wanted to try some of their newer offerings. The cask versions do not seem to make it round my way so this was an opportunity I took.

Weiss Weiss Baby, 5.9%
Colonel Williams, the Martyn Cornell collabaration East India Pale Ale, 6%.
A Pils from the Hills, pilsner 5%.
Boilermaker, an IPA brewed with Penderyn whisky infused oak chips, 6.5%. I did hesitate over this one as whiskey beers are not my thing but thought I'd make up the foursome with it.

So after a little run of night shifts this week I'll have to decide which to start with.
As always, any comments on these beers appreciated, good choice? bad beer? let me know.