Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Me & Whiskey, and Naylor's Bradford Lad.

When your young and drinking stupid amounts on a weekend as you do in your late teens/early twenties you try all sorts of drinks, anything offered in a round sometimes. I remember being given some whiskey, it was an experience because the sheer smell of it made my throat tighten and any attempt to drink it would pretty much induce gagging, immediately. So i left whiskey alone, and if i wanted a short i'd plump for vodka.

That was 15+ years ago and I've never tried it since as far as i recall until recently. I'm a big fan of the written works of Scottish author Iain Banks and a few years ago he wrote a travelogue book 'Raw Spirit: In search of the perfect dram' detailing a tour of his homeland and all of its distillery's. I've picked it up and read a chapter here and there over the last couple of years, and his description of whiskey and its processes of being made is very interesting, and his adventures humorous. Also, i had been reading a few beer blogs who also chronicle whiskey tasting such as Billy's Booze Blog.
So last month when in the company of a couple of friends in the pub one of them ordered a single malt i asked if could try it, to see if over the years my palate had changed and could now taste and enjoy this noble drink. Detect the differences from Islay whiskeys and Highland ones, pick up the subtle flavors from the barrel ageing.


As soon as it hit my lips and nostrils its sheer rawness squeezed my larynx shut, and my friends thought they were about to be reaquainted with the Wadworth 6X and Bath Ales i had just put away.

Okay, experiment over.
So why mention it? Well the other day i opened a bottle from the Naylors Brewery from West Yorkshire.
'Bradford Lad' is described on the label as a 'Celebratory Strong Ale' at 7.2% abv, brewed like a barley wine.

It was a mid brown with orange edges up to the light, very little head once it had settled. Quite a strong aroma, of malts, burnt wood, thick with raisins. There was also a slight medicinal quality to it.

In tasting it there was sweetness, toffee, raisins again, strong alcohol, and to me, an undertone of rawness that i thought was whiskey.
I checked the label and googled a bit, no mention that it was aged in barrels of any kind, but i thought it had a small burning power that lay in behind the light bitterness of the hops. This was accompanied by some pepper and orange. As i drank more, and done slowly and enjoyably i will add, the rawness settled. It was never in detriment to the beer i must say, a nice level of complexity.

 More likely though its probably never been near a whiskey barrel, and lord knows what i was tasting!!

I did note that my bottle was at the end of its expiry date (march 2011) so i wonder how long it had been conditioning in the bottle? The label gives an undefined 'maturation period' and i dont know what the industry standard is for best before dates.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Quantock Wills Neck

My second bottle courtesy of Somersets Quantock Brewery  was Wills Neck, a late hopped golden ale, bottle conditioned and 4.3% abv.

Its appearance was golden once poured, with little to no head really. With that comes a sharp malty taste, and little bits of orange, came over crisp and dry also. Finishes initially with a citrus bitterness, the late hopping i presume,  but as it went down the glass and warmed the sweet malt element was more noticeable. All of this was quite understated though, very light and gentle. This might be as once in the glass it had little carbonation which left the overall experience a little flat.
Never mind, a review of the Royal Stag to come soon, looking forward to that!

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

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Lindemans Faro

An interesting experience again with a Lindemans beer.
This is their Faro, a lambic beer blended with sugar, i picked it up last month in Cardiff, its silver foil wrapping promising sophisticated beer drinking. And i was quite surprised when popping the cap to find a cork underneath as well, combined with the label its all very stylish indeed.

Once that was removed a fruity yeasty smell hits you immediately. It a lovely copper colour with a small white head, and again its aromas promise a bittersweet taste. Its tarty, sweet apples, yeasty, musty, the candy sugar they add at bottling is strong but the whole thing is quite heavy in the mouth, very good. It taste mature, with cherries and a champagne like finish.

Overall quite an enjoyable beer, i recommend trying it if you see it on a shelf somewhere.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Otley's Bunch of Grapes and 'Obscura'

 Today sees the launch of the new Otley beer Obscura, a dark saison style 5.5% abv, brewed with beer and travel writer Adrain Tierney-Jones. To promote it they are engaging in a twitter (#saisonobscura) pub crawl around London's finest pubs, but it was first being launched in the Otley pub Bunch of Grapes  based in Pontypridd, Wales.
I dusted of the wallet and headed out there, my first time, surprised actually how easy it was to get there from our place, the massive new road improvements between us and Pontypridd made the journey very quick.
(I would never had found the pub if my wife hadn't been there before though, better signposting would help, unless i missed it).

Lovely interior, spacious bar, nice old pub beams atmosphere mixed with quality and stylish modern wood furniture. Friendly bar manager, and waiting staff were very good at lunch today.
Anyway she said 'and what would you like to drink'
i said 'you have your new beer Obscura on today? can i try that?'
'I'm afraid its not on until til 2pm'

Ah well never mind, another day hopefully. I started with a half of their 'CroesO' one I'd not had before. A yellow colour bordering into very light orange territory. Clean, fresh, dry, grapefruit and tropical hints on the aroma, The grapefruit following through more into the palate. Thin in the mouth but suitable so, it keeps the lightness of the beer matching with its clean dry taste. Citrus and pithy, it went down beautifully in the warm spring sun.
Food was great, i had a venison burger, nice salsa, and chips the size of breeze blocks!

On tap they also had their own O1, O4 Colombo, O-Garden; Three tuns brewery XXX, Dorothy Goodbodys wholesome stout and more besides on their 9 handpumps. They update their bar list here. They also have a reasonable bottle selection, i took home a Chimay White, never seen it around before so no question about that, and a Brooklyn Double Black Chocolate Stout. (yes i know, tick !).

Unfortunately we had to be away before they brought out the Obscura, despite me trying to persuade the wife to have a pudding.
I just hope that the Obscura beer is brewed again soon, and taken also to the Great Welsh Beer Festival this year in Cardiff. Pleaseeeeeeee!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Quantock Brewery 'White Hind'

After enjoying the Coniston and Everards bitters recently I thought I would start with a bitter, from the bottles kindly sent to me by Rob at the Quantock Brewery , based in Somerset.
White Hind is a 4.5% abv 500ml bottle conditioned beer, its name taken from a local white hind that was eventually killed, apparently with its head being found in a stream but now adorns a village hall wall.
Lovely. Coincidentally, so is the bitter.

(Bigger picture here)
A lovely auburn brown colour, it had a small white head that left a little lacing. Aroma was a biscuity malt, with also a sharpish hop character. These both followed through in its taste, quite a punchy sharp bitterness, bracing but fresh, and the fruity sweet malt flavour stopping the dry bitterness from running away in your mouth.Everything you expect from a good bitter.

I must admit i was concerned with reviewing my first 'free' beer, what if i didn't like it?, what if it was poorly conditioned?
I'm always aiming to be honest with all beers i review, bought or gifts/free, but still there's still an element of apprehension, human nature i suppose, or is it British culture saying nice things when you don't want to hurt someone or appear ungrateful.
Thankfully neither of those eventualities occurred, i liked this beer, and i now can relax a bit more, looking forward to the others from their range.
You can buy Quantock beers from local farmers markets, or from myBrewerytap, or West Country Ales.

Beer round up no.2

A bit of a round up post, featuring a few beers I've had over the last few weeks but not featured in any posts, so i can now get onto the new bottles sitting waiting, so here goes......

Picked up a couple from Morrison's, including Everards 'Beacon Bitter', and one from my neck of the woods, Ringwoods 'Boondoggle'
After a 12 1/2hr shift i welcomed the Beacon bitter, pounced on it, and drained it down quickly. Classic copper in colour, faint fruit aroma with malty background, 3.8% abv. Mellow bitterness, alongside its toffee hints on a medium body. Good standard bitter, not much wrong with it.

Ringwood's 'Boondoggle' is one i remember having on cask many many years ago, you dont forget that name really. 5% abv which is apparently strong than on cask, light golden in colour, its a 'blonde beer' that has the aroma of a honey beer, sweet and floral. Taste wise its sweet but with a dry bitterness, lemon, digestive biscuit malt. Overall though it wasn't one that impressed me, it was like a bad Badger beer, overly sweet and floral, wouldn't buy it again i'm afraid, Ringwood do produce much better beers than this normally.

Black Sheep do good beers. Fact. 'Square ale', 'Golden sheep' and 'Riggwelter' - good bottled beers. Riggwelter is a 5.7% strong Yorkshire ale, a marvelously chewy toffee ale, cracking beer. Rich roasted malts, strong dark fruits, a sweetness bordering on treacle flavored. A nice coffee bitterness in there too, medium to heavy bodied, really enjoyable.

Brewdog's 8% Rip Tide stout was a nice drop but a little bit of a let down if truth be told. Black, black, black in the glass with tan coloured head. A little thin in the mouth which was a surprise, coffee, chocolate malts, licorice. I think i was expecting something a little more 'bombastic' from it than it actually gave, hence feeling underwhelmed.

 Young's Double Chocolate Stout, relatively famous beer in most respects, and another that features in the "best beers in the world" books with some regularity. So was quite looking forward to this one, open it and got a well carbonated black pint, little frothy off white head. Smooth, chocolate and some spice aroma, surprisingly noticeable hop presence. Again i was a little underwhelmed with it, if anything the milk chocolate was a little too sickly sweet for me.

Coniston Brewing Co.'s Bluebird Bitter, award winning and very drinkable. As you can see from the photo i just about left some in the glass before i remembered to shoot it! Golden straw colour, malty aroma with sweet fruit sweetness. Taste was very good, bready, malt, but also a floral and hoppy element. There also seems to be a little apple and maybe banana in there too? I would certainly like to try this on cask if given the opportunity.

Finally the other night i tried the Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier. Very refreshing, crisp, dry, very carbonated as you can see. As you'd expect it has banana, clove, yeasty, and bubble gum sweetness. Lovely, not much wrong with it, again best on a hot day i would imagine.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Maredsous 6 Blond

I opened this whilst watching England get their arses kicked by Ireland in the rugby. Just like Ireland this beer was big, strong and followed through to the end.

It starts with a big foamy head, straw gold colour, and its aroma is yeasty, and a very sharp citrus hit.
It was very carbonated, with a clean bitterness, melon, lots of alcohol, and a sticky quality.
I really was enjoying this, taking attention away from the disappointment on the TV. You could taste in the upper palate the hop bitterness, and the alcohol and pepper came through stronger in the aroma at end joined by some candy sugar taste.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Quantock Brewery Beers

After a long week and a half of nights, a study day on management, and then back onto long days, one thing on Thursday had me smiling and giggling like a kid at Christmas. From Quantock Brewery in Wellington, Somerset, Rob very kindly has sent me a box of their beers to review, including their SIBA double award winning 'Quantock Stout'.
As i now have almost a weeks holiday coming up i am hoping to end each day relaxing and enjoying a new beer.
Reviews will following on:
Quantock Ale, a 3.8% amber ale
Sunraker, 4.2% golden ale
White Hind, a 4.5% bitter
Wills Neck, 4.3% late hopped golden ale
Quantock Stout 4.5% SIBA winner
Royal Stag 6.0% IPA.
Again many thanks to Rob at Quantock.

Flickr photo

Monday, 7 March 2011

Batemans Hooker

From Aldi supermarket is a Six Nations themed brew from Batemans called 'Hooker'. It does have a 'seaside postcard' humorous label, and the tacky by-line 'Have you got the balls for it?'. 500mls, 4.1% abv.

Copper to chestnut brown coloured with a small white head, caramel and biscuity malt aroma. Taste is a very typical Batemans bitter, it has a strong malt taste up front, sharp hop bitterness. Its still however, when i say 'typical Batemans', so similar to several of their other beers, they are not bad beers, pleasantly average though - is that damning praise?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Saison Dupont

As soon as it poured its fluffy pillow white head, on top of a gorgeous golden body, and floated its citrus, peppery, and hints of banana notes under my nose i knew i would love this beer.
The fresh liveliness across the tongue, lemon and orange, the hops working exquisitely, causing a tartness also.
The pepper has a comeback also, with some floral lightness lifting this beer around the mouth, but there's a dryness that reminds me of barely ripe conference pear. 
Such a gentle beer in a way, you imagine sunny lazy days, wheat fields swaying in the breeze while this nectar sits in a glass in your hand and you sip it with a smile growing across your face.

Bigger picture on flickr

Friday, 4 March 2011

Vale of Glamorgan 'Light Headed'

This is a bottle conditioned beer from the Barry based brewery Vale of Glamorgan (VoG) called Light Headed, a 500ml 4% abv bitter. The picture on the bottle like some of their other labels is a local landmark, if i'm right it's the lighthouse at Nash Point, South Glamorgan.
This shows of a nice light tan brown, very little head which soon dissipates. Aroma was mostly malty, with tangy hops, like a rich warm orange. The  beer itself is reasonable crisp, lively, medium malt base in the taste, with something fruity and juicy hiding in there. Reasonable bitterness, tannin also, short finish noted.

Overall not a bad beer from VoG, not their best but i would certainly be happy to drink it again.