Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Book review: Mikkeller's Book of Beer

Every so often I get sent a beer book review and from the moment I got a press release about Mikkeller's Book of Beer I was excited. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is one of the most famed and exciting brewers in Europe, if not the world I knew that hearing what he has to say about how he started up, why he does what he does and his view on beer would surely be exciting.

First of all, the layout of the book is beautiful. It's so cleanly laid out yet full of Mikkeller's in house artist Keith Shore's artwork and wonderful photographs.

First we have a brief history of beer, which basically retells many of the myths we've all learned are crap but it's entertaining and captivating nonetheless, before we get to Mikkeller's story.

The whole story of Mikkeller is a fascinating one and the way he tells it cuts the bullshit. I've heard many stories from many different people about how he came to start brewing and none of them are remotely close to the one in this book, the real one, straight from the horses mouth.

Throughout the book are other little snippets, or interludes, with stories about some of his most popular beers.

And then you get to the homebrew section. Yes, Mikkeller teaches you to brew and once again it's in a simple way unlike many of the how to brew all grain guides I've previously read. He takes it step by step, with each section reinforcing the most important rule of brewing... CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN.

The most exciting part of this book, however, is not the story of how he started; not the mildly incorrect lesson on beer history; not the guide on how to homebrew but in fact he gives away some of his own recipes!

He has included detailed recipes of some of his most popular beers including I Beat yoU, Texas Ranger & Beer Geek Bacon as well as a few recipes from his friends at Firestone Walker, Three Floyds and even our own Kernel Brewery.

All in all, it's a good book but it's not without its negatives. Firstly, a lot of the English translation seems like it's been tapped into a search engine with the command "DANISH TO ENGLISH" which I suppose isn't too much of a big deal although there's one paragraph that literally repeats the same sentence twice. Secondly, I feel a bit sorry for Brewdog getting left out of this book considering they're massive supporters of Mikkeller, are exclusive importers of his beer in the UK, have collaborated with him on beers and even gypsy brewed for him. You could argue that Brewdog don't need the exposure but that's not the point.

Now as good of a book as this is, I don't believe it's for beer geeks other than the homebrewing kind. If you want to know Mikkeller's story, that's great, but this book won't really expand your knowledge on beer a great deal. It's a bit of a beginner's book and in all honesty, that's no bad thing. Buy it for a friend who really wants to get into beer and homebrewing but doesn't know where to start.

It's available on Amazon now priced at £13.60: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909342882

Nate

Monday, 16 February 2015

#ShowUsYourLocal - Old Favourites & New Beginnings

I’ve never really had just one local pub. Sure, throughout time there have been certain pubs I’ve spent more time in than others, whose bar staff I’ve come to know and even call my friends, but I’ve never really been someone to just go to one particular pub all of the time, or even in the same night. I’ve always had many local pubs that each serves its own purpose.

I was asked to participate in the Show Us Your Local campaign by Jamie’s Drinkstube, which I have happily obliged to take part in. Below I will tell you about the pubs in Norwich that I call my locals and why, along with a new challenge I face.

The Norwich Taphouse is a special kind of pub as it was the first ever craft beer bar in Norwich. Before this opened in November 2012, the people of Norwich knew nothing about the weird and wonderful new world styles of beers that were available in keg. I remember going there on opening night and it’s still a pub I regularly go to as they consistently have something I want to drink as well as bar staff I can sit and chat to. It’s also pretty much the Redwell Brewery Tap unofficially, always having our entire range on keg.

For both good food and good beer I pick either Plasterers Arms which has arguably the finest pizzas in the city, paired with some great beers on cask and keg or I’ll visit The Mash Tun which not only has great cask and keg as well as Harbercue cooking up American style BBQ cuisine such as brisket and pulled pork with the best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had, but it’s also the place I go if I want the beat Gin & Tonic in the city as it also houses a gin palace that stocks over 150 different gins and infusions!

For cocktails, The X Bells is my go-to. They have a cocktail list that rivals some of the beat London bars I’ve been to and they change it seasonally, sometimes using rather odd ingredients. The staff are well trained in making classic cocktails too, so you can still get an Old Fashioned with no trouble.
The final pub I frequently visit, although admittedly less when the weather isn’t so good, is The Plough which features mostly beers from Grain Brewery. The reason for this pub being included, though, is mostly for the massive beer garden which is a delight to spend long summer Sunday sessions in, if you can get a table.

These are some of my favourite pubs in Norwich, but now I’m presented with a new challenge. I’ve recently moved in with my girlfriend in the small seaside town of Gorleston and therefore aside from going into Norwich for work, I don’t spend a great deal of time there. The challenge I now face is finding a local near home, somewhere I can happily go for a few quiet pints since Emily isn’t really a pub person. Its difficult moving to a new town where you don’t know many people and therefore don’t have the guidance of what the good quality, friendly pubs are. I’ve already been to a few pubs in the area and it’s a different scene to Norwich; for one, the beers aren’t as interesting or varied. Most of them seem to have the same selection, with very little I want to drink but luckily I can usually find something from Lacons Brewery just down the road in Great Yarmouth so really the question is, where so I feel comfortable? And so far I’ve found that Oddfellows is friendly and on a Sunday night has a good atmosphere with live music, so maybe I’ve found it. Maybe for the first time in my life I will just have one local.

Nate

Many thanks to Greg at Jamie’s Drinkstube for inviting me to be a part of this, I’ve re enjoyed writing. Check out Sarah Warman's video below and get involved using the hashtag #ShowUsYourLocal on Twitter.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Hosting a Brewery Tour

As a beer geek I've been on many brewery tours... from London Fields back when it was tiny, all the way to Adnams which is not so small.

I think it's fair to say that from a combination of this and my love of beer, that I know a fair bit about the stuff.

I remember when Redwell Brewery first opened, it was much smaller than it is now and I was given a kind of informal tour of the brewery... this was two years ago.

Two years on I'm working at Redwell, it's much bigger and now I'm doing the tours.

I am actually hosting brewery tours. I've done two so far and coming into the brewery on a Saturday to educate people about craft beer and most importantly our beer, brewery and future plans excites me.

Seeing people have their first taste of Steam Lager, their eyes lighting up, the 'woah, I didn't know lager could taste like this' factor, to me is exciting and it's what I live for.

Then comes even more excitement when I tell people that we can sample unfiltered, fresh as hell beer straight from the tank... on Saturday it was our India Pale Lager that was ready to drink. This 5.5% hopped to hell and back, yet cool, crisp and refreshing lager is the one beer of ours I now drink most of and as I poured glass after glass and handed them to people I heard gasps... I felt everyone's excitement and happiness. I had a room full of people who had never met before engaging in conversation about how downright amazing this beer was.

It just makes me feel so happy and it's hard to put it into words... just doing something awesome for people, making them feel special and privileged as they get to take a glimpse into what we're doing, and getting to taste beer in the vessel it's lagering in. Seeing people walk away knowing that they've learned something, and seeing the smiles on their faces.

What's more is that I'm making friends out of my job... people who have come to my first tour are following me on twitter, suggesting going out to dinner or for drinks.

It's amazing and I love my job!

Nate

*Photo Credit to my good friend James Wilson. He's an amazing photographer!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A small crawl in London

I had Friday off work so I decided to go to London for a few beers since Emily had to work. I'd not done a proper London pub crawl in ages so it was rather nice, I got to drink some beers that I otherwise wouldn't tried.

I started off in Craft Beer Co Covent Garden (which, btw, isn't really in Covent Garden) with a half pint of the Siren/Beavertown/Magic Rock collaborative beer Rule of Thirds. It's 6.4% and pours golden with a fluffy white head, it's full of grapefruit, blood orange, mango & peach flavours and was really delicious.

The bar itself is brilliant... one long bar with 45 beers on draught. Most of these are keg, but there were around 10 cask beers (about a third of these were Thornbridge so not that varied). It's very bright upstairs, windows all around allowing you to look at the busy passersby. There was also a small smoking area out the front which made me happy as I could take my drink with me, unlike many craft beer bars. Downstairs is The Lounge, which is dark and beautiful. They also serve burgers, but I didn't have one this time. They all sound amazing though.

I then decided to have another beer, which was Siren Haunted Dream, a pumpkin porter at 6.5% and possibly my favourite pumpkin beer ever. Straight up you could smell the spices and chocolate so I couldn't wait to take a sip... yum. Chocolate, coffee, spices. I could have drunk two pints!

I then walked to the first craft beer bar I'd ever been to, many years ago, The Euston Tap, which I'm sure I've written about before. As soon as I got there I knew I needed to try the Lagunitas Hop Stoopid at 8%. Big, boozy, sweet and fruity. I loved it but I'm glad I only got a half as it was a little hop sticky. Next was Founders Breakfast Stout (8.3%) which was basically breakfast... chocolate coated oatmeal with coffee on the side. I'd  had this bottled before but keg was even better. I needed something lighter next, before I headed out, so I plumped for an old favourite - Maisels Weiss... a perfect hefeweizen.

Next was Brewdog Camden, again it's a favourite. The ante was upped here when I saw Alesmith Speedway Stout on keg... this beast is from California, is 12% and cost £5.05 for a third of a pint, expensive but a rarity. Was it worth the price? Well I enjoyed it. The true tradition of imperial stouts being chocolate and coffee, this had all of that but without the insanely booziness that such strong beers often deliver. My good friend Boggle then arrived and got himself a beer, so I got another... it was a collaboration beer from Brewdog and the legendary Weihenstephaner, India Pale Weizen. The whole idea was to create a hefeweizen but hop it to fuckery like an IPA. It was good but I'd take Schneiderweiss Tap 5 Mein Hopfenweiss over it anyday when I want a hoppy wheat beer. Next came Stone Sprocketbier, a black rye kolsch which was certainly interesting with spicy rye and chocolate notes working well together. Andrew then arrived and we got more beers... I went for Dead Pony Club which has long been a favourite and these days I think I'd even prefer drinking it to Punk IPA.

We finished at The Black Heart where we met Jonny from Craft Beer Channel and to be honest, I don't remember what I drank and nor do I care because I was having a great time with good friends.

It was a really nice day out and I do need to get back to London more often.

Nate

Sunday, 21 December 2014

#12BeersOfXmas Day One - Stewart Weiss Christmas Blanc

Alright, my advent calendar didn't quite work out did it? I know I've posted before but apologies, I was a little busy. I'm still busy, I have stuff to do, but I really want to do 12 beers of Xmas to support my buddy Steve at The Beer O'Clock Show.

Him and Mark run a brilliant podcast that I was lucky enough to guest on once (until my battery died and I had no charger) and I'm looking forward to doing it again one day.

Yesterday was day one and I picked Stewart Brewing Weiss Christmas Blanc (4.7%, Edinburgh). We'd shared a few bottles of this in the office as they were nice enough to send us a bunch of samples when we bought a couple of pallets from them, and I enjoyed it but on cask it really is even better.

So this beer is a German style Hefeweizen with added spices, in the spirit of Christmas. To be honest, I think it was a genius move to brew a Christmas Wheat Beer because nobody else seems to do it - Christmas beers all tend to be fairly dark.

It pours like you'd imagine a Hefe to pour... cloudy with a solid head (man, this beer is a master for head retention. Love hefe yeast). On the nose you get big bubblegum, cloves and allspice. When you take a sip, this all comes through brilliantly, with added spices and those foam banana penny sweets we all ate as a kid.

Overall, this is a brilliantly balanced spiced wheat beer from a genuinely exciting brewery. I've been incredibly impressed by Stewart because they're an exciting brewery whose brewers know exactly what they're doing!

This was drunk at Mash Tun in Norwich and I couldn't just have one pint.

Nate

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Golden Pints 2014

2014 has been absolutely mammoth for me for two reasons in particular; firstly, I fell in love with a beautiful lady called Emily. She's amazing and means everything to me; and secondly, I finally got myself a job in the beer industry, at Redwell Brewery in Norwich. I've been drinking Redwell beers since the beginning and I've known everyone involved since way before it started so I was so happy when they offered me a job. Basically what I'm doing is covering all aspects of social media, marketing, promotions, events, beer festivals amongst other things. I've been here about a week and a half now, and it's just awesome! I'm so happy to be working in an industry that I love, with some really awesome people who I call friends.

Anyway, I do Golden Pints every year and it's always so difficult because I drink a ridiculous amount of beer. Probably too many beers. I'll give it a crack, though, as always.

Best UK Cask Beer: Oakham Citra (again) - Seriously, I have no reason to choose any other cask beer. This is probably because these days, I don't drink enough of them and when I do it's almost always Citra.

Best UK Keg Beer: Magic Rock Cannonball - Realistically, if this is on in a pub I am going to order it. No question.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: This is a toss up between Beavertown Gamma Ray (can) & Fourpure IPA (can) - Both are incredibly juicy and delicious.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Tbh, I'm gonna go with Lagunitas IPA again. It's just brilliant, widely available and reasonably priced. I can't get enough of it.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Three Floyds Zombie Dust. I bought a few bottles from Mikkeller's webshop earlier this year. I require more.

Best Collaboration Brew: Adnams/Sixpoint Make It Rain - An American IPA brewed exclusively for Wetherspoons and incredible. It rained down my throat many times.

Best Overall Beer: It's gotta be Three Floyds Zombie Dust. GIVE ME MORE.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label: Love Weird Beard's branding because I could never grow a beard as weird as the ones on the labels.

Best UK Brewery: Beavertown. They just do everything right.

Best Overseas Brewery: Sierra Nevada - they manage to get every style they do right and their Kellerweis has made me especially happy.

Best New Brewery Opening 2014: Was Fourpure first opened this year? Probably not but that's when I discovered them and I love them.

Pub/Bar of the Year: The Swan in Stratford St Mary's. I went twice this year, first on The Craft Wanker Day Trip and secondly for dinner with Emily on a trip away. Everything about this pub is amazing.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014: The Mash Tun, Norwich. 15 keg lines, a hop infuser, 4 handpumps, loads of great spirits and Harbercue cooking American inspired smoked meats. Not to mention the soon-to-open Gin Palace upstairs which will have over 150 gins and infusions!

Beer Festival of the Year: London Craft Beer Festival was great... it allowed me to try so many beers that I otherwise wouldn't have had access to.

Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose - I don't get there often but when I do I'm always impressed by the selection.

Independent Retailer of the Year: Harper Wells, Norwich. Although predominantly a wine shop, Brian (with the help of Redwell's distribution arm) has turned it into the number one place to buy bottled and canned craft beer in Norwich.

Online Retailer of the Year: Ales By Mail - I think I've used them more than any other online retailer this year.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Although not 100% beer, I really enjoyed The Enlightened Imbibers Guide to Alcohol by The Thinking Drinkers.

Best Beer Blog or Website: I always enjoy reading Chris Hall's blog: http://chrishallbeer.com/

Best Beer App: Untappd, obviously. How else would I know what I've drunk before?

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer: Without a doubt it's Michael McGrorty. If we lived closer we'd be the best mates ever and hang out all the time.

Best Brewery Website/Social media: Redwell because I'm their social media guy and I'm awesome.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: De Dolle Oerbier with Game Pudding at The Swan.

Nate

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bullitt at the Ten Bells

Alright, I haven't kept up with my advent calendar because I've had other things to do, but it's cool. I imagine I'll get back on it soon... rest assured that I've still been drinking all the beer!

Anyway, last Friday manager of Ten Bells in Norwich, Richard, invited me and a guest along to sample Bullitt's new menu along with the winter cocktail menu.

Obviously my guest was my beautiful girlfriend Emily, because who else would I take?!


We arrived at 7:30pm and were shown to our table by Richard who left us to peruse the cocktail & food menus. After a while another member of staff came over to take our first cocktail orders - I went for a Cold Buttered Rum which was incredible - it was so smooth with the rum and spices coming through perfectly. Emily went for something a little different - I forget what it's called but it was marvellously sour and bitter with a little sweetness.

Our food orders were taken - I got Pork on Pork while Emily got the only suitable option for her as she doesn't eat meat, Taiwanese style hirata buns with pickled ginger, Asian style slaw and marinated salmon. Both came with fries, mine were hilariously massive King Chips whilst Emily's came with sweet potato fries.

My pork on pork was really something special - both hot & cold pork with mint & chorizo jam in a homemade bun. As I took my first bite I was in awe - the pork was perfectly tender with the cold & hot pork complimenting each other, a little spice coming in from the chorizo with a cooling mint finish. I will eat it again, for sure!

Emily's steamed buns with salmon was damn good too... I'd never had a steamed bun before but I will be having them again! The salmon was really nice and done differently to what I've had before with the slaw giving it a nice kick!

We had a few more cocktails including the Black Jack & The Chaplin Revue which as always were outstanding.

All in all, we had an awesome evening and will definitely be returning!

Thanks to Richard at Ten Bells & Bullitt for the free food and cocktails!

You can get cocktails at Ten Bells every day but Bullitt are only there Friday - Sunday... GO ASAP!

Nate