Sunday, 31 May 2015

Beer review: Brewdog Electric India

It was July 2013, the day after the first ever Birmingham Beer Bash. Andrew and I woke in our Holiday Inn, way too hungover to deal with life. Kick out time. The hangover is making us incredibly hungry so we walk, not knowing Birmingham at all, to try find food. Eventually we settle on a Wetherspoons because the breakfasts are cheap and reliable. Full of greasy food and dreadful coffee, we walk but as it's a Sunday nothing was really open. The perils of having set time train tickets is that you're forced to find something to do.

It finally reached midday, otherwise known as pub opening time and we found the Brewdog bar that I'd been drinking in with friends the two previous nights.

We wandered in to peruse the beer boards... one for Brewdog and one for guests. Still, I struggle to choose. Electric India sounded good, and on a hot day sitting outside Brewdog Birmingham, it was.

I don't remember too much about my first experience of Electric India due to a combination of it being years ago and at the time I was ridiculously hungover (when am I not?) but I know it was good.

Fast forward two years and I received and email from a chap called Johnny who works for Brewdog... the lovely guy sent me three bottles of the new and revised edition of Electric India and sure enough they arrived within a couple of days.

So Electric India was, I believe, the first Equity for Punks beer that was created with the help of the 7,000 strong army of investors. After discussions and voting in the super secret online batcave that is the EFP forum, they decided upon a 7.2% India Saison... it's not really a style, it's more of an experimental beer that combines the best qualities of a funky saison with a big American IPA.

Two years on, they decided to re-brew Electric India as a spring seasonal but with the lower ABV of 5.2% beer, making it a much more accessible beer. I often worry about breweries lowering the ABV of a beer as sometimes doing so can weaken the overall flavour of the beer but it's not the case with this!

It pours a slightly hazy orange colour with a firm white head. The aroma is mandarins and sharp lemons with the funky saison yeast lingering in the background. The flavour is juicy grapefruit spiked oranges with a little acidity but you've got little saison qualities hovering around.

This is a great summer beer, extremely juicy and not too challenging so you can happily sink a few pints!

Cheers to Jonny for sending these to me!


Friday, 10 April 2015

Belgium to Kansas City

Everyone knows Duvel. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fully fledged beer geek like me, or if you’re just an everyday person who likes the occasional supermarket selection when you can’t be bothered to go to the pub.

For years now, the golden Belgian strong ale has been a mainstay in the fridges of many pubs and supermarket shelves. You can go to a seemingly average boozer with a less than interesting tap list and you’ll probably find Duvel. You will find it in all of the major supermarkets, too, rarely priced at more than £2 a bottle.

This 8.5% foreign delight that you see everywhere, with its crunchy nut cornflake sweetness, just enough booziness that teases you, telling you to drink more when you know you shouldn’t, has become as common as Fuller’s London Pride, and it’s not a bad thing.

Slightly harder to come by, however, is their yearly Tripel Hop release. This has been released each year for a fair few years now and I’m happy to say that I’ve caught 4 of them now. The idea is that they brew a 9.5% version of Duvel that puts focus on a particular hop variety each year. 2012 featured the ever popular Citra, 2013 was the true “marmite” hop Sorachi Ace, 2014 was Mosaic which seemed to be the popular craft beer hop of the year and this year, 2015, is a fairly new hop called Equinox. Again, a popular hop, in fact so popular that many British breweries are struggling to get it. The reason the chose Equinox is because we recently had a solar eclipse in Europe and they wanted it to coincide with the official launch date which is a brilliant idea.

The Duvel Tripel Hop 2015 (Equinox) is a juicy hop bomb of a beer... Tart grapefruit and bitter orange flavours hide the 9.5% ABV well before that sugary sweetness creeps up on you, forcing you to take another sip. “Go on, do it” it whispers, and before you know it you have an empty glass. This is a wonderful beer indeed and I’d recommend grabbing some before it goes.

Moving on from the Belgians, let’s take a look at Boulevard Brewing from Kansas City, Missouri. I’d heard good things about Boulevard from a buddy of mine I worked with back in Bournemouth. Ron is originally from Missouri and I recall him telling me about their beers. Well a few years ago I couldn’t make it to The Great British Beer Festival after I’d spent ages drooling over the American bottled beer list, of which Boulevard was a part and managed to get a friend to grab me a bottle of the Double Wide IPA. Of course, it was a couple of years ago now so I don’t really remember what it was like other than delicious (I generally don’t take any kind of tasting notes unless I’m reviewing a beer on here).

Fast forward to 2014 and we got the news that Duvel-Mortgaat in Belgium had bought Boulevard Brewing. Obviously in America it got the standard reaction of “omg, they’re selling out to a big brewery in another country. Dicks.” But from a business point of view it makes total sense for Boulevard because firstly they can expand their capacity to get their beers into states that it’s not currently available, secondly they can pub more money into innovation and even  making batches of their limited edition beers bigger and thirdly (the reason that matters to me) they now have a route into Europe. After hearing this, I was desperately waiting for the news that Boulevard would export to the UK and finally it happened. I got word that Duvel would be bringing kegs and bottles of their Famous Tank 7 Saison to the UK as well as bottles of their Single Wide IPA! I was elated!

A little over a month ago now, I was working behind our Redwell bar at Craft Beer Rising and as luck would have it, we were very close to the Duvel bar. Tank 7 on keg... Jaw hit the floor. I’d finally get to try it... First sip... Funky saison, yet somewhat reminiscent of a punchy grapefruit laden IPA with just enough sweetness to take the edge off the tart grapefruit. Wow. I fell I’m love and made that my go-to post session beer. I just needed to have it again!

I then checked my emails one day to find that I’d been invited to the official launch of Duvel Tripel Hop & Boulevard beers in the UK... Bugger, I was going to be in Paris that day! The one beer I particularly wanted to try was Single Wide so I did something I don’t usually do – I asked for a sample bottle. Obviously when offered samples I accept but the couple of times I have asked I’ve felt incredibly ashamed for doing so. Luckily Nicky from R and R PR is a gem and said that if they have any bottles left after the launch, they’ll send one over.

Last Thursday I visited my parents house and lo and behold, two small packages... One containing the above Duvel Beers and the other containing Boulevard Tank 7 & Single Wide IPA!

The thing is, I’m an impatient bastard a lot of the time and this was one of those times. I couldn’t force myself to wait for Single Wide IPA to chill for a while – I immediately made a beeline to the kitchen to grab my Spiegelau IPA glass...

Single Wide IPA pours a copper colour with a nice fluffy white head. The aroma is of peaches and cream with just a touch of toffee. You take a sip and that sticky toffee is there, although light so it doesn’t detract from the tropical yet earthy hops and the bittersweet finish. If there’s an imported IPA I want to drink many times, it’s this one and at a modest 5.7% it’s possible to drink a few in an evening.

All four of these beers were brilliant... From a Belgian classic and it’s slightly younger and more hip brother to an American take on a Belgian farmhouse ale & 18th Century British IPA. We have a nice bit of variation and I’ll happily drink them all again.

Thanks to R & R for sending me these bottles!


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:


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.

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.


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!


*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. 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.


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.