Advent Beer: BrewDog Black Hammer

My once yearly purchase of beer from the Scottish Brewery.

I have my reasons for not buying beer from the Scottish Brewery. They have a place though and are now pretty well known, even by non-beer drinkers. I do feel the need to try one occasionally. Mainly so I can point out to which ever non-beer drinking friend has brought them up, that they could do better. Mainly by going here, here, here or here and buying something more interesting, something you can’t get in every supermarket.

Evidently this is a variation on their regular Jack Hammer, which I’ve had once, in 2014; I didn’t think much of it according to Untappd. It poured a really dark mahogany, rather than jet black, it is a Black IPA after all. A loose (ish) tan coloured head formed slowly and dropped back to half a finger quite quickly.

The nose was thick with hops, positively reeking. Dank C hop aromas spilling out of both the can and glass. The same C hops provided a massive wave of prickly bitterness in the mouth. This upfront bitterness, was overwhelmed pretty quickly, by massive sweet coffee and chocolate roasted flavours. The segway wasn’t nicely integrated, it was quite a discordant change.

More dissonance followed, with the change from all that cloying roasted malt, back to the aftertaste of astringent C hop flavour. The brutality of the flavour change did lessen slightly as the beer warmed up, but it was pretty unrelenting. As was the sweetness; you’d think a beer with a theoretical 200+ IBUs would be searingly bitter, not cloyingly sweet.

It wasn’t that it was unpleasant, it was just far, far, far too sweet. The aggressive hops just couldn’t cope with all that dark malt. Who knows if it’s the beer, or just shoddy warehousing by Tesco. Either way, that’s my annual Scottish Brewery purchase done and dusted. Back to buying something more interesting…

Cleaning Bottles

Soaking bottles...

Stripping empty bottles of their labels can be a bit of a chore. If you want your homebrew to look the part though, it’s a chore that has to be done. Here’s a few techniques that are working for me.

If only everyone used the same kind of glue and label material, stripping them from bottles would probably be a lot easier, as there would be one commonly know way of doing it. As there appears to be almost the same number of glue and label combinations as there are breweries, it can take a while to work out the techniques required for each type. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth trying to strip the labels from certain bottles, as the level of effort required is just too high. This poses a problem, as if you only ever drink beer from breweries that use a glue that could survive a nuclear explosion, then you’re a bit screwed.

Bottles stripped of labels... In certain circumstances it’s worth taking the pain though, especially if you are after a particular bottle shape or size. Take the Thornbridge bottles, I’ve given up on taking the labels off those, as they are nigh on impossible to get off cleanly and thus require lots of extra clean up. There are loads of beers I drink that come in 500ml bottles, where the effort to remove the label is much, much less, so I just use those instead; I’m particularly thinking of German beers here. I take the pain when it comes to Moor bottles though, as I want that particular bottle shape and size; at least I did before they changed it. Getting the labels of those is a complete bitch, but worth it.

No matter what kind of bottle you have, a good long soak in hot water is a good starting place. You could, if you wanted to, put your bottles into your homebrew boiler and hold them at simmering point for twenty minutes or so as well. The idea here, it to soften the glue and if you’re lucky to have the labels float off without you having to do anything; German bottles are great for this. If you’re going to simmer them, just make sure they are completely submerged, otherwise you run the risk of getting a tide mark on the neck of the bottle, which can be brutal to shift.

Scrubbing the sticky off... Once the glue is soft, it’s time to remove the label. If you’ve simmered the bottles, they’ll be hot, so take the necessary precautions, or let them cool down first. Labels on BrewDog and Hardknott bottles come off quite easily after a soak, just try and be consistent with the pressure you use to pull them off, as stopping and starting can lead to lines of adhesive being left in the bottle. The Ridgeway Querkus bottle in the photos, has a clear plastic label on it, it came off without a fuss and left pretty much nothing behind it.

Some labels will come off and leave a very sticky patch of glue, or label base behind them, I’m looking at you Thornbridge. The Harbour Brewing bottle in the photos did a similar thing, but it wasn’t quite a sticky as some. You might also get bottles where the label and glue part company, the label floats off while the glue stays on the bottle; a bit like the Brasserie Larché bottles I brought back from France. In some cases the film of glue left behind can just be wiped off, in other cases, it’s worse than the sticky label backing on Thornbridge bottles.

If you’re lucky, all you’ll need to do after getting the label off is to give the bottle a wipe with a cloth and you’re done. If you still have any adhesive, or sticky label backing on the bottle, it’s time to use a bit of elbow grease. I’ve tried in the past to use one of those green scouring pads, but they just get clogged up and become next to useless. Clean and ready to use... I’ve also used the metal scouring pads, which suffer from the same problem, but only if used without first applying some washing up liquid to the bottle. That appears to be the key, dunk the bottle in some water, apply a bit of washing up liquid and scrub away. You should eventually end up with a clean bottle.

You may find that with some bottles, like the aforementioned Moor ones, you can’t get the labels off for love nor money. I’ve found that when the labels have had a really, really good soak, that you can rub them off with the back of a knife. Or, if they’re ultra stubborn, the sharp side of a good chopping knife. It’s a lot of effort, but if you really want that size and style of bottle, you’ve no choice. You’ll most likely have to scrub the bottles quite a bit after the scrapping of the labels too.

Have you found a better way to get the labels off bottles…? If so, please let me know!

Update

I have tried BrotherLogic‘s oven method and can confirm that it works, sort of. I set the oven to 120°C, popped the bottles in and gave them ten to fifteen minutes. Then using a sharp kitchen knife, it was easy to pick a corner of the label off the bottle and then pull the rest of using my hand. Depending on the bottle though, the label would either come off cleanly, or leave all the glue behind it. I’ve found that this is the only easy way to get labels off Prosecco and Cantillon bottles, for example. I’ve also found this this method doesn’t necessarily mean that labels on Moor bottles will come off, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I have no fucking idea what glue they use, but I really wish they’d use a different one…

Update

Thornbridge's new embossed bottles...Just a quick update about Thornbridge bottles, as they’ve changed. There are three labels on a Thornbridge and they’re all different, it’s the back label that seems to cause the most grief, the residue left by the other two cleans up with minimal fuss. However, they’re now using custom embossed bottles that have the Thornbridge T embossed around the shoulder, so if you don’t like using embossed bottles, you’ll have to find another source for this style.

Update

For the life of me, I can’t remember how I stumbled across this, I think someone tweeted about it, but it’s been ages. Anyway, evidently peanut butter will remove label glue from your bottles, this I had to try. So I popped into a local supermarket and bought their own brand smooth peanut butter, I wasn’t about to waste my decent wholenut chunky on an experiment like this, and gave it a shot.

As you can see from the photos, it didn’t really work. I did pick the bastard of all bastard bottles though, as they were from Oakham Ales. The labels on Oakham bottles come off really easily, but the glue, my [insert favorite diety here] the glue! One bottle can clog a metal scourer, no matter how much washing up liquid you use. They’re a complete nightmare, which is why I choose them for this experiment.

The peanut butter did take a bit of the sticky off, so they weren’t quite as sticky to the touch, but they still required an obscene amount of scrubbing to get all of the sticky off. The bottles then required a good clean, as peanut butter is oily and the bottles had an oily residue left on them, even after all the scrubbing.

I’m in no rush to try this technique on any other kind of bottle, especially when other labels come off so easily. Your milage may vary though, as there are a few US based websites promoting the technique. Maybe their peanut butter has something else in it that helps, I don’t know…

Update

The Ormskirk Baron has tweeted me a couple of times with his technique, which is to pour boiling water into the bottle and leave it for a bit. He (and a few others to be fair) claim this is all that is required and that the label and glue will them come off. Can’t say I’ve had much luck with this to be honest, as the labels either rip, or leave the bits of glue behind.

I’m also not sure about the environmental impact of having to boil the kettle lots of times if there are more than two or three bottles to de-label. Kettles aren’t exactly the most energy efficient and I can fit a whole box of bottles into the oven in one go, where I’d have to boil the kettle a minimum of four times (my kettle holds 1.7 litres, so depending on the bottle size).

Again, your mileage may vary and it might work better with certain bottles over others, you’ll just have to try.

Un-Human Dreams

There’s no point hiding the fact that I’m a massive Magic Rock fan boy. I love what they do and just wish I could get hold of more of their stuff on cask, keg and bottles locally. So I was in raptures (my least favorite of theirs) when I heard they were going to be releasing Un-Human Cannonball, a massive Triple India Pale Ale and yes, I was there at 09:00 with my debit card in hand to buy some the moment it became available on their online shop.

I did intend to to do the full review type gubbings, but since you can’t buy it in bottles anymore and I don’t know how much is still around in keg, it didn’t feel right to gloat about having some, more on that later. So instead, I’d like to share with you how it influenced my dreams last night, as I had some seriously weird stuff floating through my head.

I’m not sure how it all started, but I found myself working, I sue the word loosely, at Thornbridge, but instead of their nice shiney new brewery, this was in some post apocalyptic ex-powerstation type location; quite steam punkish. I think I was there for a brew day or something like that, but I was just wandering around looking at stuff and getting more and more sloshed.

Then things go really weird as the brewery seemed to transform into a much smaller and more modern affair. Then there was a Magic Rock Stu type character wearing a powered exoskeleton that allowed them to pick up full barrels and run around the place like they were some sort of superhuman. It was all a bit weird and then I woke up. So just like consuming vast quantities of pongy cheese just before bed, it looks like Magic Rock’s Un-Human Cannonball can also disturb your nights sleep.

Anyway, back to that bit about the gloating. Magic Rock are heavily influenced by what’s going on in the States, that much is obvious from reading their tweets from earlier in the year when Rich and Stu when on a road trip.

You could say that Un-Human Cannonball is their attempt at what Russian River do with Pliny the Younger, a once a year limited release and distribution triple IPA. This is no bad thing in my book, it’s nice to see one of my favorite breweries producing this kind of beer and doing it well. You could say that the flavour of Un-Human Cannonball didn’t quite live up to the immense mangotastic aroma and people would probably agree with you, but at least you know it’s not a bad batch that’s been thrown in a barrel with some fruit for a bit and then sold as if that’s what was intended…

I read with interest BeerCast Rich’s blog, Will annual beer releases be the next big thing? I don’t really mind if a few new wave and progressive breweries join Fuller’s in doing a limited run annual release, but I’m not about to start camping out in front of the brewery or a pub, for a chance to buy it. Like Rich, I’m also surprised that BrewDog haven’t done something similar; I might have to ask him if I can use Simcoe Asteroid Smashdown as a name for one of my homebrews!

I hope we don’t end up going down the route of scratch cards and lotteries, just so we can have a taste of a beer. If the late Simon Johnson taught us one thing, it was that beer is supposed to be fun, it’s just beer after all. Am I glad I was sat there at nine o’clock in the morning hitting F5? Part of me thinks yes, but part of me also thinks that I’m a sucker. At the end of the day, it’s just a beer, a very nice one, granted, but just a beer.

Is Craft Beer Going Mainstream?

My Twitter timeline has been pretty full today, full of Iron Maiden and FHM; not exactly common bedfellows it has to be said. Evidently, this months FHM features a load of craft beer, as you can see from the image above. The double page spread appears to have beers from some of the bigger craft beer purveyors like Thornbridge and Dark Star, plus some from the newer, or less well known ones like Wild Beer Co. and Tiny Rebel. I’ve not actually seen the issue in question, as my local Tesco didn’t have any copies of FHM in stock when I popped in at lunch, Hopefully they’ll have some in at some point this week so I can have a proper look, as evidently, there is also a six page article featuring that Scottish brewery.

It makes me wonder though, what with events like Craft Beer Rising having just been, SIBA Beer X (with a cracking craft keg list) just about to kick off and the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, Birmingham Beer Bash and Independant Manchester Beer Convention all still to come, are we at a tipping point? Now that lads mags like FHM are running craft beer articles, are we about to see craft beer going mainstream?

By mainstream, I mean not niche. We beer geeks live in a bit of a bubble, we’re pretty irrelevant in the big scheme of things, a tiny enclave in a world of industrial beer. I doubt that a few hipster beer festivals and lads mags articles are going to change the drinking habits of the majority of the beer drinking population, no matter how much we hope they will. However, I’m assuming the target audience for FHM is mainly late teens, early twenties, so they have the vast, vast majority of their drinking lives ahead of them. If even a few of them become curious due to articles like this and start asking for some of these beers in their chosen night time drinking establishments, then maybe, just maybe we might start to see a few places dabble with getting some more interesting beer in stock. That has to be a good thing, no…?

Update: here’s Hardknott Dave’s take on being one of the featured breweries

You Can’t Take It With You

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was going to spread my wings a bit and start trying more beer, rather than always going for the perceived best that a brewery makes. That would have been a smashing idea, if I actually had any money. Gone are the days where I could walk into the Bacchanalia and blow £70 – £100 a week on rare and expensive beer. I blame building an expensive extension to the house, the financial meltdown and the fact that everything seems to have got all expensive all of a sudden. Either way, I’m totally skint and the beer fridge is empty.

One thing I have done though, is lay down a load of bottles for a rainy day. As you can see from the photo, there’s quite a collection from various breweries. I’ve never really had a plan when it’s come to ageing stuff though, I’ve just chucked it in the cupboard and tried to forget about it. I’ve not really thought about how long things should be aged for and when they’ll be at their peak and ready for drinking. Some are pure experiments, like the Orval Project (more on that in a future blog post), but most have just been set aside for some unspecified point in the future.

"Death twitches my ear;
 'Live,' he says... 
 'I'm coming."
               ― Virgil

We’ve all seen Dead Poets Society and the numerous motivational quotes extolling us to Carpe diem, Seize the Day. So I’ve decided that it’s time to drink some of the stash, what rainy day am I waiting for? All those BrewDog Abstrakt bottles, why am I holding on to them when most of them are shite? I could drop dead tomorrow from an aneurysm, never knowing what that bottle of Marble Special 2009 tasted like. Unless I’m holding onto a beer for a very particular reason (that 750ml bottle of the original Hel & Verdoemenis 666 is for my 50th birthday for instance), it’s going to either get drunk, or have a date put on it for when it will be drunk.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, 
 find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their 
 island of opportunities and look toward another land. There
 is no other land; there is no other life but this."
                                             ― Henry David Thoreau

Why wait for a rainy day that might never come…? You can’t take it with you.

Paris

I was going to write a blow by blow account of my trip to Paris last December, but instead I’m just going to skim through everywhere we went. I’d written down most of what we go up to on the Friday, but to be honest, it was a load of crap. So here’s my thought on all the places we visited over the weekend of December 2nd to 4th:

The Eurostar
The main benefit of getting the Eurostar, is that you can take your own beer with you, as there’s not the same security restrictions as going by plane. I took a four pack of Punk IPA cans, packed carefully into a small cool bag along with an ice pack. If you don’t want to take your own beer, then you can always buy cold beer from Sourced Market in St Pancras. I bought some Camden Town bottles on the way back and should really have bought some of The Kernel bottles they had on the way out, as they’d gone by the Sunday afternoon.

If you don’t take your own beer and get thirsty on the train, it’s €5 for a can of Stella, you know taking your own makes sense…

The Frog & Rosbif, 116 Rue Saint-Denis
This was our first port of call, mainly as I’d heard varying reports about the quality of the beer and didn’t want to come here later on and be disappointed. At first glance, it looked pretty much like a British pub, but there was certain things that meant you could tell it was a pastiche. All the bumf on the tables and walls was in English, which was a bit weird and gave me the impression that this was a pub for foreigners, rather than locals.

I had a pint of the Maison Blanche, served with slice of lemon. I thought it was pretty forgettable and less interesting than Hoegaarden, which says a lot. Phil had a pint of Parislytic, which we both agreed was a nitro keg horror show. Neither of us noticed that they actually had a single hand pull in the midst of all the keg fonts, a pint of that might have been a better option. They had free wi-fi and we managed to sit next to a wall socket, so I could charge my phone.

HTB Hall’s Beer Tavern, 68 Rue Saint-Denis
The bar is on the right as you walk in, with a row of tables along the left hand wall, after a bit, it opens out into a back room full of tables. It reminded me a lot of those thin American bars you get in big cities. We plonked ourselves down opposite the bar, next to a plug socket, so I could continue charging my phone and pursued the beer menu. It was extensive, but contained nothing to quicken the heart, being comprised of major multinational brands and a load of Belgian stuff. Keg fonts for La Chouffe, Delirium Tremens and Chimay nested cheek and jowl with fonts for Carling Black Label, you get the idea.

I had a pint of La Chouffe, Phil had a pint of Chimay Triple, both were served in branded pint glasses, shame the brands were for different beer, think of a well known Irish stout brand. I’m assuming they keep the correct branded glasses for those drinking out of bottles. The main reason we didn’t drink from bottles was the cost, it was significantly cheaper to have a pint, than have two bottles. They also had free wi-fi, which was nice, but I didn’t really feel comfortable and welcome in the place and I can’t really put my finger on why.

La Cave à Bulles, 45 Rue Quincampoix
Just a quick note on this place, as I want to go into it a bit more in a separate blog post. One thing you’ll realise as you trawl all the Paris bars, is the lack of French beer, this shop practically redresses the balance all on its own. Run by a friendly and jovial chap called Simon, we ran all the places we were going to visit past him and he made a few suggestions. The main one being ditch the planned crawl and buy some tickets to a beer festival on a boat, so we did.

Au Trappiste, 4 Rue St Denis
With a name like Au Trappiste, you sort of know what kind of beer you’re going to get, before you cross the threshold. With 20 taps and an extensive bottle menu, this place majors in selling Belgian beer, in fact, I can’t remember if it sold anything else. Clad almost head to toe in wood, with matching wooden tables and chairs, it felt a bit like being in a wooden lodge, all be it, a cheap one with loads of cheap looking lighted colour panels on the walls.

We decided to eat here, but with a menu not exactly welcoming vegetarians, I plumped for a large plate of chips and a tub of mayonnaise, which went perfectly with my pint of Lindemans Gueuze, so that was me sorted. We ate upstairs, which felt a bit like eating in a wooden McBurger franchise, it was just a bit weirdly sterile for my tastes.

We ended coming back here later, so I had another pint of gueuze, this time instead of a nice dimpled mug, I got a branded pint glass, again the brand was for a well known Irish beverage. All the branded glassware looked like it was saved for those drinking from bottles, but just like Hall’s Beer Tavern, if you were having more than one, this worked out more expensive than a pint of draught.

The staff also seemed pretty incompetent when it came to change a keg, my gueuze ran out mid pour and it took nearly ten minutes of faffing and multiple members of staff to change it.

Les Soirées Maltées – Les Bières de Noël 2011, Bateau Six Huit, 33 Quai de Montebello
I’m only going to mention this briefly, as I want to cover it it in a separate blog post. However, it’s not often you get to go to a beer festival in a foreign country, let alone one on a boat in the shadow of Notre Dame.

Le Sous Bock Tavern, 49 Rue Saint-Honoré
We headed here after the beer festival for a nightcap before heading back to the hotel. This was one of the bars that Simon in La Cave à Bulles had said to avoid, so we approached with some trepidation. It wasn’t quite pitch black inside, but it wasn’t far off, with only some weird purple black light kind of things illuminating the interior. We walked along the bar to check out what beer they had, but to be honest, we just turned round and walked out. There was nothing on that we couldn’t have got from Hall’s Beer Tavern or Au Trappist and since both of them were slightly more welcoming, being properly illuminated and quiet, we left and headed back to Au Trappist. This place seems to get good reviews on all the rating sites, so your mileage may vary, but on this night we weren’t impressed.

La Gueuze, 19 Rue Soufflot
Saturday dawned all blustery and drizzly, so we headed to here to get some lunch and some gueuze. When we go there the door was locked, but after a quite shake, the proprietor came and opened up, it wasn’t like we were early or anything it being after their official opening time. The style of the place was a bit of a mish mash, with lots of wood like Au Trappist, but a similar layout to Hall’s Beer Tavern, with some seating at the front and down the side of the bar, before opening out into a large light and airy back room.

After perusing the menu, which was unsurprisingly pretty crap for vegetarians, we decided not to eat there, as it wasn’t very cheap and didn’t sound particularly great. I ordered a bottle of Mort Subite, which was pleasant enough and Phil had a bottle of Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. The cork on Phil’s bottle didn’t come out cleanly and instead of using a cloth to get the bits out of the neck, he just stuck his finger in and wiped them off. We didn’t stay for a second drink…

Godjo, 8 Rue de l’École Polytechnique
I’m mentioning this very, very compact Ethiopian restaurant, not because we drank any beer, we didn’t, but because the food was sensational. We were originally going to come here for dinner on the Friday night, but got side tracked by the beer festival, I’m really glad we hunted it out and came for lunch on the Saturday. Ethiopian food is all about sharing, but since Phil eats dead animals, I wasn’t about to share a plate, so had one all to myself and I’m so glad I did, the lentils were to die for. If you’re going to go, I’d try and book a table (if you can), as there’s hardly enough room to swing a cat inside.

On the way there we passed an English theme pub called The Bombardier, which was selling what looked like keg Bombardier and Directors, we paused by on the other side of the road…

Brewberry, 18 Rue Pot de Fer
Our second last port of call was to this compact shop cum bar, which if I’m being honest, would have been our only port of call if we come to it first. Selling beer from all over the world, but majoring in European breweries, its main advantage over La Cave à Bulles, is that you can drink beer on the premises. It’s such a great wee place, that it will get a blog post all of its own.

After Brewberry, we headed back to La Cave à Bulles for a meet the brewer with La Brasserie du Mont Salève, which I’ll cover in a later blog. After that, we had to attend a black tie dinner on the Saturday evening and caught the Eurostar just after lunch on the Sunday, so there wasn’t really any further opportunity to explore.

I feel like we only scratched the surface of beer in Paris, but at the same time, I feel like we also hit the two most important places and if I went again, I probably wouldn’t go anywhere other than La Cave à Bulles and Brewberry. For my money, Paris is far too fixated on the major multinational brands and anything that comes out of Belgium. It could really do with a few more outlets for French craft beer, as that’s what I really wanted to drink and apart from Brewberry, we really didn’t get the chance, as none of the bars were stocking it. Don’t get me wrong, I like a Lambic or Trappist ale as much as the next man, but sometimes I just want to try the local beer and apart from Brewberry, nowhere could deliver on that simple need.

So if you’re heading to Paris and want to drink some French beer, head to Brewberry. If you want to bring back some French beer, then head to La Cave à Bulles as well. Until someone opens something like CASK Pub & Kitchen or The Craft Beer Co. in Paris, these two places are your best opportunity to try really good artisan French beer.

The Oxygen of Publicity

BrewDog are well know for their marketing; you can think what you like about them, while it does result in both positive and negative column inches, it has also produced a loyal following. So I took the news that Diageo had forced the British Institute of Innkeeping to give the Bar Operator of the Year 2012 to someone other than BrewDog, or loose all future sponsership, with a rather large truck load of salt.

I did think there maybe some substance behind it, mainly due to the language that was being used in their blog. You don’t really want to be coming out with that kind of rhetoric if it’s not true, espcially as you’ll probably have to back it up in court, Diageo have a rather active legal department after all. Then there was the social media shit storm they kicked up, Andy Parker has analysed the Twitter side of things quite susinctly.

Even so, it was with quite a bit of surprise that Diageo issued a press release, appologising for a serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner. It’s staggering to think that any sponsor of an independent awards, would act in this way, especially given the social media nous of their target.

I imagine that James and Martin were dancing round the brewery this afternoon, unable to believe their luck. All their hair brained marketing schemes of old wont have had the impact or the reach of this incident and they didn’t have to do anything, other than spin it the right way on Twitter and Facebook. After seeing it explode into the main stream press and onto evening telly, they must have felt like they’d won a triple roll over on the lottery, along with their birthday and Christams all rolled into one.

Money and planning can’t buy publicity like this, Diageo should be ashamed of themselves.

Mini-Kegs

I’ve always looked at the mini-kegs sitting in The Bacchanalia and thought they weren’t for me. How would I get through eight to nine pints of the same beer without it going off? Even the lure of that much Thornbridge Jaipur could’t make me buy one, so why then, did I buy a mini-keg of Adnams New Zealand Pale Ale on a whim?

It was September the 2nd last year, I know this as I checked it on foursquare. I must have been off work, as there’s no other reason why I’d have been in Saffron Walden at ten thirty on a Friday. I have a habbit of always going into the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen Store when I’m in Saffron Walden and picking up some beer, I think I was after some bottles of Ghost Ship, but they didn’t have any.

I’d wanted to try the New Zealand Pale Ale, but there aren’t many Adnams pubs near where I live or work, so getting an opportunity to try it was going to be difficult. I suppose that seeing a mini-keg of a beer that I really, really wanted to try was just too much, so I bought one. I’m still not sure why I bought it, as I managed to try the beer on more than one occasion later in the year, even managing to have a pint in The Sole Bay Inn, just a stones throw from the brewery.

I think the main issue I’ve always had with a mini-keg, is when I would drink it all, as it’s not like you can have a pint and then leave it for a week or two, you need to broach the keg and then finish it. It’s not that I don’t drink the same beer more than once, just look at how many Thornbridge Jaipur’s and BrewDog Punk IPA’s I’ve had (231 and 70 respectively, since November 2010), it’s more that I very rarely drink the same beer more than once in a session, I like variety. I suppose this is one of the reasons I don’t go down to my local pub more often, as I don’t want to drink the same beer all night, every night. That poses a bit of a problem when you have a mini-keg, especially if you’re going to drink it on your own.

This conundrum is probably the main reason why I held onto it for so long, I only drank it at the start of the month. I think that I was hoping for an opportunity to share it with some friends, or some such, but an opportunity never materialised. In the end, it sat in my shed for, pretty much, six months before I opened it, which was far, far too long.

It was only recently that I convinced myself to open it, I also had the perfect oppertunity as my wife was away for the weekend and I had the Friday afternoon off; I had to pick the kids up off the school bus. I figured that I should easily be able to finish the eight to nine pints over the course of two and a half days.

Never having had a mini-keg before, I was a bit unsure of what I’d get out of it and was quite disapointed when the first two pints came out with quite a lot of sediment. That calmed down and the last five or so pints were all pretty much clear. It was quite the novalty to have it draft beer sitting in the fridge, I have to say, it’s just a shame I’d waited so long to open it. The beer had obviously suffered out in the shed for six months, as it was lacking quite a bit of the Nelson Sauvin hop flavour that I remember from my pint at The Sole Bay Inn. It was still nice though, but it would have been marvelous, if it hadn’t lost that extra punch.

The main issue was boredom though. I wouldn’t say I was bored after the second pint, althought something with a bit more IBU would have been nice. I was definitly bored after the second pint on the Saturday and throughly sick of the sight of it by the Sunday. I know that’s my issue though, I’m sure if I only drank Greene King IPA down at my local, then eight to nine pints of Adnams New Zealand Pale Ale from a mini-keg in my fridge, would have been a breeze, but it was just too much for me, just not enough variety.

I know everyone isn’t the same, some people are quite happy drinking eight to nine pints of the same beer, one after the other. I have a work collegue who regularly buys mini-kegs of Thornbridge beer and it quite happy to demolish it all in a couple of days. I don’t think it’s for me though, I need more variety, I need to experience new flavours, I think a mini-keg is just a step too far for me to drink on my own. I’m not sying I wont buy another, but if I do, it will be for a party, where there will be plenty of people to help me drink it.

Advent Beer – Gajes & Geteisem

I’ve been wanting to try this bottle ever since I first saw it on the shelf in the Bacchanalia. There was just something about a barrel aged Cherry Brett Stout that called to me, I’m not sure why. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a bottle bomb, as there’s been too many of them from De Molen this year

It poured an almost jet back, but just like the BrewDog Old World Russian Imperial Stout, it was just a really, really, really, really dark brown. There wasn’t really any noise when the cork came out of the bottle and it was obvious immediately that it started to fall into the glass, that there was a serious lack of condition. Even pouring it from quite a height didn’t get much of a head forming, at least not a head that lasted any length of time.

When I initially poured, I thought I could definitely smell both the cherry and the brett. After it had been sitting in the glass for a while though, the main notes were those very boozy malty ones you get in massive stouts, without the cherry or the brett. There was also quite a bit of woody character as well, so as you can imagine, it was fairly complex.

It was pretty flat and lifeless in the mouth, which was a real disappointment, as it really needed a bit of carbonation to lift all the flavours and give a bit of spark. Without the carbonation to lift it and give that spark, it just felt a bit of a muddled mess. There was quite a lot of fusel alcohol, I’m not sure if this was from the Wild Turkey barrel, or just from the rather large ABV. Flavour wise it was huge, with massive chocolaty malt notes and a really woody after taste. I didn’t get much cherry flavour, but considering the final gravity was a dry 1007, I’m assuming that a lot of the sweetness was from them.

As for the brett, I couldn’t really detect it, there may have been a bit of barnyard at the backend, fleeting around the edges, but there was nothing standing up shouting brett. I’m assuming this was due to the lack of carbonation, as if the flavours had been separated a bit by the spark this would have delivered, it might have been detectable. This particular bottle was bottled on the second of December last year, so it’s had just over a year to mature, it might very well have just been a duff bottle, so your mileage may vary.

I had a similarly flat nip bottle of Hel & Verdoemenis 666 a while back and while it was a bit of a chore to drink, the flavours were all still in balance. The lack of carbonation in this bottle meant that as I got through it, I really began to dislike all the boozy, woody bourbon flavours. I know I’m not a fan of bourbon, but in the end it was just too much and I ended up ditching the last quarter of the bottle.

I was really, really looking forward to this and it was a massive let down, I should really stop letting my expectations run away with themselves.

Advent Beer – Old World Russian Imperial Stout

According to the BrewDog website, this beer is just Rip Tide in 660ml bottles, that was made exclusively for a US chain. However, it’s got a slightly different ABV to Rip Tide and from what I can remember tastes far, far better than Rip Tide ever did. I think they’re only selling a small amount through their online shop, so if you want some, you’d better hurry, as I doubt it’ll last that long. It was a last minute decision to add it to the Advent Beer list, mainly as I didn’t get my hands on it until a couple of days before December.

It poured jet black in the glass, but in reality it was a really, really, really, really dark, near impenetrable brown. A tan coloured head was easily formed, but didn’t last long, dropping to a covering and then a ring round the glass. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting a beer with slightly more legs, just a bit thicker and more unctuous, it didn’t stick to the side of the glass as much as I was expecting.

The nose was all coffee, thick sweet malty coffee, with chocolate round the edges. At least that what I initially thought. By the time I got to the bottom of the bottle, the nose was all treacle, thick, sweet, pungent treacle.

Unsurprisingly, it was full in the mouth. It also had quite a bit of carbonation initially, almost too much, as it did get a bit bubbly in the mouth. The bubbliness did decrease the longer it sat in the glass though, but for a beer that isn’t bottle conditioned (at least I could see or taste any sediment), it was bordering on too fizzy. Flavour wise it was quite intense, with lots of treacle, molasses and hints of coffee and chocolate and a lingering sweet treacle after taste. There might also have been a touch of smoke, right at the back, just fleeting; although I may have been imagining it.

  • RateBeerBrewDog
  • Old World Russian Imperial Stout, 8.2%, 660ml

It was nice, really nice, I liked all the treacle and molasses. I suppose you could say that it was a touch sweet, but personally, I think that might be classed as nit picking. I’m glad I have another bottle, I just hope it’s slightly less bubbly.