Advent Beer – Local 2

I’ll be honest, I’ve had this beer before. It was earlier this year and it was split three ways at about 02:00 in a mates kitchen after the Cambridge CAMRA Octoberfest beer festival. So you’ll forgive me for not really paying much attention and having no recollection of what it tasted like.

Unlike the previous Brooklyn Advent Beer, Local 1, this one didn’t blow the cork out of the bottle, which was a bit of a relief, although it did try its best. I managed to force the cork back in until I got a jug ready, but it still took two jugs and my glass to get it all in, as it was foaming all over the place. I didn’t get much on the nose, but to be honest I was suffering with the onset of a nasty cold, so probably wouldn’t have been able to smell raw garlic if it had been thrust under it.

It didn’t feel overly carbonated for a beer that almost spat its cork out, which was surprising, but I did pour from a bit of a height to try and knock out any extra condition. If anything it felt a bit on the watery side in the mouth, it certainly didn’t feel like a nine percent beer. Which was surprising given that it has honey in it, I was expecting something with a much fuller body. I’m not saying it wasn’t full bodied, just not as much as I was expecting.

Maybe it was the fruity citrus flavours that were giving it the illusion of being a bit thin. I home brewed a Belgian Wit, which had a load of citrus peel added after the boil and it reminded me of that. You could also detect the honey, it gives off such a distinctive edge, but I’m not able to describe it. If you’ve ever had Thornbridge Bracia, you’ll know what I’m on about, imagine that, but toned down quite a bit.

It was a complex beer, especially the lingering after taste and while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I think I’d buy another.

Advent Beer – Local 1

I was quite excited when I heard that Brooklyn Local 1 and 2 were being imported into the country. I pestered Ed at the Bacchanalia to get some in and the proceeded not to buy any for months. I decided that I would use the excuse of Advent Beer to finally buy the pair and drink them, I’m not sure what was putting me off to be honest.

I’d love to tell you what it tasted like, what the colour was, how long the head lasted, all the usual stuff I write about, but I can’t. I’d only just unwound the cage, when the cork flew out of the bottle and nearly took my face off. I managed to grab a jug form a nearby cupboard and decant the rather lively beer into it and my glass. But the over carbonation had caused all the sediment to fly off the bottom of the bottle, so the resulting beer was a touch on the opaque side.

Unfortunately, this also had the side effect of making all the beer taste just like yeast. There was occasional, fleeting glimpses of the actual beer and you could tell it was going to be superb, but everything was just stomped on by the yeast. So I can at least tell you one thing; leave the sediment out of Local 1, especially if you want to actually taste the beer.

Maybe it’s the penance for not buying some sooner, alternatively it might just have been a duff bottle. Either way, I’m going to have to buy another one, best not leave it for six odd months this time…

Advent Beer

I’m quite annoyed. On Tuesday a load of posts on this blog were missing, vanished, disappearing into the ether. I luckily managed to recreate them via Google cache and wrote a couple of new posts, one detailing what had happened and the other the list of my advent beers. So imagine my surprise this morning, to find that both the explanation and advent beer list posts were both missing. In their place, the original missing posts and their comments were back, but it meant that I had to recreate this list from scratch, as I couldn’t find a cached copy on line. My hosting company hasn’t responded to my query about why it’s happened yet, which is most unlike them, hence my annoyance.

Anyway, it’s December, that means that it’s time to do some more advent beer. Last year I modified the list half way through, hopefully I wont be doing the same this year, but I am going to Paris this weekend, so some French beer might suddenly appear next week. So without further ado, here’s the beers on my advent beer list, they will be drank in some sort of random order, that days beer being pulled from a hat.

Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager…

There was an article in Sunday’s Observer, I say article, it was more of an infomercial for Tesco than an actual article. Titled “After real ale, brewers cash in on trend for ‘real lagers’“, it caused rather a lot of brewers, beer geeks and other assorted twitterers to spit their cornflakes out in disgust. According to the article, the lager industry is mounting a fight back against real ale and imported US craft brews are leading the charge.

Evidently Tesco is to launch four of the most popular; Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (SNPA), Goose Island IPA and Brooklyn Lager. Blue Moon is of course brewed by Coors that well know small brewer and is a wheat beer, so not a lager. Goose Island are now owned by the behemoth that is AB InBev and again an IPA is not a lager. Similarly SNPA is not a lager and has been stocked by Tesco for a while now, so hardly being launched. Even Brooklyn Lager wouldn’t be classed as a lager by the majority of UK lager drinkers, it’s brown for a start.

It’s like the person who wrote the article just copied down what they’d been sent by Tesco and didn’t bother checking any facts. Then there’s the quote from Iain Loe of CAMRA, I really hope that isn’t what he said, as it makes no sense to me. Even if he was talking about US craft beer, it still makes no sense as the British brewing scene of older years didn’t brew anything like the Americans are brewing at the moment.

If the Observer article wasn’t bad enough, Robert Marshall then tweeted the following just before lunch time:

https://twitter.com/#!/RobGMarshall/status/105230405380214784

So not only is SNPA being called a lager again (the clue is in the name Pale ALE), but Innis and Gunn Rum Cask is now a lager too! I’d love to know which hops impart a smooth creamy taste, while that’s what you might get from the diacetyl bomb that is any Innis and Gunn beer, SNPA certainly isn’t smooth and creamy. I had a look in one of my local Tesco stores for the offending sign, I’d taken a marker pen to correct it, but they didn’t have one on display.

It seems to me that someone at Tesco who, on this evidence, doesn’t know anything about beer, has cobbled together a press release to advertise the fact that they’re now stocking some US beer. At the same time, they’ve produced some point of sale signage that hasn’t been checked by anyone with a clue. Then the Observer has rephrased the press release and again, not had it checked by anyone who knows anything about beer. Depressing beyond words.

We keep getting told that one of the barriers that stops people from getting into beer, is the lack of good clear information. Point of sale signage and articles like this, that are so technically wrong are not going to help matters.

The Session #52: Beer Collectibles & Breweriana

This months Session is being hosted by Brian Stechschulte at All Over Beer and the topic is Beer Collectibles & Breweriana

The SessionAfter missing the last couple of sessions due to various reasons, my heart sank when I saw the topic for this months topic. I’ve always associated breweriana with sad old men trading faded beer mats, or rather obsessive geeks who fill their houses with empty cans. I know this is a terrible generalisation, but the only stories you ever see in main stream media seem to back up this view, see this article as an example.

I’ve been racking my brains for the last few weeks trying to work out if I have any breweriana or not. To start with I was pretty sure I had none, but now I’m not so sure, here’s a list of what I think I’ve got around the place:

  • Box of assorted beer festival pint glasses, each carefully wrapped up in paper to avoid damage
  • Castlemaine XXXX beer mat that a friend mailed from Australia instead of a postcard
  • Two Milton Brewery pump clips from the two poly-pins of beer we had at our wedding
  • A, now, empty 1L beer bottle from U Fleků that I brought back on the plane, when you could still do that, after a weekend away in Prague
  • A Thornbridge pint glass that I liberated from The Euston Tap, it was actually given to me by Tim Anderson, the winner of Master Chef when I asked if I could have one
  • An empty 2.2kg tub High5 Energy Source, that is currently three quarters full of branded bottle caps

I started off thinking that I wasn’t a collector of any beery paraphernalia, but now I’ve listed everything I’m quite surprised by how much stuff I’ve got hanging around not doing anything. If I am a collector, it’s more of an unconscious collecting, rather than a proper planned out hobby. I doubt I’ll ever reach the geeky heights of people like banker Nick West, my wife would never let me for starters. I can see me hoarding to occasional item though, especially when it has a bit of sentimental value.

Edit:
I’ve just remembered that I also have one of those finger shredding BrewDog key rings. Plus I have a Flying Dog Raging Bitch and a Brooklyn Lager keg clip, which I’m going to turn into key rings.

Edit:
As I read everyone else’s contributions to this months session, I keep remembering things I’ve got, or things I’ve done in the past. During lunch I remembered the key rings, see the edit above, then reading a tweet from BeerReviewsAndy, I remembered that I also have empty bottles of BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink The Bismark!. They sit on a shelf in my shed, the one I do all my homebrew in, probably as a reminder to not be sucked in by marketing again.
https://twitter.com/#!/BeerReviewsAndy/status/76632712693288962

Then when I read Brian Stechschulte’s contribution, I remembered that I used to collect beer bottle labels when I was a student at university. I did it to remind me what beers I’d drunk, I had quite a collection and was even scanning them into stick on my website. That was way back in 1996 and it’s not something I’ve done for years. I did find a load of the labels last Autumn, they were stuffed in between the pages of a book on how to learn Italian. Looking at them brought back lots of memories, like the time I shared a couple of bottles on a train from Milano to Padova with an Italian solider on his way home for some leave.

I said earlier that I didn’t think I had any Breweriana and that I didn’t collect anything. I find it quite funny that I’ve actually been collecting breweriana of one form or another for practicality my entire beer drinking life without realising it.

Venice

One of the perks of working for my company is the Christmas party. Each year on a Friday early in December, they fly everyone to a European city where we embark on a bit of a bender, before flying us all back home on the Sunday afternoon. This year the destination was that well known mecca of beer, Venice.

Knowing that Italy has a predilection for fizzy piss water, just look at the bog standard Peroni, I hit ratebeer.com to see if they had any listed destinations. Much to my surprise, the utterly gorgeous tourist trap that is Venice had three listed destinations. Armed with the location of the three establishments, we headed out to see what was on offer.

Forst PremiumAfter wandering aimlessly for a while, we cracked out Google Maps on my Palm Pre and found out what through the rain to the first location. Bar Al Carcan, is as described on its ratebeer.com page, it’s a cozy wee bar with six beers on tap and run by an ageing mentalist. There was no indication of any bottled beer, so we cracked into some Forst Premium, which is one of the worst excuses for a beer I’ve ever tasted.

For some reason we decided to have another beer in this place, I’m not really sure why. The mentalist old bloke behind the bar was doing massive air guitar to The Rolling Stones Paint It Black, which was distorting out of some ancient tape deck. When he wasn’t doing air guitar he was having a fag outside in the rain while trying to chat up passing women and entice firemen in for a beer.

Forst Sixtus Doppelbock, 6.5% and Forst Heller Bock, 7.5%Next up I had a Forst Sixtus Doppelbock and my mate had a Forst Heller Bock. Mine was dark, his wasn’t, they were both fizzy and sweet and not particular nice. So we decided to find some where to eat and headed off to find a restaurant. To cut a long and involved walk short, the restaurant was full, so we ended up in a Pizzeria that happened to have three different Hacker-Pschorr beers on tap. We both settled down outside to wait for a table with a hefe weisse and very nice it was too.

After the really nice pizza and not so nice fries, we decided to try and find Il Santo Bevitore, which the ratebeer.com page positions away on the top left of Venice. I can assure you that the location of this place on Google Maps is incorrect, as there is nothing but residential buildings in that area. After an hour of wandering around in ever widening circles, we decided to get out of the rain and have a beer in the first place we came to.

Pedavena Birra Pedavena, 5%I can’t even remember the name of the place we ended up, but it did have a full size papier-mâché horse and rider next to the bar. We ordered the one beer they had on tap, which was some totally forgettable insipid piss water. By this time I didn’t really care, it was late and I was wet and sober, it could only have been worse if I’d fallen in a canal. We were both fed up with our inability to find Il Santo Bevitore, so we decided to head back to the hotel, of course that meant that we walked right past the place as it turned out to be just round the corner.

Why Google Maps thinks it’s where it thinks it is, I’ve no idea, but it’s not, it’s totally in a different place. Il Santo Bevitore is also a totally different kind of place, as they had Sharps Doom Bar on hand pump and McEwans Lager on tap, amongst other things. Two pints of Doom Bar were ordered and hungrily consumed, it was just a shame that the beer was just past it’s best, but you could tell that if it had been a few days earlier that it would have been a cracking pint.

We both decided that enough was enough and headed back through the rain to the hotel. Neither of us fancied trying to find the third pub, especially as Google Maps put it out on the edge and we didn’t fancy playing hunt the pub again.

Ciney Brune, 7% and Scottish & Newcastle Slalom Lager, 9%We ended up back in Il Santo Bevitore on the Saturday as we happened to be wandering past. My mate fancied trying the Scottish & Newcastle Slalom lager, which was a hefty 9%. If you are wondering what this beer is, then I can tell you that it was tramp juice on draft, utterly, utterly horrible and an affront to cooking lager, never mind beer.

Saturday night was spent at the black tie dinner with a free bar, but the choice of beer was more fizzy piss water, so I had a few spirits and tumbled into bed at some ungodly hour. My mate, who’d drunk most of a bottle of Lagavulin, looked a tad worse for wear in the early afternoon as we were leaving, it has to be said.

All in all Venice is crap if you like your Ale, if you like cooking lager and tramp juice, you’re well served. Personally I’d head for Il Santo Bevitore, as they also has some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Brooklyn Lager along with a few other bottles.

False Start

So my project to tick all the bottles in the Good Bottled Beer Guide, didn’t get off to the best of starts. One of the four bottles, while still a nice drink, wasn’t even bottle conditioned.

So what was the issue…? Mainly that I have no idea how to describe how a beer smells or tastes and if I don’t write it down straight away, I certainly can’t remember the next day.

I don’t want to turn myself into a ticker, who’ll obsessively track down beers just to say they’ve tried them and I also don’t want to turn myself into some sort of beer version of Jilly Goolden. Having said that RateBeer has a single page document that contains loads of keywords that you can use to describe things like the smell, clarity, taste etc. I might have a try with that for a bit and see how we get on. I’m sure with a bit of practice we might be able to train our nose and palate to identify things.

So far, apart from the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, everything I’ve drank in the last week has been new, which is a great start, even if most of the beers haven’t been for my project. There is a downside at the moment, I’m writing this in bed while suffering from some lurgy that has laid three quarters of the house low. So it’ll probably be late next week before we can start properly, I may even have a trail run with some other beers I’ve got to see if I can manage to take notes…