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.

Brave New World and Double Cresta

Tempest are another Scottish brewer, like Tryst, who I hear a lot about on Twitter, but whose beer I never seem to bump into. So when I was up the road the other month, they were at the top of my hit list if I had the opportunity to buy any bottles. As it turned out, I ended up doing a bottle swap with Craig Garvie for the Double Cresta, he was after a Marble / Emelisse Earl Grey IPA, which I had easy access to. I managed to pick up the Brave New World IPA in Drinkmonger, which along with the Double Cresta, were the only bottles I saw all weekend.

The Brave New World IPA poured a hazy light brown, dirty orange amber colour, with a compact off white head. The head was easily formed, but I didn’t want to pour too quickly as I was unsure how well the yeast was compacted and didn’t want any in the glass. It dropped to a covering fairly quickly, but lasted in some form or other all the way down the glass. The nose was massive, the smell of thick resinous hops streamed out of the glass during the pour. It reminded me a bit of rhubarb and custard sweets, with some pithy grapefruit creeping in around the edges.

It was nice and full bodied in the mouth, the mouth feel almost getting heavier as it slipped down the throat. There was quite a bit of prickle in the mouth and not just from the hops, with quite a bit of crystal malt type flavours coming through the initial bitterness and fading before the after taste. And what an aftertaste it was, slightly sweet, intensely bitter, flavourful and lingering; you could still taste it minutes after finishing a mouthful. While it was quite flavorful, it was one of those beers you can’t quite give a definitive taste for; you end up saying generic things like, resinous, piney and thick. The flavours again reminded me a bit of rhubarb and custard sweets and also subtle grapefruit marmalade, but not in a brash and sharp breakfast grapefruit way.

A smashing beer, one to sit back and savour while the complex flavours dance across your palate. I should have bought more…

The Double Cresta 4 Grain Hazelnut Stout poured an almost jet black, just the faintest hint of a brown at the edges when held underneath a light bulb. The head was really slow to form and I had to pour from an increasing height to coax it into life. I did manage to get a compact tan coloured head to form, but it didn’t last and dropped to a faint ring round the edge of the glass. The nose was deep and complex, with quite a lot of initial rich stewed plum type notes, with some roasted malt notes, that were reminiscent of coffee, elbowing their way in as it warmed up. There was also what appeared to me, to be a slight vinious edge to it all that, which wasn’t so great.

It was very full bodied in the mouth, with some very complex flavours. It was really quite smooth, I was expecting it to have more roasted notes, they were there, but just really quite subtle. The initial coffee flavours were joined by some hazelnut character, or at least the impression of hazelnut, before a bit of a mouth prickle lead into a slightly vinous thick oily stewed fruit aftertaste. It was an interesting beer, but I didn’t think all the flavours melded together particularly well, it all felt a bit disjointed. Also, the vinious edge that it had was a bit off putting, especially in the death throes of the aftertaste where it felt like a bit of green apple was present too.

It wasn’t what I was expecting and may have just been a slightly duff bottle. I’d certainly give it another chance if I ever see it again.

Advent Beer – Manchester Tripel

In a desperate attempt to catch up with the Advent Beer backlog, I went a bit mental on Sunday night and opened two big bottles. It was going to happen at some point, as I drank too many of the smaller bottles at the start, so it’s my own fault really. Marble’s Manchester Tripel is one of their special one off big bottle releases and is their take on a Belgian Tripel, evidently they also produced Manchester Dubbel, which would have been nice to try at the same time.

It poured a strong straw, or a lightish amber colour if you prefer, just like a classic Tripel in fact. A compact white head was easily formed and lasted for quite a while. It did eventually drop to a covering, but it stayed all the way down the glass.

The nose was immense, but it didn’t strike me a being that of a classical Tripel. My fist thought was that this beer has been shown a few hops, as it just had such a powerful aroma. There was also that Belgian Tripel thing going on round the edges too, with an obvious alcoholic, estery, warmth trying to come out from round the orangey hop notes. There might have also been a touch of yeasty dryness in there, just to make it even more complex.

It was massive in the mouth, with lots of warmth and loads of Belgian ester notes, especially in the after taste. I did get a bit of yeast in the pour, but it didn’t detract, it just added a little dryness to the mix. It was quite sweet, I kept thinking of golden syrup and caramelised bananas for some reason, not sure where those associations came from. Then there was a nice bitterness, which unfortunately didn’t last, as it was swept aside in a wave of alcohol that warmed the throat and lingered for an age.

I haven’t enjoyed a Tripel this much in ages, I normally avoid the style in favour of something hoppier and less estery. So yet more kudos to Marble for yet another stellar beer…

Advent Beer – Old Manchester

I was in my local on Thursday night, I was there because Greene King have put it up for sale and as it’s the last pub in the village, the village wants to keep it open. So they are formulating a Plan B to buy the pub, if no one else buys it first, which is obviously Plan A. I don’t really use the pub, I feel a blog coming on about why, but I volunteered to be on the steering committee that is formulating the plan. That’s why there was no Advent Beer post on Thursday night or yesterday, so yet more catch up. I need to start being careful, otherwise I’ll be having to neck two 750ml bottles of 11% De Molen a night to keep on track…

Thursday’s Advent Beer was Marble Old Manchester, which is a fascinating beer. It’s fascinating, as it was a collaboration brew between Marble and John Keeling the Fuller’s head brewer and was destined for export to the US. I’m not sure why some of it got released into the UK market and to be honest, I wish it hadn’t, as you’re not going to like it.

It’s terrible, horrifically bad* in fact. So bad, you’re not going to want to drink your bottle. You’d think it would have been wonderfully balanced, that it would have tasted utterly fabulous and drank no where near it’s ABV. But no, it wasn’t, so don’t open your bottles, just put them away somewhere safe, I’ll buy them off you.

As a service to other beer geeks, I’m willing to buy all of your bottles, just so you don’t have to experience how bad it is. I’ll even drive round the entire country and pick them up so you don’t have to pay postage sending them to me. Honestly, you don’t want to drink it, I’ll fall on my sword so you don’t have to be disappointed. See I’ve even tweeted the Bacchanalia so they don’t sell anymore and thus have disappointed customers…

https://twitter.com/#!/RecentlyDrunk/status/145257089374224384

* Obviously it’s not bad, it’s pretty spectacular, which is why I want it all for myself…

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.

28.845 Units

I thought it would be interesting to jot down everything I drank on Friday and add up the units. More to scare myself at the amount I drank, rather than to prove any kind of point. So here, in order, is what I imbibed and where (just to clarify, I drank half pints):

Pub Brewery Beer ABV Units*
King William IV Brodies Kiwi 3.8% 1.08
Brodies Citra 3.1% 0.881
Brodies Silver Bullet 4.7% 1.34
Brodies American Brown 4.8% **
Brodies Hoxton Special IPA 6.6% 1.88
Tap East Tap East Pale Ale 5.6% 1.59
Tap East Extra Stout 6.6% 1.88
Thornbridge Chiron 5% 1.42
Lovibonds 69 IPA 6.9% 1.96
Cask Pub And Kitchen Mikkeller / Redemption Mild Interpretation 3.5% 0.994
Dark Star Hophead 3.8% 1.08
Magic Rock Curious NZ 3.9% 1.11
Dark Star Green Hopped IPA 6.5% 1.85
The Southampton Arms Camden Town Show Boat 4.5% 1.28
Marble Chocolate Marble 5.5% 1.56
Magic Rock Cannonball 7.4% 2.1
The Euston Tap Magic Rock High Wire 5.5% 1.56
Thornbridge Raven 6.6% 1.88
Nøgne Ø Pale Ale 6% 1.7
Rogue Ales Brutal Bitter 6% 1.7
Total units   28.845

I was also in The Castle Inn on Tuesday lunch, The Cartlon Arms on Wednesday lunch and The Devonshire Arms on Thursday lunch. So all in all, last week was rather on the alcoholic side, not the worst week, units wise, that I’ve ever had, but certainly the worst for many, many years. I think I owe my liver a break and am planning on having this week off the booze, although there is an Adnams mini keg in the shed and my wife is away next weekend…

* Units calculated using the calculator here.
** I took this one back as it tasted funny, so it’s not inculuded in the calculation…

Un-Obtainable Perfection and Dunkelweizen

One thing that I always find annoying about British wheat beers, is the lack of information on the bottle about what to do with the yeast. I find most British ale yeasts to be detrimental to the taste of the beer if poured into the glass, so I’d rather know what yeast has been used to ferment that wheat beer, so I know wither to pour it in, or to leave it out. So what to do with these two?

This bottle from Cambridge Moonshine caught my eye in the Bacchanalia, as it has totally different branding to all his other bottles. For my money, it’s much better than the old moon thing he had going on before, yes, it’s just some text and while it’s just clean and simple, it’s gets my vote. I decided to pour Un-Obtainable Perfection clean and deposit the yeasty trub into a small glass to see what it tasted of.

It poured an orange amber colour with a huge rocky white head. The head was being fed by a maelstrom of bubbles and seemed to get bigger, before settling to a good two fingers. It did eventually drop to a very good covering, but it took a while. I’m not sure what I expected the nose to smell off, banana, cloves and bread like a German wheat beer, or gingery, peppery spices like a Belgian wit. To be honest, it would have been nice if it had smelt of anything…

For a beer that made such a loud phzzzt and had so many bubbles teaming up the inside of the glass, it was really quite smooth in the mouth. It had some subtle spicy and vague banana bread notes that lead to a very drying of the mouth and this was without the yeast. I found the after taste to be really quite offensive, I’m not sure if I can tell you why though. It was either some sort of massive spicy overload or a yeasty off taste, either way I found really quite bad.

On this tasting I’d have to say that this beer really isn’t for me. I nearly got a taste of it on cask at the recent Cambridge CAMRA Octoberfest, but I was too busy necking Hopshackle Hopnosis and it went off. I’d really like to try it on cask and see if the nasty after taste is still there or not.

    a href=”http://www.moonshinebrewery.co.uk/”>Cambridge Moonshine
  • Un-Obtainable Perfection, 5.5%, 500m

I knew that Marble had brewed a Weizen, but I didn’t know they’d brewed a Dunkelweizen until I saw it in the Bacchanalia. It poured a really deep brown colour with light tan brown head. the head didn’t form particularly easily and didn’t really hang around for long, dropping to a patchy covering fairly quickly. Again, I poured this beer clear and dumped the yeast into a little glass, which smelt really strongly of hops. Much more so than the actual glass of beer, which had subtle bready plummy notes.

It was smooth in the mouth and as you would expect from the ABV, had quite a hefty body. having said that, it really didn’t drink to it’s ABV and felt like a much weaker beer. It some drying yeast character, but was mainly malty and reminded me of rich stewed plums. The after taste was lingering sweetness and a slowly drying palette.

After drinking about half the glass, I decided to shove all the yeast from the small glass into the big one and see what effect, if any, it had. The nose was instantly transformed with a noticeable hop character coming to the fore. The taste was slightly changed too, with more of an edge to the initial taste and a feeling of bitterness around the mouth. It still wasn’t bitter, the maltiness was still the main flavour, but the hops were there round the edges, which they hadn’t been before. Definitely one to dump the yeast sediment into.

  • Marble
  • Dunkelweizen, 8.2%, 500m

The Cambridge Blue Summer Beer Festival

The Cambridge Blue has its summer beer festival next week, with a wide range of beer from all over the country, you can check out the beer list here. While I’m a bit disappointed that there’s no beer from Thornbridge and only a Mild from Marble, I think there is probably still enough beers of interest. Assuming they’ll be on when I go and I’ll probably pop in one lunch time as well as an evening session, there are beers I want to try from Hawkshead, Humpty Dumpty, Saltaire and Summer Wine.

The Session #49: Regular Beer

This months Session is being hosted by Stan Hieronymous at Appellation Beer and the topic is A ‘regular’ beer.

I was out with friends last night, we went to a number of pubs to the North of Cambridge city centre. It was a bit hit and miss if I’m being honest, but I managed to try eight different beers, all of which you could say were regular beers. In the UK a regular beer is most likely to be defined by most drinkers as a session beer, something they’ll have multiple pints of down the pub, or a few bottles of at home.

The SessionSo what is regular beer? Is it the beer you drink regularly, your favourite pint down the pub, the one that you drink every time you see it. Or is a regular beer one that isn’t extreme, doesn’t have weird ingredients and is to most people, normal?

For a beer geek though, I don’t think there is such thing as a regular beer in either sense. We seem to seek out the new, the novel, the weird and the downright strange. That’s not to say that we don’t have our favourites though. Those beers that we have every now and again, that sit at the back of the cupboard for when we just fancy a beer, with out having to think.

But that’s the thing, it’s an occasional thing, we’re too busy trying new beers left right and centre to be drinking the same beer regularly. Even our go to beer is probably not thought of as being a normal beer by non geeks. I doubt most beer drinkers in the UK would consider Marble Dobber, at 5.9% to be a normal beer, it’s far too high in ABV for the majority of session beer drinkers to even consider.

I don’t want to drink normal beer though, I’m not sure I even want to drink the same beer regularly, I’m too obsessed with what I haven’t had before. The whole reason I started this blog was because I’d fallen into a rut, I was drinking the same beers all the time, there was no variety and as we all know, variety is the spice of life. So I don’t really have a regular, normal beer, if I did though, it would probably be either Marble Dobber or HardKnott Infra Red, cracking beers both.