Utility Special 2010

This was another large Marble bottle that I’ve had hanging around for a while. I should really have drank it last year when I bought it, but with all the Advent Beer, I never really got a chance.

Marble Utility Special 2010The bottle opened with a very, very loud pfzzt and since it poured a muddy, cloudy brownish colour, there may have been some sediment kicked up. It was topped by a nice fluffy white head, that didn’t last too long before dropping to a patchy covering.

The nose was perplexing, I don’t know if it was just me, but it was very subtle and fleeting. One instant it was there, but before I could pin it down it was off. Maybe I really should have drunk it sooner…

Taste wise, it was OK. The mouth feel was nice, with a solid malt backbone. The bitterness was quite quick to asert itself and rolled through the mouth nicely. I thought the after taste was a bit muddled thought, but again, this may have been due to kicked up sediment.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Utility Special 2010, 6.5%, 750ml

Over all, I was a touch disapointed, I was just expecting more. I wish I had another bottle, so I could try it again, this time with a clean pour.

Stouter Port Stout and Chocolate Dubbel

I’ve had these big Marble bottles for a while, so I thought I should really get round to drinking them. I’d heard good things about both, so I was quite looking forward to them. I decided to start with the Stouter Port Stout as the Chocolate Dubbel, was quite a bit stronger.

Marble Stouter Port StoutIt poured a black colour that revealed itself as actually being a super dark brown, but only when you looked closely at the edges. A good tan head covered the beer all the way down the the glass and left some awesome lacing behind. The nose was a combination of dark roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate and was really quite inviting..

The body felt a bit on the thin side to be honest, I thought it could have been a bit heavier. Other than that though, this was a really, really nice beer and it was so drinkable it was hard not to just finish it without taking notes. It really didn’t feel like 5.1% at all. The roasted notes from the aroma, were also in the taste. The were lovely and ran right through from the start to the finish, changing from coffee, to bitter dark chocolate. It was a seriously morish beer.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Stouter Port Stout, 5.1%, 750ml

The Chocolate Dubbel poured a serious dark brown, so that it looked black in the glass. It was topped with a light tan creamy head, that lasted all the way down the glass, again with excellent lacing. Whiel there was a definite chocolate note on the nose, I’m sure there was something else, but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Marble Chocolate DubbelThe mouth feel was large, with a hit of malt and alcohol that subsided to leave a lingering dark bitter chocolate aftertaste. You could tell that this beer was 8.5%, it just felt large in the mouth, it really drank to it’s strength. While it was smooth in the mouth, it was really drying at the same time, especially a minute or two after a mouthfull.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Chocolate Dubbel, 8.5%, 750ml

If I saw either of these beers for sale again, I’d seriously consider buying more than one of each, they were both excelent. I notice that myBreweryTap.com still has some of the Stouter Port Stout listed in thier Beer Geek Pick & Mix selection, so tempting to buy some more…

The Golden Pints 2010

Originally I was going to do my own round up of the year, I didn’t do one last year as I felt that I’d not been blogging for long enough. This year I felt that I had drank enough to have some thoughts I wanted to share, but then Andy and Mark posted about The Golden Pints. So I decided to combine my thoughts and The Golden Pints categories for this post, hence why I’ve given my top three beers and then a few highly recommendeds.

Now, I don’t normally hold much truck with lists and stuff, they are very personal after all and never seem to align with my view of things. So take this lot with a rather large pinch of salt, it’s only my opinion at the end of the day.

Best UK Draught Beer
  1. Thornbridge Bracia
    I had this at the Euston Tap the day after they opened, it was truly magnificent and while I’ve only had a ½ pint, it stood head and shoulders above anything else I had this year.
  2. Thornbridge Seaforth
    Supposedly an all English version of Jaipur and on this tasting in January, better than its stable mate. Utterly sublime…
  3. Thornbridge Kipling
    Beer of the festival at the Cambridge CAMRA summer beer festival and just about as perfect a beer as you can get for an early summers evening in a crowded tent.
Honourable mentions
Hopshakle Resination, Oakham Chinook, Thornbridge Raven
Best UK Bottled Beer
  1. Thornbridge Halycon 2009
    It took me a while to get hold of, but once I did, I bought every bottle I could find. Only one other beer has come close all year, including foreign imports.
  2. Moor Fusion
    The only beer to render me utterly speechless this year. I couldn’t take notes, I was so blown away…
  3. Marble Dobber
    You can keep your Punk IPA and your Jaipur, this is now my "go to beer".
Honourable mentions
Hardknott Infra Red, Hardknott Æther Blæc, Moor JJJ IPA, Cambridge Moonshine Transforming Tomorrow
Best Overseas Draught Beer
  1. Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra
    Stole my heart when I was in Rome earlier in the year and when I went back recently, it was just as good.
  2. Mikkeller I Beat yoU
    To be honest, it could have been any one of about 10 Mikkeller beers in this slot, but this was the last beer I had in Rome recently and it was an absolute hop monster.
  3. Grassroots Broken Spoke Blackened IPA
    A massive US West coast style IPA, but black. It messed with my senses and tasted sublime. Could have been any of the three Grassroots beers I’ve tried this year though, all of them were spectacular, the Rye Union Porter especially.
Honourable mentions
Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout, De Molen Rasputin, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Bernard Unfiltered, Hornbeer Black Magic Woman, Birrificio del Ducato Bia IPA, Birrificio San Paolo Ipè (Extra Hop)
Best Overseas Bottled Beer
  1. De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666
    Possibly the best beer I’ve had this year. Along with the Thornbridge Halcyon, it stands head and shoulders above everything else.
  2. Stone Arrogant Bastard
    I waited 13 years to try it after first seeing an (empty) bottle, it was so worth the wait.
  3. Mikkeller Single Hop IPA Simcoe
    Like drinking liquidised lychees, I’d have drunk more if it wasn’t so expensive and hard to get hold of.
Honourable mentions
Birra del Borgo Duchessic, Saison Dupont, Jandrain Jandrenouille IV Saison, Odel IPA, Dogfish Head Paolo Santo Maron, Hornbeer Oak Aged Cranberry Bastard, Nøgne Ø Porter, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Rogue John John Dead Guy Ale
Best Overall Beer
So hard to choose between Thornbridge Halcyon 2009 and De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666. But if I really had to choose between the two, then only as I had more of it, Thornbridge Halcyon 2009.
Best Pumpclip or Label
Anything by Marble.
Best UK Brewery
  1. Thornbridge
    They’ve produced the best UK beer I’ve had this year.
  2. Marble
    Catching Thornbridge up fast, Dobber is sublime.
  3. Moor
    I just wish I could get a moor regular supply…
Honourable mentions
Hardknott, BrewDog, Adnams, Fuller’s
Best Overseas Brewery
  1. Mikkeller
  2. De Molen
  3. Birra del Borgo
Honourable mentions
Grassroots, Nøgne Ø, Rogue, Stone, Hornbeer, Amager
Pub/Bar of the Year
  1. Brasserie 4:20, Rome, Italy
    Possibly the best pub in the world and fantastic food too.
  2. Bir & Fud, Rome, Italy
    The best pizza I’ve ever had, all washed down with lots of amazing Italian craft beer.
  3. Ma ‘Che Siete Venuti a Fà, Rome, Italy
    Could also lay claim to being the best pub in the world, it certainly has the nicest landlord I have ever met.
Honourable mentions
The Euston Tap, London; Cask Pub & Kitchen, London; The Cambridge Blue, Cambridge
Beer Festival of the Year
  1. Cambridge CAMRA Summer beer festival
    Only as I’m now a fully paid up member of the foreign beer bar team…
  2. The Cambridge Blue Winter Festival
    Thornbridge Jaipur, Seaforth and Raven were all on sparkling form.
Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose
Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bacchanalia, Cambridge
Online Retailer of the Year
myBreweryTap and BEERMerchants
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher
Best Beer Blog or Website
  1. Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile
  2. The Reluctant Scooper
  3. Real Brewing at the Sharp End
Best Beer Twitterer
The HardKnott’s (@HardKnottDave and @HardKnottAnn); it’s like a Twitter soap opera…
Best Brewery Online
Adnams
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Orval with chips ‘n’ mayo
In 2011 I’d Most Like To…
Continue to try new and interesting beer and widen my horizons by trying new styles and retrying those styles I think I don’t like.
Open Category: Best Landlord
Manual from Ma ‘Che Siete Venuti a Fà
Within two minutes of meeting me was giving me free beer across the road in Bir & Fud. On subsequent visits, he opened things like Cantillon Zwanze 2009 and gave me bottles to bring home. The nicest beer person I’ve met all year.

Dobber

Marble DobberAs you can see here, I’ve tried a few of the Marble beers that are available in bottle. Dobber was the only one that was missing and luckily for me myBreweryTap.com made it available from their pick ‘n’ mix selection, so I bought a couple of bottles. Since then, The Bacchanalia has had a large order of Marble beer in, including Dobber in both bottle and cask.

The bottle poured a light coppery golden colour with a good tight white head, that dropped relatively quickly. The six pints I had from cask were all gravity dispensed into growlers, so there wasn’t much of a head by the time I’d got them home, otherwise they looked identical.

Marble DobberThe nose is all grapefruit, with the bottled version being slightly subtler, especially when cold, than the ramped up aromas of the cask version. Both versions have a nice and smooth, full bodied mouth feel, which is just as well. Without the good backbone, this beer would be lost in the riot of grapefruit bitterness that sweeps through the mouth and lingers for what seems like ages.

This is a truely excellent beer, from bottle and from cask. If I could get a regular supply of it, I could easily see it becoming my go to beer. If you’ve not had it, then I suggest you remedy that as soon as you can.

The Euston Tap

I was in London at the weekend to see Peter Kay at the O2. As my wife and I were staying overnight, we decided to make a day of it on Saturday and headed down early to take in the Shadow Catchers exhibition at the V&A. As it turned out, a new craft beer bar had opened the night before, so it was an unmissable opportunity to get visit on only its second day of trading.

Thornbridge BraciaThe Euston Tap is set in the one of the Doric lodges that front Euston station and is a five to ten minute walk up the road from Kings Cross. You could be well lazy and get the Victoria Line as my wife suggested, but a bit of London smog does wonders for requiring a good beer to clean the throat.

And what beer the Euston Tap has! They had eight cask ales on offer from Marble (Pint and Dobber), Thornbridge (Wild Swan and Bracia), BrewDog (Paradox), Bath (Ginger Hare), Bristol Beer Factory (Bristol Stout) and Ossett (Pale Gold), plus nineteen, yes 19, beers on draft from the UK, Europe and the US (including Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron).

I started on a half of Marble Pint, a beer I have wanted to try for ages. While it was a tad on the flat side, it tasted amazing and I can’t wait to get a pint of it when it’s in slightly better condition. Next I had to have a half of the Thornbridge Bracia as it’s such a rare beer to see on cask, it was maybe a tad strong for a pre lunch half, but it’s one of those beers that you have to have when you see it.

My wife isn’t a big beer drinker, although she knows what she likes. After a bit of deliberation over the draft beers, I picked out an unfiltered Bernard for her. What a revelation! I now can’t understand why the majority of Czech breweries pasteurise and filter their beer. When it tastes this good, just leave it alone! I can see myself drinking loads of this when I next see it.

I’m next down in London on the 28th for the Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool game, my company sponsors then so I managed to get a free ticket. I’m already trying to plan how I can spend maximum time in the Euston Tap and minimum time travelling to and from White Heart Lane. I may have to get a taxi home from Cambridge station, as I doubt I’ll be in a fit condition to drive…

Tawny No 3

Marble Tawny No 3This was the last of the five Marble beers that I bought from The Bacchanalia a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, unlike the previous four bottles, this one wasn’t so good. There was a very loud, pfffzzzt, when the bottle was opened and the pour resulted in a very large fluffy white head. I knew something was up, as the chestnut brown body wasn’t crystal clear.

I was hoping it was just a chill haze, so I left the beer for a bit to warm up, as it had just come from the fridge. While waiting for it to warm up, the head dropped to a compact 5mm deep covering that appeared to be regenerating. I also stuck my nose in the glass and was rewarded by amazing subtle citric hop notes.

The joy was short lived though, as when I came to taste the beer I found it to be over conditioned with a really quite rough mouth feel. There was also an obvious yeasty taste that was quite distracting. I think the over conditioning had stirred up some of the sediment when the bottle was opened, I’ve had this problem with a few beers recently. Because of this, I can’t really form an opinion of this beer from this particular bottle. I’ll just have to buy another and hope it’s in better condition.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Tawny No 3, 5.7%, 500ml

Tawny No 3 is organic and Vegetarian Society approved.

Ginger and Chocolate Marble

Marble GingerAfter recently having both Marble Manchester Bitter and Lagonda IPA, I was really looking forward to trying the Ginger and Chocolate Marble. I decided to start with the Ginger, mainly as I didn’t want to go from a dark to a light beer. It poured a coper colour, almost the same shade as the bottle label. The compact, off white, head was slow to form and dropped to a blotchy complete covering.

I could smell the ginger pouring out of the bottle during the pour and when I stuffed my nose in the glass, it was just candied ginger overload. Again the beer was superbly conditioned, with a nice soft mouth feel considering all the bubbles. Candied ginger was, unsurprisingly, the main taste all through the swallow and then lingering in the after taste. It’s relatively subtle with it though, it’s not over powering or fiery, although there is some fire, it’s just not throat burning fiery. I thought it was pretty nice, but I think I prefer the Williams Brothers one.

Marble Chocolate MarbleThis is the first dark Marble beer that I’ve tried and I was quite looking forward to it. It came straight out of the fridge and it was too cold to start with. I had to leave it standing for quite a while before it warmed up and when it did it really improved, so this is definitely not a beer to server too cold.

It poured a really really dark reddish brown/black, basically opaque unless you tilt the glass and look through the edge. The light tan head was hard to form, I think due to the beer been too cold. The head didn’t last and dropped to an uneven covering, but then I did leave it standing for quite some time to warm up.

It smelt like coffee when it was cold, just roasted coffee and nothing else, as it warmed up the smell is more complex, there’s more going on than just coffee. The initial taste was also coffee, but again after it warmed up, it became more complex. The condition was again spot on, the body was smooth, with a subtle roastedness and a definite dark chocolate taste. Once it had warmed up it became really nice and moreish.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Chocolate Marble, 5.5%, 500ml

I’d like to pick up another bottle of each so I can try the Ginger/Chocolate mix, which is supposed to be really good. Both beers are organic and Vegetarian Society approved.

Manchester Bitter and Lagonda IPA

Marble Manchester BitterThere’s been a lot of love for Marble in the blogosphere recently (see here, here and here) and while I’m a bit late to the party, that’s only due to The Bacchanalia only getting a delivery of Marble beer (cask and bottle) the other week. I had a couple of halves of Summer Marble in The Cambridge Blue last week, it was the first time I’d had any Marble beer, it was superb and meant I was really, really looking forward to cracking into the bottles I’d bought.

First up was Manchester Bitter a pale golden straw coloured bitter with a twist. It poured with a fluffy, easily formed, white head that slowly dropped leaving plenty of lacing on the glass. There was a bit of malt on the nose, but it mainly smelt fresh with maybe a touch of grassy hop. There was something else lingering at the edge though, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I’d like to say it was something tropical, but I’m just not sure.

The beer had absolutely fantastic condition, I’m not sure you could get any better to be honest. The mouth feel was nice and smooth, the body full and perfectly balanced. There was a really nice bitterness that came in and lingered long into the after taste. I thought it was absolutely brilliant, I’ll definitely be buying more.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Manchester Bitter, 4.2%, 500ml

Marble Lagonda IPAI was going to have the Tawny No. 3, but changed my mind at the last moment and plumped for the Lagonda IPA instead. It poured a rich straw colour with a tightish white head that slowly dropped to a blotchy covering. I’m not sure what it smelt of, maybe a bit of biscuity malt. Just like the Manchester Bitter, there is something else there, tantalisingly close, that I just can’t quite but my finger on and verbalise.

It was smooth in the mouth, not as big as I was expecting, almost not full bodied enough. The taste is great though, while I couldn’t place what was going on in the Manchester Bitter, this one was all restrained and subtle bitter orange marmalade with hints of grapefruit. The after taste lingered marmalade notes for quite a while.

  • RateBeer Marble
  • Lagonda IPA, 5%, 500ml

To be honest I was so blown away by the Manchester Bitter that I’m not sure I enjoyed the Lagonda IPA as much as I should have. Given the choice, I’d buy the Manchester Bitter over the Lagonda IPA any day of the week though.

Both beers are Vegetarian Society approved and the Lagonda IPA is organic.