La Cave à Bulles

La Cave à Bulles is a small specialist beer shop on Rue Quincampoix in Paris, not far from the Pompidou centre. It specialises in French beer and you could say it’s a temple to the stuff, although they do have a smattering of beer from the rest of the world (when we visited they had some Belgian stuff, plus a few from Mikkeller and Stillwater amongst others).

Our first visit was on a Friday evening, as we were transitioning between Hall’s Beer Tavern and Au Trappiste, so we just popped in for a quick look to scope the place out. We ended up talking to Simon the proprietor and on his advice ditched a few pubs that we were going to visit and ended up buying some tickets to a beer festival on a boat, as you do…

We went back again on the Saturday, mainly so I could buy a box of beer to bring back home, but also because they were holding a meet the brewer with Brasserie du Mont Salève, but more on them later. Simon seems to run a flat pricing structure on his French beer selection, 33cl bottles were all €3 regardless of strength, similarly all 50cl and 75cl bottles were at flat prices. Since I had a spare €30, it meant I could pick up ten 33cl bottles, I had selected five, I asked Simon to select me another five that I shouldn’t miss. Here’s my thoughts on each of the beers I bought:

La Brasserie de FleuracLe Triple Brune IPA, 8%, 330ml
The cap nearly exploded off the bottle as I opened it and due to the ridiculous level of carbonation, it took three glasses to get the whole bottle in. I even poured it from glass to glass a couple of times to try and knock a bit of carbonation out of it. It poured a darkish brown, like a best bitter and had an almost vinous edge to the nose, otherwise there wasn’t much going on. I can’t really say much about the taste, due to the carbonation issues, but it had a nice bitterness, some solid brown malt character. I imagine it would be lovely if properly carbonated.

Brasserie ThiriezEtoile du Nord, 5.5%, 330ml
Poured a luscious golden colour, with a white fluffy head. The head didn’t last very long and dropped to ring round the edge fairly quickly. The nose had a faint orangey marmalade note to it, it was also quite fresh, but that was it. It had a good mouth feel, with smashing up front bitterness. The bitterness eased off a bit as it swept everything before it in a wave of wonderful subtle citrus and marmalade notes. The after taste was a lovely bitter tingle and seemed to last an absolute age. I’d quite happily drink this till the cows came home, a must buy beer if you see it.

Brasserie ThiriezLa Nocturne, 6.5%, 330ml
Poured a really dark brown, so it looked black in the glass. The tan coloured head wasn’t easy to form and was one of those lively things that appeared and then promptly disappeared. I struggled to get much on the nose, probably due to the shape of the glass, but there did seem to be some treacle notes and a general dark beer type thing. In the mouth it was nice and full bodied with some cracking smooth chocolate and coffee notes. The after taste was smooth, rich, strong and lingering, with the coffee notes providing a lovely roasted bitterness that melded with the chocolate. This bottle was superb, much better than the taste we had at the beer festival on the boat.

Brasserie des VignesLa Delinquante, 7%, 330ml
Once the bottle was opened, foam started to rise up the neck and nearly spilled out out the top. During the pour, I could see lots of little bits of sediment streaming into the glass, so was a bit concerned about off flavours. I needn’t have worried about off flavours though, because the beer was infected and totally undrinkable. The moment I stuck my nose into the glass I could tell something was really not right and it only took the smallest of sips to confirm it. Shame…

Brasserie du Mont SalèveBlanche, 5%, 330ml
Poured a hazy yellow, almost like light dehydrated wee. A loose white head was easily formed and dropped back to pretty much nothing quite quickly. The nose was chock full, of subtle ripe mango, with the merest hint of cat wee, yes, this beer has Citra hops in it. It had a good body and was lively in the mouth, with quite a bit of the liquid turning to bubbles. The bitterness was quite high for this style of beer and coated the mouth nicely with ripe tropical flavours. The after taste was really drying, but it also had a nasty green apple flavour that I used to get in my homebrew. Possibly a bad bottle as it tasted lovely at the met the brewer event, when it was poured from a 500ml bottle.

Brasserie du Mont SalèveBlonde, 5%, 330ml
Poured a lovely golden straw colour, with a fluffy white head. The head dropped quite quickly to a ring around the edge of the glass. The nose had subtle pineapple notes with a hint of mandarin round the edges. I had to consult with my wife to make sure it was actually pineapple I was smelling. In the mouth it felt a touch on the thin side, which wasn’t helped by the subtlety of the flavours. The bitterness rolled down the tongue, and while it wasn’t massive, it was enough to pretty much swamp the subtle flavours. It was OK, but nothing spectacular.

Brasserie du Mont SalèveAmiral Benson Nelson Sauvin IPA, 5%, 330ml
The cap came off with quite a loud phzzzt and it wasn’t long before the foam started to form pretty quickly up the neck of the bottle. It did foam quite a bit when it hit the glass to and brought a load of the yeast in with it, which was disappointing. It sat a hazy deep amber in the glass, with a thick white finger of head on top. The head was just practically static, sitting there almost unmoving and taking an age to drop. It smelt lovely with subtle juicy tropical notes. It was a bit rough in the mouth and had a bit too much yeast character, which was really annoying, as otherwise, it was a lovely beer. It had good body, a nice fruity bitterness that only Nelson Sauvin can bring and a lovely lingering bitter tropical fruit after taste. This was the one I liked the best at the met the brewer tasting.

Brasserie des GarriguesLa Frappadingue, 7.5%, 330ml
Poured an ever so slightly hazy amber colour, with a thick white head. The head dropped to a good half finger covering fairly quickly and lasted down the glass. It smelt really quite nice, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what tropical fruit was dominant. Initially it was quite fizzy in the mouth, but this subdued the longer it sat in the glass. Once the bubbles had settled down, there was a nice malty backbone that was a solid foundation for a hop assault. It wasn’t massively bitter, but it was bitter enough to spike through the malt and sweep everything else before it as it laid down a beautiful bitter fruity after taste. This was a really, really nice beer and on this tasting, I wish I’d bought more.

Brasserie St RieulBiere de Noel sur lie, 8%, 330ml
Poured a deep mahogany brown with a smallish creamy light tan coloured head. The head didn’t last very long and dropped to a very patchy covering fairly quickly. It smelt slightly of stewed fruit, plums or something like that, with just a hint of green apple at the edges. There was also the notion of spices on the nose, but nothing discernible, I could tell it was a spiced beer, but I couldn’t tell you what spices. It felt quite lively in the mouth, with a certain amount of bubbling. It was full bodied, with massive malty flavours all the way through, again mainly of the rich stewed fruit variety. Although the spices were on the subtle side, you knew there were there and they seemed to build the further down the glass I got. I think I would have tired of the spices if this had been a 50cl bottle, so just the right size for this kind of beer.

Brasserie du Pays FlamandLa Bracine Triple, 9%, 330ml
The cap popped off with quite a phzzzt and it was very lively during the pour, with a huge rocky white head. The head dropped to a good covering after a while and eventually dropped to a patchy covering. It looked like a triple, all light amber / straw coloured, with that yeasty slightly sweet nose that they have. Initially it was extremely lively in he mouth and it really just turned to bubbles, even after leaving it for half an hour it was still really lively. It wasn’t as full in the mouth as you’d maybe think a 9% beer should be, but it had quite a bit of fusel alcohol floating around the mouth, so it certainly felt strong. I’m not a fan of this kind of beer to be honest, to me it tasted like most other triples, which is probably heresy to some people, but there you go…

One of the benefits of visiting Paris on the Eurostar, is you can take bottles back with you, without having to wrap them up to survive a nuclear war. If I’m ever in Paris again, I’ll be heading straight to La Cave à Bulles with a stack of money and a trolley, as I’ll be buying more than one box of beer this time…

You can read a bit more about La Cave à Bulles on Des de Moor’s excellent Beer Culture website.

The Session #58 – A Christmas Carol

The SessionThis months Session is being hosted by Phil Hardy at Beersay and the topic is A Christmas Carol. This should have been posted on Friday, but I was travelling to Paris. I could have auto posted it, but that would have involved actually writing it before the day it was due, which is not my style… The extra few days have given me time to think though and ponder on what the three ghosts that visited Ebenezer Scrooge would make of my past, present and future Christmas day beer drinking.

I can’t really remember what I used to drink on Christmas day before I was a beer geek. I suppose it was whatever my Dad bought from the local supermarket. That would probably be bottles of Duchars IPA, Cally 80/- or ale from other Scottish breweries. It wasn’t about the beer back then though, so it didn’t matter as long as it was wet, brown, alcoholic and not from a can.

Things changed a couple of years ago though, as I’d been introduced to Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel earlier in the year and I was so going to have a bottle of that on Christmas morning while opening the presents. This was a mistake, we drove up on the evening of the 23rd and the bottle got shaken up on the 7 hour drive. A single day wasn’t enough for it to settle, so I had a pint glass full of yeast lumps, which rather destroyed my enjoyment of it.

I have another bottle of Beer Geek Brunch Weasel in my cupboard, which I’d been saving for this Christmas day, along with a bottle of Amager Hr. Frederiksen and the collab brew between Mikkeller and Amager, Hr. Frederiksen Væsel Brunch. I was going to take notes and blog about them, but I’ve decided not to. As I alluded to in my last Session post, beer has become a bit of a dark obsession for me, I was going to do a further blog post on that, but I’ve not got round to it yet. So I’ve decided that spending bits of Christmas day ruminating and jotting down notes on beer isn’t the way forward. Christmas isn’t about beer, it’s about spending some quality time with those you love. Beer blogging can wait.

So this year, I’ve decided that I want something light and easy going, something that I can drink all day. Something that I don’t have to think about, something that I can just enjoy, while enjoying spending time with my family. So I’m going to pop into the Bacchanalia and buy a bucket load of Collective São Gabriel Brewers & Union Unfiltered Lager and Pyraser Hopfenpflücker Pils and I will enjoy myself.

But what about future Christmases? I have dreams of being a brewer, which is why I homebrew I suppose. Once our extension is finished and my brew shed is back in it’s correct place, I’ll be trying to brew once a month. Who’s to say that I wouldn’t brew a Christmas special, wither it be a pale and hoppy, an imperial stout or an imperial gooseberry and elderflower hefe. I might, or I might not, but what ever I do, it wont be to the detriment of my family. I wont be taking notes, blogging or generally being a beer geek, I have another 364 days of the year for that.

I suppose you could say that I don’t need a visit from Ebenezer’s ghosts, I’ve already know what my demons are and they are not going to ruin another Christmas.

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…

Maiden! Maiden! Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!

Iron Maiden in full flow...

Iron Maiden played a couple of gigs at the O2 in London the weekend that GBBF was on, I was lucky enough to have tickets to the Friday show. Instead of going down after work, myself and my partner in crime for the day, Toby, decided to take the day off and hit some London pubs that neither of us had been to before. The original plan was to head to Borough market and spend the afternoon in The Market Porter, Brew Wharf and The Rake, before heading off to the O2.

However, between booking the tickets and the date of the gig, The Craft Beer Co. in Clerkenwell opened, so we changed our plans and decided to start our time in London there. The train from Cambridge to Kings Cross was uneventful, but it felt strange getting the tube to Farringdon, rather than wandering up to The Euston Tap for a beer or two before doing anything else. After a bit of faffing with Google maps on our phones, we found Leather Lane and what has to be one of the UK’s finest destination pubs.

I knew the selection of beer was going to be good, but it was still a shock when we walked through the door and saw all those taps and hand pumps on the bar. There was almost too much choice, should I start on the Thornbridge Galaxia, Seaforth or Geminus, maybe try the Mikkeller house lager, Exotic Punch or Gypsy Juice, or dive right into the Grassroots, a brewery who’s beers I’ve only ever seen in Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà. In the end I decided to start on a Thornbridge Galaxia, after all we had a long day in front of us.

After another couple of halves, Thornbridge Seaforth, not as good as when I had it before and Mikkeller Exotic Punch, lacking most of the exotic punch I was expecting, we headed across the road to Greggs for a pasty. The Craft Beer Co. doesn’t do food, so having somewhere near by for a quick bite, even if it is just Greggs, is quite handy, although there is supposedly a falafel place on the same road, I may have to find it next time we go. After stuffing our faces, we headed back to Farringdon tube station and headed to London Bridge, where we were going to make a bee line for The Kernel Brewery.

Instead of heading straight to The Kernel Brewery, I suggested that we should head to the Dean Swift. I’d heard good things about it and as it had been International #IPADay the day before, I thought there might be a few IPAs left over for us to try. I didn’t quite realise how far the Dean Swift was from London Bridge tube station, I thought it was on the same side of Tower Bridge, so we had to break out Google Maps again just to check we were heading in the right direction. We eventually got there and found an absolute stack of top flight IPAs available on both cask and keg.

I grabbed halves of both Magic Rock Curious and Summer Wine Kahuna and tried to find a mobile signal to check into Untappd. I was a Magic Rock and Summer Wine virgin, so it was great to be able to try their beers for the first time. The Curious was lovely, just my kind of pale and hoppy beer, while the Kahuna was a a bit too warm, you could tell it was an excellent drop too. Evidently the Dean Swift have sorted out their beer temperature issues, as they now have a python cooling system. I was very impressed by the Dean Swift, it felt like a really nice pub and I’ll certainly be going back if I’m in the vicinity.

After finishing our beers, we headed to The Kernel Brewery, which I was so excited about as they are one of the best up and coming breweries in the country. When we got there, two of the brewers were having a beer before they cleaned up, so it would have been rude not to join them. I had a rather delicious Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin, while Toby had an equally delicious Pale Ale Columbus Cascade. I had a nose around, it’s always great as a home brewer to see a real brewery setup, it’s amazing what these guy can produce in such a limited space. When Evin turned up, he’d been out when we arrived, he joined us for a beer and a chat, it’ll be great to see what they can produce when they move to larger premises.

As friendly and welcoming as The Kernel Brewery was, we had to move on, so we started to head to The Rake in Borough market. As neither of us had been there before, we didn’t quite know which bit of the market we should be heading for. We passed The Market Porter, which was absolutely rammed, so we had a quick half in Brew Wharf, before finding out via Google maps that The Rake was literally round the corner.

I’ve heard a lot about The Rake, so was really looking forward to going. Even though I knew it was small, I really didn’t expect it to be that small, I’ve no idea how they managed to fit four people behind the bar and still have enough room to serve beer, but what beer they serve. When we got there, Glyn Roberts, the manager and Simon Johnson, the Reluctant Scooper, we chatting to a couple of guys who soon left. We joined them and cracked into some damn fine beer, I had an Otley mOtley Brew and a St Austell Big Smoke.

Then things started to get messy as the Summer Wine duo, James and Andy turned up and we all cracked into the Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, which was utterly, utterly lush. After seeing the Summer Wine brewers sign the wall and everyone trying on the ginger merkin, we’d ran out of time and had to head to the O2.

We got to the O2 with perfect timing, straight through and onto the floor after having to persuade an Angel that we only wanted to drop our bag and didn’t want into the priority lounge. The gig was great, especially once they’d overcome their sound issues, that’s the last two Maiden gigs I’ve been to that have had dubious sound. Unfortunately we just missed the ideal train home and had hang around Kings Cross until 00:30, which seemed to take an absolute age. Once back at Toby’s we opened a few more bottles, which is traditional and eventually stumbled off to bed at about five in the morning. All in all, it was a bit of an epic day.

As I often do, I’ll leave the final thought to some one else:

https://twitter.com/#!/simonhjohnson/status/100319088533979137
https://twitter.com/#!/simonhjohnson/status/100320239790731264

Hardcore IPA versus I Beat yoU versus I Hardcore yoU

Ever since I first tried I Hardcore yoU, I’ve wanted to try it and the two beers that it’s made from in one sitting. As luck would have it, I had one bottle left of the second batch and when the Bacchanalia got hold of some I Beat yoU the other month, I finally had my chance to do a head to head.

I picked up a bottle of relatively fresh Hardcore IPA from Sainsbury’s, but it tasted maltier and less astringent than I remember. Not that it wasn’t bitter, just not as totally full on as I was expecting. There was also quite a bit if alcohol burn too, maybe I was a bit dehydrated, but it just didn’t seem like the beer I remember it to be.

I’ve had I Beat yoU before, Brasserie 4:20 in Rome had it on draft when I was there last December. The nose was massive, with really powerful and in your face crystal malt and resinous hops notes. It started off relatively subtle in the mouth and then a monstrous wave of malt and bitterness swept all before it. There wasn’t really any alcohol burn like the Hardcore IPA and it had far more bitterness and mouth prickle.

I’ve liked I Hardcore yoU since I first tried it and I’ve always thought it was a better beer than straight Hardcore IPA. It smelt of crystal malt and resinous hops with hints of grapefruit round the edges. Again it started off quite smooth in the mouth and then a massive aggressive prickliness slammed through and left juicy grapefruit lingering long into the aftertaste.

I’m not sure what happened to the Hardcore IPA, I hope it was just a one off. Although it could be the the infamous BrewDog batch to batch variation has finally struck Hardcore IPA, alternatively it might have been due to Sainsbury’s not storing it properly, who knows. On this totally unscientific tasting, I have to say the it feels like I Beat yoU brings more to the party than the Hardcore IPA does. I might try and do this again next year, if they release some more I Hardcore yoU. It would also be fascinating to be able to try all three from keg as the same time too.

#IPADay: India Pale Ale Amarillo

I’d like to say that this poured exactly the same as the IPA Simcoe I had earlier, but it didn’t. There wasn’t quite the same amount of head, but the main difference was the colour, it was quite a bit browner, more of a darker amber. The head didn’t last as long either, dropping to a patchy covering fairly quickly.

There wasn’t much on the nose, hints of malt and touches of hop notes round the edges.

There was a lot of up front bitterness, with some serious cheek tingling action. Unlike the IPA Simcoe, it didn’t really stop tingling as there wasn’t the same maltiness in the middle. The bitterness almost seemed to redouble into the after taste and left my mouth watering and wanting more. I could still feel the bitterness minutes after having had a mouthful, it was quite epic.

Another thing I noted about this beer, was the lack of soap. The Mikkeller Single Hop Amarillo IPA tasted like liquid soap and I’ve had the same thing with some homebrews that have used Amarillo. So it was very nice to not feel like I was drinking the contents of a soap dispenser.

#IPADay: India Pale Ale Simcoe

Poured a lovely light amber, or deep straw colour if you prefer, with a compact creamy head. It looked pretty much like all the other Kernel IPAs I’ve had, although it was a touch lighter in colour. The nose was fabulous, with piney resinous notes streaming off it. It was really inviting and just screaming of Simcoe hops.

I can probably sum this beer up in two words; dangerously drinkable. It was smooth with a nice bitter prickle that caressed the inside of my cheeks. Then some malty sweetness made itself known, before giving way to a lovely lingering bitter after taste.

I’ve been searching for a beer as good as Mikkeller’s Single Hop Simcoe IPA, this is close, but not quite there. Mikkeller’s is all tropical lychee flavours, almost like drinking punch rather than beer. This doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of tropical fruit madness, but is a really nice, solid beer that you should definitely try.

IPA is Dead…?

Yet another post that’s been hanging around for over a month. BrewDog’s IPA is Dead was a four pack of singled hopped IPAs featuring the Citra, Bramling Cross, Nelson Sauvin and Sorachi Ace hops. Each of the beers was brewed with the same base recipe, hopped to 75 IBU and “massively dry hopped” with one of the afore mentioned hops. It was a small batch limited edition release that probably wont be repeated, but I know where there is at least one four pack left and I’m quite tempted to go buy it for the weekend…

This post is less about reviewing these beers as it is about trying to understand what each hop imparts on the base beer. It’s in a similar vein to the post I did a while ago, about the Mikkeller single hop beers. So here are my thoughts:

Sorachi Ace
I didn’t think it smelt of much, just a hint of the weird lemony bubble gum flavour. The bitterness was all at the back-end of the mouth and taste. It was very fruity, but bizarre in that the actual taste is almost indescribable. It was a weird lemony bubble gum that was really sweet. I found it to be just odd.

Citra
Masses of thick, pungent tropical fruit with a distinct sharp cat piss undertone. The bitterness seemed to be more in the middle of the mouth, with a massive lingering after taste. The taste was really thick, almost overpowering and too much. It wasn’t a subtle tropical fruitiness, was too thick and muddled for that.

Bramling X
The nose was quite subtle, but there’s a definite freshly cut hedgerow type aroma. The bitterness was quite up front and rolled through the mouth and was quite prickly as it washed through. The after taste was all fruity black hedgerow berries, with touches of woodiness.

Nelson Sauvin
Smelt like a toned down version of the Citra, as it has a similar thick, pungent tropical fruit thing going on, but minus the cat piss edge. Taste wise it was the same, thick and pungent tropical fruit. The bitterness wasn’t as forceful as the others and was quite smooth and subtle, although there is a bit of mouth tickle. The after taste was very juicy with hints of passion fruit.

For me the stand out was the Bramling X, it was really, really nice and I’m going to have to find a recipe that I can show case this hop in. Both the Citra and Nelson Sauvin were a bit of a let down, they were just too pungent and thick for me. I’ve tried better single hop beers with these hops from other brewers, it just might be that, for me at least, 75 IBU is too much for these hops to carry on their own. Finally the Sorachi Ace was just bonkers, I really don’t know how to describe it properly. I’m not sure I’ll find a use for this hop in any of my homebrews, but it was good to get a chance to try it in on its own in a beer.

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.

Hop Token: Amarillo

Adur Hop Token: AmarilloA few weeks back the family were visiting a friend and her daughter in Sussex near Lewes. On the Sunday morning I managed to persuade everyone that we needed to visit Middle Farm shop to see what they had in the way of local beer. I picked up a couple of Dark Star bottles, plus a few others that looked interesting, this is one of the ones I thought would be interesting to try. This appears to be Adur‘s first attempt at a single hop beer and their website suggest that they might do more.

It poured a copper colour with a good head that lasted. It didn’t smell of grapefruit and orange, like the bottle said it would, it was more earthy with maybe a hint of spice and malt. It had a weird smoky, soapy taste to it, I wasn’t expecting the smoke, but the soap is familiar from the Mikkeller Amarillo Single Hop IPA. It’s relatively bitter, they claim 40 IBUs on their website, with an earthy, spicy lingering after taste.

It’s not a beer I’d rush out to buy in bottles again to be honest, but if I saw it for sale in a pub I would be tempted to try it. It just didn’t have the taste and smell that I was expecting from the Amarillo hop.