Smells like Jaipur, tastes like Jaipur that’s been on a steroid fuelled gym binge.
The first bottle I drank left me be a bit disappointed, if I’m being honest. I thought it was a bit too sweet and with a touch too much fusel alcohol burn. I’ve not noticed it as much with subsequent bottles though, and it’s really grown on me; it certainly slides down as easily as normal Jaipur. The only real problem with it, is once you finish a bottle, you immediately want another. Which is a bit problematic at 23:00 on a school night as it can leave you somewhat Jaipoorly the following morning.
My loft looks like a glass recycling plant, with various sizes of bottles spilling out of knackered cardboard boxes, left, right and centre. I needed to find a solution and since there was a small pile of wood in the garden, I thought I’d have a go at building a couple of prototype bottle crates.
The reason I say they’re prototype crates, is due to the wood, it was left over from a fence that was built in the garden the other year, so it quite thick. It’s not the kind of wood I’d use if I was making creates for real, but perfect for chopping up and screwing together to flush out any design flaws.
After deciding on the dimensions, it was just a case of lots of sawing, drilling pilot holes and screwing the bits together in the right order. It still took what felt like all afternoon and made me really wish I had better tools and a proper workshop. It was quite a chilly day and even with gloves on, my fingers were struggling by the end.
As you can see from the photo above, the first prototype is a bit on the industrial side. It’s also full of ex Thornbridge bottles, which just goes to show how much extra space is required for those fat White Shield ones. All that is left to do is to make the internal dividers, so that the bottles don’t clink together; I have some spare lite-ply that should fit the bill.
I still need to build the second prototype, just to make sure that they will stack correctly, but I need to buy some more screws first as I’m pretty much all out. Ideally, I’d also buy one of those fancy circular mitre saws, so that all the cuts are perfect. One of those router dovetail jigs would be pretty sweet too, as then it could mostly go together with glue. But that’s all pie in the sky, if I had that kind of money to throw around, I’d be upgrading the homebrew kit…
I’ve always passed over the Waitrose own brand beers, probably because they stock Thornbridge Jaipur. I thought it was about time I tried them and found out what they were like.
First up was their German Pils, which poured a pale yellow colour, that lightened, or darkened depending on what you held it up against. The head was one of those that was reluctant to get going, but then burst to life and produced a massive, very loose, fluffy white head. It didn’t last and dropped to pretty much nothing after a few minutes.
During the pour, a noble hop aroma came streaming out of the bottle, but after the pour, you had to cup your hands over the glass to really get anything. It was a sweet marmalade kind of aroma, with vague remnants of stale carbon dioxide.
It felt pretty full bodied in the mouth, with lots in the way of sweetness and little in the way of counteracting bitterness. There was a bit of a mouth tickle after the initial sweet onslaught, but it was brief and made little impact in the building sickly sweetness. The aftertaste was all sweetness, with vague hints of orange about it.
I normally get about halfway down a bottle of German Helles or Pils before being put off my the sweetness, but this was just too much for me right from the outset. If it had had a decent level of bitterness like Jever, for instance, it might have been OK, but it was just sweet, sweet, sweet, followed by a bit more sweetness for good measure. Really not my cup of tea at all…
To be fair, once I got to the bottom of the glass, it did feel slightly less sweet and that it had slightly more bitterness about it, but only just.
Next up was the Czech Pilsner, which poured a similar colour to the German Pils, maybe slightly more golden, with less of an anemic urine kind of appearance. The head was good and solid, with little bubbles forming the thick frothy topping. While it didn’t last very long, it didn’t disappear completely, leaving a thin skin of bubbles over the surface.
There’s only so many ways a noble hopped beer can smell, it was as you’d expect; slightly grassy, with sweet orangey malt undertones. It didn’t smell anywhere near as sweet as the German Pils, but it wasn’t overly fresh with hop aroma either.
It felt pretty full bodied in the mouth, with the initial malty sweetness kept in check by a nice wave of bitterness and carbonation. The sweet orangey malt soon reasserted itself, before a, slightly sweet, but at the sametime, satisfyingly bitter aftertaste lingered for a while.
I really liked this one, there was a nice balance between the bitterness and the sweet orangey maltiness, with maybe the bitterness just edging it. I thought it was dangerously drinkable and wouldn’t hesitate to buy it over something like Budvar in the future.
I broke out my proper wheat beer glass for the Bavarian Hefe Weissbier, which poured as you’d expect, a murky copper, with a large fluffy white head. The nose wasn’t overly bready, clovey or bananay; having instead a spiciness about it that I couldn’t place.
It was a similar story with the taste, it wasn’t overly anything, other than having a strong generic spiciness about it. Cloves have a really pungent and distinct aroma and taste, this wasn’t like that, it was more the spiciness you get from lots wheat or rye malt, which is a bit unsurprising in a wheat beer.
If I stuck my neck out a bit, I’d say it mostly reminded me of bubble gum, but not overly so; it seemed to be pandering to a middle ground and you could say was pretty forgettable because of it. It was nice enough, in that it slipped down without too much though, which was maybe the problem.
I had a feeling the Belgian Blonde would be similar to something Duvel, after all, it ‘s in the same style of 330ml bottle. It poured a slightly hazy golden straw colour, due to a tiny touch of sediment in the bottle. The head was white, thick and creamy and in my Duvel tulip glass, fed by a constant stream of bubbles, it remained at about a finger thick.
The nose had some spicy undertones to it, but also smelled vaguely like the Bavarian Hefe, with some banana type aromas too.
The spiciness was carried over into mouth being there both at the beginning and the end. There was also a touch of orange and a sweetness that could be the honey that was mentioned on the label. Given the ABV, it was unsurprisingly full bodied, but at the same time, there was a certain flabbiness about it, that made it feel a touch lighter of body than maybe it actually was.
Overall they weren’t bad. I really didn’t get on with the German Pils and wouldn’t buy it again. The Bavarian Hefe was too anonymous and I think there are better wheat beers available in most supermarkets, similarly I would buy Duvel over the Belgian Blonde any day of the week. That just leaves the Czech Pilsner, which I’d have no qualms about buying again and again, I thought it was really nice.
I popped into my local Waitrose in Newmarket the other morning, I needed to pick up some breakfast and lunch. While I was there, I did what I always do, which is to have a quick scan of the beer and cider shelves, to see if there’s anything new and interesting worth buying. I noticed that they had an own label Bavarian Dunkel Weissbier sitting next to their own label Bavarian Hefe Weissbier.
This one is also made by Arcobräu and for my money, is nicer than the Hefe. Which was a surprise, as I normally much prefer Hefe to Dunkel when it comes to wheat beers. It poured a murky brown, with a massive head that dropped to a covering after a while.
The nose was full of those Germanic wheat beers aromas; a bit of crusty bread, a touch of banana, a hint of clove and a smidgen of bubblegum. In the mouth it felt just about right, with a lightish body, but with enough flavour to carry it off, so it never felt watery or flabby. The finish was all spicy, malty and yeasty, but all nicely blended together, rather than competing.
I can’t tell you the last time I had any beer from Shepherd Neame, it’s been an absolute age. I’m not a fan of beer in clear glass and I’ve found over the years that they just don’t produce beer to my tastes.
This pair made a bit of an impression when they were released a while back though, they were in brown glass for starters and also popped up on various beer blogs that I read. They certainly looked more appealing to me than the ubiquitous Spitfire and Whitstable Bay (the later of which appears to have undergone some sort of rebranding lately).
I happened to be in ASDA just before Christmas, as they had the best N beers for X pounds deal on and I needed some beer. Given that the Double Stout retails normally for around £2.20 odd, four of them for a fiver would be ludicrously good value, if I liked it.
I started with the India Pale Ale though, which wasn’t quite as expensive as the Double Stout. It poured a dark coppery brown, with a loose tan coloured head. The head didn’t last dropping to a thin covering, before dissipating completely. I had just washed my glass, so your milage may vary on this one. There wasn’t much on the nose to start with, some stale carbon dioxide and a faint whiff of bitter orange. Once the carbonic notes had dissipated, it just meant there was even less going on.
The first mouthful felt almost thin, subsequently though, the initial mouthfeel was quite full, but a slight excess of faded carbonation made it feel a bit thin at the end. There was also a slight dusty, peppery mankiness at the death, which was a bit off putting. It was a bit of a shame, as there was some nice bitter orange marmalade notes going on underneath.
I know buying beer from the supermarket is running a bit of a gauntlet, as you haven’t a clue how old the bottle is, or how its been stored. Considering you can get Jaipur in Waitrose, Crafty Dan in Sainsbury’s and White Shield in Tesco for about the same money, I see little to recommend buying this over any of them. Unless that is, that you do all your shopping in ASDA and find you quite like it, then at £1.25 for a bottle in the current offer, it’s a steal. It’s just not for me though.
The Double Stout poured a pretty much impenetrable black, with just the faintest mahogany showing when held up to a strong light. A light and frothy tan coloured head was easily formed, but dropped back fairly quickly to a patchy covering. While the nose was mostly chocolate, with hints of coffee, it was tempered every so slightly by a bit of wishy washiness, so it didn’t feel quite as full on as it could have been. That said, once it had sat in the glass for a bit, the wishy washiness did seem to depart, as the nose did appear to become slightly more powerful.
I thought it felt a bit light of body in the mouth, if I’m being honest. The flavours were nice though, subtle coffee and bitter dark chocolate, with a lingering, slightly watery aftertaste. Which I think was the issue; I just found it to be a bit wishy washy. If it had had a touch more body, it would have been really really good, as right at the death, once the wateriness had gone, the flavours were fantastic.
It was a beer I desperately wanted to like, especially with that ASDA deal making it £1.25 a bottle, rather than the normal £2.20 odd, which is a massive saving. Unfortunately, as far as my tastes go, I felt it just missed the mark, so even at that price, I’d rather pay a bit more for something else..
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.
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.
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. 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!
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…
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.
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…
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.
I decided to start with the Hipsway, a beer that is cold conditioned on an infusion of whole hops and strawberries. It poured a slightly hazy amber colour, mainly as the bottle had thrown a touch of sediment and I didn’t notice until it was all in the glass. The loose white head didn’t last and dropped to a patchy covering fairly sharpish. The nose was interesting, as you could smell the strawberry, it was subtle, but there, lending a nice sweet fruitiness to the aroma.
It was quite full in the mouth, with a soft and delicate mouthfeel that wrapped the palate with comforting flavors. The malt profile felt quite neutral and well balanced with a subtle fruity bitterness, that was pitched so as to be almost unnoticeable after the initial prickle. Everything about it was subtle and soft, even the strawberry flavours were subtle.
Imagine having a strawberry coulis, jam packed with strawberry flavour. Now imagine how your mouth tastes a few minutes after your last mouthful of it, that’s what the strawberry flavour in this beer was like. It was almost like it was the last vestiges of the strawberry flavour, there and then gone. It was an interesting beer with some interesting flavours, but given some of the other beers in the competition, it’s a solid effort, rather than a spectacular one.
The Honey Thief poured a pin bright straw colour, with a solid white head sat on top. While the head dropped to a covering fairly quickly, it looked pretty nice and appetising sitting in the glass. The tasting notes on the back of the bottle claimed that there would be lemon and gooseberry notes in the aroma, there might very well have been, buy my olfactory senses couldn’t pick any of that up.
They did pick up a hint of honey though, which was unsurprising given that the lingering aftertaste of this beer, is all about the honey mummy. It started out with an initial citric bitter prickle, before giving way to a fruity maltiness and finally that honey tinged, pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
Honey beers can be quite divisive, most fall into the love or hate category. I like mine to have a powerful honey flavour, like Thornbridge’s sublime Bracia, which is brewed with Italian chestnut honey. I don’t know what honey Williams Brothers used in this, but it ticked all my boxes. I thought it was really, really nice, with the honey working really well with the flavour and bitterness from the hops.
I popped into the Cambridge Brew House at lunchtime, as I was dropping off a couple of bottles of homebrew for James, the head brewer of the Cambridge Brewing Company. As he was telling me about his future trip to a hop farm to pick up some green hops, my eye wandered to the back of the bar, where I noticed a load of keg fonts coming out of a keg attached to the wall. I’ll admit to suddenly blurting out “you have ThornbridgeJaipur on keg…!?!” and stopping James in his tracks; it’s not everyday you see that sort of thing round here.
This is a definite step forward for pubs in Cambridge, especially as James told me that they had some Magic Rock stuff waiting to go on too. Which I’ll probably miss, due to being on holiday for the next three weeks, but those are the breaks. When I get back, I’m going to have to go down and see what they have on, fingers crossed for some Magic Rock…
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’sUn-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 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.
I popped into the Bacchanalia on the way home, as I had a hankering for some Oakham Citra. However, the moment my eyes hit the top shelf, that was it, Thornbridge Chiron all the way. I should have bought more, lots more, it’s bloody lovely…
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.
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…?