Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Aberdeen 2013

So a year had passed and it was time to use the same old excuse; that Tom & I had to check on our "investment" at the Brew Dog Equity for Punks AGM in Aberdeen.

Boarding our flight from Gatwick on the Friday it was clear there were a few others making the pilgrimage up to Aberdeen, what I discovered after landing was that that Sam from Signature Brew was also on the same flight and I'd walked straight past him! We hastily headed into town and to our hotel to drop off our bags, arranging to meet Sam and some other friends in the Brew Dog  bar, a short walk away.

The bar was rammed full of other EFPs and the kegs were rapidly changing that at times even the bar staff couldn't keep up! Punk Monk was a favourite all round, with a definitive Belgian yeast twang and familiar fruity hop blast of Punk. After several rounds we eventually decided to find some of Aberdeen's more traditional watering holes and stumbled into The Prince of Wales tucked on a side street off Union St. Serving 3 local cask ales and 3 from further a field, for me it was a no brainer to choose Fyne Ales Jarl 3.8%  and after a while I parted ways with the others in our group in search of sleep.

The following day after a hefty lie in we headed into town from breakfast and stumbled across Ma Cameron's (Aberdeen's oldest pub dating back 300 years), which was open early for the Lions v Australia test match. The pub its self is deceptive with a small snug at the entrance that leads on to warren of adjoining rooms including the main bar. I'd have liked to have sampled its delights in the evening but that wasn't to be, but a hearty brunch and lemonade sufficed and set me up for the day.

The AGM was again held at the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre a short bus ride out of town, but the layout was much changed from the inaugural year; with the welcome addition of several tables and a dedicated area with a stage for the conference and concerts. The two bars were well stocked with both Brew Dog and guest beers, from the likes of Mikkeller, To Ol, Brodies, Cromerty & Anchor. Looking for something light in abv was going to be hard, but first up was Mikkeller Schwarzbier 5.5% a delicious black lager with light roasted notes and smooth bitter finish.

Taking our seats as the AGM started, it felt like we were partaking in a Scientology meeting, such is the cult status that James Watt and Martin Dickie have created. They began by show casing some new promotional video's and discussing their upcoming US TV show "Brew Dogs". Keeping us interested though out were a number of beer tastings including  Fake Lager 4.7% & the first showcasing of WattDickie - their new Ice Distilled spirit at 35%. Based off Punk IPA and then frozen, this spirit really packs a punch of flavour, although I have to admit I really wasn't that keen. As the beers started to be passed around the crowd's, the atmosphere changed and Martin's talk regarding the equipment and process' at the new Ellon brewery didn't seem to get the attention it deserved. After all, the money from our shares had been used to build the brewery and expand their production. Quickly skipping through the slides you could tell he was a bit deject but clearly still passionate about the brewing side of his fledgling business. Next to be passed round was the end result of the EFP brew day held earlier in May. Electric India 7.2% a wonderful Saison with the addition of fresh orange peel, heather honey & crushed black pepper corns which gave a surprisingly fresh and fruity taste.The final beer was a MashTag 7.5% an American Brown Ale, Brew Dog's, "Social Media  Crafted" beer, where votes from Twitter & Facebook determined on everything from the style to the types of hops. This ended the proceedings with an odd tasting session of the beer,  in the form of a word association game with a few members of the audience. It was supposed to be about the flavour profile and aroma but ended up turning into two guys trading associated "your mum" insults!

With an empty glasses we headed to the bar first up was the interesting Brodies - Fruit of the Forest  3.7% a sour beer full of unsurprisingly fruit flavour with a lingering tart finish. The much changed layout meant we were able to find a table as base an mingle with other shareholders, as well as offering flat surface to devour the much improved food on offer. As the evening went on and we waited for the headlining band The Xcerts, I have to admit that I my Danish bias took over as I only seem to have drunk delights from Mikkeller and To Ol! Including:
  • Mikkeller - Citra IPA
  • To Ol - By Udder Means 
  • Mikkeller - Jackie Brown
  • Mikkeller - K:Relk
All the bands were awesome with rock 'n roll band MFC Chicken (Taking their name from a eatery of the same name) and Hawaiian flavoured beats from Kitty Daisy Lewis among my favorites. So by the time The Xcerts took to the stage at 10pm the crowd was dwindling and ever so slightly inebriated, But Murray and co played a storming set regardless and with that the 2nd EFP AGM was over.

The next day we'd arranged a trip up to Ellon, to take a look at the new brewery, having only seen the shell the year before. The 30 minute journey was much less nauseating than the previous years hungover trip to Fraserbrugh although not with out a few scares! The brewery was buzzing when we arrived and seeing the sea of stainless steal tanks and the infamous "Love Hops Live The Dream" was such a contrast to to the ramshackled brewery in Fraserbrugh.

We were taken on a informal tour of the brewery and then invited to try Brew Dog's latest in the Hello my name is range; Mette direct from the tank. This is a Norwegian inspired DIPA with added lingonberries and derives its name from Mette-Marit the Norwegian Crown Princess with a somewhat rebellious past. The beer was super chilled and not quite ready for packaging but it was an awesome experience to try a beer straight from the tank. We milled about the brewery for a while chatting to other punks and asking questions to the brewers on hand. It was good to see that as well as brewing Brew Dog beers, the brewers had their own homebrews on the go, including a great smelling Saison.

So that was another great weekend in Aberdeen and with a lot of new friends made. I'm still not sure if I'll go back next year, as for me the cult status has slightly begun to wear off. Although I'm sure I can be easily persuaded!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

In Bruges

Having heard so many wonderful stories of other peoples trips to Bruges and having tried and failed to take advantage of Eurostar's discounted returns in the past, Christine & I finally managed to get across the channel for a few days this month to sample the delights of Belgium.

Bruges by Night
After changing trains in Brussels we arrived in Bruges just after lunch and set about finding somewhere to eat. Scanning "Around Bruges In 80 Beers”, Brasserie Cambrinus was aptly located in between our B&B and the main Markt square. Looking through the menu is quite daunting, presented in a heavy wooden bound book & with over 400 to choose from I got flustered and ended up choosing the beer of the month Lefebvre's Hoppus 8.3% which was beautiful hoppy and creamy. Christine was a little braver and perused through the menu for longer choosing Pilaarbijter 7.5% by Brouwerij Bavik a blonde tripple.

We spent the afternoon touring the sites of Bruges. Making our way up the 365 steps of the medieval Belfry with its breath taking views across Markt square. As well as navigating the endless winding cobbled streets trying to locate both of Bruges' Cathedrals. Including The Church of Our Lady with its impressive Madonna and Child sculpture, created by Michelangelo, the only of his sculptures to leave Italy during his lifetime (see its not just all about beer).

Getting weary after an afternoons climbing and walking we headed for an afternoon pit stop. One of the bars that had been heavily recommended to us was t'Brugs Beertje,
Having been pre-warned that it would be
 t'Brugs Beertje
closed the following day (Bars in Belgium have the most sporadic opening times and rarely even then rarely stick to them!), we headed along back through town for an afternoon tipple. Inside Beertje has the look and familiar feel of an English local, with smoke stained walls and plefra of vintage brewery signs adorning them. The bar was full when we arrived so we took an empty table in the quieter back room and sat down to scan across the 250+ beer menu. Christine took the chance to try some of the Trappist wears from Achel with their 8° Blond 8% whilst I had a De Dolle Arabier 8% which I'd  been looking forward too and was amber in colour and with a big orange zesty flavor. Feeling we were missing on the buzz of conversation in the bar area, as soon as a stool became vacant we moved and then the conversation began to flow, next up was the crisp and refreshing Smiske Extra 7% by Smisje Brewery and De Leite Brewery's Femme Fatale 6.5%, blonde in colour with a touch of fruit and spice. We could have easily stayed for several more, but as our time was limited we left to further explore Bruges' streets.

De Halve Maan Brewery
The next morning after a healthy breakfast we headed out on the tourist trail again, walking around the Beguinage before our tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery. De Halve Maan is the only remaining brewery left in the city, although it now has a state of art maturation unit just out of the city walls. The tour lasted about an hour as our guide took us on a meandering route through the brewery, navigating steep ladders and narrow passages across it's four floors, up to the roof with its outstanding panoramic views and back to the old cooperage.
The tour completes with a complimentary glass of unpasteurized Brugse Zot 6%. Wonderfully crisp and fruity whilst not overly bitter a perfect refreshing beer for the surroundings. Enjoying the sun in the beautiful courtyard, Christine suggested we share a bottle of Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel 11% with a deep brown/black colour and tasting of sweet malt of dried fruit and port. For such a strong beer this went down all too easy in the spring sunshine.

We spent the afternoon taking in the good weather and took the obligatory canal tour of the city before stopping for an afternoon tipple (or should that be Tripple) in De Garre. Tucked down a small ally of the same name it's hidden from the majority of tourists but well known enough for a beer tourist to find. Although saying that we must have walked past 2 or 3 times without noticing. When we arrived the bar was already fairly full and we were signaled us to the second floor, without looking at the menu I knew what to order: De Garre Tripple 11%. Served in a beautiful bulbous glass alongside a small portion of Gouda cheese you could be mistaken that you've been served your beer short thanks to the huge white creamy head that clearly outweighing is liquid underneath. However good things comes to those who wait as its soon subsides leaving you with a wonderfully smooth beer that hides its strength all to well. We spent a while in De Garre listening to the classic soundtrack playing in the background whilst watching the waiters come and go with trays of beers.

De Kelk
Later that evening and after much persuasion from Christine we headed to De Kelk, about a 10 minute walk from the main squares. I'll admit I was a bit dejected when we walked in to the empty bar, having enjoyed the bustle of the previous bars, but Jeroen the owner was attentive and quickly began to recommend us some of the 100's of beers available including delights from De Struise and De Molen. With this in mind I chose a De Struise Pannepot 10% based on an Old Fisherman's Ale, brewed with spices. This was a suburb dark ale with deep fruit flavours. Christine took the chance to try another dark beer in the form of Delirium Nocturnum 8.5%. Gradually the bar began to fill up and a chap next to us at the bar ordered both Duvel 2012 & 2013 Triple Hop 9.5% encouraging us to try them both and comparing the differing tastes. To me the 2012 was delicious, which wasn't surprising considering it was hopped with Citra, where as the 2013 was slightly more spicy having been dry hopped with Sorachi Ace. The next beer was the prize of the trip, bought for us by another couple in the bar and after an odd conversation and toast to Margaret Thatcher! "Boon to be Wild" aka Boon's Foeder #10 - 10% aged in a 1800's German wine foeder. With its acquired taste of tart fruit and sour flavour this ended up being the perfect traditional Belgian beer to complete our trip. And so with the midnight hour soon approaching we decided to make a quick dash to Cafe Rose Red back in the center of town only to see the last patrons leaving and the owner shutting up. With that our trip to Bruges drew to a close, I'm sure we'll be be back though! Bruges is such a beautiful city and we both fell in love with the lazy cafe culture and great beers on offer.



We stayed here: La Maison Zenasni B&B
Getting to Bruges: http://www.seat61.com/Belgium.htm#London to Brussels by Eurostar

Monday, 4 March 2013

Tiny Rebel Brewing Company

So after a bad day in the office what better way to drown your sorrows but at the Rake? It also just happened to be the first day of their Welsh Beer Festival. And for me there is one welsh brewery above all the others; Tiny Rebel Brewing Company. Set up by brothers-in-law Gareth Williams and Bradley Cummings in their home town of Newport last year, they specialises in producing retro beers with a modern twist. With a number of beers under their belt including Hadouken 7.4% an amplified IPA brewed in collaboration with the Rake's @Rabidbarfly.

Having previously tried and loved their Welsh Red Ale Cwtch 4.6%, logic suggested to try a few more of their wears. First up was FuBar 4.4% a lovely light pale ale, with a huge hoppy nose and a slightly spiced bitter after-taste. Alas this beer is more suited to summer than freezing conditions of the Rake's garden.
So seeking warmth I spotted another TRBC beer, Billabong 4.6% on pump inside. Brewed solely with Australian hops this Pale Ale packs a punch as you'd expect with big citrus flavours. With a lovely floral taste  and lingering with pineapple and mango flavours.

As I was enjoying my pint, a few familiar faces turned up, and joined me for a drink. I was then recommended the Urban IPA 5.5% on keg & to complete the trilogy I couldn't say no! With a
hop forward and crisp tasting finish this was a surprisingly good beer. I'm not sure how often TRBC put this on keg, but it gives the beer a much crisper taste than on cask, though at over £5 a pint i'm not sure I'll be running back to try it!

Pictures from Tiny Rebel Brewing Co

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Craft Beer Rising 2013

I wasn't aware of this event until a friend invited me via Facebook, but I wasn't filled with much enthusiasm looking at the list of participating breweries it didn't seem to say "Craft" to me. Several names from the craft scene were missing no; Kernel, Brodies, Magic Rock, Summer Wine or Hardknott. With some odd choices filling the void such as Green King, Wells & Youngs and Fullers under the guise of one of their pubs "The Union Tavern"


However thanks to a twitter competition run by @Brewdog I won two tickets to one of the sessions over the weekend and so Saturday found me an Christine travelling to East London. Set in original Truman Brewery site on Brick Lane, the venue seemed perfect although a little difficult to find at first due to the vintage clothes fair in the basement. Once we'd safely navigated our way inside we grabbed a glass and an ample amount of tokens to see us through the afternoon.


Split into 2 rooms Cask and Keg, it was instantly apparent the event was more like a trade show than a beer festival, each brewery setup with its own stall selling its wares directly to the intrigued punters. First to catch our eye in the cask room was Brains Craft Brewery who have been beavering away in a new micro brewery for just under a year now. With several catchy names to choose from Christine plumped for their latest edition Beardface 5% a lovely milk stout. I was like a kid in a sweet shop but when I spotted Sharps stall my choice was made, Total Citra 4.1% which was a delight.

As well as the beer, the musical inspired Signature Brew were providing DJs & live music in a third room, which became a great place to sit whilst not choosing a beer or chatting to the brewers. If you've not come across Signature Brew before they are a brewery that offer musicians the chance to brew their own beers, to date having worked with a number of artists including, Professor Green, Frank Turner and Enter Shikari. The guys then guide the artists through the whole brewing process from the the development of the beer with testing sessions, up to the final brew.
Signature Brews appearance gave me a chance to try Enter Shikari's Sssnakepit 5% an American hopped larger and catch up Sam McGregor one of the Signature Brew founders. I also tasted Frank Turners Believe 4. 8% and grabbed a bottle of Mammoth 7% double-IPA to take home, which I'm looking forward to trying

As the afternoon progressed we came across Bateman's selling their - Signature Beer Range (with an all too similar sign to the afore mentioned Signature Brew). Christine having previously tried Mocha 6.0% winner of the Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012, sampled the Orange Barley Wine 6%  which was light and refreshing and very heavy on the Orange, as well as Hazelnut Brownie 6% with a rich deep chocolate and hazelnut flavours coming through. We started talking to the stall holder who then presented Christine with her own Bateman's tulip glass. Just one of the many examples of the wonderful hospitality at Craft Beer Rising.


Getting hungry we had a look around the various food stalls and jumped for one of the wonderful Hot Dogs courtesy of Fleisch Mob which were laden with onions and sauerkraut, I also got a special shot of Schnapps as the owner Mark is a fellow Palace fan. Look out for his stall at Kerb Market during March.

The evening before fellow South London beer bloggers @SW6Badger & @RealAleGirlShea had recommended the Cornish based Rebel Brewing Co's - Mexi-Cocoa 8.5%. A Chocolate Vanilla Stout, triple-infused with chocolate and vanilla at each stage of the process. Giving the beer a deep and powerful flavour but is still smooth enough to sip. Talking to the team the recipe was derived by their Mexican head brewer (who's clearly a long way from home brewing in Penryn). As well as tasting Mexi-Cocoa, Christine bought a bottle to take home and the Rebel guys threw in a free IPA for me a long with some other goodies! Rebel Brewing Co, appear to be one of the breweries that have really gained something from appearing at Craft Beer Rising. Having not heard of them before the event they'll be one to look out for in 2013.

So I can safely say that Craft Beer Rising was not what I had expected, yes the array of brewers was quite diverse and maybe not "Craft" (I managed to avoid all things Green King) but the new breweries and beers I found more than made up for the lack of some of the bigger craft names.
Being able to talk directly to the brewers about their produce was great and I'm sure that Craft Beer Rising 2014 will be bigger and better, I just hope the don't forget the little guys!

Other Beers/Breweries of note were:

Hogs Back - A over T (Bright) 9%
Courage - Imperial Russian Stout (Bottle) 10%
HOBO - Craft Czech Lager (can) 5.1%
Thornbridge - Bear State- West Coast IPA 7% (Keg)
Sharps - Project Wheatcore 4.7% (Cask)
Sharps - Cornish Pilsner (Bottle)
Penpont Brewery - An Howl Reserve- IPA 7.0% (Cask)
Penpont Brewery - Ginger Beer 4.2% (Cask)
Traquair House Brewery - Jacobite Ale 8%
Thwaites -Thirteen Guns 5.5% (Cask)
Brewers & Union - Dark Lager 5% (Bottle)
The Botanist - Humulus Lupulus Pale Ale 3.8% (Cask)
Wildcard Brewery - Jack of Clubs (Bottle)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Dukes Brew & Que


It seemed like we'd been waiting weeks and when Saturday finally came, this time it wasn't football on my mind but food. Christine and I had booked a table a Dukes Brew & Que a few weeks back, having succumb to our jealousy from the endless tweets in my feed praising the BBQ joint in Haggerston.

Dukes is also the home of Beavertown Brewery which takes it’s name from the old cockney name for the De Beauvoir area of Hackney that the brewery and restaurant resides. Setup in February 2012 by Logan Plant (You might just have heard of his father Robert of Led Zeppelin fame) & friend Byron. Their aim is to "make some damn fine ales"and you can safely say they've achieved that. With a recent collaboration with Brew Dog under their and their 3 bottled beers popping up in establishments all over London.

Situated in an old east end pub, the Beavertown boys have stripped the interior back to its shell, with exposed walls and bare floorboards as well as antlers adorning the walls and chandeliers. Visible from our table to the left was the cramped kitchen as well as the fermenting tanks and other steel brewing paraphernalia, to the right the well stocked bar. A printed menu on each table lists today's draft and cask offerings on our outing including two new additions to the core range Black Betty Black IPA 7%Hit The Road Jack IPA we tried a pint of each.

The menu its self is simple, really simple, It's pretty much either Beef or Pork with a Veggie Burger thrown in for good measure. Having browsed the menu my choice was made, Beef Rib. With Christine choosing the Trio of Pulled Pork Sliders. We'd barely had a sip of our drinks before meals arrived along with a side of Seasoned Fries. The ribs come coated in a lovely caramelised smoked hickory glaze leaving the meat tender and juicy. The only down side was the amount of fat left, but the amount of meat more than satisfied. The pork sliders come with fried pickles and judging by Christine's reaction were equally as delicious.

Seemingly not quite stuffed by our mains we ordered another beer and a Baked Cheesecake to share. This time Kernel's Table Beer 3.3% ABV amazingly crisp and fruity from a low abv beer. A surprisingly nice match for the velvety baked desert rather than a stout or porter I'd usually consider with desert.
So with that our experience at Dukes was over! Hackney is a part of London I'd never really ventured into before but there's a lot to be discovered, The Sebright Arms, Crate Brewery & London Fields Brewery are all on my list for 2013

If you're planning on hitting up Duke's Brew & Que then I'd recommend booking in advance as the service area is small and your time is often limited to a 1 and 1/2 hour booking.
Dukes Brew & Que: 33 Downham Road, Hackney, London N1 5AA

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Hope

Seeking somewhere different for a late lunch, Christine and I headed 30 minutes down the road in search of the Greater London CAMRA pub of the year, The Hope in Carshalton.


Three years ago The Hope was facing extinction with plans a foot to convert the 19th Century bar into a Indian restaurant and that's where the story would end had it not been for it's intrepid regulars. Who pooled together and purchased the lease, free of ties from Punch Taverns. Now with 40 share holders on board they've bought the fixtures and fittings, stock etc from the holding company that was operating the pub. The company formed (48 West Limited) has set a restriction of 24% on the number of shares an individual can hold. Ensuring there cannot be a majority holder and keeps this pub firmly rooted in its community. One perfectly matched shareholder is Croydon's latest brewery Clarence & Fredericks.

As we arrived we were greeted with The Hope's mock Tudor fa├žade and original fittings, to the right there's a small area with seating and a piano; the rest of the pub continues round to the left curving around the well stocked bar. Offering 6 real ales as well 3 real ciders and 3 craft keg pumps. I had to check twice when I saw Mikkeller - Santa's Little Helper 11%ABV on tap! Not your usual CAMRA pub offerings and one I've not seen outside of Copenhagen. Alas having not yet eaten I went for something with a slightly more respectable ABV; Gadds - Oatmeal Stout 4.5% ABV wondefully smooth with hints of chocolate and coffee. Whilst Christine had a half of Saltaire Brewery - New World Red 5.2% ABV heavily hopped with hops from Australia, America & New Zealand giving it a fruity bitter finish.

With the pub bustling with people it soon became apparent that we'd unfortunately missed the lunch menu (12-3pm) and so sat down with our drinks to take in the surroundings. As well as the cask and keg ales The Hope has a great bottle range including Brew Dog, Brodies and several well known Belgian breweries
Also on keg was Brodies - Citra for Breakfast 10.1% ABV  as well as a number of German lagers
But  as we had driven we decided to leave in the hunt for food elsewhere.

The transport links to The Hope are numerous and there's ample parking if you're driving as well as being a 5 minute walk from Carshalton station. However we've since discovered the 157 bus stops near by handy for our next trip to sample some of the higher ABV beers! We'll make sure we make it for lunch next time too!!

For a video tour of the pub and interview with some of the shareholders click here

*Picture from the wonderful Make Mine a Beer - follow him on Twitter @SW6Badger