Monday, 28 February 2011

Grape & Grain

My favourite local watering hole Grape & Grain  is about to receive the South East London “Pub of the year award” and to celebrate are holding their second beer festival this weekend coming (4th-7th March)

With over 30 Real Ales and Ciders on offer including "Crystal Clear" brewed epically for the festival by new local brewing upstarts The Kent Brewery.

As well as all this for your audible pleasure are:

Friday 4th March  ”The Sax Pastilles”  9pm
Saturday 5th March  The Crystal Palace Community Choir 3pm
Jack Valentine’s ” Tribute to Sinatra”  8.30pm
Sunday 6th March” The Charlotte James Duo” 2pm
The Hugo Simmonds Trio 5pm
Monday 7th March “The Big Beer Band” 9pm

I have to say I'm looking forward to this and thankfully its only a short stumble home!
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

IPA Weekend

"Can" you believe it!!
By chance on my way home from work I came across Brew Dog Punk IPA 5.6% ABV in a can!! At the beer drinkers meca of UtoBeer in Borough Market.

I feel I  owe it to the (original) Punk IPA for starting my adventure in to drinking Craft Ales and Beers. I still remember excitingly buying a bottle in Tesco's, after reading an article about Brew Dog and the then UK strongest beer Tokyo* (oh how times and abv's have changed). Drinking it with a respect I'd never given to another beer before. So Punk means a lot to me.

Late last year myself and Tom M attended the battle of the Punks at The Rake, where the original Punk recipe was put up against what was then known as Punk X. Needless to say Punk X won and as such Brew Dog, in a brave decision amended their flagship beer.Adding a lot more hops and more dry-hopping aswell as  reducing the bitterness from 70 to 45 thus giving the beer a bit more balance.

This was the first time I'd had the new Punk since that night at the Rake and my first time for a craft beer in a can! It didn't disappoint all the flavours are still there, grapefruit and lychee with an toned down onslaught of the bitter after taste (due to the lower IBUs). There's something about drinking from a can that makes this beer more crisp and fresh compared to the bottled version and if this means Punk becomes more readily available and reached a wider audience then I'm all for it!

Following on from the excitement I felt like trying and comparing another IPA and had in my collection.This time from Brew Dog's American cohorts The Stone Brewing Company.

Stone Brewing Company - Stone IPA 6.9% ABV - A full bodied IPA, what we've come to expect from the American craft beer revolution. Heavily hopped given a bitter but sweet taste. Has highly herbal flavour from the dry hopping process that leads to a lovely sweet fruity after-taste. The carbonation gives the beer a crisp refreshing zing.

I've had this beer before on tap (see previous posts) and remember it having a much bigger flavour.
It's still a great IPA from one of Americas best Craft brewers, although I feel that Brew Dog's Hardcore IPA or The Kernel's IPA are better beers being bigger and brasher with their flavours.

Also sampled over the weekend was Oakham Ales - Citra 4.2% ABV. a brilliant single hopped beer. Oakham Ales where the first to brew solely with citra hops back in 2009. A crisp fruity beer with the familiar grapefruit and lychee flavours being produced from the Citra hops. A nice dry finish makes this perfect as a session beer.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Imperial Russia

So taking a leap of faith I've booked myself on an 11 day trip to Russia, taking in the cities of St Petersberg and Moscow.

Now beer isn't really what comes to mind when you think of Russia, with estimates of between 3.6 gallons to 7.2 gallons of Vodka being consumed per person per year!! (Source)
However in days gone by one of the UK's biggest exports was in fact Stout. The beer was not only popular in England but in Baltic region where it allegedly became one of the Court of Queen Catherine the Great of Russia favourite tipples, leading to a stronger version of the beer known as Imperial Russian Stout.

Shortly after I return from my own Russian adventure, another begins as a 60 ft sailing clipper sets sail off from Greenwich down the Thames, up through the Baltic to Saint Petersburg. But this boat is also carrying casks of Imperial Stout, the first to attempt such a trip for 200 years!
Holding mini beer festivals on route in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki & Tallinn on route they aim to arrive in St Peterberg on 17th June 2011. For more information check out

Sorting out flights and my visa have been trying but thankfully that's all sorted now so what better way to celebrate than with a beer!

The Kernel - Imperial Stout 12.5% ABV. Brewed to commemorate the birth of the brewer Evin's son.
The beer pours with a thick, dark jet black appearance and gives off an aroma of rich chocolate & roasted coffee, as well as the alcoholic nose. The first sip is thick and tastes lightly of smokey ash but leads to a beautiful long lasting sweet fruity flavour with a distinctly bitter & heavily alcoholic after taste.

Evin states that he hopes this beer will keep until his son is of age to drink it & wish I had bought two bottles to cellar one too! I'd love to revisit this beer after it had been matured like the Imperial Stout soon back on it's way to Russia!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

His bark is worse than his bite

With the news that Sharps had been acquired by Molson Coors last week, people on the blogsphere began to wonder if head brewer Stuart Howe's wonderful seasonal & limited batch beers would continue. Thankfully Stuart later posted on his blog "Molson Coors are very happy for me to continue uncensored and the 12 brew project is still very much on track with two brews nearly confirmed for February". Oh if you've not already stumbled across Stuart's blog I highly recommend it.

With this news I felt it time to try out some of Sharps less well known beers...

Late last summer I took trip to Padstow a stones throw away from Sharps brewery and the millionaires play ground of Rock. Padstow has also aptly dubbed "Steinstow" after the TV chef  Rick Stine who seeming owns half of the bustling harbour town, with four restaurants and cafes. 

So when Rick challenged Stuart to create a distinctly English beer with the character, individuality and quality to stand alongside the Belgian greats. It was going to take something special.

First up was Chalky's Bite 6.7 ABV%, named in honour of Rick's dog and with the unusual addition of wild Cornish fennel added to the brew. This beer produces a lovely golden blonde appearance and with the first sip comes a bitterness with intense flavour. There's a smells of fruit & hint of spice from the fennel. Being based on a Belgian beer there's that familiar yeasty after-taste matched to the strong lingering alcohol.
Overall this is a strange beer for me, as I'm not always so keen on Belgian whitbier, but the added spice from the fennel makes this beer different and some how more interesting to drink.

Being so pleased with Bite, Rick again challenged Stuart to create another beer, so up next was Bite's successor Chalky's Bark 4.5% ABV Again with a novel ingredient this time Ginger.

Like the beer its based on it has a golden blonde appearance but this beer is a lot lighter tasting. It offers a sweet citrus flavour and is wonderfully contrasted by the ginger which gives this beer a subtle zest without being over powering like you may expect. This is defiantly a beer with beer with ginger and not a ginger beer.  This is a highly refreshing beer perfect for summer thankfully I've stashed a bottle away for just that!