Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Beer Tax Levy - my response. Also posted @ Brewdog's blog

I completely agree that 7.5% abv beers for increased tax is a bad idea. This is not focussing at all on the route of the problem

They blame beer every year yet always freeze spirits' duty. Why is this? Do they not realise that £5 vodka bottles are the real route of the mess of the alcoholicism which some people face?

Beer is always branded as an escape goat because education on beer is so poor in this country. They have their agendas confused and cross-wired and for CAMRA to jump into bed with this is disgusting.

A lot of pre-war beers were above 7.5% and this new tax will hurt breweries whom brew beers above that abv. To stifle that is disgusting. CAMRA are being hypocritical again about the industry and are ignoring imperial stouts and barely wines which are traditional and British and should be rewarded with production instead of condemned with an unfair tax levy.

The greed of the Government is disgusting. They see this is an easy option as a cash cow and are not focusing at all on why there is the problems which this country has To demolish £5 vodka bottles is a start. Make those £15+ and then you have a bitter situation. Beer is an escape goat and it's unjustified and pathetic.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Brewmasters: The Series - Episode One - Dogfish Head and Miles Davis' project

I watched it this morning.

It’s VERY discovery style orientated. Similar to the Motor City series but on craft beer.

It goes into the science; it follows the process and is basically a fast forward how to brew a new batch with the goofs and the mistakes thrown in for good measure. It’s well weighted and well paced with comedy and quirky elements which Sam pulls of well.

The rap song yes is a little annoying but it’s tv and Sam understands that some viewers need a break.

It’s a good show and I think it’s great for the exposure of a fantastic brand. I just hope the programme makers focus on other fantastic microbreweries such as Captain Lawrence; Great Divide, Stone and Alesmith.

It would be great to watch a different focus on world class breweries. If they need someone to take a camera around Europe I’m free!

Great for craft beer and great for learning on the core businesses.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Brewdog Abstrakt 002 Night

Last night a craft beer scene emerged openly. The patrons of the arts' world from the Tate were invited to merge with the craft beer tickers; managers and writers. The venue was pumped with the adolation and expectation of another Brewdog experimental wonder.

A packed out 'Cask and Kitchen' in Pimlico was the venue. Have never seen the craft beer community and the arts' scene merge so succesfully. Hats off to Brewdog for this quite frankly genius and spactacular marketing skill.

Arrived in the venue pretty drained from an hour and a half train ride. Walk to the bar and bump into fellow rating friends and order a Hardcore. Let me tell you about Hardcore. When this is on form it is like the finest UK double IPA. The malt character is so well balanced. It's incredibly outstandingly drinkable for an astonishing 9.2% IPA. The crystal malts, the caramel body and the juicy fruit texture combine to leave you gasping on the floor for more.

The quality when fresh is outstanding. The balance and lacing is spot on. The smooth succulate sip to the bottom of the glass knocks me for six every time it's fresh.

The fact it was on cask and in a half pint measure for under £2 was thoroughly awesome. Thak you Cask and Kitchen for this.

The pub also provided us with Punk IPA Batch, 123; the 5.A.M Saint, 77 Lager, Trashy Blonde and Hardcore. Tom Cadden, their regional sales' manager for London informed that this was to be the biggest Brewdog event yet in London. I just had to attend. It did not dissapoint.

I conversed with tickers before meeting Brewdog's new Scottish sales' person. A very entertaining and passionate marketing man. Very keen to show to us, craft beer lovers, that Brewdog is keen to expand and innovate and set a trend for introducing new beers at an outstanding capacity rate. Great to meet you, Richard!

To his credit he was very keen for us to report back when we have a dodgy or inconsistent ale from Brewdog. I mentioned I have been reporting to Tom when the beer has fluctuated in recent times. As a genius cellar man Tom knows his stuff and can definitely sort out issues with conditioning at other pubs. Despite specific instructions from Brewdog HQ, bars and pubs still manage to screw up their beer!

The Absrakt 002 tastings was conducted after a simulating speech by Richard. Very brave to dive into the UK scene like that. I felt he did admirably. Not only was the pub fall; not only had he just met people in the pub that day but also there was the art scene from the Tate Modern which meant an even trickier crowd to manage. A bunch of drunks like me were just easy pickings.

After the speech the Abstrakt 002 was produced like some sort of holy grail. Contained in a silver; transparent and substantial glass. The beer was keg conditioned. As the crowd realised that the beer was available there was a massive surge towards the bar.

The bar was absolutely rammed. I had bought a few for friends and consumed one myself. The beer is tripple dry-hopped and at 18%. I tasted more pears than vanilla however the vanilla was hidden. There was a large caramel base and the appearance was very brown-mild ale style; redding out on the edges. I was very impressed with the appearance. For some reason the dryness, pears and the sweet crystal malts for me just didn't work. I'm not a fan of dry beers. I felt really odd and cold as the original Abstrakt 001 was outstanding.

I enjoyed the beer but was just left a little let down. I then switched to Hardcore and Punk IPA batch 123 which I believe is their best batch. For some reason the pint of Punk does not contain so much grapefruit notes as the bottles do. I found it especially drinkable and regard it as an excellent lager and one you can come back to again and again. A very assuringly retailed price too and available in supermarkets. Surrounding critics agreed that the grapefruit element was weaker compared to the bottled conditioned Punk but it was a thoroughly enjoyable session beer. The alcohol is very well hidden and drinkability is awesome.

The event petered out and it was left to the crowd to try the beers; enjoy the company and write some buzz words on the wipe board which they produced.

All in all a fantastic night and I hope they strive to do this again and again. It is really great that during this recession a brewery such as Brewdog can profit and enable its customers to share their beer with core members of their team. The pub benefits from the turn out of both the art and the beer world. The pub is likely to become a major success given the strength of their conditioning and their newly inspired bottle beer fridges. Just a shame that Abstrakt 002 didn't live up to the expectations. Maybe Brewdog have just raised the bar and made even the good neglectable??

A great night with many thanks to the Brewdog team for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Time for a little rest now.

You too, can judge for yourself as the beer is retailing on their website. Go here for the experience.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup Beers

It's that once every four years' experience. The echelon of the profesional game. The grandest exposure of the art of football on the planet. The grandest field to play your game. The competition you need to excel at to show your value as a world class professional footballer.

The World Cup. Maybe just the finest tournament in the world. One tournament worth an astronomical amount to the economy. One of the tournaments where companies whom know nothing about football decide all their marketing should be based around the beautiful game. The TV sales shoot up and companies try and push the latest technology so you can really feel like you're there but you're really in Nebraska.

So what does this mean for the best brand in the world? What does this mean for beer? Beer I tell you.

Supermarkets sell cut price crates to the discerning publc. They are desperate to flog you high brand poor quality beers accross their shelves. They ignore the craft scene completely. Do the majors release world cup beers? No. The craft beer scene is full of them.

Beers such as sheps 4-4-2; Robinsons 4-4-2. Woodfordes Game On, Acorn - England's Dreaming, Green King's Back of The Net, all this before the tournament is on!

The world cup of beers. Well for me you would have to have a beer representing each country. Let's put all the countries best micro beers together and see how the beers rival the football.

From Group A I would have:

Mexico - Casta Unica - Especialidades Cerveceras (FEMSA), Apodaca Nuevo Leon, Mexico
France - La Bavaisienne Ambrée - Brasserie Theillier, Bavay, France
South Africa - Helderbräu Lager - Helderbräu Brewery, Somerset West, Western Cape, South Africa
Uruguay - FNC Patricia Dunkel - Montevideo, Uruguay

From Group B:

Argentina - Murrays Old Ale - Murrays Cerveza Artesanal - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Greece - Zeos Pilsner (Unpasteurized) - Argos, Argolida, Greece
Nigeria - Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Nigeria) - Lagos, Nigeria
South Korea - Platinum Microbrewery - Seoul, South Korea

Group C

Algeria - Schems Bavaroise - Sab Miller - Oran, Algeria
England - Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve - Diss - England
Slovenia - Laško Termalni Desert - Laško, Slovenia
United States - Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout - Munster, Indiana, USA

Group D

Australia - Redoak Baltic Porter - Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe - Sydney, Australia
Germany - Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock - Brauerei Aying - Aying, Germany
Ghana - Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ghana) - Guinness Ghana - Kumasi, Ghana
Serbia - Krugher & Brent Extra Stout - Ritiševo, Serbia

Group E

Cameroon - Beaufort 8.9 - Les Brasseries du Cameroun (BGI) - Douala, Cameroon
Denmark - Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel - Mikkeller - Copenhagen V, Denmark
Japan - Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout - Kiuchi Brewery, Ibaraki, Japan
Netherlands - De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis (Wild Turkey Barrel) - De Molen - Bodegraven, Netherlands

Group F

Italy - Panil Barriquée (Sour) - Panil Birra Artigianale - Birrificio Torrechiara - Torrechiara-Parma, Italy
New Zealand - Epic Armageddon IPA - Steam Brewing Company - Auckland, New Zealand
Paraguay - Brahma Beats - Cerveceria Paraguaya - Cervepar - Ypané, Paraguay
Slovakia - Popper Palatin 16% - Pivovar Popper Bytca, Slovak Republic

Group G

Brazil - Eisenbahn Lust - Cervejaria Sudbrack - Blumenau, Brazil
Ivory Coast - Mamba - Solibra - Abidjan, Ivory Coast
North Korea - Taedonggang 15P - Taedonggang Beer Brewery - Pyongyang, North Korea
Portugal - Lusitana Double Bock - Cervejeira Lusitana (Unicer) - Carnaxide-Oeiras, Portugal

Group H

Spain - Agullons Setembre - Masia Agullons - Sant Juan de Mediona, Spain
Switzerland - BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2004 - BFM (Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes) - Saignelégier, Switzerland
Hundorus - Cerveza Port Royal Export - Cerveceria Hondurena (SABMiller) - Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Chille - Szot Strong Ale 12% - Szot Microbrewery - Santiago, Chile

So there we have it. The countries and their most highest rated beer according to Rate - a general consumer forum group for rating and reviewing beers; pubs and shops selling beer.

If each beer could be consumed whilst teams play each other it would be a great experience. Trying obscure cult classics and micros no one's heard of. The competition would grow so other beers could be introduced. The beers could be pit against each other and for an overall winner.

I for certain don't see Dark Lord being rated less than a micro larger from Brazil.

These are some pointers for you to sink when you are watching the cup. If you were thinking hey what is their countries best beer in a consumer focus group? Then this site is a great source and I have compiled them here for your amusment. To have these beers against each other well that would be an insane tasting evening but one I would be thrilled to attend. There is a lot more to beer than a huge macro and much more out there.

Please don't be ignorant of the high flying micros. Please try these during the world cup and try and seek out the opposition's favourites. This is a discovery and a cup is the perfect way to seek new beers and cultures.

I will be sinking Punk IPA from Scotland during the world cup. Feeling sorry that our neighbours aren't in the competition. If Glyn puts on his mighty Motley during the event I will try and have that too. Wales are not in the competition either.

Looking forward to the summer ale festivals which I will write about later.

Have a good tournament. Enjoy and don't be fooled by the marketing scams.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A True Recession - Beer Is The Key

When you think of luxurious alcoholic products you immediately become aware that you're going to spend a substantial amount. If you want the best this is a general sods law of the beverages' industry. With beer however there is a better way of economics. You DON'T have to spend a lot to consume the BEST.

The best beer in the world is considered to be Westvlereten 12. This beer is in VERY high demand. You may think this beer costs as much as a Grand Classe Cru or some other ostentatious fine beverage. It doesn't. I can acquire it at a De Struise auction shop for very little. Ok you have to pay postage and packaging and wait for customs to clear it but if you WANT the best you can buy it.

You can get it direct here. Please bare in mind they are only selling limited quantities at the moment. I was lucky to get mine and now you may have to wait for fresh stock. They are brewers based in Vleteren which is close to Saint Sixtus, where Westvleteren is brewed, so minimum traveling involed from Saint Sixtus to De Struise. A small disclaimer if you will. I paid under 4 Euros for this. Other sources it sells for 6 Euros MORE.

I went to the Kulminator last March and found you don't need to pay a lot for a vintage either. I paid 15 Euros for a Chimay Rouge from 1982! I was astounded by the oaky woody notes I received from the beer. A definite sherry flavour laced around the caramel base. This is due to the aging. Certain beers can hapily sit there and age. Even milds can age and they are relatively low abv. However the problem with aging beers is you instantly lose the hop appeal. You have to have a beer fresh to get the hops. Blondes are always better straight away but the brunnettes age with find distinction. This has happend regularly on my findings. I am currently aging Thomas O'Hardy's from 2008. Along with a Westvleteren 12 from 1996 and an Achel Exstra bomber.

Anyway back to the point. Today I received from an order from Beermerchants a mixed personally selected crate of beers. 3 Fonteinen 2005 vintage, a superb geuze from Belgium, Brewdog's 77 Larger and Zietgeist, the famous Port Brewing's Wipeout IPA; Old Viscosity and Santas Little Helpa 2008! I also received a Rochefort 10 (also in top 100), Mikkeller Black Hole, Moor Tripple J, Old Freddie Walker and Merlin's Magic.

The grand total of these mainly very highly rated and globally appreciated beers?? Not even more than £80! This included delivery. I paid £74.80. This is the equivilant of ONE St Julien! Now I love my fine wine but as beer economics goes and I've been hit by the global supressive recession I forsee that beer drinking and beer buying is the way forward. I can no longer afford to acquire my descent grand classe crues which in England are easily £30 a bottle. I used to buy Margaux at £35 but now I can't do that. I got my tax credits recently and decided to buy a mixed crate when I can still get these beers.

I am pretty convinced there will be a trend away from wine and other beverages to beer. Beer is high quality, beer has its health benefits with moderation and there is a massive social element to beer drinking. I believe that craft beer will ride the recession as it is a cheaper option and more reliable option than the Bordaux circuit for instance. Champagne sales have plumbeted recently. There are a lot of reserves UNTAPED and beer is selling through the roof. Craft brewers are popping up like there is no tomorrow. Not too long ago Mikkeller wasn't even a brewery. Now it is setting trends for microbeers in Denmark like nothing else. They have an amazing array of beers.

Domestic ale sales are on the increase. Ale has a small tax benefit in the UK so people are realising this and trying out ale for the first time due to their economic worries. Ale is benefiting from this and due to this there are a lot of new craft ale brewers in the country. There is a graet growth at the moment for the industry. Here is an article from Roger Protz on the current state.

You can save a fantastic amount of cash if you are smart and use the right resources. I shop at Beermerchants. They are rated very highly by the Rate Beer community. This site is an awesome guide to find out the best beers from the consumer perspective and ratings are fair and sometimes conducted during blind tastings. There is no corporate side to rate beer. It is not owned by a brewery but run by a great guy called Joe Tucker.

Do yourself a favour. If you want to get into beer and you want to do it properly and to learn about the hops and the funk and the brett and the intensity of the lambics then log in, try a few beers, write on them and buy them. There are links to shops and resources on the places' page.

A recession comes accross as markets contract globally. People lose jobs. Business die. Business become taken over by new chairmans. Businesses collapse.

It's a worrying time but there is always good and cheap beer. Instead of getting smashed on champagne show some true class and buy some beer. Beer is a fraction of the cost and the taste is something you will come back to again and again. If you don't like it just try a different beer. That beer could be shot or just bland and awful. Have another. Wait for something else. Stay away from the macro big business and stick to the micros. There are some great cases options at Beermerchants so start there. £35 a mixed crate or a bottle of Margaux Grand Classe Cru????

Enjoy, sit back and have your mates in envy at your ever increasing cellar. I have one, although pretty primitive. I will write up about that later. Cheers.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Brewdog Abstrakt 001. My experience.

Keg - The White Horse - 22nd April 2010 (Edit me if I am wrong, Tom) This is a stunner. The yeast strain is evident in epic poportions. The taste is mindblowingly good. The caramel body against the Westy yeast strain is just a tour de force for the sensors exploding around my head. This is a limited beer however one of the better English quad attempts I’ve had and a true abbot quad at that. This deserves special honourable praise for doing. There is the yeast strain which is paramount for this but the actual body and the beer itself is so good. The drinkabilitiy for a beer this aggressive is utterly insane. It is so drinkable. The alcohol is not over the top nad it is nicely measured so fantastic result. This a Brewdog special and damn I want more.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

World Beer Cup 2010 - kinda flawed if you ask me

After reading some forums on Rate Beer I found out the winners' list for the 2010 World Beer Cup. Now there are some excellent choices made such as Brewdog's 'Hardcore IPA', Second Edition, batch winning gold; Thornbridge coming second, Port Brewing doing well and some other notable micros doing well and most likely receiving a huge boost of media promotion for this event.

Now to enter your beer into this event you have to avoid shipping with the following: TNT; DHL or Fedex. This means if you are a certain position where you only have one distribution outlook such as only using DHL you are immediately withstricted from entering the competition so this could deduct some remote micros from taking part. Especially if they only know how to ship with those three major courier companies. There is a security warning issued which is irrelevant as ALL customs' inspections can withstrict your beer moving to the US.

So therefore it's completely irrelevant of which courier system you use. You may have a higher chance of being spotted out with these majors so as a safety pre-caution this could be why they are withstricting movement from those companies. I mean it is actually pot luck if you shipment gets spotted and stopped. Customs can hold items for as long as they like before proceeding with shipping. This is just a matter of life. Due to these holding reasons some micros may not even be able to get their shipment to the panelists for the event on time.

There are some fantastic entries and an oddly high number of styles. It seems to me that styles now are often being created to satisfy a gap. I mean 'Foreign Style Stout'. What does that mean? Stout was made in England and exported to Russian markets via the Baltic. So does this mean the style became foreign as soon as it was done somewhere else? Does an English entry under this criteria become obsolete due to history or is it from an American per-spective thus all non-American stouts are accepted under this entry? I don't understand this at all. Very confusing.

There are re-assuring styles such as German Style Marzen beers (which actually are just Marzen beers originating from Germany), Baltic-Style porter, session beer (no Brewdog's 'Sinck The Bismark' here I'm afraid), a fantastic entry called 'Gluten-free beer' and other traditional entries. This is sensible. However the obsurd is making it difficult for the brewer to truely label their favourite styles.

How are brewers supposed to advertise beer if it is too confliting with other brands? Surely their labelling may be conflicted by these new style standards. I mean look at Stone and Brewdog. They have a new collaberation stout (see and the blog section) however it is a golden colour and people may misslead it as an IPA. It's a very interesting situation which could get out of hand as the micro market expands and becomes even more confusing.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with the way the winners have been announced. There are a substantial amount of micros I have not seen gaining gold so I will try my upmost to look out for them. After the judging from the American Beer Festival 2009 I purchased a crate of Port Brewing and received a crate of Lost Abbey for Christmas. I was extremely satisfied with those beers.

It shows that these competitions can create a media interest for these beers which you otherwise may only hear about during gathering at festivals. I am pleased that the list has projected some new micros on my radar which I can now seek out and attempt to import or buy if the retailers here can obtain them. Hopefully Beermerchants and Utobeer can acquire these micros in the future.

The other issue is what about the other beers that weren't selected? What about acquiring these beers? If I can't acquire these beers until I go to America then it will be difficult for the micros to gain the international exposure they need to gain a bigger market to sell more beers and to expand such as Sam Adams has done in Boston. They are still a micro but a huge one right now. Due to years of dedication and hard work. They are ocasionally miss-labeled as a macro which is a slang for a big major beer company for instance Coors; AB and INBEV.

If I ever get to taste these micros I will try and rate and review these. I am focusing on acquiring these even though the odds are stacked against me. It is pretty annoying that as a beer lover you have to get a plane ticket in order to purchase the beer. It is insane that a lot of breweries can't get their beer out due to tight customs' regulations. I believe that until this is loosened it will be incredibly difficult to acquire these special winning beers. I will wait until GBBF 2010 and see what develops. There could be some surprises. Last time I had a few American micros and De Molen managed to ship in two massive vessels. There is hope for us to try these beers.

Thesee awards are great but they do have their issues. I would like to be able to try these beers at places closer to home but this is a fantasy. I don't think we as a consumer market here will get to try the large proportion of beers in this cup. To have a cup of beers is a great idea but is there a knock out stage? Is it Scotland v Germany? Hardcore v Distelhäuser Frühlingsbock??

Does this work? Can you compete certain styles against each other in a pit of beer fuelled rage? Does the knockout mean you have to eliminate some styles in order to accomplish the greatest beer? How do you award this without including the greatest Trappists and other micros?

It is a great cup although with its flaws. I will try and discover and outreach if I can. I just think the odds are stacked against us with customs' influences; the premimum cost of importing these beers and the fact that the limited stock runs ala Russian River beers means it is all too difficult to do. Trading with likeminded indivduals at festivals and gatherings is my greatest hope but that's not the same as walking into a bar or a shop and ordering Russian River's Pliny like it's a session macro.

It could change the world for good but the macros are stacked up against the micros. To have these macros involved in this festival also means there is balance but on the other hand it would be better to promote more micros. The influences of American beer is still substantial in this festival. I would like there to be a better balance of other beers. Just look at the German category for example. Surely more German micros are out there and should be in the winnings' list??

Here is the table.

To view you require Adobe Acrobat.

Make your own conclusions; seek out and enjoy. It's a strong market and that's the best news for us consumers. To have your own cup with your own ratings' reviews and define your favourite beer. If you want it can also open up new avenues. How many styles can we have? How far does this take us with craft brewing? It's going to be an interesting future. Craft brewing is a massive consumer market and is only going to expand.


Monday, 5 April 2010

My Response to E-Bay Craft Beer Auctions' Complaints

I find the Ebay situation with alcohol rather frustrating. These people buy the small limited amount of beer at a local site then sell these bottles on at astronomical prices for a single unit.

They may use a gimmic such as free shipping but when the crate costs US $400 for this luxury then the gross profit is substantial. For instance Westy auction recently at this price. The crate costs 70Euros and a case to send costs E120 at least. So that's a MASSIVE profit.

If brewers want to make limited beers or different styles to test the market then it's their prerogative to do so. The brewer has to have a sustainable business. They have to sell beer at a certain amount to cover their costs. They have to function for the future and put money away for future investments.

If beer is all $3 yet the cost to make it is $5 then the brewery is making no money and will soon cease to function. It will become bankrupt. People are more concerned with saving some cash then ensuring their favourite brewery is making enough money to self sustain themselves. It is a free-market economy and ebay has its issues.

The prices that these beers go for are also at an extreme which is rediculas. The brewers don't make that money. The greed of the invididuals do. The reason why Struise is doing this auction is to reduce this affect.

The brewers at Struise are trying to ensure that the craft beer people like us are not being ripped off by Ebay sellers. The trick is very good. The Struise people can only release a certain amount of the beer at a certain time. They are doing this as a test.

It is rather sad that the Ebay situation which they are trying to help with has got out of hand. Carlo and Urbain are lovely people. I want to help them sustain their business and if people fail to see that ebay doesn't sustain their business and you can buy from them to help the Vleteren brewers' (plus whomever else) incomes then that is fantastic.

Remember that if a £10 beer has £2 profit margin and tastes amazing would you rather pay that out then pay £3 on a bland tasteless other alternative with a much higher gross profit? This situation will occur if people don't rise to paying a premium for their beer. We can't have brewers going out of business. We have lost too many great lambic brewers over the years. Education for good beer and sustainabily is vital for the craft world.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Special beer day

Ok folks. I'm 28 today so I'm going to be invading my cellar. This cellar is next to walls and usually shut off from day light. This is the larder cupboard but I use it for my beer as I find it's the ideal temperature for storage. I consume my beers warm unless it's a heavy, hoppy IPA or a blonde or a larger. I feel the exposure of the coldness from the fridge manipulates the taste of the beer and has an affect on the yeast strain and also the flavour. Too much sunlight can kill a beer! That is why my beers are safely stored away. It makes sense. They are vertical. I would love my lambics to be horrizontal but there isn't enough space so sorry about that. It is s problem with my cellaring as there is limited room.

Anyway ramblings' aside. I popped open a bottle of Westlveteren 8 aged a couple of years from May 2008 fresh at the Cafe. This I have kept specially. I have some more but will be aging these. When I asked Carlo from De Struise he said I am wise man to do so so I'm happy there. If anyone knows Westvleteren it's Carlo and Urbain.

I firstly picked up my classic Westmalle bottle opener:

Next I proceeded to slowly open the bottle which unfortunately exploded a little. I poured it as slowly as possible which is tricky when it's recently exploded. I poured the beer into my own Westvleteren glass which I acquired from the Cafe opposite where the Saint Sixtus abbey is.

Then I tasted and logged into rate to make my observations. This is as follows:

"A classic trappist beer to celebratae my 28th. Poured from bottle into the goblet Westvleteren glass. Lovely foamed head. Very creamy on the texture. The beer is dark brown. redding out at the bottom. The beer is prominent of caramel; rich dark malts, dried fruits, brown sugar and a touch leathery. A lovely beer. Drinkability is good for the abv. The mouth feel is well balanced and the finish is moderate with notes of caramel and spices. This is aged a little. I haven’t rated it yet so thought it would be an appropriate beer to continue with after Pannepot. Some good beers to go through today and this is just the start. A classic beer".

Following this I found there is a hint of sherry or port at the end. I'm not a liquer guy in these areas yet so feel I will need to step this up in order to appreciate the agings of the beer. This is a perosnal note. I didn't use this for the site.

I think this beer is rather good. It's not as high a callibre as other beers I enjoy but it's exceptionally solid. There is the right amount of complexity in a beer which I enjoy. However, I prefer a Rochefort 10 or a De Struise Pannepot Grand Reserva. I also enjoy my IPA's. This beer is a special beer and not to be consumed all the time. It's meant for good incentives. The monks brew this as and aid to find their path for god. This beer helps them support their local charities and projects in Westvleteren. They also consume the beer as part of their dietry regulations, however the monks have this beer fresh. I have had this both aged and fresh. I can see the appeal in the aging.

Overall this beer is thoroughly worth seeking. If you like complex beers you would enjoy this. If you don't then you have just sampled a hard to get special beer. Some people may not appreciate it but that's not the point. It is a special beer for good causes. This is against the monopoly of the big beers which are in this world. This is a craft beer. I now wish I had some gorgeous Belgian wheat bread to go with this or the abbey's on cheese. Now that would be an ideal appetizer.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

PRE-ZBF/The Kulminator

A little later than promised. Oh well. A trip to Guildford to see a mate and settling down in a new routine applying for jobs have caused a little lapse period of my blogging. Also loosing the memory card data transfer for the photos didn't help either.

I went to the PRE-ZBF on March 4th, 2010. An awesome festival in literally a castle in the Belgian heartland away from Brugge. The Alvinne people were responsible for setting it up. An awesome venue. It is only the third festival of its kind.

Let me explain. ZBF is the big national festival held in Belgium. This is called 'Zythos Beer Festival'. This is a huge Belgian beer festival I guess the equivilant for them to GBBF. Speaking of which tickets are released now if you want to go. The ZBF is from the 6-7th March.

My entourage choose the PRE-ZBF on the 4-5th of March. This included a night of whisky and beer with a talk from Joris Pattyn. He is a Belgian Dentist whom writes about beer and speaks at festivals and is involved in tastings' evenings. The Belgian answer to Roger Protz, I guess.

We were greeted by Glenn of Alvinne at the door. He arranged the tastings' glasses and the tickets for us. We already paid the amount beforehand and he had allocated tickets for people whom paid. There were a limited number of tickets for this exclusive event. Each cost 50 Euros. A meal was also included.

I found myself wondering to the Struise beer stall with a small 175ml glass in hand. This glass was perfect. Not a 33cl but 10cl over half a 33cl. Perfect for tasting enough of the beer and enough for ensuring one can get another four without worrying about the consequences. Maybe this glass could be introduced on the British public at beer festivals to entice more tastings' sessions instead of drinking copious half pints which I usually end up doing.

I met the De Struise brewers, Urbain and Carlo, finally, after talking on the internet to Urbain and wondering when I would eventually get to have their beer on tap! That dream came true. I had a wonderful range of Struise beers the first night. The rest happend on the Friday when I handed Urbain my X-33 Czech microbeer. He was very greatful. He stored it in their cooling system to keep it at a good temperature.

Consuming the De Struise beers was an extra experience. These beers are incredibly good. They are a very small brewery in a school in Oustvleteren in Belgium. Very close to the famous Saint Sixtus in Westvlesteren.

During the weekend I consumed a large majority of their beers. 'Dirty Horse Batch O'; 'Earthmonk', the famous 'Black Mes', 'Saint-Amatus' and 'Coffee Club' all from memory. A fantastic range. Sour beers to stouts but probably lacking on an IPA/larger, of which I have every faith of them brewing.

After what seeemed too short a period we were ushered away from the tastings' area to the castle for the evening session. There we consumed some ludicrusly expensive whiskies and some special beers. These were consumed side by side. The whisky was stunning. The beers were equally stunning. The best of the bunch was trying Black Mes there for the first time. On offer was, in order:

1. Alvinne Mano Negra Glenrothes Barrel – Glenrothes malt 1991 43%
2. BrewDog Paradox Isle of Arran – Isle of Arran malt Sherrycask 50%
3. Struise Brouwers Black Mes – Coal Ila 1995 Destillers edition 43%
4. Thornbridge St.-Petersburg Islay Reserve –Coal Ila 1982 55.2%
5. De Molen Hemel & Aarde Bruichladdich – Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 8 60.5%

Joris made a talk on the beer and the whisky comparing the beers back ground and the whisky. A fascinating and in depth talk I wish I could remember more of. I thought for future events he could suggest what tastes he found in the beer before we could judge for ourselves. Joris is a master taster and beer reviewer. He really knows his trade. After the talk we headed back to our hotel. The following day was very much the same with the tastings.

My entourage and myself arrived early at 10:30am on the Friday. I spent most of the morning session missing out on Brewdog's 'Sink The Bismarck' and 'Abstract' (thanks to the Rake for not making me miss these due to their tastings' night) talking to the Thornbridge people. Martin from Brewdog was opposite Thornbridge on their stall. Martin started work in brewing at Thornbridge before creating Brewdog with James. Lovely folks. Talking in depth about their beer and other issues was fantastic. I consumed their 'Bracia' which was one of the highlights of the weekend and something I hope to have at home consumed from bottle for a proper, more dedicated, review.

Beers of the festival for me were De Struise's 'Dirty Horse'/'Black Mes', De Molen's 'Hel and Verdoemenis 666' (say that on a session!), Thornbridge's 'Bracia' and 'Kipling' and also '77 Larger' from Brewdog.

Phil Lowry from the Beermerchants turned up which was a nice surprise. It's always nice to speak to the faces of the people you otherwise only recognise via text and photos. Phil was on a beer buying trip to the lambic brewers so if you want to buy some lambic please head over to I bought some Cantillon Iris last night! A rare event in this country!

Phil took my friend with him to the festival in the evening so I stayed and mingled with my group and random beer fans. I talked to an American, his friend and some Belgians in the castle during consuming a lovely plate of patte and other beers Glenn had choose to mix together. The patte went exceptionally well with the De Molen-De Struise combo. The stout-urbock combo bought out the flavour and the bitterness of the patte which also complemented the beer style considerably.

The experience of the festival was awesome. Everything I had hoped for and then more so. There was even a Rate Beer tent for raters to mingle. I, the loon I am, forgot my notepad so couldn't make any observations on my beer or reviews whatsoever. I managed to remember a few and that's about it. That's mainly due to the vast quantities of De Struise's Dirty Horse I consumed and the fact that the person responsible for the name of De Struise's Black Mes was in my entourage.

Anyway the festival is surely the highlight of my beer calander this year. An awesome event. I only have GBBF and Chelmsford Summer Beer Festival on my agenda now.

The Saturday following was phanonamel. A day lined up for bars in Antwerppen. I was in beer haven. We visited the Oud Arsenaal as the Kulminator didn't open until 5. We found that out at 2! At Oud Arsenaal I had the best Orval of my life. Orval classic aged two years. Also the best Westmalle Dubbel in my life! This was aged 5 years!

I also had an aged kriek beer which was just stunning. I then proceeded to have one more beer before our group headed to the Kulminator. This follows my second best beer experience ever. I consumed a De Struise Pannepot from 2005. The green cap. The body was phanonamel. So much depth to this beer. An intense rich malted dark chocolate coffee ale. One of my favourite beers of all time.

I then proceeded to De Dolle Stille Nacht Reserva 2005. A wonderful craft brewery. This beer was every bit as stunning as I had anticipated. A marvel. The buzz I got from this beer was tremendus. I then consumed a Chimay 1982.

This was the old red bottle. It had lost the caramel edge of modern Chimay. Instead it tasted woody; oaky and leathery and also a tad sherry like. The beer was stunning. The Thomas O'Hardy's I ordered I can't even remember how it tasted but I enjoyed it very much.

Then my group and myself staggered onto a very nice restaurent which I can't recall apart from Rochefort 10 and steak and eventually to the hotel. I seriously urge any true beer afficiondo to visit the Kulminator. It is seriously the best beer bar ever. I have been to a few and this tops the others.

The Sunday was spent visiting pubs serving lambic in Brussels. A good amount of rare lambic was consumed.I had Cantillon Iris and Be Hop from an Italian Micro. Both were stunning. The rest of the day was used up drinking in bars.

At night We found Herge's drinking den.

Afterwords we went to a wonderful restaruent in the City. I had meatbeals in vail and Saison on tap. The meatballs were probably the best I've ever had. There were only three but they were very large and excessively tasty. Nuetnigenough was the restaurent's name. I advise to visit whenever in Brussels.

I got back to my hotel at 2pm and tuned into Belgian football highlights.

On the Monday we had to head home. This trip was still not over. We visited De Struise in order to sample some De Struise and also buy some beer and a glass if we choose. I had a lovely time at the De Struise school. The school they bought was a primary school which otherwise may have been destroyed for most likely housing. See brewing saves establishments!

I had Pannepot on tap for the first time ever which was an amazing experience. It is such a good beer I can not beleive how good it is. I will review it on Thursday when I have my own tastings at home.

I allowed myself to buy some beer from De Struise. I acquired Pannepot Grand Reserva 2005; some Pannepot, some De Dolle Stille Nacht, some other De Struise. Urbain was an awesome host. Carlo was busy with his artwork which he unvailed on the internet on Rate Beer. An epic piece it turned out to be.

There I met Owen again whom was at the festival. I spoke to him a bit at the festival. He said he was working for De Struise but transfers to Brew Dog the following week at the time of the visit. What a job. I hope to meet him during his time in the UK. He is also a blogger.

Our enterouge left De Struise at 2pm for a quick blast to France and to the Eurotunnel. I was reminded by the impending rush hour. Realising I had 22 bottles of beer with me to take during rush hour past a terminal change was not going to be fun at all. I somehow got all of these home and only had to leave one bottle of De Molen with my friend. I was very impressed with taking 22 bottles from Stratford International until normal Stratford and then to my home. A big feat. Thank you national rail for providing lifts but note you need one at Stratford!



Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Welsh beer festival

On Sunday, as promised, I commuted to the Welsh beer festival. Firstly a 40 minute wait for a bus. Secondly another bus from Chelmsford to Billericay then a train journey from Billericay to London Liverpool Street. Finally the walk to the Rake. A mental journey delaying me considerably for the tastings' event so I choose to stay in the beer tent instead.

Glyn, bar manager, put on a splendid bash. Lots of craft Welsh delights I've not found before, Boon 3 Year old on tap and some fantastic hop bomb called Motley also on tap. Food and beer combos were great. The oaky cheese went very well with the fabulous 'Purple Moose Dark Side Of The Moose/Ochr Tywyll Y Mws' (with Welsh translation). I also enjoyed the 'Purple Moose Snowdonia Ale/Cwrw Eryri' and a mild which was on and also the Otley Motley brew which only has 6 ratings on ratebeer!

I rated the Motley the highest.

Really solid brew. Fantastic malt experience. Really well balanced. Very cloudy coloured brew. Hops are dried fruits and citrusy. A bit of a bitter kick but a very good one. An impressive malt balance reminiscent of Crown’s famous IPA. An awesome brew. Thick sunkist orange texture which is a delight to get lost in. I found myself loosing track of the event just staring into the pleasure of the glass. Glyn mate thanks for the taster. Aroma is very solid but slightly musky. Otherwise killer brew. The taste is bang on 10. A real slow malty beer. Thanks, Glyn.

Then my thoughts for the Purple Moose Snowdonia.

An enjoyable session bitter with good hop measure. One of my favourites from the Welsh beer festival at the Rake. Light citrusy and hoppy, trying to blend an American IPA with an English bitter which kinda works but kinda fails. However just an enjoyable session bitter. I would like to try this again. An excellent session example and should be available more often then it is.

Finally signing off with the Purple Moose - Dark Side of the Moose (one of my new favourite ale names!).

A descent dark ale. Roasted malts; caramel. nutty biscuit texture and a dossage of dry fruits. I enjoyed this. Purple Moose are pretty hard to find but with this and Snowdonia I have to find their ranges more often. Thanks to Mario for the recommendation. A good beer.

My only problem having the mild which was scarly reminiscent of Baines' dark mild but with more character and more body but can't remember what it's called. I also discovered wonderful Welsh cheeses which left before I got a chance to buy some to take home! Also Welsh rarebit source is awesome. A culinary delight. Like a thick patte paste spread however with rabbit I assume instead of other meats. Truely devine.

I thoroughly enjoyed the festival; caught up with Mark Dredge, apologised profoundly to Mellisa for screwing up on the commute and somehow manage to miss Pete Brown despite being no more than a few yards away. Glyn I'm sorry I didn't remember the otehr ales I had and my time was withstricted. I hope to make it down on Wednesday to tidy up and get the name of the mild back.

Got to prepare tomorrow for PRE-ZBF which is close to be coming beer event of the year for me. I need to take some pictures this time. Try and get some whisky for Urbain of De Struise and meet world's peace at the Kulminator bar. I'm pretty excited as the beer porn will be through the roof. I will write up about the Kulminator experience. I will write about the festival and what beers I can attempt to bring home. I will also get back to tastings at home which is far easier than in a pub. Time to sign out.

Friday, 26 February 2010

First Blog - Writer's Wall Allready!

Currently sipping a slightly pastuerised yet traditionally clean and fruity; pale and bitter, light session supreme ale of Scotland - Harviestoun 'Bitter and Twisted'. Poured into glass and very springy hoppy summery beer this is. Completely incorrect for the weather but I am hoping for a little sunshine for the Welsh beer festival on Sunday at the Rake and even more sunshine for PRE-ZBF in Belgium on Thursday.

There in Belgium, I should be sipping ale, and dark matter substances with brewing supremo Urbain; the De Struise brewer, the Brew Dog team, De Molen, Thornbridge and other brewers. I am a little excited by this. Not only will some of the best brewers in the modern age be there but there will be a considerable amount of rarity on offer and a massively cool tastings during the evening by beer geek Joris P Pattyn.

This event will also see my first visit to the legendary beer bar the Kulminator where you can drink aged beer appropriately cellared and also modern treats but beers which are not that easy to acquire. Something very special indeed. I hope to tie this in with a trip to Cantillon on the Saturday but that could be wishful thinking. It's been a while since my last visit to a foreign brewery. That was U-FLEKU for their sole ale which you can only consume at the brewery.

Anyway this is going to see some of my ramblings; some beer reviews, some articles on new beers, some articles on debates and some record collecting and gig stuff. Films and other issues maybe posted in spite or in lust or just for the sheer damned hell of it.

I have been fortunate to chill out with a few of the most prominent bloggers in this country on beer - Pete Brown, Mark Dredge and Glyn Roberts, so I felt it was about time I contributed to the free media cause.

I am also out of work now and seeking to gain a greater understanding of the industry in which I one day hope ot be fully employed and fully involved in. Instead of a tasting guinnea pig for Brew Dog or a free marketing agent for De Struise which I have become recently. I'm not complaining though. I would love to market the finest craft beer and sample Brew Dog fresh off a vessel; preferably on Hebridean Princess. Especially now that I'm no longer responsible for providing it with its documentation.