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.