Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Golden Pints' Awards For 2011

Considering everyone else is doing this I may as well add my own coverage; thoughts and perceptions on 2011.

All in all 2011 has been a mixed-bag of a year for me. Still no progress with the job front yet a massive overhaul of project work which is seriously gaining ground fast and should hopefully see light of day sometime in the second quarter or around Easter of 2012.

2011 for beer has been utterly fantastic. I've been lucky enough to time my events around short-term temporary employment situations; having a unique ability to budget in the limited constraints of these environments and some wonderfully generous people on the continent and domestic have really eased a lot of potential stress and personal pain which I am going through.

Anyway my Golden Pints' nominations are as follows:

Best UK Draught Beer

1 Brew Wharf Vs Danko

The saison which I've been waiting to happen on tap in the uk for a long time. So good. All the correct saison elements with an added special edge. Wonderful beer and a delight to consume.

2 Magic Rock Cannonball - So stunningly balanced and elegant. A stunning beer which I can drink copiously if threatened or politely asked. A great tropical fruit-storm in a glass. Something wonderous which I keep on going back to when I can find it.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

The Kernel Citra - Just hits me so hard every time I have it. Just as good as the other best UK Citra hopped beer - Oakham Citra but maybe better. WOW.

Best Overseas' Draught Beer

Alvinne Beer Geek Wedding - Mes and Sim's Wedding

The best new sour beer of the year and something special it is. Just pips De Struise Black Messy. Stunning work and something I can keep on drinking again and again. It also gets better with age. Can't thank Tom enough for getting me the samples when he does.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

Ballast Point Sculpin. Have been very fortunate to have this via trade or generosity a couple of times. Now it is on at Brewdog Camden for a bargain price of £10 I can enjoy it in the UK. Simply the best IPA on the market.

Best Overall Beer

The Kernel 1890 Export

I can't remember how many times I've drunk this beer. This says it all really. A world-clsss imperial stout by a world-class brewery.

Best Pumpclip or Label

Brew Wharf's 'Danko v Brewwharf'. WOW. Great artwork which takes me back to my Amiga days.

Best UK Brewery

The Kernel for pushing all the boundaries in all the right places.
Thornbridge for being stunning at everything and pushing things in the markets where craft beer drinkers can feel safe once again.

Best Overseas' Brewery


Amazing sour beers and new direction with a new brew kit. Expect to be making big things in 2012.

Pub/Bar of the Year

The Craft Beer Company. It has the Cad in it. Mario works there. I can get the best beer extremely easily and knowing I am close to friends and a perfect night out.

Beer Festival of the Year

Mes and Simone's Wedding. It had De Struise. Yes.

Supermarket of the Year

Sainsburrys for selling Punk IPA for a stupid price in cans.

Independent Retailer of the Year

Utobeer for still going and for getting those big bad Goose Island imperial stouts

Online Retailer of the Year

MyBreweryTap - Thornbridge and Magic Rock!! YES PLEASE.

Best Beer Book or Magazine

How To Brew by John Palmer - not got Des' book yet but will do soon

Best Beer Blog or Website

Thornbridge Dom's and Scoopergen for all that data from Gazza

Best Online Brewery Presence

Gazza's e-mails on Scoopergen and Rate Beer.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Roman Pizza in Bir Et Fud with whatever Manuelle was giving me. WOW.

In 2012 I’d most like to..

Launch 'Ale Ticker' and rejuvenate the image of craft beer

In 2012 I’m most looking forward to...

Ale Ticker. Alvinne Craft Beer Festival. Job. Going to Bir Et Fud and hopefully brewing at BrewWharf.

Best beer I’ve drunk in a brewery in 2011

BrewWharf V Danko from the tank


Eddie's beer from the fermentation tank.


Harwich Town double ipa from the fermentation tank.

I love visiting breweries!

Twitter of the year

Emma J Cole - constantly cracking me up and top music buys.
Special mention - Beery Matt.

Blogger of the year:

Chris O's Beer Blog. Outstanding coverage of the trade and my most trusted festival accompaniment. Thanks Chris.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Italia Part 2

Leaving Brassiere 4:20, we headed straight to the Beer Party, some Italian craft beer organisation had set up for that weekend. This is some sort of mash of beer and music in a nice park in Roma, complete with auditorium complex, nice stone features to sit on and a wide panoramic stage. On offer were a variety of craft us beers in key-keg form and other prominent breweries from Europe such as, from memory, Brew Dog and De Molen. Unfortunately, due to little light and my pathetic knowledge of Italian words, it was hard to depict offerings available. The group's gracious host just explained, whilst they were drunk, which beers we were consuming. The night culminated with a high abv 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' by Scottish brewers Brewdog and a giddy and obscure walk back to the host's apartment. The, now assumed lost, taxi driver whom had been called at 3am failed to turn up so walking was our only option.

Whilst we arrived at the apartment some ridiculously rare Madeira from the 1920's was to be consumed. To say I was content was an understatement. These vintage bottles are considerably rare. To get them you really have to be in industry. Thankfully we were with Mr Industry of the Italian beer scene. This is a fortified wine, similar to port and made in a Portugese-owned Island. The Island of Madiera is as exotic and provocative as the content in the thick, half litre glass bottle.

At between 6-7 am I woke up with some acute pain somewhere inside my head. Damn. An espresso, costing only '50 cents' which was graciously poured by my good Danish friend and I'm much better. Rich, coffee, bitter, cream, nutty texture and intense bittering is what is required to acclimatise to the intensities of the morning light and accompanying aromas of thick dew. I feel fresher and energised and ready for some real rustic food. After our group has re-formed we depart the top lavish apartment for a remote vineyard on the edge of the City.

This proceeds in one of the best hangover cures ever. A massive, steak cooked for relatively nothing in a vineyard establishment. Their own wine is only 1.50 Euros and tasting as good as a £15 Burgandy with considerable aging so, obviously I was utterly content. The steak was as good as it is in those mad Gaelic institution pubs were they have it as bloody as possible. I love a bloody steak and this was just dandy. My stomach was filled and my glass was occupied with small samples of red wine; 3 Fonteinen ‘Schaerbeekse Kriek’ and a Hanssens’ ‘Oud Kriek’ along with a tasty IPA which I forget (hey when you have lambic after steak you always forget). The meal finished with an appetiser, an alcoholic lemon-sherbet shot which was absolutely stunning. Like a distilled version of the sherbet bon-bons available in sweet-shops, the small round balls full of sugar and a massive crunch to match and leave your mouth reeling with sourness, considerable tart and a satisfying acid-kick. Something I would gladly drink at a modern bar. Someone sign it up.

By now it was very late afternoon so back to the base of the weekend which was Brassiere 4:20. Call a cab, this one turns up, head for the hotel, refreshing shower, change of clothes, early evening Ice Cream, something not to be missed in Italy, traditional, and a walk back to the base of the weekend for a few evening drinks.

This bar has an astronomical range of taps. I went through some crazed list like a raging fanatic which contained some of the following beers: De Molen Bommen and Granaten, Dutch for The Windmill Brewery and Bombs and Grenades, a stunningly complex and delicate barely wine, this is ON TAP, a beer I love, Moor brewery from Langport in rural Somerset (love Moor and to see them there was epic), West Coast IPA, joint brewing venture by Gadds’ Brewery in Ramsgate and Revolution Cat, native of Roma, owned by our hos of the weekend, 10 year old lambic from Frank Boon's brewery, Boon. Stunning. Most places would never ever even dream of seeing these world class ranges and one offs. Truly mesmerising.

Additionally out of the establishment's seemingly never-ending cellar came some stunning mead from a bottle, some random bottles were opened and I ended up VERY drunk, happy, chatting to the cutest Italian waitress trying to make her understand that Bommen and Granaten is one of the best beers for its style and very rare and Boon lambic mixed with Mead was a good idea, the Mead increasing the texture of the delicate lambic to create a stiff-wooden sipping beer with a delicate kick of acid, tart and all the funk and brett you could wish for. Exotic to say the least.

The food we had for the evening there was mind-blowing. I had the best ever cheese cake I have ever had. Something which I refuse to eat in England as it is made entirely differently here, the American style of cheese cake. I had plate after plate of samples of amazing artisinal food, shared between four. Simply phenomenal level of craftsmanship occurred inside the kitchen that night. This place is a gastro bar with style! Probably the best complete food day of my entire life. I was left with utopia-like content and flustered with a gastronomic fulfillment rarely achieved before.

At around 01:00am my hotel companion and myself left Brassiere 4:20 despite knowing the venue closes at 4!! We stumbled out into the streets fancying games of pool and wondering where we could get bottles of Tipopils from to take home to England with us. A light abv lager full of honey, some lyches but utterly delicate and soft on the palate. An ideal cleanser for your palate. Our fruitless search at the only open off license we could find proved to be an epic fail. Still on a massive high we walked back to the hotel for a solid and required night's sleep.

On the final day we had marvellous risotto (rice) balls cooked in bread crumbs at a fantastic restaurant in the center of Roma. Pizza was perfect and to die for. There it was served squared instead of round. This is in tradition with true Roman standards. I found the Lovabeer lambic I was after and the place had Tipopils’ lager so it was the perfect destination to relax and wait for our entourage from their sleepy-slumber.

After another exceptional and world-class lunch we headed back to Brassiere 4:20, had our final drinks, said our good-byes and left. Sorry for lack of photos and accuracies but it was a very very beery weekend and I loved every minute of it. I recommend going to Roma and going to just three places. This is all you need. Brasserie 4:20, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà and Bir and Fud.

I missed the Coliseum. I missed doing sites. I did however have the best beery weekend of my life and want to go back.

You don't even need to be a tourist but you will enjoy yourself in spectacular fashion. I can not wait to go back. Italian customs are such a delight. Recovery is an option which you will need after you get back. Sight-seeing is my excuse to return next time. Promptly, hopefully.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Italia - Part One

This weekend I went on somewhat of an epic stag do; most go to the casino, most do strip clubs, most do football, I just did beer and a stunning old and picturesque place which we call Roma.

Firstly I can only apologise for lack of pictures. My Android phone run out of power and I took the wrong charger. Amateurish here one may say. However let's give the beer the talking as it did, quite frequently to me on several occasions during the trip!

I arrived at my hotel after an ordeal on the underground, realising a little too late that there was two connections between where I wanted other than the one I had mistakenly read on google maps. Thanks, Google!

I dropped off my bags; headed for the nearest internet café to find out where my party was (epic fail - roaming switched off and everyone else an hour away) and then to the next best place close to Brassiere 4:20 which my limited intellect knew. As my phone had google maps I was able to easily navigate to the fantastic football pub - Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, some sort of football bar hybrid with a beer cellar and beer taps. Wow. What more do I need to do to get this place as a local? My town has NO descent places to see football in. This is something special.

I witness the Lazio and Arsenal t-shirts on display which keep me happy; supporting both clubs for a long time. I twitch my ears to tune into the most glorious post Sabbath metal riffs emerging from the stereo, eye up the bar and find my friend Ryan's brews have made it! I'm quite speechless. Two of Ryan's brews in a pub in Italy which has both football and METAL on a the same time! This is a quite frankly astounding way to start my weekend.

I await evening kick off and entertain a stag party; a home brewer into Belgian beer, speak metal with the barman and dive into halfs of Crooked Moon amber beer and Tipopils, both costing around 5 Euros a glass each. Next up is a superb Nogne O stout from Norway. This was considerably bitter, had thick dark chocolate, syrup, leather. coffee, roasted malts, cream, espresso, well balanced, intricate and biscuity malt based but done in a great manner.

Evening kick off is near and commotion arises, I turn my head and find Manuele, friend and owner behind me. Emphatic greetings all round. Manuele informs me that Lazio are about to play so I inform in return that I used to watch them on an early morning football show called Italia 90, a coverage dedication programme ala Match of the Day for Italian football, way back in the 90's on Channel Four. I won't bore you with the football talk.

He offers to find me the rare bottles (gold hen's tooth rarity levels) of the Cigar City beers but these limited brews were unattainable so instead I order a De Struise Pannepot (the Sturdy Brewery in northern Belgium). This is one of my favourite beers of all time, but in a football bar? How does this make sense? I love this place.

After the game we visit Bier et Fud. I enjoyed a superb, surely Michelin standard asparagus meal with a unique modern chaux pastry twist and a spectacular and refined sauce. An amazing post meal Balladin rarity was to be consumed before my two mile walk back to meet my entourage, after dinner and drinks were paid for, of course.

I met my entourage around 11:30 at Brassiere 4:20, commence generous group hugs and see our host for the weekend opening bottles of the Revelation Cat Woodwork Lambic Series. Read on two part two for the remainder of the weekend. To get messier.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

My First Printed Interview

This is somewhat of an honour for me. My first printed interview, held by the Financial Times and journalist Glynn Davis, featured in their supplement magazine.

You, my readers, can view this here.

I wonder how this will affect my career in beer?

Will it propel more writings and ramblings or more opportunities to be paid for buying beer, one of my favourite hobbies!

I would like to take time out to thank Glyn Roberts and Evin @The Kernel brewery for forwarding my details. I am very grateful. Thanks, gents!

Cheers and enjoy