Thursday, 29 April 2010

Free beer to be had!

In a first for Ed's beer site I can now offer the chance to win free beer

I've been contacted by the people promoting Spitfire ale asking if I'll run a competition based on their 'Bottle of Britain' campaign, the winner getting a free crate. 

Now you may be asking why I, a brewer working in Kent, will promote a rival Kent brewery. Simple, they've offered me free beer too and I can't say no to that. 

Watch the vid and answer this simple question: Which famous English landmark features in the Bottle of Britain film?

Email your answer to and when I get back from the lakes in a week's time hopefully a winner will have a crate of beer winging its way to them and I'll have a crate waiting for me on the door step.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The most comprehensive guide to Britain’s many and glorious beer styles ever now in my possession. 

The lovely Lisa has bought me a copy of Martyn Cornell's Amber, Gold and Black. I've got next week off so when I'm not being heroic on the hills or engaging in practical beer research I'll be reading up on the history of British beer. It's looking good already, check out the opening paragraph:

Britain is one of the world's greatest brewing nations: a fact the British themselves often seem to be unaware of. We need to be much more proud of what we have given ourselves and the world: beautiful, refreshing hoppy bitters and IPAs, golden summer ales for hot days in the garden, heady, rich barley wines, unctuous winter warmers, cheering, sociable conversation-encouraging milds, creamy, reviving black porters and hearty filling stouts, barley wines and old ales for sipping and relaxing, beers that go with food and beers that can be enjoyed on their own, beer styles born in these islands and now appreciated and brewed from San Francisco to Singapore, from St Petersburg to Sydney.

Stick that in your cold fermented, vegetable flavoured pipe and smoke it!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Western Lake District Recommendations Anyone?

The lovely Lisa and I will be heading to Loweswater for a week on Friday. It's no coincidence that we'll be staying a short walking distance from the Kirkstile Inn but is there anywhere else we should check out? Recommendations for walks would be good too as we'll need to earn our beer. 

Monday, 26 April 2010

Oak aged beer

I'm still not sure about this oak aged beer malarkey, but I think they might be growing on me. The first bottle of Brewdog's Paradox that I had I couldn't finish* , Innis & Gunn didn't impress me and Fuller's Brewer's Reserve I could take or leave. But I've now found a beer "fermented and conditioned with oak" that I've liked from the off: Curious Brew Admiral Porter

With Innis & Gunn I noticed the vanilla flavour that comes from oak but it didn't seem to sit well in beer. With Paradox I noticed a whole new layer of 'eurgh' added to what have been a good strong stout. And with Brewer's Reserve I thought 'hmmm...bacteria', not what I normally look for in a beer.  But dedicated beer researcher that I am I've since tried all of these again and found them more enjoyable. 

Admiral Porter is contract brewed for a wine maker, and I think aged with oak chips rather than in an old whisky barrel, so should be safe from any whisky contamination. It was a good balanced beer that went down very easily. I'm not quite sure if this is because I'm getting more used to beers with a bit of oak in them or because this is just the mildest of the oaked beers I've drunk. Am I failing as a beer nerd here? Will other oak aged beer become more pleasant the more I drink them or are they just a bad idea in general?

*Don't worry, a mate drank the rest of it.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Back to the beer garden

There was no doubt this weekend that Spring has sprung. The lovely Lisa and I went for a walk round Newlands Corner and Silent Pool, the site of Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance

Having worked up a thirst we trotted down to the nearest pub only to find it was shut. No doubt the locals were enjoying conjugal relations with their close relatives rather than keeping the beer flowing. 

We don't give in easily though so we moved on to one of our favourite pubs with a beer garden, The Jolly Farmer in Worplesden. Sitting in the sun, with a cracking pint of Pride in my hand, I couldn't help but thing what a great term 'beer garden' is. It's got that whole connotation of being somewhere pleasant and homely, where you'd want to sit on a sunny day, and with the added benefit of  beer! I don't think I'd want my house to be a public house, but I'd like to think of my garden as a beer garden. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

IPA challenge bout four: Brewdog Hardcore IPA Vs Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA

The latest bout in the IPA challenge is a clash between two heavy weights: Brewdog Hardcore IPA and Dogfishhead IPA, both weighing in at 9% ABV. Both lacking stamina (stingy little bottles), the fight has all the makings of being short and brutal.

Hardcore opens with a stinging jab and a taste like sucking on lemons but without making your eyes burn.

The Dogfish head has a darker copper colour, and with a bigger body. The famously continuously hopped beer is made to taste sweet in comparison to the hardcore hop monster from brewdog.

Styles make fights and though on paper these are both double IPA, when they get in the ring they're fighting with completely different styles. The bruiser from Brewdog has an unbalanced style with stinging hops constantly jabbing you in the face but not much in the way of body. Less reachy than Hardcore the Dogfish head's bigger body clinches to your tongue with a barley wine like sweetness.

Despite having all the makings of a classic fight, like with Calzaghe Vs Hopkins the clash of styles seems to bring out the worst in each other. After a sip of Hardcore the 90 minute IPA seems cloyingly sweet, but when you switch back the Hardcore tastes overpoweringly bitter.

At the end of a very negative round the judges are not impressed, with me thinking the 90 minute edges it and the lovely Lisa giving it to Hardcore. As we're the only two judges it's looking like a draw, but we can't progress with our knockout tournament if we allow that. So the only option is to call for another round. Sadly a rummage in the beer cupboard reveals I haven't got any more Dogfish head and won't have until my mum goes back to Delaware. So when the bell goes for round two 90 minute IPA remains on its stool and it's a win for Hardcore by TKO. Not a very satisfying result, and I'm sure 90 minute IPA will be eager for a re-match.

A perk of being a brewer

A local winemaker popped into the brewery today. Before he turned his hand to wine he used to work for Whitbread selling Stella, with a certain Pete Brown reporting to him. More importantly he has some beer made for him too and brought some bottles with him. I nabbed a bottle of Cobb IPA which I will now be entering in The IPA Challenge. 

Monday, 19 April 2010

Beer production causing water shortage?

The BBC have  reported that "The amount of water used to produce food and goods imported by developed countries is worsening water shortages in the developing world" (story here). 

The first example they give is the statistic that the whole process of making one pint of beer uses 130 pints of water. How this figure was arrived at they don't say. Or exactly how much beer is imported into Britain from developing countries. But trying to blame beer for environmental problems sounds like they're really scraping the barrel to me.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Farnham beer exhibition 2010

It was my favourite beer festival last night: Farnham beerex. As usual we went to the Saturday evening session, which means we don't have to dash down after work and cunningly allows me to get beer recommendations from my mate John who goes on the Friday. 

Despite this the lovely Lisa had an even more cunning plan for the first beer - get something in quick and then worry about tracking down particular beers. Fortunately for us the first beer that caught our eye was St Austell's Proper Job. We'd enjoyed this recently in the bottle and the weaker draught version sorted out the thirst that had built up on the journey. With a beer safely in my hand I had several minutes to find the next one. The RCH breweries East Street Cream was the next choice and and it was a good recommendation from John. Even better though was the next one on his list, Funky Monkey from the Milk Street brewery. There was a touch of caramel to the taste, but hops to balance it out and even though it was only 4% ABV was the beer of the festival for me. 

I settled down to some steady guzzling after that, Oakham Ale's Inferno, stands out in the beery haze of the evening, as does Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. I'd gone years without seeing Sarah until the Wandsworth Common beer festival last month, and now I got to have some more only a few weeks later. 

Looking at the festival programme I was slightly disturbed to realise I'd been coming to this beer festival for 20 years, from when I was a fresh face youngster only able to bore a handful of friends about real ale to now being recognised as one of the 20 biggest beer bores in Britain!

Standing in the courtyard with my mates, getting steadily pissed on quality beers, with cunts with banjos a folk band playing in the background I was reminded why this is my favourite festival. Here's to another 20 years!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Top ten bottled beers in Britain

Here's Britain's top ten bottled beers, with the % market share.  

• Newcastle Brown 8.8%
• Old Speckled Hen 8.8% 
• Hobgoblin 4.0% 
• London Pride 3.9% 
• Old Peculier 3.1%  
• Spitfire 2.8%  
• Bombardier 2.5%  
• Pedigree 2.3%
• Abbott Ale 2.1%
• Black Sheep 2.0% 

In the bottled beer market it seems lager doesn't even get a look in. 

Well done to Curmudgeon for what I think was the best guess

Britains biggest bottled beer brands

One interesting fact I picked up yesterday was a list of ten best selling bottled beers in Britain.

Anyone fancy having a guess at what's on the list?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A day at Brewing Research International

Today I went to Brewing Research International. A day on "Technical troubleshooting in the brewery" was organised, with a series of talks and practical demonstrations. It was also free for SIBA members! 

The talks were interesting, if not quite what I would have expected from the day's billing (is what the legal requirement are for labels really troubleshooting?). And the two people I'd most been looking forward to seeing, a bloke I studied brewing with who now works at BRI, and the guy that brought Goose Island IPA to Safeways (who was meant to be giving at talk), were both struck down with lurgy so weren't there.

But enough quibbling, it's was great to see round BRI. What could you not like about something dedicated to brewing research? I myself devote a lot of my time to brewing research field work as well as my own research into making the perfect pint as my day job. 

I'll post more on this when I get the time as some of the talks covered stuff that I'm sure will be of interest to my fellow beer nerds.

Monday, 12 April 2010

IPA challenge bout three: Goose Island IPA Vs Marston's Old Empire

The third bout in the IPA challenge is between two middle weights: Goose Island IPA and Marston's Old Empire.

There's a slight weight advantage to the American (5.9% ABV Vs 5.7%), but the Brit has more stamina (500 ml Vs 355). Goose Island is starting the favourite, popular with the British crowd and with a good reputation amongst beer nerds everywhere, but the Old Empire is no mean beer and looks unfazed as it enters the ring in a clear glass bottle, with the Goose Island is in brown.    

The caps are off and the bout is on. Only a faint smell from the Old Empire, a rich aroma from goose island of elderflower and grapefruit.

On to the first taste and a good start for the beer from Burton, strong but drinkable, using an orthodox stance. Goose Island counters with its modern American style, the probing aroma, and strong flavour but looking a little clumsy on first taste. 

Back to the Old Empire and the strength of the American has taken it's toll, the Brit is still drinking beautifully but the flavour's seeming weak in comparison and is having little effect. The contender from the windy city is getting more settled as the round progresses. Unfortunately we're not as the constant swapping of beers seems to have upped our usual sedate drinking rate giving us bloated stomaches and making us a bit windy ourselves.

Old Empire bravely battles on and never looses its composure but the heavy hands of the American land more telling blows. Though it was more closely fought than many expected there can't be many surprised when the judges find in the American's favour.

A win for Goose Island IPA by 10-9   

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A pint of Hawkwind, please

YES! When I visited my local 'Spoons the Hawkwind beer was on. 

While other beer bloggers may tick their way through the festival beers or seek out the foreign guest brewers' beers, there was only one beer for me when I went to my local 'Spoons.  

And there it was, waiting for me at the bar, Hawkwind. 

As it happens it wasn't the best beer I've had, in fact it wasn't even the best beer on the bar but I didn't care, I was happy. I'd had a pint of Hawkwind. 

Thursday, 8 April 2010

New strongest beer in the world

Gosh, how exciting. Not.

The latest issue of Brewer and Distiller International reports that Dutch brewer Het Koelschip has produced a beer at 45% ABV. As the brewery is also a distillery you can't help but be suspicious that this 'beer' is made at least in part by distillation. Unlike of course the record breaking efforts of Brewdog and Schorschbräu which weren't distilled at all. Oh no, they were freeze distilled. 

It's things like this that remind me why blockbuster beers don't float my boat. When Brewdog claimed the world record for beer strength before Christmas with the 32% ABV Tactical Nuclear Penguin the price was £35 for a third of a litre. When that record was beaten shortly afterwards by Schorschbräu with a 40% ABV beer they responded with the tastefully named Sink The Bismark at 41% ABV at £40 for a small bottle. Now that record's been broken and I see no reason why it should stop there... By the time someone gets round to boiling some hops in pure ethanol the price will no doubt be a small fortune.

Buying these 'beers' looks like a mugs game to me. Rather than spend my hard earned dosh on small amounts of spirit like beer I prefer to spend it on large amounts of actual beer. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Cask pub and kitchen, Pimlico

For Easter we went to the Cask pub and kitchen in Pimlico. There's been a bit of a buzz on the internet about this pub so I was keen to check it out. Particularly as the lovely Lisa had already been there on a day off whilst I was slaving away over a hot mash tun. 

It's in the grottier end of Pimlico, being stuck on the corner of some 70s flats. Inside it has the look of a canteen about it, bright and airy but no cosy nooks and crannies here. Not the sort of pub I'll normally seek out to be honest.

There are what looks like a good range of keg and bottled beers on offer for those that care about such things. Personally I don't, so I'll move swiftly on. There were  a two each from Thornbridge and Darkstar on the hand pumps and well as couple from other breweries. Thornbrige are interesting but I've not always been taken with their beers so I started on a Darkstar Hophead and the lovely Lisa went for the American Pale Ale. 

Both beers were good but we reckon the Hophead had the edge as there was a hint of wet dog about the American Pale Ale. 

Moving on to Thornbridge next, they didn't disappoint this time and both the grapefruit flavoured Kipling and the sweet brown ale Ashford were on form. Sadly the Big bunny beer I had from Brentwood wasn't,  oh well you can't have everything. 

Our recently converted mate Dan had a few pints of a cask stout whose name now escapes me (sorry for the terrible beer nerd failure there) before having some German keg lager and wheat beers. The keg beers did make him feel a bit bloated though and he now fears there may be no going back! 

We had a Sunday roast, which was good, before working our way back to Waterloo. We had a couple of stops for refreshments along the way. Nothing of note though, as one of the pubs was a Fuller's pub that didn't have anything special on for cask ale week, so sadly no draught 1845 for me and the other was a Badger's pub and I've never really liked their beers as they're too flowery for my taste. 

Good news for tramps and teenagers

Ministers drop plan for 10% increase in cider tax.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Cask ale week

This week has been Cask ale week, billed as a celebration of Britain's National Drink. So far I've made cask ale, racked ale into casks, delivered casks of ale, drunk cask ale at a beer festival and drunk cask ale in pubs.

A pretty average week really.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The IPA challenge second bout: Jaipur Vs Punk IPA

Two beers from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, I mean the New Wave of American inspired British Breweries line up for the next bout. Or if NWOBHM's not you thing, the brewing world's Stones and Beatles apparently.

Despite the superficial similarities, both being from similar training camps and in stingy little bottles, at the weigh in it started to look like a potential miss match. The punk was over filled*, not something I'd normally complain about but possibly suggesting a problem with the bottling line at Brewdog. In this game if you haven't prepared properly your weaknesses will be painfully exposed once you step into the ring. 

Punk IPA (6% ABV) steps up to the canvas, looking brash and in your face, any doubts about the bottling clearly not affecting their confidence. Jaipur (5.9% ABV) is looking more subdued, perhaps feeling the pressure. 

Seconds away and caps off the bout is on. Jaipur has a bit more aroma, though surprisingly malty. Punk smelling a bit harsh, reminiscent of a lemon toilet duck.  

They come together for the first sip and and, oh my god, the Jaipur is totally overwhelmed. It's been caught flat footed! Well, not so much flat footed as just plain flat. It just hasn't got the conditioning, and in this game if you don't put in the time on the road work you won't last five seconds in the ring. The Jaipur hops are nowhere to be seen and just a sweet maltiness is present in the taste. Punk may smell a bit rough round the edges but with the wallop of grapefruit it packs into its pale body it knocks the Jaipur out cold.

But what's this? the second, Kipling (5.2% ABV), has popped its top and is climbing into the ring. It must think it's a medieval duel! This is disgraceful, the referee is stepping in but the Punk looks up for it and is squaring up. It could be a rash decision on the part of Kipling, and it's giving away a weight advantage. The Kipling flicks out a tentative aroma but it's putting on a poor show compared to when it was seen on cask only a few months ago. Again we just get flat bland sweetness form the Thornbidge boy which is easy dispatched by the fighter from Fraserburgh. 

It may seemed the Brewdog bottling line could cause problems but it's the in the Thornbridge camp that the questions will be asked tonight. They're really going to have to put some work in to make a come back after this performance. 

A win for Punk IPA by knock out. 

*Embossed on the bottom of bottles is their capacity in ml and the distance from the top the bottle needs to be filled to reach it. Not a lot of people know that.