Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Wheat beers

I've developed an urge for wheat beer recently. I think it probably started when I was in a Sam Smith's pub the other week, as their one cask beer is so dull I often drink the wheat beer. The unseasonably sunny weather must have something to do with it too. I've got used to guzzling wheat beers when on summer climbing trips to the Dolomites, in the German speaking (and more importantly German beer drinking) part of Italy. 

My local Waitrose sells Erdinger and as there's an Erdinger glass in the kitchen cupboard that seemed a good place to start. 

The alarm bells should have started ringing when I looked at the bottle though. It was 5.3% ABV which puts it at the weaker end of the German wheat beers. I can remember one Summer researching the various wheat beers on offer, which ranged from 5.2 to 5.6% ABV and finding that each increment in ABV improved the beer. Being at the lower end the Erdinger was definitely lacking, so even though I had the proper glass (and wheat beer glasses do look the business) it was a bit of a disappointment. 

My next beer was one I bought when stocking up for my World Cup beer sweep stake entry.   Troublette is a Belgian wheat beer, slightly stronger (5.5% ABV) but a far better beer. Lots of flavour, but still refreshing a few more of these would have gone down very nicely.  

As I'm a bit out of practice with wheat beer I can't really remember what are meant to be the defining characteristics of German and Belgian wheat beers. Cloves and bananas Vs Coriander and Curaçao orange peel? Anyway the Erdinger didn't have much flavour and the Troublette did. 

And to complete the international line up, I also found a wheat beer from England. Whitstable's Raspberry Wheat (5.2%) would I guess be more at the Belgian end of things, what with having raspberries in it. 

It was totally different from the other two though, having a touch of sourness in the taste, but not unpleasantly so. It wasn't really one for guzzling, as there's only so much sourness I can take, but it had the refreshingness I was after. 

If anyone could recommend me some more wheat beer to enjoy whilst the weather's still hot I'm all ears.  

Sunday, 27 June 2010

World Cup beer sweepstake - Brazil

I drew Brazil in the World Cup sweepstake. Normally this would be a cause for celebration, but this is no ordinary sweepstake. This is the World Cup beer sweepstake. To enter I had to track down a Brazilian beer and blog about it. 

Wonderful country though I'm sure it is Brazil is not a great beer nation. I couldn't think of any Brazilian beers that I 'd heard of, and a quick google later I found out that Skol is one of the most popular brands. This was not looking good. 

Next I had a look in The World's Best Beers . A few lager breweries are mentioned, including one that makes a weizenbock but what are my chances of finding any of them? I took the opportunity provided by a trip to the Lake District to peruse the selection of foreign beers in Booths. Wide though the selection was, there was nothing from Brazil.

I decided I'd have to order something over the internet. There are a few beers I've been meaning to get hold of so hopefully I could add a Brazilian beer to an order of more interesting stuff. Looking at the Beers of Europe website I saw they sold two Brazilian beers, but only one was in stock. At least that made the decision easy: Brahma beer, a pale lager, it was then.  

My order arrived promptly and in amongst the delights from the States and Belgium was a bottle of what looked suspiciously like gnat's piss. 

Right, so now I'd got the beer how best to drink it? As a man of culture, I'm not really into football, preferring the arts and science. But I thought I should try and get into the spirit of things and drink like a footie fan. 

From what I can gather this mainly involves going down the pub in your countries football strip but I could hardly bring my own beer and I didn't have a Brazilian football top. Still, not to be deterred I resolved to do the best I could at home. Brazil's colours seemed to be yellow and green so I had a rummage in my wardrobe. My thai boxing club have some lairy yellow shorts and I have a green T shirt so I put those on. 

Sadly despite my best efforts it wasn't very convincing. So I had my pubes waxed. Surely I'd now had the full Brazilian experience. 

Next I need to find a football match to watch. I saw I'd just missed a Brazil match and the other matches weren't really at good times. So I decided to watch the tennis instead. It's all people chasing after a ball so it's not really that different is it? I settled down with my bottle of Brahma beer, delighted to see that it came in a clear bottle. Instead of having an ordinary crappy lager I could be treated to a light struck crappy lager. Oh what joy. 

The beer poured the colour of urine with a gentle hint of nothingness on the nose. There was no real taste and it was cold and a bit fizzy.  I was right in saying that Brazil is not a great beer nation. But I've done my bit to enter the sweepstake, and Brazil is a great footballing nation, so here's wishing them every success! 

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Beer we go!

I'm not someone who follows football. But I was amused to see that England's win against Slovenia was apparently down the team being allowed beer the night before the match

If this is what they can do on some crappy South African lager, think what they could do if some decent beer was shipped out to them! 

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

No rise in booze duty!

Which is a good thing really as we're going to have less money to spend on it. Not that the amount we spend on booze will fall, in fact when the VAT rise comes in we'll be spending more, so it's other things that will get cut. 

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Canada's best brewer comes to town

One of my Canadian friends, Brian, came to visit this week. He's the man who made the beer rated as the best in Canada by beer writer Ben McFarland. Brian brought his friend Mike with him, but more importantly he brought a couple of bottles of Olde Deuteronomy too.

Brian reading about his beers

Having visitors from overseas there was only one thing to do. We headed up to the big smoke to get some quality cask beers in. First stop was The Blackfriar, for the fantastic interior and the delights of Timmy Taylor's Landlord

Brian and Mike in the Blackfriars

Then it was on to Ye Old Mitre. As well as proper beer I was keen to show the colonials some history, and taking them to a pub older than their country combined the two. Despite now being owned by Fuller's there was still a varied selection of beers on which was good to see. We had Oakham Ale's excellent JHB. On the downside they have stuck a sign up pointing down the small alley way the pub is in, so playing spot the pub was a bit of a damp squib.

Brian in Ye Olde Mitre

Next stop was the only pub on our list that the lovely Lisa and I hadn't been too. We were off to one we'd fancied checking out for some time: beer nerd HQ, the Gunmakers arms. One time king of the beer bloggers, Stonch, runs this pub and the diminutive Northerner behind the bar may well have been him. Though Stonch knocked his blog on the head in January, when beer bloggers meet in London they seem to congregate here. Anyway, the guy seemed friendly enough and pints of Purity Brewing's Mad Goose were had by all. We weren't overly taken with the pub though, and the noxious odour one of the Canadians emitted didn't help, but with so many excellent pubs nearby I can't see us rushing back anytime soon. 

Outside The Gunmakers

Our next port of call was the Cittie of Yorke, a Sam Smith's pub. It's another pub with a fantastic interior but Sam Smith's beers are always a bit of a disappointment. The lovely Lisa skipped on the beer here and the rest of us had the stout, with Brian also having a half of the ever boring Old Brewery Bitter so he could tick off having had beer served from a wooden cask. We managed to get seats in one of the confessional booths, though no one took the opportunity to own up to dumping their guts in The Gunmaker's. 

One of the many eccentricities of Sam Smith's is that everything they sell is own brand. Not just the ales but the lagers, the wines, the spirits and the soft drinks. I once heard it said that there were only five non-own label thinks that can be found in a Sam Smith's pub and one of those is the angostura bitters. It might be less now as we noticed the crisps are now own label too. 

Own label crisps

We needed food next so scoffed our emergency sausage rolls and headed to The  Old Bank of England. This fine looking Fuller's pub may not have quite the architectural interest of some of the pubs we visited but it does serve good pies, and pie and mash was just the thing we needed to set us up for the next leg. It was washed down with pints of pride for most of us, but Brian edged further ahead in the alcohol stakes by going for an ESB. 

The Old Bank of England

Revived by the power of pies we moved on to the Devereux where Brewer's Gold was the order of the day. The after work crowd was starting to thin out as our pints went down so when we'd finished we popped next door to the Edgar Wallace

The Edgar Wallace

The beer we had was Blackwater Ska from Salopian brewery. This was an excellent pale beer with a new world hop flavour. I could almost pretend I'm a proper beer writer there. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were hints of kumquat in the nose.   

I have a photo of one of Brian's legs from this pub, which I feel I should share with the world. 

Masonic infiltration of Ed's beer site

We poured ourselves back to Woking after this and all had a pint of Bitter and Twisted in the Sovs before the walk home.

I was up to eight pints by this point so I'm not quite sure why I ended up sharing with Brian a bottle of a double IPA I've been working on but no doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Many fried pork products were needed the next morning... 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Home brewing competition

I've started getting emails asking me to plug things on my blog. One of them in particular caught my eye as in return it offered free beer. Now I've always thought that free beer tastes better so I happily ditiched my internationalist principles and plugged Spitfire. I've now got two emails from what looks like two different companies asking me to blog about a home brewing competition. The fact that I couldn't see any offer of free beer had me heading for the delete key, but then I has second thoughts. The competition does look like the sort of thing I'd have been interested in if I didn't now work as a brewer so I'll pass the info on: 

If you home brew and would like the chance to get your beer brewed at Sharp's check out the Big Lunch Beer Challenge

Brewery on the telly

When I got in from work Michael Portillo was on the telly. Normally I'd reach for the control switch at this point, but he as was at Burton Bridge Brewery talking about the history of beer in Burton I made an exception this time. 

You can watch it here

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Fame at last!

My picture is in the latest issue of First Draught, the magazine of Fuller's Fine Ale Club. I'm grinning away, clearly a with a few pints inside me, at the Fine Ale Club's 10th anniversary celebration back in December. That was a cracking night.  

The Fine Ale Club is well worth joining. It's free and the occasional magazine you get sent is an interesting read, and always contains discount vouchers for beer, and even better competitions for free beer. 

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Drinkability research

As a beer professional my work never really ends. Though I would like spend my weekends engaged in healthy pursuits like strolling in the Surrey Alps and mowing the lawn I'm often forced to go out and drink lots of beer in order to keep my beer knowledge up to date. The crosses we have to bear... 

Last Saturday was a case in point. As it was a bank holiday weekend, naturally my thoughts turned to DIY, but it was not to be. Just when I was getting ready to go to Homebase the lovely Lisa looked up from the sofa and said "lets go and get wankered". As Continuing Professional Development is something I take very seriously, how could I refuse? Earlier in the week I'd delivered some beer I'd made to a local pub which gave us a research opportunity too good to miss - a chance to test the drinkability. 

At work I do have to have the occasional beer, purely for quality control purposes of course. Useful though this is, it doesn't tell me how drinkable the beer is over a session, an important element of a decent draught beer. 

The beer at the bar

When we got the the pub my beer was was on and the research commenced. The beer had good condition, was a clear golden colour and tasted of citrussy hops but still had body. So far so good. The next pint went down well too, as did the one after and the one after that. Thus we can conclude that the beer had drinkability as well as good flavour. 

At that point we felt we'd done enough research for and afternoon (after all, pints count double then) so we staggered headed home to write up our findings. 

My lovely research assistant hard at work

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Not so NICE

Price control on alcohol draws ever nearer. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has shown it's not so nice by coming out in favour of a minimum price for alcohol, with the figure of 50p a unit being discussed on the radio this morning. This move was first suggested in Scotland.

The argument that it would help with problem drinkers was fatally flawed for me when it was revealed that Buckfast Abbey Tonic wine, a favourite of Glaswegian winos would not be affected!