Grain “Redwood” Red Ale

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 15.22.30I discovered Grain Brewery almost by accident in 2010 when I made my maiden voyage into learning about beer while cycling around Norfolk & Suffolk. I arrived announced but was shown around the former dairy barn by the very warm & welcoming Phil (cofounder & brewer).

Since my visit Grain has gone from strength to strength winning a string of awards including two gongs for this Redwood Red Ale 4.8% abv.

Here are my notes…

Eye- Lovely bright copper red

Nose- Sweet corn, malted caramel & lemon peel

Palate- Sharp, clean, fresh peach, pithy, creamy malt texture and a nutty orange zest finish

Verdict- Definitely worth it’s CAMRA & SIBA awards this one. A great session ale for a sunday lunch or warm autumn evening

Their beers are available at these fine shops  and online through Russell & Newnes

You can also watch me taste their Grain IPA in my very first video beer review here.

 

 

Bowmore Islay Single Malt Whisky “Darkest” 15 y/o

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 14.19.22I am a fan of single malt whisky, though I confess to only being an amateur in it’s dark arts. Makes me feel quite serious when I drink it, a mature man. Not entirely sure why. Possibly the feeling was bestowed on me while watching some film as a wee lad and saw the hero drinking it while he wrote some great work or pined for a lost love or just drank himself into oblivion.

Over the years I seem to have developed a preference for Islay’s peaty smoky beasts. Though offerings from Campbeltown have seduced my palate of late.

This 15 year old Bowmore is 43%abv and has been aged in sherry cask.

My notes describe it thusly…

Eye- Golden amber

Nose- Burnt toffee, moist peat, warm honey, TCP & nettles

Palate- Rich & smoky, ginger nut, nutmeg, orange peel, clove, long earthy peat finish

Verdict- Found it a bit rough on the finish and lacks a little complexity for me. It would love some dark chocolate or a good cigar. Worth a punt.

It is available to buy from The Whisky Exchange & Masters of Malt 

Domaine of the Bee 2011 Launch

I had the pleasure of meeting Justin Howard-Sneyd MW a few years ago at a Laithwaites tasting when I first started out on my blogging adventure and we got to talking about our mutual love of Grenache. Later he would be the chief orchestrator in taking me on my very first press trip to the home of his Domaine of the Bee vineyards in Roussillon in the south of France not far from the Spanish border.

I was blown away by the landscape, the food, the people and of course the wines of this terribly special but under appreciated region. The trip and my wonderful memories of it remain, especially drinking Domaine of the Bee out of the bottle on a hilltop over looking vineyards and hills beyond.182203_10150152057415429_686745428_8719101_4877958_n

A few years have passed but Justin and I remain in touch. I bought some of the 2009 last year so jumped at a chance to come to their open house to try the new 2011 along with some of their older vintages.

Greeted like old friends at the door by Amanda, Justin’s wife and co conspirator in their “Four Hectares of Nectar” plots of very old vine Grenache Noir & Carignan Noir located near the village of Maury. We made out way into their lounge come tasting room with Justin starting us off with the aforementioned 2011 which is showing bright, jazzy vibrant dark berry fruit with liquorice and some grey stony notes. This wine is happy in your face juicy fun right now but imagine it will evolve a great deal over the coming years.

Next we tried the Les Genoux 2011, Genoux being French for knees. The Bees Knees! Who said people with doubled barrelled surnames don’t have a sense of humour?!

Taken from their best vineyard and made in tiny quantities from the top fruit. This is classy stuff, very floral, nuanced, delicate and feminine in structure. In stark contrast to the blasting fruit of it’s sister wine of the same vintage. They have been making it since 2009 and it usually sells out very quickly indeed.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.04.48

The 2010 Domaine of the Bee was much more subdued but broodingly so. Gamey, earthy stewed dark forest berries, leathery animal and drier southern Rhone in style.

I was overjoyed that we still had a few bottles of the 2009 at home because the wine is a knock out. Fresh acidity but round generous almost lewd berry fruit. That black schist soil of the Maury really coming through all smoky and magical.

The 2008 promised much on the nose, a dark mineral blackberry beast. The first sip was all over you slathering wild berry & leather. But I found as I sipped more it settled down and became a bit tamer. Nice but not my favourite.

Finally it was the turn of their first official vintage the 2007 and man it did not disappoint. That black schist was back on the nose, smoky, ripe and inviting. Juicy blueberry leapt around my mouth getting into every pore, exciting my taste buds with it’s concentrated yet fresh dark fruit. A beauty of a wine and shows just how well this wine can age yet retain such vibrancy.

Justin, Amanda along with Philippe Sacerdot (The Business Brain) form a very strong trio that set up Arcadian Wines to market their incredible wine which is made for them by Richard Case (Owner of Domaine de la Pertuisane).

Great care, knowledge and passion go into making Domaine of the Bee and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves their wines bold yet nuanced, juicy yet complex, generous yet vibrant and above all who isn’t adverse to red wine mouth.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.05.03

Now there was some lovely salami and parmesan but dinner was calling after a vertical tasting(sampling of different vintages of one particular wine) of such heavyweight wines. All the vintages weigh in at a hefty 14.8-15% ABV, but you can’t taste it. Which is a bit dangerous in itself.  So we bought 2 bottles 2007 & 2009 (somehow we had convinced ourselves that we had bought some of the 2011!) thanked our gracious hosts and floated home.

All of the vintages of Domaine of the Bee are available direct from Justin & Amanda @ £24 a bottle and £42 for Les Genoux. They are offering case discounts however so do get in touch with them.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.04.02

 

Crate Brewery- IPA, Golden Ale & Lager

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3 Good Crates of Beer

I’m very keen on discovering & supporting the ever growing number of new London Breweries that seem to be sprouting up like well… sprouts all over this fine city.

So when I came across a selection of simply labelled yet still eye catching beers from previously unknown to me Crate Brewery at that holy home of liquid fantasies the City Beverage Company I snapped them up.

I held onto them for a bit but then drank them all in a self pitying session after failing my drivers test.

Here’s run down of each

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Golden Ale  3.8% ABV

Eye- Bright Vit C pee golden yellow

Nose- Warm caramel, raw sugar, hint of buttercup

Palate- Leafy green, nice subtle spice, clean almost bracing. Intensely sharp pithy lemon finish.

Verdict- A very tasty session ale happy drunk on it’s own, with roast chicken n all the trimmings or perhaps some creamy soft cheeses.

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Lager 4.8% ABV

Eye- Deep Golden

Nose- Fruity Floral

Palate- Very Czech Pils in style. Mineral & hint of citrus. Crisp, refreshing, thirst quenching & totally delicious

Verdict- Reminded me of unfiltered Pilsner Urquell. Which is very high praise indeed. Is definitely in my top 5 UK produced Lagers. Drink it solo, with Thai or Indian but whatever you do just drink some.

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IPA  5.8% AVB

Eye- Copper

Nose- Warm malts and a touch yeasty

Palate- Tin peaches, golden syrup, dry corn husk. Serious & structured with a not unpleasant slightly soapy finish

Verdict- A full flavoured but not overdone in terms of hoppiness or sweetness of malt. An IPA to mull over big decisions with or have with gamey fowl such as duck, partridge or pigeon.

Do go say hello to the gang in Hackney Wick where you can soak up their fine beer with some lovely stone baked pizza. Yes it’s a Brewerria! What could be better?!!

Stockists include Ales by Mail City Beverage Company

Going Pop Up: #WineWednesdays

Now Pop Ups are all the rage these days and despite being the sort of guy that you might expect to have his finger on their popping pulse, embarrassingly I have been to very few. Thankfully my Fiancée and I walked right past the aptly named WineWednesdays at the rooftop venue Skyroom near Tower Bridge. With this stunning weather our decision was made for us and after receiving our wristbands (the meaning of which will be come apparent) we dashed up the elevator to the 5th floor. WineWednesdays are the lovechild of Kiki & Laura who run A Grape Night In, a Pop Up wine business that’s not just a one hit wonder, whose aim is to enliven and demystify the sometimes murky world of wine.

The venue itself is cosy and has the feel of a upscale beachside bar. Much of the covered cushioned area was reserved so we took a small table out in the open.Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 13.19.23

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The Girls (as they seem to be called in much of their literature) decided on the theme of Summer Playlist for the month, drawing inspiration from the many famed festivals that take place on this hallowed Isle in the month of July. Kiki explained with much warmth and energy their concept behind their inventive short list of appropriately themed musical genre wines & accompanying optional nibbles.

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Growing up on Simon & Garfunkel and Gordon Lightfoot during my early childhood Track 1-Folk seemed the best way to start. Folk’s vinous equivalent being an floral aromatic 2012 Gewurztraminer “Adobe” from the organic & ethical Emiliana in Chile. Lively & clean, subtle mango moving into flinty stone and without the candied feel you sometimes get with Gewurz. It went beautifully with the delicious dukkah crusted hand rolled falafel nuts & thickest minty garlicky tzatziki this side of the Ionian Sea.

 

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My lady had Track 3-Classical which was a 2011 Circumstance “Cape Coral” Mourvedre Rose by Waterkloof in Stellenbosch. Biodynamic and made much in the restrained style of Provence Rose (your nod to classical right there) but with a glint of smokiness so typical of South African Red Varieties. It was paired with that most Provencal dishes of Pissalidiere, mini pastries of onion jam, black olives & anchovies. The rose &  savoury pastries wove a harmony worthy of great applause for the conductor indeed.

My companion decided to move onto Track 2-Reggae which was a crowd pleasing easy drinking 2012 Suikkerboisse Chenin Blanc/Viognier also from Stellenbosch. Rather unsurprisingly it came “Jungle” chicken fingers, homemade plantain chips & mango chutney. The chutney stood out, but the chicken which for me though perfectly cooked & crispy lacked seasoning and perhaps a little Marley Magic.

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Decided to go Track 4-Rock in an homage to my teen years from those bad boys of McClaren Vale, the very aptly named Some Young Punks. I found the  2011 “Passion has Red Lips” Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz  more Phil Collins than The Pixies. Now both could be called rock and I like some Phil Collins (not embarrassed to say so) with and without Genesis he crafted some solid 80’s “Soft” Rock songs. I am however a huge Pixies fan (which arguably are more Alt Rock if we are going to split hairs) so when I saw “Rock” I was thinking more Kim Deal than Mike Rutherford. But I digress… The wine was ripe concentrated and supple. Dark cassis blackberry fruit with relaxed tannins. I liked it, but it certainly wasn’t like getting stomped on in a mosh pit. It was paired with spicy meatballs of beef, chorizo & roast pepper stew that honestly did kick a bit of ass and wouldn’t have been out of place at a an early 90’s Lollapalooza concert.

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A total of 10 tracks (6 wines by the glass and a further B side of 4 by the bottle) there should be enough to keep you entertained by the New World leaning lineup. For those not into wine they had an offering from the mighty Kernel Brewery down the road as well as cider (I think). Lovely setting, warm knowledgeable staff, tasty food and very reasonable prices Laura & Kiki are onto a good thing. Hopefully the weather holds and despite going onto a new theme for next month #WineWednesdays is well worth a visit.

 

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Real Wine Fair 2013

The Real Wine Fair is an artisan growers’ event featuring small wine growers who work organically and/or biodynamically and intervene as little as possible in the winery to make wines that taste true to themselves, true to their grape varieties, and true to the vineyard and region. This year it was held at Tobacco Dock, a listed Victorian brick-built warehouse space in Wapping East London.

Bernard Jantarovy Lezak-Dunkel/Amber Lager

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I brought this bottle back from my recent trip to Prague. It was definitely the pick of the bunch.

Bernard make some excellent beers in Humpolec in the Czech Republic.
I popped the stopper and from the first sip I was smitten.
To the eye it’s lovely bright copper red w/ persistent fine bubbles.
Nose of caramel & chestnut
On the palate it’s clean fresh and crisp.
Hints of toasted hazelnut, marmite & cherry bark play hide and seek on your tongue.
An easy drinking but wonderfully crafted Czech Amber Lager. 4.7% abv
http://www.bernard.cz/en/beer/assortment/bottled-beer/2.shtml

Mitravelas Estate Lefkes Moschofilero 2011

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If you are looking for a white wine that’s off the beaten track but quite brilliant then head to M&S and grab a bottle of this fragrant, exotic but very dry Lefkes Moschofilero from the Greek Peloponnese.

Made by Mitravelas Estate this 2011 combines bracing mineral freshness with hints of green fruit.

If you want to impress a wine snob friend then bring a bottle of this stuff. About £8.99 a bottle. Sadly not listed online as I wrote this.

M&S

 

Santa Helena Pinot Noir 2010

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A very grown up Chilean Pinot from the Casablanca Valley in this here bottle. The nose gives up ripe strawberry, liquorice and kirsh. Palate is neither jammy or overdone. Nice lean mineral flavours of purple plum, dry green tobacco and shades of red berry. Tart tannins with a firm dry finish. Went wonderfully with roast chicken, marsala & porcini mushroom sauce. Definitely a food wine, 7/10.

£7.99 from the Co-Operative