Devil’s Peak Brewing

In this video I sample an American Pale Ale and The King’s Blockhouse IPA from Cape Town brewery Devil’s Peak. As well as bigging up two other Cape Town craft brewers Jack Black’s Brewing Co. and Cape Brewing Company.

http://www.devilspeakbrewing.co.za/
http://www.jackblackbeer.com/
http://capebrewing.co.za/

Top Out Brewery

Last summer I was working the Edinburgh Foodies Festival and came across the stand of a brewery that was unfamiliar to me. The branding was eye-catching (has to be these days) so I inquired of the squire whether I could sample his wares. He most cordially agreed. Had he not, this story would have been much shorter.  

The brews were the work of Top Out Brewery which sits nestled between Bilston and Loanhead just south of Edinburgh and east of the mighty Pentland Hills Regional Park. I liked what I tasted (barring an elderflower ale that had gone astray in fermentation) and some months later I received a box of their beers in bottle to try in earnest.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.06.05Rather appropriately I started off with Schmankerl Bavarian Wheat. Schmankerl is a Bavarian term that essential means a ‘treat’ but further can refer to an appetizer or amuse bouche. Something to get the palate juiced up for the main event. Sure was inviting to the eye, all hazy summer golden with lively long lasting tadpole foam head.

Aromas of sour yellow plums, proving sourdough bread and characteristic clove studded banana with just a glimmer of white pepper. Balanced at 4.9%, beginning clean and sharp then moving to lactic rounding dry banana skin and celebrating the 70’s with piña colada on the denouement. Tasty.

Next was Staple Pale Ale (4%) which I had really enjoyed on cask at the fair. Sadly it came over a bit starchy in bottle. Very herbaceous, pithy dry and wasn’t the thirst quenching beauty I recalled. Some variation perhaps?Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.57

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.32They surely had the shit together when they brewed this batch of their Smoked Porter because it poured out glorious and lively with an ashen pancake batter head. The neb (nose) was very impressive with aromas of cocoa, smoked mackerel, mure (blackberry) liqueur, melted milk chocolate, chocolate covered blueberries and blood pudding.

That confection theme continued on the palate with dry dark cocoa, dried Highland blackberries and subtly smoked venison. It had a fresh lactic character, the feel was clean, lean and muscular with a dry espresso finish. Top notch. 

Last but not least was the Cone IPA which enchanted from the off with its pillowy-billowy meringue head. Greeting my sniffer as I raised the glass was a fine pine forest, that had some folks camping in it. Their dinner consisted of grilled pineapple, lemon meringue pie, and raw scallop. An eclectic bunch indeed.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 17.05.42Not overly boozy at 6.8% but my first sip was like a sap edged razor bite. Sharply astringent followed sticky resinous. Thankfully by the 4-5th sup it was softening, showing very dry pineapple, white grapefruit pith and seed. There was some bracing lemon zest and earthy wet tobacco. Deeper still I found passion fruit. The finale? Dry and complex, like some foreign film. Serious like. You get me?

Thanks so much to Top Out for providing the beers. They are one to keep an eye on.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Here are reviews from two esteemed colleagues The Beer Cast and Beers I’ve Known

Why Mess with Perfection

Whatever your opinion is of Camden Town Brewery they must be given real kudos (along with a couple other London breweries) for breaking the chokehold that dull macro beers had on London (and further afield of course). They are sometimes accused of not brewing the most exciting or experimental range of core beers but have cut loose when “collabing” with other breweries. Personally I don’t give a shit if they’re unlikely to brew a salmon, swiss chard and satsuma Double IPA (Oh I want a credit if someone actually makes a Triple S DIPA).

What they are doing very successfully (something that also seems to upset some people) is brewing very drinkable beers that are broadly enjoyed by a wide range of consumers. The type of people they are converting (in large numbers) used to probably drink Fosters, Stella or in the case of my wife, white wine before her exposure to Hells Lager.

I like their Unfiltered Hells, Pale Ale and Camden Ink is a nice alternative to Guinness. But for me the jewel in the Camden Town crown is IHL aka India Hells Lager. A hybrid that Vulcan mind melds those two styles into one of the Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 17.43.59most dangerously delicious beers I have tasted. A roller coaster combination of crispness, tropical fruit, offering total refreshment and drinkability. In short, pure pleasure.

unnamedSo it was with some excitement when I was invited to their launch of Barrel Aged India Hells Lager the other week. Brilliant I thought, a pimped out IHL.

The result was anything but. A subdued nose hinted at hay and tinned pineapple. The palate was slightly antiseptic, very firm, resinous with a woody tannic feel and a far off agave heat.

I found it painfully dry, a touch astringent, but sadly lacking body and any discernable fruit flavour. It wasn’t undrinkable, but I didn’t enjoy it. It made me a bit sad really, by putting IHL into those barrels they purged everything that (in my opinion) made it a truly great beer. A real waste of perfectly glug-able IHL.

More cynically the timing of the launch made me question the inspiration behind putting that wonderful beer into bourbon and tequila barrels in the first place. The reason for my scepticism is that CTB happen to be in the midst of launching a crowdfunding initiative to raise money to build a new brewery. Becoming a Hells Raiser looks an interesting investment if you like their beers and want to “diversify your portfolio”. At the time of writing, they had reached their intended target but it’s still open. 

I couldn’t help feeling that the release of a below par, barrel-aged version of their newly anointed gold winning beer was nothing more than a well-timed PR stunt. Marketed with much pomp and ceremony as some treasured one off, whose purpose was simply to drive more investment. That’s me being cynical mind. 

All that said I have a lot of respect for CTown and it’s going to take a lot more than the abuse of my dearest IHL to get me to poo-poo them on a permanent basis.

They are a brewery with purpose, vision and a great following. Their success and pervasiveness have become such, that I have even started to take them for granted when beer spotting as I walk into a pub. My eyes are accustomed to their logo and the pioneer in me keeps scanning for something a little more off piste.

But you can guarantee they’re what I’ll order every time if the alternatives are just plain “piste”.

 

Craft Beer Rising 2015

It was my first time to this yearly London event but before I even walked in the door I decided to focus only on breweries whose beers were totally new to me. Was I taking a risk skipping the likes of Beavertown, Wild Beer, Camden Town and Thornbridge for those brews less tweeted? Are was I to be rewarded for seeking out some of those ales less supped?

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.17.03Things got off to a roaring start with a Catalonian import that goes by Beer Cat. Conceived of and created by ex Londoner and former criminal lawyer Peter Bonner in the Cava producing region of Penedes near Barcelona with their four offerings on keg full of diversity, vibrancy and packed with character. I kicked off with Pa i Roses Wheat Beer, infused with lime zest and coriander. Lager in appearance; textured yet bracingly fresh, with hits of tart lime but never cloying, sticky or banana bombed. A beauty of a bbq beer, sunshine in a glass.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.17.26

The Further WestCoast IPA lived up to the name; nice complexity of citrus and dry hop but not too much bite. Black Irish is a very grown up and accomplished stout, dry cocoa, bitter coffee, but velvety in body and supremely clean.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.16.52The beer of the day and most certainly slotting into my “top twenty most delicious beers I have ever drank” is their flagship Barcelona Blonde. Crisp and refreshing but packed with some of the juiciest tropical fruits I have yet sampled. My taste buds were literally dancing the Fandango. But never was the beer sweet or the esters too overpowering. A pale ale of the highest order.

Currently only imported into the UK by Instill Drinks in the bottle at the time of writing, but they are working on trying to get kegs to market here.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Peter and his cool Beer Cats will be one of the breweries to watch this year. Really. Tremendous. Beers.

On the advice of a few fine folks I swung over to Elgood’s Brewery to sample their sour beers and blow me down, they’re good! Classic Belgian Lambic in their execution, they are not for the faint of heart. Tart as hell, but so many layers of complexity and refreshing in the extreme. My favorite of the Coolship range trio of Blonde, Fruit and Dark Sour had to be the Fruit. Raspberries and blackberries bouncing around my mouth as if I have just picked them, but all the sugar is gone and you are left with a long lingering sensation as if you’ve sprayed your gob with a heady berry du toilette.

I was fascinated by their decadent QE Apple and Vanilla Wheat Beer. It managed to be utterly indulgent and rich but somehow finished clean. A real beauty.

My only criticism is that the branding looked very slapdash. Perhaps it was only temporary? At any rate, packaging is absolutely vital these days with so many edgy labels and pump clips clawing at your eyes for attention. Elgoods Sours and QE range deserve to look as good as they taste.

Another brewery whose labels could do with a rethink is Bear Hug Brewing. The brewing/storage practice could do with some fine tuning as well though their flagship Hibernation White IPA was pretty good. Best of the lot was however was Himalayan Red Rye whose texture and complexity left me feeling somewhat charmed.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.18.02There was a quite good Amarillo Mild from Hop Stuff Brewery in Woolwich and I enjoyed chatting with Alix their sales manager.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.17.44Really liked the ethos of The Beer Collective. In an ever competitive market, Niki (director at King Beer, as well as one of the founders of TBC) explained how bringing breweries together under one distribution hub was making life easier for the four strong members of the Sussex based group. Along with King were very eco-focused Bedlam Brewery, Uckfield’s 360° Brewing Company and Brighton based brewpub Laine’s Brewing. Tasted stuff from most of them and they’re making pretty decent beers.

A shout out must go to Little Jack Horner’s for it’s blindingly good sausage rolls and other assorted pastry wrapped delicacies. My classic pork and sage hit the spot as I was flagging.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.18.34I finished up tasting a couple beers from Yorkshire’s Wharfe Bank Brewery and in the process met a minor beer blogger hero of mine in Leigh “LeighGoodStuff” Linley. I have enjoyed reading his blogs and tweets the past few years so was good to finally meet the man. He quit his regular job last year to become brand manager at WBB where another twitter comrade, Tyler Kiley is head brewer.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.28.34I liked (but didn’t love) the couple of beers I tasted at the stand but I did very much enjoy the Black Geld Black IPA in bottle that Leigh gave me to take away. It was a web of aromas and it took my nose some time to pick out the maple syrup, pecan pie, boysenberry, iron-rich soil, and marmite. Then on the palate there was burnt toast, walnut, earthy black pudding, savoury dry herbs and faint molasses finish. It wanted some food but really grew on me. Good effort Tyler and not too boozy at 6.5%. (Image is a screengrab, courtesy of Wharfe Bank website as I seemed to have misplaced my photo).

It was a great day out and by forcing myself to try unknown/untasted breweries I gave my mind and palate a broader education as well. It’s getting way too easy to just gorge on ones favorite rockstar breweries these days.

So the next time you are at a festival, why not try to make some new discoveries for yourself.

You just might like it.

 

 

Two Stouts & Irish Stew

I am a lover of porters and stouts especially when there’s a chill in the air. There’s something as comforting as a roaring fire and supping a beer the colour of coal.

With St Paddy’s day coming up, I thought I would pair a couple opposing beers on the stout spectrum with an Irish stew and soda bread. First from the micro world I Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.02.02uncapped an Oyster Stout from Bristol based Arbor who are making some very good beers these days. My first introduction being an excellent one off De Rokerij rauchbier or smoked beer.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.05.43Coming in at a very reasonable 4.6% their “seafood seasoned” stout gave off lovely snoot blasts of salty liquorice, sweet raisin bread and coal. On the palate, there were seams of rich iron and the pillowy, creamy texture was punched through with sea salt, bitter coffee grinds and a smooth as pearl finish. Yum!

My macro had to be a Guinness Foreign Extra which I embarrassingly had never tried before. Substantially more boozing at 7.5%, the nose sang a sticky treacle, sweet malt loaf, sweaty prune ballad. Pressing it to my lips I received a caress of sour ripe fig, unfermented grape must and a fine dry dark chocolate finish. Quite good, but perhaps not altogether to my taste. Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.05.28

The Arbour was certainly the better match for the stew with the GFE being more of a pudding beer in my humble opinion. But whatever style takes your fancy on St Patrick’s Day, when you raise your glass make sure it’s brimming with the black stuff.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.03.45

Too crafty for our own good?

You would think me being a beer lover, that I would be finding the manic pace at which new breweries are opening up around the country universally positive. Well, you would be mostly right. 

On the bright side, it can be thrilling to spy a never before seen logo on a pump clip as you sidle up to the bar of well-stocked alehouse. That fizzing sense of discovery, a bubbling quiet joy every time you raise a glass to sip an unfamiliar nectar, as yet so full of potential. 

Speaking of alehouses, the number of pubs and restaurants dedicating themselves to good beer increases at breakneck speed. Thus offering an even broader stage, from which the ever multiplying men and women who brew are given voice to shine. 

And it’s not just us drinkers that are being given a new lease on life, many of these breweries are literally enriching their communities by providing gainful employment (after years of decline in manufacturing and primary industry). Plus those opening up a brewery tap can bring social regeneration and the creation of a hub to come together in neighbourhoods robbed of their pubs by closure and conversion into a Tesco Metro.

So what’s the dark side?

Well, if everyone was brewing great beer, there wouldn’t be.

Case in point; I recently bought six bottles from three newish microbreweries (2 beers from each) that were all local to me in SE London. I had visions of the glowing reviews I would write, shouting the praises of the fine craft breweries in my own backyard. But unfortunately I found the beers in the main to be: lacklustre, poorly executed or just plain faulty.Rather than name and shame them, here are my tasting notes, with beers 1 and 2 being from the same brewery and so on.

Beer 1 – Hazy brown, fluffy head. Fragrant mango and pineapple, subtle pine. Brown bread, creamy yeast, savoury, pithy, ultra dry, iodine, some clean lines, nice texture, complex. Decent.

Beer 2 – Volcano, lava head, just pouring out, lively deep muscovado. Green mango, hints burnt sugar, faint watermelon, killer dry, woody tannins, bit sharp. Ok.

Beer 3 – Flat. Hazy. Cardboard. Faulty.

Beer 4 – No head, no fizz. Deep mahogany brown. Copper filings, metallic, burnt coffee, nutty, sweaty. Faulty.

Beer 5 – Golden fizzy but no head. Old fashioned sweets, cloying butterscotch. Woody, tannic, burnt sugar, flat, medicinal, vegetal. Faulty.

Beer 6 – Deep chestnut, fine foam. Nutella, intense Reese’s peanut butter cup. Sour, slightly sickly chestnut. Tastes fake. Drinkable, but not enjoyable. Poor.

Now I feel it’s worth giving fledgeling breweries a chance to bed in and find their feet. With any new operation, you expect some teething issues. So I am all for second chances.

But what needs to happen fairly quickly is to establish two or three core beers that can be counted on regardless of how (cask, keg, bottle or can) or where they’re served. Nothing is more galling to a commentator than to share their excitement about a great new beer only to have a colleague try it and say it was shite. The amount of inconsistency out there is truly worrying. Now admittedly there be a will few cases that the venues are to blame for a piss poor pint (too old, wrong temperature, improper handling/storage or inadequate rest after delivery), but I would argue that below average or faulty beers often arrive that way.

Even some of the more successful craft brewers get it wrong sometimes. I tasted a pumpkin ale from an established player a few months back and it was so awful I nearly spat it back in the glass. Arguably, people are experimenting and trying to break new ground with their beers, which is to be applauded. But why put out a sub-standard beer? Are some microbrewers under such intense financial pressure that pouring a flawed or substandard brew down the drain is simply not an option?

Now not liking what’s on offer from some breweries isn’t down to “bad beers”, it’s personal taste and I totally respect that. Sometimes…

“There has never been a more exciting time to be a beer drinker” was the chanted mantra at the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards last December (see the video produced by yours truly here), it was the same the year before, and ditto the year before that.

It’s true, but there’s also never been a more hit and miss time for adventurous beer drinkers.

My issue? Craft has become some kind of byword for quality, which ironically in some cases can be quite the opposite. I’ve certainly had my fair share of dull, faulty or undrinkable craft beers. What’s more, if you hit a bad run, one could quite easily develop a “fear of faults”. A creeping dread that begins to take the place of that childlike excitement.

And it’s not just me that’s getting wary. Airing my concerns over beers with two esteemed industry compadres, I was surprised to hear them passionately echoing my feelings of reserve when it came to trying “the new beer”. Often preferring to stick to the craft they knew rather than risk shelling out good money for a crap or faulty beer from an operation they were unfamiliar with.

In September 2014, according to CAMRA there were 1285 breweries in the UK, with 170 born in the previous 12 months. Now it’s the pessimist in me but how long can this upward trend be sustained? Speaking to an established London brewer about a year ago, he confided in me that he already thought there were too many breweries in the capital. Perhaps feeling the heat a bit, but I thought it was very telling.

Despite all the collaborations and questionable bonhomie craft beer is becoming an intensely competitive market in the UK with it only set to get more challenging with new breweries literally springing up underfoot on this wee island. Not even mentioning imports from powerhouse US, Belgian, Czech and German outfits.

The sad reality is that the many who simply aren’t good enough, sufficiently financed, or properly marketed will die off. Over time, fewer and fewer will take their place while the stronger established craft breweries mop up more of the market.

But I must end on a more positive note as it’s far from doom and gloom.

Here’s a soothing soundbite from that rogue of a scribe, entertainer and thrice Beer Writer of the Year Ben McFarland who quoth “The fact that we in the midst of a beer renaissance…”.

Renaissance,  a rebirth. Because the glory days of beer are indeed back again. There’s more than enough talented, passionate brewers brewing excellent beer out there to keep us all happy for a very long time.

It is my sincere belief that beer lovers will remain spoiled for choice in terms of the diversity, high quality and complexity of flavour we have come to expect, never returning to those dark days of the 80’s and 90’s.

At least hopefully, not in my lifetime…

*Artwork by Mr DnE

Barre Pilsner and Weizen

Now when I say Lübbecke what comes to mind?

Perhaps a small child trying to say Rebecca for the first time?  An extremely drunken American sportscaster referring to a ferocious sack made by SF 49ers star linebacker NaVorro Bowman?

Though vaguely humourous both would be incorrect.

Now I imagine a fair few of you sharper tacks, those of you familiar with European languages would deduce that it might be a place or an attraction; owing to its giveaway pünctuation.

You of course would be right. Lübbecke is a village in northern Germany (population just shy of 26,000) nestled in the Wiehe Mountains, about an hour and a half drive west of Hanover. A small modern town centre surrounded by hills on which sit some stunningly grand squat sturdy houses. While you visit this little town that have no real attractions, you can play some free slots and drink this amazing beer. It’s not exactly mobbed with tourists, I however found myself there on a work trip last October.

For you WW2 buffs, the area was quite important for the occupying British forces after 1945. It served as an administrative hub for the British Occupation Zone authorities who worked out of the municipal buildings and were housed in the local homes.

We actually stayed and worked out of what was an old Hitler Youth training camp. A scary prospect, but long gone were any vestiges of its darker past. Run by British Army Chaplains since the early ’80’s Chruch House had a very welcoming and serene feel. Not surprising as it serves as a home of respite and sensitivity training facility for UK service personnel.

Much to my delight, the mess bar was well stocked with the local beer. Brewed by the privately owned Barre Brewery, which was a stone’s throw from where I was stood. It was a good sign. Very. Fresh. Beer. And a bargain @ €1 for a bottle.IMG_4922

With a not quite properly translated claim to fame like “city of beer fountain” being attributed to the area, the bar (sorry I couldn’t help myself) was set quite high. I ordered a bottle of “Pilsener” from the less than effusive barman and poured into my mini stein. I loved everything about that glass. Sandblasted smooth, perfectly weighted and fitting so well in my hand that it could have been made for me. Damn I miss it.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 16.55.54Now in my opinion there is something universal about great Pilsner; the first one does a Nick Cage. It’s gone in 60 seconds. Barre Pils was most certainly in that class.  

Pale yellow and a lively soapy head. The nose was classic Pils and popped with crispness, golden grain and a touch of resinous hop. Surgically precise, clean and utterly delicious.

I brought a bottle home and had it with a daunting cabbage, apple and beetroot soup. Cut through it like a razor. Ironic as that’s what that soup did to my insides. Yikes. Open a window would you dear.

I also brought home a bottle of their Weizen (wheat). Looking at it in the glass reminded me of swimming in a muddy river as a kid, an earthy brown haze cut through with shafts of dappled sunlight.

A balanced 5.4% abv with a dense milk shake foam head it pulsed with aromas of clove oil, wet banana skin and dried coriander seed. What I got on the nose replayed on my palate but as a luxurious velvet wheat whirlpool. Stuff is dangerously drinkable. I think it lasted about 8 minutes. Very tasty. Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 16.55.44

In addition to the Pils and Weizen, Barre brew a Dark, Alcohol-Free, Festbier, Maibock and an Alt. So if you ever happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Lübbecke for whatever reason, then Barre is a must try.

Israeli Craft Beer

My rather euphoric discovery of the Israeli craft beer scene was on a beautiful sunny spring afternoon in 2013. I spent several hours, chatting, eating and drinking microbrews at Beer Market in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv.

I snagged a few local bottles to sample back in the UK and tasted them at the Stormbird with a few good beer pals. They included: Des de Moor, Richard Warmsley, Sam Hill, Mark Charlwood and the infamous Glynn Roberts.

We started things off with Shapiro Pale Ale which had been a brewery I had liked in TA. Their Pale at 5% abv was hazy and full of yeast. There was some peach, tin corn and mint with a creamy bitter texture. Just ok.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 13.29.52Next was HaDubim Kiwi (5.3%). I had met Dagan their brewer while I was at the Beer Market in Jaffa, very nice guy. His Kiwi poured hazy golden with aromas of zesty gooseberry jam. Ultra dry with tart citrus and a kiwi skin finish. Pretty good.

Numero three was from family run brewery Taybeh actually based in the West Bank. Their Amber (5.5%) despite being brewed according to the German purity laws whiffed of brewed tea and sour Gueze. We established without tasting it that it was infected. A real shame as it had travelled so far.

Our bad run continued with Alexander and their Green (6%). An IPA with an “Israeli twist” that smelt of soapy cotton wool was also infected.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 13.30.30We were due some luck and it came in the lusciously dense molasses black form of Alon Porter (5%) from Negev. Metalic aromas of copper, Lebanese spices, cayenne pepper and baked black plum. The texture of velvet, pure earthy mineral expression, roasted coffee with a long dry finish. Very very good.

Maibeerovicz was last up and their Doppelbock (7.5%) was a hazy muck brown with a Kirsh nail polish remover nose. Oh no… Sour cherry, liquorice root and peach on the palate but like all three blended up and left out on a window sill for a few days in summer. Yep it was infected with something nasty.

Perhaps I fell victim to those “Holiday Booze Blues”? Where one is sorely underwhelmed or even downright disappointed with a tipple that filled you with such pleasure in a foreign land.

That said the beers I drank in Tel Aviv were quite fresh and one cannot account for randomising factors that may haunt novice brewers in a fledgling brew scene.

Besides the superb Negev and solid Hadubim here’s hoping the next time I am able to try the rest that their beers are in better shape…

Brewdog Colabfest 2014

To collab or not to collab that is the question.

To be fair those in the to not camp seem to be becoming more and more isolated. You’ve got brewers teaming up with brewers, beer writers linking up with brewers and even beer bloggers “brewing” with well… other beer bloggers! As was the case of the Pilsner Urquell Brewoff, which was very well captured by Tandleman here in his blog.

When some of the heavy weights do come together… it can whip up the kind of frenzied anticipation that I imagine might greet a Jay-Z and Beyonce/Kanye/Justin/etc or in my case Temple of the Dog* type collaboration. Queues of fervent followers desperate to get their hands on and mouths round the liquid delights of these hash tag multiplying ones offs.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.45.30However, I have not always been blown away by the end product of these much lauded unions. All fanfare and no show if you will.

So it was with some scepticism that I fought (literally) my way to the bar at Brewdog Shepherds Bush. It was rammed!!! Not enough staff to cope and I actually had a fierce argument with a woman who had shouldered past me and then tried to get served first. I informed here of her poor queuing practices and she claimed ignorance, which I debated. Things got a bit tense as we traded passive aggressive verbal blows; ” You go ahead and order! “ … “ No, no! You go ahead! “.

The whole thing ended with me ordering first and in true Canadian fashion feeling horribly guilty and apologising to her. To add insult to injury her chilled man friend quoted one of my favorite quotes; “Worse things happen at sea”. I tried to bond with him over it, but it ended up feeling hollow and reasonably inappropriate. Sniff.

Where was I ? Oh yes walking back to my seat in a west London craft beer bar with a couple 1/2 pints feeling like a total tosser.

Now what was different about these collaborations was that it wasn’t two or three breweries coming together. Brewdog had the genius idea to twin up each of their UK bars with shit hot brewers that were nearest to said bars (their marketing continues lead the pack here in the UK). Thus giving each beer a regional, local focal kind of feel.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.45.05Seeing as I hadn’t eaten dinner yet I got to work on my five a day with Lovibonds and BD Shepherd’s Bush Purple Rain; a foraged fruit sour. Was good and tangy, not too acidic. Liked the texture of it, not thin and weedy but muscular and chewy.

Next was a double header, swapping between sips/gulps of Alechemy‘s liaison with BD Dundee and Buxton Brewery tangoing with BD Nottingham.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.43.55Obviously they have heritage to spare up in Dundee as Alechemy burned actual timbers from the RRS Discovery to charge this Smoked in History smoked porter. Lean texture, fresh feel with balanced cocoa and coffee. Oh and smoke of course; just the right amount. Though I doubt Captain Scott would have approved.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.44.28I am a real fan of Buxton and their Rough C’s brewed with the help of the merry men and women of Nottingham was a real coup. I’d never tried an oatmeal amber lager (a what?!) before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. Lovely texture and feel (oatmeal take a bow) and very easy drinking. Liked the subtle malt sugars mingling with the creaminess of the oatmeal (again), but yet left it left my palate crisp and clean. Nice work.

Ordering food seemed a good idea at this point and am glad I did because they do some mean wings at BD Shep Bush. I opted for the North Carolina variation and demolished them along with some sinfully yummy tater tots, just beer numero quatre landed.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.44.13The Wild Beer Co are easily one of the top 5 breweries in the country and continue to evolve. Their creation in partnership with BD BristolRosa Canina Saison, which was nothing short of spectacular. The beer was delicious and balanced as it walked a tight rope of aromatic rose petal, tart rosehip and savoury rosemary. Not content with just making a fabulous beer, this colab showed some wit by in naming it. On first glance it’s simply the latin name for the shrub rose (native to Europe) that was used in flavouring the beer. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Rosa Canina’s common name is the Dog Rose. Very clever, very clever indeed.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.44.40After my four stop tour round the UK I came back to London with The Five Points Brewing Company and BD ShoreditchSmoke and Mirrors, a well trod metaphor for deception was slightly misnamed in my opinion as it was anything but fraudulent. This smoked porter showed class in spades: lovely rich silky feel, but wasn’t cloying or boozy (7.8% ABV). It had a wonderful depth as well with hints of cinder, cocoa nibs and espresso foam.

It was time to cross the street and go to a gig (Jungle; who didn’t exactly have me crowd surfing). After the show I felt I needed one last one off, but upon arriving I was a little at a loss as what to have.

Had really wanted to taste Ilkley Brewery and BD Leeds Westwood Stout, brewed with white chocolate. But sadly they had run out.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 15.44.55I sampled a few but being a Toon supporter I settled on a Tyne Bank Brewery BD Newcastle brew called Amba Necta. It sounded like the perfect dessert beer; a honey and apricot amber ale, sadly it didn’t particularly wow me. I freely admit though that by this point my palate wasn’t at its best (I blame the bottle of plastic cider… whoops I meant plastic bottle of cider in the Shepherd’s Bush Empire).

Based on this showing? To colab is most certainly the answer.

* Temple of the Dog was a one off musical collaboration to commemorate the untimely of passing of Andrew Wood, lead singer of Seattle rock band Mother Love Bone. TotD was the coming together of Soundgarden’s front man (and close friend) Chris Cornell and MLB band members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. A certain Eddie Vedder was enlisted and with Matt Cameron (also Soundgarden) on drums they released this self titled album in 1991. Of course Gossard, Ament and Vedder went on to form Pearl Jam with their first album Ten coming out that same year. While also in ’91 Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger hit the airwaves.

Other notable 1991 releases: Nirvana – Nevermind, Pixies – Trompe le MondeMetallica – Metallica, Guns n Roses – Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, U2 – Achtung Baby, REM – Out of Time, The Tragically Hip – Road Apples, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik , The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish, Lenny Kravitz  Mama Said, Massive Attack Blue Lines and Enya – Shepherd Moons. 

Shit, that was a good year of music.

Loved me some Enya back in the day.

Page 2 of 812345...Last »