Penpont Brewery

I am a regular visitor to the wilds of Cornwall and while down for a wedding some weeks past I grabbed a few bottles from Bodmin Moor based Penpont; a brewery I had been meaning to try.

Though a special mention must go out to the lack of functioning brain cells of the staff at the Spar in Rock.

While giving custom to the aforementioned establishment I was stood at the front of the queue (can you call it a queue when it’s only you?), my arms full of essential shopping (scones, clotted cream, etc.), waiting as two people at the tills served a customer each.

One would think a simple sounding procedure and straight forward enough, ah but no. Somehow through a complex level of bumbling and mind numbing faffery I was made to wait almost 10 minutes.

Now I came very close to dumping my overpriced thimble of local strawberry jam et all and storming out in protest. But as I tried to contain my gurgling urbanite rage my eyes fell upon the booze shelves and scanning for a welcome distraction I spied the nicely packaged Cornish Arvor and Roughtor. 

Eventually, I was in fact served and left with said bottles nestled in my canvas tote.

Here’s what I thought…

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 14.16.32Cornish Arvor Amber Ale weighing in at 4% abv and getting its name from a type of boat common on the seas around north west Cornwall, is lovely bright bronze.

A thin wispy head gave off notes of kelp and sweet ripe orchard fruit.

I really enjoyed the fresh texture underlaid with stone fruit and an herbaceous finish.

Solid and very pleasant session ale which I would happily drink with roast chicken or some of Rick Stein’s (reassuringly expensive) fish and chips.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 14.16.13Taking it’s moniker from the neolithic Rough Tor a round enclosure of stones that once formed a small ancient settlement atop the 2nd tallest hill in Cornwall on Bodmin Moor.

Roughtor is classed as a well hopped amber ale and had the look of dark leather.

Lovely thick soapy head that popping with aromas of nuts, raisin loaf, blossom honey and vegetable oil.

The palate starts creamy then finishes tart. Clean, herbaceous and dry with flavours of subtle apricot and peach then ending with savoury bay leaf.

Sitting comfortably at 4.7% avb this is a tasty www.casinoscapital.com/casino-games-guide/roulette/tips beer and one I think would go superbly with roast beef and yorkshire pud or some nice nutty hard cheeses.

So two good beers from Penpont Brewery and I have bad service to thank for it.

Every cloud…

Hawkshead Brewery and Bar

Now the reason that my lady and I were in the Lake District for my birthday at end of March this year was because I had complained to Virgin trains. The reason for a strongly worded email was the result of a crap journey to Stockport; for which I was given two first class train tickets to anywhere their trains went in the UK. Before some smart ass asks; no I wasn’t complaining about the state of Stockport.

Though I would be remiss if I didn’t give my readers a wee amuse-bouche of what one might expect to encounter at Stockport station after a shit journey on a Tuesday lunchtime. As I strolled out of the entrance in search of a cab, a bored child hurled a mostly empty coke can in my direction; it just missed me. A few feet away, oblivious, his equally disenfranchised looking pram toting mother swore loudly into her phone. Nuff said.

So after our free 1st Class journey to Oxenholme and a round the houses cab journey to Kendal we arrived at our superb B&B. Beech House does a bang up cooked breakfast and is easily one of the most cozy and inviting places I have stayed in the UK (no small feat). I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Kendal or anywhere near Kendal.

It was a short train ride from Kendal to Staveley the home of one of Cumbria’s finest; Hawkshead Brewery. There was a stack of twittersations fired back and forth as I tried to arrange a peek round the 20 barrel brewhouse. But arriving on a Friday evening the day before a big private event was inopportune to say the least. Thankfully on premises they’ve built a large, modern, spacious brewery bar that serves their beers in cask, keg and bottle as well as kicking out some good grub. Plus it was open till 11pm. Result!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.23.14I was wearing a grin a mile wide as I strolled into the airy, wood bedecked barn of beeryness (which I managed not to photograph); because it’s exactly the kind of place that is transforming the culture of beer drinking in this country. There weren’t any nooks with beeping fruit machines, nor a toilet that looked like it had last seen a mop in the late eighties. Not even a bar propped up with leering untrusting locals looking to lynch a Canadian Londoner beer geek.

The Hawkshead brew hall was bright, clean, buzzing with the laughter and chatter of people of all ages. Kids dashing around as their parents caught up with friends. Couples young and old in for a meal and a few pints. The kind of place I would spend way too much time if it was my local, which must have been the case for the folk of Staveley as it the joint was packed. We managed to grab a recently vacated table and armed with the food menu and some instructions from my dear lady I waded past tourists and toddlers to the bar. Busy as it was I didn’t have to wait too long to be asked what I might like from a smiling member of staff. I ordered a couple taster sticks and an assortment of edibles.Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.23.30

Back at the table we worked our way through Stick 1: Bitter/Windermere Pale/Red and Stick 2: Brodie’s Prime/Dry Stone Stout/The Illusionist. 

Stick 1: was ok enough with the Red coming out top it with some nuttiness, red berry tartness and nice texture. However, I found the balance and the “feel” of the Bitter and Windermere a fraction out, in terms of what I look for in those sorts of beers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.23.44Stick 2: full of dark beers was much more enjoyable. My favorite was probably the Dry Stone, I do love an oatmeal stout and this one had it all; black treacle, espresso and a texture that bordered on the sensual. Brodie’s was fresh, chocolatey with a hoppy bite. I know it’s not the done thing to say a cross word about Magic Rock, but my least favorite was probably the Illusionist. This much heralded colab with Hawkshead, though interesting lacked something for me and wasn’t up to the level of other two.

My dissection of the beers was slightly interrupted as our grub landed. Scotch egg & piccalilli: warm, eggy, tangy and piggy in all the right places. Deep fried whitebait & tartar: crisp light batter, rich mayo gherkin pickle saucy and crisp fishy yum yum. Sticky BBQ baby back ribs: stucky sweet, smoky finger sucking tasty. Homemade fish goujons with garlicky butter were a delight; crunching not too greasy batter and moist fish. The piece de resistance though was a Yorkshire pudding filled with: local beef braised in Brodie’s Prime and horseradish sauce. The missus and I were literally elbowing each other out of the way to lick the plate, it was that good. There were corn fritters and mushrooms on toast too but were less inspired. But it all got eaten, so couldn’t have been that bad.Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.24.21Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.25.01Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.24.32Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.24.41

By this stage the sticks had run dry, so I opted for a half of the Lakeland Gold to wash down the remnants of our eclectic tapas feast. That familiar refrain was back though, some missing notes that left me wanting.

Deciding on whether to have dessert or not was a no brainer as they had baked Alaska a la Lakes. Brodie’s Prime made an encore soaking the chocolate brownie base, add poached damsons, ice cream all cocooned in meringue and baked. Sounded like heaven and looked a dream when it arrived, but unfortunately upon eating, it came up a little short. Certainly tasty, but not enough ice cream and the brownie could have done with another good glug of the B.P. if I’m honest. Ah well…Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.25.12

The evening was edging on we were running short on trains back to Kendal, but surely there was the time for a quick night cap? After a short debate with myself I decided on two halves from their speciality range: Hawkshead IPA and NZPA (New Zealand Pale Ale) both on keg. Rather sadly I enjoyed neither and disliked the NZPA so much I didn’t even finish it. My issue? The hopping*. I am all for big hops in beer, but it needs to be balanced. The resin character was so astringent that simpled overpowered almost everything else going on in the beer. Which was a shame.

Despite some of their beers tasting out of tune (in my humble opinion) my visit to the Hawkshead brewery and beer hall was a very pleasant experience. It is a beautiful inviting space in which to enjoy good beer, tasty food and warm company.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.23.57Walking outside I was struck by the quiet and the thick darkness beyond the glow of the beer hall windows; a muffling cloak of coal, punched through in places with sparkling diamond stars. It’s easy to forget that such a world exists when we live in a big cities. The roar of jet engines and millions of lights filling up our senses. My breath came out as steam and we wandered our way to Staveley station.

*Now there will be people who disagree or call me anti-hop (love hops I do). But for me good beer (or wine or spirits or food) should have an equilibrium. I would go as far to say that balance is probably the most important factor when I am assessing a food or beverage. When it’s in perfect harmony; a drink or plate of food is lifted from the simply good into the magnificent.

Postscript: I recently came across Hawkshead Lakeland Lager in bottle at one of my local pubs and so gave it a try. I am an optimist and really wanted to be impressed so as to dispel my reservations about some of their beers.

It reminded me of Grolsch. Which sadly is not a good thing.

Won’t stop me trying their beers again though…

 

Lake Brews: Coniston and Stringers

It was upon a birthday trip so fine that I made my way to the wilds of Cumbria and a walking I did go with my good lady upon my arm. Over hill, dale and even across the glittering water of Windermere did we travel in search of adventure and nourishment for our minds and bodies; the smog of London gently being lifted from our hair (and our souls) by the lake breeze.

Many miles did we wander, beautiful sights did we see, good food and drink did we imbibe, but night’s dark cloak drew in and nearing the station I was drawn to the warming lights of Booths.

I know not what called me to the beer aisle like a clarion call, but as I stood staring and blinking in the bright artificial lights my eyes settled upon a few labels. One of the names inscribed was familiar to me so I reached out and took two of its kind.

As I turned to go something stopped me; a ringing in my ears, and lo I knew my mistress waited near the magazines tapping a muddy hiking shoe, that ringing turned to words that shouted  “two is not enough!!”. It echoed around my mind and I tried to shake it knowing there may be consequences if I tarried but a moment more. Yea, before I knew it I was turning back to the glassy glow.

Hungrily I hunted the rows, there must be a reason for my return, where was it to be found? As if a curtain was suddenly lifted I spied the bold packaging, how could have I missed it before? Just gazing upon those brown bottles in their resplendent robes of blue and black edged in white; I knew one thing, I must posses them.

All four little gems travelled tucked in my case back to London town, arriving safely. It twas high time I drank the buggers…

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 14.25.28My previous knowledge of Coniston Brewery related solely to an evening tasting Britain’s Champion Beers at which I sampled their extraordinary No. 9 Barley Wine. Champ in 2012 and my favourite beer from the 2000-13 CAMRA winners. It was on that strength that I procured their Bluebird Bitter and charmingly named Old Man Ale. 

The BB at 4.2% had the look of warm amber, giving off aromas of wet fall leaves, burnt caramel and horse blanket. Sipping revealed some woodiness, iron filings, dry earth, a touch meaty, some resin but cleansing, fresh, easy drinking with a tart floral finish.

Though the name suggested it be best supped by those with more hair in their ears than on their heads; Consiton’s Old Man Ale was anything but.Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 14.25.17

In the glass it looked to me like melted brown sugar with a rich thick shaving foam head. Sniff sniff: lovely floral complexity (owing to the Challenger and Mount Hood hops), warm rye bread, hints of gingerbread spices, fruits of white peach and sweet plum with the vaguest whiff of caramel coated hazelnut.

Let me at it! A balanced 4.8%, creamy rum raisin, air dried beef, dandelion and burdock, with a clean, dry woody mushroom and sage leaf finish. Very very good and not a whisper of the war.

Completely new to me were Stringers Brewery, however their brewy base in the market town Ulverston is a place close to my heart. Some years ago, for about three weeks yours truly nested at the grade II listed Friends Meeting House while I rehearsed a play in the less memorable Barrow-in-Furness.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 14.24.43They have stopped brewing their XB (4.2%) since I drank it, apparently due to lack of traction in an otherwise overcrowded best bitter market. Which is a shame as my notes will show…

It had a rich Demerara sugar hue with a happy soapy head, then sticking my nose where it did belong my brain did the deciphering: newly cut hay, runny golden syrup, creamy banoffie pie and fresh baked pear tatin. To my lips and then… sharp clean crisp, dry mushroom, round malt and finishing in lemon pith.

Solid and tres drinkable. Bring it back.

Mercifully their Dry Stout (4.5%) is still available and damn is it good!Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 14.24.31

Staring into the abyss of my glass, a dense moonless midnight winter black topped with thin charcoal fluffy clouds. Wonderful full bodied aromas of iron rich earth, liquorice http://casinoin.us/set-back-for-the-poker-slots/, jäger herbs, fresh espresso and baked black plums battered my nostrils. Gulp: cold coffee evolving into tiramisu, some savoriness giving way to Jerusalem artichoke and finishing in dry cocoa. Concentrated and textured yet remains very fresh.

Truly as good a stout as I’ve ever had (won a few awards as well).

And that was that, was that then.

Peckham Burger @ Anderson & Co

Some years ago (like 2008/2009) the grand trendsetter looked upon the great city with its many diverse eateries and despite the health warnings said ” Let there be meat… Shit loads of it… Oh and pop-ups. Pop-ups are like the shizzle”.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.24And the people rejoiced for more meat and a multitude pop-ups seemed to be what their lives were missing. But not in the tired boiled/fried or the random installation art way of the past oh no, this was a new dawn, mashing up: craft beer, kimchi, live music, funky art and antiques, hotdogs, DJ’s, lobster and those revered culinary techniques perfected by our rebellious cousins across the great sea. Carnivorous creations of: ribs sticky and sweet, chicken wings made of hellfire with blue cheese dip, slow cooked pork spiced and pulled to the point of no return, steak so big and bloody young children hid their faces at sight of it and last but surely not least that flagship of Americana, the mighty Hamburger.

Last Friday I met up with an old friend who lives Peckham Rye (my old hood) and he suggested Peckham Burger chez Anderson & Co. Chilled hand crafted food cafe by day and by night (Weds-Sat) it morphs into aScreen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.43.23 slick patty and bun operation kicking out simply: beef, chicken, veggie (mushroom) and skinny (bun-less) burgers to which you can add bacon, cheese, etc… Sides were equally minimal: bloody mary salt fries, mac n cheese and coleslaw. There’s a few puddings as well; the specialty being ice cream sundaes with Jude’s the star of the show. It’s not a huge place; room for about 40 covers (give or take) if you include the handful of tables out front and the nice fairy garden in the back where we sat.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.41.44The drinks list is slightly more filled out with a good selection on non alcoholic options featuring Luscombe Drinks and Owlet Juices. Wine is simple and straightforward with a choice of one red (very solid Chateau La Bastide/Corbières) and one white (Inzolia from Sicily). Quite pleased to see a couple of very local beers in Peckham Pils/Brick BreweryRed Ale/Brockley Brewing and the only slightly further afield Kernel IPA/The Kernel Brewery (who have become a deserved regular on some of the UK’s best eateries). There were some more mainstream lagers as well but didn’t take much notice of them.

By way of aperitif I had a Peckham Pils (I’d tried to drink it on two previous occasions but both bottles were flat/faulty). Clear, bright with decent head retention and a touch lager stinky. The palate was alright, crisp and pretty clean, but they’ve still not got it quite right for me. Though I do like their Archway Steam.

Still thirsty I ordered another beer along with the Chicken Burger (au natural) and some of the cocktail seasoned fries. First to arrive was the Brockley Red Ale and I was much pleased. Rich rusty tone and nutty, earthy, red berry nose. Impressive texture to it, nice balance of sweet malt and savory hops. Yum I say!

My CB and fries landed and I tucked right in. Suffolk chicken thigh marinated in tomorrosso (tomato), garlic, basil, oregano, chilli with lettuce, tomato and our aioli on a cholla bun was how the menu described itScreen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.01. My tastebuds went with “Oh my flippin gawdness!!”. Gonna out on a limb and say it’s the best chicken burger I have had in years. A real masterpiece; from the cooking of that juicy tender Suffolk clucker, to the tangy vibrant marinade, which balanced just right against the mellow garlic mayo and the sweet soft as a pillow cholla. Senfrigginsational! The fries kept the standard high. Skinny frites with a perfect crunch to them, not greasy and I must say the addition of Bloody Mary salt was inspired. Raised the chip up to someplace special. Oh and their homemade tommy k was awesome! Had just the right amount of sweet, sour and spice.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.43.01To top it all off that red ale was the perfect match, it’s weight and feel beautifully complimenting my heavenly bird in a bun.

Service was spot on; relaxed, friendly and efficient.

Perhaps the bill was a bit more than you might expect to pay for 2 burgers, 2 fries and 4 beers, but we are in London after all. I was more than happy to shell out; hell it’s not every day you eat a chicken burger that might just Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.42.12change your life (ok didn’t change my life, but it certainly made my week).

Oh lo the grand trendsetter said unto them  “Some pop up burger joints are created better than others.”

Amen to that.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 17.43.13

Ska Euphoria & Dale’s Pale Ale Cans

The beer bloggeratti are abuzz with pretty universal praise of our favourite breweries putting their fine liquids into cans. It does tick a lot of boxes in terms of: cost efficiency, environmental impact and freshness retention. That final consideration is especially important when we are talking about the best brewskis making the long journey from the US of A to her Majesty’s golden shores.

Not one to be left behind I picked up a couple tinnies from two Colorado heavyweights Ska and Oscar Blues at the tres swish The Beer Boutique in Putney.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 15.27.18My first taste of Ska Brewing came at the now extinct My Brewery Tap in Brighton. I visited soon after their opening a few years back and had a whale of a time trying a range of keg beers that included that beast of an IPA that is Modus Hoperandi. Euphoria Pale Ale, now in its 10th year is a collaboration with their pals at Venture Snowboards and is a celebration of all the outdoor activities that winter brings and that craftsman spirit that embody them both.

First thing I noticed about this 6.2% abv seasonal “Ska/Venture Venture” was that it was past drink by date by nearly a month, undeterred (I’ve eaten IKEA mustard that was years past its expiry) I poured it out. A promising rich mocha head frothed up showing a deep clear brown undercarriage. The aromas stomped all over my nasal receptors with a complexity that showed passion fruit, marmite, Rollo chocolates and dense ginger cake. With a nose like that I wasted no time supping back a big gulp of it. I was struck immediately by the fabulous rounded mouthfeel, but then subtle malty peach joined the party, with hop resin poking through, his lady friend ripe cantaloupe came bouncing in, bringing the whole mouth fiesta into superb balance. Utterly delicious.

Having heard a lot of good things about Oscar Blues Brewingtheir flagship Dale’s Pale Ale seemed as good a place to start as any.Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 15.27.41

Bright amber in the glass with a thin layer of head, it gave off whiffs of earthy mushroom, pine resin, lemon peel and roast chicken (maybe I was hungry). First sip was zippy and fresh. The texture was nice and creamy, with hints of dry pineapple and mango, razor sharp hops, some stony minerals and a slightly floral finish. If you are a bit of a hopmonster this solid 6.5% abv-er is the benchmark for great USA inspired pale ale. Killer pairing with cheddar cheese as well.

Based on this very limited but highly successful tasting I will be lending my voice to those around me shouting at the top of our lungs. “Bring us more cans!”

Brixton Brewery

I love supporting local businesses in my hood of SE London. I also love good beer so you can imagine my delight as I gazed upon the chilling bottles of Brixton Brewery in the beer fridge at that cave of drinky delights Market Row Wines.

I snapped four bottles to try. The names were proudly Brixtonian, but did the beer behind those dazzling labels express the vibrant complex nature of this most iconic London neighbourhood?

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.40.25I kicked off with Windrush Stout (5%) and found the nose of this dense black ale quite intoxicating. Freshly roasted coffee, ripe blackberries, toasted chestnut, rich in iron with a savoury meatiness. It slipped down very nicely and I loved the fresh clean quality it had in my mouth. As well as some of the notes from the nose there was bubble coffee, earthy minerals and a beautifully balanced lean bitter finish. Very easy drinking, yet fine. Quite delicious.

Next was Reliance Pale Ale (4.2%) which smelled of tropical fruit sweets, white melon and toast. My first sip I found to twang of TCP, it was tart with a sharp malt bite and finished dry pithy grapefruit. Very medicinal and not quite to my taste.Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.40.46

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.40.37But they were back on song again with their flagship session Effra Ale (4.5%). Mouth watering peach, caramel and rich malty bread invaded my nostrils. Tasting it, what really impressed me was its rich texture of toasted cornmeal but there were also some Jäger herbs with a firm dry mango finish. Very tasty.

To round off the quartet was Electric IPA (6.5%) whose nose sang to me of bright sweet pineapple, candied grapefruit and pasties fresh from the oven. The mouthful was creamy sweet papaya, pithy pink grapefruit with a dry peppery rocket finish. Quite good indeed.Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 14.40.54

Brixton Brewery began to ferment 3 years ago as an idea in the hop addled minds of neighbours and passionate homebrewers Jez and Mike as they drank in the previous incarnation of The Craft Beer Co SW4. Putting their plan into action took about two years and saw them team up with head brewer Dominic whose CV boasts names like Brewdog, Kelham Island and Sierra Nevada. Despite not being wild about the Reliance Pale Ale I felt each beer possessed its own distinct personality and expressed some of that joie de vivre that makes Brixton such a vibrant and engaging place. Here’s hoping that Jez, Mike and Dominic can maintain their solid start and build on some very well brewed beers.

I’m a big fan of fellow blogger Leigh Linely’s writing (I also like that his initials repeat, like mine) and regularly read his  The Good Stuff” blog. Here’s a link to his recent Brixton Brewery Review.

Great minds Leigh; I thought the Windrush Stout was the pick of the bunch as well.

Harviestoun: Òrach Slie, Ridge and Broken Dial

I have been fortunate enough to be on this bonnie Scottish brewery’s ‘good bloggers’ list for a few years now. The reason I know this, is that every now and then a package containing Harviestoun beer turns up unannounced; which is quite a nice thing. They have brewed some excellent beers since they started nigh on thirty years ago. The beer that put them on the map is Bitter & Twisted Blond Ale, but they are also responsible for Ola Dubh, probably one of the world’s best whisky barrel aged brews. Engineers Reserve ‘Old Engine Oil’; a beer so silky and voluptuous that the first time I tasted it, I actually felt as if I had been seduced. Finally, their Schiehallion has got to be one of the top 5 quality craft lagers in the country.

A few new (ish) releases turned up on my doorstep and here’s what I thought:

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 09.33.03Òrach Slie 6% abv

A golden ale matured in Glenfarclas whisky barrel, that pours bright Irun-Bru in colour. The nose is wet moss, wool, oak infused golden syrup. I found it rich yet easy drinking with notes of wet grain, heather, honey, sunflower oil and a tart woody tannin finish. Honestly on when I first tasted it, it didn’t send my pulse racing. That said after a month or so when I came round to trying the 3rd bottle, it was much better. The texture had improved and there was a more complex mead sweetness. A good beer, just needed a bit of time to settle down. Might even be worth laying a few down for a few months to see how they develop. 7/10

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 09.32.52The Ridge Pale Ale 5% abv

It’s pale golden (no surprise there) with aromas of grapefruit pith, proving bread, kumquat and lime marmalade. My tastebuds picked up a veritable Aladdin’s cave of flavours: creamy citrus, wasabi, dried pineapple, sticky toffee pudding and a very dry citrus seed finish. The complexity and intensity of the hopping might be a bit much for some (it left teeth marks a couple times), but is well suited to food (spicy chinese or fish and chips) but it does what it says on the can; a pale ale that sings The Star Spangled Banner with its sporran swaying. 6.75/10

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 09.32.38Broken Dial Amber Ale 4.5% abv

Pale tan held up to the light and I got whiffs of sweet malt loaf, dry apricot and cocoa. Sipping it twas the tea tannins that bit first, then I got dry chocolate, orange peel, beef consume, burnt caramel, dried leather with a peach fluff finish. Do I love it? Well no. But its a perfectly decent amber ale. 6.5/10

I was sent 24 bottles of Broken Dial and The Ridge so was able to sample many bottles over a period of time. An interesting experiment (and very generous of Harviestoun), because not only was I able to sample them after some ageing, but certain flavours and aromas were more pronounced depending on when I drank them. Giving me a broader and more detailed understanding of the beers. It also meant quite a few friends got to taste them and this is by no means scientific but most preferred The Ridge.

It was Harviestoun’s special deliveries in my early days of beer blogging that gave me confidence and belief that at least someone liked what I was doing. So a big thanks to Ewan and the team for ‘loving my work’.

*Disclaimer – I receive no remuneration beyond the beers themselves from Harviestoun and produce reviews based on my honest opinion, full in the knowledge that a negative one may land me on the ‘naughty’ list.

Hunter’s Brewery

I had my first taste of Hunter’s a few years back for the Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt. The Devon based brewery had their Full Bore into final round of the competition that year, but sadly weren’t crowned champions. I did however pick up a few of their other bottles and reviewed their excellent Half Bore in one of my video blogs.

In February I was down at a food fair in Exeter; Hunter’s had a stand so I was able to taste a few on cask as well as being given a trio of their newer beers to take away in bottle.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 11.21.55Devon Dreamer 4.1%

Ice tea brown.

Buttery caramel & grapefruit pith nose.

Wonderfully easy drinking, creamy texture, passion fruit, clean tangy finish. Super session ale.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 11.22.12Crispy Pig 4%

Cloudy golden.

Aromas of fragrant sweet red apple and blossom honey.

Punchy dry apple skin  moving to dry savoury and firm on the mid palate. Super dry finish with notes of sweet basil. Quite more-ish. However it lacked liveliness. Perhaps it was faulty? Looked flat and hazy. Not exceptional but interesting. Good with creamy cheese or grilled pork.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 11.22.23The Royal Hunt 5.5%

Rich chestnut brown.

Raisin malt brown fresh dates on the nose.

Flat so lacks depth. Dry and malty. Some sweet prune.

A bit of mixed bag really. I tasted the Crispy Pig on cask at the stand and it was much more vibrant so knew something was up with the bottle. It’s a bit of a novelty: ale infused with apples. So worth looking out for. The Royal Hunt I would want to try again as it’s may have been faulty as well. For me Devon Dreamer was the standout. Refreshing, balanced and delicious. What more could you want?

Thanks to the folks at Hunter’s for giving me the samples and do seek out their multi award winning beers.

 

 

Non Alcoholic Beers

At the behest of my good lady we had a dry January and so I had a reason to try some booze free brews.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.44.46Jever Fun (.05% abv/£1)

Made by a respected German brewer and despite its rather ironic name (those crazy Germans with their “unique” sense of humour) I thought this wasn’t bad at all. It’s price tag of a quid is pretty attractive as well.

Smells of normal lager green hops hint of sweet malt a bit metallic. Crisp fresh, nice mouth feel, bitter in the right places, it’s dry, balanced finish no nasty aftertaste. It actually tastes better than a lot of alcoholic McLagers and was quite good with a spicy curry. It does need to be drunk very cold though & relatively quickly. As the ‘Fun’ loses carbonation and warms more uneven vegetal flavours emerge making it less pleasant to drink.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.45.08 Rothaus Alkoholfrei (.05% abv/£2)

Another German offering with a slightly sweet stinky malt nose. It’s clean, easy drinking with no aftertaste. Reminded me a bit of light Swedish beers (Skol and Falcon) I drank when I first visited Scandinavia back in the 90’s. Not bad at all. Tasting blind, I’m not sure I could tell it was non alcoholic. A good sign.

I can’t say that I will be rushing out to stock up on either of the beers but I can say hand on heart that if you are unable to or choose not drink alcohol but still want a decent brewski and either of these will do.

I bought both beers from The Beer Boutique which is a lovely beer shop in Putney.

 

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