Thursday, 4 December 2014

Catch up.

Man I have been tardy at this lately. It's just hard enough to get the time to drink beer these days, never mind blog about it. 

So, how am I doing against 1001 Beers? Last one I posted about was number 237, a quick catch up below (no photo's):

238. O'Kells IPA
One of three O'Kells beers in the list and one I had before I even realised it was in there. It's actually ok in a pretty traditional English IPA way. Nothing I'd go out of my way to find but a solid enough 6.

239. Kostritzer Schwarzbier
Solid dark lager, decent roast malt and chocolate with plenty of fizz, and ok bitterness. I'm not one for too many dark lagers but could manage this one again. 6

240. O'Kells Aile
The best of the O'Kell's I have had. Smooth, toasted, chocolate, coffee. Nice hint of smoke in there too adding a little bit of complexity but still easy drinking. 6.5

241. O'Kells Mac Lir
A wheat beer but not much in the way of the interesting esters and fruits from the best examples. I drunk it probably won't be buying again.

242. Brasserie Ellezelloise Hercule Stout
The most interesting beer in this list. Really nice Bruin: roast malt, chocolate, but lighter than most porters and with more sugar, a hint of twangy tartness and marzipan. Of this lot definitely the one worth seeking out and buying. 9% though so watch out! 7.5

Two now picked up at Belfast Beer Fest:
443. Woodfords Wherry
For me this falls into the "boring brown bitter" category. Twiggy, earthy and ashy, and not enough hop to cut through. Nor for me I'm afraid. 4

444. Cairngorm Tradewinds
It might have been the mix of beer I had before it, it might have been it condition, but I thought this was pretty dire. A wheat beer that did have some fruit but it was all overripe banana and not much else. One to miss. 3.5

I have a separate piece still on the stone beers to post at some point when I can be bothered, but I wanted to post this to highlight the fact that Boundary Brewery Co-op share offer is currently live. From what I've heard and seen - these guys know their stuff and should be producing some really exciting and innovative local brews. I'm really pleased they are heading towards their target already, so if you want to get in and own a piece of a local brewery get in now before the opportunity goes!


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Up the Kriek

Ok, it’s been awhile. I have a child at THAT age, which means when she finally goes to sleep I just want to relax. This can involve having a good beer or two, but the effort to take decent notes and then write them up into a post seems too much at the minute… In order to keep some semblance of momentum up I’ve tried to catch up on the few beers from the list I’ve had since the last posting

235. Kriek De Ranke
Style: Kriek ABV: 7% From:
Description: Poured a dark ruby red with a nice pink head – pretty clear actually. The aroma is all tart fruit and twangy sourness – cherries mainly but there some tart raspberries in there too. The cherries stay for the taste, along with some cranberries maybe? This isn’t sweet though – more face puckeringly sour. Mid-bodied and a little sticky.
Thoughts: Another great beer from De Ranke, this one balances fruit, tartness and sourness really well into a complex but drinkable beer. Go for it.
Score: 8

236. Left Hand Sawtooth
Style: ESB ABV: 5.3% From: Lighthouse Wines
Description: Amber in colour, actually its almost brown. Poured clear with a small white head. I’m not getting too much aroma wise, a hint of sweet toffee apple combined with something distinctly more pub toilet. Thankfully that latter smell doesn’t follow into the taste, there a definite biscuit malt vibe, some toffee, back up at the end by a very light citrus/grapefruit bitter note. Light to mid bodied.
Thoughts: ESBs generally don’t do a lot for me, this was actually pretty sinkable – once I got past the strange smell – does the job but doesn’t require much consideration/effort. Not sure I’d go out of my way to buy again though.
Score: 6

237. Left Hand Milk Stout
Style: Sweet/Milk Stout ABV: 6% From: Lighthouse Wines
Description: Jet black with a decent tan head. Aroma is mild coffee, light roast, with a hint of lactic milk chocolate. Mocha latte coffee flavours, and a hint of chocolate milk. Quite light and thin for my taste.
Thoughts: I was really looking forward to this – it sounded very me, but it just didn’t quite deliver. The flavours were fine, if a little understated, but the lack of body really let the side down.
Score: 6.5

I also had the Left Hand’s “Nitro” version of the Milk Stout, which was kind of similar to the above, but maybe not even as good. Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale (Lighthouse Wines again) was a great wee example of the style - basically my notes are summed up by the phrase “Actually this is pretty damn good” - and one worth trying.

Farmageddon’s Mosaic SMASH is the latest beer from the boys from Comber, and one that seems to be getting good reviews. I personally thought it was much better than the Tomahawk version – there’s lots of tropical fruit here and a nice resinous body the reminded me (a little) of Of Foam and Fury. However, I was still getting something TCP/Dettol like on the finish. While not overpowering this time, it just left an unpleasant aftertaste at the very end that down rated the experience for me. I know others who have said they aren’t experiencing the same thing, so maybe its psychological or maybe I’m just being unlucky. Still I think the improvement is there for all to see, next one should be a cracker!


Friday, 26 September 2014

I say Yes to Edinburgh

So a managed a wee trip to Edinburgh the week before the big vote. I LOVE Edinburgh. It's just one of those cities with a good vibe. I had a little spare time between work, and wondered the streets on my own taking in the buzz, the tourists, and watching the world's media (OK, well the UK's media anyway) descend like vultures on the latest news morsel to pick over (endlessly as it turned out) till the vote was done.

I had hoped to have more time and check out a few new pubs, the Hanging Bat in particular was on my list thanks to recommendations from beer gurus like Michael Kerr. Work screwed me. I had less time than I needed and therefore decided to drop into Brewdog Edinburgh which was near where I needed to be. Like the rest of Edinburgh, it had an easy going vibe but plenty of people out for a Monday night. Lots of American's in there getting their hops on.
I sampled Brew by Numbers Tripel, which I found a little chalky, there was some nice light hoppiness going on but a little too yeasty (and not spicy yeast at that) for me. Next up was a quick sip of Brewdog's This.Is.Lager., ridiculous name aside there wasn’t much more going on here than in Fake Lager. It was fine, and a decentish pils, but not worth a second go round in my view. I finished with a quick half of Brewdog's Dead Pony Club, which is still a good light, session-able IPA that made me wish I'd just started with that. I left heartbroken with two beers behind the bar which were on the list (Grand Divide Yeti and Fantom Saison) which were too big to drink that night but I had no way of getting home with me (no check in luggage). I still managed to leave with a smile on my face, until a realised I had work to do in the Hotel...

Back home I managed to add on another couple of beers from the list:

232. St Bernardus Tripel

Style: Tripel ABV: 8% From:
Description: Poured a nice dark straw colour, hazy, with a small perfectly white head. The aroma did the normal tripel thing, yeasty Belgian spice, a bit of fruit (I’d say a definite hint of apple), but then added in a hint of smoke. Flavour was more of the light apple fruit, a green grassy hops, spice (coriander). Light to mid bodied with a definite vinous quality.
Thoughts: Ah now this is how you do it. It’s a big beer, but plenty of subtly with it too – dangerous stuff with that high ABV hidden so well (till the second glass anyway).
Score: 8

233. St Bernardus Wit
Style: Wit ABV: 5.6% From:
Description: Pale yellow in colour, cloudy, it poured with a small white head. My notes say “damn it I’ve got the cold and can’t get much from this” so that’s enlightening… there was a hint of orange and lemon, and a fair whack of wheat too. Slightly chalky wheat flavour to start, more of that orange juice in the taste, and – if I try really hard - maybe a hint of lemon rind and lemongrass. Pretty light bodied – expected it to be creamier.
Thoughts: With so many good beer produced by St Bernardus, I came into this with expectations. While there weren’t met by the beer, it was fine without ever being exciting or particularly tasty.
Score: 6

234. Rothaus Hefeweizen
Style: Wheat ABV: 5.6% From:
Description: Colour was on the dark side of yellow for a hefe, hazy, and a big white head. Lots of orange juice in the aroma, and a hint of winter spices (clove, nutmeg, etc). There’s more of that orange juice in the flavour, again backed up by some clove and unripe banana. Medium body and creamy
Thoughts: Quite enjoyed this, in my opinion it was better than the Unertl version I recently sampled. Would buy again.
Score: 7


Thursday, 18 September 2014

An amber wheat and a night on the town

My blogging has been very tardy this month. Holidays, work, a child, a house, and some apathy (and, to further enhance my geekiness, Hearthstone) had me doing at other things, though still trying some good beers. There's a few posts in draft that need a bit of work, but I thought I'd better knock some crap out on a quiet night in...

Saturday past brought a friend home from London (waves) and an excuse to head out with him and my usual beer buddy. We hit the Hudson  and as usual got a great section of beer, without a dragon or a cartel in sight unfortunately... I particularly enjoyed the Magic Rock Rapture on tap which was all caramel malt, citrus hops and oily goodness. Dead Pony Club did its usual light hoppy thing,  and it was nice to see bottles of Rogue Mocha Porter and Kinnegar Yannaroddy in the wild. I also tried the locally brewed Hercules Yardsman but it didn't really show me too much (but in fairness I'd had a few big flavoured beers by then so probably not really a fair first tasting).

One beer  from the list to report too:

231. Unertl Weissbier

Style:  Wheat beer. ABV: 4.9%. From: 
Description: Toffee apple amber in colour, a slight haze (mostly induced by my yeasty pour), with a big beige head - definitely dark looking for the style (or at least what I'm accustomed too). On the aroma there's some classic clove and nutmeg spice, but there's also a hint of smoke here too. A wee bit of light toffee in the flavour, more of that clove spice, wheat, but nothing huge flavourwise - and the smoke has completely disappeared. Silky mouthfeel, mid-bodied.  
Thoughts: This was grand, and nice enough on a autumn evening, but it came across just a bit bland to me. Would try again... but wouldn't go out of my way to pick it up.
Score: 6

Just a quick note to point out the next BeerClubBelfast is taking place on Wednesday 24th September in the Sunflower - that's a new night and a new venue. I'm working so won't be there but make sure to make be jealous in the comments or on twitter.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Beeryness is next to Godliness

I missed @lighthousewines beer club again, this was specially hard to take give it was Stone Brewing Night! However, given it was my anniversary, and my daughter's birthday, chances of getting out were slim to begin with. Had a lovely dinner at Uluru in Armagh to make up for it (they even have a few local beers on the list but i was driving so on good behaviour). Managed to pick up the left over bottles (see below), any favourites from the night I should look forward to in particular?

My last post covered this years Hilden Beer Fest, which was a great night sampling beers. I managed to follow this up with another night beer tasting with a beer loving friend - even ticking a few more off the list. Now I did take notes, but I seem to have misplaced my geeky little beer book... so the below is going to be based on my memory (which is bad at the best of times) and untapped logins!
229. Brouwerij Van Eecke Poperings HommelBier
Style: Belgian Pale Ale. ABV: 7.5% From: The Vineyard.
Description: Hazy, golden, with a decent little white head. Belgian yeast on the nose, with a bit of spice and some unripe banana and clove esters. Nice herbal bitterness, a little floral and a little grain. Well balanced stuff this. Quite light, hiding the ABV far too well... 
Thoughts: Lovely little beer this, light, delicate but packing in plenty of interesting subtle flavours. Pleased it came in quite a small bottle as I'm guessing this is dangerous in larger quantities. Worth looking out for, I'll buy again.
Score: 7.5

230. Brouwerij Bosteels Deus (Brut de Flanders) 2012
Style: Biere De Champagne. ABV: 11.5% From: The Vineyard.
Description: Poured a bright yellow, with a very light cloudlyness and a tiny white head. Lots of very obvious carbonisation. Given the obvious links with champagne production referenced on the bottle I'm not sure how much of this is the power of suggestion... but there is a real vinous and soft fruit quality to the smell. The taste also has some of that peachy soft fruit and some light oak, although there is definitely more graininess than you'd get in champers. As it warmed it got slightly sweeter, but still pleasant - though I did follow the serving instructions pretty closely. Light bodied, slightly thicker and oiler as it warmed up. 11.5%? Where?
Thoughts: Saved this for an occasion and for another beer geek to share it with. I really enjoyed it, interesting, and lots of flavour. My wife wasn't so keen, feeling it was neither a proper beer nor winey enough, so be warned. Glad I bought it, at the price I'm not sure I'd buy again but if anyone one wants to donate a bottle... 
Score: 8.5 (may be a 9)

Of the other's we tried I'd say To Øl's Dangerously Close To Stupid (Imperial IPA, 9.3%, The Vineyard but also at Lighthouse Wines) was the best - lots of citrus, pineapple, and grapefruit (especially in the aroma) I was a bit worried it would be an over-bitter hop bomb but the flavour was nicely balanced, very drinkable, and something I need to be buying again for a proper taste! 


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hilden Beer and Music Festival 2014

Right, I'm squeezing in this quick post as there are other things I should really be doing. I think those things involve watching footy, my wife think they involve painting the front room... Anyway the haste may mean there are a few typos etc ("What, more than usual?" I hear you cry) so apologies in advance!

Last night was my second Hilden Beer and Music Festival, in what looks sets to become an annual event for me and my trusty beery side kick. Have to say I think overall the set up was much better than last year. Switching the stage and the bar around at the main site lead to more room, and what seemed like a bigger bar. I'm also sure there were more staff and getting served was a much easier experience. The move from cash at the bar to a token system also helped a lot; as did having a dedicated food area.

It was also nice to have a choice of glasses on the way in. Given that I already have a Hilden pint glass, and the fact I was there to sample, I went for the half pint glass. It's a nice wee tulip glass and much more in keeping with my beer geek hipster aesthetic (disclaimer - I'm not a hipster and I'm pretty sure I have no aesthetic what so ever). Pro tip - if you want to maximise beer volume/value for money go for the pint glass and order half pints, I'd say the people doing this were probably getting close to 2/3rds of a pint for their token!

On to the beer, there probably not much to excite "beer heads" but I thought the choice was decent with options from here, the south, Scotland and England.  I didn't really take notes so these are all quick run throughs...
White Gypsy's Honey Gold was probably the best beer I had, lightly sticky, mid bodied, the rye came through well as did a touch of honey. Reminded me of Licher, in a good way. St Austell's Tribute was very well kept and showed plenty of its biscuity goodness. Hilden's own Twisted Hop was also on good form with a light juicy pithy bitterness that went down well on a sunny Friday evening. The only beer I wouldn't recommend was the Porterhouse Dublin Pale Ale, which was elegantly described by my compatriot as tasting like "a beer you poured yesterday but are only drinking today". 

A nice surprise on the list was Pokertree's Dark Nirvana. Labelled a Black/Cascadian IPA to me it came across more of a porter with a very light hopping. There is a hint of citrus in the aroma but it really didn't cross into the flavour which was espresso and dark chocolate. There was a light resinous finish in the mouthfeel. Not a bad effort but too me, as a Black IPA, it fell into the "needs more hops" category. 

The music was also good - enjoyed the covers band whose music ranged from Eminem to Stevie Wonder (via lots of rock). 

If you plan on heading up, leave the car and take the train. If you get there before 4pm on Sat & Sun, showing your train ticket gets you £2 off entry!

I'm missing Lighthouse Wines' Stone beer tasting event this Thursday, so I'm hoping there'll be some left over for us plebs afterwards! Right, I'm off to paint the front room while watching football at the same time (see its all about comprise) - as a reward I'm hoping to have the little number on the right tonight, can't wait. 


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Honeydew is the Moneydew

So this lot arrived (pictured below), should keep we going for awhile and another good few ticks from the list to come too!

It’s also almost time for the Hilden Beer and Music Festival 2014, line up looks good and I really enjoyed it last year – despite the weather. I hope to get up on the Friday night but might have to see how it goes. Anyone else heading up to Lisburn?

Right on to the beers…

228. Fuller’s Honeydew
Style: Golden Ale. ABV: 5%. From: (though my local Tesco has it as well at the minute).
Description: Poured a vibrant yellow and perfectly clear, there was a thin white head for about 2 seconds until it faded off into history, no real lacing either. Pretty looking pint when the head was on it. Not much aroma, vaguely grainy and beery (I know that’s not a really helpful description but hey – it smells like beer!) with a hint of sweetness and golden syrup. Again I get a hint of grain in the taste, almost slightly lager like, a light bitterness, not too much in the way of hops here. It then finishes on a sweeter note (again to me more syrup than honey) and some very light spices. Light bodied and slightly sticky.
Thoughts: This did a perfectly acceptable 5pm on a Friday job, refreshing and easy drinking. I wouldn’t rush back, slightly on the sweet side for me, but would drink again if options were limited.
Score: 5

I also managed a couple of beers not from “1001 Beers…”. First up was Sierra Nevada Summerfest 2014 (Style: Pilsner. ABV: 5%. From: The Vineyard) – straw coloured and clear with a small white head. Again not much aroma – a faint grassy graininess. Flavour follows that, this is clean and crisp with that grain and light grass again. A decent little bitterness on the finish. This is another light easy drinking summer beer – prefect for after mowing the lawn. Score: 6. Finally we have Beavertown Gamma Ray(Style: Pale Ale. ABV: 5.4%. From:, amber and hazy, this poured with a huge fluffy white head – a really gusher. Aroma is fantastic, lilt like tropical aromas: pineapple, grapefruit, and a touch of bubblegum. Taste is tropical too, mango is added to the lilt, as is a resinous caramel malt backbone. Though I found this quite bitter and astringent. While this was grand, the taste just didn’t live up to the smell and I found the bitterness just a bit too much, over balancing the beer. Score: 6.

Right, hope to see you at Hilden.