A 21st Century Expo for Beer

Liverpool Craft Beer ExpoLiverpool, home of the beatles, home of the Albert Dock, home of Paul O’Grady (!), home of the latest, coolest craft beer festival, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo 2013. It seemed like a long way to go, almost 200 miles from here to there, but it looked like it promised to be worth it. Over 80 beers on keg and 50 beers on cask from breweries all over the UK including both well established breweries such as Darkstar, Thornbridge, Marble Beers and Salopian and the new kids on the craft beer block such as Harbour Brewing Co, Quantum Brewing Co, Siren Craft Brew and The Melwood Beer Co. In fact, Melwood only opened their doors in March this year.

Tickets were bought for both me and Conchi (long term beer widow) about three months ago for the Saturday evening session (yes, I am organised). The day of the expo came around at last and on Saturday morning we set off for the North West. Now, what normally happens when I plan to go somewhere these days is I look to see what breweries there may be en route. This time was no exception. Lymestone haulThis time I chose Lymestone Brewery in Stone, Staffordshire. A good choice I thought as I had recently signed up to their Virtual Brewery program they are doing with Best of British Beer (BOB). So we stopped off quickly here on the way, picked up six of their beers, had a chat with Ian Bradford about the aforementioned virtual ale (bottling is happening and beers should be ready in a few weeks from BOB, I am not so keen on the voted for name ‘Beyond the Pale’ but am looking forward to the beer) and left with our spoils towards Liverpool.

LCBE Beer Menu BoardThe venue for the craft beer expo was the Camp and Furnace in the trendy Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool. We arrived at the converted warehouse just after the 6 pm session opening time and were given a glass to keep (it had both a 1/2 pint and 1/3 pint line), some tokens to get us started and a program. Making our way round the winding corridors got us to the main room of the Expo. A big, open warehouse space with a massive menu board of beers on the left (really, how do you start choosing which beer to drink from a gorgeous feast of beers like this), overlooking long rows of benches for sitting and enjoying your beers, surrounded by five keg bars and a long, hand pull cask bar.

The monetary system worked much like a CAMRA beer festival. You bought beer tokens from the token shed (10 pounds for 20 tokens on a card), went around choosing your half pint (occassionally 1/3 pint) and paying for it with 3, 4, 5 or 6 tokens depending on it’s strength. Liverpool Craft Beer Expo ShedHowever, this was not your average CAMRA beer festival. Both keg and cask beers were well presented here. There were live bands and music in the background and food stalls to keep the hungry hordes satiated whilst sampling their beers. Not that it was super busy. There were plenty of people there to make for a great atmosphere but thanks to the multiple bars I never had to wait for longer than a minute to get a beer. There was a good mixture of people of all different ages including plenty of young people. Many young people enjoying a few beers was a good sight to see. There was even a section in the corner where ‘live’ brewing was taking place. Hand Drawn Monkey (Huddersfield) were brewing up something crazy whilst we were there, using the throw of a dice to decide the final ingredients!

As for the beer choice, well it was a craft beer (sorry to use the phrase but it does fit quite well in this case) lover’s heaven. I won’t go through the whole list of breweries (check the website here for that if you are interested) but anyone who knows the current UK brewery scene would find a veritable who’s who of the hip and trendy breweries crowding the current scene, reading like a role call of the cool and ubercool breweries who have made their mark or trying to make their mark in the current cask and keg beer renaissance. I, for one, really enjoyed all the beers I drank. All 9, although feeling a little rough on Sunday morning. Amongst others, this included an amazing coffee stout by Summer Wine called Barista Espresso (I started with low ABVs like I think any self respecting beer drinker at a festival should do), thick, juicy and fruity pale ales by The Melwood Beer Co (Citradelic) and Harbour Brewing Co, a double IPA by Quantum Brewing Co (Citra/Centennial, 8.1%) and to finish, an imperial stout going by the name of Even More Jesus by Siren Craft Brew. A massive beer served in 1/3 pints due to the whopping 11.4% ABV.  Peardrops, smokiness, creaminess, it was a good 1/3 to finish the night.

LCBE MelwoodI have to say the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo was a very well organised event and one that other people who want to organise similar events should take note of. You felt that the organisers had not oversold the event in order to pack the venue but create an enjoyable evening for people to hang out with other like minded beer people, try many different keg and cask ales and get served with minimal waiting time. Congratulations. This should be the recipe for further 21st century beer festivals and I hope that this one becomes an annual event. It is a long way to go but well worth the journey.

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Drinking beer by numbers….and Beer No 100

Unfortunately this post may have come a bit too late for the first third of my beer challenge but it has come just in time for Beer No 100 (more later). If anything, this post may help others who want to take up the 365 challenge and are as geeky as me when it comes to beers (and many other things). The ‘drinking beer by numbers’ idea came from a friend, Simon Clay (comic fan and fellow geek, why didn’t I think of it?!?!) who stated slightly too late that I should drink beers with numbers in their names in the correct number order in the 365 beer challenge i.e XT3 by XT brewery should be drunk as beer No 3. That got me to thinking, what beers could I have drunk at the right number positions? Are there any beers that I can drink with numbers that would fit the rest of the challenge?

Turns out that there are quite a few beer names with numbers in that could be drunk between numbers 1 and 9. Somewhat spoilt for choice with these lower numbers. My first mention goes to XT brewery, based in Long Crendon (near Thame, Buckinghamshire). They produce a range of beers from XT1 all the way up to XT9.

XT1 XT2 XT3 XT4 XT5 XT6 XT7 XT8 XT9

XT1 is a blonde beer and XT9 is a porter with the other XT numbers pertaining to the beer categories in between from Golden ales to IPAs to rich rubys to dark malts.  What better way to drink the beers that you like! You know exactly what type of beer you are getting from the number. I think this is the ultimate drinking by numbers. I experienced the full choice of all these beers this time last year when we went to the XT Beer Festival at the Lamb and Flag (with Carol and Andy, regular drinking partners). All 9 beers were available to choose from including an XT Fresh Hop 1. I didn’t try all 9 but, if memory serves me correctly, I tried at 4 or 5. This year so far I have only had XT3.

WP_001459My second mention goes to Otley Brewery, based in Pontypridd, Wales. Otley Brewery have a similar offering to XT Brewery where they have named some of their beers from O1 to O6. But in this case the increase in number does not relate to an increase in colour like the XT beers and most of the beers also have a name. I tried O4 columbo at the recent beer festival I went to at the Royal Blenheim celebrating Welsh Beers.

Brew by numbers

My last main mention goes to Brew By Numbers (BBNo). A new brewery in London that I have not heard too much about. They have a Facebook page and the website is under construction. They have a number of beers available which include o1: saison, 02: Golden ale, 03: porter, 04: Berlinner weisse, 06: belgian blonde, 07: witbier, 09: brown ale, 10: coffee porter and 13: Brett aged. The labels on the bottles that I have seen have two numbers. I can only speculate that the first number relates to the type of beer and the second number relates to the batch number. I am looking forward to trying some of these. I am pretty sure I saw some bottles in the fridge behind the bar at the Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell. I wonder if they do takeaways?

I have also found a few other beers with numbers which are: Ramsgate Brewery’s Gadds No 3 Premium Pale Ale, Gadds No 5 Best Bitter Ale and Gadds No 7 Pale Bitter Ale, Williams Bros Brewery’s Seven Giraffes and Magic 8 Ball by Magic Rock Brewing Co.

The higher numbers, between 10 and 100, this is where it starts to get more difficult. There is only a few to be found. If we take a look at XT Brewery again, they have done a number of specials over the last year with higher numbers. These are: XT13, a pacific red ale which I have had this year (a very nice red ale), XT25, which I had over christmas, XT42, a stronger version of XT4, XT53, a pale ale made for the Jubilee celebrations last year and XT80.

WP_001434Centurion-Ale

In my search for new beers to try I have come across only a few other beers with high numbers. These are: Ringwood’s Fortyniner, Ramsgate Brewery’s Gadds 80 Shilling, Williams Bros’ 80 shilling Scottish ale and Odell Brewing Co’s 90 shilling ale. One beer that I have tried very recently at Beer No 74 (25 beers to early) was 99 Red Baboons by Blue Monkey Brewery. I really like the name (they also have a beer called ‘Tie a Yellow Gibbon’) and the flavour of the beer. A dark ruby beer that is neither a porter or a mild and has a fruity, malty taste.

So this brings me onto Beer No 100, the beer that I have just finished on Conchi’s birthday (I thought it a fitting way to celebrate both milestones). The only beer that I have managed to drink at the right number, well sort of. I say ‘sort of’ because the beer does not have a number in the title. The beer in question is Centurion’s Ghost Ale by York Brewery. The idea behind drinking this beer as Beer No 100 being that Centurion relates to 100 because Roman Centurion’s commanded 100 men. Although according to Wikipedia they only commanded 60-80 men, I am going to ignore this and go with the 100 men misconception. Centurion after all is based on the latin for century (100 years). So in the 365 challenge I am 100 beers down, 71 days in and 265 more beers to go.

As for the question, are there any beers that I can drink with numbers that would fit the rest of the challenge? I have found only one beer so far, a black IPA by Windsor and Eton called Conqueror 1075. Maybe I could drink this beer at No 1075 in three years time! Any beer suggestions for numbers 101 to 365 will be gratefully received.

Four score and seven beers ago

Lincoln

“Four score and seven beers ago, I, Richard Gardner , Beer for the Year, set forth on a most excellent adventure. Conceived by my friend and colleague, Simon Peel, this great gentleman was dedicated to give me the proposition, which was true today as it was true two months ago, to drink 365 excellent beers in 365 days…..be excellent to each other…..and…..party on dudes!”

Ok, not quite Abraham Lincoln, and more like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (I do love that film), I have had the idea for the title of this post in my mind for sometime now, almost since the start of the year. Most people would probably do a review after a milestone such as 100 beers (most people would not be doing a 365 beer challenge) but I thought it would be a good time, at 87 beers (it just so happens to coincide with the two month mark), to look back over the last two months and produce some more beer related statistics.

Beer No 87 came in the middle of a beer festival (no 2 of the year), that I went to with Conchi, Carol and Andy (Carol and Andy are our fairly regular drinking partners), celebrating St David’s day at The Royal Blenheim. The theme, as you may have guessed, was Welsh beers. There was an excellent choice of 21 ales from 9 welsh breweries. I managed to try 5 different ones, steering clear of the pints this time and opting for half pints. My two favourites were Red Dragon and Honey Porter. Red Dragon by Great Orme Brewery was a copper coloured, fruity,zesty ale. It had an unusual taste in that it was a little sweet at the start but had a hoppy, bitter finish.  Honey Porter by Conwy Brewery was a dark brown porter with a dark roasted malt taste. It didn’t taste sweet at all, despite the honey, and had a nice smooth texture and with a slight bitterness to finish. Apparently the beer festival is going to be a annual affair, so I look forward to trying some more Welsh beers next year. Although I am sure there will be a few more Welsh beers drunk this year.

Meantime-LPA   Caesar Augustus    WP_001389

Here are the stats for the last two months, January and February (and March 1st):

Number of new beers tasted: 61/87                     70%

Number of beers tasted before: 26/87                30%

Most number of different beers in one night:     6

Number of lagers: 11.5/87                                     13%

Challenge progress: 87/365                                  24%

My favourite new beers in February were Caesar Augustus by Williams Bros Brewery, a lager/IPA hybrid that was surprisingly good, refreshing and hoppy, and London Pale Ale by Meantime Brewery, a pale ale full of hoppy, fruity, citrus flavours and bitterness. I also had the good fortune to try a new beer by my local brewery, Gunners Gold by Loose Cannon. This ale had a nice golden, yellow colour, not too bitter, with hints of peach and a very smooth taste. I may be a little biased because they are a local brewery but they always make a great beer.

So, as I finish writing this review, the first two months are over and done with and we are now slightly into the third month. I have drunk 92 different beers with only 65 days gone, almost a month ahead of the challenge, if you look at it that way.  However, I have only drunk 2 out of the 51 beers I have in the house, the lure of the pub having overridden drinking beers at home. In fact I have been beer free for the last three days! I am very close to Beer No 100 and have the beer ready that I would like to drink as No 100. This will be the subject of one of the next posts.

First month done: big tick

Last day of the first month of the Beer for the Year 365 challenge today. It has been a pretty good month. Including the beer that I will have later courtesy of BeerBods, Stringers Dry Stout, I will have had 43 different beers in January, 12 beers ahead of a beer a day. As a Scientist, I know that my fellow Scientists, particularly the Biologists, love statistics. So I thought for this post I would prepare and show some stats for the last month.

Number of new beers tasted: 25/43         58%

Number of beers tasted before: 18/43     42%

Most number of beers in one night:          5

Number of lagers: 10/43                               23%

Challenge progress: 43/365                        12%

Favourite new beer: Saltaire’s Triple Chocoholic

Favourite old beer: Youngs Winter Warmer and Abingdon Bridge

Reflecting on the last month of beer and the availability of beers, I really cannot see that there will be a problem getting hold of and trying 365 different beers (well, another 322). There are plenty to be had at local shops and supermarkets or in local pubs. A weekend away to another place in the UK or abroad will give plenty of opportunity to try beers from other places. Then there is the Beer festivals, the holy grail of getting to meet new beers. An article I was reading the other day said that there were around 1000 regular breweries in the UK serving around 5000 different kinds of beer.  That is a lot of beer. So with that in mind I cannot imagine where I could go wrong!

Rich beer pickings

Beer festivals, the favourite friend, the indispensable companion, the partner in crime, the brilliant ally, the undisputed best mate of 365 beer challenges. You get the point. Where better to sample many different kinds of beer, all in one place, to help increase the beer count in the 365 beer challenge. The first beer festival of 2013 (the first of many, I hope) was attended by myself and Conchi on Friday night. The festival in question was the Winter/Dark Ale Festival at the Turf Tavern. The choice was good, 12 porters, stouts, milds and dark ales to choose from. Now, I am not really keen on dark ales, at least not the real dark ones like porters and stouts but I thought I would give them a go (my friends Carol and Andy would be proud, my parents? not so much). I am partial to a good mild though and this festival had a few. Thanks to rule 6 (the rules I made up for this challenge), I was able to try five beers without producing a hangover on Saturday morning i.e. by having 1/2 pints! I get a hangover fairly easy these days and 5 pints would definitely push me over the edge.

Minotaur DSC06621 Lurcher DSC06623 DSC06626

Favourite beer of the night: Lurcher: I know, a stout! But it was a bit fruity,  a bit chocolaty, well-balanced with hoppy flavour and nice and smooth.

Best Mild of the night: Burton Bridge Mild: Very nice flavour, nice and mild, not too bitter, slight taste of chocolate.

After this first proper foray into the world of dark beers, maybe I am coming round to the thought of sampling and drinking a few more of them. Maybe the next time that I am at a beer festival, I may be more easily persuaded to try a bit more of the dark stuff (Carol and Andy make a note of this info). There is no doubt that a few more beer festivals will be visited this year. I will be frequently keeping an eye on the Oxford CAMRA festival diary for the next one that I can attend.