La cerveza española es magnifica

Feria Internacional El Artesana De La Cerveza

El Reino Unido no es la única comunidad a la que le gusta la cerveza de barril en este momento, conocida como cerveza artesanal en algunos lugares. Actualmente, no estoy seguro si me gusta usar esas palabras para describir cerveza pero las usare porque tienen su uso. También, parece que España está teniendo un resurgimiento en cerveza artesanal (o es que es un surgimiento por que no pienso que España haya tenido muchas cervezas artesanales antes). Mis pruebas sobre el aumento en cerveza artesanal? Un par de ferias de cervezas que han tenido lugar en España en el último año. La primera, la 2ª Feria de la Cerveza Artesana de Madrid, tuvo lugar a finales de mayo. La feria parece que ha incluido un número de cervezas artesanales de España, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos. La segunda feria de cerveza ha tenido lugar el fin de semana pasado, a finales de junio, en el norte de Madrid llamada  1ª Feria Internacional El Arte de la Cerveza Sana. Esta feria de cerveza parece tener más influencia internacional con cervezas de Bélgica, Alemania, Francia, Italia, Inglaterra, Escocia, Irlanda y Estados Unidos. Una mirada rápida a los participantes expertos revelo que Melissa Cole, periodista y sumiller experta en cerveza artesanal, era una de las asistentes. Aunque no pudimos ir este año, he sido fiablemente informado de que podemos ir el próximo año a uno de estos festivales. Conchi puede visitar a sus amigos en Madrid y todos podemos ir y probar muchas cervezas españolas. Todos ganan!

WP_001514No he encontrado muchas de estas cervezas artesanales que parecen estar disponibles en España. Generalmente, en los pubs que he visitado, sirven todas las cervezas que son conocidas en España , Cruzcampo, Mahou, Estrella, San Miguel por nombrar unas pocas. Estas cervezas regionales están disponibles en casi todos los pubs y bares. Pienso que si quiero encontrar estas cervezas artesanales tendré que viajar a Madrid. Un compañero de blog, Cerveza de Garaje, me ha hablado sobre unos pocos lugares donde encontrar cervezas artesanales en Madrid, incluidos una fábrica de cerveza, una tienda y un pub. La primera parada será una pequeña fábrica de cerveza a las afueras de Madrid llamada Cervezas La Virgen donde tienen uno pequeño ‘brew’ pub. La segunda parada será una tienda llamada Cervezarama en Calle Malasaña. Aparentemente, tienen no solo muchas cervezas artesanales de todo el mundo pero también muchas cervezas artesanales españolas. La última parada será La Tape en Malasaña y San Bernardo, donde puedes encontrar de 6-8 cervezas artesanales de barril.

WP_001521Como he dicho, no he encontrado muchas cervezas artesanales. Sabiendo que mi elección de cervezas seria limitada en un viaje a Jaén, propuse el siguiente reto a los amigos y la familia de Conchi (ver post sobre la cerveza española). Decía así: ‘Podéis encontrar unas cervezas buenas y nuevas para que yo las pruebe? Puede ser cualquier tipo de cerveza, con tal de que no la haya probado antes. Puntos extra si encontráis una ale española.’ Realmente, no pensaba que fueran a tener exito, pero estaba equivocado. Jose y Pili (y la madre de Pili) encontraron ocho cervezas de las tiendas locales. Puedes ver que la colección incluye una cerveza de Alemania pero el resto son españolas, incluida una de Ibiza en una botella de metal. Particularmente, me gusto la etiqueta y el sabor de Santa Magarida. Esta parece y sabe cómo una cerveza artesanal hecha en España.  WP_001534El novio de la hermana de Conchi, Javi, también encontró otras 4 cervezas. He tomado dos de estas cervezas antes, San Miguel Selecta, una versión más oscura de la San Miguel normal, y Cruzcampo Gran Reserva; pero las otras dos eran nuevas y de nuevo, estas parecían cervezas artesanales. Por último, pero no  menos, Esther encontró una cerveza llamada Carmen en el Corte Ingles para mí. Me gusta esta botella. Esta cerveza definitivamente cuenta como una Ale española, así que Esther recibe unos puntos extra.

WP_001528Así que estas son las cervezas con las que me encontré  cuando fui a España en Marzo. No tuve tiempo de bebérmelas todas cuando estuve allí. Las que me quedaron, fueron transportadas al apartamento de los padres de Conchi en Roquetas del Mar donde estaban esperando mi llegada a la playa en Julio.  Un último punto, yo sé que he dicho que no he encontrado todavía una cerveza artesanal en España. He dicho una pequeña mentira. Durante el viaje a Jaén he encontrado una botella de cerveza artesanal de Tierra D Frontera en un bar de Jaén. Esta cerveza estaba muy bien. Que suerte!

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Spanish beer is magnificent

Feria Internacional El Artesana De La CervezaWe in the UK (that’s the Royal ‘we’) are not the only community that are liking cask and keg beer at the moment, known as Craft beer in some circles. The jury is still out with me currently on this term but I will continue to use it as it does have its uses. Spain also appear to be having a resurgence  in craft beer (or is that a surgence as I don’t think Spain have had much craft beer before). In Spain, craft beer is known as ‘artesanal’ beer. My evidence for the rise in craft beer? A couple of beer festivals that have popped up in Spain over the last year. The first, the 2ª Feria de la Cerveza Artesana de Madrid (2nd Madrid Craft Beer Fair) was held at the end of May in, of course, Madrid. The festival looked like it included a number of Spanish, British and American craft beers. A second beer festival that is happened at the end of June is one that is North of Madrid called 1ª Feria Internacional El Artesana de la Cerveza (1st international fair “The Art of Craft Beer”). This beer festival looks to have a more international influence with beers coming from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland and the USA. A quick look at the particpating experts reveals one of the attendees was Melissa Cole, Journalist and expert craft beer sommelierl! Although we could not attend this year, I have been reliably informed that we are allowed to go next year to one of these festivals. Conchi can visit her friends in Madrid and we can all go and try the many Spanish beers that are available. Everybody wins!

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I have yet to come across many of these ‘artesanal’ beers that seem to be more available in Spain. In pubs generally, at least the ones I have been to, they serve the mainstream lagers that Spain is well known for, Cruzcampo, Mahou, Estrella, San Miguel to name a few. These regional lagers are available in almost every pub and tapas bar that you go to. I think that if I want to find these ‘artesanal’ beers then a trip to Madrid would have to be in order.  A fellow blogger, Cerveza de Garaje, has given me a heads up to a few places to find some ‘artesanal’ beers in Madrid including a brewery, a shop and a pub.  The first stop would be a small brewery just outside Madrid called Cervezas La Virgen where they have a small brew pub. The second stop would be a shop called Cervezarama in Calle Malasaña. Apparently, they not only have much craft beer from all around the world, but also much Spanish craft beer. The final stop would be La Tape in Malasaña and San Bernardo, where you can find 6-8 craft beers on draft.

WP_001521As I said, I have yet to come across many of these ‘artesanal’ beers. Knowing that my beer choices would be limited on a trip to Jaen, I declared the following challenge to Conchi’s friends and family (see my last post about Spanish beer). It went as follows ‘Can you find some good, new beers for me to try? It can be any kind of beer, as long as I have not tried it before. Bonus points available if you find a Spanish ale’. I didn’t really think they would succeed but was I wrong. Jose and Pili (and Pili’s mother) found eight beers from the local shops. You will see that the collection includes a German beer but the rest are Spanish including one from Ibiza in a metal bottle! I particularly liked the look, and the taste, of the Santa Magarida.WP_001534 This one looks, feels and tastes like a craft beer made in Spain. Conchi’s sister’s boyfriend, Javi, also came up with the goods in the form of another four beers. I have had two of these before, the San Miguel Selecta, a darker version of normal San Miguel, and Cruzcampo Gran Reserva, but the other two are new and again look ‘craft like’. Last but not least, Esther found me a Carmen beer in El Cortes Ingles. I like this bottle. It tells me it is definitely Spanish in origin. This one definitely counts as a Spanish ale so Esther gets some bonus points.

WP_001528So this was the haul that I found myself with the when I was in Spain in March. I didn’t have time to drink all of these beers when I was there. They were safely transported to Conchi’s parents beach apartment where they were awaiting my next arrival in Spain. One last point. I know that I said that I had not yet come across an ‘artesanal’ beer. I told a little lie. During the trip to Jaen, I found a bottle of Cerveza Artesanal by Tierra D Frontera in a pub in Jaen. This beer was very good. How lucky!

NB. This post was written back in June and has only just seen the light of day as I have been very slow at translating it to the Spanish version.

Beer For The Year Golden Pints 2013

As a follower of everything beery on Twitter, I saw a post from Mark Dredge at the beginning of December entitled Golden Pints 2013. I did not think much of it at the time as I thought the task would be too great to be able to think of a suitable choice for each category out of the plethora of breweries and beers that are available. Really, there is an amazing choice. Gradually over the last three weeks I have seen many fellow bloggers posting their Golden Pints choices and that got me to thinking, I really should be able to do this too, however monumental the task maybe. Luckily (or ‘OCD’ily, however you want to look at it), I have a list of all the beers I have drunk over the last year with ratings, so the task should be easier. So here goes for my choices for Golden pints 2013…………

Best UK Cask Beer – Finding it hard already. If I could remember what I had on cask and what I had on keg, it would be a lot easier. I am going to mention three beers that I found really good at beer festivals and a local one. I can’t guarantee that the festival beers are 100 % cask but I know the local one is. BF – Coffee in the Morning by Tap East, a great cold coffee beer. Citradelic by Melwood Beer Co, great pale ale with, you guessed it, citra hops, massive grapefruit and lychee. Citra/centennial by Quantum, a thick, juicy and fruity pale ale that was very drinkable, despite the 8% abv. My local brewery, Loose cannon, is producing some great beers currently, nothing too adventurous but a well flavoured core range of beers. The stand out beer from them at the moment is the Gunner’s Gold. A well hopped, fruity golden ale that is very drinkable. Gunners Gold Pump Clip

Best UK Keg Beer – Would have to be Soundwave by Siren Craft. A brilliant IPA that is full of tropical fruits and hops. I love just about everything that they produce.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer – Going to have to choose two for this category. The first time I had both of these, it was wow. Mariana Trench by Weird Beard with it’s amazing grapefruit and tropical fruitedness. It must be the citra, I am addicted to it. Bloody ‘Ell Orange IPA by Beavertown is also very good. Just waiting for the guys to purchase some more blood oranges so that I can get hold of more.

Best Overseas Draught Beer – Not had so many of these. But on a trip to Copenhagen, I had Sort Gul by Mikeller at the Mikeller bar. A great example of a balanced black IPA.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer – I do love a good can and Phoenix Pale Ale by Sly Fox comes in a good can and tastes very good too.

Best Collaboration Brew – You are going to start seeing a theme here. Näcken by Siren Craft and Omnipollo. An amazing hoppy hefeweizen, as they call it, and it really is. A combination of tropical fruits from the IPA side and the yeasty, wheaty undertones from the wheat side.

WP_001479 Best Overall Beer – I have not gone back to many beers over the last year, mainly due to the challenge that has been happening (365 beers in a year in case you did not know), but there is one that I have tried, and gone back to, a few times, Liquid Mistress by Siren Craft. An amazing hop hit along with the a great red biscuit malt.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label – Magic Rock. The branding is so colourful and I like the theme that they have running through all their beer names. The pump clips jump out at you when you see them at the bar, screaming ‘come try me, we are fun and tasty’.

Magic Rock Pump ClipsBest UK Brewery – There are plenty of great breweries currently on the scene that are producing a massive output of brilliant beer. If you were to twist my arm though and say pick one, I would have to say Siren Craft Brew. I can’t believe they have only been going for less then a year and producing the amazing beers that they do. As mentioned above, I love just about everything that comes out of their tanks. I will, however, also give an honourable mention to my local Brewery again, Loose Cannon. They produce some great beers.

Best Overseas Brewery – I am going to pass on this one. I have had a few overseas beers this year but not enough from one single brewery to make an informed choice. Unless of course Scotland is overseas and I could choose Black Isle Brewery or Brewdog.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013 – It’s getting boring now (the repetition not the Golden Ponts categories), I am going to have to go with Siren Craft Brew. For the above reasons.

Pub/Bar of the Year – I go to quite a few pubs, as you can imagine, and whilst many of them have a good choice, the choice is never massive. That is until I went to the Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell. It looks like a normal pub with wood paneling and mirrors on the ceiling (?) but when I saw the 30+ cask hand pulls and keg dispensers, I thought I had gone to heaven. Subsequently, I have been to a few other places with as much choice but this pub holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to so much tap choice.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013 –  This is going to sound a weird choice but The Narrows in Abingdon. I know, a Wetherspoons pub. But it has brought more choice to Abingdon and you can guarantee at least 9 beers on tap including local and farther afield beers.

Liverpool Craft Beer Expo Poster Beer Festival of the Year – Tough to choose. Indy Man Beer Con or Liverpool Craft Beer Festival? Both craft. Both very good. Both great venues. Both great beer choices. Both you could get served at the bar very easily. Both very cool. Nope, I can’t choose. One of those! Indy Man Beer Con Poster

Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose. Their selection seems to be slightly less mainstream than the Tescos near me.

Independent Retailer of the Year – Cotteridge Wines. Very friendly guys who know their beer. One of the first places I visited to start off my beer obsession. They will even save beers for you in a box in their back room if you send them a tweet. The go to guys for everything Siren Craft.

Drink-Better-BeerOnline Retailer of the YearBeerbods. Great customer service. A gift to yourself that keeps giving and giving, 12 bottles every 12 weeks to be precise, of really good beer. And you get to interact with others drinking the same beer every Thursday night. Thursday night is Beerbods night!

Best Beer Book or Magazine – The Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein. A beautiful book with lots of information on how to taste beer. Also Beer, the magazine that comes with the CAMRA paper. I always look forward to reading this every 3 months. Always interesting.

Best Beer Blog or Website – Simon from CAMRGB. Short, no nonsense beer reviews that get to the point. I am not sure how he does it but every review is different.

Best Beer App – Untappd. One of the best ways to follow how much you have drunk over the year. And you get badges to celebrate how much you have drunk. What more could you want?

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitter – broadfordbrewer (@broadfordbrewer). Some very droll tweets and jokes that make me laugh.

Best Brewery Website/Social media – Twitter. I signed up to Twitter when I joined Beerbods at the beginning of the year. I have found some great people to converse with on-line and have met some of them in person. Twitter has been a great way to find like minded beer geeks to drink with.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – I have to admit, when it comes to beer and food pairing, I have absolutely zero knowledge of what goes really well together.

There you have it, my Golden Pints for 2013. Looking forward to starting my new list of beers in the New Year in readiness for Golden Pints 2014.

XT Brewery: the first brewery visit of the year

Stuck for something to do last Saturday morning and at a bit of a loose end, I decided that a good way to spend some time was to visit a local brewery. I say local, the XT brewery is fairly local and was only 35 minutes (22 miles) by car (Long Crendon near Thame, Buckinghamshire). I have been meaning to visit this brewery for a while but was waiting for them to have a few different beers for sale in their shop. I won’t talk too much about the beers as I have mentioned them in another post that can be found here. Suffice to say their beer range runs from XT1 all the way up to XT9 and beyond! On checking the website before leaving I found that they were currently selling XT3, XT4, XT6 and a new beer Roast Cacao. So, definitely worth a visit.

Located on a small business park at Notley farm, the brewery was easy to find (well I was using the sat nav on my phone). I pulled up in the car and walked into the brewery to be greeted by a very friendly, enthusiastic member of the brewery team. She asked if I had been before to the XT brewery or indeed to any brewery, I reeled off a small list of places I had visited and mentioned that I had attended the XT brewery festival last year. I had a short tour of the brewery, all in one building with three or four large vats, the brewery was only small and then I got to try a couple of the fresh beers.XT-Beer-Haul The first was XT2, a golden ale that was quite refreshing and not too bitter. The second was XT13. I have tried XT13 before at The Nags Head but this one was version 2 made with a slightly different mix of hops compared to version 1. I liked XT13 v1 but v2 was even better. A really tasty pacific red ale with a tropical fruit taste followed by a crisply bitter dry finish. I could really drink a few pints of this one. So down to business, the reason I went to the brewery, buying a few beers. There was a good choice as revealed to me by the website. I decided to buy a bottle XT3 (I have tried this one already this year), two bottles of XT4, two bottles of XT6 and four bottles of Roast Cacao. I also came away with a new beer glass and a bar runner that shows the different beer styles that the brewery brew.  I am looking forward to trying the Roast Cacao bottled beer, a beer that has been brewed in collaboration with Will Torrent, an award winning Patissier and Chocolatier who sounds like he knows his onions (chocolate onions).

Some facts I gathered whilst talking to the knowledgeable brewery team person at the XT Brewery (sorry I didn’t get her name):

1. Roast Cacao is sold as XT99 on draught

2. XT have never brewed XT7. So for the completionists out there you may have to wait as there are no current plans to brew XT7. She did not know whether this would ever happen. Depends what the brewers decide.

3. The XT Beer Festival last year at the Lamb and Flag was the only time that all nine beers have been available at the same time (apart from XT7)

4. XT Brewery have only been going for about 18 months

If you are ever in the area then I would recommend a visit to XT Brewery. They are very friendly, knowledgeable and sell great beers. I know they are great because I have tried quite a few of their beers before. Although currently they only open on Saturdays, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, they have an open day on the 27th April which would be an ideal time to try some of their beers.

The Periodic Table of M&M’s!

Somehow I have to link this title to the subject that I normally talk about in this blog. Well, I don’t have to but I would like to. So I thought that I would first mention the amazing Periodic Table that every Chemist and non-Chemist has heard of (or should have heard of). This table of beauty and magnificence was first published by Dimitri Mendeleev in its current form in 1869. As a Chemist I do admire the periodic table, the way it looks and the amazing work that must have gone into organising the elements in this way. Indeed, I have the shower curtain to proof it.

periodic-table-elements P1030478

beer-periodic-tableFollowing hot in the foot steps of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is the Periodic Table of Beer Styles. This table as you can see is based on the familiar periodic table but with beers being grouped into families of styles. You can see that someone who likes beer very much has spent a lot of time and care putting this “Beeriodic Table” together. I think it looks great and I know that chemistry and beer geeks alike (me being both of them) have or should have a copy of this on their wall.

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This link brings me onto the subject of the title, the Periodic table of M&Ms. On a recent trip to London we were trying to kill a bit of time between finishing our pub food at the Bear and Staff at Leicester Square and seeing The Phantom of the Opera. We stumbled upon the M&M world shop in Leicester square.  It was a place of bright lights, M&M merchandise and it was super busy, mainly with people taking photos (yep, me too!). I have to say that not much floor space was actually given over to the selling of the confectionery, just a lot of stuff with M&M’s written all over it.  And even more disappointing was the fact that there was not a peanut butter M&M in sight! On the lower level, right back in the corner on the wall, past champagne bottles of M&Ms ( a snip at £17 each) and next to the ‘Mix Lab’ there was a periodic table of M&M’s. They have given it a good go: there are three sections like the main part of the chemical table, there are mostly two letters to denote each thing they are trying to describe and I don’t think they have used any of the symbols from the Periodic Table of Elements. Case in point: Gold here is Go, Gold in the chemical table is Au. Overall, I just found it funny that they had chosen the medium of the periodic table format to portray the multitude of coloured M&M’s that are available. Now to get back to writing more posts about beer.

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.

Beer heaven….or pretty close to it

I feel compelled to write a post about Saturday’s visit to London. The real reason for the visit was to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum and to see The Phantom of the Opera for Conchi’s birthday. But I managed to persuade Conchi that we should visit the Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell for some afternoon beers. Again, I reiterate Conchi’s patience with me and this challenge (she does like a good beer too though). Craft Beer Co have three different pubs in London but the Clerkenwell one looked the closest to where we were going to be. I was very excited about this visit. From their website, the pub looked great with a big choice of cask ales, keg ales and bottled ales. I have been following them for a while on Twitter and Saturday was also going to be the launch day for beers from a new brewery called Siren Craft brew.

Craft Beer Co Clerkenwell

We arrived at the pub at about 3 pm on Saturday afternoon. On entering inside (the pub was not too busy but full of people) we were greeted by a long line of hand pumps and draught style pourers. I am used to, in your average pub in the UK, maybe four or five hand pumps for ales and beers. If you want more beer choice than this then you generally have to go to a beer festival. But here I roughly counted 16 hand pumps for cask ales and 18 taps for keg ales. It was amazing! Craft Beer Co ClerkenwellThe only problem with this (and it is quite a big one) is where do you start with so much beer choice? Fortunately, I was there this Saturday to try the Siren Craft Brew beers so I headed straight for them. You could not miss the big, bold pump clips that they had designed for the beers. I really liked the artwork. The first one that Conchi and I tried was Liquid Mistress, a Red IPA, a really dark red ale with a lovely aroma.  It was delicious and full of flavour. A malty, biscuity base with a really big hit of hops at the end.Liquid Mistress in hand This one was our favorite, mainly because of the big flavours. The second one I tried was Under Current. A more traditional IPA as I see it but made with the inclusion of Oatmeal. The taste of this one was not quite as hoppy as Liquid Mistress and was a little more floral. I probably would have benefited from drinking this one first as the flavours were a little subtler. Two other beers were also available, an IPA called Soundwave, and a Breakfast Stout called Broken Dream (a stout with breakfast flavours? or a stout to be drunk at breakfast?).

Liquid Mistress Pump ClipUnder Current Pump ClipUnfortunately time constraints did not permit me to try a third but I would definitely recommend looking out for Siren Craft Brew beers and giving them a try. They were very good. I would also definitely recommend going along to the Craft Beer Co (I will be going again at some point this year). For me it was very close to Beer Heaven, a never ending beer festival (as they call it), providing cask and keg ale from some of the best and newest breweries from around the UK. They definitely have it right for the ale and craft beer crowd. Now I just need them to open a pub in Oxford.

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.

How I came to have 51 different beers in the house

P1030223A bit of panic started to set in last week, well maybe panic is a bit of a strong word. I was a little worried. I only had 13 beers in the house to keep the challenge going. ‘Oh no’ I hear you say (well, probably not). In reality this was only 7 beers, as 6 of them are from Beerbods and I am only allowed to drink one of those every week (their rules, not mine). Seeing as at least half of the beers that I will be drinking in this challenge will be bottled beer, seven beers is not going to last me very long. So how was I to go about getting some more? I could have gone to the local shop or supermarket to easily pick some off the shelves, mostly big brand beers that I can get anywhere. But I wanted beers that were new and interesting, beers that I have never seen or heard of before. Although supermarkets and shops have a few of these, I needed to widen the search. What I really needed was a Beer shop, like a wine shop but selling mainly beer (just in case you need an explanation). However, there does not seem to be a beer shop close to here that sells beers from around the UK. The closest one is in Birmingham (Cotteridge Wines, an hour and a half drive) and although I am dedicated to this challenge, I am not dedicated enough to travel to Birmingham for some beer.  In the last two months of internet searches and twitter following I have come across a great many breweries in the UK. Some sell their beer online, others do not. Most of the ones, if not all, that do sell online, tend to sell beers in crates of 12 with only three or four types of their beer, or they sell gift packs with only three bottles. Both good ways to try new beer, but not good for the 365 challenge. Internet searches and twitter following have also led me to a few websites that sell beer by the case. Like Best of British Beer who sell handpicked cases of british beer or provide a service where you can sign up to a beer club and receive up to 12 cases of beer a year. But these cases are pot luck and I would worry about getting beers that I have already tried, especially further into the year. Eventually I found two websites Beer Hawk and Ales By Mail on which I could buy individual bottles of any beer I wanted in order to make up a case of 12 or 24 beers. I was very excited at the prospect of trying some new beers and went through both websites making a list of all the beers that I wanted. Then, last week, just before I was going to order these beers, I had to go on a two day training course on learning how to use the new robot at work (sounds exciting doesn’t it, using a robot at work). As luck would have it, this training course was just outside Birmingham. P1020879I could go on the training and at the end of the day visit the beer shop. An excellent idea! No need to order beers on the internet, I could go in person and choose from a massive selection (according to the website, over 850 beers from around the world). I was very excited. The day came and I journeyed from the place of the training to the shop. The shop was great, smaller than I expected but a lot of beers to choose from around the UK and the rest of the world. They even had some of the beers that I had listed from the two websites. I am not sure that there were 850 ales but there was alot. It took me 45 minutes to choose the beers that I wanted and even then I could have been there longer. After a good chat with the owners about beer, they were friendly and helpful, I went home with 26 beers, a beer glass and a big smile on my face.

P1030215But the story does not end there. We were off to York for the weekend to see this beautiful city that we had heard so much about. Maybe there or close by they would have a beer shop. So with another piece of luck, an internet search found a beer shop, Trembling Madness, right in the centre of York. Amazing! The shop was smaller than the Birmingham one but had a lot of beers from Yorkshire, the UK and the rest of the world. Again I was in the shop for about 30 minutes (thank goodness Conchi is so patient with me and this challenge) choosing 12 new beers.

So thanks to a lucky robot training course in Birmingham and a nice trip to York with Conchi, that I partially hijacked for the 365 challenge, I am now the proud owner of 51 bottles of beer. Hopefully these beers should last me until June. We’ll see.

Beer for the Year Winter Pub Crawl 2013

Friday night saw the inaugural Beer for the Year pub crawl around Oxford. What better way, apart from a beer festival, to try a few different ales. The organisation of the pub crawl started three weeks ago with a Doodle poll to find a night that everybody could attend. I love Doodle. Doodle is a quick and easy way to set up a  poll to organise a meeting or a night out when multiple people are involved. You create a poll, email the poll link to everyone and they fill out the days and times that are good for them. For the Beer for the Year Pub Crawl Doodle poll, Friday 15th February came out as the favourite night. The route was planned meticulously right down to the times we needed to be at each pub. Some would call me OCD for this, I would call it great planning. The timings were also there so that people knew where to join us if they were running late. I like to look after everyone. There was even a quiz for people to do with questions on each pub visited. Here is the route that we followed and the times we were supposed to be in each pub.

Beerfortheyear-Pub-Crawl-Map

Time in Pub          Name of Pub

6:30 pm                      The Royal Blenheim

7:10 pm                      The Crown

7:50 pm                      The Chequers

8:35 pm                       The Turf Tavern

9:20 pm                      The Kings Arms

10:05 pm                   Lamb and Flag

Answers to quiz highlighted in the text

The night started off well with just four of us (me, Conchi, Carol and Andy) in the first pub, The Royal Blenheim. There is always plenty of beers to choose from in this pub, they have 9 ale hand pumps and one ale on draught. We all had a different beer, Village Idiot and Wayland Smithy by White Horse, Titanic Stout by Titanic and Cosmic by Black Hole brewery. Mine was the Cosmic. At the allotted time, or just after as we were already running a little late, we moved onto The Crown (named so in 1625). Here we were joined by everyone else (Dave and Rebbeca, Rob, Claire, Mili and Anish). The choice of ales here was less than the Blenheim but there were still 6 ales on hand pumps. I went with the golden ale, Ossian by Inveralmond brewery. Again it was time to move on to the next pub, The Chequers. We arrived here at about 8:05 pm. Like The Crown, The Chequers is a Nicholson’s pub. There was plenty of choice on the 9 ale hand pumps, including Brakespear’s Bitter and Gold, Nicholson’s Pale Ale (brewed by St Austell) and Jaipur by Thornbridge (5.9 % golden ale). With the ales and lager and cider drunk, we left for the next pub, The Turf Tavern at about 8:55 pm. Did you know The Turf used to be called The Spotted Cow until 1847! With a choice of 11 ales on hand pumps, it was a difficult beer decision. They even had one of my favourite beers, Triple Chocoholic by Saltaire. I decided that I would have a new ale (to increase the beer count), Dionysus by Milton, and tell everyone else that Triple Chocoholic was amazing and that they should get it, then I could taste a bit of everyone else’s. I think it was even better from the pump than the bottle I had. Everybody was happy, drinking well and were still going strong. We were only running 20 minutes later than scheduled when we left The Turf for The Kings Arms. Two interesting facts about The Kings Arms, it is owned by Wadham College and if you put the name of the brewery that runs The Kings Arms, Youngs, on a scrabble board, you make 10 points. Here I had the most expensive pint I have ever had (from a choice of 12 ales, 10 ales on hand pumps), London Pale Ale by Meantime Brewery. It was good, it was nice and smooth for a Pale Ale, it came in a cool glass, it was £5! After this revelation (I had to ask the barman just in case he overcharged me for my pint and Conchi’s half pint. He hadn’t), it was onto the final pub of the evening, the Lamb and Flag. The Lamb and Flag are also owned by a college, St Johns, and have their own beer, Lamb and Flag Gold which is brewed for them by Palmers. Everybody got their final drink in for the evening and 5 minutes later final orders were called. Phew! So in the end, I think that the night went very well and was enjoyed by all. We ended up only 30 minutes behind schedule, which I don’t think is bad for moving 10 people around 5 different pubs. Everyone had been drinking a mix of beer, lager and cider in each different pub and everyone made it round all the pubs (apart from the first one). One last matter has to be decided, who won the quiz. Well that honour goes to Conchi with 10 points out of 11 (Uh oh, let the accusations fly!!). Rob was second with 9 points. Carol and Andy next with 8 points. Claire was last with 4. I think that Anish and Mili got 5 points but Anish lost the quiz sheet. Muppet! (the first question I left out as not everyone was in The Royal Blenheim)