The first of many Beer Tasting Evenings?

It appears that everyone is at it these days, Beer Tasting Evenings. Well I say everyone, what I mean is that a fellow beer drinking friend and CAMRGB member from Twitter had a beer tasting evening recently and asked the question: It’s Better Down the Pub. Really? I am not going to tackle the same subject but suffice to say there is an amazing array of different beers available to drink at home these days, as most of you are very probably aware, and what better way to try some, all in one go, than to get a load of friends around and get a load of beers in.

Beer Tasting Things

So I thought that I would give a beer tasting evening a go. I did a doodle poll (did I mention I like Doodle polls?) about 2 months ago to find a suitable date for everyone to come try and a variety of different beers for my first (and hopefully not last) beer tasting evening. Although everyone accepted, I have to say that in the end one of them drove, one of them was not drinking and one didn’t like beer! But the other 6 were good to go, plus the driver could drink about 40 mL of each beer (we did the calculations)! I acquired the beers from a number of different sources including a brewery visit, online, a supermarket and someone’s shed! I also got in some fruit beers to try and tempt the non-beer, cider drinker. The total was 16 different beers (including the 3 fruit beers), 29 bottles. This meant that everyone would roughly drink about 3 pints worth of beer. The idea being to give everyone a taste of each beer, not get them drunk enough that after the first few they had no idea what they were drinking.

Beer Tasting Evening 2013

Brewery Name Style ABV %
Man in A Shed Brewery Hoochie Mama #1 Lager Not Sure
XT Brewery XT3 IPA 3.7
Weird Beard Brewery Black Perle Stout 3.8
XT Brewery XT4 Amber Ale 5.0
XT Brewery Roast Cacao Stout 4.5
XT Brewery XT6 Ruby Ale 5.3
Weird Beard Brewery Mariana Trench Pale Ale 5.3
Fyne Ales Sanda Blonde IPA 5.5
Jacobsen Brown Ale Brown Ale 6.0
Fyne Ales Sanda Black Black IPA 5.5
Meantine Brewery London Porter Porter 6.5
Weird Beard Brewery Chinook Brown Beer 7.2
Fyne Ales Zombier Porter 6.9

So with the beer list decided, moving from low ABV beers to higher ABV beers as suggested by a few beer tasting sites, the night was ready. To go with the beers I had prepared some crisps and pretzel snacks and some hotdogs. Sausages always go well with beer. People started arriving in readiness for the tasting to start at 7:30 pm. Beer Tasting NotesAs they arrived, everyone got a glass with their name on it, some tasting notes for each beer and a score sheet (how organised am I?, well that’s the polite way of saying it). We weren’t going to make tasting notes ourselves but I wanted people to mark each beer out of 7 to see if there was an overall favourite for the evening. ‘Would you like a drink?’ I ask as the responsible host, ‘some beer?’ came the overwhelming answer. Which I suppose is what they came for but I wanted to wait until everyone was here to start with the beers!

So with the last person turning up just on time for the start, it was time to get the show on the road. Just as well he turned up on time because, not only were the beer tasters demanding the first beer, the first beer up was his home brewed concoction, Hoochie Mama #1. Being the first drink of the night there was nothing to compare it to, but for a Home Brew Lager it was not bad. It poured very clear and had a malty, lagery taste. It was not people’s least favorite of the night. We started moving slowly through the beers, well a new beer about every 15 minutes to be more exact. I knew that people would want to leave around 11 pm and we had 13 beers to get through! Some were a little slower drinking than others but with a little coaxing (and harassing, well much harassing) they soon got the message. The beers were smelled, sipped, savoured and drunk with reference to their aroma, flavour and taste using as much beery language that could be thrown around the room as possible (amongst other more colourful language to describe the beers, in a good way). Starting with the low ABV beers (Black Perle Stout by Weird Beard is really only 3.8 %? Wow), we made our way through the list of beers from the beginning and before we knew it we had reached the high ABV beers at the end.

The Beer Tasters

So, onto the top 4 beers of the night, here they are: in first place, Roast Cacao by XT Brewery, in second place, Zombier by Fyne Ales, in third place, Chinook by Weird Beard and in fourth place, Sanda Blonde by Fyne Ales. It appears that the favourites seem to be the darker beers amongst my friends. Although I am glad to see Chinook up in the top three as this was one of my favourites.

Unfortunately none of the beers counted towards Beer for the Year but luckily I have stashed away an extra bottle of each of the beers that I really wanted to try, the Weird Beard and Fyne Ales beers. My top beer of the night was Mariana Trench by Weird Beard. So full of hops and tropical fruit goodness. Amazing. I am really looking forward to having a bottle of this all to myself.

Overall I would say the evening was a resounding success (feel free participants to say otherwise, be kind). All the beers were drunk and everyone enthusiastically filled in the scoring sheets. I think I provided a good selection of beers for all to try from pale ales to hoppy pale ales to IPAs to brown ales to porters and stouts. Something for everyone, favourite styles were drunk and new styles and beers were tried. I think, no, I know, that we will be having another beer tasting evening again. One bonus, the non-beer drinking friend now likes beers, albeit fruity beers, but then you have to start somewhere.

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.