#craftbeerhour

It’s always terribly difficult when someone asks you to choose a beer for an event. It’s like someone asking you to choose your favourite band, favourite food, or (if you have them) child. It’s very tough. It often depends on your mood, who you are with, what are the circumstances. Except the child bit, of course. They’e all equally favourite…..

So, when we decided to do #CraftBeerHour and then we were asked to “choose a beer”, I immediately went into mind overload. New beer? Old beer? Something special? Something cutting edge? After all, we are Birmingham Beer Bash. We should be pushing some boundaries, shouldn’t we?

I thought of all the beer style that I like. Damn. I like them all. Even some lagers (as long as they’re heavily hopped). I thought of Bathams Best Bitter. It’s my “go to” in my local. The first pint I drink after a weary week at work. And often the second, too…. But they’re not at bCubed, so I can’t pick them. I went through the obvious. Jaipur – my gateway to hoppy heaven. Punk IPA, similarly high on my “if it wasn’t for this, I’d still be living in twig central” list. I chucked a few more ideas down. I wrote down all the breweries that we know will be at the Bash. I like them all. A lot. Which would I choose?

I plumped for Siren Craft. These guys brew some simply astounding beers. Barrel aged stouts – Broken Dream aged in various different whisky styles being my favourite there. IPAs – Soundwave, Neither, Limoncello, 10 Finger/Toe Discount. All really rather brilliantly well done. Last year, Tickle Monster bounced with a bang into my favourites list. Fantastic, great beers.

But….. I went for something altogether different. I tentatively tried a Calypso sometime toward the end of last year. I’d heard of Berliner Weisse, but I really didn’t think I’d “get it”. I did. Big style. What a fantastic taste and flavour from such a relatively small beer. Sweet and sour, I call it. It’s like a baby gueuze. But it’s got this hoppy character to it of a very decent IPA. It’s cloudy – like a weissbeer should be. But it isn’t any one of these styles. It’s all of them. And a perfect summer drink.

  
I also chose it, because Tim absolutely stole my idea of having Dobber. But that’s ok, because now I can have both…..

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The Great Western 2nd Annual Beer Festival

  
I spend a lot of my time drinking in the Great Western  in Wolverhampton. Some of you may not know it. Some of you may have heard of it. I trust some of you will even have been there.

It’s a fairly old-school pub in lots of ways. Full of “proper” drinkers, baps on the bar, gray peas n bacon etc. But it’s also undergone continuous expansion and (possibly) improvement over the 20+ years I’ve been visiting. The beer list is relatively small in comparison to today’s craft bars – 4 Holdens beers, almost always Bathams Best Bitter as the first guest, + another 3 guests carefully curated to complement the existing range. 

  

This weekend, the GW is holding a beer festival. Jamie, the landlord, is hugely keen on remembering the fallen in the war – he doesn’t take sides. He merely wants us all to remember the bravery of the people who fought for their truth. So last year, the beer festival remembered 100 years since the start of WW1. The intention, I believe, is to hold a remembrance each year until 2118 – keeping the 100 years theme alive. 

Not surprisingly, there’s a bit of a war theme going on. The “Beer Token Sheet” is a ration book, purchased from the “War Office”. There are prizes for best dressed, and there’s a 2-Minute Silence at the start and end of each session. It’s stirring stuff….

   
 There are some 80 odd beers, some of which are on gravity tap in the conservatory…..

  
 
Some of which are on the (IMO) vastly underused conservatory bar….

  

Most of the staff for this pub festival are volunteers.  There’s no payment. There’s just a sense of fun, having a few beers with good people, and a lovely feeling of being there at the start of something a bit new in Wolverhampton. The (frankly to me, risible) cries of “cheap labour” “profit for the pub” etc simply don’t hold water for me. The guys and girls manning the bars and stillage are here because they like good beer. They want to share with the customers and friends of the pub some good beeráge.

This is why, on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of April, I’ll be spending 12 hours a day pouring and chatting about beer with people I’ve mainly never met.

  Beer is a good thing – it is a bit of a social glue. I love it. And I hope you can find time to do the same at a local pub festival near you, too.

Boredom?

Bored!

Well, maybe not bored, per se, but not enthused by my beer cupboard. Tonight, I went into the cupboard (both of them) after something to excite my beery tastebuds. I’ve got a fair few (not a humungous amount) of bottles stashed away. They range from the “ordinary” to the extraordinary. One thing struck me though, and this is it …..

I wasn’t excited by my beer cupboard!

I mean, for chuff’s sake, I’ve been out and bought these beers. I’ve had them stashed in offies, stuffed into my bag from pubs, off the cuff purchases, internet mail ordered et al. The works. The whole kit and caboodle.

But I wasn’t excited by my hoard.

  • Is it because, apart from the really stupidly big bottles (both in soze and/or strength) I’d had them before?
  • Is it because I’ve had a couple of nights this week having a few down the pub?
  • Is it because I suddenly don’t want a drink alone in my house tonight?
  • Is it because …. blah blah (insert introspective self-analysis twaddle here)

I really don’t know. It’s probably a combination of the above. Or something else entirely. )That’s waht I really don’t know means, I guess). The fact is that I’ve never actually looked at my stash, and realised I didn’t really fancy anything in there. Frankly, i’m shocked at this. Which made me realise something ……

I need a beer. So I had a Racer 5.

Phew!!

Buxton Brewery Takeover the Tap

Trips to London these days are great. I’ve been to our great capital so many times recently, I almost feel like I’ve moved there. Yesterday (16 Feb 2013) was no exception.

Train from Wolves left bang on time @ 10:45.By the time we got to Birmingham it was late….. However, just 1 minute late drawing in to Euston, so no real complaint. Spent the journey listening to some Pantera and Nuclear Assault live gigs.

Plans were afoot to meet up with some folk, and Twitter was awash with planning. The upshot of which saw me heading straight to Kernel. I’d not been before, so a first “new” for the day.

The map on the Kernel website was perfect, and just after 1pm i was walking through the open door(?) into the archway beneath the railway viaduct. Goodness me, the place was rammed! Looked for Phil (@filrd), found him easily (nothing to do with a bright green coat, oh no!) Also at the table were Andy (@tabamatu) Mart (@martjsmith) and Thomas (@tdtm82) Hellos were said, and I got a beer.

Kernel Table Beer was first up. Lots of people were telling me this was a good beer. It was ok, I was expecting more from a beer with the Kernel name on it. Decently drinkable though, and a nice start to the day.

Kernel being rammed, Andy offered to show us to Partizan Brewing. Also situated in an archway about 5 minutes walk away (or 20 if you’re Phil and Mart!) It was a lot quieter here, ample opportunity fora couple of beers then….. Partizan Saison Galaxy all round. Cheers! Very well balanced, lovely galaxy hop finish, but possibly hiding the yeast too much? Didn’t really notice the “saison” trademark yeast flavour. As a matter of comparison, we then all had a Partizan Traditional Spiced Saison. This was a “proper” saison, that sour-ish yeast nose was there right away, and I for one thought it much better.

Off to Craft Islington next? Go on then. Ridiculously, time was already moving on ….. (Does it go faster in London, or what?) It was already half three when we got in to Craft. I like this pub. Because it is a pub, in contrast to the “bar” feel of the other Craft venues. Plenty of keg and cask to choose from here. I plumped for the Dugges Edward. I’d never heard of Dugges before. They are a Swedish brewery, and based on this beer, they’re really rather good. A very pleasant light fruity IPA, give it a try if you get the chance. Next up, I tried The Mayan, from Ilkley Brewery. This is described as a “chocolate chipotle stout” on the pump clip. There’s a shed-load of chocolate in there! Both on the nose and in the taste, it was certainly chocolatey, with a lively finish from the chipotle chillies. A very good beer, which went very well with the chilli jam pork pie and mustard that I had as an accompaniment.

Time was pressing on, so we decided to head to Euston Tap, which was the focal point of today’s trip. Those great folk at Buxton Brewery were launching a new beer, and in the process had brought some of their other quality offerings to the capital. So, straight in to the new one then! Wyoming Sheep Ranch is the 5th in their Special Reserve range, and is an 8.4% double IPA, and it is bloody lovely. Depending on your nose, it’s either fruit salad or sweaty socks (but in a good Stilton cheese way). A big, full-bodied in your face thump of a beer, which doesn’t hide its strength in any way. In fact, the general consensus is that it feels stronger than 8.4%, which is rather unusual. Quite sweet tasting,more on the fruit salad theme, and I recall now quite resinous too, but with a bitterness underpinning all of this flavour holding it together very well. I’ve got some on order, and look forward to having it again.

As is usual with these events, bottles and stories were swapped, beer was drank, acquaintances were renewed, or began. It was Mike (@buxtonbrewermike)’s birthday. I’d brought him down some Beavertown Black Betty, and Mike very kindly gave me a Tsar Bomba and a bottle of Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Thanks Mike!

I had a few mroe beers, amongst others I had Buxton Black Rocks, Dark Nights & Axe Edge, all of which were on great form. Other new beers for me were Bristol Independence, Fyne Ales Vital Spark and Kissmeyer Black IPA. Final beer of the night was Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA, and all of a sudden, it was time for the train.

A curry when I got back to Wolves sealed a great day out, with some ace people and some high quality beer.

Thanks everyone for a fab time.