Thursday 23 December 2010

Mull This Over Around Christmas!

To get you all into the festive spirit I thought I'd share this recipe I concocted for Market Kitchen - it got rave reviews on set so I thought it would be rude not to! 

I had already used the cider/spirit mix in a previous recipe and just put some orange, cloves and cardamom in the mix but when I came across Nick Strangeway's piece in Jamie magazine with Wass'ail punch with the spiced syrup I shamelessly had to nick the concept - it just works!

As an aside, if I don't get a chance to raise a toast to all you guys before Christmas may I just say sorry things have been a bit sparse in recent months, the book has been pretty all-consuming and I'll be a bit quiet at the beginning of next year too.

HOWEVER, save the date, January 20 in the evening for a special event that I'll be involved in (also don't make a resolution for a dry January either!).

So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year all and, of course, cheers! xxx

Wass'ail-Inspired Punch
Serves eight cups - don't drive after drinking this!

250ml English cider brandy (recommend Julian Temperley's divine offerings)
250ml sloe gin (recommend Sipsmith if you can get it)
175ml juicing orange juice (not sweet eating oranges)
175ml lemon juice
500ml good quality, strong, dry cider like Aspall Premier Cru

Spicy syrup (concept pinched from cocktail king Nick Strangeway):
1/2 a cinnamon stick
1 lightly cracked cardamom pod
1 star anise
a quick grate of nutmeg
175g vanilla sugar
250ml of water

To Serve:
Apple chunks
1 clementine studded with five cloves
Vanilla sugar

First make the syrup by adding all the ingredients into a non-stick pan and reducing slightly until it coats the back of a spoon, careful not to over-reduce, burn it or get splattered!

Gently warm all the liquids in a large pan, not too much or you'll boil off the booze! Then add the syrup.

Warm your punch bowl with hot water, discard water, dry and then place the fruits & studded clementine in the bottom and pour over your punch.

Serve in handled cups/glasses with a lemon-juice wiped & vanilla sugared rim for a sour/sweet flourish

Monday 13 December 2010

A Nod in the Wrong Direction

Before I start this article I'd just like to say that a) you should probably read the original article that I'm responding to first and that b) I like Caroline Nodder a lot, I've known her for years and we've shared more than the odd pint together over that time but I find her leader column in last week's Publican somewhat odd.

The gist of it is that, as a consumer, she doesn't want to be consistently bombarded with complete geekery, that she considers beer the stuff that greases the wheels of sociability.

That bit I get, I really do, there are days when I just order a pint, drink it and order another because I've got better things to concentrate on than the delicate earthy aroma of the East Kent Goldings (for example!), but her attack on brewers and beer writers that are innovating is either deliberately provocative or the mark of someone who has  become overly cynical about the industry they work in.

If the beer market hadn't started to successfully communicate beer's fantastic flavour attributes more effectively, using the language of food & wine writers, and celebrity chefs, then it was doomed.

This is because the new beer drinker demographic is the same one that already understands food descriptors and wine words and they don't just speak in the language of Jilly Goolden - who hasn't graced our screens in more years than I care to remember - they speak the language of Tim Atkin, Jancis Robinson, Jonathan Ray, Susy Atkin AND Jamie Oliver and they demand more of their beer descriptors than the lazy and slapdash use of the phrases hoppy & malty (shudder!).

But what really surprises me about Nodder's article is the section where she says:
"But I don’t see anyone out there really working on building a portfolio of strong modern beers, instead I see brewers showing off by tinkering with aged beers or overly strong ABV products, or shock launches a la BrewDog, when they could be building something that can change the very culture of the beer drinker forever."

So, can someone tell me what exactly it is that Dark Star, Thornbridge, Lovibonds, Meantime, Harvey's, Fuller's, Adnams, Sharp's, St Austell, Harviestoun, Marble, Moorhouse's, Otley, Breconshire, Rooster's, Kelham Island, Lancaster and countless others are doing then?

Every single one of those breweries I mention there has a strong, core range of sessionable beers that stand proudly as such on the bar - from London Pride to Hophead and Pint to Pale Rider every single one of these beers is award-winning and, more pertinent to Nodder's argument, profitable, but they are complemented by limited release beers like Brewer's Reserve or a limited release Imperial Stout here and there - which is a sound business model.

Why? Well as Nodder rightly points out, people's interest in all things craft and local is at an all time high so why would a brewery not want to take advantage of that by producing niche products that appeal to a niche audience alongside their wider appeal core range?

And whilst I can understand her frustration at some of the dumb stunts that have been pulled over the past few years by a few misguided brewers - or out-and-out pubicity junkies - you only have to look at the success of every single stage of the summer's Thornbridge meet the brewer tour, nearly every event BrewDog runs, Cask in Pimlico's constant draw of punters every time it does a brewery event, the White Horse's beer festivals (like the Old Ale one just past which had a record year) and even my humble lovebeer@borough business over the last few years to see that the special edition beers are the ones with draw for a growing audience.

And what's wrong with that? Uncovering hidden gems is awesome, it's something to share with your friends, it's an excuse to meet up and try what you've found or even Tweet about it for the world to see.

What Nodder has missed, and maybe it's because she so dislikes the world of geeks (as she is entitled to) is that breweries like Marble wouldn't be in the happy situation of moving into a brand new brewery and are still brewing all the hours god sent to keep up with the enormous demand for their products without the beer nerd network.

The shoe-gazing that she refers to, which she feels has been indulged by beer writers like myself, are often actually high publicity projects that pay dividends for breweries and the writer alike. Every time I go and brew somewhere I learn something new, which can only make me better at my job, and it's something I'm proud of - particularly when it produces something profitable for the brewery.

For example, the brew I did at Otley, thai-bO, was so commercially successful that it's been incorporated into the seasonal roster (sorry that sounds a bit boastful but it's true!), Pete Brown's book Hops & Glory and his epic IPA journey has helped put Worthington White Shield on more people's beer map in the last couple of years than any advertising campaign ever could and Stuart Howe's interaction with the geek network has seen him brew 52 beers in a year, some of which will now make it onto the Sharp's roster because they've been so well received.

I guess, in summation, what Nodder sees as navel gazing I see as interaction with interested consumers - what do you think?

Thursday 2 December 2010

Miss You Kelly Ryan - Your Skype is Going to Be Busy!

Because I'm a disorganised numpty I didn't manage to post my simultaneous beer blogger tribute to the delightful Kelly Ryan (pictured left), formerly of Thornbridge, who is deserting us and heading back to his home shores of New Zealand with his lovely lady Cat.

So, as I'm nursing a fuzzy head from that last half of Alliance I thought it wise to drink at the Euston Tap at his London leaving bash last night, I thought I'd better get on it!

Kelly has not only been responsible for, or involved in, some of the most glorious beers to hit UK bars in the past few years, he has also been a rock for me personally and I hope one of the many huge hugs I gave him last night helped convey how much I appreciate that and will miss him.

Whether it was bouncing ideas around about my insane ideas for bonkers stuff like thai-bO or how to get rose flavours into a beer (a scheme not yet realised but it's coming!) he's always encouraged me and never laughed at any question I've asked.

No matter how stoopid I've been Kelly has always been unfailing helpful, cheerful, knowledgeable and fun (whilst managing to be pretty darn decorative as well!) and I hope it won't be too long before I share a beer with him and Cat in hobbit land.

In all seriousness though, our loss is New Zealand's gain so please, Kiwi brewing scene, take care of Kelly and nurture him - he's a star now but I predict we're going to see him become a far brighter fixture in the brewing firmament in years to come.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Yummy Night Ahead in Winchester

I'm really looking forward to my tasting at the Wykeham Arms in Winchester this evening, there are still a few tickets left if you live in the vicinity.

The matches are below, it's all bite-size offerings to go with the beer so please don't be intimidated by the length of the menu!
Cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup, truffle oil,

Matched with HSB


Sauté of Shetland scallops, crisp pork belly, spiced apple compote

Matched with organic Honey Dew


Roast saddle of Hursley estate venison, seared liver, goose fat potato and red cabbage

Matched with 1845 ale

Pan-fried south coast turbot, crisp oxtail, curly kale

Matched with Bengal lancer ale


Madagascan vanilla bean pannacotta, compote of plums

Matched with Golden Pride


Selection of British cheeses

Lincolnshire poacher vintage cheddar, Exmoor blue, Tovey goats cheese, May hill green Brie

Matched with Brewer's Reserve No. 2

Coffee and London porter truffles

*this is a commercial event for which I'm being paid

Thursday 28 October 2010

We Interrupt This (Travel) Programme AGAIN...

I'm not sure I've been impressed and then been so depressed by one organisation in such short order...

BrewDog has managed the admirable feat of giving with one hand and taking away with the other in such a tiny timespan, in fact so tiny I thought it was only possible for Governments to bend the time/space continuum in such a fashion!.

James Watt's comments re: cask ale in the Publican are really something special - and I presume the brewery will be halting all cask production forthwith to prove how right they are?

I also presume Pete Brown wonders why the hell he wrote the Cask Market Report and why anyone bothered to publicise the great news about the success of cask beer in the last 12 months in the face of such a diabolical overall beer market ...

As I said on Twitter (@melissacole if you're interested in following me) I am currently banging my head on the desk in between typing this!

We Interrupt This (Travel) Programme...

Just a quick break in my ramblings about my meanderings...

If you are quick to criticise, you should be quick to praise, and this is a brilliant bit of marketing by BrewDog to put a dwarf protesting the fact that we can't have 2/3 pint outside Parliament - amusing and has a very good point - as has the post by (I presume) James about the fact it's perceptions of beer that are the problem:

  • Fewer units for drinkers choosing higher ABV beers, which many craft beers are
  • A more sophisticated drinking experience based on quality rather than quantity
  • More choice for drinkers – half pints are often deemed too small, and pints too large by many
  • A more attractive measure for female audiences who are often put off by the scale of a pint glass

I've been told by several sources that the only reason we can't have 2/3 pint glasses is due to an odd piece of punctuation - seriously guys, we've got spell check these days, let's sort it out shall we?!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The Wanderer Returns Pt. 2

Okay, so last post I promised to tell you a bit more about my recent meanderings across the globe so here's a bit more from my trip to the States.

As someone who firmly believes that beer & food are fantastic natural partners (in fact I'm currently making French onion soup with Fuller's Golden Pride, which will be served with Cantillon-washed cheese croutons & Sharp's Single Brew Reserve), so when beers & wings at Rock Bottom (which are very good) were upstaged by an invite to Mizuna, a fine dining establishment from the lovely Matt Stinchfield for a beer & food-matched dinner I couldn't resist.

The at-times whimsical menu was matched with beers from various breweries, including Stone, Great Divide, The Bruery and Moylan's, sometimes to good effect and sometimes not but the collaboration and effort that went into the evening is definitely something to build on and there were stand-out matches that were certainly a winner (see below).

It also gave me the opportunity to spend time chatting with the delightful Denise Jones from Moylan's, (whom I consequently had some good fun drinking with later in the week) and who makes great beer including an awesome Scotch Ale in the form of Kilt Lifter, very dry for the style but (in my humble opinion) fantastic for it – I also have her to thank for a very cool new t-shirt declaring my undying devotion to Humulus lupulus!

But anyway, there is a bit more of a point to this post than just taunting you with pictures of delicious food and it's about the UK restaurant scene and its failure to capitalise on beer, despite some bright spots!

I was mortified to hear about the recent experience of two high-end restaurant figures to whom I recommended a trip to Le Gavroche, because they want to give beer some serious thought and, given all the shouting about the beer & food matching that's gone on around the restaurant over the past few years, I couldn't think of a finer place.

Oh dear, according to my sources, the waiter, when asked about beer on the menu, repeatedly told them that there was a big brand lager and that was it, even when prodded that there was supposed to be a more extensive beer list - which says to me there's one of two problems here:
a) said beer list has been taken out
b) staff are insufficiently trained on beer because there isn't a real commitment to it

To bring it back to my experience at Mizuna, and the reason why I'm mentioning it, is because I'm just so over places that talk the talk but don't walk the walk and why I would like to sing the praises of the two young chefs in the kitchen who have a love for craft beer were given their head - which is the only way for beer & food matching to be given the creative attention it needs.

And whilst they freely admitted some things didn't work, by god they were going to be polishing their beer & food-matching skills until they were right - you could see that burning out of them as they talked.

So, I guess, what I'm trying to say to anyone who is thinking about beer & food matching is this: don't do it unless you're going to commit - beer & food matching is not a gimmick, it's not a passing fad and it's not something you just play with because it deserves more respect than that, and so do your diners.

Anyway, that rant over, I hope to have some new restaurant news for you this week about where to go to get great grub & good brews and I'll also be posting some further musings from my wanderings, and keep an eye on Twitter for my Amsterdam adventures at the end of the week - I promise all pictures will be suitable for workplace viewing!

But before I go, here's the menu as I promised, I've put in bold the beers I think worked with the dish:
Spanish Mackerel
w/macerated raisin, candied citrus, fregola
Collette Farmhouse Ale, Great Divide Brewing Company (CO)
Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, The Bruery (CA)
Wagyu Beef Cheesesteak
w/Ale gougere, Gruyere fondue, caramelised onions
Moylan's IPA, Moylan's (CA)
Stone IPA, Stone Brewery (CA)
Hudson Valley Duck Breast
w/squash flan, toasted barley & glazed onion
Autumn Maple Ale, The Bruery (CA)
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Stone Brewery (CA)
(sorry but neither beer was subtle enough for this dish & just dominated)
Corned Beef & Cabbage
(house-cured short rib w/butter melted cabbage)
I can't find the pic for this, it's possible I ate it before I could take a snap - it was AMAZING! (thanks to Matt for having more restraint than greedy me!)

Moylan's Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Moylan's (CA)
Rugbrod Ale, The Bruery (CA)
Beer Battered Cherries
w/espresso Chocolate Ganache
Moylan's Old Blarney Barleywine-style Ale, Moylan's (CA)
Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, Great Divide Breweing Company (CO)
(the cherries were less than stellar but the coulis & ganache were superb)

Tuesday 19 October 2010

The Wanderer Returns

Well, I’m sorry I’ve been missing but I can only cite the fact that my life has gone mental! In a great way I must confess but that means I have to mega-apologise for not blogging for so long – I still love you all I promise!
So, why have I been missing? Well, first things first, I’ve got a book deal! Very excited to say the least! It has been a great process with the wonderful people at Anova refining the concept and I think we’ve hit on a fresh formula, which will make it accessible for the idly curious and the uber-interested alike (fingers crossed!!). Out towards the end of next year with luck!

But, I’m sure you’re not going to let me get away with just that as an excuse! So what else have been up to?

Well, I’ve been travelling a heck of a lot, in the past six weeks I’ve been in Belgium, Bristol, Czech Republic and the People’s Republic of Cornwall! But let me take you back to September first...

A beaming Bagby!
Excitingly I was back in the States judging at the Great American Beer Festival and it was just as much of a blast as it was last year, if not more, and you can see the results here but, very quickly, I’d like to make special mention for Jeff Bagby & his crew at the Carlsbad Pizza Port for winning medal after medal and taking large brewpub of the year – he’s an absolute sweetheart, his fiancée Dande is a honey - I can’t think of nicer people to win the award.

But aside from adoring Jeff, what I can't reiterate enough is his talent as a brewer. Just one example of this is that I judged the medal round of English IPAs and I was adamant that his (which I didn't know at the time I promise, it's a blind tasting!), was head and shoulders the best beer and the only one to really make the Fuggles & Goldings shine the way English brewers do - in fact I stayed at the judging table a few additional minutes with an extra glass in my hand courtesy of our lovely table steward! That's how highly I rated it.

It was also grand to see Noah from the San Clemente branch of this modest brewpub company win small brewpub of the year too – he's a star of the future in my humble opinion, and is certainly a hit with the beer ladeez across the pond!
Super Sour Maker Tomme Arthur

Tonya from Bend, it's blurry
'cos we're giggling - again!

It was also gratifying to see medals for brewers I not only like but seriously respect as well, like Tomme Arthur from Lost Abbey, Tonya Cornett from Bend Brewing, Mitch Steele from Stone, Matt from Firestone Walker, Wayne from Cigar City, Jeremy at Schmaltz (who’s just written a book, which I haven’t had time to read yet), Greg Hall at Goose Island, Jeff at Alaskan, Nick, Barnaby & the crew at Three Floyds, Larry at Iron Hill and Brian from Great Divide (hope I didn’t miss anyone I know – got this sneaking suspicion I have though, apologies!).

The festival is awesome - although the pretzel necklaces & multi-coloured beads leave me a bit confused - it’s busy but not cramped, there are water stations everywhere, there’s a great buzz about it and I do quite like the ounce servings you get - sometimes I do crave a bit more of the beers that I really take a liking to, but it does also mean you don’t procrastinate in one place and it encourages you to try as many different ones as possible.

On a personal note I'd just like to send thanks to all at the Brewer’s Association and most especially Chris Swersey, as ever, this is the slickest judging event I’ve ever attended, you are an organisational genius, and I may make you regret that fishing invitation if I get the time next time I’m over! And thanks to all the volunteers, you are truly smiley happy people, who do all the real hard work whilst we sit on our butts & drink great beer!

Also, thanks to my fellow judges, you were all a collegiate pleasure to judge with and also to my awesome, awesome roomy Jessica Heidrich, who on the final night put up with my dumbass capability to drunkenly demagnetise my key card and opened the door in wee hours three times in a row, and made a trip to the mall and hugely entertaining process - you rule lady!
But, this is the first instalment what have you got to come? Well, it was a trip of high amusement, high cuisine and even higher altitude drinking - not to mention a Goldilocks-esque story of 'who's in my bed?!' to come (not involving me I hasten to add)

Tune in for more, later in the week.

p.s. off to try the Grand Ridge beers at the White Horse, Parsons Green this evening, unless you've been to Australia it's unlikely you'll have tried these before so this is ticker/beer geek heaven baby!

Monday 2 August 2010

Beer is Here!

Don't expect the queues to be this small!
It's GBBF week and I couldn't be more excited, or I will be when the various aches and pains from what was a fairly gentle game of cricket for me yesterday, I just haven't played due to injury for a number of weeks and it's left me a bit sore!

Anyway, my guided walks for women are nearly all booked up (only a couple of places for Wednesday remain I believe and they are going fast) and my American beer talk is all sold out on Friday, nice to be loved!

But, I guess you are wondering what it is I'll be drinking, and I must say I'm very impressed with the battle plans that are posted on other blogs, but every year I plan to try x,y&z beers it all goes wrong because I inevitably can't go more than two steps without seeing someone I know and get sidetracked! Also, I have the opportunity to drink a lot of the ones I like during my guided tours!

Anyway, if you follow my blog and we haven't already met, please do introduce yourself if you see me wandering around - unless I'm in the middle of one of my guided tours of course, but if you read this blog you're clearly smart enough to know that anyway : )

Monday 26 July 2010

A Hyperbole of Hilarity

As I was away during the news of BrewDog's latest effort I wasn't going to get hot & bothered about it, in fact I'm still mostly nonplussed by the idea and just hope they carry on brewing stuff like Halcyon  Hardcore (apologies for blonde moment, had been doing my GBBF list and it was the last one added and on the brain) and doing less like the End of History, but that's just me I guess.

However, when you come across something as truly hilarious, ingenious and downright brilliant like this, you just have to share it... well done Dan Payne of Beer-Ritz, if I had my way I'd just award you the British Guild of Beer Writers blogger of the year now!

P.S. I'm deeply concerned to hear rumours that the original brew dog, Bracken, has taken the precaution of having his orifices forcibly sealed shut in case a bottle is bought anywhere near him... poor pooch, a catheterised canine is not a pleasant thought in anyone's book really!

Monday 12 July 2010

Kick in the Nuts

Wow! When the lovely Nick & Charlie from Otley were over at the weekend doing a Meet the Brewer at lovebeer@borough they told me my collaborative beer with them, thai-bO, has been going down so well they are making it their seasonal next month!!!

I'm a little bit pleased about this to say the least! Anyway, this post isn't just to pat myself on the back, I've been doing  quite enough of that as it is on Twitter!

I did have plans to write a more extensive post today about Roger Protz's latest column in the Morning Advertiser but I'm pleased to say that someone has rung me with some paying work, so I'd better get on with that.

However, before I go the 'nuts' part of the headline (the kick being the thai-bo reference, geddit?!) is about Rise Bryggeri's Ærø No. 5 Walnut Beer.

This is a gloriously rich, complex, baffling and bizarre beer that shouldn't work but it does, it does, it does.

With a gorgeous reddish-amber hue and slight mapley nose it morphs into a dryish pecan mouth-pleaser with intensely moorish nutty notes.

It's not that easy to get hold of, I'll admit, but if you visit 95% Danish they had some in stock last time I spoke to them, along with the brewery's Grolle pilsner, which I'm assured (admittedly by one of the shareholders, who I met through my lovely mate Tim in the Rake completely by coincidence) is one of the finest sunshine beers you can sup - we just need the sun to come back now!!

Thursday 8 July 2010

Stella Black - some exclusive info

It was with interest that I read Pete Brown's blog post here  about the new launch from InBev Stella Black.

Whilst I agree with a lot of his points, most especially naming a lager 'black' and it being golden when the UK market has gotten used to the concept of dark lagers, I wanted to get more information about the beer itself before I wrote anything.

The reason for this being is that I promised myself earlier this year that I wasn't going to knee-jerk react to products just because they came from camps whose actions I've disapproved of in the past.

Anyway, my pathetic personal angst aside, the first point I find interesting is it's stated as being a full grain mash. Now, there have been a lot of allegations (whether or true or false I've never been able to get an answer officially) that a lot of syrups are used in the production of mainstream Stella, so to hear Black is a full grain mash is certainly a great step forward if the aforementioned allegations are true.

The grain bill, if you're interested, is malted barley, raw barley and maize - don't know what the hops are but I'm taking a punt they are Saaz, as that's what's used in the original - and provided they haven't gone overboard with the maize it could be a good start.

Then, and here is something I was quite pleasantly surprised by, they informed me they are also using orange peel and coriander in the beer and apparently, according to ABInBev's press office, I'm the only person to know this at the moment because I'm the only person who's asked! How depressing is that?!

Now, please don't think this is me bigging myself up but don't you think this is a question that should have been asked by others by now?! (I'm not including Pete on this BTW, he was commenting on how he thinks the beer's market position falls between two stools and I think he's right given the brand's 4.8% ABV, Stella 4 & its other 4-something per cent stable mates like Beck's Vier.)

However, I'm also totally exasperated that instead of using a whole world of pointless hyperbole - like calling it a 'premium plus' experience - they didn't focus on what makes it so different, which really is PR 101 and something that they really need to focus on communicating if they want to try and claw back some sort of credibility.

All that aside, however, I actually do want to try this because it does look like they've had a stab at creating a more complex drinking experience but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and as they haven't yet confirmed where the limited number of outlets (500) are they are placing it yet, I will have to wait.

I completely appreciate that this is the kind of posting that's going to make me unpopular in some camps - apart from perhaps with Cooking Lager! - but, hell, what's new there?

So, a black day for mainstream lager or a ray of light? I'll let you know when I've managed to try some...

Monday 5 July 2010

Women Better Beer Tasters

I got sent this link the other day about women being better beer tasters than men, it's something that has come up quite a lot over the years and there was some research on more women being supertasters a number of years ago.

It also reminded me of an article that I wrote for Reuters on International Women's Day that was well received at the time and contains some of the themes in it I'm going to be touching on again in another up-coming article about women in the industry.

It's very much my opinion that women are often toxic towards other women in all walks of life, and it's something I work very hard on myself as I will admit that, as I've got a fairly unique territory, my knee jerk reaction is often to jealously guard it - which I then stop myself doing unless it's justified.

I'll be interested to see what you think, whether you've seen this kind of behaviour before or whether you've experienced something similar as a guy.

Independent Women?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of whether we still need an International Women’s Day nearly a century on from its founding.

The simple answer is yes, we do, but that spawns the more complicated query of why do we still need IWD nearly 100 years on, and here’s what I think are, at least some of, the reasons why.

My first is a personal one, and it’s about the reaction I get when I tell people I write about beer for a living and their response is almost always something along the lines of ‘but you’re a woman’. It’s not normally nasty, or malicious, more unthinking and instinctive, and I’d really like to see that change.

Whilst I’ll freely admit there are plenty of upsides to being a woman in man’s world; the major one being that I get spoiled a lot when I go and visit breweries, or at industry events, but if I didn’t have the knowledge behind the eyelashes, or the respect of people in the industry, I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of continuing to work.

And whilst I would like to think that just proving my ability to absorb knowledge about, or have a great instinct for, beer, I also make sure I’m not shy about getting my hands dirty either.

Spending time getting stuck into the coal face of brewing has not only been massively enriching to my knowledge of beer, it’s also gained me some respect on unexpected fronts. But I’m also introspective enough to know that, on some level, it is my way of proving I am one of the boys and that I’ll don my wellies with the best of them.

And whilst this is something I work very hard to eradicate in myself, I see a far worse malaise in today’s young women as they desperately seek male approbation through hyper-sexual behaviour.

How has it come to pass in our supposed post-feminist society that young women have embraced sexual aggression in place of sexual liberation?

How did we get to place where it’s okay for the Playboy-brand, or sexually suggestive slogans, to be seen emblazoned across little girls’ chests on a regular basis but we won’t let teenagers in pubs? Or that it’s okay for teenagers to be exposed to images in the media that just 10 years ago would have been consigned to the top shelf but that they can’t have one glass of low ABV beer or watered down wine with dinner without the fear of social services kicking the door in?

Personally I think part of this is because it’s so difficult for families to spend social norming time outside of rigidly prescribed, often costly, environments.

Without consistent normalisation into society and seeing real people rather than the media airbrushed images is it any surprise girls as young as nine are being diagnosed with eating disorders? Or that young women are so confused about the rights and wrongs of society that one in three of them in a recent survey by Engender, a women’s rights group, believe that it’s okay to be forced into sex in some circumstances? After all, it happens on Hollyoaks so it must be real, right?

And don’t even start me on music videos; I won’t let my niece or nephew watch MTV when they are over, let alone listen to songs from so-called independent women like Beyonce exhorting you to watch her on your videophone...

And do you know what the worst thing is about all this and why I think International Women’s Day is still so incredibly important? The stresses and pressures of trying to bow to society’s distorted image of success is making us women toxic towards our own sex, we're the first to sabotage or decry the success of others and, many of us, eagerly lap up any glossy magazine that shows you a celebrity with cellulite and, distressingly, we tend to carry that over to our own working and personal lives too.

If International Women’s Day does nothing else, I hope it gives women all over the world pause for thought about how they conduct themselves and how they in turn can affect the conduct of others – because that’s the kind of world I want the next generation of women to grow up in, I hope you do too.

Because I really don’t want to believe that the next generation will grow up to believe that a liberated self-sufficient woman means being able to balance in your Laboutins whilst performing a back-alley sex-act on a minor celebrity then negotiating a newspaper deal to tell all about whilst having all expression in your face botoxed out.

Or perhaps I need to just stick to writing about beer, what do you think?

Thursday 24 June 2010

O What a Beautiful Pint

I'm sorry to have been missing so much recently, Taste of London (which was a fantastic success) absorbed all my time over the past couple of weeks and then I've been playing catch-up.

Okay, I also went fly fishing for the first time on Tuesday with my lovely dad, and I even caught two 1.5lb beauties! Dinner last night was fabulous!

But anyway, my main reasons for this post are on a Welsh theme, which is O, so delicious - I think you probably know where I'm going with this.

Yes, my Otley beer was sampled and I'm thrilled to say that it was everything I'd hoped it would be - full of aromatic lime and lemon notes from the botanicals of kaffir lime, lime skins and lemon grass - as well as the glorious Sorachi Ace hops - and with just the right spicy undercurrent to offset the sweetness provided by galangal.

I was so pleased with it I must have hugged everyone at the brewery nearly to death at least twice when I tasted it!

For those of you who have been guessing it's called thai-bO and I'm delighted to say that Otley is coming to lovebeer@borough* on Saturday July 10 and you will be able to sample at the Meet the Brewer event then!

Usual deal, £15 a ticket and the sessions are at 1pm & 3.30pm, tickets available from the Rake or by calling 020 7378 9461 from 3pm today.

*lovebeer@borough is my tasting business in Borough Market, therefore this post represents something in which I have a financial interest

Thursday 10 June 2010

A Day Full of Profit & Potential

Just a quick note for you all, as I like to bring good news to the table on a Friday morning, Fuller's results are out and they are gooood!

For those of you who are interested in that kind of thing you can read the full set here - for those of you, like me, who prefer a more executive type of summary, here are the highlights:

  • Revenue up 8% to £227.7 million (2009: £210.0 million)
  • Adjusted profit before tax up 17% to £26.6 million (2009: £22.8 million)
  • Own Beer sales volumes up 2%
  • Managed Pubs and Hotels like for like sales increased by 2.7%
  • Tenanted Inns like for like profits declined by 1%.

Also, just as an aside, I'm off to try my Otley beer today, which has the potential to be awful or fabulous, I'm very nervous about which one! And for those of you who've been trying to guess what the name is, it's thai-bO - told you'd all kick yourselves (sorry, I just can't help myself, I've got some sort of syndrome, bad punitis or something!).

So, I'm wending my way to judge at the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival, where I'll try my beer but it is a tad wearily, I must admit, after an excellent event with Young's, Charles Campion, the Evening Standard and Martin Peters MBE! What a very nice man, great crowd pleaser and full of funny stories and the audience was super-receptive to my beer tasting before hand and asked some quite taxing questions, great to see such knowledge and passion in the room!

However, obviously they were there to see Martin Peters and I have to say quote of the night was when he was asked about 'that' goal in the 66 final: "It was a goal, I'm telling you that because I was f*cking there!"


Wednesday 9 June 2010

Stars & Stripes to Fly Over SW6

Yeh haw! The American Beer Festival is back at the White Horse again this year and looks set to be bigger and better than ever.

Take your taste buds on a trans-Atlantic trip as south west London’s finest beer pub showcases some of the very best America has to offer, including some never before seen on these shores draught beers from respected brewers like Goose Island from Chicago, Yard’s Brewing from Philadelphia, and Flying Dog from Maryland.

The pub will also be bringing over brews from Odell’s, Brooklyn, Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada , Left Hand and Stone. The White Horse is hoping to repeat the success of last year's similarly themed event. Timed to celebrate Independence Day, the fest kicks off on Friday July 2 and will carry on throughout the weekend.

There will be a tremendous choice of the finest American beers, including Goose Island Bourbon County Stout in cask, which will only be served in halves, alongside some extremely special cask beers from the ever anarchic, and always tasty, Flying Dog, including the brewery’s latest offering Raging Bitch – an IPA brewed with Belgian yeast.

There will also be a wide array of keg beers on offer from highly-respected breweries like Sierra Nevada, and also little-known in the UK but nonetheless multi award-winning microbreweries like Yards from Philadelphia..

And, because the White Horse is always all about demonstrating the diversity of British beers as well, they will have beer on handpull from a whole host of English beers that boast an American influence in hop form from breweries like Crouch Vale, Thornbridge and Dark Star.”

Weather permitting the BBQ will be fired up and offering a whole host of American classics, as well as the ever-popular hog roast and, as you would expect from The White Horse, the beer quaffing will be accompanied by appropriate live music from The Steelers and Fallen Heroes, and there will be live barn dancing with Cut a Shine.

The White Horse, 1-3 Parson's Green, London, SW6 4UL T: 020 7736 2115 W: Twitter: @WhiteHorseSW6

* I have been working with the White Horse on this beer festival

Tuesday 8 June 2010

True to Form?

Only got two ticks to post this but BLIMEY! Truman's beer is back - when I find out more I'll post more!

World Cup Fervour?

Hmm, it may be a little late but a heads up to all small brewers putting out a World Cup beer, be careful how you brand it - FIFA is on the warpath and Hook Norton is currently in its sights according to Brand Republic.

The thrust of why FIFA is turning its sights on a relatively small brewer from Oxfordshire is that it has used the phrase 'Brewed to celebrate the FIFA World Cup 2010. Supporting England', which it's apparently not supposed to without jumping through a whole series of hoops and parting with large sums of cash!

Oh, and this goes for publicans thinking about how to go about showing the World Cup, apparently you've got to be careful not to breach guidelines too!

However, I do have a rare good word for Carlsberg as the official beer of the England team, which has sensibly chosen not to pursue any legal action, knowing that a) the backlash would be enormous and b) that it's frankly pointless as it would cost more than any settlement would be worth and, I would imagine, could easily put a brewery the size of Hook Norton on very shaky ground.

Mars, on the other hand, looks like it's going after Nestle for its Kit Kat Cross Your Fingers campaign, which could see an almighty legal battle - although I'm still hanging on the outcome of Unilever suing the BNP for using Marmite in a party political broadcast, perhaps we can get an extraordinary ruling where Nick Griffin is publicly flogged for being a total waste of skin & oxygen...

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Genetically Modified Welsh Football

Guys & Gals,
I apologise for the lack of blogging activity recently but boy have I been busy and I'm afraid I lack the dedication of other bloggers to write until 4am in the morning after finishing a day's work - call me old-fashioned but I feel I ought to speak to my other half from time to time!

Anyway, I've got a few newsflashes for you - firstly it's come to my attention that someone (who doesn't even have the conviction to name themselves) has been wandering around the interweb claiming Fuller's uses GM US hops; as far as I can find out in my enquiries there isn't even such a thing as GM hops and the only beer Fuller's uses US hops in is Discovery, so where this person gets their "information" from is beyond me.

But, if you want to ask the head brewer himself he'll be coming to lovebeer@borough on June 12 for two meet the brewer sessions at 1pm and 3.30pm. Tickets are just £15 and the beer line-up can be found on our Facebook group.*

Secondly, I had an awesome time brewing with Otley in Wales last week, we made a wheat beer flavoured with galangal, oven-dried lime skins, lemon grass & kaffir lime leaves + Sorachi Ace hops; it's other going to be magnificent tasting or great to dab behind the ears - but you never know until you try!

I also did a little filming whilst there and once I've edited out the most unglamorous bits (because god know's it's tough to look glam when you're brewing and I was a little worse for wear after drinking with the lovely Mr Nick Otley the night before) I shall get that up, which will be a first for this blog!

And finally, I recently prepared a list of World Cup beers for a paper which strongly intimated it was a for a commission, it wasn't they just wanted my hard work (and, admittedly, plaguarism  utilisation of the website, which I did hold my hands up to!) so I shall be using it to my own ends and will be posting a list of World Cup beers, where to get them and also a few food suggestions that I'd love people to add to from their own experiences as I haven't been to far too many of these countries and my knowledge of, say, Uruguayan food for example, is slim at best.

Toodle Pip for now blog followers and a little thanks to for making me website of the day - please give them a visit.

*this mention is for my beer tasting business in Borough Market

Thursday 27 May 2010

The Politics of Tweeting

There's a stark contrast between judging in America and over here, which I wrote a piece on for the British Guild of Beer Writers newsletter and have pasted below, however, I'm also struck by the fact that I feel slightly uncomfortable with the concept of tweeting during the judging process.

I don't know whether it's because often my first thought when I'm unsure about something is to put myself in the other person's shoes and if I had entered some of the categories in recent competitions and heard them so roundly slated before the results were even out I'd be a lot less inclined to enter the following year or whether it's just because I don't think it's professional.

I think the mobile ban at both the GABF and the WBC is well worthwhile, partly because you often think that you know a beer and end up being completely wrong and could tweet about it being in fine form and give false hope too. My best example of this is that one beer competition I was convinced I was drinking Deus, as it's such a distinctive beer, and it turned out I was actually judging Eisenbahn's Lust - so it just goes to show how wrong you can get it!

I think part of the problem I also have with the social networking during competition is the flaw in our systems and this is that the brewers rarely get a copy of the judging feedback in the UK, which is totally opposite to the US, where the judging sheets make carbon copies of all your notes, which also makes me question slightly why you'd even enter as a brewer if you can't find out why or how your beer won/didn't make a medal.

This is not a pop at anybody/competition in particular by the way, quite a few people have done tweeted/Facebooked during these comps and I'm not even entirely convinced I haven't, but I've decided definitively I won't be doing so in future, I'm just airing my views and wondering what you think about my points both below and above?

Brave New World
You may be aware that nothing is done on a small scale in the States and in keeping with that Herculean sense of bigness the GABF is the GBBF super-sized. And I’m not just talking about the festival itself, but also the judging. The sheer level of professionalism at the GABF is something to behold and I believe all of us who run, or participate in, beer competitions can really learn from this.

Here’s just one example: on the night before judging commenced we attended the judges’ briefing session, which took us through the whole process and provided us with our categories. Then, and here’s what let me know straight away I was in a different league, we were given some sensory training using different hop products and asked to rank them in order of bitterness — at this point I’m thinking okay, a little bit nerve-wracking for the new girl, I’ll give it my best shot. 

So after tasting all these products and ranking them I begin to relax a bit when the majority of the show of hands in the room agreed with my assessment… only for the presenters to announce that these compounds were actually all the same IBUs and to be careful about using our ‘perceived’ bitterness in beer as an absolute benchmark; this was fascinating, insightful and extremely valuable. 

And when it comes to the physical judging itself, there are 78 different beer-style classifications, some with sub-categories, to be judged — and okay we may not have, or be willing to, break down our beers that minutely, in the UK but I feel we are currently failing to accurately reflect the diversity of beer styles available and that this needs addressing. Without doubt the most useful tool of all is the style descriptor sheet you get and this is something I’d really like to see adapted and adopted over here — here’s just one small extract:

Bohemian-Style Pilsner: Bohemian Pilsners are medium bodied and they can be as dark as a light amber colour. This style balances moderate bitterness and noble-type hop aroma and flavour with a malty, slightly sweet, medium body. Extremely low levels of diacetyl and low levels of sweet corn-like dimethyl sulphide (DMS) character, if perceived, are characteristic of this style and both may accent malt aroma. A toasted, biscuitlike, bready malt character along with low levels of sulphur compounds may be evident. There should be no chill haze. Its head should be dense and rich. Original Gravity (degrees Plato): 1.044-1.056 (11-14 degrees Plato); Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (degrees Plato): 1.014-1.020 (3.55 degrees Plato); Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.8%-4.4% (4.5%- 5.5%); Bitterness (IBU): 18-25; Colour SRM (EBC): 4-5.5 (8-11 EBC)

Now I’m not necessarily advocating this as the definitive format, as the technical aspect may prove overwhelming for some, but what I wanted it to demonstrate is the gulf between our methods and
those in the US. Here in the UK we quite often don’t even provide the category descriptions the brewers
were given to enter the competition, and whilst I applaud the fact we have significantly more focus on drinkability in most of competitions, there’s also a lot to be said for raising the professionalism of the industry as a whole by ensuring beers do meet the criteria set for their entry.

All this aside, the most lasting impression that I got from the overall experience I feel is the most important one that we can learn from in the UK — and that’s the positive attitude. Glenn uses the word collegiate and I can’t think of a better term with which to describe the brewing community out there; people work together so closely, they care about what happens to their neighbouring brewery and they refuse to give in to any doom and gloom.

I know we’ve been having a rough time here over the past few years but the outlook is brighter now than it’s ever been, with more craft breweries in the UK than at any other time since 1945, and I strongly feel it’s time we started focusing on that and sending out the good news stories.

Monday 17 May 2010

Happy Birthday & Discount Beer!

A little newsette for you! Sorry it's a bit press-release-y but I only had time to tinker with existing copy they sent - busy getting set for big tasting with Alec Stewart tomorrow night! Discount details at end.

This month, Twickenham-based Real Ale Ltd. celebrates its fifth Birthday.  Since opening the shop doors on 14 May 2005, the company has grown steadily, now supplying people all over the country with its large selection of ales and ciders from micro-breweries across Britain, Europe and the rest of the world.

Operating part of its business out of a warehouse, close to Twickenham Green, the company has used its experience to choose the right beers from an ever-growing number of micro-breweries as well and running not only its own successful ale club, and has also recently taken over the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Beer Club, which boasts nearly 1,000 members.  

Nicholas Dolan, managing director of Real Ale Ltd., comments “Since the beginning I’ve always wanted to give customers the opportunity to try interesting and different beers, which would otherwise be hard for them to find and the development of felt like the obvious next step, offering a next day delivery service nationwide.  

“Being able to work closely with Marks & Spencer’s to source and develop their beer range, with small brewers, has been a unique experience and has undoubtedly taken us to the next level”.
Also, for the past three years Real Ale Ltd. has been supplying Marks and Spencer’s with bottle conditioned ales from regional brewers.

Dolan continues “We work in conjunction with M&S to find regional breweries that produce beers that represent their regions. All of which are brewed exclusively for M&S.”
The nine beers supplied include Scottish Ale from the Cairngorm Brewery, Yorkshire Bitter from Cropton, Norfolk Bitter from Woodforde’s and Cornish IPA from St Austell Brewery.

As Real Ale Ltd. continues to grow, states Dolan emphatically, everyone in the business is never complacent and still feels passionately about the importance of their shop on Richmond Road; he adds:
“Promoting small and medium-sized breweries, in many cases from rural communities across the UK, is fundamental to our ethos.  We are very keen that the current momentum behind the real ale sector continues for the many years to come." will be celebrating its 5th anniversary throughout May and will be offering all of its customers 10% off any purchase.