Tuesday 26 January 2010

Devilishly Good Lamb Dish

Oh my God! What's the ball of burning gas in the sky?! In case you didn't guess I've just seen the sun for the first time in quite a while and am ridiculously over-excited by this fact, it also means that my cooking is about to change and there'll be less long, slow cook and more fresh, lighter recipes for you to experiment with.

Anyway, before that happens thought I'd share my lamb dinner recipe from the weekend with you as I'm travelleing - it was so yummy and so perfect for when it was grey that it really cheered me up!

I tend to try not to eat out of season or from too far away but I have to confess I had a huge yen for a leg of lamb for Sunday lunch and, as it's NZ lamb and I don't find it the tastiest in comparison to British (oh god, what have I said?!), I really like to slow-cook this joint for  a bit of difference every so often.

Now, I do confess to owning a ridiculously expensive & very large tagine which is perfect for this job, but a deep roasting dish and a lot foil will do the trick just as nicely I'm sure - and do make your dauphinoise from scratch, they are waaaay better than the shop bought variety and it really isn't difficult. just buy a cheap mandoline or even use the wide cutter on a four-sided cheese grater for the potatoes and you're 75% of the way there!

I chose the Satan Gold because it's got a really strong spicy note to it that didn't dissapate with the cooking, which I was really, really impressed with.

Devilishly Delicious Lamb & dauphinoise - serve with piles of steamed Swiss Chard good old-fashioned greens!
For lamb:
Leg of lamb
1 pint of stock or water
Bunch of rosemary
Bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
Four large garlic cloves
Good whack of seasoning
Bottle of Satan Gold or other strong golden ale (Duvel would do it as well I guess)
  1. Season and brown off your lamb on the hob but in the tray you're going to put it in the oven in
  2. Deglaze pan with water/stock
  3. Roughly chop and throw in onion, lightly crush garlic cloves, throw in skin & all and join it with the herbs
  4. Pour the beer over the lamb, seal up tightly and put in a 220 oven for one hour and then turn down to 160 for three-four hours, depending on size of leg - it's done when the meat just pulls away at the slightest touch
  5. Leave to rest sealed up for at least an hour
Dauphinoise (serves 4 easily)
450ml double cream
200ml milk
4 garlic cloves
1.5 kilo floury potatoes like Maris Piper/King Edward
  1. Finely chop your garlic cloves
  2. Put the milk & cream in a pan, season well and add the garlic
  3. Bring to boil and immediately turn off heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes
  4. Mandoline or very finely slice potatoes and put in a dish wide enough that they are only two-three layers deep
  5. Once creamy mix has steeped, pour all over, turning the potatoes over so the garlic gets everywhere and then put in the oven once your lamb has been taken out to rest
  6. Will take between 45-1 hour to cook, keep an eye on it, when it's brown on top & crispy around the edges (not burnt though) it's going to be luscious!

Starlight, Star Bright, First (Dark) Star I Drink Tonight

Okay, so it won't be tonight, it's this afternoon, but I'm very excited to be off to the opening of the new Dark Star Brewing HQ to see where I'll be brewing a hugely exciting beer with the lovely head brewer Mark Tranter in the not too distant future (I hope!).

The concept of supping Hop Head at the brewery is something that a lot of beer lovers only dream of, there are times when I love my job beyond belief!

Anyway, sorry about that, I promise to update with pictures and possibly even video later today or tomorrow (depends how long it takes me to work out my new toy!).

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Halt Neo-Prohibitionists at the Point of Sale

Ironically, in the light of what was published today, I wrote this several days ago for publication in a national, I have to say that when I called for more stringent punishment at point of sale, the ridiculous figures that are being bandied about are more than a little OTT, and shouldn't apply if it's a first offence, should be more repeat offender based. But anyway, it never made it to print, so here you go!

After just over 10 years of being involved in the licensed trade I've come to the conclusion that virtually every proposal or piece of legislation I've seen or heard proposed has merely been a sticking plaster on the boil of problem drinking in this country.

And it seems it’s about to get worse. It seems the Conservatives, alongside their bizarre alcohol labelling plans announced this morning, are planning to tax what they call higher alcohol 'problem drinks'.

But who decides what qualifies as a 'problem' drink? Groups like the Institute of Alcohol Studies*, which is funded by the Temperance movement but masquerades as an independent research body? The BMA or another faction of the health lobby? Because it won’t be any of the bodies who allegedly represent the pub or drinks industry, they’re too busy fighting amongst themselves and, most importantly, who’s going to speak for the consumer?

My big issue with the ‘tax it at the source’ approach is that it completely fails to address the core issue of alcohol abuse in the UK - it's not what's made, it's how it's sold.

Let's take the recent release of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, the 32%ABV beer from BrewDog, as an example - this beer was sold only through limited specialist retailers and cost minimum of £30 for 330cl bottle, and the only purveyor in London was limiting the sale to one bottle per person.

However, if you go to your local Sainsbury's, you can buy as many bottles as you like of 350ml bottles of Sainsbury's Dry London Gin at 37.5%ABV for £4.68 a bottle.

If you're looking to abuse alcohol, which one are you going to buy? Not a toughie is it?

And, to be honest, where's the deterrent not to serve people who are drunk? I was told the other day that tattooists are automatically banned if it's found they ink someone who is under-18, so perhaps a more strenuous enforcement of the licensing laws around serving people who are clearly incapacitated, or looking to get that way, (particularly in supermarkets and convenience stores) is what's needed?

And let's take a look at the failure of licensing reform to change us all into sensible, continental-style drinkers, is that anything to do with flexible opening hours? No, it's because we're a nation obsessed with standing up in pubs with a pint, not eating before we go out and having about 600,000 different ways of saying drunk - it's in our psyche.

But instead of trying to challenge that outlook by encouraging the young to get used to alcohol and see it as the norm, rather than something illicit to be abused, we try to keep them away until they are 18 and 'responsible' - yep, that's working!

I've never understood this attitude. Being in pubs, around different age groups, in a safer environment than a street corner or park bench, allows the learning of social norms, where teenagers will be picked up on poor behaviour or be ejected from the environment where all their mates are - it's an excellent way to learn how to act in public and around alcohol.

And as for saying that the use of units on labelling should be replaced with how many centilitres of alcohol there are in each bottle is just bonkers given that most of country is just beginning to get a handle on the concept of units!

I'm not saying I have all the answers here, I'm aware this is a complex issue with a lot of economic implications for any Government way past my understanding, all I know is, alcohol isn't evil and penalising producers and sensible drinkers who would like to share a 33oml bottle of 32% beer with their partner, over time and in the comfort of their own home or in a couple of armchairs next to a fire in a pub, isn't the answer.

*Depressingly, I exposed the Institute of Alcohol Studies nine years ago, when I worked for the Morning Advertiser. Then in 2005 I appeared on NewsWatch to challenge the producer of the BBC's show Britain's Streets of Booze on a lot of factual errors in the show, including putting a spokesperson from IAS forward on the show as 'independent’. Unbelievably they were then invited to advise the European Union in 2006 on their alcohol strategy, still claiming to be independent.

Monday 18 January 2010

New Leaf

My good friend and colleague Adrian Tierney-Jones has just informed me that Granville has just been bought by Creemore Springs which, in turn, is owned by Molson Coors.

HOWEVER, it is apparent that the mega-brewer takes a very hands-off approach to Creemore and is planning to be similarly distant with Granville. They've got a track record with leaving White Shield intact in the UK, and the fact that they are investing in an existing craft brewery rather than trying to create a 'fake' craft brewing brand like some of its rivals, is something I find more genuine.

I think it's got to be wait and see, they've proved they can do it both here and in Canada already, so here's hoping that it's only good news for this brewery and its fans.

Thanks for the heads up ATJ!

Home Brew? Here's One for You!

Some clever bod called PJ Hoberman (great name) has come up with this very user-friendly online forum for homebrewers called BrewAdvice.com.

Although I can't homebrew myself due to space restrictions - i.e. way too much fishing and cricket gear already occupying my fifth floor flat - I will be checking in on it for when I can finally take the plunge!

Limited Beer News for Maple Leafs

Ahh, Monday - or should that be Arrrrggghhhh, Monday!

Anyway, I have some good news for any Canadians missing the joys of microbrewed beer from home - for a limited period you will be able to get Granville Island Brewing’s Lions Winter Ale at The Iron Duke, Avery Row, Mayfair from Thursday, January 21, and there's even a special ‘Canada Night’ planned to mark the arrival of the beer on the bar.

Apparently Granville Island was the first microbrewery in Canada, being established in 1984 - which I presume is right or someone would have sued them by now I'm sure - and the Lions Winter Ale does sound tasty, it's a 5.5% winter ale and seems to be universally described as being spicy, sweet and with a slight hint of nuttiness.

Although there aren't any details on what a Canada Night involves at the moment, if you turn up in costume singing the Lumberjack Song from Monty Python, or on horseback in full Mountie uniform, I'm sure you'd get at least a rousing round of applause!

Wednesday 13 January 2010

(Knee) Jerks on Both Sides?!

After a morning of trying to figure out just why the hell the Conservatives hav announced this ridiculous new plan to put centilitres of alcohol on the label of every booze bottle* I've now been left flabbergasted by a story on the Morning Advertiser website about new regulations being bought in around Personal Licences and who can hold them, but not by the Government's proposals for a change but by the comments made about them!

In case you didn't look at the link, the story, in short, is that the police can object to a licence application by anyone who has been convicted of committing, or conspiring to commit, necrophilia or bestiality amongst other things.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but GOOD!

I believe a licensee should be part of the community, they should be a responsible person, they should know the difference between right & wrong (or at the very least alive & dead) and shouldn't have this sort of serious criminal conviction on their record.

It's also worth bearing in mind the wording of legislation is such that 'serious sexual offences' will cover such acts as necrophilia and bestiality - but far more importantly the reason why the phrase 'serious sexual offences' is included is because it covers rape, serious sexual assault and other such offences, which I'm guessing you're no keener on a licensee having a conviction for than I am.

And please bear in mind here that a licensee is one of a select group of people who can validate a passport photograph...I'll let you do that unpleasant mental math.

Now let's turn the tables here - if the law didn't apply scrutiny to those who had such convictions and put them in charge of a pub, a place that's supposed to be a safe environment, in which to consume alcohol, how would you feel? How worried would you be about yourself, your wife, your girlfriend or even boyfriend, having a cheeky after hours drink with landlord...?

And I think it's important to look carefully at the wording of the proposed changes here too: "An unspent conviction does not necessarily preclude a person from being granted or renewing a personal licence, but their application will be scrutinised by the chief of police."

But apparently at least one trade body doesn't agree with me if their spokesperson Kate Nicholls is anything to go by: “This seems a bizarre and unnecessary addition to red tape at this point in time. Worse, it suggests that those working in the industry are putative criminals and acts as a real disincentive for those wanting to make a career in the sector.

"In addition, where a court convicts a personal licence holder for a relevant offence, it has power under the Act to declare the licence suspended for a period of up to three months or to declare it forfeit."

“It’s a retrograde and regressive approach, which is entirely at odds with a modern, dynamic industry. The Government ought to be ashamed of itself.”

Seriously, I can't figure out whether I'm more angry or depressed that these comments have been made, it just goes to show that ridiculou knee jerk reactions aren't the sole domain of the vote-seeking politician, the very bodies supposed to champion the industry's professionalism are capable of making statements of equal stupidity.

*What I find most baffling about this proposal is that a high proportion of booze, particularly beer, show their measurements in millilitres and therefore the centilitre number will just look very low and encourage the confused public to drink more!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Tick That & Party!

I'm a beer nerd - there I've said it.

I can bang on about beer for hours, I can (when slightly happy) be more than a little pushy about insisting people try certain beers and, to be honest with myself, I can probably bore/terrify people to death sometimes.

But, do you know what, I never get treated with the kind of sneery contempt that tickers do but, love them or hate them, they are undoubtedly a major feature in the good beer landscape.

It seems to me that it's bizarrely more socially acceptable to sit in the dark, munching on Wotsits, pretending to be a Symbiant Galaxy Overlord who throws Knight Elf Mohawk grenades at other people whilst trying to win the hand of the Ethereal Princess Erutraya and not meeting a single real human being from one month to the next than be a ticker.

Which I find really weird, at least with ticking you get out of the house, you meet people, you support two important economic pillars - the pub and real ale - and you actually interact with the real world!

Now, truth be told, I've been guilty of making the odd joke at the expense of tickers, but that's because a lot of the ones I'd met have been way more wrapped up in ticking the beer than noticing what it tastes like and I just don't get that at all, but that changed when I met Tony Martin.

Tony drinks in the Rake, the White Horse and various other establishments I frequent and he's always unfailing nice, knowledgable AND gives a damn about the quality of the beer he's drinking, so I respect him and (I think) he in turn respects my take on beer too.

So, with my world view of the ticker turned upside down, I was very honoured to be asked by Phil Parkin to take part in Beertickers - beyond the ale, which delves into the underbelly (all right, that's a bit too Guy Ritchie but you know what I mean) of the ticking fraternity - and it is very much a fraternity because you really don't see anywhere near as many female tickers as blokes, but that's a whole other anthropological issue.

The film is a good fun romp through first-hand experience by Phil as he gets caught up in the mysterious world of tickingin the company of ticking legends like Mick the Tick, Brian the Champ and Dave Unpronounceable - and before you think they are names made up for the film, they aren't, that's what they're known as!

He does this by setting himself the challenge of ticking 500 beers by the project's end, and discovers that it's all rather good fun.

Along the way he also examines some of the current hysteria around booze (with a little cameo from me outside the Palace of Westminster with a horrible, never to be repeated, short haircut) and really cuts to the quick of how important beer & the pub is to the British identity.

I'll be honest, I didn't expect to like this film much but I did, I found it funny, heartwarming and sufficiently self-deprecrating towards this very British pursuit that I think anyone with an interest in beer should definitely watch it.

It's being shown at beer fest around the country I've been told, but if you visit the website then you'll be able to find out more information or buy the DVD.

Drie Fonteinen to Blend Not Brew

The Thirsty Pilgrim reports that Drie Fonteinen is to halt brewing its own lambic but will be launching a distillery.

To cut a long story short, as you can read the whole of it on Thirsty's blog, a disasterous loss of over 100,000 bottles of Drie Fonteinen caused the owner Armand Debelder to rethink the strains on his time of brewing as well as blending and, because he had to try and salvage some of the beer lost, he very cleverly decided to take the spoilt geueze to a nearby distillery to see what they could make of it, and apparently the answer was something really quite nice!

The resulting distillation is an eau de vie called Spirit D'Armand, is 40%ABV and is described by the Thirsty Pilgrim as 'dangerously smooth' - sounds both great and scarey!

Anyway, I wish the proprietor every luck in the world, he will continue using his blendign skills, which means there will still be quality geueze coming from the name Drie Fonteinen and he will get some sort of work/life balance to enjoy with his new wife.

Monday 11 January 2010

Rediscovering Old Friends

After deciding that freezing our tushes off in the Bricklayer's Arms was a bad idea last night, we wandered over to the Duke's Head on the river for a couple of pints instead and I rediscovered Young's Winter Warmer on cask (5%).

I'd forgotten how much I like this beer, particularly on a cold night, it's not a 'big' as a lot of other winter beers but that isn't a bad thing when you want a few of them. Warmly spicy, choc/coffee notes, a slight red berry bitterness and a nice dry bitter finish.

If you get the chance, give it a warming whirl!

Friday 8 January 2010

Yummy for Your Tummy

I've already done one recipe of the week, so I thought I'd give this post a little bit of a more exciting title!

Anyway, this has been prompted by a Tweet from the award-winning blogger Mark Dredge, as he was either asking or answering a question about what would go well with a beer - there were so many ReTweets and whatnot that I've got no idea where the original question came from!

Anyway, the beer in question was the utterly unctuous and delicious Tally Ho, a big, fruity gorgeous 7.2%ABV barley wine that Adnams brews on a limited edition basis and I suggested fruit cake with Wensleydale.

Now, I will admit that the original recipe on which I based this was Simon Rimmer's, but I've made a couple of tweaks to it to make it slightly more to my taste - but feel free to follow the original if you want, either are equally yummy!

Fruit Cake & Wensleydale

500g/1lb 1½oz plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g/7oz soft dark brown sugar
450g/1lb a mix of green raisins, chopped dates, chopped dried apricots
1 peeled & finely chopped soft pear
200g/7oz unsalted butter
4 free-range eggs
2-3 tbsp Mackeson milk stout (drink or freeze the rest!)
Young Wensleydale cheese, sliced, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas 2, grease and line a 8in/20cm square cake tin (sorry to sound patronising but do use a square tin if you can, it's easier for putting slices of cheese on top!)
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, brown sugar and fruit together in a bowl until well combined
3. Add the butter and crack in the eggs. Mix well, then add just enough beer to give a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin
4. Bake in the oven for one and three-quarters to two hours, or until the cake is golden-brown and springy to the touch, a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean, remove from oven and set aside to cool
5. Cut the cake, pop your cheese on top, pour your Tally Ho into a brandy balloon, kick back, relax!

ABInbev Workers Take Bosses Hostage

There are reports that ABInbev workers in Belgium have taken their bosses hostage in Leuven, demanding that they retract plans for over 200 redundancies at the site.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Bitter or Sweet Designs - You Decide

I've just come across this story about BitterSweet Partnership teaming up with PPQ to try and design a beer glass that women will like (I think I've upset them, I stumbled across this rather than being sent a release, oh well!).

Now, I'm going to totally keep my opinions out of this for now but the website has put a poll up for people to vote on which shape and design they'd most like.

Basically, I'd really appreciate it if the women who read this site could take the poll, and I also wondered if the lads would be so kind as to ask their ladies to participate and then come back and tell me what you voted for in the comments section, along with any further thoughts.

I appreciate I'm being a demanding wench but I'd be really interested to hear people's first-hand thoughts on this.


Celebrate Burn's Night with Whisky Beers!

After all the stress of the penultimate test match coming to a draw I thought I ought to do some work, so please find below the latest info on the next Meet the Brewer at lovebeer@borough.

Award-winning Scottish brewery Harviestoun, based in Alva at the foot of the rolling Ochil Hills, is renowned all over the world for its immensely drinkable beers and now you can meet head brewer Stuart Cail for an early Burn’s Night celebration in London this January 23, with a range of the brewery’s beers and a wee something to nibble on after in the form of the ‘chieftain o' the puddin-race’, Haggis, with tatties & neeps.

Always renowned for its innovation, the brewery is widely acknowledged to have produced one of the first blonde beers, in the shape of Bitter & Twisted, which helped kick-start the rediscovery of the delights of real ale by lager drinkers, and is still leading the charge on exciting beers to this day.

More recently beer (and whisky) lovers on both sides of the Atlantic have warmly received the various versions of the brewery’s complex and esoteric delight Ola Dubh. The name Ola Dubh means Black Oil, and is a gloriously dark, rich thick 8%ABV beer aged in different Highland Park Whisky casks.

The beer comes in 12, 16, 18, 30 and 40-year-old versions* and is ideal as a digestif or paired with strong cheeses like Stinking Bishop or Époisses (*the years refer to the age of the whisky casks the beer is aged in).

The tasting will also include Ptarmigan cask ale, the seasonal brew Haggis Hunter and a comparative tasting of the brewery’s award-winning Schiehallion in both cask and bottle format, much to the delight of co-proprietor of Tickets are just £15 and there are currently two tasting events scheduled, on Saturday January 23 at 1pm and 3.30pm, but tickets are already in demand by word of mouth alone, so more announcements may follow.

Tickets are available from Utobeer or the Rake (14 Winchester Walk, Borough Market, London, SE1 9AG) by emailing melissa@love-beer.co.uk or calling 020 7378 9461.

*this post is for my beer tasting business*


Right, I'm watching the final throws of the test match and am finding it very stressful, which made me think that if I was to have a beer to calm my nerves (not that I'm going to, by myself, at home, at 3.30 in the afternoon!), what would I have to drink, so I've put a list of my top five relaxing beers below, I'd love to know what you all think.

  1. Fuller's Chiswick - when the day needs to be to washed away with a pint or four!
  2. Dark Star HopHead - for bunking off during summer afternoons to sit in the pub garden
  3. Ola Dubh 16 - for weather like this, preferably in front of a real fire, bung it in a brandy balloon and savour for ages
  4. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - a chocolatey Bourbon cuddle in a glass, serve as above!
  5. Rochefort 10 - to be savoured with friends (no website I'm afraid)

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Diet, What Diet?!

Okay, I know at this time of year I'm supposed to be living off rarified Alpine air and misted vitamins for four weeks but I'm afraid all it does is make me really grouchy, tired and unproductive - so I've decided not to go for an all-out diet this January.

Instead, with a little advice from the lovely Gina at Ethos Coaching who's married to the awesomely acerbic Eddie from Utobeer, I've set myself a goal instead - I want to lose a dress size by the end of February.

I've decided to do this through alternating daily light exercise with a day's murderous exercise, eating more sensibly during the day, cutting down on dinner portion sizes and being a little more abstemious in my drinking (not a lot mind you, but when you drink as much as I have in the last three months a little is actually a lot!!).

However, what I've decided NOT to do is to completely deny all eating pleasures and, as I've got a half-hundred weight of potatoes left from Christmas and I hate wasting food, we're having bangers & mash with Exmoor Beast Onion Gravy for dinner tonight.

I'm pretty sure that you don't need me to tell you how to make mash (although I do heartily recommend getting a potato ricer, it's the one of the few pieces of kit in my kitchen I now could not live without) and I'm not yet making my own sausages (although a bigger kitchen and that could become a reality very quickly!) so I'm just going to focus on the gravy!

Exmoor Beast Onion Gravy (will work with any brown/dark beer)
Three large onions
Two sizeable garlic cloves
GOOD stock (I'm using duck but that's just because it's in the freezer, would prefer beef)
One bottle of Exmoor Beast
Pinch of sugar
Three sprigs of fresh thyme
  1. Chop your onions in half, peel, cut into 1cm thick half moons
  2. Place in a medium-hot deepish pan with some groundnut oil in it
  3. Keep stirring until the onions start to soften
  4. Add pinch of sugar and a splash of stock
  5. Cook the stock out
  6. Add garlic, thyme and half bottle of Beast and reduce to lowest heat
  7. Allow onions to caramelise (takes at least 30-45 minutes)
  8. Add rest of stock and cook until thickened (if you're struggling to get it thick then slake a little cornflour with a bit of the gravy in a glass/bowl/ramekin/whatever! and then add back into pan
  9. Taste, season accordingly (I like a lot of black pepper in mine) and pour over whatever you're serving it with!
If you add more stock and serve with slices of baguette with melted Gruyere on top you've got onion soup!

Europe to Get Stoned?

Well, somehow before Christmas I missed the announcement that Stone was contemplating opening a brewery in Europe, so I thought rather than just re-hashing the news (given that most of you have probably already heard) I thought I'd leverage the fact that Greg Koch (right) didn't stand his round at the Falling Rock when I was at the GABF* to duff him up for some further information.

Just to precis this, basically Stone has announced that it is thinking about opening a European brewery, something probably a bit smaller than they have now (which is perhaps why my suggestion of retrofitting the Leeds Tetley brewery wasn't even acknowledged) and are looking for thoughts and proposals on this.

But I wanted to know a little more about why they were thinking about this. Are they looking for super-universal domination, are they being super-green or is Greg just wanting to show off his multi-lingual talents?

Read on to find out what he had to say:

Me: What’s driving this decision? Is it economic? Environmental? Both?

Greg: Actually, the challenge and adventure is the #1 driver. Yes, we feel it is a good environmental and (will eventually be) a good economic decision, but ultimately we want to have fun.

Me: What’s you largest European market?
Greg: No good answer to this as we only export anecdotally. We only currently export to Sweden and the UK, both are minimal. We won't ship meaningful amounts of our "fresh" year-round beers due to Europe's bothersome ideas that beers need to have a 12-month date code on them. We refuse to do this since we only approve them to be 3-months old before we don't want them sold any more.

Me: You mention that the beer would be more regional, does that mean you are thinking about making different beers at this new brewery for the market?
Greg: We would brew to our style. There's already plenty of beers being brewed "for the market." If you look at the UK, for instance, that means fizzy yellow beer (based on volume). We don't make fizzy yellow beer.
We won't make fizzy yellow beer. We don't make boring beer. We make Stone beer. I would say that the majority of Brits would be disappointed in the beers we will be making if we go forward with this project, based upon the beers that the majority of the Brits drink. But on the other hand, I don't expect the majority to even know we exist as the majority of Europeans don't seek out the unique and special, they just do what what the telly tells them...just like the majority of Americans. Our beer isn't, and never will be, for them.
Me: Would it be the Stone brand or a spin-off a la He’Brew/Coney Island?
Greg: We intend to make Stone beers.

*In fairness, I probably owe about 20 people beers from various events but I have to take a shot at Greg when he's not in the room because he's too damn smart to try and take the mickey out of any other time!

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Bitterest Pill

Oh dear lord, just as the Americans are beginning to get over their obsession with making stupidly hoppy beers for the sake of it and I thought the more US-inspired UK brewers doing the same without balance had called themselves to heel too, someone comes along and markets a beer as the bitterest in the world!

I'm sorry but YAWN! It's all very well saying that this beer is the most bitter in the world but perceptually you're never going to know it.

Realistically it's actually the ratio of bittering units to ABV (or OG depending on your technical bent) that's the player in how bitter a beer is percevied i.e. tastes - for example a standard British bitter of 4.2%ABV might technically have around 40IBUS but you could then put exactly the same IBUS in a barley wine and you'd barely register any bitterness.

Besides, I'm pretty sure that it's generally accepted that once you get above 60IBUs it's irrelevant anyway because all you taste is bitter itself, you can't discern different levels - I can't find my notes on the sensory training I did right now but will dig them out for verification, if anyone knows better please do contradict me.

Sorry to sound like a misery guts, particularly because I like other PitStop beers that I've tried and the owner seems like a stand-up guy.

It's just that I panic a bit when I see this kind of thing because it makes me worry that we're going to start getting into a ridiculous arms-style race around how many IBUs brewers can pack into beer because a)we're going to see a lot of the new generation of real ale fans flocking back to bog-standard lager because it will alienate too many of them and b) I'll get stuck drinking them all the time and be miserable!!

Howe Makes You Strong!

Well, these should be an interesting experiment - if you think BrewDog were a little mental, check out what Stuart Howe is planning for his homebrew kit!

To be honest, adore & respect the man as I do, I'm a little worried at the concept of an offal beer - although it could finally give me the answer to a question I've long wondered about.

You know how, wherever you go in the world, you get given a drink that is (invariably) some sort of local firewater with something gross in it like snake's blood, butterfly saliva or beetle's gonad and the bartender & locals always go into fits of laughter if it's ordered, make lots of rude gestures and follow this with a variation of the phrase 'makes you strong!'?

All right, it's normally aimed at blokes but, given that nearly all my travelling is done with fellas, (it's the job people, get your mind out of the gutter for this bit) I've heard it in about eight different countries and read about a lot more.

So, my point is, perhaps this has just enough disgusting ingredients for the UK to finally have something that falls into that cateogry - or perhaps that'll be the shellfish stout?

Well, there's only going to be one way to find out!

Pubs U'll Like

The Brown Dog in Barnes has earned a lot of accolades over the years, so I'm sure they're not that bothered about my penn'th worth but I do feel you should give praise where praise is due, and it's a lovely pub.

We spent New Year's Eve in there having a couple of quiet pints of excellently kept Twickenham Original (4.2%) - an excellent supping bitter with a lovely nutty Amontillado end to it - and Winter Cheer (4.5%), a warming, dark, slightly spicy pruney flavour, with a fresh bitter end.

The food is always good value and top quality, the service is always friendly and they always have two handpulls on, which I've only ever had to ask for a replacement due to it having gone, once.

I've also got high hopes for Citizen Smith in Putney from the people who bought you Lost Society and Lost Angel in the Clapham/Battersea area.

It's got a good beer selection (although they do seem to be trying to hide their cask selection at every available opportunity behind an array of napkin/straw holders and cocktail menus) and you can choose from Sierra Nevada, various Meantime and Aspall's on draught, amongst others, and although they only had Sharp's Nadelik when I was last in (in top nick in their defence), I usually see an array of different guest cask beers on offer and I've not had a bad pint yet.

They've also got a nice idea about table service where possible; the only problem with this is that a) they don't seem to have enough staff on to do that until about 6-7pm in the evening and b) if you want to be a predominantly beer-led bar, encouraging people to sit down and wait for their drinks whilst you slice lemons for the cocktail menu tends to annoy beer drinkers - and given that when I have been in the last four times it's been 99% beer drinkers I'd suggest that judicious decisions on immediate service would be more advisable.

However, those are the low points, the pizzas are good with some standard and truly bonkers toppings strewn throughout the menu and it's a significant improvement on any of the premises' previous incarnations and the beer is very well priced, so if they can get the service element right then I've got high hopes for them indeed.

That's all for now folks, stay warm out there!