2012: Beery Roundup

Its golden pints time of year again and as I'm away on honeymoon at the end of the year; I'd better get this typed up now (10th December). As with last year I'll use my rate beer notes plus stuff on this blog to jog my memory, but its not scientific in any way, just things that have made an impression on me.

Best UK Cask Beer
Bristol Beer Factory/ Dark Star Southern Cospiracy

Best UK Keg Beer
Wild Beer Co Epic Saison

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Buxton Imperial Black

bristol beer factory mocha

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Nøgne Ø Imperial Brown Ale

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Stone Sublimey Self Righteous
New Glarus Raspberry Tart

Best Overall Beer
Buxton Imperial Black
Best Pumpclip or Label
Brewdog International Arms Race

Best UK Brewery

Best Overseas Brewery

Pub/Bar of the Year
York Tap (again!)

Beer Festival of the Year
dublin craft beer fest

Supermarket of the Year

Independent Retailer of the Year
House of Trembling Madness

Online Retailer of the Year

Best Beer Book or Magazine
Shakespeare's Local 

Best Beer Blog or Website
Boak & Bailey

Best Beer Twitterer
Phil Hardy @Filrd

Best Online Brewery Presence
  Magic Rock
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year 
 Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze and Ceviche
In 2012 I’d most like to...
Get back to Belgium

Cheese and beer Pairing of the Year
Marble Saison Special and Stinking Bishop


#12Stouts: Year number the second

Its December again; so that means its time for Bristol Beer Factory's 12 Stouts of Christmas. I really enjoyed last year's efforts; so had to pick them up again. There's 8 new ones this year, including a recipe change on the year-rounder Bristol Stout. I've reviewed the newbies below:

PhotobucketBristol Stout has been revamped this year and gained 1% ABV in the process. Dark brown with fine bubbles and light tan head. Fruity dark beer with smooth body and lightly smoky blackcurrant. Slight roast barley and coffee in finish. More caramel notes as it warms. Quaffable enough but much better in the modified forms.

PhotobucketPort Stout is a variant of Bristol Stout with an ABV of 5.5% Dark black with fluffy white tan head. Minimal nose on opening, touch of toffee perhaps. Medium carbonation, some warming sugars and higher alcohols. Touch of astringent plum skin and bitter coffee grounds in finish. 

PhotobucketAnother variation on the Bristol Stout is smoked chili chipotle Dark brown with pink tinged brown head with red flecks, could that be remaining chili? Rich chocolate enrobed black cherry, smoke, sweet tomato. Initial tongue tingling gives way to milk chocolate followed by a fruity chili hit which warms the tongue and throat on the swallow and a dry ashen roast barley finish with a fiery tingle. This could cope with a higher ABV and would be a great food beer. 

Blackcurrants and Licorice is also a Bristol Stout variation. Grey-brown with fluffy pale tan and subtle earthy spicy blackcurrants and dusty yeast. Medium carbonation, tart blackcurrant, a touch of spearmint perhaps. A spike of anise like licorice before the dry roast barley kicks in for the long finish. It’s subtle but flavourful.

PhotobucketCreme Brulee is an Imperial version of milk stout brewed in collaboration with Melissa Cole (she gets around a bit!) aged in rum casks for two months. Spicy rummy (think rum & rasin) nose on this ruby tinged dark mahogany beer. Lively crema head which soon collapses. Smooth body, gentle carbonation, sweet notes, big burny boozy up front becoming a burnt toast, molasses and tart red fruit melee. Long milky custard finish.

PhotobucketThe bourbon cask Imperial Stout (10.5%) is dark tar brown with fluffy tan head that soon collapses. Rich vanilla and coconut nose with an underlying hint of marmite. Gentle carbonation with cola first then tonnes of woody vanilla with some meaty yeast and soft cream cheese notes. Long sticky warming finish.That alcohol is pretty well hidden.

PhotobucketAnd finally Speyside whisky @10.5% has some peatsmoke and iodine plus plenty of whisky booze. Dark brown with cola head that soon disappears to nothing. That peaty malt is unexpected for a speyside whisky, perhaps an Ardmore. Fair amount if residual malt sweetness and long dry earthy finish. 

PhotobucketPick of the bunch for me though was the mocha. At only 4.5% (base beer milk stout) its gloriously drinkable and one of the best coffee beers I've had the pleasure of drinking and I've had a lot. Dark brown with fluffy tan head. The coffee is the star here singing out from the aroma as roast beans, red berries and rich barley notes. First flavours out are the sweet lactose milk notes followed by dark chocolate and a long roast coffee finish. With caramel, red berry and vanilla finish. A fantastic improvement on last year's latte.

So are they worth buying? In my opinion they are, I'd happily drink a case of the mocha alone. There may still be some available but I expect you'll struggle to get them delivered in time for christmas. Get them here!

Follow Bristol Beer Factory on Twitter @BrisBeerFactory and Head Brewer Chris Kay @BeerFactoryCK9.


Revelation Cat

PhotobucketIts very unusual that I get a message out of nowhere offering me beer for free. Its even less frequent (read: this is the first time) that the brewer hasn't specifically asked for publicity/ a review in return rather just my opinion shared with him in whatever manner I saw fit. I actually really enjoyed the beers (not a function of them being free); so have decided to let readers of this blog know about them so that they can get hold of them for themselves.
Revelation Cat started off as a gypsy brewer along the lines of Mikkeller, though primarily based in Italy. Brewer Alex is also the driving force behind Rome's Brasserie 4:20 one of the premier beer venues in that country. Recently they have been brewing batches of beer in Kent with Eddy Gadd, which has proved successful enough for Alex to invest in brew kit of his own next door. He's sharing the mash tun and kettle but everything post boil including fermentation is done on Revelation Cat's premises. In effect that means we have another new brewer in the UK!


I had a pleasant surprise when the beer arrived, not only were there 7 different beers to try I had received multiple bottles of each! I made my usual review notes on rate beer and from the scores that emerged decided that it was well worth telling you about the beers.

PhotobucketTake My AdWeisse is a US-hopped wheat ale with a gentle satsuma pith nose and part of the "session series". At 4.5% its at the higher end of the scale, but I could certainly happily sink a few pints of this. It becomes more resinous as it warms but retains the thick creamy mouth-feel and wheat spiciness throughout. I found myself craving some weisses banana and clove esters though and would perhaps still opt for a traditional weisse or hoppy pale ale over this. I can certainly see a lot of space in the market for this though.

I wasn't quite so taken with the dry hop Thriller. A hazy pale amber ale with apricot and lemon on the nose. The carbonation and mouthfeel are about right to make this sessionable, but the balance is skewed too much towards the hops leaving a bit too much pithy bitterness and a chalky finish to be truly enjoyable. 

PhotobucketGreen-hopped F.R.E.S.H is all about the aroma which is at once soporific and enlivening. Rich resinous hops with underlying ginger, toffee and bergamot. In the mouth its pretty sweet, sticky marmalade and carrot juice but its a pleasing beer, all the more so because its made using indigenous UK and European varieties. Proof that the flavour is already there if the hops are used in the right quantities.
HopAddendum is a proper pale West-Coast IPA in the vein of Stone and Brewdog. Certainly no caramalt here! Complex and intriguing nose of red apple, kiwi and strawberries. The apples arrive first to the tongue, followed by satsuma, resin, pith, bitter hops, long fruity finish. Despite its 6% ABV I'd certainly be happy to stick with this one beer all night and certainly prefer it to Punk IPA (previously a firm favourite).

PhotobucketFollowing right in behind is California Moonset, a double IPA at 7% ABV. This one pours hazy dark amber with fluffy white head. Pithy citrus with smoother grape flavours beneath. Centennial and Nelson Sauvin perhaps? The bitterness is up front followed by jammy blackcurrant and tangerine. Long dry moreish finish. No tacky crystal here either, another sessionable big hitter. Zak would probably describe it as ruinously drinkable.

PhotobucketThe penultimate beer is into silly territory at 13%. I don't know where all that alcohol was hiding though tasting closer to 9%. Hop Animal is a "double double IPA" (think Brewdog Anarchist/ Alchemist for comparison). It reminds me of an US-style barley wine like Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. The malt is fairly robust but the heavy hitting hops are lurking in behind ready to assault your palate. Dark ruby with white lacing with fruity malt loaf and brandy nose with supporting Seville marmalade. Concentrated citrus fruit, tongue tingling mouth watering pithiness with robust toffee underscore. Long citrus refrain. Masterful.

PhotobucketAnd now for something completely different. Black Knight is very sparse in details from the label, but I can tell from the 14% ABV its going to be a monster. Turns out its an imperial stout, and not barrel aged which means all of that alcohol got there by fermentation. Its pretty heavy going and warming, 500ml is perhaps too big a bottle but I had people to share it with. Dark chocolate, booze soaked raisins, tobacco and molasses on the nose. Pours viscous black with sizeable cola head that becomes a lacing. Starts off sweet and finishes very dry with some woody tannins, coal smoke, a touch of caramel. A complex and evolving beast.It could perhaps afford to be a few percentage points lower in the alcohol stakes, and this would put it on an equal footing with such UK masters as Magic Rock Bearded Lady and Kernel Imperial Brown Stout.

From this showcase I'm certainly excited to find out what else Alex has up his sleeves (UK Brasserie 4:20 anyone?!) and certainly hope to come across some of these in the pub. According to Alex they've had to expand capacity already; so they should certainly be appearing in UK outlets any time now!
Twitter: @RevelationCat


Drinking in Winchester

A place I always enjoyed visiting whilst at University was Winchester, so I jumped at the chance to go and check up on the state of the pubs recently. My partner-in-crime on this occasion was my landlord from my final year , Mark.

As is becoming customary breakfast was partaken in at the Old Gaolhouse. One of the better JD wetherspoon branches in Hampshire I was very happy to find Adnams-brewed Feral IPA still available after the recent beer festival. Breakfast was good despite the wait (IT failure apparently...)

We then proceded to drink our way around the Good Beer Guide hostelries plus a few extras.
The Old Vine was a very food-oriented pub but I enjoyed a half of Bowman Swift One. Onwards to the Eclipse, which looks great with its Tudor frontage but always a little unadventurous with the beer choice. A half of Andwells King John had to suffice.

PhotobucketThe Wykeham Arms is a fantastic ex-Gales (now Fullers) pub replete with school desks, open fires (roaring) and a Thomas Crapper original installed in the conveniences. Here I enjoyed a roasty porter from the nearby Cheriton. Slight molasses and burnt toast nose, quite a light body with licorice and coffee. Criminally its not been included in the GBG this year but its packed as always.
After that it was time to replenish the food reserves; so we opted for a hog roast bap from the nearby continental market. This gave us enough energy to complete the stroll along the river to the Black Boy. Its a characterful pub with all manner of taxidermy, bric-a-brac and breweriana including a working AGA. On this occasion the beer was a littler lacklustre and the refusal to tell us who brews "black boy pilsener" left a sour taste in the mouth.
Another favourite next, the Hyde Tavern. Beer on hand pump and on gravity. It always seems overly quiet when I visit, which explains the price premium. Well worth a trip and good to dry out by the roaring fire. 

The Albion is on the up again, offering Dark Star Revelation on cask and an excellent selection of bottled beers from around the world (including Old Chimney Good King Henry and some of the pricier Mikkellers). We decided to press on to the final two GBG entries however.

PhotobucketThe Fulflood Arms is a green-tile exterior back street local, formerly owned by the Winchester Brewery.
PhotobucketIts come full circle and now has a brewery on the premises. The house bitter wasn't anything to write home about nor was it horrible, just okay. Another pub suffering tired beer syndrome.

We finished off in the St James Tavern, a Wadworths house at the top of a steep hill, where I settled for a half of Horizon.
Again a bit foody but any pub that has Neil Gaiman comics as artwork in the toilet is fine by me.

It was then home to Southampton for some real beer in the Guide Dog.


Red in the face

PhotobucketBreweries both north and south of the border here seem to have a core range which consists of three styles, a blonde (read: lager), a (dry) stout and that ubiquitous Irish style: a red ale. I've never really been that taken by them, often being a little too caramel malty and not much else, all very samey.

I decided to put that to the test by doing a comparative tasting of some of the better Irish brewers

Four Shades of Red

Carlow O'Hara's Irish Red (4.3%)
dark auburn with watermelon and green apple.
Acetaldehyde, medium bodied, solvent, caramalt and green apple.
Not nice - tipped it away.

light chestnut with slight white head formation.
Sweet caramel and herbal nose.
Astringent, sweet, thin, medium carbonation, papery.

Medium bodied, chocolate, caramel, touch of astringency,
cocoa and toffee in finish.
8 Degrees Sunburnt Irish Red (5%)
Spicey cardamom and caramel. Garnet red with minimal lacing.
Very low carbonation, sweet, caramalt.
Promising start but dull finish.

Clanconnel McGraths Irish Red (4.3%)
Alcoholic musty, dried fruits on the nose. Fairly dry with light carbonation, candy sugar, shortcake, custard with astringent yet sweet finish.

As you can see from my tasting notes, they're all pretty dull with some being downright nasty. Why do they persist with something so dull. To all Irish brewers please stop using so much caramalt and be more inventive with your hopping instead. Thanks!