Last Voyage

It’s malty, with slices of bread on its tail, but that was just the end of the voyage; with moments and levers in perfect harmony, what came before was pure IPA glory, with perfect balance in every aspect of flavour and figure.

A spicy concoction of bitterness precedes, led by an onslaught of tropical fruit with its oozing crevice hunting aroma. 

However, immediately prior to this display of wealth, it was just sat there, slowly showing off its gradually appreciating globe. 


The pour was insignificant, in that its qualities were as yet unknown. It’s removal from the fridge was as untroubled as it’s first voyage in my possession; from the bottle shop where I caught my first glance, shortly before its last voyage began. 

How was your last voyage? 

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The Cretan Craft. Part 2.

Now with the Cretan Craft safely back in Devon, I will attempt to recreate a little bit of Crete in my front room.  With the heating turned up to the max and some sea shells sprawled about the place, it’s time I retrieve the beers from the fridge.  

With bold and simple labels the beers stand out.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand Greek either, you are given the style of each beer in English, along with abv, IBU and other instructions. 

Solo labels

One thing I had noticed is that these beers are not among the freshest of the fresh.  The Greek appear to seem happier that their hoppy beers are carrying a little age as opposed to the super fresh juice we seem to crave.  Kjetil Jikiun, Solos head brewer, also tells me that the Latvians seem to prefer their hoppy beers to be presented in the same way too.  

When Solo started brewing, and their current beers are contract brewed, although this will change in the near future as Solo are intending on setting up their own brewery, they were met with some resistance, as apparently their beers weren’t what the market required.  Although Solo appear to have had the last laugh as the Saison is one of their best selling beers.

Solo were responsible for bringing the first true IPA to the Greek market, which is also selling well.  As is their Imperial IPA, which again, they were told that nobody in Greece would want a 10% beer.  However, they seem to have proved their doubters wrong yet again.

Ok, so there are no shells, I just have the branded glass I was awarded in Heraklion, but it is time to crack them open. 

Horiatiki Saison. 

  • 90% pilsner malt & 10% wheat malt. 
  • East Kent Golding, Cascade and Saaz.
  • Danstar Belle Saison yeast.

Solo Saison

If ever there was a time that a banana could be a tart, this is it.  Its rich and sharp, and its voluptuous head dominates the pour, with notes of banana billowing out.  Delve in through an almost wooded area, it’s incredibly dry, and you’re dropped right off in the middle of a cereal field.  It ends as a dry, and beautiful, classic saison.

Americana Pale ale.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% caramalt 30.
  • Chinook and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo Pale

Straight away you can tell the hops have faded somewhat and the overwhelming maltiness is just beginning to creep in. Nevertheless, the Chinook still stands proud and the malts begin to level out into some breaded glory.  It is a straight up, no nonsense US style pale, with a body as smooth as freshly laid tarmacadam.  It’s not overly bitter and it still retains its balance.  I really like it.

Psaki IPA.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% light Munich malt.
  • Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo IPA

Slightly hop faded, the IPA approaches.  Apart from the step up in abv, taste wise, not a huge amount separates this from the pale.  Personally I don’t think its bitter enough; it claims to hold 50 IBU, whereas the Pale stands at 30, but it just doesn’t appear to come across with an increased bitterness.  It finishes fairly sweet too, and the Cascade lingers as a fruity fizzy sherbet.  It also has something savoury going on, not quite in the same way that Mosaic does, but pleasing.  Unfortunately though, I do feel it’s somewhat past its best; it had been in the bottle for about twelve months and I would have loved to have been able to try a slightly fresher one.  But then, this is exactly how the Greeks prefer their hoppy beers to be, so who am I to complain?

Fouriaris Imperial IPA.

  • 80% pilsner malt & 20% wheat malt.
  • Chinook, Magnum, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Vic Secret.
  • WLP007

Solo Imp IPA

Boy does this thing have presence, it’s in your face, but not boorish.  It’s complete and balanced.  The lack of freshness really isn’t a problem either and you remain tucked in.  The faded hops have been overtaken by the malts and it offers just a tickle of booze.  The sweet malts are at the forefront, but going deeper there is an overwhelming orangey pithy bitterness, and you get that same sherbet feeling from the Cascade as you do with the IPA.  I love this, it’s bone dry, smooth as silk and incredibly bitter.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to taste an intensely bitter beer, and this has brought it all home again.  I don’t actually care that its hops have faded, the bitterness of this thing is incredible.  I want more.


Trying to remain true to style, these Solo beers come across well and do meet all the requirements.  But I have to admit, I was looking for a bit of a Greek twist.  I did find it too, and it is that they are intended to be consumed after they have aged a little.  Although I do wonder whether this is due to a lack of understanding or just flavour preference.  

Either way, this goes completely against everything we have become used to in the last couple of years, with the whole drink it within a week or die procedure.  But if this is what it takes to get the Greek into craft, then go for it.

 

 

Through The Grapevine

With their initial crowd funding target of £35,000 now making its way into the history books, Crossed Anchors Brewery have completely surpassed all their expectations and are now a fully up and running 6 barrel brewery.  And with two awards under their belt, the future’s looking promising.

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At the launch party, a good number of the invited investors came down to find out exactly what they have helped to create, and of course to sample the resultant beer.

In their home at Exmouths Grapevine, which also incorporates Ruby Burgers, the three are a trio which offers everything.

Arguably the best burger joint ever to grace Exeter, Ruby weren’t a slouch when it came to beer either.  Prior to their relocation, I knew of no other restaurant to offer Brooklyn Local 1.  And I’m yet to find another, although, I do wonder where all THAT beer went after the move?

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The Grapevine itself is a fantastic pub, a proper pub.  With a good selection of cask beer, and a worldwide collection of bottles, you’ll be hard pushed to find something that won’t satisfy.  On the bar today were two of Crossed Anchors offerings, Cascade SMASH Hopburst and Weisse Guy.

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However, I was going to be drinking these from a different set of casks, namely the gravity casks in the brewery itself.

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As Adrian receives his dose of Billy banana and Charlie clove, in the form of Weisse Guy, I’m instantly surrounded by an aura of Cascade aroma that’s just erupted from the slightest tweaking of the SMASH’s tap.  It’s incredible, and it doesn’t stop there, I can feel the beer fizzing and tingling away along the sides of my tongue as it’s wholesome 3.8% wriggles its way deeper.  This beer is fantastic, I think I’m gonna need a refill pretty soon.

Back in the pub, Paddy and Olly make their speeches, mainly to thank the people who have put in a lot of effort to help them get where they are today, and also to thank their wives for putting up with their endless beery wittering.

But, at the end of the day, just look where that support can get you.  And you can do your bit too, by either visiting The Grapevine to sample some brewery fresh beer, or grab some bottles from various local suppliers such as Hops & Crafts, Darts Farm, Greendale and Joshua’s.

And watch out Bristol and Plymouth, the Anchors are coming for you!

A pint

Sitting before me is a pint.  A pint of beer.  Of what beer is of no consequence.

It’s just a pint, or is it?

It’s inviting.
It’s inclusive.
It’s exclusive.
It’s beautiful.
It’s admirable.
It’s enough.
It’s not enough.
It’s game changing.
It’s ice breaking.
It’s face breaking.
It’s heart breaking.
It’s heart healing.
It’s mind healing.
It’s evoking.
It’s provoking.
It’s challenging.
It’s normal.

It’s just a pint, or is it?

Golden Pints 2016

Welcome to my first ever Golden Pints.  You’ll find that it doesn’t conform to the same formula as everybody else’s.  Why should it?  This has been my year in beer, and for that reason alone I’m writing this my way and not to a prescribed formula.

So here you are.

Best bottled beer.

Marble Brewery, Portent of Usher.

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It’s difficult to explain exactly what this beer did to me when I drank it.  But I wished it would never end, it’s sumptuous, heavenly, warming and probably one of the best beers I’ve had this year.

Best Cask beer.

Tapstone Kush Kingdom.

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Photo credit: @forkandcarrot 

Hazy, fruity, gloriously full in the mouth.  Difficult to believe that it’s actually a cask beer.  The body and life of the thing are truly fantastic, definitely should be one of your five a day.

Best Canned beer.

To Øl Sur Mosaic.

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You really don’t need anything else in a can, but this.  Fact.

Best Double IPA.

The Number’s 55|01.

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It’s pretty damn near perfect, in every way.  Coupled to the way it just appeared, with no fuss.  Bang, here’s our first Double IPA.  Thank you very much.  The rest of you can stay at home.

Best Cloudwater DIPA.

V6 all the way, that aroma is just incredible.  So good in fact, that I’d quite happily have it as an air freshener.

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The order of the rest?  Oh just put the remaining version numbers into ERNIE and see what comes out.

Best use of beer tiles.

So many people have used beer tiles this year, it’s been a tricky one to conclude.  Do you go for consistency or variety?  Here’s some of my favourites of this year.

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Photo credit: @HoptimisticDude

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Photo credit: @Myles Lambert

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Photo credit: @Sparkyrite

But I think the overall winner has to be this from Matt The List.

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Best beertographer. 

Tom Denham has taken some spectacular shots this year.  Lighting and depth of field have been pretty near perfect in most of his shots, the subjects haven’t been too sloppy either.  Think he and I need a bit of a photo competition.

Best BBNo Saison.

All of them.

BBNo All Saisons

What do you mean one?  Really?

Ok, if I must.  It begins 01|

Best professional drinker.

Not saying, but here’s a link to the AA should you ever need it.

Best blog.

Has to be Adrian Tierney-Jones.  I’ve not kept up with a lot blogs as much as I should have done this year, and neither have I kept up with my own for that matter.  But I always manage to find time to read Adrians.  It’s pure beer poetry, no matter what he writes.  One could say it’s poetry in mash tun.

Best personal beery achievement.

Becoming an ambassador for St Austell’s Proper Job.

Sharing my love of this glorious beer with other like minded people and informing others of its presence has been great fun.  I’ve met some fantastic people over the last twelve months through being an ambassador, and I’m looking forward to 2017 and plenty more Proper Job.

Because as they say, it’s always Proper Job o’clock!

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2015, my year in beer. Part two.

As it happens, the European Beer Bloggers Conference was in Brussels at the end of August, and I just had to go. But prior to that my wife had organised a surprise visit for us to Belgium earlier in August. This presented me with a bit of a dilemma. Should I really go to Belgium twice in a matter of weeks? Yes I said, and off we went.

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Learning from the visit to Budapest, I took notes at every opportunity; whatever was in my head, at any given time, I wrote down and took a photo wherever I could. And this left me with a diary of thoughts over the days of our holiday. These thoughts were expanded upon and formed the series of posts that became Saisons in the Sun.

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I loved writing these three posts, as I felt they really captured exactly what we experienced during our holiday and were a complete departure from anything I had written previously.

Whenever I read anything that Adrian Tierney-Jones has written, I get the impression that he has also written down exactly what is in his mind at that precise moment in time, and he has effortlessly transcribed those thoughts into blog posts and articles that just keep you wanting more.  It’s a fantastic way of writing and I have to say I love it.  Some of what Adrian writes is like poetry and it’s fascinating to read!

A week or so before the conference, I glanced over the list of attendees and recognised a few names of people who I followed on Twitter and whose blogs I had read. I was really looking forward to it, but I was daunted by the thought of having to write about it afterwards; as apart from the Russian Doll post, everything I’d compiled so far had been off my own back and for me.

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This fear soon went as the conference began, as during the registration period I was greeted by a fellow blogger who mentioned they had read my ramblings and said they really enjoyed reading it! This was totally unexpected, but I really appreciated it and it made me feel at home.

Looking round the room I saw two familiar faces, well the faces of two familiar names to be precise. Matthew Curtis and Chris Hall. Chris, a prolific beer writer, who, works for Brew By Numbers, had assisted me with me some information for Citra Session, so it was great to meet him and be able to thank him in person. And Matthew, well, he is a beer writing machine, who has the enviable ability to produce consistently good work, time and time again.  It was a pleasure to meet him here too.

There were so many really great people in attendance at the conference, so many in fact, that I didn’t get the chance to speak to half of them! But those who I did mange to collar were all decent people and all there for the same reason; to share their love of beer and writing about it.

Two people who really stood out over the weekend were the Irish Beer Snobs, that’s Mr & Mrs Irish Beer Snob, Wayne and Janice to be correct. The pair of them, like beer encyclopaedias, but great fun at the same time. Not that I’m saying everyone else was boring, because they weren’t, but I felt we were on the same level. And I’m sure Wayne downed a pint of the black stuff whilst nobody was looking!

Another thing that really struck me was the distances that some people had travelled to be there. I thought I’d had it bad having to get up at 4am to get into London to catch the Eurostar to Brussels, after having only five hours sleep the night before! But no, there was a certain Brazilian journalist who trumped my journey.  Another absolutely top man who was always outside smoking, so who knows what he ended up writing!!

During the conference sessions I made an incredible amount of notes in a bid to try and capture everything that had been discussed. But looking back over these, I realised that what I should have done was just pick two or three subjects and concentrated on getting as much information as possible about the chosen matter. As when I was at home, I really struggled to make any sense of what had happened over the weekend.

I knew I had to write something, but just didn’t know what to write about! Then it struck me, during Jean Hummlers outburst, he insisted that, us, as bloggers, should be more truthful about what we write and be critical about things we didn’t like or don’t agree with, just making sure that we did it in a constructive manner.

The whole weekend had been dominated by sour beers and the brewing industry in Belgium. I had some strong feelings about the sour beers I’d tried, so along came Hop Head, Sour Saint. I’m still unsure about whether publishing this was the right thing to do, but I felt I had to get it off my chest. Who knows, maybe the right sour beer could end up being my next Saison.

My second conference related post discussed contract brewing, which is a subject that a lot of writers know a fair bit about. After reading a few of the posts that other attendees had written, I decided that I would try and do something a little different and add in some non-conference material. I didn’t want my post to be a carbon copy of the conference session, so by talking to a local nano-brewery I was able to give my post a little twist. Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful is what I ended up with.

After the conference I settled back into my normal routine and wondered where to go next with my blog. It was then I discovered a new bottle shop was due to be opened in Exeter. This was quite special as up until now there really wasn’t anywhere in the City Centre that offered a decent selection of craft beer in the form of a dedicated bottle shop. As I mentioned in my post about Hops & Crafts, Whistle Wines used to be my port of call prior its closure. Even though the selection was limited to a few local breweries, the choice was good, and I paid a visit pretty much every Friday on my way home from work. It was a shame when the shop closed, but the Whistle Wine Club is still extant for the wine lovers amongst you.

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Chris Harper, of Hops & Crafts however, has done a fantastic job of filling the gap that Whistle Wines had left and I can see myself becoming one the regulars, as the shop is still on my route home from work!

On top of consuming and writing about beer, one thing that had caught my eye was beertography.  I was intrigued by this new ‘thing’ as previously, I, like many others had just placed a glass next to the beer, and snap!  But during the year and through the course of creating my blog, I had taken quite a few photos of beer.  Some of these were just a photo of the beer, but some were a bit different.  Lots of people were trying new things with beertography and I wanted a bit of this too.  Chris, @mindlesspizza is a dab hand at this, and you really must check out his efforts. His bokeh like rendering of the background is fantastic which really makes the subject stand proud.

I’d seen the floating can trick, with the can held on to the edge of the glass by the ring pull.  I even did it myself.

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But I’d yet to see somebody do it with a bottle.  So I set up this shot ready for Craft Beer Hour when Moor Beer Company were hosting and, contrary to popular belief, did not use Photoshop.  I might even do this one again but use a bottle of their Illusion instead!

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Following this I took a few more shots that weren’t just of the beer, or they were, but I still tried to add a little twist to each one.

I’d had a bottle of Buxton Brewery Two Ton for a couple of weeks and liked the sound of Wonton, Two Ton.  So took this.

Wonton Two Ton

I also managed to grab a few bottles of Yellow Belly and Yellow Belly Sundae.  For quite rare beers photos of them were everywhere, but seeing the mirror on the Sundae bottle gave me an idea.  I positioned a bottle of Yellow Belly just out of shot but captured its reflection in a carefully placed mirror to make it look as if it was preying on the Sundae.

Sundae Bloody Sundae

On top of this, Craft Beer Hour has been a fantastic thing throughout the last year.  I always enjoy grabbing an early week beer and sitting down to take part.  Craft Beer Hour has really opened my eyes to a lot of previously unknown breweries and beers.  It’s also brought a lot pot people together to talk, and share their common love of beer.  It is fantastic and I commend Tom for all his efforts in setting it up.

Further thanks has to go to Tom, for one week when the Electric Bear Brewery were due to host.  They are a fairly young brewery and their beers are currently confined to the beautiful city of Bath.  However, in the week prior to their hosting I was asked whether I’d like to play a proper part in the next Craft Beer Hour.  How could I refuse?  I loved being part of CBH and was more than happy to help.  That help involved being kindly sent a few sample beers from Electric Bear with the premise of talking about them and playing a part in CBH.

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This was fantastic, as with my electrical connections and background I had some great ideas for some photographs.  I had no idea which beers would be sent out but I knew that my workplace would play a big part in preparing for the evening.

I wanted to give each shot some relevance and a link to something beyond the beer.

Edison, their Czech style lager, is a crisp pilsner hopped with Hallertau, Perle and Saaz which ends up being a nice dry pilsner with a citrus finish.  And with Edison being the electrical link here I used an Edison style lamp as a prop for the shot.

Edison

Following this was Elemental, a session strength IPA jam packed with US hops and balanced with pale malts.

The prop here was a ceramic insulator from a high voltage substation, and before you ask, yes I do have lots of these and the one in the shot lives in our front room.

Elemental

The final beer for the evening was the truly fantastic Cherry Blackout.  Morello cherries, vanilla and dark chocolate, there is nothing about this beer that’s not to like.

Out came the candles and some cherries to complete the shot.

Cherry

To finish off my year I paid a visit to the Black Tor Brewery.  Based in the Teign Valley just outside of Exeter, they are producing some fine traditional ales in a bid to resurrect the historic name of the Gidley’s brewery.  My work brought me here to repair a water pump, well beer pump, one that transferred the beer from the copper, through the heat exchanger and into the fermenters.  The pump was duly fixed and I was offered some refreshment.

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No coffee here, just an approximate third of their beautiful Raven.  Which, hopped with all English hops, Challenger, Goldings and Fuggles, is a rather fruity and easy drinking session ale.

And that concludes my 2015.  Let’s look forward to 2016 and all the good beer that it will bring.  Cheers!

 

2015, my year in beer. Part one.

For me, 2015 started like pretty much every year before it, on January the 1st.  However, this year we were in Cardiff with friends and I was warming up for the New Year and also a visit to a Brewdog bar, funnily enough the one in Cardiff.  As you’ll know this was to be my first visit to one of their establishments and I was like a child on Christmas Eve who could not sleep with excitement.

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When we arrived, I was not disappointed either.  The whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable and it was a pleasure to go there and sample the beer.  The staff were also fantastic.  Following my visit I put hand to keyboard and wrote Hoppy Craftmas, which just ended up as another entry in my blog, which at the time I felt wasn’t really getting the response I would have liked.  Now I realised that I couldn’t expect the world to drop everything and home in on my blog overnight, after all I had only been compiling it for a few months, but I felt that I had to improve things and I really wanted them to too.

In steps Twitter.  After the visit to Brewdog, we were out and having a few drinks with some friends and the subject of my blog was mentioned.  I happened to be the only person in the room who didn’t have a Twitter account, I wasn’t that bothered about this to be honest, as I didn’t see what the fuss was about!

So, right then, my wife tweeted Brewdog and shared my blog post with them.  She received a reply almost instantly and I couldn’t believe it!  Somebody, who I’ve mentioned in my blog, is actually reading it!  Right there and then I logged on to Twitter and set up an account.  But who to follow?  I knew plenty of breweries and other beery stuff but where do you start?  The remainder of my evening and the journey home was spent with phone in hand trawling through the apparently endless list of breweries on Twitter.  This was fantastic, and I followed everybody who sprung to mind.

Later in January, my wife and I were due to go to London for her birthday, and I, being the caring husband that I am, thought I’d leave her for a few hours and go and do some drinking.  I, like so many other people, went to Bermondsey and cruised the beer  mile, on foot.  On the way over I thought, right, don’t drink too much, you have to write something afterwards.

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And write something I did, and on arrival at The Kernel, with trusty phone in one hand and a beer in the other, I set about making a few notes of what I was going through.  What I came up with was Bermondsey Arches Breweries.

However, two or three beers down, I ventured back to the bar and thought I’d take their Saison. Not really knowing much about the style and having never tried one before, I ordered.  Wow! Initially I didn’t know what to make of it, that flavour was so intense and sharp, and like none of the pales that preceded it, I almost poured it away!  I really wasn’t sure about it to be honest, which is why I didn’t include it in my piece about the visit.

Looking back, I find it strange though, because I absolutely love a Saison now and if it wasn’t for this first taste that opened my eyes to the style, I would probably never have tried more.

Back home and sat on Twitter, again, I discovered Goodbeertweets and Imdrinkingnow, great pages who people tweet and share the beer they’re drinking, fantastic idea.  It was through this that got me tweeting more about the beer that I was drinking, and sharing it in the process without having to give any of it away either!  Genius!

Brewdog were also tweeting about what people were drinking, and I tweeted them a picture of their Russian Doll set that I had bought a few weeks earlier.  The reply I received was totally unexpected.

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Originally I hadn’t intended on writing anything about these beers, but seeing as they’d asked, I will!!  And yes, my wife was in Berlin that weekend, and my Date with the Russians was on.  But I still don’t really know where the inspiration behind the idea came from!  The post just happened, and it ended up requiring hardly any editing!

Following this, I didn’t know what to write about.  And then I saw that Innis & Gunn were about to release a beer that coincided with the film Fifty Shades of Grey.  The beer was to be called 50 Shades of Green.  I have to admit now that I’m a sucker for something that would appear to be a little rare or slightly different, so I opened my wallet and bought a bottle.  I’m not going to repeat the price, but those who know, know.

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I was expecting to be blown away by this beer, but unfortunately I wasn’t, and I really craved something that I could get my teeth into.

We had a trip to Budapest booked with the same friends we spent New Year with and I couldn’t wait.  On the days leading up to the holiday we researched places to go, namely beer places, but some nice restaurants too.  I had no idea that there was any sort of craft scene in Budapest, but as it happens, there is.

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The beers I tasted here were amazing, and I felt right at home in Léhütös,  The events of our trip also spawned my next post, Budapest? But I don’t even like George Ezra! Which, done from memory was rather tricky, yet yielded a result that I was happy with.  But looking back, I knew I should have taken notes as we went.

After this, I went in search of my next topic, so bring on Citra Session.

The Citra Session

Citra containing beers are everywhere, but what I was interested in was the single hop varieties that would allow the hop to be itself.  I collected what I thought were six, single hop Citra beers, only to find that one of them was only dry hopped with Citra and contained other hops in the brewing process.  I was massively disappointed with this as Citra Star by Anarchy Brew is a fantastic little beer which offered so much flavour!  It was a shame that I couldn’t include it.

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This piece took over two months to put together and to this day has been my most viewed entry, with nearly five hundred views to date.  I felt like a minor celebrity in the days after posting; the number of favourites and retweets just kept on growing!  And a few people I spoke to were amazed I received a response from The Kernel, as they tend to shy away from social media.  But the response I got was fantastic, and I am so grateful to them and the other contributors alike.

But now I was really stuck.  Where on earth do I take my blog after this?  I felt mentally exhausted and was completely clueless about what subject to do next!