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!

50 Shades Of……

About a month or so ago, I managed to secure a bottle of the very limited run that Innis & Gunn produced to coincide with the release of the film 50 Shades Of Grey. It was called 50 Shades Of Green and was billed to be a beer that was “infused with ginseng and other aphrodisiacs” and contained fifty different hop varieties.

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Now if you’re a hop head, like me, all this sounds incredible. Just think of the flavours that could be gleaned from fifty different hops in a single beer, whereas the majority of other, normal beers, may only include two or three, and an aphrodisiac to boot? I’m in……

And when said bottle arrived, cocooned in a simple brown box, with a couple of green hearts stamped on to it, it kind of reminded me of the subtle, and supposedly nondescript packaging, that may contain some form of illicit goods that you need to hide from somebody. It’s a nice touch, but is it deliberate or did the money run out after committing to all those hops?

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Contained within the cocoon, along with the bottle, is a list of all the hop varieties used to compile the beer and also a fidelity contract that states that you must not indulge in any other beer brand for one month!

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Well if I’m to be honest, I may have cheated and consumed some beer from another source. What will my punishment entail?

So after all of this, is this beer worthy of all the hype?

I dove in and opened my bottle expecting to be floored by an overwhelming global hop aroma, but instead I was greeted by a subtle biscuity malt smell. Hmmm. There’s a hint of pepperyness from all those hops, but it’s mainly malts with a mild grassy tinge coming through.

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Feels good on the tongue though, nice and full, but smooth too. There’s a light bitterness in there that’s coupled with a citrus taste and the finish is soft, but slightly uninspiring.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but I feel maybe too much is going on and some flavours are being cancelled out by others. It’s just not what I was expecting and certainly not the hoppy head rush I kind of wanted.

This is a good pale, but if I’m honest, some smaller breweries out there are getting much, much more from the ingredients they have available to them.

This is a shame as normally Innis & Gunn produce beers that are quite outstanding. The variety of flavours is very good and usually you’d only need to wave a Toasted Oak IPA or a Scotch Whiskey Porter in my face and you’d have my attention.  But somehow 50 Shades is lacking, and it’s not for the want of trying. Cramming 50 hop varieties into one beer is no mean feat, but I feel the hype surrounding the original 50 Shades has got the better of them and the beer is just a sales tactic.