An ode to Ace.

Sorachi was its name, the hop in the beer.  Ace was his name, the little baby, my son.

A hop content on confusion.  A heart intent on fusion.

The hop divides, but the baby unites.

Disagreement.  Enjoyment.  The bizarre.  Overwhelming joy.

The hop and the baby.

They’re both Ace.

In a stout it’s dark and mysterious.  In the dark he’s sleepy and mischievous.

He’s just Ace.  But not Sorachi.

Maybe you love Sorachi, maybe you love Ace.

Or maybe you love both, Sorachi and Ace.

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Reflection

I’ve been hammered at work for the last few months.  I don’t mean in the drinking sense, just physically and mentally.  Driving upwards of two hundred miles a day.  Sitting stationary on the motorway, whilst attempting to drive upwards of two hundred miles a day.  Carrying out a full days work, in-between attempting to drive upwards of two hundred miles a day.

I love my job and I don’t mind travelling for it either.  I’ve always done it, for the best part of twenty years I’ve been an engineer on the road, but when you leave Swindon at 4pm on a Friday and don’t make your presence known in Tiverton until over three hours later, well that really saps the fun out of it all.  Recently, this type of journey home hasn’t been unique either.

All of this consumption of time, over which I’ve had very little control, has been detrimental to the things I love.  I’ve barely written a thing over the last twelve months, mentally I haven’t been able to, and this has developed into feelings of resent.  Yes we’ve moved house, yes the renovations took their toll, but I’ve done the house thing before and I was prepared for exactly what that entailed.

Throw in fatigue, and frustration over the lack of creativity due to fatigue.  I’ve looked at beer in a different way recently, it’s probably looked back at me in a different way too, wondering what the hell is going on, or rather, what isn’t going on.  I’ve still drank the stuff, but more so to just chill and unwind; all creativity stops at this point.

Frustration builds, fatigue pinches and the tiredness becomes relentless; you can see where this is going.  I too saw where it was going, and decided to stop the morose cycle of depressing torment that my life was becoming.

We’re having a baby, our first human baby anyway.  We have two fur babies, Betty and Dot our West Highland terriers.  There is a metal baby too however, the 2cv.  Laura and I have been together for just over ten years, although our relationship began a little further back in the history books.  Browsing through family photos shortly after the parental introduction, we discovered that we attended the same play school.  That unbeknown closeness always remained present, as during high school we remained in touch.  We attended different high schools but shared friends outside and would often meet; little did we know that in our late twenties we would regain contact, and that contact would be for good.  We lost touch after our GCSE’s, but with the aid of Facebook we took control of our history and made it our present, and our future.

I digress, we’re having our first baby and I’m frustrated at the path my work is taking.  So I’ve made a change.  I’ve decided to put down my tools, leave life on the road and take an office based job in my home town of Exeter.  It’s still electrical, but it will be closer to home and my wife.  Both Laura and I grew up in Exeter and I spent eighteen years of my life working on Marsh Barton Industrial Estate.  I will now be returning and to start a job which will allow me to not only spend more time with my growing family, but will enable me to take back some of the control which has been out of my grasp for too long.

Having no control over your life, or the direction in which it is travelling, can have a huge impact.  It can be a whirlwind of pure delight as your ride the wave, or in my case, you can sink into the trough of insignificance and obscurity.  Obscurity, in terms of uniqueness can be a positive thing, but insignificance, or the mere thought of it, is depressing.  But fading away is not, and will never be an option.  Times get tough and shit drags you down, but you have to remember why you are doing this.

I’ve made this change because I could feel insignificance lurking and did not want it to take a hold of me.  I’d recently started to question my own relevance, not just in the world of beer, but generally.  Do I matter?  Do I really matter?  The answer is, of course I do.  But all that fatigue and frustration is pretty hard to shake off or get the better of.

We all matter, we all really matter.  We all make a difference in our own obscure way, and people love us for it.

I’m not about to hang up my blogging shoes and take a back seat while the world passes me by.  I’m taking steps to improve my life, my family’s life, regain control and fall back in love with the things I love doing.

It may not be the quickest thing I’ve ever done, but I know in the long run it will be for the best.

And you know what, that feeling of being in control is the best feeling you can ever have.

Behind the photos.

Pictures are known to say a thousand words, and in recent times some of those words about my photos have been “what the hell’ or “how on earth did you do that?’

Occasionally there is a why too, and that why is always because I strive to create something different wherever I can. The photos I’ve taken over the last few years have always been centred around the beer in question. I may use a play on words or some other link to the beer, but either way, the beer always takes the lead, and I’ll fashion a picture around it.

It started when Moor Beer hosted Craft Beer Hour and I had a bottle of Confidence, a proper Moor beer, a 660ml bottle.  I’d seen plenty of floating cans and I thought, you know what, with this bottle of Confidence I can show just how confident I am and make it float.

It did take me while to figure out exactly how I would achieve this, as I didn’t want there to be any sign of anything supporting the bottle in the final photo.  But as you can see, the bottle is floating perfectly above the Moor glass.

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This, like all of my photos was not Photoshopped, I figured out a way of supporting the bottle without any of that support being visible in the final photo.  Take a proper look, can you work it out?

Since taking this, I explored a little further and came up with the photos that follow.

Cloudwater, Seville Row.

This shot was quite simple; with Seville Row sounding similar to Saville Row, all I had to do was make sure I distributed the one beer I had evenly between multiple glasses which formed a row.

Seville

Crane Beer, Cake by the Ocean.

Around the time that I took this photo, the band DNCE released a song called Cake By The Ocean. I had a bottle of Cake, so a photo of this beer by the sea seemed perfect.

Cake Ocean

St Austell, Smoking Guns.

Not being a gun owner I thought the best way to photograph this beer was to create a little smoke around it. I’m no longer a smoker but I do vape, and after multiple attempts of vaping around the beer I ended up with something I was happy with.

Smoking Guns

Art Brew, Art Attack.

These were the first beers I’d managed to get hold of from Art Brew and all I could think of was the children’s TV program Art Attack, I grew up with this being on TV and now with these beers I could take inspiration from that program and create a beer photo.

Art Attack

Verdant/Howling Hops, Auspicious Directions of 8 Mansions.

This is where things started to get a little deep, maybe a little too deep for some, but like with my other photos, I wanted to make this a little different.  Initially I wasn’t familiar with the concept of the Eight Mansions theory, and a lot of research was required in order to create this shot.

The Eight Mansions theory is a practice of Feng Shui used to determine the best and worst locations/positions of your dwelling.  It is used to find out whether you are compatible with the house and to find your favourable and unfavourable personal directions within that house.

I adapted the rules of the Eight Mansions theory to create my photo and here’s what I ended up with.

8 Mansions

Cloudwater/Other Half, Imaginary Greenscapes.

From the moment I saw this beer, and that artwork, I knew I had to photograph it in front of a pylon.  All I had to do was find a suitable location and make the shot.  Armed with some suitable support in the form of some steel pipe, I wandered into a farmers field and set about lining up the shot. I positioned the can and glass atop the pipe in front of a pylon and lined up the can artwork with the angular metalwork of the pylon.  The final photo was cropped in order to disguise to method of support.

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Salopian, Lullaby.

Everyone loves a nice lullaby before bedtime, and I’m no different.

Lullaby 1

Wilde Child Brewing Co.

These were both shot for Craft Beer Hour when Wilde Child hosted.  I was lucky enough to have had my name pulled from the hat to receive beer from the hosting brewery, so I thought I’d return the favour and take these.

Pushing Boundaries.

I pushed the boundaries of the floating can shot with this and made it float without using the ring pull.

Boundaries

Hedonistic Existence. 

It’s a ganache stout, so rather than putting the beer in the glass, I made some ganache and used that instead.  Both the beer and the ganache went down a treat.

Ganache

Brew By Numbers.

I know everyone thinks I favour the beers of Brew By Numbers for photo’s, I don’t, honest!  But, they have given me the most inspiration for photos over the last few years. I set myself a goal too, which was to take a photo of every DIPA that The Numbers brew, although I have done a few others along the way too.

55|01, Double IPA.

Nice and simple shot using a glass desk to create a reflection so you see a double of the bottle.

BBNo DIPA 1

55|02

Unfortunately this wasn’t bottled and as such, I have been unable to create a photo for this beer.  However, I would love to be able to do so.

55|03, Fifty Five is the Magic Number.

We all know that three is the magic number, so three bottles of 55|03 it is.

55|03

55|04, Four to the Floor.

Originally inspired by the Starsailor song of the same name, I wondered how I could make this into a beer photo.  If you are musical you’ll see that the position of the glass and bottles represents the notes on a stave of a disco bass drum pattern.  The floorboards play their part too.

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55|05, Hang Five.

Hang Five is a surfing term that describes when the surfer moves to the front of the board and hangs all of their toes over the edge of the board.  I emulated this by hanging the five bottles over the edge of my table.

55|05

55|06, Firing on all six.

This is one for the petrolheads and fans of V6 engines.  I recreated a V6 engine using bottles and devised a method of support that was not visible in the final photo.

55V6

55|V6

You’ll notice that the number of bottles used in each photo corresponds with the recipe number, this is deliberate and will continue for as long as the DIPAs do.

01|27, Meanwhile, down on the allotment..

Just a few hundred yards from our house is a small collection of allotments, so I put my wellies on, grabbed my trowel and went to photograph some beer.  One of the allotment keepers was intrigued by what I was doing, he offered to help too. He told me that the plant in the background was actually Chard, but rather disappointingly, he didn’t have any Fennel.

Beetroot Fennel

01|30, Resting on your Lorals. 

Not being one to rest on my laurels, I will continue to take shots that will make you think a little differently about that beer sat in front of you.

Loral

But I’m not giving away the secret of this photo.

 

 

The Cretan Craft. Part 1.

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?

Saisons in the sun, part three. Bruges

The four phoned man is back with us this morning, which makes for an interesting air at my birthday breakfast. More guests have spied his cellular antics and appear curious.

Following breakfast we make our way to the station, via taxi of course. The train to Bruges arrives, we board and depart on the perfect geometry of the track beneath the birdsnest of the catenary. Precisely 1 hour and 6 minutes later we arrive and all around is the smell of chocolate.

Wandering away from the station and down the quaint cobbled streets some kid rattles past on his monkey bike. Nearing the centre, the clatter of suitcases on the cobbles fade and is replaced by the ringing of bicycle bells and horseshoes.

An awning shouts ‘beers’, I respond, ‘ok in a minute!’ We enter the beer shops and I feel like a kid in a sweet shop, my wife is one as she enters a chocolatier. I’m slightly overwhelmed by the choice so we continue our stroll.

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Further towards the centre of Bruges, a West Highland Terrier reminds us of home and we sit for a drink. A light, malty Bruges Blonde from the barrel it is, along with her kir royal.

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A sign in a shop window proclaiming ‘There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy’ catches my eye. In Belgium, beer is all of them, and as I pick up two bottles of Westmalle Tripel for €1.50 each, this is confirmed.

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Taking on water as we walk away from the square we happen across a bar of 400 beers going by the name of Cambrinus. Quickly I establish my choice of Forestinne Ambrosia. A spicy, piney, speciality amber beer. At 7.5% it’s pure nectar.

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Our seat at the bar is booked all day……

Hopus, as chosen by my wife, is next. 5 hops, 8.3%, flip top bottle and sexy glass, I’m all over it….

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Next, I ask the bar man for his recommendation and end up with a truly breathtaking hoppy blonde. Triporteur from Heaven. With a bucket load of familiar hops in a Belgian blonde, I have a new favourite colour…….I later discover that the hops are East Kent Golding, Styrian Golding and Cascade.

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We thank our host and continue to stroll around the back streets of Bruges. I vape and she enters a vintage shop, bicycles whizz past. Tourists litter the place as we admire the passing swans.

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Further along, I hear the cry, ‘do you want more beer?’ as we come across the beer wall. Hmmmm, thinking time required.

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At least I’ve found my beer scooter.

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I take a Westmalle Dubel, place myself adjacent to the canal and end up discussing the history of the Kwak glass with some Americans who happen to land next to me. They were in search of some English beer of all things, so I imagine they were pretty disappointed with the Belgian treats they brought to their table.

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Leaving the Americans behind to ponder their next move, we enter the Bottle Shop, stock up and continue on.

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Further stocking up takes place at Brown Sugar as we head back to the station via a quick caffeine boost and a top up of the draw.

On board the air conditioned comfort of the double deck 18.08 from Bruges, we head back to Brussels.

To be continued when I return to Brussels at the end of August for the European Beer Bloggers Conference. #EBBC15

Part one here, part two here!

Saisons in the sun, part two. Brussels

At breakfast there’s a guy on the table next to us with four dissimilar mobile phones! Do you really need that many phones? I’ve heard what having two phones makes you, but four?  Could it be one to call his mum, one for his wife, another for his girlfriend, and the other?  Who knows……

After breakfast we make our way to the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle and have a good wander round. There’s lots of eclectic stuff and a good mix of everything.  We could have stayed here for hours discovering all the little trinkets and oddities that are on offer.

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Chandelier spare parts, tools and beer glasses dotted about the place. Guys selling rugs laid on the floor for all to walk over, which was unfortunate and hardly fair when they’re being sold!

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After meandering through the stalls we take a refreshment break. A glass of Grimbergen Blonde, with its sweet, soft, yeasty, bananary tinged character offers up a good time to reflect on the previous few hours perusing.

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With the Grimbergen departed and after a further few hundred yards of energy expulsion, we plant ourselves outside La Brocante. Funky jazz band jamming we order up lunch and drinks.

My fruity wife decided she’d take a cherry beer and ended up with Kriek Boon which she was impressed with, but left her thirsty, not necessarily for more, but for water! I on the other hand had Delta from Belgian Beer Project. A Belgian IPA, the aroma of which is difficult to separate from the mix of food, coffee and surrounding cigars. Similar to a classic IPA but which has much more of a tang and yeasty character. It’s bitter but feels quite sour at the same time.

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Following this and preceeded by the words ‘excellent choice’ was a Westmalle Trappist Tripel, and I can’t see us moving for at least half an hour. My wife’s eyes shot out and brows hit the clouds when she saw it’s 9.5%. It is after all a fairly substantial beer for only 2pm. But then this has to be the most drinkable beer of this strength I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. I was so in awe of this beer that I completely forgot to fathom its taste; instead I just admired the creation that sat before me and settled right into it.

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Walking through the streets towards Place de la Chapelle Kapellemarkt, we come across two guys walking with a music box blasting out reggae tunes, who in England would probably be accused of being a nuisance, brighten up the light drizzle now descending upon us.

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After our Bob Marley moment we head back to the hotel stumble across the Leffe Cafe, but I receive the look that says no more beer, for now. I don’t mind though, a 2cv is spotted opposite so I take that instead.

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We head out for the evening, and no messing we head straight to Le Cirio; one of the oldest bars in Brussels. The Belgians are reknown for having a glass for each beer and here of all places is where they appear most proud. On display are glasses for almost every conceivable Belgian beer. It must be pretty hard work for a new employee to find their feet, or glasses as it were.

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Here I find myself getting acquainted with a nice blonde, a Ciney blonde in fact. Another Lambic is in order for my wife; much like a cherry tart this one.

Ciney blonde

Sat people watching we see something drastically unsettle the couple opposite; both drinks are necked, one being a Westmalle Tripel too! Something has obviously bothered them and they’re off……

We are too, for dinner, but at a more leisurely pace.

To be continued in part three.

Part one here!