Brewdog Pimped My Kitchen

I feel sorry for the industrial metal band, Ministry. Jesus may have built their hotrod... but BrewDog pimped by kitchen.

And why would they want to go and do that? Well, I've about thirty different beers of theirs, bought, blagged and bequeathed over the last few months. So, for the whole of November I'm letting the Dogs out - one beer at a time. As you'd get heartily sick of seeing endless bottle photos, I'll do what I can to make the kitchen as punk-pimped as possible.


Bottled Up: Saffron Blonde

So, Bottled Up is back with the first offering plucked from the '52 Week Beer Club' sampler. There's four 'summer ales' in there; the clocks may have just gone back but those beers will give me the chance to splash a little liquid sunshine into the autumn months.

My memories of Saffron beers are rather hazy. I know I've had one, during my brewery-scooping phase, but I can't remember anything that set it aside from the hundreds of other pale beers from new outfits that I tried. So it was fun to get reacquainted with the Hertfordshire brewer and this cool-filtered blonde.

First aroma impressions were of baked lemon and a surprisingly light maltiness. As it warmed there were hints of runny honey coming through, but also an occasional whiff of glue. More baked lemon on the palate, though, with a soft soapy mouthfeel.

Certainly one I'd try again. Makes me want cheesecake.... and I just happen to have some in the fridge. There's serendipity for you.


Welcome to

It's not every day that I get offered free beer. Honest. I didn't get any on Tuesday last week, for instance. When the offers do come in, though, I tend to be selective - life's too short to review boring beer. I like to support the innovators, those brewers and retailers whose business model doesn't start and finish with dodgy bottles flogged at farmer's markets.

And certainly seem to have come up with a great scheme. They're working with several dozen microbrewers across England and Wales to open up access to the kind of beers you won't find on supermarket shelves. You're buying from the brewers themselves - process the payment, organise delivery and take a commission. It means that smaller brewers don't have to suffer the hassle of running an on-line store, whilst the beer-buying public get the chance to buy from a range of bottles that would put many independent off-licenses to shame.

One particular innovation of theirs really appeals - the 52 Week Beer Club. It does exactly what is says on the tin, delivering you a case of thirteen different beers every three months. The first case gathers together bottles from the likes of Fulstow, Saffron, Brentwood and Quantock - beers not often seen outside their home counties. But there's more than that - a bottle opener and pint glass are in the box too, along with genuinely useful tasting notes and brewery profiles. have been generous enough to enrol me into the 52 Week Beer Club for free. This means I have no excuse not to publish Bottled Up, my bottled beer review, on a weekly basis. Starting in about ten minutes time....


Straw, Chestnut, Ruby: A tale of three beers

There are many things that endear me to the Flowerpot in Derby. One of them is the predictable randomness of the beer choice. There could be Oakham or Durham beers, perhaps something from Marble or Thornbridge if you're lucky. There's always something from the on-site Headless brewery, of course; beers very much in the light-citric mold of Whim or Oakham. But never being sure of what's on is a real draw for me - especially at the weekend, when the choice of 16-odd beers (split between handpull and gravity) could be anything depending on what had landed in the cellar and how much the punters drank the night before.

Yesterday, a swift Saturday liquid lunch there offered up Marble Ginger and Thornbridge Jaipur. And, yes, I did mix them for the flavoursome joy that is Ginger Jaipur. The chance of those two beers still being on at Sunday lunchtime was slim to nil - great beer sells fast around here. And so it came to pass. But that meant I could random order a few pints knowing they'd still be quality.

One was straw - Millstone Tiger Rut, riven with Chinook, slight bodied but creamy lemon flavoured.

Another was chestnut - Durham Genesis, a keenly balanced, well-fruited, earthy bitter

The last was ruby - York Centurion's Ghost, plenty of toasty roastness atop a smooth malty base.

Three beers, three styles. Each in cracking quality, each distinctive in its aroma and flavour profile. And complete vindication for drinking whatever beer a good pub has to offer.


Repositioning the BrewDog Offer

Let's say you love BrewDog - love the beers, the experimentation, the attitude. But you're not keen on parting with 230 quid for a share in the company.

Because it costs too much / offers little financial return.

What if the offer was repositioned?

What if you could join a membership club, let's call it 'The BrewDog Pack'?

What if the benefits were;

- 20% discount at their online shop
- the chance to buy beers brewed only for club members
- newsletters/Tweets/SMS to alert you when new beers are available
- exclusive 'meet the brewer' sessions held around the UK
- an annual members get-together with lashings of beer
- your name etched into the wall of the new brewery, which your membership fee helped to fund

What if you paid £10 a year for the privilege?

Would you be interested?

So, what if you could only buy a lifetime membership?

What if that lifetime membership entitled you to an introductory case of beer brewed uniquely for members, along with a glass, t-shirt and bottle opener?

What if that lifetime membership also gave you an equity share in the business?

What if that cost £250?

Would you join the Pack?


Award winning pub, award winning beer

Last Friday I ventured up to Sheffield with Mrs Reluctant to see Spandau Ballet. So true, funny how it seems...

On the way, we needed to find a spot for lunch and while away a few hours before the concert started. Somewhere with good food, great beer and an easy-going vibe. The Coach & Horses in Dronfield proved to be the ideal choice - as always.

Just inside Derbyshire but only six miles out of Sheffield city centre, the C&H fulfils many roles - real ale haunt, brewery showcase (for Thornbridge), foodie pub and thriving local. Its success is built upon insightful investment by Thornbridge Brewery and imaginative management by Cat Mueller. The head chef, Mark Taylor, can often be found at the bar - for Thornbridge beer to use in his appetising modern British dishes. The bar staff are sparky and well beer-educated. You may even end up being served by one of the Thornbridge brewers; the brewery manager Kelly Ryan is Cat's partner and not averse to pouring the odd pint for, ahem, quality control purposes.

Given that I live thirty miles away, I end up here often enough - via two trains straight after work, or taking the bus here after a refreshing afternoon around the Sheffield pub circuit. Or persuading my wife to drive us up here for a lazy weekend lunch. With a pint of Jaipur in hand, I'd think to myself... 'I really ought to write about this pub. Maybe even resurrect my late lamented Pubs To Love series'. Then I'd have another four pints and forget all about it.

But this time I've remembered to write something, spurred by a unique clutch of awards. The Coach won Sheffield CAMRA's District Pub of the Year award back in August; Thornbridge Jaipur won Champion Beer of the 2009 Sheffield CAMRA festival at the beginning of October. Last week, at the Brewing Business Awards run by the Society of Independent Brewers, Thornbridge won Best Support for On Trade Customer - recognition of how it turned the Coach around from a failing pub to a thriving concern. So I got a warm fuzzy feeling to be drinking an award-winning beer in an award-winning pub. Then again, I often get a warm fuzzy feeling when I drink Jaipur....

I'm proud to tell people that I'm a Coach customer - with a pub this good on my doorstep (almost), it would be rude of me not to drink there as often as I can manage.


Reluctant Scooper PLC?

Love the blog? Want to own the writer?

In a ground-breaking and revolutionary business move, Reluctant Scooper is considering offering his readership the chance to own part of his fastly-growing blog. The audacious move gives people the chance to know what it feels like to own part of a blog run by a middle-aged fat man with a reasonable beer cellar but a dubious taste in chunky jumpers. Much more than an investment, people will be buying into the Reluctant Scooper philosophy, vision and culture as shareholders will also have involvement in the running of the blog and be allowed to vote online on key decisions. Like kicking me in the arse to write more often. Or whether I should have yet another bottle of Brewdog Hardcore.

That community of literally some investors will receive a lifetime discount on my homebrew (when I get around to brewing it), a fawning piece of vacuous PR on this site and a steak in one of the most ground-breaking, revolutionary and downright cool restaurants of our time. Or a Little Chef, depending on your location. Whatever money raised will provide the funding for a carbon-neutral piss-up at a local brewery.


1) Investments, like Reluctant's waistband, can go down as well as up. Though, given his girth, not down by much.

2) I would retain the right to instruct shareholders to come over and bring me beer / butcher press releases when I can't be arsed to / clean my fermentation bucket out. Generally, be my beer bitches.

3) Best of luck to the guys at Brewdog with their share scheme. As someone who works with startup companies, I know how difficult it is to secure equity deals that are attractive to both sides, particularly in this economic climate. And like 98% of the 'ground-breaking' deals I'm offered to participate in, I have to say... I'm out.


On A Bummel With A Beer

"It has been a pleasant Bummel, on the whole," said Harris; "I shall be glad to get back, and yet I am sorry it is over, if you understand me."

"What is a 'Bummel'?" said George. "How would you translate it?"

"A 'Bummel'," I explained, "I should describe as a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started."

Autumn's closing in, Sunday lunch was sat in a pot waiting to be heated, the Brazilian Grand Prix had the common decency not to start until 5 o'clock, so I had no excuse not to lash on my boots and go out to kick some leaves around for a while. All I had to do was be back before the pot bubbled over. And find a beer to take with me.

I live minutes away from some gorgeous rolling countryside, so I owe it to myself to get out and about when I can. The fact that there's an excellent farm shop and an award winning pub within a 20 minutes walk either side of the house tends to force me out now and again. But today, with the leaves turning, the wind whistling and no need to be back until late afternoon, a bummel seemed a worthy thing to do.

So I wandered over the bottom fields, disturbing knots of rooks picking over clotted brown earth. Through copses shredding turned leaves into a keen breeze. Then over a sandstone ridge where the woodland has been clinging on for time immemorial. And with long-tailed tits scampering over the branches, with squirrels diving for dear life, with the wind literally whistling through my hair, I stood back and enjoyed a beer:

Brewdog Paradox Longrow carries a whiff of smoke, some toasty roasty notes, clean whisky and some dark, dark cherry buried deep into an accomplished malted finish. Nothing but great beer, tweeting birds and rustling trees for fifteen minutes. The rest of the walk was taken with a dirty great smile on my face. I really ought to bummel more often.

Top quote from Jerome K Jerome, 'Three Men On A Bummel'. Photos (c) me


Brewdog: Punk versus Monk

Now, I like Brewdog beers. One the one hand, Punk IPA is chock full of enticing hops. And Punk Monk IPA has the allure of Belgian yeast. But which is better? There's only one way to find out.... FIGHT!

Looks: Punk has a hophaze about it, Monk positively breathes out light. Both have been in the fridge for weeks. Monk looks incredibly appealing, so it delivers an uppercut to Punk's frosty jaw. 0-1 to Monk.

Aroma: Punk explodes with fat, juicy citrics. Monk sees those citrics and raises with ground spice, wafting brine and a sustained sugary goosegog tang. Spices to the solar plexus make it 0-2 to Monk.

Flavour: Punk rides a crescendo; those fat hops deliver gorgeous tropical fruit flavours, a smear of caramel and biscuit lifts the balance. Monk takes the fruits and yeasts them up a bit; spices itch away around the edges but the esters fall away too soon. A slightly thin feel there means that Punk punches back to the midriff: 1-2.

Palate: Punk pulls off the kind of trick that the very Devil couldn't do; drying hops vie with warming alcohol to turn out a well balanced finish. It seems too good to beat... but Monk responds with that late surge of spicy, yeasty, fiendishly moreish-ness. 1-3 to the Monk. And, laydeez en geentelmeen, we have got ourselves a winner!

Punk folds, albeit not like a 'cheap hooker who got punched in the stomach by a fat guy with sores on his face'. Monk triumphs; if only it could sustain those full-fat estery notes in mid-bout, it could be a contender for a world crown.

Put it this way; in jazz terms, Punk is indeed John Zorn (off the wall, transatlantic influence) but Monk is pure Theo (tight, unorthodox, idiosyncratic). If you gottem, crack open the bottles, listen up and decide for yourself:


Steel City Brewing

Take two opinionated hopheads with a manifesto, let them loose on a brew kit and maturate. What do you end up with?

Steel City Brewing. The backstory can be found here; suffice to say this is a story about a couple of guys who love hops, enthuse about hops, believe there ought to be more hoppy beers and so decided to get off their arses and brew a beer full of the damn stuff.

And how did it turn out? From my sampling tonight at the launch event in Sheffield, surprisingly well. Why surprising? Because I've drank with Dave and Gazza and I know that they don't just love a hoppy beer - they like a glass so crammed with Humulus lupulus that noses bleed spontaneously. Their first brew, Hop Manifesto, proved to be commendably restrained - certainly hoppy on the nose (Amarillo dry hopped, natch) but the Centennial, Cascade and Chinook in the body were pegged back, albeit perhaps by accident rather than design. Dave said that they'd over-watered the brew, so the ABV and intensity dropped from expected levels.

It's a good, clean hopped beer - as a first brew, it puts down an assured marker. They know they can go hoppier - and a tad more maltier, because rippling-muscle hops without a malt backbone would just make for a pongy infusion (Brewdog Nanny State, anyone?)

There were two other versions of Hop Manifesto on the Harlequin bar tonight; a none-dry-hopped version bearing the catchy name Bez Suchého Chmele and a lemon-zested variant for uber-scooper Brian Moore's 70th birthday, Life of Brian. The latter was a huge Toilet Duck mess; the former I found to be a better drink than Hop Manifesto itself. Why? Hop Manifesto's Amarillo dry-hop was enticing, but the full-on-ness expectation wasn't followed through into the flavour. Whereas Bez Suchého Chmele just gets on with the job of being a clean, lean hop delivery system - a tad more Maris wouldn't go amiss, but there was still a balance that surprised and delighted.

So, Steel City Brewing say they "know what hops are for". They're not far wrong. 'Underpowering' the first brew may be a salutary lesson - slap those hops in, lads, just don't forget that those fermentable sugars don't just appear out of fresh air. Please, please, pretty please do brew a hoppy stout this winter (I'm always glad to assist by standing around, making tea, offering sarcasm etc). And - lemons. Always go for half as much as you think you need. Then half again.

(As our roving reporter photo at the head of this article shows, sometimes Dave Unpronounceable does actually appear to work for a living. Be assured that he was charging for that beer. We were in Yorkshire, after all).

PS - 'nuff respect to Pete Roberts at the Brew Company, where Steel City are let loose to do their stuff.


For the hell of it

I have a fridge full of beer. Placed there on the assumption that, when I get home from work, they'd be just the beers I'd fancy. I was wrong.

I have a cellar full of beer. When I say cellar, I mean a converted garage. When I say full of beer, I mean there's boxes crammed between the spare toilet rolls and the ironing board. Those boxes are stuffed with a selection of interesting and well-regarded beers. You'd think these would be the beers I'd fancy at any and every time. You'd be wrong.

You see, the beers in the fridge were put there when I knew I fancied something light and hoppy. Tonight, I don't want light and hoppy. The boxes are full of beers that are dark, and challenging, and rare and .... too good to drink tonight. Too good to drink any damn night of the week. And there's my problem.

Really; MY problem. I shove my hand in a box, pull out a bottle, think; "nah, I can't drink THAT tonight because it's so rare/it's my last one/it's the only one I'll ever see". Etc.

And tonight I thought - stuff that for a game of soldiers. What's the point of tracking down great beers and not enjoying them? Why not drink them for the hell of it? Sod the clever article idea/food pairing/session tasting/special occasion. Drink 'em like you stole 'em.

So, right now, I'm enjoying a 2008 Alaskan Smoked Porter. Chocolate bacon, unexpected hop nibbles, ash-like woodsmoke notes.... a damn fine beer, far more manageable than Schlenkerla. And absolute vindication for drinking the great beers you have. Right now.