BrewDogging #22; Paradox Smokehead

Smokehead is one of the few Islay single malts that I've never got around to trying. On the strength of this beer, aged in Smokehead casks, I'm going to have to investigate further. Sweet and smokey, clods of peat have burned out and left traces smeared across a palate stretched by supple caramel. A roastier body than other Paradoxes, it's a lean finish but one that's still sustained with wisps of smoke and chocolate.


BrewDogging #21; Paradox Islay

As a self-proclaimed Riptide lover and uber-fan of Islay malts, this ought to be a marriage made in heaven. Instead, it's an uneasy relationship - the binding energy of that base stout seems to have been lost in the ageing process, the TCP flavours are underplayed, the smoke is wafting past and not clinging to my throat, the mouthfeel is thin. Perhaps my bottle was starting to fade, though it's got another two years on its best before. Perhaps batch 015 wasn't the most full-on. Perhaps I've developed an anti-TCP gene.

Given that Brewdog revel in producing hard-hitting flavoursome ales, it seems a shame that an opportunity such as an Islay stout seems to have gone begging. This could have been full of singing whisky flavours but pulls the final knockout punch.


BrewDogging #20; Bashah

Bashah was one of my standout beers on cask at this year's Nottingham CAMRA Festival. Indeed, when it ran out on Friday afternoon, I was forced to drink something weaker and less hop-pronounced; Thornbridge Jaipur. And there are few beers that keep my away from a pint of Bakewell's finest.

There's a lot going on in the bottle; a nose of wet tar, fresh shag tobacco, chocolate with orange suddenly at odds with oily citrics. Pine sap gives way to darker raisins, squashed berries, slavvered in ginger-itching alcohol. Towards the finish, grassy hops clash with coffee and liqorice.

It's one hell of a beer. There's almost too much happening. But Bashah doesn't fall into the trap of being an over-hopped, over-hyped experimentation. I can't wait to see if those uberhops mellow with age and make a nearly-great beer into one that's pure world class.


BrewDogging #19; Punk IPA

Many things have been said about BrewDog Punk IPA:

"It's one of those IPAs that actually tastes of something."

"Punk IPA takes the edge off. Punk IPA drops me a mental gear."

"Punk IPA tastes fuckign good".

Yeah, bang to rights, guv. I said that. But the beer's so good - today I enjoyed several bottles at the Kean's Head, Nottingham - that I thought I'd say those things all over again.


BrewDogging #18; Devine Rebel Reserve

So, there I was, sat in the Rake, minding my own business with a bunch of reprobates - I mean, ratebeerians - when who should appear but Tom 'The Cad' Cadden. Not that unusual, I suppose, given that he works there. Unusual perhaps in the sense that he'd remembered where he works. And was awake. But that's another story.

The Cad came bringing gifts from Brewdog James, namely a version of Devine Rebel that had been aged further. By pixies. On ice. Or something.

Suffice to say, for me it seemed to take all the worse qualities of Devine Rebel and multiplies them; far too sweet, the whisky sickly sticky rather than slick, the general gloop demeanour clagging the palate.

Not for me, unsurprisingly.


BrewDogging #17; Eurotrash

Took a train down to London
and I drank in the Rake
Some guy down from Scotchland
Gave the table a beer
Yeah, I'd searched the world over
for my angel in gold
Yeah, I'd searched the world over
for this Eurotrash beer

Well I'd been around Borough
and I'd drank in a basement
Went back to the Market
and I drank pumpkin ale
But I'd search Borough over
for my angel of trash
I'd search Borough over
for that Eurotrash beer

Got a pint in the Rake bar
with a patchy white head
Lemon biting through sherbert
With a bittering end
Yeah, I'd searched Borough over
for this draft Trashy Blonde
And the flavour I savoured
Brewdog's Eurotrash beer

(with cringing apologies to Cracker for bludgeoning 'Eurotrash Girl')


BrewDogging #15; Devine Rebel

I have a sweet tooth. I love Mikkel's approach to brewing. I love Brewdog's approach to brewing. This is a collaborative beer with a sweet edge. So, after tasting Devine Rebel, I ought to be drooling like a slack-jawed adolescent whose just put his pinkie into the holiest of holies for the first time. Right?

Wrong. When I had this on cask back in March, I thought it was a case of 'too much too young'. Too sweet, too raw, too unbalanced, too much like feeling my precious remaining dentine was being scoured out my mouth. Now, here's a bottle nearly nine months down the line and it feels even worse. Cloudy brown, sticky sweet, cloying in the clack.

Love the idea. But Devine Rebel flops around so, makes you want to punch it in the nuts for being so ill-disciplined. There's a good beer in here, but it's struggling topush through the sickly sweet sheet wrapped around its very being. Not even close, guys. Rip it up and start again. Please.


BrewDogging #16; Movember

An unexpected bonus of my recent trip to the Rake in London was the fleeting presence of James Watt from Brewdog, clutching a bunch of bottles liberally distributed amongst the clan meet. One of those was Movember; a charity initiative that I'm involved in to, er, grow a moustache and raise funds for the support of prostrate cancer charities. Brewdog had brewed a synonymous beer for the occasion, donating 25% of the sale price to the Movember cause.

The beer itself was a mild-mannered 4.5% blend of Brewdog's 77 Lager and Trashy Blonde. And, I couldn't believe it's got butter. Well, actually, I can. Some bottles have been notoriously diacetyl-laden; sadly, this was one of them.

Looked like clarified butter. Smelled of butter. Tasted of butter.

Great sentiment, guys... but next time, perhaps brew something original. And tasty. And rested.

And, dear reader, if you're desperate enough to chuck cash at me and my sadly patchy Mo, you can make a difference by clicking through to here and donating securely by card or Paypal.



How many great pubs, bars and breweries do you know that don't have Twitter accounts? Facebook pages? Blogs? Websites, even? Why aren't they rising to the lure of new media social networking? Who can afford to ignore marketing in a 2.0 stylee?

I know several great local brewers and pubs who don't really give a stuff for internet marketing. Why not? Because they're too busy brewing/selling beer, successfully. They meet a local market demand. They're not interested in virtual fans, nor do they wish to preach to the converted.

They're known locally for their quality. Their real-life followers/friends - sorry, customers - endorse that quality via word of mouth. Word of mouth is a highly effective marketing tool. Note - word of *mouth*; not word of Tweet. Not word of Blog. Not an online recommendation too often lost in the incessant virtual din of whichever social media channel you tune in to.

I've spent the last few months trying to convince some great brewers and publicans to embrace the prospects of new media. Not for the sake of it, but because I thought their product/service was great and that they'd have an original contribution to make. A (nameless) few told be exactly what they thought of social media, in terms that would make even Frankie Boyle blush. But one experience was particularly salutary.

A rural pub, in October. Outside, it's dark, cold; rain has pushed over and will be back before closing time. Inside, the pub is busy. Diners, darts players, young bucks passing through, old salts ensconced for the evening. "Busy again!", I tell the landlord. "Aye," he says, "and your Twitter wouldn't make me any busier!".

Perhaps he's right. Perhaps it's the same with the brewer who, whilst being persuaded to blog about his exploits, replied "I'm too busy selling out all the beer I can brew". Perhaps they're blinkered by current success. But perhaps they're satisfied with managing successfully the market they've worked hard to develop, even in these straitened times.

Exposure to new media can be a chastening experience for small businesses. Think of every website you've seen that was thrown up "because everybody's doing it', only to see it gather virtual cobwebs as resources and inclination run dry. Perhaps that's why some entrepreneurial publicans and brewers are more than happy to stay away from those channels. And some of them are making it look like a smart choice. After all, just because you can blow your own trumpet, you don't have to upload it to YouTube...


The National Brewery Centre to open in Burton

Since the Bass Museum closed in 2008, Britain has been without a major museum dedicated to brewing. The establishment of a national museum of brewing featured on my wishlist this summer, so I was delighted to see that Burton-upon-Trent is getting its museum back.

The National Brewery Centre is aiming for a Spring 2010 opening at the former Coors Visitor Centre site on Horninglow Street. Planning Solutions Limited, a specialist visitor attraction firm, will operate the museum on a 25-year lease; Coors will provide the buildings and artefacts at a peppercorn rent alongside £200,000 of match funding for start-up costs and a further £100,000 per year to maintain the buildings.

There's talk of an 'interactive experience', animatronics, live actors and the return of the shire horses. Which will be fun, but not as exciting as the thirty-barrel brewery with Steve Wellington at the helm. More White and Red Shield, for sure, but (literally) room for Bass No.1 and P2 Imperial too.

Let me be clear. It shouldn't be a glitzy, sanitised attraction with a few dodgy models. It should tell the story of Britain's brewing and tell it well, complete with bells and whistles and buttons to push. But make the centrepiece a working brewery that can be seen, smelt and heard.

Congratulations to Coors for having reason and sense, and to the local action group formed by local MP Janet Dean and chaired by former college principal Keith Norris for keeping the museum reopening on the agenda. And as for Roger Protz's claim that the decision is "proof of what can be achieved by people prepared to take to the streets and rattle the cage of a global corporation"... yeah, whatever, Comrade. Coors are in a win-win situation; they don't have to fund the operation of the centre and will reap benefits from the positive PR generated over the years. Minimising capital risk whilst maximising revenue opportunity... I'd say the centre's opening was a clear victory for market forces.

I'll still take up Rog's offer of raising a beer to the news, though. Just wish it was a glass of Number One. Next year, just maybe....


BrewDogging #14; Riptide

Some say that it tastes of silken cream that's enjoyed an intimate relationship with washy coffee and sweet chocolate.

Some say that its deep-tan-turning-black body and rocky beige head belie the smoked salt speckled in the finish.

All I know is, it's not Thornbridge St.Petersburg... but its Caledonian cousin.

Riptide sweeps majestically across the palate; seemingly thinnish and under-geared but ultimately tasty and satisfying.


BrewDogging #13: Zeitgeist

There's a BrewDog beer described on its label as 'Zeitgeist in a bottle'. But it's not this one*. In fact the Zeitgeist bottle is rather un-BrewDog like, their usual iconoclasm giving way to some natty ovine illustrations.

It's a beer I had at the Nottingham beer festival last year and couldn't quite put my finger on why I liked it. And I've also enjoyed a long lunch on the stuff at my local, the landlord telling me though that he couldn't sell it as a 'black lager'. Dark beer lovers were mistrusting of lager, he said; lager drinkers were mistrusting of dark beer.

By the time I finished my fourth pint, I'd begun to work out why Zeitgeist works well - it's a just-so beer. Just sour enough to be balanced out by some slight, leafy hops. Just roasty enough to be interesting. Just light enough to be quaffable. Just different enough to leave you wanting another one.

So I was eager to try Zeitgeist from a bottle. First up was one of the prototype bottles from 2008 and I was taken aback. It had a fantastic fresh flavour, freshly singed toast and a really light body, none of that lactic sourness of the cask version. Hops were rolling onto the palate too, yet it remained a bright-tasting, well-balanced beer. The retail version felt fairly thin by comparison, still plenty of roasted notes with dry nuttiness coming through, though the lighter body seemed to whip away the flavours before they had a chance to develop.

Does Zeitgeist live up to its name? Does it embody the spirit of our time? Is it perhaps a reflection of our confused culture, one with an identity in crisis? Is the beer's true nature almost negated by labelling it? As the beer's own website puts it, is it truely a beer for those whose destiny is not "the slaughterhouse of conformity". Or is that all bollocks?

It's lager, but it isn't. It's trendy, but it isn't. It's different, but in the same BrewDog way. It's everything you want it to be without knowing exactly what you want. Perhaps it is a zeitgeist after all.

* that beer is one I haven't got around to reviewing yet. Any guesses?


BrewDogging #12; Atlantic IPA

Saturday involved a long crawl on the sherbert with friends in Birmingham. So, what better way to round out the day than beer and pizza? The latter was a cheese-smeared, mozzarella-slotted mushroom melange. The former - well, I've always thought that IPA goes well with pizza. So I had no qualms about cracking open a bottle of BrewDog Atlantic IPA.

Why this beer? Was it for the nose of oak, tobacco and dark orange? For the caramel palate warmed by alcohol and not overtaken by the dry and dusty hops? For the kick of chugging something weighing in at 8.5% at the end of the day? For revelling in the backstory of a beer brewed to a traditional recipe, aged at sea, bottled with a hand-printed label? For the kick of taking down a bottle that cost me nine quid?

Nope. I wanted Atlantic because it was there. After all, what's the point of wanting an IPA, having an IPA in the cellar and not drinking it just because you're half-pished and thinking that such 'rare' beers ought to be sipped and cogitated over?

It's beer. In the case of Atlantic, it's a well-restrained, not-life-changing, enjoy-the-moment beer. Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop once in a while - and actually drink the good shit in the cellar - you might miss it.


BrewDogging #11; 5AM Saint

(this should have been posted live from the Harlequin last Thursday: #technologyfail)

If this posting works, I'll eat my foot cheese. At the bar in the Harlequin, blogging live and wishing my thumbs were thinner. 5AM Saint starts with a now-familiar nasal hop slap; here's hoping it's not going to push in one overwrought dimension. My eyeballs are still itching on the first sip, but this is more than a one-hop pony. There's a deep set caramel malty backbone, even though the palate profile still wears those tart grapefruit hops on its sleeve (and on its lapels and all down its front).

By the end of this first pint, I've a mouth full of dry and dusty hop. I'm missing a finish. That backbone seems to have wilted under severe hop strain. After a second pint, my mouth is dryer than a dryed-up dry thing. The third pint is actually unpleasant, hops now relentless.

Balance in beer is wholly over-rated. But let's not make over-hopping as offensive as a predelection for crystal malt.


BrewDogging #10; Paradox Longrow

It's the first drink after that cold walk by the long shore; you still have salt spray on your lapels and up your nose, some old burnt hash under your fingernails from that spliff in your jacket pocket, a nub of chocolate behind that fractured filling that you keep meaning to get fixed, the morning's first coffee still stuck to the roof of your mouth, the whisky you nailed in one by the roaring log fire as your pint was being poured.

Pardox Longrow will be many things to many people; there's what it means to me.


Bottled Up: Empire Golden Warrior

It's mid-November, I've just polished off a plate of rather summery-looking baked salmon, so it's time to get the last of the golden ales out of the way. Empire Golden Warrior hails from the tropical climbs of Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire, an area crammed full of great breweries.

First impressions - thin. Zero head, low carbonation. An interesting aroma, though, with a honey-orange riff fresh from a breakfast tray. Slight anonymous spice in the background. The flavour brings on more breakfast thoughts, imagine a piece of toast sliced with a knife that's been in the honey, marmalade and butter. A thin finish, drying honey on the palate.

I thought this was going to be flabby beer but those breakfast flavours won me over. No real depth, no killer finish, but at 3.8% it'd make for a great mid-morning summer quencher. Brunch beer - it's the future. I've tasted it.

Thanks to for the beer


Dat Dere Liverpool

Mrs Reluctant is a Spandau Ballet fan. Now then, stop sniggering at the back. Shlepping over to Liverpool to see them play live gave me the perfect excuse for some Merseyside boozing. Would the beers be Gold? Or Confused? Let's Cut A Long Story Short...

With two days in town, we picked out six of the seemingly-best pubs to try. Mrs H is a wheelchair user, so level(ish) access and ground floor loos were important. I was keen on finding some decent pub grub. As for the beer - whatever was on offer would be fine. I'm always ready to scoop the unknown ;-)

Ship & Mitre

First pub we visited and possibly the best. Yards of handpumps that went untouched by me due to there being a German bottled beer festival on at the time. Standout beer was Gilden Kolsch. Sparky, helpful staff, eclectic decor, great food (by Burning Kitchen - burgers were immense). Only two regrets - should have asked them about level access (we struggled up a steep step) and we should have gone back for more beer (and Aspalls cider for Mrs H, served in a dinky Aspalls glass).

Doctor Duncan's

Flagship Cains' pub, noted as accessible in GBG but we couldn't see any obvious way in with a wheelchair. There was a rambling outdoor area to the side which may have disguised a level entrance but we saw no signs to point us in the right direction. Time was tight so we skipped this one, reluctantly. We had an appointment with Superlambbanana:

Baltic Fleet

Not listed as accessible but we thought we'd chance our arm. A wooden ramp at the front door made the bar accessible; the barman apologised though that the loos were now upstairs (or was it downstairs) - perhaps that was a recent change? An interesting pub with a ragtag of rooms, although it was rather smelly - possibly from being crammed full of concert-goers on successive evenings? That put us off having a meal in there. Great pint of Summer Ale, brewed on the premises (Wapping Brewery). Mrs H had hoped for real cider here, but there was nothing on. Only pub we visited that played the Beatles, but we won't hold that against them too much...

Philharmonic Dining Rooms

Level access, opulent architecture, mediocre beer (Harviestoun Hoptoberfest and Cains Bitter). Would have stayed longer but they couldn't serve food - problems with the gas supply. Gents loos were rather special (see below). But not impressed by bar staff storing a bike in the wheelchair loo - they're not supposed to be store cupboards!

Fly In The Loaf

Just a flying visit; we were looking for lunch after the foodfail in the Philharmonic. GBG had them listed as serving hot food; only sarnies were available. Shame, as the beers looked interesting and the whole pub was easily accessible.

Richard John Blackler (Wetherspoons)

One of those great-location Spoons; perched on a corner, plenty of natural light, easy access. Good range of festival beers on, though I passed as we were here for breakfast. And jolly decent it was. Not to say thirteen quid cheaper than what the hotel was offering. Cheaper sausage = more beer money :-)

We also tried to get in a couple of other chain pub/bars, the real issue being a lack of signage to point us towards alternative access. One bar did have a side door, unmarked, down an alley, though there was no way Mrs H could have opened it herself. Once inside, there was no obvious level route to the bar. Just a few signs would have make a difference - I shouldn't have to leave Mrs H in the street to go and find out how the hell we're supposed to get into a pub. It made us feel like our custom was too much of an inconvenience.

And whilst I'm on the subject - cobbles. Nothing wrong with ye olde pavementing, but the Albert Docks even had pedestrian crossings that we couldn't use safely, the gaps between the cobbles being wider than Mrs H's wheels. Combine that with the lack of drop kerbs and rubbish bags blocking the pavement, some of the Liverpool streets offered the worst wheelchair access we've encountered in the UK.

So, a bit of a mixed bag. At times we seemed to be going Round And Round, but perhaps that's just the Nature Of The Beast.

Do I need to sack myself - have I made too many Spandau allusions?


True ;-)


BrewDogging #9; Hardcore

Tastes of... Boxing Day fruit salad split under the Christmas tree. And rubbed with a caramel cloth.,
Smells like... fractured grapefruit stirred with a sticky hop stick
If it were a track by Radiohead it would be... Everything In Its Right Place

BrewDog love to stress their eco-credentials. So, I thought I'd do my bit for recycling. This beer review appeared some weeks ago. To be frank, I can't think of much more to say about Hardcore. It's not simply barnstorming; it's more tornado-through-the-blazing rafters.


BrewDogging #8; Bad Pixie

A long time ago, in a prototype competition far far away, BrewDog unleashed three beers. Two of them went on to be brewed regularly; the hop bomb of Chaos Theory and the none-more-black lager Zeitgeist. Tonight, I'm trying the one that got away - Bad Pixie.

Let's cut to the chase. It's a crap name; seemingly spat out of a random-title generator. Bad Pixie is only a few clicks away from Enamored Orc or Sexually Frustrated Goblin. The beer idea is better, though, a 4.7% wheat beer brewed with juniper berries and lemon peel. And when I tried one last year, I was almost impressed.

Time to insert a caveat here- this beer was released last year, it's not bottle conditioned, so it may be some distance away from BrewDog's intentions. Suffice to say, though, it poured flat as a fart. A wrist-twiddle did froth up a head, along with an aroma of slight spicy lemon and wet stainless steel.

More metallic notes through the flavour, too. Some pithy lemon, an itchy old pine whiff, all with the feel of being drank out of an old tin mug. Perhaps this was knockout in the summer. A year down the line, it's clinging on for dear life. I'd better go and drink the last one...


Two Spoons, Lloyd and Five in the Pot

Today's Sunday Shining plan; fresh coffee, Spoons brekkie, nifty couple of halves, gardening, Moto GP, afternoon nap, roast bits of duck, Top Gear repeats, Brewdog, Iain Banks book, sleep.

In actuality;

0815 Home. Bunjalung coffee. More coffee. Some Twittering.

0945 Babington Arms (Wetherspoons), Derby. Traditional breakfast (black pudding, not mushrooms) plus tea and toast. No beer.

0955 Very annoying child nearby reads out loud the ENTIRE breakfast menu. Realise, amazingly, that according to Spoons policy and common law, you're not allowed to insert the nearest fire extinguisher into pretentious children.

1005 Family of four have now spent ten minutes deciding on the combination of breakfasts to order. Clue: if all you want is breakfast and coffee, please fuck off to a cafe who will gladly serve you up some slop on a plate without hacking off potential beer drinkers.

1010 Family from hell order breakfast. I order Mordue Newcastle Coffee Porter. They ordered vegetarian sausage. At least my beer tasted of something recogniseable - sweet coffee, spots of roasted toast, fruity uplift to the finish.

1035 Standing Order (Wetherspoons), Derby. Hideous amount of ruddy-faced pee-smelling alcos mixing uncomfortably with well-heeled but slumming-it shoppers for breakfast. Lager and muffins, respectively. I have no choice to but to scoop the Burton Bridge D'aft Burton Ale. That's a ' that looks like an r. Therefore, Draft Burton Ale. But, for hideous legal reasons, it's called the former. I used to love Burton Ale so much that I drank so much of the stuff that I shat myself on Doxey Marshes. Fortunatley, I was taking it easy this time - still tastes like someone lit a match and stubbed it out on your tounge. Still fruity. Still ruddy gorgeous - like Bass with balls.

1055 Market Place, Derby. Remembrance Sunday service. There's a reason I carry my Grandad Tom's 1939-45 star with me always. He said - Never Forget. I won't.

1115 Thomas Leaper (Lloyds), Derby. And the worse three words that can be associated with a beer you really want to try... Coming Very Soon. So, no Thornbridge Pioneer today. Happy to settle for Leeds Gathering Storm (reasonably inoffensive, darkish with thin finish, some milky chocolate) and Cains Raisin Beer (superb; amber body belies soft squashy fruit aroma and sustained jammy fat fruit flavour).

1200 Flowerpot, Derby. Oakham Baja 1000 to kick off proceedings; it's a trojan Oakham. Deeperish copper that explodes with creamy pineapple. I was all set for another until I saw....

1235 Headless Zymosis. Brewed in the spring, released for winter, this is a 7.5% beer that looks pale and drinks pale until the warm alcohol-laden creamy hops kick in and start knocking seven bells out of your sensitive parts. It's like being the frog in a warming pan - Zymosis won't make you recoil on the first sip; it takes time before you realise (too late) that your knees don't work as well as they used to.

1305 More Zymosis

1355 Even more Zymosis

1445 Just one more Zymosis

1600 Apparently, it seems that I made it back to the bus via Marks & Sparks. It's time to go and warm up bits of duck and uncork an aromatic wine to go with it.

And I have to go find a BrewDog bottle to review. Although, I'm feeling rather dopey and if I sit in front of this keyboard much longer I may just ikfdsndvordsgviowed,gv iihidskvgi

Sorry. Fell asleep, face down on the damn thing.

Sometimes, the best Sunday plans are the one's that aren't planned.


BrewDogging #7; Trashy Blonde

Before you start to carp that journalistic standards are slipping chez Reluctant, let me assure you that I don't give a shit. It's Saturday, I've been out on the Thornbridge Jaipur and I've just spent ten minutes with my right hand in a chicken.

Whilst the oven warms, I've just enough time to sink a Dog and blog about it. I could tell you a story about Trashy Blonde, how I first drank it at an event called Beer Exposed and tried desperately to take a photo of the trashy blonde next to me drinking a bottle of the stuff. But that story isn't funny anymore.

Chugged straight from the bottle, I was surprised how malty this Trashy Blonde came across. Plenty very much of mango-laden passion-fruited slightly-overdone hoppiness took over and, sadly, those sweet malts were swamped. It was almost annoying at the end - I like a dollop of Amarillo as much as the next hophead, but at ABVs this low (4.1%) you need a littlebitta malt to carry the beer onward.

Now then. I have a chicken laden with lemon, cumin, ginger, garlic and coriander in the oven. I now have to go and choose a wine to go with it. That's right - beer is a wonderous thing, goes great with food.... but there are times when nothing pairs up better than a robust bottle of vino. For a statement like that, I ought to burn my membership card of the Beer Writers Guild, except that I don't seem to have paid my subs yet (sorry, Adrian).

So; Trashy Blonde. Unbalanced. Top-heavy. Promises the earth but forgets to deliver. All which make it a thoroughly blonde beer.


BrewDogging #6; Paradox Springbank

Sometimes, I get back home (after a hard day slaving in front of disaggregated statistics detailing the takeup of business support services in deprived areas of the East Midlands) and know exactly the beer that I want to open. Tonight, not a schoolnight, I fancied a full-fat lip-curling imperial stout. But not just any old impy...

The great thing about the Springbank Paradox is that is doesn't actually smell like lean spirit. It has an aroma stacked full of creamy chocolate, some toasty coconut, even a passing waft of fresh Fig Roll biscuit. All undercut by a growing stream of whisky; never overwhelming, always supportive.

Frankly, I could sit and sniff this beer all night like a big fat beer-sniffing pervert. But it deserves to be drunk. Truth be told, it's an un-nervingly thin-feeling beer; there's slight coffee and firmer chocolate, but a tad more oomph would carry this beer onward and upward. The Springbank's back into the equation at the end, but it would benefit from a maltier frame to swing from.


BrewDogging #5; Chaos Theory

Incontrovertible truths about Chaos Theory:

It is a beer brewed by BrewDog.

It was the 2008 BrewDog Prototype Challenge Winner.

It has oils escaping out the glass and up your nose.

It has athletically caramel malts.

It has a hop prickle finish that makes you swallow hard and say "please Miss, may I have another?"

It will be the last beer that I drink tonight.


Bottled Up: Quantock Sunraker

It's dark and freezing outside, bonfire smoke and crap fireworks fill the sky and I've started wearing Toasties around the house. Time for a summer beer, then.

Quantock Brewery have been around for just about two years and Sunraker was first brewed last year, winning Somerset Beer of the Festival at CAMRA Somerset's 2008 festival. It's a fantastic-looking pale gold colour, with an evaporating head and an aroma that I can't quite nail at the moment.

There's some baked lemon flavours in there, carried on a creamy palate that seems odd on the first sip but makes perfect sense several gulps later. The drying finish is punctuated by floral leftovers; still creamy, a little bready, un-nervingly satisfying.

Now I know what the aroma is - almost. It reminds me of a beer I brewed with Thornbridge called Julius; we chucked all kinds of stuff into it, but there's something herbal in the nose of Sunraker that rings a bell. Almost minty, spicy... ish.

To be honest, the creamy feel got slighly cloying towards the end. Several pints from cask, in a beer garden, on a summers day may feel different, mind....

Thanks to for the beer, which is part of their 52 Week Beer Club


BrewDogging #4; Dogma

Twenty-plus BrewDog beers that I could have picked out the box tonight and I get the one I get really dischuffed with. Arse.

Dogma is the reincarnation of Speedball, the Portman Group-bating beer of last year. The labels may have changed (see below) but the mad ingredients remain the same. There's guarana. There's Californian poppy Even kola nut and Scottish heather honey. Perhaps just a dash of leprechaun toenail shaving too. It all sounds like too much.

Now then, I've tried this on cask (at the Coach & Horses in Dronfield, one of those uber-rare guest beers amongst the Thornbridge handpulls). There, it was softly sweet with warming pepper and dulled herbal essences. Whereas every bottle I've tried has been akin to drinking an apothecary's floor sweepings that have been suspended in a caramel gloop.

How do I find it tonight? An aroma like Lockets from my old grandma's coat pocket. A surfeit of white pepper fights its way out. Plenty of caramel and honey as soon as the glass reaches my lips, but it's those waves of warming pepper that puts me off. The longer it lingers on the palate, the more sickly-sweet medicinal it becomes.

And then.... something happens. Well, it seems to after twenty minutes. The honey on the nose goes earthier, deeper honey in the flavour begins to arrest the pepper. Left to go flatter and warmer, Dogma takes on some of those rounder notes I found on cask.

Can I finish the glass? Do I want to? I'm only half way down, it's been nearly half an hour, and I honestly can't say .

In the meantime, here's a footnote (click on the pic to enlarge). The Speedball label that drew the ire of Portman is on the left; the revised Dogma one on the right. It's s shame that they didn't keep the line about it being "a light chestnut, slow motion rollercoaster of a beer".


Innis & Gunn: Barrel of fun?

Innis and Gunn have been steadily expanding their range of barrel-aged beers in the last few years. I've never been a great fan of the too-sweet Original beer in the range, but some of the specials have had a pleasant twist. The brewery sent me through a few samples; I was keen on finding out whether they could deliver a spirited finish beyond their initial sweetness.

The 6% Blonde pushed its way out of the fridge first. Now, I'm sceptical about beers that promise subtle fruity nuances whilst at the same time insisting on being served chilled. The vanilla was more to the fore here than in the Original, albeit delivering clean oak notes rather than a sweet-toothed muddle. A reasonable malt base maintained the flavour, though any hop lift was lost through the chill. There were some soft citric notes in there, but the vanilla sweetness outweighed them as the beer warmed. As a standalone beer, it didn't really stand out - but (too late) I thought it could have make for a great dessert-course beer, perhaps something caramel-laden or a good 'n chunky rice pudding.

At 7.4%, the Rum Cask Finish sounds like a beer to be enjoyed with cheese & crackers & repeats of Top Gear in front of a roaring fire. But out of the fridge, I feared it would be too cold to enjoy in such a manner. The temperature wasn't the issue, though - the sweetness and washy rum reminded me of a badly-made cocktail. Rather than warming in a spicy fashion, the rum finish seemed to have stripped the cask of astringency and delivered it alongside a dollop of sugar into the bottle. Too heavy-handed for me.

So it was with a little trepidation that I reached for the Canadian Cask version. But I was glad that I did. Seventy-one days in an unspecified Canadian whisky cask seems to have worked wonders - or perhaps it was the addition of malted rye that gave it some gorgeous toffee and raisin notes. The vanilla sweetness was suppressed, the malts balanced finer, the oak notes supportive rather than smothering. Easily the most accomplished and balanced Innis & Gunn beer I've tried.

The only downside here is that the Canadian Cask version was a limited export-only edition. Bugger. The others are available in Sainsburys, so at least I can try the Blonde again the next time I fancy a beer to go alongside a creme caramel.

Thanks to Innis & Gunn for the samples.



No, I haven't dropped a donut on the keyboard again. Movember is an annual, month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer.

The Thornbridge guys and gals are involved in the fundraising this year, with the brewers joining in and the regulars at their pubs being persuaded to contribute too. Cat at the Coach & Horses convinced me to give in a whirl. My tache capacity may be smaller than a stunted amoeba, but I'll give anything a go for charidee.

One man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK; more than 35,000 men will be diagnosed this year and prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Enough to make me think; hopefully enough to make you want to donate. Click here to donate online using your credit card, debit card or PayPal account.

PS - those ever-enterprising bods at BrewDog are taking part too, with 25% of the sale price of a Movember beer being donated to the charity. Nice one, Mo Brothers!


BrewDogging #3; 77 Lager

So, here we arrive at the latest BrewDog take on lager. Sorry, "artisan rebel pilsner". I was vaguely disappointed to start with. Rather liked those flowery notes of Hop Rocker; here it was a hidden hop whiff with a harder fruit feel up front. The lingering sweetness was there again, yet now an assertive caramel backbone flexed its way across your palate. And then the finish won me around, some lovely marmaladey hops and decent astringency.

Damn, I fancy another one now. With some hop-flower action in the aroma, I'd fancy three more. Here's hoping BrewDog don't stop their lager experimentaton here.


BrewDogging #2; Cult Lager

It's not the bastard son of Dean Friedman. It's the too-close country cousin of Hop Rocker. Cult Lager took what Hop Rocker started and buggered it up. Gone are the delicate flowers. Instead we have cardboardy malts. All rather wet, if you know what I mean (if you don't , mail me and I'll send you a diagram). Some redeeming and unexpected spice - my tasting was rather tardy in respect to its best before date, which may explain that.

But when it warmed a little, there was a four-minute window when the sweetness and light malt almost worked. Before it sluiced off down the path and joined the crap supermarket lager brigade, busy scrawling obscenities on the bins with marker pens.

Cult doesn't give lager a bad name. But it does make inappropriate gestures.


BrewDogging #1; Hop Rocker

Let's kick this Brewdog-a-day malarkey off with some lagers. After all, I truely believe that decent UK lager could be the turn-on to great tasting beer for a sizeable chunk of the drinking population.

Hop Rocker was, I think, the brewer's first foray into the lager market. Back in 2008 it was one of the beers that attracted the wrath of the Portman Group who objected to the label claim of it being "nourishing food stuff". Yeah, whatever.

But is it nourishing? Well, I found it to be nom-nom-umm. Good floral spots around the aroma, some sweetness, slight malt, underpowered finish. It's almost as if they forgot to put the drying finale in there.

Still, it gave me an excuse to buy some Hereford Hop cheese to taste alongside. The sweetness of both worked well together.

I don't want to damn with faint praise - if this was the only lager on the bar at the next wedding from hell that I attend, I'd at least have one thing to smile about. Perhaps Hop Rocker ought to be judged more as work in progress - tomorrow I'll take a look at its next incarnation