Month: October 2015

Not a firm of Lawyers…

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When a group of Birmingham beer drinkers get together over a glass or 2 of cask, keg or bottled beer, eventually talk will turn to how hard done by we are compared to other towns and cities in terms of what is available. Now although this is true to an extent, let’s not forget that we are blessed with some pretty decent pubs and bars in the city centre. Case in point is the Brewdog Bar in John Bright St. Now I’ll be upfront and mention that I am friends with manager Michael Gee, Neil Hemus, and get on with and like the other members of staff in the bar, but hope this doesn’t colour the following comments too much.

Since opening at the end of 2012 in John Bright St, as well as the usual selection of Brewdog beers, guest ales and bar food, the bar often do events such as kitchen takeovers, meet-the-brewer and tap takeovers and one such event was held on Friday 16th. This time it was the turn of London brewers Anspach and Hobday, and I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with Paul (Anspach), Jack (Hobday), Dylan, Patrick and Dan. Here they are enjoying a beer or 2

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I had the chance to have a bit of a chat with them in the early part of the evening and discovered that there had been some experience in the drinks industry at a wine store and a Fullers pub. The impression I got though was that at some point there was a strong impetus to open a brewery and take their home brewing experience to the next level. And so it came to pass that in 2014 brewing operations began underneath the arches in Bermondsay. Since it is home to other breweries and the Maltby Street market I was told it was a bit of a no brainer to choose this for the site. It’s a fairly small operation, just 2.5 barrels per brew, but this does enable them to do a good few brews per week, with Dylan and Paul, the main brewers, managing to get up to 5 done. They do a core range of 7 beers in their distinctively designed bottles, including the IPA, described thus on their website (http://anspachandhobday.com/)

“Our IPAs seem to get better with each batch. Always resinous with a punchy aroma and bitterness. This brew epitomises what we believe an IPA should be: Full of hops, body and with a strength to match, it would have lasted the journey to India but even better have it cold in a glass at its freshest.”

Another core beer is the Stout Porter – “The big-brother of The Porter. Our Stout Porter (8.5%) is a strong (stout) full flavoured, full bodied Porter. A complex interplay between dark fruits, chocolate, coffee & liquorice flavours all derived from our blend of Pale & Roasted malts carefully balanced with British East Kent Golding & American Cascade hops. A beer that goes very well with itself.”

I sampled both of these and can attest to their quality, both really tasty beers with a lot of complexity in the porter. In total the guys brought 14 beers with them and my tastebuds were tingling even before I got to the bar, and they didn’t disappoint. The different Saisons were particularly interesting, especially the Galaxy one that had been aged in Chardonnay barrels to give it a quite dry zingy taste. They also did a collaboration with some of the guys from Brewdog, a Kentucky Common, but I only got to try a small taste of this… I’ll be honest, my recollections of the latter part of the evening are a bit hazy. So all in all it was a great event, and if you are visiting London their brewery is open Friday 17:00-21:30, Saturdays 11:00-17:30 & Sundays 12:00-17:00.

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Indyman Beer Con 2015

Since getting into beer and beer related podcasts I have heard one word uttered with reverence.  This word seemed to bring about happiness and joy to those that mentioned it and it seemed to hold a power similar to other magic phrases like ‘abracadabra!’  That word was Indyman.  Sarah and I felt like we needed to know more and set about investigating.  We discoveredindy-man that The Independent Manchester Beer Convention (Indyman) was probably the most respected and well thought of event in the yearly craft beer calendar and as we began to research it, we found out exactly why and decided that this year, we just had to be a part of it.

Sadly, when we’d made the decision we wanted to go (a week after tickets had gone on sale), the tickets for the sessions we wanted to go to had already sold out, and had done so within minutes of going on sale.  At this point we sent out a number of pleas via Twitter and thankfully got two tickets for the day session on Saturday 10th October.  Then, the waiting began with excitement growing as the weeks went by.

As the excitement grew, it seemed a collective excitement among social media also grew.  For Sarah and I, Indyman wasn’t just about the beer – amazing as it was – it was also about the social aspect, the opportunity to meet new people and put faces to those who we’d only previously got to know through social media.

So, enough about how we got to be at Indyman, and more about Indyman itself!  It started with us being out of the house far too early for a Saturday morning, followed by a number of platform changes and train delays, but a few hours later we found ourselves in the queue, with tickets and home made chocolate fudge stout cookies in hand.  We immediately made friends.  As we waited, we started flicking through the beer list, trying to decide which of the many beers to try first.  The queue eventually began to move down and we finally got in, picked up our glass and map of the venue (and a rather cool little pencil), then went in search of beer!  Sarah had bee12088428_10153723761423993_129024014497675520_nn wanting to try ‘Cross-Pollination’, which was a Heather Honey IPA and a collaboration produced by Magic Rock and Arizona Wilderness, so we headed over to the Magic Rock stand.  After really enjoying the bottle of  Cigarro Roja Mágica from this years Rainbow Project, I decided to try a third of it on keg.  With beers in hand, we then decided to find our friends who were also there for the day session.  After a rather helpful text from our friend which read ‘we’ve got a table in the pool’ we then went in search of them through various different pools and areas of the venue.  It was at this point, we were able to take in the sheer beauty of the venue and began to understand why people raved so much about Indyman and Victoria Baths.  The venue really does make this event and no pictures can do it justice.

We settled down in the deep end of pool three (the ladies pool), and started working our way through multiple beers, using our picnic table as a base.  Highlights of the day for us included Cross-Pollination by Magic Rock and Arizona Wilderness, Sorachi Ace by Alpha State, Jakehead IPA by Wylam, Imperial Stout Ardbeg and Sour White Peach Sherry both by Cloudwater.

One of the things that disappointed us slightly about Indyman was the fact that the beer list on the Indyman website, wasn’t as up-to-date as it could have been.  This wasn’t a major issue, and given the sheer volume of beers that were available to try, was perfectly understandable, however did mean we depended more on recommendations from fellow beer lovers, who we got to meetunnamed and talk with throughout the day.

Throughout the session we got to meet Steve from the Beer O’Clock Show (you can catch my dulcet tones on this weeks show), Janice and Wayne (the Irish Beer Snobs) who we’d been talking with via social media for some time beforehand, as well as catching up with other friends we’d got to know through our love of beer over the past couple of years.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and our first Indyman experience was brilliant.  For us the venue and the people, quite simply made our experience and we will definitely be returning to Manchester next year to do Indyman, the Piccadilly Beer Mile and to explore all the other beery wonders Manchester has to offer!

See you next year Machester!

A trip to Oregon, pt 1

I always knew a trip to Oregon was going to be quite exceptional in terms of beer but I was taken aback by the quality, consistency and availability. Everywhere we went either had a brewery, brewpub or bar selling quality product… I genuinely think trying to get a bad ipa would be a difficult proposition. We had an overnight stop in Lincoln City and because the restaurants all seemed to be closed at 9 we ended up at a fairly average pizzeria but it still had around 8 taps mostly serving what we call craft beer.

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One of the breweries we stopped at was Pelican in Pacific City, it was described as a brewery on the beach and they weren’t kidding, this is a picture of me with our non-beer drinking friend Lori sitting on the terrace…

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You couldn’t get much closer if you tried. It was opened in 1997 and in 2014 they added another production facility in nearby Tilamook, and in their just under 20 year history have won 32 medals at the GABF. The 2 beers I had whilst there were the Silverspot IPA, described thus – “ brilliant gold color and assertively complex hop aroma. Brew Master Darron Welch selected the blend of Sterling, Fuggle and Meridian hops, focusing on herbal, floral, spicy and tangerine-like characters to create this highly drinkable 6% abv English-Style IPA”: and Umbrella IPA – “This seasonal IPA is sure to ruffle some feathers and send true hop-heads looking for cover. To get us through the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve brewed a New-World India Pale Ale using exclusively Austriallian grown Ella hops. The use of Ella hops offers an aroma that is filled with gooseberry and bright fruit. The fresh and zippy Ella hops are nicely balanced by a clean and light pale malt character. We’ve liberally dry hopped Umbrella twice to add to it’s distinct and complex flavors. Go on, reach for an Umbrella and let it pour. Suffice to say they were both very good, and the food we had at the bar didn’t disappoint either.

Next up was a visit to the Rogue Nation in Newport, who began brewing in 1988, and their on site pub, Brewers on the Bay where you basically walk through the working brewery to get there.  

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I was already familiar with some of their beers, having had some in Brewdog, The Firefly in Worcester, and the George & Dragon in Barcelona. As you can see from the photo below, there were plenty of beers to choose from, so I went with the 7 beer taster tray. As a fan of the odd IPA I did like both the 6 hop and 7 hop versions, really fresh tasting, but I thought the Chipotle Ale was very good, great tasting smoky beer with a little heat as it goes down, and I finished with the Big Ass Barrel Lapsang Souchon Tea Porter which was smooth and creamy, an excellent end to a great visit. Given more time I would’ve liked to have done the brewery tour, but it was 90 minutes, and you’ve got to save something for next time 🙂

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On our way to Portland we found one of the highlights of the vacation, a bar serving real ale and really good food in a small town called Oakridge, population 3,200. Opened in 2008 by Ted Sobel, a brewer who had fallen in love with British bitters and pubs, Brewers Union Local 180 serves it’s beers in imperial pints, and a damn fine job he is doing with them. Was quite impressed that he’d heard of Burton and has even bought some Gypsum to Burtonize his water for one of his brews. Wish I could go back and see how that turns out. From what I can gather it is quite a community hub with music and different events going on, and after a brief chat with the brewer was told that their cask now outsells the keg selection.

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Note, some of the information was provided by the book “Oregon Breweries” by Brian Yaeger which I recommend should you be thinking of visiting soon.

 

The background one

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I am a man of a certain age who has been drinking beer longer than I care to remember, but being born in Burton on Trent I like to think I had a good grounding in drinking some decent stuff. I do remember when I first went out with the family and was allowed some alcohol I drank lager, probably Heineken I think, and fair play to the old man he didn’t give me a dry slap but just let me slowly let my taste buds grow accustomed to this strange new taste. Thankfully, when I started going on a (slightly underage) evening pub crawl with my Dad I soon graduated to Marstons Pedigree and Draught Bass, and this being the late 70’s it was when they were both in top notch condition. This was back in the days when Pedigree supposedly didn’t travel well so if you had it outside of a 10 mile radius of B-o-T it wasn’t so good, but I can’t really remember whether this was true or not. I do know there were some pubs where it was kept better than others, and as for the Bass…well that was always best at the Coopers Tavern, just across the street from the brewery, where it was served straight from the cask, and when it was good, it was really, really good. I seem to remember my Dad referring to it as liquid nectar which may or may not be a good way to describe a beer, but I knew exactly what he meant.

Fast forward a few years, I get a job at Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham and Deb and I move to the fair city. I remember our early drinking years encompassing the old Hippodrome bar where the Pedigree was quite decent, Draught Burton Ale and Entire in various pubs, Courage Directors, and the Old Hooky, again served straight from the cask, in the Midland Hotel. At some point in the 90’s on a trip to the USA we came across some microbreweries and brew pubs that were serving beers that were a little different, more flavoursome or with extra ingredients. At the time I wasn’t aware of being able to get anything like this in the UK, and certainly not in Birmingham. My moment of revelation was at the White Horse in Parsons Green a few years back when I had my first pint of Thornbridge Jaipur, and thought “Golly, what a very tasty beer” (or something to that effect). A little later I remember reading about this upstart brewery called Brewdog and their Punk IPA, and I said to Michael Gee, then a member of staff at N&C, and now manager of the Brewdog Bar (small world, huh!), “this sounds nice, shall we order a case between us”, and thus began the adventure which has included making some great new friends via Twitter and Untappd, volunteering at a couple of beer festivals, helping out a little at a Green Duck brew day, and drinking lots, and lots of great beer. And so let the adventure continue…