Month: December 2015

My first Golden Pints

This is my first beer blog post and I’m starting things off in a fairly straight forward manner with my 2015 Golden Pints. The writing might have been straight forward, but the decisions definitely haven’t been – it’s been a year which has seen lots of great beers and beer businesses. Celebrating that incredible hard work, creativity and skill on display in 2015 seems to me a great way to begin blogging.
Without further ado, here are my (totally biased) selections from the last 12 months!

1. Best UK Cask Beer – Jarl; Fyne Ales. At the Fyne Ales Brewery Tap, next to the beautiful Loch Fyne… Pretty much as good as it gets, but pretty tasty at my local too!

2. Best UK Keg Beer – Cannonball; Magic Rock. At the Hop Inn, and it’s been on there a few times this year, with good reason.

3. Best UK Bottled Beer – Finders Keepers; Cromarty Brewing. Just about nudged past such phenomenal beers as Buxton’s Axe Edge and Mad Hatter’s Penny Lane Pale.

4. Best UK Canned Beer – So’hop; Moor Beer. I’ve not drunk a lot of cans this year, but Moor Beer have stood out as consistent wins.

6. Best Overseas Bottled Beer – Schneider Weisse Aventinus. Love love love this beer, for a clear win despite tough competition from the Belgians.

8. Best collaboration brew – Off the Rails; Fallen Brewing & Hanging Bat ; with honourable mentions to Trolltunga from Buxton & Lervig as well as Atlantis Gose from Freigeist Beirkultur & Stillwater Artisinal. This one was probably the closest of all the decisions, and all the contenders were sours.

9. Best Overall Beer – I hate making this call, but it’s going to Schneider Weisse Aventinus.

10. Best Branding – Weird Beard; distinctive, fun, characterful.

13. Best UK Brewery – Cromarty Brewing takes this on the back of two of my favourite beers of the year – both foraged saisons. They just about win out over the consistent excellence of Buxton, Weird Beard, Mad Hatters and Magic Rock among others.

14. Best Overseas Brewery – Põjhala win out as a new entry from Estonia, over my recurring favourites St Feullien, De Ranke & Maredsous.

15. Best New Brewery Opening 2015 – Cloudwater – they’ve made it look like they’ve been doing it for ages, with a changing range of thoughtfully constructed beer. Top work.

16. Pub/Bar of the Year – The Hop Inn, Newcastle-under-Lyme. A great cask and keg line up has had a great bottle selection added to it, delivering great beer, great value and great service in a great environment. There are honourable mentions for Chez Sofie in Shrewsbury (lovely bottles and kegs with delicious crepes) & Buxton Tap House (part cutting edge, exciting beer bar and part rustic comfort that is so so difficult to drag yourself away from).

18. Beer Festival of the Year – Birmingham Beer Bash wins this one, but it was so close with runner up IMBC.

19. Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose gets my vote this year for it’s edge on overseas beers, but again, it’s a close one with M&S.

20. Independent Retailer of the Year – only opening in the last few weeks of 2015, none the less I’m giving this one to Otters Tears, Burslem. It’s a lovely shop with an exciting selection of some of the hardest to find gems in the beer world – with much more to come I’m sure! If they hadn’t opened for a couple more weeks, this would have gone to Leek Bottle Lab who have brought a shockingly good bottle shop to rural Staffordshire.

21. Online Retailer of the Year – I’ve not bought much online this year, but my BeerBods box has continued to delivered an interesting & tasty selection.

23. Best Beer Blog or Website – Larsblog – every post this year has been gripping reading – from detailed discussion of microorganisms to compelling descriptions of traditional brewing, it’s all been essential reading.

24. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer – @broadfordbrewer – for bad puns, perspective and generally making me smile a lot.

Thanks to all of those mentioned and all of those others who haven’t been mentioned, but who have made my 2015 a lot of fun and full of delicious beer!

The Opening of Sutton Coldfield’s Brewhouse & Kitchen

Anyone living in and around the Birmingham area, will be all too familiar with the constant redevelopments in Birmingham City Centre and the amount of disruption that has caused to the city.  Whilst I love going into Birmingham every now and again for shopping and social visits, I have recently found myself gravitating towards other places in and around the Birmingham area as a way of avoiding the busyness of the City Centre. Sutton Coldfield has become my place of choice to shop.  Ever since I started visiting Sutton, I’ve found myself asking the question ‘why is there so few places that sell decent beer?’.  There are a fair few nice places to eat (Quinto Lounge being a personal favourite of mine) and just outside of Sutton in Four Oaks there’s a great little drink shop called Cellar Door Drinks which sells a variety of beers (both bottled and on top), wines and spirits, but up until now there’s been very few decent pubs/bars, particularly in Sutton Town Centre.  I was therefore delighted when I read that Brewhouse & Kitchen had purchased a site very close to the main centre which used to be known as Cambaz Bar and Grill.

Brewhouse & Kitchen are a small independent pub group who brew their 2015-12-11 19.16.13own beer on site, as well as offering a relatively wide selection of bottled beers and menu of food.  They already have venues in Bournemouth, Bristol, Gloucester, Islington and a number of other places, and whilst I’d heard about them, had never actually been to one of their venues.  Having seen the developments and transformation of the venue over the past few months, I was therefore eager to try it and was delighted to be asked to be a guinea pig and try out their food before it opened officially on Monday 14th December 2015.

We arrived around 30 minutes before our table reservation slot, so decided to go for a drink in the main bar area first.  Upon entering the beautifully decorated bar, I was pleased to see they had beers by Magic Rock, Siren and Camden on tap.  It was predominantly2015-12-11 19.14.21 their core range, but great to finally see somewhere in Sutton offering different beers!  My attention then turned to what was on draught and the bottles they had.  Many of the draught beers they had were ones there master brewer had brewed on site, so we were really keen to try them, and decided to buy a flight which included: Marksmen, Shoestring and 004 Oaks.  The beers were well presented on a wooden drinks paddle and all looked very appealing. Marksmen (on the left) was a very well balanced traditional IPA with a beautiful citrusy aroma and flavour.  Shoestring (central) was an American style Amber Ale and was packed full of caramel malts and 004 Oaks (right) was a traditional Golden Ale which is a tribute to the one-time Four Oaks resident ‘Roger Moore’ Golden Ale ‘004 Oaks’, an affectionate tribute to one-time Four Oaks resident ‘Roger Moore’.  After getting our flight we were shown to our table for food.

The menu had a great variety of food on, and I was impressed to see that under each dish was a recommended beer to go with that dish.  As nice as the starters looked, my husband and I decided to skip the starters and go straight to main.  I chose a Whole Rack of Beer-Braised BBQ Ribs and my husband decided on Fish & Chips.  The food took around 15 minutes to come, so in the mean time we selected another drink from the menu – it’d have been rude not to!  This time, I decided to take a look through the bottle menu, which included some classics such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Steam Beer, Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel, La Chouffe, Brewdog Punk IPA, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and some of the Timmermans Selection – Framboise and Kriek.  I’d tried a majority of the beers of the menu, but the one beer I hadn’t tried was Timmermans Oude Gueze, so I decided to buy a bottle of that.  Upon ordering, I was impressed by the waitresses knowledge of the beers.  She didn’t talk us through them in great depth, but did warn me that the Gueze was incredibly sour and asked if it was something I’d like – I reassured her I was a big fan of Gueze/Lambic beers and would indeed enjoy it, but was really glad she’d asked.  At the same time, she asked what my husband was having to eat, and suggested possible beers that might match his food well.

Shortly after our drinks had arrived, our food came.  My ribs were absolutely huge and I wasn’t quite convinced I’d manage it – although with some help from my husband it soon2015-12-11 19.51.35 got demolished!  The food itself was enjoyable and beautifully presented, but not sure it had quite lived up to my high expectations.  I think, personally, I’d have preferred a smaller portion of ribs with better quality meat and more glazing on them, as it didn’t quite taste seasoned enough and was rather fatty.  The fish and chips portion was a good size and my husband really enjoyed it, but had hoped for a bit more of the beer flavour to come through in the batter.    After making our way through our mains we both ordered a dessert. We selected a Banoffee Pie and Chocolate Fudge Cake, both again beautifully presented and very enjoyable (I’m afraid we enjoyed them so much, we forgot to take a picture!!). With dessert my husband had a half of the Sutton Brewhouse & Kitchen’s Porter – ‘Black Belt’ which I chose to sample. It was smooth and roasty and very easy to drink and complimented the Chocolate Fudge Cake beautifully.

Overall our visit to Sutton Coldfield Brewhouse & Kitchen was very enjoyable.  It’s a brilliant new venue and offers something completely different to Sutton.  As someone who spends a lot of time seeking out new beers to try, I wouldn’t necessarily put this up high on my l2015-12-11 19.12.07ist of venues to try out, simply because the beer range focuses on many of the more well known beers and isn’t likely to have the more difficult to get hold of beers I spend much of my time seeking out.  That said, for people who enjoy good beer and pub grub, or for people just getting into beer, this is a fantastic venue and well worth a visit.  I can see myself visiting for lunch regularly when out shopping shopping in Sutton!

Sutton Coldfield Brewhouse & Kitchen opens on Monday 14th December.  For more information about their location, opening times and menus, please visit their website.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Sutton Coldfield Brewhouse & Kitchen for a trial event before it was open to the public as an opportunity to fine tune their staff team.  They did not charge for the food at this event, but all drinks were paid for.