Homage to the white bits on the map

Announcing the arrival of an Icelandic blogger to the scene the other day, Knut used the catch-all term ‘the white areas on the map‘. As anyone who saw this satellite image in the papers this week will know, Britain has temporarily joined the club, and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to get into the spirit of things.

Here’s what we did yesterday:

  1. Put Johan Johansson on the stereo.
  2. Had a hot bath.
  3. Rolled in the snow.
  4. Got back in the hot bath.
  5. Ate a salad of pickled herring, potatoes, beetroot, apple, onion and sour cream.
  6. Drank the bottle of Nøgne ø God Jul we were given by Knut before Christmas.

We enjoyed the beer a lot. It’s a classy, complex drop which is nonetheless easier going than Harvey’s Imperial Stout. We got something different with every mouthful but the overall picture was of treacle with a hint of wood smoke. We liked the fact that, although very dark, it was deep brown rather than black. The head was so far off white that, for a moment, we wondered if there might be saffron in the beer.

Additional notes: We didn’t roll in the snow for very long because we felt like a right pair of twats. The music eventually proved too pretentious for us and we put ABBA on instead. The table we ate off was bought from IKEA. After this bizarre interlude, we went to the pub for a bottle of Fuller’s 1845.

Update: here are Beer Sagas’ reviews of Nogne ø beers, and here’s the Beer Nut on Nogne ø God Jul Islay Cask edition.

Sour Stout in a Victorian Pub

In search of Fullers London Porter, and following a tip from reader Ant, we found ourselves back at the Royal Oak in Borough, south of London Bridge. The Porter was great, as always, if a little flat. Harvey’s Old Ale (4.3%) had rich fruit cake flavours and reminded us of Adnams Broadside. It was also a little sour, which made us wonder if they really do add some aged beer to new to make it, or just a happy accident.

The highlight, though, was the Imperial Stout (9%). The cheery barman was delighted when we asked if they had any and bounced off to get a bottle. He apologised profusely for the fact that it no longer comes in a corked bottle and presented it with some pride in a big wine glass.  We’ve had before but fairly early on in our beer drinking adventures, when our tastebuds were less mature, and then found it too intensely flavoured to actually finish. This time, it was love at first sight. There is something very sexy about a dark beer with a brown, caramel-coloured head. The smell was pure Cantillon — sour, sweet, and (bear with us) bordering on manure. The flavours exploded with every sip: blackberry, chocolate, tobacco (never thought we’d enjoy that), leather… we could go on. Astounding, in short, and now in our top 10.

As we drank, it began to snow outside. A Victorian pub, snow and black beer: it couldn’t have been more Christmassy.

NB – Fuller’s London Porter is also on at the Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington Station, in cracking form.

A merry Christmas to all our readers – we’ll be back in a couple of days.

Beer of the Year

This is the kind of thing we usually chicken out of but, in the pub one night this week, we thrashed it out and made a decision.

We’ve been quietly naming a beer of the week almost every week since February and so looked over that list first to see if any of the candidates leapt out. The full list is below, after the jump, if you’re interested.

We decided, on reflection, that there were certain beers we not only enjoyed but kept coming back to. We had multiple pints of St Austell Tribute, Thornbridge Jaipur and Fuller’s ESB.  We drank many bottles of Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter, Brew Dog’s Punk IPA, Anchor Liberty Ale, Pilsner Urquell and Flying Dog Old Scratch (our stand-by beer this summer). We would keep going back for Wuerzburger Hofbrau Pils if we lived anywhere near Wuerzburg.

But one beer that we’d never mentioned as beer of the week, and which always delights us, is Dark Star Hophead. Dark Star might be our favourite UK brewery, if we have to choose, and Hophead is one of the best of their beers. It’s not too strong (several pints won’t kill you) but absolutely bursting with freshness and up-front hop flavour. It’s a corker. We love it. We’re going to drink lots more of it in 2010.

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Kerstbiers at the Poechenellekelder


We’ve just got back from a week away in Germany. On the way out, we spent a night in Brussels checking into our hotel not long before 10.30 pm on a rainy Tuesday night. That gave us just enough time to dash to our favourite pub, the Poechenellekelder, to try a few items from their very extensive Christmas beer menu.

Tsjeeses by Struise caught our eye because of the mysterious name which became less so once we said it aloud and saw the label, which features a cartoon of a very stoned Jesus with smoke curling from his mouth and ears. Tacky branding aside, it was a perfect Belgian blonde and absurdly drinkable at 10%. Not too sweet, not too bitter, definitely spicy but nothing you could pick out. Everything was in balance. It reminded us what we love about Belgian beer.

Palm Dubbel was  less exciting, but certainly not unpleasant. It reminded us of Leffe Radieuse, with the same kind of fruit flavour which makes you wonder if cherries have been added somewhere along the way.

Zinnebier Xmas (Brasserie de la Senne) reminded us of Fuller’s London Porter but was much easier to swig — less intense and with a lighter body. Roasted grains mixed with sour-fruit aromas. Fabulous.

Forestinne Nordika from Brasserie Caracole was the last we could squeeze in as the bar emptied and bills were paid. Luckily, it was also a hit, with a powerful sweet orange-peel aroma and flavour that we loved.  There was more fruit than spice and we guessed from the colour that it had been made with something like English pale ale malt as the base.

All in all, a successful start to our trip.

Still to come: we find a brewery making stout in Cologne; catch ourselves ticking mulled drinks; and find a surprising amount of decent beer in Northern Germany.