The other week I was heading through Borough Market, on my way to Utobeer, when I spotted a temporary stall with some beer to taste.
It was manned by one of the brewers from the Tunnel Brewery, “Warwickshire’s newest microbrewery”, and they had around seven or eight of their products available to sample and buy, with a good discount on buying five or more bottles. From looking at their their website, they seem to have a strategy of selling direct to the punter via farmer’s markets.
I tried a couple, and as they were drinkable, went and bought five different bottles. This is four more bottles than I’d probably have bought if they’d been sitting on the shelves of Utobeer, all thanks to the fact that there was a bloke there, selling them. Oh, and the fact they had an exciting range, taking in traditional ales of all colours as well as lagers and wheatbeers.
Selling at markets therefore seems a good idea — as well as shifting more stock to the interested punters, they seemed to be doing a good job of getting passers-by to stop and try some. I can imagine this working even better in smaller farmers’ markets.
We’ve since tried three of the haul, and they’re very good. Well, the “Jean Cloudy Van Damme” Belgian Wit didn’t appeal to my personal tastes, but Bailey liked it. The Munich Style lager has a light golden colour, and excellent effervescence. Some malt in the mouth, but the overwhelming flavour is crisp, minty hops. Fruity and buttery notes reminded us more of a koelsch than a Munich lager, but it’s very tasty anyway.
My favourite was the Linda Lear “Dark Bitter” — I don’t know why it’s called dark, as it’s a golden-copper colour — but it’s certainly bitter. The initial dry and grassy taste didn’t bode well, but the flavours developed beautifully in the mouth; caramelly malt and flowery hops that linger in the mouth long after the beer has gone. It’s only 3.7% too.
The first time we tried Worthington White Shield, we weren’t especially impressed. People told us that we needed to let it mature, so we gave that a go. The aged bottle did, indeed, taste fantastic.
But is there any room in the pub trade for a beer that needs to be aged for at least a year before it starts to live up to its reputation, and which tastes awful cold? I doubt we’re going to get pubs to change their habit of putting bottled beer in the fridge in a hurry, so beers which taste nice a bit frosty have a definite commercial advantage.
White Shield is a beer that only really makes sense at home.
Beer enthusiasts in the UK owe James Clay and Sons a debt of thanks.
They’re the canny importers who have made it possible for us to get our hands on Brooklyn Lager, Goose Island IPA, and other exciting beers we’ve banged on about in the past.
On their website, they list their top ten sellers. As of Monday 24 March, this is how the chart looked:
5.Chimay Red Cap
9.Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Ring any bells? It’s what’s in the fridges in almost every even vaguely aspirational bar or pub in Britain.
Sure, it gets a bit boring seeing those same beers all the time, and, yes, Vedett is shite, but I’d be very glad if my local swapped its fridge full of Stella, Becks, Holsten and WKD Blue for just a few of those.
Or, “Sadly, we don’t know Mr Bean”.
Last week, we had a pint with Wilson of Brewvana fame. We were several thousand miles apart; he was drinking at lunchtime, we’d just got home from work; and the banter was by email. It kind of worked.
We’d agreed which beers we were going to drink so that we could compare, based on the UK beers Wilson could get in Iowa, and which American beers we could get in London. Somewhat ironically, he found it easier to get hold of Adnams Bitter than we did. So the final line-up was Adnams Broadside and Anchor Porter. Here’s how it went from Wilson’s point of view, and here’s how it went from ours:
Continue reading “Trans-Atlantic Beer Tasting Simul-Post”
I’ve been a good person this year. I’ve supported and promoted pubs and shops selling good beer, I’ve recommended beautiful microbrews to people who might not otherwise have drunk them, and I even got round to joining CAMRA.
I don’t really want much for Christmas, aside from the odd nice beer, and peace and goodwill to all men, but here’s my fantasy Christmas wishlist:
- The hop and grain harvests to be full and plentiful this year. I don’t think the smoking ban will kill pubs, but £4 a pint might.
- UK brewers to do more porters and stouts year round and less summer ales. Oh, and pubs to stock them. I find it strange that even in really good “real-ale” pubs you rarely find a stout that isn’t Guinness.
- My local supermarket to change the beer selection more than once every couple of years.
- Pubs that don’t want to do good cask ale to discover the wonders of bottle-conditioned beers.
- A home-brew shop that gets round to processing your order perhaps the day after you made it, rather than waiting three days before phoning you to say they don’t have the stuff. Thus making you miss your brewing schedule.
- The BBC to commission and show a beer appreciation programme. Or any channel really. Get Oz Clarke to team up with some beer writers and see what happens.
- CAMRA to stop wasting my subs money on the campaign for a full pint and focus more on the quality of said pint, i.e. perhaps visit a few more of these allegedly good pubs in the Good Pub Guide? See superb rant by Pete Brown on this a few months back, one of my favourite blog posts of the year.
- Our first-born lager to work.
- To discover that the wild yeasts in the Lea Valley are capable of spontaneously fermenting a tasty beer, thus starting a craze for London lambics.
- All the fabulous pubs, breweries and beer shops we’ve mentioned (and many more we haven’t had a chance to) to have a productive and profitable new year. Cheers!