Gulp

Sip­ping is fine, but some beers just don’t seem to come through when tast­ed that way, so now we take a prop­er gulp when we’re tast­ing.

Painting of hops on the side of a pub in the Franconian countryside
Paint­ing of hops on the side of a pub in the Fran­con­ian coun­try­side

Our beer tast­ing rit­u­al has evolved.

It used to be a fair­ly sim­ple affair, as laid out by Michael Jack­son in his 500 beers:

  • put on lucky under­pants
  • turn twice around an oak tree in the mid­day sun
  • cross our­selves
  • swirl beer
  • sniff beer
  • sip beer
  • swal­low
  • rub chin in con­tem­pla­tion.

Now we’ve added “take a prop­er big gulp” to the itin­er­ary.

Sip­ping is fine, but some beers just don’t seem to come through when tast­ed that way. It’s like there’s a hole in the flavour. But take a real­ly big gulp and sud­den­ly, you’ve got nec­tar.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it’s not always weak ses­sion bit­ters which ben­e­fit from this approach. Strong so-called sip­ping beers are often no such thing. Sev­en per cent West­malle Dubbel tastes bet­ter when swigged, for exam­ple.

Spent grain bread again

A while back we wrote a post about using spent grain from brew­ing to make bread. Tom Fry­er, of Oxford Bot­tled Beer Data­base, has tak­en the idea to it’s log­i­cal con­clu­sion.

spentgrainbreadagain

A while back we wrote a post about using spent grain from brew­ing to make bread, an idea we nicked from Aran Brew.

Tom Fry­er, of Oxford Bot­tled Beer Data­base, has tak­en the idea to it’s log­i­cal con­clu­sion by replac­ing the milk with stout. His recipe, and our attempt at it, is after the jump.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Spent grain bread again”

American beer in East London

It seems that Paul’s Wines – an ancient and tat­ty off-license on Orford Road in Waltham­stow, East Lon­don – has upped its game on the beer front.

americanbeersinwalthamstow

The mys­tery of the two Brook­lyn India Ale bot­tles in an alley near our house has been solved.

It seems that Paul’s Wines – an ancient and tat­ty off-license on Orford Road in Waltham­stow, East Lon­don – has upped its game on the beer front. It’s been decent for a while (lots of bot­tled ale, the occa­sion­al sight­ing of Brook­lyn Lager) but now it’s prob­a­bly one of the best spe­cial­ist beer shops in Lon­don. The man­ag­er says it’s a per­ma­nent arrange­ment as long as they can keep hold of the sup­pli­er.

Don’t get over-excit­ed: there isn’t that much com­pe­ti­tion when it comes to beer shops in Lon­don, and it’s no Uto­beer. But it’s bet­ter than the Army and Navy beer sec­tion these days, and real­ly, real­ly con­ve­nient for us!

In stock now, on top of the usu­al sus­pects from Young’s, Shep­herd Neame, Bad­ger and Fuller’s (par­tial list):

  • Anchor Steam
  • Goose Island Honkers Ale
  • Fly­ing Dog Hefe Weizen
  • Brook­lyn Brown Ale; East India Ale; and Lager
  • Bernard Dark
  • RCH Pitch­fork
  • Mor­ris­sey Fox
  • some ales from brew­eries I didn’t recog­nise
  • some weird look­ing beers from Rus­sia, Mon­go­lia, Cor­si­ca…
  • And the full range of Sam Smith’s.

I got a 10 per cent dis­count for buy­ing (ahem) a few bot­tles.

Duvel: no dumb blonde

satanbeer

There’s no more illu­mi­nat­ing way to taste beers than to try three or four sup­pos­ed­ly sim­i­lar spec­i­mens togeth­er. When we found our­selves in pos­ses­sion of two noto­ri­ous­ly blas­phe­mous Bel­gian beers (Satan Gold and Judas) we thought it would be fun to drink them along with their evi­dent inspi­ra­tion, Duv­el. The expe­ri­ence gave us a new appre­ci­a­tion for this old favourite.

Satan and Judas look, too all intents and pur­pos­es, iden­ti­cal in the glass. They have the same rich gold­en colour; the same loose, bub­bly head.

Satan first. What a let down after the fun and tacky pack­ag­ing. It smells of pear-drops, nail pol­ish and alco­hol. There are some tart apple flavours which might work if they were bal­anced with bit­ter­ness. Sad­ly, this beer is hard­ly bit­ter at all. The stingy hand with the hops is coun­tered by an over­gen­er­ous help­ing of sug­ar. All in all, a bit like drink­ing syrup.

Judas is some­what bet­ter, though sim­i­lar. Sug­ary: check. Fruiti­ly acidic: check. It tastes, in fact, like stewed rhubarb, which isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a bad thing. All in all, not a beer we’ll be hunt­ing down, but def­i­nite­ly drink­able. Unlike Satan, this one didn’t end up down the sink.

And then onto Duv­el, which sud­den­ly looks and tastes like what it is – a very sophis­ti­cat­ed, well-engi­neered beer. It’s lighter coloured and lighter bod­ied than either of its two imi­ta­tors. The bit­ter­ness is refresh­ing and pro­nounced. Ver­i­ta­ble hops indeed. Where­as Satan and Judas lost their heads almost imme­di­ate­ly, Duv­el has ice­berg-like clots of foam all the way down to the last mouth­ful.

We have our win­ner. Just because it’s ubiq­ui­tous doesn’t mean Duv­el isn’t bril­liant.

Country pubs and Butcombe IPA

As we’ve men­tioned before, the pubs in my home town aren’t much to get excit­ed about, but there are some nice places hid­den out in the coun­try­side.

sunshapwick

As we’ve men­tioned before, the pubs in my home town aren’t much to get excit­ed about, but there are some nice places hid­den out in the coun­try­side.

The Red Tile at Coss­ing­ton, for exam­ple, is a per­fect cosy coun­try pub. On Box­ing Day, it was busy with din­ers (there’s an unpre­ten­tious pub menu) but I man­aged to find a cor­ner in which to enjoy a pint of But­combe Brunel IPA. I’m a fan of Butcombe’s beers but I’m hap­py to admit that region­al chau­vin­ism makes it hard for me to be objec­tive. But­combe ‘ordi­nary’ is brown, very bit­ter and slight­ly sul­phurous. The IPA is quite dif­fer­ent – less bit­ter, if any­thing, but with a warmer orange colour and pro­nounced flow­ery hop aro­ma. A good exam­ple of the Eng­lish ses­sion IPA.

Also worth a look is the Bur­tle Inn. This pub is even cosier: dark, but not gloomy, with light from wonky 18th cen­tu­ry win­dows and sev­er­al fierce wood fires. Although the staff looked exhaust­ed and the pub’s sup­plies were deplet­ed (“We’ve only got parsnip crisps left”) the real ales were in good nick and were also avail­able hot and spiced! In Lon­don these days, we take it for grant­ed that a pub will have Czech lager, wheat beer and Leffe on tap, but it’s less com­mon in the depths of the West Coun­try.

Final­ly, there was Crown at Cat­cott, which my Dad called “old Fred Vernon’s place” after a land­lord he remem­bered from his youth. It’s up a wind­ing track on a par­tic­u­lar­ly windy spot on the Som­er­set lev­els, so its burn­ing fires and low ceil­ings were very wel­come. There was a selec­tion of West Coun­try ales on offer from larg­er brew­ers like Sharp’s and But­combe. The But­combe ordi­nary was, well, extra­or­di­nary – per­fect­ly fresh and in such good con­di­tion that the head didn’t move even in the stiff breeze whistling under the old wood­en door.

In short, if you’re in Som­er­set, ditch the towns, get your­self a des­ig­nat­ed dri­ver and go on a crawl across the lev­els. It’s like­ly to be a lot more fun than Bridg­wa­ter, Taunton or Yeovil.