Blog round-up

A couple of things from other blogs that have caught our eye recently.

Wilson at Brewvana has organised a “tasting session to engage women in brewvana”, with six beers tested on women from six decades. It’s a thoroughly good read, with Wilson being slightly surprised by the favourite beer. He then challenges us to organise similar tastings.

I’m still sceptical about there being a difference between male and female tastebuds – I think a lot of the conclusions from tasting would apply to a group of men who didn’t like beer either. Still, quite up for organising some tastings at some point…

Image, and therefore, marketing does have a lot to do with it, a factor Wilson and his tasters discuss, and is discussed at more length in an article by Lew Bryson in Conde Naste.

I think in the UK, real ale is disliked by women for the same reason it’s disliked by men – it’s often too warm, too flat and off. And the sterotypical image of the real ale drinker is the old bearded sexist (rather than the young clean-shaven sexist for mainstream lager…). More on real ale marketing to come in a future post.

On the subject of beer warmth, this seems to be exercising British blogs, especially when it comes to real ale. Stonch plumps for 11 degrees* as does Tandleman. This is slightly cooler than CAMRA recommendations (12-14), and certainly cooler than it’s served in a lot of pubs, especially in the summer. This topic seems to attract a lot of interest, judging by the number of comments. Who said that real ale lovers were anal beer geeks?

I suppose the one thing conclusion that can be drawn is that temperature is a matter of personal taste rather than scientific truth. I’m generally pretty happy between about 8 deg and 12 deg for most ales. Too cold can be a problem, but I’d rather too cold than too warm (it can always warm up!) Except that last night I was drinking Orval in a pub, which was absolutely revolting straight out of the fridge but rather nice when it had warmed up a bit (they recommend 12-14 on the bottle, and who am I to argue with the monks?)

Finally, Tandleman is also plugging the Winter Ales festival in Manchester, ticking off other blogs for not mentioning it. Sorry for our typical southern bias, hope this makes up for it!

Talking of regions – I’ve been offered a job that may mean spending a lot of time in Birmingham. Can anyone advise me on the beer and pub situation there before I accept the offer?

Boak

*That’s in Celsius.  About 52F

Shepherd Neame Porter

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The White Horse and Bower on Horseferry Road in London is a pretty decent pub. When I was there last night, I was very impressed by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff, the cosy atmosphere and the condition of the beer.

The main event for me, though, was drinking Shepherd Neame Porter for the first time in about three years.

It’s a completely different beast to Fuller’s London Porter*. SN’s Porter is lighter bodied and, despite the “Winter Hop Ale” tag, I was hardly aware of any hops at all. It’s distinctly mild-like, in fact, although at 4.8%, stronger than it tastes.

If I was feeling less charitable, I might say it was a little bland, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every sip, and wasn’t even remotely tempted to try anything else all night.

It’s great that there are now pubs in London where you can drink dark beer other than Guinness. Now it would just be great if all those Young’s pubs would get the Oatmeal stout on the pumps, or at least back in bottles behind the bar.

* We had Fuller’s London Porter at the Plough in Walthamstow on Monday night. It was supposed to disappear at the end of December, but the landlord has a bit left in his cellar and assured me that Fuller’s also have more in their warehouse, which he’s going to try to get his hands on. It’s tasting very nice now it’s matured a bit more!

Pride of Spitalfields – a great little boozer

We seem to be connected again, so I can quickly post a few notes about the Pride of Spitalfields, in Shoreditch / Whitechapel.

I used to go there quite a lot, around five or six years ago. Then I changed jobs and wasn’t in the area so frequently. In fact, I don’t think I’d been there for three or four years until I visited a couple of days ago. I was delighted to find it was as friendly and welcoming as ever.

It’s interesting – if you read the reviews, lots of people contrast this “traditional east end boozer” with unfavourable comments about trendy pubs and Nathan Barley types further up the road in Shoreditch.

But actually, there are a fair few trendy types that visit this pub too (we even spotted Tracey Emin once). And that’s my favourite thing about this pub – the fact that it’s genuinely welcoming to all. They don’t care if you’re a bearded CAMRA member, a “suit”, a local trendy or even an avant-garde British artist. They don’t judge you – or at least, if they do, they don’t let on.

The beer’s great too – as well as London Pride and ESB, they also had Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, an excellent beer in excellent condition. Oh, and there’s a fire and lots of cool photos of the East End. What more could you want?

It can get crowded towards the end of the week, but it’s just far enough from the City (10 minutes walk from Liverpool Street) for it not to become unbearable.

It’s the kind of place that I’d move near so it could be my local. Easily one of my favourite pubs in London.

Notes

The Pride of Spitalfields is at 3 Heneage Street, about 10 metres off Brick Lane. For transport details and map, see the Beer in the Evening review, although please note that Shoreditch station no longer exists.

If you’re a beer enthusiast in the area, you should brave the curry touts on Brick Lane to take a look at the old Truman Brewery buildings. It’s all bars and studios now, but most of the original buildings are still intact, and it’s quite awe-inspiring to see the size of the place. And of course, there’s plenty of curry around for before or after — my favourite places are on Whitechapel High Street rather than Brick Lane itself, but I’m sure you’ll find something tasty.

Boak 

More winter warmers

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Service update: no internet in the Boak and Bailey household, so updates will be intermittent until it’s sorted. Virginmedia’s service and customer service is terrible. 

Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the winter warmers stop coming. Here are some of the good ones we’ve had in the past month or so.

Meantime Winter Warmer

Finally got hold of this one in a Sainsbury’s on the outskirts of London. Worth the trouble, as it’s very pleasant and packed full of flavours – smoke, hints of chocolate, some fruitiness. We thought it was like a smoother, milkier version of their London Porter. Bottled conditioned and 5.4%.

If you want more poetical and detailed descriptions, the Beernut has reviewed it here, and Zythophile has reviewed it here.

Anchor “Our Special Ale” 2007

This is brewed to a different recipe each winter, according to the Anchor website. The 2007 version is 5.5% and very tasty. It’s a red-black colour, with excellent head retention and full body. The aroma reminded us of pine trees and candyfloss. We noted burnt gingerbread flavours (that’s a good thing!), with some spices that were difficult to identify – possibly allspice? Nutmeg? There was also some fruitiness – a little bit like peaches. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were cranberries in it.

It had a bitter dry finish – almost certainly C-hops, but the citrus isn’t particularly pronounced.

All fantastic examples of how lots of flavour can be achieved with a *relatively* low ABV.