Bailey’s stout cravings continue

stout.gifIt’s got cold in the UK this week. I’ve even thought about crack­ing out a coat or sweater, although I’ll prob­a­bly stick to shirt sleeves until at least Decem­ber.

But it’s not like I’m ignor­ing the cold – I’ve just start­ed to drink an unusu­al amount of stout.

All the big brew­eries are wheel­ing out autumn beers, most of which seem (rather obvi­ous­ly) to be red. Despite a very nice pint of Moor Brewery’s Aval­on Autumn at the Pem­bury Tav­ern on Sun­day, it’s the thick black stuff I’m crav­ing.

It was Sam Smiths Extra Stout on Sat­ur­day (great); Meantime’s Lon­don Stout last night (flat, sweet, bor­ing); and a Guin­ness on the train back from the North this after­noon (free). A stout – even a mediocre one – is bet­ter than a blan­ket for keep­ing out the cold.

But what about when it gets real­ly cold? you’re won­der­ing. Well, that’s when the strong stouts will come out, I guess.

Old brewery building in Central London

41xxnzzymml_aa240_.jpgI’ve read before that Cen­tral Lon­don was well stocked with huge brew­ery build­ings in the 18th and 19th cen­turies, but most of them were knocked down or blown up in the Blitz. Read­ing Pevsner’s guide to the archi­tec­ture of West­min­ster, how­ev­er, I not­ed this line:

Lon­don­ers also need­ed vast sup­plies of beer and from the late C18 brew­eries became the first civil­ian fac­to­ries to be built on a giant scale. The chief sur­vivor in West­min­ster is Combe & Co.‘s hulk­ing 1830s premis­es of plain brick, N of Long Acre.

Now, I’ve walked up Long Acre twice in the last week with­out notic­ing a sin­gle “hulk­ing” brew­ery build­ing. I’ll have to look hard­er next time. Nice to know that these relics of the great age of indus­tri­al brew­ing are still there to be found, though.

Sam Smith’s Extra Stout – a good beer, all of a sudden?

ssbadge.gifI occa­sion­al­ly drink Sam Smith’s Extra Stout (the one on the pumps) when I just want a half of some­thing, and don’t fan­cy a “pure-brewed lager”. Usu­al­ly, it’s a black and fluffy white Guin­ness clone, albeit one with mar­gin­al­ly more flavour. But yes­ter­day, I had a half in the Fitzroy which knocked my socks off.

1. It didn’t seem to have been nitro smooth-flowed to death – it was still creamy, but not like some­one had put shav­ing foam on top.
2. The head was that pleas­ing tan you get on good stouts, instead of the usu­al glacial white.
3. It was warmer than usu­al (that is, sev­er­al degrees above freez­ing).
4. The body wasn’t a scary, opaque, arti­fi­cial black – it was dark red, and clear.
4. It was deli­cious: cof­fee, choco­late, a lit­tle note of sour­ness, and some salt – just per­fect, to my mind.

What’s going on? Is there a cask vari­ant which some pubs have and oth­ers don’t? (As is the case with some of Sam Smith’s bit­ters.) Or have they changed the recipe?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it’s hard to find out. The brewery’s aver­sion to “mod­ern ways” means they’re not online and don’t real­ly do press releas­es. The bar staff in the pub were none the wis­er, either. Hmm.

Pagoa post script – Zunbeltz (and style nazis)

In my post two days ago, I reviewed two Pagoa beers – now the third, “Zun­beltz”, which describes itself as a stout.

Again, this seems to get real bad reviews on Rate­beer, and I can’t real­ly see why.  It’s got bags of flavour, toast­ed malt, cof­fee and choco­late notes and a love­ly long fin­ish. This is eas­i­ly one of the tasti­est beers in Spain and would stand up very well against a British mild like Oscar Wilde.

And per­haps this style “con­fu­sion” explains the bad reviews - it hasn’t real­ly got the body to be a stout, which is what the reviews seem to focus on.

While I can’t get as worked up as some blog­gers about over­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of beer – I think it’s quite use­ful for home­brew­ing if you’re try­ing to copy a par­tic­u­lar favourite – I think in this case, it has result­ed in a good beer get­ting some very bad reviews because it’s not “true to type”.

Or alter­na­tive­ly I’ve had a taste lobot­o­my since being out here…

Any­way, it is def­i­nite­ly worth try­ing, and I won’t even qual­i­fy that with “if you’re in Spain”. 


M&S get real

norfolk_bitter.jpgIn 2006, we wrote to British super­mar­ket chain Marks and Spencers to tell them how impressed we were that they’d start­ed stock­ing some decent beer, name­ly their OK IPA and excel­lent Irish Stout.

But we also had some sug­ges­tions:

1. Real ale bores, just like seri­ous food­ies, like to know who is mak­ing their beer. The stan­dard M&S prac­tice of con­ceal­ing their sup­pli­ers didn’t enhance the appeal of the prod­uct but rather seri­ous­ly reduced it. Couldn’t they tell us who was mak­ing their booze for them, as ASDA, Sains­burys and oth­ers do?

2. Giv­en that every­thing else in their range is sup­pos­ed­ly of the finest qual­i­ty, why weren’t these beers bot­tle con­di­tioned? It seemed odd to us that they would sell hand-reared, free-range, 21-day aged beef next to pas­teurised, fil­tered beer.

I’m delight­ed to see (in the lat­est issue of What’s Brew­ing) that CAMRA were also pur­su­ing the same line of enquiry – as I’m sure were many oth­er indi­vid­ual con­sumers – and that it’s paid off. M&S are now to stock four new bot­tle-con­di­tioned beers from around the UK, each attrib­uted very clear­ly to its home brew­ery (Woodforde’s, Vale, Crop­ton and Black Hills).

Last night, I tried their Nor­folk Bit­ter (Woodforde’s) and was very impressed. Tons of cit­rusy hop flavour and aro­ma, and a love­ly thick, per­sis­tent head

Nice one, M&S, and nice one CAMRA! Now to get that fan­tas­tic Irish Stout bot­tle con­di­tioned too…