India Pale Ale in India

I stum­bled across the fas­ci­nat­ing India Brew blog yes­ter­day, and have been devour­ing their back­log of posts. This line in a post on the his­to­ry of brew­ing in India real­ly caught my eye:

Today no brew­er in India makes India Pale Ale. All Indi­an beers are either lagers (5 % alco­hol — such as Aus­tralian lager) or strong lagers (8 % alco­hol – such as the pop­u­lar MAX super strong beer). Inter­na­tion­al Brew­eries Pvt. Ltd. have recent­ly announced an inten­tion to work with Mohan Meakin to pro­duce and launch an India Pale Ale called Indi­an IPA from India’s first brew­ery at Solan.

A real Indi­an IPA would be inter­est­ing, and might (weird­ly) also increase the chances of see­ing IPA on the menu in cur­ry hous­es in the UK.

Bierfest by numbers in Don Quijote country

Boak is on tour in France and Spain.

I was extreme­ly sur­prised to see posters adver­tis­ing an Okto­ber­fest in Cuen­ca. Cuen­ca is a beau­ti­ful town in the Castille-La Man­cha region of Spain (the dry bit in the mid­dle), famous for cheese, hon­ey, cook­ing with strange bits of ani­mal… but not real­ly for its beer. A clos­er look revealed the event to be “spon­sored” (i.e. organ­ised) by Paulan­er, who have organ­ised sim­i­lar fes­ti­vals in oth­er Span­ish cities. The Cuen­ca local author­i­ties then tagged on a tapas fes­ti­val, where dif­fer­ent restau­rants and bars have stalls and offer a cou­ple of dish­es each.

Obvi­ous­ly I had to go along and have a look. It appeared to be in the car park of a hous­ing estate, with a huge Paulan­er tent dom­i­nat­ing the pro­ceed­ings (not in the pho­to). Inside was the req­ui­site oom­pah band, Paulan­er on tap, a mix­ture of Ger­man and Span­ish snacks and some tacky sou­venirs.

The out­side was def­i­nite­ly where it was at – I got the impres­sion the locals weren´t quite sure what they were sup­posed to do in the tent. They were cer­tain­ly slight­ly bemused by the band. That said, the tent was begin­ning to fill when I left, and no doubt it turned into a wild fies­ta after­wards. Per­haps.

Like the locals, I´m not sure what to make of it all. On the one hand, the com­bi­na­tion of good beer and tapas is a match made in heav­en. On the oth­er hand, this is not so much a gen­uine cul­tur­al exchange as a mass-mar­ket­ing tech­nique by Paulan­er. If you read Span­ish, here´s an arti­cle from Mar­ket­ing Mag­a­zine last year, which says that by pro­mot­ing these fes­ti­vals, Paulan­er want to devel­op the appre­ci­a­tion of beer in Spain. Well, that´s nice of them. Fun­ny that their gen­eros­i­ty doesn´t extend to pro­mot­ing beers from oth­er brew­eries. Here´s a link to the Lon­don Bier­fest, which looks iden­ti­cal.

Do we real­ly want these Iden­tik­it beer fes­ti­vals spring­ing up all over the place? Sure, I dream of a world where every town has a beer fes­ti­val – but not exact­ly the same fes­ti­val wher­ev­er you go.

Boak

The Session: Brew Zoo X2

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This month’s ses­sion is host­ed by Lyke2Drink:

Have you ever noticed how many ani­mals show up on beer labels? We have lions and tigers and bears, plus var­i­ous birds, rep­tiles, fish, assort­ed domes­ti­cat­ed and wild ani­mals, plus a few myth­i­cal crea­tures. For what­ev­er rea­son brew­ers have a tra­di­tion of brand­ing their beers using every­thing from pets to preda­tors. The Brew Zoo will cel­e­brate these lagers and ales.

A cou­ple of Ses­sions back, we dropped the ball and end­ed up review­ing Sri Lankan Lion stout instead of a local beer as we were sup­posed to. We’re mak­ing up for it this time by review­ing the beers of a local brew­ery which also hap­pen to fill an entire bird sanc­tu­ary. And with a whole bonus post about a bird-themed beer from Spain.

Cotleigh is a brew­ery based in Wivelis­combe, Som­er­set – a coun­ty most famous for being where Bai­ley was born and grew up, hence the claim to local­i­ty.

The beers in their range include Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Buz­zard and Pere­grine Porter, amongst many oth­er birds of prey.

We’ve tried them all at one time or anoth­er. Pere­grine Porter is a love­ly bot­tle con­di­tioned porter/stout, which tastes sim­i­lar to anoth­er fruity Som­er­set porter, RCH’s Old Slug. Tawny Owl is a bog-stan­dard cop­per coloured bit­ter which we drank in a pub in Beer, Dorset, ear­li­er this year whilst the locals dis­cussed their haul from the wreck of the MSC Napoli (“I got two pair of Adi­das”).

buzzard.jpgThe only one of their range we’ve got handy right now is a bot­tle of Buz­zard (thanks, Bailey’s mum and dad). It used to be called “Old Buz­zard” and is a bot­tle con­di­tioned “strong ale”, although not real­ly that strong at 4.8%. The ingre­di­ents include pale, crys­tal and choco­late malt, with Gold­ings, Fug­gles and North­down hops. It’s accent­ed towards burnt cof­fee flavours, with some Rauch­bier smok­i­ness. It matures in the bot­tle, this one tast­ing much dri­er and smok­i­er than the one from the same batch we drank in Feb­ru­ary. In the glass, it looks almost black, with a great big pil­lowy tan head which stays for­ev­er.

We guess it would go nice­ly with rich roast­ed meats… or with the big hunks of rot­ting flesh we’ll be feed­ing Cotleigh Buz­zard in the Ses­sion zoo.

And, just in case we’re strug­gling to get a full set of ani­mals for the Brew Zoo, Cotleigh’s Christ­mas beer is the cheesi­ly named Rein­beer. Groan.

We got our bot­tle of Buz­zard from the excel­lent spe­cial­ist beer shop Open Bot­tles, in Bridg­wa­ter, Som­er­set (01278 459666).

++ STOP PRESSBONUS POST FROM BOAK, OUR CORRESPONDENT IN SPAIN ++

My con­tri­bu­tion from Spain is “Aguila” (eagle) from Ams­tel. I think this is still part of the Heineken group.

Two years ago in ¡diz (south west Spain) we ordered a cou­ple of cañas and were tak­en aback by the tasti­ness of the beer – in con­trast to the usu­al refresh­ing but bland fizz, this stuff had real body and flavour, rather like Meantime’s much lament­ed “Gold­en Beer”. We asked what it was, but because my Span­ish was pret­ty crap then, I could only make out “a-GEE-la” or some­thing like that. The next round he brought us some­thing dif­fer­ent.

A few days lat­er, we spot­ted Águila (from Ams­tel) on tap (that´s AH-geela, a sub­tle pro­nun­ci­a­tion dif­fer­ence, pos­si­bly?), and obvi­ous­ly went for it. It was the usu­al bland fizz.

We couldn´t work out what had hap­pened. Was it actu­al­ly Águila we had in ¡diz? Was the stuff in this cafe just not right?

To this day, it is still a mys­tery. ´ve had plen­ty of drinks from an Águila tap but wouldn´t say there was any­thing spe­cial about it. Now, ´m not sure that there is a beer called Águila pro­duced any­more – it´s not men­tioned on Amstel´s offi­cial site, nor can you find it in bot­tles. But the pumps are quite cool, with a big eagle on top, so it´s not incon­ceiv­able that land­lords decid­ed to keep the pumps even if the spe­cif­ic prod­uct no longer exists.

I do still won­der what it was we had in Cadíz that day, because it was def­i­nite­ly dif­fer­ent. I can´t think of any oth­er beers that sound like “ah-GEE-la”, so I won­der if it was one of the last bar­rels of the old stuff? To fur­ther com­pli­cate things, I believe Águila was actu­al­ly a brand tak­en over by Ams­tel, so maybe it was the orig­i­nal, which has now been replaced by the bor­ing Dutch brew?

We might nev­er know. Unless any of you guys can help…?

Weird cider/beer hybrid

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The lat­est issue of Mar­ket­ing mag­a­zine brings news of the launch of an appalling-sound­ing half-beer/half-cider chimera from one of the big inter­na­tion­al brew­ers. It’s made with cider, bar­ley malt and “sparkling water”. I can’t be both­ered to give this foul-sound­ing prod­uct any pub­lic­i­ty by nam­ing it… so I won’t.

The inter­est­ing thing is that they claim to have devised the prod­uct based on research which shows that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of women “don’t like beer and dis­trust the qual­i­ty of wine in bars”.

For one thing, I’m not sure that the log­i­cal con­clu­sion from that research is: “I bet those same women would just love a weird cider-beer hybrid!”

But I’d also observe, para­phras­ing their line, that there are many peo­ple of both gen­ders who “don’t like wine, and dis­trust the qual­i­ty of real ale in pubs”, which explains the pop­u­lar­i­ty of bland lagers and Guin­ness in the UK. Too often, the choice is between a cor­po­rate prod­uct which is bor­ing but con­sis­tent, and a “real” prod­uct which stinks, tastes bad and looks bad because it’s not been well looked after. You can’t blame peo­ple for going down the bland route when that’s the choice.

In both cas­es, the solu­tion is prob­a­bly cam­paign­ing to improve the qual­i­ty of the wine, beer, cider, whisky or what­ev­er, in bars and pubs.

One way to do that would be for CAMRA to make the cri­te­ria for get­ting into their Good Beer Guide slight­ly more strict. At the moment, as far as I can tell, it lists every pub with any kind of cask ale on offer, although they say “only pubs with a con­sis­tent­ly high stan­dard of real ale are con­sid­ered for entry”. Sad­ly, my expe­ri­ence has been that quite a few unwel­com­ing, grot­ty, smelly pubs get in because they’ve got an old, rank cask of Greene King IPA on one pump at the bar.