News, Nuggets and Longreads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Better Lager

Here’s all the news, commentary and thinking about beer that’s seized our attention in the past week, from Berlin to Peckham, via Huddersfield.

First, some inter­est­ing news: Brew­Dog has acquired the brew­ery Amer­i­can out­fit Stone launched in Berlin a few years ago. Stone says Ger­mans didn’t take to their beer or brand; Brew­Dog, which already has a bar in the city, cites a need for a post-Brex­it con­ti­nen­tal brew­ing baseJeff Alworth offers com­men­tary.


Close-up of the CAMRA logo from the 1984 Good Beer Guide.

It’s fit­ting that the new lead­er­ship at the Cam­paign for Real Ale should use an inter­view by vet­er­an beer writer Roger Protz as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a state­ment of intent:

Nik [Antona] and Tom [Stain­er] are quick to point out that a pro­pos­al to allow CAMRA beer fes­ti­vals to include key kegs was sup­port­ed by the nec­es­sary major­i­ty and many fes­ti­vals are now sup­port­ing this change.

A num­ber of fes­ti­vals have key kegs with expla­na­tions that are not dog­mat­ic about the dif­fer­ent ways beer can be served. I accept that we’ve poor about explain­ing this in the past,” Tom says. “We need to rep­re­sent all pub­go­ers.”

We may revis­it Revi­tal­i­sa­tion in a few years,” Nik adds, “but in real­i­ty we’re doing it now. Younger peo­ple are drink­ing cask but they want to try dif­fer­ent things – they want to drink good beer but not nec­es­sar­i­ly from casks.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 06 April 2019: Berlin, Brett, Bet­ter Lager”

Barclay’s Russian Imperial Stout, 1970

Last night we sat down and, with due reverence (radio off, notebooks out) drank a bottle of 47-year-old Barclay’s (Courage) Russian Imperial Stout. And it was great.

The last very elder­ly bot­tle of RIS we got to try was at the spe­cial­ist cafe Kul­mi­na­tor in Antwerp where we paid some­thing like €18 for a rel­ic from 1983. This new old bot­tle was found by Bai­ley at a car boot sale in Som­er­set and cost a much more rea­son­able £1.50.

The sell­er was an elder­ly bloke who had worked at Courage in the 1960s and 70s and said, ‘A mate of mine called me down to the cel­lars in the brew­ery at Tow­er Bridge one day where he’d found a stash of this every­one had for­got­ten about. He used to drink a bot­tle every morn­ing before his shift start­ed.’ This bot­tle, he said, was part of his own employ­ee allowance that he’d nev­er got round to drink­ing.

The cap of our bottle of RIS.

Hav­ing been stored who knows where for almost half a cen­tu­ry, and then left on paste tables in the sun for who knows how sum­mer boot sales, we did­n’t have high expec­ta­tions for our bot­tle’s con­di­tion. There was the usu­al hes­i­ta­tion when the time came to apply open­er to cap – should we save it? But the answer to that ques­tion is gen­er­al­ly ‘No’, and even more so when nuclear mis­siles are whizzing about on the oth­er side of the world. So, one, two, three, and…

There was a smart snap and an assertive ‘Shush!’ Pour­ing it was easy enough, the yeast hav­ing fused with the bot­tle over the course of decades. We were left with a glass con­tain­ing about 160ml of beer topped with a thick, sta­ble head of sand coloured foam.

The aro­ma it threw up was immense, almost sneeze-induc­ing­ly spicy, and unmis­tak­ably ‘Bret­ty’.

The foam in the glass.

Odd­ly, per­haps, the Brett did­n’t seem to car­ry over into the taste, or at least not in the ways our fair­ly lim­it­ed expe­ri­ence (most­ly Orval and Har­vey’s take on RIS) has led us to expect. It was­n’t dry or chal­leng­ing­ly funky. But per­haps it was sim­ply that it was in bal­ance, blend­ed and meld­ed with the rock sol­id bit­ter­ness.

The tex­ture was like cream, the taste like the dark­est choco­late you can imag­ine, with no hint of the sher­ry char­ac­ter we’d assumed was all-but inevitable in old beers. It was just won­der­ful – more sub­tle and smoother than Har­vey’s, the near­est com­par­i­son, and over­whelm­ing­ly deep.

What amazed us most was how fresh it tast­ed, and how alive it seemed. If you’d told us it was brewed last year, we would­n’t doubt you. (Dis­claimer: such is the dodgy prove­nance of the bot­tle, we can’t say for sure it was­n’t brewed last year.)

Two hours lat­er, Boak sighed dream­i­ly: ‘I’m still tast­ing it.’

Beer as expe­ri­ence indeed.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 4 February 2017: Lexicography, St Louis, Ateliers

Here’s all the beer and pub writing that grabbed our attention in the past seven days from different ways to say you’re bladdered to mysteries of the American palate.

First, for the BBC’s cul­ture pages, lex­i­cog­ra­ph­er and broad­cast­er Susie Dent con­sid­ers the 3,000 words in the Eng­lish lan­guage to describe being drunk:

The con­coc­tions those knights dis­pensed fill an even rich­er lex­i­con, veer­ing from the euphemistic ‘tiger’s milk’ to the bla­tant invi­ta­tion of ‘strip-me-naked’. Add those to the 3,000 words Eng­lish cur­rent­ly holds for the state of being drunk (includ­ing ‘ram­squad­dled’, ‘obfus­ti­cat­ed’, ‘tight as a tick’, and the curi­ous ‘been too free with Sir Richard’) and you’ll find that the only sub­jects that fill the pages of Eng­lish slang more are mon­ey and sex.

(But has she quite got that bit on Bride-ale right?)


Barmen pouring IPAs.
SOURCE: Jeff Alworth/Beervana

These next two posts need to be read as one piece. First, Jeff Alworth argues – per­sua­sive­ly, we think – that the rea­son IPAs are so dom­i­nant in US craft beer is because it’s the first beer style Amer­i­cans can real­ly call their own, like jazz and com­ic books:

Amer­i­cans are find­ing their palates, which is a sign of matu­ri­ty. This is not a new point here at the blog, but it’s becom­ing more point­ed. When a coun­try devel­ops its own beer cul­ture, diver­si­ty declines. This is why Bel­gian and British ales don’t taste the same, nor Czech and Ger­man lagers. Amer­i­cans have found their groove, and it is lined with the residue of sticky yel­low lupulin.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 4 Feb­ru­ary 2017: Lex­i­cog­ra­phy, St Louis, Ate­liers”

Goose Island Brewery Yard Stock Pale Ale

A meticulously recreated 19th Century pale ale produced with the close involvement of beer historian Ron Pattinson? Yes please.

As with the Fuller’s Past Mas­ters beers, there was nev­er a momen­t’s doubt that we had to taste Goose Island Brew­ery Yard, but the talked-about price – £20 for a 750ml bot­tle – did give us a momen­t’s pause. For­tu­nate­ly, when we asked around for where it could actu­al­ly be bought (lots was giv­en away as, essen­tial­ly, mar­ket­ing bling) we were point­ed toward Clap­ton Craft who had it at a much more rea­son­able £12 a bot­tle. We ordered two, along with some oth­er inter­est­ing stuff to jus­ti­fy the postage, intend­ing to drink one now and leave the oth­er for at least a cou­ple of years.

Brewery Yard in the glass: beer foam.

First, putting aside mat­ters of his­to­ry, expec­ta­tion and indus­try pol­i­tics, how is it as a beer? The aro­ma is unmis­tak­ably ‘Bret­ty’, which is to say very like Orval. (It’s a dif­fer­ent strain of Bret­tanomyces, appar­ent­ly, but, until we’ve had more prac­tice, the dis­tinc­tion seems lost on us.) There’s also some­thing like hot sug­ar. In the glass, it looks like an extreme­ly pret­ty bit­ter, at the bur­nished end of brown, topped of with a thick but loose head of white. The taste was remark­ably inter­est­ing with, once again, Orval as the only real ref­er­ence point: Brew­ery Yard is thin­ner, dri­er and lighter-bod­ied despite a high­er ABV (8.4%). There was some­thing wine-like about it – a sug­ges­tion of acid­i­ty, per­haps, or of fruit skins? There was also a strong brown sug­ar tang, as if a cube or two had been dis­solved and stirred in. That’s a flavour we’ve come across before, in two of the Fuller’s Past Mas­ters beers – 1966 Strong Ale and 1914 Strong X – and not one we’re all that keen on. So, as a beer, we did­n’t love it whole­heart­ed­ly, and prob­a­bly would­n’t spend £12 on anoth­er bot­tle.

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Too Fancy to Drink: Gadd’s Russian Imperial Stout

These two bottles have been sitting on the shelf since March 2015, throbbing with sinister energy like the crate containing the Ark in the first Indiana Jones film. Last night, we decided to vanquish them.

They are non-iden­ti­cal twins – the same base beer (a 12% ABV his­toric homage) with two treat­ments, one aged in bour­bon bar­rels, the oth­er giv­en a dose of Bret­tanomyces lam­bi­cus.

We did­n’t buy these but we weren’t sent them by the brew­ery, either: when he worked at Beer Mer­chants, Phil Lowry snuck them into one of our orders as a bonus. His advice at the time was (a) to be care­ful with the Bret­tanomyces-spiked ver­sion and (b) to try blend­ing them.

Even with­out any chill­ing Brett, as we’ll call him, was no trou­ble at all. He hissed but did­n’t gush, and gave us a thick, steady caramel-coloured foam. It smelled exact­ly like Har­vey’s Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stout, which is per­haps not that sur­pris­ing, and in our book a high com­pli­ment.

We should put the oth­er one in a dif­fer­ent glass so we don’t get them mixed up. Use the St Bernar­dus one. Because Bernard. Bernard Matthews. Turkey. Wild Turkey.’

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Too Fan­cy to Drink: Gadd’s Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stout”