Here’s everything that’s grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from seismic industry movements to historic lagers.
For starters, there’s been quite a bit of news from the US.
Brooklyn Brewery has sold a 24.5% stake to Japanese firm Kirin — just under the US Brewers’ Association threshold for deciding what percentage of outside ownership disqualifies a brewery as ‘independent’, funnily enough.
We got to all of this news via Jason Notte (@Notteham) who also offers commentary on Brooklyn. Whether this is the cataclysmic ‘shake out’ people have been prophesying (hoping for?) remains to be seen but it certainly feels as if some big plates are shifting.
Sue [Hayward of Waen Brewery] and Gazza[[Prescott] from Hopcraft had a bit of a go at Cloudwater, for lack of a better word… The gist of Gazza and Sue’s argument seemed to be: we can’t sell our beer because of Cloudwater. Can it be that simple? Maybe, just maybe, Cloudwater are giving the market what it wants? The beers sell easily?
This is a fun way to spend an evening, although it can interfere with your sleep. Using the same cheese line up as first time, we tried each against a couple of contrasting beers, namely Brooklyn’s East India Pale Ale, and Sam Smith’s Imperial Stout.
The goat’s cheese didn’t really work with either — it accentuated the bitterness (at the expense of the malt) in the pale ale and killed the roastiness of the imperial stout. The cheap camembert didn’t make a dent in the imperial stout’s flavour but brought out a little sweetness in the Brooklyn. However, the beer made the cheese taste like rubber. We had hopes that the imperial stout would be a good match for the Roquefort and it did stand up to it, but again, lost some roasty flavour. The Roquefort made the pale ale harsher and more bitter. So – we’re still looking for a good match for this one.
The best match for both beers was actually the boring cheddar. It made the East India Pale Ale more balanced (we’re fans of the beer but think the hops are a little too grassy and dominant) and it intensified the flavours of the imperial stout.
What could be more fitting for our continuing beer and cheese adventures than to try a special beer from the man who inspired us in the first place?
Brooklyn Local 1 is bottle-conditioned (and a very nice bottle it is, too). The Brooklyn Brewery website describes it as “a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude and a dusting of our special yeast” and it lives up to this. It is Duvel-like in its mouthfeel and drinkability, with a sweet orange flavour giving way to a spicy aftertaste. It’s jolly good.
We tried pairing it with a range of cheses. A posh, rather gooey camembert from our local deli made it sweeter and reminded us of Hoegaarden Grand Cru, accentuating the spice. A very nice Wensleydale complemented the spice, but was overpowered by the beer very easily. Our difficult-to-match Oxford Blue was OK, but made the beer taste much less complex.
The overall winner (in fact, the best beer and cheese match we’ve had yet) was the aptly named Stinking Bishop. This rind-washed cult classic made the beer much more intense and full-bodied, while the beer brought out the creaminess in the cheese and helped to downplay its challenging odour. Marvellous. There’s something in this cheese and beer business after all.
We’ve been wanting to try this ever since we first read about it. We’ve often wondered what a hoppier Weizen would be like, and we were also intrigued by the collaboration idea. Brooklyn and Schneider worked together to produce “a blend of Bavarian craftmanship and American ingenuity”. We managed to get our paws on both the Brooklyn variant and the Schneider version, and thought it would be fun to compare the two.
Unfortunately, the Brooklyn version exploded all over our carpet. What we managed to catch looked pretty odd. It was extremely yeasty, and an odd green-yellow colour, possibly from the dry hopping. It tasted… well, pretty foul, actually. Like hop tea. We’re assuming that we got an off bottle. It was all hefe, with maybe a bit of hop dust floating around in it for good measure.
We turned back to better-behaved Schneider variant, hoping it would taste as good as it looked. It didn’t really work either, sadly. The hop flavours clash with the banana-yeast and make it quite difficult to drink — we found it rather soapy and harsh.
Nonetheless, we’d encourage people who haven’t tried it to give it a go, especially if you’ve a high tolerance for bitterness. It’s the kind of beer people will either love or hate.
Update: Boak has decided it ‘tastes like rhubarb — it makes your teeth go funny’. Make of that what you will.
From reading US beer blogs, I get the impression that pumpkin beers are quite big over there. Apparently, the early Colonists turned to pumpkins to bulk out the barley, or something like that. At any rate, they’re a novelty over here.
We picked up Post Road Pumpkin Ale at Beer Exposed. It’s in the Brooklyn Brewery’s line of historic ales, so it’s branded a little differently. The overwhelming smell was spices (cinnamon and nutmeg at a guess). Unfortunately, what was a lovely smell translated into a rather unbalanced beer — really quite acrid from all the spice, with a thin body.
So we weren’t expecting a lot from Hall & Woodhouse’s seasonal Pumpkin Ale. We’re not massive fans of the Badger brewery products, particularly their “flavoured” beers, and particularly when they’re not fresh. This one had been sitting in our stash for around nine months, so the omens weren’t good. Well, that just goes to show how wrong you can be, as this is a lovely beer. Interestingly, it smelled of bananas, and the flavour was a bit like a less sickly, slightly spicier weissbier but with an ale-like mouthfeel and condition. And it was in excellent condition too, despite filtering, pasteurisation and our idiosyncratic cellaring methods. At 4.6%, it’s a bit weaker than the Brooklyn effort, but had a great rocky, long-lasting head. Excellent stuff, highly recommended.