News, Nuggets and Longreads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019

Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that struck us as noteworthy in the past week, from AB-InBev to Samuel Smith.

Hol­lie at Globe Hops, a UK beer blog that’s new to us, recent­ly went back to Not­ting­ham where she stud­ied and noticed that many of her favourite pubs had tons more choice in their beer ranges, but some­how less char­ac­ter:

My brow fur­rowed. I strug­gled to artic­u­late how it felt to me like some­thing had been lost from the place, even though all that had real­ly hap­pened was that more options had been added. I’d loved the pub for pre­cise­ly its niche; the reli­a­bil­i­ty of excel­lent­ly kept Cas­tle Rock ales, the chance to try the brewery’s sea­son­al ranges, and guest ales from oth­er small local brew­eries, such as the fan­tas­tic Spring­head. But now there was a smor­gas­bord of choice that was almost dizzy­ing. I quick­ly realised the prob­lem; were it not for the recog­nis­able brick walls and beams lov­ing­ly dec­o­rat­ed with pump labels, I could be any­where. The pub had retained its charm, but the bar choice had lost its accent.

(Via Peter McK­er­ry | @PeterMcKerry.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets and Lon­greads 23 March 2019: Choice, Cycles, Cask 2019”

Q&A: Which Classics Might I Have Missed?

I was drink­ing a bot­tle of Prop­er Job yes­ter­day and think­ing about how I only start­ed buy­ing it after read­ing your blog. Lat­er, I drank some Beaver­town Gam­ma Ray and Mag­ic Rock Can­non­ball and won­dered if, by drink­ing fan­cy craft beers usu­al­ly mod­elled on Amer­i­can style, I was miss­ing some­thing. Can you rec­om­mend any peren­ni­al British beers, the kind of thing you per­haps take for grant­ed but that might have been over­looked by peo­ple who’ve only come to love beer since craft real­ly took off?”* – Bren­dan, Leeds

That’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion and, let’s face it, exact­ly the kind of thing we semi-pro­fes­sion­al beer bores dream of being asked.

To pre­vent our­selves going on for 5,000 words we’re going to set a lim­it of five beers, and stick to those avail­able in bot­tles, although we’ll men­tion where there’s a cask ver­sion and if it’s bet­ter. We’re also going to avoid the temp­ta­tion to list his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant beers that we don’t actu­al­ly like all that much – those list­ed below are beers we buy reg­u­lar­ly and actu­al­ly enjoy drink­ing.

Four strong Harvey's bottled beers.

1. Har­vey’s Impe­r­i­al Extra Stout is a big, intim­i­dat­ing­ly flavour­some, heavy met­al tour of a beer that makes a lot of trendi­er inter­pre­ta­tions look tame. It was first brewed in the 1990s to a his­tor­i­cal­ly inspired recipe. We did­n’t used to like it – it was too intense for us, and some peo­ple reck­on it smells too funky– but now, it’s kind of a bench­mark: if your exper­i­men­tal £22 a bot­tle lim­it­ed edi­tion impe­r­i­al stout does­n’t taste mad­der and/or bet­ter than this, why are you wast­ing our time? It’s avail­able from Har­vey’s own web store.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Q&A: Which Clas­sics Might I Have Missed?”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 16 Jan 2016

These are the beer-related blog posts and articles that caught our attention in the last seven days, from low-alcohol beer to the eccentricity of Samuel Smith’s.

→ There have been lots of arti­cles ques­tion­ing the UK Gov­ern­men­t’s new alco­hol con­sump­tion guide­lines most of which, frankly, we’ve ignored as seem­ing shrill and defen­sive. This crit­i­cal take-down from Adam ‘The Stats Guy’ Jacob, how­ev­er, seems pret­ty well bal­anced and, cru­cial­ly, offers a text­book exam­ple of how to dis­close poten­tial bias­es. (Via @PhilMellows.)

→ Those of you unable to drink for med­ical rea­sons, dur­ing preg­nan­cy, because you’re the des­ig­nat­ed dri­ver, or just because you fan­cy giv­ing your innards a break, will be inter­est­ed in Tony Nay­lor’s round-up of the best alco­hol free beers for the Guardian. Con­ven­tion­al wis­dom is ‘Don’t both­er!’ but Mr Nay­lor found a cou­ple of decent con­tenders:

The lemo­ny, herbal saaz hop flavours that dis­tin­guish Czech pil­sners shine through remark­ably well. OK, it tastes card­boardy at the back, but this has more char­ac­ter than many alco­holic big-brand lagers. Shock­ing­ly good.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 16 Jan 2016”

Sam Smith Hits London, 1978

Samuel Smith Brew­ery pubs are a pos­i­tive fix­ture in Lon­don today but 40 years ago, there weren’t any.

Samuel Smith Brewery pubs are a positive fixture in London today but 40 years ago, there weren’t any.

We’ve often won­dered exact­ly how they came to have such a sub­stan­tial estate in the cap­i­tal and had gath­ered that it was a rel­a­tive­ly recent devel­op­ment. Now, thanks to a recent­ly acquired July 1978 edi­tion of the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s What’s Brew­ing news­pa­per, we have all the details. The sto­ry is enti­tled ‘Sam Smith Rapped for “Own Beer” Pub’:

Samuel Smith, the York­shire brew­ers, have run into angry oppo­si­tion to their plans for alter­ing their first ever Greater Lon­don pub.

The Tudor Close in Peter­sham Road, Rich­mond, is a favourite local ale house serv­ing such brews as Wad­worth, Felin­foel, Arkells and Brak­s­pear.

But now its new own­ers want to make big alter­ations to both the out­side and inte­ri­or… and replace the wide range of beers with Old Brew­ery Bit­ter, their only real ale.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Sam Smith Hits Lon­don, 1978”

Unlikely Wow Factor


It’s been a while since a beer delighted us, without quibbles and caveats.

That’s how life goes, of course: most beers – or films, books, cakes, or what­ev­er – are absolute­ly fine with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly trig­ger­ing swoon­ing fits.

But still, we have made an effort to try a few new beers late­ly, hop­ing to find a gem, and placed orders with Beer Mer­chants and Beer Ritz with that in mind.

Mul­ti­ple IPAs and US-style pale ales from British brew­eries, how­ev­er, trig­gered the same reac­tion: “It’s fine, but noth­ing to write home about.” (Or, rather, to write a blog post about.) Grassi­ness; occa­sion­al­ly yeast­i­ness; one-dimen­sion­al­i­ty… none gave us chills.

Maybe we’re just tired of beers which are all about hops, though, because  the two beers that did cause us to sit up straight, includ­ed to make up the num­bers in our order from Beer Ritz, are mem­bers of the stout fam­i­ly: Samuel Smith’s Tad­dy Porter and the same brew­ery’s Impe­r­i­al Stout.

Now, these beers are by no means new to us, or to any­one else. When we used to drink in Lon­don, hard­ly a week went by with­out a bot­tle or two of the for­mer, while the lat­ter, being rar­er, was a beer we would go out of our way to find. (Tip: the Dover Cas­tle, Wey­mouth Mews, always seems to have it.)

And Sam Smith’s is not a trendy brew­ery, nor even very like­able – some­thing which, being human, can influ­ence our opin­ions.

The taste, though! In both cas­es, the word that springs to mind is lus­cious, and both share a tongue-coat­ing, silky, for­ti­fied wine feel in the mouth.

Tad­dy Porter (5%, £2.62 per 550ml) is the kind of beer that we would like to be able to drink more often on draught, in the pub. Just over the line from brown into a black, and a notch beyond ses­sion­able, it is bold­ly flavoured with­out being atten­tion-seek­ing, the empha­sis being on flavours of sweet­ened cocoa and plum­my, dark berries. If you’ve ever soaked dried fruit overnight in black tea as a cake ingre­di­ent, you’ll get the idea. Per­haps the best bot­tled porter on the mar­ket today?

Impe­r­i­al Stout (£2.16 per 355ml) makes more sense as a ‘dou­ble stout’ – not so dark and heavy as to insist on a fan­cy glass, a smok­ing jack­et and the undi­vid­ed atten­tion of the drinker, but per­fect for nights when you want just one beer before bed. The flavour is some­where between choco­late brown­ie and Christ­mas pud­ding, with just a sug­ges­tion of some­thing bright and green, like goose­ber­ry, ring­ing in the back­ground. Res­o­lu­tion: we should always have some of this in the house.

The source of the ‘wow’ in both beers is hard to pin down. Our best guess is that, being clean­ly and sim­ply made, with­out a fog of off-flavours and con­fu­sion, the flavours of dark malt and dark brew­ing sug­ars are real­ly allowed to shine through, in instant­ly grat­i­fy­ing fash­ion. But that’s just a guess, and there’s not much point in ask­ing Mr Smith to elab­o­rate.

Like the 60-year-old we once saw steal the show in a night­club by per­form­ing a series of expert line danc­ing manoeu­vres across the cen­tre of the dance floor, one of these beers in par­tic­u­lar – Tad­dy Porter – has made itself a con­tender for our beer of the year, in the unlike­ly com­pa­ny of Mag­ic Rock/Lervig Farm­house IPA and Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Bel­gian Con­spir­a­cy. We’ll sched­ule a prop­er taste-off for Decem­ber.