Out of the loop

A milk carton of IPA.

I ended up sat in Bottles & Books on my own on Friday night, hovering around the edge of a conversation about beer that made me feel totally ignorant and out of touch.

Bot­tles & Books is our local craft beer phan­tas­mago­ri­um, with fridges full of cans, a wall of bot­tles, and a few taps of draught beer served by the third and two-thirds mea­sure.

On Fri­day, the dis­cus­sion turned to IPA, and it was when I heard this sen­tence that I knew I was out of my depth:

Brut IPA died a death fair­ly quick­ly, did­n’t it? And NEIPA just tastes a bit… old fash­ioned. It’s all about the Hud­son Val­ley style now.

Hud­son Val­ley? Is that a region? Yes, but it’s also a brew­ery, as pro­filed in this arti­cle, which has a head­line appar­ent­ly designed to annoy con­ser­v­a­tive beer geeks who already think brew­ing has been fatal­ly com­pro­mised by the ama­teur ten­den­cy:

Hud­son Val­ley Brew­ery Makes Beer Based on Instinct, not Instruc­tions

Sour IPA is, I gath­er, the long and short of it, and sure enough, when Jess and I went to the Left Hand­ed Giant tap­room yes­ter­day, there was one on the menu.

We gave up try­ing to stay on top of trends years ago but there was some­thing intox­i­cat­ing about all this new infor­ma­tion, all the names and details, that made me think… Should we try?

The odd edu­ca­tion­al eaves­drop­ping ses­sion prob­a­bly would­n’t do us any harm, at least.

Pub Life: Never Too Old

Two men, brothers perhaps, both at least 60-years-old, approach the craft beer bar hesitantly.

This is it.”

He said it was good, did he?”

Yeah, he’s in here all the time with his uni­ver­si­ty mates. Hold up, before we go in, look, there’s a beer menu.”

A beer menu?”

He picks up the binder and turns it in his hands, bewil­dered, as if the very form is alien to him. He opens it and begins to scan the pages with a fin­ger­tip.

These are all beers, are they? Pas­sion fruit… Cher­ry…  They can’t be beers.”

Give us a look. Yeah, look, it says here: fruit beers.”

They’ve actu­al­ly got fruit in them? Bloody hell. I don’t… What’s this… Two-thirds? Is that two-thirds of a litre or what?”

I don’t know, mate. I don’t… I’ll just go in and get some­thing. I’ll work it out.”

Just get me what­ev­er, I don’t mind, what­ev­er’s eas­i­est.”

When the for­ager returns it is with two half-pint stem glass­es, one full of red beer, the oth­er pink.

I just got two small ones to start with. Er… I might have made a huge tac­ti­cal error.”

How d’y­ou mean?”

They’re both sour beers. she says.”

What, delib­er­ate­ly?”

I think so.”

They both sip.


I was­n’t expect­ing…”

No, I did­n’t think…”

It’s clever, innit? The way they… How it…”

It’s like the sour­ness makes it taste more fruity.”

And it’s sort of… bal­anced out, is it? If you know what I mean. By the sweet­ness.”



They just bare­ly clink their glass­es in a qui­et dis­play of tri­umph before con­ver­sa­tion turns to foot­ball.

Magical Mystery Pour #9: LoverBeer Madamin

The latest batch of Magical Mystery Pour beers was chosen for us by The Beer Nut (@thebeernut) and what connects them is that they are all, in his words, ‘geek bait’.

Magical Mystery Pour logo.We sug­gest­ed sev­er­al online retail­ers to The Beer Nut and he select­ed from the range on offer at Beer Gonzo:

  • Lover­Beer Beer­Bera
  • Lover­Beer Madamin
  • Trou­ba­dour West­kust
  • Trou­ba­dour Mag­ma Triple Spiked Brett
  • Bel­l’s Two-Heart­ed

We decid­ed to start with the low­est ABV beer, Madamin, from Ital­ian brew­ery Lover­beer, at 6.2%. It is described as an oak-aged amber ale in the Bel­gian tra­di­tion. It came in a 330ml bot­tle which cost – are you sit­ting down? – £13.50.

We’re going to talk about val­ue at the end but first we tried to react to the beer itself, putting all that oth­er stuff out of our minds. Did we like how it tast­ed; and why, or why not?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour #9: Lover­Beer Madamin”

Magical Mystery Pour #2: Tzatziki Sour

Magical Mystery Pour logo.The second beer suggested to us by Dina (read about the first here) is Tzatziki Sour by Liverpool’s Mad Hatter Brewery.

She says:

Many peo­ple con­sid­ered this their beer of the year.  It was def­i­nite­ly up there for me.  Again, it does what it says on the bot­tle- it tastes just like tzatzi­ki.  I’ve only had a few cucum­ber beers in my life, but I have no idea how brew­ers man­age to get such flavour from a veg­etable that real­ly does­n’t have much flavour. You just HAVE to drink this beer. I rec­om­mend you blend it with a kebab in your face.

This is what we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly referred to as a Jel­ly Bel­ly Jel­ly Bean beer: a beer designed to taste as close as pos­si­ble to anoth­er food­stuff alto­geth­er. It’s safe to say that if you have an objec­tion to this type of beer and/or you don’t like tzatzi­ki, you won’t like this one.

The bot­tle opened with an jet-pow­ered hiss and gave off an imme­di­ate­ly famil­iar aro­ma. Guess what it smelled like? No, go on, guess! Yes, that’s right: tzatzi­ki! That is, most­ly of cucum­ber, with a touch of dusty dried mint, and a high note of acid funk. (Side note: the label would prob­a­bly work as the cov­er for an acid funk LP.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Pour #2: Tzatzi­ki Sour”

King Street Revisited

Shnoodlepip from the cask.

Last Christmas, we found ourselves on King Street in Bristol, and were astonished to note that it had become home to three self-styled ‘craft beer’ outlets. We subsequently used it as a symbol of ‘the rebirth of British beer’ in the prologue of Brew Britannia.

Back then, Small Bar had only just opened, and, even though there was an excit­ing sense of com­mit­ment to ‘the cause’, it was obvi­ous­ly still find­ing its feet, serv­ing flat kegged beer, some of it poor­ly cho­sen in the first place, amidst paint fumes and an air of mild pan­ic.

Last Sun­day, we broke the jour­ney back from Birm­ing­ham and braved a night in Bris­tol to check on its progress.

While the Famous Roy­al Naval Vol­un­teer across the road was gloomy and most­ly emp­ty, Small Bar, was buzzing.

A mini-fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the Wild Beer Co. (who also get a third of a chap­ter in Brew Bri­tan­nia…) and British sour beers more gen­er­al­ly was under­way, and the chalked-up beer list, with clear­ly-stat­ed prices, looked espe­cial­ly entic­ing.

Hav­ing missed it entire­ly last year, and at the Birm­ing­ham Beer Bash on Sat­ur­day, we start­ed off with Shnoodlepip (6.5%), WBC’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mark Tran­ter and Kel­ly Ryan, in its 2014 iter­a­tion. It was avail­able from straight-up keg and also from an oak cask, so we got a half of each to com­pare. We did­n’t detect much dif­fer­ence except that the for­mer was (sur­prise!) cool­er and had bet­ter con­di­tion. The bar­man promised def­i­nite oak­i­ness, but we did­n’t get it. Over­all, there was some­thing of the hedgerow wine about it. It’s taste­ful­ly done, and cer­tain­ly tasty, but not a rev­e­la­tion.

Som­er­set Wild (5%), also from WBC, was more to our taste. When we spoke to Brett Ellis and Andrew Coop­er last sum­mer, they were still work­ing up to using actu­al wild yeast as opposed to bought-in cul­tures. This pil­sner-pale, appetis­ing­ly hazy, goose­ber­ry-wine of a beer is evi­dence that what­ev­er’s on the breeze in Som­er­set isn’t just good for fer­ment­ing scrumpy. The head dis­ap­peared quick­ly, but the beer had plen­ty of life, and felt tra­di­tion­al, like the kind of thing farm labour­ers in Thomas Hardy nov­els might have enjoyed. A con­tender for beer of the year, if we can find the oppor­tu­ni­ty to try it again.

While we were on a streak of find­ing long-cov­et­ed beers with a vague Brew Bri­tan­nia con­nec­tion, we were also pleased to encounter  Lovi­bond’s Sour Grapes (5.4%). (Jeff Rosen­meier of Lovi­bond’s is quot­ed in the book, as a pas­sion­ate and elo­quent crit­ic of cask-con­di­tion­ing.) We were expect­ing, per­haps, indi­ges­tion-induc­ing FEEL THE BURN sour­ness, so were pleased to find it a clean-but-com­plex, sum­mery beer which we could hap­pi­ly spend a long ses­sion drink­ing. “Lemon cheese­cake” reads the only note we took all after­noon.

Almost every­thing inter­est­ing was £6+ a pint, so it’s not a cheap place to drink, but staff were gen­er­ous with sam­ples, and we did­n’t feel like any of the beers we bought were bad val­ue, inso­far as, scarci­ty aside, they were gen­uine­ly dif­fer­ent to any­thing on offer at any of our local pubs.

This was a fun after­noon ses­sion in a bar which is in the process of becom­ing great, and where we felt very at ease. We’ll be back.

Brett Ellis, head brew­er at WBC, also hap­pened to be there, deliv­er­ing a talk to a crowd of fans – was ever there a time when more lec­tures were giv­en in British drink­ing estab­lish­ments?