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Category Archives: beer

To Toast the Games

So, this evening we get the start of the greatest show on earth. It really doesn’t seem like seven years ago that we found out that the UK would be hosting the Olympic games. And while there has been a lot of cynicism with regards to the sponsors and LOCOG, I do genuinely believe that it’s something we can all get behind. The world is watching, and it’s our time to show off. Negativity isn’t going to change anything or stop it happening, so can’t beat them join them I guess.

This evening, I’ll be at home, watching the opening ceremony. So far we’ve had sneak previews of people in PJs jumping on trampoline beds, colourful dancers and what look like owls on bicycles. So far so eccentric. I’m glad to say however, I wont be drinking any ‘official’ beer of the games. I’ll be sticking by my usual ethics and going for something tasty, perhaps local, perhaps not. Probably British. I’ll be having a curry, it’s often wheeled out as the nations favourite meal, so what could be more British than a ruby and a pint? I don’t think my choice of beer will be with added steroids this evening thanks.

What will you be drinking this evening? Will you be watching, or determinedly ignoring all the fuss until after 9th September?

Too Many Hops

Thinking that this might be a bit controversial, hops are seen as good right? Always more hops, needs more hops, if only it had C-hops…. Is that always the case though? I was drinking some new (to me) beers on Friday night, one of which was a complete hop bomb. It wasn’t particularly high ABV, but was incredibly bitter, with a huge hop profile. I felt as though I had had my mouth scoured by a grapefruit flavoured brillo pad. Now I know there will be people who love this kind of beer, lap it up whilst shouting ‘More hops, never can have too many hops’.

I love hops, I adore the different scents you get, I like the citrus, the pine, the earthy flavours. That resinous mouth feel, the kick of bitterness to counteract the heady aromas. I may have been guilty of saying that you can’t have too many hops in the past, but these beers changed my views. It turns out you CAN have too many. This beer was almost sour – not in the vinegar sense – but in the just bitten a lemon sour. It wasn’t just me, those who I was with all tried it, and we all felt the same. It was too heavily hopped. There was no malt flavour to balance it out, and nothing from the yeast either. If there were notes in there at all from the yeast and malt, they had been steamrollered by the hop character.

I am reminded of a quote of Garrett Oliver in this blog from Tandleman  equating over-hopping beer with over-salting food to the point of it being inedible. Well I found my over salty beer I am afraid. Now, is it just me? How many others have found beers hopped to the point that you’d rather not drink them? Or are you still firmly a believer in never having too many hops?

Comfort Beer

It really shouldn’t be the time of year for this kind of post, but as the rain is lashing the windows, a huge storm predicted and thunder rumbling about outside, sod it. I’m sat here with a bowl of soup. It’s not even chilled. Along with a big wedge of thickly buttered bread. Comfort food really.

I’m full of cold, and rather run down. I’m feeling the need for the kind of beer you can nurse in front of the fire, curled up on your favourite chair with a quilt on your knee. Comfort beer. I really am feeling like an old woman’s granny today.

So, what have I got in mind? Something dark, all about the rich roasted, vanilla, coffee and chocolate flavours. Not too bitter, but maybe a nice touch of  fruity hop – something along the lines of  candied peel in a fruit cake.

I tried Norwich Bear Coconut Pawter last week, a special beer produced for City of Ale which at first I thought might be a little too sweet. Described as a Bounty bar in a glass (I hate Bounty bars – mainly due to the texture than the flavour). But no, this was delicious. Helped as it was paired with dark chocolate truffles and blue cheese. A deeply satisfying hit of cocoa in there, coffee to balance and the coconut on the finish. Reminded me of the smell of Hawaiian Tropic… yearning for a holiday in the sun, can you tell?

Green Jack’s Lurcher Stout would be another contender, a little variable in the past, but has been good the last few times I’ve tried it. All lovely roastedness with hints of vanilla. A good satisfying pint.

One that isn’t about at this time of year is Adams Oyster Stout. A really great pint, in good condition I can not fault this at all. Inky black, smooth and creamy, enough coffee flavours to stop it becoming cloying.

I am sneakily hoping that by positing this we’ll get a heat wave and everyone will laugh and ask ‘what storm?’ So then, tell me, what’s your go-to comfort beer, and if we do suddenly hit 28 degree temperatures, what will be in your fridge?

Norwich City of Ale: Event Picks

It’s just a couple of days now until the launch of the second City of Ale event in Norwich.

There are a lot of events and beers listed in the programme, so I thought I’d choose what I think will be some of the highlights of the festival. Let me know what you’re looking forward to, and what you enjoyed when you went along. There are lots of music events, pub quizzes and the like, but I thought I would choose to highlight parts of the programme which are a bit more unusual.

31st May – Official Launch Party at St Gregory’s, this is a ticketed event, where you get nibbles, beer and music, should be good fun with a lot of the local brewers and landlords going along. I attended this last year as a brewery, I think this is the first time it’s open to the public as well.

Throughout the Festival – The Forum is hosting a film show on it’s impressive Fusion screen, which depicts Norwich brewing past and present. There are also talks and historical walks taking place over the 10 day festival if you want to learn more.

1st June – The Political Debate at St Gregory’s. Free to attend Three MPs are confirmed for the Political Debate on Friday 1st June – Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Pubs Minister; Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and Economic Secretary To The Treasury; and Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South. The fourth member of the panel is Tim Hampson (@BeerHero on twitter) beer writer. BBC East’s David Whiteley will be chairing the debate, which will focus on pubs and brewing.

2nd June – The Brewers Market – Outside the Forum – a chance to buy bottles from your favourite breweries, sample some of the beers and local produce.

6th June – Ladies Beer Tasting – at the Ketts Tavern – Ok, so I may have a hand in this one with landlady Dawn, but it will be a fun evening with lots of different beers to try along with a few nibbles, it’s aimed at those who don’t drink beer as well as those who’d like to learn a bit more; the best news? That it’s a free event, but make sure you book in advance.

7th June – Tapas Night at The Cottage – Sally the landlady has lived in Spain, and creates delicious authentic tapas. Booking will be essential for this one, as it’s really popular.

8th June – Dirty Burger BBQ – The Plough – Probably just what you’ll need after a week of beer drinking in the city.

These are just a tiny selection of what will be on, there are so many events on each day that you will be really spoilt for choice as to what to go along to. I really recommend that you make the effort and get along to Norwich, the one thing that makes these kind of events great is the people who attend.

Let me know what your hight lights of the festival were and what you’d like to see more/less of next time!

Don’t be fooled

I’m writing this just after hearing the budget and talk of alcohol duty.

It’s being widely reported that there is no change to alcohol duty.

What they actually mean is there is no change to duty policies in place. The beer duty escalator (BDE) in means that until 2015, beer duty will rise at 2% above inflation every year.

So, to all those reading that there are ‘no changes’ who aren’t aware of the beer duty escalator, you’re likely to be handed a 5.4% rise in the price of a pint from tomorrow, not exactly great reporting. Imagine having to explain to your customers that yes, there was ‘no change’, but actually that’s just ‘no change in policy’ so now there is a 5.4% rise, and no, you’re not making more money from them.

Once again, putting the squeeze on the public, publicans and brewers.

I wrote to my own MP about the BDE, and she basically told me that the revenue made from excise duty is needed, but the government make it easier to let bands play in a pub or communities can step in and take over struggling pubs. Missing the point as ever there Chloe.

What she’s failing to realise is why these pubs are failing in the first place. I’m sure we all have our own opinions on why this is, and I wont bore you with my views.

As I’ve said many a time, we’re not going to be the last brewery to stop production this year, and this latest duty hike might just make a few more decide to close the doors.

There is something you can do about it though…. sign the E-petition. It doesn’t guarantee change, but just sitting there complaining wont change anything either.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29664

Summer is Coming

Well not quite, but it’s the one of the first really sunny days and it’s warm and just perfect for lazing about in a pub beer garden all afternoon. I got to thinking as to which are my favourite summer beers.

I want something light, at least in taste, crisp and refreshing, and preferably something that I can have a couple of pints of. Nothing too strong then, there’s something about drinking in the sun that seems to make you merry at a much more alarming rate than in the evening. Not sure why, or if it’s just my perception, but it seems that way.

Anyway to the beers:

Green Jack Summer Dream 4%  From their website: ‘The Summer Dream is a pale summer ale, floral, dry and hoppy brewed with hand picked elderflowers from the hedgerows of Norfolk and Suffolk. Our most popular seasonal brew can be ready in May if we have a warm spring or June if its cold and is available till the end of September. Huge aroma of Summertime!’

It’s a lovely brew, nicely aromatic and delicate taste. The only thing is that obviously, it’s not available all year round, sadly, so I wont be enjoying a pint this afternoon.

 

Oakham Ales JHB 3.8% From their website ‘A golden beer whose aroma is dominated by hops that give characteristic citrus notes. Hops and fruit on the palate are balanced by malt and a bitter base. Dry, hoppy finish with soft fruit flavours.’

Nice and crisp, refreshing too. It’s a permanent line, so no waiting until June to get my sticky mitts on this one.

 

Fyne Ales Jarl 3.8% ‘A full-on citrus experience. Light and golden, a perfect ale for whiling away the hours at any time.’

Lovely aroma, well balanced, refreshing grapefruit tang.

 

Hop Back Summer Lightning 5.0% ‘A trendsetter in the brewing industry; the original Summer ale brewed all year round. An extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish. Probably the beer to receive the most awards in Britain!’

Probably on the strong side for a few in the sun, but one of the beers I enjoy at any time really. Taiphoon is also a great beer, and with the lemongrass and coriander hints, perfect for beer garden weather.

 

I’m still searching for the perfect wheat beer to enjoy in the sun, we made a one-off raspberry wheat beer that was dry and delicious, I find some too sweet if they have fruit, or a bit too similar to Hoegaarden to be very original. I like wheat beer to be cloudy, I don’t know why, I find the clear ones to be a bit of a cop out really. What’s the point in calling your beer a wheat one if it’s not the main grain (or at least a good % in it)?

I’d like to know what your favourite summer beers are, whether they’re ones your brew yourself, from a tiny micro near you, or something so mainstream that you can pick it up in any supermarket.

Happy sunshine drinking!

Don’t snuff out the green shoots

As you probably realise, brewing is pretty close to my heart. I love the beers that this country produces. What I don’t love, is the way that this vibrant and growing industry (yes one of the few we have left) is being taxed out of existence by this and previous governments. Contrary to popular belief, brewers do not make a lot of money. Even those who produce high ABV beers that are more expensive aren’t making much, such is the duty and taxation system in place.

There are many e-petitions around at the moment, this one urging you to sign up to stop the Beer Duty Escalator, and here another one urging the government to drop the higher rate of tax on beers brewed at 7.5% ABV or higher. Why so many? Well, simply put, the government needs money. We all know that. Brewing is seen to be doing well. Even though pubs are still struggling, more and more breweries are opening around the UK, over 840 exist already. (according to Quaffale there are 30 or so opening soon), anecdotally I have heard of 6 in Norfolk alone planned for this year. So, easy target? Maybe.

Northcote isn’t the only brewery to have closed this year. I am damn sure we wont be the last. The existing breweries and the pubs they serve will end up being squeezed out of existence with all these hikes in duty and taxation, the duty escalator will not stop. And let’s not forget, duty isn’t the only extra cost faced. The raw ingredient costs are rising, not to mention energy and transport. These can’t be that easily absorbed in an already stretched brewery, small or otherwise. Pubs are having a hard time, they don’t want to pay more for beer, and have to put that costs onto their customers. The consumer doesn’t want to pay more for their pint  – many are pushing £3 as it is for a ~3.8%. And let’s be honest, there are only so many free houses and beer bars that can support local breweries or those that produce stronger or different from the norm beers. The larger and regional breweries are struggling, having to discount so heavily as to make their beer virtually profitless. This simply can not carry on.

I know this is all painting a very grim picture of the future. I’m trying not to come across as a panic merchant. Perhaps being an armchair warrior isn’t going to make a jot of difference. But signing these petitions is a start. Nothing will change either if we scoff at them, and least you will have given the matter more than a few seconds thought. By signing them you’re showing your support for the vibrant and diverse brewing industry that exists in this country. Don’t let it be taxed out of existence. Let these new and existing breweries have a chance, let’s have an industry to be proud of and that is truly supported by those in power. Let those tiny green shoot grow. Please.

Stop the Beer Duty Escalator.

Drop the 7.5% Duty Rate (although this one was designed to prevent the duty hike coming in, if there’s enough support it could help revert it).