Friday, 29 August 2008

A tribute to the legend

As many of you may be aware, tomorrow (30th august) marks the 1st anniversary of the death of the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson. In his time Michael was by no doubt the worlds number one ambassador of beer. His writings, presentations and documentaries educated and informed those curious of craft beer, whilst being an inspiration to those already passionate. It is sad to say that Mr Jackson was never as well known in the UK amongst the likes of Roger Protz, but unlike other British beer writers he chose to educate his readers on beers from all around the globe without focusing to strongly on British cask ale. But the truth of the matter is it was Mr Jackson that helped get numbers craft breweries greater recognition worldwide as well as educating about beer styles, matching beer with food and how beer is generally, often degraded in quality and image (by global brands)  should be given more respect as the noble and sensual beverage it can be.

A Tribute to Michael Jackson

Because of this tomorrow I shall be in my local, The John Bull Alnwick, to find the finest beer for the moment to make a toast to the legend, Michael Jackson beer hunter. Cheers!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Chance to write for beers of the world.

Recently I have been in contact with the editor of the well known beer magazine beers of the world. According to her I could be in with a chance to enter the magazine as the guest taster by around October time as they are looking for readers or journalists to enter as guest tasters. For me I shall count it as another step towards becoming the next Michael Jackson (our lord). However to get recognised I recon I would have to throw out work comparable to there already well established taster Jeff Evans. Now iv seen this guy at work during one of his beer master-classes and his descriptions are nothing less than concise, accurate and professional and the same can be said for his written work, check him out on

Also to mention, in relation to my last post, this month I shall be attempting to home brew a my very own example of a historic porter style beer which should be around 6-7% alcohol by volume, over 40 bitterness unites and very black malt influenced. What I can not account for however is that porter in the 18th and 19th centuries was matured in wooden vats for a number of months before going on sale to the public. On the upside this brew should last a long time in the bottle due to the effect of both hops, alcohol and roast malts in adding a preservative effect on the beer, so hopefully my 4 gallons should last all winter, but that’s also affected by how good it turns out.

Friday, 22 August 2008

The dark side of the brewing force

Greetings again readers, and apologies for the later than usual post as I have been currently submerged in my end of year project and new job at a fairly local pub, the Shoulder Of Mutton. Thankfully upon going for the initial interview I realized I would be working in a decent pub, no bumpy-bump music, plastic chairs, disco lights, or hordes of chavs and trendys filling the place on weekends. The three cask ales available include Directors Courage, Deuchars IPA and one guest, all served with sparkler (which does mask the aroma alittle), but non the less a decent beer range on tap with what Iv heard is top quality food served in a relatively ornate interior. On the downside however, I have noticed that around 85% of the clientele order nothing but mass market water flavored lager, chemical infused cider or nitro-keg pap, which concluded that this aims to be more of a pub for everyone, not a true beer haven.
Never the less It was only the other day I got thinking about consumer behavior and how it linked in with my project. Many of my long term readers may recall using the terms ‘brainwashed by the media’ and ‘will live out there lives deprived of any knowledge of what beer really is and can be’ (stuff like that). It all relates back to (and I will cover this in my project), the rise of (what I call) ‘the dark side’. The truth is shortly after the end of the second world war in the UK the brewing industry assembled itself into collated beer companies that later grew into brewing giants (also known at the time as the ‘big six’). These brewing giants expanded there empires, aggressively trying to dominate over the beer market, and this was done in a number of ways, for example;

- Companies established there own tied estates i.e. pubs they owned which thus only sold the beer they wanted to sell.
- Beer became produced in keg and bottled form instead of cask, meaning the beer was filtered and pasteurized for a longer shelf life and a more stable product.
- Beer increasingly evolved into a minimalistic product, brewed with more flavor reducing, cheaper, carbohydrate sources and less hops in order to design beers with lass flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and general character.
- To make sure nobody noticed that beer was so bland, the new generation of beer drinkers of the time were enticed with mass market advertising specifically designed to present the product and product image in a fashionable and appealing way to the target audience. For example bottled lagers were aimed at the trendy younger gentleman, wanting to look cool and laid back at the bar, the nitro-keg bitter is designed for the middle aged straight talking working class etc.

As you might have guessed, the rout of the dark side is to try and push and present beer as a basic staple product, to be consumed in large volume in order to get drunk and be in with the guys whilst steering all away from any thought it could be anything more… And then CAMRA came along.

But the thing is, no matter how many times you grind your teeth over it, when you look back through the history books there’s always been those brewers trying to stock it high and sell it cheap (for example porter ale was often adulterated in the 17-1800s, and mild ale was often watered down to get more out the barrel come the early 20th century). But on the other side there’s always been brewers committed to the art of producing fine brewing, the main difference today is that in most cases its financial wealth that divides the two.

So remember folks, stay away from that dark side, and keep exploring the wonderful world of beer.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Angel of the North ale

In my recent review for Northumberland Now supplement I have taken pleasure in reviewing some of the finest summer ales in the Northeast of England, and this time the beer quality was defiantly moved up a notch since last months edition (where a bunch of average beers were bowled over by the mighty Triple Karmeliet, a Belgian triple). However, without disrespecting the classic local brews from Hadrian and Border and High House Farm brewery, the clear winner was actually a newly released beer from the well respected Wylam brewery called Angel. This beer was released this year to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the structure known as the angel of the north (as shown on the bottle). Although no one actually knows the clear reasoning for the Angel being erected in the first place, and this was discussed allot back in 98 (some though it was artistic symbol of regional identity, others a waste of money), my theory is a bunch of designers got bored in the 90s and decided make some giant structure from an old aeroplane and other bits.

Non the less the 4.3% cascade hopped filtered ale is a very refreshing, well crafter beer indeed. Deep copper in colour with a signature ‘fresh mowed lawn’ hoppy aroma. Grassy and citrus hints lead to the full, fresh and crisp palate that finishes rather rounded with sweet lingering caramel and cherry notes. Good stuff all-round indeed, next month I shall be aiming to review some of the more amber to brown ales and maybe even some Halloween specials if I can get hold of them in due coarse for October.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The New beer style of the month is … pilsner.

As many of you may know the name pilsner originates from the Bohemian city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, where the beer was developed in the 1840s. Its popularity spread fast and the Germans soon adopted the style before interpretations were springing up all over the world.

Sadly in the commercialised world of brewing today the style has been taken up by major brewing corporations and manipulated into mass market, pasteurised, fizzy, bland as possible lager. Interestingly this topic also links back to an older post from my old blog on Here I discussed how although CAMRA as an organisation has raised awareness about cask conditioned beer, most beer drinkers are now perceive the market as simply dispersed into two camps, those who drink lager (mass market) and those who drink ale (with the addition of the usually middle aged customer group who prefer nitrokeg ales). All knowledge seems present of the diverse range of styles and varieties of lagers available, in fact some people even fail to recognise that lager is beer and thus divide all beers into ether lager (mass market stuff) or beer (anything else).