Monday, 30 August 2010

A tribute to our lord: Michael Jackson Beer Hunter

This post is dedicated to the legendary Michael Jackson Beer Hunter, one of the most influential beer and Whisky writers to have ever lived. From memory I did a similar post a few years back. This time it's different. This time I have a cupboard full of different beers to choose from and an entire Bank Holiday Monday to decide which one to use for the annual toast (it's what they do in America I hear) to our lord Jackson on the day of his passing 2007.  Michael would have been a prize autograph, if I'd have met him. He was an inspiration to beer writers across the globe and supported any brewer producing interesting or different beers in an age of mass market mega-brand dominance. Craft beer has come a long way in the last 40 years or so, and during that time old Mike helped out a lot by communicating the message of great beer through his books and other writings. So what beer should I have for the occasion? It has to be something good, right? I have quite a few speciality Belgian beers knocking about, some Pale ales, one or two crazy Dogfish Head and Brew Dog beers and loads of keeping beers of my own making. Then... I made my decision.

This ones for you Mike, you bad invincible beer hunting mother fukka

 The chosen beer is actually one I obtained very recently from my Auntie Wendy living in California, who went to  great lengths to obtain this for me and fly this over. Therefore, I will not only be dedicating this review to our lord, but Wendy as well (shamon!), for her dedication to assisting my beer hunting adventures. I also have little doubt that anyone in the UK has access to this beer yet. So UK bloggers, I tried it first, so read and weep.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.

Now I've been giving Stone a lot of coverage recently, that's for sure, and when I read what Stone had to say about this one, I was shocked. To me Stone doing an English style IPA seems a bit odd. The same goes for cheese, in this case Glastonbury Farmhouse Cheddar and Stilton, to see how this baby paired with classic English cheeses (a test of authenticity perhaps?). The abv, a massive 8.9% suggests it would probably hold out to any cheese.

In fact I can't recall a classic English style IPA with this much alcohol, and the hop varieties used, Target, Boadicea and East Kent Goldings, alongside the chosen malt and water treatment suggest this ain't no US-UK style hybrid, it's a straight and narrow British beer, that's not British. The bottle then advises 'Consume fresh, or age in the hull of a seafaring vessel for a year or more'. As I don't have a seafaring vessel, I decided to take advantage of the occasion to get it opened.

It pours a clouded pale golden colour. This was my fault as I had only hours previously driven the beer back from my parents and couldn't wait to try it, so the natural sediment was un-settled. On the nose it hits you with loads of summer fruit like grassy hop notes, really fragrant. I mean really fragrant. The first sip of this reminded me of anchovy fillets for some reason, it's on the assertive side. It opens with a big hit of alcohol and fermentation driven fruits combined with mountains of peppery, fruity English hops that lead into a fairly dry hop driven finish with more warming fruity alcohols. I can tell this would age beautifully, not that it's not delicious now. It's brisk, bold and assertive with alcohols playing a big role, but it's still playing all the same classic English IPA notes, as if it were a fortified version of something familiar. I'm sure this one would take some beating in 'Ed's IPA challenge'.

With the cheese it went naturally well with the cheddar, but seemed to dominate over it quite a bit. The same magic this cheese had with Worthington White Shield at my previous Beer and Cheese Night wasn't there. White Shield had the advantage of  bringing a nice sweetness to the pairing that added contrast. I was even less convinced by this beer's pairing with Stilton. Intensity does meet intensity, but they don't do much for each other. I'm guessing this beer would pair better with a more sharp, robust, acidic Vintage Cheddar.

You get the impression that Stone is one of those brewers who obsess over IPA a little. In this case the obsession has obviously spread to its history as well. Like some other styles, the history of IPA is much like the history of heavy metal music. In the beginning, it started with raw uncomplicated British talents, before it evolved and developed into sub-genres, extreme version, milder versions, progressive versions and all sorts. I would say this beer does good justice to the old school back to roots traditional versions of the style, so I would advise hunting it out.

Friday, 27 August 2010

An awesome gift!

It's not what you know, it's who you know, that's what they say.

Luckily in the business I'm in you get to know some useful contacts. One of these just happens to be Theakston's breweries Jonathan Manby, one of the youngest coopers in the UK. Just the other day he dropped by work in his Theakston's van. We had made a little arrangement; he makes me a 2-3 gallon capacity wooden barrel in exchange for some home brew and a few cases of free beer. Like I always say to the office staff, 'the other brewers are our friends'.

That right, my baby, my precious, I'm stroking it now... No that sounds wrong

The oak used was previously used to hold Theakston's beer and I'm informed to soak this baby in salt water between and before filling. This is an area I have to pay attention to as various sources have claimed that wooden beer barrels can be difficult to clean if left unattended after emptying. This is one of the reasons casks today are stainless steel, infections can't embed themselves in steel like they do in wood. I am also aware that whatever beer I fill this thing with must be brutally strong, and must fill the cask right to the brim or else oxidation will be a problem (meaning I need to deliver on volume and extract). For this reason my currently pending Kurgan Imperial Russian Stout and Vintage 2010 ale could not be used, both are 2 gallon brew lengths.

The question is, what do I fill this thing with? My imagination goes wild. Firstly I thought I could soak and wash it out in Sherry, Whisky, Port or Rum and do another Imperial Stout? Or I could do a brutally hoppy new world or old school style IPA, hire a boat and take it on a sea voyage to the Maldives and back (look out Pete Brown)? I could brew some crazy Belgian style offering, pre-soak the wood in Merlot, deliberately infect the resting beer with Brettanomyces or other bacterial strains and blend it with fruit? Or I could use the wood the same way it was used in it's previous life, fill it with an old school British beer, Porter, Stock or Old ale and just leave it for ages? Or I could do another two gallon Imperial stout to be blended with the same brew brewed by another home brewer? Like a collaborative brew.

Frankly I've ruled out the idea of crudely soaking it in any kind of wine or spirit, the wood was previously used for beer, I will take it how it is. Up to now I'm thinking of brewing a 8-10% traditional Old Ale style beer but I keep changing my mind. But I'm open to any suggestions.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Tonight's the night. Daleside on tour: Meet The Brewer, 25th August, Three Hulats, Leeds. Be There!

In conjunction with the Six Spoons Beer Festival in Leeds, Daleside will also be attending a few 'meet the brewer' events across the six participating wetherspoons.

Now I’ve been to one of these before. Daleside’s head brewer Craig does a talk on brewing while I act as a kind of roadie, passing round samples and holding back those crowd surfers. Tonight Craig reckons I can do a short talk about my Festival ale if I like. Joining us will be office ace 'Vince' Daleside’s main man of sales. This will be a good opportunity to try my 'Spoons Festival Ale' from the hand pump. Starting around 7:30pm, all bloggers are welcome as tonight is the night to ROCK! I mean hand out free beer and do a lecture with a little diagram thing. It’s all good fun.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

So this is what all the fuss was about

OK I admit it, I got the dates for the Six Spoons Beer festival in Leeds wrong (24th to the 1st not 21st to the 30th of August). The hotel was already booked for a weekend away of trying my Spoons Festival ale from the pump at the actual festival and this had fallen through. So what can me and the wife do for a weekend in Leeds, I thought, a city I have very little familiarity with. Well, I have heard good things about Leeds. It's lively, metropolitan and most importantly has many good pubs. This we found out ourselves with highlights being visits to Mr Foleys, the Scarborough Hotel and the Ossett brewery owned The Hop.

Last weekend I also managed to cash in on a big opportunity. Taking the train straight from work on my way to Leeds I decided to take a short break at Headingly station. From here I could embark on a special mission to hunt and find what I was hoping would be one of the best speciality beer shops in Northern England, owned by fellow beer blogger Zak Avery.

A half hour walk the multimap assured but navigating though street after street laboured with baggage and the humid heat it felt considerably longer. This was hard core beer hunting. One man and his map hunting the beer paradise, the gateway to hopefully many different beers I have been longing to try.

After a good 35 minutes my destination was reached.

Behold; Beer Ritz/Zak's crib

A great little shop that packs in a great range of beer inside such a confined area. Legend of the video beer review Zak wasn't around though, only his minions. But this made no difference as the beer made up for it. A good number of new wave Italian beers were on offer. Various US, German and Belgian brews, some Brew Dog beers you rarely see (including a bottle of Abstrakt 01), collaborative brews and loads of Beers that are blogged about time after time in the blogosphere. Marble, Gadd’s, Thornbridge and more. The main thing restricting me from buying to excess was the fact that I would have to lug everything all the way back to the station, and then to the hotel in Leeds after that. So choices were made carefully.

What beers did I buy? Well two of them were opened on the Sunday, after returning from Leeds whilst intending to take full advantage of great weather.

Stone, Victory, Dogfish Head
Saison du BUFF. 6.8%.

A collaborative brew involving the bad ass Stone and the crazy/extreme/experimental Dogfish Head has to be at least interesting right? A Belgian Saison style brew was what they went for in the end, spiced up with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The mixture works just fine, and if you like herbal things like me you will love it. It's bold, yet really easy drinking (like a Stone beer) for 6.8%, it’s also crazy (like a Dogfish beer) that at first tastes like a mouth full of herbs, mainly sage. When you get into it you really wish you had another and your mouth is left with a kind of dry herbal taste. My tip, pour in the yeast from the bottom of the bottle, it really enhances it.

Thornbridge Halcyon. 7.7%.
(Green Hopped IPA 2009 Harvest)

Thornbridge Halcyon pours a clouded golden colour in the glass (somebody mentioned the reasoning for it once and I can't remember if it was yeast flocculation problem or a protein-polyphenol haze from excessive hop material) with a nice fluffy head. The aroma is peculiarly on the sweet side with fruity, sherbert like notes and fresh aromatic hop oils. Don't get me wrong, this is the beer has had a lot of rave reviews and every other UK beer blogger seems to have blogged about it at some stage. I have also read this was a double IPA, which to me means ether a beautiful expression of hops or just extremely challenging. This was defiantly the first one.

It's juicy, beautifully drinkable with lovely voluptuous malt sweetness and cascading orangey, green piney hop flavour throughout. Really easy going. The very distinct fresh 'green' hop flavour reminds me of the only other fresh hop beer I have ever tried, Deschutes Hop Trip, which was outstanding. Being hopped by Target and Target hops only it doesn’t have those zesty citrus, dry resinous grapefruit like notes you would expect from this style of beer. It's zesty alright, but not in the same way. So half expecting a challenging beer loaded with brutal hops, I was pleasantly surprised, and realised what all the fuss was about. Beautiful fresh hop flavour, balance, more hop flavour, and nothing less. It rocks, and would be well suited as a celebratory beer, drank outdoors on a sunny day.

Friday, 20 August 2010

My first beer dinner, "Making Beer and Food Dance", The Mitre Knaresbourgh

Plenty of other bloggers have covered beer dinners before but not I. But since the whole Beer and Cheese evening flop last month I have been searching for the answers. Why did it fail? What went wrong? I already had a good idea why but this event confirmed it a bit more. People turned up, I would say in excess of 30 people turned up, not bad for a tuesday night. Pretty soon the advantages of this event over mine became obvious. For a start the The Mitre is a pub easily accessible by rail or road situated in a densely populated area. The pub itself is part of the Market Town Taverns pub chain and the event owned by feva. Because of the quality of the beer range already available at the pub, no extra beers were bought in. Finally, tickets were strictly pre-paid for, meaning no names on the list of people who had simply just claimed they would turn up but then never do.

Anyway on to the dinner. 'Making food and beer dance' involves six food and beer pairings:

Aubergine Pate

with chestnut puree and melba toast

Beer: Leffe Blonde

Easy going, quite nice, with mainly of rich and sweet notes making it work.

Miniature glazed chicken drumsticks

with bourbon & chilli glaze; served on crisp Little gem lettuce

Beer: Copper Dragon Golden Pippin

Nicely paired and quite subtle. Probably more subtle than the first. A bit more hops (maybe a Sierra Navada Pale ale) and spice would have made it magical.

Crisp Beer Battered Salmon Goujons

With a lemon & herb mayonnaise

Beer: Paulaner Weissebier

This beer pairs great with batter and the salmon itself. At this point I was pleased things were getting better.

Steak and Ale Pie

with handcut chips & vegetables

Beer: Black Sheep Ale

My initial thoughts were; Any amateur can think of this pairing, it sounds so obvious and unadventurous. But you know what, it works, and it works brilliantly. The cask conditioned Black Sheep Ale was beautifully fresh and in perfect condition. Last time I remembered having this beer tasting so good was at the actual brewery. A good lesson, never over look the obvious.

Dark Chocolate Pot

with strawberry and vanilla shortbread

Beer: Timmermans Strawberry

Super sweet fruit beer meets sweet chocolaty fruity dessert. Straight from the textbook, and all the elements seemed to work together well.

Selection of Yorkshire Cheeses

with rhubarb chutney, grapes and biscuits

Beer: Kwak

Looking at the menu, this was the one I was looking forward to the most. Yorkshire Blue and Wendsleydale were the two cheeses I could identify, a third unknown medium-hard goats cheese was also present. The bold, slightly sweetish nature of the 8% Kwak provided a natural contrast for this dish, whereas the Belgian yeast character found harmonies. Both the rhubarb chutney and grapes really integrated well in this and this, as many may guess, was my favorite of the six preparations.

So overall a great night, and I learnt a fair bit too, like some of the obvious difficulties in organising, hosting and running a beer and food event. A big issue is getting the right dishes ready at the right time brought out with the correct beer. This was handled really well on this occasion but felt a certain degree of urgency from the staff at points when the service was slowing up. Everyone must work in synchrony, and is dependant on the kitchen staff allot. Then you have issues I'm already familiar with like getting tickets in, knowing how much food to buy in, how much beer to buy given your estimated sample size per person and so forth.

I managed to get a good chat out of the bloke running the show, Ian Fozard, who owns The Mitre and the Market Town Taverns Pub chains. His presentation was also something to take note of. No talking through every combination on how it works, where the style comes from etc bombarding the audience with information. Each dish started with a quick introduction, then it moved on. The beer selection also caught my interest, all tailored for the curious armature, no extreme beers or anything beyond the vaguely challenging. OK I didn't discover any new and exciting beers but I liked the way it captured the interest and intrigue of the audience who seemingly had little to no knowlege of many of these beers and how they could be paired with food. In the same sense that it's better to teach school children A-B-C before you cover molecular physics. Makes sense. One thing I wish at the end of the night is that Market Town Tavern Pubs could be more widespead. To find a pub with this kind of beer range in Northumberland would be great, as the count on a whole has little to compete with it. And when I say 'it' I mean a diverse, international, quality beer range found on cask, keg and in bottled form, good food, whisky, wine, the whole package. So a good set of pubs which I might be looking out for this weekend as I will be beer hunting in Leeds. 

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Tribute brew

A beer inspired by the greatest scene in all film history featuring the greatest villain of all film history. You've guessed it,it's the mighty Kurgan from the 1986 fiction movie Highlander. The brew is intended to embody the very essence of the Kurgan, so I thought it would be most fitting for it to be a Russian Imperial Stout. Taking some reference from another home brew attempt at this kind of thing, and some of the difficulties involved, I set forth. Pale, Crystal, Dark Crystal, Black and amber malts combined with flaked and roast barley were used as the fermentables for this one. Primary bittering hops were Northern brewer and Centennial. Late in the boil some Amarillo, more Centennial and nearly a full pack of Willamette were thrown in to achieve an estimated 88 IBU.

The resulting 2 gallons of viscous black solution at OG: 1111.3 was fermented with White Labs Dry English Ale Strain. I remembered using this strain to great effect a few years back for my 2008 12% Vintage ale so I knew it could do the business with high gravity beers.

    See the mighty Kurgan erupt from the fermentation vessel

 Strangely this time our friends the yeast started calling time at about 1036 and despite much rousing the fermentation basically died. I'm sure my unintended almost 67oC mash temperature could have had something to do with this but never mind. In desperation I re-pitched but only had the Daleside house strain available (these fellas struggle with anything over about 8% so I knew it was futile).

At 1034, that's under 70% attenuation (but still nearly 10.4% alcohol so I'm happy with that) cooling had to be applied and a few days later the batch was split between two demi-johns, one containing heavy toast French oak chips the other without. I shall leave it a while now, until the time of the gathering is upon us until I feel it's time for some tasting to see the effects of the oak aging compared to the un-oaked version. Hopefully it will ferment out a little more over time to squeeze out as much alcohol from this batch as possible. Brutal stuff indeed.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts With Munster

This Post is in part inspired by beer writer Garrett Oliver. His book directed me towards the pairing of this Biere de Garde with a turkey dinner followed by stinky French cheese (farmhouse french beer meets pungent French cheese, seems to make sense).

Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts is pretty old school Biere de Garde style beer hailing from the French Flanders. Beers like this are so simple and rustic I love them to pieces, and you could probably never tell this was 8.5% tasting it blind. It's balanced, earthy, herbal, grainy and brilliantly balanced. My old uni mate Ed told me about this beer once. He described his state of mellowness as he kicked back smiling while his brain cells slowly fizzled away. So I was intrigued.

The obvious first choice cheese for this one was the only stinky washed rind French cheese available at the time. Munster. The other two cheeses on the board were Cashel Blue, chosen for its soft texture and herbal like flavours, and Berwick Edge (kind of like Northumberland’s answer to Gruyere or aged Gouda). Cashel seemed to sit with the beer OK, lots of herbal peppery notes going on, but no fireworks. Whereas Berwick Edge didn't seem to go at all, like it didn't want anything to do with this French beer.

With Munster however, a strikingly mellow yet fascinatingly awesome set of harmonies are created. The cheese smells a bit like sweaty socks (which is why my wife wouldn't go near the stuff), and on the palate is creamy, earthy, funky and mellow (is how I would best describe it). The beer seems to possess that similar mellow, earthy, savoury complexity but in liquid form. So undeniably drinkable at 8.5%. The pairing was excellent, but according to Mr Garrett this kind of beer is also great with even more pungent, stinky French cheeses such as Liverot (that's about as stinky as they get) so will leave this open for future experimentation.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Stone Night: I’m not worthy!

I have often thought some of Stone’s bottle artwork would suit a death metal album cover

Most familiar with the San Diego based Stone brewery know them for their aggressively marketed heavily hopped bold West Coast style American ales. I myself first encountered Stone beers a few years back on holiday in California and enjoyed many of there offerings including the accurately named 'Arrogant Bastard Ale'. Anyhow, after obtaining a few bottles from the Internet, I decided to have a special night dedicated to stone and consume the three bottles I had. I even wore my 'Arrogant Bastard Ale, Your not worthy' t-shirt for the occasion. It was almost like being back in California... Except for the overcast weather, Co-op over the road, smaller cars and the fact I was actually in the humble Northumberland town of Alnwick. In fact earlier that day down Alnwick Market a bloke at a stall questioned if there really was a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale? I told him it was in from California, I mean it wouldn't be British would it, the nanny state wouldn't allow such things, and at 7.2% alcohol! My god, this could spark a binge drinking epidemic! Anyhow, I digress.

Anyway, as many of you may know, Stone brewery is owned by Greg Koch, if your not familiar Greg, the coolest guy in beer, well... Your probably not real beer geek. He was also the bloke behind this video and is on my list of most wanted head brewer/brewery owner autographs. 

It’s like he’s handing me the first beer

Ruination IPA.

So, first up was the Ruination IPA. As the label clearly states, this is 100+ IBU beer. In short this means the technique of total un-relentless brutal hopping has been used to obtain the extraction of as many bitter hop soft resins as possible from the hops in to the finished beer. Pretty hardcore, and the first time I tried this beer back in California, I remember being totally slightly overwhelmed by the vicious assault of concentrated resinous citrus hops. After the first half pint it got better and I gave it the benifit of the doubt. It was only near the end of the glass I actually started thinking this beer was actually good. This time I was bracing myself.

Ruination IPA, 7.7% and over 100 IBU. Don't mess.

But this time the shock and awe didn't have the same effect. Was it because I was ready for it? Was it because I'm a more experienced beer drinker now? Or was it because the bottle was only just out of date (hop bitterness fades over time) and had travelled half way across the globe? Ether way, it still tasted like the unstoppable avalanche of fortified hops I remember and this time I actually liked it more. Hop heads love this kind of beer, and I can see why. If your craving the hops, and want a testosterone driven sledge hammer to the face attack of bitterness units coming at ya from the glass then this beer is defiantly recommended. I personally prefer Stone's standard IPA better.

Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Next up, Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale. Basically, after clearly remembering the awesomeness of Arrogant Bastard Ale, I decided to get hold of an Oaked version. Apparently Arrogant Bastard Ale was apparently invented by an accidental over hopping of a developing pale ale. It was going to be scrapped but Greg loved it so much developed it further. I'm not sure where the name comes from exactly. The beer itself (the oaked version in this case) drinks a bit more mellow than the original. Rich amber in color opening on the palate with kind of oak smoked complexity layered over (and taming slightly) the familiar citric hop resin flourish and bulked out bready fruity malt. This intense, slightly rich brew finishes with signature lingering hop resins. Thumbs up for this one, almost as good as the original but that would depend what mood I was in.

Sublimely Self Righteous Ale.

Sublimely self righteous ale, at 8.7% gave the impression of being the breweries kind of 'tribute to everything we do' brew (reading the long passage on the back). Believe me this one is good. Probably the best Stone beer I have tried with exception to Old Guardian Barley Wine maybe. It pours an almost black/very deep mahogany amber with that signature Stone aroma... Hops, lots of hops... American hops, over some dark fruit notes. Flavor wise its pretty interesting. Like a rich fruity, fruitcake like bready malt base (think Heavy Scotch ales) with US hops basting right through it. Sort of contrasting yet balancing the malt sweetness. A little different and intriguing, with various dimensions to it, but intensity and balance make this awesome to drink. A good one to finish the night on.

So. Some might think this was a bit light weight only having 3 beers, but (considering the high abv's) for me it was enough. It’s rarely beneficial to drink copious amounts of these kinds of beers, you won’t last long. In fact I once remember Greg himself clearly challenge drinkers to drink less beer. Does that make sense? It was one of Greg's tangents on the back of an Old Guardian barley wine bottle. A good theory that I agree with. Drink for quality, not volume. A little a lot, a lot a little.   

Thursday, 5 August 2010

August 4th: Spoons Festival ale exclusive tasting session.

This Wednesday our friends the Leeds Weatherspoons management team (like I say, a great bunch a lads) came over for a little visit to try our Spoons Festival ale which I had lovingly racked into a pin and conditioned for a few days for them. My job was to prepare and hand out samples before talking through my take on the beer, and what ingredients were used, and so forth. Although slightly nervous I found the free half hour of sampling and talking about beer refreshing, and strategically I had got into work early so my morning duties were out the way before the party was underway. And as it goes our management friends enjoyed the beer and found it a worthy offering. So did I, and as a bonus I got a free pork pie out of it. The beer itself went down well, but I only have a few minor criticisms.

First to mention is that although I can envision many people liking this beer, I can also see a lot of hop heads that love US style IPA's finding it mediocre. Conversely this means this unchallenging character could attract those intrigued by the style but not ready to take on the more aggressively hopped offerings yet. It doesn't drink like a 5.8% beer and the aroma isn't as upfront as I wanted. However what I do like about this beer is it's composure. It seems to open with pithy orange, tangerine like Centennial hop derived notes before juicy malt balances in the finish of fading hop resins. The Daleside house character (never dry)seems to hold everything just about in balance. For those intrigued, I advise to head over to the Spoons Festival in Leeds, August 21-29th and try it out.        

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Madcap: New Scot's on the block?

Ever heard of Madcap? This new Scottish minature 1 barrel brewery started in November 2009 based in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway. Story goes ma man Adam, at my local specialist drinks shop hispirits, formerly beer ritz, suggested I tried these Mad Cap beers from the breweries contemporary bottled beer range. So I thought instead of trying one, I'll go for all the three available. What intrigued me firstly was the quirky labelling, then the alcohol contents, 9%, 10%, 9%. So no holding back on the abv's here. Here are some short reviews conducted from my newly acquired garden.

Trippple Madness.
9% Belgian Triple style ale.

Pale golden with little to no head and loads of CO2. Aromas are peculiar and hard to describe... A little like opal fruit sweets. On the palate is immediately sweet with tropical and berry fruit lifted by high carbonation (think fruit sorbet) with malt sweetness reappearing in the finish.

Liquorish ale.
10% Imperial Stout.

A fairly bold imperial stout reminiscent of many American interpretations but just that bit sweeter. Smooth chocolate, bready toasted malt and a sort of inky liquorish sweetness dominate this one. I also found it to go great with Ben & Jerry's Baked Alaska Ice Cream. Creamy white chocolate meets rich milk chocolate with liquorish notes underpinning. I would have tried pouring it over If I had another bottle.

Honey Madness.

Kind of a high gravity pale ale infused with Auldgirth honey. At first I was expecting this to be a kind of a high gravity summer quaffer, but its pretty heavy. Pours a deep auburn bronze/mahogany with caramelised candy like aromas. Flavours combine a honey malt richness with sticky toffee and Werther's Original sweets followed by more rich honey. So again rich, fairly sweet and complex. This one found a soft spot for some Cornish Brie I was nibbling on at the time.

Pretty interesting beers that love to play on the complex sweet/rich notes. Impressive for such a tiny plant, and good products often mean a good future so we might be seeing more of these guys in the future. It would be good to try some of their cask beers. Has anyone yet?