Thursday, 30 December 2010

The twelfth beer of Christmas

Hook Norton Twelve Days

Well, this is it folks, the last beer of Christmas. And I think we've had enough left of centre foreign brews for this series, time for a no nonsense British winter warmer from a highly respected British brewery. The twelfth and final beer of Christmas, Hook Norton's Twelve Days, is one nicely rounded malt driven beer with a nice roast malt bitterness. It has a dark chocolate note, with subtle winter fruit and hints of spice. Covered by the Baron here, and like he says, a nice beer to savor by the fireside on a winter's night.

Well, sadly that's it for Rob's beer quest's 12 beers of Christrmas.  I sure had a good Christmas. As expected the majority of my stock of seasonal beers have now been replaced by beers from gift packs (tho I havn't seen much coming in from the Asda 3 for £5 range this year). But we all know from now on it's all down hill. New year resolutions, taking the decorations down, assessing the financial damages and oh crap, I've just put on like a stone in weight in four weeks! You know how it goes. But anyway, a happy new year from Rob's Beer Quest.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The eleventh beer of Christmas

Castle Brewery Samiclause 2010

Hardcore 14% Doppelbock lager from Austria, formerly the strongest beer in the world (it seems so long ago now). This beer undergoes 10 months of lagering before filtration and bottling. I remember years back having bad first impressions of this beer, but I've grown to like it. It's heavy going, and surely the ultimate beer for being stuck indoors on a blisteringly cold winters night.

Very deep golden bronze with plentiful carbonation but never any head retention. Expect lots of boozy warming alcohols, virtually no hop presence, and a rounded warming sweet sherry, syrupy, toffee sort of character finishing with heaps of warming alcohols. The carbonation keeps the sweetness in check. It's also a great talking point at parties as everyone seems to make something slightly different of it. Alternatively you could cellar it a few years or more, it should age well.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Golden Pints Beer Awards 2010, my contribution.

Here it is folks, my winners for The Golden Pints Beer Awards 2010, proposed by Dredgie. This year has brought many a memorable beer and some categories were tough to answer, others were omitted. Mind, I had to look back long and hard into my beer reviewing diary for this, and to make it simpler I haven't filled in all the runners up. But here it is anyway.  

Best UK Draught Beer: Blue Monkey 3 Wise Monkeys

Best UK Bottled Beer: Fullers Brewers Reserve No. 2.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Not really been abroad much this year (except Cuba). But my best overseas draught beer experience ever would be sitting outside a Cafe in Brussels drinking a Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Stone Old Guardian barley Wine Style Ale early 2009 release (thanks again for bringing that across for me Wend).

Best Overall Beer: Too difficult to answer I'm afraid. Lots of great ones, no real winner.

Best Pumpclip or Label: Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009

Best UK Brewery: Far too many to choose from, but for consistency, quality and the sheer number of beers tried, I'm going with Daleside Brewery.

Best Overseas Brewery: Again a tough one, probably Stone, CA, with De Struise, Belgium a close second.

Pub/Bar of the Year: For me, The John Bull, Alnwick

Beer Festival of the Year: Newcastle Beer Festival

Independent Retailer of the Year: Hispirits, Knaresborourgh (hi Adam!)

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher

Best Beer Blog or Website: Plenty of em, and plenty of newcomers. I'm splitting this award between two sites. For stuff on beer, food, drinks etc, Dredgie. For sheer amusement, Cooking Lager. For like ability, both.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: The winner for this snuck in last minute. In second place Saint Stylvestre 3 Monts with Munster Cheese. But first place was given to a special Christmas eve pairing. For me that was Stilton, Walnuts, and Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout. Simple, Traditional, Brilliant!

In 2011 I’d Most Like To… Visit more breweries, hunt out more beers and brew some more experimental oak aged home brews.

Open Category: Best newly discovered hop variety of the year: Riwaka

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The tenth beer of Christmas

The Bruery 2 Turtle Doves

A beer with a very fitting name for this post. I got this over a year ago from a little beer shop in San Francisco. As the story goes, our baggage went missing between flights on the way home and I thought I would never see this baby (along with others) again. But here it is.

From the brewery website you can see this beer is part of a series of seasonal beers. Made with 'turtle' candy, cocoa nibs, toasted pecans, caramelized sugar and a lot of caramelised malts. With an abv of 12%, i was a little excited about it, but didn't get too carried away after memories of being let down by many a random seasonal beer in the past. But this didn't fall short of expectations.

Honestly, this is a fucking exceptional beer. Thick deepbrown almost brown with big boozy alcohols, huge toasty malt depth and a very rich, kind of oily viscosity. Caramelised malt, dark chocolate and nutty grain all play in harmony with rounded warming alcohols.

As an after dinner beer it just begged for a cognac laced Christmas pudding. A great pairing. Think about it, raisins, nuts, rich sponge and congac notes that just echo on the boozy alcohols of the beer. As the tenth beer, this is probably the most memorable of the series so far, It totally takes the cake and is just perfect for the occasion of Christmas day.   

Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The ninth beer of Christmas

De Dolle Stille Nacht

It was Christmas eve,
 and not a creature was stirring,
not even our friends the yeast...

Stille Nacht translates as silent night, the ultimate Christmas Eve beer from those crazy folks at De Dolle, Belgium. Last year I remember opening a recent bottling of this and thinking it could probably be better with a bit more age on it. So this year I'm opening one from a 2008 bottling.

A good beer despite some fobbing from this bottle. Amber shaded, loads of carbonation, and what I get most from this beer is a kind of  orange zest and marmalade like character. Once the carbonation dies down a bit it unveils itself. Sweet candy, summer fruit and spice with boozy alcohols in the finish. Surprisingly light bodied for the 12% abv, which should sort you out for getting to sleep with all that excitement.

Anyhow, time to get set in for the night. The snow is falling outside (no exaggeration, it really is snowing!) and the last I checked it was 453 minutes till Christmas (according to Helen's 'Santa lite' iphone app), that sure ain't long. But if you can't wait for the big day, you can always see how old Santa's doing by tracking him here. Have a good one.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The eighth beer of Christmas

Gordon Xmas

That big day sure is getting close now, time for a beer.

At first I was thinking; If there was an award for the best decorated bottle for a Christmas beer, this one might win. Again it's Belgian, it's 8.8%, and this is probably the first time I've ever used this glass (justifying the space it takes up in the cabinet).

Overall impressions of this beer so far; it's really deep. Deep colour, deep dark fruit (plumb?) and malt flavours. Nutmeg and coriander like spice also feature among big bready funky yeasty notes, burnt toffee and rounded warming alcohols in the finish. The dark fruit and weight of the malt balance really gives the impression of an old school Scottish heavy. Not something you find too often. I recon it would go well with rich or spiced lamb dishes or maybe some full flavoured game preparations. Great beer.

Update: This goes brilliantly with roast duck and cherry sauce, just try it.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Plans for the big day, what will you be drinking?

It's almost here folk's, the big Christmas day bottled beer session. But here's the question. Is it just me or does anyone else ever plan the exact beers to be opened Christmas day? A few years back I used to plan almost the entire day's drinking plan starting with the Christmas dinner appetiser at 11am then what beers I would drink at approximately what time with what dish. I had the sequence of bottles lined up in the garage in the exact order to drink them weeks before. Has anyone else ever done this?

Mind you I learned quickly that if I wanted to survive past eight thirty at night without falling asleep in front of the TV I needed to apply some restraint to the lineup. You see the thing about Christmas day, after your breakfast beer, appetiser before dinner beer, beer for the main, beer for dessert, beer for after dinner, 3-4 afternoon session beers, late afternoon beer, evening meal appetiser beer, evening meal pairing beer, evening meal dessert beer, after dinner beer, winding down for the night beer, winding down for the night beer 2... After that it all gets a bit blurred.

So having so many special beers within the time frame of one day, the 'special' factor of each beer gets a bit degraded and you end up a bit wankered. For this reason this year, like last year I'm keeping the range minimalistic but ultra prestige (tho I will probably still end up asleep by 9 or 10pm) and sticking by a few rules.

The three rules of a Christmas bottles beer session.

Rule 1: Cut down on random session beers, entered just to keep the session going. They just get in the way, add to the total alcohol consumed and are just not worth it.

Rule 2: Pair each dish of the big day carefully with specific beers. This year I'm omitting the Christmas dessert pairing. Even tho 2008 I remember a chocolate pudding pairing beautifully with a Meantime Coffee Porter, I think you can get overly full very easily at this stage.

Rule 3: Don't plan too much. keep things more open and be a bit more spontaneous. Things can be more fun if you change the order a bit last minute or open beer number five an hour late or half an hour earlier than planned.

With rule three I've found that most folk I ask about this stuff have no plans whatsoever for the entire days drinking. And I agree that an element of spontaneity makes things more interesting, like having a section of the afternoon that's completely open or having a series of three beers to be opened in no particular order. Sharing the stuff round is also fun, it is Christmas after all. This year I have an awesome lineup, possibly my best ever. So how are you ordering your day of awesome festive beer drinking?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The seventh beer of Christmas

Anchor 'Our Special Ale' 2010

Every year as the festive season approaches Anchor (one of the grand fathers of US craft brewing scene) of San Francisco release a different 'Our special ale' and every year it's slightly different from the last. I seem to remember the first time I tried one was the 2007 batch, and it was outstanding. The few annual releases since then have been OK, but not brilliant.

But anyway I'm glad I have a couple of bottles of this one as it sure is delicious. The nose hits you with upfront Christmas spices and gingerbread. And these follow onto the almost syrupy sweet but light gingery palate of complex cinnamon and Christmas spice notes. I can't help thinking that this would go great with ginger cake, or similar and as far as Christmas beers go it's pretty good. My advice would be stock up now while it's still around.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The sixth beer of Christmas

Huisbrouwerij Boelens Santa Bee

You guessed it, this one be another of the many odd looking, mightily strong Belgian seasonals. 8.5% alcohol and pours a thick amber with high carbonation but low head retention. The aroma brings big sherry like, fruity alcohols, marzipan, almonds, and a touch of sweet vanilla. Palate is rich, rounded and on the sweet side like a Fullers Golden Pride but with a bit more funk and a distinct almond like sweetness. Lingering vanilla and nutmeg spice linger in the finish. Overall, given I had never heard of the brewer and the cheap looking simple label doesn't make you expect much this is a really impressive beer.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Deanston 12, it rocks!

Every now and then I like to top up the old whisky collection, not often, but often enough to keep a good variety of different malts/vatted malts available. You could say with the recent brutal wheather I've been inclined to visit the whisky cabinet a little more frequently after a good session on the beer. That's right, I'll admit it, I've been knocking back on grandpa's old cough medicine. So I decided the time was right to top up the stock.   

Hail from Perthshire, the non-chill filtered 12 year old Highland malt of 46.3% vol with a brilliantly balanced, nutty, fruity, gingery caramelised sort of character. For some it might be hard to believe but I'm not wrong in saying it's a tad sweet, a little heavy even, but not peaty. With a sort of warming cuddly character that even the non-whisky accustomed wife liked, its approachable yet bold at the same time.

Being only a 12 year old a lot of the flavours from the original distillation are still in tact. I quite like this, which is why a lot of my whisky collection consists of 12 year olds (being cheaper also influences this). But this one was kind of picked at random. A good half hours browsing in the Whisky shop and I was still undecided but the very raw almost edgy packaging and bottle description influenced the final decision a bit I admit. It was definitely worth it tho and a great one for the collection.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The fifth Beer Of Christmas

Abbaye Saint-Remy Trappistes Rochefort 8

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a Rochefort around at some point. Or at least some kind of Trappist beer (well it is brewed by monks isn't it, or at least people employed by monks). This bottle was enjoyed at the John Bull of Alnwick, where you get your beer served in the correct glassware.

Since I have discovered the Rochefort range I have always enjoyed them at this time of year. And out of the Rochefort beers (that includes the under-rated Rochefort 6, 8 and the highly fortified 10) The Rochefort 8 is more or less the middle weight of the pack. On the nose it brings dark figgy fruit and dark chocolate before it opens up on the palate with a full dark fruit, yeasty, bready, slightly spicy, dark chocolate complexity. It's bold, with the 9.2% alcohol providing warming notes to the slightly drying finish. Chocolate pastries come to mind, Belgian chocolate pastries that is. Have never tried this with chocolate tho.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The fourth beer of Christmas

Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009

As I mentioned, last night was myself and Helen's 1st wedding anniversary (hence the background), so aside from a particular Russian River beer, I had to open something special. A 7% American Brown ale aged since last year had to be at least half decent, and it sure was expensive. No disappointments here tho, it sure is delicious. Rich with nutty, cakey like malt is at the centre, nicely laced with piny floral hops and nutmeg like rolling spice. A wonderfully rounded middle weight that leaves one with the urge to slowly waste away in front of a Christmas film or two, or maybe even the Queens speech (depending on how many you drink). Should I buy another for Christmas day? Maybe... No... Yes... No... Yes... No... I shall have a think about that, it is lovely.  

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Open It! My contribution.

So here it is folks, my contribution to Open It! Being my first wedding anniversary and all made it all the more worthwhile. And for this particular beer I have had a few apprehensive thoughts, like why should I open this beer after saving it so long?

It was nearly a year ago now. The flight back from San Francisco, the rushing between terminals at the flight change. Waiting for luggage for seemingly forever at Newcastle before they told us the luggage was missing.

But no, the Russian River!... It... It was in that case!!!... It cost me 26 dollars, this can't happen!

Anyway I got it back in the end and for a while I was stroking it and saying goodnight to it every evening pondering on the day that I should actually open it. So why today? Well let me justify this with a few facts. Firstly it's my first wedding anniversary. Secondly Dredge says to do it, and if someone encourages me to drink a beer or invites me for a pint, I probably will (especially if he's a legend of the the beer blogging scene). Thirdly... Well... live for the day.

I remember a while back in my interview from the Beer Wench that I mentioned that If I could work for any brewery in the world it would be Russian River. Well this isn't strictly true. There are a long list of breweries I would love to work for and RR are in that list and I had to pick one as I didn't have all night to fill in the questionnaire. Plus Russian River make some really interesting sounding beers which I have never tried (until now) a lot of them barrel aged and deliberately infected with specific wild yeast of bacterial strains.

This particular barrel aged beer (as it says) has been aged 6 months in current fruit holding Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The alcohol content is 10% and the barrels were deliberately infected with Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus. At Heriot-Watt they teach you all about how nasty these organisms can be to your average mass produced session beer so this is crazy stuff indeed.

Anyway, time for the tasting. Given the occasion I thought it would be great to share a few samples around since we were in the company of some of the wife's work associates. I don't really like drinking great beer alone, I prefer having it with someone else. Now for the review...

My first impressions of this beer was  'it's basically kind of like a Lambic', but with a bit of caramel malt influence that really makes it interesting. At first the carbonation is lively, and the character of the beer a bit forward. But giving it a bit of time the aromas emerge more defined. Red grape, berry fruit and a brandy like sweetness. On the palate you get lots of sourness countered by candy sugar and caramelised malt, subtle alcohols and malt depth with complex red grape and berry fruit. The 10% alcohol is well hidden, making it quite elegant.

Overall I would say a good beer. But to be honest, it did fall short of my incredibly high expectations. A good beer, but not exceptional. Mind, if your in the mood for a good sour beer, it's great, but it's not one of those beers that you find are instantly lovable, like an oatmeal stout. It's complex, and takes a bit of time to understand and come to terms with, like some women or progressive metal albums I have known in the past. Once you get into it, you notice it is quite a complex beer, its deep, and that's it's strength.

Maybe I was just not in the right mood and moment but to be honest, the reason I'm happy I opened this beer is because originally I was planning to open it Christmas day. But now I know what it's like I'm happy that I will be exchanging it for some delicious seasonal beers instead, because despite the hype it really isn't that much to rave about, but still interesting.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The third beer of Christmas

Daleside Old Winters Tale

This dark, subtly spiced 4.3% ale was designed by both myself and brother priest of the yeast M.A. double T Daleside brewer Matt Bloomer. We didn't decide on the name, or the abv, but technically it's ours. A trial brew of this one was done on my very own home brew kit to give an approximation of the finished product. It turned out alright, but we decided to make it a bit darker. Then when we came to brew it on the Daleside kit I lover every minute of seeing this baby being born.

Tweaking around with it on the day and getting everyone to smell my spice mixture made it all the more enjoyable, and we are glad of the results.

A mixture of spices on a bed of Willamette hops

Brewing scedule for the week

Transfer to the FV, where the magic of fermentation really begins

But enough of the brewing highlights. Now for the important bit...

This sample was taken from a plastic polypin set up in the brewery but I will be hunting out the properly conditioned stuff from a hand pull in the near future. I find the spice influence moves more towards the background as it ages and it's nicely balanced. Medium to full bodied dominated by dark currant like winter fruit, figs, subtle nutmeg spice and a touch of roast malt bitterness over a bready rounded malt texture. I'm quite happy with it and so was my homie co-worker Col (below), who gave it a thumbs up.
Col (On day release)