Monday, 28 February 2011

My first Twissup

11:45am, March 26th the morning of my first Twissup.

This would be it, first contact with the blogging world (well I say first contact I already know one or two bloggers but out of this group Woolpacker Dave would be the only one I had met previously). Our journey would begin outside the York Brewery for a brewery tour before an epic pub crawl around York. 

As everyone arrived my first surprise was how many bloggers are actually familiar with Rob's Beer Quest. I felt a bit guilty that I had only glanced at the sites of other bloggers I met from time to time . But you know how it goes, you just get used to following the same old blogs and when I get round to it I do follow more and more sites.
 The UK beer blogging scene is sure becoming big these days, but much thanks to Rob from HopZine and others for providing acquaintance early on. Soon enough I finally managed to meet the likes of LeighWoolpacker Dave and the mighty Dredge, as well as various website owners, newcomers to blogging and those just tagging along because they know people from twitter.
Overall a great day filled with great beer and many interesting people to meet. My only regret is not knowing about some the awesome bars visited a year and a half ago when I could have visited them on my stag night, but it doesn't matter.

The first of these previously unknown bars is a little place called Pivni. An interesting yet slightly hidden tiny three level pub with a great range of cask and keg beers (many of them Brew Dog). This was where I got to try the excellent Camden Park Pale Ale and some exclusive pre release samples of  Aether Blaec, kindly handed round by Woolpacker Dave and his wife (above). I also had a good chat with Thornbridge brewer Dominic Driscoll, who made blogging news a little while back when he left Marble brewery. We talked about everything from hops to the joys of Belgian yeast strains and I got a taste of the new Punk IPA from Mark Dredge (which reminds me, I still owe him a beer).

Leigh and blogging master Dredge upstairs at The Bottle

Following this various pubs were visited all of them harboring great beer. To be honest I couldn't remember them all and in what order, it was all too much of a blur of talking about beer, drinking beer and then talking more about beer to various other beer obsessed folk.
What concentration I did have to spare was used to not get lost from the group. But I do remember Schlenkeria Rauchbier Weizen, Tripel Karmeliet and Sharp's Cornish Stout alongside various other beers I got noted down in my beer diary/tickers notebook. But even though I got the early train back at half six I have to admit the whole thing ruled and I hope to join the next Twissup whenever it is.
Many thanks to Beer Reviews Andy and Dredge for the organisation.

And a bit from the Mrs. Rob failed to add that despite getting the train home at 6.30pm he didn't actually make it home until 1.30am. You see he fell asleep, missed the stop, ended up in Edinburgh. The had to get a coach to Alnwick, which forgot to stop, and he finally got off in Morpeth, 20mins down the road, where I had to collect him at 1am! And all in the name of.......BEER!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Harrogate Beer Festival

Last Thursday was the first night of the Harrogate Round Table 21st Annual charity beer festival. Making the most of my time left in Harrogate I decided to go along and join Daleside number one dray Dave and former Daleside brewer Ed Sutcliffe. Both Ed and Dave would be carefully watching over operations, I would be quality control checking any beer I liked with the help of my special 'free beer' arm band  (for sponsors, beer festival workers etc) all my beer was free. Happy days.

To start things off Dave kindly pulled me some Brewdog Trashy Blonde, Following this Acorn Bullseye, drank more or less like the 4.5% Brown ale it was. Not a bad choice at all. Mordue Millenium Bridge seemed light, subtle and quaffable whereas Old Mill Spring Eternal seemed a bit sulphury, oxidised and slightly wrong. But this was compensated for quickly by the luscious smooth roasty mild that is Thwaites Nutty Black. Then from the same bar York Motueka brought instant memories of that all Motueka brew I did way back last year. My brew was an Amber, but this was a delightfully clean 4% session golden ale that seemed to be very popular.

After this it was back to the Theakstons bar for a Leeds Best Bitter and some Saltaire Cascadian Black, a black IPA that after a while drank more like a very hoppy stout, with hop pine and chocolate notes combined.

After this me and Ed hung out with the barrel master/copper himself Johnathan Manby of Theastons, creator of Elizabeth, who was carefully watching over operations. It appears that everyone now knows about my move to Mordue, even those I didn't think would know yet. All found out from the grapevine as they say. But head brewer Craig is already re-training his elite team of brewing monkeys he keeps in his shed. By the time I leave they will be ready to deploy as my replacement.

Coming soon, twissup coverage.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Today I am officially announcing to the blogging world (or at least those who read this stuff) that from March 14th I will be officially terminating my employment with Daleside Brewery. From then on I will be working back up north in my homeland for a little brewery that a lot of North East drinkers may well have heard of called Mordue.

Am I serious? I'm deadly serious. Look, this my deadly serious face.

It's rather similar to my serious face.

As far as I know Mordue seem a nice bunch a lads and I'm quite excited about working for them. To tell the truth I'm just as excited about a lot of other stuff. Like getting to come home to my wife and dog in the evenings. Going to the local pubs more often and not having to fork out for rent each month for an accommodation that I only really half live in. The wife was even more pleased, so pleased she made me a Chocolate Porter Cake (pictured above), a recipe adapted from The best of American Beer and food by Lucy Saunders.

I should be excited, I'm about to become a permanent resident of Nothumberland. And I mean this without any disregard to Daleside. I have learnt a lot at Daleside, and had a great time. But since its the only brewery I have ever worked at I'm curious and excited to find out how a different brewery operates. It should be fun. So to all readers, if you can see that little Daleside logo on my page (scroll down a little and its on the right)?
Well from March 11th that little logo will be replaced by this one......

Beer from the Toon. For the Toon.

Am gannin back yem lads! Top a tha Tyne is all mine all mine, top a tha tyne is all mine!

Sunday, 20 February 2011


As you might have guessed, it's Sunday.

No other day of the week is quite like Sunday. Shops are closed, pubs are open for Sunday lunch and people start to think about the week ahead. Some of the best Sundays can be a calm interlude between the weekend and the upcoming week. A time of careful reflection on what has passed, and what lies ahead. Relaxing in a beer garden with delicious pint of cask ale with lunch is much advised (if whether permits) or simply just chilling out.

But drinking beer on a Sunday is always a cautious affair. It's a simple relationship; the more beer you drink the harder the monday morning (especially in my case, Mondays I have to be up by about 4:15am).

But this Sunday has been quite a relaxed affair. Back in Harrogate Elizabeth II is steadily fermenting away whilst I enjoy a lamb roast accompanied by a 2008 Luis Felipe Edwards Carmeneve from Colchagua Valley, Chile. As far as red wine goes Chilian ones usually win me over, and this one has a nice spicy blackberry flavour, medium body and moderate acidity. It's a good equaliser for Northumberland Cheviot cheese.

So as far as Sundays go, it's been alright. Nothing much on TV, as usual. But there will always be one Sunday I will never forget. It was following one of our Saturday night cheeseboards and a fair bit cheese was left over, much of it from the Northumberland cheese company. The wife had just baked a fresh loaf of bread from the bread maker. It was still warm. At the time I thought, I’ll crack open a bottle of my own home brewed Belgian style Golden Ale it might be 8.5% but just the one.

Soft crusty bread with butter slowly melted into it meets Northumberland Coquetdale cheese meets fresh fruity home brewed Belgian strong ale… That’s what I call a Sunday to remember.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Elizabeth II

Here it is folks. I finally got round to the remake to hopefully compensate for the disaster that was operation Elizabeth I. After dwelling on the various ideas of what to brew I decided to stick to my guns and keep with a similar but different old school formulation than the last (IPA's, Belgian strong ales, Imperial Stouts and experimental spiced ales can all wait, I want to get this one right first). Here is the new formulation.

OG 1084.5.

I'm hoping to bring it down to around 1018 with the Daleside house strain for an 8.8% abv.


Optic pale malt 83.5%
Torrified wheat 4%
Crystal malt 9%
Black malt 3.5%

(all percentages refer to the percentages of fermentables each malt accounted for)

Mash stand was 1 hour at 65.5oC.

                                                   The mighty Elizabeth II mash

In Copper boil.

90min: Challenger hops (7.78% alpha) for 25IBU

45min:  Challenger hops (7.78% alpha) for 21IBU

5min: Fuggles 5.26% 5IBU
5min: Goldings 8.6% 7IBU

(Lots of hops!)
                                        The copper boil in action next to the spent mash

In theory the hops are left to settle at the bottom after the boil. In this case the hops were the bottom.

Runoffs (no pumps involved, as my kit is a simple thing) were slow and sparging took nearly two and a quarter hours. An anomaly also occurred during the runoff to fermenter. Sadly, because this was the first of a double brew, I needed the copper emptied of Elizabeth and ready sharpish for the next brew. Usually I can get it all into the fermenter inside of 15 minutes, but not this time.

The copper to fermenter transfer was about as fast paced and dramatic as a world championship staring competition, so me and co-worker Matt had to adopt the old school, rather crude method of lifting and slowly decanting the hot wort from the copper through a series of sieves held above the fermentation bucket (kind of like in extract brewing). The sieves worked well but some small fragments of spent hops ended up in the fermenter with (probably) excess trub. Apart from this all is going well so far. I awoke the following morning to a fermenting tub brimming with a mighty head of yeast and kicking off heaps of wonderful aroma. I learned from Elizabeth not to over pitch so this time instead of quadrupling my usual pitching rate I doubled it. It's going strong and fermenting at about the rate I want. So far so good.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Black and Blue

Everyone knows Barley wine goes with stilton right?

Well if you're a beer enthusiast maybe. But what about the potential of pairing stout or Imperial stouts with blue cheese? I have pondered on the subject myself and decided to conduct a little beer-cheese pairing experiment. Take three stout/imperial stouts and three blue cheesess, try each cheese with each beer to ultimately find which is the best combination.

As you may have guessed this event was done for research purposes in contribution to my next beer and cheese evening at the Bamburgh Castle Inn, Seahouses. All are welcome especially beer bloggers. I know what your going to say. You have something else on, a weekend away, yoga classes or you missus is giving birth. Well whatever it is, cancel it and call 01665 720 283 or email now to book a table for an evening of Beer and Cheese.

Anyway, back to the tasting. Here's how it went.

The Venue: Kitchen.

Attendees: Just me.
The occasion: It’s Thursday.

The Cheeses:

Blacksticks blue: A unique soft blue veined cheese from Lancashire. Rich and tangy with grassy earthy tones.

Old Mrs Bells. A Sheeps milk cheese. Creamy, slightly sweet, mid strength and a touch peppery.
Colton Basset stilton: Acidic, salty, poignant and rich. An old favourite.

The Beers:

Marble Stouter Port Stout 5.1%

Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout 7%

Durham Brewery Temptation 10%

Starting with the lowest abv beer I decided to try the Marble with the Blacksticks blue. The beer itself gave a good impression. Really forward and roasty with an assertive but not overpowering dark fruit and burnt grain character that's almost like chewing on black malt. With the cheese it's fantastic. Earthy tones and slight acidity really play on those roast grain notes and the cutting, bitter nature of the beer really contrasts the richness of the cheese.
Moving on to the Mrs Bells and this time I wasn't so lucky. The sweet creaminess of cheese seems to blunt the edgy character of the Marble and other than that they didn't seemed to do much for each other. Opposites of character don't always attract I suppose. On the other hand the Stilton went fairly well with this beer with its upfront acidity and salt meeting upfront grain bitterness. It might be 5.1% but it just about stands up to the cheese. The chemistry is there, but you get the impression this cheese really demands something more imperial.

Next I moved on to opening the Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout at 7%. A more sophisticated, well reputed, well recived classic Imperial stout that pours a thick black with a nice roasty, coffee bean aroma. With this one the Mrs Bell's blue was again just too mild and creamy for a stout and I was wrong in thinking it might work just because both products are from Yorkshire. It did however find some chemistry with Blacksticks Blue though I found the cheese was more rugged and original, and the stout more refined and fruity. It was worth a try. In the end the real partner for the Samuel Smiths was the Stilton. Power and acidity meet bitter grain, dark fruit and espresso coffee. A beer well suited for stilton. It’s a shame that by this point only a tiny amount of my 355ml bottle remained so I was a tad gutted.

Next up, Durham Temptation at 10% from up my neck of the woods. It's sure strong. The characteristics of this beer I can best describe as; inky, mollasses, burnt candy, esters, sharp fruits, alcoholic, heavy. Very unrefined and would have maybe done with more age on it and sadly I found little chemistry between this beer and the Mrs Bells Blue or Blacksticks.

With Stilton however it worked quite well with a nice contrast between alcohols and salty acidic cheese (a little reminiscent of the old port with stilton combo). The dark grain/coffee element also really harmonises with the pungency. The pairing is balanced, mostly contrasting, and although not as good as the Samuel Smiths pairing, pretty damn good.


The top three pairings were as follows;

1. Samuel Smiths-Stilton
2. Marble-Blacksticks
3. Temptation-Stilton

And Mrs Bell's may have been better more mature but overall I would never let it near an Imperial Stout (so remember, if you ever find yourself in the presence of both, maybe you're being offered both together, just say no!). So there you have it, Imperial Stout, a refreshing alternative to Barley wine for pairing with strong blue cheese.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A house warming party.

Finally we got round to it. After the delays, decorating, trips to Cuba and various other things we finally managed to pull off the much anticipated house warming party featuring a few select guests including Daleside brewery's number 1 dray man Dave. But no, this wasn't just any house warming party, this event was the ideal stage for me to finally get stuck into my first brew of 2011, an amber session beer I have named 451803 Amber. A slightly experimental number at 4.3% made with Pale, Munich, Crystal, Cara and special B malts and hopped up to around 35IBU with Amarillo, Centennial, Riwaka, Chinook Cascade and Bobek hops. I then dry hopped with more Centennial and Riwakas in the keg. Well recieved by most but some thought it was a tad complex and heavy for a 4.3% beer. For me I would say it was a good start to the brewing year tho it could have done with a tad more condition.

Welcome to the Panda & Frog home brewery bar.

Apart from staging my beer, quite a lot of bottled beers were opened and shared round. Cantillon Grand Cru Bruosella 2006 was a good appetizer. As my first ever neat lambic I was expecting something way more sour, but it would be more accurate to call it rather cider like with an elegant balanced acidity than viciously sour. Great stuff from Cantillon. At about this point we tucked into some pork buns and an awesome cheeseboard featuring some of my favourite Northumberland Cheeses and this was an obvious cue to open and share round some more beers. Chimay Tripel is another instantly cheese compatible beer and Number 1 Dray Dave got his first try of some Trappistes Rochefort 8. The highlight for me was the classic St Bernardus Abt 12, which we tried before opening some of my own Panda & Frog 2010 Vintage,  my take on a Belgian Quad. Only 6 months old now and still syrupy and rich on the palate, but pleasant enough.

As the night got moved towards it's conclusion some rather large looking Cigars that Dave had brought over were smoked whilst guests were introduced to my precious whisky range. For the moment I stuck mostly with the rather impressive sherry cask influenced Suntory Yamazaki 18 year (a great Christmas present) and the highly complex and very potent Ardbeg Uigeadail vatted malt.

After that more beer was drunk but not much else happened. We watched a couple of Iron Maiden video's on the net and talked a lot about beer. Or at least I did. All in all a rather splendid evening, and I would have stayed up later, but in the the words of Rowley Birkin; I'm afraid I was very very drunk.