The Session #120 – Brown Beer

This month’s edition of The Session is hosted by Joe Tindall of The Fatal Glass of Beer. He asks us to contemplate brown beer. A commonly neglected and unloved form of beer.

I have been in the USA for just over a year now. I have found many good IPAs, and many good stouts. Brown beers, or rather beers resembling the sort of beer I could easily find back home (in the UK) are somewhat harder to come by. When I do come by them, many don’t live up to what I was drinking for over 10 years of my life.

This makes me think that brown beer, or rather an English Bitter in this case, is something I (and possibly many others) take for granted. It is one of those styles that most breweries have in some shape or form, and more often than not, it will be their best seller.

There’s a good reason for this. A well balanced bitter is often the choice of a drinker who wants to spend a long session enjoying a beer or two over a few hours. A number of 4% bitters is going to be much more palatable than the same number of 7% stouts or IPAs. For those of a certain age, whose early beer drinking days were formulated on a limited selection of “boring brown beers”, returning to them on occasion can provide comfort, and also a reference point for the wide range of other beers available today.

As for English Bitter style beers in the US, I think the problem is one of dispense. Whilst lagers and IPAs are suited to being dispensed by keg, I think beers like English bitters (and to a lesser degree stouts) are much better dispensed on cask. As I’m now some distance from the nearest bar that serves cask, I guess I’ll just have to make do.

At least there’s the option of Fuller’s London Pride in bottles…


The Session #77 – IPA: What’s the Big Deal?

Once again, it’s the first Friday of the month, and as usual, it’s time for The Session. The monthly series in which beer bloggers write upon a subject chosen by another. This month, Justin, of Justin’s Brew Review, questions why IPA is seemingly so popular.

To answer this, I think we should acknowledge that it is a certain type of IPA that is highly popular. The highly hopped (usually with American or New Zealand hops), high IBU, fruity IPAs that often go against what the uninitiated assume a beer to taste like.

I believe that the popularity of these IPAs can be attributed to those strong fruity flavours, and I think that as long as there are new drinkers to discover them, they will continue to remain popular. Eventually though, I suspect that as people get used to IPAs, they will drop out of fashion for the next big thing.


The Session #76 – Compulsion

So, after missing a month or two, I once again find time to contribute to The Session, which is this month hosted by Glen Humphries of beer is your friend.

The topic this month focuses on what compels us to buy more beer, especially when some of us already have fridges and cupboards and boxes full of the stuff.

I’m certainly guilty of buying and hoarding beer. Some of it has a virtual date on it. I’ve not actually written on any of my bottles when I’m going to drink them, but there are some that I’ve mentally earmarked for certain special occasions, birthdays, weddings and the such.

At the other end of the scale, there are the casual beers. These usually don’t last long, as I don’t need a reason to drink them. They’re easily available, relatively cheap, and I enjoy drinking them.

Inbetween those beers are the beers that make up the bulk of my hoard. The mixture of rare beers or beers that could benefit from a bit of ageing (those many bottles of Bourbon County for example). Whilst I don’t find it impossible to open these bottles, I do tend to look for a special occasion, or theme to do so. As an example, two weekends ago I finally opened my 2003 bottle of Edwin Tucker’s Empress Porter, in a verticle tasting which included the three subsequent releases (from 2006, 2010 and 2013).

So, with that in mind, what does compel me to buy more bottles?

Well, if I didn’t, I’d soon find myself running out of beer to drink at home, though as things stand, I’d be good for a few weeks, and probably months. The main reason is probably that I enjoy it. I enjoy going into bottle shops. Most times I probably end up spending more than I should, but I end up leaving with good beer, that I can either drink myself, or in most cases, share with friends or family.

Last week, as I was walking to Bitter Virtue, I began to wonder if my buying patterns would be different if I had such a shop on my door step. I came to the conclusion that I would probably still have a hoard of vintage beers and 750s, but that the more casual beers would be bought on a night by night basis. It would be a win-win situation. I wouldn’t need to store the beers myself, and I’d have access to a much bigger choice. All I’d need to do is walk a bit further to pick them up (and also pay for them, but then I would have had to have done that if I was storing them at home anyway).

Looking back on all of this though, I suppose the biggest reason that compels me to buy more beer, is that I like drinking beer. It seems a rather obvious answer, but there you go. I like beer, so I buy beer.


The Session #73 – Beer Audit

After what seems like a month since the last edition of The Session, we yet again find ourselves at another first Friday of the month, and with it, a new edition of The Session.the_session

This time around, Pints and Pubs is hosting with the subject of Beer Audits. In the introduction, they detail their own experiences before posing the following to their fellow bloggers…

I’m interested to know if you take stock of the beers you have, what’s in your cellar, and what does it tell you about your drinking habits. This could include a mention of the oldest, strongest, wildest beers you have stored away, the ratio of dark to light, strong to sessionable, or musings on your beer buying habits and the results of your cellaring.


Just before Christmas I did a kind of audit of the beers I have with me in London. If my memory recalls I counted around 130 bottles. Most I still have, some I have drunk. Many more have entered the collection and left in the few months since.


There are some beers in my collection that I’ve earmarked for certain occasions. I find this makes it much easier to ignore the fact that they are there, sat aging at the back of the cupboard. There are also beers that I have bought for the sole purpose of aging to see how they turn out. Some of these are beers that are designed or have been aged with good effect by others, some are just regular beers that have fallen under the realm of curiosity.

Currently, I believe my stash is nicely varied when it comes to styles. I have pale ales, IPAs, Stouts, Impy Stouts, Sour Beers, Barley Wines and probably others that have slipped my mind. The important thing is, the styles I go for most often are covered.

I have found that with my experiment this year (See The Friday Pint 2) I have been slightly reluctant to open bottles as reguarly as I would have done last year. This is arguably certainly a good thing, not least for my health, but also for my appreciation of the beers I do open.

I’m sure the full extent of my beer collection will be exposed when I have to move house. I’ll have a rather nice selection of beer to drink in 3-5 years time. If only I had one to drink now.



The Session #72 – How I Love Beer

Are we really a month into 2013 already? I guess we must be, as it’s the first Friday of February, and with that comes another round of The Session, the monthly communal the_sessionblogging event that is this month hosted by Ryan Newhouse at Montana Beer Finder.

With Valentines Day not far away, Ryan has asked us to write about “How we love beer”. He points out that he asks “how” and not “why”. They are two very different things.

I probably won’t be the only person to do this, yet it seems to fit in with the subject, and the romantic timing of The Session, so here goes, How I Love Beer, an Ode to Deliciousness in a Glass…

Delicious yummy, lipsmacking beer
Ales, lagers, sour geuze
The many forms of my favourite booze
Oh how I love you
In your oversized glass
Exposing the aromas to my nasal passage
Teasing my tastebuds with potential delights
Sometimes you’re wrong, but most you’re just right.

Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer
Beer here
Beer there
Beer everywhere
Beer at home, Beer alone
Beer with friends, Beer with food
It’s all good.

A wonderful rich imperial stout
A beer with such magnificent clout
Such wonderful flavour
For my tastebuds to savour

I love beer, and how
I’m even thinking of beer now
What to drink when I get the chance
To feed this insatiable romance




The Session #71 – Brewers and Drinkers

the_sessionWell, December seemingly went rather quickly. It seems like just last week I was reading everyone’s musings on the subject of hype. Here are yet again, on the first Friday of the month, and time for another edition of The Session, this month hosted by John of Home Brew Manual.

For his Session, John asks about the relationship between brewers and drinking, and how knowledge of the processes that go into making a pint can affect the enjoyment of it.

I’ve enjoyed beer for around eight to nine years now. I started enjoying ales at The Giddy Bridge in Southampton during a three hour break at Uni on a Monday. The Giddy Bridge is a Wetherspoon’s pub, so the beer and food was relatively cheap compared to other places, and the beer selection was more appealing too.

My years of drinking at The Giddy Bridge were done with relatively little knowledge, however they did contribute to developing tastes. I still much prefer porters and stouts, though I wonder if this was in some way influenced by the beers I drank early on.

Between Uni and moving to London, my beer drinking would come from supermarkets and traveling to breweries to pick up beer in plastic containers of various shapes and sizes. At this point I was still predominately drinking English ales, though I had encountered Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, which opened my eyes to a world of American beers beyond the mainstream lagers available in the supermarkets.

It wasn’t until moving to London, and discovering bars like The Rake, Cask and The Euston Tap, that my drinking really began to expand. With that expansion in drinking came the start of this blog, which has changed the way I look at beer. Rather than just enjoy a beer, and either get or not get the aroma and taste, I now try to figure out what they are.

It’s probably a combination of drinking, blogging, and following numerous home brewers on Twitter that led me to starting last year. Foolishly, I decided that what I wanted to brew first was a lager. I was fully aware that a standard ale would perhaps be a much more simple recipe to begin with, and wouldn’t require the lagering period, or the use of the fridge, however lager is what I began with.

It didn’t go well. One person who has tried it said it was okay, and reminded them of a pale ale. The aroma is okay, yet too many hops went in too early, and as a result it’s far too bitter.

My second brew, a smoked porter hopped with Bramling Cross, was a happy accident. I was aiming for a 5% porter, and wanted more than my 8.5 litre pot will allow. I brewed a wort that was twice as strong, and added more liquor to it in the fermenter before adding the yeast. Rather than a 5-6% porter, the result was a rather drinkable 3% porter.

Brewing this porter, and seeing how it has changed in the bottle over a couple of months, has had an effect on how I’ve enjoyed a beer. When I first tried Vibrant Forest’s Black Forest Porter on draught, it was rather fruity, much like my home brew. When I had a bottle of it a few weeks later, it wasn’t as fruity, and would have been disappointing, had my home brewed porter not had done a similar thing.

Over the last year or so when drinking a beer, I have tried to find out which hops have been used. The ones I have enjoyed the most are the ones I have made a note to try and use in my own brewing. Likewise, with styles. When I enjoy a beer, I often consider trying to make my own, to my tastes.

My plans for home brew are to use it to brew beers that I want to drink, and also to use it to learn more. The home brewer has much more freedom to experiment with ingredients than a commercial brewer does. It’s through experimenting that I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m hoping I get more of the former.

Has my short time home brewing affected how I enjoy drinking? So far, I have to say not really. Will that be different with time? Possibly, come and ask me again in a year or so.


The Session #70 – Don’t Believe The Hype

This month, it is my turn to host The Session. A monthly project set up by Stan Hieronymus and Jay Brooks to get beer bloggers around the world talking about one specific subject each month.

For my subject, I’ve decided to focus on hype, and before I go off and read what everyone else has written, I’m going to throw my tuppence-worth into the mix.

Hype, in many ways, is both self perpetuating and a double edged sword. Without hype, there are many beers (and other products), that I simply wouldn’t be aware of. Likewise, without hype, a number of products that I have found to be disappointing may very well have been satisfactory.

The Westverletren 12, which I referenced in my introduction post to this session a few weeks ago, falls victim to that issue of not living up to it’s hype. I certainly enjoyed it, yet I feel that the preceding hype of it being “The best beer in the world” led to it being disappointing.

In the months leading up to this, I had wanted to try an experiment to try and see how descriptions of a beer can affect opinion. In it, I would have given a group of people the same beer twice. On one occasion I wouldn’t have said much, other than describe the beer. On the other, the beer would be an award winning beer, loved by people around the world, complete with added superlatives to describe it.

Alas, I was unable to find the time, or suitable place, to do such a thing, and so I can’t say what I found, yet I’m sure such experiments have already been carried out elsewhere.

If you’re reading this, please do read some of the contributing posts to this month’s session. You should be able to find most of them in the comments to the announcement post, here.



Announcing The Session #70 – Don’t Believe The Hype

Back in the summer, I shared a bottle of Westvleteren 12 with my brother and my father. Whilst I was aware of it’s reputation as “best beer in the world”, they were not. Whilst we all enjoyed it, we all agreed that we much preferred the other beer we had that night. The question that came into my head was this…

If I had told them it was the best beer in the world, would their perceptions have changed?

How much does hype have an effect? Are we much better off knowing nothing about a beer, or is it better to have the knowledge as to what the best beers are?

Which beers do you think have been overhyped? How do you feel when a beer doesn’t live up to it’s hype.

Is hype a good or bad thing for beer? Tell me what you think. I’m looking forward to seeing what the general consensus is.


The Session #69 – The Perfect Beer World

It’s the first Friday of the month again, and so it’s time yet again for The Session. This month’s session is hosted by Jorge at Brew Beer and Drink It, and asks us the question, what would we like to change in order to obtain a perfect beer world.

I suppose the first thing that would need to be done before figuring out what needs to be changed, is to figure out what a perfect beer world actually is.

To me, a perfect beer world would be one where there is enough beer for everyone who wants it. There would be no concerns over where the beer came from, the only important thing is that the drinker enjoys the beer they have, whether it be a small homebrew, or a beer from a big multinational company.

To get to this point would be easier for some than for others. For those who are happy with a big multinational beer, the kind readily available at supermarkets, they are already in a perfect beer world. For those who want something more, something rarer, there’s a chance they may have to make compromises.

Sure, you could increase production, but would that then result in some of those people not being interested anymore. At a guess, I’d say that as some beers raised production to supply demand, some people would complain that it’s not as good as it used to be.

That’s the problem with people, give them what they wanted and they’re still not happy. One man’s perfect beer world is the next man’s beer hell, and as such, it’s pretty much impossible to create a beer world that is perfect for everyone. You can create a world in which cask and keg, and bottle and can, and all types of beer are accepted, but there will still be those who think one of those shouldn’t exist.

I’m happy with my beer world as it is. It could be better, but there’s more than enough to keep me drinking beer for a while yet.

Next month it’s my turn to host The Session, with a topic based on hype. Expect my introduction post in the next week or so.


The Session #68 – Novelty Beers

It’s the first Friday of the month again, and with two months to go until Good Morning… hosts The Session, it’s the turn of Tiffany at 99 Pours to host.This month, The Session is about Novelty Beers. I decided to take a trip into the past, with a completely made up story, filled with factual inaccuracies…



In a long established brewery, popular amongst the local people for the flavoursome beers it produced, the brewing team discuss attempting something new.

“Rather than using all of these sticks and spices and beans to flavour our beers, why don’t we try using these flowers?” One brewer suggested.

“Flowers in beer?” asked another, “Don’t you think that’s a bit of a novelty?”

“Sure it is,” replied the first brewer, “but soon it won’t be, and in a few hundred years time it will become so standard that the brewer’s of the future will have to use what we’re using now to create novelty beers of their own”

“Ah, I see” said the second brewery, hesitantly.

“And the best thing about it,” added the first brewer, “is because it’s a novelty, we can charge more for it.”

“Will the people really fall for it?” asked the second brewer.

“We can only wait and see” came the reply.

And so it was that the novelty beer came to be, and with it was also born the beer geek, who would seek these strange new beers, and declared them the best thing ever, mainly because they had tried them and most other people hadn’t.

This story may be factually inaccurate.