The Friday Pint #25 – Ethel’s Brew

It would seem that choosing to move my blog from Posterous to a WordPress.org one was a good decision. I’ve already had two PR e-mails, and at least 10 spam comments, which at the moment are entertaining me with things like “i didn’t even see something like this before because of the scarcity of this type of information”.

The first PR e-mail was for a group of students in America (I think, I can’t remember exactly, and I think I deleted the e-mail), who had developed some beer opener sunglasses, and had a kickstarter project going to try and raise money to manufacture them. Whilst they seemed like a nice novelty idea, they clearly would have had little use in the UK, where we get 14 days of sunny weather each year.

The second PR e-mail came from a company called Ethel’s Brew. If you’re feeling brave, the website can be found at http://www.ethelsbrew.com/.

Since recieving the e-mail I’ve been intrigued. I’ve tried to do a search for more information, but aside from sites pretty much reporting the PR, I’ve found little else. I have a hunch (and the people behind the beer are more than welcome to prove me right or wrong) that Ethel is not real, and is in fact a character played by an actress, to sell a brand. I also have a feeling that Ethel’s Beer is made by a big company, who feel that if they openly associated themselves as being the makers of the brand, it would damage it’s potential sales, or ruin it’s reputation before it had even gone to market.

I don’t want to pre-judge a beer before I’ve tried it, but everything about the way the company have chosen to market their range of beers says “avoid” to me. I may very well have ruined the likelihood of recieving more unsolicited PR e-mails after this post, or I may end up getting a load more. Either way, I’m unlikely to write anything about any of them, unless I feel I can say something about it, rather than just say “These guys are doing something”.

I’m going to open a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout now. I’ve never had it before. Here’s to the rest of the night.

    Additional thoughts – 28th June 2012.

So, it turns out that I was right in my suspicions that Ethel wasn’t real. What I hadn’t expected though, was that this wasn’t the work of a larger brewery trying to get in on the craft beer craze, but an advertising agency trying to promote themselves. (Story at http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ddb-behind-ethels-brew-141498)

The question is, what is the ultimate result of a stunt like this. Boak and Bailey have already voiced their annoyance, and the fact that stunts like this make it harder to trust PR agencies on their twitter feed.

On the subject of the campaign itself, I think that DDB have misjudged the way the beer world is moving. Whilst there maybe the few who shout and annoy some people, most of the successful new breweries of the last few years have made their name through having a good product, which has gained popularity through word of mouth and reputation. It also helps that through social media, and blogs, news about good new breweries travels faster than it used to.

Would The Kernel be popular outside of London, or Magic Rock and Summer Wine Brewery popular outside of the North East if it weren’t for the Internet? I know there are many breweries that I’ve not heard of from parts of the country I’ve never been to. Some of these I’m probably better off not being aware of, whilst a few may very well be hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Whilst there is seemingly still an audience for beers with questionable pump clips, and euphemistic/innuendo laden names, those beers will exist. Some of them may be good (though based on personal experience, that’s probably unlikely). I fully expect though, that these sorts of beers will eventually “die out”. How that will happen, or when it will I’m not sure, yet it seems inevitable, that over time, tastes and trends will change.

One thing I am sure of though, is that advertising agencies will reguarly misjudge things. This is one example. The campaign didn’t make me want to drink their beer. It made me want to know who was really behind it. Now we know, and that is where we shall leave it.

(513)

Beer Drinking In America #3 – The Land of Big Beers

So, after parts 1 and 2, what else is there left to cover about my recent escapades in the United States?

Well, firstly, there are a few beers that I’ve not yet mentioned. Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout was an almost perfect chocolatey beer. I say almost, as although everything about it was right, after a while the chocolate flavour seemed to become more and more artificial. Perhaps a whole 660ml bottle (it might have been 750ml, but the point is the same) may have been too much for one person.

I also got the chance to try Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, and 21st Amendment’s Back in Black. The former I found to be very hoppy and bitter (it has an IBU rating of 100). Surprisingly, it didn’t seem that strong in aroma, but it was strong in taste and alcohol. As for the Back in Black, I’ve seen many people praise it here and there, and I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that I rather enjoyed a beer praised by so many others.

Next there’s the venues. We went to a wide variety of places serving beer whilst I was there. World of Beer in Columbus, and Jekyll and Hyde’s in Erie, are worthy of mention for their wide variety of beers on tap. Another venue which I’m looking forward to returning to in November, is McGrogan’s Taphouse in Canonsburg. Whilst their number of taps may be considerably smaller than the other two places mentioned, they have a nicely sized bottle selection in their fridges, and generally, I quite liked the place.

20120616-083854.jpg

Whilst I enjoyed my trip, and the beers, I do have one gripe with the beer drinking scene in America, and that is the size of their beers. Whilst World of Beer offers the option to buy paddles with 4oz “samples” ranging from $2 to $5, and one place we went sold stronger beers in a 10oz measure, most seemed to serve everything in either a 16oz or 20oz pint. The TGI Fridays at Pittsburgh Airport served their beers in 23oz glasses.

Now, I’m fine with pints for most beers. The only trouble was, I also wanted to drink most beers. When drinking here (in the UK), I generally have a vague policy of basing my glass size on the strength of the beer. Anything over 8% I will have as a half, whilst anything 6% or under is full pint material. A lot of the beers I wanted to try in bars were strong 8% plus beers. Knowing that I’d have to drink a whole pint, and combined with the dehydrating heat at times, I was put off them a few times.

Being forced to drink pints, or rather, only having that option, makes me appreciate the choice to have a half, or even a third, somewhat more. I’m sure in November I’ll be more prepared, and it’ll be cooler. Until then I’ve several bottles to be opening, including two big Dogfish Head’s.

162 days to go… (456)

The Friday Pint #24 – Fuller’s Wild River

Once again, I’m back at The Mawson Arms for The Friday Pint. This week, I’m trying Wild River, this year’s summer seasonal from Fuller’s, that has been launched today.

The first noticeable thing about the beer in the Mawson Arms is the promotional campaign that has been built around the beer. Above the bar sits the usual posters, along with a yellow paw print t-shirt, and a bear cuddly toy. A quick bit of research on the Internet also revealed there to be some promotional materials that aren’t being used at the Mawson Arms. Clearly Fuller’s want to push this beer over the summer.

So, what is the beer actually like? Well, it’s somewhere around straw in colour, and catches the light well. In terms of the taste and aroma of the beer, it’s grapefruit that is the overpowering aspect, which leads to a bitter aftertaste. Halfway down the pint, the dominance of the grapefruit appears to subside, and hints of malt start to come through.

Wild River is a good example of a well hopped pale ale. It’s not among the best I’ve tried, but having drunk a fair number of weak flavoured pale ales, something with this much flavour is most welcome. If you’re in a Fuller’s pub this summer, look out for the bear…

20120615-063901.jpg (524)

Black and Tan Experiments #16 – Hitachino Nest

Hitachino Nest beers are rather tasty.

If you’ve yet to try them, you’re in for a treat.

My second Black and Tan on Monday consisted of two Hitachino Nest beers. Hitachino Nest is the brand name of the beers produced by the Kiuchi Brewery, which is based in Naka, Japan.

The pale ale was Nest Ale. It had a slight caramel aroma and taste, making it a very moreish beer, but with no real discerning characteristics otherwise. Saying that though, I feel I should emphasise the word moreish. It was very moreish, and this almost jeopardised the whole experiment.

I did though, manage to hold back from drinking it all and move onto the Sweet Stout, which is indeed sweet. In contrast to the Magic Rock Dark Arts (see Experiment #15), the burnt malt aroma in this beer is subtle, with a slight hint of sweetness. Sweet Stout reminded me a lot of Dragon Stout, both I found to be too sweet for my liking.

As for the mix, neither beer had overpowering defining aspects. The sweetness of the stout seemed to be the most dominant of the aspects shared between the two beers. The resultant Black and Tan would be an okay beer on its own, but it wasn’t great, and it was far from a good Black and Tan.

20120614-155709.jpg (480)

Black and Tan Experiments #15 – Magic Rock #2

On Monday evening I decided to try a couple of the Black and Tan Experiments I’ve got in store. The first consisted of Magic Rock’s Dark Arts and High Wire.

Dark Arts is Magic Rock’s Stout. I find it has a rather strong burnt malt aroma and taste, that is almost overpowering. There is though a very slight chocolate sweetness at the end that takes some of the edge off of the burnt flavour.

High Wire is a pale ale full of fruity aromas, including lemon, and grapefruit, and apple, to name just three. It leaves a lingering dry aftertaste, which makes you want to drink more, making it a perfect beer from a marketing point of view.

The mix surprisingly had a slightly smokey aroma, with the stout being the more dominant of the beers. It had been mellowed slightly by the pale ale, but not much. I have a feeling that Dark Arts and Cannonball may be the best combination of the Magic Rock beers. When I can get my hands on a bottle of each, I’ll be finding out.

20120614-153909.jpg (453)

The Friday Pint #23 – Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival

It’s overcast, raining a lot, and there are weather warnings across the country. Yes, it’s June. Summer is here, and with it comes festivals. Later I’ll be covering the highlights of the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival (there’ll be no full pint today, far too many I want to try after last years “failure”). First though, a brief bit about last weeks Friday Pint, and the absence of a post.

I did manage to drink a pint last Friday. It was at Joe’s Crab Shack in Pittsburgh, which served one of the biggest portions of chocolate cake I’ve had the delight to feast on, ever. It was this cake that was the posts downfall. That combined with the other food I consumed enduced an epic food coma. As it was, the beer in question was Landshark Lager, which was okay, it had a slight lemony hint, but other than that, it was nothing exciting.

Onto this week’s drinking. Last year, my trip to Cardiff for GWBCF was a last minute decision, and as such cost me £64 for the return ticket from London. This time I planned in advance, and saved a considerable amount. I had planned last year to use my time there to try a lot of beers that I rarely see in London or Southampton. As it happened, I ended up mostly drinking beers from the Otley Brewing Company.

This year I had a similar plan. I had my eye on a couple of Otley’s, but there was also some research to be done. I’ll be holidaying in North Wales towards the end of the year, and so today seemed like a good time to see what there is in terms of beer in that area. Alas, despite my best intentions, my beers mostly came from the south, with two each from Otley and the recently opened Tiny Rebel Brewery.

From the former I had another half of Odessa, their collaborative Imperial Stout brewed with Pete Brown, and my first taste of O6, their porter. I’m not sure how I’d managed to not try it up to now, but now I have, I want to drink it again.

Today was also my first taste of Tiny Rebel beers, with Cwtch and Dirty Stop Out being sampled. Cwtch was nice, but not really my sort of beer. Dirty Stop Out on the other hand, was one of my favourite beers of the day.

Among the other beers I tried was one of the first releases from Brains Craft Brewery, All At Sea. It didn’t grab me in the same way that the Otley and Tiny Rebel brews did, but I still think its a project worth keeping an eye on.

Overall it’s been a good day, with good beers, and good people. (418)

Beer Drinking in America #2 – Enthusiasm Counts For A Lot

On the Thursday of my first week out in America, we drove (I say we, my girlfriend was the one doing the driving) up to Erie in Northern Pennsylvania. Whilst there, we paid a visit to the Erie Brewing Company.

When we arrived we walked into the shop area to find no one around. We went back out and pushed the bell outside the door and were greeted by Mike, who proceeded to be one of the nicest, and fun, guides I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.

I told Mike that I was there to try the beers, and I was told to buy a tasting glass for $5. Mike then proceeded to work through the beers that they sold.

The first was Presque Pilsner, which seemed much more like a Pilsner than the My Antonia that I had drunk the evening before. It seemed smooth and light, and just right for the hot humid weather there was those few days.

We followed this with Misery Bay IPA, which following a failed attempt at ordering an IPA in another bar, was actually my first American IPA of the holiday. There didn’t seem to be much aroma, but it was wonderfully bitter, and exceedingly tasty.

The third beer I tried was Derailed, a 5% Black Cherry Ale. The beer had a feint cherry aroma, and a strong cherry taste, followed by a slight biscuity aftertaste. Essentially, it was a good dessert beer.

Railbender is a 6.8% Scottish style beer, which “exists to enjoy, but doesn’t provoke words”. This was followed by Oak Aged Fallenbock, which had been aged using oak spirals. I found it to be rather good for a bock beer.

After exhausting the taps they had, we moved on to some bottles. Mad Anthony’s APA (which had run out on tap) wasn’t the best in the range, but was still entirely drinkable and enjoyable. The real fun came with the Ol’ Red.

Ol’ Red Cease and Desist is a 10.1% Wee Heavy Ale. We first opened a bottle from the latest batch, which we were told was made with odd yeast, and so didn’t taste how it should. Saying this though, it was still a very nice, rich and flavoursome beer. Halfway through drinking this version, Mike went out and came back with a two year old bottle, made with yeast that hadn’t gone wrong. This version prompted the words “wonderful, wonderful beer”. It was.

We finished off with a blend. taking two parts Misery IPA and one part Ol’ Red, to create a mix that Mike called Old Misery. It didn’t seem to be greater than the sum of it’s parts, but it’s good to see people experimenting with mixing beer.

I didn’t take any notes walking around the brewery. They were bottling at the time, so it was rather loud. The one thing I do remember though, is Mike telling us that Fuggles is one of his favourite hops. With all the criticism it seems to get from some circles, I was initially quite surprised. Thinking about it though, it’s probably more a case of saturation.

Mike’s clear enthusiasm for the beer and the brewery helped us to enjoy the experience and the beer. He also helped us with where to go after we left, suggesting several venues in the area with large selections of beer on tap. We chose Jekyll and Hydes, which served good burgers, and a nice selection of beer.

Contrast the enthusiasm of Mike to the more rigid scripted tour style that we experienced at Great Lakes in Cleveland the following day, and it’s clear what leaves more of an impression.

One more America post to come from this trip, in which I’ll be covering the beers I haven’t done in the first two posts, and anything else that may come to mind…

;

20120608-175101.jpg (492)

Beer Drinking in America #1 – Making the most of an opportunity.

So, I’m now back in the UK after almost two weeks in Western Pennslyvania and Eastern Ohio with my wonderful girlfriend, who drove me around to many bars and breweries. A fair bit of beer was drunk over that period, and much griping about the lack of smaller measures in some places, especially when it came to beers of certain strengths. I didn’t really want to be drinking a whole pint of them, especially when there were others I wanted to try as well.

Enough moaning however, and on with the beer. To make things easier, I’ll be splitting my notes into several smaller posts, with this one focusing on the Dogfish Head beers I drank whilst in Pittsburgh.

Dogfish Head is a brewery I’ve wanted to try more of for some time. I managed to try at least seven different beers that were new to me, and reaquaint myself with 90 Minute IPA. There were some odd beers, some very welcome beers, and one that was nice, but didn’t really do anything for me.

The week started with Midas Touch, a 9% Ancient Ale made with ingredients found in the drinking vessel of King Midas. I’d say that this was an acquired taste. The first impression is that of a rather musky aroma, and the taste is quite dry at first, but a sweetness comes through in the aftertaste. This isn’t a beer I’d rush to drink more of, but perhaps it would work better paired with some food.

The same night I shared a bottle of My Antonia. My Antonia is an Imperial Pilsner, which has been continuously hopped. As a result, the aroma reminded me a lot of 90 Minute IPA. In the 90 Minute IPA, I think that the continuous hopping is a good thing. I like how it tastes and smells. In My Antonia however, I found it to be too much. It wasn’t how I expect a pilsner to be. I liked it, but as a pilsner, I wasn’t a fan.

The next beer came in the shape of Chicory Stout, a good enough stout, though I’m not too sure what happened to the chicory. Saying that though, I’d still drink it whenever the opportunity arose.

On the Saturday Evening we shared a bottle of Bitches Brew, Dogfish Head’s beer brewed in honour of the 40th anniversary of the Miles Davis album. My notes have just two words by this beer, “wonderfully tasty”, and it was. My girlfriend was asked to perform at a show that evening, which turned out to be longer than she had been told, and the second worst show she had performed in. By the time we got back, I think any beer would have been “wonderfully tasty”. We have another bottle which is being saved for my return in November. Hopefully it will still be “wonderfully tasty” then.

For Memorial Day we returned to Pittsburgh, and once again I raided the beer shelves of the Shop and Save, this time picking up the Victory and Dogfish Head versions of Saison Du Buff. Saison Du Buff is a collaboration beer between Victory, Dogfish Head and Stone, first brewed at Stone in 2010, and then replicated at the other breweries using the same ingredients. The beers have been brewed again this year, and the Dogfish Head version isn’t bad (I’ll say one word about the Victory version, soap.), there seemed to be a malt base that the Victory Saison was lacking, which gave the beer a much better overall taste.

A return in the other direction to Columbus brought with it another return to the Shop and Save, and this time a four pack of Burton Baton, Dogfish Head’s IPA flavoured with oak spirals. I found it to be a rather nice IPA that gives way to oakiness in it’s after taste. I’ve left two bottles behind to see how it ages. I think it could go well.

As well as all of these bottles, I also got the chance to try Urkontinent on tap at McGrogans Taphouse in Canonsburgh (a place I’d like to be taken back to in November, due to it’s nicely sized bottle selection). It’s a nice little beer, which really came good once it had warmed up to it’s optimum temperature, and the flavour started coming out. I didn’t think to take notes when I was drinking it, I just enjoyed it. After all, that’s the whole point of drinking beer, isn’t it?

As well as this lot, I also bought back with me bottles of Sahtea and Black and Blue, which I’ll be drinking when the right time comes. With the amount of Dogfish Head I drank you could easily be mistaken for thinking I was in Delaware rather than Pennslyvania or Ohio. I was though, and beers from those states will be coming up soon…

 

Pictures will come later, when I can actually upload something.

(486)

Black and Tan Experiments #14 – Sam Adams Imperial Stout and Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

P176

I’m still in America, the land of big roads, big cities and big beers.

Sam Adams Imperial Stout is a gloriously delicious stout. Full of rich chocolate flavours and aromas with hints of aniseed. By far one of the best Imperial Stouts I’ve had in a while. I’d been enjoying it for a while when I thought about adding some Hoptimum for a Black and Tan.

Hoptimum is an Imperial IPA with an IBU of 100. It’s an extremely bitter and hoppy beer. It’s not that strong in aroma compared to many DIPAs, but it’s very strong in taste and alcohol.

The mixture surprises me. From experience I was expecting the high IBUs to cut through the stout and add bitterness to the stout. As it is, the Stout overwhelms in this case, with only a bit of hoppiness in the taste.

Two individually great beers make an okay black and tan.

(21672)

The Friday Pint #21 – Great Lakes Elliot Ness

Those of you who follow me on twitter (@mrdavidj if you don’t and would like to) will probably be aware that I am currently in the USA. I’ve drunk a fair amount of Dogfish Head, and had a rather good afternoon at Erie Brewing Company yesterday, but those will be covered in another post. For this is The Friday Pint post, and although my netbook tells me it’s 1:11 on Saturday Morning back home, here it’s only 20:11, and so the night is still young.

The weather today in Cleveland was hot, at least to me it was hot. It was the kind of heat where just walking a few minutes makes that entire pint of water you just downed seem worthless. This probably wasn’t the best weather for me to enjoy beer in, but I made a good go at it.

Img_0141

This week’s Friday Pint came from the Great Lakes Brewing Company, and was an Amber Lager, called Elliot Ness. It was one of those beers that served it’s purpose, but failed to provoke any kind of notes in my notebook.

The pulled pork sandwich that I had with it however was gloriously tasty, with some of the best chip seasoning I’ve ever had on chips. I followed this with some of their homemade chocolate chunk ice cream, made with their porter. Whilst it was rather tasty, I felt it didn’t quite seem exciting as the description.

After food and beers, we went on the tour. The things of note that I felt worthy of mentioning are the fact that some of the waste malt is used in the resturant for baking pretzels and bread, and that the beer served in the resturant comes straight from the tanks in the brewery, completely bypassing the kegging process, meaning fresher beer.

I liked Great Lakes. After the tour I popped back in to use their toilet before the drive back and discovered the pub downstairs. It seemed like a good place to drink in, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was feeling perpetually dehydrated, I probably would have stayed for one more.

(18406)