Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should…

…but chances are, I probably will anyway.

Last night I stuck my bottle of 146 Cider‘s Batch #15 in the fridge. It was a limited release of just 146 bottles, made from a special batch of apples originally intended for their Wild West cider.

This evening, I opened that bottle. It smelled and tasted lovely, one of the first ciders in a while I’ve really enjoyed. I consumed about two thirds of it and then my mind turned to the bottle of Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA I put in the fridge to replace it. That is where the fun/stupidity/madness/ingenuity (delete as applicable) began.

For a few months now I’ve been mixing stouts and pale ales (and sometimes their imperial counterparts) as part of my Black and Tan Experiements. A few weeks ago, I started doing a similar thing with other styles, discovering that London Pride and Honeydew make for quite a nice combination.

Tonight, I have crossed the line into mixing beer with cider.

It is of course, not a new thing. I can not lay claim to having invented such a thing, I expect though, that if you asked any drinker that wasn’t a student what they thought of mixing the two, the reaction would be one of horror (much like the reaction from some beer drinkers if you mix two beers together.).

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting anything special. I started off with just a little bit of each mixed together in a small glass. What I ended up with was something a lot nicer, I’m tempted to say than either of the two component ingredients. It ended up tasting like another beer I’ve had before. Something in my mind says either a Mikkeller single hop, or 19.

The thing with this blend is it was a one off. Batch 15 was a limited edition. Only 146 bottles were made, and although there might be a few left at Bitter Virtue, it’s more than likely that I won’t get to drink this again. It’s a moment of madness lost in time, with the exception of this blog post. I did it because I could, because I thought it would be fun to see what I would get if I mixed a nice appley cider, with a nice, highly hopped and rather bitter DIPA. Most people probably would have said I shouldn’t have even tried it. I say it’s their loss.

I dare say this could become a “thing”… (643)

The Friday Pint #30 – Heineken

I leave work for lunch and head across to the pub. Where usually there is a selection of ales and lagers, there is now only Heineken, and “English Ale”. I order a pint of Heineken as the eyes of Sebastien Coe look down on me from a poster hanging above the bar.

“LOCOG Loves You” it states. The bar I’m in is one of the few that hasn’t been closed down by the LOCOG employed “Brand Enforcers”. The pint of Heineken arrives in a branded glass, complete with Olympics logo at the bottom. I go to order food and ask for the menu. The usual fare has been replaced by a menu of Big Macs, McNuggets and McFlurrys.

In need of food I go for a Happy Meal, the LOCOG reccomended meal of the Olympics. “A Happy Meal eater is a happy Team GB supporter” the slogan says. I look around and see all the happy faces around me. They seem slightly forced, but I assume this is because they haven’t accepted LOCOG yet.

As I drink my pint of Heineken, I look back up at the image of Sebastien Coe, who has changed his name to Seb Coca Cola for the duration of the games. He looks over the bar ensuring we obey. LOCOG loves us.

I leave the pub a faithful Team GB supporter. I have had my happy meal. I have had my pint of Heineken. LOCOG has brought happiness. LOCOG loves us.

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Black and Tan Experiments #17 – Camden Town Brewery #2

I’m at Camden Town Brewery. I’ve been here since 10:30 labelling bottles of 1908 Pale Ale. TV crews have been here filming the three of us doing it, and I have been part of a Japanese TV interview.

Part of this involved opening a bottle of the 1908 Pale Ale and pouring into a glass, and subsequently drinking it, saying what we thought of it.

I finished with half a glass left, so with Camden Ink at my disposal, I decided to try the two as a black and tan.

1908 is delightfully fruity, with a strong emphasis on orangey marmalade flavours, which led me to ask if the yeast had come from Fullers.

Ink is delightfully creamy, and full of burnt malt flavours.

Together they are ridiculously nice. The orangey flavours of the pale ale mellow the burnt malt flavours of the ink. After 16 hoppy or mellow Black and Tans, it makes a nice change to drink one that has a different flavour to it.

1908 Pale Ale goes on sale at the bar tomorrow. There’s only 650 bottles of it, and a few have gone already. It’s good stuff. You should get some if you can.

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The Friday Pint #29 – Social drinking and being an “expert”

Unless I find a good place to drink prior to seeing Harry Hill tonight, it is likely I won’t be having a pint this week. Which is probably a good thing, considering tomorrow I shall be leading another beer drinking session with some work colleagues.

The first session took place back in the tail end of last year, and included just three people. We started off early at Kernel, and several hours, seven pubs and seven different beer styles later, we went our separate ways. For me, although some of the beers were new, the drinking of several different styles was a common part of my drinking life. For the other two however, it was a journey of discovery.

The next session took place earlier this year, and along with the original three, we were joined by three more people. Just as before, I was the guide, and introduced them to beers like Hells Lager, and locations like Brewdog Camden. Brewdog (and it’s cheeseboard) proved to be so popular that we returned the next month for a whole afternoon there.

Now, tomorrow afternoon, we shall be heading on another journey around London. Again, I shall be seen as the “guide”. Whilst it’s something I quite enjoy, there is also the pressure to pick something good. Whilst I can easily risk choosing something new to me and discovering it’s not a good beer when I’m on my own, I can’t really do that when suggesting beers for others.

When in the company of other bloggers and brewers I’m constantly made aware of how much knowledge I have yet to acquire or master. In the company of others however, I am seen as the “expert”, despite the fact that I’ve never claimed to be, or feel knowledgeable enough to even consider it. It’s a scenario that makes me wonder what the criteria for an “expert” is.

Another area in which “experts” are commonly found is IT. In my world, a computer expert has an in depth knowledge of several different operating systems, network topology and hardware configurations. In the world of someone less computer literate than me, I am a computer “expert”. It would seem that the definition of expert is a relative term, and in each community, the person with the most knowledge is the “expert”. In that respect, tomorrow, I shall take the mantle of “beer expert” and guide my party around some of the best beers in London. (473)

The Others – An Introduction.

How many people has it taken for your beer to reach the glass you drink it from?

Even if you’re drinking a homebrew, the answer is never just one.

Whilst brewers are rightly acknowledged for their craft and innovation, there are also many others, without who, the beer we enjoy wouldn’t exist. In the case of the humble homebrewer, there is at least the farmers who grow and cultivate the hops and barley, and then there are those that process the raw ingredients into the form the brewer uses. Move up the scale and you’ll find more people vital to getting the beer into your glass, from cask cleaners, to fillers, labellers, engineers, lab technichians and draymen, just to name a few.

What I’d like to do over the next few weeks and months is to give credit to “The Others”. The people who without, there would be no beer in our glasses. If you are one of those people, I’d like to talk to you. I have a vague idea of structure (which may change as I talk to people and learn more) and for each stage, I’d like to focus on a person, who will represent their part of the chain.

I’m hoping to learn a lot from this, and I hope you will learn something too.

If you’d like to be part of “The Others”, please send an e-mail to mail (@) mrdavidj (dot) co (dot) uk

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Don’t Believe The Hype

Those of you who occasionally look at the upcoming list of topics for The Session may have noticed that I have taken the December spot, with the subject of hype.

I was quite surprised that the subject hadn’t been covered before. There are after all many breweries and beers that can be said to have a lot of hype surrounding them. Some deserved, some not so deserved. The subject came to mind after sharing a bottle of Westvleteren 12 with my brother and father. Other than tell them the name I did not say anything else about it. They enjoyed it, but the reaction wasn’t one that should come from (allegedly) the best beer in the world. My subsequent thought was this, if I had stated it was the best beer in the world, would that have changed the perspective. Likewise, if I was negative about the beer, how would that change the opinion.

I have since been looking for studies, assuming that someone must have done some sort of test before. So far I have been unsuccessful, though I have uncovered a few interesting looking articles. I’d like to conduct a bit of research myself, though I’m not too sure how, and where, and when.

In the meantime though, I’d like to ask for your opinion on the following statement: “Promotion has a negative effect on brand evaluation”. I have a few thoughts, but to avoid influencing the discussion, I’m going to hold back from posting them at the moment.

Also, if you have any links to resources that may be of help to me, please post them in the comments. (910)

The Friday Pint #28 – Dark Star Saison

After a few weeks in which the pint itself has taken somewhat of a back seat, this week I return to what The Friday Pint was when I originally started it back in January.

I find myself in The Evening Star, Brighton, where I shall be until I decide to get a train back to London. To the right of me is a pint glass filled with Dark Star Saison. Outside it is cloudy, and it has already rained at least once today.

I take my first sip of the beer. It reminds me of the summer we’re being cheated out of by the rain, though at the same time, I’m also thankful that the rain is keeping away the wasps. When I lift the glass to my nose I get the aroma I often get from saisons that reminds me of washing up liquid. Thankfully, that doesn’t translate to the taste as well.

A group of four men walk in, at least one is drinking Hophead. I could pick out their conversation if I wanted to, but I keep it as an unfocused low frequency murmur. It adds character to a pub that just a few minutes ago had just me and the bar staff in it.

I take another sip. The location feels wrong. I want to be in the south of France, or in Belgium. The cars and buses outside contradict the beer. Another sip. I’m rather warming to the beer now, though it still doesn’t feel right. This isn’t an inside beer. It’s an outside beer. It isn’t raining outside, but it’s not outside weather.

I continue to sip, making the most of what I have got. Complaining about the weather isn’t going to change anything, except possibly lose me friends, or twitter followers if I keep going on about it. I should make the most of now.

Another sip. I look at what else is here for me to drink. There is some Brodies/Mikkeller Big Mofo Stout in the fridge. I think that could be next. I still have over half my glass left here. Time to finish it I feel. To enjoy it, and make my next decision.

I went for the Mofo Stout… (484)

Craft With Pedigree

This morning the twitter account known as @caskaleweek tweeted the following…

“Possible definition of #Cask Ale? #Craft Ale with pedigree”

My initial reaction was to mock this by saying that if I mixed a bottle of Marston’s Pedigree with a kegged beer, I’d get a cask beer.

Of course, this isn’t true, and is quite frankly ludicrous, but it did get me thinking. What does this say about the perception of the term “craft” in cask beer circles?

Each person seems to have a different opinion as to what “craft beer” is or isn’t. For some, it is merely clever marketing, designed to enable people to sell average beer at higher prices. For others, it is a mark of distinction and quality.

I sit somewhere between the two. There are some craft beers where the term “craft” seems deserved. They look, smell and taste as if time and care has been taken over the crafting of the beer, in the way that a craftsman would. On the other hand though, there are also “craft” beers that feel like cynical marketing ploys to cash in on a growing market.

Craft beer or not, the thing that irks me most about the tweet, is that it seems to dismiss non cask beer as not having merit. I don’t want to go into a keg vs cask argument here, as there isn’t an argument to be made in favour of either. I do feel though, that there is a large number of beer drinkers who are limiting themselves because of outdated preconceptions of keg beer.

Yes, it can be cold, and fizzy, but some beers suit being served slightly colder. If you want your beer warmer, let it warm up. Talk with your friends, or do the crossword in whichever paper you read. It’s not difficult to let a beer slowly warm, and if you drink it as it does, you’ll be rewarded with tastes slowly emerging.

Give it a try, go on. (8668)

The Friday Pint #27 – The Joys of Sharing

I’m currently on my way back to Southampton. In my bag are two bottles that I shall be sharing with my brother and my dad tomorrow evening. When I get home I’ll probably share a bottle from the collection I have there with my Dad.

This is a contrast to my usual beer drinking exploits whilst up in London. Whilst there are the occasional social drinking occasions (the next being at the Euston Taps on the 21st July if you want to join me), most of my drinking is done by myself. Whilst I enjoy this, and the lack of restrictions it has, there are times when being able to share a beer has its advantages.

For one thing, it can enable you to drink more different beers in a session. Tonight, if I opened one bottle on my own, I’ll have drunk one bottle. By sharing that bottle with my Dad, I’ll have only drunk half a bottle (or just over half, depending on what it is, and how generous I’m feeling).

There is also the aspect of different perspectives. One drinker’s “off” may be another beer drinker’s “perfectly drinkable”. Whilst several people can drink the exact same beer, it is likely that each of them will have a different opinion on how it affects each of the senses.

I’m not sure what I’ll be drinking tonight. I’m writing this on the train as a kind of companion piece to this month’s The Session post. I’m sure whatever it is, I’ll enjoy it knowing what the weekend has I’m store for me. (465)

The Sessio #65 – So Lonely…

I like people. Even the dull and/or annoying ones can be interesting and fascinating sometimes. What I don’t like though, is when they gather together in crowds. The collective intelligence of a crowd seems to be significantly lower than the actual probable average of those within it. All concept of manners and politeness will disappear when people merge into a crowd as well. There will be the odd exception, but in general, when there is a crowd, there is also a fight to be at the front of that crowd.

I’ve been to pubs in the evening. Most of the times I’ve been lucky, and the places have been a lot less busy than I’d expect them to be, meaning I can get a table, and drink my beer at a suitable pace. Other times though, I’ve not been so lucky.

Bustling pubs are wonderful places to be on your own if you can get a table. You can sit and watch numerous conversations go on around you, as you listen to the low murmur of all of them merging together. You can single out one of the conversations, before it blends into one of the others. Throughout the pint you have in front of you, you can see and hear a lot.

Busy pubs, on the other hand, are hell. Not only are they generally cramped and uncomfortable, but they are never relaxing. Is it really worth having to queue for 10 minutes, just to get a beer that you’ll then have to find some spot to stand and drink it, where you’ll probably be in the way of everyone in the pub, whereever you choose to stand.

It’s this dislike of busy nighttime pubs that has led to me doing most of my pub drinking on weekday afternoons. Whilst most other people are at work, I’m able to sit whereever I want, and I don’t have to wait long to be served.

Sometimes, a place will be too quiet. Solitary drinking is a great passtime when there are people to watch, be it inside the pub, or outside. They need to be the right people though. If you pick the wrong place, you’ll be sat solitary, watching other people sat solitary. There will be no low murmur of conversation, just a slight air of depression and underachievement.

There’s nothing better than going to the pub as part of a group, but then there’s also much good in going to the pub on your own. There are no restrictions or limitations except the ones you have. When you go as a group, everyone of that group needs to be off work at a certain time, and able to get to the decided pub.

Whilst there are advantages to having a solo pint, there can also be times where it’s a disadvantage (though possibly a blessing in disguise). Earlier this week I popped into Brewdog Camden after a visit to Mega City Comics. I started with a half of Anchor Liberty, what with it being 4th July and all, Then I looked to see what bottles there were. Amongst them was some of the barrel aged Tokyo, nicely priced at £25.

Now, amongst a group of friends, this could possibly be justified as a treat, something to be shared and savoured. Could I justify spending that much on one bottle just for me? As much as I’d have liked to have sat there with the bottle and a glass, slowly sipping on it throughout the afternoon, it was just too much for me. I finished instead on a third of Abstrakt 10 and made my way home.

On the subject of Brewdog, the very essence of the bar and it’s customers makes it a good place for solitary drinking, and people watching. You get the beery musos, the geeks and the tickers, you get the Brewdog fanboys and the Camden hispters, you get families, friends, and workers on their lunch. The only problem is it’s a rather expensive place to do it.

This month, The Session is hosted by Nate Southwood at Booze, Beats & Bites. More information about The Session can be found at the Brookston Beer Bulletin. (1202)