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




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.


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.


The Friday Pint #26 – A Glassful of Clichés

I’m going to start off with a warning. This weeks post contains what I consider to be a cliché in the world of describing drinks. It’s a term that I have long considered to be a full back term for people writing tasting notes when they have an okay beer, with not much else to say about it. I shall get to what it is in a while, but first, a little bit about Friday.

I yet again found myself in the Windsor Castle in Lye, home to the Sadler’s Brewery, makers of the rather good Mud City Stout. Unfortunately for me, it was yet again off (in terms of taste, I’ve been rather unlucky with this recently, and I wonder how many people have been put off it from drinking a bad pint. When it’s good, it’s a sublime stout, and dangerously tasty, yet when it’s off, it has a horrible taste, which I can best describe as what I’d imagine moldy socks to taste like.)

I was here to meet a couple of fellow drinkers, who I had first met at the Birmingham Twissup a few months previously. There are several write ups about the event, but this one from blogger Danny Brown is my favourite for the line “when a gathering happens in the name of something, then perhaps it means err something.” It has taken on somewhat of a meaning in recent months, with rather exciting developments happening. I’m sure as soon as I can, I’ll be promoting the hell out of those developments on here.

I arrived early, an hour earlier than the other drinkers (@ckdsaddlers, @robertoross and @midders57, for those of you who are curious) and used this time to get some drinking done for this post, and a potential Black and Tan Experiment involving Hop Bomb and Mud City Stout.

Now, as the Mud City Stout wasn’t on form, the Black and Tan was essentially rendered worthless, and so I’ll be waiting for another go before I write about that. As for this week’s pint, I had the monthly special, Solar Bear, which is easily the better of the Sadler’s monthly specials I’ve had this year. There was a nice citrusy, mostly grapefruit aroma initially, which faded slightly not long afterwards. The beer had a nice bitterness that seemed nicely offset by the slight sweetness of the malt. It was, in my eyes (cliche alert!) a well balanced beer.

It was the first time that those words have made any sort of sense to me. Most of the time, when I drink a beer described as “well balanced” I have found it to be anything but. Of course, one person’s “well balanced” maybe another persons “slightly skewed one way or the other”, but at least now, I do know that there are actually beers that can fit that description.

Saying that though, I’ll still view those words with some skepticism when reading tasting notes.

As for the rest of the day, we finished at the Windsor Castle with some Dr. Hardwicke’s, before moving onto the Waggon and Horses in Halesowen. Despite having passed through a number of times, this was actually the first time I had visited there. I took the opportunity to try Batham’s Mild, which I found to be okay, but not impressive enough for me to rush back for more, unlike the bitter. This was followed by a trip to Stirchley Wines and a final pint in the Post Office Vaults.

So, a little bit delayed, but that was this week’s Friday Pint. It shall be returning to the West Midlands in a few months time, probably.



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.


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…


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.