Thursday, 15 December 2011

Golden Pints Awards

My first Golden Pints awards. It seems a long way back to the start of the year so these awards may seem a little second-half centric.

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer
Cask: Oakham JHB at Tap East
Keg: Magic Rock Human Cannonball at The Craft beer company

Winner: Oakham JHB - So drinkable so I had to go back for a few more.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Bottled: Kernel Galaxy IPA
Canned: Brewdog Punk (the good ones)

Winner: Kernel Galaxy IPA - (Everyone raves about the Kernel's stouts and porters with good reason, but no-one gets true hop flavour like this into their IPA's)

Best Overseas Draught Beer
Nomination 1: Repoterroir (a five-brewery collaboration; Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, Lost Abbey, Avery and Allagash) at the Dogfish Head bar. Cucumber in a beer?...hell yes! Try it if you get the chance. Read about it here.
Nomination 2: Weyerbacher Harvest ale at the brewery Saturday tasting and tour
Nomination 3: Harpoon IPA. 

Winner: Weyerbacher Harvest Ale - Fresh straight from the brewery, awesome! Then again in a growler a couple of hours later. Top beer made with home grown cascade hops.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Bottled: Rodenbach Vintage 2007
Canned: Maui  Big Swell IPA

Winner: Rodenbach Vintage 2007 - Sweet, Sour, Complex, Stunning dark red colour, goes well with just about any food and comes in a champagne style bottle. Whats not to like?!

Best Overall Beer

Winner: Kernel Galaxy IPA - Just proving I'm a hophead at heart. Close call over the Weyerbacher though...

Best Pumpclip or Label (I have gone for branding really rather the particular label or pumpclip)
Nomination 1: Marble
Nomination 2: Otley 
Nomination 3: Magic Rock

Winner: Magic Rock - While I love the simplicity of the Marble and Otley brands Magic Rock has this one by a country mile.

Best UK Brewery
Nomination 1: The Kernel
Nomination 2: Oakham 
Nomination 3: Magic Rock

Winner: The Kernel - not just the best beers.  Evin and his team are just the best bunch of guys and have been very free with their help and information.

Best Overseas Brewery
Nomination 1: Weyerbacher
Nomination 2: Dogfish Head 
Nomination 3: St Bernadus

Winner: Dogfish Head - I know that they don't export over here any more, but the range and innovation of styles makes them stand out.

Pub/Bar of the Year
Nomination 1: Craft Beer Co
Nomination 2: Euston Tap 
Nomination 3: The Rake

Winner: The Rake - Very close call between all three here. The Rake's location tips the scales.

Beer Festival of the Year
Strangely I was only at one professional one...GBBF (the spoons festival doesn’t count, right?) Still the winner is:

Winner: London and South East Craft Beer Festival - a great homebrew festival.

Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose (Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Thornbridge) vs Sainsburys (Brewdog, Brooklyn Brewery, interesting beer hunt) vs Morrisons (Also Brewdog, Worthington's White Shield)

Winner: Waitrose - Torpedo swings it

Independent Retailer of the Year
Nomination 1: Cobbetts Real Ale - Dorking
Nomination 2: The Bottle Shop - Canterbury
Nomination 3: The Beer Boutique - Putney

Winner: The Beer Boutique - Newcomer on the scene, great range (esp in Belgian beers) and great decor. The Bottle Shop perhaps has a better range of beers but Canterbury is a long drive.

Online Retailer of the Year

I have only used one this year so the winner is: My Brewery Tap

Best Beer Book or Magazine
Book: Melissa Cole  - Let Me Tell You About Beer.
Magazine: Zymurgy (an imported US homebrew magazine)

Winner: Melissa Cole - A great book with something for beer novices but also stuff for the more geeky reader. Perfect christmas present fodder.

Best Beer Blog or Website
Blog: Cooking Lager
Website: Jim's Homebrew Forum - Full of useful information

Winner: Cooking Lager - Drop the beer geek act cookie and get back to what you do best. Entertain us!

Best Beer Twitterer
Nomination 1: @SimonJohnson
Nomination 2: Andy Mogg @Chilliupnorth and @BeerReviewsAndy
Nomination 3: @twattdog

Winner: @SimonJohnson  - Funny and seems to consume more beer then the rest of the twitterverse put together.

Best Online Brewery Presence
Nomination 1: Hardknott 
Nomination 2: Dogfish Head
Nomination 3: Brewdog

Winner: Hardknott, with the twitter presence, the blog and now an online shop. World domination is next.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Nomination 1: Brooklyn Double Chocolate Stout and Baked Figs with Mascarpone 
Nomination 2: Spicy Pepperoni Pizza and Repoterroir at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach 
Nomination 3: Brewdog Hardcore IPA with Dunsyre Blue Cheese at the Brewdog Burns night at the White Horse.

Winner: Pizza and Repoterroir - Probably has something to do with being on holiday and the atmosphere in the Dogfish Head bar, but given the choice now this is the one I would ask for. The carbonation of the beer lifted the cheese, and the cucumber and mint quenched some of the spiciness of the pepperoni and chilli.

In 2012 I’d Most Like To…

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Photoblog: Saturday at Weyerbacher

While meandering about the East coast of the USA we happened to be in Pennsylvania where the locals suggested we make the detour to Easton on a Saturday to visit the nice people at the Weyerbacher brewery
Here is what we found:

 Well it took us a while to find. Tucked away up what appeared to be a nice residential street we finally came across the little sign.

 Plenty of beers

 A flashy beer menu.
 Some interesting branding. Insanity is Blithering Idiot aged in oak bourbon casks.

 Craft beer, brewed in small batches...

...and served in small measures... there was no shortage of people at the bar.

 So on with the tour with our guide Billy not that Billy Bragg...but he does get a proper glass (jealous)!

 These barrels have something interesting and sour in them, no tasters unfortunately.

 The Homebrewers Tap. Some of the workers at Weyerbacher are homebrewers, here is where they showcase their beers to the rest of the staff.

 The tour was interesting...

 ...and Billy was knowledgeable about the beers even though he is not one of the brewers himself. 

 Rented Kegs with the previous labels still on there or a lot of brewery swaps?

 The Big Bottling line

 Little Brother of Bottling Line...hopefully not bottling from the little room behind it!

The only drawback of the visit was not Weyerbacher's fault. The crazy Pennsylvania state laws state that we could only buy a case of 24 beers, no single bottles, no six packs but you could get growlers.  We did not have that long to go with our trip so all we could go was get a growler of the fantastic harvest ale.

Anyone in Pennsylvania should make the effort to go visit these great people and fantastic beer. For UK people wanting to try Weyerbacher beer, it is available in bottles in the Craft Beer Co and the Cask Pub and Kitchen.

Monday, 14 November 2011

London and South East Craft Beer Festival - Winners

London Amateur Brewers took over the hosting of this year's London and South East Craft Beer Festival after the retirement of Richard Burns from Cheers Homebrew.

Over a hundred beers were arranged in 7 categories, were judged by 14 qualified judges and professional brewers in the morning and in excess of 300 litres of beer were then available for the competitors and general public in the afternoon.

Here are the winners.

 Category 1, Sweet and oatmeal Stouts, Red Ales and Speciality beers. Sponsored by Warminster Maltings

Winner: Tom Greasley with Sarcastro Stout

 Runners up: Father and Son Chris and Paul Simpson with Golden Shower and Brewers Furst

Category 2, Special Bitters, Blonds and Pale Ales, sponsored by The Siebel Institute

Winner: Simon Poffley with Higham Hill Special

 Runners Up: Owain Lewis with Simcoe Pale and Mick Harrison with Street Party Bitter

Category 3, Standard Bitters and Milds sponsored by Danstar

 Winner: Rob Case with Scarecrow Mild

 Runners Up: Dave Wilton (absent) with Little Brother and Mick Harrison with Howard Hughes Ruby Mild.

Category 4, IPAs and Amber ales. Sponsored by Brew UK

 Winner: Organiser and and being handed a prize rather then giving one, Paul Henderson with Left Over IPA (note he managed to keep his eyes open in this picture....)

 Runners Up: Graeme Coates with Red Sparrowhawk (this also won a few awards at the Bristol competition in September) and Ingemar Jansson with Slinka IPA. Ingemar is one of a pair of Swedish homebrewers who came over for the competition and a London beery weekend. It was great to meet you guys.

Category 5, Porters and Dry Stouts sponsored by My Brewery Tap

 Winner: Gregg Irwin with Decadence Stout

Runners Up: Alan Lakin with Fuller London Porter and Alan Gayton (absent) with Sandalwood Stout

Category 6, Belgian, Fruit beer, Lager, smoke beer etc sponsored by Molson Coors

Winner: Steve Syson (absent) with Sorachi Vice

 Runners Up: Gregg Irwin with Roaring Queen and Ali Kocho-Williams with Crafty Smoke

Category 7, Imperial Stouts, ESBs, Barleywines and Old Ales sponsored by the Homebrew Shop

Winner: Nick Reece with Imperial Stout the Second

Runners Up: Bryan Spooner with Barley One and Rob Case with Passing Time (my personal vote for the people's choice)

Onto the other awards:

Best label sponsored by the Malt Miller

Winner: Gregg Irwin with  Roaring Queen. As this is mine I can show it below ;-)

People's Choice awards sponsored by Fullers, Brupaks and Sambrooks

3rd place, winning a boxset of beers from Fullers. Ingemar Jansson with Slinka IPA.

2nd place, winning a fermenter from Brupaks Mark Vincent with Hermen's hop Harvest

Winner and getting a brewday with Sambrooks Brewery Fergus McIver with Taste the Darkness. This was a great american style stout, probably entered in the wrong category or would have been higher up on the judges lists.

So to the final and top prize, Best in show, the Hayesenbrau Award.

Best in show The Hayesenbrau Award sponsored by the Kernel Brewery.

Winner: Tom Greasley with his Sarcastro Stout, a well deserved award for a really good beer. Tom gets a chance to put that beer into commercial production with Evin, Nate (above) and the guys at the Kernel.

A big thanks to all the organisers, judges, stewards, sponsors, brewers and friends who made the day a memorable one.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Photoblog: TapEast

Things in the beer scene in London move quickly. 3 months ago Tap East was a twinkle in Utobeer's eye, now it is a living, breathing brewpub in a swanky new Westfield Stratford Shopping centre. They have been open on and off since mid September.

Friday saw their official opening night.

Here are some comments about the new establishment. (Positive and Negative)

Positive: Glyn "rabidbarfly" Roberts has moved from the Rake to manage the new brewpub.

Positive: It has a shiny new 2.5 Barrel brewkit. The plan is to brew a light and hoppy, a stout and an IPA, all cask, for the exclusive use of the brewpub. Brewing starts this week.

Negative: Does not look like a brewpub when approached from the inside of the shopping centre, more a winebar or coffee shop perhaps?

Positive: Stylistically I like the interior, a comfortable environment to be in.

Positive: Friendly bar staff.

Positive and Negative: 10 gleaming fonts standing proud as a honeymooner's dick from the bar. However the fonts had two with Grolch, Kaiserdom, a Kolch and two Octoberfest beers. I count that as 6 lagers. I'm sure this was a scheduling anomaly and not a policy and the Hofbrauhaus Octoberfest was on fine form.

Positive: They don't have a kitchen but put together some nice looking platters of food, and there was no shortage of good food places in the shopping centre.

Negative: They ran out of Kipling before I got there! 

Their location will be fantastic for the Olympics and as other bloggers have said having a craft beer bar in a shopping centre is definitely a step further forward for the advocates of great beer in the UK. If you are out East give it a visit.

Beer Recipe: Beery Beans

This recipe was developed when playing around with slightly off cans of Punk and the off flavours don't come through in the final product. However I would suggest that for best results you only use beer that you would be happy to drink. I have made this recipe with both light and dark beers of many levels of bitterness, I feel it is best with a light hoppy bitter or an IPA.

Beery Beans
Makes lots (can be refrigerated and used later)

180g Smoked Bacon (lardons or chopped)
A pinch of Red Chilli Flakes
1 Green Chilli (finely chopped)
1 Small Red Onion (finely chopped)
100g Smoked German or Polish Sausage cut into small cubes
1 Clove of Garlic (finely chopped)
3 tins of assorted beans (I have used mixed and Cannellini)
2 tsp Sun-dried Tomato Paste
2 tsp Taste No 5 Umami Paste
1 Pint of beer (see above). I have used my homebrewed Very Pale Light ale.


Fry the bacon in a dry pan with the red chilli flakes until browned, this should release enough fat to cook the rest of the dish.
Add the green chilli, onion and smoked sausage and fry for another few mins.
Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Then add the beans and the two pastes. Stir to coat and then add the beer.
Bring to the boil then simmer gently for around 30 mins, checking and stirring every so often so as not to catch on the pan. The sauce should be slightly thicker than tinned baked beans.
Check seasoning and serve.

Tasting notes:
Texture soft in the mouth with a very savoury taste, a slight sweetness from the sun-dried tomato, a bit of a chilli kick and a slight bitterness from the beer.

Serving suggestions:
A great hangover food when accompanied by the rest of a fried breakfast. If cooked a little longer can also be used as refried bean replacement in Mexican dishes.