Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Beer, class and snobbery

A lot of people have been blogging recently about whether enjoying exotic and rare beers is a form of snobbery. One that really struck my eye was the article from Curmudgeon here. In it he quotes a definition of artisanal from the dictionary:

"Artisanal. Adjective suggestive of handmade goods and old-fashioned craftsmanship. In the food world, a romantic epithet bestowed upon the cheesemaker, breadbaker, bacon-curer, etc., who labors in his or her integrity-steeped native locale, independent of the pressures and toxicities of Big Food, to produce exquisite high-end, SMALL-BATCH edibles available by mail-order."

In my opinion anyone who described anything as artisanal is both a snob and a fool! This notion that things are somehow better than others because they are made by small companies in sheds is absurd. The reason mass produced food and drink is generally of lower quality is because it is designed to be cheap and henceforth the quality of, and amount of care taken over, the ingredients is significatnly lower. It has nothing to do with the fact it is made in a high-tech factory with the latest production methods. I had an argument recently about artisanal bread and how if it were to be made in an industrial factory using exactly the same ingredients that it would clearly be better than if it was made in a shed in Hampshire.

My main problem with the drinking of rare and exotic beers though is that companies seem to be able to add a huge margin on their products simply because they are "hand crafted" and "artisanal" beer. Yes I know you use more and better quality ingredients but I often sometimes recoil at the price of beer in certain "craft beer bars". BrewDog's tagline is that they aim to revolutionise the beer world with new and interesting beers. Well I can tell you that most definitely won't happen by selling £4 pints of punk in an edgy and alternative bar in Camden.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A trip to BrewDog!

After months of anticipation I was overjoyed to see that the new BrewDog bar in Camden was officially open last week. Although not a huge fan of their marketing techniques I am an avid fan of their beers and so I clearly felt that a trip was warranted. The offer to meet an old flatmate, who shares my love of their beer, for drinks prompted the perfect chance for a trip. 

Upon arrival I was pleased to see that at least 8 of their own beers and a good number of foreign beers were available on draught and complimented by a staggering bottle list of again both their own and some rare foreign brews. We decided to start the evening with a half of the low strength, 2.8%, Blitz. As I ordered the barman asked if I'd tried it before and I told him I had not. He then decided to offer us a taster after telling us it had quite a strong flavour. Obviously people had tried it and complained after being misguided by it's strength. I have to say I was quite taken aback by this as I'd always thought I looked like someone who knew their beer. Maybe the lack of piercings and a tattoo, which appeared to categorise a large part of the clientèle, made him think that I hadn't tried BrewDog beers before. Anyway, I found the beer to be a delightfully light and extremely hoppy beer and one which will definitely lay down a challenge to other brewers to create excellent beers in the low strength tax bracket. On this note, on the same night I also had the chance to try Weltons' PridenJoy which although I didn't know it at the time is listed in Roger Protz's 300 Beer to Try Before You Die. This again was a lovely light beer; lacking the big hop profile of the Blitz but still an excellent brew.
Having tried 2 beers which now sit in the low strength tax bracket and found them to both be exquisite I implore other brewers to also try and create masterpieces that can be drunk all night without the fear of the dreaded morning tenderness.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's Christmas! Bring on the naff sounding crap beers!

So it's less than 2 weeks until the big day and we're well an truly into what I like to call the season of excess. For most of us that means long nights in cuddled up on the sofa  with a hot beverage. For others it's the chance to try the pointless yearly ritual of ordering pint after pint of novelty Christmas beers "because it's nearly Christmas" and finding them to be generally disappointing at best and simply shoddy in the worst scenario. I always feel at this time of year that brewers get lazy and brew a relatively boring and uninspiring beer, whack a novelty name on it like Rudolph's Big Red Nose and expect it to sell.

In the worst case some of the names are simply crass and sometimes very distasteful. This year I've seen the Beachy Head Christmas Jumper which has caused quite a lot of controversy and also had the delight of tasting a pint of Santa's Bulging Red Sack whose pump clip was suitably distasteful as the name would suggest. Needless to say the I've had no Christmas beers this year I could classify as good or even reasonable.

What I can't really understand is why this idea seems to be limited to Christmas it's not like we regularly see beers called Halloween Honkers or Easter Bunny's Cum Filled Cheeks. If you've had any good Christmas beers  then let me know and I'll be sure to look them out for a tasting.

On a slightly contradictory note I think this is without a doubt one of the best beer names I've ever seen:

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Boring Brown Ale

Let me start by apologising for the lack of writings recently. I’d love to tell you that it’s because of some huge interesting events happening in my life but that would be a flagrant lie. The truth of the matter is that there has been nothing that has really inspired me to write a piece for this blog. There’s been a relative abundance of real ale related things going on over the summer months but I just haven’t really sat down and spent the time to write about them.

So what have I been up to? Firstly, an update on my homebrewing situation.  This summer I decided to make the step up from making kits to creating my own beer from malt extract and hops. The first attempt, which I joyfully named Lord Nelson IPA, was a single hop brew using quite large amounts of Nelson Sauvin hops. I decided to do a smaller batch than usual just in case it went horribly wrong. After bottling and leaving to condition for a few weeks, the results were surprisingly impressive. The feedback from friends who have tried the beer were generally good and I feel it was the first brew I’d done that didn’t have the distinctive homebrew twang. I’m hoping to repeat the brew this week with the addition of some more malt to balance out the quite pronounced hop bitterness. Depending on how this next brew turns out I may or may not enter it into the national homebrew championships. I’ve also decided that I’m going to have a go at brewing some traditional style ginger beer and alcoholic lemonade. I found the recipes online and I have no idea how they’re going to turn out.

After a recent trip to Scotland to visit some family members I returned with an abundance of Scottish bottled ales which I was excited to try. The overwhelmingly malty character of these Scottish beers would make a nice change from the usual assortment of hop bombs and imperial stouts that seem to be taking the blogging world by storm. Other members of our little community sometimes deride a brewer for making a good, tasty, no nonsense session beer and to me this stance holds no real weight. Most of the beer I drink is what I guess some bloggers would call “boring brown ale” but I like “boring brown ale”. It may not rock in at 8%+ and a million IBUs but some of it a tasty beer nonetheless. While I often deride pubs in my local area for serving only a few of, mainly the same, standard ales I also think that some pubs occasionally go a bit far and end up putting many people from drinking real ale. This is a point which stood out especially to me from the 2011-2012 Cask Report. While I think specialist beer bars have their place, mainly involving a clientele of wealthy, young fashionable people, there is still room in the market for solid traditional bitters. It baffles me that many of the new bourgeois craft brewers, mainly based around London and Sheffield (2 of the real power houses in the craft beer revival), can claim to be the victim of CAMRA keg bashing but then also deride the hundreds of slightly more reserved brewers who brew mainly to the market. I’d like to see James and Martin from BrewDog try and convinvce a small country pub that keg Hardcore IPA would sell as well as the cask Boddingtons they’ve stocked for 50 years.

The real point I’m trying to make here is that deriding someone for the beer they drink is both pathetic and useless. The market will inevitably be the deciding factor in which beer styles survive and at the moment it would seem that both American Quadruple IPA’s and 3.8% nutty bitters are here to stay; long may that continue in my opinion.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Great British Beer Festival Is Finally Here

After a long wait the beer drinkers Christmas has finally arrived. Last night I was so excited I didn't get to sleep until 3am! With the trade session opening in a little under 10 minutes I'm sure the queue is already forming nicely. I'll be heading down later as a volunteer where I'll be all week both serving and sampling some of the massive range of beers available.

The GBBF really is a wonderful occasion. It's a time for beer drinkers to unite, have a pint and have a jolly good time. I love beer festivals. From the obsessive beer list tickers to the after work pint swillers there's something for everyone and I whole heartedly encourage anyone to head down to GBBF this week if they can.

Seeing as my beloved phone was stolen last week I won't be able to make live updates on twitter but I will be blogging each night (hopefully the beer won't have impaired me that much) about the days events so stay tuned for more from GBBF. I'll also try and post which beers are popular and which there seems to be a buzz about so that your visit can be most enjoyable.

Friday, 22 July 2011

American Bottled Beer Tasting Session

After realising that I was living less than half a mile away from a fantastic beer boutique, Dr. Ink of Fulham, I made the trip over with a friend in order to pick up some beers in order to get us in the mood for the upcoming beer festivals.

Upon arriving we were amazed at the selection not only of British bottle conditioned ales but there was also a fridge stocked up with American bottles and a whole cabinet of Belgian, Dutch and German beers. Needless to say some restraint was needed in order to avoid blowing off the purse strings. In the end we returned with 5 American bottled beers, a couple of British bottle conditioned beers and a flagon of Weston's Cider.

In this blog I'll be reviewing the American bottles which included:
1) Goose Island IPA A 5.9% IPA described as a "hop  lovers dream"
A lovely light, golden IPA with a mild fruity aroma. Taste is initially quite refreshing with a long dry, bitter aftertaste. Not overpowering with the hops.
2) Goose Island Honkers Ale A 4.2% English Style Ale
Nice copper coloured beer with a pleasant but not too strong aroma. Nice malty taste but no huge hop flavour. Very drinkable and overall quite a pleasant experience. Nothing too exciting but a nice beer nonetheless.
3) Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale A 6.9% deep golden beer using a variety of old and new world hops
Nice and golden as they say with a reasonable hop aroma. On the palate it has a nice hop flavour with just a hint of citrus coming through towards the end before finishing off in a nice crisp flavour. A nice refreshing, thirst quenching beer. Very drinkable for a 6.9%.
4) Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA A 7.1% "hop monster"
A lovely light golden IPA with a rather pungent hop aroma. A heavy floral hit of hops is balanced out nicely with a little burst of lemon-pineapple citrus flavour. One of the nicest beers I've had today. Nice as something new but a bit too strong of flavour to have more than 1.
5) Odell IPA A 7% IPA which uses American hops to create a "distinctive bitterness profile and an incredible hop character"
Lovely light IPA. A big floral hoppy aroma is followed by a huge hit of those new world hops we love so much. Quite similar to BrewDog's Punk IPA but with a slightly more citrus flavour. I can't get enough of beers like this. Definitely one to buy again.

So there you go. A selection of reviews of some lovely American beers. One last thing, I realise there's now a few people who actually read this blog but none of you guys feel the need to comment. Comments really are the lifeblood of any blog and it allows me to see what you guys think of my musings. So even if it's just to say you think it's rubbish then I do appreciate any comments.

I'm off to the Windsor LocAle Beer Festival today so there'll be a review and hopefully some photos appearing on here soon.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Those Crazy Russians

Awful news for beer lovers in Russia: beer has now been classified as alcoholic! The article from the BBC ( explains the details.

Things to take from this:

  1. How did it take so long for this to happen? Was there seriously no licensing restrictions on beer at all?
  2. The beer tax in Russia underwent a hike of 200% last year! I think we should be glad this hasn't happened in the UK.
  3. This is a fantasticly humorous story.
In other news I have now decided that I fully support a move to ban/ restrict alcohol advertising on television in the UK. The only adverts seem to come from the huge megabrewing conglomerates; mainly because they are the only ones who can afford it. While the free for all of advertising continues huge swathes of the British public will simply stay unaware of what exists within the beer world and will as a result stick to mass produced beers. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Great British Beer Festival Foreign Beer Preview

With the Great British Beer Festival only 2 weeks away now I feel it's probably time to do some sort of preview.  Now the foreign beer and cider lists have been announced I'm starting to get suitably moist over the prospect of 4 days of beer fuelled fun and games. As a volunteer I’ll be able to, in exchange for a few days of my time, be able to sample the large range of beers on offer for free.

When I first saw the Foreign Beer list ( I have to admit I was only inches away from having an accident in my pants. The addition of a bar purely for American beer is, in my view, a great idea. Those crafty brewers across the pond are making some of the most exciting and tasty beers around at the moment and bar a trip over there it is generally quite hard to find a selection half as good as this anywhere else. The absolutely staggering list of IPA style beers that are currently or will in the next few days make their trip across the Atlantic is second to none and I for one cannot wait to get stuck in and try some. So many of the beers are using what I have to say is my favourite hop combination Chinook, Cascade and Centennial; the 3 C’s as they’re sometime known. Of the huge range of beers listed some of the ones I’m most excited about include Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin IPA; a 7% version of their Gold Medal winning IPA with habanero peppers added into the cask. This should be a fiery little number. I can’t wait to get stuck into both the Habanero and original versions of this. Also a cracker on the list is Boulder’s Mojo IPA which boasts a heavy use of Amarillo hops for a “big citrus flavour”. Yummy! Harpoon’s IPA is a cracker that I’ve had before from the bottle and can’t wait to taste on draught. Marshall Wharf’s Big Twitch IPA weighs in at a hefty 9% but is claimed to be “surprisingly drinkable”. Now I’ve had these high strength IPA’s before and sometimes “surprisingly drinkable” is a one stop shop to stumbling home at 4am, dignity residing somewhere in a London gutter with greasy kebab in hand. Port Brewing Company’s Wipeout IPA and the Wipeout IPA with Cascade, both at 7%, should also be a particularly scrumptious experience. Finally, Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Extra IPA, a 7.2% “bold and assertive” IPA, should also be particularly yummy if their Pale Ale is anything to go by. With the vast majority of these American beers having ABV’s of above 5% and a fair few above 7% that should get the beer fun police down at number 10 raging suitably.

The news that the deal between CAMRA and BrewDog, that would have meant there being a BrewDog bar selling keg beer, has broken down is a real shame. I was quite looking forward to trying some of BrewDog’s rarer beers that I haven’t been able to find yet. James from BrewDog has outlined his view of the cancellation in a blog post on their website Now I don’t really know what is true and what is BrewDog spin but I think this could easily descend into a he said she said argument. As a CAMRA member it does anger me slightly that all this will do is give other bloggers more evidence with which to tar the organisation as an old man’s club who all have beards, beer bellies and only want beers made with Fuggles and Golding. Now as a 21 year old CAMRA member yes I do often bring the average age at events down by a good few years but I do think that BrewDog need to stop thinking of this as a war between craft beer and real ale. If they continue down this path then they may end up isolating a large swathe of their customers; CAMRA members who, shockingly, also like keg beer. It’s not illegal to be a CAMRA member and drink keg beer remember. In the end though, I hope that these 2 organisations can resolve their differences because the only people losing out here are the consumers.

Well that was a long article. Anyway, I’ll also be doing a little preview of the British Beer list when it is released so keep your eyes peeled. I’ll also be blogging live on Twitter throughout the whole event so follow me on @colinhill01 if you’re interested in my inane inebriated ramblings.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Shed Load of Beer Reviews

Right, since this is a beer blog I guess I should review some beers. Here's a lovely selection of beers I've tried in the last month or so. I don't tend to get to the pub too often for a serious tasting session so when I do go I tend to taste quite a few in one go.

First off was a trip to the Euston Tap; a great little bar with a wide selection of cask and keg beers available. Seeing as summer was on the horizon it was decided that we would stick mainly to IPA's and lighter beers. Right on with the reviews.
1. Summer wine nerotyoe IPA 6%
Just from looking at it it was clear that this beer was dark for an IPA which led me to the conclusion that it may be a black IPA like Windsor and Eton's Conqueror. It has a lovely citrusy aroma which contrasted heavily with a strong malty smoky flavour. A heavy bitter aftertase which was not unpleasant but in my view rendered in unsuitable as a session beer.

2. Northcoat jiggle juice IPA 5.8%

This was a lovely pint. A nice light golden clear colour blended well with a slight citrus aroma to make it appetising even before I'd taken a sip. The citrusy aroma was matched by a similarly subtle citrus taste. This is my perfect kind of beer and one perfect for summer. I found it surprisingly drinkable for a 5.8%. It took a lot of convincing not just the settle down for a session on this stuff.

3. Otley O8 8.0%

I was very excited about this before I tried it. Described as being deceptively drinkable and light it sounded perfect. I was, however, let down by the beer. It had an oily mouth feel and was extremely perfumy in taste. In all quite unpleasant if I'm honest.

4. Brewdog Brambling X 7.5%

Another one I was excited to try. Unfortunately, again we were let down. I found it very sharp and to be honest rather unpleasant. I had expected more from BrewDog having tried their other beers. While they do make some great beers (See below) I feel sometimes their "well if you don't like it you can go away" attitude might end up loosing them customers they might otherwise be able to rely on.

5. Brewdog Hardcore IPA 9.2%

I'd had this before from the bottle, and loved it, and was excited to see if the keg version could be even better. With a huge hop aroma following in to a lovely hoppy fresh taste this beer could not be any better, BrewDog had redeemed themselves and I was happy. This is the perfect example of a beer that if dispensed from the cask would simply lack the punchy hop hit that makes it such a great beer. 

A trip to Cambridge allowed me to taste some beers that would otherwise be unavailable. This time only 2 were sampled.
1. Warwickshire Brewery Kings Champion 
This was a nice first beer of the day to have over lunch. It had a slightly creamy feeling and was not too hoppy. In all a great lunchtime beer!
2. Wolf Brewery Lupus Lupus 

This was billed as having a fruity hop taste which left me very excited to try it. In all it was a lovely light beer but not as hoppy as expected.

So there you have it I've reviewed some beers. Next time I'll be previewing the Great British Beer Festival and talking about the beers I'm hoping to try over the week.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

I'm back!

Firstly let me apologise for the lack of blogging over the last month. With a hectic schedule of exams and other work going on I've been rather busy. The lack of a computer at home also hampers my ability to blog. I'll start with a quick round up of what I've been up to in the last month beer wise.

There was a rather disappointing trip to Ireland in which I was heavily disappointed with the availability of proper beer. Furthermore, I honestly don't believe the Guinness tastes better over there; it's just not a nice drink. Way too thick and no taste to it whatsoever.

Following on I attended the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt. While the tasting session was a little flat the meet the brewery section was a delight. The chance to talk to all those brewers and taste all their beers was wonderful.

I have also come to the conclusion that Nelson Sauvin is my favourite hop. Every beer I try with it in I absolutely love. From BrewDog's crazy range of IPA's to Windsor and Eton's Royal Wedding Beer Windsor Knot they all just taste fantastic. I just find the huge floral hit is unparalleled in other hop varieties especially when paired with lovely citrusy hops.

Most recently I was given the opportunity to help out the head brewer from Windsor and Eton at the speed blogging section of the European Beer Bloggers Conference. It was a hectic but thoroughly enjoyable experience. Apart from getting to try a shed load of different beers, Bad Attitude's Two Penny Porter being my favourite, I walked away with a bucket load of free bottled beers and even half a polypin of the delightful Windsor and Eton Conqueror.

Hopefully there'll be a bit more regular activity on here in the future so keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Is Ireland really Guinness country?

Aren't you lucky followers!? 2 posts in as many days! The topic this time: Is Ireland really just a haven for the black stuff or can they actually brew decent beer over there? Well a family wedding has given me the perfect excuse to take a week off from revision and head over to sample the best the emerald isle can offer. I'm hoping it won't just be a week drinking the black stuff and that somewhere, secretly hidden away, there's a real ale scene that's been left undiscovered by us mainland dwelling beings. I'll be updating regularly while over there so stay tuned for updates!

Wetherspoons: friend or foe?

One of the debates currently raging in the beer world concerns if JD Wetherspoons is an asset to the beer industry or if their stack em high, sell em cheap mentality is demeaning the good name of British beer. After being hassled to update this blog more frequently I thought I'd throw my 2 cents into the discussion.

Most Wetherspoons consistently have a range of real ales on for nicely low prices. The main argument against them is that in their ambition to sell large quantities of ale, the quality can sometimes suffer. Firstly, I feel that this argument holds little weight as the quality of the beer in Wetherspoons is not significantly worse than many other reputable outlets. I can't count the number if times I've seen the Cask Marque symbol displayed with pride in a pubs window only to go in and be presented with a poor range of badly kept beer. The hurt is doubled if, for example, you end up paying £3.50 for a shockingly kept pint of London Pride. At least in Wetherspoons the damage to the wallet is kept at a minimum.

Secondly, the frequent beer festivals held by the chain bring a large range of quality ales together in one place at occasionally disgustingly low prices. I once frequented a Wetherspoons in Manchester to be greeted with a lovely pint for under £1.50!

Finally, by selling the beer cheap it means that a whole new class of beer drinkers can be introduced to real ale. Many of my friends have been converted to real ale as soon as they find out that it is often around 50p cheaper per pint. Even if they're drinking it for the wrong reasons at least it's being drunk. Furthermore, the array of 50p off vouchers provided to me as a CAMRA member don't harm the cause either.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Last Week In Beer

Last week was quite an interesting one in terms of beer tastings. I had quite a few opportunities to get stuck in and try a shed load of different beers. The start point of the week was a trip to the JD Wetherspoons "beer festival" on Wednesday. I use inverted commas because the festival at my local Wetherspoons consisted of 4 guest ales and then the usual array of crappy Ruddles and Green King IPA. Nevertheless I got stuck in and started with a Rooster Angry Yank IPA, a 5% strong bitter using cascade and Amarillo hops, which while I found it to be relatively inoffensive it seemed to perfectly fit into my category of a pale session beer despite the IPA label. Feeling marginally let down I then opted for the Wychwood Elderwych a lovely light 3.8% golden beer. I found the beer to be highly refreshing with a lovely floral, slightly spicy finish. With the other 2 beers a stout, a style I’m not fond of at the best of times let alone at the start of spring, and a Hyde’s Plum Treat I decided that was about as much experimentation as I could handle and stuck to the Elderwych for the rest of the evening.

A christening in Birmingham provided the perfect opportunity to get out of London and hopefully find some interesting new beers. Before mounting the train there I undertook the now obligatory trip to the Bree Louise near Euston Station. Upon arriving and realising we had very little time my friend and I decided that the best course of action would be to order 4 halves in order to maximise the range of tasting available. As is often common when blind tasting a number of beers we both found 1 to be exceptionally offensive, the other 2 to be quite pleasant and the 4th a delight. Although we disagreed upon which one of the 4 was the delight it was universally agreed on the bad one.

After arriving and settling in to the house of one of our friends who had kindly agreed to put us up for the weekend we headed out for a pub in central Birmingham; The Victoria which proved to be lovely pub with classical decor contrasted by a young lively crowd and a smorgasbord of music types. As the evening flitted away into a haze of beers and catching up with old friends alas I cannot remember masses about the beers that were drunk apart from again having a particularly nasty stout which tainted the palette for a good while and also enjoying a nice offering from the Wye Valley Brewery; Butty Bach. Butty Bach has been a beer recommended to me by a friend and as far as I can remember his recommendation was a sound one.

The next day with a few hours to kill before our train back to London we decided to visit a pub which I had found in the Good Beer Guide; the Country Girl in Selly Oak. As we arrived we were greeted by a large, brightly lit and friendly staffed pub. Luckily they were also in the midst of their spring beer festival. Overhearing our discussion about which beer to have the barmaid informed us that it was possible to order a 3 1/3 pint tasting stick with 3 different beers. Needless to say we quickly grabbed this opportunity. The highlights for me were White Horse Village Idiot; a light, golden 4.1% beer that had a nice early hop hit which descended into a refreshing fruity aftertaste and Bateman’s Victory Ale; a deceptively drinkable 5.9% IPA which after my rant last week was a nice surprise.
So all in all an interesting week with some disappointments, mainly in the form of some rather offensive stouts, but also a lot of positives coming mainly in the form of some delightful golden fresh spring beers.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Whatever happened to IPA?

When beers were first sent to India to quench the thirst of the early colonisers they were well hopped, strong tasting, high alcohol beers. The reason for this was that the alcohol and hops meant that the beer would keep on the long journey across the sea. Over time this style of beer became popular, not only in the subcontinent, but also with drinkers a little closer to home. This was the start of a fine tradition of brewing and drinking of a most classic if British beer styles.

It both shocks and annoys me that this fine tradition of British brewed IPA's has descended into an appalling concoction of low taste, low alcohol and most importantly low quality session beers. A look at the majority of IPA's around today shows a complete lack of imagination from breweries. Breweries like Green King seem perfectly satisfied to brew a low alcohol session bitter with a large amount of pale malts and a barely noticeable amount of hops and put the IPA name tag on it. Now the reason I pick on Green King is because I believe their offering of IPA to be particularly offensive (and they have now taken to dispensing it in a smooth flow variety; something I find principally abhorrent). The modern brand of "IPA" is really just a pale ale! The most adventurous thing mainstream brewers are doing with IPA now is pumping it with citra hops and saying it has a "citrusy, refreshing taste". Oh come on guys! Use some imagination please. As much as it pains me to say it some small craft breweries over the pond have got the right idea and are making some truly fantastic beers. Harpoon Imperial IPA, a recent acquisition of mine, for example is a wonderful beer. From looking at the ingredients used in their beers, it seems obvious that small American craft brewers are much keener on utilizing the freshest and best ingredients possible not just the ones made in their own country. There seems to me to be a thought held by some ale enthusiasts in this country that British brewed beer should be made using British malt and British hops; even if this does not produce the best beer.

The long serving tradition of brewing quality IPA's has died away not purely because of breweries ineptitude but also to our governments recent barrage of negatively publicity against high ABV beers. While I agree that high strength, low price beers such as Super Tennants, which are essentially glorified central heating for tramps, are a problem and should be cracked down on, it seems Gideon and his merry band in Westminster are using a sledgehammer to knock in a thumbtack. Under the guise of aiding the social health of the country, they have essentially dealt a death blow to one of our most revered beer styles.

But thankfully some small brewers are beginning to realise this and are attempting to take IPA back to its proper roots. As I write this I am sipping on a delightful bottle of Downtown Chimera IPA; a wonderful 7% nicely hopped beer. BrewDog, a slightly alternative brewery in Scotland, are attempting, with their aggressive, heavily hopped Punk IPA and their delightful 9.2% Hardcore IPA, to bring proper IPA's back into the mainstream. With the country wide launch of their range in Sainsburys this should hopefully open up a new world of drinkers to this wonderful beer style.

If breweries want to get more younger drinkers into real ale they need to start doing something adventurous with their beers. As a young drinker myself I can safely say that as long as breweries churn out the same Fuggles or Golding hopped beers with little or no imagination, the industry, and it's associated lobbying group, will continue to struggle to shrug off the classical image of bearded oldies with sandals and socks.

In summary of my rather long rant, mainstream brewers need to pull their fingers out and either start making proper beer or stop calling the rubbish they currently churn out IPA.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The trials and tribulations of a home brewer

So late last year I decided I would give home brewing a bash. With all the kit ordered I was like a giddy child at Christmas when it finally arrived. The first attempt at brewing was a woodfordes wherry kit shortly followed by a coopers Mexican cerveza. Needless to say the lager was not up to standard and further reinforced my views on the weak watery piss that taints the good name of proper beer everywhere. Anyway, fast forward 2 months for the wherry to condition and it was the moment of truth for the endless weeks waiting for it to condition. With a select tastig panel (those friends of mine willing to risk upset stomachs and possible vomiting for the cause) assembled it was time to taste. First impressions were good; the beer had a mellow flavour with a subtle bitterness.

So what have I learnt from this episode? First things first, hombrewed lager is rubbish. I'll stick to ales and cider from now on. Secondly, it is possible to brew a reasonable ale in a run down student flat. Watch this space for news of future endeavours.