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.