Tuesday, 27 October 2009

New Adventures

After an unenjoyable period of life's rich tapestry... new beery challenges are on the horizon (with some food thrown in for good tasting)

Exciting times!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Not much to tell...

A lack of beer...
I haven't written very much on here for a while as I haven't been doing much drinking really. I think a quiet winter full of beering and eating has left me with the biggest belly I'm yet to manage and I'm left without any trousers that fit me, and hence I dare not leave the house to find more beer.
I have managed to add to the "Special" collection though, mostly through the generosity of others... Anchor O.B.A., BrewDog Zephyr, BrewDog/Mikkeller Divine Rebel and a few other juicy specials await me. It is very difficult to know when to bring such special beers out though. I firmly believe that drinking something extraordinary shouldn't be done alone, but its hard to pick the right occasion.
I managed to get my grubby little paws on one of the pre-release small bottles of Zephyr and was blown away by it. The aroma and tastes were a complete juxtaposition. I don't think I am enough of a wordsmith to pay due homage so if you want to know more about it read this by Mark Dredge at Pencil & Spoon, it's as good a description as you could hope to find on this unique beer.
Its my Birthday next week, that might just prompt me to open one or two bottles... we shall see.
Hopefully Beer Ventures future will be secured by then and a further celebration can take place!
Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 8 May 2009


Do they care?
Its been a great few weeks of beery events and it led me to think about the reactions of people to the great food and drink they have been tasting. At 2 different pubs, a village hall, at someones house and at a food festival, I have watched people enjoy tastes that they wouldn't normally encounter and thoroughly appreciate these new experiences.
I have been to a whisky dinner with Glenfarclas, a beer & food matching evening with Anchor Brewery, hosted a St George's day tasting, a 40th Birthday tasting and had a beer and food matching stall at Shaftesbury Food Festival. All very different events but with a unifying feeling that great food and drink brings people together, experiencing different products for the very first time. The number of women who have told me that they "don't like beer" in the last fortnight, only to find out that they actually do like, good, well made, flavoursome beers, especially when matched with food, is truly astonishing. If we could only get them to try it in the first place. One of the highlights for me was a lady who must have been well into her 70's asking me for some more BrewDog Riptide and another piece of brownie, she told me that she hadn't drunk any beer in nearly 20 years, but wanted me to let her have some bottles to take home!
The Glenfarclas Whisky tasting was held at The Queens Arms in Corton Denham, and was hosted by George Grant the 7th generation of the owning family. It was a very entertaining evening, with some fabulous food, a rich terrine with the 15year old, Loin of Hoggett with the 21 year old, a beautiful chocolate dessert with the 25 year old, 2 thirty year old with cheese and a 50 year old bottle to round off a truly memorable evening, brilliantly compered by George. It was my first whisky and food meal, and it certainly won't be my last, it was also particularly enjoyed by those people who had been dragged along by spouses, both my wife and another lady on our table discovered (much to my horror) that whisky is actually a very nice drink!
I had a great night in a local village hall hosting a St George's day beer tasting of best bitters, golden ales, barley wine, IPA, Imperial stout and even some fruit beer. Good fun, with some people who hadn't tried a lot of the different styles before, and some big surprises about what they actually liked.
Mark Carpenter the head brewer at Anchor arrived for a holiday and found himself doing a very jet-lagged beer and food matching meal at The Stapleton Arms. He was on great form however, and gave us a fantastic insight into the Anchor brewery and their legendary beers. The star of the show was undoubtedly the OBA (Our Barrel Ale) a blend of the other Anchor brews aged in their own whisky casks (we had some of their whisky as well). A really unique beer, quite unlike a lot of the other barrel aged beers out there. They won't be making much though, so get it if you can! The beer gains an extra 2% of alcohol in the barrel, which according to Mark's math(s) means 5 gallons of whisky is absorbed into the wood! This alcohol gain means that in America it is considered a spirit and taxed as such.
The OBA was paired with our starter of pork terrine, the beer was a bit too big for the terrine and would have worked a bit better with something a bit richer like pork belly and black pudding. The next course was a blacked cod dish with oriental noodles and it was beautifully paired with Liberty Ale, an excellent match with the cod that was cooked to perfection. Dessert was a take on a Reese's Peanut butter cup, and was paired with the Porter, one of my all-time favourite beers. A selection of cheese and some Old Foghorn, was washed down with a couple of Rye whisky's that were a bit full on for me!
A very relaxed, comfortable night with classic beers and glorious food. Our fellow diner's also seemed to enjoy themselves, a first at that sort of event for the people on our table.
Shaftesbury food fair has to have the most stunning setting for such an event anywhere in the country with far reaching views over the Dorset countryside. The people seemed to embrace it and we had a great day selling some beers and introducing some beer and food matching. Moor Breweries Merlin's Magic with some mature cheddar, BrewDog Punk IPA and spicy chicken and Riptide with chocolate. The IPA was particularly well received and we sold out very early in the day. I did the day with Paul from The Fine Food School at Stour Row, we were advertising our beer and food cookery classes, hopefully the enthusiasm shown on the day will be followed with some bookings!
Its been a great couple of weeks... this weekend takes me to Essex and a 30th birthday tasting, and tonight I am trying BrewDog's Zephyr, lets hope it lives up to the hype!
Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Please slow down

BrewDog's New Beers

BrewDog please slow down a bit, all these new beers is costing me a fortune. Every new week seems to bring a crazy new brew that just has me so excited that I can't wait to get my grubby little paws on it. In the last month we've had Zephyr, 77 Lager, How to disappear completely and now Juxtaposition and I believe that Atlantic IPA is on its way too. My wife and I are going to seriously fall out if you keep doing this to me.

Maybe you could call yourself Petrol or something similar so that my bank statements don't keep saying BrewDog????

I think a full on BrewDog day is coming soon in my garden, maybe Bank Hols Monday would be the ideal occasion. It might even prompt me into writing about them...
(p.s don't slow down, keep doing it, get crazier, whet my tastebuds and I can't wait for the summer's raspberry ripple ice-cream beer or beetroot purple mild...)

Happy BrewDogging!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Beers for Cask Ale Week

Cask Ale Week - Whats on at the local...

I popped into my exceptional local pub yesterday to see what they had on for Cask Ale week. I'm not sure about this National Cask Ale Week thing, is it an idea from the bigger breweries and pub chains for their gain or is it something that will benefit smaller breweries and independent pubs? We shall see. I also wonder how well its being marketed, I have only seen it on beer websites and inside pubs, that may only prove that I walk around with my eyes closed, but I shall ask around and see what I find out.

Back to the beers at the pub... The Queens Arms had 6 cask ales on yesterday, they had gone for a classic English ale theme, with Harveys Sussex, TT Landlord, Adnams Extra, Moor Revival, Matthews Brassknocker, and Silent Knight from Dorset Brewing Co. I only had time for three quick halves and a spot of lunch so plumped for the Adnams, Matthews and Silent Knight.

The Adnams Extra had that typical sea-side saltiness that is so typical of Adnams beers, it was a particularly well-balanced subtle beer, so typical of everything good in English Bitter. There was lots of Fuggles with its earthy flavours combining beautifully with the sweeter malt, all wrapped up by a long finish with that hint of the sea. It's been a long wait for this beer to return, and I can see why those who remember it are so pleased to be able to try it again.

Matthews Brassknocker has apparently been a CAMRA beer of the year for the last couple of years, but has escaped my radar completely, I had never come across them before. James at the Queens raves about them, and the Brassknocker was an excellent beer. It was towards the end of the barrel, so I was warned not to expect too much, so was very pleasantly surprised to find a very fresh flavourful beer. The aroma was citrussy and the colour a light golden that looked stunning when held up to the sun. It had a lovely malt sweetness, that's unusual in a 3.8% beer, with a nice hint of vanilla. The finish was slightly dryer than I was expecting with a little hop bitterness. It was a very nice session ale, one that you could return to many times over.

Silent Knight is a beer I have been looking to have a taste of for quite a while, it sounds very interesting. It's a dark, unfiltered wheat beer at 5.9% promising a big, bold flavour and the smoothness of wheat. For me, it just didn't deliver, it needed more, needed to be bigger, stronger, more unctuous. There was a hint of chocolate and a hint of dark berries, the beer was thinner than I was expecting, not as carbonated as I wanted it. I think I was expecting too much, I wanted it to remind me of Aventinus, but all it did, was remind me how good Aventinus is.

My lunch was delicious - pigs kidneys on toast with a cider reduction, really, really good!

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Session #26: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!

The Session #26: Smoke

I LOVE SMOKE, smoked beers, smoked food... can't get enough of them, smokier the better.

I am yet to find any smoked beers to better Schlenkerla, I love the Marzen, one of my absolute favourite beers. I think the Weizen is a brilliant food beer. The Helles is lighter, less in your face, but works a treat, sat in the sun with some cold smoked meats, brings back happy memories.

I remember my first experience drinking a Schlenkerla Marzen, the first smoked beer I'd come across, only about 4 years ago. I didn't really know what I was ordering but the bottle attracted me, as did the virtually unpronounceable writing on it. I have to try this strange animal in front of me. It was like nothing I had tried before, I took in the aroma... a packet of smokey bacon crisps in a glass... wierd. I tried it... do I like it? Yes, yes I think I do. And so started a love affair.
The Schlenkerla Weizen doesn't seem to be to everybody's taste, but it certainly works for me. I love it with smoked haddock and poached eggs, one of the best beer and food pairings I have enjoyed. I have read other people say that they don't think that smoked beer and smoked food work together, it is too much smoke, they claim. I believe as long as the intensity of the beer and food work together, then it is a match made in heaven. I wouldn't drink the Urbock or the Marzen with delicately smoked fish, they would obviously over-power the fish. Pork and smoked beers are another great food and beer pairing, there is some natural smoke flavour in pork, that, when matched to a smoked beer, is accentuated just a little bit. Slow roasted pork belly and Schlenkerla Weizen is a great way, in my opinion, to introduce people to smoked beers, even my Mum liked it.
I have searched out other smoked concoctions and been relatively disappointed by the porters of O'Kells and Alaska and the couple of other German offerings I have tasted. There just isn't that big smoke that fronts up in a Schlenkerla, that smacks your taste buds, and says give me more smokey things, NOW.
Smokey Adventuring!

Theatre Bars: Crap Beer

A Decent Drink?

I went to an excellent comedy night at a little theatre in Sherborne. It was a great nights entertainment in a nice setting. But the drinks choice was beyond shit.

Carlsberg, Tetley Creamflow stuff, bottles of Strongbow, nasty cheap wine, vodka or Grouse.

What do you want, sir?

None of them, thanks.

There must be a market for something better, the pubs that do well in the area are nice country ones that serve good drinks. It is a wealthy area, the people that use the theatre will generally be well off. Stood outside the back door, its a picture from Morse, you could be in Oxford with the narrow streets, ancient college buildings and general feeling of calm and wealth. I dread going to places like this and usually drive, as my wife is far less discerning! (I can't believe I've written that)

So buy something better and charge some more for it! Please.

Happy Adventuring!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Beer & Cooking


Yesterday we had a beer and food experimental cooking day, planning dishes to use on the Adventures in Beer & Food Cookery Days. There were some successes and some dishes that need further exploring.

Rabbit and Schneider Aventinus Stew was, as expected, a great success, as was the Creme Brulee with a Strawberry fruli reduction in it, although we will use more Fruli next time. The polenta cake with BrewDog Paradox Speyside in it, was ok, but needs tweaking. It improved when we made a Paradox syrup and soaked the cake in it! Pork medallions in a Schlenkerla Marzen sauce with shallots and garlic was a great combination, although as a dish it will need a bit of sweetness. However the Schlenkerla didn't work in a fondue as we thought it would, but no surprise here, BrewDog Hardcore IPA worked a treat both in the fondue and served alongside it.

We've made a little video of some of our beer & food cookery and will have it ready any day now!

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Anchor O.B.A.

The Good News & The Bad News

First the bad news... I seem to be on an incredible run of bad luck with my car. I can't quite believe it. I have had my Renault since 2001 and have done about 95000 miles in it, it's been a good servant, until the last 12 months, since when I have had problem after problem. A couple of days ago on my way to the pub I hit a flooded pothole, which it seems, has bent the alloy and left me with a flat tire. I pulled on to the grass verge of the single track road, and my friend, my dog and I walked the mile and a half we had left to get to the pub. It happens, I know, but it has been compounded today by having to change the tire in the rain on a soaked verge that meant the jack disappeared into the earth rather than raising the car... and why do mechanics have to do the wheel nuts up so tight, it took me over half an hour of kicking with all my considerable weight to loosen the bloody things. These things are supposed to happen on sitcoms not to real people.

The good news also happened last night when we eventually finished our hike to the pub. We arrived at the bar, where the landlord greeted us with "So words got out then?" I had no idea what he was talking about "You had better try some then" he says and pours an unknown beer from a magnum. The beer in question turns out to be Anchor O.B.A (Our Barrel Ale) a blend of all of Anchor's beers aged in a freshly emptied whisky cask. It had been sent over so that the pub could find a suitable food match for an Anchor Beer & Food matching night they are hosting.

I am a huge fan of Anchor's beers, they are all well crafted with good balance and seem to be some of the best examples of particular styles. I have written before about The Old Foghorn comparing the draft and bottled version, and there was a lot of the Old Foghorn character in the O.B.A. The aroma was dominated by a sweet smokiness, that combined the toffee aromas from Old Foghorn and the smoke from the whisky. I love it when a beer has an aroma that really makes you want to dive in head first and you just can't wait to get it in your mouth. This beer certainly had that effect on me, and didn't disappoint either. It has a wonderful complexity, with hints of the fruit that you find in the Porter and toffee and raisons from the Foghorn, there is a slightly dry, hoppy finish from the Liberty Ale and underneath it a rich smooth warmth from the whisky. This is one truly fabulous craft beer that I really hope to try again. One glass just wasn't enough.

Our initial thoughts were that the O.B.A would go well with cheese, but all the different cheeses we tried didn't really work for one reason or another and we came to the conclusion that belly pork and scallops might be the best match. I think it is one of those drinks that might just be best savoured on its own. Either way, I just want to get my grubby hands on some more, role on the tasting dinner on the 30th April!

Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Beer Cookery

Adventures in Beer & Food

I am really looking forward to Saturday! Not just because its the weekend and not because my wife is kicking me out for the day (for girl time with her friends), no, its because of Beer & Food. My two favourite words in the English language.

We are having an experimental cook off for our forthcoming Adventures in Beer & Food courses that I am doing in conjunction with the Fine Food School, Dorset. I have a mouthwatering long list of top dishes and great beers. The only problem is, we want to make a video of what we are doing and apparently slurred speech isn't the look we are going for!

I suspect you will all have an opinion on what we should be cooking, so tell us about some great beery dishes that we could make.

Happy Adventuring!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

More Beer & Food

The Lemon Tart Problem!

Next week I'm doing a Beer & Food Matching evening at a local pub. We are running the event as a Dinner Party tasting, with small samples of food from each course paired with appropriate beers. Oysters, Thai Prawns, Pork Belly, Chocolate Pud & Lemon Tart, all sound good to me, but I have been struggling to find the right match for the Lemon Tart. It is going to be quite a tart Tart, so I was worried that a citrussy wheat beer wouldn't be sweet enough for it, and decided I needed to experiment.

Last night I sat down with a Lemon Tart and a number of fine beers to try and pick a winner. I know it's a tough job but someone has to do it. Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Delirium Tremens, Jaipur IPA, Vedett Extra White, Blue Moon and Sam Smith's Cherry were the selected beers, an eclectic selection I know you'll agree.

The first thing to say, is that the tart was delicious! Nice crumbly, buttery pastry and a smooth tasty filling with plenty of real fresh lemon flavour and tiny little pieces of tasty zest. I always try to find beers that are sweeter than the dessert or they will just taste too bitter, which is exactly what happened with the Jaipur and Delirium. Fine beers though they undoubtedly are, they weren't what I was looking for. I always think of Blue Moon as being very orangey and I'm not really a fan, but it was OK with the tart, not a perfect match, but the citrus flavours were good together and it wasn't too bitter either. A possible. Cherry beer was just wrong, the lemons and cherries didn't get along, and it was quickly put to one side. Vedett Extra White came next, and I was expecting it to be too dry a taste. How wrong could I be, a really good match, the Lemon Tart brought more citrus out of the beer, and there was the right amount of sweetness, they really danced together on my taste buds and did everything you hope for from a great food match, enhancing both the drink and food. Brilliant. Finally I tasted the Cantillon, a sour lambic raspberry beer. It had been a while since I've had one and I wondered if the sourness of the lambic was going to be too sour for the lemon in the tart. It most certainly was, wiping out all other flavours with a big, fat smack in the mouth. I really want to have a better appreciation of lambic, but i do just find them too sour to enjoy. Maybe I haven't tried them with the right food or in the correct environment (?), but I always find them really hard to finish and wondering why I other people enjoy them.

So, it's Lemon tart and Vedett Extra White at the tasting... problem solved!

Happy Adventuring!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Beer & Food - Cooking & Matching

Beer & Food Courses

Together with the Fine Food School of Stour Row, Dorset we will be running two very special one-day classes in April. Although the precise course titles have yet to be agreed they are, loosely; “Beer and Sweet Things” will be held on Thursday the 16th April. And “Beer and Savoury Things” will be on Saturday the 25th April.

These promise to be great fun days with some really unusual ways of combining beer and food. Our first day will see us not only pairing the right beer with the right dessert but actually using different beers as a key ingredient. Have you ever considered a beer crème brulée or stout, chocolate and chestnut mousse? There’s a lot more for us to get into yet!

Our second day will be about more than just steak and ale pie. Beer breads, beer batters, beer sauces and beer marinades are all on the agenda. Beer Ventures will introduce us to some terrific beers, all unusual, all delicious and all perfect for cooking brilliant food and these are going to be two quite possibly unique days. In a few days we’ll begin to advertise and promote these events, so there are more details to follow...

Both days will be excellent value for money at £99 per person per day. There will only be twelve places on each so, as if you needed to be told…book early!

Cheers all!

Happy Adventuring!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Hop Wars

The Quest for Hoppy Beers
I become ever more addicted to the hop bug and want to have a bit of a Hop War between 4 beers... exciting hey?
Thornbridge Halcyon, Mikkeller Stateside, Moor Hoppiness and BrewDog's new version of Hardcore IPA. I think I know what will win, but i'm not going to tell you!
I'll just tell you what the winner was and say that I got it right!
I need to find a comrade or two to take on this thankless task...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Balls of Steel

New Pub Opening! Haven't said that in a while...

Tony and Sarah Lethbridge have BALLS!

They are opening a pub... now... well on Wednesday, and I am looking forward to seeing how they get on. Since I moved to South Somerset last August I have driven past what was once The Kings Arms at Charlton Horethorne every day on my way to work. I speculated that it would be another pub turned into a private residence, but to my astonishment it is being re-opened as a pub. However the local freebee paper The Blackmore Vale have told me the bad news that it is going to be a gastro pub and hotel. I hate this description, and if the owners were the ones who described it I am sure I will be disappointed.

The BMV says they have spent over a million on it in the last year adding 10 luxury en-suite bedrooms, with a restaurant that seats 70 and a smaller dining room that seats 20.

It worries me a lot that they don't mention the bar or the beer. I wait with baited breath for Wednesday to see if I have a pub to stop at on my way home from work, or one that I drive straight past.

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Love Lager?

The Session: Love Lager

Being new to this sort of thing, I keep stumbling my way into new stuff... Today every blogger seems to be writing about Lager, for something called The Session. I don't know the why's or wherefore's but a spot of reflection to the moments in my life when for some odd reason I partook in a sip or two of lager sounds like fun. It is a very long time since I last thought about lager and it brought a smile to my face, even the really good ones don't get me out of 2nd gear, but reading a couple of other blogs has brought a smile to my face and some happy memories. It seems that all beer lovers have had their lager moments and i am probably no different.

When I was a youngster having my first beers, unlike most others, lager wasn't the 'go to' option, my Dad is preserved in a bottle of red wine and would rarely have a beer. There were always a few cans of Carling in the house, but even my untrained palate knew they were absolutely terrible. 'Me and my mates' all drank Cider (it was Somerset) or real beer whenever we were in the pub. It wasn't until I reached the ripe old age of 18 and headed off to Australia for my GAP year to the far flung town of Toowoomba that I had no choice but to drink lager. Now the only place to be seen in 1996 in Toowoomba was The Spotted Cow, a legendary pub, that is now coincidentally a mecca for great beer from all over the World, with its own European style Cafe bar... unbelievable. Back then it was very traditionally Australian and I loved it, I drank pot after pot of XXXX Heavy... for the unitiated a pot is about half a pint, but in Queensland your beer gets pretty warm, pretty quick. The choice at the pub was XXXX Heavy, light, or gold, VB and probably one or two others. Heavy was the strongest, and from Queensland so thats what I drank! (Tasting notes won't follow!)

I quickly decided that if I was going to enjoy my year in this funny town I better enter into things, drink the local brew and do what the locals did. So I thank the lager for an incredibly good time in Australia and some great friends (and also thank PH-S, CJ, AM, BS, ML, AC*, NK*, CM, AL'S, SH-S and many others).

My other 'lager time' was inevitably at university when I worked at an enormous pub on the edge of Birmingham Uni campus. Worked, lived, played and made more friends for life in there actually. In fact looking back it seems that lager has been at the forefront of making the mates that last a lifetime...

Maybe it's a better drink than I thought.

Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Beer & Food Matching Menu

We are hosting a Beer & Food matching dinner party for a customers 40th Birthday next weekend.

I think I have decided on the menu, but not all of the beers...

What do you think?

Fresh Oysters paired with Deus

Warm Thai Prawn Salad paired with a Belgian Wit - haven't decided which yet...

Venison loin with chocolate and Imperial Stout sauce paired with Aventinus? Porter? Kriek?

Vanilla Cheesecake topped with Strawberry Fruli Coulis paired with Paradox Speyside

Cheese & Barley Wine

I'm salivating already...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Beer Ventures

Gifts & Competition this Spring!

Win a Case of BrewDog Beers! We have recently started stocking the controversial, yet brilliant BrewDog beers, so to celebrate these great brews and the oncoming start of Spring we have decided to have a competition to win a case of beer. Simply go to the contact page on the Beer Ventures website, enter your personal details and answer the following question in the message section.
Closing Date Friday 3rd April. Winner will be notified. Open to residents of the UK only.

What is the name of the Beer Ventures mascot?

The 6 Nations

The 6 Nations has just a few weeks to go and we still have a case of beer you will love to go with it. The only way to enjoy the rugby on the TV is with a Beer Ventures '6 Nations Case'. Not only that but we will also provide you with a scorecard both for the rugby and more importantly to rate each nations beers against one another. There is also a Rugby Quiz for those of you with a competitive nature... Beers from all 6 Nations including a French Biere de garde, an Italian Double Malted Lager, and a classic English IPA.

10% Off Special Offer!

Order a ‘6 Nations Case’ Before 14th March and get 10% off the total order – Just type ‘6 Nations’ in the discount section of the checkout screen

New Products

The Hogsback Brewery Gift Case includes a branded pint glass, t-shirt and beer towel with 9 fantastic bottle-conditioned Hogsback beers.

Phoenix Lager is an award winning all malt lager from Mauritius. An unusual place to brew a beer you might think, but Phoenix has been brewed since the early 60's and has quite a following. 'A polished, golden yellow beer with 5% alcohol. Phoenix beer is pasteurised after bottling, according to natural conservation methods.The quality of the underground water also allows them to produce a beer with no chemicals additives. Time of maturation before distribution is meticulously controlled.'

Follow the BeerAdventurer on Twitter - http://twitter.com/BeerAdventureror

join the Beer Ventures group on Facebook.

Happy Adventuring!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Beers I Love Today

Beers for Today

As the first hint of Spring has come and gone and I look out the window at the daffodils being pummelled by a 60 mph wind I have to remind myself that its less than a month until the clocks change and the thought of those long summer evenings don't seem quite so far away. My seasonal beer palate doesn't know quite what to think, it is starting to hanker after lighter beers and sunnier flavours but still knows there are still a few, long, dark nights ahead.

I have a real hankering for big hop flavours, there just can't be enough hops for me right now. The hoppier the better, so my list below is not as balanced as it should be, but hey ho, its about me and what I like! These are some of my favourite beers of the moment:
1, Hoppiness (Moor Beer, England)
- this beer is a blend of two other beers that I just adore. In fact all three could easily have made this list. It is a 50/50 blend of JJJ and Revival, two great hoppy beers with very different characteristics. The JJJ is a triple IPA with masses of hops in it... to balance this out, it weighs in at a hefty 9% and is one big beer, full of tropical fruit flavours and sweet malt. Revival is a 3.8% beer that tastes like it should be considerably stronger, it has delicious resiny pine hop bitterness that is very refreshing. The end result is Hoppiness (6.3%) a delicious blend of the sweet tropical fruit and refreshing resiny hops. Once this is bottled (which I'm assured is coming soon) it will become a classic I'm sure, a perfect Spring beer.

2, Trois Monts (France)
- a new favourite that I really enjoy drinking at lunchtime with a 'picky' lunch. Cheese, breads, cured meats, olives, salads... whatever I find in the fridge really, put it all out on the table and tuck in with this tasty beer to wash it all down. Be careful not to have too many at lunch though, as it packs a punch at 8.5%, it is not as funky as some other Biere de Garde's but it is flavourful with lots of carbonation, a big rocky head and a well balanced bitter aftertaste.

3, Aventinus (Schneider, Germany)
- I find different things to enjoy in this beer every time I have it. Some days its the rich banana and chocolate, others I really find a stronger port wine flavour, the raisins and dried fruit flavours are always there, but sometimes much stronger than others. The different flavours in it, also mean that it pairs very well with different foods such as banana and chocolate desserts and game dishes, I particularly enjoy it with Venison. I love the fact that it always tastes slightly different but it always has a familiarity, it's like having a favourite jacket that can be worn whatever the weather and changes use with the seasons. Its an all time favourite that hides its 8% strength incredibly well and is to be drunk whenever the mood takes.

4, Stateside (Mikkeller, Denmark)
- I absolutely love American style IPA's and this beer is first class, if it was cheaper I would happily drink it all of the days and all of the nights! Stateside is a deep amber colour with a good head that hangs around for ages. The aromas are of citrus and pine hops, not as over-powering as some crazy hopped beers I've had, with a fresh fruit sweetness on the second nose. It has grassy, citrus hops at the start, with sweet malt balancing it out very nicely, leading to a dry and mildly bitter finish. This is a hoppy IPA, but not one that assaults your taste buds, it has a touch of mouth-coating oiliness but in a very pleasant way! Delicious.

5, Hardcore IPA (BrewDog, Scotland)
- The first time I had this beer I was disappointed, not because I didn't like it, so much as, it wasn't what I was expecting. Over the last couple of years the 'hardcore' IPA's I have tried have been American and thus excessively strong, with crazy hop bitterness. This beer isn't one of those and so to me wasn't hardcore. However it is a great beer that has grown on me to the point that I happily include it in this list. It is 9% and has plenty of sweet malt along with a respectable hoppiness that you would expect in an IPA. The hops give a nice grassy aroma and palate with some butterscotch and an orange fruitiness. There is a decent hop bitter finish, but this is certainly not an extreme IPA in the American sense. However it is a great drink and whilst it doesn't do all it says on the tin it makes me very happy and I keep finding myself taking another bottle home from work with me.

6, Karmeliet Tripel (Bosteels, Belgium)

- The Belgian Tripel style has always enticed me, and this one is top my list. The creamy texture from the oats make this quite a unique beer, it is made using 3 grains, wheat, barley and oats and somehow blends the three characteristics perfectly. It pours a golden yellow with a big, white, rocky head. The aroma is fruity, apples and pears, with some hay... at a tasting I did, it was once described as horsey on a summer's day, I quite like that description in a funny kind of way. The taste is complex, there is sweetness (a bit of honey I think), citrus - lemons and oranges and spice, all wrapped up in a light, crisp, yet creamy package. An amazing beer, and the wife's favourite to boot!

7, UBU (Purity, England)
- A premium amber beer that I have a real soft spot for, having been fortunate enough to have spent a day brewing it. A favourite beer in my pub days, often stocked after winning best beer at one of our Festivals. Beautifully balanced with a subtle sweetness that makes it soooo moorish, and at 4.5% you can certainly drink far more of it than you can many of the others on this list. I have enjoyed many a pint outside and it is this thought that makes me include it here.

8, Snake Dog IPA (Flying Dog, USA)
- I have talked of American IPA's when discussing some of the other beers and have selected this one as a personal favourite. Many will disagree with me and to a large extent they will be right, but this was one of the first beers of this style I tried, and instantly appreciated. It has masses of citrus hops from start to finish, it will be too much for some, not enough for others, but give it a go... its a great beer.

9, Jaipur IPA (Thornbridge, England)
- Not another IPA I hear you say, but its just that time of year and I've got my hop head on! This really is a very well made beer, great balance, lots of hops but it won't blow your hop head off. The aroma is of fruity hops, pineapple comes to mind, and the taste follows through with a great combination of tropical pineapple, spicy hops and citrus, all finished up with a warming alcohol finish, you know there is some strength to this... but not too much at 5.9%. It looks innocent enough as it's quite pale for an IPA, but the dry, citrus hop bitter aftertaste leaves you knowing you've had a much bigger beer.

10, Weizen Rauchbier (Schlenkerla, Germany)
- I am ending with a couple of smoky beers as I can't get enough of anything smoked (weird as I've never been a smoker). I thoroughly enjoy all of Schlenkerla's beers and have written about them on here before. The Weizen wins out this time because it is such a great friend to food. Smoked fish, cheese and meats all work really well with this beer, and I just love it with pork belly.

11, Paradox Smokehead (BrewDog, Scotland)
- My absolute dream of a beer, Islay whisky is my favourite, so to make a beer with Islay whisky casks is A OK in my world. This is an Imperial Stout aged in Islay casks that has taken on all of the smoky character that epitomises this style of whisky. It is complex, sweet and smoky and there is no better way to finish a good evening than with a glass of Paradox Smokehead and maybe a wee dram alongside.
There you have it, my beers for Spring! When I started this yesterday there were 12 and I can't work out where or how I lost one. But I've built up such a thirst with all this writing about beer that I now just want to have one. The hop drug has me by the balls and is pulling me towards the fridge.
Enjoy the beers.
Happy Adventuring!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Barley Wine & Cheese

Beer & Food at The Stapleton Arms
On Thursday when the rest of the beer enthusiast world (or enthusiastic beer world?) was drinking copious amounts of black lager at the launch of Zeitgeist I went along to the Stapleton Arms (in Buckhorn Weston, Dorset) for a Barley Wine & Cheese tasting. I did send my spy's to Zeitgeist (so more to follow) and had some excellent feedback both on the beer and the evening.

Justin Hawke who is owner and brewer of Moor Beer Brewery lead the evening which included six strong beers and six cheeses. It was a very relaxed evening an opening few words from Kav the landlord and a description of what the beers were from Justin and then a help yourself style open table. I had invited my friend Mal to join me, a man who will eat or drink anything put in front of him, but wouldn't normally consider talking about it. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening but confessed to having never talked so much bullshit in all his life! I don't think I've ever seen him with quite as bad a hangover either...

The beers selected for the evening were Moor's JJJ - a strong Double IPA, so heavily hopped that it broke the pump on the copper the first time it was brewed! Thomas Hardy's Ale - the classic 11.7% Barley Wine. Fuller's Vintage Ale - full of strong aroma's. BrewDog's Hardcore IPA - heavily hopped but with a lovely balancing sweetness. Anchor Old Foghorn - big flavours and aromas of toffee and raisons. Hogsback A over T - full of rich fruit flavours.

The cheeses were Montgommery Cheddar, Green's Cheddar, Stinking Bishop, Ogle Shield, Exmoor Blue and Shropshire Blue. Only the Shropshire Blue and Stinking Bishop were not local.

I meant to take notes and do a full write up on here of exactly what went with what etc... however we may have had a couple too many beers before we started, and then topping up with a number of over 9% beers lead me to not quite managing any notes at all and a slightly fuzzy memory!!
What I can say, was that five of the beers were absolutely fantastic and one was very wishy washy in comparison. We started with the Anchor Old Foghorn, a favourite beer of mine that I have previously reviewed on here, it goes well with a number of cheeses. Hogsback A over T was next it was lovely, rich and fruity and was a big hit with the Stinking Bishop that accentuated the fruit. Moor's JJJ was next, with sweet malt leading to heavy tropical fruit hops, it was a big hit especially with the Cheddars and Ogle Shield. We followed this with BrewDog's Hardcore IPA, which had similarities to the JJJ, but I can't for the life of me remember which cheese it was best with!

The Fuller's Vintage Ale was the biggest disappointment of the night. It hinted at lots of big flavours with the strong, spicy fruit aromas but failed to deliver on any of it. One of our tasters described it as a weak cup of tea, and I don't think that was too far off the mark.
Thomas Hardy's was a nice way to finish its tremendous sweet fruit flavours matching the Shropshire Blue best.

My apologies for the undetailed write up of what was an excellent night. It was nice to do a tasting in a very free and easy way without being talked at too much, Justin and Kav worked their way around the tables for those who wanted to discuss the beers further or needed help in what to look for. The good news is, that I am taking the next tasting evening at the Stapleton Arms in a months time.
So what did I learn from the evening?
Definately not to take my mates if I want to write something later!
But it is more fun that way!

Thursday, 26 February 2009


This may turn into a bit of a rant!!

BrewDog… you might get where I’m going already.

Among other drivel I have read lately I came across a piece at the Guardian online and then, rather foolishly read the comments underneath. It makes me worry (even more) about the people of this country.

For the record, my thoughts on BrewDog are all positive, I stock their beer at Beer Ventures, I drink their beer, and in the main, enjoy their beer. I like the fact that they are different and innovative, both with their beers and marketing. There are many, many, many breweries in this country doing a range of 3.8% session beer, 4.2% best bitter, 4.7% strong (!) bitter and even a heady 5% Summer Lightning golden ale copy. I have seen the list of beers at a well known south west beer festival to be held later this year. There are over 40 best bitters and in the category marked ‘speciality’ about 5 beers! I’m not going, I should, but I’m not!

There is certainly room for the likes of BrewDog, Thornbridge, Moor and Meantime to brew whatever they damn well want, and I for one will drink it. Not all of the experimental brews will be to everybody’s taste but at least there is more choice appearing. Most of the recipes are actually re-workings of ancient brews and it does no harm to look back to look forward.

The American craft brewing revolution has certainly produced beers that are not to everybody’s taste, but they have been creative in taking ideas and running with them. Brewing styles like English IPA’s and Barley wines, Scotch Ales and Belgian Trappist influences have been given that typical American treatment of being bigger, bolder and in some cases even better. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with Traditional British Real Ale, there most certainly isn’t. I adore it, love the subtleties of it, biscuit malts, balanced hops, hints of citrus, smoke, chocolate, coffee or grass, beers for the seasons… beautiful! I just believe that there is room for other ideas that think outside the box. There will always be a mainstream, but not everybody has to conform to it.

I don’t understand why there is an anti-Brewdog sentiment, if you don’t like their beers don’t drink them. If you think hops are scary and the work of the devil, drink wine. Its ok, but don’t feel the need every time you see something written about BrewDog to write about how much you don’t like hoppy beers, or strong beers, or how all beers should be the same. It’s rubbish. Bring on innovation; let’s have some fun with beer, it’s only a matter of time until we have a beer with pineapple chunks and hundreds and thousands… you heard it here first!

By the way, just to be clear on this, not everything BrewDog brews has me gushing! Trashy Blonde does nothing for me (just not my cup of tea) but the Paradox Smokehead (Imperial stout matured in Islay whisky casks) is THE finest beer I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy and if this is where innovation leads, I’m all for it.

Happy Adventuring!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pancakes and Beer

Pancakes & Beer

I was reading the Pencil & Spoon blog earlier about pancakes and it led me to remember one of my favourite ever beer & food pairings...

Roasted Banana Pancakes with Imperial Stout Cream served with a Schneider Aventinus... its a mouth watering prospect and I think I may have to use my last bottle of Aventinus this evening.

Schneider Aventinus is one of my all time favourite beers, I first tried it at The White Horse about 10 years ago having never tasted anything quite like it, and it remains a favourite to this day. It is a Weizenbock, which to you and me means that is a strong, dark, German wheat beer. It has the classic banana and clove aroma and taste of a German wheat beer but there are also darker fruit flavours, such as raisons and prunes in both the aroma and flavour, as well as a subtle port aroma, that you don't get in a hefe-weisse or dunkel weisse. This beer will pair very well with rich meats, I particularly like it with venison and pork tenderloin.

The brewery owner claims that after 25 years the beer tastes like a rich port, I would love to have the patience to wait to find out, but I just don't think I can... now where are those bananas!!

Happy Adventuring!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Good News!!

Amongst the endless doom and gloom, some good news...

In praise of ... microbreweries

Smoked Beer & Food

Smoked Beer & Food

Last weekend I enjoyed one of my favourite beer and food combinations, pork and smoked beer. If you haven’t previously come across smoked beers, let me give you a brief history lesson, hopefully without sending you to sleep. If you do sleep easily, probably best to miss out the next paragraph!!

The smoky flavours in the beer come from the malt, which in very simplified terms, is barley that is soaked to start germination (and get the sugars on the go!), and then dried out. A few hundred years ago all malt was dried by direct heat in kilns, which left the malt with a smoky flavour, hence all beer was smoky. Not everybody liked the smoky beer and other drying techniques were soon discovered and smoking the malt went out of fashion. A couple of breweries in one city in Germany carried this tradition on with the Heller Brewerei still surviving today run by the Trum family in its 6th generation. They brew 4 different smoked beers all fermented in ancient wooden barrels under the cathedral in Bamberg.

The Aecht Sclenkerla Rauchbier (the Original Schlenkerla Smoked Beer) is a Marzen style beer, it is very dark with the distinct aroma of smoky bacon crisps! They also brew a lager (much subtler smoking that is delicious with delicately smoked fish), a wheat beer that is punchy and very versatile with food, and Urbock or strong beer that I haven’t sampled. I am a huge fan of both smoked food and smoked beer, and lesser fans of one or the other will surely disagree with my following comments. I love to pair smoked beer and smoked food together and think they dovetail perfectly, however some people will find this too much. The Marzen pairs very well with dark smoked meats, well-aged ham, smoked bacon, barbecued meats and strong cheeses. The lager is very good with delicately smoked fish or with barbecued chicken, dishes with chorizo sausage also work very well. The wheat beer is my favourite and it is beautiful with smoked fish, smoked chicken, smoked cheese, paprika flavoured dishes, and is stunning with pork and a surprising success with Indian curries.

One of my favourite meals with a smoked wheat beer is slow roasted pork belly the richness and natural smoky flavours that come about when you slow roast pork combine spectacularly with the beer, the sum of the two is definitely greater than each on its own. We buy a slab of pork belly from our local butchers in Wincanton. We love to cook it on top of garlic and herbs.

Here is our recipe; score the pork fat and place on top of bunches of rosemary and thyme, cut a garlic bulb in half sideways facing upwards. Blast this in a hot oven until you get crackling (about 20 – 30 mins) and then turn down to 150˚c and cook for 2 – 3 hours depending on the size of your (pork) belly. Take out to rest and make a sauce by deglazing the pan with some stock and adding the garlic and herbs. If you fancy it, add a little of the smoked beer, taste to make sure it isn’t too bitter and sweeten slightly if necessary. Serve with mash and Savoy cabbage.

In my previous life as a publican we used to smoke our own meats and fish and I have experimented with all sorts of smoking from vegetables to chocolate with varying degrees of success. The smoked wheat beer was a favourite with a smoked fish linguine, a smoked haddock, poached egg and bubble and squeak dish, and smoked chicken and bacon salad. It is versatile and delicious and I love to sing its praises. The Marzen and Weizen versions are available at Beer Ventures.

In recent years other breweries have started to champion some of these ancient styles of beer, none quite so well as the original in Bamberg. The Alaskan Brewing Co do an excellent smoked porter, as do Okells on the Isle of Mann.

Happy Adventuring!

Friday, 20 February 2009



I love pubs, probably more than most, I love the fact they come in all shapes and sizes, I love what they used to stand for and how they have developed as times have changed. Having spent the last 10 years of my life as a publican this is probably no surprise, but it doesn’t leave me as sad as it should to see the numbers of pubs closing. I think it is probably about time drinking culture in this country re-invented itself and hopefully the good ones will survive.

My issue is that it is hugely dependant on who owns the pub as to whether they survive or not, and not about the people running them. So many are owned by property companies and developers after fast money or a decent share-price that they don’t care who is in the pubs as long as they get their pieces of silver… too many good people will be lost to the pub game and that is the biggest shame. Rant over….

I am blessed with 3 excellent pubs within 10 minutes of where I live and a further 6 within about 25 minutes. As I live in south Somerset these could all be called local. Each of them brings something different to the table and I love that I can choose my pub depending on my mood and what I want to drink, and (if I’m really lucky) eat. As you would expect from good country pubs they all serve an excellent pint of real ale, and some go far beyond that with interesting beers from all over the world.

Probably my very favourite pub is the Queens Arms at Corton Denham, a small village on the Somerset and Dorset border owned by a man (the pub not the village) I seem to be stalking around the country, having followed him to North London and South Somerset… what are the chances. It is only 2 miles from Beer Ventures, so should be perfect for the after work pint! The Queens is a real pub and then some, there will be traditionalists who don’t and won’t like it, but I fear this is more because of the customers than the pub.

The nitty gritty looks like this, there are great real ales, from local brewers like Moor and guest ales from further afield. There are interesting and different kegged beers, Meantime IPA and Stout regularly appear, and occasional delights make it over the water from Anchor, as well as good quality European lagers. Local Cask Cider sits on the back bar and there is actually a Cider & Apple juice list from local farms. A huge range of Whisky, an excellent selection of Sherry (a drink I must learn more about), interesting and unusual Wines… I could carry on and on…. The food follows a similar example, they have their own pigs and chickens and everything else is sourced from close by. Presentation is clever and rustic, as are the dishes, its proper country cooking taking traditional ideas and putting a bit of modern funk into it.

The reason I love this pub is because they care and because they try. The service can sometimes be slightly casual and the customers ooze wealth, sometimes in that unpleasant way… but the pub is a triumph and I salute them…

If you want to give it a go there are 5 rooms above it to stay in! and guess what? they're good too.
Happy Adventuring!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Anchor Old Foghorn

Anchor Old Foghorn…
Draught or Bottled???
Yesterday afternoon I just wasn’t in the mood to work, I know it happens to us all at one time or another, and most people are unable to do anything about it. I however am in the fortunate position that I can… so I did.

I sent my beer orders out for the day and retired to my favourite watering hole with surely the best beer range outside of 'the big smoke'.
I haven’t made it to the pub as often as I should in the last couple of months and had missed it. My lack of attendance had also meant that I had neglected most of the barrel of Anchor Old Foghorn, I needed to right my wrongs! For some time I have wanted to compare the relative merits of the bottled and draught versions and I reasoned this was as good a time as any.

Now then, if you are expecting definitive answers as to which is the better version I’m afraid that I am going to disappoint… firstly because the differences between the two are virtually non-existent in my humble opinion, and secondly because there was a good couple of degrees difference in temperature that made it extremely difficult to compare the two. I can’t even give you an optimum temperature to serve it at as I enjoyed the beer at both temperatures! It did seem to be at its best at about 12˚.

It really is a delicious beer with a lovely toffee and dried fruit aroma, the draught version had a distinctly sweeter aroma, but this didn’t follow through to the taste of lovely toffee, raisons and dates, with hints of apricots and a slight citrus hop bitterness at the back of the mouth. Both beers had a virtually identical profile in the mouth and left the same lovely warming alcohol aftertaste. I was one happy skiver!

My beer tasting antics were arousing interest from behind the bar and I was quickly served with some Montgommery Cheddar to increase my enjoyment that little bit further! I would normally have this cheese with a strong IPA for the fabulous tropical fruit flavours that the cheese brings out of the beer, and I wondered if one of these two heavyweights might batter the other into submission. Hell no, what a joy to have the tasty Cheddar wrapped in a silky embrace and carried off on a wave of toffee and raisons.

I do wish every afternoon could be spent like this!!!

Happy Adventuring!


Welcome to my blog about beer and other important things!

I love beer and I love food and when you put them both together it makes me very happy...
Being a caring and sharing kind of guy I love to enjoy my beer and food with others and to share my passion for it.

Happy Adventuring!