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!