Beery Goings On At North Bar

A quick note here and my usual plug for the day job.

North Bar, in Leeds, is probably my favourite drinking in den – and one of my all time favourites. They’re great. Friendly staff, quality music, and best of all, a brilliant assortment of quality beers from around the world.

They’ve got some special stuff going on at the moment.

Firstly, there’s a Belgian Beer Festival from 1st-15th April. In anticipation I had a special tasting of the Drie Fonteinen Kriek and Smisje Wostyntje Torhouts mustard bier (yep, mustard beer, it’s loads nicer than you’d think).

Read all about that here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/boozeflash/north-bars-belgian-beer-festival/13931

They’ve also got a rather nice art exhibition on too. I didn’t write about it, but the great Sophie Haydock – our art editor – did. Read about that here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/preview/charlyghundoos-skewiff-/13859

Sheffield Taps: Meet The Brewer – Thornbridge

I went to a meet the brewer event at the Sheffield Taps last night. I drank more than I should for a school night, have a slight haze in my memory, took no notes, took no photos and now can’t really write much.

So here are a collection of thoughts, in note form about the evening in general. It’s not going to tell you much, you could find out loads more by reading Mark from Real Ale Reviewsfar more proper post.

1) My primary drinking companions Mark from Real Ale Reviews and Rob from HopZine are thoroughly good chaps, and a pleasure to go out drinking with

2) Sheffield Taps is a GREAT pub. It looks amazing with its wooden panneling and old tiles,  and the beers, just row. Loads and loads of ale on hand pull, some great world beers on tap and one of the best bottle selections you’re likely to see

3) It’s worth a £9, 45 minutes train journey to visit Sheffield Taps

4) Thornbridge make some truly great beers. Kipling and St Petersburg  especially

5) Take away cartons of beer are a brilliant invention

6) Taking away beer on the train when you’re already quite drunk is NOT good for a hangover

7) Skate kids like getting free beers from brewers

8 ) The smell of hops never gets old

9) Having a pub on a train station doesn’t help make sure you get your train. Oops.

10) (last one) I should have listened to the brewer more, and chatted less. Oops again.

Zak Avery’s 500 Beers

Yep, it’s another one of them posts where I just tell you to visit the Leeds Guide website and read about something else beer-related that I managed to shoe-horn into the day job.

This time it’s that lovely Zak Avery bloke and his new book 500 Beers it’s a dead handy guide to beer styles, packed full of tasting notes and it makes you damn thirsty just reading it. Go and buy it now (preferably  through the link on his blog, it makes him some extra pennies, or something).

Anyway. I interviewed him via email. He said some interesting stuff and you can read all about it here.

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/boozeflash/zak-averys-500-beers/13840

The Ship Inn Forecast (A micro-brewery in Newton-by-the-Sea)

I’ll start by apologising for the pun. Sorry.

Assuming you’ve forgiven me and are still reading, I’ll tell you a little bit about one of the nicest pubs I’ve ever visited.

It’s called (as you’ve probably guessed) The Ship Inn, and it’s in Newton-by-the-Sea, which, you may or may not know, is on the North East coast, north of Alnmouth and Amble and south of Berwick. It’s a stunning, and much under-appreciated area. Miles upon miles of coast, unspoilt, bordering on rolling sand dunes and masses of countryside, lovely old buildings and them lovely Geordie folks. It’s also, so I’m told, in the least rainy and sunniest county in England. Awesome.

My girlfriend and I love the North East coast. We go there a fair bit, despite the almost 3 hour drive, and love walking along those amazing beaches.

You’re probably not here to read about all that though, you’re here for the beer, right, and the North East coast has a proper gem hidden amongst the dunes and beaches. The aforementioned Ship Inn.

It’s part of a small U-shaped terrace of houses from pre-1700, now owned by the National Trust, with a lovely grassy square in the middle. The pub has functioned as an alehouse since the 1700s.

The Ship Inn is run by one Christine Forsyth and her daughter Hannah. Christine decided she wanted a change in her life, fell in love with Newton-by-the-Sea (well you would, wouldn’t you?) took a risk, bought a pub, did it up and gave it the TLC it needed.

She then decided to make her pub a home from both great food and quality, micro-brewed ales brewed in the building itself.

She’s done good.

The food is reasonably priced look here, and great, with loads of lovely, locally produced grub – I had locally caught crab salad and it was stunning. The beer though, is even more impressive.

They got the equipment second hand, found a brewer in the shape of Michael Heggarty and started brewery 6 or 7 regular beers. In two visits (one for a restorative half during a walk, and one for dinner) I tried a  few. The Ship Hop Ale is a light golden beer with a nice, fresh hop character, the Dolly Day Dream is a lovely ruby ale rich in flavour and, best of all, is the Sea Coal, a dark wheat stout with smoky notes sat alongside rich chocolate and slightly tart raspberry flavours. I mainly drank that.

Really, you shouldn’t need the motivation to visit this stunning pub and try their great beers to come to the North East coast. Take the pub away and I’d still happily go there once a month for the scenery alone.  But come up (or down) walk, soak up the rugged beauty of the place then, when the night draws in, head to this glorious pub, which makes the coastline even more perfect than it already is.

If I can retire near here one day, I’ll be a very happy man.

It May Be An Oldie, But It’s a Goodie Too: Durham’s Evensong

Durham Brewery Evensong

Durham Brewery Evensong

You expect the Durham Brewery to be situated in some idyllic monastery. Their bottles come with a nice cross logo with some intricate Celtic twirls around. You can see what I’m talking about by looking to your left right now. However, if you follow this link here, you’ll see that it’s actually in a rather natty looking industrial estate – ah well.

Their olde worlde schtick is aided by this bottle of Evensong I’m drinking as I type. It’s brewed to a recipe dating backing to 1937 (that’s over 70 years hence).

It’s an old recipe and it’s a damn good one – the ruby-tinged darkness hints at the fruity notes alongside the smokey-coal-like, flavours of a stout or porter. It almost flits between flavours of a mild and a stout, picking up hints of both and melding them together into a rich, densely flavoured winter beer.

Perfect for when the sun begins to set.

Local MP Pours Carlsberg Down The Drain

Greg Mulholland and his nasty lager

Greg Mulholland and his nasty lager

This is not a story for Cooking Lager.

Greg Mulholland MP recently decided to boycott Carlsberg. To make this clear, he and a handful of cohorts marched to the Carlsberg-owned Tetley’s brewery in Leeds and poured cans of the green-branded lagers down the drain.

Nope, he didn’t try their lager and realise it was pretty shit.

Rather, he was protesting about the closure of the Tetley’s brewery and the moving of Tetley’s cask production outside of Leeds.

I wrote about the event for the day job here.

Now, I like Mulholland’s sentiment. It’s a damn shame that the brewery is closing. Jobs will be lost in the area, and the Tetley’s brewery is an institution.

However I have a small problem with the boycott.

In a shock turn of events. Carlsberg actually make REALLY good beer.

Don’t believe me? Get yourself to North Bar or Beer Ritz and order a bottle of Carnegie Porter. Drink it. Love it. Then google it. Want to see who brews it? Yep, it’s Carlsberg.

So, I’ll happily boycott Carlsberg lager, Carlsberg Export and Carlsberg Special brew. I’m not right fussed about Tetley’s either. I doubt I’ll drink it any time soon when there are far nicer pints around. I will, however be drinking that Carnegie Porter in the cellar, sorry Greg!

Do Molson Coors Make Better Beer Than Marble?

There was a bit of a furore on Twitter over the weekend.

No, not a furore, a heated debate.

No, not a heated debate, an exchange of opinions.

Ok, there was a discussion.

The tasting note maestro Baron_Orm aka The Ormskirk Baron decided to declare King Cobra, brewed by arch-beer villains Molson Coors (boo hiss!) as better than two beers by everyone’s favourite independents Marble Brewery and Thornbridge.

No really, he did, look here.

This upset a couple of people who couldn’t believe that a beer aficionado could prefer the product of  a big corporation to that of a small, independent company.

I’m falling on the Baron’s side here. While anyone can see the benefits of supporting a small independent company, surely good beer is good beer. I’ve not had King Cobra yet (feel free to send me some Molson Coors folk), but if I genuinely thought it was better than the likes of Raging Bitch or Jaipur, then I’d happily say so.

After all, while these big companies may sometimes be evil (driving others out of business, trying to dominate a marketplace) surely every brewery starts up wanting to be succesful and surely, brewing for these big companies are brewers with a passion and a talent for it – otherwise they’d never get a job making beer in the first place.

So, that’s about it. In summary, in my book good beer is good beer, regardless of where it’s come from.

NB – I should point out that both myself and The Baron do love the beers of Thornbridge and Marble, the point was merely raised because The Baron rated King Cobra 5/5 and some Marble and Thornbridge beers 4/5 (although he did give Jaipur the full 5/5)

Bitter Tetley Men


So, it’s official, Tetley’s will be leaving Leeds and the brewing of Tetley’s cask ale will be leaving Yorkshire full stop. The smooth flow production is staying in Yorkshire, but who gives a shit about that? Not I.

I’ve spied that Greg Mulholland MP is campaigning for a boycott of Carlsberg and good on him, in a way. I don’t drink the stuff anyway, so it’s an easy sacrifice to make.

Or is it? Maybe not, as Carlsberg also brew some pretty snazzy beers in their own country, including the splendid Carnegie Porter which I have a bottle of in my cellar right now.

Anyway, I wrote about this news for Leeds Guide and you can read my opinions here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/news/future-plans-for-tetley/13597

I wrote another piece back in October too, that’s here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/feature/save-tetleys/12521

Jazz Beer: Crown Brewery’s Django Reinhardt

Crown Brewery's Django Reinhardt

Crown Brewery's Django Reinhardt

Avid readers of my blog (are there any other than my mum? Probably not) will already know about Crown Brewery and my love for them. Read me raving about it here and here and visit their website here.

So, this is one of their jaaazzz (one can’t say jazz without stretching that “a”) beers, a series of beers named after classic jazz musicians. As far as I can tell the musician and style of beer aren’t really linked, beside it being a nice name.

I’ve not had any of Crown Brewery’s other jazz beers, indeed I’ve never even seen one before, and I didn’t realise the series even existed until I browsed the brewery’s own website.

So, what’s this beer like? Well, it’s a Double Damson Porter.

What’s that mean?

Well, I assume the double relates to the use of  a Belgian yeast strain (maybe?) the damson relates to the fact that they brewed the beer using damson for the sugar, rather than boring old sugar itself, and the porter refers to the fact it’s brewed dark and rich using roast malts, like what porters are.

Now, I don’t like criticising this beer. Crown Brewery have always impressed me, and this beer was brewed with the assistance of Zak Avery, a man whose company I’ve enjoyed while perusing his excellent store Beer Ritz and whose blog I religiously read/watch.

But, this beer has not quite hit the spot for me. It poured a lovely deep, dark brown, almost black colour with maybe a hint of damson-y purple (but that might be my brain playing tricks), but it also poured completely and utterly flat. No head, no carbonation, no nothing.

I’m no fizz enthusiast, indeed, I prefer my beers too flat to too carbonated, but the complete lack of carbonation left the flavours rather flat and the nose nigh-on nonexistant.

So while I enjoyed those deep, roasted, espresso flavours of the malt, that bitter kickback and those lingering, sharp, tangy fruit notes, it just all seemed to attack my palate at once, rather than presented itself nicely and ordered as I hoped.

And my hopes were high. I had this on draft at North Bar back in December and while I took no notes, I remember being massively impressed. It was vibrant and fully flavoured.

So, what went wrong? Well, my guesses would be:

1) this beer is just better on cask

2) my habit of not getting round to drinking bottles of beer meant it was passed it best

3) I just got a bad bottle (bottle conditioned bottles are, by their nature, inconsistent)

One of the three above points would also explain why the aforementioned Zak Avery loved it while I did not.

I’d say that I’d like to try it again and see whether this was a one off. But, as far as I know, there’s none of this left. So we’ll have to wait for the next time it’s brewed.