Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Every beer blog worth it’s salt has written about the dreadfully named and dreadfully tasty Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA.

I’ve not got round to it yet, but I’m drinking a bottle for the first time right now, while watching the USA lose to Ghana.

It’s a bloody good beer. Not intensely bitter too the point where the toe-curling hop blast dominates, and beneath that dryness, it’s all tropical fruits and sweetness – like bubblegum, and those yellow and orange striped sweets you used to get.

It’s very good. Incase you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you do.

Advertisements

Meanwood Drinking: Ridgeside Brewery & a new pub?

Meanwood Institute, a lovely Meanwood building

Meanwood Institute, a lovely Meanwood building

I’m back. I’ve been quiet for ages. Largely because I’ve been a bit lazy. And I’m going to continue in a relatively lazy fashion by linking to one of my man beery writings for Leeds Guide.

Imagine my excitement when, flicking through the often tedious Yorkshire Evening Post, I spot a story on a new brewery in Leeds. Then, I read on and find out it’s in my hood of Meanwood. Then I read on some more and discover it will be named after the beautiful (it really is beautiful, I’m not just saying it) Meanwood Ridge.

Suffice to say. I was thrilled. So much so that I emailed Simon, the intrepid former engineer behind the brewery, straight away and requested to interview him both for my blog and Leeds Guide. The blog interview is going to wait because there’s no beer to try yet (thus, not as much fun to be had), but we decided to chat with Simon before he opened up and run a story in the magazine.

You can read what he had to say (and my ongoing promotion for Meanwood in the magazine here: Ridgeside Brewery

They have a website too, which is bit bare, but it’s here if you’re interested: The Ridgeside Brewing Company

Meanwood is fast becoming the place to be for beer fans. I was very excited to note than in Meanwood’s swanky new Becketts complex (some apartments and a few empty shop units) Market Town Taverns, the folk behind Arcadia, one of my favourite Headingley pubs, are applying for a license for a new boozer. VERY exciting news for me. MTT’s pubs are always cask ale focussed, with a good array of continental beers (mainly German and Belgian) to boot.

While I’m promoting Meanwood, I’ll also mention that our neighbourhood Italian, Via Verde, is also well good. I wrote about that for Leeds Guide too, just here: Via Verde

Now if only North Bar would open a sister pub up here…

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

An Aside That Want Awry: On Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter, not the singer)

This was going to be a post about Crown Brewery’s Smokin’ Oktoberfest with a lengthy aside. Now the aside has become a ramble, so I’m going to give this a post of itself, and give you the beer notes later. Carry on.

——————————

Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium

Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium

I’m going to start with an aside, maybe two, or even three. In short, I’m going to have a bit of a babble here. Why? Well because it’s my bloody blog and I don’t have to worry about reader numbers, sales and all that (apart from Wikio rankings, natch, check out my proud #65, right at the bottom of the pack).

I’ve recently been reading a lot of the great Michael Jackson’s (the drinker, not the singer) Great Beers of Belgium book, on top of that, I’ve been reading selected prose by Woody Allen. I know that Jackson is held in great regard, nay, reverence, by much of the beer writing community, but I’m not sure about this book.

Ok, so that’s quite a bold statement (tantamount to heresy for some, I’d wager). Sure, he was one of the first people to really write about and promote great beer, to talk extensively about food and beer pairings, and he may have introduced a lot of us to the wonders (for they are many) of Belgian beer. But, for a man with such a passion for that lovely stuff, this book doesn’t really display it.

The reason I mentioned Woody Allen before, is because his writing is vivid, lurid and flies along (and I was reading it on the bus just before I started writing). He’s a man with a love of words and language, and you can feel it, but The Great Beers of Belgium reads more like a text book with a few nice emotional touches than the words of a man filled with lust and desire for all the astounding delights available in Belgium. Sure, it’s a better text book than most, and still a pretty good read, but I just don’t feel any emotion from the man as I read it. And that’s what I wanted.

But maybe he’s not the one to blame. There are so many of us buggers writing about beer today that we’re spoilt for choice. When Jackson first wrote this book, I’d wager that tasting notes for beer were scant and seldom read. Now the internet’s full of the bloody things and only a few people with a pizazz for the writing of them can make them shine as thrilling works of journalism (NB I’m NOT including myself in this list), others, while very good and enjoyable, would not make a must read book if printed out, stapled together and sold with a nice cover.

Now I’m going to hold my hands up here and admit that I’ve not read any thing else by Jackson, yet. I have seen some of his ‘Beer Hunter’ TV series though and love that. Maybe elsewhere what I find lacking in this book may be apparent. Or maybe the world of beer writing has hurried along and left Jackon’s books a bit dated. Please tell me, recommend me pieces of his to read, I will happily retract the above if I just need to come in from a different angle on his work.

Anyway, enough upsetting of Jackson and every blogger who reads this, I’m off to write some tasting notes on Crown Brewery’s Smokin’ Oktoberfest, and yes, I know, I’m kinda contradicting my argument up there by running off and doing some tasting notes. But I don’t care. I like doing it.

A Blonde Barley Wine? Piraat

Piraat

Piraat - a beer to share

My lovely girlfriend picked us up a bottle of Piraat from Beer Ritz a few weeks back. It was on sale (probably because it passes its sell-by date this week, not that that really matters) and looked very appealing. A nice 750ml bottle, caged and corked and advertised as the closest that beer gets to white wine (I can’t quite remember what Zak’s actual wording was, but it was something like that).

We were planning a Friday night in, with food, talking and perhaps a couple of episodes of ‘Mad Men’, so we decided to crack open the Piraat – brewed by Van Steenberge – and see what it was like.

It’s very much a sharing beer, see. It weighs in at 10.5% and even half a bottle comes in at just under 3.9 units, which means that if you drink it, you officially become a dangerous drinker and will definitely assault someone and cost the NHS money. Or something like that.

The cork pops pleasingly as I remove it and it pours an amazingly vivid amber/gold colour with a vicious white head. You can smell it before your nose even gets that close. It’s a proper yeast funkiness that hits you, spiced and citrussy.

It’s described by some as a blonde barley wine, and you can see why. It’s as strong as a wine, its blonde and it has that vicious punch that is synonymous with the barley wine. It tastes bloody good too. It’s dry, it’s refreshing, it packs a real yeasty flavour that’s associated with Belgian beers, with loads of other flavours bubbling away underneath.

You get a bit of cereal flavours – almost a little bit like cornflakes, even, then that powerful punch from the level of alcohol. You stick on top of that some more wine-ish notes – grapes, lemon, orange, followed by more spice from the yeast. The finish even throws in some dried fruits, just as a pleasing farewell.

I’ll be popping open another one of these next time I’ve got an evening of beer sharing planned.

Festive Drinking

Things have been quiet round these parts for sometime now. Almost an entire fortnight infact. What with Christmas, traveling around the North of England to visit various friends and relatives and a general laziness that comes from having ages off work, I didn’t get round to any blogging.

I did, however, get round to some mighty fine drinking. Again, it being Christmas and all that, the drinking was largely social and often in the kind of quantities beyond normal responsible levels (especially if the people who inspired Pete Brown’s latest blog are to believed [they really shouldn’t]), means that some beers are remembered just sketchily, others very well, and none have any kind of notes to be taken with them. So I’m going to bash through December and the start of 2010 at pace. Here we go.

Christmas Eve started well. Well, it didn’t, we were meant to go up to Burnley for a party but the never ending bloody snow foiled that. Solution: a trip to North Bar. As we were preparing to order, the splendid manager there, Matt, informed me that Crown Brewery’s Django Reinhardt – a damson porter – was about to come on tap. I instantly ceased my plan to order a Stille Nacht and waited with baited breath for the recommendation. It was worth the wait, rich in fruit flavours, warming and powerful it’s a perfect winter tipple and it got me all ready to settle down infront of the telly with a DVD of Bugsy Malone.

My Christmas Beers

My Christmas Beers

Next up, inevitably, was Christmas day. Drinking-wise today was all about Bucks Fizz (a bottle of Champagne was polished off between the two of us, before lunch, naturally), loads of muy dulce sherry from Beer Ritz. This stuff, Valdivia Pedro Ximenez, is, as the tag in Beer Ritz says, “nectar of the Gods”. It’s honey and treacle and currents and pudding and all the sweet tastes of Christmas rolled into one. I did, however, break out a Chimay Bleue to accompany our vegetarian Christmas dinner of mushroom pie. A great beer, packed full of complex flavours, it went down a treat.

The real beery treat on Christmas day, though, was two of the presents my thoughtful girlfriend got for me. Having taken advice from Zak at Beer Ritz, she’d been out and bought me corked 75cl bottles of Flying Dog Wild Dog Schwartz and Victory V Saison. I’ve not dared drink these yet – I’m waiting for a special occasion.

Gouden Carolus Noel

Gouden Carolus Noel

Boxing Day meant more of that heavenly sherry, and visits to family, all finished off superbly by Gouden Carolus Noel a special Christmas beer that was just that – special and Christmassy. The dark brown beer was heavy, spicy and figgy and a superb nightcap.

The 27th was another family day and as soon as my driving was over, I indulged in a Dark Star Espresso Stout. For a 4.7% beer it’s surprisingly rich in flavour and manages to pack in a really rich coffee flavour without overwhelming that comforting warmth you’d want from a stout. The beer presents continued here, with my folks getting me a Yorkshire ale box (two Copper Dragon beers and a great Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter) and my brother getting my two beers from Sheffield’s Kelham Island plus a cheese washed in the curds from their Pale Rider, which was interesting. A real taste experience which took some getting used to (cheese and beer work well eaten and drunk side-by-side, but combined in one is a little more acquired) but eventually kept my palate very happy indeed.

From there, it was days in Lancashire centered around the wedding of two friends. I shan’t go into details but it was an amazing do, complete with dancing, surf rock, great food and, most importantly, a lovely couple getting hitched. As an aside they also provided a cask of very local Hen Harrier by the Bowland Brewery. As you’d want for a wedding (and a subsequent NYE party which it lasted for) it was easy drinking, crisp and pale with some nice citrus flavours.

New Year’s Day (aka my birthday) was a day to break out a couple of quality beers, namely the aforementioned Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, really amazingly rich with roasted barley flavours, and even better the BrewDog and Mikkeller Divine Rebel. This beer, a collaboration between two very impressive craft brewers, is partly aged in whiskey barrels and the taste tells you that straight away. It’s full of toffee and caramel flavours and packs a mighty punch.

An even better beer-related occurrence on that day, however, was another present from my wonderful girlfriend. This time it wasn’t beer, but the ability to make beer (give a child a fish and he’ll be able to feed himself for a day, give the child a net and he’ll be able to… and so on). Yup, she signed me up for a two day homebrew course in February. I will report back on that in good time.

Which brings me to my final subject. My homebrew. I made some back in November. Because my house is cold it took ages, but it’s ready to drink now, and also in hands of numerous friends and family members across the country. What’s it like? Well, it’s from a kit called Old Homewrecker, but it’s only around 4.5%. It’s a darkish winter ale and, like all novice homebrew, it’s just about ok. It’s drinkable, but as it has no hopping to speak of, it likes anything like a real depth of flavour. Plus, it’s got a fair bit of sediment in. We don’t have a name for it yet.

I expect my next brew, post-course, will be far better.

Reet Good’s Beer Blogger Awards 2009

Golden Pint Logo 2009That chap Mark Dredge over at Pencil and Spoon thought it would be good to have some kind of end of year poll/awards for beer bloggers (it says so here). I agree, so here are my picks for the year.

Before I begin, I should point out that I’ve only been at this blogging lark for a few months and my knowledge and experience in the game is still somewhat lacking, so I will have to leave a few bits blank and maybe display my ignorance elsewhere. But I’m cool with that.

Best UK Draught Beer I tend to be a drinker of bottles of Belgian stuff more than anything else, but one reliable pint is always Outlaw’s (Rooster’s experimental arm) Wild Mule – packed full of sweet fruity flavours and a great bitter finish.

Best UK Bottled Beer Crown’s Unpronounceable IPA – packed full of hoppy bitterness with a summery hint of blackberries coming through underneath. (read more here)

Best Overseas Draught Beer Tripel De Garre – a rich Belgian tripel from a Bruges bar called De Garre. It’s very strong packed full of fruit, aniseed and licorice flavours and comes with an accompanying cheese. They only let you have three a visit. (read more)

Best Overseas Bottled Beer De Dolle’s Stille Nacht – a special Christmas beer brewed every year by the bonkers Dolle brewers. It’s 12%, dark to the point of blackness and with lingering tastes of plum and citrus.

Best Overall Beer Probably Outlaw’s Wild Mule again. I’ve supped it more than anything else this year. Some of the more extreme Belgians may be more exciting, but an overall beer should be one for any occasion, and Wild Mule does that.

Best Bottle Label or Pump Clip I can’t say I’ve been wild about any labels or clips, particularly, but BrewDog’s general branding has been great for them and seems to sum up their attitude and beers very well.

Best UK Brewery Having picked one of Crown Brewery’s brews earlier on, I’m going to plump for them here. Especially as it’s a small, one man set up, well done them!

Best Overseas Brewery Sierra Nevada, just for their consistently brilliant beers.

Pub/Bar of the Year In England, North Bar, easily. It’s where I consume most of my beers and the team their are great. Further afield, Kulminator in Antwerp, t’Velootje in Ghent and the Bruges Beertje in Bruges are all outstanding. (read more)

Beer Festival of the Year I only went to the Wakefield CAMRA festival this year. It was alright.

Supermarket of the Year Sainsbury’s was pretty good for their range of beers and good offers.

Independent Retailer of the Year Beer Ritz in Leeds. Great range, lovely staff, good prices, what more could you want?

Online Retailer of the Year Not used any.

Best Beer Book I’ve not read one this year, but I’ve been reading Pete Brown‘s back catalogue and have Hops and Glory lined up next.

Best Beer Blog Zak ‘The Beer Boy‘ Avery probably just edges ahead of  competition from Pete Brown, Real Ale Reviews and Pencil and Spoon.

Best Beer Twitterer Anyone from: http://twitter.com/#/list/tomas311/beerbloggers

Best Online Interactive Brewery BrewDog are the only brewery I’ve really seen use the web well this year, although they’ve made some big misjudgements too…

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year Maybe Sierra Nevade Porter and osyters at the North Bar Sierra Nevada event at Cross Keys.