USA! USA! North Bar’s American Beer Festival

Hey look. I’m writing a blog about beer and beers. There’s a novelty.

North Bar’s American beer fest ended yesterday. I wouldn’t be a proper beer enthusiast, or part time beer blogger, without going, or passing comment. So I went yesterday. And it was good.

Why was it good? Well, firstly I went with good, interesting friends, and we talked and chatted about all sorts. That was nice. Secondly, the beer was good.

American beer is, as any beer enthusiast will know, probably the most exciting kind of beer that there is. No, really. Get past all that crap mass-manufactured Budweiser crap and the Americans blow the socks off most of our beers. Their beers are just bigger, harder, faster, stronger, hoppier, mightier, weirder than ours. And that makes them exciting.

Most American double IPAs are designed to the point where, after one sip your taste buds are blasted and incapable of tasting anything but hop for at least three hours. Their stouts, porters and barley wines are big, strong, smokey and often around 10& abv. In short, their beers are interesting, experimental and often quite likely to surprise you.

Obviously I didn’t try anything like all the beers on sale at North Bar. If I did I’d be a) drunk and b) broke. See, American beers are generally a) quite strong and b) very expensive. They’re worth the abv and the £s though. And North Bar have been wise, The American stuff on tap was available in 1/3 pints. Perfect for a 9.6% £10 a pint beer. Let’s face it £3.30 is just about affordable, and if, you want to try something innovative, excititng and rare, well worth it.

So what did I have. Well, my I-am-socialising-so-therefore-won’t-make-tasting-notes-because-it-would-be-rude-anti-social-and-just-a-bit-weird rule meant I’m not entirely sure. I definitely have Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot barley wine. Just because I’ve never had it from keg before. Its very good on keg, smokey, not too sweet and treacley-thick. I also had a Hercules Double IPA, I’m not sure which brewery it’s from, but it was stunning IPA. Not strong enough to make your toes curl and face scrunch up, but balanced, beautifully drinkable and not tasting for a minute like it was over 10%.

I moved on to the fridges then. An Odell porter was surprisingly low in abv, and was a simple, no frills take on the style. Great, tasty and smokey, and not extreme at all, just balanced and tasty. Finally, I had Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale. Wow. It came in a can that made me look like an alcolohic tramp with special brew, but the flavour was stunning. The hops were prominent and dry, and the orange blossom gave it an amazing floral, citrus bitterness on top. A great way to finish the evening.

I’m afraid if you’re reading this now, you’ve missed North’s American beer festival, but it’s on at Further North RIGHT NOW. Go.

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!

Caldera Pale Ale

A can of Caldera Pale Ale

A can of Caldera Pale Ale

The first thing you notice about this beer is that it’s IN A CAN. Surely no good beers come in a can these days. Look at the shelves of any respectable beer merchant and it’s all bottles and bottles. No cans.

Cans have connotations of nasty, cheap lager, not quality, hand-crafted ales. Yet one craft brewery in Oregon is making the stand for the can. Why, well there reasons are that cans protect the beer from light and oxidation – thus keeping a better quality of product when it comes out of the can and hits your tongue. So far so valid. They also claim that the can is less easy to break than glass (more on that later) and is lighter and more likely to be allowed in beaches, sports arenas and the likes, where bottles have long been banned.

That claim of cans being harder to break is disputable. This blog post has come some seven days later than it should have done. Why? Well because the first 355ml of Caldera Pale Ale ended up all over the street outside my house when my box of beers fell to the floor, resulting in four breakages from the 10 beers bought. Surprisingly enough, the can was one of the victims. We didn’t see that coming.

Turns out our pavement had a bit of a treat with this one. While the can makes this beer look more like some cheap fruity soft drink than a quality pale ale, the flavour tells you something quite different. On pouring the beer looks fantastically golden and clouded, with a bitter hoppy nose with hints of citrus.

The can suggests that you “keep [it] cool, just like you”. I’m not so sure. While serving it nice and cool means it’s thoroughly refreshing, with a sharp, bitter, crisp front and an intriguing floral (sagey perhaps?) flavour comes through, it’s only as the drink gains some heat that it shows off its real class, with a rich, warm malty flavour hitting in at the end – the kind of strength you’d expect from a 5.5% ale.

The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” comes into good use here. This can may not look like much – it looks pretty crap, if we’re honest, but the beer inside puts a number of more well-known American Pale Ales to shame. By far the best beer I’ve ever had out of a can.

355ml, 5.5%, for more info see www.calderabrewing.com. This beer is available at Beer Ritz.