Felinfoel Double Dragon – A Welsh Beer for a Welsh Party

Last Saturday I sent a message via Twitter to Leeds’ brilliant (AND DEFINITELY STILL OPEN) Beer Ritz asking them if they had any Welsh beer in stock. “Only Felinfoel Double Dragon – is there anything you’re after?” was their response.

I wasn’t really sure what I was after, maybe something from Otley Brewery, I know that they’re quite hip these days, and from Wales. Other than that, I was open to suggestion. Having just one beer available was perfect though, saved me having to make a decision. I dispatched my father to Beer Ritz with instructions to grab me half a dozen bottles of Felinfoel Double Dragon – ‘they sell it in Beer Ritz’, I figured, ‘so it must be good’.

Why did I want a Welsh beer, and any Welsh beer? Well, as my post title suggests, I was having a bloody Welsh party, wasn’t I?

Turns out that Felinfoel Double Dragon was exactly what I wanted. The party was a small, family affair (parents, in-laws, wife, new son [born unexpectedly in Wales, hence the theme]). Food came in the form of lashings of damn fine Welsh Rarebit.

So we cracked open the Double Dragon. A 4.2% ale, and proclaimed “The National Ale of Wales” (although I’m not sure who decided this). It was just a proper, honest ale. A rich acorn-colour, good and malty with lovely hints of hops lurking inside. While I wouldn’t be so bold as to proclaim this a FAB!POW (which is, it seems, what every beer blogger seems to call any kind of beer and food pairing these days), the smooth warm tones of the beer sat splendidly with the intense cheese hit of the rarebit and proved lovely and refreshing on a hot Spring day.

In a world where beers seem to struggle to gain praise if their not proudly single-hopped, high abv’d, hitting 100s of IBUs or flavoured with something weird and wonderful, sometimes we forgot the pleasure of supping a quality ale, in a lovely setting, with good folk.

This is what this post was about.

Do I think Double Dragon is a great ale? No. But in the right setting, at the right time, with the right people, it’s bloody lovely.

Becoming More Like Alfie… Alfred Bar opens in Meanwood

You’ve probably noticed me banging on and on and on about the fact that North Bar are opening a pub in Meanwood.

Well, they’ve done it. It’s called Alfred. And it’s bloomin’ lovely.

And, to make it even better, I managed to get the FIRST EVER PINT EVER SERVED AT ALFRED. Which was awfully exciting. I wasn’t queuing up outside or anything. I just popped in at 1715 on the opening day, everything was spick and span, I ordered a pint of Rooster’s Wild Mule, and lo, it was the first ever pint.

How very, very exciting.

And look, here’s proof.

The bar has all the charm you’d expect from a North Bar, and sits somewhere between North and Further North.

The beer offering is good too, with Lindeboom, Schneider Weiss, Brooklyn Lager and Bacchus on tap and handpulls offering Rooster’s Wild Mule, Marble’s Ginger and Elland’s 1872 Porter. Splendid.

I’ve reviewed the bar for Leeds Guide, and you can find it here.

The Beer Prole has more photos and a review here

www.alfredbar.com

Alfred on Facebook

Alfred on Twitter

Wedding, Beer, Pie and Raves

So, I realised I hadn’t written a blog in almost two months and that ‘I’m getting married’/’I’m in Siciliy’/’I just got married excuse’ was wearing thin. So here I am, writing a blog.

First off, the wedding was flipping ace. If you’re pals with me on Facebook, you can see loads of photos there. They’re well good.

Since this is still, theoretically, a beer blog I should mention the wedding beer.

For starters, I made a summery beer, flavoured with lemongrass. I worked out OK, but I think my methods for stopping bits of malt and lemongrass getting in the final brew were flawed and it was a little (well very) cloudy – less chunky than Orangina, but only just.

Everyone liked the taste though, which was good, because a few bottles were a little (well very) lively, and ended up sprayed over guest’s suits, shoes and shirts.

Ah well.

 

homebrew

Homebrew - photo by Mark Tattersall http://www.mark-tattersall.co.uk

 

My excellent neighbour Alan also made us a wedding celebration brew, which was far better than mine, and didn’t need drinking through a sieve. His was elderflower-flavoured, rather than lemongrass, so again was perfect for the summer – and thankfully the weather held out.

The very good folks at Roosters were kind enough to sell us a 72 pint keg for just £90. We took the Good Cheer Beer because of the low abv and the American C-hops they use to flavour it. Not as toe-curling as the hoppy beers I love, but we needed something palatable for less refined pallets, y’know.

And of course, we needed lots of ale because we had this to eat.

 

 

I’m not going to say anymore about the wedding, because if you don’t know me, it’d probably be well boring (it was ace though).

LIGHT NIGHT

I did this on Friday night:

(I’m the on in grey in the middle of the photo, my wife is next to me in black).

This is Light Night, a well fun do that happens once a year in Leeds. The council are kind enough to give cash to local artists and enthusiasts and send them off around the city doing arty/cultural/fun stuff. Loads of it was good, but this was my favourite bit. Two lovely people firstly had a kids party on a rug outside Leeds Art Gallery. We played pass the parcel to ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ (sport), wore party hats and ate cake.

When that was over they said ‘stick around for 5 minutes and we’ll have a rave’.

They did. On the very same rug we were jumping around, conga-ing and waving glowsticks in the air to tunes of 2Unlimited and Prodigy. Marvellous.

More of the same next year please.

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

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.

WOAH! The UK Launch of Dogfish Head.

Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head

This should be brief. Maybe it won’t end up being so, but it should be.

Last night was, as the post’s imaginative title suggests, The UK Launch of Dogfish Head. Maybe I’m lazy, but I can never be arsed telling you all about some exciting brewery. They’ve all got websites that will tell you more than I know. In the case of this Delaware brewery (see I told you a little) you can find out loads more here. That’s easy.

What I will tell you is that while it seems the US can’t get enough of DFH (technically the F shouldn’t be there, but it looks better), we’re stuck, well, not being able to get enough of it. Until very recently (yesterday) we’ve got dribs and drabs every now and then. It’s been very pricey and unreliable in its attendance behind bars and on shelves.

Lucky for us, the good folk at Leeds based beer importer Vertical Drinks (guys, if you ever need a new employee, I’m yer man) decided that enough was enough and they were bloody well going to get DFH over here. So now we have it. It was that easy.

So, folk in Leeds can buy their DFH at North Bar and Beer Ritz now. And probably some other places now. Do they want it though?

The evidence of last night suggests that bloody hell, yes they do. There were some 40-50 people paying the very reasonable £25 per head to be at the launch at The Cross Keys in Leeds, and try the beer with food as paired by The Cross Key’s bloody good chefs. I’ve posted the menu before here, it looks bloody tasty. And it was.

I’m not going to describe all the beers (they probably do that on the DFH website). I will give you the edited highlights though.

What We Drank: 60 & 90 min IPA, Raison D’Etre, India Brown Ale, Paolo Santa Marron and one special extra

Best Beer: India Brown Ale (hoppy and malty all at once, really rich, chewy and a little sweet)

Best Beer and Food Pairing: 60 Minute IPA and devilled sprats (that means spicy whitebait) – the spice and hops was perfect, and the crisp freshness of the IPA was refreshing and cleansing after them smelly fisheys.

Best Bit of The Evening: Well, we’d all worked out we were going to try Life & Limb long before we were actually told. But yeah, we got to try Life & Limb, the collaboration between Sierra Nevada and DFH. Unfortunately I got about 25mls of the stuff (we have 4 out of 12 bottles in the UK, so sharing was a must, and my pour was stingier than most). I’m not moaning, but after so much food, that wasn’t really enough to give it a proper judgement. Zak Avery is loads better at that than me. He tells you all you need to know here.

What I Learnt: I still love owt that’s packed full of hops, India Brown Ale is loads nicer than it sounds, I should take photos and make notes more, more girls come to beer tasting events than you’d think, sharing five bottles of beer (three per table of seven) still gets you nicely pissed if they range from 6-12%, Venision Faggots, despite having a name that can no-longer be said without a guilty titter, are well nice, Parkin is the best kind of cake there is.

Will I Be Buying DFH Now: Damn right I will. Especially the 90 Minute IPA and the India Brown Ale

Am I Going To Stop Writing This Now: Yes. Night.

Crown Brewery Smokin’ Oktoberfest; Four Months Too Late

Why haven’t I already drunk this? Erm, I don’t know.  I bought this beer at the start of October at the recommendation of Zak Avery at Beer Ritz (he told me it was the best Oktoberfest beer they had in, despite it being from Sheffield, and not Germany, which seemed like a good recommendation to you). I’d meant to drink it in October, surely the prime time to drink an Oktoberfest beer, but didn’t. Then November passed by, then December, and so on…

So, it’s sat in my cellar for months now, and Stu, the man behind Crown Brewery (which I’ve written and ranted and raved about before), warned me last week that it might not be over-conditioned and past it best.

It seemed only right that I crack it open as soon as I can. So I do.

And while I leave you awaiting the result, I’ll quickly mention that this isn’t an Oktoberfest beer in the ultra-pure, straight and drinkable Pilsner/lager way. This is an authentic marzen-style rauchbier. Apparently. I’d comment on how authentic it actually is, but I’ve no idea what a marzen-style rauchbier is. Read on and you’ll see what I think.

The opening is spectacular. Rob at Hopzine warned me that this beer was pretty lively way back in October when, like a sensible man, he drank it. To say that this bottle was lively would be something of an understatement.

Crown Brewery Smokin’ Oktoberfest 2009

Crown Brewery Smokin’ Oktoberfest 2009

I put my bottle opener to this in the middle of my kitchen. My arm now smells off Smokin’ Oktoberfest. My kitchen floor’s a bit sticky and smelly and my bottle, after pouring a nice little glass, is half empty (as you can see in this picture her). Yep. This was a true explosion. My sink and floor are a lucky pair of bastards.

Thankfully, none landed anywhere near my tea that this was designed to go with. I’d cooked up a butternut squash and chestnut risotto, and figured that the chestnuts would work well with this beer.

As the name suggests, this is smoky and chewy, full of rich, earthy roasty malt flavours. It’s got a bit of caramel there, and lovely long refreshing finish. And while the nose and first impression of the taste is prominently smoked (not unlike Bavarian ham) it’s not overwhelming. The plan with the meal was that surely roast flavours and chestnuts must work well together?

The good news was that it really bloody does. So much so that I don’t resent nearly half of it messing up my floor and bubbling merrily down my sink. Alas, I don’t think you can get any bottles of this anymore. Maybe they’ll make more for next Oktoberfest? If they do I’ll drink it in October. I promise.

Dogfish Head at The Cross Keys

I’ve mentioned before that I write for Leeds Guide for a living. Why do I keep bringing it up? Well because my work there and this blog often over-lap in terms of subject matter (ie, I try to get as much beer content into the Leeds Guide as possible).

My latest foray has been previewing the Dogfish Head tasting event at the Cross Keys on 16th February. It’s going to be great. Read all about it here:

http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/boozeflash/dogfish-head-tasting-at-the-cross-keys/13240

Join the Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/LeedsGuide?ref=ts#/group.php?gid=265953517390&ref=ts

Plus, the menu’s here:

Beer One: 90 Minute I.P.A
Food: New season garlic soup, english snails & parsley juice
(Veg Option: New season garlic soup with parsley juice)

Beer Two: 60 Minute I.P.A…
Food: Devilled sprats with seashore vegetables and sorrel mayonnaise
(Veg Option: Seasonal vegetables with sorrel mayonnaise)

Beer Three: Indian Brown Ale
Food: Venison faggots, split pea puree & onion gravy
(Veg Option: Wild mushrooms, split pe puree)

Beer Four: Raison D’Etre
Food: Ginger parkin, rum & raisin syrup, horlicks ice cream

Beer Five: Palo Santo Marron
Food: Palo santo rarebit with apple & vanilla chutney

Sounds amazing!

A Taste of America at The Angel’s Share, Leeds

So, last night as part of my super-mega-great job as food and drink editor of Leeds Guide magazine, I went out for a review meal at The Angel’s Share in Chapel Allerton. I shall say more about that in a moment. First, I will quickly mention that pre-Angel’s Share I popped in for a couple at Further North.

There, I found Marble’s Port Stout, a rich, deep, coffee-esque stout and is denser and richer than any stout weighing in under 5% should be. In short, great. Then, there was a half of Sierra Nevada’s Unrivalled.

Unrivalled is a special beer. It was designed by Christian, owner of North Bar, at the Sierra Nevada brewery and that means that North and its associated drinkeries get a good few kegs of the stuff. It’s a great beer and while at £6.20 a pint it’s not cheap (“one pound per percent” said our barman, referencing its 6.2% ABV) is a lovely smoky dark rye beer.

Anyway, that was all for starters. What I was going to write about was Angel’s Share. I shall leave the food, meal and ambience stuff to one of Leeds Guide‘s great writers Rob Wright, who accompanied me. I’m going to mention, in brief, the beers.

See, Angel’s Share have recently relaunched their second floor bar-restaurant as an American Grill (loadsa steaks and that) and in tandem with that, they’ve got some special American beers to complement the food. Hooray!

Knowing, as I do, that the drinks at Angel’s Share are largely selected by Jake of Jake’s Bar fame (who’ve been selling Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn lager by the bottle for ages) and the ultra-knowledgeable Chris of Latitude Wine, I thought what they’d offer would be good, and it was.

Is American craft brewing going to slowly start dominating the imported beer market over here? I think it’s possible. Selling for between £3.20 and £3.60 at Angel’s Share was: Blue Moon (which I personally think is a really average Hoegaarden rip off and, anyway, as @Kingwishbone points out, is only masquerading as craft beer and is actually brewed by Miller), Goose Island Honkers Ale, Anchor’s Liberty Ale, Brooklyn Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. So, we settled down with our steaks and got through a good few bottles.

It seems to me that if more and more bars across the city (and other cities) start stocking a choice selection of quality American beers, it’s only a matter of time before they start to challenge yer Peronis and Staropramens as the import beer of choice.

Let’s hope so.

You can read the review, by the lovely Rob Wright, here: http://www.leedsguide.co.uk/review/food-review/the-angels-share/13263

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.