Monday, 22 December 2014

Advent Calendar - 22nd December 2014

Beer Advent Calendar
Saltaire Brewery - White Christmas 4.5%
22nd December 2014

So here we are, on the home straight. I hope that you're raring to go and having a very merry beery Christmas so far!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, in these last few day leading up to the Big One I'll be taking a retrospective look at 2014, a year that I've enjoyed immensely as far as beer is concerned, and as I've already looked back on the best books I've read, today I'll be breathing a deep nostalgic sigh and remembering the best best pubs or bars I've drunk in over the last twelve months.

For me January 2014 was particularly forgettable, however that all changed on the 1st of February with the first ever, and I hope you'll excuse the language here, the first ever #CraftW*nkerDayTrip to the Swan in Stratford St Mary, Suffolk, and what a day that was. Sometimes you get a feeling when you're on the edge of something great and that day, admirably hosted by Mr. Ed Razzall was one of those days. Every single person gathered there has gone on to bigger and better things this year, spurred on, I have no doubt by the sheer quantity and quality of beer that was drunk that day. I have been back there several times since, and I'm absolutely convinced it is one of the best pubs in the country. With it's own brewery being installed as I write and guest rooms becoming available soon it simply is one of the best beer destinations in the country. If you're at all interested in the shenanigans that went on that day then you can do so here on the Crema's Beer Odyssey blog, and if you want to know a bit more about the Swan itself then this is the entry I wrote for the Beer East Anglia guide.

The next few months saw me travel to various beery events in many different venues, all of which were very good, but it wasn't until August and my only journey overseas this year that I made it to the next bar on my list of favourites.

La Capsule in Lille might not appear the most amazing bar you've ever been in when you enter, in fact it's a bit shabby but this is all part of it's charm. It's cramped and the other customers and staff turn and look straight at you the minute you enter, but look up at the tap list above the bar and you will see beers that will make you realise something that may not have occurred to you before, there is a blossoming French craft beer scene. Taking it's cue from their Belgian neighbours, France, and this area in particular, are quietly producing some rather amazing beers. I spent quite a few happy hours there, which you can read about here and here, and if you're at all worried about everyone turning to look at you don't be. As I was to discover it is because they want to talk to you about their beer, of which they are justly proud, it's simply a wonderful and friendly place to drink.

The end of October took me to Edinburgh, and I finally made it to somewhere that I'd been itching to go to for some time, The Hanging Bat. I loved it's character, it's styling and most of all I absolutely loved the beer. The food wasn't bad either. Two other pubs deserve a mention whilst I'm still dwelling on Auld Reekie and they are Holyrood 9A and Cloisters Bar and all three are well worth your time and money should you find yourself in that city.

I want to squeeze in a quick mention for the West End Tap in Lincoln that we called into on our way back from Edinburgh. We didn't stay long, but the beer and welcome was excellent (cheers Suzy) and I hope to get back there sometime in 2015.

The last place that makes it onto my 'best of the year' list is one I'm sure that you will probably know, but that I only visited for the first time just over a week ago. BrewDog Shepherd's Bush is one of the best, if not the best craft beer bar in London at the moment. Admittedly I was there in excellent company at the end of the Beer O'Clock Show Crimbo Crawl, but the beer selection, forty taps plus fridges containing such delights, including a five year old barrel aged dark mead (Stronzo - Precious Mjod) and a Canadian brettanomyces-laced blonde ale (Dieu de Ciel - Blonde a la Brett) that I had when I was there, it simply is a fantastic place. If you're ever in London then make sure this is on your list of places to visit, you certainly won't regret it.

I really want to get stuck into today's beer from my Ales By Mail Advent Calender but before I do there's just time for the answers to yesterday's quiz questions.

1. Anderson Valley

2. Yule Fuel

3. Underlig Jul

4. Belgian Strong Ale

5. Mauldon's Brewery

Based in Shipley, West Yorkshire, Saltaire Brewery have been brewing their hand crafted ales since 2005. Winners of more than seventy trade awards and two international gold medals for their Triple Chocolate Stout. Today's beer, White Christmas, is brewed with the addition of coriander and orange peel being added late to the boil similar to the traditional method for making a wheat beer. Let's get that bottle opened.

Pouring a pale amber, I was expecting a pale golden colour if I'm honest, with a tight off-white head and lemony honey shortbread biscuit aroma with perhaps the merest hint of sour milk or even blue cheese. Full and surprisingly smooth and fat over the tongue with a prickle of carbonation there's loads more of that honey and lemon flavour, but mixed up with a little orange juice and golden syrup it certainly doesn't lack taste. The finish is bitter, and this is where I pick up the crushed coriander seed as it dries to quite a dusty pithy finish with more echoes of that honey and lemon citrus following on behind. Truth be told given the information I got from the bottle and website I was half expecting, and maybe hoping for a kind of wheat beer hybrid. Sadly this isn't the case and although it's bright enough with a massive flavour hit in the middle I feel a little bit let down, but I can hardly lay that at the feet of the brewers. I think what really niggles me though that I wanted something a bit more festive, and with the name 'White Christmas' is that perhaps that's what I should have got.

Here are today's quiz questions:

1. What is the name of Hook Norton's seasonal strong dark porter that has a picture of a partridge in a pear tree on the label and pump clip?

2. Which English brewery makes the winter ale 'Bobbin Robin'?

3. 'Frosted Frog' is the Christmas offering from from Hoppin Frog brewery in the USA, but which state is the brewery in?

4. Sierra Nevada brew a festive fresh hop ale using the first Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops of the season. With a picture of a snow bound log cabin on it's label, what is it called?

5. Criminally Bad Elf is a 10.5% seasonal Barley Wine brewed by which Oxfordshire brewery?

Good luck with those, but you know what's coming next don't you ...

That's right, it's another terrible Christmas cracker joke.

There is some good news though, there's only two more to go after this one:

Why are Christmas trees really bad at knitting?

Because they always drop their needles!

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