Thursday, 23 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
36. Brodie's - Smoked Rye Porter 7.3%

Who doesn't like beer as a present?
Well, setting aside the obvious answers: reformed alcoholics, teetotallers, those who don't drink due to religious persuasion or on health grounds, or people that just don't like beer, I'm guessing that if you're reading this, and especially if you've got this far in my series of London brews, that you do actually like it when someone just buys you a beer or two now and again. I'm no exception. I was particularly delighted when this particular bottle of beer was bought for me by a certain Thomas Marshall on his recent visit to Ales By Mail especially for this series. They stick the labels on the bottles themselves there you know.
This is the second Brodie's beer I've reviewed in here, it's another dark one,and at 7.3% it's a bit of a beast. I've not been too well this week and this is the first beer that I've had since Saturday, so I'm rather looking forward to it.
It pours a gorgeous deep dark brown with a creamy off white head and an absolutely fantastic aroma of coffee and creamy milk chocolate flowing over a bed of coconut and vanilla with some gorgeous mango mousse just under the surface. Coarse and prickly over the tongue, much as you'd expect from a rye beer, there's a sharp dry espresso coffee hit sucking up all the moisture in the mouth, before an explosion of smoky tropical fruit liquorice engulfs everything leaving a wispy bitter chocolate finish. There's some black cherry in here too and a light crumbly bourbon biscuit right at the death. It is absolutely superb.
Cheers Tom, and cheers Brodie's !

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
35. London Fields Brewery - Pale Ale 3.9%

Unless you've been living under a rock, or possibly had no access to twitter during the weekend of 4th-5th May and the following week, you can't have failed to notice the negative publicity London Fields Brewery received for its hosting of the London Brewers Alliance Festival London's Brewing. I have previously commented that my experience was somewhat different, however regardless of that I did actually get to have a look around the brewery and have a couple of beers at the Tap Room with two well known bloggers @NateDawg27 and @totalcurtis. The Simcore India Black Ale was superb, a delicious blend of malty liquorice and citrus hops, and the cloudy Wheat beer made all the right noises and tastes with its honey-lemon tartness and dry grassiness. It's somewhere that I plan to return to soon as the beers were all in fantastic condition as you might expect, and reasonably priced. You may recall that I reviewed the Delta IPA earlier in this series and I found its flavours rather muted but still intriguing, so you can understand that I was anxious to try another of their bottle-conditioned beers.
Brewed with Galaxy hops from Tasmania, it pours a beautiful orange-amber throwing a billowing pillow of a  rocky off-white head. The aroma has loads of sticky sweet lemon, tangy tangerine juiciness and crackling pear drop with a sprinkling of white pepper spice. Quite sharp over the tongue it seemingly launches itself at the back of the throat with a huge snap of mango, a dash of fermented pear, a twist of sour lemon, a shot of grapefruit, all put in a cocktail shaker with some sanguinello, strained into a water-bomb and burst in the mouth spraying its gooey goodness in all directions. It's a deliciously sticky and sharp tropical citrus juice explosion with a few grains of white pepper on a thin bed of uber-moist fruit cake in the mix just upping the ante a little. The finish is mouth puckeringly dry and tart as that juicy sharpness fades slowly away leaving a deliciously oily film coating the whole mouth. This truly is a fantastic beer, delivering a bit fat tropical smack in the mouth full of intense fruit flavour. Get it if you can, or simply get yourself over to their Tap Room. Fresh beer is usually the best beer.
**Addendum: Have heard from London Fields today that this beer has sadly been de-listed, so if you've got a bottle (and Ales By Mail have some left) then you have a rarity. Don't hang on to it though, drink it now and savour the flavour, it won't get any better.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
34. Beavertown -  America Fuck Yeah 7.3%

I'm a massive fan of Beavertown brewery and their beers. Their Imperial Smog was one of the first beers I reviewed in this series and Black Betty, the black IPA, is one of my favourite beers of the last twelve months. I also managed to taste the dregs of their Blood Orange IPA at the recent Londons Brewing event which was also amazing so there's no pressure on them here. Okay, maybe a little.
The ingredients list for this beer is pretty classic for this style, but with plenty to keep it interesting. There's pumpkin of course, however that pumpkin has been slow roasted in maple syrup for a few hours before being added to the boil. On the spice front there's nutmeg, clove, cardamon, cinnamon and ginger, with the hop support coming from Magnum and Saaz. This is seasonal beer due to its main ingredient, and I also notice that it's named has been toned down on the website to just 'Spiced Pumpkin' which should help sales. Time to open that bottle.
It pours a beautiful glowing russet colour with a delicious off-white head, but it's the spicy ginger and nutmeg that gets shoved right up your nose in the aroma, rattling your olfactory organs, that immediately grabs your attention. It oozes and slithers over the tongue, pulling and prickly leaving a trail of piquancy in its wake. All the spices feature heavily as you might expect, however in contrast to some of the US versions of this style I've had I'm actually able to taste the pumpkin and maple syrup sugary sweetness as an underlying trend, like a flowing river on which everything else, malt, hops and spice is carried. The finish is full of syrupy warmth and bitter sapidity combining beautifully into one long-lasting dryness.
I have to confess that this isn't my favourite style, however as I can taste all the distinct components, particularly and especially the pumpkin, I rather enjoyed this. I'm afraid however that this isn't a beer that you can go out and grab right now, unless you're lucky enough to find one forgotten on a shelf somewhere. This beer was brewed in October 2012, and has matured rather nicely, but the next batch probably won't be available until sometime after October 2013. Make a note in your diary.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Snarling In The Shadow Of Giants

     Brewed & Unleashed in Suffolk    

My first encounter with HellHound Brewery was this post from everyones favourite high-fiving blogger NateDawg. I read it, briefly dreamed of being a brewer, then went back to whatever I was doing at the time, which was probably having a beer, and thought no more about it.
Fast forward eight months and I get a tweet from somebody called HellHoundJack saying he was going to be in Billericay (where I work) visiting Ales By Mail (who have their warehouse there - what a terrible coincidence for me) and could he pop in to see me. What could I say?
Jack Carroll, for he is HellHoundJack, is a former football journalist on the national press who in his own words, 'had kids, moved to Suffolk and started a brewery'. Based in Hadleigh in Suffolk it first brewed on November 17th 2009 in a 6 barrel plant and are looking to produce beers that are a little different from those generally available, which, if you read this blog regularly you'll know are the ones that I'm very much in favour of. Suffolk does however have a couple of rather large breweries in the shape of Adnams and Greene King which monopolise the local pubs, clubs and bars making the challenge of starting and maintaining a small brewery and getting that beer into local outlets a tough one. Meeting Jack, twice as it turned out, once at my workplace and later on the High Street, I was impressed by his passion for what he does as well as his friendliness and enthusiasm. He answered all of my questions about the beers that I'll be reviewing here and it was clear to me that he was a man who very much 'knows his stuff'. Let's see what they taste like.
First up is the Lil Devil IPA 4.0% described in the tasting notes I was kindly provided with as 'an IPA which takes no prisoners'. Brewed with local malt and 'a staggering' amount of Fuggles, Celeia and Stella hops, it pours a glowing golden golden pale orange with a dense off-white head. The aroma has a real earthy fruitiness from the hop combination, with high notes of peach and mango, deep and rich, heady and dense with a faint honey sweetness right at the back. It barely touches the tongue as it glides over, but then back comes some bitterness rolling relentlessly back like a streamroller, flattening the woody apricot, lemon, pear drop and candied orange concentrated gooeyness that had exploded in front of it. The finish is long lasting and dry with bold bitter citrus and some bready yeastiness right at the end. This is a great English IPA, which reminds me of Hardknott's English Experiment only with bigger, fruitier and bitter flavours. This is well worth seeking out.
Dirty Blond 3.9% , HellHound's original beer, brewed with Fuggles and Green Bullet hops from New Zealand, and is apparently a favourite of a certain member of the royal family. It pours a lemony-orange colour, very much a 'dirty blond' from which I assume the beer gets its name. The tight white head is full of the floral aroma of honeysuckle, heather honey, lemon zest and a little vanilla. Crisp and light over the tongue with the softest prickle of carbonation, it's more bitter than I was expecting with a Hobnob biscuit maltiness looming over a deliciously floral honey sweetness in the taste like a raincloud over a meadow, but it never overwhelms it as the balance in this beer is very good indeed. The finish has more Hobnob biscuit mixed with a drop or two of golden syrup upping its sweetness, drying to a long bitter finish. It's possibly a little too 'safe' for me, I'd have liked more citrus bite in the middle, but as it has the royal seal of approval then perhaps you need to try it for yourself.
Wheat beers are a style that find popularity with people that have previously professed a dislike of beer in general as the bitterness levels are much lower. Thunderstruck 4.2% is HellHound's take and pours with the characteristic volumious off-white head you would expect. I have intentionally poured this beer in two stages so that I could see, having noted that the yeast had settled to the bottom, how the clearer version appeared. I have to say that I was astounded by the clarity of the liquid gold in my glass with its ripe aroma of honey-drenched apricot, banana and clove, with some late grassy coriander notes joining the party. Swirling the yeast around in the bottle, I notice upon depositing that it disperses evenly, turning the contents a muddy amber. Tart and dry over the tongue, there's some beautiful lemony honey flavours, quickly followed by some velvetty smooth apricot toffee, mushy bananaa and spicy coriander seed highlights. The finish is tart and sweet, with more of that honeyed lemon coming through. It really is outstanding and I'm very pleased to see an English brewer nail this style so exactly whilst also bringing something a little different to the usual mix.
The last of the four is Black Shuck 3.9% , a breakfast stout brewed with porridge oats, Fuggles hops and pressed coffee, named after a demonic ghostly black dog said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia, and also the inspiration for the name of the brewery. It pours black as hell, thick and oily with a tight beige head. There's a big aroma of liquid milk chocolate and coffee, and it bites bitterly at the tongue as it washes over it, leaving more coffee flavour with a swish of its black tail. There's a big grating of dark chocolate, heavy on the cocoa solids, rasping and a touch spicy as it carries merest hint of white pepper along with it, flooding the mouth with an intense bitterness that actually dries the mouth so completely that it leaves the finish mouth-puckeringly arid. Due to the dryness a lot of the bitterness is dragged away however it does leave some satisfying cocoa powder blowing around like it's been inhaled from a spoon. This is certainly not a shy beer, it's big and snarlingly bitter rounding on the palate like a wounded animal and perfectly typifies this brewery and what it's about.
I'm actually rather impressed with these HellHound beers, much as I've been impressed with a lot of the newer breweries beers I've had recently, and that's because they really care about the flavours therein. They're not afraid to pack taste in giving the drinker something big and bold to appreciate, whether it be hop or malt forward or well balanced like these. Brewers like these really need to be supported and really need their product to be showcased. This is of course easier in a city like London, with new breweries springing up every month, lots of informed drinkers with available income searching for the lastest tastiest offerings. However in the outlying, more rural areas this is a little harder, so beers like these need championing. I know I'm preaching to the converted here on the whole, but if you come across beers that you haven't had before then give them a go, and if you like them tell others and buy them again. Make a baying, growling, snarling hound that'll repay you and future drinkers with a thirst for taste and flavour.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
33. Rocky Head Brewery - Hop Ditch 6.0%

Back in review ten when I reviewed Rocky Head's Pale Ale, I assumed that was one of only two beers they had made (the other, the Selfridges one, I touched on previously). After an unscheduled stop at The Rake on Bank Holiday Monday, I realise the error of my ways. Not only is there an American Pale Ale that goes by the name of AAPA, but they have also produced a Sour Ale, Hop Ditch, that I'll be reviewing here. To quote the back of the 500ml bottle (the Pale Ale is 330ml) it's their 'take on a Belgian sour ... Tropical flavours and just a refreshing kiss of acidity'. Now I'm not one to be swayed by bottle descriptions, I didn't actually get around to reading it until after I'd written my review (on a napkin of all things), so let's see how fair a description that is.
It pours a cloudy orange with a tight white head, with a fresh zesty aroma of tart orange-lemon and grapefruit, and when I say fresh I really mean it, but there's a heaviness too it as well, almost physically dragging my head down. Sharp and smooth over the tongue, the taste is dense sour mango, quite intense and rich, overlayed with a gooey lemon and grapefruit tartness, with lots of white and black pepper ground in for good measure. It's got a warm spicy tingle too it. The finish is gooey and intense too with more sweet peppery mango, sharp, dry and indeed sour, but with that same 'heaviness' that continues throughout.
This is certainly a different beer, an unusual but justified take on a Belgian sour and they have achieved what they set out to do here. It's definitely refreshing and a beer that I would have again, but as to whether I would drink two in a row then I'm not so certain.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
32. The Kernel - India Pale Ale Double Citra 9.7%

This wasn't the post I was going to do this evening. Instead I was going to give my take on the LBAs London's Brewing event that I attended last Saturday evening. I do intend to write my take on it at some point, but for now you can read Matt Curtis's review here mainly because it's Matt who I went with. You may well read other reviews but Matt and I had a similar, but not identical experience, but it was certainly a very different experience to those who attended the afternoon session.
I digress. And I'm going back in time a bit.
In fact I'm going back a week, roughly half an hour after I had the Portobello Pale I covered in my last review. I wasn't actually going to call into Craft Beer Company but as it I had to go right past it to get to Farringdon station (I'm not fooling anyone here - I do realise this) it was rude not to call in, and I'm rather glad I did. There on the tap in front of me was Kernel's Double Citra, a beer I'd heard a little bit of buzz about on the those beery twitter-drums. Sometimes the beer of the moment can turn out to be tomorrow's mouthwash, or more often desirability does not equate to quality, but as this was a Kernel beer then I was prepared to take that chance. Purely in the interest of science you understand.
It pours a cloudy lemony-orange with the thinnest of pure white heads. The aroma is intense, in fact it's INTENSE. There's big pure concentrated satsuma juice that jumps out of the glass and slaps you round the face, forget the Tango man this is a beer that means business, and it's business is pushing orangey goodness like an underworld 'Man from Delmonte'. For all this it's actually quite soft over the tongue, in fact it's barely felt (or perhaps it has just numbed my palate), instead there's a huge boozy orange nebula that expands in the mouth and forces it way up through the nose. Concentrated curacoa orange drenched in satsuma juice, bitter, sweet and unctuous fills the mouth with a sublime intensity, it fairly drips orange oil, pulp and juice. The finish is oily too, and similarly intense, like you've eaten a whole box of oranges, all tightly compacted, in one go.
Don't worry if you can't get this on keg, if you're quick, and you know where to look, you might find some bottled. Don't miss out.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
31. Portobello Brewing Company - Pale 4.0%

Now here's a thing, this is a beer I've been wanting to try for a while. In fact I walked across London on Tuesday to get it, well from Borough Market to The Gunmakers in Clerkenwell anyway. Was it worth it? Well you'll have to wait a while before I get to that.
First here's a brief history.
Portobello Brewing Company (note that the website isn't up and running properly yet) was set up in 2012 (although registered in 2011) by two business partners, Rob Jenkins and Iain Masson, who both have quite a beery pedigree. Sales Director Rob was previously with Scottish and Newcastle, and Young's and Charles Wells, whilst Head Brewer Iain worked at Bass, Greene King, and Hardy and Hanson. Brewing both cask ale and keg in their 4000 (?) barrel plant near Little Wormwood Scrubs, not far from Moncada Brewery in Portobello, London W10.
Portobello Pale, (4.0% despite the pump clip saying 4.2%, or has it changed?) is brewed with Marris Otter Pale Ale and Caragold malts. Time to taste.
It pours a slightly cloudy lemon-yellow-gold with just under a fingers worth of off-white tightly-packed bubbles on top. The aroma is quite dense and heady with mango and the zest of orange and lemon, it reminds me of a really good citrus sorbet. It caresses the tongue with a creamy but sharp bitterness, with mango, lemon, lime and pineapple all present in this liquid sunshine of a beer. It's a fresh tropical cocktail. The finish is a heavy sharp fruity citrus fog with that dense mango sorbet coming back like a haunting mist sitiing over the tongue. Delicious.
Was it worth it? Oh yes indeed.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Beers Of London Series
30. Brew Wharf / Moncada Brewery - Rudebwoy Red 4.6%

I had originally this to be purely a review of Brew Wharf, close to Borough Market in the London Borough of Southwark, but on closer examination of the pump clip of the beer that I had chosen I found it to be a collaboration with Moncada Brewery, whose Notting Hill Stout I previously covered here. Brew Wharf is part of the Vinopolis restaurant/bar site on Stoney Street and is yet another brewery within railway arches. Opened in 1999, Brew Wharf encompasses a brewery sitting right next to bar and opposite the kitchen, right in the middle of the restaurant. Head brewer Angelo Scarnera is well known for his collaborative brews with breweries as local as The Kernel and Brodies, and as far afield as Italy's Toccalmatto whose B Space Invader (their own version) I had in Bir & Fud in Rome. You can read about that here if you wish. I have visited Brew Wharf on many occasions however have yet to meet Angelo, although I hope to soon, nevertheless I have always found the beer to be in first class condition and at £4 a pint the price isn't bad either. It has seemed a little soulless as each time I've visited, which admittedly have been weekday afternoons, the clientele have mainly consisted of lunching city-types sipping wine. The bar is well stocked with a variety of good bottled beer however, and the staff have been friendly and courteous. It's worth a look-in if you're in the area as their are usually two beers brewed on site available and they're often packed full of hops.
Rudebwoy Red is an American Amber ales. Luckily, as with all Brew Wharf beers, the ingredients are on the pump clip. There's a picture of it here, but in case you don't want to read that straight from it I'll list them all here (it also extends this paragraph just enough to fit it in). Brewed with Maris Otter Pale, CaraRed, Melanoidin, CaraMunich and CaraPils malts and US Nugget, Willamette, and Simcoe hops it promises a big flavour, let's see if it delivers.

It pours a dark copper colour with a thin off-white head but it's the aroma, thick with pine and grapefruit, all thick and concentrated like its foot is stuck in gooey caramel, that gets my mouth watering before I've even tasted a drop. Bitingly sharp over the tongue, it strips off anything that you'd previously eaten or drank before laying down a pine and sticky toffee varnish. Once this layer is down it's covered with a rich and prickly tropical fruitiness that is absolutely gorgeous, grapefruit, mango and satsuma soaked in caramel. The finish buzzes with sappy wood chips and globules of tropical citrus jamminess that lasts a long, long time.
This is a superb beer and seeing as I only had it yesterday lunchtime it should still be available now. I've also heard very good things about the Mosaic Pale Ale, so that'll be one to look out for.