Icelandic Sagas: Einstök Ölgerd beer

Einstok BeerMy beer drinking has taken something of an Arctic turn this week. Firstly, I interviewed Shetland’s Lerwick Brewery, but tonight I’m taking my taste buds even further north – 65° North, in fact – to Akureyri in Iceland, and the Einstök Ölgerd brewery.

I had never thought of Iceland as much of a beer location; the price of importing ingredients and then exporting the finished product must be astronomical. But today, I found Einstök Ölgerd beer at an off licence in Kent and the price was no different to that of a good US import bottle.

Einstök is based just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle and claims to have access to the “purest water on earth”. So, let’s put the beer to the test:

Einstök Icelandic White Ale (5.2%)

This beer seeks to emulate the Belgian witbier tradition and won Gold at the LA International Commercial Beer Competition 2013. Expectations were high.

Einstok white ale

Einstok Icelandic White Ale

It promises orange peel and coriander – signature themes in witbier – but they’re very subtle. There’s an over-riding lemon theme, from nose to taste, and even the mid-cloudy lemon meringue colour. Coriander and pine are present but in the background. There’s a lovely initial zesty carbonation to it, and while the head dies, there is a crisp cleanliness to it.

Einstök Icelandic Pale Ale (5.6%)

Here’s the “Viking version of the Pale Ale”, combining American Cascade and Northern Brewer hops. It’s pleasing to the eye thanks to its rich toffee colour. Sweet malt comes to the fore up front, followed by a crisp, bitter hop bite. This bitter hop mingles for quite a while, so this is very much a beer of two halves. Fantastic!

This is where to find which stores near you sell Einstök beer.

Skál!

New Brewers: Lerwick Brewery

Graham Mercer Lerwick Brewery

Graham Mercer, Lerwick Brewery

We’re looking to celebrate the UK’s new wave of brewing by meeting a young brewer each month. First up is Lerwick Brewery from the Shetland Islands. Sitting on the latitude line of 60° North, the Lerwick Brewery is based at the very edge of the UK. It was established in 2011 by the Mercer brothers – John, Graham and Jimmy – and they reckon that the brewery’s location, combined with clear water and fresh air provides the vital ingredients to brew beer with individual character and a unique dimension.

The Guest Ale caught up with Graham Mercer, distribution manager for Lerwick Brewery, to learn more, and we’ll be reviewing Lerwick Brewery’s beers in the coming weeks.

Introduce us to Lerwick Brewery: how long have you been going and what inspired you to brew?

Lerwick Brewery has been three years in the planning – we started selling beers just last summer.  The inspiration to start came from a combination of things.  I’ve been working closely with my brothers John and Jimmy for many years and, having built up another business to a £10m turnover, we were looking for a new challenge.   We are born and brought up in Shetland so know that it has plenty of pure, fresh water and a perfect ambient temperature for brewing.

It was John who first mentioned the idea – many years ago he worked on the design of the cooling system in the Guinness Brewery in St James’s Gate, Dublin and he always retained an interest in brewing.  So, before we knew it, we were installing equipment into our new plant in Lerwick and receiving our first order of hops.

What are you brewing right now?

We launched with two beers last summer and are concentrating on getting those into the Scottish and wider UK market.

Our golden, Pilsner-style lager beer, 60°North, describes the latitude position of the Shetland Isles.  Bittered with Perle and flavoured with Saaz hops, it pairs well with a wide variety of foods: fish and shellfish; chicken and gammon; smoked salmon; hors d’oeuvres and goat cheese – plus spicy dishes from around the world.   It is best served at 8-9°C in a classic Pilsner flute to capture the sparkling effervesces and colours of the beer while maintaining its head.

Skipper’s Ticket – named to indicate the importance of mariners to the livelihood of the Shetland Islands – is a rich chestnut-red ale with fruity flavour and spicy notes. Scottish barley malt and Perle, Williamette & Savinski Goldings hops combine to create a smooth, yet refreshing, beer.  Its mellow, balanced flavour perfectly complements traditional hearty British dishes: mixed grill; roast beef, lamb, pork and chicken; steak and kidney pudding; shepherd’s, cottage and (obviously) steak and ale pies.  Best at 11-13°C, served in a tulip glass to trap and enhance its aromatic essential oils, it is a delicate twist on a traditional style comes in a 330ml bottle at 4.0% alcohol.

With no isinglass, both our beers are suitable for vegans.

What have been the key challenges getting up and running? 

Shetland is right on the edge of the UK, closer to Bergen than it is to Edinburgh.  In many ways it is the perfect location for brewing – for example, with an ambient temperature of 8-12 degrees, we don’t have the same refrigeration problems which many brewers face, and the water is soft and of excellent quality.  However, because of our remoteness, we are subject to the highest transport costs in the UK, and we have to take account of that in the way we do business.  We have to move beer in bigger quantities than most breweries, to keep transport costs down and we have partnered with Valhalla Brewery in Shetland to share shipments of supplies (hops, barley, etc.) into Shetland.

We also have 10,000 bottles in stock on the mainland so that we are able to respond to demand in a timely fashion.   We know the vagaries of the Shetland weather all too well.   Planes can be grounded at short notice and ferries prevented from sailing, so having a stock of beer outside Shetland is key.

The guys from PBC (Brewery Installations) who came to install the equipment into the brewery certainly got more than they bargained for when they came up to Shetland.  The January weather took them by surprise.  I remember they got the ferry – which is a 12-hour crossing from Aberdeen – and really struggled with sea sickness on the way.  By the time they got their sea legs, it was time to berth and they had real trouble getting their ‘land legs’ back, so it felt like the ground underfoot was continually moving.

I did feel for them as January crossings can be quite lively.  I’m sure they wished we had set up in June, July or August instead, when the balmy days mean that the sea can be flat calm and crossings wonderfully smooth.  I’m pleased to say they did a great job, nonetheless and I’m sure they had lots of stories to tell when they got back home to Bury.

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer looking to start out?

Don’t feel like you’re on your own – make contact with fellow brewers and people in the industry.  Everyone in the industry is so helpful – from the associations to brewers, suppliers and the wide range of companies involved in the industry – and they won’t hesitate to give you guidance where you need it.   We have not been short of advice since we set up.  Everyone has been so helpful and open.  There’s very little sense of competitiveness.  Companies’ recipes, of course, remain closely-guarded secrets, but dos and don’ts and best practice are widely discussed.   So do make the most of your fellow experts.

 

 

Beer Review: Mr Trotter’s Great British Chestnut Ale

Mr Trotter's Great British Chestnut Ale

Mr Trotter’s Great British Chestnut Ale

The good eggs at Lancaster Brewery were good enough to send me a couple of bottles of Mr Trotter’s Great British Chestnut Ale. This nutty beer is classic pub fodder at the spot-on session beer strength of 4% ABV, plus it goes handily with Mr Trotter’s pork crackling.

As a vegetarian, that’s no good for me, but in all seriousness, a history lesson from Rupert Ponsonby, one of the brains behind the beer: “Before hops arrived in Britain in the 1500s, brewers would have used all manner of odd sounding ingredients to reflect the seasons and spice up the cereals such as barley/rye/wheat/oats used in their brews. So using chestnuts feels like a wonderful not to the past, with flavours that should appeal to those who don’t often choose a glass of ale.”

The beer is a lovely rich tawny colour,  with quite a sweet caramel – almost syrupy – note coming off the nose. Ingredients include a Maris Otter barley base, coupled with English-grown Bramling Cross and Cascade hops. It definitely has a bitter note but it ultimately pretty well-balanced. Reminds me a little of a light Old Speckled Hen.

This is my six-second Vine review:

Retro beer ads from days gone by

Hofmeister Lager ad

George the Bear from the 1980s Hofmeister campaign (via YouTube)

I had a flashback recently to a TV commercial I remember as a kid for Hofmeister Lager, memorable for its catchphrase ‘Follow the Bear’. As I work in online marketing myself, it got me thinking about some other retro beer ads of yore and also a look at how beer branding has evolved.

I will cover that in another post, but in the meantime, here are some classic beer ads*, and I’m sure I’ve missed plenty so do please add your suggestions in the comments box.

Hofmeister Lager (1980s)

 Guinness (1995)

Heineken “The Water in Majorca” (1985)

Castlemaine XXXX (2000s)

 Ruddles County Ale (1994)

Carling Black Label “Dambusters” (1980s)

Guinness (1998)

 San Miguel (2006)

Boddington’s (1990s)

Caffrey’s “Strong Words, Softly Spoken” (1990s)

Castlemaine XXXX (1992)

Murphy’s (1990s)

Foster’s (1992)

*All content available via YouTube.

French Beer Special: La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or, Paris

Brasserie La Goutte d'Or beer

Brasserie La Goutte d’Or Selection

I’ve always said that the only thing that holds France back from being the ultimate country was its lack of decent beer. On a recent visit to Paris, that barrier was eliminated all thanks to La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or.

France: culture, wine, language, beaches, mountains, great trains (Paris besides), nonchalance, chocolate, cheese, cheese and yet more cheese. I can’t get enough of the place. However, previous visits have always left me a little dry in the throat. ‘Mmm, nice Bordeaux,’ only gets you so far if what you really crave is the aromatic hum of hops or the comforting chew of caramel malt. Despite a couple of fair efforts from the likes of 2 Caps’ Noire de Slack and Blanche de Wissant in Northern France, an area which has a fairly healthy brewing scene, I’ve not really come across anything in France that blew me away.

That was until I was in Paris pre-Christmas for a few days. On the famous Rue Lepic in Montmartre, just up from Amelie’s Les Deux Moulins café, I popped into a store mostly to hunt for cheese. Lo! There, modestly sitting on a shelf in the corner, were three 50cl bottles shaped mysteriously like vessels designed to host beer…

Brewed right there in the 18th Arrondissement, sat three of the four beers created by the nearby La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or (The Golden Droplet). Founded in October 2012, the Brasserie distributes across Paris as well as hosting tastings on its own site. I came away with the Ernestine – the first French IPA I have ever tasted – the smoky Charbonnière and the smooth Château Rouge.

Ernestine (5.5%)

Ernestine is an interesting interpretation on in the India Pale Ale style. Weighing in at 5.5%, the Ernestine contains an African influence through the cheeky addition of rooibos (red bush) and cola nuts. It’s got a real toffee nose to it, a rich caramel colour which was reasonably transparent. There’s a really spicy taste to this one – lots of black pepper and ginger – with a late bitter hop bite at the back of the tongue. A little too sharp for my taste but pleasant enough.

Rue Lepic Paris

Epicerie Du Terroir, Rue Lepic, Montmartre, where I stumble on La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or beer

Charbonnière (7.5%)

Named after coal, as you’d expect, the Charbonnière is a smoky number with a cloudy cola colour. It’s got the nose of a musty hotel room, but don’t let that put you off. The yeast is really bananary and it mingles with a really bitter hop. It’s full bodied and full flavoured, and certainly repeats well!

Château Rouge (6.5%)

The “Red Mansion” is actually a cloudy honeycomb colour. It’s a caramel malt-forward beer with a toasted marshmallow nose to it. There’s a hint of spicy cinnamon and, again, the trademark bitter hop finish. It has lovely lacing too, this one.

The only one I couldn’t find was La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or’s blonde beer Myrha. I will just have to go back and complete the set! In the meantime, here’s where to find the bar when you’re next in Paris:

Beer Review: Saison by Partizan Brewing

 

Partizan Brewery Saison

Partizan Brewery Saison

Saison is a beer style we’ll be looking more closely at in 2014, but it’s something we’ll see a lot more of going forward as brewers experiment with their own Saisons, this year’s de rigueur beer.

This evening I trialled the Amarillo hop-based Saison from Partizan Brewing, which tasted something like Hoegaarden crossbred with fruit punch. Partizan is just one of phalanx of new wave of London brewers, based in Bermondsey, and I picked this Saison up at RealAle.com’s corner shop in St Margarets, in between Twickenham and Richmond.

First up, Partizan’s Saison is a feisty bugger! It effervesced like one of those flu recovery vitamin tablets in cold water to start with. The head soon dissipates but it great fun to watch. The nose is a veritable feast of tropical fruits – I got grapefruit, lychee, some lemon zest in there too, a little black pepper too.

The colour is a cloudy lemon curd loaded with bubbles and the taste follows through on the nose – tropical fruit throughout with a lingering flavour and subtle bitterness at the back of the tongue.

Partizan’s Saison weighs in at 7.2%, right in the Saison strength ballpark. You won’t be drinking too many of these in one go so enjoy!

The essentials:

ABV: 7.2%

Colour:  Lemon curd

Nose: Tropical punch

Taste: Grapefruit, lemon, lychee – you name it!

Our verdict: Hoegaarden’s lovechild with fruit punch

Website: www.partizanbrewing.co.uk

Where to find good beer in Singapore

Hitachino Nest Pale Ale

Japan’s Hitachino Nest Pale Ale at JiBiru

As the global craft beer revolution continues unabated, we take a look at where to find great beer in Singapore, both domestic and imported.

I have heard Singapore described as the “easy introduction to Asia”. It’s easy and cheap to get around, contains both colonial and contemporary architecture and history, and exposes the traveller to Chinese, Indian and Malay culture, food and language. It’s a well-functioning Asia in a microcosm and English is the core language. I am lucky to go to the “Lion City” quite regularly with work, so have tapped up the best places to get good beer.

Many expats are drawn from across the world to work in a safe, burgeoning economy with minimal unemployment and impressive growth potential. These expats – and plenty of locals too, by the way – cherish good quality beer. There’s a big home brewing scene partly driven by the price of alcohol. While income taxes are low, alcohol is taxed quite handsomely. As a result, you can expect to pay S$10 (about £5) a pint as a minimum. This means it is even more important to make sure you drink something worth the price.

Happy Hour?

There’s a certain irony about the term “Happy Hour” when the starting price is £5-a-pint, but the afternoon is often Happy Hour, when beer prices in Singapore will be at their lowest. The price then goes up later in the evening – sometimes more than once – so be careful not to order on the cusp on the changeover to avoid unnecessary debates with waiting staff. Even better, have a liquid lunch rather than a big night out.

Best beer bars in Singapore

Brewerkz beer Singapore

The Brewerkz tasting mat

While some beers are imported – like pretty much everything in the island state – there is also a good set of locally-brewed beer. The most familiar brand is the lager Tiger Beer, of which you can buy a four-litre tower to economise on a big night, but there are a couple of local brewers of note.

Brewerkz: Set up by a couple of North American beer aficionados, the Brewerkz brew pub is located in a former dock building by the river. It creates a number of different styles in its on-site brewery; including English-style bitters, India Pale Ales, porters and New Zealand-style pale ales.

RedDot BrewHouse: RedDot was Singapore’s first locally-owned microbrewery when it was set up in 1997. It’s just down the water from Brewerkz in Boat Quay and does a great line in Pilsner.

The Pump Room: Clarke Quay is pumping of an evening, and nowhere pumps harder than The Pump Room. Its Golden Ale won a few awards across Asia last year and everything is brewed onsite.

JiBiru: A good place to coincide a shopping trip with some imported beer is JiBiru outside the 313 Somerset shopping centre on the world-famous Orchard Road shopping street. It’s a Japanese themed bar with great value food and a number of Japanese beers, such as Hitachino Nest Beer, and European beer such as Brewdog’s Punk IPA and some Belgian brands.

If you want a quiet night in, Thirsty is an off licence in the shopping centre off Clarke Quay which stocks all manner of bottled beer from around the world, although prices are still pretty high for those of used to protesting a £3 pint. Expect to pay double that, even for a local beer.

Beer and music pairing with Pete Brown

Pete Brown comperes: beer and music

Pete Brown comperes: beer and music

We drink with our senses. Our nose and eyes play as much a part of the experience as our taste buds, which is possibly why the oxymoronic ‘black IPAs’ throw me so much; so dark and yet so light. So when an invitation came from !TA* Venues to spend an evening at Brewer’s Hall in London with leading beer writer Pete Brown learning about the relationship between beer and music, I couldn’t pass it up.

We turned up a little bit late for Chapel Down’s Curious Brew Brut (4.7%) paired with Sugababe’s Dancefloor (cover of Arctic Monkeys). The Kent beer’s light fruit zing is meant to compliment the light-hearted, pacey number. Made with Champagne yeast it’s a really good beer, you should look it up if you haven’t already.

Next up, the meaty Duvel (8.5%) from Belgium was paired with The Pixies seminal album opener Debaser, a band I will be seeing at Hammersmith Apollo this weekend in fact. The segue here is that Debaser – as with the whole Doolittle album it intros – is punchy and aggressive.

We also looked at another Belgian, the über-sour Gueuze (7%) with the maudlin Paranoid Android from Radiohead, before my favourite beer of the night, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA, another hop-infested tour de force from California.  Aptly, this was pair with Moby’s Porcelain and The Byrds’ exquisite Pete Seeger cover, Turn! Turn! Turn! This is my Vine on the beer:

The Rochefort 10 then cranked it up to eleven – 11% that is – with its Christmassy flavour. It’s loaded with complex sherry-like qualities, orange tangs, chocolate.. Like I said, Christmas. Pairing it with Hendrix was quality. Here’s my Vine…and one of my favourite guitar solos of all time in the background.

We finished off with the Worthington White Shield, the “granddaddy of IPAs” paired with Elbow’s One Day Like This. Pete Brown aptly points out that both the beer and the song are pretty much British institutions. “It sounds and tastes posh,” he adds.

A great evening all-in-all. Thanks again to the organisers, to Pete Brown, and also it was great to meet Steve from The Beer O’Clock Show.

 

Book Review: Brewing Britain

For a quick and easy introduction to making and enjoying a pint of beer, Andy Hamilton’s Brewing Britain is an excellent place to start.

Home brewing author Andy Hamilton is back with a new book, Brewing Britain*, a guide to not just making your own beer, but also tasting the ever-widening spectrum of British-brewed beers available on the market. Oh, and growing your own ingredients…

With more than 200 new breweries opening in the UK every single year it makes sense that quality literature should follow, especially of the practical kind. Home brewing is nothing new – I remember those basic kits when I was a student, you know, the ‘mix powered ingredients with water, shake thoroughly and wait a few weeks’ kind – but being creative in the kitchen is somehow very much of the zeitgeist. I believe this means Brewing Britain will resonate.

Tips for homebrewers

As an aspiring – and failing, thus far – home brewer I found Brewing Britain extremely useful. Having attended brewing courses, tasting sessions and attempted around ten full mash brews at home (with only one grainy porter standing out with any pride) the information contained within will stand any aspiring home brewer in good stead.

I have got a number of homebrew books at home, but this is the one I could have done with to start with. While the others I have tried read rather like textbooks, Brewing Britain contains narrative, making the information digestible and – most importantly, enjoyable – in bite-sized chunks. For someone like me with horrendous attention to detail and terrible concentration levels this is invaluable.

My definition is this…

As well as providing excellent summaries of what ingredients bring what flavours and characteristics to the party, Hamilton also tells you which beers use those ingredients so in your mind’s eye (or should it be ‘tongue’?) you can conceptualise the flavour.

He also runs through the definition process, which – as a beer review blogger – I found particularly useful. I stand suitably chastised at my use of the word ‘hoppy’ in prior reviews, when I should have said ‘hop-forward’ and then described the hop characteristic, such as grassy or grapefruit etc. Duly noted.

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA – cited by Hamilton as one of the finest IPAs

A history lesson

While the best beer history book (coupled with an incredible personal journey) I think I have ever read was probably Pete Brown’s Hops and Glory, Brewing Britain also provides a useful history lesson. I believe it’s important to understand how beer developed, especially in an era when old recipes are being dug up and re-created by the likes of, for example, Truman of East London (listen to my podcast with the founder here) and Alloa’s Williams Brothers.

Get a brew on!

Hamilton himself runs a home brew shop in Bristol and includes a whole bunch of recipes of famous beers for home brewers to try to recreate. I will be trying one out this weekend, but the key thing is the demystification of the entire brewing process. The book also contains a useful list of beer festivals and home brew suppliers.

For those of us who didn’t pay enough attention in biology class at school, this is the book for us.

About Andy Hamilton

Andy Hamilton runs brewing workshops at his local home brew shop and the occasional tasting session too. He is also a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and CAMRA. He also gardens ingredients for beer in his vertical hill top garden and forages ingredients for various alcohol drinks in and around the parks and waste grounds of Bristol.

He has just collaborated with Beerd, the experimental arm of Bath Ales, to create a Scotch Ale.

His website is www.theotherandyhamilton.com

*Bantam Press, the publishers of Brewing Britain, provided The Guest Ale with a copy of the book to review in October 2013.

Beer Review: Bath Ales Wild Hare

I’m sure UK visitors will have come across Bath Ales at some point in their beer drinking. The West Country is a traditional stronghold of cider and perry, but there are some excellent brewers around here too, including Bath Ales.

I’ve previously reviewed  Bath Ales’ Barnsey, Dark Side and possibly its most famous bitter Gem, but its Wild Hare organic golden ale is possibly my favourite Bath Ales product to date.

First up, I love the minimalism of Bath Ales’ branding. We vote with our eyes and it really does stand out. And – if we really do vote with our eyes – then the colour and head are wonderfully presented. It’s a wholesome golden straw colour with light carbonation in the beer but a consistent, vibrant head that stays with you as you quaff – and you will quaff this.

Bath Ales Wild Hare

Bath Ales Wild Hare

At 5% ABV it’s a dangerous one to romp through. There’s a light gooseberry and lemon aroma as the bubble tickle your nostrils, a medium body and great taste – wonderfully balanced caramel with a late malt kick in the tongue.

This bottled pale ale is organic and made from English ingredients, like Maris Otter pale malts and First Gold hops from Kent, so comes with a guilt-free, low carbon footprint.

All-round, a very attractive pint.

The essentials:

ABV: 5%

Colour:  Golden straw

Nose:  Light citrus notes

Taste: Chewy caramel and late biscuit malt kick

Our verdict: A cracking all-rounder. Buy it and judge for yourself.

Website: http://www.bathales.com/our-ales/aid/wild-hare/

Polish Beer Review Special

Polish beer

Polish beer on show today

Polish beer is very accessible in the UK since European Union expansion and many towns will have a Polski Sklep to explore Polish beer. The ones reviewed below with journalist Gordon Kelly were given to me by my very generous Polish colleagues on a recent office visit to Warsaw, Poland (highly recommend). The Polish word for beer is “piwo” (pee-vo) by the way.

Rather than write the reviews down, we decided to create a bunch of short six-second Vine videos, similar to those we created at the Great British Beer Festival 2013. Although, I would say that the Ciechan Miodowe (honey beer) was the best honey beer I have ever tasted, from start to finish: nose, palate, the lot.

Here we go and I apologise in advance to any Polish speakers for our terrible pronunciation. Enjoy and do please let me know any other Polish beer recommendations in the comments section, I’m a big fan! Na zdrowie!

Ciechan Miodowe (honey beer – 5.7%)

Ciechan Pszeniczny (wheat beer – 4.8%)

Zywiec (pale lager – 5.6%)

Kasztelan Niepasteryzowane (lager – 5.7%)

Warka Strong (strong lager – 6.5%)

Beer and football: Who does it best?

Pre-match Holsten at Hamburger SV

Laurel and Hardy, Bonnie and Clyde…beer and football; the two are made for each other. At the time of writing this I am in Hamburg, Germany, downing a Krombacher Pils, having attended a heated Bundesliga match between ‘Nordderby’ rivals Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen and reflecting on how beer is served there, while cementing my view that Brighton & Hove Albion does beer best. Read on to find out why.

Beer and football in England and Germany

The drinking culture is very similar in Germany to the English experience: Go to a pub/keller with your friends first to tank up, start chanting abuse at the opposition (sorry, ‘light-hearted banter’) and – if you’re on the kilometre-long walk from the station to the Imtech Arena, Hamburg, take a piss in the bushes in full view of the passing public. Charming.

Once you’re inside stadiums in Germany, the experience is very different. In England’s upper tiers alcohol is banned from the stands, limited to the communal areas (not the case with rugby or cricket, by the way), whereas in the Bundesliga, expect to have your view obscured on a regular basis as the beer carriers haul ass up and down the stairs pouring Holsten and the like to punters for €4-plus a shout. Just hope they’re not in the way when someone scores…

The same old, same old…

Amex Brighton

Brighton’s Amex Stadium

Unfortunately, wherever you go in the football world they seem to serve the generic big brand lagerboy rubbish, assumingly that the average football fan was born without taste buds. But, thankfully, Brighton & Hove Albion of England’s second tier is different.

Brighton is my second team so I am a bit biased, having stood for £5 at the old Goldstone Ground and even having gone to Wembley to support the team in a promotion play-off final against Notts County in 1991. The Seagulls and I go way back…but I digress. When the club moved to its wonderful new base at Falmer, it demonstrated local community spirit by stocking Harveys Sussex Best Bitter, from nearby Lewes.

I, for one, would like to see more of this sort of tie-in. Does your local club support local breweries? I have a feeling Exeter City does. Please let me know in the comments section.

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013: B Bock by Bateman’s

Bateman's B BockHigh street retailer J Sainsbury is running its third annual Great British Beer Hunt, which offers winning brewers the chance to get their beers showcased in supermarkets nationwide for a six-month period from November. The three best-selling beers from each of the four regions during the three-week competition (11 Sept – 2 Oct) will go into a grand final on 4 October, where a panel of experts will select the two overall winners from a line-up of 12. The winner will be sold in 300 Sainsbury’s stores while the runner-up will feature in 150.

For the third year running, J Sainsbury’s PR team has been kind enough to send me four samples.

Following my recent review of Williams Brothers’ The Honey Thief, I moved onto Bateman’s B Bock, a Bavarian style lager beer which attained the name ‘billy goat’ from the way Bavarians allegedly pronounce Einbeck (the town where the Bock style originates) as ‘ein Bock’, hence hence the goat image (pictured).

Anyway, here it is – B Bock – an English take on the dark Bock style, one of two Bateman’s entries into this year’s contest. Although I drank this beer in the last day of August, it tasted like Christmas. The nose is one of the most pleasingly complex I have ever come across; there’s blackcurrant, sharp cinnamon, other soft fruits and dark chocolate liquor, all wrapped up in a deep, dark, cloudy russet beer.

The taste is a rather toned down take of the wonderful nose, especially that rich chocolate liquor hint.

The Essentials:

ABV: 6.0%

Look: Deep cloudy brown-red hue

Nose:  Complex soft fruits and chocolate liquor

Taste: Christmas in a glass. This had better make the final cut as it’s perfect for December!

Website:  www.bateman.co.uk

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013: The Honey Thief by Williams Bros

High street retailer J Sainsbury is running its third annual Great British Beer Hunt, which offers winning brewers the chance to get their beers showcased in supermarkets nationwide for a six-month period from November. The three best-selling beers from each of the four regions during the three-week competition (11 Sept – 2 Oct) will go into a grand final on 4 October, where a panel of experts will select the two overall winners from a line-up of 12. The winner will be sold in 300 Sainsbury’s stores while the runner-up will feature in 150.

For the third year running, J Sainsbury’s PR team has been kind enough to send me four samples.

The Honey Thief

The first up for me is The Honey Thief from Williams Brothers of Alloa, Scotland, named after the eponymous 1986 hit by Glaswegian band Hipsway. As the name suggests, honey is present, which always sets off alarm bells for me – but not this time…

Williams Brothers seem to like this competition; it’s got three entrants in this year’s Beer Hunt and was runner up with its Caesar Augustus lager/IPA hybrid in 2011. The Honey Thief is an immediate eye-pleaser, it’s richly golden, zesty in the head and there’s plenty of carbonation. The appearance is capped by a subtle jasmine nose. So far so good…and it gets better.

The beer is smooth bodied and has a wonderful balance of sweet chewy malts, some floral hops and the honey itself arrives very late and only subtle, which is welcome as many honey flavoured beers overdo it for me.

I think there’s something for everyone in this beer and would not be surprised if this makes the final cut.

The Essentials:

ABV: 5.2%

Look: Rich amber

Nose: Jasmine/orange blossom

Taste: Excellent balance of sweet malt, hops and late honey hit

Our verdict: Wonderfully balanced golden beer which doesn’t overbear the drinker with honey. Very easy to drink.

Website: http://www.williamsbrosbrew.com/