Thursday, 29 November 2012

Beer Review: Wainwright

When I was young I can remember family days out and pub meals.  In each of the pubs we went to, usually in Lancashire and Yorkshire, I can remember the very seventies looking logo of two horses' heads, one green and one red on a dark background, adorning beer mats and walls.  Also, given our situation, many of the pubs had a unique smell, this before the days of smoking being banned, that had the stale smoke smell that I associated with home (my mother and grandmother smoked) but was virtually overpowered by another odour, not unpleasant, that became, to me, the smell of pub meals.

Tonight it is the turn of Wainwright from Thwaites, they of the horses's heads on a dark background that I remember from my youth, and the first award winning beer I think I've tried thus far.

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Beer Review: Leeds Best

Tonight's journey through time and space left me with the rather highly priced Leeds Best. It is apparently made with a strain of yeast unique to the second largest financial centre in the UK and brewed there out of a local brewery that grew up and was abandoned by Tetley's.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Beer Review: Cumberland Ale

Tonight is the turn of a beer that was brewed close to where we went on holiday and is a reminder of my life in Carlisle - specifically attending a friend's birthday on the way to Workington - Jenning's Cumberland Ale.

Cumberland doesn't exist any more, of course, it's part of Cumbria now and the label carries views of the Lake District - as if that makes any difference. Still, its heritage is apparent in the taste - very much reliant on the yeast and the hops than the malt. There's Golding in there, I think, and it shows through more than the yeast. A citrus tang pervades both after-taste and aroma, which is not unpleasant, and there is a fire to it - something I like in an ale. I have memories of this as the first beer I ever tasted at a mate's eighteenth birthday do and I remember it being creamy. It is not creamy at all. Fuzzy little head, like Ruddles, and a finish to that as it fizzes away like you see on streams running over rocks. It is very carbonated too, close in fizz to Veuve Clicquot champagne actually, and this has the double effect of making the alcohol go to your head faster and masking the taste a little. Both are not positive parts of the experience - they aren't bad, they just aren't positive.

It weighs in at a pretty strong 4.7% ABV and it is slow in letting you know about this. Sovereign sort of announces its strength by beating you over the head, in a good way, but Cumberland sort of creeps up on you after several sips and tastes beforehand. As a bottled ale it does not do as well as it ought, it is much better on tap from the cask at a bar. It is a 'cold' beer, in that it is not a warming taste even when served at room temperature. It is a summer drink.

Drink this in the garden from the bottle or, better yet, in a pub watching the cricket. Best in a breezy, and thus not too hot, summer day on wooden benches and tables. Eat proper pub grub, for this is a table ale, like steak and chips with a French mustard. It is a slow drinker and can stand to go a bit flat from the bottle or simply drunk over time from tap. Don't expect too much and this will serve you well. A perfect companion ale, to be had in the background rather than taking centre stage like a good understudy. Never a first choice but, equally, should never be left til last either. Choose above Square Ale (Black Sheep) but eschew in favour of Thoroughbred Gold.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Journey - Part 3

Seriously?  I'm writing a Part 3?  Haven't we all learned already that there is no continuity on this blog?  Apparently this isn't so much Owain's journey as it is one on which we try to discover what the chuff is going to be left for my son on his coming of age.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Beer Review: Riggwelter

Tonight it is the turn of my professed favourite: Riggwelter, brewed by those gosh-darned Black Sheep people up in Masham. Whilst I've been to Masham I've never made it to the breweries, either of them, and so I have never really had Riggwelter properly. Indeed, it's first outing in my mouth was when it was chilled!  In Wales!  Sacrilege!

The first thing to hit you with this is the aroma, and I use that term rather than smell most deliberately. It is warm and malty with a hint of hoppiness about it adding spice to the musty flavourings. There is a slight fizz as you open the bottle and it adds sparkle to the nose obviously but without being over powering or difficult to handle. Also it stays on the light side of fizz so that it doesn't take the alcohol straight to your head. At 5.7% ABV that is probably for the best, you want to take this one slowly and in good company for talking, avoid trying to drink too quickly.  The website claims that this a dark ruby beer with liquorice and citrus aftertaste.  I'm not so convinced if I'm honest.  It is dark and it is bitter, but it's from Yorkshire and so these things are practically given.  I've also had ruby beers before (Adnam's I'm looking at you) and did not enjoy them, so I'm minded to ignore the ruby bit.

First mouthful is an odd one, the smell does not really prepare you as well as it ought for that taste. Initially there is a fizzy malty taste and that is exactly as it sounds: odd. However, there's a definite hit of hops that follows, coming in as the fizz rises slightly mid-sip, and this balances things nicely. There is a hint of yeast there too, but it is not too bad and only serves to keep that spicey heat up a notch as you let it wander down toward your gullet. The after-taste is pleasantly hoppy and it reminds you that it has some fizz as it disappears downward.

It is not a friend of the spicy pizza I had for take-away tonight but it is a good and string winter ale for drinking when the weather is cold, wet and windy.I know it to be a good companion to roast lamb shoulder (I recommend Fellside Lamb if you can get hold of it), properly done mince and most meats that are roasted. It is a Sunday beer, one you crack out to have with a big meal involving home-grown vegetables and lashings of proper meat-juice gravy. Not for Riggwelter your shop bought roast potatoes and gravy granules, no, this is a farmhouse beer for a farmhouse day of toil. Well, okay, I can't claim to have ever done anything like that in my life but it is definitely something to work up a thirst for. It's better as part of a brace too, and if you can handle your drink, you could go for a third but no more. Three is enough for anyone.

Drink in company. Have a deep conversation on hand. Avoid glasses, drink straight from the bottle or get it on tap. Eat a mighty roast meal, be carnivorous if you can - a nut roast might cut it actually, with mushrooms and cashews, I digress - and make sure there are plenty of proper vegetables that are roughly cut and picked and cooked. Sit at a proper wooden table, wait until it's dark and drink this with a dim lamp or under candle-light.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Journey - Part 2

J. R. R. Tolkein could do it.  When he wanted to create a mythic history he created prose and used the epics of old to influence his writing style - hence the slightly stilted dialogue and the long apparently pointless asides and tangents.  Maybe this ought to be a heritage of prose rather than a heritage of poetry.  A father leaves to his son what is best about the father, not what he would rather leave, after all.

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Beer Review: Ghost Ship

Adnam's gave me Broadside back when I started drinking a beer a week and it was not a good call on my part to drink it. Therefore, when looking for a Hallowe'en beer, I was a little wary of trying this out. But it was cheap-ish and wasn't more Shepherd Neame, which I think I'll like regardless these days. So it was time to try something new.

Tonight, then, I am drinking Ghost Ship, a pale ale that claims to be 'ghostly' and has an eerie picture of a sailing ship on it, so it can't be all bad.

Upon opening there is a smell that smells like beer. That is, there's a definite air of hops and an underlying maltiness to it, there is yeast but it is not overpowering or anything like that. It just is. The colour is a rich nutty one - the kind one finds on desks from Victorian times - and it puts me in mind of walnut. It should be inlaid with coloured woods and lined with velvet or something. Still, there is a carbonation and if you pour it badly you'll end up with massive head that takes a while to clear.

First taste is none too shabby. It's 4.5% ABV and so it does let you know that straight up. My overwhelming impression is that this is a spicy little number, so hoppy, and then there's a feeling that its been bittered. I don't think there's anything citrus like to the beer, but that could be the take away meal having its input. Overall, there's a spice and there's a swirl of yeast to it, as one would expect I suppose, before the underlying malt smoothes things out as much as it can. The fizz is a little much, but it is bottled, and so this would probably taste better if it were on draught or something - but I can't vouch for that as I haven't had many beers on draught!

Aftertaste is far from lingering and I found myself a little didappointed at that. It is a pleasant enough beer and certainly very much inkeeping with the IPAs that I've had over time in this little adventure. It's not one of my favourites but it does the job for a dark Hallowe'en night after reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my daughter.

Best drunk at a moderate pace and probably with a select few. It doesn't cut the mustard for a full and frank discussion about the merits of taste and aroma and it probably did better with my meal than it would alone. So drink with food and then move onto something a little more refined if you want to talk about it later.