Thursday, 25 July 2013

Beer Review: Waggle Dance

Waggle Dance is another of those beers that I had way back, when I started having a beer a week but before I hit on the idea of reviewing them. It was a summer beer choice and I only seem to find it in the shops during the summer time and so I suppose my initial thoughts were right. As I have finished work officially now (and the disaggregated days are long passed) I shall be enjoying this ale despite the weather for, tonight, it is the turn of Waggle Dance by Wells.

Opening the bottle caused a great deal of fizz and carbonation, a head formed almost at once on the beer in the bottle and so I eschewed pouring it into a glass in favour of just starting straight on it. It claims to be a honey beer and the colour is certainly very bronzed and walnutty and golden. A clear bottle does wonderful things for this kind of ale. There's a lot of fizz, clearly. Aroma is citrus-y, it is sharp and tangy, and it is clear-headed and pretty effective but... I don't know, there's a certain something that makes it smell a bit artificial, it tries too hard. First sip is strong, it is 5% ABV, and it is also very fizzy despite a clever flavour of honey over the top of some hoppy fuzz. There's no malt follow-up but there is a definite strengthening of that honey flavour and relief from the carbonation.

I actually really like this ale. It doesn't come across terribly well from the above description but I do. As honey ales go I do think that this is one of the best, I mean, it's no mead but it is very tasty and moreish. After that first sip you will have another and you will find yourself disappointed when the bottle ends. I think it could do better being poured out and having time to settle and go a bit flatter to really get the best from it but that's not to say it's not a generally good all-rounder ale.

Enjoy after heatwave weather on an evening when you've done something that requires physical labour, but not too much, you've gained a sheen of manly sweat and you know that you need to just sit and let the body unwind. Preferably as the sun goes down in a garden but also it could be done in a beer garden with plenty of good and raucous summer company. Talk loudly about the day or the lunch break, make ribald jokes for the bants and each a Ploughman's lunch just because you can and having to put your own ham and pickle on some bread will cost more than buying it at ASDA. In short, this is a cheeky ale and worth a punt, even if it would probably benefit from being on tap rather than in a bottle.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Reviews of things!

Tonight I shall mostly be reviewing Electric by the Pet Shop Boys because I got it and it is amazing. Of course I would say that because I am a bit of a fan of the Pet Shop Boys and also it appears to have done better critically (and in fan circles) than their last album Elysium. Now me, I like both but for completely different reasons. Their last album is definitely driving music or mood music for me. It doesn't do well in the background or if I'm working or if I'm doing housework or whatever. This latest album fills those spaces and is also driving music.

Are you sure you want to go on?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Beer Review: Fraoch Heather Ale

This is not the first time of tasting this ale. I first had it a few months back but couldn't get round to actually reviewing it because I was busy in the vortex of marking hell. You may have also noticed the appearance of older reviews working backwards. I must have mixed up some of the scheduling settings. Anyway, they're getting published now with the right dates, just not on the right dates.

Tonight, then, I am drinking Heather Ale and it claims to be Scotland's oldest still-brewed ale. As a sucker for that kind of thing and interesting write-ups on the labels on beer bottles I will of course allow myself to be sucked in by that.

Would you like to know more?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Whisper Story: Aelfric the Dragon

Time for another story of the wastelands in the time of the Dunstanane. This one has dragons.


Would you like to know more?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

What is Masculinity?

It is a question that, as I read more and more things about Feminism, I really begin to wrestle with. I just don't actually know what it is and how it can be measured. I mean, femininity has been very much defined and carefully mapped. Everywhere I look online I can find definitions - some of them are very much what you would expect and fit the notions of what it is to be female in circles such as those that this blog moves within: that is, women are ethereal and giggly. There is a femininity that embraces light fabrics, bright colours, delicacy and lace, long hair, long nails, make up etc. There is, within this trope, the accompanying steel of the strong characters in TG fiction who know their own minds and desires to impossibly large amounts. Powerplays are made and male-esque roles are assigned the dominant females, some are even described as 'alpha' and there is an assumption that powerful females can operate as much as males as anything else. Like the main character in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo what we are essentially reading is a cross-dressing male - the mind of a male protagonist altered to cope with the fact that this character has a vagina.

Would you like to see how far the rabbit hole goes?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Beer Review: Ashes Ale

The first day of the Ashes Test ought to have been very different from what it turned out to be. The pundits had been saying for days how the England side were so much more experienced and better prepared, the Aussies had suspended two of their players in the build up for minor infractions (going to a bar and missing a practice session respectively) and it looked like their team was the weakest yet. Botham had predicted a 10-0 series over the course of two Ashes Tests. The weather was hot and dry. The ground had no real swing and nothing to get the seamers into. England won the toss and went in to bat. By the end of the day they had been bowled out for 215 and the Aussies had put on a record breaking last man partnership where their newbie batsman Agar managed 98 off 101 balls.

So I had Marston's Ashes Ale which proclaimed itself "definitely not for Aussies" in solidarity with the English batting order's collapse on Wednesday. I had it chilled and out of the bottle and I had it with a curry.

It says that it is a 'light drinking ale' and Marston's tend to be good at that sort of thing. The English Pale Ale I've previously had by them was a sharp and semi-creamy light beer that went well with a meal without making me tipsy. At 4.1% ABV this is in their light stable and the smell was pleasantly citrus laced. There was a feeling of summer about it, which is presumably why they've marketed it at the cricketing crowd. First taste was pretty much as I expected, no surprises, with an opening twinge of citrus followed by a pleasant fizz on the tongue and a little zest of yeast as it went down. It was nice enough, neither heavy nor light in the end and the chilled nature didn't seem to make much difference. I suspect that this would do well as a proper warm beer and that is a good thing for something that is aimed at people sitting in a warm cricket ground and lunch time picnics.

In that sense then, this is a clever little beer and will no doubt do well in the open air as we experience an actual summer with actual summer weather. The citrus tang is enough to make it a valid option to curb one's thirst and the relatively light ABV means that one can stand a brace without falling over and getting a headache. It is also liquid-y enough to avoid carpet mouth and the taste is subtle enough to enjoy its own but light enough not to dominate in a meal. I mean, granted, I had it with a speciality curry laced with enough tikka to turn the rice red, but it held its own well enough and was still enjoyable at the end.

Would I recommend taking it to see cricket? Well, yes, I would, but I suspect it would do well in most outdoor settings. So, enjoy this with the family at a picnic in some field. Maybe you've brought your own stumps and a bat and ball and will play some cricket, maybe you just like to sit under the trees near a river and listen to the bugs buzzing in the air, maybe you don't have children and want to enjoy this with your significant others. Maybe you're a student and want to enjoy it with friends. Take a brace, pack them in a hamper and don't be concerned about the warm weather, this is a beer that wants to be drunk in summer!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Beer Review: Flying Scotsman

This is something I'd seen ages back at the National Railway Museum in York and decided that I must try. Luckily for me I managed to wait and buy it elsewhere. The bottle was not changed but the price was much better for my wallet and for that I am grateful. However much I like an ale I do prefer paying my usual for it and this came in an offer. By all means buy it if you are ever at the NRM but bear in mind that they have an additional mark up over supermarkets.

What is it? Why, it's Caledonian Flying Scotsman that is as much based on a train as you can get with some yeast, some hops and some water brewed and then bottled for your drinking pleasure. I had it alone, with no food accompaniment, and unchilled.

There is a distinctive, and not unpleasant, smell when you open the bottle; a snick of carbonation, but that just carries the malt and the hops to the nose. The first sip proved it to be a proper Scottish bitter, on a par with Black Sheep rather than the creamy Cumberland brewery. It was sharp, tangy and with an underlying maltiness that gave it a weight befitting something with 4% ABV. It let you know what you were drinking and there is no way that it could sneak up on you and leave you drunker than you realised. In many ways it really is based on a train. Let me explain: once you start drinking this it is clear that each sip will increase the speed, so to speak, of the taste getting to you and you build up quite a head of steam by the end of the bottle. That's not to say that it demands to be drunk in groups, but at the same time I was disappointed to reach the end of the bottle and thus the experience.

If you're a fan of malty tangs, as I appear to be, then you will enjoy this very singular taste. I haven't had anything else from this brewery yet but if this was anything to go by then perhaps I ought to be having more of them and soon to sample just what can be done by these guys. It is properly Scottish too, soft on the tastebuds whilst also packing a nice punch that will leave you warmed and glad to have taken the time to listen to what it had to say. Easily holds it own, and I suspect would make a good partner to any strongly flavoured food because it has such a distinctive taste of its own, it wouldn't back down in favour of anything less than a particularly strong curry I'd imagine.

Drink with a meal, maybe something by the Pogues playing in the background and reminisce on the inter-sectionality of the Celtic world, their trials and tribulations and the evils of bloody Cromwell. Imagine a steam train whistling and barrelling through a darkened landscape, snorting its way up a hill and drawing an express sleeper behind. And then, when relaxed and happy, nod sagely to your drinking companions and begin that game of dominoes that you've promised to do for such a long time and never got round to. A good, strong ale with plenty to recommend it.