Thursday, 27 February 2014

Beer Review: Shambles Bitter

Now that my own brew has been tasted and reviewed by others, albeit not on this blog, I don't feel so bad about branching out and trying some others that have been stacking up waiting for my treatment of them. Tonight's effort goes to Potton Brewery's Shambles Bitter as I have been marking and fancied something alcoholic to ease the evening.

The bottle is one of those simple ones that I seem to like and brown glass, another plus. Obviously artificially carbonated rather than bottle conditioned upon opening and it poured well with a lot of activity but a fizzy and fast head that didn't hang around. Tawny colour, darkening to walnut, with the definite scent of bitter hops hanging around but nothing obvious enough for me to pin a flavour to it. At 4.3% ABV this was shaping  up to be a comfortable ale that would fit nicely into a relaxed evening.

First sip was not too heartening. A brief hint of malt gave way to some bittering hops but these lacked punch or nose. Then it was gone. After-taste was watery, of all things, and whilst not awful was not really in the same range of quality I have come to expect. After my night out in Leeds and Fuller's 1845 I think I am coming to expect a little more from my tipples of an evening. Carbonation is very much artificial but hardly enough to fill the gap left by the taste. It's hard to adequately describe my disappointment with this bitter. It has all the right component parts - bitter hops, light malt, good colour - but they never really combine. The best I can do is say that it feels as though the overall taste has shrunk, and now the space is taken over with the water in which the brew was made. If it were a cordial I would say it had been made too weak, the sort of tea where the water is introduced to the teabag briefly and then left to mull on the milk.

Willow tried it too and pronounced it 'nondescript'. She also, interestingly, concurred with my statement that my own homebrew tasted better than this. I mean, that's not a good sign for this ale. Given I bought it over-priced, I feel, from my local supermarket before Christmas I am very disappointed with the result. I had been saving this as something that would be clever and crafted and... well, it was from the Home Counties. I expected refinement. I got cowardice. This is the Cadman of ale, for those that remember Victor comics and annuals in the late 1980s. Likely to see the enemy and then spend too long trying to find a cowardly way out rather than beat a retreat. Insidiousness that causes routs, I fear, rather than decisive actions that lose or win battles.

It'll do for the evening, it's not that bad (it's not Tod's Blonde after all) but it pales rather badly compared to my latest ales and tastings. Here's hoping the next selections won't fare so badly!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Everything is Awesome

If you have seen the film then you already know what I am talking about and, if you haven't, then you will probably at least know of the song and may be dimly aware that there is a Public Information Film doing the rounds masquerading as a Blockbuster at the cinemas. I refer, of course, to the Lego Movie and, in case it wasn't already painfully obvious, we went to see it and I am going to review it here.

There is a twist, however, and that is that we went to see it as a family. I had just got back from my night out in Leeds and the children were at that stage where they needed to do something but were unable to actually do anything. Mind you, the Boy was a tad ill and the Girlie was a tad under the weather generally. Nevertheless, we thought they would enjoy the experience and it was a chance to introduce them both to the world of the cinema (and probably a good time as neither would have the energy to get a hurricane level of tantrum going).

This is an entry about parenting and a film. Would you like to know more?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Beer Review: 1845

On Valentine's Day this year the lovely Willow bought me two beers and so I thought it was dadgum time that I tried one. Of course, them being new beers means that I am duty-bound to tell you all about them. Or I'm just that boring. Still have the beard and I am putting on weight, a beer gut cannot be far away. If I do join CAMRA I suspect my beer boring will know no end. In fact, I suspect it already does.

Anyway, tonight I am drinking Fuller's 1845. Brewed in celebration of the brewery's 150th anniversary to one of the early beer recipes of that brewery so it promises a great deal. Even the label is gold and it claims to have been bottle conditioned for 100 days. Now, that's probably a bit longer as I don't know when it was bought or when they measure the 100 days from.

It's a different bottle, very tall and straight with brown glass. No obvious whiff of carbonation upon opening but it is clear that this plays a part. Mind you, there is sediment in there that suggests most of the carbonation is imparted by sugar and yeast. It smells old and bitter, in a good way, like the snug in a mouldering bar off the beaten track that has regulars hunched and talking animatedly to one another in the way that only old friends can. First sip is actually very interesting. It was hard to separate the Amber malt from the Goldings hops in that they worked so well transferring the flavour between smooth and bitter I couldn't really say which dominates when. There's a spicy hit to it and it tastes like it's an old recipe. I have no problem believing that this is from 1845!

At 6.3% ABV this is no slouch and the strength shows through very quickly. It's a strong bitter too, easily enough to stand on its own, and that allowed it to beat all the tastes from our takeaway - including the rather spicy chicken. Impressively, that taste remained almost undented until the end of the meal and then managed to wash that meal away at the end. If you're looking for an ale to dominate your evening then you could do worse than check this out. I had been avoiding this one as I felt that it was a bit corporate and mass-produced. And it is, don't get me wrong, but it's nice too and that makes it worth a hit.

Enjoy on pretty much any evening with or without food. This is not a lunchtime beer. You could maybe have more than one but I wouldn't session this ale. Equally, if you can get it on draught, do it! I imagine that this is smoother, spicier and all round better from a pump.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Curry Night in Leeds

So, this was a little different to a cultural beer exchange in that there wasn't really an opportunity to share the same beers with people nor compare beers from different locales. However, it was a night to check out multiple craft ales and to have a decent curry for the first time in ages. Say what you like about where I live at the moment, but the curry really isn't what I'm used to.

Reviews of the beers imbibed are necessarily truncated because I forgot to take a pad to record my thoughts and the main purpose of the trip was to share my own home brew with the colleagues that had procured the kit for me in the first place!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Beer Review: Double Chocolate Stout

Takeout! Kebab? Well, okay then, but I'm going to have to team this kind of thing with a beer. Tonight I shall be teaming it with Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

An ale made for Valentine's Day methinks and very good for the day that follows. Would you like to know more?

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Music review time. Because this place has been dead for too long of late and I must try and get it going again. What better way, thought I, than hearkening back to a time and a place that is far removed from today. Sunday School, when I was still but a callow youth and not yet fully in my teens, a place where I heard, for the first ever time by the by, the term 'Satanic' used about popular culture. Now, don't get me wrong, my Sunday School was not one to use that term very much (if at all) and my experience of religion was not to be tainted very much by it being applied to popular culture. No, this was special.

I refer, of course, to the music video for one of the songs that really helped me define the early '90s whilstr I was still there rather than helped me to define what they were long after I had left. Shakespeare's Sister's Stay. Eh, this could get boring quickly. Would you like to know more?