We hit Knaresborough under the cover of darkness not knowing what to expect, knowing only that Roosters Brewery are relaunching their famous Outlaw series.
For as long as we’ve lived in Leeds the beer on tap at the Cross Keys has been Roosters, week in week out. At North Bar, Wild Mule was virtually omnipresent and rarely defeated in having the fewest beer miles, which are chalked up next to each guest beer behind the bar.
So we arrive at The Mitre excited but confused as to why we’d swapped a typical Monday evening (ASDA, pizza, telly) for the drive into North Yorkshire. It was soon worth it.
The Mitre sits in the well of a steep lane, squeezed just opposite Knaresborough’s cute train station and a car park where there’s just enough room to turn a car, Austin Powers style. We’re greeted with a smart dining hall, a well turned out bar, and of course, Roosters on hand pull (a cheeky 284ml of Londinium please, with all it’s vibrant start and coffee finish. Yum yum but the lingering after taste means no kissing says the other half).
Before we’ve had a chance to waffle down a starter selection of lamb kebab, battered prawns and the most delicious bread and dips this side of a Greek Island, the pub is packed with people, all vying for a pint of Roosters Buckeye to kick start the evening.
Then we’re all bustling down the stairs to the underground brasserie where commercial manager and Roosters brother number one Tom Fozard explains why we’re here.
And as expected we are here to relaunch Outlaw Brewing Co, an offshoot set up by Roosters founder Sean Franklin to create innovative and challenging beers outside the brewery’s normal beer production.
It’s a concept that Ol Fozard, brother number two and head brewer (and apparently head brother too according his siblings introductory slip up) has embraced wholeheartedly, as the first new Outlaw brew is no less ambitious than a tea beer.
Yep, a beer made with tea, tea supplied by local tea empire Taylor”s of Harrogate. A family brewer and a family tea producer combining to make, well, a really decent brew!
Technically the beer served up at The Mitre is a prototype, and beer writer Melissa Cole is on hand to explain why she’ll be digging deep into Ol’s hop cupboard the next day when she mashes in with Ol.
And Melissa’s contribution has already been critical to direction of the final product. The beer – appropriately named Mad Hatter – is not just a tea beer but under Melissa’s guidance it’s a Jasmine Green Tea IPA.
It’s an artistic manoeuvre in adjunct flavours and the brewing traditions of tea and beer (we don’t quite get the IPA style but we can’t argue against the logic behind a green tea beer being designed as an India pale ale). Mad Hatter is flavoured with English bittering hops plus US Cascade and Australian Galaxy to maintain the colonial theme.
And then there’s the teabagging. Finest jasmine creates a blossoming floral nose and delicate sweetness, set against an easy drinking backbone with just a fleeting bitterness to reference to the catty dry palate of green tea.
Bittering hops and green tea naturally leaves our palette gasping for another pint…
But it’s a school night and we head back to West Yorkshire in anticipation. Not just of the official batch of what we believe to be the UK’s first jasmine green tea beer, but of what beery concoction the mad hatters of Roosters will come up with next for the green shoots of Outlaw Brewing Co.Tags: green tea, jasmine, knaresborough, Mitre, outlaw, roosters
August 13th, 2012Beer Events
My Dad says he’s sure that Halifax once boasted the most pubs per square foot, and since the day he told me countless others have barked in consternation, claiming their town had the most public houses per capita or most inns per household or most taverns per dog owner.
Whoever lays the claim to whichever fact we’ve always wondered what the pubs that Britain was built on actually looked like. Who frequented them? What was the decor like? How much have they changed over the years?
Tomorrow evening we hope to find out as we head off to a special screening off “Roll Out The Barrel – The British Pub on Film” in the comfort of Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.
The British Film Institute have collated this collection of films shot between 1944 and 1977 and all centre on the hub of British society, the humble local boozer.
To complete our history lesson in style beer will be served thanks to Kirkstall Brewery, and if that’s not a reason to go the cinema, I don’t know what is.
I may even try to finish Paul Jenning’s excellent book “The Local: A History of the English Pub” in advance, it’s well worth a read.
Tags: beer industry, british pubs, cinema, film
Roll Out the Barrel, Tuesday 14th August, 9pm (doors 8.30pm), tickets from £4.50-£6.50. Book by calling Box Office on 0113 275 2045 or online at www.hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk
June 19th, 2012Beer Events
The plan was to drink one beer from each team in every game of the Euros.
Of course it turned out to be a little ambitious, especially drinking four different beers on school nights. But so far we’ve managed to find a beer from every country in the European Championships (bar one). Our friendly local beer shop Bier Huis in Ossett imported a selection of beers in anticipation of the tournament, so we nipped down, took our fill, and then tweaked the list a little bit.
We’ll have to wait for the quarter finals before confirming the beers for the big matches (along with some continental cuisine food pairings too), but here’s the initial Euro 2012 beer list!
As it’s the last day of the group stages there’s just enough time to drink to the teams that are already out!
The Euro 2012 Beer List
Poland – Lech
Of the Polish lagers we’ve found Lech by far the most palatable. Avoid canned Tatra and Zubr, with their cardboard flower aromas and metallic bitterness, unless you want your head blowing off (6% and 7% respectively).
Greece – Mythos
My love affair with Mythos began on my first Greek holiday to Rhodes. Since them we’ve seen Halkidiki, Skopelos and Crete, and each time ice cold Mythos has cooled the long, sweltering afternoons and lubricated the early evening relaxation as we lazily get ready to go out. It doesn’t work as well without the heat, but under a Grecian sun it’s perfection: crisp and sweet and energy replenishing.
Or… Brinks – from the Mediterranean facing town of Rethymnon on Crete, if you’re holidaying there look it up and please bring some back! (Follow the link for more Greek craft breweries).
Russia - Stary Melnik Iz Bochonka Myagkoe
In a similar bottle to Modelo and not a million miles from a soft South American lager, Stary Melnik Iz Bochonka Myagkoe (which translates something like Old Miller Barrel Mild Beer) is smooth like Corona. Was that a touch of Crunchie bar in the aroma? Easy as hell to drink, it may not be memorable, but it is thirst quenching.
Or… Go left field with a Russian Imperial Stout – St Petersburg by Thornbridge is a creamy hop ‘n’ chocolate cuddle, but watch out for its boozy wild side. From Derbyshire with love. Alternatively Kernel Imperial Stout is a coal-infused treacle of hops, chocolate and complexity.
Czech – Bohemia Regent Tmavý Ležák 12°
A creamy dark lager with dried fruit aroma and a roasted peanut character, complete with typical bitter finish.
Or… Kozel Cerny, widely available in the UK, another example of adark roasted pilsner. For real Czech heritage there’s also the original Czech lager, that of Pilsner Urquell. Sprightly Saaz hops keep it freshly flavoured, but don’t rush a pint of it (big bubbles!)
Netherlands – La Trappe Witte
Bier Huis’ recommendation for the Netherlands is La Trappe Witte from the only Trappist brewery outside of Belgium. Not only that, but it’s the only Trappist white beer in the world. And it’s unfiltered! And bottle fermented!! Aromatic, and a self proclaimed quencher of monks thirst.
Or… for something entirely different, try De Molen Rook & Vuur, a dark whisky scarred concoction, stirring images of dirty raspberries smouldering on a pile of ash, peppered with hot chillies. A lot more interesting the Dutch football this year. Or for something a little racier, T’ij IPA is a crude India pale ale in look and taste. Herbs, resin and bittersweet – Amsterdam inspired?!
Denmark – Mikkeller Ricemarket
The Damian Hirst of brewing, Denmark’s most famous gypsy brewer has smashed the taxonomic boundaries of the beer world into smithereens, and left behind a trail of brews to get excited (and poor) over. Ricemarket is made with ginger and honey but starts with an herbaceous lemon grass aroma and ends with blushes of apples. Somehow the sweet and fiery elements of the main ingredients blend into something subtler than the sum of the parts.
Or… For something darker there’s Carlsberg Carmegie Stark Porter – drink fresh for wallops of dried fruits and chocolate and a speculative dash of tangy molasses.
Germany – Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier
On numerous occasions we’ve heard people whoop as a glass of ‘bacon beer’ is passed around a packed bar. That’s Schlenkerla Rauchbier, the famous German smoked beer. Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier is a lighter style but also uses smoked malt and each sip reminds me of the embers of a cub scout fire that I tried picking up with bare hands circa 1993. Crisp and dry but bright and golden, and not remotely carcinogenic.
Or… Weinhenstephaner Hefe Weissebier is a German classic, whilst Schneider Aventinus is a connoisseur’s choice. For pure liquid gold though, nothing beats a clean, crisp Jever.
Portugal – Superbock Green
Best served alongside homemade piri piri chicken and rice, Superbock is a citrus twist on one of Portugal’s most ubiquitous lagers. It’s a maltier Sol and lime or cloudy lemonade shandy and fits the bill on a warm evening with a chilli-seasoned meal.
Or… For a more traditional beer Sagres if another popular Portuguese lager. Better still get some Fonseca Port Bin 27, a boozy throat warmer rich in dark red fruit. Small glasses, please.
Spain – Cruzcampo
Cruzcampo must’ve gone down well at Bier Huis as the shelf was empty on arrival. Zak Avery swears by this as a holiday beer and we don’t disagree.
Or… Should Spain need as many beers as they need passes to score we can always fall back on San Miguel, well stocked at the local supermarket and corner shop. For something more interesting though, we’ll head further afield and pick up some Alhambra Negra (5.4%) a dark ruby trickster hiding a roasted coffee bean streak.
Italy – Tipopils
If I could give one recommendation to a dying man with a passion for good beer and just one pint left, Jever would be high on the list. But that was before we tried Tipopils, one of the most delicately smooth and zesty pilsners we’ve ever tried.
Or… My Antonia is a rich Italian-American hybrid showcasing a sherbety sweet aroma and rich cheesecake body. Failing that the supermarkets already stock one of Italy’s finest in Peroni Gran Riserva, a dark, munchier beer that’s perfect with good pizza.
Ireland – Porterhouse An Brainblásta
The Irish beers pack lots of punch, but you’ll have to take Phil Hardy’s word on Brainblásta.
Or… We instead opted for Guinness Foreign Extra. This is Guinness with gusto, a treacly brew with hints of morello cherry atop buckets of roasted malt. Will leave your glass sticky after just a sip or two.
Croatia – ???
Unfortunately Bier Huis informed us that Croatian beer wasn’t on the menu (not available in the UK). Instead their Facebook fans voted in Bandidos Tequila beer from nearby Slovenia. Slovenian Desperados wasn’t for us (snobs that we are!) so, just like Slaven Billic’s charges, Croatia are out. (Please let us know if you do find some Croatian beer in the UK!)
Ukraine – Obolon Light
We’ve saved our Ukranian beer for tonight’s Group D finale in the hope that we can drink to England’s success. Tasting notes to follow, but hopefully we won’t be ordering any more Obolon (*cue smily face*). Should England get unlucky, Beers of Europe have a Ukranian section ready and waiting to be raided, with the dunkel style Obolon Deep Velvet top of our list.
Sweden – Nils Oscar Coffee Stout
Nils Oscar God Lager was recommended to us by the lovely staff at Beer Ritz Leeds. Its brother, Nils Oscar Coffee Stout is our nightcap as we wave bye bye to the Swedes tonight.
Or... Crocodile Lager, a smooth and not too bloating (but unexciting) lager. Continuing the Nils Oscar theme, we recommend Nils Oscar Ctrl Alt Delete, for the name alone. A Swedish take on altbier that we can’t wait to try.
France – Pelforth Blonde
In small 25cl bottles Pelforth Blonde makes a good beer for the summer, easy to chill and perfect for the back garden. Sweeter than a stubby and with much more taste, it’s cute branding and refreshing style make it hard not to like.
Or… In imposing 75cl bottles Trois Monts (St Sylvestre 3 Months) has a fresh vinous nose, dough like body, peppered with herbaceous notes and zesty hops. It’s a joy, and even though refreshing, not as much as a similarly large bottle of real Normandy cider brought back from a small homestead in the north of France by a friend. If you can get it, is a joy.
England – York Brideshead
England can nail a place in the quarter finals tonight (c’mon, believe!), and Bier Huis will be drinking York Brideshead, a beer with a name synonymous with English TV.
But… instead we’ll be heading back to our roots, and as England progress (!) we plan to go back to our old favourites. First up will be Hooky Gold, a light, bright and zesty Oxfordshire ale, widely available in beer shops and supermarkets; followed with Old Hooky, a beery piece of nana’s fruitcake, and from the brewery we grew up just a few miles away from.
So cheers, and here’s to an update when we know the quarter final draw in it’s entirety!
Tags: football, lager
Good luck sampling Euro 2012 beers and let us know what you’re recommendations for each country is, If you go back to your favourites with England, we want to know what you opt for!
“Harmonica Workshop” reads one of the highlights of May’s music events that are quietly advertised in the snug corridor that leads to the bar.
Amongst the other treats are a French quintet, acoustic guitar sessions and an open mic night.
Add the musical eclecticism to the mix of tiny fire-heated rooms, the perfectly kept cask ale, the feeling of homeliness – all this makes the Grove very special.
Snuggled underneath the Dalekian behemoth of Bridgewater Place (how it survived the calls of the planners wallets who knows?) the Grove stands both proud and humble in a largely soulless corner of Leeds.
This is the place we gathered to dissect the play off loss to Millwall on a mild May evening three years ago (how did Beckford miss that penalty as we watched from the rare vantage point of the East Stand Upper?) the tiny snug filled with groups of men adorned in yellow, white and blue, necking the first pint of bitter and nursing those that followed.
4-4-2, 4-3-3, 1-2 home defeat, 4.6% ABV (x?).
It’s the pub I’d sneak away to when the world needed forgetting for a short blip in my office life (I worked around the corner), the landlord smiling wildly if I popped in after the lunch time rush to hide by the wooden alcoves, dive into a book with big science words and faraway places, and let the flames of the fire lick the daily wear and tear away.
And equally it’s now the place that I wandered down to on a mild Thursday night in May to meet a post of beer blogging friends, who have rushed from the south, the north, the continent, to the European Beer Bloggers Conference, of which the Grove is the appetiser, one pub in a warm up crawl to whet our desire.
Though desire doesn’t seem a word that the Grove invokes, it fulfils it’s purpose in its typically modest way, and a pack of beer bloggers leave merry amidst fierce debate and in fine spirits. The folk music follows us out the tiny framed doors and life in the finest pub in Leeds continues.
Thank you, beer bloggers for coming to Leeds, for all the craic, the beers and (over) merriment (on my part at least). And thank you for sharing Leeds’ finest pub with me. Hopefully see at the Harmonica Workshop one day (bring your ukes and we can make a band).Tags: leeds
“It’s like something you’d see at a beer festival” Simon Cowell exclaims having watched Ashley Elliot perform in a Britain’s Got Talent semi-final.
No, Mr Cowell wasn’t watching ale guzzling slippers perform magic tricks or gravity defying beard-offs, but a seventeen year old teenager from Enniskillen who plays the xylophone.
To have young Ashley perform at a festival of any sort would be a treat (perhaps no headliner, but damn good at an impromptu jamming session with a harmonicist and a yukele player). His handiwork is fast and furious and, whilst not everyone’s cup of tea, David Walliams thought it was “pure joy”.
We tried Doncaster Beer Festival for a stag do a few weeks ago, and it was a success – they had an endless supply of comedy hats to choose from for the stag and plentiful supplies of beer. But a crazy xylophone player? Hell yeah, that would have added to the experience!
Cowell’s attitude perhaps shines a light on the perception of beer festivals. I doubt he’s a beer man let alone a cask ale drinker, but surely he’d be impressed with the folk bands at Norwich Town Hall, or the train shed at Haworth & Worth Valley, or the scale of Earls Court, or the uniforms at Brussels in September?
I guess there’s no pleasing some people…
Tags: beer festival, britains got talent, simon cowell
We can understand why some beer festivals give off a bad impression, some are lots of fun, some are really not. What makes a good beer festival? Nothing but racks of cask ale and tasting notes or full on entertainment, food and activities? Good beer, good people? Let us know!
As the centenary of the ill-fated Titanic was justly commemorated around the country, my home town had more reason than most to reflect on the tragedy. And being a northern mill town, real ale naturally formed part of the process.
One of the most memorable of many poignant accounts from the final moments aboard is the solace eight musicians provided as they played on to the very last. Their valiant bandmaster was one Wallace Hartley, a man born and bred in Colne, Lancashire. He and his fellow players sadly perished but he has never been forgotten by generations of local folk.
Hartley has been honoured by a handsome headstone, commemorative plaques, street names and a bronze bust outside the church where he began his musical career. And a respectful beery nod was forthcoming in 2008 when Wetherspoons acquired the former King’s Head Hotel and christened it the Wallace Hartley.
And to mark the centenary in its inimitable fashion, the Wallace held a Maiden Voyage Beer Festival spanning the dates the Titanic was at sea a hundred years hence. On tap were a multitude of beers fittingly supplied by Titanic Brewery.
The first I sampled was one-off collaborative ale by Keith Bott from Titanic and Mark Szmaida of Chelsea Brewing, New York, evocatively named Ship of Dreams. This burnished copper brew was nicely balanced with hints of damson giving way to a sweet and nutty malt finish. I enjoyed it while digesting a felicitously ripping yarn in the form of Treasure Island.
The interior of the Wallace Hartley is bedecked with dark bevelled tiling, wood panelling and bespoke sculptures and paintings creating a tenebrous maritime theme. Characteristically large and open-plan spaces abound with more secluded nooks and crannies for a quieter pint also around.
During the festival most of the dozen hand-pumps carried Titanic beers, with a smattering of regulars and other breweries efforts in evidence. Just some of the themed ales on offer were Iceberg, Lifeboat, Steerage, Black Ice, English Glory, White Star and Nine Tenths Below.
I’m a stickler for sampling new stuff where and whenever I can, so I’d previously tested all of these nautical tipples, but one in particular stood out for another slosh: Titanic’s Cappuccino. This potent stout had an über-rich coffee and vanilla nose that really intensified in the mouth. A deeply delicious drink worthy of any occasion.
Although not a beer festival in the traditional sense, this formed a fitting tribute to the Titanic and its heroic home-town band leader. Let’s raise a glass to Wallace!
April 25th, 2012Beer Events
The inaugural North Leeds Charity Beer Festival starts this weekend, in no small part thanks to the efforts of our friend and occasional Real Ale Review’s contributor Sam Parker, and beer writer Barrie Pepper.
There’ll be beers from breweries all over the region (Wharfebank, Kirkstall, Revolutions, Great Heck, Ilkley, Leeds, Roosters, Ridgeside and more) plus some from further afield including Brooklyn Brewery in New York.
We will hopefully see you there!
Tags: beer festival, leeds
Name: North Leeds Charity Beer Festival
Date: Friday 27th April & Saturday 28th April 2012
Time: Friday 18:00-23:00 & Saturday 12:00-22:00
Venue: St Aidan’s Church Community Hall, Off Elford Place West, Roundhay Road, Leeds, LS8 5QD
The smell of beer slopped on wooden tables, the glint of light in the top of the chalice, the sounds of a deck of cards and the clink of glasses.
I’m in a bar in the north country but my senses are across the sea and howling winds, in the bustle of a backstreet bar in Belgium.
Four pm on a sunny Friday, sampling the beers of the Low Countries in a bar in Leeds, dreaming of being back in Brussels, Bruges or even Amsterdam. Or those other low cities I’ve not yet visited – Antwerp, or Ghent.
It’s North’s Lowlands Bier Festival and the fridges are jam packed with beers across a spectrum of prices and slapstick names: ‘Willy’ and ‘Klap’ are both (hopefully) lost in translation.
Even though the light of day is starting to fade, a winter ale seems wrong in the mild climate, but Dutch beers are on tap and that doesn’t happen often in the north of England.
De Molen Klap van de Molen (Hit by the Mill) is a dark viscous affair to wrap up in, dominated by apple skin sweetness and too much spice. Suffice to say it packs a punch (and nothing more sinister).
It’s quickly turned into an impromptu meal – add a cheese and meat board: a spot of raisin and walnut bread, a few slices of salami and a wedge of cheese. Sticky raisins and beer, peppery salami, mellow cheese umami; the beer is a prickly Calpol food softener and suddenly my mind is back in Belgium, in the evening din of yet another backstreet bar surrounded by stemmed glasses of dark sweet liquid and rye heavy bread, thick yellow cheese and pink elephants on the walls…
A cheeky kriek freshens things up (that’s the great thing about Belgian beers) and the menu is open wide once again.
Tripels, bocks, IPAs, Trappists, English bitters. The festival is nothing short of testament to the diversity of modern lowland beer culture. Add some Jupiler and it’s got almost everything! There’s a lot to celebrate here and celebrate it we do. Plus there’s time for a quick half of North’s very own exclusive beer brewed by the managers: a rasping Roosters style bitter.
As the darkness of night approaches we’ve drunk these beers in a topsy turvy order, and if we get stuck to into many more of the myriad lowland biers on offers, topsy turvy is where our heads will be too.Tags: Belgian Beer, de molen, Dutch, kriek, north bar
It’s not every day that you get the chance to try a beer that’s older than you are.
Last Saturday night I opened a bottle that was just that; I opened a beer that was older than me, so that’s over twenty five, give or take the odd ten years. In fact it was a lot older than me, more than twice my age.
It was brewed in 1929 in fact, so that’s 83 years old.
A mate of mine dabbles in buying and selling antiques and I got a call from him a while back…
“You like beer don’t you Gav?”
“Well, yes” I laughed.
“How long does beer last?” came the reply.
“Depends what it is” I say in return, “Why do you ask?”
“I’ve got a couple of bottles you might be interested in.”
“It’s a bit old”
“1902 and 1929.”
I was silent for a second or two after that.
The beers my mate had come by were Bass King’s Ale (1902) and Bass Prince of Wales Brew (1929). I took a quick look at the bottles and, as he only wanted £30 for the pair, I snapped them up, for novelty reasons if nothing else.
Then along comes OpenIt! and I think, what about those Bass beers I’ve got, shall I open one of those? I council a few folks on twitter and by the end of the day I’ve decided I’m taking along the bottle of Prince of Wales Brew to OpenIt! at Mr Foley’s in Leeds. There’s plenty of other curious folks keen to try it too, most of them more beer geekish than I am.
And shortly after arriving the bottle is on to the table with a corkscrew, the remainder of the wax seal is removed and I’m plunging the corkscrew in. With a small lever part of the cork comes away – it’s a bit dried out as you’d expect – and I need a different corkscrew to get a little more of the cork out and drill a little hole as its pretty stuck in there.
The empty glasses are thrust my way and everyone is keen to try. We all give it a sniff and look at each other slightly nervously. The aroma a little on the sour side but I’m getting a whiff of raisins and we wonder if the beer will taste as sour as it smells.
I take a sip.
How does it taste?
Well it tastes alright considering its age. A nice fruity character. The next offering to my tongue is a good size and I’m getting an idea of the flavour now. I’m very pleasantly surprised, it’s a bit like like an amontillado sherry. It’s stunning that a beer that’s survived for 83 years untouched has this amount of flavour left in it. It’s not nasty at all and most of us are in agreement about this.
Of course I’ve no idea how it was supposed to taste (I’ve no idea what beer tasted like back in 1929 for that matter). Prince of Wales Brew was the second Bass beer with a royal connection after Bass King’s Ale was produced in 1902 for the coronation of Edward VII. I’m lead to believe that for Prince of Wales Brew the mash was started by Prince Edward, who later become Edward VIII of course, and sold for around £5 a bottle, a fair bit of wedge back in the day!
So was it worth opening? I took the remainder of the bottle home and then to the local the following day. There was a pretty mixed response from folks who where a little less beer geekish, some of disgust and some of surprise and intrigue. I’m with the latter crowd hence my curiosity to open it.
It’s just amazing to think that you’ve actually been drinking history. A beer that, given its royal connection and price, must have been been painstakingly crafted by Bass master brewers to brew a beer befitting a Prince. I feel very privileged to have been able to try and share it with friends. A great beer experience. I just wish, like most beers really, I could open it and enjoy the experience again.
The Prince of Wales feathers, which are also embossed on the bottle, bare the words ‘Ich Dien’, which means ‘I Serve’. This beer ‘Ich Dien’ with pleasure Your Royal Highness!
Tags: #openit, Bass, Kings Ale, royal ale, The Prince of Wales
Big thanks to Rick Furzer for organising the Open It session at Mr Foleys, and to Ghost Drinker for the lovely pics of the crew struggling to open the very old bottle of beer!
Over the last few months the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt has been taking place providing a welcome opportunity to try some different beers from the familiar supermarket shelves.
And in October Bad King John from Ridgeside Brewing was crowned winner of a six month national listing in 300 Sainsbury’s stores. Bad King John beat beers from around the UK to the throne via four regional heats (120 beers), a three week stint in Sainsbury’s stores (16 beers) and a grand judging final in London (final 8 beers). Spearheading the competition was Caesar Augustus by Williams Bros of Clackmannanshire which clinched a listing across 150 Sainsbury’s stores.
This year’s 16 finalists were:
Flying Dutchman Wit Bier, Caledonian Brewing Co, Alva, Scotland
Orange peel and a herbaceous twist make Flying Dutchman easy to identify. Intriguingly, caramel and liquorice offer something the average wit beer might not, and something syrupy-sweet mops everything up. An interesting start!
Golden Seahawk, Cotleigh Brewery, Somerset
An aroma of freshly cut garden weeds (those sticky buggers that find their way onto the bottom of shoes, gloves, the seat of your pants); flavours of wholesome cereal doused in honey. A nice golden ale.
Frederic’s Great British Ginger Beer, Frederic Robinson, Stockport
Perfect with fish and chips it says. Well I’m late home from work, sore from five a side and soaked through with autumn rain. The (award winning and only nearby late night) chippy was shutting but let me jump the chairs blocking the doorway to pick up fish cakes and scraps. Perhaps any beer would have done but Robinson’s Ginger Beer cut through the sweat of the chips like no other: spicy, tongue tingling and sweet. Still, I couldn’t help feeling I’d rather just have had a Ben Shaws…
Wild Hop IPA, Harviestoun Brewery, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
A beery lemon marmalade on just-golden toast, with a contradictory bitterness – sharp but simultaneously mellow. The hops might be wild but the beer isn’t: its gentile, moreish and gulp-able – beautiful with undercurrents of sex. In a beery kinda way.
I lust this beer.
Full Bore, Hunter’s Brewery, Devon
A whopper at 8%, it’s a shame Full Bore smashes toffee and not a lot else at me (a left hook of honey perhaps?), thus feeling like an opportunity missed. But drunk after three other Sainsbury’s Beer Hunt beers it feels like I missed the opportunity to give it a fair crack of the whip. Now to find a bottle left on the shelves and give it a fair trial…
Two Hoots Golden Ale, Joseph Holt, Manchester
Through the clear bottles it’s a vibrant golden ale but poured and tasted it’s flat and sun kissed to the point of no return. Crystal malt is about the only flavour discernible behind disintegrated hops. Unfair to pass judgement except on the colour of the glass.
Stronghart, McMullen & Sons, Hertfordshire
Strong and ruby-tinted brown like creosote, Stronghart packs the a bitter punch and a wallop of brandy-seeped raisins. Sweet and tart like opulent plums and just a tad balsamic. Don’t let it knock you out – it’s strong enough to.
Bishop’s Farewell, Oakham Ales, Peterborough
All Oakham’s ales (that I’ve tried) are citrus influenced and this is no different. A decent beer to sup on an evening but nothing makes me want to wax lyrical on the joy on hops like some of Oakham’s ales do.
Churchill Ale, Oxfordshire Ales Ltd, Bicester
Toffee apple aroma introduces a strong malt backbone perfumed with citrus hops. Far from your typical strong IPA this is a gentle and very English pale ale. A soft spot for Churchill (because I used to work not far from them) was enough to make me go back twice for more, but the first bottle remained the best.
Ivanhoe, Ridgeway Brewing, South Oxfordshire
If the label takes you back in time then it’s a warning that pale ale in this context might mean ‘paler ale’ (compared to what was available in the days of Ivanhoe, anyway). Harvest fruits and English malt make for a pleasant beer drinking experience. We’d be lying if we said we bought it, we saved a few pounds by remembering this bottle.
Bad King John, Ridgeway Brewing, South Oxfordshire
Spent cocoa beans and a boozy Bailey’s aroma, perhaps a dash of vanilla. Dark, dry, sweet and roast: a cacophony of intriguing characteristics emerges from the depths of nowhere. Bad King John must have been a complicated fellow. Thick without cloying, the King has soul and a long bitter aftertaste. It’s Ivanhoe’s nemesis and it’s even more memorable.
Worcester Sorcerer, Sadler’s Ales, Stourbridge
Toffee apple and raisin nose, and smells just a little like my Burton Ale home brew. The flavours defy this initial bouquet, revealing a muskier side, molasses and burnt grain. Call it Worcestershire Sauceror and serve with roast dinner. Strangely likeable.
Caesar Augustus, Williams Brothers, Alloa, Scotland
Wowser. Now this is a good beer! Caesar’s honey gold complexion and medicinal Saazy nose tingles nerve endings (perhaps helped by 24 hours in the fridge the first sip hits my front molars with a scintillating pulse!). Caesar Augustus is boundlessly refreshing. An innovative lagered IPA? Come on, the result is a crisp and vibrant pilsner, surely? A joy to behold.
Profanity Stout, Williams Brothers, Alloa, Scotland
A vodka and vanilla nose, followed by reams of bitter Green & Blacks mellowed by a lingering smoked coffee bean dryness. Sophisticated but living on a thin line: its ABV may deceive you.
Golden Summer, Wold Top Brewery, Yorkshire
An old favourite from one of the most consistent brewers in Yorkshire. I tend to buy Wold Top’s beers from the most charming farm shop near Bradford, on the road between Halifax and Keighley, usually alongside strange vegetables and local cheese. Against The Grain was unremarkable to many, but as a gluten-free beers go I think it was a triumph. And Golden Summer is no different, on the face an unremarkable beer but it’s incredibly perfect in too many situations to be called average. As HopZine say, a great bridging beer, and in my mind eminently versatile. You can find grapefruit and lemon if you try, but it’s the cereal backbone that I love. A summer beer that genuinely shines.
Wye Not, Wye Valley Brewery, Herefordshire
…because the other beers are probably more enjoyable. Weighted in the favour of its malt ingredients, it never quite lives up to its biscuit billing. Should malt be your thing though, you could do much worse.
And if we’d been picking the winner? Well Wold Top’s Golden Summer and Harviestoun’s Wild Hop IPA were stand outs, whilst Bad King John fought the corner of the darker beers and Stronghart offered something a bit different. But for sheer brazen excellence, Caesar Augustus provided the most enjoyment and refreshment. It’s exactly the sort of beer I’d pick up regularly in the supermarket, and for that reason, we’re firmly sold.Tags: caledonian, harviestoun, hunters, joseph holt, mcmullen, oakham, Oxfordshire, Ridgeway, robinsons, sadlers, sainsburys, Sainsburys Beer Competition, williams brothers, wold top, wye valley