November 1st, 2012Beer and travel
Football is mostly about what happens during the game, but if you ask anyone who goes to away games regularly they will tell you it’s more about what takes place outside of the match.
The 2011-12 football season was a fairly disastrous one for Wolverhampton Wanderers, culminating in their relegation from the Premier League. However for three of their loyal supporters, it wasn’t a complete disaster.
Friends Russ, Darb, and Graham decided to start a ritual for away games involving another passion of theirs; drinking beer.
Let’s face it, travelling up and down the country every other week by train can be quite monotonous, so the lads always took along a few cans of beer for the journey.
One week, Darb decided to do something a little bit different and brought a long an assortment of international beers for the lads to get stuck into. In sheer amazement with the selection on offer, Russ suggested “Stick a picture of the bottle label up on Twitter, and see if anyone can guess the nationality.”
As a result, the Away Day Beer Challenge was born.
From here on, the lads have taken it in turns to find beers from across the world to sup on their travels. There have been the odd exceptions to the rule, where a bottle of (readily available) Cusqueña or Cobra has made an appearance, but usually it is a mixture of the weird and the wonderful.
“We hired a limo bus to take us to the Arsenal away game during the Christmas period, and I knew I had to do something special to go with the occasion.” said Graham. “I popped in my local one night and noticed Hobsons Brewery were offering ale in 18-pint polypins (beer-in-a-box) for the festive period. The box got warped quickly, so there we were, travelling to Islington, pouring auburn coloured liquid out of what looked like a catheter bag! I’m glad the windows were blacked out.”
Since the challenge started, the lads have consumed beer from all over the world; including Kenya, Estonia, Ukraine, Iceland, Nigeria, Norway, Japan, Laos, Mauritius and most recently Corsica. A photo of the label is taken, and posted to Twitter, where it is developing a cult following, along with the hashtag #awaydaybeerchallenge.
It’s not only about the international beers, a few real ale pubs are visited upon arrival at their destination. The Unicorn Inn in Hanley, No Sign Bar in Swansea, Huddersfield’s The Sportsman and The Scarborough Hotel opposite Leeds Station have all received high acclaim.
Wherever the destination you are guaranteed to find these guys supping beer en-route to watch their football team, and keeping their twitter following greatly entertained.
Tags: beer, football, world beer
“Graham is better known as @graham_large and started enjoying beer about 11 years ago. His fascination with Beers Of The World has only strengthened since working in conjunction with a bottle label manufacturer. When not drinking beer, Graham is found writing various football features for his website It’s Round and It’s White
and is currently writing his first book.”
Just what beer do you take to a summer music festival?
With Glastonbury only a few days away there’s a big supermarket trip around the corner to stock up on all the liquid lunches we’ll be needing over the 5 days we spend wallowing in mud, Carlsberg cans and the reverberation of thumping speakers.
But what is the perfect festival beer?
At Glastonbury you can take what you want. Unlike other festivals, once you’re in, you’re in, and you may freely waltz around with your chosen tipple without fear of eviction. Last year one chap had 3 cans of Stella strapped to each limb with duck tape. He was never without a beer.
The perfect drink has to be light. Multiple car trips are not good so you need to be able to pack it in a rucksack, pop it under your arm or balance it on your head for the long walk from car park to chosen pitching ground.
The perfect drink has to be refreshing. If the sun comes out it needs to revive; if the mud rises up it needs to make you feel fighting fit to grapple through the bodies and lost wellies.
This enigmatic tipple mustn’t be too strong. No-one wants to miss the single unmissable act of the day, not drink too much and earn themselves an early retirement to the tent. You want to be up from 11am until 4am, with perhaps a mid afternoon nap in a quiet folk tent near the tippees.
You need to be able to drink all day and never feel under the weather.
And this magic beer (or other alternative beverage) must be passable, nay even enjoyable when warm. In a perfect world it will chill quickly too and never warm up, if nature or some fancy technology (aka cool box) gives you the opportunity.
We could try lager. Widely available in lightweight cans of various strengths. It’s refreshing when hot which ticks an important box, but crucially though, it’s a bit rubbish when not ice cold.
So in case of warm conditions perhaps we should take some ale. Bottled conditioned is an absolute no-no, and even simply bottles are a bad idea. Stone’s Bitter or Tanglefoot anyone? A choice between garish orange or red, unless you want to risk Smoothflow, of course.
Then there’s the alternative solution, cider. Before you conjure images of vagrants and teenagers on a park bench, just remember the criteria.
Not too strong.
Easy to carry.
Suddenly Strongbow seems more appealing than ever…Tags: Ale, beer, Cider, festival, glastonbury, lager, summer
April 13th, 2010Comment
In a world of Top 100 lists and a thousand and one books about 1001 things you’ll never be able to afford to do, us Homo Sapien types often lose our perspective. We had caught up in the whims of our tiny, insignificant lives and convince each other that we are more important than we really are.
If I was compiling a list of photographs that you must see before you die, there is no doubt that Pale Blue Dot would be somewhere near the pinnacle of my list. The photo, taken by NASA in 1990, illustrates just how insignificant our little Blue Planet is in the vastness of our solar system. The image of a small dot – less than 1 pixel wide – does not even illustrate what a microscopically tiny part of our galaxy the Earth is, let alone the Universe.
Carl Sagan, at who’s request the photo was taken, summed this up beautifully. He cooly points out that every life, every birth, every death, every war, every fight, every breath, every human thought, all took place in this infinitesimally tiny piece of rock amidst an infinity of rock, gas and nothingness. And that includes every pint in every pub.
So, in the grand scheme of things, beer really doesn’t matter. All the beer ever brewed, ever drunk and ever dreamed about amounts to a relatively tiny bundle of charged particles, given energy by the star we call our Sun and ultimately delivering intoxication to a teeny bunch of people who are doing their best to put their everyday lives and strifes behind them.
One day, that same Sun will eat the Earth in a mind boggling display of unstoppable solar bravado, dwarfing it’s heavenly subjects as it accelerates towards it’s ultimate fate, collapsing under the weight of the universes’ weakest force and destroying, potentially, all the life that there ever will be or has been.
So in some ways, human fate is ultimately doomed. There’s no point to anything we do, we may as well drink, get fat and fuck off, leaving a dead planet behind to rot and burn.
But, as we all know, size isn’t everything.
Our human lifetimes which flash by in an instant are a speckle on the astronomical time line, but to each and every one of us, those moments when we breathe, think and drink are all we will ever have. They are our own personal time-constrained eternities. We will never have any one elses moments, we will never be able to see everything in the world. We will spend our lives missing out on everyone elses moments and clinging desperately to our own.
There are times we come together and share in our (utterly pointless and insignificant) lives. We celebrate the fact we have each other. We celebrate our health and happiness. We counter our grief and illness by coming together and offer our company to those in despair.
And during these moments, at these good times that we remember (and often at the bad ones we can never forget) many of us have beer as the focal point of our communion.
Beer is touted as the most social of our tipples, a drink for the masses, for all of the classes, with simple, earthy ingredients, served in community centres for the local people, ‘public urban boundary systems‘ where people come together and network, socially, without the need for technology nor pixels.
Beer is arguably no more important than wine, than vodka, whiskey or cider. It’s rarely shared in the same way as the sambucas that you set on fire or the tequilas that we neck along with salt and lemon. It doesn’t have the shock and headfuck kick of a jagerbomb.
It is though, the most popular of all the alcoholic lubrications1. There are beers of various different levels of potency. There’s a beer for every occassion. A gueze to share, a kriek to start a party. A bitter after a long walk, a porter to sit in front of an open fire with. There’s a beer to cool you down in summer sun, a beer to warm you up after a cold winters day.
There’s a beer for a chat, beer for a session. Beers to knock you for six and beer to stay up all night with. There’s beer for drowning our sorrows and beer for celebrating milestones. There’s beer for beer geeks and beer for John Smith down the local WMC.
Arguably no other drink shares this diversity – no other drink can match beer for depth, diversity and refreshment.
‘Nothing ever lasts forever’ sang Echo & his Bunnymen. Not even the sun, this Earth or maybe even time. But in each and everyone of our worlds, our lives are our eternity and to us, everything matters. If beer matters to you, then beer matters.
1 So says a source on Wikipedia, and who am I to argue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer#cite_note-1Tags: beer, why beer matters
December 17th, 2009Beer and Food
On Sunday a bunch of friends in Leeds are having Christmas dinner. We’ll all be going our separate ways for the festive period so it’s a chance to catch up, eat and drink together, play some board games and enjoying finally admitting that we’re adults with houses now and not students still.
I’m in charge of beer and cheese, after picking some fancy samples at Lincoln Christmas Market earlier this month.
So I’m basically just looking for suggestions, as tomorrow I’m off to Beer Ritz to purchase the beers and on the way back stopping at Leeds Markets for the cheese.
Cheeses I have so far:
White Stilton Strawberries and cream – I’m thinking a strawberry Belgian beer
Yorkshire Black - a local Yorkshire beer?
Maplewood Smoked (just like Applewood smoked really) – a smoky porter or Rauchbier
Lancashire Apple, Raisin and Cinnamon – I’m stumped on this one!
I also have a bottle of aged Orval, but I’m greedily undecided as to whether I’m willing to share this with anyone!Tags: beer, beer with food, black, cheese, christmas, Food, lancashire, maplewood, smoked, stilton, yorkshire
December 15th, 2009Beer Events
When I went down to the British Guild of Beer Writers dinner a couple of weeks ago I had a fantastic night. But the day after topped it all off with a pub crawl around London starting with Mark Dredge, Tim Hampson and Zak Avery in the Market Porter, and continuing across London town with Knut Albert, Ally Shaw and John the Beer Nut (via The Rake, Greenwich Union, The Wenlock Arms, The Gunmakers Arms and beyond).
I knew I’d taken a group photo at some point, I clearly remembered balancing my camera on a precipitous ledge in the Wenlock Arms, but for the life of me couldn’t find the resulting image.
Until now! And it made me smile and remember how great it is to meet up with like minded beer folk and talk beer and drink beer.
To good times, sláinte!
Tags: beer, bloggers, blogging, british guild of beer writers, London
BrewDog Chaos Theory
Complexity in the universe is often based on simple, fundamental rules. We don’t know all of the rules but we understand some of them; however despite this, life is still, at our level, an unpredictable and seemingly random existence.
Chaos theory helps us get our heads around this (and then in the next breath turns our perceptions of ‘thought on its head). It also suggests that systems such as our universe are completely deterministic…in theory. But unfortunately we have to pinpoint the exact starting conditions of the system, which is a little more than tricky when every single tiny particle in our universe system was compacted into an unimaginably small space, a little over 13,700,000,000 years ago (plus or minus about 14 million years!).
This chaotic nature has parallels with the brewing process, where we calculate the mix of initial ingredients, follow strict processes and end up with tasty beer at the end. But we can’t always predict the exact end result and consistency and quality in a brew can be more difficult than just throwing the ingredients together and sticking the heat on.
As you might have guessed there’s a parallel between all this and BrewDog’s last beer in our Sainsbury’s beer competition series. Chaos Theory is an ode to chaos theory (although at 7.1% it doesn’t really help me get my head around the physics much!). Read the rest of this entry »Tags: beer, BrewDog, chaos theory, competition, india pale ale, IPA, sainsburys
Before I go any further, this review is only half a review of Allgates Portersque. In fact it’s a review of my tasting notes from memory, so as a beer review it can be taken with a pinch of salt!
I’ve really enjoyed writing this belated series on the 2009 Sainsbury’s Beer Competition, and I’m hoping that there will be a few people eager to find out which beer we think deserved to win the contest. Anywhere, on with the story…
For my birthday my girlfriend bought me a Moleskine notebook, one of the smaller sized ones that just about fits in the back pocket of Levi’s and is covered in thick black leather.
It sat unused whilst I filled up other pads and scraps of paper with the types of daily notes that I sometimes like to jot down, lists that never get completed and what not. And then I started writing intensely about beer for this blog, having a few bottles of ale a week and penning simple tasting notes. At last I had the perfect use for my overpriced notebook and quickly got to work copying into it my beer notes across from the back of receipts and various other cleverly recycled artefacts (I got most done one productive afternoon on holiday this year whilst sipping on Mythos!)
It’s been a life saver really, it even has a small filing section at the back for storing any notes that I still scribble onto post-its or the back of used envelopes, for copying up at a later date.
But every now and then one slips through the net. I flick through the pages searching for that beer that I know I’ve drunk but just can’t remember enough about to write up from memory, and it’s not there, nowhere to be found. On this occasion the beer is All Gates Porteresque. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: allgates, beer, competition, porteresque, sainsburys
Yellow Hammer stood out on the Sainsbury’s shelf like a woodpecker drilling into my brain, the bold yellow type urging me to pick it up.
My first O’Hanlon’s ale poured a light golden colour with a delicate head. It was pretty lively with a slightly yeasty aroma that many bottle conditioned ale seems to have.
This was followed by the fresh floral scent of Cascade hops, which preceded a golden malt taste that was fresh and sweet. I was right in the mood for it and it came up trumps with a nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness to refresh my palate.
This is a zesty little number, the malt is subtle and it has the character you might expect from the small, lively bird it’s named after. This is a beer that could really hit the spot in a refreshing way.
This beer brings up a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: ‘bottle conditioned’ or ‘not bottle conditioned? It’s a debate that every now and then rears its divisive head. This is a nice beer, and I’d certainly have it again, but how much better is it because it is bottle conditioned? (I’d genuinely like to know!).
I’m not sure I like having to take great care and attention pouring this when I’m dealing with what is essentially a light, refreshing golden beer. If I wanted this on a summer night I’d prefer to slightly chill it and not have to worry about sediment escaping the safe confines of the bottle.
That sediment makes a big different if it does end up loose in your glass of beer (a little bit of which did near the end).
Regardless of that this is a good beer that I’d love to try on draft in a beer garden and will definitely try in a bottle again (pouring with more due diligence this time around!).Tags: beer, Bottle Conditioned, competition, golden, sainsburys
Bays are very much an unknown to me, and this is the real beauty of the Sainsbury’s beer competition. Without, it would probably have taken a trip to Devon for me to have stumbled across this beer.
The brewery is a new one, set up in 2007 on the south Devon coast and has three flagship ales: Bays Best, Gold and Breaker. It’s the latter that made the cut in the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition this year and therefore found its way into my trolley a few weeks ago.
I should point out I drank this a little colder than it’s probably meant to be, a result of not very good fridge planning and me been very indecisive about which beers I wanted that night.
Bays Breaker is an interesting beer, it’s almost peppery, sweet and bitter all at the same time, an array of contradictory flavours that sit together better than you’d expect. The peppery aftertaste demands another sip, a sip that will start fruity and soft, and ends with a carbonised bitterness.
In big gulps the malt and fruit shines through and if you sip slower it the bitter flavours linger.
Without becoming a favourite Bays Breaker certainly makes for an interesting tipple and that could well have a couple of food partnerships out there waiting to be found (I reckon this to wash down fish and chips might just work!)Tags: bays, beer, breaker, competition, devon, fruit, pepper, sainsburys, torbay
Bath Ales Barnstormer beer review
The first time I tried Bath Ales‘ dark offering, I wasn’t blown away. Perhaps I mused in my notebook at the time, it’s too subtle for me. I’d picked it up from Sainsbury’s (and funnily enough research for our latest series of posts shows it was in fact a winner of their beer competition in 2008).
Three months later and my beer experience has been blown wide open, much as a result of this site. I’ve experienced a wider variety of styles and challenged myself to write reviews on new and different beers. Coming back to Barnstormer was a pleasure, because since I last tried it I’ve actually grown quite a passion for darker beers: milds, stouts and porters all included.
This passion started whilst walking the Pennine Way with my Dad in May. The first pub in Edale, The Nag’s Head, served three beers: crudely a bitter, a pale and a dark mild (as I remember it!). My Dad’s enthusiasm at seeing a dark mild (albeit not quite the type of cheap stuff he used to guzzle as a lad growing up in Halifax) made me try a this old-fashioned looking pint and numerous other examples along the ‘Way.
The glory of the darker beer is often the complete opposite thinking to some of the paler beers I was used to. Hops sometimes make a star appearance but more often than not malt is given the pedestal, the starring role and the opportunity to show what it can do.
On its second showing Barnstormer shone for me. Fruits dominate the smell and sweet malt infuses the taste. Burnt embers mingle with the fruity nose resulting in a complex dark bitter that deserves it ‘distinctive’ label. There might be traces of chocolate in there too, that dark, cocoa bean kind.
There’s no doubt the first time round I didn’t think much of this, I must have served it straight out of the fridge or something. Second times around it was much better – this is a fine dark ale with a complexity that’s easy to stomach and pleasing on the senses.Tags: Ale, barnstomer, bath ales, beer, Dark Mild, pennine way