1January 9th, 2013Belgian/Trappist
Stroll through an ageing orchard, take a gulp of the musty air at the defunct pressing room door. Continue past the old farm cottage to the door of the dirty whitewashed inn where the drip trays need emptying. The fruit in the bowl near the window has seen better days, and through the yellowed single pane of glass the smoke rises from the chimney in the monastery opposite. A calm shadow sneaks across the cobbles dodging wooden stools and deposits freshly baked bread with the rotund innkeeper, a silent nod the only interaction before the mysterious robed shape is gone.
Order briskly but politely and then pause to acknowledge the peppery scent, which laces the pyramid of froth in top of the brooding liquid. It glows with some kind of knowing soul. Perhaps it was the confident almost challenging pour, the beer dispatcher from curvaceous glass to angular chalice with an unexpected deftness. Sip the slightly sour, herbaceous barley juice that’s so different to it’s contemporaries. It’s no wonder those monks believe in heaven, they just don’t realise it’s closer to home than they think.
The above is a figment of imagination. Orval was the muse.
December 31st, 2012Desert Island Beers
This weeks Desert Island Beers is a massive coup as it features none other than Sir (well if a UK citizen he would be) Mitch Steele, brew-master at the world-famous Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, California which was named “The All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine in 2008…AND 2009! “The most popular and highest rated brewery – ever!” (I just wish I could get their beers more often over here!)
I was saving this post for the New Year and an upcoming series of Desert Island Beers on U.S. Brewers, but whilst researching this article I learnt that today, 31st December is Mitch’s 50th birthday! So what better birthday present than to be castaway on a Desert Island with your favourite beers. Happy Birthday Mitch!
Mitch was an Enology major at the University of California, Davis in the early ’80s when he found out about the wine-making curriculum there and took an introductory wine-making class. Later he discovered the Brewing Science program and was in a microbiology class when Dr. Michael Lewis guest lectured and provided a brief overview of the brewing process and Mitch was as they say hooked! The idea of combining art and science in crafting wine and beer seemed like a perfect fit for him.
When he graduated, a recession had hit and brewers weren’t hiring and the only craft brewers of any note at the time were Sierra Nevada and Anchor so he ended up making wine in the Central Coast region of California for eight years. About five years into the wine-making stint he hooked up with Bill Millar, who was starting the San Andreas Brewing Co. in Hollister, California. He took Mitch as his brewer, and Mitch brewed there at weekends and during his time off from the winery for four years.
After four years of brewing as a second job, Mitch decided to make brewing his chosen career and got a job with Anheuser-Busch in Colorado. He figured (correctly) that A-B would be a great place to learn how to manage the brewing and fermentation processes and he ended up at A-B for 14 years and says got to do some really great and fun things with them and learned a lot; but at the same time was really itching to get back into craft brewing.
An active home-brewer during his time with Anheuser-Busch, Mitch joined Stone Brewing Co. in 2006 and has managed the brewing and packaging operation at Stone Brewing Co. as it has grown from a 48,000 bbl operation to 150,000 bbls in 2011.Tags: fat heads, Fuller's, london porter, Orval, stone, victory
September 27th, 2012Desert Island Beers
This weeks Desert Island Beers features Barrie Pepper who is one of Britain’s leading beer writers and for seven years was Chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers. He has been Highly Commended three times in the Guild’s Beer Writer of the Year awards and was the first recipient of the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for services to beer writing. And in 2002 Barrie won the Guild’s Silver Tankard for his book ‘The Landlord’s Tale‘ for which he was also runner-up in the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Books. Then in 2004 he won another Silver Tankard for ‘Fifty More Great Pub Crawls’.
He is a life member of CAMRA and a former member of its National Executive. He was recently chosen as one of its top 40 campaigners.
Barrie’s journalistic work includes writing for The Yorkshire Post, What’s Brewing, First Draught, Wine and Spirit International, Beers of the World, Inn Speak and several other newspapers and journals in Britain, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic and the United States. He has now written eighteen books on pubs and beer and two on the Anglican church. In 2003 he was elected a Life Member of the National Union of Journalists.
When not writing about beer his other interests are the theatre, music, sport, travel – which he also writes about – and the convivial atmosphere and company of the traditional British pub. He is active in the Anglican Church being a member of the Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod and Editor of his parish church newsletter.Tags: barrie pepper, old peculiar, Orval, roosters, Theakstons, timothy taylor
July 31st, 2012Desert Island Beers
This weeks Desert Island Beers features Fergus Fitzgerald, Head Brewer at Adnams PLC, Southwold, Suffolk. Fergus 36, is married to Julie and they have one young son, who he says he has never left down the pub, but did once lose for 5 minutes in Tesco when looking for a Sponge Bob Square-pants DVD.
Fergus was born in Limerick, Ireland, best known as the place Terry Wogan comes from and no Fergus doesn’t do short comical, sometimes rude, poems. He went on to study Biotechnology without really knowing what to do with it, but knew he liked science.
After graduating he was offered the chance to work in the Lab at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC in London for 6 months. During this period Fergus says he lived in digs where for £50 a week he got a room to himself, two eggs every morning for breakfast and only once did one of the other residents try to break in with a hatchet; OK it was twice but in fairness to them the second time the guy was actually looking for a different room.
After this stint Fergus decided he loved the brewing industry and that’s what he wanted to do. A short stint at Murphy’s brewery in Cork, Ireland followed, before he returned to Fullers when a permanent job became available.
Over the next 7 years he worked his way out of the lab and into the brewing side, passing several brewing exams on the way and then moved to Adnams in 2004 as Assistant Brewer and now a qualified Master Brewer became Head Brewer in 2009.
During his time at Adnams the company has replaced the Brewhouse and Fermentation room and also installed a distillery. Fergus says he has also managed to clog up the wort cooler several times with orange peel and liquorice root. But he’s not sure which he’s most proud of. The Adnams engineers apparently now get nervous when they see him coming out of the Fermentation room because they are not sure if he’s thrown something into a fermenter which might clog up a pump or sprayball. This fear is not totally without foundation! Whichever Fergus says he likes brewing and he likes beer!Tags: adnams, Fuller's, hitchikers guide to the galaxy, Orval, radiohead
June 22nd, 2012Desert Island Beers
There’s no one quite like this weeks guest on the Desert Island. Meet journalist, beer blogger and habitual Tweeter, Simon H. Johnson a.k.a. The Reluctant Scooper where Simon writes a fantastic and irreverent blog about beer, food and pubs.
Simon is also an award-winning chemist, Oscar-nominated make-up artist and an habitual liar. He has been writing about beer and brewing, ever since being sent his first free samples.
After spending so long at a polytechnic that they turned it into a university, Simon graduated with a Modern Studies degree (don’t ask) and spent most of the 1990?s blundering around like a stunned bullock in an abattoir. Following a brief and spectacularly unhappy career in local journalism, he worked as a face-painting clown and NVQ assessor. Only one of these jobs, he says, was treated with dignity and respect by his customers.
His website, Reluctant Scooper, was launched in 2007 whilst he was feeling particularly bored. Those incoherent ramblings have somehow impressed editors enough for him to finagle his way into print on both sides of the Atlantic in publications such as Beer Advocate and CAMRA’s BEER magazine.
Simon now lives in Scoop Towers in Derby. Refusing to brew at home, he has occasionally persuaded professional brewers to collaborate with him on brewing exciting, cutting-edge contemporary beers; albeit he is only usually trusted with naming the beer, making the tea and digging out the mash tun. Well, not the whole tun, not with his clicky knees. He also works as an analyst for a mid-table Championship football team that show occasional flashes of brilliance (hmmm…) but sometimes run themselves into channels where a lack of midfield short-ball support leads to a breakdown in forward play and the subsequent counter-attack on the break inevitably results in a late equaliser for the opposition, as the ball is curled into the upper right of the net as their goalkeeper lies supine across the muddied six-yard line.
He is married with one barbecue. And he still face-paints at 80th birthday parties, funerals and National Pie Week events on request.Tags: cricket, derby, fonteinen, jaipur, Orval, stella, summer wine
May 1st, 2012Desert Island Beers
This weeks Desert Island Beers is a real coup for us as it features none other than Sir (well he would be if he was a UK citizen) Tomme Arthur, the co-founder and director of brewery operations for Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey.
A professional brewer for more than 15 years, he is widely regarded as one of the leaders of the American Craft brewing renaissance. Tomme lives in San Diego County with his wife and two daughters. A native San Diegan, Tomme returned home to San Diego in 1995 after earning his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Arizona University where he cultivated his passion for brewing.
In 1996, he began his professional brewing career at the now defunct Cervecerias La Cruda (The Hangover Brewery) in downtown San Diego. After La Cruda closed its doors in March 1997, Tomme went to work for White Labs in San Diego where he spent his days selling yeast and developing product as he waited patiently for the right brewing job to become available. In 1997 he was hired by Pizza Port in Solana Beach where he remained Head Brewer until June 2005 when he was named Director of Brewery Operations.
In addition to promoting San Diego as a great beer city, Tomme is known for his bold experimentation and willingness to blur the boundaries between beer, wine and spirits; with his flavor-forward brews having inspired a new generation of brewers and consumers to re-think their notions of what a beer could and should be.
During the 8 or so years that Tomme was Head Brewer at Pizza Port the brewery won 13 Great American Beer Festival Medals, numerous medals at the Chicago Real Ale Festival as well as other regional and national competitions. And after joining Port Brewing in 2006, Tomme kept up his winning ways as in 2007 Port Brewing was named Great American Beer Festival, Small Brewery of the Year, and Tomme Small Brewer of the Year.
To cap it all in 2008 he and Port Brewing were then named World Champion Small Brewer and Brewery at the International World Beer Cup. Since then he’s taken home a raft of further medals and been consistently noted as one of the world’s top brewers.Tags: Cantillon, Orval, sierra nevada, victory
February 28th, 2012Desert Island Beers
This weeks Desert Island Beers features Jeff Rosenmeier, the founder and owner of Lovibonds Brewery of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Jeff caught the brewing bug back in the mid 1990’s after tasting a friends homebrewed stout. His successful career in software engineering gave him the opportunity to move to England. The job entailed traveling all over Europe, giving him a further opportunity to sample many of the great European beer styles during the week and at the weekend Jeff would then be busy cloning them in his garden shed.
Finally, the hobby put a strain on household resources (not enough water pressure, not enough electric phases) and Jeff packed in his successful career to start Lovibonds in his adopted home of Henley-on-Thames. Lovibonds is one of only a handful of craft brewers in the UK that kegs 100% of its production, despite disapproval from the consumer rights group, CAMRA.
Hello Jeff! Which five beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?Tags: lovibonds, Orval, Oxfordshire, sierra nevada
Read the rest of this entry »
November 10th, 2011Beer Reviews
Orval is the sort of beer spoken about with reverence. I like to think the same goes for North Bar.
It should have been me and my friend Tom sat there, dissecting Leeds United’s yo-yoing fortunes, laughing at the Howson Is Now blog and deliberating the creaminess of the Orval cheese whilst sat on the classroom chairs and the well leaned on tables.
But it’s my brother partnering this trip due to Tom’s tight schedule as a relatively new father, North being one place us siblings have a record of sharing together, along with a sense of adventure and an intuition for getting pissed. And brother Fletch is not going listen to me rabbit on about the brettanomyces qualities of the difference between yeast-in and yeast-out, or how the bitterness of this anti-quintessential Belgium beer cuts through the cheese (which it does) …
And so I’m drinking one of my favourite beers with a cheese I’d actually craved (made by the brewers) and I’m chatting about Leeds United’s yo-yoing fortunes, laughing at the Howson Is Now blog, and… generally forgetting about the beer and cheese North’s manager had so kindly put to one side for me because I couldn’t make Orval Day earlier in the month.
That North Bar had enough bottles of aged Orval to reserve some is very kind. That they could even get some of this coveted cheese let alone put some aside for me speaks of their customer service ethos. That I scribbled a hasty one liner on my smartphone as my only tasting note is just plain disrespectful to their efforts.
But here’s the thing. Sat in the dimly lit confines of North, veiled in conviviality and that twilight between sober and drunkenness, the yellow light of North illuminates a certain truth about beer.
So the two-year aged Orval tastes good, and is probably worth waiting to experience. So the cheese is rare and barely seen outside of Belgium. And not to mention the bread – so luxuriously soft and cleansing – which is to die for. So what? Is beer not meaningless if not enjoyed in a place that’s bright with conversation, buoyed with gesticulations, rich in the patchwork diversity of people, and splashed with beers of colours Yates or Lloyds or Scream could never imagine.
If an evening spent extolling the virtues of Ken Bates leadership of Leeds United could be improved in anyway, it’s surely by the creamy monastic cheese paired with the musty, peppery Orval and all its always-changing quirks of character. Does it matter that I thought the end of the bottle shared the same earthiness of the bottom of a well made mojito?
No, because it was a good night out with great beer. We saw the hygge, we tried aged Orval, we put the world to rights, and we liked it.Tags: Beer and Cheese, cheese, football, hygge, leeds, north bar, Orval
Like me, you are probably more familiar with the phrases Potted Beef or Potted Shrimp than Potted Cheese. ‘Potting’ ingredients is a traditional way of stretching ingredients with butter while adding flavours and it can be done with a good cheese in the same way as it can with meat or fish. These days it is a great way of doing something different with your cheeseboard and also linking the beer you’re drinking to the food you’re eating.
350g Yorkshire Blue cheese (Stilton or any other strong, crumbly cheese can be used)Tags: Beer Recipes, beer with food, Food, Orval, Potted Cheese, Yorkshire Blue
75g unsalted butter (at room temperature and cut into cubes)
½ teaspoon ground mace
3 tablespoons Beer Read the rest of this entry »
November 1st, 2009Pubs & bars
My last review of this bar shows that I wasn’t massively taken by my last visit. I had been on a sunny bank holiday weekend and had been disappointed by the lack of summer or pale ales available on draught.
People who know assured me that I should go back and take another look, focussing on the bottled selection rather than what they have available on draught. Firstly I should say that the bar is far larger than I realised on my first visit (we had sat outside last time) which is lucky as I’m told that it can get very busy on evenings through the week.
The range of bottled beers could easily keep a beer hound happy all evening. Naturally my instinct is to compare it to the places that I know and visit often and the ranges of beers available offers easy comparison with North Bar in Leeds. The range of bottles available is probably broadly similar to North although I would again mention that the range is pretty limited in Porterhouse if you actually want a pint. The other main difference between the two is the decor and I have to say that, while I do find the rustic minimalism of North appealing, the strange copper (nautical themed) interior of the Porterhouse was ultimately far more comfortable.
On the day I opted for an Anchor Pale Ale and recommended a bottle of Orval for Jack but there was plenty of range on the beer menu so I’m sure most people wi’ll find something they like here.Tags: Anchor Pale Ale, Covent Garden, London, Orval, Por, Porterhouse