August 21st, 2012Beer and travel
In the heat of the late morning the stone and slate of Edinburgh’s rooftops create an enviable suntrap and the clock ticks slowly towards midday.
It’s August and at last summer has reached British shores. And it’s Friday and we’ve not been at work since Wednesday. We are letting our hair down.
We wouldn’t normally break the 12 o’clock rule but so far the Fringe has destroyed the guidelines by which other festivals have played out.
Booze has flown as freely as the sun pours onto our weary heads. They say as you get older and settle down the get togethers become less frequent and more concentrated. This trip may be a watershed between some hidden lifestage that we don’t want to admit to.
Or perhaps reflection is simply part of a hangover that we must conquer, as we piece together the previous two nights on the Royal Mile and The Mound.
The wonder of the Fringe is in its all encompassing atmosphere. The city is taken over; every nook and crannie becomes one small cog in a vibrant machine of to the brilliant and the bizarre.
World renowned comedians share stages with unknown drama groups, musical magicians, psychotic singers and stand ups just trying to get a decent break.
And everyone is here for a good time. Our heads ache from excessive consumption but our sides ache from conseuctive hours of piss taking and good craic. Not to mention the shows we’ve been to see.
In the beer garden of the Peartree, with friends at the table and lime in my Corona, with the hot sun on my back and still laughing all the way to the afternoon, I take deep breath of the Fringe that I never intend to give back.Tags: comedy, corona, edinburgh, edinburgh festival, edinburgh fringe, summer, sun
May 24th, 2012Beer and travel
Let’s be frank, I’m not brilliant at getting drunk.
It’s not that I’m a bad drunk per se, but since my uni days my tolerance has faded and I’m much better suited to a lazy pub garden or the frantic but well partitioned boozing of a hot festival day.
So, the morning after the night before, eating pizza along the tramlines of Munich, Stag Day 2 of 3, the first beer is an inevitable mistake. The 12 o’clock rule is in force, but at this moment I’m still trying to capture the final moments of last night, which are seemingly lost to a cerebal rewiring courtesy of Jagermeister and pils.
München is a city of myriad greys, criss crossed by tracks, streets and wires, punctuated by the greens of large municipal gardens. The hostels spill out into the streets, huge brick buildings of tiny square windows – each as easily an old warehouse as a former prison – with central courtyards full of slamming lockers and hi-fiving youths.
We’d arrived too late at the Hofbräuhaus, so rather than dance on tables with steins, we found ourselves chatting over Bundesliga in a pub circled around a strong, twisted, plastic tree. The landlord was decidedly Brothers Grimm but jovially threw foaming beer at us until we staggered home.
Back at the hostel Jagers send us to bed, and so, the next morning, with little breakfast and hayfever tablets at the ready, the first beer by the tram line gone, I’m feeling a little light-headed as we reach the Englischer Garten for an afternoon of large lagers and a boiling hot sun.
The whole of the city seems to have congregated in the squares and tree lined routes to the park, stereotypical German efficiency cast aside for an opportunity to feel the sun on skin and drink buckets of beer all day. Surfers on shuffle along Munich’s rapids, ice creams everywhere, the nudist meadow seeing an uplift in footfall.
Twelve English twentysomethings don’t look out of place – not in the Englischer Garten, not in the clubs later that night, nor on a pilgrimage to the Allianz Arena the next day. Munich could be Manchester, Germany could be England, the workers flocking to the public squares on the first sunny day of the year, to drink lager, dress down and play Wembley in the park.
And galvanised under the German sunshine, it’s time to begin the turbulence of stag do laughter and merriment that ensues.Tags: binge drinking, drinking, germany, lager, munich, summer
5am Saint was one of BrewDog’s less controversial PR stunts. The beer simply didn’t have a name, until ‘Adrian’ popped up on their blog and selected this little gem.
I’d love to carry on the heaven/hell theme that led to the colour of the label, but 5 am Saint is neither angel nor devil. In fact it took me a while to think of it as anything special at all. Of course, it is fundamentally better than picking up a tin of Grolsch from the supermarket…
Some beers simply burst out of the bottle. Some need coaxing and barely deserve the glass.
5am Saint is the former, brimming with energy and instant flavour, as our most BrewDog bottles (but not casks!). Fresh fruit smash your nose via some rock n’ roll hops, smacking you tastebuds into submission. The fruits are floral and fruity; the bitterness is sharp, cutting through the modest malt. Nectarines, roses and summer fruit sorbet turn my nose inside out. This is pleasant in the best possible sense of the word.
This is the 5th or 6th botle of 5am Saint I’ve tried, and it’s by far ‘the best’, full of vigour and flavour. If you try hard enough there’s essences of citrus and herbs (go on, try hard, let your imagination go wild!)
Enthusiasm aside, 5 am Saint still isn’t a beer I’d buy all the time. It took a few bottles and the perfect temperature to achieve the smorgasbord of flavour we knew it was hiding, and even then whilst it’s interesting it’s not satisfying or balanced in the way my favourite beers are.
5am’s perfect place is along side the barbecue beers reserved for chilling low and coolling down on when Britain managed to snatch a day or two of really hot sunshine each year. The colour of the label is probably apt as it’s the perfect partner for the day when you worship the little white ball in the sky, only to return to work on Monday with bright red marks around the fringes of your clothing and a hangover because you stayed up until summer sunrise.
Tags: 5am Saint, BBQ, BrewDog, summer
Beer: 5am Saint
Style: Amber Ale
I feel harsh saying this looks like a pale piss yellow coloured beer, but hey, I’m saying what I’m seeing. M&S Essex Ale looks watery when poured into a glass and not quite the post-work refreshment I had in mind.
So raising the not-so-enticing liquid to my face I’m caught off guard by a gust of floral loveliness and the punchy tropical fruit aroma. Perhaps there’s grapefruit, perhaps just a hint of grass. Soft fleshy fruits dominate the first sip before a gust of bitterness overwhelms – it’s sweet but not overly, a little piece of an exotic climate that Essex can only dream of. This beer is vibrant and invigorating and just what the doctor ordered. This is Kernel Pale Ale territory yet I picked it up from the supermarket (albeit a posh supermarket, but supermarket nonetheless).
This is very good news indeed.
Unfortunately this bottle doesn’t maintain these qualities in the same way that something like Kernel Centennial does (a beer I’d cut a few fingers off to have a lifetime supply of) but even so, Essex Summer Ale knocks the socks off it’s peers.
If it has one flaw it’s that it suffers slightly from smells-better-than-it-tastes syndrome, that most frustrating of beer qualities, the equivalent of getting Kelly Brook naked in your bed whilst you are forced to spend the night wrapped tightly in industrial cling film right next to her.
Crouch Vale have done M&S proud with Essex Summer Ale and no doubt it’ll fly off the shelves. In fact, I’m going back tomorrow and clearing the shelves, summer’s nearly out and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to try this again (it may well be the last summer beer of 2010).
Beer: Essex Pale AleTags: essex, grapefruit, grass, kernel, m&s, summer
Brewery: M&S/Crouch Vale
Style: Pale Ale
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
October 9th, 2009Golden Ales
On arrival at Sainsbury’s to peruse the finalists in their 2009 beer competition, Birds & Bees immediately caught my attention. The label is modern and playful and stood out from the crowd.
I loved the colour and the illustration and it fell into my basket (placed very carefully I should say) without further thought.
Originally I was going to save this beer but it on an indecisive evening with the light not fading until late into the night, it was this that grabbed my attention again and I plucked it from the shelf.
Not 100% sure what to expect I took care opening it and poured out the golden liquid. It had a light hoppy aroma, and light fruity taste. Turns out it’s a light golden ale! Swill this around and the colour, aroma and the taste combine to make a really appealing golden beer.
The gentle fruit and floral aroma (looking at the label that must be the elderflower and the Cascade hops) is really refreshing. Honey and lemon blossom on your tastebuds and there is a malt finish that adds an unexpected bitter tang to the beer, which is just enough to make you want another sip and makes this an enticing session beer.
Trying this it was actually one of the first summer ales I’ve had and I wish I’d been able to get my hands on some in May or June as this might just have been my proverbial soundtrack to the summer (that typical over in a flash summer we usually have!)
I’ve only tried the bottle but I can only imagine the cask version of this is the perfect pint on a sunny afternoon.Tags: bees, birds, citrus, elderflower, golden, honey, summer, williams brothers
July 31st, 2009Honey Beers
Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew Golden Beer – 5.0% Vol
Me and Jack looked at each other with a mutual look surprise as we took our first sips of this beer. Not at all what we were expecting. It was not the sweet sensation I was expecting and someone else here has informed me that the draft version is far sweeter.
I must admit that I went to the trouble of pouring this into a glass to see if it appeared more golden that it tasted and I have to say that it did. In fairness this Ale may be golden for regular drinkers of strong ales and porter but for my young pale loving taste buds this juxtaposition of a stronger ale with the dark, syrupy, (not sure if that’s a word) raw sweetness doesn’t really float my boat.
I must say the bottle, particularly the bottle tops, are awesome…
Tags: 4-5% ABV, bittersweet, Fuller's, honey, summer
June 7th, 2009Beer Reviews
This is an ale that is increasingly common on UK supermarket shelves and one that you should not overlook this summer, whether it rains or shines. Brakspear’s Oxford Gold pours a golden amber and starts with the scent of honey. It tastes citrusy and gently sweet. A great accompaniment to an alfresco evening after a long day in the office.
Another fine ale from Oxfordshire!Tags: brakspear, citrus, honey, organic, Oxfordshire, summer
May 17th, 2009Pale Ales
Acorn Brewery Summer Pale
I’ll be honest, despite being mid-May, there is very little summertime feel in the Leeds air. This may have been the overarching appeal of ‘summer pale’ as it shone amongst the pumps at the excellent Victoria Commercial Hotel.
And the colour of the ale certainly shines; a nice clear blonde is probably one of the palest of beers I’ve ever seen, and would certainly appeal as a summer evening beverage.
A fairly sweet aroma complements the name again, and once in the mouth, a light carbonisation tickles the tongue.
The body of the beer remains light throughout, although the aftertaste is something of a bitter surprise, leaving the back of the throat feeling warm and content, much like the evening sun on an august evening.
Breweries often pride themselves on finding a fitting name to give an expectation of their ales. The folk at Barnsley’s excellent Acorn Brewery have done it again, with this terrific seasonal brew that knows it’s place on the calendar and achieves it’s purpose well.
May 5th, 2009Multigrain Beers
Batemans Combined Harvest Multigrain Beer
The label of this beer claims that ‘subtle, smooth bitterness’ makes it ‘a beer with equal appeal to male and female drinkers and also younger drinkers’. I would have to say that I agree with them.
This beer is light and golden as you would expect from a harvest ale but has floral, fruity, almost citrus, flavours and I cannot imagine too many better experiences than sitting out on a warm summer night with good friends and a few bottles of this.
Many of the younger readers of this blog will be used to drinking lagers such as Corona or Sol with a slice of lime as a refreshing drink, this ale is a genuine alternative if you want traditional British refreshment through what I hope will be a scorching summer in 2009.
Brewed with: Malted Oats, Rye, Wheat & Barley
Best Speciality Beer ~ Gold Medal Winner at The International Beer & Cider Awards 2002
Best Harvest Pale Ale ~ Style Trophy
Beers of the World Magazine – WBA (World’s Best Beers) Competition 2007
Tags: 4-5% ABV, Bateman's, Lincolnshire, multigrain, summer