Friday, 29 October 2010

FABPOW! Orval and Orval Cheese

I have this theory; it’s simple and it’s yet to be proved wrong: Orval is the perfect food beer. It’s got enough body to support even the richest foods, yet it’s still remarkably light; it’s got enough alcohol to power through strong flavours without demolishing them; it has a savoury depth to it which aligns it towards the dinner table; it has a bite of hops at the end which is peppery and palate cleansing without leaving an over-bitter taste; and it has that little hint of sourness, a suggestion of lemon, which adds a great lift to any combo. Those beer-superpowers mean that Orval can work with almost anything.

I’ve FABPOW’d it before with a paella, which is one of my summer favourites, but with the Orval cheese it was something altogether more delicious.

Weakened by after-effects of the day before but slowly being restored to full vitality by the power-up qualities of a few more beers, we arrive at North Bar, Leeds, on Orval Day (everyday should be Orval Day). We order a bottle each and some bread and cheese. My aged Orval was bottled on my 25th birthday so I got all giddy with the excitement of seeing my birthday written down on something I love (why does this happen? Even seeing my birthday as the best before date on a pack of biscuits is enough to make me buy them, even if I don’t want them). We try a side-by-side with the young and old, the young being bottled in August, and the difference is astonishing; I’d never had a bottle as young as the comparator but it was completely different, lacking the peppery bite and missing that unique spritz of lemony brett – I’ll stick to mine being about a year old. Then the cheese arrived next to a huge hunk of very fresh bread, the sort that rustles and crunches as you break it, depositing its crust over your lap. The cheese is creamy and mild but packs an enormous depth of flavour. A mouthful of that followed by one of the beer and it was like the two were hugging on the tongue at the joy of being reunited; something about the two together just worked unequivocally, both with their depth of flavour, the bite in the beer tempered by the richness of the cheese, the boost of the dry hop and the lift of the wild yeast lifting the flavour off the tongue and getting it ready for another greedy mouthful.

I might have been hungover, I might have still been drunk, I might have been over-excited because of the birthday bottling, I might have just been really hungry, I might have been swayed by the sight of everyone in the bar drinking from the bowling pin-shaped bottles, but that was a seriously good lunch. If you can find Orval cheese then buy it and eat it with a bottle of Orval – delicious!

Beer and cheese is regularly talked about with so many great pairings, but this was a new one to me – anyone had any new and brilliant (or terrible – give us a warning so we don’t make the same mistake!) cheese and beer moments?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Twissup: Manchester and Huddersfield

My memory of Saturday (the third Twissup - a meeting of beer bloggers and tweeters - following Sheffield and Burton) is patchy at best. I clearly remember the sleepy beginning in Manchester Piccadilly Station and the spicy end in the curry house but the bits in between are like an assorted mega-mix of hops, colour and laughter. That probably means it was a good day out…

First up was Marble brewery where we had a tour around the small unit (it’s amazing what these brewers can make in their varies spaces – the Marble lot is nothing more than an open room with silver kit at the back and a store room in the middle) and a glass of Dobber so fresh I thought it might start sprouting hop shots. From here we walked up the hill from the brewery to the Marble Arch, a wonderfully handsome corner pub. It’s smaller than I expected, charming, interestingly tiled, with chairs and tables neatly tucked in and a bar fully stocked with casks and good bottles. In here we drank lots of Marble beer, looked at our twadges, Avery got his del Borgo out and Cooking Lager unmasked himself and then ordered a stout (we were hoping he’d come in a real ale drinking outfit of sandals, socks and fake beard but no, he clearly couldn’t be bothered to dress up like the rest of us). For many of us it was the first visit to Marble and the Marble Arch and it was great to finally get there and see where the beer is made and served. The trouble is that it’s impossible not to drink lots of Marble beer when it’s on the bar in front of us, making for a dangerous start to the day. I could’ve stayed for hours, ordered food, working my way along the casks, but we had places to go…

The Angel was next. An unimposing back-street kind of place with a good beer line-up culminating like a sentence with an exclamation mark by having Ola Dubh 30 on the farthest right cask. That was one of the best beers I’ve had on cask this year – mouth-filling, rich, chocolatey and spiked with the familiar saline edge of Highland Park whisky – and a real surprise to find it. From the Angel we went to Bar Fringe, a cool place which had a beer called Twitter or Busted on cask (they couldn’t have chosen a better beer – and it was tasty too). It’s around here that the memory disintegrates into a series of disconnected jump cuts.

Next we’re outside, way behind the others, lost in the wilds of Manchester. Then we’re at the station ordering Burger King. Then we’re on a train and Yan is opening random bottles from a magical bag of beers which seems to be refilling itself. Then we pass Stalybridge where the group who were ahead of us were drinking – some get on the train; some don’t. We drink another bottle. We drink in the Kings Head with the most sparkled beers I’ve tasted – I needed Tandleman there to start my pint off for me and battle through the foam – but all of it in great condition and a perfect station stop. Then there’s an underpass somewhere (not sure why I remember this bit). Then there’s The Grove, one of the best pubs I’ve been to for beer selection. Some spicy beef jerky came, which tastes like hot stale carpet, and prompted Fletch to ask for half a pint of milk to fight the fire in his mouth (the reply is unprintable but along the lines of: you flipping tart, grow some). There were a few glasses of Jever, brisk and hoppy; a Gadds’ Green Hop bursting with flavour; a Moravka unfiltered, all buttery and smooth; lots of others which I’ve completely forgotten; and some bottles at the bar opened by Kelly. Some people eat earlier, ‘needing to sober up a bit’, then some eat later – it was one of the best curries I’ve tasted, laid out on shallow trays, served with roti bread and mango lassi (no beer!). As we leave we check the train times and realise that the planned final pint has to be abandoned as the last train home is in 15 minutes. We run to the station. The next thing I remember is a horrible hill in some Leeds suburb and then a slice of Norwegian caramel cheese which was horrific. I sleep like a baby.

It was a crazy day that passed in a blur (quite literally) with lots of good beers, lots of good fun and a great chance to catch up with lots of different people. Two towns was ambitious but we managed it – no one said Twissups would be easy. The Marble Arch and The Grove were the headline acts of the trip and they didn’t let us down – they are two of the best pubs I’ve drunk in this year and worthy alone of a trip to Manchester or Huddersfield.

My mind is already planning the next one… I’m thinking we choose a southern town and a northern one and battle it out in a vote. I’d love to do Brighton with a visit to Dark Star and Harvey’s (we’ll hire a bus!) and then some pubs in town, finishing at The Evening Star, so that’s the southern option. As for the north… how about Derby? We’ll sort out the options and speak to some breweries and then throw it to a vote. Just pencil in the date now: Saturday 5th February.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Why Cask Ale Rocks

Cask ale is important to each of us in very different ways. In this collaborative blogging effort me, Mark (homebrewer), Shea (young female drinker), Glyn (bar manager) and Kelly (brewer) say why it's important to us.

For me it’s the moment when I walk into a good pub and I see a line-up of pump clips; there’s a sense of the unknown, an excitement to see what’s on. Unlike the ubiquitous keg font, these hand pumps represent something different, something hand crafted in small-scale quantity, something which needs to be treated just right so that it’s in perfect condition for drinking. Standing in front of the tall dark hand pulls I point and say a pint of that please. The barman grabs a glass and with four expert drags the pint is full, a gleaming pale gold with a thick white crown to top it off. Raising it to my lips I smell the hops and a background of malt, but it’s the first mouthful which wins it; cool on the tongue, a very gentle carbonation, so gentle you don’t notice it but enough that if it wasn’t there you’d know; it’s got sweetness, fruitiness and then a dry finish which leaves you craving another gulp.

From the moment I had my first pint of well-kept cask ale I knew that things had changed forever and never would a pint of mass-produced lager taste the same again. I remember where it was, what it was and who I was with. It was different – cool, not cold. It was lightly carbonated and not fizzy. It was easy to drink and interesting with each mouthful. It was brewed just a few miles away. It was dark and delicious. It had flavour and there was an aftertaste that was new to me (I later realised that that was the hops). I learnt the breweries I liked and could trust, I learnt what my favourite styles were, what my favourite ingredients were. Over time it all changed. My tastes went from dark to light, from sweet to bitter. I got interested in beers from further away than Britain, I tried the weird and the wonderful, strong or bitter or ones aged in old whisky barrels. I started thinking about what foods I’d like to eat with the beer in my hand. The richness of this dinner would work well with something light and hoppy; the spice in this needs the firefighting cool of a good lager; the cherry in this beer would be amazing with dark chocolate; this pint of bitter needs a pie on the side.

And then one day I realised that the romance had turned into something greater. I wanted to try different beers and had butterflies when I went somewhere that sold things I’d never seen before. It’s something I can still feel, an excitement, a heart-pounding thrill. I went different places and tried different things, I discovered the wild beers of Belgium, the extreme beers of America and the smooth and delicious lagers of the Czech Republic, the best session beers of Britain – the best beers which I can drink all the time. I drank it all because it was all so interesting and different and exciting. And I was writing about it too. I wanted to be a writer and I chose what I was most interested in: food and beer. I wanted to write about the sensations of the senses; to put words to what I was experiencing.

Cask ale is British and it’s brilliant. I might like all beers but I keep coming back to British cask ale as it keeps getting better and more exciting - some of the best beers in the world are brewed here. Whether it’s a pint of hand-pulled session bitter, a well-crafted British lager on keg or a bottle of something special dreamed up in the imagination of a creative brewer, beer is exciting and different, it’s got provenance and craft, it’s got flavour and quality and there’s something out there for everyone. Cask ale rocks and it’s turning the heads and hearts of young and old - its reputation is rapidly changing and I’m proud to be supporting it from the front line. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Announcing: Open It!

Here comes the next community blog project and this one is about collaboration, sharing and having an excuse to open something special.

Does any of the following sound familiar… Lots of unopened bottles at home, special bottles, rare bottles, expensive bottles or just bottles that aren’t ready to be opened. Most of them are waiting for ‘special occasions’ but these occasions don’t come around or aren’t special enough. And the bottles build up, they get added to, a hierarchy develops, things get pushed up or down. But all you really want to do is drink these beers and you know you should just get it open, drink it and enjoy it. Instead they wait, gathering dust, not getting any better, just because we are waiting for the right moment...

So here’s the idea: let’s create a special occasion. Let’s call this special occasion Open It! and let’s drink the good beers. Let’s find a bottle from the depth of the cellar and open it, drink it and then tell others about it (in blogs, blog comments or twitter or facebook).

Open it alone or open it with others; hold an Open It! party or take it to the pub to see what people think. Most importantly, get that bottle open and drink the thing and then tell everyone about it.

This can be like The Session or Beer Swap (and we can do it once or twice a year) and it’s not limited to beer either. If you’re a wine drinker or whisky, whatever, just get the bottle open. Choose the bottle you most want to drink from the cellar and make the occasion a special one – light some candles, choose the right music, wear something nice, you get the picture.

Open It! over the first weekend in December – Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th – and then blog about it in the week after. Use the #openit hashtag on twitter while you are drinking it and like the facebook group. It’s just about opening something special and enjoying it.

Who’s in?

And many thanks again to Rich from myBrewerytap for the logo! 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Beer Style: Does it Matter?

Does beer style matter? Does it mean anything? That was the essence of the British Guild of Beer Writers’ annual seminar this week. Three stood up and talked, giving their different views, then the floor added to it, and then, as we rose from the theatre-like seating, we continued our talk in small groups and one thing was clear: we all have different viewpoints.
Understanding beer style, for me, is split into two audiences: the informed few and the couldn’t-care-less many. The informed few want to understand style from a composition point of view, they have a vested interest in whether that beer is a porter or a stout, whether it’s a pale ale or a golden ale, of where it’s brewed, how and with what ingredients. These are the brewers, the marketers, the writers, the industry insiders, competition judges and those with a higher interest in beer. These are the people who want to know the ins and outs in order to dissect it and understand it. For this group it’s important to understand differences because they have a more challenging job: to explain these beers to everyone else.

To ‘everyone else’, there is little desire to pull apart a style guideline before drinking. They want to know one thing: how does it taste? It’s then a communications thing: how can the informed few tell the drinkers what it tastes like in the simplest, most effective way. It comes to presentation and included in this is a pump clip, the bottle label and the person selling it. If someone usually drinks Guinness then perhaps they’d like this porter (with a description of dark and roasty); if they usually drink Landlord then maybe they’d like this beer or that one (maybe with one described as a fruity and fragrant best bitter).

Being able to communicate style is key to being able to encourage people to drink good beer. It doesn’t matter that it’s an IPA, what matters is that it’s pale, 5% and really fruity with a dry finish. Would you like a sample before you order...? But the communicators face a different challenge.

To the people who do find beer style interesting it’s a real minefield. One thinks styles are moving targets, one says it’s evolution, one says style doesn’t matter, one says styles need to be rigid and others just don’t know. I think style is very important. Give me a beer called ‘Square’ and I have no idea what it is. Sure, I can drink it and say whether I like it or not - which is ultimately the most important decision - but something within me niggles to know, at the very least, what the brewer was aiming for (and what they want to tell others it is) as if knowing the style privileges me with extra information. It’s human nature to want to attach labels to things in order to understand them better.

Yet knowing style only helps to label something and a mild is a pallet of possibilities, likewise lager or IPA (order an IPA in a pub in England and then order one in a bar in America and you’ll probably get something very different; go back in time 50 years and it’s something else). What’s a best bitter taste like now? What does it look like? What did it look like 10 years ago and what will it be in 10 years time? It’s like trying to match a fixed point on a moving target, like pin the tail on the donkey, only harder. Maybe having 29 styles of lager is necessary to break it down further, but maybe this just makes it more confusing.

I’m interested in style because I’m interested in beer but it’s an open box of possibilities and one which is as fluid as the topic in hand. Most people don’t care about style, they just want to know what it tastes like. For those who do care then they have the challenge of trying to understand guidelines which are forever changing. But that keeps beer fresh. If guidelines were rigid and inflexible then all beer would taste the same as the others in its class and that’s not a good thing.

From Mantis Design
So how do you label style? Michael Jackson did a fine job of describing and distinguishing them. CAMRA keep it simple, only breaking things down into a number of categories, but I think it’s too reductive and needs expanding slightly. Alex at ALL Beer breaks it into the organism of fermentation – ale, lager and lambic – before breaking it down within those areas. The BJCP has 23 categories broken down into 79 different styles. Then there’s the Brewers Association style guideline which is enormous (over 130) and essentially ridiculous, exemplified by the following ‘style’: “Out of Category – Traditionally Brewed Beer... They may be light or dark, strong or weak, hoppy or not hoppy.” This document has ripped apart beer style and listed it scientifically and in doing so it has stripped an essential creativity from the process and placed restrictions on what style should be (and the worst thing? When beers are judged using this and they don’t exactly fit what the brewer has classified it as... they are removed from the judging table regardless of whether they are good or not!).

What is beer style? For me it’s a label the brewer puts on something they have made; it’s what they want the beer to be enjoyed as. If they call it an IPA but it’s closer to a golden ale then so what? It’s their beer and who are we to complain. It’s nice to have an understanding of style but if it goes too far then it can strip the soul from a good beer. And probably the stupidest thing is saying that they need to be categorised in order to be judged in competitions... Whatever. Yes, style is important, and yes it’s important to pass on information about it, but it needs to be done simply or it just confuses everyone. Leave it to the brewer to tell us what they want their beer to be seen as, then we can drink it and enjoy it (or not) for what it is and tell others how it tastes.

Style: what do you think? Does it matter? Do you care whether something is labelled as a best bitter but tastes more like a mild, is it important that your pale ale is ‘to style’? And how can we communicate what different styles are like in the easiest way?

The Many Varieties of Beer from here. Style spectrum
from here. Periodic table of beer from here

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Meantime Kellerbier

It’s unfiltered and unpasteurised, brewed and sold on site and made with local ingredients. That’s a pretty good start. With an aroma like sweet dough, strawberries and vanilla, there’s also a little butter in the best of ways, like a delicate version of butterscotch. The body is silky, glide-over-your-tongue rather than jump-up-and-down on it, before a dry, peppery finish with that ever-so-important hop quench that makes you go back for more. It’s very good. It’s just the sort of beer I’ve been craving since drinking in the Czech Republic. But it’s not a Czech or German recreation using Moravian malt and Saaz hops, this is London Lager, a new appellation Alastair Hook is chasing (the kellerbier is the unfiltered and unpasteurised version of London Lager – a new brew Meantime are producing  and it has the brewing yeast left in which is classic for the style – the ultimate kellerbier, or cellar beer, I’ve had is Pilsner Urquell). London Lager is made from East Anglian malt and Kentish hops and it’s brewed beside the Thames. The kellerbier version is only available in the handsome, copper centre of the Old Brewery, right beside the vessels it’s made in (why would you want to drink it anywhere else?). This is how beer tastes at its natural best; unfiltered, unpasteurised, unbelievably good.

Strangely, though, and in the interest of fairness, one tap serving the beer was excellent but the other was lacking a bit of life and lay flat in the glass (it barely came with a head on it when poured, which was a shame – this sort of beer needs a massively oversized glass and a four-finger head). If it doesn't have a thick, frothing head then watch out!

The image was from Travels with Beer. If you like beer and photos then that’s the place for you.

Friday, 15 October 2010

FABPOW! Kernel Export Stout and a Hummingbird Cupcake

Earlier in the day Lauren sent me a picture of herself eating just about the biggest piece of cake I’d ever seen, along with an excited message saying that she’d found the Hummingbird bakery. Of course, I quickly tapped my reply and told her to buy me something. When she got home, just as I was about to open a bottle of Kernel Export Stout, she pulled a cupcake from her bag and set it down excitedly on the table. “Oh-my-god-Mark-the-cakes-were-amaaaaaaazing!!!”

I opened the beer first. Based on a recipe from 1890, it’s 7.8%, dark and topped with the sort of foam you need a spoon to enjoy; it’s dark chocolate, coffee and cocoa with a little wisp of smoke; a full body, more dark chocolate, some distant fruity berries and dried fruit, an earthy-leathery depth and just a hint of smoke and salt. Delicious, interesting and different with each sip, it’s another great beer from Kernel (there's currently some available from Beermerchants who also have a jaw-dropping number of Mikkeller bottles).

The cake was top heavy with the kind of vanilla butter icing to make your knees go weak while the sponge was impossibly light and airy. Together the intense, dark flavours in the beer matched the icing with neither overpowering the other, while the fullness of the body made it work, lifting the sweet sponge and icing and giving it a chocolatey kick on the way down.

An impromptu FABPOW and this one taking two London craft products sold at the opposite edges of the city and putting them together in harmony. And it gives me an idea... what about a London Market Brewery which takes inspirations from what’s on the stalls, independent shops or uses leftover market ingredients. Maybe a collaboration with different stalls: so a cupcake beer or beer cupcakes with Hummingbird; a chocolate beer with a chocolate stall; fruit and veg beers; a beer to go with particular foods and jointly branded...

Beer and cake can be hard to get right but when you nail it it's brilliant. Carrot cake and US IPA is a winner, so is kriek and a gooey brownie and then a cupcake and a rich, deeply delicious stout. Any other beer and cake recommendations?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Lovibonds Dark Reserve No.2

The text arrived along the lines of: 'Are you going to be in tonight? If so, I’ve got a beer for you.' Two hours later Pete turned up with an unlabelled bottle and handed it over as if giving you a photo of his new born child. He will later admit that he thinks this is the best beer he’s brewed so far.

Aged in a Jack Daniel's barrel, Lovibonds Dark Reserve No.2 is an 8% (ish) dark ale. The aroma gets you first, a heady mixes of chocolate, oak, vanilla, cola and coconut and this transfers through to the flavour with a surprising roast bitterness adding a big backbone to handle to barrel. There’s a flicker of sweetness with some caramel, then it’s bourbon, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, spice, then it’s burnt-bitter and roasty with some way-away floral hops adding a peppery kick. And it’s all done with poise and delicacy so that it doesn’t taste like licking the inside of a JD cask, instead it adds character and complexity. It’s one of the best barrel-aged beers I’ve had in a long time and a stellar example of when a barrel can make things even better than they already are. My only thoughts are that a touch more body would propel it forward and give it a little extra to wrap around your tongue, making it more luxurious which a beer like this should be.

Unfortunately Pete won’t hand deliver to everyone because he’s too busy brewing or something, but it’ll be on sale soon, either from the tasting room in Henley or online. It’s a good one and Lovibonds are doing some interesting things at the moment, including 69 IPA, a US IPA, and Sour Grapes, a British lambic. Plus it's all keg and bottles.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Two Today and a Redesign!

Over 200 posts fatter and 100,000 words longer, the blog is two years old today (a birthday it shares with Hardknott Dave)!

To celebrate and to update, you might notice the change of design... I almost went really drastic and made it (I even got the logo made up by Rich at myBrewerytap) but I bottled it at the last minute and went with the safe, constant option. At least I’ve got a pint glass in the logo now so it’s easy to see that it’s actually a beer blog. The blog will soon be available at (UPDATE: It's NOW available at the .com address). If you have links to it then it’d be great if you can update them once it flicks over (it should automatically direct anyway, I hope). There’s also now a facebook group for the blog (it was probably about time I added one). And an About page.

The last year has been a good one with a few notable highlights including becoming an uncle twice; winning the New Media award from the Guild of Beer Writers; getting engaged; Sheffield Twissup; San Francisco; Prague and Pilsen; earning money with my first paid commission; making new friends and drinking some fantastic beer. I’ve got a bottle of Racer 5 in the fridge which seems like a good beer to open to toast the two years.

Thanks for reading – if no one read it and commented then I’d have so much more spare time on my hands, I’d get two hours extra sleep every night, I’d have a healthier bank balance and body and I’d have room in my wardrobe for actual clothes and not just bottles... But whatever, beer blogging is cool and I’ve had some unforgettable experiences this year thanks to the blog. And despite waking her up at 5am most days, or me going out a few times a week, often waking her up when I get in (drunk), or telling her that I’m going to another country and leaving her for a few more days, Lauren still says that I'm her favourite beer blogger, which is all that really matters.

Many thanks to Richard from myBrewerytap who did the graphic design for the new logo. If anyone needs any design work doing then you can email him on If you need beer you can also use that email address as he’s got lots of it (including the new Marble bottles – Chocolate Dubbel and Vuur and Vlam). And thanks to Andy from Beer Reviews for sorting out all the complicated internet stuff (if it doesn’t work then he’s to blame, although I need to be nice as he now knows my password...).

Two great years in. Here’s to the next one!

And what do you think of the new design?! I nearly photoshopped it myself (after my skills were shown in this post) but instead sent the following picture to Rich and let him do it properly...

Monday, 11 October 2010

FABPOW! Venison Burgers with Kocour Višňový Ležák

The 1-litre plastic bottle of Kocour Višňový Ležák had been in the fridge since I returned from Prague over a month ago. I picked it up from the bottle shop attached to Zly Casy, one of the coolest beer bars in town, because I couldn’t resist it: a litre plastic bottle, bold branding and sour cherries. It hadn’t been drunk yet because I couldn’t decide when to open it, or if I wanted to share it, or what to eat with it. After a long week at work I needed a big glass of beer, opening the fridge I saw the giant bottle and the yellow label shone like a beam of sunlight on a grey October Friday.

I opened the bottle before I started to cook dinner. In order to get to the point of cooking I’d walked around Waitrose for half an hour with an empty basket intermittently picking things up and putting them back again, eventually settling on venison burgers, burger rolls and mustard, plus some bacon because there was going to be leftover rolls and it was more sensible to spend £3 on bacon than throw away 40p worth of rolls, naturally.

The beer is 4.7% and has sour cherry essence added. It pours a deep amber, edging towards conker red. The aroma is immediately cherries, like candy but not so sweet, a little floral like blossom. It’s smooth and crisp, the dark malts give toast and a little chocolate, which develops throughout; the cherry is fruity but not sharp, fragrant and floral but never over the top; cocoa comes through and mixes with the cherry in a great way, like a pre-mixed version of sweet kriek and dark chocolate, only in a way that’s subtle enough to make you work for it and jump for olfactory joy when you get it.

The burgers were simple: meat, slightly-toasted rolls, onions caramelised with chilli, ketchup (to one I also added gherkins, tomato and burger mustard but it was too much – the simple one worked best). With the beer it was perfection. Venison is often paired with cherries or chocolate so having a beer which gave both was fantastic, adding a touch of sweetness to the meat, while also being robust enough with the darker malts to handle the charred edges of the burger, with the sweet and spicy onions pulling it together like a group hug and the fragrant hops acting like a refresh button after each mouthful.

This was an impromptu food and beer match discovered through indecision and a little serendipity. Beer and burgers are universally great, no matter what the burger or the beer, but sometimes they can power beyond great and they can become FABPOWs

Saturday, 9 October 2010

My Pub Jukebox

Pete, Liz and Glyn have done it, now I’m doing it: here’s my ultimate pub jukebox.

The Killers – Mr Brightside
I flat out bloody love this song.

The Movielife – 10 Seconds Too Late
My favourite song (along with all the others - Once in a Row, Another Friend, et al) from my favourite album.

Blink 182 – All the Small Things
College punk-pop and dick jokes made me who I am today.

9 Days – Absolutely (story of a girl)
An absolutely great song which everyone should listen to.

Lostprophets – Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja

Muse – Muscle Museum
The first concert I saw was Muse and the base nearly killed me. I remember that I wore a vest to it. A vest!

All Time Low – Jasey Rae
I listen to All Time Low more than anyone else so they need to be on there; Jasey Rae is my favourite song of theirs. I want to write a story with Jasey Rae as the main character.

Arctic Monkeys – The View from the Afternoon
Because it rocks harder than a 15-year-old watching babestation, because it was the song I’d listen to before a night out at university and because it’s (my) generation-defining musical storytelling.

Dashboard Confessional – Hands Down
The MTV Unplugged album is amazingly good (I could’ve chosen any song from that to go on the jukebox).

Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life
What a great little song.

The Starting Line – Best of Me
Because there isn’t enough pop punk in there yet and I love this album, proper love-hurts pop-punk.

The only trouble with this list – apart from it making me look like an emo-wannabee 15 year old still – is that if any of these songs were playing in the pub then I’d be too excited to even drink. I also don't think many other people would want to drink there, not people of a legal drinking age, anyway, it would therefore make for a terrible pub jukebox, but I'd be happy.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Mum, buy The Times, I'm in it today!

I had a nice surprise yesterday when I found out that this blog had been featured in The Times' Best of the Blogs section of the food and drink supplement. How very cool and it's a nice write up too! Here it is for anyone who didn't see it.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Wine Punks

I shop for wine by the label because name, place and variety mean very little to me in the same way that someone who doesn’t know beer couldn’t tell you the differences between a Belgian dubbel, a US IPA or an Italian pilsner (though they are moving targets which get faster every day so many beer people couldn't get them right!). When a new wine shop announced it was opening almost opposite my flat I got all excited at the prospect of having a good selection of wines, beers (for it said beers would be on sale too), spirits and cigars. When it opened the beer selection disappointed; there was nothing I couldn’t get in the supermarket and there was nothing I’d buy (except Desperados!). But the wine selection, however, even with my limited knowledge, was pretty impressive.

Passing from bottle to bottle was like trying to watch a film in Japanese: I roughly knew what was happening but I had no idea of the intricate details. That was until I saw Battle Island which, keeping the Japanese film allusion alive, is the equivalent of someone standing up, pulling out a gun and shooting everyone while doing back flips (in other words, it looked impressive even if I didn’t know exactly what it was doing). I picked up the boldly labelled bottle and turned it around as if to feign knowledge or to find it, instead I saw a label which reads: ‘This is not an explanation. To join the storyline find’ with a cool new-skool Olde English calligraphy logo. I knew I had to have it because I may just have found the BrewDog of Wine (unfortunately the website is still being built, which isn’t cool, but I like the idea that you need to go online to find out more - all they need now is their twitter handle printed on the cork).

It’s a 14.5% Australian Shiraz-Cabernet made by Some Young Punks for the Furious Knives of Wine (that alone sounds pretty awesome, whatever it is, and Some Young Punks have some great labels) which cost £8.99. It pours a deep, inky red and is a glassful of dark, red fruits. One luscious mouthful and it covers the tongue but remains wonderfully light for its amplified abv. It throws off masses of plumy fruit and blackberries, a little chocolate, some spice, a tannic dryness like cranberries and even a botanical bitterness – I liked it a lot.

As I don’t know much about wine I don’t know if this kind of edgy branding is unusual or not and I don’t know how the industry see them, but I’d like to know. I’d also like to try more of their wine on this display. But beyond any of that I’d like the Beer Punks of Scotland to collaborate with the Wine Punks of Australia because that could be very interesting...

I’m guessing most people drink wine at least some of the time but how do you choose them? Do you know certain varieties from certain places which you stick to? Or is it a hit-and-hope roulette based on choosing one with a good label?