Monday, 31 January 2011

BrewDog Aberdeen

Aberdeen is not as crap as I expected it to be. It's got a raw beauty to it, like a dirty Bath, which sees the blocky grey building take on a golden glow if the sun shines. A modern shopping centre newly opened, lots of shops for the missus, tall and interesting buildings and a busy middle make it a city with many attractions. Of course, I only went for one thing: the BrewDog bar.

Around every dark corner is that Scottish beacon: a red T hanging outside each pub. And there are a lot of pubs, many of them looking exactly the same; flat-fronted, dark-windowed (presumably so you can’t see in or out), grim. Refreshingly, when you turn the corner onto Gallowgate you see the blue and white shield of BrewDog and nothing else, a bright and modern counterpoint to the grey all around. Smart and cool outside, just two shields note its place with the windows misted just suggest at the bodies inside.

Through the door and it's smaller than I pictured, but perfectly formed. Sofas to the left and right, tables and stools up the right hand side and high chairs in the middle, industrial bare-brick walls with the bar taking up the whole back space. The blackboard tells you what's on and it's poured from matt black fonts. One board is for the BrewDog range, the other is for the imports. The bottles fill the fridges like flashing lights attracting your eyes to the prizes inside.

I start with Punk because it's hard not to. They have the new one at 5.6% as well as the original which is sold as Punk '10. The new one really is very good. 5am Saint is the big seller or at least it was until the new Punk arrived. Now the staff, who are really well informed and do a great job under the superior supervision of Bruce the bar manager, don’t fear the hard sell on the Punk, worried that someone’s first sip of BrewDog would leave them running back to the Tennants. Whereas before they might have reserved the flagship beer until someone has tried 77 and 5am, now they can go straight for the Punk (which isn’t to suggest it’s now a muted beer; far from it – it’s now a better rounded beer with so much hop flavour, bitterness and aroma. I tried Punk ’10 side-by-side and it’s still a great beer, I just prefer the quaffable qualities of the new).

All the other beers were also excellent. 77 and 5am Saint are the best I’ve tasted them and Alice Porter is smooth and full bodied with just a hint of vanilla at the end. On the other board are some Mikkeller beers, I Hardcore You (amazing stuff) and on the third visit Bitch Please is on, the collaboration with 3 Floyds. They also have a really interesting whisky selection which they don't advertise, so if you want a nightcap then make sure you ask – I loved the Smokehead and Six Isles.

In the evening the bar fills up and there's a great atmosphere, cool with a good soundtrack playing in the background, a mix of young and not-so young drinkers. It’s a good place to drink but it's the sort of place that's very dangerous; it's easy to lose hours of your life in there moving from beer to beer (available in thirds, including a tasting tray, halves and pints and soon to be two-thirds). What's most dangerous is how you want to try every beer they have. And I think we did that. Plus every whisky. And then more beer... It’s a great bar to drink in with great and informed staff and BrewDog have created a place that’s definitely worth travelling to: add Aberdeen to the list of beer places to visit (soon to also include Edinburgh and Glasgow where new bars are coming... will it be possible to do a BrewDog bar pub crawl?!)

This excess of beer and whisky left us in a terrible state for brewing the next day, which is the reason Zak Avery, Pete Brown and I were up in Scotland. Zak’s covered it here, including how the booze-broken brains of three award-winning writers couldn’t scrape together a sentence of label text, and a sneak preview of what the beer will be.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Camden Town Brewery

Drizzle hangs in the cold air as we pass Kentish Town West station and miss the dark gates which lead up a private cobbled road to Camden Town Brewery. “We’re going to put a sign up on the railway arch,” says Jasper Cuppaidge, the owner, as he greets us and leads us to the vast glass-fronted building – a modern space for a modern brewhouse in North London.

Jasper introduces us to the brewing team of Troels and James and then the three lead us around the stainless steel spaceship of a brewery. Designed by BrauKon, it’s a 20hl (15bbl) system, controlled by a flash front panel, but it’s far from a push-button brewery, retaining that key element of human touch and control at each stage. What this impressive kit means is that, even though a lot of money has clearly been spent, it’s an efficient and environmentally-friendly brewery (they use 6-7 pints of water to make each pint of beer; they lose no steam in the brewing process, collecting it back as water and heat for the brewery) which can be run by just two brewers – it seems to me a sensible, long-term investment.

This close control is very important through their set-up and they’ve spent the last year perfecting their beers; they are clearly the brewery’s harshest critics but also the greatest lovers. “There’s nothing better than drinking your own product and thinking that this is great!” says Jasper, and Troels enthusiastically agrees. James was hungover from the night before because he’d gone out and had a pint of Camden Town beer and it was so good he had to have another and another – “it was just too good!” There is a lot of pride in their eyes and that’s really exciting to see – these guys love the beers they are making and have complete faith in them.

Leading from the brew kit to the imposing 60hl silver torpedo fermenting vessels and then to the bottling line (stealing a bottle of pilsner on the way), we’re back in the bar, an open, undecorated space with beer taps on the wall, boxes of beers on the floor, bottles from around the world on the bar, a line-up of glasses ready to be filled and a bench in the middle with newspapers and beer magazines splayed open, half-read. This will soon be open to the public on Saturdays who can come in and drink the beers a few meters from where they were made.

Their three core beers are a lager, a pale ale and a wheat beer. All poured from American-style tap handles, the first beer fills chunky half pint glasses with the logo bold in the middle. As it lands on the bar the grey clouds part and a beam of sun floods through the glass front and illuminates the beer. This is the pilsner, which is currently a trial beer – they are testing this out against the helles which is currently available. It’s five weeks from brewday until it’s ready to be drunk, the majority of that time spent lagering in the tanks which dominate the middle of the brewhouse. The beer is crowned with a full white foam, it’s light and gluggable but with a snap of hops at the end making it so, so drinkable. The sun burst outside makes me dream of summer and a pint of this.

The pale ale comes next which has recently benefitted from the addition of some maris otter malt to the mash for extra body. This is the beer I know best, unable to avoid it when I visit the Euston Tap, and it’s fast becoming a favourite: fruity and inviting thanks to Centennials and Cascades, the sort of body which can carry hops with ease, a background sweetness with the foreground hop bitterness and aroma. It’s accessible, balanced and easy drinking.

Wheat beer in the back, pale ale at the front
A hazy unfiltered lager arrives straight from the tank – when they open they will also sell the unfiltered version – rounded and smooth, a little sweetly sulphurous which I love, very refreshing and easy drinking. One sniff and sip and I’m suddenly in Pilsen, remembering beers past.

Finally is the wheat beer, a German-style weiss, darker than you’d normally see. “I think it’s the best wheat beer in the UK,” Jasper says without arrogance, instead it’s with pride and rightly so – it’s stunning. A hazy amber body, a banana and toffee aroma, a full and smooth body which has subtle toffee sweetness and a dry finish without much spiky clove spice. I don’t often enjoy this style of beer but it had me completely transfixed.

The brewery, which hasn’t officially launched yet, is already selling beers to around 40 pubs in London and none of them are selling less than five kegs each a week. They haven’t rushed things, instead taking a slow and sensible approach towards perfecting their beers – I’ve had their beers over the last six months and every time I try them they are better and better. They cask, keg and bottle their beers so there's something for everyone and with the space, kit and capacity they have there is also a lot of room for growth over the next few years.

They will soon be launching, opening their brewery doors to a tasting room which folds out onto the cobbled street and will make a great summer drinking spot as the sun slips down over the city. With a pint-glugging pils, a perfect pale ale and a wowing wheat beer, plus plans for occasional specials, Camden Town is here and I can't wait to drink more of their beer. 

Monday, 24 January 2011

A Quadruple Blind Tasting

I’ve been waiting about two years to finally do this: a blind tasting between a bunch of quads. I’ve had the bottles ready to go since early 2009, as a result, some of them are aged while others have been dropped from the potential line-up and replaced by newcomers. The reason I wanted to do these as a blind tasting was to see how well Westvleteren 12 fared against the others in its class and to do it without bias of knowing what we were drinking.

The line-up was: La Trappe Quadruple, Rochefort 10 and St Bernardus 12, all about two years old, plus Westvleteren 12, BrewDog AB:01 and Struise St Amatus Oostvleteren 12, all about nine months old (the Struise is a cheeky Oostvleteren equivalent to the Westvleteren neighbours, while the AB:01 is made with the Westvleteren yeast, hence they were added to be modern contenders).

Here’s what we (four of us) thought, drinking them one at a time and then comparing the lot at the end and giving a mark out of 10...

Beer 1: Sweet yeast, tea, lots of raisins and figs, relaxed as the fizz disappeared giving off honey and vanilla. Great aroma, a lightness of flavour. (1st place - 30/40)

Beer 2: A harsh ethanol and nail varnish taint spoilt the great fruity depth beneath. A punchy hop hit finished the mouthful. (6th place - 19/30)

Beer 3: Like beer number one but fuller bodied and more intense in flavour with lots of prunes and raisins. It tasted aged, a little sticky and had a great flavour. (joint 3rd place – 24.5/40)

Beer 4: Floral, smooth, a little peppery, light in body and a bit odd in comparison to the others, marking itself as different. (joint 5th place – 22/40)

Beer 5: A little boozy, a floral hop burst, almonds and fruit, very clear in the glass but lacking anything to make us go wow or dip back in for another taste. (joint 5th place – 22/40)

Beer 6: The best looking, retaining its head even though it was poured over 30 minutes before. Lots of fruit, great flavour and depth, tasty and interesting. (joint 3rd place – 24.5/40)

The best beer was unanimously number one; it was the Westvleteren 12 (I remember the Beer Nut did a similar tasting a while ago with the same result). The others were, in order of 2-6: St Amatus, St Bernardus, AB:01, La Trappe and Rochefort 10. Why was the Westvleteren better? It had a different depth of flavour, but a real lightness to it as well. The St Bernardus had the biggest flavour, almost like an amplified version of the Westvleteren, and it seemed to age handsomely into something different and new.

Surprisingly, this was hard work. Some were bursting with flavour, others were seemingly dying inside. The one thing that we all commented after this was that quads are a style we rarely drink and none of us saw a real place for them in our fridges, seldom getting a craving for a dark, hearty monastic brew.

Are quads your thing? Is a number 12 your number one, do you prefer the 10 of Rochefort or are there modern versions which better the others?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Punk IPA is dead. Long Live Punk IPA

In getting to where they now are, BrewDog have done things their own way and made some bold moves, but changing the recipe for Punk IPA is the bravest thing they’ve done so far.

Punk IPA is their best known brand; it’s the beer which built the brewery and it’s in supermarkets up and down Britain and on beer shelves and fridges around the world. With a successful beer, why would they change it? Taste the new version and you’ll see why: it’s better.

Original Punk is uncompromising in its flavour, bitter and very dry on the palate, bold with tropical fruit and big hops. Some love it, others don’t. It’s probably the beer I’ve drunk more of than any other in the last three years, always having a bottle in the fridge for when only the familiar brashness of Punk will do – it’s to satisfy a hop craving, the bottle I can open and enjoy without thinking about it.

Why is new Punk better? I've had in from keg and bottle and for me it’s more drinkable; it’s something I would drink all night long whereas with old Punk I’d rarely reach for bottle two. The dryness is replaced by a little residual sweetness, there’s more body which is really satisfying, the lower abv of 5.6%/5.4% (the website says one thing, the pump clip says another...) is enough to encourage slightly more reckless consumption and the IBUs have dropped but the aroma hops at the end give the sort of gift a happy nose wants to receive on a regular basis with an overflowing bowl of tropical fruit. I think the new version is a perfect beer, still reminiscent of the original as it uses the same hops, just tweaked in the best of ways.

It’s undoubtedly a brave move because it’s changing the brand they are best known for but I think they’ve created a better beer and one which more people will want to drink. It’s a mature decision to make, beyond bravado, Bismarck and brash stunts, and I hope it’s even more successful than the original.

Punk IPA is dead. Long Live Punk IPA.

Who’s had it? What do you think?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

King William IV: The home of Brodie's Brewery

Go as far east at the Victoria line will take you, plus a 15 minute walk past half the kebab shops in London, and you’ll find the King William IV pub. This is the home of Brodie's Brewery and their brewery tap.

It’s a large corner boozer with a huge snaking bar lined with handpulls serving Brodie's beer, one guest pump and some shiny kegs of the usual. Fires smoke in distant corners, tables are lined for diners who won’t come this evening, the big screen rolls down and Coronation Street comes on distracting eyes from looking at the floor or the beer mats or the bottom of a glass. It feels like a place for locals but it gets the inevitable beer tourists too and there’s the impression, at least on this sleepy Wednesday, that the locals don’t bother the tourists and tickers all that much, spying them with curiosity rather than parochial territorialism.

James and Lizzie are on the second shift of a double brewday when we arrive and get an unexpected brewery tour. The brewery feels like a nutty professor’s laboratory but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the sacks of hops left open, the piled-high barrels or the stairs in the middle leading upstairs where the dog is asleep. There’s also a sense of fun and experimentation here as if trying out a new beer for the hell of it is just part of the game. Filled with the warmth of the mash tun, James stands on top of a ladder and tells us about the brewery and his beers and it’s impossible not to fall into the ‘fuck it’ spirit he seems to exude as if saying ‘ah, fuck it, let’s try this out’. And that’s something which reflects in the beers, a cornucopia born of the combination of experimentation, knowledge and enjoyment where hops are used freely (Brodie's have got a beer festival coming up on the 29th April until 2nd May. Look at the beer list to get a feel for the sort of fun they have). And the beers are good, well made, interesting and a little bit different, ranging from low-ABV pale and hoppies up to monstrous 22% Elizabethan which is the beer equivalent of a black hole. There may be the spirit of experimentation but it's all backed up by good brewing.

Kiwi is dry and fruity with that tannic Nelson Sauvin flavour that tastes like all the grape skins in the world have been reduced to a drop of lethal rasping bitterness. Citra is light and wonderfully fruity and at 3.1% you could drink it by the gallon. California sings of sunshine and hops and tastes like pineapple and peaches. Amarilla and East London Gold are both easy drinking and highly hopped. The Superior London Porter is dark and sticky and full of roast flavours.

London isn’t a cheap place to drink and pints can push at the £4 mark, but in the King William IV every pint of Brodie's is £1.99. Whether the 3.1% pale ale or the 7.2% porter, all £1.99. It’s one of those London pubs which is a little out of the way but definitely worth visiting. It’s large, filled with more beer than you could try in a session and there’s always something interesting and different on the bar. I got a good feeling from Brodies, something I can’t put my finger on, something fun and interesting. The pub is a little dated but it’s lit up by the beers on the bar and the enthusiasm coming from the brewery out the back. I’m sure I’ll be back soon.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Twissup: We’re going to…

Voting has closed for the February Twissup and we’re going to… York!

Despite a last minute surge from Brighton (taking the last five votes), York is where we’ll be going with 26 of the 69 votes (Brighton picked up 21 votes, Newcastle 15, Bristol 4 and Derby a surprisingly low 3).

Andy and I will now try and sort out a plan for the day. If anyone knows York well and can suggest a good pub crawl then let us know – remember that we need to be able to fit around 30 people in at a time. We also need somewhere to eat and affordable accommodation for people. The best place to meet will probably be the brewery at 12pm on Saturday 26th February and we’ll try and arrange a tour and a pint to get us on our way. We’ll keep everyone updated by email and twitter from here on in.

Get train tickets booked – we’re going to York!

How about a North vs South Twissup next time with two happening simultaneously? We can have one group in Newcastle and one in Brighton with people choosing the one they want to go to. Could be fun!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Wetherspoons Fry Up...

...could save your life.

For £3.99 you can get a large fry up which consists of two sausages, two rashers of bacon, three hash browns, two fried eggs, mushrooms/black pudding, beans, half a tomato and two slices of toast. Pay an extra pound and you get a pot of tea. That’s a lot of bite for your buck. Wetherspoons aren’t alone in offering massive breakfasts but they do stand ahead of many others, and why? Quality.

The beans are Heinz. The eggs are free range. The sausages are clearly pretty good, meaty and actually tasty (not just pink-brown tubes of porcine pulp). It’d be easy for a chain of over 700 pubs, serving 400,000 breakfasts a week, to skimp on the quality, but they don’t. Sure, it’s not gourmet and it’s still piled high and dropped on the plate, but it’s a real feast for under a fiver and it’s good.

It’s also saved me on many occasions. Leaving the flat with red eyes, unsettled gut and a hazy head, it’s a three-minute walk to get to my local ‘Spoons where I can guarantee a stomach liner and a helping hand of recovery. Ordering without looking, less than 10-minutes later I’m splaying yolk and bean juice over the table as I dig in.

I’ve had breakfasts in other places nearby and nowhere compares. The sausages are terrible, the yolks aren’t runny (runny yolk is an essential part of a fry up) and the hash browns are as greasy as the people serving it. It also costs more than £3.99, which in turn is as cheap as you could make for yourself as home, but everyone knows that making your own fry up is nowhere near as good as buying one somewhere (I think this is because your house smells of ‘fried’ for hours after, plus I always feel dirty cooking it myself as if I should’ve resisted and had the cereal instead, but going out is altogether different and more acceptable).

A lot of people have bad things to say about Wetherspoons in general but I’m not one of them. In fact, I’ll say this proudly: I love Wetherspoons. And their large breakfast is a life saver for those occasions when the only thing that will do is a massive fry up.

NOTE: I've just looked on the Wetherspoons website and seen that the large fry up consists of over 1500 calories. If you are interested in counting the kcals then this represents a substantial chunk of your day's eating. Maybe next time I'll just order the regular...

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Session #47: Cooking with Beer: Scotch Eggs and Beer Mayonnaise

I love cooking with beer so couldn’t resist this month’s Session with the topic chosen by David Jensen of Beer 47. My Imperial Chilli is one of my greatest culinary creations, made awesome by the addition of a bottle of imperial stout; these beer ribs are fantastic; beer ice cream is very cool, my favourite so far was made with BrewDog RipTide; malty ale in macaroni cheese adds a brilliant depth; and my Barley Wine Cupcakes passed the ultimate test: my girlfriend liked them. And there’s more I want to do with food and beer: a carbonnade challenge of a few different beers; roasted garlic IPA mashed potatoes; beer and cheese soup; spaghetti bolognese made with rauchbier; ice cream made with rauchbier (why not?!); beer jelly; a curry made with Mongozo Coconut… I could go on.

Some people seem to think that cooking with beer is a terrible waste, but I’m not one of them. I love how it adds a different depth to food, how parts of the beer’s make-up come through in unique ways. Plus, I like to experiment with flavours, regularly turning my kitchen upside down with wild ideas of faux culinary genius.

I also love eating with a beer on the side and this is the perfect condiment and snack which also includes beer as an ingredient and has the ability of throwing you up in the air and down on a street somewhere in the middle of Belgium (albeit inexplicably with a delicious meat-wrapped-egg in one hand).

Scotch Eggs and Beer Mayonnaise

I have a weakness for scotch eggs. Not the mini ones which taste like cardboard and egg mayo and not the big chewy, dry ones with taste like sulphurous breadcrumbed pulp, I’m talking about hot, fresh, crispy-on-the-outside-and-soft-in-the-middle-ones. A scotch egg fresh from the heat of the oven (I’m in the baked camp of the baked vs fried argument), cut into quarters with a pile of ketchup/mustard/mayo on the side. They are rightly near the top of the beer snack hierarchy; an all-day breakfast of sausage, egg and bread neatly rolled into a palm-sized ball.

Ketchup is my condiment of choice. A red splodge was on almost every plate of food as I grew up and, while it may now have been gradually made redundant, it’s still very important to some foods, especially sausage-based ones. But through curiosity I tried out beer mayo for this snack.

Like custard, it’s a food which comes with a police tape block of fear around it from the worry of it splitting and ruining, but do it right and there’s no fear of oily egg yolk sick. The recipe I used was from Richard Fox’s The Food & Beer Cook Book and it worked perfectly, leaving a thick and delicious mayo with just a hint of beer (I guess you can use any beer or cider you want; I’d like to try one with lambic next instead of lemon juice).

Scotch eggs are easy to make, even if they do take a few processes. First, soft boil an egg, run it under cold water to stop it cooking in its shell, peel it (peeling eggs sucks; how do they do it in scotch egg factories?! My job from hell would be an egg peeler), and roll a little flour around its quivering white exterior. Then get some sausage meat, either a block of it or take some sausages and remove the meat from the skins. Add any seasoning you want – salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs, spices, chilli, even a few drops of beer, if you want – and then shape a handful of meat around the egg, making sure there are no gaps. Get three bowls out: one for flour, one for beaten egg and one for breadcrumbs. Roll the ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Put on a baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes until it’s crispy and cooked.

For the mayo it’s one large egg yolk, two teaspoons each of beer (whatever you’ve got open or whatever you want to use) and lemon juice, one level teaspoon of Dijon mustard, up to 200ml of light oil (the lighter the better so it doesn’t overpower the taste of everything else), seasoning. Mix the yolk, mustard, beer and lemon juice in a bowl and then add the oil a little drizzle at a time, whisking (by hand) constantly. Keep whisking and slowly adding oil until it’s the texture you want it to be. Word is that says that if it splits then add a drop of warm water and whisk like a maniac and it’ll come back together.

As beer snacks go this is one of the best; made with beer and best enjoyed with a beer on the side. Now I’m craving a huge bowl of fries with a slick of homemade lambic mayo and a nice glass of cold beer.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Twissup February 2011

Here we go, the first Twissup of 2011 will take place on Saturday 26th February. It’s our regular drink-a-thon around a new place with beer bloggers, tweeters, brewers, pub managers and many more. We’ve done Sheffield, Burton and Manchester/Huddersfield, now the next one is up to everyone to decide on the location.

Andy and I have listed five places. If you want to attend then sign up and vote below. We will go to the place with the most votes, as simple as that (and then the others stay in the list for next time, plus maybe a couple more... Aberdeen or Edinburgh, Cardiff...).

We haven’t arranged anything for any of the places yet but we’re sure we can find enough pubs and beer to keep us happy in each town. Once we know where we’re going then we’ll start planning the day and arranging pubs and breweries.

Get voting, this is only open until Sunday 9th January. And save the date now: 26th February, we’re getting twissed!
Let's get twissed
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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Pint? I’d schooner have two-thirds

I wrote about the two-thirds glass a while ago. I think it’s a great idea as it adds a further choice to the bar. Looking at comments here and here, some people seem to be saying that this is a terrible decision and will bring the death of the pint glass and the pub and then, presumably, our fine nation, which is just ridiculous. It’s about adding a further choice for the consumer, which is a great thing.

Why do people think this is a bad thing? Some suggest (from where, I don’t know) that it will mean prices are pumped up, but consumers won’t stand for that, will they? You won’t suddenly expect to pay £3 for a two-third and then £3.50 a pint when a pint previously cost £3… And I’m guessing that, like the one-third, it won’t be a compulsory measure and therefore only a few places will use it, but I do think that in time it will become a popular measure, perhaps even more so than the half pint, if it’s widely adopted by pubs.

The pint is not dead. It’s an institution as royal as the brand by its lip. Most people will still order most beers by the pint. The two-third glass is just an addition to what the consumer can choose from, which is a good thing, whether they want it for stronger beers, because they don’t want to drink a pint, because they want a fancy-shaped new two-third glass or whatever other reason. My only problem is the name ‘schooner’. Can’t we get something better than that?!

The two-thirds glass is coming to the pub. Is this a good thing?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Looking Forward to 2011

Here’s the last of the year end/beginning posts and this one looks forward to 2011 and all that it might bring. I’ve already listed the breweries I think will be important (and others have added their thoughts, too), but what else is there?

What beer style will be big this year? Black IPA was the newcomer with the fast ascent to A-Lister of the beer world in 2010. But will it stick around for 2011 and what else will be there? The breweries who are getting people talking aren’t afraid to use hops and this will have a knock-on effect throughout the beers, so I hope to see a few more hops being used. We might see some more adventurous sub-5% brews, which would certainly be welcome. John Clarke suggests in the comments to this post that black and tans or blends could be an emerging trend. What about Belgian styles done in Britain – saisons, dubbels, quads? Zak notices that they are on the wane but what if we see British interpretations?

I think seasonals and one-off specials will also become more important and that’s where the bigger ABVs will come in – look at Marble’s larger bottles, for example. It’ll be about seasonal weather changes as well as experimentations with ingredients and style. This is already happening but hopefully it'll get better and people will understand the significance of seasonality.

Collaboration will be a bigger thing. It’s been happening for a couple of years but it should get bigger and better with more breweries linking up with each other or with bars or local businesses.

Kegs and cans... why not?! There are now bars willing and able to sell these beers to drinkers wanting to buy them, so I’d like to try more kegged UK ales, but only if they are suited to it – big, hoppy beers, yes; brown bitters, no. When BrewDog can Punk IPA then I will buy a lot of them. I hope that experiment works well... Will others follow? Not yet but maybe in time.

Thornbridge’s lager: I really want to try it.

Personally, I’d like to see more collaborations in beer blogging, whether on mass blog projects or in those arranged by individuals. Things like The Session are great (even if I don’t take part very often – I will now!) or Why Cask Ale Rocks. Beer blogging needs to be fun and engaging – who wants to read something dry and boring? – but it also needs to be relevant to people. And here’s a promise: to read and comment on other blogs more. I do read all the blogs but I get slack on commenting. This will change. It’d also be great to see comments from more readers as this is where blogs live and die.

Personally, I’ve got quite a few goals. In my mind I’ve got a figure which I’d like to earn from writing about beer; on my desk I’ve got a list of all the places I want to visit to drink beer (the two join up somewhere in the middle, hopefully. The list includes: Czech Republic, Rome, Copenhagen, Bruges, USA... anywhere else?! Plus a number of UK places). I want to brew more beer and learn more about that. I also want to spend some time behind the bar and learn some cellarmanship skills. I want to learn more about other drinks, especially tea, wine and whisky. And of course, I want to drink more great beer and discover new breweries.

What’s in store for 2011? What styles of beer will we see more of? Who would you like to see collaborate on a brew? What do you want to see from a beer blog?