Wednesday, 18 April 2012

London City of Beer - CAMRA

Tonight saw the launch of CAMRA's London City of Beer initiative celebrating London's pubs and beers with a beer and food matching event hosted by Roger Protz at the City, fullers pub , the Red Herring.

During a summer when we are not allowed to mention the O word, the GM words or the LTT words for fear of offending the H word, we are left with promoting London as a City of Beer to celebrate the range of London brewed beers to visitors this summer.

Luckily we now have over 24 breweries in London with a few more to come in the coming weeks. Hopefully there will be plenty of beer events to enjoy in the coming weeks.

Check out www.londoncityofbeer.org.uk and www.londonbrewers.org for more details.

Live blogging again, so forgive the typos, spelling, grammar,and formatting.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Podge Beer Tour - Live Blogging

Day 5

We are about to head off for home which is welcome as it has just started snowing in Aalst. However, before we reach the Eurotunnel for our 8pm train, we have much to cram in.

First stop at 11 am will be the Rodenbach Brewery for a guided tour of the historic brewery and a tasting of their beers.

Second stop of the day is the In de Vrede cafe, home of the beers from the Westvleteren Abbey opposite. Rightly or wrongly, the Westvleteren 12 remains the top beer worldwide in the Ratebeer.com rankings and this cafe is pretty much the only place in the world you can try it. Better try the 8 and the blonde just to be sure too.

Final stop of the trip will be the Sint Bernadus Brewery whose beers have been compared favourably to those from Westvleteren and are more available. We will have a brewery tour and a full tasting in their picturesque tasting room overlooking their own hop fields.

ETA Chelmsford is about 9.30pm for a final pint of best English ale and another night in the Travelodge before setting off for home tomorrow morning for a well earned rest.

Hopefully I have provided a taster for how good the Podge's Beer Tours are. Well organised, efficient, friendly, good company, plenty of beer, bars and breweries in hard to find places, on the go for five full days.

Recommended ? Oh Yes !

Podge Beer Tour - Live Blogging

Day 4

Day 3 ended rather messily, three more bars in the centre of Aalst, finishing with a sing song of ye olde English folk songs at midnight in the same bar I started the day in.

This resulted in day 4 beginning slowly with the hangover from hell.

Quick walk round the town and on the bus at 10am for the customary visit to the beer warehouse. Complimentary beers and buy as much as a grown man can reasonably carry.

Back on the bus for a ride to the Haacht Brewery Tap for a drop of the unfiltered yeast beer and away again to lunch at the Het Anker Brewery tap for a few of their beers including the liquorice infused Paasbeer, their Easter seasonal. Alas no brewery tours today as most are closed on Sunday.

Sustained we are on the bus again to another excellent beer cafe, In de Linde , with a beer list strong on Lambics and Geuze.

Final stop of the day is the specialist Lambic cafe, In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst who opened specially for our group. They are normally only open on Sunday lunchtimes but if you have never visited this place it is vital you get it on your list of places to visit if you like sour beer.

Their list of lambics, gueuze and krieks is as comprehensive as I have ever seen. Bring plenty of money if you want to try any of the long closed breweries aged beers though, they are as rare as hens teeth and priced accordingly.

As the 5 or 6 krieks that I tried over the course of the day blended and matured, my belly was spontaneously fermenting so I turned in early as we reached the hotel at about 9.30 while plenty of my travelling companions hit the town - again.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Podge Beer Tour - Live Blogging

Day 3

Up bright and early to be ready for the bus at 9.30 to secure an early tour at the Cantillon Open Brewing Day followed by a chance to catch up with beer geeks from around the world at the Alvinne Craft Beer Festival.

The late afternoon and evening will see us travelling to three more bars/breweries visiting the Brouwerij Gaverhopke to try their Brun 12 followed by the brewery tap at Verhaege Brewery and lastly the unpretentious Cafe Casino, the tap for Cnudde Brewery planning to get back to Aalst at about 9pm in time to enjoy a couple of pubs on the town square.

But first I have a date with a custard croissant followed by a sharpener in the Kastanjehof pub round the corner from the hotel which opens at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to refresh market traders and visitors. If you don't embrace these customs they will disappear and we will be left saying "remember when that pub used to open on a Saturday at 7am ?)."

I am doing my best to keep such quirky traditions alive.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Podge Beer Tour - Live Blogging

Day 2

Strewth, massive day of beer !

Custard croissant - always a good start to a day in Belgium and on the bus at 10 towards Dupont Brewery for 11.30.

A history of the brewery followed by a tour of the new brewery, a couple of beers, Moinette blond and brun, both 8.5% just to get us going. A quick Dupont Saison on draught or a bottle of their rare stout at the Caves Dupont pub over the road and back on the bus to get to Dubuisson Brewery for 1.45pm.

A meal complete with prunes in the beef stew,always a good sign, a pint (sorry 50 cl) of Wit from their Troll microbrewery followed by a brewery tour and tasting of another five beers,including the 12% Bush beer that the brewery is famous for and the Prestige,an equally strong beer aged in cognac barrels.

Long session here but back on the bus to reach Quintine Brasserie for 6.30.

A tasting platter of four beers here including the excellent Hercules Stout. There is a chance you will find a picture of me enjoying myself on Facebook though my notes from here on are patchy.

Final stop, 8pm is Brasserie Slagmuylder (sp?) for more beef stew, and a glass of the Dubbel and the Trippel (Pater Witcap) before turning
in for the night.

Hotel for 10.30, though again the hard liners are on a late night bar crawl.

I am settling down early anticipating another big day tomorrow.



Thursday, 1 March 2012

Podges Tour - Live Blogging

Day 1

6.15am start from the Woolpack. Stop for a coffee at the terminal and on the 9.20 Chunnel.

First stop at noon is Struise Brewery. An old school house where Urbain and his team give brewing talks and have a trial brew plant; the main brewery being a few miles down the road. A quick Struise Witte and, thanks to me asking too many questions, not really enough time to try the Pannepot or the other big beers that have given Struise an international reputation so quickly.

Back on the bus for a 1.30pm lunch at t'Rusteel a cafe with 300 strong beer list but now with Gulden Spoor Brewery next door. A steak and a home brewed IPA beer but the highlight is my eagle eyed spot the Boskeun from de Dolle Brewery, their Easter beer, blonde, tasty but a mighty 10%.

Back on the bus and a short ride for a 4.30pm visit to a bar with a 400 strong list, Heeren van Liederkercke. The list is pretty strong on sour beers, so my choices were a Cantillon Lambic on draught and a Hanssens Oedbeitje, a strawberry steeped lambic.

Quick check in to the Keizershof Hotel in Aalst at around and round the corner at ten past to the local pub, Kastenjehof. A straightforward, fairly small beer list but a Rodenbach Grand Cru, an Affligem Paters Vat and one of the Worlds greatest beers, Rochefort 10, at an unbeatable €3 set off the day perfectly.

I am sure some of the travellers are giving it large at bars in the main square or the hotel bar. For me that is something for another night as I am turning in early to write this blog.

Bring on day 2.


Podge's Beer Tours - Live Blogging

After nearly three months without a blog post , I am giving live blogging a go using the blogger mobile app. Please forgive the punctuation and spelling and any Illustration and links will have to wait. I am not even sure it will work properly. As I am using an ipad, I will be relying on any wifi connections on my travels.

I am just about to embark on my fourth Podge Beer Tour and a few people have asked recently whether the trips are good. Short answer : yes. Long answer follows over the next five days.

Best of Belgian is a five day trip, four nights. The cost is £420 plus a single supplement of £120 if you have no companion and prefer not to share.

The biggest logistical problem (for me at least) is that the tours leave at 6.15am from Chelmsford. (there are collection points at Colchester, Ipswich and Folkestone but if you are not an Essex Boy it necessitates a stop over . Luckily there is a £19 a night Travelodge five minutes from the departure place (and a twenty minute walk from the station). ( I generally take another night at the end of the trip too. Although the intended time back into Chelmsford is about 9.30pm in good time for a train back to London, an extra Travelodge night gives a leisurely journey home the next morning).

It is only £13 return (with a network card discount)from Liverpool Street to Chelmsford but this off peak ticket does not allow travel between 4.30 and 6.30pm. I prefer to travel early, get a few pints in and a bite, and an early night in anticipation of the early start.

I am writing this post from the Queens Head, Crouch Vale Brewery's only pub and about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. Great beers (3 CV and 3 guests), the crackle of a real fire and a warm welcome. The 3.6% Essex Boys Bitter is a great start to the weekend but I feel that twice CBOB winner, Brewers Gold, is calling. (no evening food here).

On the night before the trip, it is important to acquaint myself again with the Woolpack as this Greene King pub (with guest ales) is tomorrow's 6.15am departure point but only a five minute walk from the Travelodge.


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012

There had to come a time when I dipped my toe back into the blogosphere and escape from a self imposed winter hibernation to start posting here more regularly.

The eagle eyed among readers (assuming anyone is still dropping by after a three month hiatus) will have noticed that I have recently included a participant badge for the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012.

The 2011 conference held in London really was one of the stand-out beer events of the year. Re-read some of the details that I wrote at the time here, here, here, and here . Fantastic !

The 2012 event will be held in Leeds from 18 - 20 May (That is Yorkshire, aka God's Own - though I am trying to leave my prejudices in London. Remember, it is I who thinks that the "North" starts at Hammersmith Bridge !)

The conference fee is paid (£100 or so, which can be recoverable under the Molson Coors Scholarship )

Hotel is booked. Internet rate is about £50 a night at the Met Hotel, Leeds where the conference is being held. Delegate rate at same hotel is slightly higher but includes breakfast and is cancellable. Other hotels nearby range from about £35 per night upwards.

Cheap train tickets are coming on line. I booked London to Leeds for about a tenner and am waiting for the return advance fares to be released.

If this event reaches anywhere near the heights of last year's conference, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Whether you blog in 140 characters or 1,000 words and pictures daily, this is for you. Everyone is welcome !

To my mind the three days and nights are mainly social; if we learn anything about blogging or bloggers that will be a bonus.

I look forward to seeing old friends and new in the frozen North - Oops :)

Friday, 2 December 2011

London Beer - A Tipping Point

The London beer scene reached a tipping point last night as pretty much every award at the British Guild of Beer Writers dinner was scooped by a London based journalist or beer writer.

After a marvellous beer matched dinner the evening started its nod towards the Capital when it was announced that Evin O'Riordain from Kernel Brewery was named the Beer Writers, Brewer of the Year. Evin launched his brewery in the railway arches of Bermondsey about two years ago and has never looked back, picking up award after award. His bottled IPAs, stouts and porters are unbeatable and the recognition is well deserved.

A few moments later, as Des de Moor picked up the next award for his London's Best Beer, Pubs and Bars Guide, it was becoming clear that it was going to be a night for London and I was on my feet leading a chorus of "maybe it's because I'm a Londoner !"
Those around me might say I was not leading a chorus, merely shouting incoherently like a drunk on the tube. I couldn't comment. Suffice to say my delight was becoming boisterous

There quickly followed prizes for Mark Dredge for his work on beer and food, the corporate communications award went to honorary cockney, Pete Brown, Mark Charlwood (sp ?) won silver in the on-line category for his beerbirrabier blog and the gold was scooped by Martyn Cornell, London's eminent beer historian. Glynn Davis won an award for trade press and the Beer Writer of the Year was once again, Ben McFarland.

A clean sweep for London !

(Not quite true as Marverine Cole took a gong for regional work and Adrian Tierney Jones took a prize for his work on national newspaper reviews. I hope they will both allow me to gloss over their achievements as I relish the fact that London is back.)

Only a couple of years ago, the London beer scene was on its knees. Our breweries were closing, flats were replacing pubs and cities like Derby and Sheffield were leading the vanguard of the microbrewery and craft beer scene. Beer lovers in London were forlorn and the rest of the nation was puzzled as we took comfort in championing each new micro that opened. Every one was a winner, Sambrook's, Redemption, Kernel, Camden Town et al. Every one well received.

A few pubs started changing, Cask, Craft, Rake, Southampton, Butcher. I don't have to name them all. Each and every one becoming a destination boozer.

My latest list of London brewpubs, micros, craft and family brewers now numbers 28 operating or coming very soon.

The London beer scene is back and vibrant and I am chuffed as punch !

(Apologies if I have any of the names or awards incorrect, or if I have missed anybody. My delight for London was only matched by my love for the great beers provided by the sponsors, Molson Coors, Fullers, Adnams, Brains, Thwaites, Shepherd Neame and Budweiser. My recollection and random notes are not 100% clear)

Thanks also to Black Sheep Brewery who invited me to the event as their guest and for their warming Black Sheep Imperial Russian Stout which was supposed to be taken home but never got beyond the coffee - delicious.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Christmas Star Award - Ales by Mail

I have been asked by the senior elf at Ales by Mail to give a shout out for their latest imaginative way to put something back in at this busiest time of the year :

Nominate your Christmas Star

As 2011 will soon be drawing to a close, Ales By Mail would like to take this opportunity to recognise that a lot of people have had a hard year - be it from unemployment, financial problems, sickness and so on.

Despite this however, the people of the UK shine through, volunteering for charities, working hard to support their families well, or maybe just being there for a friend in need.

We'd like to hear your stories about people who've done something this year that deserves a special treat (it will be ale, naturally, so no under 18's please!

Visit www.alesbymail.com/stars and fill in the form with details of your nominee.

You can nominate anyone you like (except yourself!), a friend, relative, co-worker, or anyone you think deserves a surprise, and would appreciate real ale of course.

If your nominee is chosen, we'll get in touch with you for delivery details of your nominee, and a surprise package will make its way direct to them in time for Christmas!

Nominate your Christmas Star now! www.alesbymail.com/stars