Friday, 27 February 2009


Which brewery would launch their new beer in a tiny bar cum art gallery in Bethnal Green Road where the bottles of beer are served via a bin of ice from a dimly lit patio and then drunk in a small basement surrounded by freaky pictures of sheep/human clones ?

It could only be those friendly punks from Brewdog - Aberdeenshire's mega microbrewery who formally launched their dark lager, Zeitgeist, last night.

The beer is packaged in 330ml bottles, 30l disposable kegs or 9g plastic firkins.

The bottle labels are simple and concise allowing the artwork to be the main feature. The sheep/human clones feature prominently with the tagline "we do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness".

This is all good, edgy, fresh, modern stuff but what about the beer ? It is a 4.9% dark lager in the style of some of the greatest dark Czech beers. Light and easy drinking, it has a mellow roasted flavour with chocolate and coffee notes. The pleasant surprise is the fruity twist on the finish which comes from using Cascade hops rather than the more traditional Saaz.

The first couple of beers were chilled to death having been "in the bucket" all day but were necked down easily and were most enjoyable. This is the quaffing beer for the yoof. Once the frozen stuff was exhausted the next beers were served at cellar (well, garden) temperature and were just as nice with the roast flavours and the hop character more prominent. Opinions among the very eclectic crowd were mixed as to preferences between the chilled and slightly warmer styles but one view was common - beer is good.

The beer was interesting enough to seek out again. I would be particularly interested in the cask version as it has the potential to be excellent. A comparison between cask and keg of the same beer would also be a worthy afternoon.

On my way out, I slipped a bottle into my inside pocket to bring to the video blog. Somehow, I think those friendly punks would approve. I think Zeitgeist is actually the German word for stolen beer.

SIBA Report 2009

SIBA have just published their latest report.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Probably the most expensive beer in the World

There follows a press release of a new beer launched by Carlsberg. Oz and James tasted the 1st vintage on their BBC series. I am all for boutique beer but this is more of a gimmick methinks. I will not be tasting this on the vblog but will be bringing you excellent, more accessible beers from Thornbridge and Brewdog breweries in the next week.

One of The Worlds most Expensive beer launched by Carlsberg

Once again Carlsberg's Jacobsen Brew House in Copenhagen Denmark raises the bar for brewing, by launching the second brew in its Vintage trilogy. Vintage No. 2 is sold for the price of DKK 2009(more than 250 Euro) a bottle, and only 600 bottles of this exclusive beer are brewed. Vintage No. 2 is one of the world's most expensive beer, and is created together with the controversial Chilean born artist Marco Evaristti. Together they are uncompromising in their way to setting new standards. Vintage No. 1was launched a year ago and created interest all over the world.

“With the Vintage trilogy we want to push the boundaries for what a beer can do, and to challenge the luxury wine segment in the gourmet restaurant market by utilising our innovation and brewing capabilities”, says Morten Ibsen, Brewmaster at Jacobsen, who in cooperation with four other brewmasters has developed the Vintage No. 2.

Vintage No. 2 has, as the only contemporary beer, been matured in J.C.Jacobsen's original crypt-like cellar from 1847 where it has been stored in French oak casks for 100 days. The beer has a jet-black colour and espresso-like foam. And it reveals flavours of vanilla and cocoa/mocha. The aroma is distinct with hints of tar and ropes, which come from the peat- smoked, Scottish malt, which has been transported from Scotland solely for this brew. Vintage No. 2 is perfect pairing for oysters, shellfish, Parma ham and cheese, and if you crave for something sweet, chocolate and crème brûlée also goes with the beer.

Each Vintage bottle is labelled with a hand stencilled lithographic print made by the artist Marco Evaristti: “We chose Marco to make the prints as his art is centred around being uncompromising, innovative and pushing boundaries just like the Vintage trilogy”, says Morten Ibsen. Marco Evaristti has made five different prints for the beer each with the elephant as the recurring motive. Only 125 items of each has been made which make the empties real collector's item.

Beer websites

I found a couple of new beer sites today.

Pubs and Beer


The Thornbridge Brewers Blog

Enjoy !

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Beer Festivals

Worthy of a wider circulation this week :

The Bricklayers Arms, Putney - last week voted SW London Pub of the Year - this week hosts its 3rd annual Yorkshire beer festival.

More details and beer list here.

The Rake, Borough Market celebrates all things Welsh kicking off on Sunday, St David's Day.

Alas, I have little further information but their email is

Also remember next week, The Pembury Tavern beer festival, 4th to 8th March.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Video Blog 1 - Zywiec Porter

I purchased this new gadget last month and have now plucked up the confidence to have a go at a video blog.

I am keen to share some interesting, less common beers, guide people to interesting web-sites, books or magazines, and generally to have some fun with new media.

Although I think I need to be a bit more thorough on the beer tasting, it is not bad for a first effort from a complete technophobe but I let you be the final judge. I would appreciate feed back whether this is OK or not.

The beer tasted is Zywiec Porter, a 9.5% baltic porter imported from Poland. This brewery has been brewing since 1856 and the beer has been made since 1881 so I guess they are getting the hang of it.

The beer was served and tasted at a cellar temperature but as it warmed up afterwards the complexities came through. Some really nice fruit flavours, fruit cake, vanilla and raisins with very little harshness from such a high gravity beer. The highlight was the longest finish and lovely bitter aftertaste that I have tasted recently.

The web-sites mentioned are - Zak Avery, Beer Writer of the Year

and - Boak and Bailey from the beer blog world.

Sorry but thus far, I have not managed to work out how to upload the video ! The first video blog without a video :-) Hopefully it is now here.

Cheers for now

Pancake Day

Possibly staying on a pagan theme, next week brings us Shrove Tuesday and our friends at Black Sheep have suggested Mrs Theakston's pancake recipe which I hope to find time to try.

110g/ 4ozs of plain flour
2 large eggs
7fl ozs of milk
3 flozs of Black Sheep ale
2 tblsp of melted butter
Butter or oil for the cooking pan

Mix all the ingredients together in a blender except the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a non stick frying pan and just coat it with a little butter or oil. Add the melted butter to the pancake mixture and pour enough into the pan to coat the base. Swirl it around so that it covers all the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the underside of the pancake is golden brown and then turn it over with a spatula or flip it and cook the other side. Serve it immediately with filling or sauce.

Only three fluid ounces of beer in the mix means about three quarters of the bottle left to drink with the pancakes - perfect beer and food match.

Friday, 20 February 2009

and the winner is .....

CAMRA's National Pub of the Year is the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Who is John Barleycorn ?

I have recently seen a fellow called John Barleycorn mentioned in a couple of articles on beer. I had never heard of this person before and have now learned that John Barleycorn is an old English folk song and the character is a personfication of the barley grain and alcoholic drinks made from it. It can also have some pagan metaphorical intepretations.

Wikipedia has a piece here.

The music and lyrics are here.

and you can see and hear Traffic performing the song here.

and an excellent article on pagan pub names here.

So now you know. I drink a toast to John Barleycorn.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Wild Brews

On my recent trip to USA, I picked up a collection of books published by the Brewers Association. The set of three books is sub titled "Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition". Although the books are directed at the home and craft Brewer there is much within for the general beer enthusiast.

My first read is Wild Brews - Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewers Yeast by Jeff Sparrow. Although I have always enjoyed drinking the sour beers of Lambic, Gueuze and Flemish Red and Brown, I knew very little about them apart from a basic knowledge of wild yeasts imparting a sour characteristic.

My enjoyment of the beers is much improved now that I have a more detailed knowledge of the micro bacterial influences on the different beers. Although the book does get a bit technical in parts for the enthusiastic consumer, I generally found it an easy and most informative read.

If you are interested by these beer styles which are really out on the fringe of mainstream beer drinking then I can recommend this book absolutely. It gives everything one would want to know about the brewing methods and fermentation procedures as well as information on barrel aging, the use of fruit and a general history of the beer styles.

I have never seen a book on Belgian brewing that is so detailed but I am now on the hunt for Lambikland by Tim Webb, Chris Pollard and Jorys Pattyn which is not already on my bookshelf and which I hope will also bring more knowledge and enjoyment.

The other two books, making up this collection are Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus and Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski which I have yet to read. All three are available in this country through Amazon.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Pub of the Year

Camra's Pub of the Year will be announced at the end of the week. The four finalists are :

Crown, Stockport
Tom Cobley Tavern, Spreyton, Devon
Royal Oak, Rusper, West Sussex
Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield

The final judges have made their decision and the presentation will be widely publicised on Friday.

I played my part in the judging process by chairing the London regional panel and also judging the super regional pubs for the South East. I was recently hauled up for giving a misleading comment on this blog that I had knocked off marks because a certain pub did not do food. Although I had made it clear that food is not part of the judging, and that this was absolutely untrue, I removed the wording that caused offence.

The four pubs in the final have over 50 hand pumps between them which in itself has also received some comment. Being fairly close to the process, I trust the judges and the judging process completely. If anything, it is the judging criteria that people should study. However, let's remember we are the Campaign for Real Ale and the book is called The Good Beer Guide. It is little surprise that pubs with a well kept, wider cask ale offering float to the top in our competitions.

I will bring you the winner at midnight on Thursday.

Sambrook's Brewery

The latest news from Sambrook's Brewery, is that there will be a formal brewery opening to be held on Saturday, 4 April when the brewery will be open to the public.

Public tasting sessions and brewery visits are hoped to be held on Wednesday evenings in March and the next new beer will be available in April.

This is all to be confirmed which I will do here once I know it is all agreed. The web-site has some updating problems but all events will also be flagged there once finalised.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Good Beer Guide

Some analysis of Good Beer Guide pubs in London reached me a while ago and I think it worthy of sharing and comment.

The last three guides have the following numbers of Youngs pubs :

2007 = 53 pubs
2008 = 44 pubs
2009 = 35 pubs

The following is the same total for Fullers pubs :

2006 = 40
2007 = 38
2008 = 36
2009 = 36

The total number of Fullers pubs in the last four years has remained relatively stable, but there are very few that have been in for all of the four years, with most only being in one or two of those years. There is a lot more change as to which pub is in which year.

And finally Wetherspoons :

2006 = 26
2007 = 30
2008 = 24
2009 = 34

Wetherspoons has increased in number steadily over the years apart from a glitch in 2008 which relates to the end of the poor eras around 2006 & 2007 when real ale was less of a priority before its current policy and much improved availability and quality. I believe that Wetherspoons managers are on a bonus scheme that includes extra benefit if the pub makes it into the Guide.

Nothing really significant to add. I don't suppose Youngs will be too bothered by this statistic as it could be argued that this shows that their pubs are moving away from being beer led to a more mixed offering - a deliberate movement for them that has had significant investment since the brewery sale.

Although Fuller has the current largest number, I believe there is the potential to do much better. It is clear that they have many pubs on the fringe of the guide. Some more deliberate focus could improve their number.

Wetherspoons are improving (No sh*t Sherlock). Their excellent beer festivals and deliberate focus on CAMRA campaigning has done much to ingratiate them with CAMRA branches around the country. Reports are often mixed but the figures cannot lie.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Beer Holidays

Bob Steel, author of the excellent London Pub Walks and latterly Peak District Pub Walks is leading a short break to the Matlock area in Derbyshire at Easter - an excellent chance to visit some great pubs while taking some exercise.

There are still some places left on the Aletrails walking break to the Peak District. Details on the Aletrails web site here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Beer Festivals

Two beer festivals worthy of recommendation this week.

Battersea Beer Festival is on from Wednesday to Friday near to Clapham Junction.

More details here or here if the web-site is working again.

The near legendary Downton, Chocolate Orange Delight will again be available at The Willoughby Arms Valentines Beer Festival from Wednesday to Saturday in Kingston. More details here.

Described as "for lovers of dark winter beers", this beer festival is a small effort to compliment the established St George's Day and Halloween events. Only 16 beers but featuring some interesting dark delights.

Where better to woo your valentine than The Willoughby Arms with a pint or two of Black Witch.

New pub wanted ...

There follows a transcript of a recent conversation with my son :

Him : Dad, can I have some of my pocket money ?

Me : Yes, sure, how much ?

Him : Twenty quid should be enough.

Me : Twenty quid ? Where are you going ?

Him : The Hare and Hounds

Me : But that's my pub.

Him : Dad, it's my local now !

He was 18 last week and has wasted no time moving in on my patch.

That is what I think is called the circle of life and I am on the lookout for a new local. All offers gratefully received.

More seriously though, this is one of the great strengths of the pub, that young and old share the same space. Young (and old) people will always behave better when in a mixed environment rather than sitting on a park bench drinking under-age in an uncontrolled, unlicensed surroundings.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Sambrook's Brewery

Just a quick one, a number of people have asked me where they can find the beer from London's newest brewery, Sambrook's.

Luckily, I have just been nominated to be CAMRA's brewery liaison officer for said brewery so I will hopefully be able to share any knowledge here.

The confirmed permanent stockists as follows:

Westbridge (Battersea Bridge)
Roundhouse (Battersea Rise)
Cow (Ladbroke Grove)
Brown Dog (Barnes)

Others pubs where the beer has been on regularly are :

Cats Back (Putney)
Tooting Conservative & Unionist Club (Tooting)
Duchess (Battersea)
Le Gothique (Wandsworth Common)
Distillers (Hammersmith)

Of course, you may be lucky and find the beer in many other London pubs and beer festivals but probably on an occoasional basis.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Parliamentary Reception

Tomorrow sees the annual Parliamentary reception for CAMRA. This is an event that allows CAMRA to engage with MPs, Lords and other researchers etc. The free beer that we lay on makes for quite a crowd but of course the most influential ones normally have other engagements.

In previous years it has proved clear that our influence is small and, if anything, reducing if the Chancellor's recent efforts are taken into account. However, increasing pub closures is giving a ground swell of opinion in Westminster that the pub and beer industries have been hammmered too much.

Five government ministers have recently agreed to meet with MPs to hear Parliamentarian’s fears for the future of the pub trade.

Parlimentary Beer Group chairman John Grogan MP has invited them to attend what observers are calling an "unprecedented" joint meeting to look at how urgently-needed help can be offered to the country’s struggling pubs.

The meeting, which is open to all, will be held at 5pm on Wednesday 4th March,2009, in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons. The full story is here

John Grogan is our host tomorrow and we will be lobbying MPs in various issues. I have a detailed briefing paper that includes, axe the beer tax escalator, support the Sustainable Communities Act, support guest beers and CAMRA Locale and support well run community pubs.

Plenty of food (and beer) for thought. Let's hope we can at last get our point across to the legislators in a tangible, meaningful way.

Monday, 2 February 2009

A new boy (or girl) ?

'tis true, the cat is out da bag. I am not standing for re-election as CAMRA Regional Director for London at the London agm on 25 March.

There are two candidates. Kim Martin, who is presently chair of West London branch and Graham Harrison, who is organiser of Ealing beer festival.

Both are good CAMRA people and I think either would do a good job.

Myself, I will find I have about 15 - 25+ hours more free time each week so am in the market for something else to do. Hopefully it will include drinking beer and visiting pubs. Watch this space.