Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Goose Island 312

One of the beers at the James Clay tasting recently was the IPA from Goose Island. This beer is becoming an essential inclusion on many beer lists that have a sprinkling of US beers and I recommend it if you see it.

However, I now learn that there has been a very high level beer swap at the recent G20 Conference. Following the honourable draw in the World Cup between England and USA, it seems that our Prime Minister has swapped his favourite beer, Wychwood Hobgoblin, brewed in his Witney constituency and in return has received President Obama's favourite cold one from his own Chicago constituency, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, described as an English style wheat beer (sic), straw coloured with ripe lemon aromas from Cascade and Liberty hops.

Sadly, each leader got their beer just in time to start crying into it, since both England and the USA were knocked out later that weekend.

I leave you to decide who got the best deal but I don't suppose either will be blogging about the beer though you never know with Cameron's history of video blogging.

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale will be available at and good independent retailers from mid-August.

Catch a video of the high powered beer swap here. oh, and check out the comments on the CNN web-site below the video - great stuff !

American Craft Beer Revolution

I am clearing my desk with a renewed vigour and am intending to either "blog it or bin it". A month or two ago I was invited to the White Horse, Parsons Green by beer importers, James Clay, to taste the latest in American craft beers arriving to mainstream London.

Beers from Brooklyn Brewery are coming to town. You may be lucky enough to find the lager on draught in some high end London pubs and bars and some of the more eclectic bottles are available by mail order at notably a 10.1 ABV Chocolate Stout, usually one of their classic IPAs and the delicious Brown Ale.

Other beers that were at the tasting and now imported by James Clay included offerings from Anchor (the classic Steam Beer), Flying Dog (try the Raging Bitch and Gonzo Imperial Porter if only for the names alone) and Goose Island (the IPA is gaining ground on the bar shelf and has my hearty recommendation).

The US craft beer revolution is hitting these shores and James Clay, Brooklyn Brewery and the White Horse are all doing their bit for the UK beer lover.

It is timely to also point out that the annual US Beer beer festival is being held this week at the White Horse. This is an absolutely unmissable event in the beer geek diary and I look forward to seeing Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Dogfishhead, Goose Island, Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Left Hand and Stone all represented on Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Fullers Fine Ale Club

Going through my mailbox, I notice that Fullers Fine Ale Club are asking all members to renew their membership to confirm that all members still wish to be members after the first ten years of the club.

This is timely to remind people that membership is free and comes with a free quarterly magazine to keep up-to-date with the beers coming out of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick as well as various competitions, guest writers, events, merchandise etc.

Joining is as easy as ordering a pint. Follow the link or ring 08456 447663.

and, did I mention ? membership is free !

Thursday, 24 June 2010

London's Secret Brewery

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the now mothballed Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, formerly the Young's Brewery which was sold to property company, Minerva, in 2006 for £69 million.

Much of the brewing equipment has been scrapped during the decommission but there is plenty that remains in situ much of it awaiting review by English Heritage to determine whether any of it should be preserved.

I have also seen the architects models of the planned redevelopment and can say that it intends to make as much of the brewing heritage as possible. The intention is to build two mainly residential tower blocks of 29 - 39 stories at the rear of the site (the stable end for those who know it) while the front of the site will be more open courtyard overlooked by the old brewery. They are restrained to a certain extent by the listed building status on the old brewery, the brewer's house, the beam engines, the chimney and the stable house so will be building the around the existing plant and buildings where necessary. It is intended that there will be a brewing museum on-site and a microbrewery - which may be operated by Young's.

To this end, I can let you into a little secret.

Brewing has been continuous in the brewery since Young's departed for Bedford.

John Hatch, one of the Young's brewing team was retained as site-manager by the owners, Minerva and was charged with making sure that brewing continues in the interim period until any microbrewery or brewpub can be developed.

John set to his task with gusto salvaging any parts of the brewing kit that the scrap merchants refused; begging, borrowing and simply making do to build a tiny brewing plant.

For example the brewing kettle was cobbled together using the cut-off tea urn from the canteen.

John has put together a quarter barrel brewery and has been brewing 72 pints a week. The beer is used by Minerva for company meetings and John sometimes hosts small gatherings for the friends of the brewery.

Sad as it was to see the old Young's brewery disappear and I know that not everyone agrees with me that it was unavoidable, I now raise a glass to brewing in Wandsworth and am encouraged by the enthusiasm that Minerva are showing with regard to the brewing heritage of the site. It is expected that the planning permission will be approved in the next month or so after which we will start seeing the redevelopment.

I hope we will eventually see the pub on the corner re-opening, another new brewery for London and a Ram Brewery museum.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Brew Dog ?

Just when you think you have seen it all, something else comes along and slaps you in the face.

Dog Beer is for dogs ! It is non-alcoholic and non-carbonated and it tastes of beef.

A perfect tipple for your best friend. The beer was developed in Australia. Take a look at

But fear not dog lovers, another brand is now available in the UK from

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Young's Ram Brewery - Photos by Steve Lyne

In my posting about the Brewery History Society I mentioned that the Journal had included a photographic essay cataloguing the final year of the Young's Ram Brewery in Wandsworth.

Steve Lyne spent the best part of a year with his camera (and leads, laptop, lamps, tripods etc) and unrestricted access to the working brewery in its final days.

Ken Don, Young's head brewer said "Steve has captured the spirit of what made Young's one of the most admired brewery companies in Britain. There is a warmth of feeling in these images which goes beyond the actual pictures and makes the reader feel part of the history, tradition and fun that working at Young's was all about."

The photos are available to view in full colour at Steve's website and are available to purchase in limited edition prints - details if you scroll down here.

More news from the Ram Brewery next week - stay tuned ....

Friday, 18 June 2010

Duke of Hamilton, Hampstead

I am happy to add my support to the campaign to save the Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead. It takes two minutes to register an objection through the Camden website. If you have ever spent an afternoon or evening in this great pub, perhaps you might like to add your voice too.

Duke of Hamilton, Hampstead. Latest News.
(Written by John Cryne)

The campaign to Save the Duke of Hamilton gathered momentum this week when pub regulars, concerned local residents, members of CAMRA and local councillors Linda Chung and Chris Knight gathered at the pub as part of the campaign to prevent the pub's closure and conversion into housing. Councillors Knight and Chung spoke to the gathering who also heard from regulars at the Pineapple in Kentish Town, saved from
closure by a similar campaign a number of years ago. They made one very clear point - 500 objections were lodged to the Pineapple's conversion. That carried weight. If everyone who receives this newsletter can, at the least, go to Camden's site and lodge an objection to both applications then we will have over 700 objections.
So please get clicking, see details below. Clearly if you can embellish the objection with strong reasons against all the better but if you don't have the time, just object! It should only take a few minutes for each application.

Both are on Camden's website, just enter the application numbers when you open this link 2010/1923/C - was filed on 28 May and 2010/1901/P - was filed on 1 June - the closing date for
on-line objections is 30 June.

At its AGM on Monday, the Heath and Hampstead Society joined the campaign by expressing their objection to the change of use. All Society members will be encouraged to lodge objections to what, if allowed, would bring about a massive change to the character of New End and indeed this whole part of Hampstead. I am also asking residents of Camden to write to their local councillors and MP Glenda Jackson, who has already expressed her strong support for the Duke staying as a pub. It's easy to do this for both councillors and MPs at and entering your home post code.

The campaign has also gone on-line with a website set-up by another local resident to act as a focus for all the activity that is going on - check out for the latest news. We also hope to file detailed technical objections to the applications on the
site either later today or tomorrow.

As part of the campaign local residents are having a street stall on Hampstead High street outside Barclays Bank this Saturday (19th) from 11.00 - 13.00. They will have flyers encouraging local people to send in objections to the planning applications, and information on how to object and the sort of grounds that should be used in objecting. They will also have a petition but the real object is to mobilise people
to write in to Camden Council. It is hoped that David Bedford, pub regular and London Marathon Race Director will come along. If you live close by why not pop along and see if you can help in any other way, say by delivering flyers.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Brewery History Society

I have just had my annual reminder for the £18 subs for the Brewery History Society and it is probably worth telling people that this is among the best value subscriptions of the year.

The BHS is a small membership organisation with about 500 members. The Society was founded in 1972 to promote research into all aspects of the brewing industry, to encourage the interchange of information about breweries and brewing, and to collect photographic and other archive information about brewery history.

It does not campaign against brewery closures being much more interested in their history. Take a look at the website to get a better flavour of what's on offer.

One thing the website cannot demonstrate is the strength of the Journal that is sent to members three or four times a year. Typically each Journal runs to over a hundred pages, is material you are not likely to find anywhere else and is easily readable being a collection of short papers on brewery history. It is like being a member of a book club but every edition is about breweries - perfick !

The latest edition is a "special" which means, I think, niche interest. The title is Brewing Culture in Early Modern Towns and the papers included are Making, retailing and regulating beer in Southampton, 1550 to 1799; Brewing, politics and society in an early modern German Town, Gorlitz; The University Brewery of Frankfurt an der Oder in the early modern period and finally Women, ale and company in early modern London - all about twenty pages each.

If that is all a bit geeky and intellectual for you the previous edition (not a special) included a collection of excellent photographs of the Young's Ram Brewery before closure, Beer Tourism USA, the New York Brewery Trail and a paper taking an up-to-date look at Peter Mathias - Brewing Industry in England 1700-1830 as it is fifty years since it was published and quickly became the standard reference book for that period.

All-in-all it is something that I always look forward to dropping on the doormat and it is much credit to the editor Tim Holt and the Editorial Board who have done much to make this a very valuable part of the membership subscription of the Brewery History Society.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Newby Wyke Brewery

As much as I love drinking in London's pubs, and I guess the City is now going to see a bit more of me, I also love getting out of town and last week saw a visit to Grantham in Lincolnshire and the five pubs that appear in the 2010 Good Beer Guide.

The highlight of the day was finding beers from the local brewery, Newby Wyke, in most of the pubs. I have had beers from Newby Wyke at beer festivals before and although always enjoyable they have never proved to be memorable. Well, that all changed on Tuesday. I don't care what anyone says, there is a clear difference between a quick half in a beer festival and a pint or two in the pub. The beers I had last week have moved Newby Wyke right up there into my favourites and "must drink whenever seen". The beers were fresh, clean tasting, well hopped, flavoursome and right up my street. They have been around for a while now and I guess they are on most people's radar but if they are rarities to you, I suggest you try them when you see them. I don't think you will be disappointed.

One of their regular outlets is the Nobody Inn in Grantham. The strange thing about this pub is that the toilets are "secret". Push the door marked Ladies/Gents and you will find it locked. Push the adjacent bookcase and a hidden door to the loos is revealed. Another delightful curiosity that makes Britain's pubs so enduring.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

London Ale Taster

Thanks everyone for your congratulations. As you might expect I am still pretty excited about this.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

London Ale Taster

And the winner of the City of London Ale Taster competition is .......

Me !

.....fanfare.....appluase.....cheers......general acclaim ......

I pitched my taste buds against five other beer lovers at The Old Spitalfields Market this afternoon and after four flights of four beers trying to identify each beer, followed by a one minute speech I was the overall winner and will now hold the title of City of London Ale Taster for the coming year.

Cheers all - more on this to follow, I dare say.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

London Ale Taster

Best news of the week is that I have been fortunate enough to be selected as one of the final six in the London Ale Taster competition which will be held this coming week. Forgive me for posting large chunks of the press release but I am spending every waking moment revising, researching and rehearsing - practice, practice, practice. Not strictly true but the event does look like it might be a lot of fun and it would be great to have some friendly support.

Spitalfields, London, UK- Following last month's call for applicants for the ancient position of London Ale Taster, on Wednesday 9th June, London's historic Old Spitalfields Market will play host to an special beer event which will see six, short-listed candidates battle it out for the coveted role.

The free event, which is open to the public, takes place at 1pm on the 9th June and will see the six contestants challenged with four tough rounds of ale tasting. They'll have to correctly identify unmarked samples of different ales and match them to a list - earning points for each one correctly identified. This will include a round dedicated to Porter, London's famous brew.

In the fifth and final round, the six hopeful candidates will each have to make a one-minute presentation to a panel of judges, again earning points. The panel includes many well-known names from the industry, including: Pete Brown, a leading beer writer and historian; Steve Wellington, master brewer with the famous White Shield micro-brewery; George Philliskirk, representing the Beer Academy andknown to many TV viewers as the 'Beer Doctor' and Malcolm Ball, chief executive of the Wellington Market Company, the company responsible for Old Spitalfields Market and the revival of this historic role.

The candidate with the most points will be crowned as London Ale Taster for 2010 and it is planned that this will become an annual event.

The competition will, notably, be accompanied by a special 'beer market', which is open between 9am and 3pm, and feature some of London's best-known brewers - including some from further a field. These brewers will offer free samples to the public and sell their ales, in what could be described as a 'mini' beer festival.

Brewers that are kindly supporting the day's event include Brodie's Beers (Leyton), Fullers (Chiswick), Meantime (Greenwich), Redemption Brewing Company Tottenham), Sambrook's Brewery (Battersea), Sharps (Rock, Cornwall), The Kernel Brewery (SE1 and the White Shield micro-brewery (Burton). The Beer Academy and Campaign for Real Ales(CAMRA) will also attend the event and promote their respective organisations activities.

The general public are welcome to come along to the free event, watch the battle for the coveted role and try out some of the ales on offer in the special beer market.

The role of Ale Taster (also known as Ale Conner) would have disappeared in the early nineteenth century and their duties would have involved visiting stalls and inns on market days and during the town's fairs to ensure that the ales, beers and other produce on sale were of good quality.

"The new London Ale Taster will have a much more modern-day role." explains Malcolm Ball, chief executive of Wellington Market Company, the company responsible for Old Spitalfields Market.

"The winner for this year's event will be given a weekly beer budget so that they can carry out the role of 'mystery drinker' in the capital's pubs. We'll set them up with a blog (website diary page) so that they can report back to consumers on what they find on their travels.

"We are planning a number of food and drink-related events at our market this year and the successful candidate will hopefully preside over a number of beer-related activities, such as tasting classes, food / beer matching sessions and the launch of a new beer called Old Spitalfields Bitter (OSB) which we hope will be produced with the help of London's brewers.

"I'd like to stress that the London Ale Taster is all about responsible drinking and in no way are we promoting binge drinking - I guess you could sum up the role with the phrase 'quality, not quantity'!"

One of the London Ale Taster judges, Pete Brown, leading beer writer and historian, whose books have charted the history of brewing and drinking, added: "There's an unprecedented level of interest in great beer these days and a lot of that interest is coming from people who love locally sourced, flavourful, crafted food and drink of all types and don't see why beer should be any exception.
"This post should help spread the appreciation of beer even further and help turn more people on to the variety and depth of flavour in great beer - I think everyone is going to be surprised by how knowledgeable and passionate some of the applicants will be!"

The beer market event opens with the normal market stalls at 9am and the competition commences at 1pm. Further information can be found at find out more at the London Ale Taster website

Old Spitalfields Market is a short walk from Liverpool Street Station and Aldgate East Tube - please visit for further information.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ancient Order of Froth Blowers

I found this in a charity shop in Putney last week. Does anyone else recognise what it is ?

The Ancient Order of Froth Blowers was a charitable group of beer drinkers that ran from 1924 to 1931 - at its peak over 700,000 had paid the life membership fee of five shillings which included a rather natty pair of cufflinks.
The following is a quote from their membership handbook :

A sociable and law abiding fraternity of absorptive Britons who sedately consume and quietly enjoy with commendable regularity and frequention the truly British malted beverage as did their forbears and as Britons ever will, and be damned to all pussyfoot hornswogglers from overseas and including low brows, teetotalers and MPs and not excluding nosey parkers, mock religious busy bodies and suburban fool hens all of which are structurally solid bone from the chin up

Amen to that, I say.

For more information, I can do no better on this blog than to draw attention to the very excellent Friends of the Froth Blowers website :

or for a shorter history, take a look at Wikipedia