Monday, 13 December 2010

Home Brew

An affordable gift this Christmas is the latest book on home brewing that was recently sent to me by the publishers.

Home Brew is a smart hardback book with 208 pages packed with good ideas for making drinks at home. It includes sections on beer, cider and fruit wines and describes recipes, techniques and other essential information to get you started.

This would be a good starter book for anyone who is keen on home produce and would be perfect to use to start making drinks from your allotment harvest or garden seasonal fruits.

I prefer to drink the stuff rather than make it and I prefer my beer to be professionally brewed rather than prepared in a bucket. Hence I have already passed the book onto someone who will make more use of it than me. Someone who is already keen on self-sufficiency, a keen apple juice, cider and beer maker and someone who I know will take advantage of the recipes and instructions for fruit wines or perhaps even mead in the book.

If you have anyone similar in the family, this book would make a good present. £20 cover price but the usual Amazon discount brings it to you for £11.10

Royal Wedding Beer - Paine's Young Rowley 1981

This week's 1981 Royal Wedding beer is Young Rowley brewed by Paine & Co in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

Another 275ml brown bottle with foil top and crown cap. It is common for beers in this period not to have the ABV on the label.

The beer poured a very dark red colour but was completely flat and had bits floating throughout.

The aroma was stale and not pleasant and , although the taste did have some subtle hints of fruit and sweetness, I decided that a couple of sips was more than sufficient.

This beer was called Young Rowley. I believe that this is a nod to the fact that Charles II was nicknamed "Old Rowley" which was the name of his favourite horse, Prince Charles thus being nicknamed "Young Rowley" by Paine's Brewery.

Some background from A Century of British Brewers published by the Brewery History Society : James Paine acquired the brewery site in St Neots in 1831. The company was renamed Paine & Co in 1896. The business was taken over by a group of travel agents in 1982 and was eventually acquired by Tollemache & Cobbold in 1987 when brewing ceased.

The 1982 Good Beer Guide suggests that 15 of its 23 houses sold real ale plus many free trade outlets.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

College Beer Club from Meantime

This week I am going to share some ideas for Christmas presents for the beer drinker. First up is probably the most extravagant gift of the season, an annual membership of the College Beer Club launched in time for Christmas by Meantime of Greenwich.

An annual membership brings two 750ml corked and wired champagne bottles of specially brewed and aged beers couriered each month to your door. The first beer hopefully delivered in time for Christmas will be a 13.5% imperial Russian stout, aged for ten months in whisky casks and described as liquid Christmas pudding. This will be followed by monthly deliveries of wood aged beers, historic beer styles from previous centuries, recreations of lost recipes plus innovative new brews all created by the fair hand of the Meantime brewmeister, Alastair Hook.

I am not going to deny that £350 for twelve deliveries of two bottles is not a large amount of money, each bottle working out at just under £15 a bottle. However, with membership limited to 500 these beers are going to be scarce. Once they're gone, they're gone and compared to some of the special imports from USA and Scandinavia they represent some value.

I have spent my expenses as London Ale Taster on my membership which I think is a rather neat virtuous beer circle.

I am also rationalising spending that much money by comparing it to the investment made last year in Brewdog. Some of us sent Brewdog money last year when they went through a fundraising to grow the business. There was no beer involved, just an investment, a chance to share in the future growth of the company and a feeling of being involved with one of the country's most innovative outfits.

I see much in common with the College Beer Club. A chance to support Meantime's move to modern new brewery in Greenwich, a feeling of kinship and brotherhood, a chance to feel involved. Instead of a share of future growth, there is the chance to try some great beers over the course of a year.

This College Beer Club "investment" is only for one year and I may be proved wrong but I am guessing that it will be more rewarding and more enjoyable than the future of my Brewdog investment.

So there you have it. An extravagant Christmas present for the beer lover in your life though something with instant payback and enjoyment and a gift that will keep giving throughout the coming year. I look forward to seeing some of you at the launch party in January.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Alarming news about Santa

It gives me no pleasure to have to bring this to your attention but I have some alarming news about Santa's business practices over the festive season.

It is alleged, according to my niece's maths homework, that Santa sells on all of the goodies that are left out for him on Christmas Eve.

It would appear that the going rate for mince pies is 20p, the glasses of sherry fetch 40p each and even the carrots have a market value of 5p each. From the income raised, Santa pays out for wrapping paper, gift tags and sellotape. He also has to pay wages to his elves for their efforts.

This information has been leaked by one of the elves who believe that Santa makes enough profit to give his employees a small increase in wages.

Now, that's all well and good in today's financial environment, everyone has to make sure their business affairs are in order but what troubles me the most is that I normally leave Santa something special to warm him up on his long journey.

It might be an aged Fullers Vintage or a Struise Black Damnation; something strong and dark that he won't get in anyone else's house and hopefully something so rare that he will remember me fondly throughout the year and with anticipation when returning to my chimney each year.

Now I am most disappointed to learn that he does not drink the beer but merely flogs it off to the highest bidder.

I know that this has some basis in fact because I saw last year's offering recently in the fridge at the Euston Tap. A 75cl, wired and corked bottle of Gift of the Magi from Lost Abbey Brewery in California. One of the treasures from my beer cupboard, left out for Santa's enjoyment but unceremoniously fenced off to one of London's leading beer bars. The price at the Euston Tap was approaching £30 but one cannot blame the high price on the good people there. They have merely suffered an extra leg in the supply chain and have to price accordingly. Hopefully someone will see the value there over the festive season and thoroughly enjoy what Santa has missed.

This year I am going to open, drink and enjoy a bottle of Cantillon St Lamvinus while wrapping the presents and leave a glass of cheap sherry out for Santa.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Royal Wedding Beer - Adnams Prince's Ale 1981

Cracked open the first of my collection of 1981 Royal Weding ales today, Adnam's Prince's Ale described as a strong ale brewed to celebrate the royal wedding 29 July 1981.

Served in a 275ml brown bottle with foil top. The beer poured completely flat but perfectly clear. It was a beautiful red colour reminiscent of Broadside or Tally Ho. The aroma was encouraging for such an old beer and gave off good fruity esters of fig and raisins with a sherry-like character. The taste was let down a bit by being completely lacking in condition but it was identifiable as a strong beer and was definitely still drinkable. There was of course some stale cardboard oxidisation but on balance this was an enjoyable beer and I finished the whole bottle.

Although they would probably say otherwise due to their modern brewery and green credentials, but Adnams has not changed much in the last thirty years.

The 1981 Good Beer Guide says "all 75 tied houses serve real ale, also widely available in the free trade".

Adnams were and have remained one of the country's best family brewers and I raise a glass to them, their beers, longevity and consistency.