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 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!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Foraging with a Badger

When you're a delinquent blogger who hasn't posted for weeks there is always something nagging your conscience to make sure the blog is not consigned to history -be it a great day out, a memorable beer or a new book to tell people about.

As long ago as the middle of September I was invited for a day of foraging with the lovely folk at Hall and Woodhouse Brewery. I was unsure what relevance this had to beer and as it turned out very little but a good time was had by all.

Here are some of the things I learnt on that day :

The day began at Weymouth, Chesil Beach with a glass of Forager's Nip and a chocolate brownie made with Badger, Poacher's Choice beer. A heady start to a the day.

{Forager's Nip : fill a jar with blackberries, top up to half way with sugar, fill with whisky, shake once a day for a week, store in a dark place for a year. Simples !}

Armed with a pair of scissors and a tub of salt you can gather a feast by the seashore.

It pays to be with an expert and we were accompanied by John Wright who is the country's leading authority on wild food.

Check out his book, Edible Seashore, which is part of the River Cottage Handbook series - a practical guide to foraging for the rich pickings to be found on Britain's seashore.

After a morning gathering Marsh Samphire, Wild Thyme, Sea Beet and Wormwood it was time for lunch.

On the strength this quick lunch the food at the Crab House Cafe now has my hearty approval and a mental note is made to revisit sometime.

Badger England's Own with its white grape and elderflower flavors was a delicious accompaniment to the meal - going especially well with a fresh raw oyster farmed on-site.

Included for aesthetic purposes only. You can take the boy out of West London .....

To forage for razor clams visit the tidal waters as the tide is coming in, look for two small holes in the sand, pour in some table salt and the clam will poke his head up.

Grab the head, hold and he will release himself from the sand.

Put him in your pot for your feast later.

If you rely on your foraging efforts for sustenance you are going to be hungry.

Even the lone crab found in the pots that John had previously set in the waters did not really make a meal for eight though it was great fun getting the stove out and cooking it all up on the beach. No beer to go with it unfortunately (#PRfail)

This proved to be a good starter before the delicious meal that had been laid on at our hotel The Bull in Bridport - again this place has my recommendation and I hope to revisit sometime.

Copious amounts of Badger beers in the splendid company of Mark Woodhouse and his brewing team made a perfect end to the day.

Now, here's some of the really important stuff I discovered on the day :

Hall & Woodhouse have just invested almost £5 million in a new brewery, largely funded by the sale of some land to the side of a pub in Horsham. The brewery is just about finished and will be brewing the range of badger beers imminently. A significant once-in-a-lifetime investment and demonstrable proof of a family's continued commitment to the UK brewing industry.

I am often confused by the range of Badger beers so now I have an aide-memoir. Here is yours :

First Gold (best bitter, malty, orange and spicy)
Tanglefoot (stronger with hints of melon and pear character)
Fursty Ferret (tawny, amber ale with delicate hop)
England's Own (white grape and elderflower)
Golden Glory (peach and melon)
Golden Champion (hint of elderflower)
Hopping Hare (refreshing, hoppy and well balanced)
Blandford Flyer (ginger)
Poacher's Choice (dark with licorice and damson)

Thanks to James Peat for the photography.

Thanks to all at Badger for their hospitality.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

London Beers come to Egham

I received a polite bollocking recently from Bob (the Binman) Inman, one of the organisers of the Egham United Services Club Beer Festival because I had failed to give a shout-out for their last beer festival in the Summer.

The truth was that I generally don't publicise an event if I am not planning to attend. Apart from a jam packed diary that week, personally I had also found the beer list a little too focused on new breweries and pandering to the beer ticker community who love finding beers from new breweries.

Now I have nothing against the beer ticker, honestly some of my best friends tick beers, it's just that I find, with a handful of notable exceptions, that new breweries take a while to bed-in and I generally prefer beers from the tried and tested.

Fresh out of their Brewlab courses and after the stresses and strains of actually getting the brewery commissioned, it takes a few recipes, a lot of customer and pub feedback, practice with the equipment, and choices of ingredients before the beer really hits the spot. Some of the brewed-on-a-farm-in-a-bucket brigade never get there but most new brewers will quickly be brewing some good tasty distinctive beers.

I have just taken a look at the list for this week's event and confirm that I am on the case and am keen to recommend a visit to others. Two of my favourite breweries appear again. There are Five beers from Ascot Ales including two from their 8% Last of the Blue Devils range - a cassis and an aniseed. Two special beers appear from Windsor & Eton, a version of the Conqueror dark IPA, this one with added Whiskey plus the very last cask of the special 7.5% version of the same beer. I am not going to miss these.

However, the main reason for attending, and notwithstanding my comments above, is to try again the range of beers from many of London's newest breweries.

Research, research, research !

The bars will have the very newest London beers, from The Botanist brewpub on Kew Green (7 beers), By the Horns Brewery in Wimbledon (3), Camden Town's latest offerings (2), beer from East London Brewing (1), London Fields Brewery (2), Moncada Brewery (3) and Redchurch (1). All this plus the London Brewers Alliance collaboration IPA the brewing of which I was lucky enough to take part in.

Finally, and probably the most important reason to attend any event, Bob has reminded me with this photo record that I have a great time every time I visit Egham Club beer festivals.

A warm welcome, fantastic hospitality and great beers. What more do you want on an unseasonably warm November eve.

The festival happens from 3rd to 6th from 11am daily. More info here.

See you there !

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Fuller's Vintage Ale - Vertical Tasting

There is plenty that I should be blogging about from recent beer drinking ahead of last night's event but I have to get this written down while it is fresh in my memory.

A memorable evening spent in the company of the great and the good of the beer world, hosted by Fuller's senior executives in their Hock Cellar at the brewery, tasting all fifteen of the Vintage Ales from 1997 to the newly released 2011.

This will be the last time that all Vintages are tasted in one sitting, partly because 15 beers (of 8.5%) in one evening is a stretch for most people but also some of the older Vintages are becoming really scarce. There are only forty bottles left of the 1998. It does not appear in my collection so if you have a bottle left you have a real collectors item.

My beer cupboard : I know what I like ! (Missing 1998, 2001 and 2002)
The scarce 1998 now has a savoury character with notes of chocolate and liqueur. it is very smooth with hint of calvados. This was the 14th beer we tasted and my notes are less coherent => "still really good" says it all for me.

My favourite was the 2008 : less oxidised notes, a hint of cherry aroma, slightly more carbonated, still some fresh orange character and a really lovely smooth mouthful.

It was a hard evening. Everyone seemed to have a different favourite but the consensus is that this is a beer that ages very well, from six months to fifteen years there is a a full range of flavour profiles and different ageing characteristics.

Across the piece, each beer was identifiable as a Fuller's Vintage, largely due to the Fuller's yeast bringing its orange marmalade flavours to each beer. The ageing process brought something special to each beer. It is clear that ageing is not a linear process, peaking and then deteriorating; ageing changes the beers in a variable cycle over time. A beer that perhaps is a bit dull after say seven of eight years, can smooth out over the next two or three bringing back a sweetness and fruitiness that is part of the chemical change brought on by time alone. It was interesting to note that each beer still has a viable yeast count and a spritzy carbonation dispelling the myth that the yeast quickly dies in a bottle conditioned beer.

It was enlightening to hear beer discussed in the same serious way that is evident at a vertical vintage wine tasting. This is one of the world's greatest beers and deserves its place at the top table being honoured and revered by beer lovers worldwide.

Fuller's Vintage is brewed each year using the finest ingredients from that vintage. It is based on the recipe for Golden Pride but is bottle conditioned in a numbered limited edition. Once in the bottle the flavours continue to develop over time. Many vintages are always available at the Fuller's Brewery shop and the current edition is usually on the shelf at Waitrose at around £3.50 a bottle. (Approx 50% is sold during each year and the remaining 50% bought in future year by collectors and enthusiasts).

I must give a big thank you to Fuller's for their hospitality. The philosophy, standards and values of the company were at their most evident last night and fully deserve to be shouted about.

Finally in the interest of open disclosure, I am now CAMRA's Brewery Liaison Officer for Fuller's Brewery. It is no secret that I am a fan of Fuller's beers, being the nearest brewery to my home. Don't therefore be surprised to read more about them here in future.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New beer videos - Carlsberg & CAMRA

I came across two new beer videos this week. Both are really good and worthy of your attention.

Firstly a new take on the "angry Hitler" video, this one is "angry CAMRA". First saw this on Reluctant Scooper blog so the link is to Simon Johnson's site :

The only thing missing here is "and they only joined because we gave them Wetherspoon vouchers !"

Secondly this new Carlsberg advert has had over 2.5 million views in 5 days. It is viral marketing at its very, very best :

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Art By Offenders - Koestler Trust

Spoiler Alert : Not beer related

Earlier in the summer, I was chosen as one of the JP volunteer curators of this year's Koestler Trust annual exhibition showcasing Art by Offenders.

Each year the Koestler Trust hosts an awards competition of visual arts, film, music and writing by prisoners and others in secure settings.

This year the competition attracted entries from UK prisons, secure hospitals, immigration detention centres, youth offending services, probation and British prisoners serving overseas. The total entry was over 7,000 pieces.

My part in the process was to spend three weeks selecting about 150 pieces worthy of display from a total entry of visual arts of about 5,000. It was a real test of group decision making and selection by committee but I am really proud of the end result which is now available for all to see.

The exhibition opens today at 1pm (21 September) in the basement space (Spirit Level) of the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, SE1 8XX. It is free to get in and runs until 20 November. Opening hours are 10am to 10pm. More details at

Please drop in for a few minutes if you are passing through Central London or make a special visit. I know I am a bit biased but I guarantee you will be glad that you did.

If anyone would like me to join their visit to give a curator's perspective, let me know. I would be glad to come if my diary is free - daytime or evenings.

Finally, I can't resist putting a beer spin on this : Meantime bottles are available at the Royal Festival Hall bars and the Harp, CAMRA's national pub of the year is about a fifteen minute walk across the river. There is also a pretty good pub walk to be done nowadays along the Strand.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

National Honey Show - Beer Category - Call for Entries

The National Honey Show will again be held at St George's College, Weybridge on 27th-29th October. There are over two hundred judging categories in the show from Jars of Honey (2) to Beeswax Candles (3) to Mead (Dry) and Honey Fruit Cake.

For the last two years I have been one of the judges in the Honey Beer category and my reason for this post is to invite more brewers (and now home brewers) to consider entering the competition. Each year the competition has attracted between six and eight entries, so there is an excellent chance of scooping the Leslie Thorne Trophy.

The only criteria for entry to the beer category (class 41) is that the beer shall be commercially available and honey must be an ingredient. The entry is 3 bottles or cans and the fee is £20.

This year there is a new class for home and non-commercial brewers (class 42), Honey beer, any style, 2 bottles, minimum 330ml, not commercially available. Honey must be an ingredient. Entry fee is 50p.

The committee at the National Honey show are all lovely people, as passionate about beekeeping as we are about beer. They would be delighted to increase the number of entries to further justify their inclusion of a (honey) beer category.

My fellow judges, John Porter (left) and Tim Hampson (right) will also be delighted if the number of beers to taste increases !

Melissa Cole is the fourth judge which is rather apt as Mel is the latin word for honey.

For further details, entry forms and details of logistics of entering the competition, please contact John Hendrie, the entries secretary at

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Red Lion, Barnes - Beer Dinner

This evening looks like it will be a lot of fun with our favourite beer-world double act.

The Red Lion is a traditional Fullers pub in Barnes, SW13 with a great reputation for both beer and food.

I can't miss this and my tickets are already secured.

There is likely to be strong demand, so I suggest you reserve tickets soon if you wish to come along.

The Red Lion is on the bus route between Barnes and Hammersmith so both those stations are easily accessible. I'm going to walk !

From the press release :

Two local beer experts will be going head to head at The Red Lion in Barnes to persuade foodie customers who is the best beer matcher of them all.

Leading beer writer Melissa Cole and Chiswick brewery Fuller’s Head Brewer John Keeling have been challenged by The Red Lion’s managers Angus Mckean & Claire Morgan to match beers to a specially created menu. Both choices will then be served on the night with customers voting on their favourite match. Neither John nor Melissa will be aware of the other’s choices.

The ‘Battle of the Sexes’ event, designed provocatively to ‘find out who has the most taste – men or women’ will take place on Friday October 14th.

Angus said: “I know Melissa and John often have heated discussions about beer – how to describe the flavours, what tastes best with what – so I decided it was time to really put them to the test. I have no doubt our customers will get to try some amazing beer and food combinations – and they can watch the fireworks while they eat!”

Angus and Melissa have put together a mouth-watering (and belt-busting) six course menu including oysters steeped in Belgian lambic beer (made with wild yeasts), sweet potato and yam baskets with slow roast pork belly in plum sauce and pear tarte tatin with homemade Fuller’s Past Masters Double Stout ice cream. You’ll have to buy a ticket to find out the beer matches suggested by John and Melissa.

Head Brewer John Keeling said: “Beer is often overlooked as a match with food, but actually it often works better with many dishes than wine. And with finely crafted beers available from both the UK and abroad, now is the time to experiment. Forget about malbecs and muscadets, and try some porter and pale ales!”

Tickets to the event on October 14th are available from The Red Lion Barnes at £25 per head. Please call Angus on 020 8748 2984 or email

Monday, 12 September 2011

A Visit to Sharp's

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to join a media trip to Sharp's Brewery in North Cornwall, the home of Doom Bar, to see the progress and ambitions since the company was taken over by Molson Coors for c£20m some seven months ago.

Here are some of the things I discovered :

Pasties taste best in Cornwall - especially after a seven hour journey.

The takeover of Sharp's by Molson Coors (MC) is a "marriage of two businesses with similar values".

Beer volumes are growing. Projected production in the coming year is > 120,000 barrels - of which only 3,000 is in bottle. More than 90% of this is Doom Bar.

Only 18% of regular cask ale drinkers drink solely cask ale.

MC are investing £5.7 million in Sharp's over the next 2.5 years.

Most of this investment is in Rock, Cornwall

Rock, Cornwall is in the back of beyond, on the north Cornwall coast, across the bay from Padstow and a half hour taxi ride from Bodmin station.

There is no suggestion in even the longer 10 year business plans that brewing will move away from Rock.

Sharp's use more whole hops than any other UK brewery.

Doom Bar is the third best selling cask ale in London, the top in the south West and fifth nationwide : after GK IPA, London Pride, Deuchars IPA and GK Abbot.

The investment over the next two years will support growth of Doom Bar outside its heartlands of London and the South West.

MC are supporting the brewer, Stuart Howe's passion for niche beers and will be launching a Connoisseurs Range in the near future

52 % of cask ale drinkers drink wine as preference at home.

Doom bar is sold in 3,200 pubs.

Cask ale drinkers are the most promiscuous.

Doom Bar is "gloriously mainstream"

55% of people cannot detect lightstruck flavours that will often come from beer in clear bottles, 35% actually prefer the light struck flavours. (See also Shepherd Neame, Badger and the iconic Newcastle Brown).

The clear bottle is modern and contemporary and supports the brand image.

Lager drinkers prefer clear bottles. (See also Corona and Sol).

Brewers prefer beer in brown bottles.

People mature to cask ale at an average age of 45 but usually convert from other beers and have come to the beer category at 18-24 remaining loyal. There are now a huge number of 18-24s who are missing the beer category completely due to the growth in cider and spirits. They are much harder to get back.

The beer category includes Carling, MC's major UK brand. The implication being that MC are massive supporters of "beer".

Stuart Howe's trial brew plant is 60 litres NOT 60 barrels as his tongue slipped(and probably wished for).

The takeover has meant that he is now head brewer in a brewery investing for future growth rather than a brewery being fattened up for sale.

Sharp's are now the sole user of the Morrell's Brewery (Oxford) yeast strain

Part of Doom Bar's success is the fact that it is easy for licensees to condition. The beer has a low yeast concentration, 4m cells per mil in conditioning tank, 1m cells per mil in cask. This means most of the conditioning is done in the brewery and the beer drops bright, ready for the customer, within 12 hours of reaching the pub.

No maize, rice or sugar is used in the brewing process.

That was the more formal stuff. We were then treated to a swift brewery tour after which the beers started to be poured. This is where it all started to get a bit messy.

More tomorrow.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Making CAMRA Better

In haste, my first attempt at mobile blogging, shamelessly cut and paste from an email. A test really. Better something than nothing. Your chance to influence CAMRA policies


Dear CAMRA Member,

As you may be aware, Greater London members of CAMRA have the opportunity
to collectively influence the future of the Campaign at a national level.
London Branches are hosting a conference on Saturday, 3 September 2011, to
hear members' views and to formulate recommendations to the Campaign's
National Executive. The conference theme is 'making CAMRA better'. The
venue is Questors Theatre in Ealing, who's Grapevine Bar was recently
chosen by a panel of judges as Regional Club of the Year for Greater London
because of its excellent ales, support of CAMRA's aims and superb value for

The National Executive plan to review the strategic plan for the Campaign
later this autumn. They will consider the recommendations of the 'Fitness
for Purpose' review that was mandated at their AGM in 2010 and presented to
the membership at the 2011 Members’ weekend earlier this year. Their
focus will be on prioritising a few achievable campaigning goals each year
and increasing the involvement of grassroots members in strategic planning.
The text of the full report is available on the CAMRA website.

The day's programme will permit conference delegates to take part in
in-depth discussions of the major challenges and issues that CAMRA is

The threat to pubs - What are the social and economic factors that are
making it difficult for pubs to remain open. What, if anything, can CAMRA
do about it?

Responsible drinking. Are the anti-alcohol lobbies hijacking the moral
high ground? CAMRA believe that the pub is the heart of responsible
drinking. What can we do to dissociate ourselves from those who demonise
beer drinkers and pub-goers?

Taxation on beer is spiraling out of control. How can this be organised to
redress the balance between the pub and the supermarkets.

Advertising - is the customer being mislead by the mass media to the
detriment of cask-conditioned ale? Is customer choice being reduced?

Craft beer - What is it? Should CAMRA re-write its definition of real ale
to accommodate lovingly crafted neo-fizz?

Campaigning aspirations and audiences - are we preaching to the converted?

The London Branches are excited about this event and want to make the
conference a success.  All London members are encouraged to attend and
contribute their views. Our collective views will help steer CAMRA into the

Questors Theatre is a short walk from Ealing Broadway Station. There is no
charge for admission. A selection of locally-produced cask-conditioned ales
and real ciders will be available in the Grapevine Bar at attractive
prices. Lunch will also be on sale. The bar is open well into the evening.
The premises are fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Please register at Non-members are
invited to participate by joining CAMRA on the day.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday!

Kind regards
Kimberly Martin
CAMRA Regional Director for Greater London

Friday, 26 August 2011

Brainwave Charity Beer Tasting 2011

As soon as I plugged this event last year, the tickets sold out (not due to my publicity, I hasten to add). A great time was had by all and a significant amount of money raised for the charity.

I am therefore please to advertise the 2011 event as follows :

The children’s charity, Brainwave, is arranging another exclusive beer tasting at the Farmers’ Club on 19 October, where guests can find out a little more about the complex world of beer, where the flavours come from and a little on the history of beer.

So not only can you have an entertaining and different evening and help a charity too.

The event is being held at the Farmers' Club in Central London at 3 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EL; nearest tube: Embankment.

The tasting is being hosted by Christine Cryne, who chaired CAMRA’s 2011 Champion Beer of Britain and is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. (Christine also happens to be the charity's Chief Executive).

Tickets are £35, including a buffet. The doors open from 6.30 pm with the tasting starting at 7pm. The event is being supported by Wells & Youngs beers.

Tickets are available from Megan Owen:; 07872 548 450

Learn more about this charity at

Follow them on Twitter @brainwavecentre

Also take a look also at their YouTube channel at

I guess this is more of a general interest beer event rather than a tasting for the hard-core beer-geek.

If you belong to the latter crowd, why not just bung them the price of a pint here.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Wychwood Ginger Beard

During GBBF week, I arrived home to find a small parcel sent by the kind people at Marston's. It included a bottle of their latest beer, Wychwood Ginger Beard, a bar of chocolate and a pack of stilton with apricots, all boxed in a wicker basket. A nice gift and perfect choices to match with the beer.

Unfortunately, as soon as the pack was opened the chocolate was gone. I am a bit of a chocoholic and had enjoyed the 100g M&S Dark Peruvian Chocolate before I could even get the cap off the bottle of beer.

(Memo to PR teams, if you send me chocolate with beer, send extra chocolate).

Feeling a bit guilty about this, I thought I should try to do the cheese more justice. It was a shame that the cheese had been spoiled slightly by the warm weather (and the fact that I didn't open the pack until overnight after a long GBBF session) so I dug out Sue Nowak's Beer Cook Book to chase down a suitable recipe. Portered Stilton leapt from the index, a slant on Potted Stilton where leftover cheese is traditionally mixed with leftover port to spice up an apres-repas (is that a word ?)

Here's a precis of the recipe :

8oz mature blue stilton
1oz tiny chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
1oz walnuts, chopped
2oz butter (unsalted)
2 tablespoons of porter

Roughly grate stilton into a bowl, add the walnuts. Saute the mushrooms with half the butter, add to the bowl. Slowly add the beer and stir until softened. Pack firmly in a heavy pot, seal with the remaining melted butter and refrigerate.

OK, so I used stilton with apricots instead of blue; chopped the cheese and used normal mushrooms; used pecans instead of walnuts, marg instead of butter and vitally Wychwood Ginger Beard instead of Porter - but it was still a culinary victory for someone like me who doesn't pick up a pan from one month to the next.

Having only used a little of the beer in the recipe, I was able to serve the rest of the bottle at the table in small glasses to accompany the cheese dish.

The beer, as you might guess, is infused with fiery root ginger which perfectly complimented the cheesy paste. The spicy finish livening up the creamy, fruity and earthy flavours of the apricot stilton and the mushroom. The theatre of presenting the beer to accompany the dish gave me much kudos among our guests.

The beer itself is a 4.2% amber coloured, ginger'd beer rather than an alcoholic soft drink. It is clean tasting, fresh and refreshing. It is packed with ginger taste. This is not a subtle beer; if you love ginger, you'll love it.

I can't say that this would ever be my favourite beer but it has brought me back to the kitchen and given me enthusiasm to do more cooking with beer, so that's no bad thing.

It has not given me any desire to grow a ginger beard !

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Call Yourself a Beer Blogger ?

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then is's a duck. But if it doesn't keep its blog up to date with regular postings, then it's not a blogging duck.

One blog post in nearly two months is inexcusable. Admittedly, I was otherwise engaged for about three of those weeks doing a prison art project (of which you will hear a lot more from me - even if it does not include beer) but the lack of up-to-date content here recently really is a poor show.

My notebook of ideas is full, my camera is loaded, plenty of people have sent me beer and books to write about and I have lot's of diary dates to share. Now, I just need to get my finger out and try to remember the password into the blog (if you are reading this, it's clear that my memory was good).

If I took one message away from the Beer Bloggers Conference about good blogging, it was that it is vital to have a regular stream of postings. People won't visit your blog if there's nothing new to read, though it's encouraging how many of you have dropped by regularly in the last month to read and re-read about Barnard's travels.

Well, here goes. I can't guarantee that the musings here in future will inform, educate, entertain, expose, campaign, stimulate, champion, story-tell, describe or evangelise, but I am going to try my hardest to make sure there is something new to read.

Stay tuned !

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Barnard's Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland

Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland is a four volume, 2,183 page, work written by Alfred Barnard towards the end of the nineteenth century.

It is a personal account by Barnard of his visits to a wide range of Victorian breweries giving detailed accounts of the premises, plant and product range at a time when the industry was booming.

Given its importance as a beer related historical reference, I am slightly ashamed to say that it has only hit my attention in recent weeks. Firstly at the (now legendary) Beer Bloggers Conference, when it was discussed at a time when a talk on the future of beer writing seemed to get a bit bogged down in the history of beer writing.

A week or two later, the Brewery History Society Journal hit the doormat and the first paper was entitled A personal consideration of Alfred Barnard's Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland and aspects of its relationship to the late Victorian brewing industry written by Paul Bayley.

A little dry you may think but by the end of the 40 odd pages, I was hooked and keen to get my hands on a copy. That is until I learnt on the last page that copies were now changing hands for about £1,000 !

All is not lost though, there is a CD ROM copy available for about £30.

Excellent I thought and set about googling to find a copy.

Even better news, and the real reason for this blog post, is that I have found a free download of all four volumes.

It is included in the Ask About Ireland digital book collection at

I can't really do it justice here; suffice to say that even though there is a body of evidence to suggest that the breweries paid fees to be visited by Barnard, this is a very readable collection of beer and brewery travels, has fabulous illustrations for its time and is well worth getting a copy of.

I downloaded it to my IPad and now have it in my electronic book collection, available in seconds with a swipe of the finger. I guess it would also work just as well as a normal PC PDF download.

Never let it be said that I don't bring you value. £1,000 worth of beer history, at your fingertips, thanks to the digital age.

Finally, I am never slow to say that the £18 annual subscription to the Brewery History Society remains excellent value and is recommended.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol @ Edinburgh Fringe

This year's Edinburgh Fringe will have representation from two of our friends in the beer world. Ben McFarland (left) and Tom Sandham, hosts of the website and legendary beer writers are dipping their toes into "stand-up".

The show runs at the Pleasance Hut from 4th to 29th August and is called The Thinking Drinker's Guide to Alcohol.

The boys decided to go before even thinking about content but soon realised that the only thing they really know anything about is alcohol, so the show is described as a ‘rip-roaring yarn’ that will take the audience on a ride through the history and culture of alcohol.

Not very interesting you may think, and not exactly Al Murray's Pub Landlord, but what makes this show so special is the offer of free liquor - six times over the duration of the hour long show.

This could turn messy and I wish the boys all the very best (break a leg ?).

If you are in or around Edinburgh during August, check it out, it looks like it's going to be fun.

The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol, the Fringe’s only intellectual and interactive elbow-bending event, will champion alcohol and reveal how it has played a role in love, literature and learning since the dawn of time. And some would say, even before that. Long before it helped us lose our mobile phones, alcohol has been oiling the wheels of civilisation and invigorating the minds of history’s greatest heroes – from Jesus Christ and Vincent Van Gogh to Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill. Even Boris Yeltsin. And through our show we’ll stimulate both the mind and the mouth and prove that in actual fact, contrary to received wisdom, answers to a lot of life’s most searching questions can be discovered at the bottom of a glass.

More details at

And ticket information at

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Beer Bloggers Conference - Fullers

The Sunday afternoon session of the Beer Bloggers Conference saw the delegates hot-footing it down the river to Fullers Brewery in Chiswick for a session on "The Effect of Ingredients on Beer" presented by master brewer, Derek Prentice.

Preceded with a tour of the brewery and followed by the best Sunday lunch you will ever have, Derek's talk and beer tasting included many beers from Fuller’s aged selection including Vintage Ales, Past Masters, and Brewers Reserves.

Thanks must go to Fullers for a marvellous end to a splendid weekend.

Beer Bloggers Conference - Wells & Youngs

The third of the main sponsors of the Beer Bloggers Conference were Wells & Youngs who hosted the Saturday evening dinner at Dirty Dicks pub near Liverpool Street.

An excellent evening in the company of Paul Wells (chairman), Nigel McNally (MD) and Jim Robertson (Brewer) ably supported by the duo of Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland made for an entertaining evening. Bombardier (Bang On !), London Gold, Directors Bitter and Chocolate Stout made sure we did not go thirsty.

The evening was to further celebrate the launch of the latest advertising campaign for Bombardier - Bang On with Rik Mayall as the central character.

The thirty second advert shown on TV is a considerably watered down version to satisfy the advertising standards.

The two minute on-line edit and the three minute Director's Cut versions are filthy, crass, lewd, packed with sexual innuendo, demeaning to women, patronising to the beer drinker, dated, wrongly suggest beer gives you strength and makes you irresistible to women .....

Oops nearly got carried away there......

...they are also entertaining, funny, and the perfect antidote to some of the "pipe and slippers" style of beer advertising such as the James May London Pride Campaign.

Take it as you see it.

I say "Bang On, Bombardier !"

Those who take offence easily look away now :

Though I have to say even I am slightly troubled by the line "about time someone gave Boney a damn good licking"

Beer Bloggers Conference - Molson Coors

The main sponsor of the Beer Bloggers Conference was Molson Coors, the global brewer most famous in the UK for Carling.

Kristy McCready is their head of communications in the UK and has been hooked into the secret world of beer bloggers and tweeters for a couple of years. She was quick to see the value of the event and was first to commit to supporting the conference by sponsoring the venue costs and the opening night dinner.

I think we first met at a tweetup in Sheffield early last year when she first scolded me for calling Carling - "Black Label" - a moniker that has not been used since 1997. Although I don't remember "Hey Mabel, Black Label", I am from a generation that remembers and still uses the catch phrase: "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label"

It is a tough gig trying to champion what you might call "cooking lager" to the bloggerati. Carling sells over 4 billion pints in the UK alone (yes, billion) so I leave you to you mull over the rights and wrongs of dissing such a product.

Their mission is to help people drink and appreciate beer ahead of wines and spirits and that is a bandwagon we should all climb aboard.

It would have been nice to serve Carling at the opening dinner but Steve Wellington from the Worthington microbrewery and Stuart Howe from Sharps, the latest addition to MC stable, were not going to allow that to happen and we were refreshed with a variety of their excellent beers served with the fine dinner.

The Beer Bloggers Conference would not have made such a mark without the help of Molson Coors and I raise a glass (of Carling ?) in their direction.

Beer Bloggers Conference - Pilsner Urquell

The Beer Bloggers Conference was over a month ago and plenty of blog posts were written around that time to share the delights of the event. In truth though, it was really one of those times when you had to be there; no amount of blog posts or twitter tweets can truly describe enough how good this weekend was.

However, in hindsight, it would be wrong of me not to give a nod towards some of the sponsors who so richly supported the conference.

One of my favourite sessions was the Pilsner Urqull cocktail party launching their latest advert. The accompanying fresh unfiltered and unpasteurised beer from wooden casks was a welcome conclusion to the first of three long days of beer geekery.

In the light of some of the other beer adverts around lately, I think this is rather classy.

If you are interested in the art or animation of such a project, check out the behind the scenes video that is prompted at the end of the advert.

If you missed the conference, make sure you get aboard next year. If you don't write a blog or tweet about beer, then I suggest you start pdq. Honestly, this event was that good.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

New Brewery for Badger

How long does it take to build a brewery ? Enough time to forget it is happening.

The new brewery development by Hall & Woodhouse in Blandford Forum, Dorset was announced some time ago but it is only now that the project is nearing completion that it becomes more real and visible to the beer drinker.

The 37 week build project will be completed at the end of August, with commissioning and trial brews set for September and the new brew-house completely up-and-running from October.

It is no small beer that Hall & Woodhouse are investing £5 million in their new brewery project when others among the family brewers have packed up their kit and cleared off to the golf course by selling out and closing.

Hall & Woodhouse are investing in their future, the future of British brewing, perpetuating their family's history and supporting their local community.

Mark Woodhouse, the company vice-chairman said "Hall & Woodhouse has been brewing Badger ales for over 225 years and this development means we will be doing so for many more generations to come. An investment of this magnitude demonstrates our ongoing commitment to brewing in Blandford and to the continued growth of our premium bottled and cask ales. It also ensures that we continue brewing the high quality and innovative flavoured ales for which we have such an enviable reputation. We are very grateful for the constructive support that we are receiving from North Dorset District Council for our exciting new brewery development.”

This is an investment that should be shouted from the roof-tops - the Family Brewers are not dead - they continue to refresh Britain's beer drinkers as they have for centuries.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Woodforde's Ale Trail

A little while ago, I gratefully received some beer from the PR team at Woodforde's Brewery in Norfolk. At the time I made the point that I was disappointed that their fine beers were now seen less regularly in London's pubs.

In a previous life I had always enjoyed their session bitter, Wherry, in one of my locals but now never see it anywhere.

Well, it would appear that I need to get out more, or at least frequent some different pubs.

The Woodforde's Ale trail which runs until the end of the month suggests that their beers can be found in as many as fifty pubs in the Greater London area.

Drink enough of their beers and you can get the usual freebies of glasses, T-shirts and beer. Find out more at

London Pride Walk 2011

I am always happy to give a shout-out for a good cause, particularly if it includes beer.

The 16th annual 10km London Pride Walk takes place from the Fullers Brewery at 11am on Sunday 19th June in support of Cancer Research UK, specifically Hammersmith Hospital.

I have enjoyed this event for many years; either walking, running (I was fit enough once), pub crawling (that's more like it - a slightly slower pace) and in the last couple of years volunteering to help the team from CRUK. It is a family event with a really friendly feeling, with local people supported by a local brewery raise funds for a local charity while having great fun.

I wrote about last years event here where you can see how much I enjoy the event (and the beer).

The route follows the Thames path over Chiswick and Hammersmith Bridges starting and ending at the Griffin Brewery.

The charge to join in is a fiver though plenty of people take it as an opportunity to raise extra sponsorship for the worthy cause.

Just pitch up and register on the day though the well organised should register in advance here.

I look forward to seeing one or two of you on the day.

A few more details from the press release :
The event starts at 11am and the 10km can be completed as a swift run, an easy jog or a relaxed stroll. Afterwards there will be many attractions in Homefield Park next to the brewery. Participants will be greeted at the end with a complimentary drink from sponsors Fullers. An organic BBQ is planned, massages for aching limbs, live music and lots of stalls and fair-like attractions. Scientists from Hammersmith Hospital will be there on the day to explain a little more about their research and will be extracting DNA from strawberries to demonstrate some of the techniques used.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A CAMRA Fundamentalist View

There has been much noise recently about whether CAMRA should embrace the new wave of craft keg beers that are now available.

As a fully paid up noisome blogger and also a previous CAMRA regional director, it is time for me to throw my tuppence in.

I am firmly of the opinion that CAMRA works best as a single issue Campaign. Focusing on the single issue of real ale gives clarity, strength and focus.

I agree with CAMRA chairman, Colin Valentine, when he says "The clue is in our name. We are the Campaign for Real Ale. Which one of those four words do the bloggerati not understand ? .....We decide what we will campaign for, not the bloggerati and while I have anything to do with it, we will remain the Campaign for Real Ale."

Oh, and by the way, as a CAMRA fundamentalist member of the bloggerati, I don't think the Campaign should spend its time, effort or resources on supporting, promoting or campaigning for any of the following :

Historic Pubs
Public Transport
Cheap Beer
Beer is Healthy
Beer for Women
Belgian Beer
German Beer
Czech Beer
Budveiser Budvar
Any Foreign Beer (that is not "real")
Good, Traditional Beers from Foreign Countries
Craft Keg
Any Keg Beer
Beer Duty
Beer and Food
Drinking Beer at Home
Real Ale in a Bottle
Bottle Conditioned Beers
Full Pint
Discounts for Members
Overseas Travel
Alcoholic Ginger Beer

This is not an exhaustive list.

I'll accept generic pub campaigning given that the on-trade is the only place to get good, fresh and tasty cask conditioned beer, but bring back the Campaign for REAL ALE and be rid of all the other detritus.

CAMRA's External Policy Document, clause 15 states :

CAMRA supports :
- the promotion of real ale as an environmentally friendly product.
- the promotion of the provenance and local identity of real ale, brewers and pubs.
- all real ale breweries,..., encouraging activities in line with CAMRA policies.....
- the consumption of real ale in pubs.
- campaigning activity against market distortions which damage real ale.

That's enough for me !

Friday, 20 May 2011

Toer de Geuze 2011 - Summary

I just want to wrap up the summary of Toer de Geuze 2011 before I get stuck into the Beer Bloggers Conference followed by another beery trip with Podge's Tours to the battlefields of Belgium.

On reflection I could have included more words and better photos of people enjoying themselves rather than brewing equipment in-situ but I hope I have given a flavour of the day. Eight or nine (possibly ten or eleven will be open next time) lambic breweries/blenders in one day. Podge's Beer Tours include this as part of a four day/three night weekend including other brewery visits and some of the best bars. Get it in your diary for May 2013.

And finally, 39 weary beer tourist climb aboard the bus and slowly make their way to the Heeren van Liedekercke at Denderleeuw, the famous beer cuisine restaurant. A chance to wind down, share the highlights of the day, eat some fine food and drink some more beer.

No more sours for me. I need a malty, sweet, strong beer. Start with a Struise Pannepot, then a Glazen Toren Ondineke, then what ??? well, your guess is a good as mine.

Slept well !

One of the greatest beer days ever.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Toer de Geuze 2011 - Mort Subite

And so a marvellous day draws to an end. Chasing the end of the day, we chose to skip de Troch in favour of reaching Mort Subite before shut down. Managed a quick look round the historic and modern sides of the brewery without the crowds. Alone in a brewery, among the ghosts of beer - that's more like it.

Another more commercial fruit beer brewer that has again cottoned onto the growing popularity of the more authentic stuff.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Toer de Geuze 2011 - de Cam

Now coming towards the end of a long day we reach our penultimate stop, de Cam, a new blender set up at the de Cam Museum of folk art in Gooik, SW of Brussels. Beers from Drie Fonteinen, Boon, Girardin and Lindemans are blended in oak casks from Pilsner Urquell. I took full advantage of the slightly longer visit to enjoy glasses of both the Kriek and the Oude Gueuze - both excellent.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Toer de Geuze 2011 - Lindemans

Lindemans is another lambic brewer serving more commercial style fruit beers but for something more traditional seek out the Cuvee Rene Grand Cru Oude Gueuze.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Toer de Geuze 2011 - Timmermans

Podge's magic bus takes us onto Timmerman's, normally associated with sweet commercial beers, but with a nod to tradition, an old brewery , superb museum, and some special Oude Gueuze if you can sniff it out.