WELL HELLO THERE.
I have had a verrrry busy week. I was in Glasgow on Thursday for the launch of Menabrea, an Italian beer, then attended the Brewdog Writer’s event on Friday and then down to Edinburgh for the last weekend of the festival. Throw in some illness and a 9 hour train journey with no seat and you have a pretty exhausting weekend indeed. I’m writing this from my bed as I still feel very ill. I didn’t get to see very many shows during the festival either because I wasn’t feeling well. Terrible timing. Anyway I’ll stop feeling sorry for myself. I’ve written about my time at Menabrea and Brewdog on my Herald blog so please be sure to check that out – http://www.heraldscotland.com/author/diary-beer-girl although I think this might get published before they do so be patient dear child. I might actually do another Brewdog one on here too as there’s just so much to write about.
Brew By Numbers. A very interesting concept which has torn family and friendships in two. Do you think it’s confusing and unnecessary or a clever and interesting way to label beers? I’m in the second camp. Let me explain what it’s about if you don’t already know. Skip a few sentences down if you do. Brew By Numbers give each style of their beers a number, so for example, Saisons are 01, Golden Ales are 02 and Porters are 03 etc etc. Each beer they brew in this style is then given another number which they call the recipe, so you get something like 03|02, with 02 being the Liberty. In the porters section, there is also the recipes 01 – Original and 03 – Traditional. Anyway, I think this is a fantastic concept for encouraging repeat purchases. We all like trying beers by different breweries, but if you’ve tried an 03|02, then you’re naturally going to want to try the 03|01 and 03|03 to compare all three. Clever, isn’t it?
Clever is all and well but it’s verging on annoying if you can’t prove your worth (also if you try a numbered beer and it’s a bit shit, you’re probably not going to rush out and buy the others since they’re likely to be a bit shit too). Well, don’t worry, Brew by Numbers can get away with it. They’re like Stephen Fry. They have the potential to be very irritating know it alls with their fancy paper labels and new way of naming their beers, but they’re really bloody good, so they earn it. And, that makes you like it.
Liberty isn’t too strong for a Porter, coming in at 5.7% ABV but it packs a punch. Mixing the, rich chocolate and coffee notes with a bitter and floral hoppiness is a fantastic combination. They use Liberty hops (who’d have guessed it?!) to mirror an American style hoppy porter. I was quite surprised by the lightness of the beer despite the flavour which I really liked. I’ll be going back to try the 03|01 and 03|03. Clever, isn’t?!
When I’m choosing beer, I don’t usually pick up whichever one has the nicest label BUT on this occasion, I went against my own rule. How could I refuse anything that has ‘Gin’ written across it in huge letters?! I don’t think it would be physically possible for me to say no to a gin and tonic. It certainly hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, once my brain had started thinking properly, rather than just saying ‘gin gin gin’, I began to wonder how that would work? I’m a big fan of beer brewed in rum and whisky casks, but I just couldn’t imagine how a gin-flavoured beer would work.
You’ll be relieved to know it isn’t actually gin flavoured. It is made using the gin botanicals from the City of London Distillery. This gives it a very floral taste along with fruity and citrussy notes. The aftertaste is quite odd and peppery, it took me a few sips before I properly began to like it so I recommend giving this one a proper shot rather than having a sip. It’s a very light ale and has an ABV of 4.1%.
Gin is brewed by Peter Haydon who has his own project at the Florence brewery called ‘Head in a Hat’. Gin is the only beer from Head in a Hat that I’ve tried but I’m really keen to taste more, especially Camembeer, which I will definitely pair with a fully stocked cheeseboard as intended. Mmmmm.
One of my favourite breakfast places in London is Bill’s. After the first time I went, all I ate was breakfast food for about a week after. Recently, I went at lunch time and it was just as good. I had a chorizo burger and almost went into a hooded falcon state I was so happy whilst eating it. I was slightly disappointed with the beer selection however. There were a meagre 5 (one of which was Heineken) compared to an extensive wine list. I decided to go for the Schiehallion which I’ve had my eye on for a while but never quite got round to trying. It’s brewed by the Harviestoun brewery (they have a really nicely designed website, I highly recommend checking it out), who are most famous for Bitter and Twisted.
Schiehallion is a light, refreshing lager and is named after one of the most easy Munros to climb. The name is very fitting as the lager itself is very drinkable. At 4.8% and available in 330ml bottles, you don’t need to feel too guilty about returning to the office after a couple at lunch time. It pours a light, golden colour and didn’t have too much of a head. It was quite citrussy and a lot hoppier than some lagers, so if you’re looking for something inoffensive and light, then this is the guy for you.
Friday’s are undoubtedly the best day of the week. However, the thing I look forward to most on Fridays is our weekly pub lunch. This week we went to the Lowlander pub on Drury lane which has a great selection of Belgian ales. I was in heaven!
Since I still had an afternoon of work left, I limited myself to one beer which made choosing almost impossible. In the end I decided to go for the Orval since I’ve heard so much about it.
It really didn’t disappoint. The Orval Brewery is trappist brewery in the Abbaye Notre-Dame Orval. The beer itself is 6.2% ABV and the first thing you notice is that it has a really distinctive aroma. It’s quite earthy and yeasty while managing to smell fresh at the same time. It has a very thick, foamy head and tastes malty and sour with hints of banana. It really is lovely, a bit more dry than other trappist ales but I’d definitely recommend trying this.
If you follow my blog (or know me) then you’ll know I love anything that tastes smoky – sausages, cheese, ham and most importantly, beer! The Schlenkerla Marzen is still my favourite beer ever but I’ve found another that I think is truly delicious. At the Belgian ale tasting (see my post below) I was recommended to try the Viven Porter which is brewed by Brouwerij Van Viven, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
It comes in a 330ml bottle and I think the label is really pretty. You can definitely taste the smokiness but it isn’t too strong and it doesn’t overpower the other coffee, chocolatey kind of flavours. As you can see from the picture, it’s very dark in colour and has quite a high ABV – 7% although I guess this isn’t too bad for a Belgian beer! This isn’t the most summery of drinks but as the weather is beginning to get colder, this would be perfect as an alternative to a spicy red wine.
If you have any recommendations for smoky beers, please let me know!!
I am so happy to be working in a company with people who love beer and more importantly, love trying new styles and learning about it! Last weekend, a group of us went to The Elm Tree in Cambridge to take part in a Belgian ale tasting. It was the first proper tasting I’ve been to and I loved it. I really want to go to more so if anyone can suggest good ones around the London area, please let me know! The Elm Tree was exactly my style, small, cosy, dark wood and lots of interesting things to look at. I’m a sucker for skulls and there were lots of them around which added to my fondness for the place. They had an amazing selection of English as well as Belgian ales and the staff were very friendly and clued up on their stock. They were able to recommend things to try based on other beers you like and even what your favourite foods were!
Jessica was our Belgian ale guru and she was fantastic. You could tell she was truly passionate about Belgian beers and she was a fountain of knowledge! She talked us through 8 different beers and was able to provide so much fascinating information. I really wish I’d brought a dictophone so I could listen back to it. I’m going to do reviews of the beers we tried but sadly my laptop broke recently so I can’t upload pictures at the moment and so this will have to wait for a little bit. I just really wanted to do a quick post to let you know about this pub and to recommend their Belgian ale tasting. If I can make my subsequent blog posts half as interesting as Jessica was, I’ll be happy!
I FINALLY GOT MY HANDS ON SOME 60 NORTH!!!
I was so excited to eventually see the bottle for real after looking at designs and pictures for so long. I’m so pleased with how it looks, it’s even better than I imagined!! Obviously tasting it was pretty great too 🙂
For anyone who hasn’t read any of my other posts, 60 North is the first beer brewed by The Lerwick Brewery, which is owned by my Dad and his two brothers. We wanted to brew a high quality, tasty Pilsner style lager which I definitely think we’ve managed to do (albeit I’m a bit biased 🙂 ).
Dad only had two spares and I wanted to take one back down to London with me to keep so that left only the one for drinking. Anticipating my excitement to try it, he’d already put it in the fridge so it was nice and cool for me after my plane journey. I was so eager I didn’t even bother with a glass, just glugged it straight down (apologies for the pictures, I nearly forgot to take any in my excited state). It’s pale and fizzy but not overly so, and has a stronger taste than most commercial lagers which can be really watery. I’m the first to admit that describing tastes isn’t one of my fortes in life but I thought it was quite citrusy, floral and very crisp. Perfect for the current heatwave!!
Even if you normally refuse to drink lager, I really urge you to give this little guy a go as I think he packs more of a punch than some of the other varieties on the market.