Bagels, American craft beer, and gourmet hot dogs - it's Primo's of Leeds!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I've got a confession to make. I'm all beer'd out. The Royal wedding gave me an ideal opportunity to visit a friend in Liverpool, drink from midday, and take in some of Liverpools best beer bars. It also left me feeling a bit fragile today and meant that despite Primo's in Leeds serving one of my favourite American lagers along with their excellent food I had to opt for a Fanta instead, I know, but needs must.

Primo's Gourmet Hotdogs serve genuinely top quality hotdogs, all really high in meat content and super tasty with well chosen toppings. A few favourites of mine being the 'Big Easy' - A Lincolnshire Pork sausage topped with crumbled blue cheese, crispy bacon and pine nuts, and the more traditional 'Classic Chicago' - an all beef Frankfurter with chopped white onions, pickles, tomato wedges, celery salt, ball park mustard and a dill pickle spear. The hot dogs all come in freshly baked buns from an artisan bakery in Harrogate, just a few miles away. It's a really nice touch as the flavoursome bread really makes the difference to the hot dogs.

As you can see from the picture though today we both fancied a deli style bagel for a change and weren't disappointed. My 'New Jersey Pastrami' was a bit of a monster; big thick slices of peppery pastrami, lettuce, tomato, wedges of dill pickle and American mustard all spilling out of a chewy, lightly toasted, super tasty bagel. It was just what the doctor ordered, and Colettes salmon and cream cheese offering was just as good too. High quality ingredients, handled with care and served properly. Primo's ticks all the boxes as far as I'm concerned.

Plus rather than taking the easy road when it comes to beer and stocking a fridge full of Buds they opted for Brooklyn Lager, it really is the little touches such as this that sets Primo's apart. They've won awards for their fantastic coffee, and offer big, icecream filled, calorific, milkshakes that are almost impossible to find done well this side of the pond.

It also helps that they're housed inside one of the best looking buildings in Leeds, the frankly stunning Corn Exchange. If you're visiting Leeds then this place is a perfect lunchtime treat, and if you already live here then seriously, what's wrong with you? Support this local gem today!

House of The Trembling Madness - York's Best Kept beer geek secret?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

After working all weekend in Peterborough I had the day off on Monday, and seen as the missus did too, and the sun was beaming down, we jumped on a train and twenty minutes later were in The Norths perfect fair weather City - York.

On a sunny day York's got everything you could want; a pedestrianized centre thats easy to navigate, bars along the river with big outdoor terraces, a multitude of great Cafes, independent restaurants and a few fantastic beer lovers pubs and bars. I'm going to talk about the place we went last, and which believe it or not is named exactly as this blog post suggests, "House of The Trembling Madness", whose name comes from the beer Delerium Tremens.

Located above The Bottle, an excellent beer shop on Stonegate, this is a bar that completely flew under my radar. Even a request on Twitter for good places to drink in York didn't bring in any suggestions for this little gem, maybe a hidden gem I shouldn't even be sharing with you?

It's a fantastic looking place with a high ceiling you are never expecting from the relatively small shop downstairs, dark beams, white washed walls and some great authentic looking animal heads. I know it sounds a bit naff but it seemed so genuione and unpretentious that it sort of worked.

Theres a small but well adorned bar, with some awesome beers on tap when I visited including Brooklyn Lager, Kwak, Lever, La Trappe, Flying Dog Old Scratch and some others I can't remember. Plus a really well stocked beer fridge - well, there is a shop downstairs after all.

I started with a half of Old Scratch (5.5%), I would've had a pint but a half was £2.50! But hey ho, Flying Dog is rare on the bar and a fantastic US brewery so I don't mind really. It was exactly what I was expecting but no worse for it - dark amber coloured but pin bright and very crisp with a really nice hop bite, similar to Brooklyn Lager in many ways and not a beer that slapped me round the face during a half. I enjoyed it but it didn't set the world on fire.

We'd ordered some food whilst at the bar in the form of two formidable sounding 1 Pound Burgers with Yorkshire Blue Cheese and side salad, and by the time I'd enjoyed my half and spent a few minutes oggling the bottle cellar on my way back from the toilets they had arrived. First impression were that the lack of chips on the side were not going to be a problem, these burgers are BIG. They were obviously homemade beef burgers, very nicely seasoned, and served with plenty of Yorkshire Blue and a delicious onion relish, inside a wholemeal bun from the bakery across the road. The side salad was pretty standard but fresh and tasty all the same - let's be honest though the burger is what your paying for and in this department I had no complaints.

A word of warning though, whilst what is on offer was really good it is a limited menu comprising a stew of the day, various meat and cheese platters which looked excellent and a few burgers. All food is cooked behind the bar upstairs, with a bigger kitchen I'd love to see what these guys could do.

As you can see from the photo I also ordered a bottle of Flying Dog Raging Bitch to accompany my meal, what a great, unusual, complicated beer. But I won't go into my in-depth thoughts on that now as I picked up a bottle from the shop downstairs, along with a big bag full of other beery treats, and intend on giving it a proper review at a later date. So watch this space.

Big thanks to Travels with Beer for letting me use their great photo (the first, and best, picture) of the bar, I forgot to take a photo of the bar and they have very kindly let me borrow theirs.

Oakham Ales Brewery Tap - A beer lovers paradise in a sea of mediocrity

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
You may have noticed a lack of posts since early last week, the reason being that I was working away in Peterborough, a dull trade show type thing the less said about the better. These working weekends don't usually allow me much opportunity for drinking a nice beer or two and it's generally a Pizza Express or the like (perfectly fine IMO) with a few colleagues and maybe a pint or two of Guinness afterwards if I'm lucky.

That said though, Peterborugh is particularly lacking when it comes to decent places for a drink (if I've missed a craft beer Mecca then please let me know below), I've never seen a town centre with so many chain pubs, it's like a who's who of crap chain drinking holes. Yates? Check! O'Neills? Check! Flares!? Check!

Luckily on the Friday night I managed to persuade my colleagues that The Brewery Tap in Peterborough would be a perfect place for something to eat and a few drinks, saying it had been 'reccomended by a friend who lives in Peterborough' (it hadn't, I just want to drink some Oakham Ales and eat Thai food!).

The Brewery Tap is owned by Oakham Ales, a fantastic brewery who seem to be getting a decent amount of attention amongst beer bloggers and drinkers alike, with their simply named 'Citra' pale ale coming out as a particular favourite.

So what about The Brewery Tap itself? Well, it's a seriously huge place that has a long snaking bar home to 15 cask hand pulls (admittedly a few repeats of the Oakham brews) and 15 keg taps (mostly pretty standard macro beers but a few half decent ones like Leffe), plus plenty of sofas and other seating, and even a stage area where bands are regularly on. Then you look up and things get even more interesting... There's a mezzanine level first floor, accessed by a wide wooden stair case, that's home to a fully fledged Thai restaurant. It's a fantastic idea and a combination that, for me personally, is a match made in heaven.

We rang ahead and booked so were seated upstairs straight away, despite the place starting to get really busy (around 8pm), and quickly ordered a few drinks - a pint of Oakham Ales White Dwarf (4.3%), a lightly hoppy, pale 'English Style' Wheat Beer. It was nice and dry yet thirst quenching, plus it went really well with the spicy food, really good and an absolute bargain at an incredible £2.35 a pint. I'm a fan of
Wheat Beer with Thai food and this turned out to be such a good choice I stuck on it for another pint, saving the all too tempting Citra Export for later...

We enjoyed some crunchy Thai Prawn Crackers (darker, spicier and more wholegrain tasting than their Chinese cousins) to accompany our first pint and perused the really well thought out menu. I ordered a classic Thai Red Curry with beef and Sticky Jasmine Rice, sat back, sipped my pint and soaked up the atmosphere.

As you can just about see from my slightly dark photo a nice touch is being able to see the beers on offer from your seat in the restaurent, so when the waitress takes your order you can just have a quick look at what you'd like. The restaurent staff then go down to the end of the bar and a few designated bar staff pull the pints and bring them up to the table - a simple yet effective system that meant we were never left waiting for our drinks, no matter how busy the bar downstairs got.

When the meal arrived it was excellent - a Thai Red Curry on par with any I've tasted (and believe me I've had my fair share) - hot with chilli, slightly sweet with coconut milk and rich with fish sauce, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and coriander, plus a nice bonus of aubergine, courgette and thinly sliced thai veg to accompany the super tender quick-braised beef. An aboslute winner that is making me salivate as I type.

After the chilli of my meal subsided on my tongue I decided it was time to tackle the beer I'd been eyeing up since my arrival, the Citra Export - A slightly suped up version of their excellent 4.2% Citra Pale Ale.

Citra Export weighs in at a slightly increased ABV of 4.7% and delivers big grapefruit and mango hop aroma as you'd expect from this much praised new hop variety. It's just a classic citra pale with a subtle mango flavour but mostly grapefruit, lime citrus and crisp dryness that last and last. Despite that sharp citrus/grapefruit kick it is ultimately very drinkable and not too full on as you might expect from the 'Export' tag. It's really nice and for me a slight improvement on the standard Citra. Makes me wonder why they don't just make this the regular Citra? Or Citra X perhaps.....

As you may have guessed I absolutely loved The Brewery Tap, it reminded me a little bit of The Hop in Leeds run by Ossett Brewery due to the unusual layout, but that said is also really unique thanks to the addition of a great restaurant. It's a fantastic pub and compared to most of the other places I was dragged into in Peterborough it was an absolute diamond in the rough.

Highly reccomended.

*The first photo, i.e. the best one, is courtesy of The Brewery Taps website, cheers guys!

The Nook Brewhouse beers - Blond & Oat Stout

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
'The Nook Brewhouse' are exactly what they say on their bottles - a brewhouse, not a brewery. It's only been running since summer 2009 and even calling it a 'microbrewery' feels a bit too grandiose, most of the beer they produce is sold in the attached pub 'The Nook' (aka The Rose & Crown) in Holmfirth West Yorkshire and they are a genuinely small, independent upstart.

Brewpubs are pretty big in America but have become a rarity over here in recent years, so if you ever get the chance to visit the aforementioned pub I'd say 100% go for it. What could be better than a pint of real ale thats travelled just a few metres from brewery to glass?

The Nook Brewhouse is a family run five barrel brewpub situated on the site of an 18th century brewery by the River Ribble, in the heart of Holmirth. Their aim is "Striving to produce good quality, hand-crafted real ales, the Nook Brewhouse is one of very few bespoke real ale breweries in the country. Its uniqueness, being designed with brewing in mind, can be seen in its layout and use of natural resources."

A bold claim but looking at the photos of the site I think I know what they're getting at, the use of local resources such as the cooling river water and lay of the land are more akin to traditional brewing practices long removed from the stainless steel, industrial estate look of many upstart brewers. They go on to say "Our ales are produced in a seven stage process during which all temperatures, ingredients and timings are carefully monitored. We test and taste at all stages so that our finished product is exactly to specification. We use natural resources wherever possible; using gravity to aid the brewing process, and utilising the cool cellar built deep below the water line of the River Ribble to condition our ales."

They've only recently started bottling their wares and selling it to a few local outlets, so readers in other parts of the UK might want to try the online shop if you fancy giving them a go. I picked up a few bottles from Latitude Wine & Liquor Merchants, located under the railway arches to the left at the end of Call Lane in Leeds, after hearing they had some local beer for sale from small breweries. They had three beers from The Nook Brewhouse on offer - Red, Blond and Oatmeal Stout. The Blond was reccomended by the very friendly guy in the shop so I decided to give that a go, and the Oatmeal Stout had already caught me eye so both were snapped up for a tasting.

So what did I think? I'll start with the Blond which is billed as an 'English Style Wheat Beer'.

There's a citrus note on the nose and just a very faint whiff of sweet caramel malt. The Taste is light and quenching with citrussy notes, lemony, and slightly sweet and juicy but dry in the finish. It's an uncomplicated but decent golden ale, to me it has very little wheat beer character and tastes more like a summery golden ale. There's also a slight grassy note in the finish when the hops come in. It's a very good golden summer ale, but I think describing it as an 'English Style Wheat Beer' is a bit misleading. Nothing wrong with using a bit of wheat to add smoothness to a golden ale, but unless it has a real wheat beer character I think just calling it a Golden Ale, or even just a Blonde Beer would be better. I also must admit that it might be better on cask, preferably drank in a sunny beer garden.

Nook Brewhouse Oat Stout
This 5.2% stout pours with a great big, fluffy, rocky head that sticks around throughout the glass. Roasted coffee on the nose, with a slight burnt malt edge, not a huge aroma but really nice and rich smelling. The flavour isn't as smooth and creamy as I expected for an oatmeal stout which isn't neccesarily a bad thing as it makes the beer more refreshing. There's a nice big roasted flavour but with a slightly fruity, almost blackcurrent edge, that becomes lightly hoppy in the finish and then that turns into an after-an-espresso dryness, with roasted coffee and nice slightly burnt malt flavours. It's a lovely stout all told and my favourite of the two. Really nice. Will have to try the 'Red' next!
Some nice beers from a really promising Brewhouse that I'll be making a special effort to visit in the future. Here's hoping more brewpubs start cropping up in coming years.

Hot and sour Thai duck with coconut lime rice and bok choi

Monday, April 11, 2011
I nearly always have duck in a french style, with a sweet reduced red wine sauce to counteract the rich duck, usually served with some sauteed potatoes or the like. But with the weather so sunny I fancied something a bit fresher and lighter.

I've had duck in the fantastic
Jino's Thai Cafe in Headingley before as one of the specials, served with a hot sweet tamarind sauce that perfectly balanced against the succulent, slightly pink, crispy skinned duck. So with that as my inspiration I headed to the huge asian supermarket in Leeds city centre to buy some ingredients, it's a fantastic place and I picked up everything I needed for the recipe that was formulating in my imagination.

The hot and sour Thai duck delivered on everything I'd hoped it would, hot, sour, sweet, salty crispy skinned duck, combined with creamy yet zesty rice. It's a fantasic combination, and all washed down with an In-heat Wheat by Flying Dog it was an absolute winner whilst soaking up the rays.

To make this you'll need

(This serves two, but with another one or two pieces of duck could easily stretch to serve 3-4 people as there was plenty of rice and sauce leftover and when the duck is sliced it goes a long way)

  • 2 Medium duck breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon of Tom Yum hot and sour paste
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • Thumb size piece of ginger (finely chopped)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 100ml water
  • 1-2 tablespoons clear runny honey
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 inches of chopped coriander stems (from large bunch)

The rice and bok choi

  • 300ml Thai Jasmin Rice (or basmati)
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 400ml water (use the empty can)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 heads of bok choi, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Soy Sauce


  1. Put the rice, coconut milk, lime juice and water into a large pan (that you have a lid for) and bring to the boil.
  2. Add plenty of salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and add the lid, then leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes (stir after 15 and see if the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, if ready take off the heat and leave to one side with the lid on, it will stay warm for quite a while).
  3. Preheat the oven to 200*C
  4. To make the sauce, start by gently frying the garlic and ginger in a little oil for a few minutes (in an oven proof dish) until very lightly coloured then add a heaped tablespoon of the Tom Yum paste and fry for a further 2-4 minutes. (Note: Tom Yum paste is traditionally used to make Tom Yum hot and sour soup, but it works great in this recipe)
  5. Add the soy sauce, coriander stalks, water and lime then scrape all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Let this bubble for a few minutes until it reduces very slightly. Then pour the whole thing into a wide bowl, add the honey and leave to one side. Remove the pan from the hob to cool but don't clean it as you'll be using it for the duck.
  6. Next prepare the duck by placing it skin side down on a chopping board and cut away any skin and fat that hangs around the edges, then flip it over and score the skin in a criss-cross pattern but don't cut into the flesh and season well with salt and pepper.
  7. Place the duck skin side down into the cold pan you cooked the sauce in and turn the heat onto medium-high. The fat should render out and then the skin will crisp up (about 5 minutes). Then remove the duck and place into the bowl with the sauce. Pour the duck fat out into a jar and save for future use (to make the best spicy roast potatoes ever!)
  8. Tip the duck and sauce back into the dish and turn the duck so it's skin side up.
  9. Place into the oven uncovered and cook for exactly 7 minutes for medium rare, 8 minutes for medium (that's how I cooked it), or 9 minutes for medium-well done
  10. Take the duck and sauce out of the oven and then lift the duck out of the pan and onto a chopping board to rest, the sauce will stay warm with the heat of the pan.

While the duck is resting stir fry the bok choi stems for 1-2 minutes then add the leafy parts and stir fry until just slightly wilted, then shake in a little soy sauce at the end and stir fry to coat.

To serve, slice the duck diagonally in thick slices and spoon over the sauce, squeeze a little fresh lime (use the remaining half lime) over the rice and sprinkle with fresh chopped coriander, with the bok choi on the side.

I had this dish with a bottle of Flying Dog's In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen, which was a decent match.
Not a big aroma just a little yeasty note and classic wheat
beer fruityness. It's lightly spicy with a little pepper and clove, big banana flavour and yeasty, slightly sour taste, plus a little sweet buttery note. It matches quite well with the ducks Thai spices and is rich and spicy, yet fresh and cleansing. Despite being unfiltered and really full of flavour it also manages to be clean and refreshing. This dish is about balancing hot, sweet, sour, and salty flavours so a hop bomb IPA that might work well with an indian curry is no good here as the flavours are more subtle and less chilli driven.

If you try this dish out then please let me know how it went!

Credit where credit's due

Friday, April 08, 2011
When you've got out of work at a reasonable time and the sun is still beaming through the city centre, and everybody's flitting around looking for beer gardens and relaxing with friends, you remember how much you've missed the summer.

That said, finding a location for after work drinks, when the girls want Bellinis but the boys want half decent beers (sweeping generalisations alert, sorry Melissa!) and everybody wants burgers and sunshine, is more difficult a task in Leeds than you might think. We've got some fantastic beery places such as North Bar, Mr Foleys and Veritas, but not many places where you can sit in a sunny beer garden and have the option to get a bite to eat aswell.

So where did we decide on? In the end it was All Bar One on Millenium Square as it's the only place that gets sun into the early evening, serves decent food, has a few nice beers and does cocktails. It's a place that attempts to have something for everyone and I think what it does, it does very well. Two cask ales on handpull (sold out) a selection of decent world beers on the bar including Pilsner Urquell, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a nice Rothaus German Wheat Beer, plus a decent selection of bottled beers including Worthington White Shield, Duvel, Brooklyn Lager, and Innis & Gunn.

I had a really tasty and high quality gammon egg and chips with a pint of Rothaus Wheat Beer and Colette had the coriander and harissa lamb burger with tzatziki and a Prosecco Bellini. Everything was well made, well cooked and really tasty. The Rothaus was an orangey, light wheat beer, lovelly and refreshing, slightly peppery with a herbal edge but essentially a tasty, simple, summery beer.

So my question is, why can't more mainstream bars get it right like this place? How many times do you walk into a bar with friends or colleagues and the only options are a pint of Becks and Coronas in the fridge? All Bar One was packed with people and it seemed to me that the better beers were selling the quickest. If the cask ale was sold out then thats obviously popular, and of the kegs it was the Wheat Beer and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that were flying out. I think the tide is genuinely turning and more people than ever are starting to come around to drinking better beer.

How far away is the day when you can walk into any old place and they'll have nothing but decent beer on the bar?

I feel like it's getting closer.

The flavour structure of hops - an evening with Ilkley Brewery

Wednesday, April 06, 2011
I attended a ‘meet the brewer’ event at Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House in Leeds last night, hosted by the genuinely nice guys from microbrewery Ilkley Brewery.

It was a great opportunity to learn more about Ilkley beers, and to meet some fellow beer bloggers in person for the first time, but the thing I took away most from the night was a better undserstanding of the thought process of brewers like Ilkley. The thing that’s great about small brewers is that they are first and foremost beer enthusiasts; who happen to have the capacity to brew some beer that they think will taste good. It's really that simple. Hearing the guys talk about beer totally in terms of flavour without even a sniff of 'we wanted to tap into so-and-so market' was really refreshing.

Another thing which was really interesting was the information about the 'structural' benefits of certain hops. This was something that I've never really thought about or discussed before and it was really very clever stuff indeed.

A well balanced beer has a flavour which carries through the beginning middle and end, so if you imagine a chart with flavour up the side and time across the bottom a well balanced beer will produce a smooth curve that doesnt drop off at any points along the way.

The problem when producing hop driven beers, as Ilkley like to do, is that certain hops engage the mouth at different times, so if you produce a single hop beer you have to use loads of it to produce a lingering hop flavour that lasts in the mouth. Use too little and the hop flavour will peter off too quickly, or not show it's head early enough and then cripple you with dryness in the finish. It's a balancing act that I've tasted and acknowledged in beers before, but never really fully understood until the event last night.

The really clever thing is that you can use a small amount of certain hops to 'prop-up' the main hop which would otherwise drop off the flavour curve somewhere along the way. The example they gave (if my memory serves me) is that in a Citra heavy pale ale a small amount of Cascade can actually help the Citra hop flavour carry right through the beginning, middle and end of the beer improving it's overall flavour. Thus giving a better overall hop flavour throughout the beer whilst still maintaining a clear and strong citra hop flavour i.e. the Cascade 'props up' the Citra. Interesting no?

They also talked about how dark malts mask the flavour of hops, making Black IPA's particularly tricky buggers to get right, as was demonstrated by their promising but not-quite-there-yet 'Black Summit' - a Black IPA based on their popular Lotus IPA. I agreed with the brewers comments that it needed a little tweaking before it was perfect; it needed to be a bit darker, a bit more complex and much hoppier. I'm confident it'll be a great beer once they get it right though as the other Ikley beers are top notch.

We were also talked through a number of Ilkley Beers:

Mary Jane 3.4% - A Session strength Pale that uses loads of Amarillo giving it a nice sweet orange and grapefruit note. For a session beer it's got loads of flavour and the hop profile is really nice and strong. Interestingly they told us that Amarillo is a mutant hop that spontaneously grew in one producers hop fields, and unlike nearly all other hops he has a trademark on the name. Now it's become popular he's raking it in as no one else can grow it!

Ilkley Black 3.7% - A pretty decent session Dark mild that the brewers told us they introduced as a response to a brewery tour by the local Camra branch (make of that what you will) it's not particularly exciting but for a low ABV dark mild it is pretty on the money. Nice mild roastyness, hints of milk chocolate and malt with very little hop character. It apparently sells very well locally, which you can't really argue with.

Ilkley Pale 4.2% - This hoppy Pale Ale was my favourite of the night. For a mid strength beer it is bursting with flavour from the juicy Nelson Sauvin hops, has a really nice floral bitterness without being too aggressive, and a fresh citrussy finish. Really nice and a perfect beer for supping in the sun.

Black Summit 5.0% - This black ipa was a touch dissapointing on the night as I already mentioned. But from what the brewers said this beer is currently a work in process - By the time most people drink this it should be spot on. These guys know what they're talking about, they know how to brew good beer, and I look froward to trying this once it's been perfected.

P.S. Was great to meet the gaggle (bloggle?) of Leeds Beer Bloggers from Hopzine, Beer Prole, Good Stuff, Ghost Drinker and many more who I'll thank on Twitter.

Anchor Humming Ale, Camden Pale and Matuska Black Rocket IPA at The Euston Tap

Tuesday, April 05, 2011
My girlfriend is originally from London (we now live in Leeds, a win for the North!) so we are regularly down in The Big Smoke to visit with friends and family. This weekend being Mothers Day we were visiting her relatives and taking her Mum and Grandmum out for posh Afternoon Tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury, highly reccomended I might add.

Most importantly a lateish train back on Sunday gave us plenty of time for visiting
The Euston Tap for the first time, mainly to see what all the fuss is about.

Now I've heard people say this place was small but seriously, this place is really small. That said, it is well spaced out, with a wide drinks ledge running along all three walls (one being taken up by the bar and fridges) an ample amount of stools for perching and plenty of space for thirsty Beer Geeks to stand about and chat. I liked it a lot.

I fancied something fresh and hoppy to start with and after surveying the chalk boards I was still undecided, so asked the barman what he reccomended, with
Anchor Humming Ale (5.9%) being his tip.

I've had Anchor beers before and they are always very nice if a little unadventurous, so this bold, hoppy beer was decidely out of character. The aroma is of clean, slightly citrus, super fresh hops with a very slight herbal/piney edge. Mainly though it's just citrussy hop freshness and really inviting and vibrant. Nice smooth white head and a pale copper/golden colour.

The taste is slightly bitter but clean with a really nice upfront hoppy crispness and a slight tropical fruit edge, becoming a little dry with grapefruit flavour in the finish. Ulitmately though it leaves your mouth refreshed and there's just a touch of lingering grapefruity/piney hops which makes it very moreish. A lovely refreshing yet flavoursome pale ale that I could happily have drank a few more of.

However, I wanted to try a Camden Pale Ale (4.5%) while the chance was there so that was next to be ordered. A pint this time as it's slightly lower ABV allowed - I was expecting a balanced quaffer from this much heralded new brewery.

The smell is umbelievably floral, almost too much, with a decidely perfumey edge. The colour is much lighter than my picture shows as it was pretty dark and turning the flash on in a pub is far too 'look at me I've got a blog' for my liking.

The flavour matches the aroma and is extremely perfumed, very full on and quite unusual. It has a very thin mouthfeel and if I'm honest was served a little too cold, do different taps serve at a different temp in The Euston Tap? It certainly seemed that way.

It wasn't bad, but I can't say I totally enjoyed it. I couldn't get past that combination of decidely watery mouthfeel and strongly perfumed flavour, which ultimately made it altogether not that enjoyable. Maybe a bad batch from this fledgling brewery, one to try again in the future.

I decided to go for full-on flavour next so opted for a Matuska Black Rocket Black IPA (7%).

What a Beauty! The smell is roasted coffee and a slight light maltiness combined with a waft of herbal hops. The taste matches this but delivers even bigger with lovely toasted coffee and dark but not bitter chocolate in the start, then becoming dry and hoppy in the finish.
Then in the aftertaste you're left with a mix of nutty coffee, drying herbal hops, dark chocolate and a warm roasted flavour. It really does hit you in waves of flavour this one. A friendly chap also drinking it at the bar described it as 'stunning' and I'd be inclined to agree.

It hides it 7% amazingly well and is a fantastic beer. As is becoming my trademark I wrote the least notes on the beer I enjoyed the most. This was a belter, and for me the winner on the night.

A perusal of the umbelievably well stocked beer fridge meant I left with a bag full of bottles including some Kernel Brewery beers, a few big bottles of Stone Brewery Imperial Russian Stout and Detour Double India Pale Ale (Crooked Line Series), and a few bottles of Flying Dog's In-heat Wheat. All of which I'll get around to drinking and reviewing eventually.

A good trip by anyones standards!

Leeds beer lovers: Meet the brewer event with Ilkley Brewery at Mr Foleys

Monday, April 04, 2011
Just a really quick reminder to any lovers of good beer in Leeds that there is going to be a "Meet the Brewer" event with Ilkley Brewery at Mr Foleys Cask Ale House tomorrow evening at 7.30pm

I promised Mr Foleys I'd help spread word so checkout their facebook page for more info: and follow them on Twitter as well @MrFoleys

It's one of my favourite cask beer pubs in Leeds and worth a visit even when they don't have events like this on. It Rocks. Plus Ilkley Brewery make some fantastic beers and it's always good to hear from the brewer how they make their beer. These events are informal, fun, and interesting, plus you get to drink beer. What's not to like? Get yourself down for a cheeky-early-in-the-week pint and some interesting beer-based discussion. You know you want to!

About the Brewery:

How to find Mr Foley's:

Update: For my review of this event click here

American Craft: Brooklyn Lager VS Sam Adams Boston Lager

Friday, April 01, 2011
Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams Boston Lager are two of the most well known and widely drank American craft lagers available today.

I'm pretty lucky when it comes to Brooklyn Lager, as living in Leeds we were one of the first place in the UK to get the stuff on draft in a number of decent bars, thanks to the excellent importer
James Clay being based not too far away. I can now go to a fair few open late bars/club type places in Leeds and drink American Craft Beer all night from draft, who'd have thought that a few years ago?

Sam Adams is the other big US craft Lager to my mind, but I've never got around to trying it until recently as it's not a beer I've particularly tried to seek out. However as it's now being sold in Sainsbury's (along with lots of other decent beer I must say) I picked up a bottle recently, along with a Brooklyn, so I could compare these two craft giants.

If you didn't already know, they are both Vienna style lagers, meaning they are darker than your standard pale lager and generally have a much more pronounced malty backbone and a fair bit of hop character as well. Forget Budweiser, these yank brews are packed with flavour but drinkable to boot. So how do they compare? I'll start with the Sam Adams.

Sam Adams Boston Lager

Malt and caramel on the nose, slightly sweet with a faint hop aroma but not hugely noticable. Poured with a thin head that quickly disapeared to almost nothing, a little flat actually altogether. Caramel brown colour as you can see from the pic.

The taste is really well balanced - it's refreshing yet slightly sweet and malty with a light hop tang. There's defnately a juicy malt character to this that's really enjoyable, and then it becomes drying and hoppy in the finish. It's a good lager but I can't help thinking it's not as multilayered as the Brooklyn and the hops not as pronounced. Important to say though that it's better than your standard American lagers (Budweiser, Heineken, Miller etc) by a long way.

Brooklyn Lager

Again, this smells of light caramel and malt but there's also a faint pineynous to the hop aroma, which is much more full on overall. The colour is a shade darker than the Boston although I forgot to take a photo!

The taste is very different to the Sam Adams with the hops coming through straight away in the beginning, middle and finish. There's still a malt backbone but it is much less grainy and somehow crisper. The hops are much more pronounced, juicier and more floral with a very slight piny/soapy edge. The aftertaste has a dry/fruity hint to it that reminds me of an English ale, something bittersweet like an
Everards Tiger. Even with that fruity richness the beer is still very drinkable and refreshing. Trying the Boston has made me appreciate the Brooklyn even more. An absolute classic.

Verdict: The Brooklyn wins hands down. The Boston is a good lager, but the Brooklyn is in a different league. A deserved winner.

Goose Island Honkers Ale Light launching in US

Friday, April 01, 2011

Just found out that they've done it. They've gone and launched a brand extension that is going to completely muck up Goose Island. I was willing to give AB-Inbev the benefit of the doubt until I saw this but what can I say, they're a "marketing company for an FMCG company, not a brewery".

SO what do you think? Can a light beer still be craft? I'm inclined to say no, but I suppose I'll have to reserve judgement for when I taste it. Although if I had to guess I'd say it will be pretty awfull.
Hopefully the regular Goose Island will be left alone.

Read Goose Island's Press Release here: