Framing refreshing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I was house hunting recently, which as many will know is possibly one of the most exhausting activities known to man, both mentally and physically. After looking at the 5th straight apartment in under two hours and traipsing halfway across town (a new town I might add... But more on that at a later date) we had a half hour window to catch our breath.

Luckily a good pub was close to hand, but what to have? Obviously nothing too strong, as I needed to keep my wits about me for 'the hunt', and something which is refreshing but also not too bitter. I don't know about you, but when I'm just having one quick pint as a thirst quencher, it isn't the really hoppy beers that I look to.

Anything with too much of an after kick will just make me more thirsty ten minutes after I finish it - a nice crisp golden ale is fine but anything even approaching IPA in the IBU stakes is a no go. In these situations the drink that I really want is a proper, old school, totally unfashionable, mild.

This time around it was Oscar Wilde (mild), which fitted the bill perfectly. It's the beer that was announced as Champion Beer of Britain in 2011 to many a beer geeks guffaw of "pah, a mild", yet it's one I've never had the chance to try, and as such I reserved my judgement.

Best beer in Britain? Pushing it. One of the best traditional British milds? Absolutely.

In terms of ticking all the stylistic boxes and doing exactly what a good mild should, this beer knocks it out of the park. Refreshing in a satisfying and thirst quenching (rather than weak) kind of way, but with loads going on in terms of flavour: Milk chocolate cocoa, faint roasted coffee and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bitterness that keeps the lightly sweet malt backbone in check.

It's a little stunner, and at 3.7% abv fits the 'genuinely refreshing' requirement quite nicely.


The problem with silly beer

Sunday, January 20, 2013
As ever, Boak and Bailey have been writing posts that are well worth reading, one of which ties in nicely with a personal experience of mine. Their post on silly beer, aka 'high concept' beers, is great and makes some very good points on the values of experimentation and the importance of breweries taking risks.I totally agree, but a beer I tried recently definitely shows the other side of the argument, and how bad experimentation can be.

I was drinking in the truly excellent Exmouth Arms in London (more on that to come) with an old friend recently and as the early afternoon turned into evening and we were still ploughing through the beers our eyes began to wander to the bigger, more unusual bottles of beer stacked up at the top of fridge. Isn't that always the case?

After a few truly excellent beers, Stone Old Guardian and Schneider Weisse Nelson Sauvin spring to mind, we decided to give the weirdest beer in the fridge a go, Rogue/Voodoo Donut Maple Bacon beer (brewed in collaboration with Voodoo Donut who featured on Man vs Food). It's a mental looking bottle of hot bright pink paint and it's brewed to taste of a maple bacon donut, how bad can it be?

The answer, if you haven't already guessed, is very, very bad. Genuinely, truly disgusting. Unbelievably sickly sweet, as thick as syrup and with a cheap, nasty fake maple flavour like the pots of syrup you get from McDonalds. No bitterness to speak of and very little flavour reminiscent of beer, it wasn't even smokey, I really don't know who could enjoy it.

The worst part? I've got a bomber at home which I purchased in New York. More fool me.


Making beer the focus

Thursday, January 10, 2013
When I first started really getting into beer, or more specifically, when I first started buying interesting bottles of beer from Beer Ritz to drink at home, I definitely found myself drinking more. Like Augustus Gloop in Wonka's candy wonderland it's easy to get carried away, I mean there's so much good stuff to try isn't there?

It's a feeling I still get now and then, particularly in certain bars (I'm looking at you The Grove) where the scramble to try everything good outweighs the time I have to spend or the amount of beers I should really drink. But as time moves on I find myself in that situation less and less, and particularly with the beer I drink at home, I'm getting more choosey.

Drinking one really good beer interests me a hell of a lot more than drinking four cans of low flavour* beer that you can knock back without actively paying attention. Sure the beer I'm drinking might be 7, 8, even 9%, but I'm only having the one, and that means less units and, seen as it's January, less calories than drinking a couple of big cans of boring beer. Plus, with the beer I buy being a touch pricey I don't really liking plowing through a load of bottles in one sitting.

I'm not saying that getting really into good beer will necessarily make you drink less, but I really do believe that when flavour comes first and you make beer the focus, it can help with moderation.

And if you're still unconvinced, ask yourself this: Who's more to blame for the rise in obesity, Michelin star restaurants, or fast food?


*Lets get away from saying 'crap beer' shall we? From a technical point of view it may be faultless. It's a matter of flavour.


Looking ahead to 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Maybe we're a little bit too far into January for a 'looking to the year ahead' type post, but indulge me, as it brings me nicely to my first point.

  1. Blog more. I want to blog more often and on a wider variety of subjects than I did during 2012. I regularly eat out and don't write a review or cook something delicious at home and keep it to myself. Why?
  2. Get more writing commissioned. Getting paid to write about beer feels a little bit like getting paid to play football. I want to do it more often.
  3. Work in the beer industry. This is a long term goal that I feel is ready to come to fruition. I've got the experience, I know the industry, I love beer, hell I love food and drink in general. So why shouldn't 2013 (sooner rather than later I might add) be the year that I move things forward.
  4. Learn more about the brewing process. Yes I know the basics, but could I write a proper recipe with amounts and boil times? Probably not. 2013 needs to involve more brew geek reading And hands on experience than the last year did.
  5. Expand my knowledge of other drinks. I'm just starting to dip my toe into the smokey waters of single malt whisky and loving every minute of it. Current favourite is a far too drinkable bottle of Highland Park 12 year old. This next year needs to contain more drinking of drinks of all varieties. Pity my liver.