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Archive for December, 2008

TANSTAAFL

The Morning Advertiser informs me that a pub in Wiltshire, England, is giving away free food and drinks to customers.

The owners of The Roebuck Inn at Marlborough, Wiltshire, will be declaring dinner for all customers on the house at least once a month.

Licensee David Barrone : “The eat and drink free night will be a regular feature. Obviously we’re not going to be telling people the date of each event, but if they come to us for a meal on any Monday to Saturday evening, there’s a chance you’ll be dining free.

“Every pub and restaurant is running offers because of the economic climate, but as far as we know we are the only place in the country doing this.”

 

It could, possibly, be because it is a pretty shaky business plan…..

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Lots of non-beery things going on in the run up to the holidays, there are trees to be bought, cards to be sent, dinners to be planned, end of term events at school and at work. And it is pitch dark, just above freezing with a drizzle of rain, meaning it hardly gets light even at midday. Time to pick up the latest Rankin book and a decent beer when the day is done.

There are some nice side effects of being a blogger, too. (No, there are still too few breweries sending me beer!) I was contacted aboutattending a beer event in Romania, aiming at educating the country’s journalists about beer styles, beer tasting and beer history.  Too bad I don’t have time for activities like that – I have a day job and a family. I was very happy to help out when one of the mid sized US craft breweries asked me to point them in the right direction to find a Norwegian importer recently. I hope this can lead to something, as soon as there are concrete results I will let you know.

As I told you recently, the beer scene here in Norway is generally improving. I popped into Bar & Cigar last night, and it is very nice to see the Nøgne ø industrial chic beer engine on the counter and their porter available on tap. In addition they have the Haandbryggeriet Ardenne Blond on cask, which is a rare treat hereabouts. It’s been on for quite some time and it is probably past its prime, but it still has a wonderful hoppy aroma and the flavour is far better than any alternatives on tap around town.
Ole Gunnar, who is running the bar, is very pleased with the new beer range. He is rotating keg beers from Nøgne ø, one 40 litre keg sold out in two days.
Nøgen ø is now distributing keg beer to a number of bars in Oslo and the rest of the country, so this is really promising. They are switching to disposable 20 litre containers, which makes the logistics much easier and ensures that there will be a new beer on very often.


I talked briefly to a man who has been involved with Vinmonopolets beer range. He was proud that they increased the range from about a dozen in 2002 to 60 in 2006, buthe is not optimistic aboutthe future developments. There is no knowledge or passion for beer in the system, and the corporate leadership all have their background from general retail chains now, with no specialist knowledge about the products they are selling.
There are some new Nøgne ø beers that have yet to find their way into the Vinmonopolet lists, luckily they are now turning up in bars around the country. Recent reports say that Olympen is the best bet of finding those gems in Oslo. The best beer bar in Norway is Cardinal in Stavanger, which I am yet to visit. Both those bars have the new Dugges/Nøgne ø collaboration, which is a beer inspired by the obscure Finnish sahti style. I’ll have to find time to visit Olympen soon!

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Erik at Jerrys

Erik at Jerry's

Frederikshavn, Denmark.

During the summer, this is the gateway to Jutland for ferry-loads of Norwegians and Swedes. Year round it is a destination for those who take the overnight ferry from Oslo, with two hours for shopping – meat and booze mostly.

In this pre-Christmas season, most of the passangers seem to be either sleeping it off or still partying, there are rather few of us who queue up to get off at seven thirty.

We get off and the first stop is the breakfast buffet at Damsgaard supermarket. The shop itself has seen better days, but the cafeteria is still good value for money. Before I sit down with my coffee and rolls, I make a phone call.

There is aa new attraction in town for a beer hound – one of the restaurants has started brewing its own beers. I e-mailed them last week, and the manager gave me his mobile number. They are only open in the evening, but he told me we’ll work something out.

I call, and he tells me he will be in the restaurant in five minutes. This being a small town, so I agree to meet him there.

The door to Jerry’s restaurant is open, and Erik is the man behind the bar. He greets me warmly, and he is pleased that there are people interested in what he is doing. He emphasises that he does not consider himself a brewer. His main beers are not aimed at beer connoisseurs, either. They are simply beers aimed at the pilsener market. The pale ale is rather similar to a pilsener, but the top fermentation means that he can cut down on the conditioning period. The red ale is similar to the Danish Classic style, with some more malty sweetness and a darker color than the pilsener.

The restaurant has been running for 17 years, while the brewing only started this year. He had the big advantage of having an established bar/restaurant and knowing exactly how many thousand liters of beers he sells in a year. This made it possible to set up a more realistic business plan than many others who start both the pub and the brewing at the same time.

So far, he has mainly followed the recipes form the company that delivered the brewing eqipment, Fleck’s Brauhaus Technic in Austria. He tells me they also delivered the equipment to Lillehammer Bryggeri, and when I look them up, I find that they also are behind the Pri Kmeta brewpub in Sofia, which I visited last year.

I addition to the advice from the Austrians, Erik also relies on the advice of an experienced home brewer, who knows how to adjust the settings to get the desired results.

I try both the pale ale and the red ale, and, while not outstanding, they are pleasant beers that can be consumed in quantity. The recipes will be adjusted from the next batch. The pale ale will have a more pronounced hoppiness in the finish, and the red ale will have more body and color.

In addition to the two standard beers, there will also be a rotating seasonal beer , and this will be more experimental. Erik was rightly proud of his Christmas brew, a dark beer at 5.1% ABV with a strong anise aroma. The flavour reveals even more spices, it is brewed with star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and other Christmassy spices. This blend well with the dark beer base, with a malty full body.

I don’t usually taste beers at eight in the mornig, but this was a very pleasant experience. I promise to be back to taste his improved beers the next time I am in town.

There are two boxes with bottled beers on the counter, and I ask if I can buy them to take away. Erik insits on giving them to me as a present, and I won’t argue with that.

Then it is off into the frosty winter morning again, but is doesn’t seem so cold any longer!

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I would not mind trying the Christmas beer from the Ocean brewery in Gothenburg. And it’s not just the design. I tried several of their cask beers during the Copenhagen Beer Festival this summer, and I particularly liked thir porter.

Well, another year…

ocean-jul

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White Horse

White Horse

I told you about the mixed experience Lars Marius, Stine and I had two years ago when we went to the White Horse Old and Winter Ale festival. The White Horse, with its splendid location in Parson’s Green, West London, has a long standing reputation for its solid beer list, both British and Belgian beers on draft and bottles which are picked for making up a broad range of flavours and styles, not to give a ticker’s list of pale lagers. (There is a lesson to be learned here, Porterhouse!)

But, as I have written about recently, the beer is dependent on the person who is serving it. At the time we had the most sweet waitress, who had just arrived from California. She did her best, but she did not have a clue about English ales. She kept mixing them up, which means we resorted to ordering bottles instead to make sure we got what we ordered.

This year it was easier. When I had elbowed my way past the main bar, I found that the back room, which used to be a restaurant with table service was now the bar for the festival itself, serving about a dozen milds, old ales, stouts, barley wines – English dark beers from cask stillage – no hand pumps, just the gravity to do the job.. Add to this a few BrewDogs and Belgian Winter Ales in the main bar, and you could easily spend the weekend here!

Well, I did not have the whole weekend at my disposal, just a few hours before being on my way. Things were made easier by another young American lady. From eavesdropping on the conversations she was having with the regulars, she had been there for quite some time, this being their last shift before getting back home for Christmas. The expertly poured glasses shown she had used here time there well.

The beers?

Breconshire Rambler’s Ruin is an old ale, with some (intended oxidation. A reddish beer with little carbonation. Nice grassy hoppiness, malty body, but, somehow, the element’s did not blend too well together.

The Adnams Tally-Ho is very port-like, and is most sensibly drunk in halves. Rich, sweet, syrupy. Alcohol warmth. Prunes, figs, blackcurrant, sour cherries. A complex beer, I found myself a bench and sipped this slowly.

To finish off, I asked for the Fuller’s Golden Pride. This is not a new beer, but it is very seldom seen. A classic strong ale. Ripe fruits and berries. Blackcurrants, rowan berries. a little sour and oxidised, but pleasantly so. A neglected gem from the Fullers range, which should be available more often.

But why do they call it Golden Pride? It is not golden at all, but a lovely dark ruby. And when golden beers are a dime a dozen (well, £ 36 a dozen at today’s prices..), they could have played on the true color of the beer. Maybe it used to be golden?

I thought out a name for a ruby beer. Anyone can use it, though it will cost a dozen bottles for the first batch.

Ruby (Don’t take your love to town)

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It’s watching a new religion being born.

I have sung the praises of BrewDog over and over again. Their latest stunt is to take over London. Last weekend saw the White Horse Old Ale Festival, where they had four BrewDog ales on cask, including the new Isle of Arran and Smokehead, both imperials touts aged in whisky barrels. I have told y0u about the fine quality of the bottled versions before.

The Pig’s Ear beer festival in East London also had a special beer from BrewDog in their programme, bit it was not on when I was in on Tuesday evening.

But the real event for followers of the Scottish maverick brewers has been going on at the Rake in Borough Market. As you can see, they have offer a broad range of cask beer, including two new ones. the Zephyr and the Rake Raspeberry Smokehead.

I arrived on Monday with my mate Tom, and were firstly met with a rather dismissive message that they did not have all the beers on at a given time, and that we should settle for the Speedball and the Smokehead, which were the flavours of the day.

Well then. They had the full range of bottled beers from Aberdeenshire as well, but, still.

We started chatting to the man in a black leather hat at the end of the bar, who seemed to be associated to the pub. It turned out that this was Tony, the assistant manager, and Tom’s Scottish accent convinced him that he should step down int the cellar to bring a few samples.

Now, the Zephyr is a13% India Pale Ale (IPA) matured in a grain whisky cask for 18 months with 30kgs of fresh strawberries, no less. It is vinous, very dominated by the whisky aroma, there was not much fruitiness to discover. Not a bad beer at all, but all their experiments cannot be stellar, can they? It will possibly eveolve into something more sophisticated over time.

But the Rake Raspberry Imperial Stout is a new version of the Smokehead, a 10% stout aged with fresh strawberries. I sniff. The aroma is mostly smoke, as with the regular Smokehead. A small sip. The smooth body of the stout, belying its alcohol strength, the strong smokiness filling in the picture – and, to top it all, a wonderful strong fruitiness, not too sweet, that matches this perfectly. This is there best so far. There are rumours about a limited bottling of this, but is surely not a product that will be available on a large scale. If you get any opportunity, get your hands on a glass of this brew! And, if you are in London, there is still a chance they have a few drops left this weekend!

Tony and Tom

Tony and Tom

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Classics

If you want vintage beer photos, BeerBooks.com have a number of them for sale. As well as books on lots of beer-related issues, videos, t-shirts etc.

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