Hi, my names Myles and I’m (potentially) an alcoholic.

Every time I read that title it fills me with fear. The fear is of being in a position where I am attending an alcohol anonymous session to try to cope with a problem. Attending the session isn’t the thing which I fear most, it’s the stigma of weakness and failure that’s attached to it that I fear the most.

Imagine what impact that would have had on my family leading up to that meeting. Imagine how unfair it would be to add burden to those around me.

But let’s go back a few steps in this scenario.

This blog was inspired by this post by Mark Johnson: (link) It’s a brilliantly passionate and evocative piece about a very personal experience of living with an alcoholic. As ever, that piece got me thinking.

What struck me was the way that at points through the piece, I found myself being able to relate to stages in Mark’s dad’s journey into alcoholism. There are so many things in the background which I feel like I can relate to.

The starting point is a sense of fallibility. I am not untouchable. At my core I’m quite a nervous person. My instinct has always been that while I know I’m a very capable individual, I don’t think others ever really see that. I find social situations uncomfortable. I’ve often had to grit my teeth and push myself into situations rather than being a bold self-promoter. Alongside that I can think of a great many situations where beer has served as a social lubricant and made interactions that bit easier. And perhaps that is the first point where on some level I have been even a little bit, reliant on beer to help me get through the uncomfortable situation.

The other thing I think about is that sense of yearning on a Friday afternoon. There are many times when I have simply yearned for a face full of hops for refreshment after a stressful week. Similarly, when I buy a load of exciting beers and they’re sat in the fridge I do yearn to get stuck into them. Now I fully appreciate that the yearning for the enjoyment of the flavours of the beer is in marked contrast to the yearning that an alcoholic has, but to my mind it has to be one step closer than not yearning for a beer at all.

And therein lies my key point. I’ve grown up surrounded by talk about alcoholics which usually has a tone of blame and a thick slice of criticism for the alcoholic involved. And because of that, most people would bristle at the mention of them potentially being an alcoholic. I often think most people would hold the blinkered view that it couldn’t happen to them. Even alcoholics once believed that it couldn’t happen to them, until it happened to them.

There are stages to it that need to be considered too. You don’t go from living a normal life to being an alcoholic overnight. I imagine it creeps up gradually, like that child at your friend’s school who slowly becomes more and more prominent in your child’s life and slowly leads them astray. You don’t know they’re leading them astray until something significant enough to make you notice happens, and the thing is your child doesn’t see it as them being led astray, they just see it as the thing they want to do at that moment in time, often blissfully unaware of the consequences of the steps they’re taking.

I imagine the route to alcoholism is the same. It’s a steady transition from leading an unaffected life to being dependant on the effects of alcohol to get through life. I say get through life, not many of us would consider that as getting through life. It’s actually the opposite of getting through life, its living in the most poisonous way possible. The physical impacts are considerable, the mental impacts are unseen until too late, and the impacts on those around you is where the pain of the problem is felt most acutely.

How many of us can sincerely say that we won’t ever be alcoholics with 100% certainty?

Just to make this clear, alcoholism is an entirely different thing to having a passion for beer. Once in the throes of alcoholism, an alcoholic won’t see beer as the drink of choice. It’s simply not powerful enough to have the effect that they want. And that’s the thing, they are drawn to the drinks they consume by the effect it has on them.

Now ask yourself, have you ever felt the need for a drink? Ever craved the way any alcoholic drink makes you feel? I know I have. I know there have been times in my life where I’ve yearned for a big blow out and a good sup to relieve stress. I fully understand that the severity isn’t anywhere near the same ball park as the way alcoholics think, but on some level there are similar traits.

Would any of you think that I had a potential problem if you saw me posting beers on Twitter on a daily basis? Or would you simply see me as a passionate beer fan enjoying his hobby? At what point would it leap out to you as being a problem?

What are the early stages of the road to alcoholism? Mark refers to his dad going to the pub with increasing regularity, but with it being a social scene that he became a part of. That being part of a group of regulars in a pub isn’t alcoholism. There’s a key step I suspect, which makes it a problem. It’s that dependency word. That social lubricant in awkward social situations could easily become an everyday crutch if you were unlucky enough to go through a traumatic life event. That’s my fear. That’s the circumstances which I think I’m most susceptible to. If I suffered a big loss in my personal life and the fabric of my life was ripped up, I can see at that stage that I’d look for something steady to try to ground me. It’s a ship trying to drop anchor and secure its position when the seas are choppy. What would you have to fall back on?

I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a strong extended family around me, and I know that I can take strength from that. That doesn’t mean that I blindly get myself into trouble and rely on them to pull me out. That’s the impact of alcoholism which Mark refers to. His dad was constantly reliant on his family to fix the messes that he created. I know for a fact that my family would do anything for me, but perhaps the constant testing of the limits of that is grossly unfair on any family. No I take that strength in my decision-making, I feel more confident in the decisions I make because I believe that my family will support me. It’s the positive edge to the sword, the other side being me not wanting to let my family down. It’s the same thing, just with a positive slant. When I find things tough, I think about my family and what they would want me to do. It gives me focus to push on past obstacles, but what if that wasn’t there?

I know alcoholism isn’t about the alcohol, it’s driven by factors which go on in people’s lives which in turn sees them turning to alcohol as a support mechanism. My point is that I’m not sure that there aren’t a set of circumstances out there which could see me turning to alcohol as a release. Granted those circumstances would be very extreme and would only be were my life to be turned upside down, but it’s still possible.

I think I have some initial empathy with how alcoholics get to where they are, however the fear of that gives me resolve to do everything I can to prevent that from becoming my reality, no matter what happens in life.

They say the first step is to admit you have a problem. I don’t have a problem, but I hope that if ever I feel like I may have a problem, I am able to raise it with someone early, so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. I suspect in many circumstances, pride married with the fact that it’s socially unacceptable to be an alcoholic, may actually prevent someone who suspects they may have a problem, from seeking help. I think as a society who is passionate about the beer culture here in the UK, we probably should be more supportive of people in the early stages. If this saves one person from going down the road any further, then it’d be well worth it. Save them from the pain of going through it, save those around them from the impact on their lives and also save the impact on our health services. Drink responsibly, as a society, together.

There is far more educated information to be had at the following link: (Alcoholics anonymous)

PS. This is a post I’ve had nagging at my mind for some time. I don’t want to offend anyone who has been affected by alcoholism in any way. I don’t for a second believe that I am in any way expert on the subject, or that I understand alcoholism. This is merely my un-informed thoughts on the subject.  But perhaps by talking more about it, we would all learn more and we’d see more of those at risk, helped to avoid a decent into alcoholism.

20 Most Important Craft Beers…. on my journey.

Michael Lally in this weeks 3 bullet Tuesday, offered the question of what are the UK’s 20 most important craft beers? (Link)

Now stepping back from Craft being difficult to define, importance is difficult to define too.  Michel welcomed recommendations on Twitter, which to my mind is a gathering of individual people’s important beers, both on personal journeys and perception of the market as a whole.  It’s a great debate to have.  It led me to start thinking about my own personal 20 most influential beers.  So here they are!

1) Mordue Workie Ticket – When I first ventured into pubs and started drinking real caskale, this was one of the first picks I would go for.  Perfect cask pint.  Champion Beer of Britain in 1997. I loved this beer.  So much so that I had this to accompany my wedding breakfast on the day I got married.

2) Tyne Bank Ridley Racer – Thinking back to when I first started to get excited by the possibilities of beer, this and perhaps Wylam Gold Tankard were my regular beer of choice.  But this was a cracking pint, on cask, most often found in the Town Wall which was the local to my office back then. 

3) Tempest Saison du Pomme – Now this was true craft.  Back in the day when Tempest had hand stamped labels on their bottles, this was part of the craft range they did back then.  This was definitely the first saison I’d tried.  It was really good too!

4) Tyne Bank Mocha Milk Stout – This beer has a lot to answer for.  This was the beer which got me drinking stouts.  Up until this point the only stout Id had was Guinness.  For those that follow me on untapped will appreciate how much I now adore stouts, and that can be traced back to that first bottle of this beer. 

5) Left Hand Milk Stout – This is my earliest memory of a rare beer being on sale in the North East.  I can remember @SheriffMitchell pointing this out being available in Coppers and I immediately wanted to try it!  That was my earliest memory of Twitter steering my beer buying choices.

6) Tyne Bank Single Blond – a simple unassuming beer, but one that just happens to be my first untappd check in.  The first step in a long and enjoyable journey!

7) Magic Rock Cannonball – Much spoken about by Steve from Beer O’Clock Show.  I longed to try it and was constantly keeping my eyes open for Magic Rock beers.  I chanced upon a keg of High Wire in Brewdog Newcastle one day, but that was it.  But he power of the internet, I happened to mention that Id never had this beer before, and within a fortnight I was sent 3 bottles of freshly brewed cannonball.  This was the most memorable beer experience Ive ever had.  It was simply mind blowing how much delicious aroma leapt out that bottle as I cracked it open, it was the most amazing beer Id ever had.  The flavours were mindblowing, the experience enhanced by sharing it via twitter with the beer geeks who’d spoken so highly of cannonball beforehand.

8) Brooklyn Sorachi Ace – Again, this was a marked step for me.  I saw this beer as an exotic classy beer to try and my wife kindly sourced a bottle for me as part of my birthday present.  It’s a beer which didn’t disappoint either, a big bottle, I shared it with a good friend who was also early in his beer journey.  It’s a classic beer. (Link)

9) Magic Rock Strongman – My first barley wine.  My first Magic Rock big bottle.  This was my Christmas day beer the first year I took part in #12BeersofXmas and what an amazing beer this was.  There are some beery moments which grab you, you get slightly nervous ahead of opening, not sure quite what to expect.  Magic Rock big bottles back then had a certain presence, with the print on the glass itself.  I still have the empty bottle! I’ve met Rich on a couple of occasions since having this beer and every time I ask them if they’re going to make some more.  He’s never actually said no so I’m still living in hope!!

10) Beavertown Smog Rocket – one of the first beers I ever did a live online tasting for.  This was an AlesByMail event hosted by Matt Curtis.  This was right at the time when beavertown had first launched their cans. Symbolic for me as Beavertown were the first craft cans that I was really interested in and as a result of canning meant that we were able to see more of their beers on Tyneside.  The tasting was a side by side tasting of the bottled version and the canned version.  Clearly this was the same beer, but it was very interesting to note the variations that the two dispense methods brought.

11) Anarchy Brewery Sublime Chaos – a breakfast stout, one of the first coffee beers Hasbean coffee co were ever involved with.  This was at the time when I was looking into canning and Anarchy were one of the most helpful brewery contacts I had at that time.  So I had an affection for the brewery, but the quality of sublime chaos blew me away.  A tremendous beer, good body and mouthfeel and a delicious blend of strong bold but not bitter coffee, with chocolate notes to compliment. 

12) Magic Rock Unhuman Cannonball – The mighty, amazing, mind blowing beer that is unhuman cannonball.  The beer which took me to Craft Beer Co in London for its launch night, the beer which saw me and a few others frantically messaging each other on release day morning to grab bottles, the beer which gave us the greatest ever Beer O’Clock Show episode with the highest ratio of giggling ever seen on a podcast!  All those factors aside, this is one amazing beer.  Last year’s batch was the best yet, I can’t wait to get my hands on this year’s batch!

13) Buxton – Wyoming Sheep Ranch.  Buxton brewery are so unassuming.  They simply don’t get any specific hype or buzz, unless they’re releasing Yellow Belly perhaps.  But Wyoming Sheep Ranch represents a lot for me.  Last year I travelled half way across the country on my own to go to a beer festival where I had only ever met one person, being Steve from the Beer O’Clock Show, and yet it soon became apparent that I knew a great many folk there and they knew me, all via Twitter.  I walked through the front door of the Victorian Baths intending going in, getting a beer and then sussing out where Steve was.  As luck would have it, as I stepped into the first corridor Steve appeared coming the other way and I was quickly whisked off for a big bad ass double IPA from one of the best, if not the best, brewery in the UK!  I still quote this as my favourite of their double IPA’s, but in truth all their double IPAs are quality.

14) Wylam Jakehead – Massive coming of age beer for the north east, winning the hottest 100 beers attracted a lot of attention for this particular beer, but also the brewery and consequently the regions beer scene as a whole.  It also marked my first appearance on the Beer O’Clock Show proper.  Prior to this I’d done odd little daft recordings such as singing happy birthday to them etc, but this was my first chance to present to them down south, just how good north east beer can be.  I have to say the bottle I had that night was probably the best I’ve ever had Jakehead.  It was amazing, live, fresh, full of power and energy and raw quality.  It’s a beer to grapple with and gives you an exhilarating rush of adrenaline when you conquer it!  And more than anything else, here finally was a big dominant hop forward IPA from Tyneside that was capable of standing up amongst the big boys.

15) Mikkeller – Beer Geek Brunch Weasel.  Here’s my first ever Mikkeller beer, bold thick viscous stout and what could be more craft than a beer made with the worlds most expensive coffee made from the droppings of weasel like cats?! More than that though, this was the first beer I actually reviewed in its own right on my blog (Link). 

16) Wylam WxY – Released right at the start of 2016, Wylam’s first collab.  Geordie beer brewed with a Yeastie Boys twist.  That twist brought tremendous juicy exotic fruits from the southern hemisphere and the resultant murky beer did divide opinion in a visual sense, but the flavours were amazing.  I remember hammering the last ever keg in the Crown Posada before it all ran out!  But I took this beer over to Ireland with me and gave my good friends Wayne and Janice Dunne some and they featured it on their Irish Beer Snob podcast, check it out here: (Link)

17) Siren Calypso – My wife’s perfect beer.  I think this beer more than any other represents the growing number of sour beers which have made their way into my fridge.  You see sour beers have become my wife’s drink of choice.  I’ve led her into the beer world and she has discovered a love for sours which shows no sign of diminishing!  Siren’s Calypso is a classic, clean, crisp but laden with hops.  I’m a huge fan myself, but I rarely get to try it!

18) Cloudwater DIPA v1 – There will be much debate about which DIPA is the best, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.  The beer that set tongues wagging was v1.  If v1 had been poorly received, we wouldn’t have the great list to debate now.

19) Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – My perception is that Almasty have now become a nationally recognised brand.  I’m a huge fan of Mark as a character and his beer.  He’s always said to me that he wants to slowly build the brewery, not getting too far ahead of himself.  But his beer leads the way.  All the hallmarks are there, quality, consistency, variation of styles and flavours.  When Steve and Mark asked me to appear on what would turn out to be the final ever studio show for the iconic Beer O’Clock Show (link), I really really wanted a beer that would represent the quality that the north east has to offer.  Id taken an IPA on the show before in Jakehead, and I wanted something that represented the other beery love of my life, big boozy Imperial stouts!  Almasty’s Imperial Stouts are bang on the sweet spot of roast levels for my palette. I did a whole blog post about it here: (link)

20) Northern Alchemy – Double IPA – The first beer I sampled as I walked through the door of #Hopsecret at Coppers Gosforth on their launch weekend. A tremendous local beer, from a brilliant local brewery, served in the perfect setting, amongst fellow beer lovers.  I’m a big fan of Northern Alchemy, not just the beers, the lads are brilliant.  Great honest talkers who’s enthusiasm for beer is genuinely infectious.

I would say that the above list represents the significant steps and influences on my craft beer journey.  But the ribbon running through the above beers are the people and the interactions I’ve had alongside these beers.  That’s what has taken an industry and made it a community. 

Interesting to see how many of Michael’s suggestions don’t make the above list.  There’s clearly a rationality to the beer scene, especially in my earlier days where beer simply didn’t travel too far from home!

 

The Drainpour Project

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It’s that time of year again folks, some of the countries biggest breweries are getting together to whip up some of the most banal collabs ever known to man, and the world and their sinks cant wait to get that sweet nectar poured down them.

The brainchild of some inconsequential ‘micro’ breweries, the giants of the Daft Beer industry took their small scale idea and have blown it up into the greatest beer challenge known to man!

So who are the collaborators this year? The list below makes for fascinating reading!

drainpour-project-table

So what can we expect?

sink-2Well when the magic hat selected Starling and Mudkaiser together, there was a tidal wave of excitement which washed over the entire UK daft beer community. The excitement which has driven many folk to try the Starkaiser blend of their two core, sorry only, beers. This isn’t your agricultural granular craft blend, this is two of the worlds biggest selling beers coming together to unite all their flavours into one glass. The mega bland blend! And many houses up and down the country are readying their sinks to welcome the arrival of such great daft beer.

sink-1In contrast, we have Rod Smiths and Hidethetin paired which will make for
fascinating outputs. Two very contrasting histories, two very contrasting colour schemes, the outcome of their collaboration will be eagerly awaited as no one quite knows what it will look like. Naturally we know it won’t taste any good, but that’s not the point. These beers aren’t made for that, its not their primary purpose and nor should it be. They have a proud tradition which they must stick to!

And what of the styles? Well as we’ve seen in the past the Belfast sink lends itself to a vivacious pour, rattling into the corners of the porcelain. This is a beer that needs to be able to travel and explore. The double bowl needs a bigger bottle, with more surface to cover and two plugholes to attack. But surely these tried and tested beers have the greatest challenge with the new fancy modern undermount sink. This isnt for the feight of heart brewer, but surely the experienced staff at Mean Thing have the skills to pay the bills. No other brewer is more au fait with the drainpour than they are.

sink-3You know what makes me laugh, there are those out there that are so blinkered by hops and malt and yeast and flavourful beer, that they can no longer appreciate the sinkpour quality that these brewers bring to the table. Its sad times. I’ve no doubt that sooner or later they’ll see the light, they’ll see the sink and wonder if they’re missing out. They drink in such a small sector of the market, they have no idea what goes on outside their own bubble. And Bubble is the word here, no drainpour would be complete without sufficient effervescent bubbles to really make those sinks really shine!

Form an orderly queue folks, the collectors box will include full non-tasting notes andsink-4 a limited edition spouted glass beautifully designed by industry experts. These highly sought after collector’s items will be available online from all reputable dealers from 12pm on Friday 13th May. And I’m afraid to say, miss them and erm miss out. There won’t be a second chance here! And if you aren’t able to get hold of one of these boxes, the whole daft beer word will be dead to you. You will be a social media outcast. Expect your follower numbers to hit the floor, your facebook likes to vanish overnight. Before you know it you’ll be back in the dark ages again, on your own, with no one to talk to, scary, are you scared yet?, you could just buy a box and avoid all that, go on you know you want to, what have you got to lose?……

Please note: the above post is entirely fictitious, any resemblance to real life people, businesses or events are purely coincidental. Its just abit of fun!
Oh and please folks, #NoMoFOMO

Odyssey – Imperial Hop Zombie Blood

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Strikes me that I don’t actually blog about beer enough. So since I had a great beer infront of me I thought I’d take the opportunity to put my thoughts in print.

So here’s my review of Odyssey’s Imperial Hop Zombie Blood.

Pours a deep ruby red in the glass, creamy lacing white head.

Getting mandarin orange and sweet cherries on the nose. First taste and I’m surprised by the lack of any real carb and yet it’s not short of mouthfeel and body. It’s incredibly smooth. I’m getting more oranges in the flavour, pink grapefruit too, has a more savoury flavour too, is that beef hula hoops in the background?! Dunno, can’t quite pick it out. Will have to drink more…..

Has a real dry finish, red currants wash around your tonsils and linger lovingly demanding you to take another drink.

This is a lovely beer. So many simple IPA/DIPAs around, lovely to get a hoppy beer which also promotes the enjoyment of the malt bill that underpins it. Strong bold beer which is incredibly gulpable and yet deserves respect too. I love that Odyssey have 500ml bottles.

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Can I take this point as a chance to make the case for the bigger pour. A pint or a large bottle changes over time. You get it from the bar/pour it from the fridge, and it’s fresh chilled and refreshing, get a few gulps out the way and the beer warms slightly, the chill goes and more flavours become apparent. But more than that, the carb settles, the beer gets into its stride and shows off far more as you work down the quantity. There’s and art to beers which work well in bigger pours, but those qualities greatly appeal to me. Shorter thirds/halves or 330ml bottles/cans can miss out on that ‘journey’ (to quote the xfactor…).

Anyhoo, here’s to Odyssey and their bigger bottles. Fantastic beer deserves a bigger pour!!!!

#NoMoFOMO

When I first started out on my Beery journey, Twitter was my way of learning and seeing. As I’ve mentioned before I would follow what I saw as Beery messiahs and become intrigued by the beers they were raving about and as a result I would seek out those beers to try for myself.

At that stage it was a journey and I felt very much like I was learning with every beer I had. This was an explosion of new terms to me that made me so curious that I felt the only way to truly understand the language was to try the beers.

But that was a very different era. There were far fewer breweries around back then. Distribution networks were far less advanced which meant a beer brewed outside the region was very difficult to get hold of and if you did it was usually long after its initial release date.

There were also far fewer special releases. I think many breweries were in their infancy and were very much focussed on establishing their core ranges. Core beers were relatively young in their development so Brewers were fine tuning and honing them to get the best out of them.

This sounds like I’m talking of a very different era, I sound like my dad talking about his childhood! But this is only a few years ago.

Annual releases were UnHuman Cannonball and erm, well the likes of Good King Henrys Special Reserve and Fullers Vintage, but as I wasn’t really aware of ratebeer I didn’t know of these beers. There simply wasn’t many big releases.

Unhuman Cannonball may well have started all this off, but it was a very unique event in the calendar back then. This is pre-websales, if you were lucky enough to get hold of one in your local shop, you were very very lucky.

But once that clamour was over, we all just went back to drinking the best of our locally produced beers, while exploring the brewed out the region imports that appeared as and when.

I drank more of the same beer back then, that’s not quite true, I drank less but there were more regular beers supped, fewer new beers tried.

Roll forward to 2016. The year started with me seeing my timeline swamped with the first of Wylam Brewery’s collabs, WxY. A lot of profile for this beer, it was a short run beer so demand was high and availability low. And the rest of the year followed suit. There was a new must have beer every single week. Let’s just remind ourselves of some of the main ones, Fourpure Juicebox, UnHuman Cannonball, Human Cannonball, Cloudwater DIPA V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, V6, V7, V8, V9, V10, Beavertown Dy Jekyl & Mr Hyde, Rainbow project boxes, Buxton Yellow Belly, Buxton Yellow Belly Desert edition, Magic Rock Hypnotist and Wayniac, Brew by Numbers 55:03. I could go on, but I won’t. It serves no purpose does it. Isn’t reading that list, well, erm just abit boring? That’s how those outside the industry feel about the weekly clamour for that weeks buzz beer.

I think I stepped back from ordering a box of Cloudwater DIPAs when they announced that it was to be a monthly release. I just felt that £25 a month for the quantity to be delivered was getting abit daft when the availability was improving. Why pay postage when it was becoming more available in the local shops.

FOMO the Fear Of Missing Out.
Was my life better for trying some of those beers listed above? Well in some instances it was, but through circumstances rather than the getting of said beer.

What is it that you don’t want to miss? Ask yourself that. If it’s simply trying a beer so that you have a gauge of what is good, then fine. But how many of us have that need to be seen trying a particular beer, or being the first to try a beer, or being the first to post a picture of a beer. Basically bragging right seekers spoil it for me.

Bragging rights seekers need a steady stream of new releases to give them momentum, they need that special beer every single week to let the world know that special to them is the norm. To demonstrate that they have their finger on the pulse and are in the know. And what I find is that every beer is judged in black or white. It’s either amazing or it’s shite, there is no middle ground, you rarely get why and often the amazing beers aren’t quite as good when I try them.

That does my head in. The arse licking. Gauge the motive of those posting on such beers. Are they giving an independent and subjective view or are they buttering up some other person of influence for whatever reason.

I digress, but this is the biggest influence on me stepping back from those much talked about beers (avoiding the ‘H’ word). I’m not saying these beers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, more that there are a gazillion other beers out there that can give you the same feeling of refreshment and enjoyment.

So that’s my mission this year. To boldly go where a great many have gone before and to get back to enjoying those beers that have been round for years but are amazing, and yet because they don’t have one particular Friday night to get everyone talking about them online, fall under the radar.

A great example that springs to mind, Buxton Axe Edge. As bangin a beer as a brewer can brew (my new tongue twister, try saying that when you’re hammered).

So 2017 is my year of #NoMoFOMO get onboard folk! Tell us about a new beer, not simply the beer everyone is drinking. Imagine if you turned up to a bottle share and everyone had the same bottle? It would be rubbish! Well Twitter can feel like that these days, entice us to try something new and we’ll do likewise.  Bring something different to the table, let us discover a broader range of beers and we’ll all be far better for it. A rich tapestry has more than one thread.

Remember the hashtag! #NoMoFOMO

Fog on the Tyne….

Should a beer be clear?

There’s a growing wave washing through Instagram.  The beers Im seeing are progressing, there’s a clear future beer style developing.  Have you noticed?

I take it as a historic mis-handling problem that has led to murky beers being un-appealing. I don’t want to stray into the Cask debate, but I suspect that drinkers aversion to murk is due to a reaction to what should be clear beer, poorly handled and ultimately served cloudy.  So it was cloudy in error.  That error, I assume, also led to the beer being of poor quality to taste aswell.

So what’s changed?  Let’s face it the last 4 years have been dominated by the influence of the West Coast US IPA.  The hop forward, sharp and lip smacking. All about brewing a beer that is a platform for those hops, delivering them in an as un-affected way as possible. The best examples are raw, challenging and organic in their aroma profile. It goes without saying that I consider Cannonball to be one of the best examples of that style.

The US is a mahoosive country, don’t know if you’ve noticed. I hark back to my rap loving youth to give clear contrast of how the west coast and east coast differs.  They’re significantly different too. The culture, the weather, the mindset. Somewhat inevitable that an entirely different beer style would develop on the east coast.

Its that east coast style which has progressed the murk bomb as a style.

What gets me though is that the thing people are talking about is that murk.  The thing which puts people off is the murk.  The thing people talk about being attractive is the murk. It’s just doesn’t make sense.  Why the murk?

Personally I want to understand the murk. What leads these beers to be murky? Is there a point to the murk? Does it hold more of the hop properties within the liquid instead of releasing it as aroma? Does that make it more intense on the palette?  But most of these beers are sold as being juicebombs. Designed to be gulpable and less of a challenge than the west coast hopbombs that we were used to.

From where I sit, I personally haven’t yet gotten over the wow factor of that slap in the face from fresh hops.  I want the challenge. I want the assault on the senses that west coast hop bombs give me.

My perception of East coast IPAs is that the assault is lessened, designed to give you a more genteel experience. The hops are still forward but with less bittering hops, the experience is gulpable juice.

Fashions move on. Areas get explored. I’m all for breweries exploring styles. You stand still you are left behind.

Lets try and see beyond what we’re seeing…

Murk will only grow this year, don’t let it put you off.  Get stuck in, judge on what you taste. The flavours will appeal a lot more than the images.

Edit Post script: There is one thing that nags at my mind here, Brewers intent. I often hear of breweries putting out beer which they didn’t intend to be murky but ended up being.  Now the thing I can’t quite fathom is if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

If the result is good beer then I should applaud the fact that perhaps 10 years ago that beer would have been drain poured. But the flip side is, are some breweries getting away with poor standards and simply using the fashion of murk to get away with putting out beer that maybe they shouldn’t?  I don’t have a definitive answer but I do often question if a murky beer was intended to be murky or not.

My hopes and dreams for 2017

Happy New Year folks!  2017 is going to be the best yet.  Here are my top ten Beery hopes and dreams for 2017…

1) Drink more caskalé: Cask Beer, much discussed in recent weeks and as I do a lot of my tasting at home, I often don’t see the best of some beers. And while I talk about loving cask ale, I probably should support it more in my buying decisions.

2) Visit Thornbridge/Buxton: I’ve got a weekend planned with Steve from Beer O’Clock Show to visit these two tremendous breweries. Thornbridge is for a special tour and tasting with one of the brewers, Buxton Taphouse for the day on Saturday! Buxton cask! Whoop!

3) Craft Beer Calling: After the huge step forward in 2016, Craft Beer Calling is genuinely up there as one of the best beer festivals in the country. I cant wait to see what the 2017 version brings.

4) Leeds Beer Festival: Last year I watched in amazement at how good Leeds Beer Festival looked. I fully intend going along this year. Part of me wants to support it all the more, given that Beavertown Extravaganza has unceremoniously landed on the same weekend. I know regardless of that Leeds will once again be brilliant.

5) Newcastle Beer Festival: The CAMRA version. I think the CAMRA festival often gets overlooked, but given that last year the festival had Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout on, it really isn’t one to be missed.

6) To volunteer: All of which brings me nicely into my 6th wish/intention for 2017. I really want to volunteer at a beer festival this year. Just get involved and see what it’s like from the other side of the bar.

7) To give the local CAMRA group a chance: I’ve been a member for a good few years now but never been to a single meeting or event (bar the beer festival). I’ve signed up to join the local branches tasting panel so I’m going to get stuck into that and see where it takes me.

8) To visit more of the local breweries: I’ve said it many times before but I’m a proud Geordie, proud of our region and passionate about beer. The more I get to know about the beer produced in this region, the more I want to explore it.

9) Podcast: Which brings me nicely to my 9th wish. I’m pleased to announce that this year will see the launch of the North East’s first beer podcast, named The North East Sippin Forecast. Myself and my good pal Rob (@trebor3232 he’s new to twitter give him a follow!) will be exploring beer and exploring the North East beer scene. We’re certainly not polished communicators so bear with us, but it should be a lot of fun. We have a twitter account all set up, so give @SippinForecast a follow and we’ll keep you up to date of our progress!

10) Have Fun: There are many many ideas planned for the podcast, but horse before the cart! I’m genuinely so excited for what we have lined up and I’m sure you’re all going to enjoy it too! Watch this space.

Above all else, there’s times when beer can take itself too seriously.  Let’s get back to Beer being fun!