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!

 

C.A.S.K. report

Cloudwater Are Seeing Kegs,
Casks Are Soon Kaput.

Craft Ales Significant Kosts,
Cant Achieve Sufficient Kash.

Current Arena Suits Kegs,
Creating A Superbeer Kaiboshed.

Cask Also Suffering Kwality,
Cellarmanship A Slipping Kommodity.

Clarity Attitudes Sometimes Kautious,
Could Ask Someone Knowledgeable.

Could All ‘Stablishments Kope,
Costs Alot Staff Knowledge-ing….

#Goldenpints

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the beautiful surroundings of The Sage Gateshead for what is, on the beery calendar, the most eagerly anticipated evening of the year. Tonight, live on stage the winners of the 2016 Golden Pints awards shall be presented with the glittering trophies. It’s a star studded crowd, there was much clamour to find out who everyone was wearing, the Evening Chronicle photographer camped out for 3 days to get a good spot for celeb spotting!

So without further ado, to the awards:

And the nominations for the Best UK Cask Beer are:
Almasty Brewing Co – Mk VII IPA
Fyne Ales – Jarl
Wylam Brewery – Galatia

And the winner is: Almasty Mk VII IPA – hop forward but with a delicious marmalade malt base made this an awesome delight in cask format.

The nominations for Best UK Keg Beer are:
Beavertown Brewery – Barrel Aged ‘Spresso
Cloudwater Brewery – Damson, Blackberry, Plum Red Wine aged custard porter
Wylam/Yeastie Boys – WXY

And the winner is: Beavertown Barrel aged ‘spresso a tremendous beer, brought to the region for Craft Beer Calling. An amazing imperial coffee stout. Beavertown do big Stouts so darn well.

The nominations for Best UK Bottled Beer are:
Almasty – Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Cloudwater – Citra IPA
Brew by Numbers – 55:03

And the winner is: Almasty Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout! Quite frankly this beer wins for a great many reasons. This was the beer I reviewed with the boys on the final ever studio show for Beer OClock Show podcast. A real honour. But mainly, because it’s such a stunning beer. Beautifully balanced and oozes quality.

The nominations for Best UK Canned Beer are:
Beavertown/Boneyard – Bloody Notorious
Magic Rock – Human Cannonball
Almasty – MK X IPA

And the winner is: Magic Rock Human Cannonball. There was something special about this years release of the Cannonball series. Unhuman was the best yet (and would probably have won the previous category if it wasn’t for the sentiment and fondness for the brewery that won it. Human Cannonball was delicious, sharp, raspingly bitter and juicy. Tremendous.

The nominations for Best Overseas Draught are:
Galway Bay – Goodbye Blue Monday
8 Degrees – Double Irish
Founders – KBS

and the winner is: Galway Bay, Goodbye Blue Monday. My first beer after landing in Dublin, on my trip to visit the Irish Beer Snobs. Was quite taken aback by the quality of an unobtrusive beer. Bangin hops, with a smooth rounded oatmeal malt bill. Really delicious.

And the nominations for Best Overseas Bottled/Canned Beer are:
Cigar City – Jai Alai
Omnipollo – Anagram
Oskar Blues – Barrel Aged Ten Fidy

And the winner is: Oskar Blues, Barrel aged Ten Fidy. Ten Fidy itself was abit of a disappointment for me. I struggle with some sweet Stouts and I found Ten Fidy abit sweet. This Barrel Aged version was more balanced. It’s a massive flavourful beer. This was a mere taster thanks to Daisy Turrell on the #crimbocrawl.

The nominations for best Overall Beer are:
Magic Rock – Unhuman Cannonball
Omnipollo – Anagram
Cloudwater – DIPA v10

And the winner is, Magic Rock Unhuman Cannonball. This is my 3rd year of trying this special beer. And for me, this was the best of the lot. A beer which has set many trends for buzz and excitement over annual releases, this beer doesn’t disappoint. It was amazing!!
The nominations for Best Supermarket are:
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer

And the winner is: Marks & Spencer. I don’t mean to be flippant with this award, but aside from the great independent retailers in the region there isn’t much of a competition between the supermarket chains. Marks and Spencer’s extended beer range this year makes it a hands down winner for me.

The nominations for Best UK Brewery are:
Cloudwater
Magic Rock
Buxton

And the winner is, Buxton. Another quiet unassuming year for a brewery that simply does not produce a bad beer, ever. Always top notch. Each and every double IPA they produce if the envy of many other breweries, Axe Edge continues to be as sharp an IPA as any on the market and when it comes to Stouts, they’re simply exceptional. Add in the collabs with Omnipollo which have been the source of much excitement this year and you know this is a brewery that can’t be touched.

The nominations for Best New Brewery Opening 2016 are:
Box Social Brewing
Odyssey Brewery
Elusive Brewery

And the winner is: Box Social Brewing. From a small lock up in Newburn, not far from where I live. Here’s a brewery with a real character and a good local community ethos that really brings a charm to me. Added to that the fact that they’ve produced DIPA, IPAs, pales that I’ve loved and sours that Mrs L has loved and they’ve really added to the local beer scene. With their new bar on Forth Street behind the central station in town, this is a brewery to watch in 2017.

The nominations for Pub/Bar of the Year are:
The Free Trade Inn
The Cumberland Arms
The Crown Posada

And the winner is: The Free Trade Inn. Simply put, I love this place. The beers are amazing, the banter is always great and the staff are all good solid, knowledgeable, passionate beer fans. Great chilled vibe, and the coolest cat on Tyneside. Say no more.

And the nominations for Beer Festival of the Year are:
Craft Beer Calling
Alltech Brews and Food

And the winner is: Craft Beer Calling, by a country mile the best thing that’s happened on Tyneside. The addition of the invitational element added to fantastic new surroundings added so much to this festival. It was awesome!

The nominations for Independent Retailer of the Year are:
Rehills
Coppers of Gosforth
Beer Central

And the winner is: Coppers of Gosforth, Ina year when they’ve added a tasting room to their offering, the core of what they do is all about connecting with people and being active and encouraging. There’s a real community grown up around this shop, which I love and their customer service is well above and beyond what any other shop gives.

The nominations for best Online Retailer of the Year are:
Eebria
Ales by Mail
Beergium

And the winner is: Eebria, always fantastic fresh beer delivered quickly and without fuss. Really can’t fault this service.

The nominations for Best Taproom are:
Box Social Brewing
Wylam Brewery
Howling Hops Tank room

And the winner is: Wylam Brewery. It had to be really. The Palace of Arts is stunning. But it’s become a symbol of the ever growing craft beer scene here on Tyneside. The taproom will draw folk to Tyneside which will then benefit a great many other breweries here too. It’s a massive addition for us, super fresh jakehead too! I’m sold!

The nominations for the Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer are:
@CraftBeerHour
@TheBearded1
@BeerOclockShow

And the winner is: @BeerOClockShow I know it’s a podcast, but a podcast is a recording of a past conversation. As a listener, you can’t join in. Steve uses twitter to provoke and stimulate conversation so that people feel that they can join in. I’ve spoken many times about the community around the show and that is cultivated through brilliant engagement online.

The nominations for Best Beer Blog / Website are:
Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson

And the winner is: Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson. Simply put no other blog gets close to the way Marks posts get me thinking about issues and events. The mental health posts are two of the most amazing and memorable blogs you will ever read.

The nominations for Beer Podcast of the Year are:
The Beer O’Clock Show/Hopinions
Irish Beer Snobs
Beernomicon

And the winner is: The Beer O’Clock Show/Hopinions. When the Beer O’Clock Show announced that it was coming to an end, the outpouring of sadness was testament to the high regard the show was held in. To step back, evolve and come back better than ever is great work. Mark was brilliant on the original show, Martin is perfect for the new show and Steve has worked hard to make it all seem effortless, it’s a great listen every time.

So with that the final award of the night, the winners all troop off to enjoy the after parties while the runners up all take away a sense of pride.

2016 has seen a great many new shoots in the craft beer garden, a great many of those shoots are still to flower. 2017 has a lot to live up to but signs are it’ll be even bigger!

#12beersofxmas day 11 – Hawkshead Brewery No 2 Jim

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Whenever I travel I like to visit local beer shops and see what interesting things I can pick up.  This was one such bottle that I picked up in Edinburgh probably 2 years ago. It’s quite an old beer but it’s one I’ve never really known when to drink. Here’s on everything of the biggest plusses of #12beersofxmas, it’s an excuse to crack open bottles that have been sitting about gathering dust. It makes you review your stash!

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This is Hawksheads Brodie’s Prime brewed to what they call ‘export strength’ meaning it’s ramped up a notch or twelve… coming in at 8.5% abv. Not excessively high but plenty high enough.

It pours a deep dark ominous broon in colour.  Not overly dense, it will allow some rays of light through.

Wow, the aroma has a powerful slap. The Jim Beam whiskey cask has well and truly put its stamp on this beer. It’s so powerful that it’s difficult to get beyond it on the aroma.

Flavour wise the whiskey is still powerful, but the base beer does well for it. There are plenty notes in the beer that the whiskey compliments. Redcurrants, treacle toffee, brown sugar and that ever watching dominant whiskey warmth with vanilla notes casts its shadow over proceedings in the way Mount Vesuvius is ever on the horizon no matter where you go around the Bay of Naples. You can’t escape its glare!

So it’s a bloody good job I’m enjoying it.  Compliments cheese incredibly well, I’ve demolished an entire block…

#12beersofxmas day 10 – Steel City Brewing/Hopcraft Brewing/Arbor Argy Bargy

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A black barley wine, I’ve never had a black barley wine before. I’m not aware of any others in existence! So this is a new style to me and I’m keen to give it a go. I love barley wines as they’re not that common. Good ones are usually really enjoyable, Magic Rock Strongman was a real eye opener for me for the style.

A tan head soon fades to just lace the edges of the surface. The beer is deep black, doesn’t appear to lace the glass when swirled though.

Incredible body to it, its thick and smooth but still distinct from a stout. I can’t quite explain why!

The black of the black barley wine brings a huge slab of roastedness. Powerful full strong coffee roastedness.  It’s really really good.

Packs a punch too 10.4% abv commanding you to take your time.

Funny though, the #12beersofxmas is abit of an ordeal.  I spend all year eyeing up beers to be included and when the time comes I bemoan the fact that I didn’t pick more variety. My daily blogs all seem to include similar references, and yet I feel like the beers I’ve had have all been distinct from each other.

#12beersofxmas – day 7 Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve 2014 edition

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A small little known brewery tucked away in the heart of England each year releases one of the top rated beers in the world. This is the highest rated UK produced beer on ratebeer. So to say I’m expecting great things is an understatement!

Its a quiet cap opening, very little noise rushing out on opening, but there’s a hearty aroma escaping.

It pours like engine oil, I open the sump plug and leave the bottle to drain into my glass.  Its incredibly dense, with an oily lacing on the surface.

The aroma is dark fruits, Christmas cake ingredients all washed together loaded with brandy for moisture.

First taste is full of body, glides over your tongue and down your throat. You won’t drink this too quickly though. The fruits are prominent, juicy raisins and sultanas. The roasted coffee notes are bold too.

Sip it slowly, as it warms the coffee notes are surpassed by the booze soaked fruits. It’s a lovely beer, well worth it’s high rating.