Tag Archives: Brewdog

Stags and the art of the train beer

What is it about trains?  A couple of years ago through some very random circumstances I found myself having to travel up to the Isle of Skye at a days notice.  Now a journey of that magnitude needs careful consideration!  I looked at all sorts of options to cover the ground, but in the end decided the best option was to get a train to Edinburgh, another train to Inverness and a final train all the way to the lovely little village of Kyle of Lockalsh which is a gateway to the Isle of Skye.

Now the whole journey took well over 8 hours, but any of you who’ve travelled north or Newcastle on the train, you’ll know that its one of the prettiest train routes you’ll ever see.  First part was motoring past the Northumberland coastline taking in Lindisfarne, the colourful houses in Alnmouth, Bamburgh castle and the many stunning golden beaches in between.  Granted it was February when I made the journey so it was bloomin’ cold outside, but on a nice warm train, on a crisp sunny winters day, believe me, this journey was a delight.

I left Newcastle at about 8 o’clock in the morning, reached Edinburgh by half nine, was in Inverness at lunchtime and finally reached Kyle of Lochalsh by mid afternoon.

I find train travel very relaxing.  OK so it’s not always relaxing.  If you have to rely on it and the service lets you down then I can well understand that stress levels rocket!  But in the main my train journeys are pretty dependable and sporadic enough to not be consistently expecting them to be on time!

But on this particular journey, I had a 20 minute change between trains in Inverness, and given the time I figured I’d nip out and grab some lunch to eat on the remainder of the journey.  Train stations being train stations, there was an M&S very handy.  So I grabbed a few edibles to pick at, and scooped up a couple of bottles of M&S beer.  This was in the days when they only sold their own stuff, so I got two from the single hop range, including their derivative of Oakham Citra. 

That final stretch of the journey was the very epitome of what a train beer is all about.  As the almost empty two carriage train meandered through the highland countryside, along the edge of lochs, passing stunning heather patches and rolling moorland, we came upon a section with an open hillside no more than 500m away, the train slowed to stop at a small simple station platform and in the distance a stunningly regal stag stood up, looked at the train, sniffed the air and then got back to eating the foliage.

Throughout all this, I sat with my train picnic, a pork pie, scotch egg, some cheese, crackers, chutney and a packet of crisps, and I supped my way through a few beers. Loving the moments, loving the view and loving the enjoyment that the beer brought to enhance that journey.  Now I know there are better beers, and I’m pretty sure there are better trains, but for me that journey was majestic!  I imagine it was those wonderful citra hops that the stag was sniffing out!

img_4629And that’s what I seek in a train beer.  The good thing with train travel is that you don’t have actions to take, you simply climb aboard and relax.  And I think that aim to relax for many people is enhanced by a good train beer.  It can’t be any coincidence (ok maybe it is) that Marks & Spencer have become a train beer provider of choice, if it was a deliberate business plan (I know the food supply was and maybe the beer supply has piggy backed on that, but hey ho, indulge me a little), but having a broader range of beers available in train stations has been a real boost to the train beer community!

The availability of cans helps.  I was always conscious that the image of cracking open a bottle when sat alone on the train looks like you mean business with your drinking.  Cans nit so much, mainly because a can appears more suited to travelling, it opens with its own mechanism for starters, you don’t need an additional opener.  Obviously there’s a weight issue too, no not what the calories will add to your waistline, I mean carrying cans is far lighter than carrying bottles ergo much more suited to travel with.

img_4628But above all else, I often feel a tinge of guilty pleasure to a train beer.  For me it still feels like a recent phenomenon and I always imagine those around me would be surprised if they knew what I was drinking.  I say that because I am happy to carry any beer as a train beer.  One of my favourite was after a stressful 24 hours working in Edinburgh, I found a bottle of Brewdog Born to Die which was delicious, but swigging from a big bomber on a busy train felt abit odd!  Another example was when I had Cloudwater DIPA’s (believe it was versions 6&7), on a train so packed that I had my case on the floor between my legs and literally had no space what so ever.  It didn’t stop me cracking them open, I even took a tulip glass to make the most of them.  Again, the traveller in the seat beside me was abit taken aback by it but for me, it was a tremendous use of my time!

I would encourage you to welcome train beers.  However, I have been on the early train to Leeds on a workday, full of suited commuters and had a suited man sit next to me with an accompanying aged sweat aroma (*shudders*), who proceeded to crack open a can of Carling for the journey, at 7 o’clock in the morning.  Obviously this kind of train beer is associated with bigger problems and I quote it as an extreme, but I did imagine that some people’s judgement of me swigging from a big bomber bottle of Born to Die, will be tainted in a similar way to how I felt about seeing this gentleman and his Carling. 

img_4630Maybe its that acting against convention that adds to the appeal.  I often wonder how many people in the carriage around me recognise the beers that I’m drinking.  My instinct is none of them, which makes it feel all the more like it’s my little secret.  If they only knew how good this beer was, but all they will see is a man drinking beer and assume the same level as that man with his can of Carling.

That said, I think if you acted based on the potential judgement of others you’d barely do a thing.  Life’s not about doing the things people won’t react to, it’s about the experiences you give yourself.  And that Citra in the highlands with that regal stag is one of the greatest beers I’ve ever had.


12 Beers of Xmas:

Tis the season to be beery,
Tra la la la laaa, la laa laa laaaa
Strong dark beers will keep me cheery,
Tra la la la laaa, la laa laa laaaa
Drink one each day and let folk know,
Tra la la, la la la, la, la, la,
Tweet your thoughts to the beer o’clock show,
Tra la la la la, la la la la

That’s enough of that. Last year I took part in the Beer o’clock show’s 12 beers of Christmas and it was great craick so I’m back again. I’ve tried to get some top, well known beers in there and also raise the profile of some cracking local beers that we have in the north east. So here’s my list as it stands.

#12beersofxmas in no particular order….

1 Brooklyn Brewery – Sorachi Ace (7.2%)
A beer that has long since held some allure for me. Ive significantly increased my American beer consumption this year thanks to Rehills of Jesmond, but I’m hoping this is a real stand out beer.

2 Brewdog – I Hardcore you (9.5%)
Brewdod’s collaboration with Mikkeller, it’s effectively a blend of Hardcore IPA and I Beat you. Sounds good to me.

3 Mikkeller – Beer Geek Vanilla Shake (13.0%)
Imperial stout, Mikkeller does imperial stouts incredibly well. This vanilla version is something Ive been looking forward to trying for some time.

4 Siren – Tickle Monster (12%)
#CAMRGB beer of the year, must be good for something right?! Big ass beer and a great name. Been very impressed with the beers Siren have been producing lately. Some distinctly different beers which are by and large very well executed.

5 Buxton – Tsar (9.8%)
I view Buxton as a solid brewery. They produce solid beers that excel in every style. This is their imperial stout which Ive not had before so it seems apt to have a big hit of stout as part of my #12beersofxmas

6 Siren/Mikkeller – Daydream (12%)
This was one of the headline beers at this years Craft Beer Calling and I had recommended it to a friend before Id tried it myself. He took one sip and declared it undrinkable, I tried it and thought it was fantastic. Big, boozy, bags of character. I look forward to seeing how the bottled version compares to the kegged version.

7 Brewdog – Black Tokyo Horizon (15.2%)
Think high abv, think Brewdog. This is a blend of three signature stouts Nogne’s Dark Horizon, Mikkeller’s Black and Brewdog Tokyo.

8 Panda Frog – Pandamonium (5.5%), Dart Frog (4.7%), Ascendancy (7.4%), Ce n’est pas une biere de noel (7%) (need to get)
I thought I’d celebrate in style on Christmas eve with one of my favourite local breweries. Panda Frog brewery is Mordue breweries experimental arm, basically head brewer Rob Millichamp has been allowed to get creative and explore beer styles. Rob’s a very well educated brewer and it shows.

9 Durham Brewery – Raspberry saison (5.6%)
Another great local brewery, their Magus was one of those go to beers I had growing up. Their range includes some strong stand out beers but I’ve resisted the Temptation, and I’ve chosen to leave the 1994 Imperial White Stout and Diabolous to mature for a couple of years at least, and chosen to try their raspberry season which Ive never had before.

10 Rodenbach Grand Cru
Spotted this in a random corner shop and initial shock was followed by a swift movement to pluck it from the shelves. A beer Ive been keen to try since the Beer O’Clock Show (episode 81) it’s a Flemish red and was highly recommended by beer blogger extraordinaire Matt Curtis.

11 Saison Dupont
Not a new beer for me, bit one that I really enjoy. This is prone to being subbed out if I receive any beers from Santa….

12 Fullers Vintage Ale 2014?
Probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to hunt down a bottle of this beer but since Waitrose had it for £4 I figured Id give it a go. Again, this is prone to being subbed out if Santa’s particularly kind this year.

I’m gonna try and keep my blog up to date daily for the beers I try, but at the very least I’ll tweet about them.

If you fancy getting involved, do so! It’s dead easy. Buy beer, drink beer, tell us what you think. Just don’t get the hashtag wrong, Steve won’t be happy….