Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Food, Glorious Food, and an Ale or Two besides

It's been a while since I the had time to rattle the keys on my trusty laptop. I haven't shied away from a glass or so of the the ale, though. The reason is I also have an allotment, and with this Spring being so wet, then frosts late in the season, T'other 'Arf, and I, have had to try and concentrate on that, mainly. Throw into the equation our gainful employment and grand parenting duties, it all adds up and eats away at our recreation time, which includes my blog entries. Never mind, a couple of weeks of steady, more seasonal weather has allowed us to almost get where we would like, and backs, joints and muscles can testify to that. We have managed to sample a wide range of beers in this time, First, we had a meal and beer-tasting evening at the home of our closest friends, Dee and Steve, with whom we enjoyed a trip to Leeds with last July. The Wetherspoon's World's Biggest Real Ale Festival was also given a coat of looking at, as was Cleethorpes' Nottingham House Beer Festival, which I will review next time. We have also had a few beers from the supermarkets, and enjoyed another afternoon out in Hull, as well as a couple of hours in Doncaster. We have also had a few bottles from the local supermarkets to boot. So, there you are, so much to get down on the blog, before the mind wanders, or other pursuits get in the way.

The Meal

We were invited out for "a bit of tea..." at our friends' house, which we duly accepted. We have been taking it in turns to cook and host for a few years now, even though it may take 6 months or more for us all to be able to fit it in! Anyway, as this is a beer blog, I shall not go into the culinary delights which Mein Host, Steve, carefully, and excellently prepared us, but suffice to say, we were not disappointed. We then blind sampled the beers Steve had got in for us (his tastings obviously weren't as blind as ours!) After our samplings, the beers were revealed, and the notes discussed. Beers and notes were as follows.

1/ Anchor Brewing Co Liberty Ale. 5.9%
This is a quite floral American Pale Ale. The beer has a hint of haziness in the glass. The initial taste is of  malt, but not overly sweet. A grass and pine after taste ensues, then a dry citrus dryness controls the palate in the long finish. A very pleasing beer.

2/ Anchor Brewing Co Anchor Steam Beer 4.8%
With a malty aroma and sweetness in the initial caramel taste, this is a reasonable beer. The flavour is balanced, with a slight oiliness and then a dry finish. Overall, this is a solid beer, not too shabby at all, but nothing exceptional.

3/ Axholme Brewing Co Cleethorpes Pale Ale 4.4%
There is a slight haze to this beer, which is brewed using local sea buckthorn berries. The palate is hit by a nice citrus taste, with a resinous mouth feel. A slight tropical fruitiness is detected, and the finish is sharp, zesty, long and dry. A very good Pale Ale.

4/ Axholme Brewing Co Clearwater Pale Ale. 4.3%
Another slightly hazy glass of beer, which doesn't detract from the taste. This is another zesty beer, with a slight breadiness to the taste. There are slight fruit flavours within, which eventually come out in the finish. Very well balanced bitterness in the finish.

5/ Les Brasseurs de Gayant La Blonde de Ch'Nord 7%
A Biere de Garde, which is well carbonated. The aroma is very floral, with hints of grass, and damp cardboard? . The taste is slightly metallic, with a toffee apple sweetness balancing the grassiness and zest, which leads into bitter, long and lingering finish. We really enjoyed this one.

6/ Great Newsome Brewery Jem's Stout 4.3%
We found this a decent Stout, with a slight richness to it, but not too heavy. Raisin and dark fruits are in the aroma, with a lovely plum bitter-sweetness coming to the fore, followed by liquorice and hints of coffee. It is a touch thin in the mouth, but still pleasing.

7/ Cooper's Pale Ale. 4.5%
Australia offered us this brew to cogitate over. On the blind tasting, this one came across more lager, or Pilsner, in character. it is reasonably hoppy, with a good bitterness and bright, crisp taste. It is quite high in carbonation, with a pronounced maltiness in the long finish. On a hot day in the beer garden, or at a barbecue, this would be a good choice, but I found it rather bland, although a little bland.

8/ Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. 5.6%
Initially there is a grassy aroma to greet you, then the tasting of this brew picks up citrus hints, including a touch of grapefruit. There is a good bitterness, with slight spice tones. Caramel is also lurking in there, with the finish best described as long and dry. This is a well loved beer, and I must admit that it is well brewed and, although not one of my all time best beers, a very good bottled Pale Ale.

We also sampled Golden Ghecko, and Amber Adder, from Lidl's Hatherwood range, along with Blanche de Namur and  Rheinbacher Weissbier, all of which have been reviewed in full on this blog, so I shall not repeat my findings, as they were exactly as my previous findings, but after this the beers got a bit muddled. Mein Host, Steve, became a bit, shall we say, confused with the5 offerings, and eventually admitted "I'm pishhed, hic, Wery pinsed, Rie nead to gun to bid, hic goornart" Which translated to " Oh, dear. I appear to be over the limit. Please, let me take to my bed, as slumber is necessary." Dee, Steve's partner put it thus. "Pissed up old fart!" Oh, well.

The JDW's Beer Festival.

Over the 17 days of this March festival T'other 'arf and I managed a few tasting sessions at our 3 local outlets. On receiving the menu,though, I noticed that, unlike previous Wetherspoon's festivals, there were quite a few beers we had already sampled. Never mind, The list contained 50 beers, and I will try and point out those original brews which, not only I, but T'other 'Arf enjoyed.

1/ Acorn Barnsley Bitter 3.8%
A good solid Bitter, recently reviewed.

2/ Long Man Session IPA 3.8%
Golden coloured, light , bright and refreshing, with citrus notes very prominent throughout.

3/ Pheasantry Best Bitter 3.8%
This award winning Ale is malty, with nice fruit, and citrus hints.Bitterness is well balanced and the dry finish is quite long.

4/ Elgood's Lazy Dog. 3.9%
I like Elgood's beers, and tasted quite a few in the past, unfortunately, this brew with "subtle, tropical, hoppy notes" was a little disappointing. Its flavours were not prominent enough and it seemed to just fizzle out, going nowhere on the palate. It wasn't a bad beer, just a bit boring.

5/ Devil's Backbone Bravo Four Point. 4%
Brewed at Caledonian Brewery, this Golden Ale was very fresh tasting, with hints of grass and a light floral note at the outset. It had an zesty fruit backbone and a tangy tropical fruit hint to the balanced bitter finish.

6/ Everards Yakima 4%
A Ruby coloured Bitter, which opens with citrus flavours, before becoming a bit sweeter in the mouth. I thought the mouth feel a touch soapy, whilst the finish was average really. Crisp but not punchy. Overall, another rather bland beer.

7/ Marston's (Whychwood) El Dorado 4%
Rather sweet for my taste, but not too bad. There is a reasonable fruitiness to be found and the finish was rather refreshing.

8/ Timothy Taylor's Boltmaker 4%
What can you say about this often reviewed beer? Well, it tasted like Boltmaker always does. Malty, with a balanced hoppy flavour, and a lovely, satisfying finish.

9/ Brains Phonics 4.1%
Did not sample

10/ Caledonian Vienna Red. 4.1%
Did not sample.

11/ Inveralmond Amber Ale 4.1%
Did not sample.

Festival Thirds of
Numbers 11,4 & 16
11/ Lancaster Admiral Archer. 4.2%
A Golden beer which after an initial hoppy infused aroma, leads the drinker to a balanced and dry finish. Nothing outstanding, just another dry, bitter ale.

13/ Sambrook's Red Ale. 4.2%.
An American style Red Ale, which has a good balanced tropical fruit in the main, which is accompanied by a refreshing, crisp finish.

14/ Williams Black 4.2%
Did not sample,but previously found the bottled version very good.

15/ Wood's Redwood. 4.2%
Another slightly fruity, but increasingly dry beer. This IPA is good, but, as so many brews in this line-up, nothing special.

16/ Adnams Explorer. 4.3%
I first tried this beer in Southwold a few years back, and really enjoyed the fresh, citrus and hoppy flavours within it. I have also had the bottled version, which is not quite as good as the cask version. Tasting the cask version again, I found it very flavoursome, with the lovely grapefruit and other citrus tones dancing on the palate. It was nice to re-acquaint myself with this brew.

17/ Hydes Bruges. 4.3%
On first tasting this beer, I found it quite bland, with a hint of toffee and slight spice, then, surprisingly, biscuit and caramel seem to appear, lifting this beer greatly.

18/ Marston's Irish Peated Ale. 4.3%
I just did not like this beer at all. It had a soapy mouth feel and taste, and was increasingly medicinal on the palate, leaving an almost resinous in the mouth. Nah! Not my cup of tea.

19/ Salopian Darwin's Origin. 4.3%
This was a well balanced and excellently crafted Bitter, with has a nice fruitiness, and a solid malt vein. The delicate fruit hints run through to a nice hoppy finish, which is reasonably long, dry with an underlying bitter-sweet and floral character.

20/ Wolf Spring Ale 4.3%
A nice Golden Ale with Blackcurrant detectable towards the end. The maltiness is also evident throughout, which combines well in the slightly sweet finish with the fruit strains.

21/ Bateman's Dark Lord. 4.4%
A beer sampled and reviewed previously which is  always enjoyed, and this sampling was as good as ever.

22/ Orkney Norseman. 4.4%
Did not sample.

23/ Rudgate Ruby Mild. 4.4%
Another often reviewed beer which was excellent, with a lovely nutty flavour, balanced well with a rounded maltiness.

24/ Thunder Road Pacific. 4.4%
Did not sample.

25/ Bath Cubic 4.5%
Did not sample.

26/ Black Sheep Bighorn 4.5%
Did not sample.

27/ Celt Experience The Afanc 4.5%.
I was pleased I finally saw this one on sale, albeit after the Festival, as I had seen a few rave reviews about the Premium Bitter. Was I disappointed? Certainly not. This is a well rounded, full bodied beer, which has good caramel and dark fruit flavours, with a hint of spice. The finish is dry, zesty and very moreish. Well worth the wait, and the extra pennies I paid (post festival prices) for the privilege.

28/ Mordue Wheat. 4.5%
There has been quite an increase in Wheat beers (or Weizens, Witbiers and their Continental variations) of late, and I am really beginning to enjoy this style. This particular brew had a touch of pine and floral notes in the opening gambit, which wafted through on the spicy malt body. The finish had a hint of peach, and was nice and dry, with good bitterness. All in all not a bad beer.

29 O'Hara's JDW Irish Red. 4.5%
Brewed at Everards Brewery by Conor Donoghue,this Best Bitter we found to be very sweet. There were hints of coffee, and caramel, a slight hoppy bitterness, and caramel and a caramel maltiness. I didn't go a bundle on it. Too sweet for my palate, but, to be fair, I had sampled a few dry and zesty beers beforehand.

30/ Oakham St Bibiana 4.5%
Did not sample.

31/ Wadworth 6X Gold. 4.5%
6X used to be one of my favourite beers back in the day, so the introduction of the Gold was to be interesting. The initial taste is of citrus, with a hint of malt. The zesty bitterness is nice and the citrus zest runs all the way to the lingering bitter finish. A good thirst quencher, and a worthy partner to the original brew.

32/ Nottingham Trentsman. 4.7%
Did not sample.

33/ Daleside Spring Rye 4.8%
A very light, refreshing beer, with just a hint of herbs at the outset. The sweet caramel malt is there in the main, before the well balanced crisp fruitiness takes over in the dry and fairly long finish.

34/ Hanlons Port Stout 4.8%
I have reviewed this one previously, and, as then, found this Dark Stout, quite nice, with coffee and a hint of chocolate there for all to discover, but the port flavouring doesn't seem to appear at all. A good Ale, but it lacks the Port billing.

35/ Otter Fusion. 4.8%
A woody aroma precedes this nice fruit and pine flavoured Bitter. There is a slight spicy hint, before a dry, medium length finish

36/ Saltaire Triple Chocoholic. 4.8%
There is no mistaking the flavours in this stout. If you havn't guessed by now, it is chocolate, chocolate and chocolate! It is well balanced with hops though, and, strangely enough, a nice bitterness to temper the sweetness. We both liked this beer, but one was enough.

37/ Shepherd Neame Hog Island APA. 4.8%
Did not sample.

38/ Wharfedale Crimson Rambler.4.8%
Did not sample.

39/ Titanic Plum Porter. 4.9%
Another previously sampled, and reviewed, beer. This is a lovely rich, well-rounded Porter that wends its way through to a satisfying plum flavoured finish.

40/ Banks & Taylor's Little Sheff. 5%
The flavours in this blonde Premium Bitter are quite complex, with berries, lemons and spice aroma  vying with hints of herbs and citrus fruits, but all combine perfectly to deliver a wonderfully tasting beer.

41/ Greene King Benjamin's 5%
Did not sample.

42/ Hawkshead Vienna Lager 5%
It amazes me that more cask lagers are not available regularly at the bar. This one, for example, has a light malt body which is balanced well with the bittering hops. The finish is sufficiently long, crisp and refreshing.

43/ Hook Norton Crafty Fox. 5%.
Summer fruits and citrus provide the main body of this Ale, before a satisfying, and very dry, finish takes over. I did find that the dryness off the finish did overwhelm the delicate fruitiness of this Premium Bitter a touch, but it is still a very good brew.

44/ Vale Punk Is Dead. 5%.
Did not sample.

45/ Mauldons White Adder. 5.3%
A Strong Ale which is very fruity in character and carries a full hoppy punch to boot. Th finish is increasingly dry and satisfying with a nice bitter bite to it.

46/ Brouwerij 'T Ij Amsterdam Blonde. 5.5%
The Dutch brewer set up shop at Banks's to produce his wares for this festival.The beer had a nice fruit and hops balance, built on a good malt backbone. The finish was fruity, fresh and lingering. A really good beer.

47/ Hilden Mill Street. 5.5%
We found this IPA to be quite sweet at first, before a nice bitterness takes control. Citrus and hints of grass are evident in this Northern Ireland brew. The finish is quite dry and long.

48/ Dark Star Revelation. 5.7%
A good beer I sampled and reviewed in my last post (Sheffield).

Italiano Bibock.
49/ Birrificio Italiano Bibock. 6.2%
I'm not sure what I expected from this Italian Strong Ale, brewed at the Wadworth Brewery, but the berry, biscuit and nut strains within blend marvellously the bitter-sweetness of the main spine of this brew. The complex finish is a lingering kaleidescope of flavours which compliment each other so expertly.  Probably my beer of the Festival.

50/ Robinson's Trooper 666. 6.6%
A big malt flavour combines reasonably well with the zesty citrus tang in the lingering finish. Is it better than the original Trooper ? No, I don't think so. It is still an OK Strong Ale, but no world beater though.

And that just about sums the JD Wetherspoon International Real Ale Festival. I thought it a reasonable selection of beers, even though T'other 'arf and I had sampled a few of them previously. There were a few which had featured at previous festivals, and others which are available as brewery staples, but overall there were enough original brews to make it interesting.
Anyway, I am now preparing for a couple of days away, so I will leave it there. As always, I assume a beer or three may be partaken, and maybe a tale to be told, so until the next time Cheers, and Keep it "Real"