Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tryst in me, Part II: Cascade hop

Tryst Hop Trials: Cascade
I may have mentioned that battle-hardened Falkirk brewery Tryst had started up a sideline in hop cage-fighting, called Hop Wars. 

Last post I previewed Amarillo. Here's a review of its rival Cascade, also 5% ABV. 

It too had a strong hoppy nose, this time with hints of spice coming through. I found it a beautiful, hoppy, fresh, inviting aroma. 

It poured golden and cloudy with a decent enough head that was pushing towards creaminess. Wee bit of sediment from it being bottle conditioned.  

Tastewise, it had a delicious tart bitterness that carried citrus hints, pine and grapefruit in the back of the mouth.

Would hoppily have again. 

Tryst in me, Part I: Amarillo hop

Tryst Brewery's Amarillo beer.
Tryst Brewery in Falkirk is doing this fantastic thing at the moment for craft beer converts. They're producing bottles of single hop beers. They call this series Hop Trials, but I think Hop Wars would be a better bit of marketing. Anyway, it all means you can try a beer and get to know what flavour of hop you're drinking. You can compare two or three to get a sense of the variety of hop flavours. But remember, these are SINGLE-HOPPED BOTTLES. That means there's been no fancy mixing to see which hop goes with what hop. Tonight ladies and laddies, this is Singles Night.

So, I pulled an Amarillo. It's the one in the picture, see. It's sharp and pungent on the nose. Strong too, with a foosty bitterness.

On the pour, this bottle-conditioned beer offered up a tonne of carbonation with a good lingering head. Pale gold and clear it was too. The photo makes it look darker than it was.

Has a strong malty biscuit flavour, I thought, and an earthy yeastiness, with the Amarillo bringing hints of citrus and sweet orange. Texture was smooth and velvety, and on the swallow, a dry yet tangy bitterness. ABV was 5%.

Nae bad at all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fool's Gold

Flowery bathwater.
You can keep your flowery bathwater. 
Loch Lomond Gold really is disappointment in a bottle. It's by TSA, who should know better 'cause they brew a tonne of beers for other microbreweries - including the mighty Fallen - but their golden ale is like perfumed bathwater (see right).

You know what it made me think of? Slices of lime in bottles of insipid Mexican beer. It's an entry level craft beer for people who like shoving waxed fruit down their long-necks. 

I drank Gold last Thursday on my fairly regular Beer and Boardgames night. (I'm gonna do a long, long post about boardgames and beer, but in the meantime I just wanted - no, needed - to share with you how mediocre TSA's Gold is.) I thought it might have been rubbish because I was playing rubbish or because the beer wasn't fresh out the fridge, but I'm having another bottle RIGHT now. It's cold, I'm winning (kids in bed) but it's still packed with citrus floral nonsense. It's in a different shaped glass too, so this taste test can't be more scientific. 

BTW TSA also did a Rabbie Burns beer a wee while back. I don't remember hating that when I tried it.

I also had a Hobgoblin amber too, which I liked. But my top beer that night was the sexy-looking O6 Porter by Otley Brewing Company. Not my favourite porter by a long way, but it had enough of the right flavours and texture and strength (6.6%) to have me all mournful when I got to the end of the glass. That and the fact I was losing to my father in law. 

Anyway, big, beautiful boardgame post to come. You have been warned.   

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beer is the News

News of the week has to be the Budget announcement by economic whizzkid George Osborne that beer duty is to be reduced by 1p. From today. Wow, that's brilliant news, isn't it? It's this kind of out-the-box forward thinking that sets our visionary Chancellor apart from all his predecessors (and the guy's not even a trained economist!). I've no doubt that this groundbreaking initiative will restore our beleaguered economy. 

There was also some noise about a duty escalator getting axed as well. Not sure what all the fuss was about but let's hope it stops those struggling publicans and brewers whining about going to the wall, the demise of the pub, jobs going, collapse of communities, end of civilisation...

Anyway, it's all pretty meaningless. What isn't meaningless is the revelation from premier beer blogger The Beer Cast that Forth Bridge Brewery is gonna using crowd-funding to get the kegs rolling at its Inverkeithing venture.

Iron Maiden launched their own beer. This story's so old and naff if you want to know more look it up yerself. 

Not a week goes by without Arran Breweries being in the news. This time it's a story about how they plan to take over the world by exporting their expertise and recipes rather than bottles of beer brewed in Scotland. Marvellous.

News that a superbrewer is buying up all the Scottish barley caused some alarm in The Herald.

And finally a whole clutch of Scottish breweries won top accolades at awards hosted by Society of Independent Brewers, including Orkney BreweryHighland Brewery, Fyne Ales, Cairngorm, and Williams.  Full list here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A five minute brewing lesson

This is beautiful. This is a man with great knowledge and passion explaining how beer is made, clearly and intelligently, and not without humour. This man has one of the world's greatest jobs.

Courtesy of Charlie Bamforth and the University of California.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hula Hops: A Postcard from Hawaii

Maui Brewing Co. CoConut Porter Review by twistedmouth
Maui Brewing Co's Coconut Porter 
Dear Mum and Dad,

How are you? Hope youse are well. 

Things are great here in Hawaii. I’m having a real awesome time.

I’ve learnt to surf, do the hula, and I’ve seen where Barack Obama was born. Right now I’m sitting in a bayside beer supping on a Maui Coconut Porter. That’s right Dad, a coconut-flavoured porter! They were out of heavy - I did ask.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beer is the news

Black Isle Cold Turkey
Black Isle Cold Turkey
Blimey, story of the week has to be the international outrage at the truly irresponsible creation of a - mother of all evils - low alcohol breakfast beer by those Taliban-loving brewers Black Isle.

In a move which has done more for global insecurity than Kim Jong-un letting his toddler do his colouring-in on the country's non-aggression pacts, Black Isle have begun selling a weak, hoppy craft beer, targeting hardened alcoholics, nightshift workers, over-indulgers and early risers. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Beer is the News

Petra Wetzel. Image: Kirsty Anderson/Newsquest
Petra Wetzel. Image: Kirsty Anderson/Newsquest
For reasons I can't yet fathom, Arran Brewery's plans to open a bottling plant in Falkirk are dashed due to the Scottish Government declining to fund them a paltry £1million. Tight arses. Arran said this was a major blow, and although the jobs that won't be created would have been in that hotbed of employment, Falkirk, it could in fact jeopardise the 20 or so jobs on Arran: without a drop in operational costs (from the bottling plant), the rise in duty as a result of Arran's merger with the Isle of Skye brewery could push their margins from tiny to negligible to even negative. Ouch.

I don't know. Is this a hint of a sea change in the support for wee breweries in Scotland, which in recent  years has seen a spate of new ones come online and more established ventures grow? Or has Arran gone too far or too quick? Maybe they pissed off some bureaucrat in the poetically named Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation department. Maybe they didnae fill in the form right.

Who knows.

Anyhow, the Brew Gods are still shining on BrewDog, whose funding model is clearly very different to Arran's. The Ellon Mavericks have just announced more growth, more expansion and more jobs. Blimey.

Meanwhile, darling of the bier world, Petra Wetzel, of West Brewery in Glasgow, goes head to head in an insightful, and rather personal, interview with The Herald's Susan Swarbrick. She's currently reading the painfully over-rated Life of Pi and includes Neil Diamond among her favourite artistes. Check out the article for more insights into lager's leading lady.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A Feast of Brews: Vol 1

(an excerpt - apologies to George RR Martin)

Shoreditch Blonde by Redchurch Brewery
Jon Brew dreams of a Shoreditch Blonde.
The fog floated towards them, its long, icy tendrils stretching out from the woods. From atop the Wall, Jon looked out and shivered. He could see nothing through the cold mist, though it carried with it a smell he barely remembered, aromas of a warm autumn harvest, its bounty now long perished.

How strange, thought Jon, to be up here smelling anything other than damp fires and death. If there were to be an attack, now would be the perfect time. He quickly dismissed his fears and wrapped his furs tighter, eking out the last of their warmth as he drifted into a waking sleep, last night's revelries fresh in his mind's eye.

The songs and banter flowed as easy as the ale: a new one, freshly in from the Redchurch in the southern Capital, though how long he'd call it that was anyone's guess: King Eck of the North had already seized control of Holybrewed. Not that who ruled where concerned Jon now; he like his new brothers on the Wall was a Brewer of the Pint Watch. Among the benches in the hall, however, murmured discussions about the future of these lands edged uneasily from table to table.

Though cold, the beer - a Shoreditch Blonde - had brought a warmth to the frozen company of the Pint Watch. Cloudy - as solid as the Wall itself - and with a pungent nose, it reminded him of his youth in Porterfell, and the homebrewing experiments of his father Need Stout. This ale had matured in the bottle, Jon reflected, supping his lips, experiencing the full flavour of the unfiltered beer.

It had been a while since he'd had a beer like it, he thought. One that smooth, lightly fermented, with few bubbles lining the glass and no froth to adorn the beards of the mighty warrior around him. Nor was it too citrusy or perfumed, like other ales he'd had.

As he enjoyed its thirst quenching bitterness, the beer brought back memories of those precious short years before the onset of winter, of harvested wheat, of gathering pears and apples, of stolen peaches and kisses...

The sudden sharp sound of the horn awoke Jon from his daysleep. One horn for rider approaching. A second shrill sound broke the still air around him. Two blasts for Wildlings. Would a third sound? Jon peered into the darkness, his heart beating fast, his muscles taut, his eyes searching, every part of him focused. The horn blasted a third time. Last orders. Jon turned and sprinted for the staircase. There wasn't a moment to lose ...