Thursday, April 25, 2013

Conscience Hop Bomb

Conscience hop bomb by Innocente Brewing Company
Innocente's Conscience
See the label on the right? There's nothing Innocente about this beer whatsoever, despite the Edinburgh microbrewery's branding. This here folks is a powerful hop bomb that'll knock your tastebuds unconscious.

The 85 IBU on the label is a measure of bitterness. It stands for International Bitterness Unit. That probably means little to most folk but when you see it printed on a beer label you can pretty much guarantee you'll be sucking in your cheeks on the first taste.

This beer is packed with taste and character, but there shouldn't be too many surprises for those beer drinkers able to read: the label on the back states that Conscience is "heavily late-hopped with Australian Galaxy and Ella hops giving citrus and mango notes with melon, pine and bubble gum undertones, leading to a long intensely bitter finish". For beer drinkers unable to read, the image of the twin hop buds should make it clear.

Unsurprisingly then, the aroma was heavily laden with hops. I found it pleasantly peachy with an orangy, biscuity staleness too.

Pouring was a pain. My bottle was heavily carbonated, and poured with a mighty head that was foamy and had an off-white tint. The beer itself was a dark golden brown, partly opaque. Very lively.

Taste: wow. They really weren't kidding, and though the nose offered unsubtle hints of what was to come, I really wasn't prepared for the punch this Conscience packed.

It has a very, very bitter, dry and lingering aftertaste, to the detriment initially of other flavours. The malt, the bubble gum, the citrus are there, but those first few mouthfills it was an unpindownable sweetness and an overhwelmingly hoppy bitterness that hit me. The advertised range of flavours do come through once your tastebuds pick themselves off the floor. I also got a big nostalgia for the Fruit Salad penny chews you used to get. That and grapefruit.

"Truely a beer for hopheads!" declares the label. Hard to disagree. This one's certainly not for beginners.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beer is the news

The Vintage craft beer pub in Leith, Edinburgh
The Vintage. Crafty new pub in Leith.

Camra have done it again with the jaw-dropping news that the average pint has now topped £3, and in Scotland is a whopping £3.24. Blimey. So, err, I’ve been paying over the average for quite some time now, and have been subsidising some layabout beer scrounger for a considerably long time. But I don’t mind, really. In swell pubs such as Munro’s or Inn Deep you are going to pay more for a decent pint, real, craft or whatever. And you know what, it’s worth it. Paying more than £4 for a pint of generic lager in a poxy, soulless Ashton Lane premises-cum-cinema, however, gets me choking on my dishwater.

But my story of the week is the news that drinking beer makes you want to drink MORE beer. This in-depth and scientifically vital study of 49 male drinkers found that just the very taste of beer makes you want to taste MORE beer. It also - and you better sit down for this - found that having a history of alcoholism in the family, makes YOU more likely to want to take a drink.

Huffington Post made an international public apology
for doubting the magnificence of Crabbie's Ginger Beer.

West Brewery launched a stout. Innis & Gunn launched a lager (and called for more unity among micro-brewers). And BrewDog launched their Fake Lager to take on the dishwater hegemony.

And finally, new craft beer pub The Vintage opened in Leith, Edinburgh. Great news. Good luck guys!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gift of a Pearl Necklace

Flying Dog Brewery Pearl Necklace
Pearl Necklace, yeah!

You know something, a cool silky stout is a beautiful thing. It gives you that warming life-is-great feel that your mum's broth does, assuming it ain't an Extra Cold thing, sweetie.

A few weeks ago at Munro’s official opening, I tried Arbor’s Oyster Stout on draught, a wonderful thing. My local off-licence Hippo Beers has had it in bottled form a few times before but it’s a rare thing; Arbor tends to keep its local beer shops fully stocked, with little escaping the Bristol area. A bad thing. 

So the other night I had a Pearl Necklace offof my wife. This 5.5% oyster stout was a jolly good thing - and came all the way from the US of A, courtesy of maverick Maryland brewers, Flying Dog.

It poured awfully dark brown. And though heavily carbonated, the burnt caramel-coloured head didn’t linger. I gave it a few minutes anyway; I much prefer to let stouts settle to enjoy their full smoothness. A wise thing.

Fish or oysters were hard to find on the nose and the palate. Maybe a bit of brine but I was just back from a holiday on Scotland’s wonderful and windy west coast. But I did get rich, roasted malts edging towards a caramelly sweetness that was kept in balance by a delightfully dry coffee bitterness. Texture was medium smooth: nothing chewy, but not too thin either. A tasty wee thing. Genius.

Would hoppily have again.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Beer is the news

Story of the week has to be BrewDog's brilliantly conceived beer vote in which the Ellon punks invited their followers to design their next beer. That's right, over a week, and using the phrase #Mashtag, Twitter users were each day asked to choose key elements of the new beer.

Here're the results, and they look pretty damned tasty: 
Monday: Beer Style - Brown Ale.
Tuesday: Malt Bill & ABV - American Brown Ale at 7.5% ABV
Wednesday: Hops & IBU - New Zealand Hops and 95 IBU
Thursday: Special Twist - adding Hazelnuts and oak chips
Friday: Name -  #Mashtag

You should check out the BrewDog blog. As well as seeing the other options for each day, you get an idea of how all these flavours and methods work together, with good explanations on the brewing processes. Anyway, as a final twist BrewDog are also letting folks design the label. Plan is they'll start brewing very, very soon, with the first batch ready in about a month.

Anyway, it was a beautiful stunt, got a good hit online and in papers, and was in keeping with BrewDog's off-the-wall modus operandi. I'm sure it'll be lovely, but my worry is that, given the British electorate's tendency for blinkered stupidity, that the beer will be as uninspiring and unpalatable as our current government. Thank goodness then that craft beer drinkers aren't as braindead as the majority of UK voters. 

Also newsworthy, Munro's in Glasgow had their official opening, and I got leathered. Highlights were the Arbor Oyster Stout and Redchurch's Bethnel Pale Ale. 

And, finally, Cheerless News of the Week is how George Osborne became posterboy for British beer drinkers by giving the industry a mediocre tax break and removing a much-hated duty escalator that was generally considered to be the chief cause of thousands of pub closures.

In the following article, Camra chief executive Mike Benner said: "The Chancellor has become the toast of Britain's cash-strapped beer drinkers and we should now be paying around 10p less per pub pint than we would have been had the escalator remained in place in last week's Budget. This is a massive victory for Britain's 15 million beer drinkers."

I have not and will not be toasting Mr Osborne, and, frankly, I'd quite happily keep paying that 10p. I think on a ten-pint bender I can afford to waste another pound. Drinkers in dire poverty will be pleased, no doubt. Shame about the axe in welfare, social fund and council tax benefits, the imposition of the bedroom tax, removal of legal aid, tax credit reduction, public sector cuts, etc. 

What is worth raising a glass to is Mr Osborne's economy-salving decision to reduce the tax bill faced by millionaires. It's this kind of forward-thinking, groundbreaking vision that'll have this economy restored in no time - and the guy's not even an economist!! My millionaire beer-drinking readers out there, I trust YOU will be raising two glasses to Mr Osborne. 

Now, it really is good that the duty escalator has been removed, following hearty campaigning by Camra et al, and thousands of pub closures and job losses. Call me cynical, but I think this only happened because the duty escalator was starting to affect some of the larger breweries' bottom line. Maybe one of their non-exec board members went to the same school as Mr Osborne, maybe he had a wee word over dinner. Anyway, I hope he's toasting Mr Osborne. He can certainly afford to.