Monday, February 25, 2013

Beer is the news

Full Malted Jacket
Full Malted Jacket. It's heavy, man. 
Proving that news flows faster downhill than up, The Guardian finally got round to reporting on BrewDog's continuing global domination ... about a month since Everybody and their Mum first reported James Watt and Matin Dickie's plans to bring their BrewDog chain to foreign shores, including Stockholm, Sao Paolo, Brussels and Tokyo.

To be fair to The Guardian, this story was only the hook on which to peg a larger piece about the Craft Beer Rising event in London (which attracted 1000 beer-buyers and 2000 hip London beer-drinkers and judging by the Twitter chatter was AWESOME!!! and A1!!!) and also threw in some pretty interesting beer business facts, such as:

  • Sales of real ale have been boosted, rising for the first time in 20 years in 2011, with 1.6% more drunk than the year before. Last year sales are thought to have levelled out but real ale continues to outperform the wider beer market which has been hit by the economic downturn.
  • Pubs may be closing at the rate of 18 a week but there are more than 1,000 microbreweries in Britain, according to Camra, with more than 160 opening last year.
  • A new breed of pub catering for trendy young beer fans is springing up, such as the Craft Beer Company, which now has four bars, and the Euston Tap in London.
  • Canada-based brewing giant Molson Coors UK has said that the craft beer market grew 13% year-on-year in the UK in 2012, and doubled in Ireland.
  • Europe is following a trend in the US where craft beer sales nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012 to $12bn, according to market research firm Mintel. Over there the beers are most popular with 25 to 34-year olds, raising hopes that the trend will foster a younger generation of pint fans.

Then there was the piece about Lothian brewer Knops Beer Company's expansion plans. Interesting to note that Robert Knops's beer is brewed at Traditional Scottish Ales in Stirling, along with a number of other microbrewers, including Fallen. Knops's expansion will allow him to brew his own beer on his own site under his own watchful eye, giving him full control over the whole process. It also means he doesn't have to hand over any of his precious recipes to strangers.

Lastly, American bevvy merchants Beachwood BBQ have launched their Full Malted Jacket ale.  Hundred-yard death stare aside, they badge this up as a Scottish-style "wee heavy". It's a mere 9.7%, which, by the way, is the amount of Scottish DNA in the US population. I kid you not. Available in Southern California, if you're ever passing...

Friday, February 22, 2013

This secret will change your life

Black Cuillins. Image: Damian Shields.
Fairy magic by the Black Cuillins. Image: Damian Shields.
I want to share a secret with you. Before you read on you need to make sure no one's reading over your shoulder. This one's for you and you only. Keep on the lookout for prying eyes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beer is the News

Munro's craft beer bar in Glasgow
Munro's in Glasgow. Just opened. 
In Glasgow, new bar Munro's has finally opened on Great Western Road. It's putting itself out there as a craft beer bar, so I'm greatly looking forward to getting along and sampling the cask ales they've got on offer. Their website's not doing much, but their Facebook and Twitter chat is a bit more lively. Good luck guys. 

PR super agent and micro-berwer Seb Jones of Speyside Craft Brewery got himself in the pages of The Herald AND the Forres Gazette with the news he's launching a Save the Dolphins-type ale. If you drink enough of their Bottlenose Bitter, it says on the label, you turn into some sort of James Bond meets John McClane eco-warrior. Or maybe profits to charity or something. Read about it here, here or here

Meanwhile, those beer nuts at Inveralmond got a bit of a write-up in The Courier for getting a six-figure funding boost from, err, oh, the article didn't say. Well, this, err, six-figure investment should afford a wee bit of expansion, both in capacity and in export markets. Great stuff.

Then there was this little ditty in The Herald about Houston hostelry Fox and the Hounds landing a deal with a major upmarket national deli chain to stock their rather drinkable Crystal beer. Aldi wants 7000 bottles of the stuff. Not bad at all. 

Finally, there's the splendid announcement that The Herald and Sunday Herald are to host a craft ale event on Sunday, March 24th. Kicks off in Citation in Glasgow at around noon, and lasts four or five hours. The do has someone speaking at it. You get lunch AND beer. You also get to tug on the beards of brewers from Alechemy, Eden, Innis & Gunn, and Loch Fyne. Tickets are £30.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Popping the Cherry

Tempest Morello Cresta
Tempest Morello Cresta
I've been saving this one.

This 7% stout with its lo-fi hand-stamped label and four grain goodness.

Well, tonight I popped my Tempest cherry. By all accounts, this wee Borders brewery does great thing with their hops and yeast and that. But a solid reputation means heehaw when it's a wee one-off batch you're sampling. It could be howffing.

Guess what.

Tempest's Morello Cresta four grain 7% stout wasn't howffing. It was lovely. It was like those luxurious velvety sheets you get in some hotels that are wonderful but they'd be wasted in your wee bedroom at home. It's like a slice of Black Forest gateau that's perfect and wonderful and hits the spot nicely after that exquisite Valentine's meal, but next time you're eating out you'll probably just have the apple pie. With vanilla ice cream.

Anyhow, it poured smooth and thick but had more carbonation than I expected cause it's got something of a lively head, which is caramel in colour. The beer itself is as black as a 40-a-day smoker's lung.

On the taste, it was well rounded and chewy and velvety with a strong sense of malty wholesomeness, carrying with it hints of dark cherries and dark chocolate. I was thinking Black Forest gateau. But something else, too. A fruity tanginess that wasn't all just cherries. Maybe liquorice and cola all served with a wee espresso, too. Really, really tasty.

Would hoppily have again.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dragonfly Daydream

Dragonfly by Fallen Brewing Co.
Dragonfly by Fallen Brewing Co.

I've just a had bottle of Dragonfly by Fallen Brewing Company.

It was superb. You know what, I kinda knew it would be.

It came from Kippen, a lovely wee village overlooked by the Fintry Hills near Stirling. Just say the name. Kippen. Sounds magical. Imagine you were from there. Kippen. Imagine telling folk you were from there. Your first date. Job interview. Police. Kippen.

Now think of a dragonfly. You're outside on a hot day. Imagine a light wind, some clouds up there. Cirrus and cumulous, drifting lazily, high and far away. You're by a wee stream, sunlight scattering on the water; oaks and beech and elm resting haphazard along its banks. Roots reaching into the river; above, the canopy casting shadows across the water - that's where the brownies are. You can see them rise now and again. But you're sitting on grass by the water's edge, your socks and shoes off, jeans rolled up, the water dripping off your toes hanging inches about the surface.

The breeze carries with it a sweetness from flowers unseen but nearby, a fragrance of pine and tablet. Maybe a hint of citrus. You've a couple of beers cooling in the water, stacked in a safe spot by the dam you built with rocks. You're about to go and reach for one of the bottles when you spot it darting over the water. Its bright Irn-Bru blue capturing the light so it appears almost neon, fluorescent. It's the length of your pinky. You watch it, entranced. Beer forgotten. You watch it, eyes focused, as it darts back and forth, here and there, in and out of shade. A fish rises. A bird calls. Then it's one last dash from the dragonfly and it's lost among those ancient trees. You reach for your beer. Open the bottle. A Dragonfly, and it's as beautiful as the day itself.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Of stout art

Brewed Awakening from Cromarty Brewing Company
I'd high hopes for Cromarty Brewing Company's Brewed Awakening. It was a recommend from a chum, and is widely trailed as a mighty fine stout. Won a few awards too, though I don't hold too much from that.

Well, this delicious stout did not disappoint. It badges itself as a coffee-infused stout, and you get that straightaway on the nose and on the taste. I also got a bit of chocolate and an earthy sweetness that kinda reminded me of the wild summer flowers you get along the sides of single-track roads on the west coast. Only not to smell, but if you ate them. It had a pleasurably dry and bitter aftertaste.

My Brewed Awakening was served chilled and had heehaw head on it. It was dark and rich and heavy, though it had poured smooth and silky and had enough of those sexy bubbles to tickle the back of my mouth on the way down.

On the label, Cromarty Brewing Co boasts of the stout's clean and crafty character, and lists wheat, oats and coffee from some Invernesian coffee den called Artysans among its ingredients, which is just grand.

A stout with heart and a 4.7% soul. Would hoppily have again.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Going, Going, Gunn

Innis & Gunn Original beer
I mind years ago, some influential barmaid on my life telling me that if you have a good time somewhere, whether it's Skye or Ibiza or wherever, you should never go back cause if you do it'll be shit.

I think there's truth in that but ... aw jeez, I'm trying to write a beer review here.

It's been an odd week. Not shit; different. I've been back working for the Sunday Herald newspaper this past week. Bit of a nostalgia trip, but anyway, on to Innis & Gunn.

I used to work with somebody at Waterstone's called Innis. Possibly Innes. He smoked and had teeth missing and was possibly a former junkie, knew too much about books and complimented my jumper too many times for comfort. He could be difficult though I kinda liked him. I think he was from the Black Isle. I knew a Maria Gunn from high school. I don't know if she's alive or dead or married someone called Innes.

Innis and Miss Gunn don't fit into this narrative by the way, and if space were an issue a decent sub would wheech that bit out.

I had one and half bottles of Innis and Gunn's flagship wonder Original tonight. I drank them towards the end of my 12-hour Saturday shift at the Sunday Herald. Years ago, we'd abeen over the Station Bar pouring as much beer as we could down our necks in two hours as was possible. Actually, years ago 12-hour shifts were normal.

The beer:

Aye, it's a paltry 6.6%, and sweet, amberish in colour. You can taste the vanilla and the toffee - I thought caramel - so the blurb on the bottle has some truth in it.

Truth is: it was too sweet for me darling. Aftertaste had a bit of a spirit sensation. And not in a good way, though I kinda liked it. Like an echo of a memory of poteen. Is it possible to dislike a beer you liked? Or like a beer you didn't like?

Honestly though, I wouldn't choose to buy this. Wasn't for me. Sorry Innis from Black Isle and Maria who might be dead but is probably married.