Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Atom Beers Camomile XP

Atom Beers Camomile XP 4.2%

The guys and gal at Atom Beers like their science. You can see it on their bottle labels and hear it in their chat. For them, and many other brewers these days, the disciplines of chemistry, biology and engineering are as important to the craft of brewing as is a passion for making beautiful beers. Their brewery tours, for example, aren't an add-on to drive sales; they open themselves up to college and school visits, with a view to passing on their passion for science to the next generation. They've got plans for an educational brewery tour bus, too, something like a UPS van with a brewing kit in the back. It hits the road in 2015. Let's hope the Hull-based brewers bring it to Scotland.
Atom kicked off at the start if the year, with their range of interesting and quirky beers quickly making their way north. Although based in Hull, Scotland, they say, feels like a home market for them: co-founders Allan Rice and Sarah Thackray are veterans of Glasgow and Edinburgh universities. Allan also worked for Tempest Brewing Company in Kelso and Edinburgh's Stewart Brewing.
Atom's beers are familiar, yet different. They do a pale ale, an IPA and porter of course, but it's the oddball Camomile XP that offers a light alternative to the hop bombs and dark heavy hitters so common at Christmas. Its aroma is floral and friendly, with hints of vanilla and lager malts. Think gentle breeze across a field in late summer; as far as you be on a grim winter's day in Glasgow.
Any gentleness quickly fades when you take a drink though. It has a surprising and lip-smacking bitter hit which fades to a long vanilla and camomile aftertaste reminiscent of childhood sweeties. There are hints of grapefruit, caramel and honeyed oats, giving it a character that has a refreshing depth.
A version of this appeared on heraldscotland.com

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Local Motive session IPA by Fallen Brewery

Local Motive session IPA 3.9%

Fallen Brewery has been around for a good few years now, but they've only relatively recently started brewing at their Kippen base, following the conversion of the village's former railway station into a brewery.
Their shiny new brewkit gives much more control over the brewing and bottling process, meaning bigger flavours in bigger bottles making their way out of this beautiful Stirlingshire village.
Alongside Fallen's tried and tested staple, the brewery's been releasing a steady stream of railway-themed brews, of which Local Motive Session IPA is one of the latest. This beer has a fresh citrus and stone-fruit aroma that is light and cheerful, and it pours a slightly cloudy, dark golden to amber with a luxuriously thick, creamy head.
Local Motive is a beer that's neither heavy nor overpowering, with a gentle bitterness that is as surprising as it is welcome, and fits in with the relaxed personality of this beer. Its aroma hit comes from the dry-hopped mosaic, which pushes the nose towards fruity rather than floral. Think grapefruit, plum and tangerine.
This is an easy-drinking beer, for relaxed Saturday afternoons. At 3.9%, it packs a bit less punch than the big-hitting IPAs, but the flavours work hard all the same, and you can enjoy a few without fear of the hops knocking out your tastebuds
A version of this first appeared on heraldscotland.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fyne Ales Naughty and Nice ales

Fyne Ales Naughty and Nice ales 5.2% 

Fyne Ales Naughty and Nice
Fyne Ales Naughty and Nice
Christmas is a magical time for beer-lovers, with breweries up and down the country bringing out festive specials, from barley wines and spiced porters to heavily hopped golden ales that smell like a hillside of pine trees.

Fyne Ales, based a few hundred metres from the Loch Fyne oyster bar, have just released this year's festive perennial, Holly Daze, a pleasing hearty amber ale. However, it's their devilishly delicious twin releases that deserve a place in your fridge this Christmas. Fyne's Naughty and Nice black and white ales are pleasingly punchy, distinctively different, and give glad tidings of things to come as Fyne's £2m brewery expansion moves nearer to coming online.

Fyne Ales Naughty Black Ale has a sharp spicy and smoky aroma, and pours a luxurious deep black with a hint of bloody red. This is one for drinking with plum pudding. It starts with rich, sweet malts, then hits you with a rush of bitterness. Its sharpness pushes it towards whisky ales territory, though its spirited tartness isn't as pronounced as your typical whisky beers. Naughty is chewy and tarry, with a strong burnt flavour, with complex hints of winter berries, cherries, prunes and dried fruits.

The Nice White IPA couldn't be more different. The light citrus and pine aroma carries with it a hint of yeast, and it pours a lively, exciting light golden. A caramel malt sweetness tickles you at first but this is followed though by buttered popcorn then melon and apricot before giving way to a big hop blast and a long, lingering bitterness.

Both are brilliant, come in at 5.2%, and served in 330ml bottles.

A version of this review appeared on heraldscotland.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hmmmmm dinnae really like this one.

Freigeist Abraxas
Smoked Lichtenhainer Weisse 6%

Some German Austrian White beer brewed in accordance with the Ye Olde purity laws that dictate a lot about ingredients but not about taste. Thought it tasted like sour watery Savlon. Still drank it though. Bit more than that going on, to be fair. Apricot sweetness, soft bitterness. Bit of smoke though less than I was expecting given the name. But I couldn't get past the Savlon. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Honey Spice IPA by Sharp's Brewery

Honey Spice IPA by Sharp's Brewery. A twistedmouth beer review
Honey Spice IPA
Honey Spice IPA by Sharp's Brewery (6.5%)
 
Bit unusual this one, but worth seeking out. 
 
The honey isn't too overpowering, and tags along nicely with the big hitting hops. Somewheer there's a warm spicy hint but you'd be forgiven for not noticing as there's already a lot going on, including a rather zesty bitterness. Full bodied and rich, with a rounded finish. 
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rough Justice by Anarchy Brew Co

Rough Justice twistedmouth beer review
Rough Justice
Rough Justice bitter amber rye ale from Anarchy Brew Co

Dry, sweet malts with a big treacle hit. Lovely caramel biscuity aroma, and a long first taste that stretched out to a medium bitter finish, with pine and citrus and a sweet caramel kick-back.

Would hoppily have again.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Had this one too

Cracking wee scotch ale-alike. Sweet, strong, and a touch of treacle. 

Kaapse Brouwers - Karel American Bitter

Brilliantly bitter IPA. Very lively. Sweet resin aroma and long caramel taste. Delicious. Shame it comes in 330ml bottles. Got from those Beer 52 dudes. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Some Newport Brewery - The Full Nelson

Lovely beer this. Had it the night of the big vote. 

Sharp's Brewery - Dubbel Coffee Stout

Rich and black and sweet, with a gratuity hop twang. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A busy month

Hey, I've been busy.

Being on holiday. Swimming seas. Sailing boats. Climbing mountains. Writing beer reviews for The Herald. You can read the latter here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Hop Jock by Stewart Brewing

Hop Jock by Stewart Brewing 5%

American pale ale with an initial soft, sweet hoppy aroma. Lots going on here. Bit of a long, complex yet comfortable journey, like travelling first class on Emirates wearing a Hawaiian-style cat suit, if that's not too much of a weird (read: shite) metaphor. There's mango, pineapple, berries and maybe even maple syrup balanced against a rounded bitterness that is welcome and far from overbearing.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Skipper's Ticket by Lerwick Brewery

Skipper's Ticket by Lerwick Brewery 4%

Skipper's Ticket by Lerwick Brewery
Fresh and fruity with a spicy finish, yet has a dry, musky bitterness, and the strong malts and a hint of Marmite fit comfortably with the tartness. Brewed with familiar East Kent Goldings hops, as well as Perle and Williamette. It's pleasant, but not mind-blowing, and of the two in the Lerwick range, I much prefer the 60 Degrees North lager.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

La belle labels

It's been a bit of a journey, this home-brewing lark. Here's a slideshow of my first eight homebrew labels.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Icelandic Toasted Porter by Einstok

Icelandic Toasted Porter by Einstok (6%)

Icelandic Toasted Porter by Einstok
Icelandic Toasted Porter by Einstok
A salty malty aroma off this one, laced with coffee and a notch of spice. Poured dark, dark brown with a lively burnt head that didn't last long. Had a sweet, rounded malt flavour that worked mostly well with the fresh, green-tasting hops. The toast/roast was on the mild side I though, as was the bittering, though its smoothness belied its strength. Drank, appropriately, watching Game of Thrones.

I had been challenged to try out Einstok's beers after penning my round-up of new Scottish beers for The Herald online. Happy I did, and I'll try the others but I disagree strongly with the poster called Paul who commented on my choice of beers: "None as good as Einstock from Iceland...." 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2 Craigs unstout by Cromarty Brewing

2 Craigs unstout by Cromarty Brewing (2%)


2 Craigs unstout by Cromarty Brewing
2 Craigs unstout by Cromarty Brewing
Fresh pine, resin aroma on opening bottle that was more fragrant than flowery. The hops really dominated on this one, pushing much of the maltiness to the side, as you'd expect with its mighty low ABV and unstout moniker. It poured a thick and dark, dark brown. The head left quick, though grudgingly, leaving some splendid lacing. Had some dried fruits in there too, raisins and dates. Plenty of bittering on the aftertaste. Refreshing. Minded me of driving back from Skye and stopping at the Cluanie Inn for a Sweetheart Stout.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Balthan by Tryst Brewery

Blathan by Tryst
Blathan by Tryst Brewery

Blathan by Tryst Brewery (4%)

Single-hopped pale ale with some elderflowers chucked in. Absolutely delicious and heartwarmingly fresh. A fragrant, spiced fruit aroma. Crisp tangy flavour with tropical fruits and a saltiness coming through. Dry, bitter and crisp biscuit finish.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Columbus by Brouwerij ‘t IJ


Columbus by Brouwerij ‘t IJ (9%)

This beer came all the way from Amsterdam courtesy of my brother in law, and damn it was fine. It was, it's fair to say, quite unlike any beer I can think of, but let's be honest, that's not saying much...

First off, you're punched slap bang in the face by a really smokey aroma. This, surprisingly, didn't carry through to the taste though. Alongside hefty helpings of hops, the big finish mellowed to notes of tart apple, and left a sour and bitter yet malty aftertaste. Unusual and complex; an acquired taste. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Yoga Chef by Stewart's Brewing

Yoga Chef coffee-infused oatmeal stout by Stewart's Brewing (5.5%)

Yoga Chef coffee-infused oatmeal stout by Stewart's Brewing (5.5%)
Yoga Chef by Stewart's Brewing
Wow. Keep your eyes open for this rather fine coffee stout. Plenty of bitterness from the hops which complement the sweet chocolate malts. Lively carbonation, light to medium body, with hints of orange citrus, fresh fruit and earthy love.


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

60 Degrees North by Lerwick Brewery

60 Degrees North, Shetland lager by Lerwick Brewery (4.8%)

60 Degrees North by Lerwick Brewery
60 Degrees North by Lerwick Brewery
A delicious, rounded lager, dangerously morish but sadly only comes in 330ml bottles. Happily, though, Lerwick is doing a bit of a mainland sales push so should be a bit easier to get your hands on. Taste of treacle and rich lager malts. Slight sourness beneath the moderate bittersweet finish. Hints of Marmite (mmmmm) and hay barns. Earthy, roasted and fresh. Smooth, and darker than your typical pilsner.

Sample courtesy of Lerwick Brewery

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Dark Abbey by Top Out Brewery

It's been a busy month, and I've been trying lots of new beers; some freshly released from the brewery, others new to me. Some bought, some were samples. Over the next couple of weeks I've going to list these, do write-ups. Diary entries really; kind of what this site was intended for originally. So, to kick off we have:

Dark Abbey: A Belgian Style Ale from Top Out Brewery (8.9%)

Dark Abbey by Top Out Brewery
Dark Abbey by Top out Brewery
Notes of treacle and lovely rich malts, not an overly pungent aroma. Poured dark with a carefree fizz, nothing aggressive. Had a sharp yeasty tang. Coke, vanilla, bit of cherry and dried dates. Bitterness at back of throat on the finish. Limited edition No1, and a lovely, lovely label. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Brew Eight - A Black Beast

Today I put on my eighth brew. No name yet, no label - they'll come with the tasting in five or six weeks' time. But I can tell you what I started with, what I did, and where I hope I'll end up.

Here goes:

I wanted to build on the success of my fifth brew, V for Victory, which really was splendid (though it lacked carbonation). I made that using a Cooper's Stout kit, mixed with a can of Cooper's Amber Malt Extract, a cup of damn strong black coffee and about a litre of liberty hop tea. This time around I wanted to experiment just a little bit more.

I stuck with the Cooper's Stout kit again, but this time bought a tin of Dark Malt Extract, which I added to 10 litres of boiling water. Mixed it quickly so the extract wouldn't sink to the bottom and burn. Once it was rolling I added about 40 grammes of Cascade hops and set the alarm for 30 minutes. Cooked up some damn strong coffee, and drank a cup of tea.

When the alarm went I chucked in 30g of Liberty hops, and gave the mix another quarter of an hour. I used wee bags for the hops, which are a wee bit like tubigribs but without the tension, dude. They make it so much easier to strain, and you get less debris in your wort. Tights are a good alternative ...

When the timer went I carefully carried this massive and weighty pot to the bath, which was filled with cold water. There was a fair bit of steam and angry water action going on. Exciting. Key thing here was to cool the mix quickly and prevent contamination from, say, letting any water get into the pot. I gave it about 25 minutes to cool. House pure stank of malt and hops.

In that time I got my barrel and stout mix ready. Because I'm a brewing maverick living on the edge I threw in 350 grammes of Cooper's Brewing Enhancer Mix 2, which I just happened to have lying around. This will up the alcohol content, but does risk making the beer too thin. I'm hopeful, however, the hopping, the coffee adjunct and the weighty malts from the DME will prevent this. Totally rock 'n' roll this.

So I mixed all that up with some hot water then poured in the wort from the pot. All 10 litres of it. Ooomph. Made a bit of a mess and created a heavy head of foam. But that's OK: you want to aerate the mix. Then I topped it up to 22 litres (the tin said 23 litres but I always brew it short), poured off a sample for a hydrometer reading, and pitched the yeast in.

The yeast lay innocently on the foam. I should have left it there probably, especially as the temperature was about 24C, but I stirred it in good and proper, ya bas. It's important, I think, when brewing to do something you wish you hadn't on reflection ...

All that was left was to store the barrel, take a reading and sample it. The hydrometer read 1.050, which is nice and high and hopefully should mean I end up with a strong, hoppy, bitter stout. I've high hopes for it. Taste-wise, it's got a long journey in front of it, and along the way those sickly, sticky sweet malts are gonna work magic with the potent, pungent hop flavours and aromas. Cannae wait.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Die Hard, Brew Harder

Homebrew number six: Die Hard
So it turns out that this brewing lark, which only a few weeks ago had me believing it was the sole reason I had been put on this planet, ain’t so easy.

I’m sad to say my sixth brew, Die Hard, is something of a disappointment. That’s not to say it’s undrinkable or even unpleasant. It’s a perfectly drinkable, perfectly pleasant homebrew. And therein lies the problem: it tastes and smells like homebrew. 

V for Victory was such a wonderful success because it didn’t taste like homebrew; it tasted like beer. Proper Beer. Beer you might get from a shop or in a pub. Beer you might pay money for (though, to be fair, it could have done with a wee bit more carbonation, while the coffee did push it towards the cardboard side, but I’m being very critical here).

So, what did I do different with Die Hard, a very popular Golden Ale kit from St Peter’s? Well, I followed the instructions and nothing else. No coffee, no dry-hopping, no hop teas, no isomerisation. Just followed the instructions on the tin and nothing else. In many ways, doing nothing was as much an experiment as hacking the Cooper’s stout was for the previous brew. Well, I ain’t doing it again. From now on it’s adjuncts and dry-hopping and boiled-up malt extracts.   
   
Anyway, first thing Die Hard hits you with is that carbon dioxide-fuelled homebrew twang; that pungent, sour aroma that, well, tastes and smells like homebrew. Thankfully, it fades away quickly, and the light hop flavour and sweet malts do come through. Not overly complex, but enjoyable enough. And unlike V, there's plenty of fizz.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Reflections


So it turns out I'm not off the drink at all. Turns out You were right, I was talking rubbish.

Lasted until Monday, when I headed on down to the Print Works in Glasgow to check out the artwork to go with the Williams Brothers venture at Drygate in the city's plush east end. Better beer blog thebeercast did a write up, and so did the Creative Review. I thought the artworks were brilliant, mostly. The lager good; the IPA fantastic; and the apple ale ... well, it wasn't for me.

Anyhow, guess what! Turns out I'm really not off the drink at all whatsoever. Thursday I headed down to Stereo which was once a top pub in the west end that did a fabby night called Dub and Grub, which was just that. This Stereo's near Central Station but has a cool, hipster vibe. I noised up the poor barman and tried some naff celebrity I-Ken-You chat with boardgame geek and comedian Rab Florence.

And guess what! Turns out I ain't off the homebrew either. Right now I'm drinking my very last Reflection, the third beer I ever made and until V for Victory, the best. I think it's gone off a bit but it's still a solid pint. Bit twangy, yet still carries loads of flavour. Reflection was the brew that made me realise how easy it is to brew it yourself. And I kinda love it for that.

Anyhow, guess what! Turns out I ain't off the homebrewing at all. As I'm writing this I've a can of Cooper's Light Malt Extract bubbling away with a whole load of Cascade hops. Have been for almost 45 minutes. Once done I'm going to cool it quickly in a cold bath then add it to a Cooper's Premium IPA, my first (flawed) kit. I'm going to throw in some Liberty hops for the fermentation too. That'll (hopefully) give it plenty of flavour and aroma, while the boiled up Cascade will (hopefully) have upped the bitterness substantially. Wasn't the original plan, but I stumbled into the homebrew store Inn House Brewery and met Scott Williams, gave him some naff celebrity I-Dinnae- Ken-You chat then nodded sagaciously while he talked about isomerisation, the meaning of which I know not. Also got to see the very, very funky labels from the Drygate brewery I mentioned at the start of this post which brings me nicely to the end of this post cause that's my 45 minutes up.




 
 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The End of the Beer Blog

I'm never drinking again. No more beer, wine, whisky, meths. End of the reek, the wobble, the slurring and blurring. I'm giving up on wrestles on pub floors, courting arrest and diamond chat. Cheerio funny stories and outrageous yarns. Farewell minesweeping, cringe and blackouts. Goodbye beer blog and homebrew. Goodbye hangovers, ya evil, twisted, nasty bastards; and hello alcoholic-free beer!

These following words aren't mine. Many thanks to my dear friend Ben Becula for this, my last review:

Clausthaller Has that nice sweet and sour character of a really drinkable pilsner.

Erdinger Alcoholfrei A bit of a biscuity, weissbier this one. Considered by many to be one of the best non-alcoholic beers around, and I would agree.

Furstenberg Frei Excellent. When I'm in the mood for a tasty, satisfying thirst-quencher, this one often does the job. Like the Clausthaller and the Erdinger, it has character and complexity to it that a lot of other n/a beers just don't have.

BrewDog Nanny State IPA This is like hen's teeth, which is absurd considering BrewDog are Scottish. I have only been able to find it in Sweden and they don't even sell it in the BrewDog pub in Glasgow for fuck's sake! A pity, because it is really rather good and tastes like a proper citrusy, sour IPA. The trouble is that the Scottish/British mentality is so implacably opposed to n/a beer, unable to see it as anything other than a punishment for those who have overindulged, or a cross to bear by designated drivers, that this beer can't seem to get a foothold in the heartland of IPA.

Bavaria 0.0%
In most supermarkets. Made in Holland, the lying bastards. Same idea as the Cobra. To be honest, when I see Cobra, Bavaria and Beck's Blue on the shelf, I always go for the Beck's even though it is more expensive. Basically, they do lack something when they have not been brewed to full strength to begin with. Having said that, I have bought Bavaria many times and will do again because it is perfectly drinkable and still tastes like beer of a sort. Some folk think it's great, but I suspect they haven't tried the premier-league ones listed above.

So there you are: what I'm going to be drinking for the rest of my life. Maybe seek out a Becks Blue or a Cobra 0.0% for variety. And there's the homebrew, too. Gotta find a way to get that ABV down to a safe and sensible <1%, because I am never drinking again. Ever. 



Sunday, February 09, 2014

V for Victory: Part II

So I finally got round to doing my label for Homebrew No. 5, V for Victory. I did labels for my previous four concoctions, and was keen to continue this tradition.

I thought it might be pretty clever to have a picture of Winston Churchill, doing his two-fingered salute, with a V mask from Alan Moore's classic V for Vendetta. For that wee personal touch I gave him the eyes offof one of the aliens from the sci-fi series V.

Pretty neat idea I thought, but it wasn't really working for me - even if I had gone back to tidy up the Photoshopping. See what I mean:

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

V for Victory - best review ever

'Ooh Ena, that stout is bleedin' lovely.'
Guess what?!

My first stout, my fifth homebrew ever, is utterly awesome. I've named it V for Victory.

To be fair, after a dreich January, and a long 31-day wait for it to condition, I could have drank fermented yak's pish and still thought it delicious. So I had another. And guess what?! It was utterly awesome too.

I shared some with my mum and dad. They also liked it.

My mum, whose own mum hails from Salford, said: "Your stout brings back memories of Ena Sharples and her two chums, Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst, three of the original characters from Coronation Street, when it was in black and white, and they used to sit in the snug of the Rovers Return and drink half pints of stout, although one of them could have been drinking port and lemon or port and brandy."

I think that's the best beer review I've ever read. 

Anyhow, I've messed about with dry-hopping and that so I wanted to push this boat out a wee bit further. So, for you interested brewers: 
I made this with Cooper's select stout and a 1kg tin of Cooper's amber malt extract. Before adding any water I threw in a cup of strong, black coffee and a pint of hop tea, brewed with Liberty hops. Stirred energetically. Brought it up to 22 litres - slightly short the kit said for 23l. Original gravity was 1.042, and I pitched the yeast at 22C. One week later I bottled it (FG was 1.014) and left it for five long weeks. Worth the wait.

Would hoppily brew again. 



Thursday, January 30, 2014

On the brew

Homebrew No.6 - St Peter's Golden Ale.
My poor wee beer blog has been awfully neglected of late. But I've been busy MAKING beer rather than writing about it (though I did pen this Christmas beer piece for The Herald). I've also started a novel. And I'm working on a wee ebook venture. So it's not out of laziness. Just so we're clear.

Anyhow, tomorrow, after a month off the booze*, I'm cracking open my fifth homebrew. It doesn't have a name yet - that'll come after the tasting, which, frankly, I'm a bit anxious about.

Homebrew No. 5 is a Cooper's stout kit with a medium malt extract. Also threw in a cup of strong, black coffee, and a pint of Liberty hop tea. So, yeah, might be awesome; might be rancid. It was bloody bitter with strong malty notes, hoppy aromas when I tasted it during the bottling late last year. The coffee was there but not overpowering. It's had five very long weeks to condition so fingers crossed these elements all come together in perfect, beautiful harmony.

One of the great things about homebrewing is the choice and freedom to hack beer kits. Boiling up hops, playing with different sugars, malts and yeasts. The next step, of course, is brewing from scratch using the raw ingredients rather than an extract. I'm not there yet. Maybe this time next year ...

Pictured here is my sixth brew. A St Peter's Golden Ale. It's coming along nicely thank you very much, but, like all decent homebrews, requires a bit of patience: it probably won't be ready until March.    


* I had a dry January a few years ago and felt great after it. Did it last year too and it was OK. This year it's just been miserable and pointless. Clearly something that should only be done once in a lifetime. Someone please remind me of this in 11 months' time.