Showing posts with label fullers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fullers. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Fuggled Beers of the Year - Darker Than Pale Lighter Than Dark Brown

How's that for a description of colours in this category? Suitably vague and broad of scope I would hope you agree.

Onwards then to the runners and riders

Virginia
  • Franconia Kellerbier - Port City Brewing
  • Rauch M?rzen - Port City Brewing
  • Alt Bier - Devils Backbone Brewing
Honorable mentions: Doppelbock - Port City Brewing; Bavarian Prince - New Realm Brewing.

As I mentioned in my last post, this year has been stellar from Port City, so it is no surprise to see them dominating the DTPLTDB category. I drank loads of the Franconian Kellerbier earlier this year, often while harvesting fresh green things from my garden, the experience was a series of delightfully rustic moments in the midst of this most odd year. 

When you compare a rauchbier to the glories of Spezial in Bamberg, you know you are drinking something, erm, special, Rauch M?rzen is just such a beer. A gorgeous drop of rauchbier that hits my sweet spot with unerring accuracy. 

Technically speaking, Devils Backbone Alt Bier was my first beer of 2020, from the zwickel at the brewpub while brewing Morana back in February. When finally Morana was on tap, and people were allowed to reserve tables in the Devil Backbone meadow, we did so. With double digit numbers of crowlers of Morana acquired, I was drinking the Alt Bier, revelling in the sense of normality with a version of altbier that could actually pass for a German beer. 

This years Virginia DTPLTDB beer of the year is Port City's Franconian Kellerbier, a beer so good it pretty uch made up all of my drinking for a couple of months in the summer.

Rest of the USA
  • Copper - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Oktoberfest - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • 40 - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC
Honorable mentions: Winter Ride - JosephsBrau, CA; Yule Bock - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC; Vienna - Von Trapp Brewing, VT.

Very much a tale of old favourites here. I wax lyrical about Olde Mecklenburg at length to anyone crazy enough to listen about the glories of decoction mashing, extensive lagering, and a commitment to making beers with malt, hops, yeast, water, and "nothing else". Whenever I have the opportunity it is Copper that takes up a fair amount of space in my fridge. 

For the second year in a row, I did a mass Oktoberfest tasting, and Von Trapp's eponymous beer is probably my favourite version of the style, though it didn't win the blind tasting. However, a ma? at Kardinal Hall on an overcast Friday afternoon brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise grim day. 

I know you are shocked, a top fermented, American hopped, IPA made it on my list of contenders this year, but it is Sierra Nevada and they are simply one of the best breweries on the planet, and in "40" they had the perfect beer to mark such an august anniversary. 

Sierra Nevada then, in their anniversary year take the honours as the best DTPLTDB beer in the rest of the US for 2020.

Rest of the World
  • Vintage Ale 2016 - Fuller's, England
  • Oktober Fest-M?rzen - Privatbrauerei Ayinger, Germany
  • Maudite - Unibroue, Canada
Honorable mentions: Orval - Abbaye d'Orval; London Pride - Fuller's.

With the lockdown in its infancy I decided to hit the cellar for some of the old ales, barleywines, and other assorted heavy hitters that had been lingering for a while. From those DTPLTDB beers the 2016 iteration of Fuller's Vintage Ale was the standout beer, and I am eyeing at least one more bottle of it before the year is out. 

Sure, I know Ayinger's autumnal festbier is not strictly speaking an Oktoberfest lager, it is though the one German lager of that season that I look forward to most, chewy, fully bodied, warming, echt lecker.

I renewed acquaintances with Maudite early in the year for an Old Friends post, such a nice beer, one that I have had a couple of times since, when the urge for a well brewed dubbel strikes (admittedly something of a great conjunction in my lager driven world). 

Not only was it the standout cellar beer of 2020, Fuller's Vintage Ale 2016 is the standout DTPLTDB beer of 2020 from the rest of the world. A worthy taker of the accolades.


Decisions, decisions...As ever it is tricky for me to choose one, but in reality given the amount of it I drank earlier in the year, and the fact I drove 60 miles round trip to pick up several unexpected 4 packs, the winner of the Fuggled DTPLTDB Beer of the Year is Port City's glorious Franconian Kellerbier, and I look forward to indulging in more in 2021.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Old Friends: Fuller's London Pride

The Old Friends series makes a return today, and in some ways goes right back to the beginning. The first beer of this series was also from Fuller's, their style defining ESB, but when I originally conceived this notion, it was today's beer that so nearly went in the trolley, London Pride.

I may have mentioned this before, so forgive me if you have a better memory than me, but I have a soft spot for Fuller's due largely to their location. The Griffin Brewery is in Chiswick, a parish in the ancient county of Middlesex, near where my dad grew up, and not far from Chiswick County Grammar, where he went to school. At the tender old age of 16, my dad joined the army as an apprentice radar engineer, and so began 30 odd years of being paid to traipse around the UK and Europe, being shot at on occasion for the privilege. Most of my memories of that part of the world are from when we would go and visit my nan in her ground floor council flat near Gunnersbury Park.

I haven't been to London in many years, not since I used to make epic bus trips from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Prague, some 1400 miles away. I have never really been a fan of flying, so taking the bus from Uig to Glasgow, then Glasgow to London, and finally London to Prague, a total of about 48 hours, made sense to me, yeah I'm weird. In fact it has been so long since my last trip to London that it pre-dates my interest in decent beer, and so if I did drink when I was there it was usually something like Guinness in my glass.

One of the reasons that I went with the ESB for the first Old Friends post was that at that point I would pick up a four pack of Pride at least once every couple of months. In the two years since that post that has dropped away dramatically, so why not reacquaint myself? On to the beer then we go...


  • Sight - copper/amber, thin white head that quickly dissipates, reminds me of the scum you get on a London cuppa sometimes, magnificently clear
  • Smell - the "Fuller's aroma", Seville orange marmelade esters, toffee, subtle black tea, and sweet spices, think nutmeg
  • Taste - toffee sauce ,some fruitiness like plums, plain scones fresh from the oven, slight grassiness in the finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5

There are times when I drink this that I really understand why American brewers and drinkers have such a hard time grasping the fact bitter should be, well, bitter. It's not that it is terribly sweet, though the mouthfeel feels a little like undissolved jelly cubes, it's that the hops are nudged out by the famous Fuller's yeast character, as well as not being the same kind of citrus as folks are used to here. So many breweries here use very clean top fermenting yeasts that the character of the beer is so different, and I wonder if American breweries under hop the style as a result?

Having said that, it is still a lovely beer and one that is incredibly consistent. I found my tasting notes from a post I wrote about several English ales a few years back, and was pleased to see many of the same descriptors. I am not sure it will return to being a regular in the fridge, my tastes are very much in the lager world again these days and I actually found the switch to top fermented beer kind of jarring.

I suppose when winter comes I should complete the triumvirate of Fullers beers and pick up some London Porter...

Monday, March 23, 2020

Raiding The Cellar: 2016 Fullers Vintage

I have a maroon elephant in my beer cellar, almost a decade's worth of Fuller's Vintage Ale spanning the years 2008 to 2016. For some reason I haven't been able to find anything post 2016 to fill out the collection, but there we go. In looking for something to dip into last week, I thought it would be interesting to try one of the youngest of the collection, so I pulled a bottle of 2016...

I always enjoy reading the blurb on the back of the box when I dip into the Vintage stash, and apparently this version was brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops. Now, I have a confession to make, it has been a very long time since I knowingly had a beer with Nelson Sauvin in it, the previous one being New Belgian's Shift Pale Lager back in 2012, and I haven't used it in my own homebrew.

With the bottle having spent the requisite hour or so in the fridge to bring it down in temperature a wee bit, my cellar is pretty settled at around 60oF, which while not perfect doesn't seem to negatively affect the beers, but I like to drink my British ales at about 50oF, I poured into my current favourite glass from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in North Carolina, they call it a Franconia.


What a simply beautiful beer it is, crystal clear, rich copper, light red at the edges, all topped off with a firm quarter inch of ivory foam. Minor ranty detour, but I am sure I am not alone in thinking that all these soupy things that are all the rage these days are just plain ugly. Sorry, ok not really, but if I wanted an alcoholic beverage that looked like fruit juice with whipped cream on top, I'd buy a bottle of orange juice, tip the requisite vodka in and make free with the aerosol "cream". Give me a clear beer any day of the week, rant over.

As I say, it had been a long time since my previous daliance with Nelson Sauvin hopped beer, so I really didn't have much of a frame of reference for what I was sticking my nose into. What an incredibly floral hop this one is, and at the same time rather herbal, it actually put me in mind of lavender. Being a good, solid British strong ale, there was plenty of biscuity, digestives not savory scones, and toffee like caramel notes. I was looking forward to this one.


Now, I don't know whether to put this down to subliminal marketing stuff, but there is a very noticeable white wine character to this beer. Not being one to trust my general lack of interest in the boozy grape juice world, I asked Mrs V and try it and let me know what she thought, without telling her the hops involved. Sure enough she said it tasted somewhat like the Sauvignan Blancs that she is a fan of, replete with the slight mustiness that seem sto be par for the course with such wines. In amongst the mix was the classic Fullers flavour, which always puts me in mind of marmelade, and which I really like. Sure, there are some for whom "the Fuller's flavour" is something they don't care for but I am a fan. I also, and again this may be entirely sub-conscious, thought the beer tasted rather like a Werther's Original, likewise a good thing.

What a cracking, cracking beer this is, and perhaps I caught it in a good moment, but I look forward to trying the other 2016 vintages I have floating around in the cellar, as well as doing some brewing with Nelson Sauvin, most likely in my best bitter recipe to begin with, though I can imagine it working rather well in my lime witbier too.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Old Friends: Fuller's ESB

Wandering around the shop yesterday getting the weekly necessaries, I got thinking about what beer I wanted to buy. I have plenty of beer in the cellar at the moment, but most of it is dark, porters, stouts, that kind of stuff, there was very little pale beer, and no lager (purely because lager gets drunk pretty quickly in my house as I love the stuff). Usually when we go to our preferred supermarket we do our booze shopping last as the wine and beer sections are in the back corner. I have a confession to make, I am really bad about trying new beers and breweries at the moment, mainly because it is difficult to place any faith in the consistency and quality of many of the start up breweries flooding the shelves. Anyway, looking at the shelves of British beer available there were so many familiar names, but beers that I had not tried in goodness knows how long, and thus is the genesis of this new series on Fuggled, "Old Friends".

I almost picked up a four pack of London Pride, a beer I know well and enjoy drinking reasonably often. Between the stash of Pride and London Porter were a pair of ESB four packs, so I checked the best before date (a sad necessity in these parts) and took home the one pack that was still within the freshness range. It had been years since I had last indulged in a pint of Fuller's ESB, and that was on draft one homebrew club night many moons ago. Extra Special Bitter, as a style rather than the Fuller's brand in particular here, is one that gets brewed relatively often by American breweries, and even though it is part of the bitter family, I am much more of a best bitter drinker, and quite often leave the ESBs I see alone. Anyway, on to the ur-ESB...


As I said, it had been a long time since my last pint of Fuller's ESB, so for some reason best known only to the recesses of my memory I was mildly surprised at the beautiful copper colour of the beer as it sat in my freshly cleaned nonic imperial pint glass. I remember having a similar feeling when I had a few pints of cask London Pride in Inverness a couple of years back, why did I think they would be darker than that? I loved the colour, especially in the late winter sunlight streaming through the doors to our deck, with a schmeer of off white foam, every prospect pleased.

There are some breweries whose beer have a distinctive smell and Fullers is one of them. For some folks the familiarity of that aroma and taste has bred contempt, I find it deeply comforting as I know when I smell a Fullers beer it will be a good beer. The aroma is that of marmelade made with Seville oranges, citrusy, lightly floral and with traces of crystalised sugar. Tastewise, again that marmelade character is evident, though it is not overly sweet, being balanced with pithy hop bite that cleans the palate and leaves you ready for more.


Goodness me what a lovely beer I had been neglecting all these years, perhaps in part because of the 5.9% ABV, which while not strong (the average for core range beers in Central VA is about 6.5%), is a good 20% stronger than most beers I drink regularly. I still have a couple of bottles in the fridge, but they'll be gone soon enough, and I imagine ESB will be finding it's way more often in to my drinking life again, though more as an evening indulgence, perhaps while reading or watching something on Netflix once the twins have fallen asleep and Mrs V and I have an hour or so to ourselves of adult time. It'll be a welcome addition to the routine...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Going For An English

I seem to have a thing for underappreciated, and in some cases misunderstood, beer styles. There are, in my unhumble opinion, few pints that I enjoy more than an imperial nonic glass filled with mild, pilsner, or porter. I especially enjoy them when said beers are straight up versions of the style rather than some craftified wank with additional ingredients in some vain effort to be 'innovative'. Perhaps the most underappreciated and simultaneously misunderstood, at least here in the US, of my favourite beer styles is the family of bitters; ordinary, best, and extra special.

Obviously I am fortunate in many respects that my favourite local brewery, Three Notch'd, brews Bitter 42 every year. Bitter 42 is a best bitter that I designed and is inspired by my favourite pints of best from the UK, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. Speaking of Bitter 42, if I remember rightly is should be hitting the taps again in a month or two.

Anyway, this post is about wandering around our newish Wegmans and deciding to do a comparative tasting of all the English pale ales I could lay my hands on, and that were still in date. Thus it was that I wandered out of the shop, pushing a trolley that as well as the usual groceries included the following:
Before getting into the beers, I quite often get asked by folks what the difference between an English Pale Ale and a Bitter is, to which I usually respond 'nomenclature'. If I have understood the history correctly, the breweries called the beer a pale ale while the drinkers referred to it as bitter. Simples (and if I am wrong I am sure Ron, Martyn, et al will correct me).

On to the beers then, starting with the lowest ABV....


Black Sheep Ale
  • Sight - rich orange/amber, solid half inch of ivory foam that lingers, bit of chill haze
  • Smell - oranges, honeyed toast, slight lavender
  • Taste - honey on digestive biscuits, tangerines, some spicy hop character
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
  • Notes - Slight metallic note in the finish, but generally wonderful balance, something that makes you long for a day's cricket at Headingley


St Peter's Organic Pale Ale
  • Sight - golden, thin white head, almost like a pilsner
  • Smell - little bit of funky weed straight out the gate, Jacob's Cream Crackers
  • Taste - crackers, clean hop bite, slightly vegetal
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
  • Notes - really dry finish, with bitterness that builds with drinking, resulting in a tannic tea character that's really pleasant.


Fuller's London Pride
  • Sight - dark amber/copper, half inch of cream white foam
  • Smell - that Fuller's smell, you know what I mean, orange marmelade
  • Taste - toffee and toast, slight grassiness, all wrapped up in that Fuller's flavour
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - beautifully balanced, though not as enjoyable as the cask version, still bloody marvellous


Samuel Smith's Organic Pale Ale
  • Sight - deep copper, quarter inch of ivory head
  • Smell - bread, herbal hops, light citrus
  • Taste - scones fresh from the oven, dulce de leche, toffee
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - smoth, almost creamy, fuller mouthfeel than the other beers
4 variations on the theme of an English pale ale, all of them very nice, though I have a clear and distinct favourite. Black Sheep Ale has long been something that I pick up in bottle shops whenever I see it, and it seems our local Wegman's has it pretty much all the time, so I'm picking it up more often now. I do wish more breweries stepped out of the mainstream and made bitter over here, not including all the overly sweet ESBs that do the rounds come autumn and Christmas time, and while bottled beer never lives up to the glories of cask, I'm glad I can get my bitter on whenever the mood strikes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Several Jars of Porter

A couple of months back a friend, and colleague at the company that is my day job, of mine was in Oxford for work. Naturally I asked him if it would be possible for him to bring me back a bottle or two on Oxford beer. After a week of seething jealousy as him sent me messages from places like the King's Arms, he came back to Central Virginia with a bottle of Shotover Brewing's Oxford Black Porter, which spawned a plan to do a tasting of as many porters as I could lay my hands on.

Originally the plan had been to find as many British porters as possible, but then I decided to broaden that out to include US made porters as long as they didn't have weird shit ingredients - I really fail to understand why craft brewers insist on putting extraneous shit in their dark beers (or in their beer at all to be honest).


Thus after Thanksgiving I had collected the following porters for my tasting:
This weekend just gone, and last night, I got round to drinking this little bevy of dark bevvy and here are my thoughts, a la Cyclops...



Fuller's London Porter
  • Sight - dark chestnut brown, light tan head
  • Smell - chocolate, caramelised sugar, roasty
  • Taste - toast, cocoa, molasses
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - very smooth, complex, moreish

Shotover Brewing Oxford Black
  • Sight - dark brown, red edges, off white head
  • Smell - spicy, slightly phenolic, touch of band-aid
  • Taste - lightly roasty, bready, trace of rubberiness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
  • Notes - bit thin, muddle of flavours

Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter
  • Sight - rich dark brown, red edges, loose tan head
  • Smell - light coffee, cinnamon, molasses, slight tobacco
  • Taste - dark brown sugar, some coffee, roasty notes
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - dry, slightly lactic finish, great balance

Deschute's Black Butte Porter
  • Sight - rich dark chestnut, crimson edges, tan head
  • Smell - molasses, bittersweet chocolate, burnt sugar
  • Taste - bittersweet chocolate, slight roast
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - medium bodied, great balance, moreishly drinkable

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
  • Sight - deep brown, light tan head, dissipates quickly
  • Smell - bitter chocolate, molasses, light roast coffee
  • Taste - bready, nutty, cafe creme
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - beautifully balanced, medium-full body, ideal for fireside in winter

Port City Porter
  • Sight - very dark, almost black, ruby edges, tan head that ligners
  • Smell - burnt sugar, light treacle, coffee, chocolate
  • Taste - sweet molasses, chocolate spread on toast, spicy
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Notes - rich, unctuous brew, really well integrated
Other than the Shotover, each of these porters was a beer than I would be happy to drink whenever the porter mood strikes. If there was one take away from this mini session it was the American made beers tending to be sweeter, fuller bodied, and maybe a bit more complex, without having that much higher an alcohol content - only the Great Lakes and Port City brews were over 6%. It seems sometimes as though porter kind of gets lost in the IPAness of the modern craft brewing world, but for those of us who like dark beers, there are some decent ones out there.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Beers and Breweries of 2015

The Christmas tree is up and decorated, the salmon and beef for Christmas lunch have been bought, the tin of Quality Street chocs awaits opening and tipping into a fancy bowl for me to raid for the caramel barrels, so it must be time for a review of 2015. I have grown rather attached to my pale, amber, and dark beers from Central VA, rest of VA, rest of USA, and rest of world approach, thus I will not abandon it.....

Pale
  • Central VA - South Street My Personal Helles
  • Rest of VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Rest of World - Pilsner Urquell
  • Honorable mentions - Three Notch'd Ghost of the 43rd, Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils, Cromarty Happy Chappy, Hi-Wire Lager, Rothaus Pils
It has been a great year for this lagerboy (on a side note, I sometimes get the urge to have a t-shirt made up with the slogan 'What's wrong alehead, not got the palate to appreciate lager?'). South Street's My Personal Helles has become my go to lager when I fancy a pint in Charlottesville, one I wouldn't worry too much about if it was all I had to drink for months on end. Port City continue to make the best regularly available pilsner in the USA, bar none, and it graces my fridge often. But the winner of the Fuggled Pale Beer of 2015 is Pilsner Urquell. Now available in brown bottles, cold shipped from the Czech Republic, and just delightful drinking. The crowning glory though this year was that a local bar had nefiltrovany Prazdroj on tap a few months ago. Sure it was $7 a pop, but it was worth every single golden drop, as I raved about here.


Amber
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Hydraulion Red Irish Ale
  • Rest of VA - Mad Fox Altbier
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Rest of World - Fullers Vintage Ale 2009
  • Honorable mentions - Yeungling Traditional Lager, Orval
Another collection of really good beers to choose from for the amber beer of the year. I drink Hydraulion fairly regularly, it's easy to get in to and stay with. Mad Fox's Altbier was a revelation when I was up there with my parents a few weeks back, once I got over disappointment of the Mason's Dark Mild not being on tap. It made me wish more American breweries made Altbier and got it so emphatically right. I have been drinking through my various Fullers Vintages this year, having come to the conclusion that storing them for a 'special occasion' is pretty much a waste of time, and each vintage has been lovely, with 2009 my favourite so far. If truth be told, the Fuggled Amber Beer of the Year was sown up months ago. I am not sure if I was on my second or third 12 pack of Sierra Nevada's collaborative Oktoberfest, but I knew that I would be drinking a lot of that beer while it was available, I think I ended up with about ten 12 packs all told, and several pints on tap, simply delicious.


Dark
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout
  • Rest of VA - Port City Porter
  • Rest of USA - St. Boniface Bull's Head Mild
  • Rest of World - Pokertree Seven Sisters Black Treacle Oat Stout
  • Honorable mentions - O'Hara's Leann Follain Whiskey Barrel Aged, Skye Black, Starr Hill Dark Starr, South Street Back to Bavaria, Three Notch'd Method to My Madness Mild
Regular readers of Fuggled will know that I love drinking milds, porters, and stouts. Through the American Mild Month project I enjoyed several very nice milds this year, including a crowler of the St Boniface beer brewed for that event, which made it's way to central VA through the family of the St Boniface brewer, and was enjoyed with gusto one Saturday afternoon. I still remember well the first time I had Port City Porter, in a restaurant in Alexandria where I had several pints before looking at the ABV, a 7.5% drop that tasted like it was 5%, fantastic. Another Three Notch'd beer that I drink regularly, especially in the damp of cold of autumn and winter, Oats McGoats is silky smooth and moreish, all the more so once it gets to the proper temperature. However, the 2015 Fuggled Dark Beer of the Year comes from the north of Ireland. I only had one bottle of Pokertree Seven Sisters, brought over by Reuben of Tale of the Ale, and it was a revelation, one that I am hoping to recreate in my homebrewing at some point.

Fuggled Champion Beer

If the Amber Beer of the Year was sown up months ago, then the overall Fuggled Champion Beer for 2015 was also practically decided at the same time. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest was everything I look for in a beer, superbly made, flavourful, on point for the style, and drinkable beyond measure. I drank a lot of this beer, often from my 1 litre Paulaner glass, often demolishing a 12 pack in a single afternoon. I drank it, I cooked with it, I revelled in every single drop. I wish I had stocked up more before it disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets and bottle shops. There was no finer beer I drank this year.


Breweries
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Brewing
  • Rest of VA - Port City
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada
  • Rest of World - Fullers
  • Honorable mentions - Plzeňsky Prazdroj, South Street Brewery, Hi-Wire Brewing

Looking back at last year's review of the year, I noticed that 3 of the 4 breweries listed here were listed then as well. This tells me several things, but most importantly that I value breweries that produce consistently well made and tasty beers, that have a solid core range that I am happy to drink anytime, and also that I am out of kilter with many a craft drinker in that I am happy to stick to a single brewery rather than taking a scatter gun approach. At one point earlier this year, I was worried that I wouldn't have drunk enough beer to warrant my annual trawl through the pale, amber, and dark delights that constitute my drinking habit. It wasn't that I had inexplicably given up on beer rather that I found my self drinking almost exclusively Three Notch'd beer, hence they are again the Fuggled Brewery of the Year. Whenever I see their wonderfully simple tap handle in a pub I know what I'll be drinking, and I know I will not be disappointed, what more can you ask from a brewery?

Yes 2015 was a good year for drinking, here's hoping 2016 is just as good.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beers of the Year

In years past I have written multiple 'Review of the Year' posts, across various beer styles, and then colours. This year, I am feeling somewhat lazy and am writing just the one long post highlighting what I think have been the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Central Virginia, the rest of Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the world. So without further ado....
Pale Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Blue Mountain Classic Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest US - Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
  • Rest World - Oakham Citra
Overall Pale Beer of the Year: Oakham Citra, which I wrote about here.


Amber Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Oktoberfest
  • Rest US - Highland Gaelic Ale
  • Rest World - Timothy Taylor Landlord (bottled)
Overall Amber Beer of the Year: Timothy Taylor Landlord, one of the best beers in the world. End of.


Dark Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest VA - Mad Fox Mason's Mild
  • Rest US - Green Flash Double Stout
  • Rest World - Fullers London Porter
Overall Dark Beer of the Year: Three Notch'd No Veto, probably the beer I drink most of, when not bashing Session 42.


From those three Beers of the Year, this year's Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year is...

Timothy Taylor Landlord. 

I have come to the conclusion that there are insufficient superlatives to describe the bottled version of Landlord. Simply one of the best beers on the planet in my opinion and one which is so insanely difficult to get hold of on this side of the Pond that it astounds me that it never makes the 'Best Beers in the World' lists (oh wait, it's not a boozy hop bomb and/or Belgian). I never tire of drinking it, and in many ways, Session 42 is something of an homage to it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Other Burton Beer

Despite the fact that the making of beer has been part of the human experience for at least 6000 years, indeed one of the marks of being civilised in the Epic of Gilgamesh was to be a beer drinker (though I am sure ancient Sumerian 'beer' was a very different beast from the modern stuff), there are places which are renowned for their beer throughout the world, for various reasons. Whether it is Plzeň for its pale lager, which spawned endless imitations, Dublin and the stout porter that would define not just a beer style but an entire country in the minds of many, or Munich for its dunkels, there are some cities where beer is the very stuff of life.

One such city is Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands, an area rich in the history of the Industrial Revolution. At one point the city was home to more than a dozen breweries including such world famous names as Bass, Allsopp and Ind Coope. To put that into context, Burton is about the same size as Charlottesville and in the city proper there are currently 2 breweries. When people think about the Burton brewing industry they think of a style of beer which has come to embody in many way the modern brewing industry, India Pale Ale. However, when in 1948 The Brewer's Art listed the four main types of beer being brewed in Britain they were 'pale ale, mild ale, stout and Burton'.

Burton Ale is one of those beer styles which is almost extinct, I say almost because it would seem from my reading (mostly Martyn Cornell's 'Amber, Gold and Black', various of Martyn's blog posts and magazine articles, and naturally Ron Pattinson's blog) that the style lives on in the Winter Warmer genre of strong English ales. In common with many beers, Burton Ale evolved. Over the years it went from being a super strong nut brown ale shipped to the Baltic region to the Victorian era beer made to a recipe of pure pale malt and Kentish hops to create a beer which was about 6% abv and slightly less hopped than the IPAs being sent from Burton to India. Seemingly, and again most of this information is from Martyn, as the Victorian age gave way to the 20th Century Burton Ale became darker again and then in the decades immediately after the Second World War, the style practically died as the public turned away from dark, sweet beers in favour of pale, bitter ones.


According to Martyn's book though, there are still some beers out there which meet the description of a Burton Ale, whether the paler 19th century version or the darker 20th. Fuller's 1845 is apparently based on a Burton style recipe from the Griffin Brewery, Timothy Taylor Ram Tam is an example of a lower strength dark Burton, and is, according to Martyn, a 'classic of the Burton Ale type'.

Of those three, I have only had the pleasure of the Fullers 1845, and a mighty great pleasure it is, but I have it in mind to try creating some clone recipesof the various stages in the development of Burton Ale for my homebrewing this year. Brewing old beers is one of my favourite types of history (and history is probably one of my favourite things in general), the type you can drink.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Praise of Familiarity

Earlier today I sat down to write a post for this blog and my mind was blank, what should I write about? What would people be interested in? Questions flashed through my mind and no answers came forth to announce themselves. So I had a cup of coffee, read the news on the various websites from which I glean my knowledge of world events, the BBC and the Guardian mostly, caught up on the football gossip, hoping to see that Liverpool had sign Gylfi Sigurdsson.


It's not as if I didn't drink anything over the weekend. I drank mostly homebrew admittedly, mainly my German pilsner, though with some lime witbier and the few remaining ?erny Lev Czech Dark Lagers chucked in for good measure. I worked at the Starr Hill tasting room on Saturday, and yesterday after painting in our new house I sat with a large New Belgium Fat Tire to wash down some Mexican food. There was no beer revelation, nothing new to tickle and tantalise the taste buds, nothing worth taking notes about, though I have practically given up on that particular activity, and you know that's perfectly fine by me.


While it is true that I have never been the kind of person to go chasing half way across town just to try a particular beer, let alone to another country, I wonder if at times I lose sight of that fact that beer is just part of life? Since leaving the Czech Republic almost three years ago I have come to cherish, and miss, the wonderful solid predictability of being able to walk into any of my favourite pubs and be guaranteed a beer I would want to drink. Whether it was ?těpán at Pivovarsky Klub, Zlatá labu? at U Buldoka or even Leffe Bruin at my nearest Potrefená Husa.


Don't get me wrong, I love going to the pub over here, but there is often an element of doubt in my mind as to whether there will be anything I am in the mood for, given the frequent rotation of taps, and the near constant chasing of the new thing, the latest big beer and that which contains the oddest ingredients.


They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but at the same time the familiar is a comfort, something reliable to go back to, knowing that it will be satisfying. Whether it is tankové Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic, London Pride in Southall or Samuel Adams Boston Lager here in the States, there is much to be said for those beers which are familiar, oh so familiar.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Planning Ahead

I sometimes think that homebrewing is an exercise in being one step ahead of the seasons. As such, I am already in the planning phase for my winter beers.

I love winter with a passion, I sometimes think I have SAD in reverse, the darker and colder it gets, the happier I become. With Mrs Velkyal soon to start work again after the summer, she teaches 3-6 year old children, my thoughts turn to beers to brew for the long dark nights, hopefully dark, cold and snowy - I love snow. Random side story, almost every year in Prague it would snow on my birthday.


Anyway, to some of my homebrew plans for winter and Yuletide. As I have done for the last 2 years, I plan to brew my chocolate Export Stout and spiced Belgian Amber Ale. Both those recipes are pretty well established in how I like them, so I doubt I will be tweaking too much, though I do plan to make 2 batches of each.


Although not a beer for the coming winter, I will brewing the third rendition of my Samoset Vintage Ale, which I brew in November for the Thanksgiving of the following year. Now that I have a little mash tun, this year's version will include Biscuit and Victory malt on top of a Golden Promise base, with extract making up the difference, and hopping with First Gold.

I am also planning to brew a couple of clone recipes, in particular the Fuller's London Porter from a recent Brew Your Own magazine, for which I am playing with the idea of pulling out the little polypin to try and condition it almost a la cask. Staying with the Fuller's theme, I want to create something akin to 1845, which is still one of my favourite beers on the planet.

As ever then, lots of plans, ideas and thoughts, what will you be brewing with winter in mind?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beer Commercials

Friday mornings are pretty easy. Get up, walk dog, shower, shave, read beer blogs, go to work. While I was sat in the comfort of an armchair, I read the latest post from Tale of the Ale. The post is mostly about the Beer Bloggers Conference that took place in London last weekend, but the thing that caught my attention most was the new advertising campaign from the Czech branch of multinational beer conglomerate SABMiller, better known as Pilsner Urquell.



I am sure that if you know anything about the history of Pilsner Urquell you will see the glaring omissions and logical flaws in the advert. Actually if you know anything about the history of beer, you'll know that the "world's first golden beer" claim is also a pile of shite (the first pale ale was marketed in the early 18th century). Any way, as it is a Friday and I am in a fairly chipper mood, I am not going to rant about these things, after all who really expects truth and historical veracity in an advertising campaign? Also the fact that I rather like the advert, it is certainly well done and if it encourages more people to drink Pilsner Urquell, go to the Czech Republic and try the unpasteurised version and then demand its availability in Blighty, that can only be a good thing. No, I think today I will just post some of my favourite beer commercials, and we'll start with the other internationally renowned Czech beer, with a quick language alert for the faint of heart....



While we are on mass produced Czech beers....



Jumping across to Blighty....



and finally, down to Australia....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Come Autumn Come...

It's one of the those days here in Charlottesville, warm, cloudy and wet. It isn't actually raining at the moment, more that a damp murk has been drawn over the city. If it were about 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler I would be sat here thinking about it being the kind of weather I grew up with in Scotland, and would be as happy as a pig in clover. I like cool, damp and dark weather you see, it is perfect pub weather - honestly, can you think of any place better to be during a downpour, or more likely back home, a steady soaking of drizzle, than a comfy pub with a pint of something good in your hand?

The problem though with such weather is that when you add in the extra heat and attendant humidity, my brain just turns to mush and I have problems deciding on what to write about. But as the weather has put me in mind of autumn and its delights, I have of late started stocking up the cellar with beers for the coming dark months - winter being my favourite season of all. As such, the following beers have been added to the cellar in preparation.



Ok, so a lot of people think of K?lsch as more of a summer beer, but in my experience it has a malty sweetness which lends itself just as much to supping as the leaves change to amber as it does to refreshing yourself in the heat of a German biergarten. Doppelsticke is an extra powerful Altbier from the Uerige Brewery and Alt is again one of my favourite styles, and I love that bottle. Rauchweizen I have discussed at length elsewhere and the bottle of G?se is there because I want to try and get more of a handle on that style, which uses salt and coriander.

These bottles are just the beginnings of the dark nights cellar, sure there will be plenty of homebrew being stocked up, my imperial stout and spiced Belgian amber ale will make appearances, and come Thanksgiving the first of my 1 year in the bottle barleywine will be cracked open. Another batch of the peat smoked Mild previously known as Experimental Dark Matter will be in the works soon, renamed as Machair Mild.

Sure, there are plenty of sunny days to enjoy, but it is the dark and cool of a winter's beer that I am looking forward to.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brewer of the Week

For this week's Brewer of the Week we head to London and to the brewery which makes some of my favourite beers, and for which I have a huge soft spot owing to the fact that my father's side of the family come from the same neck of the woods.


Name: John Keeling
Brewery:

How did you get into brewing as a career?

My mother made me get a job. The local brewery Wilson’s took me on as a laboratory assistant where I stayed for a couple of years before studying brewing at Heriot-Watt.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

To drink beer. I think it is very important for a brewer to drink their beer in the pub with their friends. This will enable them to understand what it is that people like about their beer, it will lead to great satisfaction that other people enjoy your beer and that will drive you on to produce even better beers.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full-scale production?

I did home brew at the age of 16 to 18. It was so long ago I cannot remember any of the recipes. However it did give me a love of brewing.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

No I don’t homebrew. After a day’s work I would prefer to relax over a pint than make a beer.

What is your favorite beer that you brew?

London Porter. It simply is so different to the other beers. The aromas of coffee and roasted malt fill the brewery. Even the surrounding streets have the aroma of coffee


If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

When I was with Wilson’s my first job was to sample the FV’s every day. I loved this job because we would make 8 different beers in one day and looking at the different colours of each and the different aromas would fascinate me. My favorite was Mann’s Brown Ale again because it was a dark beer and so different to the bitters and lagers.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favorite to drink?

The brewer’s favorite is Chiswick Bitter. When I first joined Fullers I worked for the Assistant Head Brewer Philip Eliot who insisted that we all drank Chiswick. When he retired we calculated that he accounted for 0.5% of all Chiswick Bitter sales.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I think to be honest is important in all walks of life. I think that it is better to be honest than to argue about authenticity. For many years we used maize in our recipes. We did this because it made the beers easier to fine not because maize was cheaper than malt. Nowadays because the malt is of higher quality we are 100% malt. However it would be more authentic to use maize! The same is also true about methods. Modern methods get a bad press because people think that traditional methods are best and many brewers use modern methods just to reduce costs. However modern methods will improve quality too. Why did we use maize? Because malt quality was not good enough. Why is it so good now? Because of adaptation of modern methods.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

We are planning something along those lines. I actually believe that breweries have always collaborated to a degree. We want our Junior Brewers to do something with other brewers. We will be exchanging brewers with Stone this year hopefully and maybe something will come of that. I have many friends in brewing and perhaps I would work with them. Maybe I could work with my friend Toshi in Japan or perhaps with Stefano and Kelly at Thornbridge. I have never met the Brewdog people but I bet we would enjoy a pint together. If I had to pick one to work with then it would have to be Hardknott Dave.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

I don’t think that beers are invented they kind of evolve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brewing Some Thoughts

Having perhaps been a mite critical of All About Beer magazine this week, even though I do generally enjoy reading it, I feel I should balance that out by giving some praise to Brew Your Own magazine, which I also thoroughly enjoy - probably because it gives me loads of ideas about beers to brew and some technical brewing info to boot.

Take for example, this edition's featured beer style, dunkelweizen. I have enjoyed several dunkelweizens, usually at PK in Prague, but I am yet to brew one for myself, so a few recipes and a well written article describing the flavours and how it differs from a regular hefeweizen was well appreciated. Now all I need to do is work out my own recipe, which I have already decided to hop with the extra bag of Saaz I have in the fridge, and find a slot in my brewing schedule.

Also in the current BYO is an interview with James and Martin from BrewDog, which was interesting, but best of all some clone recipes for Punk IPA, Hardcore IPA and Rip Tide! So that's another couple of projects for slipping into the schedule, though I was kind of chuffed that my Machair Mor is somewhat similar already to Rip Tide, I use far more chocolate malt though and has a higher ABV. The recipe for Hardcore IPA looks like something I will try in the spring and leave to age for autumn.

The BrewDog article got me thinking about the difference between the US and UK brewing scenes, and how the experience of Prohibition is such a driving force here. Thankfully we never had Prohibition in the UK, our brewing industry has never been destroyed by fanatical religious folks on a crusade to make society better, though by "better" they usually mean, just like them. Post-Prohibition beer until the Craft Brew Revolution was simply awful from what I have heard from those older than me.

I am sure many of us have mixed feelings about CAMRA, but right now I am glad that they took a stand against the watering down of Britain's brewing traditions and laid the foundations for a growing independent brewing scene in the UK (I admit that is perhaps overstating their role). I wonder how many of the regional and independent brewers like and would have ended up as brands for InBev and the like without CAMRA re-igniting interest in cask ale?

I guess what I am trying to say is that Britain has centuries of brewing history and tradition that needs to be valued by beer lovers and praised by beer bloggers and writers, the likes of Everards and Fullers make beer that people, whether nerds or not, want to drink. It is great that BrewDog are opening people's horizons to American style IPAs, but we should never forget the great British beers that can be found up and down Great Britain, without CAMRA how many of them would still be around?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh for crying out loud!!

Love 'em or hate 'em, beer styles are part and parcel of life for the beer aficionado. Styles should be a product of a communal consensus as to what makes, for example, a stout a stout rather than a porter, and while I sympathise with those who see limited value in styles, they do give a frame of reference, a sitz im leben if you want to get hermeneutic, for what are the accepted parameters for a beer.

The one thing though that makes me rant and rave about beer styles is when beers are misplaced within the beer category world. Take for example the current edition of All About Beer, which I pick up from time to time at my local Barnes and Noble. This edition has a "Buyer's Guide for Beer Lovers" about the many varied strains of lager out there on the market place, such styles as "pale lager", "pilsner" (I promise not to get into provenance and authenticity here), as well as a few bock variants.

Gripe number 1 is putting Primátor Premium Lager in the pale lager category, while Staropramen Lager apparently belongs in the pilsner category. Now, those of us who know something of the Czech brewing scene, and if I am mistaken I am sure emails will be arriving fairly quickly, will know that when a brewery from outside Plzen labels their beer "premium", then you can be fairly sure that it is their 12o version of the original, especially when said brewery also has a lower gravity lager available.

Gripe 2, when giving a history lesson, please, please, please get your history right. When describing the Baltic Porter category, apparently "traditional lager-making breweries along the export route [from the UK to Russia] developed their own version of the style". Firstly, the style was developed in the UK and was picked up as a top fermented beer in the 18th century by brewers on the route. It wasn't until many breweries switched over to bottom fermenting in the second half of the 19th century that Baltic Porter became a predominantly "lager" style beer, though some places still make it as a top fermented ale, mostly in Sweden.

Gripe 3 - this is a quote from a review for Colorado K?lsch, which describes k?lsch as being a "response to the popular pilsners being produced in the Czech Republic in the 1840s". Historically speaking, bollocks, bollocks and more bollocks. There was only 1 pilsner being brewed in Bohemia in the 1840s, strangely it was a beer called Pilsner, from the town of Pilsen, to use the name of the city at the time. There were no doubt other lagers aplenty, but only one pilsner. Secondly, there was no Czech Republic in the 1840s, there was Bohemia, a multi-ethnic part of the Austrian Empire (the Austro-Hungarian bit turned up in 1867), the Czech Republic however didn't exist until 1993 to be strict about these things.

My last gripe, or rather the last gripe that I will share with you good people, came from the regional winners of the USBTC winner for the "Bitter/ESB" category in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast region. The beer in question is one I have written about before, Starr Hill's Pale Ale. Now, Starr Hill Pale Ale is a perfectly decent pale ale, it has plenty of the citrus hoppiness you would expect from a pale ale made in the US - anybody else seeing my issue here? If I were to put Fuller's style defining ESB next to Pale Ale, they simply would not be considered expressions of the same style. Whoever decided to label this beer a Bitter/ESB (and don't get me started on the differences between Bitter, Best Bitter and ESB), really needs a trip to the UK to discover the glories of Bitter in its natural environment.

Here endeth the lesson. The lesson being "get your bloody facts right!"

Now that I have calmed myself a bit, I am planning which beer to have this evening as the doctor says I can have a beer a couple of times a week - will it be homebrew, Budvar or a nice hoppy American IPA?

The agonies of choice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Praise for My Favourite Breweries

Last year Primator won Best Lager in the World in the World Beer Awards, in this year's edition of the awards the guys from Nachod get more praise for their range of beers.

First is the World's Best Oatmeal Stout for the new Primator Stout, which Evan, Pivni Filosof and myself have enjoyed many a fine pint of (note however that the brewery themselves class it as a dry stout!).

They also won World's Best Marzen/Oktoberfest for their very quaffable 13 degree amber lager.

Fuller's weigh in with a World's Best Special Pale Ale, namely their wonderful 1845 - a rich delight of a beer which belies its strength.

Also given a "World's Best" is the fantastic Gold Reserve from Lovibonds - well done Jeff!

Good to see brewers like Lovibonds and Primator getting the recognition they deserve beyond their core markets, and of course seeing the likes of Fuller's keeping up their reputation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simple Delights

The journey from Daytona Beach to Columbia only takes about 6 hours of driving, but why drive all the way up the Interstate when you can spend a few hours in quite possibly the most delightful little town in the USA? About an hour's drive up the coast, and in this case with the Atlantic breaking on the shore just a few feet from the car, is the town of St Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited town in the continental US, founded in 1565.

The heart of the town is home to old houses bearing testament to the Spanish, rather than British, roots of Florida. Also in the town centre is one of my favourite little pubs, which we found by accident 2 summers ago and to which I plan to return every time I come through St Augustine. A place called Rendezvous.

I admit I had a pretext for wanting to return to Rendezvous, I knew they had Budvar and I was craving the clean, hoppy delights of this fantastic lager - whatever the label was saying. So good and so refreshing is a chilled Budvar, it barely touched the sides. Just a quick aside though, I wish people wouldn't put B.B. Bürgerbr?u with the German beers - yes it has a German name but it is made in the Czech Republic, just like Pilsner Urquell!

Rendezvous generally has an extensive range of bottled beer, with products from Germany, the UK, Belgium and various other places - including the very pleasant Reissdorf K?lsch you can see in the picture above. As I drink much quicker than Mrs Velkyal and my in-laws, they were just polishing off their Budvar, Pilsner Urquell, and in the wife's case a bottled of a very refreshing Australian delight

The highlight though for me was picking up my first bottle of , the 2008 edition, for my cellar, to be opened on some auspicious future date.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Porter Ancient and Modern

Last week I met up with Evan Rail in order to compare Ron Pattinson’s 1914 porter with a couple of modern day versions, namely and Lovibond’s Henley Dark.

As you can see from the picture below, there was a very noticeable colour difference between the modern versions and the re-creation, Ron’s was more brown than ruby like the Fullers and Henley Dark, and although the picture doesn’t show it, the Henley Dark is a lot darker than the London Porter.

In terms of flavours, both Fullers and Henley Dark were rich and laden with rich fruit and cocoa notes, which I could very easily imagine enjoying with Christmas pudding or a nice chunk of stilton. Ron’s porter was also fruity, though I felt it was less rich and cloying than either of the modern versions.

The London Porter was to my mind a bit drier than the Henley Dark, although the 1914 recipe was much drier than either, some people have commented that Ron’s porter is sour, however I didn’t feel it was particularly noticeable, especially when compared to the Dark Reserve I drank last week.

I feel that it would be unfair to say which of the three beers I enjoyed the most, especially as the task at hand was not to rate the beers but rather to compare a modern interpretation of the style to a historical precedent.

Clearly modern malt production methods have changed the colour profile of porter from a brown to a very dark red beer, and if the 1914 version is faithful to the flavour profile, porter has become richer. It will be interesting to see what beer geeks in the year 2104 make of our modern porters when compared to their own, and see the continued evolution of beer styles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day in the Bay

I have mentioned many times here that I am an avid Liverpool fan and although I get along to the pub to watch most games in a season the sport I love watching most is rugby. The highlight of the sporting year for me is the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and our arch-enemy England during the 6 Nations. This weekend saw a raft of international rugby test matches, most notably Scotland against the world champions South Africa and Ireland up against New Zealand. Originally I had wanted to try and get tickets for the Ireland game at Croke Park, but unless you are a member of an IRFU affiliated club then the chances of getting a ticket are slimmer than Kate Moss on a diet.

We spent Saturday in Galway, a town I had wanted to visit very much and so when our friends suggested that we spend the Saturday there I leapt for joy. On discovering that they also like rugby I knew it was going to be a fine day out, and so it was. While the ladies strolled around the shopping centre, the men wandered off to find a pub – a very difficult chore as I am sure you can imagine. On William Street we popped into a place called Garavan’s to wait for our women folk, and as chance would have it, we caught the last 20 minutes of Liverpool’s win over Bolton Wanderers. Here I had my first Guinness in Ireland, and although it was too cold it was certainly a step up from every Guinness I have ever had anywhere else. With the game over and the ladies out of the shops we went in search of somewhere for lunch, that somewhere was the King’s Head.

According to a plaque in the pub the King’s Head was given to the executioner of King Charles I by a grateful Parliament. This cavernous pub was very nice as was the lunch we had there, one of my three seafood and chip themed meals over the weekend, we also watched Scotland throw away a 10 point half-time advantage to lose 10-14 to the Springboks. We decided to move on to a different place to watch Ireland’s game with the All Blacks, and find a place that served Galway Hooker. Following a tip from a barman in a random pub on Shop Street we ended up in Sheridan’s On The Docks – a place which from the outside looks like a poncey winebar.


I am not sure I could have actually been further from the truth, the turf fire blazing away when we entered and the sight of a Galway Hooker tap on the bar convinced us to stay here - the nice space around the medium sized tv for watching the rugby may also have played a part, so we settled in for the evening. I went to the bar, ordered a couple of pints of Galway Hooker, the ladies had found more shopping to do, and almost fainted with joy when I saw the list of bottled beers; Bishop's Finger, Spitfire, Fuller's ESB and advertised as their "Beer of the Week" Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.


Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of Galway Hooker, partly because while having my first pint Mrs Velkyal was taking pictures of the docks, however this beer is seered into my memory, it is good stuff! The beer is golden bordering on amber and had a nice looking white head - none of your "all the way to the top" silliness in Ireland thank god, and the nose was very citrusy, very hoppy and really got me salivating, and it was worth every mouthful! Hoppy, refreshing, clean, crisp, moorish are the best words to describe this beer, and I think 4 mouthfuls later all that slighty malty lovely goodness was gone. Yum, yum, yum - better have another one just in case, still no camera mind - how do lady folk find random knitware shops in which to splash their cash?


I have described elsewhere my love affair with , so that was naturally up next, followed by it's stablemate, Spitfire - another beer that I like very much from the bottle, though I am not a fan of Spitfire Smooth (if I want something smooth I will buy a milkshake).


When trying to decide what came next I admit that I sent Evan Rail a text message asking if the
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was worth forking out €6 for (in my defence your honour, I had never had a Sierra Nevada beer and wanted professional guidance), suitably assured it was next up. What a magnificent beer it is! I am sure many far more qualified people than I have waxed lyrical about it, but I really enjoyed this one. With a refreshing hoppiness that has a rather subtle sweetness underpining it, this is a very easy beer to drink and one which when Mrs Velkyal and I are encamped the US will no doubt be a regular in the cellar. Admittedly I didn't take any detailed notes, because by this point it was half time and the referee had awarded a penalty try to the All Blacks, making the score 3-10 going into the break.



As the second half got under way I opted for the . Again an excellent beer, big and bold in the hops and malt department with a large dollop of toffee sweetness. One thing I noticed in particular was the smoothness of the beer, which makes it more of a beer for taking your time over. By the end of the second 40 minutes, Ireland had been clinically dismissed 3-22 and I had stoked up a nice warming glow from the wonderful beers on offer.


And so we headed back to Westmeath in the rain, just in time to hit the local pub for few more pints and some darts to finish off the day.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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