Showing posts with label guinness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guinness. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2018

Beer and Breweries of 2018

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me.....time to get my review of 2018 done and dusted while she continues with tiling the kitchen backsplash. Of course, you dear reader as someone who doesn't work in a seemingly growing number of brewery marketing departments know that the 12 Days of Christmas run from December 25th to January 5th inclusive. As has become a tradition in these here parts at Fuggled, I'll be highlighting the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Virginia, the rest of the United States, and also the rest of the world. From said august list I'll pick the Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year, which comes with a quite immeasureable financial prize, as well as my Champion Brewery of the Year, with a prize equal to that of the champion beer. So onward to the runners and riders, so to say...

Pale
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery Shake Your Teal Feather Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Southern Gothic
  • Rest of World - Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10°
  • Honorable Mentions - Rothaus Tannenz?pfle, Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner, Sierra Nevada BFD, Schlenkerla Helles, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
I think this category will always be dominated by pilsner style lagers, while it is true that stouts were my first beery love, pilsners are the highest form of the brewing craft that I can conceive of. With nowhere to hide, getting a pilsner right is the make of a truly great beer craftsman. I have to admit though that the champion pale beer would have been much harder to choose had my employer not decided to send me to a conference in New Orleans. It was during that trip that I reacquainted myself with Koutská 10°, a beer that I have missed more than any other single beer from the Czech Republic in the nine and a half years since Mrs V and I swapped Europe for Virginia. It is simply perfection.


Amber
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Tumbler
  • Rest of World - Fullers ESB
  • Honorable Mentions - Alewerks Tavern Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Winter Warmer Lager, St. GeorgenBrau Kellerbier, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Stable Craft Brewing Britchin Brown
This autumn was all about brown ales, so stretching the definition of "amber" a wee bit to the darker side admittedly. The kick started with Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, and then just kept on going. If only American taprooms, brewpubs, and other beer outlets didn't serve the stuff at the temperature of penguin feet. The highlight of my brown ale kick was getting word from the guys at Three Notch'd that No Veto was back on tap after something of a hiatus, and then confirming that it tasted better than ever, once you leave it to sit for a bit and lose its chill. A worthy winner then.


Dark
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd Mild Marker 20
  • Rest of US - Anchor Brewing Porter
  • Rest of World - Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout
  • Honorable Mentions - Guinness Original, Murphy's, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, JosephBrau Winter Brew, Sierra Nevada Stout

Having mentioned beery loves earlier on, the dark beer of the year is very much a harkening back to my early days of beer drinking, indeed Guinness was my first legal beer, and I pretty regularly pick up 12 packs of the CO2 carbed versions of the black stuff. The highlight of several such cases this year was the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, apparently brewed with black patent malt rather than roasted barley. I am not sure what difference that makes, but the beer itself is a luxurious mix of coffee and chocolate, with a silken body, and roasted bite in the finish that is the very epitome of a great Guinness, let alone a great stout.


Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018

There really was no doubt what would be the Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018 was there? Rolling back the years to my old life in Prague, Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10° was a veritable revelry of nostalgia, great beer, and a longing to return to the Czech Republic and drink it in its native land once more. In an era of craft beer where novelty ingredients (aka "silly shit"), murk, and one offs seem to be the order of the day, it is good to know that out there are breweries making a handful of beers, and making them seriously, seriously well. I would argue that any drinker incapable of appreciating the simple perfection of Koutská 10° should just give up on beer right now and go find some other fetish for their affectations.

Fuggled Champion Brewery of 2018
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Rest of World - Schlenkerla
Their name has popped up in every single category, whether as a regional winner or an honorable mention, they are in my opinion the most dependable craft brewery in the United States, and as such I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone and try beer styles I usually avoid with other breweries - yup looking at you double IPAs and co. Following on from 2017, Sierra Nevada Brewing have indeed kept up the good work and are very worthy winners of the Fuggled Champion Brewery for 2018.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Gift of Guinness

Pottering around the shops a week or so ago with Mrs V, I saw a Guinness Holiday mix pack, with the rather natty slogan 'Be Generous, Give Guinness'. Making sure that purchasing said box of beer wouldn't send us into a poverty ridden experience, toiling in a work house and wretchedly asking the Beadle for more, I put it in the trolley (that's 'cart' for my Americans friends and readers). Sadly, disaster was just around the corner, the handle gave way as I was putting it in the car, sending a shower of beer across the asphalt of the car park.


Only 2 bottles had gone to meet their Maker, and after being good citizens of planet Earth, cleaning up the mess, informing the customer service people in the shop and in the case of Mrs V picking glass up by hand while some man sat in his car watching, not bothering to offer help until his own wife turned up, and apparently proffering nothing more than a cursory 'mind you don't cut yourself' - they drove off just as I returned to scene of carnage with a customer service bod - we went home. If you have ever had the pleasure of listening Mrs V venting at the sheer lack of manners and gentlemanly conduct that seems par for the course these days, you can imagine the ride home.

What about the beer though? Well, there would have been 3 bottles of the following:
  • Guinness Draught
  • Guinness Black Lager
  • Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
  • Guinness Generous Ale
As it was, only 1 bottle of the Generous Ale made it safely to the cellar, to fight another day. That other day was last night, while Mrs V watched American Horror Story I went up to the kitchen to prepare the starter for my sourdough bread and drink some booze.


For reasons best known only to my subconscience, I started with the Black Lager and it was pretty decent really. Very dark, with notes of cola, some coffee, a reasonably subdued roastiness and a nice dry, clean, lager like finish. Definitely not something I would turn my nose up at in the future, sure it's not something worthy of leaping in the car and driving across hill and dale for, but it reminded me of some Czech dark lagers I have tried, and for some reason put me in mind of the Guinness Extra Cold that was all the rage back in the 90s.


In a vain attempt to create some semblance of order, I opened the Guinness Draught next. Unless you have never drunk Guinness in your life, you know exactly how it was, dark, roasty, smoky but thin and watery, with a vague hint of something artificial about it. It was also the only bottle not proudly boasting being 'Brewed and Bottled in.....Dublin' and being a 'Product of Ireland'.


On to the one I had never seen before, Generous Ale, a holiday special that apparently celebrates the legendary generosity of Arthur Guinness to his workers and the wider community. Again a pretty decent beer, a beautiful deep red and lots of sweet caramel, a touch of honey and a little hop bite at the end to give it some balance. I was kind of bummed that the 2 broken bottles hadn't been the Guinness Draught to be honest.


In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a paid up fan of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and its inky, silky delights, it's sachertort sweetness and burnt sugar bitterness, I just think it is downright delish - though after the Extra Stout I drank with Reuben of Tale of the Ale fame in Paris last year, it might not be my favourite Irish FES, but we can't get that other beer over here so I am ignoring it.


Overall then, a couple of decent beers, one of my favourites and then the Guinness Draught made this a reasonable choice of mix pack. I am looking forward to the rest of the Black Lager and FES, and perhaps hoping to find a six pack of Generous Ale somewhere. The Guinness Draught will likely be used to marinade a ham for Christmas! Sure Guinness might be part of the evil multinational corporation that is Diageo, but the guys at St James' Gate make some pretty tasty beers, just make sure they are actually a 'Product of Ireland'.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Session - Thanks to the Big Boys


Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the stepmother in Cinderella or Captain Hook from Peter Pan, the multinational brewing companies have been cast as the pantomime villain in our little slice of all the world's a stage. In the finest traditions of the pantomime the blogosphere regale the stage with cries of "boo, hiss!" whenever the villains of the piece take centre stage, "he's behind you!" we cry when the evil doer approaches our hero. As good theatre goers we hope that, like pantomime, there will be a happy ending, with the villain vanquished and our dashing hero getting the girl.

Of course the world of commerce and business (and anyone who thinks making beer for a living, regardless of scale, is anything other than a business is naive in the extreme), things are never as clear cut as in pantomime. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have beers from the big boys that we like. Mine are Guinness, Murphy's, Boddington's, the occasional Michelob lager and of course Pilsner Urquell. Two of those are AB-InBev brands, one each for SABMiller and Heineken, and then there is Guinness, which belongs to Diageo.


Let me start with Guinness. I have said many a time on here that Guinness was my first legal beer, standing at the bar, having only drunk my dad's homebrew, Tennent's lager or cider, I really had no idea what I was doing. I ordered a pint of Guinness because that was what my eldest brother drank when I was a kid and he was still living at home. I also blame the same brother for my taste in music, but that is a different discussion. Still today, half a lifetime later, Guinness is a beer that I go to when my regular haunts have nothing else I feel like drinking. Guinness was also the fuel to the fire which is my love of stout, and one of my drinking highlights of life will always be standing in Garavan's in Galway, drinking pints of Guinness while watching Liverpool administer a clinical spanking to Bolton Wanderers.


Guinness was a treat for the decade I lived in Prague, simply because it was 4 or 5 times the price of a pint of insanely good Czech lager. It was though through the archetypal Bohemian lager that I overcame my ridiculous youthful prejudice that ale was better than lager, and that all lagers are gnat's piss. If you have only ever drunk Pilsner Urquell from a pasteurised bottle or keg, you really have no idea what you are missing. Unpasteurised and served from a "tankove" system, Pilsner Urquell is one of the great beers of the world, unpasteurised and kvasnicove it is quite possibly the greatest beer on the planet. Without wanting to sound like an old fogey, it was actually better in 1999 than it is in 2011, and yet it is still wonderful.

The big boys of the beer world can, and do, make magnificent beers, and even the beers that we deride as flavourless, boring and bland, are superb examples of consistency and process. Given that it is the beer in the bottle, or in the glass, which is a important rather than the manufacturer, a more honest appraisal of the brands from multinational brewers is in order instead of simply assuming any from AB-InBev and the like must be rubbish. Hopefully this will also lead to less comments along the lines of "it's not bad, for an 'insert multinational brewery here' product".

Today's Session is being hosted by my very good friend Reuben other at The Tale of the Ale.

*Picture Credit - the picture of the Pilsner Urquell was taken by Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography, during one of our research tours for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Victory!

I honestly can't remember if I mentioned this before, but Charlottesville's best place for beer got rid of Guinness. It used to be the case that Beer Run pretty much always had Guinness on tap, but when they had a keg of O'Hara's Stout on instead for St Patrick's Day I mentioned to the owner that I was fairly certain most people would happily drop 50 cents extra for an O'Hara's instead of Guinness. Whether or not this had any influence on the resultant dropping of Guinness I don't know, whatever the cause, Beer Run now has a rotating stout tap.

As Mrs V was having some friends round for knitting and nattering last night, I took the opportunity to pop along to Beer Run for a couple of pints with a friend, Dan. On the stout tap last night was , which at 3.7% abv is an ideal post work beer, it really was a simple choice and 4 or 5 mouthfuls took care of the first pint, a proper pint that is, you know, the big ones.

I am a big fan of Donnybrook. Sure it might not be the most sexy, extreme beer on the planet, but it is a well put together beer for drinking with mates in the pub, and therefore pretty much perfect. It's the kind of beer that doesn't intrude on the conversation, doesn't butt its way into your thoughts by being tastebud strippingly hoppy, doesn't have you swilling it around trying to identify the aromas.

It is stout, pure and simple. You know what you are getting and can get on with the real reason for going to the pub, socialising.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stout Blind Tasting

Last night I got round to brewing my Black Rose Dunkelweizen, to a very simple recipe:
  • 3lbs Muntons Wheat Extract
  • 0.8lb Caramel 60
  • 0.8lb Chocolate Malt
  • 0.7oz Hallertau @ 60 minutes
  • 0.2oz Hallertau @ 15 minutes
  • 0.1oz Hallertau @ 5 minutes
  • Weihenstephan Weizen Yeast
The OG for this dark brew was a nice 1.054 and when I woke up this morning, the airlock is popping along with gusto and there is a delightful krausen on the beer.

During the "hanging around" bits of the brewing process, I decided to do a three way stout blind tasting test, using Guinness Extra Stout brewed in Canada, brewed in Carlow, Ireland, and Dark Starr, brewed in Crozet by Starr Hill.


So that I didn't know which beer I was drinking, I had Mrs Velkyal do the pouring honours, and thus she first presented me with these

  • Sight - very dark, slightest ruby at edges, big tan head
  • Smell - light coffee, general roastiness
  • Taste - dark chocolate, a slightly sour, lactic touch
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3.5/5
  • Sight - pitch black, rocky tan head
  • Smell - big coffee and chocolate notes
  • Taste - smooth chocolate cake, a beautiful classic stout
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
  • Sight - Very dark, ivory head
  • Smell  - roasted grains, touch of dark chocolate
  • Taste - light chocolate and coffee, not as pronounced as the others
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
With this tasting, I decided that I didn't want to try to identify each beer, but rather give my order of preference and then find out what Mrs Velkyal had given me, so here goes:
  1. Stout 2
  2. Stout 1
  3. Stout 3
Stout 2 turned out to be Dark Starr from Starr Hill, number 1 was the Guinness Extra Stout and third up was O'Hara's. So there we have it, Starr Hill's Dark Starr really does standard up to the behemoth of the Dry Irish Stout world as well as the craft brewing newcomer, and is deserving of the raft of medals it has won.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gold and Guinness

I like Bitter. I like Ordinary Bitter, I like Best Bitter, I like Extra Special/Strong Bitter, so of course I wanted to brew my own - ah the joys of being a homebrewer, being able (at least in theory) to make some of the beer styles you love and in essence grew up on. I have said it many times on here before, I was never much of a lager drinker before I went to Prague, for reasons I may have to delve into in order to ascertain whether I was in closet with regards eventually discovering craft beer.

Anyway, to my theme, brewing a best bitter. That was the plan at least, but the OG was slightly low and so it became an ordinary bitter, something low in alcohol and refreshing was the plan. Last weekend Mrs Velkyal and I went to visit her cousin and Sicilian husband in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I took a couple of bottles of my bitter with me for them to try, and they liked them, so I thought I should do a proper analysis of the beer I had called Ring of Gold - fermented with Ringwood Ale Yeast and hopped only with East Kent Goldings.


I am not sure the colour really comes through from that picture, but it was light copper, with almost straw like edges, the picture does though capture the head perfectly, white, thinnish and with plenty of stickability. As I had used EKG for my hopping, the nose was very lightly floral but Mrs Velkyal when asked for her opinion suggested, albeit through a slightly stuffy nose, a light citrusiness. Tastewise, again, being an ordinary bitter, it had touches of toffee and a certain grassiness that I put down to the hops, so not wildly sweet nor a hopbomination. Overall, a perfectly drinkable bitter that wouldn't disappoint if served on a warm summer's day as it was refreshingly clean, though a bit on the thin side.


One beer which did however catch my attention this week was Guinness Extra Stout, a six pack of which I picked up for a 3 way taste test to come soon, but I had a couple of bottles last night anyway. Extra Stout is the one without the nitrogen widget, and what a difference it makes, a light brown head, plenty of roasted goodness on the nose and the taste is just as a stout should be. Thank goodness this still exists, even though brewed in Canada.


This weekend will see lots of bottling and brewing work. Into bottles will go the Samoset Orange Barleywine, to condition for Thanksgiving, and the American Pale Ale which I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project. Being brewed this weekend is another batch of Gael 80/- and then a dunkelweizen, for which I am yet to settle on a name. So a good weekend is in prospect, and a good weekend I wish you all! 

Slainte!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Wisdom of St James from the Gate



There are few beers on earth as iconic as Guinness, few brands as well defined and even a source of national pride, few families as remarkable. In three phrases you basically have the premise of Stephen Mansfield's new book, The Search for God and Guinness.

Guinness was the first legal beer I ever drank, in the lounge bar of a hotel near my home back in the north of Scotland, and is still a beer I turn to when I am not sure what to drink - being a beer geek has the disadvantage sometimes of leaving one uncertain as to what to drink in a pub. As a result of my early drinking years enjoying Guinness in Oirish pubs in Birmingham, I have become a devotee of stout in general.

Being a beer geek means I had to remember that I am not Mansfield's target audience, so I had to put myself in the shoes of some of my more religious friends convinced of the evils of alcohol. Mansfield does a good job of showing how beer has been part and parcel of human culture for millennia, and even part of church life from the very beginning of the faith, through to the Reformation, the Puritans and how many of the great men of faith that we revere such as Luther, Calvin, St Patrick and Jonathan Edwards held a positive view of beer, thus showing that Christian prohibitionism stands outside the historic and biblical approach to alcohol.

Much of the Guinness story though I didn't know. Mansfield's treatment of the leading characters in the development of the beer and the business are sympathetic and give the reader a good insight not in to just what each of them did, but also their motives for doing so. One thing that in particular gripped me was the story of how the company backed Dr Lumsden in his efforts to improve the every day lives of the Guinness workers and their families, by improving access to health care, raising the standards of housing, providing education and even starting the first branch of the St John's Ambulance in Ireland.

A couple of minor gripes aside, a slightly patronising tone when dealing with ancient source material which isn't the Bible, and claiming radar to have been invented prior to World War I (yes, I know of the work of Hulsmeyer and Tesla in the early part of the 20th century, but radar as a method of working out the distance away of objects as well as their presence didn't come until later). But these really are very minor gripes.

Regardless of your religious point of view, Mansfield's book is an interesting read and one which proves the old adage that with great wealth comes great responsibility, or as St James would put it "faith without works is dead".

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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