Showing posts with label lovibonds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lovibonds. Show all posts

Monday, May 7, 2012

And the winner is...

It seems like only yesterday I was having a little moan about the awards handed out as part of the World Beer Cup, especially the Bohemian Pilsner category. As it is, that particular moan was from June 2010, when Gambrinus Excelent somehow contrived to come second in the aforementioned category. It was then with a modicum of interest that I read my way through the winners list for this year's edition.

Good news for this part of Virginia in the form of Devils Backbone taking gold for their Vienna Lager. As I mentioned recently, the Charlottesville area breweries do well with lager and now boast both the current World Beer Cup gold for the Vienna lager category and the current Great American Beer Festival gold, in the form of Starr Hill's Jomo Lager. There was also a silver in the grammatically incorrect "American-Belgo-Style Ale" category, for Blue Mountain's Blue Reserve. Correct grammar would have be "Americo-Belgian Style Ale".

I was also very pleased to see Jeff at Lovibonds picking up some shiny yellow bling for his Sour Grapes in the "Wood or Barrel Aged Sour Ale" category, and I say this more in hope than expectation - could someone please start importing Lovibonds beer in the US?

However, there were a few bits and pieces that I found either startling or down right ridiculous, let's start with my favourite hobby horse, Bohemian Pilsners. Of the 62 entrants, the top three were Starobrno Le?ák, Kru?ovice Imperial and Gambrinus Premium, or to put it another way Heineken, Heineken and SABMiller. I have read that Kru?ovice has improved of late, and given that Starobrno is owned by the same company perhaps they have likewise got better, but Gambrinus Premium is the third best pilsner in the world? While it is true that I haven't had Gambrinus in a few years, I keep in touch with my mates back in Prague and they consistently tell me that it is getting worse than it was, and that many of them have given up on Gambrinus entirely in favour of Pilsner Urquell. Once again I would love to see who the other 59 entrants were, because if this crop of swill is the best available then there are real problems with the Pilsner brewing community (which I actually believe there are, but mainly because too many people don't have enough experience of proper pilsner within it's "sitz im leben" to brew it properly).

Then there are some of the categories themselves, but in particular "German-Style K?lsch/K?ln-Style K?lsch" category. How gracious to allow for a "K?ln-Style K?lsch", though the fact that K?lsch can only ever come from Cologne in order to be true to the Convention governing the style makes the category something of a tautology. Would it not be better to use a name like K?lsch-style Ale, which basically says everything necessary, a blonde ale made in the style of a K?lsch but not actually from Cologne. Now, I know nomenclature is not really wildly important to a lot of people, but I think these cack-handed categories simply breed confusion and are unnecessary when definitions such as the K?lsch Convention already exist.

I realise that competitions really need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but I wonder sometimes if all the meddling makes the pinch more of a hefty slug?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Wish List

When I go to a bottle shop I am instinctively drawn to the British beer section, swiftly followed by the "European" section - I say "European" because you sometimes get the feeling that there are only 5 types of beer: American, British (usually with Irish beers included, though not mentioned specifically as "Irish"), Belgian, German and "European" or "Other". It is in the "European" sections that you find Czech lagers more often than not, although I have seen them in the German section, oh such delicious irony.

This habit got me wondering over the weekend about the breweries whose products I would love to see available in Virginia, assuming of course that they aren't already elsewhere in the US. So here, is my wish list:

Kout na ?umavě, as I have mentioned many times, make the best lager on the planet. End of story. Full stop. To achieve this magnificent feat of zythophilic engineering there is no imperialising, no india-ising (made up word I know, but you know what I mean), but making great beer using excellent local ingredients (sounds like a story I know from history...). I have heard rumour that someone is trying to bring it in to the States, so hopefully rapture is near indeed.

Leicestershire based Everards make honest to goodness superb ales. Again you won't be finding any imperial best india bitter shite going on here, but traditional British bitters and ales, superbly made. They bottle, to my knowledge, 3 of their line, Original, Beacon and Tiger. Don't just take my word for how good their beers are, see here, and here.

I have raved many times about Lovibonds on here, Jeff was the first Brewer of the Week and yes my Lovibonds glasses are my favourites. The best thing to put in a Lovibonds glass though would be a Lovibonds beer, in particular the Wheat Wine you see in the picture, or the Henley Dark. I can't comment on the 69 IPA, because you can't get it here - but if past experience is any guide, then I look forward to it when I am home in Blighty come this summer.

A Kentish brewery making a range of lovely drops of ale that in my opinion deserve a wider audience. You see that bottle of Timothy Taylor Landlord in the back of the picture there? I would love to find that in a Virginia bottle shop as well.

These are just some of the beers I would love to see available over here, and maybe some of the distributors are listening. I can think of a few other breweries that I would love to see over here, purely on reputation as I haven't actually had any of the beers, Hardknott springs to mind, as does Dungarvan. What beers would you like to see available where you live?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

The beginnng today of a new semi-regular series, in the spirit of my recent Brewer of the Week I introduce Homebrewer of the Week! First up is, well, me. So here goes.

Name: Velky Al

How did you get into home brewing?

My homebrewing was a result of my getting into beer more seriously than just chugging gallons of whatever industrial stuff was available while watching football in the pub. As much as I love Czech beer, which is predominantly pale lager, my first beer love has always been stout. My first legal beer was Guinness, I loved Murphy's and Beamish as well. I wanted to make my own because there is so little ale being made by commercial brewers in the Czech Republic.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I brew with extract and specialty grains. I don't have the space at the moment to go all grain, though I plan to eventually, the key word being eventually, I am in no rush.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Difficult to say, I really enjoyed my imperial stout I brewed last winter as I did my Christmas beer. Having said that, a week or so ago I open a bottle of a barley wine I brewed last November in preparation for Thanksgiving to see if it was worth putting forward for the Dominion Cup. Well, simply put it was smooth, boozing and obscenely easy to drink for its 12%abv.

What is the worst, and why?

My first brew in the US was a total disaster. I wanted to make a pale ale with Amarillo hops, using White Labs' Burton yeast. For some reason the yeast didn't do its thing and the beer didn't ferment properly, so I had to pour 5 gallons down the sink. That was the reason I ditched the 5 gallon batches for 2.2 gallons and clear carboys rather than white buckets.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

It has to be LimeLight, my lime and coriander witbier, which is also very popular with people who drink it. It is such a simple recipe and the results are consistently good. Without having to go through the hassle of all grain brewing, I am done with LimeLight in about 2 hours from start to finish.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

I would love to, but I have to admit that as much as I enjoy brewing, I prefer seeing the enjoyment other people get from drinking it. Working in a brewery tasting room has taught me plenty about serving beer, keeping lines clean and the like, so I would like to have a pub at some point in the future, whether my own brewpub or taking on a tied house with one of Britain's regional brewers.

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

My favourite to drink is my Scottish export ale, which I call Gael 80/-. It is very much a classic Scottish ale, more sweet than it is malty, lightly hopped and at only about 4.5% abv something I can drink plenty of. It was also the first beer I successfully conditioned in my polypin/cubitainor to replicate cask conditioning, and it was even better!

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

As I said in the first question, it started out wanting to brew a stout. Otherwise I think about the kind of flavours I am looking for and then go from there, sometimes I want to brewing something as close “to style” as possible. For example at the moment I am planning a beer based on my favourite chocolate bar, the Twix. I am thinking about using Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt and one of the Caramel malts, and very lightly hop it.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

In terms of ingredients, my Christmas beer was the most unusual, especially as I wasn't following a given style, just making it up. My initial idea was to make a beer that reminded me of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas when we were kids. I started off with an amber DME base and added some Caramel 80 for colour and a touch of sweetness, for the hops I used French Strisselspalt, a very low alpha acid type. Nothing drastically unusual so far, but then came the spices I added to the boil, the classic Christmas spices of cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, as well as dried sweet orange peel. The result was essentially a very yummy liquid gingerbread, which I called Biere d'épices.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

A very difficult question, and I can think of several breweries I would like to do something with, all of them back in the UK. Everards would be an automatic choice as Mark there has given me tons of invaluable advice for my homebrewing, and I learnt a lot from his when we met up in Prague to tour some of the brewpubs there, not to mention the fact that I think Tiger is one of the nicest beers I had last time I was in England. Another brewer who has been a great source of knowledge and enthusiasm for beer, and whose beer I love drinking, is Jeff at . Finally would be Dave at the HardKnott Brewery because he seems to like doing random stuff, which kind of chimes with my own way of thinking about brewing. In an ideal world, we would all of get together to brew something, perhaps with one us choosing the malt, one the hops, one the yeast and the other the water!

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Feature - Brewer of the Week

A new feature here on Fuggled for the coming Fridays is a questionnaire for brewers around the world, first up is Jeff from Lovibonds.

Name: Jeff Rosenmeier, Founder / Head Brewer
Brewery: Lovibonds Brewery, Henley-on-Thames, England

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I started home brewing about 15 years ago after a friend of mine showed me that you could brew really excellent beer at home. I got pretty burned out from an IT career and decided to try a second career in brewing by starting Lovibonds Brewery in 2005.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think if a brewer wants to make clean and consistent beer, he needs to be a clean freak. One of my heroes is Charlie Papazian, as he taught me to brew through his writing and I think his Relax, Don’t Worry attitude is also a key characteristic. I find that if I am the clean freak, it helps me relax!

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

I’d say all my commercial recipes started as home brew recipes. We still test all new beers on a pilot level (100l) and probably always will.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I don’t homebrew per say anymore. I still play on the pilot kit and a majority of production happens on a 700l plant, which to me still feels like homebrew.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really love to brew our Henley Dark, which is a Smoked Porter. I traveled to Alaska about 10 years ago and was really inspired by the things that Alaskan Brewing Co. were doing in Juneau, including their famous Smoked Porter. I still hand smoke about 5% of the grist for this beer with lovely smelling beech wood on my Weber BBQ. When you combine that with the other malts in the mash tun on a cold winter morning, it’s pretty easy to understand why brewers do what they do.

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


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

This changes all the time depending on my mood really. I’m currently working on a keg of Henley Amber (Pale Ale) in the kegerator and it is tasting pretty good. I like the fact that this beer is only 3.4% abv, yet the flavours haven’t been watered down. Drinkability is the key to me for every beer we brew. If you don’t want to have that 3rd pint, then I haven’t done my job properly. I find this beer very drinkable at the moment.

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

To me it is very important that each of our beers has a story, to me that is authenticity. I’m maybe not the most creative person in the world, so most of my beers are inspired by something else that I have experienced, but with my own little spin on it.

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

Tough one really…there are some great breweries here in the UK and I’ve made a lot of friends and hope to be doing some collaborations with them in the near future. A bit further a field, I would love to do something with Lagunitas. I love their attitude and love all of the beers that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting thus far.

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

Brew Dog’s Punk IPA . Punk IPA, because I think it gives the big finger (or fingers) to the establishment that has made IPA in the UK into an insipid drink without any hops or alcohol. Brew Dog have their naysayers, but I cannot say enough about how I admire what those guys are doing for the UK craft brewing movement. Obviously, their beers rock as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Glassware Stories

I don't really have an extensive branded glassware collection, and even less of an unbranded collection, though I am sure Mrs Velkyal would beg to differ and then regale you with stories of my obsessive care for said glasses. In some ways she is right, I am somewhat overly attached to my glasses, but each one has a back story, a link to a beery event or to the generosity of brewers or some such moment of nostalgia which makes me fond of them. I don't have any chalice style glasses for Belgian style ales as that would be largely pointless because I rarely drink Belgian beer, beyond the Trappists that is. Here then is the full, branded collection.

A motley bunch to be sure, a few Czechs, a couple of Brits, a German and an American.

The glass that features very regularly on Fuggled is of course my half pint, actually it is one of two glasses, and I think I most fussy about what gets done with this pair. When I lived in Prague, I wrote a couple of reviews of Lovibond's excellent beers that I had bought in the UK a while back, and the owner of the brewery, Jeff, very graciously sent me a couple of glasses, which I think are the most beautiful in my mini collection. When we moved over to the States, I was worried that these glasses wouldn't survive the journey, so I was very relieved when it came to unpacking boxes and there they were, good as new.

Chodovar is a family brewery in Western Bohemia that I have liked ever since I tried their Skální Le?ák at PK, first in the bottle and then on tap. This glass though I picked up in a pub on the other side of Prague, simply by asking how much I could pay them for it, and they said "take it", so I took it. The glass itself is pretty much like the vast majority of half litre beer glasses you get in the Czech Republic, and fits perfectly in the hand for swilling glass after glass of amber nectar.

I bought this hefty mug at the Slunce v Skle event hosted by Purkmistr back in 2008, on the day I had the pleasure of meeting, and getting royally rat arsed with Pivní Filosof for the first time. I also bought a delicate little goblet glass which I did all my beer tasting with that day, and which again survived the trip from Prague to Charlottesville, only for me to break it by missing the cupboard shelf by half an inch. Purkmistr also make a lovely weizen glass that I would love to get my hands on - so my Czech readers, get me a new goblet and a weizen glass, post them to the US (address will be provided by email) and I will send you the money to cover said purchases.

Beck's reminding you of a renowned craft brew pub in Dublin just sounds wrong, but it does. When Mrs Velkyal and I went to Ireland for my birthday back in 2008 we arranged to meet up with The Beer Nut and Barry, of Bitten Bullet fame, in the Bull and Castle. We drank plenty, had a good feed, and the manager was trying to get rid of these Beck's Vier glasses, so Mrs Velkyal said she wanted one, and I claimed it would never survive the flight back to Prague, I was wrong, as you can see. One thing I didn't realise with this glass is the laser etched bottom which extends the life of the head, something I still think is intrinsically wrong, hence I refuse to purchase a Sam Adams glass, despite it looking so fabulous.

The glass was a give away to celebrate their first anniversary back in November, and a nice glass it is too, though I think I will have to buy one of their goblets at some point in the future, just because they look so nice. My glass is another which is very close to my zythophilic heart, and again shows the generosity of the brewing world. You can't buy Everard's lovely ales in the US, which is damned shame in my world because I would love a pint or six of Tiger almost every Friday, but I enjoyed it in Oxford when I was last there, and had the pleasure of showing one of their brewers around several of Prague's best brewpubs a while back. The glass is another celebratory souvenir, but this time for the company's 160th anniversary, and Everard's were good enough to send one over to the US for me - such lovely people, who make such lovely beer!

I am hoping that I am not the only person who attaches memories to my glassware, in fact I am sure we all do it, hence the sepia tinged picture above, with the unbranded glasses chucked in for good measure. Of course, one should never look back too much, so I have a growing list of brewery glasses I want, but that would be telling!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting it Right

My minor rant at the poor quality of many craft brewery and brewpub web sites on Monday got me thinking, always dangerous, about those breweries and brewpubs that actually do have good web sites, and what are the features of a good web site? Obviously we all have our own preferences, and also our own idea of what a web site should do, but I think there are some features which are universal to a good web site, regardless of the business a person is in:
  • visually attractive
  • easy navigation
  • engaging content
One brewer who gets all three right from my perspective is , back in the UK, take a quick look here at their home page:

I am a big fan of the colour green, it is after all the colour of my eyes, and this particular shade of green is very appealing. But notice that the design is not just plain green, the pattern in the background is very reminiscent of the classic pub wallpaper which no doubt every British reader has seen in dozens of traditional pubs. Perhaps I am over psycho-waffling here, but that creates an image of a company that values tradition, and the traditional role of the pub as community centre. Personally I find the layout of the home page very easy to follow, and the navigation bar just underneath the banner has clear labels and there can be no confusing what you are going to see when you click on "Our Ales" for example. In terms of content, Everard's pubs are clearly described and beautifully photographed, while the list of beers includes the Cyclops notes, which of course Everard's pioneered. 

For me, the Everard's web site works on every level, as does the new web site for Lovibonds, another of my favourite breweries, here is their home page:

Now, this is quite different from Everard's, but what it shares with the Everard's site is that it is visually attractive, I particularly like the slide show which forms the bulk of the home page, scrolling through the various beers the brewery makes. Again the navigation is very easy, and as a craft brewer with no pub estate, the "Where to Try" tab on the navigation bar is vital! I also like the fact that they have integrated e-commerce into the web site, so people can order their beer from the brewery.

So there you have it, rather than just ranting about poor web sites, a couple of examples of breweries doing as good a job with their cyber presence as with their brewing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Specialty Beer

The last of the beer style awards for this year is another rather large catch all category, basically the beers that don't fit in any of the other categories.

The top three in this category are as follows:

The Starr Hill Barleywine was a small batch made by Starr Hill back in the autumn and for a while was my favourite beer. Big sweet maltiness with a huge whack of spicy hops made this beer simply a magnificent drink. Of the Starr Hill beers I have had this year, the Barleywine was far and away the best and if I were in their shoes I would be doing this on a yearly basis and releasing it bottle conditioned in the same way Fullers do their Vintage Ale.

As I noted earlier this week, Lovibond's make excellent beers and the Gold Reserve is a notched up version of their Henley Gold wheat beer. Referred to as a "wheat wine" and with the brewer's weight in honey thrown in as well, this is a strong, sweet and yet a grassy noble hoppiness that just balances it out nicely.

Back in June, myself and Evan Rail got together to do a comparative tasting of Fuller's London Porter, Lovibond's Henley Dark and Ron Pattinson's re-creation of a 1914 London-style Porter recipe brewed in conjunction with De Molen. Rich and yet dry, it was a pleasure to try a re-created Edwardian beer.

As ever the decision is tricky, but for the pure pleasure of discovering a beer style I had never even heard of and it being a moreishly drinkable beer, the Fuggled Specialty Beer of the Year is:
  1. Lovibond's Gold Reserve
A second award there for the Lovibond's Brewery and my most keen wish for 2010 is that their beers somehow find their way to the USA, in particular this little corner of Virginia, where I know for sure they would be very much appreciated.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber and Dark Ales

This category is something of a catch all for those beers which don't really fit in the world of Pale Ale or in Stouts and Porters, and as such the beers presented here are all rather different from each other,

Without further ado then, the three contenders for Amber and Dark Ale of the Year are as follows:
I guess some would claim that the Henley Amber belonged in the Pale Ale category, but as it is a shade or two more red than most pale ales I chucked it into this category. To my mind, the work Jeff is doing at Lovibond's is as impressive as the likes of BrewDog. Sure he doesn't engage in strange marketing practices, but boy does he know how to make a great range of beers. Henley Amber is crisp, refreshing and with a long, lingering finish it is one of the best sessions beers I have had this year.

Hobgoblin is one of those beers that I simply adore and will drink whenever I have the opportunity, whether on cask or from the bottle, I am always left satisfied by the toffee sweetness and the smooth drinking of this wonderful beer. Best of all, it was readily available in Prague when I was there, and many a bottle shop in this neck of the woods have it as well. You really can't go wrong with Hobgoblin.

The beer that turned my head to traditionally crafted ales, Bishop's Finger is everything a strong English ale should be, full of Kentish hops, caramel flavours in the background and obscenely easy to drink - you are probably seeing a theme here, I like beers that are easy to drink rather than "extreme" beers which I tend to think of as "pivni penis envy" (pivni is the adjectival form of "beer" in Czech). Whenever I have a bottle of Bishop's Finger I wish I was sat in the beer garden of a Shepherd Neame pub near my brother's place in Ashford, listening to the test match and idling away the day.

Anyway, back to the cold reality of Charlottesville in December and expecting over a foot of snow today. The Fuggled Amber and Dark Ale of the Year is:
  1. Lovibond's Henley Amber
As I said earlier, drinkability is one of my big watch words when it comes to choosing beers to rave about, and Henley Amber is precisely that, a beer you could spend all evening downing with mates in the pub and then walk home. The good people of Henley-on-Thames are very lucky to have such a fantastic brewer on their doorstep and should acquaint themselves with Jeff's wears as soon as possible.

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, 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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dark Depths

So far my experience of porter has been a mixed bag, like the sweet and sour jellied sweets I loved as a kid – quite literally. Some of the big and brash Baltic Porters I have tried were very sweet while others were rather sour, making it difficult for me to really decided whether or not porter is my thing.

At the weekend the removal company came to pack our belongings for the move to the USA so all my beer glasses have gone, hence the TESCO hi-ball glass in the pictures, we also reserved our new apartment in Charlottesville which is 4 times bigger than our current shoebox, and has a patio! With the flat starkly bare, my little cellar is in dire need of being emptied, so I made a start by opening one of my bottles of Lovibond’s Dark Reserve – a stronger, barrel aged version of the their standard porter, Henley Dark, which I wrote about here.

Like the Gold Reserve, the Dark comes in 750ml bottles – making it ideal for sharing with friends. The beer itself is very dark indeed, a deep crimson ruby which is almost impenetrable to light except around the edges, the head is a light tan and fades rather quickly.

The nose is a cacophony of chocolate and sweet caramel, with roasted coffee undertones and a subtle yet noticeable smokiness. Tastewise, the chocolate theme continues, but instead of being like a British Galaxy or Yorkie bar, this is more of an American Hershey bar, laced with sourness. The beer is also rather fruity, like a good heavy British Christmas cake done properly with plenty of brandy fed through it – there is a noticeable alcoholic glow and again the light smokiness comes through. Again Lovibond’s have crafted a very nice beer, the one thing I would say though is get at least one other person to enjoy the Dark Reserve with you, and pair it with that most British of cheeses, extra mature farmhouse Cheddar (a constant source of mickey taking in the Velky Al household, as I maintain that real Cheddar comes only from the village of the same name in Somerset).

Lovibond’s only make batches of 500 bottles at a time for this beer, and this was from batch 1 – a very good start indeed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unreservedly Golden

What do you get when you make a monster ale? Yes that's right, a barleywine. So I guess it is no surprise that , an imperialised version of their wheat beer should be called a wheat wine - a term I had not come across until I got a couple of bottles in the post recently, along with the very natty glasses which have starred in several pictures lately.

This really was a case of not knowing what to expect, whether it would be simply a stronger version of the Henley Gold or closer to something like a weizenbock from Germany. Therefore, I decided not to read the label for ingredients and other such blurb, but rather to let the beer do the talking first.

It pours a rich amber, with a slightly off-white head, which at first disappeared rather quickly but when I would top up my glass it came back and hung about - it was a 0.75l bottle and the glass is a half pint. The nose is full of rich fruity sweetness, which Mrs Velkyal immediately noted as honey, and there were also some banana and clove spicy notes coming through as the beer warmed up. The dominant flavour is the sweetness of honey, although with a noble hop background which prevented the sweetness from being overly cloying, in the background I could taste caramelised bananas - one of my favourite desserts.

Yes the Gold Reserve resembles barleywine to an extent, but it is lighter in body and much less sickly - I can't imagine drinking an entire 0.75l bottle of something like Durham Brewery's magnficent
Benedictus in one half hour sitting. This is quite simply a lovely, lovely beer - once again Jeff at Lovibond's has crafted something wonderful.

When I did look at the label, I allowed myself something of a smug moment as there is a rather copious amount of honey in the beer - apparently the weight of Jeff in honey (having never met the guy in the flesh I wouldn't like to hazard a guess at how much that would be). So there you have it, another superb beer from Henley-on-Thames, go to the website and order some today.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Regal Thing

Henley-on-Thames is one of those places that many people will have heard of, mainly because of the famous Regatta. One of the various places I have lived in was quite close to Henley and I still remember going on a school trip to the area and being told about the various legends of the white hart, including a story about Richard II and his huntsman called Herne. Henley also happens to be where my elder brother works, and is the home of the Lovibonds Brewery - well it had to be done really didn't it? So I duly asked my brother to pick up a couple of bottles for me, and being the top bloke he is, he turned up for Christmas with a bag of goodies - not just Lovibonds stuff either, but we'll get there in due time.

So on to the beers themselves, first up was the Henley Amber. Doing my Rolf Harris impression here, can you guess what colour it was? Quite right, it was amber, with a loose white head that threatened to disappear but then clung around doggedly. Described as a premium pale ale, it was certainly very refershing and nicely hoppy and with a long bitter finish which was just a delight. With the merest hint of sweetness in the background, and a light carbonation, I could happily drink this beer all day long, and at 3.4%ABV would drink many! Mrs Velkyal also heartily approved of it, pointing out that it was very similar to her beloved Primátor English Pale Ale.

One of my aims over Christmas was to try as many porters as I could lay my hands on as it is style I really want to understand and get to grips with. Lovibonds' porter is Henley Dark, and dark it is, pouring a very deep ruby colour topped with a big fluffy head. The nose was great, smokey coffee all over the place. Again this a grand beer to drink, the coffee wasn't overpowering, the body was smooth, velvety and laced with chocolate, and there was excellent dry bitterness with just set everything off nicely. Again I would happily sit in a pub all night drinking this, preferably near a roaring log fire and with an Irish wolfhound at my feet.

I have a very minor gripe, and it is a gripe I have made about many beers, but half a pint of these beers is simply not enough! Especially when talking about beers with the kind of ABV that makes them ideal for drinking pint after pint over an extended period of time.

I discovered Lovibonds when reading comments on blog - I am a big fan of Web 2.0 and like to read the conversations that go on. The comments in response to this post were discussing the relative merits of cask ale over kegged, and Lovibonds' owner, pointed out that the incredibly diverse world of American craft brew uses primarily kegs, so the whole idea that cask is good and keg is bad was a pile of outdated pants.

So if you are in the Henley area, you can find these lovely beers at any of these places. I strongly recommend you try them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

This week has been rather quiet, other than a few solitary beers at PK on Tuesday - tonight however is our team shindig at work. Having said that, I have a blinding headache at the moment, so hopefully the ibuprofen will kick in soon, otherwise I will have to drink slower than one would like.

Anyway, to the this week's Beer Hero. This week's hero is an unknown soldier, a warrior in the cause of bringing me good beer so that my infinitely extensible waistline can yo-yo its way through the yuletide fun. Ladies and gentleman, I give you this week's Beer Hero of the week:

Whoever it is my brother persuades to pick up some beer from Lovibonds beer in Henley-on-Thames!

I thank you!

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