Showing posts with label stout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stout. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2018

Old Friends: Guinness Draught vs Murphy's

Stout was probably my first beer love. Guinness was my first legal beer, when the other options at the Dark Island Hotel on my 18th birthday were Tennent's Lager or Newcastle Brown Ale. I literally chose Guinness because that was what my eldest brother drank, he is also the reason I love The Smiths, Madness, and The Jam, as well as know how to read the form at a bookies for the horse racing (hot tip, if a horse has come 4th in its two previous outings it's worth an each way bet as often a pair of fourth place finished is followed by a first). He has much to answer for.


When I eventually left the Hebrides for the mainland, I found myself drinking almost exclusively in Oirish pubs, they had Guinness you see, and usually Caffrey's as well, which was my back up. I don't recall where I had my first Murphy's, but I liked it immediately, as I did Beamish, and the much lamented (in Velkyal world at least) Gillespie's - my tipple on Friday nights at the bowling alley in Inverness. Oh yes, we knew how to live large in the 1990s Highlands....


I recently bought a four pack of Murphy's on a whim, basically it was reasonably priced, a recurring theme in my beer life at the moment - seriously, prices for self consciously 'craft' beer are getting out of hand. I polished off all four cans in a single sitting, watching the most recent Star Wars film and decided to do an Old Friends post comparing it to Guinness, so here goes...


As expected the Guinness poured black, with deep fire ruby highlights at the edge of my dimpled mug, the classic white nitro foam cascaded its way to about three quarters of an inch and then lingered for the duration, it looked as a pint of Guinness is expected to look. Forcing it's way through that shaving foam cap on the beer were lightly roasty aromas and a bit of grainy bread character too. It sounds like a disparagement in some ways, but it's not really, it tasted like Guinness and if you don't know what Guinness tastes like then when you finish reading this, go drink some. All the elementes were there, coffee, roastiness, and a bit of a hop bite to snap you back to attention, the bitterness of the hops accentuated by the bitterness of roasted grains. I was actually quite surprised at how light bodied the beer was, not watery at all, but more medium light than medium, maybe that's a nitro thing, maybe it's the Draught in general, and maybe it's me being too used to drinking Guinness Extra Stout as my go to Guinness.


On then to the Murphy's, which poured jet black, dark brown at the edges, and this time the nitro cascade left a good three quarter inch of dense beige head. Through the foam came aromas of cocoa, a touch of graininess, and that classic stout roastiness that you just kind of expect. Tastewise we are again in classic stout territory, roasted grains, light coffee, a biscuity character, and also some subtle unsweetened cocoa. The Murphy's has the medium body I was expecting ans an almost velvety mouthfeel that makes for smooth drinking. It is a really nicely balanced, satisfying pint.

So there we go, 2 classic stouts, 2 rather different tastes. I think that the Murphy's is my preference really, say it quietly but it was just a more satisfying pint than the Guinness Draught. I am sure though that both will continue to be regular visitors to the Velkyal fridge as I indulge my love of the black stuff, which reminds me, I need to finish my keg of homebrew stout to make room for my next keg of best bitter...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#WestHighlandWay - A Drinker's Guide Part 3

Our stay in Bridge of Orchy made a nice break in more ways than just a comfy bed to rest our heads after a day among the hills. The folks at Taransay Cottage are vegetarians, and so breakfast didn't come replete with black pudding, bacon, and other sundry pork products, which was actually a welcome change despite being an unreconstructed meat lover. We had also spent the evening talking about hiking, music, and other stuff, so while I had a couple of bottles of beer, the only throbbing the morning after was the ever expanding blister on my toe.

I was really looking forward to the day's hike, we would be crossing one of my favourite places in Scotland, Rannoch Moor. Prior to our hike I had only ever seen the Moor from the A82, usually from the heights of a Skyeways bus (showing my vintage there!) to or from Uig heading to or from home, and I had always been enchanted by the expanse of empty moorland. Before reaching the moor though we had to cross Ben Inverveigh and pass the Inveroran Hotel too early in the day to be open. Having wandered past, cursing the time (as lovely as yoghurt, fruit, and bread is for breakfast, I was famished and wanted to keep my packed lunch a bit longer), we eventually came to Thomas Telford's drove road.


For those not versed in Highland history, the drove roads replaced the old military roads in the late 18th/early 19th century, and their primary purpose was to provide a better way for Highland farmers to drive their cattle to market in the south. It was on a remnant of that road that we would cross Rannoch Moor, and it was a bitch of a hike with my feet starting to scream with pain from my blistered toe, and a hot spot developing on the sole of the same foot. Still, the scenery was stunning and the actual hike not wildly difficult, but the relief as we started our descent into Glen Coe was palpable, and we noticed that there were still pockets of snow high up on the mountains.

We would spend the night in a microlodge, aka 'hobbit house', at the Glencoe Mountain Resort, where there is a cafe that sells beer, but we decided to drop our bags, shower in the converted shipping containers, and stroll off to the Kings House Hotel's Climbers' Bar. For those unversed in Highland hotel lore and custom, most hotels have a couple of bars, a lounge bar and a public bar. Lounge bars tend to be carpetted, upholstered chair affairs, while public bars tend more to the wooden floor and furniture. If you know me, you know where I much prefer drinking. Hotels also tend to insist that us grubby hikers of the world drink in their public bar, also known from time to time as a 'boots bar'.


Having wandered round the back of the hotel, for that is where hotel public bar doors usually are, I found myself looking straight into pub heaven. No carpets, solid wooden furniture, a hole in the wall bar with a couple of handpulls, and a bar back laden with single malt. Mrs V snagged a small table practically in front of the bar, next to a trio of climbers who had spent the day Munro bagging, while I got the drinks in, cider as usual for the wife, and a pint of Cairngorm Black Gold stout from one of the handpulls for me.


My previous experience of Cairngorm beer was when I was home in 2014, and while it was perfectly acceptable bottled, I wasn't left with any urge to find more of their beers. Black Gold though was in absolutely tip top nick this time, and it shone, The highest praise I can give it is that if you took my much missed Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout at its peak in around 2014, subjected it to proper cask conditioning, without the silly fripperies of bullshit additions, you would have Cairngorm Black Gold. It was divine, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, a silken mouthfeel, and as the drizzle floated in the glen outside, it was just the beer I wanted. The plan was simple, a couple of pints, a feed, and head back up the road to the hobbit house for an early night.

Well, that was the plan. The reality turned out rather different, though we did get the feed, and a bowl of whatever soup of the day was on certainly warmed the cardiac cockles. The plan, though best laid, started ganging agley while I was getting a second pint and Mrs V got talking to one of the chaps sat on the adjacent table, for some reason the bar staff were fannying about with the TV looking for football. As I mentioned in the previous post, Mrs V was starting to get ill and had taken a hot toddy in Crianlarich in an attempt to head off a sore throat, to little effect. I only caught snatches of the conversation as I stood waiting on the barmaid to give up with the TV, including advice to the effect that Irish whiskey is best used in hot toddies. A few moments later, with bread mopping up the remains of the soup, a toddy was placed in front of Mrs V, the lemon studded with cloves, something I had not seen before in a toddy.

Thus started a evening of banter, round buying, and being in a Highland bar at it's finest. With a few pints inside me, I decided it was time to indulge in my other barley based love, single malt. Behind the bar was Balvenie Caribbean Cask,a 14 year old whisky matured in rum casks, which goes very very well with cask stout you know. Rounds of whisky ensued, and eventually we had to head back out into the gathering gloom of a drizzled Highland summer night.

Weaving our way up the hill, easier said than done walking into the wind, the drizzle turned to rain, heavy and backed by a reasonable breeze, that made the final few hundred yards up the hill a struggle, honestly it was the wind and the rain, not the beer and whisky. Soaked and blootered, I passed out and slept like a bairn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More 'Innovative' Shit

Checking through my Facebook news feed this morning, I came across a story on All About Beer concerning Stone Brewing's latest 'innovative' offering as part of their Stochasticity Project, an 8.8% Imperial Golden Stout.

My immediate thought was 'great, more marketing driven bullshit', though perhaps not for the reasons you think.

I have no problem with the concept of a golden stout, for the simple reason that my understanding of beer and its history stretches back beyond the 1970s and the 'craft beer revolution'. You see, the word 'stout' as pertains to beer originally meant 'strong', it didn't necessary mean 'dark, Irish, with nasty nitro cream head'. As such, you could drink stout ales that were pale in the 17th Century, and while they may not have been as pale as we understand them, they were sufficiently pale so as not to be dark.

I noticed in some of the comments on the Facebook post a claim that the term 'imperial stout' was itself a tautology, and again I lament to myself that the word 'imperial', much like the word 'India', has been co-opted to mean something that it didn't originally mean in the context of beer. Imperial stout was those strong dark beers shipped to the Russian Imperial court by English brewers, imperial didn't mean 'strong', stout did.

On the All About Beer story itself, is the following line, which is the one that really got my goat:
One of the great things about American brewers is their willingness to experiment. This is a perfect example of that ingenuity and determination.
A more accurate version of that would be:
One of the great things about American brewers is their willingness to take old forgotten styles, tweak slightly, and flog at a premium price. This is a perfect example of that.
Sure it might be a tasty beer, but let's not imagine that it is actually innovative, or anything new, or that adding cocoa and coffee to a strong pale ale makes it in any way a stout as we understand them today.

If you want a proper Stout Pale Ale, you should try Durham Brewery's White Stout, which I drank in the UK over the summer, it was delicious.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Simplicity

One of my favourite words is "simplicity".

Looking at the dictionary definitions, the word means:
  • the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
  • freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity
  • absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity
  • freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner
  • lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness: Politics is not a field for simplicity about human nature
While it is true that beer can seem like an ever changing kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and aromas, beer is ultimately a very simple drink, possible to brew with just four ingredients. Given my bias toward Czech pale lagers, you can't really get much more simple and beautiful than Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, yeast and water.


I like to think that beer is the very essence of the third definition above. It is not a luxury item, there is no pretension with it, it is not an ornament to get out when vicar comes for tea, it is an integral part of life. You could call it a commodity, and indeed in many parts of Europe that's exactly what it is, along with bread, butter, and salt, it is an essential. I like that way of thinking about beer, it is the everyman drink, from lords to layabouts, the majority of people drink beer.

Many of the folks I have met as a result of beer would qualify for definition number four, good, honest, down to earth working people who enjoy pints afterwards. I remember a story about the word "sincere" which literally means, or so I recall, "without wax". A sculptor made a bust of a Roman dignitary, it might have been one of the Caesars, and accidentally broke off the nose, which he re-attached with a blob of wax. In the heat of the midday sun the wax melted and the nose fell off, revealing the sculptor's fraud. It seems to me that the people who most "get" beer are not the ones making all the noise about the latest, greatest trend in beer styles, beer cocktails or fad breweries, it's the ones in the pub drinking with their mates, or sat reading the paper, passing the time with a pint.


Perhaps then we should celebrate more of the simple beers, the Pilsners, Stouts and Pale Ales, instead of being blown about by the winds of fashion, looking for the next great thing and in doing so miss the very heart of beer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for Stout

International Stout Day is now but a day away. When I learnt about the project, I contacted several pubs in Charlottesville to see if they were doing anything special, and hopefully to persuade them that having multiple stouts available would be a good thing. For the sake of full disclosure, this may have been an act of unrepentant self interest - I love stout and am always happy to see more of it on tap in my favourite drinking holes.


Naturally, the first place I asked was Beer Run, and of course they have extra stouts on tap in honour of the day. Making a guest return is the world's most famous stout brand, Guinness, which has been replaced of late with a rotation of other stouts. Where would International Stout Day be though without a nod to Guinness?


Also on draft will be Founder's Breakfast Stout (I am assuming a little here as it was a picture of Breakfast Stout that Beer Run used to advertise their draft stouts). I have to admit that I have never tried this one before, it is, I believe, an Oatmeal Stout, so I imagine I will enjoy it muchly when I swing by tomorrow. The third stout on tap is Beer Run's regular strong stout, Bluegrass Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don't often partake in the Bourbon Barrel, mainly because at about 9% abv, it packs too much of wallop to have a few pints and then drive home.

In a nod to the history of stout, Beer Run will also have a few porters on tap - and while talking about the difference between the two styles, I recommend Martyn Cornell's excellent post on the subject. On draft will be porters from Flying Dog, Troegs and Left Hand.

Plenty of dark goodness to be had then at Beer Run. What are other Charlottesville pubs up to? What about your locals? Anything good going down to honour my joint favourite beer style?

Late update: just heard from the guys (or possibly gals) at Beer Run, that there will be no capping fee on any bottled stout tomorrow! Trust me, they have an excellent selection to choose from.

Friday, October 14, 2011

International Stout Day

If you know me, you know I love stout. Whether it is dry stout, extra, foreign extra, oatmeal, milk or imperial, I love them all. I am admittedly somewhat ambivalent about coffee infused, bourbon barrel aged and all the other shenanigans that seems to be de rigeur for beer in general these days. But offer me a pint of stout and I am a happy man.


At heart it is such a simple beer to brew, 90% pale malt, 10% roasted barley to get 1.048, 40 IBUs of hops, Goldings is a good one, yeast. Simple. Classic. Sure you can play with caramel malt, chocolate malt, black patent, Carafa and add extra layers of "complexity", but many a Friday afternoons are ended with a desire for a pint of stout.


To celebrate this most magnificent of beer styles some people got together and started International Stout Day, which is November 3rd.


As a committed lover of the black stuff, I will be dedicating ever post that week to stout. Brewing it, drinking it and all the associations that go with it.


Yes, sir, I am stout man.


I guess you know what I'll drinking tonight, assuming there is something good available.


Stout. Simple.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Results Are In

It took an early lead and then held on grimly to the end - no I am not talking about the rare occasions on which Liverpool have managed to win this season. I am, of course, referring to the International Homebrew Project poll from last week to decide the overall style for the beer we will brew. So, a porter or a stout it will be.

Rather than drag this out for the entire week with different polls appearing day after day, I have decided to just put them all up today and let them run until Friday. Over the weekend, I will take the results of the polls and come up with the recipe that we will all brew. With a projected brew date of the first weekend in February, that gives everyone a couple of weeks to get ingredients together and clear space in fermenting vessels and such like.

So the polls this week are:
  • the sub-style to brew?
  • hops to use?
  • interested in a historical recipe?
Getting voting people!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wrassling with Oysters

Less than a month ago I posted this little piece encouraging people here in the US to contact their elected officials to ensure health insurance would be available to as many people as possible, no wait, sorry wrong blog, that post was to encourage people to contact their local bottle shops to get hold of the newly available Porterhouse beers. Well, well, well, guess what I found during a routine trip to Beer Run here in Charlottesville? Yes indeed, they are stocking Wrasslers XXXX and Oyster Stout, I nearly leapt for joy, but instead I smiled broadly and bought some beer, you really don't need to be told which ones I assume, but just in case, here are the labels.


Ah the memories come flooding back, but as I said, I posted about that before. From what I understand, and I am sure that I will be swiftly corrected if I am wrong, these versions of Wrasslers and Oyster Stout are somewhat different from the ones you would get in the Porterhouse bars in Dublin, for a start they are bottle conditioned. Secondly, there is not a whiff of nitrogenation to be had, no stupid widgets or magic balls floating around to give me a great head (note, "a great head" you mucky people) and rob me blind of most of the flavour. "Ah yes", I hear you cry, "but how did it taste?". Well, if you're sitting comfortably, let's begin.


Once upon a time there was a bloke called Michael Collins, and he liked a tipple, and so the good people at the Porterhouse took his favourite tipple from his local brewery in Cork, though long closed down as a result of the predatory nature of the free market, and used it as inspiration for a beer they called Wrasslers XXXX. Wrasslers is a beautifully dark, dark, ruby red beer with a tan head that bob, bob, bobbed along on top of the beer.

"My, my, what a beautiful big chocolate smell you have Wrasslers"
"all the better to tempt you to taste me with"
"and is that a tang of sour milk in the background?"
"why, yes it is, just like the old days"

Sorry there, got carried away. So yes, chocolate is a big theme in Wrasslers, both on the nose and in the mouth - though I am not sure of the purpose of putting beer on one's nose, I will strive to discover it though. Despite the big, smooth chocolate flavours, there is a good dose of bitterness to counteract that, I am guessing the Galena hops are responsible there. Simply put, this is so much better than the beer I had on a nitro tap, and I am very glad I have a good stock in the cellar.


The last time, and also the first time, I tried Oyster Stout, I was a touch disappointed, but that was most likely because I had heard many a soul rant and rave about how this was the best beer ever produced in the history of humanity, and nothing could ever have lived up to the expectations I had allowed to develop in advance of my trip to Dublin in 2008, so I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with the Oyster Stout. Again the actual beer was a deep ruby red, although the head was rockier than the Wrasslers. The usual stout aromas abounded, chocolate and coffee front and centre, but there was something else, lurking in the background, something I couldn't place. The only thing I could think of was that it had a touch of the sea about it, somewhat akin to the Islay whiskies, perhaps that was pure suggestion, but there we go. As far as drinking goes, this is lighter than the Wrasslers, but full of flavour and with a long bitter finish, simply put it is great drinking and beats the stuff on nitro in Dublin.


So there you have it, my favourite stout, and something I can see becoming very popular, is available just round the corner from me, and I am a happy man with plans to stock up further. Happy days indeed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get It In!

Apart from getting married, the highlight of my 2008 was finally going to Ireland, which Mrs Velkyal and I did for a long weekend just before my birthday. One of Mrs Velkyal's good friends is Mrs Saruman, wife of Saruman, author of The Tale of the Ale. Why was 4 days in Ireland such a highlight? Simply because I had, up to that point, always wanted to go to Dublin and Galway but never had the opportunity. I have, over the years, had plenty of Irish mates, and especially when I was a student in Birmingham we would go out to the pub for a few pints and just talk shite, and often my mates would tell me I should move to Ireland because I would love it there, something I am sure is true.


Anyway, let me digress no further. One of my plans for that weekend was to visit one of the Porterhouse pubs in Dublin, as I had heard many a fabled tale of their Oyster Stout. Porterhouse Central was the one we went to, and sure enough I enjoyed the beer, in particular the Wrasslers XXXX stout. So imagine my glee when I heard from The Beer Nut a couple of days later that the Porterhouse were buying a bottling line, also imagine my glee when I got word from Porterhouse that they would be exporting to the USA, and they gave me the details of their importer, so I duly made contact to find out if the range of Wrasslers, Oyster Stout and Irish Red were to be available here in Virginia, to be gladly told that yes they are looking for outlets in the Commonwealth.

So my beer loving readers, contact your local bottle shops and demand Porterhouse beers to be added to their range, if you are Charlottesville based get on to Beer Run; if Fredericksburg call Kybecca; based in Blacksburg bother Vintage Cellar; wherever you are ask your retailers to stock the only bottle conditioned genuine Irish stout you are likely to have in a while, as great as O'Hara's is, I believe it is not bottle conditioned (and if I am wrong, I am sure The Beer Nut will swiftly set me right). If your retailer claims not to know how to contact, tell him to talk to Ron Fisher at B United International, his contact details are here, and he handles various other parts of the country as well.

Here endeth the lesson. Sláinte!

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!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Porter and Stout

I have said many times that I am a stout man. Mr first love in the world of beer was Guinness, and I have always had a soft spot for the black stuff, and stout is one of those beers which is relatively easy to make, but rather difficult to make really, really well. Porter on the other hand is something that I have come to appreciate more over the past year, whether that be the top fermented British styles or bottom fermented Baltic Porter.

From the many stouts and porters I have indulged in over 2009 the following have stood out:
The La Granja Stout from N?rrebro is made with coffee beans and boy does it tell, big, yet smooth, coffee flavours, rich chocolatey background and a subtle warming glow make this a simply gorgeous big hitter of a sweet stout. The first bottle I had of this beer cost me the equivalent of $20, crazy perhaps to pay an inflated price, but worth it for the lovely beer I got to enjoy, thankfully there was another place in Prague selling it at far more reasonable price, so indulge more I did.

Stout and Ireland go together like fish and chips, Wallace and Gromit or apple crumble and custard. Of the Irish stouts I have enjoyed, as well as "Irish style" stouts from the Czech Republic, UK or US, O'Hara's is head and shoulders above, simple as.

General Washington's Tavern Porter, from Yard's Brewing in Philadelphia, was a gift from a very good friend, and when gifts are this good you know that you have a good friend with excellent taste in beer. Big alcoholic glow and a flavour which packed a punch and a half, while still being eminently drinkable makes Tavern Porter one of the best beers I have discovered since I moved to the US.

Of the three, the one walking away with my utmost appreciation is
  1. O'Hara's Celtic Stout
Sometimes, despite all the innovation, experimentation and generally messing about in the beer world only a classic hits the spot, O'Hara's is that Classic.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 300

People quite often ask me what my blog is about, usually the conversation comes out something like this:

"I write a beer blog"
"oh, cool, so what do you write about?"
"mainly beer, pubs and brewing at home"
"ah"

I probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this blog, which was fine when I was unemployed, but now I have to squeeze blogging time into the wee hours of the morning before Mrs Velkyal gets up and we head off to work together - an incurable romantic perhaps, but I love the fact that we head out to work together. The question, however, remains; what is Fuggled about?

First and foremost, Fuggled is about me. I have met some of my regular readers, whether by design or them turning up at the Starr Hill tasting room and telling me they read Fuggled, or even by complete random chance as happened one night in PK, I hope that my personality is evident from the things I write about, because they are some of the things I care about as well. I do have another couple of blogs, one dealing with my religious issues, and the other kind of a catch all for the stuff that doesn't go here or there. I love writing, and while I accept that I am not in the Douglas Coupland (imagine his beer reviews!) league, I think I am a fairly decent writer. I am something of an opinionated git at times, which I guess helps to keep the content flowing for a blogger.

Of course beer is at the heart of Fuggled, not necessarily craft beer, not even necessarily "good" beer, just beer, the people that drink it, the places they drink it in - I love to watch people and I love a pint, so pubs crop up regular in my wafflings (which you may have noticed is the number 1 label on here).

From re-reading my early posts, it is evident that the beginnings of Fuggled was my ambition to make my own beer - to start with I wanted to make stout because in April of last year it was difficult to get stout in Prague, and what there was would mean going to one of the Oirish bars in the centre of the city. Out of my plan to make my own beer came wandering around various pubs in the city and discovering lots of good beer and plenty of good people, especially Rob, Evan and Pivni Filosof. So home brewing is very much key to Fuggled, I don't always post my recipes or even tasting notes, but it is always there, lurking in the background.

So there we go, in some small way, Fuggled is about me, my tastes in beer, my home brewing experiences, my thoughts on pub life wherever I happen to be at the time. As for today's title, nothing to do with Spartan warriors, but rather than since 10th April, 2008 I have now written 300 posts - a small milestone for sure, but one I am happy to have got to, and hopefully the next 300 will be just as much fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heretic? Me?

As much as I love Guinness, I have always loved Murphy's more.

I have a four pack of cans to enjoy with myself tonight - perhaps I am a heretic, but every prospect pleases!

And a wee song to get you in the mood....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not Quite As Planned - Again!



Yesterday was brew day. The plan was to brew the imperial stout I am calling Machair Mor, whilst being open to the possibility of another wort not being what it should according to both Beertools and the Beer Recipator, and even my own slight confusion after taking a sample of the boil's specific gravity.

The recipe ended up as follows:
  • 1.75kg Muntons Light DME
  • 900g dark brown sugar
  • 250g American chocolate malt
  • 100g roasted barley
  • 100g flaked oats
  • 30g Galena @ 60
  • 10g Fuggles @ 45
  • 10g EKG @ 15
  • 5g EKG @ 5
The brown sugar was thrown in to the original recipe as a backup to the lack of OG in previous beers, a fact which has been bothering me somewhat. The extra addition of Fuggles was just to use up the remnants of a packet I had after making the Gael 60/- ale.

When I took a sample of the boil, the gravity was 1.150, I had to use my longer hydrometer as the one I usually use just didn't have the scale to deal with such a big wort. When I added the wort to the rest of the water, the OG came down to 1.050 - it has however been suggested to me that the density of the wort caused the boil to sink to the bottom of the carboy and was insufficiently mixed up before taking the OG reading. Something to bear in mind for my next beer.

Since I have started using pre-purified drinking water from the shop, I am getting the wort down to pitching temperature in about 15 minutes, which is brilliant - I chill the bottles of water not being used in the boil, pour 1 gallon into my carboy, put the carboy in an ice bath, pour in the wort - through a re-useable coffee filter for removing the hops sludge and other sundried gunk, top up to about 8 litres and then pitch my yeast. It is easy, cheap and it works! The last couple of beers I have made started fermenting within 3 hours, using the Wyeast Activator - this time I am using the Irish Ale Yeast, and currently have the biggest krausen I have had so far, as you can see below.



Whether it is just plain Machair, or the Machair Mor, I have another nicely fermenting batch of beer to sit in the storage room for a couple of weeks before bottling, and that is the important thing as far as I am concerned.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dashed Hopes

On our way back to Prague after the Christmas holidays we had several hours to kill in Paris before getting our afternoon flight. We knew fine well what we would do come midday, a trip to the Frog and British Library pub just round the corner from the Bibliothèque nationale de France was in order. For the few hours before that we wandered around the Natural History Museum, mainly to escape the biting cold and because they had an exhibition of whales.

We first went to the Frog and British Library in December 2007, again on our way back from France to Prague, having been to the Frog and Rosbif in Bordeaux a week earlier. The Bordeaux version of the chain had made a good impression on us, decent beer, nice food and excellent staff. I recalled the Frog and British Library being ok, again decent beer, good food and friendly staff, the only bum note had been their lager, which would give Budweiser a run for its money in the bland beer stakes.

What a difference then a year makes, a year in which I have learnt a lot about beer, thanks largely to the input of people such as Evan Rail, and the fact that I am a voracious reader and have a head full of things I didn't know back in 2007. I am assuming here that the Frog and Rosbif chain didn't tamper with its recipes over the course of the year.

First up was the chain's oldest brand, In Seine, which they describe as a "clean, hoppy bitter". It is certainly hoppy, with very noitceable citrus notes, and I guess it is refreshing, but it is very thin bodied and not at all "more-ish" as they claim. It certainly looks nice, a golden amber with a rich foamy head, although served somewhat cold, but looks are deceptive. One pint of this was more than enough, and the name of the beer is probably the best place to put this.


Suitably disappointed, I decided to change tack and have something on the dark side to go with my fish and chips. I choose their Dark de Triomphe, a Guinness clone which while dark does have touches of ruby around the edges, and was topped off with a loose head, and once again it was too damned cold - why? I have drunk a fair amount of stout this year, and what a disappointment it was to stick my nose into the glass and smell virtually nothing. No, I didn't have a cold, I could smell virtually nada - perhaps a hint of Tesco Value instant coffee, but nothing else. Again the body was thin and insipid, although there were some roasted malt flavours, but this was basically dull and lifeless, and I refused point blank to finish the pint.


Thom over at the Black Cat Brewery also visited one of the Frog pubs in Paris when there on honeymoon, his comments are in the same ball park as mine.


In fairness though, the fish and chips was good - but that is not enough to make me want to go back next time I am in Paris, whenever that will be.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stout at Heart

I am a stout man, take that whatever way you will – those of you who have met me will know the truth in those words. But here I am talking about beer styles, and I am a stout man. I have mentioned elsewhere that my first legal beer on Guinness, and I have retained a love of the black stuff since then. This no doubt explains why I was happy to note on Saturday that my local Billa now stocks Primátor Stout and the reason stouts from Hook Norton, Bradfield, BrewDog and O’Hanlon’s formed the backbone of my Christmas beer list.

So far, touch wood, I am yet to have a bum beer from Hook Norton. Their Double Stout was a beer I had looked for in various off-licenses and shops in the Oxford area, all in vain – so naturally it was ordered from BeerRitz. Not a great picture to be sure, but even opening the bottle was to get a burst of roasted coffee aroma, once poured the roasted nature of the nose was dominant, suggesting a full flavour to come. The beer itself was pitch black with a loose off-white head. Coffee was also the major flavour in the beer, although smoothed out by a velvety chocolate. Not overly bitter, full-bodied and beautifully smooth, this was lovely stuff.


The guys up at the Bradfield Brewery have been a Beer Hero of the Week, so when I saw them available on the BeerRitz website I knew I wanted to try their stout. Again the picture is not great – sometimes I get good pics on the mobile, but there we go. The nose was certainly lighter than the Hook Norton, though still abounding in coffee and cocoa – both of which continued on into the taste, although there was a subtle caramel flavour in the background I really liked. This is very much a classic stout, with a silky smooth mouthfeel that makes it a very pleasurable pint.


I have no qualms in admitting that I am a fan of BrewDog, having thoroughly enjoyed their Paradox Smokehead, Punk IPA and Chaos Theory. Rip Tide is their 8%ABV Imperial Stout, which poured as black as a stout should be with a good stout head. This being a stout the nose was coffee and chocolate, this being a BrewDog stout they were there in abundance. As I said when writing about Paradox, this was big and bold, dominated by roasted coffee. Despite being a big hitter on the alcohol front, this was surprisingly easy to drink.


The O’Hanlon’s Port Stout caught my eye because it brings together two of my favourite alcoholic drinks – I love a glass of port and a wedge on Stilton. The Port Stout pours a very very dark red, bordering on black but not quite getting there, the head was frothy and light brown. Where I was expecting coffee and chocolate on the nose, there was wine, although coffee notes did eventually sneak through. The syrupiness of wine was the prime feature of drinking this stout, but I was surprised to find that the sweetness wasn’t cloying at at, in fact it was almost like drinking a Guinness with a dash of port chucked in – the intention I am sure, and certainly a hit in my books – if this is available in the States, I can see a Christmas tradition starting.

Talking of our impending move to the States, from reading Beer, oh Beer, it would certainly seem that the US craft brew scene love their stouts – a land flowing with coffee and chocolate must truly be the promised land of plenty.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Primátor Stout Update 2

Thanks for this information from Pivní Filosof.

Primátor Stout can be bought at the Billa on Korunní in Prague 3 - see the map:

The Billa is just on the corner of Korunní and Sobetecká.

The price is 18.90k? per bottle, plus 3k? for the bottle itself - so essentially 22k? for very nice stout.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Stouts and Porters

Dark beers have played a major role in my drinking this year, in particular stouts and porters, both from the Czech Republic and from further afield, such as the UK, Ireland, Norway and Germany. I have learnt about the differences between a Baltic and a London porter, and about the different styles of stout, whether dry, sweet or imperial.

When I started my, legal, drinking life, stout was very much my ale of choice. I remember ordering my first ever pint in the Dark Island hotel back at home, it was a Guinness - a youthful homage to my eldest brother. When studying in Birmingham I would wander off for pints of Murphy's and Beamish.

When I came back from Oxford a few months ago, many of the beers I brought with me were stouts and porters of various types, and the only beers I managed to bring from Ireland were from the Carlow Brewing Company, makers of O'Hara's stout.

My shortlist of stouts and porters is as follows:

O'Hara's on draught was good, from the bottle it was great - and still I have a bottle in the cellar waiting to be drunk when the right day arrives.

Wrasslers XXXX was, they say, the choice of stout for Irish hero Michael Collins - a man evidently of exceptional taste in beer. Smooth, full bodied and yet easy to drink, if I lived in Ireland it would be my beer of choice.

What can be said about BrewDog's sublime Paradox series of imperial stouts aged in whisky casks, very simply - where can I buy more?

There is a clear winner here, and it is simply because within one drink the makers have managed to combine two of my passions, as such my Stout/Porter of 2008 is:

  1. BrewDog Paradox Smokehead

Whisky and stout in a single glass - sheer Genius.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Czech Stouts

For all our ravings of late about Primátor’s newly released stout, this particular beer style is not new to the Czech market, nor are Pivovar Náchod, its makers, the only Czech brewer making the black stuff. Just after I first moved to Prague way back in the 20th century, Pra?ské Pivovary came out with a stout called Kelt, which at the time was a very welcome substitute for Guinness, my beer of choice during my student days. Pivovar Varnsdorf, under the Kocour brand, also make a stout, which I have written about previously, as do Minipivovar ?amberk.

Yesterday afternoon as Mrs Velkyal and I made one of eclectic dinners, in this case a variation on the theme of cottage pie, basically being minced beef in Kelt with a mashed potato topping, I decided to do a side by side tasting of the three main Czech stouts – whilst listening to the Chieftains!

I decided to start with the Kocour. I love the way this flows from the bottle, almost like treacle, and with a rich brown head on top of the wonderfully opaque and fragrant beer. This was the first time that I had this from a bottle rather than on tap, and as bottled versions are done by hand, it bears a close resemblance to the draught version, with a lightly roasted coffee nose and slight cocoa notes. The beer is smooth and easy drinking and would certainly be a beer that I would drink regularly. One thing I noticed though from the bottle is that the head disappears very quickly and left no trace of lacing down the glass. Being a Czech stout, it was interesting to read on the label that they had used Saaz hops.

Taking Mrs Velkyal’s advice I opened my remaining bottle of Kelt, which in common with the Kocour version pours out very dark and thick, although the head is lighter and lasted longer. The nose was really nothing to write home about, very slight coffee notes and maybe a touch of caramel. Having tried a couple of pints of Guinness whilst over in Ireland last weekend I can better make a comparison of the two, and Kelt still stands up as a reasonable substitute, although the body is distinctly watery in comparison and there is a lack of the dry bitterness which I would expect from a real irish stout. Having said that, with the delight of finding Wrasslers XXXX and O’Hara’s, Guinness is no longer what I immediately think of when thinking of Irish stouts, Kelt then stands up to Guinness because it is an industrial stout that is neither offensive nor memorable.

Last up was the single beer I have probably drunk more of than any other this month, Primátor’s version of stout, which myself, Pivní Filosof and Evan Rail have described at length elsewhere. However, this was the first time I had tried it from the bottle rather than on tap. Again it pours thick and smooth, with a light brown head – which lasts far longer than the previous two, and is clearly more rocky than the Kelt head. The nose is more pronounced than both the Kocour and the Kelt, although it only just shades the Kocour whilst entirely eclipsing the Kelt. Like its tapped version, this is a very nice beer, with more evident coffee flavours and a fuller body than either the other contenders. Having said that, when comparing it to the real thing (O’Hara’s that is for those unsure of my Irish Stout allegiances), it is still lacking body and could use more oomph in the hops department.

The fact that I can even produce a side by side tasting of three stouts in the Czech Republic is in itself something to celebrate, and evidence that slowly brewers are realizing that there is a market here for ale as well as lager. You have to give Pra?ské Pivovary credit for bringing out a stout nearly a decade ago (even though I believe it is not top fermented), however the game has moved on and clearly Primátor and Kocour are at the forefront of the ale revolution, viva la revolution!

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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