Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Training Day(s)

Got myself booked on a full mash brewing course in my home area of Yorkshire in mid-September. Looking forward to building some skills and picking up a whole load of very kindly donated brewing equipment. More on this later.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Amber haze...

...all in my brain. Not feeling as bad as I thought this morning - I probably managed about 4-ish pints last night. Poor attempt I know but I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole GBBF this year. Why that is I'm not sure, maybe the £7 entrance fee, £3 glass and mandatory £1 programme means you'd forked out 11 notes before you'd even touched a drop! Now I'm not a stingy person by any means but I thought it felt a little too much, that plus the fact that the central (and most prominent) area in the festival was entirely given over to corporate sponsors aka the mainstream big boys of british brewing leaving all the small producers (what its all about in my opinion) relegated to the nether regions of the festival. There was also quite a marked difference in quality between beers. Maybe the recent hot weather has caused brewers some headaches but some beers seemed decidedly below-par. One notably thin and watery number even tasted like it had had a load of honey just dumped into the barrel to mask the off-flavour. Not good. Nevertheless I managed to seek out some nice ales, some old, some new (to me). Here's how I faired:

Arundel - Sussex Gold
Beartown - Kodiak Gold
Falstaff - Fistful of Hops
Hog's Back - Hop Garden Gold
Stonehenge - Heel Stone
Salopian - Golden Thread
Butcombe - Blonde
Eccleshall - Top Totty
Leatherbritches - Raspberry Belter
B&T - Dragonslayer
Potton - Village Bike
Bullmastiff - Welsh Gold

No scores on the CAMRA scale - to be honest they kind of started to blur into one by the end of the night. Notable beers were Village Bike, Fistfull of Hops, err... in fact they were all quite nice. Apart from a mild that I haven't bothered to list. Maybe I'll do my current top ten based on this year's festies but that's for a different post.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Countdown to beer

Here's a shortlist of my "must-try's" (or "must try again's") this evening at the GBBF:

Archer's - Crystal Clear
Arundel - Sussex Gold
Beartown - Kodiak Gold
Crouch Vale - Brwer's Gold (Beer of the festival last year)
Exe Valley - Devon Summer
Goose Eye - Golden Goose
Holden's - Golden Glow
Kelham Island - Easy Rider
Osset - Yorkshire Glory
Otter - Bright (always a favourite on visits to Devon)
Salopian - Golden Thread (I'm a big fan of Salopian's beers)
Spectrum - Light Fantastic (ditto)
Surrey Hills - Shere Drop (my fave from the Battersea Fest)
Wolf - Straw Dog (fave from Catford this year)

Quite a tasting list - I'll post some taste scores in a blind haze tomorrow

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Research part 2. I like this bit

I've just read that it is highly recommended to get out there and try as many beers as possible in order to discover what is and isn't to your taste. I wholeheartedly agree with this research technique and will be putting it into practice tomorrow night at the Great British Beer Festival in Earls Court, London.

In their leaflet 'The National Beer Scoring Scheme - A User's Guide', CAMRA propose a 5-point scale for rating beer and/or pubs. It's nicely subjective to allow for differences in personal taste, and goes along the following lines:

0 - Undrinkable
No cask ale available or so poor you have to take it back or can't finish it.

1 - Poor
Beer that is anything from barely drinkable to drinkable with considerable resentment(!)
I say never drink with considerable resentment, drink with joy. ;-)

2 - Average
Competently kept, drinkable pint but doesn't inspire in any way.
It's not worth moving to another pub but you drink the beer without really noticing.

3 - Good
Good beer in good form. You may want to stay for another pint and may seek out the beer again.

4 - Very Good
Excellent beer in excellent condition.

5 - Perfect
Probably the best you are ever likely to find. A seasoned drinker will award this score very rarely.

So after tomorrow I'll post with a rating of some of the UK's finest brews I had the pleasure of sampling. All in the name of research, of course.

The first steps are always the hardest

Research time. A quick spin around the web provided some great bits of information. There are a number of good home-brewing sites out there, although mainly based in the US and Australia. Weird considering the brewing heritage in the UK, but there you go.

One book that gets a lot of mentions is The CAMRA guide to Home Brewing (Graham Wheeler), sadly out of print and going on rare books e-taliers for upwards of £60 if you're lucky to find it. A quick browse and one bid on eBay later and I now am the proud owner of a mint copy for the princely sum of £4.99. I'm considering this stroke of luck as fate and that I'm meant to carry on diligently with this venture. Someone up there is obviously smiling on me.

By page 30-something I realise this little task I've set myself ain't gonna be a walk in the park, in fact quite the opposite, a real bio-technical challenge.

With a deep breath and a scratch of the head, I read on.