Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An unscheduled visit to Bowman Ales

On the back of the Big Chill festival, we dragged our weary but happy carcasses back from a few days of post-festival chilling in the Gower peninsula to drop the camper back off near Winchester. Slap-bang next door to the hire unit was local microbrewery Bowman Ales, so I took the opportunity to make a nuisance of myself and speak to the owner, Ray.

Over a couple of pints of 'Swift One' he was very forthcoming on the set-up they have there, their output and how they ferment their beers - at up to 23°c which surprised me as they tasted quite clean and not particularly, hot, fruity or estery as you might expect.

If you get a chance then 'Swift One' is most definitely worth a try - very flavourful and satisfying for a low-gravity beer with good hop presence and refreshing aroma. It is brewed from Maris Otter Pale Malt, with NZ Green Bullet hops for bittering and Styrian Goldings for flavour and aroma, making for a very refreshing pale bitter. Nice.

Stunner update

I think its something of a record. The whole keg of Styrian Stunner was polished off in just 10 days. Wow.
That's testament to just how good it was. With a small recipe tweak I'm going to make this TNB's regular session beer 'Escape Route'. Check the next brewsession write up for details. For posterity, here is a pic of the final pint. It hadn't lost any of the delicious hop flavour it had from the beginning, and if anything had all smoothed out into a fruity, mellow, easy summer drinker. Dangerously nice.

Friday, August 10, 2007

GBBF 2007

In contrast to last year (see the review in the archived posts) I paid but a fleeting visit to this year's GBBF. I don't know what to put it down to but this year seemed to have a more relaxed atmosphere than previous years (this is my erm, third or fourth... I can't actually remember). The beards and bellies ratio was very low and there were a lot of young (under 30) people looking to be enjoying the best the nation has to offer. GBBF is a much-needed event in this respect, and hopefully more people will be enlightened to the ways of the decent pint, leaving their lazy lager ways behind them.

I was accompanied on this visit by the good Dr Watson, my colleague and general partner in crime who had a pass as the family were away. Whether he'd have come without such incentive I don't know but he seemed to have a good time. We bundled off to an ex-colleagues leaving do in Soho fairly early on, limiting our festival time to about 2.5 hours, although we managed to get through a decent selection. Of course, I'd have prefered to have a 'season ticket' and go for each session for the whole week but let's be honest, work, the liver, the wallet and the mrs. would not be impressed.

I found the beer to be in overall better condition than previous years, when I've had some distinctly green or plain just not right beers. The selection of UK beers overall I felt was a little less ambitious than previously, with a lot falling into the 'mid-strength/mid-hops/session/gold' bracket. Not a bad thing, but the secret ticker in me would have liked to have seen some more esoteric brews.

One thing that I would definitely like to see again is the American beer bar. This was my chance to finally get my lips around some of the beers I've heard our friends across the pond rave about on podcasts for so long. Evidently a lot of others shared my enthusiasm as by the time I got there, precious little was left. I only recognised Sierra Nevada and Redhook from the breweries represented, and the SN IPA I opted for left me distinctly unimpressed. I can only guess that I had a duff barrel as it had nothing of the immense cascade bitterness the beer is renowned for. By the time I'd seen that off even the Redhook had run out so my adventures into US cask beer came to a premature end. Next year I'd like to see beers by some of the more well-known US micros: Avery, Boulevard, New Belgium, Russian River, maybe even get to try a 1/3 pint of Pliny The Elder, just to see what all this big-hop fuss is about. A good effort nontheless, I hope it was enough of a success to happen again next year.

It was also pleasing to see such a good representation from Calderdale Breweries (my home area), E&S Elland and the relatively new one from Cragg Vale whose name escapes me just now. Represent!

So, in no particular order, here's what we drank and what we thought...

Lancaster - Blonde: 6
Nice enough blond / gold ale, nothing really to distinguish it from a.n.other but I'd happily drink it all night

Moorhouse's - Black Cat: 6
I'm not quite sure of the style of this but I'd guess at a light porter. A nice roasty and coffee bitterness, but nothing outstanding

Crouch Vale - Amarillo: 8
A deeeeelicious beer, very much like the excellent and dangerously good Brewer's Gold, this has similar characterisics but is so rounded, smooth and almost sweet from the distinctive blackcurrant flavour of the Amarillo hops. Probably beer of the festy for me, although might be a bit rich to drink a lot of.

Mighty Oak - Maldon Gold: 7
Mr Watson polished this one of pretty quickly.

Iceni - Men Of Norfolk: 6
Strong, dark, smoky and bitter. I think this one would be best appreciated bya fireside in the depths of winter. I'm going to brew something like this in a month or so and leave it to mature in time to be a nice winter ale.

Oldershaw - Byard's Leap: (no score)
Not bad from what I remember...

Organic - Halzephron Gold: 5
A bit wet and watery this one. Probably not on best form.

Oakham - JHB: 7
Very tasty for a session beer, with good hop flavour and a nice balanced bitterness. Very moreish

Sierra Nevada - IPA: 5
Very little of merit here, no hop flavour or aroma, little distinctive bitterness, I can only think that it suffered a lot in transit. Oh well, next year!

Only 9 beers between the 2 of us, not bad for the time we spent there but I reckon a little longer would have unearthed the gems amongst what was on offer. I was keen to reacquiant myself with the Wolf Brewery's offerings, as well as Rebellion, Westerham, Brunswick, Cwmbran, Salopian, Storm, Holden's, Bowman (after the unexpected mini-visit we had earlier in the week), Hidden, Ringwood and Triple fff. So many beers, so little time...