Sunday, 23 August 2015

Blog No.3 Moa @ Hop Burns & Black

Thursday 20th August, 6pm, Peckham....where else would you find a North Essex City Boy???? I'm on my way to Hops Burn & Black (so called due to the love of all things beer, hot sauces and good old fashioned vinyl) to try some New Zealand beers from MOA, new venue/new beers, a good start in anyone's book.
Well, the shop itself did not disappoint - a vast array of mainly bottled beers await plus an assortment of cans too, the shelves and fridges are full to bursting, a wonderful sight to behold. You can also purchase a flagon (yes, a flagon not a growler) of fresh beer from behind the counter. All beers can be drunk on site as well as taken away.
On to the beers then, first up was the Sour Blanc 2013 Vintage, which promised quite a lot on the nose, but, not quite as sour on the palate as I had hoped, didn't quite have me puckering up, but, a clean slightly sharp taste/mouth feel. Sticking with the sour theme, Moa Cherry Sour 2013 Vintage was presented next, the cherries provide both the aroma and the lovely pink colour, not too sharp but, a subtle flavour which I really enjoyed especially on a warm muggy evening.
The third beer on the list was the Five Hop, a NZ take on the traditional English Bitter, unfortunately (for me at least), they nailed the style - a bit earthy, twiggy and grassy, basically tasted "brown", not one I would be revisiting anytime soon.
Festive IPA (Red Edition) was the fourth beer, a bit of an autumnal feel to this one, and would certainly have benefitted from being a bit closer to room temperature. I got some toffee/caramel on the nose, but, not too much of this on the palate, rather some nice tropical notes and a lovely long bitter finish - big thumbs up for this one.
Beer no.5 was the Southern Alps White IPA, I didn't get too much IPA to be honest, but, the wheat/citrus notes came through very nicely. A clean beer, would be a good entry level for a wheat beer novice.
Interestingly, beer no.6 gives nothing away in the name - St Josephs. A Belgian Tripel which comes in at an abv of 9.5%, however, it is a very drinkable version this style, I enjoyed this a lot and would happily have had more of it.
Last, but, not least was the Imperial Stout (10.2%) - this was my favourite of the night. Bitter chocolate flavour, velvet finish and one you could sniff and sip late into a cold winters night (where's a real log fire when you need one?).
And, that as they say was that..........well, that's not true and nor would you expect it to be with all those other beers available. A few of us stayed to sample some bottled and fresh beers (my empty flagon now resides at home with an empty growler - must do something about that!), I also purchased a few to take away, and for those of you who are interested I felt that the price point was on the whole just about right.
We also got a bonus tasting of one final offering from Moa - Moa Sour Blanc - 2012 Vintage. The ageing process had definitely helped beer no.1, much softer with all the edges rounded off.

I think Moa have produced some nice beers, I would like them to be a bit more adventurous with their Belgian sours, but, as was rightly pointed out to me, these beers are produced for their home market first and foremost. 
A very enjoyable evening and would recommend at least one visit to the shop when you next find yourself in Del Boy country (we even walked past a Nags Head en route).
Thanks to Hops Burn & Black for hosting the evening, and, thanks to Beer O'clock Show for inviting me along.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Blog No.2 - A Tale of Two Beer Festivals

It's Saturday 15th August, a date in the diary that has long been marked down as the day I "go for it" and join in the London Beer City (LBC) celebrations with vigour and enthusiasm.
I am visiting the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) and the London Craft Beer Festival (LCBF) today.
Before I go on any further a few things probably need to be brought out in the open....
I am a fully paid up member of CAMRA and have been since 2001, however my first beer festival experience was way back in 1987, at the Ipswich Corn Exchange, I like cask ale.
On the flip side I have fully embraced the vast array of new and exciting beers on offer from the UK and other parts of the globe, most notably the states. The generic term for a lot of these beers is "craft", I am not a fan of the word myself, but, there have been some excellent recent articles written by more talented bloggers than myself on this contentious subject, so, I won't labour the point here.
I do however like good beer and choice (whatever the method of dispense might be). Right, i feel better for that, on with the tale of two beer festivals.
The GBBF is usually held at Olympia in Kensington London, a fantastic Victorian building (there was a brief time when it was held at Earls Court, however, the less said about that the better) that allows vast amounts of natural light through the wonderful single span arched roofs.
You pay to get in and you pay for your glass which is yours to keep, or, your money back if you return the glass unscathed. You also have the option of buying a programme, I didn't as by the Saturday, which is the final day of the 5 day festival, you know a lot of beers are no longer on. There is also cloakroom to hang jackets/bags at £1 an item. By this point, I had spent £12. The beers themselves come in 1/3 pint, 1/2 pint and pint measures. I sampled 8 different beers, mainly 1/2 pints, with two being 1/3 pints and purchased 2 scotch eggs (plenty of traditional pub fare and street food also available) bringing my spending to £20 - total spend at GBBF £32. The beers were purposely chosen to be session beers, around the 4% abv mark, after all this was part one of two festivals! A few scored reasonably well on Untappd, a few were rather ordinary. None were bad.
Generally the atmosphere was one of people enjoying the beers, of which there were still enough to cover most tastes (I did see a couple of guys dressed as Spider-Man, however their web slinging days seemed behind them!) and the company. There is also live music and sometimes it ain't too bad at all, although one brewery bar brought their own music, sounded like the gym at work.
The festival is well worth a visit, if only to illustrate the breathtaking choice of cask beers available in the UK, but, bring your own water, unless you are happy to purchase on site, which I am not.
For some reason CAMRA sees no problem in not offering water to rinse your glasses, refresh your palate or keep you hydrated. This is a major bug bear of mine, and an out of date practice when compared to non CAMRA events and wine shows that I have attended, also, I'm not convinced it assists in the promotion of sensible drinking.
The LCBF, at Oval Space Bethnal Green, is now in its 3rd year and this time round they have dispensed with the tokens that were used previously to obtain the beers. For your ticket price (£38.50 in my case) you get a glass, programme and unlimited 90ml pours of the beers on offer. This is the first beer festival of its size to go down this route.
First thing to say is that water is freely available.....this made me happy. No cloakroom was a bit of pain as this is not a big space, although what there is, is utilised to the max. Although I would question the need for a DJ/live music when this does indeed take up some of the limited space.
Second thing to say is what a great selection of breweries are represented here, showcasing their beers. It's a real plus in my opinion to be able to speak to the brewers and sales guys at this type of festival. The food is of a good standard, one of my friends certainly seemed to enjoy the burger!
Naturally, I have a bug bear with this festival also....the 90ml pours are a great idea to provide the beer drinking public with the opportunity to try a variety of beers, but, it doesn't help with maintaining a conversation as you and your friends are off looking for the next 90ml fix, and does it promote sensible drinking? I think not.
A balance between the chance to try lots of beers but, also a few large pours to savour with friends would make this a 5* event.
I enjoyed myself at both festivals, the beers were good, the atmosphere and company made them all the more enjoyable (even met people for real rather than via Twitter....but weird I know!?!?!)
Do either have it absolutely right? Probably not, but, unless I get the chance to have a "Weird Science" moment, I guess I will never visit the perfect festival.
In the meantime though, cheers to all those people who work so hard to put these events together, my life would be poorer without their dedication to the cause.
Sandwiched in between the two beer festivals were visits to BrewDog Shepherds Bush and Mother Kellys in Bethnal Green - the two pub hubs of LBC15, both are well worth a visit.
All of the beers i had can be found on my Twitter feed or on Untappd.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Blog No.1 – LBC15 @ The Cock Tavern

Tuesday 11th August  5.30pm, I arrived at the Cock Tavern in Hackney to be greeted by my good friends – Steve (one half of The Beer O’clock Show podcast) and Clayton (otherwise known as King of The BBQs).
On the blackboard was our reason for being there – Magic Rock High Wire on cask in 8 different formats (each using a different hop).

I had been looking forward to this for quite some time, plus, as it was going to be my only midweek LBC15 event, I was rather excited by my first visit to The Cock Tavern to try the different versions of a beer I hold in high regard.

So, what better way to kick off then with the specially brewed London Beer City beer, courtesy of Four Pure – London Beer City Summer Ale, looking at my notes on Untappd “Bitter, astringent, refreshing….nice” that pretty much sums it up, a very good opening beer, perfect for the summer months (even if the weather was not playing ball on Tuesday).

Next up was a brown beer from Howling Hops – the American Brown Ale simply titled Running Beer (although as a runner it wouldn’t normally be my automatic hydration aid!). A solid beer that tastes “brown” and provided a platform for the golden beers that were about to come my way.
In fact Steve couldn’t wait any longer and was already at the bar ordering version no.1 of High Wire.
At this point I should let you know that Magic Rock handily numbered each different version 1 – 8, the different hops used, were as follows:
Pacific Gem
Pacific Jade
Lemon Drop
Southern Cross

All three of us are Magic Rock fans (Steve is No.1 FAN), and, we all like a pint of High Wire, although I have always preferred the keg version, so it was with happy smiley faces that we began……..

And, it began rather well, the Amarillo was a nice gentle slightly fruity start to the proceedings, expectation had risen slightly, but, however, this was the high point. My feeling, and i was not alone in this, was that there really was not enough of a difference between each of the beers and for me none of the cask versions sampled matched up to the keg version i have enjoyed previously.
My personal favourites were Amarillo, Pacific Gem and Simcoe, these three did offer me something that distinguished them from the rest, however, i would not call them earth shattering.
I will be honest here and admit i do not know which Hop(s) are used in the original version of High Wire.

Recalling the blackboard, Simcoe was racing away in the lead as voted for by our fellow punters, however, even this offering failed to lift the mood, it was, truth be told an interesting experiment but, not one I would recommend is not repeated unless the different varieties of hops used actually produce a contrast in the flavour profile of the beers.
I remain a fan of Magic Rock and look forward to visiting their tap room the weekend before Christmas with the Beer O’clock show and other assorted groupies.

I finished my evening off with another offering from Howling Hops, the Pale Ale Number 1, just what was needed.

It was a fun evening because as we all know beer people are good people.