Friday, 31 December 2010

Golden Pint Awards 2010

Best UK Draught Beer - Hopshackle Resination.

Best UK Brewery - Thornbridge.

Best UK bottled beer - The Kernel S.C.A.NS.

Best Overseas Draught Beer - Stone Ruination.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer - Flying Dog Raging Bitch.

Best Overseas Brewery - Stone Brewing.

Best Overall Beer - Thornbridge Seaforth.

Best Pumpclip or Label - Oakham Ales Straw Bear Ale. See the photo above.

Best Pub/Bar - The Sheffield Tap.

Best Beer Festival - Whittlesea Straw Bear. OK, so it's not strictly a beer festival, but there is copius amounts of beer involved and it's a festival.

Supermarket of the Year - Morrisons for stocking BrewDog 5am Saint.

Best Independent Retailer - The Offie, Clarendon Park Road, Leicester.

Best Brewery Online - BrewDog.

Best Beer Book or Magazine - Pass.

Best Twitterer - @jeffpickthall

Best Beer Blog - Pete Brown.

Food and Beer Pairing - Pizza and beer at the Swan & Rushes, Leicester.

In 2011 I'd most like to - carry on with the same old same old...

Open category - Hype of the year was the Citra hop. The word Citra was usually followed with a mass of exclamation marks.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Crawling Chaos

I did a taste-off with my last bottle of Chaos Theory from batch 001 against one of the 2010 bottles. Some folk had said this year's brew wasn't a patch on the old one.

The latest brew tasted just as good in my opinion. The only difference I could find was that batch 001 was less filtered; there was a slight sediment in the bottle like previous years' bottles of Punk IPA.

One thing I definitely agree with is that it's one of the best IPAs out there.

BrewDog are planning on brewing four different single-hopped IPAs in 2011. There is going to be a Nelson Sauvin hopped one but whether or not it's going to be named Chaos Theory remains to be seen.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Kernel & Chips

I was first drawn to The Kernel beers by their presentation, simple yet eye-catching. There's a handmade look to them that says "crafted". A bit like an early Tindersticks 7" record sleeve.

Some might say understated. Looks can be deceptive.

Let the beer speak for itself.

It's good, it's very good. It's more than good.

They or he, for it is Evin O' Riordain, brews once a week a stone's throw away from Tower Bridge, under the railway arches of Druid Street. The beer is bottled, and the hand-stamped labels applied.

A different beer is brewed each week so you'll get to try a variety if you keep an eye out...

I'm beginning to lose track, but a few - Simcoe, Citra, Centennial.Simcoe.Chinook., Baltic Porter, Nelson Sauvin, S.C.A.NS (work that one out for yourself...)
All great fresh-tasting beers.

The bottles are available from Sourced Market at St. Pancras railway station and Beer Merchants (mail order). If you pop down to Druid Street on a Saturday between 9am and 3pm you can pick up a selection of bottles direct from the brewery. I left there recently with a heavy clinking rucksack.
98 Druid Street
London SE1 2HQ

Sunday, 7 November 2010

This Is Eüston Tap

The Euston Tap is here folks. It ain't no Hell Hole, more of a Rock 'n' Roll Creation.

Something for everyone here with light and hoppy ales from Derbyshire like Thornbridge Wild Swan to Heavy Duty beers from America like Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron and Great Divide Hercules DIPA.

You'll find no Cups And Cakes but plenty of branded glasses and posh crisps.

The Tap is in one of the lodges that flanked the old Euston Arch, that 1837 construction like a Victorian Stone Henge.

Remember this is London so you might find yourself asking a friend to Gimme Some Money when you buy a round.

It's a small space crammed full of amazing beer. You need to go there. Immediately. If you're brave enough you might want to attempt carrying two pints up the spiral staircase.

With apologies to Spinal Tap.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Local

The great thing about having a local is the barstaff address by your first name.

The barstaff know what drink you want without you having to say.

The landlord of one my old locals that's sadly now closed used to start pouring a pint into a dimpled mug as soon as he saw me step through the door.

The local sometimes means lock-ins.
Ah, the lock-in. Where we'd drink until the dawn chorus began, where we made our own entertainment doing handstands on the bar. Where chips were cooked at 2:30am to soak up the booze. Where we could pull our own pints as long as they were paid for.

The local is the extension on your own home you share with friends and strangers.

I'm in my local right now reading the Sunday papers and drinking Oakham Akhenaten. The perfect lazy Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010



It comes to us all eventually.

Nihil verum nisi mors....

So how many of you are suffering for their art? How many of you slug a few bottles down each night even though they don't want a beer but because they have to?
Drink more than 3 nights a week?
Drink more than 5 nights a week?
Drink every night?
Haul their aching bodies out of the bed each morning?

Have to be the first to announce they've glugged the latest US-hopped double cascadian barrel-aged for 18 months in a whisky cask black IPA that was then bottled and cellared for a further 12 months...


Let's enjoy ourselves, but please let's not turn yellow in the process.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Horny Monday

The first Monday after the first Sunday after the 4th of September. Once you get that into your head you shouldn't miss Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.

Abbots Bromley is a Staffordshire village between Rugeley and Uttoxeter. Every September members of the Fowell family collect the ancient antlers from the church at 8am prompt then perform their dance for twelve hours over a ten mile walk, stopping only for lunch and pints of beer.

There are twelve dancers. The six carrying the antlers are joined by Maid Marion, a Hobby Horse, the Fool, a triangle player, a bowman and a melodeon player. They're sometimes joined by another musician on concertina or accordian.

The other thing Abbots Bromley is known for is hand crafted lager.
Freedom Brewery relocated from London to Staffordshire in 2004 and I first saw their name on t shirts the Horn Dancers were wearing underneath their waistcoats.

Until this year I'd only found bottles of Freedom lager in Oddbins, but it's cropping up all over the place on draught now.

Freedom Four 4% abv
Freedom Pilsner 5% abv
Freedom Organic 4.8% abv
Freedom Organic Dark 4.7% abv

They're lagered for four to six weeks and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans - no fishy swim bladders in this.

If push came to shove I'd have to say Freedom Dark is my favourite with its subtle sweet berry flavours. The Pilsner is pretty immense too with a crispness from spicy - almost peppery hops.

The next time you hear someone saying that only mass-produced tasteless lager is made in a town in Staffordshire tell them to seek out lager brewed ten miles east in the village of Abbots Bromley.

YouTube Video

Thursday, 16 September 2010


OK, that title is probably a load of rubbish but it's time craft beer in a keg, quality keg or whatever you want to call it got the praise it so deserves.

At the Sheffield Tap I drank 7 different beers and only one was cask.
Thornbridge Jaipur
Stone Arrogant Bastard
Mikkeller/BrewDog I Hardcore You
BrewDog Punk IPA
Bernard Dark lager
Meantime IPA

All the above were keg. All delicious and great quality. And yes, the Jaipur was outstanding.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Swan and Rushes

Ten years ago I had a life changing experience. I walked into one of my locals and it had changed ownership.

I quite liked the Swan & Rushes on Infirmary Square, Leicester but with new owners it had improved beyond expectation.

I knew it had changed immediately; new carpets, new upholstery and new beer.
A very smart bearded chap stood behind the bar with his hands behind his back and welcomed us. He was the manager Sammy Saunders and along with the new landlord Grant Cook was responsible for indroducing myself and other Leicester drinkers to the delights of a load of new quality ales and a load of bottled Belgian stuff.

I had Oakham Ales JHB for the first time that night.

It was the first place I drank Cantillon.
It was the first place I drank cask Thornbridge Jaipur and St. Petersburg.
It was the first place I drank Goose Island IPA.
It was the first place I drank Orval.
The first place I drank sour red beers, cave-aged beers, smoked beers...

OK there was already a couple of places in Leicester like The Vaults that did micro cask ales and Cafe Bruxelles that did bottled and kegged Belgian beer, but the Swan was adding a lot more.

Sammy Saunders went on to run a pub in Devon then work for Oakham Ales. Who knows where he is now. I'd like to think he's still selling excellent beer to folk.
Grant just celebrated 10 years at the Swan with a festival including beers from Oakham, Quercus, Pitstop, Saltaire, Dark Star, Potbelly and Blue Monkey.

Happy Birthday.

N.B. I didn't like smoked beers the first time I tried them and I still don't.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

In The Red

There seem to be a lot of red beers around at the moment. A Saturday a couple of weeks ago Sheffield was awash with them.

First up Colorado Red, a brand-spanking new collaboration by Thornbridge and Odell. No doubt about it this is a gorgeous brew, but force-fed through a tight sparkler at the Sheffield Tap left it losing some of its, erm, sparkle. I reckon this would be a great beer bottled or on keg. At least on cask it could do without having the life squeezed out of it before it hit the glass.

A similar fate befell Hardknott's Infra Red. Weighing in at a hefty 6.2% abv this is a beer the brewer(y) describes as serious. The word serious conjures up images of Bono and Sting or Noel Edmonds on Brasseye - enough to make me gag - but not so this ale. It certainly deserves some respect, and being pulverised through the sparkler at the Hillsborough Hotel seemed disrespectful to me; if the brewer used a load of hops in this beer (and he did) they deserve to be tasted.
I'd like to try the bottled version but chances of that are slim, there aren't many around.

The BrewDog Alpha Dog's dry-hopping made it the tastiest and most fragrant red beer of the day. If you're familiar with 5am Saint then you'll have some idea of Alpha Dog, it's basically a lower abv version of Saint. As far as I can recall this is a beer they brew for export to Norway so I was surprised to see it in the Fat Cat.

That was Sheffield. Fast forward to Peterborough beer festival and Colorado Red straight from the cask. A more balanced experience with a graininess to the malt and a real bite from the hops. This was how I imagined it to taste and it brought back memories of one of my all time favourite red beers Red Squall by Newby Wyke.

If you see any of these beers on your travels I recommend them all. If you're feeling brave or want to irritate the bar person maybe you'll ask them to remove the sparkler. If not just do as I did and imagine how much better they are without.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Saltaire Triple Chocoholic & Mongozo Banana.

Half and half in a glass. Share it as it's so sweet you may not manage the whole lot on your own.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Birra Del Borgo ReAle

There's been a lot of chit chat about the Italian craft brewing scene of late so I thought I'd check some out.
First impressions have been distinctly average.

Tonight I'm drinking Birra Del Borgo ReAle. Nicely presented in a sturdy bottle with a stopper built into the cap if you can't manage it all in one go and don't want to share.
It's a 6.4% abv blonde beer that pours with a decent head that soon disappears. Some fruit and alcohol whiffs but, down to the nitty gritty, the taste.
You know when you try and swallow paracetamol and the tablet gets stuck on your tongue?

Not really the kind of bitterness I want when I'm drinking beer. I'll look out for Birra Del Borgo again as this may have been a duff batch, but not a great first impression.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Black Bogies

I'm often in London for gigs (A can of Red Stripe for £3.50+ but we won't go there...) If I have time I'll head somewhere like the Rake for a decent pint first, but it's not very often I'm in London just for the beer.

I'd left it a full year until I went on what could be described not so much a pub crawl but, well put it like this I got greedy.

First stop The Rake for thirst-quenching keg beers on a really hot day. Love this place. No nonsense , no frills, but it oozes cool. Just dead good beers and tubs of Yorkshire Henderson's flavoured crisps. It's all you need sometimes.

Next up Brew Wharf. One day I'm going to have to come here in an evening. It just doesn't do anything for me during the day. Nice beer though. Meantime on keg. I think I had a pint of Tasty. 5.5% abv I reckon it was.

Then to the place I affectionately call The Abattoir (time to get slaughtered, what?!) otherwise known as The Cask in Pimlico.

The most dangerous bar south of the Sheffield Tap (check out the photo above). It went something like this; Seaforth, Hardcore IPA, The Physics, Murmansk, Punk IPA and Paradox. Don't ask me what order, I just know I did. The Paradox was scarily morish, slipped down easy. Dunno what cask it had been matured in, Isle of Arran? There was a sweet smooth vanilla finish. Black custard. Gannet.

The Bree Louise isn't too far from Euston Road so it was on the way back.

I remember loads of casks on stillage, Trashy Blonde, Hardcore IPA again and a man at the bar talking to me about Hardcore IPA and me not saying much in return. Slack-jawed, mouth agape, tongue lolling.

Playing Spot the Brompton on Euston Road then nothing. I just know it wasn't the Hardcore, OK? It was the Murmansk. It's always the Murmansk.

My wife's left elbow jams into my side. We must be home...

I have black bogies.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

GBBF 2010

Sometimes I think to myself "shall I bother with the Great British Beer Festival this year?"

I felt a little like that this year until I saw Bieres Sans Frontieres bar. This bar really makes GBBF worthwhile to me. It's a good thing they started serving beers in 3rd pints a few years back or I would've been hammered after a couple of hours; the choice is too good you want to try them all. Well, almost all.

Stand out beers for me were;

Smuttynose Robust Porter.
Smuttynose Big A IPA (which won the Michael Jackson award).
De Molen Tsarina Esra Reserva porter.
Moor Revival.
White Horse Guv'nor.

I have to say I wasn't impressed with the new alphabetical counties layout. I much preferred the old regional bars.

Will I be going in 2011? I dunno, probably. If I don't make sure you do.

YouTube Video

Monday, 26 July 2010

Monkey On My Back

This was going to be a piece on drinking in Nottingham but I became distracted.....

Nottingham has to be one of the most underrated drinking cities In the UK. Possibly second to Sheffield as the best beer destination.

Derby Road itself has 6 pubs if you start from The Falcon and work your way to the Gatehouse. Some good, some not so good, but you're guaranteed to find some excellent beers.

Nottingham CAMRA is responsible for starting the LocAle scheme so expect to find a bucket-load of locally brewed beer in just about every decent pub you visit.

I usually fit in a visit to a pub I've never been to before on each trip, but more often than not I'm happy to stick to Derby Road; the main reason being I know I'm going to end up with something by Blue Monkey.

I first drank Blue Monkey beer (they'd only brewed one then - now known as Original) at the Robin Hood festival in 2008. I enjoyed it so much I went back to their bar and bought another. Fast-forward a year later and I did the same, this time with their fantastic Guerilla Stout.

They seem to be constantly expanding to meet demand after winning a load of awards from SIBA, CAMRA, and for just being popular with thirsty Midlanders because the beer is so tasty. It's obvious from the first sip of one of their pints they're using top-quality ingredients.

My favourite has to be BG Sips. 4% abv and brewed with Brewers Gold (BG, geddit?!) hops.

Blue Monkey beers can always be found in Nottingham in the Hand & Heart (my favourite Derby Road watering hole) and The Roundhouse on St. James Terrace. In Derby you'll find them in the Old Silk Mill. In Leicester you'll often find them at the Swan & Rushes.

Find out more at

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pollards at the Tap

It seemed like everyone was drinking Pollards Milk Coffee Stout at the Sheffield Tap last Saturday.

Pollards is a 5% abv stout by Thornbridge brewed using whole coffee beans supplied by Pollards Tea & Coffee of Sheffield.

Gorgeous, silky smooth and a pleasure to sink. I'm sure it's a myth that coffee beers sober you up as you get drunk, but can you explain why I awoke the next morning at 4:30am craving a big mug of cappuccino?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fat Cat Norwich

I'm sitting in the Fat Cat at Norwich slowly making my way through the extensive beer menu.

I may have to stop soon as there are around 24 ales on handpump and gravity.

What a fantastic pub. Every pint tastes so fresh.

Alcofrolic Chap

Stamford Riverside Festival

The first week in July usually means Stamford Riverside Festival. Live music and beer on the Meadows between the railway station and town.

I'd been going for a number of years and decided to have a break after a couple of years of drinking a ridiculous amount (13 pints) of ale. This year it was time to return.

After a brief visit to the Green Man it was time to head to the festival.

This year I'd promised to myself to be sensible and stick to erm less than previous years.

When I saw the list at the beer tent I decided to stick to about 4 ales. Not four pints, though.

There were 44 ales on but I was only interested in the Oakham and Newby Wyke. The new Tranquility IPA by Oakham was on the list, as was the old faithful Attila. All the ales were £3, so it seemed a good idea to stick with the higher abv ones. Attila at £3 a pint? Bargain!

Beer of the day had to be Tranquility. Gorgeous mouthful of peachyness.

On the way home it's a tradition to stop off at the Swan & Rushes. We had to as Oakham Chinook was fresh on that afternoon. Mmm. Summer is here.

Alcofrolic Chap

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Cheesy Does It

There's nothing like a spot of old fashioned entertainment to brighten up an already pleasant evening whilst sitting outside The Criterion drinking.

Red Leicester Morris were on one of their short crawls raising money for charities like LOROS and Macmillan. They started at The Western, moved onto The Criterion, then onto the Swan & Rushes.

There's not much space outside The Critter for dancing so a couple of the group had to stop the traffic whilst they shook their hankies and cracked their sticks on Millstone Lane.

As it's summer they were performing Cotswold Morris. In winter they perform Border Morris (which I prefer) with their faces painted red.

With Freedom Organic Dark and Anchor Steam on tap I decided to stay until last orders rather than follow the crawl.

There's a list of the whole of their 2010 tour here

YouTube Video

Alcofrolic Chap

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Oakham Single Hop Series

Oakham Ales are brewing a series of single hop variety ales.

For those of you unfamiliar with Oakham Ales they are based in Peterborough and have a 6 Barrel brewery at the Brewery Tap and a 75 Barrel brewery in the Woodston area of the city. Most of the series are limited edition brewed at the smaller brewery and are part of their Oakademy of Excellence.

The series is Nelson Sauvin (in March), Chinook (in June), Amarillo (in September) and Simcoe (in December). There has also been a very popular Citra, which I assume was brewed at the Woodston brewery as it's been in abundance around the East Midlands since April.

My personal favourite so far is the Nelson Sauvin with it's gorgeous apricot/ peach flavours. Citra comes a close second; very refreshing with grapefruit and gooseberry bitterness.

There is a list of pubs that will be selling them on the Oakademy website.

Goodness me, is that the time? I must head off to the Swan & Rushes before they call last orders.....

Monday, 7 June 2010

1 of 175 = 27

I like BIG flavours. I like Hardcore IPA and I like Caol Ila whisky.
Raspberries are things I usually blow but I reckon I can make an exception tonight.

Tonight I'm drinking BrewDog Prototype 27. The result of, you guessed it, cramming a load of raspberries and IPA into a whisky cask.

It pours almost the colour of cherryade, and boy does it smell of those raspberries, the hops you would normally sniff off the Hardcore IPA have been suffocated by the fruit. You can just about make out the faint whiff of peat from the whisky, but I wouldn't really have noticed this unless I stuck my nose in the glass.

Big swig and the massive fruit flavour fills the mouth and makes saliva squirt from the inside of the cheeks. The smokiness is very subtle and you only get this as an aftertaste. The burps are raspberry.

I really couldn't taste much alcohol in this. In fact I drank it in less time than I would normally drink a bottle of Hardcore.

A fun drink for grown-ups.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

BrewDog TM10

I was lucky enough to end up in London at the same time as BrewDog TM10.

TM10, a 5.5% abv vanilla-infused Saison-style beer, was brewed for Tate Modern's 10th Anniversary and was limited to 4000 bottles and a few kegs.

My first stop after St. Pancras was the Tate Modern gift shop and they still had a few bottles left at £3.95 each. I snapped up a couple and headed along the Thames Path.

It seemed like the hottest day of the year, so this thirst quenching Saison, available on keg in The Rake, was just what I needed after a wander around Borough Market.
It poured a deep amber colour, and was served quite cold. Not much hop aroma as you would expect from this style of beer. Very refreshing and extremely dry and spicy on the finish. I really couldn't tell this was a 5.5% beer. I couldn't taste any of the vanilla, but that may have been that it was served cold. I would have bought another half, but sadly I'd had the last half out of the keg.

A couple of weeks later I opened one of the bottles. I'd stuck it in the fridge for a couple of hours but decided that I'd drink half of it chilled and the other half after it had warmed a little.
When it's not so cold you start to taste the alcohol and the vanilla. The vanilla is quite understated, but amplifies the malt, balancing it with the dryness.

Pretty darn good I reckon. I just wish I'd picked up a few more bottles. Did I mention the bottles? Quite attractive little 375 ml things, with a hand-screened label.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Zeus Lager

Cumbrian camo-rockers British Sea Power like beer.
On their May 2010 tour you can buy bottles of their very own Zeus Lager.

It's brewed by Cumbria's Dent Brewery, the same that brought you Kamikazi and T'Owd Tup, so you can expect something decent.

4.5% abv with tangerine-like citrus flavours from Hallertauer hops it's just the job on a hot day like today.