Monday, 28 November 2016

Review: Penny Come Quick

I'll let you into a secret: Skinners Brewery is a bit of a favourite of mine. Not only do they brew one of my favourite bitters, Betty Stogs, but have you seen the new labels? I mean come on, that's how you do a rebrand (other breweries take note). In fact, I shall be dedicating an entire post to that as it's SO good. But enough of that, let's talk about lovely beer.

In October, Skinners released a limited amount of their seasonally brewed milk stout, Penny Come Quick, which is now available for the first time in bottles and to drinkers outside of Cornwall. When they got in touch to ask if I would like to try a bottle I readily accepted. For me, Skinners are about bold, but well balanced flavours and at an ABV you can stick to all night, and in this regard Penny Come Quick (4.5%) is no exception. 

At first sniff the aromas were subtle, but I detected dark chocolate, coffee and a hint of toffee.These roasted, bitter, toffee flavours came through in the taste, but with some floral notes lurking in the background and a malty finish. I was a little surprised at how light this was, but this was to its advantage particularly as I was enjoying it with a meal. This beer would go particularly well with a chocolate orange, which is my breakfast/lunch/dinner of choice during the festive period. Also Toffifees, which apparently I'm obsessed with. 

This is a good, solid milk stout and one I will certainly purchase again. I'm heading down to Cornwall this week for a little beer tourism so I'm rather hoping to pop into Skinners to have a look around and, of course, try this on cask (along with a few others).  

While I'm on it; if you have any other recommendations while I'm in Cornwall (predominantly St Ives/Truro way), please do let me know. We're not there for too long, but I'd like to at least try and fill up the car with beautiful beers to drink on our return. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Black Friday: Bourbon County Stout 2016

Black Friday; it's a bit American isn't it? She says as she sets her alarm for the crack of dawn in the hope of bagging a games console for Christmas. Well, even if its origins are in the US, it's definitely caught on in the UK, a little bit like Goose Island (my god did you see that segue). 

Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout. Brewed in Kentucky bourbon barrels and aged for 9-12 months, Bourbon County Stout has Americans camping outside for up to 2 days before the release (their brand ambassador spoke of people eating their Thanksgiving dinners outside, which made me sad). And I can almost see why; it really is superb. We were able to taste the 2015 and 2016 brews side by side and the 2016 felt really fresh and light (as you might expect), with a chocolate base and powerful coconut flavours coming through. It was essentially a big alcoholic bounty and, despite what I've said about bounties in the past, it was just delicious. 

This year Goose Island have sent over just 100 bottles of the stuff and it's being sold exclusively at Clapton Craft, Kentish Town, from 11am Friday 25th November. There's a 2 bottle limit per person and it's a hefty £20 for a 500ml bottle. 

To be honest I can't judge the price too harshly as I've been known to take a half day to pop down and buy a bottle of Unhuman Cannonball for the same price. What I will say is that this is an excellent beer and if you're looking for something to enjoy over the festive period then this would not be a disappointment. Alternatively, if you're in the money, buy a couple of bottles, drink one and save the other for the next release so you can do a little comparison. If you're Richard Branson, just buy all 100 bottles and take a bath in it. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Guild of Beer Writers Annual Awards 2016: The Shortlist

I've recently joined the British Guild of Beer Writers with the intention of improving my writing. Don't worry, I'm not going to start talking about sparging or any of that nonsense, there are enough beer writers talking about the technical side of beer, but I rather hope this blog will start to head in a more topical direction albeit in its usual don't-take-yourself-too-seriously style. 

Anyway, the reason I mention this is because the Guild's shortlist for their annual awards has been announced, and there are some great beer writers on there (I'll make sure to link them all in the shortlist below; it'll take a while, but you're worth it). There's also quite a good mix, from well established names to newcomers and communicating in a variety of mediums. I think this year women are a little under represented, but the women that are there are top notch so do check them out. 

There’s A Beer For That Award for Best Beer Broadcaster
Badger Ales Award for Best Young Beer Writer
St Austell Brewery Award for Best Beer and Travel Writer
Guild Award for Best Beer Writer – Corporate Communications
  • Beer Hawk: Hoptical magazine
  • Beer Merchants: magazine
  • Carlsberg UK: Tapsters Cask Ale Guide/Crafted from Carlsberg
Shepherd Neame Classic Collection Award for Best Beer and Food Writer
Caledonian Brewery Award for Best Beer Communicator – Online
Fuller’s 1845 Award for Best Beer Writer –  Trade Media
  • Roger Protz: articles in Morning Advertiser
  • Jonny Garrett: articles in Brewers Journal
  • Pete Brown: articles in Morning Advertiser
  • Adrian Tierney-Jones: various press articles
  • Nigel Huddleston: Off Licence News
Adnams Award for Best Beer Writer –  Regional Media
Molson Coors Award for Best Beer Writer – National Media
  • Adrian Tierney-Jones: London’s Local Pubs book
  • Sophie Atherton: various press articles
  • Jane Peyton: various press/radio work
  • Mark Dredge: Best Beer in the World and Cooking with Beer books
  • Pete Brown: The Pub: book

There can only be one winner in each category, but all the nominees have made great contributions to the world of beer writing and in sharing their knowledge of beer with the world. Congratulations, beeros!

The Awards dinner, held at the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly, is open to non-Guild members. For more information, visit the site here.  

Friday, 18 November 2016

Event Spotlight: Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas

This month I'm shining my Event Spotlight on this little event thrown together by beer writer Matt Curtis, of Total Ales, and Hop Burns and Black. It's Christmas themed and OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE CHRISTMAS. Sparkles and magic and all those yummy beers that taste like a Christmas pudding/gingerbread/turkey (disclaimer: I cannot guarantee that there will or will not be turkey beer at this event). 

Think I'd better hand over to Matt, don't you? 

For many of us 2016 has been a bit of a year to forget. The good news is that there's still time to cram in some good stuff before it's over. Peckham's premier beer, record and hot sauce shop Hop Burns & Black is once again teaming up with resident beer writer; Total Ales & Good Beer Hunting's Matthew Curtis, for a night of good booze and top fun. 

Following the success of our last event with Mable Brewery's James Kemp we've invited Beavertown's Brewing Supremo Jenn Merrick to be interviewed in front of a live audience. 

Ticket holders will taste through a range of beers including three from Beavertown themselves plus three of Jenn’s favourite Christmas beers.

During each tasting Matt will be firing a few questions at Jenn so the audience present can learn about her brewing history, exciting Beavertown projects and more. There'll even be a chance for the audience to pose Jenn some questions of their own towards the end of the evening.

So come join us at Hop Burns & Black to help us wrap up what's been a great year of events. If you're lucky (or unlucky) Matt might even dress up in one of his traditional Christmas outfits. Tickets for these events usually sell out, so don't dawdle if you plan on joining us!

Thursday 8th December 2016,
Hop Burns & Black, 38 East Dulwich Rd, London SE22 9AX
Tickets £15 Per Person (Plus Booking Fee) Includes 6 generous samples of tasty beer

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Epicurean

As you might know if you follow me on social media (@craftybeeress should you be so inclined), I enjoy a little competition retweet here and there. It was this little hobby that led me to win 2 tickets for The Epicurean which I popped along to last weekend.

The Epicurean, held at the Old Truman Brewery (great location), described itself as 'London's Unlimited Tasting Experience'. With over 1000 suppliers of fine wines, spirits and beers there was plenty to sample, the idea being that you might purchase a glass (called 'a splash' *gag*) to drink there and then or buy a bottle to take away. They also had a service where you could purchase bottles at the event and have them delivered to you (nice idea, but really more for the winos).There were also some talks and seminars going on throughout the 2 days. I should add here that tickets for this event were £25 each. 

On arrival there we were given a wine glass (worth £12 apparently, but my goodness if you ever see me paying £12 for a single wine glass please tell me to check myself), a guide and a jute bag to carry our purchases. 

Directly in front of us was the craft beer and spirits room so, of course, we headed straight towards it (when unlimited tasting is on the go you need to be sensible) and unleashed ourselves upon those poor, unsuspecting brewers. Now, I suppose what you all want to know is 'how big were the samples?' and, as you might anticipate, my answer is: variable. Sometimes we'd get a nice third, other times around 25ml and other times one tiddly drip into the glass. Most people we spoke to were so enthusiastic, wanted to talk to you about beer and were genuinely excited when you took a sip. Others? Not so much. Trying to get any information at all out of one particular beer brand was like trying to get blood out of stone and I did wonder if they had understood the concept before pitching up there. Also, for the first time in a very long time I had people who assumed that I was just there for the freebies, but would happily talk to my husband about beer until the cows came home. Make of that what you will.

But let's talk about beer. I'm only going to talk about the good stuff and I'm only going to talk about brands who were nice to me because a) being negative is draining and b) I'm not giving anyone any publicity.

I want to talk about these awesome beers imported by World Beers who, by the way, were ace and passionate and wanted to talk about beer all day long.They also had a bucketful of Lion Stout with them which is always a winner.

The first one I tried was the Forest Bacuri Fruit by Amazon Beer (4.1% abv), which hailed from Brazil. Although I love elements of fruit in my beers I will rarely order a fruit beer, if you know what I mean, but having never heard of bacuri fruit I thought I'd give it a go. It was very sweet indeed, with lemony overtones and hints of passionfruit (which I assume was the bacuri). I think syrupy might be a good way of describing it, in terms of flavour rather than mouth feel. I know this doesn't sound great, and it's been absolutely thrashed on RateBeer, but I thought it was rather pleasant, just absolutely nothing like a beer. I think this might be a good one for wine/cocktail drinkers who say they don't like beer, at which point you can whip this out and say 'woah woah woah hold on a minute'. Which is exactly why I bought one.

Next we changed continent and tried a couple of beers from Birradamare, a brewery based in Rome and with some of the coolest bottles I have ever seen (the actual bottle itself not even the label). First up was La Zia Ale (5.5% abv), made with rosemary and artichoke. I know I can't see you right now, but I promise I also made that face. Very herbal, but not overpowering, this beer is definitely one to have with food, particularly lamb and also with meaty pasta dishes too.

After that experimental pick I decided to choose something a little safer which was Kasta (5.8% abv), a blonde beer brewed with dry chestnuts. I found this to be perfectly balanced, with a sweet caramel and subtle smokiness. Would be fantastic paired with a pud. Any pud. As long as I have pud.

At this point we decided to head off and see Sophie Atherton. We knew this wasn't an event for beer drinkers so it would be more of an introductory talk, but she is a great speaker and we were looking forward to hearing what she had to say. Unfortunately we heard about 10% of it as the talks were going on in a room in which a ton of other stuff was happening too. It was so loud, in fact, that you had to raise your voice just to talk to the person next to you, so the poor speakers had no chance at all! Bit of an oversight by the organisers there. 

Another oversight was the provision of food. There was supposed to be a street food section (it's all the rage innit), but by the time we got there only 2 food sellers remained and about half an hour into our session 1 of them had run out of food! Not sure it's a great idea to ply thousands of people with unlimited booze and not give them anything to soak it up with. Indeed it was due to this that we had to cut our visit short and go out in search of Premium Kebabs.

Of course one of the reasons we were a bit squiffy was due to the many other fantastic drinks on offer. My particular favourites were Meloncello, Curio vodka (which just had the most beautiful branding) and Sxollie cider which I would highly recommend checking out.  

So all in all a bit of a mixed bag. I'd be interested to find out from those exhibiting how they found it, the impact it's had and whether they'll be doing it again. 

Thanks to Budvar for the tickets (more about them in another post) and perhaps we'll be visiting again next year...

Thursday, 3 November 2016

International Stout Day

That's right, International Stout Day is here again. You've barely put away your pumpkin and suddenly there are stouts all over the shop. To be honest I'm not sure International Stout Day is going to catch on as well as something like Christmas (although our employers might be wise to give us tomorrow off), but any excuse eh?

I know stouts/porters tend to be more popular in the colder months, but I've just had a quick look through my phone and it turns out I'm drinking it every month of the year. 

Recent faves include a wonderful Imperial Java Stout by Santa Fe Brewing Company, Creme Brulee by Dark Star, Crate Digger Coffee Stout by Alphabet Brewing and the Imperial Biscotti Break by Evil Twin (I paid £8 for that last can so if it hadn't been amazing I would have had to go all out Triple H on them). Also a shout out for Lion Stout, a classic in your local world food aisle, and the legendary Siren's Caribbean Chocolate Cake (just the thought of it makes me a go a little bit wobbly).

You can share your stouty photos and recommendations using the hashtag #InternationalStoutDay 

So what are you waiting for? GO FORTH AND STOUT.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Marston's: The Rebrand

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you: those beers below are Marston's, the result of an ambitious rebranding project costing more than...wait for it...£1m. To put it into perspective that's like a whole studio flat in London, or one million boxes of Toffifee from the pound shop. Other than the labels themselves there have also been 2 other significant changes; the renaming of Burton Bitter to Saddle Tank and Oyster Stout to Pearl Jet

I can see what they've tried to do here and, while I absolutely support the promotion of real ale to a younger audience, I'm not sure it's quite worked. There's nothing new and exciting about this packaging and I can't help but feel they're appealing to new drinkers while ostracising the old ones, particularly by changing the names of 2 well established beers.

I spoke to a packaging designer about the rebrand and they made some interesting points from a design perspective:

'I like them, but they feel a bit behind the curve now. I think the boat has sailed on all that distressed looking type stuff that BrewDog were doing 7 years ago. The problem is they are very aligned to what is considered cool right now (or 2 years ago in this case) and as a result they'll date really fast. Also, it feels like a bit of a half arsed attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. I do like the Burton Union System though!'

I'll be interested to see how this one plays out.