Sourcing Beer

31 Oct

Today I shall be sharing my experience on what is step 1 for beer drinking: actually getting hold of the beer. Some good beer can be found in the supermarket, and in the UK shops like Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Tesco are starting to do a decent amount of beer, mostly stuff from bigger breweries. Sierra Nevada, Weihenstephaner, Erdinger, Goose Island, Brooklyn and more, can all be found in supermarkets across the land. For smaller breweries though, a bit more effort is required. Again, supermarkets usually do stock a variety of local beers, for example the Tesco Extra in Cardiff sells Rhymney, Tomos Watkin, and Brains beers. However the selection is rather limited. Some towns, again such as Cardiff, are lucky and have good local beer shops. These vary in quality across the UK, and can be anything ranging from worse selections than supermarkets, to amazing shelves piled high with beers from all across the world. When no good shops are available, the easiest option left is web shops, such as Beers of Europe or Ales by Mail. With these you usually get a great selection at a decent price, however there is still a risk of damage, a long wait, out of date beer, and pretty high delivery charges. Another option is simply to try and buy it directly from the brewery, in person or by post. If all this fails to get you the beer you desire though, one last option is left, trading beers with anonymous strangers on the internet. A lot less risky than it sounds, especially if you do it through sites such as Ratebeer or Beeradvocate. Basically you send some beer you can easily get to someone who has beer you want but can’t get. They send you the beer you want in exchange.

Supermarkets recently have caught on to the “craft beer” trend so have been improving the range of beer they stock. It’s still mostly mass-produced lagers but there are some gems from local breweries and from international breweries. Sainsburys does some decent “craft beers”, like Sierra Nevada and Brewdog; Tesco also has a good stock of stuff like this, with a few more locals from what i’ve seen; and Morrisons does a really good lot of locals. Other good supermarkets to look at are discount ones, such as Aldi, Lidl and B&M Bargains. Aldi and Lidl are German owned so usually have some German beer in, mostly their own brands such as Graftenwalder and Arcobrau, though sometimes you get some really nice beer popping up for really good prices. Once I got La Gauloise Blonde, a very passable Belgian Pale Ale, from my local Lidl. B&Ms don’t have anything regular but what they do have in stock they have for amazingly low prices so it’s worth a visit if you want some good beer on a budget.

Beer shops are always a nice place to visit, especially if you have a good one locally. I’m quite lucky in that I have Discount Supermarket


Arbor Hoptical Delusion II

3 Mar

Hoptical Delusion II

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, I’ve been busy working, but not so busy I haven’t been drinking! Let’s get on with this thing then. This is an interesting beer, a pale ale that’s been bottled straight from the fermentation vessels. No filtering or finings to make it clear, just pure, fresh, and unadulterated beer. It certainly looks it, as it pours a very cloudy looking orangey copper colour, with a decent white head. It doesn’t smell as hoppy as I expected, but it is very fresh and grassy. The hops come through more in the taste, being fruity, grassy, fresh and slightly citrusy, balanced with some soft and wholesome bready malts. These, with the unfiltered aspect of the beer, work together to create a really lovely texture, with is really thirst-quenching yet tasty. All with a great sessionable abv, making it a truly great example of a pale ale. Another good show from Arbor, an original, interesting and  quality beer from an original, interesting and quality brewery.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

19 Jan

Obsidian Stout

This is a pretty special beer for me, as I’ve always read about Deschutes and their amazing stouts and porters. The main trouble being they didn’t export outside of the US. Well now I have one! The Obsidian Stout. Kindly brought back to the UK by an American friend for me. It pours black with a lively tan head, and has an interestingly original aroma. More coffee than I’d expect from a non-imperial stout but still those familiar dark, burnt malts. The taste is very nicely balanced between a dark malty sweetness, reminiscent of dark fruits like cooked plums, and a dry bitterness, from those hops and the burnt, coffee-like aspect of the malts. The beer has quite a wholesome yet drinkable mouthfeel, the dryness leaving you craving more.

I love this beer, and I love Deschutes.

Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

17 Jan


Schlenkerla are a famous Bamberg brewery, specialising in smoked beers (rauchbiers). This particular rauchbier is a take on the marzen style, a fairly strong lager with it’s origins in Bavaria. The difference this beer has is that the brewers have used smoked malts rather than pale ones, to give it a darker, heavier and smokier feel and flavour. You can definitely see that as it pours a lovely dark brown colour, with a great aroma reminiscent of German smoked cheese. The smoke is a constant, in the background as you drink, complimenting the dark, nutty, and malty-sweet flavour of the beer. I could definitely go for a few more of these.

(Belated) Golden Pint Awards 2012

7 Jan
Best UK Draught Beer
Timothy Taylor “Landlord” – a classic hoppy pale ale. There’s no real ale quite like a well cellared pint of this, served at perfect temperature (a few degrees below room temperature). Drank in the Pen & Wig, Cardiff.
Runner up – Arbor Ales “Full of Beans” Mild
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Tiny Rebel “Hot Box” – a “Smoked Indian Ale”. This was a one off brew but I sorely hope they make it again, if possible adding it to their regular line-up. “Hot Box” to me was the epitome of balance, it was smokey, malty and hoppy, all working in perfect harmony to create a truly brilliant beer.
Runner up – Brewdog “Hops Kill?” Red Ale
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Boon “Kriek” – not a particularly rare or sought after beer, but this was my first kriek (cherry lambic) and I really loved it.
Runner up – Southern Tier “Unearthly” IPA
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Westvleteren 12 – the one and only, argued by many to be the best beer in the world. It was certainly a very complex beer, and very tasty. Though I have to say though, that perhaps the hype surrounding this beer usually results in a hint of disappointment when you drink it. I much preferred the Quad made by Struise – “Pannepot”, which I had in 2011.
Runner up – Ayinger “Brau Weisse” Hefeweizen
Best Overall Beer
Would have to be “Hot Box” for me.
Best Pumpclip or Label


Best UK Brewery
The Kernel, London – the most consistent brewery I know. Great pale ales and brilliant stouts.
Best Overseas Brewery
Struise, Belgium. For Black Albert, Pannepot and Ignis et Flamma.
Pub/Bar of the Year
Cask Pub and Kitchen, Pimlico – tied with Euston Tap.
Supermarket of the Year
Sainsburys for making a vague effort with their annual beer festival.
Independent Retailer of the Year
Discount Supermarket, Cardiff – tied with The Bottle Shop, Cardiff. Both excellent in their own respects.
Online Retailer of the Year – gets hard to get Dutch and Belgian offerings, prompt service and reasonable prices
Best Beer Blog or Website
Here obviously! No, for me it would be which has a really good, simple and objective outlook on beer drinking.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Real ale in sausages. Made by the giggly pig company in Essex, they were the best sausages I’ve ever had.
In 2013 I’d most like to…
Visit Belgium for at least a day trip – get some bottles from Cantillon, go to the Struise shop in Brugge, and generally have an orgy of Belgian beer and food.

Poppyland “On the Edge” Dry Hopped Saisons

3 Jan

Poppyland is a new brewery in Cromer, Norfolk, which started up in the summer of 2012. Though still quite a small establishment, the brewer, a Geologist (or should I say former Geologist now he’s brewing?) named Martin, has produced some excellent looking beers. Luckily for me I have been able to get my mits on two of them! They are both of the saison style, a popular Belgian type of beer usually made from pale malts and fruity yet dry hops, brought together with earthy and tart yeast. One of my favourite styles as they are normally thirst-quenching served cold, so perfect for the summer months. A superb example of the style is Saison Dupont, available all over the place. Now, let’s get drinking!

Beer #1 – “On the Edge” Dry-hopped with Cascade and Hallertau-Hersbrucker
On the Edge #1
This beer is quite unusual for a saison, being dry-hopped at the end of the brewing process. The two different hops used are Cascade, perhaps the most famous American hop, and Hallertau-Hersbrucker. Cascade is a variety from Western America, which should give it a nice and big hop punch, akin to that of American IPAs, while Hallertau-Hersbrucker hops are from Bavaria in Germany. These should be slightly more subtle, adding to the bitterness while developing a less aggresive fresh and floral aspect. Now, onto the good part: the tasting!

Pours a light amber colour, with an excellent head and great lacing. Smells very fresh and grassy, with maybe a hint of sweetness, possibly honey. Tastes quite light, fresh and flowery at first, with the hops building up in bitterness and coming through quite intensely at the end, along with a hit of booze, also increasing the texture of the beer, making it feel a bit fuller. Fairly dry though not unpleasantly. Lovely stuff.

Beer #2 – “On the Edge” Dry-hopped with Bobek

Again, this one is dry-hopped, this time with Bobek, a Slovenian varity of hop. Bobek hops are apparantly “mild, excellent, coupelet (sic) with moderate bitterness”, so I’m expecting quite a reduced hop presence, principally due to the absence of the Cascade in this one.

The pour is pretty much the same as before in colour, with a significantly reduced head, though still retaining good lacing. Smells quite sweet and fresh, with a hint of nuttiness. The sweetness is almost fruity. The taste is more subtle and subdued than before, with much less bitterness on the finish, as well as lacking the thicker mouthfeel and some of the dryness. There is still a lingering, pleasant bittersweet taste on the palette after the swallow. This beer also has a bit more of a malt presence, with a subtle caramel sweetness coming through. Finally, worth a mention is how this beer has an insane level of drinkability. It’s thirst quenching yet flavourful and balanced. I hope it’s still for sale when it gets warmer!

Poppylands beers can be purchased from Whilst fairly pricey, it’s definitely worth a go. Read more about the Poppylands Brewery at their website, as well as the brewers own blog.

Christmas Time

30 Dec

Just a quick update to let you know the blog hasn’t died yet, this time on my Christmas beer drinking, of which there has been far too much. To start off with, when I got home from university, my dad had a batch of “Yuletide Ale” ready to drink, brewed to a recipe in Brewing Better Beers, by Ken Shales. It’s about 7-8% and it’s very nice, though a bit hit and miss with the bottles due to the haphazardness of priming by hand with just a tablespoon.

Quite a dark beer, it smells of booze and sweet malts. It tastes deceptively weak though, and I easily quaffed a pint in a matter of minutes. You’ve got subtle and well balanced caramel malty flavours, fruity with a hint of spice hop flavours, and a kick on the finish from the yeast. Great stuff.

Yuletide Ale

Over the fortnight at home I also drank my way through most of the beers from Bavarian brewers Ayinger. The highlights were the famous Celebrator doppelbock, and the kellerbier. Both dark and rich beers, great for warming cold winter nights, as were the Winterbock and Weizenbock, weighing in at 6.7 and 7.1 per cent abv respectively. I’ll be looking at the beers more in the next post, but overall it was a great range of beers, all good, some great and none bad.

I also had time after Christmas to do some beer trading, with a friend of mine from Beeradvocate. This is where the generosity of beer lovers shines through, and I received some hard to get beers, (including Westvleteren!), in exchange for some local Welsh beers, some Ayingers and a Belgian sour. The trader even threw in a couple of extras to sweeten the deal, leaving me a very happy drinker. The other highlight of the trade was meeting in a fancy London pub, miles better than anything Wales has to offer (that I’ve seen at least, feel free to correct me!) The Cask Pub and Kitchen, in Pimlico, had an out of this world selection of beer on offer. Belgian, Danish, Welsh and US beer on tap (keg); English ales on cask; and hundreds of bottles from all over the world. I tried Boon Kriek on tap, a sour cherry flavoured lambic, which was very nice, lip-smackingly fruity though, sweet, sour, tart. From cask I drank a pint of Thornbridge Lumford, a “new world pale ale”, which I’m guessing means it’s made with hops from New Zealand – likely as the hops were less fruity and more citrus and flowery flavoured than British hops. This was followed by a half-pint of Thornbridge Beadeca’s Well, a smoked porter, with a lovely deep, burnt and smoked malt taste. Very nice.

Cask Bottles
Here’s about a third of the bottles available in the Cask. Not cheap but some hard to find gems here.
Lumford Pale Ale
My pint of Thornbridge Lumford – went down a treat.
The aftermath, they never stood a chance…

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

15 Dec

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, an excellent example of a lesser known style of beer. Samuel Smith is a famous brewery from Tadcaster in Yorkshire, quite near York itself. They brew excellent English ales, including some amazing stouts and porters, of which their Oatmeal Stout is a prime example. Oatmeal Stout is in itself one of my favourite styles of beer, it’s dark and smooth, and if done well, packed full of flavour too. The oats used in the brewing process give it a great wholesome feel, as well as a slight sweetness. The dark malted barley used gives it a roasted flavour too, and both aspects combined lead to a really great taste.

Brewing beer in traditional Yorkshire squares - fermenting vessels constructed from slabs of slate

Oats in the beer is something that makes an oatmeal stout unique. It is a hark back to the past when hops were not used, and instead people used pretty much what they had available in order to make a drink that could sustain them. They were also brewed more recently in the 19th and early 20th centuries, along with milk/sweet stouts, due to the popular belief in the health benefits of foods such as oats and milk (ironically milk stouts actually contain no milk, but that is a story for another day). These beers however, would have been vastly different to today’s oatmeal stouts, due to different brewing processes and ingredients. If you like though, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout can be considered the original oatmeal stout as we know them today, as they were commissioned to brew a version of the dead style in the ’70s. The interpretation they came out with is this, described by the brewery as “fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ to create an almost opaque, wonderfully silky and smooth textured ale with a complex medium dry palate and bittersweet finish”. Now, let’s take a look at it.

As you can see, it’s a lovely looking beer. It pours a black colour with a creamy off white head, and it seems to be quite thick and wholesome in texture. It has a great smell too, quite strong for a beer, you can really sense those dark malts that have been used, from the dark and roasted, almost burnt aromas coming off it. Drinking a few gulps, you really get the effect of those oats on the drink. You can taste the sweetness, which combined with the malts is almost chocolatey. It also has a very smooth texture, which can be described most accurately as wholesome. The malts themselves provide a rich and dark element to it, making it not overbearingly sweet. Hops come in towards the end to add a dry bitterness to it, and balance out the beer overall. This is a great beer, you could easily drink pint after pint of it and not get bored. It does, however, lack the impact that many other stouts do have. Whilst the flavour is good, it isn’t very strong, though it is impressive considering it is only 5% abv (most stronger, harder hitting stouts can be 10% abv or more). It is very much a quaffing ale, rather than a beer crafted for it’s depth of flavour. This is why I like it in a way. Too many ales designed to be consumed in great quantities lack real taste, other than a generic “bitter” flavour. In fact too many also lack taste at all, especially when cellared badly in pubs. It would make a nice change from bitters and golden ales to see more beers like this being served widely in pubs around the UK (and it would be a nice step towards good craft beer being more widely available too).

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout can be found in many good beer shops around the UK, but if you can’t find anywhere, it can be ordered from Beers of Europe, here.

Tune in next time, for my Christmassy beer exploits, including Ayinger beer from Germany, Maui beer from the USA and homebrewed English ales. Thank you for reading.


12 Dec

First off let me introduce myself, I am a student born in Essex but living in South Wales. Most importantly though, I love beer. I love drinking it, reviewing it and reading about it. Since early 2011 I’ve tried over 300 different beers. On cask, from kegs and in bottles. Beers from England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, America, France, and even Iceland. Bitters, IPAs, stouts, tripels, hefeweizens, porters, lagers, doppelbocks, eisbocks, hellesbocks, kellerbiers, dubbels, quads, Belgian pale ales and Belgian dark ales, barleywines, dunkelweizens, altbiers, black ales, red ales, blonde ales, brown ales, strong ales, mild ales, scotch ales, witbiers, marzens, kolsches and rauchbiers. But still that’s barely a dent made in the massive world of beer available out there. You see I am what might be called a beer scooper, or counter, or ticker. Call it what you will I love trying new beers and I aim to try as many beers as I can. This blog shall serve to be a written record of all my beery exploits and musings. The few who read this can look forward to beer reviews, as well as writings about beer shops, pubs, bars, beer related journeys and maybe even some brewing history.
Thank you to those few, I hope you enjoy it.