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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.
Empties
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.