Saturday, 27 November 2010

Six of the Best - my beers of the year

It's getting to the time of the year when people take a pause out of their hectic festive schedule and reflect, reminisce and indulge in a spot of quite reflection of the year soon to pass. We order in our heads the high and low points, the happy and sad times and the experiences of the previous year.

The beer monkey is no different and of late I have been wearing my beer memory cap and thinking back through the last year and contemplating the beers that have best been dinging my dong, ringing my bell, floating my boat and generally putting a big beery smile on my face in 2010. To be honest, It was a pretty difficult task to whittle my beers of the year list down into the single digits. It is an exciting time in the world of real ale and craft beer at the moment and there are exceptional breweries making exceptional beers so it was no easy task but i've managed to choose some of the beers that have tantalised, tingled and teased my tastebuds over the last twelve months.

So, in no particular order, I give you my 2010 Six of the Best .

First up, is a beer that I have actively sought out and travelled miles to taste - Fyne Ales Jarl.
I first tasted Jarl at the Fyne Ales Festival in June. It was the first outing of this special beer and it blew me and my fellow drinkers away. It is a fresh and refreshing Pale Ale with tropical citrus aromas and gorgeous grapefruit and lemon Citra hops bouncing all over your tongue that ends in a beautifully dry, bitter finish. It is simply, a stunning beer and one that needs to be tasted to be believed.

I next tasted Jarl at the Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court in early August and again it was outstanding. It was my beer of the festival and I quickly became a Jarl evangelist, converting everyone I spoke to onto this fantastic Fyne Ale. Everyone thought it was lovely. My hopes for 2011 are that Jarl becomes a regular fixture in the Fyne Ales repertoire and that it soon appears in bottles.

My second beer is a gorgeous Summer Ale from U.S. craft brewers Odell. Odell has spent a lot of time and effort trying to raise their profile and customer base in the U.K. Some of their beers are pretty good, particularly their IPA and Cut Throat Porter but one beer stands head and shoulders above the rest. That beer in question is St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale and it was the thirst quenching beer that I couldnt get enough of during the summer.

It is a lively and invigorating fruit bowl of passion fruit, mango and lemon with a sprinkling of spicy pepper and sweet honey. It has a clean, and crisp, hoppy finish that leaves you wanting more, more, more. Particularly on a hot, summer day.

My next lip smacking beer of 2010, is a little bit darker than the first two but is no less lacking in full on meaty hop flavour. The beer is Brewdog's Edge and is a cracking example of a well made and tasty Mild. It has split opinion with one beer blogger describing it as merely a Scottish 60 Shilling beer with added hops but that is like describing Gareth Bale as merely a left sided footballer with a bit of pace. Edge is much, much more than that.

It is a complex smoky blend of plums, raisins and rich fruits with a lingering dark chocolate and coffee bitterness. It is only 3.2% abv but punches well above it's weight in terms of body, mouthfeel and taste.  Yet again, those Fraserburgh upstarts have created a beer that is memorably tasty and very, very moreish.

A beer fromThornbridge brewery is next up on my list of cracking beers that have I have enthusiastically consumed in 2010. Thornbridge is a brewery that is a byword for innovative, interesting but above all stunning beers and to pick just one from their mouth watering selection was very difficult but I went for one that I've had the pleasure of tasting and enjoying many times over the past year and on each and every occasion it has been a South Pacific hop explosion of fragrant, tropical shrapnel of pink grapefruit, mango and kiwi fruit flavours and tastes. The New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops deliver a huge fruity kick that gives way to a long dry citrus bitter finish. Kipling is the beer and it is as sumptiously gorgeous a beer as you are likely to find.

Two left on my six off the best list the next one up comes from Marble  Brewery in Manchester. Marble have a reputation as purveyors of high quality and consistently flavoursome beers. Like Thornbridge,  it was really difficult to choose just the one from Marble's healthy choice of beers. I could have gone for the excellent Dobber or their lovely Manchester Bitter but instead I went for Lagonda IPA. It is an excellent example of an IPA and it's lovely herbal hop aroma is matched by well balanced sweet toffee malt and citrus fruit and floral hops. I thought it was an exceptional, well conditioned beer that was robust and full of flavour.

My last beer of the year is Brewdog's Punk IPA. It is a somewhat lazy choice but to be honest it's usually the first beer I reach for in the fridge and I always make sure that I have a regular supply at hand. It is my default beer of choice when at home and the one that I've probably downed the most of during the last year. It is exactly what I need of a midweek evening and it hits the spot everytime. It truly is outstanding and has everything that I want in a beer. Hoppy, Fresh, Tasty, Flavoursome and Refreshing. I don't know if it's possible for a 6% beer to be classed as a session beer but in my case session means the beer I drink regularly and Punk IPA is the closest I'll get to having a session beer.  Until, that is, Fyne Ales bottle Jarl.

So there you go. Six beers that I have particularly enjoyed this year but as I said earlier, it really was a difficult job to get it down to six as there are a lot of great brewers out there making innovative and excellent beers.

 Long may that continue.

What were the best beers you had this year?

Monday, 22 November 2010

London Pubs Lead the Revolution

Lovely, London Beer

Pssst! Yeah, You!

Come over here.

I've got something to tell you but you had better keep this just between us.

Closer, so no one can hear a word.

Ssshhh! Don't tell a soul but there is something rather deliciously exciting happening in the world of tasty beer and lovely pubs down that there London.

The Jolly Butchers

In the past few months, there have been the first initial tremors of a potentially seismic beer earthquake in the Capital City. Following on from the success of The Rake Bar and The Cask, two new pubs have opened that are leading the way in changing attitudes to how beer is perceived and consumed. These two pubs are the The Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington and The Euston Tap just down from Euston station.

One proves conclusively that a pub can be an ale success regardless of the unfashionable postcode provided you are giving the punters what they want, a sublime selection of quality beers from innovative and exciting local and national brewers. The other confirms that there is clearly an untapped market for cutting edge U.S. Craft, eclectic European and diverse U.K. cask, draft and bottles.

London Beer Week

The Jolly Butchers on Stoke Newington High St has been up and running in its latest incarnation since May and in a short space of time has earned a reputation as the place to go in North London to find some of the finest beers around. Particularly, if, in the Jolly Butchers case, the beers are knowledgeably sourced not only from the finest Breweries in London and the Home Counties but also some of the best regarded UK brewers such as Thornbridge and Brewdog.

When I was in it was coming to the end of their London Beer Week showcase that highlighted the depth, quality and brewing pedigree of the Capital's micro's such as The Kernal, Meantime, Brodie's, Redemption and the Camden Town Brewery. Also available were regular's such as Thornbridge's Jaipur and Brewdog's 5a.m. Saint, Punk IPA and 77 lager. The food is rather good too.

What has struck me the times I have been in the Jolly Butchers was the range and ages of people enjoying the superb selection of beers. Not the usual Camra suspects on a day trip from the Bree Louise but a mixture of a young, edgy, left field crowd and well heeled couples going through the various beers with an infectious enthusiasm. Significantly, the beers were being downed by not just men but also a healthy proportion of women.

All around you could hear variations of the same phrases, "What's that you're having?", "You want a taste?" and "What will I have next?". The excitement and curiousity in their questions were almost tangible and an absolute delight to hear.

Havin' a  Butchers

The second pub has only been open since Guy Fawkes Night and has created fireworks ever since. The Euston Tap sits in the Stunning Grade II West Lodge in Euston Square just in front of the Station and it's mission is to "bring London the best draught real ale and craft beer available" and on the evidence of my visit, it doesn't fail in it's mission.

Tip Top Tap

It really is a beer drinkers nirvana with 11 Beers on Cask and 19 Draft Craft Beers (see pics)but that description doesn't do the Euston Tap justice as the beer fridges have to be seen to be believed. These truly are Magic and Enchanted fridges containing the finest selection of bottled beers I have seen in any pub in the UK. The choice is truly a beer perverts paradise. Bottles from brewers near and far include The Lost Abbey, Titan, Left Hand, Founders, Victory, Cantillon, Tegernseer, St Georgen Brau and Magnums of Mikkeller Festival 09 and 10 among many others.

The Bar at Tap

The choice blew me away and left me trapped, frozen like a rabbit in the beer head lights and it took me a few minutes to make up my mind as to what I would have first. I was jumping between the fridges and craning my neck to see the boards above the bar as I tried to narrow down my options. It was almost impossible but I went for lovely Manchester Bitter, followed by a Sierra Nevada Torpedo.

Behind Bars

One was Cask, the other Draft but both were beer and to be honest, I don't care about the method of dispense. If it tastes lovely then get it in your mouth and down your neck. Both were superb and again, temptation got the better of me and I decided to have one more before I made my journey back to the frozen North. I wanted something Big and Hoppy so I went for a half of Great Divide Hercules Double IPA.  It was reminiscent of Brewdog's/Mikkellers I Hardcore You summer collaboration and was full of meaty loveliness.

A Magic Fridge

The Euston Tap really is a special place offering the beer drinker an unrivalled choice in the city. It opens during a very exciting and optimistic time for beer and pubs not just in London but also across the country in pubs such as Brewdog Aberdeen, The Marble Arch, The Grove and the Tap's sister pub in Sheffield. Hopefully, pubs like these, The Euston Tap and The Jolly Butchers are merely the forerunners of a beer and pubs revolution that might just spread to other Cities across the country.

Another Magic Fridge

Did I say ssshhh, don't tell a soul?

Forget that, go to the nearest rooftop and proclaim from the top of your voice that the beer and pub revolution has begun and could soon be coming to a city near you.

The quicker the beer revolution spreads, the better.

Get to it, Comrades.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Brewdog's Dinner at the Book Club

The Hillhead Book Club

In recent weeks, Brewdog have been attempting to up their profile in Glasgow and the West of Scotland with showcases and sponsorships aimed at making punters more aware of their tasty, irreverent and innovative beer brand.

Firstly, there was a Brewdog showcase and tasting in a city Wetherspoons where the likes of 5 a.m.Saint, Trashy Blonde and Punk IPA were available to the delight of grog guzzling Glaswegians. Secondly, they are the proud sponsors of the Celtic Beer Festival at the iconic Glasgow pub, The Bon Accord. The festival features Scottish, Welsh and Cornish beers with a diverse range of Brewdog beers available too. I was in the Bon at the weekend and three Brewdog beers were on - Edge, 5 a.m.Saint and Hardcore IPA.

In the Book Club

Hot on the heels of these two events comes a further Glasgow Brewdog happening designed to make your mouth water and taste buds tingle - a food and beer collaboration between the Fraserburgh upstarts and one of Glasgow's newly opened and up and coming West End pubs - The Hillhead Book Club. According to both parties they share a 'passion for individuality, quality' and a 'naughty but nicely creative streak'. Sounds like a food and drink marriage made in heaven.

Ordinarily, these beer and food pairing events adopt the format of food produced, served up and accompanied by a beer picked to complement the food and enhance not only the flavour of the food but also the taste of the beer. This one is a bit different. Inspired by, and using, Brewdog beers as basic ingredients in the menu, the Head Chef at the Book Club, Matt has created a Brewdog's dinner of three deliciously beery, epicurean and alcoholic courses with dishes such as, 5a.m. Gammon with amber ale and caramelised apples, beer potted shrimp with dumplings, Hardcore flank of beef and onions with IPA gravy and gingerbread with Paradox and cinnamon ice cream Or, perhaps artisan cheese with Tactical Nuclear chutney.

The Hillhead Book Club has been opened since May this year and they describe themselves as 'an occasionally eclectic, but always, rewarding haven for the independently minded'. The Book Club's mission is to 'deliver high quality food and drinks in a relaxed Bohemian setting at a price your Gran would approve'. Hopefully, on tonight's showing, it is mission accomplished.

Brewdog James

The evening began with an hour long, entertaining and often humorous, talk by Brewdog's co-founder James Watt on the phenomenal rise and growth of not only Brewdog the brewery but also the brand. Three years ago they were a Two Men and a Dog operation buying hops to brew with on personal credit cards because their finance lines at the bank had been exhausted. Today, they employ 37 staff, one Dog and produce 500,000 bottles of super tasty beer per month.

James went on in great length about the awards won, the commendations and the criticisms, the acres of publicity and column inches gained on the cheap and at the expense of a handful of upset Germans, a dozen beer stuffed roadkill, some knee jerk journalists and moral crusaders. He also launched into a powerful and persuasive invective against the power and shoddy practices of the brewing multinationals. Oh, and we even got to hear how none of the Brewdog bunch have ever had conjugal relations with Mother Teresa.

James' chat was interspersed with liberal tastings of their stunning bottled beers. We started on the relatively low abv beers of 5 a.m. Saint (4.1%) and Punk IPA (6%). James was encouraging us to strike up a conversation with our beers and to listen to what they were saying. All I could hear was , Drink Me, Drink Me!

Next up for a taste was Bashah, the 8.2% collaboration with U.S. Craft Beer masters Stone Brewing Company.  This beer was delightful. It is aged in Highland Park whisky casks and is chock full of gorgeous, ripe Aberdeenshire black raspberries and was my favourite beer of the night. Only two casks of the beer was produced and I hope I get my hands on a bottle of one these rarities soon. Our final two beers of the tasting before we got fed were Hardcore IPA (9.2%) and at (15%) some AB : 04.

Hardcore flank of Beef with IPA gravy

I was getting hungry now and was looking forward to the Brewdog/Book Club menu. The three course dinner was tasty, hearty and showcased the versatility of flavoursome Brewdog beers not only as an accompaniment to food but also when used as the ingredients.

For Starters, I had the salt and pepper Calamari with chilli dip. No brewdog beers in this dish but I had a bottle of Punk IPA with it and it went down a treat. Next up was the hardcore flank of beef and onions with IPA gravy. The beef was tender and the IPA onion gravy was striking in its balance of sweet onion and robust bitterness.

Tactical Nuclear Chutney

I still had room for a little bit more lovely food and I really wanted to taste the Tactical Nuclear Chutney, so I went for the cheese board with a selection of Lanark Blue, Morangie and Glazert cheeses with afore mentioned chutney. The cheese and TNC combination was lovely. The TNC was more subtle than I expected and allowed the cheeses to stand on their own two feet flavour wise.

Just as the cheeseboard was being polished off, James appeared at our table with a couple of snifters of Sink The Bismarck, the 41% beer that used to carry the crown of World's Strongest Beer. I had expected it to be a sickly, syrupy alcoholic mish mash of a beer but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a lovely, warming sipper that left me feeling like a boozy Ready Brek kid all-a-glow inside as it made it's way south down my throat. We were further treated to some thing rather special - an ice distilled version of AB : 04 which came in at a hefty 38%. This Imperial Stout tasted of lovely sweet, ripe fruit, cocoa and a very subtle chilli kick in the after burn.

It was a perfect way to end the Brewdog's Dinner. Some lovely beers and excellent chat in a great venue with an original and inventive menu. Not to mention a few really nice beer surprises too.

Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A day in the life of Glasgow Beer

Saturday morning finds the beer monkey at a loose end. I could stay in and catch up with the Saturday supplements, floating about the flat doing nothing and achieving even less. Or, maybe today, I could do something just a wee bit different.

The Three Judges - Partick Cross

I've been involved in #glasgowbeer on Twitter for a bit now and as an informal social network for keeping up to date and making aware of what's on in some of the city's pubs to other like minded beer drinkers, it's a pretty useful resource. But, exactly what sort of choice in terms of pubs and pints is there for the discerning drinker? That's when I found a purpose to my Saturday -  not just to dip my toe but to plunge myself foot first into the world of Glasgow Beer and conduct an ale audit and take a not too scientific snapshot of what's available in The Dear Green Place on any given Saturday.

So today, my quest was to visit some of the well regarded pubs and discover just how varied and diverse the choice was for beer drinkers  in Glasgow.

I would start in the west of the city and head east into the town centre sampling, hopefully, tasty, fine beers in some lovely pubs.

The Judges beer board

My first stop on my beer tour was into the pub that I consider as my local and as local pubs go I can't ask for much more. The Three Judges at Partick Cross is a mecca for many beer drinkers. This traditional tenement corner pub attracts a friendly clientele not only from the West End but also further afield. There are 8 beer pumps and these are served by knowledgeable and interested bar staff, particularly Ronnie and Angela. Their beer insight and cellar skills ensure the condition and temperature of the beers served are consistently spot on.  In his spare time Ronnie doubles up as the walking beer encyclopedia.  As you can see from the board above, the Judges generally serve up beers from Scottish micro breweries as well as beers from the North of England, particularly Northumbria and Yorkshire.

My first beer of the day was Fyne Ales Avalanche, an outstanding thirst quenching golden ale with a clean floral taste. It was so nice that I was tempted to end my quest there and then, stay put here and have a couple more but in the interests of non-scientific 'research', I had to plough on.

A brisk fifteen minutes walk passing notable West End landmarks such as the Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove Art Gallery takes me to my second port of call.

The Bon Accord

The Bon Accord can probably easily lay claim to be the 'Daddy' of Glasgow beer pubs. It is revered by many beer enthusiasts and the history of Real Ale in Glasgow owes a lot to the contribution this pub has made in championing ale in the past 30 odd years. Indeed, the walls of the pub are testament to the excellence of the Bon. Dozens of award certificates hang on the walls including various Scottish Licence Trade News awards for Best Beer Bar, Best Poured Pint, Malt Whisky Bar of the Year among others. It is also this year's Glasgow Camra Pub of the Year. So, the Bon Accord knows clearly what it is doing and does it very well.

A nice selection of beers at the Bon

Today it seems I have landed lucky as the Bon has just begun it's Celtic Beer Festival. The Festival, which is sponsored by Brewdog, features beers from Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and the Isle of Man.

Brewdog's influence on the festival is heavy - Three of the beers on the board (see above) are from Brewdog and I opted for a pint of Brewdog Edge, a 3.2% lovely mild. For a low abv beer, this packed a rich, roasted coffee/chocolate punch. It was really a rather special mild.

As it had just gone midday I hummed and hawwed about pushing the trawler out and indulging in a half of 9% Brewdog Hardcore IPA. Temptation and curiosity got the better of me and before I could say 'Fraserburgh Upstarts', I had in my hand a half pint of the reddish/brown brew. I've never had it from the pump before and was looking forward to tasting it but if I'm to be honest, it wasn't as nice as the bottle version. The initial pleasant hoppiness is overpowered by the toffee caramel malt and is a little over sweet. However, at £1.50 a half pint it was worth the experience.

Incidently, for those wanting a Brewdog bargain, pop into Tesco's and pick up some bottles of their Finest range American Double IPA. If it smells like Hardcore, tastes like Hardcore then the chances are it is Hardcore. It is Hardcore with another label and currently available, 3 bottles for £4. Though pretty difficult to pick up in Scotland it is easily available in English stores.

So two pubs down and not only have the choice of beers been good, I've also stumbled upon what looks like a nice little beer festival. The festival at the Bon Accord ends on the 28th November and Brewers such as Fyne Ales, St. Austell, Deeside, Highland, Skinners, Arran,  Harvieston, Bushy's from the Isle of Man and, of course, Brewdog will be available.

The State Bar

I leave the Bon and take the short walk into town. I pass a Wetherspoons but I decide to keep walking. I've intentionally avoided going into Wetherspoons today. This isn't due to any prejudice against the pub chain. Indeed, I think that the quality and range of their beer offerings has improved greatly in the past year or so. I've had superbly conditioned and well maintained beers such as Thornbridge Jaipur and Kipling as well as Brewdog's 5 a.m. Saint, Punk IPA and Trashy Blonde from the pub chain in the last month and they have all been on top form. I avoided Wetherspoons today simply because it is the tail end of the latest 'spoons beer fest and I figure that their pubs will still be stocking and serving a selection of the festival menu.

A warm welcome from the State Bar

Just off Sauchihall Street is the State Bar and has perhaps one of the nicest, most ornate pub interiors in the city. It has a stunning oval bar surrounded by sumptious dark wood floors and panelling with stained and leaded interior frosted glass and original mirrors adorning the walls.

Lux Interior

It really is a gorgeous pub that leans towards selling mostly Scottish beers and you can usually guarantee a choice of Edinburgh Beers and Central/West Scotland beers usually from brewers such as Caledonian, Houston and Harvieston. Today is no different. As well as the brewers mentioned, Brewdog's Trashy Blonde is also available. I opt for a pint of Houston Killellan. I had some of this recently when I met Houston Head Brewer, Carl Wengel at a Meet the Brewer night. It was really nice then and it doesn't disappoint today. It has citrus hop aromas and a refreshing zesty fruit taste ending in a dry, satisfying and very moreish finish.

The bar at the State

Heading out of the State and heading along Sauchiehall Street, I successfully dodge harassed mothers dragging behind them bored offspring, prog rock student buskers too young to have beards that length and fundamentalist Christians dispensing leaflets offering salvation and a happy ever afterlife. I seek and find redemption in one of the few Mitchells and Butlers pubs in Glasgow it's cool to like, The Drum and Monkey.

Mitchells and Butlers - The Drum and Monkey

This city centre pub, operating under the Nicholsons wing of Mitchells and Butlers has stayed fairly true to its original interior. The former bank building has it's original high ceiling and ornately painted cornicing and pilllars and is a rather nice location to have a pint in. During the week it is home to the 5 o'clock city suits desperate for a beer and some banter before buggering off home to the suburban bliss of Bearsden, Battlefield and Bothwell.

On a Saturday lunchtime, however, it's a bit more sedate experience as shoppers seek culinary respite and a few beers before recommencing their shopping.

Like other M and B pubs their emphasis is on a food based business model but their five handpumps can usually be relied on to deliver well conditioned and well served beer.

The Drum interior

The beer menu is fairly Yin and Yang today with the Yays of Brewdog Punk IPA, Thornbridge Jaipur and Harvieston Bitter and Twisted being balanced by the Yikes of Caledonian Deuchars and 80 Shilling.

I ordered a Jaipur and asked for the sparkler to be removed. Beer tastes better without a sparkler, I said and the barman agreed. Sparkler duly removed I can now enjoy my Thornbridge. The Jaipur was exactly as it should be. Fresh grapefruit and a superb lingering dry, bitter finish. I had with the beer a portion of pork scratchings that were so crispy, so crunchy and such a danger to your teeth they could have been sponsored by Glasgow Dental Hospital. They were lovely though and great with the Jaipur.

Last stop - Blackfriars

Out of the Drum and Monkey and on to my final destination. The last pub on my Glasgow beer tour. Off to the eastern edge of the city centre and into the Merchant City area, I find Blackfriars Pub.

Blackfriars' beer board

This eclectic little pub offers up comedy, jazz and boom boom techno nights as well as cask ale and a great range of European and American Craft bottles. The bottles include cracking U.S. brews from the likes of Left Hand, Great Divide, Odell, Victory and Big Sky. The European range is just as impressive with the likes of Orval, Chimay, Cantillon and La Chouffe being available in the mouth watering beer fridge.

Three Wise Beer Monkeys

My last beer of the day was to be a lovely example of an American Extra Pale Ale. Odell's St Lupulin is a clean, crisp and refreshing beer whose lemon citrussy taste went excellently well with the beer battered haddock and chips that I bought to accompany the beer. I reckon I deserved it after all the walking and 'research' I had done in the name of beer.

A nice selection of bottled beers

So where is Glasgow on the UK beer index of nice pubs offering a diverse and tasty selection of bottled, cask but not yet keg beer? The 5 pubs I visited today had 36 pumps serving 20 Scottish Beers and 16 English/Welsh beers. There was a great selection and variety of bottled beers available too but, alas, Glasgow doesn't yet come close to having any pubs comparable to the likes of The Jolly Butcher, The Rake, The Cask or the Sheffield and Euston Taps but what it does have is some traditional yet relaxed, welcoming and pleasant pubs offering a regional, national and international variety of cask and bottle beers that can appeal to and satisfy the most eclectic tastes and discerning palates.

I'll drink to that!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Adieu, Mr Ryan

The Beer Blogosphere has been buzzing today with many fond farewells to Kelly Ryan, former Thornbridge brewer who departs these shores and heads back home to his native New Zealand. I thought I would add my tuppence worth too and pay homage to a superb brewmaster who has been pivotal in ensuring that Thornbridge Brewery has become a byword for brewing innovation, passion and quality.

Some of the finest beers I've had in the last few years have come from Thornbridge and it has been an absolute pleasure to taste, savour and enjoy the likes of Halcyon, Jaipur, Kipling and Bracia among many others. I have Kelly Ryan and Thornbridge to thank for the emotion of absolute joy I have experienced so many times as I've walk into a pub and my eyes have done a quick scan across the pumpclips and locked on the distinctive Thornbridge House clip. This invariably elicits an internal and sometimes an external Yay! from myself, which often leads to a few strange looks from other punters in the pub. But what the hell do I care because at that moment I know that what I am going to get is a pint of absolute quality and distinction.

So thank you, Kelly Ryan for the part you have played in not only putting a huge smile on my face but also a stunning beer in my belly.

Hope you have a safe journey, mate. Thornbridge and the British beer drinker's loss is New Zealand's gain.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Who wants another chain pub?

 The fight to save the iconic and 'much loved' Glasgow pub, Tennent's Bar has stepped up a gear and intensified after local  MSP Pauline McNeill  put forward a Motion to the Scottish Parliament which calls on it to 'note the strength of feeling against potential changes' and that the pub is not only a 'landmark' but also a 'Glasgow institution'.

The Motion, put forward on the 3rd of November, to the Parliament and supported by MSP Willie Coffey comes hot on the heels of internet campaigns and i-petitions designed to put pressure on new owners Mitchells and Butlers not to gentrify and turn the historic West End landmark into a gastropub.

Mitchells and Butlers, which has a portfolio of approximately 2000 pubs, recently acquired Tennent's and are considering an extensive refurbishment to the pub during the April/May of 2011.

Tennent's is an integral and iconic part of Glasgow pub culture. This traditional Victorian corner pub which sits in the heart of Glasgow's West End on Byres Road has been an institution since it opened in 1884. It has twelve handpumps dispensing nine regular ales from breweries such as Harviestoun, Orkney, Caledonian and Timmy Taylor as well as three guest ales. There is a real fear not only among its regulars but also the wider beer/pub community that Mitchells and Butlers intend to move away from the traditional real ale pub and rebrand and repackage it a restaurant/bistro/gastro pub.

In their defence, Mitchells and Butlers say that "We are looking at making some changes such as increasing the size of the kitchen. The pub is to be operated under the Nicholson's badge, our collection of historic pubs operating across Britain which all share a passion for Real Ale, traditional pub food and local heritage at their core".

For many Glasgow beer drinkers, it is unthinkable to consider Tennent's not being in its current incarnation this time next year. Instead, it could be another homogenous bar/bistro serving over priced beer and food in a place stripped of its history and legacy. That's a horrible thought.

You can add your name to the save Tennent's petition here -

Monday, 1 November 2010

2010 - Fine collaborations. A Fyne collaboration

2010 has certainly been a fine year for beer collaborations with some excellent examples springing to mind. Take, for instance, the coming together of Brewdog and Mikkeller which saw the Fraserburgh upstarts blending their Hardcore IPA and Danish craft brewers' I Beat You together to create a quadruple dry hopped, piney toffeepop of a beer, I Hardcore You.

There was also the menage a trois collaboration between U.S. craft brew masters Dogfish Head, Stone Brewing and Victory Brewing Co's to produce a citrus and herbtastic Saison du BUFF. The BUFF stands for Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor and this Saison certainly puts into practice what the BUFF boys preach. I had a bottle of SdB one night with some roasted chicken and thyme fresh from the oven and the pairing was absolutely fantastic. This is a lovely brew full of herby, hoppy flavour and one of my favourite beers this summer.

And in late August, London's 15 Breweries got together to work on a beer that celebrated the resurgent London Brewing community. Brewers from long established companies like Fuller's as well as relative new kids on the block such as Kernel and Meantime joined forces at Tottenham's Redemption Brewery to create a London Porter that not only showcases the brewers innovation and talent but also symbolises their passion and belief that they have in maintaining that London can and does create world class beer.

So happy days indeed, if you are like me someone who likes to see some of their favourites brewers and breweries put their heads together and come up with different, interesting but above all tasty beers. Speaking of different, tasty and interesting beers there is one collaboration that I thought would only happen if I wrote a letter to the man with the big white beard who stays in the North Pole and only shows his face once a year. However, it appears that beer dreams sometimes do indeed come true
Two breweries that I hold in very high regard are Fyne Ales and Thornbridge. Fyne Ales is an Argyll brewery based at the top of Loch Fyne. It consistently produces superb ales such as Avalanche, Piper's Gold and Highlander. This year's summer offering from them, Jarl was one of the nicest beers at the GBBF.  As for Thornbridge, well anyone who has tasted some of their offerings such as Jaipur, Kipling or Halcyon will know that they produce beers of the highest quality and taste.

Well, guess what? Fyne Ales and Kelly Ryan formerly of Thornbridge are working on a collaborative effort which according to Kelly is a "big Indian Black Ale full of Centennial, Amarillo, Perle and Citra hops". Given both their pedigrees, this will be one beer that you will want to taste, savour and enjoy. I know I will.

the beer monkey says hello

Welcome to the beer monkey's blog.

A blog in which I will be discussing, contemplating and shooting the breeze about the wonderful world of beer and all things beer related.

So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a lovely drop of refreshing beer and I hope you enjoy the blog.

Cheers or as beer drinkers around the world say:  Prost, Skol, Cin Cin, Okole Manula!, Salut, Serefe!, Oogy Wawa!, On Egin!,  A Votre Sante.