Wednesday, 30 March 2011

My Beer of the Month


March has been a magic month for beer at monkey mansions. I've tasted some quality cask and bottles and picking out a stand out beer from each category has been no mean feat. The quality and range of beers that I've had has been superb, particularly those beers that formed part of The Three Judges Mild, Stout and Porter Festival.

There were some stunning examples of each style on show and during the past couple of weeks I've paid more than a few visits to the 'Judges to indulge myself in some serious research of some beautiful beer. The best beer from cask I've had this month is a tight one to choose. The pint of Summer Wine Brewery's Apache I had in the Bow Bar in Edinburgh had a powerfully punchy and delightful hop profile which went down a treat. Bank Top's Port O Call was another beautifully made and superbly conditioned beer and the Big City Jamaica Stout (which is part of Wetherspoons' latest beer fest) is a great example of a lovely beer being made by a surrogate brewery that ticked all the right boxes.

However, the pint which I kept wanting more of was Summer Wine Brewery's Resistance Mild. It was a terrific example of a tasty and satisfying Mild. It had some chocolate, fruity hops and some roast on the nose and was followed through by subtle chocolate notes and traces of roast caramel in the mouth. It finished fairly dry with a lingering bitterness. Summer Wine Brewery is a brewery that I'm seeing more and more of when I'm out and I've been impressed by the punchy flavours and tastes of their beers. They clearly are on a roll at the moment and if you catch sight of one of their beers, give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

10 out of 10 for the 10

My bottled beer of the month was an easy choice. It is Danish brewers Mikkeller and their beer 10. I was simply blown away from the first mouthfull to the last drop. It takes it's name from the 10 hops that are used in the making of this beer and each of them have already appeared in Mikkellers range of single hopped beer. There are Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Nugget, Tomahawk and East Kent Golding hops in this beer along with three different malts (Pilsner, Cara-Crystal and Munich). With so many flavoursome and full bodied hops in the mix, this could have easily turned into a hop bomb mess but Mikkeller's skill shines through and this is quite simply, an absolute stonker of a beer. It's big, bold but beautifully balanced and destined for inclusion in my 'best of' list at the end of the year. If you haven't tried it, do what you can to get your hands and mouth on it. It really is that good.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

With Friends Like These.......


The budget has come and gone and, as expected, it's left the brewing industry counting the cost of further punitive rises in the price of making and buying a pint. No change from the Chancellor on the previous Labour policy but it does leave an increase of 7.2% more in beer duty following Osborne's budget which retained the beer tax escalator.

You would expect condemnation from all sections of the brewing industry. And there has been. The Society of Independent Brewers, SIBA has called it "a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector". The British Beer and Pub Association called it a "hammer blow to pubs and clubs" which "hampers growth". CAMRA called it "incredible" that British Beer drinkers have to "endure the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe".

However,  some people in the brewing industry came out in support of the retention of the tax escalator.  Brewdog's James Watt said, "At BrewDog we wholeheartedly back the rise in the duty on beer," Watt went on "The faceless, monolithic corporations who cowardly discount their supposedly ‘premium’ industrially brewed lagers are slowly suffocating the UK beer industry. The increase in duty can only make it less profitable for them to sell their beers at completely irresponsible prices and decrease the huge impact this has on society as a whole. As part of a society and a community they have a responsibility to people, which they have been ignoring for far too long in the name of profits and corporate greed."

"Yes, the increase in duty will make beer, including BrewDog products, more expensive, but we feel this will help craft beer continue to carve a more significant position in the industry. If someone has to pay slightly more for their beer, they expect more from it – any industrial, chemical ridden, insipid mass-market lager will only leave them disappointed." Watt said.

BrewDog also feel that the increase in duty will help "catalyse" the "UK craft beer revolution".

Eh? Run that by me again. By making beer more expensive, it will encourage more people to put their hands in their pocket and buy more beer?

Does Watt really think that beer is a product with price elasticity similar to a Giffen Good - a good which people consume more of as the price rises?

What planet is he on?

 Since 2008 the price of beer has increased by more than 30%. The price of a pint has never been higher and people's incomes in these tight fiscal times have never been more stretched. Increasing the price further will surely lead to more people cutting back on their trips to the pub. This has the consequence of more breweries and pubs going to the wall and jobs being lost.

But, hey, as long as it helps the "UK craft beer revolution' and gets BrewDog some newspaper column inches along the way, that's ok then?


Monday, 21 March 2011

Is this BrewDog's Glasgow Pub?


The Third BrewDog ?

Love them or hate them, you have to concede that those Fraserburgh brewing upstarts, BrewDog have been pretty successful at building a brand and a business since their inception less than a handful of years ago. They have achieved infamy, notoriety and critical acclaim in equal measure as they push their craft beer agenda to an increasingly receptive market.

From bottles to cans via some stuffed animals they have embarked upon a journey that has been as enjoyable to watch as it has been to taste. Oh....and along the way they have made some very lovely beers too.

Last autumn they opened their first pub in their home town of Aberdeen and word has it that it has exceeded their wildest expectations in terms of sales and growth. Not ones for letting an opportunity pass them by they decided to open a second BrewDog in Edinburgh which is due to open very soon. Not content with two, it appears that they now have the taste for opening BrewDog bars around the country and speculation is that the next city to get the BrewDog bar treatment is Glasgow.

In my home town of Glasgow, there has been increasing and intensifying speculation over the last few weeks as to the location of their next bar. There is, however, only one name that is being mentioned. That name is The Lock Inn on Argyle St, directly opposite the Kelvingrove Art Galleries and next to Kelvin Hall. It's fairly common knowledge that they looked at other Glasgow pubs in their quest to find a suitable location. Most notably Gazelle on Argyle St (pub tie) and The Rogue (cellar too small) on Old Dumbarton Road.

If the speculation is correct it is, in my opinion, an excellent location for them. It's in the heart of the West End of Glasgow, close to Glasgow University studentland and the surrounding area is filled with a young population with a high disposable income.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Beware the Budget Double Beer Whammy


When George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, sits down on the green leather benches of the House of Commons on Wednesday, having just finished delivering his budget ,the task for many brewers, breweries and publicans in calculating it's impact on them will just be starting.

There is a genuine fear that this year's budget could bring a punitive beer double whammy to brewers and drinkers alike in terms of tax hikes and the removal of financial incentives such as the Small Brewers Relief.

Many involved in the beer industry are rightly worried of the impact that Osborne's measures may bring have on their businesses and livelihoods. Beer in the UK is hideously over taxed as it is. We are the second highest out of the 27 EU member states for excise duty and since 2008 beer duty in the UK has increased by 26%. If that's not bad enough the rise in VAT from 15% to 20% and the soaring cost of beer raw materials has hit pubs and breweries hard. Beer sales in UK pubs have declined, since 2008 by 30%.  As a consequence of these factors, 29 pubs are closing every week. Despite this, beer still provides a significant contribution to the British economy. It supports over 400,000 jobs and generates almost £5.5 Billion in Revenue for the Exchequer every year.

It simply doesn't make economic or political sense to increase beer duty any further. Economically, any rise in duty will cut consumption, which in turn reduces the amount of tax taken. Politically, the Tories have made great play on the role of the private sector to generate jobs and a rise in duty would, again do the opposite as pubs close and breweries cut capacity.

Freezing beer duty is a start, but I would like to see Osborne go further. I would like to see a commitment from him to bring the British Beer Duty down to the European average and give British brewers and pubs a fairer crack of the whip rather than being convenient  cash cows and whipping boys for the Treasury.

The status of the Small Breweries Relief (SBR) also hangs in the balance and if changed or re-calibrated on Tuesday then it could have a significant impact on this growing beer sector. Small Breweries Relief was introduced in 2002 and it acted as a stimulus and catalyst for the extraordinary growth in small breweries.

In recognition of the high initial costs involved in setting up a brewery and in an attempt to offset these costs, the Labour Government introduced the SBR which meant that smaller scale Breweries producing less that 60,000 hectolitres per year received up to a 50% reduction. This incentivised a great many to take the leap and set up their own brewery. Prior to the SBR there was 350 breweries in the UK. Now there are over 750, with 700 of these receiving some payment from the SBR scheme. This scheme has created new businesses, jobs and greater consumer choice. Clearly, without this financial support many small local breweries would not be able to survive and would go to the wall.

Any attempt to remove or negativley re-calibrate the payment scheme trigger points would effectively drown at birth the growing cottage  brewery industry that has been responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of workers who in turn have contributed immeasurably to many local community economies and ultimately to the Exchequer.

I just hope that, by Wednesday, Osborne has done his sums correctly and realises the contribution and impact that beer and pubs have made to not only local communities but also the British Economy.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cooking with beer - Coq au biere

Andy Mogg over at Beer Reviews has asked bloggers and beer lovers for their favourite food recipes that use beer as an ingredient. I was going to make a Steak and Ale pie but decided to make a dish that is fairly popular in Northern France where it is quite common for beer to be used instead of wine in some recipes. One of those recipes is Coq Au Biere. I thought I would give this recipe a try.

Here's how I got on.

Coq Au Biere - the ingredients

  • 8 Chicken Thighs

  • 4 rashers of  bacon - cut into small slices

  • 8 shallots, chopped

  • 200g button mushrooms, cut in two

  • 3 carrots sliced

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 1 tbsp rosemary

  • 1 tbsp thyme

  • 2 chicken stock cubes

  • 1 tbsp sage

  • 500ml bottle of beer. I used Fyne Ales Vital Spark 

  • Salt and pepper

  • Flour for coating the Chicken Thighs

  • How to make Coq Au Biere

    1. Put flour, salt and pepper in freezer bag and add chicken until  fully coated in flour. Place into a hot pan and cook until golden. Remove chicken and set aside. Put the shallots, carrots, garlic and mushrooms in the pan and cook until they have a bit of colour.

    2.  Return the Chicken to the pot and throw in the rosemary, thyme and sage.

    3. Pour in the beer and the chicken stock. Pop the lid on and simmer on the hob for 1 hour.

    4. Serve with boiled potatoes and green beans.

    I left mine overnight and ate it the following day. It was absolutely lovely and the richness of the Fyne Ales Vital Spark added to and enhanced the complexity of the flavours. The Brewdog Ingrid I washed it down with wasn't bad either.

    Why don't you try it and get Cooking with Beer.


    Monday, 14 March 2011

    A Dip into the Dark Side


    Glasgow pub, The Three Judges have been running their Mild, Stout and Porter festival every March now for the last couple of years. They tend to bypass the Camra Mild in May festival and opt to stage their dark beer fest a couple of months before it. Their logic is simple. They find that the beer choice in May for mild is limited due to sheer pressure of demand on breweries from pubs looking to buy some of the dark stuff. The Judges reckon, correctly, that by getting in first they can have the pick of some of the finest examples of Mild, Stouts and Porters from across the UK for their thirsty punters to enjoy and appreciate.

    Their festival beer choice reads like a dark beer lovers wish list of some of the finest examples of these beer styles. There are beers from Summer Wine Brewery, Dark Star, Fyne Ales and many, many others. I popped in a couple of times during the first few days of the festival with the intention of hooking up with some beer friends and sampling some nice and tasty beer.

    My usual beers of choice tend to be light and hoppy, so the Judges' festival is a good excuse to dip into the dark side and experience some rich, roasted and fruity flavours.

    Five of the eight pumps are given over to the festival and, when I was in, I had the pleasure of trying beers that were good, well made examples of their styles. These included Ilkley Black Mild, Brewster's Stilton Porter, Purple Moose Dark Side of the Moose, Dark Star Espresso Stout and Otley Dark O.

    Otley Dark O was full of roast malt taste with some delicate dark chocolate, coffee and traces of ripe berry fruit. It was a really nice, well made and well balanced Stout (or is it a Mild?) with a deliciously lingering bitter finish. It was decidely more-ish and possibly the nicest beer that I had over the weekend.

    Another couple of beers worthy of mention were Brewster's Stilton Porter and Dark Star's Espresso Stout. The Stilton Porter poured ruby red with a foamy, cream head. It smelled faintly smokey with a tint of tobacco ash. It tasted of rich and fruity with a strong bitterness that gave way to a smooth mild finish. I was expecting a stilton hit but, apart from a slight cream tickle, there was no cheesiness to speak of.

    I'm a big fan of Dark Star's beers with their Hophead being a beer that I actively seek out as it's a blast of hoppy loveliness. I've had the Espresso Stout in bottles and on cask before and it has consistently hit the spot so I it was an easy choice to make when it was added to the beer board. It smelled as I had remembered - dark, roasted malts with some spiced chocolate and a trace of coffee in the flavour. It had a sweet rewarding mouthfeel that gave way to a dry and slightly bitter finish. It was nice pint but the coffee was not as pronounced as I had remembered. It had been my fourth or fifth pint of the day, so it may have been my poor, battered tastebuds. In the interests of research, I popped in the following day and had another Espresso Stout and found the coffee profile to be more dominant and to the fore. It was a really enjoyable pint.

    I dipped my toe into the Dark Side and was  impressed by the standard, quality and range of beers on. The festival lasts until the 26th March and there are over 30 more Mild, Stouts and Porters still to be enjoyed.


    Monday, 7 March 2011

    Guest Beer Review - Phil from Beersay Blog

    Collaborations are good things. In beer we have had some great examples of different brewers and breweries working together to create some very interesting and special beers in the process. Last summer's Saison Du Buff from American Craft merchants Stone, Victory and Dogfish Head, the Fyne Ales and Kelly Ryan superb Fynebridge Black IPA and BrewDog/Mikkeller's, I Hardcore You all immediately spring to mind as fine examples of constructive collaboration.

    In that spirit of positive partnerships, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce on the blog a guest reviewer every now and again. I'll be reciprocating by reviewing a beer or two on my fellow bloggers site. So, kicking off the first in an occasional series, I introduce to you Phil from the Beersay blog who has been sampling some of Sierra Nevada's Stout.  Here's what he thought -

    Liquid Geography

    If you'd have asked me a few years ago about beers from the good old U S of A, I would have more than likely described them as being pretty tasteless, fizzy, mass produced or something of that ilk. Generally when I've spoken to people about American beer that's the impression I'd got and having never been there I had no point of reference to think otherwise. The only American beer I'd ever had was Budweiser.  Now I still drink the odd Bud at times and enjoy it too, it has it's place and ice cold on a hot day is it, however a flavour-fest it is not..

    That all changed at the Stoke On Trent beer festival a two years ago, The Mrs and Myself had gone to the Saturday night session and to be honest it was a bit of a washout. Nearly all the beers we'd fancied trying had long since gone, so we ventured up to the foreign bottled beer bar to sample what it had to offer.
    As the night went on we got talking to the bar manager about his suggestions and he brought out two bottles of Goose Island IPA. Sensing our scepticism (probably from the looks he was getting back), he explained that it was in his opinion the best beer he'd sold all weekend. He was right, it was bloody gorgeous. We duly left, extra happy as he gave us the last two bottles to take home.

    Since then a lot of water (and beer) has passed under the bridge and I've not really explored American beer any further, nor had I realised what a fantastic craft brewing scene they had going over the pond. So here we are back in 2011 and I'm writing a guest review for The Beer Monkey, so I thought what the hell, it seems very popular amongst other bloggists let's go for something completely different, the Sierra Nevada Stout.

    Now I'm not going to waffle on about the brewers, their brewery or history, I've done enough waffling already, you can read about it at your leisure here:

    So, to the beer. I opened it on a bright sunny afternoon as the photos show, out pours an inky black liquid, seems a little flat at first but quickly forms a lively creamy brown head, stout is black I know but this is BLACK.

    It smells hoppier than any stout I've had before it's the main thing that fights for your attention you before you dive in. First taste gives a lively buzzing fizz on the tongue which is out of character. The taste though is wonderful, it feels very light in the mouth probably because of the high carbonation that lingers on through the glass, a little like a Budvar Dark in some ways.

    But it also has a really great depth of flavours that get your taste buds buzzing, there's toasted malts, burnt caramel, really high % cocoa quality dark chocolate, a little coffee then comes the big old hoppy finish. Long after your last sip that chocolate bitterness lingers on in the mouth from teeth to tonsils. (I walked the dog straight after drinking this and a full hour later I could still taste it.)

    All in all a pleasant experience and not at all what I was expecting, an American beer that is a take on British Stout which has elements of Belgian and Czech brews, a geography lesson in a glass.

    Verdict: I need to do more study...


    Sunday, 6 March 2011

    Abstrakt:05 Comp - The winner is......


    .....Mr Will Millinship.

    The correct answers to March's beer monkey competition were as follows -

    James Watt occupation prior to setting up BrewDog was a trawlerman.

    Martin Dickie studied brewing at Heriot Watt Uni.

    Thanks to all that entered.

    Look out for another beer monkey competition next month.


    Friday, 4 March 2011

    The Session #49 - Regular Beer



    I drink beer. I'm a beer drinker me. If I'm not down the pub having a few pints then you'll most probably find me at home nursing something nice, tasty and refreshing. I used to have regular beers. But, back then I drank to get drunk. Not, as I do now, to sample, savour and enjoy the quality and artisanal craftmanship that's gone in to making the brew in my hand.

    Times change and so does the individual. Back then, I had regular beers. These were usually golden, canned and fizzy. More often than not made by some brewing giant, some behemoth that didn't care for the flavour and taste of their product. As long as it looked good on a balance sheet, then that was alright.

    I've changed and so has my taste in beers. My beery kicks now come, not from the desire to get pissed as quickly as possible, but to indulge myself in the myriad of beer styles and tastes out there. I love that tingle of anticipation before entering a quality establishment not knowing what's on offer but happily content and safe in the knowledge that what could potentially be on offer is something special, something different and something so tastebud tantalisingly gorgeous that it brings not only a smile to your face but a ready brek glow to your soul.

     Or I could have a bottle of Bud or a pint of Carling.

    Life is too short and beer choices too diverse to have a regular, go to beer that ultimately limits your choice and restricts your horizons.

    I don't have Heinz tomato soup or eat the same meal every day, so why should I restrict my beer consumption to one brand or style.  Routine and regularity are the enemy of innovation and creativity.

    Get tasting, get drinking and, most importantly, get enjoying the huge variety of tasty, refreshing and eclectic beers out there.


    There's nothing more I can add....

    .......this says it all.



    Thursday, 3 March 2011

    Glasgow Beer - Mild, Stout and Porter Festival


    Glasgow beer fans are in for a treat later on in March when Glasgow Pub Institution, The Three Judges holds their annual Mild, Stout and Porter Festival. The event, which lasts a fortnight, aims to showcase some of the finest examples of these beer styles from some of the best breweries in the U.K.

    The festival is a dark beer lover's dream and includes beers from Dark Star, Fyne Ales, Summer Wine, Bristol Beer Factory and Potbelly. It starts on the 11th and continues through to the 25th of March. Beers are still being added to the extensive list but so far confirmed are

    - Dark Star Espresso Stout
    - Summer Wine Barista Espresso Stout
    - Fyne Ales Sublime Stout
    - Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild
    - Potbelly Beijing Black
    - Ilkley Black
    - Otley Dark O
    - RCH Old Slug Porter
    - Summer Wine Resistance Mild
    - Abbey Black Friar
    - Bradfield Farmer's Stout
    - Quantock Stout
    - Bank Top Port o Call
    - Triple F Pressed Rat and Warthog

    More beer is arriving daily and is being lovingly cared in the cellar until the festival begins by the Judges expert cellar folk, Ronnie, Angela and Colin.

    So, if you are in Glasgow or the West of Scotland and looking to indulge yourself in some lovely Mild, Stout and Porter in the next couple of weeks then the Three Judges is clearly the place to be.


    Wednesday, 2 March 2011

    Competition Time - Win Some BrewDog Abstrakt 05


    A new month brings a new competition in beer monkey mansions. Each month we put up for grabs some of the nicest, newest beers out there. Last month one lucky person won some utterly gorgeous Fyne Ales Jarl. This month we have something equally as enticing and exciting but even harder to get your hands on - a bottle of BrewDog's latest experiment in ale alchemy. Their latest Abstrakt beer which is a 12.5% Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted cocnut and cacao. Only 700 hundred of these were available on BrewDog's online store and they have all sold out. can still get your hands on a bottle by answering the following BrewDog related questions.

     - What was James Watt's occupation before setting up BrewDog?

    - Which University did BrewDog's Martin Dickie study brewing at?

    If you think you know both answers, then drop me an email at

    Closing date is 7 p.m. this Sunday 6th of March.

    The winner will be notified soon after.

    Good Luck.

    Competition now closed. Thanks to all that entered. Look out for another beer monkey competition next month.