Sunday, 31 July 2011

Camden Town Pale Ale



I'm a big fan of Camden Town beers, particularly their Pompous Red, Inner City Green and Camden Town Pale Ale. The Camden Town Pale Ale is their take on an American Pale and whenever I've tried it, in either Keg or Cask, it has always been a tasty top notch beer. So, when I saw on Ales by Mail website that the Pale Ale was now available in bottles, I thought I'd put my hands in my pocket and buy a couple. I'm glad that I did because the bottled version is a lovely, tasty, refreshing beer.

It poured an opaque, golden colour and had a very pleasant aromatic nose of light peach, grassy citrus and the slightest hint of malt. It was in the taste department that this beer really came into it's own with it's fruit basket of flavours.

It had a light, subtle carbonation and a slight fizz that complemented very nicely the sweet citrus taste of lemon, grapefruit and more peach. There was even hints of some kiwi and gooseberry. These fruity notes were balanced very well by the breadiness of the malts that continued through to a lingering bitter-ish finish that left your thirst quenched and wanting more than just the one bottle of this lovely beverage.

Camden Town have managed to create a very nice beer that translates extremely well to bottles and one that I will be looking out for an any future trips to that there London. If they Camden can do it with the Pale ale, then I look forward to seeing some of their other beery offerings in bottle too at some point in the near future.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fun in the Sun at Hawkshead


You will have to look very hard to find something as elementally satisfying than having a pint of well made and gorgeously tasty beer whilst sitting bathed in glorious sunshine. It is a perfect combination. Summer and al fresco beer drinking are such perfect partners that
 you'd think that they were made specially for each other.

Add to that partnership the glorious location of the Lake District, over 70 lovely beers, great people and  four days of fun celebrating the oh so very best of the current British beer scene and you have the gloriously heady beer cocktail that was the 2011 Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival.


It is an impressive sight when you turn the corner and glimpse the brewery for the first time. Set in the Cumbrian village of Staveley, the Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall is a modern affair full of gleaming glass and shiny stainless steel, straight from the box, brewing equipment. To call it just a brewery is an understatement. It is much more than that. The Beer Hall is home to not just the brewery but also the brewery tap, sampling rooms, visitor centre, specialist international beer shop, conference and visitor rooms as well as The Beer Kitchen that provides some very tasty 'beer tapas' to sate your appetite and and soak up the beer. The Main Bar is dominated by the focal point of the two storey tall stainless steel fermenting tanks that allow you to see the beers being made while you enjoy a pint.  There are also
 over forty handpumps. It's an impressive place.

It is a leisure, or should that be pleasure, centre for beer drinkers that was to be our second home for a couple of days while we indulged in some of the best beer Britain has to offer.

got any black sheep, mate?

We arrived on the Friday evening and, after pitching our tent, we tooking the half hour walk from the campsite to the festival through fields of curious sheep and big arsed cows. We had certainly worked up a thirst by our arrival but what to have first?

The beer list was an Alladin's Cave of ales. Represented at the festival were breweries such as Thornbridge, Marble, Trinity, Fyne Ales, Oakham, Redemption, Dark Star, Magic Rock and Hawkshead.

Choices, choices. Decisions, decisions.

My mind was made up for me a few days before the festival when I first set eyes on the beer list. The
 first beer I was homing in on was from new brewing company, Magic Rock and their 9.2% Human Cannonball IPA. A lot of positive things have been written about the company since it's inception a few months back and I intend to cover their beers more fully in a future blog. Needless to say, my timing on this occasion was less than brilliant. I had arrived just as the pumpclip was being turned round. Clearly signifying that the beer had just finished. It seems that many other festival goers had had the same idea as myself. It was the very first beer to be drunk dry.

Not to worry, there was still 70 beers left to try.

I might as well stay with Magic Rock, so I went for a pint of their Curious Pale Ale. It's a 3.8% beer that is laden with loads of U.S. hops that punches above it's ABV weight. It has strong malt spine that is beautifully counterposed by an immensely intense hop aroma and an intensely immense citrus flavour. As a first beer, it was a much needed thirst quencher. It was very, very nice.

The first beer swiftly despatched, I was clearly in the mood for more lovely light, hoppy and refres
hing beer. And so the night continued in the way that it had started. Friday evening became a night of the lights with various pale, golden hoppy beers being drunk as we took in the entertainment from a highly enjoyable Anglo Irish Folk band that got toes tapping and bodies dancing. Notable beers of our Friday drinking included - Dark Star's American Pale Ale, Pictish Brewer's Gold, Fyne Ales' Jarl and Hurricane Jack and Oakham Citra.

Special mention must go to Tottenham's Redemption Brewery for their Trinity and Magic Rock for High Wire. Trinity has got three varieties of hops, three varieties of malt and comes in at 3% ABV. It's a threemendous beer that has you shaking your head in wonder at how they can manage to create so much flavour and body in a beer of such low strength. I also wonder why they call it a mild when it's clearly a pale ale.

beer tapas at hawkshead beer kitchen
The High Wire was our last beer of Friday evening and it didn't disappoint. I presume it's called High Wire because the beer walks a delicate balancing act between the hop citrus shards, the malt base and crisp, bitter finish. It works very well and was a nice end to a lovely evening.

And so to bed.......

Saturday morning arrived and we were in the mood for more of the same. More beer, more sunshine
 and plenty of time to enjoy both. A lot of beer must have been drunk on the Friday as by the time we got to The Beer Hall on the Saturday lunchtime, many of the beers had been scored out. The first brewery to be wiped out was, unsurprisingly enough, Magic Rock. All four of their beers had been drunk dry with the last drop being poured an hour after Saturday's opening. That's very good going for a brewing company that's not even out of nappies yet.

going, going, gone......magic rock wipeout

Despite some beers being finished, there was still an ample range left to satisfy even the most picky of drinkers. Thornbridge Wild Swan started my Saturday before I moved on to a pint that near blew my socks off by it's beery beauty. Sambrooks' Wandle is an exceptional beer. It was the colour of sunshine and tasted like nectar. It was clean, crisp yet sticky sweet with a fruit salad nose and a heavenly hop bitterness that lingered longer than a saddle sniffer at a cyclist's convention. It was that good.

Also excellent were two of Hawkshead's own beers, Cumbrian 5 Hop (aka Citrilla) and a new brew being showcased at the festival for the first time, the NZPA. The beer contains 100% New Zealand hops and has been made by their resident Kiwi brewer Matt Clarke to celebrate and commemorate Hawkshead's 1000th brew. It's a 6% pale and hoppy ale that is bursting full of peach, kiwi fruit and mango flavours.
The sun shone down in the courtyard as I held my pint of NZPA and I reflected on the weekend. It had been one of the best beery experiences that I had had for a long time. Great beers, great people, great weather and a great brewery that knows how to throw a party are the perfect ingredients for fun in the sun.

Thank you, Hawkshead.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Beer Evolution - The Launch of Finch Beer.


I find myself in Edinburgh for the launch of an exciting beer project by four final year brewing students from Heriot Watt University. You can read more background on the project here and here. They have chosen to launch their one off beer at the Guildford Arms and I thought I'd show my support by turning up and trying a couple.

A Charm of Finches

However, I'm a wee bit early and decide to pop in to the Bow Bar to get a look at what they have on. It's a fortuitous move on my behalf as I'm just in time to catch the start of their Summer Beer Festival. It's a fairly extensive festival with over 40 breweries participating, including Hawkshead, Fyne, Dark Star, Tryst, Highland, Bristol Beer Factory and Tempest.

While I was in I indulged in a couple of halves of York Citra, Ossett Santiam and the 9% Highland Orkney Porter. The Citra was the best beer of the three. It was light, citrussy and thoroughly refreshing. I've had better Citra hopped beers but this was still a very flavourful and drinkable 4% light session beer. The Orkney Porter is one that you tend not to see in cask very often, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm a big fan of this beer's rich, dark chocolate booziness but today's cask offering wasn't as rounded and balanced as I had hoped. It was nice but just a little too harsh in the booze department for my gentle tastebuds.

Beers finished, I wandered down to the Guildford Arms for the launch of Natural Selection's, Finch.
The student brewers' aim was to create a beer that married traditional Scottish beer with the innovation and craft of the American beer scene. What they created was an Imperial Red Ale called Finch. It is a 6.5% beer that uses Chinook hops for bittering and Amarillo for flavour and aroma with a Maris Otter malt base with additional Crystal and Caramalt.

Lovely Pump Clip

How was it?

I had been expecting it to have a more upfront hop profile in the nose and taste. In the battle between malt and hops, the malt won. It was very reminiscent of a Scotch Ale or a hoppier 80 Shillings with a full, thick, creamy mouthfeel and sweetish malt that hid the 6.5% ABV very well. I was expecting a bit more bitterness and more hop flavour. Overall, It was a nice enough beer and credit to the students' brewing skills but could have benefitted by turning the hop volume up a notch or two.

Mr Beer Cast and the Black Isle Beer Boy enjoy some Finch

The beer will now be available for a very limited time in some of Edinburgh's pubs. It even makes an appearance aa part of the Bow Bar's Summer Beer Festival. A limited number of bottles are also available from Appellation Wines in Edinburgh's Dalry Rd.

You can read Rich from the Beer Cast's review of the night here

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Camra's BrewDog GBBF Own Goal?

I gather from this article that BrewDog are fairly miffed to have had their booking for a bar at the Great British Beer Festival cancelled by Camra despite contracts being signed and  BrewDog paying the final deposit.

It seems, according to BrewDog, that the size of the kegs used by the company were no longer acceptable despite being previously agreed. BrewDog's, James Watt also states that Camra "reneged from our original agreement and insisted we take cask beer".

I'm only going on what James Watt and the BrewDog spin machine are saying but if it is correct, then it seems a very poor show by Camra.

Why enter into a contractual agreement in which both parties are clearly content with what's been decided if you are going to move the goalposts once the ink has dried and the cash has been paid?

I would like to hear what Camra Chair Colin Valentine has to say by way of justification. He was very quick to criticise the 'bloggerati' at the Camra AGM. Will he be as quick to explain, to Camra members like myself, why the organisation has decided to pull the plug on BrewDog?

In my view, this decision, if true, smacks of petty narrow minded beer fundamentalism with Camra more content to score some cheap points against BrewDog rather than honour the terms and conditions of the original contract. BrewDog and Camra have previous and each like nothing better than to rile and rub each other up the wrong way. So, it's not exactly a surprise that this has happened.

However, the manner in which BrewDog describe it as happening, post contract and exchange of deposit, draws me to the conclusion that this is could be an own goal by Camra that will end up hurting the Real Ale organisation more that it will hurt BrewDog.

Perhaps, Camra Chair, Colin Valentine and GBBF organiser, Marc Holmes would like to explain the decision. I'd like to hear Camra's version of events.


Footnote - Since writing this blog, Marc Holmes, The GBBF organiser for Camra has responded to James Watt's Blogpost on the BrewDog website.
Here's his response -


The reason Brewdog are not coming is that you didn’t pay the outstanding balance, as per the terms of the contract.

- The contract stated payment for the bar was due by May 27th. Giving you until July was very generous, nearly 7 weeks.

- The ultimatum was Thursday 12pm, you kept arguing and didn't agree until Friday 11am. Too late, we had programme deadlines to meet.

But to answer some of your other points:

- Right from the very start we said your beer must be supplied in large containers. We were happy with 50L kegs (as long as the beer contained live yeast) but you persisted in wanting to use 30L keykegs. Thornbridge did use 9G casks last year but it didn't work - they will be using 18G casks this year. We were looking at ordering in excess of 60 kils (equivalent) of beer, which is just not practical in 30L keykegs.

- You were the one that offered to supply cask beer in 18G casks.

Happy to start talking about GBBF 2012, and feel free to pop in this year to see how it works. I’ll even send you some tickets.

Marc Holmes
GBBF Organiser."

So BrewDog say they paid their final deposit, whereas Camra say that BrewDog didn't pay the outstanding amount and pulled the plug because of this.

Who is telling the truth? You can make up your own mind.


Heading to Hawkshead


I've been in two minds this week.

There's a couple of excellent beery options available to me this weekend that both have merit.

I could stay in Glasgow and head to the opening of BrewDog's shiny new bar in the city's West End.

Or, I could pack up the tent and camping stuff, stick it into the boot of the car and head to the Hawkshead Beer Festival in the Lake District for a couple of days of fun drinking beer made by some of the best breweries currently in the UK.

The beer list is a goldmine and contains many of the SIBA 2011 Gold medal winners as well as a finest selection of the brewers' favourites.

Beers available include Hawkshead's own Cumbrian 5 Hop and their new brew, New Zealand  Pale Ale. I'm also really keen to get my first taste of a new brewery that seem to have set the twitter tongues wagging recently. The brewery in question is Magic Rock Brewing Co and despite being in their infancy, they seem to have caught the eye with their hoptastic beers such as their 9.2 % Human Cannonball and their High Wire and Rapture. Here's hoping they live up to what others are saying about them.

Many parts of the UK are represented at the festival. From Fyne Ales in Scotland,  Marble Brewery in Manchester and Derbyshire's Thornbridge the cream of British beer is here. The South East is particularly well represented with Dark Star, Redemption, Sambrooks and Windsor and Eton all on the extensive beer menu. It really does look an cracking celebration of the best of British brewing.

That's it.

I think I've just talked myself into it.

BrewDog Glasgow can wait.

This weekend, it has to be Hawkshead.

The Hawkshead Festival runs from Thursday 21st July to Sun 24th. More information and the beer list can be found here

Monday, 18 July 2011

All Beer is Female Friendly


I see from this article here that brewing behemoths, Molson Coors and Carlsberg are to launch a range of 'female friendly' beers aimed, surprisingly enough, at women.

The beers Eve, Animee are desribed as being lighter, less carbonated and 'bloat resistant'.

Kristy McCready of Molson Coors told the Mail on Sunday: “The perception is that beer is a laddish drink so Animee will be more sophisticated and playful.”

The beer will come in smaller bottles (275ml) and will come in three varieties - Standard, Rose and Citrus.

No doubt, these beers will be launched will a mega cash rich media budget behind them as they try to tap in to a growing sector of the market - the female beer drinker.

We should view this for what it is. A cynical move by these multinationals to tap in to one of the fastest growing market sectors. It is not about getting more people into pubs drinking beer. It is about shifting units of these 'female friendly' beers from the supermarket shelf.

Don't these huge multinationals get it?

Are they seriously saying that the 700+ British breweries are currently making beer that is female unfriendly?

That is, clearly, utter tosh. More and more women are drinking and enjoying beer made by UK micro-breweries. They are clearly happy with the product.
Perhaps, these brewing multinationals should put the cash set aside for the marketing, publicity and market research of these beers and, instead, use it to improve their own core beers.

Maybe then, they will get more drinkers, men and women consuming their product.


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Brewing in the Face of Adversity


Some brewers and breweries often face huge challenges, barriers and obstacles and have to go to great lengths to ensure that their products get to market and sate the appetites and quench the thirsts of their customers.

Some of these barriers are economic. Others, geographical and in some extreme cases the barriers to progress can be political.

Often, these barriers are insurmountable and can cause breweries to fail and go to the wall. However, special mention must be given to those breweries that have risen to the challenges in front of them and have managed to survive despite the odds being stacked against them.

One such brewery is the unique and remarkable Taybeh Brewing Co, based in the West Bank village of the same name in the Palestinian Territories. The name Taybeh incidentally means 'tasty' or 'delicious'. It is unique in that it is the only Palestinian brewery and remarkable that it has managed to grow and expand despite the cultural, religious, legal and political restrictions placed upon it.

Since the brewery opened in 1994 it has overcome curfews, checkpoints, forced temporary closures and has to operate within a society that bans all forms of alcohol advertisement. However, the company has succeeded and flourished. It produces 600,000 litres each year of their four different beer styles - Golden, Light, Amber and Dark - with 60% of the sales being within the West Bank, 30% to Israel and 10% exported to countries such as Japan and Sweden. The brewery even holds an annual Oktoberfest event that is attended by over 10,000 Palestinians, Israelis and tourists all united in the common purpose of enjoying good beer.

Despite being based in the West Bank, Taybeh Brewing Co is truly an international affair: The hops come from Bavaria and the Czech Republic, the yeast from London and the malted barley from Belgium and France. The  brewing equipment is a mishmash of second hand French and Belgian kit and even the brewing process conforms to the German beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot.

They now intend to expand their business further into Europe and intend to broaden their beer making by brewing under license in Belgium and Germany. So, there is now a strong possibility of seeing beers by Taybeh in fridges and on the shelves of  bars and off sales around the country.

If you see them, do give them a try.

After everything Taybeh Brewing Co has been through, It's the least we can do.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Fantastic Foreign Legion at GBBF


It's just over two weeks to go to the Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court and things seem to be hotting up. I'm particularly looking forward to tasting some lovely beer from the four corners of the globe. So, my ears pricked up when I heard via this guy's blog that the beer list for the festival's foreign bar, Bieres Sans Frontieres, had just been released.

I've spent the past few hours having an absorbing perusal of the list and it looks a very exciting selection of bottles and cask beers from countries such as Italy, Japan, The States, Belgium, Holland and New Zealand. The bottle list is good but the cask list of beers is really rather mouth wateringly magnificent.

The foreign bar is split into four geographical sections -

Vesalias - Belgian and Dutch
Bilroth - German and Czech
Urbani - New World Bar
Blackwell - USA Cask Ale Bar

I'm not sure of the significance of the names given to each bar, perhaps someone can enlighten me further?

I'm not much of a beer ticker but in a unguarded moment of  self indulgence, I've made a little list of  ten of the international beers that I intend to seek, hunt down and enjoy the moment the door opens on Tuesday 2nd August.

Here it is. The tasting notes are not my own and are instead taken from the Camra GBBF website.

Epic (New Zealand)
Mayhem (6.2% ABV)
This beer's fresh earthy aromas and rich flavours taste like they have more in common with darker beers than this golden coloured brew. It's big on green fresh hoppy flavours with an interesting bitter twist at the very finish stretching out the taste to a lingering conclusion.

Hitachino Nest (Japan)

Nipponia (6.5% ABV)
Brewed using two Japanese original materials; Kaneko Golden, the Japanese ancient barley, and Sorachi Ace, the hop which once was bred in Japan. Enjoy the citrus flavour, golden colour and the complex taste.

Murray's Craft Brewing (Australia)
Nirvana Pale Ale (4.5% ABV)
Nirvana Pale Ale is a hybrid of an American Pale Ale combined with the classic English Pale Ale style to produce a New World Pale Ale. A brilliant golden colour, it has a fresh citrusy/spicy aroma and flavour, balanced with biscuity/toffee flavours from the malt and finishes full-bodied with a complex character and bitterness.

Bernard (Czech Republic)
Kvasnicov├Ż (5% ABV)
Unfiltered and unpasteurised this beer has been lagered for 12 weeks. Almost like a really tasty hefeweizen in a pilsener sense.

Keesmann (Germany)
Herren Pils (4.6% ABV)
Pale golden with creamy head. Dryish with superbly rounded, chewy maltiness. Mild with lightly grassy finish with just a hint of bitterness.

Klašterni Pivovar Strahov (Czech Republic)

16° IPA (6.3% ABV)
Top-fermented beer brewed from Czech ingredients and two kinds of American hops ( Amarillo and Cascade). It combines full malt body with high hop bitterness and hoppy aroma.

Tegernsee (Germany)

Spezial (5.7% ABV)
Very pale, with light delicate malt flavours and a dry finish.

Oskar Blues (USA)

Dale's Pale Ale (6.5% ABV)
A huge hopped mutha with a hoppy nose and assertive-but-balanced flavours of pale malts and hops from start to finish. This special batch has a little twist however - Dry-hopped with Centennial.

Ska (USA)

Modus Hoperandi (American IPA) (6.8% ABV)
A mix of citrus and pine that will remind you of that time you went on a vision quest with your Native American cousin and woke up in a pine grove of grapefruit trees.

De Molen (Netherlands)

Tsarina Esra Reserva (11% ABV)
Dark brown in colour with an aroma of caramel, chocolate, dried fruit and liquorice. The taste is more dark chocolate with a light peat smokiness, tobacco and a warming sweetness. This version has undergone extra maturation in a huge wooden barrel from which it will be directly served.

Some of these beers I've had before and look forward to revisiting them like an old friend. The others are hopefully friends I haven't yet met.

What beer friends, old and new, are you hoping to meet up with at this year's Great British Beer Festival?


Thursday, 14 July 2011

It's Pure Awesome - IPA at BrewDog


Say what you want about BrewDog but one thing you can't accuse them of is not knowing how to put on a great night. From beer and food evenings with Masterchef champions through to brilliant beer launches and terrific tap takeovers, you can pretty much guarantee an enjoyable evening that keeps their beer punters very hoppy and very happy at any of their events.

So, on a gloriously hot summer's night, I find myself in the dark and industrial setting of BrewDog's Edinburgh bar with fellow Scottish beer bloggers, Mr Beer Cast and Mr Garvie and twitter beer comrade @AdamSh. We are here, like many others, to get a  taste of some of the extremely hoppy and very tasty IPA's that BrewDog Edinburgh have sourced from far and wide for this IPA evening.

The beer choice was spread over three menus that are available at different times through the evening.  Over 20 IPA's were available from Breweies such as Southern Tier, Stone, Port Brewing, Mikkeller, 8 Wired, Flying Dog, Evil Twin and, of course, BrewDog.

All the beers served were keg, but so what? They were all in tip top condition and tasted on top form. Of the beers that I tried, some were outstanding and deserve special mention.

The Mikkeller Koppi IPA was my stand out beer of the evening. It had a lovely earthy hop taste that gave way to reveal a creamy mouthfeel that coated your tongue in a deliciously roast coffee flavour. I've had it from the bottle before and it was good but from the keg, it was superb.

The Mikkeller 10 IPA was exactly how I remembered it. Fresh, lively and bursting full of juicy citrus hop delights. Port Brewing Co's Hop 15 reminded me of Mikkeller's 10 but had a slightly more tart grapefruit and tangerine notes and a much more pronounced lingering hop bitterness.

Hop 15's lingering bitterness was nothing compared to one of my final beers of the evening - Mikkeller's 1000 IBU IPA Light. I had waited to the last to try this as the chances of being able to taste anything else after this was going to be pretty slim. I was surprised by the first mouthful of this beer. It has an initial gentle toffee and caramel malt flavour to it but this soon withdrew to allow the extreme bitterness to come in and do it's stuff. And boy, does it do it's stuff. It is really bitter. So bitter, in fact, that it felt like my cheeks were being drawn together. The extreme bitterness was what I had expected but nothing on this scale.

All in all, it was a great night and I hope BrewDog repeat the event when they open their new Glasgow Bar at the end of this month.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Caveat Emptor - BrewDog's Equity for Punks


Fraserburgh's self appointed beer upstarts, BrewDog, have just announced the second stage of their Equity For Punks share offering which they hope will raise over £2.2 million. This cash will be used to reinvest in a bigger brewery that will allow them to keep pace with the demand for their beers. BrewDog have released 90,000 shares in the company at a price of £23.75 per share. However, the minimum purchase is four shares or an investment of £95.

These figures mean that BrewDog value their company at over £26 million, which seems a bit top heavy given that their projected turnover for 2011 is around £7million. As I type these numbers, I hear the booming voice in my head of Dragon's Den's, Duncan Bannatyne stating "Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity". This hasn't, however, stopped various broadsheet financial journalists and City analysts saying that investing in BrewDog could be a nice little bet.

The share offering only went live this morning and already the twittersphere is bubbling full of BrewDog fanboys and girls who have already opened the chequebook and parted with their cash. What do they get for their £95 minimum investment?

Apart from the four shares, they will also receive the following

- Lifetime 5% discount in all BrewDog bars
- 10% discount on beers and merchandise from their website
- First options on special and limited edition BrewDog beers
- Entry into the 'AGM'
- The thrill of owning part of BrewDog (albeit a very, very small part)
- Your very own BrewDog I.D.
- Potential financial return but not for the next two years as no dividend will be paid until at least 2013

There is also a sliding scale of greater discounts on their products up to a 20% discount on beer and merchandise from their website for any investment over £285.

What do I think of it?

I think that a great many people will put their hands in their pockets and buy some shares. Not for the lure of some potential financial return on their investment at possibly some point in the future but for the thrill of being part of the journey of this remarkable brewery. The bells, whistles and added trinkets of the beer and pub discount, access to limited editions, entry to the AGM and, no doubt for some people, having your own BrewDog I.D. will swing it for quite a fair few.

They have no doubt done the calculations and worked out that they could recoup their initial investment by buying £1000 worth of beer off the BrewDog website, or two grands worth over the counter in their bars. For some, that will look quite an attractive proposition. Indeed, I know one of the original shareholders who parted with £230 in the first Equity share release just under two years ago and he has recouped his original investment in discount obtained from purchases off the website. He had to keep buying, though, but he says that he would have bought the beers anyway.

I still haven't decided whether I will be taking BrewDog up on their offer. But, if I do, it won't be because I think that this will make me fantastically rich. It won't. Buying four shares would give me 0.00036% ownership of the company.

If I do stump up £95 for BrewDog's Equity for Punks, it'll be solely for entertainment purposes and for the thrill of the ride.

Nothing More. Nothing Less.

ps, remember, kiddies. your investment can go up as well as down

Monday, 11 July 2011

Fyne Ales, Dark Star and The Three Judges


Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Three of my favourite beery things will be coming together in a perfect storm of beery loveliness in Glasgow at the end of this month. The Three Judges in Glasgow's Partick will be giving their entire eight hand pumps over to a premium selection of beers from currently two of Britain's best breweries - Fyne Ales and Dark Star.

The Fyne Star festival at the Judges begins on Thursday 28th July and will continue until all 18 casks have been quaffed. And going on previous experience, that shouldn't be long. The last cask of Fyne Ales' Fiddler's Gold to hit the Judges lasted just over three hours.

Available over the weekend will be such stunning beers such -

Dark Star's

American Pale Ale
Espresso Stout
Dark Star Original
Over The Moon


Fiddler's Gold
Hurricane Jack
Vital Spark
Sublime Stout

It's great to see such a smashing selection of beers available in the one place and it shows that the Three Judges are more than capable of rising to the challenge of the new Bratdog Glasgow bar that opens the week before just along from the Judges.

Regardless, these are exciting times to be a beer drinker in Glasgow.


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Folk 'n' Ale


The Folk 'n' Ale festival. It's a great name for a beer festival, isn't it? Say it out loud really quickly and you will, hopefully, hear and get what I mean.

Geddit, now?

The festival in question is the Dumfries Folk 'n' Ale Festival which takes place this year on the 15th and 16th of July. It's not just a great name for a festival, it's also a concept for a beer festival so devilish that you could put some horns on it and call it Belzebub.

You see, most beer festivals either take place in the one pub or in the local town hall that has been hired out for the purpose of the event. Most beer festivals have their beer all in the one place and the punters stream in, drink the beer then go home. This one is a bit more unconventional in that the festival is planned round the eleven pubs participating in the event and the punters have to haul their ample arses round the Ale Trail map sampling the different beers in each pub they visit.

Don't worry, though. The pubs are all either contained within the town centre or a short walk from it and therefore does not require much traversing between the venues. Less walking equals more drinking.

There will be over forty different beers available during the festival. The list is being finalised at the moment but given that last years list contained beers from the likes of Fyne Ales, Thornbridge, Harviestoun, Broughton, Arran and Sulwath, I've no doubt that those responsible for this year's beer will be pulling the stops out  to deliver some great beer.

The festival, organised by Dumfries Camra, is now in it's third year and it is apparant that the organisers want to involve as many people as possible from the local community in the event. Many of the events, such as the busking competition, take place in Dumfries High St and in participating pubs, drinkers are encouraged to bring musical instruments along for impromptu jamming sessions. And, for those that like songs about someone's sheep being stolen 300 years ago, various Folk bands are playing over the weekend.

The pubs in Dumfries, and the town, will be absolutely buzzing the weekend of the festival and it is shaping up to be one of the best beery events of the summer.

It might be worth a punt if you are doing not doing anything that weekend.

You can find out more about the festival and have a look at the festival programme here


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Future of Beer is Safe in their Hands


Press releases are usually full of self-promoting garbage in which various people often called Jenny try to pimp their latest beery wares onto what they perceive as gullible and easily bought beer bloggers. However, once in a while a press release pops into your inbox that actually means something to the person who created it.

Today, I got one such email from some final year students on the MSc course in brewing at Heriot Watt University.  I could quote and paraphrase it but I'm not going to bother. Instead, I'm going to publish it as I received it.

I wish these guys well in their dissertation project and hope that the finished product mirrors their degree award. Hopefully, First Class.

Here it is -

Edinburgh taste buds to inform the future of brewing

 A new beer is being developed specially for Edinburgh drinkers, but they’ll have to step up to the bar smart-ish if they want to taste it. Finch beer is being developed by a group of students at Heriot-Watt’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) to try and find out if Edinburgh drinker’s tastes are moving from traditional Scottish malty beers to more hoppy beers, like those popular in America.

The beer, which is being produced in conjunction with Edinburgh’s Stewart Brewing, is described as a ‘robust red ale’ and will be produced as a limited edition. It will be distributed through bars and beer merchants over the Festival period, with the launch being held on, Thursday the 21st of July at the Guildford Arms public house at 8pm.

The ICBD team behind the beer’s development, four postgraduate students from Scotland, Canada and the USA, say they hope the project will help to educate those who drink it about different options for beer tastes, while the headlines of which they will make available to the brewing industry.

They hope that, as a natural product with no additives or preservatives, it will appeal to beer drinkers willing to try new tastes. Team member Steven Kersley said. “Our initial research shows that, far from being stuck in their ways, many drinkers are prepared to try seven to ten new beers a month and we are hoping they’ll be prepared to give Finch a try and let us know what they think.

“Most people know what they like, but they may not know why a particular flavour appeals. We hope that knowing that the new beer is more hoppy, and giving us their feedback on how they feel about that, will both help drinkers inform their own choices and provide valuable feedback to the industry on how tastes in all age groups may be developing.

“Along the way we’re gaining valuable practical experience of developing, producing and marketing a new beer, working in conjunction with a commercial producer, which is bound to stand us in good stead when we move into the industry ourselves.”

Steve Stewart, founder of Edinburgh’s Stewart Brewing worked closely with Dr David Quain a professor at the ICBD to create the project; both are graduates of Heriot-Watt’s ICBD. Steve Stewart said, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to support the ICBD students by brewing this novel and interesting beer for them. They are a very talented group, and
having the opportunity to put theory into practice, to develop a beer from scratch through to seeing it on the bar and drinking it with your friends is a great learning experience. The depth of talent and passion among the brewing students at Heriot-Watt is immense, and with the interest in the craft brewing sector really heating up, it’s great to get new people with new ideas and new beers into the industry,”

Good luck to them. The 6.5% Finch beer will be available not only in the Guildford but also in Holyrood 9A, Jenny Ha's, Beehive and Doctor's. The students intend to make enough of the beer to fill 3000 bottles and 15 nine gallon casks. The scale of the task is huge. As Steven Kersley says, "It's never been done before, student's ...launching a beer from scratch...and selling the beer to the pub".

I wish them every success and it's good to see the level of enthusuaism and dedication that these students clearly possess by the beer barrel load.

I look forward to seeing how the project develops.
Ps. You can also keep track of the lads' progress by following them here on Twitter. The lovely pumpclip was created by Claire Odecki from Vancouver, Canada.


Hats off to Hengler's


Wetherspoons, the UK pub chain, is often seen by some beer drinkers as a place to avoid due to the  'vertical drinking factory' nature of some of their establishments, their reliance (in some pubs) on the Greene King/Ruddles/Caledonian end of the market and the length of time it often takes to be served by what appears to be bored and disinterested staff.

I think the criticism can be justified in some Wetherspoons establishments some of their pubs are trying hard to, in terms of beer, keep things very interesting and exciting for drinkers.

One such Wetherspoons pub in Glasgow which has upped their beer game recently is Hengler's Circus on Sauchiehall Street. I was in over the weekend and was mightily impressed when I walked in and discovered that all eight handpumps had been taken over by fab Scottish Brewery Harviestoun which showcased, excellently, the full range of their beers on offer. For a full four days there was nothing but lovely, tasty Harviestoun beer served from the pub's pumps.

I'm a fan of Harviestoun beers and was delighted by the choice and quality of the beers on offer. The  usual suspects of Bitter and Twisted and Schiehallion were available along with a 4.5% abv cask version of the porter Old Engine Oil, Black Watch IPA, their black lager Shenanigans, a new mild from them and their latest summer offering, Natural Blonde - a 4% light beer. All for £1.59 a pint.

The stand out beer for me was the Natural Blonde. It was a lovely light and refreshing beer made from lager and wheat malts and a generous addition of five hop varieties - Pilot, Styrian Goldings, Cascade, Glacier and Citra. As you would expect with these hops kicking around the beer, it is a golden, gorgeous and very delicious drop that delivers a solid citrus hop zing and flavour with a lovely level of clean, dry bitterness. There are crisp shards of grapefruit and lemon accompanied by light, lingering peppery notes. It is an outstanding beer. Your mission this summer should be to seek out and sup this superb beer from Harviestoun.

The tap takeover was the idea of Sandy Williamson, who has just taken over the running and selection of the beers at the pub. His intention is to do more of these mini festivals at the end of each month with the focus being on highlighting the beer range of a different Scottish microbrewery each month. It is a great idea. The Harviestoun tap takeover appeared to be a success and I wish Sandy and Hengler's Circus all the best in their endeavour to support and bring the best of a resurgent Scottish Microbrewing sector to a thirsty and appreciative Glaswegian beer crowd.

I look forward to, hopefully, seeing a pub full of people drinking and enjoying some smashing beers from the likes of Fyne Ales, Black Isle Brewery and Tempest Brewing over the next few months.

Hats off to Hengler's.