Thursday 5 April 2012

Time will tell on new beer deal

I see from this article in the Scottish Licensed Trade News (SLTN) that Glasgow brewing behemoths, Tennent Caledonian Breweries (TCB) has just secured a deal to become the main beer supplier for Alloa based Maclays Inns who have a portfolio of 26 managed pubs across Scotland.

My local real ale pub, The Three Judges, is a Maclay's pub but what makes the Judges a bit different from other Maclay's pubs is that they are given a bit more latitude and choice to decide what real ales occupy the eight pumps at the Judges given over to guest ales. These are usually sourced from Flyer and Firkin.

This new deal between TCB and Maclays still allows for Maclays to source "certain products outwith the agreement" however, according to the SLTN article, Tennent's believes that it will be able to "cover most of its (Maclays) beer needs". What 'certain products outwith the agreement' are TCB referring to? Well, Greene King, which own the Belhaven range of beers, has said that they are "delighted to continue to supply a selection of brands to Maclay".

My greatest fear is that this deal could restrict the Judges' ability to continue to select from a wide range of breweries and beers that increase drinkers choice and enjoyment. Hopefully this isn't the case and the Judges will still be able to choose and showcase some of the best beers from all across the United Kingdom, rather than being lumbered with a list that contains widely available, generic and lowest common denominator efforts from the likes of Greene King, Belhaven and Tennent's attempt at 'Scottish Craft Beer' (their words, not mine), Caledonia Best.

Time will tell.

Monday 9 January 2012

Ho Hum....

I've just caught sight of the pumpclip for a beer made exclusively for Wetherspoons by Bateman's brewery of Lincolnshire to commemorate and 'celebrate' David Cameron's use of the veto in defiance of the European Union. The pumpclip has Cameron at his Churchillian best giving two fingers to Johnny Foreigner.

The beer is called 'Veto Ale' and is made with 100% British ingredients, including Bramling Cross and Challenger hops.

Of the beer, Wetherspoons Chairman Tim Martin, said "Veto Ale is a traditional English bitter and a perfect example of a great beer style that you can drink and feel proud to be British,”

“I believe that David Cameron has taken the right decision on the Euro and that customers in our pubs will salute this with a pint of this excellent beer.”

The beer will be available in all of the Wetherspoons pubs.

I really can't be arsed with the jingoistic, flag waving nature of some brewers and pubs.

I think i'll be giving Wetherspoons a swerve for a while.


Sunday 8 January 2012

The Session #59 - I Love Coffee


A new year welcomes in a new The Session Beer Blogging Friday post. This time it's being hosted by Brewed For Thought and is on the topic of what do beer drinkers drink when not drinking beer.

For me it's an easy and obvious, but relatively recent, choice.

When not drinking beer, you will find me with my head in a bag of freshly ground inhaling deeply the gorgeously rich coffee aromas.

I went from and instant drinker to a fully fledged coffee geek quicker than you could say, "Monsoon Malabar". And, I love it.

I love everything about making a freshly prepared cup of real coffee; roasting and grinding the beans, the aroma as it permeates the kitchen and the rest of the flat. I particularly love the garbled gargle sound of the espresso machine, like the noise James Watt's cat makes when trying to clear a pubic hair from the back of it's little kitty throat, as it fires in to action.

I also love the way coffee has also enhanced my enjoyment of darker beers, particularly stouts and porters, as it's helped refine and retune my palete to appreciate further the dark and roasty tastes and flavours of these styles of beer.

I love coffee. It's what I drink when I'm not drinking beer.


Friday 6 January 2012

A Year in Beer - Part 2

Welcome to Part Two of A Year In Beer which looks back and reflects upon the year just past as witnessed from not just my own personal experience but also through the eyes of other beer bloggers. We've already had January to June in Part One, so let's now look at 2001 from July through to December. Hang on to your hats. Here goes.


The beer festival season is in full swing by July and not wanting to miss out, I take myself to Staveley in Cumbria for the Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival. Three days of glorious sunshine, over 70 beers and one of the most chilled out and enjoyable beer festivals that I was to attend all year. The cream of British beers and British breweries were on show and I got my first taste, as did many others, of beers by the new kid on the brewery block, The Magic Rock Brewing Company.

They showcased four of their beers at Hawkshead (Human Cannonball, Curious, High Wire and Rature) and were fantastically received by the hot and thirsty scoopers who drank the Magic Rock beers dry by early on the second day of the festival. For Magic Rock, it set the tone for the rest of their year in beer. They have gone from strength to strength since their inception in May of 2011 and have picked up praise and plaudits not only for their excellent beers but also for their use of social media as a vehicle to raise the profile of the brewery and increase the customer base for their beers. Despite the circus themed pumpclips and beer labels, 2011 has shown that Magic Rock Brewing Company are no clowns.

In other news, Molson Coors announce the launch of  their 'female friendly' beer range, Animee.

It's beer that tastes of other things such as crisp rosé and zesty lemon.
According to Molson Coors, Animee is an "exciting opportunity to break down the barriers between women and beer" with a brand plan and product design that are "feminine and sophisticated without being patronising.”

The arrival of Animee results in various bloggers questioning whether women really need their own beer.

Meanwhile, Melissa Cole alerts us to another 'female friendly' beer.

In more beer news, this guy has an IPA every day in July, some students make evolutionary beer, Ghostie fights the IPA wars so we don't have to and BrewDog and Camra fall out.........again.


Yay! It's finally arrived. August is a great month to be a British beer drinker; the largest amount of pork scrathings assembled in the world, a tombola, the crack and tinkle of glass and then the cheer as someone drops their pint pot on the concrete floor and some beers to keep you occupied for a few hours can only mean one thing - The Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court. For me, the foreign bars dominated as I drifted between them lingering longer each time at the Czech beer bar.

It would appear that everyone had a grand old time even if some people weren't happy about a perfectly serviceable and rather nice pint of Mild winning the Champion Beer of Britain.

Elsewhere in the beer world, the popular beat combo, The Elbow brew a beer which makes this man very happy,  a lively debate takes place when one beer drinker visits a new Glasgow pub and doesn't like what he sees and Cookie looks into his crystal balls. And, Dave from Hardknott brewery makes a video.

Sainsbury's launch their Great British Beer Hunt and many beer bloggers, myself included, swore by and got all hot under their collars over a beer thought up by students and cuckoo brewed at Williams Bros brewery. The beer was Profanity Stout and it was rather nice. It still didn't win, though with that honour going to Ridgeway Bad King John. A Williams Bros beer, Caesar Augustus was second.

In other beer news, some American Evangelist tries to convert me when I pop out to the shops, I ponder the importance of good cellarmanship, Boak and Bailey goes beyond the grave in their search for beer and Ghost Drinker hires an Assassin.


October the First sees the introduction of some laws the will see drinkers paying more for their beer. In Scotland, new laws are introduced including minimum pricing per unit of alcohol. Some supermarkets attempt to get round some of the legislation by moving their warehousing operations south of the border where the legislation does not apply. In a move echoing this, BrewDog move their operations south too.

Also introduced, this time by Westminster, is a UK wide increase in the beer duty on beers over 7.5% ABV. This coincides with the decrease of beers which are less than 2.8% ABV.  Naturally, a few bloggers had something to say about these new pieces of legislation. One even went an entire month drinking only beers over 7.5% ABV beers until his liver turned to pate in protest.

In other news, a book about beer was published that some described as a 'dreadful disaster', others as "essential", Maltworms finds stainless steel sexy, The Tap East opens, Ghost Drinker has a threesome and I make history at the Wetherspoons Beer Festival.


November means Toon Twissup in Newcastle as over 30 beer bloggers and twitterers turn up at the Tyne for a great days beery fun. A few beers in Bacchus, followed by a tour of Tyne Bank brewery and then on to the excellent Free Trade Inn at Ouseburn. It was a grand day out which got blurrier as things progressed, especially after some of Hardknott's Vitesse Noir.

International Stout Day came and went without me remembering that it was on, but these guys remembered.

In other news, Simon Johnson has a beery confession, Boak and Bailey try to spot a craft brewery and Tandleman goes to Glasgow.


December is usually a good month for new arrivals, just ask Mary and Joseph, and this year was no different. December brought the arrival of a new, much anticipated, bar to Glasgow in the shape of Bruadar bar in the West end.

An Aberdeenshire brewery and pub chain expanded further into the tied pub game with the arrival of their new bar in London's Camden which brought out the Capital's beer mafia on opening night to give it the once over and say 'Awesome!'.

In other news, Police and Cats Protection League officers wish to question an Aberdeenshire beer entrepreneur for alleged over affection towards felines. Simon Johnson writes my favourite review of the year, Neil joins the Circus and Dave from Hardknott wishes goodwill to all brewers.

On reflection, I guess it wasn't a bad year to be a beer drinker.

Right. That's me done. Can I go for a nice beer now?



Tuesday 3 January 2012

Golden Pints Awards 2011 - The Votes Have Been Counted.

Mr Rick Furzer, over on the Gastroturf blog, has painstakingly collated all the nomination entries for the 2011 Golden Pints Awards. Hats off to Rick, as there were 49 entries in total and it must have been a right pain in the arse to locate, list and link all of them.

Being the curious sort that I am, I thought that I would go through them all and tally up the various nominations in each categories. So that is what I have done. It makes for interesting reading most notably how quickly new breweries and their beers have managed to win recognition, kudos and establish themselves in the collective conscience of beer bloggers and beer drinkers.

The range of entries, in terms of the number of beer styles and breweries nominated indicates that there is a diversity of choice and tastes available not just from UK breweries but also internationally.

When putting this overall summative list together, I counted only those nominations that were listed as first or joint first on people's submissions. I haven't counted the runners up. One person changed their mind from their original Golden Pints Awards blogpost and updated on a later blog. In this instance,  I have included both nominations. If the person (that's you, Tandleman) wishes me to remove one of his entries then I will do that. It makes no difference to the overall result, though. I have left out the random self selected category.

The prefered system of voting was First Past The Post.

Can we now have the votes from the Norwegian Jury, please?

So here goes. The 2011 Golden Pints Awards in full are as follows.

Best UK Draught (Cask/Keg)

Twenty seven different beers were nominated for this category and the top three in terms of votes cast are as follows.

1. Magic Rock High Wire  - 6 Votes
2. Hawkshead Windermere Pale - 3 Votes
3 = Magic Rock Dark Arts, Magic Rock Human Cannonball, Summer Wine Diablo, Grain Redwood - 2 Votes

Best UK Bottle / Canned Beer

Again, almost 30 different beers  were nominated with the Kernel polling strongly with 7 of their beers being nominated in this category. Fullers were next highest with three of their beers present on the final list. The top three were -

1. Kernel Imperial Brown Stout - 6 Votes
2. Buxton Axe Edge - 4 Votes
3. Roosters Baby Faced Assassin - 3 Votes.

Best Overseas Draught Beer

Beers from the U.S. were well represented in the nominations. Out of the 30 seperate beers mentioned, over 60 % were American. Mikkeller held it's own with 3 of their beers nominated. However, only three beers in this category were nominated more than once. These were;

1. Odell IPA - 6 Votes
2. Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard. De Molen Hot and Spicy - 2 Votes

Best Overseas Bottle/Can

Again, loads of single entries with only three beers being nominated more than once. These were;

1. Orval - 3 Votes
2 = Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Uinta Detour Double IPA - 2 Votes

Best Overall Beer

Loads of single entries again with Magic Rock, The Kernel and Summer Wine well represented. There was no outright winner in this category as six beers were tied for first place;

1. = Buxton Axe Edge, Kernel IPA 100 Centennial, Magic Rock Human Cannonball, Magic Rock High Wire, Orval, Hawkshead Windermere Pale - 2 Votes each

Best Pumpclip/Label

Sixteen nominations in this category but a clear winner emerged early on and was never going to be caught.

1. Magic Rock - 16 Votes
2. Uinta Crooked Line Detour DIPA - 2 Votes

Best UK Brewery

This was a very close run thing with 3 breweries in the reckoning right down to the wire. Overall, fourteen breweries were nominated but the final five were as follows;

1. The Kernel Brewery - 15 Votes
2 = Magic Rock - 8 Votes
3. Summer Wine - 7 Votes
4. Buxton - 4 Votes
5. = Marble, Hawkshead, Fullers - 2 Votes

Best Overseas Brewery

1. Stone Brewing - 8 Votes
2. De Molen, Mikkeller - 4 Votes
3. = Odell, Orval, 1516 of Vienna - 2 Votes

Pub Of The Year

This was a very close run category with pubs from across the country being represented. In the end it was shared between a Newcastle pub that won many admirers at the Toon Twissup in November and a new addition to London's beer scene that arrived this year and has clearly made a huge impression..

1. = The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle. The Craft Beer Co, London - 6 Votes
2. = The Southampton Arms, London. Mr Foley's, Leeds - 4 Votes
3. Port Street, Manchester, Euston Tap, London - 3 Votes

Beer Festival/Event of the Year

From Alloa to The Great American Beer festival, people were out and about enjoying sone great beery times. The top three events for beer were;

1. Great British Beer Festival - 7 Votes
2. = European Beer Bloggers Conference, Toon Twissup - 2 Votes

Best Supermarket for Beer

1. Waitrose - 10 Votes
2. Booths - 6 Votes
3. =Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer - 4 Votes

Independent Beer Retailer

The Leeds Blogeratti are greatly impressed by their local offie. As are a lot more others. It swept the board, this year, and blew every other beer shop right out of the water.

1. Beer Ritz - 15 Votes
2. Bottle, Canterbury - 4 Votes

Online Beer Retailer

Again, only one winner here;

1. My Brewery Tap - 19 Votes
2. Beermerchants - 4 Votes
3. BrewDog - 3 Votes

Best Beer Book

1. Oxford Companion to Beer - 5Votes
2. Beer Quarterly (Camra) - 4 Votes
3. = Melissa Cole's Let me tell you about beer,  Hopaganda - 3 Votes

Best Beer Blog/Website

1. Ghost Drinker - 10 Votes
2. Boak and Bailey - 6 Votes
3. Pencil and Spoon - 4 Votes
4.  Called To The Bar, The Good Stuff, Reluctant Scooper - 2 Votes

Twitter Beer Person

1. Simon Johnson - 16 Votes
2. Broadford Brewer - 6 Votes
3  Zak Avery - 3 Votes

Online Brewery Presence

Again a fairly close run thing between two new breweries that have used social media to fantastic benefit in raising their profile and getting greater public recognition of their brewery and beers.

1. Magic Rock - 11 Votes
2. Summer Wine - 8 Votes
3. Hardknott, BrewDog - 3 Votes

So, concludes the results of the Norwegian Jury.

Have a good year in beer and hope that 2012 is as good as the year just passed for well made, tasty and refreshing beer.