Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beer Tasting in the State of Cotteridge

Hello all.

Rah rah rah, it's really important as a blogger, to declare your interests, tell everyone if you've been sent a free bottle of beer to review etc.  After all, the two people reading (hello Richy) might be wondering. 

In light of that, please read the following report into a fantastic evening, safe in the knowledge that I had some free beer and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wasn't the only one.

Cotteridge Wines tell me that they have been around for 17 years, but being a Johnny-come-lately myself, I've only really been aware of their existence for about 6 months.  But during those 6 months they have demonstrated to me, and perhaps to themselves also, that they are capable of stocking a really excellent range of high quality beers, from around the World.

On Monday evening they did something a bit different, or different for Birmingham at least: they held a beer tasting.  Now obviously beer tastings sort of take place every evening in pubs and homes around the country, but I do mean a sort of organised tasting in which people come together to taste beers and say "hmm" quite a lot, and scratch their forelocks, and marvel at the blend of malt and hop flavours, and so on.

And so it went on Monday evening.  A group comprising Birmingham Ratebeerers (The_Bish, RichTheVillan, Tomman and moi), Paul from Arbor Ales and assorted members of the Brum Beer Twitterati (@Kaufmanised, @RobertoRossUK, @CarlDurose, @tania_nexust, @MarbleTim, @nebolland) gathered at Cotteridge Wines to sample some incredible beers.

I may or may not have forgotten some of the bottles on offer, but the ones I sneaked a nip of, were as follows (in no particular order):

De Molen Bommen and Granaten
- a blindingly good 15.2% Barley Wine

Fyne Ales Jarl 
- a full flavoured 3.8% UK Golden Ale

Arbor Goo Goo G’joob
- a super smooth Imperial Stout

Arbor Ginger IPA
- a hoppy IPA infused with ginger??? IT SHOULD NOT WORK. IT DOES WORK.

Zwiesel Dampfbier
- a malty, nutty German Lager variant

Rogue Chipotle Ale
- a US Amber Ale, made with chipotle chili peppers - smoky/spicy

Durham St Cuthbert
- a medium strong hoppy UK ale

Haandbryggeriet R√łyk Uten Ild (Smoke Without Fire)
- a deliciously smoky and smooth Norwegian dark ale

Lambrate Ghisa
- an Italian Smoked Stout

Durham Diabolus
- an exclusive sample of this Imperial Stout brewed with gueuze yeast - a blend of dark malt power and sour tang.  IT SHOULD NOT WORK. IT DOES WORK.

Mikkeller The American Dream
- a Lager so good, you wouldn't even know it was a Lager

Moor Northern Star
- one of the best, most hoppiest UK 'session' beers around

The beers were clearly delicious, but honestly the beers were only one half of the evening's fun.  The other half was the excellent conviviality on show, both from fellow guests and of course from our gracious hosts.  The final half of fun, as an extra treat, was the presence of Arbor Ales, ably represented by Paul.  Arbor are obviously one of the better breweries in the UK: even when sober (which I am now) I know that this is a fact.  It was cool to get the background to some of Arbor's excellent beers - such as the two mentioned above and other top hits like Single Hop Citra and Oyster Stout.

 A 'tasting' and a 'Meet the Brewer' in a single evening - a double first for me.

 So then, in short, it was great to attend a fantastic tasting event, celebrating solidarity and the existence of nice beer, deep within our midst.  It would be remiss not to pay tribute to our hosts for putting such a nice event on, and inviting us along, so I happily voice my gratitude here.


On a separate note, the Bank Holiday Weekend also marked a very impressive Craft Beer Festival, held at Cherry Reds in Kings Heath.  Unfortunately I was not able to get to the festival, but I know several people that did attend and loved it.  The beer list was very impressive, and I hereby send an electronic pat on the back for a job well done.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Short and to the Pointless

A quick heads up on some good recent beer experiences:

Allgauer Buble Bier

An example of what Ratebeer classifies as a Zwickel/Keller/Landbier - 3 [minor] related German beer styles which equate to an unfiltered, slightly cloudier Lagerbier than normal.  Sometimes they approach amber in colour, but often they are the standard blonde - which is what this one was.  I don't go in for the history of beer styles as a rule, as they are the cause of too many arguments, but if you are interested, why not research
Zwickel/Keller/Landbiers on the Internet?

Any road, this was lovely.  All the refreshment and clarity of a Lager, cutting through thirst and all that. BUT with the added, delightful sweetness offered by all the subtle muck, which would normally be filtered out, in the name of a crystal clear beer.  This was purchased from Cotteridge Wines, and I know for a fact that they have a few Z/K/L beers, so why not dive in?  Other good examples are Hacker Pschorr anno 1417 or St Georgen Brau Kellerbier.

Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA

Beavertown are one of the wave of new London microbreweries and I would say that this is their best known beer at present.  Certainly it's the only one that I've tried.  It's an IPA, so it has a range of lovely hops - particularly lovely in this case.  What it also has is the addition of Rye, which gives the beer both a lovely rosey hue, and a subtle sweetness/fruitiness.  This tipped it above a good percentage of the burgeoning number of hoppy beers, which are now flooding our better beer establishments.  This was bought from Stirchley Wines.

Brodies Hoxton Special IPA

I necked this beer immediately after sampling another Brodies beer - London Lager.  I was musing that it would be difficult to top the London Lager which was an unbelievably tasty and well-hopped lager.  However, I was clearly mismusing, as the Hoxton Special IPA gently nuzzled the Lager with it's warm, fuzzy [metaphorical] snout, before brusquely nudging it aside.  Yes, the Special IPA was that good.  In fact, it was one of the best beers I have ever tried. UN-B-LIEVE-ABLE.  I already liked Brodies, who are clearly the, if not one of the most brilliantist of the new London brewers, but this sort of bottled majesty is very likely to make me paint my arms purple due to unfettered beer frenzy.  Brodies are amazing.  Cotteridge
Wines are carrying a range of Brodies, including the London Lager, Big Mofo Stout, Hoxton Special IPA, Hackney Red IPA and Dalston Black IPA.  I dare say that none of them will disappoint you.

The Grant Arms, Cotteridge

It has lovely leatherette, curved banquette-style seating (in places).  It also has competitively priced clingfilm-wrapped cobs behind the bar, which I am a sucker for.

I have been a bit poor at blogging recently.  As such I am currently coming up with some new ideas.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Pioneer Launch

Last night was the launch of Freedom Brewery's new beer - Pioneer.

Now normally, the arrival of a new UK lager wouldn't necessarily feel me with the throbbing of a deep joy, but as it happens I was rather glad I attended this.

Where was it held Dan?  It was held at the Post Office Vaults, whose staff were bedecked with Freedom shirts as they busily dispensed steins of free Pioneer to the hordes of free loading parasites, errr local beer enthusiasts, all eager to whet their whistle.  I include myself in the aforementioned number.

The beer itself tasted like a UK version of Victory Prima Pils, but hopped heavily with indigenous, rather than US hop varieties.  I detected herbal notes, some sweet grassiness and plenty of tongue wrapping, juicy, mulled lemon mulch.  It was very pleasant.  Hopefully it will become a fixture around the bars of the City, as it will offer a reliable kegged option, for refreshment porpoises.

Following the launch, I skedaddled to the British Oak in Stirchley, to hook up with an unspecified member of Brumcraft and top Birmingham beer reviewer the_Bish.  Having not been to the British Oak for many years, I must say I was very pleasantly surprised to see the well kept decor, and lovely atmosphere, which was a blend of hipster-honeytrap and family friendly.  I particularly liked the sprawling garden (complete with bowling green), which really is one of Brum's best beer gardens.

During the launch I was happy to grovel network with the head of Freedom Brewery, who struck me (n.b. not physically, he didn't hit me) as a nice chap indeed.  If the purpose of the evening was to demonstrate that Freedom brewery is safely being steered in the right direction, then that objective was achieved.  Now we just need them to launch that range of bottled Berliner Weisse they were talking about.

For a bit of formatting fun, why not cut and paste the previous paragraph into the correct position within this blog post?  Prizes for the best guess.

Following the British Oak, a quick dash into Stirchley Wines also, which saw me commit a classic schoolboy error - yes, I bought a beer I've already tried.  Heavens above/strewth etc.  There is nothing which drives more mad (for indeed I am a beer trainspotter) than to buy the same beer twice**.  So if anyone in Birmingham would like to do a swapsy with me, I am willing to listen to offers for a pristine bottle of Summer Wine Reaper Red IPA - which is a lovely beer.

**Not strictly true.  I do buy a number of beers more than once, if I like them - e.g. Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze et al.