Port Y’All

images (1)Just over a year ago we were lucky enough to have Marta Mateus from Marta wine visit us to give the rundown of her varied (and frankly rather fantastic) Portuguese wines. The event turned out to be our fastest selling wine dinner ever.and a bloody good evening to boot.
Well, she’s visiting Edinburgh again in September. Which means we’ve obviously booked her for an evening at The Walnut . It’s a smaller venue than last time, so if a liver full of Vinho Verde and Touriga Nacional appeals to you, you had better get your skates on.

Tickets are £35 and are available HERE (or in the shop)

For that you get:

Two courses+cheese of the Walnut’s superlative busting food,
Seven glasses of wine (including some fortified goodies)
Great Chat
That’s it

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Golden Balls

 

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It is an intractable part of human nature to compartmentalise and categorize. Placing useless information in an arbitrary order helps us make sense of the sheer volumes of “stuff” that assaults our ageing and booze addled synapses.

In the world of beer, this amounts to deciding whether to assign bottles to shelves marked “IPA” or “Saison”. But, as in any system of classification there are some very grey areas; after all, one persons “Cascadian Dark Ale, is another’s “Black IPA” or “Dry-Hopped Stout”

But, if there is one category of beer that is almost universally recognised and understood, it’s lager.

Lager: The great leveller, the drink of the global proletariat, the king of beers. Surely, there can be little confusing or uncertain about the world’s most widely drunk booze?

As you probably know, there’s a little bit more to it than that and the drink known as LAAAGERR encompasses a broad selection of bottom fermented beers: From delicate, pale Bavarian Helles, to evil, dark, grainy Doppelbocks.

One bloke who knows his way around a glass or two of lager is James Dempsey, head honcho (and only employee) of Eyeball Brewing in East Lothian. Last year he took the big step up from homebrewer to commercial production. And his beer is now reasonably available throughout Auld Reekie.

He has limited himself (for now) to a range of lagers which he claims are German inspired. But despite finding his beers well made, cheap and rather tasty, I find them quite different to the classical German styles.

Take, for example his flagship brew, the Yellowball Lager, which he claims is a pale lager. It pours a deep, burnished, buttery gold – far more colour than you would expect from a true Helles. It offers a soft, creamy head, but is only moderately gassy. Frankly, it’s an attractive, yummy-looking beer, but it doesn’t look very “lagery”

It’s fragrant, with very pleasant aromas of warm croissants, honey and melted butter. The palate is quite sweet and crunchy like ginger nuts or baked apple. James is clearly laser focussed on the malt component of the brewer’s art and it has resulted in a medium-to-full bodied beer with great length and complexity-not a clean Friday night chugger.

And fair play to him: These are great wee beers, that are keenly priced (£2.20-£2.60ish) from a small, local producer. I’ve been chucking them down my neck for a few months now and enjoyed every single one. They may not fit snugly into your preconceived notions of what lager should be, but you owe it to yourself to give them a shot.

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Tin Tin Dinner

 

Still on a high from the previous nights wine dinner at the Walnut, Joe of James Clay tweeted at us suggesting we do a beer dinner with him. As we were in good spirits and clearly not in our right minds we agreed*. Joe suggested a Belgian extravaganza and after checking that the Walnut would have copious quantities of Moules we agreed.

We’ve put together a beer list of our favourite superstar Belgian classics that we know will go with the food at the Walnut. Joe has kindly thrown in a free Belgian themed gift for every customer and will regale us with his expert beer knowledge and anecdotes from his many trips to Belgium.
The “Tin Tin Dinner” will take place on the 20th of August at 8pm at the Walnut. For the price of £30 you will be treated to 6 Beers, a 3 course dinner and some great beer chat. Tickets can be booked through eventbrite , just let us know if you’re veggie!

See you there!

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*We were very happy about this, always keen to drink beer and hear Joe’s chat.

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A Hoppy Accident

2017-07-21 12.28.09Beer should be a lot less reliable: It is a product subject to the whims of the market, the talents of the brewer and the provenance of the ingredients. Brewing itself, being one of those disciplines that sits slap bang in the middle of the Venn diagram between Science and Art.

These competing factors, make the consistency of our daily pint something of a miracle: Whether it’s a top shelf, new release from an ultra-reliable brewery who you are happy to pay through the nose for, or the “Big Maccyness” of a pint of your favourite cooking lager, which tastes exactly the same from pub to pub.

Creating a consistently good product at at competitive price is a much underrated talent, but it’s one that The William’s Brothers of Alloa have proven very adept at. Over the last couple of decades they have quietly (and with little acclaim) pumped out beer after beer after beer- all to a ridiculously high standard and at an unfashionably modest price. So it comes as some surprise to hear them confess to cocking up one of their signature brews.

If they are to be believed (and I’m not sure they are) The Scorpion & The Frog came about when some darker malts slipped into a batch of their Double Joker IPA. What leads me to somewhat doubt the veracity of this, is that the resulting beer is up there with the best things they’ve brewed.

They are calling it a “Mid-Atlantic Brown Ale”- which translates as a malty, yeasty beer with the hop profile of an American IPA.

It pours a deep walnut brown, topped with a generous amount of creamy, “Mister Whippy” foam. The aromas are lush, and fruity, with abundant amounts of spice cake, oranges and caramel. The palate is full and complex with a fair bit of sweetness. The rich fudge flavours slowly dissolve to give way to some astringent hop bitterness at the back of the palate. The aftertaste being one of enjoyably boozy warmth.

What elevates this beer from “must try” to the giddy heights of “buy all you can” is it’s price: A 33cl tin of this 8.9% abv beer comes in at under two quid. (which is basically tramp juice prices)

If we do believe them and this is a serendipitous one off, I advise you to fill your boots before the word gets out.

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Bread and Better

2017-07-21 12.26.40Well, this is going to be tricky:
I’m sitting in my office on a warm spring day, knocking back a beer (for qc reasons obviously). I’m going to try to sell you the beer, because I think it’s really bloody good. The only problem being, all the similes and descriptors I have scrawled in front of me make the beer sound bogging.
It pours flat, soupy and with the clarity of bilgewater. After a while the haze clears and leaves a liquid which looks like the jug of grapefruit juice you get at the buffet breakfast in a cheap B&B.
Grapefruit is also the dominant aroma, but again, not fresh, ripe pink grapefruit, but skanky ass, mouldy grapefruit.

I also caught a fair whiff of tomato leaf, and dettol. Yum.
The palate is full bodied and complex, with the tart acidity of a really aggressive scrumpy, soor plums, loads of “breadiness” and I kid you not, a fair whack of sauerkraut.
Somehow, this horrible sounding gloop makes for a really quite delicious beer. Not only that, but it’s clean, sessionable and at a healthy to glug 2.4% abv.
It’s so neckable that I’ve drunk two bottles whilst writing this and I’m just starting my third.
It may look like it was homebrewed by an inmate in a particularly rough prison, but it’s actually a collaboration between Aberdeen’s 6ºNorth brewery and Leith’s very own Twelve Triangles bakery.
The unconventional appearance and flavours are down to it being a completely unhopped beer. Instead it gets it’s character from a sourdough starter yeast- all those funky, sour, flavours are derived from that yeast. They also threw a wholemeal loaf in the fermenter just for the hell of it (I’m going to assume that’s what gives the beer it’s texture- after all you would expect a low abv, sour beer to be a darn sight thinner)
Although I’m a big fan of this beer, I’m not daft enough to think it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is keenly priced for an experimental sour (well under three quid) and it might just be worth a punt if you’re in the mood for something a wee bit funky.
UPDATE:
Try blending with tinned Schofferhofer. A customer recommended it to me a while back and makes a truly wonderful grapefruit shandy thing.

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Insert Bad Dalkeith Pun Here

 

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I’ve just posted a couple of old blogs about beery things at the more extreme end of the spectrum and to be honest, it’s quite easy to bang out a few hundred words about your full-on, top shelf, adjunct-packed, esoteric beers: there’s just so much to talk about.

But sometimes, I feel the need to discipline myself and actually talk about the stuff I drink on a day to day basis: The unshowy, unhyped, underpiced stuff which you have a half decent chance of finding in your local.

One of the newest of these under the radar, “sensible” breweries is Crossborders brewing, a couple of young (not actually young, but younger than me) blokes operating out of a not very sexy industrial unit just outside glamorous Dalkeith.

They have been in operation for just over a year now, but the quality of their (competitively priced) beer has gained them plenty of listings among Edinburgh’s better boozers and offies.

I’ve gotten into the habit of always having a couple of tins of their Braw in my fridge for emergencies and their IPA is lush: but I thought I better tell you about their porter, for the very good reason that I have a glassful of it in front of me.

It’s a pretty beer, opaque without being quinky-dark (certainly if I squint I can discern an almost purple tinge to it). It has a decent effervescence and a moderate, but persistent head. The aromatics are sweet and roasty: mild coffee, rye bread and bourbon biscuits. The palate is medium bodied and supremely quaffable with the grippy, glutinous mouthfeel of a stronger beer. The palate has a definite hit of those spiced German biscuits (that the internet tells me are called pfeffernusse) and a decent finish. It only packs 4.2% abv, so it won’t damage your liver too badly and a 33cl tin should set you back a moderate £2.50 or so.

It’s a fairly simple, traditional take on a porter, but it’s also delicious.

As is the whole line up from the Crossborders guys. These are proper, solid pints of session beer in styles that your grandfather would recognise. The only concession to modern brewing trends is the snazzy utilitarian branding, which I think we can forgive them.

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Viva Espana

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I hold a gentleman called Chris Bain largely responsible for the very worst hangover I’ve suffered in my adult life. He was taking me on a quick jaunt around Rioja and after a full day of winery visits we ended up in a rough little rum bar. Debauchery (and pain) ensued.

So I was somewhat hesitant when he asked if he could host a Spanish wine dinner. He won me over when he poured me a few glasses of the new wine he was wanting to introduce us to.

Finca Bacara is a very new operation in Jumilla and they specialise in deep, earthily aggressive reds made from monastrell. These are really good, complex wines, that are for more exciting than most of the stuff from the North of Spain. (I love me a bit of Tempranillo- but even really good Rioja can get a bit.., samey)

So we’re heading back to The Walnut on Sunday 2nd July, for the usual 2 courses and 7 wines.
Chris has great chat, Ben is an awesome chef, it’s going to be bloody good evening.

Tickets cost £35 and are available here.

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Rhone Goals

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I appreciate this is very short notice, but it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these.

We’re heading back to The Walnut on Monday 29th May

Big Mike Stewart from Liberty wines will be hosting again, this time giving us a run through of the wines of the Rhone valley. I’ve been unlucky enough to visit the region twice with Mike and can attest that he really knows his shizzle and has a big portfolio of wine from the region to draw from.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, Ben from The Walnut, has been looking for an excuse to try out some new French recipes

The shindig will kick off at 7.30pm
Tickets are £35 and are available HERE
For that you get:
Two Courses & Cheese + Seven Wines + Expert Chat + Filthy Jokes + A Hangover.

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Every Little Helps

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Another month, another new brewery, another range of beer to acquaint myself with.

Usually this (not particularly arduous) task consists of cracking open a couple of gaudily branded tins of the latest pale ale, but sometimes a brewery comes along that has a slightly more idiosyncratic approach.

The Little Earth Project from way down in the wilds of Sussex, is a microbrewery that seems to be paying little attention to commercial concerns: instead it has launched with a brace of top shelf sours and revivals of old beer styles that although brilliant, won’t have the likes of Brewdog quaking in their boots.

Operating out of a stable as part of a rural, brewpub-thing, the project prides itself on its unimpeachable environmental credentials. Aiming to be the most ecologically sound brewery in the UK; they forage local ingredients, use only sustainable energy, and have their own barley and hops. (they even source their own water from an onsite well)

All this holier-than-though greenery would only get you so far if the beer didn’t live up to it’s pedigree. Fortunately (as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago) they are brilliant.

My favourite of the half dozen or so that I’ve tried is The Bretted Organic Stock Ale a strong, oak-aged, farmhouse ale with a funky, slightly sour edge.

It pours a lovely, hazy amber. My bottle offered a small, but definite creamy head, but I have had friends and customers tell me theirs poured soupy and flat (this could be the result of overchilling or dodgy qc at the brewery)

It’s quite sweaty, dirty and citrussy on the nose: with aromas of bread, orchard fruit, salt and damp hay (a bit like making love on horseback whilst drinking a cider) The palate is strangely light, with a gentle sourness. I got notes of apple pie, soor plums, dried peel and walnuts. The sour notes fade away quite quickly and are balanced with a surprising finish that has a strange note of brown sugar.

Somehow, this beer packs an unhealthy 10.5% abv. This booziness is so well hidden, that I could almost call this beer sessionable (neckable even)

It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but I guess a small minority of you reading this are salivating at the thought of getting your hands on a bottle.

If that includes you, bear in mind that such excellence doesn’t come cheap. We’re flogging the Stock Ale at £5.40/33cl

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Shake The Room

 

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They were barely heard of a decade ago, but sour beers are now thoroughly ensconced in the Scottish drinking scene. Any high street offie worth a damn will have a selection and they’ve even been known to grace the shelves of decent supermarkets and the odd corner shop. Whether we’re talking fruity Berlinerweiss styles, salted gose or Flanders red, the chances are you’ve had a glass or two of one of these deliciously divisive beers.
But the granddaddy of all sour beer styles has to be the venerable gueuze: A bottle fermented blend of old and new lambic beer that has both an aggressive tartness and a champagne like complexity. Of the half dozen or so EU protected Oude Gueuze breweries, the beers of Frank Boon are among the more approachable.
Like all Gueuzes, they are an acquired taste, but although the house style reeks of blue cheese, wet hay and soor plums, it lacks the aggressive “licking a battery, whilst a wasp stings your tongue” hit of the more hardcore gueuzes.
In need of something to distract me from the collapse of western civilisation, I cracked open one of their newest releases: The Vat 109
It has a richer colour than I was expecting: A nice burnished marmaladey orange, topped by a delicate, creamy head. Maybe it picks up a bit of colour from the century-old cognac cask which marks this out from your run of the mill lambic.
I’m normally quite cynical about the use of fancy barrels; often they seem like a way to add value and round off the edges of an otherwise substandard beer. But here it really does add a whole other dimension. Headily aromatic with yeasty notes of cheese, walnuts and roast apples. The palate is full bodied and only mildly sour with a delicate, persistent effervescence. It’s really complex stuff and reminded me of a fancy champagne cocktail made with equal parts scrumpy, brandy and Pol Roger (it’s also a wee bit boozier than most gueuze’s, coming in at just over 8% abv)
Such indulgence doesn’t come cheap, I’m afraid and a 375ml bottle will set you back thirteen quid.

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