Mexicanned Beer

imagesI don’t eat pineapple: Not that I really have anything against it, it’s just that it’s hardly the most user friendly fruit: Being too large, covered in spines and rather pricey. Which means I very rarely have one of the prickly bastards squatting in my fruit bowl. I’m also not really a fan of pineapple juice, finding it simply too tart and acidic for breakfast and too strong a flavour as a mixer.

So it took me a while to crack into the Tepache from the Wild Beer co. Tepache is a Mexican drink, fermented from pineapple peel and spiced with cinnamon. I am unfamiliar with genuine Mexican Tepache, so I have little to compare this West Country interpretation to. I could see how Pineapple could work as an addition to a sour beer and the Wild Beer Co certainly know their way around wild yeasts and funky, adjunct packed brews, so I thought I’d give it a shot on a late summer evening.

It pours a pretty, amber/brown with a decent head of fluff. The nose is slightly fusty, with aromas of boiled sweets, bread and proper scrumpy.

The palate is tart- but not too sour and has a fair whack of both pineapple & other tropical fruit: A bit like a cocktail made of six parts Lilt and one part cider vinegar. Thankfully, I can detect precious little of the threatened “spice” beyond a dusting of ginger. The finish is lengthy and vinous- in fact if the beer was just a little flatter, I’m sure it would be a hit with the “natural wine” crowd.

The brewery recommends you try mixing it with tequila. Not having any to hand, I chucked a healthy slug of Pickerings Gin into it- with very pleasant results.

Like all sours, this comes with a big caveat emptor, but if you can handle a wee bit of acid (and pineapple) then it’s well worth your while picking up a bottle or two. It is a limited edition, but at time of writing, it is still available at a sensible price through all the usual outlets.

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Shore Thing

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There was no parade, or announcement in the local press, so it may very well have passed some of you by, but LEITH HAS GOT ITSELF A NEW BREWERY!

When Paul Gibson of Campervan Brewing found he could no longer meet demand operating out of the back of his garage in Comely Bank, he invested a wodge of money in new facilities in a Bonnington industrial estate. His new premises is just round the corner from the renowned Pilot brewery, making this little corner of Leith something of a brewing hub.

As well as a shiny new brewery, Paul now as himself a fancy little taproom where you can go and sample his wares for yourself. He has relaunched with half a dozen new beers, but if you do find yourself down there, make sure to grab yourself a glass of Leith Juice, his new flagship brew.

It looks like beer: I know that sounds crass, but it’s a slightly hazy straw gold colour with a moderate head and minimal lacing, a google image search for “beer” would result in countless identical drinks. It’s on the nose where it really lives up to its billing as an “Orange Session IPA”

Intensely bitter, with a rather “Christmassy” aroma of ginger, pine and lots & lots of orange pith. The palate continues in this vein with the flavours nicely balanced between oily, hop bitterness and more lifted, sweeter citrus fruit notes. It has a lot more weight than most beer at this sort of strength and style and a pretty decent length too.

In fact, despite it’s sensible (4.7% abv) strength, it might have a little bit too much character for a session beer. I’ve had two this afternoon and I look forward to having a third once I get home, but I can’t see myself downing pints of it in the pub. On the other hand, it would be a brilliant match for all sorts of food. I was lucky enough to pair it with a chicken kebab the other day and the beer elevated what was a take away of dubious quality into something resembling fine dining

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Up The Swannay

 

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There are no Scottish breweries that deserve success as much as Swannay brewing up in Orkney: Yet despite brewing Scotland’s best dark beer (Orkney Porter) and Scotland’s best drink of any kind (Scapa Special on cask), they never seem to feature in any of those “what’s hot” listicles or colour supplement features. This is partly because it’s still a small outfit and the head brewer Rob Hill doesn’t seem to be a fan of self-promotion, leaving all the hard sell to his son Lewis. But it has to be said that the range of beer from Swannay is rather …, staid.
Not that I consider that in any way a failing. I’m glad that there is at least one brewery left who seem unaffected by fashion and still makes pint after pint of solid, drinkable beer, (they even do a mild!) but it’s easy to see how they are often overlooked by a market that constantly craves the newest, rarest murk bomb in a gaudy tin.
But times change, and even a reliable “old school” brewery like Swannay can make the odd tentative step toward modernity. The latest release is the Ban Yan pale ale, a heavily hopped, sensible strength, session pale (in a gaudy tin)
Any decent pub or offie, will already have a few beers in a similar style (Fyne Ale’s Jarl and Brewdog’s Dead Pony spring to mind) but Ban Yan is every bit as good and has the added benefit of being newer- and we love new things, don’t we?
Like all true session beers, it is clean, light and morish. Which can make it tricky to write about, since it’s quality is quite ethereal. It has a gently hazy appearance and soft, creamy carbonation. The delicate nose offers gentle aromas of buttered shortbread biscuit and mild citrus notes. Swirling some around your mouth in an undignified manner reveals a gentle palate with flavours of sweet lime and a hint of peanut. The finish has a fair whack of bitterness, but is very refreshing and very crisp.
It is a typically flawless example of the style and has earned itself a permanent spot in my fridge at home. Being moderate strength (3.9% abv) and keenly priced (about £2.20 a tin- off sales) only makes it more appealing.
I urge you all to give it a shot, but for God’s sake buy at least two tins (you’ll thank me when the first one’s empty)

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Mistletoe and Wine

download (7)I’m writing this at the beginning of October, so forgive me if it’s a wee bit premature, but we really need to start thinking about Christmas. Primarily because in December we’re all going to be too busy to sort out any of this nonsense, but also because we’ve had an idea that might need a bit of planning.

Normally we end the year with a tasting of our favourite wine and a slap-up meal, but this year we’ll go to town and do it TWICE!

Join us on the last Sunday of November for a fancy meal at The Walnut It’s the usual deal: £35 for loads of booze and loads of (very good) food. The three of us have selected three drinks each for the occasion, with the vague theme of old school classics – think Bordeaux, Rioja and the like. Tickets are available HERE (SOLD OUT)

And the very next week we’ll do it all over again, this time showcasing a bunch of quirkier wines that have come to our attention over the past year. Tickets for our meal on the first Sunday of December are available HERE (handful of tickets left)

I hope it isn’t too early to suggest talk about this, but our tastings always sell out quickly and these are going to be lots of fun. So I hope you can make it to one (or both!) of them.

Cheers!

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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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