Origin Unknown

Get your nanoviolins at the ready, because I am going to open this piece with a long gestating compliant on behalf of the booze retail community.

It goes without saying, that when deciding what to fill our shelves with, we sample the wares of new and unfamiliar breweries. Thankfully, the breweries are keen to help us out with this and there are usually a few new bottles kicking around the office

Sadly though, sometimes these samples are unsolicited and occasionally awful. (when this occurs, they usually end up as raffle prizes or down the sink) This makes me feel like an ungrateful heel, but there’s no way we can stock every brewery that approaches us like this.

So I barely raised an eyebrow, when I came into work one day to find a case of assorted beers from a brewery that I was totally unfamiliar with.

The beer came from a brewery called Farm Yard Ales, who hailed from…, where exactly?

The bottles and tins had no details about their origins at all, which was unusual (and of dubious legality) and as far as Googling goes, calling your company “Farm Yard Ales” is only slightly better than calling it “The Real Ale Company” or “Craft Beer Co”.

In very small print on the back label, it did say “from the farmyard”

: real helpful guys.

After a good twenty minutes of internet browsing, I finally ascertained that Farm Yard Ales are based in Lancashire and are yet to break out into the wider UK.

The reason why I was keen to find out where they came from, is because despite my reservations, the beer was actually, rather excellent (if not exactly groundbreaking).

Top of their range is a lovely, crisp, sessionable, tinned pilsner and a very old school, bottled best bitter.

The bitter was a particularly good example of the style: Not too effervescent or boozy, nicely balanced with a chewy, nutty, malted character and a clean finish. I could easily imagine myself sinking a few pints of it over the course of an evening.

So, I’m going to endeavour to get some of these beers up to Edinburgh and by the time this sees print they should be gracing our shelves. Its good beer and it’s well priced.

I just wish they were a bit clearer about where it comes from.

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Grin and Bear It

 

When I was first enlisted into the army of Bacchus, ( over a quarter of a century ago now- bloody hell! ) my recruiting sergeant came in the form of a pork pie hat wearing, brown bear called George

It was the pre-Loaded era, and when not swaggering about as and early exemplar of what came to be known as lad culture, the bear was the mascot of Hofmeister- a cheap macro lager that was briefly popular in the late eighties and early nineties.

Hofmeister, like most commercial lager, could very broadly be defined as a Munich helles; – light, gassy and with less bitterness than a pilsner. Although it has been recently revived as a true Bavarian beer, originally it was as British as Bullseye. The bear has long been a symbol of German Beer (although confusingly, it is more readily associated with Berlin rather than Munich) and presumably that is how George came about (ad agencies do, occasionally think these things through)

I was put in this nostalgic frame of mind whist downing a couple of cans of my current favourite go-to pils The Dancing Bear by Magic Rock Brewing in Huddersfield. There is always at least a can or two of this sitting in the back of my fridge. It is well-priced, relatively easy to get hold of and I do appreciate a decent laaaager occasionally.

It pours a bright, clear gold, throws a slight, but attractive head of creamy bubbles. The nose has a slightly piney, resinous aroma as well as the more expected shortbread and lemon. The palate has a rather nice, creamy and mellow texture and a crisp, light, finish.

To be honest, there’s not much more I can say about it, it’s just a decent lager and unless you’re a Mormon, you know exactly what to expect; – It’s just cleaner, fresher and better made than most. I’ve had better lagers, but not at anything like this price.

I’ve recently started to eschew all the fancy-pant kettle sours and imperial pastry stouts and began evaluating breweries by how well they can do the basics.

Judged by the amount of Dancing Bear I drink, Magic Rock are very talented outfit indee

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Don’t have Lao Khao, man.

A couple of weeks ago a good friend and colleague returned from a family holiday in Thailand bearing gifts- a couple of innocuous looking bottles of Thai booze. I naively assumed they would just be your bog-standard domestic lager in a fancy foreign bottle, but I was very wrong.

Once in the glass, it was immediately apparent that the still, brilliantly clear, slightly viscous liquid was a spirit of some kind. This was my first (and hopefully last) experience of Lao Khao.

This is the justly feared and celebrated rice-spirit of Thailand and the nearest thing the country has to a national drink. Distilled from sticky rice and broadly between 35-55% abv, it has much in common with other semi-legal moonshines, but it has a slight sweetness to the palate and a strange oily-creamy lactose edge to the finish. To be honest, it’s far from the worst thing to reach my tongue- but the smell!

It’s pungent stuff, the immediate hit is of turpentine with an off-putting undernote of garage forecourt. Maybe, if I was being generous, I would say there was a very slight hint of coconut. The palate burns and offers little flavour to hide the fact that your drinking what is basically neat alcohol. When compared with say, a Polish rectified spirit it is, as the young people say, Rough AF.

I had a bunch of mates help me polish off a wee bottle and even then my hangover was one of those dentist drill & waltzer combos.

So, whilst I was very grateful to my friend for letting me experience the pleasures of Lao Khao first hand – I don’t think I can really recommend it to anyone else.

Key to Lao Khao’s popularity is price, a 33cl bottle will set you back a handful of baht- about the same as the cheapest available lager. This is mostly because beer production in Thailand is over-regulated and over-taxed. But whatever the reason, the cheapest available alcohol is also the most potent.

If, heaven forbid, a similar situation were to arise in Scotland, it would be like a bottle of vodka being the same price as a tin of Tennants and it’s easy enough to imagine the social and economic implications of that.

So if anyone offers you a bottle of Lao Khao all I can suggest is that you make like Zammo and just say no.

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Flowing Bubbles

imagesFor our Spring tasting dinner, we’ve decided to pop a few corks, get busy with the fizzy and treat ourselves (and you) to an explosion of bubbles.

We’ll shy away from the well trodden path of champagne (for budgetary reasons) and Prosecco (because there’s little to be said) Instead, we’ll offer you seven very different sparkling wines from around the world: Wines that the three of us think hit the sweet spot of being bloody delicous, yet affordable as a weekly (or monthly) treat

Learn about sparkling wine production (drink fizz. eat food)

Explore the differences in the Charmat process and Champagne method (drink fizz, eat food)

Learn how to pronounce Xarel Lo (drink fizz, eat food)

Things kick of at 7.30pm on Sunday 22nd April.

Tickets cost the usual £35 and are available HERE

For that, you get seven glasses of wine + two courses and cheese from the reliably awesome Walnut

 

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Over To You

Heather is a force of nature: works like a demon, knows her shizzle and always coming up with new ideas for nonsense to do in the shop. Her latest wacky scheme is to harness the collective talents of you lot for our Friday evening tastings.
We know plenty about beer, but most importantly we know enough to know that we know less than many of our punters (hardly the most elegant turn of a phrase- but you know what I mean) So, through the month of March we’ve invited some of our geekiest customers (yes, including him) to come along and share some of their favourite beers with you.
So, instead of a MTB, it’ll be more of an “open mic” tasting.

64aUep29

First up is Librarian, Superhero and international man of mystery; Colm Linnane.

I’m sure many of know Colm as the tall Irish bloke with a schooner of Kernel welded to his hand. If you’ve yet to have the pleasure, then you should make a beeline to the shop this Friday evening between five and seven so he can regale you with tales of his adventures in saison.

Posted in blog | Comments closed

GREETINGS POP-PICKERS!

downloadWe play music in the shop. Plenty of people notice, and we get lots of nice comments. Once, we played the Grease movie soundtrack and people were dancing. (Have you noticed we have a mirrorball that gets switched on at the weekend?) Another once, a fella was very sniffy about the music I lined up (1980s trashabilly The Sting-rays), but as the woman said, Everyone to their own.
We have a Spotify account and we make pretty good use of it. Sometimes we simply play tracks (sides!) or albums (long-players!) that we really dig (like). But we endeavour to dig up all kinds of good shit. So you’ll hear old shit, new shit, weird shit and classic shit. Personally, I think my taste in music is quite eclectic (though I’m not sure my colleagues would agree). But even though, should you catch me on a shift, you might hear trad jazz, or bebop (there’s a reason I’m named Miles), or sixties calypso, or 80s post-punk, or garage punk, or 1940s R&B, or 1950s rockabilly, or the crooners and the divas, or San Francisco psych, or cartoon soundtracks, I do like to curate and stick with styles. As I write this, for example, I’ve been playing pre-millennium American punk music all day. But it’s Sunday and that, for me, usually means jazz. It might, however, mean jazz with orchestral accompaniment (see Charlie Parker with Strings). Wanky, yes. But I get a kick out of the curatorial thing. So Siouxsie Sioux me.
You may not have realised this – and really, why should you? – but when there’s more than one of us on a shift (okay, James and me), we often dream up dicky, dreeby themes for the day’s tuneage. (Heather’s far more sensible – she picks something she likes and hits the randomizer button.) We’ve had numbers, the alphabet, shapes, colours, places, travel (hear Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ I Been Everywhere), space, emotions, opposites, politics, names, years (my birth year was a particularly fruitful one), countries, weather, etc, blah, blah. Of course, we’ve had booze, eg I Know Who Threw the Whisky in the Well by Bullmoose Jackson (I generally swing to music made by dead people). And we’ve done they drugs and sex and crime and coffee, also of course.
Here’s an idea: feel free to suggest a theme and we’ll nerd it. Come in and say, Brown. Or horses. Or bugs (think we did that). Hola, gotta change the music. Pixies Live at Malibu Nightclub 1989 coming to an end. Let’s go, erm, Minutemen and What Makes a Man Start Fires?
Still, all that said, sometimes its best to, as John C Reilly once said, just rock out to something good. That’s why Heather and I too often play Fleetwood Mac’s Rumour. Or why James resets to Yo La Tengo. Or why I must have The Oh Sees. And sometimes it is good to mix styles. Which is why I’ve just ditched the American punk for Charlie Parker with Strings. Sublime.

Posted in blog | Comments closed

WE GOT THE FUNK

 

 

download (23)We’ve given you the first couple of months off, which should be plenty enough time to let your livers (and wallets) recuperate, but it is now about time to kick off our 2018 Sunday wine dinners.

Due entirely to public demand I have put my scepticism to one side and the shop now has a small selection of so called “natural wines”.

These are wines produced through minimal intervention: No added Sulphur, only using wild yeast and no pesticides or herbicides. Basically, getting as close to the platonic ideal of just shoving the grapes in a bottle and seeing what comes out. This is all well and good, but unlike organic or biodynamic production, it is entirely unregulated and frankly a lot of “natural wine” is overpriced shite.

We do have a few goodies though and we would be delighted to share these slightly rough and ready, funkily aromatic beauties with you.

We’ve also got big Joe Dick coming along with some funky, yeasty, sour Belgian beers fresh from the fermenter, (he’s actually in Brussels as I’m writing this, sourcing some fancy new bits & pieces)

Tickets will set you back £35

Which gets you:

Plenty of wine, beer (and maybe cider)

The usual very high quality chat

The usual very high quality food – (it’s the bloody Walnut, of course it’s going to be good)

(PS Eventbrite has changed, meaning we can now only charge for one sort of ticket. If you are a veggie or have other eating requirements let us know by email)

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Stock and Barrel

2018-01-12 16.45.16I am a dyed in the wool sceptic when it comes to the use of fancy barrels for your limited edition overpriced beers. Far too often they are used to add value to an otherwise underwhelming beer. Worse still, is when a brewery takes an existing brilliant beer and decides to gild the lily by shoving it in a bourbon (or whatever) cask. Even when this works it rarely adds much to the beer beyond a dash of alcohol, a touch more vanilla on the nose and an extra couple of quid on the price tag.

Occasionally, I have one of these top shelf, barrel aged beers beers that does succeed in knocking my tiny socks off.

As is the case with the Blended Stock Ale from Burning Sky.

Hailing from just outside Brighton, Burning Sky have carved a wee bit of a niche for themselves in the UK beer scene, knocking out the very best UK interpretations of classic Belgian sour styles. So I was intrigued by their latest release which blends an old-fashioned heavy, malt driven English old ale with a Rodenbach-style Flanders red, then throws the whole caboodle in a Pinot Noir cask to develop with some funky wild yeast cask.

It’s a very attractive beer; being a lovely hue of burnished, ruddy copper or polished oak, topped with a modest, but persistent and creamy head. The palate is big, mellow, rounded and warming. The 6.2% abv hitting the sweet spot of boozy, but not too boozy. It smells kind of rustic; It was probably knowing that it was aged in burgundy casks that led me to pick up the associated, mulchy, farmhouse, straw and horseblanket aromas but they are definitely there (if balanced with more typical pine, biscuit and citrus notes)

The dominant flavours are of warm, buttered sourdough toast, fudge, molasses and fig. The Flanders red comes in at the finish, with a quick burst of vinous acidity and a gentle slightly sour edge of candied peel.

This is a stunningly good beer and although it’s not cheap (about eleven quid for a 75cl bottle) it manages to be challenging enough for the typical sour beer drinker, yet still recognisably “beery” which makes it approachable for boring old farts like me.

The added bonus is all that funky, yeasty, Belgian-style goodness will develop nicely in the bottle over the next year or so. (I’m definitely going to squirrel one away for “research”)

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Keep Them Sweet

downloadIt’s probably news to you, unless you’re part of it, but a small kerfuffle (with possible big implications) ran through the beer industry through the latter half of 2017. A complaint to the Portman Group (the alcohol industry body that regulates/oversees marketing) led to the censure of Wales’ Tiny Rebel brewery and rebranding of their flagship beer (at an estimated cost of thirty grand)

The anonymous complainant was unhappy that the beer.

  1. Was available in a brightly coloured can.
  2. Which had a teddy bear on it.

This obviously meant that the 4.6% abv, hoppy red ale was being marketed to children

The simplicity of this argument is hard to satirise and there was something a wee bit iffy about it, but the complaint was upheld. This led to a lot of panic amongst similar sized brewers and across social media that the industry giants had found another stick to beat them with (this is almost certainly bollocks – these sort of things happen to the big guys all the time, they just keep quiet about it)

Truth is, if our moral guardians wanted to warn against the infantilization of beer, they could make a much better case if they worried less about the packaging and more about the contents.

A quick peruse of the shelves of your nearest offie, will provide ample evidence that the current crop of brewers are a fairly sweet toothed bunch and that they operate with all the restraint of a bunch of five year olds at a birthday party. There’s nothing particularly new about chucking a bunch of adjuncts in your brew, but many contemporary IPA’s would make Carmen Miranda blush. As well as smelling/tasting like a tropical fruit smoothie, thanks to the modern fad for brewing in the “New England” style- now many look just like a fruit smoothie.

Not only do we have to contend with a small grocers basket worth of citrus fruit in our pale ales-but our stouts have gone all “Willy Wonka” and now come with a tuck shop worth of chocolate and sweeties.

Typical ingredients found in a top-shelf imperial stout may include- cacao nibs, vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, fruit, chilli, liquorice, peanut butter, salted caramel, almonds and marshmallow.

Now, these are clearly beers that demand restraint, being both very rich and exceptionally boozy, but it’s hard to deny that some of them are VERY sweet and deliver a pretty intense sugar rush.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course and some of these beers are amongst the very best in the world.

But (to get all reactionary about it) why can’t we have beer that tastes like beer?

At the very least “traditional” styles of beer shouldn’t be seen as in any way inferior to these new interpretations. Even if they can sometimes be a little bit harder to swallow.

Posted in blog | Comments closed

Get the beers in.

 

2017-12-16 18.13.31

 

 

Just a quickie.

The guys over at Alechemy will be undergoing a rebrand in the new year and have asked us if we’ll help them shift some of their old stock. To that end we are now selling wee slabs of their Photon IPA for £18 a pop

That’s just £1.50 a tin for a mighty fine session IPA- we’ve Q.C.-ed quite a few tins now and can confirm that they are tasting bloody great. So if you’re having guests over the next fortnight or so, you might as well shove as many in your fridge as you can manage.

Posted in blog | Comments closed