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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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”)

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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.

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Get the beers in.

 

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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.

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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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