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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Hope

NEWHOPEJust before Christmas, we were gifted couple of cases of surplus beer from Paul at Campervan brewing. Not enough to make a song and dance about, but it felt wrong just to punt it out and make 100% profit on something we had zero input into. So I shoved it to one side, thinking that we would do something with it around the time that the Jaundiced Mussolini ascends to his golden throne. Probably something cynical, nasty and NSFW.

But at the end of December something changed, and I just couldn’t bring myself to churn out another wisecrack about the perilous times we find ourselves in. There is nothing remotely amusing about a rapist (and possible child rapist) being elected to the most powerful position on earth.

I think it’s more important to recognise that whilst the legions of darkness have had a very successful twelve months, they are hopelessly outnumbered by the forces of reason, enlightenment and what used to be called (small c) christian charity. In time, the good guys will win and the Nazi’s, MRA’s, Little Englanders and Islamophobes will retreat back under their respective rocks.

Until then, if you are needing a drink to ease the pain of seeing the chode-fingered tangorilla ejaculate his bile across your twitter feed, then you could do worse than settle back with a bottle of this cracking little, Kiwi-hopped session pale.

It comes in at £2.60/33cl bottle and we will donate £2.50 for each bottle sold to Scottish Women’s Aid.

We only have 68 bottles, so it doesn’t add up to a whole lot of cash, but as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, we have strength of numbers on our side and if all of us commit to doing little things like this through 2017 we can alleviate some of the misery ahead.

(and if Disney have problems with the label they can suck my big hairy balls)

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Sim(ply) Having A Wonderful Christmas Time

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I’ve been blethering a lot in the run-up to Christmas, so something Miles wrote…

Here’s an anecdote for Christmas. The other day, one of these gloriously sunny, marvellously frosty days we’ve been having lately, my cockerspanial George was taking me for a long hike up The Crags. Having worked up a lather stomping through Hunter’s Bog and doublebacking across the top edge of The Crag’s lopsided tabletop, we took a breather about a third of the way down the northern descent back down to the Bog. It was a lovely eagle’s eye spot overlooking Holyrood Palace and the playing fields out back and affording, on this clear day, breathtaking views out across the Firth to Fife and along the coast to North Berwick. George was rolling in the long grass to cool off and his body steaming like a locomotive distracted me from my reverie. I looked at him, my muddy boots and then a small, flat rock set in the earth next to where I’d flopped. Into the face of the rock was carved the following:

“A R Sim 1919”

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I wondered if this was the name of a person. I wondered if it had been carved by someone walking their dog almost 100 years ago. Then I wondered if the carver was Alastair Sim, the beloved British actor made famous by his comic roles in film classics such as The Happiest Days of Your Life, Laughter in Paradise, The Belles of St Trinian’s, The Green Man, School for Scoundrels, and, most famously of all, the brilliant 1951 version of Scrooge. I love all these films and I love the delightfully quirky, oddly creepy comic genius of Alastair Sim.

Back home, hot cuppa in hand, George groaning contentedly on the sofa, I did a wee bit of research in an attempt to establish the provenance of the miniature menhir. I knew that Alastair Sim was an Edinburgh boy. I found that he was born in October 1900, attended school at Bruntsfield Primary, James Gillespie’s Highschool and George Heriot’s and worked part-time at his father’s business, the men’s outfitters Gieve, where he displayed no talent whatsoever for shop work. In 1918, he was accepted by the University of Edinburgh to study chemistry, but his fledgling academic career was put on hold when he was called up for military training (in 1948, after another World War, Sim returned to became the rector of the University).

Happily, the First World War finally came to end in November that year and Sim was released from service. He returned home and told his parents he did not intend to resume his studies, because he had decided to become an actor. This news was not well received and precipitated young Sim’s leaving of the family home to spend a year in the Highlands working with itinerrant workers. By the end of 1919 Sim was back in the Burgh, where he found work as a clerk in the borough assessor’s office. From there, he launched himself into public performance with poetry readings, which lead to work as an elocution teacher, which, in turn, spurred Sim on to found a drama school for children. It was while teaching kids to act that Sim’s own talent was spotted and his life as a professional performer began. The rest is, as they say, history.photo2214

My modest, tea-fuelled research might not have established beyond doubt the provenance of that rock up on The Crags, but it certainly suggests it was quite possible that Sim carved his name on it. If I had just fallen out with my parents over my choice of career and was perhaps contemplating leaving home to become an itinerrant worker, maybe I would take a long hike up The Crags and maybe I would sit on the top and stare out to sea and maybe I would, faced with big change and an uncertain future, carve my name for posterity.

On the other hand, Sim was a notoriously private person. He refused to give autographs. Would he have carved an autograpgh for all eternity? So maybe “A Sim” is Arnold Sim or Anthea Sim. Also the R is a problem: Sim’s full name was Alistair George Bell Sim. No R there. Perhaps he had a secret name such as Roderick or Rupert or Randolph? Perhaps he was carving a B and simply didn’t finish. But does it matter? That rock MIGHT be Alistair’s. And it’s in a beautiful spot. So if you fancy a walk over Christmas you could do worse than go searching for “A R Sim 1919” and take a breather to enjoy the view.

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Anyhoo, I’ll shut up now and leave you with a few eloquent words from the elecution teacher himself that we might mull over during the festive break from everyday life: “It was revealed to me many years ago with conclusive certainty that I was a fool and that I had always been a fool. Since then I have been as happy as any man has a right to be.”

Happy Christmas all,

Miles

 

 

 

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Winter is coming

2016-12-06-20-33-40I have made a habit in recent months of wandering off topic and filling this blog with my thoughts on politics, card transactions, recycling and dog food: for the simple reason that I’ve been trying to cut down my drinking and sampling new beers just to have something to write about didn’t seem like the smartest use of my liver.
However, I am typing this out now at the beginning of November and assuming we survive the US elections, Christmas will soon be upon us and I will throw myself off the wagon into the arms of Bacchus.
To prepare myself, I gingerly helped myself to one of the first of this years Christmas beers to enter the shop: The St Feuillien Cuvee de Noel, a classic Belgian Abbey Ale.
A very gentle nudge releases the cork with a satisfying *pop* The beer is eager to leave the bottle but never quite gets to the gusher stage, leaving my trousers thankfully unsplattered.
The head bubbles up to well above the rim of the glass, but somehow never gets out of control.
Once it’s settles a bit it still leaves a good two inches of dense, creamy foam that can be scooped up with a spoon. Underneath, the beer is a lovely walnut/russet/red colour. The nose impresses with quite vinous aromas of straw, cedar wood and polished leather. To be honest I could almost be fooled into thinking I was nosing a claret.
The palate, like most Christmas beers is sweet and indulgent (good) Packed with loads of dark, spiced fruit: Prunes, cassis, quince and raisins. It also has a more candied edge of liquorice and molasses, with a background of tart acidity building towards the finish.
The end result is like a bit like a fifty/fifty blend of port and coke. (bugger- I’ve made it sound bogging: It’s not, honest!)
Personally, I think this makes the ideal post Christmas dinner digestif. At 9 % abv, it’s boozy, but not stupidly so.
It manages to be bubbly and celebratory, but also indulgent and brooding. You can share it with your family after the big meal, or follow my lead and snaffle it all to yourself while watching an ultraviolent martial arts movie late night on boxing day.
At under nine quid for a very pretty 75cl bottle, it makes a pretty good last minute present for a workmate or extended family member, but it’s probably worthwhile throwing a bottle into the basket when your getting your emergency Christmas supplies.

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Milk Money Tasting This Friday

2016-11-01-16-21-23Tried to think of a witty header for this, but I’m a wee bit rushed right now.
Anyway, as I was saying, this Friday from 6pm, James the head honcho from Milk Money drinks will be here, pouring samples and chitting chat.
If you don’t know Milk Money, they are the local mixoligists behind the cocktails in the dinky little milk bottles that have been popping up in the finer establishments around town in the last year.

They are pretty awesome drinks (we are particularly enamoured with the “Bloodless Mary”) and this is a great opportunity to try a bunch of them and find out what they have lined up for the festive period.

So pop along this Friday and act all sophisticated with a glass of something fancy while you queue up for your two bottles of Augustiner and a packet of crisps.

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This is slightly embarrassing.

 

2016-10-24-14-41-36We are all fallible: Sometimes we bugger things up royally and the mistake is immediately apparent and quickly rectified. Other times we make a small mistake and the damage is less obvious, it just festers away unnoticed, nibbling away at the margins, but never being severe enough to necessitate any action.

Well it’s a quiet Monday and I’m feeling it’s about time I lanced a boil that has been bubbling away for three years now.

We like to think of ourselves as very competitively priced, so it pains me to think that we may have been fleecing punters (even accidentally)

A couple of years ago we got our mitts on some very fine imperial stouts from Hawkshead and Buxton. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some kind of mix up regarding case sizes which resulted us being charged for packs of 24 instead of 12. I honestly have no idea where the fault lies, whether with us, the distributor or at the brewery, but I strongly suspect that these beers have been priced up on our shelves at double the RRP.

Which is the only possible reason why we still have them in stock, because they are awesome stouts that would fly out the door under normal circumstances. But they are getting a bit long in the tooth now, so I think I have to take the hit and slash the price on them to clear some shelf space for Christmas.

We have:

Hawkshead No.1 Jack Daniels Cask  Was £7.40 Now £3.50 (September dated)

Hawkshead No 2 Jim Beam Cask  Was £7.40 Now £3.50 (September dated)

Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime Export Was £7 Now £3.50

Buxton Tsar Bomba Was £14.80 Now £7.50

I hesitate to call these discounts, (because for all I now these are now closer to there intended price tag) so let’s call them price adjustments.

 

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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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All Back to Sours

 

2016-10-04-14-33-22It’s been a while since we’ve done something like this, but a week on Friday we’ll be welcoming the guys from Petrus into the shop to sample, blend and chat about all things sour and funky. It’s all quite casual and off the cuff, just pop in if you want a gobful of some of Belgium’s most accessible sours, some top rate chat and maybe a breadstick or two.

(If you are among the few people still resilient to the charms of sours, then, we’ll have some wit and laaarger too)
Things kick off about 5pm on Friday 14th and we’ll probably have enough free stock to dole out samples until 7pm

Should be fun.

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Can you dig it?

 

indexI’ve been lucky enough to be sunning myself on a wee jaunt around Rioja this last week, so to be honest it’s hard for me to get my head around the concept of beer at the moment.

Spain does have some good beer, (most of it is still shite though) but right now my palate and brain are more attuned to thoughts of fermented grape juice and I don’t think I can easily bang out a few hundred words about the latest saison.
So I won’t bother. Instead I’m going to indulge myself wittering on about an idea that struck me after a few glasses of crianza:
Why is wine bottled and will it always be?

I ask this after seeing the recent explosion in popularity of decent canned beer. If my fridge is home to tins of Imperial stout at £7 or £8 plus, why not have tins of Chablis at the same sort of price?
A 330ml tin would be the equivalent of two large glasses of wine, which is a sensible amount for most meals (it’s also just the right amount for a personal mid-week indulgence) Many’s the time I’ve poured myself an extra glass at the end of the evening just so it doesn’t go to waste (a flimsy pretext, but I’m sure you’ve done the same) Prices could start at around the three quid mark for a basic plonk ( like, I assume this sexist nonsense is )- but what really interests me is the possibility of putting the decent stuff in a tin. I would happily pay a fiver for a tin of Sancerre or Alsace Riesling.
Of course, half and quarter bottles have been around for centuries without ever setting the world on fire. They are not without their issues; other than being a more convenient size, they suffer all the problems of full bottles and are (comparatively) expensive. They are traditionally used for pretty basic wines and are simply not very “cool”
Tins are better in so many ways: lighter, don’t need a corkscrew, less fragile, more recyclable, hermetically sealed, no cork taint and most importantly much, much cheaper.
Of course, like most of my better ideas it’s already been done. Unfortunately, the tinned wines that have made it to the market thus far have been mostly rubbish. It’s easy enough to get canned industrial prosecco or alcopoppy spritzers, but if we are going to break the stigma of tins we need reputable wineries to give it a go.
Pretty sure a Concha Y Toro or Casco Viejo branded tinned wine would help sell the concept to the man in the street. Once it became acceptable and commercially viable then things could get really interesting: Imagine shelling out a tenner for two glasses plus of really top shelf wine to treat yourself with at home. Chateauneuf du Papes, gran reserva Rioja, Burgundy, or even classed Bordeaux at something like an affordable price? I could dig that.

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Cloudwater Friday

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Great news! We have another really exciting tasting coming up (no, not this one)

Like us, there’s a damn good chance that you were too late to snap up tickets to the big tasting with the guys from Cloudwater that the Salt Horse are hosting next week. Fortunately James and Paul have asked if they can pop into visit us on Friday afternoon for an informal little preview.

They will be here from 3pm rattling through at least half a dozen of their most recent brews and fielding questions from the hordes of thirsty punters who have sloped off work early. I’m afraid we have no idea how long they’ll be here or what we’ll be drinking, but if you are familiar with their beer you really won’t want to miss this.

Pop along, meet the guys behind one of the UK’s most exciting breweries and have a cheeky glass or two of saison/lager/whatever, soundtracked by the baggiest  Mancunian sounds.

 

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