I 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.
Tried 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
It’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.
I’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.
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.
A week may be along time in politics, but brewing moves at a much more sedate pace. So when trying to knock out a beer with a satirical bent, the trick is to not be left looking embarrassingly behind the times.
Still, with all the nonsense happening at the moment, it seems daft not to have a product out to capitalise on the anger, fear and confusion about our new political reality. Which is why we* took the plunge and brewed up the FCUKed IPA.
With so much acrimony and division in the country right now, we plumped for a beer that we hope has a universal appeal: A bog standard (but bloody delicious) IPA, with resinous pine and grapefruit flavours and a light aroma of citrus zest.
We’ve priced it at a very generous £1.80 for 330mls and it is a very limited edition.
Which is just as well, since by the time you are reading this, the sainted Theresa might be leading a joyful nation into a sunlit land of milk & honey. Either that, or we might be engaged with a life or death struggle with the mutated survivors of an irradiated wasteland previously known as Airstrip One.
Or just maybe, we’ll limp on shambolically as an unelected Tory prime minister drags Scotland into an economic catastrophe it voted overwhelmingly against
Christ knows what’s going to happen; I certainly don’t.
*By we, I mean the talented guys at Livingston’s Alechemy Brewing
You know that feeling when you take one look at something and know instantly that it just isn’t for you? You might be missing out on something, but there is a tiny sense of liberation when you realise that you can now devote your time, effort and brain cells to other pursuits.
Things that I have written off include: chewing gum, Game of Thrones, team sports, beetroot, cars, fancy dress and beards. I stress that whilst I see value in all these*, I just cannot muster up any enthusiasm for them and would rather leave them for a more appreciative audience.
So when I first caught sight of the inaugural beers from Aberdeen’s newest brewery I was happy to dismiss them out of hand. The Fierce beers are proudly, aggressively, loud, “cool” and (in my opinion) a bit stupid looking.
My toes curled as I took in the “edgy” beer names, distressed typography and violent, punky artwork. Many new breweries look to emulate Brewdog’s marketing strategy without having the brewing expertise to back it up and I simply assumed that Fierce were another of these “all mouth and no trousers” operations.
I was wrong though. Despite my initial misgivings, I have to say that Fierce are brewing some really impressive beer: Beers that sit bang in the centre of the Venn diagram marked experimental, affordable and drinkable. We’ve had them in store for a month now and I’ve drunk & enjoyed enough of the stuff to forgive them for the gauche labels.
Best of a generally excellent bunch is the Peanut Riot, a chunky little porter augmented with a handful of salted peanuts.
It looks like a standard porter in the glass; murky black body, with a modest, tanned leather head. The nose has a really attractive (honest!) bouquet of leaf mulch and Reeses Pieces. It’s a full bodied, punchy beer with an oily, savoury, umami-rich mouthfeel and a lengthy finish. It’s a more serious porter than it’s label implies and a weightier beer than it’s 6.5% abv suggests.
It makes for a very satisfying postprandial digestif and at less than £3 a bottle it’s quite keenly priced
Fierce deserve a bucketful of credit for brewing it and some other really accomplished, interesting beers, that transcends the Shoreditch friendly branding.
*except beetroot. That can get tae fuck
I’ve written about him quite a bit already and I’m certainly not alone in hailing his merits, but it’s sadly time for one last column about Stuart McLuckie, Scotland’s (maybe even the UK’s) best brewer.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his lack of self promotion, the tiny batches of beer that emerge sporadically from his Markinch brewery enjoy a stellar reputation. Personally, I consider his stouts and lagers to be world beaters.
But all good things must come to an end and after a few decades at the mash tun, Stuart is retiring to spend more time as a jobbing folk musician. Fortunately we managed to squeeze one last brew out of him and it’s a belter.
The (clunkily named) Luckie Ales Resurrection Series 1835 X-Ale is one of Stuart’s historical recreations of defunct Scottish beers. He had a pop at it last year, but has now tweaked it a little bit to make it a worthy swan song.
It’s a fine example of an old ale, which has to be one of the least fashionable styles out there. If you are unfamilier with old ales, they are most akin to extremely big bitters or maybe unusually dry barley wines. It’s certainly very British (or more specifically Burton), lacking the heady aromatics and complex, citrus character of an American (or American influenced) hoppy beer.
It is absurdly pretty: delicately effervescent, with a moderate head and a hue of brilliant, shiny, shiny gold. The nose is quite closed, I can’t get much, except a suggestion of caramelised apricot and Werthers Originals. It’s a very full-bodied beer, with the palate exhibiting the famous Luckies robustness and balance. The overriding flavours are of butter, shredded wheat, spruce, fancy olive oil and roast hazelnuts. The 7.5% abv is obvious without ever getting too hot and the finish is long and cuddly.
This would be a cracking partner to a solid, meat-and-two-veg kind of dinner
We have ten cases of this awesome drink that have been conditioning downstairs for the last couple of months. We also have a case left of his original crack at the X-Ale. If you want the more recent stuff, look for the white caps
It comes in at £4.70 for 50cls, which I think is a small price to pay for what is not only a glass of Scottish brewing heritage, but also a superb beer in it’s own right.
Of course this doesn’t really mean and end to Luckie Ales: the brewery will continue under a new owner (a guy called Martin-hello Martin!) who will continue to produce the flagship beers, before using it to develop his own stuff. Stuart has even left tantalising hints that, although he no longer has a brewery, he is open to collaborating with others and has some interesting things in the pipeline.
But for now, lets raise a glass to Stuart and thank him for proving that good beer doesn’t have to be revoloutionary.