An Austrian Field Trip

As those who have listened to the last podcast will know, I missed podcasting duties in favour of the snow in Austria. Never off duty, and having some time to kill in Salzberg before heading to Saalbach, I had to sample a local brew. To build up a thirst I wandered around, what has to be said, is the beautiful city of Salzberg; not since San Francisco have I been so instantly impressed with a place, the mild weather, blue skies and a Castle on a hill always help. My walk up to and past the castle revealed the stunning vista of the Austrian Alps and stirred thoughts about moving here, even better I stumbled upon a hillside bar/restaurant where I could sample a brew.

Weininger Dunkels Lagerbier was the most intriguing on the menu, a dark beer that went down a treat; it had a smooth malty taste that perfectly accompanied my frankfurter. I’d assumed it would be a local beer but sadly it’s brewed by Privatbrauerei MC Wieninger in Germany. They describe it as a beer with many nuances-well they do when I translate the description from German to English. They also brew 18 types of beer, 2 of which are varieties of shandy so I don’t think they count, but that has to be a brewery worth visiting.

The rest of the trip was not spent doing researching in the blogging style, more the I can’t remember the previous night style. I did sample an Austrian lager that went down a treat in the Hinterberg Alm, I believe it was a Stiegl brewed by the largest privately owned brewery in Austria-the Stieglbrauerei in Salzburg, but I wouldn’t quote me on that.

BeerCast #12 – Red Rose Beers

The BeerCast’s 12th podcast is a trip close to home for panellist Richard, as we explore more beers from the North West of England. We’ve sampled beers from the region before, during episode three, which uncovered two of the four eventual Beer of the Year candidates for 2007 (Daleside IPA and Coniston Bluebird) – so we all had high hopes for the next batch. The first one tasted this time is Tirril’s Academy Ale (4.2%), from Westmorland in Cumbria (so not strictly a red rose beer). Then we move on into Lancashire for Joseph Holt’s Thunder Holt (5.0%) – a drink brewed in celebration of Manchester’s predictably damp weather. A short distance away is Blackburn, home to the Thwaites empire. Producing beer for two hundred years in the same family, they recently launched a celebration ale called Double Century (5.2%), which is our third beer. Finally, we try a brown ale from Liverpool’s Cains Brewery – Dragon Heart (5.0%). On the panel today – Richard, MrB, and BeerCast first-timer Stuart…

1. Academy Ale (4.2%abv)
Tirril Brewery, Appleby, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

The Tirril Brewery began life in a pub – the Queen’s Head Inn in the Westmorland village on the River Eamont. Tirril was famed throughout the country for it’s nearby academy, which in the early 19th Century was said to be on a par with Oxford or Cambridge for the teaching of mathematics. In celebration of this history, Academy Ale is a three-hopped malty beer produced by Tirril – who now inhabit slightly larger surroundings in Appleby than their original pub. In between, they operated from a stately home which was previously used by a WWII tank regiment. During the army days, the notable door knockers of Brougham Hall were taken down for safekeeping – and it’s a picture of one of the giant clangers that gives Tirril their brewery logo.

What They Say“A dark, full bodied, very traditional rich and malty ale flavoured with three varieties of English hops.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Nice malty ale, although the hops are drowned out 7
MrB – Not much of a smell, tastes slightly caramelly 6
Stuart – It’s quite fizzy, I don’t mind this at all 6

2. Thunder Holt (5.0%abv)
Joseph Holt’s Derby Brewery, Manchester.
500ml glass bottle

Manchester is renowned for it’s terrible weather – but Joseph Holt have the perfect solution. Thunder Holt is their longest standing seasonal beer, and it chooses to celebrate the rain and showers rather than hide from them. Founded in 1849 in Oak Street in the centre of the city, Holt’s has been in the same family for four generations. They overcame the American Civil War – which you wouldn’t think would harm a northern English brewery – but the sudden lack of new world cotton to feed Manchester’s mills plunged the city into recession. They are now tied to 127 pubs, all of which are within 25 miles of their home city.

What They Say“First produced over five years ago, Thunder Holt is a delicious red russet traditional premium ale with the light citrus flavours of challenger cone hops and dark crystal malt.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Stuart – There’s a nice kick to this, I can’t stop drinking it 9
Richard – Has an almost aniseedy aftertaste 8
MrB – This has a great back of the mouth taste, it’s fantastic 8

3. Thwaites Double Century (5.2%abv)
Thwaites, Blackburn, Lancashire.
500ml glass bottle

Another local family brewery are Thwaites, founded in the east Lancs milltown of Blackburn in 1807. In 1843 the original founder Daniel died, leaving the brewery to three of his twelve children. One of whom was also called Daniel, and under his stewardship the operations flourished. He eventually became MP for Blackburn, and the Thwaites concern today is one of the UK’s top ten breweries by volume. They also own over 400 pubs in the north of England. To celebrate their 200th birthday, last year they launched a celebration ale in a fancy embossed bottle, called Double Century. Will we be joining in the celebrations?

What They Say“This refreshing amber coloured premium ale is well balanced with a malty character. Double hopped using English golding and fuggles with the late addition of Bramling Cross, it has a bitter orange finish.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Stuart – This has a wow factor from the first taste 9
MrB – Warm alcohol feel to it, that’s the absolute business 9
Richard – Tremendous, light and moreish with that orange finish 8

4. Cains Dragon Heart (5.0%abv)
Cains Brewery, Liverpool.
500ml glass bottle

In our last North Western edition we ended on a seasonal beer from Liverpool’s Cains brewery, and we do likewise for episode twelve. The Dusanj brothers have breathed so much life into the formerly ailing outfit, that they turn out a special ale every month of the year. January sees them release Dragon Heart Brown Ale, and with this particular variety of beer endemic to the north of England it’s a must-taste. Others include a strong bock, a dark lager, a wheatbier, and the raisin beer we sampled back in podcast three. But will our panel take to the Dragon Heart – particularly BeerCast debutant Stuart – a self-confessed fan of the brown ale genre.

What They Say“This strong brown ale is brewed to a 19th Century recipe and fermented in traditional open vats. A blend of premium ale malts and the finest of English hops combine to produce a fruity and complex character.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Got some treacle in there, it’s nice but not amazing
Stuart – This is slightly too sweet for me 6
MrB – Tastes like a northern bitter, a bit stouty 6

BeerCast panel verdict

Thwaites Double Century – 26/30
Joseph Holt’s Thunder Holt – 25/30
Tirril Academy Ale – 19/30
Cains Dragon Heart – 18½/30

Panellists – (from top left) MrB, Stuart, Richard



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an organic beer special, and another debutant BeerCaster joins the panel. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!

Pelforth and multiply!

Hello beer lovers, 

It’s Andy of Andy & Jess here with my first ever blog post. 
You may remember me from such podcasts as ‘The man with the beery finger’ and ‘The beerman only rings twice’
I normally pull the levers behind the scenes to get the podcast up in iTunes, but recently me and Shovels went snowboarding in Chamonix and accidentally sampled a rather fine local beer called Pelforth and i thought it was high time i reviewed a beer in print.
As you may know from the podcast, i’m not actually much of a beer drinker, but the BeerCast has opened my mouth to some genuinely tasty and refreshing beers. I think i had assumed all beers tasted like Tennents poured in a coal mining town working mans club, but Pelforth really is a gem.
Shovels was the first to try it with a pizza on our first night but i snuck a cheeky sample when he wasn’t looking. Pelforth is one of those beers that looks dark and has a fairly high alcohol content, but actually tastes much lighter on the tongue and hides it’s alcohol very well.
It reminded me in a way of Meantime brewery’s Winter Time, a dark looking beer that’s actually very subtle.
We started with the Brun version i have described, but as you can see from the photo there is also a blonde version.
I don’t think i sampled that one, i think i’ll leave it to Shovels to expound on that flavour.
I was wondering why the label bears a picture of a Pelican but a quick squiz on Pelforth’s Wiki entry tells me that the brewery was originally called the pelican brewery but was renamed Pelforth after the second world war. It also mentions that the brewery is owned by Heineken now. 
The Oxford bottled beer database is fairly disparaging of Pelforth calling it ‘Too sweet and sterile to be classed as a great beer’ yet the comments left by fans of the beer seem to show that those who like it, really love it. It would also seem that it’s impossible to come by in Britain though.
(Any importers reading this, get on it!)

Lagerboy Speaks – Estrella Damm

Some beers have a connection to a specific city that lift them above any others that can be found there – such as Budvar and Prague, Anchor Steam and San Francisco, or Newcastle Brown Ale and…er…Newcastle. Another of these is Estrella Damm and Barcelona. The Catalan capital is written on the distinctive red label no fewer than eight times, cementing it as ‘La Cerveza de Barcelona’. Lagerboy always wonders what it is about a particular brew that staples it to a city – especially one as large and vibrant as the City of Counts.*

In 1876 a German by the name of August Kuentzmann Damm (and there’s always a German somewhere in the history of a major European brewer) founded a brewery in the coastal city, and immediately started producing a lager, which he named after the Spanish word for star. The label says – ‘as it’s name suggests, the brand has become a star to the people of Barcelona. It has evolved with the city reflecting it’s character – sophisticated and passionate yet at the same time relaxed and welcoming’. Modesty indeed. The official website continues – ‘generations of master brewers have perfected this lager until it has become a landmark in the world of beers.’

Well, despite the dubious attractions of ‘a creamy hops-flavoured froth and refreshing taste’, Estrella Damm is a staggeringly unexciting beer. Honestly, it cuts right down the middle in every category. It’s 4.6%abv, a bit soapy, there’s some initial carbonation, and it has a mild straw colour about it. There’s nothing to like about it – but there’s also nothing to dislike – it’s bladder-fillingly bland. Maybe in the shaded streets of Barcelona it’s a winner, but taken out of context – it’s as boring as beer can get.

* No, me neither.