All posts by Andy

BeerCast #72 – Norfolk Charms

BeerCast72a

Six months since we drew a line under the BeerCast’s podcasting days, our London crew got together and recorded a special edition for us. Following a recent trip to deepest East Anglia, four local beers from Norfolk were their inspiration. Firstly, the panel get to grips with Fox’s Drop of Real Norfolk (3.8%), before sampling the Norfolk Square Brewery’s Stiletto (4.5%). The third beer on the lineup was Wagtail’s 4.5% Ale-next-the-sea, before, fittingly perhaps, the podcast ends on Beeston’s Worth the Wait (4.2%). On the panel this time, London regulars Andy and Jess, Andrew, Nick and Francis, and debutante Fei – who becomes our 23rd BeerCaster. Cheers!

NB – Special honours go to Andy, as when he announces (in dulcet Midlothian tones), his score for Fox’s Drop of Real Norfolk, he gains the distinction of giving the 1,000th score in BeerCast history. Unfortunately, it’s not the regular 7 – but, anyway, who’d have thought we’d have made it to that milestone?

 

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1. Drop of Real Norfolk (3.8%)
Fox Brewery, Heacham, Norfolk.
500ml glass bottle

The Fox Brewery of Heacham began in 2002, brewing in the outbuildings of the Fox and Hounds pub. We’ve featured them before on the BeerCast – their Nelson’s Blood Bitter (dedicated to local son Lord Nelson) made it to our Norfolk roadtrip podcast of BeerCast #31. Clearly, they are proud to be associated with their home county – will our London-based panel pick this up, as they try a drop of real Norfolk?

What they say –
“Light bitter hoppy zingy and refreshing” (Tasting Notes – Real Ale Shop, Norfolk)

What we say –
Andrew – It’s flat in a good way, it’s designed for knocking back pints of – 8
Jess – Perfectly nice but not amazing – 7
Nick – It’s got a bit of a perfumey way about it, it’s quite fragrant –
Fei – It’s quite bitter, not keen on the aftertaste – 6
Andy – Quite drinkable, quite smooth, but no real personality – 6
Francis – They’ve used comic sans on the label, I can’t drink this – 6

 

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2. Stiletto (4.5%)
Norfolk Square Brewery, Stokesby, Norfolk.
500ml glass bottle

“Within our mind, deep in the recesses of our psyche there is an urge, a desire to brew the ultimate beer. That is what we strive for here at N²B.” So says the website of Stokesby’s Norfolk Square Brewery, or N²B. Located a few miles inland from Great Yarmouth, they arrived in their present location in 2011, having re-located from the coastal town. Brewing began in 2008, with the owners also operating a bottle shop, and contract brewing for the Norwich Bear Brewery.

What they say –
“Refreshing golden ale with a honey twist, a rich full bodied smooth flavour, a single shop brew with a citrus character” (Tasting Notes – Real Ale Shop, Norfolk)

What we say –
Andrew – Quite sharp on the sides of the tongue, quite refreshing – 7
Fei – I like the sharpness, the aftertaste is less bitter than Drop of Norfolk – 7
Francis – Drop of Norfolk was more exotic, but i could drink more of this one – 7
Andy – More drinkable because it’s less interesting – 5
Nick – I could drink more of this one – 5
Jess – I could drink less of this one – 5

 

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3. Ale-next-the-sea (4.5%)
Wagtail Brewery, Old Buckenham, Norfolk.
500ml glass bottle

Wagtail opened in March 2006 and only produce bottle conditioned beers made with Norfolk malts. In fact, they seem to concentrate almost fully on bottled beer, distributed throughout East Anglia. As with the Fox Brewery, Wagtail have also graced our podcasts past – King Tut Golden Ale was reviewed in BeerCast #19, all the way back in the summer of 2008. How will Ale-next-the-sea get on, all these years later?

What they say –
“Clean and crisp and bitter” (Tasting Notes – Real Ale Shop, Norfolk)

What we say –
Francis – Has real character, smoky character- 8
Jess – I like that smokiness – 8
Andrew – Smells like it’s been in a burning warehouse – 8
Nick – It tastes of smoke and caramel –
Fei – Usually I don’t like smoky alcohol but this is nice – 7
Andy – That’s a very smoky affair, like smoked cheese – 7

 

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4. Worth the wait (4.2%)
Beeston Brewery, Beeston, Norfolk.
500ml glass bottle

Beeston Brewery appeared on the Norfolk brewing scene in 2006, brewing in a renovated farm building. Their website describes an idyllic setting – “we overlook Beeston church and the tranquil valley beyond.” Environmental themes run strongly within Beeston’s operation – their water comes from nearby chalk beds, their barley is grown locally at Branthill Farm on the Holkham Estate. Everything that comes in is purchased through a local co-operative. Highly admirable – but will their commendable ethos come over in the beer?

What they say –
“A taste packed golden beer with a balance of hops to give a refreshing citrus hint” (Tasting Notes – Real Ale Shop, Norfolk)

What we say –
Andrew – Feels like it won’t give me a headache like Drop of Norfolk – 8
Fei – I like this one the best, better aftertaste, not as heavy –
Jess – Increasingly I don’t like this at all, it’s too sweet – 6
Nick – I can taste the bitterness but not the sweetness – 6
Francis – Most similar to Drop of Norfolk, I think Drop of Norfolk edges this one though – 6
Andy – Smells more hoppy, more flashy than Drop of Norfolk but not as much substance – 5

 

BeerCast panel verdict:
Wagtail Ale-next-the-sea 45½/60
Fox Brewery Drop of Real Norfolk 39½/60
Beeston Brewery Worth the wait 38½/60
Norfolk Square Stiletto 36/60

 

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:

 

BrewDog in Bristol

Hi folks, Andy here, the BeerCast’s chief non-beer beer drinker in chief. I’m most often to be found shoveling coal into the BeerCast’s servers and mending the website’s rss feeds with string, but recently i had the unexpected pleasure of being in Bristol for the opening of BrewDog’s newest bar and drinking some actual beer.

Love them or loathe them BrewDog have made an undeniable impact on the UK’s beer scene in short order since their founding in 2006. Taking a leaf out of Apple’s tree, they’ve been on a tear recently opening up their own bars to sell their own beer thus effectively controlling every aspect of the experience from tun to tap, or barrel to bar, or.. i’ll stop there. I believe in business circles this is known as ‘vertical integration’ or ‘owning the stack’ or in Scottish parlance ‘dain it ‘a yersel’.

In typical fashion the opening of BrewDog’s bar in Bristol was no low-key affair. It was as loud and proud as the brand itself and coincided with Bristol’s annual ‘Zombie Walk‘, a surprisingly good natured celebration of the undead. Bristol’s streets were awash with zombie lego men, cindarella’s, nurses and even undead dogs all dancing to dub step booming out across King’s Square.

There are some photos here:  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151261800215306.525722.539775305&type=1

One thing i really liked about the new BrewDog bar in Bristol was it’s service of 1/3 pints. This was something i first encountered at the opening of the new Southern Bar on Edinburgh’s South Clerk Street a couple of years ago with the rest of the BeerCast crew.

Ordering thirds allows you to really sample all that a bar has to offer and the BrewDog staff were keen to explain the flavour and processes behind each of the beers we tried.

At some point in proceedings we were ushered outside to witness the arrival of a very special barrel of beer. It arrived on a boat, sailed down the canal just outside the bar and sang onto land by a trio of hale and hearty crewmen singing sea shanties. It was quite a spectacle and was one of those rare moment when British people spontaneously begin speaking to each other. It was a stunt but it was nicely done and gave a sense of occasion to the opening.

Brewdog opening in Bristol – barrel delivery & sea shanty from The Beercast on Vimeo.

The keg was cracked open and it’s contents were poured for the whole bar, Punk IPA, BrewDog’s signature IPA on the house.

The glasses of Punk IPA sloshing round the bar were for a toast,  BrewDog co-founder James Watt jumped up on the bar and gave a sermon to his flock on the passions and founding ideals of the company. It was quite a rousing speech, I caught most of it on camera here.

Brewdog opening in Bristol – speech from The Beercast on Vimeo.

 

As i mentioned in the opening  i’m not really a beer drinker, the BeerCast has opened my eyes and my mouth to the incredible range of beers out there. I have to say though i was impressed with the beers we tried at this opening and i was impressed with the passion of the speech the founder gave. BrewDog rail against the mass-produced bland beers of yore, the unthinking zombiefied masses reaching for Stella in pubs up and down the country. Ironic then that this upstart company should choose a zombie walk, a celebration of the undead as the day to launch it’s new bar on.

I know there are folks out there who don’t like what BrewDog do, their approach, their brash branding but, as bar openings go i had a great time.

 

 

The 302

 

Hey folks,

Andy here, I’m usually either tinkering with the rusty bolts and bits of string that keep the BeerCast together in the background or occasionally hosting the London podcast, it’s unusual for me to be writing a post.

The reason is pretty boring but if you are a subscriber to either our podcasts or the site’s RSS feed then please read on.

When we set thebeercast.com up we used the address thebeercast.com/feed as the RSS address for subscribing to podcasts and to regular posts from the front page.

We want to separate out thebeercast.com/feed into two different feeds; one for regulr posts and one for podcasts. I have a feeling that a lot of people who are currently subscribed to thebeercast.com/feed are iTunes users who are downloading the podcasts. Really we want to use thebeercast.com/feed just for folks who are subscribed to the regular front page posts and we want to decant the podcasts subscribers who are currently using thebeercast.com/feed into our new podcast-only feed.

So! For one week only we’re going to set up a temporary redirect (known as a 302 redirect in internet parlance) of thebeercast.com/feed to our new feedburner podcast-only feed. This means that those of you who are subscribed to the /feed address for the posts will be a bit put out for a week – sorry, but once we’ve decanted all our podcasts listeners to the new feed address I’ll remove the redirect and your RSS readers will start to fill up again with learned, more insightful, better written and more interesting posts than this one.

I’ll turn on the redirect tomorrow (02-Jun-2011) in the evening.

Do not adjust your set!

 

Thanks, Andy

BeerCast #57 – London Calling

The London contingent returns once again to test the beery waters with Andy, Jess, Andrew, Marc and newcomer Kath. We chose a random selection of beers which intrigued us and tried not to veer off into unrelated and surreal topics too frequently. First up, Thwaites Very Nutty Black (3.9%) from Blackburn, then we moved down to the South West and sampled Skinners Cornish Knocker (4.5%). The third beer on the podcast is from Sweden – Nils Oscar God Ale (5.3%), before we finished on a stronger note with Ringwood Old Thumper (5.6%)…

1. Very Nutty Black (3.9%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Daniel Thwaites Brewery, Blackburn, Lancashire

Nutty Black is one of the core beers produced by Blackburn’s Thwaites Brewery – and is an award winning mild, having twice been named Champion Beer of Britain. At 3.3%, when the brewery decided to launch a bottle-conditioned version they upped the alcohol to 3.9% (jokingly referring to it as export strength) and christened it Very Nutty Black.

What They Say“Normally brewed solely for the home market, Daniel Thwaites has broken all the rules with an export strength version of its award winning ale. The same great well rounded flavours and nuttiness lie within.” [ratebeer.com]

What We Say
Jess – Quite light, not too bitter. Some lovely fruity berry flavours 8
Andrew – Bit fizzier than a stout. I could drink 1000 pints of it 8
Andy – A bit bitter and acidic. Not as nice as Sam Smith’s
Kath – It tastes like beer
Marc – Smells like Dandelion & Burdock. Tastes like it too 6

2. Cornish Knocker (4.5%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Skinners Brewery, Truro, Cornwall.

Steve Skinner cut his brewing teeth on the island of Jersey, before moving to Cornwall and going into larger scale production. That was 1998, and his beers have won plenty of plaudits since – possibly due to the local ingredients used in production – all components of their beers are sourced from within ten miles of the brewery. This local pride also extends to the names of the beers – Cornish Knocker is inspired by the elfin fairies who inhabited Cornish tin mines, said to be spirits of old miners.

What They Say“A strong, clean tasting golden Ale, not too sweet with a fresh flowery aroma” [onlinebeerfestival.co.uk]

What We Say
Andrew – It might not be nice but it has flavours at least 8
Marc – Makes me think of the washing up bowl 7
Jess – I’m a bit disappointed by it. It’s a bit watery 5
Andy – Similar taste to just before you’re going to be sick 4
Kath – Bit of a metal flavour at the back of the mouth 3

3. God Lager (5.3%abv) 330ml glass bottle
Nils Oscar, Nyköping, Sweden.

Nils Oscar were founded in 1996 and named after a distant relative Nils Oscar Sunderberg, who was born in 1865 and has his picture proudly displayed on each bottle. They put out a huge and varied range of different beers, such as IPA’s, dark porters, barley wines and a festive Kalasjulöl. Back in early 2008 we featured their India Ale on our Swedish special podcast, BeerCast 28. Will our panel similarly enjoy their God Ale?

What They Say“The end product is a hoppyaromatic all-malt brew where the special malt brings a remarkably pleasant malt character. It is fresh tasting and smooth as becomes a Dortmunder Export style beer.” [ratebeer.com]

What We Say
Marc – There’s definitely something milky going on
Andrew – A touch of Whiskey-ness and citrus toilet duck
Jess – It’s like someone chucked loads of fags in this. Tastes like gooseberries and mold 4
Kath – Tastes like cheese and ash and dust 4
Andy – It tastes like unpasteurised yak’s milk  3

4. Old Thumper (5.6%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Ringwood Brewery, Ringwood, Hampshire.

On the edge of the New Forest between Hampshire and Dorset sits the market town of Ringwood, home to the Ringwood Brewery. They were founded in 1978 by Peter Austin – one of the pioneers of British microbrewing (see here for an article on Peter written by the legendary Beer Hunter Michael Jackson). One of Peter’s more famous sayings is “a brewery shouldn’t sell beer farther from its door than a horse can walk in a day” – Ringwood were established with this belief, and still have a major presence in the New Forest, despite having been bought out by Marston’s plc in 2007.

What They Say“Luscious balance of grain and hop in the mouth, bitter sweet finish with delicate fruit notes [Official Website]

What We Say
Jess – I really like it. It tastes like crème brulée
Marc – Couldn’t drink a lot of it 8
Andy
Orangery, doesn’t have that soapiness Cornish Knocker had
Andrew
Lots of body, the ‘christmassiest’ 7
Kath
Good in a different way to Nutty Black 

Panellists – (clockwise from top left) Andy, Jess, Marc, Kath, Andrew

BeerCast panel verdict
Ringwood Old Thumper 37½/50
Thwaites Very Nutty Black 35/50
Skinner Cornish Knocker 27/50
Nils Oscar God Ale 26/50

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #56 – Beer of the Year 2010
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our Site Feed
  • That’s it from our London panel for now. Edinburgh, it’s back over to you.

    BeerCast #46 – Mexican Mariachi

    Choked by the toffee traffic of a north London Friday evening rush hour, turfed out onto the cold January roadside whilst a passenger had a heart attack and after a soundcheck in which i had to create a drum kit out of left-over bits of guitar amps and beermats. It was with some relief that i sat down in Cambridge’s Chipotle Mexican restraunt to enjoy a well earned lamb fajita. It was perhaps this combination of exhaustion and hunger which led me,  in a strange new land to temprailiy forget my non-beer beer drinking ways and order a Negra Modello with my fajita.

    How did it go down? … well you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out..


    1. Pacifico (4.5%abv)
    Pacifico Brewery, Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México. 330ml glass bottle

    A rather fancy but somewhat obscure website tells us much about the surrounding peninsula where the beer is brewed but nothing about the beer itself. Nevermind, wikipedia tells us that it was first brewed in these parts in 1900 by germans and hence is brewed in the traditional german pilsner style. Cerveza Pacifico Clara is it’s full name (clara means clear, obscura is the dark version). The Pacifico brewery was bought by brewing giant Grupo Modelo in 1954.

    What They Say
    “Ever so lightly sweeter beer. No noticeable sourness in taste, acceptable balance and a clean finish, slight lime dryness for aftertaste.” [SamN, ratebeer.com]

    What We Say
    Andy – 4.5; Andrew – 4.5; Marc – 4; Francis – 4; Jess – 3; Nick – 3


    2. Dos Equis XX Amber
    (4.5%abv)
    Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery,  Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico

    The most interesting show in the world says the website. Contortionists, crossbow-weilding lovers, death-defying acrobats, burlesque sirens, and a human slinky are many of the items on the menu.

    Sounds exciting, but is the beer?

    What They Say
    “Dos Equis Amber is a traditional Vienna style amber lager with a rich, big flavour. Think of it as Lager’s dark moody cousin” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Andy – 7; Marc – 5.5; Francis – 5; Andrew – 5; Nick – 4; Jess – 4


    3. Negra Modelo
    (5.4%abv)
    Grupo Modelo, Mexico

    Their website says… well, not much really. Perhaps that’s because they spend more time and money on the beer than the website. This is the beer which inspired this podcast, i hope it’s worth it!

    What They Say
    “Pours a brownish color, nice carbonation, small white head, with some sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, with some hops, slight caramel. The taste is slightly sweet, malty, slight hop note. Medium body. Slightly drinkable, would not buy again.” [wasatch, beeradvocate]

    What We Say
    Andy – 7.5; Francis – 7; Andrew – 6; Marc – 6; Jess – 6; Nick – 5.5

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #46 – Mexicon Mariachi
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our site feed

  • Panellists
    – (clockwise from top left) Andy&Jess, Marc, Francis, Nick, Andrew

    BeerCast panel verdict
    Negra Modelo (38/60)
    Dos Equis XX Amber (30½/60)
    Pacifico (23/60)

    We’ll hand back over to the Edinburgh office for the next Podcast.

    Till the next time mon amis!

    BeerCast #41 – Pic n Mix (Pt 2)

    Hello again! This time it’s the London office’s turn to  fire up the ole garageband and get recording another instalment of the never ending story of wonder and intrigue  that is The BeerCast. We reunited the dreamteam of Andrew Hayes (Key keyboard and bitter consultant), Nick Fraenkel (Chief Japanese and Sanchen adviser) and old stalwarts Andy and Jess of Andy and Jess.

    It’s another rollercoaster mystery pic n mix surprise episode with none of the usual theme guidelines to keep us on course. As a result we do off-road a fair bit but it’s all in the pursuit of beery excellence. Oh and garageband stopped twice during recording so look out for special sound effects during the episode – Enjoy! Andy


    1. Peter Scholey’s Organic English Beer (4.1%abv)
    Ridgeway Brewing, South Stoke, Oxfordshire.
    500ml glass bottle

    Ridgeway Brewing was formed by a former head brewer from Brakspear. Described as a cuckoo brewer because this organisation does not own a brewery but contracts brews, primarily bottled beers for other breweries on other people’s plants mainly at Hepworth. A few beers have also appeared under the name Ridgeway Brewery.

    What They Say“The English Target hops, coupled with its unpasteurised condition, help give this great ale outstanding clarity of aroma and intensity of flavour.” [Vintage Roots]

    What We Say
    Andrew – I’d drink significant amounts of it in any kind of garden 7.5
    Nick – Elderflowers and honey, i’d like it with some burnt bread 7
    Andy – Smells flowery but it’s not too sweet 7
    Jess – Lots of honey and lemon, lovely 7


    2. Riggwelter Black Sheep Ale (5.7%abv)
    Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire.
    500ml glass bottle

    Established in the early nineties by Paul Theakston, 6th generation of Masham’s famous brewing family, the brewery has grown from strength to strength and in early 2007 it was proudly awarded ‘Brewery of the Year’ by The Good Pub Guide for the second year running. In addition, Black Sheep Bitter was chosen as the North East’s favourite cask ale in the 2007 Best of British Beer Awards hosted by Cask Marque and the Daily Telegraph.

    What They Say“Brewed with many generous handfuls of choice Golding hops, it is full flavoured premium ale with a rich fruity aroma. The bittersweet malty taste is followed by Black Sheep’s uncompromising long, dry and bitter finish” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Andrew – Surprisingly clean, hits you in the eyes a bit though 6
    Nick – Bitter foretaste, not much of an aftertaste, not as complex as it should be 5
    Andy – I would struggle to drink a bottle of it 5
    Jess – Quite interesting, I’m getting Riggy with it 4


    3. Little Creatures Pale Ale (5.1%abv)
    Little Creatures Brewery, Fremantle, Western Australia
    330ml glass bottle

    Andrew picked this little gem up in from a wine shop in west London no-less. Beer websites tend to be bobbins but Little Creature’s website is a pleasure to visit, I’d really recommend it – (link). The brewery looks to be run very much in the spirit of the Innocent smoothie brand, with happy looking employees all having a say in the company’s progress and not a one of them sitting doing accounts on the computer. The result? Lovely beers. There’s a lesson there i think..

    What They Say“Bag loads of whole Chinook and Cascade hop flowers that we source from Washington and Oregon in the US as well as some local flowers from Tasmania are thrown at this beer, creating an intense citrus and grapefruit aroma and flavour that we balance with a careful selection of specialty malts and a local pale malt made to our own specifications.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Andrew – Lychees, pineapples, I’ll open the second bottle 8
    Andy – Smells like a bag of pot pour at your aunties 8
    Jess – It’s downright floral, but a nice bitter grapefruit edge 8
    Nick – Tastes like lychees and lollies (Chupa Chups) 5.5


    4. Gale’s Seafarers Ale (3.6%abv)
    Fullers, The Griffin Brewery, London.
    500ml glass bottle

    Fullers say they donate 5 for every barrel of Seafarers ale sold to Seafarers UK, the leading martime charity. The ale was only released in the bottle on Sep 10th 2009. The press release from Fuller’s says “Seafarers Ale is an extraordinary cask ale, developed as a tribute to Gales’ close association with all who sail the seas. Launched as a year-round beer in April 2009, Seafarers Ale has already sailed past the 1,000 barrels sold mark, resulting in a donation to Seafarers UK, the leading maritime charity, of £5,000” That’s pretty good, but do good intentions translate to good beer tastes?..

    What They Say“Seafarers is brewed to 3.6% abv and is a delicious, thirst quenching ale. The secret of the hugely satisfying, refreshing taste of this light, amber beer is in the blend of finest quality English malt, Admiral hops and the unique Gales yeast.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Andrew – It’s not slapping me in the face like the sea, but it has an edge of sulphur i quite like  5
    Andy – A little bit watery (pun intended) 5
    Jess – Disappointing, thought it would be more robust like a sailor 5
    Nick – Smells like sea air, couldn’t tell the difference with Fosters 4.5

    No then.


    Panellists – (from top left) Andy&Jess, Andrew, Nick

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #41 London Pic N Mix (Pt 2)
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our site feed
  • BeerCast panel verdict
    Little Creatures (29½/40)
    Organic English Ale (28½/40)
    Riggwelter Black Sheep (20/40)
    Seafarers Ale (19½/40)