Moved On

1 06 2014

Well hello.

It seems from my stats that there are a few of you who still pop onto the site regularly.  As you can see I no longer post here.  To be honest I couldn’t find the format I wanted for the site and there were people doing a much better job for talking about beer as can be witnessed in my blog roll to the right.  I do still write stuff elsewhere and some of that is about beer but there’s also a chunk of music, stationery and other shit too.  Pop in and have a look if you fancy.  I may even transfer these posts over to the new site when I can work out how to do it or be bothered.

This will be the last post at this site.

Golden Pints 2011

31 12 2011




Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Tasted way too many good ones this year to make this an easy choice.  SWB Cohort, Magic Rock Curious NZ and Hardknott Vitesse Noir could all have justifiably snatched the crown but this year’s winner is Tyne Bank’s Southern Star.  It’s great to see a local brewery producing a beer of such outstanding quality.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Traquair Jacobite is still my all time favourite beer but the award this year goes to the flavour bomb that is Summer Wine Brewery’s Barista.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: Odell IPA a great beer but lifted to award winner status by the company with whom I was drinking it.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Orval.  Consistently divine.

Best Overall Beer:  The aforementioned Traquair Jacobite.  Everyone should have a comfort beer that keeps them warm, safe and grounded, a best friend in a bottle.   This is mine.

Best Pumpclip or Label:  Last year’s winner, The Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company, quite rightly holds on to their crown.  Honourable mentions must go to Magic Rock and Kernel.

Best UK Brewery:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Top beer, produced by top blokes.  What more could you ask for?

Best Overseas Brewery:  Orval.  See above.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Enjoyed drinking in many fine establishments this year, in particular the Newcastle Arms, the Bacchus and Mr Foleys.  However, this year the Free Trade Inn stands head and shoulders above all others.  A view to die for, matched only by its consistently excellent beer selection and ambience.

Beer Festival of the Year:  Stretching the category a little here, the award goes to Twissup Newcastle.  A true festival of beer worship, delivering top rated pubs, beer and company.

Supermarket:  Waitrose for keeping me supplied with the sadly “soon to be no more” Durham Benedictus.  Otherwise, Meh!

Independent Retailer: Joint winners in the form of Copper’s 8 ‘til 8 and Rehill’s.  However, both should apparently be punished for adding to @CiderTart_G’s stress levels as we attempt to “find somewhere to put all the damned stuff.”

Online Beer Retailer:  Not bought as much online this year due to the excellence of those establishments listed in the category above.  We do have a winner though.  I received great, prompt service from Beer Ritz when used recently and will definitely be using them again.

Best Beer Book/Magazine:  Hopagandamag, fun to contribute to, fun to read.  Looking forward to some no holds barred issues next year.

Best Beer Blog/Website: For the obvious, no nonsense joy he exudes when he writes about beer, the people who drink it and the places in which it is drunk, the winner is the Reluctant Scooper.

Best Beer Twitterer:  Not an individual but a community.  The award goes to all the beery twitterers of the North East.  Sharing the love.

Best Online Brewery Presence:  Summer Wine Brewery.  Like their beer, never dull.

Food and Beer Pairing:  A piping hot Gregg’s Seasonal Pasty, chunks of gorgeous cheese and a 1/3 of Vitesse Noir.  All devoured in glorious sunshine outside the Free Trade Inn during Twissup.  Thanks to @SamtheTree and @DrinkMatch for the food and @HardknottDave for the beer.

In 2012 I’d Most Like To: Enjoy myself…not bothered how that is achieved.

Open Category:  Thanks to all the people I have met, chatted to and got pissed with this year.  Without you beer is pointless.


The Session – The Best Thing I Had Ever Tasted

4 02 2011

OK so I’ve never taken part in this before (and not sure if you need an invite or anything) but here is my two penneth for beer blogging Friday’s The Session. The topic given for this week’s posts – Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle: Does dispense matter?

My first ever recollection of tasting beer was from a can. Both my parents were tee total but they would occasionally buy some beer in for my grandfather which would often sit half empty in the fridge after his visit. Now as someone who couldn’t resist a good rummage around his parents’ bedroom at Christmas for clues about what presents I might be getting this was far too much of an open invitation. The tingling bitterness on my tongue and the bready comforting aroma sold me there and then. I loved beer. Unfortunately being around 10 years old meant I had to wait a while before I could really explore this love. The beer in question was McEwans Export and I knew that canned beer was the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

In my early teens I would try some more exotic beers from cans, Colt 45 was a particular favourite, and obviously very classy. It helped that the parents of one of my school pals owned the local off licence so we were able to try a multitude of these tempting brews. However, living just outside of Newcastle there was only one king of beers. Dog. Newcastle Brown Ale was seen as the drink to turn up to a party with if you were being serious about your drinking and if you saw someone with it you knew what they were either very brave or very stupid. To prove its obvious superiority it didn’t come out of a cheap can, oh no, this was proper stuff and came in a bottle and because of that bottled beer became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

The now long gone Engine Inn provided me with my first ever taste of draught beer at the tender age of 16 and was again McEwans in the shape of keg Scotch. This was the real, grown up world I was in now, shoulder to shoulder with fitters and welders from the Yards who would laugh knowingly at us as we tried to act about 5 years older. The keg Scotch was like the can of Export on steroids, bursting with flavour and it came in a wrist aching pint glass…a whole pint! As you can imagine keg beer suddenly became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

However in the early 80’s the only thing to be seen drinking was the much paler lager which was apparently some complex, arcane continental brew which made it much cooler to be seen with. The great thing was that it wasn’t just cooler in a John Travolta kind of way, it actually came chilled and girls liked it, winner. The dispenser taps for lager were also cool. Gone were the simple lit boxes of the Scotch and in came garishly lit chrome masterpieces to tempt you with their wares, each seemingly more complex and overdesigned than the next. Served chilled from a keg it became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

At some point in the mid 80’s I ventured down to Tynemouth to partake in what would be my first ever Indian meal. We arrived early knowing there were (and still are) several pubs worth popping in to and we never passed up the opportunity for a beer or two. Entering the Cumberland Arms (I think) I noticed that they had McEwans Scotch on and in a fit of nostalgia I strode to the bar and promptly asked for a pint. “Keg or cask?” came the reply. What?!?!? I gave my mates a blank look which was duly returned and had to ask the barman what on earth he was talking about, whereupon he rather patiently, and maybe a little patronisingly, explained the difference to me. “Cask it is then” I said after picking up from the tone of voice that this was the right answer to give. When my pint arrived it looked no different than I could remember from the keg version but the taste, now that was different. Even as a lager boy I could tell this was special, it was smooth, creamy, nutty and refreshing. Cask beer was the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

So there you go, 25 years ago after trying all the dispensing methods I came across I knew cask beer was by far in a way the best of the lot. Fact. Except life doesn’t work like that, does it? Despite my new found irrefutable knowledge I still drank, well, pretty much anything to be honest as long as it was relatively cheap, had the desired effect and regardless of dispensing method. I even largely gave up beer for quite a while during what I refer to as the Whisky Years. Over the past decade or so I have taken much more of an interest in beer but, thankfully, have never felt indoctrinated by the cask or nowt argument peddled by CAMRA etc. I’m led in my drinking choices by two things, taste and the company I’m in. If it tastes good to me I’ll drink it regardless of how it is served because I drink for pleasure not to prove a point and, if the neo-prohibitionists allow, I’ll enjoy the 30p bottle of no-brand lager at my mates barbie this year knowing it was the best thing I had ever tasted and that I would never look back.


Golden Pints 2010

13 01 2011






OK so I’m a bit late with this (started before Christmas, tidied up today) but, hey, I’ve had ‘things’ to do and it got here eventually didn’t it?






Best UK Draught Beer: There have been a number of beers that have wowed me this year; Highland’s Orkney Porter was stunning in the Bacchus as was Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co’s St’Out of This World.  However, for opening my taste buds to the delights of ‘lighter’ beer the winner goes to Thornbridge Kipling.

Best UK Bottled Beer: I’ve been drinking more bottled beer than ever this year and certainly a more varied selection than usual and up until New Years Eve the winner was still going to be my old friend Traquair Jacobite Ale.  However, I had the pleasure of sharing one of my bottles of Orkney Dark Island Reserve (2008) with HH and was totally blown away by it, a stunning drink.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: County Durham Brewing – C’est What? Steve’s Dreaded Chocolate Orange Ale.  Despite the name this doesn’t come from just down the road, rather I enjoyed this during July’s trip to Toronto.  Brewed specifically for the basement bar C’est What? this was a lovely dark malty beer which was lifted from being Nutella infused coffee by the sharpness of the orange in the background to start with and then prominently in the finish which took it to another level.

Best Overseas Bottled Beer: Rogue Old Crustacean 1999.  Again from my Toronto trip and this time served as an accompaniment to my ice cream in Beer Bistro.  There were so many aromas coming at me from this that I ran out of adjectives and was severely worried it was going to be a total mess.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  A gorgeous Barley Wine full of tangy dried fruits (dates, prunes and cherries), caramel and a stunningly pithy bitterness which complemented the food perfectly.

Best Overall Beer: For just being so damned drinkable – Thornbridge Kipling.

Best Pumpclip or Label: I really like what the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company have done with their clips and labels, instantly recognizable and stylish with the advantage of almost always signaling a great beer.

Best UK Brewery: I had a lot of thought on this and a number of changes to the name here but in the end because they consistently come up with great drinkable beers the winner is the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company.  Honourable mentions go to Highland Brewery, Summer Wine Brewery, Thornbridge and Bull Lane who could all have been justifiable choices.

Best Overseas Brewery: For the great beer tasted, the friendliness of all the staff and a great brewery tour the winner goes to Mill Street Brewery, Toronto.

Pub/Bar of the Year: Loved Smokeless Joe’s in Toronto for the company, the North Bar in Leeds for the drinks selection, the Cumberland Arms in Byker for being so welcoming, the Free Trade Inn again in Byker which has my all time favorite view but the winner is The Newcastle (Top) Arms…just because.

Beer Festival of the Year: Really enjoyed the National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester and on, a smaller level, regular festivals at the Newcastle Arms.

Supermarket of the Year: Meh!

Independent Retailer of the Year: Had fun rooting around Beer Ritz in Leeds and really wish I’d had more bag space but due to its closer proximity I’ll go for Rehill’s Deli in Jesmond which has a great selection of all types of booze…but no website unfortunately.

Online Retailer of the Year: Had great service from BeerMerchants, myBrewerytap and Ales by Mail this year with no problems and nothing but praise for all of them.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: Cheers has been a breath of fresh air in the North East and wipes the floor with the woeful local CAMRA effort.

Best Beer Blog or Website: Because it’s always handy to have an idea what may be waiting for you at the pub I always check Phil’s Newcastle Real Ale Listing.

Best Beer Twitterer: Enjoy all the banter so no particular favorites.

Best Brewery Online: Very rarely visit any to be honest.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Cranachan and Highland’s Orkney Porter at a food/beer matching event at the Bacchus.

In 2011 I’d Most Like To…: Find time to write more here…but not at the expense of drinking.

Open Category: I think I’ve said enough.

Coppa del Mondo Birra Lotteria

23 08 2010

Well I haven’t visited here for a while, or much this year for that matter.  For that you can blame/thank the current inequality in my work life balance and the fact that when I’m not tied to my desk at work the good lady wife actually wants to spend that time with me.  I have, however, been maintaining a limited presence on Twitter and it was through this medium that World Cup Beersweep (WCBS) came to my attention.

WCBS was a cunning ploy by the great minds behind beer swap, Mark and Andy, to get us all drinking something different, or not, over the summer.  The premise was a simple one, buy a beer from the team you were drawn with, blog about it before the final and, if your team won, you would be in line for a prize from the nice people at myBrewerytap, Adnams, Highland Brewery and Ales By Mail.  32 participants were sought to take part in the draw and this soon grew to 64, meaning two draws, with interest really high.  This I could not resist.  As you may have noticed 2 sentences ago I made mention of the fact that this should have been posted prior to the final and those of you on the ball will also note we are now approaching the arse end of August.  I’m claiming inspiration for my poor performance in this matter from the team with which I was drawn.

Pre draw I was torn between wanting an easy time of it (beer wise) with an England or Germany and the lure of the chase in trying to find something exotic from North Korea or Honduras.  To be honest I wasn’t really bothered about winning the thing, though it would have been nice, I really just wanted an excuse to try something different.  In the end I was paired with Italy, who I had going out in the group stages in my prediction league at work, and with a sudden jolt realised I knew next to nothing about the beers of one of our European neighbours.  OK, I’d tasted Peroni Red and Blue before, usually accompanied by a pizza, but there had to be more to Italian beer than those, surely?

Within minutes of tweeting the result of my draw a number of helpful chaps and chapettes started to fire exotic names off at me as if I should have known all along about the burgeoning Italian craft beer scene.  But, truth be told, I’m just a bairn when it comes to beer knowledge so I had to dutifully fire up Google and find out just what it was that had these people so excited.  I don’t know why I was surprised to find so many examples of Italian beer out there, but I was and it left me with another dilemma, just which of these beers that I knew nothing about should I buy and from where?

I tried the usual online suspects first, companies I’ve bought from in the past and had unfailingly good service from.  Whilst nearly all offered me something in the way of Italian beer I had, by now, decided that an education is not an education if you only read one book so what I needed was somewhere that could provide me with a veritable library of Italian beer.  My search eventually led me to where I was almost spoilt for choice and after much deliberation (not) I settled on the seven beers you see below.

I intended to base my selection on different beer styles but in the end just plumped for the bottles I liked the look of after deciding it was all guesswork anyway.  So what caught my eye then? Well in the end, a mere 3 days after placing my order, I was a proud owner of the following:

La Volpina Pale Ale Amarcord (500ml)

Tabachera Double Malt Beer Amarcord (500ml)

KETO Reporter Beer- Birra del Borgo (750ml)

Duchessa Beer – Birra del Borgo (750ml)

Re Ale Beer- Birra del Borgo (750ml)

Crocco Br`Hant Malt Beer (75cl)

Ninco Nanco Beer Br`Hant (75cl)

As you will note none of these came in an easy, knock it back in fifteen minutes, 33cl bottles.  Oh no, coming in at 50 and 75cl these were going to have to be treat with some respect.  My initial thought was to invite HH around and we could blast through them in a session making copious notes and taking plenty of photos.  In the end I have enjoyed each of the bottles individually; some whilst taking in the football others as I mindlessly surf/listen to music and some definitely more than others.  I have made notes on all of these but to go through them all would make this post really unwieldy and the links should tell you what you want to know and let’s face it the whole point of WCBS was to enjoy the journey as much as the beer.  Having said that there are a couple of points that I think bear mentioning, so here goes:

  • I disliked none of the beers, although the Reporter came close, which given the random nature with which they were chosen is something of a victory.
  • The Reporter was an experience.  The smell coming out of the newly opened bottle reminded all present of decaying faeces, which wasn’t the best of starts.  It smelt and tasted better after pouring but is perhaps the one I’d try again only if offered for gratis.
  • The La Volpina Pale Ale Amarcord was the closest in taste to a UK beer out of the 7.
  • I really liked the things they did with hops in the beers and coming from me that is praise indeed.
  • Italian Craft beer is far more entertaining and successful than their football team.

So there you go, my WCBS experience.  Despite the poor performance of the Italian team their craft brewers have salvaged the day for the nation.  All we need now is for these beauties to become more readily available but until then I can heartily recommend picking these up where you can.  You won’t be disappointed.