Wikio - Top Blogs - Wine and beer The Real Ale Girl: 2011

Saturday 31 December 2011

How to survive the sales (clue: Tap East)

A day at a shopping centre. As potentially divisive as the keg debate or the smoking ban.  ‘Oh it won’t be that bad, we’ll get a bargain’ can be heard all over the country as, despite having spent the previous month shopping for Christmas, people are lured back in for the sales.
The ladies go shopping. The blokes moan and mope and whine about going to the pub. Or so the stereotype would have us believe.

I’m a young female. Which means I love shopping, right? Well, no. There are a lot of girly things I enjoy; early John Travolta films, glittery nail varnish, Gok Wan TV shows. But hours ambling around in a soulless, Americanised trading emporium? Not one of my hobbies.

Then Tap East was born, hiding in a sneaky little corner of the new shopping kingdom that is Westfield Stratford, in the heart of 2012 Olympic domain. From the people that brought us The Rake (in Borough Market- another retail mecca, but as dissimilar to Westfield centres as you can get), Tap East was made for girls (and boys) like me. For those who accompany shopping frenzied pals on their pilgrimages to in-store gift wrapping, loyalty cards and personal shoppers, wishing they were in the pub instead, sipping on something dark and silky (I am talking about beer, thank you). We all have to go shopping sometimes, and admittedly, it is also occasionally useful to have a few stores in one place, under one roof. I stress occasionally. But it isn’t pleasant. After a couple of hours of traipsing around with heavy bags, sore feet, a streaming nose caused by heating contrasts and an extremely irritable demeanour, you need a light at the end of the shopping tunnel.

Tap East is an extremely beery light at the end of that tunnel. Microbrewery, ale bazaar and beer geek heaven, all packaged up in Westfield friendly coffee shop-esque d├ęcor, with sofas and bookshelves and soft lighting.

Westfield Stratford should be screaming Tap East’s presence from its roof- it is certainly the only reason I choose to shop there. Normally, I stick to my local shops, or at a push head to Oxford Street, but the lure of Tap East pulls me eastwards to Stratford. My first visit was the weekend after the launch of the microbrewery’s first beer- the Extra Stout at 6.6%- sneakily strong, it manages to be incredibly refreshing, while retaining the spice and chocolate of its beer style. It certainly did the trick of washing away all those shopping aches and pains. Over my subsequent visits, they have also had several beers by Brodies, Titanic, Thornbridge, Hawkshead and more of thier own microbrewery delights.

More than enough to make me head to the shops more often. Any Londoners who have visited the Microbar in Manchester’s Arndale Centre will have been filled with envy that we didn’t have something similar here to sooth our shopping pain. But now we do. A message to all shopping centres, high streets and markets across the land- get good beer in, and we will come running.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Read (or write) all about it

Writing about beer can be pretty darn cool for someone like me with a day job and a normal life. Random, friendly people say hello at beer festivals, sometimes brewers give you free beer, you may get to see your work printed in publications you read all the time and you often get invited to groovy parties like the launch party, last month, of the luscious Melissa Cole’s new book, where those in attendance got to schmooze in the good company of other beer geeks and publishing folk, delighting in the mini beer fest that Melissa had provided.
However, the greatest motivation for writing about beer is knowing your thoughts may be being read by lots of people, that they enjoy it and that it may enthuse them to love drinking beer as much as you do. These sentiments are celebrated at the biggest beer writing shindig around- The British Guild of Beer Writers’ annual awards dinner, taking place tomorrow night.
The evening will celebrate all the things that make beer writing great, and praise the people who do it best. Proof that beer lovers can actually scrub up quite well, attendees spend the  evening in fabulous company, eating sumptuous food, matched with gorgeous beers, nattering about their favourite topic before the high drama of the awards announcements. The exciting thing about the awards is that there are so many people now doing such great stuff that there are potential winners across all the categories, although I will be thoroughly relaxed and sitting back watching all the nervousness as I didn't enter this year).
Who will win Beer Writer of the Year? I don’t know, but I do know we’ll all leave looking a little less pretty, and much less scrubbed, than when we arrived.
By the way, I was going to link to my latest 'A girl walks into a bar' London Drinker article but have discovered that the editors have bizarrely reprinted the one that went into the April/May edition.
Oh well, if you missed it first time round, here it is

Saturday 29 October 2011

Its good up North!

I had another moment of North envy this week. I can remember two occasions when I have suffered from this affliction before.

First, was North London envy, when for the only time ever, I wished I lived north of the river. Nothing to do with living near a tube station or any of the rest of that North/South of the river divide nonsense.No, it was because The Southampton Arms is in North London and I wanted to be near it so that I could go there everyday and bask in its loveliness at every opportunity. Life would just be so much better if spare moments were spent there, rather than Lewisham Wetherspoons.

Then, this Northern desire stretched a bit further, up into the North of the country, on a trip to Sheffield. Here was a city which knew what is was doing in pubs and brewing- even the student bars had a huge range of ale, and the city is bursting with pub heritage gems and microbreweries. I blogged about my awe and wonder at the time- here it is if you fancy it.

I wasn’t expecting to have one of these Northern urges this week. After five hours on a delayed, stinking, sweaty coach from Victoria, we pulled into Manchester Coach Station and I was fed up, not excited. I had discovered through Twitter, on the way, that The SIBA Great Northern Beer Festival was in town during the trip but we were visiting a friend who isn’t currently drinking much, who had also put thought into planning activities for our trip. I had the distinct feeling I wouldn’t be going to that festival.

And then, about seven minutes later, I felt like a selfish, ungrateful cow for even letting these thoughts enter my mind. Not only did he think we could fit the SIBA fest in, we were also scheduled a visit to the Didsbury Beer Festival, a Manchester city centre pub crawl, a drive around hard to reach village pubs in the Peak District, and to start it all off, a crawl from the City Centre to Didsbury, where he lives, stopping at six pubs between the two. I guess this friend does know us well- after 50 hours, when boarding the coach back down South, we had visited 25 different pubs, two beer festivals and had 69 different beers.

And here is where the envy sets in. I remembered the feeling from Sheffield- walking into a pub that from the outside looks like a dull old boozer which my have a couple of common ales on to please the old locals, only to find three, five, eight or more pumps with beers from local breweries seldom found in London, seasonal specials and rare delights.

The city centre to Didsbury crawl took us into the Friendship Inn, full of students watching football, and drinking Hydes’ Hubble Bubble Halloween special. In the Victoria, in Withington, we had Queen’s Peach Treat and Hornbeam’s Top Hop Bitter. The old blokes at the bar were drinking Guinness, even though Hydes’ Owd Oak was on.

The next morning, our not-drinking-much driving friend had devised a mother of a peaks drive, which took in swooping lanes, sudden fog, thousands of sheep and some absolutely amazing pubs.

My favourites were both called The Old (or Ye Olde) Cheshire Cheese. One was in Hope, with ales from Bradfield Brewery, 5 Rivers in Sheffield and Peak Ales. The other was in Castleton, a pretty, touristy village, absolutely brimming with pubs. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese had more from Bradfield and Peak Ales, as well Wincle and Thornbridge beers. Another village pub, The Nags Head, had a ‘Beer Tapas’ scheme, allowing you to try third of their ales, served in a nifty wooden glass holder. There are no Castleton pubs in the Good Beer Guide, proof that you can’t just live by the book.

Friday took us into Manchester City Centre, and there really are pubs everywhere you look. The Mancunians are a spoilt bunch, they really are- from cool beer dedicated bars like The Knott, Cask, The Port Street Beer House to more traditional boozers like The Ape and Apple and The Rising Sun, not to mention a beer haven in the Arndale Market, the Micro Bar (three dark ales on, in an indoor market!)

We made it to both the Didsbury and Great Northern Beer Festivals, by the way. There were fun, they had spectacular ranges of lovely Northern beer and they could easily warrant a blog post of their own. However it was all those pubs that really gave me the North envy this time; who needs beer festivals when you have this many great pubs on your doorstep?

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Good beer comes to town!

Once upon a time, on a Friday night about 3 years ago, we had no plans (a rare phenomenon, one which leaves us feeling quite discombobulated). We decided to go on a pub crawl along one of the local main roads, which had, at that time, 5 pubs along a walkable stretch. Now, please bear in mind this was a few years back, we were young and delirious with Friday night euphoria and keen to get just a bit merry. So we banned any drink that we normally order, ruling we must choose the weird, the unusual and the usually downright avoidable. This was also because we knew there would be no decent beer available in any of these pubs, having stood at their bars with a choice of Carling, John Smiths or Guinness on many occasions. Therefore, we consumed WKD blue, Archers and lemonade Malibu, pre-mixed Sex on the beach and Snakebite. The hangover was hell. But we had a lot of fun, met some pleasant landlords and played the most despicable game of pool ever. But the sad part of this tale is that we were not alone in our weird drinking- we were among many drinking WKD that night. There wasn’t a lot of choice, to be frank. Good beer was hard to come by in Lewisham in 2008.
We had a similar night last week, but this time round, we tried no less than 11 different cask ales across three pubs all within a mile of our flat. Ok, two Wetherspoons in the midst of their ale festival featured , but I know of at least four more local pubs where we could have had more, had we had more time (and weren’t quite so drunk already).

The current popularity of cask beer is well documented and much discussed, but I can’t pretend I didn’t feel more than a little bit excited being able to stroll into The Ravensbourne Arms at 11.20pm and see delights from Daniel Thwaites, Brewdog, and Redemption on the bar. Within walking distance! A mere 0.8 miles from my sofa. A sofa I will be spending very little time on now that we have local pubs rocking good beer.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

A most dull blogpost.

10 beer related things to do when you are off sick.

  1. Read beer blogs. I caught up with Boak and Bailey and their trip to Exeter, Beer Justice’s honourable work curating the Art by Offenders , Beer Birra Bier’s dream beer festival line up (prompting me to think about my own) and Tandleman’s thoughts about the idea of the Campaign for Really Good Beer.
  2. Go through your twitter account. I found a few new people to follow and stopped following some beer folks who actually only talk about transport difficulties.
  3. Find yourself on the internet. I found a picture of me, Real Ale Bro and Real ale Husband on the St Alban’s beer festival flyer thanks to a twitter tip.
  4. Search ‘beer’ on the BBC news website. The most recent mention (15th September) was a US Marine being awarded a Medal of Honour after sharing a beer with Obama, followed by a far more interesting story on the same day about West Yorkshire brewing more beer than any other county, according to CAMRA.
  5. Try to get to the kitchen and look at what beers are in the house while waiting for the kettle to boil. I found a bottle each of Badger Hopping Hare, Sharps DW (75cl), Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA, Brewdog Hardcore IPA, 2 rogue cans of Carlsberg and a mini bottle of Kronenberg. Not sure where they came from.
  6. Wonder when you will be well enough to drink what you have found. Even the tea didn’t go down well.
  7. Admire your shrinking beer belly- one of the few plus sides of a messed up digestive system.
  8. Try to spend your CAMRA online shop vouchers. Tricky. All the clothes are designed for old men and all the books are already on my bookshelf. I don’t have much use for either a CAMRA tie or pub food tea towel.
  9. Make a tweet cloud. My most written word was beer, obviously, followed by thanks, night, London, stout. I’m quite pleased. Last time I made one it featured the words fabulous, blimey and Wetherspoons.
  10. Look at your blog stats. I have quite a large readership in South Korea, apparently, and someone in Indonesia read my blog today. Hello, and thank you!

Saturday 10 September 2011

Here come the (beer-drinking) girls

Every now and then I have a moment when I realise that being a beer drinking girl isn’t that weird anymore, and yesterday, on a normal Friday night out, I had several.

We went to some friends’ birthday party in Katzenjammers, a Bavarian Bier Keller style bar near London Bridge. An Oompah band play disco and pop tunes (a genius combo- I wonder how many people here have ever danced to a French Horn on a night out before) and everybody drinks beer. The novelty of steins in London means even those who say they don’t like beer drink it anyway, including the girls. Those people drinking wine or spirits stuck out like Jedward at Glyndebourne. After the Paulaner Dunkl, which wasn’t very dunkl but still very lecker nonetheless, I ordered a bottle of the 8.2% Schneider Aventinus which the barmaid assured us was the darkest beer available. It got a rapturous reception from a friend who was bored of Paulaner Hell lager after necking more beer than she had drunk all year. Yet more evidence for my mounting campaign on the success of getting girls into beer through dark, malty, roasted flavours rather than pale, hoppy ones. This was the perfect dark what beer, tasting just like barbequed bananas.

It continued on the way home. We walked past the All Bar One which lurks in the shadows of the ever growing shard, and there was a girl outside drinking London Pride from the bottle with a bloke who had a glass of rose. I love stereotype reversal!

On the train, some girls were continuing their evening with Marks and Spencer’s Cherry Wheat Beer. Which is housed in their station Simply Food next to the single serving bottles of wine and cans of Gin and Tonic.

Its all happening, lasses are exploring a wider range of beer styles and I am very excitexd to feel not quite so weird anymore.

Saturday 13 August 2011

The Rare Ale Girl

So GBBF is gone for another year, and next year us young'uns get the pleasure of seeing the fest hit Olympia for the first time.

We had a pleasant, if rather warm, day at GBBF this year- I was accompanied by Real Ale hubby, Real Ale brother and Belgian Beer Girl. We only managed to go for one day, but if I had danced to a band that vigorously for more than one night, I might have need medical treatment (we rather enjoyed the jolly Jewish wedding music of Thursday's evening entertainment, Stan's Magic Foot). I was also delighted to win a colour changing light up rubber duck on the tombola.

But what about the beer, I hear you cry? Well, we drank lots of it. Running into Des De Moor (I do like a good name-drop) he asked us what we were mostly planning on drinking. To my reply of real ales we haven’t had before, he said ‘that shouldn’t be too difficult’.

But in fact it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming to have drunk all of the 700 odd beers available, but when you go to as many pubs and beer festivals as we do, it gets trickier to find new beers to try, although all the new breweries popping up are helping. One of the reasons I think it is getting harder to find new beers to try for me is that I am such a lover of the dark beers, the porters, stouts and milds, and while lots of the new breweries make luscious versions of these, there is also a huge trend for hop experimentation at the moment. I appreciate the genius involved in brewing a hop heavy IPA (and I know this makes me sound way older than my years) but I struggle to drink them over long periods of time and after a few I find myself feeling a bit more like someone on the first episode of Dancing on Ice than a Real Ale Girl. So I head for the darks.

Yes, we went on hat day.
Find some we did, however and I think Blackbeck’s Black Beck Belle was my beer of the festival, followed closely by Earl Soham’s Gannet Mild (yes I like mild and I’m not ashamed to say so). Meanwhile, Bowman’s Southsea Spice, the first beer I tried all day, and Enville’s Cherry Blonde did a go job of tempting me away from the dark side, an accolade indeed for them.

One festival that knows what its doing in sourcing the rarest, most exciting, hardest to find beers is the glorious Egham Real Ale Festival, and the 9th one is this week. Just check out this list, and maybe I’ll see you there.

*Ascot Ales – Camberley, Surrey (2007)

Single Hop Sorachi Ace – 4.6% - Single hop

Single Hop Apollo Ace – 4.6% - Single Hop

Coconut Cayenne– 4.6% - Festival special

Chilli Exile Stout – 5.0% - Festival special

Red IPA – 5.5% - Brand new India Pale Ale

Last of the Blue Devils – Cherry Imperial Porter – 8% - Festival special

*Betjeman Brewery – Wantage, Oxfordshire (2011) (Cuckoo Brewed)

Wantage Bells – 5% – Hopmonster

Slough Bomb – 6% – IPA

Sebastopol – 7% – Imperial Stout

*Bingham, Ruscombe, Berks (2010)

Doodlepitch – 5% - Stout

Ginger Doodle – 5% - Ginger Stout

*Black Cat Brewery – Groombridge, East Sussex(2011)

Black Cat Hopsmack – 4.0%

Black Cat Original – 4.2%

*Braydon Ales, Preston, Wiltshire (2009)

YerTiz – 4.1% – Triple Hopped bitter

Galley-Bagger - 4.3% – Summer Ale

Pot Walloper – 4.4% – Ruby Coloured beer

Gert Ale – 4.8% – Russett coloured strong ale

*Brewshed, Bury St Edmunds (2011)

Pale Ale – 3.9% – Pale ale

Best Bitter – 4.3% - Best bitter

*Byatts Brewery – Coventry, West Midlands (2011)

CoventryBitter – 3.8% - Golden hoppy session bitter

Phoenix Gold- 4.2% – Blend of 3 American hops golden.

Urban Red - 4.5% – Dark Ruby best bitter

*Canterbury Brewers – Kent (2011)

Foundry Man’s Gold – 4.0% – Golden ale

CanterburyWheat - 4.4% – Wheat beer

Foundry Torpedo – 4.5%

Street Light – 5.8% - Porter

Canterbury Haka —x.x% - Pale Ale with NZ hops

*Chester Ales – Chester (2011)

Gladiator – 3.6% – Session beer.

Corvus - 4.6% – Dark.

IPA – 5.2% – IndiaPale Ale.

*Complete Pig Brewery - Britwell Salome, Oxon (2010)

Hallacre Gold - 4.2% - Golden

Red Lion Best - 4.2% - Best

Oxfordshire Black Porter - x.x% - Porter

*Devilfish, Hemmington, Somerset (2011)

Devils Best - 4.2% - Best bitter

Blonde Bombshell - 4.5% - Blonde ale

The Gold Devil - 4.2% - Golden

Stingray—5.5% - New strong Ale

*Halfpenny Brewery - Lechlade, Glouc (2008)

Four Seasons - 4.3%

*Loddon, Dunsden Green, Berks (2003)

In Yer Face IPA - 6.0%

*Longdog, Basingstoke (2011)

Golden Poacher - 4.2% - Golden

Brindle Bitter - 4.2% - Best Bitter

*Old Dairy, Rolvenden, Kent (2010)

Heffer Weiss - 5.5% -Wheat special

*Old Forge - Coleshill, Oxon (2010)

Old Ted - 3.6% - Dark mahogany mild.

Anvil Ale - 3.8% - Amber.

Blacksmiths Gold - 4.0% - Golden.

Hammer & Tongs - 4.2% - Chestnut.

Sledgehammer - 5.0% - Ruby bronze.

*Rectory Ales - Hassocks, East Sussex(1996)

Harvest Ale - 4.0%

Mild Pilgrimage - 4.5% - Mild

Rector's Celebration - 5.0%

Rector's Revenge - 5.4%

*Sherfield Village Brewery, Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hants (2011)

Threesome - 3.0% - Session beer.

Hindsight - 4.2% - Amber Bitter.

Solo Motueka - 4.3% - Single hop pale.

Solo Quintessential - 4.4% - Copper-coloured beer.

Pewter Suitor - 4.4% - Amber Bitter.

Foursight - 4.5% - Copper-coloured beer.

Pioneer Stout - 5.0% - A black stout.

Solo IPA—5.5% - IndiaPale Ale.

*Waylands Sixpenny - Sixpenny Handley, Dorset(2007)

Addlestone Ale - 4.2% - Pale copper best bitter.

Rushmore Gold - 4.3% - Golden ale.

*Westerham - Edenbridge, Kent (2004)

Bohemian Rhapsody - 4.0% - Pilsners lager.

India Pale Ale - 4.0% - India Pale Ale

National Trust Viceroy IPA - 5.0% - India Pale Ale.

Audit Ale - 6.2% - A strong ale.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Zoos, bars and fields- My Beer Summer Part 1

Yo! As pressure in the day job begins to ease off for another year, and all the deadlines have been met, I am back, with a little slice of summer beer lovin', my summer so far, punctuated by beers.

My last post (yes, I know it was ages ago) was on the hot, quickly turning icy cold, topic of cask v keg and my opinions, morals, hunches and taste buds were tested to the maximum when I volunteered on The London Brewers' Alliance Bar at London Zoo Lates.
Arriving on a rainy evening in the middle of June, we wound our way through summer dress and deck shoe clad visitors, snuck a peak at the new penguin beach, and found ourselves behind the bar, alongside the legend that is John Cryne, expert on all things CAMRA, and Andy Moffatt, mastermind of Redemption Brewing Co.
All the breweries invloved pledged to work behind the bar for 3 nights each over the two months of Fridays, and we chatted away with Nicola Chase, who works for Fuller's but also writes her own unrelated blog on ale,
I couldn't get enough of Twickenham's new Honey Dark, and neither could the punters as it was one of the first to go from the range of cask and keg- Camden Hells Lager, Windsor and Eton Knight of the Garter, Fullers London Pride and Honey Dew, Zero Degrees Pale Ale, Wheat and Black Lager, Redemption Alexis' ale, Sambrook's Wandle Meantime London Lager. I know I've forgotten something- feel free to fill me in if you were around.
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Real Ale Girl in keg serving shocker!
John Cryne and I eyed the keg dispenser warily; I have served many a cask ale at beer festivals but this keg lark is an entirely different matter, taste debate etc aside- its just harder to pour! You find yourself faced with spraying froth, fizz, tilting glasses, crazy heads and bizzare splutters when it reaches the end... but I felt all proper barmaid after serving a couple of pints, and it cerainly helped me understand the difference between keg and cask from the more scientific, dispensing angle.

We left our posts for a wander, and I have to say, despite it costing the paying public around 18 quid for entry to the late opening, it really was quite something watching a tiger sleeping two foot away, a crisp pint of Redemption Alexi's Ale in your hand, fairy lights twinkling above and live acid jazz behind you.

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Craft Beer Co. -Just go!

The following week saw the opening of the much hailed, much documented Craft Beer Co bar in Clerkenwell. I am not going to do some major review on here, many others have and will continue to. Meanwhile, I am simply going to continue to drink there, and all I will say at this point is, if you haven't been there yet, just go!

Then last week, one of the highlights of the year for me and my Paddock Wood dwelling family, the Hop Farm Festival. We set up the tent, stocked to brimming with cans of BrewDog Punk IPA. These little turquoise gems do the job perfectly; small enough to sneak in in your handbag (I only tried this once, late on our last night, and shocked myself with the thrill, as I am one of the most law abiding folks you’ll find) and they taste a darn sight better than the canned versions of cask beers that are readily available.
Once inside the arenas, we were initially dissapointed to see the ale offereing was Shepherd Neame Spitfire. Nothing against the brewery, or indeed the beer, but it is far less exciting than the Gadd's Festival and Sesider available last year.Then, at about midnight, we found a smaller bar, by the late night disco tent, serving Gadd's festival itself, a perfect choice for the chilled madness (if that combo is possible) of a festival, with vital rehydration powers!

Monday 6 June 2011


Right then. I suppose I better stop drinking this Meantime Chocolate. I guess I shouldn't have given Real Ale Husband a bottle of Camden Wheat Beer for his birthday. Maybe I shouldn't have had that Cerveza Artesanal on my trip to Barcelona last week. In fact while we are at it, I better ban myself from drinking wine, vodka, maybe orange squash. Oh and what about tea?
I suppose I need to do all this because I call myself The Real Ale Girl. And I'm a member of CAMRA.  So therefore, I must only enjoy Real Ale.
Or so it would seem. The grand caskkegcraftbloggerattiCAMRAnoisesomebloggersblahblahblah debate. I've had enough, to be frank. I think I might take a couple of years off reading blogs on the topic until its all blown over. As if this issue will ever actually be resolved.
I joined CAMRA in 2004 as I wanted to find out more about this lovely liquid that I'd just been introduced to. I had enjoyed going to a few CAMRA beer festivals and was attracted by the prospect of reduced entry, copies of their publications in the post and meeting other people who might be able to introduce me to more ales. While I recognised that CAMRA was founded at a time when keg was king and cask on the way out, I was also aware that it British brewing was on the way up and I was excited to be drinking beer at a time when it was all getting interesting.
I want to drink beer. I want other people to drink beer. I want other people to enjoy drinking new beers, exciting beers, beers with flavour and character and oomph. It may well be that many of those beers in the UK are served in cask form, but we can all think of some bloody good beers that aren't. And to tell you the truth, I like beer too much to deny myself a new one just because I can't tick it off in my Good Beer Guide.
Campaining for Real Ale, enjoying Real Ale, writing about Real Ale, should not mean demonizing every other beer around. It just means Campainging for Real Ale. That's it. In some circles, Real Ale enthusiasts are inadvertently making Real Ale (or its drinkers at least) the demons. I have never been embarrassed of my writing name, I just hope that we can keep it that way.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Live Beer Blogging!

So here it is- the infamous Live Beer Blogging Event- brewers come and effectively chat you up for a few minutes and convince you that their beer is the best. When I say live, I mean live, so please forgive grammatical errors, bizarre punctuation and mad statements!
On my table are:
Mark Dredge,
Nathan Nolan
Des De Moor
Tim Holt from The Brewery History Society
Check out their tweets and blogs to see their thoughts too.

Abbaye de St Martin Dark with the lovely Mark McLain from the Brunehart Brewery in Belguim.
A tongue party- what a zing, unsual in something this colour.
Something very old fashioned about this beer, the bottle even looks like its been in a cellar for a few years.
Bad Attitude Brewery-  Lorrenzo , an Italian irritated by the dull scene in Italy at the time. Made cans before BrewDog.  
Two Penny Porter (Birra Artiginale.) Love the bottle, would make The Sex Pistols proud. Doesn’t taste 8.15% I get the impression this has been going down a storm around the room.
Windsor and Eton.
Conqueror  Black IPA. Ive had this one before- yum yum yum! As they say, not what you’d expect, Nathan next to me just made an exclamation of surprise.
‘Changing perceptions in beer’ Paddy the brewer says. Hugely popular, will other brewers be making it?
Des De Moor says ‘It does challenge perceptions- it’s really strange!’
Brains- SA Gold.  Ffion  Jones says ‘5.7% Golden Ale , developed 5 years ago.’ Its more popular in England than Wales.

Mark Dredge asks ‘what would you pair it with? Ffion says’ fish’ Nathan and I say shellfish’
Innis and Gunn- Canada Day special (who new Canada was Innis and Gunn’s biggest market?
Tasty! Smoky, bourbon sweetness. Delicious.
Blown away by this beer! Why do we never see the wider range of Innis and Gunn?
There is a hit of fruit after too- 8.3% This has really changed my views of Innis and Gunn.
Gerry from Wychwood with his own beer pouring goblin. Hobgoblin 5.2.
They make 11 million in bottle, 6 million in cask. First brewed for a local publicans’ daughter’s wedding.  Weddings with Beer- one of my favourite subjects.
Adnams and Broadside with the charming Fergus.
Fergus explains its tasting notes etc, including that it can be used to make Christmas puddings with. I made my Christmas pudding last year with Broadside!
Just found out Dark Star were supposed to be here and haven’t made it! Darn it!

So far at the Beer Blogger's Conference...

Just over half way through The European Beer Blogger's Conference in London 

What I've learnt so far:
  • Happy bloggers are better than moany bloggers.
  • Red Shield goes well with salmon and parnsip.
  • I'd like to go to a Brewdog bar and sit next to old couples who've been shopping.
  • I quite like the flavour of diacetyl.
  • Sharps brewery are up to some very exciting, little known, cool stuff.
  • Rhubarb and custard sweets are tasty with a hangover.
  • Pilsner Urquell's new advert is beautiful and is guarnteed to make anyone want to visit Pilsen.
  • I could be more open- minded "Beer isn't bad just because you don't like it" said Kristy (Molson Coors)
  • Beer folks should remember it is fun 'Its not the Middle East issue' said Darren from Beer Sweden.

More later. This is fast paced!

Monday 2 May 2011

And one thing led to another...

I don’t really go in for all that detox lark but if ever my body has been crying out for one it is now.  What a mighty few weeks we have had. Any normal person would have come back from a weekend of 60+ different beers in Sheffield (well documented in my previous post) and drunk tea, eaten toast and watched some telly. We proceeded to fit in as many pub trips and beer festivals as we could without causing our relatives to stop speaking us.
A trip to do a boot sale near my parents’ in Kent led to a mega cider tasting (and purchasing and then drinking late into the night) at Middle Farm somewhere in Sussex.
A cooking class in Central London led to a visit to the new Old Red Cow in Smithfield Market. Well worth popping into, this is the brain child of the marvellous folks behind the glorious Dean Swift near Tower Bridge.
Meeting up with an old pal led to the pub quiz at the Grape and Grain in Crystal Palace, packed to the rafters, triumphing in such sad times of pub closures.
 A casual night round Real Ale Bro’s led to a mega tasting sesh of his Meantime College Beer club wonders.
A couple of days later, we moseyed on over to the (Stoke Newington) Jolly Butchers’ first birthday party with its amazing range of special, made for them, birthday beers, where I fell in love with Evin ‘Kernel’ O’Rhiordan’s baby.
With the brewers from Ascot and Windsor & Eton
and 'Beer Justice' Steve at Ehgam Beer Festival
Then came the Egham Beer Festival, and boy do those dudes know what they are doing. £1.35 a half for the some of the most unusual, exciting, beautifully crafted beers around. I go to a lot of festivals and I drink a lot of beer. I often struggle at festivals of this size to find anything new to drink. I struggled to find something I’d heard of, it was that well sourced a range. So good, that the brewers themselves turn up to see how their beers are going down!  I’d read about Egham fest but never made it before. If similarly, you’ve never quite made it I urge you to go. They make it easy by having three fests a year. And I promise you I am not on any sucking up mission or on any commission, just p***ed off it took me so long to go.
Then to Planet Thanet in Margate (via the Sportsman in Seasalter for a gourmet father-in-law’s birthday lunch and the delights of the gorgeous Lifeboat in Margate itself). Since our last visit to the festival a couple of years ago, the organisers had come to their senses and let us outside and also came up trumps with an impressively diverse beer selection. The Wantsum and Ramsgate joint venture Low & Behold, a 2.8% tax reducing beauty, was the perfect beer for basking in the sun- bags of flavour yet light enough not to exacerbate the sun stroke.
Back to work for a few days, and all the fun started again with Bexley Beer Fest at Sidcup Rugby Club. I wrote in depth about this lovely festival last year and again they did’nt disappoint. The added oomph of Royal Wedding brews went down well and 6 of us did a conga to the folk band while everyone looked at us with scared bemusement.
The Royal Wedding day itself saw us drinking cans of Brew Dog Punk IPA in Hyde Park at 9.30am. Quite an experience, especially as the cans look like cheap lemonade.
I woke up the next morning craving ginger and couscous (is that my own detox recipe, afterall?) Bt instead we had more beer. Hiding in the tasting rooms of the Draft House on Tower Bridge were Melissa Cole, female beer writer #1, Stuart Howe, head brewer at Sharps, and a whole lot of secret, and mightily strong, special Sharps’ beers. Stuart entertained us with his amusing stories of wierd beer creations and boy, did the selection he brought with him change my mind about the sort of beers available with a Sharps label (Massive Ale, Top to Bottom 69 Hop, Monsieur Rock... who knew?).
Finally, with the Sharps 23% Turbo Yeast Utter Abhorrence From Beyond the Ninth Level Of Hades II (yes, the full name) doing its thang, we headed over to Leyton for Brodie’s Bunny Basher Festival. I’ve never been shy to bang on about my love of these guys and their wonderfully weird and ever inventive ales. It now seems that this quirkiness has spread into the food offering too- rabbit burgers on the BBQ? Weirdos.
So, the bank holidays and random days off are all done and dusted. Back to a more sensible level of beer consumption then. Head says ‘Darn it’, liver says ‘Hurray’.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Who needs an AGM?

As we speak, Sheffield is rocking under the weight of the CAMRA AGM, a weekend of beer bonding, beer pilgrimage, beer exploration.
I did my own such pilgrimage last weekend. Never having been known to do things in the normal, easy way, we (Real Ale Bro and I) went to Sheffield on our own steam, for our own mega beer weekend- not an agenda in sight.
Saturday 9th April, our train pulls into Sheffield at 12.15pm, we are in The Sheffield Tap by 12.17. Having spent many an hour in The (lovely) Euston Tap, this was bigger (not difficult), brighter and simply the best station bar the world must have ever seen. We had 6 beers here, while it quickly became clear just how many amazing beers we were likely to come across his weekend.
Checked in, (9th floor- amazing views) we spotted The Rutland from our window. Four ales (from local breweries Raw, Brew Co. and Blue Bee) slipped down perfectly in the sunshine filled garden and before long we were at The Kelham Island Tavern. Approaching, we stepped into the photo that has been used in all the CAMRA pub of the year articles and on entering, there we were inside the Beer Tickers film. It is a weird feeling to actually, finally, be inside a place you have seen, read, heard so much about and wanted so much to go to. When you get there, the feeling is a strange mixture of cocky and smug, with awe and humbleness.
The rest of the weekend took us to The Fat Cat (which I think I actually liked more- its got more quirk, more heritage, and on our visit, a more exiting beer range) and then The Harlequin, where we enjoyed the bounty of cellar runs for porter, a beautiful Roast and chat with Pete, the brewer at Brew Co.
We made it over to the Devonshire Cat, where real ale pub meets student union meets world beer emporium and later, The Old House- funky, cool, with vinyl on the wall, but still all about beer.
The Bath Hotel was a 1930's treasure, and we squeezed in to listen to the live blues on Sunday night, the Derwent Dark Mild fitting the aura of the place so well.
A bus ride to the Rising Sun, and a bar lined with beers by Abbeydale and more, and a huge box of used pump clips looking for caring homes, started off Monday beautifully. We popped into The Red Deer on the way back into the city. A pleasant pub, but in a city where most places have a beer selection to blow your mind, this pub just felt a bit too much like the less adventurous of the pubs we find at home.
Walking back into the city, we spotted a Thornbridge logo flying in the sky. In reality, it was on the side of a whitewashed bar, Trippets, which treated us to some of the rarer Thornbridge ales and a room full of beery, quirky memorabillia.
The Good Beer Guide unfortunately led us to The Musuem, a souless city centre Greene King pub, and so we hotfooted it back to the Rutland for a range of beers completely different from those we'd had two days before. Finally, grabbing our cases, back to The Sheffield Tap.
One weekend, 65 different beers and some truly amazing pubs.
I'm sure those AGM folks are having a whale of a time (judging by the tweets, the conference deabating is just about being outweighed by exploring the beer delights).
However, we certainly got quite a kick out of doing it ourselves. And felt more than a touch of envy about those who live in The Valley of Beer. Do they know how good they've got it?

P.S Hope you like the new look. There are photos of this trip on a memory card about a mile away from where I am now, some will be added soon.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Let's hear it for the girls

Early this week, I got a bit star struck. I'd been invited (get me) to the launch of the Project Venus Collaboration beer Venus Jade, a beautiful beer made by an equally beautiful gang of lasses- female brewers from across the UK and Ireland: Sara Barton from Brewsters in Grantham, Grainne Walsh from Metalman Brewery, Waterford, Eire, Sara Carter, from Triple FFF, Michelle Haylock Kelsall, Offbeat Brewery, Crewe, Cheshire and Kathy Britton from Oldershaw Brewery also in Grantham.
Off to The Rake we went. Now those of you who have met me in person will know I'm not usually described as shy and retiring. But here I was, lurking in the corner- not knowing how to approach this group of groovy women who spend all day, every day creating beauty in a glass for us all to enjoy, while I just stand about drinking it. Listening in, I waited for an opening to join in the conversation- nodding and smiling while they discussed how many kilos of hop were required in the morning. All of a sudden, my beer knowledge and passion didn't matter anymore- these ladies make the stuff. What do I know?

But, inevitably, I got chatting (thanks Jane  and Marveline for coming to get me!) And several pints of the gloriously summery, way too easily drinkable Venus Jade later, it was like an episode of Loose Women but without Jane McDonald, thankfully.
You don't need me to bang on about the role that women have in beer today. Its all been said. But what this beer did was actually show it. And show it off, in all its elegance and style.
L-R: Sara from Triple FFF, Kathy from Oldershaw, Real Ale Girl, Grainne from Metalman, Sara from Brewsters

Humbled, and in awe of these groundbreaking, creative, collaborative beings, I ambled into the Market Porter. Knocking me right out of my pondering was a copy of the new London Drinker. With an article by me. Nothing anywhere near as cool as creating my own beer, but its a start. Strange how it has a pink cover this month...

Sunday 27 March 2011

We know where it's at!

Another blogpost, another Friday night. I do go out on other days of the week, honest. But this particular Friday night could not possibly go unblogged. For this Friday night saw me waiting under the clock in Waterloo. Not for a romantic liaison, but for Real Ale bro to appear so we could wing it on over to La Gothique for the Wandsworth Common beer Festival. Now the history of the place is indeed fascinating, what with its Crimean war orphanage, trench recovery hospital, World War 2 interrogation centre and the detention of Rudolph Hess. It is also architecturally intriguing, this eerily lit chateau sitting in the middle of blocks of flats, criss-crossed below by train tracks and the common.

But we all know what the real draw is. That beer list, is quite simply, dudesome. Twitter has made it impossible not to hear about all about the cool niche scene happening right now; collaborations, limited editions, quirky versions of established beers. However, hearing about the beers is one thing, getting them is another, especially if you don’t have the sort of life that means you can jump on a train at 1pm to get to the launch before it all runs out. These beers also bring a whole new slant to Beer Ticking. There is nowhere to tick ‘em- they aren’t listed anywhere! Which all adds to the exclusivity, the feel of the hunt, the buzz of actually finding one.

Or all of them, in a courtyard in Wandsworth as the sun set after a spring day that was dressed up as summer. The sneaky Dark Star Hophead Citra version, Oak matured casks of Sambrook’s Wandle and Junction (the cutest little 36 pint casks ever seen!) Summer Wines’ Apache APA, Redemption Trinity Pale Mild, Windsor and Eton Conqueror Black IPA... It was like stepping into the last few weeks’ hot topics in the beer realm of Twitter, without needing to go to work with a hangover or trekking to a pub on the other side of London only to get there two minutes after the cask is drained. Although, we did miss the Hophead Citra, by just one pint. That’s the last time I am honest when the barman says ‘Who’s next?’

This really is a beautiful time to be a beer drinker in London. Yesterday, I was performing in Verdi’s Requiem at the Blackheath Halls and post performance, gasping and in need of a major beer style quench, R.A bro produced the most beautiful selection of brown bottles that he’d picked up on a quick afternoon hop to Kernel’s Saturday shop.

Imperial Brown Stout, on its first day of release, was just what Verdi himself would have chosen, I am sure. Followed by Suke Quto Coffee IPA, Dark Star/Kernel Imperial Marzen and blissful mainstay, London Porter. I am saving the Redemption and Kernel collaborative Mild until after tonight’s performance.

It’s all going on in London town- these limited editions and collaborations, as well as all the launch nights, make the beer scene here ever changing, innovative and, well, darn good fun. But thank goodness for festivals like Wandsworth Common’s, for giving those of us with day jobs the chance to get hold of them!

Sunday 6 March 2011

The perils of a night with no real ale

Friday night. Real Ale Husband isn’t home yet, it’s been a busy week, and it’s time for a rewarding drink. I look at our bottled ale selection- some fine specimens. And herein lies the rub. These beers are treasures R.A.H and I bought in a delightful farm shop on the outskirts of Oxford. (When I say farm shop, it was more posh supermarket in the middle of nowhere, but being a Londoner, anywhere that sells carrots with the mud still on feels rustic. If you ignore the woman flogging loyalty cards.) Anyway, the beers we purchased in this Waitrose in disguise were lovely specimens. Beers we can’t easily get in bottle form round these parts. (I’ve yet to enter the world of online beer ordering- it still pains me to picture the lonely landlord round the corner twiddling his thumbs while mine are twiddling on computer keys ordering beer to drink at home.) However, these beers we bought as we simply couldn’t resist- Hook Norton Double Stout, Wickwar Station Porter...

So as I said, this was my problem come 6.30 on Friday night. I couldn’t open one of them without the presence of R.A.H. These were treasures discovered together, to be enjoyed together. So now what? Aha. A wilting bottle of Sainsbury’s basics cider lies half full (or half empty? You decide). That’ll do. That’ll clear the stresses of the working week and I am sure you will agree that there was no way the hubby would mind that disappearing.

Then he arrives home, and a bottle of Cava flies down our throats during dinner. We get rather excited about the line up of the upcoming Hop Farm festival and dance around the flat to Iggy Pop, and the party mood tempts us into a shot each of something bright blue and raspberry flavoured lurking in our drinks cabinet. (It’s more of a shelf, actually- it doesn’t have the doors that are surely prerequisite for a cabinet.)

We head on out into the Lew-sharm night, armed with a drink for the train journey (Boris hasn’t banned us from drinking on this form of transport.) So, this pre-party tipple should have been one of the aforementioned bottled beers, I agree. However, something in the Lust for Life lyrics subconsciously made R.A.H reach for the vodka and make a portable Moscow Mule in a bottle of ginger beer.

We arrive at the party. In a wine bar. No real ale (or in the words of the dear ex-bus conductor ticker, Clippie- NORA), nor any beer that wasn’t Becks. Hell, I’d already started on the vodka, I better carry on. Vodka and Tonic please. Next- this is a wine bar- let’s get wine. Then- Oh look- you’ve got a Portuguese Bock- do you want to swap it for the rest of my wine? And then I stumbled, got a bit loud(er) and declared I needed to go home.

A hangover like no other ensued. My head was yelling "What are you doing to me, carzy woman? This is not the usual cosy yummy beer stuff that I am used to!" My stomach was equally unforgiving, "How dare you, Real Ale Girl! I will make you pay!" And I will keep the rest to myself.

I tried toast. Paracetamol. More sleep. Hot chocolate, tea, ginger tea, lemon green tea. And then I went to the pub. To the beer festival at The Grape & Grain in Crystal Palace, to be precise. One half (North Yorks.' Flying Herbert) and all was well with the world. Hangover gone. Kapoof.
The moral of this long and winding story? Only drink real ale. That’s it.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Giving something back...

Cor blimey, you may recall me last month (yes, it has been a while) complaining of being a widow to my dear husbands other love, football. Well, I’ve gotta take it all back as he has been a beer widower on many occasions since that last post. But what is the point of drinking all this beer if there is no time to write about it? (Well, there’s lots of point to drinking beer other than writing about it, but it’s darn frustrating, I can tell you.)

'Volunteering' with the lovely Bill at Pigs Ear 2009
It all started with a fateful night at The Dog and Bell in Depford, when, at a SE London CAMRA branch, fuelled by one too many Rudgate Battleaxes, I agreed to do take over the branch newsletter. All very well and good until less than a week later, after several Ringwood Fortyniners at the Ladywell Tavern, I ended up on the branch’s Beer Festival committee. (May 28th and 29th, Beckenham Rugby Club, by the way. I’ve not been put on publicity for nothing, you know.)
I’ve also been beavering away on pub surveys for the Good Beer Guide- I think I’ve saved up 5 years of branch volunteering and shoved it all into one month. I don't think I can count working at CAMRA festivals working, you are paid in beer!
I know I have some readers who are quite anti- CAMRA (and some who would rather see the whole organisation shoved into a mash tun and left for the enzymes to go to town on.) I agree there are some elements of the St Albans crusade that can be a tad out of date- believe me, of all folks, I would know. On the other hand, this is part of the charm. I love hanging out with the old school dudes at a festival. At Battersea last week, I ran into Malcom who holds me responsible for the fact he has worked at 25 festivals in the last year. (Not as creepy as it sounds- I put him in touch with the staffing officer at Pig’s Ear for his first festival volunteering experience and he’s never looked back). I had a good old natter about stout with Paul, who always wears shorts, and compared festival planning notes with the dude that is John Cryne (fresh off his appearance in the BBC news.)
However, I am all too aware that these festivals can turn as many people off as on. Which is why I get involved.
“We need you- you know cool people!” The festival organiser cried when I said I was too busy.
“You’re mates with the man from the Dean Swift and went to the Kernel Black IPA launch” said another. “You know how to use twitter!”
What persuasion. How can a girl say no?

Sunday 9 January 2011

Let's all club together

This week, you could call me a football widow. Real Ale Husband had training on Thursday and matches on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and is currenlty out for a Sunday morning match. However, I don't like the term football widow. It implies I'm sitting around weeping at him leaving me alone (well, I only do that occasionally). It gives the impression that he's out having fun while I'm at home oslaing over a hot stove (actually, that was only during the Friday match, and the homemade burgers were bloody lovely.)
Football widow does not suggest the fun that I have as a result of all his running around fields pretending to be a professional footballer and taking it all a bit too seriously.
I am not left behind at all, oh no, because I have discovered THE CLUB.
Occasionally, I think I'll go along and support the lovely South East Athletic boys as they battle, week in, week out, after the holy grail of Bromley and District Football League glory. Occasionally, I make it for the match. Often, I turn up sometime during the second half. However, usually, I scrape into the bar about the same time as the boys emerge from the showers.
The John Roan club house. A place of big screen TVs and piles of kit bags, of geezers who knew my Grandad and sepia team photos from yesteryear. And of ale. Great ale. Even if it seems  to be only me,  Real Ale Husband and occasionally, Real Ale Father-in-law drinking it- apparently lager is more refreshing after hard graft on a muddy pitch. I wouldn' know. But what I do know is that  love this place. I love the ever changing seasonals from Harvey's and Batemans, I love the bargain dinners (Shepherd's pie, chips and beans for £3.50- carb overload, but athletes need sustenance, I suppose). I love the little boys throwing footballs about inside and smashing glasses. And I love the fact they make me feel like I belong there despite often being one of only a couple of women in the place. Maybe its the Grandad connection. Maybe its because I drink their ale and bang on about how good it is. Or maybe it's just because it's a welcoming, opening place, doing a brilliant job of serving the players and WAGS. Although I can't help thinking  probably owe them some sort of membership fee...!