Category Archives: Review
Hi, beer friends, it’s been a while. So let’s just jump right in – here are some great beers I’ve drunk since last we met.
Crafty Jane (Ilkley, ABV 4.7, Sweet Stout) – A special brew for the opening of Craft Beer Co. Brixton that’s now available at other pubs of the Craft family (i.e. Cask, Craft Beer Co. Clerkenwell) as well. It’s branded a Cranberry Milk Stout, a somewhat unusual combo. I wasn’t too impressed at first, it had a nice generic berry sweetness to it but lacked depth – but boy, did it open up as it became warmer (turned out it just suffered from that over-coldness common to keg beers)! The slightly acidic cranberry flavour came to the fore and was nicely complemented by the creamy notes from the lactose. Very well balanced sweet/tart, with a lot of classic roasty stout flavours in the background. 4/5, though remember to let it warm up a bit.
Swedish culture primer, part 4: Sweden is a very secular society, but there is one god we worship above all others. It is the great yellow fungus god of the woods:
Swedish culture primer #3: Since our fans demand more pictures of the summer cottage and its environs, I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about a strange Swedish custom. This is what is known as a lillstuga or “little cottage”:
As you can see, this looks pretty much like the regular summer cottage but smaller. Traditionally, when you have a child, you build a lillstuga near your summer cottage – not for the baby to sleep in, of course, but to symbolize that there is a new addition to the family. Then, next year, when the baby has grown, you tear down the old lillstuga and build a new, slightly larger one, to commemorate the passage of time. And so on. Every year, you tear down the old lillstuga and replace it with a slightly larger one. The remains are burnt on a pyre and much aquavit is consumed. This goes on until the child comes of age, which in Sweden is at 26. Then, the whole summer cottage property passes to the child and the parents have to sleep in the lillstuga. Charlotte is four now so we have 22 more years – let’s make them good ones!
Swedish culture primer, part 2: what you see below is the national dish of Sweden:
Now, other people might try to tell you that any number of other dishes are, in fact, the national dish of Sweden: boiled crayfish, pea soup with mustard and pancakes, meatballs and mashed potatoes, fermented herring, roast moose etc etc. They are all wrong. This is the de facto national dish of Sweden: it is eaten at every holiday, in summer and in winter, it can be a starter, a side dish, or a main course, it’s ingredients are always available in every store in Sweden, year-round. A couple of different kinds of pickled herring and potatoes, plus some sour cream and chives – it doesn’t get more everyday and versatile than that. Note also the absence of any kind of green vegetable (chives and dill are herbs, not veggies), another thing that is very typical of Swedish cooking. Since every Swede practically is only two or at most three generations removed from being a farmer, there is something deeply rooted in the national psyche, a disdainful voice that tells us that vegetables are animal food, not suitable for consumption by humans (unless they’ve been dried and robbed of all colour, as is the case of Swedish pea soup – it’s not green but a yellow colour reminiscent of sick). Real Swedes eat potatoes and fish, and meat on a Sunday.
Newsflash: London Beer Blog is currently in Sweden. So for the next few weeks, the blog will be given over to the primer to Swedish culture I know you’ve all been clamoring for. And also beer.
For lesson 1, I need to explain a simple concept: “Jetty beer”. The explanation has three parts, and since we live in the 21st century, I will be using audiovisual aids (sorry for the lack of Flash animation. For shame!).
This is your average Swedish summer cottage:
In this case, the summer cottage happens to be mine. And my brother’s. And he and his wife do most of the work on it. But still, my name is on the deed and that technically makes it part mine.
Now that Kernel’s new brewery is fully up and running (including a snazzy new bottling plant!), what does that mean for the beers? Well, first of all it means that a wider range of Kernel beers are now available at any given time, which it nice. Second, it seems to mean that some great beers that were only available intermittently are now available more or less all the time – so far I’ve had no trouble scoring Imperial Brown Stout London 1858 and Export Stout London 1890 on every brewery visit, for example. This is also nice. Third, it means that Kernel’s sour beer programme has officially started – though the first sour has yet to be released, and it’s going to be a very small batch, possibly available at the brewery only. Stay tuned for details. Here follows some capsule reviews of recently-sampled Kernel brews, all from the new brewery.
I did it again: I drank too much beer. But what could I do? It was the Craft Beer Company 1st Anniversary Weekend on June 30 – July 1. I go there so often it feels like the place has been around forever rather than for just one year – they’re already a London institution and a world beer lover destination. And as expected the lineup of beers was something special: a lot of it must have come from Copenhagen Beer Celebration as many rare beers from there made a repeat performance in London. Not that I mind one bit as I got to try a lot of the stuff I missed at CBC, as well as have more of beers I was convinced I would never have the chance to try again. And the evening ended with not one but two proper whales… Here are my unsystematic observations, sorted by brewery this time:
As any good London beer geek would be, I am of course a member of Fuller’s Fine Ale Club, and the other day my free membership really paid off (ha ha). I was among the lucky 20 Fine Ale Club members to be invited to the launch of Fuller’s new seasonal offering, Wild River. Wild River is an American-style Pale Ale hopped with Williamette, Liberty, Cascade and Chinook hops and is, according to John Keeling of Fuller’s, inspired by the US craft beer scene.
The tasting event was held at Fuller’s pub The Banker, a dungeon-like place under the arches of Cannon Street railway station. Guests were lubricated with Fuller’s Discovery before the main event, and treated to a roomful of snazzy branding. To quote John Keeling, “It took us two months to come up with the recipe for the beer, and two and a half years to come up with the name and branding”. I’m not surprised – it must have taken a while to figure out those cardboard bear traps! Jokes aside, it was a very nice and well-run event – I ended up chatting quite a bit to beer profile extraordinaire Phil Lowry, and all-round nice chap. As I recall, conversation ranged from how to make the best US-style barbecue to the political situation in the Ukraine (if you thought we geeks only talk beer at events, think again).
Yes, yes, but what about the beer? Well, here’s the review:
So here it is: I’m off the sauce for 30 days. This is the kind of thing that might pose problems for a beer blogger, but it is what it is. I’m going to the Copenhagen Beer Celebration on May 11-12, and attending the warm-up beer ticker wet dream event Sour & Bitter on the 10th, and I just know that there are going to be MANY beers I want to sample. So I decided to detox but good for a month before what already promises to be the big beer event of the year. I also joined the gym (and I’m going, too – three or four times a week). I’m basically a walking turn-your-life-around cliché. But don’t worry, it’s only for a month. I’ll be back to my beer-swilling, sedentary ways in no time, you’ll see.
This preamble is to explain my newfound interest in non-alcoholic beer. Most non-alcoholic beers I’ve had coming from the big brands (Becks Blue and the like) have been universally awful and I’ve often found myself missing the Swedish tradition of lättöl (literally light beer, which are very-low-ABV beers that can often be surprisingly flavourful). So when I made my most recent trip to Utobeer to pick up some bottles of Hardknott‘s limited release Æther Blæc 2011 (hey, I said I wouldn’t drink, that doesn’t mean I can’t buy beer) I asked them what kind of non-alcoholic brews they had to offer. I came away with one bottle of Erdinger Alkoholfrei (which came highly recommended) and one bottle of Schneider Mein Alkoholfreies (Tap 3) (which was also recommended but not as highly) – in other words, two non-alcoholic wheat beers. So brace yourselves, folks, for London Beer Blog’s first non-alcoholic beer review!
I remember the first beer I had from Brodie’s: their Dalston Black IPA, which was excellent. Then I had the Old Street Special IPA, which was excellent. Then I had the Hackney Red IPA, which was excellent. Then, moving away from IPA territory, I had their Whitechapel Weizen (you’re beginning to see the naming theme here, right?), which was excellent. I therefore came to the conclusion that Brodie’s is an excellent brewery. Yesterday I popped in on Brodie’s annual Easter beer festival extravaganza Bunny Basher (held for the third time at Brodie’s brewpub/HQ The William IV in Walthamstow) and realised I had been wrong. Brodie’s is not merely an excellent brewery. They’re a world-class brewery, hidden in plain sight in easternmost London.
No beer I had yesterday – and I managed ten different kinds, sticking to halves for the occassion – was anything short of top-notch. The quality on display was not only astounding but so was the range and the experimental bent: Brodie’s can do extremely sessionable low-ABV beers (the Mild and the Bethnal Green Bitter stood out), monsters like the ABV 22.0 Elizabethan Ale (reminded me of Kaluha), and everything in between, with flavourful and idiosyncratic IPAs a particular speciality. Today the Mikkeller collab Mofo Stout (yes, Brodie’s has done a collaboration with Mikkeller. And with Kernel. And Redemption. And probably lots more I don’t know about) is rumored to hit the pumps. The list goes on, literally: the beer list for the event ran to about 40 different brews. I was so blown away by the whole thing I totally forgot to take any pictures except of the beers, which is why this blog post is only illustrated by several near-identical images of half-pints. Basically, I forgot that I was a beer blogger and just focused on being a beer drinker for the night.